Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Telling Future Generations...

(Exodus 40:38) "For the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and there was a fire inside the cloud by night, visible to the entire house of Israel throughout all the stages of their journey"

You would think that the significance of the cloud by day and fire by night would be testimony enough for Israel to remain faithful to the Lord. However, it is amazing that the more they journeyed towards the promise land, the more it seems they forgot the provisions of the Lord for them along the way. They even came to a point where they remembered (incorrectly) Egypt, the place where they came out of enslavement, as the land flowing with milk and honey. Not a few times, God moved to wipe out Israel and start over with Moses but Moses pleaded on behalf of the people.

Why would Israel forget? The cloud of God's glory was with them daily. The fire of God's presence guided them through the night. On the surface, it doesn't make sense, or does it?

We as humans tend to become accustomed to the usual and tend to stop seeing the wonder of the miraculous the longer we see it. Life and everyday is a gift from God but most mornings we run through our routines and never stop to think of the One who made us and gave us life. Most of us are blessed way more than we deserve and yet we complain about the hardships we face. And as life becomes ordinary, routine and even monotonous, we forget to acknowledge and tell others just how special our God is, His goodness and His provisions.

I think the Israelites, like us, began to take the cloud and fire for granted. It was there every morning and every evening. Initially, it brought awe and reverence. Eventually it was just something they saw every day until finally, they began to lose their significance. I think the Israelites began to forget what or more importantly who the cloud and fire stood for.

May I always remember to tell my children, friends and family about the greatness of God in my life. Of all the miracles and wonders that He does for me, day by day, year by year. May I live each day in awe and gratefulness for the cloud and the fire that God makes plain to me. May I never take His presence and provisions for granted.

Amen!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Few Pennies Here and There...

Sunday was World Hunger Sunday. That's the day I collect my change (I do it about three times per year) from my "Bread Banks" and make my donation to Global Hunger Relief (GHR). GHR is a 100%, dollar-in, dollar-out way to make a difference in the world regarding hunger.

My "Bread Banks" sit on my dresser and desk at home. Anytime I find change lying around, I pick it up and put it in one of the banks. I especially look for change - quarters, dimes, nickels and even pennies - when I'm out walking, running or just around town. Amazing what you can find just lying around that nobody wants.

About every three to four months, the banks get full and I cash them in. I usually have about $15 to $20 to donate. Yesterday's haul was $20.12. Doesn't sound like much, does it?

Let's say I do this 3 to four times per year. That would mean I would glean about $75 in change that I can then turn around and give to global hunger causes. What difference does $75 make?

* Seventy five dollars could provide water and food for a day for 75 days for one person in the Philippines who lost everything after typhoon Haiyan hit their home
* It could provide almost 4 months of formula for a hungry infant orphan in Sub-Saharan Africa
* It would provide for a sewing kit for a young woman in India to be able to start a micro enterprise, earn money, feed her family and keep her away from sex trafficking to survive
* It could help provide 7 families in Bangladesh with enough seeds and seedlings to start a nutritious vegetable garden near their home
* It could provide 3 water filters for widows in the slums of a major urban center so that they could have clean drinking water
* It could also provide a pair of pigs to help a poor family in Central America have a better hope for the future

A few pennies here and there really do add up. They add up to helping people in need if they are redistributed back through good causes such as BGR and Global Hunger Relief.

If you would like to know more about these ways to help and how your pennies can make a world of difference, I would encourage you to visit:

globalhungerrelief.org

or

gobgr.org

As my parents used to teach me, "every penny helps." 

Friday, August 22, 2014

What I Saw Today...

(Note: These next few blogs are some that I wrote while on my Middle East trip this past week. I will be posting them this week)

Today was unlike any other day that I have had in a while. I travelled close to the border area of a war torn country, Syria. I went to a village that had more than tripled in size due to the influx of refugees. Makeshift tents were everywhere. Every crook and cranny was filled with people trying to find shelter. Animal stalls, garages and storage sheds had been converted to barely liveable units.

And I saw scenes…

I saw a young girl with her arm amputated and shrapnel wound all across her torso. She was still in shock and holding her arm up for any body who cared to see.

I saw a baby with shrapnel wounds constantly crying as a local doctor tried to treat her. She was writhing in her mother’s arms.

I saw a worn out man who had just fled his country two days earlier. He crossed over the border with his wife and five children. He is injured himself – bullet wound in his leg and lower back. He doesn’t know how they will survive.

I saw and old man who told us that he has not seen his two sons in over a year. He fears he will never see them again.

I saw babies constantly crying, literally screaming, and they cannot be comforted. They are traumatized and can’t recover from their fear.

I saw a little boy with scars on his face due to shrapnel. The scars stretched as he smiled.

I saw families being exploited in their grief. Many were paying $300 per month for the privilege of renting a filthy cattle stall for their family to live in. As bad as it was, they said it was better than living in make shift tents.

And you know what else I saw? I saw compassion. It was compassion in the hands and feet of our local workers as they were moving among all these needs, giving a word of comfort, offering help such as food and hygiene supplies and more than anything, taking time to listen to the stories of those hurting and then offering words of comfort and hope.

I saw hurt...I saw healing...I saw hope...





Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Funny Story...With a Moral?

I was standing in line at a local department store waiting to pay for some things I picked up for my mother's birthday present. I noticed a family (father, mother and two teen-aged sons) in front of me. They were speaking German and obviously weren't from Mt. Juliet, TN.

The department store had several cash registers open and you have to line up and wait for them to call you when one comes open. In not too many minutes, I heard one of the cashiers far down the aisle call out, "Register nine".

The German family looked perplexed and began talking in whispers among themselves. The cashier said a bit louder, "Register nine!" Their internal family discussion became a bit more intense.

Finally the father looked back at me and asked, "Register nine?" to which I replied, "Register nine".

This threw them into an even deeper family discussion. The cashier at the far end was starting to get a bit antsy. And then it hit me and I said to the father...

"Register number nine" to which he replied, with a smile, "Yah! Register number nine!" and proceeded to the cashier who had been waiting.

As you might have guessed, he had heard, "Register, nein!" or "No register." And I had confirmed it for him that there was no register.

I suppose the moral of the story is that real communication can be a tricky thing.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

But What Will I Tell My Children...?

Several years ago, I was traveling in the southern Philippines, headed to a community where we were going to help with agricultural projects. Along the way, we passed through a village where a prolonged drought and an armed conflict had forced several families to take refuge in a local school.

We stopped to see if there was anything we could do to help. We were overwhelmed by what we saw, but did not have with us what was needed to help. When we told the people at the school, one of the older women said, “But what will I tell my children? We have no food.”

There are almost 1 billion people in the world today that are wondering the same thing. The majority of these are women with children. Where will they get their next meal? What with they tell their children when they come home with no food?


Isaiah says, “…and if you offer yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted one, then your light will shine in the darkness,…” (Isaiah 58:10)

James says, “If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15, 16)

And Jesus says, “I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat…I assure you: Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.” (Matthew 25:35,40)

So, what will you and I do about that hungry person who asks what to tell their children? More importantly, what will we tell our children about what we have done for the hungry of the world?

Sunday, October 12, is our Southern Baptist World Hunger Day. You can start now praying for the hungry of the world. You can also start saving – a few pennies here and there – to give an offering on behalf of those in need.

You can even do something right now by visiting our Global Hunger Relief website and making a contribution at:



What will we tell the children?...

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Definition of Faith…(Numbers 9:23)

The word "faith" is only truly expressed when it become "faithfulness". To say you have "faith" is evidenced by actions. James knew it when he said, "You say you have faith?... Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith from my works." Furthermore, he says, "You believe that God is one; you do well. The demons also believe…" (James 2:18-19)

Faith is a great thing. Or should I say faith is a "grace" thing. It really is a gift from God that we give back to Him and is evidenced by how we choose to live our lives - for Him or apart from Him.

In the Old Testament in the book of Numbers, while the people of Israel are being formed into a nation in the crucible of the wilderness wanderings, we find a simple yet poignant definition of faith…

"They camped at the Lord's command, and they set out at the Lord's command. They carried out the Lord's requirement according to His command through Moses." (Numbers 9:23)

The people inhabiting Canaan and the surrounding countries must have watched with awe as this mass of humanity seemingly wandered aimlessly closer and closer to their lands. They had evidently heard of what God had done - the parting of the seas, the defeat of Pharaoh's army, the provisions of food and water. They saw the massive army of 600,000 plus men, all armed for battle. And they watched them move for a day, camp for one day or maybe one month, and then set out again. This would go on for forty years - seemingly random, wasted movements.

But it was not random and it was not wasteful. It was faith in action - faithfulness.

They camped when God said "camp". They set out when God said "move". The carried out the Lord's command whatever He asked of them.

Faith - expressed in faithfulness.

We would do well to do the same...

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The First Three Laws of Holiness…

"The Lord spoke to Moses: 'Speak to the entire Israelite community and tell them: Be holy because I, Yahweh your God, am holy.' Each of you is to respect his mother and father. you are to keep My Sabbaths; I am Yaweh you God. Do not turn to idols or make cast images of gods for yourselves; I am Yahweh your God." (Leviticus 19:1-4)

This whole chapter is an interesting passage. It has to deal with God's laws regarding holiness. There is much to the chapter but I want to look at the first three things that He says He requires from His holy, set apart people…

1. Respect your parents. It is the first commandment with a promise (e.g. so that you will live long in the land). And it somehow plays prominently in what God desires for His holy people to look like. Those who respect, care for and obey their parents.

2. Keep God's Sabbaths. Note that He calls them "His" Sabbaths. They are not ours (although we greatly and wonderfully benefit from His Sabbaths). We keep them and keep them holy because they are His and He has commanded us to.

3. Have no idols and make no cast images for yourselves. In other words, we are to have no thing, no possession, no position, no "toy" to come between us and our total love and devotion to God.

Here's the thought I had. When we think of "holiness" today, we think of piety, of righting living. We think of personal holiness and devotion. I, errantly, think of mystically sitting in the woods and just spending time with God. While all these things are not bad, I am struck that God's idea of holiness has more to do with positive actions and practical implications in our relationship with Him and with others.

Respect your parents…Keep God's Sabbaths…Don't let anything come between you and God…

Kind of redefines holiness in our current age, doesn't it?