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Archive for August, 2010

Labor day, the un-official end to summer, a day when people have decided, hmm, let me see, you either aren’t supposed to wear white, or it’s now okay to wear white after Labor day. Not sure which one it is, or why, and for that matter, don’t care. I will wear white if I want, so there. Think back to the Memorial Day weekend, the un-official beginning to summer when the days grew long and warm, school was out for the summer. The teenagers all swore an oath to not be out of bed before ten thirty AM until at least early august. We planned our vacations and weekend barbecues and had a mental picture of what this summer would be like. Now it is over, my how time flies when you would prefer it to go slower, or does it depend on one’s perspective?

To thirty three miners trapped a half mile underground in a collapsed mine in Chile, three to four months will not fly in the same manner as the good days of summer. When confined to one room the size of a studio apartment with thirty two of your co-workers, I would imagine time does not pass very quickly. I was pleased when watching the video of the miners that they spoke of how they all came together a couple of times a day to pray. Sometimes time passes very slowly when we want it to pass quickly.

A middle aged man lies in bed, as his beautiful wife of twenty years sits at his side. He has devoted thousands of hours to building his company into an empire of success while his beautiful bride handled the home affairs. She was always at the soccer games he missed, she would read to the kids when they went to bed and he was working late. She had always backed him up when he was missing, never once calling him the workaholic he had become, but showing nothing but love and devotion. The years had been kind to her; she was even more beautiful today than she was when they graduated college together. He needed to cough, but simply didn’t have the energy left, the cancer had run its course, and he knew today would be the day. As he wheezed, he briefly considered how he would not think twice about throwing away the empire along with all the money for one more day with this woman. He knew it didn’t matter though, all of his money and power would not buy him another day, his time was fleeting.

The Man looked down at all of the angry people and tried not to show His pain. People were spitting on Him, throwing refuse at Him, and cursing for all their worth. The spikes in His hands hurt pretty bad, but the ones through His feet were the worst, for every time He wanted a deep breath, He needed to push up and inhale at the same time sending lightning bolts of pain through His body. The wreath of thorns on His head was bad too, as He would sweat; the salt would run into the wounds and cause even more pain. Because He was the Son of God and had already prophesied that He would be raised on the third day, He knew how this all would go. As He hung there, He took a deep breath and tried to steel himself, this was going to be the longest six hours of His life…..

Time is always going to be far more valuable than money, power or anything else of value. The passage of time depends on the circumstances, but as we all know, our time can end at any moment without notice, so a good question would be how have we spent the time we have been given. Does God figure prominently in your schedule, we would all say that He is the most important thing in our life, but does our schedule reflect that?

I challenge you to try something, without changing from your normal routine at all, keep a notepad with you for one week. Write down every thing that you do over that week and the amount of time you devote to it. Include eating, watching TV, going to church, praying, working, talking with your family, reading, studying the Bible and engaging in hobbies, write it all down with no cheating. After one week, group together all of the TV hours, the work hours, play hours, add them all up by category and list them beginning with the most hours and ending with the least amount of time. When adding the hours from work up, only count the hours you worked past the forty hour (full time) point, as it would not be fair to count all work hours.

When you are done, number the categories from one to ten, with one being the most hours spent in an activity and ten being the least. The results are for your eyes only, and hopefully God will rank high on your list. Time is absolutely our most valuable commodity, be careful with it as it has a way of passing more quickly than we would like.

God Bless

JFT

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Our little neighborhood was circular, actually not an actual arc, but like an oblong circle just the same. I believe the circuit was a half mile from start to finish, I used to know exactly when we would walk it for exercise, but it doesn’t matter now. It was about eight years ago when my wife and I would walk the circuit in the evening. One particular night, it was the eve of a bulk trash pickup, and people had all of their “large” throw away items out on the sidewalk.

Now I am a curious guy, and of course I have to look at the stacks and piles of refuse as I walk by, my wife of course urging me to “keep walking”, knowing my penchant to want to stop and shop in the stacks of throw away items. Always looking for that treasure in disguise that someone doesn’t know they had. One particular evening, as we passed a stack, I kept my face forward, as my eyes combed the pile, and my treasure buzzer went off. There on top of the pile was a beautiful, modern and perfectly good (looking) stereo system with a three CD changer, and it was calling my name. My dear wife didn’t see me looking with desire toward the pile, so I suggested we not make another lap, after all it was a rough day.

She complied and we called it quits, so she retired into the house and relaxed in her easy chair as I said I needed to carry out the trash or something of that nature. As soon as the coast was clear, I bolted down the street and headed for the pile of temptation. It was dark, but I could clearly see that no-one else had claimed my prize yet, so I grabbed it along with the two accompanying speakers and began to walk back in such a manner as to not arouse anyone’s suspicion. I was just a guy walking around the neighborhood at night with my stereo and two speakers, no problem.

I anxiously plugged it in and attached the speakers, then hit the power button, and it came on like normal, and the sound was actually very good. I discovered the reason it had not made the final cut, the CD player did not work. Surely someone would have thought it would at least make a good garage stereo, but no, their loss is my gain. I begin to think about where I can use it and realize I don’t need a stereo anywhere. I have one in the garage, bedroom, family room, kids rooms, what to do? Stacia pokes her head out into the garage when she hears all of the music from my new treasure. She sees the stereo and recognizes it immediately, she then looks at me with disappointment and disgust then rolls her eyes and goes back in the house. I decided it was a great stereo; we just didn’t need one so I hauled it off to work.

I built a nice shelf in the control room and mounted the stereo on it. One of my co-workers had a stereo that was broken, but the speakers still worked fine and were interchangeable with this one, so he brought them in. By the time I was done setting this thing up, and mounting the six speakers and one woofer, it was an amazing set up. The guys thought I was really awesome for going out and getting a stereo system for the control room. No-one even noticed the CD player didn’t work, they were just happy to have the radio stations. That was eight years ago and the stereo is still sitting on its little shelf and making beautiful music, its brokenness no longer visible, rescued from landfill death.

It kinda reminds me of myself and Jesus, I was on the trash heap destined to be thrown into the incinerator that never consumes. Anyone who has been rescued from the world and its wicked ways by the creator of all things knows. I am reminded of the Apostle Paul and the following scriptures;

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Cor. 12:9-10.

We are made perfect through the blood of Christ. He takes us with all of our weakness, baggage, questionable pasts, embarrassing failures and he makes us whole and valuable again. Won’t you lay your baggage and brokenness at the feet of the Great Physician, for there is nothing he cannot repair and make new. God Bless

JFT

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One of my greatest fears was realized yesterday, I had to face a monster that I fear in ways that I cannot describe. It all began a few weeks ago, I was working at church, and we were understaffed that week, so I loaded up these huge ice chests with water bottles and ice and proceeded to pick them up and carry them myself. After all, a big ol’ bruiser like me ought to be able to handle a few ice chests, right?

The next morning, when my alarm went off at four forty and I started to roll out of bed, my back had a different idea. With much pain and whining, I managed to take a shower and get to work, but the old back was sprung. I had re-awakened an injury that happened a few years back, so I called the doc and scheduled an appointment. You say what does that have to do with facing one of my greatest fears. Well just wait.

The good ol’ doc checked me over and promptly said the four words that frighten me beyond belief, “You need an MRI”. Folks, let me tell you, I don’t usually have too much fear of cramped places, I like exploring caves and mine shafts and even scuba diving. But all of my sanity goes out the window when someone asks me to spend an hour in a tube. I look him right in the eye and counter with “I’ll need to have an open MRI” and he doesn’t even blink as he tells me “no, that won’t do, needs to be a regular MRI”. My blood ran cold as I looked at him with fear in my eyes and said “doc, I have a real problem in MRI tubes”. He calmly responded with “that’s fine; we will medicate you so that you won’t care”. As my appointment came up, I cancelled it and told them I would get back with them, and when I didn’t, my doc’s assistant called to tell me that my doc wants me to quit messing around and get it done.

As I went to the MRI place on Friday, with a friend driving me, I was very angry with my doctor because he was such a liar. I was medicated heavily and I “STILL CARED”! I felt like I was walking to my execution as the kindly radiology tech named Amy showed me to a small change room and offered me a “dress” to wear. Why is it that the medical field caters to women so much, you would think they would offer you a nice pant suit if you choose not to wear the dress, but no, you just have to wear the dress. So I came out in my dress, and they locked all of my valuables in a locker, I guess there must be a lot of theft in those MRI places, as you always have to lock up your things.

As I was led into the room to face my nemesis, the dreaded tube, miss enthusiastic Amy asks me if I would like to listen to some music during my one hour interment. I can hardly think at this point, but I ask her if they can get my favorite Christian station, after all, I might as well be listening to praise songs as I have my coronary.

Then the coolest thing happened, Amy turns to me and says “oh, you are a Christ follower, cool, this is going to be a piece of cake for you, no worries”. She then calls the tech that was at the controls into the room and says “hey Terry, come in here, we got a believer”. Terry comes in as Amy puts her arm around my back on one side and Terry on the other, forming a three person huddle and plunges right into a prayer for me, asking God to calm my fears. She prayed such a wonderful prayer for me and the three of us were in communion with God. As we prayed, I felt the fear lift off of me as though I was shrouded in a veil and the veil was lifted. As the prayer was ended, they both patted me on the back and told me I could do this, and not to worry.

I closed my eyes tight as they shoved me into the tube for an hour, and every time I felt bad I just started talking to God and he pulled me through. Before I knew it, my hour was up and they were sliding me back out. I had lived through it.

As the medication wore off and I re-entered the land of the sober, I was thankful for the community of Christians that we have. The two radiology technicians were not afraid to wear their faith at work boldly. Their bold witness reminded me that I should have laid my fear at the feet of the great counselor rather than stew and worry. I don’t even know their last names, I just know them as Amy and Terry, the brother and sister who helped me when I needed it.

When faced with the choice of taking anonymity or bold identity, which one do you choose? We all interact with others in one way or another in our daily routines, do you choose anonymity when faced with the opportunity to share your faith? Or do you choose “bold identity” and live your faith openly in front of others regardless of the consequences? Consider Matthew 10:32-33

 32“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.

God Bless and Keep You All-Always

JFT

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The world and its misery, man it just doesn’t ever end. I sit here and think about all of the people that I know that are in pain and fear now. A friend tells me that he and his wife probably are not going to make it much longer. They have drifted apart over the years, and it seems she only cares about having a relationship with her daughter from a previous marriage. The hurt and pain of daily rejection is clearly evident in his eyes as I just sit and listen. Sometimes there are no words.

Several young men who are the sole breadwinners for their wives and new children are worried about being laid off due to the hard economic times, and the company’s drastic cutbacks. If you look close enough you can see the wheels turning in their heads as they ask themselves over and over again, what will I do if I get cut loose, so many people are dependent on me.

I have a next door neighbor, a single mom of two boys who is also supporting her chronically sick mother, she works eighty hour weeks as the sole support to her family, striving to provide the best life for everyone that she can, and driving herself into the ground to do it. When she gets the flu she will not take time off to get well because it means others will have to do without, so she sucks it up and keeps plowing forward like a quarterback that has been told to “shake off” a hard hit.

In the next house are another family, they used to have the big house at the end of the street, the big boat, the big RV. Jim lost his job two years ago (he worked for a homebuilder) and hasn’t been able to find work. They lost everything they had, and now rent a small house, being supported by his family until they can get back on their feet.

Every neighborhood is full of these stories, people who have been broken, are being broken, or are about to be broken. So many people who are going through these things right now are doing so without God and the comfort he provides. I have Christian friends that I talk to who have said to me “I don’t really know how to spread God’s word” or that they don’t often get opportunities to share their faith. If we never get to know our neighbors as friends, we never will get the chance to spread His word. Someone is much more open to listening to us when we talk about our faith if we have shared their pain with them and listened when they have poured their heart out.

A solid relationship with Christ offers the world something it can get no-where else, something that is simply not available anywhere else, Peace. Our world with all of its mayhem offers no true peace; I am convinced peace in any form is not available apart from God. There is solitude, there is quiet, there is comfort, but there is no true peace apart from Him, He is the author and holder of peace that surpasses all understanding. Brothers and sisters, the world is full of hurt and pain right now, people are being broken and humbled in the same way that God has allowed people to become broken and humbled at many times in the past.

People are receptive to God much more when they are hurting than when they are prospering. As followers of Christ we need to be there to offer comfort to those in need, and to offer peace to those who will accept it. The fields are ripe and ready for harvest, but we must be willing to get up and go do His work. Are you ready to go out and offer God’s peace to another? Matthew 10:11   11“Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. 12As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it

God Bless

JFT

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Tara sits in church with all of her friends in the un-official teen section. The pastor is on a roll today, he is talking about how we are not to cause our brother to stumble. He goes through various examples of things that may cause others to get the wrong idea about us or to be led astray by our example. Pastor uses the standard examples as Tara and her friends only half listen, they pass notes and text to one another, this sermon doesn’t really apply to Tara so what’s the point in hanging on every word.

The pastor talks about drinking and how one must be careful if drinking not to lead another astray, Tara crosses that one off in her mind, in her seventeen years she has never had one drink. He then talks about cursing and how if you become a different person away from church and cursing is a part of your life, you can discourage someone who may see or overhear you, not to mention that it destroys your witness. Tara silently scratches that one off of the list, she doesn’t curse so she doesn’t have to worry about it. Next he forges on to gossiping, nope, Tara isn’t a gossip either. Premarital sex, nope never done that and have no plans to either. Tara is getting bored at this point as this lesson clearly is not meant for her.

“Finally”, the pastor closes it up, does an alter call, they do announcements and then have a short closing prayer, and she and her friends are free to socialize. Her best friend Heather tells her there is a pizza party at Zach’s next Friday night, and asks her is she will be there. Heather then tells her Michael is coming too, and Tara says “oh yeah”, wouldn’t miss it for the world, and they start to plan their strategy. Tara likes Michael, and he is shy so it will be a chance to maybe break the ice some, that is “if” he even notices her. Heather is crushing on Zach too, so it could be a great opportunity for both of the girls to make a move.

The two girls talk all week on the phone about their strategy to get the boys attention. How they will do their hair, their makeup, and Friday afternoon they go out and get a pedicure and manicure so that they will look their very best. The girls go back to heathers house afterward and Tara opens her gym bag and begins to put on the outfit she has planned. Heather is wearing a short skirt and a matching blouse, Tara a pair of daisy dukes shorts and a spaghetti strap shirt. They both admire their tan legs and agree that all of that time in the tanning bed was well worth it. Makeup on, hair done and shellacked, perfume applied, and dressed to kill, they set out to the pizza bash prepared to stun the boys and get their attention.

Zach is at the counter helping his mom put out the pizza, wings and soda and making sure there is enough of everything when he looks up as more people arrive. So far the party is a success, all of his friends and some he doesn’t know that well are coming. “Oh man” he thinks when the two girls come in through the front door. Heather is smokin’ hot, but her friend, Tara I think it is, look at those legs. Zach is staring, as are all of the guys in the group. Zach kinda has a thing for Heather, but he doesn’t think she knows he exists, and after tonight, he knows she is out of his league, but those legs. Michael is hanging out with the group of friends he usually hangs with in by the TV, but he can’t help but notice when Tara comes in with her friend. Michael has always liked Tara, thought she was a really sweet girl, and has always thought she was pretty good looking, but now he knows she has great legs, as he has never seen her in anything but jeans. Michael and the guys can’t help but stare at the scantily clad young ladies, and they find themselves undressing the girls with their eyes. The other girls in the group whisper derogatory comments about the girl’s obvious promiscuity as Tara and Heather get in line for some pizza.

The evening is over and Michael remembers the night fondly, how Tara was so forward, coming right over to him and sitting down next to him. She is definitely a hottie, and he wouldn’t mind going out with her a couple of times, but she isn’t long term material, his mom had a fit over how she was dressed after she left, she would blow a major gasket if she knew he was contemplating going out with her. But man, what a body.

Tara walks to her next class and sees Hannah and Jaime in the hallway. They are huddled outside the math room in deep conversation. Tara goes over to say hello, and when they see her they act as though they didn’t and turn away, hurrying down the hall away from her. As the day goes on, many of her friends act as though they don’t know her. By the end of the day she knows something is up as she is being shunned by all of her friends as though she is a leper. Strangely enough, all of the boys she hangs out with look at her differently. When school lets out for the day she meets up with Heather, and they walk out to her car. Heather says she has heard that they now have a reputation as being promiscuous. She is shocked, wondering why people would get that impression.

That evening, as Tara finishes her math homework, her mother comes into her room and shuts the door. Her mom has a look of sadness in her eyes as she tells Tara that Zach and Michaels mothers have both called her today. Both of the boy’s mothers explained that they were very upset with the way Tara and Heather had come dressed to the party. The boys, all of them had acted like rabid hyenas when the girls had showed up.  Zach’s mother had stated that Tara and Hannah were no longer welcome in her home; it was hard enough raising teenaged boys these days without having friends from church come over in skimpy attire. Tara’s mother looked at her and asked “didn’t you listen to last weeks sermon at all”? Tara noticed her mother had tears rolling down her cheeks as she turned and left the room, deeply disappointed in the example her daughter had set. For the first time she began to wonder, if mom is this disappointed how does God feel?

This example is of a girl, but the same goes for boys, men, and women. Sexy is the universal language of our worldly culture, but it is not acceptable in God’s eyes outside of marriage. Remember that the way you dress while acceptable to the world, may be causing your brother or sister to lust and lusting is stumbling.

God Bless

JFT

This story is fiction, written to illustrate a point.

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The older man pushed his reader glasses higher up on his nose and looked me in the eye. Son, I am going to tell you the secret of investments, and how to be financially successful to prepare for retirement. Now I have played the stock market in the past, when I was a younger man and never come out ahead. After much trial and error, I discovered a thing called a mutual fund. When I placed my investments there my portfolio began to change in the right direction. Now here’s how it works.

They combine a bunch of stocks, usually somewhere between thirty and fifty different stocks to make a fund. If one, or even a few of the stocks tank it won’t affect your investment because it is still supported by all of the other stocks that have not tanked, which means mutual funds are foolproof. We are lucky, because our company offers eight different mutual funds, so you divide your investment up among several that are performing well, then your 401K will be that much safer. I sat listening wide eyed and soaking it all up, taking his financial “wisdom” all in. The older man leaned back in a confident pose and stated, “Your money couldn’t be safer if it was in Fort Knox”!

This conversation with the wise older co-worker occurred in the mid 90’s, and although he was a financial wizard with his investment advice to all who would listen, he lost more than fifty percent of his lifetime investment in the stock market crash a couple of years ago. He rode those mutual funds all the way down, the funds that were impervious to stocks tanking. It reminds me briefly of another situation.

Back in 1912, a ship was about to sail on its maiden voyage across the north Atlantic. It was the largest ship ever built and was a marvel of modern engineering. The steam engines were the state of the art, the controls the best ever constructed; it was a downright showy ship. As the passengers were loading on to the ship for the maiden voyage, a second class passenger asked a deckhand if the ship was really unsinkable. He replied “yes lady, God himself could not sink this ship”.  Of course you know this was the Titanic.

Sometimes arrogant knowledge is masked as wisdom in this world, and I must say I have been enthralled with it many times in my life. In James 3 it talks about wisdom, worldly wisdom and wisdom that comes from God. If someone is telling you to put your faith in something other than God, it is not wisdom from God but that from the world, which is not true wisdom. I have been caught up in seeking financial security, in feeling secure in my job, in feeling secure in my life, but it is all a lie and can crash at any time like a house of cards. Our only security is in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. Consider these passages;

James 3:13-18

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

This does not mesh with much of what the world calls wisdom. Peace-loving, considerate, submissive, and being full of mercy are not what this world tells us are ways of wisdom. Do not waste your time listening to the advice of those who would build you a castle on the sand, but build your house on the solid rock, the foundation that is God. Forget the lies of the world and cling to the cross, seeking the wisdom that can only come from knowing God and listening to the Holy Spirit. God Bless

JFT

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I sat in church during communion, praying for forgiveness.  I had hurt the feelings of a loved one, two actually and was beating myself up pretty hard.

One of my daughters had done something that angered me, and I had lost my temper and become the bull in the china cabinet again, the bull that hasn’t been seen in years. I had raised my voice, pointed my finger and made threats and said hurtful things. My girl had done something she shouldn’t have done, but it didn’t warrant the bull being turned loose again. My wife commented that she hadn’t seen me angry like that in a very long time, and that she thought that guy was gone for good. That guy was replaced by someone who is gentle and kind most of the time, someone who when a problem arises says “let’s pray about it and then just leave it in God’s hands.

That guy was replaced long ago by someone who has more discipline and is more consistent. This guy was replaced by a man who had purchased a refrigerator magnet with the scripture Ephesians 6:4 as a reminder daily of what God expects of me as a father. 4Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

This man was gone, forgotten as the anger had flowed from me in my flare of emotions leaving hurt and disappointment in my wake. Gone momentarily was the gentle and loving dad and husband, replaced by the raving lunatic. How could I have gone so wrong, how could I possibly have left behind the man who strives so hard to walk with the Spirit.

Over the past year, I have intently studied Jesus the man to try to truly understand the essence of who He is, the essence of how He treated others in His time on this earth. I wanted to understand the creed with which He lived His life. In this study I discovered that the way He lived His life, the way he treated others, the decisions he made were actually one hundred and eighty degrees out from what my nature as a man are. My decision was that I needed to change in my life to become more pleasing in the sight of God. I needed to change my nature, to deny my normal tendencies and be more the opposite of my true nature that others might see God living in me. So that is what I did, I strove to do the opposite of what the world and my human nature called me to do, and for the first time in my life, found the true “peace that surpasses all understanding” that is spoke of in the Bible. As I sit in church meditating and praying for forgiveness, tears are streaming down my cheeks at the shame I feel for not setting a better example and for losing my cool with those whom I love.

Then, the most amazing thing happened, that lover of my soul the Holy Spirit placed the answer on my heart. “That is why my Son suffered and died, for you”. I do not have the power or Spiritual fortitude to live my life without sin, and God knows this. Before Christ, people had to bring the very best of their first fruits to be sacrificed on the altar, a blood sacrifice for atonement. It was a tiring cycle of being in or out of salvation on a constant basis, hinging on your latest sacrifice and whether you have sinned since offering it. No Grace!

The Holy Spirit cut me some slack, and laid it on my heart to stop expecting perfection from myself, but to ever strive to be pleasing in the sight of God, but to realize I will mess up sometimes.

I rise up, wipe my eyes, and rejoice that I have a God and a family that loves me enough to forgive me when I stumble.

God Bless

JFT

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