Do You Love Enough To Say No?

In the late forties a book was released which causes a stir in child development.  This book pushed a less rigid style of parenting and gained the author world wide acclaim.  Dr. Benjamin Spock’s book has sold over fifty million copies in seven printings and has been translated into thirty nine languages making it as some say second only to the Bible.  “Spock insisted mothers could trust their own judgment. He succeeded in establishing a more sympathetic, child-centered approach, and in the process he became a national phenomenon.” However, later in Dr. Spock’s life he altered his approach stating children needed standards.   (Vision.org)

The God of the Bible is always willing to say no to those whom he has created and though Dr. Spock believed parents were due respect, saying no requires a willingness not to be respected, admired or loved.  In the creation account God tells Adam not to eat of the tree.  Rebellion occurred and man sinned.  God’s statement of having no other gods pits man’s desires against what God knows is best.   The god named, MORE tells man, “With MORE, you will be happy!”  The god MORE tells man, “With MORE you will be content!”  The god MORE says, “With MORE you will respected.!”  The god MORE is permissive and permits its adherents to worship at his altar but this worship leads to MORE’s anxiety and loss of stamina.  The God of the Bible says worship me and man gets peace and rest.  The god MORE never says NO because MORE wants more. 

The God of the Bible says no from a heart of love and his decisions are based not on a feeling of love but the character of Love.  This kind of love seeks the best for others while MORE just seeks for itself.  God tells us not to envy the possessions of others and to be content with what he gives us.  In love he offers us the opportunity not to struggle in having MORE, because it leads to unhappiness.  MORE requires his followers to defend having MORE but God defends us. 

Dr. Spock’s life never achieved the type of parent he portrayed.  The results never measured up to his desires possibly because he did not include the heart of sin which God knows is evil.  God is willing to say NO to us because he has already said YES.  “No, you will not see destruction because you have said YES to my Son!”  He knows what is the best for us even if he has to say NO!
  

Becoming A Model Maker

As a kid I loved making models of cars, planes, and even rockets.  These miniature copies were made of plastic or wood and required time and effort.  These kits usually were 1/12th scale which meant the real thing was twelve times larger but the model was designed to mimic the original.   Of course, once finished they were displayed on a young boy’s shelf.  The model rockets were not for display purposes but with the addition of a solid fuel propellant engine these models could soar thousands of feet into the Orlando sky.  With America in the space race during my childhood, model rocket clubs were made up of kids coming together to test their skills and abilities in rocket making, launching and recovery. 

I am no longer making models of rockets or cars but have turned my skills to a higher purpose.  Today I am again taking Stefani with me as she volunteers with hospice.  Modeling service to others is not something which is taught but is modeled for her to see and while our desire is to do things which benefit us and then to others, Christ shows a different model. 

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:10-12(NIV)

In our service we serve with the strength God supplies.  I am told over and over again by people that as a hospice chaplain, “It must take a special person to do what you do.”  The real answer is not that I am special but I minister or model the One I serve so God can be glorified.  Yesterday I had the chance to pray with a co-worker for him and the hospice families he provides with care.  I hope I modeled to him Jesus Christ so maybe someday he will model him as well. 

Models of plastic may be put on a shelf, but like the Estes model rockets which we launched, models of Christ are to be put to work. 

I have a special concern for you church leaders. I know what it’s like to be a leader, in on Christ’s sufferings as well as the coming glory. Here’s my concern: that you care for God’s flock with all the diligence of a shepherd. Not because you have to, but because you want to please God. Not calculating what you can get out of it, but acting spontaneously. Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way. 1 Peter 5:1-3 (The Message)

Today’s prayer:  Heavenly Father, you have given me a great model to follow.  He served others by surrendering his life.  Help me to surrender my life to you so I may tenderly show others the Way.  Amen. 

W-A-I–T– A Not So Dirty Four Letter Word

Today’s post idea is from a discussion with Amanda A.  Thanks. 

Have you ever stood in line at the grocery store with people ahead of you with full carts and at the cashier an elderly person fishing for the exact change from a change purse?  They count the pennies, nickels, dimes or quarters for the groceries while the cashier looks back to you with a “forgive me its not my fault look”.  You fume as you realize you are twenty minutes from getting out of the store and still have to get dinner made for your family.  Maybe you might want to consider this a “teachable moment” from God to teach you how to wait.

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  1 Peter 1:6-7 

We hate to wait and waiting for God might frustrate us.  We insist God move to action and become impatient when he has not given us a clear path; we jump without him.  Usually we find ourselves down the road struggling and wondering why God has not caught up with us in our efforts.  Why are we tired, stressed, and filled with worry?  Why do our hands hang down and our knees feel weak? In Isaiah 40:31 those who would seem to have the needed strength to continue, the young and the athletic. stumble and collapse (literally, “stumble stumbling”) while those who “wait” on the Lord will run with a new strength and stamina.  The word, “waiting” has two meanings which overlap one another:  waiting hope or hopeful waiting. (Word Biblical Commentary, Isaiah p. 95)

In any situation, we need to wait. 

Withstand the impulse to jump to action without prayer or seeking God’s advise.
 
Accept the fact there is a God and your are not him.

Incline your heart, head, hands, and feet to do as Jesus did when he said he could do nothing unless the Father showed him.

Tell him you need help with patience.  He already knows but he wants you to admit it.  Remember, all of this is to perfect you to glorify him as the truthfulness of your faith is proven before others and the next time an event happens, you just smile as your realize if you don’t pass this test, another one is just down the road till you get it right. 
Today’s Prayer:  Lord, I know to learn patience you give me the opportunities to be patient.  Today, could you start with a small one and walk with me as I seek to grow.  Amen. 

A Believer’s Growing Feeling of Homesickness!

Our daughter finally came home yesterday after a week at camp.  When we spoke to her on the telephone Saturday her first question was why had we not come to pick her up.  Mommy could sense a growing homesickness and reminded her why there was a day delay.  Daddy and her had a function to attend for work and she was going to spend the night at her aunt and uncle’s house.  This was a temporary fix for later in the evening when we talked with her again, she had tears in her eyes missing Mommy and Daddy.  Nothing could satisfy her until 3 PM on Sunday when she sprang from her aunt and uncle’s car into the arms of her parents.  As she buried her head into my chest and I held her so strongly, she was at peace.  We three vowed the next year at camp we would take her and return her home with us. 

From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.  Psalm 81:3 

I learned so much from her this weekend as another child–a child of God’s.  The more I grow to know him, the more homesick I become.  Stefani loved to spend time with her aunt and uncle but could not be satisfied this time for she wanted her parents.  In the same way, relationships and things do not have the pull on my life they once did as I long for my heavenly home.  When we pray the Lord’s prayer, “Thy kingdom come…”  it has more meaning as I heard our pastor yesterday speak about walking in the back door of his parents’ house, pouring coffee and sitting at the table with his dad.  I desire as the psalmist said, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalms 23:6

As a child riding in the backseat of my parents’ car I would ask, “How long till we get there?” or “How much farther?” Their answer never satisfied me for in an hour I probably asked again much to their chagrin.  With both sons asking the same questions my parents with their frustration level near the top would tell us to “Just wait!” As I grow as a Christian, I know I must wait for God to call me home.  Of course, during times of crisis or despair I have cried out to come home but God has said wait.  I am satisfied to know he is listening but a growing homesickness is still there. I have cried out to God when I see evil persist in the world as ask him how long, and he says wait.  As I held tightly to Stefani yesterday and told her I was glad to see her, I wondered if  one day Jesus will hold me in his arms and say, “I am glad you are home.  I have surely missed you!”  It will make it worth the wait!. 

A Crisis With Courtesy

Have you ever been stopped in your car to pull out into traffic and another car snakes between you blocking your view?  You refuse to move because you cannot see traffic through this person and then the guy behind blows the horn for you to move because he can see you have a clear shot.  What ever happened to manners?  I read one time a story of an  older man holding a door opened for a young woman who responded with, “You don’t need to do that for me because I am a WOMAN.”  The kindly man said, “I am not doing it because you are a woman.  I am doing it because I am a gentleman.”  Growing in the south with a mom from South Carolina, I learned manners in speaking to those older or in positions of authority with a “Yes,sir or ma’am.”  I learned to call adults with a Mr. or Mrs. and their last name and I would never call an adult by their first name.  I had a young man come to me as a seventh-grader and called me Steve.  I politely said until he was an adult he should call me Pastor Steve or Pastor Mentzer but not just Steve.  Eventually all the children learned to use this for their teachers as well: Miss Vicki, Miss Pam, etc. 

The word courtesy in its literal translation means “of have manners worthy of courts”.  Now we can guess it means for legal courts but by the 15th century most European countries had regal courts for kings and queens.  The manners needed in those cases would be very formal.  Women would curtsy and men would bow to show respect for the monarch.  The sovereign was totally due this respect by law.  We see agreements between rulers and their subjects which stated the king or queen would protect the individual and the other person owed them taxes, food or other obligation because they were the nobility.  Kings could also ennoble others because of acts of bravery or others things. 

In the Old Testament we see God making such agreements with men like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and many others.  He would be their God and they would be his people.  They were to live by certain rules and obligations and if they disobeyed these people would become the subjects of pagan rulers.  God was due this because he was above his creation.  God has also ennobled us.

Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple. Psalm 65:4 

Believers have been invited into the courts of God by blood.  He gave his Son to permit us into these sacred courts made holy by his holiness.  Thus we are to live as members of his courts.  No lying, stealing, cheating, gossiping, etc.  These he has written on our hearts and reminds us.  He had made us a part of his kingdom and like the grandson of Saul whom David blessed, we will eat at the King’s table forever.  Take your elbows of the table and be courtly. 

WATCH THE VIDEO BY CLICKING ON THE IMAGE.  TODAY, IT IS ON MANNERS. 

How To Have Mountain Top Experiences

In Cass, West Virginia people can find themselves going back into time by about 100 years to the logging heyday of West Virginia. The use of shay engines, which were different from other steam locomotives, allowed logging trains to go up and down the steep 4,770 foot steep Bald Knob.  The virgin timber on this mountain made West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company owner, Joseph Kerr Cass a wealthy man.  Mountains can be a challenge because of rugged terrain and steep inclines requiring time and toil to ascend.(Videos are of the Cass Railroad)

Believers speak of mountaintop experiences with God like those of his Son, Jesus who sought out these places for prayer and solitude with his Father.  What we forget is there were no roads to the tops of the mountains and Mount Tabor (1,886 feet) and Mount Hermon (2,814 feet) are just two identified mountains Jesus climbed. When I was going on a mission trip it was suggested to me to go and pray in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.  The drive was easy but the spiritual pressure was great as a deep sadness crept in until I said to Satan he would not keep me from praying.  Immediately the pressure lifted like the rain clouds covering the 2,461 foot mountain and soon found myself overlooking the valley below. 

In desiring a mountaintop experience, try using the acrostic CLIMB to make your journey and time with God spiritually enriching. 

Consider climbing mountains is a task which requires a commitment and not just a mere whim. If the goal is to meet with God you must purpose in your heart that the result will be worth the effort. 

Locate your place of worship and prayer and make it a special place reserved for just you and God.  Mine is Petit’s Gap and when I took my wife Vicki to Virginia, we made a stop at Thunder Ridge to pray. 

Isolate yourself from anyone and anything which could get in the way of your time. Phone, electronics, children are just a few of the things which would detract from your alone time with him.

Meditate on the Word of God.  When I went to prepare for my mission trip, I prayed Psalm 51, asking for forgiveness of my sins and the opportunity to teach others.

Believe God wants to speak to you and be willing to listen for his voice.  Jesus says his sheep will know his voice. 

Mountains with snow, trees, and animals make nice pictures for postcards or photo albums as well as good places for prayer.  Getting there can be difficult but the results will be spectacular. 

My Ode To Sears and Roebuck–Kenmore Could Be No More!

Growing up in Orlando one of the downtown standards was Sears and Roebucks down the street from J.C. Penney.  If you could not find it in one you would walk to the other.  As I grew up I knew my father and mother thought the Kenmore brand was the answer to anything.  My father would buy Craftsman tools as a machinist because if it broke they would replace them.  My father took care of tools and I don’t recall him having to do this but it was a nice sales gimmick.  When we moved right after graduation to Virginia Beach, just down the road at the Pembroke Mall was the anchor store, Sears.  When Sears had the Tom Landry series of clothes, we bought my dad a gift certificate. He adored the Dallas Cowboys coach and his ethics and values.  He said he was going to buy a hat like Landry and so he did.  When Coach Tom came out on TV on one very cold game without his famous style hat, dad threw a fit and never wore the hat again.  It was in his closet when he died, having sat there for nearly twenty years.  Sears and Roebuck was famous for its catalog sales and the catalog became associated with going to the outhouse in rural America. In 1969, Sears announced plans to build a new headquarters building in downtown Chicago. The 110-story Sears Tower became the world’s tallest building at 1,454 feet when it was opened in 1973. The staggering amount of materials needed to construct the building included 76,000 tons of steel, 2 million cubic feet of concrete, 16,000 tinted windows, 1,500 miles of electrical wiring and 80 miles of elevator cable.  However, the pillar of American retail for over one hundred years had been predicted by the Wall Street Journal to disappear in the next year. 

Though it has been many years since I shopped in a Sears, I will miss the memories of Christmas in Sears and the Orlando parade snaking its way past the Sears and Roebuck store on the corner.  Icons of my childhood seem to disappear at an alarming rate.  Two other things I will miss mentioned in the article were Kellogg’s Corn Pops and A & W Root Beer restaurants.  As I get older I am sure more will depart from the landscape but I always thought there would have been Sears and Roebucks. 

From Childish Faith to Maturing Faith

As a child I had an American Flyer Sante Fe diesel train set with all types of cars, houses, people, and businesses on a board beneath my bed.  When I wanted to play with it, all I had to do was slide it out.  I would spend hours imagining myself as the engineer, moving the train into the yard to pick up things for the cars and then on my way.  Just for laughs I looked at what this system would cost today.  Just the engine system of three cars was nearly five hundred dollars. 

When we speak of new Christians, they are referred to as babes in Christ.  John in his first epistle speaks to fathers, young men and children and commends them for their spiritual progress.  Christian growth moves from the knowledge of the forgiveness of sins, to the withstanding attacks of the evil one, and finally the knowledge of one who the Alpha and Omega.  In the last part, a Christian who knows Christ and how he lived may well be able to relinquish this world and its allure. (Matthew Henry Commentary)

Paul says in I Corinthians 13 he has put away childish speech, thought and reason.  As an adult I think back to my childhood and the foolish thoughts and actions of my youth and regret many of them.  The same can be said of my Christian growth.  As a babe in Christ I was only focusing on the fact my sins were forgiven.  In time, I learned about the attacks of the enemy and what was needed to fend off the assault.  As I continue to grow in Christ, the things of this world which fascinated and attracted me no longer have an appeal.  Given Paul’s words in Ephesians 4 of why God has given the church leaders, it shows the need to instruct believers so they can grow and attain the full measure of Christ. 

Some Christians will stay as babes and be tossed around like a cork on the ocean wave or blown around like leaves.  Just as growing up requires determination, so does maturing Christian faith.  We know adults who act more like children then their own children.  Likewise, some Christians will get saved and remain in the same seat in the church until they are removed by the pall beareres at their funeral.  Others will remember their first love, Christ, and seek to be just like him in mature speech, thought, reason, and ultimately, service. 

What Are You Expecting?

Many of us who grew up eating Heinz ketchup remember the commercials of the slow-moving, sweet, red sauce oozing from the mouth of the bottle onto a plate of golden french fries.  Not wanting to wait, some people pound the bottle with the palm of their hands, sometimes with horrible results on the clothing of someone across from you.  The Heinz bottle has been in our kitchen refrigerator for as long as I can remember beside their mustard and relish.  Oswald Chambers writes, “Always be in a state of expectancy, and see that you leave room for God to come in as He likes.”  In Lamentations 3:24-26 the author writes: “I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.”

However in this fast paced world, expectancy has been replaced by the need for immediacy.  Microwave or convection ovens replaced the conventional oven we had in our homes as children and have reduced cooking time. In the three to four hours it takes to make bread, we can run to the 7-11, make a sandwich and get in a quick round of golf.  For a few years the super-sonic jets from Europe to the United States reduced travel time for those who could afford the price.  Once on a trip to Orlando, we were stopped on I-4’s eight lane highway during rush hour traffic.  My daughter asked what was happening and she returned with another question.  “Daddy, do we have traffic jams in Wellsburg?” (population less than 3,000)  “Yes, baby girl,” I replied, “Two cars at a red light.” 

Some people pray expecting answers like the service at fast-food restaurants–you speak into a faceless speaker, drive around to pay money and pick up your food.  We get irritated because God has not immediately responded to our request.  Job felt the same way:  “If I called and He answered me,
I could not believe that He was listening to my voice.” Job 9:16   We want God to supply all of our needs according to our timetable.  I was told to finish the Sunday morning service by 12 Noon because this group had other things to do.  My answer was if we are going to spend eternity in heaven worshipping God, should we not practice worship now in anticipation of heaven? 

We rush from the rising of the sun till well after dark to accomplish our agenda and may be too busy to allow God to come in as He likes.  We schedule him like an appointment refusing to listen because it is not God & Me time. Once all my telephone did was ring when someone called but today it holds my agenda, calendar, and appointments.  I am so scheduled by others and myself I sometimes forget my expectation as a believer is to hear from One who loves me and wants to talk with me and listen to me. 
With caller ID I know if I want to answer the phone when it rings.  If God started using the phone to reach me I would surely answer that call.  I should not expect that to happen any time soon. 

 

Almost Heaven–Camp Cowen

In John Denver’s ode to country living, Country Roads, it speaks of West Virginia life and the beauty of its people.  Yesterday we drove our daughter, Stefani, to just such a place.  Sandwiched between the mountains of West Virginia and the Birch River is a place many in the state would consider “all most heaven” and for good reason.  Camp Cowen is both rustic and beautiful with the cabins covered by a canopy of sixty, eighty and hundred foot trees that may have been around when West Viirginia became a state.  As I watched the families bringing their children, I began to notice something in the faces of the adults.  They looked around with growing smiles and longing looks as if they had come home.  I was fascinated by the Cowen mystique since I had never gone to church camp as a child.  Adults joined in with the children and they played bean bag toss.  Others greeted other adults as long ago relationship of a by-gone day. 

I asked Rob Ely, Director of Discipleship, Camping and Youth about this.  Though this title is well deserved for the years of work he had given to Cowen and youth across the state, he is as much a kid as his charges for the week.  When he smiles, it is infectious and inviting.  Dick Clark has been called the eternal teenager but they have never met Rob Ely.  While most ministers his age are settling into pastorates, he is still running around the camp in shorts, shirt and sneakers.  As he greets the children who have come back year after year, Rob calls them by name.  While the title is listed on the web page for the camp, words like coach, friend, encourager and lover of God are written across his countenance.  When asked if any of the adults volunteering this week had once been children here, he advised me many had and said they were “giving back”.

Susie, this week’s director also added she found Christ here as a child and coming back yearly she developed relationship with people across the state who hold her in Christian accountability to the ideal of Cowen and prayed for her as well for this week.  She further added that as she enters the gates into Cowen she feels the presence of God.  Our daughter’s counselers greeted each child in the cabin, helped them get settled and began learning their names.  One was Emily, a married twenty-one year old college student at Concord who is seeking to enter medical school.  She left her husband for the week to serve with little girls because she too had found Christ here and over the years knew this was a place of ministry for her. 

We left for Cowen yesterday morning at 8 AM and returned from a four hundred mile plus trek about 10 PM.  Thinking about this blogpost all the way home I realized the “giving back” was not out of obligation or debt but a profound commitment to share the same Chriist with other children just as it had happened to them.  For the parents who journed long and for churches who make this a priority, the “giving back” may one day bear much fruit.  My good friend Tom Smell has a picture of him when he was a few months old in the arms of a missionary at Camp Cowen, and if it pays off for Stefani as it has done for Tom, Susie, Emily, Rob and unknown thousands of people who have entered the gates of Cowen, then we have shown her a bit of “almost heaven”.