Wednesday, October 27, 2021

I Am Blessed!

It is raining here in Connecticut, again. I have not been able to mow my lawn for three weeks now. The temperature is finally beginning to cool down too. I have been waiting and waiting for fall temps to arrive so I could start wearing sweatshirts, light jackets and sweaters. I love fall temperatures. It is funny though. I grumble about the heat of summer. Every time the air conditioner kicks on, I picture the meter on the side of my house spinning like a top and dread my next Eversource bill. Now that it is cool, I should be happy. However, I find myself stressing about when I should turn on the furnace. I am trying to hold out as long as I can, because I have heard oil is going to be very expensive this winter.

The only thing consistent about both of these situations is the reality that we do love to complain. Electric bill. Oil bill. Hot summers. Cold winters. Drought. Rain. I know plenty of friends and family who fled the dreaded New England winters and headed down south. Now in the Sunshine State they grumble about how Florida is not the utopia they thought it would be and how hot it is all the time. I’m not sure what it is, but we seem to enjoy whining and complaining. In fact, whenever you ask someone, “How are you?” More often than not the response is, “As best as can be expected.” “Hanging on.” “Getting by.” “Can’t complain (though that is exactly what they’re doing, really).  Besides, no one would listen if I did.” Occasionally, we get a sarcastic, “Living the dream.” Why is that? It is as if everyone is looking for sympathy of some sort. 

Do we really need sympathy? We live in the most amazing country the world has yet known. We have food, shelter, amazing advances in medicine and treatment, transportation, and electronic technology galore! Smartphones, flat-screen TV’s, surround sound, network broadcasts and streaming platforms, computers, laptops, and tablets. My car even warns me if I stray out of my lane so I won’t get into an accident. We can pray and worship without fear, in person or online. And, most importantly, we have a God who loves us beyond understanding. Even though we continue to mess up on a daily basis. We are blessed! We truly are! Even when we might be having a tough day, we are blessed. Even when someone or something disappoints us, we are blessed! We need to do better remembering that truth and rejoice!   

As David writes in Psalm 146,

“…joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He keeps every promise forever. He gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry. The Lord frees the prisoners. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down. The Lord loves the godly” (Psalm 146:5-8). 

God keeps every promise. He lifts us up. He loves the godly. You do not need sympathy, my friends, any more than I do. We need to let our light shine! We are living in an amazing time and serve an amazing God! Let people know that! When someone asks you, “How are you?” Don’t answer, “As best as can be expected.” “Hanging on.” “Getting by.” No! Say, “I AM BLESSED!” That will catch them completely off guard. When they ask why, you can respond, “Because I love God and know He loves me. Cares for me. Forgives me and will never let me down!” Yeah. Never mind Covid, or inflation, or even the cold rain that has come for a visit this week. I AM BLESSED! And, SO ARE YOU!              

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Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Largemouth Believers

In the late 80’s early 90’s a couple of close friends introduced me to bass fishing. I never thought I would be interested. Our families would go camping together and as I watched them get up just as the sun was rising and push their canoes out onto the water, I would say to myself, “Nah. I think I’ll get some more sleep.” Especially, when they returned with nothing. “No. We catch and release the fish.” Huh? You spent all that money on equipment. All that time (early in the morning) on the water and you just put them back? That made even less sense to me. What was the point?

Then my middle son, Justin, began to show an interest and even though my good friend Doug was happy to take him, I thought this was something his dad should do, so I got myself a pole and some tackle and headed out.

First, I have to mention, there is something very peaceful about being out on calm water as the sun is coming up. Then, you cast. Sometimes, you cast again and again and again, and nothing. Hours might go by, but suddenly there is a tug at the end of your line. You fishing pole bends toward the water. Your pulse races. Your breathing quickens. Adrenaline starts pumping as you realize that’s a fish! You pull back hoping not to let him get away. Over the next few minutes there is a tug of war between you and largemouth bass going on. Eventually, you get him to the boat and lift him inside. The feeling is indescribable. You feel like you won! Like a pioneer providing food for his family. It is an awesome sense of accomplishment. All kidding aside, I was hooked! No matter how long it was between catches (There is often a lot of time in between. It’s why they call it fishing not catching.) the excitement never subsided. Each time was just as thrilling as the first. It’s been that way ever since. I highly recommend it. Bass (largemouth or smallmouth), pickerel, perch, flyfishing for trout, or sun fish. The rush is the same. 

I wonder if that’s why Jesus called fishermen to be disciples. In Luke 5:1-11 we read,

One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.” “Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking. When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me – I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed. Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus. 

Fishing takes dedication, patience, and persistence, but when you do hook a fish, you soon realize it is all worth it! The same goes for sharing the gospel. You may do so again and again and often end up with nothing. No takers. However, when someone does respond, there is nothing like it! Your pulse races. Your breathing quickens. Your adrenaline starts pumping as you realize that someone is now secure in their salvation. They will one day enter the kingdom of heaven and live with God forever. That feeling is truly indescribable.

So, go cast a line. Fish for some people. It does take resolve and devotion, but the excitement never subsides.    

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Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

New Hampshire

I was blessed this past weekend to go away with my bride and celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. First of all, it is really hard to believe forty years has passed. It has not always been easy. We have seen up and downs. Confronted challenges and trials, but we faced them together and with God’s help overcame them all. Along the way, we raised three sons and now have a grandson. We embraced change together when the Lord called our young family into the ministry in 1997. It is amazing to think that four decades has gone by, and as we now begin the walk toward the finish line, we are both grateful that God has been a constant companion along the way. Without Him, we surely would have ended as many couples do – shattered and broken. 

It is sad to admit that, nowadays, fewer and fewer marriages pass a forty-year mark. Though Renée and I have, please do not lift us up. Left to our own devices, we too would not have made it. Instead, lift up the Lord. If He was not a part of our marriage, this weekend would have just been another weekend. Believe me. I hope you understand how important it is to make God not “a part,” but “the part” of your relationship. He is the solid rock upon which, if you build your marriage, nothing can tear it down. Trust Him together. Seek Him together. He will never let you down.

Now, I did not plan to make this Food 4 Thought all about Renée and I. Rather, I was thinking about how we went away this weekend. We headed up to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. The drive was amazing. The foliage breathtaking. I just love fall in New England. The truth is we all need to get away every now and again. Jesus did so regularly. Luke 5:16, “…Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” Mark 1:35, “Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” 

I know I don’t have to tell you that life can be hectic. Work. Children. Preparing meals. Baseball practice. Games. Dance lessons. Change the litter box. Doctor’s appointments. Mowing the lawn. Raking leaves. Walk the dog. Find time to go to the gym. Laundry. Vacuuming. Dusting. Grocery shopping. And don’t forget to get your oil changed.  

Sometimes it can be overwhelming, and we forget to spend time in God’s Word or speak with Him in prayer. I know life is crazy. Jesus’ life was too. People were seeking Him everywhere, all the time. Still, He knew, it was important to spend time with the Father. We need to make God a priority as well. When we do, it can be like traveling the back roads of Bretton Woods, Bethlehem, Franconia, and Sugar Hill, New Hampshire on a beautiful autumn day. Calming and restorative. Jesus told us, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Make Jesus the central part of your marriage and your life. You will find a peace that passes all understanding.    

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Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Leif Erikson Day

This weekend is Columbus Day weekend. The final three-day weekend of the year. Columbus Day celebrates Christopher Columbus discovering America, right? Remember? In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. He had three ships and left from Spain; He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain. We learned this poem in school growing up.

People of Italian heritage have always revered Columbus because he was born in Genoa, and they are rightly proud of his achievements. Contemporary opinion about Columbus has not been positive. Some believe his actions toward the native people were both brutal and cruel. Other historians have argued that some of the accounts of the brutality were exaggerated and a part of an historical tendency towards anti-Spanish sentiment. Whether this is true or not, I’m not going to solve today. What I find interesting is what we do know is true.

Columbus never reached “America.” He landed in Hispaniola – the island in the Caribbean that today includes Honduras and Haiti. We also know that North America was “discovered” (an interesting phrase the native inhabitants would likely object to) 500 years earlier by a Norse explorer from Iceland named Leif Erikson. Nonetheless, Columbus still gets a long weekend.

I’m not complaining. I enjoy a three-day weekend as much as the next guy. I just find it fascinating how often people stick to what they choose to believe even in the face of incontrovertible proof otherwise. 

Similarly, as believers, we know the angels said to the women who went to the Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb on Sunday morning, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead” (Luke 24:5-6)! Still, there are many who continue to reject Christianity because they choose not believe that Jesus actually died on the cross and then rose from the dead. Did you know there are actually multiple non-Christian sources from the first century that testify to Jesus’ death on the cross, and that His tomb was later found empty? It is a list too long to go over now but suffice it to say that a man named Jesus was crucified to death by the Roman Empire in Jerusalem in AD 33. That is simply an historical fact. As was His empty tomb. 

Never underestimate the human ability to rationalize, justify, or deny. There are still folks who do not believe we landed on the moon. People did not believe Jesus was the Messiah then and many still do not. That decision remains a personal choice, but I just wonder, how does one deny facts? I suppose the same way some still choose to believe Columbus discovered a land we now know he never set foot on. I choose to recognize Leif Erikson’s accomplishment, because it’s true. Oh, and Jesus. Yeah, His story is true too. Enjoy your long weekend.    

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Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.