Archive for June, 2008

A Great Day

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

 What a great day.

The last three or four weeks have been something else. But for Christ, they would have been completely overwhelming. It seems as if great forces have been mobilized against us, coming at us from almost every direction.

Yet, John’s words, “Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world,” have never seemed truer.

Despite the sometimes amazing, sometimes terrible, and sometimes bizarre occurrences of the last three to four weeks, I have to say that I don’t think God has ever used us as much for His work during any other month as He has during this last month.

Today we had a great time at church. We had a bigger attendance than for any other Sunday for at least the last three years – even with some of the regulars gone. It was wonderful to see so many new faces and some returning who have been out of church for so long, without any special promotion or big event. God is good.

These last few months I’ve felt that God is moving here. He’s doing something big and mighty. I don’t know exactly what it is, yet, but His hand is moving. Seeing a glimpse of it at church this morning was encouraging beyond description.

SAVED … just in time.

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

We never know when our time is up. 

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

James 4:14

We don’t know if we will still be here next year, next month, next week, tomorrow, or five minutes from now, and we should live our lives accordingly.

This is also true of the people we meet as we go about our daily lives.  No matter who they are, how healthy they are, how much money they have, how young they are — no matter — we don’t know if they will still be around tomorrow.  We should reach them while we can.

A fellow was led to the Lord at Hope Haven Gospel Mission a few weeks back by Bro. Paul McLaughlin, the director of the mission.  The man was 26 years old and had shown no previous interest in God, but one day he walked into the mission and attended one of the chapel services.  He gave his life to Jesus that day.

The following week he was stabbed in an incident outside a convenience store in Auburn.  He died.

How providential that this young man encountered Christ a week before he died!  Who could have predicted that he was going to be killed the following week?  Who knows the time of their death?

Today is the day of salvation.  We don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

Are you saved?  Settle it today.  Don’t wait.

Has God called you to some special service?  Get onto it today.  Don’t hesitate or make excuses.

Is there someone to whom God has burdened you to witness?  Do it today.  They may not be around tomorrow.

Don’t give up now

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

From time to time, God sends those little bright spots into your life to remind you of why you are doing what you are doing.  Sometimes, that’s where we get our strength to continue on.

This was a difficult week, with difficulties and challenges from many directions. But, God sent one of those “bright spot” moments yesterday to remind me what He has put me here to do.

Mid-afternoon I received a call from the manager of an apartment complex where an elderly member of our church lives.  He told me that the man had been taken away by ambulance because of sharp pain in his left side.

I headed off to the hospital and, being nearer the hospital than he, I arrived before the ambulance and waited in the ER for him to be brought in.

This man has few people that he can call his “friend”.  He has no family around here, and the family that he has in other states shows no interest in him.  He lives alone.  His wife died in the 1980’s, and he never had any children.  I visit him once or twice a week, take him to the Post Office and grocery store, and wherever else he needs to go, and over the past few years I have come to know him pretty well.

All of the challenges of this past week were washed away when I saw his face.  They brought him in on a gurney, his face twisted in pain, fear, and confusion.  Then he looked up and saw me waiting there at the door for him, and an amazing peace and joy swept across his face.  I grabbed his hand and walked alongside as they carried him into one of the ER exam rooms.

“I’m so glad you’re here, so glad to see you here.  Nobody cares for me.  I can’t trust anyone to help me.  You’re the only one.  I’m so glad you’re here.”  Obviously he was in an emotional state of mind, but his words were nonetheless very heartwarming.

I thought, “God, thank you!”  There were so many things this week that had caused stress for me.  There were defeats and disappointements.  But none of that mattered now.  God used a few words from an old man to put it all in perspective.

The struggle really is worth it.  Even when you think your effort just doesn’t matter.  Even when it seems like the whole world is lined up against you.  Even when you look around and see just how few sincere Christians there are left in the world — how few really “get it” — your work does matter.

If the place you’re called to labor,
seems so small and little known,
it is great if God is in it,
and He’ll not forget his own!

Those are the words from the second verse of “Little is Much.”  Often the things we do for God seem so little when they have become routine and “every day” to us, but they really do matter.  They really are Big Things — we’re just looking with earthly eyes and not eternal.

God may give us a glimpse here below, but we really won’t know the true impact of our work for Him until we get to the other side.

Those who labor for honor and glory in highly visible positions … well, they have their reward.  It’s an easy thing for God to find someone willing to work for Him in return for money, position, and honor.  It’s an easy thing to get someone to do something in return for a good retirement package, a steady salary, and recognition.

But, it’s a difficult thing to find people who will be content to labor in obscurity, living day-to-day sometimes not knowning where their provision will come from, with no recognition, no retirement plan, no honor and glory.

Yet those are exactly the folks God is looking for.  He is looking for the one who will be content in whatever position He puts them in — whether they are wearing clothes from Goodwill and driving an old model car with 200,000 miles on it, or whether they are given abundance of this world’s goods.

God wants folks who are willing to live with less in order to do more.

I know that there are folks reading this that are on their last leg.  People who have sincerely served God the best they can and the best they know how, and you’re wondering if it’s really worth it.  You’re tired and exhausted, and it seems like you are opposed with every step you take.  Nothing works out the way you intended.  It seems like most other Christians are looking on with unconcern, wrapped up in their own little worlds.  You’re tired of being tired.  You’re tired of struggling so hard for a little grocery money. 

You’re tired of the car breaking down and not being able to fix it.  You’re tired of the plumbing problems, the “little” house repairs that are still neglected.  You’re wondering if you just made a bad choice, and maybe — just maybe — it would have been better to work a little more for yourself and a little less for others.  Disappointment and despair are encircling you in their black, vulture-like wings.

Don’t give up.  Your sacrifice is worth it.  Your work is not going unnoticed, nor will it be unrewarded.  You are working for greater wages.  Take your eyes off of the folks who have the material things of this life.  Try to remember that the fruit of your labor is not something you can readily see, and that only God will know the true, eternal impact of what you are doing.  Stop trying to quantify your “results” like an accountant adds up receipts.  Pragmatism is as far away from faith as the east is from the west.  Turn your eyes above — not to what you can see here and now.

Remember that Adonirum Judson labored for seven years before he saw a single conversion, yet in the end over 250,000 Burmese could trace their spiritual heritage to his work.

Serve God in feast and in famine.  Serve God when the car is running, and when it’s broken down.  Serve God when you have gas in the tank, and when it’s empty.  Serve God when you’re full of energy and enthusiasm, and when you’re tired and drained.  Serve God when the refrigerator is full, and when it is bare.  Serve God when people pay you for your work, and when they leave you hanging with a $2,000 bill.  Serve God when you can see the results, and when it looks like it just doesn’t matter.  Just serve God. 

Do your part and let Him do His part.  He didn’t put that desire in your heart just for laughs to watch you struggle.  He is the most merciful and loving God, embracing you as with the gentle arms of a loving mother, sheltering you as a mother hen spreads her wings over a precious chick, defending you before the enemy as a mighty grizzly defends her cubs.

It’s so hard in the body of flesh to see with spiritual eyes.  The tiredness of our muscles and bones and the disappointments of the day give a loud voice to the deceitful flesh.  But truth is not determined by who yells the loudest.  Truth is not determined by the one who writes the most books or has the biggest bank account.  Truth is not determine by the one who has the most people on their side.  Truth is God’s domain.  To see truth, we must look with spiritual eyes.

Don’t get out of the fight.  The work you are doing for God is worth it.  The little light and little pleasures and little reliefs you bring to other people are worth it.  Keep your eyes on others.  Continue to sacrificially serve others, even to your own detriment.  Wealth, honor, and material abundance are empty, deceitful vanities which more often than not serve to distract you from your service.

God loves you.  I love you.  We’re in this together — as brothers and sisters.  Hold the fort.  He’s coming.

Thunder and Lightning

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

While I was typing up that last post (New Jersey), a ferocious thunderstorm blew through.  It was one of those heavy ones like the ones that I remember seeing times when I was down South — when the whole sky is lit up steadily by one bolt after another.  It knocked the power out a few minutes into it.  Later we found out that the storm brought down a bunch of trees onto the power lines about 1000 feet up the road.

video loading …


Trip to New Jersey

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

I’m back from the trip to NJ.

And what a trip it was!

A 98-year-old man in our church (we’ll call him SB) has been corresponding lately with a brother with whom he had been out of touch for a couple decades.  This younger brother is the only sibling he has left.  He wanted to go see him in person, reasoning that because of his own age, it may be the last time in his life that he would see his brother.

I told him I would take him, and I set aside Monday and Tuesday for the trip.

So, yesterday at 6:00 AM I picked up SB at his apartment and we headed out for the 9-hour journey.  The drive down was great.  There was very little traffic, the weather was pleasant, and we got better gas mileage that I expected.  We made really good time.

One thing I noticed, though, was that the further south we drove, and the further on in the morning we drove, the warmer it became.  Then “warm” turned into “hot” and “hot” turned info “suffocating”. 

I discovered, too, that the air conditioning in the 1999 Dodge Caravan we just bought does not work.  Normally, that’s not a big deal.  In Maine, we might need to run the AC in the car 2-3 days out of the year.  In fact, it’s been years since I owned a car with working AC.  However, when it hit 100 as we came into NJ Monday afternoon, it would have been really nice to have some AC.

We arrived in NJ and I found out that SB did not know where his brother lived.  I thank God (literally) that He moved me to go to Google the night before and print out directions based on the return address on the correspondence from SB’s brother.  The Google directions took us right to his front door.  Thank you, God!

 I went to the door and rang the bell.  SB’s brother came to the door and was quite surprised to see us there.  SB had not told him we were coming.  But, God had worked it out that he happened to be there when we arrived.

God had his hand in every aspect of this trip.

To my surprise and delight, SB’s brother turned out to be a very sharp and eloquent man.  He has been a hard worker all his life, been through the Great Depression, and served in the U.S. Army during and immediately after World War II.

Their mother had been on the Carpathian, the ship that picked up the survivors from the Titanic, and was right in the middle of the work, pulling women and children out of the lifeboats into the ship and handing out blankets.  Later she survived both the Nazi domination and the brutal Soviet occupation in her home country in eastern Europe.

SB’s brother was very polite and accomodating, but within only a few minutes SB began picking at him, bringing up things that happened back in the 1940s and 1950s.  He picked at his brother’s children.  He picked at his brother’s wife, who had passed away decades ago with cancer.  He picked at his brother’s friends.  I very quickly understood why these men had not stayed in touch.  It was not by accident, but by choice.

SB’s brother was polite (maybe because I was there), but he didn’t just take what SB was handing out.  He corrected SB and refuted him at every word.

After about 30 or 45 minutes of back-and-forth, SB stood up and said, “I want to go home now.”  Nine hours (one way) on the road, gas at $4.29/gallon, two days with no work getting done back home  — all for a short meeting and quick “good-bye”.

We headed out from SB brother’s home with the heat still at a stifling 100 degrees.  Taking I-95 back up through NYC, we hit the Cross Bronx Expressway at 5:00 … rush hour.  We drove at 25-35 mph (when we were moving at all) in suffocating heat and bumper-to-bumper traffic, all the way up to New Haven, CT.

At New Haven I turned onto I-91 and headed north.  The traffic immediately thinned out and I was able to get back up to 65mph, which made the heat much more bearable.  There were a couple minor slowdowns for nighttime construction on I-495 in MA, but for the most part it was really smooth sailing after New Haven.  I took SB to his place, then got back home about 2:00 AM.

Our Purpose in Life

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

What is our purpose in life?

For as long as mankind has lived on the earth, people have asked the questions.

“Why am I here?”

“What am I supposed to be doing?”

“What is the meaning of life?”

Who can answer these questions?  Who can we go to and say, “tell me the meaning of life”?

Someday we will be face-to-face with God and can ask Him.  Then, however, it will be too late to do anything about it.  We need to know now – right now – what our purpose in life is, so that we can be doing what we are supposed to be doing today and tomorrow.

We can’t ask this question to just anyone.  We need to ask it to a wise person – a supernaturally wise person.  But where can we find this man or woman?

There is one man that can tell us what we want to know.  He is not alive now, but he wrote a great deal on the subject.  He was a wise man, but more than that he was the wisest man who ever lived.  He was granted supernatural wisdom by God.  His insight on this question is invaluable.

Solomon lived about 950 B.C.  After the death of the famous King David of Israel, Solomon ascended the throne.  God asked him what he wanted, saying that He would grant him his desire. Of all the things Solomon could ask for – money, fame, power, long life – he asked for something very simple.  Solomon told God that he wanted wisdom so that he could rule the people well.  God granted that desire, and Solomon became the wisest man to ever walk the earth.

Solomon was a man who had it all and did it all.  During his life, the Kingdom of Israel reached its height of power.  It may have been the most powerful and the wealthiest nation on earth at the time.  Solomon became fabulously wealthy.  People bearing gifts came from far away countries to hear his wisdom, including the famous Queen of Sheba.

Solomon wrote many books.  He investigated nature.  He built a powerful army.  He built a fleet of merchant ships that sailed the Indian Ocean. He initiated agricultural and mining endeavors.  He built the first Temple in  Jerusalem, one of the wonders of the ancient world.
What did Solomon have to say about it?

So, what does wise Solomon have to say about the meaning of life?

In one of the books he wrote, the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, Solomon writes “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God, and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (12:13).

The book of Ecclesiastes can be one of the most depressing books you’ve ever read, until you understand it.  Solomon speaks of the many things he has done, and the many pursuits that people engage in during their lives, and calls it all “vanity.”  “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” Solomon writes again and again.  All these things that we pour our hearts and souls into are “vanity” he says.  All of it is worthless and amounts to nothing.

When the wisest person who ever lived speaks, we should listen.  When Solomon says that all of these endeavors that we pour our hearts into is “vanity,” we should take heed.  Solomon did it all and had it all.  Let’s listen to him.

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”  Solomon writes of all the vanities of life, then tells us “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter.”  He’s wrapping up all of his thoughts expressed in Ecclesiastes.  His conclusion is “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

“Fear” is used in its older, original sense in the language of the King James Bible.  It doesn’t just mean to “be afraid” as it does today.  The old word “fear” means to have a deep reverence and respect for something, to be loyal to and to love something.  We are to have a deep reverence, respect, and love for God.  We are to be faithful to Him.

Solomon tells us also to “keep His commandments.”  We are to be obedient to God.  We are to discover His will and “just do it.”

Essentially, Solomon tells us that our duty in life is to simply reverence, love, and obey God.

“It can’t be that simple,” one might say.  “There must be more to life than that.  There must be some other way to find meaning!”

“Vanity of vanities . . .”

Solomon had it all.  Solomon was exceedingly wealthy.  He had gold, silver, and all other precious things in abundance.  Did Solomon find meaning and purpose in his wealth, or in the pursuit of wealth?  No.  He said, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity . . .”

Some folks today seek meaning and purpose in political pursuits and causes.  Solomon was at the height of political power.  He was the King of the most powerful, the richest nation on earth.  What he said was law.  Nobody dared oppose him.  Still, he found no purpose and meaning in politics  “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity . . .”

Some folks seek purpose and fulfillment in sex.  To some folks today, including prominent leaders, that seems to be an all-consuming pursuit.  What about Solomon?  Solomon had 900 women literally at his disposal any time, anywhere, for anything he wanted.  If he had wanted another woman, he only had to say the word.  Not only did his lust for sex fail to fulfill him, it was part of his downfall in the end.  His mistake in “collecting” 900 women was his undoing. God made man to be with one woman, and God made woman to be with one man.  Not 900, not 100, not 10, but one — one man and one woman living as one flesh.  God blesses one man and one woman living in a marriage relationship.  Outside of that singular relationship, sex is outside of God’s will, and people who violate the marital institution with sex before marriage or sex outside of marriage – like Solomon – will find it to be their undoing. “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity . . .”

Many seek purpose and meaning in the acquisition of knowledge, in learning, in science.  Solomon sought there, too.  Solomon spent his life learning, teaching, and writing.  Did he find meaning there?  He wrote, “And further, by these, my son, be admonished:  of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” (Ecclesiastes 12:12) “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity . . .”

Commercial efforts?  Solomon engaged in many wildly successful commercial endeavors.  Did he find meaning and fulfillment in them? “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity . . .”

What about power and might?  No enemy could stand before Solomon’s armies. “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity . . .”

Solomon had it all – he had all of the wealth and fame one could ever desire.  He did it all.  Anything he wanted to do, he did.  But in the end, all of these pursuits were “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity . . . ”

He did not say that these pursuits were necessarily bad.  There is nothing wrong with sex inside the marriage relationship.  Commercial endeavors are not bad.  The pursuit of learning, study, and writing of books is not bad or wrong.  Political causes and political careers are not inherently bad.  However, placing undue importance on any of these things – seeking fulfillment and purpose in any of them – is wrong, and if we do so we will always end up disappointed, unfulfilled, and still searching for the meaning of life.

Solomon, the man who had it all and did it all, the man who was supernaturally wise, the man whose wealth and power are still spoken of and marveled at 3000 years later, found no meaning in all of his earthly pursuits.
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter.”

Everything we seem to pour our hearts into is vanity, meaningless.  Only one thing matters for eternity; there is only one way to find fulfillment and meaning in life. “Fear God,” reverence God, love God, and respect Him for His power, for His love for us, for His glory, for His compassion.  “. . . and keep His commandments . . .” Obey God.  Search the Bible for His will.  Spend hours in prayer with Him and in the study of and meditation on His Word.  Find out what He wants you to do with your life, and do it.  Surrender yourself and your will to Him.

“. . . for this is the whole duty of man.”

Praise

Friday, June 6th, 2008

The network connection to the datacenter in Houston, TX, has been up most of the time.  It was quite slow yesterday morning but was back to normal speed by noon-time. 

There was another e-mail issue (resolvers stopped working), but I was able to work around that thanks to a support forum post by another customer with the same problem, who had compiled a list of which resolvers were working and which were not.  So, e-mail began flowing again and it’s still going this morning (good sign!).

About 7:00 AM the network in the datacenter went down again because of some problems with the generator that they have powering the datacenter right now.  They had that fixed within a couple hours, although about 1/3 of the servers are still down.  Our server, thankfully, is in the 2/3 that are up.

God is good, all the time.

One of “those” days

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Part of the drain pipe under the kitchen sink came apart this afternoon.  When  my daughter drained the sink after doing the dishes, water went everywhere.

It was easy enough to fix, thankfully.  Just one of “those” challenging days.