Thursday, May 30, 2013

Doing Things Right

There is a satisfaction in doing a job right. When you have put in all the hard work necessary to produce a product or service that you can be proud, of you have a sense of fulfillment. A craftsman takes pride in his work because it bears his name; a surgeon operates with the utmost skill because she knows that every surgery underscores her reputation. Believers who are committed to Christ take their work very seriously because they know that ultimately their work will be judged by God. For this reason they often go far beyond the common, acceptable standards to present their very best for God.

One of the principles of scripture is that when we do things the right way, it brings God’s blessings. Likewise, when we do things our way and not God’s way, it won’t have his blessing. Christians who love God do things God’s way so they can glorify God.

Jesus is our example of how to live this life. He lived in such a way as to glorify his father. God’s blessing rested on his son. At his baptism, the Father spoke of his approval for his son. However, God gave his ultimate approval of Jesus when he raised him from the dead. Paul penned these words to the Romans: “and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:4).

Jesus’ cold body was taken down from the cross by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. It lay in a cold, dark, damp grave for three days, and then God declared, “This is my son.” Jesus’ disciples were in a state of shock, and sadness penetrated every fiber of their beings. However, on that Easter Sunday morning, God made his ultimate declaration. That declaration was one of power because that dead body came to life. Never before had that happened, nor has it happened since. We are, however, promised that we, too, who believe in Jesus, shall be raised to life like Jesus.

When God raised Jesus from the dead, he declared that Jesus had done his work right. Jesus had finished the work he came to do—the work of salvation. Jesus lived in a human body and endured the shame and disgrace of the cross, but without sin.

The scriptures say that someday we will face a final inspection before God. This is not a judgment of salvation but of rewards. Paul said this about it, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad,” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Jesus promised to reward those who faithfully serve him, "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done,” (Revelation 22:12). Let us live in such a way as to do the right thing each day with our lives for his glory and honor.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Restoring Relationships


Some things in life need our constant attention. A garden won’t grow healthy fruits and vegetables or flowers without the constant care of a good gardener. Someone has to do the work of tending to the garden if you want the plants to flourish. Sometimes there are weeds to pull or dead branches to trim, but always there is the job of watering and caring for the plants. Important relationships are like that. They only flourish in our lives when we tend to them. Things happen, like misunderstandings, and hurt feelings can be the result. Someone has to take the initiative to mend the relationship. If the relationship is left unattended, husbands and wives will drift apart, and hurt unattended will separate the closest of friends.

Several years ago while living in Argentina, I left my family for the evening to attend a service. I drove across a bridge that spanned the ParanĂ¡ River. When I returned, the bridge was closed, and I couldn’t get home. Though I was only a little over a mile away, I was cut off from my family.

I walked to a little fishing village up stream and inquired if there were any fisherman who had an available boat to take me across. It took a while, but I finally found someone. The mayonero, as they were called, had certainly had one too many drinks, so I was a little apprehensive as to whether or not he would really get me across. As we were making our way across the mammoth river, I noticed substantial water getting in the boat. I asked the man, “Aren’t you worried about the water in the boat?” He replied, “No, it can handle twice that much before we sink.” The trip across the river seemed like forever, but we finally arrived on the other side, and I disembarked right in the middle of a beach party. I got the stares as I got out of the fishing boat wearing a suit and carrying a brief case, but it didn’t matter because I would be home in a few short minutes.

Maybe you find yourself cut off from some family member or friend today. For some unexpected reason the path to clear communication and friendship is closed. I encourage you to find a way to get across the barriers and restore the relationship. Your marriage, your son, your daughter, your parent or your friend is worth the sacrifice. Find out what has come between you and let them know you value the relationship. If you have done wrong, then by all means be quick to apologize and ask forgiveness. Life is simply too short to live another day without restoring the relationships that really matter in our lives.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Tribute to Veterans

Last night I had the honor of attending a tribute for our veterans at Fresno State University in Fresno, California. This is a program that the university has been doing for the last seven semesters to tell the story of veterans who have defended our freedoms. Students enrolled in the Oral History class interview two veterans and write their histories to become part of the permanent record in the university library. Over three hundred have been interviewed to date.

My father was one of nine World War II veterans that were interviewed and honored last evening. Since there are not too many World War II vets left, it is a special honor to be with them. There were veterans from every branch of service and in each of the theaters of war represented.

My father joined the army before World War II began for the United States in 1940. He became part of the Army’s Horse Calvary stationed in Texas and Louisiana. When war was finally declared against Japan after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, my father was sent to Australia to fight the Japanese. The first combat zone his unit was sent to was New Guinea. His job was driving a bull dozer, clearing the way for trucks and artillery.

After New Guinea was liberated, my father’s unit was sent to the Philippines where he spent most of his combat time. One of the richest memories he has is that of helping to liberate prisoners from a Japanese prison where political prisoners were held. To this day, he remembers the looks of gratitude on the faces of those liberated.

On one occasion his lieutenant ordered him and others into a suicide mission where snipers would have picked them off like sitting ducks. He asked the lieutenant permission to wait for the soldiers who were on their way and whose mission it was to clear the snipers. The lieutenant refused and ordered him forward. My dad disobeyed and was court-martialed. However, his captain went to bat for him, and he was exonerated a couple of months later, and the lieutenant lost his command and was shipped out.

Later, my dad was part of the peacekeeping troops sent to Japan after the signing of the surrender. My father spent six years in the military and almost three of those in the war. At one time he had two brothers and a brother-in-law all in the war at the same time. His mother once sent him an apple stack cake that arrived all the way to the Philippines. He was able to get one piece after all his buddies had a piece.

We who love this country and appreciate our freedom owe a debt to these men who served in a war that seemed endless. Two mad men who became deranged dictators with two fierce armies decided to take control of the world at the same time. Had it not been for the courage and sacrifice of our World War II veterans, we would not have our precious freedom we so freely enjoy today. This is one of the reasons we are unwilling to give in to an administration, such as this present president offers, which continually encroaches on our religious and political liberties.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Ark of the Covenant

The Ark of the Covenant has been the theme of movies and has been the dream discovery of archeologists for several centuries, although it has never been found. Though we have never seen the Ark, we know much about it because the Old Testament describes it. It was the most important piece of furniture inside the Tabernacle, and it was the only piece of furniture that was located in the “Holy of Holies.”

The Ark was about four feet long by two feet wide and two feet high. It had three items inside. The first item was manna, the miraculous bread that God provided for his people during their forty years of traversing the desert. Moses said, "This is what the Lord has commanded: 'Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the desert when I brought you out of Egypt’” (Exodus 16:32). God obviously, supernaturally preserved the jar of manna. It was there to symbolize how God satisfied their needs and how he would continue to be their faithful provider.

The second item in the ark was Aaron's staff. The reason Aaron’s staff was in the Ark is because God chose to use his staff as an illustration of his authority. During a time of rebellion, God told Moses to take the staffs from each leader of the twelve tribes. When they came back the next day, they saw that God had performed a miracle with Aaron’s staff. The text reads, “The next day Moses entered the Tent of the Testimony and saw that Aaron's staff,… had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds” (Num. 17:8-9). The staff reminded the people that God is in charge and that he expects submission to his authority.

The third item was the Ten Commandments. This was God’s covenant with his people. God told Moses to put a copy of the covenant inside the ark (Exod. 25:16). This covenant conveyed the terms by which God expected his people to live and under what conditions he would bless them. God promised to be their God, and they would be his people. That stone tablet was a reminder of God’s promises to his people and of his law.

The outside of the Ark of the Covenant was the most important thing about the whole Tabernacle. It was called “The Mercy Seat.” It was made of pure gold. It had mighty angles also made of gold called cherubim on both ends facing each other (Ex. 37:6-9). The mercy seat was made to represent God’s throne in heaven. David writes: “Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock; you who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth” (Ps. 80:1). The ark was the place of God’s presence and power.

Once a year, the High Priest would slaughter a goat for a sin offering for the people. The goat’s blood was offered for the sin of the people. The high priest would take the blood into the Holy of Holies, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat. In doing this, he would make atonement for Israel’s sin. When God looked down into that Tabernacle and saw the mercy seat and the blood on the mercy seat, his wrath was turned aside. When he saw the dark stain of the blood, he viewed the Israelites as righteous.

That is exactly how God views the sinner today who has allowed the blood of Jesus to be applied to his or her heart. God sees them as righteous, as his son. Their sin has been atoned for in Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross.