Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Cold Glass of Water by Mike DeCamp

Last Sunday, I shared about a couple of milestone decisions in my life.  First, on October 11, 1976, I made the decision to be baptized.  As a fourteen year-old boy from an un-churched family, it was no small matter.  I was bucking the family trend.  (One of my older brothers once introduced me as his “little brother that’s ruining my bad reputation.”)  I may have been ignorant of the finer details of Christianity, but I did love God and I did know that He expected me to make a commitment to Him.  I had been listening, and I understood the process.  Secondly, I had one of those life-altering moments a few months later while I was at church camp.  I can remember standing on the pavilion just outside the mess hall at Camp Indogan while contemplating the direction of my life.  I had begun to realize that just showing up once a week at church on Sunday morning wasn’t enough.  God wanted all of me, and I hadn’t been giving it.  I stood there…thought it over…and made a decision.

If I’m going to do this, then I’m going to do it all the way!
I wasn’t going to just show up on Sunday morning to fulfill my worship obligation.  I wasn’t going to hold back.  Instead, I was going to go all out.  I was going to attend all the functions.  I was going to build the relationships.  I was going to serve.  I was going to share.  I was going to be whatever and do whatever it seemed that God wanted me to do.

I wish I could say that I have always fulfilled that commitment.
There have been times in my life when things got a little “frayed;” times when my spiritual walk lost its bounce.  I have had times when I was racked with doubt about my choices and the validity of my decisions.  I’ve had other times when I have nearly tossed it all in out of discouragement.  Life isn’t always nice…it isn’t always simple.  Sometimes, life is just plain hard.

The truth is that I have to remake that decision from the camp pavilion every day.  Some days, I have to remake it more than once.  It really is a constant thing.  Jesus said in Luke 9 that it is a daily process of laying down your life and taking up His cross.
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”  Luke 9:23

There are days when I truly disappoint myself.  I can only imagine how God feels.  If only I could maintain that commitment without ever faltering!  If only I could remember how bad it feels to falter…BEFORE I falter.  The thing is…when I do crash and burn, so to speak…it’s just a matter of making that decision again. 
And, refreshment is on the other side.

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.”  Acts 3:19-20 
I will again follow Him.  I will put myself aside and take up His cross…again.  I will serve.  I will share.  I will build those relationships.  I will do whatever and be whatever He wants me to be.  "Ahhhhhh."  It’s like a cold glass of water after working in the sun all day! 

It is so refreshing to get back on track!
You, dear reader, stand where you are with your own set decisions before God.  Some of you may need to make the initial commitment…turn to God…be baptized.  Some of you need to decide to stop waiting and holding back, but rather to give your heart.  And even, some of you may need to stoke that flame and rekindle the fire that you once had oh so many years ago. 

Do you need a cold glass of spiritual water?
It all starts with a decision.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Yes He Cares by John Wright

John Wright

Yes He Cares

How often do I think about what God is doing in my life?  How often do you think about God and how he is intentionally moving in your life?  These are important questions because if we are honest the answers will move us to a better understanding of our complete dependence on God’s Love, Goodness, and Grace.

1 Cor. 2:9 says “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”.  That sounds like Heaven talk and heaven is beyond our comprehension.  The next verse goes on to say, “But God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.  The Spirit searches all things even the deep things of God.”  (Verse 12, 16) “…we have received the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.”  The world is unable to understand God, but we have the mind of Christ.  Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s Temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?

Does God care about you and me, and as the song says “and all of life’s trifles”?  Yes, he cares.  I know he cares.   If Jesus cared enough to go to the cross and then send his Spirit because he was doing God’s will, then of course he cares about you and me;  the Father and Son are one on this.  There is nothing we ever do, say, or think that escapes their attention.

I know God has been an active and protective force in my own life.  First of all, it is because of God that I am in Christ, because God chose the weak things of this world to shame the strong.  I realize that I am weak, but that won’t stop God from using me.

Ten years ago I became gravely sick and almost died.  I came as close to the veil as one can go and not cross over.   For a long time, I thought about that experience every day.   What happened to me?  How did I get so sick?  And what saved me?  And am I so weak that something else bad is about to happen to me?  These thoughts and fears went on and on till now, ten years later I almost never think about it. What a shame because there is still a lot for me to learn.  During that time, God surrounded me and my family with his protection and with his servants.  I remember the prayers and encouragement of my family and the family of God, this Church (Southeastern Church of Christ).  I remember how we were supported and propped by so many of you.  I know it was God’s doing because you have the love of Christ that can only come from above.  I ask that God will give me the grace that I will never forget to personally express my gratitude to so many of you on an ongoing basis.  Thank God, I was saved!

So, with God’s grace I pray that we will all be reminded that God is with us and that God has done everything for us.  May the knowledge of the cross and the death of Jesus and the weight of his sacrifice always speak to us the answers to our questions.   Yes, we were that sick, but God saved us, and we are weak, but he will protect us.  May we never forget the answer “Yes he cares” and I know God is aware of me and you and he is doing his work personally through we who are in Christ.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

When I Get Where I'm Going by Brian Potts

Brian & Rhonda Potts

When I Get Where I’m Going

Do certain songs (or pictures, stories, etc.) bring out strong emotions in you?  Do you get a tear in your eye or a lump in your throat when certain songs come on the radio?  The song may not necessarily be sad, it may just remind you of someone dear to you. Or you may be saddened as you are reminded of injustices in this world. 

Recently, as we were making the long drive back from a visit to my parents in Memphis, I was listening to the radio to pass the time. When I heard the opening notes of Brad Paisley’s song “When I Get Where I’m Going” I knew from long experience that very soon there would be tears behind my sunglasses.  Try as I might to hold them back, I just know that the words of this song will bring tears streaming down my face.  I know that this is not much of a surprise to many of you who know me and know that it doesn’t take much to get me emotional.  But why does a song about getting to Heaven make me cry? Especially since I love the chorus and the theology of comfort and forgiveness that it shares.

Yeah when I get where I'm going
There'll be only happy tears
I will shed the sins and struggles
I have carried all these years
And I'll leave my heart wide open
I will love and have no fear
Yeah when I get where I'm going
Don't cry for me down here

Actually, the first verse and the chorus don’t bring on the strong emotions. It is the second verse that brings a lump to my throat.

I'm gonna walk with my grand daddy
And he'll match me step for step
And I'll tell him how I missed him
Every minute since he left
Then I'll hug his neck

Because, you see, I lost the only grandfather that I ever knew when I was in the fifth grade.  He was a Godly man who was an elder in the church and had great compassion for helping others.  But most important to that young boy, he was a loving grandfather who always had time to play catch and wasn’t too busy to have my sister and I over to spend the night with he and my grandmother every Friday night.  And he didn’t say “give me a hug” like most of us would today.  He would say “Hug my neck”. Now you know why the words of this song trigger such a strong emotional response from me.

The song “The Little Girl” by John Michael Montgomery is another song that elicits the same response from me but for a different reason.  This song tells the story of a little girl in an abusive family who receives comfort from Jesus before finding love in a new family. If you are a Christ-believer and a parent, you will also be touched by this song (go to You-Tube and watch one of the videos).

Did I say all this to illustrate something about me that most of you already knew?  No, it’s the thoughts that came next on that drive back from Memphis that contain the point that I want to share.  As I sat there collecting my thoughts (and my composure) after the song finished, I started to think about why these songs bring such strong emotions to me.  Of course there is the obvious that I still miss my grandfather, but beyond that I think these songs help me to empathize with the pain of others.  The thought that came next was that when we hurt, God hurts also because he loves us so much.  We know that most of the miracles that Jesus performed were in response to the compassion that he felt.  He fed the hungry, healed the sick and raised the dead because “He had compassion on them” (Matt 14:14) and “He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (John 11:33).  Does Jesus care when our heart is pained?  Oh yes He cares, because our God is not a disconnected, unknowing and uncaring being on the far side of the universe. He is a God who knows our every hurt and every care and feels our pain.  Therefore, as the end of the song says, ultimately, as Christians we should only have happy tears…

But when I get where I'm going
And I see my maker's face
I'll stand forever in the light
Of his amazing grace
Yeah when I get where I'm going
There'll be only happy tears

I will love and have no fear
When I get where I'm going
Don’t cry for me down here.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

On Location in Tanzania by Frank Black

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Frank & Lou Ann Black

CHIMALA, TANZANIA:  Report from 8 time zones away.

 Chimala remains pretty much unchanged since we left here in 1997.  There is one glaring exception, however -- CELL PHONES!  It seems that every person who comes in from the bush has a cell phone around their neck.  And you think the “ring tones” are raucous in the USA, you should check out some of these.  And cell phone etiquette; it hasn’t hit Tanzania yet.  In fact, during my prayer at the hospital devotional last week, two noxious cell phones erupted.

 Lou Ann and I are privileged to be here with Janice Bingham and Patty Wilson - nurses we first worked with in Nigeria in 1981.  They are both nurse instructors in Searcy, AR.  Janice has seven senior nursing students with her from Harding University - [an excellent group]. We are also especially privileged to be with two young doctors:  Most of you know Kent Brantly, who is here with his wife, Amber, and their two kiddos – Ruby and Stephen.  Our second doctor is Stephen Snell, who is here with his wife, Amy.  Stephen is Jim and Jan’s and Bob and Joan’s nephew.  -- Oh, by the way; we’re eating excellently.  Thanks to the chef with us by the name of Lou Ann.

 How can I begin to tell you the drastic difference between our world in Chimala and your world in Indianapolis?  It would take a book to do this topic justice.  I’ll stick with the medical part.  Very simply I’ll just say that we do the very best we can with the supplies and staff we have here.   I’ll give a couple of examples of the drastic differences between these two worlds.   We lost four children in our first two days [this is unimaginable in any American facility].  I won’t dwell on the fact that our pediatric, male, and female wards have about 20 beds – all in ONE large rectangular room.  Nor that our women in labor and delivery receive no anesthesia or medicines [all natural!].   Oh, and by the way, there are four beds in that one labor room.   And of course there are no monitors and only oxygen for only one patient per ward.  Since I brought up the subject of pain management, I’ll elucidate.  We have four broken femurs in the hospital [large upper leg bone]; three bad burn patients; post-operative patients; and others in severe pain.  There is basically no pain medicine given to any of these patients.  Can you possibly imagine this in the USA?  Of course you are asking WHY?  The simple answer is that this is their cultural way.  They expect pain; they’ve seen and experienced pain; pain is not feared and it’s not their enemy. In short they are extremely stoic and tough people.  By our standards the amount of suffering and pain endured here is unimaginable.

 I mentioned the fractured femurs.  Three are young boys between 7 and 15.  The other is an older lady.  They are all being treated by various types of traction devices – kind of like American orthopedics in the 1950’s.  Surgical orthopedics is just not an option for them.  They lie in bed constantly in traction for six weeks or so.  Can you just imagine this!?  Just let me finish. They have no TV, no radio, no Ipod, no electronic games, no books, etc.  I don’t know about you, but I’d last only a few hours before going bonkers.  [We did take them some magazines with pictures and in addition some balloons and coloring books for the younger boy.].  I sum these situations up by saying that, “WE HAVE THE BLESSING OF LOCATION, AND THEY ARE THE VICTIMS OF LOCATION.”

We’re needed here in many ways – the medical side is obvious.  But we’re also needed spiritually just as much. Despite the stark medical differences, there are no differences in our need for Jesus.  We not only are trying to do our very best medically; we’re trying to model the Great Physician in all ways that we can.
[Physical needs versus spiritual needs:  the greatest of these needs are the spiritual.]

                        Jesu Kristo ni Mganga Mkuu = Jesus Christ is the Great Physician

                                                                                                                                    F. Black
                                                                                                                                   June 3, 2012