Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Lowly Mesquite Tree

I grew up in the panhandle of west Texas where any three trees in sight of each other are considered a national forest. Most trees do not naturally grow there unless planted and watered by people. The exception is the lowly Mesquite tree. Though the mesquite wood makes great bricketts for the grill.

Mesquite trees put down a long taproot that they use to locate enough moisture to keep them alive in the dry season. This feature allows them to survive through long droughts. There are recorded instances of taproots of the mesquite tree reaching a depth of almost 200 feet down into the soil. The roots of the mesquite can regenerate if the tree is chopped off above, making the mesquite one tough tree to get rid of. Ranchers feel that the mesquite sucks water from the land that could be used for livestock and farming, making it unpopular with those individuals. On the other hand cattle eat the bean pods and spread the seed around in the resulting fertilizer.

The bible in the book of Isaiah 61 likens God’s people to trees of righteousness. Because we carry the precious seeds of faith, reconciliation and love we can draw others into the kingdom of God. Like the desert Southwest our life can often be like living in a drought when trouble hits, as it will. If we, like the mesquite, will put down deep spiritual tap roots in the Holy Spirit then we can weather the spiritual droughts.  Those deep roots will let us have enormous potential to reproduce the gospel in other people.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Taking God's Name in Vain

During a Bible Study I was asked the question, “What does it mean to take God’s name in vain?” This is a serious question that causes a lot of people to worry because it is breaking one of the Ten Commandments.

To begin with it is not a casual curse asking God to bring damnation on someone or something. It is a serious sin and in some cases a serious crime.

It is an act you do on purpose and with the understanding that it is wrong. A person takes God’s name in vain when he or she swears an oath in the name of God knowing at the time that it will not be kept.

One example is making a marriage vow in the name of God while planning to commit adultery is taking God’s name in vain. I have known people to do just that.

 Another example is swearing in court in the name of God that you are going to tell the truth while you know that you are going to tell a lie. That happens to be serious crime as well as a sin. It is called perjury and you can get jail time for that.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Way of All Flesh

The term “The Way of All Flesh” refers to the fact that all people who are born also die. This is part of the master’s plan and I am comfortable with the fact that at some point my physical body will cease to function and my soul will return to the creator of the universe.

"Doctors think that you only call palliative care when your patient is about to die," says Diane Meier, M.D., director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City. "Patients don't know what it is and don't demand it. They don't realize they have a right to care that is focused on improving function and quality of life."

As a pastor I have watched many people go through the process of moving from their physical life to their spiritual life. Some people make that journey suddenly because of accident or a swift illness. Others go slowly with advanced age or by way of a slow painful illness. When it comes to the later most doctors don’t like to give up on finding a cure and that is their training. There is an issue of the quality and dignity of our life at the end and that it is our choice.

We each do have a choice to make now before the event of our death is close and emotional. Do I want to fight for life to the bitter end no matter the cost or pain? Do I want to choose the conditions where I can say enough is enough let me go?  I have already done that by creating and signing my “Advance Directives” and informed my family and my doctor.

It is your right and your choice, either way you want, to choose how you prefer to die given a terminal illness. The time to make that decision is now while you have a clear mind and you are in control.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Jury Duty

If we are charged with a crime our constitution gives each of us a right to a trial by a jury of our peers. This is one of our best protections from an over zealous government prosecutors’.  Regrettably many people try to get out of Jury Duty because it is an inconvenience.

To sit on a jury is a sacred trust to weigh evidence and decide according to the law some one to be guilty or not guilty of a crime. That can be a confusing and difficult task. Someone may a have done the deed but did so with in the law so not guilty of the crime. Sometimes a jury gets hung up when one or more do not agree with the rest.

No matter which way the verdict goes there will be people who do not understand how such a verdict could be reached.  If you are called to jury duty consider it an honor to participate in our justice system and provide a fellow citizen with justice that is fair, guilty or not.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Three Kinds of Giving

There are three kinds of giving: Grudge giving, duty giving, and thanksgiving.

Grudge giving gives but says, “I hate to.”

Duty giving gives saying, “I ought to.”

Thanksgiving gives saying, “I love to.”

The Grudge giving comes from constraint and has the tone that I  have to do this and its not what I want to do. We can relate to the boy who is told to put a dime of his dollar allowance in the Sunday School offering.

Duty giving comes from a sense of obligation as many church member recognize the support of the church is important. Another example is when you come up on a beggar on the sidewalk asking for spare change and you dig into your pocket and give him some.

Thanks giving from a full heart and happens out of love and a sense of gratitude for your blessings. 

Nothing much is conveyed in grudge giving since the gift without the giver is bare. Something more happens in duty giving, but there is no song in it. Thanksgiving is an open gate into the love of God and a song of joy pours out of your heart. .

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Good Samaritan Today

In Luke chapter ten Jesus told a story that we all know so very well, the story of the Good Samaritan.

It was about a man. We know nothing about him except that he foolishly traveled from Jerusalem down to Jericho alone. Not a good idea! I have been on that road and it is still not a good idea. From Jerusalem to Jericho is a distance of about twenty miles and a drop in elevation of about 26,000 feet. The road follows a twisting path of flash flood water carved canyons with plenty of places for robbers to hide in ambush. A man traveling alone was easy pickings for those thieves.

Beaten, robbed of everything and left for dead he perhaps saw a priest approach and though help had arrived. The priest moved to the other side of the road to avoid contact and passed on by. Why would he do that? Perhaps he was on his way to serve his day in the Temple after 30 days of purification. To touch blood would disqualify him and he would loose out.

The second man to come along was a Levite who was a member of the tribe that produced priest but he did not serve as a priest. Perhaps he was a musician who also had to purify themselves to serve in the temple. The wounded my thought surly this man will help me. However he also went out of his way to pass by the wounded man. Perhaps both men had a high regard for them selves and didn’t want to be bothered. Imagine what the wounded man thought as two men of God passed him by and went on their way.

Jesus then told of a third man and this was a shock for everyone listing to the parable. The man was a hated Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans were both Israelites but they hated each other. When the Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians small groups escaped into the hills and later became know as the Samaritans. Judah and Israel had fought for hundreds of years and hated each other. The hate has yet to die.

To everyone’s shock it was the Samaritan who stopped and helped the wounded man and went the extra to see that he was cared for. Jesus then asked the man who questioned him, “Who was this man’s neighbor?”

The Jewish lawyer could not even say the word Samaritan. He could only say, “The one who had mercy on him.” Often the neighbor we are to love turns out to be someone we can’t stand. It is so hard to enter into eternal life when hatred keeps you soul bound tight. Hate is like an acid that eats the heart that contains it.

In the mid sixties a preacher in Georgia placed this story in Atlanta and a white man had been beaten, robbed and left for dead. First a white Baptist preacher passed by and then a white Methodist preacher also passed by. The one playing the part of the Good Samaritan was a black share cropper. The story was still shocking and that Georgia preacher received death threats for telling it that way.

Today we might place the story in New York and have the good Samaritan played by a Muslim.  Our charge today is to go be that good neighbor no matter who that neighbor is. Remember God love all of his creation regardless of their color, religion, or national origin.

If you have a problem with this go read Luke 10 and then have a little talk with Jesus and see if you can get Him to change His mind.