Kind Words… Do the World A Good

All of us like good and positive things spoken about us.   Conversely, no one enjoys negative, coarse words driven against them.   As a preacher and teacher of the gospel, it lifts me up when a person learns a helpful point from my sermon or class.   It is only normal for people to want compliments directed towards them.   There is a song we sing, “Angry words, oh let them never from the tongue unbridled slip.”  The heart of the song is to love each other by the words and actions we do.  When we are being negative to one another that does not show a loving or gentle spirit.   So much good can be and is done by positive words.

When the apostle Paul wrote to a church, a majority of the letters included positive remarks concerning their faith, their love for the brotherhood, for the gospel, etc.  When we love something with Biblical love, we will express that with words and actions.  Let us encourage one another with words and actions (letters, cards, calls, etc.).   These actions also develop a family atmosphere in which people want to be together in order to be built up and build each other up.

We of course have instruction from the Apostle Paul expressing, “Love is patient, love is kind…” (I Cor. 13.4).  He also wrote to the Ephesians, “And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32)   Finally, Paul wrote to Timothy that the Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all…” (2 Tim. 2:24)    These are words for us today, to live by and practice.  God wants us to be Christian by actions as well as by name.  Let us lift one another up in word and deed.

 

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How Great Thou Art!

Oh Lord my God – when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds Thy hands have made.
I see the stars. I hear the rolling thunder.
When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation and take me home,
what joy shall fill my heart!  Then I shall bow, in humble adoration.
And there proclaim my God how great Thou art!
By Stuart Kline from Psalm 86:9

 

     How great Thou art!  Our God is a great and mighty God. How often we may forget, until looking at His matchless and awe inspiring creation.  In the beginning He simply uttered words – and created all that we see and are mystified by.  All things have been created by Him and through Him.  In what ways is our God – the only God – great?  We can say all day that our God is great – but what makes Him so? Let us look at two ways that God – our loving and merciful God – is great, far exceeding all others.

     First, our God is great by His creation.  He did not build with physical brawn, this world we live in.  He simply spoke it into existence.  Genesis clearly states that God said, “Let there be light,” and, “Let there be firmament,” and, “Let the earth bring forth grass, herb and fruit trees.” (Gen. 1:3,6,11)  In other words, God simply spoke what He wanted – and it was done, perfectly.  No mistakes, no hitches, and no ‘do-overs’; only perfection each time.  Perfection was accomplished the first time.  This is because Perfection created perfection!  He is the Perfect and Flawless God.  He is perfect in ways that we are without ability to understand or comprehend.  All that we see in life – is perfect, and was created by the Word of God!  Incredible!  Amazing!  How Great Thou Art!

     Second, our God is great and truly unsurpassed in His love.  As incredible and unbelievable as His creation is – He love is deeper, more powerful and more awe-inspiring by far.  Many great objects have been created and feats accomplished by man.  We are awe-struck by some of them today.  None of these come near to matching God’s creation. Even still – God’s love for His people tops all lists of greatness.  John wrote that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to die on a cross as a sin offering (John 3:16).  He did not give His Son to die for mostly good people or nice people or upright people.  He sent His Son to die for all of mankind.  Even those who would not accept His gift of salvation and live faithfully in appreciation for the gift of salvation, are still offered God’s deep mercy and grace.

     Love is not simply doing great things for nice and loveable people.  True love is doing great things for all men.  Paul wrote that there is no greater love than a man laying his life down for others (Rom. 5:8).  Even if the others are mean, unlikable, hard-hearted people, Jesus laid His life down for ALL people.  We serve a great and mighty God.  It is true that He is so because of His indescribable creation.  It is truly beautiful and beyond comprehension.  And yet, even greater than His incomprehensible creation is His love for His creation (man) and the expression of the love in Jesus Christ.

I Am So Stressed!

Is this a mental thought and possibly a verbal statement that is familiar to you?  If so, are you a Christian?  If you are a Christian, and yet you experience continued amounts of anxiety and stress – why?  As a child of God, a baptized believer in Christ, there is NO greater place to be than in Christ!  So, my friend, why do we find ourselves allowing stress to build up – and proceed to take over our minds and our days?

For the Christian – there is a better question.  What does the Bible say or imply about stress, and what should we do when it occurs in great volumes?

 

First, we know that stress occurs when we allow our mind to linger upon items we cannot control.  When we cease to enjoy the wonderful life that God blesses us with – and we worry about unimportant or uncontrollable things.  Jesus taught in Matthew 6 that God takes care of the lilies of the field and the birds of the air.  How much more will He take us those who seek first His kingdom and His righteousness?  God will care for those who are washed in the blood of the Lamb. Notably, those who are washed in the blood of the Lamb have the things of heaven and of the church as important – not the things of this world.

 

Jesus also taught that the one soul that allows the cares and the worries of the world to intrude on their life – is the soul that allows the world to choke the seed of the Kingdom to death (Matt. 13:22).  But, when we allow the Word of God to take over our mind and spirit – the world becomes less and less important to us!  Martha, upset with Mary because she was listening to Jesus instead of helping her with the housework, was softly rebuked by Jesus (Lk. 10:41).  Mary had chosen the greater part by choosing Jesus.  Being anxious and worried about the things of this world is not a positive trait taught in God’s Word.

 

Next, how do we deal with stress when it pops us in our lives?  First, if you are a Christian – we need to remember again the hope we have in Christ.  We are only attached to this world because we physically live here.  Paul said that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20).  Mentally, wherein stress is begun and fed, our residence as God’s people should be in heaven.  Simply being there mentally will take away stress and remind us what life is truly about.  Peter told his audience that we must cast all our anxiety upon Christ – because He cares for us (I Peter 5:7).  Solomon wrote that we are to commit our works to God – and our thoughts will be established (Prov. 16:30).  If we work for God while here on earth and our energies are focused on the Kingdom, we will then keep in mind our home and trust in God for everything.  And, one of the more powerful scriptures concerning anxiety, Paul tells us not to be anxious or worrisome about anything.  Nothing in life is worth stress!  Instead we should entrust our thoughts, our hopes and our desires to God who is faithful.  We are to pray to God, being thankful in all things – and gain the peace that only God can give (Phil. 4:4-9).

 

Let us work toward giving God our burdens and those things we concern ourselves deeply with.  Let us think on heaven – and helping as many others get there as we can.  What in this life is more important than building the Kingdom brethren?  Nothing – absolutely nothing!                                                     By Andy Burns

A Man Like Daniel

When we really come right down to it – are we Christians by choice, by knowledge and understanding or by convenience?  When we look at the men and women of the first century, they were Christians during difficult times. They were Christians because they loved Jesus and desired salvation in His Name.  Even those of the Old Testament had to endure a great deal of difficulty to remain faithful. One of these men was the faithful and upright Daniel.

A look into the book of Daniel shows a man who loved, revered and lived for his God.  The first chapter tells us of Daniel, Shadrach (Hananiah), Meshach (Mishael) and Abednego (Azariah) and their trip into Babylon due to captivity.  They were the choicest men of Israel and thus were taken to the king’s court to serve.  The choicest food would be brought to them as well as other fine extras.  Daniel, however, “made up his mind” (1:8) that he would not defile himself with the king’s food.  He sought permission from the king’s official to be allowed to not eat the king’s food.  Permission was granted.  Imagine the courage and strength it took for Daniel to deny the king’s food and instead ask for a test to be done (1:12). Daniel was a courageous man who showed his love for God by his actions.

Later in this great book, chapter 6, we read that Daniel was again tested.  The men who were of high rank conspired against Daniel in order to accuse him in hopes of demoting him in rank.  However, they could find nothing out of place in his life (vs. 5) so they devised a plan that would surely accuse him.  The solution was to make an injunction that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides the king would be cast into the lion’s den.

Daniel, after hearing of the injunction, proceeded to go into his house, kneel down toward Jerusalem and pray to God.  The Bible says this was a habitual practice for Daniel to do (6:10).  The men who made the injunction came by as Daniel was involved in prayer and caught him as they initially desired.  They proceeded to speak to the king about the action and reminded him of the recent injunction.  This terribly upset the king because he favored Daniel (vs. 14).  However, the men reminded the king that the injunction was made and could not be revoked – not even by the king.

Daniel is then placed in the lion’s den with hungry lions and a stone lay over the top of the den.  The next morning, the king “made haste” (6:19) to the lion’s den to know of the outcome of Daniel in the den.  His comment is a strong compliment to the life of Daniel.  He said, “…has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?” (vs. 20)  Daniel’s God did save Him!  Daniel’s faith, his trust and his devotion to God proved true as he stood among the hungry lions unharmed.

How are you and I doing today?  Regarding our faithfulness to God, what kind of tests are we passing or failing?  Whether it is the beginning of the year or the middle of the year – there is no greater time than the present to start obeying God and striding down the narrow road to life Eternal.       We each know – or should know – that Jesus is our Master and supreme example.  Yet, God reveals to us men and women in the Bible who are examples of faithfulness in times of trial.  What a marvelous example Daniel is for us today!  What kind of example will you be for someone this year?                                                                   By Andy Burns

Learning to be Content Part 1

     “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Phil. 4:12

      As we come to the precipice of a new year, I often think of a section of one of Paul’s inspired letters.  He speaks to us through the Bible that he had “…learned to be content whatever the circumstance.” (Phil. 4:11).
This is a fascinating statement, especially from Paul given his circumstances at the time.  He was in jail because of his stance for God’s Gospel.   This stance placed him in jail.  He was not in a comfortable office planning lessons and activities.  He was in a circumstance that could have encouraged frustration, anger and aggravation.
To the contrary, Paul teaches these Christians (and us today) how to be content in the midst of intense aggravation.
Let’s look at some of the phrases the Holy Spirit utilizes through Paul’s writing.  “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.”  “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…”  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:12,13)
Paul calls this lifestyle something that is “learned”.  He utilizes a word that describes a person that is literally in a classroom.  God places each of us in a classroom of life and “teaches  us” how to be content.
Are you a good, eager student toward God’s teaching and discipling?  I ask you that imagine you are in a seat and God is at the front of the room next to the white board instructing you how to be “content.”
And yet, this classroom is life.  Every moment, every engagement with people and every circumstance (however we perceive them) is God’s classroom to instruct us in how to learn contentedness.
Paul calls this endgame of learning contentment a secret.  It is not a secret like humans use the term.  This is a mindset and an awareness that is only “learned” and “understood” by living it.  This is not understood by peaceful “Bible study” (although that is where the direction and wisdom is received).  This secret is only known by being in challenging, frustrating and compromising situations.
What situations might you be in now or you can look back on in which God desired to teach you contentedness?  You found yourself in the “learning to be content” classroom.  Was it attractive?  Was it fun and enjoyable?
Paul found it deeply valuable because it enabled him to be constantly faithful to God in all situations.  There was no “fiery dart” from Satan that could cause problems for Paul because Paul continued to learned contentedness from God.                      By Andrew Burns

Rabbi, Where Is Your Furniture?

An anonymous author wrote about an American tourist’s visit to the 19th century Polish rabbi, Hofetz Chaim made these observations: Astonished to see that the rabbi’s home was only a simple room filled with books, plus a table and a bench, the tourist asked, “Rabbi, where is your furniture?” “Where is yours?” replied the rabbi. “Mine?” asked the puzzled American. “But I’m a visitor here. I’m only passing through.”  “So am I,” said Hofetz Chaim.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,  21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Phil 3:20,21

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  Phil 1:21

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household,” Eph 2:19

“You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Ps 73:24

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect,”  Heb 12:22,23

      Where is your furniture?  Where are your valuable possessions?  We find that when our minds are on heavenly things… then our valuable possessions will be of Heaven.   Do we often find ourselves being too much of this earth… being too attached to this earth and its possessions? It is very easy to do.
However, we find that our minds are no doubt on the things that are important to us… and that importance is based upon our choosing. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:19-21; NIV)
There is a favorite song that we, as a fellowship, have sung for many years.  “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through; my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.” (Traditional hymn)  Do you too often find yourself too attached to this world?  Do you often have to remind yourself that Heaven is your home and your citizenship mentally and spiritually is there?
May we remind ourselves often that “our furniture” is in Heaven permanently.  Jesus is returning soon to take us home… let us look forward to going where our eternal furniture resides.                                                                                    ~~ Andrew Burns

The Thinking Behind Thankfulness

The term thanks comes from an old English term meaning a thought of gratitude. The deeper meaning is to “point a finger to the source of the action.”  In American English terms it is to say, “You did this, I recognize and appreciate it.”  So the thinking behind being thankful is to zone in on who did what and to call it out.
There are times as well that we may not mentally recognize that a gift has been given to us.  We are not thankful because we do not mentally recognize the blessing we have been given or we do not see it as worth a blessing.  A 12 year old boy named David was born without an immune system. He underwent a bone marrow transplant in order to correct the deficiency. Up to that point he had spent his entire life in a plastic bubble in order to prevent exposure to common germs, bacteria, and viruses that could kill him. He lived without ever knowing human contact. When asked what he’d like to do if and when released from his protective bubble, he replied, “I want to walk barefoot on grass, and touch my mother’s hand.” (author unknown)  There may be times we get into a mode of thinking selfishly, instead of thinking thankfully.  It is easy to do. Instead of being grateful for what we do have, we get a little self-centered about what we do not have. This little boy, with all he had to gripe about, only wanted these two minor things.  His thinking was of thankfulness.
In Budapest, a man goes to the rabbi and complains, “Life is unbearable. There are nine of us living in one room. What can I do?”  The rabbi answers, “Take your goat into the room with you.”  The man in incredulous, but the rabbi insists. “Do as I say and come back in a week.”
A week later the man comes back looking more distraught than before.  “We cannot stand it,” he tells the rabbi. “The goat is filthy.”  The rabbi then tells him, “Go home and let the goat out. And come back in a week.”  A radiant man returns to the rabbi a week later, exclaiming, “Life is beautiful. We enjoy every minute of it now that there’s no goat — only the nine of us.”  (George Mikes, How to be Decadent, Andre Deutsch, London.)  Our thinking has everything to do with our thankfulness.  Paul wrote that we are to be thankful in every circumstance (1 Thess. 5:18).  In fact, he states that be thankful is a part of God’s will or each of us. He stated to the Philippians that their mindset should be of joy always in all circumstances (Phil. 4:13).

Here are a few things that being thankful helps us to do.
1. It is hard to be angry and resentful when our minds are on being thankful.
2. It helps us to look outside of ourselves and toward how blessed we are.
3. It helps us to be aware of God’s presence.
4. It causes us to notice our humanity; that we have been given from someone else.
5. It directs our thinking to appreciate that small blessings are blessings to be thankful for.
6. It directs us to change our mental approach about life.

What are you thankful for today?  …take a minute and realize how long your list should be.
~~ Andrew Burns

There Is A Place for Value

     For all of us we each place a different value on various things.  What in your life do you appreciate the most?  The word appreciate means “to place a value on a thing.”  Appreciation for each of us in the areas important to us is a powerful motivator.  When people place a high value on our lives or the services we provide it causes great positive emotions.
Dr. Mellor tells this story, “Recently my wife and I sat charmed at an outdoor performance by young Suzuki violin students. After the concert, an instructor spoke briefly on how children as young as two, three and four years old are taught to play violin. The first thing the children learn, he said, is a proper stance. And the second thing the children learn–even before they pick up the violin–is how to take a bow. ‘If the children just play the violin and stop, people may forget to show their appreciation,’ the instructor said. ‘But when the children bow, the audience invariably applauds. And applause is the best motivator we’ve found to make children feel good about performing and want to do it well.’”  Adults love applause too. Being affirmed makes us feel wonderful. If you want to rekindle or keep the flame of love glowing in your marriage through the years, try showing and expressing your appreciation for your mate. Put some applause in your marriage and watch love grow.  (Dr. Ernest Mellor, in Homemade, November 1984.)   These kids were taught the importance of applause and shown appreciation.
Morris Mandel in his book Jewish Press tells a story of a group of elderly, cultured gentlemen who met often to exchange wisdom and drink tea. Each host tried to find the finest and most costly varieties, to create exotic blends that would arouse the admiration of his guests. When the most venerable and respected of the group entertained, he served his tea with unprecedented ceremony, measuring the leaves from a golden box. The assembled epicures praised this exquisite tea. The host smiled and said, “The tea you have found so delightful is the same tea our peasants drink. I hope it will be a reminder to all that the good things in life are not necessarily the rarest or the most costly.  (Morris Mandel in Jewish Press.)
There may be times that we place too much emphasis on look and appearance and not enough on “the tea itself.”   We don’t realize that we caught up on style and forget about the actual substance.  What are the things that you appreciate most about your loved ones?  What do you appreciate most about your life today?  What are the things that you place the highest value on?  Why are those things valued highly to you?  How highly do you value your spouse, your children/grandchildren?  How much do you appreciate your job… your home?  How valuable is your American citizenship and your upbringing in this great country?

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.  The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good. The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” (Prov. 15:1-4)

      May we express the value we see in other people through words of appreciation.  May we applaude the work and effort of people and allow them to bow for their efforts.

~~ Andrew Burns

The Challenge of Choosing

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

What will you choose to do today?
What attitude will you choose to have?
Will you choose a smile, a kind word and a gentle service…
Or will you choose to be self-centered and harsh?

     The challenge of choosing means that I will choose (make a conscious decision)  to do one thing or another.  It means that regardless the situation or the way a person may act or treat you… you choose to be content, joyful and loving. We all have this blessing and privilege to choose our attitudes, our words and our reactions.

Notice the word choose means “to select freely after consideration.”  You see we must carefully select our actions and words every day in every situation.  Some situations are easier because we are in a good mood, being treated with respect and around people who love us.  But often we are not treated with respect (whether by accident, misunderstanding, or on purpose) and so are faced with the “challenge to choose” a good attitude, holy words and compassionate reactions.

Jesus was not treated well on a number of occasions, but he provided amazing examples of choosing to be holy.  Which is easier: a) to return evil and echo ugliness or b) to be like Jesus and choose a godly disposition?  No doubt, from a human standpoint, it is easier to choose a harsh word, a vengeful look or a terse reaction.  But be sure to realize that each of these “human” reactions are choices we make.  No one “makes you angry”; no one “makes you say an unkind word.”  They may highly encourage and influence… but only you can choose your reaction.

John teaches us about a small incident with Jesus where a multitude was in need of service and food. He asked Philip where the food would be to feed the people.  Philip responded in the negative (John 6:6).  However, Jesus chose to fixate on the issue at hand, not on Philip’s reaction.  Ultimately the 5000 people were fed and God was glorified.  John also highlights a horrible situation in which the Pharisees treacherously placed a woman in front of Jesus as he was teaching (John 8).  Again, Jesus chose his reaction and his words to be merciful to the woman and teach the Pharisees and his listeners.  Jesus did not allow the Pharisees to determine his reaction or his words.  He carefully chose his reaction.

In your life today… who or what are you allowing to choose your reactions and words?  Paul stated that we are to “rejoice in the Lord always…” (Phil. 4;4).  This joy takes a conscious decision on our part.                                                                                By Andy Burns

Assuming A Certain Mentality

My family and I were blessed to serve a number of people for Thanksgiving.  None of the objects came from us, we were simply there to hand them out and organize.  Included in these objects were food, clothing and a miscellaneous bag to take home.  It was a wonderful event for the area and many people were helped.  As we helped there was a specific comment made in my hearing and then directly to me.  “You know a lot of these people come and take advantage of the system.  They may have a phone or something else; they simply don’t want to work.”  As I allowed this idea to run through my head, I found I had a real problem with it.  There were times in my life that I needed help.  I may not have appeared to need such help.  I had a car, a home and other items… so why did I need help.  Well, certain events in life necessitated it.

Too often we are way too ready to assume ideas and thoughts about people and circumstances that we do not know.  Jesus taught a lesson to the Pharisees about mercy and forgiveness (Matt. 9:9f). The Pharisees were upset by the fact that Jesus ate with a tax collector and called him as a disciple.  Jesus was going to mentor this despicable tax collector.  However, Jesus’ reaction highlights God’s heart and should decide our reactions in most situations.  He stated, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt. 9:12,13)

Do you often find yourself “assuming a certain mentality?”  Do you watch people and form certain opinions in your mind about their lifestyle, their intentions or their work ethic/laziness?  There is no doubt that certain people are lazy and have a low work ethic. However, to take one or multiple looks at a person and assume a lifestyle or a work ethic is idiocy.  I definitely do not want someone looking at me at any given time and making such far reaching assumptions. Do you?  To be sure, only God knows a person’s heart or intentions.

The needed lesson that Jesus taught these Pharisees was that of mercy and compassion.  He told them, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”  God desires that his people live their lives out of mercy.  It is in conflict with the New Testament for God’s church to worship him on Sunday and then assume the worst out of people Monday through Saturday. Imagine if at any time our lives, at our worst, God assumed the worst of us and gave up on us.  “’I desire mercy, not sacrifice”… God says.

May we not serve out of our mental picture of who needs aid. May we be in prayer for God to provide opportunities to serve, to share the Gospel and to be a kind word or action when needed.                                                                          By Andy Burns