From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
A TOUCH OF HUMOR
The worship service was over. A guest brought his pet monkey into the Social Hall for coffee. He sits at the piano as the monkey dances nearby holding a cup for tips. The monkey goes up to a member having coffee, dances and holds the cup to receive a tip. The member turns away. The monkey sticks his tail in the man's cup. The man is astonished. He goes to the guest playing the piano. He says, "...do you know your monkey stuck his tail in my coffee?..." The guest replies, "No, I don't, but if you hum the tune, I'll catch on and be able to play it for you!"
"...you will be a crown of splendor in the Lord's hand...a royal diadem in the hand of your God..." (Isaiah 62:3)
"...your righteousness is like the mighty mountains... your justice like the great deep..." (Psalm 36:5-10)
Today we want to praise you for the ordinary things of life, which we often take for granted:
In Jesus' name. Amen.
Some years back now, in a remarkable conversation with a very special friend, Dr. Willy Anderson, former professor of Nuclear Physics at M.I.T., Stanford University, Ohio State University, and Lockheed Martin scientist, commented on his unresolved issues concerning the composition and nature of things in outer space. There, of course, are still many that are, to this day, a great mystery. Willy, now in retirement, is a great intellect, a delightful, generous person, one who enjoys good food and great social times, and a devoted evangelical Christian.
Upon one occasion he said that he couldn't wait to get to heaven, indeed, at the appointed time, so he could finally ask Jesus two questions.
"Well, Willy," I said, "what would be the first question?"
He replied, "I'd like to ask Jesus about the unresolved issues concerning the nature of 'dark holes' in space."
"Yes", I said, "...and what would be the second question?"
Willy replied, "I'd like to check with Jesus and ask Him if there was still any leftover wine from the wedding of Cana in Galilee."
I laughed. I just wasn't expecting to hear something like that. To me, the sign of a good sense of humor.
The wedding was in its third day. His mother, Mary, was present, and the disciples were invited, too. People were having one whale of a time, but then..."My Goodness!"... the wine ran out. Mother Mary was there to the rescue. She sensed Jesus could take care of the dire situation. Mary told the servants to do whatever Jesus told them to do.
Six stone water jars, each holding twenty to thirty gallons, were filled to the brim and presented to the master of the banquet. His comment, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink, but you have saved the best until now."
For those of us who partake, we drink too much cheap wine, thinking that quantity will make up for quality. Jesus made sure that the best stuff was saved for last. He does the same thing in our lives.
I sometimes think of the "abundant life" in Christ as being like sipping an excellent glass of fine wine. Yes, I know, some folks would take offense to the suggestion because of how often people abuse the use of alcohol. It's great if handled properly, for those who choose to partake.
We can expect that Jesus will always save the best for last. It's just one way to explain the advantage of faith.
God Almighty, in His imaginative, glorious way, calls us from a "fallen world" into the magnificent "wedding feast" of His beloved Son---with each one of us---united with Him, in faith, bonded together through the work of the Holy Spirit.
In a larger way, the second basic step of faith, receiving the Holy Spirit into our lives, can be likened to partaking in the best wine made available at the wedding in Cana.
Saint Paul said a mouthful when he laid it on the line in 1 Corinthians 12:3b, "...no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit..."
One remembrance coming to mind is the painting of "Jesus Knocking on the Door" (that being, of our heart) that was on the church altar of our former church building in Wisconsin. This painting spoke to my heart.
dSometimes it gets bad...
Life for many people is "just life". Blah! Nothing is really going on there...day to day, week to week, month to month. We go to work. We pay the bills. Etc., etc., etc. There's a lot of television and not too much excitement or anticipation of good things to come. There's hardly time to "smell the roses" and treasure of the gift of our life.
Enter the Holy Spirit...there are a host of important things and there are essentials in this life...
The reason for God in our lives is to bring a sense of purpose and well-being. Know that life has a higher purpose than all these other lesser things---details regarding a purposeless life produce a blur in our mind. The reason for God is to bring meaning and focus into our lives:
It happens when we make a decision -- to die to things that remind us of unpleasant things — death, life without meaning, boredom, and seeming purposelessness. These cause us to fall into deep despair at times.
Make a personal choice.
Die to a lot of things in life that just do not provide joy and personal peace. Be raised up into newness of life through the Holy Spirit — already at work in each one of our hearts. All you need to do is open the package.
When the wedding feast of life has run its course--- and the wine has run out---and the party's about to abruptly end...that's when Jesus shows up to liven things up
What a great Gospel lesson in John we have to consider... we thought life was almost over for us...and now we know that life is just about to begin in an abundance it was meant to be---from the time we were conceived in the womb.
We tried it our way and things didn't work out for us. Now we will simply do it God's way, with reason to decide to live our life in Jesus, we experience joy and peace and have the assurance things are going to be just great!
"...all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and act according to His purpose..." ([Paul] Romans 8:28)
When it seems to look as if the wedding feast is about to end, Jesus intervenes and keeps things going (again) ---over and over again. The fine wine never runs out. Let Him liven up the feast of abundant life---yes, your reasonable and rightful life, your joy, your destiny---in Him.
Romans 7:15, 22
"I don't not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate about myself, I do...
for in my inner being I delight in the God's law...but I find another principle at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind...making me a prisoner of the n principle at work in my members..."
"...so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God...strengthened with all power, according to His glorious
might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience...joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light."
Dear Lord, today I'm going to acknowledge you as a great God of grace, a God of undeserved favor. In a powerful way I can feel your unconditional love for me. You have been faithful in answering my prayers. I don't deserve your kindness, your consideration, and your forgiveness. I don't understand why you are so faithful in dealing with me in view of my lack of faithfulness in return. I thank you for your grace because I simply need it. I'm just not that well-put-together. However, through the confidence I have in the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, I'm really going to put my best foot forward. Help me to be compassionate, understanding, and productive. In Jesus' name. Amen.
A few more funnies like last week...the winner from last week was the Darth Vader line...
"Never give yourself permission to hide behind grace as a cover for disobedience." Chuck Swindoll
"You belong to the power which you choose to obey." J B Phillips
God grants you and I grace...
We can choose Him to have mastery over us, or we can go back and choose to be lawless and without principle. J B Phillips was definitely right when he wrote, "You belong to the power which you choose to obey." The idea is simple. With every moment of every day we have the power to choose whom we are pleased to follow. If it is Jesus, the benefits are manifold. If we choose our own way, the consequences are destructive and miserable.
You belong to the power which you choose to obey...
Literally, sin is falling short of the target, and sin (in terms of our human intention and conduct) is falling short of God's standard for our lives. Falling short...
Don't fall short! Aim for the Bulls-eye and hit it! ...that Bulls-Eye is God's intention for our lives...
I've got some good news for you...and...I've got some bad news for you. You know something! I wish I could actually guarantee all of us freedom from sin for three-hundred and sixty-five days out of each and every year. But, sadly, I cannot do so. Not for me. Not for you. That's the bad news. The good news is that...we don't have to sin in a constant, day-after-day basis. Grace gives us the strength to be freed to obey Christ. With each and every choice we make in life, we either move closer to God or we go further away.
Some fellow Christians would say it's a gradual thing. I say, No! It's a decision by decision progression.
The Lord could intervene in our lives, but rather, He permits us the freedom to make a choice. When we fail to see the errors of our ways, the promptings of God's Spirit are ignored and disobedience becomes a lifestyle. God will allow that to happen...because we must "choose" Christ...and the His ways. The alternative for us is terrible...it involves mental anguish, a guilty conscience, hurting and offending others and finally bringing reproach upon the name of Jesus. The scars of bad decisions mark us for life. We are told that the Lord (indeed) will forgive us, but the scars we retain cannot be erased.
Let me tell you something! God is a gentleman and He is not going to force religion or good behavior on any of us. We must choose to accept His undeserved grace and act accordingly. The Holy Spirit will give us the means and the strength to live our lives in a Godly way, so that life is a blessing for us and we are richly rewarded. It starts simply with one decision, one act, to obey. God never means to communicate to us we're free in Him to live any way we want to live, whatever the circumstances. Life doesn't work that way.
Grace in this regard means I don't force or manipulate or judge or attempt to control others in that accountability, nor should others try to control me. In a unique and workable way --- personal growth in Christ --- involves breathing room, deliberately "letting go" of attempts to control (so very tempting for the deeply religious) so that each person can grow and learn on his or her own. Letting go of control can be painful...It's so hard to watch others falter along the way...we want so badly to shape others in our mold. We need to release our tendency to control, to be in charge, as though the touch of the Master is not sufficient enough...
Therefore, being a Christian who takes God's grace seriously, this anonymous poem is so very helpful:
To let go doesn't means to stop caring, it means I can't do it for someone else.
To let go is not to cut myself off, it's the realization that I can't control another person.
To let go is not to enable, but to allow learning from natural consequences.
To let go is to admit powerlessness, which means the outcome is not in my hands.
To let go is not to try to change or blame another, I can only change myself.
To let go is not to care for, but to care about.
To let go is not to fix, but to be supportive.
To let go is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.
To let go is not to be in the middle arranging outcomes, but to allow others to effect their own outcomes.
To let go is not to be protective, it is to permit another to face reality.
To let go is not to deny, but to accept.
To let go is not to nag, scold, or argue, but to search out my own shortcomings and to correct them.
To let go is not to adjust everything to my desires, but to take each day as it comes.
To let go is not to criticize and regulate anyone, but to try to become what dream I can be.
To let go is not to regret the past, but to grow an live for the future.
To let go is to fear less and love more.
"...there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin an death..." Romans 8:1-2
The very next time you and I are tempted to yield to the "old master" we will need to remember this. God's grace always invites us to return and find forgiveness and healing and wholeness. The scars along the way are the earmarks of our eventual victory in Christ. They show us the price the journey has cost us. There is a great and powerful truth released to us through the gospel we have received in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no more perfect way to live and find true reconciliation in our lives. If there were "a religious way" or "a way of wisdom" that dealt with truth the way "life in Christ" does --- I have not found it. Underneath the lure of other spiritual ways there are always "good works" at its base, not grace. It's an open-door for all of us to find perfect peace and joy meant for imperfect people, like me, and maybe you, also. I'd like to ask... receive that great peace and joy in your life today, especially if this has been a special time of struggle for you in these challenging times. There is hope for you today. There is reconciliation. There is abundant life.
Today we will release the power that you have granted us to allow the Son (sun) to shine in our sometimes darkened vision of what we see before us. We are informed by your transforming Word that we have an important step to take in our faith lives, to give thanks, no matter what our circumstances. At times, that is difficult for us, because it is not natural for us. Understand, Lord, that we need to practice, and keep at it, until we have brought order and confidence into our daily living. We trust you, Lord, and we will proceed knowing this is the way we need to live in order to prosper. Amen.
Making the most of what we have turns it into being more. The Bible encourages us to give thanks no matter the circumstances. It sort of goes against our human nature, and therefore is properly called "supernatural". Say thank you...until your mean it. Our football coach in college used to say, "...fake it until you make it..." Get good at a skill because your practice that skill. Thank God...be grateful for the gift of life...and for the world...and the whole world...for everyone...and everything sent your way.
Gratitude turns denial into acceptance. We are actually much more healthy if we can accept and love the person that we are...with all our faults. We are more able to come to terms with our shortcomings and more able to love others despite the shortcomings they have, especially when it gets to the point where they disappoint and offend us.
Gratitude turns chaos into order. We get confused when difficult-to-comprehend information comes our way about human conduct in a very cruel and unmindful world. When we take to heart the ideology of Romans 8:28 (see below) we can cope and deal with any situation without withdrawing from the world. It is such a practical, liveable,
realistic, and profound way to live. We are in the world, but we are not of the world.
Gratitude turns confusion into clarity. I keep thinking about prehistoric humanity and how religious belief allowed humankind to contend with an overwhelming world all about ...the question then being..."How can I remain sane...and yet survive in such a dangerous place always making me afraid...and unable to function. The purpose of faith in our lives in a postmodern world remains the same as in ancient times...to encourage us to find meaning in life...to give us confidence to know that life is reasonably safe...worthwhile, rewarding and meaningful...keeping us free from fear and able to function efficiently.
Gratitude is a delight...but one needs to practice it in the heat of the day...every day! After all, it can turn a regular meal into a virtual feast. I have often thought lunch with a friend is not so much about the food as it is the richness of the fellowship. It can turn a house into a home. It can turn a complete stranger into a friend. It speaks to a deep part of ourselves that tells us...we are not alone...we are valued by some one we hold dear. Yet, another reason to be grateful. Loneliness is the great bringer of despair...
Gratitude can turn problems into gifts. It can turn failures into success. It is said that Abraham Lincoln failed at major things in his life sixteen times, but those failures were considered learning experiences, eventually leading him into the White House. If you think that Lincoln figured this out for himself, you just may be wrong. President Abraham Lincoln was an outstanding student of the Holy Bible. He took what he read to heart. To Lincoln the Holy Bible was a very practical book. To Lincoln the Holy Bible was a very sacred, holy book. His language is laced with biblical images.
It is most evident to us, not on account of those who wrote about him, but by his own writings. It is possible that practicing gratitude and praying often got him through the American Civil War. Indeed, it was the Civil War that brought him to his knees. He was the only person in the nation who consistently pressed for the absolute union of the United States of America without compromise and without slavery.
Because of Lincoln we are the nation we are. I acknowledge his attitude of gratitude.
Gratitude can turn disconnected situations into important and beneficial lessons. Situations come up for me as when I've felt so irritated that things were not going my way I was ready to give up. Darn! ...but wait a minute... I can remember letting go in the midst of things to discover that the Lord had His hand in those issues of the day. It wasn't up to me to fuss about it, although I was a part of the solution to take care of those issues. Gratitude can turn the unexpected into "perfect timing". It can turn mistakes into important events. In the final analysis it was discovered what part I needed to play, knowing that the Lord was at work, even though, I didn't have control.
Gratitude as appreciation can make opposition knell in your behalf. Gratitude for the ability to see goodness in the negative things of life can make you successful...
During the Second World War, General George Patton continued making tragic mistakes in his series of skirmishes and battles with German general --- Field Marshall Erwin Rommel in North Africa. Patton ended up reading Rommel's "classic" on battle logistics in German, realized the mistakes he was making, and planned using Rommel's logistics on Rommel. In the Battle of El Guettar in Tunisia, Patton routed Rommel's forces using Rommel's logistics. General Patton didn't give up because he was getting his pants beaten off of him...he used researching his defeats to finally defeat his enemy.
My father, as a football coach, always watched the films of his team, not to extol their strengths, but rather, to note weaknesses of his team's efforts, and improve on the mistakes, to consistently improve the team effort eventually during upcoming games. Patton was a spiritual man, and my father was a spiritual man...their mindset was biblical...and that paved the way for their success. At the heart of their efforts was an attitude. Good! These things happen for a purpose. Can we learn anything from this?
Gratitude can turn just existing into a real life, filled with "good things" and "excellent things". The verses noted above (Philippians 4:4-8) are accompanied by yet another powerful verse (Philippians 4:8): "...finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think of such things..." Often in this postmodern age, we get engaged in popular and attractive items...breaking news...for one thing...movies and magazines of questionable value...other things of curiosity that may not have any value whatsoever... We need to be on our guard! Those activities may just upset a delicate balance in terms of the way we view our lives and what seems worthy of our attention and time.
Gratitude makes sense of our past. It brings that deep personal biblical peace...shalom
...into the "actual time" of each day. You and I have heard people we know talking about what might have been in their lives. We may have also thought and communicated likewise.
I have learned that things past have always turned out the best, no matter what. It is useless to try to re-configure our past. We all know the expression, "to cry over spilled milk". It doesn't do any good, but we waste time trying to do so, all too often.
Gratitude makes things right. Saint Paul writes (Romans 8:28), "...and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose..." God has His ways. God's timing is perfect. God is wise. That wisdom surpasses our understanding and vision of what is, what could be, what has happened, and what meaning - the events of our lives have and will be. There is no failure with God. Trust Him...don't place so much trust in the latest round-up of world and local news and what the news is supposed to mean for our lives or the world. Give Him praise and thanks for what is happening...in the process...let Him know you know He is in control.
Finally, gratitude turns negative energy into positive energy. There is no circumstance or situation so small or so large that it is not susceptible to the power you and I have of being grateful. We can start with who we are...and what we have today...apply that good measure of gratitude, and then let it work - its great work - in our lives.
Think and say "Thank you", until you mean it. If you say it long enough, it'll become the only acceptable truth for you. Your life...what's outside and what's inside you...will be transformed and you will notice it first when others will say of you, "She's changed...He's changed...and it is really good!" You will have moved from mere religion into the mindset of faith. There is nothing like it to make our lives completely worthwhile and ultimately encouraging and meaningful. What an affirmation in a time of pandemic!
"I have come that you may have life, and that you may have life more abundantly." John 10:10
I am convinced, as I am sure Saint Paul was convinced, that the Lord Jesus was talking about, not only the forgiveness of our sins and the assurance of eternal life, but also, trusting in Him...so profoundly...we don't need to worry about complicated international issues. We don't need to get all tangled up in the difficult affairs of our lives. We have the knowledge to know (despite appearances) that everything is going to work out. We have the foresight to know the future lies in God's good hands and we will benefit and thrive. I am reminded of a great truth that says a lot about what effective faith is...
"...now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see..." Hebrews 11:1
Do you really have that assurance? Do you really believe this?
Is this what a perfect God has in store for imperfect people who trust in Him?
Such assurance comes to us when we live our lives with a bold attitude of gratitude. Gratitude is a great presupposition of Christian faith. So many followers of Christ Jesus get caught up in the attractive aspects of religion, the beauty of the sanctuary, the music and hymn melodies, the robes and wall-hangings, the pastor's comforting words, the great choir, the lunch fellowship after worship...all great, encouraging and lovely things to look forward to...but nothing without the basics...a grateful response to the sacrifice of Christ Jesus on the Cross, His tragic death and His victorious resurrection...forgiveness for my sins and all those like me who are sinners...the assurance of eternal life, based not upon my accomplishments, my personal charm, or my good looks...but based upon gratefully trusting in His purpose in my life presently and the unfailing assurance of everlasting life in the time to come.
Gratefully and cordially, Tom
From the Mathews Family
SpiritCare has some wonderful volunteers helping us. Here the Mathews family have made some videos to share. The first video sends a message of Hope with a lovely song.
Listen to the hymn Amazing Grace in this second video.
Posted by Angela Hey
Sometimes SpiritCare volunteers bring their dogs to care communities. A well-behaved pet can bring joy.
Volunteer Justine has sent in this website where you can watch dogs on video. It's best if you click on the video then choose YouTube in the bottom right-hand corner to show a wider picture. Then click on the box in the bottom right-hand corner of the video to make it full screen.
It shows the gathering room at Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary in Tennessee. You can share this video with care community residents who may be missing their dogs.
Here's a picture of a dog that a SpiritCare volunteer brought to San Carlos Elms for residents to stroke last August.