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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Florida's Latest Tragedy

Celebrate His Love
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"The righteous cry out, the LORD hears and he rescues them from all their afflictions. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed. Many are the troubles of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him from them all. Psalms 34: 18-20 These words were quoted by Senator Marco Rubio of Miami, Florida a few hours after a newly-constructed bridge at Florida International University (FIU)collapsed, killing and injuring several people. This is the second major tragedy to hit the sunshine state in about a month. Even though I don't know anyone who was affected, the tragedy hit home as FIU is my alma mater.

When the unexpected happens, how do we cope? Can we pick up the pieces and move on?

In this season of Lent, we may do well to read the account of what it must have been like for Jesus's disciples following His death. To say they were devastated is an understatement. Their Lord and Master had been taken from them and crucified. Executed in the most inhumane way possible. And, as far as they knew, Jesus had done nothing wrong. In fact, He'd only done good. Healed the sick, fed the hungry, raised the dead. Why hadn't he raised himself? Or prevented the Roman soldiers from killing him?

The disciples could make no sense of this horrible tragedy.

But that day on the road to Emmaus, two of them did what should be done when we experience a tragedy:

1. They talked about it. "Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them;" Luke 24: 13 - 15

2. They reached out to Jesus. "As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them" (v 28- 30).
In our grief and pain we may not think of the needs of others, but these men extended their hospitality to Jesus - even though they didn't recognize Him - and invited Him to stay with them as it was late in the day.

3. They took care of themselves. Jesus joined the disciples at their dinner table.  When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them(v 30).
During a tragedy, we may find it difficult to eat, but we must make the effort. Going without food and drink can cause your body to weaken and collapse under the strain.

4. They stayed together. "They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together" (v 33). When you are going through the stress of a loss or any form of tragedy, you may be tempted to isolate yourself, but this is the time when you need the companionship of trusted friends and relatives.

5. Pray. We don't see the disciples praying in this chapter, but we know that they prayed a lot. "They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers" (Acts 1: 14). Prayer, Bible reading and fellowshiping with others will give you the encouragement to get through this trying period.

We all experience tragedy at some time, but when this occurs, we can draw on the resources that God has given us and look to Him who is "our strength and refuge."


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Billy Graham's Legacy

I was not born in America but I grew up listening to the evangelist Billy Graham every Sunday. My mother would serve lunch at the exact time that "The Hour of Decision" weekly broadcast came over the radio, and we would all have lunch while listening to the evangelist. Even though I was too young to understand his message, his earnest voice struck a chord in my young heart that would impact my life for years to come.

As I grew older, watched his crusades on television and read about his life, I became convinced that Billy Graham was sent by God to draw people to Christ. How else could he have preached to over 200 million people all over the world and have them respond in the way they did? He never danced and pranced on stage, he didn't promise miracles, all he did was preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in a clear and simple way and invite people to "Come." And they left their seats in droves and went up to the altar to have their lives transformed by the powerful gospel message. Such was the charisma of this great man.

I chose to write about Billy Graham today, not because he passed away a few days ago, but because this is Black History month and even though Dr. Graham was not black, his influence extended to the black community as well. While he has been criticized for not taking a strong stand on racial issues and for not marching with Dr. King, it is well documented that Billy Graham refused to preach to segregated audiences in the South and even removed the ropes himself that divided the people. I think to do that in a period of racial tension that existed in the fifties and sixties was nothing short of courageous. In one account about the relationship between Dr. King and Dr. Graham, it is said that Dr. King advised Graham to continue preaching to integrated audiences and he would continue to march. This, King believed, would pave the way for him to make inroads in the South. Some say this has not been authenticated.

Dubbed "Counselor to the Presidents," Billy Graham was well known for his meetings with every president since Harry Truman. Some of these meetings took place at the White House, others on the golf course and in other informal settings, but President Barack Obama was the first president to meet with the famed evangelist at his log cabin home in North Carolina.

Whatever stance, or lack of, Billy Graham may have taken on civil rights issues, one cannot deny the impact he had on evangelism and on the lives of millions. Our society and the world owe a huge debt of gratitude to this great man.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Thoughts And Prayers

Over the past few days you may have heard the above words used several times as our nation once more grapples with another massacre, one that took the lives of 17 innocent people - staff and students.

Thoughts and prayers sound nice and they are nice -- when that is all that can be done. But in many cases, it takes more than thoughts and prayers to fix a situation.

Jesus did more than think and pray when he was faced with 5000 hungry people in a deserted place far from Mc Donald's. (Matthew 14: 15 - 21)

He did more than think and pray when the sick was brought to him. (Matthew 4: 24)

And He did more than think and pray when his friend Lazarus died. (John 11: 43)

But, you say, these are miracles. Jesus was able to do them because He was God.

True. Jesus did what He could do to show us that we need to follow His example and do what we can do.

So, I repeat what I said above: Thoughts and prayers sound nice and they are nice -- when that is all that can be done. However, thoughts and prayers need to be backed up with action.

A hungry person needs food, a sick person needs medical care, a tired person needs rest, a homeless person needs shelter. And a society besieged by gun violence needs protection.

If all we can do is think and pray, let us pray for those in authority that God will touch their hearts so they will do what needs to be done to prevent this slaughter of innocent lives.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Dr. King's Legacy

Today we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, civil rights activist who passed away forty-nine years ago. Dr. King was not just an activist, but also a Baptist minister who displayed his Christian beliefs in his fight for civil rights by advocating nonviolence and racial equality.

Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech is still hailed as a masterpiece of oratory and stirs my heart no matter how many times I hear it. One line that is often quoted and stands out for a lot of people is this: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!"

It is ironic that fifty-four years after Dr. King delivered that speech, this dream remains just that - an elusive dream.  Oh sure, we have made great strides. We have had an African-American president, and minorities play a great role in every sector of our society, but some people are still marginalized because of the color of their skin, or where they were born. 

But there is a saying, "the more things change, the more they seem the same." In Jesus's day, racism -and segregation - was rampant. Take this conversation with the Samaritan woman. Jesus saith unto her, give me to drink. (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans. ) John 4: 7 - 9.

The woman was stating a known fact. Jews did not associate with Samaritans, who were considered inferior as they were a mixed race. Jesus was on a mission to change all that. After He'd spoken to the woman, she went and told the people of the village what Jesus had told her and they all came out to meet Him.  

And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did (John 4: 39 - 40).

The story doesn't end there. The book of Acts tells us, "When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria" (8: 14).

From that one meeting with a woman at the well, a whole nation was saved. Jesus's message is as clear now as it was then, and we have a great reminder in the legacy of Dr. King.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Dealing With Your Past

Do you sometimes feel that no matter what you do you cannot live down your past? Do you keep looking back at where you came from and think you will never get to where you want to be. That may very well happen. Someone said, the reason the rear view mirror is so small and the windscreen so big is because what happened in your past is not nearly as important as what's in your future.

God puts it this way:  "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29: 11). 

When we are in Christ, we can look with confidence to the future because He holds our future. In the Bible, there is a woman named Mary Magdalene, who seemed shackled to her past. Whenever people spoke of her, they would refer to her as the woman out of whom went seven devils even though she'd been healed and was now a follower of Jesus Christ. He saw her as a new creature, clothed in His righteousness, and so when He rose from the dead, He chose her to be the one to go and spread the good news.

Are you like Mary Magdalene today? See yourself as God sees you, a new creature. The past is over. 2017 is behind you. Learn from its lessons, but don't keep looking into that rear view mirror, or you may end up where you don't want to be. 

"Behold, I will do a new thing; now shall it spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert" (Isaiah 43: 19).

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Monday, January 01, 2018

A Lesson Learned

Christmas 2017 is now over, and a New Year has come. All that remain are the leftovers of our sumptuous indulgences, the added inches around our middle, and the memories. For some, the memories are great, for others, not so good. But as I wrote on my other blog, Christmas is, and always has been, the best time of the year for me.

However, this Christmas was a little bit different, as circumstances conspired to keep me from doing some of the things I usually do. I'd made up my mind that I would not enter a store during the busy shopping season. I would simply give everyone a gift card. Not a bad idea, right? But at the last minute, on the day before Christmas Eve, I decided to go and pick up a few things to put under the tree. After all, gift cards don't look as nice as beautifully-wrapped boxes, do they?

So off I went, into an insanely-crowded store, grabbed a few items and waited in line for more than an hour before getting to a counter. And that's when things got really interesting. I should have paid for my stuff and walked out, but instead a men's watch in a locked cabinet had caught my eye. I told the cashier I wanted to get it. I left my stuff on the counter and followed the man to the cabinet where I showed him the watch I wanted for my husband. When we got back to the counter, all my stuff was gone! Vanished! I left with two items, a bad case of frustration, and a back screaming for mercy.

On my way home, I berated myself for getting caught up in something I had no business being in. I'm not saying I shouldn't have bought presents for my loved ones, but would they have loved me less if I hadn't? I don't think so. They are used to me giving them stuff, not only at Christmas but all through the year.

Love cannot be bought with things. God's gift to us was not things, but a Person in the form of His Son Jesus Christ.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that all who believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. John 3: 16

Spending time with my loved ones and sharing the love of Jesus with them is far more important than any amount of toys or baubles I could have bought.

And so, my friends, maybe that’s the reason I got sick on Christmas Day. I came down with a nasty case of the flu – runny nose, sneezing and headache. Was God trying to teach me a lesson? I don't know, but I think I learned something. At least for this year. God bless.

Happy New Year!

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Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas: A Time For Reconcilation

 May I tell you a story?

Long, long ago, God decided to make man in His own image and likeness. Then He brought a woman to the man and told them to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth. The man and woman were very happy, living in the garden that God had prepared for them and playing with the animals.

Then one day, Satan entered the garden in the form of a serpent and tempted the woman to eat of the fruit that God had commanded them not to eat.   The woman succumbed to the temptation and ate the fruit. She liked the taste and convinced her husband to eat of it also. From that moment, the union between God and man was broken. Sin, sickness and death entered the world and the world became corrupt.

God was not happy. He loved His children and wanted them to be close to Him always. But God knew this day would come and He’d already catered for it. He would send His only begotten Son Jesus Christ into the world to reconcile us back to Him.

And that's the story of Christmas.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.John 3: 16

But Jesus didn't come to earth just to reconcile us back to God. He also came to reconcile us to each other.

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.Colossians 1: 19 - 20 

Jesus lived and died here on earth that we might be reconciled to each other - Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, black and white. 
Christmas is a time for miracles. Jesus’s birth was a miracle, as was His life and death. If you have been separated from a close family member, it doesn’t matter how long, why not let the Christ of Christmas who came into this world to reconcile us back to God and to each other help you to reconcile with your loved ones?

Miracles do come through.

Have a merry Christmas.

Are you looking for creative ways to share the Christmas story with your children or grandchildren? Here are some suggestions from a previous post that will make it easy and fun.