Don’t We All…

The following was posted on a forum that I frequent by a pastor from Indianapolis, Indiana. Very touching and thought provoking. Enjoy…

It was Christmas Eve and I was parked in front of the mall wiping off my car. I had just come from the car wash and was waiting for my wife to get out of the crazy mall and finish her Christmas shopping.

Coming my way from across the parking lot was what society would consider a bum. From the looks of him, he had no car, no home, no clean clothes, and no money. There are times when you feel generous but there are other times that you just don’t want to be bothered. This was one of those “don’t want to be bothered times.”

“I hope he doesn’t ask me for any money,” I thought.

He didn’t. He came and sat on the curb in front of the bus stop but he didn’t look like he could have enough money to even ride the bus. After a few minutes he spoke.

“That’s a very pretty car,” he said. He was ragged but he had an air of dignity around him. His scraggly blond beard keep more than his face warm.

I said, “thanks,” and continued wiping off my car.

He sat there quietly as I worked. The expected plea for money never came. As the silence between us widened something inside said, “Ask him if he needs any help.” I was sure that he would say “yes” but I held true to the inner voice.

“Do you need any help?” I asked.

He answered in three simple but profound words that I shall never forget. We often look for wisdom in great men and women. We expect it from those of higher learning and accomplishments. I expected nothing but an outstretched grimy hand. He spoke the three words that shook me.

“Don’t we all?” he said.

I was feeling high and mighty, successful and important, above a bum in the street, until those three words hit me like a twelve gauge shotgun.

Don’t we all?

I needed help. Maybe not for bus fare or a place to sleep, but I needed help. I reached in my wallet and gave him not only enough for bus fare, but enough to get a warm meal and shelter for the day. Those three little words still ring true. No matter how much you have, no matter how much you have accomplished, you need help too. No matter how little you
have, no matter how loaded you are with problems, even without money or a place to sleep, you can give help. Even if it’s just a compliment, you can give that. You never know when you may see someone that appears to have it all. They are waiting on you to give them what they don’t have. A different perspective on life, a glimpse at something beautiful, a respite from daily chaos, that only you through a torn world can see.

Maybe the man was just a homeless stranger wandering the streets. Maybe he was more than that. Maybe he was sent by a power that is great and wise, to minister to a soul too comfortable in themselves. Maybe God looked down, called an Angel, dressed him like a bum, then said, “Go minister to that preacher cleaning the car, that man needs help.”

Don’t we all?

Charles Dickens on Christmas…

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.

~Charles Dickens

Lost Christmas

Somewhere, buried under tissue, bent beneath the load
Of our hurried, harried giving Christmas lost the road.

Christmas that was sweet and simple, with a song, a star,
Christmas that was hushed and holy seems so very far!

Let us stop and look for Christmas: Maybe, if we tried,
We could find it somewhere under all the gifts we tied.

Christmas waiting, wistful, weary, may be very near —
Christmas lost, a little lonely, wishing to be here.

by: Helen Frazee Bower

We Love Seniors

We love our young people, and say it often. When we count up the 22-year-old and younger group, it comprises about 52% of our congregation. We are glad for each one of them and pray for them daily.

However, this past week, I have been working on a paper for my college courses that has dealt a little with the senior citizens and it reminded me once again. I want there to be no mistake, we love our seniors too!

Hope you enjoy the following article which was sent to me by my instructor!

This was taken from a recent Pew Forum article titled, “Are churches taking the elderly for granted?”

. . . surveys show that church-affiliated populations are older than the national population as a whole — and in many congregations, overwhelmingly so. Many churches do have plenty of classes and groups for older members. Yet many churches have paid so much attention to attracting the young that they may be overlooking the needs of those in their midst . . .“

John Calahan writes, “several years ago I was driving down a major street of our city and saw a sign about a new church. I looked at the phone number and memorized it. A few days later I called the number and spoke with the pastor about the church. I did not tell him anything about myself other than my first and last name. The pastor explained several things about the ministry and then stated that if I was an older person I was welcome to attend but the focus of the ministry was for those in their twenties to forties. I was stunned. I thought about the admonition in Titus 2:3-4 of older women teaching the younger women. Where does such a church get the counsel of older men? This young pastor did not understand or value the biblical concept of older Christians discipling and counseling younger believers. His attitude may be extreme, but the disrespect for seniors is more common than we may want to admit.”

“Our elderly saints who were once the pastors, music leaders, Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, camp organizers, missionaries, and church volunteers, now have wonderful memories of how God used them. Now they focus on new ministries that do not require young, agile bodies. These are the ministries of cheerful giving, prayer warriors, godly counsel and wisdom.
Our seniors are those who helped us grow in Christ and God used them just as He has used so many who have gone before them. All of the saints of past ages eventually became seniors, unless God took them home unexpectedly. Time has a way of humbling even the greatest of leaders.”

“If Jesus delays His coming long enough, you and I will someday be reflecting on the memories of how God once used us. No matter how much God will use us, eventually we will become old and our bodies will wrinkle. Our legs will not be what they once were. Our eyes will not see as well to read those familiar pages of scripture. Our voices will no longer be able to sing solos as beautifully. We will eventually have trouble teaching Bible lessons and walking the streets to present the gospel. Some day we will not have the energy for certain ministries. Some day you and I will be seniors too!”

Adding Fasting to Your Prayer Life

Over the next couple weeks, as we enjoy the holidays, we will be faring sumptuously with family and friends. It is a tradition that we all enjoy and look forward to, and rightly so. There is nothing quite as fulfilling as being surrounded by family and friends, especially those who share our faith as to what this time is really all about.

However, as we approach the end of 2009 and the start of 2010, we are anticipating another tradition as well. The Forty Days of Fasting and Prayer that begins the year here at MPC is almost upon us. It is going to be a great time of spiritual renewal for those who participate and it is a perfect opportunity to search our hearts in preparation for our celebration of the Lord’s Supper on Sunday Evening, February 7.

We will be teaching some lessons on fasting in the next few weeks and we will be providing you with resources that you can use to make the most of this time of consecration. As I was reading here tonight, I came across an article on Dummies.com that was worth reading. I provide it below for your perusal (with a minimal amount of editing). God Bless.

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Fasting isn’t a complicated business. When you fast, don’t eat. You stay away from all food or refrain from specific types of food for a set amount of time. (Refraining from all food makes you the hungriest.) The duration of the fast may be a solo meal, one day, a week, or, in some cases, even longer.

Fasting from food can be done for a variety of purposes, either physical or spiritual. So abstaining from food alone doesn’t constitute a Christian fast. Instead, a Christian fast is accompanied by a special focus on prayer during the fast, often substituting the time you’d spend eating with prayer instead.

In many Christian churches today, fasting has become a lost discipline, one that is rarely, if ever, discussed and practiced. Yet, in spite of its decreased emphasis, there are a host of reasons to fast:

Fasting has always been considered standard operating procedure for Christians. Fasting has been a common practice by God’s faithful throughout history. The Old Testament includes a multitude of examples of the Israelites fasting when seeking the Lord’s blessing or direction. The New Testament records that Jesus himself fasted, as did leaders of the early Christian church.

Jesus didn’t talk too much about fasting during his ministry, but the one time when he provided specific instructions on fasting, in Matthew 6, he started by saying “when you fast,” not “if you fast.” So it seems logical to conclude that Jesus expected his followers to incorporate fasting into their lives.
Although Jesus assumes that his followers will fast, he never instructs people on the frequency or duration of fasts. Some Christians believe that he left those specifics up to the Church to decide, while others believe he left it up to individuals as prompted by the Holy Spirit.

Fasting provides self-discipline in an undisciplined age. The age in which we live despises discipline. When was the last time you came across an advertisement with a slogan like one of these:
• Buy this later, after you actually have the cash.
• Eat just one of our chips, so you can have some tomorrow.
• Do you really need a new car? Your old one still works fine.

Fasting offers a way to impose self-control in your life; it gives you a “splash in the face” to awaken you to the need for the personal strength of will that you need to grow spiritually. When you restrain yourself physically, you’ll find it easier to apply this same self-discipline in your spiritual life.

The benefits of fasting “rub off” in your relationship with God. Normal exercise and a good, balanced diet go hand in hand in my life. Although fasting is a physical activity, the practice affects you deeply on the spiritual plane of your life as well. In other words, the amount of restraint and will power you practice physically has a tangible relationship to your willingness to submit to God’s will.

Fasting fosters concentration on God and his will. Oswald Chambers once said that fasting means “concentration,” because when you’re fasting, you have a heightened sense of attentiveness. Food or any physical sensation can satisfy, fill you up, and dull your senses and spiritual ears. In contrast, a hungry stomach makes you more aware and alert to what God is trying to say to you.

Fasting provides a real-life illustration of dependency. Although modern man thrives on the idea of being independent, beholden to no one, fasting helps you put the facts in the proper perspective. It’s easy to believe in your independence with a full stomach, but when you start to feel hunger pains in your belly after missing a meal or two, you awaken to your body’s dependency on food to survive. Fasting reveals a physical reliance on food that points to the ultimate dependency — the fact that you’re dependent on God for things far more important than food.

Fasting prepares you for a big decision or an important event. Time after time in the Bible, God’s faithful spend time in fasting and prayer before a major decision or event in their lives. For example, just after getting baptized, Jesus undertook a 40-day fast in the desert as a preparation to starting his ministry. Just before she put a plan into action that risked her life in an effort to save the Jewish people living in Persia, Esther calls for fasting (Esther 4:16): Go, gather together all the Jews and fast for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast in like manner; and [then] will I go in to the king. Fasting brings you in line with God to seek his will and to simultaneously show your devotion to him before the big event or decision occurs.

Fasting often surrounds God’s special work in the world. On occasion, God moves in the world in a special way. For example, consider God’s interaction with the Israelites, Jesus’ three years of ministry, and the formation of the early Christian church. More recently, God has moved on occasion to bring people to him in what is commonly called a revival, an event where large numbers of people come to the Lord. Fasting preceded the revival known as the Great Awakening that swept through the American Colonies in the 1700s. If you start to study many of these major events, you’ll invariably find that God’s faithful fasted before them.

Fasting empowers. Fasting can also give you newfound strength in your spiritual life because of the intimacy you gain with God as a result.

The discipline of fasting can be problematic or even downright dangerous if you have experienced or are susceptible to eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia. Therefore, keep the following in mind:

~ Don’t fast beyond the time limit you originally set. If you find that you can’t stop your fast, see your doctor immediately.
~ If you feel yourself preoccupied with the physical aspects of going without food (such as possible weight loss), then the act of fasting may be a hindrance to your prayer life rather than a help. If you focus on the fast and have difficulty praying, break the fast immediately and pray about what you just experienced.
~ If you’re recovering from an eating disorder, avoid fasting altogether as a spiritual discipline.

Abe Lincoln on criticism…

While we were travelling in November, we stopped in Sprinfield, Illinois, and visited the home of Abraham Lincoln and toured both his Presidential Library and Museum. It was an interesting visit and while there I picked up a little book in the gift shop that contains a wealth of wit and wisdom from Mr. Lincoln’s pen. I found the following while reading tonight: “He has the right to criticize who has the heart to help.”

And that is a mouthful…