Friday, October 28, 2016

"The Ketchup Bottle"

Several days ago, I opened a new bottle of ketchup. You have to be determined to get that condiment out of that container. I do not know how they do it. They pack that substance in there so tight that it is a challenge to get it out. Frustration sets in! Then, when the ketchup finally breaks free, it goes all over the place, smothering the hamburger, fries, pickles, plate and your clothing. What a mess!

A frustrated mother told me this story. It was 6 p.m., time for her and her three children to eat. The menu included hamburgers, baked beans, potato chips and coleslaw. The children were seated at the counter ready to go. The mother was trying to coax the ketchup out of its bottle. Success was avoiding her. Her cell phone rang. She asked her daughter to answer it and tell them, “I’ll call them back later.”

The child picked up the cell phone and said, “My mother can’t talk to you now, she’s hitting the bottle.”


Friday, October 21, 2016

"Hope for Bill"

Bill Higgs played soccer at the United States Military Academy at West Point. During a particularly tough game, Bill leaped for a head shot. Somehow, through a collision, he drove his elbow through his spleen. At the time, he did not know it. He simply knew that he was in great pain. He finished the remainder of the ball game by sheer determination.
As he left the playing field at West Point, he had six hundred feet to climb up to dormitory. He felt bad. In fact, the steps became prohibitive for him. He knelt alone and prayed for strength. Finally, he made it up to the barracks.  Somebody got him over to the hospital. He was too weak to make it on his own.
A surgeon happened to be checking on some rugby players in the hospital at West Point. He immediately diagnosed Bill’s condition and declared him critical. They desperately needed blood. They literally went out to the streets of West Point and pleaded with people for AB+ blood to provide a transfusion. They operated to remove his spleen.
At 2 a.m., an orderly walked in to visit with Bill. He found him in fetal position. The orderly recognized the gravity of his condition. He said, “Bill, are you a Christian?”  Bill mumbled, “Yes.” He asked, “Bill, do you know John 3:16?” Hesitantly, Bill repeated with him that much loved verse of Scripture. He patted him on the shoulder as to bid farewell.
At 6:30 a.m. the same morning, the soccer coach somehow slipped behind the barriers and visited at Bill’s bedside. He tapped Bill on the shoulder and said, “Billy, they say you are going to be able to play soccer next year.”
That was just the word that Bill needed to hear. It gave him hope. It changed his attitude. The attitude of the coach was contagious for Bill. The good news is that Bill lived to tell the tale, he did play soccer that next year for West Point.


Friday, October 14, 2016

"Are Presbyterians Being Short-changed?"

Since the fifteenth century, Roman Catholics have celebrated seven sacraments in their tradition. Aligned with many other Protestant churches, Presbyterians celebrate only two sacraments, Baptism and The Lord’s Supper.

Are Presbyterians being short-changed?

Presbyterians believe that Jesus gave Baptism and The Lord’s Supper as gifts to the Church for the enhancement of the faith. Access to the sacraments should be without any hindrance. For us in the Protestant tradition, that means a sacrament must have been introduced by Jesus and must be available to all.

The Great Commission of Matthew 28 includes Baptism in the Trinitarian formula; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Matthew 26 and 1 Corinthians 10 and 11 urge the followers of Jesus to eat and drink a commemorative meal for Christ’s death.

In Baptism, believers in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are brought into the community of faith. In The Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion), the faith community is nourished. It is also a powerful reminder that we all live under the shadow of the cross.

These two sacraments are for all believers as Jesus taught. Presbyterians regularly participate in these two sacraments. We do so with a sense of thanksgiving. Why?  Because we believe the Son of God invites us through them to identify with the Savior. What a privilege!


Friday, October 7, 2016

"Do You Believe God Answers Prayers?"

She said, “Surely you don’t believe God answers prayer?” Yes, I do.  Prayer is more than just a therapeutic exercise. With countless Christians, I have experienced answers to prayer. No, prayer never got me an A when I failed to study. God does answer prayer.

Jesus prayed. The Biblical mandate is to pray. The savior gave us The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-15) as a model.  In the midst of chaos, we are invited to pray (Psalm 50:15).

God answers our prayers according to his will and redemptive purpose. When we pray, we open ourselves up to aligning ourselves with his Word. Somebody said that God answers our prayers in four ways; yes, no, maybe and you’ve got to be kidding! The answer to our prayers may not be what we expect or want.  That is why trust is a huge factor in prayer. We trust God to hear our prayers, should we then trust God’s answers as to what is best for us?

Prayer is not a scheme or a scream. It is interaction with the Almighty and at his invitation. God loves us enough to give guidance to us. The timing of God’s answer to our prayers is not our call. The Fruit of the Spirit includes patience. The Bible acknowledges that at times, the chaos, the hurt, the anguish, the grief, can be so overwhelming that we can hardly articulate a prayer. The promise of the Word of God is, “The Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”  Thank God!