I think most of us can relate to the young wife who was having lunch with a dear friend. In summing up her life, she stated, "My life is all about math. I am trying to add to my income, subtract from my weight, divide my time and avoid multiplying." That's about it, right? With the things that are going on in the world today, one has to "math" his/her way through life. What's your focus? For what are you living? What is the ultimate goal in life for you?
No one is more aware than I am that having children, becoming ill, losing employment and other such maladies will cause one to lose "focus!" It may not even take something as drastic as any of the above. Some will find themselves distracted from the truly important things in life by simply one "bad" day! Our ability to maintain "focus" during stressful times is an important part of life!
Let me suggest this morning that there are three things that we all should "focus" on in life:
-- HOPE! We all should be like the little league baseball player when asked the score said, "It is 18 to nothing and we are the ones with nothing!" The response was, "I understand why you are discouraged." "Discouraged, " piped up the ball player, "We are not discouraged because we have not even been up to bat yet!" David set us straight about hope when he wrote, "No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame." [Psalm 25:3]
-- HELP! Laurie was only three years old and one night she asked her mother to help her get ready for bed. To which the mother replied, "You know how to undress yourself and put your pajamas on." "Yes," Laurie explained, "but sometimes people need help anyway, even if they do know how to do things for themselves." Another gem from the words of a child! David again added, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." [Psalm 46:1]
-- HAPPINESS! One psychologist said that it was his belief that only 20% of people were "really happy!" This might go along with another doctor's observation, "Happiness is an imaginary condition, formerly attributed by the living to the dead, now usually attributed by adults to children and by children to adults." Are YOU happy? One more time from David, "But may the righteous be glad and rejoiced before God; may they be happy and joyful." [Psalm 68:3]
Hope, help, and happiness...can you "focus" on each of these? I surely hope so!
March 28, 2010
Good morning, SMS friends!
A few days ago I was watching my favorite NFL team (Pittsburgh Steelers) and our quarterback, "Big Ben," was injured. As he took himself out of the game his right arm dangled uselessly, but after a play or two he went right back in and continued to play and led the Steelers to victory! He "played hurt!"
I have found throughout the years that a lot of people "play hurt" when the cause is greater than themselves! Mothers crawl out of a sick bed to aid their small child. Teachers drag themselves to school to educate the young. EMTs answer the call for help even when they are hurting themselves. Preachers preach when their throats are too sore to talk. You get the idea!
However, I have discovered there are some folk who will not "play hurt!" They are the ones that "pick up their ball and go home" if things are not done as they think they should be. They will sulk for a long time if someone fails to speak to them when they pass in a store. The fail to attend church because the preacher did not visit them when they thought he should. Again, you get the idea, right?
The words of Paul should ring in our ears, "...always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing your labor is not in vain in the Lord." [1 Corinthians 15:58]
Do you remember the commercial for one of the less expensive motel chains that stated, "We'll leave the light on for you!" The message was one designed to signal hospitality, refreshment and rest. Whether they accomplished their goal or not will be decided by someone else, but it does "suggest" a concern for weary travelers.
I would suggest that this motel motto reminds us of the need for us to be "...the light of the world." I laugh to myself when I hear people say that Christ-followers are to "...be like a light to the world..." The fact of the matter is that Matthew 5:14 says, "You ARE (emphasis - bb) the light of the world." There is a big difference between being "like" something and being the genuine article. Our responsibility is to bring light into a world that is full of (or quickly filling up with) darkness. Light and darkness have been mutually exclusive since the beginning of time. God separated light from darkness very early on (Genesis 1:1-4) in His creative process and the two have been separated consistently every since.
Spiritually speaking, the apostle Paul uses the same imagery to describe the separation between the sons of God and the sons of disobedience. Hear him, "For you were once darkness (Note: Paul does not say, "like" darkness - bb), but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light." (Ephesians 5:8) Earlier, in verse 7, the writer noted, "...do not be partners with them (the children of disobedience - v. 6). We need to respect others, but not resemble them! Paul then quickly adds, "For you were once children of darkness..." We should recall how we once lived our lives, but we should allow those same ways to recur.
Finally, Paul adds in verse 10, "...and find out what pleases the Lord." He is strongly stating that our lives would be living proof of that which pleases God. We can do this without being nasty, judgmental and condemning by revealing God's will, without reviling our family and friends. As Christians we cannot condone sinful acts, but we can shine in order to reveal what the will of God is for our lives.
Let me give you a little test this morning because that ought to wake you up! #1 - Which country in the world has the largest population? #2 - What is the tallest mountain in the world? #3 - What type of tree grows to be the tallest? If you answered: China; Mt. Everest; and, Sequoia (Redwood), you were exactly correct. But wait, there is more to the test. #4 - What is the least populated county in the United States? #5 - What type of tree is the smallest of them all? #6 - What is the smallest mountain range in the world? Okay, how did you do with those last three questions? My guess is that you may have done well on the first three, but not so well on the final three. Am I right?
The reason for the test is to make a point about our infatuation with "bigness," and our lack of interest in those things that are "small." The outcome of this type of thinking is that which is small is less important and less effective than that which is large! If that is our conclusion, we could not be more incorrect!
Did you ever think about Jesus being born in a very "small" town called Bethlehem? How about him being raised in another "small" town called Nazareth? Wasn't Jesus surrounded by a very "small" number of disciples as he began his ministry? Do you remember Jesus feeding more than 5,000 people with very "small" amount of bread and fish? The list of "small" things that surrounded Jesus could be increased significantly, but I will leave that up to you to do.
My point is simple. LITTLE IS BIG WHEN GIVEN TO JESUS! God purposely chose small insignificant people to share His gospel with the world. There was no danger in people thinking that the disciples were great orators or philosophers, but rather "unlearned and ignorant" men. However, you put that type of person into the hands of God and He can do great things through them. He can do the same with us today!
If we will worry less about the outcome and just give ourselves to God, He will take care of the outcome!
Baseball used to be the "national pastime," but I think it has been supplanted by "advice giving!" It seems that everyone knows what the world needs to know and are more than happy to share their advice with anyone who will listen (and with some who don't want to listen!). Anyway, some of the best advice that I ever received regarding my part in God's Kingdom is found in 1 Corinthians 15:58: "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."
Listen to that advice broken down: "stand firm;" "let nothing move you;" "always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord" Is there anything more important than the above three things when it comes to being Christian? I think not! Oh, I realize that the interpretation of the above varies with people and many make it mean whatever they want it to mean. "Standing firm" with some is "never changing their minds about anything and certainly not admitting the possibility they could be wrong." Others take the "let nothing move you" as a battle cry against doing anything! They almost dare the preacher or elders to try to "move" them toward being more active in the work of the Lord. And, the possibility of giving oneself "fully" to the Lord is just way beyond the expectations some have for themselves, especially if it means an "extra" dollar or two in the collection basket.
My point is that Paul was absolutely correct in his proposition that we should "stand firm, let nothing move us, and always give ourselves to the work of the Lord!" This is an attainable goal for each of us! None of the three are impossible! All together they mean victory against sin, self and Satan!
I think are what I would call "half a null!" In Acts 9:36 (null), it is stated that null was a lady who was "full of good works...which she did." I know a lot of people who are "full of good works" and like to tell others what needs to be done, but fewer are doing the good works which fills them!
A little boy and his father were "working" in the backyard and the son was trying to pick up a rock that was obviously too large for him to move. He said, "Dad, it's too heavy!" The father quickly replied, "Son, you can do it!" The little guy strained and tried, but declared, "Dad, it's too heavy!" Insistently, the father replied, "Son, you can do it!" "But, Dad," the son said, "It is too heavy!" "Son, you are not using ALL your strength!" "Dad, I am! I am! It's too heavy, " the son retorted, now almost in tears! "Son, you're not using all your strength because you have not asked me to help you," the understanding father replied.
Wow! How wise was this father? I am sure that he cringed each time his son complained about his inability to complete the task, but he knew the lesson that he wanted his son to learn! This is a lesson that all of us need to learn and learn it soon!
So many folk are trying to move "life's rocks" without success! They are struggling everyday with problems, addictions, and sins that are beyond their ability to carry. There are those along the sidelines of the game of life crying out, "You can do it!" Folk, there are some "rocks" that we cannot move, let alone pick up, without the help of God! God can do anything, right? Nothing is impossible for Him, right? There is no "rock" that He cannot lift!
The problem is not the availability of a power source, it is accessing and using the power rightly! God's power ought to be used for God's glory and purpose! It makes as much since to be upset with a floor lamp that does not light because it is not plugged into the electric socket as it does for a Christian not to plug into our
As the little boy said, "I can't do it! It is too heavy!" He was right, but the father was right, also! The little guy was not using all the power that was available to him! Are you?
FRIENDS, I have just launched by second blog which is entitled: EVANGELISM: Inside and Out! I am excited about the possibilities that this site promises. The purpose of this site is three-fold: to share the gospel with those who need it most; to excite individuals and congregations regarding evangelism; and, to establish communication between congregations and individuals regarding evangelism. If any or all three of these can be achieved then I know that EVANGELISM: Inside and Out will provide a much needed service.
What I would like for you to do is check this site out right now. It will only take a couple of minutes. The first time you contact the site you will need to type in the following url: evangelisminsideandout.blogspot.com After you make this first contact if you "save" it in your "favorites" category you will not need to type it in again. It should be available on our church's web site before too long and that will make it a bit easier, also.
Please, become a regular reader AND contributor to the site because I want it to become a forum for all of us to share our expertise, experiences and excitement regarding sharing the gospel with others. Thanks for your help and I will be looking forward to hearing from you! God bless all our efforts for His cause is my prayer! Bill Butterfield Williamsburg, Virginia April 7, 2009
The One Constant
By Bill Butterfield
Life can be divided into three "seasons" during which significant decisions are made! In the first third of life (maybe up to 25 years) time is spent dreaming, visualizing and charting life's path. Life is thought about in "future" tense in a time when one will do this or that, live here or there, and achieve one thing or another. It is a busy time of education and preparation and the time when the earliest productivity begins. Following this initial season, comes the time when people are most focused. Focused on their careers, setting priorities, and ridding self of those things that have little bearing on success. Those who are students of the Bible are often heard saying, "When I became a man, I put away childish things." Adjustments to earlier plans are adjusted during this season of life. It is during this period that a man purchases a motorcycle and a woman has "some work done" on her looks...it is, after all, "mid-life!" This is the time when one must decided to complete those original dreams or forsake them for another fantasy that "might just work!" Finally, one wakens in the final third of life contented with a life that is nearly spent! There is no more re-inventing of the wheel, no more shoving someone out of the way to get ahead, and no more dissatisfaction with relationships that have been built over the last thirty or forty years. One is fully aware that he does not have all the answers to every question, but is still convinced that he can meaningfully contribute. There is, once again, usage of "future" tense verbs as God's eternal promises become more important. The one thing I want you to know is that throughout all three of these "seasons of life" there is one absolute constant! It is not one's physical condition, nor his intellectual prowess, nor one's psychological state! It is the "person of Jesus Christ!" The never-changing Jesus Christ! Throughout all three seasons, He has remained the same. The writer noted, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever!" In a life noted for its "seasonal" changes, it is good to know that there is one constant! Jesus Christ! Without fear of failure, I call each of us to Jesus Christ! Regardless in what "season of life" you are now living, Jesus will be constant! Take up your cross of death to self and follow Him! Follow Him all the way into eternity!
Jesus loves YOU!
By Bill Butterfield
How many times have we all enjoyed the childrrens' song, "Jesus Loves Me?" Each time I hear it, memories of childhood flood my mind and those memories are enjoyed once again!
Until this week I never thought about this song being a painful experience for some. Painful? Yes, painful. For some it is difficult to comprehend Jesus loving them because they have not known such love in their lives. They have no point of reference when it comes to being loved unconditionally. Life inflicts some very painful wounds and Satan is quick to use those hurts as wedges between people and God! My heart sings songs of love when I hear, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son....," but there are people who have been hurt so much they not longer believe in love -- any kind of love -- from anyone, including God!
When memories of child molestation, rejected love, being defrauded by fiends, parents administering abuse and those we trust betraying us, nothing but negative memories are refreshed. Others are taught that God is the source of their heartaches when they are challenged by foolish suggestions that God took one's infant or that a tumor was given to one so he would learn to trust God more. Many hear about hurt after hurt being inflicted by God! Then one hears that a tragedy was an "act of God" when it was nothing more than a "natural" disaster or the result of mankind's short-sightedness.
Christians have the responsibility of making love believable! Many of our outreach efforts should be replaced by a "campaign of compassion!" WE must make love believable! People scream angrily at God for the same reason a little girl cries out to her mother...because they have no idea what else to do with their anger and God seems to be a pretty safe punching bag.
All of the above makes it very difficult for some to rejoice in the words, "Jesus loves me this I know...!" Friends, the ultimate proof of God's love is not in our attempt to imitate Jesus, but in telling folk the story of God's love affair with mankind. Remember, "He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to
perish, but everyone to come to repentance." [2 Peter 3:9] Many are quick to remember the global flood brought on by God, but are inclined to forget that He gave mankind 120 years to repent. Others fail to understand that God would have saved Sodom and Gomorrah if only ten righteous people could have been found. God does not want anyone to perish...but He does what everyone to repent of their evil ways!
Remember, friend, God thinks you are AWESOME! He considers you to be WONDERFUL! Yes..."Jesus loves YOU and this YOU should know!"
SUNDAY MORNING SUNSHINE...
By Bill Butterfield
Those of you who know be best know that I have had a "love affair" with golf for more than fifty years! I have played in rain, sleet, and snow...at one point it did not matter! I took my older son, Shawn, golfing when he was only six years old and it began to sleet before we were done and he crawled into the back of the golf behind my clubs and I finished the round. Now, that's a "love affair!"
I have closely followed the career of Tiger Woods since he was about five years old and appeared on "That's Incredible" and old television program. He was amazing at five and nearly unbelievable now! For the past several months he has been off the circuit due to some knee surgery, but he is due back this week! I am eagerly awaiting his first tee shot!
Having said all of that, I want to share with you a quote from Tiger. "If you are given a chance to be a role model, I think you should always take it because you can influence a person's life in a positive light, and that's what I want to do. That's what it's all about." How about that from a professional athlete? When so many others are being seen in "mug shots" for some despicable escapade. Others cannot even count the number of single mothers raising their children except as they see the funds withdrawn from their bank accounts. Still others destroy hotel rooms, drive recklessly with unsecured children in their cars. This goes on and on!
Tiger welcomed his second child in the last few days after being married for a few years and, yes, the first one was "after" his marriage, not before! You have not seen his photo taken by a police photographer! You have not heard of him being arrested for drug abuse! Well, you get the idea!
Many of us will never be a multi-winner on the PGA circuit, but we can ALL be a role model to one or more. And, as Tiger noted, "...that's what it is all about!" Why not exercise your opportunities to be an example of integrity, morality and spirituality as often and with as many people, as possible? Find that small child that needs a father or mother figure that can help them develop into mature adults. Don't give up on any child because one never knows the potential that lurks in that small, yet unexplored, life!
"Fore!" It is time to tee-off on the negative dispositions and attitudes that exist in this world and become the "champion of ideals!"
February 22, 2009
LEAVE NO STONE UNTURNED!
By Bill Butterfield
“Leave no stone unturned!” This adage became very real to me yesterday evening when I was told of the death of Timothy. Let me explain. Tim was a homeless person who lived here in affluent Williamsburg and spent his days walking the streets with his white dog tethered to a long rope. To my knowledge, Tim never hurt anyone and no one seems to know why he chose a life in the woods over finding some type of work where he could, at least, provide shelter for himself. The fact is he made this choice! I first became acquainted with Tim by watching him walk around the neighborhood with his canine friend … they seemed to be inseparable. He would speak and smile, but little else.
In May of 2008, we were involved in a campaign with Larry West and We Care Ministries and part of that effort was providing breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. We would bring new friends back to the building to eat and then study the Bible with them. During lunch one day, Tim and two of his buddies showed up. We encouraged them to stay for lunch and two of them did while the other one sat on the front porch alone, except when he was joined by one of our elders. They enjoyed a good meal and some warm fellowship. As they got up to leave, as we always did, we asked them to stay and listen to the gospel presentation. One of them did, but Tim refused! Later that afternoon, Mike was baptized into Christ as several of us watched on with joyful hearts, but Tim had already left.
Tim showed up again about two months ago on a Sunday to eat lunch with us. We don’t have lunch every Sunday and this was one of those Sundays. We expressed to Tim that we would not be having lunch, but he was very welcome to come back Wednesday nights because we always have dinner at six on Wednesdays. Some of us made sure that he had enough funds to get a warm meal at one of the local restaurants and he went on his way. That was the last time I saw Tim, except as he moved in and around the neighborhood.
Yesterday evening one of our deacons came to me during dinner and told me that Tim had been found in a vacant house frozen to death. His faithful friend was with him when he died and it was the dog’s unusual barking that brought someone to the house.
I am a bit distressed as I consider Tim and his life, his choices, and his death. Why did he refuse our invitation to study? Didn’t he think it was important? Didn’t he know us well enough to trust us? Had he been approached too many times by others? Any of the above might be the reason, but surely there must have been a reason. Today it really doesn’t matter why…all that matters is he refused a chance to know about the love Jesus had for him!
I need to understand more clearly that I must reach out more often to more p eople with that love! When God brings someone into our lives, He must have a reason! A very good reason! I have no regrets about demonstrating love for Tim, nor for encouraging him to listen to the story of Jesus. We tried! I do have some great regrets that he chose to neglect this part of his life which now means everything. He was so close…we were so near!
Someone has said that close does not count except in horseshoes and I guess they are correct. I know in this case “close did not count!” We must make every effort to share the gospel, the story of God’s love for us. Paul said that he became all things to all people that he might win some. Our goal should be nothing less! We will never win everyone to Christ, but we surely can win some to Christ.
As you walk the paths of life, do not leave one stone unturned! That small stone that you quickly pass by might be hiding that one person that you can win. It might be the bagger at the supermarket, the gas attendant hidden behind the protective glass, or that lonely grandmother who is facing life alone for the first time in her life. “Little stones” are everywhere around us, but we must be deliberate in looking for them! Don’t wait for the “stones to cry out,” be ever alert to leave none of them unturned!