July 24, 2014

Lay Down your Burdens

 A psychologist, teaching stress management, picked up a glass of water, and asked her students, “How heavy is this glass of water?” The answers ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz. 

Then the professor announced,  “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem, but if I hold it for a day, my arm will be in pain. The weight of the glass doesn't change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”

She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like the glass of water. Think about them briefly and nothing happens. Dwell on them day after day, and in time, you will feel incapable of doing anything else.”

The professor made her point, but I like to imagine that when the teacher finished the lesson, a student made this offer, “When you reach the point when you are in pain, I will hold your burden.”

In the Gospel of Matthew, we learn of Jesus’ invitation to hold our burdens:  
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
Lyrics in a song by Kelly Willard are about accepting Jesus’ invitation:
“I cast all my cares upon You, I lay all of my burdens down at Your feet,
And any time I don't know what to do I will cast all my cares upon You.”

July 16, 2014

The Vinedresser

His given name was Cleon, but everyone called him Bud, Bud Niver. 

Bud passed away in early July of 2014, and I knew him as one of those rare people who never spoke ill of others, and I never heard others demean him. Some few may have called him stubborn, but if being faithful to his principles and to God made him uncompromising, I consider that a good quality

Bud was a man of the earth, a vineyardist most of his adult life. He was passionate about his grape bearing vines, and that devotion and respect  translated into a love of all nature. It’s no accident that Bud’s property overlooked one of the most majestic views in all the Fingerl Lakes of Upstate New York. Certainly, Bud believed the land he loved, and the vines he cared for were blessed by God. 

People thought Bud was a quiet man. I prefer to think of him as thoughtful, yet when called upon to offer an opinion, he spoke with conviction, knowledge and experience. That experience included defending his country in WWII as a gunner’s mate on the USS Battleship Idaho supporting Marines on Iwo Jima and other islands in the South Pacific.

In the 15th Chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus describes himself as a Vine, and God is the Vinegrower. The branches are all those who claim to be followers of Christ who, without the Vine or the Vinegrower cannot stand and be fruitful. 

Bud Niver took great pride and pleasure in his vineyards. He loved the Vinegrower, and he was a faithful servant of the Vine.  Surely, this fruitful branch, this follower of Christ, this man of God and the earth will be  welcomed to his Eternal Home

July 9, 2014

God Sent Me

One of my favorite stories is about a college philosophy professor who announced to his class, “There is no God.” To prove his declaration, he said. “If there is a God, let him strike me down here as I stand.”

The room was hushed for the next ten minutes as the professor defiantly stood believing that he had nothing to fear.

Then a former Army Ranger with four tours in Afghanistan rose from the back of the class, walked up to the professor and with one blow knocked him to the floor. As he looked down at the pathetic figure on the floor, the former Ranger said, “God was busy. He sent me!”

On the shores of the Sea of Galilee, the Risen Christ  asked Peter three times if the disciple loved him, and each time, when Peter reaffirmed his love, Jesus instructed his supporter and advocate to, “feed my sheep.” 

Books are written that define ministry, but no definition of service is clearer than Jesus’ command to Peter, and through Peter to each one of us.

We all have different talents and experiences, but each one of us is an instrument in the hands of God, and we are all called to be his strong arm in a world of needs

“Feed his sheep.”

July 3, 2014

One Nation, Under God

Dr. James Kennedy, popular American pastor and Christian radio personality, once remarked that the United States is “the only country in the world whose founders recognized their dependence upon God and their responsibility toward the Creator.”

Proof of Kennedy’s observation is in the Declaration of Independence for within that document, signed by this country’s founders, are five references to God - two in the first paragraph, one in the middle and two in the last.

Each time we celebrate Independence Day, and each time we repeat the words “one nation, under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, or read the phrase, “in God we trust” on our currency we reaffirm our nation’s covenant with God.

Those who oppose our country’s partnership with God are responsible for banishing religion from our schools and most areas of public life. They point to the First Amendment which they insist guarantees the “separation of church and state.” 

The fact is the first amendment never mentions separation. It never mentions the church, and it never mentions the state. In simple and direct language, it prohibits laws establishing a religion or impeding the free exercise of religion.

On Independence Day 2014 let us recognize that God has blessed this great country of ours, and let us be true to the dream of those men of faith who founded this great nation, under God!