Monday, November 24, 2014

Basin Theology!  It's a simple concept that's identified twice in the scriptures.  In Matthew 27, as Pontius Pilate wrestled with the decision of whether or not to crucify Jesus, took a basin of water and washed his hands before the crowd and said, "I am innocent of this man's blood." In John 13,on the night before His crucifixion, Jesus took a basin of water and washed the feet of ALL of His disciples -- including Judas.  

It's a simple matter of basin theology. We choose the way we use the basin. Some wash their hands of Jesus over and over, choosing to ignore His unconditional love, His ultimate loving sacrifice, and His call to eternal, abundant life. Others embrace His example and teachings like:  "Whatever you want others to do for you, do the same for them -- for this fulfills the Law and the Prophets."  Matthew 7:12   "If I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you ought also to wash one another's feet.  For I have given you an example that you should do just as I have done for you.  If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them."    John 13:14-17

Which basin have you chosen?  In Mark 2, we find the story of four men who, though they probably hadn't heard Jesus say those things, lived out these teachings by taking a risk to help a friend in need.  Here's the story:

Jesus was teaching in a home.  The homes then were small and usually had a flat roof.  There would also be an outside stair case or perhaps a ladder for access to the rood in the cool of the morning or evening.  The house was at capacity and the the crowd gathered around the doorway, which kept any others from getting into the home.  That's the scene when four guys show up carrying their paralyzed friend on a cot.  The crowd won't let them through and it seems their mission has been in vain.

But they would have no part of that.  They found the access and carried their friend up to the roof.  Then they took whatever they could use to dig a hole in the clay roof.  Once the hole was large enough, they took ropes or perhaps outer garments and used them to lower their friend's cot at the feet of Jesus.  Mark 2:5 says "Seeing THEIR faith, Jesus told the paralyzed man, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.'"

This was basin theology at its best.  These four friends wouldn't be discouraged or deprived as they sought to have their paralyzed friend brought into the presence of Jesus.   They could have said, "We tried our best.  There was no way to get to Him."  But they persisted because they believed that Jesus was the only answer to their friend's need.  Jesus honored that persistent faith FIRST by meeting the man's spiritual need and then, by healing the man of his paralysis.  

Do you know what role we play as followers of Jesus?  Our job is NOT to transform people nor convict them of sins.  Our job is to bring them to Jesus and let Him do His work in their lives!

Here's what I want you to learn from this story.  This story further illustrates the truth that God's plan is for the Gospel to be taken to the whole world.  In "2 Peter 3:8-9, Peter reminds us that God does not delay His promise as some think, but is patient with you, not wanting ANY to perish, but ALL to come to repentance." (my emphasis)  See also Matthew 28:18-20

Second, this story tells us that God honors persistent faith.  We cannot be swift to retreat when we meet a little resistance. Resistance does not always mean a closed door.  We must be persistent in our prayer life, persistent with our witness, persistent with our invitations, and persistent with our love even when our friends resist the gospel.  We never know what the Holy Spirit has been doing in their lives and we must remember that, according to Peter, God's desire for their salvation is much greater that ours.  

Third, everyone of us has what Kenneth Hemphill has termed a 'SPLASH zone.'  That stands for Show People Love And Share Him.  Just as you can plan on getting splashed standing on the platform of a theme park water ride or standing beside a baby being bathed, be sure that your lost and unchurched friends are in your SPLASH zone.  Show them love as often as possible.  Be persistent in your actions and your prayers for them.  Don't worry about changing them.  Just earn their trust, be their friend, invite them into the presence of Jesus and let Him do His work.  

SO!  What's keeping you from bringing your friends to Jesus? Accept your responsibility as a witness to them.  Name and claim those you love in your prayers knowing that God desires their salvation more than you do.  (Matthew 18:19; Luke 18:1-8) Pick up your basin and trust the Holy Spirit to do His work.  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Source of All Comfort

 I could hear his words of comfort and encouragement over the hum of the engine.  It was hard to believe that he had been so apprehensive about this trip.  He didn't think he had the skills or the knowledge to actually DO mission work.  Oh, and there was the other thing.  It was physical problem, a genetic abnormality.  It had affected his appearance, which had resulted in plenty of cruelty during his teen years.  He didn't want to make others uncomfortable and he didn't want to be the object of ridicule either.  In fact, he just wasn't sure he was the man for the job.  Yet, it seemed that God was telling him to go.  

It was almost 10:00pm as the van rolled along this winding West Virginia road.  Most nights had been noisy as we delivered children to their homes.  Songs, crafts, and Bible School refreshments helped pump up the volume.  But on this particular night, there was only the hum of the engine and the passionate voice of my young friend as he reassured a teen-aged girl about the gracious love God.  She was a gangling teen with glasses and a mild case of acne.  During the entire week  of Bible School, she had been quiet and withdrawn.  But on this particular night, my friend (who knew how it felt with be ostracized) simply encouraged her to talk.  And she did!  She began to speak about her awkwardness and the rejection she had experienced at school and in the mobile home park where they lived.  Her pain was real and my friend could relate.

There is no professional counselor or pastor anywhere who could have had a greater positive effect on her that night.  My friend simply focused compassionately on the reality of her pain.  He listened, he heard, and he understood.  He had been there.  With a Christ-like gentleness, he talked about family and church as support systems.  But his most comforting words were about the unconditional, life-changing, attitude-adjusting love of Jesus.  

She disappeared with a wave and a smile into the shadows around her front door.  At that moment, I understood why God had so strongly urged my friend to go with us to West Virginia.  There was a fifteen year old girl there who needed exactly what he could offer.  

Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church that it is ". . . God our merciful Father and the Source of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us."  2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (New Living Translation)  That's exactly what my friend did.  God used him to do for this young girl what I, a trained pastor, could not do.  In fact, there was no one else on our team who could have had as dramatic effect on her life.  Out of his own suffering, he offered empathy, support, love, and Jesus.  

So what pain have you endured?  What are you suffering through now?  If there is anything good that can come for it, it is that your suffering can equip you to be a channel for God's comfort and love to others.  When pain and stress invade your life, look to Jesus for comfort and hope.  Keep in mind that suffering offers preparation for opportunities to comfort others and offer them hope through a relationship with Jesus.  Do NOT become too busy or bitter to let Him work through you to help someone who is hurting,  

Philippians 2:13

Thursday, October 16, 2014

We Need Each Other

     All my life I've tried to fit in.  As a "late in life" child, I tried to fit in my family.  In my childhood, little league baseball was a way to "fit."  As I grew older, the peer pressure increased.  There were more sports, greater mobility (translated driver's license).  There was beer and music and rebellion.  I grew my hair long, popped an earring into my left earlobe, adopted a hippie dress code, all in an attempt to find a spot, a niche, a place of acceptance.  It's a different context, but it's the same reason that kids join gangs, men join fraternal clubs, and women join book or garden clubs.

     That's also why I was baptized and joined the church at age nine.  It was revival time, my friends were doing, and everyone seemed overjoyed.  Why not make my mother the happiest woman in the world for a while.  BUT, I did not really follow Jesus or even know Him in a life-changing way until I was 18 years old.  Then at age 20, I was called to vocational ministry.

     Can I trust you with a secret?  I still tried to find a way to fit in, even as a pastor.  Most of us search desperately for acceptance.  Many, like me, are searching for truth, answers, and meaning in life.  Some turn to the church hoping to find acceptance, encouragement, and love.  Unfortunately, subtle demands for uniformity have infiltrated many churches and even spread through our American culture.  The education system and the government both seem to discourage individuality.  Perhaps that why I felt so uncomfortable and inadequate in ministry for all those years.  Even as a pastor, I had been trying to fit in wherever I found myself.  And when that happens, it's often rooted in a desire to please others, seek their approval and acceptance, and to be liked.  But that is not what God created us to be or do.

     The psalmist reminds me in Psalm 139 of the unique stamp that God placed on my life when He knit me together over 60 years ago.  Read it carefully and slowly because it says the same thing about you.  The apostle Paul reminds me in I Corinthians 12 that it takes all kinds of unique individuals working together to be effective as the Body of Christ.  We ARE unique and glorious creations of our heavenly Father, but He also created us to need each other.

      Several years back, God said to me, "Zane, it's OK to be yourself.  That's how I made you."  That's not a license for bad attitudes or behavior.  It was a reminder that from conception, God had wired me toward certain things.  My personality type, my appearance, and my ethnicity are things that are woven into me.  My contextual setting, my opportunities, my experiences, & my "teachers" throughout life will influence me.  The same is true of you.  My prayer and hope is that I can be as gracious to others as God is to me.  Our differences in appearance, abilities, giftedness, and methods are God's way of reminding us that we need each other IF we are to function most effectively as a family and as the Body and Bride of Christ.

     So just be yourself.  Some will appreciate you.  Some might not.  But embrace the you that God created you to become.  Don't look for the approval of others.  Always speak and act for God's approval.  "Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need." (Matthew 6:33 NLT)   And remember, if you don't "fit in" because you choose to live for the approval of God, you're in great company.  Jesus Himself said, "If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.  The world would choose to love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world.  I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you."  
(John 15:18-19 NLT)

Monday, September 29, 2014

What Are You Looking For?

I've taken up a new hobby that my brother says is one step closer to dementia.  I've become a bird watcher.  With three bird feeders in the backyard, I've discovered great joy in watching those creatures who "don't plant or harvest or gather the harvest into barns.  Yet (our) heavenly Father feeds them."  At least twice, Jesus used birds to teach the principles of trust and God's provision.                      (Matthew 6:26; 10:29, GWT)

My fascination with birds, spiritual issues, and practical faith has led me to a conclusion.  Sitting at my kitchen table, I've watched hummingbirds dart from flower to flower extracting the sweet nectar that energizes them.  It's a good thing since a hummingbird's wings flap 50 times a second.  

Driving the country roads of Colleton County, I've seen my share of buzzards picking away at roadkill.  They mount themselves on a tree limb or tower and just wait for some poor creature to meet an untimely end.  When that happens, they swoop end to feast on the misfortune.  Yes, I know it's the circle of life, but don't miss my point.  

Let's think attitude!  In life, most of us find what we're looking for.  If we're looking for good, we find good.  If we're looking for beauty, we find beauty.  If we're looking for bad, we find bad.  If we're looking for ugly, that's what we usually find.  It's a principle that's true in family life, church life, and social life. More often than not, we find what we're looking for.   If we approach our jobs expecting to find boredom, emptiness, and pressure, it will be there.  If we see our jobs as ways to honor God, that's what it will become.  If we expect the demands of marriage and family life to be confining, demeaning, and disenchanting, guess what?  That's what it will become.  But if we see it as liberating, encouraging, and fulfilling, that's what we'll have.  IF we go to church expecting it to be dull, ordinary, and meaningless, it probably will be.  But if we go expecting to encounter the God of the universe, experience joy, and be strengthened for the stresses of the coming week, that's what we'll find.  

Now, this is NOT about the power of positive thinking.  It IS about making a conscious decision to a "good-finder."  It's about being a hummingbird instead of a buzzard.  Paul encouraged the Christians at Colossae that "Everything you say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."  Colossians 3:17 also v. 23
He reminded the Christians at Corinth that ". . . whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything to the glory of God."  I Corinthians 10:31  (GWT)

Negativity, pessimism, malcontent, whining, grumbling, gossip, and maliciousness -- all these things dishonor God and dishearten others. Optimism, faith, contentment, kindness, confidence attract and encourage others.  What does your attitude say about your relationship to God?  In your church life, in your family life, on your job . . . are you looking for the right things?  Paul wrote, " Since you were brought back to life in Christ, focus on the things that are above -- where Christ holds the highest position.  Keep your mind on things above, not on worldly things."  Colossians 3:1-2 (GWT)  Things above, things of glory, things that honor God.  What are YOU looking for?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fighting Fair

Honestly, conflict is an inevitable part of life.  Because we are imperfect people trying to do life together in relationships, we aren't always going to see things eye-to-eye.  Offenses WILL happen.  Misunderstandings WILL occur and sometimes, arguments WILL erupt.  It's just a fact of living in a fallen world order.   Ignoring this truth will only allow things to fester until greater damage is done.  So, what should we be doing?

A good marriage (or any type of relationship) is about being committed to resolving conflict.  It's about reconciliation and rebuilding.  Every home renovation requires both deconstruction -- tearing things out -- and reconstruction -- putting new things in.  The same holds true for healthy relationships.  

Most fights in any intimate relationship are unfair and can cause irreparable damage.  When we resort to using worldly tactics, whether physical or verbal, the intent is to win at all cost.  The damage, both direct and collateral, can be costly.  Relationships end, children are traumatized, extended families are broken, and it can even indirectly affect our jobs, churches, and friendships.  

So, let's get into these keys to a fair fight.  I am indebted to Chuck Swindoll for this list.  It is from his book, Strike the Original Match.  The intent is to show how to fight fairly according to the scriptures so that you can come through those battles stronger and more committed in your relationship.   The biblical passage for this list is found in Ephesians 4:25-32.

1)  KEEP IT HONEST.  v. 25   This has to be the most basic rule for disagreements with people that we love.  In the Greek, there are two verb tenses.  One is used to describe a punctiliar event -- something done once at a particular point in time.  The other is used continuing action, literally day after day.  The first is used in this verse.  Putting away lying is something that should be done once and for all time.  When we do that, we will speak honestly, respectfully and truthfully even in the tough times.

2)  KEEP IT CONTROLLED.  v. 26  Anger is not forbidden in the scriptures.  Instead, we're told to be angry and not sin.  What worldly things cause us to sin when we're angry?  Pride, revenge, self-pity, and lying are just a few.  When we yield to those things, we can crush a loved one and do great harm to the relationship.    See also Proverbs 16:31    James 1:19

3) KEEP IT TIMELY.  vv. 26-27   Paul is telling us two things here.  The first is that we should never let our anger build day after day, night after night.  When we do that, we give the devil an opportunity to sow seeds of bitterness, resentment, and contempt until one day, we explode over some frivolous affront and the damage is done.   The second is that there is a proper time to work things out and that time is when both parties agree to a time and a place.  There are occasions when emotion runs high and brain function (particularly as it relates to the use of the tongue) is slowed.  Sometimes, we do need to "sleep on it."  Let the emotions cool and set an appointment for a less volatile, controlled conversation.

4) KEEP IT POSITIVE.  v. 28    In any fight, we all want to get in our "swings."  Though he uses the act of stealing as an example here, what I want you to see is that right after he addresses the negative, he comes back with a positive solution.  When you condemn without offering correction, criticize without consoling, identify problems without proposing solutions, it can crush the spirit.  So even if you 'take a swing,' follow it up with a positive.  

5)  KEEP IT TACTFUL.  v. 29   Instead of using angry language, outdoor voices, and pushing hot buttons, "Let no unwholesome language come out of your mouths . . ."  When we live by this verse, it helps us to develop a teachable spirit toward one another.  Tactfulness becomes a bond, an assurance, each to the other, that even though we disagree, we will attack the issue and NOT each other.  It means that we trust each other with our feelings and we trust each other to be able to take constructive criticism.  

6)  KEEP IT PRIVATE.  v. 31  We shouldn't fight in public.  We should never publicly embarrass the people we love the most.  And we should never resort to that subtle, spirit-killing sarcasm or offensive criticism.  When there is a need to fight, keep it where it belongs, between the two of you.  NOT on Facebook, not with your circle of friends, not with your families of origin.  Between the two of you.  
See  Matthew 18:15-20

7)  KEEP A CLEAN SLATE.  v. 32   When the fight is done, clean up the mess.  The tools for clean-up involve simply being kind and tender-hearted towards one another.  It is an act of grace that wipes the mental slate clean.  Don't continue to bring up past transgressions and use them as weapons.  

And one more little tidbit.  Admit it when you're wrong.  Seek forgiveness when needed.  When you've lost the fight, stop fighting.  Be a good loser.  The words, "I was wrong," "You are right," and I'm sorry" can preempt a battle and prevent further damage.  Pray for one another and trust God to bring the healing.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Getting Out of God's Way

Eight days later, it was still an eerie sight.  Against the night sky, the portable lights accentuated the smoke and dust still rising from Ground Zero.  Helicopter gun ships circled the area reminding us of the instability of our situation.  As our Port Authority police work crew drive the four blocks from the command center to the place that used to be the World Trade Center, there was still this sense of surrealism.  But as we walked that final block to Ground Zero, passing rows and rows of armed military guards along the way, the surrealism gave way to the stark reality of cranes, bulldozers, dump trucks, and the stench of burning rubber and plastic.  I've never been in a war zone, but I cannot imagine one looking any worse that this.  220 floors, each weighing an estimated one million pounds had simply imploded and dropped to the earth below.

Our PAPD work crew waited patiently while the cranes and bulldozers moved loads of debris. Then came the sound of the horn and the call that a 'bucket line' was needed.  That was when the various agencies (scores from across the nation) came together to form two lines a hundred yards long and they passed five gallon buckets of debris from around air pockets on the debris pile to the perimeter.  This was also when hopes of finding survivors or human remains would peak.  On the night I stood there, over 3,000 people still remained unaccounted for and over 10% of those were firefighters and law enforcement.  For the brave men and women on the bucket lines, this wasn't a job.  It was a mission!

As I stood at the staging area for the Port Authority PD, I was approached by the Reverend Everett Wabst, chaplain for the Fire Department of New York.  He was checking credentials for on-site chaplains.  In the course of our conversation, I asked about Father Mychal Judge, a senior chaplain for the FDNY.  Everett had known Father Mychal well and told me that the Father had been killed by falling debris as he knelt beside another victim while administering last rites.  He then offered me a laminated care and said that it was Father Mychal's favorite prayer:

Lord, take me where You want me to go.  Let me meet who You want me to meet.  Tell me what You want me to say, and keep me out of Your way.

Father Mychal had great insight and I believe this prayer was based on Paul's words in Galatians 2:20  - I have been crucified with Christ.  My ego is no longer central.  It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion and I am no longer driven to impress God.  Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not 'mine' but it is lived by faith in the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me.   The very best way to be used by God is to empty ourselves of ourselves so that Christ Himself can speak and act through us.  Sometimes, He might want to use us outside our comfort zones where danger lurks and sacrifice is a very real possibility.  The real issue, then, for us is obedience, a daily submission of the self(ego) to the will of God.

Now that you've been introduced to "Father Mychal's Prayer," perhaps his influence will continue to grow as more and more of us begin to pray, "Lord, take me where You want me to go.  Let me meet who You want me to meet.  Tell me what You want me to say, and keep me out of Your way."  After all, it is God Who changes lives.  We are merely His instruments.

Monday, August 25, 2014

What's That Smell?!

It's a pique to the proboscis, an assault of the olfactories, a celebration for the sense of smell.  It all depends on your perspective.

For the first time visitor, a humid and overcast Charleston, South Carolina can be quite shocking.  The air is thick with an unpleasant, but oh so important, stench.  The source is a local paper mill that employs hundreds and pumps millions into the local economy.  I've known that aroma for close to 60 years.  I remember the first time very well.  We had come to Charleston to visit my grandmother.  I used a more common word to ask my father if he was flatulent.  After the laughter stopped, my mother explained that the odor came from the paper mill. Thirty-five years later, I was pastor of a church in the heart of North Charleston.  I remember a conversation with a 30 year Westvaco employee.  "It smells like dirty diapers," I said.  "Well, it smells like money to me," he responded.  The difference was perspective.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2:15-16, "For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life . . ."  Taken in context, Paul is writing here about those whose witness and testimonies are motivated by a sense of calling.  Those who speak before God with sincerity, spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ as we go.  BUT . . .

It's all a matter of perspective.  When a follower of Jesus stands firmly on the principles of God's word, some will respect it and some will not.  When a follower of Jesus speaks out boldly, some will respond positively and some will not.  When a follower of Jesus votes values over politics, some will understand and some will not.  When a follower of Jesus chooses citizenship in heaven over earthly culture, some will embrace him and some will not.  To some, these bold followers of Jesus will be the fragrance of life, but to others, the smell of death.

When you choose to live out your faith publicly, it will affect every part of your life.  But not everyone will like you and that's OK!  In John 15, Jesus told His disciples, "IF the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That's why the world hates you."  Then, in His high priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus prayed, "I have given them Your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world." 

So be bold with your testimony, stand firm in your faith, vote you values, be a citizen of heaven first and foremost, and do not be ashamed or afraid.  To God the Father, you will be the aroma of Christ.  To some, you will be the fragrance of life and to others, the smell of death.  IF there are those who hate you for it, just remember that you are in very good company (John 15:18).  And remember that Jesus Himself has prayed for you (John 17:14-19).  

I can imagine the seraphim surrounding the throne of God asking, "What's that smell?"  And the Father replies, "That's the sweetest aroma in heaven or on earth.  It's the fragrance of obedience and sacrifice.  It's fragrance of life.  It's my child!!"  And remember, God's perspective is the ONLY one that counts!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Good Day

I’ve recently begun my seventh decade of life.  That’s right.  I turned 60 years old this summer.  As I get older, it seems that the years pass more swiftly.  I’m getting older, but my wife isn’t.  I feel the pain and stiffness of arthritis occasionally.  I take medication for diabetes and elevated triglycerides.  And I have to admit that I am now on the downside of my life expectancy. 
        So what’s next?  Some adventure, probably.  Each morning we get to peer into the unknown, a treasure chest of possibilities and adventures.  Each day we are given an ocean of possibilities which might include blue skies and bright sunshine OR a few storms with howling winds and monstrous waves.  We must not fear the storms so much that we stay on the dock and miss the adventures that God has in store for us.  We CAN navigate the seas of a new day with confidence by following a few simple guidelines.
       First, welcome each day as a God-given opportunity.  James 4:13-14 says that our lives are but a vapor appearing briefly and then vanishing.  None of us is promised a tomorrow, so it’s extremely important that we see each day as a gift from God and use it appropriately.  Live each day as if it were your last.  Love deeply, give generously, laugh hysterically, forgive quickly, and do an act of kindness for someone who can do nothing for you in return. 
      Second, begin each day with prayer.  This isn’t a call for an early morning prayer marathon.  It’s an encouragement to spend some time every morning, perhaps even before getting out of your bed, acknowledging God’s greatness, His lordship over all of your activities that day, and submitting to His authority over your life.  Just as doctors have discovered that brief intervals of exercise can be as beneficial as extended workouts, you might discover that a few minutes of prayer several times a day keep you more attuned to God’s will for your life.
      Third, spend some time in the Bible each day.  Again, it’s not necessary to read eight or ten chapters a day.  What is important is that you spend some time in God’s word daily asking Him to speak to you through your reading.  You will find that it becomes easier to hide God’s word in your heart when you’re consuming it in smaller bites and your motivation is simply to have God speak to you.
      Finally, seize opportunities to invite others to experience the joy that Jesus brings to your life.  People will probably take more notice of your faith when you weather the storms that will inevitably come.  When you emerge from those storms battered but intact, you’ve earned the right to tell others about the Source of your strength and hope. 

      Every morning, remember!  We have not passed this way before, but God has.  So we can claim His promise to Joshua in Joshua 1:9 – “. . . Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened or dismay; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  That always makes it a good day!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Finishing Well

Step into that time machine called imagination and let yourself be transported back to the year 1954.  The United States is recovering from three years of military action in Korea.  The dating scene finds young couples going to see 7 Brides for 7 Brothers and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. The Rock and Roll era erupts onto the music industry with Bill Haley's Rock Around the Clock.  And the U.S. House of Representatives investigates a GLUT of oil that lowers prices while the Senate investigates a sharp rise in coffee prices.  Our economy is textile-driven and over a third of workers belong to unions.  A typical middle-class home is 800 square feet and cost about $7,000.  It was also the first year that you could purchase a Swanson "TV Dinner" of turkey, yams, and peas.

It's been 60 years . . . 6 full decades . . . 10 years over a half century.  Anything 60 years old is, well, old. Those are words and phrases that can now be used to describe me.  Last month, I turned 60.  Now I know that means little to those of you who have lives much longer and even less to those of you who are much younger.  But to me, it's a magical milestone.  You see, I never thought I would be this old and now, after being 60 for a month, it seems much younger.  Oh, I take a handful of vitamins and medications daily.  And I have to monitor my diet and exercise rigorously 3-4 times a week.  And, yes, I am beginning to battle the aches and stiffness that so often accompany the aging process.  BUT, I also feel fulfilled!  I spend a lot of time reflecting on the past, encouraged by how God has prepared me for opportunities, walked with me through them, and enabled me to grow through them.  Some of them have been dark valleys and others have been on high mountaintops, but all of them were opportunities.  To quote my friend, Eric Bailey, it's been a good ride.

Now, I am eagerly anticipating the next 60 years or 40 or 20 or however long God allows me to remain here.  As good as it has been, I believe God's best for us is always ahead.  The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian Church and said, "This is what I do:  I don't look back, I lengthen my stride, and I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God's heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus."  Phil.3:13-14 (GWT)

Whatever has happened or is happening in your life, both good and bad, can be used by God to prepare you for opportunities to serve Him at a greater level.  Whether you're 16, 26, 46, 60 or older, God's best days for you are still ahead.  They might be fewer than you've already lived, but you have the opportunity to finish well.  As you yield yourself for His use, you'll continue to find a sense of purpose and fulfillment that can never be earned or bought.

Let go of the past and fully surrender your life to Him today.  Finish Well!