Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saying thanks gets amazing attention...

So I'm having a day off today with friends from out of town and we're hanging out at the inner harbor in Baltimore and exploring. To my great delight, a naval transport carrier was in port for a free tour. There was a crew of sailors there helping average citizens climb on board and scope it out. This boat is manned by a crew of 12 and is specifically designed to get marines and their equipment onto a beach head just like in the movie "Saving Private Ryan" on D-Day. I was thrilled to get to meet some real life heros up close and personal. You see, these men are fresh off a tour in the Persian Gulf. I was impressed with this little snapshot of the U.S. Navy. The sailors were very professional, polite and quick to answer my barage of questions. I personally thanked every sailor I encountered for fighting to keep us safe and free. I told them I appreciated what they do for us and that it means so much to me that they would be there to show what they do each day. Without exception, their posture got more erect, big smiles covered their faces, and they said they were thankful to be told that. One sailor told me he doesn't get that much in Virginia where they are stationed; I guess familiarity does indeed breed contempt. Another sailor told me how much it helps them do what they do when they hear that kind of encouragement and to have that kind of support! Are you kidding? Just because a random citizen said thanks?

Earlier in the week, I got to go to a luncheon at a local military base to honor their servicemen and women of the year. I managed to say thanks to about 3 soldiers and they responded the same way as above. I'm sad to guess this but I would say these folks don't hear "thank you" that much. I make it my practice to thank anyone I meet who is a veteren for their service to our country, again, backs stiffen, posture becomes erect and big smiles usually follow, with a humble word of appreciation in return.

Later on today, I was boarding a floating museum onboard a WWII submarine, the USS Torsk. I told the ticket lady who punched my ticket: "Thanks for working today so we can goof off." Again, she sat upright, smiled a great big smile and said "Oh you're so welcome." It thrilled me to see this young lady's response and I think I actually made her day.

Folks, saying thank you is important and it is something people don't do much of anymore. When you're out in public, just start saying thank you to people and watch what happens. It is especially effective for people who do the most routine things. Say thanks to the person cleaning the restroom when you encounter one sometime, say thanks to the lady at the checkout counter in the store, to your waitress, some street cop standing on duty, a fireman, an EMS person, and especially if you happen to see someone in the military. We owe a great debt of gratitude to our service men and women and first responders.

We as Christians ought to be a thankful people because of Jesus and what He has done for us. Have an "attitude of gratitude" and watch what happens. You'll find it will be a wonderful encouragement to you and the person you thank. I promise you'll be glad you did and this will be habit forming. From my little corner to yours....

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Living for the kingdom...

I normally do not particularly like the annual reminder I have of a birthday that occurs every year on May 15th. It's the official reminder that I'm getting older - but that's nothing new since I've been accused of being old for a long time so my birthday generally annoys me - except for the cake and ice cream! When I turned 28, I had a woman guess my age to be 50, got my first "senior discount offer" in a Hardees Restaurant in Wake Forest North Carolina when I was 34. My pastor in Houston had the whole church convinced that I was 64! He called me this year on my birthday to ask how it felt to be 65 - I was on the phone when he called but when I called him back, I told him I missed the call because my hearing aid was not on.

This year it was kind of sobering to realize and actually process the fact that my life is more than half over. If God allows me the same amount of time in the 2nd half as He's given me in the first half, I would be 90. Of course that is a big if and only God knows what my life will look like or how long it will ultimately be. Maybe I'm 2/3 or 3/4 done already. Maybe God will in fact give me another 45 years of service. If that's the case, there are some people I'd like to be like:

My dad, getting his doctorate of ministry at the age of 70! Currently developing a new ministry opportunity to challenge people to repent of their sins and experience forgiveness in Christ.
A man I know in my church named Frank, out visiting people in the nursing home while nursing a couple of cracked ribs himself, faithfully ministering to others at the age of 92, almost 93, faithfully in worship every Sunday.
Or a lady in my church named Ruby, she's 102, a woman who is a faithful prayer warrior who promised this preacher she'd pray for me every night! The look in her sparkling eyes when she said this to me guaranteed she meant it.

You see I want a lifetime of productive and faithful service and ministry for the Lord. I want to live my life in such a way that it makes a difference for the kingdom of God. In what ever time I have left, I want my life to matter, I want to invest in people to help them to be all that God wants them to be, I want to see God do mighty things in my life and through my life. I want to be a faithful husband, father, and minister of the Gospel. I want to live out what the Psalmist said in Ps. 71:17-18 "O God, You have taught me from my youth, and to this day I declare Your wondrous works. Now also when I am old and gray headed, O God do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come."
Wow! My life is not half over, the best is yet to come! Everything up to this point has been training and preparation for my life to be spent for the kingdom of God. Lord, I'm here, I'm ready and I'm willing - I will be obedient and I will spend and be spent for You and not for me. I will make a difference in this world for Your honor and glory, to the extent that pleases you the most and brings You the most praise. I'm encouraged when I see people like Moses in the Scriptures that God commissioned to lead His people at the age of 80, same thing with his protegee Joshua.

So what about you? I don't know how much time you have left either with your journey, but will you realize that the God of the universe has big plans for you too? Will you write God a blank check and sign your name to it to represent your life and allow God to spend it for you? An adventure beyond your wildest dreams awaits if you have the courage to say yes. It matters not how old you are, we serve the eternal God to whom age is not a hurdle. What He wants to know is if you are available for Him to use and if you will obey Him and do what He says all of your days. Let us invest what we have left in our lives to living for the King of Kings and serving His Kingdom. My dad to this day tells me: "Keep your eyes on the Lord son." A mother in my church tells her children: "Walk with the King and be a blessing." I think I'll use both of those in the 2nd half. From my little corner to yours...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Doing what's right...

In my daily quiet time reading, I've been reading through the books of 1st & 2nd Kings and there are some amazing events that God has recorded for us and I would love to talk about these at some point, but something has caught my attention particularly in 2nd Kings. You see, as the name of the book implies, this is a record of the actions of the kings of Israel (the northern 10 tribes) and Judah (the southern 2 tribes) of the Children of Israel. As the reigns of these kings is recorded, what they did is basically summed up by God in two ways: King so & so did what was right in the sight of the Lord or King so & so did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. Then God goes on to describe for us what these men did that was right or what was evil.

As I've thought about this, that's pretty much it for everybody, like most of the kings of Israel and Judah, they did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. Few of them actually did what was right in the sight of the Lord. It all boils down to making a choice to do what is right because the default setting for sinful humans is to do what's evil. It is not easy for kings to do what is right, its not easy for priests to do what's right, for pastors to do what's right and it certainly it is not easy for anyone to choose to do what is right. I think this is one of Satan's greatest tricks is that he always presents what appears to be the easy way for us to follow. This is exactly what Jesus said when He said in Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."

Boy is that ever true. I had an opportunty this week to teach my sons about doing what's right and a choice to make to do what's right. I went out to eat with my wife and my sons and when I got the bill, it was only like $16.00. Well those two boys sure didn't eat oatmeal and I saw immediately the waitress did not put their meals on the tab. I called her attention to it and instead of $16.00, it was now $30.00. One of my sons wanted to know why I didn't just keep the money, it was free food! I used this as an opportunity to explain why its important to do what's right. I told him this waitress made an honest mistake and at the end of the night when they were balancing the accounts and looking at the money they had and the receipts, they would discover she didn't charge for that food and she'd have to pay for it out of her own pocket. He immediately played the "finders-keepers" card and I said "what if that was you son, would you want to pay if you had made the mistake?" He sheepishly said "no". I said "well she shouldn't either and besides, I'm determined to do what's right and honor the Lord." I hope and pray it made a profound impact on that boy as I said to them, "Always do what's right, even if it costs you, and I can promise you, it will always cost you to do what's right."

I choose today to do what's right in the sight of the Lord regardless of what everyone else is doing. Dr. John R. Rice used to say, "Do right if the stars fall, but do what's right." Will you choose today to do what's right in the sight of the Lord? It will cost you, it will be hard, but the Lord will honor those who make this difficult choice to honor Him. It is worth the cost and you never know who is watching you. Your kids, your grandkids, your spouse, your friends, co-workers and even your enemies; but more importantly, the Lord is watching - the phrase said "they did what was right in the sight of the Lord, or they did what is evil in the sight of the Lord..." Remember, God always sees what you doing and we'll give an account to Him somday.
From my little corner to yours...