Monday, October 28, 2013
"What are the advantages? What's in it for us?" People will ask this as they hear a salesman urging them to make a purchase, join a group or donate to a cause. "What do you get out of it? You will have special privileges as a Premier Member," says the announcer. "But will the advantages be worth the cost?" we ask as we decide what to do. There is always a membership cost to joining a group, unless that group is the Church, Family of God.
Today on Facebook, I enjoyed seeing several baptismal photos of a little girl born to a young Christian couple I know. They were so proud and pleased to show their friends their tiny baby who had just received great eternal blessings as she was ushered into the Kingdom of God through the waters of Holy Baptism.
Those pictures brought back memories of several baptisms when I was sponsor (Godparent) to children of family or friends. I thought of the host of little ones I had held as I sprinkled water on their little heads during Baptism in my ministry. I remembered especially the times I baptized my two sons, and later my three grandchildren.
"What are the advantages of Baptism?" I was asked in an adult instruction class. The man had a good question. I could sense that if it was a mere formality for him, that he wasn't sure he wanted it. But when I told him that God provides eternal blessings of forgiveness, life and salvation through the water and Word, he became interested.
"Do I have to be baptized to be saved?" Another good question. "No," I said. "Faith in Jesus is what saves you, and not a holy ceremony. But if you trust Jesus as your Savior as you have said, would you want to do what He asks?" "Yes, of course," he said, "Remember that Jesus commands us to baptize all nations, and that includes you and me. The advantages of Baptism are eternal."
When a person is baptized, (s)he has special privileges as a Premier Member of the Family of God. The advantages of being in Gods Family far outweigh other costs. And your cost has already been paid. Jesus' death on the cross was the cost required for you and me to become members. Nothing more is required than what Jesus has already done for us. "Whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:16)
Welcome to your Premier Membership in Jesus!
Monday, October 21, 2013
Despite the casualness of the age in which we live, many feel people must say the right thing or suffer the consequences, so they choose not say anything at all. This can be true when someone dies.
I once conducted a funeral for a popular church member and only half as many people attended as was expected. When I asked one member why he hadn't come, he said he didn't attend funerals often because he wasn't sure what to say. Rather than saying the wrong thing and possibly making the family feel worse, he avoided funerals all together.
This is unfortunate. In times of loss, mourners will rarely remember what you may say, but they will remember that you were there. Attendance at funerals is declining, and I wish it were not the case. Just your being present is more important than whether you say the right thing.
My first wife died in an auto accident when we were young, and many people attended her funerals, one in the congregation where I was serving and the other in her hometown. People there spoke words of comfort but I don't remember what they said. Someone afterwards said he heard awkward and inappropriate things spoken, but I didn't remember them. I just remember all the people who came. That's what really helped me and the boys.
In times of distress people rarely remember what we say, but they will remember that we were there. Family, friends and even strangers offer strength and comfort for our feelings of loss and loneliness. Their words may be appropriate or not, but their real gift is their presence.
Jesus didn't preach a sermon or raise the dead every time He attended a funeral. He helped people by His presence and even wept with the mourners (John 11:36, "See how He loved him.") In our losses, Jesus is always there with His comforting presence. Likewise, we can share our compassion simply by the gift of our presence.
The next time you hear of a friend who has passed from this life, don't worry about whether your words to the survivors will be exactly what others think they should be. Just express them. Call the loved ones, write them or tell them your words of comfort in person. By doing so, you are being an ambassador for Christ to that person who needs to know His presence through you.
Your being there, even if you say nothing, says a lot!
Monday, October 14, 2013
This week's Sunday newspaper contained its usual fare of articles, ads and funnies, as well as a clip with the birthdays of notable people. In it I learned that songwriter/musician Paul Simon was seventy-two, and as I sat there with my coffee cup, my mind wandered back to my college days.
In the 1960s, I joined the Columbia Record Club and proudly received my initial albums for a few pennies. A couple of LPs were classical, but most were by pop groups protesting the Viet Nam war, promoting distrust of older generations, or proclaiming what a good society we'd have if we followed the songwriter's philosophy.
I was in my twenties at the time, and one memorable album was called, "Bookends." It was performed by Paul Simon and Art Garfunckel and contained songs like "Mrs. Robinson," "At the Zoo," and "Save the Life of My Child." I can still remember the words to some of those songs.
Their signature number, "Bookends," had a haunting melody that I practiced repeatedly on my guitar but never quite mastered its chordal sequences. Some of its words were: "Old friends sat on their park bench like bookends... Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sun... Can you imagine us years from today, sharing a park bench quietly? How terribly strange to be seventy... Preserve your memories - they're all that's left you."
Now Paul Simon is past seventy, and I wonder if he thinks about those words he wrote fifty years ago. I wonder if he would know that I and many others really do try to preserve our memories with photos and writings. And I would hope by now he realizes that memories are not "all that's left you."
We leave behind who we are, the life examples we've lived, and the faith in God we've come to believe. We leave behind our influences on the young, the aspirations that have moved us, and the challenges we've left for future generations. We Christians leave behind the mark our faith in God has made on us.
We also look forward to a new life with God, a complete life we can only fully know when it comes, an eternal life that comes to us by faith in Jesus. Whatever we may have experienced in life, the most precious thing we can leave or take with us from this life is our faith in Jesus. Without Him, all the rest is only memories that will fade and die.
Thanks be to God we have a living hope, a faith that will not let us down, for it is guaranteed by our Lord Himself. As St. Paul wrote, "Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" (1 Corinthians 15:57)
Do you have a special memory of a song? Were its words helpful?
Monday, October 7, 2013
(Check out my new website: http://www.bobtasler.com.
BOOKS MAKE GREAT GIFTS!)
I've just finished reading KILLING JESUS by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard. It is quite good in its historical and factual narrative, as well as its respect for the Lord Jesus. I read a lot of material these days, but only what's enjoyable. If I don't like a book, I don't feel the need to finish it. But this new book, as well as their others, KILLING LINCOLN and KILLING KENNEDY, held my attention well.
The authors treat Jesus and His times reasonably factually and use more biblical references than I expected. O'Reilly has been criticized for saying that he felt inspired to write this work. Others were upset because he didn't state Jesus was the Messiah and treated Him as merely a historical figure. But that wasn't the book's purpose.
This book is neither theology nor exhaustive history. It is a presention of their simple findings for the public to examine. I believe readers will benefit by seeing the circumstances surrounding Jesus' lifetime, as well as what He endured at the hands of those jealous of His influence. Books that honor Jesus help people, whether they agree with Him or not.
What we say outlasts us. Someone asked me if I found enjoyment in writing my e-books and paperbacks these past few years. She wanted to know what my purpose was in writing, and I appreciated that question. People write for a reason, whether to inform, to entertain, to express personal views, or to leave something of themselves behind.
I would add a fifth reason - enjoyment. Some people like to write. It gives me pleasure to craft words into sentences that express my thoughts. Someone asked if I made much money writing, and I chuckled. Between expenses and the books I give away, I am glad if there's any pocket change leftover.
I read so much online or even in the newspapers that hasn't been well thought out, especially articles that contain spelling or grammatical errors. All writers make their share of mistakes, but I enjoy reading what others write and hope others will enjoy my writings as well.
I encourage you to write, if you feel so inclined. Amazon's "CreateSpace" offers simple and cost-free guidelines for new writers, and people need not worry that the world is getting too cluttered with books. It's nice to know some of your thoughts may be passed on to people today or future generations tomorrow.
One would think with all the emails I send out during the year, my writings would sell well. But new authors rarely have great success, and that's to be expected. Knowing I've written a few worthwhile things for the public is reward enough.
I urge you to read books, whether they are in print electronically or on paper. KILLING JESUS is a good book, and worth your time. God's Holy Bible is the best book of all, as Psalm 119:105 tells us, "Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light to guide me."
Give thanks we still have freedom of speech in our nation!
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Last Sunday we enjoyed a fine worship service by a young new pastor, and it lasted 90 minutes! That's a long time for a bunch of old Lutheran folks to worship, even when the sermon, liturgy and prayers are presented so well.
Someone wrote me last summer that some of my WEEKLY MESSAGEs were "getting rather long." He wanted me to make them "short and sweet." He didn't say, but maybe some of them had gotten too "long and sour!"
We live in an age of getting things quickly, with instant gratification in our technology and fast foods in our diet. More and more people would rather read a summary version than the book itself. Or maybe they'll until the book is made into a movie. Or maybe they'll read an electronic version of the book, that is, if they want to read at all.
Instant gratification can carry over into our Christian faith. Services lasting two or three hours were commonplace a hundred years ago, but they are the subject of jokes today. And sitting on hard, unpadded pews! How could they stand it? It is difficult for people to sit and wait so long, even for the blessings of God.
But even Jesus summarized things. In Matthew 22, some Pharisees asked Jesus “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment."
Instead of listing just one commandment of the Ten, Jesus gave them the summary of the First Three Commandments, "Love God above all things." Short and sweet! Jesus knew the modern mind even long ago.
This summary is first given in Deuteronomy 6:5 by Moses, the aged Israelite leader, who spent his last days reminding the people of God's blessings by delivering them from Egyptian slavery. Their delivery was miraculous, he said, so the people should "Love God above all things." Nothing is more important than that, whether in Moses' day or our own.
How can we show that we love God above all things in our life? Maybe by slowing down a little when we're in the presence of God. What does it mean to love God? There are several kinds of love. Which kind of love does God show us each day?
Dear Father, thank You for delivering us from slavery to sin. Help us love and serve You, amen.
BOOKS MAKE GREAT GIFTS!