Accepting Love

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Jesus spoke this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. “Then he sent some more servants and said, `Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ “But they paid no attention and went off – one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. “Then he said to his servants, `The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. (Matthew 22)

A wedding is a joyful time where everyone happily celebrates. However, all the invited guests decline the invitation. They wanted no part of the wedding. Here are the rich, the powerful, the influential, the choice upper crust and they don’t want to go to the wedding.

In 1947 there was a wedding in Akron, Ohio, of Martha Firestone, daughter of Harvey Firestone’s (of the Firestone Tires fame) to William Ford, Edsel Ford’s son, and grandson of Henry Ford. The groom’s party drove from Detroit in new Lincolns, which were duly parked in the Firestone executive garage. Mr. Firestone noticed that the Lincolns were mounted with Goodyear tires. Would Mr. Firestone like to kid Mr. Ford about this? “No?” said Harvey, Jr. with a big grin. “Say nothing to Mr. Ford. Just jack up all the Lincolns, take off the Goodyears, and put on ours!”
“I’m not going to have a daughter of mine married on Goodyear tires.”

The King said to the servant, “Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.”
So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. Those less expected to be guests of the King, turn out to be the honored guests. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

Our struggle is how to respond to the love of God. We know that God loves us and that He has invited us to His house. JOH 14:2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.

CHRISTIANITY IS A LOVE RELATIONSHIP! A young woman in England many years ago always wore a golden locket that she would not allow anyone to open or look into, and everyone thought there must be some romance connected with that locket and that in that locket must be the picture of the one she loved. The young woman died at an early age, and after her death the locket was opened; everyone wondering whose face would they find within. And in the locket was found simply a little slip of paper with these words written upon it, “Whom having not seen, I love.” Her Lord Jesus was the only lover she knew and the only lover she longed for.

When He (bridegroom) comes we give Him our hearts. (John 21:15-17) Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

JOH 14:24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

What Makes A Great Boss?

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How many bosses have you had in your life? Few of us have worked only one place our entire life and even fewer have only worked under one boss. We probably remember all of our bosses. We would say that some were bad and some were good. How many of those were really outstandingly rememberable.

I have had many bosses in my life. As a teen I worked in a drug store before and after school and on weekends. I did everything from cleaning, stocking, waiting on customers and even filled a few prescriptions. I had two bosses. One was fun, caring and supportive. The second one had a temper, demanding and never pleasant. Oddly enough, I learned more from the second bosses than from the first.

The ill tempered one always said to me, “You do excellent work but hate making the decisions.” He was right, I never knew what would please him. But I learned something important, MAKE DECISIONS based on your best knowledge and what YOU THINK is right. That early education has served me well to this day. He also never liked the thought I was going into ministry. He always encouraged me to consider nursing. (Times were changing and it was a new field for men and paid well.) I also took it as complimentary of his high regards for my intelligence and abilities. BUT, I made my decision, it was my calling!

Today, managing even the small staff of Hillside, you can’t imagine how time consuming it is. Finding that balance between making sure the needs of the congregation are met, being compassionate of the staff, and helping the staff to be better people is challenging. Research has found eight qualities that make a great and unforgettable boss. Jeff Haden writes:
1. They believe the unbelievable.
2. They see opportunity in instability and uncertainty.
3. They wear their emotions on their sleeves.
4. They protect others from the bus.
5. They’ve been there, done that…and still do that.
6. They lead by permission, not authority.
7. They embrace a larger purpose.
8. They take real, not fake risks.

Perhaps in all of those characteristics we can find a way of being better people regardless of whether we are bosses or employees.

Hate Is Never A Pretty Thing

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The summer between high school and college, I worked in construction. I was building houses with a crew and naturally being the new kid, I was given all the “dirty” work. I worked long hours and being the summer it was hot. The money was good and it was helping me to build up a nest egg for the cost of college.

The problem was getting back home before the stores in my hometown closed. Everything (and I mean everything) closed at 6 PM. I had to leave work a little early one day and speed all the way back to New Castle to get a prescription I need to pick up at the pharmacy (we called it a drug store – I guess that isn’t politically correct anymore). I walked into the pharmacy about ten minutes before closing time. Coming straight from work I was dirty, smelly and looked awful.

The lady standing beside me at the counter made a disgusting look and sound directed at me. I remember thinking, I’m sorry to be this way, but you don’t know anything of my circumstances. As soon as the lady left the store, the pharmacist who had known me for most of my life leaned over the counter and said, “That is clean dirt, pay no attention to her.” It is about more than walking a mile in my shoes. It is about human dignity.

Anything that belittles, degrades or wrongfully humiliates another human being because of their skin color, social standing, economic value, age, sex, sexual orientation, faith, looks, intelligence, or handicap is sinful. All of us were created in the image God. All of us have value and importance.

All of us are saddened by what took place at the University of Oklahoma. The spuing of verbal hatred is never acceptable. The problem appeared to be systemic in the fraternity. The university President was correct to shut the fraternity down. Such racism does not occur overnight but is learned long before college.

The Bible challenges us to make friends of all people. To go the extra mile, turn the other cheek and even transform our enemies. When Jesus is betrayed and the slaves ear is cut off, He puts the ear back on the slave. The group came to betray and kill Him, yet Jesus sees the dignity of a slave with an injured ear. The value of every living being.

We Are Into Lent

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There are found in scripture three creation accounts. Two creation stories are found in Genesis, the third is found in the Gospel of John. John’s story is beautiful. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (Now the “Word” was Jesus!) He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

As Man alone, Jesus could not have saved us; as God alone he would not. Incarnate, he could and did. Jesus was both a human being and God. What a paradox that a babe in a manger should be called “mighty”! Yet even as a baby, Jesus Christ revealed power. His birth affected the heavens as that star appeared. The star affected the Magi, and they left their homes and made that long journey to Jerusalem. Their announcement shook King Herod and his court. Jesus’ birth brought angels from heaven and simple shepherds from their flocks on the hillside. Midnight became midday as the glory of the Lord appeared to men. The Christmas story is simple and sweet.

So what was God trying to prove by sending His Son in this manner? A father and son were taking a nature hike through the woods when they came upon some ants working furiously to clear a path. The ants were scurrying here and there trying desperately to provide a clear path for ant travel. They worked individually as well as a team, but to no avail. Father and son watched a long time in silence. Finally the boy looked at his Dad and said, “I wish I could help the ants.” Father responded by telling his son that his presence would send them to hide for safety. After some more silence and some more observation the son spoke with much intent. “You know, Dad, if I could become an ant, become one of them for a short time I could help them.”

James the Fifth of Scotland on occasion would lay aside the royal robe of king and put on the simple robes of the peasant. In such a disguise, he was able to move freely about the land, making friends with ordinary folk, entering into their difficulties, appreciating their handicaps, sympathizing with them in their sorrow. When as king he sat again upon the throne, he was better able to rule over them with fatherly compassion and mercy. God shares in human experience and thereby is better able to accept man.

A young man sat in my office whose girlfriend had just told him she was pregnant. “How do I know that it is mine?” There are test that can be taken, but what does the heart say? The grounds for belief and disbelief are the same today as they were two thousand or ten thousand years ago. If Joseph had lacked faith to trust God or humility to perceive the holiness of his spouse, he could have disbelieved in the miraculous origin of her Son as easily as any modern man; and any modern man who believes in God can accept the miracle as easily as Joseph did.

He who has not Christmas in his/her heart will never find it under a tree. But it is Lent! That is the reason for the Christmas story. We only understand Easter when we appreciate Christmas.