Past, Present, Future – Teaching

Quote

Most, if not all, of us have heard this before, in one variation or another:

Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today?

Today is a gift, that’s why we call it the present.

            ~Babatunde Olatunji

Thoughts

Although we’ve heard it before, how many of us have actually given though to its meaning? If we break the quote down into its three parts we see that it can actually have a profound impact into our lives each and every day.

The Past

We can’t control or change the events of the past. But, every event, every decision, every action, have all played a part in shaping who we are today. If we take a little time to look back, we can learn from our past experiences, and we can determine what we want our future to be. We can look at decisions we made that had less than desirable outcomes and consequences; and we can choose to make different decisions in the future. We can look at past behaviors, and their consequences, and decide whether to repeat them in the future; or, we can change our behaviors in an effort to bring about different results in our lives.

We can also study. Learning about history – learning about the lives, decisions, and results of others – we can choose who and what we’d like to emulate. Reading the Bible, too, provides us with numerous examples from which can learn. We can learn, or profit, from the actions, decisions, and results of people like Abraham, Ruth, Naomi, David, and Solomon. And, of course, there are the New Testament examples like Mary, Paul and Peter. And let’s not forget the greatest example of all – Jesus.

Studying the past – our own and that of others – provides us with tools, thoughts, and ideas that we can use to help shape our future.

The Future

Using our past experiences, the experiences of others from whom we learn, and our current thoughts and desires, we plan out what we’d like our future to be. But, the future is really an illusion – a dream. It hasn’t happened yet – it’s something we hope will happen. However, it’s important to plan for the future so that, when it comes, we can have the best life possible – the life we desire.

To that end, it’s important to have goals and dreams. It’s also important to remember that your goals and dreams may change. That’s okay. Something you thought you wanted five or ten years ago may no longer seem important. As your life unfolds, it’s okay to change your dreams and pursue new goals. Each of these changes will bring a new set of experiences to learn from; which, in turn, will provide you with more opportunities to continue pursuing a particular dream.

Or, you may decide on a completely different path. At each step and with each decision, you continue on this wonderful journey we call life.

But, tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. To my knowledge, non of us have received a memo saying, “hey, you’ve got “X” number of tomorrows left – plan and use them wisely.”

Today

The past is gone, done, over. Tomorrow may not come. And, if you think about it, even if tomorrow does come, it’s no longer tomorrow. At the stroke of midnight, tomorrow magically becomes – today. Since tomorrow is not guaranteed, when it arrives and becomes today – our present – it becomes our greatest gift from God. So, while we’re learning from the past, and dreaming of our future, we must also make full use of this most precious gift. We must strive to be the happiest, the most loving, the most caring, the most compassionate, the most giving people we can be. Basically, we must make each and every day count.

God’s Gifts

Now, when I think of gifts, I think of Christmas. Growing up, my parents made sure we each received gifts that were specific to us – a toy, a game, a doll, a book, etc. But, we also each received the same gift – a new pair of pajamas. God is like my parents. He graces each and every one of us with different talents – different gifts – that are specific to us; and that we use each and every day. Romans 12:6-8 says, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, some have the gift of prophecy, according to the measure of faith, some have the gift of ministration, in their ministry; and some of teaching, in their doctrine.” And, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 says, “For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit. To another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another the means to distinguish the true Spirit; to another different languages; to another the interpretation of languages.” Using the individual gifts that God has given us to their fullest each and every day allows us to make the most of the gift that we all have received in common – the gift of Today.

Closing Thoughts

In closing, it’s true that yesterday is history, a memory. It’s also true that tomorrow is a mystery, a dream. We can’t change the past, and tomorrow never truly comes. So, all we are left with is today. God has given each and every one of us the gift of today. The question becomes – what are we going to do with it?

Next week we’ll take a look at using the individual gifts God has given us.

Scripture

  • Romans 12:6-8
  • 1 Corinthians 12:8-10

Join the Discussion

Feel free to share your thoughts and comments and, if this message resonates with you, feel free to share it!

Would You Play? – Teaching

Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day. Exodus 20:12 reminds us to honor our fathers and our mothers. So, today, I’d like to share a little about my dad.

Dad wasn’t a church-goer. As I grew older, and grew into my own belief and faith, I realized that Dad did, indeed, believe in God, and he had a deep faith. And although he didn’t attend church, he lived and demonstrated scriptural principles. I’d like to share an example with you today.

The Story

Many years ago, Dad was diagnosed with cancer. It was shortly after his treatments that he told me the story that is the basis for today’s quote. The story went like this…

While sitting and waiting for his treatment, he was having a case of “feel sorry for me.” Why did this happen? Why me? And so on. That’s when he looked around the room. As he did, he saw many others who were obviously in worse shape. That’s when he had an epiphany, and today’s quote came to him.

The Quote

Imagine If –

You could write down on a card everything you perceive as “wrong” or “bad” in your life…
Health – Spirituality – Relationships – Finance – Job – Looks – Physical Limitations – Etc.
Then, you place the card in a large tumbler and, in doing so, give it all up forever…
But, then the tumbler is spun and you must pick someone else’s card…
And whatever you pick you must live with – forever.
Would you play?
~Benjamin E. Little

The Story Continues

Dad went on to say he realized he wouldn’t play. He wouldn’t trade his problems for anyone else’. And, he realized at that moment just how much he had to be thankful for. He said, “I have so much to be thankful for. I’m married to the woman I’ve loved all my life…I’ve been blessed with wonderful children and grandchildren…I had the opportunity to retire early…and I’ve been able to retire to the type of place I’ve dreamed of all my life.”

Scriptural Principles

What an awesome testimony on being thankful! Dad didn’t even realize it, but he was living scripture. Ephsians 5:20 reminds us to give thanks always for all things. And 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks…”

And, in sharing this with me, and I with my children, Dad lived out Joel 1:3 which says, “Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.”

Closing

I am so thankful that Dad shared this with me. It’s brought me comfort many times when I was having one of those “why me” moments. Sadly, Dad’s gone now. But his wisdom, his love, his words, and his testimony live on. For that, I am truly thankful. If you’re a dad, or fill the role of a dad, I invite you to demonstrate thankfulness to your children. Share your wisdom and your lessons with them, and they, in turn, will share them with their children. And, if you’re like me and your dad is gone now, take a moment today, and every day, to give thought to the lessons he gave you. And, when the opportunity arises, share them with others.

Scripture

  • Exodus 20:12
  • Ephesians 5:20
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
  • Joel 1:3

Join the Discussion

What are your thoughts? If given the opportunity, would you play?

Would You Play? – Quote

In honor of Father’s Day, I share with you this quote from my dad:

Imagine If –
You could write down on a card everything you perceive as “wrong” or “bad” in your life:
Health – Spirituality – Relationships – Finance – Job – Looks – Physical Limitations – Etc.
Then, you could place the card in a large tumbler and, in doing so, give it all up – forever!
But, then the tumbler is spun and you must pick someone else’s card…
And whatever you pick you must live with – forever.
Would you play?
~Benjamin E. Little

Join us Sunday to for worship and fellowship and to celebrate Father’s Day.

Ordinary Miracles – Teaching

We began this mini-series with belief, and moved on to faith. Then, we discussed faith and modern day miracles. Today, I’d like to conclude the mini-series by going to the next step – Ordinary Miracles.

Remember, one of the definitions of a miracle is, “a work of God”; and another is, “a wonder, or marvel.”

Quote

Our quote this week speaks to the very simplicity of these definitions:

There are only two ways to live your life.
One, as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is, as though everything is a miracle.

~Albert Einstein

Message

Keep it Simple

When I was visiting A Place of Peace, a spiritual center in Ventura, California, I had the opportunity to join an evening gathering of A Course in Miracles. I learned that one of the concepts the course teaches is that God can bring about changes in our lives and, though seemingly “minor,” they can be miracles.

I John 4: 7 & 8 reminds us, “…let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God…He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” I John 4:21 goes on to remind us, “And this commandment we have from Him (Jesus); that he who loves God must love his brother also.”

When we catch ourselves expressing feelings of anger, jealousy, rage, vengeance, un-forgiveness, etc., we can stop and recognize that those feelings are not of love. When we persist in them, we separate ourselves from God. But, when we make the conscious choice to change those feelings into thoughts of love, compassion, peace, and forgiveness, we align ourselves with God. And, when God so moves us to change, A Course in Miracles tells us this is a miracle – a work of God, a wonder, a marvel.

One Step at a Time

These don’t have to be grand gestures. For me, my biggest challenge has always been aggressive, “crazy” drivers. I would feel myself getting angry, pound the steering wheel, yell out my displeasure, etc. Now, when I feel these thoughts and feelings coming over me, I stop myself, or at least I try to. I consciously re-focus my attention. I don’t know what’s going on in that person’s life that’s making him or her drive that way. So, I say a short blessing that they have a safe journey, and that they don’t injure themselves or anyone else on their way.

Am I all the way there yet? No. But, I’m better today than I was yesterday. And, the benefit to me is the way I feel. When I would let anger get the best of me, my chest would get tight, the muscles in my back would tense, and I wouldn’t be paying as much attention to my own driving. When I re-focus my thoughts, I am more relaxed, my body doesn’t hurt as much, and I’m in a better frame of mind when I reach my destination. As time passes, and as I focus more and more attention to thoughts of love, one small step at a time, I move myself closer and closer to God.

Our thoughts determine the type of person we are. When we make those small steps to be more loving, since God is love, we move closer to Him. As Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he…”

Ordinary Miracles

A dear friend of mine, Angela Dudley, has published a book of beautiful poetry. The title, which I didn’t realize when I began writing this message, is “Ordinary Miracles.” Each of her poems is linked to a lesson in A Course in Miracles. The back cover of her book sums up Ordinary Miracles this way:

“Ordinary Miracles is an oxymoron in a world where peace seems unreliable and prayers seem unanswered. But what if the real world exists where miracles are the norm? Miracles of joy and forgiveness always occur within our minds, and their external form may or may not be apparent to us. However, since miracles always come from love, they always offer an inner experience of bliss.

The love that causes miracles is only ordinary because it is always present within us. Miracles are ordinary because they are our true nature, not a bonus that was earned by someone extra-ordinary. No matter how successfully we’ve hidden our inner spark of love, it remains with us, always the truth of who we are, always awaiting our consent to offer miracles.”

Closing

The back cover also offers a few lines of poetry that I find beautiful.

“We walk to God, how wondrous our task,
Simple truth, no questions left to ask.
We walk to God, an awesome holy thing,
Our open hearts are all we’re asked to bring.”

I invite you to recognize the opportunities in your lives to create these moments of Ordinary Miracles. And, I hope you enjoy your journey – your “walk with God.”

Scripture

  • I John 4:7 & 8
  • I John 4:21
  • Proverbs 23:7

 Discussion

What’s your miracle today? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments and, if this message resonates with you, feel free to share it!

Ordinary Miracles – Quote

Finishing up this series on belief and faith, we once again turn our attention to miracles. Last week’s discussion looked at faith and miracles. This week, we’ll take that discussion a bit further as we examine Ordinary Miracles. Our quote is:

There are only two ways to live your life.
One, as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is, as though everything is a miracle.
~Albert Einstein

Join us Sunday for worship and fellowship.

Modern-day Miracles – Teaching

Over the last two weeks we’ve talked about belief and faith. Remember, belief is to accept  the evidence that something is true, and faith is having trus or confidence in a person or thing. Today, I’d like to talk about faith and miracles.

Quote

If you’re going to have faith,
you can’t just have it when the miracles happen.
You have to have it when they don’t.
~Supernatural Episode

Message

Let’s start with the definition of a miracle. A miracle is defined as:

  1.     an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause
  2.     a work of God
  3.     a wonder, marvel

The Bible give plenty of examples of God’s miracles. They include: manna from heaven, water from the rock, widow’s son raised from the dead, Daniel saved from the lion’s den, healing of the blind, water into wine, nobleman’s son healed, Lazarus raised from the dead, Peter’s mother-in-law healed, Jesus walking on water, paralyzed man healed, Tabitha raised from the dead, and many more.
(See Scripture below for chapters and verses).

Do Miracles Still Happen?

Many people feel that the time for miracles ended with the Apostles. The thought is that the need for miracles has ceased, and therefore they have been discontinued. Personally, I don’t agree.
Let me give a few examples:

  • In 1982 I was on the highway traveling at 55 mph. The car in front of me stopped…I stopped…the eighteen-wheeler behind me didn’t stop! He was traveling at 65 mph, rear-ended me, and pushed me into the car in front. The pickup I was driving was totally demolished. Yet, I climbed out the window and walked away.
  • My daughter’s first child was born seven weeks early. He was only 4 pounds, but he survived and thrived. My daughter’s second child was 18 weeks early. Sadly, she passed away at the moment of birth. When pregnant for the third time, the same condition started to repeat itself. The doctor put my daughter on complete bed-rest for almost 7 months and a drug regimen. This time, she carried full-term. When her son was born, the doctor said he was a miracle baby. Not only had she not expected their measures to work and for my daughter to carry full-term, the cord was wrapped around his neck three times and tied in a knot!
  • Just last week there was a news report of a baby born prematurely. Within minutes of being born, he died. The hospital placed the baby in a small box and sent him home with the parents – complete with a death certificate. Once home, the mother opened the box to prepare her son for the mortuary. Imagine her shock and surprise when the baby started to move, breathe, and cry! The hospital has no explanation – they have no clue as to how the baby came back to life!

What About When Miracles Don’t Happen?

I would submit that miracles are still happening all around you. You just haven’t yet received the one you’re hoping and praying for. But remember, faith is trust. When a child doesn’t get that one particular toy, is he or she disappointed? Sure. Does he or she lose trust in the parents? No. The same goes for us and our relationship with God. Just because God hasn’t said yes, doesn’t mean He’s not there, or that He doesn’t care. Just like the parent, He has his reasons for saying no. Or, it He might be saying, “not yet.” God has a plan, even if we don’t know what it is. We have to “keep the faith.”

In Jeremiah, God says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future…And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11 & 13) And Proverbs tells us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5)

Or, it could be that we need to spend a little more time WITH God. Do we just think of Him on Sundays, or when we need or want something? Do we remember to spend time with Him in prayer each day? Do we remember to thank Him for the many blessings we’ve already received? Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

But, “I do all that” you say? Maybe God is waiting for us to make a change so that His purpose can be fulfilled. Is there someone you need to forgive? Is there someone from whom you need to seek forgiveness? Are there unresolved issues of bitterness or anger? All these things can get in the way of God’s purpose.

Finally, maybe we need to change our prayer. Remember, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) For instance, maybe a prayer for complete healing isn’t the correct prayer. For example, a friend was telling me of an elderly relative dying of cancer. She had been in continuous pain for several years. The family prayed and prayed for healing. Then, one night, it occurred to my friend to change her prayer. She prayed, “Please, Lord…let her have just one night of peaceful, pain-free sleep.” The next morning, the lady awoke and said, “It’s amazing, last night I slept through the night and had no pain at all!”

Closing Thoughts

I believe that God still works miracles in our lives. There is simply too much evidence, therefore, I believe. And because He still works miracles, I have faith – even when the miracles I’m hoping for don’t happen.

Scripture

  • Exodus 16:4 & 5
  • Daniel 6:22
  • Luke 7:14 & 15
  • John 9:7
  • Mark 1: 30 & 31
  • Mark 6:48
  • Acts 9:40
  • Matthew 6:33
  • Exodus 17:6
  • Matthew 9:27-50
  • John 2:7-9
  • John 11:43 & 44
  • Luke 4:38 & 39
  • John 6:19
  • Jeremiah 29:11 & 13
  • Ecclesiastes 3:1
  • 1 Kings 17:24
  • Mark 8:22-25
  • John 4:49-54
  • Matthew 8: 14 & 15
  • Matthew 14:25
  • Acts 9:33 & 34
  • Proverbs 3:5

Discussion

What examples of modern-day miracles would you like to share? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments and, if this message resonates with you, feel free to share it!

Next in the series – Ordinary Miracles

Modern-day Miracles – Quote

Continuing our mini-series on believing and faith, this week we’ll be discussing faith and miracles.

This week’s quote:

If you’re going to have faith,

you can’t just have it when the miracles happen.
You have to have it when they don’t.
~Supernatural Episode

Join us this Sunday when we come together for worship and fellowship.