Monthly Archives: December 2016

A Cold-Hearted Old Long Syne? Heaven Forbid, My Heart Is His!

In 1788 Robert Burns wrote the Scottish poem, Auld Lang Syne. The most direct translation is “old long since,” but the idiom has a better meaning in “long, long ago,” or “days gone by,” or simply, “old times.”

Auld Lang Syne was certainly not a phrase that was original to Burns though. In fact, James Watson had printed a poem in 1711 called Old Long Syne. Both had based their ideas on what Burns called, “an old song, of the olden times” which he had “taken down from an old man.”

Watson’s poem opens:

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot, and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished, and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold, that loving breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect, on old long syne.

CHORUS:
On old long syne my Jo [“Jo” means “dear”], on old long syne,
That thou canst never once reflect, on old long syne.

While Burns’ Auld Lang Syne concentrates on better memories, Watson’s poem bemoans a love whose heart has grown so cold and love so extinguished that she can’t reflect on the long ago.

For God’s children, there would be nothing worse. God forbid that our hearts could grow so cold that we can’t, or won’t, remember! We gather every Sunday to sing the old story. We gather to remember Jesus’ sacrifice at the Lord’s Supper. We give our hearts completely. Why? Because our old, long since is alive and well, and our hearts are warm and loving.

As we begin our theme, at Clover, for 2017, “Pursuing the heart of God in all things,” we will consider what we love about our salvation. It is time for a check-up. How is your heart? Jesus is our spiritual cardiologist, and the prescription is God’s Word.

A New Year is a great time to start again. Begin a daily Bible reading; make a commitment to come to church; pursue God’s heart in all things. 

Remember the “old, long since,” is alive today!

“Just What I Wanted! What Is It?” (Revisited)

About 4 years ago (December, 2012) I wrote an article, “Just what I wanted! What is it?” I decided to edit and update the original, and I hope you will give it your post-Christmas consideration.

We go to my in-laws for Christmas each year. The crew usually includes 4 parents, 5 kids, a couple of dogs, and a Nana & PawPaw. We gather in the living room as the kids receive gifts, and…let’s say…“present opening frenzy?” Wrapping paper flies when 5 kids open their presents at the same time!

Of course, the kids have a great time. Sometimes they open a present and scream, “Just what I wanted!” Sometimes they need a moment to process, asking, “What is it?” And sometimes they get a gift they needed, but hadn’t requested, asking, “How did you know?”

Almost 2,000 years ago, our Father gave us the greatest gift ever – the expected Messiah. Angels announced Him (Luke 2:14); shepherds praised Him (Luke 2:20); Mary rejoiced in Him (Luke 1:46-55); and prophets proclaimed Him (John 1:29).

People such as lepers, centurions, blind men, etc., knew immediately that Jesus was the healing – ‘just what they wanted’ (Matthew 8:5, Luke 7:1-10, Mark 8:23). Others marveled – ‘what is this’ indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15). Still others were impressed that God’s gift was perfect, long before they asked for it – “how did He know?” (James 1:17, Matthew 7:11).

Today, some are ready to receive, saying, “just what I wanted.” Others search to understand, asking, “what is it?” The answer is, the greatest love ever (John 3:16). Still, others wonder how God prepared a gift that meets each individual’s deepest needs – ‘how did He know?’ (Philippians 4:19, all needs are supplied in Christ).

Grace is given freely, but it wasn’t free. It cost God. Do you already know that grace is ‘just what you always wanted?’ Perhaps you don’t understand exactly what it is, but are interested. Or maybe you are in disbelief that God foreknew your needs that intimately. Whatever the case, get in touch…let’s discuss His amazing gift!

Rent-A-Jew? Makes Sense To Me!

Rent-A-Jew. That’s what it said. At first I thought, it must be a Mel Brooks joke. Then it seemed downright offensive. Then, after careful consideration, I decided to take a closer look. Now, I say, “bold move, Germany.” Despite your, eh, “checkered past,” you might be on to something.

The “Rent-a-Jew” program is an effort by Jewish Volunteers in a non-governmental organization (NGO). The efforts are aimed at stemming a rising anti-Semitism in Europe, and especially in Germany. It may be hard to believe, but 2015 saw a rise from 691 to 2,083 cases of hate-crimes and hate speech against Jews in Germany. It seems that Germany needs a bit of a refresher.

Enter the “Rent-a-Jew” program. A free service, it offers non-Jews an opportunity to sit down, face-to-face with a Jewish person and get to know them. Germany has a population of 81 million, but only 200,000 Jewish people. Most Germans don’t even know any Jews; yet, anti-Semitism is on the rise! In a lighthearted way, organizers hope to remove prejudice through dialogue. After all, hating others is easier when you don’t actually know them!

Almost 2,000 years ago, many people hated another Jew, without ever meeting Him. But many who had face-to-face encounters with Jesus were changed for the better. Knowing people can make a world of difference.

Jesus commanded Christians to do likewise: be in the world, but not of it. In other words, go out there and meet people! It doesn’t mean watering down adherence to the truth – Jesus didn’t.

But when we interact with people, we have a chance to grow friendships. We can learn to appreciate the needs, desires, and struggles of others. Our Creator loves each of us. And knowing others gives us a greater chance to teach about the hope we have in us.

So…”Rent-a-Christian?” It could work! After all, striving to follow Christ has become increasingly rare! Perhaps Christians aren’t as prevalent as previously thought. Therefore, “…put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (Colossians 3:14) and let others know we are His by our love (John 13:35).

Persistence Paid Off

Growing up, my parents let me play video games – Atari, Intellivision, Sega, etc. Some days we played for hours on end – Space Invaders, Pitfall, Donkey Kong, etc. But, I actually wasn’t all that dedicated. I had friends who knew every secret move and could beat Mike Tyson every time at Punch Out. It took serious commitment.

I don’t know that any of that translated into life skills. But, as it turns out, sometimes we are rewarded for persistency. At least one teenager in Valley Stream, NY sees it that way. He spent weeks going to Best Buy every day to play the Wii U, so much so, that the employees decided to do something nice for him. They all chipped in and bought him a new Wii U game system!

Now, I know. The skeptic in us says, “what a waste of time” or “they just gave it to him to get rid of him!” But whatever the reason, the fact remains; he has a game system today because he showed up every day.

In the Bible, Jesus tells of a widow who wanted to get justice so she went to court. Unfortunately, the judge was unrighteous, and he didn’t care anything about giving her justice. Day after day, night after night, she kept after him.

Eventually, she got justice. He didn’t fear God or keep his commandments. But he said, “I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out” (Luke 18:5). Persistency, as we say, paid off.

Jesus reminds us that, if an unrighteous judge will give a widow what she wants to keep her quiet, how much more will the true and righteous God give “justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night” (7). Yet, when hard times come, when things seem difficult, how long are we willing to pray and seek God? One prayer? One day?

God desires that we seek Him. In fact, we should “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). And we continually receive His blessings, as we show up…persistently.