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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Postage by Mail!"

by Tom Wacaster

"Postage by Mail!"  That was the banner on the mass mail out by the United States Post Office a few years ago.  Imagine the convenience; avoiding long lines at the post office; you could conduct all your business through the mail using the little order form that was attached.   You could even purchase your 1st class stamps by filling out the form indicating how many books you wanted and then multiply it by the 41 cent cost of each stamp. The only problem was, the cost of 1st class stamps had gone up to 44 cents by the time we received the offer with its enclosed form.  It reminds me of the time the Postal Service wanted to conduct a workshop somewhere in the upper mid-west in order to explain to Mr. Average Joe some of the problems within the Post Office and get some input from the man on the street on how to improve efficiency.  The only problem was the announcements on the workshop were not sent out until four days AFTER the deadline for participants to sign up.  Efficiency!  What has happened to efficiency?  No doubt you have heard someone moan, "The service here is just not what it used to be!"   We have more products on the market than ever before.  But things wear out faster than ever before, too. 

Now, before you criticize the Postal Service, or your local merchant, let's ask ourselves if WE are as efficient and punctual, and "quality-minded" as we ought to be.  Someone noted, "
Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives."  The late Vince Lombardi wrote, " The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor."   Quality in our service to the Lord demands the same degree of intensity and dedication as is demanded in any other walk of life.  The difference is that our eternal destination will be determined to a large degree by our willingness to put forth the effort to achieve such lofty heights.  The apostle Paul expressed the depth of our soul's devotion with these words:  "And having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us...let us give ourselves to our ministry…he that giveth, let him do it with liberality; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness" (Rom. 12:6-8).  "And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment; so that ye may approve the things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and void of offence unto the day of Christ" (Phil 1:9-10).   The effectiveness of this congregation, or any congregation of God's people, will be in direct proportion to the total number of members who are determined to provide the highest quality of service to the Lord.   A fellow preacher shared this most fitting illustration:  While on a trip to Switzerland, an American businessman was watching a Swiss clockmaker carving the case of an ornate cuckoo clock.  As the businessman watched the clockmaker carve out the case, he was astounded at his slow rate of progress.  The business man finally said, "My good man, you'll never make much money that way."  The clockmaker replied, "Sir, I'm not making money, I'm making cuckoo clocks."

Perhaps the quality of our devotion to the Lord would improve if each of us gave greater consideration to exactly what it is we are to do as God's children.   Solomon admonished his readers: "Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might" (Ecc. 9:10).   It is unfortunate that this Biblical ethic has been lost in what we sometimes call "progress" and/or "development."  Too many are satisfied with "good enough."  How many of us give our best in every situation?  Oh, perhaps in our service unto others we attempt to couple quality and service together.  On the job we are quite proficient; some are even perfectionists.  But let's take a look at another area of our lives, and consider this question.  Do you give your best to God?   Do I give my best to God in my attendance with the saints?  Am I diligent in putting forth an effort to "forsake not the assembly," or do I allow first one thing and another to interfere with that important obligation?  When I habitually miss services can I honestly say that the quality of faithfulness is what it ought to be?   When I am called upon to help in a public way, do I make every effort to be there?  What about my Bible study? Am I really giving my best to grow in the grace and knowledge of my Lord?   And what shall I say about my appearance on Sunday morning?  Is my dress such that it reflects an effort put forth to make myself presentable to God?  Or do I just throw on some casual clothes, careless about my appearance before God and my example before others?   You see, my friend, when we become careless in our service to God, and become satisfied with "good enough," we contribute to the demise of efficiency.   I think I can say, without fear of contradiction, that once my quality of service to God begins to decline, it is not long before service to my fellow man suffers as well.  For if we are not careful with regard to the more important matters of eternity, what makes us think we will be concerned about the temporal matters that have no lasting value?  Take a close look at yourself in the "mirror" of God's word (Jas. 1:24) and ask again, "What has happened to efficiency?"  Think about it!


Monday, July 7, 2014

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Give thanks in all circumstances

                   "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."  1 Thess. 5:18 (ESV)
Friday past was America's annual reminder of the start of our great nation, to wit: Independence Day.  Actually more accurately said; The Declaration of Independence Day.  Seven long and arduous years would pass before we were truly independent from England and became our own sovereign nation.
We celebrated our unique holiday pretty much like most everyone, you know, we did the American "thing."  We had several friends and members of our church family over and we BBQ'd up a storm, ate ourselves to the verge of gluttony and generally enjoyed each others company for a few hours.
The temperature was in the mid-90's and kind of humid, but we had the air conditioner working to keep the house nice and cool.  All of our guests arrived in nice air conditioned cars and some even had to travel from up to 20 miles or so away.  No one broke down on the way here either.  Plus, I have received no information about anyone having any trouble whatsoever making it back to their homes.  From all accounts it was a good day wherein Christians got together and enjoyed a great fellowship.
I prefaced the main part of my lesson today with the above comments for a reason.  That reason - to make us aware of, and appreciative of how blessed we truly are as Christians living and serving in our "vineyard."  I'm going to attempt that goal by bringing you up to date, so to speak, on what is going on in other "vineyards."  Specifically, the "vineyard" of East and Central Africa.
I think the best, the most dramatic and meaningful way to do this is to cite to you some news from that "vineyard."  It's the latest "report" by one of our brothers who is toiling faithfully in that area.  On a periodic basis, I receive from Bro. Francis Wechesa a report of his and the church's activities in the East and Central Africa "vineyard."  I'll use my writer's prerogative here by condensing this latest report, but I can provide it to you in full should you desire to read it.
Briefly let me give you a little personal information regarding Bro. Wechesa.  He is a Gospel preacher and teacher in the country of Uganda.  He is also the director of the Uganda School of Evangelism located in Busia, Uganda.  The school is an extension of the Bear Valley Bible Institute and his work is overseen by the Woodland Oaks church of Christ in Houston, Texas.
Personally, I find his reports inspiring and as I relate his latest to you, I hope that you will see why I am inspired by them.  Following is my synopsis of his latest report that talks about his recent efforts in his "vineyard."  His latest class at the school graduated on May 14th and between that date and June 25th he was preparing for the next class.  On June 26th he left for Uvira, Congo, a distance of 452 miles, where he was asked to preach and teach.  He arrived there on the 28th of June about noon and began teaching at the local congregation at 3:00 PM that same day.
In route there he had crossed the border and while doing so he became the victim of what we might refer to as an "official misleading."  Because of the "misleading" Bro. Wechesa did something that he would later come to regret.  But, on with his "report."
On Sunday, the 29th Bro. Wechesa preached the morning worship service and after eating lunch, he and one of the brethren got on a motor bike and went to Baraka, Congo, a distance of roughly 60 miles.  He said that for about 80% of that distance the road was very rough and rocky with "broken bridges" to cross.  They arrived late at Baraka due to suffering two blowouts on the motor bike.
After getting to where they were to stay, they were visited by the local District Security Officer who asked for his passport.  Bro. Wechesa told him that an official at the border had kept his passport and had given him a visa instead.  He gave the visa to the officer who looked at it then informed him that he wasn't allowed to be in Baraka.  That his visa was only good for being in Uvira.  He kept Bro. Wechesa's visa and ordered him to meet with him in the morning.
At the meeting the next morning, the officer questioned Bro. Wechesa's reason for being in Baraka and Bro. Wechesa tried to explain why he was there - to teach to Word of God.  It's then that the officer told him that this whole thing could be "forgiven" if he paid $100 to the officer.  Otherwise, he would be taken to the police station for further questioning.  He also searched his bags, his computer and looked at all the pictures on his camera.
After giving the officer what he wanted, Bro. Wechesa was told not to spend another night in Baraka.  You know, the old "Git outta town by sundown" thing.  Did Bro. Wechesa immediately leave town?  No he did not.  He went to where the brethren were gathered (two of which had ridden a motor bike 155 miles to hear him speak) and Bro. Wechesa preached "The Word" to them.  He mentioned that the church in Baraka is the only one in Congo that has a building where the congregation can meet for worship.
Also, before leaving, he taught 3 lessons on "World Evangelism" and then left "before sundown," headed back to Uvira and home to Uganda.  When crossing the border this time a different officer was there and when asked for his passport, Bro. Wechesa explained that they had kept it when he came through the first time.  This officer found it and told him that it is unlawful for him to leave his passport and warned him never to do it in the future.  After all that he went through, Bro. Wechesa said that "he'll certainly be more careful" next time.   He arrived back, home on July 3rd "tired but thankful to God for a safe trip."  He asks that we continue to pray for "The Lord's work" in Busia, Uganda.
Let me just offer some closing thoughts relative to my opening comments and Bro. Wechesa's report.  How far did you travel to get to worship today?  Was the road rough and rocky and the bridges washed out?  I know that my journey took about 15 minutes and I traveled in an air conditioned vehicle.  I had no blowouts that had to be repaired in order to get here.
Did we have to cross any national borders and be subjected to searches by law enforcement?  When we got here, did we have a nice, comfortable (A/C'd) building in which to gather and worship?  You bet we did.  In looking back over this lesson, are you more appreciative of the conditions in our "vineyard?"  Are we aware of just how blessed we are?  If not, then I have either failed miserably in my efforts today. OR, the "peace of God" does not "rule in our hearts" and we are not "thankful."  (Col. 3:15)
If option number 2 be the case, that our hearts are not "thankful," then we do not "glorify God" and we possess "foolish and darkened hearts." (Rom. 1:21)   But, if we are moved to recognize how blessed we are, then we can echo the words of David when he says: "I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me."  (Psa. 13:6)
Ron Covey   

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