Listening for His Whistle

by Rev Robert A Wendel

“You who are young make the most of your youth. Relish your youthful vigor. Follow the impulses of your heart. If something looks good to you, pursue it. But know also that not just anything goes. You have to answer to God for every last bit of it. Live footloose and fancy free. You won’t be young forever. Youth lasts about as long as smoke.” (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 – Message Bible)

“Children are a heritage of the Lord: And the fruit of the womb in his reward. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of (children). Here I am for those didst call me. (Psalm 127:3,5; I Kings 8:53 (KJV).

We learned to listen for his whistle. When we were wanted at home, Dad would simply stand on the back porch and whistle meaning we kids should return home quickly. That unique sound was one of the ways our family connected. The link between parents and children is an emotional one, best described as a lifelong roller-coaster ride full of highs and lows.

Every April, Time Magazine names that years 100 Most Influential People asking well known celebrities to write about each individual. Justin Timberlake wrote about Tiger Woods “Last year Tiger Woods and I spent some time together talking about being fathers.:

We talked about how we want our children to see us and how we have to balance our dedication to them with our completive drive. We wanted our children to watch us at our best. He said that he wanted his 10 and 11 year olds to see him win another Major (Tournament).

On April 14th, Tiger won his 15th Major Tournament (The Masters) in an amazing sports career comeback returning him to the top of pro-golf and allowing him to hug his two children with a sense of redeemed victorious joy.”

If you want to see parents’ pride in their children, watch any of the television reality shows spotlighting young people with surprising performing talent, hoping to become professional entertainers. Pride shows in the smiles of their parents, family and friends.

On the negative side, parents worry about where their children are and just what they’re up to. In Jesus’ life, we read about the time he was “lost in the Temple among the rabbi” (Luke 2:41-52). Or when his family wanted to speak to him fearing he “had gone mad” Jesus replied “Obedience to God is thicker than blood.” ( Mark 3:21-35 Message Bible).

Gen. Colin Powell told The Reader’s Digest “Reaching our children requires conviction that they are capable of success.” Jackie Kennedy Onassis told admirers “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.”

A Glimpse into the Kingdom

by Rev Robert A Wendel

“We all know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding that we may know Him. Hear for I will speak noble things from my lips will come what is right.” (I John 5:20, Proverbs 8:6, Matt. 13 (NRSV.)

“Strive first for the Kingdom and righteousness and all these things will be given to you. He who wishes to be first, let him be the last of every man, and the (humble) minister to every man. (Matt. 23:11 Aramaic translation.)

Jesus’ disciples all focused on “The Kingdom”. Not that they were concerned about that honor of the King or the success of the Kingdom; no, what obsessed them was their place in that Kingdom. For them, the Kingdom was all about personal power, prominence and position. (Matt. 19:27).

In Mark 9:33-34 the disciples argued about who was the greatest of them. Jesus said, “The first one must be the last and servant of all. “ Those who follow Jesus should not suppose a prime place in the Kingdom of Heaven for themselves.

We love being in control. We love getting our own way. We love being indulged and served. We love being right. It’s hard to admit that we’re more like the disciples who all wanted first place. Jesus said that he did not come to use his power to make their little kingdoms work, but to welcome you, by grace, to a much greater Kingdom than you could get on your own. “I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:1-3, Psalm 145:13-13)NRSV).

One of the concise parables is contained in a single scripture verse – Matthew 13:33. Jesus taught them saying “The Kingdom is like yeast that a women took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked the dough.”

The woman had a plan. She introduced yeast into the dough and mixed it together. The yeast spread throughout the dough, it fermented, causing the dough to rise. The result was freshly baked bread. So it is with Heaven’s Kingdom. God always has a plan and a purpose. (Psalm 16:4)

Since it’s small beginnings 2000 years ago, Christianity has affected and elevated every successive culture and generation. God has placed his Church in the world permanently. Like yeast into dough, the Church cannot be taken out!

Romance: More than Holding Hands

by Rev Robert A Wendel

Be eager to love because that gift comes from the Holy Spirit. Do not stir up or awaken love until it is ready. This is my beloved and this is my friend. (James 1:17, Song of Solomon 2:7, 5:16 NRSV). To get heaven’s help with romance you must live out your faith. Pray about loves attraction. True romance involves both the ‘heart and the head.” Real love is spiritual. Chronic health problems will impact any relationship.

There are dozens of factors that attract you to one person or another. We form snap judgments based on physical attractiveness, likeability, competence, money wisdom and financial stability. We are drawn to people like us with a similar family history, tradition and religious preferences. Smiling is a sign of someone who is emotionally well adjusted and has a good personality. Romantic love lasts about two years. Then we grow into a deeper more mature love connection. Get to know your future possible in-laws or step children

When trying to decide if couples will stay together, one indicator is how they describe their courtship, hoping that you chose each other through mutual agreeability and similar beliefs which reflect their computability. These are things like daily habits, past-times, child rearing ideas, political leanings and their goals.

If you’re ready to date, think of it as fun, interesting and possibly enriching. Be sure you are aware of what went wrong in your last serious relationship. In the new relationship: Be friends. Spend time together. Laugh together. Be a good and patient listener. Trust, leave some separate alone time and space.

There are bound to be differences. But, over time your brain gets used to the other person. Sharing understandings reduces anxiety, depression and stress and may boost immunity and longevity. The ultimate key to solid relationships is a good verbal communication. Instead of arguing, give each other the benefit of the doubt by hearing each other out first.

“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible,” wrote screen writer Nora Ephron. American poet Ogned Nash said, “Whenever you’re wrong, admit it. When you’re right, shut up.”

Marriage: Two for the See-Saw

by Rev Robert A Wendel

“Be subject to one another. Be of the same mind, husband and wife having the same love. And the two will become one flesh. The wife and husband shall fulfill their duty to each other.” (Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 2:3, I Corinthians 7:8-16,39 NRSV.)

In marriage, a man and a women agree to ride the see-saw of life, with all of its ups and downs, together. (Ruth 1:16).

The vows they make at a ceremonial moment really mean that they get each other in return. Each, gladly, meeting the other’s needs, taking on each other’s burdens. There will always be the other to talk to and to listen to. And they will have countless opportunities to be patient and kind to their sweetheart, while becoming more rich yourself than just you alone. (I Corinthians 13:4-5). These ancient notions are the biblical ideal.

Matrimony is to be thought of as a Divine institution people enter into out of custom, duty or a need to procreate. Most of us think this one relationship should-and could provide the full buffet of satisfaction; intimacy, support, stability, happiness and sexual exhilaration. If the union is not up to the task, then it’s easy and cheaper to unsubscribe and divorce. (2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 12:2).

Marriage is the most intimate and basic of our social institutions but also the one most subject to shifts and change, making single adult life completely attractive. In a survey by Cornell University, couples said “At one point, their long marriage was the best thing in their lives, but it takes work (attention) and is really, really hard” (Corinthians 3:15-17).

The ultimate dream; figuring out how to go the distance, being faithful while bringing out the best in your partner. Studies suggest that married people have better health, better wealth and even better sex than their counterparts; and will, probably, die happier.

How do you find a soul-mate? Choose wisely! Stay married as if divorce is not an option. Charles Swindoll, radio bible teacher said, “To the unmarried; Be patient! Wed someone who is an active Christian. To the married; Be content! To the remarried; Be grateful.”

Dealing with Life’s Changes

by Rev Robert A Wendel

“Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed you will be strong in character and ready for anything. God blesses people who patiently endure testing.” (James 1:2-4, 12 (NLT).

Challenges. Everyone born into this world has his or her unique set of obstacles to confront, not all at once, but scattered throughout one’s days. By my count, there are in fact four types of hurdles: 1) Physical; 2) Medical; 3) Relationships (those earthly and heavenly) and 4) Finances and Property. A mind boggling list.

I recently heard a television preacher sum up stages in life as hurried, worried and buried. The first decade of my existence meant meeting life’s physical demands includes three orthopedic surgery experiences, many walks in parallel bars and up and down countless stairs. Mental challenges came in education and training. Relationships with other people always need attention. Financial stress has been felt the most in my semi-retirement.

I learned the harder it got, the stronger I got. There has been a faith lesson in all of my trials. It’s easy to have faith sitting in church on Sunday. When things get hard, my faith, like an under-developed muscle, is challenged. These challenges push me and my faith stronger, even through pain.

James urges all Christians to show their faith by their works. Paul holds that faith leads to work. James says that works must demonstrate faith. We wouldn’t be tested unless we are doing something serious. It’s like wanting to take a morning walk and finding that the wind nearly pushes you back before you’ve even started.

There are many winds and tides in the human life. In what ways has life tossed you about? Motion picture actor Christopher Reeve (Superman) said, “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to preserve and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”

Paul: Apostle at a Gallop

by Robert A Wendel

“I am not ashamed of the gospel; for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith. In it the righteousness of God is revealed. The one who is righteous will live by faith. God has clothed me with a robe of righteousness. In Jesus Christ the blessing of Abraham has come to Gentiles.” (Romans 1:16-17; Isaiah 61-10, NRSV.)

Paul was a preacher first and a writer second. Both spheres – preaching and writing – were ruled by one great fact – the fact of a living present Lord; and by one all-decisive experience – the experience of union and communion with Him. The heart of Paul’s religion was union with Christ. (Acts 9, 22, 26).

The distinctive Christian attitude is humble trust in God and dependence on what he has done (rescue) through Christ. In short, “faith” (Romans 1:17.) No one could shame this former rabbi into silence until his death in 64AD.
In his life-risking missionary travels, Paul sought out Jewish communities in cities in present-day Lebanon, Turkey, Cyprus and Greece. Unlike other Christians, Paul encouraged converting non-Jews which laid the foundation for the explosive growth of Early Christianity and the final separation of Judaism and Christianity into two separate faiths.

Paul’s bold adventures came to an end in about 60AD when he was arrested for admitting a non-Jew into the Temple of Jerusalem and he was sent to Rome for trial. Acquitted, he stayed there to help organize the Christian Church in the Empirical Capital of the Empire.

Paul is credited with authoring seven books of the New Testament – Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, I Thessalonians and Philemon and he may have also written six other letters to young churches and a pair to Apostle Timothy.

This Easter, it is good for us to remember Paul’s words “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor hearts conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Corn. 2:9.) “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are to be pitied.” (I Cor. 15:19). Jesus said “Because I live, you will also.” (John 14:19).

Young People: Handle with Care

by Rev Robert A Wendel

“Children are an inheritance from
the Lord.  Train up a child in the way he
should go.  A Child is known    by
his doings” (Psalm 127:3; Proverbs 22:6, Proverbs 20:11 (Geneva Bible)

“Children and young people are the future of our Church.”   Senior members around churches have whispered that truism many times knowing: 1) Youth require their own separate ministry; 2) Kids live a kinetic, up-beat pace; 3) For them, traditions only matter at Christmas and Easter; 4) Newbies appreciate church time as time to be with classmates and friends; 5) Still, the continuation of any congregation is on the shoulders of today’s up-and-coming folks.  Handle with care.

Most worshipping fellowships divide themselves in three generational groups: Cradle roll (Infants and pre-public school youngsters); Public school young people and adults.  Out of his love and mercy, God wants all his children to be happy, however they define it, under the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 6:24-25).

Once and for all, we must put out of our minds that the purpose of life is to enjoy ourselves, to be happy, to have a good time, to make money and to live worry free in ease and comfort.  Real Christians are to attempt to live their lives in service to others laying aside their own desires.

In both Jewish and Christian theology, the much desired birth of a son or daughter is a heritage or reward thought of as a gift from God.   Folly is bound up in a child’s heart.  The righteous follow a clear path in life.  The Lord delivers them from trouble.  Wisdom is gained through discipline. (Proverbs 4:3-5).

R. Benjamin Garrison said “If God has made an impact on us, it will be evident in the children we raise, the ideas we share, the money we earn and spend, in the church we love, the nation we build and protect and in the souls that kneel before Him, each one of us, sometime, caught in the living net of the gospel.”

Grace Undeniable

by Robert A Wendell

“Do Not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings; for it is well for the heart to be strengthened by grace. But, grow in the knowledge of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (Meanwhile), God, himself, will restore, support, strengthen and establish you.” (Hebrews 13:9, 2 Peter 3:18, I Peter 5:10 NRSV).

Grace seems to be the one word in a Christian vocabulary that unlocks the necessity and the power of the relationship between the Almighty and humankind. Still, there are those moments when we doubt that unique connection.   I may not be doing the most exciting things with my days, but in the middle of those highs and lows and downright monotonous chores, one thing remains true:  I am here for a purpose – a mission.  And the mission is to glorify God.  God in all I do.  God in all I say – and in every word I write.

Grace provides ‘the wind beneath my wings.’  Grace is the oil that makes everything run smoothly and gently.  Having a graceful flow to the day or the week doesn’t just come from having a laid-back attitude.  It comes from understanding that grace is God – generated and heaven – sent.

Grace is flexible.  Grace trumps fear and worry with the sure notion that the Lord is at the spiritual helm of our lives.  After all, each one of us is a reflection of God’s all-intelligent control.  Even in pressure-packed times, it’s wise to wait on our Maker.  Feeling grace helps me pursue what seems the right move for that moment.

Grace means there is nothing I can do to make God love me more.  He invites me to sit at His table.  Grace also helps me feel more gracious, looking outward toward others first.  As we actively run toward the Divine and make room for grace, order and pace can ‘flow like a river.

Jerry Bridges, author for the Navigators Discipleship Organization wrote, “Our worst days are never so bad that we are beyond the reach of grace.  And our best days are never so good that we are beyond the need of God’s grace.”

Walking in the Sunlight

by Rev Robert A Wendel

“Light is sweet, and it is a pleasure for the eyes to see the sun.  Wisdom is as good as an inheritance, an advantage to those who see the sun.  Let days speak and many years teach wisdom.” (Ecclesiastes 11:7, 7:11, Job 32:7 NRSV)

It is 2000 in Fredonia, New York.  The local clergy group usually met eight times a year for lunch.  But our January pow-wow was always at 8:00 a.m. to plan for the year’s shared events including a series of Lenten and Advent rotating, fund-raising luncheons supporting community ministry.

Less than two weeks before we all had celebrated Christmas as pastors in our various congregations.  Mine was Fredonia Baptist.

It’s the first month of a new decade and as I watched the sun come into full glow, I wondered what critical decisions would shape the direction of the future.  In the next eighteen years, I would live in Ashland, Ohio, Beckley and Waynesburg, Pennsylvania.  Each relocation changed my live.

We all have made good and bad decisions.  Decision-making really begins as we enter 9th grade to start our chosen course of study taking us through the public high school years.  Career choices, like where to live and work, marriage, children, health issues and retirement, lay ahead.  Our train can run off the track but decisions do not define us.

God is not limited by our poor navigation or circumstances. He is faithful in enabling our personal river to flow to the sea.  And surely, grace from on High lights our way.

British novelist James Hilton wrote Lost Horizon about a group of climbers who stumble upon Shangri-La, a Utopian-like settlement in the mountains of Tibet where people enjoy unheard of longevity.  The High Lama shares this wisdom with the stranded visitors:

‘The first quarter century of your life was, doubtless, lived under the cloud of being too young for things, while the next quarter-century would, normally, be shadowed by the still darker cloud of being too old for them; and between these two clouds, small and narrow sunlight illuminates the human lifetime.” (page 153)

Christmas -Just in Time!

by Rev Robert A Wendel

“Blessings on the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has turned his face toward his people and has set them free!  He has raised up for us a standard of salvation.  Don’t be afraid!  May the God of hope fill you with joy.”  (Luke 1:68; 2:10, Romans 15:13)

Christmas is supposed to be the most wonderful, joyous time of the year.  But, for many folks, it’s a time of acute stress and sorrow.  Physical pain, loss, downright loneliness and depression is common even among church-going Christians.

Our world has been torn by bombings, shootings and world-wide acts of violence.  Natural disasters – fire, floods, hurricanes and earthquakes have taken lives and made thousands homeless.  Families have been broken by troubled relationships.  And it’s hard to escape hearing or reading reports of the above and mistreatment of the fairer sex even reaching the Halls of Congress.

For so many it will be hard to hear or sign the hymns, carols and songs of the season.  It might very well be difficult to think about giving or getting gifts.  Still, in congregations around the globe, the Sunday before Christmas we’ll light the Candle of Joy singing the carols as people have done for more years than we can count.

One such carol is “O Little Town of Bethlehem” with lyrics by Church Rector Phillips Brooks penned in Philadelphia in 1868 as an emotional reaction to the assassination of President Lincoln and the Civil War.  To attempt to heal his spirit, Brooks traveled to the Holy Land.  The young Episcopal priest was so impressed by the worship service at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem that ‘he felt at peace’ and told friends, “Forever there will be a singing in my soul.”

Concentration camp survivor Corrie ten Boom made the following entry in her diary for 12/24: “What can we add to Christmas?  The perfect motive is that God so loved the world.  The percent gift is that HE gave His only Son.  The only requirement is to believe in Him.  The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life.”