A Couple of Questions…

While I was paying for a couple of items at a neighborhood gas station yesterday, the clerk asked if she could ask me a couple of questions.  It was a bit uncomfortable because two other customers were waiting in line behind me.

Without even looking at the other guests, she asked, ‘What does the word ‘evangelical’ on your church sign mean?’  ‘It means that we believe that all people have sinned and are in need of a Savior and that that salvation is found only in Jesus’, I replied.   Studying me a bit more closely, she asked, ‘Are you open and affirming?’

Taking a moment to collect my thoughts and considering the two people waiting in line and a kitchen worker listening in, I said that ‘we are open to what Jesus is open to and affirming of what He affirms.’  She began to turn away toward the other customers and then turned back to face me as if she wanted clarification.  I took the opportunity to add, ‘We affirm that Jesus is the only Savior and that we are open to all who want to be saved through Him.’

Her response of ‘okay’ ended our conversation.

Looking back, I have made several mental notes:

  1.  It is very uncomfortable to be asked these types of questions ‘cold turkey’, as they say.  There’s always the discomfort of wishing you had said more or said something differently.  And there’s always the discomfort of wondering how badly you ‘blew it’.
  2.  The exchange may not have been for the clerk.  It may have been for one or two of the other observers.  Only God knows.
  3. The Lord determines if and what results from moments like these.  As the scriptures say, ‘…for from Him and through Him and to Him are all things’.  We leave it with Him.
  4. Be ready always to give an account of what we believe and have been taught about Jesus.

Thank you, Lord, for any and every opportunity to serve as a witness to point others to You.

 

 

Pathetic or Profound…?

Rounding the corner of the house, as usual, to get into the truck and leave for work,  I encountered a couple of pesky robins who were reacting to my presence near their nest. Snuggled securely in a lilac bush near the corner of our garage, the nest was neatly cradled between two branches about five feet above ground.

The robin nest had often attracted my attention.  And every morning when I walked past it, the scolding robins would harass me with ‘squawking and swooping down at my head’.   I hated to disturb them, but there seemed to be little that I could do to remedy the encounters.  Earlier observations had revealed that four eggs had been laid and that two had already hatched.

Last week, as I passed by the nest, the same scenario began to play out with this caveat.  Stopping to peek into the nest, I checked on the ‘hatching’ progress.  The two robins were perched nearby…one sitting a few feet away on the tee bar of our clothes line and the other sitting on the corner of the peak of the gable of the neighbor’s roof holding a worm in its beak.     I gently pulled a couple of branches out of the way so I could see.  All I found was an empty nest.

No nearby debris or signs of struggle gave any clue as to the reason the nest was empty.  And judging from the reaction of the robins, they appeared to be as bewildered as I was.

It was a scenario that was both pathetic and profound.  Pathetic in the sense that the little birds were continuing to bring food to an empty nest.  It was sad.  But it was also profound as I considered the fact that during my lifetime I, too, had often exerted a great deal of energy and expended a great deal of resources on an activity that God would evaluate as ‘dead, empty stuff’.

The words of the angels to the women at Jesus’ tomb,  ‘WHY DO YOU SEEK THE LIVING AMONG THE DEAD?’ kept ringing in my ears.   Good question.  Profound reality.

Why do I spend so much on so little and then wonder why my life is so empty?

Lord, please grant me Your grace.  Please help me discern the difference between what is holy and what is unholy, between what is righteous and what is unrighteous and between what is ‘dead’ and what is ‘alive’.   And, please help me walk in the ways that You would consider eternally good and alive.  Amen.

Why Anger?

Sunday, January 21, just past, I stood as a ‘silent witness’ on behalf of pre-born children.  Following the advice King Lemuel’s mother gave him,  Proverbs 31:8, I held up a poster that pictured a cute baby sitting among a host of lovely flowers.  The inscription encouraged observers to “Joyfully welcome all priceless little ones with the careful enthusiasm with which we might welcome a garden full of brightly colored, verdantly fragrant and captivatingly beautiful flowers.”

Without expectation, I stood at an intersection of two main roads circuiting through a city near where I live.  A slow day for traffic–probably due to NFL games being played that day–I counted 150 cars whose drivers/passengers gave only a cursory glance in my direction.  Another 22 caught my attention:

12 gave a hearty ‘thumbs up’…

6 honked their horns and smiled in support…

…then…

1 driver turned the corner toward me vigorously shaking their head from side to side in disapproval.

…finally…

3 drivers slowed down, honked, rolled down a window and expressed their consternation toward me with a rude hand gesture.

As I thought about the last three, I wondered why they were so angry.  It had already occurred to me  that some people might be offended by my attempt to awaken their consciences to the reality of what abortion was really all about, but I was a little ‘taken a-back’ by the vigor with which the last three had expressed their frustrations toward me.

“Why so angry?”

Now two weeks later, I think I understand the answer…an answer already alluded to by the Lord in Romans 1:18.  These people were angry because their hearts had already realized the truth about what abortion really was.  They just wanted to suppress that truth.  In reality, their anger was not really aimed at me at all.  It was simply the result of their ‘heartfelt knowledge of the truth colliding with their unwillingness to embrace that truth’.  Their anger was simply the expression of the results of that truth collision.

Next time I stand and ‘speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves’, I’ll be prepared to use the dissenter’s reactions as a reminder to pray the inspired thoughts of 2 Timothy 2:25-26…

“Those who oppose you, you must gently instruct with the hope that God would grant them repentance, leading them to a knowledge of the truth, that they might come to their senses and escape the trap of the enemy who has taken them captive to do his will.”

And I’ll remember God’s counsel to me…

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”   Colossians 3:17

 

Here Are the Answers

In our last post, I asked readers to try their hand at recognizing famous athletes by their nick names.  Then I offered 12 names of God.  The challenge was to figure out what each of those twelve names meant as it regards our relationship to God through Jesus.

Here are the translations of the names of God that I listed.

God is…

…my Creator…

…my Lord God…

…my Supplier…

…my Master…

…my Provider…

…my Banner…

…my Sanctifier…

…my Righteousness…

…my Shepherd…

…my Peace…

We rejoice that our God is this and infinitely more.  Through Jesus we have as our Heavenly Father the One Who spoke and the world was.

This Advent Season let’s come humbly to Him offering gifts of praise, thanksgiving and love.

Have a blessed Christmas celebration.

A Change of Pace

In this post, for a change of pace, I thought it might be fun to play a name recognition game.  From the following list of nick names, how many famous athletes can you name.  Some became famous because of baseball, basketball, hockey or car racing.  See how many you can correctly identify.

The Big Unit, the Admiral, the Great One, the Dream, the Bus, Sweetness, the Big O, Hondo, Gunslinger, the Fridge, the Intimidator, the King, the Beast, the Deacon, the Minister of Defense, the Cheeseheads, the Steel Curtain…

How did you do?  If there was one nick name that you didn’t recognize, simply Google the famous nick name and the real name of the athlete will come up.

Now, for the next round of name recognition–one of greater importance:  see how many of these twelve names of God you recognize.  I’ll give the Hebrew name in English.  See how many of the twelve you can correctly identify and translate.  Here goes…

Elohim

Jehovah

El Shaddai

Adonai

Jehovah Jireh

Jehovah Nissi

Jehovah Mikkadesh

Jehovah Tsidkenu

Jehovah Rohi

Jehovah Shalom

Jehovah Shammah

O.k.  Work on it and I’ll give the answers in an upcoming blog.

Advent blessings to all as you seek the Lord in order to worship Him  like the Wise Men described in Matthew’s Gospel chapter 2 did.

 

Which one would you want?

I’ve been following, at least with moderate interest, an unscientific survey of sport’s commentators as they speculate as to the most sought after movie props or sports memorabilia.  Collectible because of their general popularity, these items could fetch six figures at auction.  Among those listed is an autographed Arnold Palmer golf club putter, a Wayne Gretzky signed hockey stick and a Pete Sampras autographed  tennis racket.  One item, though, piqued my interest more than the others, but for a different reason.

One of the commentators mentioned a desire to own the sweat shirt worn by Jim Belushi in the popular movie ‘Animal House’ that had the word ‘College’ written across the front.  The commentator never revealed what he’d be willing to pay for it, but simply said that he’d win the auction.

Later that day, I sat and thought about what I’d be most willing to own.  I didn’t need to think long.  Remembering the third chapter of Zechariah in the Old Testament, I decided that I’d most like to own a ‘robe of righteousness’ given me by my Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord.  In that chapter, Joshua stood guilty before the Lord dressed in the filthy rags of self-effort, self-centeredness  and sin.  As he stood condemned, the Lord commanded the attending angel to ‘take off his filthy rags’ and put on new, clean, ‘pure vestments’.

That is what I’d like to own more than anything.  The pure vestments of Christ’s righteousness.  We are learning a new song in worship that repeats: ‘His robes for mine, oh wondrous exchange’.   What a joyous possession…a precious gift from God.

At the cross of Calvary, Jesus wore my robe of punishment because of what I did wrong.  By Grace through faith, He gives me His robe of righteousness to wear as a gift for what He did right.

A MARVELOUS EXCHANGE, INDEED!

 

We’ve All Done It

It happens countless times every day.

Someone decides to look at a new or different car.  After work one day, they swing by their local dealer having already decided the make and model of their next vehicle.  Arriving at the car lot, they notice three vehicles that match their new preferences–right color, year, trim package, etc.  Like any of us would, they walk up to the car, look at the price tag, check out the ‘sticker’ that details the specs and give the exterior a quick ‘once over’ glance.

At this point, we all do it.  To look inside, we cup our hands on the sides of our eyes and press our face close to the car’s window.  Shielding out the light seems to help us see more clearly what might be in the car’s interior.

But what is true when looking at a car is NOT true when creating a more civil, healthy or godly culture.  There, shutting out the light creates an increasing darkness that results in cultural arrogance, hostility, unkindness and murderous self-centeredness, to which the rash of recent shootings attest.

Arguments and blame begin within hours of these crippling events.  One person blames firearms.  Another blames legislation or the lack thereof.  Still another blames poor efforts to help the mentally unstable or chronically aggressive.  But all of these fall short of providing a good description of the REAL source of our  problems.

Simply stated, we do not have a GUN problem.  We have a GOD problem.

For far too long, we have culturally bonded together to close out true light from our public conscience and create a ‘darkness’ in our souls that has just begun to bear fruit.  I don’t believe we are going to benefit from reaching the goal to which we are heading.  Just in my lifetime, we have culturally adopted sinister thoughts that can only harm us.  We’ve said…

  • You can’t pray in public whether at school, athletic events or other sanctioned functions.  Oh, we can have ‘student initiated prayers’ as long as they’re not at graduation ceremonies.  We’ll be forced to censor those.
  • You can use God or Jesus’ names as long as they are curse words, but don’t include them in a speech where their dignity and worth are extolled and praised.
  • We tell our children that they arrived on planet earth by evolving from ‘goo’ to ‘you’ by way of the ‘zoo’.
  • We tell our students that it’s fine to kill a pre-born baby because, after all, it’s not human.  BTW, some stem cell companies will gladly ‘purchase’ your aborted baby so that ‘human genetic research’ can be conducted on him/her.  What heartless irony, that.
  • We teach that whatever you think is truth to you and no one has the right to contradict your ascertains. And if they do, well, that’s hostility toward you.
  • We teach that the Bible is ‘passe at best and hateful speech at worst’.
  • We applaud ‘putting yourself publicly forward as priority #1, even if it’s at another persons’ expense.
  • As for violent video games/movies–that’s ok.  That’s good entertainment.

Why do we wonder at the crass paucity of our increasingly uncivil, violent society when we have dedicated the last 60+ years of our lives to BLOCKING OUT THE LIGHT?   Let’s all realize that if you take G-O-D out of g-o-o-d, you end up with ‘0’.

Are Analysts Asking the Right Question?

In today’s age, it is rare to be in a public setting and not hear numerous discussions regarding the public protests of our national anthem and the symbol of our freedom–the American flag.  I would like to make one observation regarding this issue, without delving in to the ‘rights of protest’.

Almost every analyst is heard asking the same question: “Why do they hate America?”  To answer this question, most of the analysts suggest the same litany of reasons why the protests are not only justified, but even required.

Granted, there are many injustices that deserve our attention.  With the level of suffering in the world and our nation, it is fitting for us to reflect on the injustices and resolve to help alleviate a measure of injustice.

If we remove just one word from the question that is being asked, we discover a more important issue to ponder.  The question, “Why do they hate America?” is appropriate to ask in a purely ‘social’ context. But, in a ‘spiritual’ context of greater importance, simply removing one word could frame the discussion in a more compelling way. For example, should we not be asking the question, “Why do they hate”?

In general, hating America is a temporary concern.  It will only last as long as America exists or we live.  However, hating in particular is of eternal consequence.  When we face God in judgment, He may not be as concerned with our hating America as He is concerned with our hating.

Understand that hating is not the result of the presence of unjust circumstances.  It is the result of how we choose to respond to those circumstances.  For example, take the tragedy of the Nazi death camps.  Two individuals experienced the same horrors and yet left with polar opposite reactions.  Elie Wiesel left the death camp with a heart full of bitter anger and resentment.  Corrie Ten Boom left the death camp with a heart prepared to live in humble forgiveness.  Same circumstance . . . different responses.  One chose hate while the other chose forgiveness.  It is all a matter of the heart.  The same is true of our social controversies.

It is entirely rational that so many are furious with our unjust social conditions.  But is hatred our best choice?

Perhaps our responses should more appropriately mirror the counsel of our Lord in Matthew 5:43-48

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward to you have? do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is  perfect.

 

 

“Bet You Can’t Make It”

The challenge came from my younger brother.  “Bet you can’t walk it all the way around.”

Now, I’ll say at the onset that I’m not particularly competitive.  Usually, the type of dare he would give me wouldn’t even cause me to think twice.  But, this one was different.  It was a little bit more than intriguing.  Could I actually make it all the way around, I thought.

He was referring to the top rail of a five rail fence that surrounded the corral where our dairy cows jostled, pushed and shoved each other around in order to be the next in line to find relief in the milking parlor.  That fence was five and a half feet high and stretched over two hundred feet in total length and width.  Half that length was a cinch, I mused.  The top rail of that section was a new addition to the paddock and sported a top rail constructed from used ‘bridge plank’; the kind of board that was ten inches wide and three inches thick.  Laid on edge, it provided easy footing for the feet of a young lad wanting to pluck his suspenders and boast of an easy walk around.  But, the other half of the fence was different.

The remaining part of the fence, the older part, consisted of six inch creosoted posts spaced eight feet apart and 1×6 top rails that were only 3/4 inch thick.  Combined with a total board length of eight feet, those top boards provided an ‘interesting’ wobble for the feet of those boys who wanted to walk across the top of them and, let’s say, show off a little.

Humility/reality requires that I admit to failure…my first try.  Once outdone by the fence, I became determined to ‘master’ it.  If memory serves me right, it took ten tries before I successfully navigated the entire length.  By the time victory was mine, success was experienced most every ‘trip up’ until finally, I could walk the top board all the way around anytime I tried.  Oh, the thrill of victory.

Now you may be wondering what in the world this has to do with spiritual matters.  Well, simply this.  In 2 Corinthians 6:11-13, the Apostle Paul urges his readers to ‘widen your hearts also [for me]’.

In Corinth, Paul had a few antagonists. Some questioned his Apostleship.  Some didn’t like the sounds of his admonitions.  Others liked OTHER church workers better.  All in all, the relationships were somewhat strained.  This was disconcerting to Paul, who often pleaded for unity and mutual cooperation among church brethren.  Philippians 4:2 and following for example.

His inspired solution to the dilemma was to appeal to the Corinthians to ‘widen their hearts so relationships could more easily develop without the risk of failure’.  Church health increases where love is ‘broad enough’ to insure a successful balance of all the natural differences in believer’s spiritual gifts and personalities.

God doesn’t intend that we all be alike.  But, He prefers that our love be broad enough to accommodate all the unique Godly differences of people in relationship together and provide each one with the security to walk in Christ without fear of rejection or retaliation.  It is so  much better for the church to ‘widen its hearts to each other’ so everyone can securely walk together in Christ and so the world can tell that we are God’s children.

Let’s widen our hearts.

The Tale of the Tape

I was anxious to go down and look this morning.  Recently, I had begun to tape and mud seams and corners on the drywall we installed in a basement room we are finishing.  All the corners and seams were put in place.  And last night I put the first coat of mud over them.

This is a somewhat routine part of the process, with one caveat.  If, by chance, the corner beads were not sealed correctly, the new mud will pull at the edges of them and create ‘bubbles’ where any part of them is loose.

I wondered how many spots were not sealed correctly that now would need to be redone.  To my pleasure, only one small spot, a bubble six inches in length and a fourth of an inch wide, needed attention.  I’ll just need to take a razor knife, cut underneath it, press it back down and let it dry.  Once dry, I’ll put a coat of mud over it and if it sticks okay I’ll sand the seams and apply the next coat of mud.

The key to my relief this time was taking care to apply an adequate coat of join compound underneath the seams/corners, firmly press them down and trowel away excess mud.  This process will be repeated at least two more times before we can begin to sand, finish and paint the surfaces.  Hopefully, by the end of the first weekend in September, I’ll be looking at an adequate finish job.  I see why not everyone wants to do this job and why those who do, get paid well.

In a way, this process reminds me of ‘sanctification’ God takes me through in my spiritual life.  As the Lord leads us along, He draws us into deeper and deeper relationship with Him.  His desire is that we press into Him ever more firmly each day.  He knows that a day in the future will dawn with the advent of a circumstance that will tug and pull at us and threaten the strength of safety of a life secure in Him.  If not, then He will help us cut away those things that are inadequately secured and redo the process.  He’ll repeat this as many times as needed until all holds strong in the face of stretching pressure.

In a way, I wonder if this common natural event is a fit example of the process God describes in 1 Peter 5:10.  There He says,

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace…will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

Let’s resolve to press into Him today.