Category Archives: News Commentary

Answer the Question!

As I was browsing some folders while doing some research I came across an old blog that grabbed my attention. I’ve reworked it for this week. In a time when leaders – and others – are masters at avoiding or changing the question, this is an important issue.

The blog resulted from a ‘news feature’ – and I use the term ‘news’ loosely – which focused on a mother and her 6 year old daughter. Mom was proud as a peacock of her entertainment star daughter. That’s right – six years old and already pouring hours of time and most all her energy into being a stage star. She does energetic, wild routines on stage – in performances and competition. While that raises a number of issues for me, I want to focus on just one aspect of the story.

The report revealed that mother, in order to give her daughter adequate energy for her performances, had concocted a special ‘juice’ for her. The juice was composed of two parts – Mountain Dew and Red Bull energy drink. In other words, pump her full of caffeine and sugar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have no doubt that it would give her energy! I also have no doubt that there will eventually be potentially long term, negative consequences. Both caffeine and sugar, in large amounts, destroy the body. My heart, in fact, was pierced when the video showed the young girl raising her shirt and grabbing onto the rolls of fat on her stomach – all with a smile on her face and a giggle in her voice.

Not surprisingly this issue became the focus of the report. When asked by the reporter about health concerns, the mother calmly, and defensively, replied that there are many moms whose daughters aren’t on stage performing who give the same to their daughters – so why, she mused, should anyone pick on her. A nice sleight of hand – or of voice – but she never answered the question. Now there are only two reasons not to answer a question. One – you don’t know the answer. Two – you don’t have an answer that is right or makes sense. So if you don’t know it, admit that maybe you should find out; perhaps there’s a good reason it was asked. And if you don’t have a good sensible answer, then perhaps it’s time to find one.

It appeared to me that this mother really knew the reporter might have had a legitimate concern but was not ready to let go of the popularity of her daughter for the sake of her daughter’s health and future. But if something is harmful, it’s harmful whether we want to admit it or not. So I say “When you’re asked a question, answer the question.” It’s for your own good.

While it would be appropriate to launch into Paul’s admonition about the body being the temple of the Holy Spirit, I’d rather stick to the point about a mother’s careless disregard for her child’s health and well-being. Proverbs says it best. (10:10) “…a chattering fool comes to ruin.” (12:15-16, 23) “Fools are headstrong and do what they like…fools show their annoyance at once…fools broadcast their foolishness…” (14:24) “…foolishness leads to more foolishness.” “When you’re asked a question, answer the question.”

I felt sorry for this mother – I’m sure she loved her daughter. But either she didn’t get it – which is truly sorrowful – or she did and didn’t care – which is even sorrier. But I felt even more sorrow for her daughter – she was the victim in all of this. Unless things changed, she paid the price for mom’s refusal to seriously answer a fair and serious question. That’s why it is so important that “When you’re asked a question, answer the question.”

So what questions have you been avoiding or failing to answer lately? Perhaps it’s time to stop being foolish and answer them. After all “…a wise man listens to advice.” (Prov. 12:15) Such listening might just be good for you – and for those you love and influence. “When you’re asked a question, answer the question.”

It’s Not My Law

I’m sure you’re familiar with the scenes.

  • Someone smokes where it is forbidden
  • While driving there is always that driver that just has to speed past everyone else
  • The driver treats the stop sign as a yield sign
  • A person cuts a few corners on their taxes
  • A witness commits perjury
  • A group of friends set off fireworks after posted hours
  • Parents let their underage teen host a party where alcohol is consumed

This one may not be familiar but it fits. From the Detroit News: “Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Tuesday she would not enforce a state abortion ban if federal protections are overturned…” (1)

While there are many more examples these, hopefully, raise the question of the day. Why do people feel it’s okay for them to break the law? Why do they feel they can say and act as if “It’s not my law?”

I believe the answer is quite simply “Pride.” To knowingly and willingly break the law is to say, in essence, “I’m special. This law doesn’t apply to me.” “I think it’s a stupid law – I know better so I can ignore it.” Pride puts us in a position of feeling superior, better than and different from others. Pride allows us to make laws and set boundaries as we see fit. After all, it’s not my law.

But make no mistake about it; we’ve all been similarly prideful and willingly broken laws at some point in time. And I believe it stems from our rebellious, sinful nature. We saw it with Adam and Eve when, because their pride placed them above God and rejected His law, they ate the forbidden fruit. The reality is every time we sin we are saying to God “It’s not my law.” The testimony of Scripture is clear.

First, there is law. God has firmly established His law within the world He created and “The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure… Your statutes, Lord, stand firm…”  (Psalm 93:1&5) “The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved…” (Psalm 96:10) “The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. They are established for ever and ever, enacted in faithfulness and uprightness.” (Psalm 111:7-8) The truth is it’s not now and never is ‘my law.’ It’s God’s law.

Second, we all break God’s laws. (2) “What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:9-12 & 23)

Third, there are consequences for breaking the law. “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12) A basic theme of the book of Judges is that when everyone does what is right in their own eyes, there is chaos in the land.

Fourth, the power to obey comes from loving Jesus. He proclaimed, “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:15-17)

Fifth, there is great reward in loving Jesus. Jesus said “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:10-11)

Why this brief overview and summary of Scripture? Because the bottom line is that obeying God’s laws compels and enables us to better obey human laws and to live with joy. The better we understand it the better off we and our world will be; because, after all, “The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved…”

————–

No Smoking Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

(1)https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2019/04/16/nessel-id-never-enforce-michigan-abortion-ban/3487903002/

Gavel – Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

 

A Word About Syndromes

There is a new syndrome affecting many people. It’s called the Trump Anxiety Disorder (TAD). I get it, and somewhat understand it. And while I can get very political and biased I will resist the temptation to do so here – that’s not the purpose of my blogs.

Rather I am more inclined to reflect on how this new syndrome strikes me. As a Christian, what is my response? How do I react to the root causes of this syndrome? I look at the apostles and early Christians – they lived under the rule of the likes of Herod and Nero who gruesomely persecuted and killed Christians. I think about the Jews who lived under (and the many who died under) the horrific reign of Hitler. I read about the persecuted Christians of today who face inhuman punishment and execution daily. How is it that so many of them live each day without panic and overwhelming fear?

It’s because they’re affected by another syndrome – the Foundational Faith Syndrome (FFS). In my book A Nation Under God (1) I wrote about the core of this syndrome.

“The God who rules is sovereign. Jeremiah was disappointed that his message and ministry were not being followed by Judah. He felt he had done all he could with Judah and his heart was broken that she was still as wayward as ever. So God spoke to Jeremiah and told him to go to the potter’s house…Jeremiah observed the master potter at work. Using two wheels connected by an axle, the potter rotated and controlled the speed of the wheel with his foot and molded the clay with his hands. So adept was the potter that beautiful pottery was formed as if by magic. Mesmerized by what he saw, Jeremiah was jolted back to reality when the potter felt a flaw in the clay and stopped his work. Jeremiah anticipated he would throw out the clay and start with a fresh batch. But he was fascinated to discover the potter simply took the same clay and started over again to form a different pot. “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.”

God’s sovereignty is part of the fabric of Scripture. The Psalmist affirms it: “The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart throughout all generations.” (Psalm 33:10-11) “Praise our God, all peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance. (Psalm 66:8-12)

Even the pagan kings of Daniel’s day understood. “At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”” (Daniel 4:34-35)

“Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language throughout the land: “May you prosper greatly! I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. “For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”” (Daniel 6:25-27)…

So God will have his way with nations. God puts them on His divine wheel and never lets up – He is continually molding, shaping, sculpturing. No matter how independent nations think they are, no matter how much control they think they have over their destinies, the truth is they are clay. They are being shaped, molded, controlled by hands other than theirs. They are being formed by God’s hands.
We also learn, however, that because God holds nations accountable, nations can influence God’s ways. Consider God’s explanation to Jeremiah: “If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.”

Therein is our hope; therein is our peace.

No wonder the Psalmist could say: “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!…The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress… “Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”” (Psalm 46:1-3,7,10) That’s why Jesus, just prior to his excruciating trial and death could say, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) It’s my prayer that you will be affected not by TAD but by FFS.

(1) NOTE: To read more about the book follow the link. To order at a discount go here.

That Good Old Salty Language

One of the toughest things for me to control in my life has not been my budget, my circumstances, my ministry, my mind, or even my behavior. It has been my tongue.

Considering what’s going on in our country right now, I have a hunch I’m not alone in this. And it’s important to understand, as Proverbs 18:21 bluntly states: “The tongue has the power of life and death…” How we use our tongue, the words we say and how we say them, is literally an issue of life and death.

Our tongue can destroy life. James 3:5-6 bluntly states “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” Have you ever been burned by the tongue of someone who, with a few choice words, cut us to the quick? How many of us as parents have not, at some point in time, said something that burned and harmed our children? The tongue, like fire, does lasting damage.

Why does it do this damage? Proverbs 18:8 says, “They go down to a man’s inmost parts.” The image is that words, like food, are internalized, digested, and carried around forever; they live on long after they have been spoken. James even goes as far as to say the tongue, words, can kill (3:8): “It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Growing up I learned to say, “Sticks and stones will hurt my bones, but names will never hurt (kill) me.”  It is nice to have a positive attitude, but I have learned that it is not that simple. I have ministered to too many broken people, and have been wounded enough myself, to know words can maim and kill. A talkative woman once tried to justify the quickness of her own tongue by saying, “It passes; it is done with quickly.” To which evangelist Billy Sunday replied, “So does a shotgun blast.”  I wonder how many people have been severely wounded because of the out of control rhetoric that fills our American air (and airways)?And the damage is not limited to those who are the targets of the words – it reaches those who speak them. Proverbs 13:3: “…he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.” A quick tongue damages everyone in its wake. That’s why Proverbs 10:19 (TLB) states,“Don’t talk so much. You keep putting your foot in your mouth. Be sensible and turn off the flow.” I wonder how many people have regretted or will come to regret their inexcusable words because of the self-inflicted pain they will suffer?

It’s fair to ask: How many words of sarcasm have you uttered this week? How many insinuations have you made? How much blame have you pushed off on others? What about those “jokes” that caused more hurt than laughter? And what about the name-calling you did in jest? Or the gossip you passed along? How have you spoken to or about your mate, children, parents, coworkers, and leaders?

Yet there is a solution: The same tongue can be a positive instrument – it can build and give life. Paul wrote in Colossians 4:6: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” The tongue can offer healing grace. It used to be said of old sailors, “They use such salty language”, and it was meant as a negative as it referred to their foul language. But Paul says we are to season our words with the salt of grace.
Some people care enough about others to say the right things while other people care only about releasing their venom. As someone said, “The difference between a gossip and a concerned friend is like the difference between a butcher and a surgeon. Both cut the meat, but for different reasons.”

So how many words of praise will you utter? How many words of thanks? How much love will you express? How much affirmation will you give? How much honor will you give through what you say? How much salty language will you pour out?

I challenge everyone who reads these words to lead the way in healing rather than hurting, in giving life rather than killing. Paul wrote (Ephesians 4:29): “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” So let us bring our hearts under the captivity of Jesus Christ. Let the Holy Spirit speak to us before we speak to others. As Beth Day wrote back in 1855 we must always ask three questions before we speak: Is it true? Is it needful? Is it kind? And to that I would add a fourth: Is it of God? William Norris has penned it cleverly: “If your lips would keep from slips, Five things observe with care: To whom you speak; of whom you speak; And how, and when, and where.”

Let’s get back to some of that good old salty language. With the Psalmist we need to pray (Psalm 141:3-4): “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil…”

Sunday Segregation

 

It’s often been said that the most segregated time in America is Sunday morning. There is some truth to that, in that many congregations are not multi-racial or cross cultural. While I’m not trying to downplay the situation, I do believe that part of the reason has more to do with preferred worship and preferred cultural styles than with intentionally blocking out persons of other cultures and races. That’s why, in addition to worship segregation between cultures there is segregation within cultures as well.

In fact, I’d like to add another twist. I believe the current trend of churches ‘marketing’ to certain age or cultural segments does hold a danger. While it may help bring people into or back to the church the jury is still out on its long-term effectiveness. My concern is that it tends to segregate the Body of Christ. Rather than everyone worshiping together and learning how to appreciate and be patient with our differences, how to be tolerant of differences, and how to be open to change, we promote fracturing the body. Any time someone, or some group, doesn’t ‘like’ or ‘prefer’ what we like or isn’t ‘like’ us we tend to avoid the hard spiritual work of tolerance and instead opt for our more comfortable personal preferences.

For me, two important issues for Christians to contemplate flow from this Sunday Segregation. One is “If we cannot tolerate each other in our worship, how dare we criticize the intolerance so prevalent in our current societal and political realms?” “How can we ever hope to influence and promote tolerance in those realms when we do not practice it in our worship and church life?” Until we are truly one in the Spirit we can never have a positive impact on the broader issues of tolerance and intolerance in our culture.

The second issue is this: “Are we raising and fostering a generation of worshipers and Christians who  may never experience the fullness of the Body – from cradle to the grave, from East to West and North to South?” How many churches lack the wisdom, experience, and faith-stories of our senior generation? They are the poorer for it. How many lack the vitality and necessary challenges of our searching but vibrant youth? They are the poorer for it. How many congregations lack the richness of different cultures and styles? The are the poorer for it.

Let’s never stop working towards racial and cultural diversity within the Body – and within our culture – but let’s also be very careful not to fall victim to segregation by our preferences either. Let’s strive, as difficult as it may be, for congregations that are free of age and preference segregation as well.

The Apostle Paul put it well. “All of you are God’s children because of your faith in Christ Jesus. And when you were baptized, it was as though you had put on Christ in the same way you put on new clothes. Faith in Christ Jesus is what makes each of you equal with each other, whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a man or a woman. So if you belong to Christ, you are now part of Abraham’s family, and you will be given what God has promised.” (Galatians 3:26-29 CEV)
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT)

The Importance of the Right View

Recently TV host Joy Behar (ii) said something that caught my attention (as well as the attention of many others!) She responded to a video of fired Trump staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman saying “Everybody who’s wishing for impeachment might want to reconsider. We would be begging for days of Trump back if [Vice President Mike] Pence became president… He’s scary.” Newman, said, “I’m a Christian. I love Jesus, but he thinks Jesus tells him to say things.” Behar quickly chimed in with her view. “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you. That’s called mental illness — if I’m not correct — hearing voices.”
Upon hearing this my mind went to the Bible’s view, to Hebrews 4:12-13. “For the word of God is living and active.” If God’s Word is

alive it’s active. And if it’s active then God does indeed speak to people today. Hebrews continues. “Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Not only does God speak – His words have tremendous power. God’s Word actively penetrates our depths. “Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow…”

No surgeon can do work on our souls. There is no surgical procedure that can correct a bad attitude, open a closed mind, change a lustful heart, alter a rebellious spirit, refocus a judgmental eye, or clear a clouded soul. These are all soul things and only the Word can penetrate and change them. Like a doctor in surgery, the Word probes our depths. Whenever the Word is heard -be it through preaching, reading, speaking, singing – it penetrates deep into the recesses of our being. It cuts into and through what nothing else can; it goes where nothing else can go. It pierces to the very core of our life.

Consider this letter from the files of the Gideon’s Bible ministry.

“One winter morning in San Diego, after I had wandered many miles along the waterfront, in a daze, I turned my steps wearily toward my hotel room. I had been drinking heavily for weeks. My mind was tortured by the thoughts of the wife and four children whom I had deserted. Just yesterday, it seemed, I had been a radio executive, in charge of two radio stations. The home in which we lived, Beverly Hills, the cars, the servants–the things money and social position can provide for a man and his family–were just a memory. I had dragged my family down with me until they were living in a little hovel, and then, I had deserted them. I had suffered a complete nervous breakdown and, worst of all, I had completely lost my voice. For a year and a half, I had not been able to speak one word aloud, each effort to talk was just a whisper. The future held no promise. I opened the door of my hotel room and flung myself into a chair in utter despair. My gaze fell upon a (Gideon) Bible on the floor. In a distracted sort of way, I picked it up and started to read. Old familiar words I had learned as a child, words of life, quick and powerful, leaped out of those pages and found their way into my heart. I fell to my knees, and spread the Bible upon the chair, and made a vow that I would not leave that hotel room, if I died of starvation, until there came into my soul a knowledge that my sins had been forgiven, until I knew that I passed from death unto life. With a surge of joy, I realized that God’s promises were even for men like me. In that hotel room, I found Calvary’s Cross; there I laid my burden down; there, the old man died, and a new one was born. From that place I walked in newness of life, a new creature in Christ Jesus, praise His Name! God straightened things out between my wife and me, and today she and I and our four children are back together again. The “peace that passeth all understanding” has loosed the taut nerves and muscles which had prevented normal speech, and God gave me back my voice.” The writer went on to become “First Mate Bob” on the long-time religious radio show “Haven of Rest.”(i)

Is it any wonder that, when explaining to the chief priests and Pharisees why they did not arrest Jesus, the Temple guards said “No one ever spoke the way this man does?” (John 7:46) Because His words were God’s! And God’s words penetrate! I’ve lost track of the number of times someone said of a sermon I preached, “Have you been reading my diary?” The Word cuts deep, penetrates and goes where nothing else can. Martin Luther had the same view. He wrote “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me. It has feet it runs after me. It has hands, it lays hold of me.” But then, perhaps he was mentally ill as well! Or was he?

Two views. Only one can be right. And having the right view is extremely important. As the apostle Paul wrote, “…For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…” I’d say that’s pretty important. I wonder if Joy, and Omarosa, think so too.

(i) Paul Myers, “Down and Out from Beverly Hills: One man’s encounter with a Gideon Bible,” in “The Golden Age of Hymns,” Christian History, no. 31.

(ii) Picture source:https://www.flickr.com/photos/peterhutchins/4921893130/

The Place of Honor

I was intrigued, although not surprised by a news item coming from the Olympics. One of our American athletes was upset that he did not get selected to carry the American flag during the opening ceremonies. He was upset with the selection process. Perhaps he should have been selected. Perhaps the selection process is flawed. I have no way of knowing these things. But I do understand the emotion that prompted his public comments and that is why I was not surprised.

We like to think the Olympics are a time for athletes to represent and honor their countries. But the reality is that for most athletes it’s a time to win and be honored. I’m not saying that’s bad or wrong. Rather my issue is that we all too easily equate honor with winning, with being selected to hold the flag. Honor is equated with being the top dog, the most popular, or the most respected. Honor goes to the one who hangs out with or is seated by people of influence. I understand because I’ve too often been there and believed that.

But is that what honor is all about? Jesus had a different perspective. He, in fact, talked about the banquet table and the seat of honor.

“When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table! “Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward.” (Luke 14:7-12 New Living Translation)

To the Scribes and Pharisees, who deemed themselves men of honor, Jesus said, “The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”(Matthew 23:11-12) Jesus taught his friends and followers the same thing.

“Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” “You don’t know what you are asking,”Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:20-28)

Not quite the same perspective, is it? The great news is that for Jesus it was not just a perspective. It was also His lifestyle.

As Paul later recorded:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very natureGod,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
(Philippians 2:3-11)

I’m not sure if Jesus’ view of honor would fit in the Olympics. But I wonder – what if we really lived for the true place of honor? What difference would it make? How would our world be different? Are you ready to take the place of honor?

Olympic Rings: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/13284311374/

Where in the World?

There’s little doubt that our world is in chaos. So much hatred, division, enmity, and spite. So many disasters, illnesses, and senseless tragedies. So much seems out of control. The result is panic, depression, discouragement, and despair. A few nights ago my wife and I even turned off the evening newscast – just one tragic story after another.

It’s hard to live with a positive attitude and to have hope for the future. It’s understandable that some are asking “Where in the world is God?” Or even “If there is a God where is He?” I am certainly not about to write a thesis on the subject – at least not here. But I do have two brief reflections.

First, I believe that God is letting us have our way – and the consequences of that way. In Romans 1 the Apostle Paul painted a graphic picture. He posits the reason for the condition of the world: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness…” Then he lists the consequences of this rebellion and wickedness and three times states “Therefore God gave them over (gave them up)” to their desires. According to Paul, God has removed His hand of protection

and is letting the chips fall where they will – letting consequences kick in. The world is in the shape it’s in because God has said, “Have it your way.” We are getting what we deserve.

But if that’s the only answer to what’s happening it’s still pretty gloom and doom. So my second belief is important to balance things out. God is still in control. He is the Lord of history. He has put Jesus in charge. After His resurrection and just before He ascended to the Father’s right hand, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18) Paul came to understand this as well. “…he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” (Ephesians 1:20-21) “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

Years ago Jesuit Father Luis Espinal said it better than I can. “There are Christians who have hysterical reactions, as if the world would have slipped out of God’s hands… But we believe in history; the world is not a roll of the dice going toward chaos. A new world has begun to happen since Christ has risen… Jesus…Your sorrow has now passed. Your enemies have now failed. You are a definitive smile for humankind…We march behind you, on the road to the future. You are with us and you are our immortality!” Take away the sadness from our faces. We are not in a game of chance…You have the last word! Beyond the crushing of our bones, now has begun the eternal “alleluia!” From the thousand openings of our wounded bodies and souls there arises now a triumphal song!” So teach us to give voice to your new life throughout all the world. Because you dry the tears from the eyes of the oppressed forever…and death will      disappear…” (1)

Amen and amen. We do not live in fear but in faith because we live in the presence of Christ and all of God is available through Him. As a friend of mine once said, “I believe in God and He is the same God who stood by Moses and said, “What’s the problem? There’s sea in front of you? Watch this!”” That’s the God who is present in Jesus. May Jesus be my definitive foundation and motivation as I march behind Him into the future He has planned. I pray you will join me.

(1) As Quoted in “A Guide to Prayer”, Rueben P. Job/Norman Shawchuck, © 1983 Upper Room

The Truth From Calvin Revisited

Okay all you good Calvinists! Now that I have your attention…This is not about John Calvin – nor Calvin College. It’s about Calvin, as in “Calvin and Hobbes”. I enjoy and appreciate this great comic strip – not only for its humor but also for its wisdom and observations of life. One of my favorites is truly profound. Calvin’s mother says, ‘C’mon, Calvin. We’re going to the store.’ Calvin asks, ‘Can Hobbes come?’ ‘No, just leave him here’, mother replies. Shouts Calvin, ‘BUT I WANT HIM TO COME WITH US!’ As Calvin and Hobbes walk out the door together Hobbes observes, ‘If you can’t win by reason, go for volume.’

“Go for volume.”

Is this not a slogan and philosophy for many today? I wrote the original version of this blog 10 years ago – I suggested it was an appropriate theme for that time in history. Little did I know or could I comprehend how much more fitting it would be 10 years later.

There are so many loud voices today. It appears to me that many of the loudest voices (culturally, politically, religiously) are those of persons who are less concerned with the logic, reasonableness or truth of what they say than with the volume with which they say it. So they say it loud. The skill of and desire for true debate is rare. People seldom truly debate with each other anymore – they shout at each other instead. This past summer we witnessed this degradation in the so called political debates. I say ‘so called’ because they bore little resemblance to formal debates. I can only imagine what high school and college debate coaches must have thought. Certainly what they heard played out in these shouting matches bore little resemblance to what they taught and coached. Logic, reasonableness and truth gave way to volume, personal attack, and quotable tag lines. It should not surprise us that society at large has followed the lead. Perhaps Calvin was right – ‘If you can’t win by reason, go for volume.’

What a contrast to Jesus who was “oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).

Since He had, and indeed was truth, Jesus didn’t need to shout. (Read the Gospel of John where ‘truth’ is mentioned at least 50 times!) And without shouting He proved to be the truth that has set us free! If we know this truth, there’s no need to worry about volume! Just speak and live the truth – and that truth will speak for itself.

(Jesus carrying cross from: &copy; Gracel21 | Dreamstime.com – <a href=”https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-jesus-carries-cross-christ-carrying-up-calvary-image39086448#res13162905″>Jesus carries cross</a>)

It’s All About the Numbers

I admit it at the outset – I am a big fan of the Michigan Wolverines. But I write today not so much but as a fan as an observer of life. You have probably heard the moving, emotional, inspirational story of the plane crash that preceded their current run through the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments. The news has been filled with accounts of how the coaches, players and their families have been deeply impacted by the crash.

It’s not surprising that for all of them, life now has a different, or at least sharper focus. As I listened to and read these accounts my mind recalled Psalm 90:12 – “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

It would be nice to know the number of our days – or would it? Would it make a difference if you knew the number of your days? How would it change your life? If you knew for certain that you had 30,000 days, what impact would it have on how you live this day? If you knew for certain that you had 30 days, what impact would it have on how you live this day? My guess is knowing the number of days we have impacts how we spend our time today. It really is all about the numbers. The more days we know we have the less likely we are to focus on the really essential things of life today.

The late Zig Ziglar liked to talk about how much we accomplish on the days immediately preceding vacation. We know time is short and certain things have to be done – so we exercise great discipline and accomplish a tremendous amount of essential work in those days – much more than normal. His point was that we should treat every day as the day before vacation and accomplish much more than we currently do.

Isn’t that really the point of the Psalmist? Did he really want to know the number of his days? Or was he pointing out the benefit of not knowing? If we do not know how many days we have we are much more prone to make today count – to focus more clearly on the really essential things of life. That’s why I like the Contemporary English Version of Psalm 90:12 – “Teach us to use wisely all the time we have.” It’s really not about the numbers, is it? It’s really about how serious we are about making each day count.

Here’s what we know for sure. We do not know the number of our days and we do not determine the number of our days. Therefore each day is a gift of grace. As the Amplified Version states it, “Lord, let me know my [life’s] end And [to appreciate] the extent of my days…” It really doesn’t matter if we don’t know how many days we have – we have today. Value it as a blessing; live it with gratitude; fill it with purpose. As the Gaithers sang years ago:

Hold tight to the sound of the music of living,
Happy songs from the laughter of children at play;
Hold my hand as we run through the sweet fragrant meadows,
Making mem’ries of what was today.

Tiny voice that I hear is my little girl calling,
For Daddy to hear just what she has to say;
And my little son running there by the hillside,
May never be quite like today.

Tender words, gentle touch and a good cup of coffee,
And someone that loves me and wants me to stay;
Hold them near while they’re here and don’t wait for tomorrow,
To look back and wish for today.

Take the blue of the sky and the green of the forest,
And the gold and the brown of the freshly mown hay;
Add the pale shades of spring and the circus of autumn,
And weave you a lovely today.

Chorus: We have this moment to hold in our hands
and to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand;
Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come,
But we have this moment today.

Plane Crash Photo from:  http://www.mlive.com/wolverines/index.ssf/2017/03/details_and_descriptions_of_mi.html