Saturday, December 28, 2002

Living Free in 2003

I can’t believe it. It was there, I turned around and now it’s gone. People tell me it didn’t evaporate, but it sure feels like it. They tell me I can’t ever get it back but that I can get a new one if I’ll just wait.

It’s not as if this is the first time this has happened. Seems like it happens all the time. It’s just that it is happening more often these days.

Other people tell me they lose them, too. And that there is nothing we can do to stop it from happening more and more. In fact, those that are older say it happens more quickly to them. That is if they can remember it.

I’ve had a bunch of them – all of which are gone now. Some of them I used, some I wasted, most were a combination of the two. I really want to cherish the next one, the one that people tell me is coming.

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS HERB TALKING ABOUT? The past year. Is the description above true for you? The older I get, the faster it appears to go. When I was six it felt like forever between birthdays and Christmas days. Now I ignore birthdays. I have been in a holding pattern at 29 for some time. It’s getting harder to hold on to that now that Andrew is 20. Hey, I was a very young groom! Christmas feels like it repeats every couple months. And it feels like someone inserted an extra Sunday into every week. What in the world is going on?

Days are not getting shorter, hours are not moving faster. It is simply that the older we get, a year is a smaller percentage of our total existence. When I was six, a year was about a quarter of the life I could remember. At, ahem, 29, (or 45) a year is a very small slice. I’m not losing my mind; it just seems so much shorter.

“Well, Herb,” you’re thinking, “that is some of the least helpful information I’ve heard.” Hang on. Since there is nothing we can do to make the next year feel longer, we must live it with intentionality to prevent it from slipping through our fingers. Again. To live the coming year with hope and confidence. Let me make some suggestions.

We must intentionally pay attention to DIVINE ENCOUNTERS. Did you know that God is the God of divine encounters – those times when He invades our lives with His Presence and work? God reached into the magi’s circumstances to point them to Jesus. We don’t know how He did it and it doesn’t matter. The point is not the how but the fact. And it changed their lives.
You might think that God reaches into others’ lives, but not yours. Wrong! To say that is to call God a liar. The Bible says that God reaches into each person’s life every day. Most come in the routine, in small ways that might go unnoticed. A call, card or word from a person that brings encouragement. An “aha” moment of direction at just the right moment. A song that touches your soul and connects you to God. Just pay attention; God is intersecting your life all the time. He is the God of divine encounters.

We must intentionally accept God’s SECOND CHANCES. Did you know that God is the God of second chances – reaching into our lives to pick us up, forgive us, brush us off and offer another shot? What were the magi thinking when they went to Herod? They had followed the star for some 2 years, and then when they got close they followed common sense. A king will be born in a palace, right? We would never do that, would we? Of course. We do it all the time. But instead of getting tired of us and taking us out, God offers us second chances.

The Bible is full of people who didn’t deserve even one second chance, but who received a barrel full of them. Your church if full of the same kind of people. So’s your family. In fact, if you look in the mirror you’ll see someone to whom God wants to give second chances in 2003. Trust me, you’ll need them.

The devil tries to paralyze us by convincing us that our failure removes us from God and the work He wants to do through us. But God is the God of second chances.

We must intentionally seize NEW OPPORTUNITIES. Did you know that God is the God of new opportunities – opening doors to serve Him and others in ways that bring meaning to our lives? After the magi left Herod, followed the star to Jesus, worshipped Him and presented their gifts, God gave them a new opportunity to serve by covertly leaving the area instead of returning to tell Herod of Jesus’ location.

December 31 and January 1 are days to think about new opportunities. The world calls them New Year’s resolutions. God calls them new opportunities. What do they look like? Serving and giving in ways that brings meaning to life. Opportunities to grow, to step out in faith, to serve, to sacrifice, to share good news, to suffer, to be a friend, to care, to help, to use what God has given for a purpose higher than ourselves. It’s not about us, but about God and much bigger than us. And when we seize an opportunity our obedience provides another one. They build on one another and are oh, so satisfying. God is the God of new opportunities.

2003 is on its way and 2002 is on its way out. Before you know it, 2003 will be over. Here’s how we can make it a year to remember. Every day look for divine encounters, second chances and new opportunities. When we sight them, let’s write them down and tell a friend about them. Simple, easy, powerful.

Maybe I won’t lose this one.

"Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working."" John 5:17 (NIV)

"I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. " Rev 3:8a (NIV)

Monday, December 23, 2002

Experiencing Christmas

It was a typical elementary school “Winter” pageant. Parents were in the cafeteria with video recorders and cameras, ready to capture the timeless moment for posterity. (We veterans can tell the first time parents by their “this is the most important moment” attitude. I smile and think, “I was never like that.” Well, okay, maybe I was.)

Each class entered the cafeteria with their teacher, sat down cross-legged on the floor and waited for their turn to shine. Long ago the Christmas theme had been replaced by songs of reindeer, snow, the big guy in the red suit, good wishes and holiday greetings. Not much else was expected by those in the audience. It was a surprise, then, when the kindergarten class took the stage to sing, “Christmas Love.” The students were dressed in fuzzy mittens, red sweaters and bright caps. Thirteen of them stood on center stage preparing to hold up large letters, one by one, to spell out the title of the song. As the class sang, “C is for Christmas” a child was to hold up the letter C. Then “H is for happy,” and on and on until each child holding his letter would spell out the complete message, “Christmas Love.”

The performance was going according to plan until the small, quiet girl in charge of the M proudly held up her letter upside down, a W. The children in the audience responded like typical 1st through 6th graders, snickering at the little one’s mistake. Fortunately, she, oblivious to the laughing, proudly held up her W. Though the teachers tried to “shush” the children, the giggling continued until the last letter was raised.

Members of the audience, the adults and many of the children, saw it at the same time. A hush rippled over the audience and eyes began to widen. In that moment they understood the reason they were gathered, the reason why they celebrated the holiday in the first place, why even in the hectic hurry there was a great purpose for the festivities. For when the last letter was raised, the message the class proclaimed loud and clear read:

CHRIST WAS LOVE! He still is, and that is the meaning of Christmas.

Since most would agree, why do we miss it far too often each Christmas season? It is one thing to recognize the truth, it is a far different thing to EXPERIENCE it. We get caught up in “stuff” that causes us to miss the hugeness of the love of Christ. Why? Because we don’t connect with the depth of God’s love represented by December 25th. So how can we? I’m glad you asked.

The love of God expressed at Christmas must be possessed by accepting God’s UNCONDITIONAL ACCEPTANCE. We live in a world where love and acceptance are contingent on our performance. Do a good job at work and we’re accepted into the “club.” Be a good child and we’re accepted by our parents. Play well and we’re accepted on the team. Even in religion we’re conditioned to believe that if we do the do’s and don’t do the don’ts then God will accept us and love us.

To experience Christmas we must accept God’s acceptance of us just as we are. Jesus did not wait until we were good enough before He came to earth. The prodigal son’s father did not wait until he cleaned up his life to fly down the lane at breakneck speed to engulf his son in embrace. The father only waited until the son turned toward him. However, the unconditional acceptance is not experienced until it is received. Then how the love flows!!!

The love of God expressed at Christmas must be possessed by deriving our SIGNIFICANCE from God. We live in a world that convinces us that significance comes through what we accomplish, what we possess, what positions we hold, what power we wield or who we know. That is why the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” is so loved. We are created with a need for significance yet feel so insignificant because we are so ordinary. We’ve had dreams, just like George Bailey, that we believed would make us happy, prosperous and noticed. Most of us never realize those dreams and believe our lives haven’t mattered.

Experiencing Christmas comes from deriving our significance in our relationship with God. We matter so much to God that He sent His only Son to forgive us and have a relationship with Him. It’s about the relationship. Period. No matter how much we think we’ve done or failed to do. Receiving our significance through the relationship allows the love to flow!!!

The love of God expressed at Christmas must be possessed by gaining our SECURITY from God. Our world has been rocked since February 2000. The stock market has plummeted, the economy has tailspinned, the terrorist attacks filled us with fear, and every year we lose people we cared about. By all natural appearances we should feel insecure. Unless our security comes from Someone beyond this world.

We seek security in our nation, our jobs, our relationships, our money, and so many other things. However true security comes in only one flavor. GOD.

Experiencing Christmas comes from gaining our security in trusting God. God has promised that nothing can touch us in the ways that really matter if we place our whole weight on Him. Even when we cannot see what God is up to. Receiving our security through trust in Him causes the love of God to flow!!!

God created us with the needs for unconditional acceptance, significance and security. We all strive to get those needs met. In many, many ways. In many, many places. Through many, many things. But the only way for them to truly be experienced is in God through Jesus.
The Father sent Jesus that first Christmas to invite us to experience Him and all He provides. That can only be experienced by intentionally receiving Him. Will you accept all that this Christmas? You will not regret it.

"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." 16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them." -- Mark 10:15-16

"The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness." -- Jeremiah 31:3

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." -- Matthew 6:26-31-34

Friday, November 22, 2002

Crabby or Thankful?

There once was a man who lived in a $5 million house. But he was not happy. (Hard to believe, huh?) He COMPLAINED that the swimming pool wasn't the shape he liked, the chandeliers did not have the right reflections and the 3 kitchens were not laid out correctly. A friend who owned a $1million house could not believe it. He thought to himself, "If I lived in this house I would never COMPLAIN. I would have everything I ever wanted."

The man in the $1 million house went home, looked around and started COMPLAINING about his house. A friend stopped by who lived in a $ ½ million house and couldn't believe his ears. He thought to himself, "If I lived in this house I would never COMPLAIN. I would have everything I ever wanted."

The man in the $ ½ million house went home, looked around and started COMPLAINING. Why couldn't he live in a nicer house? A friend who lived in a $100,000 house happened to overhear. Astonished, he thought to himself, "If I lived in this house I would never COMPLAIN. I would have everything I ever wanted."

That man went home to his $100,000 house, looked around and began to COMPLAIN. Why couldn't he have it as good as his friend? A coworker who lived in a $50,000 home dropped in and heard the whining. Amazed, he thought to himself, "If I lived in this house I would never COMPLAIN. I would have everything I ever wanted."

On his way home he began to focus on all that he didn't have because he lived in a $50,000 home. As he stopped at the grocery store, he began to COMPLAIN to the man bagging groceries who lived in a $10,000 home. The worker was bewildered and thought to himself, "If I lived in his house I would never COMPLAIN. I would have everything I ever wanted."

The man bagging groceries started thinking. As he did he became dissatisfied with his $10,000 house. He grumbled to himself and to those buying groceries. A man counting out change, hoping there was enough to buy milk for his children, overheard. Perplexed, he thought to himself, "I live in an apartment! If I had any kind of house I would never COMPLAIN. I would have everything I ever wanted."

And the man started to COMPLAIN about the difficulty of living in an apartment and having just enough to scrape by. If the millions of people around the world who wake up every morning wondering if they will have any food to eat that day could speak to the man in the apartment, they would say, "If we had what you have we would never COMPLAIN. If we had a little food, a place to live and safety we would have everything we ever wanted."

Are you crabby or thankful? A COMPLAINING spirit comes from looking at what we don't have, at our problems, at others and at this world. A thankful spirit comes from looking at what we have been given, at God who is bigger than any problem, at ourselves and at the next world with all that God promises.

You may be thinking, "Herb. It's no big deal. COMPLAINING is a part of the Western Civilization Way. We just COMPLAIN when things go wrong or there's something we don't like." NOOOOO! It is serious. COMPLAINING is a HUGE sin and separates us from God.

COMPLAINING is actually spitting in the face of God

COMPLAINING is unbelief, not trusting that God will take care of us. (Lots of Israelites died because they COMPLAINED to God after He had done so many miracles on their behalf).

COMPLAINING is an ironic activity. By COMPLAINING we eliminate the possibility of enjoying what we have. By being grateful we open up untold vistas of enjoying what we do have.

COMPLAINING focuses us on that which is trivial in the scheme of the truly important.

DID YOU KNOW? At one point during the second winter in America, the pilgrims' daily ration of food was FIVE KERNALS OF CORN a day? Can you imagine? The records show no COMPLAINING but only gratitude and seeking God. Soon after God provided a ship from England. I wonder if the ship would have arrived if the pilgrims had chosen to COMPLAIN rather than be thankful.

You too have a choice during this Thanksgiving and Christmas season: be crabby or thankful. Like Bart Simpson, that great theologian, you can say, "Since we paid for all this ourselves, thanks for nothing!" Or you can consistently thank God for all that you have and have been promised.

Here's a suggestion to use sometime in the next month to foster gratitude. Place 5 kernels of corn or candy corn or beans or some other type of food on each person's plate at a meal. Ask each person to share what he is thankful for and eat one piece of corn. Go around the table five times until the food on the plates is gone. Join hands and thank God together for all He is and has done and promises to do. In the future, every time you start to whine, take it as a signal to express gratitude to God.

And then you will be a lot more pleasant and fun to be around. Just ask your friends.

"Do EVERYTHING without COMPLAINING or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe" Philippians 2:14-15 (NIV)

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, GIVING THANKS to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, WITH THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

Friday, November 08, 2002

Sense or Nonsense

I believe there is a conspiracy at our house. Against me.

Each one of our children has been introduced to foreign languages in seventh grade. A couple weeks of French, of German, and of Spanish. In eighth grade they choose one of those languages full-time. Sheila took German in high school and has been secretly lobbying each of the kids from birth to follow in her footsteps. I took Greek in college, but unfortunately, the school doesn't offer that. I took French in high school and thought that would be nice. (I can still recite the poem, "The Ant and the Grasshopper." I have NO IDEA what I'm saying but my French teacher was bound and determined we would leave her class with something.)

Amber is now in eighth grade and taking, you guessed it, German. She reports to us at the supper table of the words she is learning. Sheila asks her questions about other words and phrases in German. And I have NO IDEA what they are talking about. They could be calling me an ugly dog and I'd take it as a compliment! (Maybe it WOULD be a compliment?!) I decided to fight back. "I'll show them," I thought. "I'll talk in German, too."

So one night as I was hugging Amber and Chadd goodnight, I said, "Gutten Noggin." "Good-night is 'Gutten Nacht,’" said my wife. "Gutten Nac-HT!" said I. Sheila just shook her head.

The next night… "Gutten Noggin, Chadd." Patiently my wife corrected me. "Gutten Nacht." "Gutten Nac-HT," I repeated. This went on night after night, Sheila getting more and more irritated. She wasn't sure if I was simply a slow learner (she's not the first) or if I was doing it intentionally. After a couple of weeks, in frustration she said firmly and boisterously, "It is Gutten Nacht! If you're going to say it, SAY IT RIGHT! There is no such word as Gutten Noggin!" "There is now," said I. Hey, there was no word, "ain't" in the dictionary when I was growing up, but there is now. I figure if they can add a word, so can I.

So every night as I hug my kids goodnight, I glance over at my lovely wife with a mischievous smile. She gives me another look that communicates, "Don't do it." But I can't resist. "Gutten Noggin, my children." "It is not Gutten Noggin! Oh, never mind," say she.

I've been thinking about going into Amber's German class to tell them about my new word. But I'm afraid. You see if I go into her class, I’m certain I would feel out of place. No, not because I'm so tall. I've gotten used to being around short teenagers. Because I wouldn't have a clue what they are talking about. The teacher would be speaking in German. The students would be responding in German. They could be calling me an ugly dog, I'd respond with the only German I know, "Gutten Noggin," and they'd all laugh at me. And you know how easily I am embarrassed. It would sound like nonsense to me.

Would it really be nonsense? No. It would simply be a language I don't understand. It would make perfect sense to those who understand the language, but gibberish to me.

When it appears that life doesn't make sense, is it really nonsense? Or are things operating in a language I don't understand? It feels like gibberish, but maybe, just maybe it is a language that I’m still striving to learn – the language of heaven.

More importantly, when it appears that God is not making sense, is it really nonsense? Or is he operating in a language we don't understand? Is it possible when it appears that our prayers aren't answered, that life is unfair, that we don't get what we deserve, that God is far away… that it is because God has a language that we can't understand? Could it be that in those times we need to trust God and do as He instructs because we will never fully understand the language and ways of heaven until we get there? Oh, we can learn some of the words and phrases. Enough to get us by. But the depths will not be understood until we arrive on the other side.

It may seem like nonsense to us, but in heaven it makes more perfect sense than we could ever dream. And if God tried to tell us, to explain things to us, we'd blow a gasket anyway.

Are you facing something that doesn’t make sense? Figure it out if you can, but if you can't, trust God that there is no nonsense when He is in charge. It’s just too big for us right now. But someday…

Gutten Noggin, my friends.

""For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. 9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Some Things Have Changed, Most Things Have Not

At the risk of sounding like an unpatriotic scrooge, here are some thoughts as we remember the tragedy America experienced one year ago.

It is a time to reflect. As we did a year ago, we should stop to gain perspective on what is important, thank God for all He has given us, and adjust our lives to live for what matters.

It is a time to pray for those who continue to suffer. The tragedy brought irreparable damage to many, many lives and families. We must not forget them.

It is a time to remember those who acted sacrificially in service to others. We should applaud those who have acted as heroes during and after the tragedies. Those are people to thank and remember.

It is a time to praise God for all the good that has risen out of tragedy. We should celebrate the stories coming out of New York of people who have sincerely turned to God. God wants to use all things to pull people to Himself.


Some things have changed in the past year. Many things have not.

Though there was an initial increase in church attendance, the initial flood of people to churches in most of the country has long subsided. Human nature is to turn to God when threatened and neglect Him when the fear is gone. Who would have imagined anyone wanting to take the words “under God” out of the pledge of allegiance on September 12? Our society, by and large, is back to its old self-centeredness one year later. We want God on our terms, a heavenly sugar daddy instead of the holy God of the universe. God will only be in our lives on His terms. Sorry. Actually, no I’m not. He’s GOD! A very, very good God to those who love Him on His terms.

The messages God gave me on September 13, 2001 are still true. Why is the country stopping to remember those killed in the terrorist attack? May I propose that it is not so much because people died, but that we all feel violated by an outside attack? Because it affected us personally? Because it was so tragic? Because so many died so senselessly and suddenly? Because the planes exploded in places that we had visited? Because of the horrific nature and the vulnerability we all felt? Yes, yes and yes.

But wait. Almost a million and a half babies were killed last year. People in the US murdered one another to the tune of 15,500 people in 2000. Over 2,400,000 people died in the United States in 2000. Read that figure again – 2.4 MILLION. That figures out to about 6,500 people every day. Over twice the number of people killed in the attacks. Many of them are dying heroically – firemen and policemen and emergency workers and ordinary people acting in extraordinary ways. Where is the memorial for them? What about those “ordinary” people who day after day are good moms, dads, neighbors, co-workers, and friends?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not minimizing what happened a year ago – just trying to put it into perspective. Truth is, Todd Beamer was a hero long before September 11 because, by all accounts, he was a Christian being a good dad, husband, neighbor and friend. That is a hero. So were many of the other folks who died. Some of the other folks were victims, simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

God also told me, “There is something worse than dying – that is dying without a personal relationship with God and going to hell.” That is still true. I sense the urgency even stronger than a year ago. Those who went to heaven received the goal of this life, an eternity far beyond our wildest imagination. Even though the folks they left behind have a gaping hole in their lives, September 11 for those Christians was a magnificent, glorious, wondrous coronation day. That is not a tragedy, but a triumph that God desires for everyone. If Todd Beamer could return, oh, the wonders he would tell.

Those who died without a personal relationship with God through Jesus lost more than their lives; they landed in an eternity far worse than the most horrific pain of the burning building. Not everyone goes to heaven, only those who place their lives into God’s hands through Jesus. Dying was not the worst thing for those people – it was the beginning of the worst thing. Hell. Forever.

Life is preparation for eternity. If we have the relationship with Christ here, it is perfected in Heaven. If we refuse it, we lose everything in Hell with no second chances.

Perhaps part of what we felt and revisit today is the facing of our own mortality. I hope so. Life is short. Just ask any of the families of those who died. Life is too short to make the things that don’t matter into huge issues. SO STOP THAT!! Let God put things into perspective by turning to Him and trusting Him with your whole life. Then when death comes, it will be OK because it will be coronation day for you. It will more than OK, it will be tremendous, the culmination of all that we long for. It will be the best day of our lives. Really.

Please take some time to read and meditate on the following scriptures and spend some time in reflection on your life and your future.

""For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." John 3:16-17 (NIV)

""Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." 5 He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." 6 He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars--their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."" Revelation 21:3-8 (NIV)

""There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.' 25 "But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'" Luke 16:19-26 (NIV)

Friday, August 30, 2002

What Did We Expect?

The world is shocked, appalled, devastated, surprised, disappointed by the many discoveries of corporate fraud motivated by greed. But what did we expect?

The older generation looks at the lack of morals and values by so many in the younger generation and wonders what the world will be in a couple of decades. But what did we expect?

Those who enjoy sports cannot believe that millionaires who get to play baseball for a living would even consider going on strike. But what did we expect?

The entertainment industry is constantly pushing the envelope on what is allowable in TV, movies and music until it appears most is unfit for human consumption. But what did we expect?

And those of us who are striving to present the message of hope and love in Christ struggle to find many who are interested in the depths of what God offers. But what did we expect?

A society that has no sense of absolutes is bound to experience the harvest of that lack. Harvesting is that way. A little history. In the fifties the music industry pushed on the boundaries of absolutes and found them to be softening. But Elvis and some of the others didn’t seem too harmful and so we said, “Okay.” In the sixties the prosperity of the post world war economy, the “if it feels good, do it” attitude and the questioning of moral absolutes came together in an unparalleled rebelliousness in America. Everything was up for grabs. Christians were thrown backwards by the sheer blatantness of it all. The root of relativism was planted and selfishness became king. Moral absolutes were abandoned as prayer was taken out of school, the Ten Commandments no longer ruled, and relativism replaced religion.

The seventies were a continuation of the sixties without the riots. Instead a steady revolution continued to undermine right and wrong. The eighties and nineties saw the kids from the sixties take positions of corporate and governmental power. They had not changed except that now they wore ties instead of tie died T-shirts. Though they possessed position they had never recovered the absolutes they abandoned decades before. Instead of a plumb line of right and wrong to guide them, they pursued a path of selfishness, rule bending and relativism. It simmered underneath the surface for the most part until recent events. Then the moral vacuum was exposed as the corruption hit the national spotlight.

But what did we expect? That a society without absolutes would somehow find its way to honesty, integrity, character and fairness to all? No, we’ve reaped what we’ve sown. Corruption, self-serving actions, destruction of thousands of retirement benefits, and favoritism have rippled throughout the world. Decency standards in entertainment have been worn away and the industry is influencing folks to lower standards even further.

"The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:8-9 (NIV)

But what did we expect? The only sure way to reap anything different is to reestablish absolutes. There must be some standard to hold us strong when the tests and temptations of life come. Otherwise everything is up for grabs. But absolutes are of little value unless they are founded on something that is absolute. Where do we turn? Remember those Ten Commandments that were once displayed in every school classroom? That’s it. From there we can move to open up the rest of the Bible, God’s authoritative truth, to discover the absolutes to live by in every situation.

How can we influence an entire nation that has lost its way? The same way the absolutes have been worn away – by consistently, persistently living them out individually and influencing those around us one person at a time. A return to God and His absolutes will not happen by mandate, but by individuals and groups of people living by God’s standards in His power for His purposes. We will not see an immediate difference. We may not even see much in our lifetime. But we dare not stand idly by, throwing rocks at the lack of morality in frustration. Rather let’s be the light that shines the way for those who desire to find God.

Then what can we expect? At least a group of people who desire God and strive to live by His standards. And who knows where the ripples of that might go! NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF GOD WORKING THROUGH THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.

So are you with me? One day at a time. One person at a time. In every situation, from the smallest, seemingly insignificant decision to the huge things in life, living by God’s absolutes. Let’s do it together.

"He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches." 33 He told them still another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough."" Matthew 13:31-33 (NIV)

Thursday, July 11, 2002

What Kind of Trip is That?

Let me tell you about my trip.

Before we left on the trip I purchased a map. It was a good map. But at the first rest stop, I noticed another map so I bought it. When we stopped for gas, the convenience store had an entire rack of maps, so I bought a couple more. It seemed that every time I turned around I found a newer map, or a different colored map, or a bigger map that I simply had to have. So I bought them. It got so that I was throwing away perfectly good maps because I had so many.

Before we left, I also purchased traveler’s checks. As we drove I pulled them out once in a while to look at them, admire them, hold them and then put them back in my bag. My children asked to stop for food. I explained that we didn’t have any money. “What about the traveler’s checks?” they asked. “Oh, no we can’t use those. We might need them some day.” So my children went hungry as I hoarded our travelers checks.

For this trip I rented a van. It was a nice van, brand new. Each time we stopped, I jumped out to clean the chrome and check for dents. I changed the oil every 400 miles. My children asked to listen to a CD. “No, it might get the CD player dirty.” I made them sit in the van, hands folded, shoes off to make sure they didn’t harm the van or get it dirty. The longer we traveled the more fanatical I became with the condition of the van and how it looked to others.

Do you have any idea how impertinent other drivers are these days? They didn’t want to give me my rights on the road – the right to be at the front of the pack, the right to drive where I want to drive at the speed I want to drive. I had to cut people off constantly to keep them in their place. Hey, I deserve to be first, you know.

When we did stop to eat on this trip, I insisted that we only eat at five star restaurants. Well, I did anyway. I left the rest of the family in the van. But I ate and very well, insisting on the finest 7 course meals, demanding to be served and catered to. Basking in the experience, lingering at the table. I always made certain I sat by the door so that when the meal was over I could slip out the door without paying. Back to my starving children.

Finally, after many days of travel, we approached our destination. Instead of being excited, I was very sad, very nervous, very anxious. Earlier on the trip I drove like a maniac. Now I slowed to a crawl. In fact, I did everything I could to avoid going to the destination. Eventually, when I could put it off no longer, we arrived. My dehydrated, starving, crying children in the back of the van.

“You are a stupid man!” you are probably saying, (if you believe I really took this trip). And you would be right. Not only stupid, but insensitive, despicable, selfish, conceited and more.

My priorities are completely turned upside down. It is obvious I missed the entire purpose and value of the trip. If that is so, and it is, then WHY DO WE DO IT ALL THE TIME?

The trip is the journey we call life. It begins at conception and ends at death. It is a trip through human existence. Life is not a destination, but a journey. That view changes everything.

The maps are our possessions. We buy, gather and keep buying even though what we have can still serve our purpose. Why? Because the new, the different has selfish appeal and we justify our purchases with high sounding words.

The travelers checks are our money. We work to get it, value it, admire it, hoard it and spend it selfishly while people in our lives go needy. Why? Because it has selfish appeal.

The rental van is the body we live in. God gives it to us for the journey. As we travel we can get obsessed with how it looks and functions. We forget that God expects proper care, but intentional use while we are on this journey.

The demands for rights on the highway are our position and reputation. We believe the constitution as if it is the Bible when it says we have the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” We forget the only position that is truly is important is our position in relationship with God and the only reputation that is ultimately important at the end of the journey is how God thinks about us.

The meals at five star restaurants are our desire for pleasures our way. We want to feel good. God has created pleasures to enjoy His way, but our selfishness lures us toward pleasure our way, ignoring others along the way. Remember my poor starving children suffering while I was in the restaurant? You say you would never do that? We do it anytime we choose pleasure our way – it always hurts God and others. Always.

The sneaking away without paying is our character. What do we do when we think no one is watching as we journey?

Finally, the destination is our eternity via death. It is easy to forget we are simply passing through and to become obsessed with the trip and the tools instead of the destination. When we fixate on the trip we fear death, try to avoid it at all costs, get nervous as we approach it. When we focus on the ultimate goal we realize death is the doorway to the destination of this journey.

The reward at the end of life will be determined by how we travel through the human journey. If we have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ and live to do the works He has prepared for us to do, the reward will be great. If we have a personal relationship with God but only do enough to get by, we might make it to heaven but there will be no reward. If we ignore God and live this journey our way, well, we ought to fear eternity because it will be eternal punishment.

So, how are you going to travel from now forward? It is never too late to start traveling right. Use the map, the travelers checks, the rental, the highway, enjoy the pleasures, develop Christ like character and approach the destination the way God has designed. Pleasing Him and serving others in small and large ways. We have nothing to fear as long as we are pleasing God. Travel well. I’ll see you at the end.

"For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames." 1 Corinthians 3:11-15

"He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me... 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." Matthew 10:40, 42

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3

Saturday, June 22, 2002

The True Look of Power

Of all the miracles God has ever done, which would you give first place on your top ten list? Creation of the world? Parting of the Red Sea? (Charlton Heston got some mileage out of that one). Tearing down Jericho? Saving Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the fiery furnace? Feeding thousands with several sardine sized fish and some biscuits? Perhaps one of the many healings Jesus provided? Putting the guard’s ear back on his head after Peter swung his sword? There are so many to choose from.

Did you know God has one at the top of His list? Yep. Here it is…

"17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way." Ephesians 1:17-23 (NIV)

The greatest display of God’s power is putting life back into a very, very dead body. The power of God is best displayed in bringing life where death appears to reign.

The human race has been able to accomplish the incredible. Banish diseases, communicate without wires, walk on the moon, even make “food” out of chemicals. But we cannot put life back into a body that has surrendered it. Perhaps our power in so many other places causes this powerlessness in the face of death to frustrate us more deeply. We stand beside the body of a loved one and feel so powerless, are so powerless because there is nothing we can do to bring him back.

Ah, but God. God. GOD is not limited as we are. He brought Jesus back to life with no trouble at all. And some day, will bring all back to life. No matter what conditions those bodies are in. The power of God is best displayed in bringing life where death appears to reign.

It is still happening today. No, we don’t see people crawling out of caskets very often. But we do see God bringing life where death appears to reign.

A man who has pursued position and pleasure, neglecting his family and hurting his friends turns to God for forgiveness. Life comes where death appeared to reign.

A woman has given up on a marriage that is stone cold dead. She turns to God because nothing else has worked. God brings life where death reigned in her heart and over the course of time brings life to her husband and their marriage. The power of God is best displayed in bringing life where death appears to reign.

A teen is on the brink of ending it all. Nothing seems to matter or make sense. When all seems lost, God’s love penetrates to bring life where death reigned.

God wants to give us His power. More than we want to receive it. So what is the hold up? Look at the scripture again. When did Jesus receive God’s power? Only after surrendering to the Father’s will, going to the cross and dying. He had to die first, then the life giving power came to bring life where death had reigned and seated Him on the throne of heaven. No surrender, no death, no power. Great surrender, great death to self, great power.

Same with us. When does life come to our souls, our marriages, our churches, our dreams? Only after we surrender them to God in trusting obedience and die to ourselves. And only then. As long as we want control, we will remain dead. Even when we think we are alive. (There are a whole lot of walking dead people around us). But at the point of giving ourselves in obedient surrender to God, we experience the life giving power. No telling God what to do. No making deals with Him or attempts at manipulation. Simply giving ourselves unconditionally.

One other thought. That power is most often funneled through a Christian in whom God’s power is at work through His Spirit. Don’t look for it “out there,” watch for it to come through one of God’s kids. And those of us who are God’s kids must allow that power to work through us.

So, what do you need God’s power for today? He’s willing and ready. Don’t tell Him what to do, just give Him yourself and your circumstances. No conditions, no preconceived ideas, no timelines, no fine print, no buyout clauses. Just surrender into the arms of your loving heavenly Daddy and let Him work.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002


The popular acronym, WWJD, has been around for several years. It’s a good one. What Would Jesus Do? A good question to ask when contemplating any plan of action.

I have another one. I think we should make bracelets and jewelry to remind us of a different question to ask when facing all circumstances. WIGS? What Is God Seeing?

I happened across this question in the past few weeks as I’ve thought about situations that make me go, “hmmm.” Those circumstances that appear wrong, upside down and sideways. That frustrate us and anger us and make us cry and challenge our faith. I’ve realized that our first impression of those is nearly always from a human perspective. And that the human perspective never gives us ability to see what is really happening. Only God’s eternal perspective gives us the ability to see the true picture. Thus, “What Is God Seeing?” is the question to ask.

The king of Aram was ticked at Elisha, (2 Kings 6). His majesty was trying to defeat the nation of Israel and Elisha continually warned the king of Israel. When the army of Aram set an ambush, Elisha warned Israel. When Aram planned to attack, Israel knew of it because of Elisha. The king of Aram became so enraged he gathered his leaders and asked, “Which one of us is on the side of Israel?” "None of us, my lord the king," said one of his officers, "but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom."

Now you would think, wouldn’t you, that since Elisha had demonstrated such incredible ability his majesty would pause just a bit before charging headlong against such a prophet. Nope. The king of Aram immediately sent troops to capture Elisha. The prophet’s servant woke up the next day to see the chariots and horses of Aram surrounding the city. "Oh, my lord, what shall we do?" the servant asked.

Press pause for a second. What was the servant seeing? Horses, chariots, soldiers, danger, impossible odds. Were they real? No question. The result was fear and panic. He thought it was over, curtains for them all.

Back to the story. Elisha seemed far too calm. Instead of fear he exuded confidence. Unruffled, he replied, "Don't be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." And Elisha prayed, "O LORD, open his eyes so he may see." Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

Press pause again. What did Elisha see? Soldiers, chariots and horses AND horses and chariots of fire straight from Heaven. I wish I could have seen the look on the servant’s face! That would have been priceless. Were the horses and chariots of fire real? Oh, yeah. Just as real as the army of Aram. Why could Elisha see both armies? Because Elisha was seeing what God sees. When God opened the servant’s spiritual eyes, he saw what God sees.

Most of the time we only see part of the picture. Not even the best part. Because we are only viewing what we can touch. The human perspective. Pretty stupid, huh? Yep. Me, too. This is where the acronym comes in. When we look at life, we need to ask WIGS -- What is God seeing? Then we need to pray as Elisha, “Open our eyes so we may see.” When we do, God will pick us up, put us on His shoulders to see our lives as He sees them. The big picture. Not all the details and results, we are finite after all. But enough of His eternal perspective to give us confidence and trust in Him no matter what we’re facing.

So what are you seeing these days? What are the soldiers of Aram in your life? Would you like to be flattened by fear and panic, or would you like to watch unruffled as the forces of heaven are unleashed into your life? I thought so. Then ask … WIGS? And allow God to open your spiritual eyes.

For the rest of the story read 2 Kings 6:8-23.

Thursday, May 16, 2002

A Question From God

I was lying in bed a while back, praying. Not the ordinary kind of prayer. Deep, passionate, heart prayer. I had disobeyed. No, I had not “stumbled” or “fallen” into sin. I had deliberately chosen to disobey God. I knew it at the time and was feeling it now. I was in agony. It wasn't just the guilt, it was that I had broken the heart of my Heavenly Father. My prayers went something like this…

“God I feel awful. I have sinned against you again. Why do you put up with me? I don’t deserve a relationship with You or Your love or forgiveness. I have turned against You and hurt someone else in the process. I am guilty. I feel so bad for disobeying You. Why do you put up with me?”

As I was wallowing in my self-loathing, I heard God’s voice as His Spirit quietly spoke to my spirit. I figured He would and expected something like, “You’re right! You are an idiot. Over and over and over you just keep blowing it. You make me sick, but I have to forgive because I said I would. But I’m putting you on probation. So get it right.” That’s what I expected. In the back of my mind I thought it could also go like this, “Now, now, now. I love you and forgive you. You are my child so crawl up into my lap.” That’s what I get for having preconceived ideas.

What I heard was a blunt question. “When your kids mess up, what do you do?”

"I love them. I discipline them if I have to. But I reach out to them, pray for them and care for them even more than usual. I do everything I can to restore them. I help them know they are accepted and cared for through words and hugs."

"Exactly! Now, if you do that for your kids, don't you think that's how I'll treat you? And more!"

"Wow!" I said through tears.

A couple days later, God spoke again, this time through a book. "God expects more failure from you than you expect from yourself." On the surface, that sounds strange and disheartening. But stay with me here. It is not that He WANTS us to fail; it's just that He knows us, that we will fall or fail from time to time. We have the idea that we should be perfect and when we aren't we are surprised at ourselves. God knows that we are not perfect. And when we fall or fail, He is not surprised, but ready to forgive and help us up. In fact, when we start believing we are perfect, He'll stick out His foot and trip us up so we'll come back to Him. Pride always causes a fall.

I know what some of you are thinking… "That kind of talking will cause people to think it's OK to do whatever they want to do. They'll take it as a license to sin."

No, not if they are grabbed by God's love. Rather than giving me license, God's words caused me to desire to live in deeper obedience than ever before. I don't want to disappoint Him, I don't want to experience the separation, I don't want to break His heart. Because I have experienced His forgiving Daddy love.

I am still overwhelmed by God's words to me. Out of His love and faithfulness He picked me up, dusted me off, sat me on His lap for a while, and then placed on His path again. He has engulfed me with His ungraspable love and I am more motivated to please Him than ever before.

Have you and are you? I hope so. If not, why not today?

Crawl up on to His lap to experience ultimate love. You can trust Him.

"The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness." Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)

"And so we should not be like cringing, fearful slaves, but we should behave like God's very own children, adopted into the bosom of his family, and calling to him, "Father, Father (Daddy, Daddy)."" Romans 8:15 (TLB)

Friday, May 03, 2002

You paid what?

Maybe you heard about this… A collector auctioned a chewed piece of gum on the internet that was supposedly thrown on the ground by Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Luis Gonzalez. A CHEWED piece of gum. Already used, spat out, discarded by the owner. The auction started a controversy. Well, I would think so. I mean, really, selling a chewed piece of gum! But that was not the source of the controversy. It seems a security guard reported that the collector had simply picked up the nearest piece of gum after a spring training game. The controversy was that it might not be the one chewed by Gonzales. The solution: Gonzalez has agreed to chew a fresh piece of gum and send it to the collector and the money will be donated to a high school sports program.

“That was a runaway train that needed to be stopped,” said the player about the controversy over the authenticity of the gum.

Now, you’re probably wondering how much the collector sold the piece of gum for, aren’t you? Are you ready? Sit down, take a deep breath. Three thousand dollars. That’s right. A 3 with 3 zeros. For a chewed piece of gum!!! (World Magazine, 4-20-02).

So I have an idea… let’s all chew some gum, auction it on the internet and raise money! Let’s see $3000 a piece... if we can get every one who receives this newsletter to participate we can raise over a million dollars. And if each one can get three others… Where have I heard that before?

Something is wrong here. We have a huge problem when someone is willing to pay thousands of dollars for a chewed piece of gum. I don’t care whose teeth mutilated it.
Think about it, every day clean up crews are paid thousands of dollars to REMOVE chewed gum from floors, chairs, tables, carpets, sidewalks and parking lots. What are we thinking?

We hear stories like that, shake our heads and ponder, “There are sure some stupid people in our world.” And we are right. And we are some of them! Some of OUR values are just as stupid. That’s right. Yours and mine and we are often blind to them. The greatest tragedy is that some are not just stupid, but eternally destructive and disastrous.

Listen to the words of Jesus…

"He (Jesus) said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight." Luke 16:15 (NIV)

Think for a moment about the things that are highly valued by our culture. The Apostle John captures 3 broad categories in 1 John 2:15-17 that include all of man’s highest values: pleasure, possessions and pride. They are amazingly consistent throughout history. The methods for getting them change, but the values remain the same. The types of pleasures change, but the value remains the same. Gluttony of natural food to exotic, junk food; homemade wine to hundreds of types of alcohol; illicit sex to cyber pornography. The types of possessions change but not the underlying value, “Nice cave…nice hut… nice cabin… nice house.” Or “nice walking stick… nice horse… nice chariot… nice wagon… nice car.” The types of power change, but the value remains the same, head of the tribe… head of the village… head of the kingdom… head of the office.

All of which Jesus said is not simply undesirable, but detestable in God’s sight. The Herb translation is that it will make God vomit. He can’t stand those distortions of His creation and WON’T. And will not forever put up with those who pursue them.

WELL, if God is that serious about this we need to understand and own His values. The good news is that we don’t have to look far to find them.

"Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."" Mat 22:37-40 (NIV)

There we have the broad categories of God’s values: Love God first with everything we are and have, and love other people just as much as we love ourselves. Those have not changed throughout history, and never will.

God’s values lead to life, man’s values lead to destruction.

God’s values prepare us for real life on the other side of the door we call death, man’s values lead us to real death in eternal separation from God and all that is good.

Here’s the great irony… If we live for God’s values now, we get pleasure, possessions and position beyond anything our minds can dream up. In all purity and godliness as God originally designed. It’s true. Check God’s owners manual. But if we live for human values now, we lose everything we really want.

SO WHAT YOU GONNA DO? I choose God’s values. And life, peace, joy, and contentment that come with God’s love. And I choose it BOLDLY!

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

What About the Day After?

It was a day of egg salad sandwiches, deviled eggs, leftover ham, candy wrappers, storing the baskets back in the attic, changing the decorations in church sanctuaries and going back to whatever “normal” is supposed to be. Weeks of religious focus in Christian denominations and family preparations reached their climax on Easter day. Most folks pick up the eggshells, pick up the plastic grass and pick up their busy lives where they left off.

But what about Jesus?

For Jesus, Resurrection Day was just the BEGINNING, not the end. With a twinkle in His eye He greeted the women outside the tomb. “Surprise!” He seemed to say. “I am risen, glorified and more alive now than ever! Only now can I work in your lives as I really desire.”

With a twinkle in His eye He greeted the disciples gathered in a room. “Surprise!”

With a twinkle in His eye He appeared to the disciples again, Thomas now there. “Surprise! Come touch my hands and my side and believe!” He did and they did.

Standing on a beach, with a twinkle in His eye, He gave the disciples a lesson in fishing. Only after their nets were full did they recognize Him and rush to shore. “Surprise!” He seemed to say as He conducted a fish fry.

For forty days He showed up. “Surprise, surprise, surprise!” In unlikely places, at unlikely times, with unlikely words. Defying expectations, warming their souls with His Presence, getting into their hearts and minds with His words.

He led them to a hill, gave them final instructions, and miraculously rose into the heavens. “Surprise!” Who knows how long they stood staring into the sky or what they were thinking. An angel got their attention, (loosely paraphrased), “OK, that’s enough gazing into the clouds. Jesus will come back the same way, but now it’s time to obey.” He will and they did.

Jesus still shows up. With a twinkle in His eye He comes, “Surprise!” In unlikely places, at unlikely times, with unlikely words. Do you see Him? Do you hear Him?

Or are you so busy with cleaning up eggshells that you miss Him?

Ever wondered where Thomas was when Jesus appeared to the other disciples that first time? Maybe it was his fault, or maybe he drew the short straw to go get take out. But He missed Jesus either way. I don’t think His mistake was that he missed Jesus the first time, but that He was so brazen about his unbelief. Oh, but Jesus is so faithful. And so loving. And so caring. And a bit mischievous. He didn’t scold Thomas. He took Thomas at his word. With a twinkle in his eye Jesus invited Thomas to place his fingers in the nail prints and his hand in Jesus’ side wound. “Surprise” He seemed to say. Why? So that Thomas would believe the Resurrection and see Him when He appeared in Thomas’ future.

Jesus will do the same for you, you know. What will it take for you to see Jesus in the moment by moment living of your days? Funny, Thomas never did get around to touching Jesus’ scars. But I doubt that he ever again missed seeing Jesus when He showed up.

Jesus, through His Spirit, His Word and His Body (the people of God) wants to show up in your life. With a twinkle in His eye He’ll surprise you by what He will say and what He will do. If you notice. So put down the egg salad sandwiches and the vacuum for a while. If you need to touch the nail prints, tell Him. He’ll let you. He wants you to see Him more than you want to. Watch and listen and experience the Presence of Him, the Resurrected One, who offers life.

"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live." John 14:16-19 (NIV)

Tuesday, January 08, 2002

How Are You Traveling?

Every year religious folks around the world make a trip to their holy land. They save, plan, prepare and look forward to visiting a place that is sacred to them. Some travel because they feel they have to make the trip to keep their god happy. Others do it to plead for healing. Others believe a significant spiritual experience awaits them if they take the trek. They make the trip, do what they do, spend lots of money and return home.

Other folks travel yearly to the same spots as the religious folks. They save, plan, prepare and look forward to visiting a place that is of interest to them. Some travel because they have to make the trip to keep a relative happy. Others do it in hopes of an emotional healing from the change in scenery. Others believe a significant physical experience awaits them if they take the trek. They make the trip, do what they do, spend lots of money and then return home.

Do you know what the first group of people are called? Pilgrims. (And you thought that was something John Wayne made up.)

Do you know what the second group of people are called? Tourists.

Is there a difference? Yes, and it is HUGE!

So, what does that have to do with you? Oh…. everything.

Every year thousands of people reach the destination they’ve been traveling toward all their lives. It is the same spot for all. It is called eternity in heaven or hell. You get there by leaving this life through a door called death. Now, don’t look around like this doesn’t apply to you. Everyone is on the journey, and everyone reaches the destination.

So let me ask, How are you traveling? As a tourist or a pilgrim? Is life a journey or are you trying to make it a vacation? It makes ALL the difference in the world.

A tourist is on the trip for what he can get. He wants the ride to be smooth, the food to be good, the sights to be awe inspiring, the service to be wonderful, the weather to be grand, the natives to be cooperative, and the tour guide to take care of all problems. A tourist feels he has the right to complain when travel plans have to be adjusted, or when he gets bitten by bugs, or he has to wait for another tourist. His goal is to see the sights in comfort, take some photos, make some memories and get back home on time. All in total safety. With guarantees.

A pilgrim is on the trip to reach an important destination. All that matters is reaching the goal and accomplishing the intended purpose. He does not care if the ride is rough. He eats food that others would discard. He appreciates the sights but does not stay long. He expects good and bad weather. He is pleasantly surprised when there is service by others or a tour guide to help him. And he knows that sometimes the natives may try to hurt him. Instead of being irritated by other pilgrims, he will do all he can to help them along. He complains about nothing because he expects difficulty and is mentally, emotionally and physically prepared for it. His goal is reaching his destination and knows he may never return home. There are no guarantees. There is much danger. But he travels because of a higher purpose and nothing will deter him.

Let me ask you again, How are you traveling? As a tourist or a pilgrim? Look at the Apostle Paul’s words.

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me." Philippians 1:21-26 (NIV)

Life is not the destination, our purpose, our end. Heaven is what we were created for. So life was never meant to be a vacation. It is a pilgrimage. When we make that mental shift we will stop complaining, appreciate the blessings along the way as bonuses and pursue heaven’s rewards with perseverance, grit, focus and God’s power. Let’s enjoy the wonderful places along life’s journey while maintaining our pilgrim status. That’s how I’m going to travel. I invite you to come along. In the words of John Wayne, “Will you join me, pilgrim?” (I’m sure he said that sometime.)