Tuesday, December 25, 2012

With Mary and Joseph on Christmas Morning



I woke up early this Christmas morning, not because a child was shaking me from my slumber as in the “olden days” but because I AM old.  In the quiet I got to hypothesizing what it was like the first morning Mary and Joseph awoke with the Son of God in their arms instead of in Mary’s womb. 

After the onset of contractions that sent Joseph scrambling for ANY PLACE to lodge.
After the last minute check in to the stable. 
After Joseph had to do way more than boil water and pass out cigars.
After the arrival of God through a human birth canal!  One moment it was two; the next it was three - and the newest member of the trio had made the trip, not just from Nazareth, but from Glory.
After a strange smell wafted in and lowly shepherds darkened their door - and then worshipped. 
After they drifted off to exhausted sleep and awoke to the hungry cry of a newborn.  Of God wanting breakfast.

What was it like for the new parents to open their sleepy eyes to see that diminutive God-human needing a new set of swaddling clothes and demanding a meal? 

October 11, 1982, March 18, 1985, August 3, 1988, and December 3, 1989 were each days of wonder and awe as Sheila and I looked at a brand new child.  There are enough syllables to articulate what happens in a parent’s heart.  I think that is why God created tears.  Blubbering just seems to express so much more than incomprehensible stammering.  But those children showed up as billions of humans throughout the eons of time.  Oh, the wonder never dims, but it is normal.

Ratchet that up by as many multipliers as you can comprehend… peg the wonder meter to “overload”… try to get into the minds of these new parents gazing at a child born but never humanly conceived… and add in that Creator God was embedded in this helpless, fragile, toothless, wordless, immobile, less than ten pounds package of bone, blood and tissue.

Surely they stared as the hard drive in their brains spun out of control endeavoring to process it all!  How they must have wrapped their arms around the God-child as they tried to get their hearts around what God had done.  Certainly Mary composed a song to the Savior as she rocked and He cooed (I mean, she sang the Magnificat, after all!).

Most of all I think they gaped in amazed, astonished, anxious awe. 

“Can this really have happened, Joseph?” Mary may have asked.  “I know I was there (chuckle), but Joseph, it is so surreal.  This child… I know it was the Holy Spirit Who placed Him in my womb… I know the angel said He is Messiah… but, Joseph, LOOK at Him!  Now that He’s in my arms, it’s different.  Could God have really given us the honor, of all people who ever lived, to have His Son grow up in our home?”

Sheila and I still look at our kids with wonder, (though there were days during the teen era when it was a different kind of wonder).  We look in wonder at the miracle God performed in conception, birth and growth.

For Joseph and Mary, did the wonder ever wear off?  Did they look at the child every day and remember all the miracles?  Did they shake their heads in awe as Jesus said His first words… took His first steps… had His first birthday… put on His first “big-boy” tunic… got His first haircut… got His first “boo boo”.. went to synagogue the first time…?

Back to the animal shelter in Bethlehem.  On the day after the Holy Night, I can’t help but wonder what it was like.  Just the three of them alone in a town eighty miles from home.  But not really alone.  For the Presence of God was never nearer.

On this day, please recapture some of that wonder.  Because of that birth, life, death and resurrection, we too can experience the Presence of God nearer than ever.  Lean into the awe of what this day is truly all about.  The marvel that God is crazy in love with you!

Those kinds of moments, experiencing God’s crazy love and the awe that He does, are worth waking up way early on this Christmas Day.

16So they (the shepherds) hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:16-20 (NIV)

Boldly, Herb

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Friday, November 30, 2012

The Return of the King



The Return of the King

My wife, Sheila, was so excited when we woke up Saturday morning, while at the same time I was groaning.  What was behind those opposing emotions?  Not because it was Thanksgiving weekend. Not because the first day of deer season was Monday. Not because I was with her. 

IT WAS SNOWING!! 

Sheila gets delightedly excited when snow falls from the heavens while I dread the nasty wet stuff. The difference?  She looks forward the beauty of freshly fallen snow. She looks forward to the look of newness when it covers the earth.  She looks forward to days when shuts life down and when are forced to stay home.  She looks forward to the hush that falls when the snow hushes all noise.  She looks forward to walking in it and even shoveling it!  It’s about all the ways snow adds value to life.

I dread it the troublesome precipitation!! My thoughts go many directions, none of which have anything to do with beauty, newness, cozy days at home, romantic walks or hushing noises.  My thoughts are about trying to get off of the treacherous, icy, slick hill we live on, the dangers of driving in it, the aching muscles from shoveling it, paying for it to be removed, the wasted time I have to spend on it.  It’s about all the ways it sucks value from my life. 

Same snow.  Even the same home.  Sheila longs for it and I don’t have one cell in my body that wants it.

Very much like the two mindsets of humanity about Jesus coming back.

The Bible tells us we should be excited, longing, even praying for the Return of the King - Jesus.  Not just knowing it as a fact and promise of our Lord, but focused on it, LONGING for that day.  I’m ashamed to admit that I have not been LONGING for my Savior’s return.

“Both the Old and New testaments are filled with references to the second coming of Christ. One scholar has estimated that there are 1,845 references to Christ's second coming in the Old Testament, where 17 books give it prominence. In the 260 chapters of the New Testament, there are 318 references to the second advent of Christ--an amazing 1 out of every 30 verses. Twenty-three of the 27 New Testament books refer to this great event. For every prophecy in the Bible concerning Christ's first advent, there are 8 which look forward to His second!”  (Today in the Word, April, 1989, p. 27).

You get the idea that the return of the King is a big deal to God!  Something that we should be LONGING for.  But… most Christians I’ve met are not focused on Jesus’ return.  I’ve been asking myself, “Why?”  When the Bible gives it that much ink, why are we not doing the same? 

- Is it possible we’re too comfortable with earthly life to focus on the next?
- Is it possible we’re too caught up in the here to be longing for the hereafter?
- Is it possible we’re not convinced of the pleasure of Heaven?

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NIV) I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

I will not long for snow, but I’m working on longing for the return of the One Who loves me most.

How about you?

Boldly, Herb

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving: Thankful Compared to What?


Gratitude is all about comparisons.  Our level of thanksgiving is determined by that which we choose to compare our lives to.

I was so grateful, so perfectly content with my Blackberry for years.  In fact, MORE than content, I was happy, I was PROUD of my Blackberry.  Why?  Because I was comparing it with what I was not able to do with my old phone and handheld portable device.  My gratitude came from choosing to compare what I had with what I formerly did not have.  I was living a thankful phone life.

Until last May when my oldest son, Andrew, was in town shortly after exchanging his Blackberry for an iPhone and started this:
“Dad, let me show you how to get directions real quick… Oh, I forgot you have a Blackberry instead of an iPhone.  You really need to exchange that dinosaur.” 
“Dad, let me give you some pictures… Oh, I forgot you have a Blackberry instead of an iPhone.  You really need to exchange that dinosaur.”
“Dad, here’s a free app that will make your life so much easier… Oh, I forgot you have a Blackberry instead of an iPhone.  You really need to exchange that dinosaur.”

Then I visited my younger son in Seattle recently, who recently exchanged his phone for an iPhone.  We would both start to look something up and while my phone is still searching he is showing me the results.  He had an app for the bus routes of Seattle that got us around our sightseeing tour safely - you guessed it - that is not even AVAILABLE to my Blackberry.  Chadd is gentler than Andrew but still made it clear that I am still pre-historic, “Dad, you really need to exchange that thing for an iPhone.” (Children can be so, um, what would you say, sarcastic.)

All because of my sons, I’m no longer grateful for my Blackberry.  I am now comparing it with all the things I cannot do instead of all that I can do.  In a few short months I’ve gone from happiness to counting the days until my contract is up; from contentment to frustration; from pride to embarrassment.

Do you live a life of gratitude?  Depends on what you are comparing yourself to.  Phones are trivial but life is quite important.  Thanksgiving holiday invites us to give thanks; God ratchets it way up when He COMMANDS us to be thankful ALWAYS.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV) Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

In ALL CIRCUMSTANCES, regardless of what we have or don’t have.  For Christ followers, this is not an option.  So how?  By changing our point of comparison, moving it from what we don’t have to how much we have; from comparing it with what others have to how much we have compared to the rest of the world.  A family of 4 living at the poverty level in the US is in the top 10% of the wealthiest people in the world.  If your income is $40,000 you are in the top 3% of the world.  And if you make $50,000 you are in the TOP ONE PERCENT.  Of all people, we in this country have so very much to be thankful for. (http://www.globalrichlist.com/)

Let’s go one step further.  The best point of comparison that leads to deep gratitude is this: What do we deserve?  When we believe we deserve more than we have; when we believe it is our right to have the newest, latest, best, biggest we will always be unhappy.  What does God say we deserve?  Nothing.  No, that’s not quite right.  God actually tells us all we deserve is death and Hell.  When I fully embrace that, EVERYTHING I have is a bonus - and I will be extremely grateful.

When you sit at your Thanksgiving dinner table, to what will you compare yourself?  Your level of thanksgiving will be determined by that choice.  When I take a good look at Hell, I am extremely grateful for my wimpy Blackberry.

Boldly, Herb

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Destiny: Frog or Follower?


There was a frog that absolutely knew his destiny was to turn in to a handsome young prince. But for confirmation, he decided to visit a fortuneteller. The fortuneteller brought the frog in and gazed into her crystal ball. She said, “Oh, I see something. You are going to meet a beautiful young woman.”
      The frog gets very antsy, “Yes, I knew it. I’m going to become a prince.”
      The fortuneteller continues, “From the moment she sets eyes on you she will have an insatiable desire to know all about you. She will be compelled to get close to you--you’ll fascinate her."
      The frog is very excited. He asks, “Where am I? At a party? A restaurant? A book store?”
      The fortuneteller answers, “No, Biology class.”

The frog BELIEVED he was on the path to happiness, fortune, position and glory.  With ALL HIS HEART he believed.  He so believed that even as the fortune teller described his future the amphibian was seeing what he wanted to see, hearing through the lens of the believed destiny.  He filled in the blanks with pictures that came from desire rather than truth.  His belief actually blinded him to truth.  Wow!

Did the fact that he believed with all his heart change his destiny?  Nope.  Truth was still true.

How many of us see our future through the lens of desire rather than truth?  It paints a picture that is wonderful but is a fairy tale. 

There is a popular religious philosophy called “Universalism” that paints a fairy tale picture. And that fairy tale is embraced by many.  Universalism states that everyone will eventually go to Heaven. Everyone, without exception, will be reconciled with God and enjoy eternity in everlasting blessedness.  Sounds appealing because we don’t like to think of anyone we care about missing Heaven and entering Hell.  But what does truth say?  Over and over in Jesus’ teaching and that of the other New Testament writers we read that ONLY those who turn to God will go to Heaven.  In fact, Jesus says it is only a comparable FEW!!  Jesus’ words, not mine.


“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)
  
Who are the "few" who find the road that leads to Heaven?  Read on.

21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV)

Those who KNOW Jesus and, as a result, do the will of God are the few who go to Heaven.  Exclusively.

Fairy tale or truth. 

Someday we will stand before He Who is THE Truth.  Many will face it shocked and wide eyed like the frog as Jesus says “I never knew you” and go to eternal pain in Hell. Few will feel their hearts jump when Jesus welcomes them into Heaven.  At that point, all that matters is TRUTH.

What are you living?  Seriously, don’t get smug and flippant.  Take a hard look.  Are you really, really doing the desires of God out of loving relationship?  No excuses, no “oh, God will understand,” no twisting Jesus’ words even a little bit.  Simply a very hard look into TRUTH.  Better now than later.

Because the truth is what matters. 

Frog or follower? 

Boldly, Herb

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Romney, Obama and 180 degrees


If a Jupiterian (is that a word?), a person from Jupiter visited earth during the month of August 2012, he/she/it would have lived an interesting experience.

One week he/she/it would have discovered that, according to the roar of the crowds in Tampa, that Mitt Romney has all the answers for America to move toward Utopia in the next four years.  And that the nation is cheering madly for him.  And that Barack Obama has no answers and no supporters.

The next week he/she/it would have discovered that, according to the roar of the crowds in Charlotte, that Barack Obama has all the answers for America to move toward Utopia in the next four years.  And that the nation is cheering madly for him.  And that Mitt Romney has no answers and no supporters.

180 degrees from one another.  Completely opposite messages, completely opposite platforms, completely opposite support.

Or so it would seem.  But look more closely with me.  Pull back the veneer, get out the magnifying glass and what we will see is an embedded, generally accepted, taken for granted message shared by both.

I know, I know.  Some of you are thinking I was in the August sun too long.  Yet the message is the same.

Ready?  “The answers to life can be found in this world.  The human spirit is enough to turn around all our problems to have a healthy, prosperous, enjoyable life.”  Granted, they have different paths, but the same message.

180 degrees from reality.

This world is broken and human beings have been trying to fix it with their knowledge and skill for eons.  How’s that working for us?  Tower of Babel, Roman Empire, Constantine’s hijacking of Christianity, Middle Ages, industrial revolution, atomic energy and on and on it goes.  The human race has developed an incredible ability to take what is good and break it.

180 degrees from what we really want.

The answers are available… but not from this world.  After thousands and thousands of years doesn’t it just make LOGICAL sense (beyond spiritual) to try something different?  That is the definition of insanity, you know.  But we have also developed the incredible ability to deny truest reality and keep trying to figure it out and fix it.

I wonder what the Jupiterian’s report to HQ would be.  Ponder for a moment what God says.

“For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:25 (NIV)

“… so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” 1 Corinthians 2:5 (NIV)

 “What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” Luke 16:15b (NIV)

 We live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NIV)

180 degrees.  Will you join me in getting smarter by looking to the ONLY ONE with real answers?

Boldly, Herb

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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Pigs in a Blanket

Centuries ago Sheila and I were preparing for our wedding. “How about if we have pigs in a blanket at the wedding?” she asked. I thought it was rather strange that sausages wrapped in a pancake would be served at a wedding reception. But this was Toledo… in a polish family… not the first time I had discovered something odd about my wonderful fiancĂ©e… and she was the bride, so I agreed.

Months later we were walking hand in hand out of the sanctuary where, for some reason beyond my understanding, Sheila had said “I do” when asked if she took me to be her husband. “You need to get into the fellowship hall! They’re ready to serve the food,” my brand new mother-in-law exclaimed.

First in line (being the groom has a few privileges), we gathered our food at the buffet. I saw all the food we had requested except the pigs in a blanket. In their place were hamburger stuffed into cabbage covered in a red sauce. “Where are the pigs in a blanket?” I whispered to the woman in white beside me.

“Right there!”

“Right where?” Perhaps love really had blinded me. “I don’t see them.”

Sheila poked her fork at the cabbage rolls, “Right there!”

“Those aren’t pigs in a blanket,” I responded. “Pigs in a blanket are sausages wrapped in pancakes.”

“Why would we have sausages and pancakes at our wedding reception?”

“That’s what I thought when you asked to have them months ago, but, hey, it’s your wedding.”

“That’s just silly. Eat your pigs in a blanket and be happy.”

It was our first argument as a married couple.

Who was right? Both of us. In southern Ohio pigs in a blanket are sausages wrapped in pancakes. In northern Ohio they are hamburger wrapped in cabbage.

Neither one of us thought to describe them because we couldn’t imagine anything else. And so we were both blind to the reality of the other person.

Is it possible we have grown up in a world so upside down from God’s reality that we are blind to what is true? It’s not that we ever intended to be, it’s just that we have not spent enough time with God to see and hear Him describe what is real, what is true, what is valuable, what is important, what we should live for, what will matter while we’re alive and when we die. Is it possible that we think we know what God is talking about but will only find out on our “wedding day” (see Revelation 21) that what we thought was WAY wrong?

It’s not a big deal to know what pigs in a blanket are. It is eternally essential to know what is really real.

“What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” Luke 16:15b (NIV)

We live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NIV)

Boldly, Herb

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

We Want a Pill, God Requires a Process

Much is made of the 40 years the Israelites spent rootless in the desert after crossing the Red Sea without a bridge or a boat. Even people unfamiliar with the Bible know of that side trip. It was never meant to be that way. But it was. Because…

The Israelites wanted a pill when God required a process.

It is only about 250 miles, or about a month’s journey from the KOA at the Red Sea to the milk and honey stand at the Promised Land. Yet after two months they were not even gazing it. Did God fail them? Nope. God’s design was for them to spend a couple years or so in the desert preparing for the challenges ahead. These were idol worshipping, fearful, complaining, uneducated ex-slaves who didn’t know how to take care of themselves let alone go to battle for the Promised Land. God intended to use the comparatively short time in the desert to transform them into the people of God who could take the land from the people there, who would represent Him and who would bless all nations. The only way for that to happen was a process that would take more than 8 weeks.

But they insisted on a pill when God never relents on requiring a process.

Like every other person left to human tendencies, the Israelites didn’t want to wait, to say no to their desires, to allow the necessary process. They wanted the promises of the Promised Land NOW! They saw God’s delay as God holding out on them or punishing them when in truth He was protecting and preparing them for more than they could imagine.

The demanded a pill when God offers only the path of a process.

As a result, only two months after the ejection from slavery, they thought Moses was lost and they were abandoned. They felt Moses had been gone too long a time (it had been less than 40 days) so they voted God out of their lives and golden calf in. Instead of being the people of God, they became a laughingstock to the other nations by their revelry. God had to use the Levites to cut down 3000 to regain order, and He sent a plague to punish them.

We want a pill; God requires a process.

It appears to me anything less than 10 years is a bargain when we look at the length of Biblical processes.

Abraham: over 35 years waiting, watching and obeying.

Joseph: 13 years as a slave.

Moses: 40 years in the wilderness.

Joshua: 40 years as Moses’ assistant.

Jesus: 30 years growing up as a human.

Paul: 3 years in the desert of Arabia and more years learning from Christian leaders.

If we asked them, “Would you prefer a pill that would deliver instantly or a process that will be painful, long and try you to your last reserve?” I’m sure the natural preference would be the tablet with a glass of water, please. I also believe that if we asked them at THE END of the process, “Was it worth all that you went through?” they would answer without hesitation, “YES, YES, a thousand times YES!” Because the results of God’s process are ALWAYS far beyond what we could dream up. And pills never, ever deliver what we really want.

God doesn’t do pills. The world offers a pill when God offers a process. And we know how that works out.

8“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)

So which will it be - pill or process? If you choose God, give up the complaining and moaning. Look for what God wants to do and do it quickly. The Israelites could have been out of the desert and into the Promised Land in a fraction of 40 years but they did not submit to God’s process.

What about you? Pill or process? Desert or Promised Land? Golden calf or cooperate with God? Your Choice.

Boldly, Herb

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Broken Limbs on the Family Tree

As a kid I got interested in my ancestors.  My dad’s reply to my questions:  (are you ready?)  “Herbie,” (yes, that’s what they called me, but don’t YOU try it!), “Don’t go looking too far up my family tree.  You’re likely to find some people hanging there.”  He meant it literally.  He was wrong.  I found people hanging on BOTH sides of my family tree.

Broken limbs. 

All the way up and down the branches are patterns of brokenness of every kind.  Repeatedly.  Ugly.  Nasty.  Surprising. Disappointing. Wouldn’t think so since I am such a nice guy, eh?  To be fair, there are many good people along the branches as well.  I just didn’t realize how many messed up it is. Broken limbs.

I’m feeling better now.  Recently I checked up Jesus’ family tree.  You’d think, being the Son of God and all, that Jesus would a branch of a healthy, clean, nearly perfect family tree.  And you would be totally wrong.  Abraham was a liar, throwing his wife under the bus by claiming she was his sister to save his hide.  Isaac was permissive, following his father’s footsteps and Rebekah was a controlling deceiver, following suit with her family system.  Jacob stole his brother’s birthright and blessing, ran to his mother’s brother to avoid Esau’s wrath, was deceived by his future father-in-law and then turned around to do the same to him.  Joseph was a spoiled brat and his brothers were angry and jealous enough to kill him.  There are murderers, adulterers, prostitutes, outcasts and every other broken limb you can think of. 

But He was the Son of God Who forgives, reconciles and empowers!  The broken limbs of his ancestry do not define Him. 

Nor do mine.  Nor do yours.  It doesn’t matter what they were, it only matters WHOSE you are! 

17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

Why?  Just so we could be better than the broken limbs of our past?  No.  So that we can enjoy the freedom and blessing of being whole.  AND so that we taste, look and smell like Him, causing people to look at us but see Him.  Salt of the earth, light of the world, aroma of Christ.

15And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:15-21 (NIV)

If not for Christ, I would be one of the broken limbs.  But Christ has made me new.  Brand, spanking new creation.  From the inside out, remaking this broken limb.  No credit to me.  All I did was say “Yes.” 

Have you? 

Boldly, Herb

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Dick Clark and Chuck Colson


Two men died this week.  Well, actually, more than two died, but I’m thinking of two in particular.  Both had huge impact in vastly different ways. 

Dick Clark aspired to greatness in the entertainment industry.  He is being remembered as a man who shaped the way TV looks and feels; who “legitimized” rock n roll through the new medium of TV; who brought Chubby Checker, Kiss, Chuck Berry, Bill Haley and the Comets, James Brown, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, Madonna, and many more to the world stage.  His work made him wealthy, powerful and present in American entertainment for half a century.

Chuck Colson aspired to greatness in American politics.  He is remembered as a man who had the ear of THE president and an office next to him in the White House.  He was described as "Richard Nixon's hard man, the 'evil genius' of an evil administration."  His ambition led him to great heights.  His desperate desire to stay there led to committing crimes in the blemish known as Watergate and to prison for seven months.  He was disbarred, despised and disgraced, ending his career in law and politics. 

Of those two men, it appears that Dick Clark was the one to be admired and emulated.  “That is success, my child.  Try to be like him,” many a parent could say and point to Dick Clark.  “That is failure, my child.  Avoid at all costs being like him,” the same parent could say and point to Chuck Colson. 

But that depends on how “success” is defined. 

As far as I can tell, Dick Clark was a nice guy. Outwardly he had it all and people seemed to love him.  But is that TRUE success?

Chuck Colson was pursued and arrested by God during the Watergate scandal.  Having all outward success yanked from his tightly clenched fists, he looked up to his Pursuer and surrendered to Christ.  Colson thought prison was the end yet it turned out to be the beginning.  In prison Colson’s heart was also arrested by the injustices done to prisoners and the lack of true rehabilitation.  After his release, he founded Prison Fellowship, a ministry to prisoners and their families as well as a voice for prison reform.  In addition, for over three decades he became one of the key Christian voices speaking for Christ into a secularized culture.

Dick Clark gave us music and entertainers to make us happy.  Chuck Colson brought hope to the hopeless.

Dick Clark left a plethora of songs to please our ears.  Chuck Colson left actions and words that challenge our souls to look to the only One Who can give us true pleasure.

Dick Clark got us to dance.  Chuck Colson challenged us to feed the hungry, visit the prisoners, bring justice to the oppressed, clothe the naked and live boldly for the Savior.

Dick Clark died wealthy and powerful.  Chuck Colson died humbly and away from the places of power, having chosen a humble path.

Both found out what TRUE success is this week when they DIED when they faced Jesus.  Who do you think is “successful” now?  What do you suppose matters now?  Which man do you think was surprised and wishes he could go back and do a lot of things differently?

We ALL DIE.  We ALL face Jesus.  We ALL will be evaluated by what God values and rewarded accordingly.  Dick and Chuck were fortunate to live past 80.  No matter the length of life it is a miniscule dot on the line of eternity.  What matters?  What we do during that dot. It determines what we experience forever. 

Sobering.

Which all begs some most important questions: Have you been arrested by Jesus?  (Not praying a magic prayer but having your life turned right side up).  What will you do with the amount of dot you have left?  What impact will you leave behind?  What will you do that will go into your eternity with you?

I’m just asking…

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Galatians 5:6b (NIV)

15He (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)

Boldly, Herb

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Love and Consequences

LOVE started it all.

Was God setting them up? Did He know that they were unable to do it, but required it anyway? Was God just playing some great cosmic game with them that was pre-determined?

I mean, really… what was God thinking?

One might draw those conclusions in reading the first few chapters of the first book of the Bible. And one would be very wrong!

God put the prototype man into the perfect world with perfect relationship with God, with one another (a little bit later) and with the world. I mean, PERFECT!! Beyond imagination perfect. He told him to enjoy it all and then would visit in the cool of the day to enjoy being with them. Work that was fulfilling and relationships that were satisfying. PERFECT!

So what was the problem? There wasn’t any, I mean, NONE! How would we then perceive that God was setting them up? No problems, however, there was ONE (count them - one) stipulation to enjoy this Eden (literally). God even stated it with the best first, showing that the stipulation was very small though very grave.

“Adam, look around you. Everything you see that looks good to eat is yours. No transfats, no preservatives, no chemicals, no artificial sweeteners, colors or flavoring, just good-for-you, tastes-great, all natural food that looks desirable and tastes even better. Sound good?”

“Absolutely. Yep, that’s good, Lord.”

“Great! Only one thing to avoid.”

“Anything, Lord. You’ve given so much. What else could ever be wanted?”

“Excellent. Here it is. Look at me. I want to make sure you get this. Stay away from that tree - see it? It is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat of all the other trees, you will live long and prosper. If you eat of that tree you will die.”

“Whoa! That doesn’t sound good.”

“Trust me, it is the worst possible scenario. In fact, you are incapable of grasping the atrocity of that act.”

Sometime later God created Eve and either Adam or God let her know the same. Off limits!

Why did God even put the tree there? Why not just make it all good? Because if there is no choice to disobey, no choice to love themselves rather than God, then they are simply robots. God did not want robots, He deeply desired relationship.

Which takes us to God’s original intent - to create beings with whom He could have a genuine love relationship. He wanted to pour out love on them because it is His nature; God IS love. That required that those beings have the choice to accept His love. Which required the choice to reject His love.

They chose obedience and the unimaginable experience of perfect love relationship… for a while. Then they opened the Biblical Pandora’s box.

CONSEQUENCES of sin are overwhelmingly devastating. Destruction of the perfect relationships with God, one another and creation. Exile from the perfect garden. Pain in childbirth. Difficulty in raising crops/ making a living. The human race’s devastation to itself. Jesus’ death. And on and on it goes.

LOVE of God means it doesn’t have to stay that way. No, there will never be another Garden of Eden, but because of God’s initiating love we can live life as an ongoing restoration of all that was lost there and experience it in perfection in Heaven.

Which are you focusing on? Living a life of love or a life of escalating consequences?

I’m just asking…

John 10:10 (NIV) 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

1 John 4:7-12 (NIV) 7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Boldly, Herb

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