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. 


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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Saturday, April 07, 2012


The trauma was over. In them was the backlash of post traumatic stress. In the world darkness reigned.

Those that had walked with the light huddled in secret places. They knew they were safe on this Sabbath day. But tomorrow, well, that would be another thing when the Jewish leaders were no longer constrained by Sabbath limitations. Then the same darkness that swallowed Jesus would over run them.

It wasn’t mostly fear that made them hide; it was shame. Clusters of disciples sat in silence, heads down, consumed by regret. Little conversation, little care for basic needs, little of anything except being overrun by internal darkness. A knot of women stayed close to Mary, His mother, trying to be and do what she needed. But what is there anyone can do after watching her oldest son tumble from the pinnacle of success to scandalous disgrace resulting in appalling death?

Peter sat alone, mindlessly twisting his robe, rocking back and forth, staring at his sandals. A few had put their arms around him, others stayed away as if Peter’s thrice betrayal would infect them. He was best left alone. Well, not really, but at each approach he began to weep and moan anew. Hopeless and helpless, unable to see any path out of the guilt of his abandonment and treason. “Had Judas taken the right road?” he could prevent himself from wondering. No, that can’t be right. But there can be no way out of this. There is nothing to do but wait for arrest and death. We had been so SURE! How could we have been so wrong? Regardless, all hope is bankrupt. Gone. Only darkness.

Same with us after Good Friday. Without hope. Plunged into DARKNESS we are helpless against. Besieged by the shame of our betrayal and abandonment. Guilty of sin that nailed Jesus to the cross. Without God and without hope. Bound for the same kind of death and deservedly so.

Easter will mean little unless we pause to suffer the darkness. Light is not valued unless we allow ourselves to be enveloped by the pitch blackness in which we live without the resurrected Christ.

We will not celebrate raucously, with abandon unless the bottomless darkness is pierced and expelled by resurrected life. Unless the impossible, miraculous life is felt in contrast with the hopeless darkness.

I cannot imagine the palpable darkness of Jesus’ followers after Good Friday. It is both a blessing and a curse to know the end of the story. You and I will never be able to delight in Easter as Jesus’ followers did. Well, not on earth. But someday, when we see Him as they did. THEN we won’t be able to stop dancing!!

12remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:12-13 (NIV)

Boldly, Herb

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Friday, April 06, 2012

Perspectives on Jesus’ Death on the Cross

I ran across the following quotes from great men of faith. Read through them slowly on this weekend.

"The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought which takes success for its standard." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

"The cross cannot be defeated, for it is defeat." - Gilbert K. Chesterton.

"There are no crown-wearers in heaven who were not cross- bearers here below." - Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

"We need men of the cross, with the message of the cross, bearing the marks of the cross." - Vance Havner.

"He came to pay a debt He didn't owe because we owed a debt we couldn't pay." - Anonymous.

"All heaven is interested in the cross of Christ, all hell is terribly afraid of it, while men are the only beings who more or less ignore its meaning." - Oswald Chambers.

Galatians 2:20 (NIV) 20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

John 14:19 (NIV) 19Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.

“Lord, there is no way we can ever fully value Your death or comprehend Your pain for us. Would you help us to live lives of gratitude by shining light on Your cross. Every moment of every day.”

Boldly, Herb

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Thursday, April 05, 2012

Familiar But Oblivious

We are so familiar and yet so oblivious.

We can recite the circumstances and meaning but we fail to comprehend the depth of their significance.

We attend events and hear recitations but we are ignorant of the implications.

We have crosses around our necks, in our ears, on our key chains, on our bumpers and various other spots but we do not pause to consider the horror of the reference. Would you wear an electric chair around your neck? Would you put little lethal injection syringes? Or hang nooses in the sanctuary of your congregation? Or put a picture of a guillotine on your bumper?

We trivialize our sin by committing sin carelessly knowing that we are forgiven, treating the death of Jesus as marginally significant.

We even purchase chocolate crosses, place them into children’s Easter baskets along with eggs purportedly delivered by a furry mammal. We bite into the representation of a death instrument and savor the flavor rather than savoring the forgiveness and vowing to live up to Jesus’ death.

We are so familiar and yet so oblivious.

Please don’t read these words as blame. How can we not live in this culture without being very familiar with the symbols of the Passion Week? They are everywhere. But “familiarity breeds contempt” is the adage. When we see something a great deal we stop respecting it. It’s just the way we are.

But DO read these words as a challenge to change that! To bring us to the depth of appreciation requires deliberate effort. And Jesus deserves that.

Good Friday was not good. It was only made good by what Jesus did there and on Easter.

The cross was not good, but a cruel, torturous instrument of death. We sing about it, see a beautiful icon while in worship, we speak of it freely - and become so familiar that we are oblivious. It was only made good by Jesus’ work there.

Sin is not trivial. The violence of Jesus’ beatings and death reveal the brutality of our sin against God.

Why did the cross have to be so awful? Because of the awfulness of our disobedience to God, our sin. The price of our forgiveness could not be cheap because sin had turned this world completely upside down.

I CHALLENGE YOU to get a fresh glimpse of the cross this week. Watch “The Passion of the Christ,” or read an analysis of Jesus’ experience of suffering. Here are just a couple of the many available:

Is it wrong to have crosses all around us? Not if we are living the transformation that Christ died there to make. Not if we are reflections of the revolutionizing power grace, forgiveness, mercy, reconciliation and surrender that Jesus’ suffering released. Not if we wear them in awe of Christ rather than because they are nice. There was NOTHING nice about the cross!!

It IS WRONG to take Jesus’ work for granted. As Scripture says:

“How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” Hebrews 10:29 (NIV)

Between now and Easter, would you join me in taking time to contemplate Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, mocking, beatings and crucifixion -- and how our sin sent Him there. THEN we will truly celebrate Easter!

Boldly, Herb

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