Tag Archives: Jesus

A Crutch

“It’s a crutch.  Your faith is a crutch you use because you’re emotionally weak.”  There are some who believe this about anyone who has faith in any belief system that’s not “rooted in science”.  But why do they say that?

There is so much emphasis right now on equality.  When it comes to a belief system, many say they approach this the same way:  “Believe whatever you want to believe, man.  It’s alright with me.”  But it really isn’t.  Not when they find out what the Bible says.

Sure, we all have the right to believe whatever we want to believe–about anything–but that doesn’t mean that we’re right about it.  Many years ago, most people believed that the earth was flat.  Were they right about that?  Was that considered a crutch?

So what am I getting at?

My uncle on my Mom’s side of the family isn’t expected to live out the next 24 hours.  What happens to him when he dies?  It’s a question we all must face.  And many run from that question because they’re scared of what the answer might be.  But force yourself to face that question for just a moment…..

Let me mention a foundational point that Jesus Christ taught.  Anyone who genuinely accepts Jesus into their heart as Lord and Savior and lives out the rest of their life with that realization has an eternal home with God in Heaven.  That person is known as a Christian.  When that Christian dies,  his spirit enters into Heaven, just as Jesus said it would.  A promise.  From the God of Heaven to every human being on Earth. So why not believe that?  It’s too good to be true?  We don’t want to be accountable for our sin?  The list of excuses is many.

My Dad died in a highway accident four years ago.  He loved Jesus with all of his heart.  I know I’ll see him again (and my uncle).  Jesus promised me that in the Bible.  That is living hope!  Why not believe that?  Is that a crutch?

Bottom line, a person is going to believe what a person wants to believe.  If someone believes that faith in God and His Word is a crutch, so be it.  No one can change what someone else believes.  But what will change a belief?  A willingness to see what a person has been previously unwilling to see.  Personal revelation of something  (like the Earth isn’t flat after all).

I would leave you with this example.  Let’s assume for a moment that I am a Christian and you are not.  If you are right and I am wrong–there is no God; the Bible isn’t true; there is no life after death–than you’ve gained nothing and I’ve gained nothing.  When we die, we die.  End of story.  But if I am right and you are wrong, I’ve gained everything and you’ve lost everything.

You couldn’t be gambling with any higher stakes than that.  Is it worth it?  As we are told in Deuteronomy 30:19, we have the ability to choose life and death, blessings and curses.

Choose wisely, my friend!

A Goal Becomes A Milestone

It took my wife and I longer than most usually do to find each other (shared in “How We Met”).  As a result, we are at ages 46 and 44 (respectively–no reason to let you know which one of us is the older one since carrying on about it and really even mentioning it at all would mean that the chances are highly likely that the woman is the older one so since it is my responsibility to keep that type of sensitive information unknown I won’t say anything about it either way so that you can’t possibly tell which one of us is older and the true identity of all parties is kept hidden as it very well should be in a situation like this) with two boys, the older one being 12 1/2 and the younger one being a little over 11.

Our older son, William, is built like his Uncle Brad:  stocky, tall and ruggedly handsome (as awkward as it is to describe my Brother-In-Law that way).  We could tell even at the ages of 2-3 that William was going to be on the tall side.  So much so that all through his childhood, he’s been a head taller than any of the other kids around him.  As a result, it has been his focus–nay, his quest, his life’s mission, his God-given purpose at age 12–to surpass the height of his Dad.  Now, growing up, it was my brother who ended up being taller than my Dad.  As we both got into high school, it was evident to all of us who the taller son was going to be.  (And, as a side story, we wrestled all the time as kids [remember the story about Max?].  But when he got to being taller than I was and I could no longer pin him to the ground for Max to play with, I became uninterested in such suddenly childish things to do.)  So I never experienced the heady sensation that a son being taller than his father can bring.

William asks for hugs all the time.  So, last night being no exception, he asked and I gave.  Only this time, something was different.  It felt like I was hugging someone taller than me.  Now, it must be noted here that for the last month or so, he’s been hovering at a 1/2 inch shorter than me–my height being 5’8″–and this fact noted a mere 3 weeks ago at Uncle Brad’s house of all places.  So I bring him out to where his mother is in the living room and have her check us out.  She begins to laugh and gasp and generally make a scene as she tells us that not only is William taller than I am, but he’s taller by a good inch and a half!  Here’s what she saw:

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Which means that he grew two inches in three weeks.  To say he was ecstatic is an understatement.  Whooping, hollering, smack talk (something about being the tallest man in the house now…I don’t know, I forget…) and other indecent behavior emanated from this 12 year-old that I now literally have to look up to.   If you find this hard to believe, coming from such a sweet-demeanored boy, here’s some hard-core proof of the preposterously out-of-place and distasteful behavior that I was subjected to last night:

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See what I mean?  You know, you think you raise them right–respect for their elders and all that–and this is how you are rewarded.  What’s a guy to do??  How do I live this down?  Thankfully, I don’t want to.  I couldn’t be more proud of our two boys and the mighty men of God that they are growing up to become.  I must say, it does feel oddly milestoneish having one of my sons taller than me, especially knowing that the height difference and the heckling that will come with it is now only going to get worse.  I say “oddly” in an effort to describe that sad feeling that comes with the significant events of a child’s life that remind you the little boy isn’t a little boy anymore.  But I wouldn’t change that for anything.  I love our family!  The God of the Bible is the center of it.  And everyone sees that.  I love that about us.  We’re not perfect.  Just genuinely seeking to walk with God as close as possible every day of our lives.  My boys see that example and the benefits that it brings, and they are far more likely to set that example for their own families one day.

Yup–choosing to walk out this life hand-in-hand with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit certainly has its advantages!

Reflection And Vision

It’s that time of year again.  Through the fun times with family and friends, there has probably been a growing sense of something drawing to a close and something else starting anew inside each one of us.  Whether they want to admit it or not, everyone is–at least to some degree–reflecting on the previous year and looking ahead to the new one.

But what does that really mean for you and I?  Some people out there genuinely don’t care about this.  Come what may, they’re simply focused on their next paycheck so that they can party some more.  I’m sure you’d agree that if that’s all they want out of life, they’ve already reached their goal–with nowhere else to go from there (and if that’s where you might be, just know that “You can’t get there from here.”)

I think most of us, though, are keenly focused right now on where we’ve been and where we’re going.  So what does that mean for you?  I’m all for expressing my sense of humor, but there’s also a time for expressing some meaningful questions:  Where have you been?  And where are you going?  I wish I was face-to-face with you right now–as we walk this northern trail together in our snowshoes!–because I would love to hear your answers to those questions.  Maybe you don’t even have decent answers to either one of them right now.  That’s OK–at times, I haven’t either (and for years, the answer to that second question constantly eluded me).

This is just my opinion, but I can assure you–based on many years of experience (remember, a person with an experience is never at the mercy of a person with a theory)–that there is a world of difference between a person trying to figure out the answers to those questions on his own and another person relying on the God of the Bible to reveal those answers to him.  If you don’t believe that, don’t be offended that I do (because I’m not offended that you don’t).  We simply respect where the other is coming from, right?  Many of us believe different things.  That’s our God-given right and ability:  Choice.  But it’s at that point that everything separates and branches off into all kinds of different directions.  So how do you know which one is the right one?  Is there more than one?  These are things no one likes to address or bring up–mostly because they make people feel uncomfortable, and who likes to feel that way?  But doesn’t everything begin there?  If we’re truly honest with ourselves, we have to admit that there is a void inside of us that we are constantly trying to fill with something or someone (even if it’s filled with nothing but ourselves).

I’d like to avoid a deep and philosophical exchange today, but given this contemplative time of year, wouldn’t you agree that it’s almost unavoidable?  Regardless, I trust that you can at least see this:  Everything has to have a foundation.  If yours is shaky, whatever you build on it will fall (Jesus told us that).  He also told us that everything bears fruit……everything.  If you take an honest look at the lives around you–including your own–those that show the healthiest and largest crops of fruit are going to be those that have a vibrant and intimate walk with Jesus Christ.  (A couple of things to note:  look deeper than the surface at the fruit you notice in others’ lives; it may not be as healthy as it looks.  And secondly, note those key words: vibrant and intimate.  It’s sad but true that many of us know plenty of people who claim to have Jesus in their hearts that live dull, lifeless and boring lives.  Rest assured:   That is not what truly having Jesus in your life is like!  It is the most exciting–and dangerous–thing you could ever decide to do.)

As you look behind you to glean what you can from your previous year and look ahead to what potentially lies before you, are you going to choose to go at it alone?  Because if that’s what you want, God will honor that (just know that it was never meant to be that hard).  Maybe you’re even struggling with the feeling that life is ultimately meaningless and pointless.  If all we’re living for is to try to better ourselves and those that live around us, what lasting value does that really bring?  Don’t you know that you were meant for so much more than that?  Wouldn’t you like to reach the end of your life and know that you fulfilled everything you were meant to fulfill with it?  And then to hear the King of Kings and Lord of Lords tell you, “Well done, good and faithful servant!  Enter into the joy of your Lord!”  Talk about an eternal purpose!  That certainly gives your life true meaning.

I am excited for you!  What will your life look like in a year?  What are you really living for?  What changes will you make this year that could have mind-blowing, far-reaching effects that you can’t possibly imagine?  Let me know what you think and let’s find out together!

A Christmas Carol

Christmas carols.  We all love them.  Usually.  When we don’t, it’s probably because we’re walking through Wal-Mart a week into November and already hearing Christmas music.  But barring those kind of episodes, most of us look forward to playing our favorite music and carols this time of year.

I’ve got my favorites, but in thinking about one to convey my best Christmas wishes to you today, I found it hard to settle on just one.  I thought of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”.  Nice sentiment, but all the song is really about is singing until someone decides to hand out generous amounts of figgy pudding.  It’s an early English carol from the West Country of England about wealthy people giving “Christmas treats” to carolers.  Sure, that sounds like something worth singing for, except that these so-called “treats” were some form of figgy pudding, as previously mentioned.  This figgy pudding could have been made with figs, raisins or plums.  It really doesn’t matter, since my idea of a “Christmas treat” does not remotely involve these three…….(gag)…..things (something about fruit-cake-molasses-cookies comes to mind).

Then there was “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”.  Sounds like it would be a better choice, right?  This is a song that was written for Judy Garland to sing in a 1944 musical.  Her and her family were to be moving away and she is singing this to her younger sister.  The problem was that the original lyrics were so depressing that she asked the song writer to rewrite them.  Get the tune in your head and put these original lyrics to it:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,

It may be your last.

Next year we may all be living in the past.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,

Pop that champagne cork.

Next year we may all be living in New York.

I know!  Who knew??  Thankfully, when Frank Sinatra recorded this song and immortalized it in 1957, he finished the positive lyrical change by requesting that the line “Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow” be changed to something more positive.  And so the line we’ve all since heard many times was created:  “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough”.  Interestingly as well is the fact that the line ” If the fates allow” was originally “If the Lord allows”.

Since it looks like most of this country will be having a green Christmas this year, “White Christmas” came to mind.  Written in 1940, it was sung by Bing Crosby in 1942.  It is the best-selling single of all time and is #2 on the “Songs Of The Century” list–second only to Judy Garland’s “Over The Rainbow”.  This song also has the distinction of being broadcast on Armed Forces Radio as the pre-arranged signal for the U.S. evacuation of Saigon on April 30, 1975.  There have been over 500 recordings of this song, but only a handful of musical artists have included the original opening verse (my favorite being the rendition by Karen Carpenter):

The sun is shining, the grass is green,

The orange and palm trees sway.

There’s never been such a day,

In Beverly Hills, L.A.

But it’s December the twenty-fourth,

And I’m longing to be up North….

By the way, both of these last two songs I’ve mentioned were extremely important and became the mainstays that we know them to be because of WWII.

Let’s finish with this one:  “O Holy Night” is a French Christmas carol that began in the French town of Roquemaure at the end of 1843.  The local parish priest was wanting to celebrate the renovation of the church organ and asked a local native to write a Christmas poem.  Pretty remarkable, since the local native that he asked to do it was an atheist!  Music was put to it soon after and a singable version of the poem was created in 1855.  What will follow here is what amounts to the first verse and chorus of the original English translation of the poem, with the singable carol that we are all so familiar with following it.  Compare the two  and remember that an atheist wrote this remarkable piece of poetry:

English Translation

Midnight, Christians, is the solemn hour

When God as man descended unto us

To erase the stain of original sin

And to end the wrath of His Father.

The entire world thrills with hope

On this night that gives it a Saviour.

People, kneel down,

Await your deliverance.

Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer

Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer!

Christmas Carol

O holy night!

The stars are brightly shining.

It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,

Till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees!

O hear the angel voices!

O night divine,

O night when Christ was born.

O night divine,

O night, O night divine.

Just an interesting thought about this that I heard someone share recently.  The night before this one was the last night Satan and sin and death would reign.  The night that Jesus was born (and it’s a fact that this night actually happened) was the first night that things would never be the same–ever!  As of that holy night, God sending His Son like He did forever changed life on this earth as we know it.  For all of mankind–past, present and future.

It is my prayer that you have a peaceful, relaxing and fulfilling Holiday season and that you are able to see the fullness of Jesus Christ and His love for you this Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

The M65-28 Formula Trash Bag

Juniors in high school.  English class.  Project assigned to pairs of students (naturally, my best friend–Rick–and I paired up).  What’s the project?  To write a commercial that incorporates six things:  Humor, symbols, ecologically safe, statistics, happy family appeal and a special offer.

Now before I get into this, you need to know some things about my best friend from high school and myself.  We buddied up in 6th grade and almost instantly “clicked”.  Jesus was important to both of us, even at that age (that,I’m sure, was a big part of the instant bond we both felt).  Besides that, though, we were like Abbott and Costello–one of us the serious one (me) and the other the goofy one (Rick).  Put us together and it was quite the mix–me usually making a sarcastic remark with my dry sense of humor to Rick’s hilarious antics.  Not to mention his laugh!  He was known throughout our whole class for his laugh.  And not the weird kind that makes you do a double-take to the question in your mind of “Who just made that sound?”  Nope, just a great unique laugh that would always make you start laughing just hearing it.  Ever known someone like that?  When you do, you never forget it.  We lost contact for a few years, but around 13 years ago, my Mom got his contact information and we reconnected.  We’ve been in contact ever since–and nothing has changed.  We’re still that way, much to our wives’ and kids’…..um…..enjoyment.

So the stage is now set for our commercial for English class.  I have always been one to have difficulty coming up with an idea, but once one is given, I can run with it and add to it.  Leave it to Rick to come up with this one.  So here, from my high school archives and for your reading pleasure, is the actual script, word-for-word, of our commercial for the M65-28 Formula Trash Bag (Rick was the man holding the torn trash bag and I was the Salesman):

(Scene:  A man is standing with a torn trash bag in his hands, trash scattered all around his feet.)

Man:  (In a dopy voice) “I thought dogs is supposed to be man’s best friend….”

(Salesman walks up to man with trash bag.)

Salesman:  (In a 30-second commercial “but-wait-that’s-not-all” announcer’s voice and holding the sign below)

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“Don’t blame your dog; the fault is of the bag!  You should be using the M65-28 Forumula Trash Bag.”  (Man’s face first shows immense interest and then repulsion at the smell in the air; at the same time, salesman puts on a white face mask and continues talking.)  “This bag is not an everyday trash bag.  It has a unique smell that would not only keep your dog away, but also rats, cats, bats, maggots and other rodents that would make your trash all…..messy.”

Man:  (Holding his nose) “But does it work??”

Salesman:  “Shut up, you’re interrupting me.  Studies have shown that eleven out of ten regular human beings, just like you, have tried the M65-28 Formula Trash Bag and found it successful in keeping trash in and dogs, rats, cats, bats, maggots and other rodents out.”

Man:  (Still holding nose and now wiping away tears from his eyes) “Will the M65-28 Formula Trash Bag hinder the environment around me?”

Salesman: (With slight, vacant look on his face) “Uh….no, no, not at all, my dear friend!”  (Pats man on back.)  “The birds will still be around–but who cares!  Our objective is to keep the dogs away.  Don’t worry about the environment; it’ll be fine without….it’ll be fine!  And with this trash bag, your whole family can take out the trash to the road together without the fear of dogs, rats, cats, bats, maggots and other rodents hindering you.”

“But that’s not all!  With the purchase of the handy M65-28 Formula Trash Bag, you can receive a nuclear waste dump in your own back yard!!” (Man has look of utter shock and disbelief, which the Salesman sees as a look of someone getting the “deal of the century”.  This just spurs the Salesman on….)  “Yes, we’ll give you everything you need to start your nuclear waste dump–which is not harmful to the environment–from your M65-28 Formula Trash Bag to your official M65-28 Formula Trash Bag Gas Mask!” (Hands man his own gas mask.  Man can barely see well enough to grab it out of the Salesman’s hand and put it on, taking huge gulps of air once he does.)  “And, if you respond within 2 days, we’ll send you ten barrels of nuclear waste free!  Just send the M65-28 Formula Trash Bag coupon which is enclosed in the trash bag box, along with $19.95  and $50.00 shipping and handling to:

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Visa or MasterCard accepted.  Send for your dump today!!

A Knife’s Edge

Good Afternoon, my friend.

Well, this is interesting.  I just heard from my wife that her stepbrother died the other day from a heart attack at age 47.  That’s pretty young, considering.

Have you ever stopped to consider how fragile our lives really are?  We really do live on the edge of a knife, you know?  I remember hearing about aneurysms and blood clots, how these can strike without warning and strike so fast that you can literally drop dead.  You probably know of other examples of life being over so quickly and suddenly.

So why talk about this?  It can be so negative and depressing.  Well, now, that all depends.   Surely you have seen a movie called “Field Of Dreams”  starring Kevin Costner.  Way back in 1989!  (Can you believe it’s been that long?)  Remember a scene where Ray Kinsella’s brother-in-law Mark is trying his best to convince Ray to sell the farm and avoid complete bankruptcy? (Just to make sure you remember, Ray has taken up a good portion of his corn fields to create a regulation-sized baseball diamond in pursuit of something he can’t explain.  “Shoeless” Joe Jackson–a childhood baseball hero of Ray’s that he believes he is to help somehow–and some other old-time baseball players eventually appear on his baseball diamond.  Ray and his family can see these baseball players play ball, but Mark cannot.)   While they’re arguing, Ray’s daughter falls from the bleachers and isn’t breathing.  One of the players on the field runs over and helps her to breathe again.  After all of this happens, Mark looks across the field and eventually says to Ray, “Where did all these baseball players come from?”

Those players were there the whole time.  Just because Mark couldn’t see them didn’t mean that they didn’t exist.  Now, this movie couldn’t be further from being scripturally accurate, but follow me for a minute.   Do you know that scientists and mathematicians have been in the process of proving the existence of at least three other dimensions besides the three we live in, and it may be as high as four or five?  So what if one of those other dimensions is a spiritual one–one we can’t see with our physical eyes?  Add to that, then, the validity of the Bible (something that can definitely be confirmed if you look at the right resources, like a book called “The Case For Christ”), and you’ve got a very potent mix.  A mix that makes a lot of people uncomfortable, because it means that now they are actually accountable for the sin in their lives–and who really wants to face that?

But hold on a minute.  The “sin factor”, as it were, is only one side of this.  The much more significant side is also much more appealing.  And that is this:  What God has in store for you and wants for you as His redeemed through Jesus Christ is so wonderful and fantastic that it is very literally beyond even your ability to comprehend.  But that can only happen if you first face and accept your need for Him.  You’ve got to deal with the one side to get to the other–but oh, is it worth it!

So when we talk about death and things that happen, the place where you begin makes all the difference.  My beginning place is from that “other side” (thanks to Jesus, I have already been able to deal with the first side).  If your beginning place happens to be from that first side, though, all you see is hopelessness.  And that’s the worst place to be in.  But you can very quickly change that.  It’s simply a matter of acknowledging the sin in your life, your need for a Savior because of it and then inviting that Savior (Jesus Christ) into your heart.  He even told us that it’s so simple to understand and to do that even a child gets it (and they do!).

Sound preachy?  It probably is.  But it’s the truth, and there’s nothing wrong with stating the truth.  You can argue with it all day long, but that just means that you’re not seeing the baseball players that have been on the field the whole time.  So do you want to see them, or not?

 

The Only Joke I Know

Wow, it’s cold out here!  But it sure is beautiful, right?

Ok, I told you last time that I would have a joke for you today.  I’ve heard quite a few over the years–some good, many not worth remembering (probably the same for you)–but there is one in particular that I have never forgotten.

I heard this joke over 15 years ago and unfortunately it is the only good one I remember.  Which is really quite amazing, since any other really good ones have been permanently deleted from the trash can.  (Why is it that you so easily forget the good ones and the bad ones don’t want to leave?)

So, without further delay, here it is.  It’s not theologically correct, but it’s a good one nonetheless:

Jesus, Moses and an old man are out golfing one day.  The hole they are approaching is a rather difficult one, with plenty of natural obstacles along the fairway and water hazards to contend with.  One of those water hazards is a particularly large one that’s right in front of the green they are swinging for.

Moses is up first and gets his ball ready….a couple of practice swings…..steps up to the ball….beautiful form as he begins his swing…and hits the ball solidly, sending it in a beautiful arch–right for that water hazard that’s in front of the green!  But Moses’ eyes never leave that ball, and as it begins its decent, he stretches his golf club out towards the water hazard like a staff.  Suddenly, the water in the water hazard splits right down the middle, the bottom of the water hazard instantly dries up, and the ball bounces along the dry ground, up onto the green–two feet from the hole!  Moses looks at Jesus and the old man, lifts his eyebrows a couple of times and just stands there with a big smile on his face.

Jesus is next, walks over and sets up his ball….not even a practice swing….and with absolutely perfect form, he hits the golf ball square on and sends it sailing through the air….straight for the same water hazard!  But he, too, never lets his eyes leave that ball.  And when it meets the water in the middle of the water hazard, instead of sinking into the water, the ball bounces across the surface of the water, up onto the green–ONE foot from the hole!  Jesus looks at Moses and the old man, gives them a wink and steps back for the old man to take his turn.

What do you think the old man is thinking at this point?  I know, me too!  He looks at Moses and Jesus, takes a deep breath and gets his ball ready.  He takes quite a few practice swings….eyes the fairway carefully….steps up to the ball….and promptly swings at it like Happy Gilmore, sending the golf ball soaring way off to the right.  The ball ricochets off a shed roof and sails through the air in the other direction, further down the fairway, and lands on the clubhouse roof.  It rolls down the roof, into the gutter, and begins to work its way around the roof gutter, shooting down the downspout and into the grass at the top of a hill.  The ball rolls down the hill and into the water hazard that’s right in front of the green.  A few seconds go by (a couple of crickets can be heard), and suddenly a fish jumps out of the water with the golf ball in its mouth!  It spits the ball up onto the green and into the hole.  The old man got a hole-in-one!!  He looks at Moses and Jesus, raises his eyebrows a few times and gives them each a wink with the biggest smile an old man could ever have.

Jesus looks at the old man, then at Moses, then back to the old man.  He looks down at the ground, heaves a big sigh and says, “I have got to stop playing with Dad.”