What Others Say

Thank you!!! Your article in today’s paper was the perfect description of how we should perceive our Lord.
C. Davidson

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Battling Cancer

Cancer is not new to our family.  My wife is a breast cancer survivor, as is her sister, who has been battling stage four cancer for the past four years.  My father died of multiple myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow, when he was 53.  He bestowed on me a life-long memory of courage, faith and grace.  I took him to visit his friends the week before he died.  He was too week to stand.  He greeted each with a cheerful smile and his natural good humor.  But I could see the sadness written in their faces when they witnessed the seriousness of his condition.

My daughter-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer two weeks before Christmas.  She and my son still have three children at home, our grandchildren, ages 17, 16 and 15.  Life becomes precious when we are faced with our mortality and the mortality of those we love. My son and daughter-in-law are giving it their best, and hoping for the best with chemotherapy and radiation. But they know they are not in control.  They are trusting God and celebrating each day.

Knowing that thousands are traveling a similar journey, I wanted to share a couple of her posts on Facebook that have inspired me.

She recently wrote, “Today was a great day.  I woke up with no pain and I was able to spend the day with my kids.  My husband was able to go to work.  I ate more food with no sickness than I’ve had in over a week.  I had enough energy to attend a hilarious community play with the beautiful high school drama/English students and laughed until my chest hurt.  I stayed up late talking with my best friend about how blessed we are and how God answers prayers in ways we don’t even realize.  My children laughed and teased each other in ways that made us feel normal.  And I still have my hair.  Today was a great day!” 

A few days later she wrote, “As I mourn the loss of my hair, an outward symbol of my health and femininity, I am reminded of my true identity in Christ.”  Psalm 139:125 “You are more than beautiful. You are more than enough. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

I am proud of my daughter-in-law.  And I am grateful to be surrounded by men and women who inspire me.  Every day in thousands of homes mothers and fathers, sons and daughters fight quiet and little-known battles of life and love. 

Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 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?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[?  …  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow.“ (Matthew 6:25-34)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Winter Games

Skiers fly through the wind like birds landing lightly on the snow, lugers plunge down the chute at 90 mph in a death defying dive, skaters slice through the ice and downhill skiers carve moguls on the mountain. The PyeongChang Olympics stir memories: the magnificence of the mountains, the silence of the snow, the rush of the wind.

In the classic words from Wide World of Sports, it is “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”  In the Vancouver Olympics eight years ago it was the tragic story of Nodar Kumaritashvili’s fatal crash on the luge the day before opening ceremonies or Lindsey Vonn’s struggle to overcome a bruised leg and win gold in the downhill.

The Winter games remind us of Dan Jansen skating for gold moments after his sister died only to crash into the wall on the final turn.  Who can forget the image of Jansen sitting forlorn on the ice? Four years later he returned to capture the top medal and carried his two-year-old son on a victory lap in memory of his sister.

Two thousand years ago the Apostle Paul used Olympic metaphors to help us understand  faith.   He wrote, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

The race is different for each of us.  Our challenges are unique.  But we all have a race to run, a challenge to face.  No one has the luxury of sitting on the sidelines as a spectator. Faith requires discipline, determination, perseverance and sacrifice.  The good news is that we don’t have to face our challenges alone.  We are surrounded by those who have gone before who cheer us on through our discouragements and defeats. We have One who has run the race and shown us the way.  We have One who enters the race alongside us, pacing us and spurring us on to the finish. 


The author of Hebrews writes, “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. 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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  (Hebrews 12:1-3). 

Monday, February 5, 2018

Providence and Luck

I love church “pot-luck dinners.”  All sorts of dishes show up from the kitchens in the community: fried chicken, ham, lasagna, chicken and rice casserole, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, cucumber salad, macaroni and cheese, pinto beans, asparagus, cakes and puddings and much more, too much to list. Those who make their way down both sides of the table emerge with plates running over.  The biggest problem is finding enough space on the plate to sample everything. 

One church called a new pastor who was nor familiar with the culinary traditions of the community.  He was staunchly set against all forms of gambling and soon railed against the very idea of a pot “luck” anything.  The deacons and the women of the church got together and changed the name of their frequent fellowship to a “pot providence” dinner. This seemed to calm the theological storm so that everyone could once again enjoy the cooking.

I know it sounds a little odd. But strange things happen in churches and it does raise a question.  How much of life is providence and how much is just plain good and back luck?  For some, of course, there is no such thing as chance.  Everything, down to the smallest detail of every day is providential.  And for others, there is no such thing as providence.  Life is just the luck of the draw. But is it?
Forest Gump, in the classic movie, contemplated the question that faces us all. Is life the result of random chance, like a feather balanced on the breeze, or does destiny direct our path?

Mathematics contains an entire field of probability and chance. Any single flip of a coin cannot be predicted. But if that coin is flipped enough times, it will eventually sustain the laws of probability. It will turn up tails just as often as it lands on heads.  This is called the “law of large numbers.”
At the same time, some of the greatest men in American history have recognized the power of a providential presence. Benjamin Franklin opened his famous autobiography by saying, “I desire with all humility to acknowledge that I owe the mentioned happiness of my past life to His kind providence.”  George Washington repeatedly referred to “providence” as a guiding force throughout his life.
In 1862, during the Civil War, Lincoln stated, “If after endeavoring to do my best in the light which He affords me, I find my efforts fail, I must believe that for some purpose unknown to me, He wills it otherwise. … and though with our limited understandings we may not be able to comprehend it, yet we cannot but believe, that He who made the world still governs it.”

Reflecting on his life, King David wrote, “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me when as yet there was not one of them.” Psalm 139:16).
Isaiah declares, “And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”  (Isaiah 58:11)

While God has established laws of probability in the universe as real as the physical law of gravity, He has also established His providence.  He has a plan and purpose for our life. 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Doomsday

Last week the Doomsday Clock moved to 2 minutes before midnight.  Rachel Bronson, President of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists said, “As of today, we are two minutes to midnight. To call the world’s nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger and its immediacy.”   The world has never been closer to its final apocalypse.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists was formed in 1945 by the Manhattan Project Scientists after the creation of nuclear weapons and the annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. Its concerns have expanded to include environmental change and emerging technologies. The decision to move the Doomsday Clock forward 30 seconds included the increased dangers of global warming and development of artificial intelligence.

In light of increasing threats from North Korea, Japan recently adopted nuclear drills for survival of an attack.  For the first time in 70 years sirens wail, children run for shelter, adults hunker down behind walls hoping to find shelter while wondering if it would do any good.

On December 1, 2017, Hawaii initiated monthly nuclear warning drills.   At 8:07 AM on January 13 sirens sounded as smart phones lit up with the warning, “This is not a drill!”  People panicked. It was a false alarm.

Stephen Hawking has concluded human survival on earth has less than 100 years.

While the scientific predictions are new, the destiny of life on earth is not. The Bible has predicted our fate for millennia.  Jesus said, “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. … For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.” (Matthew 24:7-8, 21). “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” 2 Peter 3:10).

But there is a difference.  While many see little hope for human survival, the Bible sees the end time as an open door to the future.  Jesus said, “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:30).  “The heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:12-13)

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create.” (Isaiah 65:17)


Those who have faith in Jesus Christ need not fear.  Whether we live to see the end of days on this earth, we know that for each of us, our days will end.  We are all mortal.  God has created another dimension, another time and place, a new heaven and a new earth where life, joy and righteousness reign. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Jumping Fleas - Learning to Fly

A scientist placed a number of fleas in a jar and they immediately jumped out. He then placed a clear glass plate over the top of the jar.  The fleas continued to jump, smashing their heads into the invisible barrier.  They kept this up for some time, jumping with all their might, crashing into the glass and falling back.  They slowly adjusted the height of their jump to avoid crashing into the invisible lid.  The scientist then removed the glass lid, and the fleas remained in the jar, jumping just short of where the lid had been, unable to clear the lip of the jar and escape.

The jumping fleas are a parable of how we adjust our expectations.  Like the fleas, we become conditioned to limitations imposed by others and, sometimes, imposed by ourselves.  We no longer try to extend beyond the comfort of what we have done before and we remain trapped by traditions and learned behavior.

Wilbur and Orville Wright were sons of an itinerant preacher, a Bishop in the United Brethren Church. Like their father, they were gentlemen who neither smoked, drank nor gambled.  But they learned to dream.

When the Wright brothers arrived at Kitty Hawk, NC, they found an almost deserted island with constant winds, lots of sand and about fifty homes, mostly occupied by descendants of shipwrecked sailors.  The residents wore hand sewn clothes and lived in homes with scarce furniture and bare floors scrubbed white with sand.

Wilbur boarded with the William Tate family and set to work assembling his “darn fool contraption,” as the locals called it.  Tate later said, “We believed in God, a bad Devil and a hot Hell, and more than anything else we believed that same God did not intend man should ever fly.” 

The Wright brothers became fast friends with the Tate family and the outer banks people, who helped them immensely. Within 3 years, on December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers lifted into the air. Six years later,   Orville Wright circled the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor and the Wright plane flew over the Eifel Tower in Paris. Aviation was born.  The world has never been the same.

Jesus was constantly urging his disciples to think beyond their limited expectations.  Often He referred to the twelve disciples as “you of little faith.”  He challenged them, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.”  (Matthew 17:20).

Jesus chose twelve of the most unlikely men to follow Him.  They were common fishermen, common laborers and a tax collector. Without Jesus they would have lived out their lives in their small villages unnoticed.  History would have taken no note.  But Jesus taught them to believe beyond the limitations of their day.   Armed with faith, confident in the power that raised Jesus from the dead, they turned the world upside down and changed the course of human history.


“Nothing,” Jesus said, “is impossible with God.”  

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Dealing with Guilt

The Minnesota humorist, Garrison Keillor, once observed that people do bad, horrible, dirty, rotten and despicable things, then, instead of repenting, they just go into treatment.  “Whatever happened to guilt?” he lamented. “Guilt, is the gift that keeps on giving.”

Keillor’s tongue in cheek appraisal of guilt belies the truth.  While there may be a few socio-paths who feel no remorse for their actions and show no capacity for guilt, most of us know the feelings of guilt only too well.

Religious leaders sometimes revert to guilt as the trump card to keep church members and parishioners in line.  Parents use it with children.  Siblings, co-workers and even friends occasionally rely on it to get their way. When husbands and wives are unable to settle a heated argument, one or the other often reverts to guilt’s lethal weapon by recalling past offenses that were supposedly forgiven and forgotten.

In its best moments, guilt can protect and guide us, much like the pain that teaches us to avoid a hot stove or sharp objects. When we respond to guilt with confession and repentance, we can move forward to live a better life on a higher plane.

But guilt can be destructive and debilitating.

Sometimes we feel guilt over clearly remembered wrongs we have done. At other times we may feel guilty and not know why.  We wake up with a feeling of unworthiness and shame with no specific deed to identify as the source. Our feelings of guilt are irrational, leaving us at a loss to identify the source or the solution.  Guilt can lock us in its prison and shackle us so that we feel helpless.  It robs us of energy and steals our joy.  Guilt can leave us smoldering in anger or suffocating in depression. 

The good news is that Jesus came to set us free from guilt. 

When confronted with the woman caught in the act of adultery, he dismissed those who condemned her and said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way and sin no more.” (John 8:1-11).

To the paralytic whose friends tore off the roof to get their friend to Jesus, he said, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” When he sensed the rising resentments among the Jewish leaders, He said, “’So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ – He said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.’ And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God.”  (Mark 2:1-12).

Paul wrote, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (Romans 8:1-2). And John said, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).

We can live our lives free of guilt and self-recrimination. As John says, “ We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.” (1 John 3:19-20).


An interesting thing happens when God removes our guilt, and we know it. Not only can we live with greater joy and freedom, we no longer feel compelled to heap guilt upon others. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

There's Something About That Name

When my daughter was little, I rocked her to sleep every night and sang the same song:  Jesus, There Is Something About That Name.  One line in song says, “Kings and kingdoms shall all pass away, but there is something about that name.  My daughter is now grown and the mother of three. Sometimes she sings that same song to my grandchildren. 

My wife and I just returned from Israel, a trip we chose to launch our 50th year of marriage. We spent several days in Jerusalem, walking through the Garden of Gethsemane, looking on the Holy City from the Mount of Olives, visiting the Pool of Siloam and the Western Wall.  We sat on the Southern steps to the temple and walked the Via Dolorosa. 

Everywhere we went we were shoulder to shoulder with tourists from all over the world, tourists who had come to walk where Jesus walked.  We met a young man from New Zealand, another from Colombia, entire groups from Indonesia, China and Korea. They came from Africa, South America and Europe.  They were Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Non-denominational.  They came from everywhere.  Tour buses lined up on the streets of the city, in spite of the political tensions reported in the news. They came because “there is something about that Name.”

We visited the Trans-Jordan site, just above the Dead Sea, the most likely place where Jesus was baptized by John.  A barbed wire fence runs down the middle of the Jordan River separating Israel from Jordan.  Armed guards are visible.  On the other side of the river, beyond the barbed-wire fence, a group of Orthodox believers were baptizing, joyfully and with passion. Separated by politics and boundaries, we could not speak to them or touch them, but, like us, they were drawn to that site because Jesus was there.

In Jerusalem most of the actual places where Jesus walked are buried, beneath many layers.  The temple of His day, built by Herod, was destroyed in 70 AD.  Only the supporting walls remained, including the western wall where hundreds gather to pray every day.

In the 2nd century the Roman Emperor Hadrian rebuilt Jerusalem as a pagan city with a temple to Jupiter. After 325, Emperor Constantine rebuilt the city as a Christian center. Islamic rulers conquered the city in 638, the Crusaders in 1099. It was conquered by Saladin in 1187. Its walls were destroyed in 1219 then repaired in 1243. It was taken over by the Ottoman Empire in 1517.  Jerusalem has been conquered, destroyed and rebuilt numerous times.

When Neil Armstrong visited Israel following his landing on the Moon, he walked up the steps to the Temple entrance.  He asked his guide, archeologist Meir Ben Dov, if these were the same steps Jesus walked on.  Ben Dov confirmed that they were. “I have to tell you,” Armstrong said, “I am more excited stepping on these stones than I was stepping on the moon.”  


The very stones of the city, with the numerous archeological digs, bear witness to history.  Kings and kingdoms have come and gone. But the name of Jesus remains.  2000 years after Jesus first walked the streets of Jerusalem, His name continues to transform people of every language, culture and nation who trust in Him.