What Others Say

Thank you for using your gifts to help others see faith in their creator and their savior in God's son Jesus Christ.
Brian M.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Was Jesus Right?


Jesus is universally respected.  Even the followers of Islam claim him as a prophet.  And millions who have no use for the church still like Jesus.  But the question remains, “Was Jesus right?”  “Did he know what he was talking about?”

It is difficult to reconcile Islam’s claim that Jesus was a prophet with the clear statements that he made regarding himself: “He that has seen me has seen the Father.”  “I and the Father are One.”  “All authority has been given to me in Heaven and on Earth.”  “No one comes to the Father but by me.”  Jesus clearly claimed to be more than a mere prophet or a great teacher.

It is also difficult to reconcile the attitude and actions of professing Christians with Jesus’ words and instructions.  When I was eighteen, I worked in a warehouse that shipped products to stores where they would be sold.  I worked with older workers who, like me, worked for minimum wage.  Some of my co-workers, who were professing Christians, heard that I planned to become a “preacher.”  They tried to be nice and encouraging. They told me it was a good thing for me to become a preacher, but reminded me that those things “don’t work here.” 

I interpreted their comments to mean that they believed in Jesus but the teachings of Jesus were out of touch with the real world.  They were like many Christians I have encountered over the years.  Dallas Willard called them “vampire Christians.”  They want a little of Jesus’ blood, just enough to forgive their sins and assure they are going to heaven, but they don’t think Jesus knew what he was talking about when it comes to everyday life. 

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Clearly, he thought he knew what he was talking about, and he expected that anyone who placed their faith in him would do everything they could to obey him.  It was apparently inconceivable to Jesus that someone could think they loved him, and, at the same time, ignore or disobey his instructions. 

Either Jesus was the smartest person who ever lived and knew better than anyone else how life should be lived on this earth, or he was a delusional pretender who has misguided millions for more than two thousand years.  If Jesus’ instructions for living will not work in the courtroom, the schools, the factory and the family, neither will they work to get us to heaven. 

Our personal conclusion about whether we believe Jesus was right will not be reflected in what we profess about who he is, but in what we do when we are going about our day to day activities at work, at school and at home.  Are we bringing our lives into alignment with his life and teaching?  Do we act like Jesus acted?  Do we forgive like Jesus forgave?  Are we truthful and faithful like Jesus was truthful and faithful? Do we love like Jesus loved? 

Following Jesus’ instructions has nothing to do with earning our way to heaven.  It has every thing to do with loving Jesus and living a meaningful life. If you want to know what Jesus expects, you can find his instructions in Matthew chapters 5-7. 

Jesus told us how to know whether he was right or not.  He said, “If you abide in My word [hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them], you are truly My disciples. And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32. Amplified Bible). 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Dealing with Rejection


Everyone has felt rejection.  For many it is first encountered on the playground.  Children choosing their friends or choosing teams until one remains, unchosen, unwanted, rejected.  We discover life can be like musical chairs.  When the music stops there is no place to sit.  All the included places are taken.

Sometimes it comes with our first applications for college. For a few, colleges and universities line up with scholarships and offers, but most must deal with rejection.  Most of us have known the uncertainty of a job search.  The series of rejections from interviews can be devastating to our ego.  Forced into a situation where self-confidence is essential, we become anything but.

Door-to-door salesmen are familiar with rejection.  It is part of the job.  So are politicians and would be writers.  How many ways can we be turned down and rejected?

Perhaps most devastating of all is a rejection by those who are close to us.  The rejection of a mother or father, son or daughter, or spouse. These can cause wounds that last a lifetime.

It might help to realize we have company. When we are rejected we are not alone.

When Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick, his work was turned down by multiple publishers. It was finally accepted by Bently & Son who asked, “Does it have to be a whale?”  Nevertheless they published the classic on the condition that Melville pay for the typesetting and plating himself.  When 25-year-old Hemmingway wrote The Sun also Rises one publisher responded, “I find your work both tedious and offensive.” 

Joseph was rejection by his brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt. Paul was rejected often, stoned and left for dead, driven from city to city and imprisoned.  Jesus’ own brothers refused to believe in Him and  His closest disciples abandoned Him.  He was “despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3).

But, when we experience rejection by family, friend or the world, we can rest knowing that there is One who will not abandon us.  “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.  Behold I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:15-16).

Jesus constantly included those who were rejected:  the Samaritan woman, Zacchaeus, the blind beggar, the woman caught in the act of adultery, lepers and the Gadarene demoniac.  Though others might reject you, Jesus will by no means turn you away.  If we come to Him in simple faith and confession, He will receive us.

We can say with the Apostle Paul, “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.   (Ephesians 1:5-6)



Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Laughter


Laughter is not taught.  It is part of us from birth. Within a few months, long before they can talk, babies laugh.  It is contagious.  Adults join in, doubled over with the laughter and joy of a giggling baby. The laughter of children on a playground is a balm to the soul.

No other animal does this. It is a unique human trait that God built into our psyche and our soul.  We are not sure what triggers it.  We can seldom predict when it will hit, but we know it is contagious.  When others laugh, we laugh. Sometimes without any idea of what caused it in the first place.  

We like to be around others who laugh.  It is therapeutic. When I think of my father or my grandmother, I think of them laughing even though they have been gone for decades.  I know  my wife is talking to her sister on the phone by the way she laughs, even though they are a thousand miles apart.

We will pay huge sums for comedians and performers who can make us laugh.  Television sitcoms figured this out over a half century ago. Original laughter tracks used for early TV sitcoms are still employed to accentuate humor for contemporary characters. Many of us are still laughing with generations long gone. 

But the best laughter is spontaneous. Nothing is as exhilarating and lifting to my soul as the laughter of my grandchildren.  Our youngest are five, seven and two.  When they come running out the door leaping into my arms and laughing, whatever burdens I may have felt melt like snow in the sun and I am filled with laughter and joy.

When Sarah gave birth to Isaac she said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” (Genesis 21:6).

Victory and celebration bring laughter.  Just watch baseball, football and soccer teams who achieve their goals.   We have all joined in the laughter at weddings and graduations. 

Psalm 126 refers to the joy of those who celebrated their returned to Jerusalem after years of captivity: “When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion, we were like those who dream.  Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with joyful shouting.” (Ps. 126:1-2).

Perhaps you haven’t laughed in a while.  Perhaps you have been burdened with depression and loneliness.  Do not fear.  God will yet fill your heart with laughter.  Like Sarah, who gave birth in her old age, after enduring decades of ridicule and sorrow. Like the exiles of Jerusalem, who wept by the Euphrates River, far from their home.  God will yet restore laughter to your soul.  You will rejoice.

The Christian faith is a joyful faith, even in difficult and adverse circumstances. “Shout joyfully all the earth.  Serve the Lord with gladness. Come into His presence with joyful singing!” (Psalm 100).  “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning!”  (Psalm 30:5).
The references to joy are far too numerous to list.

Surely God takes pleasure in our laughter as mothers and fathers take pleasure in the laughter of their children. He wants to fill your heart with joy.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Death of Decency?


Like most Americans I have been reflecting on the life and legacy of John McCain since his death two days ago.  I have always admired the Senator, especially for his courage and heroism as a Vietnam POW.

I am reading his books, his own assessments regarding himself and his life:   his 1991 memoirs, Faith of My Fathers and then his recent book, written just before his death, The Restless Wave.  Both books are well written, engaging, inspiring and, in some cases, prophetic.

The first opens with words from the hymn, “Faith of Our Fathers.”  In the second he states,  “What God and good luck provide we must accept with gratitude. Our time is our time. It’s up to us to make the most of it, make it amount to more than the sum of our days.” 

What stands out in my mind regarding John McCain is his decency, his respect for other people, even his adversaries.  On Memorial Day 1993, he returned to Hanoi, the place where he had been imprisoned and tortured.  Over the next two years he gave leadership that resulted in normalized relations with Vietnam. Vietnam’s foreign minister said, “It was he who took the lead to significantly heal the wounds of war.”

I remember that moment during his 2008 campaign for the Presidency.  He was speaking in a high school near Minneapolis, taking questions from the audience.  A woman was handed the microphone.  She said, “I do not believe in, I can’t trust Obama.  I’ve read about him and he’s not a … he’s an Arab.” 

McCain quickly reached for the mike and corrected her. “No ma’am.” He said, “He’s a decent family man and citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with.”  When others tried to label Obama as a terrorist and a Muslim, McCain stated, “He is a decent person and a person you don’t have to be scared of as President of the United States.” 

At Senator McCain’s request, Presidents Obama and George W. Bush are scheduled to speak at his funeral.

Even more than his legendary heroism as a POW for 5 years in Vietnam, McCain’s most important legacy might well be his commitment to decency, respect, honesty, integrity and humility, character qualities that can guide us to a better future.


These are the Christian qualities demonstrated by Jesus toward the poor, the outcast and His own accusers, including the very soldiers who crucified Him.  They are the qualities exhorted by the Apostle Paul who challenged believers “to be ready for every good deed; to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.” (Titus 3:1-2). 

Monday, August 20, 2018

How We Conduct our Conversation


I have a habit of browsing the news.  It is perhaps an addiction or obsession.  I don’t seem to be able to stop.  I prefer written news articles, some in print, most online.  Television newscasts move too slowly, too many commercials and they tend to skim the surface.  Written news is usually more in depth, can be scanned much more quickly and is updated constantly online.

But lately I have questioned whether I should continue to indulge this habit.  Perhaps I should quit reading the news altogether, or at least take a break.  It is almost always depressing.  Everyone seems angry at somebody.  Everyone wants to blame somebody else for their difficulties.  Politicians, athletes, actors and actresses, celebrities of every stripe.  They call each other names and throw insults at one another.  The world has become vitriolic.

Of course there are exceptions. But the exceptions are often drowned out by the sheer noise of name calling and accusations.

Jesus had some rather severe warnings for conduct such as this.  He said, “Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good for nothing,’ shall be guilty before the Supreme Court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”  (Matthew 5:22).

But there is a better way.  Jesus demonstrated it by his life and in his death choosing to bless rather than to curse those who attacked him.    The Apostle Paul explained it like this:

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.  Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Have this attitude in yourselves that was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:3-5).

“Therefore laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor. … Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. … Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving, just as God in Christ has also forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:25-32).

We can do little to change what public figures may say or what is reported in the news.  But we can change the conversation. At work, at home and school. When conversations become acerbic we can change the tone.  We can refuse to respond in kind.  We can reduce the rhetoric. “A soothing tongue is a tree of life.”  (Proverbs 15:4).

Monday, August 13, 2018

Dog and Cat Theology


Over the years our family has included both cats and dogs that helped us raise our kids.   They became our companions. Our cats seemed willing to allow us the privilege of living with them.  Our dogs seemed grateful for the privilege of living with us. They taught us the difference between dog theology and cat theology.  

It might sound strange, even sacrilegious to a few, but Bob Sjogren and Gerald Robison have developed whole seminars and books around “cat and dog theology.” (www.catndogtheology.com). Simply put, cats say, “You feed me, shelter me and care for me.  I must be god.”  Dogs say, “You feed me, shelter me and care for me.  You must be god.”  If you have ever had a cat and a dog you know what I mean.  Cat theology is me-centered.  “What can God do for me?” Dog theology is God centered. “What does God want me to do?” Here are a few things I am learning about “dog theology” from my dog, Buddy.

Buddy trusts me.  Whenever I get in my truck he jumps in and takes his place, ready to go.  He doesn’t know where we are going or what we are going to do. But he believes that if I am driving it is okay.  I need to be more like that with God.  I always want to know where we are going, when we are going to get there and what we are going to do once we arrive.  I need to jump in the truck with God and give him control of my life.

Buddy wants to be with me.  He doesn’t care if he is at the lake running, splashing and rolling in the mud, sitting in a chair next to me on the patio or in my study lying at my feet while I write.  He just wants to be where I am.   I need to spend time with God.  What made the early disciples different was the fact they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).

Buddy follows me.  He even follows me from room to room in the house. Whenever we go for a walks on an empty beach, I let him off his leash and he runs free.  But he keeps an eye on me.  He has developed a radius of his own, about thirty yards from wherever I am.  Within that radius he feels comfortable sniffing washed up driftwood and marking sand dunes.  Occasionally he gets out of eyesight. But, when I call his name he comes running. Not real fast, but as fast as he can. After all he is a Corgi.    It reminds me of what Jesus said to His disciples, “Come, follow me!”  “My sheep know my voice.” 

Buddy waits for me. If I am writing, he lies down, rests his head on his paws, keeps one eye on me and waits.  If we are walking and I stop, he sits down with his tongue hanging out and waits.  If I go to the store, he waits in my truck until I return.  Buddy never complains about waiting on me.  He never gets in a hurry.  Maybe I should be more like that with respect to God and those I love.

Buddy has his own book, Buddy the Floppy Ear Corgi, on Amazon that tells how he was rescued off the streets and how he learned to love himself and others just the way God made them.  Since God has rescued me, I can love myself and others too, just the way He made us

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Class of 2022


In the next few weeks a wave of 17 and 18 year olds will enroll at our colleges and universities as freshmen.  They have grown up in a post 9/11 world, too young to remember the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon that forever changed our world.  They were mere infants, or yet to be born when that fateful morning dawned.  

They are digital. Their earliest memories were formed with PCs and laptops. They have grown up with iPods, iPhones an iPads. Social Media is their world. The internet was here long before they were born.

In some ways their world is unique to any world that has gone before.  But in others, they will share in the same experience that shapes every generation.   Growing up, leaving behind all the old securities, the familiar routines, the shelter of home.  They will carry with them the excitement of launching out on their own, without parental restrictions and supervision.  And, at the same time, they will carry the anxieties and insecurities of being on their own, of being alone. They will pursue the hopes and dreams of a life they cannot predict.

Somewhere in a box, in a dark corner where we store such things, my Baylor slime cap still sleeps: the class of ‘69, “Ever faithful to the line.”  My wife’s is there too, the class of ’71.  They are soaked with memories:  Making new friends; finding our way; finding each other.  A half century has passed.  We celebrate our 50th anniversary this year.  We still get together with friends who shared those first college days.   We celebrate with them the memories of God’s goodness and His provision along the way. 

Like the crowds of 5,000 and 4,000 we have received bread from His hand when we did not know its source.  We have taken up 12 and 7 baskets full, running over, more than enough to meet our needs, blessed beyond our expectations. (And still we doubt?)  (Mark 8:18-21).

We have sent our own children off to college, two to Baylor. One to the University of Minnesota. I have stood in the silence of their empty room, grieved their going while celebrating their “growing up.”  For each of them, as for us, it was the beginning of a new journey.  One that never ends this side of Heaven.

This year our oldest granddaughter is among the incoming freshman class  at the University of Wyoming. We are excited for her, as is our son and daughter-in-law. We are thrilled and proud of the young woman she has become. At the same time, we know the emptiness she will leave behind, how she will be missed, and the challenges she will face. But we have learned, that in and through it all, God is faithful.

The incoming class of 2022 must hear again the voice of God as He spoke to young Abraham in a far and distant land, “Go forth from your country and from your relatives and from your father’s house to a land which I will show you … and I will bless you … and you shall be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:1-2).