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, 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).

Monday, July 30, 2018

Re-dreaming the Dream



Fifty-five years ago, August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. took his place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and addressed a crowd of 250,000. His name is permanently linked with the Civil Rights movement. Boulevards, schools and institutions are named for him.  But Martin Luther King, Jr. was first and foremost a Baptist preacher and pastor.

His words that day, and the non-violent actions he adopted grew out of his faith.  When he announced, “I have a dream,” it was a dream that sprang from Scripture and the teachings of Jesus. Inspiring a generation to correct past wrongs, he exhorted, “in the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. …”

“I have a dream that one day my four little children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. … I have a dream that one day every valley will be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low.  The rough places will be made plain and the crooked places will be made straight.  And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. … With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”

Dr. King’s words need to be heard again. The Bible is a dreamer’s book.  God is always inviting us to a new dream that transcends prejudice, suspicion and resentment.

Abraham’s story begins with a vision and a dream: to leave his home in Mesopotamia so that God can make him a blessing to the nations. (Genesis 12:1-3).  Jacob’s life is transformed in a dream at Bethel where he saw angels ascending and descending from Heaven.  God told him, “In you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 28:14).  Peter’s vision at Joppa changed his opinion regarding other ethnicities.  He said, “I certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is welcome to Him.” (Acts 10:34-35).   

Paul the Apostle was a devout Jew when he was young.  He had little use for Gentiles and was a zealous Pharisee.  But a vision of Christ changed all of that.  He later devoted his life to reaching people of all nations with the message of God’s love in Christ.  In a world and a time known for its prejudice, violence, slavery and sexual abuse he wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Prejudice, discrimination, resentment and violence are enemies that never die. Every generation must redream the dream and seek God’s vision to overcome these destructive forces.

Monday, July 23, 2018

While You Were Sleeping


I typically don’t think much about sleep. But when you fly through seven or more time zones in a single day, you think about it.  When everyone else is getting up, your body is begging to go to bed. When everyone else is settling down for a good night’s sleep, your body is wide awake and looking for something to do. It takes a few days, at least, to “reset the body clock.”

Sleep is an amazing thing.  We all require it, including the animals.  Even my dog sleeps.  I know, I have spent the night camping in a tent with him.  He snores. Sleep appears to be a requirement for all animal life, though it may vary in intensity and method.

Something mysterious and magical happens when we sleep.

Kenneth Cooper, the world-famous physician who set us on the path for aerobic health more than forty years ago, maintains that adequate sleep, like adequate exercise and diet, are essential to balanced health.  He states, “Most studies indicate that the average person needs somewhere between the traditional 7 and 8 hours a night. If you get much more sleep than that … you feel sluggish and fuzzy-headed during the day.  … if you get too little sleep .. you tend to feel like death warmed over.”

Sleep deprivation has been used as a means of interrogation and even torture.  In some cases, the inability to sleep has had catastrophic consequences.  Many think the popular actor, Heath Ledger’s  tragic death from a prescription drug overdose may have been caused by his ongoing battle with chronic insomnia.

Scientists have a pretty good idea of what goes on during sleep, but no one seems to know exactly how it happens. According to the Sleep Foundation, the body and the brain are repaired and nourished during the phases of non-rapid eye movement (NREM)  and rapid-eye-movement (REM). Somehow the body repairs its muscles, consolidates memory and releases hormones that regulate growth and appetite.

Even Jesus slept.  His twelve disciples found it incredible that he could sleep in the bow of the boat during a raging storm. Frantic with fear, they woke him.   Awakened from his sleep, Jesus asked, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?”  He then rebuked the winds and the waves, and the place where they were became perfectly calm. His disciples were astonished and looking at one another asked, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the waves obey him?” (Matthew 8:23-27).

The need to sleep recognizes our mortality.  For seven to eight hours of every day, between a fourth and a third of every twenty-four hours, the world continues without us.  During that time, we are totally and completely dependent upon others and upon God for our existence and our well-being.  We are not the masters of our fate.

The Scripture states, “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat — for he grants sleep to those he loves.” (Psalm 127:2)

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Rescued


For the last two weeks the World Cup has been upstaged by a 12 boy soccer team trapped along with their coach in a cave in Thailand.   The situation was desperate.  A 2.5 mile labyrinth largely submerged under flood waters separated them from freedom.  It looked hopeless.

But a multinational task force united by courage and determination succeeded in saving them all, each one led through dark waters by their guides.  One Thai Navy Seal lost his life setting up the complicated system of oxygen tanks to enable their rescue.

On Tuesday, July 10, the last of the boys and their coach were brought to safety.  The entire world celebrated.

It was a refreshing and heroic story in a world where human life often appears cheap. It served as a reminder of the precious value of every individual.  Like those boys trapped in a cave, every person of every nationality is important, every man, every woman, rich and poor, of every race, every refugee in every country, every life is precious.

It echoed the teachings of Jesus in which He repeatedly urged us to treasure everyone with whom we come in contact.  In the story of the Good Samaritan He instructed us to be neighbor to others by going out of our way, to put ourselves at risk, to bind up their wounds and care for their recovery. (Luke 10:25-37).

This is the way God sees us.  He loves us, each and every one. He searches for us to rescue us.  Like a shepherd who leaves his 99 sheep that are safely home to seek for the one that is lost, God searches for us and celebrates when we are found.  (Luke 15:1-7).

Like these courageous men who put their own lives on the line for these boys, God put His own son’s life on the line for us.  Even more so, God sent His son to rescue us trapped in a world dominated by evil, knowing His Son must suffer and die that we might be rescued.  

As the Bible says, “My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.  (1 John 4:7-10 The Message).

In a world increasingly sown with suspicion and distrust, where racial and economic divisions are rearing their ugly heads, we have all been lifted by the demonstrations of love, sacrifice, determination and joy in Thailand where twelve boys, one-by-one have been rescued by courageous men from many countries working together.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Trees - Marvel of the Universe


I have always been struck by the beauty of trees: majestic pecans, towering oaks and whispering pines of Texas, the blue spruce,  crab apple and maple of Minnesota, the cottonwood and quaking aspen of Colorado.

Trees are majestic, mysterious and essential to our existence on earth.  They sprout from tiny seeds that can be held in the hand.  They send their roots deep beneath the earth and extend their limbs to the sky as if in prayer, transforming soil and light into substance.  They bear the snow of winter and explode with blossoms in spring. They whisper in a gentle breeze and howl when the storm whips their branches.  Their life-giving leaves filter the air to produce the oxygen that we breathe. 

They give shelter to the birds that build their nests, perch among their leaves and sing their songs.  Forests form the homes and habitat for wildlife. For thousands of years the trees have provided the wood with which we build our homes, fashion our furniture, warm ourselves in winter and produce the paper to preserve our written records.  They feed both man and beast with their nuts and fruit.

Trees remind us of those who have gone before, those who planted them and those who lived among them. We sit in their shade in summer as our mothers and fathers sat in an earlier day.

The oldest trees date back more than two millennia. The “Arbol del Tul,” a Montezuma Cypress in Mexico has the widest trunk on earth and may be 3,000 years old.  Some of the olive trees in Gethsemane are at least 900 years old and likely descended from the very trees that shadowed Jesus when he prayed.

The “Cotton Tree” in Sierre Leone marks the place where freed slaves gathered beneath its branches to give thanks for their freedom in 1792.  “General Sherman,” the Giant Sequoia, one of the largest trees on earth is believed to be between 2,300 and 2,700 years old. The 500 year old “Treaty Oak” in Austin, Texas was once the sacred meeting place for Comanche and Tonkawa Indians. Stephen F. Austin met with them beneath its branches to form the first peace treaty for his colony.

The redemptive story of the Bible begins and ends with trees.  It starts with the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” in Genesis and ends with the “Tree of Life” in Revelation.  Psalm 96 proclaims, “Let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy before the Lord, for He is coming!”

In the fullness of time God chose a tree in the form of the Cross to accomplish our redemption. The Bible says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles.” (Galatians 3:13-14).

Trees remind us of God’s goodness and grace by which he created the beauty of the earth and redeemed us for his glory.

Friday, June 29, 2018

What Your Won't Do For Yourself


 Left to myself, I will sit around and vegetate. I know that other people don’t do this, but I do. When I look across the room at my dog who follows me from room to room and is happy to be wherever I am, I know that he needs to walk. So, I get up, put on my shoes, find his leash and off we go. It is good for him and it is good for me. What I won’t do for myself I will do for my dog.

This little act highlights an important point I have discovered. We all need to be motivated for someone or something outside ourselves. I have heard it said, “If you won’t do it for someone else, do it for yourself!” But I have discovered that doing it for myself is the lowest and weakest motivator in my life.

Some have assumed that our democratic system works because it is based on self-interest. If everyone looks out for himself, seeks to make the biggest profit and accumulate the most wealth, it all just seems to work out for everybody. But that isn’t true. Our democratic system works because people are willing to sacrifice their own self-interest in the interest of others. The key to American democracy is selfless altruism. Not greed.

Life is not like Monopoly. We don’t win by owning the largest number of properties, raising the rent and amassing stacks of money on our side of the board until we drive everyone else into bankruptcy. That might work for a board game, but even then the players seldom feel good about it. In life we win by giving ourselves away.

We are made in such a way that we must be called to something higher. We will endure great pain, hardship, discipline and even death for people we love and causes that challenge us.

When we live our lives and make our decisions based upon self-interest and self-gratification we are led into dead end tributaries, into a shallow existence that results in isolation and loneliness. When we choose to orient our lives around serving and helping others, we launch out into the deep where we discover meaning and fulfillment.

Howard Hughes, one of the wealthiest men of the twentieth century who spent lavishly to indulge his whims and idiosyncrasies, died a recluse, lonely, isolated and mentally deranged. The FBI had to resort to fingerprints in order to identify his body.

Mother Teresa, who was penniless, spent her life caring for the poor, sick, orphaned and dying. When she died in 1997 the Missionaries of Charity, which she founded, had over one million co-workers serving the “poorest of the poor” in 123 countries. In 2010, the 100th anniversary of her birth, she was honored around the world.

This is why the Scripture urges us to put others first. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4).  Jesus said, “Give and it shall be given to you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over shall men give into your bosom.”  (Luke 6:38).