What Others Say

Just a note to thank you for your wonderful weekly columns in the Galveston Paper.
To open a newspaper and see references to God, Scriptures, Kindness, Peace, Loving one another is what our whole world needs now more than ever. -John D. Galveston, Texas

Monday, April 30, 2012

Looking for Legal Loopholes

An interesting statement has surfaced in the John Edwards trial. Edwards has admitted that he had an affair during his bid for the Presidential nomination in 2003 while his wife was battling cancer. He has also admitted that he arranged for hundreds of thousands of dollars to be channeled to his mistress and that he arranged for his associate to falsely claim paternity for his child in order to cover up the affair. In preparation for the trial, his attorney has stated, “What John Edwards did may be sinful and immoral, but it was not illegal.”

What does this statement communicate about the moral and spiritual condition of our nation? Does it imply that it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you can avoid being punished for it? Does it imply that morality and ethics are less important than the law?

What is legal depends upon the latest laws passed by men and women who are able to garner votes in congress. What is moral is contained in the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” the Great Commandment: “Love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.” and the Sermon on the Mount.

We all stand in need of God’s grace. The Bible says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Without the grace God has extended in Christ we would all be condemned. But I am deeply concerned with the growing misperception that God doesn’t care how we live. Receiving God’s grace requires heartfelt repentance. While Jesus offered eternal life saying, “He who lives and believes in me will never die,” He also warned against religious lip service saying, “Except you repent you shall all likewise perish.”

I don’t know whether John Edwards will be found guilty of misappropriating campaign finances to cover up his moral failure or not. But I do know that all of us will one day stand before God to give account of everything we have ever done. The kind of faith in Jesus Christ that will save us in that day will be reflected in how we live today. Jesus closed his Sermon on the Mount with this warning, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:22-23).

John Edwards got it backwards. Our greatest concern should be whether our actions are moral rather than whether they are legal.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Grief

Most of us first experience grief as a child with the death of a pet who shared our childhood wonder. But it eventually comes more forcefully in the death of a parent, a brother, sister or friend. If we live long enough, it will come to each of us when we part with those we love most. David, who wrote the Psalms, was famous for his grief over the death of his son Absalom. Even though Absalom led a rebellion against him seeking to unseat him from the throne of Israel, when David heard that Absalom was dead, he was inconsolable. He wept and cried, ““O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33). On another occasion, when David grieved over the death of an infant son, he said, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Sam. 12:23). Confidence in Heaven and the resurrection does not eliminate grief, but it takes away the sting. That is why the Apostle Paul writes, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.” I once visited a cemetery in old Boston where the tombstones date back to some of the earliest residents of The Colonies. I discovered an interesting pattern. Those grave makers erected before 1730 bore skulls and cross bones. They were the picture of death and despair. The markers erected after 1740 bore the images of angels and cherubim and were often inscribed with verses about heaven. The only event that could have made such a difference in the Boston markers is the Great Awakening that swept the Colonies in the 1730s and 40s. Benjamin Franklin wrote of the Awakening that there was a “wonderful...change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. … so that one could not walk thro' the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street." Grief as a believer in Jesus Christ is deep and real, but it is not a grief without hope. Even Jesus grieved when he stood outside the tomb of his friend Lazarus. Although he knew he would call Lazarus from the grave and raise him from the dead, the Bible says, “Jesus wept.” When Jesus wept, he demonstrated to us that God not only knows our grief, he feels it. We do not grieve alone or in isolation not do we grieve without hope. Knowing His followers would experience grief, Jesus spoke these words to them only hours before His own death, “Do not let your heart be troubled; [a]believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

Monday, April 16, 2012

Dog Theology

Over the years our family has included both cats and dogs that helped us raise our kids. and 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 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 walk in an open field 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 exploring smells and marking trees. 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

Monday, April 9, 2012

Ants

We have ants. We have kept them at bay inside the house, but outside, that is a different matter. A single dropped crumb on the patio and the next morning a stream of ants appear, hundreds of them in a neatly organized operation to dismantle the discarded food and store it in bits and bites for later use.

How do they do this? Do the wandering scout-ants have cell phones? When they make a discovery do they place a call back to home base and say, “Send the troops. We have food!” Who organizes the operation? Who tells these worker ants to answer the call, and who plots the shortest and least obstructed route to the treasure?

If they were humans, the searchers who discovered the food supply would immediately stake a claim, lay title to it and horde it so that they could be wealthier than all the other ants. They would let the weaker ants in the colony starve. And, they would probably spend most of their time in “ant court” defending the right to their possessions. “Ant lawyers” would probably claim the greatest portion of the wealth.

Why can’t we learn from these little creatures? Every year a billion people on the earth die of starvation. Every day 25,000 children, world wide, whose stomachs are bloated and empty, draw their last breath. They die in remote villages far from public view. Over half the world’s population, three billion people, live on less than $2.50 per day.

I have to admit this convicts and alarms me. I need to be more like the little critters that invade my patio. I need to sound the alarm, send out the signal, marshal others and join them in distributing food and resources to those who need it. But how do we do this? How do we know that our gifts get to the people and places where they are needed? There is so much graft and corruption in the world that charitable gifts are often routed into the pockets of the greedy.

I guess the best thing is to be alert to opportunities. When a beggar approached me on a parking lot in downtown Dallas, I took him across the street to Subway and bought him a sandwich. Unfortunately, as I listened to him, his story seemed to unravel and I am not sure it was the best thing to do. But it was something. When one of our church members returned from Kenya and made an appeal for people she knows who are starving, I sent a check. When I visited Tillie Bergin at Mission Arlington and saw the difference she was making among the poor in the inner city, I sent a gift. It’s not much. But, for me it is a start. If all of us gave more generously we could make a difference, like the ant.

Proverbs says, “Go to the ant … consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” (Prov. 6:6-8). John the forerunner, describing true repentance and faith, said, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” (Luke 3:11)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Top Story

For years, the Pew Research Center has identified the top stories in the media according to public interest. Last week, the shooting of Florida teenager, Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman was the most watched news story. Before that, the news was dominated by the reports of the U.S. soldier who went on a killing spree in Afghanistan. Prior to that we were debating Rush Limbaugh’s critical remarks regarding Sandra Fluke. And, before that, we focused on Whitney Houston’s sudden death.

All of these are important stories. Some of them reflect how we live and many of them affect how we choose to live with one another. But, as the stories shift almost daily they become something of a blur. Over a lifetime only a few stories stand out. Among them, we would doubtless include the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr, Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, Watergate and the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

When we look at history, only a few events stand out, and some of those were scarcely known or recognized at the time: Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, Columbus’ discovery of the New World, Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, Jefferson’s drafting of the Declaration of Independence, Gettysburg, Lincoln’s assassination, Pearl Harbor.

But the one singular event that most shapes who we are and how we live is the event that will be remembered on every continent and celebrated in almost every language this week. Millions will gather to reflect and remember what happened two thousand years ago when a Galilean carpenter was executed on a Roman cross and laid in a borrowed grave. Many innocent men have been tortured and executed across the centuries, but what made Jesus unique was the evidence that he rose from the dead.

Luke, a physician in the first century, carefully interviewed the eyewitnesses to give us the best-documented report. He wrote, “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses. … I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning.” (Luke 1:1-4). And, again, “After His suffering, He presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:1-3).

The Apostle Paul was violently opposed to the Christian message until he became convinced that Jesus had been raised from the dead. He wrote, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me also.” (1 Cor. 15:3-8).

We will continue to follow important news events week by week. The way we deal with them will inevitably shape our lives. But no event is more important and life shaping than Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. How we choose to respond to that event will ultimately make all the difference in how we live, how we love and how we die.