What Others Say

Mr. Tinsley, thank you for your well-written and insightful article about Luther.
I shared it with my children during family worship. It lifted us up.
Warmly, Kari.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Kingdom Citizens - The Child Within

When we think of people who are religious, many conjure up images of old men with long gray beards, black capes and stooped shoulders. Some think of ascetic monks living in the desert.  Others picture nuns robed in their habits whispering prayers as they finger their rosaries. 

Jesus changed all our presumptions about what it means to be “religious” when he took a little child, stood him in front of his disciples and said, “Except you become as a little child, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1-2). When he wanted to forge an image in the mind of his followers Jesus chose a child. Why would he do this?

Jesus left the answer to that question up to us.  We can all speculate about the lesson he wanted to teach by choosing a child.  Here are a few characteristics that stand out to me when I think about children and the reason he chose a child to illustrate the nature God looks for in Kingdom people. 

Children live in the moment.  They are not worried about the future.  They are not burdened with guilt about the past. Watch children playing on a playground.  They have little awareness of time. They wear no watches.

Children become friends fast. Most children have not learned to be hesitant and shy.    They greet one another as if they have already met.  “Want to play?”  And the game is on.

Children laugh. I love listening to children on the school playground and in the park. Anywhere children gather, the air is filled with laughter.  It is their nature to laugh.

Children do not know prejudice.  I’m not sure when we learn racial and cultural prejudice, but young children have not learned this lesson.  They readily accept each other as equals regardless of skin color or clothing.  If they notice a difference between them, they ask about it.  And, once the difference is recognized they shrug their shoulders and move on.

Children trust.  When their father extends his arms and encourages them to jump they fling their bodies into open space fully confident they will be caught. 

Children are awed by God’s creation.   They are mesmerized by grasshoppers, caterpillars, butterflies and flowers. They stop and take time to watch an ant wrestle a crumb of bread across the ground.  They notice the spots on a lady bug.

Children have great imaginations. Give a child a sandbox, a stick, or a can and they can construct unbelievable creations. I watched children recently playing in the sand.  They were digging a hole.  When I asked what it was, they looked at me with a puzzled look, as if I was the only one who did not recognize the obvious.  They patiently explained that it was a grasshopper sanctuary.


This list isn’t complete.  You can add others, I am sure.  Somewhere within us all is buried the child we once were.  Perhaps if we could re-connect with the child-like simplicity within us, we might take our first steps toward becoming Kingdom citizens as Jesus described it.  

Monday, July 24, 2017

Senior Citizen

Someone, somewhere said, “Growing old isn’t for sissies!”

At age 79, Thomas Jefferson lamented to his friend John Adams, “It is at most but the life of a cabbage, surely not worth a wish. when all our faculties have left, or are leaving us, one by one, sight, hearing, memory, every avenue of pleasing sensation is closed, and debility and mal-aise left in their places, when the friends of our youth are all gone, and a generation is risen around us whom we know not,” (Monticello, June 1, 1822). 

I am now a “senior citizen.” How did this happen?  I never intended to become one. I spent my life busy about making a living, raising kids, pursuing career goals, trying to serve God and others and, suddenly, I wake up and I am a “senior citizen.”

This was never my goal.  I never looked down the corridors of time and wished that someday I could become a senior citizen. It happened without my knowing.  I was assigned the title without my consent.

Part of it is my own fault.  I have sold out my pride for a few cents and asked for a “senior coffee,” a “senior menu,” or a “senior discount.”  Do I have no shame?

The first indicator was a card in the mail from AARP.  I did not ask for this.  It just came, about the time I turned 50.  And now I receive advertisements from the Neptune Society encouraging me to think about cremation. I don’t want to think about having my body burned, stuffed in a jar or  thrown to the wind.  I want to think about living.

 Little things remind me I am aging.  When I enter my birth year for a plane ticket on the computer, I have to page down four times to find the year.  When I check out at Walmart, the cashier calls me “Sweetie.”  When I go to the barber the floor is littered with white hair clippings.

We discipline ourselves in our youth in order to live a longer life. But, when we live long, we discover that it leads to “old age.”  What is this?  I want my youth back.  I want to run and feel the exhilaration of running; to get out of bed without aching, to fly up the stairs two at a time, and to run down them without a thought and without a limp.  I want to eat whatever I want without gaining weight.

But, if we are successful and live long lives, old age will come.

The Bible affirms God’s love for us as we age.

“You who have been borne by Me from birth and have been carried from the womb;
even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you!
I have done it, and I will carry you; and I will bear you and I will deliver you” (Isaiah 46:3-4)

In every stage of life we pass through troubled times, challenges, setbacks, fears and anxieties. Pursuing an education, finding a job, getting married, having children, making ends meet, disappointments, layoffs, injury and disease. Memory tends to erase the difficulties of the past, but the journey has never been easy. 


In every stage of life, including the last one, God is sufficient and His love never ends.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Reunion

 It is that time of year when families gather for the annual reunion: aunts, uncles and cousins, some twice removed.  They find familiar faces that frame the memories of their youth and tell stories passed down through the years, embellished with each cycle of telling.  “Do you remember when …?”  Laughter fills the air before the story can be told. Everyone in the circle has either heard it or told it countless times. 

Others hang back along the fringe, looking puzzled, trying to figure out who these people are and how they might be related to them. These are the young with their boyfriends and girlfriends and the new “in-laws.”  Sometimes they seek each other out to share a common amnesia regarding the inside jokes and familiar references to names not present.

The reunion has a strange mix of sorrow and laughter. Significant people are missing.  Voices that once echoed at the tables of past reunions are silent.  The same people who gather for the reunion gathered and wept at the funerals for those who no longer come.  Their memories are like the deep colors that form the background for vivid paintings or the rich bass tones of the cello and the French horn that enrich the orchestra.  These sorrows are offset by giggling children who appear like bright colors that dance on the canvass, whose laughter picks up future melodies like the flute.

We somehow have confidence that Heaven is about reunions. We all look forward to seeing those we loved and those who loved us when we get to Heaven. Somehow, this earthly reunion helps us look forward to that day.  We don’t know exactly how it will happen or how God could manage all the intertwined family relationships when we get to Heaven, but, somehow, family reunions portend the Heavenly event.  When I was a child we sang, “Will the circle be unbroken?”  It was a way to ask the question together and look forward to something more perfect that God has planned for us.


Jesus did not shy away from using this image to help us look forward to a more perfect day.  He said, “In my Father’s House are many mansions.  If it were not so, I would have told you.  I go and prepare a place for you that where I am, there you may be also.”  The book of Hebrews uses this metaphor to spur us on to better living: “Seeing that we are surrounded by so great a host of witnesses, let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the originator and the finisher of the race.”  It seems to me that God takes pleasure in our reunions, just as He takes pleasure in reuniting Himself with us through His Son.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

When Suicide Strikes

Four years ago Rick Warren’s son, Matthew ended his life with a self-inflicted gunshot.  Rick Warren is author of one of the bestselling books of all time, The Purpose Driven Life, with more than twenty-million copies sold world-wide.  Rick and his wife, Kay, have been open about their grief and the long struggle with their son’s mental illness that led up to his suicide. Warren’s church described Matthew as “an incredibly kind, gentle and compassionate young man whose sweet spirit was encouragement and comfort to many. Unfortunately, he also suffered from mental illness resulting in deep depression and suicidal thoughts.”

Virtually every family has been touched, directly or indirectly, by suicide and its painful aftermath. According to the World Health Organization, almost one million people die of suicide world-wide each year, a rate of 16 per 100,000, up 60% over the last 45 years. It is among the top three causes of death for those ages 15-44 and the leading cause of death for those ages 10-24. More teenagers and young adults die by suicide each year than by AIDS, birth defects, heart disease, cancer and influenza combined. Placed in historic context, we may well be experiencing a global suicide epidemic.

Researches have dubbed Montana, Alaska, New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho and Colorado the suicide belt because of their high rates of suicide. Suicide’s social stigma coupled with fear, embarrassment, grief and spiritual misunderstanding may contribute to our inability to address helpful solutions. But, increasingly, churches are seeking ways to help people who wrestle with this deadly emotional illness.

 Frank Page, President of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, lost his 32-year-old daughter to suicide in 2009. His book, Melissa: A Father’s Lessons from a Daughter’s Suicide, was published in 2013.  He writes, “Did you ever wonder where God was when you sat up at night asking questions that had no solvable answers? Did you ever doubt His love and goodness? Did you feel abandoned by Him? Deserted? Alone?

“I understand if you did. I understand if you still do. Suicide is not a situation that lends itself to casual conversations with God. It hurts. And more than that, it seems as though He could have prevented it all if He'd wanted to. At those times when the loss seems the most impossible to bear, at times when you can't believe what your child is doing or has done to themselves, it can feel like God is nowhere this side of heaven to offer all that comfort His Word so confidently promises.

“But I can tell you by the testimony of Scripture, He is strong enough to weather our hot accusations against Him, patient enough to withstand our desire to seek distance from Him (though such a thing is, of course, theologically impossible), and compassionate enough to feel emotion at the deep, hollow anguish that can often stand between us and our tottering faith.”


Whenever we feel despair, we can trust that there is yet hope and a future. The Psalmist writes, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence. ... Deep calls to deep at the sound of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have rolled over me. The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; and His song will be with me in the night.” (Psalm 42).  

Monday, July 3, 2017

Spiritual Myopia

Myopia. I learned the word when I was 10 years old. The optometrist checked my eyes and told my parents that I was nearsighted. I didn’t know I was nearsighted. I thought everyone saw everything the way I saw it. Trees were green blobs, the landscape blurred into blotches of pink, green, brown and blue, much like a Monet painting.  My first pair of glasses changed my world. I discovered leaves on trees. I could see people’s faces inside their cars. I could read the blackboard from the back of the room.

I had wondered how other kids could catch and hit a baseball. I never saw the ball until it was on top of me. I could see some vague arm motion in the distance and then, wham! The ball was in my face.  As a teenager I became the cleanup hitter on the All Stars, and could catch a fly ball over my shoulder.  I heard the coach say, “I always knew if he could see it he could catch it.”

Myopia is not only physical. It is spiritual. We are all born spiritually nearsighted. Like my childhood years, we think we see things clearly, but we don’t. We are unaware of what we don’t see. The only person who ever had perfect vision was Jesus. That is why He said, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness but shall  have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

When the prophet Elisha and his servant were surrounded by the enemy at Dothan, the servant was gripped with fear. But Elisha told him, “Do not fear. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” When God opened the servant’s eyes, he saw that “the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6) When we are gripped with fear and despair we need God to open our eyes so we can see clearly. “If God be for us,” Paul said, “who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

Jesus once met a blind man in the village of Bethsaida. Jesus laid His hands upon him and asked him, “Do you see anything?” The man responded, “I see people; they look like trees walking around. Once more,” the Bible says, “Jesus put His hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened … and he saw everything clearly.” (Mark 8:22-25) Many of us are like that blind man. We may be religious. We may attend church. But we need a “second touch” from God so that we can see clearly.

We are born with spiritual nearsightedness so that we only see things close up, our own self interests. As a result we are often filled with fear, doubt, anger, resentment and despair. When we turn from our sins and place our faith in Christ, He is able to touch us so that we see clearly and walk in the light. Only Christ can cure the spiritual myopia that afflicts us from birth and enable us to see the world as God sees it.