What Others Say

I am 96, live alone and appreciate every day.
Enjoy your column. God is good
Joe S.
League City, TX

Monday, October 15, 2018

First Man


Last weekend we slipped into one of the premier showings of First Man, the movie portraying Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon.  The movie takes us on board the X-15, Gemini and Apollo.  We feel that we are there, experiencing the sheer terror of it all, pushing the limits of technology to land a man on the moon. The movie is gripping, as is the history.

My wife and I married on December 21, 1968, the day Apollo 8 launched to carry the first men to orbit the moon.  They reached the moon 3 days later. On Christmas Eve, just before they disappeared to the other side of the moon and lost radio contact with the earth, Frank Borman and his crew read the Genesis account of creation.  (Genesis 1:1-10).  In the distance the earth appeared as a fragile planet on the moon’s horizon.

Six and ½ months later we sat in front of our black and white TV and watched Neil Armstrong leap from the last rung of the lunar lander’s ladder to take “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” 

James Irwin served as the commander and pilot for the lunar lander on Apollo 15.  He became the 8th astronaut to step foot on the moon.  After his return Irwin founded the High Flight Foundation as a non-denominational evangelical organization based in Colorado Springs.  He said, “Some people make light of it and ask how can a technical person, an astronaut, believe in the Bible.  I guess I also was a skeptic in my early days, but I have come to believe what the Bible says as being true.” 

The last man to walk on the moon was Gene Cernan, commander of Apollo 17 in December 1972.  Cernan described his experience. “I felt the world was just too beautiful to have happened by accident.  There has to be something bigger than you and bigger than me. … There has to be a Creator of the universe who stands above the religions that we ourselves create to govern ourselves.”

We don’t know much about Neil Armstrong’s faith.  Like every other aspect of his life, as portrayed in the movie, he was closely guarded.  But Thomas Friedman includes an account about Neil Armstrong’s visit to Jerusalem that is telling, if true.  According to Friedman, when Armstrong visited the Temple in Jerusalem he asked his guide if these were the very steps where Jesus stepped.  When his guide confirmed they were, Armstrong reportedly said, “I have to tell you, I am more excited stepping on these steps than I was stepping on the moon.” 

If Friedman’s account in his book, From Beirut to Jerusalem,  is true, Armstrong’s words reflect the greater miracle: not that man stepped foot on the moon, but that God stepped foot on earth in the person of His Son.   As John wrote, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we saw His glory, glory as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”  (John 1:14).

Monday, October 8, 2018

Sunrise Season


I sat in the pre-dawn dark watching the gathering glow in the east.  A bird broke the stillness with a solitary song. Soon others joined him in the gathering light until they filled the air with a chorus of calls. It was as if the birds had waited through the long hours of darkness wondering if the sun would return, and, once it did, they were delirious with joy.

We sometimes feel that way, when the darkness closes in on us.  We sometimes wonder, as the birds seem to do, if the dawn of light and goodness will ever again dispel the darkness of violence and pain.

I have watched the sun rise over the snow-covered hills of Minnesota, painting the landscape with crimson and gold until ice-covered limbs sparkle like diamonds.  I have watched the sun stain the eastern horizon with purple and gray before penetrating the breaking clouds with shafts of gold. I have watched the day dawn over the mountains of Montana and Switzerland. I have seen it transform the sea into pink and purple waves in Hawaii.  I watched the sunrise on the first day of the new millennium, bursting above the horizon as a brilliant ball of light in a clear blue sky.

The sunrise is the perfect symbol for God’s intervention into our world.

When John the Baptist was born his father understood the importance of his son’s birth. For nine months Zechariah had reflected on the angel’s announcement to him that he would have a son in his old age. He had been mute throughout his wife’s pregnancy. But when John was born, his tongue was loosed and he burst into praise. He said, “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:76-79).

In every generation, those who have faith have seen the sunrise of God. Darkness cannot conquer it. Corrie Ten Boom and Dietrich Bonhoffer saw it during the dark days of Hitler’s holocaust. Louis Zamparini discovered it after surviving the Japanese POW camps. Rachel Scott and Cassie Bernall bore witness to it during the massacre at Columbine. The Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania gave testimony to it after their daughters were gunned down in a one-room school. Countless thousands have borne witness that light that refuses to be extinguished.

This is what John meant when he wrote, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:4-14).


Saturday, September 29, 2018

Respecting Women


Our nation was deeply moved last week as Christine Blasey Ford told her story before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Her sense of terror and vulnerability were palpable.  Milliions, both men and women, were moved to tears. She represented a symbol for women everywhere who feel powerless, helpless and, often, afraid. In every culture, in every time and place, this seems to be true. Perhaps there are exceptions, but they are rare.

Jesus rose above customs and traditions to demonstrate the worth and value of women.

When Jesus came to the well in Samaria, he remained alone while his disciples went into the nearby village searching for provisions.  A single woman approached.  She came at an odd hour, when other women would not be present. She was taken aback to find a man at the well.  Refusing to make eye contact, she hoped to avoid any interaction with this Jewish stranger.  She intended to fill her bucket quickly and be on her way. 

But Jesus would not let the moment pass.  He asked her for water.  She was shocked. “You, a Jew, would ask water from me, a Samaritan woman?”  Jesus engaged her more deeply.  This thoroughly confused the woman who challenged him with the Samaritan’s tradition of worshipping at Gerazim rather than Jerusalem.  Again His response stunned her.  He did not argue the point.  He did not put her down.  He said, “I tell you a time is coming when true worshippers will worship God neither in Jerusalem nor Gerazim but they will worship in spirit and in truth.”  He offered her living water from which she would never thirst.

When the disciples appeared they were shocked.  None of them dared say anything but their body language and the look in their eye betrayed their thoughts.  It was unheard of that a Jewish man would be found conversing with a Samaritan woman, especially alone.  (John 4).

Later, another woman was dragged to Jesus because she had been caught in the act of adultery.  Her accusers stood glaring, stones gripped in their hands, waiting for Jesus to condemn the woman. Instead, he bent over and wrote in the sand.   Whatever he wrote convicted all of her accusers.  The men who were ready to stone the woman were overcome with guilt.  One-by-one they dropped their stones and slowly drift away.  Then, taking her face in his hands and looking intently into her eyes he forgave her.  “Where are your accusers?”  He asked. She responded, “There are none.”  Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.  Go your way and sin no more.”  (John 8).

Following His crucifixion Jesus chose to show Himself alive first to the women and only later to the men. They carried the news to the eleven who were huddled in a secret room.  The men dismissed the women’s report as idle gossip.  Only later, when Jesus appeared among them did they realize the truth of the women’s report the He was, indeed, risen.

The Apostle summed up the Scriptural position on gender when he wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  (Galatians 3:28).

Sunday, September 23, 2018

When Someone We Love Dies


Sooner or later we all ask the question, “If a man die, shall he live again?”  I was 29 when the question became personal.   I sat beside the grave where they would lower the body of my father.  A few days before I held his hand as he drew his last breath.  My mind was flooded with memories of his smiling face, his laughter, his hand upon my shoulder encouraging me.  He held me as an infant, steadied my first steps as a toddler, taught me to ride a bike, coached my Little League baseball team, took me water skiing and fishing and encouraged me as I entered the ministry.  And now his body lay still and unresponsive in the casket about to be lowered into the earth.

There have been others: my grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, my wife’s brothers, my college roommate and, in 2011, my mother.  The longer we live the longer the list grows.  When we are young death comes as a shock, an unexpected intruder, a thief.  But the older we become the more we accept it and expect it.  But the question persists: “If a man die, shall he live again?”

It is one of the most important questions we can ask.  The answer to that question can either plunge us into despair and hopelessness, or it can elevate us to new purpose and expectation.  If there is life beyond the grave then life on this earth makes sense.  Sacrifice and suffering are worth it.  Doing what is right when it goes against our self-interest is worth it.

Job was among the first to ask the question, “If a man die shall he live again.”  And, in the midst of his suffering he found the answer:

“Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! That with an iron stylus and lead they were engraved in the rock forever! “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see and not another.” (Job 19:23-37).

It was this confidence in life beyond the grave that set apart the early followers of Christ.  It is this confidence that has set apart believers of all ages.  John wrote, “These things have I written that you may know that you have eternal life and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:13).  

Paul concluded: “But when this perishable will have put on [v]the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.  death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;  but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

Jesus said, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no  man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”  (John 10:28-29).

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).

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).

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Does God Exist? Does Life Matter? What Happens When We Die?


I always liked Stephen Hawking.  I admired his brilliance and the courage he demonstrated in his fight with ALS.  In March Dr. Hawking died at 76.  A couple weeks ago, June 15, his ashes were buried in Westminster Abbey between the graves of Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton.

Hawking was diagnosed with ALS in 1963 when he was 21. The doctors gave him two years to live. For 55 years he defied the odds.  His best known work, “A Brief History of Time,” sold more than three million copies.

I was saddened a few years ago when he said, “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

It is difficult for me to comprehend how such a brilliant mind can reach the conclusion that all we observe in the universe is an accident, that there is no intelligent force or design behind our existence.  It seems as illogical to me as finding a state-of-the-art functioning PC in the desert and concluding it just accidentally evolved from nowhere. 

The question Hawking dealt with is bigger than any religion or denominational expression. It is also bigger than science.  It is a question we all must face and answer.  How we answer it makes a great deal of difference in how we live and how meaningful our lives are. 

Hawking concluded that since there is no God, humans should seek to live the most valuable lives they can while on Earth.  This too, makes no sense to me. If there is no God  we are sucked into a black hole of non-existence and non-meaning.  What does it matter?

If we argue that love matters then we are thrown back into the very lap of God.  Love is the greatest and most mysterious reality in our existence, eclipsing all other discoveries.  Who wants to live in a world of technological perfection and scientific achievement without love?  A loveless world would leave us shallow, fragmented, lonely, isolated, fearful, and miserable.

Here lies the greatest truth:  “God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”  (1 John 4:16).  “We love because He first loved us.” “God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”

Faith or non-faith is a choice.  We can choose to believe that our world is the result of a creative God who desired and designed our existence from the tiniest molecule to the most distant star or we can choose not to believe. The historical resurrection of Jesus makes this more than wishful thinking.

For my part, I will choose love, faith and the promise of eternal life in Jesus Christ. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Lessons from the Border


The America I grew up in was seen as the shining light on a hill.  We took pride in the inscription on the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Instead of decimating our enemies after World War II, we helped them rebuild.  Germany and Japan embraced freedom and prosperity and became two of our strongest allies.  

We fought and died in the jungles of Vietnam, not for ourselves, but for others.  In its aftermath we welcomed Vietnamese and Hmong refugees who integrated into our cities.  Christian churches sprang up among various groups: Vietnamese, Chinese, Laotian, Thai, Korean, Liberian, Nigerian and many others.  Spanish speaking churches exploded and continue to thrive.  The Christian faith swept across South Korea until it became the second largest mission sending nation in the world.

When I visited Brazil I was welcomed as a celebrity because I was an American.  Children ran through the streets and people crowded in the windows to see someone from the United States. When I served briefly as pastor of an English speaking church in Nuremburg Germany older Germans often expressed their gratitude for GIs who helped them rebuild their nation.  We thought of ourselves as a generous and welcoming nation, blessed by God to bless the nations of the world.

But all of that seems to be changing.  We are well down the road of putting “America first.”  The question is no longer, what is best for mankind, for the world and for posterity, but what is best for us.  The MAGA has transitioned into a “me first” mentality.

Instead of asking, how can we help out neighbor nations fight the gang violence and corruption that causes families to flee to our borders, we ask only, “how can we keep these people out?” Children are torn from the arms of their desperate parents as punishment for seeking a safe asylum in the United States.  In our efforts to “make American great again” we seem to be losing the values that made America great in the first place.

Our movies, our media and our politics portray us as a covetous people.  We seem to have adopted Gordon Gekko’s maxim that “greed is good.”  We have turned a deaf ear to the tenth commandment: “You shall not covet.” (Exodus 20:17).

The Apostle Paul confessed that this commandment was his undoing. “I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’  But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting.’” Romans 7:7-8).

When we start down this self-centered path we sow the seeds of future calamity in our communities, our nation and the world. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet, but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.” (James 4:1-2).

Paul’s conclusion is applicable for all of us: “The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” You shall not steal, “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Romans 13:9).

Sunday, June 10, 2018

A Crisis of Deception - Who Can We Trust?


There was a day when we felt we could trust those who spoke to us, the Presidents who led us and the journalists who interpreted the news.  We believed Washington “could not tell a lie.”  Lincoln was known for his honesty.  We always knew we could trust Walter Cronkite, whether he was reporting the assassination of JFK or describing the first lunar landing. But those days seem naive and far away. 

The world has become much more complex.  The truth is far more difficult to discern.  Nixon’s claim that he was no crook and Clinton’s assertion that he “never had sex with that woman,” eroded our trust in the Presidency.  Today we feel caught between “fake news” and “alternate realities.”  Brian Williams and Matt Lauer left us disillusioned with journalists.  We hardly know who to believe.

Former NY Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, speaking at Rice University’s commencement, stated that we are facing “an epidemic of dishonesty … an endless barrage of lies and alternate realities.”  …“ The greatest threat to American democracy isn’t communism, jihadism or any other external force or foreign power,” he said. “It’s our own willingness to tolerate dishonesty in service of party, and in pursuit of power.” 

NBC News reporter Andrew Rafferty said, “We live in a world where lying has become an art.  Politicians, celebrities, characters on the screen, all lie.  They do so convincingly and without remorse.  And technology has moved prevarication into a whole new realm.  The world where ‘seeing is believing’ has vanished.”

The ninth commandment is essential to personal, relational and societal health. “You must not lie.” (Exodus 20:16 Living Bible).

When we ignore God’s instructions on truthfulness and honesty, we sow the seeds of our own misery and destruction. Whether marriage, family, business or politics; in the home, the school, the work place and the world.  

So, what should we do?  First, we must practice telling the truth to our children, to one another, in business and personal relationships.  Above all, we must be known to be honest. We must not lie.

Second, we must practice discernment. We cannot believe everything we hear and see at face value, especially social media that has little or no accountability.   “Do not be deceived,” the Bible says, “God is not mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Galatians 6:7).  And again, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.  Every good thing given and every perfect gift from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:16-17).


Third, we must place our trust in the One who alone is truthful, honest and above reproach.  We must trust God, confident that He knows our hearts, our secret thoughts and every word we speak.  “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar.” (Romans 3:4).  Jesus said, “If you continue in my word then you are truly disciples of mine; and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32).

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Eighth Commandment Property Priorities


An Atlanta businessman boarded MARTA to make his daily commute to work.  He stood in the crowded car scanning the newspaper accounts of crime when he felt a stranger bump him.  He instinctively felt for the wallet in his back pocket and found it missing.  He folded the paper and kept his eye on the stranger who had moved to the opposite side of the car.  When the train stopped and the stranger exited, he followed.  His rage continuing to grow, he grabbed the stranger and threw him up against the wall.  His face crimson with wrath he demanded, “Okay Bub, hand over that wallet.”  The stranger, trembling, placed the wallet in his hand. Without looking the businessman shoved the wallet into his pocket and stomped off to work.  When he arrived at his office his secretary stopped him.  “You  have a message from your wife,” She said.  “You left your wallet on the night stand at home!”

I suppose all of us have been victims of theft.  Shortly after we married we drove to Houston to visit my wife’s mother in the hospital.  I left our car parked on the street filled with our clothes on hanging rods. When we returned, we were clothes-less.  Most of us have lost bicycles at college. Some have had home break-ins with far more serious losses. My wallet fell out of my pocket at a theater once.  I found it a few days later, sans cash and credit cards. 

Theft is widespread.   Every day the eighth commandment is broken: “You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15).

The first step in respecting other people is respecting property.  It is one of the first lessons we teach to toddlers.  Some toys belong to them. Some toys belong to their friends. It is not an easy lesson for a toddler, and some never learn it.

The Atlantic cited a study that concluded that out of 1 million self-check transactions totaling $21 million, merchandise totaling $850,000 left the store without being scanned. 

The rich and the well-off are just as guilty as the poor, maybe moreso. We only need launch a Google search for a list of celebrities who have been convicted of shoplifting. White collar crime is rampant. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners estimated businesses lost $895 billion to fraud in 2016.

As always, Jesus raised the commandment to another level.  We have not fulfilled the heart of the commandment when we refuse to take something that does not belong to us.  We fulfill the commandment when we move beyond seeing property and possession as primary.   People are primary. Jesus said, “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well … give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:40-42). 

We can keep the eighth commandment and still live a selfish and self-centered life.

The Bible says, “Give generously and do so without a grudging heart; then, because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land.  Therefore I command you to be openhanded.” (Deuteronomy 15:10-11).

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Seventh Commandment: Exalting Marriage


Young families embody the hope and dreams of our future.  Few scenes move me as much as a young couple strolling along the seawall pushing a stroller; fathers splashing in the surf with their children while young mothers lounge on the beach; children laughing in the park flying kites with their fathers, giggling on playgrounds with their mothers.

It is this special bond that God’s seventh commandment seeks to nourish and protect: “You shall not commit adultery.”   Sex, in all of its beauty and pleasure, was given to men and women to celebrate the mystery by which human life is conceived, cradled and nurtured.

The world seemed to stand still a few weeks ago when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle exchanged vows in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.  The pomp and pageantry, as only the British can do, touched something in all of us regarding the majesty of marriage.

This year my wife and I celebrate our 50th anniversary along with many of our friends who “pledged their troth” about the same time as we in 1968.  Marriage is worth holding on to, worth working through the difficulties, worth the investment.  The seventh commandment provides the foundation for trust and a love that lasts. It is the foundation of the family where children are born, nurtured and loved.

Many have rejected the Biblical view of marriage.  Somewhere along the way sex became recreational.  I guess this happened around the time birth control was introduced.  It revolutionized sex in the 1960s: free sex with whomever without the consequences of conception. 

Melissa Batchelor Warnke, writing in the L.A. Times expressed current sexual values, I believe that everyone should have exactly as much sex as they do or don't want to have, with whomever they do or don't want to have it, in whatever fashion they do or don't want to have it. So long as consent is present in any resultant exchange, one need not justify their choices.”  

We are witnessing the consequences of the cavalier attitudes spawned over the last half-century. Women are speaking up.  Sexual misconduct and harassment is widespread. Last week Harvey Weinstein returned to court.  Matt Lauer, Bill Cosby and other household names that once commanded respect and adulation are gone leaving behind a trail of disgrace and embarrassment.

As with other commandments, Jesus raised the bar.  “You have heard that it has been said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ but I say to you, he who looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27).

I like what Jeff Christopherson wrote in his book, Kingdom First, “The husband who faithfully and sacrificially loves his wife over a lifetime not only receives the personal blessing of a joyous marriage, but further, the Kingdom ripples of that union emanate through generations.   Children, grandchildren, colleagues, friends, and neighbors are all secondary recipients of the grace experienced in a godly marriage.”