What Others Say

I so enjoy reading your articles each Saturday in our local newspaper, the Abilene Reporter News. Always so uplifting and encouraging filled with truths we all need to hear and respond to. - L Brokaw

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Lessons From Buddy: Why God Loves Me


I started writing these faith columns in the fall of 2009.  A friend had purchased a few local newspapers and wanted a free faith column he could provide to his readers.  The distribution has grown to include newspapers in more than a dozen states.  It has received over 140,000 views online including more than 7,500 in Russia.  Its reach has exceeded anything I ever imagined.

About the time I started writing the column, my wife and I adopted a tri-color Pembroke Corgi that we named Buddy.  We found him at Corgi rescue.  He was picked up by animal control on the streets of Fort Worth, skinny and sick.  How a dog like Buddy could be lost for that long was a mystery to me until he told me his story.  I wrote it down just the way he told it to me and published it as a children’s book, Buddy the Floppy Ear Corgi.  

I wrote my first column about Buddy on October 29, 2009.  Each year I have sought to write at least one column about Buddy and what he is teaching me.  We have traveled many places together: Texas, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, Colorado and places in between.  We have walked hundreds of miles together.  But Buddy is growing old.  His muzzle is gray.  He can’t make long walks any more. He limps on his right front leg after a half-mile or so.  I think it is arthritis. 

Once we left him with our daughter who lived 2 miles from our house.  He escaped their backyard and tied up traffic on a busy intersection trying to make his way home.  I was on the road in Nebraska when I got the call from a stranger who rescued him from the frantic drivers who were trying to avoid hitting him.

When we went fishing Buddy sat in the front of my flat bottom boat, sniffing the wind, trying to locate the fish by smell.  He only fell in once.  We discovered Corgi’s can’t swim.  Fortunately I was able to fish him out.

Several times he went with me to sit by the graveside of my college roommate who was buried in Farmersville, Texas in 1999.  Afterward we would go for long walks in the open fields where he could run free, leaping through the long grass (as much as Corgi’s can leap).

Buddy doesn’t do any work.  He never has.  He cannot open doors, cannot carry anything or hold anything with his paws (beyond a bone or a chew toy).  He isn’t Buck like Call of the Wild. He can’t pull a sled.  But he has worked his way into our hearts just by being there, jumping in my lap when I was sad, jumping between us on the couch to make us glad,  following me from room to room, introducing me to strangers who want to pet him, playing with my grandchildren.

We love Buddy, not for what he can do for us, but just because he “is.” 

Maybe that is the way God looks at me.  I can’t do anything for God.  He doesn’t really need me, but He loves me just the same, just because He made me; just because He is and I am.  “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us” (1 John 1:10).  God has declared His love for me, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Beyond Religion


A young friend wrote on his facebook page, “Religion is still the opiate of the masses.”  He got some interesting responses.  One person agreed with him.  Another wrote, “It can’t be.  If it was, I would take it for recreational purposes.” Of course the statement originated with Karl Marx when he was developing the Communist Manifesto, the philosophical foundation that would eradicate religion in Russia for 75 years. When I visited Moscow and Lenin’s tomb 21 years ago, the hopeless despair left in atheism’s wake was palpable.

My first inclination, like many, is to jump to the defense of religion. But that might not be the most thoughtful response.  After all, religion killed Jesus.  The Roman government reluctantly carried out the crucifixion only after Pilate had repeatedly tried to release Jesus concluding, “I find no fault in him.”  It was the religious leaders of Jerusalem who incited the crowds and demanded Jesus be crucified.

Mankind is incurably religious.  Every culture on every continent has spawned religion.  And, more often than not, the results have not been good. 9-11 and the Twin Towers serve as a monuments to the deadly effects of Islamic Jihad.  ISIS has terrorized the world. The Hindu caste system of India consigns millions to poverty without hope.

The Christian religion can also become corrupt, self-serving and self-absorbed.  Perhaps Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code, found credibility with so many because they suspect that religion can become vicious if its survival is threatened.  The mentally unstable often use religion to justify atrocities against the innocent.  We cannot forget the 909 people, including women and children, who voluntarily drank cyanide out of religious devotion to Jim Jones in Guyana in 1978.

Sometimes religion is not just an opiate, it is a poison. 

Jesus, on the other hand, makes people less selfish, more generous, fills them with hope and leads them to sacrificial efforts to help others.  Jesus transformed a little Albanian girl named Agnes into Mother Teresa who spent her life caring for the poor of Calcutta.  Faith in Jesus made William Wilberforce the leader of reform in England to abolish slavery in the British Empire. Faith in Jesus inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe to write the book that Lincoln credited with igniting the Civil War to abolish slavery. Faith in Jesus Christ changed a backwoods playboy from North Carolina into Billy Graham who preached grace and forgiveness to millions.  Faith in Jesus catapulted Martin Luther King Jr from the backstreets of Atlanta into the forefront of the Civil Rights movement. 

The list goes on.  Jesus Christ goes beyond religion.  He transforms us into better people and the world into a better place. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Birds


I grew up in Texas, often wakened by the rasp of blue jays outside my window, frequently entertained by mockingbirds with their collection of stolen songs.  Buzzards circled in the sky.  On the ground, close up, they are hideous creatures, but high overhead, riding the wind, barely moving their wings, they looked majestic.

When we moved to Rochester, Minnesota we lived on Assissi Heights, next to the Convent that housed the nursing staff for St. Mary’s and Mayo Clinic.  I watched the Canadian geese migrating to and from the fields in their Vee formation. Sometimes they passed so low overhead I could hear the wind in their wings, not to mention their constant honking.  I later learned they can fly 70% further in formation than they can fly alone.

I camped with my sons in the Boundary Waters, a wilderness region of rivers and lakes on the Canadian border.  A bald eagle built her nest in the top of a lone tree on a rocky island less than 50 yards from our camp.  When she circled overhead the sun glistened off her white head.

We owned a beach house for a few years on Galveston Island.  I never tired watching the sea gulls balance on the wind, descending delicately to the shallow surf where they laughed and danced on stick legs. They seemed to think it was hilarious. I watched the pelicans swoop in squadrons over the breaking waves. One or more would suddenly drop in a vertical dive, splash in the surf and return to the sky with an unsuspecting fish.

In Colorado our house looks out on an open marsh.  Every spring the red-wing black birds return to build their nests in the tall grass.  And, as in Minnesota, the Canadian geese occasionally fill the sky from one horizon to the other.

In every region and every climate birds survive and thrive.  They are masters of the air, the forests, the land and the sea. No wonder Jesus encouraged us to “consider the birds.”

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26).

“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in [x]hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:28-29).

He who cares for the birds of the air will doubtless care for you.  You are of great worth to God.   Look to the birds and listen to their song. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The Viral Gospel


The world is once again is on the verge of panic over a new viral strain that threatens a global epidemic. In spite of efforts to contain it, the 2019-nCoV caronovirus continues to leap national boundaries.  In the first three weeks the infection soared from 50 in China to 17,000 in 23 countries with 425 deaths.  We must pray for those who have been affected, especially for those in China and for the families who have lost loved ones.

The power and potential of anything “going viral” is mind boggling. “Going viral” was once limited to communicable diseases, the kinds that are so easily transmitted that they can rapidly escalate into an epidemic.  In our day the term means something quite different.  With the aid of the Internet, email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, text messaging and You Tube, what was obscure can “go viral” and become suddenly famous.

Facebook went viral in 2004 when Mark Zuckerberg and a few friends launched it from their dorm rooms at Harvard.  Today, more than one billion people use Facebook.  It boasted a market cap in 2019 of over $500 billion and has become one of the most powerful tools on the Internet to catapult others into the “viral” stratosphere.

The Swedish teenage climate activist, Greta Thornberg, was catapulted to fame after she posted her first protest as a 15-year-old on Instagram and twitter. Within a week she gained international attention.  Her actions went viral on Facebook and other media and in December 2019 Time named her the youngest ever “Person of the Year.”

“Going viral” appears to be a twenty-first century phenomenon. But is it? 

History documents that the Gospel went viral following the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  There was no media campaign.  There were no reporters, no cameras, no photo ops, no internet, no Facebook.  But somehow, Jesus impacted and changed the world.  Growing up in the obscure and infamous village of Nazareth, Jesus’ public ministry lasted only three years.  He walked wherever he went and never traveled more than one hundred miles from his birth place. When He was crucified, there were no papers to report it, no news teams to film it. But the news spread around the world and is continuing to spread today.  It did so by “going viral.” 
Paul spoke of.”the gospel which has come to you, just as  in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth.”  (Colossians1:6). And again, “For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.” 2 Cor 4:15, “I thank my God through Jesus Christ because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world” (Romans 1:8).
When the Gospel goes viral, it requires more than posting a few sentences or a video clip on the intenet, more than “clicking” and forwarding information.  The Kingdom of God goes viral when lives are transformed by faith in Jesus Christ so that society is saturated with honesty, integrity, justice and generosity.  Changed lives change the lives of those around them. The Gospel has gone viral in previous generations.  It could “go viral” in ours.