Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Psalm 77 reads, "I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; I mused and my spirit grew faint."

We were sitting on a beach on Memorial Day when I was struck by thoughts of the past. I began to remember times at a lake outside of Clarkdale, Miss., when I was young (a half-century ago). I remember putting an ice cube down the bathing suit of my aunt, Elsie, and the ruckus that produced.

I remember ...

That's what I was struck by yesterday. I was struck by thoughts of all those young men, and women perhaps, who had lost their lives for what we declare to be freedom today. I was struck by grills growing hot and charcoal smells drifting across warm sand. I was struck by memories of long, long gone folks I wish I could talk to today. Just for a few minutes. Just run a few ideas by them.

We capped off a day in which we got mildly sunburned, my wife, Mary, and my 7-year-old grandson Gabe, by watching a Narnia movie that ended with main characters saying goodbye to the Christ figure-lion and heading into heaven.

I remember ...

Seems to me that the Bible is one big ol' photo book, without the photos. It's family memories, perhaps not of burgers on the grill, of times spent doing many things not the least of which was worshipping God.

I remember ...

A little white church on top of a hill that signalled the way to a graveyard in which aunts, uncles and my mom and dad rest.

I remember ...

A little white church where I learned for the first time that Jesus loved me.

I remember ...

Summer nights with WLS out of Chicago playing Creedence on the late night radio. Baseball that seemed to never end but ended all too quickly. Dogs whose names now escape me but each of whom were dogs of a lifetime. Gardens with butter beans and corn and that summer I planted popcorn only to have the birds take it. A breeze at night instead of air conditioning as we opened the windows and let the big ol' house fan that my dad bought from the Meridian, Miss., library suck in air that smelled of honey suckle. Friends I saw almost every day for 10 years that I never see and haven't for 20 years. Such a shame. I grieve for lost friendships, still.

I remember ...

It's all gone now. The summers are going quickly. The winters of back ache and knee ache and stiffness stay too long. The family I grew up in, grew into, is going about as quickly. We have more funerals than we have reunions, it seems.

And even my memories are starting to fade.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Dog's life

Sometimes, not often mind you, there is something called irony that rears its head.

Take this story, for example: an animal rights group called "Dogs Deserve Better" from Tipton, Pa. bought the five-bedroom, Surry County Va. home, once owned by Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, for approximately $600,000. This was the home where the "Bad Newz Kennels" dogfighting ring was operated until a drug sting in 2007 brought it down. Vick eventually served 18 months in prison for his part in financing it.

The Dogs Deserve Better group plans to use the property as a home and rehabilitation center for dogs that have suffered through many of things that happened at that same location for years.

"I think by us overtaking this property we are winning for the dogs. We are, in essence, giving this property back to the dogs that were abused there by using it to help other dogs just like them," said Tamira Thayne, the group's founder.

Dogs Deserve Better secured the property, which Vick originally sold to a developer, with a 30-percent down payment acquired by a loan and various donations. According to the Associated Press, the plan for the property is to raise a total of $3 million to make the facility a full-scale animal rehab center. Thayne and another staff member will live on the property.

Recently I saw a dog standing on the side of the road, standing guard over an obvious friend who had been hit by a car and was lying motionless. I almost couldn't preach that morning our of grief for that dog.

This notion that dogs don't feel, aren't human, and all that stuff needs to go away. The purchasing of this home for the purpose it has been bought is one way that can happen.

Jesus, I believe, would approve.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Rest, in peace

Have you ever seen one of those commercials where someone does something incredibly stupid and the voice-over says, "Ever just wanted to get away?"

I've got a feeling you've had that feeling even if you haven't seen the commercial.

The feeling of being somewhere you should be. The feeling of being too caught up in stuff. The feeling of being too tired, too wired, too busy, too useless, or just TOO TOO.

Jesus got those feelings. Really. He did. And when he did, he didn't wish for teleportation. He simply walked up a hill and got alone with his Father.

I've got that feeling right now. I need to be slowed. I need to be with my Father, and my Father seems far away.

I have it in my capability to change things. The notion of walking away from whatever is making me stressed is certainly a do-able option.

Jesus called this a peace that the world can not give.

Today, take 15 minutes and feel the peace that Jesus gives. The Apostle Paul said it was a peace that surpasses understanding. The world will search for that explanation. Jesus said he was the way.

Rest in peace doesn't have to mean death. It can mean abundant living.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Full quivers

Today I celebrate life, renewal, joy all wrapped up in a few grandchildren.

Last night we journeyed, Mary and I, to the West Bank of New Orleans to watch a four-year-old play T-Ball and a 7-year-old play baseball. It was quite a night. We topped it off by seeing the two-year-old granddaughter run around and yell Pawpaw. Then, gloriously, it rained.

I wasn't sure I would ever live long enough for such a night as this.

The Bible celebrates these things in the Psalms: 3 Children are a heritage from the LORD,
offspring a reward from him. 4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.

You could easily substitute the word grandchildren in place of children.

Faith requires believing that God has given us all a heritage with our children and our grand kids. Next to our relationship with God himself, our children are a blessing more beautiful than wealth, career, homes and such.

Just watching Gabe run down the baseline or Gavin twirl in the infield even as a ball is coming his way (unknown to him since he wasn't looking) is such fun.

My quiver is full.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It's so dry...

See if this passage from Jeremiah sounds familiar:

“Judah mourns, her cities languish; they wail for the land, and a cry goes up from Jerusalem. The nobles send their servants for water; they go to the cisterns but find no water. They return with their jars unfilled;
dismayed and despairing, they cover their heads. The ground is cracked because there is no rain in the land;
the farmers are dismayed and cover their heads. Even the doe in the field deserts her newborn fawn because there is no grass. Wild donkeys stand on the barren heights and pant like jackals; their eyes fail for lack of food.”

The ground at my house is so dry I poured water on the flower beds yesterday, and it didn't make mud. We haven't had rain in more than a month, I'm told, and there isn't a great chance on the horizon. The grass is brown at both churches and in my backyard.

It is so dry that a couple of fish knocked on my front door last night and asked for a drink of water. It's so hot around here that I saw two trees chasing a dog. It's so hot that my cat Callie was chasing our dog Copper and they were both walking. It's so dry and hot that the birds around here have to use potholders to pull the earthworms out of the ground.

It's really dry. It's really hot. Honest.

What do we make of all this weather, then? Tornadoes have torn apart the midwest and parts of the south. Drought is destroying crops in Louisiana even as flooding from the Mississippi takes care of the rest.

Maybe, like someone said, the Rapture did come but none of us were worthy.

Jeremiah's prophecy was not just about drought, you see, but rather against the spiritual drought that brings about insincere prayer.

In this prophecy, two pictures of God emerge. One is the wrathful God who has had enough. The other is the merciful God who says just one chapter later in Jeremiah, "If you turn back, I will take you back, and you will stand before me."

God is a merciful God, and the rain of heaven is coming for those who turn back before it is way, way too late. Let it rain, O God, let it rain.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A bit of foolishness

One of my churches lost a saint yesterday. She died after a massive heart attack at the age of 89. She was fine on Saturday morning, on her way out on Saturday evening. I thought much of how quickly she passed, without much suffering, and I'm thankful to God for that.

I've had that on my mind since, and a little of it mingled into my thoughts about the "end of the world."

It's Tuesday, and by now we've all had our fun with Rev., Mr., Sir, Harold Camping, who now has a new prediction for the judgment day. By the way, most folks said that was to be the end of the world but the "Rapture" isn't the end of the world but the beginning of the end. Just saying.

That Camping would do this astounds me for he simply puts the very little that is left of whatever passes for a reputation at risk. No one will believe him this time, and even the ones who laughed should have noticed that Camping had followers, believers, misguided though they were.

I was pondering this this morning, and thinking of what it means to evangelicals to be lumped into a category with Camping (Stephen Fry called them, er, us “imbeciles") when I came to the conclusion that won't meet most folks standards. If Camping really believed in what he was saying, what should he have done? Should he have kept quiet if he thought souls could be changed, saved?

I then thought of what the writer of Revelation wrote early in his work: "When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he placed his right hand on me, saying, "Do not be afraid..." The him, of course, was Jesus.

I'm not putting Camping into the category with John the Revelator, but I ask us all, should John have kept quiet because of possible laughter of those pagans who had placed him on Patmos? Should he have been afraid of being thought a fool? Of looking stupid in public?

Tim Stanley, a writer for The Telegraph, said this: 'Across the United States, atheists are gathering at Rapture parties to celebrate another day of life on this corrupted Earth. Their joy as Camping’s error is plain mean. While they knock back cheap imported beer and make-out in hot-tubs, thousands of evangelicals will be providing care and love to prisoners, homeless people, drug addicts and the poor. It is a noble calling worthy of a little tolerance."

The Apostle Paul wrote something of a like mind: "For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."

The object of all this discourse is to get someone to understand, we are not to think the end of the world is now coming on Oct. 21. We are to live as if the end of our world might come before the end of this sentence, and be ready to fall at his feet as though dead.

Foolish? Not hardly

Monday, May 23, 2011

Things I don't understand

Recently I spent a bit of time thinking about what I don't know. The list is endless. But I picked a top 10 for my readers to show the depth of my lack of knowledge.

I don't understand how they put the toothpaste in the tube. No matter what sort of toothpaste I buy, I can't get it out after a day or two. So who is the guy who figured this out?

I don't understand how a cell phone works, but then again, mine is hit and miss anyway. I barely understood the land line. Now they have something I can carry around in my pocket till I lose it.

I don't understand how the first person who milked a cow thought to do that. Drink what from where?

I don't understand why everyone can't get together for the greater good. What does it matter who is right?

I don't understand how much of this thing called the atonement works or worked, but I'm so very happy it did.

I don't understand what the person who invented tooth pics was thinking when they did.

I don't understand why God grants us grace when we certainly aren't worthy of it, but again, I'm so happy he did.

I don't understand why those who believe in evolution never noticed that we're less healthy than the human race has ever been though we live longer. What's the point of that?

I don't understand why so many people were describing the "rapture" as a bad thing.

I don't understand why gas prices continue to grow. Isn't it the same product it was when it was $.50 a gallon. Has it gotten better? Why is it that when new devices come out that I don't understand, they get cheaper as more people buy them, but gas continues to get higher. Maybe the guy who puts the paste in the toothpaste tube is the one setting the prices of gas.

Feel free to comment and let me know what it is that you don't understand.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Judgment day

Since I don't unusually write on Saturdays, and the world as we know it is coming to an end tomorrow, I thought I would get that final piece in today on tomorrow's Rapture. You've seen the stories, right? Harold Camping, 89-year-old leader of the ministry Family Radio Worldwide, has predicted that a five-month destruction of humanity will commence Saturday with a Rapture, in which believers will ascend to heaven. Camping uses a mathematical formula linked to prophecies in the Bible. He once predicted Sept. 6, 1994 as Judgment Day, but that math didn't quite work out. This time around, Camping's organization took out an ad in Reader's Digest, stating: "The Bible guarantees the end of the world will begin with Judgment Day May 21, 2011."

Many are sponsoring Rapture parties, Sunday, and asking those who believe Camping if they can have their stuff. And it is all fun and games (unless he's right, of course).

And who is the loser in all this(unless he's right, of course)?

I suspect the believing Christian. Not the believers in Camping. God forbid. But the believers in Christ who understand that even Jesus did not know the day the Lord would come again.

Those who don't believe might think Camping nuts (unless he's right, of course), and the problem comes when they lump all believers with Camping (unless he's right, of course). We all get put into the same basket. We're all naive, nutty, backward believers.

And someone who might have been thinking about trying this Christian stuff because their life isn't working might just say, well, they're all nuts (unless he's right, of course).

That's the serious side of what promises to be a joke tomorrow. This is all about bringing people to Christ (and he's right, of course).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What is your faith all about?

Where do we stand on faith? I mean us, the Methodists, er, the evengelical Methodists? Those who have faith, you know?

Peter Bohler once told John Wesley, “Preach faith till you have it.” Uncomfortable thought isn’t it? But if we try to limit God’s work in other people’s lives to what we think is normative based on our own limited experiences, aren’t we being unfair at best and self-centered at worst? Doing that might be the safe choice, but it doesn’t make it the right one.

I read yesterday once more about the prediction of the Rapture that a radio minister has put out. You know, the one that says May 21 is the end of the world.

We scoffed immediately, didn't we? We laughed after that, didn't we? Did we do that because we don't believe someone can rightly predict such a thing? Or did we do that becuase we don't actually believe there will be an end of the world, rapture, and on and on?

Ask yourself that question seriously?

Do we believe God can heal? Do we believe God heals? I get hung up somewhere between those questions, frankly.

Do we believe Jesus is coming again? Do we believe He is coming in our lifetime?

Do we believe God directs our lives when we allow Him to? Do we believe Jesus died for our sins? Really? Do we believe He was raised from the dead?

We rail at the very questions, don't we. Of course we believe the last two. It's the others we have problems with, huh?

What is faith? Do we really have it? What difference does it make in our lives? Someone out there should answer these questions for me so that we can answer them all together.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Little success on Mars Hill

How did Paul take this? As he waited in Athens, he began to preach the Gospel. It was the only time he was less than successful. There was no church to be built at Mar Hill.

In the book of Acts, we read: "A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, "What is this babbler trying to say?" Others remarked, "He seems to be advocating foreign gods." They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.
Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean. (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.) Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you." ...When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered..."

Today I came very close to stopping this blog that has gone on for a year and three-quarters. I didn't feel, if that is the right word, like writing. I had four readers yesterday. Four. I know one of them who probably would never quit reading as long as I'm writing, but four? I feel as if this might have run its course.

But I got to thinking about Paul up there on that hill in Athens, preaching the Gospel to some folks who were barily interested in it and being sneered at while he preached and on and on. And here I am again, writing something.

All of us, I would gather, face times that are uncertain. How we face them says more about us than the results of those uncertain times. I'm about done writing, clearly, with few book sales and no career any longer.

The question then becomes, do I still have anything to say?

I'm pondering that as I write.

I know only Jesus crucified and resurrected. I've got to get back to that somehow, and the results are the results.

Peace be with you.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Explaining peace

Do you ever have enough peace in your life? It's not as easy a question as one might think. If you answer no, then your faith isn't strong enough, people say. If you say yes, then you've stopped allowing God to fill you with peace because you've settled for the amount of peace you have.

Got that?

The reason the question is difficult is that the peace that God gives is so hard to explain or understand.

For me, peace is sitting outside on a mild evening (insert camp fire and woodsy setting if you so desire), reading. No bills. No aches. No pains. No worries especially, of any kind.

That's not necessarily what God mean, though.

Jesus told us this in the Gospel of John: "32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. 33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

And Paul told us this: 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

See, peace, God's peace, happens even when things are following apart. God's peace can't be explained. God's peace is not about mild evenings but humid, hot afternoons when things are at their worst and you have nowhere else to turn. There he is. Waiting. With a salve of peace to put on what hurts.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The plunge into joy

Some of my favorite writings in the Old Testament share Ezra's return to Jerusalem. Ezra, a priest and scholar, had spent time in Babylon with the captives before Cyrus of Persia set those same captives free and allowed them to return to the great old city. Ezra, my Message Bible says, took charge.

"Ezra wept," the scripture says of the time when they began to give support to the rebuilding of the Temple, an event that is almost impossible to believe. "Ezra wept, prostrate in front of the Temple of God. As he prayed and confessed, a huge number of men, women, and children of Israel gathered around him. All the people were no weeping as if their hearts would break."

Days later, the Israelites responded to notices put up. All the people met on the 20th day of the ninth month, sitting down in the plaza in front of the Temple. It was raining. The people were restless, uneasy, anxious.

Then Ezra stood up and confronted the people about an issue of marrying "foreign wives." It was a terribly divisive sin. It could have split those who had just returned from captivity, those who spent 70 years put away. It could have stopped the young country in its tracks. It certainly could have split those who were beginning again to worship after years without a Temple.

It is always this way, isn't it?

It's dancing, drinking, smoking, homosexuality, abortion, adultery. It's the hot topic of the day. All serious subjects. All threats to ones who take their "religion" seriously.

We have great difficulty in understanding how and why marrying foreign wives would be such a serious sin. Perhaps in 50 years there will be many who don't understand why so many denominations had to suddenly deal with this serious sin and that serious sin. Aren't the scriptures clear on this subject and that?

The truth is that in many cases, the scriptures aren't actually that clear. But more importantly, one can make those scriptures less than clear merely by putting one's own interpretation into the mix. It's always that thing we don't have a problem with that we rail against. In other words, if one has no alcoholic tendencies, one is absolutely sure the Bible is 100 percent, dead-certain against all forms of drinking alcohol. Heck I have two persons who come to Sunday School but don't stay for church because, if I understand it correctly, they think my way of worshipping is less than reverent and they won't stand for it.

But I'm not here this morning to talk about being more strict with sin.

I'm here to talk about those wonderful moments of worship where sin is the furthest thing imaginable. For it is in those moments that clarity about sin makes itself known.

When the Temple was finally complete, the Israelites celebrated, Passover actually. The priests and Levites made themselves ritually clean. They prepared themselves for the event.

Then, according to the Message translation, "God plunged them into a sea of joy..."

In the midst of celebrating what God had done, what God was about to do, all thoughts of sin were washed away even as the blood of the lambs flowed like water into the desert around the great city.

My point is this: instead of worrying so much that we are right, let us worry if we are pleasing God. Instead of worrying if our brother or our sister are proving to be righteous, let us worry about our own righteousness. Instead of judging what the persons next to us is doing, let us take the plank out of our own eye.

Let us worship God, in our own way, in our own time, as we can. Then let God plunge us into joy.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The water falls

Miss Kitty, the adoptee cat, ran across the lawn, trying to beat the water that was falling from the sky. It had been so long since it rained, I'm not at all sure she knew what it was.

The ground, parched and beaten and hard as a politician's head, almost roared in joy as the water fell harder and harder.

In Isaiah, God talks to his people about their returning home to Jerusalem. He does so by saying he will do some great, great things.

Some of those things include: "18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
20 The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
21 the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise."

I sense a dryness in the area, maybe in my ministry, maybe in my churches, maybe in those I know. I sense a dryness that has run deeper than the hard earth of this area.

But God said to the people who gathered beside the Euphrates in captivity, he would bring them home. He would change desert into moist earth, he would change dryness into moist, livable area.

Can He still do this? Will He still do this?

I believe so. The question is, do you?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The eyes of the Lord

I've been doing some reading of one of the great books of wisdom in the history of mankind, the book of Proverbs, in preparation for a coming sermon series this summer. It is amazing how these stored warehouses of knowledge ring so true though each sentence has little to do with the one that came before.

For example: Read the 15th chapter (in the NIV). 33 verses of knowledge, 33 verses of wisdom. But from those choices, I stuck on the third verse. It reads, "3The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good." Wow. What a thought. What a somewhat scary thought for the guilty. What a wonderful thought for the pure in heart. Since I don't know a whole lot of people who are (completely) pure at heart, what a scary thought.

Just kidding. Sort of.

I wonder, then, what the Lord would think of this story. Yesterday I read this: "In October 2008, H.S. was a 16-year-old high school student in her hometown in southeast Texas. Then, as she says, she was raped at a party by another student -- a star football player and member of the school's basketball team. Four months later, at a basketball game in another town, H.S. chose to stay silent while the rest of her squad chanted his name. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that, although she cheered for the team as a whole, when the assailant went to the foul line, she opted out.

"Three school officials, including the principal and district superintendent, intervened, insisting that she cheer for the athlete or leave the game. She didn't budge, and her refusal to root for the boy she says raped her had a high cost. After H.S. identified him, he pled guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge. Nearly a year after the party, he was given a suspended sentence.H.S., however, was kicked off the cheerleading squad.

 "This spurred the former cheerleader and her parents to sue the school district and officials, claiming she had the right to free speech and was unfairly punished for using it. The courts -- all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court -- did not agree. The rhetoric that emerged in those rulings is shocking. A New Orleans appeals court stated that, as a cheerleader, H.S. was a "mouthpiece" for the school. Monday, the highest court in the country also ruled against H.S.'s appeal. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, review of the of the case was denied by the Supreme Court without comment. H.S. and her parents are also ordered to pay the school district's $45,000 legal tab."

I wonder if the Lord ever just shakes his mighty head and wants to do what he once did with the flood but promised not to do again? I wonder if the Lord wonders if the sacrifice his Son made for all of us was worth it? I wonder if the Lord wants to turn away from his people and simply shed large, large tears?

Maybe the floods of spring ...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Taking care of birds

Yesterday, about an hour before we were to leave for me to have a back procedure, we heard a crash in our kitchen. With four cats in the house, it isn't all that unusual. We didn't even get up. Then Callie, one of the cats, came flying into the living room, sliding at one point in her exuberance. Just ahead of her was a little bird.

For the next few minutes, chaos ensured. We chased the bird, Callie chased us. Harry, the big black cat finally figured it out and began to chase all of us. Logan, the terrier-mix, began to chase everyone else. And on and on.

Finally, I caught the little bird in my hat and I got it outside. I gently lifted it, and it did not protest, and placed it on the ground outside our fence in the backyard.

I checked once, and it still lay there.

I checked again, and it was gone, praise God.

I'm sure it was a bit shell-shocked at what had happened, and Callie walked around muttering for quite a while since what she had dreamed of in watching those birds frolic outside our picture window had finally come true.

I thought, after I woke from the back procedure, about that line in Luke. Jesus tells his disciples in verse 23 "For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life."

Thinking back, I was worried about this back procedure. Don't know why. They've done this before. It doesn't seem that dangerous, though you have to sign forms. They put you to sleep and do something in the back and there you go.

Turns out I made it, though there was blood on the patch they put on my back this time for the first time and I hurt worst than ever. The pain will go away by tomorrow if form holds.

But why was I worried? I was worried because I'm getting tired of doing this stuff, and it doesn't last forever. If it did, why do they also give you a prescription for pain pills? Those thoughts rattled through my mind as I didn't drift into unconsciousness but rather fell as it is almost instantaneous.

God will take care of me. That's what all of the scriptures tell me. God took care of that bird by placing it in a home where people care about animals, all animals. I believe that. I believed that as I went to sleep.

I pray that bird made it. I'm sure it tried.

Ultimately, isn't that what we all must do? Despite hardships and calamity, we fight for life. With death breathing down our backs, we fight for life, the life God gave us. We fly away from it one day, ultimately, because death has been defeated by Christ.

All the rest is just the fight for life.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Life-giving water

Ever watched a television report and paused the news long enough to give thanks to God that you're not going through whatever they are going through at the site of the news?

Tsunamis and earthquakes in Japan, followed by nuclear disasters.
Tornadoes in Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee.
Flooding in Missouri, Tennessee, soon in Mississippi and in Louisiana.
Snow falling in May in parts of the United States.

This year has been a mess, an absolute mess. Part of me is concerned with what the summer will bring to this area (greater New Orleans).

I give thanks that we have not been involved in any of that. I know we could have been but for the grace of God.

The Bible says in Proverbs 14:27: "Fear of the Lord is a life-giving fountain. It offers escape from the snares of death." In Proverbs 14: 32 it says, "The wicked are crushed by disaster, but the godly have a refuge when they die."

The simple fact is we need the life-giving fountain that is the Lord God Almighty. Because when disasters come, and they come to the Christian just as much as they come to the atheist, we have some strength, some kindness, some grace to fall back on. We have a refuge. We have a savior.

During Katrina, that kept me going. I'm absolutely certain that during this winter and early spring, many were provided the ability to keep going by the God who was their refuge.

Stop this morning, right now, and give him thanks for what you have and who you are. Give him thanks all day for whose you are.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Meeting of wisdom

Proverbs tells us this: "A wise child brings joy to a father; a foolish child brings grief to a mother."

I'm doubly blessed. Today is Shanna Rose Turner Rubio's 30th birthday, the day before Mother's Day. She is a blessing in so many ways. She is indeed wise; so much so that she is the one who we would go to if the financial house of cards we life in were to blow apart. She brings joy to me in ways beyond counting because she indeed is wise in her choices and wise in her actions. Tomorrow is Mother's Day, a day set aside to count the blessings of good mothers, which Mary certainly is.

But Shanna is not impervious to mistakes. If she would allow God's voice to bring her into His house ... well, she would show how wise she truly is. So far...not so much.

Therein lies the problem. Thirty years of  "wise" living and she does not know God well enough. Her children do not know the Lord. They don't know when to pray, how to pray, where to pray. I pray constantly that she would let the Lord change her. That Jesus would be first in her life. That the Holy Spirit would be her first choice among the many choices she has each day.

When tragedy strikes, and it certainly has around her, she knows to call me and start prayer chains to working. For that I give thanks.

But when things are going well, she doesn't know to give thanks for the good times as well as strengthening the family for those moments when tragedy will come calling again, or at least she doesn't seem to do that.

Just a chapter ahead of that proverb that began this blog, it says, "instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more. Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment. Wisdom will multiply your days and add years to your life. If you become wise, you will be he the one to benefit. If you scorn wisdom, you will be the one to suffer."

Shanna is a wise, still very young lady at 30. But her wisdom will come to naught if she doesn't use it to find the savior, find the Lord, find the one who will bring her to righteousness. If the only time you take the "Jesus card" out of your pocket is at the worst of times when you can turn no where else, you've missed what it means to have a relationship with Him.

All the things she does right are cancelled by the one thing she does wrong ... Jesus is the way, the truth, the life. I believe she believes that. But believing it and living it out, through regular church visits, through regular Bible studies, through regular visitations with the Lord Jesus, are different things.

Of but that Shanna would show her belief through a "regular" relationship with God through his Son, Jesus. What a wise thing that would be.

Friday, May 6, 2011

bin Laden not in this blog, but the key point of life is

Ah. Now we have it figured. To get big readership, one must have bin Laden in the title. We'll try that today: bin Laden not in this blog, we'll call it. We will, however, include justice, and he ever-widening search for peace. With peace, there are no bin Ladens. Without peace, bin Ladens flourish, as the dark side covers more.

We get an early start on separating light and dark, and we never really finish with that opening. The Bible says of darkness in Genesis 1:4:  "God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness." Imagine that. Four verses in and God is already separating darkness from light."

Darkness was one of the plagues of Egypt. As the Israelites began to get their luggage together for their trip from that country, Moses said this: "[ The Plague of Darkness ]Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.”

Ever dealt with a darkness that can be felt? If your answer is no, I suggest you've never had depression, for that is a plague that can be felt. When Jesus walks into the synagogue and reads from the scroll of Isaiah these words, you feel that darkness lifting: "“In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Job has multiple thoughts about darkness and light as does the Psalms and Proverbs; in fact, all the prophets write about that huge battle between the two.

But the next real, meaningful reference comes in John's Gospel where the old evangelist writes, "1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God."

For all practical purposes, this is a commentary on what has happened in scripture and what will happen. God made the Word (Jesus) John explains, sent him to earth to be the light of all mankind, to battle the forces of darkness. John the Baptizer would announce this coming (as he did). The world did not recognize him (Jesus).For those who did recognize him (Jesus), God accepted those people as children of God.

John concludes early in his writing (the third chapter): "19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil."

It was too early a verdict, as John must have come to know since he write several chapters after that.

The bin Ladens of the world knew and know darkness because their deeds are evil. One can not argue that. The question is did they also know light. The apparent answer is no, though they would argue that. They would argue there God is telling them to do what they have done. Our answer is no they have not. When those persons come, I would gently pull them toward the many Biblical points about light and darkness. It is important to note that darkness must be overcome by the light, not by the witnesses of light. We are not talking about sunshine verses the dark of the evening. We are talking about Sonshine taking us out of the deeds of darkness. Murder is a deed of darkness. One can not argue that the killing of persons who have had nothing to do with the killing of "your people," and whom are not armed with weapons is not murder.

Therefore you have committed a deed of darkness.

When Jesus came into the world, the world changed, or should have. John's Gospel is the most clear representation of what should have occurred.

John wrote,
 "9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.
10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.
11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them."

Bin Laden missed the key point of life. Anyone "following" him must not.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rising from tangled lives

What are you afraid of?

There are some who can tell you right off the bat exactly what it is that provides shivers like ice cycles hanging from a roof. Then there are others who dance around the subject so much they hang on through the dark nights of the soul.

What are you afraid of?

Jesus holds out his hand, stretches his arms toward us, and he asks the question, the question perhaps. "What are you so afraid of?"

Until we can get up from our spiritual falls, until we can rise from our tangled lives, until we can fly again after crash landing emotionally, we are spinning spiritual wheels.

The wheels on the bus go round and round.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bin Laden and the justice of God

God as terrorist: “I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run." That is part of the conversation of God and Moses found in Exodus.

God as Jesus:   43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." That is found in Matthew, the fifth chapter.

What are we to make of this? What are we to make of how Christians across the nation, heck across the globe, celebrated the death of Osama Bin Laden?

I'm reminded of some of the worst moments immediately after 9-11. Some Muslims danced in the streets across the globe, danced and sang and were quite happy simply because Americans had died in the Twin Towers. All of us thought that dastardly, terrible, something that had to be quietened.

For 10 years, we lay in a solemn waiting period. Then came news Sunday night of the death. And we, WE, danced in the streets, at ball games, in homes.

So I guess the question is, How are we different? What makes our joy different from their joy, whomever THEY are?

Hopefully we will begin to understand once and maybe for all that we are no different. We're just humans, flawed, sinning humans, trying to get through life without breaking things -- including ourselves. So, we celebrate the loss of life, bin Laden's life, as if we have won the war on terror.

Perspective is what is needed. When you celebrate and how is dependent upon which side you're on in this battle. For further perspective, the United Methodist position on war in general is this: The United Methodist Church calls upon all who choose to take up arms or who order others to do so to evaluate their actions in accordance with historic church teaching limiting resort to war, including questions of proportionality, legal authority, discrimination between combatants and noncombatants, just cause, and probability of success."

That's a lot of words to say, one must have just cause even for war.

Then the question is, did we have just cause for the 40-minute operation in Pakistan that led to the death of bin Laden, the mastermind of the destruction of the Twin Towers?

Let me state this clearly. This is my opinion. This is what I believe. I. Me. I speak not for the United Methodist Church nor for Christianity in general. I speak only for me.

I'm against war. I believe that peace is the only option that makes sense morally and intellectually. But there are times when one is just to believe physical violence is the way to go. Defending oneself is one. One could argue that going into Pakistan and taking out bin Laden is just. One could argue just as loudly that killing any human being is wrong. Let the debate go on and on.

But the question before us is do we celebrate this? My answer, my opinion, is no we should not. Why? Because bin Laden was a child of God, every bit the same as you and I. He was flawed. He was a sining descendent of Adam. He worshipped gods who were not those called upon in he time of Jesus. He killed and he planned ot kill more. He was evil, though he thought there were valid reasons for his actions. He was a real threat to this country.

But I believe God shed tears when those Navy Seals stormed the compound and killed bin Laden and several others.

Was it just? In making the argument that God is all-powerful and Job is not, Job's friend Elihu says, "But now you are laden with the judgment due the wicked; judgment and justice have taken hold of you." Notice the inclusion of laden in the sentence. I thought that was God really speaking to me this morning.

Friends, God is a God of judgment. We all will be judged one day. That is clear in scripture.

But God is also the deliverer of justice. He walks in and hands the equality of justice to us in our hours of need. Would God have given his OK as did President Obama to go into that compound? That I can't say. All I know is he was in those stairwells of the Twin Towers, he was at the funerals of those killed, he was with on those doomed and tragic airplanes and he was with those who stood up and took down the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.

Should we celebrate bin Laden's death?
Should we celebrate a victory in the on-going battle against terrorists?
You betcha.

There is a difference. In Psalm 9, David writes, "The LORD is known by his acts of justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands."

Seems clear, doesn't it?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Give thanks

After a few days of down-time, and a rousing beginning to a Sermon Series on Sunday, I'm back to the grind of five-days a week of these blogs.

The best way to do something like that, after a mini-vacation, is to thank God for the time.

David did it this way:
1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.

His love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.
4 to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
5 who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
David goes on to thank him for all things through 26 verses of the 136th Psalm.
But let's make this contemporary.
Give Thanks to the Lord who carried us through the storm last week while we were driving through tornado weather.
His love endures forever.
Gives Thanks to the God who keeps our grandchildren healthy,
His love endures forever.
give Thanks to the Lord who gave me a wonderful wife and three wonderful children.
His love endures forever.
Get the picture?
Give thanks with a loving heart.
Give thanks with a generous heart.
Give thanks to God who created you and sustains you. Even when things aren't good, He is.
Give thanks this morning or if you happen to read this in the evening. Give thanks in the evening.