Saturday, November 22, 2014

Heart Tests And Self Honesty

This morning I had a medical test.  I’m not having problems, this was simply a routine procedure which my doctor ordered because I haven’t had this particular test in a while and he felt it would be good to check it out.  The test is called an echocardiogram.  An echocardiogram involves ultra sound technology.  A medical website I looked at describes an echocardiogram as “a test that uses sound waves to create pictures of the heart.”  It goes on and states, “For one out of five patients the echocardiogram procedure is terminal.”

My mouth dropped open and I did a double-take as I read that line!  “Terminal! What…!?!” Then I realized I was on a satire website.  (It’s important to read the fine print.)

The woman who did the procedure was nice and very professional. But she also joked around and did a good job of making sure I felt comfortable.  She asked for my birthdate and she also asked for my height and weight.  My response?  “Six foot 4 inches, 175 pounds.”

She laughed and put her own numbers in the log.  (They were not as flattering as mine.)

At the conclusion of the test I said, “I know you are not allowed to interpret the test results, however, did you see anything that looked unusual or not typical based on your experience administering this test?”  Because of our earlier conversation during the procedure I knew she had been doing this type of work for 25 years.

She said, “I am not allowed to say anything about the test results, either positive or negative.”  With a smile, though, she went on to say, “But I’m letting you walk out of here and go home.”

We both chuckled.

There is a different type heart test mentioned in the book of Psalms.  It says this, “Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind…”  Psalm 26:2  This has to do with our spiritual health and our willingness to be honest with ourselves before God.

Tests have to do with self-honesty.  Self-honesty isn’t always easy.  But it’s always helpful.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How We Treat People And The Christian Faith

A significant aspect of the Christian faith has to do with how we treat people. Christianity is not just a system of beliefs. Sure, what we believe matters because our beliefs will determine our actions.  But the Christian faith is supposed to be real in our lives in such a way that it effects how we actually live.  And based on the teachings of scripture, the way we live will involve our behaviors and attitudes toward people.

So, how should we treat people?

We should make every effort to be fair and just.
We should be honest, speaking the truth with love, humility and respect.
We should be gracious and forgiving, remembering that we need forgiveness, too.
We should be kind and encouraging.
We should weep with those who weep.
We should rejoice with those who rejoice.
We should laugh with others regularly.
We should love our neighbors.
We should love our enemies.  (Don’t get mad at me, that’s what Jesus said.)

If this seems like a tall order, you’re right, it is.  We need the help and power of the Holy Spirit to live this way.  Fortunately, He will help us do this, if we are willing.

Let’s be willing.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Mysterious Helper At The Store

I was talking with a young woman who works at Toys R Us, asking her a question about a tablet that is made specifically for kids.  The device is something that Rachel wanted to buy with some of her money.

Now, I realize a young worker at Toys R Us can’t possibly know the answer to questions about all the hi-tech devices in the store.  But I figured, there is no harm in asking.   

In response to my questions, she simply said, “I don’t know.”  Then we both looked at the box in which the device comes and tried to determine if the answers to my questions could be discerned from the info on the packaging.

A few seconds later, the store worker was called to another task.

(I didn’t hear anyone call her but, anyhow, that’s what she said.)

As I stood there trying to figure out what to do, a young mom with two little kids in her shopping cart came around the corner from another aisle.  “I don’t think you want that device,” she said.

“Oh, really?” I said.

She said, “I don’t mean to be nosey, but I heard you talking to the young woman.  We have one of those and it won’t do what you are looking for.”  And she repeated, “I’m not trying to butt in, I’m just saying that’s my experience.”

I said, “No need to apologize.  I’m glad for your help.  That’s what I needed to know.”

She said, “You’d be better off with another type of tablet.”  And she named a couple of alternatives.

I said, “Thanks, I don’t have any idea about these things.  So, I appreciate your help.”

She said, “You’re welcome.  I know what it’s like to spend money on something and then find out it’s not what you wanted.”

I pulled out my phone to call Nadia and tell her about these latest developments.  But before I called the number I turned to give the young mom one more word of thanks for her help.  But in that brief instant she was already gone.

I looked around in every direction and thought, “What?!?  Where did she go?”  It was like a little Christmas miracle.

P.S.  Alright, I saw the young mom again when I was getting in my car in the parking lot of the store.  So, she wasn’t a mysterious angel or anything like that.  But she was someone who offered a little kind help to me.

Monday, November 17, 2014

God Is For Us, He Is Not Against Us

Some people have come to believe that God is against them.  It’s as if they view God as a foe who is trying to prevent them from having fun and living a good, enjoyable life.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  God is not against us, He is for us.  Consider what these passages of scripture reveal to us:

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
Jeremiah 29:11

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:8

“…God has said, ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.’”
Hebrews 13:5

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”   -- Jesus
John 10:10

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” 
Romans 8:31

I understand that life can involve pain and difficulty.  We live in a fallen world.  Nevertheless, it is still true that life is a good and precious gift from a God who is not antagonistic toward us.  He loves and cares about us.  God is for you.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Faith Does Not Exclude Reason And Reason Does Not Exclude Faith

There are people who vigorously attempt to promote the idea that faith and reason are mutually exclusive or inherently at odds with each other.  This is not true. 

An act of faith does not have to exclude reason.  In fact, everyone exercises faith in the course of life--even people who have no religious belief or affiliation.  We simply cannot have a complete knowledge of everything and, therefore, we all must move through life exercising some measure of faith. 

For example, driving over a bridge is an act of faith.  Sure, it is a reasonable act of faith.  But in the history of the world, bridges have collapsed.  When you and I drive across a bridge we do not first obtain structural reports and conduct safety tests.  We just drive, believing the bridge was designed and constructed in a safe and responsible way.  That is an act of faith on our part.

Faith does not exclude reason and reason does not exclude faith.  They are both aspects of the full experience of life.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Pastor's Report 2014

A long time ago, I read an article on the subject of church growth and it said something incredibly simple that has always stuck with me. Why would something this simple and this obvious even need to be written in a publication for ministers?  I don’t know.  I guess it just proves that sometimes we miss what is obvious.

I cannot give an exact quote of the article—in fact, I cannot recall the source any longer—but it basically said words to this effect:  People come to church because they want to encounter God.

Hard to believe this would have to be written to ministers, huh?

People come to church because they want to encounter God.  That’s like finding this line in a trade journal for restaurants:  People who go to restaurants have some minor interest in eating food.

I get it, though.  I understand that this type of thing can happen because in church work it is possible to get so caught up in the details of running a church that we can lose sight of the basics. We can subtly, gradually start to think that the church is about sermons, board meetings, classes, musical performances, issues involving the physical facility, administrative issues, etc., rather than understanding that these are tools which God uses to facilitate the main thing. 

The main thing is an authentic encounter with Him.

I want you to know it is my desire to continue to authentically walk with God on a daily basis because that is the source of real life.  Also, it is my desire that our church will be a place where many, many people from different backgrounds and walks of life can encounter the living, risen Lord Jesus Christ, the source of salvation and source of true life!

With much love,


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thank You To Veterans For Duty, Bravery, Dignity And Valor

When I was young my dad did not talk about his service in World War II.  He was an infantry man and fought on the front lines. I’m quite certain some of the things that happened and some of what he saw was disturbing.  (The word “disturbing” is probably putting it mildly.) 

I recall hearing him say this on several occasions: “If I told people what happened there, they wouldn’t believe me.”

When I was older he told me a few stories.  I can only imagine.

I have a significant awareness of the fact that men and women—in some cases very young men and women—have had to do incredibly difficult things in order to provide for the freedoms we enjoy.

Thank you to all of our Veterans.  Thank you for considering duty, bravery, dignity, service to others and valor to be of worth and importance.  You have my utmost respect!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Apparently I'm Starting To Resemble A 100 Year Old Woman

A few minutes ago, as I was scrolling down my Facebook timeline, my daughter Rachel saw a picture that one of my friends posted of a lovely elderly woman who is celebrating her 100th birthday. 

As the picture appeared on the screen Rachel said, “Is that you, dad?”

She was sitting several feet away from me and looking over my shoulder at the computer screen but still…  Really!?!  It was a one hundred year old woman!!!

“Is that YOU, dad?”

Lately I’ve been wondering if there’s a possibility I should get some “work” done.  I think we now have a definitive answer to that question.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Fun Story Instigated By Christmas Ads

All the Christmas ads I’m seeing on TV have reminded me of a time when my I found some of the Christmas presents my mom had purchased and hidden in a closet. 

(I prefer to think of my finding the presents not being a result of relentless snooping but rather the kind of thing that happens when you have a child with a curious mind. But, come to think of it, that might just be my attempt to rationalize sneaky behavior.)

So, since I now knew the location of these presents, I became “sick” and needed to stay home from school in order to rest and be restored to full health.  While I was home from school, alone, I got my presents out from the hiding place and played with them.  Then I quickly put them back in the closet before anyone got home.

You know what’s interesting about all this? Alright, I’ll tell you. I think I had more fun playing with the presents when I did it in secret than after I actually got them for real on Christmas morning.

That must be one of those strange realities of human nature, huh?

P.S.  The Christmas I’m referring to in the story happened several years later than the time of this picture but this was the only old picture I could find in which I’m holding a Christmas gift from my childhood.

The Extraordinary Reality of God's Unfailing Love

It’s difficult for us to understand that God’s love for us is not conditional because our experience in life is that love always has some type of conditions attached.  So for example, no matter how much someone loves us we are capable of behaving in such a way that the person could possibly reach a point of exasperation and basically say, “I can’t take it anymore.  I’m done with you and your stuff!”

If a person can say “I’m done with you,” and exclude you from his/her life then the person’s love was conditional.  And by the way, I’m not being critical of this fact I’m suggesting we can all understand such a reality.

But this is why it is extraordinary to think that we cannot do something to make God reach a boiling point at which He says, “I can’t take it anymore.  I’m done with you and your stuff!”

God doesn’t love us when we finally get our act together in such a way that we deserve His love.  He loves us, first.  He loves us before we ever do the right thing.  He loves us even if we never do the right thing.

Please understand, it is obviously good for us to do the right thing.  God wants us to do the right thing.  This post is not an attempt to encourage people to do the wrong thing.  The point I’m trying to make has to do with God’s unconditional love.  His love is not based on whether we do the right thing.  This incredible truth is made known to us through verses like this one found in Romans 5:8…

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

No one will ever love you the way God loves you.  His love is complete, total, perfect and unfailing.  The more I understand this truth the more it makes me want to love Him back.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

What To Do About Critics?

If we attempt to do anything of consequence we will be criticized.  This is a reality that I don’t particularly like, but it is a reality that anyone who takes constructive actions must accept.  If you are facing criticism for your actions remember this: 1) Most critics never do anything except sit back on the sidelines and criticize others.  So, consider the source of the criticism.  2) Everyone who ever accomplished something worthwhile was criticized.  So, you are in good company!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Right And Wrong And The Unpopularity of Christianity

Part of the reason the Christian faith is unpopular with some people is that one of the fundamental realities of the Christian faith is the idea that there are things which are true and there are things which are false.  This idea of truth and falsehood can be offensive in our culture because we would like to take the position that everyone’s ideas, beliefs and points-of-view are correct.  No one is wrong.  Everyone is right.

I understand the impulse to want to simply agree that everyone is right.  There is a sense in which it feels tolerant.  It feels gracious.  It feels non-judgmental.

The problem, however, is the idea that “everyone is right” is simply not true.  This is not an attempt to be mean-spirited.  It is an attempt to be honest in regard to reality.

In fact, think about the concept I’m trying to communicate here logically.  If you agree with this post, you agree that there is such a thing as true and false.  You agree with the position that everyone’s ideas, beliefs and points-of-view are not correct.  Some things truly are right.  Some things truly are wrong.

On the other hand, ironically enough, if you disagree with this post, you actually confirm the truth of it.  Because if you disagree with this post you are saying, “This post is wrong.”  In doing so you are drawing lines of right and wrong.  You are confirming my statement that some things are right and some things are wrong.

Crazy, huh?  Disagreement with this post confirms the truth of what is being stated in it.

Ideally, the Christian faith would not be rejected simply because its teachings tell us there are things which are right and things which are wrong and this is unpopular in our culture.  Deep down we all realize that right/wrong and true/false exist.