In Genesis 18:22-33, one of the oddest accounts of negotiation is described; it is between God and Abraham. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah have openly rejected any acceptance of God. God desires to destroy the cities of sin for their atrocities; Abraham questions that God would wipe out the righteous along with the wicked. He says, “Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it?” (v. 24). God agrees to go along with the logic of Abraham. Thinking that amount may be a hard task to find, Abe subsequently drops the petition to 45, then 40, 30, 20 and finally, to a mere 10. God acquiesces to all these appeals, and eventually states, “I will not destroy it on account of the ten” (v. 32). Continue reading “On Account of the Righteous”
Perhaps, one the greatest ironies growing up as a dentist’s son was the fact that I had an incredible sweet tooth and I was surrounded by a vast supply of sugar. I craved untold amounts of sugar. I knew where the hard candy bowl was, and where the Pop Tarts and donuts were. Oreos, soda and Frosted Flakes were the order of the day. We made home-made ice cream with my mom’s home-made chocolate sauce which was unbelievable with its chunks of delectable goo (I am sure it was off the charts health wise, but hey what did we know? It was the 60’s). The good news is that in the end I ended up with only two cavities. The sad part is that I still have an insatiable sweet tooth.
Any of us who have a sweet tooth understand that wherever sugar is in the house or town or county, it calls to us. If there are cookies in the jar – we know it, and we will not be remotely satisfied until we have some, maybe many. If there is a remnant of bar left in the wrapper, we cannot rest until it is vanquished. But, alas, society and the medical industry do not look kindly upon my compulsion. Continue reading “Sweet Tooth”
It seems that one of man’s great obsessions is to quantify the realm around him. How far is the nearest star? What is its mass, density, brightness? How many lumens does it produce? How fast does the star go? How many BTU’s does it produce?
We are consumed with the dimensions and yet we fail to realize that we are smack dab in the middle of immeasurable vastness. We seek to quantify. Inventory. Measure. Gage. Compute or determine. Calibrate. Calculate. Estimate. Chocolate (Sorry, just making sure you were still tracking with me). If we were honest we would realize that we are engaged in the futility of “measuring” immenseness. Quite frankly, it can’t be done. As far as you go you will not get to the end. We cannot calibrate the magnitude creation of God; and He Himself transcends His creation. Continue reading “Immeasurable Vastness of Being”
Of all the delusions mankind has perfected one of “the best” is the art of procrastination; it is an art you know – the ability to strategically put off until tomorrow what could just as well be performed today. The tools of our craft are those of rationalization, projection, and just plain laziness.
“Someday, I will clean out the garage,” “Someday, I will fix that little project,” “Someday, I will get a better job,” or “Someday, I will pick up that phone and make things right with that family member or severed relationship.” Yet, “somedays” roll on by and 15 years later, the garage is crammed, the project is untouched, we check in to the same old job, and the phone call is neglected or even altogether forgotten. Yet, our intentions were good-right?…Right? Continue reading “Someday…Oneday”
We have all heard about the ways monkeys are captured in the jungles of Africa. Hunters set out large heavy bottles on the jungle floor. They put sweet-smelling aromatic nuts inside that lure the monkeys to the bottles. The mouths of the bottles are just large enough to get their little hands through and grab the nut. Only problem is they can’t get their hand out without letting go of the nut, and they can’t drag the bottle away because it is too heavy. The hunters return in the morning to find a captive monkey next to each bottle.
Much as Darwin would like you to erroneously believe those fellows are descendants from our common gene pool, they are not. And we may look down upon those primates with sufficiently opposing thumbs, but it doesn’t take too much of an imagination to see how we are so often “like” that monkey, able to get ourselves into trouble yet, unwilling to let go of something in order to extricate ourselves from our dilemma. As a result we can’t move on with our lives. We can’t live life as it was intended by God. We compromise a healthy life, free of unhealthy restriction. Continue reading “Monkey Trap”
I heard some disturbing news recently involving a survey of “evangelical Christians.” It seems that of 3000 people surveyed, 83% responded that the “way” to “make it” to Heaven was by being good, by doing good works. And another 54% stated that they believe good people of other faiths can go to Heaven, as long as they are “good.” Now, I don’t know what defines these evangelicals, but that news disturbs me on several levels.
First, I am afraid we have equated the acquisition of God’s grace with the standards of the world; that if we are good little boys and girls we will receive eternal life in Heaven. That is in no way even close to the true gospel of Jesus Christ. The Christian Bible nowhere promotes this theology. Continue reading “Salvation A La Mode”
What an impact correction devices have played in the realm of written communication. From the eraser, to white-out, to the marvelous “backspace” button on our computers, how invaluable that button has turned out to be in creating error-free documents! That little button is insatiable. With the simple press of a finger it will swallow up single letters, pages, or even entire documents clearing the way of any mistake-laden, potentially embarrassing communiqués.
I got to thinking, what if life came with a “backspace” button? How would we use it? What would you choose to “delete”? Would you elect to remove those less-than-brilliant actions you performed in high School? How many of those spoken “gems” of words would you opt to cancel out? Maybe you would use it to rescind a relationship that went sour, or a bummer of a business transaction? I think we would all use that button for something. Continue reading “The “Back-Space” Button”
Golfers are a strange lot; they actually talk to their golf ball on the course. “Come on ball, stay there! Come on be right! Go, go, go! Sit down!” as if anything said to a golf ball would be heeded. Actually, though it is foolish, I have found myself vainly coercing an unsympathetic little white sphere at times. Foolish I say because that ball cannot listen or respond, the reason being is that all travel information of that ball has been given at the point of departure. The trajectory. The spin. The direction. The distance. The speed. All informational DNA has been downloaded at the point of departure. In less than half a second, while that ball is on the clubface, all of the information will be given to that ball as to how it will fly. Unfortunately, no amount of begging or enticement will have any affect. Once that ball leaves the clubface the destiny of that ball is set. And, no, the wind turns a deaf ear as well as the ball, and does what it will.
The same is true of bullets. Once that bullet leaves the gun, nothing from the shooters point of control can manipulate it. The only control that shooter has is while that bullet is still in the gun. Again, all of that informational DNA will be given to that bullet at the point of departure. Continue reading “Point of Departure”
Can a person actually buy forgiveness? If so, how much would that cost?
As was my custom as a child, I would test the boundaries of authority. I would talk back to my parents, I would disobey, I would challenge teachers, I would use language that would require my mother to wash my mouth out with a bar of soap (I guess this was sort of a ritualistic cleansing my mother picked up from her Norwegian relatives).
After one such occasion, after I had fallen from grace, (I disobeyed Mom, again), I decided to try to buy my way out. The morning after, my mother found an envelope with some cold, hard cash waiting at her bedroom door. Upon it was written the appeal, “Please forgive me. Here’s 54 cents. Love, your son, Kelly.” Fortunately for me, that particular morning, 54 cents was the going rate for absolution. Whew! All was forgiven, and forgotten. None of us even remember what the actual infraction was but Mom still has the coins in their original envelope as a treasured reminder of that day I sought restoration. Continue reading “Forgiveness For Sale?”
While cleaning up around the house, I found I was able to generate enough garbage to fill up my entire pick-up truck. And where else do we take a full truck of debris but to the county dump. As I approached the facility I began to see litter that lined the entrance, and I could smell the evidences of decay. There were many who waited to be granted entry as there is no shortage of people who desire to rid themselves of their garbage; big dump trucks, vehicles carrying large trash bins, pick-up trucks and even cars stuffed with trash bags. Funny as it may seem there is a price to dispose of completely worthless items.
As I drove to the top of the man-made mountain of refuse, bulldozers were working furiously to move the garbage around, compact it, and cover it with dirt. Amazing how much time, energy and expense goes into the process of disposing of rubbish. Continue reading “Kingdom of Sin”
Recently, while hanging around the house on a Saturday, I had the opportunity to see the movie “Ghost.” Most of us are familiar with the plot of the film which is very “Hollywood.” What struck me that day was the heavy theology portrayed in the film. Essentially, the movie communicated that good people go “up,” and bad people go “down.” At death, tiny little stars ushered you up, or the goblins from the netherworld dragged you down. The final fate of an individual was predicated upon the deeds done while on earth. It struck me that even Hollywood has a theology, as errant as it may have been, which still pointed to an afterlife.
Many people claim to deny God or an afterlife. It strikes me as odd that when one attends a funeral of a person who lived an outright ungodly life, that words of eternal consolation are spoken. “We know that so-and-so is in a better place right now.” Even if a person has lived a life vacant of obedience to God, people do not say, “He never believed in God, but we are comforted by the fact that he has gone to a state of nothingness.” Certainly, these are not words of truth or comfort. Continue reading “Nobody Doesn’t Believe”
Across the table at the church potluck, Brice was all too happy, sucking on his private piece of chocolate bark. His face and hands covered in the joy of his contentment. Then truth set in as he realized he was sitting on his father’s lap and the realization that his mother was unaccounted for. Terror. Disappointment. Concern. He was separated from the mother unit. It was a case of separation anxiety as the tears began to flow, the lungs filled with air, and the sound of disillusionment filled the air. His eyes searched frantically for the security of “Mom.”
We have all experienced this sort of situation, where our foundations are shattered as we try to get our footings, life is just that way. From the time we are born until, the time we call it quits, we don’t like being separated from our security. Our lives are in disarray, shattered and uncertain until we reestablish contact. When mom shows up and sacrifices her pretty blue coat as a napkin for the chocolate, all is again well with the world. Continue reading “Separation Anxiety”
What is the deal with superlatives, they are slung around anymore like politicians promises; they have no meaning. “The Worlds Greatest Hamburger.” “The Best cup of Coffee.” “The #1 Realtor in Town.” How can so many people claim to have the best hamburger or coffee or to be # 1 in anything? How do we know the best hamburger is not in Hamburg, Germany? Did anybody check? How do we know the best coffee isn’t in Hot Coffee, Mississippi? (Yep, there is such a place, Zip 39428). And I have dealt with two #1 realtors in trying to sell my house, yet neither has brought me an offer. Somehow, I question the veracity of those claims of superiority. Are you with me?
Along those same lines, my friend called me recently and sighed that he was at the “happiest place on earth.” The kicker is what it took for him to get there. It cost him 4 airplane tickets to fly 2800 miles, hotel rooms for 10 nights, a rental car, money for food, a gashed forehead from falling down on the redeye flight, four entry tickets for a 5-day pass at $700, and that just got him into the amusement park. Dare we mention that a lunch combo may be pushing 10 bucks (times 4), or that the sixty-thousand other guests at the happiest place on earth only allowed him to go on 1 ride all day. Throw in the sunburn, crying children, souvenirs, exhaustion, and the hostile attitudes and, voila!, you can be at the happiest place on earth as well. Somehow again, I wonder if this claim is true. Continue reading “The Happiest Place on Earth”
I remember as a kid in grade school often waiting for someone to open doors around campus, either a door to the classroom, to the cafeteria, or to the utility closet which held the sports equipment. We had to wait because someone who had the correct key had to open the door for us. Usually, it was a man in a grey shirt who would come rolling up on one of those little golf carts bringing a lump of keys on a ring, one of which would grant entry into that secured location. He would try many keys, for out of that entire conglomeration, it was one that he was looking for, as only one would work.
To anybody who believes in a god and an afterlife, it probably sounds like a pretty brazen, and even arrogant statement for me to say that Jesus is the only key, the one and only way to know God, and thus enjoy the afterlife. Yeah, I know that sounds pretty effusive, but isn’t that pretty much what every other religion is promoting as well, that their understanding of their god, and their salvation is the right way? Seems like if one doesn’t subscribe to an “all roads lead to heaven” sort of theology, there is a problem, but in reality, someone’s gotta be right and someone’s gotta be wrong. If somebody does believe in a pluralistic, or “many roads lead to heaven” then there is just as big of a problem because then nobody is absolutely right, and nobody is really even wrong, which is logically untenable blah-blah theology. Continue reading “No Other Name”
I remember as a boy my father bringing mercury home from work and letting we children play with it. How fascinating it was to observe the properties of that liquid metal. We would drop a little out of the bottle and watch it spatter into multiple perfectly circular “hemispheres” on the countertop or table…then, we would push them into each other and watch them “magically” converge into each other, growing ever larger, leaving no trace as ever having been separated. Perfect union!…Amazing!
Not surprisingly, as I reflect on this experience, I find great metaphor to the Church…How, because of the death and resurrection of the Christ, and the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Church was born, one perfect unified institution (or pretty close to it, at least for a while). Continue reading “Mercurial Church”
I would imagine most of us are aware of the pastime game of Jenga. The name comes from the Swahili word meaning “to build.” It is the game that begins with 54 wooden tiles that are neatly stacked in levels of three to establish a stable tower. The object of the game is for players to knock out tiles from one level and place them in ever taller and increasingly unstable levels as the game progresses. The game ceases when the actions of one of the players, through the movement of a tile, causes the tower to collapse.
Perhaps in the realm of table games, this is a winner, but it doesn’t work so well in the world of theology. All too often I see people trying to poke holes in sound theology to come up with a “modified” and weakened form of theological understanding, “something not so restrictive.” The resultant effect is a monstrosity of structure that is unstable and filled with holes. Continue reading “Jenga Theology”
It seems like we spend generous amounts of our time and effort getting from one place to another, figuratively or otherwise. From one freeway to another. From one job to “a better” one. From one dwelling to the next. Maybe even from one emotional state to one that is more satisfying. Yet, often what inhibits us from achieving that goal is some sort of barrier that that shuts us down, so we give up. After all, if it’s “impossible” or just too hard we re-evaluate the benefits and lose motivation.
I can’t help but think of another situation where people are trying to get “from here to there.” It takes place in the book of Exodus. After being in slavery for 400-plus years the Israelites have been reminded that that they would be given a land of their own – the Promised Land, originally promised to Abraham. The only problem is that they had to breakaway from Egypt to get there. Continue reading “From Here to There”
For better or worse, one of the identifying characteristics of Americans is our rogue independent spirit. We pride ourselves on migrating across the sea, establishing our own country, pioneering west and conquering the elements with no one to thank but our humble little old selves (thank you very much). A little arrogant to say the least, and we continue to wave that banner of self-reliance to the world, refusing to be conquered by any, and accountable to no one; my heart grieves to suggest this takes place in the Christian realm as well. Continue reading “Abyss of Accountability”
I remember as a child the super-hero shows of the sixties; Batman, Superman, even the Green Hornet. They were the action heroes of society meant to curb evil and give victory to the American way. In order to do this, they battled all sorts of arch-criminals: the Joker, Lex Luther and the Black Hornet. I particularly remember the graphics that appeared during Batman’s fights- Zap! Pow! Sock! Bam! Whack! Crunch! Splat! Bonk! Kapow! As I thought about it that struck me as funny, they are action heroes and the words that appeared were those of action, they were not graphics of contemplation, nor thought, nor speculation, nor thinking, nor planning ad nauseum.
Perhaps, this is not all that insightful, yet it is significant. It would be hard to call them action figures if they were merely conceptualizing plans of attack, yet not actually performing any valuable function. Evil would have been running rampant if Batman would have only threatened to think about thwarting the evil-doers. If Superman had only pondered flying at the speed of light to curtail bad behavior, where would we be? In order for things to get done something needed to be performed. Continue reading “Action Figures”
Is just me or has anyone else noticed that commodities at the super market are shrinking? I don’t mean the amounts that are made available overall; I mean the portions which are being sold. I mean, take for instance the coffee. What was sold as a “3 Pound” can of coffee years ago has been selling as a mere 33 ounces. And now it has been reduced to a 29 ounce size plastic container, but apparently I have gained a “Flavor lock Lid” or an “Easy Grip Handle” as though I had a problem with my can of coffee launching out of my hand and spilling all over the floor. Easy Grip? This thing is not a power tool or a repelling line- it’s a can for crying out loud. I guess they figured I would be better-off having an ironclad grip on the container and they would have an ironclad grip on my 4 ounces of coffee. Quite a trade-off, huh?
But, coffee is not the only culprit; diminished portions are pandemic. I bought a “gallon” container of milk that turned out to be 3 quarts! The revamped cereal boxes are the same size from the front but only about half as deep from front to back. There are less Oreos in the package than years ago but now the wrappers are not see-through so you can’t count ‘em as easily. Ice cream is now sold in 1.5 quarts rather than a half-gallon and candy wrappers weigh as much as the candy itself. What is up? I am wondering what they will do with eggs. Will 6 become the new dozen? What makes it even worse is that the prices if anything have risen. Continue reading “Yeah…Not So Much”
Most of us if pressed could identify our worst day ever; it may be the dissolution of a relationship, a personal tragedy or even financial struggle. Though we may be a little hard-pressed to identify a worst-day-ever in the course of mankind, one might speculate that the worst day ever was the day that Eve sunk her teeth into that delectable fruit thus triggering the collapse of the relationship with God. One may identify the era of the black plague upon the face of the earth. Perhaps, it was the day that the bombs were dropped upon Japan, causing great loss of life. Could it be the lust for megalomaniacal power in the heart of Hitler that even precipitated such an event? One may speculate that the worst day ever was the election of a given individual, or the passage of a particular law.
All have their merits to some extent, but I would surmise that the worst day ever is yet to come. I would suggest that Jesus speaks of this day, a day of judgment, in Matthew chapter 7. Continue reading “Worst Day Ever”
I am pretty sure that most people are aware of the tragedy that took place at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, when a disgruntled youth made his way onto the grounds and began indiscriminately taking the lives of young children and teachers. I have not heard an acknowledgment of the existence of evil in such unison for quite some time. But in the mêlée, I have often hard the cries, “Where was God in this terrible ordeal?” Continue reading “Where was God?”
There is a particular topic going around these days that is drawing a lot of the air out of the room; it is the subject of monuments, statues, and memorials. We understand that they are all designed to commemorate something; sometimes the attention given to any such monument is due to the architecture, often times the attention is focused on what the monument represents. In any case they are intended to remember something one finds important, like points in history: events, accomplishments, or people.
There is a lot of tension right now as people debate, or even argue any given value of “offensive” statues, memorials, and monuments. What one wants to remember, another desires to forget. What one applauds, the other jeers. What one celebrates, another mourns. Some find honor, some find offense. Some pride, some shame. Differing viewpoints, and differing perspectives. And as is becoming the case, those who jeer, end up tearing down the structure in revolt and anger. Unfortunately, it seems as though the same spirit that razes them may have been the same spirit which put them up to begin with. Simply put, some things do merit remembrance, others do not. Continue reading “Monuments”
Resumes are a funny thing to use when we are seeking a job. Why? Well, when we are looking to be employed by someone, we do not stand up and announce any or all of our failures that would disqualify us from that particular line of employment. Rather, it seems to be a culturally acceptable practice to be only as transparent as you want to be, not that that makes it right. We seek to display all of the happy and successful achievements. We don’t announce that we lost a job due to incompetence, or that we only held a job for a week, or got fired. Nor, do we confess that we have had 39 such jobs. We seek to present ourselves in the best possible light, thus increasing our chances of getting the desired position. Continue reading “The Resume of Christ”
Oh the signs of youth! They do leave a wake of destruction in their path, but such are the signs of exuberant life. Even around a church one can see the evidences of tiny hands: candy wrappers, fingerprints on walls, stains on the carpet, broken crayons and scribbles in the hymnals. Some may contest these disturbances in the sanctuary but I suggest they are precious and valued in the eyes of the Lord. When these indications of a youthful presence are undervalued, it is then that a church is in trouble.
It took less than a generation for a Christian nation such as England to be so secularized. From a nation which boasted the likes of John Wesley, JB Lightfoot, Charles Wesley, and C.S. Lewis, all it took was one generation in the latter part of the 20th century for that heritage to dissipate into secular humanism; the baton of Christ failed to be passed from one generation to the next. Continue reading “Scribbles in the Hymnals”
In some humorously demented ways we love our obstacles, we love the challenges of mazes, the puzzles. In our independent determinism, we will find our way; “one way or another, I will deal this situation, I will find the solution!” In the moral and spiritual realms, it is at times not so different; yet the question to be asked is, “What is the solution which God requires?”
Following are two passages of Scripture that are often viewed as advisory, or simply a challenge to be thwarted, or averted. Continue reading “Over, Under, Around and Through”
“God Bless America.” How many times throughout the day is this phrase uttered in the nation? A sacred entreaty to the Sovereign of the universe, the Giver of life, the eternal God. It is a prayer pleading for God’s help, for His direction, for His protection. We are asking for Him to make His presence known through an affirmative response. Yet, action after action seeks to reject God and remove Him from the fabric of the United States, a nation founded upon the God and fundamentals of the Bible. We have driven prayer out of the schools, and wonder why God doesn’t seem to be there, and why discipline is such an issue. We insist on the removal of the Ten Commandments from courthouses and are amazed at the level of rebellion in the land. We abort millions of lives annually and still have the nerve to ask God to bless our lives. Our nation, founded by God-fearing people is quickly becoming a nation of atheists.
There is an old saying; “There are no atheists in a foxhole.” This was no more apparent than in 2001 after the World Trade Center bombings. The Sunday following and for several months, churches were filled with concerned, fearful and grieving congregants. They were seeking to be comforted, consoled, healed. They were looking for answers, and God seemed the only Person from whom to seek answers. Gradually, as confidence came back, those large numbers of attendees diminished until numbers were back to pre-911 “normal” levels. The strategy seemed to be the same, we ask for God’s help, but only until we think we can “handle it.” After we have things under control, we want God to be scarce. Continue reading “The Shortest Prayers”
(This is an article which I wrote to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the event – 2011).
It is a date indelibly etched into the vaults of our minds. Anyone who is twenty and above surely remembers where they were and what they were doing as they heard or saw the news of jets careening into the World Trade Center Towers, an occurrence so profound upon the landscape of U.S. history that the nation drew a corporate national gasp as we lapsed into fear and mourning. We had been assaulted on a level never heard of on our own soil; the core of our foundation had been compromised.
In the days and weeks which followed flags sold in record numbers and patriotism flourished on a level seldom ever seen, and churches, yes, churches, forgotten churches, long since abandoned churches, were packed as fearful and confused nationalists sought comfort in the midst of a higher power. For months the resurgence of national pride paralleled renewed interest in the sanctuary of God, as perhaps, only perhaps, we sought to court the favors of the Almighty and once again be a nation, “Under God.”
But such were the hopes of dreams and fairytales; it was not to be. Continue reading “9/11 Revisited”
Most of us speak it several times a day without ever thinking of the origin of the word. In an ever-so-casual demeanor we issue the greatest of divine blessing upon all those from whom we depart. We may issue it in a letter, or even in the course of terminating a conversation on the street. The word is the simple valediction of “Good-Bye”. Most of us may never even think about it, but the word is actually a contraction of the Middle English phrase God be with ye. It was originally shortened to Godbwye and subsequently evolved to the forms we know today as goodbye, or good-bye.
In any case we may never even have considered that we are casting upon that individual the greatest gift we could possibly proclaim for all of their lives, the presence of the living God. The entirety of Scripture communicates the greatest blessing in all of eternity is the enjoyment of God’s presence. Bet you didn’t know you were invoking such a high blessing in that simple phrase, the intimate, personal, relational quality of the Living God. Continue reading “Good-Bye”
One of the more disturbing waves to roll over the landscape of Christendom is the willingness to embrace “doctrine” from something other than the Word of God.
The historical principle under attack is the belief of Sola Scriptura. Sola Scriptura is the understanding that the Bible alone is the sole agent which is able to communicate all that we need to know regarding the message of God, the character of God, the nature of God and plans for God regarding the reconciliation of His fallen creation to Himself; this however does not negate the Spirit’s involvement in our understanding (1 Corinthians 2:10-14). One of the tenets of this belief is that of “the sufficiency of Scripture.” This means that the Word of God, in and of itself, is sufficient to communicate all that we need about a particular subject, and indeed does confer all that we need to know in regards to salvation. We do not need to seek additional resources of information. Continue reading “Insufficient”