Tuesday, May 26, 2015


The Charlotte Observer ran a story on April 30 in response to National Honesty Day.  On this day, as it is apparently observed across the country, anyone participating may ask any question and receive a straight forward, honest answer from someone representing an opposing view.  To me, the obvious question is, "Why can't we always be honest?"  Why do we need one day a year to stop toeing the party line of whatever agenda we support?  Maybe people really are that jaded...

But I digress.

The mayor of Charlotte proclaimed the Day, and someone asked the Charlotte newspaper why they support such a liberal agenda.  Their response seemed even-handed and reasonable.  I don't agree with them generally, but I respect their attempt to explain themselves.  In many cases, I agree with their goals, but disagree about the best way to achieve those goals.

But one statement stood out to me:  "Discrimination is wrong in every instance."  This is tantamount to saying that making choices is wrong.  How foolish.  They would probably say that they meant that discrimination against people is wrong in every instance.  If that is so, then employers cannot hire anyone.  To do so is to discriminate against those who do not get the job.  Even if they hire all applicants, they are discriminating against those who did not apply.

So mothers should not discriminate against pedophiles when they hire baby sitters?  Factories cannot discriminate against 10-year-olds when hiring line workers?  The NBA can't discriminate against non-athletes?

A world without discrimination could not function.  You could not choose a route to work, an item from a menu, a place for vacation, or a grade of gasoline. 

The newspaper needed to define its terms better.

Dictionary.com does give this as its second definition of the word:  "treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against a person or thing based on the group, class or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than individual merit." 

That makes a little more sense.  But we discriminate against felons, those who cannot pass the Bar exam or the CPA exam.  Schools not only educate, but discriminate as they give students grades. 

I'm not advocating discrimination against people because of their race, national origin, etc.  But to say that "discrimination is wrong in every instance," over simplifies and borders on nonsense.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Shadow Cast

As I sat on my deck reading recently, one of those big Japanese hornets began buzzing around.  He was so loud that I could tell where he was, even when I could not see him.  And I also could see his huge shadow.

As much as he may have wanted to hide from me, I could still see his shadow.  It occurred to me that we often cast shadows when we are outdoors.  Sometimes we know where our shadows land.  Often, however, our shadows pass across objects we never even notice.

So it is with our lives.  Our lives cast shadows over people and places, some of which we notice, some of which we don't.  Most often we don't think about or even notice where our shadows land.  We don't even think about controlling our shadows.  Yet those silhouettes may affect people more than we know.

For good or not, our lives have more impact than we realize.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

File Transfer Fun

We are cleaning out the basement.  Yep, lots of surprises, memories, and . . . old computers.  I have a computer that I bought in January 2000.  I waited until after the horrors of Y2K came and went; then I went and bought a new machine.  I replaced it three years later, but kept it for the files.  Today I fired it up, and it all seems to work fine.  But I haven't yet figured out how to get those old files onto a flash drive.

The old machine does not have the right drivers for the flash drive.  I can find the driver, but I can't get it on that old machine.  Hmmm. 

So what's the spiritual application?  I don't know.  Everything I can come up with sounds lame.  Keep your spiritual drivers up to date.  Don't make it hard for God to transfer files to you.  God doesn't need binary code to speak to you.  Computers are stupid.  Take your pick.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Power of Praise

Reading Tim Keller's book on prayer, I received a powerful reminder of the power of praise.  Giving praise to God actually changes us.  Yes, we are commanded to praise the Lord, but it makes us better.

It reminds us Who is in charge.  It connects us to the Source of life.  It changes our perspective.  It opens the way for him to share his blessings.  It fuels life. 

When I saw the tireless praise of believers in Uganda, I wondered how long it could last.  Apparently a very long time.  They never tired of expressing praise to Jesus.  It wasn't like a long worship service.  It was an attitude of reflective thanks and joy in Jesus.  I saw it as they worked, as they ate, as they visited.

When our praise is powered by emotion, it will fade with time.  But when praise is fueled by the Spirit, he gives us renewed energy.  We can embrace moments of life with joy. 

Praise connects us with reality.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Til Boredom Do We Part

I heard a friend recently quote one of his young coworkers saying, "Yeah, he looks like maybe my first divorce."  The young woman was speaking of a young man to whom she was somewhat attracted.  She thought she could be married to him for a while, but she did not think she could grow old with him.

The comment is startling to me, because marriage apparently seems disposable to her.  I'm sure she reflects a trend in American thought.  I believe it is better to be married than to cohabitate.  But I also think marriage should be a permanent relationship.  This young woman might ask me if I would prefer she just live with a boyfriend rather than marry and later divorce him.  Uh, neither of those is really a good idea.

And I'm not just speaking in terms of personal preference.  I believe that, as our Creator, God has made us so that one sexual arrangement is actually better for us.  In his word he has shared with us what that arrangement is.  Those relationships are better for us as a society and as individuals.

In today's culture, many prefer to chart their own paths for sexual expression and fulfillment.  I believe some intentionally rebel against the pattern God endorses, just to show God who is boss.  The world system feels obligated to celebrate these lifestyles and ignore their negative consequences.

If we can just persuade enough people that permanent marriage is a relic of anthropology, then the world will be a better place.  Any sexual expression is okay, as long as adults consent.  Everybody chases fulfillment as they see fit. 

Society is launching into this grand experiment with human culture and sexuality.  We are only beginning to see where it will take us.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Undue Diligience

I remember when food products had no expiration dates.  We could tell when food was bad, so we didn't eat it.  Actually I don't really remember finding any bad food.  Apparently my parents took care of it. 

Now everything has expiration dates, and it appears that (my) children consider examining expiration dates to be part of their due diligence before ingesting anything.  Never mind common sense or the sense of smell.  Let's look at that date.

(By the way, I have seen salad dressing on the grocery shelf with an expiration date less than a month in the future.  Who uses a whole bottle of dressing in a month?  No wonder they are all expired in your fridge.)

Maybe kids could trust their parents or their senses in evaluating food.

But think of the due diligence we exercise with our Heavenly Father.  Yes, I know that you said to forgive, but I want to consider what that will really mean.  Yes, I know that I should tithe, but how can I live on 90%?  Yes, I know that you promise to meet my needs, but I'm just a worrier. 

We diligently examine God's directions, wondering if he really is looking out for us.  We wonder if we can trust him.  So we check behind God to make sure that we can go along with his Word. 

Maybe he laughs at me and rolls his eyes like I do with my kids.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Pole Vauting

Until today I had not been to a track meet since about 1980.  And today I watched pole vaulting for the first time.  Yeah, I've seen it on TV of course, but I never had seen it in person.  It is an impressive sport.  So many things have to work just right.

I am uninitiated in the sport, but here are some of the variables that have to land just right:  running speed, angle of the pole during run, placement of the pole, angle of the body through the whole jump, pushing the pole away from the bar, clearing the bar with all bodily appendages.

Furthermore, pole vaulting is not one of those things you do half way.  You have to put your whole body into it, with full force, or you will fail miserably. 

On the other hand, you get more than one try, so it's okay to fail a lot.  And you almost always push yourself until you fail.

I'm sure there are some life lessons in all of this.  It's okay to fail.  Put your whole self into what you do.  Keep trying to get everything lined up just right.  Follow through until you land.  Give yourself enough momentum to succeed.

Pole vaulting looks fun, but I don't think I could do it now.  Life is fun and I am doing it now.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Remembering the important stuff

Our Team and Uganda Family
One of our Uganda team members just posted a bunch of photos on Facebook.  It was fun to click through all those pictures, seeing images of our experience from a slightly different perspective.  It helped to keep the experience fresh  in my heart.

We so often need reminders.  That's why we have calendars.  And journals.  And photo albums.  And spouses.  In the New Testament Paul, Peter and Jude all indicate in their letters that they are reminding believers of things they already know.

Often I encounter something that I have forgotten and need to remember:  to pray for someone, to change the oil, to confess my sins, to find joy in Jesus, to water the plants, to walk as a son of God, to put on sunscreen, to give thanks, to love my wife.

What are the most important things in your life?  What do you do to remind yourself about them?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

God's tag line

Of course God is too great to be summed up in a single word or phrase.  But in Psalm 136, the writer clearly highlights one of God's primary characteristics.  This seems to be one quality that God wants us to notice and remember.

His love endures forever.

All 26 verses in this Psalm end with this refrain.  When we thank him, when we see his creation, when we experience his protection, when we witness his justice--in all these circumstances we need to remember that his love endures forever.

God has many other attributes, but we must keep on remembering that his love endures forever.  Not his justice, his power, his might, or even his glory--his enduring LOVE we must remember.  Obviously other places in the scripture highlight God's other attributes.  But here the psalmist drives home God's love.

This word for love also means loving-kindness or covenant love.  We must never forget God's love for us.  I need to remember that every day.  That helps me experience his love and live his love.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

More Nones

The Pew Research Center today released a study indicating that more people are claiming no religious affiliation.  These are the "nones," those who select "none of the above" in surveys about religious preference.

Only 70% of the U.S. adult population now identifies as Christian.  There are several ways to respond to this news.
  1. Surveys are not accurate anyway.  Just ignore them.
  2. American media paints such a negative picture of Christians, it is no wonder that people don't want to identify with them.  Media has shaped public opinion so that all Christians are regarded with suspicion.  Christians are portrayed as using faith merely for personal gain.  The survey shows that the media campaign is working, and fewer will call themselves Christians.
  3. The church is fading into history as culture advances.  This has been happening for centuries, and the pace of the decline is now increasing.
  4. The church must make major changes to make faith appealing to younger people.  Many of the traditional stances of Christian denominations are out of step with contemporary culture.  The church must modify its positions on such issues if young people are to remain among the faithful.
I would suggest that there is another response to this decline.  Without any polling or scientific data, I suggest that the news is possibly not bad news for the Church at all.  For centuries faith has been part of the American culture.  Many crossed the ocean to find religious freedom.  As faith practice became more and more ingrained in our culture, many held onto the faith culture without the faith. 

Religion then became a list of rules and practices.  Relationship with God through Christ has often been lost.  I think that the nones are rebelling against this man-made rule of behavior.  They are looking for the foundation, the basis for the behavior.  If a faith system devolves into a list of rules, it is no wonder that people are rejecting it.

Those who equate faith with rules are rejecting the faith.  They see Christians as hypocrites and religion as mass manipulation.  They want nothing to do with that.  So now they identify with "none of the above" when it comes to religion. 

The stakes are higher now for those who do claim to belong to Christ.  They increasingly face the scorn of the media.  The day may even come when people are martyred routinely in America for their trust in Jesus. 

So it may be that today's surveys show that people are more hesitant to identify with Jesus.  And that identifying with Jesus means more than it used to.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Jesus One on One

Jesus encounters people personally.  He meets us where we are, in our confusion, in our sin, in our doubt.  He loves us powerfully.

So Jesus shows us how to minister.  It takes a personal touch.  It takes one-on-one time.  It takes listening.  It requires presence.  Our ministry in Uganda last month was primarily one of relationship and presence.  We listened.  We hugged.  We helped.  We learned.  We experienced. 

We experienced the power of relationship. 

Jesus shared life personally.  We find this throughout the Gospel of John.  In nearly every chapter, Jesus has conversations with individuals, piquing their interest, answering their questions, or coming to their defense.

There is power in personal relationship.  Jesus did preach to the masses, but he also cared about people individually.  He took time to listen, to engage with people.  He answered difficult questions and probed deeply into people's hearts.

"Jesus One on One" is the new Sunday morning series at Crossroads beginning this Sunday.  Each week we will see how Jesus took time with people personally to bring them into relationship with himself.  If we want to make a lasting difference, it will have to be done through relationship.

May 17  Personal Persuasion
Jesus gets Nathanael's attention because Jesus knows where Nathanael has been.

May 24  Questioning Authority
Nicodemus, a man of religious authority seeks to understand who Jesus is.

May 31  Quenching Thirst
Jesus helps a foreign woman understand the real thirst of life.

June 7  Healing for the Hopeless
Jesus reaches out to a crippled man, healing him and giving him hope.

June 14  Life-Changing Mercy
When people want to condemn a woman caught in adultery, Jesus shows her mercy and encourages her to stop sinning.

June 21  Insight on Sight
Jesus' disciples notice a man who has been blind all his life.  They raise theological questions about his plight, but Jesus shows him compassion and heals him.

June 28  Something for Everyone
After Jesus' friend Lazarus dies, the man's sisters question Jesus' friendship.  He shows each woman the kind of compassion she needs.

July 5  Divine Gratitude
Jesus appreciates Mary's extravagance as she honors him by anointing him.

July 12  Compassion in Persecution
A soldier who has come to arrest Jesus is wounded, and Jesus heals him.

July 19  A Son's Concern
Jesus cares about his mother's welfare, even as he dies on the cross.

July 26  The Surprise of Life
Jesus meets Mary Magdalene after his resurrection, giving her the surprise of life.