The resident housedog was fishing about in the trash container in the kitchen. Finding a treasure she headed for the living room to tear it into tiny little pieces. Instead of taking it from her, her master decided he would be a good guy and trade her the trash for a dog goodie. She was very happy with the trade. Actually she was so happy with the trade she immediately went to the kitchen trash container to find another item to trade for a goodie. Dropping the trash at her master’s feet she waited for her goodie. Thinking this was most clever he rewarded her. That was a huge mistake. Back she went to the kitchen trash container. If only we could learn that quickly!
Behavioral psychologists maintain that humans are not much different than house pets. If we are rewarded with a pleasant sensation or experience for particular behavior we will keep repeating the act as long as the pleasure continues. The problem is we soon tire of the reward and want a bigger or more intense one.
Fortunately for most of us there is more to being a human than behavior followed by rewards. We are also capable of intelligent thought that enables us to choose positive life-building behaviors. However, sometimes we need help. How grand that it is available. Whenever we ask, God hears and is eager to help.
Written June 24, 2004
Upon arriving home from their vacation, the family discovered that together they had taken over 600 pictures. Digital cameras are grand. One does not have to pay for all that processing only to discover 400 of the 600 pictures are not worth keeping. Of course taking the pictures is only the first step toward having something worth victimizing relative and friends with by making them look at all our vacation pictures. Pictures that are worth looking at need to be carefully brightened, darkened, dodged, cropped, color balanced and have the red eyes removed. It takes 1/500 of a second to take the picture and fifteen minutes, if you are efficient, to get it looking good.
Salvation is like that. We are saved in a fraction of a second, but it takes a lifetime of enhancement to get us looking good. There is so much brightening, cropping, color balancing that needs to be done.
Job 1:8 where God asks Satan if he has looked at Job is rather like asking people to look at your vacation pictures. God was happy with Job and wanted to show him off. Satan of course was not so happy and we all know what happened next.
Sometimes in our “snapshots” we look rather pathetic; however, I am so glad God is willing to brighten, crop, and color balance us so that we don’t have to continue to look like that 1/500 of a second snapshot.
Written June 25, 2004
Surely there has not been a more decent, honest and honorable man who was President of the United States than Jimmy Carter. Without a doubt he has had the most successful post-presidency of any man who ever lived in the White House. His foundation has reached out to provide clean water for the poor, medical care for the blind of the world and conflict resolution among nations.
His marriage with Rosalynn is an example for all of us. Interestingly, however, in an interview both of the Carters recalled how difficult it was to co-author a book. As each wrote the truth about events that had occurred in the White House they discovered their stories were very different. Each was sure the other was having memory problems because each was sure their version was what really happened.
Truth is difficult to know. Even the sincere see things through personal biases and faulty memories. So often we know only what we want to know, filtering out everything that contradicts what we want to believe. Perhaps the person most difficult to know the truth about is the person we see in the mirror. How very fortunate we are that the One who really knows the truth about us also loves us dearly and died for us. While we were sinners He gave His life for us that we should not only live but also actually grow into the person our dog thinks we are.
Written June 28, 2004
It is raggedy. It smells. Sometimes it is slimy and unpleasant to touch. It is a dirty green. It has been chewed and mangled. It is old and worn. The squeaky box inside stopped working a long time ago. It has been buried and dug up. It has been washed several times. It is loved. You guessed it! It is the loved toy of a dog.
The more we think about this toy, the more it sounds like us. Sometimes we are raggedy, slimy and smelly. We have been washed several times and buried and dug up. Before we met Jesus we were dead in our sins, but He restored us and gave us a new life that will never end. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. John 5:24.
The loyalty of a dog to her treasured stuffed frog is matched and exceeded by God’s love for you and me. We look in the mirror and realize we are not part of the world’s beautiful people and further, life can take its toll. But maybe that is confusing pretty and handsome with beautiful. Pretty and handsome are what is on the outside. Beauty is what comes from within
Written July 27, 2004
After ten years of accumulated stuff it became obvious that the garage was in serious need of attention. It is amazing how stuff accumulates. It makes one want to believe in spontaneous generation. It seems as though at night when there is no moon stuff must pop into being. Usually it is useless stuff that might possibly become useful someday. But eventually reality hits—the stuff is not ever going to be useful. Then one can only hope the garbage man will carry it all away.
It is like that with our brains as well. They too are often filled with useless stuff. The problem is we cannot get rid of it as easily as we can the junk in the garage. It seems that the best solution would be to keep filling our minds with quality material. If one concentrates on good stuff, there will be no time to think about the trash and it will eventually fade away.
Paul said, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8
Written July 1, 2004
There are about 150 varieties of fuchsias each with a special name like pinwheel, flaming pink, cardinal, red spider, pink rain, and snowcap. These plants have the reputation of being expensive and fragile—plants one buys each spring only to have them die each fall. However, in Ireland fuchsias grow like weeds. They line the roadsides with red walls for miles on end. They are beautiful, hardy and need no special care—they have found just the right environment.
People like plants will flourish if placed in the right environment. Sometimes there is the temptation to think of some students as just bad kids—those kids voted most likely to end up in jail. However, that does not need to be so. Sometimes a student is hostile and belligerent for what we are tempted to think is no reason at all. But usually there is a reason; we just do not know what it is. It is the same for many adults.
Oh, that we would pray for God’s wisdom to know how to help those around us find the right environment—to flourish.
Written July 19, 2004
Reverence has returned to churches in Monterrey, Mexico. Cell phones have been silenced. Never again in the middle of a sermon will the congregation hear “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” or some other catchy ring. Electronic devices have been installed that flood the sanctuary with a signal that renders the cell phones inoperative. The jammers overwhelm the phones with electronic noise. The phones shut down and incoming calls go immediately to voice mail.
Like these jammers, the many activities of some people’s lives overwhelm the still small voice of God. It’s not that God isn’t there. He’s there. He’s everywhere. Psalms 139 says,
“Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
To be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings, you’re there!
To the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute.
You’re already there waiting!”
There isn’t any place one can run or go that He is not there. He is chasing you. But He will not force you to listen. You can push Him away with the noise of a hectic life. So please slow down. Turn off the television. Put down the magazine and listen. You’ll hear Him wooing you. It’s a sweet sound of love offering you the best gift of all time. He’s offering a gift that transcends all time. He is offering you eternal life.
Written September 27, 2004
The graying college professor was watching television—but not really. He was casually interested but not enough to give it his full attention so he pulled a volume of the 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica off the shelf and began to browse. He came across an article on Nebuchadnezzar. Knowing Nebuchadnezzar was once the king of Babylon, which is modern day Iraqi, gave the article a modern day connection. The article even gave the name of Nebuchadnezzar’s younger brother Nabo-sum-lisir. The old prof had never seen this before and thought it would be great fun to put this name on his door at school along with the promise of a ten-dollar reward to the first person to correctly identify him. Just to make sure it was not too easy he went to www.google.com and typed in Nabo-sum-lisir. In eight tenths of a second there on his computer screen was a copy of the very page in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica. Obviously, he did not offer the reward.
The lesson is obvious. If anyone with an Internet connection can now identify Nebuchadnezzar’s younger brother in the blink of an eye, the wonder and mystery of God knowing everything about us is gone. More than ever it makes us grateful for the promises of grace and forgiveness because with God there are no secrets. “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing….” Eccl. 12:14.
“It is by grace you have been saved.” Eph. 2:5 Lord, we are so grateful!
Written January 28, 2003
Words are wonderful. These audible and written symbols that enable us to transfer ideas from one person’s mind to another can be wonderful or horrific. Words can heal. Words can wound. Words can restore life. Words can bring death. These sounds that come from our mouths are awesome tools for good or evil.
Words bring us joy and sorrow. Words can be fun. Betty Bobsly bought bitter butter that made her better batter bitter. Sometimes they are incomprehensible and make us rush to our dictionaries. Other times they are from a totally different language and dictionaries don’t help.
The psalmist understood. In Psalms 19:14 we read, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” Our words reveal who we are. Sometimes we craft them very carefully and other times they pop out surprising even us and we say, “I can’t believe I said that!”
Solomon said, “The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious…”Eccl. 10:12. Wouldn’t it be grand if our words were always gracious and healing? With God’s help we can be filled with words of life and hope to all who hear us. We can tell the story of Jesus.
Written January 26, 2003
On the campus was a small crab apple tree. Through all the New England winter storms it had held onto its crop until one late February day. On that day at least 25 robins appeared and feasted. It was beautiful. You should have heard the chatter. It was a festive occasion. They were dressed in their finest red aprons. The sun was smiling as they fluttered and talked. Some had stayed for the winter but others had just arrived from the south. Oh, they had much to tell each other about their journeys! It took all morning and early afternoon for them to clean up the table, the dishes and take out the trash.
In Matthew 6:26 Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
After several months of real New England weather, to watch these robins celebrate life was a delight. God does feed the birds and so extravagantly. And are you not much more valuable than they?
Written February 23, 2003