The hiker and his dog sat on a mountaintop overlooking a quaint New England village. The sun was behind them and they could watch the shadows of night edging their way from home to home. Ducks created V’s on the pond below as geese formed them in the sky above.
During a late summer storm an oak tree had fallen across the path to this mountain summit. Hikers had already started a new path around it. Obstacles are like that. Obstacles are just obstacles and nothing more. People find ways around them. Sometimes they are minor blips along life’s way, but sometimes they are major interruptions on the way to a dream. Smart people, innovative people, brave people, undefeatable people always find a way around. This is the way it is supposed to be. Obstacles teach us lessons. Obstacles make us stronger and wiser. Obstacles make the moment of success all the sweeter.
In Hebrews 12: 2 we read, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The cross was not the end. It was only an obstacle.
Written September 22, 2002
The stereo was on, the vacuum was running, the dog was barking at the vacuum and the phone was ringing. It was mayhem. As he reached for the phone he dropped the vacuum hose and yelled at the dog to be quiet. Just then a strange high-pitched electronic sounding hum began. It kept getting louder and louder. Had something gone wrong with the stereo? Fortunately, the phone call was short. It was just another telemarketer. But by now the hum had increased to a high-pitched whistle. Turning off the stereo did not help. Turning off the vacuum did not help. The dog left the room. The sound was coming from behind him. Whirling about he saw the telltale steam coming out of the whistling teapot on the woodstove.
Do you ever think there is so much noise in the world you can barely think? Sometimes life gets so loud we have an awful time hearing God’s voice. He speaks in a still small voice (I Kings 19:12) and He is crowded out by the cacophony of life. In Psalms 46:10 He asks us to be still. But when? When David wrote that verse life was a whole lot quieter. Most likely the noisiest thing around was the neighbor’s dog. However, God does make a recommendation that works. In Psalms 4:4 we read, “When you are on your beds, search your heart and be silent.”
Turn off the news. Turn off Dave and Jay and listen. You will be amazed at what you hear
Written March 18, 2003
If we were required to produce a top ten list of life’s greatest mysteries phone bills ought to be near the top. Have you ever really looked at one of those things or do you just give up and pay what it says? Not only is there the basic charge and the long distance fees for each call, there is also the FCC Line Charge and the Federal USF Surcharge and the Local Number Portability charge. Whatever that is! And then there is the 49-cent charge for Touch-Tone Service. Whatever happened to just “Reach out and touch someone?”
Jesus once reached out and touched someone for free. It is such an exciting story that Mark put it in his very first chapter. While Matthew and Luke are talking about the nativity and John is writing about Jesus being the incarnate Word of God, Mark wants us to know right from the beginning that this Jesus he is going to tell us about touched a leper. By the end of the chapter he has Jesus being pursued by such large crowds He can no longer enter the towns because the streets were too narrow.
There is no doubt about it—Jesus is wonderful. And best of all He will touch each of us and there is no 49-cent charge.
Written April 27, 2003
She has a black wet nose. She wants to please. There are certain things she does understand. She sits. She speaks. She finds her toy. She gets the newspaper. She wants to do more but there is so much she does not understand. When talked to she sits and listens attentively. She cocks her head and looks quizzically saying, “Can’t you bark that to me?” But there is a barrier.
Sometimes our noses are wet. We want to please. There are certain things we do understand. We sit. We speak. We find toys. We can read the paper. We want to do more but there is so much we do not understand. When God talks to us we sit and listen attentively. We too cock our heads and look quizzically through the pages of the Bible saying, “Can’t you speak more plainly to us?” But there is a barrier.
Hopefully as my dog grows older she will understand more. Hopefully as we grow older we will understand more. For now we see as through a dark glass. We catch glimmers of movement on the other side. There is hope. In 1 Corinthians 13:12 we read, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
Perhaps my dog will never understand, but we will.
Written March 25, 2002
Tucked away in many closets and cupboards are stacks of old table games: Monopoly, Careers, Candyland, Memory, Mastermind and others. The sight of them often brings memories of eager little ones begging for someone to play with them. Ah, the fine art of playing games with children. It is called, “How to let them win without their knowing you are letting them win.” Those same little ones years later have most likely learned the fine art of, “How to let the old guy win without his knowing they are letting him win!”
We all like to win and a favorite verse of Scripture is about winning. In Romans 8:37 we read, “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Jesus makes sure we are winners. The passage goes on to say that there is nothing in heaven or on earth than can separate us from God’s love. Talk about winning! It is so grand; Paul says we are more than winners. What we get is so wonderful it is beyond our concept of what it means to win.
In Philippians 3:14 Paul writes, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Since Paul tells us in Ephesians 2 that we have eternal life as a gift, eternal life cannot be what we are trying to win. We already have the gift. Read the verse more carefully. The prize we are to win is our high calling to be like Jesus Himself
Written April 5, 2002
When astronauts return to earth after an extended stay in space their muscles have to readjust to the downward pull of gravity. Gravity is what creates weight. If one wants to weigh half as much, all one needs to do is move to a planet with half the gravitational pull. It is the pull that keeps our muscles toned. Those pictures advertising electronic stimulation of the muscles promising wonderfully cut bodies are just not true. Muscles develop in reaction to resistance. Finely cut bodies are the result of disciplined hours of resistance training.
In a similar fashion our minds only develop to higher levels of performance when challenged. Study, memorization, and critical thinking all contribute to keener perception. Just as a couch potato gets soft and squishy so our brains lose their edge when fed a diet of sitcoms. Resistance, hard work and discipline apply across each aspect of our lives. Our physical, mental and spiritual natures grow stronger when challenged.
If you are a conservative be thankful for the presence of liberals. If you are a liberal rejoice because there are conservatives present. The conservatives hold on to tradition and values that come from centuries of lessons learned. Liberals stimulate growth and change with new ideas. When each resists the other something good occurs for the whole.
Jesus understood this. That is why in Matthew 5 He told us to rejoice when difficulties come. They make us stronger.
Written May 8, 2002
The crowd watched in awe as the stunt plane streaming white smoke climbed vertically into the sky spiraling upward with the mighty engine straining against the relentless pull of gravity. Slower and slower it climbed until gravity won. The plane sat on its tail shuddering and then it fell over tumbling end over end toward the mesmerized crowd below. As it fell back to earth everyone noticed a man standing on the top wing. Cabled in place he waved to the throng below. Surely this man must have a death wish. But probably not. His was a case of absolute faith. Obviously he trusted the person at the controls. His faith was rewarded. As the plane tumbled to earth it regained sufficient speed to fly again and the pilot rolled it out into a perfect arch above the crowd.
In John 14 Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
Life can tumble us about but if we will trust Jesus we will be rewarded with an eternity of endless growth. He wants us to be with Him. Just imagine. He—wants us—to be with him.
Written January 26, 2003
In 2003 it would have been pretty difficult for anyone with a television not to know about Joe Millionaire, who according to Fox Network, was a construction worker pretending to be a millionaire in order to woo a gold-digger. It was by far one of the worst shows ever produced.
If it was so bad, why bother to mention it? There is a reverse story. And this one is true! The wealthiest being in the universe became poor and lived with us. The incarnation of Jesus Christ is the most remarkable story of all time. Paul describes it like this, “He, Jesus, had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status…. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human!…It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.” Phil. 2: 6-8
It is such an incredible story. How could the Creator become one of His created? Why should He care enough about us to do it? God’s love knows no bounds. His compassion for us is the theme of all time. In Colossians 1: 15-16 Paul writes, “ We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him.”
What a story we have to tell! What a God we have to love and be loved by!
Written March 3, 2003
He could not find them. Somewhere in his house his glasses were hiding from him. Were the glasses laughing at him as he walked past them searching first in the obvious places and then in the obscure? They had to be in the house. He had driven home with them and had not left the house without them. Fiendishly they mocked him as they watched him crawl about on hands and knees peering under a couch, pulling the cushions off his favorite chair. This was great sport for them. He threatened punishment—a good bath—should he apprehend them. In the meantime, he was grateful for an old pair that worked fairly well even if the prescription was different. However, his eyes struggled to adjust to the different lenses.
It is a challenge to see things differently. We like our usual ways of looking at people and ideas. It is far easier to change our socks than it is to change our minds. Two people see and hear the same thing and yet each sees and hears something different. What we see or hear is the product of the event liberally sprinkled with pinches of prejudices, predispositions, religious beliefs, family loyalties and what we want to see and hear.
“Who can discern his errors?” Psalms 19:12
Written October 28, 2002
It’s a shabby old building sitting amidst some fairly nice looking business establishments. Its white paint hasn’t looked fresh for decades. It is so rundown-looking it has a certain charm, but what really catches one’s attention is the large sign above the porch. It reads, “Greendale Improvement Society.” The paint on the sign is so faded you have to look carefully to read its ironic message.
Like that old building many of us make resolutions to improve ourselves and soon discover our best intentions have become historic relics. New Years Day comes and we decide to lose weight, read that pile of books we bought last year, memorize 1 Corinthians 13, return a faithful tithe, exercise everyday and not yell at the kids. Nevertheless, just like the Greendale Improvement Society’s chipped paint and faded sign, our dreams of improvement become charming artifacts. At least we hope they are charming.
Self-discipline is an admirable trait that deserves an Academy Award. While it will never receive one, self-discipline does come with built-in rewards.
Nine times in the Psalms the Psalmist cries out to the Lord, “Help me.” If we have some good intentions about self-improvement, it is time to ask for help lest we become like the Greendale Improvement Society’s old building.
Written January 28, 2003