He stood in front of the teacher’s desk and said, “I’m 30 years old and I’m lonely. I can’t get a girlfriend.”
“Is there anyone out there you find attractive?” the teacher asked.
“Yes,” he said, “but they always say they only like me as a friend.”
“What do you ask them?” the teacher continued.
“I ask them to be my girlfriend. But they always say, ‘No.’”
“Do you ever ask them out for a date? Won’t they go out at all with you?” queried the teacher.
“I never get to ask them out,” he replied. “They won’t agree to be my girlfriend. I can’t spend any money if it will be wasted.”
The secret to his problem was evident. How fortunate we are that God is very different from this young man. In 1 Corinthians Paul tells us we were bought with a price and the price was paid before we were God’s friends. “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. Romans 5:10
Rogers & Hammerstein had it right in “The King & I” when they wrote,
“Getting to know you,
Getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you,
Getting to hope you like me.”
Jesus is delighted when we get to know Him.
Written January 26, 2003
It was a red 2000ish Toyota. It was sitting in the school parking lot with its lights on. A student walking across the lot wanted to help. So she went over and tried to get to the light switch but it was locked. How frustrating! In just a few hours the owner would have a real problem and she could not help. She walked away leaving the 2000ish Toyota with its lights sucking the energy from its battery.
Have you ever wondered if there are times when God wants to help us but He can’t. While it is true, God is all-powerful and could force His good sense on us, He will not violate our power of choice. To do so would shatter the principle of love, which only exists where there is choice. Love is not love when it is coerced. Once coerced, it becomes benevolent tyranny.
Our coed could have broken a window of the Toyota to gain access to the light switch, but the broken window would have been a violation of the owner’s property. The solution to the problem would have been worse than the immediate difficulty. Should God violate our freedom by imposing His wisdom on us, His intervention would have long-term effects worse than the fruit of our immediate danger.
God could have forced Eve away from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but had He done so everything He has asserted about freedom and choice would have been a lie. (Titus 1:2)
Written April 13, 2003
There is no denying the value and benefits of healthful eating. We have a much better chance of having a healthy mind if it is housed in a well-nourished healthy body. When we are healthy we make better decisions because our minds are not affected by internal poisons, chemical imbalances and medications. When we are healthy we have more reserves and are more patient with others thus creating a happier atmosphere for all concerned.
However sometimes we make the mistake of turning diet into a religion. Religion is about our morality and our walk with God. It is a truth Jesus wanted us to understand. In Mark 7 Jesus asked, “Are you so dull?” Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body. What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, immorality, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander and arrogance. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’”
Jesus is not telling us everything is healthy to eat. We know better than that. He is trying to tell us life has priorities. The way we treat each other is far more important than examining each other’s grocery carts.
“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Romans 14:17
Written April 30, 2003
One of the most precious words in any language is freedom. It is pronounced a hundred ways but means the same thing in every human heart. The desire to decide for oneself what to think and how to live is an inborn desire planted there by our Creator. Contrary to many religious leaders, true service to God does not demand mental lockstep. If God wanted us all to live and think and act in unison, He could easily have created us that way. And what a dull existence life would be!
God is a creator. He thinks new thoughts and plans new things. Furthermore, he created us in His image with that same characteristic. Freedom to dream of doing, writing, singing and going where no one has ever been before is what makes us so special. To sing freedom, to write freedom, to act freely makes life full and complete, but only if we use that freedom wisely. One could easily use freedom to destroy one’s own health and the lives of those about them. We can eat our way into the grave. We can gamble away all our substance if we choose.
But freedom used wisely is a magnificent thing. In Galatians 5:1 Paul declares that Christ has set us free from the bondage of rule-keeping systems to allow us room to grow into our own special uniqueness. God only wants one of you so that forever you will be special. Your thoughts, your dreams, your goals belong to no one else. In love we blend them with the dreams of others and produce the harmony of a community
Written June 22, 2004
In the backs of our brains we store all kinds of information. Occasionally, just for fun, we swipe away the cobwebs of our minds and try to remember some of our mental treasures. Among some of the treasures we sometimes find old word parts from a Latin or Greek course taken years earlier. One such prefix is “epi-.” It means “upon” or “about.”
Perhaps we remember this prefix because we see it so often in English words. People in California regularly hear about the epicenter of the latest earthquake. At funerals we hear epitaphs. On television we watch episodes. At the end of a book we read an epilogue. Some winters we experience epidemics of the flu.
Thinking about one’s relationship with Christ and how He showers us with grace, may cause us to wonder if it could be called epigrace. Perhaps the Holy Spirit falling upon us could be called epidivinity. One thing for sure is we have experienced epilove.
“Because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgression—it is by grace you have been saved.” Eph. 2:4-5.
Written October 15, 2002
Dirt sneaks up on you. Ever so slowly it changes the appearance of something in a house until one day you look with horror at the door from the garage into the house and wonder how something could have gotten so dirty without your noticing it. What about the earpiece on your telephone–have you looked at it lately?
Dirt sneaks up on our characters. Continued exposure to media that feels the need to press the edge of decency has its subtle effects on us. Things that used to offend are now taken for granted. The edge of offense has moved. Little by little we change until one morning we wake up wondering how we got “here from there.” We never noticed it happening.
Sometimes we think it is sophisticated not to be offended or shocked by indecencies. We are fearful of appearing immature or prudish if immorality insults. Paul understood this and appeals to us in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
We really need to be careful; dirt does sneak up on us!
She had just finished baking five of the most luscious hot steamy cinnamon rolls. Leaving them on the kitchen counter she went upstairs for a moment but returning quickly her mouth all ready to experience a gastronomic delight. However, they were gone. The only trace of their existence was the scent and a trail of icing on the kitchen counter. In the next room an incredibly contented Labrador retriever lay sleeping with a smile on her face. Telltale white icing was on her chin and cinnamon was on her breath. She was nailed!!
The question remained, “What to do with her?” It would have been so easy to get angry. But how could that profit? It would only add insult to injury because every time we get angry we release all kinds of chemicals and stress producers into our systems. Each time we grow angry we harm ourselves more than the person or dog with whom we are displeased.
Sometimes we say, “He makes me so angry!!” But really no one can make us angry. People—or dogs—can certainly irritate us but the response is up to us. We can become furious. We can retaliate. Or we can “turn the other cheek.”
When Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek He is giving us practical counsel. Not only does turning the other cheek defuse the situation, it also reduces our internal stress level thus enabling us to live a longer, happier life. Everything Jesus asks us to do is for our benefit. He is so very sensible.
Written September 3,2002
Good chess players not only anticipate their opponent’s next move but their opponent’s next several moves. A good player knows a fairly innocuous looking move might not appear dangerous in the immediate future but could be the key to victory as it sets the stage for a later devastating attack. A game can be lost several moves back, but the loser did not know it then. He did not know where he was led until it was too late.
In 1 Peter 5:8 we read, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Peter did not know about chess but he surely knew about lions. If he had known about chess he might have written, “Your enemy the devil schemes like a grand master seeking to devour you.” He is patient. He has a lifetime to get us. He can plant a seed now and water it knowing the ultimate fruit of an idea or action.
Psalms 1:1 tells us to be careful where we walk, where we stand and where we sit down for this is the progression of disaster. The walking seems so innocent. The standing is just satisfying curiosity. The sitting is the fruit. We need to be so careful because the grand master of evil is playing for our souls. How reassuring to know the true champion Jesus Christ is playing on our side. As Paul says, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37
Written March 4, 2003
She’d been caught with her hand in the Cheerios. The front of the box promised a treasure inside and she could not wait until the family ate their way to the bottom. She had to have her book right away. Do you remember how your mother made your wait ‘til the box was empty? It was awful looking at the cereal box morning after morning waiting for the treasure to come tumbling into your bowl. No digging was allowed.
Psychologists tell us that teaching people to delay gratification is a good thing. It enables them in later life to sacrifice for meaningful goals. Sometimes we think of Christianity as delayed gratification. If we give enough now, if we sacrifice enough now, if we are good enough, if we deprive ourselves of something now someday we will get to heaven. While it is true, wonders do await those who allow Jesus to save them, we do not have to wait to begin experiencing the gift of salvation. Citizenship in God’s kingdom brings privileges that are available right away.
The psychological benefits are readily apparent. We can stop worrying about the future; we are secure. We can have peace of mind regarding past sins; they have been cared for. We can begin to reap better physical health because life’s stresses are reduced. Our relationship with people around us slowly improves because we are not alienating them with our competitive spirit. We become nicer and more likeable. There are a lot of treasures available now.
We don’t have to eat all the Cheerios to experience the cheer.
Written November 18, 2002
Fifty years ago children played outside a lot especially on warm summer evenings as the darkness was beginning to fall. They played “Kick the Can,” “Tag,” “Statue” and “Hide and Seek.” They ran through the neighborhood screaming and yelling, “You’re it.” Inevitably someone’s mother would call out, “Time for baths.” Baths? Why would anyone want to wash off the salty sweat mixed with the day’s dust? That was the tattoo of an evening’s fun.
So it was when three grandchildren came to visit. They wanted to play and grandpa suggested “Tag.” They had a better idea. Off they ran for the Monopoly game to get the money. “Let’s play “Charity,” grandpa,” they yelled. “Grandpa, you be the poor man and we will give you money.” In the next few minutes the three grandchildren invented all kinds of ways to help imaginary people in need as they ran from “place to place and person to person”
Grandpa had learned a new game. He liked the game. When he was a boy it was “Cops and Robbers.” He liked “Charity.” Perhaps the world would be a better place if all children played “Charity” instead of “Cops and Robbers.”
Written January 26, 2003