It was so cute it was amazing. She was a tiny Chinese Vanna White or better yet like the models on the Price Is Right. We were at the grocery store and kept meeting this petite little girl and her mother because we were going in opposite directions from aisle to aisle – twelve aisles equaled twelve meetings. Upon one of our meetings I stopped to watch her pick up a packet of Double Stuff Oreos. Holding it in one hand she gave the package the hand/wrist model wave over the package while explaining to her mother the wonders of Oreos. How could her mother not buy it? Nabisco should have had their cameras rolling. We would see her night after night on our television screens. She could sell millions of Oreos.
It would be awesome if all of us could sell Jesus to the world. Instead of doing the model hand wave we could show off the great aspects of Jesus by the way we live and the way we treat others. Nothing sells a product better than happy satisfied customers. I have never met anyone who wanted to live a crummy life. However, people mess up because they don’t know any better or do know and yet they still make bad choices. Either way the result is a subpar life. Jesus wants all of us to live the abundant life. Barring the random bad things that do happen to good people the quality of our lives can be vastly improved by living a Christ-like life with the help of the Holy Spirit.
All of us who call ourselves Christians are salespersons (witnesses) for Jesus. How I wish we were all super salespersons. Our product is so much better than Double Stuff Oreos and that is saying something.
We do not hear with our ears anymore than we see with our eyes. Our ears and eyes are receptors that transmit received signals to our brains. Our brains then interpret and configure those signals into sounds or pictures. Now comes the scary part. Each of us has a unique brain. The result is none of us see and hear what another sees and hears. The stimuli received are filtered through past experiences, education, repeated exposure and associate with others who influence us. This could be one of the reasons some things are beautiful to one person and not to another. Most people think their mother is beautiful. It has little or nothing to do with her cheekbones and smile. Mom is filtered through love for all the care received when we were young and helpless.
I really enjoy Chopin piano concertos. In reality they are rather bangy. However when I was little my father, who for a time was an elementary school principal, would bring home a projector and we would watch movies of someone playing Chopin concertos on our living room wall. It is also why I enjoy the smell of cigars. Both Chopin and the aroma of a Philly El Producto are all about memories of my father.
In Revelation 19 we find what can be some very scary descriptions of Jesus. One of them is, “He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.” For millions that will be horrible. But for those of us who love Him it will be beautiful.
So I made the offhand comment that Eve picked and ate a mango and sin began. I immediately came under siege. A woman pounced on me with all the weight of tradition. Didn’t I know it was an apple? I couldn’t resist. I asked her if it was a Golden Delicious or a Yellow Granny. I backed off as I saw the ire rise in her eyes.
It is fascinating how strongly we will defend what we really don’t know but believe we know. Traditions are the fabric of our lives. They form the basis for our personal identity and a foundation for our faith. As Tevye, the protagonist in Fiddler on the Roof, sang, “Because of our traditions, everyone knows who he is and what God expects him to do.” When we jar someone’s traditional beliefs we jar the core of their identity. Didn’t I know it was an apple? She was not concerned about the apple vs. mango vs. avocado. She was concerned about who she was? If the apple wasn’t correct then the story of Adam and Eve wasn’t correct and if it wasn’t correct than the Bible wasn’t correct and if the Bible wasn’t correct than she wasn’t going to live forever. No sir. It was an apple!
But, I understood that and should not have continued the taunt with the Yellow Granny remark. Jesus would not have done that. Controlling one’s tongue and the fun of twisting something in just a little bit deeper is so difficult to resist. James, Jesus’ brother, said it so well. “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” Alas. How thankful we are that forgiveness is a request away.
Another week has begun and some of us on such occasions feel like an NFL quarterback surrounded by three hundred pound monsters whose only goal is to knock us down. Our entire team is depending on us to not only pinpoint our effort with precision but to remain absolutely calm, knowing we are going to be slammed to the ground as we scan the field for the best possible play. Our only hope is to have our own three hundred pound monsters protect us.
If you have ever felt this way I have great news for you. The Bible says in Psalm 91:11, “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” Now I realize I am treading on dangerous ground with some of you by inferring that angels are three hundred pound monsters. So let me assure you they are not three hundred pounds. No indeed, they are not limited to that. They are any weight necessary to meet our adversaries. Oh, neither are they monsters. Those are the bad ones trying to get through the protective circle of good angels.
Something else that is very encouraging is on Jesus’ resurrection morning you can be sure Lucifer had his entire force around the tomb. Jesus was NOT coming out. The Father sent one angel. Just one! And the entire force of hell fled. As Paul said in Romans, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” If you need some additional courage read Psalm 91 in its entirety. There are some amazing promises there. Here is one more as a spiritual and mental appetizer. “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.”
My wife gave me a Fitbit for Christmas. It is a small black band worn around my wrist. Not only does it tell me the time and date, it also continually records my heart rate, the number of steps I take, the calories I burn, the number of times I climb stairs and how many hours I sleep down to the minute. It even records at what moments I stir during the night. It syncs with my computer that grafts all this data. It tells me I have a resting heart rate of 63. On my daily walk there are some down hills and some steep up hills. I can tell from the graphs generated what moment I started the ups by the increase in heart rate. I know from my heart rate record when my dog stopped to sniff. All this information is amazing.
One thing it does not do is number the hairs on my head. That task is still left to God. But it is truly illustrative of how easy it can be for records to be kept in heaven of our daily activities – good and bad. We do not have to rely on some angel’s memory or faithfulness to record things. All the information can be recorded on and retrieved from a chip. Isaiah talked about our sins being blotted out. He was speaking metaphorically using the technology of his time. Should Isaiah be alive today surely he would speak of God hitting the delete key or mouse clicking to the trash bin where they would be electronically shredded.
Whatever means one uses to describe the eradication of our sins is mere poetry. The eradication itself is life and death. Nothing could be more important. I John 1:9.
We stopped at a Dollar Store this afternoon. I was very impressed. People with limited incomes could eat fairly well by shopping there. There was a nice array of shelved and frozen foods. My problem was I bought things I didn’t really need because the price was so good. I couldn’t resist. There are two ways of looking at our visit. I could tell you how much money I saved on the purchases. Or I could tell you about how much money I wasted because I didn’t need what I bought.
This was one of those glass half-empty or half-full situations depending on one’s perspective. I thought about applying the glass half-empty half-full metaphor to our accepting Jesus as our personal Savior. However, the more I thought about it the more I couldn’t do it. From every perspective I saw the glass full. I couldn’t think of a half-empty perspective other than one. Sometimes when one accepts Jesus the other members of one’s family rejects them or shuns them. Actually in some situations in the Middle East one’s family actually kills them for accepting Jesus. That certainly counts as the glass half empty.
Jesus did call for us to take up our cross and follow Him. Matthew 16:24. I can speak of this for others. I cannot for myself. If heaven’s rewards were in proportion to one’s suffering for Christ on this earth my mansion should be a slum for my glass has always been full. If that would be the case (I don’t think it is.) I will not complain. Do you remember the text about being a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord? Well, I would rather live in heaven’s “slums” than in the palaces of the wicked.
When I was a little guy my father took me to a small fair at the edge of town. I was captivated by what at that time in my life was the slickest fastest tongued man I had ever seen. He was standing on a large box surrounded by people eager to buy his product. It cured asthma, angina, constipation, sciatica, cataracts, diabetes and hepatitis. You name it. It cured it. Even though I didn’t know what most of those things were I wanted some. My father was both amused and appalled at my gullibility. I remembered this as I just now read a magazine article for a human growth hormone calling itself the reverse age miracle. It appears that my snake oil salesman is still alive and is buying full page ads in magazines. Nothing much has changed – only the promotional vehicle.
I have often wondered if what I have to offer the world is just a snake oil variation. Or can I be like Paul? Can I say, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” Surely there comes a time for all of us to admit to and to confront moments of wonder. I did not say “doubt”. I said “wonder.” Wonder is halfway to doubt. I am not afraid of my wonder. I believe it makes me stronger to say with Paul this mortal shall put on immortality and this corruption will put on incorruption. Then all the promises of snake oil salesmen become truth.
Eleven of Jesus’ disciples died horrible deaths. There is no way they would have done so for a made up story. John wrote, “We handled the Lord of Glory with our own hands.” Because they knew we too can know! This isn’t snake oil. This is the real deal.
Most likely all of us have wondered about the reduced power of the modern Christian Church. We have to admit we do not (despite the claims of TV evangelists) perform great miracles like Jesus’ disciples did in the Book of Acts.
Perhaps the new Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat can clue us in. This everyday car produces a thunderous 707 horsepower from its 6.2 liter V-8. It comes with two keys, a red one and a black one. The red one which releases full power is for the owner. The black one is for valets and your teenagers, which greatly reduces its power.
Until we can prove ourselves to be trustworthy with the power God could make available to us, we are like valets and teens and we are using the black key. We have to recognize and be thankful for the fact that our heavenly Father is a responsible Father and would not turn one of us loose with what could be a disaster. The damage we could cause would be horrendous.
If you are wondering about the price of the SRT Hellcat, it is $66,000. If you are wondering about the price of receiving God’s power, it is a total surrender of self to the Holy Spirit. I believe it is a matter of wisdom. The disciples all paid a horrendous price. John was the only one to die a natural death. The others suffered agonizing ends. Also we live in a different world than did Jesus’ disciples. One can only imagine the havoc such power would bring. God is wise. He knows exactly how much power each of us needs to live a Christ-like, victorious life. He knows we will be fine with the black key.
Every golfer knows what a mulligan is. It is something very much needed when one does not keep one’s head down and left arm straight. A mulligan is a do-over without counting the first swing as a stroke. The rules regarding mulligans depend on the agreement of those playing. The rules range from none to one for each hole. The usual rule is one and is often used on the very first hole when you whiff the ball because instead of keeping your head down you looked up to see where it was going.
Christianity is a mulligan religion. The basic rule is there is always another mulligan available whenever needed. God is a God of do-overs. We can create an impressive list of God’s patience with His people. We could start with the woman taken in adultery. In the Old Testament there is David. He is most likely the king of mulligans. Usually we think of him murdering Uriah the Hittite because David wanted Uriah’s wife, but the list is long. He robbed people and then killed them so they couldn’t identify him. Even on his death bed he ordered a murder. If we go back to the New Testament one of the most poignant do-overs was Peter after he had denied knowing Jesus, not once but three times.
I am encouraged by all of this. Our God is a God of infinite mercy. The adjective infinite is a marvelous word. There is no end to His love. No end to His forgiveness. No end to His giving us another chance. So just in case you are feeling pretty miserable about your past just remember God says, “Second chance. Why? I don’t recall a need for my child to have another chance.” Awesome. Happy New Year!
I found an inexpensive winch on sale at a tool store. I have quite a bit of firewood in my woods but getting it up to the house can be a problem for this aged man. The winch will be perfect. I can put the cut wood on a hand truck that has four wheels and have the winch pull it up the hill. All I have to do is secure the winch to something strong. If I don’t do so the project will fail. It doesn’t matter how strong the winch is, without a tight hold on something solid, it will not work.
By now you know where I am going with this. Without a strong foundation or a really firm hold on something well grounded our lives just don’t work. Everyone needs an ethical base and a spiritual hold that will not fail them. Jesus is the answer. As a child I learned this by singing about the wise man who built his house upon the rock and the rock is Jesus. He was the Rock that supplied the children of Israel with water during their forty year trek through the Sinai.
Jesus promises to be with us. “I am with you always even until the end of the world.” He is the victor over sin. Satan poured out all hell on Him in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. He could not break Him. On Sunday morning the tomb could not hold Him. He lives. We serve a risen Savior and He’s in the world today. This Rock is our firm foundation. He will never fail us.
Now if I can just secure that winch, I am in the firewood business – at least for myself. Don’t call to order any!