I sat down this afternoon to watch a program on Netflix. It was a British production and I was having such a difficult time understanding what they were saying I finally turned on the subtitles. That helped a lot. I felt kind of stupid needing subtitles for something in my native tongue. Or is British English my native tongue? This afternoon I doubted it.
My students in Africa used to argue amongst themselves about what language we will speak in heaven. Of course each tribe was a rabid supporter of their language. I never got into the fray. I didn’t have to. I know it will be American English. But wait will that be American English in Georgia or Boston or Des Moines?
I used to have some church members who were insistent that I should use the King James Version when I preached. They were convinced that Jesus said “Thee” and “Thou” as I should if I was going to have any authority. So what language does God speak? He speaks the language of the heart. He doesn’t need the mutterings of our mouths to understand our needs, our desires, our passions and our longings.
I love Romans 8:26 and 27. “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Perhaps in heaven we will retain our native tongue and use a universal translator button on our shirts. (robes!) However it will work it will be just fine.
It has been 37 years since a horse has won the Triple Crown of racing. This weekend American Pharoah’s name will be added to the list of the all time great horses. He did it and it is indeed a rare and noteworthy event. However, I am even more excited about our Triple Crown win. Please note the following verses.
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the CROWN OF LIFE that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
II Timothy 4:8
“Now there is in store for me the CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
I Peter 5:4
“And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the CROWN OF GLORY that will never fade away.”
This is super exciting because it is not going to be rare. Revelation 7:9 says, “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne.” Our God who is rich in mercy and anxious to save as many as possible is ready and prepared to award us our Triple Crown win. It really is a Triple Crown gift but who is going to quibble about words over something so very grand? It is no wonder there is an old hymn that says, “Crown Him with Many Crowns.” We shall have three. Jesus will have so many crowns and He earned His. Because He loves us He is thrilled to gift us ours.
I had a student who professed he had little faith in anything. According to him he was a practical man who had to personally experience things. He seemed puzzled when I asked him to explain the difference between a one dollar bill and a twenty dollar bill. Because we can obtain twenty times something with the twenty dollar bill than we can with a one dollar bill certainly there has to be a difference in their value. But they are both made of the same kind of paper and are the same size and weight. There is no intrinsic difference. The only differences are the ink patterns. My practical student displays faith every time he purchases something. He has faith in the power of the United States Federal Reserve Bank.
Next, I asked if he ever flew anywhere. To do so requires faith in the competence and sobriety of the pilots, the mechanics, the air traffic controllers, the manufacturer of the fuel, the structural engineers and the weather prognosticators. Flying is truly an act of faith.
Everyday life in our modern world requires faith. So why not place ourselves by faith into the hands of the One who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them. Why not believe Him when He says, “I love you.” He is more trustworthy than any monetary system or any airline team. Trust Him who said, “I am the resurrection and the life” and then gave viable evidence by raising Lazarus back to life. Jesus said, “He who believes in me shall never die.” I like that. I like that a lot.
A dream of some scientists is to bring back (de-extinct) the passenger pigeon by injecting band-tailed pigeon embryos with primordially edited germ cells. De-extinction is a fascinating idea with overt shades of Jurassic Park. In regards to man God has long held a de-extinction program. With Adam and Eve’s failure came the extinction of perfect God-imaged creatures. With sin came the decay and death of the noblest finest thing God ever made. Adam and Eve could only stand at the gate of Eden and remember what was. Jesus was morally perfect, but He was not physically perfect. He was, according to Hebrews, subject to all the weaknesses of fallen man.
The plan of redemption has always been the de-extinction of the perfect Adam and Eve. In I Corinthians 15 Paul speaks of this corruption putting on incorruption. He is talking about de-extinction. What is exciting about this is the non-exclusiveness of God’s plan. This plan has never had restricted membership. According to the close of Matthew, Jesus commanded His disciples to recruit members from every tribe, nation and race.
Just imagine yourself with the ability to will away all your bad features and will into existence perfect replacement parts. Look in the mirror and think just how good you could and will look while still being you. Think of yourself with a noble mind thinking pure unselfish thoughts. Think of yourself with an eternity at your disposal that you might dedicate the time needed to master skills you only now can dream about. Think of yourself never forgetting a face or a name. Think of yourself being de-extinct.
De-extinction is the theme of the plan of redemption. This is so much more than grand. This makes grand look like a feeble word.
As the recycle truck rolled down the hill the thought hit my friend. Her fanny pack was in that truck. That wouldn’t be so bad except for what was in the fanny pack. Her passport, her wallet, her credit cards, her driver’s license were on the brink of becoming a new whatever. But she was not giving up so easily. Jumping in the car she arrived at the back of the truck just in time to see the compactor do its job. “Sorry, Maam,” said the driver. “Once it’s in there I can’t get it out.”
But she was not giving up so easily. She followed the truck to the recycle center and persuaded some big cheese to dump the truck contents apart from the main pile. After a while of unsqueezing the squeezed there it was. Redeemed. Now the moral of the story almost writes itself. Chasing after the valuable, rummaging through the discards, saving the lost; all the elements of the Gospel story are there.
However, that is not what struck me. It was the squeezing. The icons of her identity were being crushed into something else. As she was telling me of her adventure I remembered a text paraphrased by J. B. Phillips. Romans 12:2, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, . . .” It’s a great message about letting God shape us and not allowing modern culture to determine who we are. If we are not vigilant about what we become we really are squeezed into “mold.” That’s a slimy fungal thought.
But a great thought is the rest of Romans 12:2, “. . . let God re-mold (reform) your minds from within, . . . and move towards the goal of true maturity.”
One evening, many years ago on a Wednesday night after prayer meeting, I was leaving to drive all night from Des Moines to central Wisconsin. As I was locking up the church one of my friends said, “Let’s pray for your safety.” And so he did. (Thanks, Dennis)
About four in the morning I was moving through southern Minnesota on a beautiful straight stretch of highway. I had not seen another car for miles. As I looked ahead all I saw a straight highway with the typical overpasses. So I thought, “Why don’t I straddle the dotted line between lanes and take a nap. When I get to that overpass ahead I can recenter on the lines if the car has drifted.” So I reached down to put my seat back for a bit more comfort. When suddenly the fasten seat belt light came on with a persistent blinking. Reaching up I banged on the dashboard and said to the light, “You are keeping me awake.” It was then that my brain woke up enough to listen to me speaking truth. I pulled over and went for a walk. (Thanks, Dennis)
The seat belt light never again malfunctioned. Prayer is a powerful thing. It is connecting to the source of all power, wisdom and presence. Prayer is talking to our Father about what we need, not because He does not know, but because it clarifies it for us. Ever since I read Jesus’ words about our heavenly Father knowing how to give good gifts to His children, I have never since asked God for something more than once. When my sons ask me for something they only need ask once. Begging would be insulting. At least that is how I understand the process.
If your church has a school or is affiliated with another church that has a school please do not weary hearing offering appeals for Christian Education. Over and over we hear calls for funds for evangelism and never bat an eye. After all isn’t that what the church is all about? Evangelism, proclaiming the good news about Jesus, is our calling. One of the last things Jesus told us was to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19
But what good is it to bring new believers into the church if we are not keeping our children? Surely there is no greater evangelistic campaign for any church other than teaching our children to love Jesus. Just this spring one of our local church school teachers had her children write autobiographies to go into a class book. One of the children wrote the following, “…I’ve been through a lot in the last 12 years. I lost my grandpa, went to Oshkosh, made friends, learned to love Jesus, and came to a Christian school. My life has been so much better with Christ in it. I want to be an ER doctor, help people and save their lives like Jesus wants us to. So my life is great and there are many more memories to come…” (Oshkosh was national gathering of Christian children for a week. It was like a Boy Scout Jamboree.)
If we ever wondered about the value of Christian Education this short testimony says it all. This is real evangelism. This is the salvation of our children.
If you need a new car and are thinking about a Toyota you better hurry because Toyota Days are over next week. But if you are busy and just can’t make it this week don’t panic because next week Toyota’s Block Busting Summer Sale begins. You better hurry before it is over at the end of July. But if you have a really busy summer that’s okay because August will bring us the Toyota Year End Model Sale followed by the Toyota Holiday Season Sale.
It does appear that this is just a variant of the old “Wolf, Wolf.” For those of us who grew up going to church we are veterans when it comes to “Wolf, Wolf.” In the late 40’s Jesus was coming because of the A Bomb. In the 50’s He was coming because of ICBMs. In the 60’s He was coming because of Viet Nam. And so it has gone on and on. Yesterday I heard a television preacher going on about the end of time because of “Terrorism.”
I realize I am on the verge of sounding like one of the scoffers Peter speaks of in II Peter 3. “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.’” What I want to say is let’s stop trying to motivate ourselves to be ready by scaring ourselves. Instead let’s serve because we want to be as much like Jesus as possible. That has everything to do with love and care and concern for others. If we do whenever the end comes we will be okay.
I used to think that Salvador Dali’s drooping, melting clocks were just the machinations of a deranged mind. Time was a static, sequential, consistent linear flow of events with attached numbers. Time could be plotted out by stories followed by more stories of human events. Now I am not so sure Dali was as deranged as I had first imagined. Last week I watched my granddaughter graduate from college and for a moment I saw a tiny little girl just able to walk dancing up and down with glee when my wife, her grandma came into the breakfast room. That momentary vision was as real as the noon sun beating down on the commencement service.
I enjoy going to bed at night because each night is a wonderful journey into the past. I go for rides with my father. I hear my son’s childhood voices. I sit with my sisters around a small kitchen table eating my mother’s cornpone. My wife wonders why I take so many naps. The secret is I take free trips randomly selected from 70 years of a very rich life. Time travel is but a nap away.
Time melts into a confection sweet. The clock droops with history written by those who want to tell a story by cherry picking events consistent with their beliefs. Recently I had to smile at someone ranting about history being rewritten, as if the first account was accurate. If I should talk with my sisters who were with me those first years I am sure their recollections would be different, filtered through what they want to remember.
So what will this thing promised by Jesus called eternal life be like? Finding out will be an endless adventure.
Today I learned in 2009 one could buy a ticket for $1,868 for the opportunity to meet and shake hands with Beyonce. While not trying to be disrespectful I would not bother paying $1.86. It is a matter of priorities. Do you remember the woman who so desperately wanted to touch Jesus she struggled through a throng of pushing shoving people only to be knocked to the ground? When Jesus came by she mustered up her remaining strength to thrust her arm between the legs of those that would trample her and for a microsecond touched Jesus robe. That was all she needed and it was free. It was life transforming.
A leper wandered from village to village trying to catch up to Jesus as he moved about. Finally the opportunity arose. Forgetting to call out “unclean” he stumbled through a retreating crowd and came face to face with Jesus. I love what happened next. The Gospels tell us before Jesus healed him, Jesus touched him. It was free. It was life transforming.
Just like Jesus our task is to reach out and touch those in need. We do it in a variety of supportive ways. Our gifts, our counsel, our care, our presence, our contacts, our love can be exactly what someone was needing. What is so grand about this is we are the giving ones and thus the receivers. Each time we help someone our lives grow richer.
When the leper was made whole Jesus was happy. When the woman was made whole Jesus was rewarded. Jesus is still in the business of touching and being touched. It is still free. The results are still life transforming.