Monday, November 20, 2017

Sorry Charlie

I was listening to news on my car radio, driving from one pt's house to another, when I heard the anchor say that Charlie Manson enjoyed a cultist celebrity status for over 50 years, and then she corrected herself adding, "Enjoying."  That phrase rolled around in my head for a moment before a I asked the question in my spirit, "Really?  Charlie Manson is enjoying something, anything just now?"

While I am no one's judge, I can hardly believe that Charlie is enjoying the poison fruit of his evil and murderous past. Although my understanding is that Manson remained unrepentant and defiant from the time he caused the deaths of seven individuals in August of 1969, until the Lord called him to answer for his deeds earlier today, November 2017, he may have repented somewhere between those fateful dates.

If Manson somehow or someway turned his heart to God and was covered by the blood of Christ, cleansing him from the blood of the innocent lives he took, he would not be enjoying that notoriety but thankful that it would not be remembered against him. If he, as I suppose he did, remained unrepentant, I cannot imagine he is enjoying being reminded for eternity of his sin and his judgment for the evil this man conjured in the hearts of others and the suffering he visited on even more still.

The truth is that "God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows" (Gal 6:7).  We know that Manson was serving 9 life sentences and denied parole 12 times as a consequence of his sins. If he did not find his way to accepting Christ before he found his way to the end of this life, his jail time would not be even a drop in the ocean of sentence coming from the Throne.

The Good News is that "The Lord is...not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Pet 3:9).  So passionately does the Father want to keep us from judgment, "He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him" (1 Jn 4:9).

God's grace is available, the choice is yours. Jus' Say'n.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Gaining Wisdom

It has been said that "You have to be young and stupid before you can become old and wise."    While I acknowledge the truth in that statement, it's implication that wisdom comes with age is not necessarily true.  There are more than a few in the gray-haired set that are old and still stupid.  Can I get an amen?

Young and stupid can be a gateway to old and wise, if we learn from our mistakes.  If not, we simply keep making the same mistakes, learning nothing more than perhaps to perfect our mistakes.  Haven't you borne witness to folks who step into the same mess over and over again?  Sorry if I stepped on your toes.

The sure way to wisdom is to take your life and experiences to God: "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you" (Js 1:5).  However, even here, wisdom doesn't necessarily just happen.  He does give wisdom generously but what is required of us to receive?  For instance, a pitcher throws a fast ball right across the strike zone but the batter has no bat and the catcher has no glove?  What then?

To begin with, we must truly believe God will grant us the wisdom we seek: "But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord" (Js 1:6-7).  The problem of not truly believing is that you will not be paying attention when God provides, and that distraction, like an ocean wave, will not allow you the focus to receive.

You must also be prepared for the manner in which wisdom is granted, and that, so often, comes in a very stressful and even painful way.   The stress and the pain must be embraced until wisdom's work is done: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (Js 1:2-4).

So, wisdom comes freely from God but is received by us with a price - a price of faithful holding on to God's hand through the challenges and losses of life as we begin to learn what we've done (or others) to bring on calamity, and what God can do in and through us.  Jus' Say'n.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Everything I Need

I sat talking to a man who was just a bit older than myself. We were talking about his life and his circumstance. The progression of his cancer and the natural outcome of a life lived too hard and too fast, left him a shell of his former self and the look of someone much older than his years.

As we talked about his current circumstance, he looked me directly in the eyes and said, "I have everything I need."  I looked around at his cabin, which was literally falling down around us, floor sinking so much that everything tilted toward the center, mold on the walls, cobwebs as big as hammocks; furniture old, worn and covered with grime built up over years of neglect.

I didn't see anything beyond a working TV, several packs of cigarettes and a stock pile of beer in cans, that would have any market value. But he did. He had a roof (of sorts) over his head, his cigarettes and a beer when he was of a mind. He could watch TV or take a nap, and step out on the porch once in a while. His life is reduced to something very small but his needs have shrunk with them.

His faced-paced life as a drummer in a traveling band was just a faint memory. What he thought as high-life had brought him down very low in life, but he reset his expectations and has been coming to grips with what his choices have led him to. He would rather things be different but he accepts what is with acknowledgement that his life is of his own making.

But more than that, he has been awakening to his place before God and that his future is not in his hands, that God is not done with him even though it would appear otherwise given his current state of affairs. He believes his time on this earth is about over but his life is still in God's hands.

Something else he has come to see is that all the stuff he used to have and all the high-life he used to live aren't things of value. He has a really good friend, not quite as broken as he, who comes by daily and sits with him and tries to help where possible.

He is discovering that all that really matters is faith in God and the fact that he has a true friend who cares for him regardless of his circumstance. He knows that he doesn't have much as the world counts riches but he believes himself to have plenty.

My friend is learning the truth of Matthew 6:19-21,  “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  Jus' Say'n.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Brick Walls

We've all been there, trying to get something done, trying to achieve something, trying to make a difference. And there it is, right before us - a huge brick wall, a barrier to big to go over, to wide to go around and too thick to go through.

We say things like, "I just can't believe it!  I'm trying to do something good and this comes up!" Or "I need to make this happen for my family and now this!" Or sometimes, "Why me God, how could you let this happen when I'm doing my best for you?"  Why is this brick wall set in my way to prevent me from doing something good, something right, something to make a difference?

The problem isn't the wall and the problem isn't God's indifference or his interference, the wall isn't even to stop your efforts if the goal is good and righteous, the wall is there to challenge your motives and your faith. Is want you are seeking really a blessing and do you really trust God in bringing about your ultimate good?

Listen to what the apostle Paul had to say, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up" (Gal 6:9).  "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us" (Rom 5:3-5).

The brick wall is not a barrier to keep us from achieving something good, it is a challenge to help us define what we're are seeking more clearly, to determine how much we want or need it more definitely and to place our trust in Good more deeply.

If the need is real and your heart is right and your hand is in God's, the wall will not stop you for “What is impossible with man is possible with God" (Lk 18:27).  "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Rom 8:28). Jus' Say'n.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Looking Up

The Psalmist asks, "I lift up my eyes to the mountains--where does my help come from? (121:1); then answers, "My help comes from the LORD" (v. 2).

He further says, "He will not let your foot slip (v. 3)...The LORD will keep you from all harm--he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore" (vv. 7-8).

Knowing that God watches over us so intently, promising to protect our lives both now and always, what should cause us fear?  What precisely ought we to worry about?  What can separate us from the watchful eye of God?  The answer: "nothing in all creation can separate us" (Rom 8:39).

So, why do we, as children of God fear?  Why do we get depressed and anxious and worried?  Don't we believe that God can provide?  Yes we do, but we too often don't look up to God, we look down on the danger, the threat, that thing which we fear.

Do you remember the Gospel Story of Peter climbing out of the boat, walking on the water at Jesus word?  Do you recall what happened when he took his eyes off Jesus and focused on the storm?  "He began to sink" (Matt 14:30).

The Psalmist, on the other hand, lifted his eyes to find the answer of who would be handling the threats to his life and well-being. He lifted his eyes and saw that it was the LORD, not himself who would face the threat.

What about you?  When you face a dangerous, threatening or unmanageable situation, where is your gaze directed?  May I suggest that we all stop looking around at the mess and start LOOKING UP to the Master?  Jus' Ask'n.

Saturday, October 14, 2017


I was reading an article about a pack of wolves being introduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 that changed the complete ecosystem.   The wolves hunted deer and elk, reducing their numbers allowing for the growth of needed plants and Aspens that attracted insects and the return of berries.

The insects and berries attracted birds and other small creatures such as the beaver, which built dams causing pools of water that attracted even more creatures.    The wolves killed coyotes that allowed for the increase of rabbits and mice,  which attracted foxes and birds of prey.  

Today, for all the reasons listed above and more, the Park is flourishing, which prompted the author of the article to exclaim, "Isn't nature amazing?"  But what resonated in my heart was, "Isn't God's design amazing?"  Nature is what God is doing in the natural universe.

Simply put, what we see in nature is a reflection of the Creator: "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made..." (Rom 1:20).

God's power, his majesty, his presence is shouted by the glory above and the wonder below of our natural system that was created by his supernatural power and design.   Take a moment now and again to stop and smell the roses, observe the ant, marvel at birth, gaze into the heavens, or even read about a pack of wolves, which when allowed to live according to His design, is indeed an awesome thing.   Jus' Say'n.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Showing Up

After preaching at Gateway this past Sunday, I went to the  Veterans Nursing Home at Fort Roots where a small group was gathered in the activity center. After the service, one of the elderly veterans said to me, "I wish we could have had more people here for your sermon."

I smiled and thanked the elder vet and replied, "We didn't have a large group, but we had a good one. We are the ones who showed up. I showed up, you showed up and the handful of others showed up. That's were 90% of what happens in life begin - in just showing up."

In most every church, it is that relatively small percentage of members who keep showing up to set up, clean up, fix up, cheer up - you name the task or the need and the same small group will be there. Others may drop in and help from time to time but you know the faces and the names of the ones who always show up. They are the ones that get kingdom work done consistently, time after time.

This isn't something new, it's been the case from the start.  Jesus commented on this truth as he observed those who showed up: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field" (Lk 10:2).

It's always been that way; perhaps it always will. But you don't have to be one of the frequently or always missing in action. You can choose to be one the the few that consistently shows up and makes a difference in your community and advances the work of the kingdom.  Jus' Say'n.