We all know how we SHOULD act. We all know what the “right way” is…we just don’t always DO it! Oh, we have he best of intentions. We try to do the right thing…we really do…but then something happens…or we are just having a bad day…and it all goes out the window. No matter how hard we try, we just can’t be “that person” all the time. Which is why…when those people come along, they stand out all the more. Let me tell you about one of them now.
Larry and Elmer were on
a hunting trip…and they got lost in the woods! Trying to offer some hope to his
friend, Larry said to Elmer, “Don’t worry. All we have to do is shoot into
the air 3 times, stay where we are, and someone will find us.” So they
shot into the air 3 times and waited…but no one came. After a while, they tried
again. Still no response. With hope dwindling, they decided to try once more
time. As they prepared to shoot, Elmer said, “I sure hope it works this
time…we’re down to our last 3 arrows!”
season of hope. We say things like, “It’s been a tough year, but with the hope
of Christmas on my side, next year…things will be different! And that sounds
great…but for many, Christmas doesn’t actually offer much hope. It’s just
another season of not enough money, too many presents to buy, too much stress
and pressure…and not enough time. That’s a life-draining Christmas…one with
little hope. But today we’re going to look at a life-GIVING Christmas, one that
eternal hope, on carrying that hope to others, knowing that no matter what we go through, we are never alone. We all want a deeper
hope, a clearer focus…but often we don’t know how to achieve it. If we truly
want a life-giving Christmas, drawing closer to God needs to take priority over
anything else on this year’s wish list.
living that comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ is what differentiates
a Christian Christmas from a secular Christmas. What is your deepest hope this
Christmas? At Christmas, God came to earth wrapped in a human body. He came to
live among us so that we might know what He’s truly like. He came to open the
doors of heaven. He came to restore hope. Hope is vital – in fact it’s critical
– to our everyday survival. And because Jesus came, we experience forgiveness
for our sins, the transformation of our hearts and minds, the promise of heaven
and eternal life. What better gifts could we ask for? I went to the Bible, seeking
an answer to that question. And I ended up in a surprising place- The Message…a
translation of the Bible written by Eugene Peterson. I rarely use it to preach
from…it has…unusual ways to say things! But I found that, for this Advent
series, it works great! So let me share these words from The Message version of
you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day
obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The
night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is
doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when
we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these
precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and
dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and
get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress
yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!
doorway. They pushed and pulled until they were exhausted, but the couch
wouldn’t budge. “Forget it,” the man finally said. “We’ll never
get this in.” The neighbor looked at him quizzically and said, “In?
Often, our lives work counter to the true understanding of hope. Albert
Einstein said, “learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow”.
describes the challenge we face this Christmas. Day-to-day obligations increase
as Christmas nears- we tend to focus on entertaining, shopping, decorating and
all the other chores that we think are supposed to define a “perfect”
Christmas. But Paul says that we need to
make sure not to get so absorbed and exhausted
in taking care of all our day-by-day obligations that we become oblivious to
God. He encourages us to be awake to what God is doing! He says we need to get
out of bed and get dressed! Her says don’t loiter and linger, but dress ourselves
in Christ, and be up and about! In other words…have hope! But what IS hope?
fulfillment; desire with the expectation of obtaining; expect with confidence.”
Hope is an attitude of confidence, expectation, and trust- it’s faith holding
out its hand in the dark. A man approached a little league baseball game one
afternoon. He asked a boy in the dugout what the score was. The boy responded,
“Eighteen to nothing–we’re behind.” “Boy,” said the
spectator, “I’ll bet you’re discouraged.” “Why should I be
discouraged?” replied the little boy. “We haven’t even gotten up to
bat yet!” That’s hope!
to believe. Hope can be elusive – hard to get a hold of. Here are four things that
try to loosen our hold on hope:
energy runs short, so does courage and hope. If we push too hard for too long,
we tend to see diminishing returns- discouragement begins to set in…and hope
begin to wane.
back and wondered if you’ve made any difference? And when your efforts seem
worthless and ineffective, you get burned out. Burnout comes when we’re working
too hard at the wrong thing, or when we’re doing the right thing the wrong way.
In that circumstance, hope takes a nosedive.
failure. “I’m tired…fed up…I can’t do it anymore.” The difference is how we
deal with failure. When things go wrong, we’re prone to pay attention to the devil,
the great de-motivational speaker, and we end up thinking “I’m a failure.” And
aren’t happy with us, or don’t like us, we get fearful. Criticism is toxic,
poisonous. And when it comes at a time of fatigue and frustration, when we already
feel like a failure, it can destroy our hope.
and I will give you rest.” He says, “Be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding
in the work of the Lord, for you know your labor is not in vain.” He says,
“Fear not, don’t be afraid, let not your hearts be troubled.” He says…have
hope! God will break in to time and space…and through our circumstances…to shed
new light…a light of hope.
affairs to provide something life-giving, real, lasting. We celebrate God’s
incredible love dwelling among us. We celebrate a gift beyond anything we could
possibly conceive or market on store shelves. We celebrate hope! Here are two ways that hope for the future can change our present.
happiness. In 21st century United States, we live in unprecedented prosperity.
And we tend to think that if we can just collect enough stuff…power,
prestige, possessions, relationships…we’ll be fulfilled. But all you have to
do is look around at the people that have those things and you’ll notice…they
aren’t fulfilled! Never in history have so many had so much for so long and
been so depressed about it. When we put our hope in God, we no longer try to satisfy our longings with
“stuff”. When we hope, we trust that God will satisfy us in ways that “stuff”
in the sky in the sweet by and by” kind of hope. It’s a hope that infuses
us with the ability to turn our eyes to God. The good news for those who are in
Christ Jesus is that we always have hope. Our hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus Christ. Think for a moment about how often the word “hopeless” arises in the details of
situation we see unfold on TV. If you take away our hope, our world falls into
a rut somewhere between depression and despair- hopelessness. But when life
hurts and dreams fade, nothing helps like hope. Hope isn’t just a pleasant
option that helps us temporarily clear a hurdle. It’s essential. It’s as
important to us as water is to a fish, electricity to a light bulb – hope is
that basic to life. We can’t stay on the road God calls us to without it, at
least not for very long. Many have tried, but none succeeded. We desperately
need hope in our lives! Hope is a wonderful gift from God, a source of strength
and courage in the face of life’s hardest trials. But true hope is only found
in God. And a lot of people aren’t looking there.
tunnel. When we’re overworked and underappreciated, hope gives us fresh energy. When we’re discouraged, hope lifts our spirits. When we’re tempted to quit,
hope keeps us going. When we lose our way, hope acts as our compass. When we
feel rejected and abandoned, hope reminds us we’re not alone.
time of waiting…waiting for the coming Messiah…Emmanuel…God with us…Jesus the
Christ. It’s a time anticipation, a time of hope! As you prepare for
Christmas, I encourage you to identify three things you’ll do differently this
Advent season. Replace things that deplete your energy AND your bank account
with things that bring renewed faith…and hope. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and comer back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
Tomorrow is an important day in the
Christian year- the beginning of Advent.
Advent (from the Latin words advenire– “to come to” and adventus–
“to arrive”) is the period of hopeful waiting and preparation for the
celebration of the birth of Jesus. It begins on the 4th
Sunday before Christmas (the Sunday nearest November 30), and ends on Christmas
Eve. The primary color of Advent is purple– the color of repentance
and fasting as well as the color of royalty. Advent is an opportunity for
Christians everywhere to consider the wonder and awe of our Creator choosing to
come into the world as a helpless child- a child who would save us.
What will Christmas be for you this year?
I pray that you are able to make positive, lasting memories with loved ones. I
pray that you are filled with the joy of the season. But most of all, I pray
that you will encounter Jesus Christ in a way you have yet to experience. We
read the Hallmark greeting cards that say “Jesus is the reason for the season”,
and we nod, smile, and go on about our day. But, despite their knack for syrupy
language, the greeting card industry got this one right. Jesus IS the reason
for the season.
Rampant consumerism doesn’t bring us any
closer to God; focusing on the coming of the Messiah in Bethlehem does. The reason Jesus came into
the world (“Word made flesh”) was to reveal God’s grace. Have you
experienced that grace this season? This month, go to church- Sunday morning,
Wednesday evening, Christmas Eve, whenever- and experience the reason for Christmas. May
God bless you and those dear to you this Advent season!
Today is (cue the ominous music)…Black Friday! Some people think this is the BEST day of the year! Others (i.e. ME) would rather have a pointy stick jabbed at them than to have to go shopping the day after Thanksgiving. (Although, if I’m honest, I don’t REALLY like to shop the other 364 days of the year either!) Here are some interesting tidbits about this phenomenon known as Black Friday:
Things I’m thankful for:
Kids are great. They have the most imaginative minds and think of the greatest things. When my oldest son was little…probably about 4 years old…we were sitting at McDonald’s one day. He had the obligatory Happy Meal, and we were sitting in our obligatory plastic chairs, eating our meal. I looked over and noticed that he seemed to be…inspecting…a french fry. He had bit the top of it off and was scrutinizing the inside. I asked him what he was doing, and he asked the best question- “I’m looking at the inside of this french fry and I’m wondering…how did they get those mashed potatoes inside this fry?” And if you bite a french fry in half and look in the middle…it LOOKS like mashed potatoes! I envision these incredibly dedicated chefs with those big tubes that they use to pipe icing on to cakes. The tubes are full of mashed potatoes (of course) and they have each individual hollow “fry shell”, and they pipe those mashed potatoes right in! THAT would make french fries VERY expensive!
Last night I had the strangest dream! I sailed away to China, in a little rowboat to find ‘ya, but you said you had to get your laundry clean. Oops…wait a minute…that’s not right! That’s “Break My Stride” by Matthew Wilder! Let’s try this again! Last night I had the strangest dream! I dreamt that my wife had gone out of town to visit her parents and her aunt and uncle, we’ll call them Clara and John, were going to be stopping by while she was gone to spend the night on their way back home from a trip. In the dream, I had fallen asleep only to be awakened by the sound of someone in the kitchen. I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter…wait…wrong story again! I got up and went into the kitchen to see who was there…and it was Clara and John! I welcomed them, then asked them how they got in the house. They didn’t seem to be able to quite answer the question, but they seemed to be looking for food. So, in a effort to be a good host, I asked them if I could fix them something to eat. Clara’s response was, and I quote, “Yes, something soothing…with Grape Nuts!” Now if you have ever actually EATEN Grape Nuts, you know that it is akin to chewing on a handful of small rocks! Although I LIKE them, there is NOTHING soothing about Grape Nuts! Weird…right?
My dog Zoey loves me! Well… technically…she’s NOT my dog…she’s my son’s dog. BUT…I feed her, I take her out…so…she’s my dog! (Just don’t tell my son! It’ll be our little secret!) But anyway…my dog loves me! Know how I know? A couple of days ago, I came home for lunch. (I often come home for lunch…one of the perks of living in a small town!) And when I got home, I parked the car, unlocked the door and stepped into the house. The church parsonage in which we live is a split level, so when you step in the door, you are on the landing, with steps going down to the basement and steps going up to the rest of the house. The dog sleeps on her bed (yes…she’s spoiled! So sue me!) in the living room, which is the room at the top of the stairs. As I stepped in, she was standing at the top of the stairs, wagging her tail, happy to see me. Then…she did the thing that proved to me that she loves me. She dropped her Kong down the steps. Her KONG…her favorite toy in the world, and she dropped it down the stairs. To me. So, in dog parlance, she GAVE me her Kong. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is!
There was a preacher who was shaking hands with people after church. One man said, “That was the most boring sermon I ever heard.” Two minutes, he comes back through the line and says “That was more boring than the sermon you gave last week.” Three minutes later, he comes back through the line and says “you haven’t had anything good to say in months.” The pastor goes up to one of the deacons and says “What’s the story with that guy? Why is he so mean?” The deacon says “Don’t mind him. He’s senile. He just goes around repeating everything he hears.” That minister was having a bad day! You ever have a bad day? Have you ever felt like you had nothing left to give? Have you ever needed an extra boost of endurance?
We are in the 6th and last week of our current Sunday series- /Toy Box Leadership. We have spent six weeks looking at issues of Christian leadership through the lens of the toys we play with as kids. The 1st week, we looked at the Slinky Dog and we talked about vision. The 2nd week we looked at Little Green Army Men and we talked about strategy. The 3rd week we looked at LEGOS and we talked about relationships. The 4th week we looked at Mr. Potato Head and we talked about communication. Last week we looked at the Rubik’s Cube and we talked about ethics. And today we wrap things up by looking at Weebles as we talk about endurance.
Remember Romper Room? I used to LOVE Romper Room. I wanted to MARRY Miss Lois, and I would wait every day for her to see me in her magic mirror! Along with the magic mirror, that show also introduced the Punching Clown, an inflatable clown with a weighted bottom. You know the one- you punch it, it goes over…and comes right back up! Well, in 1969, Hasbro bought the rights to Romper Room and immediately wanted to market that Punching Clown… but thought it was too big. So…they made it smaller! And on July 23, 1971, they introduced Weebles to the world. Do you remember them? Their slogan was, “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down!” In the years that followed, Weebles got places to live, vehicles to drive and a variety of occupations. But through it all, they stuck with that slogan- Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down! But the truth of the matter is this- Weebles DO fall down…they just don’t STAY down! And because of that fact, Weebles teach endurance- a mandatory characteristic for any Christian. Weebles teach us that staying down is NOT an option.
Nelson Mandela lived that mandate out in his life. He went from being wrongly imprisoned from 1969 to 1990 to being president of the country. Throughout it all, he refused to stay down. He once said, “The greatest glory in living lies NOT in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” So what does the Bible have to say about this? 1Timothy 4:15-16 says- Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
I have an old high school friend who once got sucked into a drain pipe! Let me explain. A creek that ran behind his house flowed under the road through a large (5’ tall) drainage at the edge of his yard. One day the creek flooded badly, causing limbs to get trapped against the edge of the drain pipe- the creek began to back up into his yard, endangering his house. Her went out to try and break the logjam free. As he struggled with the limbs, he lost his footing and fell into the swiftly-moving water. He hung on to the edge of the drain pipe as long as he could, but he finally gave out and was sucked into the pipe! There he was, completely submerged, being banged from side to side as he was swept through the pipe. At the other end, the water had about a ten foot drop into a pool. When he hit the other end, the water spit him out of the pipe, he fell the 10 feet into the pool, went under, hit bottom…and got his boot wedged in a tree limb! So he’s again completely submerged…and STUCK! Fearing death at this point, he pulled hard…and yanked his foot out of his boot, ripping his ankle to shreds in the process…but re-surfacing. He dragged his sorry carcass out of the water and limped home, When his mom saw the horror that was her son- battered, bruised and bloodied, she did what any mother would do- she took pictures of him! (Oh, yeah…and then she took him to the hospital!) You don’t drown by falling in the water…you drown by STAYING in it.
Did you hear what Timothy said in that passage? He said “be diligent”. He said “give yourself wholly to them”. He said “persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers”. In other words, he talked about endurance. T
he message of endurance applies to every situation. No matter what you face, don’t run, don’t give up. No matter what you go through, go through it. There is a blessing waiting for you on the other side. TO have endurance, we need to keep our eyes focused on Jesus.
Michael Jordan played 15 seasons in the NBA…arguably the greatest basketball player EVER. He won the Most Valuable Player award 5 times and the NBA Championship 6 times. Do you remember one of the commercials he did for Nike? In it, he walks into an arena packed with people- all chanting his name. But then he shocks them by stepping to the microphone and saying, “I’ve missed 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve missed what would have been the game-winning shot. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And THAT’S why I succeed!”
Getting knocked down is inevitable…unavoidable. So that’s not the issue. The issue is what you do AFTER you get knocked down. The first step to getting back up is deciding that staying down is not an option. Here are three truths about endurance that will help you get up every time you fall.
1. Falling down is inevitable- falling is a fact of life…but it doesn’t have to be the final act. we can let failure grip us…or we can get a grip on it. Failure is inevitable, and not necessarily bad. Everybody falls- how far we fall is determined by how prepared we are. We have to anticipate the fall- Joe Frazier said, “The punch that knocks you out is the one you didn’t see coming.” We have to learn from the fall- Walter Brunnell said that failure is the tuition we pay for success. We should NOT duplicate the fall- Edmund Burke said “those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it”.
2. It requires a center of balance- it’s no coincidence that Weebles are shaped like eggs. This design is one of nature’s best support structures. The shape allows energy to be displaced throughout the toy instead of just one part, acting in union with their low sense of gravity. They have an inner sense of balance and an outer shape that allows for recovery. Like Weebles, we need a strong center of balance. Three important factors of are determination, resilience and purpose. Determination is the wake-up call to the human will- determined Christians don’t get back up once or twice…they get back up every time. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity- it provides the confidence and flexibility to bounce back. Purpose is that thing that God is calling you to- when you fall, remember your ultimate goal, hour reason for being, your purpose.
3. It results from proper weight distribution- Weebles aren’t top-heavy, not flat on the bottom…their weight is properly distributed. They come back up because of the placement of weight. After a fall, any assistance we receive will come from those people in which we have invested our time and energy. In other words…help someone else up when they fall, and they are likely to help you when you fall.
In Hebrews 12: 1, Paul says “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with endurance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” The appeal to run the race with endurance suggests that the Christian life is more a marathon than a sprint. We’re supposed to continue to press toward the mark. The verb “I press” comes from a Greek word which means literally “to follow after or pursue.” The Greeks used it to describe a hunter who eagerly and relentlessly pursued after his prey. You see, a person doesn’t become a winning athlete by listening to lectures, watching movies, reading books or cheering at the games. They becomes a winner only when they get into the race with a steadfast determination to win- not quit, not turn back, not give in, not throw in the towel, not slow down. When the world says, “Give up!”, God whispers, “Try one more time.” If you want to be a winner in this race of Christianity you have to have a spirit of endurance. You have to pick yourself up. You have to decide that staying down is NOT an option.
It was England’s greatest nightmare. The German army was taking over Europe and the British were being bombed regularly as the Germans advanced toward them. Winston Churchill addressed the people with these words: “Never, never, never, never, never, never, never give up! This could be our finest hour!”
No matter what quitting point you’re facing today, take a lesson from Jesus. No matter what your own personal struggles are today, remember Jesus as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that evening. Remember that he wanted out. He didn’t want to have to face the coming day. He didn’t want to go through the ordeal that awaited him. He prayed that God might take the cup from him. But he was in it for the long haul. He realized that he was part of a larger picture. He realized that he had been called for a special task, an important task, a holy task. He could have slipped over the Mount of Olives and disappeared into the wilderness. But he didn’t. He persevered. He summoned his will power and faced the coming day. Our greatest inspiration for enduring is found in the One who endured Calvary’s cross for our sake. When I consider what Jesus endured for my sins and how He willingly went to the cross so that I might know the forgiveness that only comes through His pain, then I am encouraged to endure.
We’re all faced with times when we want to quit. But my earnest prayer for each of us this morning is that we would hear God’s voice calling us to the race He has set before us. Won’t you be like Weebles…and refuse to stay down? Won’t you throw off ever
ything that would keep you from running the race He has set before you this day? Won’t you run with determination? Won’t you run with conviction? Won’t you run with endurance? Won’t you invite Jesus into your heart so that He might fix your eyes upon the finish line of faith?
My church is doing something… CRAZY…today! We are sponsoring The Great Pork Chop Giveaway! What, you may ask, is The Great Pork Chop Giveaway? Well, funny you should ask! I’ll tell you!
I have shared recently that we are driving a rental car- our van was recalled and non “fixable” for the foreseeable future. It is a 2011 Ford Escape…pretty nice car! But I have noticed an interesting that recently. I left last night o go to church for band practice, and I had to be there sooner than my wife did. So I took the old car, a red Dodge Caravan conversion van. (Running lights, mood lights, TV/VCR…I call it “The Love Machine”!) I put it in reverse, backed out of the driveway, came to a stop in the street, and went to put the van in drive. It was at that moment that I noticed it…as I waved my hand wildly about, looking for the shift lever in the floor between the seats. The shift lever on the red van, however, is not ON the floor between the seats. It’s on the column. In fact, BOTH of our cars have the shift lever on the column- been that way for years! BUT…I have driven this Ford Escape for a grand total of two weeks, and it HAS a shift lever on the floor. So, after YEARS of driving cars with the shift on the column, it’s only taken 14 days to break that habit and create a new one!
Fresh out of business school, a young man answered a want ad for an accountant. He was interviewed by the VERY nervous man who ran a small business that he had started himself. “I need someone with an accounting degree,” the man said. “But mainly, I’m looking for someone to do my worrying for me.” “Excuse me?” the accountant said. “I worry about a lot of things,” the man said. “But I don’t want to have to worry about money. Your job will be to take all the money worries off my back.” “I see,” the accountant said. “And how much does the job pay?” “I’ll start you at eighty thousand dollars.” “Eighty thousand dollars!” the accountant exclaimed. “How can such a small business possibly afford a sum like that?” “That,” the owner said, “is your first worry!”
y about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Mother Teresa was an amazing woman. She gave her life for her service to God…in some of the worst conditions on the planet. She didn’t HAVE to do it…she CHOSE to do it. (Although I imagine she would argue that she DID have to do it…God insisted!) She often struck me as such a serious lady…that is until I read a particular quote by her. She once said, “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much!” That is really very clever…and funny…and accurate! Aren’t there times when you wonder how much more you can take? Aren’t there times when you wish you didn’t have so much responsibility on your shoulders?
I have a pastor friend who once preached a sermon on taking time to listen to God. He spoke eloquently about the need to slow down and focus on what God is trying to tell us. He stated that we needed to make sure and take TIME to do that…not to rush our faith relationship with God. He finished the sermon, satisfied that he had communicated that day’s message well and that the people in the pews had heard it and taken it to heart, That is until his worship leader stood up and said, “Let’s close the service with “Take Time To Be Holy”…verses 1 and 4!
- How often do we do that? We get so caught up in the busy-ness of life that we fail to see God’s call? We focus so hard on the urgent that we overlook the important. And society doesn’t help- it actually pushes us FARTHER that direction. But there are times when we need to simply slow down, take a big, deep breath, and…listen. Listen for that still small voice of God, whispering in our ear, gives us the guidance we seek…if we will but pay attention to it.
- Do you KNOW the words to that timeless hymn…Take Time To be Holy? Well…here they are!
- Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
My church building has 5 furnaces covering different parts of the building. The single largest area to be heated is the sanctuary. It’s NOT the biggest sanctuary I’ve ever seen, but when you consider cubic feet of area to heat…it’s pretty good sized! Later this summer, we realized that there were some major issues with the air conditioner in the sanctuary…it would work properly! (Is that major enough?!) The good folks who do our HVAC work “jerry-rigged” it, but told us that the next time it went out, the unit was old enough that they would likely not even be able to get parts for it. Further, the air conditioner and the furnace are linked by the blower that they share…AND the furnace unit is JUST as old! So suddenly, we needed $14,000 worth of new furnace/air conditioner! (Can you say, “Ouch”?) Many churches don’t have $14,000 just laying about…and we are among that group! BUT…we couldn’t go into winter knowing that the unit could quit, never to work again, at any time! So, we found a way to fund the project!
Izzy and his partner were proud co-owners of the local dry cleaners. One day, during dinner, Izzy’s 9-year old son asked, “Dad, what’s ethics?” Izzy thought for a moment, then said, “Okay, let’s suppose someone comes into my dry cleaners and gives me his business suit to dry clean. Then suppose I find a $100 bill in the pocket.” His son leaned in close, “Yes?” Izzy continued, “In that case, son, I have to ask myself an important question…do I share the money with my partner? THAT’S ethics!”
What IS ethics? Dictionary.com says ethics is “a system of moral principles, the rules of conduct recognized in respect to…human actions.” It the moral framework within which we choose to live our lives.
The 80’s- parachute pants, Members Only jackets, big hair, skinny ties, Ronald Reagan, Madonna, Cabbage Patch Kids, Trivial Pursuit. But nothing defines the decade of the 80’s quite like the Rubik’s Cube. It is colorful and complex, trendy and timeless. The Rubik’s Cube was invented in 1974 by a 29-year old Hungarian architecture teacher named Erno Rubik. It took 6 years for it to break out of the marketing wasteland that was the Soviet Union, but in 1982, it sold over 100 million units, making Professor Rubik the 1st self-made millionaire from the Communist block. (Some historians even credit the capitalistic success of Rubik’s Cube with being the beginning of the end for the USSR.) Over the past 25 years, more than 250 million Rubiks’ Cubes have been sold, making it one of the best-selling toys of all time. The current world record for solving the Cube is 10.48 seconds. A few other Cube records: solving it one-handed- 20.09 seconds, solving it blindfolded- 23.06 seconds, solving with only your feet- 78 seconds, number of cubes solved in 24 hours- 3,390.
Rubik’s Cube…and ethics…making the right turns. What does the Bible have to say about ethics? Well…a whole lot! But perhaps the best Biblical summary on ethics is found in the book of Exodus 20:1-17– And God spoke all these words: 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself idols. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them. 7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God. 8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 12 “Honor your father and your mother. 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, wife, manservant or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
A Sunday school teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her five and six year olds. After explaining the commandment about honoring your Father and Mother, she asked, “Is there commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?” Without any hesitation, one little boy answered, “Thou shall not kill!”
Would you believe that 97% of Americans say the 10 Commandments are important…but only 5% can name more than 3 of them?! Let’s review them: no other gods, no idols, don’t take God’s name in vain, keep the Sabbath, honor your parents, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t want what others have. So why do we have the 10 Commandments? Why do we need them? Look at it this way- games without rules are unthinkable… anarchy. Try driving somewhere with no traffic rules. Or submit to surgery at the hands of a physician who never earned a degree. The Ten Commandments aren’t a rule book – they‘re a relational contract…one committed to love and not to just doing the right thing. They’re about how to act in relationship with God and each other. They’re a blueprint for a fulfilling life. The 10 Commandments are moral principles which offer the best hope for our future- universal biblical truths that don’t have a expiration date.
Some people take the Cube apart and re-assemble it…solved. Some pull the stickers off and re-apply them in the proper order…solved. But to solve the Cube correctly, it takes work and ethics. And there are ethical parallels to
life found in the solution to the Cube.
1. There is an acceptable standard of right. Just like the fact that the Cube isn’t solved until each of the 6 sides is a solid color, there are acceptable standards of what’s right in the world. And there are obvious rules and expectations that form those standards. And what’s obviously right and wrong is easy to see…in others…but a bit more…obscure…in our own lives. But obscurity doesn’t change those ethical principles. When the ship Queen Mary was converted into a hotel and permanently docked in Long Beach, California, they took the 3 giant smokestacks off to repaint them….and they crumbled into dust. Over the years, the metal had eroded to the point that the many coats of paint was all that was holding the smokestacks together. They looked great on the outside, but had no substance, no depth on the inside. When we do things correctly, it helps create order. When we do things wrong, it helps create chaos. Policies may change, but right and wrong don’t. We need to offer a sense of what’s right through the example we set. The rules we choose to live by…AND the ones we choose to ignore…establish our character. It’s one thing to be at a loss for words, but quite another to be at a loss of values.
3. Every move affects the whole cube. People who are good at the Rubik’s Cube know that, when they move one side, it affects EVERY side. Likewise, decisions we make, actions we take are like ripples on a pond- they continue to spread out, impacting everything in their wake. We don’t just wake up one morning and decide to suddenly be unethical…it’s a slow, steady progression. We justify one unethical decision, and then the next one gets that much easier. A businessman known for his ruthlessness was talking with Mark Twain once and announced, “Before I die, I want to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land; I’ll climb Mount Sinai and read the Ten Commandments aloud from the top of the mountain!” Twain replied, “I have a better idea- you could stay here…and keep them.”
Who here has broken at least one of the 10 Commandments? If you DIDN’T just raise your hand…you just broke a Commandment- don’t lie! I will admit- I often have issues with authority. We tend to resist rules and regulations. We don’t really want to hear the ‘thou shalt nots’. But let me assure you that God isn’t some cosmic buzzkill, trying to spoil our fun. When God says ‘thou shalt not’, it’s only because He knows the particular behavior we are considering is destructive and will eventually bring misery. Teddy Roosevelt was on his ranch, and he and a hired hand were out branding cattle. They lassoed one particular steer and got ready to brand him. Roosevelt realized that they had crossed over onto land owned by his neighbor, which meant that, technically, this steer now belonged to the neighbor. His hired hand was preparing to put the Roosevelt brand on the steer when Roosevelt stopped him, explaining the situation. The hired hand replied, “It’s OK boss…no one will know.” Roosevelt immediately fired the man, telling him, “Someone who will steal FOR me will also steal FROM me!” The first 4 commandments- no other gods, no idols, don’t take God’s name in vain and keep the Sabbath- are about our relationship with God. The last 6- honor your parents, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t want what others have- are about our relationship with each other. But if you boil them ALL down, you get Jesus’ Reader’s Digest version of them as found in the New Testament…four simple words: love God, love others. That’s it…love God, love others. Really pretty simple. Not necessarily EASY…but simple. Will Rogers once said, “The minute a thing is long and complicated it confuses. Whoever wrote the Ten Commandments made ’em short. They may not always be kept…but they are understood.”
Imagine for a minute what would happen if everybody in America decided to actually live by the 10 Commandments….what would our country be like? What would happen? The crime rate would plummet, because violence would cease to exist. Prisons would be empty. Hate, racism, terrorism…all obliterated. You could walk down any street without fear, and you’d never have to lock your doors. There would be a mighty revival. Churches would again be lighthouses set on hillsides, showing the way for all in their area. But instead, we’ve kicked God out of school and government- it’s no wonder so many homes no longer have room for God. Ronald Regan once said, “I have wondered at times, what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had had to run them through the United States Congress.” In 1980 the Supreme Court ruled it was unlawful to post the 10 commandments on the wall of a school. In their ruling, they said: “If posting copies of the Ten Commandments is to have any effect at all, it will be to induce school children to read, meditate upon, perhaps to obey the Commandments.” So we can’t have the 10 Commandments on the wall at school…because somebody might actually obey them?! And we wonder why violence continues to escalate in schools.
In the movie Night at the Museum 2: The battle For the Smithsonian, Larry Daley, played by Ben Stiller, is negotiating with the newly brought to life Pharaoh Kahmunrah, played by Hank Azzaria, about a sacred tablet. Larry says, “Release my friends!” Kahmunrah replies, “After you give the tablet to me!” Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, Larry…gives him the tablet. Kahmunrah says, “A wise decision, Mr. Larry Daley of Daley Devices.” As the pharaoh turned to leave, Larry calls out, “You probably don’t want the cube…do you?” “What…cube?” “You know…The Cube…of Rubik. Your brother Ahkmenrah didn’t want to mess with it either, wanted to play it safe. You just looked like a ‘next level’ kind of guy.” Kahmunrah, suddenly very interested, asks, “What is this…Cube of Rubik?” Larry looked puzzled for a moment, then says, ” It’s a cube that can turn all of your enemies into dust!” The Pharaoh replies, “Give me this Cube of Rubik!” Like the Rubik’s Cube, we have many possibly moves before us each day…but only one right turn. Remember the principle of the Cube- every turn affects the whole Cube. So as Christians we need to make turns that create an ethical atmosphere that positively impacts everyone around, correctly blending truth, fairness, justice, patience, care and forgiveness to create a high standard of ethics.
Today is World Kindness Day…13th November. It began as a movement in Japan. Never heard of it? neither had I until now. (Obviously Hallmark hasn’t gotten a hold on it yet, or we would know about it…and be buying cards for it!) The stated purpose of World Kindness Day is to “look beyond ourselves, beyond the boundaries of our country, beyond our culture, our race, our religion; and realize we are citizens of the world. As world citizens we have a commonality, and must realise that if progress is to be made in human relations and endeavours, if we are to achieve the goal of peaceful coexistence, we must focus on what we have in common.”
I have shared that we had our Ford Windstar recalled because of an axle that is about to break, and that Ford has impounded the vehicle as unsafe (I would agree with that assessment!) and provided us with a rental car until it all gets sorted out. OK…no big deal.
Today is…let’s all say it together…Veteran’s Day. We’ve all heard of it all our lives. But what does it really mean? What IS Veteran’s day, and why should it be important to us? What does it make us think of? It makes me think of all sorts of things. I think about those brave souls who took up arms and defending this fledgling nation during the Revolutionary War, winning our freedom. I think about the men and women who have done that same thing in several other wars and conflicts, defending that hard-won freedom. I think about the soldiers who have dutifully served their country over the past 200+ years, in all corners of the globe, so that we can enjoy the freedoms that we have. I think about my dad, serving in the Navy at the tail-end of World War II. I think about ALL of the men and women who served this country during that time period. We commonly refer to the as “The Greatest Generation”…and I think that is a fitting moniker. That generation is dwindling daily, and more and more of our citizens are less and less aware of the impact those folks made…which is a shame.