National Redundancy Week, Re-Renewed Again!

absolutely essential
a cappella without music
aid and abet
ATM machine
attach together
autobiography of my life
cease and desist
completely annihilated
free gift
freezing cold
null and void
pair of twins 
past experience
polar opposites
safe sanctuary 
sudden impulse
unexpected emergency
     These are just a few examples of redundancy- “characterized by unnecessary repetition in expressing ideas”. The world is a redundant place. Advertisers do it all the time…don’t you just LOVE the Pizza Hut sign? If you remember, Raid “kills bugs dead”! Is there any other kind? Yogi Berra said, “It’s deja vu…all over again!” 
      I think redundancy…along with being superfluous AND unnecessary…is a tool many people use to slow down their spiritual development. Let me explain. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people say, “I’m going to get serious about my faith!” or “I’m  going to start coming to church EVERY Sunday!” or some other similar promise when things are not going well for them. You know what I mean- job loss, illness, divorce, death in the family…some sort of catastrophic event…and people are drawn to church. In fact, statistics show that the majority of people who attend church started attending as a result of some major life event, although not all of them are catastrophic. Marriage, new baby, new job/move, etc. can be POSITIVE reasons people start attending church. But with the more catastrophic ones, folks usually accompany them with “I am going to make a clean start and commit myself to God!” And, for the most part, they genuinely believe that at the moment they say it. But then, however, reality sets in. The power that event had over them starts to wane, and as it does, so does their commitment to their faith often. Until finally, they are no longer actively involved in faith at all. 
     That is…until the next catastrophic event happens. And that’s when the redundancy factor kicks into high gear. They show back up at church and say…ready?… “I’m  going to start coming to church EVERY Sunday!” And the cycle starts all over again. The response to 9-11 is a prime example of that. For a few months after that event, church attendance rose dramatically across the country. But within a few months, it had dropped back to pre-9-11 numbers.
     It seems to me that the fact that people run to God/church when something bad happens should be some kind of indicator to them. If we are drawn to spiritual things when we are in crisis, then perhaps that is God’s way of telling us that a firm foundation of faith will help us overcome life’s difficulties. Statistics show that people who regularly attend church have lower blood pressure, fewer deaths from cardiovascular disease, less depression, and a decrease in earler death from all causes. So…let me get this straight- going to church can help you live longer AND be healthier and happier? Then why wouldn’t people do it? Golly, even if you didn’t have any belief at all, it would seem to make sense to do something that is shown to extend your life. And yet…the redundancy continues!
     Here’s my encouragement to you: if you don’t go to church regularly, if you aren’t a contributing member of a body of faith…start! Take the plunge, get involved, find a church home. And once you find one…stick with it. Commit to it. Make it a regular priority in your life. You will be pleased with the results if you actually commit to it. If you ARE already a member of a church family, make a concerted effort to bring others into that family. Take serious the Great Commandment- go and make disciples. Encourage others to experience the positive things you’ve experienced in your faith journey. Oh, and keep the redundancy to a minimum!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

A Life Well Lived

     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.

     She was one of the nicest people I have ever met…we’ll call her Margaret. And I performed her funeral on Saturday. She had been ill for some time, and after 87 years of setting a good example for others- it was time for her to go. She was generous to a fault. She gave so much to so many people- I couldn’t even begin to tell it all here. She was a teacher…by both trade and temperament. She always wanted to help other people learn something. She LOVED to read…and worked hard to pass that love on to everyone possible. 
     But perhaps her single greatest trait was that she loved people…ALL people. And when I say that…I mean it. She cared not a whit what you age was, or your gender, your race, your color, your heritage, your religious affiliation, your orientation, your political affiliation or your shoe size! None of that made any difference to her. When she looked at someone, she didn’t see black or white, young or old, Jew or Gentile, rich or poor. Instead, she saw everyone as a child of God…plain and simple. I’m not sure I have known anybody who was less prejudiced that Margaret. 
     When we first moved to town, my older son, then a junior in high school, had a pony tail halfway down his back. many looked at him suspiciously, assuming certain things about him based solely on his appearance. (Store clerks would follow him around, certain he was going to try and shoplift something!) But she welcomed him with open arms, encouraging him in school and always calling to tell us about some theater group that was holding auditions that she thought he should pursue. She regularly saved books for my younger son. Based on appearance and heritage, she should have been set in her ways and judgmental…but she wasn’t! She was open-minded, fair, kind. She was a marvelous embodiment of what Jesus modeled in the Gospels. She was…a good woman! 
     Today I celebrate Margaret’s life, I remember her accomplishments, I admire her commitment to her faith, and I mourn her passing….confident in where she has gone! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

A Life-Giving Christmas: Week 1- Hope

     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!” 

     Hope is a word that is often tied to Christmas. We say that Christmas is the
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
offers hope.
     Today we focus on an
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.
      Many people celebrate Christmas…but not everybody celebrates Christ. The deep
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
 Romans 13:11-14– 
     But make sure that
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!
     A man called his neighbor to help him move a couch that had become stuck in the
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”.
      Let’s look at this passage. Even though Paul wrote it 2,000 years ago, it
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? 
      Dictionary.com defines hope as “desire accompanied by expectation of
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!
     We’ve all heard it before- “There’s always hope!” But sometimes we find it hard
to believe. Hope can be elusive – hard to get a hold of. Here are four things that
try to loosen our hold on hope:
1. Fatigue – Vince Lombardi once said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” When
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. 
2. Frustration – Have you ever given something everything you had…then stepped
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.
3. Failure – Fatigue and frustration are two main ingredients in the recipe for
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
hope dwindles.
4. Fear – Sometimes we get fearful about possible adversity. If we think people
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.
     But God has an answer for those things- He says, “Come to Me…you who are weary,
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.
     What we REALLY celebrate during Advent is the fact that God intercedes in human
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.
1. hope keeps us from settling for the things of this world. We live in a society that has bought into the lie that “stuff” equals
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”
can’t.
2. hope turns our focus away from our problems and toward God’s glory. In Christ, we live in a constant state of hope. And it’s not just a “Pie
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. 
     When life seems to be closing in, hope points to the light at the end of the
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. 
     Advent…a
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!

Advent

     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!

Black Friday

     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:


     It’s called “Black Friday” because it traditionally marked the day retailers move into profitability for the year — from “in the red” to “in the black.” (It’s also used derisively by many retailers to mark a very long day of impatient shoppers, boorish behavior and adults elbowing one another to get a cheap video-game system!)

     Everyone thinks that Black Friday is the biggest money-making shopping day of the year…but that’s not necessarily the case. It is almost always the biggest shopping traffic day of the year, but it doesn’t always generate the most sales. Often, the most sales are generated on the last Saturday before Christmas. 

66% of Black Friday shoppers say they are actually shopping for themselves the day after Thanksgiving, according to Consumer Reports.

45% of ALL consumers will shop on Black Friday.

The five most popular products of LAST Black Friday were:
1. Wii console
2. Garmin Nuvi 265WT GPS system
3. Apple iPod Touch 8GB
4. D90 SLR Digital Camera Kit
5. Digital Rebel XSi 12MP Black Digital SLR Camera w/Kit

35% of American adults start their Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving.

Last year, a whopping $595 MILLION was spent on Black Friday alone, not to mention the $318 million spent the day before.

Roughly 172 million people will visit retail stores and websites over this weekend. 

Shoppers will spend an average of $372.57 this weekend.

More and more shoppers will forgo the lines today and do their shopping in cyberspace.

7 people actually lost their lives in Black Friday-related stampedes last year.

     Are you going out to shop today? Perhaps you’ve already BEEN out. If you ARE going, please be safe. If you already went- glad you made it back safely! I pray you have a healthy and happy Thanksgiving weekend!

Thankfulness

     Things I’m thankful for:


my God
The amazing sacrifice of Jesus Christ
my wife
my sons
my dog
my extended family
my church
music
laughter
love
my health
the Rocky Mountains
the ocean
good pizza
coffee (decaf…please!)
food to eat
clothes to wear
a warm, dry place to sleep
a job that not only satisfies physical needs but spiritual ones as well
the sunset
the whole of God’s creation
and you- for reading my blog!

     What are YOU thankful for this year? Send me and email or comment on this blog and let me know. I pray you get to spend time with people you love over the next few days. Please be sure and say a prayer of thanksgiving to God for He has done, is doing, and has yet to do in your life! Happy Thanksgiving!

How Do They Get Those Mashed Potatoes in There?

     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!

     We get things wrong all the time, don’t we? We think one thing…and it turns out that it is entirely a different thing! I experience that a great deal when it comes to faith. I have folks, many of them not “church affiliated” talk to me about how they aren’t Christians because there are too many rules. And while I understand their position, I try to gently explain the difference between religion and faith. You might be thinking right now, “Differences? I thought those were two ways to say the same thing?!” I would argue that there is (at least potentially) a BIG difference between the two.
     Religion, historically, IS about rules. It’s about which hoops you have to jump through to get to the next level. It’s about saying the right prayers, doing the right things, giving to the right causes…to ensure a seat on the shuttle to heaven. Faith, on quite the other hand is about…ready?…relationship. That’s it…thanks for reading! No, seriously, that IS it! Faith is about a relationship with our Creator, and Christian faith is also about a relationship with His only begotten Son…Jesus. And through that relationship, we WANT to have healthy  relationships with those around us. So faith IS about relationship. Which is why, when Jesus is asked in the New testament which is the greatest of the commandments (the Pharisees are trying to trip Him up), he says, “Love the Lord you God with all you heart, soul and mind…and love your neighbor as yourself.” Period. End of sentence. In other words, be in relationship with God and others. 
     So, how DO they get those mashed potatoes inside those french fries? I have no earthly idea…but they’re good! But how DO you tell the difference between adherence to religion and commitment to faith? Look for the relationship! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and strop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Something Soothing…With Grape Nuts!

     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?

     What is the craziest dream you ever had? (I can think of some DOOZIES I’ve had…this is just the most RECENT!) What do those crazy dreams mean? (Sometimes I think they mean “I should have not had that extra slice of pepperoni pizza before bed!”) Furthermore…what do you dream for yourself? What are the things that you dream about for your life, late at night, when no one else is around?
     I pray you have BIG dreams- ones that shoot for the moon and beyond! But I also pray that no matter how big your dreams are, you realize that God’s dreams for you are bigger than you could ever imagine or dream for yourself. Seriously! God has such dreams for your life- the things He wants you to do, the way He wants you to be, the lives He wants you yo touch. Open your heart this season to God’s dreams for you. You’ll be amazed at what you find! He offers a world filled with joy and grace this is beyond what we can fathom. When you open yourself to God, give your life to Him, you become a new person…ergo the term “born again”. Focus on your relationship with God this holiday season and find out what dreams may come!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Zoey’s Toy…of Love!

     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!

     What would YOU do for love? What is the limit you would go to for those you love? I have a pastor friend who puts it pretty succinctly- “I would walk through Hell in a gasoline suit for you!” That’s love…a bit…extreme…but love nonetheless! But what WOULD you do for love? What would you sacrifice for those you love? I’ve thought through that question a lot over the years, and I have come to realize something. I would do anything for my family. I would give my life, if necessary, for my wife and sons. And when I put things in that perspective, it just BEGINS to help me understand the sacrifice Jesus made for you and me. He gave His life, willingly…not just for me…not just for you…for everyone, everywhere. From the beginning of history to the end. Now THAT’S love!
     John 3:16 tell us that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God SO loved the world…God LOVES the world. So much that He offered His own life as a ransom for our sin. Now THAT’S love…puts my dog and her Kong to shame, quite frankly! Know this…no matter what you’ve done, no matter who you are…God loves you. Simple as that. Amazing…but simple! Life your life confident in the knowledge that…ready?…God loves you! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus! 

Weebles: Endurance

      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 the Instamatic generation. We want quick fixes, overnight successes, fast solutions, and instant gratification. If our expectations aren’t met right away, we have a tendency to quit and go somewhere else. We also seek overnight spiritual maturity. We have a lot in common with the disciples who couldn’t stay awake and watch with Jesus that evening in the garden. When the going got tough, they took a nap. When the going gets tough for us, we often want to bail. But God wants so much more for us!
    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?
Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed Sunday! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

The Great Pork Chop Giveaway

    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!

     My church is know around the county for their butterfly pork chops. We sell them at the County Fair every year, along with a few sales days in the church parking lot, scattered throughout the year. Some people literally come to the County Fair JUST to buy our pork chop sandwiches…they’re THAT good! (Not that I’m biased or anything!) In fact, JUST last week we sold a bunch of them at our Craftaganza event that I wrote about. 
     So now your thinking, “OK…so they sell pork chop sandwiches. Then why is this call The Great Pork Chop GIVEAWAY? Huh?!” Well, again, thanks for asking! My church does a TON of missional  outreach. (Seriously…a TON! We actually measured it!) But almost all of our missional outreach is done BEYOND our community…in the county, the state, the country, the world. But hardly any of it is done within our own community. So we decided we wanted to “step up” our local missional outreach. But how? Then, along came The Great Pork Chop Giveaway!
     A church member…an anonymous church member…came to me and said, “In the Bible, Jesus says, ‘Feed My sheep.’ What is WE did that? What if we gave away pork chops to the first 200 people who showed up? And what if we also gave them a flier about the church, inviting them to join us?” In response, I had 2 questions: how do we pay for it…and when do we do it! The response? “I’ll pay for them!” So…we announced The Great Pork Chop Giveaway!
     Today, 200 people will show up at our church parking lot…wondering what the catch is. They will be  skeptical, assuming that there’s more to the story…because NOBODY just gives something away…there IS no free lunch! Except for today! Do we hope to have some of these folks join us for some of our Christmas-related events? Absolutely! Will we see it as a catastrophic failure if we DON’T have that happen? Absolutely NOT! (I told you…it’s crazy!)
     I fear that one the biggest issues plaguing mainline churches these days is one of relevance. We are SO determined sometimes to hang on to tradition that many churches across the country seem determined to ride that tradition right into the ground, taking their church with them. There is NO other aspect of our lives that is the same as it was 25, 10 even 5 years ago. It’s the nature of life. And yet we don’t want “church” to change. It’s not logical…and it is proving to be the death knell for many congregations. We HAVE to keep the message consistent, but we MUST be willing to change the method in which that message is conveyed to keep up with the times. To expect that an approach that worked for a generation 50 years will work now is simply not logic. Times change, people change…the Church needs to change as well. And so…today we host The Great Pork Chop Giveaway!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!     

Where’s the Shift Lever?

     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!

     Habits are interesting things. Some say it takes 21-28 days to establish a habit. Some say anywhere from 18-254 days, depending on what it is your are doing. NONE of them seems to say 14 days…and yet I have already established a new habit- the shift lever habit! We all have tons of habits that we carry out every day- many of them we are not even aware of. Much of our day is…well…habit. So if habits are so prevalent in ours lives, I guess it begs the question- what habits are we participating in? What are the things that we do as second nature, how do they impact our lives…and who is watching us carry out those habits? THAT’S the scary part of the equation, especially if you have kids or grandkids who watch what you do…day in and day out. 
     Think about the things that you do…and say…almost unconsciously every day. The  think about what you see your kids or grandkids do and say. Do you see them do things you don’t want them doing? Do you hear them say things you don’t want them to say? Now…can you HONESTLY say they didn’t learn those things from you/ If you can honestly answer that question, “Yes!”…God love you. If you can’t, however, if you KNOW that the kid says those words and acts that way because they see you do it, you have to ask yourself if you need to change your habits. Do you need to re-evaluate some things in your life and re-train yourself to do and say things differently? Do you need to be a better role model to those around you? If you DO…don’t despair. We CAN change our habits. We CAN do things differently. We CAN be different people…if we choose to be. What will YOU choose today?
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

I’m WORRIED!!

     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!”

     If there’s one thing we Americans like to do…it’s worry! We worry about the economy, we worry about zebra mussels in the water, we worry about California sliding off into the Pacific, we worry about asteroids hitting us. You name it, we worry about it. Classic Peanuts character Charlie Brown perhaps said it best- “I’ve developed a new philosophy… I only dread one day at a time!” Now, don’t get me wrong- the economy stinks, and zebra mussels are a problem, and I would just assume NOT have California slide into the ocean…I have lots of friends and family there…and I don’t exactly relish the thought of getting hit by an asteroid. So I DON’T mean to make light of these (and other) things. Instead, I want to offer some perspective on them. 
     It is true- we would be remiss to simply bury our heads in the sand and ignore what goes on around us. If we simply pretend that trouble doesn’t happen…well… that rarely works out well! We have to address problems head on, tackle them, do our best to overcome them. So the problem isn’t in the fact that there ARE troubles…the problem is our reaction to them. How do YOU respond to potential trouble? Do you set your jaw firm and meet it head on? Or do you get overcome by worry, fearing ALL the possible outcomes? Does it affect your sleep, your work, your health? If not…good. But I know a LOT of people who suffer physically and emotionally because they worry so much. 
    Did you know that it’s estimated that 85-90% of all the things we worry about… ready?…NEVER HAPPEN? Look at it this way– today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday. Think about that…today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday. Think about what you worried about yesterday- how’d it turn out? My guess is much, if not all, of what you worried about yesterday looks a bit different in the light of today. And yet we worry, sometimes to the point of being consumed by it. Author Leo Buscaglia said, “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” To that I say, “Amen, brother!”
    What does the Bible say about worry? A lot! For instance- Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” But perhaps the best Biblical passage regarding worry is found in Matthew 6:25–34, which says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worr
y about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own
.” 
    So…to sum up…worrying…BAD!…trusting God…GOOD!! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed, worry-free day! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

The Wit and Wisdom of…Mother Teresa

     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? 

     As I ponder (weak and weary, over many a volume of forgotten lore!) this quote, it raises questions. So, I am going to pose the questions and ask YOU to offer some possible answers. You can do that by adding a comment at the end of today’s blog OR you can do that by going to the toolbar at the top of this page and choose “email Stick With Jesus”. Either will get your thoughts to me! So…here are my questions:

1. Do you BELIEVE that God will not give you more than you can handle? Why or why not?

2. Do you believe that, when you have “a lot on your plate”, it’s because God trusts you with more? Why or why not?

3. When trouble arises, is it God placing that in your path to teach you something, or is it just the way of a fallen world?

4. To take that a step further, does God intentionally cause us grieve and strife? If so, why?

5. Where IS God in the midst of our difficulties?

     I welcome your thoughts on these questions and would be happy to engage in some one-on-one dialog about them. Thanks fro stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and stop again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

      

Take Time To Be Holy

     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! 

  1.      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. 
  2.      Do you KNOW the words to that timeless hymn…Take Time To be Holy? Well…here they are!
  3. Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
    Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
    Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
    Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
  4. Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
    Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
    By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
    Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
  5. Take time to be holy, let Him be thy Guide;
    And run not before Him, whatever betide.
    In joy or in sorrow, still follow the Lord,
    And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.
  6. Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul,
    Each thought and each motive beneath His control.
    Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
    Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.
  7.      It speaks of abiding, relationships, helping others, following God, trusting, being led by God, calmness, and service. Those are AWESOME things…that usually get short-sheeted when the world gets in the way. How are YOU doing on the whole “taking time to be holy” thing? Do you set aside time for prayer and  Scripture  reading, worship and fellowship? If not…why not? Is life SO grand that you have no need to seek for more? Try taking time to be holy this week. Try focusing on God’s Word and God’s call. Try re-prioritizing things for the week…and see how it goes. I think you just might be surprised…if you give it a try!
  8.      Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus! 

We Got a New Furnace!

     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!

     Last week, they finished installing the furnace. (Part of the air conditioner is not in yet, but we are all in agreement that we aren’t going to be hurting for air conditioning for a few months yet!) The last thing the installer did before he left that day was call me into the sanctuary and give me a tutorial on the new thermostat. Yesterday morning, when I got to church and it was COLD outside, it was NICE to be able to go into the sanctuary, adjust that new thermostat, and know that the furnace would actually work and do its job…keep us warm. 
      The furnace  keeps the building warm, ensuring that the plumbing doesn’t freeze, that the occupants are comfortable. In that respect, the furnace is that heart of the building. Why? The heart helps keep the body warm and keeps the “plumbing” (the circulatory system) flowing. The heart is the core of the body. But it seems to me that too many people suffer from spiritual heart disease. Their heart is hard, cold, unwelcoming. They get no joy from life, from other people. They simply go through life, day after day, never really living it! But, just like our building getting a new furnace, God offers us a “new” heart. If we are willing to receive it, God can give us a heart that is soft, warm and welcoming…a heart that enables us to see the joy in life, in other people…a heart that helps us not just go through life but LIVE it! 
     How does this happen, you ask? It happens by accepting Jesus into your life, into your heart.  When you accept Jesus, welcome Him into your life, your hard heart can thaw, melt, be filled with joy. Life as you know it ceases to be…and becomes something SO much better! All by asking Jesus into your heart. If you HAVE done that…celebrate that fact today. If you HAVEN’T done that…I encourage you to do it. Look at it this way…you have NOTHING to lose…and EVERYTHING to gain! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go adjust the thermostat…just because I can!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a great day! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Rubik’s Cube: Ethics

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!”

We are in the 5th week of our current Sunday series- Toy Box Leadership, where we are  looking at lessons of Christian leadership through the lens of the toys we had 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 talked about strategy. The 3rd week we looked at LEGOS and talked about relationships. Last week we looked at Mr. Potato Head and talked about communication. Today we look at the Rubik’s Cube and will talk about 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.
2. There are no shortcuts in ethics. One of the earliest ads for the Rubik’s Cube boasted that there are 43 QUINTILLION possible moves…but only ONE solution. Yet despite that staggeringly high number, ANY Rubik’s Cube can be solved in a maximum of 27 moves…if you know the right moves to make… because there are NO shortcuts. There are only right…and wrong…moves. We see constant examples of unethical people or organizations whose main goal is to see how many corners they can cut, how many rules they can bend or break. Look at Enron and Johnson and Johnson. When trouble occurred, Enron cut all kinds of corners in a effort to stem the tide. However, when someone tampered with 8 bottles of Tylenol, Johnson and Johnson chose to pull 31 MILLION bottles off the shelves. Enron imploded, while Johnson and Johnson is a company that has earned great trust from consumers. There are NO shortcuts.
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.” 
The Gettysburg Address is 286 words long, the Declaration of Independence: 1,300 words. The U.S. Government’s regulations on cabbage sales: 26, 911 words! The Ten Commandments are only 179 words. And yet, within those few words are all the ethical guidelines we need. And understanding them isn’t rocket science. They are succinct, elegant, simple. They don’t dance around the issues, but get right to the point. And they don’t really require a lot of interpretation do they? They mean what they mean- even a child clearly understands what they mean. No, the difficulty with the 10 Commandments doesn’t arise from interpretation; instead the difficulty comes from application.
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. 
If we look at the Ten Commandments as abstract concepts we apply to life in order to be better citizens, then we’re in danger of making them cold and lifeless. The Ten Commandments are relational and only make sense, only have real power, when applied in terms of relationship. Imagine if everybody decided to obey the command to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Every church in this town would have to immediately launch a building program. Imagine… we’d live differently, look differently, and act differently. We would be powerful living testimonies!
    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.
Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed Sunday! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

World Kindness Day

     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 to tell you, as new (or at least new to ME) observances go…I like the premise behind this one! (It’s MUCH better that International Square Dancing Month, Be Late for Something Day, Date Nut Bread Day, Make Your Bed Day, Butterscotch Pudding Day, Ask a Stupid Question Day or National Mud Pack Day!) Think about the basic premise behind World Kindness Day- we are called to focus LESS on our differences and MORE on our similarities. How could that be a bad thing?! I’m always amazed that, even within the “Christian” circle, there are folks who opine the fact that someone else is a United Methodist…or Baptist…or Lutheran…or Catholic. SHOCK! But the bottom line is this- I am convinced that, when we strip away all the veneer we try so hard to cover ourselves with, we are MUCH more alike than different. Regardless of race, race, age, origin, economics, predilection, orientation…whatever. Are we different? Yes! Are we pretty similar? Yes! 
     So on this World Kindness Day…show the world some kindness! Focus less on how someone else is different than you and focus more on how they are the same. See the commonality in ALL people- we ARE God’s children, created by God…and for each other. How will YOU celebrate World Kindness Day? Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Sirius, Cable, Internet…Oh My!

          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.

     One of the first things I noticed about the rental car was that it has satellite radio. Right there on the driver’s side window is s a Sirius Radio sticker. Now, I’ve never had satellite radio before (you have to remember, I AM a pastor!), so it has been fun to dig around and see what’s offered. I don’t have much need for the re-broadcast of the Oprah Show (no offense intended, Oprah!), nor do I have much interest in the multitudinous channels filled with talking heads hashing and re-hashing the political climate of the day. BUT…I am a HUGE music fan, and have really enjoyed the wide variety of genres available. Within about 10 minutes, I had already programmed 8 buttons on the dial, saving stations that were playing a song I liked! 
     Then, there’s the Cable TV. We have one of the more comprehensive packages and the DVR, so there is always a lot to choose from on the TV. (Although I’m often amazed at the fact that, after looking through 3.9 million channels…there’s STILL nothing to watch!) But between the basic channels, the extended channels and the movie channels, there are literally hundreds of choices available every time I turn on the set. And then…there;s the Internet. Talk about choices. If you can’t find something to occupy your time on the Internet…you’re just NOT trying very hard! 
     We are bombarded, inundated, FLOODED with stimuli from all sides. You simply can’t exist in this world and not be subjected to countless commercials, countless forms of entertainment, and countless people trying to shove their opinion down your throat. (And NO…the irony that I’m saying this ON MY WEBSITE…hoping you will read it and take it to heart…is NOT lost on me!) While there is NO shortage of inputs offering entertainment, there is also NO shortage of people and entities trying to tell us what to buy, what to do, how to think, how to live. So…which one(s) do we listen to?
     It seems to me there has to be some process by which we filter all of that input. And for me, that filter is this- “Would I be embarrassed or ashamed if my kids knew I said/thought/did that? What about if GOD knew?” I have found that to be a pretty good yardstick by which I measure what I choose to do with my life. Now, does that mean I’ve NEVER done anything embarrassing or worthy of shame? heavens no! (I’ve probably done two of things TODAY…and it’s still early!) But it does mean that, when I weigh my actions on that particular scale, it gives me a better sense of what’s right and what’s wrong. I find I am a better person when I live that way. And I don’t know about you…but I WANT to be a better person! 
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Honoring Our Veterans

     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. 

     Today, we honor ALL of the people who have served in the Armed Forces of these United States. We thank God for their willingness. We remember their bravery and dedication. And we mourn the passing of so many of them. We are truly blessed to be a part of this great nation, and the men and women of the military are the backbone of who we are as a people. So…thank you! Thank you! Thank you! And may God richly bless you are your families! Amen.
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again  tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!