Can I Have Your Autograph?

     When I was a kid, a highlight…BIG highlight…was to go to Busch Stadium (this would have been what is now referred to as “Old Busch”…the round, “cookie-cutter one that intentionally looked like a beer bottle cap around the top!) in St. Louis and watch the Cardinals play. Now, although the ’60’s were a pretty good decade for the ‘Birds (3 World Series appearances, 2 Worlds Series wins), the ’70’s were a bit more…how should I say this?…BAD! BUT, I am a cardinals fan though and through, and so when I got to go, whether with my family or with the Safety Patrol from school or with the Honor Roll kids (yep…I was both smart…Honor Roll…AND cool…Safety Patrol! LOL!), I always looked forward to it. 

     One of the many things I remember is that, back in the day, players, coaches and managers would ACTUALLY set up tables at various spots around the concourse and sign autographs! Amazing, I know, but they would sit out there in front of God and everybody, at a folding table, on folding chairs, and sign autographs. In that day and age, MOST autographs were signed on a small index card, provided by the team, that said something about autographs and had slots for 3 people to sign. I specifically remember one time meeting baseball legend Joe Torre in that setting, when he played for the Cardinals. Now, what happened to those autograph cards I sadly cannot say- I was not terribly interested…long-term…at the time…but would LOVE to have them now!
     I DO have some autographed things among my Cardinal memorabilia, none of it really worth much…monetarily. I have a ball signed by current Cardinal center fielder Colby Rasmus. I have a ball “machined signed” by the ’82 Cards, my favorite team. I have a ball cap signed by Tom Lawless, a utility player most known for hitting a dramatic game-winning home run in Game 4 of the 1987 World Series. (If you’ve the footage…you’ll never forget it. Lawless, who only hit 2 regular-season home runs in his career, hits this one, looks at it for a second, then flips his bat in the air and rather nonchalantly heads for 1st like he’s Babe Ruth reincarnated! One of my favorite Cardinal moments…and players…ever!) 
     I also have a ball autographed by Glenn Brummer. You might be saying, “WHO?” Brummer was the back-up catcher for the Cardinals in 1982 when the won the World Series. On August 22, in the middle of a pennant race, Brummer was on 3rd, tie game, 9th inning. Now, Glenn wasn’t exactly known for his speed, so no one expected what was about to happen. On the pitcher…Brummer BROKE FOR HOME. The place went up for grabs, Brummer ran home to the amazement of everybody, slid in under the tag and scored the winning run. Arguably the slowest guy in the stadium stole home! I called KMOX, THE sports radio station in St. Louis, once when I was going to preach on Brummer (yes, I have preached on him 2 or 3 times!), to ask the sports department if I had my facts straight. Hall of Fame announcer Jack Buck had just been on the radio MOMENTS before I called, so I asked to speak to him…what was I thinking?…and they aid, “Just a second.” A few moments later, there was that highly recognizable voice on the other end! I was floored! So, I picked my jaw up off the floor and told him why I was calling. He talked with me for about a minute or two about that game. I then said, “Did Herzog send him?”, meaning did the manager tell him to do that. Buck laughed and said, “You’ve gotta be kidding!” 
     I have many heroes- some of them are mentioned in this blog. My parents, both of whom are gone now, are heroes of mine. And my greatest hero, in all seriousness, is Jesus Christ. He DIED for me…and YOU. Can you get your head around that? He didn’t have to, but He CHOSE to give His life so that we might have our sins forgiven and have eternal life with Him. How cool is that? Now, I DON’T have an autograph card with Jesus’ signature on it, but I have something better- I have His name written on my heart! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

The Disciplined Heart

     This is the 4th week of our current devotional series- The Burning Heart- Unmistakable Fire. This series is aimed at reigniting our hearts; setting them ablaze for God. 3 friends are in a tragic car wreck and suddenly they find themselves in heaven. The 1st one is handcuffed to a rather…unattractive girl. He asks, “Why?” The Response is, ”When you were 9, you killed a bird with a rock.” The 2nd man…same story. The 3rd one, however, was handcuffed to the prettiest girl he had ever seen. ”Thank goodness I didn’t do anything bad like you guys!” The other 2 are upset and want to know why he’s handcuffed to the pretty girl. ”Well, when she was 9…she killed a bird with a rock!”

     “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you!” Has anyone ever used that on you? Have YOU ever used that? Have you ever believed it? I always thought it was the dumbest thing I ever heard…until, that is, I heard it come out of MY mouth! (Don’t you hate that? We have become our parents! When did THAT happen?) Now I realize that my parents were right- it DOES hurt to discipline children. But when you’re struggling with your children, take comfort- even God struggles with HIS children! “Don’t!” “Don’t what?” “Don’t eat the forbidden fruit!” “Forbidden fruit…Awesome!” “DON’T eat the fruit!” “Why?” “Because I’m your Father…and I said so!” At that point, God was probably wondering why He didn’t just stop with the animals! And did you notice what God’s punishment was? He let them have children of their own! And the pattern was set.
     We discipline our kids because we love them and want them to learn right from wrong- to make good choices. We discipline our kids so they will develop self-discipline. When was the last time you heard or said, “That discipline felt SO good!”?
Discipline comes from going against our parent’s will. It hurts to receive discipline- but it hurts more to give it…if it’s truly discipline, and not punishment. What’s the difference between discipline and punishment? They’re often the same from our standpoint. Discipline is done out of love and it is temporary. Punishment is done out of anger and there is often a finality to it. 
     Deuteronomy 8:1-5 says, “Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live/increase/may enter/possess land that LORD promised on oath to forefathers. Remember how God led you all way in desert these 40 years, to humble you/to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger/then feeding you w/manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from mouth of God. Your clothes didn’t wear out/your feet didn’t swell during these 40 years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so God disciplines you.”
     With our actions, we often say, “God I want to be just like you- but just not yet!” We want to live a life of holiness- but just not yet! We want to live a life of purity- but just not yet! We want to be Godly- but just not yet!” We can’t shorten our time in the wilderness….but we CAN lengthen it! The greatest peaks are achieved after the steepest and most difficult climbs. If we focus on how hard it is, the steepness tires us out and we become discouraged. But when we focus instead on the goal, when we put things in
perspective, then we see discipline as the loving action that it is. 
God hurts to see us out of His will. Are you out of God’s will? Are you hurting? How long will you let it continue? You have the opportunity to repent and return to God’s will. If you accept God’s discipline and let Him do His work, then He will mold you- make you into what He wants. God can reverse our situation, but that needs to start with our own change of heart. 
God’s discipline can bring several things out in us- demands- (“Who do you think you are? Who gave you permission? Stop it!”), denial (“My life’s not that bad- a lot of people are worse than me. I don’t deserve this!”), remembrance (we are reminded of what we already know- the transformative power of God’s power and love.), or belief (we see all that Jesus has done for us. We see His discipline as caring concern…and we believe!) Today, there are 2 things Jesus doesn’t want from us and 2 things He DOES want. He doesn’t want our demands and our denial. He DOES want us to remember and believe! Which will you choose today? Will you remember…and believe? Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Bless Yore Heart!

     There is a comedian named Jon Reep (very funny, by the way!) who does a bit about how you can say ANYTHING to/about ANYONE…as long as you end the sentence with “…bless their heart!” Some examples would be: “That man is the biggest idiot on the planet…bless his heart!” “She is the fattest woman I’ve ever seen…bless her heart!” “That is the ugliest baby EVER…bless its heart!” And while we laugh at that…it’s TRUE! And we do it all the time! We talk about people…ESPECIALLY when their back is turned (literally and/or figuratively) …all the time, and we try to couch the bad things we say by adding “…bless their heart” or some other similar platitude.

     As I have thought through this, another…similar…phrase comes to mind that hits a bit closer to home. That phrase is “…God love them!” You know what I mean- “I just can’t STAND to be around that person- he is SO annoying…God love him!” “Did you SEE that dress Mildred had on today? It was HIDEOUS…God love her!” “Our minister couldn’t preach his way out of a paper bag…God love him!” 
     The implication, when we use one of these “qualifiers”, is two-fold: 1. we don’t REALLY have much respect for our fellow humans, and 2. we think we are better than them! Now that may seem a bit…um…harsh…but if you really think it through- it’s true. And I can say that because, frighteningly human as I am< I catch myself saying those things sometimes! So I am NOT just casting stones at others- I’m out there getting hit by the rocks as well! 
     The interesting thing about all of this is that, at least with the 2 examples I’ve given, there is a fairly overt Christian undertone to them: “bless their heart” and “God love them”. So it’s almost like we hide behind the mantle of religion when we speak ill of others. And that’s a shame, because if we’re going to behave that way, we should at least have the decency to accept responsibility for it. 
     The truth of the matter is that, even though we often use them in sarcastic ways, those two statements are dead-on true. God DOES bless our hearts…and God DOES love us…warts and all! We are NOT Number One with a bullet on God’s Top Ten Hit  Parade because we’re so smart, talented funny or good-looking (and speaking personally…thank goodness for that!); instead we are at the top of God’s “chart” because we are His- plain and simple. God loves us and blesses us because we are His children…literally. And we are ALL worthy of that love and blessing. 
     So…next time you catch yourself about to use one of these phrases in this capacity….stop! Think about what you’re REALLY saying and then change it to be a positive blessing- both on the person of whom you speak AND on yourself! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

A DOG…With NINE Lives?!

      I know that it is CATS that are supposed to have 9 lives, but I had a dog once who had that many…at least! Snoopy was the sweetest, most loyal dog you would ever want to know. She was also perhaps the UGLIEST! My wife says she was (and I quote) so ugly she was cute! (How’s THAT for an oxymoronic compliment!) But you know what? My wife was right! Snoopy WAS a pretty…homely…dog, but her personality is what made her cute! Growing up in the country, we often had dogs and cats show up at our door that someone had dumped. Every time, we would BEG my dad to keep them…even though we already HAD dogs and cats. Therefore, every time we begged, he was steadfast in his “NO!” Until, that it, Snoopy showed up! We heard a noise out back and went out to look. We found this dog huddled in the window well, scared to death. She had clearly been mistreated- she was afraid of people. She tried to bite me when I reached in to get her- much more out of self-preservation than aggression. My dad scolded me for sticking my hand in there near a strange, frightened dog, and then he got out these LONG leather gloves he used for grilling, slipped them on, and reached in. He got her by the nape of the neck and, supporting her rear end with his other hand, pulled her out of the window well. She was growling and baring her teeth while also looking very relieved to be out of there. We brought her into the garage…where I IMMEDIATELY began lobbying to keep her! I somehow managed to wear my dad down, because before bedtime that night he said we could keep her. I was in HEAVEN. She was the first dog who was truly mine. Then came the naming. I remember having seen a few minutes of an All in the Family episode that day and suggested Gloria might be a good choice. The rest of the family looked at me like I had lost my mind! (Funny…I STILL get that look often!) We decided to ponder that one overnight. The next morning, I got up early to go out in the garage and see my dog. My dad said he had watched her snooping around and thought that Snoopy might be a good name. I am a big fan of the Charles Schultz comics AND she was black and white- it seemed perfect! So, Snoopy became a member of the family!

     Over the next several years, Snoopy survived a myriad of events, including TWICE getting hit by cars- one ripped a gash in her leg and the other put an eye out…BUT she kept on going! Then, however, the unthinkable happened…she disappeared. Living in the country, it was NOT unusual for the dogs to run off for hours, as they scoured the woods for whatever they could find. But they ALWAYS came back. But this time, Snoopy did NOT. We began to search for her, looking all over the area, including a thorough search of my grandpa’s 150-acre farm next door. She was nowhere to be found. 24 hours passed. Then 48. Then 72. It became apparent that something bad had happened to her, and that she wasn’t coming home. Although in high school at the time, I’m not too proud to admit that I cried over that dog.
     Then, at about the 96 hours lost mark, I got home from school. No one was home, so I went around the back of the garage (that was the door I had a key to), unlocked the door, and stepped in. There, looking pretty thin but VERY happy to see me, was Snoopy!! I was SO happy to see her I once again cried- this time tears of joy! (If you feel the need to call me a big girl over all this tear-shedding, I’ll understand!) So here was this dog, seemingly back from the grave…but the mystery remained- where had she been? And HOW did she get in a locked garage? (I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I’m fairly certain I would have noticed had she simply been there the whole time!) It wasn’t until my mom got home that I, like Paul Harvey, got the rest of the story. My mom and my brother-in-law had decided to make ONE MORE search of my grandpa’s place, even though it had been searched 3 times already. As they walked around the farm, they heard a bark- HER bark! (Let’s be honest, like us, dogs have distinctive voices!) They followed the barking to a long-forgotten cistern (basically a deep hole in the ground designed to catch/store water). When they looked in, there she was, looking back at them and wagging her tail! They got a ladder, climbed down in the cistern, and carried her out. That dog was NEVER more glad to see a good meal and a warm, dry place to sleep!
     Miracles come in all sizes and shapes. They happen every day, all around us. And yet, we are SO jaded by society that we seldom actually recognize them for what they are. We chalk everything up to coincidence, luck and happenstance. We are willing to label things “odd”, “eerie”, even “amazing”…but seldom “miraculous”. I recently read about a phenomenon called Third Man, where people in difficult or dangerous situations are suddenly aware of another person there, who wasn’t there before, who guides them to safety. And when they REACH safety, that person…disappears. In the article, this man talked about mountain-climbing and being caught in an avalanche that killed his partner. As he lay, near death himself, a man appeared, made him get up, walked him quite a ways to a shelter that had (ready?) a rescue worker and a nurse on hand, and then…disappeared. The man who told the story made NO bones about the unusual nature of the story, but said (and I paraphrase) that, because he has a doctoral degree in physics, he is too logical to believe that it could be…God. And yet, he had NO reasonable explaination for what it WAS! Society has decided that you can either be smart…or a believer. Sorry, can’t be both! I say that’s a steaming pile of hooey! (That’s a technical theological term, thank you very much!) A person’s ability to string two rational sentences together doesn’t disable their abilty to have belief in something bigger than…them. Look at the world around you. When you see the intricacies of Creation, the amazing and delicate dance that keep the cosmos in balance, how can you NOT see Intelligent Design? This Christmas season, make an early New Year’s resolution- to not be jaded but to see the beauty, the wonder, the miraculous nature of the world. Watch for God’s hand in things; it’s there if you are willing to see it! Thanks for stopping by and spending a few minutes with me, have a GREAT day, share this with your friends and family, come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

The “Wussification” of the Church: Do YOU Want to be Made Well?

      Do you want to know how
to stay safe in the world? First off- avoid riding in cars; they’re responsible
for 20% of all fatal accidents. Also, don’t stay at home, because 17% of all
accidents occur in the home. Further, avoid walking on streets or sidewalks
because 14% of all accidents occur to pedestrians. Also, avoid traveling by
air, rail, or water because 16% of all accidents involve these forms of
transportation. Of the remaining 33%, 32% of all deaths occur in hospitals,
so…obviously…avoid hospitals! But you will be pleased to learn than only .001%
of all deaths occur in worship services, and these are usually due to
preexisting conditions. Therefore logic says that the safest place for you to
be at any given point in time…is in church! So the moral of the story
is…attend Church…it could save your life!

      We are in the 3rd week
of The Wussification of the Church, based on the writings of theologian and
writer Leonard Sweet. This series will lead us to Easter and is aimed at the
decline the mainline Church has experienced over the past 30+ years. Each week
we’ll look at what we can do to be on the front line of a much-needed
resurgence. Each week we’ll also ask a hard question that will help us make the
necessary steps. The 1st week we asked, “What are YOU looking for?” Last week we
asked, “Do YOU understand?” And today we ask, “Do YOU want to be made well?”

     There’s a counseling
technique called “Solution-Focused Therapy”. In this approach, the
counselor asks, in relation to the problems the patient’s having, “What
are you going to do?” Almost always the first reply is, “I need
someone else to do something for me.” My husband, my wife, my boss…God.”
Solutions to the problem are OFTEN the responsibility of anybody…but the
patient. But then, that’s a typical human response…isn’t it? It’s far easier
to look for a rescuer than to take responsibility. But Solution-Focused
Counseling reminds people of their role as a responsible participant in their
own lives, not just an innocent bystander- watching life go by, experiencing
hurt, rejection, disappointment, but unable to do anything about it. It focuses
the attention on individual responsibility. But this isn’t really a new
technique- it’s one that Jesus used quite often. We’re going to look at one
such conversation today.

John 5:1-15– Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem
for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate
a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five
covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the
blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for
thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been
in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to be made well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the
water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of
me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the
man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

     Imagine the pool of
Bethesda- a place where sick people congregate because they believe they can be
healed by getting into the water when it bubbles up. In the middle of this…sea
of humanity is this man who has been in this situation for…did you hear?…38
years! And then one day Jesus comes up to this man who is obviously crippled.
He’s got all of the accouterments- the paraphernalia- common to folks who
begged for a living in those days–a mat to lie on and a collection plate for
the money folks who take pity on him might give him.
It seems Jesus talks to him and finds out that he’s been living like this
for 38 years- longer than Jesus has been alive- hanging out at a pool for 38
years…hoping to be healed. Then Jesus asks the man what seems to be a crazy
question. And the man offers a lame excuse. And Jesus gave an impossible
instruction as a response.

     Jesus asks, “Do you
want to be made well?” What kind of a question is that? Does a crippled man
want to be made well? That’s like when your dad asks, “Do you want a
spanking?” “Is that a rhetorical question, Dad? Can I have a second
to think about it? Are there any other choices?” The answer seems obvious.
But maybe, just maybe, the question isn’t as crazy, as obvious, as
it seems at first blush. Let’s think about it for a second. Here’s a guy who’s
been crippled for 38 years. All of that time he’s been like Blanch DuBois…relying on the kindness of strangers. If he were to “be made
well”, he’d have to suddenly start earning his OWN way in the world…for
the first time in 38 years. He’d no longer have an excuse. The responsibility
would suddenly be his.
So maybe “Do you want to be made
well?” wasn’t such a crazy question after all. Maybe it was instead a
question that drove to the very heart of the issue and exposed the motives that
lay deep inside.

     Notice what comes next-
the man doesn’t answer
Jesus’ question, but instead offers an excuse for why he hadn’t been healed
yet. “I’m all alone, there’s no one to help me.” It’s a sad, tragic
cry. We can’t help but feel sorry for him, alone in the world, crippled and
lonely. But it doesn’t answer the question…it still amounts to an excuse. To
say “there’s no one to help me” also means, “I can’t help
myself…and God’s apparently not going to do anything for me either.”

     But Jesus will have none
of it. He’s heard it all before…and knows there’s a better day waiting ahead
for this man…if he will but believe. Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your
mat and walk.” Jesus doesn’t offer him syrupy sympathy, accepting the
man’s whining and moaning. Instead, Jesus offers a message of life and
vitality. He offers what we might recognize as the Gospel according to Nike-
“JUST DO IT.” And…the man DOES it! He picks up his mat…and he walks…for
the 1st time in 38 years…maybe the 1st time ever.

Now, the healing here IS
100% by Jesus’ power, but there is a human factor. Think about it- who healed
the man at the pool? Jesus. But who had to get up and walk? The man. Who saves
us from our sins? Jesus. But who must repent and believe? Us. Who gives us the
power to live above sin? Jesus. But who has to consciously decide day by day to
follow Him? Us. All too often we hold on tightly to the things that paralyze us
spiritually. But Jesus can heal those things. When Jesus heals us, we are left
with no excuse for our lives and the choices we make. We won’t be able to cry
“My life isn’t my fault, it’s everybody else’s fault!” The man said,
“I don’t have anybody.” But in Jesus we DO have somebody…and not
just someone to drag us around on our mats of self pity but someone who can
bring healing to our damaged lives. It would have been easy for the man at the
pool to dismiss Jesus as a nutjob. But it takes more strength to obey Jesus’
impossible instruction and leave the hurt behind and accept the salvation He
offers.

     John tells us there were
a lot of disabled people around the pool every day. This guy was surrounded by
them…and yet Jesus saw him lying there…Jesus saw HIM. And that should
encourage us. If Jesus saw him, in this sea of humanity gathered around the
pool, then He’ll also see us in the midst of a busy world. If you’re hurting,
take heart: you’re not alone. There are other hurting people- people who don’t
have it all together, people with scars, people with wounds so deep it takes
just a word to open the wound, create fresh hurt.
Jesus isn’t oblivious to
your pain, your hurt, your need. Just as He saw the man and knew he’d been
there a long time, He knows how long, how much, how deeply you’ve been hurting,
too.

     You may be thinking, “What about all those
other people at the pool? Why didn’t Jesus heal them, too?” My honest, Master’s
degree, seminary-trained, 14 years in the ministry answer? I have no earthly
idea! Some of those people by the Pool of Bethesda might not have chosen
healing over hurt, if healing meant losing their income, leaving their life, no
longer being able to lean on others.
Some actually choose to
hold onto their hurts, because they’d rather complain and play the martyr than
do the work necessary to get better.
Maybe Jesus knew this
man was ready to make a change. Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be made
well?” Although it may sound like a “Well…duh!” moment…it’s really
not. I’m convinced a lot of people don’t really want to be healed; they don’t
really want to be made well. Sound crazy? It’s not, because saying “yes” means
admitting we hurt. “Whaddya talking about, Jesus? I’m fine- never better! Don’t
worry about me; go help THAT guy…he’s the one with problems.” Saying “yes”
also means choosing wellness over pain. For some, being an invalid isn’t so
bad. Somebody else does all the work. Jesus didn’t touch the man, or even point
to him, He simply said, Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” It’s clear:
Jesus had the power to heal him…and he did. But what prompted the man to
actually DO it? For whatever reason, the man believed Jesus could heal him. We
need to believe Jesus can heal us.

     Too much of the Church
has become wussified. The Church used to be about great and mighty things-
bringing light into the darkness, making the dead come back to life. The church
of Jesus Christ used to make waves. Now it often struggles to even make a
splash. The Church has become wussified, populated by a healthy percentage of
folks who whine and wheeze about every cut and scrape society gives us. The
Church has a drug problem- we’ve allowed ourselves be drug into places we
really shouldn’t be. In the wussified Church, pain comes from being relegated
to the margins of a postmodern life. The healing offered by Jesus Christ is
downplayed- relegated to nothing better than equal footing with meditation and
exercise regimes that are designed to de-stress our hectic lives. Jesus’
powerful message to a weary world stumbling in soul-sucking darkness is often
considered leisure-time reading– like a light summer novel. The Church has
become just another, and I might add not very well recommended, option for
spending time on a Sunday morning.

     What about us? Jesus looks
at us- crippled by problems, by circumstance, by sin, and what does He say to
us? Could it be that He’s asking us the same question? Could it be that He is
saying to us, “Do you want to be made well?”
Do you want to continue to
hold on to the hurt? Is it easier to just let bitterness fester, to wallow in
the hurt and betrayal, licking your wounds? Or do you want to be healed?

     So the question echoes
across the centuries to us today, “Do you want to be made well?” To
those crippled by past hurts, Jesus asks, “Do you want to be made
well?” To those chained by secret sin Jesus asks, “Do you want to be
made well?” To those battling addiction Jesus asks, “Do you want to
be made well?” To those who haven’t yet asked Him into their hearts Jesus
asks, “Do you want to be made well?” To all who need His healing
touch in any part of their life Jesus asks, “Do you want to be made
well?” But to receive the healing He has for us…we have to actually want
to be changed. We have to be willing to say, “Jesus, I’m ready to put the past
behind me.” Jesus acknowledges the reality of people’s hurts. We tend to
avoid the subject…because it makes us uncomfortable. Jesus didn’t do that. He
saw the man lying there, saw his hurt and knew it was real, and had been real
for a very long time.

     Today, Jesus has asked the
question, “Do you want to be made well?” and He waits for our answer.
Will you continue to hold on to the things that hold you back? Will you offer
the same old excuses? Or will you listen to the call of Jesus and reach out for
that which is beyond you? Will you “Get up and walk”?
It’s time for us to leave
our hurts behind, pick up our mat and walk. Time to choose healing over hurt
and take the first step. Will you do that this morning? Will you believe in
God’s goodness and grace? Will you believe that He wants to revive your spirit
and restore your heart? Will you admit you’re hurting? Will you make the healing
choice? Will you pick up your mat and walk?
Jesus has the power to bring power to lifeless
limbs and empty lives.

     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed Sunday! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Is That Humanity…or Humility?

     Remember the Hindenburg tragedy? Radio reporter Herbert Morrison and sound engineer Charlie Nelson had been assigned by Chicago radio station WLS to cover the Lakehurst Naval Air Station landing of the Hindenburg. (Interestingly, they were there on a “test run”. The only pre-recorded sounds the network allowed to be broadcast were sound effects for radio dramas. But Morrison and Nelson were sent, without any equipment to broadcast live, to test out recording news events for later broadcast.) The now famous (perhaps infamous) video footage includes Morrison’s description of the crash- “It’s burst into flames, and it’s falling, it’s crashing…It’s burning and bursting into flames…It’s smoke and it’s flames now…and the frame is crashing to the ground, not quite to the mooring mast. Oh, the humanity…!” It is a moment seared into the collective conscience of all who have seen it. And for me, the key word there is “humanity”. What does that word ACTUALLY mean? According to Merriam-Webster, it means “the quality or state of being human”. 

     Not long ago, one of my parishioners said to me, “I appreciate the HUMANITY that you bring to this congregation.” The more I have thought about that, the more I think she gave me one of the nicest compliments someone can give their pastor. A decent number of clergy seem to feel they need to project this image of “having it all together”- knowing all the answers to life. They are experts on the human condition…just ask them!I am well aware that not only do I NOT have all the answers…most days I couldn’t even tell you what all the questions are! And, for me…that’s OK. Because I’m about as “human” as they come- full of foibles and flaws that crop up on a regular basis. We ALL are. Life is too tough, too complicated to even pretend to have a handle on everything. But do you want to know the “beauty part” of all this? God loves us anyway! Not only because of who were are, but often in SPITE of who we are! God created you the way you are, warts and all. And God loves you like that. It doesn’t mean He doesn’t want to see you contionue to strive to be more; it just means that you don’t have to reach some magic level before you have God’s acceptance.
     The world tells us constantly that we aren’t good enough. If we don’t buy that product or drink that drink or eat that food or wear those clothes or hang with those people…we are somehow incomplete, not good enough. God’s message is 180 degrees the other way. Don’t let other people dictate your self-worth- let God do it. If God can think that I’M OK the way I am…there’s hope for everybody! Are you human? Of course you are? Are you perfect? I hate to burst your bubble, but no! But you are perfectly and wonderfully amde in the image of God. You have value, and you are loved. And since I KNOW the parishioner who told me about my humanity reads this blog…thank you! Know that you are loved, you have great worth, and you matter to God. Have a great day, come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Do You Regularly Buy…Jesus?

     Regular season Major League Baseball is ALMOST here! For some of you, you are thinking right now, “Big whoop! I could care less!” (And by the way- how is it that “I could care less” and “I couldn’t care less mean” the same thing? Shouldn’t they actually be OPPOSITES?!) But for us baseball fans, Opening Day is a nearly sacred time- your team of choice (mine is the St. Louis Cardinals) is in first place…because the season hasn’t actually started yet. Hope springs eternal! And yet, in a few short weeks, many Major League teams will be saying, “Just wait until next year!” (For those of you who A. know me well and B. trade “barbs” with me on a regular basis…I will name NO particular teams at this juncture!) But sports fans have HIGH Brand Loyalty- they are dedicated to their team(s) of choice through thick and thin.(I mean, I served the ’70’s…or what I like to call the Vern Rapp years, and I’m STILL a cardinal fan!) 

     I think the same is true of other areas of our lives as well. Most people buy the same brand of peanut butter, toothpaste and laundry detergent every time. When pressed as to why, most of us could say no more than, “I like that brand.” I don’t know about you, but I’m SURE I haven’t tried all the deodorant brands out there, but I still buy the same one every time. We are a Brand Loyal society- sticking to what we know, what we like and what we trust. 
     As I think through the whole idea of being loyal to one particular brand, it makes me wonder how Brand Loyal we are…to Jesus Christ? Do we show allegiance to Him? Are we faithful to Him? Do we refuse to “buy any other brand”…even when it’s flaunted right in our face? Or do we often show our allegiance to all sorts of other “gods”? I would venture that many Americans show a MUCH greater level of Brand Loyalty to their football team and their brand of soda than they do to Jesus. How…you might ask? By what we devote our prayers, our presence, our gifts and our service to…what we show allegiance to. 
    Do you make sure that you don’t miss your favorite TV program? Do you make sure that you watch every football/baseball/basketball game that is on? Do you make sure that you find time to do the leisure things YOU like to do? Now…those were the “softball” questions. Here comes the “blazing fastball” question- do you offer the same attention, dedication and commitment to going to church? Do you make sure that you are in the pews every Sunday? Do you make sure you pray daily? Do you make sure that you are giving back to God, both in your time and your money, a portion of the blessing that He has bestowed upon you? Only you…and God…know the answer to that question. 
     I encourage you, as well move closer and closer to easter, to make your faith a greater priority in your life. Not only do studies show that church goers live longer and are healthier than non-church goers, but making that kind of commitment will enrich your life in ways you can’t even imagine! All I am saying…is…give Jesus a chance! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!