Thursday, May 31- Dream Job

     My older son was home for the weekend, visiting from his home in Chicago. It was his birthday on Monday, Memorial Day, and he had a paid holiday. So he made it a long weekend and came to see us. It was great!
     His job has him getting up early every morning, and we all know that when you have to get up early 5 days a week, you are VERY likely to get up early on the weekends, too! 
     I got up Monday morning about 8AM, and to say that’s sleeping late for me is a gross understatement! Usually, if I’m not up by 6:30AM, something is wrong. Now, to be fair, I actually got up at 6:10AM- the dogs woke me up because they were…desperate! (Although I STILL don’t know if they were desperate to go outside…or desperate to eat!) I figured if I got up, took them out and fed them, then I could go back to bed for a while and they would leave me alone. It worked!
     So anyway, here I am, up at 8AM. I walk into the kitchen to make coffee, and I see my older son sitting at the dining room table. He is eating leftover fried chicken from the day before and reading a HUGE hardback book on the history of DC superheroes. (The men in my house, present company included, are unabashed superhero geeks!) I greeted him and wished him a happy birthday. Then I said, “So, how does it feel to get paid to sit at the dining room table, eat chicken and read comics?” He didn’t even look up from the book as he replied, “Really…it’s my dream job!” He and I both had a good laugh and both secretly thought, “True. True!”
     As I thought through that encounter later, I thought that, at some level, that IS the dream job of a lot of people, especially a lot of pastors. But a lot of pastors don’t necessarily want to get paid to sit and read about superheroes- they want to actually strap the cape on and BE one! Pastor are well-known to want to fix everything. We are famous for wanting to be Superman, swooping in and putting everything right before flying off because our super-hearing has detected another call of distress. Is it any wonder that I have both an 8 1/2 X 11 drawing of Superman that my dad did when he was 12 AND a 12″ tall Superman statue (it is NOT an action figure and definitely NOT a doll!) in my office at church?
     Many people have that desire to save others. And while it IS an admirable quality, it often is taken to illogical extremes. In the end, we simply CAN’T fix every problem everybody has. Let’s be honest- we can’t even fix every problem WE have! We are NOT Supermen. We are NOT saviors. There, always has been and can ONLY be…ONE…Savior. Jesus Christ chose to walk among us and live like we did. he chose to lay down His life – nobody took it from Him – to take away our sin. And He chose to pick that life back up again to offer us eternity with Him. How cool is THAT?! He IS Superman, without a doubt!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- A Great Cloud of Witnesses

Wednesday, May 30- Heart Condition: The Turned Heart

     (Wednesdays are Bible Study Day here at Stick With Jesus. Today, we continue our current series- Heart Condition.)
     My mom’s maiden name was Riley. Actually, it was O’Riley, by was anglicized to Riley when her family came over from the “Old Country”. Therefore, a strong part of my heritage is rooted in the Emerald Isle! Here are some of my favorite Irish sayings: “Here’s to your roof- may it be well-thatched. Here’s to all who are under it- may they be well- matched.” Another is,
“Don’t break your shin on a stool that’s not in the way.” Or, “‘It’s better to spend your money like there’s no tomorrow than it is to spend tonight like there’s no money!” And, “Wisdom is a comb given to a man after he’s lost his hair.” Then there’s, “What butter and whiskey won’t cure…there’s no cure for!” Also, “A man is incomplete until he marries. After that, he finished!” Or, “Dance as if no one’s watching, sing as if no one’s listening, and live every day as if it’s your last.” But perhaps my favorite is, “May those who love us love us. And for those who don’t love us, may the good Lord turn their hearts. And for those whose hearts won’t turn, may the good Lord turn their ankles so we will know them by their limping!”
     This is the
3rd week of our current study- Heart Condition. This study is aimed at reigniting hearts- setting them ablaze for God. The 1st week we talked about the lost heart. Last week we considered the proud heart. Today, we look at the turned heart. We will primarily focus not on hearts turned toward God…but away. What do we when we turn away from God? What’s our responsibility when a fellow Christian turns away from God? The journey from the head to the heart is but a few inches…yet some never make it.

     The Greek word for heart is KARDIA- it speaks not just of the physical heart, but also of the center, the core of our being. As we continue looking at the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy, we will experience the journey of the heart from lost to on fire. Where will you find YOURSELF on the journey?

     Deuteronomy 29:16-18- “You yourselves know how we lived in Egypt and how we passed through countries on the way here. You saw among them their detestable images and idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold. Make sure there is no man or woman among you today whose heart turns away from God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison.”
     A b
oy was in a boat, fishing with his dad, and he was scared. As he clung to the side of the boat with white knuckles, we asked, “Is the water over my head?” His dad said, “Yes.” “Is it over your head?” “Yes.” Tears began to well in his eyes, “Is it over God’s head?”

     If you remember, the Book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ last, best hurrah. He was ordained by God to write it before he died. In it, he reminds the people of their history, their covenant with, and how they are to live by it. Did you hear what it said? “Make sure no one among you turns their heart away from God. Make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison.”

     So admonishes don’t only come from God- we are also not supposed to let each other turn, either. But the truth is that turning from God often seems almost logical. A disaster strikes and we say, “How could God let that happen?” And we use that thought to deny the existence of God. But, just for a moment, say those people are right. Let’ say that God doesn’t exist. The tragedy is STILL there- getting rid of God didn’t solve any problem. In fact, it creates problems. We want to blame somebody else for bad things, and God is SO convenient. And so…we blame Him. “If there IS a God, and if He is SO good, then how could He let this happen?”

     But what are we really saying when we blame God? How about,  “Since God didn’t act the way I THOUGHT He should, then He is WRONG, and BAD, and DOESN’T EXIST!” But if you look at it logically- it’s hard to be mad at someone who doesn’t exist, isn’t it?

Atheists spend LOTS of time and energy on someone doesn’t exist!

     So, DO we believe in God ONLY if He acts the way WE want? DO we form certain opinions of God when He acts in a way that is opposed to how we THINK He should act? Sometimes, we don’t SEE the goodness of God, especially when bad happens. And when we experience heartache, disappointment and tragedy, it seems like God isn’t good at all.

     Even Christians find themselves struggling against God at times. We say we want peace…but peace doesn’t always fit into our agenda. Why? Because peace calls for doing…nothing sometimes, and we can’t handle that. Pascal, the great philosopher and scientist, said, “Most of our troubles come from our inability to be still.”

     Perhaps our problem is that we use the wrong standard for “goodness”- we use OUR standard. You know- “Good is whatever is good for me. I am the standard for good.” But God gently reminds us: “No…I am the standard for good.” God is the gold standard, the good standard. Because God is good…all the time! 
     A boy was trying to pick up a rock. “It’s too heavy!” His dad said, “Son, you can do it.” “Dad, it’s too heavy!” “You can do it.” “It’s TOO heavy!” “You’re not using all your strength.” “I am! It’s just too heavy!” “You’re not using all your strength.” “Why do you keep saying I’m not using all my strength? It’s too heavy!” “I know you’re not using all your strength, because you haven’t asked me to help yet.” 
      We haven’t used all our strength if we haven’t asked God to help us yet. We n
eed to ask God for help in our Christian walk…in life.

     For my money, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is second to none on the subject of peace and seeking God’s help. Here are snippets from 2 of his speeches:

     “Love your enemies- have the Christian and moral responsibility to discover the meaning of His words, discover how to live out His command, and why we should live by that command. There is power in love that the world has not discovered yet. Jesus discovered it centuries ago, but most men and women will never discover it. We must discover the redemptive power of love. When we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world. Love is the only way. Jesus discovered that and civilization must discover that. Individuals must discover that as they deal with others. It’s the telescope through which we look out into the long vista of eternity and see the love of God breaking forth. Love is the only creative, redemptive, transforming power in the universe. Let us join together in the great fellowship of love and bow down at the feet of Jesus.”

     “I have dream- that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of the creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident: all men are created equal. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream that one day every valley will be exalted, every hill and mountain made low, the rough places made plain, the crooked places made straight and the glory of Lord revealed all flesh will see it together. When we let freedom ring, we will be able to speed up the day when all of God’s children will join hands and sing the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last!” 
     God is our place of protection, our source of power our means of rescue, our rock of salvation. The o
nly hope for true security is to turn to Him!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- Dream Job

Tuesday, May 29- Post-Memorial Day Thoughts

    On Sunday, my church had a special Memorial Day observance. I began that part of the service in prayer, and then left it open for anyone who wanted to lift up someone. The idea was this- if you had someone in your life who served in the military and had since died, your were encouraged to say their name out loud during the prayer time. 
     It was a powerful time as more and more folks said the names of loved ones who they had lost. My younger son had said in advance that he would like to say the name of my dad, who served in the Navy at the very tail end of WW2 and died a bit over a year ago. I looked up to see if he was going to, and he was looking at me- wanting some approval. So I nodded to him. Then he said my dad’s name out loud.
     Suddenly, the whole point of Memorial Day came rushing in at such breakneck speed that I nearly lost it. Tears welled up and I was glad I didn’t have to speak at the moment. I thought about my dad, as a 17-year old kid, having to get his mom’s permission to go into the Navy. She kept refusing and he kept pushing. Finally, my school principal grandma made him promise her that he would complete his high school education once he got out of the Navy. (He did it, too. He got his GED and went on to be a design engineer!) 
     I thought about him leaving home, going to basic training, and then ending up on a destroyer off the coast of China. He saw things that I can only imagine. In fact, I probably CAN’T imagine much of what he saw. He left a kid and came back a man. I could barely find my way home at night when I was 17. He was halfway around the world, helping defend our country. 
     “Thank you” seems insufficient for all of the men and women, throughout the history of our country, who willingly and sacrificially, served their country. They defended our freedoms. And we could never repay them for what they have done. But on Memorial Day, along with Veteran’s Day, we do our best to let them know how appreciative we are for their sacrifice!
     So, thank you, dad. Thank you, wife’s grandpa. Thank you, Uncle Bill. And thank you countless men and women across history. We owe you a debt we simply cannot pay!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- Heart Condition- The Turned Heart