Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Here's to the Good Old Days

This may come as a surprise to some, but Wikipedia really does provide some useful information from time to time. Consider what I recently learned about the phrase "auld lang syne":

       "Auld Lang Syne" is a Scots poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 and set to the tune of a traditional folk song. It is well known in many countries, especially in the English-speaking world; its traditional use being to bid farewell to the old year at the stroke of midnight. By extension, it is also sung at funerals, graduations, and as a farewell or ending to other occasions. The international Scouting movement, in many countries, uses it to close jamborees and other functions.
       The song's title may be translated into standard English as "old long since", or more idiomatically, "long long ago", "days gone by", or "old times". Consequently, "For auld lang syne", as it appears in the first line of the chorus, might be loosely translated as "for (the sake of) old times".

This new understanding of what those words mean is helpful to me as I consider Daniel Fogelberg's bittersweet song, "Same Old Lang Syne". It was a 1981 hit for Fogelberg and is still played from time to time, especially here in late December. Not only is it a true story (except, reportedly, for the woman's eye color and her husband's vocation), but its wistful wishing for "days gone by" rings with truth.

Truth is...I think almost everyone can relate to the feelings evoked in this song. What if I had done this one thing differently? What if I had turned right instead of left? Is my life now the life I was meant to live? Am I satisfied?

I hope it's not a sin to feel that way from time to time, and I am overjoyed to know that Yahweh takes the sum total of our decisions, actions, and attitudes...washes them clean...and "causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28 NASB)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas Presence

It was a dark night during a short-term mission trip to Panama. Our small group of adults and teens were getting ready to bed down for the night in a mountain village...and I use the term village loosely. The men were in the back of the army-surplus truck we had used to get there, and the women were on the dirt floor of the central shelter used for communal cooking...and I use the term shelter loosely.

The tall, red-haired missionary we were working with tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Follow me."

Before I knew it, I was on the tail end of a group of three Norte Americanos being led single file on a winding path by a young adult Panamanian woman who had said she wanted us to pray for her sick father.

You should know that the whole conflict with Noriega and drug-trafficking wasn't that old of news at this point, and the thought did cross my mind that I might not be heading back to the village that night all in one piece.

But my fears were groundless. We soon reached a small lean-to of a hut, lit only by a tiny, clay, oil lamp. It only took the four of us, the sick father, and our guide's mother to fill the tiny space. And yet, when we started to pray, the space was filled even more...the Spirit of Peace and Truth came and rested upon us all.

Truth is...even while I was experiencing this, I was reminded of another simple structure, probably lit by a very similar lamp, that was also filled with a very special presence. Emmanuel: God With Us. He came to Earth knowing full well that he would not be returning home unscathed.

In the midst of the presents this year, may you also experience His presence.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Three-Way Church Swap

Three churches in Western Dakota County, Minnesota, recently went through an amazing three-way location swap that could not have come about without the direct leading of Yahweh.

It's an amazing story, and if you've got 7:48, I'd like to tell it to you.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...This would never have happened if it were up to humans alone. God's fingerprints are all over this and I can't wait to see what's coming down the road.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Rock That Doesn't Roll

He was too rocky for church and too churchy for rock radio, but Larry Norman was a pioneer of what is now called Contemporary Christian Music. There was no "industry" for it back in the late 60s and early 70s. It was simply known as Jesus Music.

And other than the 1973 Imperials Live album, wherein a Southern Gospel group successfully constructed a bridge between "Beulah Land" and "Jesus Made Me Higher", Larry Norman's album, In Another Land, was my personal introduction to music that sounded like 70's radio, but spoke of things of the Spirit.

I was led to think about Norman the other day when I saw the following picture posted on Facebook with the caption, "WHAT'S THE FIRST SONG YOU WOULD PLAY ON THESE SPEAKERS?"

My answer was The Rock That Doesn't Roll, by Larry Norman:

I was lost and blind 'til a friend of mine

Came and took me by the hand.
Then He led me to His kingdom
That was in another land.
Now my life is changed, it's rearranged.
When I think of my past, I feel so strange.
Wowie, zowie, well He saved my soul.
He's the rock that doesn't roll.

He's the rock that doesn't roll.

He's the rock that doesn't roll.
He's good for the body and great for the soul.
He's the rock that doesn't roll.

I was all alone like a rolling stone,

I was going nowhere fast.
I was on the road so far from home
When the future touched my past.
Now I feel so blessed 'cause He gave me a rest
And I finally feel like I've passed the test.
I wanna be like Him, yes, that's my goal
Like a rock that doesn't roll.

He's the rock that doesn't roll...

I was lost and blind 'til a friend of mine
Came and took me by the hand.
Then He led me to His kingdom
That was in another land.
Now my mind is blown, my head has grown
A solid rock ain't a rolling stone,
Wowie, zowie, well the cat's got soul.
He's the rock that doesn't roll.

He's the rock that doesn't roll...

You got to rock me on the water
You got to rock me from my grave.
You got to rock me 'til I'm feeling good,
You got to rock me 'til I'm, rock me 'til I'm saved.
©1976 Beechwood Music Corp./J.C. Love Publishing Co.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...It's pretty nice when a Scriptural concept has a good beat and is easy to dance to.

There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. (I Samuel 2:2)

My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior (2 Samuel 22:3)

But the Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge. (Psalm 94:22)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Some Trust In Chariots...

We've been close to a nuclear World War III more often than you would like to think.

For instance:

1. On the evening of October 25, 1962, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, an air force sentry at a military base near Duluth, Minnesota "spotted someone climbing the base fence, shot at the figure, and sounded the sabotage alarm." As alarms at airfields all over the region were sounded, at Volk Field, Wisconsin, the wrong alarm, the one signaling nuclear war (the "P.S., we mean it, this is not a drill" alarm) went off, and pilots scrambled and headed down the runway, being stopped only at the last second by the post commander. The "intruder" was a bear.

2. Also in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis, only two days later, October 27, 1962, on the same day that an American U-2 spy plane was shot down over Cuba: At this point, Soviet submarines were being subjected to depth charges to make them rise to the surface (we were unaware they had nuclear weapons aboard). Despite strict orders not to use their nuclear torpedoes absent authorization from Moscow, the three Soviet officers aboard Foxtrot submarine B-59 had decided to use theirs if under attack and unable to reach Moscow but only if all three officers agreed. They were, in fact, unable to reach Moscow, and in the end, one officer, Vasili Alexandrovich Arkipov, finally made the fateful decision not to start WWIII.

3. In 1983, U.S.-NATO military maneuvers in Europe, called "Able Archer 83," were interpreted for a time by the Soviets as the prelude to a -- not so good -- full-scale nuclear attack.

4. On January 25, 1995, technicians at the Olengrosk early warning radar facility detected an unidentified ballistic missile over Norway which appeared to be heading for Russia. Because the missile was manufactured in the United States, its "signature trail" was therefor identified by Russian computers as hostile and apparently fired from a U.S. submarine in the Arctic Sea, even though it was actually only a Norwegian research rocket researching the Northern Lights. President Yeltsin's "nuclear briefcase" was activated and Russian missile submarines ordered to battle stations. Finally, with three minutes to spare, the missile was correctly identified. Happily, for the human race, this incident took place at a time when Yeltsin was President and not earlier (or subsequent) presidents.

But this is the mere tip of the iceberg of close calls known to experts. There have been literally hundreds of false alerts of a nuclear attack in this country alone, triggered by such things as a flock of geese, the rising of the moon, the sun's reflection on a cloud, a strong solar storm, and space debris re-entering the atmosphere. And of course, there have been who knows how many similar or worse incidents in other countries. (From World Peace Through Law, by James Taylor Ranney)

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...if history teaches us anything, we should know by now that mankind is capable of horrific, and horrifically short-sighted, acts of aggression. Our hope for peaceful coexistence can't reside in the strength of our armaments to deter, or the openness of our hearts to live and let live.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. (Psalm 20:7 NIV)

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Healed by Faith or Medicine?

When a person goes to a doctor, is that a lack of faith in God?

You have heard it said that disease is not from God...it is a result of The Fall (Adam & Eve's/mankind's initial choice to go their OWN way instead of God's way). It is fair to assume that God's ultimate desire is for His creation to be in perfect harmony with Him and itself...for example, no disease.

And some folks believe the treatment for all disease should be, therefor, leaving it up to God to restore a person's body to perfect health.

So, is it evidence of a lack of faith when someone goes to a doctor in hopes of getting rid of a physical ailment?

I really appreciate an ancient insight I recently read, attributed to Saint Basil of Caesarea (329-379 CE), who is thought to have founded the first hospital (from The First Thousand Years, by Robert Louis Wilken):

When [Basil} was a student at Athens, he had shown particular attentiveness in the study of medicine, not only in its practical side, but also in its theory and principles. He had gained enough experience to know, as he put it in one of his letters, that incompetent physicians often make people's illnesses worse. In one of his writings on the monastic life, The Longer Rule, he addressed the question as to whether relying on the 'art of medi­cine' is in keeping with Christian piety. Medicine, he wrote, like the know-how of a farmer or the skill of a weaver, is a gift of God. Because the body is susceptible to illness, God has given human beings the skills to heal illness. 'Just as we would have no need of the labor and toil of the farmer if we were living among the delights of paradise, so we would not require the art of medicine for healing if we were immune to disease.' The work of the physician who heals bodies [swells] to the glory of God no less than the work of those who care for the soul. As the Lord used clay for healing (John 9:6), so also it is good that physicians use the things of the earth for the cure of bodily ills.

Truth is...I don't have a definitive answer to the question "Healed by Faith or Medicine?", but as is often the case when presented with an either/or concerning God, the truth probably lies closer to both/and.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Pearls Before Swine Speaks Truth

I'm pretty sure I've never before tapped into Stephan Pastis' comic strip, Pearls Before Swine, for any kind of life lesson, but this past Sunday's strip, I believe, may have touched on something a lot of people are feeling.

It begins with the sweetest, most innocent character in the cast, Pig, as he is bombarded with current events.

Then, we see Pig's unique reaction.

But it's the final panel that plops us right in the middle of SadButTrueVille.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...No doubt, plenty of us wish we had a balloon that would float us away from turmoil and conflict. The hard truth is, we have to BE the change we'd like to see. I can be part of the solution, or I can be part of the problem.

(Now, let's discuss that pig snout on the front of Goat's face.)

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The One Who Falls

It's dance. It's pantomime. It's performance art.

It touches on (at least) competition, cooperation, yearning, loving, separation, community, desperation, and death.

It's intriguing. It's fascinating. It's mesmerizing.

It's a great effect and it affects greatly.

It's a piece by sculptor/choreographer Yoann Bourgeois titled (roughly translated from the French) "The One Who Falls".

Truth is...between the song, the faces of the performers, the fact that the world keeps spinning no matter what...there's plenty to contemplate here. I long for the hopeful resolution that would surely be added if Yoann were a Christ-follower (making an unfair assumption here), and yet, this piece says a lot about life as we experience it here on Planet Earth. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

If the Bible Were Being Written Today

I'm not a force to be reckoned with on Twitter, but I did recently fall in love with something tweeted by @AshleaDavis, who describes herself as follows: "Wife, raising boys, avid reader & coffee drinker. Breaking rules, loving Jesus, & laughing when I shouldn't. I want a nap."

While I don't condone or recommend breaking rules, I do enjoy a nap now and then and really appreciate this quotable quote from Mrs. Davis:

I'm glad the early church isn't now. The book of Acts would be called the book of Thoughts & Prayers.

Truth is...I probably like that statement because it correlates to an earlier post of mine on the subject of Thoughts and Prayers. But it also has served to remind me of a song performed by the now-defunct group, 4 Him: A Man You Would Write About.

Thank You, Lord, for stirring up this kind of passion again within this old guy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

When God Picks Out Your Worship Partner

I've got another story from CASH: The Autobiography that makes me smile at the mysterious ways of Yahweh.

     I was walking down 57th Street with June one Sunday morning when we happened on the First Baptist Church of New York, which we hadn't noticed before because its entrance doesn't look like a church's. We saw from a sign outside that services were just about to start, so we went in, and the strangest thing happened. The congregation was seated as we entered, but about halfway down the aisle a young boy was turned around watching the door. He saw us, immediately jumped up, and yelled, "JOHNNY CASH! Johnny Cash has come to church with me!"
     As it happened, the only free seats were right next to him and his parents, so we took them, and that's when we saw that the boy was mentally handicapped. He was so excited. "I told you!" he kept saying to his parents. "I told you he was coming!"
     The preacher came over and explained to us that, yes, the boy had told his parents, and the whole congregation, repeatedly that I was going to walk into that church, sit down beside him, and worship with him. And that's what I did. Being next to him was such a pleasure. He was so happy.
     When the service was over, we walked down to the corner with him and his parents, and they filled in the story. They were Jewish, they said, but their son had decided to become a Christian after listening to some of my gospel recordings. That's why they were in a Christian church on a Sunday morning. They were in that particular Christian church because that's where he knew I was going to walk in the door.
*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...I've got no great lesson to share from this story, other than to be more willing to speak boldly what God whispers in your ear.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Virtue Reality

Virtues are funny things.

Virtues are the fruit of faith and whenever paraded, become parodies of themselves and the worst kind of vanity imaginable. When they are not the fruit of faith they become its greatest obstacle....

Take, for example, wisdom. Wisdom has at its source the "fear of the Lord"  -  the highest regard and reverence for Him. The tendency among many of us, though, is to confuse wisdom with omniscience and to think ourselves wise in proportion to how much stuff we know. God calls us to be wise and provides us with Christ. We pressure ourselves to be all-knowing and fret over where Cain got his wife and how the earth can be as young as the Scriptures claim when geologists say that it takes millions of years more than that to produce a barrel of oil. We tend to suspect that wisdom lies in the ability to answer imponderables rather than in Christ. And we sometimes end in self-contempt and even abandonment of our faith, not because our faith is false, but because we focused on a wisdom that is not a virtue but a vanity.

It is the same way with strength. God calls us to "be strong" and we mistake that for a call to omnipotence. We confuse strength to endure trials with an ability to walk unfrustrated through life. We convince ourselves that if we were strong we would never fail, never tire, never hurt, never need. We begin to measure strength in terms of ease of progress, equate power with success, endurability with invincibility and inevitably, when our illusion of omnipotence is shattered, we condemn ourselves for being weak.

God has called us to be lovers and we frequently think that He meant us to be saviors. So we "love" as long as we see "results." We give of ourselves as long as our investments pay off, but if the ones we love do not respond, we tend to despair and blame ourselves and even resent those we pretend to love. Because we love someone, we want them to be free of addictions, of sin, of self  -  and that is as it should be. But it might be that our love for them and our desire for their well-being will not make them well. And, if that is the case, their lack of response no more negates the reality of love than their quickness to respond would confirm it.

Love is a virtue and not a feeling. It is fed and fired by God  -  not by the favorable response of the beloved. Even when it doesn't seem to make a dime's worth of difference to the ones on whom it is lavished, it is still the most prized of all virtues because it is at the heart of the very character of God. By loving we participate in His Life and Essence. When we stoop to bait and buy good behavior we are no longer loving as God loves. We are manipulating and cheapening the dignity of the person whom we are called  -  not to save, not even to change  -  but to love. If real salvation is possible (and we know it is) it is because real love is there. And love that is real, love that is truly a virtue and not just an act  -  agape love  -  gushes from God through those who know Him. It is not strung along by those who don't.  (Rich Mullins, "Virtue Reality", Release Magazine, July-August 1994)

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...The more we try to knuckle down hard and produce good fruit like wisdom and strength and love, the more disappointed in ourselves we will be. That's called walking by sight and it's a recipe for depression and disaster. Our call is to allow the Holy Spirit  -  "Christ in [us], the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27)  -  to grow His goodness within us...and then let it spill out and drench everyone we come in contact with.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

When Johnny Cash's Voice Changed

I'm in the midst of reading CASH: The Autobiography, by Johnny Cash with Patrick Carr, and particularly enjoyed The Man In Black's account of when his voice went from a boyish tenor to his manly baritone/bass.

     I was singing as I walked in the back door, and [my mother] wheeled around from the stove in shock and said, "Who was that?"
      I sang some more for her, exploring my new range, and as I found out how deep I could go, her eyes teared up and she said, "You sound exactly like my daddy." Then she said, "God has His hand on you, son. Don't ever forget the gift."
     I don't think Moma really wondered who was singing; she knew it was me. And that was the first time I remember her calling my voice "the gift." Thereafter she always used that term when she talked about my music, and I think she did so on purpose, to remind me that the music in me was something special given by God. My job was to care for it and use it well; I was its bearer, not its owner."

Truth is...any innate ability or talent any of us has can rightly be called a gift. We have not, nor cannot, create them. We can certainly develop them, harness them, and train ourselves to use them with excellence, but their existence within us is absolutely dependent on the grace of God.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  James 1:17 (NIV)

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Taking a Knee

According to every sports-related movie I've ever seen  -  and when it comes to sports, watching movies is the only experience I have to go on  -  to "take a knee" means to gather around the coach and listen up because he's about to lay some important words on you.

Of course, for the past several weeks, the idea of football players taking a knee carries a totally different meaning.

For those on one side, it is a form of silent protest against the inequality and injustice that exists within the borders of "the land of the free and the home of the brave". For those on another side, it is a disgusting show of disrespect for those who have fought and died for the star-spangled banner that is our nation's flag.

For me, taking a knee is something completely different.

  • It is the first step in retrieving one of Beloved's earrings from under the bedroom dresser.
  • It is a necessary posture to get eye-to-eye with my grandchildren; either to let them know I love them or to let them climb onto my back.
  • It is a sign of humility before the almighty Creator God.

If I were to kneel in protest of anything it would also be completely different.

  • I would kneel to protest my lack of kneeling to pray.
  • I would bend my knee to protest the bending of my will toward the things of this world instead of the things of God.
  • I would collapse in grief to protest the sickness of human hearts and the greatness of my own selfishness, greed, and gluttony.
  • I would lay spread eagle on the ground in utter amazement at the One who sacrificed all so I could be free from sin's stranglehold.

Truth is...my life could do with a little more of that kind of humility, amazement, and life-changing grief.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Jesus Was NOT Self-Sufficient

You may be surprised to hear that Jesus didn't feel like He could depend on Himself.

I mean, there He was, God in the flesh. Able to heal the sick, raise the dead, and leap tall buildings in a single bound, but, according to Hebrews 2: 11-13, not comfortable in seizing the day without the Father's active presence.

So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters. For he said to God, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you among your assembled people.” He also said, “I will put my trust in him,” that is, “I and the children God has given me.” (NLT)

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...(From my journal, February 20, 2001) If the Son of God saw the need to rely on Yahweh and not Himself, how much more must I (one who has the same Father) abandon all hope of self-sufficiency and throw myself into the loving care of the Most High God?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Explaining the Joke

Because his video for "The Color Green" was in black and white, and the one for "Here in America" was filmed in Ireland, it is somehow fitting to commemorate the 20th anniversary of singer/songwriter Rich Mullins' death by reprinting the first of a series of articles he wrote for Release magazine; this one published in Spring 1991.

     The only thing worse than a joke you don't get is the explanation that is bound to follow: an explanation that, while it may help you see why you should have seen the humor that you so lamely missed, is little likely to make you laugh. It may provoke you to muster a sympathy snicker so as to avoid more of an already tedious and misdirected lecture. It may inspire a mild giggle of recognition, but it will hardly ever raise a real belly-laugh, which was the original desired effect.

     And so, here I go  -  me and a dozen thousand other people  -  trying to explain a joke that we would do better to learn to better tell. I am setting out to explain again why Jesus is the only true hope for the world, why we should put our faith in Him and what all of that won't mean. I am collecting the information, selecting from what I hope will be usable as evidence, arranging my findings into arguments, framing it for presentation and recognizing that, while it may all be fine as far as it goes, it doesn't go far enough.
     But then I remember two things. The first thing I remember is how I once won an argument with a heathen friend of mine who  -  after I had whacked away his last scrap of defense, after I had successfully cut off every possible escape route that he could use, after I had backed him into an inescapable corner and hit him with a great inarguable truth  -  blew me away by simply saying, "I do not want to be Christian. I don't want your Jesus Christ." There was no argument left to be had or won. Faith is a matter of the will as much as it is of the intellect. I wanted to believe in Jesus. My friend wanted to believe in himself. In spite of how convincing my reason was, my reason was not compelling.
     So, the second thing I remember is this: I am a Christian because I have seen the love of God lived out in the lives of people who know Him. The Word has become flesh and I have encountered God in the people who have manifested (in many "unreasonable" ways) His Presence; a Presence that is more than convincing  -  it is a Presence that is compelling. I am a Christian, not because someone explained the nuts and bolts of Christianity to me, but because there were people who were willing to be nuts and bolts, who through their explanation of it, held it together so that I could experience it and be compelled by it to obey. "If I be lifted up," Jesus said, "I will draw all men unto me."
     So, here I offer what is possibly the worst thing that can be offered: an explanation of a joke. And, what makes this more inexcusable than the fact that this is that, is the added fact that this is an explanation to a joke you've already gotten. I offer it anyway. I offer it in the hope that it might somehow encourage you to live out your lives and, by your living, tell the joke that I, in my writing, so feebly attempt to explain. Love one another, forgive one another, work as unto God, let the peace of Christ reign in your hearts. Make it your ambition to lead quiet lives. Obey. Greet one another with a holy kiss. No one will argue with that.
     And I will keep rattling on about how good it all is and won't expect to be taken too seriously. I and a dozen thousand other bores will fill up book shelves and record bins and magazine racks with writing that is fine as far as it goes  -  hoping that it will help you somehow to go farther. Much that I have read has challenged my opinion and hardened my convictions  -  I am thankful for it. It is for you (and for me, more in my living than in my writing) to let our light so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...In the words of Meredith Wilson (The Music Man), "You can talk, you can talk, you can bicker, you can talk, you can bicker, bicker, bicker..." but it is by living out the truth of the Gospel with a transformed life that those around you will come to know Jesus.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Apparently, It's Not Easy Being Gray

Oh, the needless anxiety we heap upon ourselves.

Allow me to use a recent Sunday comic from Sandra Bell Lundy's Between Friends as an example.

Regular character, Susan, is in the grocery store and sees a stranger with gray hair. Of course, Susan starts comparing herself to the stranger and ends up feeling inferior.

Little does Susan know what's going on in the stranger's mind.

Truth is...Comparing ourselves to our idealized assumptions about other people often has negative results for everybody involved. Be yourself, as God created you to be. That's beYOUtiful enough.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Thoughts and Prayers???

If you've been around Truth is... for a while, you know I try to keep things positive as much as possible.

Today, it might be a struggle to live up to that precedent, but I'll give it a shot.

Most-notably with the recent weather-related emergencies in Texas, but also widespread across the social media landscape, there have been uncountable uses of variations on the theme "Our thoughts and prayers are with you."

  • We're thinking of you!
  • We would appreciate any positive thoughts you could send our way.
  • Our thoughts and prayers go out for...

Let's look at each of these specific examples:

We're thinking of you  -  This seems to be a non-religious synonym for "We're praying for you"...meant to be an encouragement to the person hearing it. But why would it be an encouragement? If we don't believe in the power of prayer to affect change, what possible use would it be to think about a person and their negative situation? Wouldn't it be better to say "You've crossed my mind and I'm on my way over"?

We would appreciate any positive thoughts you could send our way  -  Apparently, the speaker isn't comfortable asking for prayers, but has faith that people thinking positive thoughts about them will be of some use. And if "positive thoughts" is politically-correct code for "prayers", why send them toward anyone other than God?

Our thoughts and prayers go out for...  -  I really don't get this. If I'm going to pray for someone, I'm going to pray for them: ask the Lord of all creation to intervene on their behalf. How does additionally sending "thoughts" into the ether have any bearing on what may or may not happen?

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...for Christ followers, prayers are powerful tools for making the world a better place. For non-believers, who think that prayers are nothing more than wishful thinking, wishful thinking is all they can offer. And for both groups, linking those thoughts or prayers to actual involvement where the rubber meets the road is the best of both worlds. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Pastoral Potpourri from Rich Mullins

I admit I probably quote the songs of Rich Mullins and just generally refer to Rich far too often, but I refuse to apologize for bringing to folks' attention gems like this...

Truth is...even without being able to hear the questions, there are plenty of sound bites of wisdom in the answers Rich gives in these 11 minutes. Listen closely to what God brings to your attention today. Favorite quote: "If God wants you to go to Egypt, he will provide you with 11 jealous brothers who will sell you into slavery."

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Beautiful Outlaw

Do you find it hard to believe Jesus loves you?
Do you feel like you are always disappointing him?
Is he mad at you? Ignoring you?
Does Jesus seem like a hard man who wants you to work harder?
Does he seem distant  -  loving, sure, but disengaged?

I was recently confronted with these questions while reading the book by John Eldredge, Beautiful Outlaw.

I say confronted, but truth is...they weren't really that personally challenging, except for that last one. Yeah, I knew that Jesus loves me...enough to die for...but with age comes a level of familiarity with that thought that borders on complacency.

And then you read a book like Beautiful Outlaw and get reacquainted with the personality of Jesus. All the layers of super-serious religiosity get stripped away and you see a real person with real feelings and even a sense of humor:

Does Jesus have a sense of humor? Well, he created laughter.

     And think of the crowd he dined with. These rabble-rousers quickly earned Jesus a reputation as a drunkard and a glutton, and it wasn't because they served water and crackers. This was a wild group, and surely such a crowd got rolling in laughter from time to time, if only from the joy they were experiencing being with Jesus. Now, surely the creator of these colorful characters didn't sit there frowning, looking pious, Mr. Killjoy, Mr. I'm-Above-All-This. Imagine his own happiness at having these very lost sheep back at his side.
     But the religious tight-shorts didn't like it one bit. They constantly griped about it.
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Truth is...the more I can relate to Jesus on a human level, the more gloriously divine he is revealed to be; the closer I feel to him; the more I can celebrate how he loves me and saves me and supplies me with joy.

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To see a little-over-three-minutes-long trailer of the book Beautiful Outlaw, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Truth from an Elephant

A trip to Walt Disney World can be a lot of fun...and exhausting.

Max Lucado, however, learned something about human nature and has passed the lesson on to us in his book, In the Grip of Grace.

One of the most popular attractions at Disney World is the Jungle Cruise. People will spend forty-five minutes waiting in the Florida heat for the chance to board the boat and wind through snake-infested forests. They come for the thrills. You never know when a native will jump out of the trees or a crocodile will peek out of the water. The waterfalls drench you, the rainbow inspires you, and the baby elephants playing in the water amuse you.

It's quite a trip  -  the first few times. But after four or five runs down the river, it begins to lose its zest. I should know. During the three years I lived in Miami, Florida, I made nearly twenty trips to Orlando. I was single and owned a van and was a sucker for anybody who wanted to spend a day at the Magic Kingdom. By the eighth or ninth trip I could tell you the names of the guides and the jokes they told.

A couple of times I actually dozed off on the journey. The trail had lost its secrets. Ever wonder why people sleep in on Sunday mornings (whether in the bed or in the sanctuary)? Now you know. They've seen it all. Why get excited? They know it all. There is nothing sacred. The holy becomes the humdrum. Rather than dashing into life-like kids to the park, we doze through our days like commuters on a train.

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Truth is...Lucado makes a sad-but-true observation from his experience at The Happiest Place On Earth: "Ironically, the more we know, the less we worship. We are more impressed with our discovery of the light switch than with the one who invented electricity."

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Calling Out Your Name

We are quickly approaching the twenty-year mark...twenty years since the untimely death of singer-songwriter-ragamuffin Rich Mullins. And yes, I've done more than my fair share of posting thoughts from him and about him. (Feel free to explore those by clicking here.) Today, how about just letting him lead us into worship? How about a musical meditation on Psalm 19:1-6 entitled Calling Out Your Name?

Well the moon moved past Nebraska 
And spilled laughter on them cold Dakota Hills 
And angels danced on Jacob's stairs 
Yeah, they danced on Jacob's stairs 
There is this silence in the Badlands 
And over Kansas the whole universe was stilled 
By the whisper of a prayer 
The whisper of a prayer 

And the single hawk bursts into flight 

And in the east the whole horizon is in flames 
I feel thunder in the sky 
I see the sky about to rain 
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name 

I can feel the earth tremble 

Beneath the rumbling of the buffalo hooves 
And the fury in the pheasant's wings 
And there's fury in a pheasant's wings 
It tells me the Lord is in His temple 
And there is still a faith that can make the mountains move 
And a love that can make the heavens ring 
And I've seen love make heaven ring 

Where the sacred rivers meet 

Beneath the shadow of the Keeper of the plains 
I feel thunder in the sky 
I see the sky about to rain 
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name 

From the place where morning gathers 

You can look sometimes forever 'til you see 
What time may never know 
What time may never know 
How the Lord takes by its corners this old world 
And shakes us forward and shakes us free 
To run wild with the hope 
To run wild with the hope 

The hope that this thirst will not last long 

That it will soon drown in the song not sung in vain 
And I feel thunder in the sky 
I see the sky about to rain 
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name 

And I know this thirst will not last long 

That it will soon drown in the song not sung in vain 
I feel thunder in the sky 
I see the sky about to rain 
And with the prairies I am calling out Your name
Words/Music by Rich Mullins ©1991 BMG Songs, Inc.

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Truth is...The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
    In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth. (Psalm 19:1-6 NIV)