Hope is a "He"

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  John 14:6

“Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is so good, and by raising Jesus from death, He has given us new life and a hope that lives on.”  1 Peter 1:3

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in graveyards - the privilege of last words spoken before dirt is shoveled back into a hole, over a casket.  Sometimes it has been for folks I barely knew - a part of being the preacher from “that church” when someone who used to be a member there passes on.  Sometimes it has been for church members who have been closer than my own family members.  And, after more than a few years of being a preacher, I get to be “the family preacher” who has a part in burying his own.

A graveyard is a logical place to go looking for history – for the last day to finally be etched on stone.  There are not many stones that have to be re-etched because somebody died and then “did a Lazarus.”  Dates on tombstones rarely need to be changed.  A graveyard is a logical place to look for historical accuracy.

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"What, Me Worry?"

Just a couple weeks ago (in February) the temps were in the 70’s.  Earlier this week (in March) we barely made it above 20, and it snowed!  As the saying goes, “Who’d a thunk it?”  Oh yeah, I almost forgot.  God did think it!  And it did happen!  "For to the snow He says, 'Fall on the earth.'"  Job 37:6

Makes me wonder what other things we aren’t even thinking about that God has under total control

  • Worrying about the weather?
  • Worrying about your health?
  • Worrying about that old fridge that’s making noise?
  • Worrying about the kids/grandkids?
  • Worrying about the country?
  • Etc. Etc. Etc.

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Running Together

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”  [Hebrews 12:1-2]

One temptation I’ve noticed over the years is for us to assume that we are, by ourselves alone, responsible for all the content and the results of any pre-determined spiritual discipline we take on during the Lenten Season.  Do you know what I’m talking about?  If we can successfully give up chocolate or coffee or sodas or meat or alcohol or whatever it is we have promised God we would avoid, or on the other hand, if we can successfully read a chapter of the Bible a day or pray for ten minutes every morning or promise to be in church sometime before Easter…if we do or don’t do these things as we have planned them out, then, “Praise God!  We have had a successful Lent!  (Now pass the pork, please…)”

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A Tale of Two Perspectives

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness…”[Charles Dickens]

I’m writing this just a few days before the inauguration of a new president.  Seems like things haven’t been this crazy and divided since…well, our last inauguration.  For some, this is the best of times for our culture; for others, this is the worst of times.  Who knows?  In A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens also said, “…it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.”  Hmmm.

One thing I think we might safely agree on is that whatever the heck is happening, it feels like we are living in a post-Christian society.  This is not your parents’ or grandparents’ country anymore.  Billy Sunday and Billy Graham have had their day.  Christians, it seems, have had had their “fifteen minutes in the sun.”

If we have figured it out yet, we know it’s time for us to start living with Christ in our hearts, not just with our bumper fish, t-shirts, and ball caps.  Now we have to live like Christ, not just wear Christian jewelry and hang out with other Christians who do the same.

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This Old House

“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.”  [Ephesians 4:17]

Do you ever watch those home remodeling shows on TV?  A few of them start out as simply easy rehabs that turn into major (and expensive) remodels.  A lot of them, though, seem to focus on homes that people choose, then take on major renovations - walls knocked out, new flooring, expanded kitchens or baths.  In reality, the end result is a brand new home - no minor remodel, but a major renovation into something new and wonderful.

Too often, Christians consider their identity in Christ as a minor remodel - put your faith in Christ, take on a new moral here or there, and give up some habit contrary to our faith.  But for the most part, don’t get too crazy with that identity-in-Christ thing.  Surely we don’t have to go over the deep end with a complete turn-around in our lifestyle…Do we?

This minor remodel approach to Christianity falls far short of the biblical vision.  Maybe this new year might be a good opportunity to reflect on a passage in Ephesians that goes in depth as to what it means to think and live as a Christian.  (Yes, it involves more than a coat of paint or scented candles in the foyer.)

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Better Than a Submarine!

Do they still publish the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog?  Do you remember the outrageous gift selections for the very wealthy?  His-and-hers submarines, hot air balloons (not a ride, but the balloon itself), an Egyptian sarcophagus, even a trip to outer space…

Maybe these are not on the top of your list this year, but don’t we all have an expectation of hope that doesn’t go away with age?  If our hope is in Christmas, we most likely will be disappointed.  If our hope, though, is in Christ, this truly can be the “most wonderful time of the year.”

Wise men brought unusual gifts to Jesus at His birth.  Have you stopped to think, though, that the very first Christmas gift was not something for Jesus?  The first Christmas gift was Jesus Himself!  At its best, Christmas is a promise of something no holiday or earthly gifts can satisfy.  Galatians 4:4-5 says, “But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons (and daughters).”

What has God given us in the gift of Christ?  Isaiah 9:6 describes the gift better than any TV ad or newspaper circular…even better than anything Neiman Marcus could come up with:

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Each of these names for Jesus deals with an important area of our lives.  They are like five Christmas gifts we can open, and each is special and unusual!

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So Long Billy Goat Curse!

Well, the curse is over.  For a lifetime Cub fan, for all the memories this World Series and Game Seven held, it’s interesting that the emotional part for me focused on memories…

  • As a minor leaguer, I dreamed of playing with the heart and ability of Ernie Banks.
  • As a Pony and Colt League player, I wanted to play with Ron Santo’s enthusiasm.
  • As a Legion team all-star, I heard Jack Brickhouse’s chants as I rounded third base in a homerun trot.

I grew up in daily friendly arguments with Shotgun and Sis, the old couple (in their 60s) across the street who lived and breathed for the St. Louis Cardinals.  Some of my best memories of being 9 or 10 included the daily paper route stop at Swannie’s Tap, where I would spend my tip money on Slim Jim’s, pickled eggs, fresh jerky, and peanuts dumped in an Orange Crush, where I heard the “old farts” arguing about Fergie Jenkins being better than Bob Gibson.  I never argued with them, knowing my place and knowing how intelligent they were.  Most of my coaches spent a lot of time at Swannie’s.  My experiences and best memories of baseball all involve being with folks, good folks who care and have a focus – especially a lifelong focus of winning.  So, as I watched last night’s clinching game with Pat and Mossy, it was even better because of the text dialog I was having for several hours with both our daughters, their husbands, our grandchildren, and friends from church.  A sense of community and a strong focus of that community is tough to beat.

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