Alligators Have Big Mouths but Short Arms

LonI just came across an interesting statistic.  Of the people who voted for Donald Trump in 2016, the percentage who regret their vote today is a whopping 3%.  And of the people who voted for Hillary Clinton in that same election, the percentage who regret their vote is…3%.  What does that tell you?

  1. If the election were held again today it would have the same result, except for 3% on each side changing sides.  And all the people who were shocked then would be shocked all over again.
  2. It also means our country seems hopelessly divided.  Historically, we have been there before, but the division right now is huge.  And it’s seemingly over any and every issue.  The differences among us reflect that it is not about the issues, but about totally different ways of seeing things – everything.

It’s as if the two sides are speaking different languages and not only are people not listening, we don’t even understand the language of “those people.”  And no one seems to be putting in the necessary effort to learn the other’s language.  We go to opposite sources for our information, listening only to talking heads with whom we already agree.

To be honest, it’s been ages, if ever, since the concept of “reaching across the aisle” has been used for the good of our nation rather than for political gain.  Reaching across the aisle is a nice idea, but it seems most everybody has alligator arms - too short to reach beyond ourselves.

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"Come and Rest A While"

“And He said to them, ‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’  For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.”  (Mark 6:31)

During the next 24 hours, your heart will beat 103,000 times, your blood will travel about 168,000,000 miles, you will breathe 23,000 times, inhale 480 cubic feet of air, eat 3.5 pounds of food, speak 4,800 words (more for women/less for men), move 750 muscles, and exercise 7,000,000 brain cells.  Whew!  No wonder we feel so tired!  We are constantly going, even if we think we've not gone anywhere.  We are the only nation with a mountain called Rushmore (go ahead and smile).  Our tombstones might read: “Hurried/Worried/Buried.”  We have all kinds of technology to make our lives easier, but how’s that working out for you?

Last week Pat and I went on vacation for an entire week.  Even though I’m glad to be home, I liked the time off, thank you.  I think it’s a great idea to unplug everything from time to time.  If we can reboot our computers and phones, why not our calendars?  That is the principle God gave us with the Sabbath.  It is not a legalistic day we have to observe, but it is a good time to simply focus on the Lord.  I do believe God will honor the Sabbath in our lives if we will honor it.

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Grace is Good!

This is what I learned in Vacation Bible School.  Grace is Good!

“That’s in the Bible, isn’t it?”  An interesting question asked by one of the kids at VBS.

“Yes, it is in the Bible, John 3:16.  ‘God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son so that anyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’”

Then, in the midst of the chaos we call VBS, the little girl asked the most important question I’ve been asked in 26 years of ministry, “Is it true?”

Simple and to the point, it was as if my answer really mattered to her.  I could have said, “Of course it’s true, child!  Why else would I be here with you and all this chaos, eating room temperature food, making colored stick-em crosses, and thinking I really hope when I get to heaven I will have been right in knowing there must be a better reason to shush in the sanctuary than to be noisy."

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Jesus and Release

Musings after spending two out of the past three weekends on Great Banquet prison teams:

"When He came to the village of Nazareth, His boyhood home, Jesus went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures.  The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to Him.  He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:

'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has annointed me to bring Good News to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see. that the opressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord's favor has come.'  He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down.  All eyes in the synagogue looked at Him intently.  Then He began to speak to them.  'The Scripture you've just heard has been fulfilled this very day!'"  (Luke 4:16-21)

So, from the very beginning of His ministry, here is Jesus' agenda.  I'm guessing you could have heard a pin drop.  He was declaring Himself to be the One the prophets spoke of, but also reminded the people of the Savior's purpose in coming.  His agenda in part was to deal with very real physical issues (the poor, the blind, the opressed).  But, beyond that, Jesus' agenda would include the poor in spirit, the spiritually blind, and the spiritually opressed.

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Everybody Wants to be Somebody

“I always wished I would grow up to be somebody.  Maybe I should have been a little more specific.”  Lily Tomlin

Everybody wants to be somebody, but how do we know who that somebody is?  The influences of the world are happy to answer that for us…and then sell us what we need to make it happen.  No mystery at all, according to the modern western world – your identity is almost always determined by what you look like, what you do, what you have, and/or who you know.  And every time we buy into this value system, our life is a bit more focused on “I have to have…,” “I ought to…,” and “How do I get people to like me?”  To the degree we play their game, it becomes a cycle that can only give temporary results.  It really is too bad, when you think about it.

Jesus has offered us a much better option.  Rather than basing our identity on what we have, how we perform, or the people we know, Jesus has called us into the mystery of the ages – that we might experience the terrific realization that our true identity is only found in Him (not in ourselves).  Remember Paul’s description of this powerful mystery?  “To them (believers in Christ), God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is, Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

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The Resurrection of Relationships

“Your dead will live; their corpses will rise.  You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy!”  (Isaiah 26:19)

"Angels called out to the women, 'Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; He has risen!'”  (Luke 24:5-6)  Very much joyful news, but it must have caught the ladies off guard, don’t you think?  After all, they were there at Jesus’ tomb with burial spices to anoint the body of a Man they saw die.  From their experience, a dead person on Friday is not alive on Sunday.  But, here is what no one had ever experienced – dazzling angels keeping watch next to an empty tomb, telling them Jesus is alive.  By defeating death, Jesus is all about life.  But, it has to do with recognizing that real life, true life, rises above and over the things that we have only associated with death and dying.

As we celebrate Easter, have you considered what parts of your life God might want to resurrect – to give life to something that seems to be dying, or is already dead?  Maybe it’s strained family relationships.  Do you pray for the family member who has dissed you or just seems distant to you?  Are you willing to open your heart to start loving him or her the way God loves you?  “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  (1 Cor. 13:7)

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"But God"

During this season of Lent, as we wait again for Easter, it’s really difficult to not be dragged down by the ugliness and evil present in our world today.  I’m writing this a day after Valentine’s Day, a day set aside for showing and sharing love, right?  Maybe at one level, but it also is the day after the senseless murder of people who thought they were simply finishing their school day in Parkland, Florida.  Unfortunately, the exact opposite of showing and sharing love happened.  As I was going about the business of preparing for our Ash Wednesday worship, I heard the tragic news of another school shooting.  I was literally typing words that would be used as Rob and I would mark the church family’s foreheads, “Out of ashes, comes our salvation in Christ Jesus.”

As the lines came forward to receive the ashes in a form of a cross, and as each person heard those words that remind us of Christ’s purpose for dying and His promise of new life, the reality struck at a significant level.  What typically is a serious moment for each person as they receive the ashes, was last night for many a moment of grief and tears.  Less than four hours earlier, the lives of many were snuffed out in a way that placed evil at center stage – or so Satan would hope.

But God (what a wonderful phrase) reminded us all last night that the ugliness and evil present in our world today is not the last word.  Every person present last night heard of the reality of sin, and yet in the same sentence, heard the promise of God, “Out of ashes, comes our salvation in Christ Jesus.”

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