Monthly Archives: May 2020

While We Were Looking Elsewhere

Such things need to be considered, of course, but Covid-19 cannot be all that we think about. There are other things going on. Tomorrow, I will officiate a service for a family who lost their loved one. It will be the fourth such service in two weeks, including one for a good friend and co-worker. None of them had the coronavirus. Life (and death) goes on, even in a pandemic.

If the pandemic (and the politics that circle around it like turbulence around a hurricane’s eye) is all we can think about, we will miss out on life. We will miss out on the good God is always doing, even in the storm. We may also fail to avoid the bad things that happen independent of the virus.

A few years ago, some Hollywood director must have realized the impact a collision scene – particularly one viewers did not see coming – would have on an audience. Since then, one director after another has used the unforeseen T-Bone collision for its shock value. I wonder, as we stare down the road the pandemic is taking, if we are on such a collision course with the unseen. Continue reading

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How to Handle Pressure (part 1)

Has the pressure has been getting to you lately? Career, financial decisions, leadership responsibilities, a spiritual life to nurture – how are you supposed to stay on top of all that? You feel like the proverbial camel with the badly strained back: one more straw and you know what is going to happen. You are in over your head, and you cannot even tread water because you are holding onto too many important things. So what can you do?

I think we can learn from Saint Paul, who should be the patron saint of the distraught, the overworked and the undervalued. The man faced more pressure per square inch than any of us are likely to, and he survived – well actually he didn’t, but that is another story, and it wasn’t the pressure that killed him. We can learn a few things about handling pressure from Paul. Continue reading

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Enduring Hardship Well: 5 Things to Do and 5 Things NOT to Do

The danger in hardship is (verse 3) that “you will … grow weary and lose heart.” Another way of putting that, which is faithful to the Greek text, is: “lest you become soul-sick and fall apart.”

Falling apart is the danger. There are five things we need to know to avoid it. 1) We need to know that hardship is inescapable. We will go through it – everyone does. Even Jesus the Son of God did.

2) We need to know that, while we don’t have a choice about whether we will go through hardship, we do have a choice about how we will go through hardship. (The how is what we are looking at today.)

3) We need to know that God knows. He knows what’s out there ahead of us and he knows what’s in here inside of us. He knows what we can handle (better than we do) and will keep us from any trial that we cannot, with his help, handle.

4) God will not waste our suffering. It will only be wasted if we waste it. He will use it to change us for the better and enable us to share in his holiness. Holiness is the state in which people flourish.

5) And this is a summary of all the rest: God intends to bring good to us through hardship, whatever it may be. That does not mean that hardship is good. It means that God is. So good, in fact, that nothing can prevent him from bringing good to his people.

When we know these five things, we are ready to do the five things that keep us from falling apart and avoid doing the five things that contribute to falling apart.

The first thing to do, which comes from verse 2, is to look at Jesus. If you want to know how to do a thing, find someone who has done it. If you want to replace the O2 sensor on your Ford F-150, get on YouTube and watch the professional at 1A Auto; don’t watch me. He’s done it. He knows how. Jesus knows how to endure hardship. He’s done it. Watch him. Continue reading

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AKA Jane Roe: The Norma McCorvey Story

FX Networks (a Walt Disney Company) is about to release the documentary AKA Jane Roe, the story of Norma McCorvey, the woman whose challenge of Texas law led to the 1973 U.S. Court ruling that struck down many state and federal abortion laws.

Ms. McCorvey was 21, unmarried, and pregnant for the third time when she was referred to lawyers Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, who were looking for a way to challenge and overturn Texas’s abortion laws. That was in 1969. Long before the case reached the Supreme Court, McCorvey’s baby had been born and given up for adoption.

In the mid-1990s, McCorvey made a very public conversion to Christianity, was baptized in a nationally televised event, left her job at an abortion clinic, and became a very public anti-abortion advocate. She published a book in 1998, recounting her conversion, and continued protesting abortion for more than two decades.

A few months before her death, however, she made another highly publicized, filmed for television “deathbed confession,” as she called it, saying that her anti-abortion advocacy was all an act. She said she was paid handsomely (FX puts is around $500,000) to say the things she had said and claimed it made no difference to her whether “a young woman wants to have an abortion.”

Ms. McCorvey went on to say proudly that she was “a good actress,” then added, “Of course, I am not acting now.” But who knows? She had played the actress so frequently in her life, it is possible she could no longer tell whether she was acting or not. Continue reading

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How to Get Through Tough Times: 5 Things You Need to Know

A farmer once told me he doesn’t like to get much rain in the weeks after planting because the corn won’t need to send its roots deep to get nourishment. If there is enough moisture near the surface, the plants will root near the surface. Later, when the hot days of July and August dry out the ground, there won’t be enough moisture for the plants to flourish, and yield will be down.

People are like that. It may seem counter-intuitive, but no one flourishes without a fight. That is true both of families and individuals. Flourishing doesn’t happen in the absence of sustained effort; it happens because of it – if people go through it well.

Individuals and families that don’t endure difficulty in healthy ways don’t flourish. They may look impressive on the outside, like a nine-foot cornstalk but, like that cornstalk, they will bring little good into God’s world.

Parents want their kids’ lives to flourish but they also want their kids’ lives to be easy; want success to be right at the surface. They want their kids to have sports’ triumphs, academic honors, and scores of friends. But if life is always easy, those kids won’t root deeply and they won’t flourish. Continue reading

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Give Me Chapter and Verse: A Brief History

My wife and I went to Turkey a few years ago on a tour of the seven ancient cities mentioned in chapters two and three of the Book of Revelation. In many of the places we traveled, we saw engravings dating back nearly two millennium and written in Greek. Since I know some Koine Greek, I was eager to read these signs.

It was more difficult than I expected, partly because the Greek sometimes differed from the Koine I know, but largely because (as I anticipated) the Greek letters were all capitals and there was no spacing between words. Students of biblical Greek usually learn the language as it is printed today, with lower-case letters and with spaces between words and sentences.

Try reading the following well-known Bible verse in English: JUDGENOTLESTYOUBEJUDGED. You were probably able to read this and may recognize it as something spoken by Jesus and recorded in Matthew’s Gospel. But imagine what work it would be to locate and read a particular passage if the entire Bible ran together like this.

We take our Bibles for granted, but navigating the text was not always as easy as it is now. Translating the original language into English was, of course, an enormous task, but even after it was translated, and word spacing was introduced, and upper and lower cases were used, it was still much more difficult to find a text than it is today. That is because the books of the Bible were not divided into chapters for more than a millennium or into verses for more than 1500 years. Continue reading

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A Life That Means Something (MS.)

I just want my life to mean something. Ever feel like that? People usually young adults who are just setting out but sometimes middle-aged adults who feel like they have been missing out – have said that kind of thing to me.

I’ve watched as they try to give their life meaning through their experiences, as if having a meaningful experience would make them meaningful. They volunteer at a food pantry, or go on a mission trip, or enroll in Teach for America. Other people try to add something exciting to life, like jumping out of an airplane (for example). And some take on strenuous, test-your-limits pursuits – they join the Marine Corps or go in for an extreme fitness regimen.

Then they wait for meaning to come pouring into their lives. It’s as if they think of their life as an empty vessel which, when they tap into the right thing, will be filled with meaning.

From my observations, the person who says, “I want my life to mean something” is proceeding from a false position; a wrong assumption. His or her life already means something. Everyone’s life means something because God meant them – he made them for a purpose. But that meaning is, at least in part, a significant– sign-ificant – meaning; the kind of meaning a sign possesses. Continue reading

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A Life That Means Something: Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Join Lockwood Community Church’s May 10th service, premiering at 11:00, at this link: https://youtu.be/GqIfTXx03no Today’s message, from Deuteronomy, helps us understand the kind of life God wants for his children – a life that matter; a flourishing life. The manuscript … Continue reading

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So Much for June Cleaver: Mother’s Day 2020

I once thought of Mother’s Day as an innocuous, greeting card kind of holiday. Who wouldn’t want to celebrate moms? Just the fact that she went through labor giving birth to us is cause enough to say thanks. She fed us countless meals, clothed us, put cold washcloths on our foreheads when we had a fever, and laid awake at night when we were out late as teenagers. Everybody ought to celebrate moms.

Then I got to know people – not one but many – who had a mom that did not always see that they were fed, whose five-year-old had to pick out her own clothes and get her own breakfast. Moms who either were not home to put cold washcloths on foreheads or were not sober. Moms who didn’t give their teenagers a thought, except when they were angry.

Then there are the women who ached to be a mom but were not able. Mother’s Day is an annual reminder of what they were denied. Not everyone wants to celebrate moms.

Even moms might not feel like celebrating Mother’s Day. If celebrating requires energy, mom may need to decline. Energy, like bandwidth, is in limited supply. If mom uses too much, she may start buffering and then freeze up altogether. Continue reading

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The logical – and theological – problem with Red Letter Christians

ABC published this article by Joel Looper on May 5th. It is thought-provoking and I wanted to share it with you. https://www.abc.net.au/religion/joel-looper-the-logical-and-theological-problem-with-red-letter/12215602 Joel Looper (PhD from University of Aberdeen) is the author of the forthcoming book, A Protestantism without Reformation: … Continue reading

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