Author Archives: salooper57

The Good Shepherd, Part 2 (John 11)

We’ve got to learn to live backwards. That is, we need to learn to live out of our future and not just out of our past. Most people are driven by the unalterable past into an unknowable future, but Jesus’s people can be pulled into the future by the call of the knowable – though always more than comprehensible – God.
People who are driven by the unalterable past are frequently filled with regrets over former days and fears over future ones. They are haunted by would-haves, could-haves, and should-haves and threatened by might-be and could-be possibilities. Only people who learn from Jesus how to live out of the future can be fully alive in the present.
That future can be summed up in a word. No, it’s not “heaven”; it’s “resurrection.” Continue reading

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The Man Who Led the Attack on Pearl Harbor

December 7th is the anniversary of the 1941 Japanese surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in 1941, a day which, according President Roosevelt, would live in infamy.

My friend Hugh Hansel was an adolescent in 1941. He had gone fishing on a sunny Sunday in northwest Ohio and, when he returned home, he found the adults agitated and fearful. Over the next couple of years, Hugh watched older schoolmates go off to the war. He saw how they and their parents wept at their parting, and his young heart developed a deep hatred for the Japanese.

Fast forward to the next decade. Hugh had himself seen combat in Korea. After returning home, he and his wife Phyllis moved to Upland, Indiana, to attend Taylor University and pursue a degree in education. While he was there, it was announced that Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, the man who led the attack on Pearl Harbor, would be on campus to speak. Signs began going up around Upland, calling on people to boycott Fuchida’s speech.

But Hugh wanted to see the monster who had attacked an unsuspecting enemy. He was filled with hate toward the Japanese generally and toward Fuchida in particular. Yet, by the time Fuchida’s speech ended, he had experienced a complete change of mind. He waited for Fuchida, not to give him a piece of his mind but to shake his hand.

The story he heard Fuchida tell was remarkable. Continue reading

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I AM the Resurrection and the Life

I love books and libraries and bookstores – especially used book stores. I like the feel of uncoated paper against my fingertips and the smell of old leather covers that linger in the air.

I have been helped in my life as a disciple of Jesus more than I can say by books. A.W. Tozer was my guide, as was A. B. Simpson. The unknown author of The Cloud of Unknowing, William Law, Brother Lawrence, Julian of Norwich, F. B Meyer, Andrew Murray – how they all helped me. C. S. Lewis rose through the clouds like the sun after a storm. Chesterton, Kreeft, Williams, Willard, Foster, Wright – the names go on and on.

I have learned much from these people – my debt to them is too great ever to repay. But all those who have helped me most have helped by bringing me into an encounter with Jesus, not just an idea. Books and authors, as much as I treasure them, are not and can never be a substitute for Jesus. At their best, they lead to an encounter with the real Jesus is real life.

Real life – our real life, with all its joys and sorrows – is where we meet Jesus. It is where Martha and Mary met him – in the midst of the biggest crisis of their lives – when Jesus introduced himself as the Resurrection and the Life. Read John 11 to get ready and come prepared for an encounter with Jesus.
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Invited to the Dance of Grace

In 2018, MarketWatch reported that the average Christmas shopper racked up $1054 of debt. If that average shopper made minimum payments on his or her credit card, it would take approximately six years to retire their Christmas debt.
It seems, according to statistics reported in Investopedia, that experts expect the average American to spend more this Christmas than the average American expects to spend. This means that millions of American who are still trying to pay off debts from previous Christmases will once again be adding to their debt load.
The old adage, “You can’t spend what you don’t have,” turns out to be less than the whole truth. Unless our payments are late, card is maxed, or credit is revoked, we can spend what we don’t have – for a while.
Is credit extended in other areas of life? For example, can a piano student play beyond what she has practiced – can she play on credit? If she has put in 50 hours of practice, can she play with 200 hours of experience? Can she borrow on what she does not yet have?
What about in the spiritual realm? Can I spend compassion that I don’t have? What about wisdom? Discernment? Will I have endurance that I have not bought through the testing of faith in times of trial? Is there any credit extended in the spiritual realm or is it strictly pay as you go?
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I AM the Good Shepherd (Part 2)

In “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm Twenty-Three,” Philip Keller writes about his time as a shepherd in east Africa. The tract of land next to his was owned by an absentee landlord and run by a manager – a contract employee type – who was supposed to care for the sheep. But they were sickly, skinny (the land was overgrazed) and beset by predators. Keller says that those poor sheep would stand across the fence and just stare into his green pastures and at his healthy sheep. It was as if they hoped some good shepherd would free them from the abusive one with whom they were stuck. Continue reading

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How to Give God a Five-Star Review

Most of us know someone who has almost ceased being a complainer and is now not much more than a complaint. Every word from their lips, every look on their face, is tinged with resentment: People have let them down; life isn’t fair; the future is bleak. When such a person professes faith in God, people who know him or her can only assume that a life of faith is a bad investment.
The complaining believer is a zero-star review for God. The grateful person, on the other hand, gives God five stars. The person “overflowing with thankfulness,” as St. Paul describes it, is the best publicity there is for God. Thanksgiving advertises God. It overflows, as Paul says, “to the glory of God.”
Sincere believers who understand this might regret the complaining they’ve done and decide to be more grateful. But this is getting the cart before the proverbial horse. The place to start is not with what one must do but with what one must know. Grateful people know two fundamental truths about God… Continue reading

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I AM the Good Shepherd

It is wintertime and Jesus is walking in the historic Portico of Solomon on the east side of the temple courts. In an orchestrated effort, some of the Judean leaders and influencers encircle Jesus so he cannot slip away. They order him to tell them whether or not he is the Messiah. Jesus’s answer at first seems baffling. He responds: “I did tell you.” Is it possible that Jesus tells us things today and we miss what he is saying? Continue reading

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Obstacles to Faith and the Service They Perform

A doubting friend once said to me, “If God exists, why doesn’t he tell us plainly? Why doesn’t he write it across the sky for everyone to see?”
That question is based on an assumption that is patently false and, upon reflection, even silly: the assumption that God’s aspiration for humans – his end goal in creating them – is their assent to the fact that he exists. This is to woefully underestimate both God and humanity.
God’s objective is the creation of a race of great and good beings who can interact with him as they add to the love and blessedness of the universe. The biblical pictures of this – of humans reigning with Christ, crowned with glory, and filled with joy – is nothing short of spectacular. Once we have seen this, the idea that God’s big plan is merely to get people to believe he exists is laughable.
Still, the problem remains: why is belief in God so difficult? Why are there so many obstacles to faith in the awe-inspiring God and Father of Jesus? That there are obstacles is undeniable. The church has never said otherwise, and the biblical data confirm it. Included among the obstacles are: the presence of evil which, on the surface, seems to contradict the existence of a loving and good God; the lack of incontrovertible evidence; and the discrepancy between what those who claim to believe in God say and how they act.
On the one hand, it is difficult for us to understand why God would allow such obstacles. On the other hand, if the biblical God does exist, it must be assumed that the presence of such obstacles does not hinder his efforts in forming a glorious, joyful, and powerful humanity but rather advances it.
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The Best Defense…

Imagine growing up in a home that idolized the New York Yankees. You were born in 1950, and your earliest memories involve the Yankees: going to games, watching them on TV, trading baseball cards for great Yankees players: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra. Your Yogi card is even signed. Now your hoping to get your Mickey Mantle Card signed.

In your home, the Yankees are the subject of conversation every evening at dinner—and those conversations are full of anxiety. “In the good old days, we were the winners. Oh, when the Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig, was at the plate. Those were the golden years. Now, everyone is out to get us. The bullpen looks weak – don’t know about that Whitey Ford guy. Mickey is playing injured. And Roger Marris – he used to be a Cleveland Indian, and those Cleveland guys never amount to anything. This year will be bad. Things are going in the wrong direction for us.”

Of course, the Yankees won the World Series twelve times in the 23 years following Lou Gehrig’s retirement, including a five-year stint in which they won every series.

Sometime people talk about the church in the same way: “This year will be bad. Church people aren’t what they used to be. Things are going in the wrong direction for us.” But this is a distorted view, if ever there was one. Jesus’s church will not fail. The kingdom of God will win.
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I AM: The Door for the Sheep (Series: Allow Me to Introduce Myself)

I was speaking at a conference years ago. During the break a woman came up and introduced herself. She was a Christian who had married a reformed con man after he found Jesus and had been released on parole. It turned out, however, that he had not reformed, only revised his approach. He became a minister and started his own religious radio program in Northeastern Ohio. She told me that money was pouring in from listeners who were inspired by his spiritual cant. All the while, he was living a godless life, sleeping with his secretary, and laughing all the way to the bank. Continue reading

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