Feb 14, 2023


  I’ve worn glasses since I was nine years old.  Before that ninth year, the world was a pretty distorted and blurry place.  However, I just thought that was the way the world looked.  So, I struggled in school, at sports, and in my general life activities. 

  But after I got my first pair of glasses, those corrective lenses changed everything.  I now saw the world much more clearly – including the chalk board at school, the baseballs I was trying to hit and catch, and the far horizons of my surroundings.  Indeed, life dramatically changed for the better.  And, that change, changed me.

 My new clarity gave life a completely different quality and feel.  Things which had seemed so very threatening and frustrating to me (like fast moving baseballs) suddenly became completely nonthreatening and very doable.

 Since those younger days, I have discovered, on a whole new level, something about corrective lenses.  It is this.  Indeed, life’s quality very much revolves around the “corrective life-lenses” we employ to view life’s circumstances. 

 Obviously, life is what it is.  And, like it or not, its issues and circumstances are very often distorted and hard to make out.  And, so we employ psychological life-lenses to help us better navigate those challenges.

 And, sometimes these really improve our ability to manage life, and sometimes - not so much.  It all depends on the underlying prescription of those lenses. 

 For example, there are many self-serving folks out there, most of whom seem to belong to the Marx family, who are trying to clarify the means to a racially, economically, and politically divided America.  So they wear, and advocate for all, the life-lens of Hatefulness

  But, the rest of us, who have not yet gone clinically insane, understand that this is a really bad prescription.  Tragically, it has already been tried in many nations around the world - always with consistently horrific results. All this lens of hatefulness ever really does is bring life to a deep shade of blood red. 

  But there is another corrective life-lens which creates a truly improved vision of life in America – and everywhere else for that matter.  And, this is its underlying prescription:  A very personalized willingness to embrace a deep sense of gentle responsibility for the well-being and enduring joy of others.

 This is the life-lens which, instead of magnifying societal tensions, causes us to see through them, to discover and experience truly durable solutions - together.  This is the prescription of the infinitely nobler life-lens of Brotherly Love

 And, it always begs this divine question.  Will you just love those who love you?  If your answer is "yes," you've put on the wrong glasses.  You should immediately return them to the Marx family.


Nov 28, 2021

The Clue In The Weeds

When it comes to mysteries, most people are very susceptible to their charms.  There’s just something about a “Da Vinci Code” or a hidden “National Treasure” which prompts a buy-in of the mind. 

 So, we follow the clues through all of the twists and turns of some dubious trail.  Until finally, we are able to discover that all-consuming object of our quest – that mysterious secret or that hidden thing.  And hopefully, with that discovery, there comes a closure which is so deeply satisfying as to easily justify all of our investment.

 In fact, it was God who put this proclivity for solving mysteries within us in the first place.  And, then He very graciously dropped little divine “bread crumbs” in  the natural world to help confirm the true path to the greatest prize of all – unending life.

 One such bread crumb is the well-known life cycle of the caterpillar as he goes from being a short legged, hairy little worm to become a magnificent butterfly.  That transformative journey is, in fact, a natural doppelganger for mankind’s infinitely more important metaphysical translation to immortality in Christ. 

 Scientist describe the caterpillar’s journey as a “complete metamorphosis.”  In simple terms, this means that the caterpillar’s mature stage is completely different in structure and appearance from its beginning stage. 

 A cricket or a grasshopper, on the other hand, only experiences what biologist refer to as an “incomplete metamorphosis.”  Unlike the butterfly, these insects are, at their end, essentially what they were at the beginning of their life cycle, only larger and with wings.

 So, the butterfly is the real analogy for the faith life cycle.  This clue, left to us among the weeds and flowers of the insect world, perfectly mimics the following description of man’s redemption from the New Testament.  There it says,“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  

 How could such a statement possibly be honestly interpreted in any other way than to be describing the believer’s “complete metamorphosis?”  So, like that of the caterpillar, the journey of the believer moves him forward from his beginning place as a stubbornly self-directed creature toward his own truly transformational cocoon.

 But this metaphysical cocoon forms its structure, not from strands of silk, but from the strands of time – an actual period of intense personal devotion in the pursuit of God and His purposes.  And during this period something happens.  It is an indispensable and pivotal event which does, indeed, change everything.  It is this time of intense devotion which brings the believer to the pivotal event of his metaphysical merger with the character essence of the Living Christ.

 And, through this mystical character integration, the believer’s value system is then overwritten with the divine values, so that they become completely internalizes as his very own.  And his puny faith is strengthened by this new connection to the vibrant faith of the Living Christ enabling a very consistent faith-expressiveness in the believer through both good times and troubled. 

 So now, this entirely new creature emerges from this transformative “cocoon time,” a mature new being that looks nothing like he did at first, and, indeed, is nothing like he was at first.  Now he is marked by this beautiful, Christ sustained heart-oneness with his Creator based in their shared value system.  And, he is fully capable of expressing those values as  consistent faith responses in both his relationship to God and in response to life’s various circumstances. 

 And, as a result of this Christ-empowered newness, he can now enjoy a fulfilled life in the surpassing peace of this loving and thoroughly sustaining symbiotic relationship with the Living God.  The earthly “worm” has now truly become the metaphysical “butterfly” which will live forever – just as God intended and prescribed for us through the redemptive work of Christ.

It is very sad, however, that this true nature of the faith life cycle does not square at all with the prevailing redemptive ideas of these more modern times.  These times have largely invested themselves in the bogus belief that “a believer’s minimal investment” is a perfectly legitimate approach the redemption of his soul.  Indeed, it is this misconception which keeps so many in the modern Church from actually experiencing this complete metaphysical metamorphosis in the Living Christ – which God’s authentic redemptive plan enables and requires.

 Truly, it is the idea of a maximum investment, not a minimum one, which really squares with the writings of the New Testament and these timeless words from our beginnings.  “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”  And, it is only a complete metamorphosis, and not an incomplete one, which satisfies that divine redemptive requirement of a thorough newness of heart in the Living Christ.

 Thus, this wondrous path of a profound personal transformation is the true path leading to that ultimate prize of unending life. And this is ever confirmed to be so by all of those divine “bread crumbs,” so kindly dropped in the natural world to mark it. 

Apr 22, 2020

The Happy Stump

It was that voice again.  Only this time it was whispering to me.  “If you build it, they will come.  If you build it, they will come.”  

“Who’s coming?” I thought.  “Maybe I don’t want them to come.” 

Then the voice said something completely unexpected.  It said, “Your seven grandsons, dummy.”  

So, I immediately set to work.  And now, I spend my days watching the driveway, waiting, and anticipating the coming good times of summer. 

I know The Happy Stump is kind of ugly.  But, it’s “elevated.”  And, it has steps.  And boys are not really into “pretty” anyway, when it comes to such things.  They’re much more about climbing, and jumping off, and new and exciting perspectives on the world, and “how can I make it even better.” 

The voice is right.  If I know my guys, and I do, they're coming.  And I’m certain – it won’t be ugly to them. It will be a hoot! – well, for the first fifteen minutes.
Summer version of the Happy Stump

The Back Story 

The Happy Stump actually started life as The Happy Shrub.  More than 40 years ago, it was just an innocent little Red Top Photinia.  But, over the years, it grew, and grew, and grew.  In the process it survived a lightning strike and a chronic susceptibility to a kind of Black Spot Mold which can never really be cured, only treated - if you are inclined to chronically do so.

That's where I entered the picture.  I encountered that vastly overgrown shrub (left side of the picture) about 12 years ago.  It was shedding leaves like crazy due to the mold.  So, I decided to help what was now a 40+ year old tree, I think out of a simple respect for its sheer tenacity and durability.  You hate to give up on something (or someone) who hasn’t given up on themselves. 

So, I began to gradually and slightly trim the tree to a more manageable size so I could more adequately treat its chronic mold problem.  Over time, the trimming started to change the look (and feel) of the tree.  It became a truly pleasurable thing to look at.  Its large circumference canopy and the several skinny trunks beneath, which supported that canopy, caused it to roughly take on the look of a big mushroom sporting a flat-top haircut.

It was at this point, maybe three years after we met, that this unique “tree” started to become “The Happy Tree.”  Every hot Summer in South Arkansas it provided our family with a huge circle of welcome shade.  In that summer shade, we laughed together, and ate hamburgers and homemade ice cream.  We drank cold Cokes, and told tall tales.  

We hung a rope swing from its limbs where my now older grandson’s learned to soar.  We decorated it for Christmas and July 4th.  And, it shaded the blow-up swimming pools on many hot days.  In short that tree wormed its way into our family’s heart – well, at least, into mine.

And, in all which it did for us, it did under the burden of its chronic illness.  Every Spring and Fall the Happy Tree and I would quietly doctor its ailment.  But, I could tell that with each season things were getting worse.  Limbs began to break and fall off for no visible reason.  And so, its appearance began to change again.  And this time, not for the better. 

This all eventually became like a long, slow and sad goodbye to a friend.  It seemed to enter its final stage a couple of years ago.  Until now, the tree has become what you see it in the pictures.  Not a single new leaf appeared this year.  Obviously, my old friend had finally succumbed.

So, my initial thought was to take it all the way down to the ground.  I planted a young Mimosa Tree to replace its needed shade – though never its revered sentimental contributions.   

But, on the day I went out to begin the work of taking down the rest of the tree, out of the blue, it occurred to me that maybe The Happy Tree was not done yet.  Maybe, at least for a few more years, it could become its own memorial.  And, maybe the old tree and my newer grandsons could make a few joyous memories of their own. 

So, I used what I already had on hand, lumber left over from previous jobs, an old pallet for the floor, some screws and nails, and a slightly tattered umbrella – and “The Happy Stump” was born.  

I know the Happy Stump won’t last long.  But, while it does, it will carry on the proud traditions of the tree it once was – a tradition of laughter and good times in the hearts of children and adults alike. 

I think all of this says something regarding how easily and deeply I can relate to the life cycle of The Happy Shrub, which became The Happy Tree, which became The Happy Stump.”  Perhaps I see something of myself, at 71 years, in that tree – but with one huge difference. 

I’m no tree.  I am a man, made extremely valuable by the love of God which is set upon me.  And though, like the tree, I, too, am in a long, slow, and chronic decline.  Yet ultimately, I will rise again and be forever alive and happier than ever in Jesus Christ.   Words entirely fail my emotions when I think of it!


Jul 4, 2019

The Mindset of Dr. Bull

Recently, I watched a TV episode of “Bull.” That’s the name of the show, not a disparaging description of TV programming.  

In this episode, the main character, Dr. Jason Bull, flippantly admitted to a priest that he knew full well that he (Bull) was going to Hell.  I’ve also heard this same flippancy employed by other people - as if Hell is "no big deal." 

But, think about it.  If there is a Hell, it is actually the absolute biggest deal for human beings.

I suppose most who approach the subject of Hell in this careless way, must simply think that Christians have it wrong - that there is no such place as Hell.  Or perhaps, they think that Hell is not really as devastating as described.  In such cases, then, people don’t have to think so seriously about the divine judgement.   

But, if there is a Hell, surely that judgement moment then takes on infinitely more import.  Indeed, if Hell lies just beyond the moment of divine judgement, even the most flippant among us would quickly become completely terrified by their sudden realization that they had now arrived at this infamous "Moment of Too Late."

And, no doubt, with this awareness would come the most crushing fear. And many, if not all, would absolutely crumple under the weight of this instant and seismic shift in their perception of reality.  

And yet, if the Christians have it right, no amount of regret or tearful pleading can defer the next moment – the first moment of suffering in that place called Hell. And, after a thousand years have passed, if Christians have it right, that agony will still be exactly the same.  And, after ten thousand years have passed, still the suffering will not have abated in the least.  

And, even after a million years, still the Christian Bible teaches that life in Hell will always be as it always was. Thus, if there is a Hell, the pain of that place is one thing.  But, coupled to eternity, that pain becomes the most horrific thing which could possible befall the human soul. 

But, maybe the Christians do have it wrong.  These days, many seem to think so.  And I’m sure this conclusion has come only after a very intense and careful pursuit of the truth regarding humanity's larger existence.

So, I guess, for now, we’re merely left with that old adage, “Only time will tell.”  And certainly, we can all agree on at least that much.  Indeed, eventually, we will all know with absolute certainty whether Hell is a serious reality or a laughable fallacy.  

Nevertheless, it would seem that many have already made up their minds.  And, so they simply choose to dance flippantly on, in the mindset of Dr. Bull.

Jun 9, 2019

Warning: High Energy Area

Relationships are often very complicated animals.  Normally, if you are talking about a high maintenance relationship, we assume that to be a bad thing.  But, that really isn’t always true.  Sometimes it’s a very, very good thing.

For example, when I was chasing my wife through the dating stage, I was overjoyed to devote every spare moment I could find, to the upkeep of that pursuit.  It made my heart beat faster just to think about her (still does).  And, I happily devoted all of the extra energy generated by that elevated heart rate to getting to know her, besting the competition (and, there was some), and newly examining myself and my behavior through her eyes.

All of these relational activities and many more, though sometimes very challenging of heart, still, ultimately, just became blended and blurred into what seemed to me to be the most joyous thing in my young life.  And there was absolutely never any thought of these activities being “too challenging” or “too intrusive to my larger plan.”  Indeed, she was my larger plan.

A few years after my wife and I were married, I ran into another such high maintenance relationship with Jesus Christ.  And, it turned out to be the same kind of a deal.  This relationship with Christ also suddenly turn my world upside down, as everything started to be viewed through the lens of my relationship to Him.  

And, while that relationship also has been, sometimes, very challenging, it has never entered my mind that it is so challenging as to simply not be worth it.  Nor, have I ever thought of limiting how far I would go in this high maintenance relationship, or where I would let it take me, or how I would let it change me. 

And, why would I think such things?  Just as before with my wife, every aspect of this high energy pursuit of God’s friendship has now, also become blended and blurred into the most exciting and meaningful thing that I could imagine - joyfully impacting the whole spectrum of my life.

But sadly, the more modern Church seems now to be largely missing the excitement, beauty, and fulfillment of this high maintenance approach to the divine friendship.  Rather, now, in large numbers, we seem to prefer a much more balanced approach where God fits neatly into line somewhere between Facebook, family, friends, vocations, vacations, social obligations, and hobbies. 

The problem is, when it comes to relationship, God is never content to fit into our nicely balanced life line-up.  Contrary to the modern ethos, as He has always been, He is still a very high maintenance relational pursuit. 

But, indeed, this is a very good thing.  When it comes to God, we will only ever know this “with abandonment” kind of pursuit to be a bad thing if we insist on comfortable, neat, balanced, and limited in our relationship with Him.  God just doesn't do relationship that way.  So, we will never know a truly redemptive and deeply fulfilling relationship with Him if we insist on such a "low voltage" approach.

“And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” - Jesus

Mar 31, 2019

Little Life, Big Life

I have a small life which I thoroughly enjoy.  It involves buying groceries with my wife.  And, that usually involves going by our favorite donut shop to grab an apple fritter and sit and talk.  And, that stop typically involves looking at the latest new born pics of the couple who owns the shop.

I love to putter in my yard.  I enjoy building small kayak type boats.  And, I like taking my wife for dinner, after work - and breakfast on off days.  And, I love a thousand other things which don’t really amount to a hill of beans in the larger scheme of things.  But, all in all, it is a pleasant little life. 

However, I learned long ago that there has to be more than just my small, everyday little life, because “little” tends to become empty if it’s not connected to “big.”  And, I actually found the door to “big” some years back, too.  It is a vital, daily relationship with the living Jesus.  Since then, He has constantly challenged me to embrace the bigger life, a life that involves something larger than the present moment, my small surroundings, my health issues, and my little hobbies and happy times.

Rather, His guidance, and sometimes insistence, connects me to the larger life issues of character growth, and principled living, and the values and truth of my Creator, and the needs of my neighbors, and my society, and even my world.   So, I still enjoy and find meaning in my little life.  But, praise God, my little life has not made of me a little person, because He has connected me to the “big stuff” too. 

And, I’m convinced that God is big enough to provide this same blessing for a needy America which has now become so widely self-absorbed in the infinitely small issues of materialism and technology.  Those little things only truly contribute when there is a larger context of bigger issues, those involving character transformation and truly principled living.  And fortunately, there is a wonderful “app” for that.  It is called penitence and humility before God (faith). 

Mar 15, 2019

Haughty Naivete

When I was learning to fly, I can remember how complex and sophisticated that little 2 place Cessna 150 trainer seemed as I sat looking at all of the instruments, gauges, and switches.  But, later, as I graduated to the cavernous, 4 place Cessna 172, I was then embarrassed at how I had struggled with the child’s play of that first little plane.  Surely, this 172 was the be-all, end-all of the general aviation world.

And, indeed, that was true.  Well – it was true until I went to check out in a Piper 235 with retractable landing gear, a constant speed prop, an autopilot, and a GPS navigation system.  And then, I knew for sure that I had finally arrived at the ultimate aviation experience.  It could not possibly get any bigger or more sophisticated than this.  And, that was, indeed, true – until…

Since those early aviation object lessons, I have discovered that it is actually typical of human beings to experience life, itself, in the same way as I did those airplanes – and for precisely the same reason – our naivete.  In other words, wherever we are and whatever we’re doing today is as big and important as it gets.  Well – until tomorrow, when yesterday is again dwarfed by today’s new level of bigness and sophistication. 

So, in our brave new world, we have watched digital swallow analog.  We have seen computers morph into multiple forms and become progressively faster, more sophisticated, and bigger – even as they slide into ever smaller cases and drag us in after them.  And now, we stand in the very foyer of an AI World.  And, again we think, “Surely, this is it, life’s final form of “Big and Sophisticated.”  But, as always, it is not.

In fact, in the space of one very consequential moment and one note from the divine trumpet announcing the return of Jesus Christ to this world, our present “techno-craze” will be instantly exposed for the child’s play that it is.  Then – all naivete past – mankind will be confronted by what truly is enduring “Bigness and Sophistication” – ready or not.

Feb 13, 2019

Small Devils In Oversized Chairs

Some years ago, through my roles as a parent, a pastor, and occasionally, as a work place boss, I discovered that there are two ways to move people. You can oppress them; or, you can inspire them. 

Eventually, I began to notice the distinct differences between these two methods. I began to see that when I chose the former method, there were no lasting results and morale was always in the basement. 

Granted, oppression (or authoritarianism) is typically the shortest path to a given behavioral end. But it is also the most antagonistic, and thus, the most resented method. 

So, as soon as the autocratic “hammer” is subtracted from the picture, people simply revert to what they wanted to do or be in the first place. Thus, the use of oppression comes to this: “No present hammer, no present result.”

On the other hand, if you choose Inspiration to move people, though it usually is a longer and more draining way, this method of motivation actually changes the level of peoples aspirations. Thus, inspiration produces enduring motivation, even when the authority figure is subtracted from the picture. So, inspiration eventually comes to this: “No present hammer, no real problem.”

My deep regret is that I did not understand these differences and embrace the Inspirational Method of motivating people much earlier in my life. Had I done so, I could have been a much better parent and made the childhood of my older children a happier existence. 

And, I am convinced that I would have alienated fewer people (and truly changed more) in the churches that I pastored. And, I would have been a much more effective boss at work. But sadly, I was just too slow on the uptake.

So, I simply offer this to spare others the same mistake. Laugh! Laugh! Laugh! as often as you possible can with the people who look to you for direction. Real and worthy authority is never endangered by seasonal humor. It is only enhanced by it. 

Don’t take yourself and the minor issues so completely seriously. In spite of what you may think, you are not really that critical to the process. Life went successfully on, long before you directed it. And, it will take little note that you are missing when that day comes. So, get over yourself. 

And remember, the minor issues are just that. They are not the major issues, so quit turning them into such. Excuse everything you possibly can. The little stuff is just the day dust which gives everybody a mostly harmless way to remember the human frailty, learn from it, and grow beyond its present limitations. 

If perfection is your rigid demand, you better go ahead and drag out a tall stack of cryin’ towels – 'cause perfection ain’t happnin,’ Honey. Reasonable consistency is about the best you can hope for - and even that, only at the end of a long line of, “Oops.” 

So, you have a choice mom or dad, pastor, or Mr. VP, etc. You can choose to puff up, and rant and rave, and belittle and berate the people around you. Or, you can choose to inspire them by wielding your authority with laughter, and forgiveness, and wisdom, and the shared life tricks that you, yourself, have previously learned. 

Your choice. But, know this: the traffic on the shorter path never really varies. The "bosses" who travel that oppressive pathway, always just come off as really small devils in oversized chairs.

Dec 20, 2018

When Christmas Calls: A Back 40 Christmas Celebration!

On that first "Silent Night" so long ago, two worlds gently touched. The unseen Spiritual world of our Creator, bumped ever so tenderly against the one in which we live.  And, God reached out and laid a gift at our feet.

The gift was a harmless Child. And that Child had great purpose attached to His life. And He fulfilled that purpose with perfect devotion. 

But, to truly grasp the depth of the Christ Child's devotion,  we must understand the true length of His journey.  This baby came to our world from the place of His own unlimited joy and power. 

In that former place, time could impose no limit on him. A thousand years were as one day,  and a day,  as a thousand years. There, tomorrow was as yesterday - and both were always but the present to Him.

Nor could any space impose its dimension on Him.  Before he came here as a baby,  He was everywhere in the universe,  while, at the same time,  completely encompassing it,  as its Creator. 

Before this Baby arrived in our world, He knew no restraints to even His slightest whim. Whatever He determined, He could effortlessly do. 

His existence was without pain. He knew nothing of anguish, or fear, or weakness. He knew nothing of hunger or thirst - before He became the Christmas Child. 

But, on that first Christmas night,  as God presented this innocent gift to our fallen race,  all of that changed for Him.  He became like us in every way, save one.  And, it was all to deliver God's message of love, forgiveness, and the opportunity for a true newness of life. 

But, the toll of His faithfulness, both to God and to man, was hard-paid in long suffering.   As, He joined our race, this Child began to experience the pain of all things human.

How unfamiliar and difficult that first breath of air must have been for one who, only a moment before,  had no need to breathe at all.  But now,  He must not only breathe,  but also, feel the strange throes of hunger and thirst, and the deep depletion of exhaustion.  

This one who had so effortlessly governed creation merely by His graceful thought, must now become entirely surrounded by the bitterness of disappointment, frustration, and failure.

He who had, only yesterday, instantly spanned the universe without effort, must now spend years,  merely to cover the infinitely small regions of the Promise Land.  

He who created our sun,  and numberless others like it,  and who flung them all into the Heavens with but a word - must now bear up under that sun’s disabling heat - and know the sweat born from laboring beneath it. 

And every day, He had to endure the ingrained pain of humanity's physical frailty.   And, He was forced to do so in the knowledge that,  this was pain which was never meant to be.  In the world He designed and created,  it was never to be known.  

 And, though He had lovingly given life to a perfect race in Adam,  He must presently endure the wounds which this now depraved race would inflict upon Him.  And, how horrible it must have been for the very essence of all life to lie down in the dark void of death - for our sake.  But - He did it.  

Thus, in His long suffering, the baby Jesus faithfully and courageously traversed two worlds to bring a message of everlasting hope. And now, each Christmas, the Christ freshly calls to us again. In the soft and lovely undertones of divine love, He whispers: "Be reconciled to Me. Take my hand, and walk with Me; and, I will make you new."

And, why would we not give ourselves to this One,  who has so completely given Himself to us?  How can we possibly resist such gentle love, so gently delivered?

O>Portal Exhibit
Celtic Trio: Oh Holy Night
Emer Barry and Affinity

O>Portal Exhibit
It Is Well With My Soul:
Hugh Bonneville Christmas Concert Narration
The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square

O>Portal Exhibit
Celtic Woman - Amazing Grace
Celtic Woman Official

Apr 17, 2018

The Divine Companionship

From the day I first met my wife, there has always been a constant background awareness of her precious presence in my life.  And now, it is just a natural part of our loving companionship.   Indeed, I have no awareness of myself, anymore, without her.  And, I think it is absolutely true that the beauty, and constancy, and depth of our companionship has shaped the quality of my life more than any other single factor, save my relationship with Jesus.      

And, in fact, the beauty of the marriage companionship is a very prominent New Testament analogy for the believer’s relationship with the Living Christ.  And, though the larger world is not privy to this facet of our faith – nevertheless, there is this simple truth.  Our Savior is risen! He is alive!  And, as a living being in Spirit form, He is completely capable of providing a deep and intimate daily companionship to believers. 

Truly, the Resurrected Christ is absolutely capable of intellectual and emotional exchanges with us.  And, every day, out of that capacity flows conversations and sharing’s which are very fulfilling and often even life changing.  Through these cherished daily exchanges come solutions to our problems, invaluable life lessons, emotional under-girding, constructive criticisms, timely encouragements, a truly empowering synergy, and much, much more.

But again, it is true.  This intimate companionship is the wonderful privilege of our faith which the larger, non-believing, self-sufficient world can never taste because of their arrogance.  And, even many in the organized Church, for similar reasons, fail to experience the sheer beauty and vibrancy of a life characterized by shared struggles and mutual celebrations with our loving Creator. 

But, to be sure, it is one thing for the larger, self-absorbed world to miss this wonderful reality.  And, it is quite another for so many in the modern Church to be missing this very basic privilege of our redemption in Christ.  But, in fact, they are. 

“How do you know, preacher?” you may be asking.  Good question.  And the answer is simple, really.  It's in their eyes.  Their eyes entirely betray them. 

I know, because when my sermons touch on the absolute wonder of God’s intimate daily presence, too many, in too many congregations, merely smile and nod - politely.  But, their eyes are missing the overflowing excitement which which confirms, “I know what you're talkin' about preacher!  I, too, know His constant companionship"

And, the tears are also missing.  Those warm, confirming drops of real empathy don’t show up in mere politeness.  They come only to confirm the emotions of a deep and intimate connection.  But, far too often these days, they are not showing up at all.

"S&N," smile & nod, I think this casual response to the most earth shaking opportunity mankind has ever known breaks my heart more often than any other.  And, how it must also hurt the heart of a loving God, who so graciously offeres the richness of who He is to our every day and to our every circumstance of life.    

But, here is the bare truth which confronts us at the end of our casual response to that opportunity.  If, for whatever reason, we miss this beautiful facet of our redemption, we have missed the point of redemption, itself.  All that Christ has done has simply been to restore this daily divine companionship to mankind. 

And so, to miss this communion, is also to miss Heaven, itself.  And, this is so because of one other immutable truth.   And, that truth is this.  It is only God’s truly intimate friends who will ever be allowed to enter His Heaven. 

Jesus was clear when He said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never *knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'"

[*Knew: In the Greek: “Genosco” = A deep and intimate knowing.]

Mar 30, 2018

East . er (ˋdo ōver) n. A Christian holiday

There is a reason why Christians celebrate Easter with such enthusiasm.  Well, actually, there are two reasons.  Well, wait.  Now that I think about it, there are actually three reasons.

The celebration begins, of course, with the Resurrection of Christ.  Resurrection Celebration Reason #1:  We have a Living Savior!  

And, indeed, it is crucial that we have a Living Jesus in order that we might experience the absolutely astounding completion of God’s redemptive process for humanity.  And, this mysterious redemptive twist is one which no one saw coming until these New Testament times.

So, the vibrant Living Christ springs from the tomb, leaving it entirely empty.  And, from the vitality of this now Living Savior, springs the most fantastic human opportunity one could imagine.  Resurrection Celebration Reason #2:  The opportunity to become truly and thoroughly new in the here-and-now! 

It is true.  The Resurrection is about nothing less than the opportunity for a magnificent “Do-over,” for human beings – only this time, with a much better, Living Christ-empowered result. 

Jesus said, “I came that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.”  Little did the world realize, at the time, what Jesus was actually forecasting by this statement.  

Indeed, He was offering to allow humanity to symbiotically share in His own renewing character essence.  This was that wonderful redemptive twist which no one really saw coming until it actually happened. 

But, the New Testament Church has now been able to clearly understand that the believer's thorough personal renewal entirely results from this empowering Spiritual merger between the devout believer's character essence and that of the Living Christ.  And, we also now know that this Spiritual interconnection between the believer and the Living Christ occurs through the specific redemptive event which the Church calls the Spiritual Baptism.   

This very unique occurrence, initially arranged and then sustained by the Holy Spirit, intimately, connects the believer to Christ’s value system and, thus, His correct perspectives on life's circumstances (His divine truth).  And, this new Christ-based view of life, stemming from the believe's now Christ-based value system, is, indeed, God's ultimate redemptive goal for the New Testament believer.

And, as previously described, this event changes everything for the believer.  Indeed, it is this pivotal event which is the ultimate "Target Event" of the New Testament experience following one's initial embrace of the Lordship of Christ.     

The Bible speaks of this mysterious Spiritual connection to the Living Christ in various places like this one in the Book of Collossians.  Here it simply says, "...To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." 

The Apostle Paul framed it this way in the Book of Romans.  “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors - not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”

And this wonderful, here-and-now transformation of the believer's character and life circumstance brings us to Resurrection Celebration Reason #3:  Everlasting Life!  Indeed, it is true, this Spiritual symbiosis with the Living Christ not only empowers the believer's new physical life, but also his or her eternal life.    

Again, the Apostle Paul framed it this way in the Book of Corinthians. "But, now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming." 

So, Jesus rose again to life by the power of the divine Spirit.  And so it shall also be with those devout believers who are, Spiritually enjoined to Christ in this life.   They shall be, not only empowered to newness in this life, but also, by the same divine Spirit, empowered to an abundant everlasting life.

So, when you think about it, all of the reasons for which we celebrate Easter only relentlessly beg one very simple question.  It is this: “Do you want to be new in the Living Christ?”  

Indeed, the true joy of Easter can only really "sing" in our heart and in our life to the music of this desperate and delighted answering chorus.  “Yes! Yes! By all means, Yes!  Make me new, Lord Jesus!”

Jan 14, 2018

No Refuge In The Fog

In The Book of the Revelation, the last book of the Holy Bible, Jesus spoke of a time to come in the life of the Church when its people would be widely marked by the trait of “lukewarmness.”  Surely, these are those times; and, we are those people.  The modern Church does not see itself that way, of course.  But, that is only because of the blindness created by the present theological fog in which we hide.

We cultivate that fog by minimizing our personal investment of time and energy in the careful verification of redemptive truth.  Rather, we choose to be quite satisfied with the limited and second-hand information which the pastor or Sunday school teacher offers – which they also typically got second-hand from someone else.  

Listening to a lecture is just much quicker and easier, than verifying for yourself, right?  And, since we’re not really that interested in delving too far into the matter, anyway (for fear that we might discover more than we really want to) it works out very nicely to just go with that quick-and-easy, second-hand approach.

So, here we are, the rank and file of the modern Church, largely living blissfully unaware of the true intricacies of our faith and the sophisticated expectations of our Creator.  And, in the seeming safety of this convenient fog of mind, we simply busy ourselves with whatever is our personal brand of “busy-ness.”   And, without the burden of any significant divine requirements upon our life, what else is there to do but focus on our own favored fascinations while we wait for all of this to be over. 

And, if we do occasionally suffer a twinge of “maybe I should draw closer to God and delve deeper,” then we simply resort to the cure for all such heart pricks.  We merely reassure ourselves in the knowledge that most everyone around us is also cloaking themselves in this same insulating fog of theological vagueness

But, here’s the kicker.  When all of this is finally over, and we think to offer our ignorance to God as a defense against any divine recriminations for our failure to invest at the proper level, we will discover something.  In that final terrifying moment when we stand in that deadly serious space between this life and eternity, it will be made very clear that the fog of ignorance actually offers to us no refuge at all.  And, how could it?  Since, in the Living Christ, true enlightenment is readily available to every believer.

The great lie of our times is that redemption requires essentially no significant investment on the part of the believer.  In truth, redemption requires everything of the believer.  And, pulling the theological covers over your head in an attempt to make that reality go away is a huge mistake akin to mixing your metaphors.  You just should never, never do it. 

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save [keep control of] his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose [surrender control of] his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”- Jesus   [Brackets added]

Nov 6, 2017

Two Tears: The Children of Our Choices

Tears are often world changing for us in good ways. They can convey a depth of emotion which presses irresistibly toward forgiveness, or recovery, or the healing of a relationship. When they are connected to an apology, they convey a heart touching sincerity. 

When they are part of a vow to do better, it becomes all the more potent, and all the more believable. And, when they are connected to the joy of achievements or life’s milestone events, they help express, and even add to, the depth of the beauty of the occasion.

But, there are times when even the most visceral and overflowing tears are completely powerless to alter the harshness of our reality.  Often, these tears flow out of an indifference which causes us to wait too long, or a carelessness which causes us go too far, or an arrogance which blinds us to life’s treacheries.  And, in all of these cases, we are then left with only the completely powerless tears of too late.

Such are the bitter tears which come after lacerating words which can never be taken back. These are those hurtful words which suddenly escape our normal discretion through the portal of an angry moment - only to irrevocably diminish, and even destroy, the bonds of trust and love.  And, when these words are finished, all that is left to us is an enlarged "aloneness" and those horribly  impotent tears.

In my own life, such tears commemorate a sad and unalterable mistake that I made when I was young and too unaware of how life really works.  So, in my youthful carelessness, I gave away something of inestimable value to people who valued it very little – at the great expense of those who deeply cherished it.  That something was my relational attentions. 

What I failed to adequately recognize in those days was that life happens in ranks. And, those ranks have a time clock on them. And, those precious people who are ahead of us in the forward ranks, who gave us life, and sacrificed for us, and who love us so very deeply, are soon gone.

So, while I was lavishing the attention of my young life on shallow, transient relationships and pursuits, those precious forward ranks were quietly forfeiting their days.  But, I failed to notice that relentless march of time and its very serious consequences until it was too late. 

And then, suddenly, they were all gone.  Those treasured, wise, trust-worthy, always-there-for-me people were not there anymore.  And, only then did I realized that I had traded the irreplaceable for the mostly irrelevant.  And, this unalterable reality has become, for me, one of those which is completely impervious to my regret. Thus, even now, these many years later, the bitterness of that mistake still stings and stains my heart in my reflective moments. 

 And, that sorrow remains a hard reminder of those additional wonderful breakfasts in my grandmother’s sun drenched kitchen which could have been.  It reminds me of the days that were available for fishing with my Dad which I ignored.  It reminds me of the missed holiday gatherings when I could have listened one more time to their sage conversations and felt their overflowing love in my life.  

But, I squandered those final opportunities on the much less important.  And now, no amount of remorse can restore those opportunities.  

But certainly, I am not the only one who has made such a costly mistake. Even now, many are simply trading away the opportunity to experience the wonder of a deeply fulfilling friendship with the God who created us, and gave Himself for us, and who truly loves us.  And, they are doing it only for the very shallow and short-lived pursuits of the here-and-now.  

Thus, while the opportunity of the ages, further escapes their grasp with each passing day, they invest in the soon to be meaningless corporate climb.  They chase hard after the ownership of this life's toys and trinkets.  They immerse themselves in entertaining games, and hobbies, at the expense of the most import "game" in town. 

And, all of this, while they crassly ignore the telling implication of all those end-of-life estate sales they drive past.   Nor do they notice the consistent capacity of old age and/ or poor health to prematurily hollow out our material aspirations.

Instead, they make themselves momentarily happy with a very low-brow lifestyle of a never ending to-do list involving status, ownership, security, and comfort.  Thus, in the not too eventually, they come to their own, sorrowful "too late" end.  

And, to the person, all who make this mistake will, indeed, cry torrents of fierce tears.  But, in fact, as such tears always are, they will be completely powerless to alter their eternal remorse.

But, the tears of too late do not have to be the tears which ultimately define our life and our personal destiny.  Better those things should be defined by truly beneficial tears, tears which have the power to make a difference.  

Better those things should be defined by the joyful tears which  mark our humble embrace of the Lordship of Christ.  Those things should be marked by the intelligent tears which sets us free from such a short sighted life approach. 

Indeed, it is the joyful tears of a new, Christ-empowered beginning which truly have the energy to change everything.  And, as they  bring us to an awareness of the divine truth, and to a vital daily friendship with the Living Christ, and to His elevating guidence - our life begins to unfolds on a whole new plane of awareness.  

Truly, it is the joyful tears of faith, which bring us to the real opportunity for a deeply fulfilling life.  And, it's these very potent tears which also contain the power to entirely rewrite our personal destiny and extend it into forever - in the most fulfilling way.

In the coming day of reward and punishment, there will be only two kinds of tears.  There will be tears of great joy, flowing from those who gave themselves to the love and lordship of Christ.  And, there will be the tears of great sorrow, flowing as a river from those who squandered the opportunity of that divine friendship.  And those who cry those tears will be forever doomed to do so in the absolutely immutable bitterness of “too late.”