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Monday, December 31, 2007

Time Flies

Where did 2007 go? If time flies when we’re having fun, we must have had a lot of fun in 2007, because the time certainly flew.

The end of a year is a good time to reflect on what we put into those fleeting days that brought us to December 31. If we simply spent each 24-hour day, we may have spent many opportunities to serve the Lord. However, if we invested each 24-hour day in serving Him, we used our time wisely and can anticipate the pleasure of His smile at the bema.

I’m sure you would agree that we can do better in 2008 than we did in 2007. We can heed the apostle Paul’s admonition: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15–17).

When opportunity to honor the Lord knocks in 2008, let’s answer the door!

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Bright and Morning Star

The Old Testament ends with the messianic prophecy that “the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings” (Malachi 4:2). In context, this prophecy anticipates the inauguration of Israel’s Golden Age. Messiah will come to Earth, vanquish Israel’s enemies, and restore Israel to an intimate relationship with Himself (see 3:16—4:3). This apocalyptic sequence comprises Israel’s hope.

The New Testament closes with a reference to Jesus’ second coming. He came to Earth the first time as the incarnate Word, the baby of Bethlehem. He will come to Earth again as the invincible King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:11–16). Revelation 22, the last chapter of the New Testament, records Jesus’ promise to return “quickly” (verse 12) and identifies Him as “the Bright and Morning Star” (verse 16).

The morning star appears just before the sun rises. The order is noteworthy, because before the Sun of Righteousness arises with healing in His wings for Israel and fulfills Israel’s hope, He will appear as the Bright and Morning Star to fulfill the Church’s blessed hope. He will snatch the Church from the Earth to meet Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:15–17).

I have found no scriptural reason to suppose Jesus cannot rapture His Church today, but He may not do so in my lifetime. Suffice is to say we should maintain an any-moment anticipation and an every-moment dedication.

May some of the luster of the Bright and Morning Star shine through you and me today and throughout the New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

2008 U.S. Senior Open

Some of you may know the U.S. Senior Open will be played at the Broadmoor Golf & Country Club in 2008. It’s a big deal! Although the tournament is scheduled for July 31-Aug. 3, tickets are already becoming scarce. The event will pour millions of dollars into the local economy and show off the scenic wonders of the Pike’s Peak region to thousands of out-of-state visitors.
The Broadmoor course and the five-star rated Broadmoor Hotel are as beautiful as they are famous. Presidents and entertainment celebrities have stayed at the hotel and played the course. Photos of them grace the walls leading to the hotel’s restaurant area.
I stayed at the Broadmoor last year while attending the Write for the Soul Conference. I served as a resource person for the many aspiring writers in attendance. However, I have never played the Broadmoor course. Perhaps I will be able to play it in 2008. Hope springs eternal in a golfer’s heart.
A few years ago, I thought I would tee it up at the Broadmoor. Highway Baptist Church in Falcon, Colorado, gave me a generous cash gift and a gift certificate for golf at the Broadmoor. When I presented the certificate at the pro shop, I was told the certificate was good for merchandise but not golf. Broadmoor golf, I learned, is restricted to members, members’ guests, and hotel guests.
So why didn’t I play golf when I stayed at the Broadmoor during the Write for the Soul Conference. Two reasons: snow and cold. The conference was held in winter and even if the weather had been warm, the conference left no time for anything but meetings and appointments.
Things are looking up, though. Last night, my golf buddy Mark called to say he has an extra ticket to the U.S. Senior Open. “Would you like to go?” he asked.
I like questions that don’t require much thinking. “Of course, I would like to go.”
Next time Mark and I play golf, I will buy him a brat and a Gatorade.
Christian friendship is always a treasure, but it’s priceless on a golf course.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

White Christmas and a Bright Hope

I hope you had a very merry Christmas. Gloria and I did. We drove one hour north to Denver, where the family gathered for lengthy gift exchange and a brief lunch of ham, vegetables, finger food, and a variety of desserts. A country berry pie from the Gooseberry Patch restaurant in Penrose, Colorado, was an especially big hit.

Colorado received snow yesterday, making December 25, 2007 our first white Christmas along the Front Range since 1987. Although snowplow drivers worked on Christmas Day, the roads were slick. Cars moved very slowly along I-25, especially in both directions over Monument Hill. If Rent a Sleigh and Reindeers had been in business, it would have made a huge profit.

I’m happy to report Gloria, our three dogs, and I arrived home safely.

Another Christmas is officially in the history books. There may not be another, because Jesus promised to return someday to escort His Bride, the Church, to Heaven. What a bright hope this future event instills in us!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Star of Bethlehem

The magi viewed an astronomical wonder. A star announcing the arrival of the King of the Jews appeared.
Acting upon the divine disclosure, the magi journeyed to the Jews’ capital city, Jerusalem, the reasonable birthplace of a king. But the King of the Jews had been born in the humble, little town of Bethlehem, five miles south of Jerusalem, in fulfillment of Micah’s prophecy, “But you, O Bethlehem, Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2, NKJV). Only a disclosure of this prophecy guided the wise men to Bethlehem and Jesus.
Human reason leads away from the miracle of the incarnation. It just doesn’t make sense that God would send His Son to Earth to be born in a stable, to live among sinful human beings, and then to die on the cross for us. But Scripture leads us to these startling facts. The written Word leads us to the incarnate Word and enlightens us so we may be the illustrated Word to our contemporaries.
Christmas is a good time to recommit ourselves to the task of helping others find the way to Jesus.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Nice Surprise

A nice surprise arrived in yesterday’s mail. I received four copies of IT'S A GOD THING AND OTHER POPULAR CHRISTIAN MISCONCEPTIONS, a book I wrote for Cook Communications Ministries. The surprise? The book has been translated into Korean.
Several years ago, one of my books was translated into Chinese. What fun then and now to see my name in an Asian language!

I can’t speak a lick of Chinese or Korean, but my books can minister to a couple of major language groups in addition to English-language readers. I am hopeful spiritual fruit will abound.

Isn’t it good to know God’s love extends to all people? John 3:16 links this love to the gift of God’s Son and promises whoever believes in His Son “shall not perish but have eternal life.”

At Christmas and always, let’s recall the angel’s message to humble shepherds on a Judean hillside: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be to all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10, 11).

In heaven a great multitude of internationals will join in singing praise to the One who was born so long ago to be our Savior. And know what? If I stand next to Korean and Chinese believers on that day, I will be able to understand them.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Baskets

Last night, before midweek Bible study, two leaders in our church sorted food items the congregation had donated for needy families. The generosity of our small group was obvious. Christmas goodies, hams, a variety of canned goods, cereals, and other items were abundant to make Christmas a little brighter for those who receive the food baskets.

Of course, our church is not alone in its act of showing God’s love to needy families. Christians throughout the world serve in the forefront of alleviating hunger and suffering, and their action is an appropriate apologetic to those who claim Christians are interested only in souls. What the critics fail to understand is Jesus ministered to the poor and needy and Christians follow His example.

Every soul is wrapped in a body and outlives the body; but while the two are connected, we Christians often reach the soul by ministering to individuals’ physical needs. If you have opportunity to make life more comfortable for the needy of your community, why not do so this Christmas and in the days ahead?

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10).

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Secret Holiday

Ssssh! It’s a secret. We are not supposed to mention the name of the holiday that falls on December 25. You see, the first syllable in its name offends secularists, atheists, and some religious groups. Mentioning the holiday’s name is politically incorrect, ixnay, verboten. So we display holiday decorations, string holiday lights, send holiday greetings, view holiday parades, attend holiday concerts, ship holiday packages, put up a holiday tree, hang holiday stockings by the chimney, make holiday travel plans, bake or buy holiday goodies, host holiday parties, take holiday breaks, and exchange holiday presents. We just don’t mention the holiday’s name.

While we are at it, we should change the lyrics of songs we sing at this time of year. How about?
I’m dreaming of a white holiday.
It’s beginning to look a lot like holiday.
Then one foggy holiday Santa came to say . . .
‘Twas the night before holiday, and all through the house . . .
I’ll be home for holiday.
It’s holiday time in the city.
Holiday is the best time of the year.
All I want for holiday is my two front teeth.

What’s next—removing Father Time from New Year’s? After all, he is gender specific, and that might offend . . . well . . . you know who.

Away with this political correctness! It’s enough to make me gag on my holiday cookies. I’m going to blurt out the secret. The holiday is Christmas!


© Jim Dyet

Monday, December 17, 2007

Averting Blindness

I have had ocular hypertension for years, but my ophthalmologist thought I should start using eye drops. So I had a prescription filled a few days ago, and now at bedtime I drop a dollar—I mean a drop of medicine—into each eye. I have the cost figured out. After my medical insurance pays its share, I pay $60 for a month’s supply of the precious solution.
I’m sure paying through the nose to treat the eyes is preferable to going blind, but my Scottish nature makes me wonder if I could get away with placing one drop in the left eye one night and then a drop in the right eye the next night. I ha’e ma doots!
“Blind” was one of the adjectives our risen Lord used to describe the church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:17). He counseled the church to buy from Him “salve to put on your eyes, so you can see” (verse 18). Of course, the salve would cost nothing. Jesus always provides freely what a church needs if it admits its need.
Laodicea was famous for the manufacturing of eye salve. Therefore, Jesus’ mention of eye salve would grab the Laodicean church’s attention. But the response to His counsel was entirely up to individuals in the church. Jesus invited each individual to repent, receive Him and be restored to fellowship with Him (verse 20).
Does the Church today need to shake off spiritual blindness by giving Jesus His rightful place? You decide! I am fully persuaded we need to see clearly that the Bible is preeminently the Word of God and our sole authority for faith and practice. We also need to see ourselves as Jesus sees us and view the world as lost.
Whenever I preached at Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, I observed a small, but significant, sign on the pulpit: “Sir, we would see Jesus.” I believe people in our churches and everywhere else need to see Jesus, and Christians need to “look at the fields. They are ripe harvest (John 4:35).

Sunday, December 16, 2007

True Discipleship

Glenn, a long-time friend of mine, retired a number of years ago from youth ministry, but he did not put his love for young people on a shelf. During a visit to Chicago, he befriended Ricardo, a young Latino man, and led him to Christ. Although Glenn lives in Southern California, he began discipling his young friend long distance.
Glenn's friend stayed in touch with him until recently. Out of deep concern for his spiritual well-being, Glenn repeatedly tried to reach him, but to no avail. Finally, he was able to contact someone at Chicago’s Moody Church who knows the young man. She agreed to visit him at his workplace and inquire about his spiritual health.
Glenn has requested prayer for this situation.
Such concern for a new believer serves as an example for all of us. A group hug at church falls far short of reaching out to a brother or sister in Christ who needs to be nurtured in the faith. Perhaps the Lord will use you and me to restore a lagging believer to a steady pace in the Christian race.

Friday, December 14, 2007

No Tell, No Sell!

Tom Miller was the general manager for Mammy’s Bread in St. Catharines, Ontario, where I worked as a retail bread salesman during the summers of 1951-1958. A marketing mastermind, Tom motivated us salesmen with pep talks, personal discussions, and chalkboard sales pitches. After completing our routes and entering the room where we totaled our receipts and filled out order forms for baked goods, we would read Tom’s latest chalkboard sales slogan.
“No tell, no sell” stands out in my memory. Every Saturday Mammy’s Bread featured a special cake, and Thursday was the day to tell our customers about it and then take their orders. The following day, Tom would list the names of the salesmen with the highest number of orders. His “No tell, no sell” pitch was pithy and practical.
The current “Happy Holidays” greeting may be indicative of an increasing secularism in our culture. We may attach the blame for this secularism at the feet of public education, the media, or pluralistic thinking, but are we Christians willing to shoulder some of the blame? Have we chosen to cloister behind church walls rather than carry the gospel into the workplace and neighborhood? When we count our friends, how many non-Christians are among them? Do we share the true meaning of Christmas with those who need to hear the good news, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ, the Lord” (Luke 2:11)?
No tell, no sell!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Bad, the Ugly, and the Good

The trail of human history doesn’t lead up from the beast, as evolution supposes, but down from the best, as the Bible teaches. The human race originated in a perfect environment. God created our first parents and placed them in a peaceful, productive, and pristine environment—the Garden of Eden. But Adam and Eve sinned, defying God’s authority. Their sin incurred judgment. Planet Earth fell under a curse, and death, and misery and mortality befell the humanity.
Sin’s ugly nature took an early toll on Adam’s descendants. Envy, hate, and murder sprang from the heart of Adam and Eve’s son Cain. Cain killed his brother Abel, and before long man’s wickedness on the earth had become so rampant and putrid “that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5).
God destroyed that evil-obsessed civilization with a flood, but spared Noah and his family because Noah had found “favor in the eyes of the LORD” (verse 8).
After the Flood, a new day dawned for the human race. Would it worship and obey the God of grace? It would not. It soon pursued an evil path.
The human race continues on that path today. It is characterized by self-centeredness, and it leads to eternal death (Isaiah 53:6; Proverbs 14:12).
The recent shootings in Arvada and Colorado Springs that claimed several young lives points out once again that the human heart is “deceitful and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9, KJV).
But Good News in the midst of such bad news shines like a diamond against the backdrop of a black cloth. Nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus, the Second Adam, led a sinless life and intentionally took a path that led to Calvary. Unlike the self-centered path sinful humanity has taken since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, the path Jesus took was one of selfless devotion to God’s will. At Calvary, He died to rescue us from sin and eternal judgment, and to reconcile us to God.
About 725 years before Jesus died on the cross, the prophet Isaiah diagnosed the chronic human condition and prescribed the only cure. “We all, like sheep, have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him [Jesus] the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
While secularists wish one another “Happy Holidays,” Christians can share the greeting, “Merry Christmas.” We can’t impose peace on a troubled world, but we can honor the Christ who came into the world to seek and to save us and to instill God’s peace in our hearts.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Snow Removal in Colorado

A winter storm struck Colorado Saturday, making my Sunday morning drive to Penrose slower than usual. Highway 115 between Colorado Springs and Penrose was icy and snow packed under cloudy skies. The temperature was 12 when I left home and 14 when I reached the church in Penrose. Brrr!
Unless you live in Colorado or know someone who lives here, you may not be aware of our normal snow removal method. Snow-fighting crews spread sand sporadically on the roadways but liberally at intersections. The next step is to wait for the sun to melt the ice and snow.
While driving o’er the snow, I was thinking, “During a snowstorm in Illinois, IDOT spreads tons of salt on the state’s roads, and before long motorists can drive on wet, snow-free roads.”
On my trip home from Penrose, the temperature had climbed to 19 degrees, but ice and snow had vanished from the highway. The surface was dry and safe. What made the difference? The sun had appeared, and its intense rays had melted the ice and snow.
That’s typical of Colorado weather. The brilliant sun quickly melts whatever snow falls east of the mountains.
It is also typical of the Son to melt cold hearts. Let’s pray that He will melt many cold hearts this Christmas. The temperature may fall throughout the nation, but His love can burn in our hearts and radiate to others.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Let It Snow!

I used a snow shovel this morning for the first time this season. We received less than an inch of snow during the night, but it was enough to remind me I prefer sunshine and warm temperatures to snow and cold. However, because I live in a semi-arid section of Colorado, snowfall is beneficial. It provides much-needed moisture for lawns, trees, and shrubs.

Isaiah 55:10 and 11 compare the benefit of God’s Word to that of rain and snow. He sends rain and snow to water the earth and make it fruitful, and He sends His Word to accomplish His desire and achieve His purpose.

Tomorrow, as I preach His Word, God will use it to accomplish His will in human hearts. That’s quite an encouragement for a pastor!

Next time I shovel snow (I hope it will be a long time from now), I will meditate on Isaiah 55:10 and 11. Doing so will refresh my soul. It may even soothe my aching back.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Down from His Glory

I will be preaching Sunday from Philippians 2:5–11. Those of you have a theological awareness of the doctrine of Christ, know this passage teaches the kenosis of Christ, His self-emptying. He did not cease to be God when He came to Earth, but He laid aside the independent exercise of His divine prerogatives and lived in full dependence on His Father. Ordinarily, His glory was veiled as He identified with human suffering, faced temptation, ministered in the power of the Spirit, and wrapped His love around our fallen human race. But, on one never-to-be-forgotten occasion, atop the Mount of Transfiguration, the glory of His deity burst through the clay lantern of His humanity. “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light” (Matthew 17:2), and suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with Him. Luke 9:31 reports they conversed with Jesus about His impending crucifixion, and both Gospels affirm Peter, James, and John witnessed the event.
Isn’t it startling to read about Jesus’ glory and deep humiliation in close association with each other? Yet, He had to be who He was—the eternal, sinless Son of God—to do what He did for us—die on the cross as a real human being and our perfect Substitute. He came to Earth to bring us everlasting life at the cost of His own life. “Christ died for our sins,” 1 Corinthians 15:3 proclaims.
We will see manger displays this Christmas, but let’s remember Jesus was born to die. During His earthly ministry, He told His disciples He had come to Earth to minister and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). And as I read Philippians 2:5, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus,” I ask myself whether I am willing to put the needs of others ahead of my own and serve them as Jesus did nearly 2,000 years ago—compassionately, selflessly, and sacrificially.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Eyes Have It

Fortunately, it was Friday. The eye doctor’s assistant would have the weekend to recover from the embarrassing situation. She had prepared the equipment, or so she thought, for my 30-minute field vision test, but after the test, she discovered the test failed. She had not placed the lens close enough to my right eye. She apologized, and offered a weak, “We will have to test your right eye again.”

Another 15 minutes ensued, and another apology was forthcoming. “For some reason, the test didn’t register. I’m sorry, but it looks like we will have to repeat the test once again. Do you have the rest of the morning to stick around?”

“What’s the problem?” I asked. Are my results stored in the computer?”


“Then, the problem must not an invalid test. It must be a computer glitch.”

At that point the doctor’s assistant tried to print the results of my test, but the printer failed to respond.

Finally, after several minutes, we heard a clicking, whirring sound, and saw paper roll out of the printer. I was relieved until the assistant observed, “These are not your results.”
Then the unthinkable happened. The printer kept churning out test results after test results on what seemed like an endless roll of paper, and the assistant couldn’t stop the printer. Soon we were almost ankle deep in patients’ field vision test results, but mine were not among them, and the paper roll had run its course.

Again, an apology. “I can find another roll of paper,” the assistant sighed, “but I don’t know how to install it. Do you want to go home? I will call you this afternoon to schedule another appointment or hopefully to tell you your test results printed.”

I went home.

Later, I received the good news and a final apology. My test results printed and the assistant was totally sorry for the delay.

I hope the doctor’s assistant has recovered by now. And I hope Medicare doesn’t have to pay for two very long rolls of paper.

I’m sure we have all experienced embarrassing situations, but we need to seize the future.
What we consider a bad day may be simply a learning experience and an opportunity to grow stronger. We should take responsibility for our mistakes and our sins, recognize we are imperfect, and trust God for the grace, wisdom, and strength to do better tomorrow.

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 43:5).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Faithfulness throughout the Seasons of Life

The older I get the more I dislike winter. Specifically, I dislike cold and snow. Fortunately, along the front range of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, winter brings far more clear, warm, sunny days than cold, snowy ones. Yesterday, I played golf in sunshine and warm 60-degree weather, although my golf wasn’t so hot. This morning, a few snowflakes were spitting at me as I took our dogs to the backyard. The temperature is hovering around 30 now as clouds billow across the sky. It will be cold when I drive home from Penrose tonight. The pinion pines that border both sides of Highway 115 may be decked out in snow. I can hardly wait for warm weather—and golf—to return in a few days.
Every season has its benefits, though, and each is not only a gift from God but also a reminder of His faithfulness. The seasons come and go, but God’s faithfulness remains constant. Here’s a verse to hang your hat and heart on today: “Your faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 119:90a).

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Time for Sharing

All four Gospels relate the story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand. This famous story reveals at least three significant facts about Jesus: (1) He cares deeply about human need. He raised the subject of providing food for the multitude that followed Him (John 6:5). (2) He is the Son of God. His divine power enabled Him to turn two sardine-like fish and five little bread rolls into a satisfying, all-you-can-eat meal for more than five thousand people (vv. 8–11). (3) He richly rewards those who put the needs of others ahead of their own. After the twelve disciples had distributed the food and the people had feasted to their satisfaction, they followed Jesus’ command to gather the leftovers. The tally of leftovers was twelve baskets (v. 13).

Twelve baskets and twelve disciples! Coincidence? Hardly. Undoubtedly, Jesus had planned for each disciple to enjoy a basket of food as a reward for faithful service.

We have entered the Christmas season, and many opportunities to help the needy will come to us. We should help not because we seek recognition or reward, but because we are Jesus’ servants. The apostle Paul wrote: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10).

—Adapted from Overcoming Subtle Sins: The Key to Dynamic Discipleship by Jim Dyet and Jim Russell, ©2002, The Amy Foundation, Lansing, Michigan.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Giddyup, Church!

I’m filling my gas tank more often but enjoying it less; and please don’t tell me a cup of coffee at Starbucks is about as expensive as a gallon of gas. I can get by without ever buying a cup of coffee at Starbucks, but I can’t get by without purchasing gas. Another thing: I can enjoy coffee at home for pennies a cup, but where can I buy gas for pennies a gallon?
Fifty-six years ago I began a summer job as a substitute retail bread salesman. When a full-time bread salesman took a vacation lasting a week or two, I served his 250-plus customers. I sold a loaf of bread for 12 cents, a pie for 35 cents, and a double-layer cake for 45 cents. A dozen donuts went for 18 cents. I can’t remember what gas cost back then, because the bakery supplied it from its own pumps. I’m guessing motorists could purchase gas for about 15 cents per gallon.
We have come a long way, haven’t we?
A few bread routes I serviced used a horse and wagon. The cost was minimal. A bag of oats and a bucket of water worked just fine to complete my rounds. Furthermore, a horse served as a reliable guide. It knew where each customer lived, and clip-clopped along from house to house. Each morning I walked my horse from the stable, harnessed it, and hitched it to the wagon. At day’s end, I reversed the order. Each horse had a name: Champion, Daisy, and Buttermilk are a few I remember.
Routes beyond the city required trucks. We used Chevys and Internationals, all of which came equipped with governors so we couldn’t exceed the highest speed limit.
Here’s an amazing piece of nostalgia—I drove an electric truck on one city route. It was stand-up-drive, silent, emission free, and reached a maximum speed of 17 miles per hour. After servicing the bread route each day, I simply plugged the truck’s battery into a power source in the bread company’s terminal. The battery recharged overnight.
I often think about that electric truck when I pump $45 of gas into my car. I wonder why cars aren’t fueled by electricity today, 56 years after I drove an electric bread truck. Technology has improved life in so many ways, but we are still dependent on oil, most of it foreign oil. It is hard not to quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.”
But how sound is the state of the Church? What has the Church learned in the past 56 years? In spite of a plethora of mega-churches and multi-million-dollar Christian organizations, how much closer are we to fulfilling the Great Commission than we were 56 years ago or 2,000 years ago? It costs a ton of money to keep a church afloat today, but it doesn’t cost anything to share the gospel one-on-one. I’m not suggesting we scrap high-tech methodologies, but I am suggesting we take more individual responsibility for the work of evangelism.
By the way, along the bread route the horse attracted more kids and parents to the wagon and my baked goods than a truck did. Maybe old-fashioned personal evangelism is still a good way to attract people to Christ.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Where do we begin to give thanks for all our blessings? I suppose a good start is to offer thanks for God Himself. Without Him, life would be aimless and empty. He is the source of salvation (Ephesians 2:8, 9), the provider of “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17), and the sustainer of life (Acts 17:25).

Psalm 116, written after the Exile, gives many reasons to be thankful. Here are a few: The Lord shows a personal interest in us (vv. 1, 2). He delivers us from trouble and trials (vv. 3–6). He loads us down with good things (v. 12). He has removed the sting of death (v. 15).

This psalm of thanks also suggests several appropriate responses of a grateful heart. We should maintain a consistent prayer life (v. 2). We should stop worrying (v. 7). We should fulfill the promises we have made to the Lord (vv. 14, 18). We should ascribe praise to the Lord (v. 19).

Gloria and I will spend Thanksgiving in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, with our family. I am sure we will all eat far more than we need to, but the hearty laughter that always accompanies our get-togethers may shake a few calories loose. Plus, I may take our dogs for a long walk and thereby burn a few more calories—at least enough to provide an excuse for a second piece of pie.

How blessed we are to live in a free and bountiful part of the world!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

No More Suffering and Tears

In Colorado, my home state, weather is ideal most of the time, but unpredictable all of the time. Blue, sunny skies can turn ominous in late afternoon. Temperatures can plummet from warm to frigid faster than you can sing “Rocky Mountain High.” Suddenly, strong winds sweep down from the mountains bringing cold rain or hail or even snow. A March day may drag an upslope condition to our Front-Range cities, wrapping them in drizzle and fog. But Colorodans don’t despair. They can handle a dreary day or two, because they know they will wake up tomorrow to dazzling sunshine and deep- blue skies.

What keeps us Christians optimistic when clouds of trouble and pain burst upon us? when days seem dreary and long? The answer is, we know trouble and pain will end someday. Our pilgrimage will be over; faith will give way to sight; we will enter our heavenly home; and we will see Jesus face to face.

Not long ago I talked with a Christian who was dying of liver cancer. She knew she had only a few days to live. “It’s rough,” she said. “There are a lot of thorns, but the roses are waiting up ahead.”
In just a few words she summarized what every Christian knows to be true: trouble and tears befall us down here, but peace and joy await us in heaven.

Jesus’ disciples were hurting. They had seen Judas slip out into the night to betray Jesus to His enemies, and Jesus had told His disciples He would not be with them much longer (John 13:21-30, 33). But Jesus did not want them to grieve. He urged them not to grieve but to trust in the Father and in Him. He explained that His Father’s house includes many dwellings and He was going there to prepare a place for them. Furthermore, He promised to return for them and take them to the Father’s house. There, they would be together forever (see John 14:1-3).

In the summer of 1999 my wife and I made five weekend trips to Eagle, Colorado, a town that enjoys a valley-view of mountains, redstone cliffs, and a clear, winding river. From Vail to Avon to Copper Mountain to Edwards to Eagle, we passed multi-million-dollar homes built high on the mountains. Impressive! Elaborate! Fantastic! Grand! Luxurious! Awesome! Magnificent! Words fail to adequately describe such structures. But I must add one more adjective to the list—temporary!

Temporary, because many of the owners live in them only a few weeks each year. They are second homes, retreats for celebrities and wealthy business tycoons, getaways for those who want to kick back, drink in the climate and scenery, golf, fish, hike, and four-wheel.

Temporary because even the best constructed house will crumble and tumble someday.

At Eagle I preached each weekend to people who do not live in any of the multi-million dollar houses perched on the mountaintops. As far as I could tell, the people I preached to are like most Christians. They are challenged just to pay the mortgage on a modest house, clothe and educate the kids, put food on the table, and keep the car in running condition. But each of those Christians along with every other Christian holds a title deed to a far better house than those owned by millionaires. Because Jesus, the Carpenter of Nazareth is building it, it, too, is impressive, elaborate, fantastic, grand, luxurious, awesome, and magnificent! But it is even better than all that; it is eternal! Unlike the mountain mansions, Christians’ mansions will never crumble and tumble.

One glimpse of the Builder of our heavenly home and one quick tour of the premises will chase away forever every remembrance of the trouble and tears we experienced on earth.

—From How to Handle Life's Hurts by James Dyet. © 2004, Regular Baptist Press, Schaumburg, Illinois

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Christian Cheerleading

My wife and I attended a statewide cheerleaders’ competition yesterday afternoon in Parker, Colorado. A high school gym resounded with the pre-rally organized frenzy of hundreds of cheerleaders stomping and shouting in response to a drill instructor’s commands. Soon, each team of well-practiced high school cheerleaders performed its routine in front of a packed house. I think the cheerleaders displayed more energy and enthusiasm than you would find in any stadium hosting an NFL game.
What drew us to the cheerleading competition? Our granddaughter Jessica’s cheerleading team was performing and representing Front Range Christian School. Much to our delight, Jessica’s team won. Congratulations, Jessica and friends!
As much as I wish I could quote a verse of Scripture in direct support of cheerleading, I can’t. The closest I might come to doing so are the words, “Be of good cheer,” but that would be a strangulation of Scripture.
The New Testament does instruct us to serve as cheerleaders of one another as we endeavor to lead an effective Christian life. We are admonished to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” and to “encourage one another” (Hebrews 10:24, 25).
When I open God’s Word Sunday by Sunday to encourage believers to serve the Lord faithfully, I hope I come across as an enthusiastic cheerleader. Also, it would be gratifying to know the congregation is cheering me on. I don’t expect the congregation to form pyramids or shout, “Give me a P. Give me an R. Give me an E. Give me an A. Give me a C. Give me an H. Yea, PREACH!” An occasional “Amen” or an approving head nod would be just fine.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Time for Some Knee Bends?

Do you enjoy browsing through antique stores? If so, you are not alone. On any given Saturday, thousands of antique shoppers stroll antique stores’ narrow aisles and peer into stall after stall stocked with items from a bygone era.
“Mother used a potato masher like that,” one shopper recalls.
“Grandpa kept a scythe like that one in his barn,” another shopper comments.
Another shopper asks, “Remember the penny scale in front of Murray’s Drug Store? When we were kids, we would step on the scale, insert a penny, and read our weight. And then a little fortune card would slide out of the scale. Those were the days!”
Not long ago, an e-Bay ad offered a truly unusual antique for the home that has everything! It was a hand-carved oak confessional c. 1880, measuring approx. 6 feet x 5 feet x 10 feet. It had been removed from the Church of St. Charles in Algiers, Algeria. Asking price: $2,000/OBO.
Perhaps a buyer would use the confessional as a backyard playhouse or a tool shed. Surely he wouldn’t place it in his living room for the convenience of family wrongdoers.
Like that antique confessional, genuine, contrite Biblically directed-confession itself seems to be almost archaic. Perhaps we have bought so thoroughly into the positive self-image, feel-good-about-yourself philosophy that we fail to acknowledge our sins and the need to confess them to the Lord.
King David understood firsthand the value of confessing our sins humbly and honestly. He wrote: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17). I’m sure David didn’t use a confessional booth, but he found just enough room to kneel humbly before a righteous God. In the twenty-first century, too, knee bends are a good spiritual exercise.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Patient Waiting

I should be used to waiting. I’ve done so much of it in my lifetime. Waiting at red lights. Waiting at checkouts. Waiting in doctors’ offices. Waiting for payment of articles. Waiting for lunch guests. Waiting for service in restaurants. Waiting for results of medical tests. Waiting for preachers to conclude their sermons. Waiting for slow golfers. The list is almost endless, but I don’t want to make you wait for more examples so I will end it now.
If you think I’m not very patient, you are right, but I’m working on the patience trait. Just yesterday I learned to be more patient when I read in the newspaper that wives and children were reunited with their soldier husbands and fathers at Fort Carson here in Colorado Springs. The soldiers had finally returned from Iraq after a 15-month tour of duty. The long separation must have taxed everyone’s patience beyond measure. The waiting those families endured makes any waiting seem paltry.
So I am going to try to be more patient and find something constructive to do while I wait. I might read a book or harvest some ideas for writing a book. Or I might fill the waiting times with prayer.
After Jesus had risen from the dead, the disciples showed impatience. He commanded them to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4, 5). However, they asked whether He would restore the kingdom to Israel at that time (verse 6). He responded by telling them they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (verse 8). Then, He ascended to heaven.
Jesus will return from heaven someday, and our responsibility is to wait for Him, not idly but actively. We should exercise productive patience and ask what the Lord wants us to do today?
And by the way, Jesus will restore the kingdom to Israel someday.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me!

Well, I am another year older today. I was born November 11. I will give you the century—the 20th—but you will have to guess the year. According to legend, my father left a pot of tea for my mother and left for work the morning of November 11. When he returned from work, he found mother, tea, and me in oor wee hoos on Welgate Street in Larkhall, Scotland.
I was the second son of three, but the only one born in Scotland. My older brother and my younger brother were born in Canada. My parents had emigrated from Scotland to Canada and welcomed my brother Bill into their lives in Hamilton, Ontario. Later, they returned to Scotland, where I was born. When I was three, they emigrated again to Canada, where my brother Bruce was born in Ottawa. A year later we moved to St. Catharines, Ontario, about 12 miles from Niagara Falls. That’s where I grew up.
In 1965 I became a U.S. citizen in Altoona, Pennsylvania, where I served as the pastor of Bell Avenue Baptist Church.
Frankly, I have always cherished my Scottish birth and heritage, but I cherish my birth into God’s family much more highly. January 18, 1952, I received Christ as my personal Savior and immediately became a member of God’s family (John 1:12). I also became a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20).
I don’t know how many more birthdays I will celebrate, but I want to honor God each day and serve as a channel of blessing to others. After all, what we put into our years counts far more than the years we put in.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Write On!

As a mentor for the Jerry Jenkins Christian Writers Guild, I coach more than 120 aspiring writing students. Some are nearing the course’s completion date. Some have just started. The rest are scattered between start and finish. However, all of my students want to pursue an effective writing ministry and are willing to work at improving their skills.
I wish every student could become a published author, but I’m sure it’s an idle wish. Out of the thousands of manuscripts that land on editors’ desks on any given day, only a few get published. Good writing demands careful research, creative thinking, a commitment to excellence, and a bulldogged determination to write on, in spite of rejection notices. I believe some of my students will see their work in print because their writing sparkles and offers significant take-away value. Others, however, would be well advised not to quit their day jobs.
I am especially encouraged by the presence of Christian writing students in many countries. Although most of my students live in the United States and Canada, some live in such places as the United Kingdom, Chile, India, Africa, and China. Who can tell how far-reaching their Christian influence will extend as they employ their writing skills?
Christian writing should not be confined to a Christian audience. As you have browsed in a Christian bookstore or scanned the pages of a Christian publisher’s book catalog, have you noticed almost all the titles target Christian readers? What are Christian writers doing to reach out to non-Christians with quality books—books that scratch where readers itch, persuade in a winsome way, and present God’s message as relevant and life-changing.
You may not see yourself as a potential book author, but perhaps you can write an effective letter to the newspaper editor about a moral issue. Perhaps you can share your testimony with a non-Christian relative or friend by writing a warmhearted letter. The spoken word is powerful, but the power of a well-crafted written message lasts far beyond what we say.

“Write down the revelation and make it plain . . . “ (Habakkuk 2:2).

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Hand Me a Towel!

I don’t want to be super critical, but it seems to me egos are running wild not only in sports, entertainment, business, and politics, but also in the church. Over-inflated egos, like body snatchers, have even taken control of some pastors. They function more like hard-nosed CEOs than shepherds. They fleece the flock rather than feed it. They set their sights on building a big church, and use or abuse their followers in order to reach that goal. They operate by an it’s my-way-or-the-highway mentality. Have they forgotten the servant-leader role Jesus modeled? Or have they simply rejected it, thinking it can’t possibly work in our goal-driven, worldly-success-oriented culture?
Jesus commanded us to follow His example of serving others. He also demonstrated what it means to serve. He taught His disciples that He had come to earth to serve and not to be served. True greatness is that of humbling oneself not in exalting oneself. In the Upper Room, He performed a humble servant’s task by taking a towel and washing His disciples’ feet. On the Cross, He made the supreme sacrifice on behalf of others. He died for our sins.
Yesterday, I moved into the church office in Penrose, read the Church’s statement of Faith and Practice and the Church Directory, and began calling members of the congregation and recent visitors to learn how I can serve them. I want to lead the congregation by serving. I may be out of step with Madison Avenue, but I want to be in step with the Master. So, hand me a towel!

Monday, November 5, 2007

First Day of Interim Ministry in Penrose

Yesterday was another glorious Colorado day. The sky was deep blue and the sun shone brightly. The temperature reached into the 70s by the time the morning service ended and the people drove to a family’s spacious property for a cookout.
The food and fellowship were excellent, and the hosts’ talented son provided a spectacular demonstration of dirt bike aerobatics. Time after time, he sped up a ramp, soared high over a ridge, and landed perfectly in a short landing area. It was quite a sight!
What a friendly, receptive group of believers welcomed me to Beaver Park Friends Church in Penrose for my first Sunday as interim pastor! I look forward to getting to know everyone better.
I would appreciate your prayers for spiritual and numeric growth as the congregation and I partner together to share the gospel in Penrose and beyond.
I am grateful Jesus affirmed His unlimited authority when He gave the Great Commission. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations . . . “ (Matthew 28:18. 19). The command to “go” is vital to the success of the gospel ministry, and having received authority to go, we cannot be silent.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

A New Ministry

It’s almost time to turn our clocks back one hour, and it is almost time for me to begin a new ministry. Tomorrow, I will become the interim pastor at Beaver Park Friends Church in Penrose, Colorado. I am looking forward to the opportunity to share God’s Word and shepherd the flock.
Penrose is not an entirely new field of service for me. I had served as interim pastor at an Evangelical Free Church there for six months in 2004. Only a few blocks separate that church and the Friends church.
Philippians 1:1–11 is the text for my Sunday morning message. I plan, Lord willing, to preach through Philippians with brief excursions to seasonal themes at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
If you live in Penrose or within driving distance, why not attend tomorrow’s service at 10:30? You will receive a friendly welcome and the encouragement of a life-related Bible message. Beaver Park Friends Church is located at 140 Illinois. Take Highway 115 to Penrose. Go east on Broadway to Illinois, and then turn right on Illinois. You can’t miss the church. I hope to see you there.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Raking Leaves

I was raking leaves yesterday, and I will rake again when all the leaves have fallen off our trees. When I was a kid. I enjoyed raking leaves, but it isn’t something I enjoy doing now. When I was a kid, environmentalism may have been a word in scientists’ vocabulary, but it hadn’t slipped into the vocabulary of the general public. All of us kids delighted in raking fallen leaves into huge piles, jumping into the piles, and eventually moving them to the curb, where we set them on fire. I can still visualize the glowing evening embers of bonfires up and down our neighborhood’s streets. If I focus well on that mental image, I can even smell the rising plumes of smoke.
But yesterday, raking leaves was all work and no play. While my lower back muscles signaled displeasure, I mused about conditions in the Garden of Eden. God had charged Adam with the task of caring for the Garden, but did Adam rake leaves?
No, he didn’t. For one thing, backbreaking unpleasant work did not kick in until sin got Adam and Eve kicked out of the Garden. For another, seasons didn’t exist until after the Noahic Flood. No changing seasons, no fall; no fall, no falling leaves!
The Bible mentions leaves a number of times. Adam and Eve tried to cover their nakedness by sewing fig leaves together to form aprons (Genesis 3:7). God later clothed them with animal skins (v. 21). Human beings still try to look presentable to God by doing something on their own—good deeds, church attendance, religious rites, etc.—when they really need the covering for sin God provided through the shed blood of Jesus. (See Romans 4:4–8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 4–10.)
Psalm 1 features the delight a righteous person experiences when he meditates on God’s Word. Also, meditating on the Word makes his life meaningful and fulfilling. He is like “a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatsoever he does prospers” (verse 3).
During His earthly ministry, Jesus approached a fig tree that had leaves but no fruit. He promptly consigned it to a lifetime of barrenness. Apparently, the fig tree resembled Israel’s religious condition—all show and no fruit. The Lord still detests hypocrisy. He is not impressed by empty religious ceremonies and phony religious actions.
Revelation 22:2 describes the celestial city, New Jerusalem, as having “the tree of life” with leaves “for the healing of the nations.” I believe the New Jerusalem will hover over Earth as a satellite city during the millennial reign of Christ on Earth. At that time, the nations will submit to His lordship, and peace and prosperity will abound. Further, human beings will enjoy extraordinary longevity, perhaps due to the healing properties inherent in the leaves of the tree of life. It is not out of the realm of reasonable speculation that representatives of the nations will shuttle back and forth to the New Jerusalem to obtain the tree’s medicinal properties.
You may want to think about these few Biblical references to leaves next time to rake your yard. I know I will.
Rake on!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What's New?

Venez ici, Sadie! Bonne fille, Sadie!
I suppose I could speak to our new puppy this way. She is a Coton de Tulear, a French breed similar to a Bichon. Cotons originated in Madagascar, and “Coton” is French for “cotton.” However, since Sadie was born in Burlington, Colorado, I will forgo the French and address her in English.
Sadie looks like a ball of cotton and is just as light. She seems to be as easy to train, as she is to lift. I’m sure she will be a magnificent little dog. Although we purchased her only yesterday, she has already become a cherished family member as “sister" to our Maltese Molly and our toy poodle Rosie.
Bringing a puppy into one’s home carries a huge responsibility, but the fun that accompanies the responsibility makes the event well worthwhile. I think every senior should buy a puppy. The challenge and joy of caring for a puppy helps to keep a pet owner young at heart. It also forces a senior to stay active.
I can’t walk Sadie in the park alongside Molly and Rosie until she has had a few more vaccinations, but I am looking forward to that first walk. Handling three leashes will require a certain amount of dexterity and alertness and I may have to do the Highland Fling occasionally to avoid tripping, but my muscles and joints will thank me for the exercise.
Regardless of your age, accept a new challenge soon, whether a new puppy brings it to you or it arrives in some other form. Start a Bible study or befriend a needy person or visit a nursing home or invite a neighbor to church or ______________ . You fill in the blank.
We are never too old or too insignificant to take on a new venture for the God of new beginnings.

Here's Sadie!!

Sadie is an 8 week old Coton de Tulear. She joined our family, yesterday. Rosie and Molly are enjoying the companionship of their new sister.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Wait until Next Year!

“Wait until next year!”
I suppose Rockies’ fans have been mouthing these words since last night’s decisive loss to the Red Sox. However, no words compensate for the agony of being swept in a World Series showdown. It is almost inexplicable to account for four losses in a row in the World Series by a team that had previously won 21 out of 22 games. We can chalk up the disaster only to the Red Sox’s better pitching and better batting.
It’s time to move on. The Broncos are playing today on Monday Night Football.
Disappointment often punctures a perfectly good day or series of days, and deflates our hopes—and sometimes our sense of self-worth. Second Kings 19 depicts the prophet Elijah as so disappointed in himself that he asked the Lord to take away his life. He had previously championed God’s cause and restored a nation’s faith by exposing the futility of Baal worship and spotlighting the power of the true God. But this event had infuriated sadistic Queen Jezebel, who had imported Baal worship to Israel. She immediately put a contract on Elijah, predicting he would be dead in 24 hours. That’s when Elijah’s faith took a hike; and so did Elijah. He fled the country, continued through Judah to the south, sat down exhausted and depressed under a broom tree in the desert, where he prayed for a quick end to his life.
But God doesn’t give up on His people, even when we give up on ourselves. He revealed Himself to Elijah in a “still, small voice,” and gave him new assignments. Disappointments may be ideal times to anticipate His appointments. When we are at the end of ourselves, we can see new beginnings. Elijah left his one-man pity party in the desert and embraced new opportunities to serve God.
The fact that we are still breathing proves God hasn’t given up on us. We can serve Him today. We don’t have to mope around and wait until next year for another opportunity to serve Him.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Unconditional Love

I have to be honest with you. I sometimes feel sorry for our little dogs, Molly and Rosie, because Gloria and I are age-challenged. We are what society calls, “seniors.” I’m not fond of the designation, but I can live with it, especially when Gloria and I visit restaurants that offer a senior discount. However, our senior status means our children are adults. So there are no kids living with us. If Molly and Rosie want to play, they’re stuck with two owners who can get down on the floor but take a painfully slow time to get up.

I don’t think our dogs understand the human aging process. If they do, they have never come right out and barked, “You guys are old and slow.” They just accept us—yes, even love us—as we are.

When I leave home, Molly and Rosie follow me to the door and give me that long look that says, “We’ll miss you.” When I return, they greet me. They wag their tails, bark, and jump around my feet. I don’t have a dog language translator, but I’m sure they are saying, “We’re glad you’re home.” If that isn’t doggy love, what is?

Yes, sometimes I feel sorry for Molly and Rosie, and I wish they had kids to play with, but they don’t seem to fret. They offer unconditional love and show that is real.

Good Dogma
Have you met people who wonder how God can love them? I have. Some have low self-esteem. Some lug a load of guilt around in an unrelenting conscience. Some think God is too busy to care about them. His time is taken up with important matters like making the world go round, keeping the stars lit, managing angels, and restraining powerful evildoers from blowing up the world. Others believe God’s love is limited to those who have gone to church since they were toddlers. A few are serving time in prison. How could God possibly love felons?

Well, there is good news. God loves everyone without exception. He loves you and me just as we are. He knows all about our weaknesses, our failures, our blemishes, our imperfections, and our sins. He even knows about our baldness or our big nose or our warts or our freaky big toes, yet He loves us. That’s unconditional love, and it’s a treasure!

Now, here’s an amazing phenomenon. Once we recognize that God loves us unconditionally and we believe on His Son as our Savior, He places His love in our hearts so we can love Him and His commandments (Romans 5:5). The apostle John understood this truth. He wrote, “We love because he first loved us” (I John 4:19).

A Bible Treat
“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man. Though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die, but God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7, 8).

—From my book, Meditations for Dog Lovers (AMG Publications), © 2005

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Ultimate Appointment

Life delivers bundles of sadness along with heaps of joy. The other day, Gloria’s oldest brother called to say his middle daughter had died. Our niece Jill had battled breast cancer courageously for a long time. She was only 46. Ironically, her mother had breast cancer, which had claimed her mother’s life when she was 46.
The same day, a member of a church I had pastored in Williamson, New York, until 1964 called to tell me another member of the church had died during the night. He remarked, “She went to bed, fell asleep, and woke up in heaven.” She was in her 80s.
Death is no respecter of persons. Soon the old must die, and at any time the young may die. Hebrews 9:27 insists everyone must keep an appointment with death. But Christians need not fear death. For the Christian, death issues a passport to an unending life in heaven. Death ushers the Christian immediately into the presence of the risen Savior (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:21–23). It is a graduation; a change of address; a triumph, not a tragedy; a gain, not a loss.
Jesus died, rose again, and ascended to heaven, and sat down at the Father’s right hand—the place of uncontested authority. Now, He is preparing a place for us. Christians who have passed through the veil of death are enjoying indescribable surroundings and boundless vibrant life with Christ.
Yes, it is hard to part with loved ones and friends, but someday they will welcome us to heaven. They may even given us a grand tour of that beautiful, peaceful place. In the meantime, when thoughts of dying confront us, we can exclaim with the apostle Paul, “’Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ . . . But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55–57).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Faithful Friends

About a month ago a retired Air Force colonel left his ranch home in Cotopaxi, Colorado, to feed his livestock. He took his two dogs with him. When he didn’t return, his family launched a search. Knowing he had Alzheimer’s, they suspected he had become confused and wandered off into nearby rugged terrain. They were right. Although the search failed to locate the missing man, a hunter stumbled onto his body the other day, and also found his two dogs in good condition at his side.

Those of us who own dogs and are owned by them know how loyal they are. My two dogs, a Maltese and a toy poodle, are more than pets; they are good friends. Whatever I spend to feed them and keep them healthy and groomed, they more than repay me in companionship and loyalty. They even listen attentively when I talk to them—something not everyone does when I preach.

Another dog will join our family at the end of October. Sadie, a Coton de Tulear puppy will join Molly and Rosie to form a trio of faithful, loving friends.

Proverbs 17:17 teaches, “A friend loves at all times.” It seems to me we can learn a significant lesson from our canine friends.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Available Free Tickets to Heaven

A few minutes from now thousands of Rockies fans will storm the Internet in an attempt to secure tickets to at least one of the currently scheduled three World Series home games. The targeted web site may crash! But even if it accommodates all the traffic, only a fraction of hopefuls will obtain tickets.
World Series tickets are expensive, but at every game 51,000 ticket holders will experience several hours of blissful hysteria as they “root, root, root for the home team.”
Unless the Rockies fail miserably (an unthinkable possibility?), the faithful fans at Coors Field will not regret the cost.
So “Bravo,” World Series ticket holders! Enjoy your coveted hours with the Colorado Rockies and . . . that other team…oh, yes, the Boston Red Sox. But do you know you can obtain free admission to something far better than a World Series game? The Bible promises eternal life to all who receive it as a gift from God. Romans 6:23 indicates this gift comes to us through Jesus Christ, and John 1:12 explains that all who receive Jesus Christ enjoy the privilege of membership in God’s forever family. (See also 1 John 5:11–13.)
The 2007 baseball season will end November 1 or earlier, but no one can predict when his or her life on earth will end. It’s extremely important, therefore, to know now what our eternal destination is. Heaven, the eternal home of those who believe on Jesus as Savior, provides unending bliss; meaningful activity; reunion with Christian loved ones and friends; freedom from pain, suffering, sorrow; and best of all, face-to-face fellowship with the Savior.
Are you holding a ticket to a reserved place in heaven?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Home Cooking, Scottish Style

Mom, Dad, and I were born in Scotland. My two brothers were born in Canada. Mom and Dad maintained many old country ways and spoke with a Scottish brogue. My brothers and I learned the meaning of our parents’ Scottish words, and we learned to eat some Scottish food that didn’t quite measure up to levitical dietary standards. We filled up on “black puddin’” without ever calling it what it was—blood sausage. Tripe, the lining of a cow’s stomach, was frequently another meal du jour. We also ate such delicacies as tongue and “pottied heed”—head cheese—and lots of thick porridge.
Occasionally, I would push my plate away, but Dad would intone, “You get that knocked into you or I’ll break baith your legs.” So I knocked into me whatever was on the plate.
I don’t recall ever eating at a restaurant. We always ate at home. But that home cooking, Scottish style, must have had something go for it. My older brother and I enjoy good health in our seventies, and my younger brother enjoys good health too.
So blaw the pipes as a tribute to Scottish cooking!
No, I don’t want to order a plate of “black puddin’” today, but there is something to be said for being content with whatever we can afford to eat. Most of us in the Western World eat too much and seldom give thanks for the bounty God has given. Hunger ravages countries not far from ours, where kids rummage through dumps in search of scraps of food.
Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving earlier this month, and a month from now Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving by gathering with family and friends to share an enormous meal complete with turkey and two or three kinds of pie. Some Americans will call the occasion “Turkey Day,” but the day was instituted as Thanksgiving Day. That’s what it should always be—a day to give thanks to our loving heavenly Father for what He has given to us.
His greatest gift, of course, is the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23). Let’s offer special thanks for Him this coming Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Rockies Advance to the World Series

Twenty-two games ago the Rockies’ season looked bleak, but what a difference 21 wins make. The Rockies won 21 of their last 22 games to advance to the World Series. Their success shows what teamwork and perseverance can accomplish. It also shows how willing fans are to support a winning team. The cost of tickets to a World Series game ranges from $65 to the thousands of dollars. (I won’t be attending.)
What might happen in the life of a discouraged congregation if the members refused to accept defeat and, instead, anticipated spiritual success? What might happen if teamwork replaced a selfish numero uno attitude? What might happen if members supported their church financially to the point of contributing beyond ten percent? Surely, God would honor such actions by showing a community what He can do through even a few believers whose priorities, motives, and commitment please Him.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Fans or Fanatics?

The Rockies won again last night. It was their twentieth win in twenty-one games. Fantastic!
That word “fantastic” brings to mind two similar words, “fans” and “fanatics.” The first is usually applied to sports devotees, the second to Christians. Perhaps the application fits as well as a left shoe fits a right foot and a right shoe fits a left foot. After viewing the Rockies game last night from the comfort of home, I believe those who attended the game are fanatics. Christians are not fanatics.
The Rockies’ faithful sat in cold rain for almost four hours, having paid premium prices for the “privilege.” The temperature dipped into the 30s. When was the last time Christians sat in cold rain for about four hours free of charge to worship and/or listen to Bible teachers? Never?
One June day I sat outside the Billy Sunday Tabernacle at Winona Lake, Indiana, and listened to a Bible teacher expound Scripture. When dark clouds poured rain on the audience, most people ran for cover. Because the outdoor service was being broadcast, the speaker had to dig in and keep expounding. I stayed, but hardly anyone else did.
So chuck the word “fanatics” from your vocabulary when you refer to Christians. While you’re at it, discard the word “fans” too. Who wants to be known as one of Jesus’ fans? I prefer the term, “faithful follower.” It marks the believer as someone who is loyal to Jesus and committed to the lifelong pursuit of walking in His steps.
Let’s relegate the word “fans” to the world of sports and the word “fanatics” to the world of loonies. Faithful followers of Jesus do not live by their emotions, nor do they simply put Jesus in a celebrity role. He is Lord and Master.

“’Come, follow me,’” Jesus said” (Matthew 4:19.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

What a Fellowship! Pass the Pie!

I will be preaching tomorrow morning (October 14) in a foothills community about one hour southwest of Colorado Springs. The chairman of the board just called to inform me a fellowship dinner will follow the morning service. I'm all for that! Fellowship dinners, often called potlucks, are occasions for eating, conversing, eating, and eating. I often wonder how churches would survive without fellowship dinners.
Some time ago, I heard about a third-grade teacher would tried to tried to teach her students about religious diversity. She asked them to bring something to class the following day that represented their religion. A Jewish boy brought a Star of David, a Catholic girl brought a rosary, a Muslim boy brought a prayer rug, and a Protestant girl brought a casserole dish.
I'm sure I will have a gourmet encounter with several casserole dishes tomorrow.
The New Testament meaning of "fellowship" goes beyond what normally comes to mind. It suggests a joint participation in the work of the gospel. The apostle Paul expressed his gratitude for the Philippian Christians' fellowship [partnership] in the gospel "from the first day until now" (Philippians 1:5). Although he was a prisoner in Rome when he wrote his letter to the Philippians, Paul still received prayer support and financial support from his Christian friends at Philippi (1:19; 4:14–18).
When I preach tomorrow, I will endeavor to encourage the congregation to partner together to spread the Good News of Christ. Pass the gospel, and pass the pie!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Rockies Win! Rockies Win!

They did it! The Rockies won the first game of the NLCS by defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks 5 to 1. Now they have won 18 of their last 19 games.
All reports indicate harmony and happiness pervade the Rockies locker room. That’s understandable, because belonging to a winning team, whether in sports or business or some other venture, carries a sense of oneness and accomplishment. Who doesn’t want to be a member of a team that fulfills its purpose?
Christians belong to a team whose purpose is far more important than that of winning the NLCS or even the World Series. Our goal is to introduce as many people as possible to Jesus Christ. Realistically, we will not persuade everyone to believe on Jesus, but we can win more people to Him if we all do our part. If we share the gospel in reliance in the Holy Spirit, we may be pleasantly surprised at the results.
The boys of summer will put away their baseball uniforms and equipment soon, but the task of sharing the gospel will continue until the Rapture. God’s team still has much work to do.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Go, Rockies!

This is a big day in the life of every Colorado Rockies fan. Tonight, the Rockies play the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first game of the NLCS Series. This marks the first time the Rockies have made it to the NLCS Series. To get to this level, the team has won 16 of its last 17 games. No small feat!
I must confess I am not a big fan of baseball, but the Rockies have my support (for what it’s worth), and I will be cheering for them tonight. Several Christians are on the Rockies’ roster, and I appreciate the team’s quiet resolve to give its best effort every time the ump yells, "Play ball.” Humility and determination are refreshing traits in today’s showcase-yourself sports culture.
Our adult son Brian is an avid baseball fan. He started collecting baseball trading cards when he was about ten. He can recall stats and discuss strategy. He is also a huge Nuggets basketball fan. If you go to a sporting event with Brian, plan on staying to the very end. His team loyalty will not allow him to leave a game early even if the home team trails significantly in the last inning or minute of the fourth quarter.
Team loyalty should count for something in our church life too. If the pastor leads a godly life, preaches God’s Word faithfully, and shepherds the flock conscientiously and the elected leaders serve well, we should attend regularly and cheer our church on. Sure, another church may attract a bigger crowd, offer livelier music, and provide lots of fun-filled activities, but let’s not desert “the home team.” After all, God judges success by the standard of faithfulness not flashiness.
Tonight, many Rockies fans will hold signs that read: GO ROCKIES! My editorial background prompts me to point out the signs should read GO, ROCKIES! A comma separates an imperative verb and an appellation. If you want to take a sign to church that declares your loyalty, do so. Just remember the comma: GO, MY CHURCH!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Let's Move from PC to TC

Preschool Sunday school lessons often teach students that God made all things, He made them, and He made families. The desired responses to these truths follow: each child should obey God, obey Mommy and Daddy, be kind, and share. The reasoning behind these themes assumes preschoolers are too young to understand the gospel. Some would agree twos and threes are too young to understand the gospel, but teachers of preschoolers run the risk of leading children to believe good deeds merit God’s pleasure and acceptance. When these children pass through the Kindergarten and Primary Departments, they must “unlearn” what they learned earlier. They discover good deeds do not merit God’s pleasure and acceptance. They learn they are sinful and can be saved only by grace through faith in Jesus as Savior.
Nowadays the gospel is often withheld from adults. Many pastors have bought into the idea that postmodern adults cannot understand concepts such as sin, judgment, and salvation. So they have tailored the gospel to fit the culture. Instead of preaching compassionately and authoritatively that every person is a sinner destined for hell unless he or she believes in Christ, who shed His blood for our sins, was buried, and rose again, politically correct (PC) pastors proclaim a soft, gentle, palatable message. “You are special,” they say. “God loves you, has a wonderful plan for your life, and invites you to trust Him to fulfill your dreams.”
Frankly, I would rather be TC (theologically correct) than PC (Politically correct). The apostle Paul could have argued that first-century Greek and Roman pagans would not understand the gospel, but he chose to be theologically correct and preached the gospel clearly and authoritatively. He knew the Holy Spirit enlightens the minds of sinners (1 Cor. 2: 4, 5, 14; 2 Cor. 4:3–6) and the gospel is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).
I am fully in favor of helping non-Christians move from the known to the unknown by explaining unfamiliar biblical terms; however, I deplore every attempt to alter the gospel to make it pleasing to those who want to believe God is simply a celestial Santa Claus or a doting philanthropist or a genie devoted to granting their every wish.
The apostle Paul commanded the Galatians to reject any gospel that isn’t the gospel (Gal. 1:6–8). His command should reverberate today in seminary classrooms and church auditoriums throughout the land.
Let’s move from PC to TC.

Monday, October 8, 2007

What Part of "STOP" Don't We Understand?

If you visit Colorado Springs or move here, you may be surprised to see more bad driving than you left behind. Wouldn’t you think a city teeming with evangelical organizations and churches would stand out as a model of safe, courteous driving? But Colorado Springs, often called “Saints’ Roost,” “Wheaton of the West,” or “New Jerusalem,” seems to be “City of Reckless Abandon” when drivers take to the streets.
Maybe drivers are blinded by our bright sun (we have more than 300 sunny days per year), and can’t see a STOP sign when they come to one. So many drivers roll through STOP signs here I wonder if the brake shops went out of business.
Traffic lights pose another test many drivers fail. True or false: Red means stop; green means go? The answer may be elementary, my dear Watson, but I don’t think any Watsons live in Colorado Springs.
Speed is another issue. School zones post a 20 mph speed limit, but when I do 20, some cars pass me doing at least 40 mph.
One more thing, turn signals must be expensive optional equipment in Colorado Springs? It seems very few cars here have them. Or if they do, drivers don’t want to expend the energy required to use them.
You may be thinking, All those careless drivers are non-Christians. Christians obey traffic laws. How would you like to buy a choice piece of property on a nearby landfill? Many of the violators display a fish symbol or a bumper sticker with a Christian message.
When a “Christian” driver speeds past me, I observe, “There goes another flying fish.”
Maybe your city resembles mine, but I saw more courteous driving in Chicago, where I lived before I moved to Colorado Springs in 1995.
I believe Christians should obey the law if they truly want to honor the Lord. How we drive is often a reflection of what drives us. If we are driven by anger or ego or impatience, we may roll through STOP signs, ignore traffic lights, speed down streets, and fail to use signal lights. If we are driven by love for God and others, we will drive courteously and lawfully.
You have heard the adage, “What you do speaks so loud I can’t hear what you say.” If we claim to be Christians, let’s conduct ourselves appropriately on our streets and highways. No one should be able to say, “How you drive speaks so loud I can’t hear what you say.”

Friday, October 5, 2007

Extreme Makeover Comes to Town

The Extreme Makeover TV show has drawn a thousand volunteers to a construction site on the southeast side of Colorado Springs. Sunday, October 7, the popular TV show will hand over the keys to a newly constructed spacious house to the Woodhouse family. Right now the flurry of activity swirling around the site is rivaled only by the constant swirl of prairie dust.
The Jeremy and Kim Woodhouse were selected to receive the “big house on the prairie” because their daughter has special medical needs that incur huge medical bills. She cannot feel pain, and she must wear a space-age cooling vest to keep her body’s temperature at precisely the right level.

Gloria and I visited the Extreme Makeover project this morning. We have a special interest in the project because Jeremy is the assistant pastor at a church I served a few years ago as interim pastor. Looking east, we saw what appeared to be an endless stretch of sandy soil and light-brown prairie grass. To the west, the foothills of the Rocky Mountains rise like a jagged wall marking the end of the prairie’s domain.

We stood across from the house alongside about one hundred Air Force Academy Prep School students. The students were being summoned to the construction site fifteen at a time to carry clutter to a disposal site. Not a very glamorous job, but the students seemed to be happy doing whatever Extreme Makeover asked them to do. Each received an attractive blue shirt for participating in the project.

The Bible features an extreme makeover. Second Corinthians 5:17 indicates, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” You and I may never receive a brand-new house constructed and donated by big-hearted construction companies and a large cadre of volunteer workers, but we can lay claim to a brand-new life offered as a gift and made possible by the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. He shed His blood for us. If we believe on Him as our Savior, God removes our sins and grants us everlasting life. But there is more, He promises us a home in Heaven. Someday the family of God will live there, and its comfort, convenience, and security will outclass anything Extreme Makeover builds down here—and that’s saying a lot.

“The gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23b).

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Getting Rid of Monsters

Someone has come up with a creative moneymaking idea: monster repellant spray. It seems many young children are afraid of monsters, especially monsters that lurk in bedrooms at night. Now, there is help in a can. Before kissing Mommy and Daddy goodnight, kids can spray monster repellant liberally around their bedroom and even on their bed. Presto, monsters vanish into the aerosol mist.
Hey, I have an even better idea. Why not teach little ones that God watches over them all night as well as all day, in the darkness as well as in the light? And why not teach them that monsters don’t exist. Even very young kids can trust in the Lord to keep them safe. With a little help from Mom and Dad, they can memorize Psalm 4:8: “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.”
So, instead of reaching for monster spray repellant at bedtime, parents can pray with their children. “Let’s pray” instead of “Let’s spray” results not only in a restful night but also in a close parent-child relationship.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Bogey Coyote

When two golf buddies and I walked off the 18th green of Springs Ranch Golf Course in Colorado Springs, we saw a fierce-looking coyote positioned between the cart path and a pond. I’ll call him, Bogey Coyote. Crouched and facing the pond, Bogey appeared big and mean. However, after staring at him for a while from a safe distance, we noticed he wasn’t moving. Surely he didn’t die in that position, I thought.
One of my golf buddies threw an old golf ball at Bogey, but Bogey didn’t move. We took a closer look, and discovered Bogey was a fake—a lifelike fake, but a fake nonetheless.
When we asked the pro shop attendant why Bogey was positioned beside the pond, he replied, “We put him there to scare away ducks and geese, and it has worked. You didn’t see any ducks or geese at the pond, did you?
Ducks and geese may not be able to tell a real coyote from a fake—until a real one bites, but you and I should know the difference. However, how often do we fear something that cannot harm us? Our Bogey Coyote may be one of a host of what-ifs that may never become real. What if I get cancer? What if I lose my job? What if I get involved in a car wreck? What if . . . .
Such fears may keep us from living confidently with reliance upon God and His promises. Philippians 4:8 commands, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Verse 7 identifies the result of turning our anxieties over to God: “And the peace of God . . . will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
If you face your fears with faith, you will find they can’t hurt you any more than Bogey Coyote can hurt geese and ducks. So don’t be a silly goose!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Do I Need a New Driver?

Golfers are familiar with the saying, “Drive for show. Putt for dough.” I know it’s a wise saying, but I find myself wishing for an extra 30 yards off the tee box.
Recently, one of my golf buddies let me use his Taylor Made R7 off four consecutive tee boxes after I had used my own driver. The result? Thirty extra yards each time and an intense wish to own a Taylor Made R7.
I even went shopping for an R7, but the $299 price tag quickly raised the question, “Do I really need to drive a ball an extra 30 yards?” After all, my drives are straight and fairly long for my age. What I really need, I reflected, is a laser-guided putter. Poor putting, not poor driving, is what elevates my score/. If I could putt well, I would knock at least 10 strokes off my score.
Life tends to imitate golf. We may spend money for things we don’t need, things that show well but add nothing to what really matters. Long drives without accurate putts do not improve a final score. Nor do showy things without a well-tuned spiritual life count for anything.
The writer of Hebrews didn’t play golf, but I have applied one of his exhortations to my brief love affair with a Taylor Made R7: “Be content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5b).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

When Trouble Troubles Us

It’s na├»ve to assume the Christian life is trouble free. Accidents can happen. Illness can strike. Unemployment can occur. Relationships splinter. Death claims loved ones and friends. Someday death will visit each of us. But Christians belong to the One who triumphed over trials, brought God’s love, peace, and joy to human hearts, conquered death, arose from the tomb, lives in heaven, and invites us to tell Him all about our troubles (Hebrews 4:14–16a). He has promised to dispense mercy and grace “to help us in our time of need” (v. 16b).
In the Old Testament era, a succession of high priests ministered on behalf of the nation of Israel. Each high priest performed sacrifices on Israel’s behalf and represented the people as He approached God in worship. His priestly attire included two shoulder pieces, each having an onyx stone. The names of six tribes of Israel were engraved on each stone. He also wore a breast piece having twelve jewels in four rows. A tribe’s name was engraved on each jewel. (See Exodus 28:1–29.) Thus the high priest bore the twelve tribes of Israel on his shoulders and on his heart as her fulfilled his priestly duties.
Hebrews 4:14 identifies Jesus as the Christians’ great high priest. He “sympathizes with our weaknesses” and was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (v. 15). He stands in God’s presence bearing us on His shoulders and on our hearts!
When trials and temptations seem too heavy to bear, by prayer we can roll our burdens off our shoulders and onto His, and we can shift a load of care from our hearts to His.
Someone wisely observed, “Prayer is the place where burdens change shoulders.”

© Jim Dyet

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Earth's Golden Age

Earth’s Golden Age lies ahead. It will not be ushered in by humanitarian efforts but by divine intervention. Jesus will return triumphantly to earth, rescue the planet from a moral tailspin, destroy the wicked, and establish a kingdom of righteousness and peace (Revelation 19:11—20:6; Isaiah 2:1–4). Jerusalem will mark the center of Jesus’ kingdom reign (Zechariah 14:17), and Earth will undergo a dramatic renewal program.

• Deserts and wasteland will blossom profusely. Forests will spring up, and grasslands will cover the land (Isaiah 35:1, 2, 7).
• The blind will see; the deaf will hear; the lame will leap; and the mute will shout for joy (verses 5, 6)
• Water shortage will be a thing of the past (verse 7a).
• Gladness and joy will be replace sorrow and sighing (verse 10).
• The Dead Sea will become a fresh-water fisherman’s paradise (Ezekiel 47:9b, 10).
• Longevity and good health will prevail (Isaiah 65:20; Revelation 22:2).
• There will be no power outages (Isaiah 60:19, 20).
• The infant mortality rate will be zero (Isaiah 65:20).
• Everyone will eat well and live securely (Isaiah 65:21, 22).
• Property rights will be respected (Micah 4:4).
• Violence will cease, and prisons will be empty (Isa. 60:18).
• The streets will be safe for children (Zechariah 8:5).
• Children will be safe even around snakes (Isaiah 11:8).
• Wild animals will abandon their savagery. Former predators and prey will live in harmony (Isaiah 11:6, 7a).
• Previously carnivorous animals will be herbivorous (Isaiah 11:7b).
• Universal peace will prevail (Isaiah 9:7).
• Jesus will judge righteously, justly, and decisively (Isa. 11:3, 4).
• Israel will be exalted among the nations (Zechariah 14:16).
• Knowledge of the Lord will pervade the earth (Isaiah 11:9).
• Righteousness and holiness will be reflected in even the most unexpected places (Zechariah 14:20, 21).

What a pleasant place earth will be when Jesus is King over all the earth! Color codes signifying levels of terror alerts will fade into obsolescence. We will never face an outbreak of flu or any other epidemic. Hospices will no longer be needed. Burials will be extremely rare. We will not have to lock our doors or carry homeowners insurance. Amber alerts will be things of the past. Sex offenders will not live in Jesus’ kingdom. If sports venues exist, they will be free of violence and cussing. The newspapers and TV networks will have only good news to broadcast. No one will have to worry about Social Security going bankrupt or CEOs stealing company funds or hoodwinking stockholders. We will not have to wonder how our political leaders might respond to nuclear buildups in unfriendly nations. A natural disaster will not occur anywhere in the world. Peace will prevail among individuals, nations, and the forces of nature.
So don’t look around you and feel hopeless, thinking the world is about to end. Instead, look above you to the Lord of heaven and earth and anticipate a better day for Planet Earth.

—Adapted from All Good People Go to Heaven and Other Religious Lore by Jim Dyet (Honor Books). © 2006 by Jim Dyet

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Jerry Jenkins Christian Writers Guild

As an editorial board member of the Jerry Jenkins Christian Writers Guild, I get to brainstorm ways the Guild can recruit and train Christians more effectively for the ministry of writing. The board numbers about sixteen and includes college professors, editors, publishers’ reps, and successful writers. Yesterday, we churned out a variety of good ideas we hope will empower Guild students to create significant articles, screenplays, dramas, and books.
The printed word holds potential for good and bad. It can shed light in a dark world, but it can also cast a shadow of doom and despair. Christian writers have the ability to look beyond the stark headlines and distressing reports of world events and see the hand of God. They know He holds the future and extends help for today. If they write clearly and compassionately, they will equip their readers for a faith that triumphs over trials and temptations. Indeed, an effective writing ministry can change the world, one heart at a time. That’s what the Jerry Jenkins Christian Writers Guild is all about.

"Then the LORD replied: 'Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it'" (Habakkuk 2:2).

Sunday, September 23, 2007

This Old House: Where Seniors Live

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).

In the 1950s Christians were singing “This Old House,” a song written by Stuart Hamlin. It compared a believer’s aging body to a house whose windows, floors, and doors were wearing out. But Stuart said he didn’t have time to fix the shingles, fix the floor, oil the hinges, or mend the windowpanes. “I won’t need this house much longer,” he wrote; “I’m getting ready to meet the saints.”
Stuart was on to something. This old house, the human body, leaves much to be desired. The older it gets, the more it sags, squeaks, staggers, slumbers, shutters, and shakes. We visit doctors and pharmacies more often than we visit grocery stores; and pills cram our medicine cabinet more than commuters cram a New York subway train at 5:00 o’clock on Friday. Most three year olds can tie their shoelaces faster than we can, and they can consume a biggie order of French fries faster than we can swallow a glass of Metamucil.
And those slick, one-pill or one-ointment-rub cure-all commercials don’t help at all. You know the kind: Grandma can’t play ball with Billy because her arthritic shoulder is killing her. But after rubbing just one dab of that no-smell Wonderlube on her shoulder, she turns into a pitching ace. Billy is ecstatic; he thinks Grandma might win the Cy Young Award.
Of course, some medicinal aids can help alleviate our pain, but this old house will never return to mint condition. We can slow the aging process, but we can’t stop it. Nevertheless, it has served us well for decades and will be our residence until our final moving day.

According to 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20, the Christian should honor God with his body because it is a temple of the Holy Spirit. The Christian’s body is also referred to as a house (KJV, 2 Corinthians 5:1). No matter how tired or stressed our “house” may be, we ought to maintain it as well as we can. Following a proper diet, getting adequate rest, and exercising regularly are just a few important ways to show respect for the body as God’s possession and the Spirit’s residence. Following our doctor’s orders and taking our prescribed medications consistently are two additional ways.
We can honor God with our body by speaking kind, loving words; by listening to a neighbor’s concerns; by talking about the goodness of the Lord; by hugging a grandchild; by extending a helping hand to the needy; by walking into a patient’s hospital or nursing home room and offering a smile; and by bending our knees in prayer on behalf of others.
We may not need this old house much longer, but until we vacate it, let’s take care of it and honor its Builder.

“Lord, may my hands, feet, lips, and ears honor You, and may my heart beat with love for You and others until You post my final moving day from this old house.”

—From 40 Days to Your Best Life for Prime Timers by Jim Dyet and Joe Ragont, © 2006 Honor Books

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Days of Unlocked Doors

Things aren’t what they used to be, and I’m glad they aren’t. If everything had stayed the way they were just a few years ago, I wouldn’t be able to blog or make a cell phone call or drive a car equipped with all-wheel drive. But some changes are disturbing.
In 1952 I passed a driving test and received a chauffeur’s license so I could every summer as a house-to-house bread salesman. The work provided an income I could apply to college, but it also gave me vivid snapshots of human nature. A few customers were grumpy or vain or stingy, but most were kind, friendly, and trusting.
Key rings were lighter in the ‘50s, because many families didn’t own two cars. Some didn’t own even one car. And it was common for people to leave their homes unlocked. Often, I would read a note on the door addressed to me: “Baker, please leave a loaf of bread and an apple pie on the kitchen counter. I have left money there for you.”
Am I being too cynical to imagine the havoc a note like that would inflict on a homeowner today? An intruder might walk right in, steal the money and whatever else he could carry, and walk right out.
So we lock our doors, trust very few people, and tote heavy key rings!
However, crime will be virtually nonexistent when Jesus rules the earth. Personal righteousness and universal peace will prevail, and everyone will enjoy a secure life (Micah 4:4).
If house-to-house bread salesmen resume business in Jesus’ kingdom, they might find notes again on unlocked doors.

“Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:7).

Friday, September 21, 2007

Atheism in the U.S.A.

According to a Barna study released in June, 5 million adults in the United States claim to be atheists. If agnostics and those who say they have no faith are counted as not believing in God, the number rises to 20 million—one in every 11 Americans. However, only 6 percent of adults over 60 have no faith in God. Does this last-mentioned statistic suggest many people change their minds about the existence of God as they closer to meeting Him?
Atheists may consider themselves non-religious, but in reality they are religious. They believe in what they consider their superior intelligence and self-reliance. They assume their philosophy of life and death is accurate, and therefore choose to live free of what the Bible teaches about human accountability to a divine authority. But ultimately, they will see the error of their ways. Proverbs 14:12 announces, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Furthermore, God has weighed in on the issue of atheism by declaring, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1).
Yes, it takes faith to believe in the existence of God, but it also takes faith not to believe He exists.
While traveling through the beautiful Irish Hills of Michigan years ago, I read a roadside sign that questioned, Why Live in God’s World without God? I wonder how an atheist might answer.

“The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior” (Psalm 18:46).

Written by James Dyet. © 2007, Jim Dyet

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Are We Having Joy Yet?

Have you noticed how frequently the word “fun” occurs today? A restaurant is a “fun” place to eat. Learning is supposed to be “fun.” And many churches believe worship should be “fun.”
Jesus proved that joy and fun are not Siamese twins. Joy can exist even when fun is absent. Having fun depends upon happy occasions, whereas having joy depends upon a close relationship with Jesus. Fun occurs when the good times roll, but joy abides in the worst of times as well as in the best of times. Joyful people can have fun, but people who have fun may not have joy. Those who conform to the ways of the world may have fun, but only those who conform to the will of God have real joy. Fun is temporary. Joy is eternal. Fun is manmade, but joy comes from God. Joy is neither physical nor material; it is supernatural and spiritual. A songwriter supplied accurate directions for finding joy. He wrote: “If you want joy, real joy, wonderful joy, let Jesus come into your heart.” Perhaps, it is time churches stopped asking, “Are we having fun yet?” and started asking, “Do we have Jesus’ joy yet?”
To have Jesus’ joy through thick and thin, in the storms of life as well as in the sunshine, in loss as well as in gain, in sadness as well as in gladness, in hurt as well as in health, we must maintain a close relationship with Jesus. We must abide in Him and in His Word. He told His disciples, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:10, 11).
Are we having joy yet?

—Adapted from The Master’s Plan for You, written by Jim Dyet, © 2002, The Amy Foundation, Lansing, Michigan