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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.