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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Walk This Way!

Enoch was the only member of Seth’s godly line who escaped death in the Age of Conscience. Genesis 5:21–24 reports that he walked with God until one day God took him. Even parental responsibilities didn’t deter Enoch from walking with God. Verse 22 indicates he walked with God for 300 years after fathering Methuselah and other sons and daughters. At age 365, Enoch’s walk with God rose to its highest level—Heaven.

After returning from a trip to the Holy Land, a Christian told a friend how thrilling it was to walk where Jesus walked centuries earlier. He added, "Only one thing is better than walking where Jesus walked long ago; that is to walk with Jesus today.”

You and I may not be able to tour the Holy Land and walk where Jesus walked, but we can walk with Him today and every day.

May we enjoy such a walk now and anticipate our future walk with Him in Heaven.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Stamp Out Complaining

According to J. J. Camp of the Canadian Bar Association, in 1887 surveyors marked the 49th parallel, the U.S.-Canada boundary, across the prairies. They drew the boundary according to carefully calculated coordinates. Inevitably, a few farmers who thought they were living in the United States suddenly learned they were on the Canadian side of the border.

One of those surprised farmers complained vehemently to the surveyor.

“Why do you care?” the surveyor asked.

“The farmer snapped, “Do you know how cold those Canadian winters can be?”

I have lived on both sides of the border, and, believe me, complainers may be found on both sides. Complaining seems to be a natural part of the human psyche. Even Christians find plenty to complain about. The church auditorium is too hot or too cold. The pastor preaches too long. His wife can’t keep their kids under control. Deacon Smith is too old to wear his hair that way.

Of course, we can all find things to complain about outside church. The weather is beastly. Health care has gone to the dogs. Gas prices are on the rise again. You can’t find a clean fast–food restaurant anywhere. Teens are disrespectful. Government has fallen into the hands of lobbyists. Hospitals won’t keep you more than three days unless you have a brain transplant. Whine! Whine! Whine!

I’ll admit it: I do my share of complaining, but I’m going to try to stamp out complaining. I have far more reasons to host a praise party than a pity party. Furthermore, I just read 1 Thessalonians 5. Two verses in that chapter oppose complaining but champion praise: “Rejoice always” (v. 16), and “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (v. 18).

Complaining doesn’t change anything for the better, but praise changes us for the better. So let’s stamp out complaining and embrace praise.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Not the Retiring Type

Occasionally, I think I should slow down. After all, I reached threescore years and ten two years ago. I mentor 120 aspiring writing students, serve as interim pastor for a church 47 miles from home, and face deadlines as I write for publication.

Perhaps I should string a hammock in the back yard, lie in it, drink lemonade, read good books, and let younger men mentor, preach, and write.

Who am I fooling? I’m not the retiring type. I stay busy by choice, and I enjoy the opportunities God has given me to serve Him.

I appreciate how Henry Martyn, an Anglican missionary to India and Persia in the early 1800s, viewed ministry. “Let me burn out for God,” he quipped. In the last seven years of his life he translated the New Testament into Hindi, Persian, and Arabic. I would call that burning out for God.

Henry Martyn further expressed his desire to burn out for God in the following poem:

“And when I am dying, how glad I shall be
That the lamp of my life has been blazed out for Thee.
I shall not care in whatever I gave.
Of labor or money, one sinner to save.
I shall not care that the way has been rough.
That Thy dear feet led the way is enough.
And when I am dying, how glad I shall be
That the lamp of my life has been blazed out for Thee.”

I recall what Kenneth Wuest, my Greek teacher at Moody Bible Institute, said more than fifty years ago. “The servant of the Lord is immortal until his life’s work is done.” You and I cannot accurately predict the number of our remaining days on earth, but let’s choose to burn out for God instead of rust out.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).

Monday, February 18, 2008

Ministry Update

When Gloria and I left for church yesterday morning, snowflakes were falling and a cold wind pummeling our car. Conditions worsened in the foothills. Highway 115 that runs past Fort Carson Army Post became snow covered and slick and stayed like that until we reached a point about 25 miles northwest of Penrose. Suddenly, the sun popped out from behind the clouds, the snow ended, and the highway and fields were completely dry. It was another day of weather contrasts in Colorado, a day in which a drive of only a few miles can offer at least two seasons in half an hour.

This morning I am waiting for my son-in-law Brad to drive here (Colorado Springs) from Denver for golf at a nearby course. I need a break occasionally, and golf fills that need perfectly.

In spite of a raging spat of flu-like symptoms in Colorado, our church attendance was good yesterday morning, and the fellowship was great. A few visitors attended and seemed to feel at home. One of our men with a vision to share the gospel launched an evangelism training class after church. It is wonderful to see so many men and women in our congregation eager to engage the culture with the message of forgiveness and life.

I learned the other day that several congregations are praying for our church and my ministry. I invite you to join them in prayer. Attendance and finances need to increase so the church will be able to call a full-time pastor. The Lord answers prayer!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Golf Clubs and Cleek Marks

In 1991 I started collecting old golf clubs—the hand forged, wood-shafted kind that predate1935. I cut my golf teeth on wood-shafted clubs, so I feel kind of sentimental about my hobby. Finding a club at a flea market or garage sale is like discovering a lost relative.

Before 1890 blacksmiths made club heads by heating iron bars in forges and then pounding them into shape by hand, By the turn of the century steam-powered hammers lightened the work, but the manufacturing process still required patience and skill. The British iron makers in the 1880s–19290s era became known as cleek makers, and stamped their identifying mark, called “cleek mark,” on their club heads.

I doubt that anyone today would try to make a living by making clubs the old-fashioned way. He would go broke faster than a new golf ball goes out of bounds. Nevertheless, the old-time club makers managed to put bread on their table and pride into their work. Their cleek marks represent their good name.

Many collectors try to obtain clubs with different cleek marks, and the fun of doing so is as endless as the range of cleek marks seems to be. A shepherd’s crook identifies Alex Shepherd as a club maker around 1915. Alex Patrick put the spur mark on his work between 1905 and 1915. Andrew Herd Scott, club maker for England’s George V, used a crown and a lion from 1911 to1925. St. Andrew Golf Company used the stag mark from 1910 until 1925 and then introduced a sun mark. Gene Sarazen used St. Andrew clubs in the1930s.

The list of cleeks could go on, but I will mention only a few more: a pipe, a serpent, a robin, a flag, an anvil, a hammer, a bear, a thistle, and a Scottish bluebell.

According to Ephesians 2:10, Christians are God’s workmanship. We were like scrap iron before God reached down to salvage us. When He put His hands on us, He purged us from our sins and began to forge and polish us into the image of His Son Rom. 8:29). Someday the forging and polishing will end, and we will be like Christ (1 John 3:2). However, God has already stamped His “cleek mark” on us. He has sealed us with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13). This seal identifies us as His workmanship and guarantees that He will perfect His work in us.