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Monday, December 26, 2011

Can Anything Good Come Out of the Broncos' Loss to Buffalo?

The Broncos’ performance in Buffalo on Christmas Eve was ugly. Interceptions, sacks, turnovers, missed tackles, “bad” calls,” and a final score too painful to glance at left Bronco fans eating glum pudding. What can we deduce from such a loss? Perhaps God isn’t as big a Bronco fan as many of would like to think. But judging by Buffalo’s win/loss record, He must not be a big Bills fan either. Maybe He doesn’t have a favorite NFL team. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes might remind us there are Christian players on every NFL team.

But isn’t Tim Tebow an outstanding Christian as well as an excellent football player? Yes, but he isn’t perfect in either respect. He is still developing as an NFL QB, and God is still developing him as a Christian. I am sure Tim Tebow knows what every Christian knows: spiritual growth is far more important than acclaim. The true measure of a person’s success is not determined by athletic prowess or fame or fortune. It is determined by character and commitment to God’s will.

A fruit grower in Michigan seemed devastated when a late frost doomed his peach production. “Why did God let this happen?” he asked his pastor.

“Perhaps,” the pastor replied, “to show He is far more interested in growing you than He is in growing peaches.”

Likely, Tim Tebow believes God is more interested in growing him than He is in growing a string of football victories, and he accepts losses as part of the process.

What are we learning that helps us grow in and through losses and setbacks? Can we look beyond disappointments and see His appointments?

Go, Broncos!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Te-Bow Or Not Te-Bow, That Is the Question

Te-bow or not te-bow, that is the question.

Tim Tebow has injected excitement into Denver Bronco football, the likes of which Bronco fans have not experienced since 1977, when the team rocked the NFL, won the AFC championship, and played Dallas in Super Bowl XII. During that memorable season, Bronco running back John Keyworth recorded a song that thrilled Bronco fans. His “Make Those Miracles Happen” captured the spirit of 1977 Bronco football. Each win truly seemed miraculous.

Now, the Broncos are winning games in what some might call miraculous ways. They are come-from-behind 4th Quarter and Overtime wins. Fans have seen Quarterback Tim Tebow bowing on one knee and praying. His prayer posture has been called “Tebowing,” and many have imitated it. Some “Tebow” respectfully; others do so mockingly. A recent letter to the editor criticized the young quarterback for praying in public. The writer compared it to the Pharisees’ praying in public to be ”seen by men” (Matthew 6:5). But if it were not for the focus of TV cameras on the praying QB, how many would see him pray? I believe the praying is sincere and unpretentious.

I suppose it is easy to assume Tim Tebow prays for a Bronco victory, but I have no proof of that. Further, praying for one’s team to win equates to praying for the other team to lose. That’s kind of selfish, isn’t it? And surely, Christians may be found on both teams.

Perhaps Tim Tebow prays that he and his teammates will do their best to win. Maybe he prays that the game’s outcome will glorify God. I simply do not know what he prays for, but I do know he prays, and I applaud that practice. It is good to see a Christian role model in professional sports who is unashamed to pray openly and to thank our Lord and Savior for the ability to play football,

Tim is dedicated to Christ and a hard-working, disciplined athlete. The other day, a local sports writer called him “the biggest square in the NFL.” I prefer to say he is squarely on God’s side, and I am glad he wears a Bronco uniform, #15.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rex and Rudy

When I caddied in the late 1940s and early 1950s at the St. Catharines Golf Course, St. Catharines, Ontario, I most enjoyed caddying for Rex Stimers, who usually played with Rudy Pilous. In those days caddies sat in the caddy shack until the caddy master assigned them randomly to golfers. But a golfer could request a caddie by name, and Rex often requested me in spite of the fact that I was one of the youngest caddies. I was about 13 or 14 when I caddied for Rex most often.

Rex was a popular sports announcer for our city’s radio station, CKTB. He was best known for his animated broadcasting of Junior OHL (Ontario Hockey League) games. Our home team was the St. Catharines Teepees. Some of the Teepees advanced to the National Hockey League.

Rudy coached the Teepees, and then became the coach who led the Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Championship in 1961. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1985. A lefty on the golf course, Rudy matched up against Rex quite well, and both had a terrific sense of humor that took the drudgery out of caddying.

Both men treated me well and introduced me to hockey players who joined them on the course. Rex even treated me to rounds of golf at courses near Toronto and Niagara Falls, New York. It was not unusual to hear him mention my name, Jimmy Dyet, on his nightly sports broadcast.

Both men departed this life a long time ago, but I cherish good memories of them.

Men can have a lasting influence on kids for good or bad. Christian men can choose to mold kids into young men and women who will impact their culture for God. We don’t have to be preachers to teach the younger generation to do right and to honor God. We can demonstrate righteousness on the golf course, on a hockey rink, on a baseball diamond, on a basketball court, or in a classroom—wherever kids need role models. Proverbs 22:6 counsels, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

From Straight Down the Middle—Meditations for Golfers, © 2010 Circle Books, Winchester, U.K., Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Impacting Or Imbibing the Culture?

Someone asked me recently what I meant when I said in a sermon that the Church is supposed to impact, not imbibe, the culture. I meant the Church should adhere to a high standard of righteousness in order to have a solid platform from which to evangelize. If the Church’s standard of righteousness is almost low as the culture’s, why will unbelievers be attracted to the gospel? If they are not convinced the gospel has not made much, if any, difference in our lives, why should they embrace it?

Also, the Church must present the truth that God sees everyone as a sinner destitute of innate spiritual merit. Romans 3:23 hands down this indictment: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But the culture rejects God’s analysis of human nature, preferring to see every human being as special and deserving of the best life has to offer. Consequently, more than a few smooth-talking pastors preach only a positive message that positively affirms in the minds of those who listen that they are positively fine individuals whom God positively loves just as they are. The same positive message fails to mention personal sin, guilt, judgment, and the need to repent and believe on the Savior who shed His blood for sinners.

Further, the culture seeks entertainment as obsessively as bees seek pollen. Celebrities dazzle their fans, especially those celebrities who “rock the house.” Is the Church copying the culture by entertaining congregations? Are we at risk of abandoning corporate worship of the Rock of Ages by letting on-stage performers “rock the house”?

The apostle Paul urged the believers at Rome to resist the pressure of pagan culture to fit into its mold (Romans 12:2). The culture’s mold produces carnal Christians; God’s mold produces Christlike Christians (Roman 8:29). Christlike Christians impact the culture; carnal Christians imbibe it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Beyond Despair

The nation Judah had turned her back on God by failing to observe His Sabbaths and by refusing to worship Him exclusively. As punishment, God allowed the Babylonians to invade Judah, destroy Jerusalem, level the Temple, and drag thousands of Jews into captivity. The prophet Jeremiah wrote the book of Lamentations, meaning “funeral songs,” to express his deep sorrow over these dismal events. Not surprisingly, the first verse of Lamentations bemoans: “How deserted lies the city [Jerusalem], once so full of people! How like a widow she is, who once was great among the nations! She who was a queen among the provinces has now become a slave.”

What seemed like absolute despair in Jeremiah’s heart turned to hope when he looked beyond his nation’s decline and caught a glimpse of God’s faithfulness. He exclaimed: “His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22, 23). He recognized that God’s faithfulness extended far beyond Jerusalem’s calamity. There was hope for all who patiently waited for God to turn things around (verses 24–26).

Is the United States in decline? Many pundits predict imminent disaster, and our enemies are eager to expedite it. Although our nation cannot claim a covenant relationship with God, it has a long history of Christian character and influence. As a nation, we have seen ample evidence that “righteousness exalts a nation” (Proverbs 14:34a), but recently we have also seen righteousness decline. Are we, therefore, preparing the way for disaster?

When the king of Nineveh learned from the prophet Jonah that Nineveh would be destroyed in 40 days, he issued a wise decree: “Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish” (Jonah 3:8, 9). In response to the decree, the Ninevites repented, and God withheld His judgment.

There is hope now as there was then. God’s faithfulness, compassion, love, and forgiveness lie just beyond despair, both for individuals and nations.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How Well Do We Listen?

A cartoon shows a man seated in a recliner and reading a newspaper. His wife exclaims, “George, the garage is on fire.” He replies, ”That’s nice, Dear.”

Many married couples can relate to the cartoon’s message: Husbands can be very poor listeners. Of course, there is always the possibility a husband is losing his sense of hearing. In that case, a hearing test can determine whether hearing aids might improve his quality of life—and his wife’s.

Good hearing and good listening are not necessarily synonymous. A person may hear every word a nutritionist speaks about healthful eating and then enter the nearest restaurant and order pecan pie with two scoops of ice cream. Another person may hear her doctor say she must exercise at least 30 minutes daily or risk a heart attack or stroke, but she may continue to play the role of a couch potato. In each case, neither person listened.

Wisdom is personified in Jesus and disclosed in Scripture. If we merely read Jesus’ words and dismiss them, we have only heard them. But if we read and obey His words, we have listened to them. Let’s be like the boy Samuel, who prayed, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10).

Monday, August 29, 2011

Have Bible. Will Travel.

I was 16 when I believed God called me to preach the gospel. At 18, while I was a student at Moody Bible Institute, I received a license to preach. During my Junior and Senior years at Moody, I preached every Sunday morning at Chicago’s Pacific Garden Mission. After graduating from Moody, I attended Houghton College, Houghton New York, and opened a closed country church that I served as pastor until I returned home to Canada after graduating and marrying Gloria. I was ordained in 1961.

I suppose nostalgia turned my thoughts to places I have preached since I received the call to do so. I may have forgotten a few, but I think the following list is fairly complete. If the Lord wills, the list will grow.

A personal observation: I believe the need for faithful Biblical preaching is greater now than at any previous time.

COLORADO: Denver, Aurora, Lakewood, Littleton, Thornton, Castle Rock, Monument, Pueblo, Parker, Pueblo West, Penrose, Leadville, Eagle, New Castle, Jefferson, Ft. Collins, Fowler, Holly, Crook, Arvada, Colorado Springs, Falcon, Golden

ILLINOIS: Chicago, St. Charles, Alton, Shelbyville, Buffalo Grove, Schaumburg, West Dundee, Arlington Heights, Naperville, Lombard, Utica, Peoria, Bensonville, East Moline, Des Plaines, Itasca, Streamwood, Warrenville, Orland Park, Mokena, Henry

INDIANA: West Terre Haute, Terre Haute, Indianapolis, Valparaiso, Crawfordsville, Veedersburg, Plymouth

OHIO: Mansfield, Gallipolis

IOWA: Council Bluffs, Manchester

MINNESOTA: Faribault, Burnsville

MISSOURI: Brentwood

KANSAS: Kansas City, Goodland, Wichita, Hutchinson, Stafford, Loretta, Shawnee

GEORGIA: Franklin Springs, Roswell

TENNESSEE: Murfreesboro, Greeneville

VIRGINIA: Manassas, Arlington, McLean




DELAWARE: Newark, Milford

MASSACHUSETTS: Springfield, Norfolk, Lunenburg

WYOMING: Torrington

WISCONSIN: Racine, Westfield

NEW YORK: Williamson, Grand Island, Warsaw, Attica, Alden, Webster, Syosset, Wellsville, Olean, Rawson, Belfast, Perth, Johnson City, Harpursville, Liberty, Penn Yan

PENNSYLVANIA: Altoona, Enola, Roaring Spring, Ebensburg, Everett, Levittown

MICHIGAN: Dollar Bay, Lansing, Jackson, Paw Paw

NEW JERSEY: Manahawkin, Dover, Fair Lawn

CALIFORNIA: Antioch, Castro Valley, Los Angeles

OREGON: Forest Grove


TEXAS: Dallas

ONTARIO: St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Hamilton, Toronto, Stouffville, Oshawa, Leamington, Brantford, Bracebridge, London, Huntsville, Burford, Scotland

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Work in Progress

When Jesus met Simon, the fisherman, He changed his name to Peter, meaning “a stone or a rock.” Didn’t Jesus know Simon was anything but a rock? Didn’t he know Simon’s tongue was often in overdrive while his mind was in neutral? Didn’t he know Simon’s emotions were as unsteady as a wounded bird in a hurricane? Didn’t he know Simon would eventually deny Him, not just once but three times? Yes, He knew all about Simon’s weaknesses, but He also knew what He would accomplish in Simon’s life. He would patiently transform the rough fisherman into a fearless, faithful apostle. So, when he met Simon, He looked beyond what he was and saw what he would become—Peter, a rock.

Jesus welcomed you and me, too, into His circle of friends, and He called us to follow Him. In doing so, He looked beyond our personality flaws, our weaknesses, our imperfections, our failures, and our sins, and saw what we would become by His grace and power. Gradually, we are learning to serve Him faithfully, and ultimately we will be like Him (Romans 8:30; 1 John 3:2). Today, we believers are “living stones” in the Church, of which our Lord and Savior is “the capstone” (see 1 Peter 2:4:7).

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Snuffing Out Anger

Recently a 24-year-old man murdered three teenage boys, two of whom were brothers. He shot them while they were sitting in a white SUV near our neighborhood. Before taking his own life, the shooter told police the boys had cut him off in traffic.

Uncontrolled road rage often fuels senseless violence.

Volatile anger doesn’t always lead to murder, but it has torn families apart, turned neighbors into enemies, split churches, wrecked relationships, and destroyed the many Christians’ testimony. Anger management classes may help some hot heads cool, but is there a way to defuse anger before it explodes?

Two of Jesus’ disciples must have had an anger problem. Called “the sons of thunder” in Mark 3:17, James and John once requested Jesus’ permission to call down fire upon a Samaritan village because it had refused to welcome Jesus (Luke 9:54). But Jesus changed their disposition from anger to love. John became known as “the apostle of love” and taught the importance of loving God and one another in 1 John. James demonstrated selfless love for God by becoming a martyr at the hands of vicious Herod (Acts 12:1, 2).

We have all heard the excuse, “I can’t help being angry: I have red hair you know.” Or, “I was born with a hot temper. That’s just the way I am.” One woman described her husband as “temperamental—90 percent temper and 10 percent mental.” But no one has to be a slave to destructive anger. Whoever believes in Jesus as his Savior becomes a work in progress. As he internalizes Scripture and seeks to honor God, his disposition changes. Undesirable characteristics fade away. Desirable, Christlike characteristics replace them as the Holy Spirit restores the believer into the divine image (see Galatians 5:22, 23; 2 Peter 1:4). Love becomes the most visible evidence of genuine faith (Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 13:13; 1 John 4:7, 8).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Football and Spiritual Conflict

The NFL will kick off its preseason next week. That’s good. Now those of us who enjoy pro football will have something to watch after the boys of summer put aside their bats and gloves in October. Of course, many of us will choose our favorite team to win the Super Bowl, but the harsh reality of misplaced confidence will strike us hard in January.

Oh well, football is only a game in spite of the riveted attention we give it. However, the struggle between good and evil is life impacting with eternal consequences, and it demands our careful attention. Since sin entered the human race, the devil and his “team” have opposed God and His people relentlessly in every season of life. The conflict rages without a truce or a timeout. But believers are on the right side. Ultimately, God will end the conflict by gathering believers in Heaven, our eternal Home and banishing the devil and his followers, including unbelievers from every period of history, to eternal punishment.

We may feel scorched by the devil’s hot breath now, but he will not defeat us. We are on the winning team. Our favorite football team may not win the Super Bowl, but we are “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

“Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing,

Were not the right man on our side, The man of God’s own choosing.

Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He—

Lord Sabaoth His name, From age to age the same,

And He must win the battle.”

—Martin Luther

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Place Called Crook

Crook, Colorado, named in honor of General Crook, who fought in the Indian Wars, lies two miles off I-76 in Northeastern Colorado. If you enter Colorado from the northeast, you will find an Exit for Crook about 30 miles past Julesburg. If you are driving from the southwest, you will see the Crook Exit sign about 30 miles past Sterling, Colorado. For several Sundays I have been exiting I-76 and crossing the South Platte River to reach the United Evangelical Church of Crook, where I have been preaching. I will look for the Exit sign a final time this coming Sunday, August 7. A pastor from Wisconsin will exit I-76 for Crook sometime during the following week. The congregation is eagerly anticipating his arrival and subsequent ministry.

If you travel along I-76 near Crook on a Sunday morning, why not visit this E. Free at 10:45 A.M.? You will be glad you did. The people are extremely friendly, giving substance to the cliché that “visitors are always welcome.” Expect to be greeted with many smiles and handshakes when you enter the attractive church building and also after the hour-long worship service. By the way, no one rushes away after church. The people linger for informal chats.

This coming Sunday, when I drive home from Crook, I will carry many good memories with me. The congregation loves God, His Word, and every opportunity to worship, fellowship, and grow spiritually. I’m sure it won’t take long for the new pastor to feel at home. It might take a while longer, though, to remove his Packers bumper sticker and slap on one that reads, “Go, Broncos!’

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Indispensable Outreach Plan

Evangelicals are devising many novel ways to bridge the gap between church and community. As a result, many believers are devoting enormous time, energy, money, and work to feed or clothe or entertain or educate their church’s targeted mission field or “market.” If your church has launched what can be described as a creative outreach program, you may be wondering whether it is worthwhile–even biblical.

One thing is certain, though. Even the most creative and worthwhile outreach program cannot—and must not—substitute for God’s plan for the church. When a congregation gathers for worship and edification, it should revere God’s Word and anticipate its proclamation. Paul told Timothy, a young pastor, to “preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2). My Greek professor Kenneth Wuest said this command obligates each pastor to proclaim God’s Word with such authority that those who hear it feel compelled to obey it.

Any 21st century congregation that has the good fortune to sit under clear, authoritative, life-related, Biblical preaching will feel compelled and privileged to share the Good News with unbelievers. And when unbelievers respond by trusting in Christ as their Savior, the messengers should urge them to attend church so they can learn, grow, and repeat the cycle of evangelism.

Does this plan resemble New Testament practice? It does. The New Testament church performed charitable deeds, but it did not substitute benevolence for biblical preaching and teaching. Nor did it bait the unregenerate culture with entertainment. It seems to me that we can’t improve on New Testament methodology, but some churches need to get in on it!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Deep in Debt

The other day, President Obama said, “America pays its bills.” I’m sure China was glad for that assurance, but I want to ask who piled up the bills America owes and who will pay them. I think we all know the answers.

The United States has dug a financial hole deep enough to reach China, and Congress is scrambling for a way to dig the country out of it. I’m sure the shovel will be passed down from one generation to the next for much, much longer than we can foresee.

Christians face a different kind of debt. It isn’t a financial debt; it’s a spiritual debt that we can never fully repay. We owe an eternal debt of gratitude to our Savior for the sacrifice He paid for our sins on the cross. He purchased our redemption—something we could never do. As a matter of fact, we could contribute absolutely nothing to it, because our sin had bankrupted us.

We are also indebted to share the gospel with the world. The apostle Paul confessed that he was a debtor to both the Greeks and to the barbarians, to the wise and to the unwise, so he was ready to proclaim the gospel (Romans 1:14, 15).

Today our nation’s financial crisis may seem hopeless, but America is still the land of the free. We can all be thankful for that, and believers can embrace an ironclad eternal hope because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Let’s offer heartfelt thanks to the Lord today and every day, and let’s share God’s love with others.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How Are We Christians Perceived by the Culture?

Do you ever think about how non-Christians perceive Christians? I do, and you probably do too. The Bible instructs us to lead a life that is blameless and pure so that we may be perceived as God’s faultless children who shine like stars in the universe (see Philippians 2:14, 15). That tall order sets our behavioral standard high, but we dare not lower it if we want our unbelieving contemporaries to respect our testimony and receive God’s Word (v. 16).

The New Testament contains many exhortations similar to the one found in Philippians 2:14 and 15, but does the testimony of most Christians and evangelical churches conform to those exhortations? If it did, might many non-Christians change their perception of us from negative to positive? I may be wrong, but I think we are identified mainly as a right-wing conservative group more concerned about the White House than the Father’s House and more fully armed with ad hominem political arguments than persuasive appeals. At times our rhetoric is insulting, and the claim to love our neighbor as ourselves seems as hollow as a dead tree.

Sure, we want a man with moral character, wisdom, and love of God and country to lead the nation, and we want “one nation under God” to stay in the Pledge of Allegiance, but let’s not substitute political zeal for personal righteousness. Political victories may gain and secure freedom from tyranny, but personal righteousness may persuade others to believe on Christ who gives freedom from Satan, sin, and death. Political freedom may last a lifetime, but spiritual freedom lasts for eternity.

The public’s perception of us will not change if we order our lives by the “almighty dollar” instead of by Almighty God.” If we cheat or engage in dishonesty to save a dollar or two, why would anyone want to become a Christian? If our home life resembles a battleground, why would our neighbors believe we have what they need? If our children turn out bad, why would anyone believe we know how to guide our nation’s steps? If our churches split or as cold as a below-zero January night, why would anyone on the outside want to join those on the inside?

Please don’t misinterpret my remarks. I am not advocating political liberalism; I am advocating a biblical set of priorities. God calls us to be lights in the world, not bullhorns. Let’s stick to our political convictions and express them with grace, but let’s make it our top priority to lead a Christlike life and hold forth the word of life.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Freedom's Cost

Yesterday, the pastor paid tribute to a WW2 veteran in the congregation. He had participated in the landing at Omaha Beach. All Americans owe him and every member of the Armed Forces a debt of gratitude. Because of the sacrifices of our military men and women past and present, we enjoy freedom. On this Memorial Day we remember our fallen heroes and salute those who stand between us and our enemies. May God bless them, and may He keep us free!

Although freedom from political tyranny is highly prized, freedom from sin’s domination and penalty is invaluable. Christians enjoy this freedom because Jesus voluntarily laid down His life for us. He shed His blood on the cross to redeem us—set us free—from sin. And then He arose from the dead to prove His sacrifice was fully sufficient. Today and every day we should remember His sacrifice and recall His words, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). The apostle John, who recorded those freedom words also wrote this tribute to Jesus: “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood . . . to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen” (Revelation 1:5, 6).

And all God’s people said . . .

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Joplin Tragedy

After several attempts yesterday to reach a friend in Joplin, Missouri, I was able to speak with him by phone. Previously, the phone had just kept ringing. So it was quite a relief to hear his voice and to learn he and his wife were safe. Although their house is only four blocks from where the tornado touched down, it did not sustain any damage.

Apparently, quite a few people believed the prediction that the world would end May 21. It didn’t—but you know that. However, life ended May 22 for 123 residents of Joplin, when a killer tornado crushed and blew away a large section of their city. Little did they know eternity was so near! But then, no one knows “what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). Potentially, we all live within a heartbeat of being recalled by our Maker.

I do not know how many believers were among the 123 who were killed by Joplin’s horrendous tornado, but I do know they are “at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).

As you reflect on the life-ending power of recent tornadoes, settle this question without procrastinating: If you were to die today, would you go to Heaven? If your answer is anything but yes, you need to believe on Jesus Christ as your Savior right now. John 3:36 promises that “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

There's More to Christianity Than Attending Church

Those who think they adhere to biblical Christianity simply by going to church are deluding themselves. Biblical Christianity is a matter of the heart and reaches far beyond an hour or so of Sunday worship. It directs us to honor God supremely in our daily thoughts, attitudes, ambitions, and actions.

Our contemporary culture does not care whether it honors God. Its approach to life is mainly egocentric, materialistic, and hedonistic, although what Shakespeare called “the milk of human kindness” gets sprinkled into the mix. Unfortunately, a churchgoing Christian may reflect the culture’s philosophy instead of a biblical approach to life. Therefore, the injunction of Romans 12:2 to not let the world squeeze us into its mold is both urgent and convicting.

An egocentric Christian worships himself. He advances his own interests above those of others, even those of his spouse and children. He thinks the world revolves around him. All wrapped up in himself, this unattractive package of humanity ignores the instruction given in Philippians 2 to “look not only to your interests, but also to the interests of others” and adopt an attitude that is “the same as that of Christ Jesus, Who . . . made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (verses 4-7).

A materialistic Christian lives as though gold were his God and greed were his creed. He places too high a value on “the almighty dollar” and possessions. Although God doesn’t say we have to live in a hole to be holy, He makes it clear that the relentless pursuit of things leads to loss of treasures in heaven. We are supposed to be good and grateful stewards of what God has given us, not greedy grabbers for more and more of the things that pass away. I have officiated at many funerals, but I have never seen a U-Haul follow a hearse.

Hedonism, the philosophy that pleasure offers life its greatest good, may explain in part the entertainment phenomenon that draws so many people to church today. I would like to hear more Christians cite good, biblical preaching as the main reason they attend church, but I won’t hold my breath. In the pursuit of pleasure, some Christians spend enormous amounts of money on “what’s hot” in the entertainment world. Fun is not intrinsically wrong, but it is wrong when it consumes our passion, our time, and our money. The devil, the master of deceit, dupes careless Christians into thinking worldly pleasures are worth the price of admission, but those who resist his temptations discover that God fills them with His joy and eternal pleasures are at His right hand (Psalm 16:11).

In the final analysis, church attendance is important, but living every day for God’s honor is even more important.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Properly Aligned with God

The print industry has undergone an almost incredible revolution in recent years. It has rocketed forwarded from hot type to cold type and from negatives and plates to electronic pre-press. Nevertheless, some of the old typesetting terms remain. “Justified “ is one of them. The term refers to copy that is aligned as opposed to “ragged” copy that is not aligned.

Undoubtedly printers picked up the term “justified” from its biblical meaning. To be justified with God, as the Bible indicates, is to be properly aligned with God. It could be argued from a theological standpoint that our lives are either justified or ragged.

Romans 4:25 presents both the grounds of the believer’s justification and the proof of his or her justification. The first part of the first cites the grounds of justification. Jesus was “delivered for our offences.” In other words, God offered Jesus as the sacrifice for our sins. When He shed His blood on the cross—and that’s what Good Friday is all about—Jesus paid the penalty of our sins. The second part of the verse presents the proof of the believer’s justification. Jesus “was raised for [on account of] our justification.” Early Sunday morning Jesus arose from the dead as living proof that God accepted the payment He had made for our sins on the cross.

Romans 5:9 declares that we are justified [properly aligned] with God “by his blood.”

Another Good Friday and Easter Sunday have passed, but our gratitude for what Jesus did to justify us should never fade away.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

If the Government Shuts Down

The Government didn’t shut down, but it might have, and shutting it down is still a possibility. The crisis has generated sharp debate and strong sentiment. Some think a government shutdown would be tragic; others think it would be a good thing.

Has anyone speculated what would happen if God shut down His governmental control of the universe? If He withdrew His providential care of our world for even a second, chaos would ensue faster than the blink of an eye. Life would end abruptly for all human beings, animals, birds, fish, and plants. Molecules would explode. Space, time, and energy would cease.

Acts 17:25 states that God “gives all men life and breath and everything else.” Verse 28 tells us that “in him we live and move and have our being.” Colossians 1:17 points out that all things hold together in Christ, the Son of God.”

If our representatives turn out the lights in the Capitol, it won’t be the end of the world, but if God were to turn out the lights of our universe, the resulting disaster would defy description. Fortunately, our God maintains constant vigil and control. Psalm 121 assures us, “He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (verses 3, 4).

Monday, March 28, 2011

Is Hell Real?

Pastor Rob Bell has written a book, Love Wins, to debate the traditional theological view that hell exists as a place of eternal torment. According to him, the traditional teaching about hell is “misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus' message of love, peace, forgiveness and joy that our world desperately needs to hear."

But isn’t the message of Jesus’ love and forgiveness desperately needed because hell is real and Jesus demonstrated indescribable, self-sacrificing love to save us from hell? Isn’t that same message priceless because all who welcome it and believe on Jesus are bound for heaven instead of hell?

I probably won’t read Rob Bell’s book. As you can tell, my mind is already made up. I believe hell is a real place of punishment. Some readers may find Rob Bell’s book persuasive, but the book that persuaded me to believe in hell is much older and far more reliable that Bell’s. As a matter of fact, it is infallible and fully authoritative. It is the Bible.

The Bible doesn’t quote Rob Bell, but it quotes Jesus. Jesus described hell as a place of eternal fire (Matthew 18:8, 9). He also said He would consign unbelievers to “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (25:41).

Of course the devil and his angels won’t share royalties from the sale of Love Wins, but don’t you think they will be working hard to promote it?

Revelation 20:10-15 describes the Great White Throne Judgment of all unbelievers. Verse 15 predicts: “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

For me, the belief that hell exists as a place of eternal, conscious suffering springs from my belief that the Bible is God’s verbally inspired Word. I also believe in plenary inspiration, that all parts of the Bible are equally inspired. I can’t air-condition hell or deny its existence without cutting certain passages from the same book that tells us “God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

I’m glad God’s love won me, and Jesus saved me from eternal hell.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Barking Christians

Our three little dogs, Molly, Rosie, and Sadie go wild when a dog appears on TV. They charge across the room, stop just short of the TV screen, and bark for all their worth. When I switch channels, they must think the dog left the family room and retreated to the back yard, because they rush to the back yard in search of the TV dog.

Barking at a canine TV image is like barking at the wrong crowd, something far too many Christians do. They show up at a church business meeting and make themselves obnoxious by barking about a new expenditure or policy. They criticize the board’s leadership or complain about something the pastor either did or should have done. The slightest proposed change to the church constitution drives them wild. They crank up their barking to unbearable decibels.

These are the same people who phone or email others to bark about the visitors who had the audacity to sit in their seats last Sunday. Wiggling kids or giggling teens are also targeted for barking.

Like our dogs’ attacks on harmless TV images, barking Christians almost always attack the wrong crowd. The devil is the foe they need to confront. Instead of wasting energy and time by venting grievances against fellow believers, they should join forces to oppose the devil and his evil actions.

The apostle Paul decried the senseless barking that was evident in the churches of Galatia. He warned, “If you keep biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:15). He urged the Galatian believers to “love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 14).

Surely the best anti-bark remedy for disruptive Christians is a little bit of love.

—Adapted from Meditations for Dog Lovers by Jim Dyet, © 2005, published by AMG Publishers/Living Ink Books

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Are We Living in the Last Days?

I hear the following statements often: “We must be living in the last days; the signs are everywhere.” “Jesus must be coming very soon; look at all the signs.” But they need some clarification.

I realize we live in tumultuous times, but the designations “last days’” and “last times” do not apply exclusively to our generation. The New Testament identifies the entire Church Age as “the last times” (1 Peter 1:20; Jude 18-19), “the last days” (Hebrews 1:1-2), and even “the last hour” (1 John 2:18). Christians of every generation have lived in the last days. Of course, we may be living in the final period of the last days. We simply must not dogmatically claim that we are.

But what about the signs? In His Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24 and Luke 21) Jesus identified certain signs as precursors to His coming. Some of those signs are earthquakes, international conflict, famines, religious deception, persecution, and tidal waves. We observe such occurrences today, but they are not exclusive to our generation. Many past generations have seen similar tragedies. Other signs identified by Jesus include unprecedented distress, solar and lunar darkness, and the shaking of stars and planets from their orbits. My point is, when all these phenomena occur collectively, Jesus will come again.

However, the coming He referred to in the Olivet Discourse is His coming as the Son of Man in glory with His angels to establish His kingdom on earth. I distinguish this return of Jesus to the earth from His return in the air to remove the Church from the earth (the Rapture; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

The Bible doesn’t offer any signs as precursors to the Rapture. It could happen any moment— now or in the future.

So let’s read Matthew 24 and Luke 21 again, and weigh carefully those statements about living in the last days with all the signs. And let’s live every day as though this might be the day Jesus arrives in the air to take us Home.

Are We Living in the Last Days?

I hear the following statements often: “We must be living in the last days; the signs are everywhere.” “Jesus must be coming very soon; look at all the signs.” But they need some clarification.

I realize we live in tumultuous times, but the designations “last days’” and “last times” do not apply exclusively to our generation. The New Testament identifies the entire Church Age as “the last times” (1 Peter 1:20; Jude 18-19), “the last days” (Hebrews 1:1-2), and even “the last hour” (1 John 2:18). Christians of every generation have lived in the last days. Of course, we may be living in the final period of the last days. We simply must not dogmatically claim that we are.

But what about the signs? In His Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24 and Luke 21) Jesus identified certain signs as precursors to His coming. Some of those signs are earthquakes, international conflict, famines, religious deception, persecution, and tidal waves. We observe such occurrences today, but they are not exclusive to our generation. Many past generations have seen similar tragedies. Other signs identified by Jesus include unprecedented distress, solar and lunar darkness, and the shaking of stars and planets from their orbits. My point is, when all these phenomena occur collectively, Jesus will come again.

However, the coming He referred to in the Olivet Discourse is His coming as the Son of Man in glory with His angels to establish His kingdom on earth. I distinguish this return of Jesus to the earth from His return in the air to remove the Church from the earth (the Rapture; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

The Bible doesn’t offer any signs as precursors to the Rapture. It could happen any moment— now or in the future.

So let’s read Matthew 24 and Luke 21 again, and weigh carefully those statements about living in the last days with all the signs. And let’s live every day as though this might be the day Jesus arrives in the air to take us Home.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Memorable St. Patrick's Day

St, Patrick’s Day, 1973, Gloria, our three children, and I moved into a house in Green Mountain, Lakewood, Colorado. The master bedroom, a bathroom, and large family room with a fireplace were in the basement. Memorial Day morning, that same year, I stepped out of bed into cold, clear water. The basement was flooding. Soon, water was pouring through the floor and even through the fireplace.

We struggled until August to stop the flooding, but nothing worked. The concrete basement floor was only ½-inch thick, and it was porous. The contractor we hired to lay drainage tile abandoned the project. The gas lines were sagging, and the city was ready to condemn the property. Apparently, an underground stream had found its way into our house, the lowest house on the street. We lost the house, and learned that insurance does not cover damage caused by water that comes from below ground.

We learned a few other things too.

We learned that some Christians add insult to injury. Some of my coworkers at the Christian publishing house where I worked as an editor joked about my “swimming pool.”

We learned that some Christians demonstrate compassion by helping. One coworker sloshed through the water with me and helped me move furniture from the basement. Another, a member of a small church I was serving as interim pastor, offered a loan to get us back on our feet. (I chose not to accept it, but I appreciated his thoughtfulness.) Also, the church, Ralston Hills Baptist Church of Arvada, Colorado, let us move into the back of the church and live rent-free as long as we needed to.

We learned that material things may be swept away—literally—in an instant, but the Lord’s faithfulness withstands trials. In time, we recovered financially and were able to assume a loan on a small house in Denver.

We learned that who we have is far more important than what we have. The flood removed only material possessions, not our children.

Some of these lessons were hard to grasp, but they are enduring.

St, Patrick’s Day, 1973, was a gloomy day, but this St. Patrick’s Day is a good day to celebrate God’s faithfulness.

The chorus to G.A. Young’s “God Leads Us Along” affirms:

“Some thro’ the waters, some thro’ the flood, Some thro’ the fire, but all thro’ the blood; Some thro’ great sorrow, but God gives a song, in the night season and all the day long.”

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tragedy Strikes Japan

A devastating earthquake, multiple aftershocks, and a merciless tsunami struck Japan yesterday. Within minutes buildings collapsed, roads buckled, and trucks, houses, and cars were swept away. Loss of life was swift and extensive. As we watched the horror unfold, our minds could not fully grasp the deadly force of nature and our hearts filled with sympathy for the Japanese people. I’m sure many of us will respond to the tragedy by praying and contributing to relief efforts.

The images of destruction and suffering that came from Japan gave me a clearer mental picture of a far more devastating earthquake that will occur just before Jesus returns to earth. Revelation 16:18 describes it as the mightiest earthquake in human history. Cities throughout the world will be reduced to rubble (v. 19), and perhaps in the wake of accompanying tsunamis islands and mountains will disappear (v. 20).

We live in an imperfect world. Natural disasters have occurred for centuries, and they will continue to occur as long as nature groans under the curse, but the earthquake predicted in Revelation 16 will carry the imprint of divine judgment in response to unprecedented, unchecked immorality and blasphemy.

Fortunately, God offers forgiveness and assurance of heaven to all who believe on His Son as their Savior (John 3:16; Eph. 1:7). What happened in Japan proves how tenuous and uncertain life is. Faith in Christ is the best preparation for the unexpected.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Does God Know Everything?

A fairly new teaching is circulating. It’s called the openness of God, and it alleges that God’s knowledge is limited. He doesn’t know everything, according to the proponents of the openness theory.

I’m not buying it. First John 3:20 insists that God “knows all things.” So what part of “all things” don’t the openness proponents understand?

God’s all-knowing characteristic—His omniscience—includes His knowledge of our needs (Matt. 6:8, 32), our thoughts (Psalm 94:11; 139:2), our days (Ps. 37:18), the secrets of our hearts (Ps. 44:21), our mortality and frailty (Ps.103:14), and the number of hairs on our head (Matt.10:30—in my case the accounting system has become very simple). He even knows the path we should travel through life (Prov. 3:5, 6; Isa. 30:21).

“Doesn’t God know what I am going through?” you might ask someone who subscribes to the openness of God theory. He might respond, “Maybe He doesn’t.” Try to squeeze some comfort and encouragement from that response! But for genuine comfort and encouragement, read what the apostle John wrote: “God knows all things.”

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Only One Life to Invest or Waste

The apostle Paul and Demas were both missionaries, but Paul’s unswerving goal was to do good—to fulfill God’s will for his life. At the end of his life, he shivered in a dank Roman dungeon, w here he awaited execution. He asked Mark to bring him the coat he had left at Troas (2 Tim. 4:13). Obviously, Paul had few or no possessions, but neither did he have any complaints. He had served the Lord faithfully and therefore anticipated receiving a heavenly reward, “the crown of righteousness” (4:8). Demas, on the other hand, swerved from doing good—from doing God’s will. Having “loved this world” (v. 16), he tossed aside the opportunity to receive a heavenly crown.

Like Paul and Demas, every Christian must choose whether to invest his or her life in doing good or spend in it in getting goods. The desires of the flesh may be met temporarily by getting goods, but the desires of the heart can be met only by doing good. As the apostle John wrote: “The world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Westboro Baptist Church and the Military

The United States Supreme Court upheld the right of the Westboro Baptist Church to protest at military funerals. The church’s right to protest is protected by the First Amendment.

As an ordained Baptist minister of the gospel, I strongly object to Westboro Baptist Church’s conduct at military funerals. I find it ironic that its members hold signs like “Thank God for IEDs” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” Don’t they realize men and women of our Armed Forces have given their lives to protect our freedom, including the freedom that allows Westboro Baptist Church to shout and wave their offensive signs?

It’s appalling that these protesters call themselves Baptists. Most Baptists I know are grateful for the sacrifices our military men and women make. They consider them heroes worthy of our deepest admiration, and they pray regularly for them and their families.

A few adjectives describe how I feel about the Westboro Baptist Church members’ conduct at military funerals: despicable, deplorable, disgraceful, disgusting, repulsive, repugnant, reprehensible, rude, irreverent, insulting, insolent, and inflammatory. (The use of alliteration shows I am an ordained Baptist minister, doesn’t it?)

I just wanted to go on record as an ordained Baptist to say I disdain Westboro Baptist Church’s actions. I’m sure you share my feelings and can join me in saying, “God bless our brave men and women in uniform, and God bless the United States of America!”

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In Like a Lamb, Out Like a Lion

It has been said, if March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb, but if it comes in like a lamb, it will go out like a lion. I haven’t kept track of the 76 months of March in my lifetime, but I believe the saying is fairly accurate. Today, March 1, the month began like a lamb. The weather was almost perfect: about 70 degrees, calm, sunny, and dry; and nothing but blue sky did I see. It will be quite all right with me if this lamb-like weather prevails for the entire month and slips into April. I can live without lion-like weather.

Like the current March weather, Jesus arrived in our world like a lamb. As John the Baptist pointed out, He was “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). By His death on the cross, He brought calming peace to troubled souls (Colossians 1:20). Consequently, all who believe on Him enjoy peace with God (Romans 5:1).

But just as so many March months conclude with lion-like weather, so inevitably all who ignore or reject the Lamb of God will encounter Him as the Lion who roars in judgment (Revelation 5:5).

Anyone can talk about the weather, but no one can do a thing to change it. However, anyone who hears or reads the good news of Jesus’ offer of salvation can believe on the Lamb and avoid the wrath of the Lion forever. John 3:16 explains: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Friday, February 18, 2011

Who Am I to Judge?

We are not supposed to judge, we are told. So if we don't judge, isn’t the alternative to accept everything and anything? Yes, I know Jesus said, “Do not judge” (Matthew 7:1), but He was referring to the hypocritical practice of condemning others for what we haven’t judged as wrong in our own lives (verses 2-5). This kind of judging is far different from judging between right and wrong and good and evil. If a religious teacher contradicts biblical truth, we must judge his teaching to be wrong and harmful. If our conduct contradicts our profession to be Jesus’ followers, we must judge that conduct to be sinful and correct it.

The command “not to conform to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2) obligates us to judge what worldly thinking is so we can reject it. The command, “Do not love the world” (1 John 2:15), obligates us to judge what is unacceptable and offensive to our heavenly Father. In order to say “’No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions” (Titus 2:12) we must judge right from wrong and good from evil.

If those who misapply Jesus’ command, “Do not judge,” have their way, ultimately we will lose our moral and theological standards. Anything goes might become an attitude embraced by many churches and individuals.

But who am I to judge? For the answer, read 1 Corinthians 5:12, 13; 10:14, 15; 11:31; 1 John 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:21.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

How Do You Judge a Person's Importance?

In the corporate world a person’s importance is often measured by the height of his cubicle’s walls. They are taller than those of lesser important employees. In addition, his desk chair will have arms. If he is very important, his cubicle will be more spacious than other cubicles. If he is extremely important, he may have an enclosed office. And he ranks about as high as you can get in a corporation if he has an enclosed corner office.

When God measures a person’s worth, He doesn’t apply corporate criteria. Instead, He considers how low a person stoops to lift the fallen (Gal. 6:1), how far out of his way he goes to help someone in need (Luke 10:33-37), how empty of pride his heart is (Mark 10:42-45; James 4:6-10), and how faithfully he does His will (1 Cor. 4:2).

The Christian who meets God's criteria may never have a cubicle with tall walls or a corner office, but he will enjoy the smile of God’s pleasure forever. To put a little spin on the apostle John’s words: “The world and its prestigious cubicles and offices pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).

Monday, January 31, 2011

Childhood Games and Toys

While walking in our neighborhood recently, I came upon a chalked hopscotch design. I hadn’t seen one of those in years. Kids in our neighborhood don’t play traditional childhood games. Instead, they ride razor scooters or motorized minibikes. And I’m guessing they know a whole lot more about texting and video games than I will ever know. Their childhood activities are far more sophisticated and costly than mine were, but my childhood wasn’t boring.

I started caddying when I was six. That kept me busy in the summertime. A wooden bench outside the caddy shack received hundreds of pocketknife indentations as another caddy and I straddled the bench and flung our knives into the air and tried to stick them skillfully into the bench. I forget the scoring system, but I remember a score depended on the number of fingers you could place handshake style between the bench and the jackknife’s handle.

Another childhood game at the golf course involved running into nearby woods and hiding when a grouchy golfer arrived in the parking lot. None of us kids wanted the caddy master to choose us to caddy for that golfer.

Ice hockey on frozen streets and ponds provided wintertime outdoor activity, and riding a flat sheet of cardboard down a snowy hill was a popular no-cost way to spend an hour or so.

The neighborhood kids and I also found other ways to amuse ourselves. An empty sewing thread spool, s mall stick, a longer stick, and a rubber band became a moving mouse. A hollowed-out chestnut and a stick became a pipe. We made badges for hats and shirts by removing cork from pop-bottle tops and fastening the cork to the tops through the clothing.

The list could continue, but suffice is to say kids today enjoy sophisticated, expensive toys and games. However, childhood is a fleeting time of life, and when a person becomes an adult he normally abandons childish things. The apostle Paul said he put childish ways behind him when he became a man (1 Cor. 13:11).

Wouldn’t our churches be better off if all of their adult members put their childish ways behind them? Mature Christians don’t go to church to be entertained, but to be edified and to edify (Eph. 4:7-13).

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of the Church

This evening President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address. Some who hear the speech will be glad, Some will be sad. Some will be mad.

If you had to deliver a State of the Church address, how would you describe your church? Here are a few points to consider:

Is your church growing spiritually strong

Is it financially healthy

Is the Bible in the members’ hands and hearts and not simply on a screen?

Does the pastor preach from the Bible or simply find a text in the Bible to hang his ideas on?

Does your church value all ages: kids, teens, young adults, middle adults, and senior adults?

Does your church value single adults and married adults?

Does your church value people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds?

Is the educational program purposeful and alive?

Is your church over programmed, leaving little or no time for family life?

Does your church strongly support missions?

Does your church build strong convictions about the fundamentals of the faith?

What do you see as the main reason people attend your church: good music? Biblical teaching? Social interaction? Other?

How friendly is your church to visitors?

Does your church have a leadership-training program?

Do the members of your church actively share the gospel throughout the week?

Does the congregation sing enthusiastically or mainly listen to the worship team?

Do you think most of your church’s members know why your church exists?

If you delivered your State of the Church Address this coming Sunday, would percentage of the congregation would be glad? sad? mad?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


My wife would tell you I’m organized. The top drawer of my desk would tell you I’m not.

In a minute or so I can find a plumber’s bill from 2003 or a phone bill from last year, but it might take an hour to find a paper clip in my desk drawer. Frankly, the drawer might serve as a visual illustration of Gehenna minus the burning. I scanned the top layer of its contents this morning and saw a couple of screwdrivers, a few postage stamps, some breath mints, pens, pencils, business cards, outdated receipts, a Canadian quarter, a few coin wrappers, paper punch, wall hook, address labels, eyeglass case, ruler, nail clipper, electronic address book, pins, lip moisturizer, a gospel tract, a golf bag tag from a Hollywood-by-the Sea course, a golf tee, several photos, a tire pressure gauge, a book of matches, a wall anchor, an eraser, several nails, dental floss, a wrapped piece of candy, a couple of old medical identification cards, and a badge that reads “God Made the Scots a Wee Bit Better.” The badge pictures a boy angel wearing a kilt. Well, if I am one of those better-made Scots, I am certainly not a better-organized Scot. Otherwise, I would not be afraid of getting pricked by a stray pin or two when I reach into my top desk drawer.

Clutter—that’s what defines my desk drawer, and it’s what so many get-organized gurus are telling us to get rid of for a better life in 2011. They might be proud of me; I plan to shred the obsolete medical identification cards in a day or soIn the meantime, it is far more important to clear away the clutter God’s Word identifies as injurious to my spiritual health. Why not search your life, as I search mine, to see whether any of the following traits are listed as clutter to be discarded? Here they are: falsehood, smoldering anger, stealing, idleness, unwholesome talk, bitterness, rage and anger, brawling, slander, malice, sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, filthy language, ungodliness, worldly passions, controversies, quarrels, divisiveness, everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles, favoritism, poisonous talk, bitter envy, selfish ambition, and hypocrisy (see Ephesians 4:25-31; Colossians 3:5-8; Titus 2:12; 3:9, 10; Hebrews 12:1; James 2:1; 3:7-10, 13-16; and 1 Peter 2:1).

That’s so much clutter to inspect and clear away that I won’t have time to clean out the top drawer of my desk—at least not today.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus!

When George Duffield, Jr. wrote “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus,” I don’t think he had in mind standing in a church service for 25 minutes of what has become known as “praise and worship." But I suspect the praise and worship session is about the only time some Christians stand for Jesus.

Can you tell I haven’t quite bought into the trend of standing and singing mostly choruses for 25 minutes? Actually, we could cut this time in half or more if we didn’t repeat each chorus and repeat each chorus and repeat each chorus. Because I am not as young as I used to be, standing for 25 minutes anywhere strains my back and leg muscles. It also drains my patience.

Have you noticed that most worship team members are young? Maybe if churches gave 70-somethings an opportunity to lead worship, we wouldn’t have to stand as long. And they might just include some hymns. But don’t hold your breath. The possibility of 70-somethings leading praise and worship is as remote as your finding me at the front of a rock concert waving my arms, jumping up and down, and screaming, “Rock on!”

I know, if people are too old to stand for 25 minutes, they can sit down. Everybody should be comfortable, right? But how comfortable would I feel sitting while nearly everyone else is standing?

I wish we could get back to singing hymns like those that were birthed in the Reformation. We used to sing some of them while standing, but we remained seated for others. Also, I wonder what George Duffield, Jr. would say if he experienced modern praise and worship. But then, George Duffield, Jr. is dead; and, as my wife often tells me, “Old man Useda is dead and gone” too.

I suppose I could sit in my car until the preaching begins, but often I am the preacher.