|Thursday, August 25, 2016|
As we sat under the porch of the Blue Gate restaurant, there was nothing blue at all about the evening sky. It was as ink splotched and torn as our hearts were light and joyful.
Why not? Diana and I had just spent a day relaxing in Amish country—Shipshewana, Indiana. We sampled 20 kinds of cheeses, shopped at 20 different stores (well...maybe not quite that many), played with unusual musical instruments, devoured a glazed cinnamon pretzel, and watched an Amish craftsman make a new belt for me. We packed a lot in—and all of it was grand. Please don't tell anyone we bought a few “hand fried pies” to take back with us.
We had just finished an Amish dinner of roast beef and mashed potatoes, and had plopped down into polymer brown rocking chairs on the covered porch of the Blue Gate to watch the rain. The whole experience was a study in contrasts:
We had come from the urban crush of Chicago.
But Shipshewana was nothing except rural peace and quiet.
We had left a place of nasty traffic and snagging congestion.
But Shipshewana is a landscape untouched by overcrowding.
Where we live, gas stations are crammed and noisy.
At the Marathon station across from the restaurant, we marveled at two horse-drawn buggies tied to a hitch, while others clip-clopped up and down the street, buggies in tow. .
We had left a culture that celebrates paganism at every possible turn.
But at Shipshewana, wonderful old hymns were played over sound systems: What a Friend We Have in Jesus, There is a Fountain Filled with Blood, and Wash Me and I Will Be Whiter than Snow.
Sitting on those comfortable rockers, sniffing the rain and listening to the hymns playing, it was tough not to let your mind play tricks on you. With very little difficulty, you could imagine a slight spelling change in the name of the gas station. “Marathon” becomes “Maranatha.” Which means, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
Amen! Come quickly, Lord!
|Boombox Living in a Bluetooth World
|Thursday, August 18, 2016|
Truthfully, I still have a boombox in my garage. The radio still has a great sound—but I must confess the biggest reason I keep it is for sentimental value. That's probably okay when it comes to a boombox.
But that's NOT okay when it comes to the way we think and do ministry. Or personal evangelism. I wonder. Are we guilty of boombox living in a Bluetooth world? Do we speak and preach and share Christ using the same moldy old methods?
Of course the gospel message cannot and must not change. The Bible is still the Bible. But are we just offering what we've always done in the ways that we've always done it?
This is not your father's America. If this very pagan nation will be reached, it will take much more than boombox living in a Bluetooth world.
|Offer I Could Not Refuse
|Thursday, August 11, 2016|
Recently, I bought a collection of Louis L'Amour western novels on Ebay. Some of them had special book club offers tucked inside. Reading them is a time capsule in direct marketing.
A 1971 edition of The Broken Gun pitched a Zane Grey Library—three books for one dollar (plus a few cents shipping charges).
In a 1981 copy of The Skyliners, I was urged to examine a hardback edition of Silver Canyon. Bundled with a 1981 calendar, (valued at $6.95) who could possibly resist?
Then, a 1993 print of The Trail to Seven Pines tried to rope me into—quote--”Claiming my reward!” That reward turned out to be a hardback edition of a book titled, Sackett.
Yet, I was scarcely able to leave my six-shooters holstered when another book proposed a free Louis L'Amour Collectors deck of cards if I would simply examine another great western on a trial basis.
All four of these offers were presented on tear-out postcards—which I tore out, filled out and put in the mail on Thursday, May 19. Mind you, the oldest offer goes back to 1971....and the newest is still 16 years old.
Then came the wait.
Would even one of the four respond?
Would just one of these publishers be willing to honor their promise?
After nearly three months of waiting, I concluded I would be more likely to shoot the head off three rattle snakes with one bullet at a thousand paces....than get a reply from any of these old offers.
Contrast those cheesy marketing ploys with an offer from God that is as valid today as the day He issued it in His book, the Bible “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).
Finally, an offer you can trust. And frankly, the thought of heaven--it's beauty and certainty--makes this cowboy sit a little taller in the saddle.
|Thursday, August 04, 2016|
That's how long my parents have now been married.
From nearly any standpoint, that's just plain remarkable. Number 60 is called the Diamond Anniversary—that's how rare it is.
According to a U.S. Census Bureau report, only about 5% of married couples ever make it their 50th anniversary. So a celebration of 60 years together is no small achievement.
In so doing (saying I do and then sticking together) David and Virginia have definitely defied the odds—on many levels. Yet their six decades together, I know for a fact, are not the product of sheer will power or a gritting of teeth (though I'm sure both have been required at times). Nor is this milestone simply the byproduct of chance and good health.
In brief remarks at an extended family gathering both Dad and Mom credited the Lord Jesus Christ with saving them and keeping them (and their marriage) together. Interestingly, each quoted from the Psalms.
Mom selected Psalm 100: 3,4: “Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.”
Dad spotlighted Psalm 13:6: “I will sing unto the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me.”
Sitting there together—all six children and their spouses and their children at this anniversary celebration was a special moment. Guess you could call it a “once in a lifetime” experience—and not be overstating things.
Of course, no parents are perfect (just ask MY kids). Nor would my parents claim to have done everything right. As Joe Stowell reminds us, “We are a fallen race in a fallen place.” But what a huge advantage we give our children when we give ourselves first to Christ.
Thanks, Mom and Dad! And congratulations!
|Holiness--On Hard Times
|Thursday, July 28, 2016|
Holiness has fallen on hard times. An ad campaign for a Las Vegas hotel promises, “Just the right amount of wrong.” Yet holiness—or more specifically, its lack—is not just a problem out in the big bad world, but also in the hearts of those who claim to follow Christ.
In church, we sing worship choruses with gusto, but are nearly mute on the habits of holiness. We dish up sermons by the pound on God's love. We talk a ton about “felt needs.” But mere ounces are devoted to holiness.
Holiness lacks flash and fun. It has no drummer, no distortion guitar, and doesn't seem to fit with a fog machine. There's no app for holiness. And how do you fit holiness into Snapchat—let alone Facebook? Which means in a culture like ours, holiness is not just antique...it's a dinosaur.
At its core, holiness means set apart for God's service.
Conformed in all things to God's will.
I dare you to make a pie chart of all your activities this past week. How many hours—or maybe, just minutes—would you describe as set apart exclusively for God and His service:
The exercise might just make you a bit uncomfortable (it does me!).
The truth is, holiness requires time.
Holiness requires soul silence.
Holiness requires discipline.
So, many of us just never get started. Instead we reach for our smartphones, our tablets, our e-Readers and amuse ourselves to distraction. Rich in toys and technology, we are—many of us—impoverished in holiness.
But as the Scripture says, “Without holiness, no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).
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