|Thursday, March 11, 2021|
Who would believe it was even there?
In the first week of March?
Under a pile of melting snow?
Not just any garden variety nuisance, this was a tuft of the dreaded Creeping Charlie, the wicked weed that battles us for lawn supremacy every summer.
Diana and I were raking off the flower beds in our front yard when we spied the modest growth. With no small sense of grim and grit, I pried the thing out of the soil. Satisfaction was mine!
Until I found another. And another. Yanked those out, too. The war against Creeping Charlie is not to be taken lightly. Yet, I am firmly resolved, totally dedicated. Let the turf wars begin!
I wish my sense of battle were as strong when it comes to our struggle with sin. But we are not alone. Puritan John Owen wrote an entire book on "The Mortification (killing) of Sin." He asks,
Like the Creeping Charlie I think I’ve eradicated from the flower bed, sin comes back. It always does. There is never a day when you or I can rest from the task of “killing sin.” But to cease the fight is to lose the fight.
Former Moody Radio Pastor Donald Cole once told me, “the fact that you struggle with sin is not a thing for discouragement—it’s evidence you’re on the right track. It’s when you stop fighting that you have a problem.”
John Owen’s words are worth repeating: Be killing sin—or it will be killing you.”
Let the turf wars begin!
|Taking Shots at the Light
|Thursday, March 04, 2021|
It juts 165 feet into the sky and has lit the coastline since 1874.
The St. Augustine lighthouse is more than just a landmark. It is a tower of living history (its light is still in use today!).
One bizarre chapter of that history unfolded in 1986. Bullets fired from a .30-06 rifle aimed directly at the light. Those shots ended up shattering 19 prisms in the Fresnel lens. Hank Mears, who served as the caretaker of the light from 1968 to 1989, immediately called the FBI.
After carefully combing the area, agents discovered powder burns on a nearby palm tree. Eventually, they traced the shooting to a fourteen-year-old kid. The lens needed repair, which required two years of painstaking work.
You have to wonder, who would want to shoot at a lighthouse? Turns out, people have been taking shots at the light for a long time.
Consider the prophet Jeremiah, whose unflinching prophecy got him tossed into a cistern, where Scripture says he sank into the mud. Daniel spent a night with lions. Stephen was stoned outside the city. For his unwavering beam of light, John had his head cut off. Consider all the shots that Jesus took throughout his three-year ministry—all before being crucified between two thieves.
People have been taking shots at the light for a long time. And the darker it gets (and the brighter we shine), we can expect to take our share of shots, as well.
But lights were made for nothing other than the darkness!
No point in having a lighthouse for mere decoration.
I’m not suggesting a hideous fate awaits every one of us. But a proper reading of Scripture demands a certain sobriety.
Consider Christ’s assessment: “And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the Light; for their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).
What now? Shall we dig a hole somewhere and hunker down? Here again, the words of Jesus are compelling: "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 4:16).
It’s time to shine!
|Thursday, February 25, 2021|
It’s called Theraputty.
To four-year-old Ava, it was "firm play dough." My wife somehow acquired a plastic tub of the green stuff used in exercise regimens to strengthen muscles and joints. At $27 per pound on Amazon, it’s not cheap. But it is fun.
Sitting at the kitchen table, we spent hours crafting shapes and critters of all sizes. I attempted a cat, but Ava wondered where the front legs were. Appropriately chastised, I made a horse that did have four legs. This Ava immediately trotted off to her personal pasture.
My next attempt was a cube, which she plucked up for her own purposes.
Finally, I attempted a pyramid (which turned out to be surprisingly challenging). Not ten seconds after completion, this was repurposed into an appendage of some kind on Ava’s ghost.
None of this reallocation of putty resources was mean-spirited. Ava was just having fun—at my expense.
Still, I’d be less than honest if I didn’t admit it was a bit disconcerting. I was proud of what I had made. I kinda wanted those things to stay around—for at least 30 seconds. Those were my creations made with my playdough. Or Theraputty. Or whatever (and here, I sound like a four-year-old).
We smile. But that playful protest of mine is not so different than our response to God. When He takes our grandiose plans and dreams and shapes them into something entirely different than we've envisioned, our first response is usually to complain rather than comply.
It’s so easy to get spun up. But what’s God’s perspective?
We get more than a hint in Romans 9:20-21, “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ;Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?”
Are you willing to be putty for Jesus?
Willing to let Him remold your agenda?
Willing to release your grip on what is in glad exchange for what might be?
Next time you feel like God has rolled you up and then stretched you out— and your life looks very little like your dreams, come back to earth. Come back to humility. We are, after all, just clay.
|Is Disagreeing Hateful?
|Thursday, February 18, 2021|
Free speech is muzzled.
Christian viewpoints are silenced.
Cancel culture is a seemingly unstoppable stampede.
Have you ever asked yourself how we got to this place? There is no single answer. But let me tell you what I think is at the core of much of it: a hijacking of language.
This hijacking took place when Christians—and others—who disagreed with the alternative lifestyles many embraced were told our opposition was “hateful.”
Mind you, I disagree all the time with my wife—and she with me. That doesn’t mean we hate each other. Any parent of a teen disagrees with their kid’s lifestyle choices—and often! But that doesn’t mean they hate! Good friends are good friends precisely because they can disagree—and still love each other.
Nevertheless, the hate label took off. And that rush to calling any opposing opinion hateful was timed with the emergence of hate speech sympathies in our culture and legal system.
Hate speech laws can now make almost anything illegal. In this new twisted logic, to disagree is to hate—and to hate is illegal. Therefore, disagreeing is illegal! It’s crazy. Maddening. And more.
I hate no man. I hate no woman. Because I serve a God who “so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him will not die, but have eternal life.”
If any speech can be called hate speech, then there is no such thing as free speech.
|Help! Sliding off my foundation?
|Thursday, February 11, 2021|
What is it with some of us guys?
Our eyes can process that there’s a problem—staring us in the face. But our fears keep us from taking action. Example—my garage.
As arctic conditions continue, the utility door (just learned that’s what they call the small one on the side of the garage) is failing to latch. The tongue doesn't seem to be long enough to catch the strike plate.
This is not the first time the problem has surfaced. Not the second, either. Or the third. (And, um, there's the problem).
At first, I chalked it up to old age. (Not mine!) See, our unattached garage is sixty-three year old and—believe it or not—has been moved on rollers twice to allow for room additions off the back of the house.
So my solution has been to add washers to the screws that hold the strike plate. It seems to work for a year or so. And then the door flops open, welcoming neighborhood rodents and beasts.
The other day I ventured out into single-digit temperatures and added yet another washer. There are now (drumroll, please) eight of them on each screw. Ridiculous? Of course!
Honestly, it's not a conscious effort to ignore the issue or fantasize the problem will somehow go away. It's more a feeling of "Oh no! This could be really big/bad/expensive, and I have no idea how I'm going to fix it—or pay someone else to fix it.” That’s why there are eight washers on a door catch that is still not truly repaired.
Responding to my wife’s gentle reminder that the problem was not going to fix itself and I really should assess what’s happening, I crunched through the snow and took a good look. Turns out my fears are not ungrounded. Turns out the front corner of the garage (where the utility door is anchored) is actually sliding outward off the concrete pad. Lovely. The problem has dollar signs written all over it. So I’ve called a friend. In the springtime, he’ll help me fix it. He always does.
It’s one thing to ignore that your garage is sliding off its foundation. It’s quite another to ignore that your soul might be sliding off its foundation. Is it?
Is it possible there’s a gap between you and Jesus that persists—and grows—just like the gap in my utility door? Is it possible you’ve either pretended there isn’t a problem—or just hoped it would go away? It won’t.
Learn from my foolishness! Take an honest look at your spiritual foundation.
Ask God to forgive you and help you address whatever “it” is.
He’ll help you fix it.
He always does.
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