|If the World Hates You
|Thursday, October 18, 2018|
Imagine being a little girl in in a Jewish family in the thick of World War Two. An impatient knock on the door refuses to go away. But you do. Because you know who it is. You’ve known they would eventually come.
You whisper to your mother, “I’m going upstairs to hide.” Scampering up the steps, you clear the first floor just as a German officer rams his body into the foyer.
You dive into the closet without a sound, buried in the perfect hiding place—the one you’d rehearsed. But is it truly perfect? As the soldiers’ boots pound up the stairs, the hammering of your heart makes you feel starved for air.
The closet door is yanked open, leather gloved hands shove hangers and a flashlight pokes here and there. Finally, the flashlights are withdrawn and the soldiers retreat down the stairs and out the door. But you still wonder if it’s safe to come out. How long should you wait? What signal would prove that it’s truly safe?
This is the story I heard recently watching a video monitor at Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum. If you’re wondering how the drama ends, I can add only the last details shared by this little girl—now an old woman—who managed to survive the Holocaust:
"After they left, Mother came upstairs. She said, ‘You can come out now.’ So I did. I asked her, ‘Are you okay?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ I asked her, ‘What about Father?’ Her mother’s answer: ‘They took him.’” The passing of 75 years could not erase the agony of that moment for the little girl with the now wrinkled face.
Having interviewed Holocaust survivors and read books on the subject, I still scratch my head wondering how it could ever have taken place. I found insight in an excerpt from “Mein Kamp,” a book Hitler wrote in 1924. In it he claims, “No one need be surprised if among our people, the personification of the devil as the symbol of all evil, assumes the living shape of the Jew.” Hideous as the statement is, it is an icy reminder that words have consequences.
Consider the evil things that are written today about Christians, comparing us to the Taliban or calling us terrorists. Consider the other awful accusations made about us.
It all takes us to 1 John 3:13. “Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.”
Pardon the negative tone of this blog. And its abrupt ending. But there is no pretty bow to wrap up some packages.
This is one of them.
|Lessons at the Jordan
|Thursday, October 11, 2018|
It’s a scraggly line on the map in the back of your Bible. The Jordan river. About 150 miles in length, it trickles mostly north to south through the Sea of Galilee and eventually down to the Dead Sea.
The Jordan River is where Jesus was baptized. So it’s understandable that many who travel to Israel today want to be baptized or re-baptized in the Jordan. When Diana and I serve tour groups, I often help with the baptismal service.
Would you write me off as unspiritual or godless if I confessed to you that as meaningful as these baptisms are to the people we assist, the experience is not among my favorites? I can see the shock on your face, so let me explain.
First, the Jordan River is not a clean river. It just isn’t. In fact, it's downright dirty.
Second, the Jordan is filled with little fish that actually nip at your legs while you’re standing in the water. A creepy sensation, to be frank.
Third, the water is cold and, to make matters worse, we typically arrive when the sun is past its prime. Again, not pleasant.
A recent experience in the Jordan left me with two impressions for which I am humbled—and grateful.
We baptized one lady who made this statement in her simple testimony: “I love Jesus dearly—and sometimes desperately.”
A shark could have chomped down on my leg at that point and not given me more of a jolt. How often is it true of me that I love Jesus dearly? How often could I truly say, “I love Him desperately?” Yet that’s the place I need to be!
When through with the baptismal service, we changed out of our white baptismal clothes and took a quick shower. But because of my convictions about the Jordan being so dirty, I repeatedly lathered the soap, determined to “get that dirty river off of me.”
But I was slammed with the thought, Why am I not equally repelled by the dirt of my sin? Why am I not more disturbed about my sin-stained words, my unclean thoughts? Maybe it’s time for a cleanliness “recalibration” in my life. Maybe it’s time for a purification that only the Pure One can bring.
A desperate love for God—and a hunger for true holiness. That’s what I hope comes to mind next time you see that squiggly line called the Jordan River on the map in your Bible.
|Out in the Cold
|Thursday, October 04, 2018|
It has been an exceptional year for mice.
Out at the camper, we see them climbing outside here, there, and everywhere. Last week, I yanked off the lid to the plastic garbage can that serves as our wood kindling stockpile and noticed a brown and beady eyed little fellow glaring up at me. Nothing shy or flitty in his behavior. Fact is, he appeared angry that I’d blown his cover—literally.
In smacking the side of the trash can and wiggling it back and forth, I’m sure I gave his tiny ticker the closest thing to a heart attack a rodent can experience.
Mice. There may be as many as 1300 different species of them. One observer suggests that though they are the tiniest of mammals, they are one of the most “successful” species in the world. Talk about an understatement!
Somehow…somehow they manage to avoid predators like hawks, wolves, dogs and even larges spiders. Not to mention good ol’ cats. And then they go on to have a zillion baby mice—all of whom survive, thrive and drive us crazy.
I once went to a concert at our church where the artist sang about a mouse he happened to see trying to sneak into his house. It was late fall. The temperatures had dropped and the guy almost took pity on the critter. The song hook is worth noting:
All of creation’s your next of kin—
When you’re out in the cold and you want to come in.
So—it’s fall season. I’m guessing that with very little effort, you could come up with a list of folks who are “out in the cold.” People who, through bad luck or bad choices, are just not in a very good place. I’m not simply talking about homeless people, though they surely deserve our compassion.
I’m talking about friends—maybe even family—who are emotionally out in the cold. They might have even less appeal than a furry mouse. Still, they want to come in. Is your door open? Is my door open?
The door to your home. The door to your wallet. The door to your heart.
Is it open?
|Thursday, September 27, 2018|
Mom is gone.
She went home to be with Christ earlier this week. We’re glad for her relief. But losing her feels like the sticky side of a Band-Aid being torn off a deep gash on your arm. Or maybe your heart.
Mom was the first to send a get-well card. The first to remember your birthday. The first to visit shut-ins. The first to send a thank you if you did the slightest favor. The first to send an email. The first to give you a call and ask how your “thing” went—whatever your thing was.
Her life was often a living illustration of Hebrews 13:6, “Do not forget to do good and to share with others. For with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
Need a meal? Mom would make you one. And boy, could she bake:
• Cinnamon rolls with a gooey white frosting…
• A “Peach Kuchen” coffee cake every Christmas…
• Sugar cookies so perfectly done, they were great even without sugar...
• An apple pie with a crust my wife says is the absolute best…
In addition to her baking, Mom was a seamstress whose projects looked professional—never tacky. She knit scarfs and mittens for her kids and sewed pajamas for her many grandkids. She was a quilter, a traveler and a camper.
She raised six kids—imagine having four little ones under the age of four. I was the fourth child, born on her birthday. We’ve always celebrated together. Not this year. Never again this side of eternity. Underline that last phrase—”this side of eternity.” Because there is another side.
I have every expectation of seeing Mom alive again in heaven. Not because of wishful thinking or feel good religion. The Bible says, “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not die but have eternal life.” Mom received Christ as Savior, which means she will be forever in heaven.
I’ve never lost a parent before.
Wish I didn’t have to start now.
But knowing the certainty of heaven—and seeing Mom again—is good medicine for a sad soul. Mine.
|Thursday, September 20, 2018|
When you’re at the same house or the same office for thirty years, you collect stuff. A lot of stuff. Too much stuff.
That’s my situation at Moody Radio where, after more than three decades in a building called Crowell Hall, I’m moving to our brand new Chapman Center, which houses Moody Radio and Moody Publishing.
The new “Smart Studio” which will also double as my office is about a third smaller than my current space. So instead of two full-size bookcases, I’ll cram everything on to just one. The round table and two chairs I’ve known for three-plus decades have almost become like friends, but they will not make the trip to the new building. Nor will the large media cabinet housing everything from CDs to old reel-to-reel recordings. So I’m in the process of digitizing as much of the audio as I can—and getting rid of the rest.
Still, I’ve had to give away and throw away an uncomfortable amount of books, CDs and other materials. It’s not like I’m a candidate for A&E’s Hoarders program, but the number of get-rid-of-this-or-not decisions has wearied me to the point of numbness.
But here’s the ironic truth. If I was only allowed to take one small box, I know precisely what I’d take. It would be easy!
In it would be the Polaroid photo of our two toddlers (from nearly 30 years ago) standing on the fireplace hearth. There’s a hand-painted “Dad’s Keys” wooden plaque that our boy, Tim, made—it would certainly make it into the box. As would the Bible, still holding two bulletin inserts from when Diana and I attended Moody Church as a dating couple. Diana’s pre-wedding paper creation of a bride and groom (Liquid Paper bottles forming the legs for the groom and tissue paper for the bride’s veil) would certainly earn a spot in the box.
If you’ve analyzed the curious catalogue of stuff I’ve listed, you’ll note that very little of it has any street value, and almost none of it has to do with “work.” They are just symbols. Visual metaphors. Reminders of people that matter most. So what’s in your box?
Someone much wiser than me observed the only things that will last into eternity are people—and the Word of God. What holds your fascination, and mine? Is this what we’re mostly about—people and the Word of God? What’s in your box?
One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.
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