He Said What?!

good_friday_1000004582-120613intI was surprised yesterday when I heard what the former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said: “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to Heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in Heaven. It’s not even close.”

I’ll have to admit that I’m no fan of Mr. Bloomberg’s and much of his activist political agenda, and I really disagree with several parts of his statement above:

• “if there is a God”—For such a small word, “if” casts a long shadow. If Mr. Bloomberg isn’t sure about the existence of God, how can he be sure there is a heaven or know anything about how to gain entrance?

• “I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I’m heading straight in.” Perhaps the former Mayor should check his narcissism before he tries to enter the Pearly Gates. Jesus may have a different opinion: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me (Mt 7:21-23).”

• “I’ve earned my place in Heaven. It’s not even close.” Well Michael, the angel not the Mayor, you might need to blow your trumpet or send a text message or something, but Mr. Bloomberg needs to hear the truth of Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Mr. Bloomberg, do you understand the significance of tomorrow? It is Good Friday, and instead beating your own drum and tooting your own horn, maybe, just maybe, you should consider what Jesus did for you: “ God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).”

The far reaching truth is this: Jesus died for each and every one of us: “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 (John 3:16).”

All of That in 60 Seconds

TimeWhat Happens in One Minute Around the World? Robinson Meyer considered this question in the March 12, 2014 issue of the The Atlantic, and I share some of his findings below:

25 Americans will get a passport, according to the U.S. Department of State.
58 airplanes will take off around the world, according to the International Air Traffic Association.
11,319 packages will be delivered by UPS, according to UPS.
243,000 photos will be uploaded to Facebook, according to Facebook.
5,441,400 pounds of garbage will be created, according to the World Bank.
7,150,000,000 human hearts (according to the United States Census Bureau) will beat…
500,500,000,000 times, according to the American Heart Association, as their bodies create…
858,282,240,000,000,000 new red blood cells, according to the National Institutes of Health.

After looking at these statistics, you can see that quite a bit happens within a 60 second frame of time. What have you done so far today with the precious minutes of your life? What have you thought, done, and said?

A quick Google search will tell you that the average person will speak between 110 and 150 words a minute. After I read this, I wanted to find something that was between 110 and 150 words that I could say and that would be a great way to start the day.

What I found was the first Psalm that starts the book of Psalms—I’ve always thought it was first for a reason. Take 60 seconds and read it out loud, so you can learn the secret of the “blessed man.”

1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. 4 The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 6 For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Blueless Bonnets

bluebonnets1The Alcade (The Offical Publication of the Texas Exes) has reported an issue of major concern. Evidently Markus Houge, Program Coordinator for Irrigation and Water Conservation at the University of Texas, nearly fainted when he discovered a tainted patch of beloved bluebonnets. The flowers in questions have all the characteristics of a typical bluebonnet, except the hue isn’t blue.

The clue to the origin of the not so blue bluebonnet may lie in the unwelcome maroon color of the freshly blossomed flowers. UT believes this dastardly deed is the work of pranksters from Texas A&M who have sown their seed in the flower bed of the Texas faithful.

This is strikingly similar to one of Jesus’ parables: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while people were sleeping, his enemy came, sowed weeds among the wheat, and left. When the plants sprouted and produced grain, then the weeds also appeared. The landowner’s slaves came to him and said, ‘Master, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Then where did the weeds come from?” The landowner replied: “An enemy did this,’ and he told his servants: “When you gather up the weeds, you might also uproot the wheat with them, so let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time: Gather the weeds first and tie them in bundles to burn them, but store the wheat in my barn.”

The logical application is that good seed will yield a good harvest; however, evil seed will produce a crop of a different nature. Peter warned of this, when he said: “False prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”

The principle of sowing and reaping is taught in the Bible. The principle is that you reap what you sow; later than you sow; and, more than you sow.

Hosea was applying this principle, when he said: Plow your fields, scatter seeds of justice, and harvest faithfulness. Worship me, the Lord, and I will send my saving power down like rain (10:12).

What seeds are you sowing?

A Hapless Hare or the Hope of Easter

easter_110002101-012814-intThe spring has come unwound in San Diego. Like a Slinky that can only go in a downward fashion, San Diego County parks has reached a new low as they bury historic traditions. County Parks Director Brian Albright, has kicked the Easter Bunny on his keister.

In a quest for cultural diversity, at the expen$e of historic authenticity, the Easter Egg Hunt has been renamed the Spring Egg Hunt. According to Michael Workman, county communications director, this is just the “Sign of the times,” and “the prudent course of action. Our goal has always been to include all in the communities we serve.”

It may be the “sign of the times,” but I for one think it is a rather sad sight. Call me “old, stubborn, hard-headed,” or whatever you like, but I’m tired of the subtle attack on cherished traditions. Changing Easter Bunny to Spring Bunny and Merry Christmas to Happy Holidays is more than mere semantics. It is a subtle and purposeful attempt to strip away the Christian distinctive that’s clothed our nation for centuries.

You may think I’m splitting hairs over this rabbit, but it is important that you understand how a change in terminology cleverly influences emotional response.

• People don’t worry too much about a jungle or a swamp, but call them rainforests and wetlands and see the excitement grow.
• Most everyone is concerned about the welfare of a baby, but label it a fetus and there is a more detached response.

Take away the hope of Easter and all that’s left is a hapless hare. What about Christmas? Happy holidays is nothing more than debt-ridden consumerism, while Merry Christmas remembers that Jesus IS the reason for the season.

Gene Autry had it right when he sang of Peter Cottontail hopping down the bunny trail—“Easter’s is on its way.”

Why Friday is Good For You

goodfridayCrucifixion was as repulsive as it was hideous. It was a torturous form of death that had been practiced and perfected by Rome to silence the Empire’s detractors.

Death by crucifixion was an effective form of execution in every instance except one. When Jesus said “it is finished,” He did not say “I am finished.” The moment Jesus died, the chains of those who were bound by death began to rattle.

Three days later when Jesus rose from the grave, Paul says captivity was led captive: Jesus took all believers who had died before Him and led them from Paradise into the glories of heaven.

What about the cross? Eyes of disbelief see it as defeat. The spiritually deaf, hear “It is finished” as the last gasp of a dying martyr.

The cross is not the coffin of Calvary. To the millions who have been embraced by His love and set free by His forgiveness, the cross is an emblem of compassion and a symbol of victory. The cross is best understood when seen through the lens of awe and reverence, for this gift from was God was His Son lifted up for us.

John Piper has written about the significance of the cross: “Life is wasted if we do not grasp the glory of the cross, cherish it for the treasure that it is, and cleave to it as the highest price of every pleasure and the deepest comfort in every pain. What was once foolishness to us—a crucified God—must become our wisdom and our power and our only boast in this world.”

If you only think of the cross as something that was done “for” you, you are mistaken. The cross was “because” of you. Jesus did not die for His sins. He died for your sins and the sins of the world, and this is why Friday is good for you.

While you may wear it as a piece of jewelry around your neck, make sure its peace surrounds your heart.

Today is Your Day

wheatThe cats are still quiet; Hank is curled up and silent in his kennel; and, I’m sipping a cup of my favorite coffee—Three Continent Blend.

The hush of God is still upon His creation, but at the first hint of light, the birds will lift their voice with song to beckon the sun. The quiet calm of the dawn will be interrupted by the harsh noise of digital alarms and roaring engines as people get revved up for another day jam packed with choices.

Among the many decisions and deadlines you will face, you have the opportunity to choose to love or to hate; to embrace justice or exact injustice; or, to look down on others in judgment or to lift them up with grace and mercy. The choice is yours to make.

The Psalmist said, “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice in it and be glad.” God made you for this day and this day for you. Make it a day to be calm, caring, and kind. Use it for His glory, and for the betterment of His creation.

Earbud Buddies

music_11000118724-1013intWhen your music loving teenager shares his earbuds with a friend, does this provide fertile ground for germs to blossom into a nasty infection? Lisa Sturm, director of Infection Control and Epidemiology at the University of Michigan Health System, decided to investigate this waxing scenario.

Sturm cited a 2008 study in India that followed 50 medical students as they shared earbuds. The research found that among frequent users of earbuds, bacterial growth was significantly higher in the ears and on the earbuds, compared with people who used the earbuds infrequently. Even though this type of sharing can transfer bacteria to another person, Sturm says, “that study did not look at infections, just the presence of bacteria—which our bodies are covered in (WSJ).”

Sturm suggests that before sharing earbuds, they should be wiped with a disinfectant such as a cotton ball soaked in isopropyl alcohol. Thinking about Sturm’s suggestions, I wonder: Should we also disinfectant what we hear?

The Mayo Clinic sees a correlation in positive thinking and optimism on good health. These benefits include:

• Increased life span
• Lower rates of depression
• Lower levels of distress
• Greater resistance to the common cold
• Better psychological and physical well-being
• Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
• Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

The value of filtering what you hear and say is some of the practical wisdom found in Proverbs: “Listen, my child, and accept my words, so that the years of your life will be many. I will guide you in the way of wisdom and I will lead you in upright paths (Proverbs 4:10-11).”

Solomon also said you should incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding (Proverbs 2:2). He contrasts this for us in Ecclesiastes: It is better for a person to receive a rebuke from those who are wise than to listen to the song of fools. For like the crackling of quick-burning thorns under a cooking pot, so is the laughter of the fool. This kind of folly also is useless (Eccl. 7:5-6).”

What fills your ears? Do you listen to the “song of fools” or the rules of righteousness?

Listless Lizards

lizardI went to bed last night and got a good night’s sleep. Earlier in the day I had read that California’s Island Night Lizard has finally been removed from the Endangered Species List. Since I no longer needed to worry about this little guy, I could have sweet dreams.

Sadly, I woke up this morning with fresh concerns. Follow my logic: If this lizard has been removed from the Endangered Species List, does this mean it is now a “listless” lizard? Do you know what a “listless” lizard is? If it is “listless,” it is lethargic and lacks energy to do much of anything.

Guess what happens to listless, lethargic, low energy lizards? They end up on the Endangered Species List, and the cycle repeats itself.

All of this has been me having some fun with circular reasoning, but there is some truth to what I said: some cycles do repeat themselves.

When family dynamics are examined, it is easy to see that some cycles are repeated and projection is the dynamo that powers them. The stressed-out husband comes home from work and stumbles over a toy on the sidewalk. He yells out his wife projecting his stress on her. Frustrated she yells at the child, who doesn’t know what to do with his emotions, so he kicks the dog. The cycle begins to repeat when the dog bites the man who yells at the wife who then yells at the son who . . .

Spiritual dynamics can also go through a cycle and the book of Judges is a good example. When you read this book, you see a 4S Cycle: Sin, suffering, Supplication, Salvation

The Israelites would SIN, and because they chose to live in sin, they would begin to SUFFER. After they suffered at the hand of their enemies, they would offer up SUPPLICATIONS or prayers to God. SALVATION would come in the form of a Savior-Judge who would deliver them from their oppressors. After they enjoyed the blessings of God for a while, they would slowly slip back into sin and the cycle would repeat itself.

What cycles or routines do you see in your life and in your relationship with God? When you identify the process, interrupt it. In family dynamics, sometimes it’s taking a step back, taking a deep breath, and reevaluating the situation.

In your relationship with God, I suggest you interrupt the cycle by praying the words of Psalm 139: “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

These 3

these3Have you ever felt lower than a snake’s belly, or ever thought you were a vile roach who encroached on the grace of God? Think again—flip through the pages of the Bible and you’ll see you’re on the receiving end of God’s gifts.

• The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus—Romans 6:23
• Thanks to God for His unspeakable gift—2 Corinthians 9:15
• The gift of God—Ephesians 2:8-9
• Every good and perfect gift is from above—James 1:17

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul spoke of gifts in a different context. He said there are three that remain. Two of these, faith and hope, are great gifts, but it is the third gift, love, that Paul says is the greatest and reigns supreme.

Through faith we believe the unbelievable, and hope sustains us when everything seems hopeless. Love, however, is the gift that allows us to love the unlovable and pardon the unpardonable.

In I Thessalonians 1:3, Paul spoke of “remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The New Testament repeatedly emphasizes the strong correlation between these three gifts. John focused on it in I John 3:1-3:

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

Think of these gifts within this context:
• Love is the foundation
• Faith is empowering belief
• Hope is the motivation to remain steadfast

There are cultures and societies that are void of Christ’s love, have little faith, and are all but void of hope. The empty tomb really does make all the difference in the world. Because Christ rose again we have faith, hope and love–and all three are gifts your gifts from God.

Encoded Barcodes

encodeWe live in a hurry-up and get-it-done world. To help us live in an orderly and speedy fashion, we rely on day planners and grocery scanners.

That little rectangle box of dark lines in varied widths is encoded with information that reveals the price of the product, and it helps to control inventory. The UPC code became operational in 1974 and a pack of Wrigley’s chewing gum was the first item to be scanned using this system.barcode

According to the agency which issues barcode numbers (GS1 or Global Standards One), about 5 billion barcodes are scanned every day. This lends itself to the concept that you are little more than a number among the masses.

Let me assure you, God never forgets your face, and He always remembers your name. David was sure of this when he wrote Psalm 139: O LORD, you examine me and know. You know when I sit down and when I get up; even from far away you understand my motives. You carefully observe me when I travel or when I lie down to rest; you are aware of everything I do.

Wow! God is “aware” of everything you do, and regardless of your actions, thoughts, and decisions, He still loves you.

As David contemplates this awesome relationship, he says: Where can I go to escape your spirit? Where can I flee to escape your presence? If I were to ascend to heaven, you would be there. If I were to sprawl out in Sheol, there you would be. If I were to fly away on the wings of the dawn and settle down on the other side of the sea, even there your hand would guide me, your right hand would grab hold of me.

When the UPC made its appearance in 1974, the letters stood for Universal Product Code. When you read Psalm 139, think of UPC as the Universal Purpose of Christ.

Does this Psalm give you the idea that you are encoded with the love of God? Doesn’t John 3:16 do the same thing? For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. The Universal Purpose of Christ was to die for you, so you could live with Him.

gumIt might have started with the lip-smacking, bubble-blowing, taste bud-satisfying Wrigley’s gum, but when you think of UPC in the context of God’s love, the flavor last much longer than a stick of gum and it satisfies the soul.