Friday, June 27, 2008


One of the popular movies this summer is "The Incredible Hulk." Though I have not seen it, I recall it from a comic book about a scientist who, whenever he became angry, grows huge and superpowerful, destroying everything around him. "The Incredible Hulk" is a good symbol of how anger brings about the monster in us all.

Anger, especially uncontrolled rage, wipes out common sense and reason. Angry people can impulsively hurt others with their words and actions. Angry people also hurt themselves. It's been documented that thirty minutes of intense anger uses up as much energy as a full day of work. Hostile, angry people suffer more illnesses, high blood pressure and headaches, and usually die at a younger age.

The Bible urges us to "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice." (Ephesians 4:31). Instead, we are to "Bear with each other and forgive as the Lord has forgiven you." (Colossians 3:13)

Though anger in itself is not a sin, it can - and usually does - lead to sin, even the sin of pride. Anger often comes because we believe we've not gotten what we want, forgetting that what we want is not always what we need. It's true our Lord became angry, but He always kept His reaction to it in check. Sometimes when we're angry, we're not sure where to direct it. That's when we can become our own version of "The Incredible Hulk."

Some people get angry at God, while others find little value in that. While we know God can handle our anger, we need to take care not to have that anger last too long. When it's been expressed to God, then we need to let it go. Anger continually re-expressed can be a sign we're stuck in a dangerous rut.

When we trust in Jesus for our forgiveness and believe He died on the cross for us, He can help us let go of our anger, if we just ask Him. The Holy Spirit can teach us how to live and love as God wants, if we just let Him. Living in the Spirit is the opposite of living in anger, for the Spirit gives us, "Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23)

Give God your anger, then take the love He gives you back!

Thursday, June 19, 2008


A number of years ago I loaned a complete stranger $5. We were standing in line in the afternoon at the local DMV office (Dept. of Motor Vehicles) which had dozens people hoping the line wouldn't close before they got what they needed.

I was about third person back when the man in front of me became agitated. He turned around and said, "Excuse me, sir, but I'm short of funds. Could you loan me $5? I promise to mail it back to you just as soon as I get home. I need to renew my driver's license, because we're taking a trip and leaving tomorrow morning."

I seemed to recall having done something like that a time or two, and so I loaned him the $5. He wrote down my home address, thanked me, got his license and left. I pretty much kissed that money goodbye, but a few days later I got a letter with a note of thanks and a fiver. It's nice to know there are some honest people around!

Most folks today would say it's a little crazy to trust a stranger, but sometimes it seems right. Carol and I are in Bozeman, Montana, the next few weeks and will be meeting lots of strangers. Now it's true people at Airstream Rallies are not strangers for long, but every day we will run into hundreds of faces we've never seen before. And I hope they all have enough money in their pockets!

Somehow this all reminds me of the awesome grace of God. He loves us without any reassurance that we'll care. He forgives us, knowing full well that the majority of people in the world will reject Him. And He knows that most of His redeemed people will make promise after promise and not fulfill them.

But still He loves and still he forgives. He sent His only Son to be our Savior. God doesn't wait until we're worthy of His grace, nor does He ask for proof of our intent or any promissory notes for the things He gives us. He just loves and gives, because He knows we need it.

That's a great thought for the day, don't you think?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


By now we all know the price of gas at the pump, that it's rising too fast, making us wonder how far it will go. And we have all experienced some of its stress on our lives. We've been told the price of a barrel of oil could reach as high as $250 by 2010, and we've been told all the problems that will cause. I wonder, though, if most of our imagined problems are driven by reality or merely by speculation. And I wonder if such speculation itself is making the problem worse.

What if gas does reach $8 a gallon? What will happen to America if this or that person is elected president? What will happen if the War on Terrorism doesn't end soon? What will happen to our church if certain people have their way? Is the world coming to an end soon?

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves: Do we live by faith or by fear? Are our decisions made based on the bad that might happen, or the good God can make happen? Speculation has a rightful place in life as we weigh the consequences of various actions. But speculation based on fear rather than faith in God does not help us at all.

My first congregation out of the seminary was in a small North Dakota town where I made some lifelong friends. Roy was one of them, and though he is with the Lord now, several truths he shared changed my life. I, like so many others at the time, was a smoker and wanted to quit. Roy had quit long before and encouraged me to do the same. I told him I was worried I couldn't write a sermon without lighting up a few times, and he said,  "Pastor, it's worth a few bad sermons. Don't worry about what might happen, just do what's right." (I quit in 1972) 

A few other times I confided to Roy my struggles of what might happen if I chose this or that direction. His advice: "Just pick a direction and go that way. Make your decision and don't worry about all the other options. God will help you through it."

1 Peter 5:7 tells us, "Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." Care and worry are common to us all, but faith and God's strength is also available to us all. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, "God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."

God is with us every step of the way. His Son Jesus knows your needs. Just trust Him! Don't fear the future so much. Like Roy said, "Don't worry about what might happen, just do what's right."

"God will help you through it."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Last year I had to catch an early morning flight out of Denter International Airport to Dallas. I was making the flight alone, and due to the early schedule, it had been a short night. I settled into my seat, buckled in, put my head back, and closed my eyes. The next thing I knew I awoke, slightly disoriented and discovered the plane was already flying at 30,000 feet. I had peacefully slept through taxi, take-off and the climb through the clouds.

What blessing to be able to sleep so well, I thought. My next thought was whether or not I had missed the coffee cart (they don't serve breakfast any more, you know). I hadn't, but it made me wonder how this compares to life, namely how quickly time passes. Just last year it seems I was a teenager, last month I was a young parent, and last week I was still leading a growing church.

You may wonder, as I do, where does the time go? How did I get to be this old so fast? Did I sleep through some of those years? Did I miss something important along the way? Can I really be that wrinkled face that looks back at me from the mirror?

There is not much we can do to slow the passing of time. But we can pray that God will help each of us make the most of the time we have. And we can pray that we will not miss, or sleep through, the really important times in life. With all the distractions in our world, it's not hard to do that. And we can be glad that, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8)

They say life goes slow when you're young, faster as you mature, and then slows down again when you're old. I think it just goes faster each day we live. That means we need to make good use of every day. We need to make sure we are using our time well, serving others, enjoying each day, asking God for direction and joy along the way. Soon our time on earth will be over, and then we'll realize the saying, "Only one life - "Twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last."

I think I'll go out back and smell the lilacs!