Monday, July 30, 2012
Last winter I read in my hometown local newspaper that a man named Clarence Baerg had died. I had a High School classmate named Allen Baerg with whom I've kept in touch, so I emailed him, asking if Clarence was a relative. This is what he wrote back:
"Clarence Baerg was my second cousin and also a good friend. He also had a son named Allen, so that gave us lots of confusion over the years. His son Allen died a little over four years ago from diabetes complications. Some friends of ours in Nebraska heard about it, but they didn't know there were two Allen Baergs. They sent my wife Tina a very nice sympathy card and message in it. Tina said that she almost cried at first when she read it (I guess they must have said nice things about me). I called them later on the phone to tell what really happened. They had caller ID and knew the call was from me. Their first question was, 'Where are you calling from'?"
That's a great story. Sometimes we get people confused over names, and other times we are confused from what's going on in our own lives. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if we could hear what people would say at our own funeral.
My wife Carol tells the story about three guys discussing what they would like people to say about them at their funeral. One said, "I'd like it said that I was a fine father and husband." Another said, "I'd like it said that I was a good Christian man." The third said, "I'd like it if someone said, 'Look! He's breathing!'"
Wise King Solomon wrote, "A good name is better than precious perfume, and the day of death is better than the day of birth." (Ecclesiastes 7:1) How do you react to that Bible verse? What does it tell you?
What would you like others to say about you at your funeral?
Monday, July 23, 2012
The little things in life can often cause big trouble. Many years ago my car wouldn't run right. The engine would start, run a few minutes, and then quit. A patient mechanic attempted several solutions before discovering there was some fine, nearly invisible, dirt in the gas tank. The dirt would settle out, allowing the motor to start, but then get stirred up, plug the intake filter, and the motor would stop. The mechanic finally drained the tank, put in clean gas and my car ran great again!
Interesting, isn't it? Tiny, unseen particles of dirt stopped a powerful motor. It made me think of the problems people have from the buildup of dirt in our lives, or dust in our lungs, or other garbage that quietly settles into our lives causing us to do things God never intended we do. We need our spiritual tanks drained and filled with God's pure Word of power.
Perhaps it is the dirt of "acceptable" wrongdoing, or the dust of hatred or the evil of secret sins that creep into our life. If the source of the bad stuff is not plugged, our life will get "out of kilter" as my Dad used to say. Life absent of a moral center and fueled by secret sin can lead to unbalanced behavior that causes people to do terrible things.
Having a moral compass can bring back a Godly balance. Hearing the saving Word of Jesus or seeing it lived out in the lives of those around us can help us avoid evil. Turning from sin and accepting the forgiveness of Jesus will align an imbalanced life.
Our hearts go out to the individuals and families involved in the Aurora shootings last Thursday night. May such evils never occur again, in Colorado, the United States or anywhere in the world.
"Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:6-7)
Is your life out of balance? Turning to Jesus can help make it better.
Monday, July 16, 2012
Our son and his family just spent a week with us, and when they left a few days ago, our house suddenly became quiet. No more soft little feet pattering the floor at night, or quiet, expectant voices in the morning, or squeals of delight, or toys under foot. Their presence was a sweet blessing that can't be duplicated. Carol and I missed them the moment they headed down the jetway and we headed home.
We drove away from the airport with empty car seats and full hearts, a little sad but also glad. Sad they must leave, but glad they are healthy, loving, happy, and growing. That night we recalled how their father, our son, grew up so quickly and now knows a parent's love. He and Debbie are better parents than we were, more patient, playful and attentive. We thank God for that.
But they won't have loved them more than we loved him and his brother. Being part of a loving family is among the greatest of God's blessings.
Parenting is never over. It's not like making the final touchdown, spiking the ball and going home after the game. Being a parent is a thing for life, a forever relationship. When it's good, it's about the best experience one can know in life. When it's not, the remorse and regret can be overwhelming.
Psalm 68:6 says, "God sets the lonely into families." Families can be large or small, nearby or far away, emotionally close or distant. Whatever the case, they are still family, and we need them.
An old man at a campground met a runaway teenage girl. As she told him why she left her family, he took a bundle of match sticks from his coat pocket, chose one of them and broke it. "This stick is you by yourself," he said. Then he tried to break the rest of the match sticks all at once, but he couldn't. "This is your family," he said. In the morning, she was gone, but in the place where she'd slept the old man found a small bundle of sticks.
Carol and I look forward to more grandchild visits in the future, and I'm already mentally planning activities for when they come to Colorado again.
A tidy house is nice, but a messy one with love and laughter beats it any day.
Monday, July 9, 2012
Two people can see the exact same thing and have an opposite perspective. One of my favorite authors, the late Tony Hillerman, wrote mostly about the people and cultures of the American southwest. He was once riding the Santa Fe Chief railroad west from New Mexico towards California, watching from the observation car as the Zuni Buttes and Mount Taylor came into view.
Hillerman looked at the spectacular country and saw colors and shapes that thrilled him. The changing golds and tans of the wind-carved mesas contrasted with the blue sky and its billowing white thunderclouds. He felt the unfolding landscape had emptied his heart of all worries.
Next to him were three businessmen in suits, presumably from somewhere back east, and as they looked at the majestic views the men became silent. Then one of them said to the others, "My God, why would anyone want to live out here?" In the following moments of silence, Hillerman recalls thinking, "My God, why wouldn't everyone want to live out here?" (Reader's Digest, July/August 2012, p. 146)
People can see the exact same thing but come up with a totally different perspective. Consider the Church's history. One sees the saving Gospel, universities, hospitals, music and the arts, orphanages, the Bible and scientific discovery. Another, looking at the same evidence, sees the Crusades, cold dogmatism, the Inquisition, immorality and oppression. The second person asks, "Why in the world would anyone want to be a Christian?" while the first asks, "Why wouldn't everyone want to be a Christian?"
Both views may seem equally valid but both are not. Humanism says, "My viewpoint is just as good as yours," but Christianity says, "God's viewpoint is the right one." Our holy and merciful God gives us minds to learn, analyze and decide. When sin came into the world, our minds became selfish, myopic and greedy. Good was replaced with opinion, love with lust, and wisdom with foolishness. Thanks be to God Jesus earned forgiveness of sins for us.
Despite what people may think, God has the last Word: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts," declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:9)
How does your perspective compare with God's?
Monday, July 2, 2012
I once wrote a Bible study called "The Mighty Mites," a set of brief studies on the five short one-chapter books of the Bible: Obadiah, Philemon, Second John, Third John and Jude.
Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament. Hidden away in it is a vital question that should interest us: "How would you respond when your enemy has misfortune?" I recall a youth Bible study many years ago titled, "Would you laugh if a brick fell on your enemy's head?" I recall thinking I probably would. After all, it's human nature to feel glad when someone who has caused you much trouble gets stopped cold. Trouble is, "human nature" is a result of sin.
The prophet Obadiah spoke the Word of God during a time when Jerusalem was under attack by the armies of Babylon. They were getting beaten badly, and to make matters worse, their closest neighbors, the Edomites, were cheering on the enemy armies as they destroyed and killed the Israelites.
The ironic twist of this story is that the Edomites were blood relatives of the Israelites. They were descendants of Esau, twin brother of Jacob, who was the father of the Israelites. When the Edomites cheered for the Babylonians, they were cheering against their relatives.
Obadiah condemned them for gloating, saying, "Do not gloat over your brother in the day of his misfortune, nor rejoice over the children of Judah in the day of their ruin." (Obadiah 12)
If someone has been hurtful to us, or if they represent what we believe to be wrong, it is easy to be vindictive and find pleasure when they experience misfortune. But the Holy Bible admonishes us, "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, nor let your heart be glad when he stumbles." (Proverbs 24:17)
It may be the most difficult of things to do, but we are to have an attitude of compassion and forgiveness at all times and for all people, even our enemies. Jesus said in Matthew 5:43, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." As Christians we trust God to bring justice and retribution in His own time and way.
At your request I'll send you "The Mighty Mites" for your personal study.