Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Life Of Grownups

David Andrew officially began his new job today. I say "officially" because he has been going to trainings and doing shadowing for a while now. Today is his first day solo - working in a group home here in Canton.

His first day on his own and a twelve hour shift - 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM.

Unfortunately, David was up in the night with an upset stomach. When he got up in the morning he was sick to his stomach some more. But he didn't seem to have a fever... just trouble with his stomach. "Maybe it is from the late dinner of chili after caroling last night," we thought.

He went to work. He checked in with us later in the morning. He had been sick some more.

But he stayed at work.

Later in the day, I called him to see how he was doing. He was still sick to his stomach and the thought of cooking dinner for the men in the house was unsettling.

But he stayed at work.

I'm proud of David. He is showing that he has what it takes to be an adult with adult responsibilities. Schoolchildren can usually stay home from school if they feel sick. Teachers and classmates would just as soon they did, if it is messy or possibly contagious. The main consequence will be to get behind on homework.

But grownups have more responsibility. The consequences of staying home are more significant. David went to work and stuck it out for the guys he serves in the group home, for his employer who entrusted this responsibility to him and for the people who would have needed to change plans to cover for him.

David has begun to prove to his new employer that he is trustworthy and reliable. He will be there when he is supposed to be there and will not let even significant personal discomfort derail him. They can depend on him. He knows he has an important job to do - that people are counting on him.

I'm not surprised, by this. I already knew what kind of guy he was growing up to be. But it certainly makes me happy to see him put the exclamation point on it.

New Wake Up System

If you really want to wake up, try putting your arms over your head and pouring ice water down your sleeves! It works great every time!

During the freezing rainstorm this morning I noticed that my gutters were spilling over and realized that the downspouts had become plugged (again.) So I pulled out my trusty stepladder that is not quite - but almost tall enough. When I put the ladder up against the building and go up to the next step to the top, I can just get my head above the gutter enough to do the work.

But it is cold cold water! My hands became so frozen that I couldn't open my left hand and I couldn't feel anything with either hand. I got thoroughly wet.

But praise the Lord! I cleared two gutters and the third was good without intervention. Praise the Lord that I was able to get them clear. Praise God that I noticed soon enough to minimize flooding in the basement. (We only had a trickle this time.) Praise God that I didn't fall off the ladder in spite of the wet, slippery conditions and the thrashing around I was doing up in the gutter.

I am going to buy a taller ladder.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Squirrels with Attitude

Yesterday I noticed some squirrels who were doing their squirrel business right down by the curb as I drove past. They seemed to have a certain "city squirrel attitude." They don't care about the cars. They don't care about the people. They would probably run if they were chased, but maybe not.

Squirrels in the woods are more wary. They go up the tree when they see you 100 yards away. Not here. Tiny was out in the back yard a couple of days ago when a squirrel started across the neighbor's yard toward him. Tiny never saw the squirrel, but the squirrel eventually noticed the dog. Did the squirrel run? NO! He sat there like an impatient driver at a red light. He kept twitching his tail in irritation that this dog was going to put him behind schedule. Eventually the dog came back to the house and the squirrel continued on his way.

Out in the woods, squirrels run and hide. Not in the city. Here they go up the tree to the lowest branch that is out of your reach. Then they sit there and swear at you until you go away.

Profane and obnoxious squirrels! And they got that way by being around people too much! They have picked up human bad attitudes.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I Once Was Lost - Book Review

My note in the front of this book says I started it in May of 2008. I finally finished it today. What took me so long? It was my exercise book and for most of that time I didn't do much work on the treadmill.

But I finally finished it and I will recommend it to you. The book is "Once I Was Lost: What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us About Their Path to Jesus," by Don Everts and Doug Schaupp. The book is published by IVP.

The authors have spent years working at evangelism on and around college campuses. They draw on their experience to suggest a pattern by which this generation seems to come to faith.

I appreciated that this not presented as some sort of sure fire gimmick by which people are certain to be brought to Christ. Rather, the authors suggest and vividly illustrate that winning people (especially postmodern thinkers) to Christ requires patience and understanding.

They suggest that post modern people (and I think all people) go through various steps in their path to faith. There is no way to tell how quickly this will transpire or if it will move all the way to the end or even if all of the steps will be apparent. But generally speaking there will be these steps. The authors call them thresholds.
Threshold 1: Trusting a Christian
Threshold 2: Becoming Curious
Threshold 3: Opening Up to Change
Threshold 4: Seeking After God
Threshold 5: Entering the Kingdom

The book talks about ways in which people have crossed these thresholds and discusses what the would-be evangelist might do to facilitate the step. How can you tell where a person is? When should you urge a person forward? When should you hold back? What tools to you have that can help you?

In the seventh chapter they talk about what to expect after a person makes a commitment to Christ and how to nurture them in their new faith.

They conclude with a wonderful section on "Servant Evangelism." The idea is that evangelism is not about what is easy or convenient for me. Evangelism requires a commitment to serving the needs of the lost person - whether that is building trust through kindness, showing them the teachings about Christ or confronting them about their own hypocrisy.

A good and thought provoking book. Worth reading - even it takes you all year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Icy Conditions In A Fallen World

It is early in the morning and we've been accumulating ice by freezing rain and drizzle all night.

When I stepped out on the back porch to take the dog out at 5:15 I thought maybe the ice had melted. (It is not very cold - just 32 degrees.) So I stepped of the porch and about fell down when my feet slipped on the ice on the step.

The ice is still here! Falling is a real danger.

We have power and our heat is on. That is nice when there's ice. I wish I could keep all of my dear ones safe at home - but Lola is already on the road for school. The radio says that MOST of the MAIN roads are safe... but I have no doubt that many people will find themselves sliding at some point today.

The ice is here - because the world is fallen.

An ice storm is reminder of the broken condition of the world. Mankind lives here and strives mightily to master the elements - but the world is a difficult and dangerous place. We've made ways to transport ourselves, ways to keep ourselves warm and ways to melt some of the ice on the roads - but we can't keep the ice storm from coming. We can't keep ourselves from falling or crashing on occasion. Inevitably some people will be hurt. Some might die as a result of this very storm. All of us are in jeopardy. The question is not "if" but "when."

Imagine how nice it would be to live in a climate controlled garden with everything you need or could possibly want. There you have perfect relationships - no shame, no fear, no deceit, no selfishness. There you live without the possibility of sickness or death or loss. You have perfect health. You know what you are there for and nothing stands in the way of accomplishing your purpose. There you can fully appreciate all the tastes, sights, sounds, and sensations that come with life.

It is a picture of the way God created the world. It is a picture of what God has in store for those who are redeemed through faith in Jesus Christ.

Even with our most advanced technology - life is difficult and brief. Billions of people around the are scrambling to find the wherewithal to live and keep their families alive from day to day. Man's inhumanity is ghastly - with robbery, rape, murder, and mayhem filling the news.

No wonder atheists imagine a dog eat dog world where survival of the fittest has always been the story of life. This IS what you see when you look at life in this fallen world.

But God reveals a different story and we can understand it. He created a world that was very good - and provided everything we needed - but we rebelled against Him and brought these conditions on ourselves. Ultimately God provided a way to rescue us - His own Son Jesus - who was completely obedient (sinless) and who took our punishment Himself. Jesus makes everything right again... and we who trust in Him will be restored and experience the life God intended for us.

What is the atheist's best case scenario? That he lives in relative comfort until he dies - hopefully with minimal pain.

What is the Christian's best case scenario? That he lives every moment of this temporary life (whether in pain or comfort) to honor Christ - then to pass from this world into eternal life where things are the way they were intended to be.
(2Corinthians 5:1-2) For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven,

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Postage Machine

The line at the post office was almost out the door. A line of twenty strangers is attractive... you can always strike up a conversation in a line like that. But the twenty or thirty minute wait wasn't so attractive.

There in the lobby was a machine. It looked like you could use it (and your credit card) to mail your small package. First I watched from my place in line as some other people tried it. On person seemed to struggle, but the next used it to buy stamps. Then another used it to buy stamps.

Emboldened, I took my box over and put it on the built in scale. Sure enough... I was able to weigh it, measure it, certify that it didn't contain any contraband, and buy postage for it right from that machine in a matter of about 3 minutes. It printed a label and I wrote in the rest of the address on it. Then I deposited it in the mailing bin and I was ready to go.

It was great... but not much personal interaction. I made up for it by helping an older lady who wanted to use the machine to figure out and purchase postage for her Christmas mail.

Happy Christmas mailing!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Listening #2

(Proverbs 12:1) Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, But he who hates correction is stupid.

(Proverbs 18:2) A fool has no delight in understanding, But in expressing his own heart.

One of the marks of immaturity is an arrogant "know it all" attitude.

Where would we get such an attitude?
Pride? (We are sure we must know more than most people.)
Ignorance? (We don't know what we don't know.)
Insecurity? (We are afraid we won't be respected.)

What is the antidote?

We need to listen carefully to God. He has given us a book - the Bible - in which He reveals Himself. We need to "receive with meekness the implanted word." (James 1:21) We can read it to listen. We can sit under the teaching and preaching of the word. Just so we open our ears and strive to apply it to our lives.

We need to listen carefully to people who know God. Such people have insights that will illumine us - especially if they disagree with us. They see things from a perspective different from our own. They are not infallible, but honorable, and we should take their opinions seriously.

We need to listen to people with diverse backgrounds. Listening to these people increases our understanding. Listening helps keep us from jumping to conclusions. Listening to diverse people helps keep us from binary thinking. Listening to people is how we learn about the many things we don't know about. Listening to people helps us grow in respect and love for people.

We grow up through listening - not through talking.

(James 1:19-20) So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;
20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Sometimes the best thing you can do is to listen to people. And listening is hard work.

Don't jump to solutions. Listen carefully. Listen for a long time. Listen compassionately.

Wait out the pauses without interrupting. Let people tell you things you already know - they need to hear it from their own lips. It won't hurt you to hear it again.

Listening is a ministry of its own. Life is not a race to the end of the story. It is the story.

Listen and people will share their lives with you.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Athiests and Evolutionary Time

Atheists are emboldened by the success of the theory of evolution. But their success is in all in getting the theory promoted in the public domain - not in proving it true.

Evolutionists have never actually quantified life - much less produced it from non-living things. They have never shown any fossil record of transitional forms of life - life appears fully formed and complex. They have never shown an example of real evolution (one life form to another) - only of adaptation (a creature with slightly different features than its parents).

One of the biggest problems for them is the "Big Bang." When I was a kid those who were optimistic about evolution said that given infinite time and infinite chance life was sure to evolve. But it turns out that "infinite time" was not available. According to the Big Bang theory the universe is far too new for even the most optimistic estimates of time required for evolution of complex life (13.73 +/- 0.12 billion years back to the BB according to the Wikipedia article).

If you are going to evolve a human being from a single celled being - how many mutations will it take to get the billions of "good" changes you need to build this complex system? (We are simply ignoring the fact that any given being would soon be out of business if there were not a whole system of plant and animal life. That would increase the problem exponentially.)

There are 210 known human cell types and the human body has millions of cells. There are dozens of different systems within the body - each of which is necessary for maintaining life (whatever life is.)

So let us say, absurdly optimistically, that we need only one billion positive creature changing species enhancing mutations to get from the single cell to the complex human being. And let us use a very conservative estimate that such mutations occur once every 2000 years.

One billion X 2000 = 2000 billion years. Rats! 1986 billion years too many!
(Remember we only have about 14 billion years back to the Big Bang.)

OK - We will go to ludicrous optimism. Say such mutations happen every 1000 years.
one billion X 1000 = 1000 billion years = 986 billion years too many.

Throw caution to the wind! We have such positive mutations every 500 years!
one billion X 500 = 500 billion years. Still 486 billion years too many!

What can we do? Do what all good evolutionist must do! Work backwards to get your estimate.

If we only have 14 billion years it must take 14 billion years. That means it cannot take THAT many mutations and they must happen much more frequently than we supposed - against all empirical evidence and the 2nd law of thermodynamics!

14 billion years / 250 years per mutation = 56 million mutations
56 million mutations X 250 years per mutation = 14 billion years. See we did it!

Of course part of that 14 billion years would have been taken up in cooling the whole mess down to life supporting temperatures, etc. And how long before life would spring into being? And of course it is inconceivable that you can make just 56 million changes account for the dazzling complexity of a human being. And if mutation occurred that frequently we would expect there to be significant evolutionary differences between populations of people on earth today - but there aren't.

It just doesn't add up. It turns out the atheistic evolutionist has the greater faith.

How the Mighty are Fallen!

One day I'm feeling fine - able to work and play and plan. The next day I am achy and whiny and grouchy and tired - barely able to get out of my own way. What is it?

The common cold... a sinus infection... a runny nose... sinus headache... fever... and I'm done for.
How can a microscopic organism knock the stuffing out of a complex, intelligent being like me? My eyes are watering. My nose is threatening to drip. My sneezing is a wind shear danger to low flying aircraft.

Ow! I'm ready to be better now! Ow!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ministry Mysteries

(Romans 11:33-36) ¶ Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
34 “For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?”
35 “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?”
36 ¶ For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

I preach for a living, and I love it. It is a wonderful blessing to have spent so many years in the ministry of the word of God. It is truly a growth industry because you have to grow to keep on going in it. Every day I learn more and realize how much more there is yet to learn. Every week I look forward to the next Sunday and realize it will be a miracle if I come up with the messages and lessons I need for the following week. Each week I pray that the ministry of the word of God will make an impact in the lives of the people God puts in my way.

Praise God for another Sunday of ministry behind me! Now I pray that God will gear me up for the week of ministry ahead!

I freely confess that in myself I am incompetent and impotent to come up with messages. But praise the omnipotent God that He is sufficient! I will spend some time looking at a blank page - but He will guide my thoughts and give me the understanding I need in the end.

Praise the Lord! What an exciting way to live!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Our Debt Of Love

(Romans 13:8-10) Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.
9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
We are to pay our debts - not to leave them outstanding. But one debt will never be retired. We always have a debt of love for others.

This is not to say that people are particularly lovable. It is not something they deserve because of their love for us - because we are also to love our enemies. (Matthew 5:44)

Our love for others is like God's love for us.
(Romans 5:8) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

(1John 3:16) By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
Our love for others is based on our love for God.
(Deuteronomy 6:5) You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
Human beings are made in the image of God. While that image is obscured by sin, it is still there. We love God in godly love for other people. When we don't love other people, we don't love God either.
(1John 4:7-9) Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
So we have a debt of love to other people. To see them. To listen to them. To care about them. To help them. To forgive them. To serve them. To bless them.
(1John 3:18) My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth

Friday, December 5, 2008

Merry Christmas - Peace on Earth

"At this season of THE WINTER SOLSTICE may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven, no hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."
My daughter clipped the above paragraph from a news article. As I understand it, this is on a sign posted next to a manger scene in a public square. Evidently the open minded souls of the American Atheists want to wish us a Merry Christmas!

Why it is reasonable to believe that there is no God is never explained. There is, after all, a creation. Why not a Creator? There is life. Why no living Source of life? Humans are moral creatures who make laws. Why is it reasonable to think there is no Lawgiver greater than man?

Oh, well! So let them go ahead and prove that their claims are true. (Is it possible to prove a negative?)

What would God have to do to prove His existence to their satisfaction? What if He created a wonderful complex universe and created man in His image? What if He sent prophets and provided them with written revelation of Himself? What if He sent His eternal Son to become a man so that He could provide salvation?

"Religion is but myth and superstition..." Does that include the religion of atheism or only other religions?

Religion "...hardens hearts and enslaves minds?" How so? It is easily proven that many people have been freed from slavery to alcohol, drugs, sexual depravity, and other "vices" through faith in Jesus Christ as God. Have you ever heard of even one person delivered from anything (other than restraint) by coming to believe in atheism?

Many people do nice things like feed the hungry, help the homeless and work for peace in the name of Christianity. The best an atheist can do is say, "In spite of the fact that I don't believe in God, I will be civil." The worst an atheist can do has been displayed by Hitler, Stalin, Mao and their henchmen.

Jesus came to make a way of salvation for men - to offer peace with God to all who will believe.
(Romans 1:18-22) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Messy Lives

Pastor Lynn Einfeldt used to say, "There are so many pitfalls between the cradle and the grave, it's a wonder we can make it."

Life is messy. Everyday we are confronted with daunting challenges. There are difficult decisions to make. There are financial problems. There are unexpected illnesses. People have problems at home and problems at work. People have interpersonal problems and personal problems.

Life is messy enough that you might even cringe with apprehension whenever you think that just for this moment everything is going well.

We would like to iron out our lives and make them problem free, but that is not really an option. So what can we do?

The answer is faith in God. We have no control - but God is infinite, omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. He reassures us that there is no hole we can fall in that can keep Him from blessing us. We cannot see the pattern of God's plan, but He assures us of His love and His blessing.

Trust in God. Praise Him even in the messiness of life. Every difficulty is another opportunity to seek God's work in your life.
(Romans 8:28-39) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

More laundry thoughts

When I was writing about folding clothes, it made me think of Jesus washing his disciples' feet.

That night the disciples were still anticipating that the kingdom would come soon and they argued about which of them would be the greatest. (Luke 22:24) They couldn't imagine that any of them would betray Jesus. (Luke 22:23) Peter was bragging that he would never deny Jesus, even if it meant death. (Mark 14:29-31)

So Jesus gives them this new paradigm. The Greatest is the servant - so serving is the greatest!
(Luke 22:25-27) And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’
26 But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.
27 For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.
As human beings we are often concerned about our own dignity, power and authority. We want people to know that we are important. We like to be treated with deference.

Jesus washed the feet of all of the disciples - including the toes of Judas Iscariot. Then He said,
(John 13:13-16) You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.
14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.
16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.
The Christian mandate is love and that love is demonstrated in service. We are not greater than our Master, Jesus. If He laid down His life for us, we should lay down our lives for each other. (1John 3:16) How much more should we fold each others' socks?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Laundry Lesson

We share the laundry responsibility at our house. Saturday is our usual laundry day and we share the duties - gathering, sorting, switching, and folding laundry. Even so, I think we all try to get out of folding the whites load of tube socks and underwear.

Folding the whites load is unexpected.

What ten year old ever dreamed he would one day be folding underwear? This isn't a Hanes commercial. This is real life where the underwear shows its age. Elastic is stretched and frayed. Some things are torn or stained. Some whites are whiter than others. Some socks have holes. Ten year olds worry about cooties - but adults need to get over it.

Folding the whites load is tedious.

There is some mystery in matching socks. There is some drama in fighting the static to get T-shirts folded straight. Getting things turned right side out can be frustrating. Putting things neatly into each person's laundry basket brings some satisfaction. But no one cheers you on... There is only the hum of the dryer and the slosh of the washer to keep you company while you fold.

Folding the whites load requires love.

We do these tedious things because we love each other. Only the most hopelessly obsessive would do laundry just for fun. We do it because it needs to be done. We do it because it is a service of love. We take care of it because it benefits our dear ones - and brings us joy in making sure they are not surprised by it.

Happy folding.