Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sovereign Comfort

(Philippians 1:6 NKJV)  being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
What a wonderful verse - full of sovereign comfort!

As human beings we are conflicted by the fact that we WANT to control things and the fact that we CANNOT really control anything - including ourselves.

I have long believed that depression is related to our inability to control our world.  Loved ones die.  Trusted ones betray us.  Disaster comes on us unexpectedly.  Our expectations remain unfulfilled.  Our ambitions are crushed.

Isn't that depressing?

Many people avoid depression by denying these facts of life.  They pretend that they can control all of life.  The world is full of promises of health and prosperity through one or another secrets... vitamins, science, philosophy, religion, government, exercise, etc.  But eventually the truth will catch up with everyone.

Should we be depressed?  CERTAINLY NOT!

We cannot control the world, but we can know the God Who is Infinitely Good.  God does not change.  God's purposes cannot be thwarted.  God's love will never fade.  God's promises are sure.
(Hebrews 11:6 NKJV) But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. 
We find in God the Person we can trust absolutely.  We can even trust Him with all the "Whys" of our lives.
(Lamentations 3:22–23 NKJV) Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Rain, Rain...

It feels like the rain is following me.
  • It rained here in Canton all through the beginning of last week.  
  • When I traveled to New York last Wednesday, it rained all along the way.  
  • While I was there it rained everyday- but here in Canton there was no rain. 
  • Now that I'm back in Canton... surprise...  It is raining again!
 They should import me to drought stricken places to see if the rain would follow me there.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


(With Harold Camping proclaiming that May 21 is the date for the Rapture and the Day of Judgment, I thought it was a good time to re-post this blog from last year.)

The iconic image of the religious fanatic is a mangy looking man in a robe holding a sign. What does it say on the sign? "The End Is Near."

Why is this the universal language for "religious fanatic?"
  • The man with the sign is anachronistic. He is on a modern cement sidewalk next to modern city buildings being passed by modern people in modern business attire - but he is barefoot, wearing a robe, with long (wild) hair and beard.
  • The man's message is trite. Many have said that the end is near and some have predicted the exact date and time for the end. But we are still here. The end has not arrived. The promise (or threat) is unfulfilled.
  • The man's point is vague. What exactly does he expect people to do about it? Can they avoid the end? Should they try? Is there any way to prepare for the end? Will panic help?
  • The man's authority is questionable. Who told him the end is near? Did he figure this out on his own? Is there astrological evidence? Was this direct revelation? Has he broken some secret code from some sacred text? Why is this man alone in his proclamation?

Nevertheless - it is my fanatical duty to state in no uncertain terms that "the end IS near." (In the interest of full disclosure I will admit that: I do have a beard - but it is short. As I write this I am dressed in a polo shirt and shorts and my feet are bare.)

THE END IS NEAR! How near? I'm not sure, but I am sure that it is nearer than most people would like to think.

At the very least, our personal end may be VERY near! Hundreds of thousands of people die everyday. Old people, young people, good people, bad people, white people, black people are dying right now. They die of disease or in an accident or by murder - for them, the end has arrived. And what makes you or me any different from them? You might be carrying some unknown disease that has not yet appeared in symptoms or tests. You certainly cannot know about the accident you will have this afternoon.

Even if our personal end is years ahead of us, it is nearer than it may appear. I am 54 years old. I don't feel much different than I felt when I was 27 - half my life ago. I am unlikely to live another 54 years - but what if I lived another 27 years to the age of 81? The last 27 years have passed like a flash of lightening! I suspect that the next 27 will seem just as fast or faster.
(James 4:14) ...you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

So, the end is near. But what is the point of saying so? There are several...
  1. Make the most of the time you have left. There is no time for procrastination. The opportunities you have today are not guaranteed for tomorrow.
  2. Don't be presumptous about your ability to keep yourself alive. Acknowledge your dependance on your Creator who has granted you life - and honor Him with your life.
  3. You had better find out now what God requires of you. You do not know when you will be called to account. What answers will you be able to give God when He examines you - and will they be sufficient?
(2 Peter 3:3–4) knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts,
4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”

What about authority? Up to this point I have used logical authority... everyone has an end that is more or less near. But beyond this we have revelation from God - the Bible - that clearly says God will someday call a halt to the current order of things.
(Romans 13:11–12) ¶ And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.
12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.
(James 5:9) ¶ Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!
(1 Peter 4:7) ¶ But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.
The end is near! Do not ignore this warning!
(Hebrews 9:27) ...it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I don't watch much TV.  We got rid of TV back in 1985 and now we only see it when we are staying in a hotel or at someone else's house.

Last Friday, my wife and I were at a hotel and were able to catch a glimpse of the wave of Reality TV.


This is popular????

Why on earth do they call this "Reality" TV?  If anything, it is sheer FANTASY.  What I saw was so unbelievably fake I could hardly stand it.

A young couple with four children wrestles with the difficult decision of which vacation home to buy in Fiji.  Their budget is limited to a half million dollars.  (What does this guy do for a living?)  The struggle is agonizing, but they somehow muddle through and settle for a $450,000.00 property.  Which will be perfect once they do a little work on the railings and add several thousand dollars in new furniture.  After the purchase they also come back to Fiji (again without the kids) to initiate the place with a huge party - at which the Fijians welcome them with traditional drinks and dance.  No doubt.

Reality?  You must be kidding, right?

I only saw ads for "Real Housewives."  I am very glad I didn't see more.  From the sound of it, they could better call it, "Real Fishwives."  That would fit with the shrieking and slandering that are evidently a big part of the dialogue.  Otherwise, REAL has no place in the title unless you are referring to the work of their plastic surgeons and hair stlylists.


I watched a little bit of a cooking contest show where teams of chefs cook for celebrity food critics and a rock band in a sad RV kitchen.  Then they come in to be grilled by the panel about their cooking.  Nothing about that is real.  Wouldn't you rather have a REAL job?  But instead you can make money allowing yourself to be embarrassed on national TV!  I guess money is money.

I did enjoy some REAL cooking shows where celebrity chefs cook at home.  There you might learn something about cooking.  (I did learn that you should not add the garlic to the hot oil - because it will get burned.  Add the garlic later.)  The food looked great!

I also watched "House."  House wasn't at all real either, but it isn't called a reality show.  Nevertheless, it had an interesting story line.  It was frustrating that I could not rewind to catch things I missed (like on a DVD.)  It was also maddening that after five minutes of the show you had to endure five minutes of terrible commercials.

We won't be subscribing to cable anytime soon.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Weird Rules

I remember an old Bill Cosby routine where he talked about the strange signs on public buildings.  In particular, he described a sign on the post office door that said, "No Dogs Allowed."  Under that it said, "(Except Seeing Eye Dogs.)"  His question was - about the last line.  He asked, "Who is that line for?"  Is the dog supposed to read it?  Or is it for the blind person?

I thought of that the other day as I was using the restroom at Lehman's Hardware in Kidron, Ohio.  Clearly the health department must have a rule about posting signs in places that serve food.  You see such signs in all restaurant rest rooms.  They say something like, "Employees must wash their hands before returning to work."

I wonder who this sign is for?  Don't the employee's KNOW they should wash their hands before returning to work?  Do they need this reminder?  (I shudder to think...)  Maybe the signs are to reassure the customers that the employees will wash their hands.  (But that doesn't seem right, because I've noticed the signs are in the language most likely to be read by the employees - Spanish in Mexican restaurants and Chinese in Chinese restaurants.)

Assuming the reminder is needed, where should you post such a sign?  Many places post the sign near the sinks.  But if an employee is not inclined to wash his hands, he might never even see the sign as he rushes from the toilet to his place in the food preparation line.  (Ewwwww....)

At Lehman's the sign was posted on the wall above the urinals.  I suppose that was a good spot.  That way the employee could think about this reminder while he was taking care of business, then he could remember to go to the sinks afterward.  But this sign had something else.  Underneath the English lettering there were tiny bumps... Braille!

Now who do you suppose THAT is for?

How would a blind person even know that the sign was there at all?  If he could see well enough to see the sign, he could also read it.  If he can't see at all, should he just feel the wall above the urinals to see if he can find any Braille messages?  Should the health department be encouraging people to read Braille messages while they are standing at a urinal?  (Yuck....)

I don't read Braille - but I think the meaning of that sign is clear.  "The health department is an example of bureaucracy running amok."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


(James 1:5–8 NKJV) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
God is is not a vending machine for the things we want.  He is the Sovereign Creator, Eternal, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Holy, Righteous and Glorious!

God cannot be conned.  God cannot be manipulated.  He sees our hearts.  He knows our motives.  God hears both our spoken words and our innermost thoughts.

Double-mindedness is a prideful disrespect for God.  When we should be sincerely seeking God's will and God's leading into His will, we are often only interested in what we want.  We want God to serve our will - as if He were our servant, our ox or our tool.  We see God as powerful, but not as the sovereign of all the universe.

Double-mindedness is impurity.  Instead of having pure motives of honoring, serving and glorifying God, we really want to build our reputation and serve our own pleasures.  (This can be especially pernicious in church ministries... "Lord, build your church so I will look good!"  or "Lord, give me a good sermon/lesson/solo so I will be praised.")
(James 4:8 NKJV) Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Double-mindedness is halfhearted commitment to God's will.  We know what God wants us to do, but we love our pleasures.  It is hard to get up and study God's word, spend serious time in prayer, learn to share the Gospel with others or reach out to serve.  Double-mindedness results in tokenism.  We glance in our Bible and call it study.  We mumble a few words and call it prayer.  We leave a track on a park bench and call it evangelism.
(Psalms 119:113–115 NKJV)
113 I hate the double-minded, But I love Your law.
114 You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word.
115 Depart from me, you evildoers, For I will keep the commandments of my God!
Double-mindedness is unbelief.  The double-minded do not love God and so they do not love God's word.  They are evil-doers who have not genuinely devoted themselves to keeping God's commandments.  Their religion is a sham.

So what can we do?  Believe in God and believe God's word.  Meet with God and develop genuine love for Him.  Make God's delight your own joy.  Carefully examine your heart and root out your sinful & selfish motives.
(James 4:8–10 NKJV)  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Such As I

It has been a wet Spring.  Out on the parking lot I can find many of these doomed worms.

They've been driven out of the ground by the water and now risk drowning in the puddles.  They are easy prey for the birds.  If they escape the birds and the damp, they will dry out and become worm crisps.

Meanwhile, they blindly grope in the vast blackness of the parking lot.  They have no eyes, no map, no hope.  They are doomed.  Do they know it?

Isaac Watts wrote "Alas! and did my Savior bleed? And did my Sovereign die?  Would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?" 

But this kind of language is unpopular now.  Our church hymnal reads, "...For sinners such as I?"  Others are evidently shy about even calling people "sinners."  They have, "...For such a one as I?"

I believe that Watts had it right and that it is good for us to recognize the truth about ourselves and about our salvation.
(Romans 5:6–8 NKJV) For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 
Jesus did not die for us because we were so attractive to God, but in spite of the fact that we were repulsive rebels - hopeless & helpless.  We were doomed.  We were slimy with sin.  We were groping about blindly while waiting to die.
(Ephesians 2:4–5 NKJV) But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
It doesn't require mercy to be kind to nice people.  It is not remarkable to show love to people who love you.  There is no grace in giving people what they deserve.

But we were truly worms - dead in our trespasses and in sins - willing subjects of the Prince of the power of the air - children of disobedience who walked according to the course of this fallen world.

Only when I recognize the truth about myself in my lost condition can I properly appreciate the magnitude of God's love for me in Jesus Christ.

Alas, and did my Savior bleed?
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?

Was it for crimes that I have done,
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

Well might the sun in darkness hide,
And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker died
For man the creature's sin.

But drops of grief can ne'er repay
The debt of love I owe;
Here, Lord, I give myself away,
'Tis all that I can do!

~ Isaac Watts