Monday, November 12, 2007

Silly Me!

I thought I'd heard it all! Silly me! From Mascoutah, Illinois comes a news report that a 13-year old middle-schooler had to serve two days of detention. Why? Did she swear? Start a fight? Skip school? Talk back to a teacher? No - she put her arm around the shoulder of two friends and slightly squeezed them. In other words, she gave them a little hug to 'say goodbye for the weekend." For that she got detention. Mom and Dad didn't like it but the only alternative was suspension - that's right, suspension! According to the school student handbook, "Displays of affection should not occur on the school campus at any time. It is in poor taste, reflects poor judgment, and brings discredit to the school and to the persons involved." So a friendly little hug is now a PDA? Hmm...And PDA's (public displays of affection) are a bad thing. Hmm...
So let me get this right. In some schools kids can get birth control without parental consent, in some states children can get an abortion without parental consent, and that's all OK. But to hug a friend discredits the school. I wonder - what if the school, or a student in the school, suffered a tragedy, such as death in the family. Just how will they show comfort without a little PDA? And what if, as the basketball player trots off the court after a scintillating performance the coach pats him or her on the butt and says, "Great job!" Will coach be in detention the next day? He/she better be - that is after all a PDA, is it not? And what about the girls volleyball team - after each point they hug and high-five. I guess they're in detention too.
I guess I'm just old fashioned, but give me a break! Recall the school board and let's get real! And if the recall is successful...better not hug the board members as they leave their last meeting! Of course, if you did, you could write a new student handbook during your time in detention!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

When Surrounded - Run!

Principle: “When surrounded, run!”

No – it’s not time to be a coward! I’ve been thinking about Hebrews 12:1-2. 1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Since we are surrounded, run!

Now Heb. 12 follows Hebrews 11 (that’s brilliant, isn’t it?) What I mean is, the key to understanding these words is to remember what’s in chapter 11 – the “People of Faith” Hall of Fame. They are our witnesses. To what? To how to keep the faith in the midst of uncertainty and tough times. There’s Noah – he built the ark when there was no rain. (Imagine the neighbors!) There’s Abraham – he packed up everything, left behind everything familiar, and set out for a place he’d never seen. (I wonder if his family ever asked, “Are we there yet?”) There’s Joseph – so sure of his dreams, but such a long, round about, surprising way to their fulfillment. (I can hear him asking, “Lord, does anything ever come easy? Can I ever catch a break?”) And there are so many others.

In fact, says the author of Hebrews, consider Jesus. He knew all along that He would be King, the Ruler of the world. But first He “…endured the cross, scorning its shame…” Why? Because of the joy set before Him. Do you still believe in your vision? Do you still have your dream? Have you wondered lately if you’ll ever get there, if you’ll ever catch a break? “… ebeeHebrewssince we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hang on. Keep at it. Drop and put behind all the ’stuff’ that’s gotten in the way. And remember to look at Jesus. You’re not on your own. It’s true you’re surrounded – but since you are, run! You’ve lots of running partners!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Success That Never Lasts

What a weekend! The Lions not only won (now 6& 2) but looked like a good team in doing so! Michigan won in exciting fashion! The Pistons won to move to 3 & 0. My alma Mater, Central College is nationally ranked and undefeated once again. East Kentwood High School - from which all 3 sons graduated and for which all played soccer - just became the first team in their class division from the West side of the state to win a state soccer title. And Calvin College, where all 3 sons attended and for whom one played soccer, is headed to the national soccer tournament after winning the MIAA conference. And while they didn't play this weekend, the Red Wings are off to a terrific start. It's been a long time since all my teams were doing so well. In fact, the only downer was the Tigers - Joel Zumaya having shoulder surgery because a heavy box fell on it while he was removing things from his family's California home in preparation to flee the fire. I guess he won't be shouldering the load next year! I realize this may not be the usual blog entry for me, but hey, it's not very often I can enjoy writing about such success - so I want to enjoy it while it lasts. With sports, you need to do that - because success never lasts forever. Even the Patriots will lose some day!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Turning Things Out

I believe it was the legendary coach John Wooden who said, "Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out." How eloquent and accurate. We cannot always control our circumstances but we can control how we respond to them. The apostle Paul's words, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" were written from prison where Paul was awaiting a verdict on his life. Rather than bemoan his imprisonment, he prayed , preached and dictated letters. The result? "Now I want you to know...that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly."
Whatever your circumstances realize only you can determine your response. Just remember, Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dangerous Halos

PRINCIPLE: “A halo need drop only six inches to become a noose.”

When it comes to success – to quote Jackie Gleason – “How sweet it is!” (I know - I’ve just dated myself!) We all love the feelings and adulations that accompany success. Even if a certain success genuinely humbles us, we still covet that feeling. It’s hard to feel good and grateful without also feeling proud. And perhaps some pride is good – it can be a great motivator. But it's not without due cause that the Bible warns us that “pride goes before the fall”. When the head swells with pride or sways with success, the halo of success quickly drops around our necks where it waits to hang us.

Perhaps you have had come successes, and have many reasons for a healthy pride. But beware – with each success you raise the bar of expectations; and as expectations rise so does the potential for failure and disappointment. And you will all, at some point in time, fail or come up short. Realize this does not need to be a tragedy – tremendous monuments have risen from the ashes of failure.

My point is this: do not gloat in glory nor dwell in disappointment – do not over-celebrate success nor over-grieve failure. Instead, be grateful in both cases. In success, be grateful to God for allowing us the privilege; in failure, be thankful for His love which is not dependent on our success. Perhaps that’s why Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice!” If we heed his divine advice, our halos will never hang us!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Remember the Ant

Principle: “When your vision gets blurry, remember the ant.”

A dear friend once sent me a true story by Josh and Karen Zarandona that concerned a young woman named Brenda. She was invited to go rock climbing. Although she was very scared, she went with her group to a tremendous granite cliff. In spite of her fear, she put on the gear, took a hold on the rope, and started up the face of that rock. She finally got to a ledge where she could catch her breath. As she was hanging there, the safety rope snapped against Brenda’s eye and knocked out her contact lens. Now she’s on a rock ledge with hundreds of feet below her and hundreds of feet above her. She looked as best she could, hoping it had landed on the ledge, but it wasn’t there. She was desperate and started to become upset, so she prayed for help to the Lord to help her find it.

She resumed her climb, blurry eyes and all, and when she got to the top a friend examined here eye and her clothing for the lens, but there was no lens to be found. She sat down despondent, with the rest of the party, waiting for some others to complete the climb. She looked out across range after range of mountains, thinking of the Bible verse, “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth.” She thought, “Lord, You can see all these mountains. You know every stone and leaf, and You know exactly where my contact lens is. Please help me.”

Finally they walked down the trail to the bottom. At the bottom there was a new party of climbers just starting up the face of the cliff. One of them shouted out, “Hey, you guys! Anybody lose a contact lens?” That’s amazing enough. But you know how the climber saw it? An ant was moving slowly across the face of the rock carrying the lens on its back. Brenda’s father is a cartoonist so he drew a cartoon with an ant lugging that contact lens – underneath he put the words: “Lord, I don’t know why You want me to carry this thing. I can’t eat it, and it’s awfully heavy. But if this is what You want me to do, I’ll carry it for you.”

The authors conclude: “I think it would probably do some of us good to occasionally say, ‘God, I don’t know why you want me to carry this load. I can see no good in it and it’s awfully heavy. But if You want me to carry it, I will.” God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called… ”I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Perhaps you feel you’ve been asked to carry quite a load lately. It’s been heavy. But just perhaps, if you continue to carry it in faith, others will soon be able to see the goal clearly once again. So, when your vision gets blurry, remember the ant!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Be Ye Flexible

Blessed are those who are flexible for they shall never be bent out of shape.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Mountain Climbing

PRINCIPLE: “Mountains don’t stand in the way – they are the way.”

I’ve never climbed a mountain, which is a good thing. I still remember having to ride my bike up a steep hill on the way to school – it left me breathless (and not because of the scenery) and my legs all but exploded. And it happened every time – it never got any easier! I can’t imagine what climbing a mountain would be like! But I do know this about mountains – they can make for some beautiful scenery, and the view from the top is breath-taking; but when they are in the middle of the road upon which we’re walking, they’re anything but beautiful. In fact, they’re downright ugly, standing there blocking our path. They’re nothing but a huge obstacle that keeps us from enjoying our walk and that slows our progress.

Often the issues with which we deal are like a huge mountain that blocks our road into what we thought was a glorious adventure or future. We are stunned when it first appears on the horizon; then we stir up our positive juices and claim we’ll make it to the other side all right. Then we begin to climb, and soon we are breathless and at times we feel we’ll explode. Suddenly we aren’t so sure we’ll be able to continue the walk. After all, the mountain is too high, too broad, too imposing. The next thing we know, we are in the valley, looking up, not be sure we’ll make it to the other side. (But let’s not forget that even in the valley, we’re OK. Even though I walk through the valley…You are with me…”)

We’re not alone. Israel knew all about mountains. So did Isaiah (49:11): “I will turn all my mountains into roads, and my highways will be raised up.” Or as the New Living Translation puts it: “And I will make my mountains into level paths for them. The highways will be raised above the valleys.” “God will make a way when there seems to be no way...!” If we believe that the mountains and the hills are His, then we can believe He knows the way through and will be faithful as we walk together. God will raise us up or lower the mountain – but one way or another He’ll get us out of the valley and make a straight way. I even have a sneaky feeling that because of the mountain, we’ll appreciate the beauty on the other side even more. So walk on.

“God will make a way when there seems to be no way. He works in ways we cannot see; He will make a way for me. He will be my guide, hold me closely to His side. With love and strength for each new day; He will make a way, He will make a way.”

Friday, September 28, 2007

My god

Kathy Griffin received an Emmy award – she may even have been deserving of it. I am not in a position to evaluate that. But in accepting the award, on national television, she said, “…a lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus.” She then went on to hold up her Emmy, make an off color remark about Christ and proclaim, “This award is my god now!”

Hmm…Two comments. First, if she had said equally derogatory remarks about Allah or against Islam, it would have been world headlines – and the network might even have censored it out. But since it was Jesus Christ, the God of Christianity, she was defaming, it was permissible and not newsworthy. It’s just one more case where all religion is not treated equally in the United States.

But secondly, if I could get a message to Kathy, I would send the following: “So, your award is your god! A man named Isaiah once said:
“All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame…Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood, who pray to gods that cannot save…When you cry out for help, let your collection of idols save you! The wind will carry all of them off, a mere breath will blow them away. But the man (woman) who makes me his refuge will inherit the land and
possess my holy mountain.”

Kathy, I just thought you’d like to know. Think about it. Or ask your idol Emmy and see what advice she gives you.”

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Kindest Word

The kindest word ever said is the unkind word that was never said.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Daily Dose of OJ

I drink a daily dose of OJ. I like OJ. I like what it does for my body and health. I like OJ in my glass - but not in my face. I mean, here we go again - a daily 'in your face' report of OJ Simpson. Enough is enough. I just find him so far out of touch with reality - like justifying what he did by claiming he was just taking back what was his. As if that's how we all ought to live. It would be a rather chaotic world, don't you think?
I have no idea what the court verdict will be for OJ this time around. But I do know this - at some point he will get what's his: "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment..." (Heb. 9:27)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Change Is...

PRINCIPLE: “The thing about change is, change is.”

“Man, things just aren’t what they used to be!” “Everything is so different these days!” “Remember when we used to…I sure miss those times.” Change – it’s a fact of life. We all know change happens, bet few of us find it easy or relish it. We are often comfortable with the way things are or, even more accurately, with the way things used to be. Therefore we often see change as the enemy and fight it rather than manage it or adapt to it. As Charles Kettering wrote, “The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.”

For centuries, people believed that Aristotle was right when he said that the heavier an object, the faster it would fall to earth. Aristotle as, after all, regarded as the greatest of all times and surely could not be wrong! So no one really challenged that belief until nearly 2000 years after Aristotle’s death. In 1589, Galileo summoned learned professors to the base of the leaning Tower of Pisa. He went to the top and pushed off a ten-pound and a one-pound weight. Both landed at the same time. But the power of belief in the familiar, conventional and comfortable wisdom was so strong that professors denied what they had seen. They continued to say Aristotle was right, reinforcing the observation by Niccolo Machiavelli in his book, The Prince, that: “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”

It is never an issue of if things are going to change – things will always change; it’s an issue of determining our response to change. Will we fear it and fight it, or welcome it, manage it and creatively adapt to it? As Giuseppe Maccini put it, “Slumber not in the tents of your fathers. The world is advancing – advance with it.” Just one example of the rapid rate of change in our world: television. In just my short lifetime, we have gone from the introduction of the black and white TV with pre-recorded programs to cameras mounted on computer monitors which enable us to see – live – the person with whom we are communicating. What sense does it make to fight this great progress? Why not learn to use it in creative and wholesome ways? Imagine the possibilities, for example, in linking up with missionaries, servicemen, or family members in different parts of the world! That’s advancing with change!

Let us prayerfully welcome, manage, and adapt to change – make it our friend and ally. The key is always to maintain our principle and our core values while being flexible with our techniques and methods. Only God, after all, never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. That means His character and His heart never waver; but how He works through and among His people and in His world is always changing. Author Henry Blackaby has written, “God is always at work, and our job is to find out what’s He’s up to and join Him.” That is the best approach to change I know. Keep close to Christ and we will not only ride the winds of change – we will create the changes!

Until next blog …unless, of course, things change!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Get Building

No matter what your lot in life may be, build something on it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

No Need for Miracles

PRINCIPLE: “You need not be a miracle worker – just a faithful one.”

Because ‘success’ is often measured by numbers of people attracted to, or raving about, a particular endeavor, it is easy for us to go for the razzle-dazzle. Do the spectacular! Perform the unbelievable! Make a splash! And if we can throw in a few miracles along the way, that would cap it off nicely. Ever thought or felt that way?

Consider John 10:41: “Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man [Jesus] was true.” John the Baptist didn’t rely on, and may not have been gifted for, miracles. In fact, while he may have been intriguing to listen to, he might have been boring – the same message over and over again: “Repent!”“I tell you the truth: among those born of women there has not risen anyone grater than John the Baptist.” That’s all he tried to do – lead people to repentance. And he did it faithfully. He was so faithful, in fact, that Jesus later said (Matthew 11:11): Apparently Jesus looked more for faithfulness than flashiness.

So if you have a miracle up your sleeve, feel free to share it! But if not, that’s OK. Just be faithful to your job or calling. Just be faithful in working, teaching, preaching, and modeling Jesus. That’s all Jesus expects. Then maybe, one day, He’ll brag of you.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Perhaps you’ve heard about Kevin Everett, the Buffalo Bills football player. He severely injured his spine in a game last Sunday. After surgery the prognosis was that he might never walk again. But now, because of significant signs of voluntary movement, the prognosis is much better. I was intrigued by two quotes in the newspaper, both from the surgeon who performed the delicate surgery.

Here’s the first one: “Based on our experience, the fact that he’s moving so well, so early after such a catastrophic injury means he will walk again…It’s totally spectacular, totally unexpected.” Wow! Sounds like a miracle, doesn’t it?

Here’s quote #2: “I don’t know if I would call it a miracle. I would call it a spectacular example of what people can do. To me, it’s like putting the first man on the moon of splitting the atom.” Hmm…it reminds me of an old saying: “The trouble with self-made persons is they worship their creator.” I’m grateful for Kevin’s prognosis, and I’m grateful for surgeons with great skill – but I’d like to give credit where credit is due – to the Great Physician. Without Him, there is no healing.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Just Plain Tired

It had been a long, busy week. Productive but energy siphoning! It was Friday morning, a day I try to take off. But there I was trying to catch up - to at least get done those things that would impact Sunday.The mind was working slower and less creatively. The computer seemed to be making more mistakes than usual. But I knew I should persevere. This was my chance to get some stuff done. Finally, around 12:30, I completed the Sunday agenda. I looked at my "To Do List". There was so much more to do - I knew I'd never accomplish all that I wanted to - and I was tired! So I closed up shop and headed home.
I was reminded of two things when I did so. One was that when it's time to rest, rest. I needed the break. It's good to practice what I preach! But the second thing was even more helpful. I picked up a book with quotations dealing with attitude and the first one I read was an Arab proverb: "Dwell not upon your weariness, your strength shall be according to the measure of your desire." Wham -right on the side of the head! I had lost all perspective that morning. I had let my tiredness to take control of me. I had let my circumstances dictate how I did my work and how I thought. That's the very thing I preach against so often. I realized then how much better the morning would have gone if I had only remembered the admonition of Paul to do whatever we do to the glory of God! If I had approached my list that Friday with this in mind, I still would not have finished it all - but I would have had more mental energy and spiritual acumen, and therefore more energy. I had been duly chided. I'm sorry, Lord, for forgetting you and for losing sight of the goal. Thank you, Lord, for reminding me.

Monday, July 9, 2007

A Little Bit of Heaven

Yesterday (Sunday)was very special at Hope Church. Not because I preached! It was special because Bryan Popin led us in worship. Spirit-filled, divinely blessed, and supremely gifted Bryan humbly drew us into the very presence of Jesus. I can only remember one or two other times when a congregation of which I've been a part had such a unifying, uplifting, sacred time of worship. Praise the Lord! I encourage you to check him out for yourself - and if you ever contact him, tell him Pastor Curry sent you! It won't get you any prizes but it will let him know once again of our gratitude! You can find Bryan @ bryanpopin.com.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Independence Day

Why is it so important that Christians speak out on the moral issues of our society? In an era when Christians are slowly but surely being pushed out of the public square, this is an important question. Perhaps Samuel Adams can give us some perspective:
“A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.” As we celebrate our independence today, may we also recommit ourselves to promoting, defending, and upholding God's laws and principles for holy living.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Truth from Calvin

Ok all you good Calvinists! Now that I have your attention...This is not about John Calvin - nor Calvin College. It's about Calvin, as in "Calvin and Hobbes". I've really come to enjoy and appreciate this great comic strip - not only for its humor but also for its wisdom and observations of life. Recently (June 16) there was a profound strip. Calvin's mother says, 'C'mon, Calvin. We're going to the store.' Calvin asks, 'Can Hobbes come?' 'No, just leave him here', mother replies. Shouts Calvin, 'BUT I WANT HIM TO COME WITH US!' as Calvin and Hobbes walk out the door together Hobbes observes, 'If you can't win by reason, go for volume.' Need I point out that this is a slogan for many today? It appears to me that many of the loudest voices (culturally, politically, religiously) are those of persons who have so little to say or who have little to support what they say. So they say it loud and clear. People seldom truly debate with each other anymore - they shout at each other instead. What a contrast to Jesus who was 'oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth' (Is. 53:7).Since He was truth, Jesus didn't need to shout. Yet He had - indeed He was the truth that has set us free! Friends - if you know this truth, there's no need to worry about volume! Just speak and live the truth - and that truth will speak for itself.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

An idea!

It's so amazing to be a Detroit fan - be it Pistons, Red Wings, Tigers, or Lions. I was just thinking the other day. The Pistons failed in the conference finals - the panic has already set in and the debate begun about total remake of the team. The Wings failed in the conference finals - so it was not, supposedly, an acceptable season. The Tigers are tied for first, finding ways to win games even with a shaky bullpen - but you'd think, listening to the press and others, that the season is a disaster; they are not yet the 'perfect' team. Whew - I guess when the bar is set high anything less than world champion is a failure. So here's my thought - maybe the Lions aren't so dumb after all. I mean, if they should somehow, some year, manage to be really good, well then the pressure would really be on and the expectations really high. But if they keep at the bottom like they are there are few expectations. I mean, even a 500 season would have people dancing in the streets! Maybe that's the grand design - "let's keep it simple to make people happy!" Maybe that's OK - except for one thing - they haven't yet had that little better season! This year - maybe?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Lesson From the Sun

I knew there was a reason I chose to picture a sunset on my main page - more than just the fact that my wife and I love to see the sunsets in all their splendor. There's something special about standing on the pier that juts out into the great lake and watching breathlessly as the sun paints its splendor on the horizon. It's not unusual that, as the last chip pf the great red ball fades below the horizon, the crowd gathered bursts into applause; on occasion someone even manages a "Yes, God!" But I knew there was a greater reason than that. This morning - Sunday - as I drove to church to prepare for the service,m the eastern sky was aglow with the first burst of the rising sun. That's when it hit me. God has messages attached to his sun.

Consider the rising sun - in the Bible it's the symbol of a new day - everything and everyone awakens with a totally fresh start. Even the lamenting prophet understood it: "...my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him" (Lamentations 3:20-24). Similarly, the setting sun signifies the end of day - the opportunity to make things right before resting for the night: "In you anger do not sin. So not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold" (Ephesians 4:26-27). And there is yet a third symbol, from Revelation 22:5 - "There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever." This represents the time when our hope is fulfilled. As the hymn-writer penned it:
"Beyond the sunset, O blissful morning, when with our savior heaven is begun;
Earth's toiling ended, O glorious dawning - beyond the sunset when day is done.
Beyond the sunset no clouds will gather, no storms will threaten, no fears annoy;
O day of gladness, O day unending - beyond the sunset, eternal joy!
Beyond the sunset a hand will guide me to God the Father, whom I adore;
His glorious presence, His words of welcome, will be my portion on that fair shore.
Beyond the sunset, O glad reunion with our dear loved ones who've gone before;
In that fair homeland we'll know no parting - beyond the sunset forevermore!"
So every sunrise and sunset reminds me of new opportunities to experience the peace and rest of God, which only prepares me for the eternal rest and peace to come. And what should I do each day until THAT day? Let one more biblical sun image provide the answer: "Let the name of the LORD be praised, both now and forevermore. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised (Psalm 113:2-3)."There's the reason for the picture! God wants to remind me - and you - of our agenda for the day! Praise the Lord!