Thursday, September 18, 2014

Heart Check

The post on Facebook read, “We don't need religion to be moral – in our hearts we know what's right.' It’s a popular sentiment. “Just follow your heart.” It sounds so good, so logical, so easy. But is it wise?

What if your heart and my heart disagree? And what if our disagreement means we’re at polar opposites on an issue that demands conflicting actions? Let’s assume we both, at the same time, come upon a man ready to jump off a bridge and commit suicide. . I want to let him jump and you want to stop him. I believe he has a right to do it, and should be allowed to do it – after all, it’s what his heart is telling him to do. So I will do whatever is necessary to be sure he jumps.  But you believe it’s wrong and that he should be stopped, and will do whatever is necessary to stop him. How do we resolve our differences – after all, we can’t both do what our heart tells us to do without major conflict.

There’s a powerful scene in the Bunyan’s classic “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Christian asks Ignorance, “What leads you to believe that you have given up all for God and Heaven?” Ignorance responds “My heart tells me that I have.” The conversation continues. “But is your heart reliable? The Bible says, ‘He that trusts in his own heart is a fool.’” (Prov. 28:26) ”That is spoken of a fool. I’m no fool. My heart is wise and good.” “But how do you know that? What means have you of testing your heart?” “My heart comforts me in the hope of Heaven.” “That may be through its deceitfulness. Jeremiah the prophet said, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?’ (Jer. 17:9) A man’s heart may give him hope when there are no grounds for his hope.” “But my heart and y life agree, so my hope is well grounded.” “What proof have you that your heart and life agree?” “My heart tells me so.” “Your heart tells you so! Except the Word of God bears witness, other testimony is of no value.”[i] “When it’s heartfelt, check your heart.”

We may not agree on what the standard should be, but the fact is we need an unchanging standard - a holy, righteous guide. The Bible qualifies. “For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:12) The ‘one to whom we must give account is Jesus, the holy righteous one who knows our hearts. “… God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight. I am He who searches hearts…For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come…”  (Lk. 16:15 & Rev. 2:23 & (Mark 7:21) “When it’s heartfelt, check your heart.”

Jesus exposes our hearts so we can open them to His Spirit. Only when our hearts are Spirit-filled, and in tune with God’s Word, can we trust our hearts.  Ezekiel prophesied, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezek. 36:26-27). So “When it’s heartfelt, check your heart.”

[i] John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress in Today’s English, Moody Publishers, Chicago, © 1992 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, p. 139

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Nickels & Dimes

As a ninth grader I looked forward to high school. I was auditioning for the High School choir, which was one of the best in the state. My sister was already in the choir – you need to know that she was a 4.0 student and had gained high respect for her academic work. Her reputation had preceded me. So the choir director looked at me and asked, “Are you Shirley’s brother?” “Yes I am,” I responded. “Are you as smart as she is?” he continued. “No!” I replied. “I didn’t think so,” he said. “You don’t look it!”  It’s a good thing my image wasn’t bound up with my sister’s! As has been said, “The most important opinion you’ll ever have is the opinion you have of yourself.”  

Image is extremely important to our self-esteem; how we see ourselves determines how we act. Consider the great Oliver Wendell Holmes; he was only five feet tall and was often asked how it felt to be so small. His response was classic: “I feel like a dime in a group of nickels.” That’s a great self-image! And in our multi-media culture, there is no shortage of images to choose from. Our youth, especially, are bombarded with a constant stream of both overt and subtle messages about what’s supposedly important to their image. Wanting to fit in, not wanting to be bullied for being different, youth are vulnerable. The result is mass confusion, emotional instability, and in extreme cases, psychological depression. And I’m not so sure it’s much different for us adults.

So where should our image come from? “When it’s all about image, remember your image.”  God created human beings; he created them godlike, reflecting God’s nature. He created them male and female… God formed Man out of dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life. The Man came alive—a living soul! (Gen. 1:27 & 2:7 MSG). Our identity comes from God – we have a chip of God’s DNA within us. “When it’s all about image, remember your image.” We have divine roots, a God-given dignity, and a holy destiny. Nothing can change it. We can forget it, to our shame; remember Adam and eve? We can ignore it, to our peril; People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand. So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us.” (Rom. 1:18-25 MSG). Or we can remember our identity: “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior .I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place. Others were given in exchange for you. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you.” (Is. 43:1-4 NLT).  The reality is, Jesus was given in exchange for us; “His life was traded for ours. For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us! (2 Cor. 5:21 TLB) When it’s all about image, remember your image.”

This week, no matter what our culture, or other people, say, may you remember who you are!

“When it’s all about image, remember your image.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Nothing to Say

PRINCIPLE: “When you have nothing to say, say nothing.”

Thought it was back in 1975, I still remember it well. We were living in Sioux Center, Iowa. Out of seminary a little over a year I had quite the week. Since the Sr. Pastor was on vacation I wound up with my first wedding and first funeral on the same weekend – and then had my second wedding and second funeral the next weekend. Both funerals were of relatively young parents who died of cancer and left behind spouses and elementary school-age children. But it’s the second funeral that is especially memorable – in fact not even so much the funereal as what preceded it. Since this young father died at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where his wife was at his bedside, his brother and sister-in-law called me in the dead of night and asked me to join them when they broke the news to the children. What could I say? I quickly dressed, said a quick prayer, and nervously drove to the farmhouse.

All the way there I kept wondering what I would say to these now fatherless children – who deeply loved their dad. God just didn’t seem to give my anything. Unfortunately it was a short drive and I arrived before anything developed in my mind. When I got there, the brother and sister-in-law roused the children and sat them around the kitchen table. The children already knew something was wrong – I mean, why would the minister be there in the middle of the night? Suddenly everyone was there and my mind was still blank – I, for one of the few times in my life, was at a loss for words.

And that’s when God’s grace kicked in. No – he didn’t give me wonderful words to say. He used the brother and sister-in-law who beautifully spoke to the children and explained what had happened. They carried the conversation with their nieces and nephews. Occasionally I chipped in. When they asked me to pray, the words were not many but they were God-given and adequate. I left, feeling somewhat embarrassed and let down that I said so little. Yet sometime later the brother and sister-in-law expressed their deepest thanks to me for ‘all you did for us and the children’ as they shared the time together. I guess that’s when I first began to learn about the ministry of presence. “When you have nothing to say, say nothing.” Sometimes our mere presence is enough.

Sometime later I was directed to the book of Job. When were Jobs’ friends the most helpful? When they sat there in silence with him. Their ministry of presence gave him comfort and support. It’s when they began to offer their ‘wisdom’ and advice that the heated discussions arose. “When you have nothing to say, say nothing.” Still today, in tough situations, I recall that night, or I see Job sitting on his ash heap surrounded by his silent friends. It helps me realize I don’t always have to have great words to say. Sometimes just sitting there with someone in the silence with no advice, no pearls of wisdom, or no answers is all they need and all God wants us to do.

It’s been a life-long journey unpacking all that this ministry of presence means – and in our age of communication technology some new possibilities have entered the discussion and made possible some new dynamics in having a presence (although face-to-face is still the #1 was to be present when possible.) So I’m still learning. And I haven’t always gotten it right. But I like to think I’ve made some progress.

As leaders, and wonderful Christian people, you often end up in places and situations where it’s tough to know what to say. If God gives you the words – and you’re sure they’re from God – speak them. But remember that it’s okay sometimes to have nothing to say. And, “When you have nothing to say, say nothing.” When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him. Their names were Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.  When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.” (Job 2:11-13) “When you have nothing to say, say nothing.” 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Roundhouse

PRINCIPLE: “When you're stopped in your tracks, remember the roundhouse.”

I grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Among my many fond memories are the times we drove past an old roundhouse. A roundhouse was a large round building that was built at the end of a section of railroad tracks. When a train had reached the end of its tracks, the end of it's journey, it would go into the roundhouse where the tracks would pivot and turn the engine around. So it could go back in the opposite direction. For some reason, I was fascinated by the concept. But little did I realize that this roundhouse would eventually become a symbol for my Christian life.

Turning around means to repent, to get in the roundhouse change directions. While we most often think of repentance as seeking forgiveness – which is one of it's meanings – it's important to remember that at heart it means to change direction. Think about the message of John the Baptist (Mt. 3:1-2 CEV): Years later, John the Baptist started preaching in the desert of Judea. He said, "Turn back to God! The kingdom of heaven will soon be here." “The Message” translates verse 2: "Change your life. God's kingdom is here." “When you're stopped in your tracks, remember the roundhouse.”

I now realize how many times in my life I came to the end of the tracks only to have God lead me to repent, to turn around and head somewhere else – somewhere He wanted me to go. When I entered college I was a music major; by the end of my freshman year I was headed for the ministry. When I headed home for the summer following that freshman year, I had a fairly serious relationship with a girl who was a fellow student; within a matter of weeks she cut off the relationship and I had met Barb, my current wife. When I graduated from seminary I was offered the opportunity to serve in an exciting young church where we could be near parents and in-laws; I wound up in a well established, traditional, exciting church northwest Iowa. I once said I doubted I would ever serve in Michigan; I've served in Michigan for over 30 years. I also said I would certainly never serve in my home town of Kalamazoo – not because I didn't like Kalamazoo but because people just don't serve in their hometowns; I served 81/2 years in Kalamazoo. And there are so many more visits to the roundhouse in my life. But get the picture? Time and time again God brought me to the end of my tracks and put me in His roundhouse and turned me around, back to Him.

The roundhouse experiences of my life simply prove Gods truth once again. “We make our own plans, but the LORD decides where we will go.” (Prov. 16:9 CEV) “The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?” (Prov. 20:24 NLT) “I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course.” (Jer. 10:23 NLT) I'm glad this is true – though I still may not understand all the reasons and times God has put me in the roundhouse, I can honestly say that not once did I regret repenting. Whenever I have turned back to His way it has been good and right. No wonder Isiah prophesied, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength...” (Is. 30:15) I am trying to be more sensitive to those times when I'm nearing the ends of the tracks, headed the wrong way – because I'm still learning the importance and beauty of “When you're stopped in your tracks, remember the roundhouse.”

Perhaps you've reached an impasse in your life; maybe your life has become dull and routine; it could be that you're sensing that your life has lost is meaning; or it's possible you're traveling along at a rapid pace and haven't even thought about the direction you're heading. Whatever the case, pause for a while and examine your life. Ask God for discernment. Eugene Peterson, in “The Message” translates Jeremiah 10:23, “I know, God, that mere mortals can't run their own lives, That men and women don't have what it takes to take charge of life. So correct us, God, as you see best.” Make that prayer yours – today and everyday. It's a whole lot easier to spot the roundhouse coming at the end of tracks than to go crashing into it. Perhaps the principle should be “When – or before - you're stopped in your tracks, remember the roundhouse.” Correct us, God, as you see best.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Heavy Loads

PRINCIPLE: “When the load’s too heavy, transfer the weight.”

Two of our grandchildren, Micah – 8 – and Elise – almost 6 – recently took up the adventure of rock-wall climbing. They did extremely well – far better than Grandpa would have done! Micah made it to the top 3 times and Elise got beyond her dad’s reach. I was proud of them.

But it wasn’t just their success that got me excited. It’s what I observed – and hopefully they learned – during the climb that was most important. As long as they tried to climb only using their own strength, they tired quickly; but once they learned how to trust the camp counselor holding the rope, and put all their weight in the harness, the climb became easier. “When the load’s too heavy, transfer the weight.” Once they trusted and transferred, and knew they were safe from falling, they discovered the strength to climb higher. “When the load’s too heavy, transfer the weight.”

It’s certainly not a new principle; even the airlines (especially on small planes) are always balancing the luggage and the seat location of passengers to keep the weight evenly distributed – all so they can fly higher, fast, and safer. Certainly truckers and moving companies loading their large vans know all about weight distribution. No, it’s not new, but it’s worth remembering. “When the load’s too heavy, transfer the weight.”

The Psalmist knew all about it also. (91) Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you He will cover you …   and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart…You will not fear  For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands… “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” “When the load’s too heavy, transfer the weight.”

The word love (‘Because he loves me…) in the Hebrew connotes ‘cleaving’. It’s like putting a saddle on a horse – the saddle cleaves to the horse, is wrapped tightly around the horse. It’s an invitation to wrap ourselves around Jesus. It all hinges on trusting God. The Psalmist is saying that security in God is not an insurance policy against misfortune or trials.  Psalm 91 is, at core, a call to trust. “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” To trust God is to put all your weight on Him. It’s putting all your weight in the harness and letting Jesus bear your weight. “When the load’s too heavy, transfer the weight.” The Psalmist is inviting us not to worry. There are dark sides to life – but do not worry; they will not defeat you. No final evil will befall you. “When the load’s too heavy, transfer the weight.”

It’s worth remembering. After all, Christ himself carried our sins in his body to the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. It is by his wounds that you have been healed. (1 Pt. 2:24 GNT) “When the load’s too heavy, transfer the weight.” Then, in your new found safety climb higher. Perhaps you will not make it to the top – but you will be safe at rest.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


PRINCIPLE: “Before committing to tomorrow, live today.”

We recently had several days in a row with an unusual, thick fog. Visibility was next to nil; travel was difficult. But one thing about fog is that just as quickly as it rolls in, it vanishes. It reminds me of James' letter to the early church (4:13-17 LB): How do you know what is going to happen tomorrow? For the length of your lives is as uncertain as the morning fog—now you see it; soon it is gone.” Our lives are like fog – here now but capable of vanishing at any moment. And no one can predict with certainty that vanishing moment.

I still recall that one morning when I was in 3rd grade – my folks kissed my 15 year old sister good-bye as she left for school, never realizing it would be the last time they would do so. Who was to know that a driver late for work wouldn’t see her crossing the street and hit her? I still remember the day when, as a freshman at Central College, I went into the campus library for the very first time, heard a shrill yell, and saw a student athlete fall – an aneurism had burst and it took his life. You have your stories and reality checks as well. Our lives are not all that secure.

While such thoughts can be viewed as morbid, they can also be viewed as healthy since it reminds us how to live each moment of each day. As Elizabeth Kubler Ross wrote, “It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth…and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up…that we will begin to live each day to the full, as if it were the only one we had.”1 While in college I took Introductory Greek from a local pastor. Every week, as I left, he would say “See you next week, Lord willing.” It took me a long time to realize he wasn’t just uttering an habitual phrase nor simply acknowledging a truth we both knew; he was re-enforcing an attitude of the heart that between then and the next time we were to meet all our time belongs to God. It's what James wrote (4:15-16 LB): “What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we shall live and do this or that.” Otherwise you will be bragging about your own plans, and such self-confidence never pleases God. It’s an antidote that can prevent us from wasting our time and our days. As Bill Gaither put it, “Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come, but we have this moment today.”2 “Before committing to tomorrow, live today.”

I've come to realize that as soon as I say, “It can wait until tomorrow,” I need to stop and ask “Can It really?” If it's important, it can't. For years I've thought about thanking my Greek Tutor for his weekly greeting. It kept getting pushed to tomorrow. Now it's too late; he passed away a short time ago. I live with regret. And I have sinned. James said (4:17), Remember, too, that knowing what is right to do and then not doing it is sin.“Before committing to tomorrow, live today.” It's the only way to minimize living with regret for things not done or said; it's a way to guard against sin.

Remember the day I borrowed your brand new car and I dented it? I thought you'd kill me, but you didn't. And remember the time I dragged you to the beach, and you said it would rain and it did? I thought you'd say, 'I told you so,” but you didn't. Do you remember the time I flirted with all the guys to make you jealous, and you were? I thought you'd eave me, but you didn't. Do you remember the time I spilled strawberry pie all over your car rug? I thought you'd hit me, but you didn't. And remember the time I forgot to tell you the dance was formal and you showed up in jeans? I thought you'd drop me, but you didn't. Yes, there were a lot of things you didn't do. But you put up with me, and you loved me, and you protected me. There were a lot of things I wanted to make up to you when you came back from Vietnam. But you didn't.” 3“Before committing to tomorrow, live today.
1 From Soul Unfinished, Robert Atwell, Paraclete Press, Brewster Mass., © 2012 by Robert Atwell
2 © 1975 William J. Gaither, Inc. (Admin. by Gaither Copyright Management)

3From Seizing the Moment, James Moore, Abingdon Press, 1988, pgs. 30-31

Thursday, July 3, 2014

All That Garbage

PRINCIPLE: “If you don’t like the garbage, don’t eat the lunch.”

There’s one thing that bugs me about the road by which we live - the litter that ends up in our yard. I pick up wrappers from McDonalds, bags from burger King, and boxes from Wendy’s, along with cans, bottles, and cups – and once even a bumper from a car that veered off the road and slammed into the telephone pole in our yard. I’ve wondered why people feel so free to throw their litter out of their vehicles, to dump their garbage where they don’t have to pick it up. I think the very same thing anytime I see someone throw a cigarette butt out their window. There are probably numerous reasons – but I believe the core reason is they don’t want to deal with the garbage. They love the food, the pleasure, but not the leftover garbage. To that I say, “If you don’t like the garbage, don’t eat the lunch.”

In actuality, this is a major biblical theme. (Gen. 3:8-10 MSG) When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden …. God called to the Man: “Where are you?” He said, “I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked. And I hid.” “If you don’t like the garbage, don’t eat the lunch.” (Gen 4:13-14 MSG) Cain said to God, “My punishment is too much. I can’t take it! You’ve thrown me off the land and I can never again face you. I’m a homeless wanderer on Earth and whoever finds me will kill me.”” “If you don’t like the garbage, don’t eat the lunch.” (Ps. 32:2-4 NLT) When I refused to confess my sin my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat”. “If you don’t like the garbage, don’t eat the lunch.” (Prov. 11:29) Those who bring trouble on their families inherit the wind.” “If you don’t like the garbage, don’t eat the lunch.” (Prov. 10:4 & 10) “Lazy hands make for poverty…Whoever maliciously causes grief, and a chattering fool comes to ruin.” “If you don’t like the garbage, don’t eat the lunch.” (Rom. 6:23) For the wages of sin is death…” “If you don’t like the garbage, don’t eat the lunch.” (I Cor. 10:8-10) We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.” “If you don’t like the garbage, don’t eat the lunch.” (Gal. 6:7-8 GNT) You will reap exactly what you plant. If you plant in the field of your natural desires, from it you will gather the harvest of death…” “If you don’t like the garbage, don’t eat the lunch.” (Mt. 5:21-22) “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. “If you don’t like the garbage, don’t eat the lunch.”

If you don’t like the sexual immorality of our day, don’t watch the movies/shows that promote them or support the advertisers who pay for them. If you don’t like lung cancer, don’t smoke .If you don’t like being drunk, don’t drink. If you don’t like arguing with your spouse, don’t do the things that lead to arguments. If you don’t like being in debt, don’t live off your credit card and spend what you do not have. If you don’t like feeling separated from God, stop doing the things that separate you from Him. “If you don’t like the garbage, don’t eat the lunch.” In fact, if you don’t like the garbage, change your diet. (Is. 55:1-3) Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.” It all begins with your relationship with Jesus. (Jn. 10:10 & Jn. 7:37-38) I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness…Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” Now that’s a garbage free diet!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

On Being a Fool

PRINCIPLE: “When the lightning strikes, be foolish.”

As he sat down in my church office he said, “I was just looking at our steeple with its lightning rod on top.” Wow! What an image; the cross is a lightning rod. It has always been so. In ancient times it was the instrument through which the vilest offenders were punished by a slow, excruciating death. It was viewed as the place where God's lightning of judgment struck evil with full force. The cross was meant to repulse those thinking of committing evil acts. Some, no doubt, thought death on the cross repulsive in and of itself.

Today society views such punishment as barbaric – the cross, and other such forms of capital punishment, draw passionate reaction and rebellion. It is a lightning rod of controversy. But it's not just the cross as a symbol of death that draws the ire of people – the cross as a symbol of Christianity has become a lightning rod as well. Since Christians see Jesus' crucifixion on the cross as God's lightning rod of judgment on sin, and therefore the instrument of salvation, many are repulsed by the cross. So the cross is still a lightning rod of controversy. I remember attending a school board meeting where a controversial proposal had drawn a large crowd. The very first person to speak during the public forum time said, “You Christians on the Board leave your Christianity at the door and be responsible and do what's right.” The cross is a lightning rod. A cross sits atop a hill on city property – a court case determines whether or not it is legal. The cross is a lightning rod. A manger scene in a public park draws controversy. The cross is a lightning rod. White crosses on the roadside, marking sites of fatal accidents, are challenged. The cross is a lightning rod. Employees are forbidden to say “Merry Christmas.” The cross is a lightning rod. A youth pastor, serving as a lunch hour volunteer in the local high school, is ordered to stop doing so – it's ruled a church-state conflict. The cross is a lightning rod. Prayer at City Council meetings are ruled 'offensive.' The cross is a lightning rod. A pastor applies the Bible to political and social issues during a sermon and is taken to court. The cross is a lightning rod. An elementary student is threatened with punishment because before eating her lunch, she silently prays. The cross is a lightning rod.

Such conflict should not be surprising. Centuries ago Paul wrote (1 Cor. 1:18-25 NLT): The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. As the Scriptures say, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise
and discard the intelligence of the intelligent. “So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish.
Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles,Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.” (1 Cor. 4:10) “We are fools for Christ...” “When the lightning strikes, be foolish.”

So what do we do: when the cross is deemed foolish, challenged, or mocked? “When the lightning strikes, be foolish.” When we are told to leave our religion 'out of politics' - “When the lightning strikes, be foolish.” When we are told our 'position' is offensive and hate-filled - “When the lightning strikes, be foolish.” When our preaching and witnessing are threatened - “When the lightning strikes, be foolish.” When we're told we're 'on the wrong side of history - “When the lightning strikes, be foolish.” When we think about those who oppose us and want to strike back, - “When the lightning strikes, be foolish” - we can pray for them. When we're face to face with an unbeliever - “When the lightning strikes, be foolish” - we can witness. Let's be fools for Christ.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Seeds for Thought

PRINCIPLE: “When the seed dies, look for life.”

In thinking further about all those maple seeds, I realized that many of them will die only to eventually become majestic trees. My mind turned to John 12:24 – “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” There is life through death. If the kernel remained a kernel there would be no plant. Think about buying a package of seeds. What good would it do to simply put them on the shelf and admire them? Seeds have but one purpose and that is to be buried, cease life as a seed, and give birth to greater life in the form of a plant. Only through the death of the seed will there be plant life; it’s a principle of nature. “When the seed dies, look for life.”

Jesus’ application followed immediately (verse 25): “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Through Jesus’ death new life has gone forth to millions. If He had not died, we would not share His life. But by His death His Spirit was sent forth into His people throughout the world. In a short space of time after Jesus’ death, the number of His disciples did not merely increase, but multiplied. The fruit born on the day of Pentecost was the first fruit of a rich, abundant harvest – not only in the Jewish world, but among the Gentiles also. The Romans had put Him to death; but in a few generations the Roman Empire acknowledged His supremacy. The world had cast Him out; but the world was saved by Him. “When the seed dies, look for life.”

That’s why John wrote that life is in Jesus. So Jesus produced, through His death, a whole race of people. True life comes only through the death of Jesus Christ. As John said in the beginning of his gospel, “In Him was life.” His death on the cross provides life for all who believe in him.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

But Jesus continued: “…if it dies it produces many seeds.” The seed that seems to be dead, has lodged within it the possibility of an ever-expanding life. Imagine one of those ‘helicopter seeds’ – what can come from it? A maple tree, a ship, a navy fleet. The seed has a life-germ that is capable of increase and multiplication. Or imagine a handful of seed-corn – we can see a package carried to a distant country, producing a nation’s food. Jesus said that we, too, must die (verse 25): “The man who loves his life will lose it…” The problem is that we possess a basic instinct for self-preservation.  So Jesus pointed to a higher principle: “The man who loves his life will lose it…while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Through death there is life. Hate your life and save your life – not quite the formula we expect, is it? We are bent on self-preservation but we need to live beyond ourselves to live. “When the seed dies, look for life.”

So what does it mean to hate your life? Jesus died long before He was crucified. He first died to – hated – Himself. He often said that He had come not to do His own will, but the will of His Father. In Gethsemane, as He wrestled with His impending crucifixion, He promised His Father, “Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.” “When the seed dies, look for life.” So we are to hate our lives – we are to die to ourselves. We are to love God first and then our neighbors.. It’s not that we neglect ourselves – it’s that our concern for ourselves must stand beneath a higher concern. And when we die, there will be life. “When the seed dies, look for life.” What would dying to yourself look like? What will it take to produce life in your neighbor? What will happen to and in them when they see you die? “When the seed dies, look for life.”

Thursday, June 12, 2014


PRINCIPLE: “When the seeds are plentiful, sow plentifully.”

We Michiganders have had quite a spring. It was somewhat late in coming after a hard, long winter and it took a while to settle in once it came. And, at least along Lake Michigan, it's cooler than usual because of the extraordinary amount of ice on the lake throughout the winter. But even beyond all that, it's the seeds. For whatever reason, there was an abundance of Maple seeds last fall (those little helicopter seeds as we called them when we were children.) They fell to the ground in droves and before most of us could rake them up the snow fell – and the rest is history. So this Spring little Maple trees keep popping up everywhere – infiltrating gardens, taking over lawns, shooting up through mulch, plugging up gutters - you name it. Mother nature just sowed way too many seeds; why didn't she save a few for next year? No matter how many times we mow, or how long we spend plucking them out of the gardens and other places, we'll never get them all. Of course, some will simply die off. But some will continue to grow and and replenish our yards and forests for years to come. Perhaps its all nature's way of balancing out her world. Only those future years will tell us.

But it has made me reflect upon Jesus' familiar Parable of the Sower, recorded in Matthew 13. Jesus said the sower's seeds fell in four different places, in different types of 'soiI' if you will. Only one soil – the good soil – produced anything lasting. I used to think the point of the parable was to remind us to be good soil, receptive to the Word. But at some point I realized that there was perhaps an even more important message. The sower scattered the seed, knowing that not all of it would fall on good soil. Since we have God's Word, we have rich and abundant seeds to sow. And sow we must. We cannot spend time worrying about where the seeds land. Some will never take root, some will grow only for a while – but some will land in good soil and produce heartily and replenish the Kingdom. God knows we can never sow enough so, through the parable, He reminds us that we are to keep sowing – and know that the seeds that do take root in good soil will produce a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown. Why? Because those in whom the seed grows bountifully will sow more seeds, some of which will produce a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.

Now I get it. “When the seeds are plentiful, sow plentifully.” We have the richest, most abundant of seeds; but there's no need to save some for next year. We can never sow too much. There is good soil all around us – some of which we may never recognize – or at least not until, somewhere down the road, we see the growth. Like many farmers, we sow as much for the future as we do for today.

As a preacher I need to remember this. God has given me rich, abundant seed. It's highly possible that a majority of the seeds I've sown fell on unproductive ground. That's humbling, to say the least. But I take heart that some has taken hold and is producing a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown. That, too, is humbling. All I can do is, “When the seeds are plentiful, sow plentifully.” After all, it was God who said, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth; It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Is. 55:10-11)

But God doesn't hold His seed in reserve for preachers. He gives His seed to you as well. You have the Word of God – probably in several editions and translations. How much of the seed have you stored up for later, for another season? How much have you sown? Even more importantly, from here on, how much will you sow? “When the seeds are plentiful, sow plentifully.” Some will land in good soil, produce heartily, and replenish the Kingdom - even up to a hundred fold. Take that you Maple seeds!  

Thursday, June 5, 2014


PRINCIPLE: “When you're sorry, be sorry.”

“I'm sorry.” Two simple words. Two difficult words. Simple to say but difficult to mean. Just observe children. They are punished in some fashion and are told they can resume normal activities when they say they 'Sorry.' Eventually – sometimes after a lengthy period – they mutter 'Sorry.' They may not mean it, they may be cute when they say it – but they may not really mean it. Or they mean it not because of what they said or did, but only because of the discomfort of the punishment they endured. A heartfelt 'sorry' is difficult for them.

I have a hunch, however, that such feeble 'sorrys' are not limited to children. There have many times in my adult life when I have said 'Sorry' only because I knew it was the only way to end a painful  experience or avoid further discomfort, or I was sorry for the pain it caused me and not so much because of what I said or did. How about you?

There are several reasons it's hard to say a heartfelt 'Sorry' - but that's for another note at another time. Today I'm thinking of the fact that if it's so hard to say 'Sorry' to another person, it's even harder to say it to God. Paul addressed this in his second letter to the Corinthians (7:8-10 NLT): I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.”  “When you're sorry, be sorry.”

The Psalmist knew the connection between sin and being sorry. (32:3-5) “When I did not confess my sins,was worn out from crying all day long. Day and night you punished me, Lord; my strength was completely drained, as moisture is dried up by the summer heat. Then I confessed my sins to you;I did not conceal my wrongdoings. I decided to confess them to you, and you forgave all my sins.” David initially became sorry because of the punishment he was enduring – but that led him to say he was truly sorry.  “I decided to confess them to you...”  He was learning that “When you're sorry, be sorry.” And learn it he did. Notice the difference in Ps. 51:1-4: “Be merciful to me, O God, because of your constant love. Because of your great mercy wipe away my sins! Wash away all my evil and make me clean from my sin! recognize my faults; I am always conscious of my sins. I have sinned against you—only against you—and done what you consider evil. So you are right in judging me; you are justified in condemning me.”  His “I'm sorry” arose not out of his suffering but out of his knowledge that he truly offended God. “When you're sorry, be sorry.”

How is it when you confess your sin to God? Are you saying 'Sorry' because of your suffering and punishment, or because you know you've offended God, that against him you have sinned? Are you like the Publican (Lk. 18:9-14) who prayed, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”? “When you're sorry, be sorry.” Perhaps we'd be more sincere in telling God we're sorry if we looked up from our sin and looked at Jesus – at His nail-pierced hands and feet, and then into his loving, grace-filled eyes. In that moment we will see the reality that our sin was against His love, a rejection of His grace He purchased for us on the cross. I have a hunch we would then be truly sorry and say, “Jesus, I'm sorry.  have sinned against you—only against you—and done what you consider evil. So you are right in judging me; you are justified in condemning me. Have mercy on me, a sinner.”  Then we will find Paul's words to be true: “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow.”  So from the depths of your sin, look to Jesus – and you'll be sorry. And  “When you're sorry, be sorry.” And you'll have no regrets.

Friday, May 30, 2014

It's Gardening Time

PRINCIPLE: “Before the wind blows, remember the roots.”

It's that time of year again. The snow is gone and nature is springing back to life. It's a beautiful time of the year. It's also the gardening time of the year. Every year it's “Let's buy more perennials so there's less work to do next year.” (Why is it that we say it every year, do it every year, and it still seems like we do the same amount of work each year?)

That, of course, means getting rid of or transplanting some of the old – it's time to dig up plants, shrubs, and even trees. In some instances, that's no problem. Plants, for example, pull right up. Hostas, Lilies, and Irises are easily dug up and split. Shrubs and trees, however, are a different story. You just don't pull or dig them up! Sometimes it takes a shovel or a spade. Other times it takes a saw. Sometimes it takes a hatchet or ax. Oftentimes it takes some back breaking work. And once in a while, such as with trees, it takes a professional with special equipment. It all depends on the roots – on their depth, breadth, thickness, and strength.

It sets me to wondering – how strong is my root system? What is the depth, breadth, thickness, and strength of my roots? What would it take to cut or knock me down, to transplant me? A mere shovel – a saw – an ax – or some special equipment? What happened the last time the storm hit your life? Were you blown away or did you grow? The winds will blow again. Life will attack with shovels, saws, axes, and all sorts of special equipment. Will you be blown away? Cut or knocked down? Transplanted? Or will you prosper in the wind, and be transformed through the attacks?

Psalm 1 comes to mind. The blessed one like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers...Not so the wicked. They are like chaff that the wind blows away.” What's the difference? One has a root system and one does not. And once the wind blows, it's too late to worry about roots. So “Before the wind blows, remember the roots.” Before the shovels, saws, axes, and special equipment attack, put down roots. In other words, put them down now.

The Psalmist pinpoints how to develop roots with great depth, breadth, thickness, and strength. The blessed one “delights in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.” You've been planted in the soil of God's grace, fertilized by the richness of Christ's blood. So tend to your growth. Whether you are chaff or a tree depends on your roots. “Before the wind blows, remember the roots.” Develop a discipline now of reading and studying God's Word, praying, worshiping, being still – of going apart and resting a while. It is, after all, how Jesus developed His roots.

Begin, or renew, a life of root development today. Prepare for the winds, storms and attacks. “Before the wind blows, remember the roots.” Tend to your roots – and be assured that the Lord will watch over your way.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Remembering the March

PRINCIPLE: “When you're lost, He is found.”

On this Memorial Weekend I have memories of one particular Memorial Day. I played the Bass Drum in our Junior High School band. The highlight of the year was marching in Kalamazoo's Memorial Day parade. On this particular Memorial Day I had a problem. While marching, the strap that held the drum on my shoulders was slowly slipping loose; if not corrected, the drum would fall. Complicating the problem was that, unlike all the other instruments, the percussion section never stops playing; it has to provide the cadence to keep everyone in step. So I had no opportunity to stop and try to fix the strap. And since I was standing on the edge of the row I had no one on my right side and a snare drummer on my left. So there was no help beside me.

At first I chuckled thinking, “You've got to be kidding me!” But the humor didn't last long. I kept drumming but also kept trying to adjust the strap in between beats, which was no small task. It was proving to be a losing battle. I began to have visions of the drum falling, with me tripping over it as it fell, and the whole band falling apart because the cadence stopped and everyone lost the beat and thus their synchronized steps. I had to struggle to maintain the beat while becoming lost in my thoughts. I had no idea what to do. I was close to panic.

But there was one glimmer of hope. Our director always marched with the band, and would do so from various positions – sometimes moving to the edge of each row so he could check up on everyone.; but I had no way of getting his attention. Then, after what seemed like an eternity, he came to the edge of my row, on my side of the row! There he was – right next to me! He was able to fix the strap without me missing a beat. I was so glad he let himself be found!

As I now fondly recall that day, my mind goes to Psalm 46:1 - “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” I once read that “ ever-present help in trouble” could be translated “God lets himself be found in trouble.” I like that thought. “When you're lost, He is found.” I think of when I play 'Hide and Seek ' with my grandchildren – I often hide only partially so I can be found. Or I'll be fully hidden for a short time until I sense they're getting frustrated, and then come partially out of hiding. I'll let myself be found.

That's so much like God. When we're lost, when we're about to lose our step, when the drumbeat of our life is about to get out of sync, when the straps that hold the source of our life in place are about to come undone – God lets Himself be found. “When you're lost, He is found.” When tragedy strikes, when life becomes overwhelmingly challenging, and we wonder where God is – when we wonder where He's hiding, God lets Himself be found. “When you're lost, He is found.” When we've totally lost our way, or suddenly realize we've wandered off to other pastures and wonder how we'll ever find our way back, then it is we need to remember “When you're lost, He is found.” God lets Himself be found.

The truth is, God is never far away. He may, at times, remain out of our sight because He wants to develop our faith and increase our trust. But before before the drum falls, before we trip and fall, before everyone and everything around us falls apart, God will come out of hiding. “When you're lost, He is found.” God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear,though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging...The Lord Almighty is with us.”

When you're lost, He is found.”

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Left Behind

PRINCIPLE: “When you’re left alone, don’t be alone.”

All three incidents happened within a short span of time – perhaps within one or two weeks of each other. I can’t recall the time gaps between them, but that’s not important; just that they happened close together.

Incident #1: My mother picked me up from a practice of our Jr. High School musical. We also took Dan, a friend of mine, home. Dan had broken his leg and was on crutches. So when we got to his house I helped him out of the car, carried his books, and helped him up the steps and into his house. I went back outside only to discover that my mother had driven off without me. Stunned, I stood there for a moment wondering how long I’d be there and what to do. Before I could answer my questions she came around the corner; I could see her smile. She had just absent mindedly taken off when she saw me disappear into the house. Fortunately, it didn’t take her long to realize her error! No harm done.

Incident #2: We often picked up my aunt Nellie for church. She was elderly (at least then I thought it was elderly!) so I would go to her door, walk her down the sidewalk, and help her in the car. On this Sunday, as always, once she was safely in I closed her door and started to re-open my door so I could get back in the car – except as I put one foot into the car my Dad started driving off. With one foot in and one foot out and the car moving, I was in a predicament! Fortunately my shouts of “Dad!” caught his attention and he stopped. No harm done.

Incident #3: My sister, just old enough to drive, picked me up from my cello lesson. I opened the back seat car door, put my cello on the seat and closed the door. As I reached for the front door, off she went! Since I was starting to get used to this, I figured she’d be back. Sure enough, with a grin wide enough to drive a truck through, she came around the block. All she could say between laughs was, “I wondered why you didn’t answer when I spoke to you! I just figured you had gotten in the back seat.” No harm done – except I did wonder briefly if my family was giving me a message!

I have often thought about this series of incidents, and realize that even though I was left behind and alone, I wasn’t alone. My family was not about to let me stay there – I was still in their minds and hearts. I knew that even then. But I’ve also come to recognize that we all experience many times in life when we feel alone, left behind, left out. That’s when Jesus’ words are so important and wonderful:  “I will not leave you orphaned. I’m coming back. In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me because I am alive and you’re about to come alive. At that moment you will know absolutely that I’m in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you. (Jn. 14:18-20 MSG) No matter how alone, we are not alone. No matter how often left behind, we’re not left behind. Jesus has not left us - He lives within us; we are in Him and He is in us, no matter how often others pull away from us. All we need to do is remember it. If we fail to remember, we will feel alone, deserted, and abandoned. So “When you’re left alone, don’t be alone.” When left alone, say “Hi” to Jesus, thank Him for staying with you, and have a conversation with Him. After all, there’s no one else around to talk to! And before long you’ll be picked up again and carried off into the noise and busyness of life. So enjoy the moments with Jesus. “When you’re left alone, don’t be alone.”

Friday, May 9, 2014

A Lesson from the Dog

PRINCIPLE: “When the sweet things of life appeal, remember the surgery.”

Our “grand-dog” Moby has been living with us. He’s a cute, loving, adorable dog. He recently taught me a lesson. Early in the week my wife, while working in the kitchen, dropped some corn cob holders. They were those miniature yellow plastic corn cobs with two prongs sticking out the end that stick in the cob to help hold the cob while eating the corn. When she dropped them Moby, thinking it might be food that fell to the floor, quickly scurried over and sniffed – but smelling nothing, did nothing. Later in the week we were eating corn for supper, and one of those same holders fell to the floor. Moby, already seated under the table and ready to pounce on any scrap of food, lunged over to it and snatched it up. The reactions of the adults around the table were instantaneous, but not quick enough. Moby had swallowed the holder – and he seemed none the worse for it. But we all knew action was needed – and, long story short, it took emergency surgery to remove it. Moby paid a price for his insatiable, uncontrolled appetite (as did the humans who foot the bill!)

As we reflected on what happened, one of our conclusions was that the same corn cob holder, which earlier in the week was not appealing, had become appealing because of location and scent. Since it was under the table Moby naturally assumed whatever fell was food; and since the holder was ‘flavored’ with butter and salt, it had an appealing scent. It made me think of why Eve ate of the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:6): “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.”  The Apostle John taught the same truth (1 John 2:16):  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.”

Let’s face it – it’s the sweet things of life that tempt us. We are drawn to those things that please our flesh, or are titillating and exciting to our senses, or which make us feel superior. That’s why manufacturers, producers, and sellers spend so much money designing ads that appeal to our flesh, our senses, and our egos.  It’s why games and films are designed and marketed in the same spirit. The devil knows just how to sweeten the pot with all kinds of butter and salt. He knows that all it takes is one bite. So Eve and Adam ate the fruit. And we all know what happened when eve ate the fruit! God performed some radical surgery on her and Adam’s life. “When the sweet things of life appeal, remember the surgery.” And John said what comes from the world will never last because God will excise it: The world and its desires pass away…”  “When the sweet things of life appeal, remember the surgery.”

We would love to teach Moby this principle. We wish he could make the connection between his painful surgery and the corn holders – but we’re pretty sure he’ll ever understand. So we are doing our best to remove or limit the appeal; now we eat the corn without the holders! The truth is butter and salt are tempting – but only lead to radical surgery. And we, like Moby, often fail to make the connection and go through the painful surgery. Yet knowing we can’t remove all the tempting appeals that bombard us every day, we can limit their appeal. “When the sweet things of life appeal, remember the surgery.” John, in fact, provided the preventative prescription - The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.  The next time the butter and salt look and smell so good, the next time your flesh, sense, or ego are titillated, remember - “When the sweet things of life appeal, remember the surgery.” Take a little preventative medicine – do the will of God.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

When the Bees Attack

PRINCIPLE: “When the bees come after you, make a beeline to the cross.”

I was trimming the drain ditch in front of our house – something I do once every 4 - 6 weeks. This time the grass and weeds were taller and thicker than usual so I was being more deliberate than my usual quick swipes with the trimmer. In fact I was standing in the ditch itself. I could see that I was making good progress; but what I couldn't see was the little hole in the ground, beneath the grass and weeds. It was a little hole that was the entrance to a hive of bees. I didn't know they were there. But, boy, did they know I was there! As soon as I got close to their hole they came after me – in full force. A couple of quick stings and a lot of buzzing and I suddenly knew they were there. I dropped my trimmer and made a beeline for the house, with the bees in full chase and attack mode right behind me. Thankfully, the house was my refuge. Now every time I trim the ditch, I'm ready to flee.

What I've discovered is that the bees in my ditch aren't the only bees I need to be ready to flee. There are all kinds of bees ready to sting and chase me every day. The bees disguise themselves in the form of temptation, passion, and pride. John identifies them as cravings, lust, and boasting. Everything that is in the world—the craving for whatever the body feels, the craving for whatever the eyes see and the arrogant pride in one’s possessions—is not of the Father but is of the world.” (1 Jn. 2:16 CEB). Jesus pointed to thee bees of troubles, tribulation, and persecution. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.” (Jn. 16:33)

And Jesus' advice? But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33) How did Jesus overcome the world? Through the cross. “Take heart – you can come to the cross.” “When the bees come after you, make a beeline to the cross.” Jesus gave this instruction often. “When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.” (Mt. 10:23) “When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” (Mk. 13:14) “When the bees come after you, make a beeline to the cross.”The apostle Paul gave the same advice. “Flee from sexual immorality.” ( 1 Cor. 6:18) “So, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols.” (1 Cor. 10:14) “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” (1 Tim. 6:11 NLT) “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Tim. 2:22) “When the bees come after you, make a beeline to the cross.”

However, whenever the bees that attack you, be ready to flee, to make a beeline to the cross. When the computer screen calls out for you to click on that porn site, when the television beckons with that seductive movie, when the hormones get excited wile looking at someone other than your spouse, when the little voice in your head tells you a little cheating will move you up the ladder at work, when your pride is leading you to act superior, when those anti-christian voices begins to mock and challenge you – make a beeline for the cross.

And just a word for the sake of clarity. Fleeing to the cross can mean 'Get out of there and get to Jesus.” But it can also mean to stand firm, and fight the good fight in the strength and power of the cross. As Paul advised young Timothy, there will be times when you want to give up and quit – to run away. But you must keep control of yourself in all circumstances; endure suffering, do the work of a preacher of the Good News, and perform your whole duty as a servant of God.” (2 Tim. 4:5) Depending on the circumstance, you either run or stand still – but whichever is called for, place your heart at the foot of the cross. “When the bees come after you, make a beeline to the cross.” “Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand, The shadow of a mighty Rock Within a weary land; A home within the wilderness, A rest upon the way From the burning of the noonday heat And the burden of the day.”