Friday, February 22, 2008

Seeing Is Believing?

Hello friends,

I've been away from blogging for a couple of weeks or so but now I'm back, rested and rearing to go. This past Sunday, right after the morning service, Ramel and I drove down to the Oregon coast. We went to Lincoln City by way of Salem, then slowly made our way south down Highway 101 until we found a little motel with a vacancy sign. We rented a place right on the beach, overlooking the ocean. Our room had a fireplace and a big window where we could sit and watch the sun go down. It was very beautiful and very restful. I woke up in the middle of the night with a bright light shining in my eyes. It was the moon casting its light over the water, making every wave look as though it were decorated with a million jewels. I got up and sat by the window for a long time, marveling at the beauty of God's creation.

I can't imagine what it would be like to be blind. I lost one of my five senses, the sense of smell, back in 1982 in a freak accident, so I know what it's like not to be able to smell or taste. However, that's nothing compared to a person losing his sight or hearing. To live in a world of darkness or a world of silence--either one would be vastly worse than my affliction.

We depend on sight for so much. There is an old saying that goes, "Seeing is believing." It means that we verify reality by what we can observe with our eyes. We believe something because it is right there in front of us in plain sight. But our eyes can be deceived. Any police officer can tell you that eye witnesses are often totally mistaken in identifying suspects. And everyone has seen optical illusions that trick the brain into thinking it is seeing something when it isn't. On this page among the "Cool Pix Just For Fun" there is an optical illusion that fascinates me. The five colorful overlapping circles give the impression that they are slowly spinning. But they aren't. Click on the image and it will open up in another window and you'll see what I mean.

Or how about the picture below. It has to be true. Cameras don't lie, do they?

Our minds tell us that what we see is impossible. But there it is. The head of a donkey, the body of a tiger, and the tail of an alligator. It must be true however, because seeing is believing, right?

One of the most well known stories of the New Testament is the one found in John chapter 20 about "Doubting Thomas." After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples gathered together in the upper room. But Thomas was not there on that occasion. When told of the Lord's visit he said that he would not believe it unless he saw the Lord with his own two eyes. For him, seeing was believing. Shortly after that Jesus appeared again to His disciples, but that time Thomas was present. Upon seeing the Lord Thomas knelt before Jesus and made that beautiful declaration of faith, "My Lord, and my God."

But even more remarkable are Jesus' words to Thomas in verse 29. He said, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

The eyes of faith--these are the eyes of the soul that come open when we believe on the Lord Jesus, that wonderful moment when believing becomes seeing. In II Corinthians 3 the apostle Paul is writing about the spiritual blindness of his people, the Jews. In verse 14 he writes, "But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away." A few verses later he writes, "And if our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." This is what we call "spirtual blindness."

Peter speaks of this phenomenon of "believing is seeing" in I Peter 1:6-8, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy."

There are many things that exist, that are real, that I cannot see with my physical eyes--love, joy, peace, friendship, honesty--these are not visible to the naked eye, yet they are real nonetheless. I have never seen Jesus with my physical eyes, yet I know He is real, and I can see Him with the eyes of faith. Believing is seeing. One day we will stand before Him and will see Him face to face, but that will only be the icing on the cake.

Still crazy... about ocean sunsets,

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Dead Horse Theology

Hi fellow earthlings,

Most of the e-zines, newsletters, or e-mail updates out there aren't worth much, and I usually just glance at them and quickly throw them away or delete them. But there are a couple of things I get that I read from cover to cover, as the saying goes. One of them is Randy Alcorn's "Eternal Perspectives Quarterly Newsletter." It is always excellent, and well worth the time it takes to read it. You can sign up for it here... Or if you choose, you can read it online by going to Randy's website. Personally, I like to get it in hard copy. And by the way, check out his blog. It is excellent!

Another thing I read all the way through is called the "Church Leaders Intelligence Report." It is a weekly email newsletter and always has interesting and insightful information. It is produced through Sermon Central and is compiled and edited by Gary D. Foster. If you are interested go here to sign up...

The lastest Intelligence Report had this brief article entitled, "Dead Horses."

The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians says when you discover you’re riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. However, in modern business and ministry, because of the heavy investment factors, other strategies are often tried with dead horses, including: buying a stronger whip; changing riders; threatening the horse with termination; appointing a committee to study the horse; arranging to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses; reclassifying the dead horse as “living-impaired”; hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse; harnessing several dead horses together for increased speed; donating the dead horse to a recognized charity and deducting its full original cost; doing a time management study to see if lighter riders would improve productivity; declaring a dead horse has lower overhead and therefore performs better; and promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.
(from The KELLYGRAM 12/02)

Does any of this sound familiar? I roared with laughter because it is so true. We try everything possible to breathe new life back into the nostrils of our dead horses. We are so reluctant to stop programs in the church that used to work, that used to be successful, that used to draw people. We forget that progarams are not eternal; only God and His Word can rightfully hold that claim. Methods do not last forever; they have a very short shelf-life like fresh-picked Oregon strawberries.

We keep forgetting that we live in a constantly and quickly changing world where technology reinvents itself every year, where communication tools and techniques are quickly replaced, and where the rules and values of society are always in flux. So why do we get so stuck on trying to do church and communicate the Gospel in the same-old same-old ways, even after having ample proof that the methods and/or programs are no longer working? The horse has died, but we refuse to dismount.

Lord, give us eyes to recognize a dead horse when we see one, and give us courage to get off and look for a different horse if ours has passed away. Help us to hold fast only to the things that never change, never fail, never die, and never fade. Help up hold the other stuff with an open hand so that we can easily drop it when it dies and starts to stink. Help us to remember that church isn't where we go or what we do, but who we are. May Your life flow through us to others. May we be channels of Your grace and blessing. And don't let us plug up the plumbing with dead horses.

Crazy, but not crazy enough to ride a dead horse,

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Keith Green is still with us

Hello friends,

All of us can look back through the pages of our life and see that there were many people who contributed in different ways to help shape us into the man or woman that we have become. But certain ones always stand out in our memories. My parents, of course, had a tremendous influence on me, but also a handful of favorite teachers, a few special friends, and some godly professors in seminary who helped to mold my character.

But there was also a young man that influenced me more than I knew at the time. Keith Green was a Christian musician who cut a wide swath. I think that during his short seven years of ministry, before his tragic death in a plane crash on Wednesday, July 28, 1982 when he was only 28 years old, he may have influenced more young people than any other Christian artist of that era. His songs were powerful and probing and passionate. His intense love for Christ and his frustration with the lukewarm cultural Christianity of America touched the lives of millions.

I'll never forget the sadness that filled my heart when I heard of his death. We had just come back home from Brazil on our first furlough and were living in SE Portland. Keith was scheduled for a concert here in Portland at the Rose Garden that following Saturday, the 31st. As you can imagine, Portland was hardhit with the news of his death. The Second Chapter of Acts and Barry McGuire came in his place, but there were a lot of tears in that arena that night. That concert ended with hundreds of young people dedicating their lives to serve Christ, and was just the first of a whole string of memorial concerts across the country resulting in thousands saved and many going into full-time ministry.

I still love to listen to Keith's music and those old songs still move me. YouTube is loaded with junk but it also has some great stuff. Here is a video of him singing on the 700 Club his song, "I Can't Wait to Get to Heaven." It will make you lonely for Heaven too.

If you would like to learn more about Keith Green's life and hear more of his music check out YouTube. Just type his name into the search box. One of the things you'll discover is a seven part documentary about his life and ministry called "The Keith Green Story." Here is a link to the first part.

I just hope that when it comes time for the Lord to call me home I will leave even a fraction of the positive legacy that Keith left. His light burned brightly with a pure flame that lit up the path so that many others could find their way to the Father's house.

Still crazy about Keith Green,

Saturday, February 2, 2008

My kid can beat up your kid

Hello friends,

Where did I go wrong? How could I have failed so miserably as a father as to have a son who grew up to beat up people for a living? But that’s what happened. My second son, Christopher, is a professional Mixed Martial-Arts fighter (MMA). He’s known as “the Professor,” apparently for two reasons: (1) he has an annoying habit of correcting his friends’ grammar all the time; and (2) if you get in the ring with him be prepared because he is going to take you to school, if you get my drift. He can hurt you in a hundred different ways. (Check him out at…

In traffic I often see bumper stickers that say things like, “My son is an honor student at Elkdrool Elementary School.” I’ve thought of getting a bumper sticker made for my car that says, “My kid can beat up your kid any day of the week.” So far I’ve been able to resist the temptation.

Chris has a big fight coming up soon. On March 1st in Columbus, Ohio he will be going up against Jon Fitch in the next Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC 82). It will be on pay-per-view TV and televised all over the world. This is a great career-building opportunity for Chris, win or lose. If he wins, it will improve his already great record (13-3-0). But even if he loses, he will have lost against a highly-rated and worthy opponent. Either way, this fight will give him greater name recognition and higher visibility in the sport. He is already well known among fighters, but is not as well known by fans east of the Rockies as he is by folks out west. This fight will change that.
To be honest, this is not the career I would have chosen for my son, had I been in a position to choose. However, he loves it and is very good at it. He has the reflexes, speed, power, and agility of a tiger. Ramel and I go to as many of his fights as we can to cheer him on. A bunch of people from our church have even gotten interested in the sport because of him, and whenever he fights in Portland we usually have a Baptist cheering section. I know… it’s kind of weird. And all the Brazilians around here know Chris and Luciana so there are always a bunch of our Brazilian friends in the arena cheering him on too. We have lots of fun screaming in Portuguese.

So what does this have to do with anything? Last Sunday at our church we had a baby dedication. Five couples stood in the front of the church with their little children in their arms, having come to offer them in dedication to the Lord with the desire that they might grow up to know, love, and serve Jesus Christ all the days of their lives. I spoke to them of Hannah who offered up her son, Samuel, to the Lord, and of how she did everything possible to see that he would grow up to be a man of God.

As I looked at those five precious little ones on Sunday, including my granddaughter, Savannah Rose, I couldn’t help but wonder what they will turn out to be and how God will use them in the years ahead. I wondered if we might have a future president or ambassador, or perhaps a teacher or a police officer. One might even hear the call of God to become a pastor or a great missionary. And one might even turn out to be a professional fighter, like one of my kids. At this point only God knows.

Anne Ortlund, wife of well known radio preacher, Ray Ortlund, wrote a book years ago entitled, Children Are Wet Cement. Not only is it a good book, but I love that title, because it is so true. Kids are very impressionable. Children absorb whatever is around them, good or bad. Their tender little minds and hearts are fragile and soft, and can be easily shaped in one direction or another. They can also be easily wounded and scarred. This is why the Bible charges us: “Train up a child according to the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

As parents, our biggest job in life is to raise up children and grandchildren to know, love, and serve God, all the days of their life. There is no greater work, not greater purpose, no greater joy. This is “JOB 1.”

So now you may be thinking, “What does this have to do with all that stuff at the beginning about Christopher and his fighting career?” Let me connect up the dots for you… I’m proud of Chris as a fighter, and I love to go to his matches, but his career isn’t nearly as important to me as his character. That goes for all three of my kids, and all of their kids. I’m much more concerned that they become committed followers of Christ who know, love, and serve Him. Whatever they choose to do or be in life is fine with me. I’m just concerned with what they are and have on the inside, where it really counts.

Crazy about my kids,

Friday, February 1, 2008

Answers to Life's Persistent Questions

Hello friends,

I'm a Garrison Keillor fan, and every chance I get I enjoy listening to the live Prairie Home Companion show on the radio. In our Portland market it comes on every Saturday from 3-5 PM.

One of Keillor's regular skits is about a private detective named Guy Noir. The script always starts with... "A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but on the twelfth floor of the Acme Building, one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions — Guy Noir, Private Eye." But I can tell you that Noir is not the only one with persistent questions. I can relate to that challenge, too.

There is an old German saying that goes, "Ein Narr kann mehr fragen als sieben Weise sagen," which means, "One fool can ask more questions than seven wise men can answer." In Wilson English that means that any idiot can ask dang fool questions without working up a sweat. For example, check these out:
  • Can a hearse carrying a corpse drive in the carpool lane?
  • If nobody buys a ticket to a movie do they still show it anyway?
  • If someone owns a piece of land, do they own it all the way to the center of the earth?
  • If humans evolved from apes, why are they still here?
  • Why doesn't glue stick to the inside of the bottle?
  • Why do we say that an alarm clock is going off when really it's coming on?
  • Why is it that if someone yells, "Duck!" they are helping you, but if they yell, "Chicken!" they are insulting you?
  • If the FBI breaks your door down do they have to pay for it?
  • Why do we say we're head over heels when we're happy? Isn't that the way we normally are?
  • If the Wicked Witch of the West melts in water... how did she ever bathe?
  • Why do sleeping pills have warning labels that state : 'Caution: May Cause Drowsiness'?
  • If there's a wheelchair-bound comedian, is their act still called "stand-up"?
  • Do deaf people who use sign language see little hands in their head when they think about what somebody said, or do they hear the words in their head?
  • Why is it that no matter what color bubble bath you use the bubbles are always white?
  • Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?
  • Why do they call someone "late" if they died early?
  • Why are red buttons always the most important?
  • How is chess considered a sport?
  • Why is it when you're sleeping it's called "drool," but when you're awake its called "spit"?
  • Why are tennis balls always fuzzy?

See what I mean? I've got a million persistent questions. But these are nothing compared to some others that really plague my mind. For example,

  • How is it that we persist in calling ourselves, "a Christian nation" when we have murdered over 45 million babies since January 22, 1973.

  • How did it happen that this "Christian nation" came to be the biggest producer and distributor of pornography on the planet?

  • Why is it wrong to shoot an abortion doctor but it's OK for him to murder hundreds of innocent babies in his clinic?

  • Why is it that we are left to choose the lesser of the evils in every blessed election, and can't seem to come up with even one candidate who has the guts to speak the truth about the direction this country is going and point out that our biggest problems are moral and spiritual, not economic and social?

  • How is it that so many "Christians" vote for people and party platforms that are totally at odds with the clear teachings of the Word of God and yet go to sleep at night with clear consciences?

These are the kind of persistent questions for which I seek answers. Unfortunately, I think I already know a lot of the answers, and it scares me to death. If God doesn't bring judgment against this nation He will need to offer His sincere apologies to Sodom and Gomorrah for what He did to them, because they weren't half as rotten as we are here in the good old U.S. of A.


Speaking of answers to questions... I promised you the answers to that word puzzle I put up yesterday, so here they are. Did you figure them all out?

A. 26 = L of the A [26 Letters of the Alphabet]
B. 9 (Oops, make that 8!) = P in the S S [8 Planets in the Solar System]
C. 1001 = A N [1,001 Arabian Nights]
D. 54 = C in a D (with the J) [54 Cards in a Deck (with the Joker)]
E. 1 = W on a U [1 Wheel on a Unicycle]
F. 11 = P on a F T [11 Players on a Football Team]
G. 2 = T and a P in a P T [2 Turtledoves and a Partridge in a Pear Tree]
H. 200 = D in M when you P G [200 Dollars in Monopoly when you Pass Go]
I. 3 = B M (s h t r) [3 Blind Mice (see how they run)]
J. 57 = H V [57 Heinz Varieties]
K. 64 = S on a C [64 Squares on a Chessboard]
L. 40 = D and N of the G F [40 Days and Nights of the Great Flood]
M. 4 = Q in a G [4 Quarts in a Gallon]
N. 13 = S on the A F [13 Stripes on the American Flag]
O. 12 = S of the Z [12 Signs of the Zodiac]
P. 32 = D at which W F [32 Degrees at which Water Freezes]
Q. 7 = W of the A W [7 Wonders of the Ancient World]
R. 18 = H on a G C [18 Holes on a Golf Course]
S. 90 = D in a R A [90 Degrees in a Right Angle]
T. 29 = D in F in a L Y [29 Days in February in a Leap Year]
U. 5 = D in a Z C [5 Digits in a Zip Code]
V. 1000 = W that a P is W [1,000 Words that a Picture is Worth]
W. 76 = T in the B P [76 Trombones in the Big Parade]
X. 1000000 = M I W for O O Y S [1,000,000 Miles I’d Walk for One Of Your Smiles]
Y. 4 = H of the A [4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse]
Z. 13 = D in a B D [13 Donuts in a Baker’s Dozen]

Still crazy after all these years,