Series 12


We Need to Get This

“Look Nicky, we need to get this,” nine year-old Justin pleaded. “Put that back,” Nicky grumped. Justin glanced down at the magazine he held in his hand. With one last convincing attempt, he said: “It says: faith.”

I don’t know if Justin has been to church enough times to really understand faith. But he knew it meant new life—maybe a miracle.

The Bible tells of a crippled man who spent years at the doors of the church begging. Apostle Peter came by one day and injected faith into this man’s hopeless life. And in a split second his life changed. The Bible says, “Faith in Jesus' name put this man . . . on his feet--yes, faith and nothing but faith put this man healed and whole right before your eyes.”  From a cripple, to a man “jumping and praising God.”

Justin’s fingertips sensed the glossy magazine paper, as if he was holding faith in his hands. The Bible says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.” 

Nicky, his older sister by a dozens years, almost yelling: “No, put it back!”

No big deal. He’s only a kid. Right? But, can we look at the beyond-the-apparent of Justin’s life?

His dad will be incarcerated at least a half dozen more years. In a few weeks his big sister will be in jail--again. While his mom works full time; her drug problem, seemingly managed, can sometimes roar back.

All hope vanished from Justin’s face, he turned a hundred and eighty degrees, shuffled three paces and plopped the magazine on the shelf. He put faith on the shelf. No miracle. No jumping. No praising God.

Justin, you are so right: “We need to get this.” Is faith at your fingertips? Grab it! “Faith is the substance . . .”


The Ride of Your Life

A right turn and it’s two blocks to Lake Michigan. Three bicycle riders, looking Tour de France ready opt to go left. Cruising past a small enclave of shops beckoning tourists to stop and spend, they find their Sunday morning destination—breakfast at an outdoor cafe.

Within whiffing distance of the cyclist’s breakfast, other people arrive at their Sunday morning destination--a traditional white steepled church. Inside Pastor Paul Schneider leads the congregation in its first chorus. “In the morning when I rise give me Jesus.  Give me Jesus . . . You can have all this world, give me Jesus.”

Me? I was inside the church that morning. Yet, seeing the bicycle riders; I was reminded of my Sunday mornings nine years prior. Then, a long bike ride and breakfast with friends was what the day was all about.

Now, attending church and worshiping God seems normal while the other option is extremely abnormal.

Radical life change is sometimes referred to as a “Damascus road experience.” This references the Apostle Paul’s conversion from Christian persecutor to ardent follower of Jesus. Traveling down the Damascus road intent on imprisoning Christians, suddenly a great light struck him, knocking him to the ground.

Lying on the ground he asked the same question I once asked: “Who are you Lord?”

You can hop on your bike every Sunday morning, ride beautiful roads with good companions and eat lots of great waffles. Yet, it’s almost guaranteed, you’ll someday wonder: “Is this all there is to life?”

You may say that I’m wrong, claiming ultimate satisfaction in non-God pursuits. That’s unfortunate. You’re missing the ride of your life.

My suggestion.

Ride your Damascus road. And may God bless you with a time of lying on the ground asking: “Who are you Lord?”


Roadmaster—Junk or Jewel?

There it was in the Autotrader. “1994 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon” with 66,061 miles and a price of $4400. Could this be the vehicle God was leading us to?

My wife Nancy and I made the 102 mile trek, praying once more for God’s guidance just before we pulled into the used car lot: “God, don’t let us do anything stupid.”

Before we even drove the Roadmaster my wife said with quiet disgust: “It has rust.” And I’m thinking, “This thing is cool.” I was envisioning this cavernous land cruiser hauling a bunch of kids. Sure it was beat up; but then they couldn’t hurt it. Plus the price, the low-mileage.

After a brief test ride it was time for the private husband-wife conference. Nancy noticed rust, sagging headliner, loose fog light, cracked windshield and what is that smell? I was listening as I thought: “God, this is the car, isn’t it?”

Nancy summed up her view: “This is the ugliest car I’ve ever seen.” And to me I saw its funky, functional character plus the engine ran strong. I loved the Roadmaster.

Decision time-- Roadmaster junk or jewel? We faced the same question the man who allowed Jesus to die on a cross asked: “What is truth?”

Jesus are You who You claim to be or are you a liar?  Jesus can’t be both a criminal deserving death and the Savior of the world at the same time. Junk or jewel?

Truth seeking led us to thumbs down on the Roadmaster. Hey there’s always another used car. There’s only one Jesus. And He said, “I am the way . . .” He continues: “. . . the truth and the life no one comes to the Father except through me.”

So is Jesus junk or jewel in your life? 


We Kill People

“So what are you doing this morning?” I asked my twelve year old cousin Timmy while talking on the phone. “We’re playing video games.”

I asked him which game he was playing. Being out of the video game loop, I couldn’t connect when he told me its title. “So is that the one where you race cars?” Timmy replied, “No, we kill people.”

“We kill people”--his words seemed so casual to him. Yet I couldn’t help verbally reacting with disapproval. Now I don’t know exactly what Jesus would think of Timmy’s video game. Of course I’m thinking He would find it offensive. I couldn’t imagine Jesus playing it.

Here is one reference Jesus made about killing, "Do not fear those who kill the body.”

Does this make sense?

From a challenging-to-perceive perspective, we must realize that Jesus considers physical death more of a life transition rather than an end. He went on to say: “but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body . . .” And big picture wise, Jesus was talking specifically about a person giving up their actual life for the cause of the Christian faith, being a martyr.

Jesus, this is blunt.

Die for my faith? With no fear?  O.K. give me a minute; let me put my going-to-church-smile on: “Yes, I can die for my faith in you Jesus.” I can give up my life.

Almost too easy to say. Here’s my life, but I know I’ve guarded my wallet valiantly. I don’t mind dieing; just don’t kill my personal time—I’ve got things to do. My life is Yours, as long as my public image stays intact.

“It’s pretend,” Timmy assured me when I questioned him about killing people.

God, please don’t let my relationship with Jesus be pretend.


I Thought I Was a Bum

“Jesus must like this store,” Harvey said. Looking around he could see people enjoying their shopping experience. The printed material at the store said: “Our Mission Statement: To demonstrate the love of Jesus by providing free clothing, Bibles, books, toys, and small household items to people in need. To provide these in an uplifting, clean, Christian store-like setting.”

The place is called The Free Store. Harvey’s eyes-of-Jesus observation is almost definitely right.

Harvey just wandered in to shop one day; now today he’s helping by hanging up used clothes. The lady who runs the store asked him about his statement. “You help bums,” Harvey replied.

The Free Store lady quickly assured him, “I don’t call the people bums.” Yet, she had misunderstood Harvey’s point. He’s only ten years old: “I thought I was a bum.”

So how did Harvey come to the conclusion that he was a bum? He wasn’t born thinking he was a bum. Did you tell him?

With Harvey’s many quirks, its pretty ease to imagine him at least as a miniature bum. Almost what the Bible categorizes as lowly. Lowly: Humble, meek; of or related to a low social or economical rank. The Bible says: “Though the LORD God is high, yet He gives respect, regard and attention to the lowly.”

It is too easy for me to mentally rank people on the “lowly scale” when I see them. Have I every non-verbally conveyed to anyone, child or adult, the message that they are bums?  Have you? When we do this, we are in danger of entering into another category—“the proud.”

The Bible verse above continues; “but the proud, God knows afar off.”  God help me; I don’t want to be far from you. God, I want to be close to you—like Harvey.