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I’m turning 60 years old this year.  I’m not sure how I got this old.  Just yesterday I was 45.  It seems like yesterday we moved to South Carolina.  Fourteen years later and it seems like yesterday the moving van pulled up.  It took some time.  Baltimore is no longer home.  Bluffton is home.  It helps when the grandkids live right around the corner. Such transitions take time.  I don’t know where the last 14 years have gone.  

Since I can now live in Sun City (I don’t), and I’m entering my sixties, I decided to write to the older generations.  Just today I got a chance to talk to a 21 year old.  He was so young.  My kids are in their late 30’s.  Having a chance to engage a kid was energizing for sure.  In many aspects his life is drastically different than my world.  He doesn’t know life without a cell phone.  I remember days we worried about the influence of television.  He doesn’t even watch it.  He watches his cell phone.  

Recently, I was in a meeting with two different generations.  One of the older men sat and listened for the entire hour.  He didn’t say a word.  As we left, one of the young guys referred to his silence.  He replied, “I’m listening and learning.”  What was he learning?  He was learning about the conflicts and challenges the young guys face.  He was learning there was a lot he did not know.  So he listened.

More and more, especially in the church, the older generation (Baby Boomers) are becoming detached from the technologically infused younger generations.  The detachment means the kids don’t call.  It means if the Boomers don’t engage the Internet, more than likely they won’t be in communication with their grandkids.  Last week I Face-Timed my mother who lives in West Virginia.  She found it amazing to see her youngest son some 650 miles away.  For the first time in a long time, she didn’t ask when we were going to stop by.  The technology might be scary for us old guys, but it’s quite amazing.  

We like to blame the younger generations for the detachment.  It’s not their fault.  It’s nobody’s fault.  Let’s be truthful.  It’s hard enough to maintain the relationships right in from of us much less keeping the long distance ones going.  Some of the detachment is distance.  We blame them for not staying in contact.  They blame us for moving away.  Meanwhile, we refuse to learn the new technology that can connect us with them on the other side of the world.  

On top of distance, there are the cultural influences that separate us.  I still hear the Boomers complaining about no prayer in school.  I hate to say it, but that bus left the station a long time ago, and it’s not coming back.  Today, my grandkids have to figure out transgenders, as well as the broken family unit.  Often they have to do so on their own.  

Meanwhile, our generation complains that the younger generation is selfish and egocentric.  We must be honest.  We are just as bad, if not worse.  When the Bible talks about thinking about others more than ourselves and we don’t apply it to our children and grandchildren, we are the selfish and narcissistic ones.  When we demand they respond to us when we played our part in the failed relationship, we violate the basics of Jesus’ words about loving our neighbor, which means laying down our life for their sake of our neighbor.  We fail to understand that our kids are Biblically defined as our neighbor.  We don’t know them.  It’s long over due to stop blaming anybody and start listening. Listening to learn and to know.

We are studying the Psalms on Sunday during the education hour.  I have been reminded that Psalms say a lot about generational relationships.  It doesn’t surprise me that our generation only knows Bible passages that point fingers at our kids.  Psalms 71 says we have a responsibility to proclaim the power of God and his marvelous deeds to the next generation.  Somehow, we replaced God.  We declare our deeds – we think we are the greatest generation.  No wonder they quit listening.  

 In Psalm 78 Asaph asks God to have their children set their hope in God and not be like their fathers who are a stubborn and rebellious generation whose heart was not faithful to God.  Faithfulness is not defined by church attendance.  It’s defined by loving God and loving others.  Anybody notice that Jesus loved others by listening first and responding second?

Psalm 145 repeats Psalm 71.  Instead of talking about us and pointing fingers at them we are to declare the work of our Lord. What is the work of the Lord?  He loved us.  With that love he moves us to love others not just ourselves.  

Maybe we exasperated our children (Ephesians 5).  There is only one act of love to redeem our relationships with our kids.  Ask for forgiveness.  By laying our lives down we will then be considered the greatest generation.  

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Americans like to fix things.  We struggle with the idea that something can’t be fixed.  When something reaches that state, if not before, we throw it away and go looking for a replacement.   

If we deem an item unfixable or, better yet, too expensive to fix, we throw it away.  I was told by a car sales manager that they design most sales campaigns for the desire to own the next model, not obsoleteness.  Few wait till their car is on it’s last legs to purchase their next car.  Not only are we bent on fixing things we can be quick to throw them away as well.

We like to think we don’t don’t function that way with people. When it’s people, there are issues that cannot be fixed. There is this group of men I meet with on Tuesday nights.  It’s called Pirate Monks.  Pirate Monks is for men who are struggling in life with anything at all to come and participate with our #1 goal in mind.  That goal is to speak honestly from the 1st person perspective.   

Every meeting we remind the participants to allow someone to get their words out, and we are not there to fix them.  We remind each other to only ask questions after someone speaks.  It doesn’t take long for the men to go down a rabbit hole.  The questions turn into statements.  The statements are directed to the “honest” participant in order to fix them.  We will deny it, but we really do value our own opinion.  

This past week I had to turn to one of the guys and state, “Ask a question!”  Eventually it all kicked in, and we began to ask good questions.  A good question is not for the speaker to gain information.  A really good question makes the responder think.  A great question will stick with someone a long time.  

Jesus asked great questions.     From time to time, those he asked questions to could not respond.  It wasn’t that they couldn’t.  The answer penetrated the heart.  In the old days we used to call it “meddlin.”  However, a good question from someone that loves us isn’t meddling but rather great love.  

Some of the hundreds of questions Jesus asked stick out.  He didn’t need the answer.  He needed others to see the answer.  Some that stand out to me include:

“Why do you doubt?”

“Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

“Where is your faith?”

“What are you looking for?”

“If I am telling  the truth, why do you not believe me?”

These are just a sampling of what I call “questions of the heart.”  My favorite is, “Who are you looking for?”  While this piercing question was directed at the soldiers who came to arrest him, it is a question we can ask every day.  We all seem to be looking for someone, not so much something.  We are looking for someone to love us, care for us, encourage us, validate us, and stay with us no matter what.  Oh, there are plenty of people that speak enticing words to us.  We get so easily seduced with words. When we get tired of empty words, we tend to resort to things to fill our yearnings.  The sense of peace doesn’t last long.   

I was reading a book the other day that revealed the first recorded words between God and man.  It was something I didn’t think about.  The question can be found in Genesis 3.  God asked, “Where are you?”  I have not been able to get that one out of my brain since.

God knew the answer.  Man was hiding from him.  God wasn’t waiting to hear the answer.  His question was for Adam and Eve to hear their own words.  From the beginning we see the amazing art of a good question.

As Christians we live in a world that is sick and tired of us telling them what they have to believe and what they have to do.  I can’t say I blame them at all.  We often expect others to live like Jesus, and, when they don’t, we act surprised.  Once, someone else reveals his or her issues, we think have to fix em.  Do this.  Do that.  All you need is my formula.  The list of fix-its go on forever, and we become god.

God didn’t show up in the garden and say, “I know where you are Adam.  Come on out and get what’s coming to you.”  Not at all.  He needed Adam to grasp the situation.  He wanted Adam to hear his own words.  It was Adam who needed to figure out where he was.  It was Adam in his relationship with God that had to say, “I’m afraid.  I’m naked.  I’m hiding.”  Ahh, the right question reveals the heart.  It’s the heart that needs change, not the behavior.

Next time your spouse is in a bad place, try a good question and don’t expect an answer.  Next time your kids got your blood boiling, ask a really good question and look out for the answer.  Next time a friend is running crazy, ask a great question and be prepared to walk that extra mile.  Till we learn to ask a good question, let’s try shutting up so we can hear their heart.  A little prayer seeking the right question goes a long way as well.

So, where are you?  What are you looking for?  Who are you looking for? 

This past week I traveled to Wake Forest, NC for training.  Honestly, I hate driving long distances.  It bores me to tears.  I used to like it.  Things change.  Anyway, as I drove up and down the road my mind began to race.  When it races anything is possible.  

I became transfixed on the idea that my trip resembles society.  Here I was driving past towns, through cities with all sorts of people around me.  I had a general idea where I was at all times.  There were places that stood out.  How can anyone miss South of The Border?  The billboards are so silly yet so funny.  I wonder how many of us have stopped just to check it out.  I bet it’s more than most want to admit.  

Driving up and down the road is no different than living in my neighborhood and even going to church.  We all whiz through our daily lives passing people on the left and on the right.  When we slow down a little bit, people pass us without looking back.  We know where we are.  We stop and look at things, especially those that get our attention ,just like South of the Border.  However, we seldom have the time to talk with anybody.  If we can’t talk with anyone, we don’t have the chance to know them.  They don’t get to know me either.

Just about every person I have counseled, including many teenagers, somewhere along the line talks about being lonely.  Some have more friends than anyone can count.  Some are involved in everything under the sun.  They run from one event to the other with little chance to catch their breath.  Surrounded by a great crowd, they declare loneliness.  How is this possible?  It’s very possible.  Being known and knowing someone is not a priority to anyone.  Yet it’s something that is a necessity for a healthy and intuitive life.  Left on our own is not a good place to be.  We grow when we engage others.  The biggest thing we grow in is grace and love.  They are attributes that need personal engagement.  

I can understand why hurt and discouraged people leave the church scene.  I don’t believe it is good, but I get it.  What good is time spent attending if the people are no different than those driving to the next event up I-95?  We see them.  We might even follow them for a while like I followed a driver for about 75 miles.  We were driving in tandem, following the same tract and going the same speed.  We acknowledged each other with a nod of the head and a slight wave at times.  But he got off an exit where I was not headed, and our relationship ended.  All we had was a nod and a wave.  

At church we are often in a hurry to get somewhere and only get a nod and a handshake.  I heard of a gentleman who was trying out a church his friend attended.  He liked the church and reported that it really was a nice place.  However, for 6 weeks he stood in the narthex or vestibule (hallway for non-church goers) and shook all sorts of hands.  In those 6 weeks nobody invited him to their house, out to lunch, or even to invite him to grab a donut and cup of coffee in the fellowship hall.  Like he said, “the church was friendly but not too warm.”  They were in a hurry to get to the next thing on the schedule.  Off the exit they went.

Jesus was constantly on the road.  He walked roads and crossed seas in boats.  As I look into the gospels, I see Jesus stopping to engage people.  Many were people that most avoided.  They were outcasts in their society.  Unclean and untouchable.  But Jesus stopped to engage them.  He asked them questions.  He touched their lives.  He knew their names, and he knew their story, and he still stopped.  

In today’s world I’m convinced more than ever the Children of God must purpose to stop and touch those God puts in their path.  Leave living like your home is in the fast lane of I-16 headed to Atlanta.  Those in our culture are done with the church that invites them in and leaves them to fend for themselves.  They’re also done with people who say they love, only to be abandoned.  

Too late in life I get it that the gospel is for the ones I used to avoid in life.  I get it now that the idea of Jesus to make me bigger and better is a false gospel.  John the Baptist had it right when he declared, “He must increase and I must decrease.”  It’s not our nature unless we stop and look to the one who laid his life down to engage us with his love.  

When we sinned, the first recorded words of God to man are found in the first book of the Bible, Genesis.  God asked a very interesting question.  He asked, “Where are you?”  That question is very applicable today.  Where are we?  We tend to be either head down, forward ho, or we have our heads up, looking to touch those in need with the love and grace of Jesus.  The person who needs our touch is probably right in front of us. 

Ask a really good mechanic what he values most in life and he should reply, “My toolbox.”  There is something about a mechanic and his toolbox.  Yes, the tools are important, but what we kept them in was more important.  Don’t mess with a mechanics toolbox.  Your life might be in danger if you do.

When I started out working in the family business (automotive repair), I purchased a red Snap-On box.  I could go home looking like I got run over by a car with leaks from every system, but my box, she was clean and polished.  Eventually, I traded my big red for a smaller black Snap-On toolbox with a wood top.  What does a mechanic do with his toolbox when he decides to hang it up?  He takes it home.  The two are inseparable.

We would leave our toolboxes unlocked at night.  Why?  If a thief broke in, they could have the tools.  Don’t pry open the box! That would be a disaster from which no one recovers.      

It made its way to South Carolina with me.  Eventually, it was time to let her go.  Since we don’t have basements on the coast and our garages are small, there was no room for Black Beauty.  Not only that, but I had no real use for the tools that graced her shelves.  

One by one, I sold the tools.  Now, if you own a Snap-On box you must have Snap-On tools.  There is a little room for some “other” ones, but not much.  It’s a man thing.  I loved Snap-On tools.  They fit my hands well.  Not only that but they carried a lifetime guarantee.  I have to admit, I do miss some of the tools at times.  Not that I would use them much.   I think it’s an ego thing.  

Eventually I auctioned Black Beauty.  I admit, it was hard.  If she could talk she could tell you all sorts of stories.  Maybe it’s best she couldn’t speak.  

Honestly, while a mechanic will judge his place in the shop by his toolbox, the value of a mechanic is in the tools.  Tools make the mechanic.  If you don’t have the right tools, nothing is going to get fixed.  There are some tools that only go with certain vehicles and certain models.  Crazy, isn’t it?  That’s why I decided to auction my beloved box.  It wasn’t worth having if it was empty.  

The center focal point of being a believer in Jesus Christ is grace.  Without God’s grace as expressed through Jesus Christ, it would be like having the toolbox with no tools.  As Jesus pours his grace out to us, we are called to pour grace out to others, especially the weak and underprivileged.  

As I, from time to time, think about Black Beauty and the wonderful tools she held, I have come to understand grace a lot more.  It came through my relationship with my dad.

Dad and I were in business together.  Personally, I don’t think that’s a good idea.  We didn’t have a bad relationship, but we didn’t have a good one either.  Being in business together brought out both of our weak points.  Dad and I struggled to be on the same page.

When father and son aren’t on the same page, the relationship gets strained.  Again, it wasn’t like we didn’t like each other.  We just kept our distance and worked more to avoid conflict than actually enjoy one another.  Dad wasn’t a big talker.  I was.  Over the years, I would hold on to some things I should have let go along time ago.

Eventually, as I was packing up my office getting ready to move to South Carolina, Dad, suddenly, without warning, appeared.  He asked if I had a few minutes.  “Sure,” I replied.  Our interaction didn’t take long.  Dad sat down in the lone chair, and with head slightly lowered and almost in a whisper, said, “John, I’ve come to say I’m sorry.”  He caught me off guard.  I was a bit of a jerk (and still am at times), so I asked, “Dad, what are you sorry for/”  wishing I could get details.  He looked up and honestly answered, “I’m not sure; all I know is I didn’t do things right with you.”  “Dad, you are forgiven.”  At that moment in time, I saw my dad in a different light.  Grace came alive.

Dad had a toolbox.  His tools were not my tools.  Too late in my life I realized Dad did the best job he could with the tools in his toolbox.  He was raised by a sheepish mother and one of the worst alcoholic fathers I have ever met.  He wasn’t raised in a Christian environment.  He didn’t have the tools for this model of son.  And for the first time, it was o.k.  

We all have a toolbox.  Sometimes, we, like the longtime mechanic, wrap our ego up in our toolbox.  We think we can fix anything.  Only, we don’t have the tools.  On top of that, some of those tools are broken.  Grace means realizing life isn’t about the size and make of our toolbox.  It isn’t about the tools in the toolbox.  It isn’t even about our ability to use the tools we have.  Grace is about realizing its o.k. even if we don’t have a toolbox and about not expecting someone to have the right tools.  Only Jesus had ‘em all.  

Seldom do I venture into mixing politics and faith.  Jesus separated the two.  He said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesars and give to God what is Gods.”  The two alone can become vicious between two debaters.  I imagine together they can bring death and destruction.  Today, I’m going to dip my toe in.

As our government roles deeper into the shutdown and the sides continue to play tit for tat, as a believer, I’m saddened.  Regardless of our views on welfare and political parties and border control, in the sad game are real people.  People who are at the mercy of powerful and often arrogant leaders on both sides of the issues at hand.  Who is going to care for those caught in the middle?

I was having this discussion with a friend who reminded me the employees will be paid once the shutdown is over.  I reminded him that many of those in these positions are pay check-to- pay check.  It won’t take long till mortgages and rents are missed, electric and water bills become critical, and credit cards become maxed out.  In the meantime those in authority play games with national audiences.

I don’t have the answers to immigration, and I don’t have the answers to the holes in everyone’s political platforms.  What I do know is people – white, black, yellow, young, old and still to be born, are trapped in a world where the weak are used as pawns for a perceived cause, and my Bible does speak about that!

In the Old Testament, God set out his people to be separate.  They were a holy people to be used by God for his holy intentions.  Their purity was important to God.  Along the way, they forgot the source of their purity.  Their purity was to be founded in listening to and following the words of God.  Instead, they took a few words (law) ,built power centers (Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes), and created a means to judge others instead of loving others.  

They forgot they were not to take advantage of the disadvantaged.  They missed the words about taking care of the alien and stranger in the land.  They disregarded the teaching about making a profit off the backs of the weak.  They were reprimanded but changed nothing when the prophet Micah said, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  Instead, the rich and the proud distorted justice, had little mercy and forgot God.  Sounds familiar. The Bible is relative to our world as it was to theirs.

When we, as a people, have little compassion for the weak, we have lost the heart of God.  Micah did say love justice.  It’s not about letting life become a free for all.  However, the three elements of what God requires are connected at the hip.  As I grow older, I discover they cannot be separated.  They are the heart of God.  

Psalm 41:1 says, “Blessed is the one who has regard for the weak!”  First of all notice the exclamation point.  It was used to emphasize an action of a believer.  The word used for regard is not a passing glance.  It was used to describe someone “who has the ability to know what to do and how.”  How do we develop the ability?  Micah answers that one.  He said, “…walk humbly with our God.”  

Jesus came from his position at the right hand of the Father and walked among us for 30 years, giving his very life to give us life and give us a mediator who knew us personally.  It’s an amazing feature about Christianity.  God with us!  His Holy Spirit makes that possible every day, no matter where we go.  Humility with God is recognizing he didn’t have to leave the throne and walk among us, much less die for us.  His justice demanded our death!  Instead of death, we are given mercy and He calls upon us to remember it (Lord’s supper) and be the touch of Jesus to the weak.  

It’s time we quit fighting about which party best fits the Christian faith.  We are not called to pick the least of two evils.  We are called to live separate of that.  It’s a life that considers “others better than ourselves” according to the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2.  Now we not only have a weak people (immigrants) dying to come to this land of prosperity, we have our own who will not be paid by the richest government in the world while the proud make their points.  It’s been this way for years (Regan amnesty) and won’t get fixed quickly.  

Where do we start?  Walk humbly with our God.  He is the only one that can melt the heart bent on judgment and destruction.  I’m going to say it!  Donald and Nancy, put your sticks down, walk humbly with Jesus, figure out how mercy and justice work together and don’t forget to take care of the alien as well as your own brother and sister.

He was on his knee declaring his love for her.  “I would do anything for you,” he declared.  Of course his plea was followed up with “I love you.  You know I do.”  He knew the words.  He knew her weak point.  She was caving and he knew it.

Of course his words were all lies.  He would not do anything.  He didn’t love her.  He loved himself.  He was lying to her.  Not only was he lying with his spoken words, he was lying by omission as well.  Only later when more information sneaked out behind the curtain of manipulation and deception would she realize its often not the words one says that are important.  It’s the words they don’t say.  

Our world is full of lies.  We often wonder what has happened to the younger generations.  What happened?  Just about every aspect of life lied to them.  Moms and Dads said their family was built on love, only to have it all crumble when one of them declares they want a divorce.  The politicians lie constantly, and we reelect the liars over and over again.  They declare what they are going to do and stand for, only to compromise when money, ego, and reputation stand in the way.  Education not only has failed; it has lied as well.  “Get a college degree,” they claim, only to find out four years later their major was obsolete.  

Recently, I have run into 3 college graduates, all whom I encouraged to get a college degree.  They were working low paying jobs, hating life, and wondering where they went wrong.  A college degree did nothing for them. The market was saturated within their field.  All they are told is “Good luck.”  

Parents have lied.  The government lied.  The schools lied.  The only thing left is the church.  With sadness in my heart, I must admit, “We lied too.”  

Right now I’m reading a book titled, Ten Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe by Larry Osborne.  He did an excellent job explaining the 10 points.  He was right.  We believe things we were taught to be true.  Open the Bible.  Study it (just don’t read it). It won’t take extremely long to find the 10 points.  Basically, we lied to sell a happy Jesus to a culture that doesn’t want a Jesus who says things that are tough to swallow at times.  We also put man in the center of our circle instead of Jesus.  When we do that, it is easy to manipulate the meaning of certain Scripture to be what we want it to be instead of becoming the people God wants us to be.  It doesn’t take much.  

On a missions trip, we became engaged with some Muslims.  Nobody pulled out a gun.  We had very meaningful interactions.  I was actually asked to convert to Islam.  The reasoning; “We believe in the same God,” the learned man declared.  “Instead of us becoming a Christian, you become a Muslim,” made sense to him.  As we debated his statement, one thing became clear.  He knew the Bible better than 95% of Christians I know.  Of course, if basically all we do is have a 5 minute devotional and attend on Sunday mornings for the preachers sermon, we are not going to “know” the Bible.  Truthfully, I’m not sure many can catch when a preacher drifts off of Biblical truth at any given time.  It’s easy to sway the unlearned.  Just ask the politicians; they are experts.  

A friend once said in a group meeting he feared that he has been lied to as a believer.  I didn’t have the heart to declare he probably has been.  The lie I bought hook, line and sinker was the idea that if I believe in Jesus, everything comes out o.k.  I’ve heard it preached.  I’ve been taught it.  Just obey and watch your life get better.  Tow the line, and, how does that one song go, …”everything will be o.k.”  Not true at all.  

Some days I wonder what has made me stay in the faith.  Why don’t I get out of church work and go back in the business world?  For some reason I can’t.  

Belief in Jesus is not about what I get.  It’s not about having hell insurance.  It’s not about quoting misapplied and out of context Bible verses to give me or anyone else hope.  Belief in Jesus as the Son of God is based on it being true.  That is the bottom line.  

It is the issue that was common through out the gospels.  Everyone loved the good and cool things Jesus did and said.  Till he declared, “I and the Father are one.”  They ran for the hills and crucified him.  Little did they know he would rise again.  Is this true?  If it isn’t ,anyone declaring Christ has been lied to once again.

Is it true?  Only you can answer that one.  If it is true, it’s a life changer.  Literally.  A friend of mine who never read the Bible was given one in college.  He was encouraged to read the book of John.  He did.  His roommate asked him what he thought.  He replied, “If this is true, I’m screwed.”  Well, he wasn’t, as he determined under careful analysis that indeed the declarations and work of Jesus were true.  Hold on to that one.  It’s all we need.  Don’t worry about changing your life; it will.  Jesus declared it, and it is true.  Now read the Bible with Jesus as your lens, not man.  It makes a lot of sense that way.

Here I was all gung-ho ready to go into 2019.  Conquer the world was #1 priority.  Change was in the air.  I was ready to hit the ground running.  Till yesterday!  It’s amazing how a little bit of illness and tiredness can knock the stuffing right out of us.  My wife asked me what was wrong with me.  I grouchily replied, “Nothing is necessarily wrong, but nothing is necessarily right either.”  I just felt bad.  

On top of feeling a bit under the weather, I made a commitment that forced me to rise at the wonderful 4:00 a.m. hour.  Did you know the sun is nowhere near being up at that hour?  It is the hour the deer decide the flowers in your garden are better than the delicacies in the woods.  So now, I’m dogged tired and feeling about 70%.  Conquer the world?  Forget it; the world won.  Change in the air?  No possible way am I dealing with change today.  Hit the ground running?  Crawling would be a better description.  Gung-ho ready to go?  Gung-ho ready to stay in bed!  Can you relate?  

I come across a lot of people who think faith means we believe in God but are going to focus on man.  You know the old saying, “God helps those who help themselves.”  Sorry to disappoint ,but it isn’t in the Bible.  I’ve also heard the one, “Give God your best; he demands it.”  Again, it’s not there.  Jesus never said it.  There is a reference in Malachi about giving God the side dishes instead of the best ones, but, in the end, it’s open to a matter of interpretation.  He desires the best, but he doesn’t demand it.  He would never demand I run the 100 yard dash in under 10 seconds.  Why?  I can’t.  I can’t even using Philippians 4:13 as my motivation.  It reads, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Again, open to interpretation.  I rest that Jesus knows we are limited.

That’s my point today.  We are limited.  Just a little bug and lack of sleep can throw off the best of us.  I haven’t even mentioned chronic conditions that can take the edge off of us one little bit.  What is it about our human nature that makes us think we can be Super Christian?  Sermon after sermon tells me I’ve got something wrong.  Jesus saves me, and now it’s up to me to get everything right.  No kidding, and you have to be kidding.  

I don’t believe in Jesus just to make a bad day good.  I don’t believe Jesus expects me to do some things I really can’t.  I believe in Jesus because I know I can’t.  I can’t get it all right.  Some days I don’t get much right at all.  I believe in Jesus because he came to take my place because there is no way I’m going to come close to heaven.

I used to talk about a person being a paper width away from God; they still are not capable of being with God.  I’ve now lived long enough to know even on our best days no one on this earth even comes a paper width away from God.  Nobody! 

That’s the whole idea about faith.  Faith boils down to three positions.  If you think today’s article is a downer, position #1 is worse.  The first option says there is no God and man has to make the best of it.  Ummm, that one hasn’t worked since man could communicate, so I don’t think we will ever make it.  

Option #2 is there is a God, but he only takes the good ones.  That might make some sense but where can we find the definition of “good.”  There isn’t one.  For those that make a list, it’s not a list of things that make you good, but rather a list of what makes one bad.  So, maybe God takes those who are somewhat good.  Who determines that one?  Which list of goodness?  For eternity at stake, this one is way too arbitrary.

Option 3 is the foundation of belief in Christ.  I can’t.  I have no chance.  If I can’t, I have to depend on something or someone else.  No different than when I get sick and cannot seem to get well.  I go to a doctor.  Why?  He knows how to make me well.  In this option, we put our trust in Jesus.  That’s it.  No additions.  No subtractions.  The Scripture says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.”  Trust.  Believe.  Follow.  And on days you can’t follow, don’t lose heart.  He died for those days too.  In fact, those are every day.  

So I don’t feel too good; I’m tired and grouchy.  No worry and no fear.  I don’t rest on my ability to have a good day.  I rest in Jesus who invites the sick, the tired and grouchy to come to him.  What did he promise?  Rest.  Rest from trying to make it on my own.  Got to go.  A nap is calling me.

 

Last week I introduced the concept of being a healing Christian, ministry and church. Since my buddy Dwayne informed me he wanted to “heal” in 2019, “healing” has been coming up over and over again.

Remember, I’m not talking about physical healing.  It is more of a healing that comes from the inside out.  With that in mind, Jesus didn’t separate the body, mind and soul.  He actually kept the three together since they are so vitally linked together.  Let’s face it.  If the body hurts, our mind and soul will hurt.   If our mind is constantly depressed or preoccupied, our body and soul will suffer.  If our soul is sour what makes us think the other two won’t be?  Jesus kept the three together since we are such a delicate creation.  

We do not believe in Jesus to get an easy life.  If that were sound theology, then the poor apostles were given a bum deal.  They all died a horrible death except for John.  Even with John, it is believed he was placed in boiling water and later exiled to the island of Patmos.  At that time there were no resorts on the island.  It was a hard life.  

Paul, the apostle, in Second Corinthians says we suffer so we can minister to fellow sufferers.  Our world says we should not have to suffer.  They are wrong.  This world is suffering.  I have yet to meet anyone who has not had to suffer real pain in this life.  There is the pain of broken bones and surgery.  The pain that sears the soul is broken relationships, betrayal, abandonment and lies.  Best friends can be the worst friends.  Family pain is brutal.  Our bones will heal.  Our bodies will mend.  But our minds and souls hurt for a lifetime.

Recently, I came across a lady who though no fault of her own experienced the death of a child.  While functional, she could not get the feelings of guilt and failure out of her heart.  She will probably die a broken person.  Now here is where we have to take a hard look.  What is faith in Christ at this point?

Some will say the broken lady does not have enough faith.  Some might say she has a false impression of who Jesus really is.  Others might say she never had faith.  I talked to her.  Without question she believed and believes in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So, what is the problem?  Does she not pray enough?  No, she prays daily.  Does she not read the Bible?  Nope, she does.  Did she quit on the church?  Every Sunday she is there.  So, what’s the problem?  She is a human being, just like you and me.

Sunday is not a day to put on a front like we have it all together.  Quite the opposite.  It should be a place where broken people can come and find their hope and healing in Jesus.  It is a healing that takes a lifetime.  

This gets us down to what it means to be a soul healer.  First and foremost we must embrace the human condition.  It has been a long time since I have come across anyone that doesn’t have a sense that we are broken.  I once had an on going conversation with a psychology teacher.  In the middle, he asked if I was a Christian.  Of course I responded in the affirmative.  I asked him how he figured it out.  He replied, “You know something is broken, and we have not come up with the solution.”  I asked him if he could give an answer to the human sin issue.  He replied, “No, and all our science fails to answer it as well.”  Of course it does.  What’s broke is broke.  

I don’t have to point out brokenness when someone comes for counsel as a believer or a non-believer.  Moral goodness is relative.  When brought under the microscope of God’s holiness, we are in big trouble.  We know it.  Our own arrogance doesn’t want to acknowledge it especially in this critical culture.  

While it seems like a hopeless condition there is healing.  It isn’t healing that takes away the pain or the memory.  Not at all.  Actually pain is a great reminder of the need.  That’s the problem with great prosperity.  We can insulate ourselves from brokenness to some extent.  It causes us to avoid the truth.  Once realized, the healing is the ability to get up the next day and find a new normal.  

Jesus never promised the same old, same old.  No, the gospel says there is a new beginning.  We take with us the scars and yet-to-be-fixed brokenness and find a new normal based on the hope and the truth that God allowed us to suffer to bring healing to someone else.  In the meantime, we can get out of bed the next morning since we are in the hands of the Lord Jesus who gave us the example of suffering to bring healing.

How do we get out of bed?  Dependent upon grace that God has already granted us and the grace we turn around and give to fellow sufferers.  A healing church allows God to do what God does instead of rescuing the hurting and becoming their little “s” savior.  To do that involves truly walking in the Spirit.  Love the unlovable.  Have joy in the rain and the sun.  Be peace among the chaos.   Exercise patience. Practice meekness to conquer the self-serving pride.  Be kind.  A gentle touch heals a bitter wound.  Encourage self-control for the hurting,  as they tend to hurt others in their suffering.    

To heal we rest on God’s path and timing.  In the meantime, let’s walk together.  My name’s John.  What’s yours?  I have a story and I would love to hear yours. 

Here I sit on December 26th wondering if Christmas can speed by any faster than it did this year.  We even notched it back a few degrees from years past.  I have a hard time believing there are 24 hours in every day of the year.  Maybe, just maybe we lose a few after Thanksgiving.  We can request a federal grant to study that one.  I think about a million dollars would make the study feasible.  I could use some research assistants.  

Anyway, now that I’ve woken up from the Christmas hangover (I didn’t imbibe in the occasional spirits), I turn my attention to New Years.  The time of year we make resolutions, over 80% if which will be broken by February 1st.  That’s because most of them have to do with our diet.  A diet is not successful unless it is a lifestyle change.  Who wants to change their lifestyle?  I didn’t think so.  So, we say goodbye to 2018 and hello to 2019.

I hope 2019 is as good as 2018 was.  Seriously, I personally had a decent 2018.  The first thing I did was get my life under control.  I turned a 55-hour a week work schedule down to about 48.  Not bad!  I’m generally out only one night of the week.  That is down from three.  Amazingly, I enjoy life a bit more now and I have more time for family as well as reading books.  Not bad at all!

The second thing was I adopted a dog.  I knew he was going to be a lot of work.  Half lab and half hound makes an interesting combination.  He looks like a lab and acts like a hound.  Did you know hounds are hard headed?  Just like me! He has forced me to make changes that have been very good.  I get up at 5:00 every morning now. It has improved my prayer life.  Walking a dog at 5:45 a.m. for 1.3 miles a trip gives me plenty of time to ask God if I am crazy or not.  Somedays He reminds me that, indeed, I am crazy, and it’s the nature of man.  It’s then I ask for help and a lot of it.  

The dog, Vader (yes, after Darth Vader), has forced me to address my weight.  I have lost 27 pounds since he came into my life.  A lengthly dog walk twice a day has helped.  I have also cut back on my sugar intake and red meat intake.  The last change that my wife and I decided to work on not eating heavy late meals.  I’ve got a ways to go (I would love to lose another 22 pounds), but overall I feel better.   

I’ve also been able to spend a lot of time watching my grandchildren.  They keep me young.  We like to call our time together, “Poppie Adventures.”  It’s fun!  There will be a day they will not want me around.  So…I’ll take advantage of the time they give me now.  We discovered rock painting in 2018.  We paint rocks and hide them around the neighborhood and around town.  You can find pictures of them on the Bluffton Rocks Facebook page.  We like to bring smiles to other’s faces, and a little joy to their lives. 

As I sit and think about 2019, I’m thinking about what kind of person I want to be heading into the new year.  I’m sure my 2018 adventures won’t be topped even though I need to get back into the kayak now that my knees are feeling much better.  So, my thoughts are about what God wants of me in 2019.

I was talking to my dear friend Dwayne from Maryland about this while he visited right before the holidays.  We were actually talking about the modern day church and how to reach the next generation for Jesus.  We like to philosophize around topics like this.  As he got up toward the end of the conversation he happened to say, “I don’t really care what happens, I just need to heal.”  It was like God was speaking!   Literally!  

I enthusiastically told him he had given me my mission for 2019.  Not only was it my personal mission I want it to define my ministry and my church.  The calling is to be a person, a ministry and a church of healing.  I don’t mean physical healing.  I mean relational and emotional healing.  We look at all the physical healing Jesus performed and miss the point.  Those Jesus touched physically were emotionally and relationally scared.  In their judgment filled world if they had a defect they were outcast and often declared “UNCLEAN.”  When Jesus healed them, he restored them to their community.  I wish I had a whole page to write about this.  You will get bits and pieces of it all year long.

What does it mean to be a healing person and ministry?  I’m not sure yet.  I asked Dwayne what a healing church would look like to him.  He said, “I haven’t experienced one so I don’t know.”  We are going to talk on January 1st about being a healing church.  Before a healing church I have to be healing person.  

I know one thing.  Grace, God’s grace, has to be the driving force to be a participant in emotional, relational and spiritual (I added one) healing.  It starts with grace and ends with great grace.  I just got to figure out what is in-between.  Anybody want to come along?

Don’t look now but Christmas Day is looming.  Right about now, we realize we forgot someone on the gift list.  It’s also possible we received a Christmas card from someone we left off our list.  For younger readers Christmas card lists used to reach into the hundreds.  Now we hope to get a mention on Facebook.

The world will begin to close down around noon tomorrow.  In a few hours we can begin to slow down.  We can begin to focus on “peace on earth, goodwill to man.”  Yes, there are toys that need to be put together.  If I may give a hint, since I’m now in the grandfather stage, don’t kill yourself putting them together the night before.  There will be plenty of time later.  Putting toys together after Christmas extends the day.  Instead, enjoy your family and focus on the importance of this one day.

This one day is so much more important than a manger scene, three kings, a baby, a star and much more.   It is the day we set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  I can’t help but remember the scene from Talladega Nights when Ricky Bobby says grace to the baby Jesus.  It borders on sacrilegious for sure.  The satire points out the truth written by Michael Kruger when he says, “Sometimes our picture of scriptural stories is shaped more by popular perceptions and modern retellings than by the text itself.”  Often we look at Christmas by focusing on the story line and miss the deeper truth of Christmas.

It is the day that God became personal.  I didn’t spell it wrong.  Yes, God became a person.  More than that truth, the concept of God went from a bit of a  mystic concept to a personal God leaving us with no excuses.  We can’t leave the baby in the manger.  It’s sweet for sure.  But God can now be defined in a personal, human sense.

The idea of a personal God is very important.  Many will talk about God from a distant perspective.  But when the name of Jesus comes up, it is amazing how it makes people squirm.  Why?  Jesus connected man to God and God to man.  It is somewhat easy to leave a belief in God somewhat up in the air, since, God is not embraceable.  But Jesus, that’s a different story.  The beauty of the story isn’t that we can embrace Jesus.  It’s that he embraces us.  

He invades our world.  He doesn’t just show up in the little town of Bethlehem.  He appears bringing God into understandable measure.  Man would never be the same again.  

Kings fear.  Wise men trail long distances to find him.  Shepherds are invited to the appearance bringing the marginalized into fellowship with God.  It gets better.  The lame will walk.   The blind will see.  Demons know him and fear.  Lepers become whole.  Gentiles are adopted.   Storms are calmed.  The dead walk.  Women are elevated and respected.  Cultural boundaries are erased.  The guilty are forgiven.  Hope is restored.  Grace abounds.  Love prevails.  Mercy is granted.  Jesus is here!  

What did we do?  Killed him.  Those who cannot move past the baby in the manger can only depend upon man himself.  The self-righteous stay on the outside looking in.  Instead of humility, their pride keeps them from the embrace of a personal God.  

As the baby became a man of whom John the Baptist said, “He must increase and I must decrease,” the grave could not contain the personal God.  The resurrection guarantees the truth that this child is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and came proclaiming, “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Man.”  

The God who we struggled to get our minds around had embraced his fallen creation and came in the form of a human baby.  We can now relate.  We can now communicate.  We can now have a relationship.  There is no magical prayer mentioned in the Bible.  There is no special action.  All Jesus would ask is “Do you believe?”  Do you believe that Jesus, the Son of God, is the way, the truth, and the life for man or woman no matter their past?  

Honestly, it was not a silent night at all.  It was a thunderous night.  God has come and now we can relate to him as never before.  The world would never be the same again.  “Joy to the World, the Lord has come.”  It ain’t no baby.  It’s God!