Archive for August, 2019


As I walked the dog this morning, I realized it was trash day.  Even if I were blind, I would know it was trash day.  The smell was obvious.  Did you know there is a local company that will contract with you to clean your trashcan?  You heard it here first.  If you keep your trashcan in the garage, you might want to give them a call.  

As we walked, it was interesting to observe the trash.  Before you laugh too hard, remember my brain is not wired in the normal way.  Usually I talk with Jesus as I walk the dog at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m.  Today, trash had my attention.  You can learn a lot about people by looking at their trash.  It makes sense that law enforcement looks into the trash.  It’s loaded.  Literally.  Is this making you paranoid?  I hope not.

As I observed the rubbish in my neighborhood, I can tell you who has a healthy, or should I say unhealthy, intake of alcohol.  I can find the smokers.  If we pause long enough, we can tell diets and other habits as well.  It is getting easier to tell the choice of soap or shampoo as well.  It’s not buried in the bags.  The plastic bottles are sitting on top in the recycle bin.  

If the average home has 1.5 bags of trash per person per week (I read that somewhere; just don’t ask where), it would be easy to figure out how many people are living in each house.  Some of the cans are so full each week, forget getting the lid down.  

One thing for sure is we create a lot of garbage.  It is hard to fathom the amount of garbage the entire town of Bluffton creates in one week.  I’m just talking normal bags of trash. Oh, by the way, if I was a thief, I would be able to pinpoint the homes that have new televisions, computers, and sound systems.  Add the “extra” garbage, and our little town creates mountains of trash.  

The Bible talks trash.  It really does.  I feel bad for most of the Bible heroes.  Their trash is out there for generations to observe.  It smells bad too.  Adam and Eve get slammed for being the founding couple for the ultimate trash.  They had to feel horrible as they were escorted out of the garden into a world defined by its smelly refuse.  

David had plenty of family filth.  How would you like to be known as the man after God’s own heart, who first pursued another man’s wife and had him killed?  We will give him credit for killing Goliath, but, then again, as a father, his family comes completely apart.  David is just one of the many men and women whose rubbish defined them.  

I don’t need to go through the list.  It’s pretty ugly.  I realized the other day as I was preparing the topic for our new Saturday night “Come As You Are” service that every person in the Bible that Jesus engages is a representation of me (all of us actually) at many levels.  I’m a leper.  I’m the adulterous woman.  I’m a Pharisee.  I’m the blind guy.  I’m the paralyzed man who needed friends in order to be touched by Jesus.  Every person is a representation of humanity.  The worst one to be is the rich man who wouldn’t sell his possessions to follow Jesus.  I’m him at times.  What makes that one so hard is Jesus said that we can’t serve two masters.  His word use hits this world hard, when he says we love the one and hate the other.  The other night as I conversed with some faithful friends, one of the guys said he hates it when he is hostile towards Jesus.  My first response was “I’m not hostile towards God.  How can he say that?”  But I am hostile at God when I choose to serve this world.  My trash is stinking bad.  

I had to sort out my hostility for a few days.  Makes trash day look good ,doesn’t it?  Just like our physical life, we all have trash.  It’s funny, actually, that we show up on Sunday acting like we don’t have any.  I don’t know about you, but my trash-can tends to be full and overflowing, and boy does it smell.  That company would have to come to my life every day to clean my can it’s so stinky.  

I am reminded that my cleaner does come every day.  In fact, he never leaves me.  Jesus doesn’t look at my trash.  He’s already taken care of it.  I used to wonder why he asked us to confess our sins when he already knows.  It’s not for him.  It’s for us.  It reminds us how amazing his grace really is.  That’s my hope.  That’s my faith that gives me great confidence that no matter how full and stinky my trash can, my Lord Jesus has it covered.  I love the old hymn when it says, “What can wash away my sins?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”  He doesn’t clean my outward container.  He covers my wicked heart.  No need to recycle.  It’s been taken care of.

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I love the “Secret Lives of Pets” movies. Illumination Entertainment produced this animated speciality.  They must have put a lot of effort into learning the movements of different pets.  I often wondered what my dog was doing when I was away.  So, I got one of those spy cams.  He does not have a secret life.  He sleeps.  

Our world is getting more and more revealed.  There are driving cams everywhere.  I would tell you some secrets about the cams and what they can do but, I am sworn to secrecy.  I can tell you that they are everywhere.

Any wise businessman will have a video security system.  Just this week, a local business was robbed and then broken into a few days later.  It’s all on video.  Many owners have installed video cams to catch their own employees in the act.  Whenever you go shopping, smile.  You are on candid camera.  

I’ve actually heard of people who video their journeys in the car.  I recently saw a bicyclist with a video recorder on the top of his helmet.  I had the opportunity to ask him about it.  He replied, “I was run over once.  I will not be run over again without video evidence.”  I thought he might have it to record the beauty around him.  Who ever would have thought such?

It doesn’t stop there.  Our cell phones may be one of the best recording devices we will ever own.  Not much goes on that is not recorded by someone, somewhere.  We no longer have to carry heavy equipment.  It’s now in the palm of our hands.  My grandkids use it a lot.  I would, only it does not cross my mind to video things like most do today.  

Our church staff has been talking about live streaming the sermon.  It is not uncommon for a church to do so.  In a sense, you can see the church before you have to be the church.  I probably got that one turned around.  One can be the church before they have to see the church is probably more of a Biblical truth.  It’s no different than keeping an eye on the traffic cams, the baby cam, the doggie cam, and any other cam you can come up with other than Cam Newton.  

One would think with all the video feeds, security cameras, and cell phones our crime rate would drop.  It doesn’t.  It’s like we are not paying any attention that someone is watching.  Red light tickets from traffic cams keep coming.  Recently, a local restaurant was held up and broken into a few days later.  It’s clear the individual knew there was a camera.  He hid his face.  Cameras seem to be for the good people.  

I was reading in Revelation the other day.  It’s like we are on a life cam.  It says in chapter 20 that everyone is going to be judged according to what they had done.  Everybody!  If everything is a heart issue it is probably going to be more than a video cam.  It’s going to display our thoughts and motives as well.  I hope everybody is taking a nap when it’s my turn.  I wonder if the volume can be turned down.  On the other hand, it might be some good entertainment.  Here’s John trying to be a good boy.  Everybody will be laughing for sure.  It will be ugly.  

I think it’s amazing how many people think they will get into heaven because they are good enough.  When those videos are shown, I don’t think anyone will be thinking they are good enough.  Since the Bible says perfection is the only standard, I’ll bet every penny I have that those videos will show how woefully short we all fall.  

There will be an editor for the believers.  According to the next few verses, there is only one thing that edits the ending.  Is your name written in the Book of Life?  The only way it gets there is to follow Jesus.  Our editor will have scars in his hands, feet, and probably on his brow from the crown of thorns.  His back will show the marks of the vile whipping.  However, his embrace will be all that is needed to set the record straight.  

I don’t know about you, but I do know my life video showing all my public and private life will show a need for a Redeemer.  The good news, the gospel, is that Redeemer lives.  I put my hope in Jesus, the Redeemer and editor of my life video.  According to the Scripture, all other ground is sinking sand.  

Even though it is the middle of summer and we have many more days to go till fall, there is change in the air.  The change has nothing to do with nature’s seasons.  The change is for the modern day church ,and it has nothing to do with the type of music sung or which version of the Bible is used on Sunday.  Its cultural change, and it’s coming fast.

Unless you have paid no attention to the news and live in a cave, we should be aware that our culture is not changing but rather has changed.  News flash!  There is more change in the air, and we are not going to like it.  

It is a fact that the voting base will shift to the younger generations in the next election. The baby boomer generation, which is the most conservative and “Christian” of the existing generations, will lose its political clout.  Let me rephrase that.  It has lost it.  There are more people of age that we would classify as “millennial” who can vote than baby-boomers.  As the Eagles sang in 2007, “It’s Your World Now.”  Honestly, we of the baby-boomer generation don’t like it and are scared about it.  

I’m not so sure we are scared for gospel reasons.  I personally think we are scared for life-style reasons.  That’s a discussion for another day.  It will probably have gospel implications.  I’m not being a prophet, but these are some changes in the next era we will probably see, barring a revival unparalleled in our history.  Again, I don’t think they are all that bad.  It all depends on how one looks at them.

One of the first changes coming will be the loss of tax exempt status and possible taxation on certain things we never dreamed would be taxed in the church.  It doesn’t even have to be due to religious reasons.  Our government is running out of money.  If there is a pot of gold out there somewhere, they will get it one day.  It has already happened to a certain extent.  By raising the exemption level so high, fewer “givers” are able to claim their gifts and tithes as a tax exemption.  It’s only the beginning.  

As I said before, that’s ok.  We will be called to give our gifts and tithes by God’s calling not the tax deduction.  If the government taxes our properties for the right of holding religious services, then we will find out where our hearts lie.  That happens often throughout the Bible.  Look up the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5.  Their heart was not with God but rather how they looked before man.  Everything really is a heart issue even if we don’t realize it.  Giving our offering is a heart issues as well even when we don’t get a tax deduction.    

I do believe a day is coming when bi-vocational pastors will be the norm instead of the oddity.  Most churches in America are small in size.  There are more pastors serving in churches under 200 than in those over 200 in attendance.  With the financial situation and the already aging of American congregations, along with the decrease in attendance by the younger generations, there will be fewer and fewer churches able to support the pastor much less have a paid staff.  If these churches want to continue, they will have to sort out the issues that will arise with a bi-vocational pastor in place.

Again, that’s ok.  I see two possible benefits.  Pastors might make better decisions since their main pay check is no longer dependent on keeping the members happy.  Along with that, members may realize they cannot replace the pastor they have so easily and therefore extend grace more than ever before.  

Along with bi-vocational pastors comes churches with less or no paid professional staff.  The burden of ministry will fall to the attenders.  Did I just hear local pastors say “Amen.”  All of this will probably put many things back in their right place.  Instead of putting on a show, we might just relate to one another.  Instead of depending on the youth pastor to show our kids the way, they will have to get it from us (of course they still do, we just don’t realize it).  Instead of being a busy church, we might become missional churches.  Paying less staff leaves more money for “the thirsty, the hungry, the naked, the sick, the stranger, the imprisoned.”  (Matthew 25).  See, it’s not all that bad.

The biggest change ahead is already happening.  It is not going to be popular to be a Christian ,much less a verbal Christian.  The shift has happened.  It happened when Generations X and Y (by the way, they are close to retirement now) walked out of the church instead of staying with their spiritual family.  Their children are growing up with very little God influence.  Therefore, it’s simple math.  It’s a spiritual war.  The apostle Paul said we are “wresting with principalities of the air,” meaning there is a constant war against the name of Jesus.  It’s coming fast.

That’s ok.  We don’t have to pay large sums of money to go on mission trips.  Our mission field lives right next door.  It is a great time to be a Christian when the lines get drawn.  It might hurt.  The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians about two graces given to us by Jesus.  One is the grace of salvation.  The second is the grace of suffering.  We all are aware that if something has great value we will suffer for it.  As far as I can tell, there is nothing more valuable than the name of Jesus.  

That is OK! 

We sat in the upper level section 3 every game that we attended.  The Baltimore Clippers (American Hockey League) were competitive and a constant force striving for the Calder Cup.  This particular year they had a shot at the cup.  I remember a stifling defense, a goalie who did not wear a mask (not mandatory at that time), and just enough offense to win close games.  For a ten-year-old boy it was hockey heaven.  

This particular game was right before the playoffs.  The place was sold out.  We had to sit in section 11 instead of 3.  It didn’t matter.  We were at the game.  Only things didn’t quite go as planned.  Here we were down by 3 with six minutes to go.  The defense was weak that night.  The offense was nonexistent.  

In order to beat the rush we headed for the exit.  This one was over.  Since we sat in different seats, the exit was much farther away.  As we headed for the lower level, the crowd broke into a sustained cheer.  A goal had been scored.  It was now 5 minutes to go and down by 2.  Had the tide turned?

There was a buzz in the crowd.  It could be felt in the hallways.  We decided to cross the stage to catch the #3 bus home.  As we hit the stage, the crowd burst into maddening exuberance.  With 2 minutes and 30 seconds left, we scored to only be down by 1.  Nobody sat in silence.  Everyone who was headed for the exits, including us stopped dead in our tracks.  Not only had the tide turned, the tsunami was overtaking the entire coliseum.  The Clippers were alive and so were their fans.  Enthusiasm reigned.  

I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it with my own eyes.  The entire place was electric.  The Clippers skated circles around the Hershey Bears.  The crowd was plain nuts.  They tied the score within seconds of the faceoff.  Maybe we could win in overtime.  We contemplated returning to our seats.  

No need.  With 35 seconds left on the clock, the Clippers had succeeded in tallying the winning goal.  That’s right! four goals in less than six minutes.  I have never experienced such a scene.  Electric enthusiasm was contagious.  Everybody yelled and screamed and jumped for joy.  The players were grinning from ear to ear.  Once the final horn sounded, the place almost collapsed due to the noise.  At least it seemed like it.  I can verify because I was standing on the stage.  The bad boy was vibrating.  

The electric wave proceeded out onto the streets and onto the waiting buses.  I don’t remember all the details, but as for me, I was a-buzz as I laid my head on the pillow that night.  Something had happened that few will ever see.  What was lost, was won!  

I’ve met a few people over the years who live in constant ecstasy.  There is something about life that they are tuned into that few find.  It doesn’t matter what’s going on; they seem to have that winning grin the Clippers had that night.  My father-in-law was one of those persons.  As my mother would say, “Come hell or high water he would still be dancing all night long.”  Trouble wasn’t a downer.  It was an opportunity.  

Now, 50 years later since I witnessed one of the most amazing comebacks in sports history (at least I think so), I sit in many religious meetings wondering what happened to the enthusiasm.  Stages are not vibrating.  We seem to have to purposely generate any excitement to make it look like we are happy.  Strike up the band.  Shout from the pulpit.  Do something to awaken the masses.  

We have come to believe that Jesus came to this earth.  As the Son of God, he walked with us and didn’t catch the next plane back.  He sacrificially bought us with his own blood as he was beaten and nailed to the cross of shame.  The only righteous one we murdered.  Instead of remaining in the grave, he conquered that as well, rising from the dead the third day and showing himself to a large amount of people.  He ascended into heaven, preparing to return for us, and, in the meantime sent his Holy Spirit to be with us at all times.  

Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds a lot more exciting than a come from behind victory by a minor league hockey team that is now defunct and has been for a long, long time.  So we come on Sunday with drudgery and solemness.  Not only was He who was dead alive, but by his sacrifice we as believers were once lost but now are found!  

Let the stage vibrate from our enthusiastic reply.  In Luke 15 Jesus talks about the celebrations in heaven when we who are lost are found.  So, where is the celebration?  Where is the enthusiasm?  Let’s not make for the exits.  That’s for those who think all is lost.  Our hope is not in our ability to score one for Jesus.  Our hope is in the one who beat death.  As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.  Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?”  It’s time to celebrate!  Party on! 

I turn 60 this week.  I have been told it’s all downhill from here.  I like downhill.  It’s those long walks up the hill to sled back down that are tiring.  It’s the slow climb to the top, the clickity-clacking sound the rollercoaster makes that drives me nuts.  That downhill ride is a blast.  I’m looking forward to the next 20 years if God is so willing to give me that many.  The ride should be a blast, and I don’t even plan on retiring anytime soon.  I can’t.  

I really don’t have a problem with age.  Some people freak out at certain birthdays that end in zero.  I have not had that problem at all.  My father retired around the age of sixty.  I watched him go from being a vibrant member of society to having the weather and history channel be the highlight of his day.  On the other hand, my father-in-law could not retire and worked a profitable life into his 80’s.  That’s how I desire to go out.  With my boots still on.  Let’s face it, there is only so much golf one can play to maintain happiness.  

I look at life as being in four twenty-year segments.  The first 20 years are the learning years.  Pretty much based on the path of the first 20 your life is set in a certain direction.  It might deviate to the left or right a little, but the die is cast.  

The second 20 years are the “years of change.”  We go from single to married.  We become parents.  Often in our world, many will change careers.  Usually this will occur in the “years of change.”  It’s during this time our income changes, and probably our housing will change a few times as well.  Few live in the same house anymore.  The change is so fast, it tends to eat us for lunch.  In today’s world, it’s worse than ever.  For those who can adjust, it works well.  For those who struggle with change, they will tend to be in the counselors office a lot or should be.  Those 20 years fly by.

The third set of 20’s tend to be the settling years.  It’s these years that empty nest sets in, and we get to have some of the life we thought it would be without kids.  Grandkids make life grand  if you get them in your 50’s.  I always say, “If I knew grandkids were this good, I would have skipped kids.”  In many respects I think I did skip kids.  Life was going so fast, I struggle to remember.  

From 40 to 60 we tend to settle into set patterns, set lifestyles, and set habits.  The only time it changes is if something goes really wrong.  We tend to stay in our jobs at this point even if we are not too fond of them.  Life can get quite boring in the settling years.  We go from chasing kids and playing softball to reading books and watching television.  I guess now we don’t so much watch television.  Instead we surf the Internet.  We end up with dogs and cats who take the place of our kids.  

So here I am entering the last 20 years.  Yes, I realize many are living beyond the age of eighty.  It’s not that I’m forgetting that fact.  I simply see the last twenty as twenty plus.  The only difference is it gets slower.  I am entering the wisdom years.

For many, it’s the age the torch is passed from our parents to us.  We lose them and wake up to find we are the ones the kids and others come to for advice.  Not only that, but, by this time, we are what-ever we are.  Few pick up new practices or habits at this point.  You can tell when you enter the wisdom years.  Conversations begin with “I remember when…”

The real difference in the wisdom years is we now know what works and doesn’t work.  We have tried different things, traveled many different paths, listened to just about everybody and deep down we now know.  Our words “I think” become “I know.”  The only problem we face is will anybody listen.  

In Biblical days, the wisdom years were respected.  There was value in experiences and life journeys.  In the church, we might call them “elders.”  It is not a position in my opinion of anyone below the wisdom years.  There was a reason God wanted older people in a place of spiritual care.  We should be not so much mellower but rather understand by now that the only thing that does work in our life’s relationships is God’s love and grace.  God only knows how many disappointments it takes one to learn this lesson.  

One reason I believe the older generation stopped being respected is we stopped learning.  The wisdom years don’t end learning.  We are always to be learning.  Why?  So our wisdom can be applied to the day at hand.  We should learn the new fangled technology.  We should read relevant material and listen to today’s music.  Why? You ask again.  It shows we care for the next generation more than than our own.  

There is a job to be done according to Psalm 78:4 – 6 that reads, “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done…so that the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born.”  Forget retirement.  We need to not just tell them.  We need to show them.