Tag Archive: Love


Sitting in the parking lot I was preparing for my next chaplain visit.  It takes time to build relationships when one serves as a chaplain.  One  stage in building relationships as a chaplain is hearing the  complaints.  Sometimes I don’t think I am a chaplain.  From time to time I think I’m the complaint department.  

Today I was walking into my first stop as a corporate chaplain.  Most of the employees I have known for years.  I can almost predict how the day will go, barring an emergency, death of a loved one, or somebody is about to get the dreaded pink slip.  Today was no different.  As I prayed before entering the front door, I asked Jesus to provide a means to change the day.  

As I entered the room, sure enough I heard the same complaints that flow every day and every week.  Management is dumber than a box of rocks.  Fellow employees are selfish.  Nobody understands, and, best yet, everybody is out to make their day miserable.  Of course somewhere mixed in the complaint department is the classic, “And they don’t pay me enough for this either” comment.  Today was the day it was time to turn the tables.

At first, I asked the loudest voice, “How long have you worked here?”  I knew he was a long- time employee and a long-time complainer.  “18 years,” he answered wondering where I was going to go with this.  “After working here for 18 years, I would have guessed you would have figured this out by now,” I replied without wavering.  My reply caught him off guard.  Suddenly, and I don’t know where it came from, I asked, “Instead of a complaint, tell me what you are thankful for today.”  He paused.  After a few seconds that seemed like hours, with a smile that I haven’t seen for some time, he answered, “My family.”  He turned and went to work.

The rest of the day,  to everyone I met, I explained that I had heard all the complaints that are possible in the workplace, and I wanted to know what they were thankful for.  Everyone answered with a smile.  A smile.  I encouraged everyone to work the rest of the day thankful.  I saw more smiles in one day than I have seen in a long time.

Complaining attitudes are infectious.  They infect our hearts, and infect those around us.  Our world is full of complaints.  It’s an attitude.  Everyone else is wrong.  When we are constantly complaining we don’t hear anyone else around us.  Often, there is a solution and a middle ground, but we can’t find it if we only want things our way.

Lately, I personally have eliminated the news media from my life.  It’s designed to promote complaining attitudes.  The Democrats blame the Republicans, and the Republicans fire back.  The various races want more, and it doesn’t matter what color we are.  Somehow we have forgotten we are all the same race…human.  In my world, husbands blame wives, and wives respond in kind.  Both blame the kids.  Employees never have anything nice to say about management, and management can’t find a good enough employee.  Customers are not always right.  Often they have no idea what they are talking about.   Complaining rules; love lays beaten on the floor.  

Recently, we started a Saturday night service called “Come As You Are.”  No need for a fake smile and deceptive attitude.  Come As You Are is more about our hearts; not our dress.  When we start the service, we begin with prayer.  We open it up to the audience, asking for prayers of thanksgiving.  I’m often surprised how hard it is for us to be thankful.  One person thought I was nuts when I thanked God for running water and flush toilets.  I’ve been in parts of this world without both.  I’m truly thankful.  

We offer prayers of thanks to put us in the mood to listen to a God who always provides, instead of having a bad attitude, expecting God to do things the way we want them done.  The apostle Paul said, “All things work together….”  To the Philippians who were undergoing persecution (beatings, torture rape and murder), Paul also wrote, “Whatever happens conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.”  Say what?  The gospel is one of forgiveness, grace, love and mercy.  Jesus didn’t give us a single out.  He said to “love our enemies.”  Hold on!  At one time I thought the gospel was just about getting to heaven.  

The gospel is not about heaven.  It’s about Jesus.  Jesus laid his life down so we could have life.  “Life abundantly,” Paul declared.  A complaining attitude sucks the life right out of a room.  It also sucks the life right out of those we say we love.  No wonder we are encouraged to “give thanks.”  It’s then we are reminded that there is more to life ,and it’s more than “me.”  

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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.

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. 

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!  

Here we go!  Thanksgiving has just passed and we are on our way to Christmas.  Not counting Christmas Day we are 29 days away.  That’s right…29 days.  I don’t know what is or is not a shopping day anymore.  I think they all are. 

I wish Thanksgiving could be more than one day.  It is our family’s favorite day of the year.  There is no pressure of gift giving or expected custom other than to be at the table when mom told us to be there.  No schedule other than the Dallas Cowboys game.  I’m not sure anyone was awake at 4:00 p.m.  That’s the joy of Thanksgiving.

We are going away for a few days.  With the grandkids we have tickets to go on the Polar Express Train.  It is inspired from the popular book by Chris Van Allsburg about a magical train ride on Christmas Eve.  I think it’s quite funny we are going on a train ride when Christmas is like a locomotive going full blast through our lives.  All Aboard! 

As the train called “Life” gets going we can get caught in the rush and miss so many and much around us.  Yes, it is a time for family and friends.  Yes, we buy a present to show our love or admiration.  We might do some special things for special people.  However, in the process we can get caught in the rat race of the holidays.  Sometimes it feels like the rats are winning.

Our lives are crazy enough without 3 back-to-back holidays.  I meet so many people who are working hard just to keep their nose above the water line.  I meet many fellow weary travelers on the exhausting road of life.  Now, with the season it gets ramped up.  I’m concerned we are over stimulated and some will break under the pressure.

As a chaplain for the Bluffton Police Department we are very much aware the holiday season can be rough.  Some have experienced loss and grieve their loved ones.  Others have serious  struggles and cannot relate to the “joy” of the season.  It leaves them feeling isolated and alone.  For a few the season propels them deeper into their depression and hopelessness as thoughts of suicide deceive them into grievous actions.

As we hustle and bustle though the season slow down a bit and look around.   There are plenty that not only need to hear of Jesus, they need to see him.

Consider:

  allowing someone to go ahead of you in the long lines

  asking a waitress how you can pray for her as you say grace

  saying “thank you” to everyone who fills our many needs

  actively forgive someone this season you hold blame against

  inviting someone to a meal or a cup of coffee

  being a bearer of peace in times of chaos

  do something out of the ordinary for someone in need

  baking an extra pie and give it away

  buying a few Walmart gift cards, stand out front and give them away to someone who 

looks like they are in need

  doing the outrageous

  making it a point to talk to people instead of walking by them every day

  giving double tips (I’m sure they could use it)

  being gracious, extending mercy and loving others including your enemy (Jesus   

didn’t give us an out)

The greatest gift you can give those around you is to slow down and enjoy them.  Even our kids have enough stimulation from outside sources.  They don’t need more.  They need us.  

There was a young man who I knew many years ago who at the ripe age of 15 was already wound around the axle.  We were walking in King’s Dominion and he was so bent on not being able to ride certain rides for the 3rd or 4th time.  I looked at him and with his parents around bellowed, “Dude, you need to slow down and smell the roses.”  I didn’t realize we were actually in an area with beautiful red roses everywhere.  

This holiday season, slow it down instead of speeding it up.  Say “No” to some parties.  How many do you need to go to anyway?  How many useless gifts litter our shelves?  Instead, make time to look someone in the eye and talk with them.  

Impart good tidings on them.   Let the hustle and bustle of consumerism be drowned out by the love, grace and mercy we can bestow on others as it has been given to us by the one we celebrate on December 25th.  

I appreciate it when someone asks me to write about a certain topic or event.  That takes the weekly guessing game out of the equation.  It also allows me to focus on one topic instead of rumbling around on several hoping one rises to the top.  

There is a men’s study/conversation group that meets on Friday mornings.  We generally open the Word and focus for a few minutes gaining insight from each other as to the Scripture’s application.  It’s an eclectic group.  Most are from different denominational backgrounds.  Nobody hijacks the meeting.  We all come from different backgrounds.  That leads to a discussion that usually has many turns and twists.  Some days, it’s quite challenging.  I don’t say that negatively.  It’s good to be challenged.  As we learn from Proverbs 27, “iron sharpens iron.”  

I was telling the guys a story from my youth ministry days.  We realized that very few of our students were touched, literally in a positive affirming manner.  Few were touched at all.  They lived isolated lives.  Mom’s and Dad’s have become so busy chasing the rabbit down the rabbit hole that kids were seldom spoken with, seldom encouraged and never affirmed with anything such as a hearty pat on the back.  

Often we would come across students who did not hear encouraging words.  They didn’t hear them because they were not spoken.  We heard story after story of homes where parents only spoke when they were disciplining.  From time to time they only touched their child out of anger and frustration.  No wonder the word “love” is confusing.  

As a youth ministry team, we learned to touch every child and offer words of encouragement as often as we could without placating them.  The touch might have been a light squeeze on the elbow or a soft hand on their shoulder.  For the guys, patting a guy on the back while we played games in the gym was highly encouraged.  We could tell the new kids.  Their look when we touched them would stop a speeding locomotive.  

Along with a proper touch, we wanted to encourage them along the way.  The Bible talks a lot about encouragement.  The writer of Hebrews (we don’t know who it was) implored the believers of the day to “encourage one another daily.”  Why?  It’s a discouraging world, and don’t for one second think we live in encouraging days.  We live in a critical society.  We now have forums where anyone can be critical of anyone at anytime day or night.  

Proverbs 4 says to be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.  Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “You are what you think all day long.”  Live in a world of criticism and that is who you become.  

Recently, I was with a group discussing ministry.  I asked, “Is your ministry a place of calm or chaos?  Do you purpose to energize or deflate?  Do the people around you find ways to encourage or micro-manage life to the point where nobody can do anything?”  I don’t have the space to write their answers, so I will sum them up in a few words.  They hoped they were positive in nature but when we went to the next level and asked them to give examples the room went silent.  

Sometimes when an individual stands up and leads with the purpose of encouraging the troops to move forward they are seen as an extremist. The words are muttered that I have heard way too often over the years, “You are too passionate.”  

Jesus walked into a very critical culture.  The basic laws set forth in the Old Testament had been misused and multiplied.  Last time I checked ,the law was not encouraging.  The law is critical, and we think making more laws will make a difference.  The law separates people instead of binding them together.  That was Jesus’ world.  So what did he do?

Jesus focused on his love, grace and mercy.  Against those, it says in His Word, “there are no laws.” 

Touch a life with encouragement.  Touch a weary soul with peace and patience.  Provide a sense of calm in a world of chaos.  Bring hope where there is fear and doubt.  Be a peacemaker when war breaks out.  Be kind when everything in your mind roars to be critical and mean.  Practice self-control in a world that has very little.  Against these characteristics of God…there is no law.  They also have a way of driving criticism out the door.  It’s amazing what a smile can do, a touch can calm, a word of encouragement can energize.  

What did the AT&T jingle say, “Reach out, reach out and touch someone.” 

This past week I had the honor of attending a training on Critical Incident Stress Management.  Sounds complicated, doesn’t it?  Not really.  We all face stress.  I personally believe that all the technology we have does not alleviate stress.  It probably adds to it.  We do not have to personally experience a major event to be stressed.  Watching a shooting, terrorist attack, or anything that disrupts our personal shalom (I love that word) causes stress.  Right now, reading this article on stress can cause stress.  

We were made to be at peace, or better yet, shalom.  In shalom with God, man, and creation.  Well, that didn’t last all that long.  Man chose to go his own path, and shalom was totally disrupted.  Now we wrestle with God instead of walking with him, hate our fellow man instead of loving him, and cannot seem to be in harmony with the creation God gave us.  Shalom is more like STRESS!

We often associate stress with certain events.  Avoid them or make changes in our lives and we can be functional again.  If we can’t avoid it, we medicate it.  I don’t think we can stay isolated, nor is there enough medication to bring us shalom.  It’s a state of being we were made to have but will not find  this side of the glory land.  We might think we can obtain such a state, but we really can’t.  Don’t let a preacher tell you otherwise.  In fact, studies have shown that the three professions with the most stress are:  1. Military,  2. First Responders, and 3. Ministers.  If they are not stressed, they aren’t doing their job.  

Talking about all the stress, the teacher made a profound statement.  He said, “Hurting people hurt people.”  I knew that desperate people do desperate things, but his statement hit me like a ton fo bricks.  

The person screaming at you is expressing his hurt, and it might not have anything to do with you.  The individual who constantly is a thorn in your side is either poking you where you have past hurt or is expressing her hurt by poking somebody else.  The one pulling a gun, wielding a knife, bringing death and destruction is hurting others in his own hurt.  We know this!  We don’t know what to do.

The more I read psychology, I see a diagnosis of hurting people who have adapted to their pain in certain consistent forms.  We aren’t necessarily plagued with brain damage.  We are finding ways to find a sense of shalom.  Add relativism to it and the only peace we are concerned with is our own.  Add more stress avenues than ever before and it’s a mess.

No wonder people don’t want their doorbell rung once they enter their peaceful home.  No wonder moms want help.  No wonder dads are stopping to get a beer or escaping on their smart phones even when it isn’t very smart to do so.  No wonder no one wants to engage anyone anymore…they are trying to survive their own stress in their vain attempt to discover the long lost shalom.  

Jesus talked a lot about unity and shalom.  I love the story of the disciples thinking they were drowning when they had the Prince of Peace asleep in the boat.  They wake him, and what does he say to the creation?  “Peace, be still.”  Look at it another way.  The word “peace” is translated in some versions as “silence.”  Silence.  Peace.  Shalom.  There isn’t very much anymore, especially when we carry a source of noise, chaos, and destruction right in the palm of our hands.  

So what are we to do?  In some respects there are ways to minimize some stress.  We can exercise, turn off some of the external sources of stress, and studies actually tell us to drink more water.  Some need to take their preferred lifestyle and drop it back a level or two.  We all tend to live over our heads.  But with all the “answers,” we will still have stress in our lives.  This is where the church comes in.  

This is where Jesus instructed constantly, and the disciples carried it forward.  He taught us and encouraged us to “Love one another.”  That love was to be expressed with great grace and mercy.  Instead of inflicting more pain, we were to be the givers of grace and mercy, knowing that the love of God is the only thing that can truly help mitigate the stress of this fallen world and fallen people.  By incarnating Christ, we extend a hand, offer an ear, give a shoulder, and offer words of shalom.  It’s kind of interesting.  When we purpose to walk with another in his or her hurt and stress, it softens ours as well.  

Jesus said, “Come to me all who are stressed and I will give you shalom.”  As we go to Him, we, as his people, incarnate his teaching.  Are we bearers of calm or chaos in these crazy days?  

I came across an article by Dr. James Emory White in which he listed the top 10 books that helped shape his faith.  I’ve written that one before.  I must be a slower learner.  My list of 10 is really about 18.  

At about the same time I read Dr. White’s article a dear friend dropped off a worn copy of Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son picture.  He and I are constantly discussing the amazing story Jesus told to give a picture of his great redemption.  We talk about how we often demand our lot from God and run away squandering it.  Rembrandt’s rendition catches the attention of  both of us.

I don’t want to list the top 10 books that almost everybody reading this article will not read.  If you want to know email me.  I don’t want to list my favorite verses.  Why?  They are mine not necessarily yours.  I would like to talk about the Prodigal Son story.  Tim Keller, author and theologian, calls the story the Prodigal Father.  He’s right.  Prodigal means “wild.”  It’s not about the wild son.  It’s the wild nature of the Father who welcomes his son back to the family with no questions or demands.  The Scriptures are fulfilled in this story where we read in Psalm 103:12, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us,” and Hebrews 8:12, “For I … remember their sins no more.”  

Rembrandt’s picture details the love, grace and mercy in such forgiveness.  It is consuming and mysterious at the same time.  Henri Nouwen, author, had an opportunity to sit for hours with the original painting.  It humbled him and inspired him at the same time.  

The hands of the father bring comfort to the weary son whose shoes and feet reveal his troublesome paths.  We like to think we can hide the paths we have taken.  If only our feet and shoes could talk!  So often those paths are far from a loving God.  We like to think we know better than the young boy.  But, it’s the hands of dad that bring safety, drawing the smelly, stained and broken boy to his bosom.  

The eyes of the Prodigal Father look downward with compassion at his long lost boy.  He isn’t looking for a response from the onlookers.  He isn’t rolling his eyes as if to say, “What do I do now?”  No, they look to his boy.  His son!  Yes, “all we like sheep have gone astray.”  But, He, as the Good Shepherd welcomes the wayward one home.  No questions.  No demands.  The safety of His embrace is all that is needed.

Meanwhile, the onlookers are watching every move.  The older jealous brother of the prodigal is shadowed in the darkness that surrounds the embrace.  Their faces speak volumes of questions.  Those questions often like ours are not ones of redemption but rather ones of judgment.  

Can you hear those questions?  Where has he been?  What is wrong with the father?  Will he not have to give account?  They go on and on.  All questions whose answers cannot satisfy the one asking.  After the questions come the comments.  We have all heard them.  He must pay!  He is not allowed in the house smelling like a pig!  He needs to take a bath?  His father is out of his mind!  

From the Father come no words. His actions are more important than his words.  Few understand it is not the actions of the son that are the center of this story. It is the actions of his father that are the emphasis!  For his actions say more than words can.  Anybody can say, “I love you.”  What they do in the name of love will reveal them as true or not.  

Of course this picture and story reveal the nature of our faith in Jesus Christ.  Christianity has forgotten that the faith is not about the Christian.  It is about the Christ.  HIs love transcends the expectations of a fallen people.  HIs grace is limitless.  HIs mercy is so profound a wayward son can’t help but be on his knees.

Left in the shadows is the brother.  His attitude and words reveal that he doesn’t understand the heart of his father as well.  He thought it was about obedience.  His love of the law kept him as well from the love in the heart of his father.  So, he stays in the background.  He should be on his knees as well.  

Our world is full of questions.  It’s full of condemnation and criticism.  What will it take to turn it’s focus as in the Rembrandt masterpiece, to the love, grace and mercy of the Prodigal Father?  We know the answer.  In the end of the Good Samaritan story, when mercy was given,   Jesus gives a simple command.  He says, “Go and do likewise.”  As we embrace the love of the Father, the words echo again, “Go.”  There’s more.  “Go and do.” Nope we are not there yet.  “Go and do likewise.”  Like whom?  His name is Jesus.  We can’t be known for our obedience.  But we can be known for our love, grace and mercy of which the Father through Jesus gives immeasurably to us and desires for us to give to others.  

The recent events politically and culturally have left a very divided society.  Adding social media to the mix, where anyone can offer a critique at any given time leaves us with a critical spirit and a divided nation.  This cultural phenomenon has occupied my thoughts for some time now.  Maybe I can share a few since it potentially has a tremendous impact on all of us.

Back in 1973 Paul Kurtz and Edwin H. Wilson wrote what we know as the Humanist Manifesto II.  The Church did not pay much attention to it.  The movement actually began in 1933 with the writing of the 1st Manifesto.  We paid no attention to it since Christianity dominated the scene.  However, it was a religious humanism that began to infect the education system and even the church.  

It is important to take notice of this movement.  In 2003 the humanist expression went from individuals to groups with Humanist Manifesto III.  It’s not a movement.  It’s a faith expression.  It is a faith in man and science.  Man is assumed to be basically good.  As Wikipedia says, “humans are the integral part of nature and working to benefit society maximizes human nature.”  These two elements fuel dissension with the Christian faith.  Unfortunately, the Christian faith has been influenced with a man -ocused expression dominated by a prosperity teaching that is far from the Biblical Jesus.  

Am I boring you yet?  I have stated often that Christians like to talk “what” and don’t pay enough attention to “why.”  The humanist movement has dominated higher education.  Man is good, and getting in with the crowd for the betterment of society is the end result.  If you are not with the in- crowd you are ostracized.  Who between the ages of 16 and 25 wants to be ostracized?  And we wonder why our children and grandchildren raised in the faith walk away in their late teens and early twenties.  It is that age when the philosophies of the world that we paid little attention to become practical life.  

On the other hand, Christianity says man is basically evil, and the hope for a better society is by faith in Jesus Christ.  That doesn’t gel well with the humanist movement at all.  For a young believer in the college scene it doesn’t take long to grasp that the two don’t mix.  Few are prepared and fewer survive.  

The religious humanist movement has been patient and quiet.  They don’t need big people.  All they have done is influenced young minds since 1933.  That is 75 years.  To understand the mess consider the impact.  The last generation dominated by Christian morals and beliefs was the Baby Boomers.  With the generations past them (Gen X,Y, and Z) came the tsunami of humanist educational faith.  That is correct…faith.  Everyone believes in something, and our culture now believes in man as our hope.  Religious humanism is now a practice not a philosophy.  With the last general election Baby Boomers (the last faith-based generation) have lost the voting block.  They are now outnumbered.  The religious humanists are now not only in control of the education system; they now have the popular vote.  God is out in education.  He is out in our politics and barely alive in our families.  

No wonder we are at odds in our country.  The belief in separation of church and state from the humanist view (no God anywhere and anytime) has now impacted all aspects of culture.  Remember, they believe the only hope is man to be working together for the benefit of society.  The question is “Who determines what is a benefit?”  The voting populous does.  

I have just scratched the philosophical and historical basis of an anti-Jesus society.  We didn’t think it could happen in good ole America did we?  It isn’t a coming tsunami.  It’s here.  

So what do Bible believing, Jesus based people of the faith do?

Some are in a separatist mode.  They are isolating and ruing the day all hell breaks lose.  

Others have compromised.  They have allowed religious humanist beliefs to impact their expression of the Christian faith.  In one aspect they have tried to meet the enemy half way.  It doesn’t work.  The Scriptures say we are battling an adversary who is a “roaring lion seeking who it will devour.”  The enemy takes no prisoners.  Compromise will lead to being devoured with anti-Biblical thought and practice.  Again it’s not coming; it’s here.

Jesus entered the same type of world.  Nothing has changed in the history of man.  We either depend upon man or God.  Take your pick!  The methodology is not what we tend to think as well.  Jesus said to love your neighbor.  He didn’t give us an out.  He included our enemy as well (Matthew 5:44).  Christianity is not a spectator sport, and you won’t hear the bugle sound retreat.  As Jesus encouraged, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” All is not lost.  Love well. 

A frequent reader asked if I would take a week and address “respect” as a topic. At a weekly Friday morning meeting the issue of respect constantly hits the table. So, I thought this week I would try and tackle it.
Respect is one of those topics that is hard to pin down. It’s sort of like humility. Humility is one of those topics one doesn’t want to discuss. Why? If someone thinks they have it and talk too much about it, it disappears. Respect is close. One can demand respect but not deserve it. One can give respect and not receive it back. What do we do then? I’m not sure I know.
Let’s start with a dictionary definition. The definition I found is this: a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements. Let’s look at the Bible. I Peter 2:17 is probably the best verse that encapsulates respect. It reads, “Show proper respect to everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”
Now, let’s put the two together. The Apostle Peter, along with a lot of other Bible authors, talks about our faith in Jesus Christ moving us to honor or respect others. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” This is the very message of Christ when he talked about loving God and loving others. In other words, the gospel of Jesus Christ moves us out of our own world and invites others, regardless of any distinction, in.
The dictionary definition says we have respect or a deep admiration elicited by someone’s abilities, qualities (positive, if I must add), or achievements. Jesus should automatically gain our respect since His achievement is the giving of His life for mankind’s redemption. This is the very essence of respect either as a receiver or a giver of it. This concept of giving our lives to others is parallel with the apostle John telling us that the love of God is to lay our lives down for the sake of another. Thus, respect happens.
The other characteristic of respect involves leadership. Many from the older generation feel that they should be given respect simply because of their generation’s achievements and age. However, when one generation demands respect without laying its life down for the next, respect will be hard to find. Respect does not really happen because of achievement. Respect happens when you know someone loves and cares for you.
President Trump is an example of this concept. He has some amazing achievements as a businessman. Being elected president is quite an achievement. However, how he handles himself tends to lose him respect even from those who voted for him. Why? There is an air of self-righteousness that diminishes any sense of true public service. This is probably the reason there is very little respect at many levels of leadership. Leadership that does not care for the underdog will not engender respect.
Jesus was constantly caring well for the underdog. In my lifetime, I think Mother Teresa is an example of someone who garnered immense respect. Everyone knew she laid her life down for the downtrodden. She was not weak. Her life backed up her words. Now, there is an unwritten element of respect.
Most of the older generation want to talk about respect because they feel it is demanded. However, get them to talk about where they have failed as parents, leaders, and followers of Jesus Christ, that is a different creature. Respect can not be demanded. It is lived.
God is the foundation of all respect. The Father gave his Son, Jesus, for his creation humankind. We can not be good enough to reestablish a relationship with Holy God. The Father gave us his Son to redeem us from our unbelief. As a parent, I’m not sure I have met any human for whom I would give my son. That’s just it. His love and action encompass what we are seeking through great achievements without sacrifice.
Finally, take Jesus out of the respect equation and what do we have? I don’t think It’s spelled, R.E.S.P.E.C.T. The end result is selfishness, blind ambition, avarice and any other word that can be used to define self-absorption.
Did you catch the elements Peter gave? Love, Fear and Honor were the big three. Of course, Paul said anything without love is like a sounding gong. Take a closer look. Respect…Donald Trump or Mother Teresa?