Mystery Hidden for Ages

There was a time before our time before the time of earth itself when all was well in God’s universe.  Yet He knew it would not always be so.  He knew how it would be spoiled and who would spoil it. God could have used that knowledge and chosen not to create the great angel Lucifer. Should He have done so He would have been forever a fraud.  Freedom of choice and self-determination is the foundation of love.  Angels would never have known that God’s government of love only existed because He used His foreknowledge to not create anyone who would choose to rebel.  God’s universe of peace and love would have been based on a lie.  Freedom would have been non-existent and thus love would be polluted.  God’s character would be flawed even if He were the only one to know.
Romans 16:25 is a fascinating verse.  It reads, “Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past.”   The mystery was sin would happen and God had a plan; the details of which were horrific.  It all involved Jesus stepping from His throne, becoming one of His created and submitting to a time of torture and death.
We think we are anxious for God to bring this to an end.  He is much more anxious than we.  But with extraordinary patience He endures our heartaches and pains and sufferings to make sure every issue, every question, every accusation, every doubt is clarified.  This sin thing must be settled for eternity.  It must never happen again because God only has one Son to give.  He gave.  He didn’t loan.

Advertising Slogans

Yesterday we talked about catchy advertising and our Christian need to pay attention to something we could use to promote our Jesus.  We talked about Toyota’s “Let’s Go Places.”  Almost immediately I got an email from a friend that reminded me of Hellman’s Mayonnaise’s “Bring Out the Hellman’s and Bring Out the Best.”   That’s a great one.  If we bring out the Gospel we bring out the best.  There is not another religion in the world that comes close to offering what Jesus offers.  Christianity is the only faith that does not require some form of works.  It is the only religion where salvation is a gift of grace.  It’s the best.  If you are a member of a church that claims to be Christian and yet requires some work to be saved they are a sham.
May I add that Christianity rightly lived brings out the best in us.  We become a temple of the Holy Spirit.  “I in Christ and Christ in me” makes all the difference in the kind of person we are.  Little by little by growth we exchange the lusts of the flesh for the fruits of the Spirit.  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”  Galatians 5.  We become quality people and not because we are so wonderful but because of the wonderful Being residing in us.
I am thinking of another product with the slogan “Breakfast of Champions.”  Now I wonder what product that could be.  When we watch people who do things really well we get a bit envious.  I’ve never met anyone who if having the chance would not choose to be a champion.  Jesus makes us so.

“Let’s Go Places”

Huge corporations like car companies spend enormous amounts of money advertising.  Those commercials are the product of vast market research and are tested on groups of people before being broadcasted over television networks.  We, as Christians, spend large sums of money on evangelism.  We want to obey Jesus’ command at the end of Matthew and take the Good News to all the world.  We are in the marketing business.  It seems that it would make good sense to pay attention to the marketing strategies used by those huge companies.
Toyota’s most current slogan is “Let’s Go Places.”  It has a short snappy appeal.  We like to travel and see new sights and hear new sounds.  If we can make the connection of going places with Toyota all the better for Toyota.  Therefore, I want to plagiarize Toyota’s slogan and encourage you to be sure to make and keep your connection with Jesus because by doing so you will be “Going Places.”  Many of those places will be out of this world but many will be right here on planet earth.
Jesus will take you to a place of peace and rest from trying to save yourself.  He does that for you.  He will give you rest from guilt.  He might have a special task for you and thus guide you to a faraway place so you can do His will.  So often we speak of Christianity in terms of eternal life.  Let’s also add the idea of unlimited travel to places where no man has gone before.
Love Jesus and as Dr. Seuss said, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.”  Heaven will be filled with travel agents. Can you imagine the number of frequent flier miles you will accumulate on a trip across just one galaxy?

The Fly

The glow of the computer screen is the only light in my room this evening.  I am trying to write but a huge house fly is attracted to the light of the screen and I just can’t concentrate.  Every time I think I am ready to start writing it buzzes in circles and figure eights as it dive bombs the screen.  I am having malicious, murderous thoughts regarding this filthy invader from who knows where.  Now it is walking on the screen following the text as it comes up on the screen.  This is almost as bad as one being in your room at night while you are trying to fall asleep.  You are almost in dreamland when one lands on your face and promptly walks across your lips.  Yuck.
It is interesting what we get used to.  I have seen Masai children with flies lined up side by side drinking from their eyes.  The children were not concerned at all.  It is very much that way for all of us regarding bad habits or sins.  The first time we are tempted we are disturbed but should we entertain them or tolerate them being a part of our lives we soon grow unconcerned.  It is no big deal.  But the truth is they are bad habits or sins because they are harmful and just because we have grown accustomed to them does not mean they stop harming us.  Not only do we become accustomed to them we grow to love them as an old friend.
Be wise today.  Read Proverbs 1 and 2.  It is excellent counsel regarding making right choices and not allowing a persistent sin to nag you into compliance and lead you to ultimate destruction.  
Now if I can only kill this ….. fly!!

With Real Friends It’s Like That

This afternoon we visited with Patty, a friend we had not seen for 35 years.  When Patty graduated from the eighth grade her mother was ill and could not attend; my wife became a stand-in mom.  My wife wore Patty’s mother’s white dress and stood to receive the corsage the graduates pinned on their moms.  While Patty was pinning the corsage she kept saying, “I hope I get this right and it doesn’t fall off.”  My wife assured her it was not going to fall off because she knew something she didn’t tell Patty.  Patty had pinned it on my wife.  Yes.  The pin went in and out much deeper than just the dress. My wife’s concern was that the blood would flow out unto the pretty white dress.
I had almost forgotten this until this afternoon when we saw Patty, who grew up and went on to have a great career as an air traffic controller.   It was amazing that seeing her made time vanish.  It was almost like no years had passed.  Thirty-five years seemed like nothing.  After we parted I thought of living forever and seeing old friends after thirty-five hundred or thousand years.  Will we just pick up where we left off?  I think so.  With real friends it is like that.
Sometime today make a mental list of your best friends and try to remember when you saw last them.  If it has been a long time take the initiative to make contact.  You will not be sorry.  Then, of course, there is your best friend, Jesus.  If you haven’t contacted Him recently do so this very day.  I assure you He will be delighted and it will seem like no time has passed.  With real friends it is like that.

You Count – You Really Do

According to Ephesians 2 each of us has a specific task to do for God.  For most of us it is a mystery deeply woven into God’s grand scheme for His entire universe and His specific plan for our being here.  It is difficult for us to imagine how someone as insignificant as each of us thinks we are can have an effect on something as large and important as the plan of salvation. Yet we do.  The interesting thing about this is I’m not sure anyone ever knows.
Elijah was the greatest prophet of the Old Testament and he spent a huge amount of time in a state of depression wondering about himself.   John the Baptist, who according to Jesus was the greatest prophet ever, languished in prison doubting himself and even doubting if Jesus really were the Messiah.  He sent his disciples to check on Jesus and to report back to him about what was happening.
If ever you have moments of doubt about your usefulness for God, you are in excellent company.  Perhaps the person who does not and thinks they are God’s answer to the present is the one in jeopardy.  Our task is to be willing.  God will take care of the when and where for us.  After it occurs we will most likely not notice.  But God noticed and will someday let you know just how very valuable you are to Him.  You count.  You are somebody.  If you were not Jesus would not have died for you.  He did.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  There it is.  Ephesians 2:10

Prophets and Skeptics

The latest issue of Popular Science has an article about the continuing drought in California.  It contains quotes from climatologists predicting a gruesome future for the Golden State.  According to the authorities quoted, the drought will possibly last for many years to come.  This morning on CBS news a climatologist was talking about the El Nino Pacific current and explained how it will possibly be a record breaking winter for huge amounts of rain for California.  I’m sure both climatologists were well qualified as authorities in their field.  While contradicting each other they both spoke of possibilities.  That’s something a good scientist would do.
Within the last month I listened to two preachers making dire predictions for the future of the world.  Both claimed to be a Biblical scholar to bolster themselves as authorities on the future.  Like the climatologists they did not agree with each other regarding the future in the Middle East and its implications for the United States.  They were not as wise as the scientists because neither used the “possibility” word.  But they both claimed that God’s Word was saying what they said it was saying.
As I listened to them I thought of Jesus’ comments in Matthew 24,  “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.  For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”  These predictors of the future were using the Bible as if it were a crystal ball. Being skeptical about sermons is wise.  It doesn’t make us skeptics regarding God’s love and care and our future eternal life.  Being skeptical about men’s predictions only makes us wise.

Names, Names, Names

The names of stores are fascinating.  In the 1940’s when I was a little guy there were Five and Dime stores when everything inside only cost a nickel or a dime.  There are still a few Five and Dimes around but the name doesn’t have anything to do with their prices. Now we have Dollar Stores and Five Below that do still reflect prices.  Forever 21 is a creative name appealing to a woman’s desire not to get old.  I wonder why Target is Target?  Sears was because of Mr. Sears and J.C. Penney was about a man and not prices.  Today I looked at Bed Bath and Beyond.  Beyond must mean we have other stuff.  But I was reminded of Buzz Lightyear’s famous line, “To infinity and beyond” which I have always liked.  It should be the name for a church.
Church names are intriguing.  In a few words they want to tell you about themselves.  There is the Church of God.  That sort of leaves everyone else out.  There is the Church of Christ.  That’s exclusive.  The Jewish Synagogue identifies the worshippers as descendants of Judah.  Lutherans are followers of Martin Luther’s theology.  The Catholic Church means universal.  That gives the Church of God name serious competition.  There are Jehovah Witnesses, They do try to witness when they come to our doors.  There are Seventh-day Adventists who are Christians that believe Jesus is returning (advent) and they go to church on Saturday, the seventh day of the week.
Names tell us a lot about who we are.  We have Greek, Italian, Swedish and Chinese names.  So when we use the name “Christian” to describe ourselves we are trying to say something about who we are.  I hope we don’t disappoint.

The Invisible Rabbit

The most wondrous thing occurred last evening while taking my dog for a walk.  She is a retriever with an incredible sniffer.  We don’t make very good time because of all the sniffing stops along the way.  Yet, we came upon a rabbit sitting by the side of the road.  It froze and she did not see it.  I was ready for a burst of energy that never came.  She stopped and sniffed the ground only two feet from the bunny and because it kept its composure and never flinched she never saw it.  We moved on and she was oblivious.  She is obviously not a hunter just a retriever.
She made me wonder how many things exist very close to us without our ever being aware. Just because we don’t see something doesn’t mean it is not there.  In John 14 Jesus promised, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.” And in Hebrews 1 we read, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation.”
According to Scripture we are not alone.  We don’t see them.  That does not mean they are not there.  My senses just don’t reveal them any more than my dog’s senses did not reveal that rabbit.  However, God’s Word is true and it assures us of the presence of both the Holy Spirit and God’s angels.  While Shakespeare is not scripture that does not mean all the things he said are not true.  Hamlet said to Horatio, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”  That’s a truth.

Subway Sandwiches

I like Subway sandwiches.  I really can lose some pounds if I eat there even for a week. The bread is always fresh as are the ingredients. However, I must also add that I have never gotten a Subway sandwich that looks like one in their television ads.  What I get is never as full or luscious looking as what appears on my TV screen.  It makes me wonder if any of the people that produce the ads have ever eaten at a Subway.
Since by calling myself a Christian, meaning Christ-like, therefore makes me a walking, talking advertisement, I wonder if I ever live up to the standard proclaimed.  Please note my use of “ever.”  I used it because I know that most of the time I am not as uncritical and caring as was Jesus.  I used the word “ever” wondering if I “ever” live up to the standard.  If my behavior was rated on a percentage of time would I score ten percent of the time?  That would be a good tithe of my living.  That would make me very unworthy of salvation, which brings me to my point.  Even if I rated 99 per cent of my time being Christ-like, an impossibility I must add, I would still be unworthy.
Worthy we are not.  This is why Paul says in Romans 6:23 that eternal life is a gift of God.  All we are worthy of is ultimately becoming a footnote in history, if that much.  Fortunately in Revelation 5, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
So enjoy a Subway sandwich.  Just don’t expect perfection.