On Firewood, Foundations and Winches

I found an inexpensive winch on sale at a tool store.  I have quite a bit of firewood in my woods but getting it up to the house can be a problem for this aged man.  The winch will be perfect.  I can put the cut wood on a hand truck that has four wheels and have the winch pull it up the hill.  All I have to do is secure the winch to something strong.  If I don’t do so the project will fail.   It doesn’t matter how strong the winch is, without a tight hold on something solid, it will not work.
By now you know where I am going with this.  Without a strong foundation or a really firm hold on something well grounded our lives just don’t work.  Everyone needs an ethical base and a spiritual hold that will not fail them.  Jesus is the answer.  As a child I learned this by singing about the wise man who built his house upon the rock and the rock is Jesus.  He was the Rock that supplied the children of Israel with water during their forty year trek through the Sinai. 
Jesus promises to be with us.  “I am with you always even until the end of the world.”  He is the victor over sin.  Satan poured out all hell on Him in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross.  He could not break Him.  On Sunday morning the tomb could not hold Him.   He lives.  We serve a risen Savior and He’s in the world today.   This Rock is our firm foundation.  He will never fail us. 
Now if I can just secure that winch, I am in the firewood business – at least for myself.  Don’t call to order any!

Sandy Promises

I grew up singing a hymn with the words, “O Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end.”  However, one of my favorite authors wrote, “Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand.”  That is very discouraging when we come to this time of year and think about how much better we want to do next year.
Does the importance of the promise make a difference?  We think a promise to lose weight is important until we smell and see that wonderful piece of pumpkin pie smothered in freshly whipped cream.  Then the rationalization begins with “Just this once.”  A bit later that evening it is easier to say, “Well, after the pie is finished I will start anew.” However, if it is a promise never to steal, then we stand much more resolute.  I hope so.  But would I steal food for someone I love?  Yes, I would!  Sorry if that disappoints you.  But it is the truth.
So let’s go back to the “promises and resolutions like ropes of sand.”  Why bother?  I propose that making those sandy promises can do one of two things.  It can make us just give up when we fail.  Or making those promises reinforces the foundations of our character and gives us the courage and strength to try again.  There is real value in the old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed.  Try.  Try again.” 
I am scheduled to preach this weekend.  I was going to tell people not to bother with the sandy promises.  But I have changed my mind.  I am headed for the pile of sand in my backyard.  I have been there before.

You Can Change The World

If I told you Gutenberg invented the telescope you would be sure I got my degree out of a Cracker Jack box.  But just give me a moment of your time.  Gutenberg made it possible for books to be affordable.  As a result literacy increased dramatically creating a market for spectacles.  This led to the development of better lens which led to the development of the telescope.  Thank you Mr. Gutenberg.
Gutenberg would never comprehend that he would put into place something that would burn Copernicus at the stake or put Galileo on trial.   It’s the way life is.  We call it cause and effect.  Someone causes and we are affected.  We cause and others are impacted in ways we can never imagine.  A small act of kindness can ripple across the world changing a lad’s life in Tibet. 
Occasionally I meet with discouraged people who think their lives have not really mattered for much of anything.  While I cannot tell them with specificity just how important they have been, I can indeed assure them that they have changed the world.  Whether it was for good or bad, I don’t know.  But what I do know is every life matters in ways far beyond our imaginations.  Gutenberg never would have imagined his work would nullify the world’s longest held scientific theory, that the universe was geocentric.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 2 that God has plans for each of us.  Each of us has a part in His great struggle with evil.  One of the great rewards of eternal life will be having our angel and perhaps Jesus Himself explain to us just how very important we were to God’s victory over sin.   Let us submit ourselves to Him each day and we will change not just the world but the universe.

On Regifting

It’s decision time.  Do I have use for this Christmas present?  Do I try to return it to the store from which it was purchased?  How do I do that if I don’t have the receipt?  Do I save it until next Christmas and regift it?  If so, I better label who gave it to me lest I give it back to the person who gave it to me.  Or worst of all just throw it away!
I have known people who have regifted salvation.  (I know.  That is crazy, but who says everyone is sane?)  They accepted Jesus’ offer and did one of two things.  They decided they didn’t want it so they gave it back to Jesus.  Or they first shared it with another and then threw it away.  Or they consciously or subconsciously decided once saved they had to start contributing toward the cost by living a life according to law.  It is a normal reaction.  When we receive something wonderful we want to do something back.  And we can.  We can with God’s help live a Christ-like life.  The important issue is motive.  If our motive is to pay back we nullify the gift.  If my motive is love for God and growing love for people that He plants within us then our good works do not nullify grace. 
Paul refers to this in Galatians 2.  He wrote, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”  The last thing we would ever want to do is to cause Jesus to have died needlessly.  So as we give good gifts to others we always remember we are NOT contributing to the cost of our salvation.  We are not regifting.  We are reproducing.

Are You Ready?

Masses of people are scurrying about trying to finish their list before Christmas Eve.  Fortunately for those of us in New England this year we don’t have any snow to hamper our doings.  While doing my doings today I heard people greet each other with “Are you ready for Christmas?”  Some people had reduced it to “Are you ready?”  I thought it might be a great greeting all the time – referring to the second coming of Jesus.  Are you ready?   
I grew up in an environment where it wasn’t PC to say “Yes.”   We were trained to say, “I hope so.”  After all we might have sinned in the past hour and hadn’t had a chance to ask for forgiveness.  As a child of God who has read the Gospels and the letters of Paul I now understand how insulting that is to God.  It takes love out of the equation and replaces it with a computer-like program of ons and offs.  Sin and it’s off.  Ask for forgiveness and it’s on.  That is really pathetic.  If we as parents loved our children that way the state social service should remove them from us. 
Salvation isn’t about ons and offs.  It is about family.  Being in God’s family with Him being the best ever Father is what Jesus talked about.    Just as a good human parent would not cast his child out of the house for an infraction of some sort neither will God reject us; especially for an unknown sin of some kind.  Salvation is about belonging to the family.  We enter the family by accepting the invitation.  So do it.  Once done we can always answer with a big “Yes” to the question “Are you ready?”

Life’s Lessons Learned

So I figured I would get a Christmas haircut just in case people wanted to take pictures around the tree.  I went early to the barbershop – 8:15.   But there were already four really old guys there, one in the chair and three waiting.  While I was waiting two more old guys came in.  The gray hair on the floor around the barber chair was piling up – not a dark hair to be seen. 
Old guys get a senior discount – only 12 dollars.  But the first guy gives her a twenty and says, “Keep the change. Merry Christmas.”  So the second guy gets out of the chair, gives her a twenty and says, “Keep the change. Merry Christmas.”  The third guy does the same.  So it was my turn.  By now there are three old guys watching.  What could I do?  Did I want these crotchety old guys to think that I was either a jerk or unsuccessful in life?  So much for the senior discount!  I learned a life lesson.  Never get a haircut a few days before Christmas.
Life is full of learning experiences.  A lady was in line ahead of me at a Kmart checkout.  She was coughing over and over into her hand.  Then she picked up that pen-like thing to sign for her credit purchase.  Well, I quickly put my credit card back in my wallet and paid in cash.  See, I do learn.  Another thing I learned along the way there is no better life than a life in Jesus.  He provides peace, resolution and a fantastic out of this world future.  So come with me.  Learn the same lesson from an old guy whose gray hair is on the floor mixed in with lots of other old guys’ gray hair.

Receiving Is Great

We have grown up hearing that it is better to give than to receive.  We have heard it so often and for so long it has almost become a religious tenet.  To say otherwise would be heresy let alone making us appear to be selfish spoiled bratty adults.   But inside we all know how terrific it is to receive.  Yes, it is good to give.  It is terrific to give.  But receiving is really satisfying. 
God is a good Father.  He is the best.  He would not do something that would not be for our benefit and the most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16.   “For God so loved the world He gave us …” That makes us receivers.  He, also enjoys receiving.  Thus Psalm 107:1 and Psalm 136:1 admonishes us to “Give thanks unto the Lord.”  Isaiah 42:12 tells us to “Give God praise.”   This makes Him a receiver.  He wouldn’t be a receiver if it wasn’t a good thing.
Actually giving and receiving are so interwoven it is difficult to sort them into something different.  How many times have we given only to have been so rewarded internally for doing so that it outweighed what we gave?  We received.   It also works in reverse. When we graciously receive we give another person the same feeling of warmth we get when we give.  Often receiving is a very unselfish act of care toward the giver.
God is a giver.  We are givers.  God is a receiver.  We are receivers.  Yes, it can be abused just like any good thing can be twisted into something harmful.  But if we are reasonable fairly intelligent people we have to admit that receiving is great.


One of the disadvantages of aging is the closing of doors and the growing limits on possibilities.  Lessened physical prowess and the restrictions of remaining years squelch dreams and ambitions.  When I was young I dreamed dreams of adventure and accomplishments.  Now that youth is in the rearview mirror reality forces upon me the truth that options are fewer and fewer with the passage of years.  Jesus and His gift of eternal life are not some nice idea.  They are a necessity for the continuation of life’s possibilities.  With Jesus all is limitless.  Age is but a bit of temporary inconvenience. 
Emily Dickenson, our recluse New England poet, said it so well.
 “I dwell in Possibility
  A fairer house than Prose,
  More numerous of windows,
  Superior of doors.”
She closes with “The spreading wide my narrow hands to gather Paradise.”
With Jesus personal possibilities are limitless.  With eternal life there is time to be a poet, a writer, a musician, a painter, a sculptor, a builder, an architect, a mason, a carpenter, an athlete, an organist, a singer, a plumber, a pilot, a tourist, a skier, a golfer, a botanist, an astronomer, a biologist or an orator.  
Come with me and dwell in Possibility.  Make Jesus the Lord of your life and open your mind to all that you can be.  Age ceases to be a limiter and becomes a foundation for more and better.  Some speak of spending eternity standing in God’s throne room singing His praises.  I will instead show Him praises by becoming everything He dreams for me.  Occasionally I will visit His throne room to say thank you and then off again for more adventures because Possiblity is more numerous of windows and superior of doors.

Intransigency Is No Virtue

I just had a fascinating conversation where the other person said, “My father taught me to take a stand.  Something is either right or wrong.  There is no middle ground.  If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.”  “But,” I said, “what if you discover you were wrong.”  “Then,” she said, “at least I stood for something.” It seems the virtue wasn’t knowing truth but being intransigent.  I am so thankful I am not married to that person.  She had learned something from her father and she was not going to change.  Taking a position was to her a righteous position.
She is not the first person like this that I have known.  One such person was someone who prided himself on the number of Bible studies he gave so others could learn his truth.  The irony was he wasn’t open to change but he wanted those to whom he gave Bible studies to change.
The older I get the less I know.  I don’t think it is the result of senility.  I think it is the result of meeting righteous people who see life differently than I.  I rejoice in the Biblical truth that we are saved by grace and not by knowing the right things.  I do so hope in heaven when Jesus tells us the TRUTH we all will come to realize we all had it wrong.
If we were all like my intransigent lady we would destroy the world because peace talks, negotiations and compromises would be impossible.  The only thing left would be to agree to disagree or to destroy the other.  I fear we would choose the latter.   Only God who knows everything can stand firmly without changing.

The Dreaded Click

Anyone who owns a car has at least one time gotten in and turned the key only to hear a click.  It’s a sickening sound.  Most of us who are optimistic turn the key again only to rehear the click.  And if we have really lost control of our brains we turn it the third time.  If it didn’t work the first two times it isn’t going to work the third time because the battery is dead or so close to death it needs hospice.  It’s time for the jumper cables.  Hopefully there is a kind soul about who will let you connect to their car for electrical sustenance.
We could be the one who needs the power or the one who supplies the power depending on our personal supply.  When we are with Jesus we are charged with enough power to overcome the world.  That’s a promise in I John 5.  But there are times when we aren’t so supercharged.
Spending time in the Gospels and Paul’s letters keeps us connected and allows His power to flow through us to others.  These days, before the holidays, are especially hectic and busy and the time we have to pay attention to our spiritual life can be quite limited.  Often we have to really purpose it. If we don’t, life’s chores just crowd our days leaving very little time for Jesus.  It’s ironic that the celebration of His advent becomes the very thing to pull us away from Him.  If you find yourself feeling a bit separated from Him don’t chastise yourself.  He understands and is grateful for any time you can devote to Him, be it five minutes or an hour.  Just don’t let it be zero or you will hear the dreaded click.