The American Express Centurion Card

What’s in your wallet?  I can assure you what is not in my wallet – the American Express Centurion card.  First of all you have to be invited.  Next you have to pay a $7,500 initiation fee and then pay an annual fee of $2,500.   I am now about to reveal my plebeian, working class status by saying, “I don’t understand.”   In my uninvited state of mind it seems to me that a credit card is a credit card as long as it has no annual fee and returns to me one to three percent.  Now, obviously there must be some benefits of which I am totally unaware and probably unable to understand.  This is a case of not knowing what I don’t know.
I Corinthians 2:9 says, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”  I have always loved this text.  Never in my dreams would I have thought it also applied to American Express.  They must offer some wonderful perks.
I can tell you what or who does offer some wonderful perks.  Jesus offers us eternal life with unlimited universal travel and we don’t have to keep track of frequent flier miles.  If we did it would be frequent flier light-years.  How I wish we could help our youth understand what they are being offered.  This sinful world has nothing to compare with what waits for God’s children.   Satan is out to dupe them.  Have you ever noticed the casino commercials?   They are filled with beautiful young people laughing, smiling and hugging.  The last time I walked through a casino I watched a busload of senior citizens head for the nickel slots.  The pretty people must have been in a back room.  

Invisible Rabbits

We have a super abundance of rabbits this summer.  Each evening while walking the dog we are sure to see three or four.  We probably miss seeing an equal amount because we have noticed the classic rabbit strategy for supposed safety.  They freeze.  Once they detect us they become garden statuary.   Sometimes it works because I have seen my lab walk right by some without a glance. 
I have noticed a similar strategy for Christians who apparently do not want to be seen.  They freeze and blend into the environment.  No one would know they are a Christian because they are not involved when others need assistance.  They become invisible.  They go to church but never volunteer for any outreach.   Sometimes they arrive at church during the opening hymn and leave during the closing hymn.   Don’t get me wrong.  It’s great that they come.  But it would be greater if they stayed long enough to meet others and just maybe see a need that fits their spiritual gift.
Ephesians 4:11 says, “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service.”
You might read that verse and think I’m not any of those.  That might be true but it is also true that everyone can do something.  It is a matter of creativity and watching.  Maybe we need to subscribe to the local newspaper.  Usually there are all manner of ideas written about that require local need.   Perhaps we give to missions.  That’s a good idea.  But maybe our local community needs us just as much as someone in Africa.  Then again we can be a rabbit and be invisible.  

Jesus is Our Righteousness

I gained twenty pounds today.  Really.  I am so depressed.  Our bathroom scale broke so we bought a new one.  When I stepped on it I found out I was twenty pounds heavier than I thought I was.  This ranks up there with one of the top twenty horrors in my life.  I didn’t even have the pleasure of twenty chocolate milkshakes to account for this calamity.  I did have one milkshake last week at Denny’s but I didn’t eat anything else.  That was my meal!  Yeah, I know better.
I guess it’s time to up my Fitbit walking goal for each day.  Perhaps I should only eat half a bowl of cereal in the morning.   Just last week I learned that the supposed truth about breakfast being the most important meal of the day isn’t so.  The research that was used to support that idea was paid for by Kellogg.  Humm?
It is difficult to let go of things we thought were true only to discover it just “ain’t” so.  I was taught in Bible class at my parochial high school that we should strive with all our might to be perfect and the part we can’t do is the part Jesus makes up for us.  Wow.   How could that ever have been taught?  Had he not read Philippians 3:8-9, “I count all things as loss compared to the surpassing excellence of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God on the basis of faith.”  That heresy was a great weight that needed to be lost.  Jesus is EVERYTHING. 

Don’t Be a Chipmunk

We have this marvelous banquet table under our birdfeeder.  It is rare not to have company.  Yesterday I was watching two rabbits, three chipmunks, two blue jays, one cardinal and four sparrows all on (not around) the table at the same time.  Thinking that I would liven up the feast I got a cup full of black oil sunflower seeds and added them to the seed fallen from above.  What followed next was abominable.   The chipmunks immediately vacuumed them up by stuffing them in their cheeks and running off to hide them.  In less than five minutes the sunflower seeds were all gone. 
When the Romans finally breached the wall of Jerusalem in AD70 they found horrible scenes of starvation so bad that people were eating each other.  Yet they discovered warehouses filled with food.   A selfish few had hoarded from their neighbors.  Thus all were lost.
If history teaches us anything it teaches us that isolationism and protectionism ultimately leads to poverty for all involved.  Selfishness on all levels enhances no one.  Just the opposite is true.  Generosity and care for our neighbors does more than make us feel good inside.  It actually enhances the wealth of all concerned.  Jesus was not just teaching us feel good things.  He was an economist when He said, “It is more blessed to give than receive.”  Acts 20:35. 
We must not spiritualize this away and add it to a book of platitudes.  This is the secret of prosperity on all stages.  Jesus was the wisest man ever.  However, we are also counseled to be wise and not to squander our pearls by giving them the undeserving.   Don’t be a chipmunk.

A Good Non-Stick Frying Pan

Today we went to Bed Bath and Beyond shopping for a wedding present. I must confess after being involved with a hundred or more weddings through the years I am not very good at picking out good presents.  I saw what I thought was a great bathroom scale. Nope, not according to my wife.  Next I saw a nice light-weight floor sweeper.  Nope, not according to my wife.  I tried one more time when I spotted one of those “as seen on TV” tough-grade 12 inch ceramic red copper plated frying pan that defies scratches and is non-stick.  It even has a stay-cool handle.  I scored.  It’s a beauty.
It reminds me of us.  Since we made Jesus the Lord of our lives we also are non-stick.  Guilt and shame just slide off because according to I John 1, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”   Please don’t miss the words “cleanse” and “all.”  Now this does not mean we can go around deliberately sinning and harming others and ourselves.   That would be stupid because sinning is poisonous.  Sin is harmful and leaves scars on our psyche.  This is where we are different from the frying pan.  It is non-scratch.  Even though Jesus forgives us the scratches remain.  But, I do have more good news.  According to Paul in I Corinthians 15 a day is coming when this mortal puts on immortality and this corruption puts on incorruption.  The scratches are removed.  Christians should be the most psychologically healthy people in the world.  We are provided with so much security and hope.
I should have started this with a spoiler alert.  The groom often reads these devotionals and now he will know what we are giving him.

We Are Better Than We Are

Monday’s New Yorker Cartoon features a man walking with five Fitbits on each arm.  He says to the woman walking with him, “People pay me to put steps on their Fitbits.”  Just as we cannot exercise for another we cannot diet for another.  We cannot learn for another nor sleep for another.  There were days when I wished another could and would take chemotherapy for me. However, there are some things we can do for another. We can pay another’s debts.  We can drive another’s car.  The list is infinite.
My favorite “what someone can do for another” is found in Romans 5:7-8.  “Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”
How about that!  Isn’t that the best ever?  Just as the man in the cartoon put steps on another’s Fitbit so Jesus puts righteousness on and in our characters.  That makes us better than we are.  I realize that statement borders on nonsense. But, the truth is it works.  We are in God’s eyes as perfect as Jesus is perfect the moment we accept the gift of God’s grace.  That makes us better than we are.  However, we will not be content to remain as we are.  The quest for righteousness begins.  We are justified by His grace and by His power we are sanctified as we grow into His likeness.  This is a mystery – the mystery of righteousness.  How is it that God could take someones like us and make us perfect?  I don’t know, but I will not argue about it.  It is just too wonderful.
Oh, by the way.  I put ten thousand steps on my Fitbit today.

My Annual Eye Exam

My eyes were dilated this morning for my yearly exam.  As I left the office I was given a pair of throwaway sunglasses.  I was stupid.  I didn’t put them on and walked out the front door.  It was a clear day.  Ouch. The power of light is not something to be trifled with.  You should have seen how quickly I put them on.
I immediately thought of Moses coming down Mt. Sinai having been with the Lord. “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. . . When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face.”  Exodus 34.  Only this time it wasn’t me that was shining.  It was just the opposite.
In Hebrews 1 we are told God spoke to humanity in many different forms.  Each time He shared more light about Himself with His people.  Finally He sent Jesus who was the ultimate revelation of God – the Light of the World. The Children of Israel came out of slavery in a land filled with gods.  Most of the Israelites were illiterate and their view of God was tainted by the exposure to paganism.  The only way for them to know the truth was to actually see Jesus.  Thus there were many flawed ideas about God before Jesus came. If we are to know what God is really like we must study the Gospels and Paul.  They knew the truth about God because He walked with us as one of us for over thirty years.  As one of us the light was bright without harming us.  The light was life itself.

Little Kids in Commercials

I just finished watching a local auto dealer’s television commercial featuring a small and not so good looking child.  From the age of the dealer, who also appeared, she must be one of his grandchildren who he thinks is adorable.  Through the years I have several times observed this same behavior of using little children in commercials.  One can only draw one conclusion. Love really is blind.  Love equals cute and cute demands to be displayed.  Now, I would not know this from personal experience because my six grandchildren really are incredibly gifted mentally and physically.  I only know this from my observation of other grandparents and their not so perfect grandchildren.
Thus it strikes me that our heavenly Father who is incredibly in love with us must therefore think we are good looking.  If God was selling cars on planets across the galaxy for sure He would be using us in His commercials. So the next time you look in the mirror and are confronted with a host of physical issues like a gigantic nose or skin blemishes don’t be disheartened.  God thinks you are beautiful and/or handsome.  And when it comes to our characters He loves us so much once we ask for forgiveness He observes us as never having sinned.  Now that is amazing.  We become perfect in Christ.
I love being a Christian.  It comes with such a vast array of benefits.  Our guilt is removed, we are given eternal life, we are adopted into the heavenly family, we become citizens of His kingdom, we become princes and princesses of the universe and we are more splendid to look at than any movie star.  So the next time you look in the mirror wink at yourself because you are so beautiful.  Joe Cocker had it right. 

Like Father Like Son

When I graduated from Andrews University my father drove from Penn. to Mich. to see the grand event.  After my name was called and I walked across the platform he stood up and said for many to hear, “Well, that’s what I came for” and he left.  He went home.  So, last evening my granddaughter graduated from high school in Bronxville, NY.  There were about 120 in her class and she was the very first name called.  That meant my reason for being there was finished.  Why should I sit outside in the sun and watch 119 more people graduate when I knew none of them.  So, like father like son, I started to get up to leave.  Alas, my wife grabbed me and made me sit down for the duration.
Jesus said it and I believe it on this Father’s Day weekend, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.”  John 14:9   God, the Father, gets the blame for all manner of tragedies.  The Old Testament writers were notorious for doing it and humans haven’t stopped since.  But one of the reasons Jesus came here was to show us what God was really like.  We need to put the blame for tragedies on the being that is really at fault.  Just as we cannot see Jesus mercilessly killing innocents neither should we see the Father doing so.
I am hoping in heaven there is not a grand celebration service where each of the redeemed have their name called and they go up to the throne to get a diploma. In Revelation 7:9 we read that the multitude is numberless.  I mean I’m happy for everyone who is saved but I just don’t want to sit there that long.  There is a multitude of other things to do on my heavenly to-do list.

A Moment of Nostalgia

This afternoon I wandered past the deli section of our supermarket and spotted a roll of Lebanon baloney (bologna).  It most likely is one of the unhealthiest things ever processed for human consumption.  But despite its nutritional value, or lack of, I paused for a moment of nostalgia.  My father loved Lebanon baloney.  His idea of a great meal was a Lebanon baloney sandwich made with spongy white Wonder Bread layered inside with yellow mustard.  This was then washed down with an ice cold Pepsi that had been in the freezer right up to the moment before freezing solid.  Wow.  It is no wonder he did not live as long as I am old.  Sometimes I am tempted to imbibe.  Fortunately my head rules over my heart.
My Dad was educated.  He was a graduate of Shippensburg State University and was a special needs teacher.  He taught his students about healthful living and the food pyramid.  He was a living example that just because you know something it doesn’t take the place of actually acting upon that information.
Some of the world’s foremost New Testament scholars are Jewish.  They know more about the text and content of the Gospels and writings of Paul than most Christians.  But knowledge is not going to save them.  I grew up in a church that valued being more right than other Christians.  One day the light bulb went on and I realized being more right about things isn’t what Christianity is all about.  Being a Christian is about being Christ-like.  It is trusting Jesus to save us and then living the kindest, most generous, most caring life possible.  “Truth” doesn’t save.  Jesus does!