Change You Can Count On

His birth caused mankind to change the calendar.  His touch changed a leper into a whole, healthy man.  His gentleness changed a woman’s life after He told her to go and sin no more.  His command changed a grieving father’s sorrow into tears of joy when his little girl started to breathe.  His blessing changed a little boy’s lunch into a banquet for 20,000 people. His command changed a raging storm into a tranquil sea.  His silence changed a court scene into an out of control mob.  His call changed the rotting flesh of a man dead for three days into a vibrant, living soul.  His generosity changes us from lost degenerates into good, kind, loving citizens of His Father’s kingdom.  His love changes our sin-stained heavenly records into documents of impeccable righteousness.  His command will change this planet into the home for the New Jerusalem. 
We are hearing much about change these days.  If you are looking for change, real change, look no further than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We are told that the more things change the more they stay the same.  That’s true in politics.   But we are not talking about the selfish ways of men.  We are talking a real change that will not be the same old, same old.  The change Jesus brings is real and eternal.  So if you are tired of ageing, tired of disappointing yourself and others, tired of the gruesome news of the day, tired of being separated from loved ones by death, then change your life right now.  Change to Jesus’ side and life will be an endless adventure of change as you grow more and more like Him.   That is awesome change.


I just came from Penney’s.  If I owned stock I would sell it just as soon as the markets opened in the morning.  If they wondered why I was the only customer there, they should note they are selling t-shirts for $90 marked down 40%.  That is still $50 for a t-shirt.  Surely the only person who would pay that much for a t-shirt is someone who just won the lottery and is still stupid giddy over being rich.  The t-shirt didn’t even have a Patriot’s logo on the front or back.
Now I do realize they are not marketing to someone my age.  No one markets to people my age, well maybe the guy who called last week peddling cemetery lots.   Wait I have to take that back the drug dealers, who instead of standing on street corners, market to me during the network evening news broadcasts at 6:30.
Smart marketing is the secret ingredient for any successful endeavor.  I am marketing to you right now.  I want you to buy something guaranteed to never wear out, never to fray, never to fade and always will hold its value.  I want you to buy from me something that will restore your youth and return you to the arms of lost family. “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”  Revelation 3:18.
You can’t buy it with cash.  You don’t have enough cash so instead it is free.  Well, not really.  It will cost you your loyalty and love.  It’s a bargain at any price.

The Sweetness of a Summer Evening

Ah the sweetness of a summer evening.  It’s been over 90 degrees today and the soft gentle breeze lilting its way across the oak and maple covered mountains brings refreshment akin to an icy drink.  The sound is a symphony of almost silence.  I heard my first cicada of the summer this evening.   It is still a bit early for katydids.  They should decorate our evenings in mid-August.  The bats are here gobbling up the mosquitoes, making it more pleasant to be outside. Neighbors are out and so our evening walk was a social event.  Just a tad of rain fell on us.  It wasn’t enough to blur my glasses.  But it was enough to fill the air with that wonderful smell of an approaching storm that never came. 
Every state has its specialness.  We used to live in Iowa and the summertime sound of corn growing was the sound of prosperity.  While we did not have seasons in Africa there were the days when the coffee trees were in bloom.  The scent was not that of Starbucks but rather of cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. 
George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward left us with “Summertime when the living is easy.”  It has been recorded by different groups and soloists over 33,000 times.  It is part of our social fabric. 
In Jeremiah 8:20 Jeremiah laments for his people, “The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved.”  Let that never be written for us.  If you are not yet sure of your salvation do not let this summer pass without believing that our God is a God who keeps His promises.  In John 5:24 He promises if we will believe in Jesus we will immediately cross over from death to life.   Summertime is a sweet time!

Sparrows Count

House sparrows count.  They know the difference between two and three.  Our squirrel-proof birdfeeder (it isn’t) closes when three sparrows sit on the perch.  Two sparrows can feed as much as they want, but when a third sparrow tries to land, resulting in closure for all, the two sparrows already there will chase the third away.  The feeder will stay open for one cardinal and one sparrow.  But when a second sparrow tries to land the one sparrow will chase it away.  Two is good.  Three is bad.
Since I am skeptical about the ability of most sparrows to count I have to conclude that my sparrows are smarter than your sparrows just as my dad can beat up your dad and my church is better than your church. 
Aren’t we amazing creatures?  It usually has to be about us and how smart we are and how intellectually needy others are.  We are the center of the universe.  Me first.  My grandchildren are more everything than yours.  This must have driven Jesus crazy as he observed the behavior not only of His nation but of His disciples.  Thus, Jesus calls us to servant ministry and for Paul to say in Romans 12, “Love must be sincere. . . . Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Outdo yourselves in honoring one another.”  It is difficult to do this and remain self-centered.
It’s nice to be somebody.  It’s even nicer to be nobody.  It’s a difficult lesson to learn.  But once learned life becomes so much richer.  As Jesus said, “The first shall be last and the last first.”  Matthew 20.  “Ask not what your neighbor can do for you, ask what you can do for your neighbor.”  It works on every level of life.

Summer Versus Winter

I’m trying to decide which season I enjoy the most.  While I enjoy the warm days of summer when I go to the grocery store in the summer, people appear in all manner of undress.  Maybe one in fifty is attractive.  The rest should be wearing many more garments to cover up tattoos and rolls of flesh indicating they have been to the grocery store too many times.  I like winter time because it is all covered up.  Walmart isn’t the only scary place.
Genesis 2:25 says, “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”  That was because they were perfect and looked really good.  If people looked that good today I’m sure the super market would be even more revealing.  Genesis 3:7 says, “They sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”  Oh for a produce department that sold fig leaves.
There are a lot of things about people that need to be covered up.  Too often people expose way too much about their personal life.  I shudder inside when in church and before the morning prayer someone asks for prayer requests.  Way too much is often said while asking for prayers.  “Pray for my sister’s son who is an axe murderer.”  I really didn’t need to know that!
I realize there is a cathartic need to stop harboring pain but that is one of the functions of real prayer – private prayer.  I John 1:9 admonishes us to confess our sins, but that is to the great loving silent Father who knows how to keep secrets.   Best of all He is available during all seasons of the year. 

Summer Tomatoes

It’s summer time and New England’s lily-laden roadsides are decorated with farm stands overflowing with sweet corn, tomatoes, squash and a wonderful assortment of God’s bounty.  Yesterday I stopped and bought tomatoes.  They are so much better than the hothouse tomatoes at the supermarket.  I grew up sprinkling salt on tomatoes but I had a friend who introduced me to the joy of sprinkling them with sugar.  Last evening as I was looking at those tiny white tomato seeds I remembered what Paul had to say in I Corinthians 15 about what we will look like after resurrection morning.  Paul said, “But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?’  How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.  When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.”
That little white tomato seed doesn’t look anything like the luxuriant green vine and the sumptuous, roundish, red tomato that fills one’s hand and drips with lush red juice that flavors a great sandwich.  So don’t bother looking in the mirror and thinking what you see is what you will look like in heaven.  You are going to be so fine.  No Mister or Miss Universe will ever come close to the glorious you.  Another joy will be that as different as we will be we will recognize each other.  Perhaps we might need a reintroduction.  The last time I saw my grandma she was 90.  That’s all I remember.  When I see her again she will not look 90.  Perhaps 900?!  

On Recommendations

I just finished writing a letter of recommendation for a former student.  Mark Twain once said recommendations should be filled out by our enemies because they will tell the truth about us.  When reading letters of recommendations one must pretty much ignore what is written and instead view what is missing. 
There is an interesting story in Zechariah 3 that begins like this. “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.”  Apparently Joshua was being judged and needed a recommendation.  Satan was present and only needed to tell the truth.  It seems that the great liar need not lie when speaking about us.  The truth is bad enough to ensure our demise.  However, the story continues, “The LORD said to Satan, ‘The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you!’ Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Take off his filthy clothes.’ Then he said to Joshua, ‘See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.’ Then I said, ‘Put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the LORD stood by.”
Without lying about how good we are, Jesus, who never lies, takes away our filth and covers us with goodness.  We are then presented before the Father.   Just like any good letter of recommendation, notice what is missing.  Wow.  I love this story.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  I John 1:9

Galatians 5 for Children

In Galatians 5 Paul is very emphatic regarding our adding anything of value toward the payment for eternal life.  He wants to make sure we understand that salvation is not a 50% payment of effort on our part with Christ making up the other half.  We can’t add even 1%.  He said, “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.”  If we are trying then we have fallen from grace!  That is very strong language.  Then if that is not enough he also says, “I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.” (Circumcision was the specific issue but the principle involved could be anything we try to use to be justified.) He is not speaking of merely the Ten Commandments when he says “the whole law.”  He means all of Leviticus which would make life very different from how we now live.
Lest someone misunderstand Paul and think that Jesus than gives us license for any behavior Paul goes on to say, “But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  He then goes on to describe the characteristics of people in love with their Savior.   “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” 
This is not complicated. Let’s see if we can reduce it to one sentence a child can grasp.   Jesus saves us and we respond with love because we want to be like Him.  That’s it!


One of the first things one is taught when taking flying lessons is not to believe what one sees or feels.  It has been proven over and again that our senses do not always tell us the truth.  Pilots are taught to trust their instruments which are not subject to human experience.  Sometimes when flying level one feels like one is climbing and so we push in the yoke thinking to fly level but we are really descending.
Thus it is with people, it is not wise to trust or make important decisions on the testimony of just one person no matter how trustworthy.  They can honestly be wrong.  In I Corinthians 15 Paul wrote regarding Jesus’ resurrection, “He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time.”  Five hundred is an excellent sample size for researchers.  Then Peter wrote, “We were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”  Please note the “we” not “I.”  
We have a tendency to believe something on a very small amount of data or just because something, we think, happened to us.  The average person dreams three to seven dreams a night.  That is between 1500 and 2500 dreams a year.  Yet, I know someone who claims to believe his dreams tell his future because a few years ago something he dreamed came to be.  Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
If we are to know something, really know, we have to have adequate data.  Regarding the resurrection of our Lord, the data and sample size are more than enough.  HE LIVES.


Our world is full of passwords.  I’m sure I must have a dozen different ones for various computer accounts.  If I lost my password book I would be in huge difficulty.  Through the years it has gotten difficult to use because of having to change passwords that have timed out.  The old passwords are crossed out with new ones scribbled in any available space.  My great grandmother’s maiden name just doesn’t work anymore because now we have to add &*%#’s.  No, that isn’t code for bad words.  It really is &*%#.
In Judges 12 there is an interesting story about the password Shibboleth.  One could know the word but if they did not pronounce it correctly, not only did it keep them out, it meant death.  Ouch.  42,000 were killed. (And we think the world is violent now!)  So what’s the password for heaven?  If we don’t know it, it also means death.  Paul lets out the secret in Romans 10:13.  “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  And we don’t have to worry about pronunciation.  You don’t even have to say it.  All you need to do is think it!  We don’t have to worry about it timing out.  As He is eternal so it is eternal.  
Now I realize some will say, “Hey, that is too easy. You are giving away heaven.”  And my answer is, “You’re right. It is easy.  But I’m not the one giving heaven away.  Jesus is.”  Do you remember the parable about those who complained about workers who only worked one hour receiving the same as those who worked all day?  I have always loved the master’s response, “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”  God is generous!