I Love Cheerios

For a weight loss commercial Oprah looks into the camera and says, “I love bread!”   Well Oprah, I love Cheerios.  Ever since I have been a really little guy, Cheerios have been my favorite.  Not only did they nourish me, they were fun to play with.  I could scoop some out of my cereal bowl and make all manner of patterns with them.  I even learned to spell my name using Cheerios to form the letters.  This morning I had a bowl of Pumpkin Spice Cheerios.  I could have had Honey Nut Cheerios or Protein Cheerios.  Presently, there are sixteen different kinds from which we can choose.
I can easily image our Heavenly Father sitting on His throne saying, “I love people.”  “I love red ones, black ones, brown ones, white ones, yellow ones, little ones, really big ones, tattooed ones, bald ones and hairy ones.”  He loves us so much He actually wants to live in us.  Check out I Corinthians 6, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;” Did you catch that last phrase?  “You are not your own.”  Neither are we on our own.   His abiding presence in our lives means we have a continued source of intellectual and spiritual power to help us make wise decisions. 
We make thousands of small decisions each day.  Over the course of sixteen waking hours those decisions form patterns of speech and behavior.  With His help we design daily patterns creating a person He not only loves but one of which He is proud.  This very day God looks at you and says, “I love …..”  Insert YOUR name in the blank.

Pray Without Ceasing

Sometimes I wish Emily Post was still alive.  I have unanswered questions regarding being polite.  I was at the supermarket and while going down aisle one I met a man coming toward me.  We greeted.  A few moments later, because we were going through the aisles in opposite directions, we met again in aisle two and then in aisle three and again through twelve aisles.  How many times did I have to greet this man without being a cold snob?  Did the first greeting count for all the encounters that followed?
I had a church member once who tried to take Paul’s counsel in I Thessalonians 5:16 literally.  Paul wrote, “Pray without ceasing.”  I had a difficult time explaining that Paul meant that we should live with God as a companion and not that we should be constantly forming and articulating actual sentences.  I’m sure, unless the person was extremely creative, there was a lot of repetition going on.  One would become a human prayer wheel.  
When one lives with another person one does not, unless you want to drive the other insane, talk all the time.  Often times silence is wonderful.  We live in such a noisy world that having some quiet time is to be desired and is very beneficial.  There is something healing about being able to hear the blood circulating through one’s ears.  That’s as much quiet as we can achieve.   Praying without ceasing is living with God, who understands our preferences.  Some people are very quiet upon awakening.  Others are bright and verbal.  You don’t have to articulate anything for Him to know you love Him. 
Now, if only someone could resolve my supermarket dilemma.

The Absolute Truth

If you are going to lie you better know who you are lying to.  They might very easily catch you in your perfidy.  This weekend we stopped at a large nursery that was having a fall celebration with pumpkins, horses, cider doughnuts and other such items.  I found myself standing beside an elderly (anyone older than I, but not the same as I) lady who said to me, “And who are you.”   With the straightest face I could muster I said, “I’m the owner of this establishment.”  (Please don’t ask me why I did that.  My mouth was just running without any mental engagement.)  “Well,” she said, “you can’t be because I am.”  I was nailed.  Other people assured me she really was the owner.  A lovely conversation ensued and I was careful to truthfully answer all her questions.
So I ask you her question.  “Who are you?”   Hoards of people have no idea how to answer that question after they tell us their name.  My wife would tell me I’m her most special person in the world.  My sons call me Dad.  My grandchildren call me Papa.  One of them calls me Poppyseed.  I have absolutely no idea why.  Perhaps the most important answer is I am a son of the Most High God of the Universe.  That comes with all manner of rights and privileges.  I’m not the only person who can say that.   You also can answer with that exciting response.  
A child of God, though still a sinner, is a forgiven sinner and a prince or princess of the universe. We have been lavished with mercy which is aggressive forgiveness and promised to be rewarded far beyond what we can possibly imagine.  And when I tell you this I absolutely am not lying.  See Ephesians 3:20. 

The Great Debate

The greatest debate in your life is not a nationalized television event.  It is a live universal event where you are the focal point.  Check out Zechariah 3.  “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. The LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”  Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes. 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.”
In this story you are Joshua.  Please notice there is no debate regarding Joshua (you).  He is dressed in filthy clothes.  He is (You are) filthily guilty.  You are there because you have been snatched from the fire.  The earth is going up in the flames of man’s making.  God rescues you as surely as He rescued Noah.  Only this time the rescue is permanent.  Satan says to God, “You can’t do this.  He (you) is not worthy.”  And God says, “He will be in a moment.”  And your garments are changed.  “For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness.”  Isaiah 61:10.
On the cross Jesus earned the right to do this.  Nothing makes Him happier than to, in Satan’s presence, make us worthy.   Satan wanted us.  Jesus won us.  This is the greatest debate of all time.  It feels so good to win.  It feels so good to be clean.  It feels so good to be worthy.  Thank you Jesus.

The Transmission Tower

Yesterday afternoon I along with some friends were enjoying a vista that included a far away transmitter tower.  Wondering just where it was we set out to find it.  When we did find it we were amazed at how close it had been to our starting point.  We thought it was much farther away.  Next we discovered yet another even taller tower another four miles farther north.  When getting up this morning the first thing I saw was not only the first tower but the second tower.  I had never seen it before I knew it was there.
I was reminded of how often when I learn a new word suddenly I hear it all over the place and I am certain it was never before used in my hearing.   So how much is around us that we never see or hear until the eyes and ears of our minds are opened to its presence?  Until something is shown us, so often we would vow it did not exist.
I grew up singing a song, “Open my eyes that I may see glimpses of truth thou has for me.  Open my ears that I may hear voices of truth thou has for me.  Open my eyes illumine me – Spirit Divine.”    Ignorance is blindness.  Ignorance is deafness.  Often I have heard students ask, “How will this ever help me?  Do I need to know this for an exam?”   The answer is “Yes, you need this.  Not for a test but for life.”
The issue is we don’t know what we don’t know!  Yesterday I walked in a botanical garden with people who knew much about flora, while I knew almost nothing.  They enjoyed the afternoon so much more than I.  If we want to be really rich, we must first learn.

“No Cell Phones – No Ear Buds”

This evening when I entered my classroom the teacher from the former class was still present.  I noticed on the white board the following message, “No cell phones –  No ear buds.”  I turned to the prof and said, “Let me guess.  Your class was a freshman class.”  “Yep,” he replied, “you got it.”
I am not telling you this to make you think I am some kind guru – quite to the contrary.  I said it because I do know this.  I would never have to put up such a message in one of my grad courses.   It’s all about maturation.   Eighteen-year-olds and thirty-year-olds are soooo very different.
Since this is the case with something as simple as cell phone use, how much more complicated should be our expectations of teen’s spiritual lives.  The frontal lobes of our brains do not come into full use until our mid-twenties.  The frontal lobes are where we process values, principles and ethics.  Sometimes older generations are filled with despair because it seems that young people have no concrete sense of right and wrong and what is important.  We think this because, well, so often it’s the truth.  However, the good news is they continue to mature as the sun comes up and goes down.  Ever so slowly they turn into us.
Since the beginning of writing, adults have expressed despair that the up-coming generation will never be able to successfully run their own lives let alone the world.   So, if you have a child or grandchildren that don’t seem to grasp the importance of some of the things you value.  Be patient.  A day is coming when they will fret over their children and they will be the leaders in our churches.

Science – The Enhancer of Faith

Recently I listened to a discourse that portrayed science as the enemy of faith.  It was as if scientists were out to destroy any connection between one’s walk with God and the world that He created.  How very strange this seems.  It seems to me those of us who love the Lord, who maintain He is the Creator of all things physical, should be fascinated and excited each time something new is discovered.  Each new scientific idea, which if it is true science, is an unbiased attempt to understand our world and how it functions.  Each new discovery is another facet into the mind of Him that lives within us and enables us to be more like Him.
The problem seems to be that sometimes we need to make adaptations to our faith and that causes some to fear if they give up a little they are on a slippery road to giving up everything.  But, this need not be the case at all.  Instead, each adaptation brings us into a more realistic and deeper understanding of our Creator.  There is nothing sinister about saying, “I used to believe that way.  Now I believe this way.”   Remember the verse in Proverbs 3:8 that says, “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.”  The more scientific facts we know, the deeper is our love for the incredible Mind that designed it.
Change is not necessarily bad.  When the geocentric concept of the universe was disproven by Galileo and other inquiring minds, mankind had an opportunity to see the wonder of God’s true design.   Hebrews 1 just gets more exciting when it speaks of Jesus being the maker of worlds.  What an awesome Jesus.

Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous

I was browsing in the index section of the hymnal I grew up with and noticed forty-seven of the hymns were written by what appears to be a very prolific writer because I have seen his – or was he a she – name on lots of things – Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous.  Anonymity has always puzzled me because Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount,  “When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.” 
I understand what Jesus was driving at.  I get it.  However, when one is responsible for a ministry such as Spring of Life, why would people donate if they didn’t know you were doing something useful?  We want our gifts to mean something.  Personally, I am deeply moved by St. Jude Children’s Hospital that treats children with cancer and they never bill the parents for anything.  We need to know that about St. Jude if we would be moved to help.
The balance between sharing information and bragging is a very delicate thing.  How does one follow Jesus’ instructions and yet inform people that giving to something matters and makes a difference?  The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most complicated moral statements ever spoken.  How do we turn the other cheek and yet not be an enabler of someone’s pathological selfishness?  There are users all around us.   Are we to be doormats?   We have to balance that with Jesus’ counsel to shake the dust from our feet and move on.  If you are like me you need to daily ask for wisdom.  Fortunately we are promised we will receive wisdom if we ask.  See James 1:5.

The Goodness of God

The rich young ruler knelt before Jesus and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call Me good?” Jesus replied, “No one is good except God alone.”
The issue of defining who or what is good has been contemplated by scholars and philosophers, occidental and oriental, for millennia.  The result being that some people conclude that goodness is strict compliance to a carefully written code.  Others ask why we need a written code.  Instead they say we should ask, “Will this harm me or another?  Often there are extenuating circumstances that make it necessary to disobey one or more written rules.  The least harmful outcome would be what is good.”  
In Matthew 7:11 Jesus said, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” God alone knows the long range fruit of a specific act. Therefore, God’s goodness will always guide Him to answer our prayers in accordance with the long range fruit of what will be best for all involved.
Believing in the goodness of God brings us assurance that the best possible outcome will always be the fruit of our prayers.  When I ask for a safe journey somewhere, I rest assured that God will do or allow what is good for all involved.   Paul, who was beaten, shipwrecked and stoned on more than several occasions, said in Romans 8:28. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  We might not now see that something is good.  (I don’t on an almost daily basis.) But someday it will be made plain to us that God’s answer was the best possible answer.

The Super Market Checkout Lanes

Our supermarket has ten checkout lanes.  Yesterday there was only one open with eight people waiting in line.  To add insult to injury there were four employees chatting over at the service counter.  I don’t usually consider myself an activist, but this exceeded my sense of how to conduct a business.  Therefore, I called out very loudly to the four that it just might be beneficial if they stopped talking and opened up more checkout lanes.  Seven of the eight people in line applauded.  The eighth didn’t have to, she was being processed.  (And yes they did open two more checkouts.)
Now let me see.  There are presently 7.1 billion people on earth.  There is only ONE god.  Perhaps half of those people are worshipping, as Daniel says, “. . gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand.”  That still leaves 3.5 billion people to pray to the one and only living, hearing God.  That is a lot of people potentially standing in line. 
Now, this is where it really gets good.  There is no waiting in line.  There is no waiting for our number to be called.  Each person gains instant access.  One of the great human needs is for attention. We crave attention.  It is built into our psyche.  Yesterday I watched a child throw all his books from his desk onto the floor.  His teacher had been ignoring him. (At least he thought so.)   When I was in line at the supermarket I didn’t throw my groceries on the floor.  Instead I just yelled.  But we don’t have to yell at God.  This amazing Father hears the pleadings of our hearts and is right there with all the attention we need.  We are so blessed to have such a wonderful God. How grand!