I’m sure everyone has at least once in their life gotten a paper-cut. The edge of a piece of paper so quickly slits one of your fingers. The cut is so smooth and so subtle you can barely see it. But you can surely feel it. Often it doesn’t bleed; it just creates nagging, annoying discomfort. If it is on the end of a finger it makes keyboarding very unpleasant. How can something so small be so aggravating?

Ticks can be even worse. The tiny ticks that almost require a magnifying glass to see them are the worst. Often you don’t know they are there until it is too late and they have begun using you as a banquet table. Sometimes relationships are spoiled by little things. Others’ idiosyncrasies can so irritate, things like sucking one’s teeth, constant humming off-key, slamming car doors when you are still inside, not really listening and then asking you to repeat yourself, chewing a finger, putting their cold feet on you in the middle of the night, and on and on.

Life is full of irritants and we are not as innocent as we might think. We just don’t notice ours, but others do. They can be like tiny ants that steal away the joy of a picnic. Paul’s counsel to us basically is not to make a big deal out of others’ issues and to (if we can stand it) mind our own business. He wrote, “So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.” Romans 14:12. We cannot justifiably say, “But Lord, every time we stop for a traffic light, he picks his nose!”

The Voice

We talked to a woman today with what had to be the world’s worst ever voice. We’re talking about a sound so offensive it could clear the room of mosquitoes. I was so relieved when she stopped talking. I did genuinely feel sorry for her. I wondered how she would ever find a spouse. Well, if he were deaf, that would work. After she departed I thought the situation could have been reversed, because she was very nice and polite. What could be worse was if someone had a smooth mellifluous voice and used it to say mean, rude, disgusting things.

How horrible it would be to hear God’s voice, which has to be the best voice in the Universe, say, “I never knew you.” “Many will say to me, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.” Matthew 7.

The best thing any of us will ever hear is the exact opposite. To His redeemed God will say, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Matthew 25.

The Good News is we can be sure we will hear the latter. Jesus is so straightforward when He says to us in John 5:24, “He that hears my word, and believes on him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” This is so wonderful and so powerful even the “dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” That is a sweet voice!! John 5:25.

Follow Me

I had plenty of fuel to get home to the Napa Valley when I departed from Redlands, California. But soon, while over the western edge of the Mohave Desert, I encountered much stronger head winds than forecast. It became evident I was going to have to refuel somewhere up the coast. Fuel consumption is measured not in miles covered but in hours in the air. As I neared San Francisco I decided it would be interesting to stop at SFO. I fully expected the control tower to bring me in on a small runway designed for private aviation but was pleasantly surprised to be led to one of the two giant side by side runways designed for 747s. It was a real treat.

As soon as I touched down a truck appeared in front of me with a large sign that read, “Follow me.” He would lead me to fuel. As I taxied behind him I thought how interesting it would be if the sign read, “Matthew 16:24.” Few pilots would even have a clue. This was in such contrast to construction trucks on highways that say, “Don’t follow me.”

We all follow someone. Whether our pride allows it or not each of us is influenced by role models and our behavior, upon study, would reveal who it is. Following Jesus is the best ever role model anyone anywhere could ever emulate. He will take us to destinations far beyond our ability to think or imagine. He will not only change our behavior, He will make us anew. Following Jesus is not “off to see the wizard” but off to see unnumbered worlds filled with dazzling creatures who have never sinned and have only lived to serve others. Come with me. Let’s live forever.

Culture Vs. Morality

I mentioned to a friend that all last week I had spaghetti for breakfast. He thought I was daft. People don’t eat spaghetti for breakfast. When I asked him why not, the only real answer I could get from him was because that isn’t what we do. How very easy it is for convention to dictate to us what we can and cannot do. The power of culture, the routine of life, the hold of habit are so very strong; even to the point of sometimes mistakenly assigning moral implications of right and wrong to something with absolutely no Biblical basis or real ethical foundation.

Several years ago a Baptist pastor friend and I decided to unite our churches one evening for a joint communion service. It was a beautiful experience that changed our community. Because we did some things a bit differently we did some their way and some our way. They did not have deacons pass the emblems to the people where they were seated but had the worshippers come to the front to receive the emblems from the pastors. It was amusing to watch the expressions on the faces of our members when we asked them to the front. You could almost see the smoke coming from their ears as their brains went into high gear trying to decide if this was morally right or wrong. Finally a few got it that the geography of where one ate the bread had nothing to do with its’ significance. When they came the others followed.

Before we begin making a issue of something we should clearly understand beforehand if this is cultural tradition or God directed. God loves nothing more than a clear thinking child.

Stray Dogs and Alley Cats

When one is a pastor one meets a vast array of interesting people. When I am eighty I want to write a book about the “Stray Dogs and Alley Cats”* who through the years attended my church. (I need to wait until I am eighty to make sure they are dead lest someone put two and two together.) One morning when we had over three thousand present someone whispered in my ear that the Zodiac killer had been in church. This was north of San Francisco. In a different part of the country (We moved a lot.) on many occasions I had a man come who had confessed to me of taking contracts for the mob. I could contrast this with an evangelist who told me his goal was to win so many souls for Jesus his crown would be the brightest in heaven. We once had a man who brought both his wife and girlfriend to church and sit with his arm around his girlfriend while she snuggled.

All of this brings me to Harley Allen’s song Stray Dogs and Alley Cats. Some of the lyrics go like this.

“To bad for heaven and to good for hell
Little wings are better than big tails
I don’t expect to sit at god’s right hand
I could empty heavens garbage cans
Hope there is room on those golden streets
For stray dogs and alley cats like me.”

I find myself thinking there is very little difference between killer and evangelist, except maybe, the killer knew he needed Jesus. I’m not sure the evangelist did. The good news is found in Hebrews 7:25, “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him.”

*My thanks to Harley Allen.