Receiving Jesus

I was called on the carpet recently for using the term “receiving Jesus” — a term frequently used by those in the denominations to refer to finding grace, particularly in the absence of baptism or any other concrete act of obedience.  I then caught myself saying it twice in the very next sermon I preached, so I suppose the observation is valid.

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Walkouts

I have to admit, I am not a big fan of walkouts.  And I appear to be in the minority.  Everyone seems to be staging walkouts these days.  Generally, as I understand it, a walkout involves people abandoning their proper, useful activity such as school or work and spending their time instead telling people how righteous their cause is — as though school and work are not righteous causes themselves.

I’m not doubting the sincerity of the people involved, nor am I necessarily casting aspersions on their respective causes.  I’m just saying, it’s very convenient to pat yourself on the back for taking a day off.

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The Rules for Mercy

Those who follow women’s professional golf (and there’s bound to be one of you out there somewhere) are no doubt already acquainted with events regarding Lexi Thompson earlier this month.  She was two strokes up on the 12th hole of the final round at the ANA Inspiration tournament, which is a “major” for the ladies.  A rules official approached her and said she had incorrectly replaced her ball on the 17th hole the day before.  She placed her marker.  She picked up the ball.  She placed it about an inch away from its previous location.  That’s a two stroke penalty.  And it meant she signed an incorrect scorecard.  That’s another two strokes.  Suddenly she was two strokes behind, not two ahead.

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Read the signs!

Social media has given a voice to people who take great pleasure in being obnoxious.  Space fails to provide a comprehensive proof of this concept; for our purposes here, I will limit my frame of reference to those who take pictures of themselves doing precisely what a sign is instructing people not to do.  Walking on the grass, swimming, smoking, the situational prohibitions run the gamut.  And the existence of the sign more or less implies that the behavior is not necessarily unlawful; people are simply asked to choose a different time and/or place.

Nope.  “Look at me!  I’m a rebel!  I break rules!  No one can tell me what to do!”  As the saying goes, it’s all fun until someone gets eaten by an alligator.

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Easter

Our good friend Tenson Mangwinyana contacted me last week, saying he was going on the radio that night (our early afternoon) to discuss the topic of Easter.  He wanted to know if I had any relevant material on the subject.  I gave him what I had — in a nutshell, that Easter is a human creation with pagan origins; that  early Bibles such as the King James Version substituted “Easter” in Acts 12:4, knowing full well the word was “Passover”; that the early Christians celebrated every “Lord’s Day,” including what we call Easter Sunday, by communing with Him in His death at His table. 

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The Real "April Fool"

I was always a “better safe than sorry” kind of kid with regard to Biblical concepts.  For instance, Jesus said, “Swear not at all” in Matthew 5:34, so I wouldn’t say the word “swear.”  I’ve come to realize that isn’t the point of that passage; still, I can’t help cringing a bit when I hear someone say, “I swear to God.” 

I say that to bring up another passage from the Sermon on the Mount.  Matthew 5:22 reads, ‘But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”

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Treason! (or maybe not)

Treason!  Treason!  The accusation rang loud and long in the palace of the queen, and it was the queen herself making the accusation.  She was suddenly facing an uprising from the priesthood — ironic, considering they were the spokesmen for righteousness and order, which had always translated to supporting the monarch instead of bringing the monarch down.  She was horrified that the people and their leaders would turn on the queen so rudely, suddenly, and ultimately with extreme violence.

As is generally the case, there are two sides to the story.

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Flying with a peacock

There are so many satire sites out there these days, it’s tough to take any bit of ridiculousness seriously — which is, I suppose, a good thing.  Anyway, I figured it was probably a gag when I saw United Airlines had denied a seat and ticket to a woman’s pet peacock, which she needed as an “emotional support animal.”

But no, this one appears to be legit.

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Bigger

The story goes that Yul Brynner, career flying after the success of The King and I and The Ten Commandments, was a bit annoyed at the upstart television actor named Steve McQueen that he had brought into the production of The Magnificent Seven.  McQueen had a habit of playing with his hat, wiping his brow, basically anything to get the audience’s eyes on him while he and Brynner were in a scene.

It went both ways, though.  Brynner, several inches shorter than McQueen, arranged for small piles of dirt to be nearby for him to stand on when acting with McQueen.  McQueen took delight in kicking the dirt piles over.  Ah, the famous camaraderie of thespians!

McQueen’s antics worked, it seems.  He became one of the biggest screen stars of the 1960s.  Brynner’s career, on the other hand, trended downward more and more.  My generation knows him as much as anything for those creepy lung cancer commercials he made just before he died.

Who is “bigger”?  Men have been fighting over that vague concept for centuries.  And women have their own version of the battle; they’re just not as likely to literally kill anyone in pursuit of the blue ribbon.  “We just tease her until she develops an eating disorder,” one female TV character once observed.

But life shouldn’t be a competition for Christians. Our reward is heavenly (Hebrews 11:16).  And heaven has no limit to its capacity.  “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).  So if someone isn’t bumping us out of line for heaven, why should we worry if he insists on being “bigger” in this life?  That’s his problem.  I don’t have to make it my problem.

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Dead mice, baby eagles, and children

We saw what appeared to be (from inside a car moving at 30 miles per hour) a dead mouse on the road the other day.  It struck me because I had just been thinking how rare that is.  We see dead possums, raccoons, and various other critters all the time in these parts.  But mice, which surely are as plentiful as any of the others, manage to escape road-pizzadom.  Until last week.

As is generally the case, I have a theory.  I think mice have smaller lives than the other, larger mammals decorating the highways and byways of the Florida Panhandle.  They do not need to roam far from their nests, so they have much less reason to cross 20 feet of asphalt.  That has certain advantages which, given the circumstances of this conversation, would seem to be obvious.  And perhaps they are not worldly wise enough to appreciate the disadvantages.  But we appreciate them on their behalf.  And we can’t help but pity them a bit.  The experience is worth the danger, I say.  I suspect you agree.

I write this having pushed one of my mice out of the nest recently.  The other one will follow one day.  And in many ways, it would be safer for them if they stayed home, keeping their lives small and uncomplicated.  But I want more for them than that.  So occasionally, like the eagle of Deuteronomy 32:11, I stir the nest up a bit.  I remain close at hand to catch them if they aren’t quite self-sufficient, certainly. 

But it’s not my job to make them safe.  It’s my job to make them fly.

I want a full life for my children.  But they have a greater chance of heartbreak if they get married.  A child who is never born to them can never apostatize.  They can’t get fired if they never get a job.  So if my top priority is keeping them from the bad things in this world, the reasonable thing to do is to shelter them from all the decisions that can go poorly.  As a side benefit, I get extra people at the table on board game night for the rest of my life.

And then, one day, I’ll die.  Tracie too.  And two teenagers in the bodies of women in their 60s will be left by themselves, completely unfit for life. 

I don’t want that.  So I let them grow.  When necessary, I force them to grow.

Training a child (Proverbs 22:6) is a multistage process.  First they watch.  Then they help.  Then you help.  Then you watch.  Then you leave.  Whether you are teaching them to bake a cake, build a friendship, serve society, or study the Bible, the process is the same.  You will probably go backward a step or two from time to time to finetune their skills.  But the objective is always to abandon them.  They must be allowed to fly.  And, yes, perhaps crash.  Hey, if Geppetto wanted Pinocchio to stay safe, he shouldn’t have wished for a real, live boy.

The problem I see with “helicopter parents,” as they’ve come to be called, is ultimately selfishness.  The parent cannot bear to let the child go, for fear of either the child’s failure or the parents’ isolation; in so doing the parent stifles the child’s development.  Either the child’s life remains small forever, or the child one day wakes up in a world for which he or she is completely unprepared.  And gets run over.  This is fine for parents in the short term.  They don’t have to cut the cord, and they don’t have to watch their child suffer quite as much.  But it hurts the child in the long run.  They can’t sleep in cribs forever.

“The discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4) has to be administered by me, the parent.  I teach them what God’s expectations are.  I train them.  I correct them.  I show them the proper way, both in word and in example.  And always, I emphasize that it is His guidance, ultimately, and not mine.  I teach them to obey me (Ephesians 6:1) so they will be positioned to obey Jesus (Matthew 7:21) — even when I am not around to guide them. 

Yes, it hurts to watch them disappear into the world.  But it would hurt more if I left them unprepared, thinking that day somehow would never come.   HH

 

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Honey

Raise bees in your home!  “BEEcosystems” are completely enclosed units that hang on your interior walls and provide access to the outdoors for the bees and access to honey for you.  The bad news is, they’re $599 apiece; however, I am promised, “for the amount of honey you will eat, they practically pay for themselves!”

The good news is, they don’t come with any bees.  That makes them a bit more workable in Tracie’s mind.

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Receiving honor

When Balaam stubbornly refused to curse the people of God, Balak was furious. He was prepared to pay Balaam big money — and judging from the number of meetings Balaam took with Balak, Balaam was more than willing to accommodate him.  But, as Balaam told Balak, that’s not the way inspiration works — “Did I not tell your messengers whom you had sent to me, saying, ‘Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything contrary to the command of the LORD, either good or bad, of my own accord. What the LORD speaks, that I will speak’?” (Numbers 24:12-13).

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Flag

A best-selling author in the Seattle area was curious why a Confederate battle flag was flying in her neighborhood — not a hotbed of the KKK, historically.  So she contacted the local paper, and they sent a reporter to investigate.

       Turns out, it was the Norwegian flag — which, if the wind is not blowing and you are of a mind to jump to conclusions, bears a vague resemblance to the notorious Southern Cross.

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Discomfort

Discomfort is the price of admission for a meaningful life, I was told recently. I wish it weren’t true, like we all do.  But it is true, and I choose to accept it and embrace it instead of denying it.

        Anything significant is not only going to be worth pain, it is going to cause pain. 

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Praying for Parkland, and For Us All

Without trying to take sides in the gun vs. anti-gun argument, allow me to cautiously make the following observations: one, a gun tragedy is guaranteed to bring people out of the woodwork, quoting outrageously misleading statistics and claiming that all gun advocates are essentially guilty of murder; two, gun advocates will try to “put things into perspective” by saying the problem isn’t actually as gigantic as it is made out to be, and essentially come off like jerks who think a dozen or so dead children is not that big a deal. In short, everyone still believes what they already believed, they’re just louder about it. 

I find facts a lot less argumentative than rhetoric, so let’s look at some facts.

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Bringing Down the Wall

The Berlin Wall has now officially been down longer than it was up.  That’s astonishing.  I remember 1989 quite well.  The Cold War that had dominated my childhood was officially over.  The dreaded symbol of oppression had been toppled.  It was the end of an age.  For my entire life I had thought of geopolitics entirely in terms of the United States vs. the Soviet Union.  And suddenly, it wasn’t.  The tearing down of the wall was the biggest symbol of that transformation. 

 

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