God’s people: Always on duty

Paul to Timothy: “Be instant, in season and out of season.”  (2 Timothy 4:2) 

(I was in revival in the St. Louis area.  This was eight years ago.  Here is what I wrote….)

I met Sarah three mornings ago when she and three co-workers were having breakfast in the hotel where I was staying while in the St. Louis area for a revival.  The four of them were sharing a small table, obviously enjoying one another’s company. As they got up to leave, I called over to them. “Hey, do you guys have a minute?”

“I’m a cartoonist and I would love to draw you. It takes one minute and it’s free. Would you let me draw you?”

They mildly protested that they might be late for work, but they lingered and I sketched them, two guys and two girls. All in their early 20’s. All young and cool and looking good.

“We work at Buckle,” one said. I had no idea what that was.

“It’s a denim store in the mall. Right next to the food court. You ought to come by.”

Continue reading

The difficult, precious business of HOPE

…because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel…. (Colossians 1:5)

…this hope we have as an anchor for our souls.  (Hebrews 6:19)

I’m eighty years old as I sit here at this laptop in my breakfast room, typing away.  I live in hope.  Hope for all that Christ has promised is a big, big thing with me.

I often seize upon Psalm 27:13 I would have despaired had I not believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Hope is not mentioned there, but that’s what it’s talking about.

Hope or despair.  Those are the two choices.

The only choices.

Continue reading

What to do when you don’t feel like singing

But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  (Acts 16:25)

Anyone can sing when the skies are blue, the air is fresh, the flowers are dressing up the world, and your spirit is soaring. To the best of my knowledge, your Father in Heaven enjoys and appreciates that singing.

But the kind He values most, the singing that thrills His heart, the praise that establishes forever that you are His and He is yours, Scripture calls “songs in the night.”

If you can praise Him when you’re feeling lousy, when the news is terrible, when the bank account is busted, the news from the doctor is bleak, the family is in rebellion and nothing good is going on in your life, then one of two things is true: either you’re a nut in hopeless denial, or you know something.  Some really big Thing.

He giveth songs in the night.  (Job 35:10)

Thelma Wells is someone you need to know.

This precious lady was born to an unwed mother with more problems than any one soul should ever have. She was a severely deformed teenager with no husband and no place to go, since her own abusive mother insisted that she take the baby and leave. The poor unwed teenage mother found work as a maid cleaning ‘the big house’ while living with her baby daughter in servants’ quarters.

Continue reading

Self Esteem: Finding the balance is tough

I’m a sketch artist.

I’ll sometimes sit in a room for hours on end doing quick turnouts of subjects who are lined up.  I do this at conventions and church meetings, at schools and fairs and in people’s living rooms.  I love to draw people.  Takes about 90 seconds and in most cases, produces something people treasure.

But not always.  You’d be surprised how often people would rather be anywhere on the planet than in front of me posing.

I can see it coming a mile away. The person reluctantly slides into the chair opposite me, looks in every direction except mine, and when I manage to get his/her attention, refuses to look me in the eye. Asked to look this way and smile, the party mumbles, “I don’t smile.” Or, “I don’t like my smile.”

A few times I have said with  more than a little impatience, “Look, I could understand that if you were 13 years old. But you’re a grownup. Get over this. Everyone looks better with a smile, including me and definitely including you. Now, look me in the eye and show me a smile. You’ll like the picture a lot better.”

One day, when no one else was standing nearby to be drawn, I tried something with this depressingly shy young woman.

Continue reading

There are several good reasons not to believe

“Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen…. By faith we understand….” (Hebrews 11:1ff)

There are good reasons not to believe in God, not to believe in Jesus, and not to believe in Holy Scripture.

A wise servant of the Lord will want to learn what they are and why people hold on to them. In doing so, he will better understand his own belief and will be able to respond to the questions/attacks of unbelievers.

This is far more important than the typical Christian realizes.

We cannot effectively counter the resistance of the unbeliever–whether he/she is a seeker, an agnostic, skeptic, atheist, or full blown antagonist–until we learn why they reject the heart of the message of the Christian faith.

Faith.  It starts with this and perhaps ends there also.

Continue reading

This guy found a “contradiction” in Scripture and thinks that disproves God.

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

A Facebook friend had written something about Scripture and people were leaving comments.  One person in particular was giving her a hard time.

I suppose the critic was her friend, because after his unkind and cutting remarks, she patiently responded with kindness and reason.

But nothing worked.  This guy was determined to be mean-spirited.

When one is determined not to believe, no amount of truth or reason or logic can penetrate the protective armor of alibis, arguments, excuses, and slander in which he clothes himself.

He had found a contradiction in Scripture, he said, that convinced him the whole business of Christianity was nothing but a con.

What was his “contradiction”?

Continue reading

If you can believe in earth, everything else should be a cinch

“If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12)

I don’t know what you think about when lying awake at night unable to sleep, but recently my mind has dwelt on the wonders of there being a planet Earth in the first place, and all that this means for the children of God.

The Psalmist said “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). I read that and think, “If you only knew, King David. You spoke those words three thousand years ago. What if you knew what we know now!  The human body is truly the marvel of the ages.”

And yet, the earth is also just as fearfully and wonderfully made.  Just as awe-inspiring, with as much the signature of the Divine on it as any human carries.

Consider this one thing:  HOW MANY FACTORS ARE REQUIRED FOR EARTH TO SUSTAIN LIFE?

Any one of the following not being in place could kill the whole deal. And yet, they’re all there, in place, doing their job, while I sit here at a laptop in my dining room, with a cup of Dunkin Donut coffee to my right and earth all around me, requiring absolutely nothing from me.  I am completely in awe of this.

Continue reading

Something inside us hates the idea of grace

For by grace are you saved through faith…. (Ephesians 2:8)

Anything that puts us down, we automatically shy away from. For many, grace does that.

Oh, we don’t mind singing about it, but the concept of grace itself is repulsive to our natures and offensive to our pride.

Something in me wants to be self-sufficient, to believe that whatever comes up, I’m able to handle, that as the poem says, “I am the captain of my soul.”

The cry of a four-year-old–“I can do it myself!”–is the insistence of the stubborn will of the adult child.

That’s why, even though we sing about it and say we love it, something inside us resists the idea of grace. That same something insists that I am sufficient for my needs, that my good works will accomplish everything necessary to land me in Heaven, that the rest is just so much religious talk.

The sinful heart of man is an atheist, an egotist, an idolator.

Continue reading

You’re a skeptic? Good.

I stepped inside a diner a few blocks from my house to pick up the sandwiches I’d just called in. The place was busy–it was Friday evening and suppertime–and I spotted two kids at a table with their mother, so took my sketch pad inside.

“Ma’am, may I draw your sons?” showing her my pen and sketchpad.

“You’re an artist?”

I said, “Cartoonist.”

“Sure. That would be fine.”

The first one, a boy about 9 or 10, looked up with a killer smile and eyes aglow, so I drew him first. It takes 90 seconds. Then, I sketched his big brother while we made small conversation. Last, I drew the mom. She was friendly and trusting and we talked about that. I get a lot of skepticism when walking up to complete strangers asking, “May I draw you?”  People worry that someone is going to try to con them into something. It’s understandable.

A few minutes later, while in the line to pay for my order, the mother came over to give a takeout order, and we continued our conversation. One of her sons goes to a local Christian school, but she does not go to church anywhere.

“I’m skeptical of religions and churches,” she said.

Continue reading

Things the church forgot to remember

This notice appeared on the front page of the July 4, 2004, issue of the Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader:

It has come to the editor’s attention that the Herald-Leader neglected to cover the civil rights movement. We regret the omission.

When that newspaper’s staff decided to prepare a special edition commemorating the 40th anniversary of the passing of the Civil Rights Act, they began combing through their archives looking for local material. That’s when they discovered a complete lack of such information. The newspaper had simply not covered the civil rights movement, period.

A local African-American leader said, “The white community just prayed that rumors and reports (of the civil rights movement) would be swept under the rug and just go away.”

As odd as that is, it will not come as a surprise to many that a lot of churches lived through the same revolution in this country without the first mention of it from the pulpit. (And we wonder why outsiders found our sermons irrelevant.)

Churches are prone to forget the things they do not want to acknowledge.

Continue reading