Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Theology from Cut Hair

Barber pole in front of a barber shop in Mexico

My hair turned gray quite a few years ago. Genetics has blessed me with a full head of it. I’ve heard it said that God only created so many perfect heads among men, and the rest He covered with hair. This idea is nowhere to be found in the Bible; some hair-impaired guy probably made this up!

I get about half of my hair cuts in Mexico, where we live part of the time to be near our daughter and her family. My cut hair, gray as it is, stands in stark contrast to the majority of black hair on the Mexican barber’s floor.

Over the past months I’ve washed, combed, and sprayed that hair numerous times, the hair that ended up on the barber’s floor. Previously, the cut hair was a growing part of my appearance for months, but I unceremoniously walk out of the barber shop, leaving that hairy part of me behind for good and move on with my day.

Eventually our entire bodies go the way of the hair on our heads. Nothing of our bodies lasts forever. As a pastor I’ve led hundreds of graveside services where tearful goodbyes are said to a loved one as we commit the person’s body to the earth.

I don’t want to get morbid here, just the opposite. I believe God wants us to keep a hopeful perspective on these fleshly bodies we temporarily inhabit while here on earth.

One of the points I’ve made at all the funeral and memorial services I’ve conducted is that God’s plan for our existence isn’t to be limited to the years we spend on earth in these physical bodies. His Good News, the Gospel, is that we can live forever with Him. For the person who wishes to spend forever with God and accepts God’s free offer to do so, the death of the physical body isn’t the end.

Here’s how I look at it. When I finish my haircut I walk out of the barber shop, leave the clippings behind and go on to what’s next for me. When I die I’ll leave behind this body and go on to what’s next for me!

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”  2 Corinthians 5:1

Ask for Help and Give Away Banana Bread

Photo by Anfal Shamsudeen on Unsplash

Rudy Holloman was a senior member of the church I served in Toledo, Ohio. He was a widower, lived alone, and was legally blind. His family was supportive and helpful, but there were times when they weren’t available to take Rudy to church or a doctor’s appointment. This is where his church family came in.

To Rudy’s credit he wasn’t afraid to ask for a ride from those in his church. As far as I know, Rudy remained quite mobile, because people rarely turned down his request for a ride; he got to where he had to go, and even where he wanted to go. They loved taking Rudy places, because Rudy was a fun person to be around! He was joyful, humorous, and he always gave a freshly baked loaf of banana bread as a thank you gift to those who took him places.

So often we’re frustrated when we need to ask for help and hesitant to do so. It’s usually easier for us to give help than to receive help!

We don’t want to ask for help, because we don’t want to be a burden. But, ironically, we actually add to the burden on the person helping us by being so apologetic or depressed about needing help that we’re no fun at all to be around. We can even go so far as being short tempered around our helper. That’s when we become a real burden, the very thing we don’t want to be!

We need to straighten out our thinking on this. If it’s more blessed to give than to receive, as Jesus said, then we sometimes need to let others give to us and help us so they can be blessed!

Sure, it’s humbling to ask for help and to be helped. Bingo! Guess what attribute God wants us to develop? Humility! It’s part of God’s divine plan that we let ourselves be helped as well as being a helper.

Yes, it’s important to serve and help others joyfully. However, equally important is to joyfully let others help and serve us! That’s the lesson I learned from Rudy Holloman, who asked for help and gave away banana bread!

The apostle Paul, grateful for the financial help of the Christians at Philippi, wrote, “Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.” Philippians 4:14

“You Got Caught!”

Fulton J. Sheen

The late Archbishop Fulton Sheen was visiting a maximum-security prison. In his message to the inmates he stated, “The only difference between you and me is that you got caught.”

This must have startled the criminal crowd, the Archbishop standing before them, putting himself in the same league with them. The message he conveyed is one of the key concepts anyone seeking to be a Christian, a follower of Christ, has to adopt: we’re all sinful people in need of God’s forgiveness and restoration.

The tendency for us, however, is to soften this reality by comparing ourselves to those who we believe have acted far more badly than we have. We’re selective in this comparison game, careful to identify real scoundrels with which to compare ourselves.

The problem with this approach is that it denies us a meaningful and dynamic relationship with God and healthy relationships with others. The right course of action is to move from prideful self-deception to a humble awareness of our true condition.

Much of popular thinking, including much self-help literature, tells us we’re inherently good. It’s not true; our natural tendency is to be selfish and want our own way at the expense of others. The good news is that we can have the boldness to ‘fess up to our own sinful nature and actions because we’re guaranteed God will forgive us. There’s no risk in confessing to God; His gracious nature means He’s willing to forgive.

I remember when our son was a little boy. When he did something wrong he would resist confessing his wrongdoing. He would be in a fowl mood, was cool toward me and his mother, and life with his sister didn’t go very well either. After some time he would eventually admit his wrongdoing, sometimes with gentle and loving coaching from his parents. There was sometimes a form of punishment, but there was also forgiveness on the part of his mother and me. Having been freshly forgiven, he was in an exuberant and joyful mood, willing to relate to his parents again, go about his play with delight, and even enjoy playtime with his older sister.

It seems counter-intuitive, but the way to experience life in its fullness is to admit to our own sinfulness. We’re then in a position to let God carry out His wonderful plan of forgiveness and restoration!

“If we confess our sins he [God] is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

What’s Really Valuable in Life

I’m reading the classic novel Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, the story about a man who is shipwrecked alone on an island for years. After he’s washed ashore and recuperated, he builds a raft to go back out to the shipwreck that’s stuck on a sandbar to rescue what he can from the ship to help him survive.

In his journal he writes, “And it was after long searching that I found out the carpenter’s chest, which was, indeed, a very useful prize to me, and much more valuable than a shipload of gold would have been at the time.”

He makes sense, of course. What good would a boatload of gold do if you were marooned on a deserted island? Far more valuable would be a carpenter’s chest filled with all kinds of useful tools. If he were back in civilization he would likely opt for the gold. Given his present circumstances the chest of tools is far more valuable. It all depends on how you view your current situation.

What do we consider most valuable? It all depends on how we view our current situation. If this life is all there is then you could reasonably be expected to focus on grabbing all the gusto you can in the here and now, wealth, pleasures, personal experiences. You could even convince yourself to do this at the expense of the happiness of others, because a hundred years from now it wouldn’t matter to anyone presently alive.

On the other hand, if there’s more to life than this life then that reality should impact how we view what we consider important in the here and now. The here and now should take a back seat to the there and then.

We try to teach children the benefit of delayed gratification, to do the sacrificial now, for a greater benefit later on. Financial advisers encourage us to sacrifice, save and invest now for a greater return later on. Isn’t the ultimately wise perspective, then, one that has us live to reap the benefits a thousand years from now, and beyond, instead of what will benefit us during this short sojourn on earth?

Robinson Crusoe embraced a realistic perspective of his situation and went for the tools, forsaking the gold. The argument can be made that the realistic perspective for us in this life is to embrace the eternal perspective, going for God and not the material. This life will soon be past. Only what’s done for God will last.

Jesus put it this way, Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

The Keys of Life

The keys referenced in this blog post

We have a container full of useless keys. Usually you lose a key that you need to unlock something; the contents of this container represent the opposite of that. These keys go with lost objects, sold objects, worn out objects, all of which we no longer possess. There are car keys, house keys, padlock keys, and many keys I have no idea what kind of possession we had that they unlocked. I’m not sure why we’ve kept them and keep adding to them, other than the fact that it goes against one’s nature to throw a key in the trash.

It got me to thinking about the current keys on my key ring. Because I’m retired it consists only of a key to our Jeep, a house key, and keys to our camper trailer, not like my days as a pastor when my pocket jingled with the responsibility of a number of church facility keys and keys to a second vehicle we had back then. It’s a sobering thought to realize that in the not too distant future the Jeep will be in the auto graveyard, its key useless. The camper keys will be in the pocket of a younger generation of campers seated around a campfire. The house key will belong to someone else, because Diann and I will have taken up residence in heaven.

I realize that all these keys I’ve described, both those in the container and the ones in my pocket, are the keys of life, letting me, but no one else, gain access to the things I temporarily own. I may not have lost the keys, but I’ve lost most of what they unlock. Though they may be the keys of my life, I’ve determined that they are not to be the key to my life!

The key to my life is not something of material value: all of that stuff wears out, rusts through, breaks down or breaks up, gets lost, is stolen, or I simply lose interest in it. The key to my life is not a concept or a principle, though there are many good concepts and principles by which to live; they unlock a part of life, sort of, but not all of life.

The key to unlocking everything is God, God come to us, God with us, God for us, God our hope, God getting very personal in Jesus. He’s my key to life.

God is the key to unlocking a purpose for living, because He made me for His purposes. God is the key to the doorway to peace, because there is nothing better than being on good terms with Him. God is the key to finding joy, because He is the Ultimate Being and delights in me. God is the key to holding on to hope, because He ultimately has only good in store for me. In summary, God is the key to everything, because He rules over everything! My container of keys and the keys in my pocket remind me that there are many keys in life, but I’m convinced there’s only one key to life and God is it!

“He [the Lord] will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.”  Isaiah 33:6

Deeply Rooted in Faith

The weed Diann pulled up

Diann was pulling up weeds in our lawn. I’m not sure what I was doing, but something very important that kept me from helping her, I’m sure. At any rate, she showed me a weed she had pulled up. I actually took the time and effort to measure the root, anything to keep me from having to pull weeds. The tiny green part of the weed was only about two inches tall, but its root was a foot long! With a deep root like that no wonder the weed could survive Florida’s dry season better than the grass around it!

Gardening is sort of a hobby for us, so we do a lot of planting of plants. The ongoing task after planting is watering what we’ve planted, sometimes for months, until the plants’ roots grow deep enough so they can be on their own. Deep roots are important.

We people are a lot like plants, especially when it comes to a faith in God and a relationship with Him. A shallow faith, one with little depth of knowledge and commitment, seems to get us by when times are going well. But when there’s a drought of good things happening a shallow faith is not going to see us through these dry times. Like the little weed with the long root, deep roots are what we need.

Being more deeply rooted in a relationship with God happens when we’re intentional about it happening. This requires a holy discontent, a wanting more of God than we now have. Our greatest thirst is to be for Him.

Being more deeply rooted in God also means that even in the good times we want our greatest satisfaction to be in Him and not from all that which is, for the time being at least, going our way. Our greatest thirst is to be for Him.

Being more deeply rooted in God means that in the bad times we seek to deepen a relationship with God instead of being angry at God and looking for ways of temporary escapism or distraction by which to cope. Our greatest thirst is to be for Him.

Being more deeply rooted in God means we determine to think about Him more. We schedule regular times to talk to Him and to read His Word.

The little weed with the deep root that Diann pulled from our lawn got me to thinking about all of this. Weeds aren’t worth much to us, that’s why we pull them, but this one ended up being worth a lot!

The apostle Paul writing to the Christians in Colosse. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7

Bookends for the Day

One of the benefits and blessings of having adult children is that they can give you good ideas. For instance, our daughter Julie delivered a meditation for their church in Mexico via facebook live. She talked about the wonderful statement by the psalmist that we’re to proclaim God’s love in the morning and His faithfulness at night.

Morning and evening, sunrise and sunset, the beginning of the day and the ending of the day, are great times to affirm two important attributes of God and how they can impact us in wonderful ways. Affirm His love in the morning. Affirm His faithfulness in the evening.

Start the day thinking about God’s love.

God takes pleasure in us and has unconditional concern for us, wanting what’s best for us. This is what it means to be the recipient of God’s love! As self-sufficient as God is, He has, as A. W. Tozer put it, “let His heart be bound to us forever.” Talk about a positive thought with which to start the day!

This means we don’t have to face the day with fear. We’re not victims of chance, luck, or the bad choices of others. We can enter the day fully counting on God’s love for us, letting His love cast out fear!

End the day thinking about God’s faithfulness.

Rehearse, with gratitude and thanksgiving, ways that God has been faithfully active through the day. God is faithful because one of God’s attributes is that He’s unchanging and, again, as A. W. Tozer writes, “If He is unchanging, it follows that He could not be unfaithful, since that would require Him to change.” God doesn’t waver, isn’t moody, or unpredictable. On the contrary, He is predictably loving!

Affirm His love in the morning. Recognize His faithfulness in the evening. They’re the best of bookends for the day!

“… proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night.” Psalm 92:2

Clap to Me

Granddaughter Claire at the piano

When Claire, our five year old granddaughter, is about to do an impromptu dance routine in the middle of the living room floor or has sat down at the piano to play her own tune, she turns, looks at me, and says, “Papa, you be my clapper.” Sometimes she says it differently, but it’s the same request, “Papa, clap to me.”

We all need people who will clap to us, people who will encourage us, praise us, tell us we’ve done a great job. We all need to be clappers for others, to encourage them, praise them, tell them they’ve done a great job.

This is a tough world where it’s easy to get hurt, to be pushed down to the point where it’s hard to get back up again. This is a fallen world where everything and everyone is broken in one way or another. This a world of a war zone, evil fighting good, and we’re all getting attacked and often wounded, sometimes seriously so.

This is why we so need to be encouraged and to be encouragers. No one can make it on their own.

So it’s okay to accept encouragement; let’s not exhibit misguided humility, rejecting the affirming words of another. Even if we feel we don’t deserve it, we should accept it anyway, as a gift. God knows we need it!

It’s important that we give encouragement. Sometimes we withhold praise to another because no one’s been praising us lately so why should we give what we haven’t received? We have to quit trying to keep the ledger of praise balanced between the receiving and giving; it does no one good. Sometimes it appears the other person is already puffed up with a big ego, that they certainly don’t need more praise from us. Wrong! It’s a childish defense mechanism they’re implementing to compensate for feeling poorly about themselves, telling themselves, and trying to tell others, that they are great and doing great when down deep they are lying both to self and to others. They need the truth of some honest praise!

Everyone finds themselves crawling on bloodied knees, having been knocked down by blows from this rough and tough world. A word of encouragement is the strong arm that lifts us back up on our feet again so we can continue the journey. Everyone’s crying out “Clap to me!” “Be my clapper!”

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” The apostle Paul in his letter to some Christians (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Of Caterpillars & Tadpoles

Actual tadpoles & caterpillar photographed on the table in our screened patio.

We’ve had both tadpoles and caterpillars living in our screened-in patio. No more. Now there are frogs in my small decorative pond by our patio and butterflies in the sky above our house. What an amazing transformation for us and our grandchildren to have watched, the process called metamorphosis, tadpoles turning into frogs and caterpillars into butterflies!

Imagine if you could find a person who was city born and raised, had never had a science class, and was clueless about anything in nature. Imagine showing them a tadpole and explaining how it turns into a frog or showing them a caterpillar and explaining how it turns into a butterfly. They’d look at you incredulously, say you were crazy, that you were making things up, that what you described was pure science fiction.

Of course we all know this is how frogs and butterflies come into the world, through the amazing process of metamorphosis, from tadpoles and caterpillars. We’re still amazed, but we know this is what happens.

A clear message from God that’s peppered throughout the New Testament of the Bible is that a similar process, though far more amazing, is the eternal life-cycle God has planned for His people. Physical death is clearly described as not the intended end of human life. The life-cycle God has designed for people is to eventually have a new body, in His heaven, forever, a body that’s not susceptible to pain, illness, or death.

Hard to understand, grasp, and believe? Yes, but the nearly unbelievable metamorphosis process of the lowly tadpole and caterpillar should bolster our belief that for God’s most cherished creatures He’s ever created, people, He has something in store that takes metamorphosis to a whole new level!

The one clear differentiation between the transformation process for tadpoles, caterpillars, and us is that tadpoles and caterpillars don’t have any say in the matter; metamorphosis is just what happens to them. We people, on the other hand, are in a different category altogether. We’ve been given a choice as to whether we want this transformation that will make us suitable for life with God in His heaven. This is because He wants it to be a love relationship, and love has to be a choice, not compelled. It’s our choice, while we’re in the tadpole/caterpillar stage of our lives.

I, for one, have decided to give myself over to Him, asking Him to help the metamorphosis begin to happen in the here and now on earth. It gives me great hope that when my time on earth is done He’ll complete the metamorphosis then and there in Heaven!

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Philippians 3:20-21

Priming Faith

A Faith Fable (my telling of a classic story)

The man had been hiking in the wilderness for hours, thinking about his troubles and asking God many questions but feeling he was getting no answers. He was tired of trusting, of trusting in God. There seemed to be so little evidence that having a faith in God was of any value.

But as he walked his thoughts focused more and more on his thirst. He had inadvertently spilled the remainder of his canteen’s water. It was hot, he was dehydrated, exhausted, and worried he might die. He was taking what he thought was a short-cut back to where he had begun his hike but was still worried he might not make it back to civilization.

Just when he thought he could go no further he came upon an old hand pump. A jug was next to the old pump. Uncorking the jug he found, to his great relief, it was filled with water. Under the jug was a note. “Use this water to prime the pump, pouring it down the shaft. The pump will then provide all the water you need. Please refill the jug for the next traveler.”

The man debated. Should he attempt to prime the pump or drink the water instead?

He decided to prime the pump. He poured the contents of the jug down the shaft of the pump, set down the empty jug, grasped the handle of the pump and began to pump vigorously. First, nothing happened. He began to doubt his decision but continued to pump. A trickle of water came from the pump! He kept pumping and the water finally gushed forth! He drank deeply, rested, drank deeply again, and refilled his canteen and the jug before continuing his journey.

Making it back to civilization he was much relieved and began reflecting on his adventure. He was glad he had taken the step of faith and poured the water down the pump to prime it. It occurred to him that on his journey of life he was also being asked to take steps of faith, especially with God. He decided to believe that God had, indeed, been with Him when he was lost and had used the old pump to teach him about faith thereby saving him in more than one way.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1