Friday, January 31, 2014

Hit By a Car

Early this week our dog was hit by a car in front of our home. Actually he was hit by a truck and then by a car. The truck barely clipped him, but the car struck his hindquarters with a terrible sound, and Jethro, our three-year-old golden retriever, was thrown into the air as he yelped in terror and pain.

I saw it all, and I hope God will spare me from ever seeing another living creature, man or beast, in such an awful collision of metal and flesh.

So we took the dog to the animal E.R. and they found he has four fractures in his pelvis. They recommended surgery to install a metal plate to repair the worst break, and estimated the cost to be between $3000 and $5000. Not a financial option for us.

They just sent him home with pain medication and told us to try to keep him quiet. For two days he would not eat, stand, urinate, and would barely drink. Movement that involved his right side made him cry out. I took the x-rays to our regular vet and told him how Jethro was behaving. The vet, Dr. Herron, is an older man with a wonderful combination of experience, technical skills, and compassion for animals and people. He said, for the sake of the dog, if things don’t improve, you’ll have to put him down.

So after a couple days of this we were ready to do what all pet owners dread. We had talked to the veterinary office several times in the interim, and so the next morning we were prepared.

The night before I had told our Bible study about our dog, and several had prayed for Jethro. One woman spoke encouragingly about the love of Christ even for our animals.

Monday, January 27, 2014

How Do We Handle Doubts?

Last night at our monthly Praise and Prayer meeting, my friend Mike shared a challenge about the doubts that invade the lives of all Christians from time to time. He pointed out from Matthew 15 how the disciples doubted when Jesus told them to feed the 4000. The disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” (v. 33).
This was after the disciples had already witnessed innumerable miracles from the hand of Christ, including of course, the Feeding of the 5000!

Mike pointed out that all Christians, even those who have followed Christ for a long time, enter seasons of doubt. He counseled that the only strategy to weather the storms of doubt is to stay close to Christ.

After he spoke we shared together about how Christians can handle doubt without falling into sin or prolonged seasons of spiritual paralysis. The suggestions were so good that I decided to summarize their wisdom.
  • Stay close to Christ. Focus on Him and not yourself. (Mike)
  • Ask others to pray for you when you’re struggling. When you’re weak in faith, let others trust the Lord for you. (Marissa)
  • Learn to say to the Lord, as Jesus taught us, “Thy will be done.” We can trust His ways are best even when they’re what we would have chosen. (Howard)
  • Remember how God has provided and taken care of you in the past. (Steve)
  • Pray that God would help you discern the source of your doubt. (Dionne)
  • Surround yourself with people who are walking with Christ, and don’t get your counsel from ungodly sources. (Brad, Parks)
  • Stay in the word! The Bible is our only true foundation to show us how to live. (Steve)

How do you handle doubt?

You might also click on a few other titles about doubt? When We Doubt, Why We Have Doubts, and Do Your Doubts Make You a Loser? 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Heart of the Master: What I Love About Jesus (Part Two of Four)

They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. "Sir," they said, "we would like to see Jesus." John 12:21, NIV

If you accept, as I do, that the Bible presents a true record of Jesus, then you have not only a testament to His teaching but a portrait of His nature. I came to love Christ because of His words, but if you spend any time reading His words, you discover His character.

Many people have noble qualities when they’re operating at their best, under optimum conditions. But none of us could stand up to the scrutiny the Scriptures give Jesus. We are allowed to witness His temptations, when He was all alone except for Satan. We see how He responds under stress, when people interrupt Him or try to bully Him or twist His words or attempt to make Him back down.

We watch how He treats little children, an immoral woman, desperately ill outcasts, frantic parents, and a conflicted religious leader. We see His heart at His loneliest moments when His closest friends were either asleep or in the very act of betraying Him.

What you have is a consistent portrayal of the finest Man who will ever live. He is a Man of perfect integrity – integrated and whole. Even though He is both God and Man, He is undivided within Himself, balanced and harmonious.

All of us know that stress, pain, change, and fear bring our worst faults to the surface. All these assault Jesus, and worse, but nothing immature or ungodly emerges. He has no rough edges. He never needs to go back and ask for forgiveness because He acted rashly or unkindly or thoughtlessly under pressure.

Here are just a few of the perfections that are obvious as we follow Jesus in the Gospels: assertiveness, bravery, compassion, decisiveness, endurance, friendliness, generosity, honesty, innocence, joy, kindness, love, mercy, obedience, patience, responsibility, selflessness, trustworthiness, understanding, vigilance, wisdom, zeal. And a whole lot more.

This love of Christ is exceedingly sweet and satisfying; it is better than life because it is the love of a person of such dignity and excellency (Jonathan Edwards, Altogether Lovely, p. 100).

Saturday, January 18, 2014

What I Love About Jesus: "You Have the Words of Eternal Life" (Part One of Four)

A while back I wrote Why I Love Being a Christian, and I ended with “the main reason I love being a Christian is Jesus.”

So this is my attempt at a follow-up on what I love about Jesus. To be honest, writing this feels a little presumptuous. Christ is infinitely deserving of love, worship, and obedience regardless of what I might say about Him. But since the purpose of my blog is to “admire Christ,” I record these thoughts while admitting that they aren't even close to doing Him justice.

I love Christ for many reasons, and among them are: His words; His character; His identity; and His impact. I’ll take one of these at a time for the next few posts.

I first came to love Christ because of His words.

When I became a Christian at age 15, all I knew about Christianity was that I was miserable, lonely, and lost, and that Jesus had come to die for my sins. I knew that by trusting Him, God would forgive me and give me a new life. That was my starting point as a Christian. The next steps in my journey came from reading Jesus’ words.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Here's One for Your Bucket List

Do you have a bucket list? You know, goals you hope to accomplish before you “kick the bucket.” Lots of people talk about their bucket lists. The website claims to have over 100,000 members, with almost 2 million goals.

You can sign up, list your goals, and then check them off as you complete them. Featured goals right now include – paint a mural; visit Mount Yoshino, Japan; celebrate Holi in India; get a job as a singer; meet Chuck Norris; and learn how to surf.

What’s great about a bucket list? Well, it’s exciting to make learning to hang glide or visiting the Great Wall of China or ordering a meal in French part of your life’s ambition. We all accomplish more, travel farther, and live more fully when we work toward goals.

I do have a couple concerns about bucket lists. One is that a lot of the goals seem driven by self-indulgence rather than serving God or others. Sure, it’s cool that you want to hike the Appalachian Trail or do a set of stand-up comedy. But maybe we Christians ought to aim higher.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Best is Yet to Come - Through the Flood and the Fire: Part 3

Into each life some rain must fall, said Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. But sometimes it’s not just a brief shower. It’s a downpour, a torrent, a gully-washer, a deluge. Life sometimes brings a monster storm with driving rain, gale-force winds, deadly flooding and scorching flames.

That’s where Isaiah 43:1-3 comes in. Three promises from this beloved passage have often kept my wife and me going through the flood and the fire. I’ve already mentioned two. First, we belong to Him. And then second: there is no wasted pain.

Here’s the third: God promises His presence and His protection. And the best is yet to come. Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior (Isaiah 43:1-3a).

But what about believers through the centuries who have met their death by drowning? And what about Christian martyrs who were burned to death at the stake? Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword (Hebrews 11:36b-37a).

So how can the promise that “the rivers…shall not overwhelm” and that when you walk through fire “you shall not be burned” – how can this be true?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Harry Potter?

Nearly all of the over 260 posts on this blog have been my attempt to focus on spiritual things, and especially to "admire Christ." That remains my reason for writing.

But once in a while I am hit with a bit of whimsey. So let me apologize, in advance, for this post.

The other day I was looking over the cable channel menu and it occurred to me that there is always a Harry Potter movie on somewhere. I’ve not read any of the books, but did catch some of the movies. Whatever else you might say, they have interesting titles - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, etc.

All of a sudden my brain created some new Harry Potter volumes.

Harry Potter and the Suppurating Sore

Harry Potter and the Monstrous Ego

Harry Potter and the Empty Chamber of Geraldo

Harry Potter and the Fiery Bean-dip

Harry Potter and the Half-Soused Raja

Harry Potter and the Psychedelic Sphincter

If you have J. K. Rowling's contact info, feel free to forward this.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

How to Make Your Own Highlight Reel

Because our son works for the local cable company, we get a great channel for NFL football called Redzone. It covers all the broadcast games on a given Sunday, flipping back and forth from one to the other and sometimes doing split screens when scoring is about to happen in more than one game. Plus there are no commercials.

And best of all, at the end of the Sunday games, Redzone presents a montage of all the touchdowns that happened on that day!

So this post is about doing a kind of "redzone" compilation of a year's highlights. For a long time I’ve been doing a “best of the year” in the last week of December/first week of January. It’s my equivalent of a highlight film, although I call it “highlights and lowlights.”

It helps me to remember the important events, transitions, changes, opened and closed doors, milestones and victories, trials and disappointments for the year past. That in turn reminds me of my Heavenly Father’s wisdom and kindness, provision and protection, and gives me more reasons to praise Him.

I want to encourage you to do it, too, before we get too far into the new year. It will take you a couple hours, but it’s worth it. If you have a daily planner of some kind, that makes it easier, but even if you don't, sit down with whatever calendar you use. Just think about each month, look over any hand-written or electronic notes, and then jot down what's memorable.