Sunday, December 25, 2016

What if Christ Had Never Been Born

Last night my wife and I watched “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the 1946 Frank Capra film. For a lot of families including ours it’s become a Christmas tradition to revisit the story of George Bailey, his guardian angel Clarence, and his hometown of Bedford Falls.

As you probably know, Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, is a family man who has given up his own dreams for others. At Christmastime a lot of things go wrong for him and his family, and he reaches a point of despair when he wishes he had never been born.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Digital Photography and the Resurrection

My photographer friend Camden Bennett took some pictures of my wife and me a few weeks ago. Then he uploaded them to his website and gave us access to them via a password. Pretty nifty.

So I downloaded the pictures to my laptop, and decided to make some prints at everyone’s fine arts center, Costco. They went from my computer to the Costco photo center website, where I selected the size prints I wanted, and placed my order. We picked up the prints about 2 hours later.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Alone on the Mountain - An Amazing Story of Courage and Survival

The next time you’re going through a hard time, when you have the feeling that “it can’t get any worse and I can’t take it anymore,” you ought to read David Howarth’s We Die Alone. I just finished it - the most amazing survival story I’ve ever read.

In March of 1943 twelve Norwegian commandos set sail in a fishing vessel from the Shetland Islands north of Great Britain for the northern coast of Nazi-occupied Norway. Their mission was to organize the Norwegian resistance and to sabotage an airbase.

Unfortunately the commandos were betrayed almost as soon as they arrived. A German warship intercepted them, and they abandoned ship, transferring to a small dinghy while detonating their ship’s eight tons of explosive cargo. Soon the dinghy was riddled with machine gun fire, and they dived into the icy waters to try to swim 70 yards to shore. All but one of the men were killed or captured. Later it was learned that the captured men were tortured and executed.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

What Clint Eastwood Taught Me About Getting Older - And About Living the Christian Life

Clint Eastwood just turned 86. I still see him young and handsome as Harry Callahan in 1971, with that sharky smile as he looked over the barrel of his .45 – “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”

Eastwood is more than the iconic Dirty Harry, of course. He is a producer, Oscar winning director, musician, and businessman. At 86 he is weathered and lined, but certainly not at all a frail old man. He could still whisper ominously, "Go ahead, make my day!” and be believable. Especially accompanied by his old friends, Smith and Wesson.

For Clint that means banishing the idea that “your life is finished, you’re too old, all you’ve got is nostalgia.” So he keeps producing and directing movies, and writing music. Living life.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

God in Camouflage

Our church just finished studying the book of Ruth.* One of the great things about this short narrative is that you get to see, from start to finish, a completed work of divine love, guidance,  and redemption. In real time, this usually takes 70 years or more. You can read Ruth in 20 minutes.

In Ruth you experience the invisible hand of God orchestrating events and circumstances, arranging everything to achieve His purposes. But He is God in camouflage. He does not usually reveal Himself, and what we see are secondary causes: people’s choices, famine, the weather. It is only in the big picture that you know He was behind it all.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Greatest – Reflections on Muhammad Ali and My Dad

I’ve been thinking about my dad lately. Maybe because Father’s Day is coming up, but to tell the truth he is never far from my thoughts. And at the same time the death of Muhammad Ali has been all over the news.

Both men were boxers. Everybody knows Ali was an incredible athlete, Olympic gold medal winner, three-time heavyweight champ.  But of course his influence transcended boxing. He seemed larger than life.

My dad fought Golden Gloves as a young man. I don’t know how many boxing matches he won because, like many men of his generation, he was reluctant to place himself in the spotlight. But as a little kid I prevailed upon him to give me details of some of his exploits.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Donald Trump's Favorite Bible Verses

As you probably known, the presumptive Republican nominee for President is a tremendous Bible reader. “Nobody reads the Bible more than me,” he told Pat Robertson last February. This is one of the reasons, no doubt, that so many evangelicals have supported Mr. Trump: his tremendous love for God’s word.

Sometimes Mr. Trump has declined to mention his favorite Bible verses because “that’s very personal,” and everybody knows that Mr. Trump is a private person and doesn’t like to share anything that’s personal. (For example, his modest comments about his "hand size.")

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Ruth and the Big Picture

The book of Ruth has been described as the most beautiful short story ever written. And while it’s short, less than 2500 words in English, its beauty is obvious in multiple ways. It is a story of family, it’s a love story, and more than anything, Ruth reveals the invisible hand of a sovereign God who works His will in the seemingly random events of people’s lives.

One of the great values of God’s word in general, and of a book like Ruth in particular, is that is enables us to see the “Big Picture” – how the Lord does in fact work all things together for good for those who love Him.

We cannot see The Big Picture in our own lives. We operate from day to day, a step at a time. If our recent days have been hard, full of toil or heartache or grief, it’s very difficult to convince ourselves that tomorrow will be any different.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Sobering Lessons from Meriwether Lewis and the Lewis and Clark Expedition of Discovery

I just finished Stephen E. Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West.

I don’t believe I’ve read anything about the Louisiana Purchase or the Lewis and Clark expedition since grade school. (Which of course was only a couple years after Lewis and Clark returned from their trip.)

Anyhow, I was amazed by the sheer heroism of this expedition, undertaken because of Thomas Jefferson’s vision to find an overland route to the Pacific Ocean.

Meriwether Lewis was a Renaissance man. Son and step-son of military men, he was an Army officer personally selected by Thomas Jefferson as his own right-hand man. Lewis was like a son to the President.

Monday, March 7, 2016

What I’m Going to Miss About Downton Abbey

Last night my wife and I watched the final episode of Downton Abbey. Until the British drama aired here in America in 2011, I wouldn’t have thought of myself as an Anglophile or a fan of period pieces celebrating an “upstairs – downstairs” way of life.

But after the first couple episodes, Dionne and I were both hooked. And watching the final episode last night was a little like saying goodbye to a good friend you know you’ll never see again.

So I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to miss.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Valentine’s Day Challenge for Husbands

One day at the end of his days, the man passed through the valley of the shadow of death and entered into the joy of heaven. He stood immediately in the presence of the One he loved the most.
Welcome, Child. I’ve been waiting for you. Thank You so much, Lord. I’m so grateful You died for me and brought me all the way home.
We’ll have all eternity together, Christ said with a radiant smile. And now, my son, I need to talk to you about your stewardship. Yes, Lord, I think I’m ready.
I entrusted you with intelligence and creativity, and I gave you a good way with people. Yes, Lord, I know those gifts were from You. I used them to get a good education and to build a successful business. The product we made helped a lot of people, and our company employed over 100 folks. I paid them fairly and they all said they liked working for me.
And I know you maintained an unashamed witness of Me at work. Well done, good and faithful servant. Thank You, Lord.
Another thing. My blessings on your business made you a wealthy man.  Yes, Lord, all because of you. And You know from the beginning I gave generously and sacrificially to my local church, to missions, and I set up a private foundation to help people. And the family business will make it possible for all my grandchildren to get a good education.
            Well done, good and faithful servant. Thanks, Lord.
            I sent you a large circle of friends over the years. Yes, thank You. I was never a great evangelist, but I let every one of them know about You, and some of them even believed in the gospel. Well done, good and faithful servant. Thank You, Lord
            Now I want to talk to you about the most important gift I gave you, your wife.  Okay. We were married a long time, and she was a real blessing to me.
I know she was, Child. Were you a blessing to her? I think I was.
Were you aware that she was lonely after the kids moved out? Really? She seemed fine to me.
Did you pray for her? Sure. When? You know, Lord – mainly on the way to work I guess.
Did you know she wanted the two of you to serve for a summer on the mission field after you retired? I remember her saying something about that.
But you didn’t encourage her or even consider it. No, I thought we should take to take a cruise that summer.”
How ready do you think she is to meet Me? Well, I’ve always thought of her as a strong Christian – stronger than me. Really? So did you ever think about her soul?  Lord, that’s pretty much your department, isn’t it?
Did you know that she wanted to go back to school and get a Bible college degree? Yeah, but she was too old for that. Really.
            So you remember how I said, love her like I love you. Right. And nourish and cherish her. Right.
You know she was My gift to you, and I made you two one flesh. Right. 
So what went wrong?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Does Purgatory Make God's Judgment More Fair?

On New Year’s Eve I was listening to a radio talk show host, and the discussion turned to the difference between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. The host’s guest, a college president, observed that the Catholic doctrine of purgatory had the advantage of being “more fair.”

His example: think of Ted Bundy, a serial killer, and let’s say he had a death-bed conversion to Christ. He goes to heaven. And then consider a person who lives a good life, but never believes in Jesus. He goes to hell. At least in purgatory Bundy would have to suffer a while before going to heaven.