Be Careful with Words  11-27-23

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As I write these articles I have time to think about my words. I will often come up with an idea to write about and then I think about it for a few days. Other times I will just come up with an idea and start writing. Regardless, after I write it, I reread it, modify it, and then let is sit for days before making it public. I am able to put time and thought into these words.

I do not have as much time and thought for all my words though. Often one of my sons will ask me a question and I will not answer right away. Now that they are older, they are much more patient to wait for my answer. When they were little, they became frustrated when I did not answer right away. They have learned that there are times that I like to think before I answer them.

I wish I was better at that though. Too often I give an answer right away when I should have thought about it a bit longer. Other times I open my mouth and speak- even interrupting- when I should have been quiet.

Today we do not just have opportunities to speak and put our foot in our mouths, but we have so many opportunities to type words that we should have been more careful with. It is easy to peck out a quick reply to an online forum or a facebook comment.

Often those replies can be quite helpful. I am so thankful for the many people that contribute to automotive repair forums- even if they only have typed out a quick reply. Much of their advice has been very helpful. I have, however, figured out that even on an auto repair forum, there is contradictory advice. Some people even type without knowing what they are talking about.

As frustrating as bad automotive advice could be, I should feel even worse if I speak or type in a sinful manner. Sticks and stones can break our bones and words do hurt. Proverbs 29:20 warns us: “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Proverbs 26:12 shows us why it is so easy to give a quick answer when it says, “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

Pride causes us to try to be a know it all on an automotive forum or to quickly give an answer to our kids. It also causes us to try to show someone we disagree with online how wrong they are. When such temptations arise we need to remember the example of Jesus. The Apostle Paul told us, “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:4-8 NASB)

Jesus is God, yet he humbled himself and put others ahead of himself. Let us swallow a little pride and instead of showing off with our words, hold those words back a bit so that we can make sure that they come out in a loving and kind manner. Instead of just typing or saying the first thing that comes to our minds, let us make sure we say what Jesus would want us to say. “This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;” (James 1:19 NASB) 

Jesus Goes to Bat for You  11-13-23

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As a kid I was not good at sports. In fact, as an adult I am not good at sports either, but now it doesn't matter. In my school days, I was forced to participate in Phy Ed class. I was expected to do things that were actually impossible for me to do. I was so thankful when during my senior year of High School, I was no longer required to take that class.

Ironically I look like a person who would be good at sports. I am tall and have the right body mass index.

But I was born with reasons beyond my control that made me terrible at sports. I was well into my adult years before I understood those reasons.

My biggest sports disability is my eyesight. I had 20/20 vision for years, but when a ball is thrown towards me, I have never seen the ball where most other people see it. About 97% of the population sees a moving object in a different place than it actually is. In other words, their eyes compensate for the speed of the moving object so that they can anticipate where it will arrive and thus be able to catch it. For the 3% of us without that ability, it is difficult to catch a moving object unless it is moving very slowly. In a typical dodge ball game, balls are coming at varying speeds so it was impossible for me to consistently catch the opponents ball.

Thankfully, I could do a lot of pull ups and I was good at arm wrestling. The only problem is that the gift that I was born with that allowed me to win in those areas held me back when it came to throwing a ball. Because my muscles could lock and hold, I could win in arm wrestling, but that meant my muscles could not release quickly enough to throw a ball very far.

Finally, I had another big strike against me. Although never diagnosed, I likely had exercise induced asthma. I remember running the 600 yard dash in Phy Ed class and having to walk the last bit because I felt like I would pass out. I would then lay on the ground and try to get my breath once I finished. I had no idea how dangerous it was. I just knew I was being told to try harder, so I did. But I realized that no matter how hard I tried, I could not do better than I was doing. I was trying my best and still coming up short. In fact, I was pushing myself so hard it could have been life threatening. No wonder I hated Phy Ed class.

Then when I was 16, I broke my arm after getting thrown off a horse. That was actually a blessing, because finally I wasn't expected to do everything. I was able to sit out of some activities. Best of all, I got to have someone else bat for me. I was able to run the bases because they were not that far. That meant I could be good at something.

Trying to pay for our sins is like me trying to catch a fastball. I can't do it. None of us can pay for our own sins. No matter how hard we try we will still come up short when trying to pay off our sin debt. That is why we need Jesus to come up to bat for us. He did that when he died on the cross and paid what we could not pay. I am thankful that I don't have to do sports anymore. I am even more thankful that my sins have been paid for when I trusted Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Some people do not want to go to church for the same reason I do not want to play sports. No one should have to feel that way. Realize you do not have to be perfect. You just need to be willing to let Jesus go to bat for you.  

Learning by Watching Jesus 10-30-23

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It has been fun to watch our baby girl began to develop her own personality. Our teenage son has taught her to blow through her lips. She learned this by mimicking his behavior. She has a cousin who is a bit older than her who has already learned to wave. This too was a behavior that was learned by watching others.

We can learn a lot by watching others. When it comes to fixing an appliance or a vehicle I am quite thankful for Youtube. I can watch others and learn what I am supposed to do. I have accomplished quite a bit that I could not have figured out without that help.

As I watch my teenage boys grow into men, I am able to watch them do things that they learned from me. Often I am pleased with their behavior. Sometimes I am reminded of the country song where the little kid does something wrong and his dad scolds him and asks where he learned that. The child replied, “I've been watching you Dad.”

No doubt we all need good role models to learn the proper skills in life. We also need role models to learn to do right in life. The Apostle Paul wrote, “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.” (Philippians 4:9 NASB) Paul was reminding them that he was setting an example for them to learn from and to follow.

As Christians, we need good role models to follow, but we also need to strive to be good role models ourselves. King Solomon wrote much of the book of Proverbs in the Bible. He encouraged his son to read it, learn from it, and then apply it. As we read the words of wisdom within those Proverbs we can learn to be better role models as well.

But like Solomon, the Apostle Paul, and the man in the country song, we are not able to be the perfect role model. That does not mean that we shouldn't strive to be better. It means that we need to remember who the perfect role model really is.

Jesus Christ was no ordinary man. He was and is fully God and fully man. When he left heaven to be born as a human, he left so much of his glory behind. There were two things that he did not leave behind at all though. He stayed filled with grace and truth. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 NASB)

If grace and truth were so important that Jesus stayed filled with them, then we ought to copy those traits in our lives. We ought to commit to telling the truth, but speaking that truth with grace. We ought to show grace to those who have done wrong, but not compromise the truth about what they did wrong. Grace and truth is a reminder that we ought to be firm about reality yet loving in our conduct.

Jesus treated people with compassion, yet did not excuse their sin. As Christians we should not be afraid to call sin sin and then live in a way that avoids sin so that we are setting the proper example. That is living out truth. But then when we see others come short as they strive to set a proper example in their own lives and are willing to admit when they have done wrong, we need to be quick to show grace. That will lead to heart of forgiveness as well.

Jesus set the example of forgiveness when he died for the sins of the whole world so that forgiveness could be granted from God. No doubt Jesus is the perfect role model. Follow him. 

Jesus and The Prepper  10-16-23

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I walked into the living room as my boys were watching a TV show about a prepper. The man was wearing a tactical vest loaded with about 30lb of gear that he carried with him at all times in case a disaster struck. He showed his compass and fire starter and I noticed that he also carried a canteen of water. I did not watch the whole show, so I do not know what else he had with him.

I commented to my boys that he may be ready to live off the land, but I wondered if he was ready for the next life. My 13 year old said that if the man did not survive the Apocalypse then he would meet Jesus.

I told him that he had forgotten an important point though. Jesus said in Matthew 7:23, “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Imagine at the end of life, meeting Jesus and having him tell you to leave. Notice why they had to depart. Jesus did not know them. This is an interesting statement considering that he would later say, "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:30-31).

Jesus is God and thus knows all about us, but if we choose to be a stranger to him, then he has every right to say that we are not known by him. Some people have never been to church and have not thought much at all about Jesus and are thus strangers to him. Others go to church all the time and are also strangers to him. In fact just before he tells them to depart because he never knew them, he stated: “Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?'” (Matthew 7:22) He then follows that up with, “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

The problem was that they thought they were prepared to meet Jesus because they had done all the right things. They were like the guy with his tactical vest who had checked off all the things he thought he needed. The problem is that getting into heaven is not the same as surviving an earthly disaster scenario.

It is important to do good things- so important that Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) He also reminded us that the most important commandments were to love God and to love our neighbor.

The problem is that we cannot put enough good things into the tactical vest of life to get us into heaven. That is why the Apostle Paul explained to us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)

We should walk in good works, but those good words are not what gets us into heaven. We get into heaven by the grace of God as we put our faith in Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). When we believe in Jesus, we make a connection with him and that is how he knows us. We also have this promise from him, “"All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”

If you want to be prepared to meet Jesus, then believe in him as your Lord and savior as you understand that he loved you enough to die for your sins. If you do that, then he will not cast you out when you meet him. 

Caught by Your 

Own Trap 10-2-23

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My oldest son has figured out how to make a fun pranking device. He took a mouse trap, covered the spring arm with duct tape so that it can hold some airsoft bb's, and then he extended some fishing line to make a trip wire to trigger it.

Since he likes playing airsoft, he decided that this has potential to be more than just a pranking device. So he began to calculate how he could implement it into game play. One of his concerns however was that he not place it where he or his teammates would end up being the target rather than their opponents.

His concerns remind me of Proverbs 26:27, “He who digs a pit will fall into it, And he who rolls a stone, it will come back on him.”

The Proverbs however, are not talking about a game of airsoft. They are talking about the dangers of acting foolishly and not doing what God expects from us. Just before vs 27, the Proverb warn about stirring up strife. Often when people do that, they end up hurting themselves as much or more than they hurt their opponents.

Rolling a stone or digging a pit for an opponent tends to be more of an offensive rather than defensive action. Of course the mouse trap could be used to defend a strategic point. Still, there is a difference between protecting oneself and going on the attack. This is the difference between justice and vengeance.

When someone has done wrong we must seek justice. Information about the injustice must be shared with the proper authorities with the hope that justice will be served. In an imperfect world justice does not always prevail, but that does not mean that we should resort to vengeance.

It is not uncommon for strife to be stirred up and for people who do not have all the facts to stir things up even further. All we have to do is look at the political landscape in our country to see examples on both the left and the right of this very thing happening. Both of our major parties have experienced some major embarrassment after “rocks that were rolled” rolled back on them. We have even witnessed violent action from those on the extreme edges of both parties as the quest for vengeance over injustices got out of hand. Too often things got out of hand because people were stirred up by false or incomplete information. The flames were fed to make people more angry than they should have been.

For example, the important message of rejecting racism was lost through false claims of racism in the Jessie Smollett case. Then legitimate concerns about making sure our elections are fair got lost by extreme ideas from the “Kracken Lady.” Soon people on both ends of the political spectrum had reason to be embarrassed and the real concerns for injustice got overshadowed. Further people got hurt because strife had been instigated to extremes that should have never been reached.

What we witness on the political landscape makes news headlines, so it is easy to be familiar with it, but the Proverbs are important for helping each of us individually in our day to day lives. Too often when we get upset we end up making things worse for ourselves and our teammates. This is especially true when instead of showing grace, we start to dig pits and roll rocks. Jesus had the power to put people into pits or to crush them with rocks, yet instead he came filled with grace and truth.

When injustice has been done, we should be willing to speak the truth. But we must be careful that we not speak or act in a vengeful way that could do more harm than good. We should be reminded to live like Christ as we show love to our neighbors. We should take a firm stand against injustice while still being gentle toward the world around us.  

Lost Legos and Jesus 9-18-23

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My boys and I love Legos. Still we get distracted by other fun activities and the Legos might sit for weeks at a time without being used. When we come back to them, they have not built themselves into a new creation. They are still the same as when we left them. Further if we put them into a pail and shake the pail, they do not build themselves. Instead the things that we built actually fall apart.

The Lego example illustrates the Second Law of Thermodynamics (a law of energy decay) that shows that things go from a more ordered state to a less ordered state. The rust on our cars is a great example of this law and so is the rotting garbage in a dumpster.

Another example is the human body. Although I still feel fairly young and healthy, I cannot see as well as I used to and I am not as strong as I used to be. Further my hair is turning gray. My body is going from a more ordered state to a less ordered state.

The Lego illustration showed us that there has to be a creator. The example of my aging body shows that one day I will meet that creator. Hebrews 9:27 warns, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:”

As a child, I became a Lego creator. Many of my creations were lost or destroyed. Today I do not even know what happened to the Legos that I had as a child. Thankfully my creator is much more loving of his creation than I was of my Legos.

John chapter 1 makes it very clear that Jesus is our creator. By the third chapter of John we are shown how much he loves us. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Jesus did not just create us and then forget about us. He knows the details about us. Jesus said in Luke 12:7, "Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

As the hairs of my head turn gray and fall out, Jesus knows how many I have left. He also knows about my sin and that because of my sin, I have come short of his glory. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23) This reality presents a problem for all of us because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). In other words our sin is an even bigger problem than the fact that our bodies are going from a more ordered state to a less ordered state.

If I were simply buried in the ground and forgotten once I die- like childhood Legos- then there would not be a lot to worry about. But we are not forgotten by our creator. We are both loved and held accountable for our actions. If we return that love and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as we give our lives to him, then we will live with him forever in a wonderful place he has prepared for us. If however we reject him, he will not just throw us away, he will throw us into the lake of fire where we will be punished forever (see Matthew 25:46).

Some may think it is cruel of God to hold his creation to such a high standard, but he is not expecting much from us. He made us and loves us so much that he died for us. To expect us to simply submit to a creator who made us, loved us, and died for us is not expecting too much. In fact, it is making heaven a better place because it is keeping out those who do not care enough about God and others.

Jesus is our loving creator. Live for him who died for you. 

Unity Through Humility 9-7-23

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Jacob and Esau were twin brothers. Esau was only a little bit older than Jacob and when they were born, Jacob had a hold of Esau's heel. This was not the only time when there was a hint of tension between these two brothers. As the older of the two, Esau had the birthright. That meant when their father Isaac died, he would get the inheritance. But one day Esau was hungry and traded that birthright for some food that Jacob offered him.

Although the birthright now entitled Jacob to the future inheritance, their father had a right to give away gifts any time before his death. That meant that he could bless Esau with many possessions even before he died. This would have allowed Esau to get what amounted to an early inheritance that could have potentially left Jacob with little after Isaac died. Jacob thus figured out a way to trick his dad into giving him the blessing instead of Esau. Thus Esau was so upset that he had neither the birthright nor the blessing that he wanted to kill his twin brother.

Jacob is convinced that it is best if he just leave and give his brother a chance to calm down. But after 20 years, Jacob decides to come back home. By the time he returns he is married, has children, and has built up huge herds and flocks of animals. He had been quite successful even without his father's wealth. During that same time, his brother Esau had also seen a lot of success. Remember that Jacob had left 20 years earlier because his brother had wanted to kill him.

One of the reasons that Esau had been so upset was that the blessing that Jacob received said that Jacob's brothers had to bow down before him. Further, Esau was told that he would have to serve Jacob. So based on the traditions and rules of that time and within that family, Jacob had authority over Esau. Instead of flaunting that authority, Jacob does something very special. “But he himself passed on ahead of them and bowed down to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.” (Genesis 33:3) Instead of demanding that Esau bow to him, he bows to his brother.

The results of Jacob's humility are very touching. “Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” (Genesis 33:4)

As chapter 33 unfolds we see both Jacob and Esau showing love and humility toward each other in spite of past hurts. We see a family reunited and we even see Jacob wanting to come to visit his brother once they get settled (vs 14). Throughout the chapter, we see Jacob calling himself Esau's servant even though legally, it was the other way around.

Jacob is a wonderful example of a man who has been given authority, yet set aside that authority to serve someone else. Jesus did that in an even more dramatic way. He set aside so much of the power and authority he had in heaven to come to earth as a humble man. Once on earth, rather than demanding to be served he served others. He washed feet, healed the sick, fed the hungry, and died for the sins of the whole world.

When Jacob showed humility toward his brother Esau, it paved the way to them being reconciled and setting aside the animosity that had been between them. Jesus did the same thing. By showing humility and becoming a humble servant, he was able to bridge the severed relationship between God and man caused by man's sin.

For those who have a brother like Jacob, it is a huge blessing, but we can all have a Lord and Savior who is even better than Jacob. That Lord and Savior is Jesus Christ. All we have to do is to believe in Jesus as we fall before him in love like Esau did to Jacob. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  

Wrestling With Jesus 8-21-23