A New Suit

A New SuitMonday morning always felt early for Martin. He dragged himself out of bed and into the shower, out of the subway and onto the sidewalk, out of the elevator and through the office door. This morning he already had a new client waiting for him.

He looked over the paperwork on his desk and then made some preliminary observations about the client. Male. Early 20s. Straight teeth. No tattoos. No needle marks. Homeless, but somebody’s son. Martin had grown tired of the same clientele day after day, but something about this young man was different. He would treat this man differently.

Martin took the client into the dressing room and began the search for the perfect new suit. “It really is the suit that makes the man,” Martin said. White shirt with spread collar. Navy suit with a modern skinny cut … Perry Ellis would look great. Most important was the necktie; two-inch, solid black. He worked carefully to ensure that the tie reached down just over the top of the belt buckle. His client looked like a million dollars. Perfectly perfect! As they said in Martin’s business, “Fit for a funeral.”

Hair trimmed and styled with a barely noticeable touch of makeup, his client was ready for the debut. It wasn’t often, but today Martin was proud of himself and his work as he wheeled the young man in the coffin into the Hearse.

A dead man is still a dead man no matter how he’s dressed.

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord  (Romans 6:23).

Marilyn’s Big But

Marilyn's Big ButOn the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom.” – Michel de Montaigne

Marilyn was an outgoing old woman with an incredibly big but she liked to parade. She’d come to Sunday School and with her disarming smile offer, “I’m not a very smart woman, but …”. She didn’t realize that I was wise to her.

The woman was actually boasting. She was proud of her intelligence. She wanted everyone to know how smart she was, and I suspect she believed herself to be the smartest one in the room. She  put herself down, only to reveal her false humility with her giant “but.”

Arrogance is thinking more highly of oneself than one ought to think; it is the comparison of self to others. The promotion of self is viewed in our culture as a virtue, while true humility is seen as a vulnerability or weakness. Our sinful nature desires to be recognized by others, to be elevated in the minds and standing of our peers and even ourselves. However, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).

The humble rely only upon the grace of God. Their self-esteem comes from an identity founded in Him. Thier boasting is in the sufferings of Christ.

God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, but whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14).

Changing Our Character

Changing our CharacterIn the springtime, my grandfather would take me to Albers Feed Store downtown to buy little, fluffy, yellow chicks. Sometimes he’d let me get a couple fluffy black and yellow ducklings or geese. One year I convinced him to let me buy a few turkeys too. Back at his house we set out digging a hole and set an old bathtub into it for the ducklings and goslings to swim in.

In case you didn’t know, the dumbest critters on a farm are city slickers, the next dumbest are turkeys. Turkeys have been known to die of dehydration when water is close by and even drown in the rain because they look up with their mouths open to catch the raindrops and then don’t know to swallow.

My perfect habitat wasn’t the best choice for raising turkeys. They watched the ducks and geese swim in the old bathtub and believing they were ducks or geese tried to swim. Turkeys can’t swim and they all drown in a few days.

My Grandfather knew about chickens and ducks and geese . . . and turkeys. When he saw the makeshift pond under construction he knew the end result. He let me go through with my own plans.

We wonder where God is when we’ve worked so hard to fulfill our own plans – then they fail. We murmur against Him for not stopping us in our stupidity. We question if He’s really there and why He didn’t help. Wiser than a grandfather, He continually teaches us that He knows best. He lets us learn lessons that change us.

God does care, but He’s always been more interested in changing our character than in making life easier for us.

Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:2-4).

Bee Trained

Kim and her first beesMy wife has taken up a new hobby this spring: beekeeping. Her goal isn’t to make honey or money for herself, but to gain enough experience to teach the hobby to Kenyans and add to their livelihood.

After serious study and a 3-day course from a local “bee school”, she was excited as her first hive was delivered. Her first task was to transfer the 15,000 bees from a cardboard box to her freshly decorated wooden bee box. While she carefully removed the lid and began prying loose each comb of bees, my official duty was to stand far away and take pictures.

I watched as bees by the hundreds swarmed around and landed on her. I was amazed at how calm she kept.

With her bees in their new home, we reflected on the morning. She looked like a pro. No, she wasn’t rejoicing when the bees began stinging her, but she kept her wits. She was calm, not because she’s a bee-whisperer, but because she had been trained in what to do and not to do. She was disciplined and it paid off. Next time, she’ll do even better.

The Bible says that God trains His people too. His on-the-job teaching process is seldom pleasant to the student, but He always has a purpose.

Now no chastening [discipline] seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12:11).

Barefoot on the Beach

Flip Flops 2 2016Rather than take the well-traveled major Interstate back to Portland, I drove the famous Highway 101 along the California and Oregon coastline. It’s a spectacular journey of thick forested mountains, unbelievable views of the Pacific Ocean, wide sandy beaches, and huge craggy rocks.

After driving a while I came along a section of the highway where the beach called out my name. Others walked the beach, dogs chased frisbees, and children flew kites. I just couldn’t resist any longer. I found a place to stop along the highway, grabbed my young son by the hand and carefully darted across the traffic.

We hit the beach and ran across the white sand, the warm summer air intersecting with the cool salty breeze blowing in from the ocean. It wasn’t long before I knew something wasn’t right.

If given the choice, I’ll always go barefoot. Shoes are great for snow or when you meet the queen, but the rest of the time I’d rather have my feet as God made them. Well, that beautiful white sand had been baking in the hot summer sun all morning and much of the afternoon. It was fiery hot and my feet were aflame! The inferno on the ground was hidden by the cool breeze and the lure of the colder ocean water.

Daniel just stood and screamed. We were caught half-way between the cool Pacific waters and the car. I picked him up and ran as fast as I could toward the water. Later at the car I found huge bubbling blisters on the soles of my feet.

Like the sand on the beach that day, people aren’t always as they appear. It’s easy to look at another person and judge him by those easily observed actions, words, and outward appearance. Thankfully, God judges otherwise.

The Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

 

Imagination

Mosh (2)The unusual sound outside caught my attention. “Do you know what this is?” asked Isaac. “It’s the little boy who lives next door. He’s dragging a dead tree branch on the ground, pretending it is a toy car.”

I ran outside and took the above picture. It was the only toy Mosh owned.

So many Kenyan children lack even the basics of life, but they do possess hope, love, faith, and imagination. They dream just like children all over the world do.

There are many things we just don’t know, secret things God keeps to Himself (Deuteronomy 29:29). One of those secret things is what eternity will be like. We know some of the basics, but for the most God is keeping eternity a surprise for us. We spend our days dreaming of life in Heaven, but imagine waking up there and spending eternity learning the secret things of God.

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (First John 3:2).

Give Your Heart to Jesus

Give Your Heart to Jesus

No sinner was ever saved by giving his heart to God. We are not saved by our giving, we are saved by God’s giving.        – A W Pink

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).

Grandfathered In

Jack & Norma MourerJack lived in the small, former mining town of Redemption, Oregon; born and raised like the other 47 residents. It was 9 in the morning and he was ready to begin the day like everyone else in town.

He drank down his cup of black Joe and stared at the old photo of his parents on the wall. They moved to Redemption a few years after they were married. For the life of him, Jack couldn’t understand their reasoning. Few people moved there, most just felt they were “grandfathered” in. In fact, everyone he knew who was born in Redemption left for Portland where a guy could let loose and really live it up.

Two minutes later Jack was standing in the shower. The hot water streamed over his head, working like a percolator. He couldn’t get his parents out his mind. They were old-fashioned, religious rather than spiritual, conservative in their politics and lifestyle. Except for her Tuesday Bible study at the church, Mother busily kept the house, occasionally stopping to pray or play a tune on the piano from the always open hymnal. Dad worked hard in the silver mine and was home by 6 for dinner and the evening with Mother on the porch as she read the Bible to him. They loved each other like a black-and-white tv show.

It was too much. Jack finished shaving, dowsed his face with Old Spice, and finished tightening the necktie he always joked was his noose. He felt like life in Redemption had him around the neck and its grip kept tightening.

He picked up his car keys and stopped at the door. His eye caught the photo of his parents again. Longingly he said to himself, “Someday I’ll figure out what I’m missing, but it will have to be after church today.”

… having a form of godliness but denying its power  (Second Timothy 3:5).

Inspired

Windsurfing on the Columbia River, OregonWhen Jesus came out, He saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them (Mark 6:34).

Sailboarding (or windsurfing) is a popular sport on Oregon’s Columbia River. A surfboard has a sail attached and the athlete is moved across the surface of the water by the wind. The athlete uses both his skill and strength to maneuver a course or race other athletes.

The word inspired comes from ancient Greece. It means to be moved along by the wind or breath. 

I often hear of someone say, “I was inspired.” My question is always, “So what were you inspired to do?” Inspiration isn’t an emotion that ends in a warm and fuzzy feeling, it moves a person along a course of action to a specific destination.

The Bible claims that its human writers were moved along by the Spirit of God to use their own skills and words as they wrote (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21). Holy men of old wrote as God breathed His out His words into them. Inspiration ensures that every single word of the Bible is nothing less than God-breathed and fully accurate, trustworthy, and truthful. When the last word of the Bible was penned, God was finished speaking (Revelation 22:18-19).

If another person has touched you by their actions or words, experience or encouragement, then do something. Be inspired and not just entertained.

Inspiration

Kiteboarding in Hood River, OR

We spent the day in the Oregon city of Hood River, which sits alongside the mighty Columbia River. The Columbia is the fourth largest river in the US and the largest emptying into the Pacific Ocean. Hood River is also known world-wide as the premier place for wind-surf sports.

The weather was warm and sunny as we stood on the sandy beach and watched sailboarders and kiteboarders. In kiteboarding, the athlete stands on a surfboard while holding a long rope attached to a giant kite, as pictured above. The wind pulls the athlete across the water and the athlete uses his personal skills to run a course or race other athletes. Sometimes the wind lifts both the board and the athlete out of the water!

The Bible says of itself: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God (Second Timothy 3:16). The word inspiration literally means to be moved along by the wind or breath. Literally, then, the Bible is a “God-breathed” book. Every single word comes directly from God as He breathed it out.

The Bible also says that its words never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by [inspired by] the Holy Spirit (Second Peter 1:21). Like a Hood River kiteboarder pulled along by the wind, the human writers of the Bible were moved and directed by the Holy Spirit. They used their own words and skills while the Holy Spirit moved, directed, and ensured the full accuracy of God’s mind from pen to paper.