He is Risen… Today Too!

He is Risen… Today Too!

Easter… A week has passed since the day that people around the world celebrated the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  It was a day of victory and triumph. But unlike other holidays, which come and go until a year later, the truth of Easter is one that followers of Jesus should acknowledge and celebrate every day of the year.

The disciples had spent nearly every day with Jesus, for the three years leading up to the crucifixion. He had become not just their constant companion and Friend, but also their Teacher and God. So when Jesus fulfilled His own prophecy, and arose from the dead three days after His death, the disciples’ grief turned to joy and exhilaration. 

The example of the disciples over the next several weeks following the Resurrection, is one from which we could all learn. As we read in the Gospels of the interactions between the followers of the Messiah, and Jesus, we see men and women who were continuously joyous at being reunited with their Savior. But their joy and celebration was not limited to a singular day or even those few weeks.  Rather, “He is Risen” became the Truth that defined the rest of their lives.  

That Truth also became the reason that fishermen became apostles, uneducated men became giants in the faith, and those dozen men ignited a worldwide spiritual flame that would never be extinguished.  Even agnostics and unbelievers who heard them were astonished at these unlearned men, who had spent three years with the Author of Life.  Within years though, that truth of the first Easter morning ultimately sustained them as they were eventually martyred by a world who rejected them and their risen Savior.

Fast forward though a couple thousand years to our present day.  We just finished up another Easter week.  But is Easter over for you?  Was it just another holiday?  Was it merely a time to spend with family and friends, and perhaps a quick visit to an Easter service somewhere?  Or are you like the early disciples, whose lives were forever changed by their resurrected Savior?  

If you profess Christ, then remember that He is Risen today too, and He is ever present with you as He was with His disciples, regardless of the circumstances or trials that might momentarily overwhelm you.  But if you are walking this life apart from the Messiah who defeated death when He arose from the grave, then I urge you to open your life and heart to the One who not only died for you and me, but who also arose to give us that same victory over death.

He is Risen… Today too!

Thriving in the Midst of Life’s Storms

Thriving in the Midst of Life’s Storms

“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.”  Jeremiah 17:7-8

If you’re alive, troubles will come.  If you’ve been alive long, you’ve seen a lot of troubles.  Some are our own doing and some are simply a part of life, and may be completely unrelated to anything you or I have done.  How you or I prepare for and respond to those troubles though, can make all the difference in the world.  

Do you just float along, and deal with troubles as they come? 

Do you dread troubles, fearing them, as a howling storm headed your way?

Or do you understand that troubles, like the setting sun, will come?  If so, you prepare yourself properly; building your character; developing relationships; drawing close to God; cultivating that one-on-one time with the One who sustains everything by His very Word.

If you do prepare for life’s storms, you will be like majestic hardwood trees that stand strong and erect, driving their roots deep into the soil, finding the water far below.  It’s a known fact that as the wind blows against a tree, the tree responds by driving its roots deeper into the soil.  

Because of their years of preparation, these trees can and will withstand the storms that will undoubtedly come their way; winds, rain, storms, lightning.  Sure, they may bend during their times of trouble. They may sway. They may even lose branches.  But if they are tied into the very foundation that enables their strength, they will stand to see another sunny day, and grow even stronger from these storms, preparing them for the next trials that will certainly come.

Are you and I going deep in our relationship with God? Do we seek the “living water” that God offers through His Son, Jesus Christ?  Are we tied into Him daily?  Do we drink the nutrition that only He can give us, that will strengthen us like only God can do?  

When we do this, we will be prepared to not only withstand the trials that come our way, but we will thrive in the midst of life’s storms.  And as we do so, we will not only grow stronger for the next storm, but we will also be an encouragement to those around us who may not be preparing as they ought.

Go deep. Grow strong. Don’t fear. Drink Him in. God is your Hope and Confidence.

Possessions, Wealth, & Stewardship: Truths That Should Compel Change

Possessions, Wealth, & Stewardship: Truths That Should Compel Change

“My houses. My cars. My bank accounts. My businesses. My properties. They are all mine. I’m a self made man.”

These phrases are frequently referenced and even celebrated in America.  We use them so routinely that it’s almost second nature.  But truthfully, in the nation that prides itself on capitalism and entrepreneurship, it should come as no wonder.

But in an era that condemns #FakeNews and seeks #Truth, are these statements accurate?  Are they true?  Or is there something deeply misleading about them?

In my years of pursuing the “American Dream” and seeking a bigger house, faster cars, larger bank accounts, and more profitable businesses, I have come to understand that there is a truth to these pursuits that sadly too often escapes our understanding. 

As I’ve taken time to ponder, research and seek the meaning of life as it relates to possessions, wealth and stewardship, the following key truths have become clearer to me.

Truth 1:  It’s not yours or mine 

The first truth is that you and I don’t own what we routinely call ours or “Mine.” That home, car, property, bank account, business, or fill in the blank, is not yours or mine. There is a higher Power and Authority to whom it all belongs. The same One who created the universe, and you and me, also entrusted you and me with the possessions we have that we call our own. There are so many references in the Scriptures that affirm this truth, but here are just a couple:

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to Him.”  (Psalm 24:1)

Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things. Wealth and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and at your discretion people are made great and given strength.”  (1 Chronicles 29:11-12)

Truth 2:  The “self-made” man does not exist. There is no such man 

The idea that a man makes himself, as in his achievements, possessions and such, and they are are all his own creation, and it is he who is solely responsible for them, is false.  In fact, it is the epitome of arrogance and it’s highly disingenuous to ignore every other person and circumstance that came together to enable such a person to achieve and possess. But worse, the idea of a “self-made” man ignores the One who breathed into each of us the gifts, skills, intellect, and health, and orchestrated the right circumstances that led to what our culture defines as success. 

There are numerous examples in Scripture that speak to the flawed concept of a “self-made” man but in Deuteronomy 8 we read this warning from God:

“He did all this so you would never say to yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’ Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful…”  (Deuteronomy 8:17-18)

Truth 3:  Gifts do not appear out of a vacuum

Along with the misunderstanding about someone being “self-made” is the idea that our unique giftedness is simply our own doing.  It’s true that gifts can and should be cultivated, but they are initially embedded in us by a Power much greater than ourselves.  Again, we see this truth playing out repeatedly in Scripture.  For instance, when God led Moses to build the Tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant, God singled out a man named Bezalel to be responsible for all the work involving precious metals, gemstones, and woodwork and also appointed Oholiab to be his assistant.  We read this about these two men:  

“Look, I have specifically chosen Bezalel… I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft!  I have personally appointed Oholiab… to be his assistant. Moreover, I have given special skill to all the gifted craftsmen so they can make all the things I have commanded you to make.”  (Exodus 31:2-6)

Truth 4:  You and I will give account someday for all the assets that were placed within our control

Perhaps this is the most sobering truth of all, at least for me.  Whether we acknowledge that God owns it all, or that a “self-made” man is a delusion, or that our gifts come from God, someday you and I will give account for all that God placed within our control.  The bank accounts and every other tangible asset and intangible gifts that we have controlled or will control are being monitored by our Heavenly Father.  We will give account to Him for how we have managed and stewarded them.  This also includes our time.

When I personally think about this truth, I am greatly disheartened as I recognize the many times I have mismanaged God’s resources, finite ones that He entrusted to me.  But this truth also compels me to not merely look backwards but more importantly to focus on what is ahead.  I cannot change yesterday but I can impact today and tomorrow.

What about you? Do you recognize that someday you will be called to account for every asset that is within your control?  And if so, does that cause you to reevaluate your actions and priorities, and how you are using the finite resources in your life?

One of my favorite stories from Scripture relating to the topic of Stewardship is the Parable of the Three Servants in Matthew 25. The quick summary of the story is this.  

A master goes away for some time but before he leaves he provides his three servants with funds to work with while he’s gone. To the first servant he gives five bags of silver; the second he gives two bags of silver; and the third he gives one bag.  While the master is gone, the first and second servant get to work. When the master returns, they both doubled what the master gave them, with the first earning an additional five bags of silver and the second earning two more bags. Consequently, both servants are amply rewarded.

However, when the master calls the third servant forward, he is only able to return the original one bag of silver, having earned nothing for his master.  The master rightly becomes very angry, takes away the one bag of silver that had been entrusted to him, and the third servant is severely punished.  

So we come to understand that just like these servants, we are all given varying amounts of resources, but someday we will be required to account for everything that God gave us, whether a physical asset or an intangible gift, or even an opportunity or our time, that we may have squandered.  Recognizing this truth should cause us to reevaluate our view of possessions, wealth and stewardship.  And as you and I do this, I trust we will become the kind of stewards for whom our Master will someday say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

 

Heads You Live, Tails You Die? Lessons from Indy 500

Heads You Live, Tails You Die? Lessons from Indy 500

The Indy 500. Daytona 500. Monaco Grand Prix. 24 Hours of Le Mans. These are just a view of the world’s iconic motorsport races. 

For me there’s not much more thrilling in sporting events than the combination of horsepower, speed, technology, competition, and fans.  And for fans, there’s not much they enjoy more than a good crash.  Although a good crash, like beauty, is a matter of perspective.  

Strap yourself into a car with the engine revving, tires screeching, and the speedometer in the three digit zone, and there’s no such thing as a GOOD crash.  The fact is, if you’re inside the race car, any crash is a bad crash.  (I know, I’ve been in a couple of my own three digit racing crashes which you can view here and here.)  But sit back in your favorite La-Z-Boy recliner, or better yet, at the Indy 500 between Turns 1 and 2, as I was this week, at the 101st running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” and a crash is an added “bonus” to the fans.  

Sitting in the stands on Sunday at the Indy 500, I could not have anticipated viewing one of the most jaw-dropping crashes I’ve ever witnessed.  It was lap 53 of 200 laps.  The race had been perfect so far.  There had been no yellow, or caution flags.  The drivers were at their best.  The cars were nearly a blur as they flew around the track, 40 seconds per lap, at an average speed of 220 miles per hour.  My favorite driver in the race, Fernando Alonso from Spain, a two time world champion in Formula 1, but a rookie to the Indy 500, had worked himself into the lead.  

A pack of cars came down the front stretch and slowed just slightly as they maneuvered through turn 1.  As I sat there, the “bonus” happened, directly in front of me. Jay Howard lost control and hit the outside wall.  As he slid back across the track, Scott Dixon, the pole winner, had no place to go and rammed into the back of Jay’s car.  The thud we heard was unmistakable, and we watched in disbelief as the next several seconds unfolded. Immediately Dixon’s car was catapulted high into the air and the four time IndyCar champion was simply along for the ride. His years of experience and success provided no advantage. 

As Scott’s car careened through the air, his life literally hung in the balance. How would his car land as he flipped towards the wall and catch fence?  Would he survive such a horrific crash?  Could he, like many of his fellow racers in the past, skirt death?  

As the crash video reveals, Dixon’s aerial flight came to an abrupt and violent impact with the inside wall on the right side of his car.  The impact caused massive damage with the #9 car disintegrating into a thousands pieces.  As the car continued to twist and turn, it flipped upside down and then back over, sliding to a stop with only one of the four wheels left intact, and half the car missing.  Miraculously, Scott climbed out of the car, unhurt and waving to the crowd.  

But… what if?   

What if Dixon’s car had rotated just a quarter turn more and instead of landing on its side, it had landed driver first, into the wall?  I shudder to think what the outcome would have been.  But it’s not too far fetched to consider.  The fact is, something very similar happened six years earlier at another IndyCar race in Las Vegas when a massive crash launched former champion and Indy 500 race winner, Dan Wheldon, into the air.  As I watched the race live, the driver would suffer blunt force trauma to his head.  And Wheldon, whose career would likely have seen many more wins and successes, breathed his last that day, at age 33.  He left behind a beautiful wife and two young boys. 

Following the race at Indy last Sunday, the thought occurred to me just how fragile life is. One driver dies. The other lives. Some might suggest luck plays a part in the outcome, as if it’s merely a flip of a coin to determine whether it’s heads you live, or tails you die.  

But ultimately no amount of skill, preparation, goodwill or luck will prevent our taking our final breath.  Rather, death is something that will come to us all, sooner or later, as the Bible affirms:  

“Each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment.”

Death. It’s a sobering thought that most of us avoid and refuse to consider.  Yet it will happen to all of us, without a doubt.  

So, the real question is how will we live our lives until the figurative coin lands on tails?  But even more importantly, will we be prepared for that moment when the inevitable occurs? For as we just read, we will all be judged, not only for how we have lived our lives, but more importantly in whom and what we trusted for our eternal future.  

I don’t know what your personal standing is with God but here’s is the truth of God’s Word – the Bible.  In Romans 3:23 we are told “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  In other words we have all fallen short of God’s standard of perfection.  Because of this fact, we learn in Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  God is clear that without His Son we can expect death eternally. 

The eternal life offered by God is as a result of His Son’s death and resurrection as we see in Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Finally, while God did this for us, we must accept His gift of salvation.  Romans 10:9 tells us “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  This is the road to true peace and freedom… and assurance of your eternal future, once that final moment comes for you and me.  

If you want to pursue this matter further, here is a relevant website that deals further with life, death, and eternity:  http://www.areyouagoodperson.org/  Or send me an email and let’s grab coffee and talk.

Whether you are a motorsports fan or not, we all share the common need to prepare for what lies ahead.  I hope and pray you have done so, or if not, you will do so today. 

Mother’s Day – A Tradition that Affirms the Sexes

Mother’s Day – A Tradition that Affirms the Sexes

Mother’s Day.  Who doesn’t acknowledge this special occasion?  While it’s difficult these days to find much on which all Americans can agree, Mother’s Day is one exception. We all recognize this day.  And while there are likely some instances where the memory of a mom may not be favorable, for the vast majority of us, it is.  

We gladly celebrate that special lady, who is uniquely responsible for laboring to bring us into this world, and more than likely has played an overwhelmingly positive role in our lives.  I know this is the case in my life.  I am eternally grateful for my mother, her steadfast example, and prayerful support throughout my entire life.

But whether your memory of your mom is favorable or not, there is one reality that every American shares in common and on which we all agree.  We all have a mother.  And that mother was biologically a female.  And she became a mother because of her union with a biological male, known as our father.  

Now you may view all the preceding statements as not only obvious, but bordering on silly to recite.  Who would take exception with the idea that you and I have a mother, that she is a female and that she became a mother because of the reproductive act she engaged in with your father?

One of our nation’s greatest documents, the Declaration of Independence, begins with these words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” and then it goes on to identify some clear and obvious truths.  However, I’d like to recite those famous words in a slightly different context, as follows:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all mothers are female and you and I are the offspring of our mothers.”

Now, that’s not really that hard to understand, if you’ve been through Biology 101.  There are certain facts that all of creation affirms and are indisputable. One such fact is the difference between the two sexes, male and female. One other “self-evident” truth is the reality that when you and I were born, our DNA and our physical bodies, attested to the fact that we were either 1) male, or 2) female.  There were no other choices or options.  

Lying in that crib for the first time, our mother had no doubt as to what she has just given birth.  As she named you, cared for your little body, cuddled you to her breasts, and as she beamed the news of your birth to family and friends, she announced “It’s a boy” or “It’s a girl.”  She even likely dressed you in blue or pink, signifying the particular sex your Creator has established and she had affirmed.

But in spite of these indisputable facts, it has become politically correct, and culturally foolish, to defy “self-evident” truth.  Our “progressive” culture lives to distort, destroy and reshape truth.  But as hard as some might try, one cannot defy what is obvious.  Regardless though, truth is under a continuous and unrelenting assault and the attempt continues to turn truth upside down. Consequently, truth-deniers continue to redefine what cannot be, suggesting that a woman can become a man, a man can become a woman (as in Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner), a husband can be a woman, or a wife can be a man.

Changing a name does not change a self-evident truth, just as the tyranny of slavery did not diminish the truth that “all men are created equal.”  In God’s eyes, the man with brown skin, brought over in a slave ship from the continent of Africa, was equal in value to the ruthless master who treated his slave as less than human.  The fact that society ignored and trampled on the “self-evident” truth that both men were created equal in the eyes of their Creator, did not revise such truth. And ultimately, culture was forced to acknowledge truth, although at an immense and tragic cost.

So as we remember Mother’s day, perhaps this is one time when those who would seek to defy “self-evident” truth are in fact affirming that truth, at least for a day.  And at a time when the progressive onslaught continues to gain speed and momentum, perhaps we can relish in this one small victory, even if the other side is unaware or unwilling to acknowledge our victory.    

Trump. WMD’s. Facebook. Fake News. & Truth.

Trump. WMD’s. Facebook. Fake News. & Truth.


Trump. WMD’s (Weapons of Mass Destruction). Facebook. Fake News. Truth.

You might ask what do all these disparate subjects have to do with each other. Honestly, I could have listed a host of other subjects that, at first glance, might have appeared to have had absolutely no correlation. But hang with me and hopefully I’ll tie them all together.

During the Presidential campaign in 2016, and the years leading up to it, Donald Trump, the candidate and citizen, made a number of claims that, now as he is President, appear to have been untrue… or else Trump just changed his mind.  While there are many promises one could point to, the most recent example is Trump’s views of Syria over the years. To be clear, this article is not about whether launching a strike on Syria was a good decision or not, but rather about the reality that a politician will tell you one thing when seeking your vote, but once elected, those promises are worth as much as the money the Federal Reserve prints.

So what is the truth?

A number of years ago the phrase, “Bush lied and people died” was regularly leveled at our 43rd President.  The basis for this view was the perspective that President George W. Bush lied about WMD’s as a pretense to invade Iraq.  The left, the media, and even many republicans and libertarians, asserted that there were never any WMD’s in Iraq.  While the intent of this article is not to re-litigate this decade old debate, it should be noted that there are numbers of reports that purport to validate that WMD’s were indeed in Iraq, including the notion that many of them made their way to Syria.  

So what is the truth?

Facebook touts nearly 2 billion active users.  That’s a lot of people sharing photos, personal tidbits, recipes, and untold other stories.  But Facebook has become a major purveyor of articles that are either totally false or are highly suspect.  In fact, Facebook has now set up a manner for its members to report false stories to them. So if you are suspicious, report the post to the Facebook police, and they’ll investigate the authenticity of the article you reported. Which doesn’t mean you’ll get the truth. Rather, you’ll simply get what Facebook wants you to believe is the truth.

So what is the truth?

Over this last year, a new phrase has become commonplace:  Fake News.  One news source asserts another one is false.  Websites now evaluate the claims of others and rate them with Pinocchio noses; the more noses, the greater the lie.  And even our President has become accustomed to referring to media outlets he views as his adversaries, like CNN, as “Fake News.”  

So what is the truth?

It seems that in the age of Google, Siri, instant access, and terabytes of data, man is no closer to understanding the truth of a matter, than when man was carving images on cave walls.  

And that’s the tie between all these seemingly unrelated topics.  TRUTH. 

So what is the truth?  That’s the question we should be asking ourselves over and over.  Regardless of where we read or hear a story reported, we should be skeptical, in a good way, of claims we hear in our polarized world today.  There is nigh a person, group, party, or nation, who doesn’t have an agenda to push, or a perspective that they cling to. 

We all want the truth.  But do we have it? And even more importantly, do we present the truth in what we live out everyday in our lives?  This is a question I am asking myself in my own personal life.

I’m reminded of these verses in Isaiah 59 that seemingly foretold this present age:  

We know we have rebelled and have denied the Lord.  We have turned our backs on our God.
We know how unfair and oppressive we have been, carefully planning our deceitful lies.
Our courts oppose the righteous, and justice is nowhere to be found.
Truth stumbles in the streets, and honesty has been outlawed.
Yes, truth is gone, and anyone who renounces evil is attacked.
The Lord looked and was displeased to find there was no justice.

If you take the time to read the entire chapter in Isaiah, you will find a myriad of societal problems that flow from a rejection of Truth. When we reject Truth, we are in essence rejecting God.  Our problems now, as they were in Isaiah’s day, are pervasive.  No, they are not limited to Donald Trump, or WMD’s or Fake News.  If our government merely reflects its people, what does that say when our politicians routinely distort the truth? 

So is there a solution to our Truth problem in America?  Well, you and I cannot change Trump, or the Fake News sites, but we can individually commit to pursuing Truth in our own lives. As we do that, we will have taken the first step in the direction of Truth.  And as we do, the Truth will set us free.