Thursday, June 23, 2016


Am I the only one bothered by the excessive interest people seem to show in the timing of our Lord’s final return? I cannot count the number of times I have been asked, “Do you think we are living in the last days?” How can biblically literate people keep asking that question?

Paul expected that Timothy would experience some of the trials of the last days in his lifetime (1 Tim 4). John told his readers that the last hour had arrived nearly 2000 years ago (1 John 2:18). Jesus said, regarding his final coming, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matt 24:36, ESV). 

With plain statements like those in the scriptures, why would anyone seek my opinion on the subject?

Of course we are in the last days. We have been since Peter declared the gospel at Pentecost. The final era of history is well underway. The final era has arrived. This is it. There will be no revised plan, no new means of reconciliation with God. We either submit to the plan he instituted through Christ Jesus, or we die in our sins and are eternally lost (John 8:24; 14:6; Acts 4:12; 2 Thess 1:5-10).

The faith has been “once for all” delivered to the saints (Jude 3). There is and will be no alternate plan. That is why we must keep ourselves ready (Matt 24:44) and why we must strive to snatch others from the fire (Jude 22-23).

Friday, June 17, 2016

"Because He Can"

To announce a sporting event well, one must have a good view. That is why the announcers at baseball games are put in a “press box” above the field and directly behind home plate. This location gives them a great view, but also puts them in some danger. Foul balls, traveling at 80 miles per hour are often hit in that direction. Most announcers have learned to duck quickly when that happens. But one announcer, Chris Singleton of the White Sox, is famous for calmly catching the foul balls while continuing to announce the game.

A few years ago, during an Indians/White Sox game, as I was listening to the Indians broadcast, this happened. A foul ball entered the White Sox booth, and Chris Singleton calmly caught the ball. The Indians’ announcers were stunned. One of them asked, “Why did he do that?” To which his partner replied, “Because he can.”

Chris Singleton does not duck, because he does not need to; he can still catch the ball. Give him a few more years and, I suspect, Mr. Singleton will be ducking also. Once his reactions slow down and his vision blurs with age, he will have no choice but to duck.

What has that to do with me and you? Just this ….

In the physical realm our reactions and our vision worsen with age. We must recognize this and make appropriate adjustments. But in the spiritual realm, if we are allowing the Spirit to lead us, if we are feeding on the word, if we are practicing godly living, our capabilities will be increasing rather than diminishing. I cannot play ball as I once did, and (at my age) I will not be getting better at it in the future. But if my preaching, and overall Christian living, is no better today than it was in the past … well then, shame on me. 

Age limits our mobility (especially at night). I understand that, and the Lord understands that. But age does not limit our ability to pray, to meditate on God’s word, or to share the word with others (provided they can get close enough to hear our weakening voices). Until the time comes when our physical limitations really start to shut us down, we ought to be growing and doing more, not sitting on the sidelines merely observing.

Most announcers duck, but Chris Singleton catches baseballs. He does it because he can. Are we doing what we can? Are we growing in our relationship with God and in what we can do to honor him?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Trust Not Princes

I purchased a new suit today. I had to shop quite a while to find one within my budget, but I finally located a two piece-suit for under $160 (including tax).

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton, who claims to be more in tune with the average American than those she is running against, wore a $12,000 Armani jacket while giving a speech on inequality. But let’s be fair. Some sources claim that $12,000 is an exaggeration, that the jacket was on sale for $7495.

Is this the same Hillary Clinton who recently went for a ride on the subway – to prove that she is just an ordinary citizen – but who could not figure out how to insert her ticket into the machine to get through the turnstile? Indeed it is.  Is this the same Hillary Rodham who, as an undergraduate at Yale, claimed that the movie “Easy Rider” was an accurate depiction of the attitudes and morals of most Americans? Indeed it is.

Please do not jump to any conclusions about how I am going to vote. This year, like most recent years, I may be scanning the “Third party” candidates hoping to find someone I can in good conscience endorse. I will not spend much time seeking such a candidate, however. I think I will spend more time in prayer. Given the gullibility of most Americans these days, prayer is the only thing we can do that has any chance of changing this country for the better.

Someone recently called Trump “a candidate made of hate.” I neither affirm nor deny the accusation. The trouble is that Hillary Clinton appears to be a candidate made of disdain. She grew up looking down on run-of-the-mill Americans. She still thinks that we are all stupid, bigoted and violent. She always believed, and still believes, that she and her elite friends must control us for our own good. She also thinks that we are easily deceived. (Looking around, I am beginning to fear that she might be right on that last point.)

You are free to vote as your conscience dictates. You are also free to accuse me of “wasting my vote.” I guess I would rather waste my vote than waste my time. When I compare the good we might be able to do changing hearts with the gospel, to the false hopes being held out to us by the folks vying for control of our government, I am inclined to just skip this election and spend more time on what really matters.

Psalm 118:9 (ESV)  It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.
Psalm 146:3 (ESV)  Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Of Mountains, Prairies, Deserts, and Toledo

I am not good at keeping track, but by my last count I have lived in twenty different houses, in thirteen cities, in six countries. I have lived in the desert, the rain forest, the mountains, and on the prairie. I have lived in the country, and in the city. I have even spent about 550 Saturday nights in Toledo, Ohio.

Each place had pros and cons. For all its disadvantages, there is something to be said for the desert. Insert “forest”, “mountains”, “prairie”, or “Toledo”, and the sentence is still true.

People have learned to be happy in difficult circumstances. People have chosen to be unhappy even in the best of circumstances. Attitude is a big part of happiness, but there is another part that is even bigger than attitude – destination.

Which way would you rather travel, economy or first-class? That seems like a simple question. Actually, it is a silly question. If the first-class ticket option will end in the gas chamber, and the economy ticket is headed for a tropical paradise, what would your answer be? In the journey of life, destination is so much more important than class of travel.

One of the most miserable people I have ever known lived in a mansion, had three servants to wait on her, and several different cars. But she had no purpose. Her life was pointless, and I fear has ended by now. I don’t even want to think about her destination.

Some of the happiest people I have known have possessed very little of this world’s goods. They were travelling the journey of life third-class, but they were headed toward a city whose designer and builder is God (Heb. 11:10). 

Where you live now is not a big deal. Your class of travel in life is not a terribly important question. Your destination at the end is the all-important question. Where are you headed?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Norma Jeane Mortenson (1926 to 1962)

Today (1 June 2016) would have marked the 90th birthday of Norma Jeane Mortenson, except that she died in 1962. She was rich; she was famous; but she was also lonely, depressed, and without a reason for living. In August 1962, Norma Mortenson, publically known as Marilyn Monroe, ended her own life.

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death (some sources say eighth). The Center for Disease Control states that more than 41,000 Americans took their own lives in 2015. 

As the example of Marilyn Monroe indicates, suicide does not seem to be directly related to income. In fact, suicide seems to be more common in wealthy countries than in poor countries. 

But there may be a connection between trying to “keep up with the Joneses” and suicide. An article from Business Insider states that, “people who earn 10 percent less than their neighbors are 4.5 percent more likely to commit suicide.” For too many people, their neighbors are the mirror by which they judge themselves. “Are others better looking or better off than I am?” But this is the wrong question. Asking it damages us, even if it never leads us to extreme measures.

Yes, we are failures in many respects. There is none righteous, not even one (Ps 143:2; Rom 3:10). We have all fallen short (Rom 2:23). The human heart is desperately sick (Jer 17:9).

But there is another side to the story. We cannot appeal to God on the basis of our own goodness, but we can appeal to him on the basis of His goodness (Ps 143:11; Rom 3:24-26). We may be desperately sinful, but we can be “washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11). And when he washes, sanctifies, and justifies us, he also gives us useful work to do (Eph 2:10). We have a purpose. Let us pursue it together.