Thursday, March 22, 2018

"3,249 Pieces of Silk"

Luke 15.24 ESV

“‘For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

Every time he took a shot he left a piece of himself on the court. When he made a shot, the crowd erupted in celebration and there he left even more of himself. At fifty-one, Freeman Williams, known as “Silk” for the smoothness of his form, was allegedly “homeless, addicted to crack, and living in an alley four blocks from his old high school.” At least that’s what a former neighbor told Oregonian sports reporter and radio talk host, John Canzano[1] ten years ago. You can find his heart-wrenching story at this link: “Williams, a player lost and found”
“He shot baskets in his old gymnasium at Manual Arts. His back bothers him. His legs are stiff, and his knees don’t bend easily. But Williams shot, and the children stopped talking to watch, and every once in a while, he looked so beautiful with the ball you came to understand why the fans here used to call him ‘Silk.’
“A young teen at the school asked, ‘How many points did you score in college?’ ‘3,249,’ Williams said.
“He knows it like a phone number. The number feels like an old friend to him. So much so that Williams said he made 3-2-4-9 the voicemail code on the cell phone he’s using. Another teen calls out, ‘You say you played in the NBA, so bang out one,’ and laughs at Williams, daring him to dunk. “‘I’m old now,’ he said. ‘You ain’t going to be laughing when you're my age.’”
I had just completed another reading of the prodigal son recorded in the 15th chapter of Luke’s gospel. I had examined the passage dozens of times through the years but that day was different. I heard my wife say, “Oh, that was such a sad story about a former NBA player who lost all his money and got hooked on drugs.” It was John Conzano’s piece on Freeman Williams. Suddenly, the words of Christ had even more meaning:

“For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost,
and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”

In the case of “Silk” there may be no reason to celebrate yet. As John Canzano wrote, “Finding the truth about Freeman Williams is a complex task.”
  • 1977 and 1978 NCAA Men’s Basketball Division I individual scoring champion
  • All-time scoring leader at Portland State University
  • Number 2 (behind Pete Maravich) in Division I history for career scoring
  • 1978 first round draft pick (8th overall) by the Boston Celtics
  • Played 6 years in the NBA for the San Diego Clippers, Atlanta Hawks, Utah Jazz, and Washington Bullets
  • Only player in NBA league history to lead his team in scoring coming off the bench
  • Top 10 players for three point field goals in three consecutive professional seasons (1980-82)
  • Earned $20,000 for a small part portrayal of fictional character Duck Johnson in the 1992 film “White Men Can’t Jump”
  • Has not held a regular job since stocking shelves at Safeway in McMinnville after retiring from the NBA in 1986
During the interview, Canzano and Williams drove past the Los Angeles Forum. Freeman remarked how he used to love to play against the Lakers in his old neighborhood filling sections of the Forum with admiring friends, family, and fans. “They hold church services there now on Sundays,” he told John.[2]

I hope “Silk” finds his way back to the Forum again some Sunday morning and gets another shot at life, relinquishing every remaining piece of himself to Him who waits with open arms. May Freeman Williams, one of basketball’s greatest, be “lost and found” again giving both his fans and the angels in heaven cause to “celebrate” now and forever.

[1] “Williams, a player lost and found,” John Canzano, The Oregonian, March 19, 2008.

[2] Faithful Central Bible Church led by Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer gathers for worship at the Forum each Sunday at 10:00 a.m. Find out more at

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Luke 14.16-20 The Message

“…there was once a man who threw a great dinner party and invited many. When it was time for dinner, he sent out his servant to the invited guests, saying, ‘Come on in; the foods on the table.’ 

“Then they all began to beg off, one after another making excuses.

The first said, ‘I bought a piece of property and need to look it over. Send my regrets.’ “Another said, ‘I just bought five teams of oxen, and I really need to check them out. Send my regrets.’ “And yet another said, ‘I just got married and need to get home to my wife.’

“I cannot come” is almost never true. If I decline an invitation, unless I am in a coma or dead, it is not because “I cannot come.” It’s always because I have something I would rather do.

Anyone can accept Christ’s gracious invitation, but most will not. Jesus predicted, “For many are invited, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22.14); that is, all are invited, but few will come.

“Then go to the country roads. Whoever you find, drag them in. I want my house full!”
Luke 14.23 The Message

Some vendors will not publicize the cost their wares. They do not want their customers to self-disqualify. That can easily happen when price is an issue. As every good salesman knows, price is only an issue in the absence of value. If people grasped Christ’s value, they would pay any price to have Him. Instead, most self-disqualify and miss out on the opportunity of (an eternal) lifetime.

“…not one of those originally invited is going 
to get so much as a bite at my dinner party.”
Luke 14.24 The Message

I cannot honestly say “I cannot come.” I may choose to self-disqualify with seemingly legitimate excuses. But I can come if I want to.


The wonderfully creative photographs entitled "Wedding Invitation" were used by permission of Trevor Navarra whose excellent photostream you can view at

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

"My Third Day"

Luke 13.32 New Century Version

“Jesus said to them, ‘Go tell that fox Herod, “Today and tomorrow I am forcing demons out and healing people. Then, on the third day, I will reach my goal.” ’ ”

Unless you are over hundred years old, you never saw an Easter as early as the one we had in 2008. The last time we had Easter on a March 23rd was in 1913. None of you weren’t around then, and neither will you be here in two hundred and ten years to witness the next March 23rd Resurrection Day, 2228.

Most western Christians follow the traditional dating of Easter based on the lunar calendar. This 4th century tradition places Easter on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the Spring equinox or the first day of Spring. The first day of Spring 2008 was Thursday, March 20th. A full moon occurred the very next day (Good Friday) making Easter happen earlier in the 2008 calendar year than you will ever see again. Easter may have seemed early two years ago but, according to Catherine Donaldson-Evans, “It could be worse. In 1818, Easter arrived on the earliest possible day: March 22.“[1]

Easter 2008 was doubly meaningful to me because on March 23rd, 1996, twenty-two years ago, my wife and I were happily married. By God’s grace (and Adonica’s forbearance), we remained happily married until the day she died 19 1/2 years later on August 30th, 2015. I miss her more than I can easily describe. Friday may be a tough day. 

Jesus Christ described the first Easter as “the third day.” On that historic, singular event, Jesus fulfilled His promise: “I will reach my goal.” Nothing deterred the Son of God from His mission. No amount of resistance, persecution, or suffering could stop this man. Not even death prevented Christ from attaining His “goal” on “the third day,” when Jesus rose from the dead.

This temporal life is only a dress rehearsal for the real performance scheduled for “the third day.” Adonica experienced her “third day” two and a half years ago. My personal Easter debut may happen sooner than I think. Like Jesus and Adonica, I must die to get there. When the curtain rises on my “the third day,” will I be ready?

[1] "The Easter Bunny Comes Early this Year -- But Why?", by Catherine Donaldson-Evans, Fox News, Tuesday, March 18, 2008,,2933,339051,00.html.

Monday, March 19, 2018

"Is God as Small as He is Big?"

Luke 12.37 NIV

“It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.”

Is my understanding of God too large? Could He be just as small as He is big? I normally think of God as infinite and heaven as a place where countless of Christians eventually gather to sing never-ending worship choruses for billions of years in the general direction of His giganticness. My vision of eternal life sounds boring, even to me.

What if God surprises me when I get to heaven? What if He is my size (or just a little bigger) and, condescending to my level, invites me to join His realm with the kindness of any other gracious host? Could this scripture, unique to Luke’s gospel, actually be true? Might God be as finite as He is infinite, as small as He is big, as touchable as He is vast? Would the Creator of the universe throw a private dinner party for me and some of my friends? Would He ask us to “recline at the table” and actually “wait on” us? Is this not what Jesus promised for those He finds “watching” upon His return?

The idea of remaining seated while Jesus ‘waits’ on me is uncomfortable. It my pushes the mental boundaries of my God-picture, yet it is not that far fetched. Jesus posed (and answered) an important and perplexing question about who serves who:

“For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves?
Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.”
Luke 22.27

In Christ’s parable, “the master… will dress himself to serve” and that’s exactly what Jesus did for me. He ‘clothed’ Himself in humanity and, becoming a servant, laid His life down for me. This incarnational concept remains a mystery. I may not get it, but, by faith, I accept it. Jesus is as small as He is big. That He even notices me, much less serves and waits on me, is proof of His divine smallness. It’s more than I can grasp. I resist this notion, much the way Peter did when Jesus dressed Himself in a towel and knelt “to serve” the disciples. “Never shall you wash my feet!” cried Peter (John 13.8).

If God really is as small as He is big, then this life has purpose and the next one will be anything but boring!

Friday, March 16, 2018

"How to Make Your Kids Fat, Dumb, and (not-so) Happy"

Luke 11:34 NASB

“The lamp of your body is your eye; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness.”

You can make your kids fat and stupid. How? When they ask for a TV or a computer in their room, give them one.

If you would prefer healthy and smart children, be prepared for an argument. The classic “everyone has one” is simply not true. “By some estimates, half of American children have a television in their bedroom; one study of third graders put the number at 70 percent.”[1] You may have to concede that, while many or even most do, yours will not because…

  • It’s bad for your health

    • “A study of middle school students found that those with bedroom TVs were twice as likely to start smoking. Among kids who had a TV in their bedroom, 42 percent smoked; among others, the figure was 16 percent.” 
  • It will make you fat

    • “The Journal of Pediatrics reported that preschool children with bedroom TVs were more likely to be overweight.”
  • You’ll sleep worse

    • “A study in Pediatrics showed that kindergartners with bedroom TVs had more sleep problems.”

  • It will make you stupid

    • “In a 2005 study in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, children with a TV in their bedroom scored significantly and consistently lower on math, reading and language-arts tests.”[2]

    Jesus said, “the lamp of your body is your eye.” Parents should limit what goes through their children’s visual portal. Kids need parental protection from unsupervised television watching and internet browsing. Most intelligent parents know that. They don’t need scientific evidence to prove it.

    Consider a new household rule: All television, computer games, and internet use happens at specified times in public places like the family room or a shared den. Monitor your children’s use of the TV and computer. Install filters and accountability software on your family computers. 

    Limit the scope of their vision. A clear eye, according to Christ, produces a body “full of light.” If you want your child to develop a strong body and good mind, remove the TV and computer from his or her bedroom.

    [1] This Oregonian article credits The New York Times and appears to be based on an article published on March 4, 2008 by an Tara Parker-Pope entitled “A One-Eyed Invader in the Bedroom.” Ms. Parker-Pope’s thesis: “Here’s one simple way to keep your children healthy: Ban the bedroom TV.” 

    [2] This text and bullet points came from the Oregonian article referenced in the footnote above. It was entitled “Why you don’t want a TV in your kid’s bedroom.”

    Thursday, March 15, 2018

    "Lord, Don't You Care?"

    Luke 10:40-42 NIV

    “But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’

    “‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

    I was in third grade living in Park Forest, Illinois. My mother gave me wonderful news. A robin built a nest in the arborvitae tree next to our front door. I hurried out to behold three beautiful, tiny, delicate turquoise eggs in the center of a perfectly constructed nest about five feet off the ground. I was ecstatic. I loved animals and was an avid collector of salamanders, crayfish, butterflies, and snakes. I had hamsters and chameleons and parakeets. I would now behold the wonder of nature in my own front yard. I marveled at mama robin’s frenetic flights and was filled with anticipation for the day of hatching. My brother and I shared the good news with the neighborhood children. Everyone was excited.

    One day after school I was horrified to see a neighbor boy walking away with the nest and its eggs! I was outraged but had no time to vent my fury. My little brother had witnessed the same injustice and, charged with unthinking emotion, grabbed the boy from behind. The startled nest thief lurched forward spilling the precious contents. All three eggs smashed against the sidewalk. I felt utter devastation and cried inconsolably. The hardest part was watching mama robin flit back and forth around the arborvitae and finally leave. I wondered if she was as heartbroken as me.

    Since the robin incident, I have witnessed a host of injustices I tried to expose, wrongs I sought to make right, and duties I forced myself to fulfill. Like Martha in the midst of her preparations, I have been “worried and upset about many things,” often wondering why others appeared apathetic toward causes I deemed so worthy. I have even accused God with the prayer of Martha, “Lord, don’t You care?”

    While it is comforting to know Jesus loves even helpless birds and promised, “Not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father” or “is forgotten before God” (Matthew 10.29; Luke 12.6), I sometimes wonder why any innocent creature must fall to the ground at all. 

    When I visualize the boy sneaking away with my treasured robin’s nest, I feel a deep sense of loss and injustice. It still hurts, fifty-seven years later. It was an early lesson in grief that would re-visit me many times throughout my life. I have never 'gotten over' any loss. Rather, I absorbed my sorrows. Disappointment, hurt, regret, sadness, and mourning have become a defining part of who I am. The best question I can answer for myself is not, “How do I overcome or get past my grief?” but rather, “What can I learn from my grief?”

    Wednesday, March 14, 2018

    "But First..."

    Luke 9.61-62 NLT

    “Another said, ‘Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.’ But Jesus told him, ‘Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.’ ”

    It annoyed me when, as a kid watching The Jack Benny Program on Sunday nights, I heard Jack say, “…but first a word from our sponsor.” What was a “sponsor?” I was fairly certain the “sponsor” would be less entertaining than the TV show. No “word” from Jell-O, Grape Nuts, or Lucky Strikes could possibly be as funny or engaging as Jack Benny and his guests.

    I wonder what Jesus thinks when He hears “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first…” blah, blah, blah. Probably nothing I have to say next will hold much meaning for Christ. I assume anything I plan in place of following Him will be less essential to my spiritual welfare than actually following Him.

    My “family” can become my nifty reason not to offer full devotion to Jesus. “But first let me say good-bye to my family” is a cop-out. When I elevate “my family” above the Lord I do a disservice to the people I cherish the most. It is not necessary to “say good-bye to my family” before I follow Christ. 

    My wife, before she died, and children never wanted to be my “but first” excuse. Adonica always expected me to put God first. “My family” does not deserve to suffer the burden of influencing my resolve to follow Jesus. Full devotion to Him is my responsibility alone. My unqualified decision to put the Lord ahead of “my family” makes me a better family man. It gave my wife and children the confidence they needed to follow me. They knew God loves them more than I ever could and they had enough faith to know Jesus would take care of them if I was following Him.

    Tuesday, March 13, 2018

    "Driven to Isolation"

    Luke 8:29b NIV

    “…and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.”

    The Good Earth describes the plight of a peasant farmer, Wang Lung, and his family somewhere around the turn of the century in China. After enduring unspeakable poverty, Wang Lung finally achieves a measure of success and wealth. He becomes arrogant and loses his moral bearings. Driven by lower instincts he pursues his lust for a young prostitute…

    “…fevered, filled with a sickened hunger, he followed slavishly, bit by bit, her unfolding, until the moment of crisis, when, like a flower that is ripe for plucking, she was willing that he should grasp her wholly.
    “Yet never could he grasp her wholly, and this it was which kept him fevered and thirsty, even if she gave him his will of her. When O-lan [Wang Lung’s wife] had come to his house it was health to his flesh and he lusted for her robustly as a beast for its mate and he took her and was satisfied and he forgot her and did his work content. But there was no such content now in his love for this girl, and there was no health in her for him. At night when she would have no more of him, pushing him out of the door petulantly, with her small hands suddenly strong on his shoulders, his silver thrust into her bosom, he went away hungry as he came. It was as though a man, dying of thirst, drank the salt water of the sea which, though it is water, yet dries his blood into thirst and yet greater thirst so that in the end he dies, maddened by his very drinking. He went in to her and he had his will of her again and again and he come away unsatisfied.” [1]

    Pearl Buck’s hero is inexplicably determined to destroy himself. What compels a smart man to do stupid things? Ask New York’s Governor Eliot Spitzer[2] or an Islamic suicide bomber or a compulsive gambler or a guy hooked on endless hours of internet porn or the abused wife returning home for more of the same. There is no answer beyond pointless rhetoric, pathetic excuses, or empty apologies. Like the Gerasene demoniac, they are “driven by the demon into solitary places” of personal destruction.

    The same man who forced a “Legion” of devils into a herd of pigs, offers you and me “authority over all the demons” (Luke 9.1). Are we, like Wang Lung, driven by personal demons down the path of isolation and despair? We must face the truth, come out of isolation and into the light. Take Jesus up on His offer and join a community of recovery before you do something irreversibly destructive.

    [1] The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck, Washington Square Press, 1931, p. 181.

    Don’t let your life slip away without reading this 1932 Pulitzer Prize winner and Oprah’s Book Club selection in September 2004. The book was adapted for use in a major motion picture by MGM in 1937 and seen by an estimated 23 million viewers. Peal Buck’s work offered Americans of the 1930’s a glimpse into Chinese culture and may have paved the way for consideration of the Chinese as allies in our war with Japan a decade later. Pearl Buck was a civil rights and women’s rights activist and a great humanitarian. She grew up in China and served as a Presbyterian missionary to that country from 1914 to 1933. Buck founded Welcome House®, the first international, interracial adoption agency which has placed over 7,000 children since its inception in 1949.


    Monday, March 12, 2018

    "Jesus Gave Her Back"

    Luke 7.12-15 Easy-to-Read Version

    “When Jesus came near the town gate, he saw some people carrying a dead body. It was the only son of a woman who was a widow. When the Lord saw the woman, he felt very sorry for her and said, ‘Don't cry.’ Jesus spoke to the dead son: ‘Young man, I tell you, get up!’ Then the boy sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

    On March 9th, 2008, exactly ten years ago, my family and I took our first family bike ride of the season. It was a Sunday. The weather was beautiful as hundreds of other cyclists, roller bladers, walkers, and Frisbee golfers would testify. We started at Greenway Park near Hall Boulevard and wound our way through Fanno Creek wetlands, tunneled under Scholls Ferry Road, and rode into the heart of Tigard.

    My six year old daughter was still on training wheels so we opted for the Schwinn bike trailer. Rachel was the Queen of Sheba perched comfortably in her bike buggy pulled by me and flanked by big brother and mom on mountain bikes.

    I picked up a little speed on the smooth, asphalt slope heading back north at Woodard Park. Apparently too much speed. As I eased to the left I felt the bike trailer swing and lift right. I jumped off my bike but couldn’t stop the momentum. I watched the trailer flip instantly completing more than a full lateral roll and landing on its side. My daughter had a serious look of alarm in her eyes. “Are you OK, honey?” I shouted. She was fine sustaining only a minor cut on her right elbow. I felt enormous relief. My wife turned to see the aftermath and offered up a gasp of a prayer. “Oh God” was all she said.

    Every safety measure had been seen to. Rachel’s bike helmet was secure and she was strapped in with a 5-point safety harness. A tall, bright, yellow flag alerted other cyclists and motorists to steer clear. The Schwinn trailer’s roll bars performed perfectly keeping my daughter’s head from bouncing on pavement. I don’t like to think of what could have happened with cheaper equipment and fewer precautions. Instead of the worst, God heard a mother’s cry for help. When we needed Him the most, before we even knew what happened, my Rachel “sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave [her] back to [her] mother” and me.

    Many years ago, Jesus “felt very sorry for” a grieving mother of an only son. Ten years ago, the same Lord heard a similar cry from another mother. Once again He chose to spare a young life. At sixteen, Rachel has developed into a beautiful young lady. Her mom, who went to heaven two and a half years ago, would be proud. 

    Thank you Jesus.

    Friday, March 09, 2018

    "Think Before You Think"

    Luke 6.7-8a CEV

    “Some Pharisees and teachers of the Law of Moses kept watching Jesus to see if he would heal the man. They did this because they wanted to accuse Jesus of doing something wrong. Jesus knew what they were thinking.

    It’s unnerving to discover that someone knows your thoughts. Frankly, I’d be mortified if my thoughts, all of them, were made public. I have some good ones, even a few I’m proud of. But many would embarrass me if I knew you knew.

    Jesus was no psychic, but He was a mind reader of sorts. He knew the Pharisees were looking for an excuse to accuse Him. They were jealous of His influence and wanted to destroy Him. Jesus knew that. He “knew what they were thinking.” If Jesus “knew what they were thinking,” He may know what I am thinking. If He knows what I am thinking, maybe I should think before I think, that is, exert a little control over my thought life. Perhaps I should take my thoughts “captive,” just like the Bible says: 

    “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ”
    2nd Corinthians 10.5 NASB

    If my thoughts could be read by anyone who cared to know, I might be surprised by how few really care to know. But for those who did care, I would most certainly think before I thought. I would try to allow only the highest and best thoughts into my brain. I have some control over this. It’s easy to let my mind wander or even run amok. If my thoughts were publicly broadcast for widescreen viewers, I would rein them in more tightly. Some I’d tie up and dispose of permanently. I might even follow the Bible’s advise…

    Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely,
    and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
    Philippians 4.8 NLT

    Jesus knows what you’re thinking. Think about it!

    Thursday, March 08, 2018

    "Start Brailing!"

    Luke 5.4-7 NIV
    “When he had finished speaking, he [Jesus] said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’ “Simon answered, ‘Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’ “When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.”

    If you’re a commercial fisherman, there’s nothing worse than a ‘water haul.’ It’s easy but not fun. You make the set and pull in the gear. Nothing. Just water. It’s disheartening. Peter “worked hard all night” and caught nothing. Maybe he wasn’t cut out to be a fisherman. He might as well hang up his gear, turn in his license, and sell the boat.

    Have you ever feel unproductive like Peter? Jesus offered Peter a solution... go into “deep water.” Get in over your head. Go to the place where you must depend upon Him to succeed. Take a risk. Have some faith. There’s no fish in the shallow end of the lake. Go deep.

    If you’re a commercial fisherman, there’s nothing better than ‘brailing.’ You make a set and pull in the gear. A full net! In fact, the net’s so full you’ll burst the seine, split the mast, or topple the boat if you depend on the winch and power block to hoist it aboard. Grab the brailing nets and start scooping the flopping, slimy critters by hand. It’s the hardest work you’ll ever do, but it’s so much fun! The jelly fish are stinging your face. The rain’s falling hard. The boat’s rocking in a choppy sea. Your back is aching. But you and crew are laughing and hollering… you’re making money!

    I hope never to make another ‘water haul’ in my business or ministry or life. I’d rather “sink” in the “deep water” with Jesus by my side and a ‘brailing net’ in my hand. ____________________

    I worked as a commercial fisherman on the "Bernice," a Whitney-Fidalgo purse seiner, during the 1972 salmon season in Southeast Alaska. We mad a few water hauls. We also brailed, but not often enough. 

    Wednesday, March 07, 2018

    "Monsters Can't Hurt Me"

    Luke 4.35 The Message

    “Jesus shut him up: ‘Quiet! Get out of him!’ The demonic spirit threw the man down in front of them all and left. The demon didn’t hurt him.

    When my youngest son was 11 he was afraid of monsters. He would not go upstairs at night alone. If his younger sister accompanied him, then together they would find the courage to ascend the steps and fend off fiends found lurking behind doors or shower curtains.

    My boy has never seen A Nightmare on Elm Street (and with any luck, he never will), but somehow he knew who Freddy Krueger is. He thought Freddy lived under his bed. You and I know Freddy Krueger is a fictional character in Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street horror film series. We know Freddy is actor Robert Englund under pounds of believable makeup. We all know Freddy Krueger cannot hurt anyone. But still, he’s pretty scary. 

    Horror is not my artistic genre of choice. I’ve never seen, nor do I ever care to see, a ‘slasher’ film. I did not watch The Exorcist in 1973 nor did I preview the sequels, Exorcist II and III in 1977 or 1990. I hear the 2004 Exorcist prequel is just silly. I won’t allow movies that portray the demonic into my mind or home. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the obvious creativity and hard work that must go into an excellent horror flick. It’s just that I choose not to tempt my imagination with the fears a frightening film might arouse in me or my family. Demons are real and I choose not to play around the edge of where fantasy and reality meet.

    Demons have the power to influence and control human lives: “The demonic spirit threw the man down.” But the power of Jesus is even greater. In the presence of Christ, the demon knocked a man down but it “didn’t hurt him.” Jesus made the angel of darkness be “quiet” and “get out.” Thankfully, demonic impact is minimal for those who remain in contact with Jesus. Jesus is greater than all the demons I will ever face. They cannot hurt me. 

    The devil may throw a good “man down,” but he cannot “hurt” him because...

    “greater is He who is in you [and me] than he who is in the world.”
    1st John 4.4

    Tuesday, March 06, 2018

    "The State of Expectation"

    Luke 3.15-16 NASU

    “Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he was the Christ, John answered and said to them all, ‘As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I , and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’”

    Where am I? That’s a good question. Here’s a better one… Where do you belong? 

    Where am I? I find myself wedged in a highly predictable routine... get up, brush teeth, go to work, come home, eat dinner, go to bed, and repeat as necessary for the next 20 years. 

    Where do I belong? In “a state of expectation”.

    To be fair, there are bright spots of inspiration in my redundant patterns of existence. They flash before us when I read my Bible, greet my children, or drink coffee with my friends. My heart goes ‘pitter-patter’ whenever think about my home, dogs, family, extended family, my dearly beloved wife, or Jesus. When she was alive, I always felt exhilarated by Adonica’s gentle touch or kiss. But even then, as now, my life was fairly habitual and could use a little kick. 

    I sometimes remind myself of Mitch Robbins’ hilarious self-analysis in the 1991 movie City Slickers. Standing before his son’s elementary school class on ‘Bring Your Dad to School Day’, Mitch, played by the very funny Billy Crystal, offers this pathetic forecast…

    “Value this time in your life kids, because this is the time in your life when you still have your choices, and it goes by so quickly.
    When you're a teenager you think you can do anything, and you do. Your twenties are a blur.
    Your thirties, you raise your family, you make a little money and you think to yourself, ‘What happened to my twenties?’
    Your forties, you grow a little pot belly, you grow another chin. The music starts to get too loud and one of your old girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother.
    Your fifties you have a minor surgery. You'll call it a procedure, but it's a surgery.
    Your sixties you have a major surgery, the music is still loud but it doesn't matter because you can't hear it anyway.
    Seventies, you and the wife retire to Fort Lauderdale, you start eating dinner at two, lunch around ten, breakfast the night before. And you spend most of your time wandering around malls looking for the ultimate in soft yogurt and muttering ‘How come the kids don't call?’
    By your eighties, you've had a major stroke, and you end up babbling to some Jamaican nurse who your wife can't stand but who you call mama.
    Any questions?”

    The Mitch Robbins in me needs a good dose of John the Baptist who could whip anyone into “a state of expectation.” When John spoke of another man whose sandal thong he was “not fit to untie,” he captured the imagination of even the most calloused crowd and left them “wondering in their hearts” about “the Christ” who was to come.

    That’s where I belong. In “a state of expectation.”

    Artist unknown in painting above.

    Monday, March 05, 2018

    "Surpassing Greatness"

    Luke 2.4-5 NLT

    Joseph… traveled [to Bethlehem] from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.”

    Mary and Joseph had not planned on becoming pregnant before the wedding. That might pass in some societies but not in the small Palestinian community of Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. Joseph was good man with integrity flowing from his broken heart. When he discovered his fiancée was “with child,” Joseph would not “disgrace her” and instead “planned to send her away secretly” (Matthew 1.19). However, God had different plans which He made clear in a dream to Mary’s betrothed.

    Joseph was more than just a good man. He verged on greatness when he chose to risk shame and public humiliation of marriage plans with “his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant” in his home town of Bethlehem.

    Jim Collins, author of best seller Good to Great (2001), observed, “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.”[1] Joseph made a “conscious choice” to do the right thing and mustered the “discipline” to carry it out. He would obey God and raise the child Jesus as his own. That decision elevated the Messiah’s earthly father from good to great.

    A good man always tries to do the right thing. But what about the man who stands by his woman, his friend, or his children even when they appear to him and everyone else to have done the wrong thing? Through no fault of his own, the man is considered guilty by his association with wrongdoers. Being pulled in two directions, he endures the risk of substantial financial and social loss for the benefit of those he loves. That’s a great man. A good man tries to do the right thing. A great man will do the right thing even when he must sacrifice his good reputation and hard earned money to do it. Greatness of this kind comes from God...

    “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing
    greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves”
    2nd Corinthians 4.7 NASB

    Joseph recognized the “treasure” inside of Mary’s “earthen vessel.” After the angel appeared to him in a dream, Joseph found the “treasure” in his “earthen vessel” too. He tapped into his reserve of “surpassing greatness” of the God and resolved to do the right thing no matter what the consequences, and in so doing, made the leap from good to great.


    Friday, March 02, 2018

    "Am I Zacharias or Mary?"

    Luke 1.18, 34 NASU

    Zacharias said to the angel, ‘How will I know this for certain?’

    Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’

    I am fascinated in the similarities and differences between Zacharias the Jewish priest and his young cousin-in-law Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus.

    Check out this link: “Zacharias and Mary Compared”This chart outlines interesting comparative and contrasting features between Zacharias and Mary detailed in 80 verses of Luke, chapter 1. 

    Both received an angelic visitation by God’s messenger. Mary was the mother of Jesus. Zacharias fathered John the Baptist who was Christ’s forerunner. Both experienced the miraculous. Both were considered good people of the highest moral character. 

    However, one had simple faith in the words of Gabriel and the other needed proof. One trusted and the other over-intellectualized. One was moved by the sincere stirrings of the heart and the other by the limited power of the mind. One was childlike and the other was cerebral.

    Which one am I?

    Painting "The Annunciation" (1898) by Henry Ossawa Tanner, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA.

    Thursday, March 01, 2018

    "If You Know It, Say It"

    Mark 16.8 NIV

    “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”

    Most of us are afraid to talk. The risk of repercussions is too high. Acknowledging our reality may have undesirable consequences. We observe the world, gather experiences, form opinions and, keep them to ourselves. We dare not jeopardize our hard earned reputations, strategic alliances, or social networks by becoming transparent with beliefs that may offend others.

    Who suffers by our silence? Those who may need to know. In the end, everyone suffers from undisclosed truth. Your story of redemption must be told. 

    Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8.32). But the truth can only deliver the liberty it promises when those who know it say it, whatever the cost. While the pressure to remain silent often feels overwhelming, the living Christ, who Himself is the truth, can impart the humility and courage we need to convey the truth.

    The women who discovered Christ’s empty tomb fled “trembling and bewildered.... They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.” They had reason to fear. They may have thought their incredible resurrection story would be discounted as the wild fantasies of impressionable Jesus followers. These ladies stood to lose any remnants of credibility they possessed by promoting such foolishness. Even after her firsthand encounter with the risen Lord, Mary Magdalene was marginalized by the people she trusted the most.

    “When they heard that He was alive and
    had been seen by her, they refused to believe it.”
    Mark 16.11 NASU

    There is a price to pay for those who speak their personal truth about Jesus. But the eventual cost of saying “nothing” is much higher.

    Wednesday, February 28, 2018

    "Cheap Awareness"

    Mark 15.10 AMP

    “For he was aware that it was [because they were prompted] by envy that the chief priests had delivered Him up.”

    My oldest son is a smart guy and loaded with pithy sayings. I get one of his zingers whenever I dare to offer free, cheap, fatherly advice: “I am aware father” or, if he really wants to drive his point home, “I am aware David.” I want to say: “If you are so aware why don’t you do what I tell you?” I try not to say that because I am aware that my son is only saying: “I am aware of your opinions, dad,” not “I will immediately implement your fantastic ideas.”

    Awareness does not always translate to action. Pontius Pilate had acute awareness of the situation regarding the chief priests and Jesus. The Bible says, “he was aware.” Apparently the governor’s awareness made no difference at all to the outcome of the trial. The priest-incited crowd shouted, “Crucify Him!” and Pilate “wishing to satisfy the crowd… handed Him over to be crucified” (Mark 15.14-15) in spite of his awareness.

    Does my awareness impact my behavior? Will I take action when I become aware of a situation that demands my response?

    Image above "Pontius Pilate – The Roman Procurator," Latin dedicatory inscription, Roman Theater at Caesarea, 26-36 AD, Stone, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

    Tuesday, February 27, 2018

    "Who Gets the Last Word?"

    Mark 14.27-31 NKJV 

    Jesus was an expert in winning arguments with scribes, lawyers, Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees, elders, governors, kings, demons, disciples, and rich young rulers. Let’s analyze a typical Jesus-style debate, in one with disciple Simon Peter.

    Jesus makes an assertion and appeals to the Hebrew scriptures with a passage from the minor prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 13.7).  
    “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.
    Peter argues with Jesus, comparing himself to others, and claims absolute staying power. 
    “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.”
    Jesus makes His point a second time. He looks to the future with a prophetic word of His own. 
    “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”
    Peter’s bravado is out of control. Speaking “vehemently,” Peter displays more self-confidence than he actually possesses. Perhaps Peter is trying to convince himself. 
    “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”

    Jesus offered no rebuttal and Peter got the last word. Peter refused to listen to reason and the Master simply let it go. Peter thought he won the ‘denial of his denial’ argument. The silence of Jesus in the face of Peter’s defiance is notable. The Lord already said what needed to be said. Jesus won the argument before Peter opened his mouth for the final time.

    Peter and I have similar personality traits. I like to argue. I like to be right. I like to have the last word. I have even tried to argue with the Lord, just like Peter did. Sometimes I get the last word with Jesus which I assume validates my argument. The silence of Jesus should not be mistaken for His approval. It would be much wiser and safer to accept as final Christ’s last word on any subject.

    My conclusion is... sometimes it’s better to listen more than talk to Jesus.