Archive for April, 2012

An Indestructible Life: God Saw Fit

Two men left earth within days of each other recently. Public remembrances lasted for days for one; those same media outlets only gave passing line to the other. One was nicely honored for his kindnesses, charity contributions, longevity (and hair!); one was largely recalled for his Watergate criminal conviction and incarceration.

Dick Clark promoted rock and roll, built a fortune, and hosted New Year’s Eve on TV. He seems to have been a real nice and generous man. Charles Colson came out of prison, rejected power and fortune, and spent the rest of his life going back to visit prisoners, help their families, and influence culture.

There are many good men—some really good men. Among them a smaller group who live in such a way their witness glorifies God and demonstrates “the power of an indestructible life” (Hebrews 7:15).

I acknowledge Chuck Colson’s books, significant organizations he founded, the intellect, prolific contributions, and influence. But most of all, I thank God for the riveting, transforming, life-altering power of the gospel in and through the man.

I was with Colson three times. The most memorable was for a whole day as he visited three prisons in Florida. I hosted him as the Regional Chaplain. He tirelessly spoke in hot, outdoor crusade meetings. But it is the passion he had for individuals all day that is burned deep in me. I saw this image all day long: ivy-league trained, brilliant, former marine, and a man of considerable fame standing on the sidewalk with his eyes riveted on one inmate. One after another, they had his complete attention. By the ,end of the conversation his hand was on their shoulder. And, when it was another’s turn, the “Hackett Man” and “evil genius” put his arms around every sweaty inmate he talked to and prayed for them.

I soon forget the power of the gospel to turn darkness to light, hell into heaven, and to completely change direction for any willing sinner. I easily neglect the transforming work of the Holy Spirit to conform all who are devoted to Jesus into His very likeness. I willingly set aside the honorable call to step beyond my safe places and people—and to seek undesirable, unlovely people. I tragically ignore the centrality of Scripture to fulfill my call to love God with my mind, too.

Charles Colson never forgot. He followed well and finished strong.

Think through Bible examples and verses you know that touch cobble stones of truth and abundant life, and you are walking on the trail paved by a rare and Christlike man: Charles Colson. Colson once said,
“Whatever good I may have done is because God saw fit to reach into the depths of Watergate and convert a broken sinner.”

The Song

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” That quote centered me this week and describes my heart (!) as I entered church this morning for worship following a week of rescue and recovery from a heart cath procedure. The music was unbelievable! The Word immeasurably savory!

With the quote picture a row of blue birds sitting in unison. At peace. At rest. Satisfied.

Worship is an amazing privilege. The Song is Him.

Cheeseburgers Get in the Way

I watched my heart cauterization on two televisions Monday, April 9th. I flunked a stress test-and actually didn’t know there was a problem. Really cool watching the stent being placed!

I asked the surgeon about the blockage, “Do you see old cheeseburgers or new cheeseburgers?” Cheeseburgers are symbolic-I actually prefer no cheese. The doctor laughed, and surmised it was mostly old stuff from the past because the blockage was calcified. Darn all those french-fries.

When younger, living was a straight line and detours unimaginable. And you? Now a greater question beckons: How do I respond when the line is broken?

Part of me is thinking like the Psalmist: “He has broken my strength in midcourse; he has shortened by days.” Ouch. I know the Father can’t be blamed for all the milkshakes, fries, inactivity, and ice cream. They aren’t His fault; they are mine.

But I am grateful for Bert, who long ago pointed me to the way of the other heart. “It’s a matter of the heart,” he once said simply. He has a way of saying poignant things simply. “Heart” is his default setting. Inspite of the cost; true to our Audience of One-he knows by experience. And I’ve never forgotten it.

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23 ESV)

My study bible says of heart in Proverbs 4, “Heart in Proverbs regularly refers to the center of one’s inner life and orientation to God, from which a person does all thinking, feeling, and choosing. Taking words of wisdom into the heart is vital (they are life, v. 22), and wisdom’s presence in the heart is worth guarding because out of the heart flow all the thoughts and words and choices of a person’s life (from it flow the springs of life, v. 23).”

I especially don’t like the “choosing.” Another ouch.

My sweet, Godly niece Kailie just posted verses on Facebook that seem so timely. “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” (Hebrews 5)

I responded: “Loud cries and tears” caught my heart. The agony of knowing the cross was before Him. The validation for us of being fully human and struggling with the will of God and not wanting suffering or to experience pain in its many ways…What a Man and what a God. Thanks.”

Jesus brooded over circumstances, prayed honestly, and learned obedience. He focused on fully living the life set before Him. “Therefore…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…Consider him…so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”

So, I will obey my doctors and wife now. Fewer fast food excursions, less of the salt shaker, exercise more, less coffee (the hardest thing), etc.

And…I am thinking about my physical and spiritual heart a lot more.

How are yours?

[A shorter version has been submitted for my column for The Dayton Herald News for April 18, 2012.]

A T-Ball Life

Do you remember the Keystone Cops of silent movie screen fame? Like puppets on stiff strings, their uncoordinated antics provided endless hysterical moments. Continuously bumping into each other, they tripped more than they walked, and regularly confused the good guys for the escaping robbers.

Fast forward to a noise-filled, twenty-first century spectacle of confusion and endless laughs: my grandson’s T-Ball game. He lives hours away, so my wife and I were thrilled to be able to take in a game. As I told the lady in the grocery store who listened patiently and laughed long, the Keystone Cops have nothing on the Braves T-Ball boys and girls of Houston County, Georgia.

They did hit the “T” well. My guy had three—three—base hits. But, no one could catch—or find the ball—or follow the flow of the game. The handsome third baseman (you know who) drew in the dirt while runners flashed by on their way to paradise. All had impressive uniforms and even cleats! Yet, when the ball went into the infield, every boy or girl listening to the coach’s screams ran for it—in circles. Forgetting their assignments, they tackled the ball and each other. Tears and a parade of emergency responders (aka coaches) followed.

I wondered about the big idea. Was the point of the game getting to home plate-where a bruiser of a kid would stand on the plate and push you away? Was having the biggest score most important? No one knew the final score. Or was the idea the ball: following it at all times, hitting, catching, and throwing it somewhere it needed to go? You know how that turned out.

I’ve decided the essential thing was the game—the total experience: showing up, staying in it, dressing the part, growing in skill, listening to the coach, cheering for your teammates. And…T-Ball illustrates something far greater.

Living at the other end of the age spectrum, I am wondering how best to follow Christ well and finish strong. What is the endgame? For T-Ballers, they live to be a part of the most important game in town. Professional athletes often lose such focus and innocence when lesser things take center stage (e.g., fame, money). And us?

Colossians says of Jesus Christ, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together…so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” He is center, the point, the goal, “the way, the truth, and the life” to follow well and finish strong.

So, let’s stay fully engaged in our life with Christ. It’s a T-ball kind of life! And…watch that handsome third baseman!

March 4, 2012

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