Growing Kingdom People – Will You Make the Cut?

Will You Make the Cut?

The “Open Championship” begins this Thursday from Scotland. You may know it as “The Open” or “The British Open”. It is the grand-daddy of the four major professional golf tournaments, and the only one played outside of the United States.

And like all professional golf tournaments, there is a cut, identifying the players who go on to play the final two rounds for the championship.

But who makes it?

There was a time when anyone within 10 strokes of the leader made the cut. In 1993 Ernie Els struggled in the two opening rounds, but because he finished within 10 strokes of the leader, he made the cut. His final two rounds were much better and he finished in a tie for 7th place.

Then officials ended the 10-stroke rule. They were afraid, someday, so many golfers would make the cut they would have too many people playing in the final rounds. Now, the cut is set at 60, regardless of the scores.

Maybe you have watched second round play on TV and have seen golfers sweat out the cut. No one wants to rejoice when others fail, but that’s what it comes down to.

For the one who makes the cut.

Have you ever wondered where the cut is for heaven?  How good do we have to be to make it in?

100,000 sins or less?

10,000 prayers or more?

300 or more batches of macaroni and cheese for the church pot luck?

A tithe or more of our income?

Net or gross?

The list could go on and on.

But it doesn’t have to because none of these things have anything to do with our victory.

The cut is simple, really.

One night the Apostle Paul and Silas, beaten but not defeated, were in a prison in Philippi when an earthquake struck. Paul and Silas could have escaped, but they remained and used the opportunity to share their faith with a jailer. The jailer took them to his home and washed their wounds. While there, the jailer and his entire household listened to the good news of Jesus, came to faith, and were baptized (Acts 16:25-33).

How did the jailer and his household make the cut?

By grace, though faith in Jesus.

Jesus is “the cut.” With Him, we have eternal life. Without Him, we don’t.

This means we don’t have to wait for someone else to fail so we get in. We don’t have to pay any attention to the leader board. Fortunately, we don’t have to be “good enough.” We only need one thing.

Jesus.

Of course, my “Open” metaphor raises lots of other interesting questions.

Who is our caddy?

How do we make par? Birdie? Bogie?

Where is our “out of bounds”?

One good thing: We don’t get penalized for going in the water. In fact, Jesus commands us to do so!

I guess golf doesn’t align perfectly with the Christian walk, though the two do intersect at many points.

I know this because I have heard the Lord’s name spoken on a golf course on more than one occasion.

But that’s another lesson.

 

 

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Growing Kingdom People – Rescues That May Never Make the News

Growing Kingdom People – Rescues That May Never Make the News

Today the world rejoiced at the news that all 12 members of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach had been rescued from a cave in Thailand. I feel certain you have been following the story, so there is no need to repeat the details here. It was an amazing rescue, and those involved have every right to be proud of their accomplishment.

As you know, sadly, a retired Thai Navy Seal lost his life in the operation. You may also have heard a disaster was averted when Thai divers went in after the rescue to retrieve their equipment and the water pumps gave out.

Certainly, this rescue will be talked about for generations to come.

It’s wonderful!

A reason for celebration!

But, we know this: not all rescues become world-wide news stories. In fact, some don’t even make the local news. I thought this might be a good opportunity to reference those responsible as a way of thanking them for their sacrifice.

First Responders: Almost all of us know someone who was saved by a First Responder. Lists of First Responders vary, but they usually include firefighters, emergency medical teams, policemen and other law enforcement personnel. Anyone who responds immediately to an emergency is a First Responder, and those who do often risk their lives to save others in danger. So many people are saved by First Responders, their acts of courage and sacrifice often go unnoticed. But those who are saved do not forget.

Foster and Adoptive Parents: Parents who bring other people’s children into their homes are amazing. Not only do they pour love into children who need to know the world has not abandoned them, but they are willing to navigate a complicated and, at times, frustrating bureaucracy. I found some U.S. statistics from 2016 that record 467,435 children in foster care in September of that year and 57,208 children adopted for the entire year.  Great honor is due those who open their homes to children.

Substance Abuse Counselors: People who abuse alcohol and drugs risk destroying themselves and their loved ones. While it is true, their wounds are self-inflicted, they still need compassion. Those who are able to break the cycle of substance abuse can usually identify one or more people who stood by them when they had nowhere else to turn. Professional counselors and trained coaches save lives, as well as marriages and entire families.  We must pray for them as they carry a heavy emotional load.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers: Every time someone chooses not to have an abortion, at least one life is saved. Often, the key factor that moves frightened women to have their babies is a Christian ministry where they receive love, medical care, counseling, food and shelter. Throughout the years there have been clashes at abortion clinics between pro-life and pro-choice advocates. While I do not in any way wish to discredit those who choose to stand up for life in this way, it is also true the less visible work of coming alongside pregnant women and giving them hope takes place every day in crisis pregnancy centers across our land.

Gospel Messengers: I would be remiss if I did not include those who share the redeeming message of Jesus in my list. So many of those who are involved in the other rescue efforts I have listed here are motivated by a Savior who rescued them from sin and for eternity. People come to know Jesus every day, and He changes the trajectory of their lives. I know the results may be less tangible than when someone is pulled from a burning building, but they are no less real. More than one person who was introduced to Jesus has told me his live was saved, along with his soul.

I don’t in any way wish to diminish the importance of the rescue of the Wild Boars. I can only imagine how good it will feel for the boys to hug their parents and sleep in their own beds. I merely want us to remember the other rescues going on around us every day – in some cases every moment.

They will never make the news.

I’m not suggesting this is because newscasters don’t want to report them.  Many are reported.

There are just too many to count.

Perhaps this is why, when we can say 12 boys and a coach were rescued from a cave, we feel a sense of completion.

But make no mistake.

There are still a lot of people who need to rescued.

Maybe you know someone in peril.

Maybe you are the one being called to help.

Maybe I am.

Maybe we all are.

Maybe I should stop saying “maybe.”

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Growing Kingdom People – “Frankly My Dear…”

A highway billboard in my community has posted an ad from a beer company that says “Give a D**n”.  The ad is intended to discourage drunk driving.   I’ll have to admit that ads from beer companies that discourage people from drinking and driving always seem disingenuous to me.  It would be different if they didn’t distribute their products to places where people are almost certain to get in their vehicles after drinking.  

But that’s just my opinion and this isn’t just a devotion about excessive drinking.  It’s about caring.   

About anything.  

I believe the phrase in question is intended to suggest there is something about which someone cares so little they aren’t even willing to put it in the category of things that have meaning.  If there’s something about which I don’t “give a d**n”. it is considered to be so meaningless it’s not even worth thinking about.  

This means someone who doesn’t “give a d**n” about anything is someone who doesn’t have anything in his or her life worth caring about.  Their behavior demonstrates they don’t care about themselves or others.  

But I would suggest this claim is largely bogus.  

People who live as if they don’t care about anything usually do care about their own desires.  It isn’t that they don’t care about anything but rather that they only care about one thing. That one thing is whatever they want at the moment for themselves.    

Maybe the beer sign should say “give a d**n about somebody other than yourself.”  But then that would suggest the person reading it is selfish which would possibly lead them to reject the message.   The message intended is that the reader should “give a d**n” about the consequences of drinking and driving.   

Seriously I’m fine with that.  I don’t like seeing it conveyed on a billboard that children can read but I get it.  

I merely think it would be healthy to consider other areas of our lives that are impacted by selfish behavior.  I will use the billboard slogan as an example of how we compartmentalize our lives to justify our actions. 

Just so you know – I don’t believe drinking alcohol is a sin.  I think there may also be circumstances where alcohol might be the best remedy for a medical condition.   

I guess I just wish more people really did “give a d**n”. That they would think about the short and long-term effect their actions have on others as well as themselves.  In my line of work I see the devastation caused by addiction and the delusion of believing things are good as long as someone doesn’t turn a motor vehicle into an instrument of death.  But what if we broadened our scope a bit?

Why not “give a d**n” about the impact excessive drinking has on our children?

“Give a d**n” that our family’s resources are being used for six packs instead of college funds.  

“Give a d**n” that alcohol abuse lurks behind many marital infidelities and break ups.

And perhaps we could “give a d**n” about those in our lives who are struggling with chemical abuse or trying to rehabilitate and reenter society after their lives have been ruined by the same.

Every now and then I just get tired of seeing people suffer because someone else has determined a serious problem isn’t really that big of a deal.  Or they disregard a weakness others might have and tempt people they say they care about to do things that are harmful.  

Absolutely, don’t drink and drive!  Just don’t think drinking before you get behind the wheel of a car is the only way you can kill someone.  Sometimes death occurs slowly, such as with a relationship that slowly withers because we loved a chemical more than the important people in our lives. 

You can disagree with me if you want.  

But frankly my dear…

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Growing Kingdom People – “Just Looking” You Say?

On a recent trip my wife and I stopped along a small road to look at a Gullah cabin. The Gullah people group is composed of descendants of African slaves who live in the Lowcountry of South Carolina and Georgia. They have their own dialect and have retained many traditions from their rich heritage.

The Gullah cabin was small. I have seen children’s playhouses that were almost as large. It had a tin roof, a small front porch, and wooden shutters. I snapped a few pictures as we circled the cabin.

Something I would soon regret.

An older woman with a big glass jar marched across an open field leading to the cabin. “Hey, that’s $50.00 for that picture!” As she came closer I could see the word “Donations” printed on the jar.

I thought she might be serious. So I told her there was an alligator behind her and when she turned to look my wife and I made a run for the car!

Just kidding! But I thought about it.

It turns out the woman was a part of the Gullah community. The cabin once belonged to her uncle. He never married, so his cabin remained small, but she said others with wives and children would continue to add rooms to their homes to accommodate their growing families.

We told her we were just passing by and she encouraged us to set up a time for a tour. The tour cost $20.00 a piece, and to tell the truth I couldn’t imagine it taking more than five seconds to walk through the house.

Therefore, we declined.

And she held out her glass jar.

Because, evidently, if you are ever in the Lowcountry, just looking at a Gullah house is going to cost you something.

Later it occurred to me our quick trip around the cabin really was worth something. Even if we didn’t go in, read a history plaque on a wall, or pick up an artifact. At the time, I was surprised by the donation jar because I have been conditioned to believe “just looking” at something isn’t worth nearly as much as getting to use it.  In fact, it might not be worth anything at all.

Which brings me to the subject of pretty much everything God has made. I wake up and walk outside to a glorious day and often fail to praise the omnipotent Creator who made it. A mountain stream and a rolling ocean are all expressions of His power.  But if I don’t use them, I don’t feel obligated to thank Him.

On the other hand, if the sun comes out when I’ve planned an outdoor activity, then I offer thanks. The same goes for the food I eat, and the circumstances God’s hand moves around in my life to help me along my way.

Yet, praise Him for just looking?

Hey, if I’m not using it, why does it matter?

Well…

It matters because seeing is how I know, by mere observation, there is a God. As Paul wrote in Romans, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

Seeing is how I am assured of the faithfulness of God. “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (Genesis 8:22)

And seeing is what I do with my heart when I approach God humbly. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

Perhaps our culture’s conditioning isn’t such a good thing. Maybe there is more value in seeing than we think.

In beholding.

Why do we always have to be doing something?

Maybe “just looking” can even be…priceless!

Incidentally, how much do you think this post is worth?

You’re just looking, you say?

Um. Sure. I understand. Just a moment. I need to go grab my bucket.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Growing Kingdom People – “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal You!”

“I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal You!”

 What?

Don’t worry. This is just a title to an old Louis Armstrong song.  In the song a kind husband opened his home to a friend who was down on his luck, only to discover his friend was having an affair with his wife.

Now you understand the title.

Yet, it’s one thing to wish someone dead, and another thing entirely to celebrate a death.

Especially when it’s your own mother!

This week an obituary appeared in the “Redwood Falls Gazette”, Redwood Falls, Minnesota. The obituary was written by two children who harbored intense anger toward their mother for abandoning them as small children and leaving them in the care of her own parents.  It reads, “She abandoned her children, Gina and Jay, who were then raised by her parents…  She passed away on May 31, 2018 and will now face judgement.  She will not be missed by Gina and Jay and her children understand this world is a better place without her.”

Yikes!

Now that’s what I call resentment!

A lot of bad stuff comes out when people die. I once performed a graveside funeral for a man whose wife had remarried another man of whom her children disapproved.  Halfway through the service a stunt plane appeared over the cemetery and started doing spirals and loops over the grave site.  I imagine the owner of the plane thought he had been hired to honor the dead.  He didn’t realize the children were parked up the hill from the grave, celebrating their victory.

I suppose taking our hostility out on dead people (or in Louis Armstrong’s case, people we wish were dead), is one form of catharsis. But is it healthy?

Perhaps so within the context of justice, as loved ones find peace in the wake of a horrific crime. Yet, even in the case of capital punishment, once justice is served, is hatred ever a good thing to nurture after someone is dead?

I will refrain from answering this question as I allow you to ponder your answer.

Although I do have an opinion.

I merely don’t want to presume to completely understand someone else’s pain.

I only know unresolved hate is the Devil’s workshop. And the problem with hatred toward those who are dead is, we can only resolve it within.  They can’t help us.  Perhaps we will discover we were wrong and there was no reason to hate.  Then we will have to live with the guilt.

It’s simply hard to win when we hate people all the way to their graves. In fact, if they were truly evil, and we spend one moment of our time on earth resenting them, they have already won.

I don’t know Gina and Jay and I never knew their mother, but I hope they find the peace they are looking for.

Are there “rascals” in the afterlife?

I imagine so.

Which is just one more reason why we need to introduce them to Jesus in this life.

Trust me…Jesus specializes in rascals.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Growing Kingdom People – When a “Moment of Silence” Lasts Too Long

When a “Moment of Silence” Lasts too Long

People are tired of worn out clichés.

After the Parkland, Florida school shooting a student proclaimed, “No more thoughts and prayers!”

At this week’s airing of “Billboard Music Awards” Kelly Clarkson was asked to lead a “Moment of Silence” in honor of those who lost their lives in the recent Santa Fe, Texas shooting. Instead she told her audience she is sick of moments of “silence”. She said it is time for “action.”

Please don’t misunderstand. We need to think about people whose lives have been devastated by evil acts of violence. We need to pray for them. It is also important to collectively take time, even if it is a moment, to recognize tragedies that impact us all.

But as time has passed, and our “thoughts, prayers and moments of silence” have not stopped the carnage, these well-intentioned expressions of sympathy have become more of an irritant than a comfort.

Why?

Because they are not the complete answer to the problem.

They were never intended to be.

Jesus taught us to pray, but he also commanded us to act. In fact, Jesus reserved some of His harshest words for religious leaders in His day who talked a good talk but were “full of dead men’s bones” (in Jesus’ own words – Matthew 23:27).

You won’t find any official “moments of silence” in the Bible, but you will find these words from Jesus: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mat 7:21 NIV)

In other words, “Enough thoughts and prayers! No more ‘moments of silence’.”

At least not until we have put what God has placed on our hearts into action.

Unless, of course, when we say we are thinking and praying we are really blowing smoke.

Thinking about whose going to win the game after the “moment of silence” is over, perhaps.

Or how many “likes” we are going to get on Facebook for our lofty comments.

I am not cynical by nature, but I get it. And I don’t blame people for being suspicious when people toss out spiritual platitudes and do nothing, as if words are all we need to heal our world.

Maybe our “moment of silence” has lasted much too long. One thing is for sure: If it lasts much longer we might as well remain silent.

There is little point in speaking when people stop listening.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Growing Kingdom People – I’ve Been Invited to the Royal Wedding!

I’ve Been Invited to the Royal Wedding!

Yup!

I’ll be there.

In front of the TV this Saturday morning at 7am that is.

I actually would like to attend a royal wedding.

I realize there is a lot of drama behind the scenes, and what appears to be a “fairy tale” is somewhat of an illusion.  I am not suggesting Harry and Meghan aren’t in love, or that marrying a prince is a bad thing.

I’m just pointing out it’s not the only thing, and that nothing is exactly as it appears.

Unless we are talking about another royal wedding.

In Matthew 22:1-14 Jesus told a parable about a king who planned a wedding feast for his son. He sent out the invitations and when the time for the feast came, no one showed up.  In fact, some of his servants were abused and killed as they tried to deliver the invitations.  The king was furious!  He punished the “no-shows” and sent his servants out to invite everyone to come to the feast.  As a result, his hall was filled.

Sadly, one poor guy didn’t wear appropriate attire and was escorted out into “darkness.

Guess he missed the memo.

The standard interpretation of this Parable is that the king represents God and the son Jesus. The “no-shows” are the self-righteous spiritual guides of the day (Pharisees and Teachers of the Law).  They were jealous of Jesus’ popularity and refused to honor Him in any way.  The one guest who was cast out is someone who failed to grasp the significance of God’s grace, thus committing the same self-righteous sin as the Pharisees – just in a different way.

The point of the Parable of the Wedding Feast, is that we are all saved by grace when we accept the invitation of the King. None of us are righteous, but we are made righteous by the Son through His sacrifice on the cross.  Through Jesus, we all receive an invitation to the party!

If my wife and I were invited to the royal wedding, we would find a way to go. I’m thinking it isn’t going to happen because it is already Tuesday and the invitation hasn’t arrive yet.

It’s just an honest oversight, I am sure. It’s ok.  We’ll catch up with Harry and Meghan later when things settle down.

Besides, we have been invited to the other royal wedding Jesus described in Matthew 22. And we plan on attending!  We are already clothed with the grace of Jesus, and we have discarded all of our self-righteous rags.  They were a gift from our Creator King, and we wear them every day in preparation.

You might say we are walking around in Designer clothes, waiting for the feast to begin.

I wonder if there will be any shrimp at Jesus’ wedding feast.

Maybe some farmed freshwater seafood from the River of Life.

Top that Queen Liz!

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment