Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Time Is Relative (but it doesn't leave you any inheritance)

We had all the time in the world—five years—and no cause for concern. It was December 11, 2004, when we gathered up our luggage and headed for the airport after the most relaxing week of our lives aboard the Disney Magic. About half way through the voyage, the Herrons and Gantenbeins had determined that this "once-in-a-lifetime" trip needed to be repeated every fifth year. We even decided that we would invite all our kids and their families (Dutch treat, of course) to come along on the third trip in 2014 when we celebrated our 40th anniversaries.

When the first email went out, it announced: "257 weeks left." It seemed ridiculous to start warning ourselves to get ready when it had been less than a week since we returned home from the first trip. The other email, sent at the same time and to our kids as well, said "517 weeks left." That's nearly ten years and it was rather silly at the time.

Now my little Mickey Mouse countdown says "34 days, 8 hours, 18 minutes, 30 seconds" instead of the 1,799 days that were contained in those 257 weeks. The time may not have flown by but it is definitely gone and there are less than five weeks whether or not we are ready. (But we ARE ready!) So it will be with a new sense of urgency that I send an email out on December 16, 2009, that says: "257 weeks. Get ready!" Anyone who is not ready the day before Thanksgiving in 2014 will miss out. That would be a shame and we will miss them but they will have been warned. And we will still go to Orlando and on the cruise without them.

Jesus said, "I am coming soon" (Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12, & 20) and "My reward is with me. and I will give to everyone according to what he has done." (22:12 NIV) Those who are prepared with Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will be rewarded with eternity in heaven. Those who are not prepared will be rewarded with eternity in hell. That would be a shame and we will miss them but they have been warned. And we will still go to heaven without them.

Of course, since the Disney Wonder's permanent home port will be Los Angeles by that time, maybe we will go to Disneyland and take the Wonder on a 7-night cruise to Mexico. But I do not think our kids will let us do that on their first trip with us so maybe we will save that for our 45th or 50th anniversary.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


This may read as if I have ADD, and maybe I do, but that is not the cause for the disconnected topics. I just have a little bit to say about several things.

The increased frequency with which I am seeing doctors and other medical personnel bugs me. The reason was confirmed by a lower back specialist/surgeon last week. He was about half way through his review of the MRI when I stated, "So, what you are telling me is that I am getting older." His succinct and honest reply lacked any possibility for misinterpretation: "Yes". So, I shall try to maintain an attitude of grace and venerable dignity at the four different medical appointments I have this week.

"We are weak, but He is strong." So goes the line from Jesus Loves Me. "We" includes me and I need to remember that I am weak, too. Incidences are increasing in which people need help, especially financial/material help. A common refrain is, "I know God is going to provide." However, the expressed trust in God to provide is not matched by lifestyles devoted to actively pursuing His likeness in them. In other words, the reality appears to be more along the lines of "I do not need to do anything because I expect God to do everything for me." I never hear, "I have made a mess out of my life. I don't even know how to get out of this predicament. Can you help me get started?" Pastors really do experience a lot of people like this and it can easily lead to cynicism. That's when I need to be reminded that I am part of the "we" in "we are weak."

We established a garden last year, bringing in ten cubic yards of garden soil from the landscape supply business. Even with Miracle Grow it only produced a mediocre harvest of undersized vegetables. Even as we worked the garden, we began composting all of our organic material from the kitchen. This past Spring we distributed the compost over the ten raised beds. The difference that decayed waste has made is nothing short of amazing. For the first time ever, we successfully grew artichokes. [] So many of the vegetables are huge! Needless to say, we will be dumping more waste on next year's garden. Maybe that is why God allows so much "waste" to be dumped on our lives: It provides a great opportunity for us to grow and produce great spiritual fruit.

What makes baseball managers wait so long? The pitcher as gone six or seven good innings and has a two or three run lead. Then the lead off batter hits a home run, he walks the next two batters and it is obvious that he is really struggling. But the manager does nothing. It's as if he's thinking, "I can't take him out until it's too late to salvage the game." Sure enough, the pitcher hits a batter and gives up a grand slam to the next. Now, the team is down by the same number of runs that it had previously been ahead. In comes the reliever who shuts down the opposition for the final innings of the game and you can't help thinking, "If the manager had put him in after the first or second walk, we would have won!" I can understand the manager wanting to give the guy a chance to work himself out of the jamb but aren't these professionals who are supposed to know when I guy has lost his edge? How do the other players really feel (not in front of the cameras and mics) about standing by helplessly as the manager allows one player to throw away what the whole team has worked so hard to gain?

Why does clear ocean water, such as in the Caribbean, cause such a longing to be in/on/by it? What makes it seem so peaceful? How fast can the next thirteen weeks go by?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Friends Don't Hurt Friends…Usually

I might have hurt a dear friend today. I did not mean to and I may not have. But the very possibility makes me sick to my stomach.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

No Signal Available

When I first turn on our television and cable box, a message is displayed on the TV screen: "No Signal Available". It stays on the screen for several seconds until the cable box does its thing and we can start viewing the shows. And that is the way it works: No signal, no picture; Valid signal, clear picture.

The same principle applies to many other things, including those shows on The History Channel, Discovery, National Geographic Channel, etc. with titles like "Banned from the Bible", "The Real Jesus", and the like. The are usually full of interviews from high brows and others who have very important titles and positions but clearly no personal relationship with the God about whom they speak so authoritatively.

Why is any follower of Christ able to understand and accept the things of God so easily when these "learned" people have no clue? The answer is in the very book they intentionally or unintentionally denigrate with their "knowledge".

The secret counsel of the Lord
is for those who fear him,
and He makes known to them his covenant.
Psalm 25:14 (ESV)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Regarding Worship Music

A very dear friend whom I highly esteem asked me to write an article on worship music following another article on his blog site by Chuck Colson who sited Donald Williams, Director of the School of Arts and Sciences at Toccoa Falls College in Georgia. ( ) It was a good article but something about it bugged me: It sounded like rules with an angle. Consider the following I have lifted from the article:

Williams writes, we must know “those marks of excellence that made the best of the past stand out and survive so long.”

These marks of excellence “are not arbitrary.” They “are derived from biblical teaching about the nature of worship.”

In all honesty, not only does that not bother me, I agree with it. But one of the marks of excellence—"musical beauty"—became very subjective, showing Williams' own proclivity nourished by a classical music training. Again, I do not object to that but it is, none the less, subjective and not necessarily "derived from biblical teaching about the nature of worship." Although I may also agree with Williams' statement that "more recent praise choruses seem to ignore all the rules of good composition," I must also note that this is subjective. After all, as much as I love classical music and adhere to the aforementioned rules of good composition, I have never seen any evidence that those rules, and no others, came from scripture and that anything else can not be truly worshipful.

I can not say I disagree with Williams' tastes, put I do not think that having 75% of an assertion be inspired by scriptural principles justifies tucking in an additional 25% made up of personal conviction and placing it under the same label. Most teachers would give 75% a "C" or "D" and that's not exactly what we should be aiming for.

I do like Colson's conclusion:

Surely all sides of the music wars can agree that we want to praise God by singing hymns and spiritual songs that are biblically true, theologically profound, poetically rich, and, yes, musically beautiful.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

When Men Create God In Their Image

"So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female." —Genesis 1:27 (HCSB)

Wouldn't the world be a better place if man had left it that way instead of reversing it? But ever since "God created man in His own image," man has been returning the favor. First, man decides what he wants. Then, man makes a mold for a god that will fit what he wants. After that, man puts bits and pieces of the Bible into the mold and fills it in with his own opinions and desires. Voila! A "god" who justifies man's every action. And anyone who disagrees is simply dismissed as one who is out of fellowship with God. He seeks the endorsement of the church and when that endorsement fails to materialize or is withdrawn, the church is at fault. No matter what, it is never man's fault.

Too bad man can never see that his god is a destroyer of lives and relationships. And after it all falls apart, man blames the church and those closest to him.

It's Judges 21:25 all over again...and again...and again:
"In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever he wanted."

Monday, July 27, 2009


It has been a real joy to connect and reconnect on facebook with many friends from days gone by. Checking the profiles and comments of friends—going back to elementary school, junior high school, high school, and college—reveal a wide diversity of current beliefs and convictions.

Some past friends have continued on steadily with some ups and downs. Some have walked away and stayed away from the faith that was a part of their lives when younger. Some walked away but came back later when their way of doing things produced bad results. Some found a faith they never knew before and are thriving in it today.

One very common element in almost every (perhaps every) situation: The responsible adults in the lives of these friends when they were younger. Some adults lived consistent lives of faith, some never pretended to have any faith in God, and some had a major breakdown in the way they lived that left a significant impression on the child or youth.

Those who looked to adults as their paradigms risked major disappointment. Those who looked to God have sometimes had difficult lives but were never disappointed by their role model.

Moral?: People mess up. God does not. Keep your focus on God.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pray FOR President Obama

Hiram was not an Israelite. He was from Tyre in the territory given to the tribe of Asher but probably never conquered by Israel. Anyway, he was the Sidonian king when Solomon became the king of Israel after David. Hiram had been on friendly terms with David but the rulers of countries seem to get a bit nervous when a neighboring country gets a new leader. So Hiram sent an envoy to check things out and talk to Solomon who sent a message back to Hiram that was very pleasing and kept the peace between the two nations. 1 Kings 5:7 (HCSB) says, "When Hiram heard Solomon's words, he greatly rejoiced and said, 'May the Lord be praised today! He has given David a wise son to be over this great people!'"

As I was reading the passage, it was at that point that God clearly impressed upon me the imperative to pray for our president – not against him, not about him, but for him. It is important for our political peace that the leaders of other countries with which he has interaction be favorably impressed with him. It is important that, like Solomon, he has great wisdom to "discern between good and evil" (1 Kg 3:9) as he makes decisions that affect us and our relationship with other nations. It is important that the citizens of the United States of America have confidence in him. But we must pray for our president because it is most important that we bring God back into the equation. 2 Chronicles 7:14-15 indicates that this is what God wants.

Monday, June 1, 2009

10 People A Pastor Should Fear

Ever read where someone has written, "I normally don't like to copy/forward someone else's stuff, but..."? Perhaps it is because I need to humble myself by acknowledging that others write more important/helpful things that I point you to the following, especially if you are a pastor or if you love your pastor:

The Gospel-Driven Church: 10 People A Pastor Should Fear

Shared via AddThis

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Three Years Is a Long Time

Last Sunday our pianist had to stay home. Her son was sick and her husband is a chaplain onboard the John C. Stennis aircraft carrier so, as the only parent at home right now, she took care of her baby and rightly so.

Things like that happen. We call them "circumstances". As I have often told the folks who make up Kitsap Lake Baptist Church, every circumstance is an opportunity to show God how much you love Him. Indeed, our response to each circumstances reveals to the world what we truly believe about God. There are times when I think life would be easier if I would keep such deeply spiritual and insightful observations to myself. Last Sunday morning was one of those times.

After a tiring Friday and Saturday at the NWBC Student Conference, I showed God how much I loved Him but it is unlikely that the world was convinced it was love instead of torture. I "played" my guitar for the 11:00 service. Perhaps it should be mentioned that the guitar had seldom been played in the past 3+ years. There were frequent times when the voices of the worship team and congregation dramatically sang without accompaniment - a stunning affect used to make sure God can hear us over the instruments (and to allow my poor, cramping left hand to recover long enough to finger the final chord). There were even more times when this "traditional" style service ventured into a much more contemporary realm as the music was sung in one key and accompanied in another key, somewhat alien sounding, and often resembling the harmonic sound made by one of those springy door stoppers when a preschooler playfully "twangs" it.

I have never known the people to seem so eager for the sermon to begin.

Me, too.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Death: It Is NOT a Blessing!

These are thoughts I have had today. When you read them, you are, more or less, reading my mind. But I might change my mind, or at least adjust it, tomorrow.

Having experienced the death of my sister in March and several other deaths in or related to our church family, the subject of death is on my mind more often than in the past. Two of the recent deaths, my sister and our church pianist, have been described as "blessings" since Cheryl suffered from ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) and Donna was eaten up by pancreatic cancer. I am sure I have thought the same thing myself.

But to say that death, any death, is a blessing is wrong… every time.

His death was necessary but… If death was the blessing, then why the resurrection?

Cheryl's life was a blessing. Her death was a curse. The same is true for Donna and every child of God.

Death is a result of sin (Romans 6:23). It is a part of the curse of sin. Would you ever say that death is a blessing for a person who does not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Of course not! Then death itself can not be a blessing.

The blessing for Cheryl, Donna, and every other believer is that they did/do not truly die. Jesus said so in John 3:16 & 5:24! When God says "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints" (Psalm 115:16), the word "yaqar" means: Valuable, brightness, clear, costly, excellent, fat, honorable women, precious, and reputation. The context of the verse, i.e. the 116th Psalm is about life and living for the Lord. It speaks more of deliverance from death (vv.3, 4, 6, & 8). In its context verse 16 reads more about God's esteem for His children than about the event of death.

For my sister and other believers afflicted by cruel diseases, the end of suffering was/is a blessing because they most certainly remain alive but are free from their tortured bodies. So, we can say that the death of the physical body is a blessing for the follower of Christ because the believer continues to live in the presence of Jesus Himself. Now, that is a blessing!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Does God's Will Change?

We often think of everything associated with God as having the exact same characteristics as God. For instance, God does not change, therefore His will does not change. Hold on to that thought...

When Cathy and I first started looking at the possibility of having a house built, we were among the first to register, indicating an interest in a new development. It turned out that the first group of people to register qualified for a $10,000 discount on their new house if they went ahead with the build once contacted by the developer. We had made the decision to wait until our previous house sold before committing to a new house. Once contacted, we shared that information which was fine with them. After our house sold, we contacted them and told them we were ready to move forward with the new construction. They were happy to have us as customers. Soon we learned that we would not get the $10,000 discount because we had not moved forward when first contacted, opting to wait for the previous house to sell. But we still thank God for our new home.

Okay, the developer changed the offer but surely God does not change His will. Or does He?

Numbers 13 records the account of the twelve spies who scouted Canaan and reported back to Moses and all the Israelites. Numbers 14 records the account of the people balking at taking possession of the land, preparing to select a new leader (even though they were not the ones who selected Moses in the first place), and going back to Egypt because they were not about to go into Canaan where the giants lived. God was angry, killing the ten spies who gave a bad report and incited the Israelites against Moses.

The last part of chapter 14 tells how the people were then ready to march into Canaan. Moses tried to stop them saying, "The Lord won't be with you, since you have turned from following Him." (v.43 HCSB) They went anyway, even though the ark of the covenant and Moses did not go with them.

They were routed.

At first they were supposed to go in and then they were slaughtered when they finally did it. It appeared God's will had changed. Or did it?

Yes and no. They were no longer to march right in and take possession of the land but God's eternal will had not changed. God's will was for the people to follow Him, not take off without Him. It's still that way. There are things God wants for us and we may cancel the opportunity when we disobey/reject/delay/etc. For instance, God may want parents to lead their children to become followers of Christ, but if the parents are not following Christ, God will give that privilege to someone else. But God's will remains that we follow and obey Him.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

God Is Not In a Box

When I was in seminary taking the course, "Theology of American Cults," I heard the leader of the indoctrination class for the Church of Jesus Christ, Later Day Saints, Ward 1, in Fort Worth say, "We have God in a box." He stated that everything that could be known about God has been revealed to the church's prophets/leaders and now they had the complete picture.

What a very small god they have.

The one true living God is beyond our understanding (Job 36:26; 37:5; Psalm 139:6; 147:5; Ephesians 3:20). Not only can we not understand everything about Him, we can not even know everything about him. In fact, because of our sin, we do not even have the capacity to think that high. My God will not fit in a box. I will never be able to present Him to anyone. It is Jesus—God the Son—who is able to present us before the Father.

So, does my life prove I believe God is unlimited? Does He ever use me to accomplish the impossible? Is His church living without limits or have we living in a box that can not possibly contain Him?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Recession Proof

Much has been and will continue to be written regarding the recession, including Christians and the recession. Far be it from me to go against the crowd. So sit down and plug in your iPod because you will probably want the distraction while reading this. But you need a reason to continue so let me tell you that I think Christians can be (even "should be") recession proof.

You are not going to read some nonsense about Christians who have real faith in God will be healthy, wealthy, and wise. I have sinusitis, the equity in our new house dropped by $50,000 in its first year, and I do not have any idea how to change it. But I still have real faith in God…and a solution to how believers can be recession proof.

Here it is: Die. It seems that memorial services are currently my lot in life and I have noticed that every single person who dies is unaffected by the recession. As a matter of fact, those closest to the deceased remain less concerned with the recession while in mourning than they do when not in mourning. But I am not advocating suicide. I just completed "Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training" and I am personally opposed to taking your own life. But there is another way to "die".

"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no long I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20 ESV)

To shorten this whole thing way down…

Only allow eternal things - things of the Kingdom of God - to govern your life. The recession, along with most of the other things we worry about, is earthly and temporary. If you live for Jesus, with His mind in you, then the recession is something for which you will refuse to change the direction, focus, and purpose of your life.

If you don't die with Him, you can't live for Him.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Before the Sun Sets

This is from another site where I was also posting a blog. I just thought I ought to bring it all together in one spot.
I enjoy gardening and building simple things for the house and garage. The time for such things is while it is still light out. Once the sun begins its daily plunge to and below the horizon, I am forced to prioritize the remaining work and fit it into the remaining daylight

My life is like that. The sunset is becoming easier to picture than the sunrise is to remember. I have an increasing desire to know what is most important and get it done while there is time. There are consequences to such thinking. Priorities come with a price.

For all of my life, family has been a priority. When I was young, it was my parents and siblings, then my aunts, uncles, and cousins. Since 1971 it has been Cathy with Aaron, Alison, and David becoming permanently engraved as each entered our lives. Someday, I believe… I hope… I think I want… we will also gratefully and joyfully embrace our new son and daughters when our children get married. And then, joy of joys, GRANDKIDS! But that is yet to be and this is now.

Above my family I have desired, at least in word and intent, to lace my relationship with God. Yet, words and intent are vaporous if not indurated by consistent and sincere lifestyle. It is at this point that the willingness to pay the price for such a priority becomes evident to all. Talk is cheap but the cost of living… Suffice it to say that the desire to please people has too often been a barrier to pleasing God. Jacob Marely had his heavy chain, comprised of countless links. I have mine, too, with many of those links being forged from truths twisted or softened in order to make them more agreeable to others. There is no way of knowing how many people were pushed away from the cross because of my weakness. I have been in disparate need of the wisdom and insight of Jim Elliot who wrote, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

So, now that I am closer to the grave than the cradle, I may begin to appear a bit more rigid and inflexible, particularly with regards to God's eternal truths. May the appearance reflect the reality, but may those characteristics be refined and presented in companionship with an increasing love for God and others. May I be willing to forfeit their friendship for the cause of their salvation.

Always In Him,

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I wish she could hit me again.

The picture is our daughter, Alison, and my oldest sister, Cheryl Hamilton, when the Hamiltons arrived at our house last April.

When I was growing up, Cheryl, used to enforce her will by pounding me on top of the head. The jolt sent electric shocks right down to my heels. Then, I finally reached puberty and became strong enough to impress both of my sisters that their days of physical domination had ended. Yes, growing up third in a family of five kids was special.

Last April, Cheryl and Steve came to visit us on the day we had an "Open House" so everyone could see our new home. Cheryl's ALS was steadily robbing her of more and more physical abilities, including speech. But brothers never let sisters off the hook, so, when they pulled up in their van, I went out to greet them and asked, "How are you doing?" Cheryl smiled and nodded, indicating that she was doing well. I said, "What?" She repeated her nod, smiling more broadly. I said, "What? I can't hear you!"

That was the last time she ever hit me. On Tuesday night, March 3, at around 11:20, I was awakened by my cell phone ringing. It was Nancy, my other sister. The ALS had finally won.

Cheryl is with Jesus...completely.

For Cheryl, it is a time of joy and celebration.

Yet, even though I know her smile and beautiful voice are filling heaven at this very moment...

I wish she were here to hit me again. And I wish I could take away the emptiness that her husband and daughters are experiencing and the hurt that my parents and siblings are feeling.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I was viewing some pictures and videos of Kiera at The Large Connection and marveled at how convenient digital technology is. Then a thought hit me: This technology can be used to affect the way the children being born today and in the future view their world — Everything is pixilated. In digital visual media, if you zoom in enough, there are just solid color pixels. Applying that to our lives as children of God is easy. Don't get fooled by what appears to be unclear boundaries and undefinable blending. Zoom in. Get to the core. The world may be confusing but God is not confused. When we abide in Him and His word, we see clearly. The lines, boundaries, and true source of things are evident. Our lives can be based on truth, not on the ambiguities and blurriness of the world.

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.…Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free."
John 8:31-32, 36 (HCSB)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Focusing on the Right Target

Shooting guns is something I have enjoyed in the past and something I would like to enjoy again. While not the best shot in the world, I have been a very good shot with rifle or pistol. Hitting a target has always been something I could do as long as I focused on it. There have been times when I used a scope and that made focusing even easier. Of course, there were times when the view through a scope made finding the target a challenge since the scope of view is very limited through a scope. The solution is to eyeball the target first, align the gun in the general direction of the target, focus on the specific target through the scope, and then squeeze of the desired rounds.

There seems to be a lot of things happening and soon to happen that are requiring or will require a great deal of my attention. It is not relief that is needed at this point but, rather, focus. My focus needs to be on the emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual needs of others. I need a good "eyeball" view of what is happening, line up my resources, focus in on the needs, and then start squeezing off as many rounds as it takes to get the job done.

Excuse me while I start aiming.