Monday, December 22, 2014

The Lowest Common Denominator



When adding and subtracting fractions, you first convert the fractions to the “lowest common denominator.” Next, convert the numerators so the values of the original fractions are maintained. Then simply add or subtract the numerators, placing the sum or difference above the common denominator and reduce the fraction to its simplest form. If you are confused, ask a fourth or fifth grader to show you.

Communicating effectively with different people works the same way: Find a basic expression all can understand and to which they can relate. Once that is established, use it to communicate and move forward together, not backward. That is how progress is made. Problems occur when individuals fail to value others, fail to value communicating with others, or assume their perspective is held in common or accepted by the others.

Effective evangelism or, simply put, telling others about Jesus, works on that principle. It is more than not using “church language” such as salvation and sanctification. It is understanding that the one sharing the good news is responsible for relating to the life of the person who is still headed for an eternity apart from God. Since all who belong to Christ were once in the other person’s position, it is much easier than expecting that person to identify with a position in God’s kingdom they have never experienced. That is one reason new Christians are so effective at telling others about Jesus: Their former life is so recent and they can easily identify with those with whom they are sharing.

Those who have been saints for a longer time may find it harder to communicate using a common denominator. Time in the church can desensitize a person away from the perspective of someone whose life is still fully governed by the values of the world apart God. It is much like clay that is cured. It know longer contains moisture so it no longer responds to external influences in the same way it did when water permeated it. But Christians can once again become sensitive to others without allowing the world’s value system to regain control.

There is a price to pay but it is not as scary as it sounds. The main price is love. Until you love those you want to reach, you will not effectively reach them. To love them, you must put them ahead of yourself. Jesus said something about that. Actually, He affirmed what the Old Testament said: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

This kind of love is not about having warm feelings towards others. It is about doing. As DC Talk once sang, “Love is a verb!” Since it is about doing, there must be specific things that can be done. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Go to them. Do not expect them to come to you. You are the one with the Great Commission, not them.
2. Spend time with them. This is not a new concept. The old adage is true. You spell love “T - I - M - E”.
3. Listen to them. Hear their story. As the saying goes, they will not care how much you know until they know how much you care.
4. Carry their burden. Jesus usually earned the attention of His listeners by meeting their physical needs first.
5. Be patient. Be very patient. God knows who will not receive Him. You do not. Some hurts take a very long time to heal. Some people need a long time before they will begin to have hope that they can trust anyone again.
6. Stay humble. Remember you were once ruled by sin, too.

7. Show relevance. People without Jesus need to see how surrendering to Him will make their life better. It is very important to be honest. God does not promise to make us wealthy or popular. He promises to forgive us, make His home in us, and give us eternal life.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

1,170 Miles From Here

WARNING: This post is an emotional release for me. It is probably not going to be short.

I wish we were 1,170 miles from here.
Nothing is wrong at home. Cathy and I are doing fine and the garden is producing all sorts of vegetables, including more beans than we can handle. But, I wish we were 1,170 miles from here.
We were just down in Eugene to see my folks last week. They are 89 and 85 years old, still live in their own place, still drive, are still involved in their church, and devour all the books Cathy takes to them. We can notice that they are slowing down, needing more rest and sleep, and are not able to work as hard as they would like. Considering their age, they are doing great. But, I wish we were 1,170 miles from here.
There is no disaster at work. The church is alive and well. People are busy serving God and others. The ladies have a retreat this weekend, which means attendance in Sunday School and Worship will be down a little this Sunday. We also have a men's breakfast this Saturday morning, followed by four hour work "day". But, I wish we were 1,170 miles from here.
Today marks exactly two months until the day Cathy and I fly to Orlando to begin a long-anticipated and awaited vacation with our dear friends, the Herrons, beginning at Disney World and then followed by a 7-night cruise in the Caribbean for which all of our kids, including the Herrons' grandkids, will be joining us. It is going to be a most wonderful time and probably the first time in over a decade that both families have been together with everyone present. But, I wish we were 1,170 miles from here.

1,170 miles from here is where Shane and Alison, our son-in-law and daughter live. I wish we were there right now. Last night, their beloved dog and one of our "granddogs", Dexter, died. A number of days ago, he consumed half of a roasted chicken…bones and all. It was a high price to pay for doing what came natural to a dog that was full grown but really still a puppy. As with Cathy and I when we were first married, their dogs are their kids and this loss is enormous. When Alison talks to me about it—the feelings she expresses, the phrases and words she uses, the grief that is so overwhelming—it brings back what we went through when our first dog, Sampson, met his untimely death on Thanksgiving morning in 1975.
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We have had nearly thirty-nine years filled with great joys, including our three children, our daughter-in-law, son-in-law, and four more dogs (of which one even lived long enough to die "naturally" in her old age). We have also had many other great griefs including the loss of my sister Cheryl to ALS and the loss of my father-in-law to cancer. I think the loss of Sampson so long ago helped teach me that God will carry me through times of grief, including the more significant losses of Cheryl and Cathy's dad. We know more grief is coming. Cathy's mom and my parents are not the only ones getting older. I don't want to think about those future losses right now but I know God will carry us through.

Shane lost a sister in a tragic accident a number of years ago. Alison has had her tragedies, too (and has the scars to prove it). But Dexter was one of their two dogs—a life they took care of together. This is a joint loss for them. They are grieving together and deeply. I know their other dog, Cody, will be receiving a lot of extra hugs and loving. They will continue to cry and grieve together and we want to hold them, cry with them, and pray with them instead of doing it from far away.

I wish we were 1,170 miles from here…in Ontario, CA with my daughter and son-in-law (and the other granddog).

Dexter is in the red oval below in our Christmas picture from last year.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

My Ice Bucket Challenge Problem

I have not been challenged with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, yet. My sister, Cheryl, died from ALS a number of years ago and I would love to see huge advances made in overcoming the disease… but not at any cost.

I've visited the ALS Association web site (alsa.org), reading their information on the kind of research that takes place. It is important to know that I regard all human life as just that: Human life. When conception/fertilization occurs, even when disguised with terms such as "so-called totipotent cells", "blastocyst", "inner cell mass", etc, it is a human life. Basically, whether done using laboratory fertilized eggs or aborted babies, it is stopping a human life.

I do not think the ALS Association or its members are wicked and evil…at least, not any more than myself and everyone else. I believe they have a passion for conquering ALS. I understand there are greater difficulties with using adult stem cells taken from bone marrow and ALS research receives relatively little funding. Nevertheless, ending one life, even before it is fully formed, in order to try to help ALS victims is not something I can condone or support. I believe it is morally and spiritually wrong. (I won't do the sermon here on the value God places on human life.)

If the ALS Association can assure me that any contributions will go to research not using intentionally terminated embryos/fetus/fertilized-human-egg/etc., then I will joyfully take the plunge and donate to the cause.

I wish my brother-in-law hadn't lost his wife. I wish my nieces hadn't lost their mom. I wish my parents hadn't lost their first born, I wish my siblings and I hadn't lost our sister. It would love to see an end to ALS…but not at the cost of taking other lives.

Addendum:
I added this to the post on Facebook and wanted to include it here as well.

Okay, here is a start and you can do your own checking on it (In fact, you should do your own checking on it). It's The John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa (http://www.jp2mri.org/mission/htm and/or http://www.jp2mri.org/captial-campaign.htm).

And another: Israel based BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics (http://www.brainstorm-cell.com).

By the grace of God, these groups (and perhaps there are others) may find a cure or viable treatment for ALS without the termination of other human lives.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Still Learning…and Relearning

She is more than thirty-five years younger than me and, although we have never met, I hope to have the privilege some day. On her Facebook page, in the "About" section, and under "Family", is "About J_____". It simply says, "It's not." Those two words have a greater impact than the 60+ words carefully crafted for their conciseness and entered on my Facebook page. Another lesson on humility.

Last Sunday, I sacrificed my God-given responsibility to be a vessel by which God convicts and transforms His people through the preaching of His word. Instead, we had people from three different ministries share about the work they do which the church has supported to some extent. Of all Sundays, why did we have to have all those first time visitors on a day they would not even get to hear the Pastor preach? I suppose it was because God wanted them to know that this was His church endeavoring to follow His leadership…and it was not about the pastor. I do not remember the last time the people were as blessed or impacted by my preaching. I suspect it has never happened. They are still talking about it. Another lesson on humility and the sovereignty of God.

Did it make a permanent impact, that is, did it really change anyone's life? I am now working on enlisting individuals in the church who lead ministries or serve regularly in other ministries to share on a Sunday in March while I go and preach at one of the ministries that just shared this past Sunday. So, the answer must be, "Yes" because it changed me. Lessons learned.