Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Does that answer the question

Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.
1 Timothy 1:13 (NIV)

They were five students with nothing in common, faced with spending a Saturday detention together in their high school library.

The 1985 movie "The Breakfast Club" follows five teenagers at a fictional suburban Chicago high school. While not complete strangers, the five are from different social groups. Criticized and ordered not to speak or move from their seats by their antagonistic principal, the students pass the detention hours telling stories, harassing each other, fighting, dancing, and speaking on a variety of subjects. Gradually, they open up to each other and reveal their inner secrets.

In response to an essay that Mr. Vernon had assigned--Who do you think you are?--the students leave a single letter that illustrates how their attitudes and perspectives changed during the course of the day. In one brief paragraph, they challenge their fault-finding principal's preconceived judgments about each of them as well:

Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong, but we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us--in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain..and an athlete...and a basket case...a princess...and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.

The apostle Paul had been a Christian for more than 30 years. He had been on the road with the gospel message for 20. Yet in deep humility, he never forgot his bitter opposition to Christ and that he had once gone all out to destroy His church.

Paul never ceased to be amazed that God took a man like him into His service. In verse 15 of the first chapter of First Timothy, he writes, "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst."

At 7 a.m. on a brisk Saturday in March, five "breakfast club" misfits had nothing to say. By four o'clock the same afternoon, their judgments of one another had changed. They bared their souls to each other, realized they had much more in common than they realized, and became good friends.

Because of our sin, we are separated from the Lord and considered His enemies. But thanks be to God in Christ Jesus that when we confess our sin and acknowledge our need for His forgiveness, He shows us mercy and changes who we are.

Dear friend, Jesus' suffering, death, and resurrection answered the question once and for all--who do you think you are?

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

PS For all you classic movie fans, I hope I didn't give too much of The Breakfast Club story line away...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Focus on family

...And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him...
Colossians 3:14-25

My daddy was just shy of his 24th birthday when I was born. In and of itself, that tidbit of information isn't very noteworthy. The fact that I was part of a second set of twins--born just 16 short months after a first set--makes this detail a bit more interesting. At 23 years old, my father was responsible for four babies under the age of two.

Were he living today, I thought about what I would say to my dad in recognition of this Father's Day. I believe my tribute would include the following.

How many times did you lie awake in the dark hours of the night, Daddy, wrestling with the unknown and fighting the uncertainty of how to care for your young family? Thank you for your bravery. You worked the land day in and day out to provide a roof over our heads, put food on the table, give us clothes to wear, and grant us a sound education. Thank you for your gift of determination.

You shared your rich, tenor voice and handed down your passion for singing. I cherish the memories watching you glide across the dance floor with mom in your arms. Thank you for passing on to me the joy of song and dance.

Thank you for loving Mom and modeling how a man should honor and respect the mother of his children. When it came to discipline, you demonstrated how a "look" garnered as much respect, if not more, than a "hand." You taught me the value of working hard, living within my means, setting aside money in savings, and being a good neighbor. How I treasure you showing me how to live with integrity.

Most of all, Pop, thank you for bringing me to the Lord and helping me embrace what it means to be part of the body of Christ. With love, your grateful daughter.

It's been said that raising a family today is, quite simply, harder than it was 50 years ago. With an overabundance of electronic gadgetry, a plethora of personal comforts, and an assortment of activities, parents struggle with a seemingly endless array of distractions. It's hard to keep life simple. Sometimes I wonder, however, if there are indeed more things today that distract us. Or, as in every generation before, do we simply need to choose to focus on the thing that matters.

I'm forever thankful to have had an earthly father who chose to focus on his family.

Happy Father's Day!
Faithfully Following

PS A fifth child was born to my father 15 months after my birth; followed by another son 13 years later.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sir Prize

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Romans 8:19 (NIV)

Lost parakeet! The colorful roadside sign immediately caught my attention. I couldn't help but chuckle as I drove the scenic, two-lane country road to meet a graphic designer at his home office located in rural central Pennsylvania. A lost dog I get. A lost cat makes sense. But, a lost bird?

My business associate and I exchanged typical business pleasantries as he greeted me at his front door. We walked in the direction of his lower-level office and our conversation quickly turned to a delightful tale of his recent encounter with one of nature's fine feathered friends.

While washing off debris from his backyard patio a few days earlier, my colleague stooped down to loosen the coiled garden hose that lay at his feet. A cornflower-colored tuft of feathers caught his attention out of the corner of his eye. Surprisingly, closer examination of the small bundle revealed a statuesque-like blue parakeet fiercely clutching the bottom rung of a wrought iron deck chair.

Big hearted guy that he is, not to mention previous bird owner, my associate lifted the chair ever so carefully and carried it--winged friend and all--into his house straightaway. He pulled out an old bird cage from storage. Then at an unhurried pace, he tenderly coaxed the frightened budgerigar into the wire coop.

Sir Prize. With the exception of an occasional nap, the newly named, quite content budgie sat atop his perch and entertained us with his chirps and chatter during our entire meeting. And what bird wouldn't? Strategically placed on a baby grand piano, his lovely new digs are surrounded by windows. He is afforded fantastic views, not to mention companionship, safety, and a continuous supply of food and water.

In the New Testament book of Romans 8, the Apostle Paul embraced the metaphor of adoption in order to describe the status of Christians in relation to God. He also wrote of the inheritance that belongs to believers because God has adopted us as His children. Present adversity didn't make Paul stumble. They faded in comparison. So real to him was the magnificent unseen age to come.

For now, we also wait. With expectation and earnest longing, we wait for the glory God will reveal to us, and in us, for us, and confer on us. What a prize!

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

PS If you know someone who's lost a blue parakeet, give me a shout. Until then, Sir Prize is at home and thriving in central Pennsylvania.

Sir Prize Photo: Lance Dietrich

Sunday, June 6, 2010


But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."
Joshua 24:15b (NIV)

If ever there was a case study regarding the effects that change has on our lives, it's the account of God's ancient people, the children of Israel. These effects, which played out in a cycle of sin--sorrow--supplication--salvation--sin recurred, are demonstrated in three periods of Israel's history.

In the beginning, God warned Adam not to choose what looked right in his own eyes, but to follow God's instructions. Still, Adam and Eve chose to go their own way and brought upon themselves the tragic consequences of broken fellowship with God.

But God, full of compassion for His people, had a plan to reconcile the world to Himself; a plan that began with one man, Abraham. Through Abraham and his descendants God made the nation Israel from whom all the world would be blessed.

At risk of being drawn into the religious practices of their pagan neighbors, God kept this small group a unified people by sending them from Canaan into Egypt. While in Egypt, the family of seventy grew into a nation of 650,000 men, plus all the women and children. Fearful that they would be overrun by the Hebrew people, the Egyptians forced the Israelites into slavery. God heard His children's cries for deliverance, and in response, sent Moses to lead His people out of bondage and back to the Promised Land. The first five books of the Bible record this approximate 600 years of history of God's people, from the call of Abraham to Moses' leading the Israelites to the edge of the land of Canaan.

A second transitional period began when the new generation of enthusiastic followers of God entered the land God had promised to Abraham's descendants. Recorded in the Old Testament books of Joshua, Judges and Ruth, this tumultuous period lasted about 360 years.

Even as God gave control of the Promised Land to the children of Israel through Joshua's victories, signs of unfaithfulness appeared. Rather than persist in the task of securing the land and driving out the inhabitants, the Israelites became content to settle alongside the Canaanites. Surrounded by the worship of many gods, the Israelites overlooked the evils of paganism. Instead of the people of God pulling their neighbors toward Him, the Baal worshipers pulled God's people toward Baal.

God had warned Israel of this great danger, and the period following Joshua's death was a very difficult, unsettled time in Israelite history. Becauses of God's great love for His children, He disciplined them in the form of oppression so they might return to Him. Only when the situation became unbearable did the people turn to Him in desperation. In humility, they repented and followed His way. Soon, however, pagan influences pulled them away once more. The Israelite's continued indulgence in pleasure and selfish desires dulled their love for God. It lessened their respect for His authority until God described them as "Every man did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25).

The books of 1 and 2 Samuel cover a third period of transition. After almost four centuries without central leadership, the Israelites were frustrated. Concluding that their troubles were political, the people requested a king. An earthly king. Blind to the fact that their political problems had a spiritual cause, the dilemma wasn't their request itself but the reasoning behind the request. In this transitional era, the people of Israel moved from their dependence on God toward the leadership of man.

Throughout history, God has remained faithful to His people even in periods characterized by unfaithfulness. He has proven Himself a patient, just and merciful judge who keeps His promises, brings victory, and expects obedience.

Whenever we make a change in our activities, relationships, employment or location, we invite new distractions and influences into our lives. Follow after God's heart, my friend. For faithfulness surely is the key to success; disobedence can only spell disaster.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following