“I Know Your Sin!”

It was bold, claiming to know everyone’s sin, but he said he knew. I was offended, and curious. Then he said, “It’s the same sin I have: worldly-mindedness.”

He was right.

The World

Every believer struggles with the world. We have a mind for Jesus and a mind for the other thing. Our two natures compete, are in conflict. Which one leads your life?

The Text

Paul wrote, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” Romans 12:2

Conform: “to fashion accordingly.”

Transformed: “to change, to transfigure.”

Renewing: “to renovate”

To paraphrase, “Stop aligning yourselves with worldly standards, instead, be changed, be altered, by having your minds renovated.”

Some Worldly-Mindedness

  1. Pornography: a high percentage of adults and teens are watching.
  2. Suicide: there are increasing numbers of suicides.
  3. Teens: the largest increase in suicide are girls age 12-14.
  4. Hate: racial conflicts, bombing clinics, terrorism, bullying, political issues.
  5. Addictions: alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, porn, digital addictions.

Christians are often just as addicted and just as guilty. We don’t want transformation, we don’t want our minds renovated.

No New Sin

There isn’t anything new, not really. It’s the same old sin. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and we’ve been eating it ever since. Cain killed his brother. Jealousy, envy, temptations, desires, and compulsions; all part of the human experience, ever since the first family first sinned.

However, sin has become more aggressive, more available, instantly experienced, more tolerated, more sought and accepted. And its reaching kids at ever younger ages.

Cell phones and the internet are damaging us. Or should I say, we are damaging ourselves with phones and the internet. Teens are addicted to them. So are their parents. Most of the pornography Americans are watching is watched on their phones.

The Gap

The gap between people of God and the world is getting narrower. What’s our problem? It’s worldly-mindedness. Believers are becoming more comfortable with being more like the world.

To Close

The guest preacher stood up and proclaimed to know our sins. He was right. That was 39 years ago, in 1979. If anything, he undersold it.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.”

The Bible

Think about it.

Courageous Parenting

All you need is a baby to be a parent. Minimum effort makes a poor parent. Courage is required to be a good one.

Good parenting isn’t easy. Babies cry a lot, require constant attention, and we are never sure what they want or need.

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Then we teach them to walk and talk, a big mistake? Now they say the wrong things and go to the wrong places.

Teens want to drive their own cars. They crave independence. Some kids  count the days until they move out. And some won’t leave.

From birth, they journey to become adults. They were born to leave. Sometimes, it’s not soon enough. Sometimes, it’s way too soon.

It takes courage to be good parent.

Courageous Moments

  1. Letting them walk knowing they’ll fall.
  2. Their first day of school.
  3. Watching them ride their bikes out of our sight.
  4. Seeing them walk across a stage, diploma in hand.
  5. Letting them to leave.

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Other Courageous Moments

  1. Saying no to someone they want as a friend.
  2. Talking to them about awkward and difficult issues.
  3. Setting an example of faith, values, and truth.
  4. Guiding them when they don’t want it and don’t agree.
  5. Doing what is best for them regardless of how they feel.

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It takes courage to be a good parent.

It’s okay when the waves are just ankle high. It’s harder when they are up to our waste and make us feel unsteady. It’s overwhelming when the rushing waves of pornography, violence, and decaying morals come crashing down on our kids. Feels like a tidal wave.

Hang tough moms. Stand strong dads. You are the shield protecting your children from the onslaught of evil, for evil is coming for them.

To Close

Almost anyone can be a parent. It takes no effort at all to be a poor one.

But good parenting takes courage! Be good parents today. 

“13 Reasons Why”

The Sixties

The first TV show I was kept from watching was “Hullabaloo” in 1965. It featured pop music and had “Go Go” dancers in short skirts. The second show was, “Laugh In” in 1967, and featured dancers in even shorter skirts. Both were deemed unsuitable for watching.

Are parents still restricting their kids from watching certain TV shows?

A Few Weeks Ago

I was surfing on Netflix and found, “13 Reasons Why.” I hoped it might offer some insights to families and to parenting in today’s declining moral climate. I was totally unprepared.

“13 Reason Why”

It’s 13-episodes about a girl named Hannah who’s a new student in the High School. She’s cute, outgoing, and has a sweet personality. But things quickly go south for her, and then get worse, and then turn terrible. In the end, she takes her life with a razor blade. Her parents come home from work and find her in a tub of bloody water. It’s graphically depicted.

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Hannah records the reasons for taking her life so others can hear it.

The story unfolds episodically as the viewers learn what happened to her. We watch Hannah being bullied, see her reputation get trashed, feel each disturbing event, and cringe at the violence done to her in a graphic, gut-wrenching, rape scene.

If your kids are watching, or asking to watch, then you need to know:

  1. It’s “the show to watch” for Jr. High & High School kids.
  2. It’s dark and disturbing, with two scenes of rape.
  3. It portrays suicide as the only alternative to emotional pain.
  4. There are no references to spiritual guidance.
  5. Those who mistreated her tear each other apart in their guilt.
  6. The adults seem out of touch & unable to relate to teen problems.
  7. The show leaves you feeling hopeless, empty, and sad.
  8. Any teen who is struggling, depressed, or hurting should not watch.

A Serious Problem

One credible source states that suicide is the number two cause of death for people age 10-24. Can you imagine, age 10 and up? Go to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline to learn more, https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

To Close

As a minister, I have served the spiritual needs of kids and families for 40 years. As a father, I have rasied two children who are now adults. Here is my advice and my opinions:

  1. “13 Reasons Why” isn’t for teens under sixteen, maybe not even then.
  2. If you choose to let your teen watch it:
  • Watch every episode with them.
  • Talk with them after each one.
  • Be prepared for two rape scenes.
  • Be prepared for a graphic suicide.
  1. Be smart and cautious. If your child is being bullied, or struggling emotionally, or is exhibiting signs of depression, then I strongly advise that you not let them watch it.

Finally

Your teens know about the show and their friends do too, and they will be talking about it. This is an opportunity to engage with them and discuss what life is like in their school.

Be prepared to hear about difficult and disturbing things that your kids may be exposed to at school, with friends, and on the internet. Be prepared to impart truth to them.

I think we are way beyond Go Go dancers in short skirts.

 

Who Is Ranger Rick?

He Isn’t Real

I created him while sitting in a deer blind. Since I don’t hunt, or even own a gun, I just sit and watch the deer, turkeys, and small woodland creatures. While sitting and watching, Ranger Rick sprung to life. He isn’t real. 

Ranger Rick

He braves the natural world, scoffs at its danger. He yearns for uncharted wilderness, armed only with his trusty iPod, some popcorn, and a diet coke, which he drinks right from the can. His adventures are never more than half a mile from the comfy ranch house. He is a parody, born of whimsy.

At Camp United

At Camp United, our church’s Family Camp, Ranger Rick made four appearances to help introduce the lessons. He was silly, goofy, and cheesy and was almost funny.

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Children

After each appearance, Ranger Rick transitioned to just being Rick. The younger children came up and asked, “Are you Ranger Rick?” I responded, “Yes, I am.” Their eyes got big, they smiled wide, and then walked off feeling a little happier.

I guess to a four or five-year-old, Ranger Rick was real.

It Was The Hat

Our lives can be defined by the “hats” we wear. I have a family hat, a Senior Minister hat, a Fly Fishing hat, an author’s hat, and a few others. At camp, I had a Ranger hat.

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Ranger Rick: Ready to Eat Roots After Two Days of Wilderness Survival

Wearing a Ranger Hat doesn’t make me a Ranger. Wearing a Houston Texan’s football helmet, doesn’t make me an NFL player. I have a hat from the Indy 500, but I’m not a race driver.

I wonder, is there more to believing in Jesus than wearing a hat?

I can pose, pretend, and project the image of a true believer. But posing isn’t real, pretending is hypocritical, and images are one dimensional. I can’t be a Ranger Rick Christian.   

To Close

I pray the children hear Jesus in my words, feel him in my heart, and know he is real.

That it’s not just a hat.

Annihilated by Pre-Schoolers

It was a Color War, but it wasn’t about race or culture.

A Color War?

A Color War is a bunch of people in a field, organized by teams, with big pans of colored powder. We filled a paper cup with our team’s powder and tossed it on the other teams, then refilled our cups and so on. One rule: don’t throw the whole cup of powder, just a little at a time.

The whistle blew and it was so on.

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It was good for about a minute, then it descended into mayhem. I don’t know who threw the first whole cup, but a whole cup was thrown, and then it was madness. Chaos reigned.

By all accounts, I lost, and lost catastrophically.

At one point, there was an all-out blitz on Mr. Rick. It was open season on the preacher. It was a a free shot at the old guy. And they did, they so did.

Camp?

Yep, I was at Camp United, a weekend event for families put on by our church. The Color War was one of many activities, and they were all good, but the Color War was special.

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I Loved It

When it was over, I had blue powder in my beard, yellow powder in my hair, and my clothes looked like a paint factory had blown up. But I loved it. I had so much fun playing with the kids.

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They ranged from pre-school to high school, and most of their parents played too. But the youngest ones were my favorite. They threw powder on me, then giggled and ran off. I chased them and then they turned and threw some more. It was marvelous.

To Close

When it was over, I couldn’t help but marvel at all those kids. And was reminded of how much Jesus loved children. I think I know why. It’s the innocence, the love freely given, and the easy smiles and quick laughter.

I have a few close friends, and many casual friends and hundreds of acquaintances. But the older I get, the more I appreciate the stunning value of a sweet child.

I can’t wait for next year!

A Thundering Menace

The storm kept me awake Monday night.

The Peals

It wasn’t the lightning or the rain, but the peals of thunder. It wasn’t booming over my house, but was distant, like a symphony of rumbling energy. As one peal ended then another started. As if God was conducting with divine inspiration.

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Things About Thunder

  • Can be scary
  • Can happen any time
  • Can warn of a coming storm
  • Can disturb your sleep
  • Can disturb your sleep all night

Sometimes the storm passes quickly, and sometimes not. Sometimes it parks over your neighborhood and hangs around like an uninvited guest.

Some Thundering Thoughts

  • We can’t control it
  • We can’t stop it
  • There is no volume control
  • Like it not, it happens
  • Ear plugs are ineffective

I Don’t Get It

What’s the point of it? I understand lightning, but not thunder. Sure, there’s all kinds of science to explain the physics, the electrically charged particles, and the sonic reverberations. But on a sleepless night, at 2:30 in the morning, who cares about science? What am I missing?

Maybe Job Can Explain It

“Behold, these are the fringes of His ways; and how faint a word we hear of Him! But his mighty thunder, who can understand?” (26:14)

“Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds, the thundering of His pavilion?” (36:29) 

“After it, a voice roars; He thunders with His majestic voice, and He does not restrain the lightings when His voice is heard. God thunders with His voice wondrously, doing great things which we cannot comprehend.” (37:4-5) 

To Close

Apparently, not even Job understood the thunder, but he knew where it came from.

Perhaps the thunder speaks of larger forces, of higher powers, and of divine things.  Once the thunder passes it leaves us with the sense of having been in the presence of God. That we exist within in his glory.

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It all points to Him!

Shalom

Fine Meals & Nice Suits

Sometimes we do the lesser thing. 

Lesser Things

Eating subpar meals in lesser restaurants to avoid finding a better one.

Buying a cheap, off the rack, suit because it’s faster than tailoring.

Not getting our car repaired because it’s too much hassle.

Sometimes we accept lesser things due to a lack of opportunity, or laziness, or impatience. Sometimes, it takes too much effort to reach for the brass ring.

In Matters of Faith

Faith isn’t a meal, a suit, or a car repair. However, do we sometimes treat God like a lesser thing because He is inconvenient?

We Wouldn’t Choose…

  1. To talk to our spouse only on our anniversary.
  2. To see our children only on their birthdays.
  3. To care for our family when it doesn’t conflict with other things.

That would be absurd. But when it comes to God, do we offer him less?

An Example

Yesterday morning, the combined attendance at my church rose above our average by hundreds. And it won’t be that full again until next Easter.

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Not my church, but you get the idea.

Admittedly, we preachers prefer standing room only to hundreds of empty seats. We’re egocentric that way. But still…

           “Why do so many people only attend Easter Sunday?”

Is it like only speaking to your spouse on your anniversary, or only seeing your kids on their birthday? Is it the subpar restaurant, the cheap suit, or neglecting your car because keeping it in good shape is too much hassle?  

To Close

Nobody’s perfect. Perfection isn’t the goal. The goal is to honor God with our lives, our hearts, and our will. 

Sometimes we do the lesser thing.

But the Lord our God is not a lesser thing, and he should never be offered less. 

 

Eggs Hunts & Chocolate Bunnies

Hallelujah its Easter Sunday! 

Easter is acknowledged for:

  1. Egg hunts & chocolate bunnies
  2. New outfits for kids
  3. Pictures with a giant rabbit
  4. Special Sunday lunch
  5. Going to church

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I recognize the holiday flavor associated with Easter. Note numbers 1-4 above. And the date for Easter slides from year to year. Why is that?

The Last Five Years

  1. 2012-April 8
  2. 2013-March 31
  3. 2014-April 20
  4. 2015-April 5
  5. 2016-March 27

Each year Easter can be as many as 24 days later or earlier. But let’s not get all worked up about it. The fun part of Easter works on any Sunday. 

For Me

Along with the holiday fun, Easter is the celebration of his resurrection. The holy scriptures declare he was raised and there is ample evidence supporting it as factual.

I believe.

Does everybody? Do you? Did the Apostles?

Doesn’t Seem Like It

The disciples struggled to believe:

“She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.” Mk 16:10-11

“Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating and rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.” Mk 16:14

 “After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was still alive.” Acts 1:3

“Gave many convincing proofs.” Why was that needed? For three years, he told his followers that he would die and be raised in three days. I guess they didn’t believe.

To Close

Its Easter, it’s a day for traditions. But first and foremost, it’s for acknowledging the risen Christ, as believers do every day. But lets keep the chocolate bunnies to once a year.

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I believe in the empty tomb. I believe he came up from the grave. And I believe he will raise all who trust in God our heavenly Father.

Happy Easter

The Sorrowful Way

It took 30 minutes when it normally takes only five.

What?

Yesterday, I drove from my office to get some lunch. Its a five-minute drive. But cars were bumper to bumper and lacked purpose and intentionality of movement.

Busy urban life.

Lots of things are busy:

  1. Malls
  2. Popular Restaurants
  3. Commuter Traffic
  4. Young Families
  5. Holidays

Speaking of Holidays

They can be very busy. Everybody coming and going. Shopping and spending. Its madness. But that’s the holidays. 

Jerusalem

Passover was a holiday, of sorts, and busy. Hundreds of thousands attended from everywhere. It was crazy crowded and Jerusalem was a beehive. Money to be exchanged, animals to be sacrificed, relatives coming in by the bucket full.

During the week before Passover, Jesus and disciples would come in to Jerusalem in the mornings and then leave in the evenings.

However, there was one day he might have stayed too late. He ended up in Gethsemane, on the Mt. of Olives, where he was betrayed. They arrested him, led him back into the city, and put him on trial; back and forth between the Roman and Jewish authorities. Ultimately, the Roman governor caved and let the mob have him. “Take him away, take him away.” So, they did, to Golgotha.

What A Mess

The Via Dolorosa, the way of sorrows, was clogged with Roman soldiers, Jewish Temple guards, and a severely beaten and scourged Messiah carrying his cross. People were coming and going and shopping and spending. There were sheep and goats, and open air shops. The children were running and the merchants were selling. It was the Feast of Passover. And It was crazy crowded.

Via Dolorosa street sign, Jerusalem

It took 30 minutes to get to places that normally only took five.

To Close

I wonder if Jesus wished he had gone back to Mary and Martha’s instead of to Gethsemane? It really didn’t turn out so well for him.

The Bible

But for us?

Shalom

Who Wants a Hot Dog?

Hot Dogs

Ate a hot dog for dinner. It was okay. Not fond of them, but I ate one.

Places to Get a Hot Dog

  1. Ball games
  2. The Circus
  3. Fast Food Restaurants
  4. Pool Party Cook Outs
  5. Camping Trips
  6. Carnivals
  7. The Store

The best hot dogs are the dogs you get at major league baseball games, or at stock car races, or at a tractor pull and at other exciting events. We love going to those things. It’s how America connects with their heroes. We go to see our favorite hitters, drivers, and ear drum splitters. In other words, to see celebrities.

The Famous

Sometimes famous people accidentally wander down to our level. Like when they are lost or need directions to Walmart.

It’s called a celebrity sighting. We get their autograph, or maybe shake their hands. I had a celebrity sighting in the Atlanta airport. As I approached my gate I recognized one of our famous astronauts. I screwed on my courage and walked over to meet him. He couldn’t have been nicer. We spoke for a few minutes, he even thanked me. He was so cool.

Wow, I realized there was just enough time to get a hot dog.

In Jerusalem

Is that how it was in the Temple courts at Passover? Jesus was there each morning teaching, healing, and helping the people. Huge crowds came to hear him, to see him, and to receive his blessings. The buzz around the city must have been wildly exciting.

“The Messiah is at the Temple, and is teaching, and healing and helping.”

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Jesus of Nazareth was famous. He had celebrity status. But he wasn’t lost or needing directions. He was intentionally down on our level. He came for the lost sheep of Israel, for the children, and for those hardest to love. He came for the regular people, to die for them.

Sadly, there weren’t any hot dogs.

Shalom