In the news, Issues of the Day

A Secularized Golden Rule

imagesListening to a recent National Public Radio (NPR) broadcast about the Golden Rule was intriguing to me. The “expert” went on and on about this “rule” as it crossed cultures and religions and apparently she even gives speeches on the subject. But, the truly interesting part was that during the time I was listening to the segment, I never heard the Author mentioned, credited or cited: Jesus. Matthew 7:12 records it, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

In the book, Living the Secular Life, Phil Zuckerman (according to a NY Times article),”Extols a secular morality grounded in the empathetic reciprocity embedded in the Golden Rule.” He states that the Golden Rule “…is a touchstone for atheists if they feel obliged to prove that they follow a moral code.” Hmm, the Golden Rule without heart change? Perhaps mankind somehow sees themselves with the ability to ascend to a mental state of intellectual “empathetic reciprocity,” but I repeatedly find my own selfishness getting in the way.images-2

Without the Spirit of Christ and the One who gave His life a ransom for you and me the Golden Rule can be just that, a rule. However, when Christ takes up residence in our heart the motivation to do to others becomes less and less about me. Jesus spoke, “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing they do not hear or understand.” (Matthew 13:13)

Encouragement, Prayer

The Perfect Christmas Gift

images-3I had spent the last two summers living at the beach in Delaware and found a girlfriend from New Jersey. Somewhere in our second summer together I discovered that she was not just another girl, but in my mind, THE girl. There was this one big, glaring issue however: she kept trying to “witness” to me and according to her I needed to “be saved.” I had no idea how to answer her questions about the second coming of Christ or exactly what salvation even meant. “Being saved” was something most of us teenage guys just weren’t looking for. My tactic became asking her her thoughts of those impossible questions and then simply agreeing. It worked in part.

Late in the fall of my high school senior year the girl from New Jersey sent me her “last and final letter.” Included in those “Dear John” pages was a gospel tract outlining salvation through Christ. I hated her and I hated God for breaking us up. I didn’t date anyone for a year after that. But…those nagging words on that bi-fold piece of paper kept following me everywhere I went. Repeatedly throwing it around my room, it just kept showing up. Frequently re-reading, ”For God so loved the world…” I held out, stayed angry and stubbornly refused to give in.

The answer to my dilemma became hanging out with my friends on weekends and engaging in self-destructive behavior. All the while He was drawing me. His “still small voice” kept speaking. He just wouldn’t leave me. So, in desperation I said out loud, “Would You just leave me alone; life is no longer any fun!” I swear I actually felt His Presence move away. I shouted, “No, no don’t go!” Ugh, it was so confusing, so hard and the biggest decision of my life weighed on my shoulders.

images-4Jesus was the Perfect Christmas gift that December of 1971. I did bow my knee. I prayed that prayer at the end of the little tract and Christmas with Christ took on a whole new meaning. Has Christmas come into your heart?

Children, Encouragement, Parents

The Child-Like Excitement of a Four-Year Old Flying

images-4Those of us who fly tens of thousands of miles a year barely endure the whole experience. We’ve lost our youthful vigor when it comes to flying. It has become something we tolerate rather than embrace with excitement.

Enter Raygen, the rambunctious four-year old seated in the row directly in front of me on our short Washington DC flight. I first noticed him in the airport waiting to board. With his mom in tow, running around seeing the planes outside the huge windows was simply a wonder to him. When this little blond-haired youngster finally boarded the plane, every other passenger knew it too. It was his very first experience with flying and no one was going to deny him his elation. Raygen’s energy level was high and his voice was screeching with delight. Everything was new to him and he just couldn’t contain himself while blurting out his excessively loud observations.images-3

The seasoned passengers around him began to smile and some even laughed as Raygen’s parents tried in vain to quiet him. The stewardess took him to meet the pilots as he returned with a huge grin and a set of those coveted plastic wings. He looked out the window and ran an ongoing verbal commentary. He told his parents how much he loved them. (He was obviously crediting them for this experience.) As we began to taxi his excitement escalated. At this point, he needed the seat belt just to stay seated. Finally the engines roared to capacity and off we went. Raygen was yelling, “Wow…cool…this is awesome…Mom, look…I imagescan see everything…it’s getting smaller down there…I love flying!”

I found myself pondering about the last time in my life I became that excited, totally thrilled with a life experience of any sort. I wondered when was the last time I could barely stay in my seat with exhilaration and anticipation. And sadly, I couldn’t recall any such recent experience.

Jesus once said that we need to become as little children. Raygen modeled something to me that day and it was sacredly child-like as he reintroduced me to youthful exhilaration. I want to be that excited about Jesus in my life. I don’t want to mature when it comes to anticipating Him and what miracle is about to happen, all the while, refusing to allow my faith to become boring and predictable. Do you need some Raygen excitement? Talk with your Heavenly Dad and ask Him for that spirit of anticipation, uncompromising exhilaration and child-like faith.

Encouragement, Prayer

Keep Praying; Don’t Quit

images-3Breakthrough . . . after twenty-five years of praying.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised (Hebrews 10:36).

Jason, Greg, Scott and Mike were my closest friends throughout high school. We were inseparable. We knew the intimate details of one another’s life. Then I had to go and ruin it all by “getting religious.” In December of 1971 I bowed my knee to Jesus and the partying (literally) was over for me. New friends, those who would disciple me as a baby Christian, began to emerge.

While I never condemned my close high school friends, and, I kept my friendship with them, I no longer participated in or condoned their behavior. It was a radical change for me, but I didn’t really consider how radical of a change it was for them. The first half of my senior year of high school I was living a very ungodly life-style; while the second half was filled with “Jesus freak” meetings. My friends were confused by the change in my life. They didn’t look down upon me, they simply could not comprehend why I would no longer participate in the things we once enjoyed together. I asked God for the opportunity to share my personal testimony with each one of them – individually. Jesus honored this prayer, and before we went our separate ways after graduation, I shared about the encounter I had with my new Master.images-4

That same year, I left my home area to serve in the military. I methodically placed Jason, Greg, Scott and Mike on my weekly prayer list. I just knew it would be a very short time until they each bowed their knees to Jesus.

Twenty five years passed, and I was still waiting, still praying. The only problem now was that I was beginning to entertain thoughts like, “Just take them off your prayer list,” and “Why transfer their names to new prayer cards, move on to more important matters.” But, thank God for my wife. One day I asked her if I should keep them on my prayer cards or just remove them. Her immediate, faith-filled response was, “Don’t you dare remove them, let’s keep praying.” Okay, so maybe I/we could persevere a few more years.

Within months of that very conversation, Scott called me from Boston. He asked me if it was okay for him to be water baptized. My very first response was, “Let me find a seat.” And then, “But Scott, have you accepted Jesus as your Savior?” He told me he had through the ongoing witness of a Baptist co-worker at IBM. I revealed to him then that I had been praying for him for over 25 years. His reply? “I know.”images-4

Jason’s mother called me several months later. Jason was depressed and without a friend, suffering from a broken marriage relationship and addictions. Jason’s mom said to me, “Steve, I believe he’ll take your call if you will call him within the next ten minutes.” I called; we met; he prayed. I then experienced the honor of water baptizing him and have an ongoing discipleship relationship with him to this day.

A few months after the encounter with Jason, Scott called to ask if I had heard from Greg. He went on to tell me that Greg had recently started participating in the worship band of his United Methodist church and that he was signed up for a summer mission team.

Have you ever felt like giving up in prayer? I have, but let me encourage your faith to continue to persevere. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised (Hebrews 10:36). Because… “we are not of those who shrink back…but of those who believe…” (Hebrews 10:39).