Saturday, July 24, 2021

 Candy Wrappers

 


“Hey!? Who ate my Hershey’s chocolate with almonds?”

“I don’t know!...but someone ate my Almond Joy too!”

“Seriously? Someone has been into my Kit Kats as well!”

“You have got to be kidding me...like half of my Sour Patch Kids are gone!”

“Someone has been snitching!”

Naturally, I was the first to be blamed…and…rightly so.  I have a weakness for delicious sweets…particularly sweets that contain both chocolate and nuts.  I have a nose for unclaimed chocolate…and I am willing to consume all that I can find…usually in secret…because things eaten in secret don’t count as calories.

During one Christmas season, I secretly consumed 95% of my mother’s Christmas cookies, single handedly…and then allowed my father to take the blame. I was guilty…and years later…I had to face the music when my mother discovered the truth.

Now…it is my son’s turn to face the music.  As my wife was helping this messy teenager clean his room, she came across a plethora of candy wrappers…Hershey’s, Almond Joy, Reese’s, Kit Kats, Sour Patch Kids…you name it…it was there!

“What is all this!?” she asked.

“Ummm….candy wrappers?”

“Where did it come from?”

“Ummm…I don’t know…”

“What!? Did it just appear in your room? On your bed? In your back pack? In your pocket? Huh!?”

“Ummm…I don’t know…”

“You snitched it…didn’t you!?”

“Ummm…I don’t know…maybe…I guess…”

GUILTY!!!

Recently, I had a can of Coke in the refrigerator that mysteriously disappeared.  “Hey! Where’s my Coke? Isaac? Did you drink my Coke?”

“Ummm…I don’t know…maybe…I guess…”

GUILTY!

 “Hey! Who ate my cake pop!?” Sarah asked.

“Ummm…I don’t know…I guess maybe I did…by accident…” I sheepishly replied with a guilty smile plastered on my face.

“By accident? How did you accidentally eat it!?”

“Ummm…I don’t know…”

GUILTY!

I am the Chief of Guilt!

I have single handedly performed more acts of sin and selfishness than anyone else on this earth…and…so have you!

We…are…guilty.

What truly frightens me…is what we find in Revelation 20.  It says that we will one day be judged on what we have done! GUILTY!!! I AM GUILTY!!!

I am convinced that on the Day of Judgment…EVERYONE stands before the Lord…the Judge…and is asked…”How do you plea?”

Every single one of us…without hesitation…will proclaim… “GUILTY!!!!”

Yet, for those who have accepted the free gift of grace from Jesus Christ…will have their names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  After I have pled guilty…there will come another voice that will resonate with glory, “NOT GUILTY!” 

Jesus exonerates those who know Him…though we are guilty…We are saved!...We are set free!...We are pronounced, “NOT GUILTY!”

Though we are guilty…Jesus offers freedom…He offers an escape…if we will simply receive it.

Will you receive it?

Saturday, July 17, 2021

 It's Over!


On a cold January day in Minnesota, my friend, Leonard, asked me, “Hey, what should we do today?”

We were between semesters at Crown College, in Minnesota, and had a few days to kill before the 2nd half of our sophomore year began.  After spending a day up north with my parents, we ran out of entertaining things to do…like shoveling snow for dad…changing the oil in his vehicle…and listening to a rousing conversation about grout.  We figured that we needed to find something else to pass the time.

“I don’t know…we could really do anything.  We could drive around and waste gas because we are in college and super rich and don’t have enough brains to realize that we have no money and can’t afford anything but ramen noodles.” (Only part of that run-on sentence may have actually been stated…the rest should have been).

“What would you think about driving up to see Jessica?” He asked.

“Sure!” I replied.  I had never met Jessica…but he talked about her frequently and if I didn’t know better…it sure seemed that they were going to be married within a week or two.  He seemed to have big plans for the two of them. “Where does she live?”

“She’s in Duluth.”

“Alright…let’s go.”

We hopped into my 1981 Plymouth Grand Fury and hit the icy roads of northern Minnesota to embark on the 2 hour drive to a place that I had never been and on roads I had never driven.  Leonard held the map as we were without the benefit of cell phones and GPS.  All we really had on our behalf was a barely working radio and 18 gallons of fuel in the tank.

We took the winding roads around the frozen lakes, the wind stirring whiteout like blizzard conditions across the windshield.  We rolled through most of the stop signs to save us from sucking down the exhaust vapors seeping into the automobile while stopped and idling.

We finally arrived at his “girlfriend’s” house at around 11:00 a.m.

“I hope they have something good for lunch…I’m starved.”

“I hope that she is home!” He answered.

“What!?  You mean you don’t even know if she’s home?”

“Nope”

“What do we do if she’s not here?”

“We wait.”

“How long have the two of you been seeing each other?”

“We haven’t…not yet anyway…we just met at camp last summer.”

“Have you even been on a date?”

“Nope.”

We walked across the snow packed driveway to the door…walked up the three porch steps and knocked.

“Good news!...I hear someone inside,” he whispered.

“Hot soup…Hot soup would be good…maybe some chili.” I chattered.

The door opened, and before us stood a very proper, but kind woman…looking at the two of us with questioning eyes. “Hello?” she asked hesitantly.

“Hello Mrs. Lang, I’m Leonard…and the guy with the dead rabbit on his head is Ryan.”

“It’s not a dead rabbit…it’s a rabbit hat…which…I guess is a dead rabbit.”

“We are friends of Jessica!...Well, I am Jessica’s friend…He doesn’t even know her.”

“I’m sorry…Jessica is not home right now...She’s working.”

“That’s ok. We can wait.”

“Oh…ummm…ok…why don’t you come in…I guess.”

We stepped into the house and sat down…and waited.

We waited....and…we waited.

After 2 hours had passed, I finally broke the silence, “So, what time is Jessica going to be home?”

“She gets off at 6:00.”Her mother replied.

At this point there was a scream…it was generated from my starving stomach and was powerful enough to shake the walls.

“What was that noise?” asked Mrs. Lang.

“That was Ryan’s stomach.” Leonard answered.

“Haven’t you boys eaten?”

“Sure, I did…I had a nice supper, yesterday!”

“Yesterday? Would you like something to eat?”

“YES ,PLEASE!”

Mrs. Lang kindly fed us and then we played Yahtzee until 6:00 when Jessica finally arrived home.

As she stepped into the house, you could read the surprise…confusion…wonder…and then disgust on her face as she processed the two young college boys who had invaded her home uninvited.

“Hi Jessica!...It’s me Leonard!”

“Yes…I remember you.”

“Well…I just thought we’d stop in and see you.”

“Who’s he?”

“That’s Ryan…He’s my driver.”

“You know Leonard…you are kind to come all this way…but it’s a bit creepy that you are here…I don’t think things are going to work out between us…good bye.”

“Wait…what about supper?” I begged.

“Grab your rabbit hat and start the car…we are going home.” Leonard said flatly.

Sadly for my buddy…that relationship ended before it ever began. There is a remarkable scene in Revelation 19. We see great praise and rejoicing…and then there is a build up to an incredible ending conflict between good and evil.  The enemies of God are gathering to battle against the Lamb of God…Jesus Christ…the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  Then…just as the battle is about ready to be assaulted…the battle is over…by the Word from the mouth of Jesus…It is over!

I see the incredible sovereignty and power of Jesus reflected in this image.  With all the powers of the enemies of God…ready to battle against God almighty…we find that there IS NO BATTLE! Jesus wins. Period. What power! What authority! What a King!

*(Names have been changed to protect the innocent and condemn the guilty)

Saturday, July 10, 2021

 Loss

 

I have spent countless hours of my life using a variety of baits and lures attempting to convince finicky fish to strike the tempting counterfeit dinner…and get hooked. I love fishing. I have loved it since I was a young boy.  Now, I am frequently joined by my own son who relishes in the sport as much, if not more, than I do.  Others in the family also enjoy the peace and relaxation of back-lashed fishing reels, lures stuck in trees or snagged on underwater logs, broken rods, non-responsive boat motors, rainy and windy days, hooks in the carpet, seats, hands, legs or heads…not to mention the fish that are lost at the side of the boat…but…not as much as the two of us.

We have lost more than our share of fish.  Sometimes the hooks never even get into the mouth of the cold blooded aquatic swimmers.  Other times, it seems that even when we have done everything right, the fish is still able to jump and throw the lure or somehow magically get off the line just before our net reaches to snatch the bass from the dark waters.  It is hard to watch the fish swim away into the deep water while your heart sinks even deeper.  This is usually the largest fish of the day…even if it wasn’t…it quickly becomes so as you relive what could have been.

We spend most of our time fishing for bass.  The river is abundant with them. They offer exciting, adrenaline pumping, action as you fight them back to the boat…and once in a while, land a really nice big one.  We then let them go…unless, of course, we are so fortunate as to catch the elusive Minnesota Walleye. 

We don’t target walleye very often.  Probably because we are not very good at it…and by not catching them, we feel like failures. So instead, we fish for bass…and every once in a while, we are surprised with the treasured state fish of Minnesota.  We keep all of our walleye…no matter the size...well…we would probably throw an 8” walleye back into the water…but anything larger, is going home to be placed on a fish sandwich.

A couple of years ago, Isaac and I were on the water. After hooking himself deep with a treble hook…we went to the local ER to have the hook removed. As soon as the hook was out…we went right back out onto the water…and just our luck…we nabbed one of these rare treasures.  Isaac hooked him up while cranking for smallies with a 6’ diving Rapala. 

“Wow sweet!...Here’s the stringer…hook him up and we can eat him for supper!”

“All right! Ok!” he replied.

He took the stringer and ran it through the gills and out the mouth of the marbled eyed fish and tied the end to the boat.

It felt good.  With the rough day that we had had…it was nice to have something to show for it…and eat!! After all the time spent…and wasted…we suddenly felt rich!  We had a walleye!

Sadly, as we were packing things up for the day…Isaac reached down to pull the stringer out of the water and into the boat…only to find the stringer…EMPTY.

Our prized possession was gone.

Apparently, he had not looped the stringer back through the ring before he tied it up…so basically, he passed the stringer through the fish…and let it go.

Loss.  We all have loss.  We lose fish at the side of the boat.  We lose fish by not tying up the stringer.  We lose lures caught in trees…or on the bottom of the river.  We lose money.  We lose things. We lose our childhood. We lose our flexibility.  We lose our jobs. We lose our loved ones.  Revelation 18, gives us a powerful picture of loss.  Jesus had just finished doing what He had promised that He would do.  He had said that He would cut down evil and destroy it.  In this chapter, we see the great wealth of the world come crashing down.  We see people who have become very rich…lose everything in an instant…people are weeping and wailing…crying for all that they have lost.

I can’t help but remember what Jesus said in Matthew 6.  He told us that the things of this earth will all rot away…so instead, store up for yourselves, treasures in heaven. 

What have you lost?  What are you ready to gain?

May we come to see the things of this world as temporary…and the promised riches of the Kingdom to come…as eternal!  Thank you Jesus! Thank you, our Coming King.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Donut


The line was long…too long.  I could spot the best treats still in the box, yet there must have been 13 hungry men, or more, taking up the space in front of me.  I could try to cut in line by pretending that I knew someone further up…or attempt to put on the fa├žade that I am actually a part of a “different” team.  However, my purple and black, Little Falls Wrestling coach’s shirt may have given me away.  My years of coaching wrestling always left me struck by the irony of how a sport that demands weight management could offer such a smorgasbord of the most amazing foods and sweets for coaches during tournaments.  The layouts of delicacies were enough to make my, then 250lb, belly giddy.

I did my best to stay patient as I followed the other Little Falls coaches in line.  I was lowest on the pecking order…thus, despite my massive size…my position remained last.  One by one, the donuts of glory were being snatched up.  First to go were the cream filled long johns…followed by the raspberry bismarks.  The chocolate glazed copa banana’s were gone with 8 people still ahead of me.  The honeymoons, cinnamon twists and bearclaws were all eliminated next.  Several of these men were taking multiple grand confections at a time! As I approached the box…only the assistant coach stood before me.  I watched…and was mortified as he took the final, strawberry cream cheese bismark…leaving me with a half smashed, crumbly, plain cake donut.  My tears made the already sorry looking donut appear that much worse through the blurred vision and now soaked with salty moisture.

We made our way to the nearby tables and sat down with our baked items and our cups of cheap, weak coffee.  I consumed the pile of crumbs from my plate and looked to see that the final strawberry cream cheese bismark still remained on the man’s plate…un-touched.  

I wanted that donut.  I could imagine the flavor! My chubby belly longed to be filled with the smooth cream cheese icing and the perfect blend of fried dough and strawberries. I needed it…I desired it…I had to have it! I was drawn to it.  I would do almost anything to consume it. 

Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore…

“Are you going to finish that?!” I blurted out.

“What…the donut?...I haven’t even had a bite yet.”

“Yeah…I know…are you going to finish it?”

“I plan on it.”

“I don’t think that you should…look at you…you are so skinny and trim…do you know how many fats are in something like that?  It is filled with sugar…and butter…and lard…and the cream cheese icing is one of the worst things for you…maybe you should just let me have it…I am already fat…I can handle the calories better than you anyway.”

“Are you being serious?”

“Yes…I want it…no…I NEED it!”

I am convinced that he must have been astounded by my absurd request and bold statement…despite that…I was given the prize.

 “Here take it…”

YES! I took the donut and inhaled it.  It was gone faster than Usain Bolt runs the 100m dash.  It tasted…bland.  It was dry.  The icing was pathetic.  In fact, I felt the donut hit my gut like a bomb, and I became ill most of the rest of the day.

Donuts are not the only thing that I find myself craving…there are many things…some are relatively healthy…many are not…yet, in either case, I usually go over the top.  I have a habit of over consuming.  It’s a weakness.

In this account I see a picture of sin.  Not necessarily the donuts…though some of them taste so good that they may in fact be sinful…but rather, the allure of the fried fritters.  Just as my eyes are drawn to these confectionary golden rings, my eyes are also drawn to other things.  My eyes are drawn to new bicycles, fishing rods, boats and boat motors…my eyes are drawn to the Peanut M&M’s and the cookies that I have secretly stashed in the cupboard. This is the picture of sin that I see…my eyes being drawn away from the things of Christ and falling onto my own yearnings and selfishness.

I think that is what Satan does on a much larger and more destructive scale.  He lures us.  He draws our eyes…he pulls our attention.  He knows that he cannot steal away a believer’s salvation…yet he never stops alluring all mankind to get and keep our eyes OFF of Jesus Christ. 

Sadly, he is very good at this…and has been very successful. Revelation 17 begins to show us how Satan and his powerful alluring…WILL be destroyed! Thank the Lamb…that He will conquer sin, death, evil and Satan for good!

Praise the victorious Lamb!

 Highlights

 


As a child I remember having a brief subscription to a magazine called, “Highlights.”  To this day I have no idea why it was called “Highlights.” The very title of the periodical would suggest to me that it would be…should be…unforgettable. Yet, I remember very little…except for the one and only page in each issue, where you would spend time analyzing two nearly identical pictures deciphering the differences between the two images.  It was always a challenge to try and study each detail and find all 12 differences.  As I would find each difference I would circle the oddities with…a highlighter…perhaps that is where it gets its name?

Our family and I have been enjoying a week of vacation in northern Minnesota and each day is filled with highlights…and lowlights of its own.  One day the engine on the pontoon suddenly stalled and we floated adrift in the center of the lake waiting for some kind boater to come by and see us attempting to paddle a pontoon back to shore…against the wind…with one lone paddle. “Hey do you guys need some help?  Would you like us to tow you back?”

“No thanks…my kids need the exercise!”

“NO WAY DAD!...take the tow!”

“Ok fine.” 

The boaters in the full inboard Malibu threw me a ski rope which I had to hold onto by hand as they towed us back to shore.  This was by far the largest water ski that I had ever used…and my latisimus dorsis are still screaming with muscle pain from the constant pull against the rope as we were drug back to the cabin.  I can’t tell…was this a highlight…or a lowlight?

Despite the challenges…that moment is certainly memorable.  Perhaps that is what a highlight is…a moment to remember.

 One significant highlight from the week was watching every member of our family…that’s right…all six of us water ski.  It was for some…the first time…for some, the second or third time…some for the first time in 20 years and one just trying to prove that he is not as old as his driver’s license states. 

Other highlights include catching large fish, more failing engines, floating in water, bug bites, playing family games, encouraging one another and getting angry with one another, eating ice cream, celebrating a 21st anniversary with broken glass and the tangy smell of pickle juice all over the kitchen floor.  Again…highlights…or lowlights?

In either case…memorable.

Our lives are filled with memorable moments. The Lord uses these moments to mold us and shape us, and I believe most of all…that the Lord uses these moments to draw us to him.  All through the Bible…we see moments…highlights and lowlights in people's lives…being used to draw them to God.  Revelation in particular is full of them!

May we allow the memorable moments to draw us to the Lord…and may we be led to worship the Alpha and the Omega…to worship the Beginning and the End…the God of the universe...to praise the King of Kings who is coming again! May we remember…who God is!