|Mutts Gone Nuts
|Thursday, May 06, 2021|
Mutts Gone Nuts.
That's how they billed the evening. Five dogs—all rescued from animal shelters and trained by Scott and Joan Houston and Sam Valle—delighted the audience with their antics and agility.
We smiled as the dogs scampered on rotating barrels.
We chuckled as these furry friends danced on two legs.
Then trainer Samantha Valle—who has appeared on Kelly and Ryan—introduced us to the greyhound that holds the record for the highest jump of any dog in the world.
But the thing that blew my mind was watching one of the dogs jump rope and then do Double Dutch jump roping! I can't imagine how long that training took. Amazing to think that these dogs have gone from shelter to show biz.
Remarkable as the performance was, I couldn’t help but notice the immediate rewards doled out to each dog after every trick. Tasty snacks of some kind. I'm sure the dogs are plenty good-natured (and certainly hard working). But, they did not do what they did out of a sense of animal altruism. They did it for the treats.
As those mutts finished their performance, I felt a gnawing in my soul (and no, it wasn’t a dog!). Exactly how much like those dogs are you and I? I’m not speaking of our agility—I’ve never been good at jump rope! I’m asking—do we do what we do for God only because of the “treats” we expect Him to give us?
Do we spin and jump through hoops only for the hope of an immediate reward, a spiritual buzz of some sort? Or worse, do we secretly do what we do merely to keep up appearances? Are we trying to impress fellow Christians (in a “golly-it-wasn’t-much”) fake humility?
There is nothing wrong with the hope of eternal rewards. We should be thinking about them, even motivated by them.
But there is everything wrong with a soul that demands instant pay-outs, instant affirmation, instant treats. God forbid we try to hammer grace into gratification on the anvil of our need.
|The Remarkable Manish
|Thursday, April 29, 2021|
You probably never met Manish Sukhadev. He recently succumbed to the Coronavirus wave sweeping over India. But before he died, Manish lived. Really lived.
He was an Awana missionary in central India, and that’s where I met him back in 2011. Born a Dalit—India’s lowest caste—he was a short guy with a big smile and an impish laugh.
Manish was one of those guys who was “on” 24 hours a day. He was never not a missionary. Flipping through our India photos, one of my favorites is a shot of Manish parked on the cement floor with someone he had just met—and was trying to witness to. Because this guy sat on the floor, Manish sat on the floor. Anything to show kindness and the love of his Jesus.
Manish was as tireless as he was fearless. He thought nothing of riding crowded trains for hours or days to “sketchy” locations to teach or preach or lead Awana meetings. And he was bold to ask for prayer. Here are a couple of reports he shared on Messenger:
Given a chance to sum up his life, I think he might use the exact words he shared in a report to his prayer partners:
Don’t you want to grow up to be like Manish?
|When Hymns are on TV
|Thursday, April 22, 2021|
Did you watch the American Country Music Awards last weekend?
Despite having fewer viewers than last year, the ACM awards show still drew a larger audience than its network competitors combined.
Though I like a lot of modern country music, award shows are not my thing. But I’m so glad Diana was watching. I was working on a sermon in my office when the sounds of Amazing Grace echoed down the hall.
Sauntering into the family room, I watched Carrie Underwood proclaiming, "was blind, but now I see!" Then gospel music legend CeCe Winans joined her for a stunning rendition of Great is Thy Faithfulness. As the hymn medley continued, a choir joined in on The Old Rugged Cross, which transitioned into a spectacular performance of How Great Thou Art.
Was this really happening? A playlist of choice hymns sung on the CBS network—not some Christian cable channel? It was hard to believe.
Against the powerful current of a culture that (to my ear) seems to be shouting its rejection of Christianity, here was this island moment of worshipful hymns.
It’s easy to grumble about the direction in which our country is headed. Easy to be a pessimist.
There is much which ought to alarm us about our culture. Still…still…for five minutes, the nation watched (more than six million of us) and listened to a message that stands timeless against all the hate and violence of our day.
Yes, America is broken.
Yes, we’re on a dark path.
But somehow, we ought not to let things like this pass us by.
Let’s not forget to celebrate the good things.
This good thing.
Me? I stand with Carrie Understood and sing to our God, “How great thou art!”
|Thursday, April 15, 2021|
Do you enjoy routine maintenance?
|Thursday, April 08, 2021|
How big does something have to be for you to consider it giant-sized? For cereal makers, the answer appears to be “not very big.”
Consider two boxes of cereal in my hands (see photo below). On my left is what Quaker calls a “giant” sized box of Life cereal. In my right hand is what Kellogg’s considers a “mega” sized box of Frosted Shredded Wheat (don’t judge our cereal choices, please—that might be another blog).
I’d say that one box is certainly full-sized—-maybe even large. But mega? No way! The “giant” box of Life cereal weighs in at 24.8 ounces. Yet a quick bit of research shows the average cereal box weighs 25 ounces In other words, Quaker is trying to tell me its slightly smaller-than-average cereal box is giant!
But if something is “giant size” or “Mega size,” shouldn’t that be obvious? Do we need a label to tell us? Beware bold and braggadocios claims.
That same warning holds for our spiritual lives. I confess I’m guilty of labeling my smallest sacrifices, my tiniest obediences, as giant size. Even if I never verbalize these thoughts, they exist nonetheless, somewhere not too far off in my unholy subconscious. Those inflated claims of our spirituality permeate most everything, don’t they?
Wonder how often my words are bigger than my testimony. The love I have for Jesus, I assert, is King size. But is it? Or is it something smaller—something way less?
The real measurement of my spirituality is not the distance between my waving arms during Sunday worship but how close my steps are to Jesus on Monday. And Tuesday. And beyond. The greater the distance between our steps, the smaller the true size of my love for Christ.
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