Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Who were your heroes as a kid? If you have been reading this column for some time now, you know that some of my heroes from childhood were, of course, the great John Wayne, the fearless Evel Knievel, and the “man in black” Johnny Cash. I used to love to shoot the bad guys with my cap gun, just like John Wayne and you all know by now the story of how I tried to emulate Evel Knievel by jumping my purple bike over a defective ramp. But I don’t think I have ever told you about my love for Johnny Cash.

When I was very young, perhaps two or three years of age, I would put on shows at my house. We had a fireplace that was about 18 inches high. The opening for the logs had a screen on it that you could open and close with a chain. This chain had a decorative end on it. That was my microphone. I would get on the fireplace and sing “I hear the train a comin’/ Comin’ round the bend/ I ain’t seen the sunshine, since I don’t know when…” I entertained many family members that way.

As you get older, your heroes tend to change. John Wayne died in 1979, Evel Knievel got too old to jump anymore, and Johnny Cash went out of style for about twenty years or so. I had to find more heroes. Where do you go to look for heroes?

Heroes tend to be what we are not, but wish to be. We always put those people on a pedestal who we most want to be like. If you want to be invincible for example, you might pick Superman. If you want to be rich you might pick Bill Gates. We typically make heroes out of people who are doing whatever the thing is that we dream about being or doing.

While there are many who we and our young people might call heroes, most are really just fallible humans like ourselves. You can look to Hollywood for heroes, but will find that underneath the makeup, smoke and mirrors, there is much brokenness. We can turn to sports for our heroes, but there we find many who crack under the pressure to be the best and turn to drugs and the allure of unheard of wealth. What about our parents? Some of us were fortunate enough to have parents that we could look up to as role models in our lives. But, unfortunately, many have grown up in homes that are not at all conducive to establishing healthy role models.

We are getting ready to launch Vacation Bible School next week. The theme of VBS this year is Heroes and the scripture is Hebrews 12:1-2.
Run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus,
the source and perfecter of our faith.
We will study those who are truly heroes in our world. We will talk about Mary and Joseph, John the Baptist, The early Christians, Aquila, Priscila, Apollos, and the ultimate hero, Jesus.

The Bible is full of heroes who really lived and achieved great things. They are worthy to look up to, not because they were near perfect in themselves, but because they allowed God to use them in a mighty way. These men and women stood with God on their side and looked fear and even Satan himself in the face and never backed down. They ran their race with dignity, because they did not run the race alone. They kept their eyes on Christ and paid no attention to the whispers of those who said, “you’ll never make it”.

Whether you are going to be a part of our VBS this year or not, please pray for these young people who will be attending. Pray that they will find their hero in Jesus Christ, who will never get old, and will never fail them. In fact, my prayer is that all of us will hear the call of Christ to follow Him wherever he leads. Is Jesus Christ your hero? If not, learn more about Him and what he did for you, and I think you’ll find no better role model and hero for your life.

Help me understand Your instruction, and I will obey it and follow it with all my heart. (Psalm 119:34 HCSB)

Friday, May 25, 2007

The old joke goes, “Where does a 500 pound gorilla sleep?...Anywhere he wants!” I don’t really know how much Bokito, an 11 year-old male silverback gorilla, weighs, but he certainly caused a stir at the Rotterdam zoo in Amsterdam last Friday.

Bokito decided he was tired of the same old grind everyday. I guess eating the same things, seeing the same scenery got to him. He burst out of his enclosure and according to Reuters Press; he went on a rampage through the Rotterdam zoo. The news story does not explain what they mean by “rampage”, but it does tell a very interesting story about his few moments of freedom.

It seems that the first place he went was the zoo cafeteria. Perhaps he wanted one of those burgers he had smelled for years, or maybe he just wanted a cup of coffee and a newspaper. In any event, he headed into the cafeteria.

While on the way to the cafeteria Bokito spied an old friend. A 57 year-old Dutch woman who has so far been unnamed, was quoted as saying, “I stood by the small apes in the Africa section when I heard a thud behind me. I turned around and there was Bokito. I had nowhere to go.”

The woman had been visiting Bokito for many years. She indicated that she and her husband came to the zoo almost every day to see Bokito. She even has baby pictures of the gorilla when he was four months old in the Berlin zoo. However, the face to face meeting with her gorilla friend was not what she wanted. “He gripped me, sat on me with his full weight and began biting me," the woman told the Telegraaf, the local newspaper. "I could only think 'O God, I'm going to die, I'm going to die'."

The odd part of this story is the woman’s reaction to the event from her hospital bed. She says, “He is and remains my darling". She said that the gorilla that sat on her, broke her arm, and bit her so hard that his teeth were covered in her blood, is still her favorite.

We daily act out this very scene in our spiritual life. We sin because we are tempted by the sin. We fall to the temptation, and then suffer the consequences of that sin. When we are beaten up and still recuperating from our wounds, we are right back thinking about when we can do it again.

Bill Cosby does a great job of illustrating this in his one-man-show called Himself from some years ago. He talks about the pains of getting sick after consuming alcohol. He vividly describes the man who, with the room seeming to spin, gets sick from the alcohol. He then says “now don’t forget, you did this because you ‘owe it to yourself’ to have a ‘good time’”. Not long after the experience the man begins to plan the next time he will “owe himself’ a “good time”. He learned nothing. The Bible says “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud." (2 Peter 2:21-22 NIV)

None of us are perfect. We all have “sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The old quote stands true. “Those who cannot learn from the past are condemned to repeat it”. If we cannot learn with God’s help to overcome the things in our life then we will continue to wallow in the mire of our own twisted creation.
We cannot control what tempts us, but we can control whether or not we give in. I have not talked with anyone yet who could honestly tell me what the comedian Flip Wilson used to say; “The devil made me do it”. Satan cannot make you do anything. He tempts you and beckons you, but ultimately you make the decision to act on the temptation.

God says that He will help us to learn from our sin, and to be free from our sin. Yes, we can be free from sin. At least we can try to be free from sin. God is not going to program you robotically to correct the things that you can correct yourself. If you think it’s wrong, it probably is.

My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 John 2:1 NKJV)

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Ramp

The other night I was reading a story to my 5 year-old son, Cade, before bed. Occasionally, after I read a story, he wants me to then tell him a story. Sometimes he wants me to make one up, and other times he wants me to tell him some tale from my childhood. On this particular night he wanted a story about me.

If you ask him about it, he could tell you almost word for word the tale I am about to share with you. I know this because he repeats it to me almost daily. He thought it was so funny and such a lesson learned that he chooses to remind me of it regularly.

Anyone who grew up in the 70’s knows the name Evel Knievel. For those of you who are too young, or were living under a rock during the late 60’s and early 70’s, Evel Knievel was a motorcycle daredevil. He used to jump cars, buses, and canyons. He is perhaps the most famous daredevil who ever lived. If it was out there, he would try to jump it on his Harley Davidson XR 750. (Incidentally, some of you out there reading this have tried as of late to imitate Knievel without much success. You know who you are…Repeat after me “I am not Evel Knievel”)

I decided sometime around 1975 when I was about eight, that I would perform my own stunt in my backyard. I had this really cool purple bike, and I genuinely thought I was invincible on that bike. I invited all of my friends over that afternoon to watch me jump my bike. I really do not remember what I was jumping over, but I’m sure it was dangerous.

The original plan for my ramp was a piece of plywood supported by two concrete blocks. I had the plywood, but could only find one concrete block. To this day I do not know why I chose to replace a concrete block with a football, but I did.

When my friends showed up I took my bike to the top of the hill for maximum speed, and began pedaling down the hill. I raced for the ramp with no fear. I was going to jump that purple bike further than anyone could imagine.

I my front tire hit the ramp and I knew at that moment that something was very wrong. The football, as you might expect, shot out from under the ramp, my bike stopped immediately and I flipped over the handlebars. I skinned my knees, my shins, hurt my arm and neck. That was my last career jump.

Sometimes we as Christians do similar things. We try to build our own lives out of the materials that we have on hand. We think we can handle things on our own and that we do not need God. A football has no place underneath a ramp, but it was all I had. I refused to ask for any help until I got hurt.

Some of the things we build our lives on have about as much place there as a football under a ramp, but it’s all we have. The good news is whatever we have, can be made perfect if we give it to God.

Five loaves and two fish were not enough to feed a crowd of 5000 men, much less the women and children who were also present that day. A small smooth stone was not enough to kill a 9 foot tall giant. A song was not enough to cause chains to fall off and prison doors to open. But, when these things were placed in the hands of Almighty God, the impossible becomes not only the possible, but the definite.

What are you trying to build your life on? Have you been using what you know or think you know to get by? Try giving what you have to God and just watch Him help you jump further, higher and faster than you ever dreamed you could. With God, all things are possible.

Where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn't God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered dumb—preaching, of all things!—to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation. (1 Corinthians 1:20-21 The Message)