Walk This Way

boots-1193477_960_720 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” (1 John 1:1, NIV) I was flying to Chicago for business and figured I would use the idle time on the airplane to get a little Bible study in. Since our team was flying in a smaller plane, I was afforded more study time than one might normally expect in route from Minneapolis to the Windy City. Perfect!

So I opened to 1 John and began my reading. In case you have not read it lately (or ever) 1 John is an unabashed eyewitness account of John’s time with Jesus. His claims are unmistakable – he has seen, he has heard, and he has touched Jesus. And not just the pre-crucifixion Jesus; in verse two John proclaims the eternal life because he has seen, he has heard, and he has touched the resurrected Jesus. And in his eyewitness claims, he uses the word “we” because he is, presumably, speaking for the other twelve disciples as well.

I could dig a whole lot deeper into this eyewitness account, and the claims John was making, exploring their unmistakable authenticity and implications, but what struck me most in my personal, airborne Bible study was a point John makes in 1 John 2:6: that if we claim to live in God we must live our lives “as Jesus did.”  And that got me wondering, if I am to live as Jesus did, I should understand just a little about how he lived. In other words, just what example did he set for us? Below is the list I came up with as we soared through the sky:

Jesus was sinless, he had compassion, His actions showed love in tangible ways. Jesus did not condemn sinners but encouraged them to repent; He called out hypocrisy among the religious leaders wherever he encountered it. Jesus walked in perfect trust and fellowship with God, He pursued God’s will above His own. Jesus was a teacher and He always spoke the truth whether it was popular or not; there was no deceit within Him. He did not fear the disapproval of his fellow man (in fact He often expected it). Jesus walked and talked in authority. He did not pursue worldly possessions or pleasures but strove for the fullness of living for God. Jesus cast out demons and healed illness. Jesus prayed regularly and fervently. And He spent lots of time with sinners and those who were not popular.

I paused from my study right there. While my list was hardly exhaustive, it most certainly paints a vivid picture of how Jesus lived, of the things He did, the habits He developed, the way He interacted with others, His relationship with the Father, and the way he loved. Indeed, then, my list, however incomplete it may be, seems like a good yardstick by which I can measure how well I am living “as Jesus did.” And, perhaps, a roadmap for improvement. And now I am sharing it with you for your consideration. Are you living as Jesus lived? Walking as He walked?

“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.” (1 John 4:7-11)

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Memorial Day

flags-292774_960_720 Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day was created as a time to remember and honor those who have given their lives in service to the United States. Originally born out of the Civil War and the desire to remember the dead, Memorial Day was first declared on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. The date for Decoration Day, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.

On the very first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery and a large group of volunteers decorated the graves of some 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who are buried there. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873; by 1890 it was recognized by all northern states. Southern states refused to recognize the holiday, instead choosing other days to remember their dead. This continued until after World War I when the holiday was changed from recognizing only those lost in the Civil War to honoring those who were lost in any war.

With the Congressional passage of the National Holiday Act of 1971, Memorial Day is now observed in almost every state on the last Monday in May, creating a three-day weekend. There is a traditional method of observing the holiday with the American flag by raising the flag briskly to full-staff, then lowering it slowly and solemnly to half-staff, where it remains until noon, then it is raised to full staff again. The half-staff position remembers the more than one million who have given their lives in service to their country. At noon, then, their memory is raised by the living who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up and continue the fight for liberty.

Other traditional observances include visiting cemeteries, wearing red poppies, and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen loved ones. Observance of Memorial Day traditions has diminished over the years and many people have forgotten the meaning of the day. The graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored or neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. To help remind us of the true meaning of Memorial Day, the “National Moment of Remembrance” resolution was passed in December 2000. It asks that at 3 p.m. local time all Americans “voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of Remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps.”

Do you remember the real meaning behind Memorial Day? Will you take the challenge to pause at 3pm on Memorial Day and remember those who made the greatest sacrifice to secure our continued freedom? And will you accept the challenge to “rise up” and continue the fight for liberty at whatever cost?

Memorial Day is also a great time to remember the one who sacrificed all so we could have our sins be forgiven.  One of the greatest freedoms that our soldiers died to preserve is the freedom of religion. Why not take advantage of that freedom right now and invite Jesus Christ into your life? Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)

I will leave you with this verse for reflection: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1John 3:16)

To learn more about Memorial Day, visit www.USMemorialDay.org

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Technologically Challenged

blogger-336371_960_720    In today’s world, technology is everywhere. Whether it’s the personal computers we use at home, the tablets we use on the go, our mobile phones, or even our automobiles we find technology and connectivity to be a part of our daily lives. Many of our homes have satellite or cable TV capable of being programmed remotely from anywhere in the world. Forget to program your favorite show to record and you’re on a business trip in Japan? Just login from your mobile device and you can setup the recording from there. Even our homes can have alarm systems, light switches, and door locks that can be activated remotely from most anywhere on Earth. Technology has changed the way we live and it is everywhere.

I must confess to being old enough to have grown up before the computer age. Never once in my twelve years of public schooling did I ever touch a computer. I think the school actually may have had a computer during my senior high years, I remember some talk of punch cards and something about a bunch of ones and zeroes, but I never actually saw such a device so I can neither confirm nor deny its existence. And during most of my youth my family was relegated to a single 19” black and white TV which received exactly 4 channels, unless you stood with your hand on the antenna in just the right spot so that channel 2 came in. I think I was 15 or 16 before I realized the Minnesota Vikings wore purple.

I grew up thinking Captain Kirk wore a slightly lighter shade of gray uniform than Scottie or Mr. Spock. Imagine my surprise when I saw Star Trek in living color for the first time. A whole new world was upon me! But even the creators of Star Trek couldn’t anticipate the technology we already have in our world today. The original Enterprise being operated by toggle switches and sliders instead of the touch screens and capacitive switches we are already familiar with. And Kirk’s communicator looks like a vintage flip phone from the 1990’s.

Being as old as I am, I remember in my first professional job using a Smith-Corona typewriter and feeling lucky we had the electric version that could go backwards and correct my copious typos. Of course, it could only do that if you had not yet moved on to the next line. And when I wanted to produce a form that had more than one size font, I was introduced to the art of hand keylining, where we blew the original up in size and pasted the hand-typed text we wanted in the smaller font, then shrunk the whole thing back down. A form I could create and print in about 15 minutes using today’s technology might’ve taken 2-3 days to make back then.

But technology slowly crept up on me. First it was video games in local arcades, then home gaming systems offering such technological triumphs as Pong and Asteroids. Sony’s Walkman let me listen to my music on the go and it wasn’t long before my children were asking for Gameboys for Christmas. VCR’s became affordable and nearly every home had one. Cassette tapes replaced the 8 tracks I grew up with and then along came the compact disc. Somewhere around 1993 I made my first car drive with mobile phone technology, a large bag phone that took up the entire passenger seat of my car. But I was able to stay in touch with the office while I drove to our other facility. It was amazing and it made me feel important.

Not long after that I bought my first home computer. I remember showing my two daughters how to use it; and I have fond memories of the familiar AOL voice telling the three of us: “You’ve got mail!” Five and a quarter floppies gave way to three and a half floppies and kilobytes grew to megabytes and then gigabytes and now terabytes (or maybe more for all I know!). Dial up connections became DSL connections and today we can download faster than our original computer could even process the data. And the pace of technology has become so fast we buy our mobile phones on plans that allow us to exchange them every six months.

We even have wrist watches that perform the tasks of our mobile phones and every time we get in our automobile our phone synchronizes to the car and we can access our phone books and text messages through our car’s Bluetooth connection. While this is fine technology for our passengers, the temptation of staying connected while we drive has led to the unintended consequence of distracted driving, a problem thought to be every bit as dangerous and deadly as drinking and driving.  And while having the Google maps app in our mobile phone give us turn by turn directions through our car’s audio system sure is convenient, when we’re connected like this all the time when do we get time to rest? When do we have time for family and friends and our Creator?

“Be still and know I am God,” declares the Psalmist in Psalm 46:10.  And isn’t this the challenge many of us face today in our connected, technological world?

I recently made a change in my life that I feel is a change for the better. I sold my technologically current, Bluetooth-equipped, mobile hotspot on wheels and have chosen instead to drive my low tech, early 90’s Mazda Miata on a daily basis. The Miata has a stereo, but the CD player doesn’t work and there’s no Bluetooth. It has air conditioning but it has long since stopped working. There are no remote control buttons on the steering wheel and when the top is down you can’t really hear the stereo too well anyway so I tend to leave it off. Just man and machine. The only connectivity is the connection to the road I feel through the steering wheel and the wind that is blowing in my hair (well…I used to have hair).

Rear 3 Quarter View 090214  When I put the top down and hit the road in my Miata, I see, taste, and smell nature in a very experiential way. Just me and my machine and God’s creation. My phone may be ringing but I won’t answer because I can’t hear anyway with all this wind in my face. But I am taking in reality in a way that maybe is lost in today’s technological world and I am feeling God’s presence because there’s nothing else to distract me. I motor on giving praise to the One who created and sustains all that is around me as I unwind from my busy workday.

Maybe a sports car isn’t your way of disconnecting from today’s technological age, but taking the time to disconnect from the world and to connect with Him is vital for each of us. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)  So what is your way of turning off the connected world and plugging in to your Lord and Savior?

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