Month: August 2018

Gotta Serve Somebody

Much of the world blinked uncomprehendingly when the Nobel Committee first announced the winner of the 2016 prize for literature. Bob Dylan.

Yes, that Bob Dylan. The folk singer. The rock star.

The counter-culture hippie poet with a marginal singing voice. In some circles that stunned silence morphed into contempt and even outrage. 

Placing Dylan on a list like that was insulting.

The prestige of the Nobel Prize for Literature would be forever diminished.

By contrast, DImage result for gotta serve somebodyylan’s Nobel honor put a smile on my face. I’m a Dylan fan. Especially early Dylan. “Like a Rolling Stone” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’” appealed to me when I was younger.

In 1979, Dylan started a three-year period as a born-again Evangelical Christian. He produced one hit called “Gotta Serve Somebody.”

Here’s an excerpt:

You may be a businessman or some high degree thief,

They may call you doctor or they may call you chief,

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a construction worker working on a home,

You may be living in a mansion or might live in a dome

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

Jesus’s teachings inspired these lyrics. But they could just as easily have come from the Hebrew Scriptures with which the young Jewish boy Robert Zimmerman—now Bob Dylan—would have been familiar. 

In his farewell speech to the tribes of Israel, Moses’s successor Joshua said this:

“Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living.” (Joshua 24:15)

To put it simply, you’re gonna have to serve somebody. Our actions embody a deep commitment, a devotion, to something or to someone. Whether we realize it or not, whether we name it this way or not, something or someone becomes our god.

By “god” here I’m referring to whatever it is that individuals and communities believe will give their lives meaning. Whatever will make their lives matter, make their lives significant. Even if we make no conscious decision on the matter, our habits and actions—the patterns of our lives—betray what god we are worshipping.

Some people chase celebrity. Others pursue wealth or power or social status or just more stuff. They may neglect their families or their health or their integrity to get applause or to exercise control or to accumulate possessions.

We can so devote ourselves to power, prestige, and possessions that they function as our gods. The pursuit  of them shapes how we act, the relationships we form, the values we inhabit, how we think about ourselves, and how we treat other people. The Bible refers to small “g” gods as idols.

But here’s the catch. We’re gonna have to serve somebody, but we can end up serving somebody who isn’t worth serving. These small “g” gods offer what they Image result for choose you this day whom you will servecannot deliver. They offer to satisfy our deepest longings. Those longings are for the infinite and the eternal. 

We don’t want our lives to matter for a mere fifteen minutes and then be forgotten in the fog of history. We want our loves and our losses, our struggles and our victories to have meant something—to mean something—forever. 

Applause fades. You can’t take your stock portfolio with you beyond the grave. Every athletic record gets broken. Every president, world champion, and Nobel prize winner is replaced by the next one.

There is only one capital “G” God who delivers on the promise to make life infinitely and eternally significant. The God who made us in order to love us. The God who loves us so that we can share that love with one another. To serve this God is to commit ourselves to loving what that God loves how that God loves it. And that God loves the entire creation.

At the dedication of the first Temple, King Solomon said as much.

“O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart.” (1Kings 8:23).

We’re all gonna serve somebody.

The patterns of our lives will reveal who or what that is.

We are all going to have choose who we are going to serve.

Choose wisely.

Second Chances

About 20 years ago, I was having lunch at Bob Evan’s with a few of my friends.  We were talking and laughing and just having a good time.  As we were getting ready to go, I looked up and noticed that a woman sitting at the table next to ours had a very strange look on her face.  No one sitting at her table seemed to notice her appearance.  Suddenly she stood up. 

No words.  No noise.  Just silence. 

She then started to wave her arms to get the attention of those sitting at her table. 

No one noticed.

I got up from my table and ran over to the now frantic woman. 

I am not sure what it was that made me react.  I have never had formal training in performing the Heimlich maneuver,  just what I had read on a chart at work. The only thing I knew was that she was choking and no one was doing anything about it. 

Image result for second chanceI spun her around and I threw my arms around her.  I squeezed.  Whatever was lodged in her throat shot out of her mouth and I heard her take a very loud gasp of fresh air.   Within seconds the color came back to her face and although shook up by the whole event, she sat down at her table.  The look of panic on her face was now replaced with a look of disbelief.  That was the same look that was on my face as I turned around to head back to my group of friends.

No words were spoken. Everyone around us was silent.  It was as if we all were in denial that what had just happened was real. We all were in shock that the event even took place.

I had this sudden feeling of panic setting in and I just picked up my coat and bill and made my way to the cash register.  All I wanted to do is get out of there.

This happened so quickly that most of the people around us did not see it.  I do not know how long the woman had been choking but for me, the whole event was a mere 15 to 20 seconds long.  It was so surreal that it was like I was just a robot and I was just doing what I had been programmed to do.  All I knew was that for some reason, I had to get out of there.

As I got to the cash register,  the manager came over and took my bill.  He wanted to pay my bill and get my name and I was telling him that was not necessary.  I did not want to make it into a big deal and I was just glad that she was okay. 

I then felt a tap on my shoulder.  I spun around to see who it was and it was the woman who had just been choking a few minutes earlier.   Our eyes met and she was trying to come up with words to say.  As tears filled her eyes, the only words that she could mouth were, “thank you” and she started to sob. 

I did not know what to do.  I looked at her and said, “It’s okay, we all need second chances”.

I don’t know why I said that.  It just came out of my mouth. 

Much like the whole event. 

No plan or preparation… just a reaction. 

She hugged me and I hurriedly left the restaurant and I never gave her my name nor did I know hers.

I have never talked about it with anyone.  I am no hero nor do I ever want to get recognition for the event.  I just happened to be at the right place at the right time.

Who doesn’t like second chances? We all can think of times in our lives that we would like to have a chance to start over.  Don’t you wish there was a big red “DO OVER” button that we could push whenever we messed up?  If you are like me, the button would get worn out because of the number of times it would need to get pushed to cover all of my mistakes. 

In truth, we all like to have our faults overlooked, we’re not so good at overlooking Image result for second chance(or forgiving) the faults of others.  Why is it that we think everyone else should get what they really deserve, but we should be given a break?  Why is it that it’s okay for us to take a mulligan, but we get irritated with others who do?  I don’t know.

What I do know is that this random, chance meeting of two people in a Bob Evan’s restaurant in Toledo, Ohio has made me a better person. It has allowed me to consider the fact that God’s entire kingdom is built around second chances.  He gives us breaks, forgives our sins, moves us into a different future… and this to people who have blown it again and again.

So consider this,  for every breath you take… you get a second chance.  A chance to get it right.  Another chance to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. A chance to forgive and be forgiven.  Another chance to say “I love you” to those that need to hear you say it.  A chance to “right a wrong”. 

With each breath you take, you have a chance to change your life forever.

Sometimes I wonder what that woman did with her second chance.  Did she “right some wrongs” in her life?  Did she love her husband more?  Hug her kids a little tighter?  Did she have or start a better relationship with God?  Did she tell the people in her life that she loved them more often? Did she become a better person?  I do not dwell on these questions because I will never know the answers to them.

What I now realize in my life, is that when our paths crossed on that fateful day, I was an angry person. A person who was controlled by a temper that was not in check. I blamed everyone else for the problems in my life.  I was a frustrated person that took out his anger on people who did not deserve it. 

I had carried an angry, bitter, unforgiving attitude for a few years during that period of my life. 

That day was the beginning of change.

I am not sure if that woman made any life-changing decisions as a result of this experience.  Maybe for her, it is just a story to tell her children. 

For me, I cannot help but think that the second chance that was given by God that day wasn’t intended for her at all.

It was for me.

What A Friend We Have

It was 5:30 P.M. on a beautiful Tuesday afternoon in Ohio. I am driving home from my meeting in Columbus.

I just can’t find any music that I want to listen to, so I finally stop on a radio station that is playing a program called, “Turning Point” by David Jeremiah. 

Image result for turning point with dr david jeremiah

(Want to Listen to Turning Point? Click Here)

I have always enjoyed listening to Dr. Jeremiah. He has been able to challenge and encourage me every time I hear him speak.

I listened to him for about 30 minutes when the program ended and the radio station started playing a few songs before it transitioned into the next program.

And then, the station played an old hymn of the church.

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear.

What a privilege to carry, everything to God in Prayer.

O, what peace we often forfeit, O, what needless pain we bear.

All because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer!

Related imageAll of a sudden, tears began flowing down my face as if a dam had broken inside of me. The tears kept rushing down my face uncontrollably. It had been years since I had heard this old hymn of the church, and I soon began to realize that I was remembering times in my life.

The first memory took me back to the age of ten years of age when I accepted the Lord into my life at the back of Robinson’s Funeral Home in Oak harbor, Ohio.  I literally could visualize myself sitting with my Aunt Brenda as she explained to me the gift of salvation that Jesus provided for the world.

These memories continued as the song filled the cab of my pickup truck. As the song progressed, I moved from thoughts of being that little 10-year-old boy into a grown man, encountering all over again situations and circumstances of my life that I had, in deed, taken to the Lord in prayer.

The memories spanned a good portion of my life ended when the song ended, and I was still wiping tears away from what I had just experienced in a 3-4 minute time span of the song.

  • It was enough time to remind me of the faithfulness of God to answered prayer when I, had indeed, taken everything to Him in prayer.
  • It was also a reminder to me that I needed a cleansing of a coldness that had settled in my heart recently. I was so grateful that all my sins and griefs he was now bearing once again, as I sat there silently confessing them to Him. How refreshing those tears felt as He gently cleansed me.
  • It was a time when I reflected on the peace that I had forfeited at times when I didn’t take it to the Lord in prayer. Oh yes, there were many times that I had experienced needless pain.

As I made my way home, I realized that this old hymn of the church had, shall we say, re-fashioned me on the inside.

What about you?  Why not take a moment in your day to listen to this old hymn of the church and use it as a tool to once again be reminded of What a Friend We Have in Jesus.  ( Just click on the video below.)

After all, He calls us His friend.

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  (John 15:15)