THE LONESOME END

Back in the time when “old” Howard was actually “young” Howard, the Army football team had a player they called “the lonesome end.”  He never came to the huddle and would get his signals by watching the quarterback’s footwork.  Personally, it’s been over 50 years since I invited Jesus into my huddle, but often during that time I’ve asked him to play “the lonesome end.”  That has always been a mistake because what worked for Army doesn’t work for me.

Once we invite Christ into our lives we MUST give him control.  The dynamics he brings to the huddle are unlike any other.  When I was a boy playing sandlot football, I was often one of the last chosen.  When I let Christ be my quarterback, he always looks me square in the heart and says, “You are valuable to this team; go deep” (football language).  If you took time to read this, please note, YOU are also amazingly valuable.  God has life plays designed for each of us.   Go deep, my friend and be blessed!

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.–Jeremiah 29-11

THE GIFT OF RANSOM

I love the name of John and Stasi Eldredge’s ministry, “Ransomed Heart.” It tells us exactly what Jesus did for us. When our heart was held captive to sin and in the grip of the world, he paid our ransom. I picture God looking down and saying, “They can never do it alone.” So the Son of God became the Son of Man as well and purchased our freedom through his life, death, and resurrection.

He never promised us things would be easy. We all experience bad days, weeks, months, and sometimes, years. Due to the ransom Jesus paid, there is always light at the end of that proverbial tunnel.

When I left my mother’s death bed and returned home, the day was bright and sunny and the birds sang loudly from the trees. It reminded me she was no longer held hostage by a nursing home bed and was soaring in God’s kingdom. Her faith had saved her and she had long ago accepted the ransom. When I suffered a series of sudden hearing losses in the 80’s and 90’s, I was comforted by one particularly amazing sunset and reminded I still had my vision to view such marvels. I also felt the presence of my Benefactor throughout the remainder of my days in the classroom. Those are my stories and I know you have your own.

Sadly, unlike the kidnap victims we read and hear about, the ransom Jesus paid is not always accepted by the “victim.” Can you imagine someone being held hostage, but refusing to be released despite the ransom paid. There are many around us who do that every day. Instead of embracing the gift of a ransomed heart, they embrace doubt. Pray that those captive hearts may be moved, stirred, and changed. The reward is eternity with the One who bought our freedom.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.–I Thessalonians 5:23-2

WHEN GOD SPEAKS

I once had a job delivering newspapers along the coast from Rehoboth to Ocean City.  The job required me to rise in the wee small hours of the morning and, if things went well, I was delivering by 4:00 am.  One morning, my papers did not arrive on time and I went down to a local donut shop near the boardwalk to pick up a couple of fresh-made delicacies.  A young woman smiled at me and said, “Isn’t it beautiful.”  She was referring to the burgeoning sunrise over the Atlantic.  She GOT the message God was sending, but I was jaded.  I saw the sunrise every morning and, to me, it just meant I was running late.  I was too self-burdened to look and listen to the message God wanted each viewer to see and hear.

The situation was quite different on the morning of May 7, 1995.  I visited my mother’s bedside for the final time.  Her body was there, but her spirit was gone; lifted to that special place God promises to His children.  As I drove home in the early morning, God was determined I would not miss His message this time.  The sun was welcoming another glorious day.  The clouds were fleecy and the breeze offered a soft promise of the coming summer.  Everywhere I looked on the drive home I witnessed the beauty of God’s creatures; the very same ones He knows I love so well.  About a mile from my home, a large deer stood with its front hooves on the side of the road.  It didn’t turn to run or even appear afraid.  It simply watched my truck as I drove by; almost suggesting recognition. 

When I stepped from my truck to a chorus of bird song, I felt God was sending me two messages.  The first reminded me that I no longer had to worry about my Mom and her care.  “She is safe with me now,” God whispered.  The second message was more personal: “You are not alone, for I am with you and ever shall I be, even until the end of the world.”    I felt comforted and grateful at the same time and tried to imagine my mother’s bright smile as she heard the applause of angels. 

Max Lucado writes:  “God speaks to us.   He may use a sermon.  He may inspire a conversation.  He may speak through a song.  He may even speak through this brief message.  But, isn’t that just like Him?  Oh, the lengths to which God will go to get our attention and win our affection! Listen to Him.” 

“Very truly I tell you, you will see heaven open, and the angels of god ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”  (John 1:51)

LOVING THE UNLOVABLE

For several years I was responsible for patrolling the outside lunch area at WiHi. One day I was watching a young man who seemed to delight in making my life miserable in one of my classes. Typically, he was being his usual unruly self. I hate to admit I was not having pleasant thoughts about him. Suddenly though, I remembered what Jesus would say: “I love him just as much as I love you.” I felt my eyes mist when I remembered that, indeed, Jesus loves each of us equally and without restraint.

My pastor once said, “You don’t have to like everyone, but you do have to love them.” Interesting thought, huh! Each person we encounter may not be someone we want to spend a lot of time with, but they have unique value in God’s eyes. If we love God, we must seek to love ALL of his children, no matter how unlovable they may sometimes seem.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8