Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Shrewd Manager

There are so many instances where I am quick to come down hard on the disciples for not “getting it.” It just seems like they were thick-headed so much of the time – at least with the benefit of our hindsight and the ump-teen versions of the New Testament we have available to consult.
But then I run across a parable like the “shrewd manager” (see Luke 16:1-9) and I understand that maybe I am the one who is thick-headed. It seems that Jesus is commending “shrewdness,” and that the manager’s apparent dishonesty is what “saves” him. And then, does Jesus actually say that we can “buy” friends on earth who will then welcome us into heaven?
Jesus’ commentary on the parable is what really gives me pause:
The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. (vv. 8-9)

But, as I’ve spent a lot of time this week studying this parable and meditating on it, I think I’ve been able to apply it in a way that makes sense to me.
First of all, although we normally consider “shrewd” to have a negative connotation, it is not necessarily to be so limited. The best definition I’ve found indicates that “shrewd” is a practical, hardheaded cleverness. (And Jesus told his disciples to be “shrewd” as snakes when he sent them out (Matthew 10:16).)
We normally think of “shrewd” negatively because we see people being “shrewd” to get the better of someone else, to unjustly benefit themselves, or to ‘con’ or trick someone else. But, in the context of this parable, think of “shrewd” as being an “astute planner.”
And that is what Jesus said this guy did – he astutely planned for his future. This “shrewd manager” was being very astute in planning for his future - and he was using someone else’s property to do it! He used his master’s property to ‘invest’ in his future well-being. And, as Jesus pointed out, the ‘world’ is usually much more in tune with such ‘planning for the future’ than believers are. That’s probably because the ‘future’ they are planning is much more concrete and foreseeable.

Over the past several months, so many people have been so very concerned about the stock market, jobs, retirement funds, etc. And do you know why? Because that is where they have done their ‘astute planning.’ They have shrewdly made investments, calculated returns, anticipated promotions, etc. And then, unfortunately, the bottom fell out.
They have been managing THEIR money and THEIR assets in the hopes of securing their future in THIS world. That is what people of this world do. That’s what the ‘shrewd manager’ did.
But what about “people of the light?” Well, first of all, they should realize that the “possessions” in their care are not really theirs. Those things belong to Someone else.
Secondly, rather than investing for their future in this world, “people of the light” should be ‘managing’ what they control for their future in His world. Often that means ‘investing’ in the lives of others.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

Does God expect us to manage His possessions in such a way as to guarantee a comfortable retirement for ourselves? Or does He expect us to manage His possessions in such a way as to bring others into His kingdom, to eternal dwellings?
Yes, we can use money to make friends. The ‘shrewd manager’ used it to make friends who would take care of him in the future. But ‘people of the light’ can use it to make friends who will be taken care of for all eternity.

Even the shrewd manager understood that ‘you can’t take it with you’ – especially when ‘it’ belongs to someone else. But the ‘shrewd believer’ should understand that you can send it on ahead of you – especially since it was His to begin with.
Are you shrewdly managing His assets for His purposes?
Are you investing His portfolio in the lives of others to point them toward Him?
Are you shrewdly building up your worldly wealth? Or are you shrewdly making deposits in your heavenly treasure account?

Trying to manage shrewdly,
Craig Hollingsworth

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Prequel

In Hollywood, they produce movies to tell some sort of a story (and make money, of course). And then, if the movie does really well at the box office, they’ll come out with a sequel to continue the story (and capitalize on its popularity). However, after a sequel or two, they face a problem – even though the original movie and sequel(s) were popular, the main characters have been killed off, they are too old to continue their escapades, or the story was “too neatly wrapped” to go any further.
Solution? A prequel! That’s right – start a new story from before the time the original started. Is that brilliant, or what?!
Well, brilliant or not, it’s not particularly original. In fact, the concept of a prequel was originated in the Bible (although that story had not grown stale).

Genesis 1:1 tells us “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” From there, we read the stories of Adam, Noah, the Patriarchs, the Kings, the prophets, the captivities, etc. . . right up to Jesus’ birth, life, crucifixion, and resurrection. And then, even though the stories weren’t even close to finished (see John 21:25), we get a “prequel.”
That’s right - After all the other Gospels had been written, after the letters of Paul, Peter, and James had been sent to the early churches - John wrote the inspired “prequel,” which began: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1-2)
Even though John 1 and Genesis 1 sound similar (“In the beginning . .”), you will notice that Genesis picks up the story with the creation of the heavens and earth. John, however, backs up to before that. John is saying that before time began, before there was any “matter” - in eternities past – God was there. And not just that, but Jesus was with God (for eternities past) and Jesus was God.
John then jumps ahead through whatever time-space continuum there was to pick up where Genesis started and tells us, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:3) So, John is telling us that Jesus was pre-existent and was (is) responsible for everything that’s been made.
That’s some incredible stuff to think about - especially if you were one of those who knew the man, Jesus. How often do you think John pondered such things? And at what point do you think John actually “got it?” Surely he was exposed to and witnessed unbelievable, astonishing things during the time he walked with Jesus – John witnessed Jesus feeding thousands of people with virtually no food; he was there when Jesus walked on water and calmed the storm; he saw Jesus transfigured into His glorified state; he was there when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.
But, when did he “get it?” When did John understand that Jesus didn’t just walk the Earth for 33 years and do lots of cool miracles. When did John realize that Jesus was the main character (and “Star”) of the prequel?
Well, maybe . . .

Camped along the Sea of Galilee on a cool evening, John awakens from his sleep. He opens his eyes to a clear, moonless night with billions of stars over head. The campfire cracks and John turns his head toward its glimmer. From the soft glow of the embers, John can see Jesus’ face clearly, as Jesus is sleeping on another side of the fire.
John wonders to himself, “Can that man, my best friend, really be who he claims to be? Could that sleeping man actually have placed those stars in the sky over my head? I call him my “lord,” but can he really be my God?”
Just then, Jesus serenely opens His eyes, without stirring, and looks right back at John. He smiles slightly before He closes His eyes again and returns to His slumber.
Yet in that moment, John senses the loving assurance that, “Yes, before that manger in Bethlehem, before that burning bush, before the Garden – I AM. And now I am here with you John.”
With his heart pounding and his mind racing, John cannot possibly get back to sleep. He stares into the heavens, past the stars, and he contemplates – “He was there; He was there then. But now He’s here! Now He’s here with me! He is God and He is right here with me!”

I don’t know if such a scene ever took place or not. And I don’t pretend to know when John actually “got it.” But from reading about the “prequel,” I know that at some point John definitely understood that the God of the entire universe – the Pre-Existent One responsible for creating every single thing – sought out a personal relationship with him.
Over the past 2,000 years, there have been billions of stories played out on the “silver screen” of history, including yours. And none of those stories makes any sense or has any lasting significance apart from the Prequel.
He existed before what can be imagined. He will endure beyond what is conceivable. And when it “clicked” with John who Jesus really was, he wrote His story “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)
And as his “review” of the Prequel, John wrote:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth
. (John 1:14)

What about you - Do you “get it?”
Have you gotten your head around the concept that Jesus has always existed? That nothing exists apart from Him having created it? That Jesus stepped out of His majestic, eternal glory to become a man? That Jesus let His own creation humiliate, torture, and kill Him? And that the reason the Pre-Existent One did all of that was so you could live with Him forever?
John “got it.” Sometimes, I’m sure that I get it, too.
He is the Alpha and the Omega; the Prequel and the Sequel.
He’s my best friend; He’s my God. He is the Greatest Story ever told.

Studying His story,
Craig Hollingsworth

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In Our Wake

We were on a dark stretch of rural highway heading out to our deer lease. The speed limit was 70 mph and a friend was following a few car lengths behind me.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a skunk appeared in front of us moving across the road from right to left. I shouted, “Skunk!” and, unable to react in time to avoid him, we heard “thud – thud” as he first passed under the front and then rear left tires of the truck.
My son asked me, “Was that a live skunk?” I replied, “Not now.”
Meanwhile, with my friend’s headlights picking up the mist of ‘spraying skunk’ as it rolled out from under my truck like a football on the highway, he had no choice but to drive right through the stink bomb cloud.
A few seconds later, my cell phone rang and my friend tried to choke out the words – “Thanks a lot!”
In the next small town, as we peacefully came to a stop at a traffic light, my friend pulled to a stop behind us. Then the cloud of eye-watering stench caught up with and enveloped us as well.
That’s when it really hit home with me that what we leave behind us – in our ‘wake’ – has a definite impact on those that follow.

Who is following in your wake? Who is being impacted by and having to live with the consequences of your actions?
So often we live our lives as if our decisions and our actions affect only us. Even when they are well-intentioned and well thought out.
But we don’t live in a vacuum. There are people who may specifically be following us (perhaps in our role as ‘spiritual leaders’ of our families) and there are people who just end up ‘in our wake.’
Attitudes, addictions, hobbies, habits – all of those things that we like to think affect us alone (we claim they’re “victimless”) – we’re just mowing down skunks and leaving ‘em in our wakes to stink up other people’s lives. And we usually don’t even think about or realize who may be affected by being ‘in our wake.’
Sometimes a “skunk” appears out of nowhere. But those “skunks” are usually of our own making. And it’s our responsibility to avoid them (when possible), lessen the impact they may cause others, and then deal with or correct the stink they cause.

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.
Husbands, go all out in love for your wives. Don't take advantage of them.
Children, do what your parents tell you. This delights the Master no end.
Parents, don't come down too hard on your children or you'll crush their spirits.
Servants, do what you're told by your earthly masters. And don't just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you'll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you're serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn't cover up bad work
(Colossians 3:15-25, MSG)

A waking moment,
Craig Hollingsworth

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Pyrrhic Victory

When was the last time you had a real argument with someone? Was it with your wife? Your child? Perhaps a co-worker? Maybe a telemarketer calling during dinner or some “evolutionist” at Starbuck’s?
I don’t know about you, but when I get into an argument or conflict of some kind, I often get so caught up in “winning” that nothing else really matters. I’ve got to prove to the other person that I am right and, more importantly - that they are wrong!
And do you know what I usually end up with? A “pyrrhic victory.”

A Greek warrior/king named Pyrrhus lived from 318-272 BC. He was truly a mighty warrior whom Hannibal ranked as either the greatest or second greatest military commander the world had ever seen (behind only Alexander the Great if the second version is followed).
Pyrrhus’ political fortunes, however, were not as strong and consistent as were his military escapades. He was king of Epirus, then dethroned, then king of Epirus again. He also ascended the throne of Macedonia, was dethroned, then was king of Macedonia again.
By 281 BC, Rome had become a major “world” power and was poised to take all of the “Greek” cities in southern Italy. One of those cities recruited the renowned warrior Pyrrhus to lead their impending war with the Romans. Sensing the potential for expanding his own kingdom, Pyrrhus agreed to do so.
Pyrrhus entered Italy and defeated the Romans handily in his first battle. Likewise, in his next battle he defeated the Roman armies. However, that second battle came at a crippling cost and led to the modern phrase - “a pyrrhic victory.” You see, in response to congratulations he received after his military victory, Pyrrhus was reported to have said, "If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined."
Pyrrhus discovered that winning at all costs often costs way too much.

And what does Jesus say about our perceived “need” to win every argument, every dispute, and every squabble or conflict in which we find ourselves? I have studied two passages that, when taken together, give me some guidance on this. First:
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)
And then:
If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. (Luke 6:29-31)

Now, I don’t think these passages tell us to roll over like a submissive puppy and take whatever the world dishes out to us or at us. Instead, they tell us to put our agenda, our pride, and our dignity aside and seek God’s honor rather than our own. Let me show you what I mean:
You see, the Greek word translated as “meek” in Matthew 5:5 was used in contexts which show a meaning much more aligned with “power under control” than with “timidity” and “weakness,” which we tend to associate with the word “meek.” The word we have translated as “meek” would have been used in the context of things such as a rudder guiding a huge ship or a bit directing a strong horse – great strength and power that is harnessed and under control.
And when we take that concept of “meekness” and overlay it on the Luke 6 passage, we see Jesus telling us how to act in conformity with the description of Himself, set forth in Philippians 2:3-11:
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross . . . to the glory of God the Father
. (NLT)

In the case of a perceived offense or threat to our pride or to our personal dignity, Jesus not only warns us not to avenge or aggressively defend our honor by retaliating or pushing the issue to the extreme, but He suggests that we should even indulge the “offender.” By freely offering our other cheek, we show that we (who should be secure in our status before God) do not value human honor. We have no “honor” of our own to maintain or lose because we value God's honor rather than our own.
So - who wins or loses an argument, conflict, etc. doesn’t really matter. What matters is – Are we glorifying God? Are we bringing Him honor?
Protecting and defending our pride and our honor may bring some apparent “victories” - but they will be pyrrhic victories. We will ultimately get to the point in our dealings with our wives, our children, our co-workers - those who may look to us for a glimpse of Jesus – where we will have to say (perhaps in hindsight), “because of that victory, I am utterly ruined.” That could very well be the epitaph describing a failed marriage or a broken relationship – “Here lies the winner of a pyrrhic victory.”
A.W. Tozer once wrote, “The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God's estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless, as God declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is, in the sight of God, of more importance than angels. In himself, nothing; in God, everything. That is his motto."

Are you ready for that to be your motto? Are you ready to focus on what honors God rather than on maintaining and defending your own honor? Are you ready to stop being fooled about who you are in Christ? Are you ready to forego personal “victories” in order to further His causes?
If so - You will be blessed; God will be honored; and the person with whom you have a conflict just may be drawn toward the Light. Everybody wins.

In myself – nothing,
Craig Hollingsworth

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Change We Can Believe In

That word is just about everywhere these days: “c-h-a-n-g-e.”
According to Webster’s Dictionary, “change" means: to make different in some particular way; to make radically different; to give a different position, course, or direction; to replace with another; to make a shift from one to another; to undergo a transformation, transition or substitution.
The word “change” is very popular today.
It’s amazing to me how a word like “change” apparently resonates with so many people without them even knowing what is going to “change” or how it is going to “change.” Are people that dissatisfied with what’s going on in their world that any “change” at all is welcome?
Maybe I’m out of touch or something, or just not disgruntled enough, but I prefer there to be a change for the better, rather than just “change.” The word “change” does not, in and of itself, indicate there will be an improvement, enhancement, or advancement of some kind. “Change” does not necessarily mean something “good” is coming.
I can tell you that in the last few months there has been plenty of “change” for which I am none too happy. I have several friends who have lost their jobs – there’s some radical “change” for you. I was forking over a $100 bill to fill up my gas tank – and I didn’t get any “change” back from that. Sales are down, businesses are closing, unemployment is rising. There was enough “change” in my already-small investment portfolio that one would think a withdrawal was made to purchase a brand new car – but the same old cars are in our garage.

But - on second thought, there is a “change” that really does get me excited. There is a “change” that is so radical - so transforming - that it is really “re-creation,” rather than simply “change.”
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:17
This is a “change” that happens at a particular moment in time (when we accept Jesus), but then continues to happen each day thereafter as we are transformed from the inside out. We can’t make this “change” happen externally (by wearing a ‘WWJD’ bracelet, putting a ‘fish’ on our car, or being seen at church) any more than putting lipstick on a pig makes it a supermodel.
That is what is so exciting about this “change” – it is the actual person of Christ working inside of us, striving to “change” more and more of us. He’s not “out there” putting up obstacles and ‘tests’ to help us grow; He’s is inside us, trying to get our hearts and our minds aligned with His.
This “change” doesn’t happen overnight. But it should be happening every day.
The harder you try, the less you’ll “change.” You see, it’s all about letting Him have His way; it has nothing to do with your effort.
Do you feel the “change?” Is it happening to you every day?
Are you ready for the “change?”

Undergoing the change,
Craig Hollingsworth

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Unequally Yoked

Have you noticed how many “on-line dating services” there are out there these days? “Matching” folks up must be really big business.
One of the services that catches my attention the most advertises that it matches up members “scientifically” based upon “29 key dimensions of compatibility.” They claim to have found the “core traits” and “vital attributes” that enable them to . . . well, the following quote is from their website: “By combining the best scientific research with detailed profiling of every member, we screen many hundreds of thousands of profiles to bring you only the ones that have the potential to be truly right for you.”
It must work because they have tons of “success stories.” Sometimes I think I’d like to join (along with my wife, of course) and see if they would actually match us up with each other (again) under their system. You see, there wasn’t a lot of science that went into our getting matched up initially – she finally agreed to go out with me back in high school so I latched on to her and wouldn’t let go.

Using some type of “profiling” to determine relationship compatibility may work great in some contexts, but probably not in others. Take, for example, the most important relationship that can be conceived – our relationship with God.
What dimension of “compatibility” is there that could possibly enable me to have a relationship with God?
· First of all, of course, God is holy. However, I am far from being holy. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5) As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. (Romans 7:17-18)
So, it doesn’t look like I am too compatible with God on the “holy” characteristic.
· O.K., let’s look at “omnipotence.” God can do whatever He wants; He is all-powerful and His powers cannot be resisted by any force in heaven or earth. On the other hand, I have a hard time getting the lid off of the mayonnaise jar. I can’t really control anyone else. And despite what Al Gore may say, I do not even possess the power to impact the weather.
"O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.” (2 Chronicles 20:6)
I’m afraid I’m not too compatible on the “omnipotence” characteristic either.
· We all know the God is “omnipresent,” but I can be in only one place at any particular time. I am very time/space limited, although I seem to be taking up more and more space all of the time. However, in looking at God - Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139:7-10)
You can see that God isn’t so time/space confined as I am. He is everywhere all of the time.

That is not very compatible with me and my limitations.
· Mmm - what about knowledge and intelligence? Romans 11:32-34 tells us: Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" But, that is just about the opposite of me. My knowledge is very measurable and not particularly impressive. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. (1 Corinthians 1:25)
Obviously, God and I aren’t exactly what you’d call “intellectual equals.”
· Well, what about “life experiences?” I’ve seen nine U.S. presidents. I witnessed the fall of the USSR and the death of apartheid. I’ve also watched as water went from being “free” to costing $1.95/bottle. I’ve been around the block a time or two.
But Jesus said, “I tell you the solemn truth, before Abraham came into existence, I am!” (John 8:58, NET) And Genesis 1:1 tells us: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Necessary to be inferred from that is: God was already there!
And finally, we can read: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (John 1:1-3)
So it appears that perhaps God and I aren’t too compatible when it comes to “life experiences,” either. He has definitely seen a bit more than I have.

Man – as I start thinking about lots of other characteristics of God (His grace, His justice, His perfection, His love), I see just how incompatible with Him I am.
I am not just “less” than Him – I’m totally unlike Him.
And yet . . . .

Christ arrived right on time to make this happen. He didn't, and doesn't, wait for us to get ready. . . But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him. (Romans 5:6-8, MSG, emphasis added)
God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. (Ephesians 1:5, NLT, emphasis added)
[W]hen the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, . . . so that he might redeem [us]. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, "Papa! Father!" Doesn't that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you're also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance. (Galatians 4:4-7, MSG)

So - even though my differences and short-comings were infinite when compared to Him, God chose to make me a son! He gave to me what I couldn’t earn and didn’t deserve! The Creator reached out to the “created” and made possible a relationship.
Although this relationship makes no logical sense from the perspective of the various “on-line” matching services, it was what I would have to call “a match made in heaven.”
Well, actually it was a match made at Calvary.

Thank you Lord, for knowing my profile and choosing me anyway.

Matched with Him,
Craig Hollingsworth

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Seeing God

There appears to be some discrepancy about whether it was the first person to enter space, a Russian named Yury Gagarin, or his successor, Major Gherman Titov, to make the bold, agnostic assertion after returning to Earth. However, the various sources do agree that the sentiment of the proclamation was: “I have been in the heavens and looked and looked, but I didn’t see God.”
Contrast this with the observation of John Glenn (who on February 20, 1962, became the first American to orbit the Earth). Observing the heavens and earth from the window of his Discovery spacecraft as he made a return flight as a senior citizen on November 4, 1998, he stated: "To look out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me impossible.”
Not surprisingly, the Bible supports John Glenn’s testimony.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
(Psalm 19:1)
For ever since the world was created,
people have seen the earth and sky.
Through everything God made,
they can clearly see his invisible qualities –
his eternal power and divine nature.
So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
(Romans 1:20, NLT)

So - how can one person look and say, “I see no God,” while another looks and says, “I see God everywhere?”
Well, don’t we find ourselves vacillating between those extremes every day of our lives? Even as believers, don’t we find ourselves sometimes acting like the cosmonaut and sometimes like the astronaut?
· We may say, “Thank you God for that promotion!” Or we may declare, “I finally got the recognition I deserve for working my rear off.”
· Perhaps we would exclaim, “Whoohoo – this is my lucky day!” Or perhaps would we realize, “I am blessed to be a blessing?”
· In despair, we might ask, “How could God possibly let this happen?” Or, we might humbly extol, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away - Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Same circumstances. Same view. But something different is seen.
Do we look and see the unlimited vastness of an Almighty God? Or do we gaze into the emptiness of a finite “self?”
We do believe that God is omniscient, don’t we? And we believe He is omnipotent, right? And, He’s omni-present, isn’t He? So - He is present and aware and in charge of everything that happens in our lives, either by actively making it happen or permissively allowing it to happen – Right?
But are we really seeing Him in everything and in everything that happens to us? When you were late to work because of that wreck, did you see God in that? Did you see God’s part in that dog that kept you awake by barking in the middle of the night? Surely God wasn’t involved with that broken sprinkler head you had to work on last weekend, was He?
Sometimes things appear to happen for our good; sometimes we can’t imagine how good could possibly come from our circumstances. But does our vision of the situation determine whether or not God is in it? Of course not.
He is there. He is aware. He is in control.
That should provide us with a great sense of peace – to know that it’s not all just some cosmic accident; to know that there’s an order to everything because there’s a all-powerful Creator behind every thing; to know that He has a plan that cannot possibly be thwarted; to know that we are somehow a part of that plan.
It is just incredible to understand that God loves me (John 3:16), that He has a plan for my good (Romans 8:28), and that He is sovereign. He is certainly in the “big stuff,” but He is definitely in the “small stuff” as well.

Do we need to be able to see a physical manifestation of God? Do we need to understand everything that is around us in order to believe that there is a God? Do we need to examine the far side of the universe or scrutinize sub-atomic particles to find God?
No, He’s right there. You can’t possibly miss Him. You just need to look to TO Him instead looking FOR Him.

Seeing Him more,
Craig Hollingsworth

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Not Enough Bull

At a friend’s ranch on a recent weekend, I was exposed to a single situation that set in motion three distinct tragedies. The one ‘tragedy’ that would probably be considered the least tragic in this particular circumstance stuck with me as being the most tragic as it could apply in our day-to-day lives. Let me explain.
Tragedy #1: Probably very early on Friday morning (unknown to anyone that could have helped), an older cow experienced some extraordinary difficulties in giving birth to her calf; enough so that she was unable to get back on her feet and remove the remnants of the birth sack that covered the newborn calf’s head. So, unfortunately, the calf suffocated and died before it ever really lived.
Tragedy #2: Around 9:00 p.m on Friday, we discovered the cow - still on her side, experiencing slight tremors in her muscles, and apparently still experiencing minor contractions. While she seemed to have at least some control of her muscles, slightly moving a leg or her head, she was totally spent. She was unable and/or unwilling to oppose any efforts we made to ascertain what was wrong or to help her. We contacted veterinarians and tried all we knew to try. The next morning, when attempts to get her on her feet showed that she was totally incapable of using any of her muscles, we were forced to ‘put her down.’
Tragedy #3: Through this entire event, other cows (some with newborn calves) stood around seeming to show some interest and compassion for the dying cow, if you’ll allow some degree of anthropomorphism. Most pointedly, the bull – the calf’s father – stood by and did nothing. I’m certainly not suggesting he could have performed a Cesarean section or something else impossible for the species. But he absolutely could have helped remove the birth sack from the suffocating calf’s head.
But no - that’s not what bulls do. They consider their entire “fatherly” responsibility completed at the insemination of the cow.
Most people would not deem the bull’s lack of action as particularly ‘tragic.’ Maybe someone would point out that the calf still might have died because another cow probably wouldn’t have ‘adopted’ it and nursed it to health and maturity. Someone might say that it was ‘nature’s way’ of thinning out the herd – you know, ‘survival of the fittest.’ Someone else might assert that such is not the bull’s lot in life, it’s not what he was made to do.
I’m not going to argue against any of those points. Instead, I just want to highlight how the situation made me consider how many fathers in our world take the same approach as the bull. And maybe sometimes (to some degree) that’s me.
Those guys who ‘make babies’ and hit the road are easy targets, but I’m not taking aim at them (*). No, I’m talking to guys who want to be thought of as ‘good dads,’ but often consider only certain activities as within their realm of responsibility.
Sure, they want to help “Junior” master his curve ball; they’ll take the kids camping and hunting; they build the jungle gym in the backyard; they ‘bring home the bacon’; and they certainly plan to escort their daughter down the aisle some day.
But just about everything else is supposed to be left to ‘mom,’ right?
Well I’m afraid that’s just a lot of bull!
God specifically designed women for certain purposes and they can fulfill those purposes better than any of us men possibly could. But no matter how good of a job a mother does, she can’t be the father. I am convinced that there are certain characteristics of God that our sons and daughters won’t really grasp unless and until they are demonstrated by us – their dads. And that is virtually impossible to do that on a part-time basis or by erroneously thinking you can make up for a lack of “quantity” time by forcing “quality” time.
For example, with those cows, if another ‘momma cow’ had stepped in to ‘rescue’ the little calf, we would think, “How nice that her ‘mother instinct’ kicked in and she nurtured that needy calf.” But if that bull had stepped in to save the day, we could see a demonstration of his might and strength being voluntarily set aside to provide the tender care and unconditional love that was desperately needed at that particular moment. (Kind of like what our Father did for us, isn’t it?)
There is not time nor room in this space to try to list every aspect of God’s character that we can and should be demonstrating to our children by the way we father them. But in studying the Bible from cover to cover and looking to God as the ultimate ‘father figure,’ we can see that with regard to His children: He leads them, He teaches them, He provides for them, He disciplines them, He blesses them, He rescues them, He loves them.
He is always there for them.
Isn’t that what we should be doing, too?
Are you doing that?
I hope so.

Yes, that bull did all that was really demanded of him. Yet his progeny died right there under his nose.

Trying not to be full of bull,
Craig Hollingsworth

(*) While it’s not my intent to beat up on absentee fathers, I wanted to share some statistics with you about children from homes without fathers. I would speculate that on a sliding scale of how active (or not) a father is in a child’s life (a scale of “relative fatherlessness”), the statistics vary along a continuum of these same figures:
63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census)
90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes
85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes (Source: Center for Disease Control)
80% of rapists come from fatherless homes (Source: Criminal Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26, 1978.)
71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes (Source: National Principals Report on the State of High Schools )
75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes (Source: Rainbows for all God`s Children.)
70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept 1988)
85% of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home (Source: Fulton Co. Georgia jail populations, Texas Dept. of Corrections 1992)