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Tribune-father's day

This past February my family said goodbye to my father-in-law George Alexander.  I lost my own father back in 1992. Last Sunday, Father’s Day, I wrote this for them.

 Though each differed in many ways they both shared characteristics that made them members of what Tom Brokaw has labeled by a book of the same name, World War II veterans, The Greatest Generation.

My own father, Joe, was a Marine and George a soldier in the Army.  Duty was not taken lightly. They both raised large families in the midst of a polarized and tumultuous cultural setting and through it all they stayed married to their kid’s mothers till the end.  Interestingly both men worked until the day they died.  My dad passed on much too early, at the age of  69.  George, however, stayed vibrant until the ripe old age of 87, and stilled worked as an accountant.  One of his clients, incidentally, flew across country to see him before he died, arriving in the nick of time to express his appreciation for what he called his second father.

Words like integrity, compassion, rock solid, and intelligent come to mind when I describe the characteristics they possessed.  They both had friends in spades. My dad disciplined his five kids like a Marine, quickly and to the point.  George disciplined his five kids like a seasoned psychologist.  Both got the same results, kids who respected their elders, showed up to work on time, and went the extra mile whenever necessary.  None of the kids on either side lacks the fortitude to stand up for themself or the humility to be gracious.

Both men strived to teach their children a work ethic, both succeeded.  Both taught their families the value of family and helping the less fortunate and most importantly they taught us by example to honor God in Christ first and foremost. Without that spiritual fortress I would have failed.

They never quit on me, and my father-in-law mentored me in oh so many ways after my own dad’s death, that I went through the grief of losing a father all over again last February.

When God commanded…”honor your father and mother”, he never let on just what a privilege that would be for me.  Because aside from everything else I could write about them both they taught me this greatest of truths
“As for me and my house we will serve the LORD.”  Thanks Dad(s)! 

Posted on August 6, 2007

This past Tuesday I presided over the memorial service

This past Tuesday I presided over the memorial service of my mother-in-law Wilma Alexander.

She was quite a remarkable woman, mostly for having raised five pretty good kids, four daughters and a late arriving son,  and mostly for tolerating the likes of me for these past twenty four years.

When my wife called her to tell her we were getting married she said,

"Call me when your a week away"

I was never quite sure if that was an indictment of the runaway bride I was courting, or a disdain for her choice, though after the deed being done, whenever she visited, she always made me a pot roast. That was her way of winning me over or perhaps getting even, because I was never a big fan of pot roast. 

Quiet, gracious, strong, and according to the wife, one tough cookie when she was a teenager. She loved her kids, made sure she was there when every grandchild was born, and I think missed all of them terribly when she and George made there home back in Kentucky/Illinois for over eighteen years. 

Mom did most of the driving across country when Georges eyes started to fail, and she also had a golf game I could honestly say was close to being as bad as mine, but that never stopped her from taking golf vacations.  She was the consummate pioneering woman, she could sew, crochet, knit and basically quilt you over ten times, she loved the outdoors, oh and the mink stole.  Did I mention I'll never be able to repay her for the fine job she did on the wife?

Wilma was a dignified lady, well mannered, well kept, she was just rock solid and then the Alzheimer's hit.  Subtle at first, the warning signs were hidden from most of us because of the span of miles between us.  But like time, the disease marches on.  The past five years were a steady regression, the matriarch became the child, and fortunately, if that can be said of Alzheimer sufferers, she was a singer and a smiler, regaling us with story after story of her children as her faculties waned. She even mentioned me!

I'll of course miss her, though most of that missing started years ago. But there was one hope through this ordeal as we watched Wilma fade. That is the great promise of Jesus,

"I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again. [26] They are given eternal life for believing in me and will never perish.

Followers of Christ really do have a tangible hope as they stand at the grave of a loved one who knew Christ, they know that the separation isn't forever. It's really a glorious truth that those who die in Christ never see each other for the last time.

I suppose it's a fitting tribute to Wilma's earthly memory that the last thing I have to say about her is that Wilma loved Jesus.

I don't suppose there's a greater epitaph I could write, and for once I'm sure she'll agree.  Happy Mothers Day Wilma, we'll see you soon!

Posted on June 29, 2007

Tribune Article Feb 2005-Gospel

The book of Hebrews opens with these words: "Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. [2] But now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son... and through the Son he made the universe and everything in it. [3] The Son reflects God's own glory, and everything about him represents God exactly.

Do you want to know what God is like?  These passages and several others tell us we are to look at Jesus. If you want to know how God reacts to people, then look how Jesus reacted to people.  If you want to know what God thinks, how he acts and who he is, the Bible clearly says, look to Jesus.

Now for those who bask in the version of the "nice" Jesus alone I might suggest a cursory reading of the teachings of Jesus will reveal both the kindness and the sternness of the real God. (See Romans 11:22)

Jesus talked about the "narrow way" that leads to life and the broad and easy one that leads to destruction.  His anger at religious hypocrisy was well documented.  He clearly taught about God's wrath, of judgment, and hell.
    I, the Son of Man, will send my angels, and they will remove from my Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil, [42] and they will throw them into the furnace and burn them. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. [43] Then the godly will shine like the sun in their Father's Kingdom. Anyone who is willing to hear should listen and understand! Matthew 13:41-43  

But at the same time Jesus showed an incredible understanding of human weakness and sin.  Mark records those who followed him: " That night Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to be his dinner guests, along with his fellow tax collectors and many other notorious sinners. (There were many people of this kind among the crowds that followed Jesus.)" Mark 2:15

The contrast of the two couldn't be any wider, however they both teach us something about God/Jesus.  He demands justice for sin, yet he will go to the greatest lengths to reach his sinful creation. I'm sure many of you know the verses by heart;  "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. [17] God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it. John 3:16-17  

The "Good news" Jesus imparted is simple, we are needy, and sinful, born into a fallen world of darkness and death and God out of his boundless love and mercy has come from heaven to earth and willingly made a way for us to become sons and daughters through his planned sacrifice on the cross.

God's justice perfectly met on the cross, God's mercy displayed for all the world to see on the cross and the apostle John declared that simple faith and trust in that act and the person of Christ is what sets a person free to gain eternal life with God in heaven.
But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.  John 1:12

The apostle Paul summed it up best: Colossians 1:20-22   
   " ...and by (Jesus) God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of his blood on the cross. [21] This includes you who were once so far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions, [22] yet now he has brought you back as his friends. He has done this through (Jesus) death on the cross in his own human body.

That is why Paul emphatically speaks in 2 Corinthians 5:20 "We are Christ's ambassadors, and God is using us to speak to you. We urge you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, "Be reconciled to God!"

What makes a Christian a Christian?  Simply the belief that what Jesus did on the cross forgives me of my sin, and that nothing else will do.  No amount of religious observation, no amount of self-improvement, absolutely nothing but sincere request to take the gift God has offered through his Son, Jesus. It's that simple, but it requires your belief.

Posted on June 3, 2007

Tribune article 7-99

I think the most amazing claim of scripture is that the historical figure of Jesus Christ is God in human flesh. Now that is a bold claim and one that is not without critics.   In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Colossi, he writes, “ Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.   He existed before God made anything at all and is supreme over all creation.” (Col. 2:15 NLT)  In the Gospel of John, he writes, “ In the beginning the Word already existed.   He was with God, and he was God…So the word became human and lived here on earth among us.” (John 1:1,14 NLT)

So what difference is Christ’s claim to deity from all the other faiths?   I’m glad you asked.   Because those who deny Christ claim are forced into the difficult position of explaining how this uneducated carpenter from “off the beaten path” Israel orchestrated the fulfillment of no less than 60 specific scriptural prophecies-all written hundreds of years before his birth.  Things written like where and whom he would be born to-- travel plans that would include Egypt--how he would be betrayed--for the right price--to be thrown away in the right temple--and used to buy the right kind of field.  Then in his death; how he arranged for false witnesses to testify against him--make sure they spit on him and beat him--and of course the crucifixion, which didn’t even exist when King David prophesied the Messiah’s death in Psalm 22.   But there’s more--the piercing of his hands and feet--gambling for his clothes--the spear in his side-- and that he’d have no broken bones despite the fact that all those crucified would have their legs mercifully broken to speed death, not Jesus legs though.  That he’d be buried in a rich man’s tomb--and of course the biggie, rising from the dead after three days--all prophecy, all declarations made in scripture hundreds of years before his birth.   Declarations that the Son of God would have to fulfill if he were to lay claim to that title.  
Many have claimed to represent God--some have in fact attracted large and faithful followings to this day.   But only Jesus of Nazareth gave his followers the evidence to support such an outrageous claim.

Peter Stoner an MIT mathematician, calculated the odds of anyone man to fulfill these prophecies as being 10 to the 157 power.   That’s a one with a 157 zero’s after it.   Let me help you wrap your mind around those odds.   If you took one million atoms and set them side be side they’d equal the width of a human hair.   Now if you had 10 to the 157 power of atoms you’d want to put them somewhere.   Where would they fit?   Surely the earth could hold them all?   Wrong.   The solar system?   Nope, wrong again.  How about our galaxy?   Sorry, way too small.   The known universe?   Nope, not big enough.  
To hold that many atoms, 10 to the 157 power,  you would need a universe a trillion, trillion, trillion, billion bigger than ours!   Now here’s the catch I hide one atom in that universe and the odds of you finding it? 10 to the 157 power.  An MIT mathematician said those are the odds  that Jesus or anyone else could have fulfilled just 48 prophecies. 

Guess what folks, Jesus fulfilled every one of them.  How?   He is who he said he is.   

You have no need of embarrassment if you’ve put your faith in him.  He is Jesus Christ, the Alpha and the Omega—the image of the invisible God.  Have a nice day.

Posted on May 22, 2007


Updated on April 8, 2009
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