Can You Handle the Truth?

I love the dozens of Bible translations I carry with me everywhere I go. They’re on my phone. It’s the same for many of you. The convenience of having everything from a King James Bible to foreign language translations to a paraphrase has been a gift from God to me and to you as well.

When I make hospital visits to elderly people, I pull out my phone and read to them – usually from the King James Version, the translation that sounds so familiar. I use the Bible on my phone when I am a guest in someone’s home, when a random thought enters my mind on a specific idea, when I want to see how other translations handle a particular verse, and when I want to take another look at an upcoming text I plan to preach.

I use my Bible on my phone to aid my Bible memory, to take part in a casual conversation with anyone, and for my daily Bible reading. We use our phones around the dinner table where our family reads the Word of God together. Even guests joining us for a meal can easily participate.

It’s simply awesome having the Bible at my fingertips, literally.

As a kid I remember my pastor teaching us, “Carry the New Testament with you everywhere you go.” Many of us did. It was a small 3x5 copy with a blue paper cover. I carried it some places I went, but I didn’t carry it everyplace I went, because, well, I just didn’t. Carrying it in my sweaty Nikes after an afternoon of street ball or rolled up inside my wet swim trunks after hours of fun in the sun didn’t seem to work well for me.

But now my motto when getting in my car or boarding an airplane is, “I have my phone and my wallet. Everything else is bonus.” I don’t leave home without my phone and that means, I don’t leave home without my Bible.

That’s pretty cool if you ask me. No other generation of human beings has known anything remotely close to that reality. It really is a gift from God. Thank you, Lord.

Like every good gift God has given humanity, we have the capability and have demonstrated the propensity to abuse and misuse his good gifts to us. That includes the Bibles on our phones.

I love my Bible phone for everything except worship. For that I need my Bible printed on pages. My phone just doesn’t do it, and it's not just because I'm old. I think all of us are better served in worship with a printed Bible. 

On the printed page I can see the context of the sermon text better because more of the Bible is visible on the full page and the opposite page. On the printed page, I can see where we’ve been in our weekly progression through a book of the Bible, and I can see where we are going. I can’t do that on a 4x6 screen (I've got one of those really cool phones with the monster screen. I pity those of you that have to look at a domino). 

If I take a note I heard the preacher say or if I write a devotional thought of my own, I can see it easily. I know I can use my thumbs and craft a note on my Bible app too if I want, but it’s not the same thing as when I see a note written in my own unique handwriting from some time ago.

Further, others after me can see it too. I’ve been to many funerals where Christians have been comforted, encouraged, and reassured after thumbing through the well-marked pages of a Bible that belonged to mom or dad, husband or wife.

I’ve yet to hear someone say, “Could I take a look at dad’s phone and see what notes he dropped in his Bible app or the verses he highlighted?”

I have a few more common sense reasons for ditching my phone for use as a worship Bible, but here’s the biggest reason I must have a printed Bible for worship – the distraction is more than I can handle, more than my personal discipline can manage.

I know this because a man in our church told me so.

I’ve asked a few people in our church to help me as a Christian man by informing me of some areas of weakness. I know what some of my areas are, so I wasn’t surprised when I heard them again. But when a fellow church member told me, “You’re on your phone too much during times the church gathers together,” it was like a guy landed a devestating uppercut to my jaw. It was an immediate knockout.

I cannot use my phone for worship because I’m not mature enough to only use my phone for worship. I’ve read text messages, written text messages, taken a quick peek at social media, checked the weather, randomly searched for something on the web, and even bought something from Amazon. I’ve paid attention to the push notifications that come through at any given moment, and I’ve created reminders to prompt me to actions I might otherwise forget.

I’ve done all of this and more when God has called me into his presence to hear from him and to offer to him my highest praise.

Are you any different than I am? Maybe you’ve figured out how to overcome what I haven’t. Maybe you are crazy disciplined and put your phone into airplane mode before you sit down to prepare your heart to meet God prior to the call to worship.


But wait, there’s more. My phone also distracts me from the people I worship with. You’ve seen it, haven’t you? People everywhere in a church building and many of them with heads down staring at a screen as they walk the halls or sit in a row of chairs in a classroom or auditorium. Intended or not, it conveys the message, “Don’t interact with me, and I won’t interact with you. We good?”

The prospect of connecting, caring, conversing, or chasing is pretty dim at that moment.

Here’s my pastoral advice. Bring your printed Bible to worship and use it. Leave your phone deep in your purse or pocket and determine not to bring it out until you leave the building. Or better yet, put your phone in a compartment in your car where it will be waiting for the warm embrace of your hands when worship is over.

Don’t get me started on when the church has to hear your ringtone right in the middle of pastoral prayer.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

If Only I Was Like Her, I Would Be So Happy


Human beings do dumb things.

Coffee grounds in the maker sans a filter, “That was dumb.” Dating two girls at the same time who also happen to be roommates, “That was dumb.” Starting a load of laundry only to come back 45 minutes later to an empty machine, “That was dumb.” Showing up for am 8:00amTuesday class and no one other students are present…because it’s Wednesday, “That was dumb.”

It’s possible I know a little something about each of these and a few more too.

Our flawed humanity produces dumb expressions and behaviors. In the rankings of dumb things done by human beings, one stands out above many of the others. Comparing myself to another humanbeing is dumb, and we all do it.

  • A woman compares her marriage to her girlfriends’ marriages.
  • A guy compares his marriage to his buddies’.
  • Old men compare themselves to young men wishing they had the opportunities the young bucks do.
  • Young men compare themselves to old men wishing they had the achievements the old guys do.
  • Curvy females compare their body shapes to skinny females while skinny females compare their bodies to shapely females.
  • Dudes with beater rides compare their transportation to guys with hemi engines.
  • Children compare their parents to the moms and dads of their friends, and parents compare their kids to the brats who came over for dinner last night.

Is there any end to the comparing we do?

The Holy Spirit warned us about this, “When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).

In other words comparing myself to someone else is dumb. Nothing valuable comes from it. Worse, damage comes from it.

Teddy Roosevelt, our 26th president, gave wise counsel about comparison. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” he offered. He was right. Think how often what should be an otherwise happy event becomes on occasion for tears, sadness, or even anger because the event turned in to a comparison pageant.

Comparing ourselves to other flawed human beings and their achievements or lack thereof, to their better than average lives or their subpar accomplishments is not wise. It’s a mind battle you must wage without relent and against all odds.

You wage the battle by looking to Jesus Christ. You remember his sinlessness has become yours. His identity as the son of God has become yours. His reality of eternal life with him and all those who love him has become yours. You compare the reality of what you were to what you are now, and you compare the reality of what will be to the reality of what now is. You rest peacefully in what Jesus has accomplished and promised.

Take heart my friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

Summer Breeze

Minnesotans measure the summer by three events. Summer begins on Memorial Day, ends on Labor Day and crescendos with our state fair in late August. In fact we count the days until our state fair begins – 86 from today.

Have you given any thought to how you will use these beautiful days to change your Christian life, to grow your spiritual maturity, to bring God into your family, or to bless your church?

Summer is a season of opportunity. Here are some suggestions.

  • Make use of the early mornings. When the air temperature is in the single digits as it is on so many Minnesota mornings, who wants to get out from under the pile of blankets? But when the sun pours in the windows long before 6:00am, getting out of bed doesn’t seem quite as hard. Use the extra time for a prayer walk in your neighborhood or for Bible reading with a cup of morning drink.
  • Invite your small group or others from church to your home.Some people don’t have the interior space to host guests. Summer nights can fix that for you. Ask your guests to bring lawn chairs and sit outside one evening. Laugh, drink some lemonade or sweet tea, talk about Jesus, and enjoy the common bond in your salvation. If you live in a townhome or an apartment, use the common green space or a nearby park.
  • Read a Christian biography. We gain so much from the examples and stories of those who have walked the road before us. Their stories inspire us, challenge us, model for us, and prompt us to live the Sermon on the Mount, to fulfill the Great Commission, to exhibit the Fruit of the Spirit. Come on, you can do this – one book over the summer about a Christian you will be glad to get to know.
  • Explore creation with one of your children. A summer in the Upper Midwest is glorious. Lakes, rivers, hills, and woods surround us. They all declare the glory of God and are tools for you to point a child to God. When you take one of your kids on a simple walk along the Mississippi River or accept the challenge of a couple of days in the boundary waters, you show her God. In those quieter moments when neither she nor you are on your phones, she may see your heart for God and her. You may hear his concerns and fears, and you will have opportunity to pray over him and with him.
  • Get in better physical shape. It’s easier to stay in shape than it is to get in shape, I know. One of the problems with poor physical condition is the limitations it imposes on us in other areas. We fatigue quicker leaving less energy to share life with our families. We don’t have the capacity to serve because our bodies won’t let us. We’re tired all the time. I’m nearly 53. I get what happens in adult bodies. I also understand I contribute to my current status and have been given by God the capacity to alter my body to some extent. For many the longer days and warmer temperatures provide an opportunity to do some necessary work on our bodies.
  • Meet other Christians. When you’re Up North or on a road trip and away from our church on a Lord’s Day, don’t be away from other Christians. Somewhere within driving distance, there likely is a group of Christians gathering to worship. Join them. Your presence will encourage them. Learning there are Christians where you are vacationing will strengthen you by reinforcing God's truth that you are not alone in this Christian life. Your family learns there is no such thing as a vacation away from our Lord and his church.

What would you add to the list? There’s less than 100 days before Labor Day and summer’s end. What use will you make of these glorious days?

As always I welcome your feedback and any ideas you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

Never Forget

Along the banks of the Minnesota River, in the shadow of the Mall of America, and adjacent to runway 30L of the Minneapolis St Paul International airport lay more than 208,000 of America’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, and their spouses or dependents.

In beautiful symmetry, white washed markers identify the gravesites inFort Snelling National Cemetery, one of 131 national cemeteries in the United States that serve as the final resting place for some of America’s finest.

Among the nine Medal of Honor recipients buried at Fort Snelling is Private James Dennis LaBelle, born in Columbia Heights, Minnesota, and died at the age of 20 in Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands.

On March 8, 1945 Private LaBelle and the 5th Marine Division faced a brutal enemy in the battle for control of the strategic Pacific beachhead. His official Medal of Honor citation reads:

Filling a gap in the front lines during a critical phase of the battle, Pfc. LaBelle had dug into a foxhole with 2 other marines and, grimly aware of the enemy's persistent attempts to blast a way through our lines with hand grenades, applied himself with steady concentration to maintaining a sharply vigilant watch during the hazardous night hours. Suddenly a hostile grenade landed beyond reach in his foxhole. Quickly estimating the situation, he determined to save the others if possible, shouted a warning, and instantly dived on the deadly missile, absorbing the exploding charge in his own body and thereby protecting his comrades from serious injury. Stouthearted and indomitable, he had unhesitatingly relinquished his own chance of survival that his fellow marines might carry on the relentless fight against a fanatic enemy His dauntless courage, cool decision and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of certain death reflect the highest credit upon Pfc. LaBelle and upon the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.

This coming weekend we will reflect and remember on Memorial Day, our national holiday where we honor those who died advancing liberty and defending our nation.

From coast to coast, rural towns and major cities will mark the day with parades and ceremonies, including a moving event at our own Fort Snelling. We must not forget those who paid the ultimate price while wearing the uniform.

For us Christians who hold another citizenship not of this world, we do well to honor those who gave their lives for the advance of true freedom, the freedom that comes from the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. Following the example of our Lord, these courageous men and women offered their lives so that the gospel would reach us. The writer of Hebrews tells us about some of them.

And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of (those)…who…were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented of whom the world was not worthy (11:32-38).

Their names must not be lost by our generations. We remember the apostles James, Peter, Paul and the rest, as well as faithful Stephen and John the Baptist.

We cannot forget John Wycliffe who was persecuted mercilessly for his work in Bible translation, nor can we forget William Tyndale, a later Bible translator whose work makes it possible for you to read the Bible in English. Tyndale was choked to death and his body burned at the stake in the fall of 1536.

Every American Christian should know the names of Jim Elliot, Pete Flemming, Ed McCulley, Nate Saint, and Roger Youderain, five young missionaries who died in 1956 in a brutal attack from the Auca Indians in Ecuador, the very people they were trying to reach with the gospel.

While these names are known to us, hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions remain largely unknown. The martyrdom of Christians continues today around the world and seems to be increasing in ferocity. News reports and gruesome videos have become standard segments in nightly broadcasts.

Are you shocked to learn that Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary reports “an average of 159,960 Christians worldwide are martyred for their faith per year?”

When you gather this weekend with family and friends for the start of the summer season, remember the meaning of the holiday. But you are more than an American – you are a Christian. When you gather with your children or grandchildren, tell them the cost some paid to deliver the good news down through the ages so that the gospel reached you. When you gather this weekend, praise God for those who gave all so we could have liberty, and pray to God for those who suffer because of their allegiance to your Lord Jesus Christ.

Am I Soldier of the Cross, Isaac Watts

Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His Name?

Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?

Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To help me on to God?

Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

I Kiss Men

Breathe. It’s all good. I’m very selective in the men I kiss.

My dad’s family health history reflects the Middle Ages. Adults in his family routinely died in their 40s and 50s. In fact, when my dad died at the ripe old age of 74, he died long after the lifespans of his mother, father, his three older siblings, and one younger brother. None of them lived to 74. The gene pool needed some chlorine.

The last decade of my dad’s life was physically challenging. From cancer to MRSA, disease riddled his once strong body, but let’s talk about kissing men.

My dad expressed love with his words freely. Though soft spoken, my dad finished nearly every phone conversation with me the same way, “I love you.” It could be my memory is failing, but I don’t recall my dad expressing love physically. Don’t get me wrong. In no way am I complaining or casting aspiration on him. My dad loved me and told me so often, but he didn’t hug me or kiss me.

After we married, Brenda and I never lived closer than 300 miles or so from her parents or mine. Of course that meant our time together with family was limited. As my dad grew sicker, I concluded the day was coming when I would say goodbye for the last time until we met again in heaven.

I don’t recall making a conscious choice to start kissing my dad. It just happened. In later years when I said goodbye to him, I’d hug him and kiss his cheek. I remember driving away and saying to Brenda, “Well, that may be the last time.” Three years ago it was, and I kissed him before I left.

My sons are 27 and 19-years-old, and I kiss them. I started kissing them as babies, didn’t stop when they were in high school, and kiss them now though they are bigger than I am.

Michael and his wife live more than 500 miles away from us, and Jeffery goes to college in South Carolina, 1,100 miles away. When they walk through the front door of my house or before they pull out of our driveway, I kiss them – a strong hug and a kiss on the cheek from me to them.

I don’t know exactly what Paul meant when he wrote, “Greet one another with a holy kiss,” but he wrote it four times to three different churches! Peter wasn’t going to let it slip by either, so he wrote it too (1 Pet 5:14). There’s obviously something important to Paul and Peter about kissing, both for the giver and the receiver of the kiss.

To kiss my dad expressed

  • my honor of him
  • my respect for him
  • my humility before him
  • my appreciation for him
  • my love him

To kiss my sons expresses

  • my desire to maintain close relationships with them
  • my hope they will find security in my affection for them
  • my approval of their lifestyles and choices
  • my unspoken communication that there is nothing currently between us
  • my leadership that they will be free in their physical expressions to their family members as they continue to grow older.

Beyond the apostles' words, I cannot find any Bible commands to call us to obey as I think about kissing father and son. The Scriptures give some positive examples of physical affection in male to male relationships – Isaac and Jacob, Joseph with his brothers and father, Moses and his father-in-law, Samuel and Saul, and Jesus with his disciples. While not binding on us, the examples do seem sanctioned and appropriate.

As I think about it, I cannot think of one good reason for a son not to kiss his father or for a father not to kiss his son.

Maybe it would be weird if you all of sudden moved in toward your 14-year-old son with wet, puckered lips or to your 71-year-old pops, but don’t rule it out altogether. Give it some thought, and ask the Lord for the right opportunity. There’s plenty of good, correct, and beneficial reasons to express in the most intimate of ways your undying love to your dad or your son.

As always I welcome your feedback and any ideas you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.