RSS

Category Archives: Calvin and Hobbes

How Do I Survive Change?

Many people approach change like my good friends Calvin and Hobbes.

Like Calvin, many say “I hate change!” and avoid it at all costs.

Since change is part of life, we should not be saying, “How can I avoid change?” Even “How can I survive change?” is perhaps not the right question to ask either. Instead, we should be asking, “How can I thrive in change?”

The Old Testament leader, Joshua, was no stranger to change. Throughout his lifetime, he progressed from slave to servant to spy to soldier to statesman. Along with way, he had to deal with the death of his mentor, Moses, and the loss of friends. He faced a fear of failure, the challenge of leading a nation into the unknown, and facing numerous enemies.

The first chapter of Joshua’s book provides us with a several principles of how to survive and thrive in change. We are to anticipate and prepare for change, step out in faith, be strong and courageous, and fill our life with God’s Word. The first principle comes from an observation about verse 1. The remaining three principles are direct commands in verses 2-9. Weaving them together, we learn that we are to take the first step of faith and then follow it with further steps of obedience.

Anticipate and Prepare for Change (Joshua 1:1-2). Verse 1 begins with a statement of change, “After the death of Moses …” While it sounds sudden, it was not unexpected. In Deuteronomy 27, Moses was told by God of his impending death. Moses took the necessary steps to prepare his successor, Joshua. Moses commissioned Joshua in the sight of the people. Joshua and the nation of Israel knew this change was coming.

As a pastor, I’ve had the joy of performing many weddings over my 30+ years in ministry. Before agreeing to perform the wedding, I require the couple to meet with me for 6-8 sessions of premarital counseling. I want to make sure they are prepared for marriage, not just for the wedding itself.

The better you anticipate the change … the better you prepare for change … the better you are able to adapt and thrive.

Step Out in Faith (1:2-5). Joshua is given a direct command in verse 2, “Go over this Jordan.” Considering the river was at flood stage (3:15), this was a daunting challenge. When you add in the fact that crossing the Jordan was like throwing the gauntlet and declaring war on the people of Canaan as well as the fact that Joshua was not taking in a group of hardened soldiers, you can imagine his trepidation and fear.

It is significant that the promise of success comes after the command to obey. Like the Oklahoma land rush of 1889, God explains that Israel can claim every piece of land they walk on. While there will be opposition, no one will be able to stand against them.

Like a child is unafraid to walk through a scary forest because they are holding on to their daddy’s hand, so Joshua and Israel do not need to be afraid. God promises, “I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.”

Be Strong & Courageous (1:6, 7, 9). The command to “be strong and courageous” requires more than a superhero’s mask and cape. It requires stepping out in obedience to what God calls us to do.

When my children were younger, we read a number of stories and books. Many times we would come to the end of a chapter and the hero or heroine would be in danger. When my kids would beg to know what happens next, I’d say, “Wait until tomorrow.” After they went to bed, I’d flip ahead a few pages to see how they story would turn out. When God tells Joshua that Israel will inherit the land, God was explaining how the story would end.

God again encourages Joshua with the promise of his presence. “…for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua could be confidence because of God’s promise and his presence.

Fill your Life with God’s Word (1:7-8). When we talk to young believers about spiritual disciplines, we encourage them to read God’s Word. I find it interesting that God gives Joshua two instructions. He is to obey God’s Word and to meditate on God’s Word. Rather than emptying his mind, he is to fill it with God’s promises and instructions. Instead of merely reading and thinking about it, he is to commit himself to obedience. Only then will he enjoy true success. Only then will he accomplish what God wants him to do.

As you think about your life this week, what obstacles are in your way? What Jordan Rivers do you need to cross? What is God calling you to do? What is the step of obedience that he is asking you to take? Take the first step of faith and then follow it with further steps of obedience.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on September 23, 2018. It is part of a series of sermons on the book of Joshua. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

To the Church in Laodicea: A Church that was Self-Sufficient

In a recent series of comic strips, my favorite theologian, Calvin & Hobbes, conspired to keep his babysitter nemesis, Rosalyn, locked out of the house.

While it is humorous in a comic strip, it is sad in real life. It is even sadder when the person we lock out of our lives is Jesus Christ. In Revelation 3:14-22, the church in Laodicea had pushed Christ out of the church, but didn’t even know he was missing.

In Revelation 1:11, Jesus sent a message to each of seven local churches in Asia Minor. Jesus rebukes the church in Laodicea for its self-sufficiency and materialism which blinded them to their spiritual poverty. He exhorts them to repent and open their hearts to pursue a deeper relationship with himself. This letter tell us that We need to repent of our self-sufficiency and materialism. We must pursue a deeper relationship with Jesus.

The Church (14a) – It is possible that the three sister churches—Laodicea, Hierapolis, Colossae—were established at the same time by Epaphras, who founded the Colossian church (Colossians 1:7) as well as evangelized Laodicea and Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13) during Paul’s three-year ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19).

The City (14a) – The city was located about 40 miles southeast of Philadelphia on the road to Colossae. It was the greatest city of the Lycus River Valley. The city had material wealth through its banking industry. They were renowned for producing a garment of black wool fabric. The city was famous for its medical school that exported a powder used for eye salve. The independent nature of the city is demonstrated in the fact that when it was destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 60, wealthy citizens paid to rebuild the city themselves without outside help.

The Character of Christ (14b) – Jesus described himself as the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. As the Amen, whatever Jesus says is true and certain. As the faithful and true witness, Jesus is reliable and trustworthy. As the beginning of God’s creation, Christ existed before creation and is sovereign over it. As the supreme creator and ruler of the universe, Jesus Christ has every right to critique his wayward church.

The Condition of the Church: Concern (15-17) – There is no commendation given to this church. Instead, Jesus soundly criticized the church. Their biggest failure was that the church was self-sufficient and blasé towards God.

Jesus critiques the church by saying they were lukewarm and that he wished they were hot or cold. The tendency is to think he is talking about one’s spiritual temperature. However, he seems odd that Jesus would rather someone was turned off toward him rather than lukewarm. The description makes more sense when you understand the geography and background of the city.

Laodicea was near two other cities, Hierapolis and Colossae. Hierapolis was a spa known for its hot mineral baths and medicinal waters. Colossae boasted the finest supply of cold, pure, refreshing water. While Laodicea was blessed with prosperity, their water supply was a problem. An aqueduct brought water to the city. Over time, mineral deposits accumulated in the pipes. The water that arrived in Laodicea was lukewarm and mineral laden. It was nauseating and disgusting to drink.

Like the city’s water supply, the church was neither a cold, refreshing drink nor a warm, healing bath. Some churches make the Lord weep, others make him angry; the Laodicean church made him sick. Lukewarm spirituality makes Christ gag.

Their biggest problem was they did not even realize they had a problem. Like the city, the church thought it was rich and self-sufficient. In reality, they were poor. The church thought it was clothed with righteous character. In reality, they were spiritually wretched, pitiful, and naked. The church thought it had spiritual insight. Instead, they were blind.

The Command (18-19) – While he finds the church repulsive, Christ takes time to offer counsel. They were urged to buy three things they did not think they needed.

Refined gold. A goldsmith subjects the gold to intense heat that liquefies the gold. The impurities rise to the top and are skimmed off. What remains is a purer gold of higher carat.

White clothes. Though they had beautiful clothes, they were urged to wear white, which was symbolic of righteousness which would cover their spiritual nakedness.

Salve for their eyes. The medical school offered a special salve to heal common eye troubles of the Middle East. What they needed was not this medicine but spiritual sight.

Christ’s criticism is based on his love. The most undeserving church is still loved by God. Christ rebuked them because he loved them.

The Commitment (20-21) – In addition to gold, clothing, and eye salve, Christ wants them to enjoy his person and his fellowship.

Christ pictured himself as standing outside and knocking on a door. Sadly, the church had pushed Christ right outside but did not even know he was missing. The appeal is for those who hear to open the door. To them Christ promised, I will go in and eat with him, and he with me.

With Christ on the outside, there can be no fellowship or genuine wealth. With Christ on the inside, there is wonderful fellowship and sharing of the marvelous grace of God. To those who respond, Christ promises to give the right to sit with him on his throne and share his victory.

The Challenge (22) – Take the message to heart. Hear and heed the message.

Perceived assets

True condition God’s solution
Banking Poor

Refined gold

Medical school

Blind Eye salve
Textiles Naked

White garments

Independent

Self-sufficient

Wretched

Pitiable

Relationship with Christ

Principles (1) Self-sufficiency and materialism can blind a person to their spiritual poverty. (2) Jesus rebukes and disciplines his children in order to heal them. (3) To experience renewed fellowship with Jesus, we must be serious enough to change.

Questions to consider: (1) Are you making progress in the Christian life? (2) Where do you need to change and/or grow? (3) Are you willing to change? (4) Who will hold you accountable? (5) If “YES,” repent & pursue a deeper relationship with Christ.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 25, 2018. It is the final message in a series on The State of the Church. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Finding humor in the deep freeze

In honor of the deep freeze we find ourselves in, here’s a collection of Calvin & Hobbes snow comics.

Calvin & Hobbes - snow - temptation Calvin & Hobbes - snow dance Calvin & Hobbes - snowball fight Calvin & Hobbes - snowballs at speed of light Calvin & Hobbes - snowman evolution Calvin & Hobbes - snowman suicide 2  Calvin & Hobbes - snowmen-1 Calvin & Hobbes - snowmen-2 Calvin & Hobbes - snowmen-3 Calvin & Hobbes - snowmen-4

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 3, 2018 in Calvin and Hobbes, Winter

 

Be it resolved

Humorous New Years’ Resolutions from my cartoonist friends. Some are new and others are worth repeating.

Brewster Rocket

brewster-rockit-resolutions new-years-resolutions-1 new-years-resolutions-2 new-years-resolutions-3

Baby Blues

baby-blues-resolutions

Calvin & Hobbes

calvin-hobbes-resolutions-1 calvin-hobbes-resolutions-2 Calvin and Hobbes calvin-hobbes-resolutions-4 calvin-hobbes-resolutions-5 calvin-hobbes-resolutions-6 calvin-hobbes-resolutions-7 calvin-hobbes-resolutions-8 calvin-hobbes-resolutions-9

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 2, 2018 in Baby Blues, Calvin and Hobbes, Fun

 

Stuck in the waiting room

It seems like I am trapped in the waiting room. Like my friend Calvin observed, time tends to stand still.

One friend suggested I do a study of the concept of waiting in Scripture. Unbeknownst to her, I actually wrote and published an article on the subject in the early 90’s.

Her suggestion prompted me to go back and reread it. Now, I just need to believe what I believe.

 
 

Why I fell

My favorite theologian, Calvin & Hobbes, explained why I fell last week.

  • I didn’t stick the landing
  • I wasn’t wearing my “prepared for anything” helmet and cape (which some good friends gave me years ago.) Seems I need to find and unpack it.) 😉

Thank you Dave and Gary & Tricia for adding humor to my life.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on November 13, 2017 in Calvin and Hobbes

 

Grace Notes

Being surrounded by negativity, it is far too easy to adopt the mindset of our culture. We can play the “It’s not fair!” card or become consumed by worry about what might happen.

Considering what we are bombarded with, it’s no wonder we feel as bad as we do.

To change our mindset, we have to make a conscious choice as to what we feed our minds. We must shift our attention from woe to worship, from pity to praise, from complaining to confidence, and most importantly, from me to God.

Praise plays a key role in this process. Praising God for the past helps us trust him for the future. Moses provides an excellent example of this principle in his song in Exodus 15:1-21.

Moses states his theme in verse 1: “Praise God, he won!” The song contains three stanzas—“See what God did” (2-6); “See who God is” (7-11); and “See what God will do” (12-18). The theme is repeated in the chorus (19-21).

Following the destruction of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea, Moses led Israel in praising God (1). When God does something great, he deserves to be praised. Often this praise comes in the form of a song, something you see throughout the Old Testament.

The three stanzas of Moses’ song focus on God—what he did in the past, who he is, and what he will do in the future. In the first 18 verses, Moses refers to “the Lord” at least 45 times. It demonstrates that praise is focused on God, not on us.

In the opening stanza, Moses acknowledges God’s strength and it leads him to praise (2-6). In the middle stanza (7-11), Moses moves from history to theology, from describing the victory to exclaiming his wonder about God. He uses metaphors and word pictures to help describe God’s attributes and actions (8, 10). In the final stanza (12-18), he moves from proclaiming his wonder about what God did in the past to a statement of confidence and trust in what God will do in the future. God not only brought his people out of Egypt, but he will bring them in to the Promised Land.

The song concludes with Moses’ sister, Miriam, picking up a tambourine and leading the chorus. Considering that Moses wrote this song when he was 80 years old and Miriam played the tambourine in her 90’s, who says seniors can’t learn new songs and lead in worship!

This passage challenges me to consider three probing questions: (1) What can I praise God for today? (2) What does this tell me about God’s character? (3) What do I need to trust him for tomorrow? Praising God for the past helps us trust him for the future.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on August 20, 2017. It is part of a series of sermons on the life of Moses. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.