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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The "Ugly" Truth

I hope Tiger Woods is being honest; I really do. I want to see him save his marriage and his family. I want to see him become a better person. Of course, I would really like to see him become a Christian.

If he is being truthful, Tiger appears to be cultivating a self-concept that unfortunately many Christians do not. One evidence of this is a remark Tiger made last week, “You start coming to the truth of who you really are and that can be very ugly.” Indeed, it can. That is why so many do not want to go there.

The Bible repeatedly makes clear that we are all sinners who fall short of the glory of God. It also makes clear the fact that envy, pride, jealousy, bitterness, greed, and other sins of the heart are anathema to God. Still, we want to avoid seeing ourselves as we really are because it is painful.

The irony is that, often, it is those like Woods (whose overt behavior is so ugly it draws public scorn) who ultimately find healing. The road to healing for anyone begins with the act of seeing ourselves as we really are. This we wish to avoid. The more covert our sin, the more we avoid facing our real selves.

We refuse to face our true inward selves at our own peril. When we blind ourselves to our—selves, the only way to cope with what we inwardly sense is... legalism. Legalism is a diseased place to be.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Spiritual Hacker

Charlie Miller is a hacker. He finds ways to break into other people’s computers. He does this to help companies protect their computers and software.

Over the past few years, Charlie has made it a habit of breaking into Apple Macs. Charlie owns a Mac book Pro, and iPhone, and four Apple computers. He loves them. That is why he hacks – he wishes to show the vulnerability of Mac products.

Once Charlie gets inside the computer, the integrity of the host computer is compromised. Left unchecked, Charlie can control the computer’s output until it shuts down.

Reading about this, I could not help but think about a spiritual hacker. He looks for every entry point he can find in a person. No matter how small the portal, if there is an opening, he is going to get inside. Then, he seeks to spread his virus. He would be especially pleased to destroy the host.

Peter tells us to watch out for this hacker, Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

That is sound advice from the apostle Peter. We can protect ourselves from this spiritual hacker by walking with God, getting into his word, meditating upon his word, praying, practicing other spiritual disciplines, fellowshipping with other Christians, partnering with our families in our spiritual walk, and through many more strategies. May God help us keep the devil out.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Gluttonous Dogs

I read, this weekend, that veterinarians in Great Britain are beseeching dog owners to not give their pets so many treats and table scraps. It seems that their animals are becoming overweight and not exercising enough.

I am not sure how I am supposed to feel about this, but I know how I do feel – convicted. My guess is that the dogs’ masters are projecting upon their animals the same desires that they have. These actions from the masters also reflect their lack of self-discipline. Unfortunately, the humans are hurting the health of the animals, just like they are hurting their own health.

What an indictment. I see this report as a great word picture for where we are in Western society today. We don’t govern our appetites; our appetites govern us. I suspect that when Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me..." he knew who his competition was—us.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The 13 Year-Old-Soldier

On April 29, 1946, Melvin Rudolph made a decision. He decided he to join the Army. There was only one problem. He was 13 years old.
Through a series of deceptive maneuvers, Melvin was able to complete his physical, forge signatures from his parents, and have his entrance papers notarized. The Army sent the Chicago native to Fort Sheridan in Illinois, for induction and assignment.
After Melvin went to his barracks, he called his parents and told them the news. Predictably, his mother was very upset and began to cry. Melvin did not allow her emotion to deter him, however, and after a few days at Fort Sheridan, the Army shipped Melvin to Texas.
Basic training began and Melvin was assigned to San Antonio Army Airfield. Basic training was difficult because Melvin was not as strong as the other men. Yet, he persisted.
Then one day, during his second month of training, Melvin was ordered to report to the commanding officer. The officer told him, “You are Melvin Rudolph and we know you are 13 years old.”
Tired of lying, Melvin simply confessed, “Yes sir.”
The commanding officer said, “Your mother wants you home as soon as possible.” Discharge papers were processed, and Melvin was sent home. Still, he received an honorable discharge.
The next year, Melvin graduated from the eighth grade. At age 15, he joined the Illinois National Guard. At age 18, Melvin once again joined the U.S. Army. He was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division infantry division and served in both Korea and Japan. At last, he was able to do what he sought to do all along – serve his country.
I am amazed Melvin’s commitment to service in our country’s army. Although he did not show much discernment, he showed unbelievable courage. Clearly his actions demonstrated commitment.
Paul, in Ephesians chapter six, verses 10 and following, tells us we are fighting in a spiritual war. Oh, that more of us would have Melvin’s yearning when it comes to serving in the Lord’s army.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

One in a Million

"So the last will be first, and the first will be last."—
Jesus of Nazareth

Millions have drawn up their brackets predicting who will win the exciting NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship tournament. By now, you may have heard that, so far, only one has been found to have predicted the final sixteen teams correctly.
Who was it? Surely, the person was a basketball coach, or an expert commentator, or an individual with a Ph.D. in Statistics.
No. He was 17-year-old Alex Hermann. The teen lives in Chicago—and he suffers from autism.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Have you ever noticed how we look for ways to justify what we do, even if it is wrong? Are you the type of person that often tries to make excuses for something that is your fault? Of course some excuses are better than others.

My wife is a schoolteacher, and in the course of her training in college, someone shared with her and her fellow classmates a list of some of the excuses that people have given to teachers through the years. Listen to some of these:

Dear scool: Pleas exkuse John for been absent on January 28, 30, 31, 32, and 35.

Crhis have an acre in his side.

Mary could not come to school because she was bother by very close veins.

John has been absent because he had two teeth taken out of his face.

John was absent yesterday because he had a stomach.

Please excuse Gloria. She was sick and under the doctor.

My son is under the doctor's care and should not take P.E. Please execute him.

Lillie was absent from school yesterday as she had had a gang over.

Please excuse Blach from P.E. for a few days. Yesterday she fell out of a tree and misplaced her hip.

Please excuse Joey Friday. He had loose vowels.

“Loose vowels” is a killer; watch out for that. Anyway, it is sometimes amusing the lengths to which we will go to justify ourselves. On the other hand, sometimes it is sad I have done things that have made me ashamed of myself, only to try to justify them through an excuse.

I have Jesus to be a good model for me when it comes to self-defense—he practiced none. In fact, when the charges against him were false, he typically did not concern himself. However, mistreat someone else, he defended him (see the temple.)

Maybe I need to learn the art of OTHERS-DEFENSE.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Missy LeHand was President Franklin Roosevelt’s loyal secretary for decades. Then, eight years into his presidency, she suffered a debilitating stroke. Unable to speak, her years of serving the president were over.

Since FDR showed no outward display of emotion, a number of people around him considered him to be coldhearted. However, according to biographer, Doris Kearns Goodwin, nothing could be further from the truth. During Missy’s extensive hospitalization, Roosevelt ordered that she be given the finest medical care in the country – at his expense. He took time to write personally every doctor.

In time, Roosevelt would fully fund the years of physical therapy that followed. When he realized that Missy’s therapy could take years, FDR became concerned about what would happen to Missy should he died. Missy had no savings and no family to pay for her medical expenses.

In an act few would ever discover, Roosevelt arranged to redo his will. He decreed that half of his estate would be left to Missy. This act involved removing his children as beneficiaries; however, Roosevelt believed that his children would be able to take care of themselves. Missy, he knew, could not. After her death, the remaining income would be distributed in equal shares to his five children.

Later, the president explained his decision to his son, Jimmy. “I owe her that much. She served me so well for so long and asked so little in return.”

As events transpired, Franklin Roosevelt actually outlived Missy LeHand. Still, when Jesus spoke of “the least of these” in Matt. 25, I think he might have had acts such as these done by FDR in mind.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Did God Convert?

There is an oft-told story of little Billy in Bible class. In the Bible class the teacher was talking about the difference between God the Father in the Old Testament and God the son, Jesus, in the New Testament. She was saying something to the effect of, "Alright class, in the Old Testament, God was a God of anger, but in the New Testament, God was a God of mercy. In the Old Testament, God was a jealous God, but in the New Testament, God shared his life with people. In the Old Testament, God was a God of hate. But in the New Testament, God was a God of love. Now class, why do you suppose that was so?"

Little Billy raised his hand and waved it under the teacher's nose and repeated over and over again, "I know! I know!"

Finally the teacher called on him. "Alright Billy, what's the answer?"

"It is because in the New Testament, God became a Christian," Billy proudly explained.

At one time in my life, I had an incorrect view of the God of the Old Testament, just like the teacher and just like Billy. I considered Him cruel, always mad at somebody, or to put it more colloquially, he always played "bad cop" to Jesus' "good cop."

God did not change. God has always been the same. Here are two examples: justice and mercy. Two of God’s chief attributes, and it has always been this way, are justice and mercy. Even in the Old Testament. Micah 6:6-8 tells us:

With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Do you catch the significance of that? The writer is saying sure, "church services" are important, of course doctrine is important, but those things do not matter if one is not acting justly, maintaining an attitude of humility, and if one is not merciful. Justice and mercy is important to God because both have always been a part of God's character.

Our response is to walk humbly with Him.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Never Underestimate God

Yesterday, I shared the amazing story of Alexander Cruden, the troubled man who wrote CRUDEN’S COMPLETE CONCORDANCE. He was, at best, an eccentric man, at worst, a man who battled insanity.

Cruden overestimated his abilities, to the point of irrationality. He lobbied for the job of French reader to Lord Derby. He was offended to be fired after completing his first day on the job. The reason he was fired? He could not pronounce French.

Cruden became convinced that the British powers-that-be should knight him. He began a campaign to all influential people he could find, badgering them to secure his rightful place in the knighthood.

One year, two weeks before Parliamentary elections, Cruden impulsively decided it would be thrilling to be a Member of Parliament. He did everything he could to get himself on the ballot. He failed to even find one person to nominate or second his nomination.

As Timothy Larsen has written, “Cruden's human weakness and divine gift was an inability to calculate probabilities.” Consequently, he could not discern he had no business serving as French reader, or running for Parliament.

By the same token, Cruden did not understand, as normal people did, that he could not help a prostitute or prisoner. Instead, he hired a prostitute who had approached him and changed her life, and, because of his work, a prisoner who was sentenced to die had his sentenced reduced to deportation. Thanks to the fanatical work of Cruden.

Finally, Alexander Cruden could not comprehend that one man could not possibly sit down at night and, over a period of years, methodically produce a work so valuable that it is still used almost three centuries later.

We must never dismiss how God can use people, even “the least of these.”

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Orderly Product of a Disordered Mind

I have a soft place in my heart for people of special needs, including children. One reason is I have seen literally dozens of inventions, discoveries, and cultural change agents come from the realm of people who have severe developmental problems—be it mental, physical, or emotional.

A case in point is Alexander Cruden. Both Julia Keay and Timothy Larsen wrote about Cruden, a few years ago, calling attention to this forgotten man. Chances are your life continues to be impacted by his product.

Alexander Cruden was a man, who a few centuries ago, faced demons so severe that he—take your pick:

A. battled insanity off and on throughout his life,

B. was an eccentric genius, or

C. was severely disabled mentally and emotionally.

We do know Cruden was institutionalized in an insane asylum as an adult and, from time to time, guilty of aberrant and anti-social behavior.

In what may have been the greatest indicator of his unfitness for this world, in the 1720s, Cruden made the decision to compile the ultimate concordance of the King James Version of the Bible. Moreover, to achieve his objective, Cruden would have to moonlight. He needed the money from his day job as a proofreader for a local printer.

Working alone at night, writing by hand, Cruden categorized all 777, 746 words of the King James Version. He even explained many of the entries, deploying 4000 words just to define and describe the entry “Synagogue.”

Night by night, this man whose life and mind was total chaos, methodically plotted words from Scripture, consulted from the tens of thousands of papers he had previously noted, and documented the proper location for each word.

Cruden’s masterpiece was first published in 1739. CRUDEN’S COMPLETE CONCORDANCE has never been out of print. Through the centuries, this work has influenced thousands, if not millions, of sermons and Bible classes. I marvel at both this man’s giftedness and God’s creation. Timothy Larson’s words have correctly pegged the majestic irony: one of the most organized and well-administrated works ever known came from one of the most disorganized and chaotic minds.

I personally believe this achievement extends beyond good genes and random chance. To what extent God was involved, I cannot calculate. Yet, His hand, however hidden, was still present. Indeed, God’s light shines more brilliantly with the dark background of human weakness.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Identity Theft

I read recently about a manhunt for an identity thief in Canada. The police said he had victimized over 100 people.

“When you consider the type of stuff that comes in the mail, it can be Visa information, bank statements, a store credit card,” said police spokeswoman Karen Carlson. “The amount of people affected is numerous in this case.”

Finally, 25-year-old David Shawn Tidman was arrested on 141 outstanding warrants.

All of this reminded me of something I had read from the pen of Diane Neal Matthews that really made me think. She noted that in 1998, congress’ law went into effect making identity theft a federal crime in the United States.

The law makes sense, especially in light of the David Shawn Tidman case. When one takes another’s identity, he can also take another’s assets.

What if, however, someone took on another’s identity, and, in doing so, took on his liabilities? In a sense, that is what Jesus did. Anticipating Jesus, Isaiah writes:

Surely he took up our infirmities 
and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted (Is. 53:4,).

Paul places emphasis on the atoning work of Jesus in Romans 3:21-25. The wrath of the Father was poured upon the Son when He was on the cross, in a sense, carrying our identity. Paul’s thoughts echoed what Isaiah had anticipated:

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Is. 53:5-6,).

Yet again, I see in Jesus the antithesis of the fallen human nature. Only a loving, selfless God would take on our sin. I guess this would be one time when “taking” is good.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The High Cost of Getting Even

Years ago, Dale Carnegie was touring Yellowstone National Park. He was sitting in bleacher seats along with some other tourists, anticipating the appearance of the mighty grizzly bear. Sure enough, one appeared, eating the food park rangers had set out to lure him within view.

A park ranger had briefed the tourists on the might of the grizzly. With the possible exception of the buffalo or the Kodiak bear, the grizzly could defeat any other animal in the Western world.

Strangely enough, while the excited tourists were viewing the awesome grizzly, another animal came into view. Casually, he walked up and began eating from the same food. Conceivably, if a Kodiak bear or a buffalo had appeared, the grizzly could have very well have fought them.

What animal could have possibly materialized that the grizzly bear would have left alone? The answer? A skunk.

The grizzly could have destroyed that skunk with one swipe of his paw, yet he left him alone. Why? Because he had discovered from life’s experiences that it did not pay.

Carnegie makes the excellent point that hatred, bitterness, and the desire for revenge do not pay. Those emotions systematically destroy us, not our enemies.

The writer of Proverbs said this in 15:17—

Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.

Perhaps we can all learn a lesson from the grizzly, and the skunk.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Be Careful Little Feet Where You Go

At 23, Ben Rothlisberger became the youngest starting quarterback in NFL history to win a Super Bowl. At 27, he had already won two.

Now, at age 28, he is facing possible prison time. Last week’s accusation of rape was the latest in a series of events in Ben’s life that have gone wrong.

I have been hearing many rebuking Rothlisberger. What is fascinating to me is, they are coming from outside the church community.

Time was, professional athletes could behave like Ben Rothlisberger. Fans and the media would turn a blind eye to their activities. It was probably in this era when the cliché “boys will be boys” was coined.

Now, such is not the case. Talk radio, magazines, newspapers, and fans are questioning the propriety of athletes placing themselves in situations that could potentially go wrong. Please note, they are not saying that being in those situations are wrong in themselves, they are raising the question of discernment.

Just last week, I heard a national radio host, a self-proclaimed secularist, say that well-known professional athletes have no business going into nightclubs. His studio engineer piped in that nothing good can come from professional atheletes entering these establishments—only bad. They sounded like preachers I grew up hearing!

Say what you will about our culture going bad. This is a good move though. Who knows? Maybe athletes and others will listen.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Slander Throughout History

Okay, how many of you, like me, thought Salieri was a jerk? Haven’t you see the movie AMADEUS? Imagine my surprise when I discovered this week that Salieri’s reputation was a complete fabrication.

First, Antonio Salieri was a not only a contemporary of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, he was a friend. Moreover, Salieri was highly thought of as a composer in Europe.

So what happened? In 1898, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov wrote an opera called MOZART AND SALIERI. Evidently, all good operas need a conflict, so Rimsky-Korsakov invented one—he portrayed Salieri so consumed by jealously, he poisoned Mozart. Seventy-five years later, producer, Peter Shaffer reinforced this depiction of Salieri in his film AMADEUS.

I guess this is called artistic license.

It is one thing when art concocts a tale that honors a person, such as Washington cutting down the cherry tree. It is quite another when art destroys a man’s reputation.

Over 46 times, the Bible talks about the sin of slander. I understand why. Sorry I thought so poorly of you, Salieri.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

How a Soviet Submarine Commander Spared the World From Nuclear Destruction

Many are familiar with the Cuban Missile Crisis. In October of 1962, the world came close to nuclear war. A standoff occurred between President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the world was spared nuclear disaster.

Little known is a fact that surfaced just a few years ago. In his recent book, COUNSELOR, Kennedy presidential advisor, Ted Sorenson, writes that during the crisis, a Soviet tanker approached Cuba. Beneath the ocean’s waters, a Soviet submarine escorted the vessel.

An American destroyer’s sonar system picked up signals indicating the presence of a submarine. American sailors then dropped grenade size depth charges to signal to the sub to surface and identify itself.

Inside the Russian sub, panic reigned. As one crewmember recalled, they felt like they were “sitting in an empty barrel, while somebody constantly beat it with a stick.” Moscow had given the submarine’s commanding officer the authority to fire a nuclear torpedo at his discretion. The crew made abundantly clear where its sentiments lay; they pleaded with their skipper to fire the nuclear weapon.

Perhaps, sensing the gravity of the situation, the Soviet skipper refused to do so unless he received authorization from Moscow. Communication with the Soviet government failed. Sorenson writes that one man may very well have prevented the world from experiencing a nuclear war, or even global destruction. And, we will never know his name.

Occasionally, I am asked why I believe in God. There are many reasons. One of them is this, with all of the nuclear weapons that have been available to the world the past sixty years, and with as many people as we have seen have access to fire these weapons, with the amount of variables involved in nuclear weapons, I consider it the work of a gracious God that we have not had a nuclear weapon detonated on or inside a country since 1945.

Too many people could have made honest mistakes. Too many computers could have broken down. Too many people have had access to nuclear arsenals through the years, who could have suffered breakdowns leading to catastrophe.

No, there is a God. Nothing happens of which He is unaware. No weapon will be detonated unless He, in His wisdom and in His timing, allows it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

When a Prayer Ruled the Pop Charts

For the past few years, I have blessed by repeating what is known as “The Jesus Prayer”:

Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

I have found this old prayer to focus my mind and spirit as well as alleviate tension, anxiety and worry in my life. As you might expect, I was surprised this week to learn of a rock group, who sung a very similar and ancient prayer in its original Greek form. Moreover, while doing so 24 years ago this week, the song shot to number one on the Billboard charts. Here’s the story.

Richard Page grew up in a religious family. His dad was the leader of the choir at their Presbyterian church, where the entire family faithfully attended. Through his dad’s influence, and his mother, who was the director of the Phoenix Boys Choir, Richard developed a love for music.

In time, Richard formed a rock band with some friends. The group ultimately became known as MR. MISTER. In 1985, they scored a number one hit on the pop charts—“Broken Wings.”

While on tour, the idea for a song came to Richard. The words “Kyrie eleison” kept coming into his mind—Greek words that formed the prayer, “Lord have mercy.” So Richard began writing down additional prayer requests in lyrics such as:

Kyrie Eleison
Down the road that I must travel
Kyrie Eleison
Through the darkness of the night
Kyrie Eleison
Where I'm going will you follow
Kyrie Eleison
On a highway in the light

With lyrics such as these, the song “Kyrie Eleison” hit number one the week of March 1, 1986.

In a winsome way, Richard Page and his band, contributed a song that called attention to the need to submit all aspects of our lives to the Lord of the Universe. Check out the video on Youtube. You can find it by typing the words “mister mister kyrie eleison” in the search box.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Trained Rats

ABC News caught my attention yesterday with a story. It seems the Belgian government is paying for the training of rats to sniff out landmines. Moreover, the training is working. Some rats are proving to be more effective than dogs.

Trainers need anywhere from six months to a year to instruct the rats on developing their sense of smell and fulfilling their tasks. Furthermore, the rats’ teachers are finding the rodents to be easy to work with. One notes, "They are very friendly, without being needy. When you work with a dog, you have to say, 'Good boy!' A rat doesn't need that." Whatever the teachers are doing, it’s working.

Rats discover approximately five landmines a day in the country of Mozambique. More than 1, 000, 000 acres of land were returned to their owners last year because of the rats’ work.

Imagine that! The rat, the scourge of Mankind, now using his unique ability, given by his Creator, to save humans.

Jesus once told his disciples who were inclined to worry, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

If I may take Jesus’ encouragement on a tangent, look at the rats of the earth. If your Heavenly Father has gifted them to serve creation in incredible ways, don’t you think he has likewise gifted you? After all, you, as a human being, are more valuable than rats.

Retain this fact in your mind—God has created you for a purpose. How has God gifted you to serve in His created world?

Monday, March 8, 2010

How Dare They!

Last fall, a 911-phone call was routed to the police department in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. The call came from a local teenager holding a terrible secret—his parents had stolen his Xbox 360.

The police dutifully arrived to his house. There, the young man complained and asked an officer if his parents had the right to seize his gaming system.

Filed with the police department is a report of how the police officers handled the young man’s complaint. There one can read that an officer "advised [the young man] that he needed to listen to his parents..."—truly an understatement.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Blind Side

We all have a blind side, and I don't mean one that requires a big left tackle for protection, either. According to Richard S. Tebow’s new book, DENIAL: WHY BUSINESS LEADERS FAIL TO LOOK FACTS IN THE FACE—AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT, Henry Ford made himself a wealthy man by building the Model T.

By the 1920s, customers began seeking automobiles of different colors. None of this fazed Ford. In 1922, he wrote what became a famous quote, "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants as long as it is black." By World War II, his company lay near bankruptcy.

Henry Ford had a blind side. In spite of the data he was receiving, he refused to listen to the truth and it almost destroyed the company.

I often see a husband with a blind side. He is systematically destroying his marriage, and he is oblivious to it. I have seen mothers who are cold to their children; they have no idea they are emotionally devastating their own flesh and blood.

The sinful nature is programmed to distort our reality. That is one reason the Bible recommends close fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ. Through their loving communication, they can tip us off to our blind sides. We will then, hopefully, respond before disaster strikes.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Gracious Guide

I read this week from Diane Neal Matthews, who made an interesting point about Annie Sullivan. You might remember that Sullivan, who was born in 1866, had experienced severe illness early in childhood. Consequently, she was left nearly blind. After three surgeries, risky for her era, she recovered most of her vision.

As a young woman, Sullivan moved to Alabama to help a rebellious, six-year-old girl named Helen Keller. Helen was blind, deaf, and unable to speak. Accordingly, the world did not make sense to Keller.

Annie Sullivan arrived to serve Helen Keller—teaching her to discern right and wrong, good behavior and bad behavior. Thus, Helen Keller experienced life in a more healthy and productive way. Helen Keller’s world began to make sense.

Many people, according to the Apostle Paul, cannot discern how to live in their world. Paul says in First Corinthians 2:14, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” The Holy Spirit helps people to determine how to live. He gives people a sense of vision. He helps people to avoid foolish mistakes.

Next time you ponder the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit, think of Annie Sullivan ministering to Helen Keller. Their story serves as a good word picture for the gracious ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Patient Warrior

Not being a math whiz myself, I appreciated a story I read a few years ago. A young man traveled to St. Louis to take the entrance exam to West Point. He was from a poor farming family, and his hopes for a college education hinged upon an appointment to the military academy.

Upon his arrival, he learned he would be competing with twelve other young men. His chief competition, much to his chagrin, had been preparing for the exam for over a year!

The exam was to take four days, each subject lasting four hours. The exam on algebra was the major obstacle for this young man. It was mandatory to solve 67 percent of the problems. After two hours, he had solved only 20 percent. Discouraged and convinced he was a complete failure, he picked up his papers and walked to the desk of the officer in charge, ready to hand them in. He had wasted everyone’s time, including his own. He was going home, ready to spend the rest of his life farming.

Arriving at the desk, the young man noticed the officer completely focused on a book he was reading. He did not want to disturb the officer, so he returned to his desk and decided he might as well try one more time.

Then, something happened. The young man began to recall the theorems he had studied. He became enthusiastic and hopeful. After four hours, he had completed more than the necessary 67 percent. The rest of the exams were tough, yet the young man pressed on.

Last week, I saw the grave of that young man in Arlington National Cemetery. The tombstone had five stars on it. Omar Bradley, received his appointment to West Point, became a hero of World War II, and grew to be one of the most beloved and revered generals in military history.

During his entrance exams, Omar Bradley found temptation to quit. He grew frustrated and his emotions told him to leave. Yet, he remained patient, overcame his emotions, and he persevered.

Omar Bradley defied the military stereotype. Consequently, I find Prov. 16:32 particularly fitting to him—and ironic:

32 Better a patient man than a warrior,
a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.

Omar Bradley was a patient man (who held his emotions in check), a warrior, and he took a city---many in fact.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Meek Lion

I can remember when I was a senior in high school a friend of mine and I were bored, so, as a lark, we decided to go to the zoo. Actually, it turned out to be fun.

While we were in the zoo we were cutting up as boys of that age can do so well; however, at the lion's cage we learned our lesson. The lion exhibit was interesting in that the cage was made of normal bars surrounded by a strong wire screen with small holes. Obviously, the exhibit was designed so that a person could get as close as possible to the lions but not be able to touch them.

When we arrived at the cage, we saw that a huge male lion was lying awake next to the screen in the cage. He was a beautiful lion; his huge mane seemed to reflect the sunlight.

Being the goofy guys that we were, we decided to try to agitate the lion, hoping to make him roar. So we proceeded to stick our ugly faces as close to the lion as we could, taunting him with statements every lion dreads to hear. Glaring accusations such as "...oh come on, you're not really the king of the jungle" and "...if you're really the king of the jungle, why don't you roar?"

Well, that bored old lion just lay there on his side, skeptically looking at us through one eye. But we kept on agitating him until finally he looked up at us with an expression which said, if I understood non-verbal (lion) communication correctly, "I guess you guys aren't going to leave me alone unless I roar for you, so let's get it over with."

With that, the lion calmly stood up, put his face on the screen of the cage directly in front of our faces, and in a voice, which I could have sworn broke the sound barrier, thundered:

I tell you what, I was so stunned, I grabbed my friend, and he grabbed me (and he was a big lineman too), and we backed away from that cage as fast as we could. We were in shock. That lion's roar was so loud we literally felt its vibrations.

What's funny is that immediately after the lion roared, he calmly lay down again and went back to looking like he was bored. What we witnessed that day was power under control!

When Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek…” in the Sermon on the Mount, one the ways the word “meek” was used was to describe a lion or tiger, caged, or tied to a stake by a strong rope. In those days, if one walked around the area where a Roman circus had set up camp and saw a lion or a tiger tied to a stake, he or she may have very well described the animal as being meek. In other words, the animal's power was harnessed; it was under the control of something greater.

The Bible calls for Christians to submit their energy, gifts, and personal power to the control of the Holy Spirit. To do so is to practice meekness. So, let’s go out and make it a “meek” day.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Rabid Woman

Here’s an old story I heard years ago from one of my favorite preachers—Rick Atchley. A woman was bitten by a rabid animal, so she went to a doctor who tested her. After the test, the doctor said to her, "I'm sorry to tell you this, but we have now confirmed that you do have rabies."

Immediately the lady took out a pad and a piece of paper and began writing names. The doctor was sympathetic as he saw her do this, and without thinking he asked her, "Oh, are you making out a will?"

"Will!", she replied, "I'm writing a list of all the people I want to bite!"

It is amazing how often we refuse to forget past occasions when other people have wronged us. Many times we insist upon having bitter feelings towards someone who has "done us wrong." If we're not careful, we even at times catch ourselves trying to avenge a past wrong.

Well, if bitterness is your game, if negative feelings toward other people are a habit with you, Jesus is your enemy. Why? Because in Matthew 5:7 Jesus says:

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.