Search This Blog

Monday, May 31, 2010

A Haunting Poem

World War I produced moving poetry. To me, the most haunting poem of that era was an anonymous one.  It is inscribed on a modest headstone of the grave of one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century.  His name was Hobey Baker.

Hobey Baker was a Princeton graduate.  He is the only athlete ever elected to both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Hockey Hall of Fame.  His hockey records lasted for decades.  Today, college hockey's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy is called The Hobey Baker Award.

Baker volunteered to serve in World War I. He was one of the first to fly an airplane in war.  Tragically, he crashed to his death in Toul, France. He left behind many grieving family members, friends, and fans.  We do not know who the author was, but this is the poem written on Hobey Baker’s tombstone:

                  YOU SEEMED WINGED, EVEN AS A LAD,

Extraordinary, isn’t it?  Such is the power of poetry dedicated to help humanity remember those lost in The Great War.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Cheating Hearts

Several years ago, TIME magazine reported a study done at the University of Hawaii. An attractive member of the opposite sex approached college students. After a brief introduction, the students were asked one of three questions:

                        1. Would you go out on a date with me tonight?

                        2. Would you go back [with me] to my apartment?

                        3. Would you have sex with me?

            The male response varied from the female response. Here is how each answered the question of the corresponding number:

                                                Women (yes)                  Men (yes)

                        1.                         50%                             50%

                        2.                         6%                               69%

                        3.                         0%                               75%

            The magazine noted that Charles Darwin considered Man to be a moral species since human beings could compare their past and future actions and motives, and correspondingly approve or disapprove of them.

            “In this sense,” TIME said, “yes we are moral. We have at least the technical capacity to lead an examined life: self-awareness, memory, foresight and judgment. Still, subjecting ourselves to moral scrutiny and adjusting our behavior accordingly is hardly a reflex. We are potentially moral animals-which is more than any other animal can say-but we are not naturally moral animals. The first step to being moral is to realize how thoroughly we aren't."

            These are fascinating words coming from a secular magazine. Better yet was the title of the article—“Our Cheating Hearts.” Does this title connote an editorial statement in a supposedly neutral magazine’s investigative reporting?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Faulty GPS

Recently, three South Koreans were touring in a state forest in Queensland, Australia. Following the directions from their satellite navigational system, they found themselves stuck in a gully in the middle of nowhere.

Authorities later found that the three men had ignored several warning signs. Instead, they chose to follow the directions of their GPS. Unfortunately, the guidance they had received was incorrect.

I am seeing more and more people operating with faulty navigational systems. Rather than using the Bible as their source of direction, they instead rely on the newest cultural source of information for how to make it through life. They, too, typically pass a number of warning signs that things are awry.  Unfortunately, they ignore these warnings and continue on until their lives are stuck in the middle of nowhere.

Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
       and a light for my path.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Next Step

A few years ago in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, I read a remarkable story. In the spring of 1978, the New England Whalers of the WHA fired their communications director and radio play-by-play man. He was 45 years old and unemployed.

He decided to look into finding a way to provide coverage of the University of Connecticut basketball games using the more than 12 cable operators located in the state.

As he talked with these operators, they kept mentioning a distribution technology. With time on his hands, he checked into it and found that RCA had a satellite in space for two years and was looking for customers.

He discovered that he could provide UCONN basketball games not only to the state of Conn., but also to the entire U.S. for a cheap price. For that reason, Bill Rasmussen decided to offer 24-hour-a-day programming because it was cheaper to do so than to not.

Because RCA did not demand the rent up front, Rasmussen borrowed $9000 from credit cards and began a network. The network began by broadcasting on a limited basis daily and 24 hours on weekends. One year later, it was broadcasting 24 hours a day. This was how ESPN was born.

We Christians sing a song taken from Psalm 119:


As has been written, the lamp of Psalm 119 was not a flashlight. Rather, it was more like a lantern or a candle. A person could see just enough ahead to take the next step or two, but no farther.

Bill Rasmussen did not begin with a grand vision—“I will be the founder of ESPN!” No, he was initially seeking to fulfill a much more modest goal. A step here, and a step there, and look where it led him!

The apostle Paul was not looking to lay the religious and philosophical foundation for western civilization. He was simply seeking to take the gospel to the Gentiles.  He followed God, step by step.

In reality, our call is not to carry out a grand vision for God. Our call is simply to honor God in this next step. Will we?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

An Indifferent World

Back in 1994, in Mont St. Michel France, Marie-Noelle Gullernee saw that her daughter had fallen into a deep tide pool below the tourist island town. She dove in to save her life. Together, they began to flounder and both of their lives were in danger.

A number of tourists were near and saw the whole thing. How did they respond?

They came; they gawked; they did nothing. No one intervened; no one called for help.

Finally, a local resident became aware of the situation and called rescue workers. The child was saved, but they were too late for the mother.

But all was not lost! A tourist with a camcorder said, "I got the whole thing on tape!" Another hurried away with the videotape, taking it to a local France TV station to put it on the air.

Said a local saleswoman, "It's shocking no one bothered to do anything, but apparently that's how people are nowadays. An accident is just a spectacle because it's someone else's problem.”

Indifference is a sin. I’m glad God did not look upon a perishing world, full of sin, with indifference. John 3:16a tells us that “God so loved the world that he gave…” I think you could just as well write, “God so loved the world that he came to rescue…”

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Power of Speech

“Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down.  His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying...” (Matthew 5: 1-2.)

Have you ever seen or heard a great speech?  I remember seeing on video once the speech that President Kennedy made at the Berlin Wall in 1963.  Now keep in mind the context in which this speech was given. 

It was the height of the cold war.  The Soviets had built the Berlin Wall in 1961 because so many East Germans were fleeing to the west.  In October of 1962 the U.S. and the Soviet Union had come within an eyelash of nuclear war. 

In the summer of 1963, Kennedy spoke to several hundred thousand West Germans in West Berlin at the Berlin Wall.  Remember, these were people who had mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and assorted kinfolk trapped in East Berlin.  Many were questioning if freedom was worth its price.  Others were losing all hope. 

As he looked over the mass of humanity, Kennedy calmly said:
There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the free world and the communist world.

Let them come to Berlin!

There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future.

Let them come to Berlin!

And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the communists.

Let them come to Berlin!

And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress.

Lass sie nach Berlin Kommen!  Let them come to Berlin!

Kennedy then concluded his dramatic speech with these words, "All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words 'Ich bin ein Berliner'. "

In that strong, staccato, dramatic, intense tone of voice, Kennedy had resolutely stated his call.  Of that moment the famous historian Arthur Schlesinger writes,  "The crowd shook itself and rose and roared like an animal."  There was an avalanche of energy that surged almost visibly through the square.  It was as if he could have said,  "'March to the Wall-tear it down,' (and) his listeners would have marched." Such is the power of a great speech.

Jesus' speech on the mount was a great speech.  You may or may not know this but it is found in many textbooks today as a model for young students of rhetoric. As good as President Kennedy’s speech was, I believe even he would have said that Jesus’ speech was better. 

We Christians refer to Jesus’ speech in other way; we call it a sermon. Jesus’ sermon has moved people for two thousand years. Such is the power of preaching.

I believe in preaching. I believe in the power of preaching. I always will.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Do You Know Who I Am?

A few years ago, I read about an elderly woman who walked into the local country church.  The friendly usher greeted her at the door and helped her up the steps.

He was very polite and asked her, “Where would you like to sit?”

She replied, “Oh, the front row, please.”

“You really don’t want to do that,” the usher said.  “The preacher is often really boring.”

“Do you happen to know who I am?” the woman inquired.

“No,” he said.

“I’m the preacher’s mother.” she replied indignantly.

“Do you know who I am?” the usher asked warily.

“No,” she answered.

“Good,” he replied.

"A fool's lips bring him strife, and his mouth invites a beating (Prov. 18:6).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Best Times of Our Lives

Several years ago, Jim Kelly was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. On the night he was inducted, Kelly celebrated with friends at a local hotel in Canton, Ohio, where the Hall of Fame is located.

Many stars from great Buffalo teams of the past were present. Also present were coaches like Marv Levy and several of his assistants. They all enjoyed themselves greatly renewing old relationships and swapping stories.

Someone noticed several flashes from a nearby doorway. He went to investigate. Inside the hallway were dozens of Buffalo Bills fans; they were straining to see inside so they could take photographs of their heroes.

Hall of Famer Bruce Smith noticed the fans and encouraged them to come inside. Players and coaches gathered together so the fans could take pictures. However, the crowd grew so large, Jim Kelly suggested they move out to a nearby ballroom.

The crowd swelled to the point where hundreds of fans were taking photos. Players, coaches, and fans intermingled, swapping stories, encouraging each other, and just simply enjoying each other's fellowship.

Bill Polian had been the general manager of the Buffalo franchise during the glory years, when they won four AFC championships in a row. A couple introduced themselves to him and requested that he pose for a picture with them.

Bill Polian was confused by all of the attention from the fans. He felt compelled to ask, "... why is there so much excitement over this? I mean, I understand Jim [Kelly] is who Jim is, and what he's done for Buffalo..."

The wife cut them off. "You must understand: that was the happiest time of our lives. We just wanted to be close to you guys again."

I think fellowship with Jesus and his family should be like this. The Peace Offering in Leviticus 3 was to be a time of celebration and fellowship between God’s chosen people, His priests, and God Himself.

The Peace Offering anticipated the New Covenant’s worship assembly on the Lord’s Day. On Sundays, we gather together with others who are passionate and celebrate the success of Jesus. This guy is a conqueror; this guy is a superhero. We fellowship with each other, we eat with each other, we commune with each other—and with God.

On Sundays, we honor the Father for Christ’s exploits. And gathering together in this event that we call the worship assembly, where we honor God, we feel great joy being in the company of one another. We laugh, sing, celebrate, commiserate, and we experience true fellowship.

All of this anticipates an even greater celebration of fellowship in heaven. And who knows? Perhaps, there, we will declare that these worship assemblies were the best times of our lives.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Watching the movie, GETTYSBURG, recently got me on a Civil War kick, particularly with regard to that great battle. I have learned much. One item is this. Perhaps, history would have been recorded differently had General Jeb Stuart fulfilled the mission given to him by Robert E. Lee.

Stuart was to serve as Lee’s eyes. His mission was to scout the enemy and provide General Lee with vital information inside the state of Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, for Lee and his army, Stuart forgot his purpose. Traveling with his Calvary throughout the state of Pennsylvania, Stuart consumed his attention destroying train depots and tracks.

Lee sat with his army ready to attack General Mead’s Northern forces near Gettysburg. In his opinion, Lee had, at his disposal, the finest collection of infantry the world had ever seen. However, his attack would be compromised and ultimately fail. Part of the reason was General Stuart, in essence, went AWOL.

When he finally arrived, as historian Gene Smith writes, “fresh from his joyride”, Lee was enraged but under control. “I have not heard a word from you for days, and you are the eyes and ears of the army!” Lee uttered to Stuart.

Lee’s remarked devastated Stuart. Trying to recover, he said, “I have brought you one hundred twenty-five wagons and their teams, General.”

“They are an impediment to me now,” came Lee’s reply. Onlookers later recalled that watching this exchange brought them pain beyond description.

Lee’s army, of course, would suffer epic defeat in the battle of Gettysburg.

Jeb Stuart finds plenty of company in scripture. There are many men found there who exchanged short term pleasure for long term reward. Esau lost birthright to Jacob on a bowl of red bean soup. Samson surrendered his power for a frivolous relationship with Delilah. Judas sold out the Savior for thirty pieces of silver.

Not only does God expect his people to never exchange our mission objectives for short term gain, he expects us to never exchange them for the escape from long-term suffering. To suffering Christians in the Roman Empire, Jesus writes to Christians through John’s pen, I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown” (Rev. 3:11).

May we never release our crown. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

To Tell the Truth

I think General George C. Marshall was one of the greatest people of the twentieth century. Early on, he took a risk that could have eliminated his making any impact on the world.

Marshall was a young officer, drilling men in Europe shortly after the U. S. entered World War I. The men were poorly trained and ill equipped. General John J. Pershing, head of the U. S. Expeditionary Force, stopped by the camp where Marshall was located for an inspection.

Pershing was not pleased and gave Marshall’s commanding officer a tongue-lashing. This was unfortunate considering the fault lay with Pershing. Moreover, there was no hope things would get better.

This lack of integrity, coupled with Army’s upper brass refusing to address the real problems, was too much for Marshall. He pointedly told Pershing the truth.

Marshall’s fellow soldiers thought he had ruined his career. They had become so accustomed to ignoring the truth; they believed Marshall had made a mistake from which he could not recover.

Instead, Pershing was favorably impressed. Weeks later, he plucked Marshall from the ranks to become a chief aid. Later, Marshall became Pershing’s Chief of Staff. Pershing had been looking for a man who would be truthful and speak up. No had done so—until Marshall. Marshall rose through the ranks of the U. S. Army for many reasons, chief of which was he was known for frankly telling the unvarnished truth.

The U. S. Army needed people willing to do so. GOD needs people willing to do so.

Wherever you attend school, wherever you work, please tell the truth. Don’t resort to telling people what they want to hear. Be nice about it, be kind about, but tell the truth. To paraphrase Jesus, every time we say “yes” or “no”, people should never beseech us to take an oath. Our word should be enough.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Goat for Dinner

A few years ago, I read one of those humorous stories passed around in books and on the Internet. It involved a young couple that had invited their preacher over for Sunday dinner.

While they were in the kitchen preparing the meal, the preacher asked their little boy what they were having. "Goat," the little boy replied.

"Goat?" replied the startled minister of the Word. "Are you sure about that?"

"Yep," said the youngster. "I heard mommy say to daddy, 'Might as well have the old goat for dinner today as any other day.'"

You never know what your kids overhear.

Friday, May 14, 2010


When James Dobson formed FOCUS ON THE FAMILY, he could have packed the board of directors with “yes” men. He chose not to. Instead, he named strong personalities that, at times, clashed with his own views. And when he needed to submit to the board, he did so.

We are all accountable to someone. Professors to department heads. Preachers to elders. Employees to bosses.  Politicians to the voters.

It is never easy to be accountable, but it helps us become more of who God designed us to be. Even when the advice of our overseers is bad, the act of submitting can be good.

I guess that is why the Bible spends so much time encouraging us to submit.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Demolition Derby

Recently, a demolition crew began tearing down a house in Denton, TX. They were making headway, when they received some very bad news—they were tearing down the wrong house. The crew’s mission was to destroy the house across the street. Now, according to WORLD magazine, Francis Howard, age 69, owns one very damaged house.

I know people who live like that crew. Typically, they are those who have been hurt in the past. Maybe a spouse left them, maybe a family member mistreated them in childhood, maybe a family friend abused them, maybe they suffered a traumatic experience; but now they are attacking people who have nothing to do with the past mistreatment. Still, because of their anger or pain, these folks go around in life tearing other people down.

Jesus said, “But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you” (Mt. 5:44). Somebody has got to break the chain. Maybe loving our enemies is the place to start.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Portrait of a Victim

“She was the bastard daughter of a paranoid schizophrenic….” That’s how William Manchester began his description of this woman.

Her mother spent much time in the insane asylum. Her grandparents on her mother’s side were both insane. Her brother was driven to suicide by his mental illness.

As a young woman, she tried to call the man, who was her father at his office. He refused to take the call, instead telling his secretary to inform his child that he did not want to see her.

Growing up had been difficult. During her childhood and youth, she had twelve different sets of foster parents. Their parenting styles differed greatly. One set of foster parents gave her whisky bottles, drained of their product, to play with as toys.

In another home, she was punished with a razor strap any time the foster parent perceived her to be thinking impure thoughts.

Once during childhood, she received a pet dog and loved the creature. A neighbor killed it.

On one occasion, when visiting her grandmother, the insane woman tried to smother her with a pillow.

She spent twenty-one months in an orphanage. At sixteen, she married a much older man, she did not love, to escape the disaster that was her life.

All of these events helped kindle a broken spirit. Her stammer, her constant insomnia betrayed a sense of desperation within. The girl maintained a ravenous desire to be wanted.

Perhaps, looking back, people should have seen it coming. At thirty-six, maybe thinking that she would never succeed at fulfilling her desire to be wanted, she chose to end her life.

Hearing her story, I think I understand more why Jesus said what he did:

"And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Norma should have received better. Norma, Norma Jean, should not have experienced such a childhood of pain. I feel sad for Norma Jean Baker. A casting director successfully changed her name to Marilyn Monroe. He could not successfully change a broken heart.

“Man’s inhumanity to Man” is a terrible thing, but when it is inhumanity against a child, there can be nothing worse. I gather from His words, someday God will offer those who harm children justice. We commonly refer to it as judgment. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Mother’s Day has caused me to reflect upon the high cost of raising boys.  Recently, I saw a PBS special on Dwight Eisenhower. He entered West Point at 21 to play football and get a free education. He had no military career in mind.

Then, he hurt his knee and his football career was over. Devastated, he became despondent.  He recovered enough to graduate, but that was about all he did. He showed no academic promise. He was among those, who had received the most demerits. Here was a 25-year-old man at the U. S. Military Academy—and he has disciplinary problems.

Then, maturity began to kick in. He married. His wife bore him a son. Heading into his thirties, he began to treat his military service seriously. It became a career to him.

Slowly, he rose through the ranks. Upper level officers began seeing his gifts for organization. He entered Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and graduated first in his class. By his mid-fifties, he had completed leading the greatest collection of armed forces in the history of the world.

Still, I think about his mother. What did she think when she got reports that her 25-year-old single (unusual for that era) son was having disciplinary issues at West Point? I suppose she had to summon what most mothers have in the history of the world—patience. But they usually do.

Do mothers self-generate this discipline? I think not. I believe their creator instilled it within them. The Creator is the patient one (see II Pet. 3:15 for an example).

Who do we see more patient than a mother? No one—except for God.

Monday, May 10, 2010

How Great is Your Spiritual Imagination?

How far can God take your life?

In 1973, a young college student could not afford a home. She simply lived out of her Ford van, while she worked as a tree cutter in Berkeley, CA.

She finally could afford a place to live when she found a job at a bakery that paid her $400 a month. That lasted until 1980.

In time, she improved her opportunities. Today, Suze Orman’s net worth is approximately $25 million. Her advice is administered in books, on television and DVDS, as well as, the radio. Few could have imagined this transformation in her life.

Where are you in life right now? Are you at rock bottom? Remember, God stands ready to lift you up out of the pit of despair. His purpose for you may not be to give you millions of dollars. However, you may have reached a point so low that many who had millions would gladly give them up to get out of such a place. God will lift you out for free. How great is your spiritual imagination. 

Friday, May 7, 2010

My Wife Has Been Waiting to Meet You

For several years, a woman had been having trouble getting to sleep at night because she feared burglars. One night her husband heard a noise in the house, so he went downstairs to investigate.

When he got there, he did find a burglar. “Good evening,” said the man of the house. “I am pleased to see you. Come upstairs and meet my wife. She has been waiting ten years to meet you.” 

Was the event worth the ten years of worry? (This story comes from William Marshall, in the book Eternity Shut in a Span.)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Dark Secret

Travis Butler was a 9-year old boy, who concealed a dark secret: his mother lay dead on the living room floor of their apartment. Travis covered her body with his coat and placed sheets of notebook paper over her face.

Travis feared that if anyone found out, someone would come, take him, and place him in foster care.

Travis fixed his own meals. He cut his own hair. He faithfully attended school. Finally, after one month, friends of his family discovered his secret.

The world can be a pretty dark place. I think Paul had that in mind when he challenged Christians to shine like lights in a dark world (Phil. 2:15). Someone needs to bring light and beauty into the lives of the Travis’s of this world.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Mustard Seed Conspiracy

I was impressed to read from Diane Neal Matthews that McDonald’s opened its first restaurant in Des Plaines, IL, in April 1955. The first day, the operators made $366.12. Today, they make a whole lot more than that.

Every day, McDonalds serves more than 47 million people. McDonald’s has expanded to franchise restaurants in 119 countries.

When I read this, I could not help but think of Jesus’ words:

31He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches" (Mt. 13:31-32.)

God creates. God recreates. Who knows what God is in today? It could be something starting small, but later it will grow to make a huge impact.

Who knows? Perhaps you are a part of that ministry.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

You Can’t Stop the Resurrection

I read in a bulletin article about thirty years ago about an interesting grave in Hanover, Germany. It was the grave of a woman who, for her entire life, did not believe in the resurrection.

In her will she directed there be put huge slabs of concrete over her grave fastened to the ground by steel clasps. She said before she died, "I don't believe in the resurrection. But if there is a resurrection, I'm not going to go, I'm staying in the grave. And on the tombstone she had these words written, "This grave is to never be opened."

Guess what? Beneath those stones was a little seed. It began to grow. And that little seed formed a plant, which pushed up those stones from the ground. And somehow the plant that grew from the seed began to push those slabs and so disjointed them that the clasps became undone. The slabs were pushed aside, all because of that little seed.

The moral in that story was that some day, God will only have to speak one word, “Arise!” No matter who died in unbelief, they will not have spared themselves the day of resurrection and judgment. All will rise to face God.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Why Don’t I Like You?

I have an old story in my files from a few years ago. I found it on The story goes like this.

One man said to another at a school function for their kids: "I've been racking my mind, but I can’t place you. You look very much like somebody I have seen a lot - and for some reason I get the feeling you're somebody I don't LIKE - but I can't remember why. Isn't that strange?"

"There's nothing strange about it," said the other man. "For the last two years I've passed you the collection plate in church!"