Search This Blog

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Listen Up

“19My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 2:19).

            Occasionally I’ll note something in social science that confirms the teaching of scripture. One the most recent was from the book, JUST LISTEN, by Mark Goulston.
Goulston, a former hostage-negotiator, writes that the normal response to someone’s anger is to respond with raised voices and arguments. Instead, one should listen closely, ask questions, and repeat what you heard the individual saying.

In doing so, you make the person feel like he has been heard. Hence, the odds are increased that he will respond in a “conciliatory” manner.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Old Pick-Up Truck

There is an old story, probably apocryphal, that humorously reminds us of the biblical values of modesty and humility. It teases us Texans, but that’s okay, and it proves a point.

A Texas rancher driving through Vermont had to stop to let a farmer’s cows cross the road. As the farmer passed in front of the Cadillac convertible, the rancher called out to him, “How much land you got, partner?”

“Well,” the farmer said, “My land runs all the way down there to them alders along the brook. On the meadow side, over there, it goes clean up to those larches on the hill.”

“You know,” said the rancher, “I got a spread in Texas and I can get in my pickup and drive all day without reaching any of my boundary lines.”

“That so?” said the farmer. “I had a truck like that once.”

Monday, June 28, 2010

Freedom from Porn

Blogger Ryan Tate had a bone to pick with Apple CEO Steven Jobs. As WORLD MAGAZINE reported, Jobs had declared that he believed users of Apple products such as the iPhone and the iPad should be free from pornography.  Consequently, he pledged that Apple will diligently remove any app that contains explicit material.

This news irritated Tate, and he let Jobs know how he felt. Tate expressed belief that Jobs was anti-freedom and that Tate did not want “freedom from porn.”

Jobs responded in kind with a brief lecture. “You might care more about porn when you have kids.” Later, to another writer, Jobs wrote that his company carried a “moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.”

There were more critics who refused to be enamored with Apple’s decision. THE NEW YORK TIMES claimed that this move would cost Apple business, reducing their market share. This may prove to be true; however, MICROSOFT notably has announced that their new WINDOWS 7 mobile software will not permit software that “a reasonable person would consider to be adult or borderline adult.”

I take heart that these companies are taking bold stands against morally dangerous material. While I understand that God wants to change the human heart, I do not take for granted the blessing of living in a place where people self-regulate against moral pollution.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Did you see the headline last week: “Isner Wins Marathon Wimbledon Match, 70-68?”

In a match of the ages, American John Isner defeated Nicolas Mahut of France in, what we call here, a Texas death match.

The match lasted over 11 hours. The fifth set alone lasted 8 hours and 11 minutes. The match comprised of 980 points.

How do you survive after that win? How do you carry on after that loss? I think both will do fine. Let me explain.

Seizing the day with lofty goals and high expectations is great—if you live only one day. But to live a life with that kind of aspiration can be draining. It is no accident that too often, the smartest people do not get their doctorates, the most talented athletes don’t last, the greatest actors perform in fewer movies, the most talented singers produce fewer records, the brilliant executives do not become president of the firm…

This tennis match is a great example of how to live life. Both players were dedicated. Both gave great effort. Both failed many times. Both fought on. There are more talented players, who would have packed it in much sooner.

A life, given years, is a life filled with many failures. Those whom we view as successful are people, who have a high tolerance for failure. They see life as a marathon; therefore, they shake off any failure along the way and move on. Too often, the best and the brightest cannot tolerate failure, so they quit.

I predict both Isner and Mahut will squeeze every bit out of their individual talent before their careers are done. Consequently, both will retire as successes. And, both will be remembered, if for nothing else, for this epic battle.

So, if you are sitting there this morning lamenting your lack of brains or brawn, be of good cheer. Perhaps, you are blessed with an even more important component—the temperament to proceed even after failure.

Rom. 5:3-5: “3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Goodness of Man

Dumas Malone was the unparalleled biographer of Thomas Jefferson. In one of his volumes, he attests to the fact that Thomas Jefferson was known to have an enormous faith in the goodness of man and nature.

When he was president, in the year 1807, Zeb Pike was exploring in the southwest and sent Jefferson some live Grizzly bear cubs. The President did not know much about them and hadn't yet read Lewis and Clark's report on the grizzly. Still, he observed that they seemed playful and cuddly, so he sent them to a friend of his, Charles Wilson Peale.

Peale was equally optimistic about the harmony of the animal world with humans. He receive Jefferson’s accompanying message well, "They [the grizzly bear cubs] know no benefactor but man. "

Unfortunately, events proved Jefferson's faith in the nature of animals unwarranted. When the bears grew bigger and older, one escaped from his cage and terrified the family." Peale killed both bears and had them stuffed. You can almost see Malone smile when he writes, “… in this harmless form Peale continued to exhibit them."

I see these grizzly cubs serving as effective metaphors for humanity. Likewise, people start out as warm and cuddly creatures. But I have found it important to never underestimate their power to hurt or maim others. If they don’t do so physically, they will emotionally. And sometimes, this is the more destructive course.

As Paul quoted from the Psalms in the Rom. 3:10, “As it is written:
"There is no one righteous, not even one…”

I believe in the goodness of people, but I believe in the goodness of redeemed people.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Too Much Flexibility

Last week, I was called to jury duty. I was not selected to serve. That afternoon, I came across an old story about jury selection.

I seems that after being called for jury duty, a woman asked to be excused on the ground that she was opposed to capital punishment.

"But this is a civil suit, " explained the judge. "A woman is suing her ex-husband. It seems she put money aside for six years for a special vacation, but he took it and blew it at the track."

"In that case," she replied, "I could change my views on capital punishment."

Many people are disillusioned with politics because they are disillusioned with politicians. I have lived long enough now to see our nations’ two political parties flip flop positions on issues such as civil rights, fiscal policies, and more.

Perhaps, at times, the politicians were honestly seeking to do the right thing. Sadly, I suspect sometimes their motivation was winning the next election.

Obviously, one of the easiest ways to win is to run against what your opponent believes. Sometimes, politicians have done so—at the expense of their own beliefs.

It takes a lot of people to get good things done in our country. Changing long held views to win a short-term election reduces our chances.

We citizens hold politicians responsible. The best way to keep them in check is to keep ourselves in check. Prov. 21:8 states, “The way of the guilty is devious, but the conduct of the innocent is upright.” The supreme goal in democratic politics is not to win elections; the supreme goal is to do good.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Goodbye, Office

Business writer and cultural observer, Seth Godin, says the office is on its way out. He believes that in ten years, reruns of NBC’s show, THE OFFICE, will be paying homage to a relic.

I have no way of knowing. Certainly, more and more people are working out of their homes. And Godin makes a compelling case. So let’s imagine what he says comes to pass. What will be the implications?

Will there be a greater desire for community, since a source of meeting that need will be eliminated?

Will family relationships become stronger; such as they were in times past when farmers worked at home amongst their family members?

Will people grow more spiritually with the temptations that come with many offices removed?

I believe if God’s people want to practice godly stewardship, it would behoove them to plan for this possible contingency. Remember, it’s always better to be ahead of the wave than to catch it in progress.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Optimism of Birth

I read, in a church bulletin twenty years ago, a good reminder. In 1809, a war-weary world was anxiously watching the march of Napoleon. Yet, during that same year, William E. Gladstone was born in Liverpool; Alfred Lord Tennyson in Summersby, England; Oliver Wendell Holmes in Boston; Felix Mendelssohn in Hamburg, Germany; and Abraham Lincoln in Hodgenville, Kentucky.

Many in 1809 were focused on darkness and death, yet those babies’ lives’ would produce much light and life. When a woman announces she is going to have a baby, no matter what the circumstances of her world or her life, I am always choosing to view that baby’s birth and life with optimism. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Has It Come to That?

There's an old story I first heard from a friend years ago, and I have heard others repeat since. In this story, a family gathers around the bedside of a beloved grandmother, who has undergone major surgery. As the doctors try desperately to save her life, the chief surgeon says to family, "Well, we've done all we can do. We'll just have to wait and see now."

The family asks the doctor, “Is there anything that we can do?”

“Well, you can pray,” the doctor replies.

It so happens that the little old grandmother is still conscious enough to hear what the doctor had said. She moans, “Oh no! Has it come to that?”

I know families who live life like that. They view God as so distant, the thought of asking Him to intervene in human affairs is tantamount to desperation.

What a shame. This understanding is based upon a faulty vision of God. The fact that we have doctors and nurses does not mean God is not in the healing business. Rather, it demonstrates God’s desire to include humanity in His healing work. The field of medicine is not an indication of God’s desire for distance; it is an indication of God’s desire for closeness. God loves people and wants them to partner with Him in His Kingdom work.

Can God heal miraculously apart from the field of medicine? Absolutely, and I believe that sometimes he does. Equally important, God grants people the privilege of healing through the field of medicine.

An understanding like this motivates me to pray more, not less.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Life in the Year 2000

In 1968, the Hudson Institute predicted what life would be like in the United States in the year 2000. Here are some of the things they anticipated:

the annual per capita income would be $7500 a year,
the typical American would work seven-hour days in four-day weeks,
the typical American would enjoy 13 weeks of vacation each year.

Who knew? Actually, I have no regrets. While working seven hour days in four-day weeks would be nice, I sure am glad my income is not limited to $7500 a year.

All of this reminds me of how difficult it is to plan for the future. While I certainly believe in planning, because it demonstrates good stewardship, I do not want to lose sight of the fact that my dependence in the future is not based upon my planning. In the future, should God give me a future, I will depend upon God.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I was Closed-Up in a Coffin–and I Survived!

One of the greatest evenings of my life was the night of the Halloween Carnival 1967. I was a first grader at Como Pickton elementary school.

At the Halloween Carnival, the various classes were able to perform skits and songs. Our class, I thought, had the most original skit.

Someone arranged for the loan of a casket from the local funeral home. Our teachers asked for six boys to dress in Halloween costumes that looked like skeletons and climb into the coffin. I volunteered!

Shortly before we were to perform, we crawled inside the coffin and they closed the lid of the casket, placing a shoe at the spot where the lid met the rest of the casket. This allowed us to open up the casket on cue.

Someone wheeled us into the auditorium, which was full of people, and placed the casket at the very front. The lights were dimmed, then we opened the lid and sang the song, “I Ain't got Nobody.”

I thought that was one of funnest things I did in all of my childhood. I think it serves as a nice metaphor for what I expect for my future.

Before the carnival, I remember several people expressing fear at the thought of crawling inside a coffin and closing the lid. Yet I was totally unafraid; indeed, I looked forward to it. I felt like it would be a cool experience. And it was.

Likewise, today I hear a lot of people expressing fear at the thought of being placed inside a coffin. They are afraid of death.

I am not afraid of death. Because I believe there will be a good experience following death. I believe in a God that will one day raise me from the dead. Because of Jesus, I believe that I will someday be closed up in a coffin. But I will be released from that coffin and I will survive–for eternity.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Cup of Cold Water

Years ago, I read in Readers’ Digest an account from a subscriber about her attempt to perform a good deed.  During a particular hot summer in Chicago, news sources put out the word to be aware of the potential dehydration of all of the outside workers. Hence, people were encouraged to, when possible, offer these workers water.

One lady took this admonition to heart. She filled her plastic pitcher with ice water. She grabbed a tray and placed the pitcher, as well as, plastic cups upon it.

Soon, she heard the inevitable sound of the city garbage truck coming down her street. She hurried outside with her tray, and, over the noise of the garbage truck, she shouted to a worker, "Here. This for you!"

The man was genuinely surprised.  So she repeated her words, "This for you."

Shrugging his shoulders, he took the tray, along with the pitcher and cups and tossed them all into the back of the truck.

Bear in mind, when we follow Jesus’ teachings to offer the thirsty “a cup of cold water,” they may not always receive it in the way we would hope.  This could be for a variety of reasons: uncertainty, previous abuse, disillusionment, distrust, lives numbed to life. However, our mission is not to control results, our mission is to initiate action.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Phone Call

The Young Coach waited by the phone. He wanted so much to receive a call from the University of Minnesota asking him to be their basketball coach. He had played in the Big Ten. Coaching at Minnesota would be, in a sense, like coming home. The appointed time of 6:00 P.M. came and went. He was disappointed.

At 7:00 P. M., the phone rang. It was from another school out west. The facilities at this college campus were terrible—below the standards of even some high schools. The university did not play in a league as prestigious as the Big Ten. The outlook there did not look as bright as in Minnesota. Still, they called at the appointed time—7:00 P.M. He accepted their offer to coach their men’s basketball team.

At 8:00 P.M., representatives from the University of Minnesota called. There had been a terrible snowstorm. The phone lines had been down. They wished to offer him the job. He told them no.

Frantically, they explained that circumstances beyond anyone’s control had intervened. He could understandably call the other school back and explain to them what had occurred.

Again, he told them his answer was no. He had given his word.

The young coach’s name was John Wooden. The job he accepted was UCLA. Little did he know, when he accepted the UCLA job, he was sitting on a talent gold mine or that he and UCLA would change basketball history. Hear much about the University of Minnesota basketball program?

Wooden harbored no doubts that his life would have turned out different had he gone back on his word. Jesus said that we should let our yes be yes, and our no, no. Obedience to him should be reward enough. Still, it is nice to see John Wooden enjoy the consequences of his decision.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Attitude is Everything

In Joe Navarro’s new book LOUDER THAN WORDS, he writes that in Tampa, Florida, you will not find a statue dedicated to a war hero like you would in other locales. Nor will you find a plaque dedicated to them.

You will only find one plaque in downtown Tampa, Florida. It is at the corner of East Madison and North Franklin streets.

The plaque is dedicated to a woman named Mary Hadfield Watt. Mary Hadfield Watt was not famous. She never invented anything. She never cured a disease.

As a matter of fact, Mary Hadfield Watt sold fruit on the corner of East Madison and North Franklin streets. So, why does Tampa have a plaque in her honor? Because she had a marvelous attitude. When she died of cancer at the age of 33, the people there felt her loss deeply. So they decided to honor her.

Attitude is everything. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010


A few years ago, sports writer Elliott Kalb wrote about the superstitions of professional baseball players. Here are a few:

Joe DiMaggio would never run from the outfield to the dugout without touching second base.

Wade Boggs ate three chicken meals a day, which started when he had a good week, in 1977, in the minor leagues. He always had chicken at exactly 2:00. He had to come out for batting practice at 5:17.

Pitcher Turk Wendell had to brush his teeth between every inning. He also had to eat four pieces of licorice every inning.

Hall of Fame baseball player Kiki Cuyler did not play at all in the 1927 World Series because manager Donnie Bush wanted Cuyler to play center field and bat second in the lineup. Cuyler was extremely superstitious about batting in the third spot. Bush benched him until Cuyler would say he was sorry. He never did. The Pirates lost the World Series in four straight games to the Yankees.

They sound silly, don’t they? Do you have a superstition? A lucky penny? A rabbit’s foot? A crucifix?

Were superstitions to work, what would that say about who is in control of the world?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The World in which We Live

The following was sent to me over ten years ago. I do not know what the stats would be today, but this material I believe makes us think:

If we could shrink the earth's population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look like something like the following:

There would be -
57 Asians
21 Europeans
14 from the Western Hemisphere, both north and South America
8 Africans

52 would be female
48 would be male

70 would be non-white (Asian/Eastern)
30 would be white (Anglo/Hispanic)

70 would be non-Christian
30 would be Christian (includes catholic)

89 would be heterosexual
11 would be homosexual

6 people would possess 59% of the entire world's wealth,
and all 6 would be from the United States
80 would live in substandard housing
7 would be totally homeless
2 would have air conditioning

70 would be unable to read or write

50 would suffer from malnutrition
10 would have very good health
1 would be near death; 1 would be near birth

1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education

1 would own a computer

This analysis drives me to think of two words, which describe what I should become: World Christian.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Know-It-All

A classified ad came out in a newspaper twenty or thirty years ago:

FOR SALE BY OWNER; Complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica, 45 volumes; excellent condition; $500 for the set or best offer; No longer needed, got married last month; wife knows everything.

That ad makes me think of James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

Monday, June 7, 2010


On July 31, 2001, First Lady Laura Bush wrote a letter to donors and supporters of Washington, D. C. culture. She was celebrating the future groundbreaking for a museum of the Historical Society of Washington.

The letter began in this way, "Dear Friends, September 11, 2001, will be a great day for our city!" Needless to say, plans changed.

How many times do we presume upon tomorrow? Our brother James wrote this, “13 Some of you say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to some city. We will stay there a year, do business, and make money."14 But you do not know what will happen tomorrow! Your life is like a mist. You can see it for a short time, but then it goes away.15 So you should say, "If the Lord wants, we will live and do this or that." [NCV]

Friday, June 4, 2010

Discouragement? Never!

Who doesn’t enjoy watching children play baseball? There is an old story about a man watching a little league baseball game one afternoon. He asked a boy in the dugout what the score was.

The boy responded, "Eighteen to nothing—we're behind."

"Boy," said the spectator, "I'll bet you're discouraged."

"Why should I be discouraged?" replied the little boy. "We haven't even gotten up to bat yet!"

Because of the work of Jesus, we has Christians have all of the reason in the world to forestall discouragement and maintain hope:

1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God (Rom. 5:1-2.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Let He (or She) Who Thinks He (or She) Stands, Take Heed…

Photo Courtesy of www.LATIMES.COM

Yesterday, I read an article that hit me like a bolt out of the blue—it was a report that Al and Tipper Gore were separating after forty years of marriage. I must confess, if someone back in 1998 had told me Bill and Hillary Clinton were separating, I would have believed it. But the Gores?

I find this so sad. They seemed to have had such a good marriage, and at one time, I trust they did. They had been married forty years.

In one account, I read that some sociologists quit polling couples after forty years of marriage in seeking data for the divorce rate. They consider a marriage to be a success after forty years.

However easy it is to jump on the Gores, I wish to be cautious. The Apostle Paul wrote, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!” (I Cor. 10:12.) I have made it over twenty-one years in my marriage. The last thing I want to do is take my marriage for granted.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Do Unto Others…

In HEALING HEART, Norman Cousins related a conflict he had some years ago with a telephone operator:

            I went to the [pay] telephone to call the office and promptly lost a dime when an operator came on and asked for a quarter. It was a recording. I put in another dime, got a live operator, told her what happened, and she said the phone company would be glad to send me the dime, if I would give her my name and address.

            It seemed absurd that the phone company would spend 20 cents in stamps, to say nothing of personnel expense, just to refund a dime—and I said so. I also pressed the coin-return lever.

            At that point, all the innards of the machine opened up, and quarters and dimes tumbled out in magnificent profusion.

            "Operator, " I asked, "are you still there?"


            "Operator, something quite remarkable has just happened. All I did was press the coin-return lever, and the machine is giving me all its earnings. There must be more than three dollars in coins here, and the flow hasn't stopped."

            "Sir," she said, "will you please put the money back in the box?"

            "Operator," I said, “if you will give me your name and address, I'll be glad to mail it to you."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

No Patch Jobs

I spent ten years sitting at the feet of Rick Atchley in Abilene, TX.  Rick is the most effective preacher I have ever heard when it comes to telling a story and then applying it. Years ago, I heard him illustrate a sermon with a story about the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

It seemed the tower was tilting an extra centimeter each year. The 18th floor was in danger of collapsing.  A guide was leading some American tourists on a tour and was telling how the engineers were trying to correct the problem. He told how engineers had poured tons and tons of concrete and had just made a general mess. So a tourist asked them, "Well, did it have any effect?"

"Yeah,” the guide answered, “before that it leaned a centimeter every year; now it leans two."

Rick’s application spoke of how that tower was like people. People want patch jobs. They want someone to come in there and just stop the leaning a little bit.

Jesus said that people, at their core, are not good. Jesus wants that old life dead. He wants people to be born again (John 3:1-5).

Most people want patch jobs, but what they don’t want is what they need to hear.