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Friday, July 30, 2010

The Son Who was a Failure

            At thirty-three, he was a middle-aged failure. At least, that is what his father thought. He spent all of his spare time working on a cockamamie dream. He had done so for years.

            Finally, he finished. He brought the product of his work over to his father’s house. His mother was thrilled. His sisters begged for a ride. His father refused to come out of the house.

            Who cared how you got from one place to another!  Not only that, what a silly concept—mobilizing yourself?

            So the father went back into the house. His son and daughter-in-law got back in the new contraption and transported themselves back home. The trip took one hour and covered ten miles, but they did it themselves. No horses, no donkeys, no oxen. They returned in their automobile.

            The year was 1896. In a few years, the son would have a company producing his brand of automobile.  A few years after that, he would become one of the most powerful, influential, richest, and most famous men on the planet. He, more than anyone else, would create the middle class in the United States.

            One other thing. The son, who was a failure, would make the name of the man most people had never heard of, one of the most recognized names on earth one hundred years running. Anyone know the first name of the father? I don’t, I forgot. But thanks to the son, Henry, I know the father’s last name.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Overhearing the Gospel

I picked up the book, IN THE LAND OF BELIEVERS, last week from our local library. The subtitle gives away the premise: “An Outsider’s Extraordinary Journey into the Heart of the Evangelical Church.” In other words, a non-practicing, Jewish coed decided to attend and become a member of, under cover, a large Virginia megachurch.

It reminds me of my favorite “over-hearing the gospel story.” An acquaintance of mine, several years ago, was serving as a campus minister at a Texas university. He became friends with a guy, who grew to be very interested in the gospel. They began meeting in the student’s dorm room to study the Bible together.

The student’s roommate got wind of this—and did not like it. He decided to sabotage the study. He began bringing his girlfriend over, and while the guys were trying to study, began a process of—how do I say this?—physical intimacy that led ultimately to consummation.

As I recall, this happened a couple times. The campus minister and the student would be studying. In would come the roommate with his girlfriend. They would greet the studiers; act normal while the studiers studied, the shift into a more expansive, mutually, interactive process. At this point, the studiers would leave. After a couple of episodes like that, the studiers shifted their study somewhere else.

The interesting thing is, the student studying with the campus minister never became a Christian. The roommate and the girlfriend ultimately obeyed the gospel and became upstanding members of the campus minister’s congregation. As a matter of fact, she became the church secretary.

You never know what might happen when people overhear the gospel.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Valuable Blood

TIME magazine, this week, carries a story about Sachin Tendulkar, perhaps, the greatest cricket player in history. The publisher, Kraken Opus, has placed on the market a limited edition of Tendulkar’s autobiography.

Only ten copies were printed of this edition and they have already sold—
for $75,000 a piece. Why such high value? Each edition carries with it, a pint of Sachin Tendulkar’s blood.

That is valuable blood.

Believe it or not, I know someone’s whose blood carries a higher value.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Planning for Your Trip

John 14:2--In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.

The U. S. had two severe gas shortages in the 1970s: one in 1973 and one in 1979. During both crises, it was common for long lines to form at the gas pumps.

This was the era, when service stations offered attendants to pump the gasoline for customers (those born after that era have no idea what I am talking about), and the parable is told of a preacher waiting in line to buy gas. The line was long and people were getting testy. It was the holiday season-many were in a hurry to begin their trips to see relatives-and they were particularly irritable.

When his turn arrived, the preacher pulled up to the pump. The attendant commented to him, “I sure wish people would plan their trips.”

The preacher replied, “Yes, I know exactly what you are talking about. I have the same problem in my profession.”

Phil. 3: 20a--But our citizenship is in heaven...

Eternity, preparing for eternity, John 14:2, gas shortage, Phil. 3: 20 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Releasing the Angel Within

Legend has it, one time Michelangelo was sculpturing a huge block of marble. While he was working with chisel in hand-just chipping away-a guy walks up and asks, "What are you doing?"

Michelangelo replied, "I'm releasing the angel imprisoned in this block of stone."

A fallen world imprisons the angels within all of us. Encouragement is like sculpting. By encouraging others, we can, like Michelangelo, contribute to releasing the angels within others. 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (I Thess. 5:11.)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Who Are You?

            Leigh Montville writes of the famous movie star, Cary Grant, enjoying a quiet dinner with his wife and another couple in the Flamingo Hotel in Los Angeles, during his prime.

            A stranger arrived at the table and began asking Grant questions. He continued until he was clearly disrupting what had been a beautiful meal for the two couples. Consequently, Grant told the intruder, “That’s enough, you’ll have to go.”

            The boor became angry and rude, and he cursed Grant. “Just who do you think you are?”

            In a crushingly polite tone, Grant answered, “I know who I am. But do you know who you are?”

            People who are rude are to be pitied. They do not know who they are. We humans are blessed in that we are created in the image of God. Our actions should reflect a knowledge of this truth.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Virgin

Several years ago, radio evangelist, David Jeremiah, told of a pure teen age girl, who was being accosted by some of her more promiscuous girl girlfriends at school, Her reply? "I can be like you whenever I want, but you can never again be like me."

Those girls will one day discover: the less the sexual experience before marriage, the better the sexual experience after marriage.

God’s teachings are not designed to hinder, but to harness all there is out of life.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hero dog risks life to save kittens from fire

            In October of 2008, the residents of Melbourne, Australia hailed a hero. He was a terrier-cross named Leo. He was a dog.

            A fire had broken out during the night at a residence in that Australian city. Leo refused to leave the house, instead, steadfastly guarding a box containing a litter of kittens until firefighters arrived and saved the young ones.

            Rescue personnel had to revive Leo using oxygen and heart massage.
"Leo wouldn't leave the kittens and it nearly cost him his life," Commander Ken Brown reported to the press. And, yes, the kittens survived.

            So many in creation have been endowed with the instinct and desire to save others, even at the expense of one’s own life. When Jesus called upon His disciples to “deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me”, He was not calling them to cruel service. Instead, He was summoning them to conform to the standard by which they had been designed by their Creator. This holds true today.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Always Mr. Right

A fellow wrote in READERS DIGEST about him and his wife getting into an argument, when they were newly married. They were doing errands and discussing current events. Soon they got into an argument over the issues.

The husband reiterated his position forcefully, but his wife had the last word. "When I knew I'd found Mr. Right," she snapped, "I had no idea his first name was ‘Always!’"

Conflicts are inevitable in marriage, but we can “conflict” fair.

Prov. 12:18--Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Whatever Your Hand Finds to Do, Do It With All of Your Might

Two men invented the telephone. One was a professional inventor; the other was a high school teacher, who worked in his spare time.  The reason we hold up Alexander Graham Bell today as the inventor of the telephone is because he beat Elisha Gray to the U. S. Patent office by two hours.

Ira Flatow writes that Elisha Gray’s sketches reveal that he had basically the same idea as Bell. However, as a professional inventor, he did not see his invention as a lucrative endeavor; it was merely a toy. Consequently, he dawdled.  Were Elisha Gray more diligent; perhaps, Don Ameche would have played him in a Hollywood motion picture, rather than Alexander Graham Bell.

It was Thomas Jefferson who wrote, “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” His words remind me of Prov. 14:23, “Hard work always pays off; mere talk puts no bread on the table” [THE MESSAGE]. Procrastination is not a good quality.

This does not merely apply to work. God calls for us to respond to him immediately. The judgment day is coming. We may not have tomorrow.

Furthermore, ignoring God’s teachings hurts us today. God calls us to do as He says—now—not because He wants to rob us of a good time, but so we can experience life to the fullest. He created us and He knows the greatest way to live. Any delay in following God’s instruction, means a delay in recovering from our own self-destruction.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Two Pitches Walter Johnson Would Take Back

By September 29, 1913, the Washington Senators had been eliminated from the pennant race in the American League. The Boston Red Sox were in town for a meaningless game.

The game was played in Washington D. C., in front of a small crowd that included 6000 servicemen from military bases in the area. The soldiers had brought their own band, which played tunes to amuse themselves. The game took on the atmosphere of a comedy.

The Washington manager, Clark Griffith, rotated players in his lineup. Even the great pitcher, Walter Johnson, played center field.

In the top of the ninth, Washington seemed to have a safe lead of 10 to 3. Boston almost caught up by scoring six runs, making the score 10 to 9. Manager Griffith then brought in Walter Johnson to pitch. In the spirit of the game, he faced two batters and lobbed two fat pitches, which were turned into base hits. Both runners scored and were charged to Johnson's Earned Run Average (ERA.)

As Jack Cavanaugh wrote in his excellent biography, WALTER JOHNSON A LIFE, there was a price Walter Johnson “paid for an afternoon's frolic.”

Before that game, Walter Johnson had compiled an ERA of 1.09. However, the two earned runs the Johnson gave up in the “farce game” drove his ERA up from 1.09 to 1.14. Still, this was a record that lasted for 55 years.

Fast-forward to the 1968 baseball season, “the year of the pitcher.” Bob Gibson posts a 1.12 ERA. This becomes the all-time standard for a season’s earned run average, surpassing Walter Johnson’s 1.12.

Two teeny, tiny runs in a meaningless ballgame, but they were enough to mark a difference. Walter Johnson is forever relegated to having the second greatest season in terms of ERA of all time.

Decisions have consequences. A night of drinking can lead to an automobile accident and cause a lifetime of disability. One can engage in an indiscriminate, sexual act, and can contract a sexually transmitted disease for life. A marriage decision based upon passion and fantasy can create a marriage of heartache and loneliness. An unethical legal practice can lead to permanent disbarment. Texting on a cell phone while driving can lead to deadly car accident.

Wisdom requires recognition of consequences.

Prov. 20:25 It is a snare to say rashly, "It is holy," and to reflect only after making vows. ESV

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Post Card Arrives 78 Years Late

In 1986, Lorena Kelly, who was 89 years old asked,  “[It took] 78 years to get a post card to 10 miles?” Really, it was more a statement than a question.

You see, the card had been sent to Lorena’s sister in Pride, Louisiana on November 22, 1907, from someone in the “Bankston” family. The sender lived ten miles away in Amesville.  The card carried a message to Lorena’s sister, Dollie, wanting to know how she was feeling and to write back soon.  Dollie Kelly died in 1971.

No one was sure what had happened to the one-cent post card. One day, someone in the post office discovered it and the delivery was made.

Have you ever felt like God sent you a post card that never arrived? You hear people talking about God speaking to them from the Bible, telling them what to do, but you never got your message?

I wish I could find your card and deliver it. Unfortunately, I cannot. However, I can offer you this encouragement. God finds no joy in disturbing his disciples, but he does delight in cultivating their character.

God will reveal to you what he deems necessary. Concern yourself not with that which remains undisclosed. Focus on following that which God has clearly communicated.

Life is less like a script from a play and more like a game with a playbook. There is direction, and there is fluidity.

There will always be tension in a world created by an all-powerful God, who restrains his sovereign will and a less-powerful humanity, who freely exercises its limited will.

Reframe this tension; embrace the mystery that is life on earth.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Great Church Fights

This poem is found in Leslie Flynn's book GREAT CHURCH FIGHTS:

            Believe as I believe, no more, no less;

            That I am right, and no one else, confess;

            Feel as I feel, think only as I think;

            Eat what I eat, and drink but what I drink;

            Look as I look, do always as I do;

            And then, and only then, I'll fellowship with you.

                                    -Source Unknown

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Machine Nobody Wanted

Chester Carlson was ecstatic. He had invented something that would make a difference. His idea worked! But then, according to Ira Flatow, author of the book, THEY ALL LAUGHED, each company, to whom he took he took his invention, rejected it outright. These included IBM, GE, and RCA.

Carlson stayed at it. He tinkered with his machine for five years, making it better. Still, no one was interested.

Finally, even Carlson’s wife was put out with it all. She divorced her husband, tired of seeing too little of him.

Then everything changed. He met a man named John Dessauer. Dessauer was with a small company in New York. Their interests paralleled those of Chester Carlson. The company bought a license to use Carlson’s patent. In time, Dessauer’s company changed its name—to Xerox.

It would still take over 15 years for Carlson’s machine—the photocopier—to catch on. Carlson ultimately would earn and give away a hundred million dollars.

Hebrews11 talks about a number of people who, like Carlson, could see the unseen. Unlike Carlson, they did not reap the reward in this lifetime, but they would in eternity. The writer of Hebrews, likewise, challenges us to put our faith in that which we cannot see.

Will we?

Friday, July 9, 2010

What If No One Forgot?

It was the tenth inning of the final game of the World Series. The New York Giants were leading the Boston Red Sox, 2-1. Christy Mathewson, the great pitcher, delivered the ball to the plate. The batter hit an easy fly ball to center fielder, Fred Snodgrass. Snodgrass eased under the ball—and dropped it!

Snodgrass’ muff placed the game-tying run on second base. The next batter, future hall-of-famer Harry Hooper, hit a screaming line drive over Snodgrass’ head—surely it would be a triple.

Unbelievably, Snodgrass ran the ball down and made the greatest catch of his life—a game-saving catch. Unfortunately, the catch went for naught.

Christy Mathewson inexplicably walked a batter. The next man up, future hall of famer Tris Speaker, hit a pop fly foul ball, in front of the grandstand. Unbelievably, Mathewson and catcher John “Chief” Myers misplayed it, which gave Speaker another chance at the plate. He hit a single to tie the game. The Giants made no more errors, but lost the game when a sacrifice fly scored the winning run from third base.

Afterwards, the New York newspapers became apoplectic. They blamed Fred Snodgrass for the loss, even though he clearly was not alone in his mistakes.

Snodgrass went on to play four more seasons of Major League Baseball. Overall, he enjoyed a fine career. A good steward with his earnings, Snodgrass went back home to California and became a very successful rancher, banker, and businessman. He lived a life filled with good works and died at the ripe old age of 86 on April 6, 1974.

The next day, the venerable NEW YORK TIMES featured Fred Snodgrass in its Obituary page. Almost sixty-two years after the 1912 World Series, the headline read: "Fred Snodgrass, 86, Dead; Ball Player Muffed 1912 Fly."

What if God took your most embarrassing mistake, and refused to forget it? What if, on the Day of Judgment, God announced to Universe your worst sin?

Be of good cheer. Here is what Hebrews tells about God’s memory of sin for those who are in Christ, "I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more" (Heb. 10:17b) ESV.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Wall

Back in 2003, U. S. soldiers found a guy, who had been an enemy of Saddam Hussein since 1981. Sadaam had put him on his hit list, so this man went home and constructed a wall inside his home. The last thing the man did before sealing the wall was to place himself behind it. He stayed there 22 years until 2003, when Sadaam was dead.

Nobody outside of his home knew where he was. They did not know he was there. Only his mother and his wife knew. But he had been living behind that wall for 22 years. How would you have liked that? Living alone in the darkness behind a wall?

You think--what a terrible existence! 22 years behind a wall. How awful!

Guess what. I know Christians, who live the same way. They take their guilt and they build themselves a wall. And they live a miserable life, a miserable existence, behind that wall. But I want you to know, the blood of Christ can make you clean. It can destroy that wall.

14How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Heb. 9:14).

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Living Death

In Johannesburg, South Africa in1993, 24-year old, Sipho William Mdletshe, was involved in a traffic accident and declared dead. His body was placed in a metal box and taken to a mortuary.

Forty-eight hours later, after drifting between consciousness and unconsciousness, Mdletshe slowly became alert enough to realize he was trapped in a box. Terrified, he began screaming for help. Workers in the mortuary heard his shouts and let him out.

I have known a lot of people, who lived their lives like Sipho William Mdletshe. They may not have been placed in a metal box in a mortuary, but they lived their lives in a stupor. Some, literally, dulled their senses with drugs and alcohol and basically lived their lives as sleepwalkers.

Others, like Mdlestshe, suffered injuries in wrecks. Instead of being hit by automobiles, they were hit by people. Humans inflicted abuse upon them. Unlike Mdlestshe, they never cried for help and chose to remain trapped in their boxes.

Jesus is all about death, but it is death to the old life. After that, Jesus wants to create a new life and a new identity rooted in him. Jesus calls you out of the box of death and into life, “I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest.”

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Gimme, Gimme, Gimme!

A few years ago, actress/model Shari Belafonte left her husband, film executive Bob Harper, for actor Sam Behrens.  Her justification?  "It took me 30 years to come to the realization that I'm not on Earth for somebody else.  Sam was the first thing that came into my life that I said, 'Forget what everybody else says-I want that, and I'm gonna have it.'  When I found Sam, it was like, 'Gimme, gimme, gimme!'"

I can think of no better parable to explain the sinful nature of man.  Whenever we sin, no matter what the sin, we have the fundamental attitude, at that moment in our heart, and will of, "I'm not on Earth for somebody else.  I want that and I'm gonna have it." Can you see the selfishness in this attitude?

Be aware, it is not in Shari Belafonte alone we see this attitude. We see it, when man seeks power in his business for his own personal gain. It lies at the root of the heart that motivates a wife to manipulate her husband.  It is the gut feeling within the teen-ager, when he commits to break the law by guzzling a cold one.

Jesus claimed to model, for us, the way to life. The aforementioned attitude is the antithesis of the mind of Christ. Check out what the Apostle Paul says about this in Phil. 4:1-8.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Those Who Have Gone Before

Count me among the many who have appreciated David McCullough’s fine book, JOHN ADAMS, and the Tom Hanks’ produced mini-series of the same title. In one of the early episodes, I was reminded of the tremendous sacrifice members of the American Colonies offered up.

In the early 1770s, John Adams is off trying to lay the groundwork in the Continental Congress that would ultimately lead to our independence. Meanwhile, his wife, Abigail, is at home with their four children. The scourge of small pox has hit New England, where the Adams’ homestead was located.

Without input from her husband, Abigail is confronted with difficult life and death decisions. In a bold move, she decides to have a local physician inoculate herself and her children. Bear in mind, this is twenty years before Edward Jenner perfects the small pox vaccine.

In the series depiction, the physician parks his wagon outside the Adams’ door. In the wagon lies a poor, unfortunate soul carrying the disease. The physician scrapes the pustules, and taking some of the liquid, places it with a scalpel inside the wounds he has created on each of the Adams’ family members’ arms.

It worked. Although John and Abigail’s oldest daughter contracted a mild case, the family was protected against the disease.

Watching this gruesome, anxious event, I was struck by how much all members of our parental colonies surrendered in order to forge a new nation. Here is this woman who must function as a single parent for, ultimately, years while her husband is away.

I hope this weekend, those of you who are Americans have counted your blessings. Those who have gone on before us endured much. We are the beneficiaries.

Gratitude is a virtue. Let us be gracious.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Hidden Hand of God

Sunday is July 4. Reflecting upon this holiday, it occurred to me how rarely we look back on history and ponder the catastrophes that were averted.

The historian, William Manchester, offers one such incident where this was clearly the case. Whenever we look back on World War II and our war with Japan, we typically consider the war over, after the Atomic bombs were dropped. However, not all of Japan was beaten into submission.

Before the Japanese surrender to Gen. MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz, a group of renegades in the Japanese military planned to overthrow their Emperor's government. Their plot included assassinations against members of their own government. They would then lead the people in a continued war against the United States and its allied forces.

On August 28, as the USS Missouri was sailing into Tokyo Bay, kamikaze bombers were positioned on Japanese airfields, ready to fly and sink the ship. Fortunately, Prince Takamatsu, the younger brother of Emperor Hirohito, reached the Atsugi airstrip before the renegades had left. He convinced them to call off their mission. The Japanese surrender went through as planned.

Stories, such as these, make me think of “the God who is there.” Perhaps His hand is hidden, but I do believe he is at work. It is sad that we humans, because our vision is so limited, do not give thanks often enough for the crisis averted. Perhaps, this is not a reflection on our lack of vision, rather, of our lack of faith.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


In 2004, the Arlington Burton's boy’s basketball team withdrew from the Texas private schools’ playoffs. Burton had been scheduled to play the west regional final on a Friday night. However, the school is a part of the Seventh-Day Adventists. Their religious beliefs preclude them from participating in activities from sundown to sundown—Friday to Saturday.
The executive board of the state’s private schools ruled that the game would not be moved to accommodate Burton. Consequently, Burton made the decision to not play.

I am not a Seventh Day Adventist, but I respect their convictions. I wish more of us Christians would stay so faithful to ours.