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Monday, January 31, 2011

In God We Trust

             In Great Britain during the Nazi bombing of London, the King of England issued an order that the children of London would be taken to the countryside so that they could escape the dangers of the war. Authorities literally sent trainload after trainload of children into the country.
            The story is told that on one of these trains there was a brother and a sister. They had no more than left the station when she began to cry; she had no idea where they were going.
            Her brother put his arm around her and, with a tear in his eye, said, "I don't know where we're going either, but the King knows so don't worry."
            We need some childlike faith like that. History is like a meandering river, twisting and turning. I don’t know where history is going, but I believe that the King knows. And I praise Him for it.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Judging by Appearances

            A favorite story of mine is the one about a juggler who is driving to his next performance and is stopped by the police. "What are those machetes doing in your car?" asks the cop.
            "I juggle them in my act."
            "Oh, yeah?" says the doubtful cop. "Let's see you do it." The juggler gets out and starts tossing and catching the knives. Another man driving by slows down to watch.
            "Wow," says the passer-by. "I'm glad I quit drinking. Look at the test they're giving now!"
            In the gospel of John, a number of people judge Jesus by his appearance and earthly pedigree. Jesus tells them, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24 ESV). In spite of his warning, the majority of the people do judge him by appearances. They never recover from their mistake.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


            Where is your heart? What is your passion? What is your priority in life? What do you naturally think about—without thinking?

            Rick Atchley told the story of the late Pat Kelly, formerly a major league baseball player for the Baltimore Orioles who later became an evangelist. While playing for Baltimore, Kelly’s manger was the fiery Earl Weaver.  

            Kelly dropped by Weaver’s office one day and said, "Earl, it sure is good to walk with Jesus."

            Without even looking up, Earl Weaver said, "Well, that's nice. But what I really wish is that you would learn to walk with the bases loaded."

            Those two had hearts in different places. Those two were walking on different paths.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Field of Dreams

           An expectation in the beautiful motion picture, FIELD OF DREAMS, was that people would come to the baseball diamond that Ray had built in his cornfield. The movie touchingly ends with a line of cars, stretching for miles, containing people coming to the diamond in the cornfield.
            A few years after the movie was released, I read something neat in the NEW YORK TIMES. On the baseball diamond where they filmed FIELD OF DREAMS, which was built in a real cornfield on a real farm in Iowa, people were coming to play baseball. They would come from morning till night. Strangers were getting together and playing baseball, just like kids.
            Someone built it, and they really did come.
            Does this not show us that there really is a hidden desire, a deep need within each of us, for relationships? There is a spark within us that desires to transcend the day-to-day struggle for success and possessions; it takes us back to our roots and to those values that go beyond time and space. It is the desire for community.
            I think the Church should be a place where that kind of community can be found.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Your Sin Will Find You Out

A sermon illustration site on the Internet told about a group of high school students at Renaissance High School in Detroit. Some young people decided to play hooky in order to go to an afternoon rock concert downtown.
Let’s hope they enjoyed it because the next day, the DETROIT NEWS printed on its front page a photograph taken at the concert. Guess who was in the photo? Those students.
Assistant principle, Dr. Elijah Porter, was a faithful reader of the newspaper. He made good use of that which he learned that morning.

Monday, January 24, 2011

No Community

            Several years ago, a courier sent the following to READER’S DIGEST:

As a courier for an express delivery service, I tried to deliver a package that required refrigeration, but found no one home. I went to the house next door and told the woman who answered that I had a package for her neighbor. 
"Oh, she works Monday through Friday and every other Saturday," said the woman, "and some Sundays. She leaves about 7:40 in the morning and gets home around 5:30, unless she goes to the store, in which case it's closer to seven. And she's going to the store tonight because her kids are coming to visit—one all the way from California!"
            When she paused to take a breath, I asked if she would accept her neighbor's package. "Oh, no, I can't do that," she said. "I don't know her that well."

            Some people don’t want to experience community; they want to keep others at arms length. God calls for people to live in community.

Friday, January 21, 2011


I am glad we serve a God who values inner beauty over outer beauty. I can relate to a woman who told about her experiences at a beauty salon.

She was in need of a beauty make-over, and told her story like this:

I went to my salon with a fashion magazine photo of a gorgeous, young, lustrous-haired model. I showed the stylist the trendy new cut I wanted and settled into the chair as he began humming a catchy tune and got to work on my thin, graying hair.

I was delighted by his cheerful attitude until I recognized the melody. It was the theme from "Mission: Impossible."

Can you relate?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

True Encouragement

           The following story was sent to me in the 1990’s. Credit was given to:

Nido Qubein from Chicken Soup for the Soul Copyright 1993 by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen.

            Some of the greatest success stories of history have followed a word of encouragement or an act of confidence by a loved one or a trusting friend.
            Had it not been for a confident wife, Sophia, we might not have listed among the great names of literature the name of Nathaniel Hawthorne.    
            When Nathaniel, a heartbroken man, went home to tell his wife that he was a failure and had been fired from his job in a customhouse, she surprised him with an exclamation of joy.       
            "Now," she said triumphantly, "you can write your book!"                    "Yes," replied the man, with sagging confidence, "and what shall we live on while I am writing it?"       
            To his amazement, she opened a drawer and pulled out a    substantial amount of money.       
            "Where on earth did you get that?" he exclaimed.        
            "I have always known you were a man of genius," she told him. "I knew that someday you would write a masterpiece. So every week, out of the money you gave me for housekeeping, I saved a little bit. So here is enough to last us for one whole year."        
            From her trust and confidence came one of the greatest novels of American literature, The Scarlet Letter.

            A form of the word “encourage” occurs over fifty times in the NIV version of the Bible.  God’s word places importance on encouragement.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Will the Proud Father Please Stand Up

            Foreign mission work can be tough. Part of the challenge is the language barrier. One story that illustrates this well was sent to me years ago. I regret I do not know the author, but I think you will enjoy this humorous story:

             A new missionary recruit went to Venezuela for the first time. He was struggling with the language and didn't understand a whole lot of what was going on.
            Intending to visit one of the local churches, he got lost, but eventually got back on track and found the place. Having arrived late, the church was already packed. The only pew left was the one on the front row.
            So as not to make a fool of himself, he decided to pick someone out of the crowd to imitate. He chose to follow the man sitting next to him on the front pew. As they sang, the man clapped his hands, so the missionary recruit clapped too. When the man stood up to pray, the missionary recruit stood up too. When the man sat down, he sat down. When the man held the cup and bread for the Lord's Supper, he held the cup and bread.
            During the preaching, the recruit didn't understand a thing. He just sat there and tried to look just like that man in the front pew.
            Then he perceived that the preacher was giving announcements. People clapped, so he looked to see if the man was clapping. He was, and so the recruit clapped too. Then the preacher said some words that he didn't understand and he saw the man next to him stand up. So he stood up too.
            Suddenly a hush fell over the entire congregation. A few people gasped. He looked around and saw that nobody else was standing. So he sat down.            
            After the service ended, the preacher stood at the door shaking the hands of those who were leaving. When the missionary recruit stretched out his hand to greet the preacher, the preacher said, in English, “I take it you don't speak Spanish.”
            The missionary recruit replied, “No I don't. Is it that obvious?” 
            “Well yes,” said the preacher, “I announced that the Acosta family had a newborn baby boy and would the proud father please stand up.”

            We all make mistakes. Part of the challenge in foreign mission work is to accept the fact that we will all commit our fair share of errors.
            Quitting is not the solution. Instead, we need to laugh along with everyone else—and move on. We take God’s work seriously—but not ourselves.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bibs or Aprons?

Several years ago, someone visited a church in Minnesota that was growing rapidly. What he observed was sent all over the world via the internet.

One observation was of a phrase he heard repeated over and again,  "We want our members to wear aprons, not bibs." This signified:

Bibs are for people who only want to be fed.
Bibs are for those who are not yet ready or willing to feed themselves.
Bibs are for those who are more interested in being served than in serving.
Bibs are for those who insist that the church exists for them and their needs.
Bibs are for babes in the faith, those who haven't caught God's vision for the church, or those who are not yet of the faith.

Aprons are for those who have a heart to serve others in Jesus' name.
Aprons are for those who know that they are the church.
Aprons are for those who don't mind getting their hands dirty.
Aprons are for those who take the time daily to feed their spiritual hunger.
Aprons are for those who are growing in faith, and hunger to help others grow.

Seeing this, the guest could not help but recall Matthew 20:28:

"For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many." 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Manipulating the Truth

I read a story out of BITS AND PIECES years ago, that made me chuckle and think.

A college freshman decided to try out for his college track team. He was slow, but did so anyway because he knew it would make his father—a former miler—happy.

His first race was at an intra-squad meet. He competed in the one mile run. There was only one other participant—the college’s champion miler. As you might expect, the champion won handily.

The boy wanted to portray his efforts in the best light. Consequently, he wrote the following account to his father:

"You will be happy to know that I ran against Bill Williams, the best miler in school. He came in next to last, while I came in second."

True, but very deceiving. Maybe the young, failed miler graduated to become a politician’s “spin doctor.”

Friday, January 14, 2011

Classified Ads

These were sent to me a couple of decades ago. I got a kick out of them. Use them as you will. They were excerpts from actual classified ads:

 Illiterate? Write today for free help.

 Auto Repair Service. Free pick-up and delivery. Try us once, you'll
 never go anywhere again.

 Our experienced Mom will care for your child. Fenced yard, meals,
 and smacks included.

 Dog for sale: eats anything and is fond of children.

 Man wanted to work in dynamite factory. Must be willing to travel.

 Stock up and save. Limit: one.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Sinful Nature

           Calvin Jones was one of the brightest hopes in a poor town—Lake Providence, LA. At 18, he was not only an honor student and track and football star, he was a devout church-goer, taught Sunday school, and composed rap music urging younger kids to stay out of trouble.
            In January '94, his classmates and teachers selected him to be the keynote speaker for Martin Luther King Day. In his speech, he spoke on accomplishing one's goals, not falling prey to the culture, the importance of having God in one's life, and of getting an education. He urged the students to offer their best effort to meet their goals and not to become another victim to the drug culture.
            The night after his speech, Calvin got together with Charles Reed,19, a young man who was everything Jones was not: a heavy boozer and drug user filled with rage. Reed had never liked his do-gooder classmate.
            "I wanted to hurt that dude the first time I seen him. It's just something about people I have when I first see them. I just don't like them," Reed said.
            Still on that night, the two enemies got together and drank malt liquor. Then someone came up with an idea: let's torch the school! With the help of other juveniles, they did so.
            While the school burned, Calvin had the gall to return to the building to watch his handiwork. Standing among the crowd of onlookers, began to feel regret. Staring at the flames, tears streamed down Jones' face, as he thought about his father and brothers who had graduated from the burning edifice that had housed their high school.
            Three months later, Jones was sentenced to prison.
            Why did he do it? "There was no reason. I'm just sorry I didn't do more to stop it."
            I can think of no story that illustrates the sinful nature more effectively than this incident in the life of Calvin Jones. I trust that actions of attending church and demonstrating good citizenship accurately portray a section of Calvin’s heart—perhaps even the largest. Yet, there was a dark place as well.
            Here is the trap. It is easy to assume Calvin is guilty of having a sinful nature, while you and I are not. Not true. Oh, we may never burn down a school, but we have that dark place.
            I am not sure, who it was, who said, “I am not a sinner because I sin, I sin because I am sinner.” (The statement has been attributed to various people." Whoever it was, that person was right.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Hero to his Valet

There is an old saying, attributed to various people, that “no man is a hero to his valet.” Well, one man was a hero to his personal servant.

Edmund Morris, in his fabulous book, COLONEL ROOSEVELT, writes about Roosevelt taking a speaking tour in England after he was president. At the end of the trip, Roosevelt said goodbye to his friend, Arthur Lee, and to the valet, who had taken care of his needs during his trip.

After he boarded the ship, that would take him home to the United States, Lee was surprised to see Roosevelt’s servant crying. He asked him what was wrong.

The valet replied, “Excuse me sir, but in all my 30 years of service, I have never met such a great gentleman as ’im.”

Humility from the great is always appreciated.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what (Phil. 2:5-6). THE MESSAGE

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Let’s Make a Church Together

Many years ago, in my Abilene days, I heard Rick Atchley tell a story about a Vacation Bible School, where the preacher's wife was teaching third graders.

It was Wednesday, midway through the Bible School, when into class came a little boy, who hadn't visited yet. The boy’s name was Davey.

Davey only had one arm. This made the teacher nervous because kids can be cruel, and she was afraid that somebody would do something or say something that would make him feel awkward.

Nevertheless, everything went fine. They got all the way to the end of class, when the bell rang. The teacher did what she did every day at VBS; she said, "Okay, children, let's make our churches." Then she said, "Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors..."

She got to that point, when right there in front of her eyes, the horror of what she had done hit her. She had asked the children to do the one thing the boy couldn't do. So the teacher simply stopped.

Without even a nervous pause, a little girl moved her desk next over to the little boy’s desk. She took his hand into her hand, and she said, "Davey, let's make the church together.”

Isn’t the church like that? Flawed members pool their resources together to offer God and the world a church that is whole.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Reality Bites

The movie that probably epitomized Generation X was the 1994 movie, REALITY BITES. It featured young stars Ethan Hawke and Winona Ryder. It also starred an up and coming young actor named Ben Stiller.

The movie was about the travails of this generation. A deep point of insight came from this quote, which I wrote down years ago so as not to forget. It comes from Ethan Hawke’s character, "Troy":

            When my father found out he had cancer, he gave me this big, pink seashell, and he says to me, “Son, the answers are all inside of this.” And then I realize the shell's empty. There's no point to any of this. It's just a random lottery of meaningless tragedy and a series of near escapes.

Much communication lies behind this paragraph. Many of that generation continue to view the world as Troy. Life is empty and meaningless. My hope from the Bible is that there is a better way to view the world.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Their First Fight

Three weeks after her wedding day, Barbara called her preacher.

She wailed, "Nate and I had a DREADFUL fight!"

"Calm down, my child," said the minister, "it's not half as bad as you think. EVERY marriage has to have its first fight!"

"I know, I know!" said Barbara. "But what am I going to do with the BODY?"

In conflict, it is important to take a deep breath, be patient, and proceed carefully.

It is a trap to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider one’s vow (Prov. 20:25).

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Why Are You There?

In Edmund Morris’ excellent work, COLONEL ROOSEVELT, he made an interesting point.* During the Victorian Age, many in Europe and even in the United States, held up David Livingstone as an excellent example of a foreign missionary. (Livingstone was a medical missionary sent to Africa by the London Missionary Society.)

Morris, as an aside in his book, notes this about Livingstone, “The Victorian era’s saintly missionary converted only one African, who subsequently reverted to paganism.”

I have not documented Morris’ assessment, but that is beside the point. Morris speaks for secular society. The assumption behind Morris’ quote is that the foremost objective for missionaries is convert people and make them disciples of Jesus. They may not like us for it, but they respect us for it.

Good works are good, but they are subservient to the greater goal of reuniting people with God. Sometimes, Christians forget this. This scores us few points with our friends outside of Christianity. As Morris demonstrates, our friends are holding us to a higher standard, whether we are or not.

*Page 665, footnote “284 Like David Livingstone”

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Where Is He Going?

Legend has it that the great biblical commentator, Matthew Henry, went to London, as a young man and met a young lady of nobility and wealth. They fell in love. She asked her father if she could marry him. He replied, "He's got no background; you don't know where he's come from."

Her reply? "Yes, I know, but I know where he's going, and I want to go with him." 

I like that. When it comes to making disciples of people (for Jesus), we can easily overlook someone because of where they come from. God sees where they can go.

I Sam. 16:7--But God told Samuel, "Looks aren't everything. Don't be impressed with his looks and stature. I've already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart." THE MESSAGE

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Go For the Gold!

            We don’t know who the source is of this story; hence, it may be legend. So let’s listen to it as a parable and apply it to mentoring.
            Over a century ago, Andrew Carnegie was the wealthiest man in America. He came to America from his native Scotland, when he was a small boy, performed a variety of odd jobs, and eventually ended up as the largest steel manufacturer in the United States.
            At one time, he had forty-three millionaires working for him. In those days a millionaire was a rare person; conservatively speaking, a million dollars in his day would be equivalent to over twenty million dollars today.
            A reporter asked Carnegie how he had hired forty-three millionaires.
            Carnegie responded that those men had not been millionaires when they started working for him. They had become millionaires as a result of working for him.
            The reporter's next question was, "How did you develop these men to become so valuable to you that you have paid them this much money?"
            Carnegie replied that men are developed the same way gold is mined. When gold is mined, several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold; but one doesn't go into the mine looking for dirt - one goes in looking for the gold.
            That's exactly the way Christian leaders need to view people. Don't look for the flaws, warts, and blemishes. Look for the gold, not for the dirt; the good, not the bad.
            When we achieve this, we can truly cultivate a culture in our churches where equipping disciples can occur.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Importance of Personal Mentoring

Back in the 1990s, TODAY IN THE WORD told the story of the famous concert violinist, Jascha Heifetz, leaving a tremendously successful career to accept an appointment as a professor of music at UCLA. Someone asked him what had prompted his decision.

Heifetz replied, "Violin playing is a perishable art. It must be passed on as a personal skill; otherwise it is lost."

I think making disciples for Jesus fits in the same category. Churches cannot make skilled disciples simply by urging members to sit down and listen to gifted preachers and teachers “perform.”

Discipleship is an art—and a skill. It must be passed on at a personal level, or it will be lost.