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Monday, February 28, 2011

Keeping Up With the Joneses

Ever heard the saying, “keeping up with the Joneses”? It means replacing something you own—a coat, a car, or something else—with a more expensive version, because you saw a friend or neighbor with a nicer one than you owned.
            Several years ago, I read a story that made me think of this practice. E. R. Eastman wrote about the time he and his wife went to an auction.
            Before the auction, they saw an empty pork barrel they wanted to buy. They became separated and, when the time came to auction off the barrel, neither could see the other.
            The auctioneer was a friend of theirs, and he could not resist—he kept raising the price way over the actual value, as man and wife stubbornly fought to win the bid.
            I think that is what materialism does to people. In trying to bid against the Joneses, we raise the price of things way over their actual value.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Wrestler

            H. B. London wrote this week about Joel Northrup. Joel is a high school student who wrestles competitively in Iowa.   
            Last week, he competed in the state tournament. The draw slated his first opponent to be—a girl. In a stand reminiscent of Eric Liddell in CHARIOTS OF FIRE, Northrup refused.                
            “Wrestling is a combat sport and it can get violent at times. As a matter of conscience and my faith, I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner. It is unfortunate that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most other high school sports in Iowa."       
            The good news is that Northrup was able to wrestle in the consolation rounds. (Incidentally, he won his first match.)       
            Joel’s dad is a preacher. The local newspaper quoted him as saying, "We believe in the elevation and respect of women and we don't think that wrestling a woman is the right thing to do."            
            Is it just me, or do both Northrup men make complete sense?


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Judgment at Nuremberg

            One of the great movies of all time was JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG. The movie depicts the events of the post-war trials of the Nazi leaders in the late 1940s.            
            Spencer Tracy  portrayed chief judge Dan Haywood. At the end of the trials, Haywood summarizes in this way:           

            ... the most shattering truth that has emerged from this trial (is that) Had all the defendants been degraded perverts, had they all been sadistic monsters and maniacs these events would have no more moral significance than an earthquake or any other natural catastrophe. But this trial has shown that under national crisis, ordinary and even able and extraordinary men can delude themselves into the commission of crimes so vast and heinous that they beg of the imagination.

            When I read those words, I cannot help but think of Judges 18:1 In those days Israel had no king. Humanity is never self-sufficient enough, nor brilliant enough, to avoid moral catastrophe without God.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

“Winnie Cooper” Has a Theorem

            I loved the eighties’ TV series, THE WONDER YEARS. One of the young stars of the show was an actress named Danica McKellar.
            After the series ended, Danica attended UCLA, where she discovered a love for mathematics. She also found out she was gifted in the discipline.
            In 2005, she co-authored the Chayes-McKellar-Winn theorem. Not bad.
            I would be more than happy to explain to you the nuances of the theorem. Unfortunately, I do not have the time. (Hah, Hah!) Suffice it to say, she did a good job—I take by faith.
            In the ensuing years, Danica has written books primarily designed to encourage young people in their pursuit of mathematical knowledge. Bully for her! (I should read them myself.)
            I have no idea if Danica is a Christian, but I believe she models for those of us who are how we should do the best we can with the gifts God has given us.
            Of course, we should use our gifts to serve the community of faith. However, we should also use our gifts to serve the world, which blesses the Kingdom of God.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Beating Your Head Against a Wall

            SPORTS ILLUSTRATED recently noted that major league baseball player, Brian Roberts, of the Baltimore Orioles, had to miss the last week of the season. He was suffering from recurring headaches.

            Come to find out—the headaches were caused by Roberts constantly hitting himself in the head with his baseball bat, after striking out.

            Well, duh!

            Some people live their lives this way. Paul was writing about them when he stated:

7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hold on To Your Crown

I read this article several years ago in the newspaper. This is quoted straight from the account:

REDDING, Calif. - Like thousands of other people returning from a Christmas trip, Kenneth Zimmer, 36, discovered when he got home Monday that he had left something important behind.
     But Zimmer's case is more embarrassing than most.  It seems he was driving from San Francisco to his home in Eugene, Ore., when he stopped 100 miles south of the California-Oregon border in Redding.
     Zimmer told police that he left his wife Pat, 36, and their five children sleeping in the back of their van while he had a cup of coffee, then continued the final four to five hours of his drive home.
     The children were all fine when Zimmer arrived home around dawn.  But - no wife.
     About six hours later, after the embarrassed student teacher filed a missing person report with Redding police, his wife telephoned from the Eugene bus depot asking for a ride home.
     There were no reports of anything she may have said to her husband.

            I would hope that this husband’s normal view toward his wife was like the proverb, “A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown…”
            Of course, if that were true, maybe the verse this husband needed to remember would have been Rev. 3:10, “I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” :) 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Serving God and Mammon

            Back in 2004, Steve Rushin had an interesting take on athletes and materialism in the magazine SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. Attending the NBA All-Star game—that year in Los Angeles—Rushin noted in an article entitled “Amens and Amaretto”:

            Jesus said, "Ye cannot serve both God and mammon," but that didn't stop everyone from trying during NBA All-Star week in Los Angeles, where Magic Johnson took the stage of the Shrine Auditorium and said earnestly, after a three-hour tribute in his honor, "First I want to thank God, but also American Express."

            It was like that all week in L.A., God and money intersecting, sometimes literally, as in the gold cross of diamonds that dangled from the neck of  Indiana Pacers forward-center Jermaine O'Neal. Or the silver cross of  diamonds that accessorized the Kobe Bryant jersey worn by TV's Laverne, actor-director Penny Marshall…

            My concern is not for the ones in the story. For all I know, they may have changed. My concern is, how much do their attitudes reflect mine?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Pilot

             I read an old joke about a passenger in a two-seater airplane that was far up in the sky. The pilot began to laugh hysterically.
            The passenger asked, "What's so funny?"
            The pilot replied, "I'm thinking of what they'll say at the asylum when they find out I've escaped."
             I can’t help but think about the Prince of Darkness when I hear that joke. He is flying in an insane way. Yet, so many choose to remain on his plane. I believe Jesus provides a way to parachute off—and escape.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Winter Romantic

            This winter, we in the south, have received a little taste of what it is like to live in cold-weather places. I received the following story several years ago. I thought it was hilarious, so I filed it away. I have no idea who wrote it. Obviously, it was somebody, who lived in a place with long winters.
            It was probably written by a guy like me: someone from a warm-weather climate, who has always romanticized moving to an area that experienced true winter. At last, he received his wish.
            I have no idea what biblical text it illustrates, nor what great theological truth or practical lesson it conveys. Maybe the great epiphany is this: be careful what you wish for.

"The Diary of a Snow Shoveler"

            December 8 - 6:00 PM. It started to snow. The first snow of the season and the wife and I took our tea and sat for hours by the window watching the huge soft flakes drift down from heaven. It looked like a Grandma Moses Print. So romantic we felt like newlyweds again. I love snow!

            December 9 - We woke to a beautiful blanket of crystal white snow covering every inch of the landscape. What a fantastic sight! Can there be a more lovely place in the whole world? Moving here was the best idea I've ever had. Shoveled for the first time in years and felt like a boy again. I did both our driveway and the sidewalks.
            This afternoon the snowplow came along and covered up the sidewalks and closed in the driveway, so I got to shovel again. What a perfect life.

             December 12 - The sun has melted all our lovely snow. Such a disappointment. My neighbor tells me not to worry, we'll definitely have a white Christmas. No snow on Christmas would be awful! Bob says we'll have so much snow by the end of winter that I'll never want to see snow again. I don't think that's possible. Bob is such a nice man, I'm glad he's our neighbor.

              December 14 – Snow, lovely snow! Eight inches last night. The temperature dropped to minus 20. The cold makes everything sparkle so. The wind took my breath away, but I warmed up by shoveling the driveway sidewalks. This is the life! The snowplow came back this afternoon and buried everything again. I didn't realize I would have to do quite this much shoveling, but I'll certainly get back in shape this way.

            December 15 - Twenty inches forecast. Sold my van and bought a 4x4 Blazer. Bought snow tires for the wife's car and two extra shovels. Stocked the freezer. The wife wants a wood stove in case the electricity goes out. I think that's silly. We aren't in Alaska, after all.

             December 16 - Ice storm this morning. Fell on my butt on the ice in the driveway putting down salt. Hurt sooooo bad. The wife laughed for an hour, which I think was very cruel.

            December 17 - Still way below freezing. Roads are too icy to go anywhere. Electricity was off for five hours. I had to pile the blankets on to stay warm. Nothing to do but stare at the wife and try not to irritate her. Guess I should've bought a wood stove, but won't admit it to her. I hate it when she's right. I can't believe I'm freezing to death in my own living room.

            December 20 - Electricity's back on, but had another fourteen inches of the horrid stuff last night. More shoveling. Took all day. Stupid snowplow came by twice. Tried to find a neighbor kid to shovel, but they said they're too busy playing hockey. I think they're lying.
            Called the only hardware store around to see about buying a snow blower and they're out. Might have another shipment in March. I think they're lying. Bob says I have to shovel or the city will have it done and bill me. I think he's lying.
            December 22 - Bob was right about a white Christmas because thirteen more inches of the white stuff fell today, and it's so cold it won't melt till August. Took me 45 minutes to get all dressed up to go out to shovel and then I had to stop and help my wife. By the time I got back out there again I was too tired to shovel. Tried to hire Bob who has a plow on his truck for the rest of the winter; but he says he's too busy. I think he is lying.
            December 23 - Only two inches of snow today. And it warmed up to 0. The wife wanted me to decorate the front of the house this morning. What? Is she nuts!!!??  Why didn't she tell me to do that a month ago? She says she did, but I think she's lying.

            December 24 – Six inches. Snow packed so hard by snowplow, I broke the shovel. Thought I was having a heart attack. If I ever catch the idiot who drives that snowplow I'll drag him through the snow by his hair and beat him to death with my broken shovel.
            I know he hides around the corner and waits for me to finish shoveling and then he comes down the street at a 100 miles an hour and throws snow all over where I've just been! Tonight the wife wanted me to sing Christmas carols with her and open our presents, but I was too busy watching for that rotten snowplow.

            December 25 - Merry -GROAN- Christmas! Twenty more inches of the white slop tonight. Snowed in. The idea of shoveling makes my blood boil. I hate the snow! Then the snowplow driver came by asking for a donation and I hit him over the head with my shovel. The wife says I have a bad attitude. I think she's lost her mind. If I have to watch "It's A Wonderful Life" one more time, I'm going to stuff her the microwave.

            December 26 - Still snowed in. Why on earth did I ever move here? It was all HER idea. She's really getting on my nerves.

            December 27 - Temperature dropped to minus 30 and the pipes froze, plumber came after fourteen hours of waiting for him, he only charged me $1,400 to replace all my pipes.

            December 28 - Warmed up to above minus 20. Still snowed in. THE WOMAN I MARRIED is driving me crazy!!!

            December 29 - Ten more inches. Bob says I have to shovel the roof or it could cave in. That's the silliest thing I ever heard. How dumb does he think I am?

            December 30 - Roof caved in. I beat up the snowplow driver!  He is now suing me for a million dollars for the beating I gave him !!!
            The wife went home to her mother. Nine inches predicted.

            December 31 - I set fire to what's left of the house. No more shoveling.
            January 8 - Feel so good. I just love those little white pills they keep giving me. But wonder why I am tied to the bed?

            Okay. All of you who live in snow climates. Is it this bad?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Invader

           Through the years, on Sundays, I have witnessed many unique events. I once had a stranger tell me God had told him to give me a new vehicle. Another time, a young man in his twenties challenged me to a fight.
            Here is a story sent to me today by one of our members at Shiloh. I do not know if it was an actual event or a legend, but it is a nice reminder for us:

His name is Tim. He has wild hair, wears a T-shirt with holes in it, jeans, and no shoes. This was literally his wardrobe for his entire four years of college.

He is brilliant. Kind of profound and very, very bright. He became a
Christian while attending college.

Across the street from the campus is a well-dressed, very conservative
church. They want to develop a ministry to the students but are not
sure how to go about it..

One day Tim decides to go there. He walks in with no shoes, jeans, his
T-shirt, and wild hair. The service has already started and so Tim starts down the aisle looking for a seat.

The church is completely packed and he can't find a seat. By now, people are really looking a bit uncomfortable, but no one says anything.

Tim gets closer and closer and closer to the pulpit, and when he realizes there are no seats, he just squats down right on the carpet.

By now the people are really uptight, and the tension in the air is thick.

About this time, the minister realizes that from way at the back of the
church, a deacon is slowly making his way toward Tim.

Now the deacon is in his eighties, has silver-gray hair, and a three-piece suit. A godly man, very elegant, very dignified, very courtly. He walks with a cane and, as he starts walking toward this boy, everyone is saying to themselves that you can't blame him for what he's going to do.

How can you expect a man of his age and of his background to understand some college kid on the floor?

It takes a long time for the man to reach the boy.

The church is utterly silent except for the clicking of the man's cane.
All eyes are focused on him. You can't even hear anyone breathing.
The minister can't even preach the sermon until the deacon does what he has to do.

And now they see this elderly man drop his cane on the floor. With great difficulty, he lowers himself and sits down next to Tim and worships with him so he won't be alone.

Everyone chokes up with emotion...

When the minister gains control, he says,
“What I'm about to preach, you will never remember. What you have just seen, you will never forget.”

            I know one reason that church will never forget what it saw--the old deacon’s action is emblematic of the work of Jesus. Among other acts of service, Jesus came from heaven, lowered himself by our side, and offered the Father praise along with us, so we would not be alone.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Never Ask For Justice

            Legend has it a maiden approached Napoleon begging that he spare the life of her father, who had been a deserter and had been condemned for execution.             
             Napoleon frowned and answered, “He has already twice deserted and do you ask for his life?”
            “Sir,” she replied, “I do not ask for justice but, for mercy.”
            Napoleon granted her plea.
            Who are we to ask God for justice? 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Where Home Is

            There is an old, threadbare story of a little child who was asked where his home was. He answered, with eyes full of love, “Where mother is.”
            As we grow older, I wish we could, in our gut, emotionally feel that home is where Jesus is.
            But our homeland is in heaven, and we are waiting for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, to come from heaven (Phil. 3:20) NCV.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What is the Church?

       The church is not a gallery for the exhibition of eminent Christians but a school for the education of imperfect ones, a nursery for the care of weak ones, a hospital for the healing of those who need special care.

--Henry Ward Beecher

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I’m not a guy who places emphasis on a church building, nor do I disparage factories, but I appreciate an old, old quote from John Kelman:

God pity the nation whose factory chimneys rise higher than her church spires.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Center of Attention

I love the story told about Leonardo da Vinci. It is possibly legend, but it illustrates a valid point.

Leonardo took a friend for a private viewing of his marvelous work, “The Last Supper.” The friend pondered the masterpiece, and upon reflection said, “The most striking thing in the picture is the cup.”

Da Vinci immediately took a brush and eliminated the cup from the painting. “Nothing in my painting shall attract more attention than the face of my Master!”

Monday, February 7, 2011

Boiling Over

            My great-grandmother was a Cherokee Indian, so this story may have come from one of my ancestors.
            The story is told of a Native American who was cautioned by a white man about showing too much zeal. My possible ancestor’s reply? “I don’t know about having too much zeal; but I think it is better the pot should boil over than not boil at all.”
            Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord (Rom. 12:11).

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Answering Our Prayers

            The tale is told of a son who overheard his father pray that the needs of the poor might be fulfilled. The son said to his father, “Father, I wish I had your corn.”
            “Why my son? What would you do with it?” asked the father.
            The son replied, “I would answer your prayers.”

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Power of Example

I Tim. 4:12 Do not let anyone treat you as if you are unimportant because you are young. Instead, be an example to the believers with your words, your actions, your love, your faith, and your pure life (NCV).

W. E. Gladstone remains a gigantic figure in British history. He impacted policy in Great Britain for decades during the 19th century.

Gladstone once uttered a sentence that is as reflective of Christianity as it is politics:

One example is worth a thousand arguments.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

All Ground Is Level at the Foot of the Cross

            There is a story told, perhaps legend, that relates a remarkable truth:

            The Duke of Wellington was once taking Communion along with the other members of his church. Being an Anglican, he and all other members would approach the communion table and kneel down to receive the sacrament.
            It so happened that a very poor man walked up the opposite aisle and, reaching the communion table, knelt down close by the side of the Duke.            
            Someone came and touched the poor man on the shoulder. He whispered to him to move away, or to rise and wait until the Duke could receive the bread and the wine.
            Overhearing the conversation, the great commander grabbed the hand of the old man and held on, preventing him from rising. Reverently and distinctly, the Duke said, “Do not move, we are all equal here.”