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Thursday, March 31, 2011


              As the father of a boy, I appreciate the old joke about a father, who was trying to motivate his young son to be more studious. One day, he told his boy, “Son, did you know when Lincoln was your age, he would study books by firelight?”
             “That’s great, dad,” the boy replied as he pondered that image. “Dad?”
            “Yes, son.”
            “When he was your age, wasn’t he president?”
            While we should hold high standards, let us maintain a spirit of humility.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Triumph’s Secret

            I chuckled, when I read something a few years ago, the Academy Award Winning Actress, Maurine Stapleton, said, "I've been asked repeatedly what the 'key' to acting is, and as far as I'm concerned, the main thing is to keep the audience awake."
            Now, more than ever, I’m convinced achievements, even great achievements, are NOT based upon complicated maneuvers. Rather, achievements are the result of a number of simple things, done in proper order, and done well.
            I am reminded of this every time someone gives me an email address over the phone. If I miss one letter, nothing will work. But if I slow down and work methodically (“a” as in “apple”, “c” as in “cow”….), everything will function fine.
            Every triumph includes this question: what can I do right now to meet the goal?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

2004 Fed study: "Fear of Hell Might Fire Up The Economy"

            That was a MSN MONEY headline I saw in 2004. The story, written by Alister Bull of the Reuters News Service, began in this way:

            Researchers say, all else being equal, belief in eternal damnation reduces corruption, strengthens the rules of law and raises per capita income.
            Economists searching for reasons why some nations are richer than others have found that those with a wide belief in hell are less corrupt and more prosperous, according to a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis….

            The report went on to say, "A belief in hell tends to mean less corruption and less corruption tends to mean a higher per capita income.'' 
            This is not the first time I have seen an argument such as this. What do you think? Does a belief in hell affect human behavior? Does a belief in hell impact the beliefs of a human heart?

Monday, March 28, 2011

You Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog

            Do everything without complaining or arguing… (Phil. 2:14.)

            There's an Ozark story about a hound sitting in a country store and howling as hounds do. 
            A stranger walks in who says to the store-keeper, "What's the matter with the dog?"
            "He's sitting on a cocklebur."
            "Why doesn't he get off?"
            "He'd rather holler."
            Some people would rather holler than get off the cocklebur.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Throne Room

            When I was in college, I remember hearing a speaker tell a story about the first time a certain pope came to the U.S. Customarily, a pope’s visits would include calls upon cardinals in some of the dioceses.
            Now, in locations in which a cardinal was serving, the Roman Catholic Church maintained a facility containing a throne room. That throne room was to be constantly kept ready so that when the pope visited, he was able to sit on a throne.
            The pope was to visit the cardinal serving in one of America’s great cities. According to lore, the diocese there did not think the pope was ever coming, so they turned the throne room into a committee room. Then word arrived that the pope was coming, and officials could not find the throne.
            The preacher said, “That’s the way it is with me. My heart's a throne room. Or it is supposed to be. It is to be available at all times for Jesus to sit on the throne. Yet, He comes and He can't find that throne, because I'm sitting on it.”
            Remember, Jesus is Lord.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Pearly Gates

The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl” (Rev. 21:21a.)

            In his book, SONGS OF HEAVEN, Robert E. Coleman tells about the process of an oyster making a pearl. Basically, a pearl is formed from an oyster’s secretion of liquid, issued to protect itself from a wound. Without a wound, there would be no pearl.
            I like Coleman’s application as he reflects upon the gates of heaven, which are made of pearls. By the wounds of our savior, we in Christ will someday be blessed to see those gates.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Taking the Wrong Train

            There is an old story, perhaps based upon fact, of a train about to leave a large railroad station. The conductor began to take tickets.
            Looking at the ticket of the first passenger he remarked, “Friend, I think you’re on the wrong train!” “But,” replied the man, “the ticket agent told me this was my train.”             
            After a little discussion, the conductor decided to check with the ticket agent. Before long, it became clear that the conductor was on the wrong train!
           I hope that conductor had no followers. If so, they were on the wrong train!
           Leaders need to be sure of where they are going.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Conforming to MY Image

             Several years ago, somebody sent me a humorous joke about an Amish family, who, for some reason, were visiting a mall.
            The father and a son were walking through the mall together, and they were amazed by almost everything they saw. They were especially struck by the two shiny silver walls, which could move apart and then slide back together again.
            The boy asked, "What is this, Father?"
            The father, never having seen an elevator, responded, "Son, I have never seen anything like this in my life; I don't know what it is."
            While the boy and his father were watching with amazement, a little old lady, using a walker, shuffled up to the two silver walls and pressed a button. The walls opened and the lady hobbled between them into a small room.
The walls closed and the boy and his father watched the small, circular numbers above the walls light up sequentially. They continued to watch until it reached the last number and then the numbers began to light in the reverse order.
            Finally the walls opened up again and a gorgeous, 24-year-old blonde woman stepped out. The father, not taking his eyes off the young woman, said quietly to his son, "Go get your mother."
            I know a lot of young people and singles, who do that with their dates. They find someone they are attracted to. They then project an image on the screens of their minds. The image is of who they wish the young woman or young man to be. Overtly or covertly, they then begin to try to change them--so the date will conform to the image.
            I think it best to let dates be themselves. If that is not good enough, they should find someone else to date.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Death to Self

            From TIME magazine’s Feb. 28th issue, here is an example of self-denial:

            In the early twentieth century, Walter Reed and his three junior doctors, James Carroll, Aristides Agramonte and Jesse Lazear desired to discover the cause of Yellow Fever, which killed so many American soldiers during the Spanish American War.
            Exposing themselves to disease-carrying mosquitoes, Lazear died from the experimentation, and Carroll suffered long-term complications, which eventually killed him at age 53.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Little Things

                  The date is the early nineties. It was the first game to be played in the new Chicago Stadium. The superstructure built for the 21st century cost $175 million. The first game ever played in the building was a basketball game between the Chicago Bulls and the Utah Jazz.
            As you might imagine, opening night was special. There were dignitaries and special guests. There were fireworks. 
            Finally, the moment arrived for the opening tip-off. The players took their positions on the floor, likewise, the referees. The crowd yelled with anticipation. Everyone was set. There was one minor problem. Someone forgot the basketball.
            The game was delayed for several minutes, while someone left to look for a basketball.
                 Now think about it: a $175 million arena, athletes making millions, 1000s of dollars spent on tickets, 1000s of dollars spent for uniforms…. Everyone-players, refs, coaches, fans, management-was in proper place. And, the game had to be suspended—for a ball.
            Sometimes, it's the little things that count. You can have a basketball game without fans, without a big arena, without players earning big money, without fancy uniforms, but you just can have a basketball game without a ball.
            In Christianity, you can have big, expensive church buildings, you can have sound Biblical doctrine, you can have knockout assemblies, you can have big offerings, but if you don't have a fundamental faith in Christ that is transforming you into His disciple, you cannot have Christianity.
            (Let me err on the side of caution--I may have found this story in an old bulletin article back in the nineties. If so, I apologize to the original writer for not giving proper credit.)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Setting Sights too Low

            Sometimes, we set our sights too low, don’t we?
            I’m reminded of the story of the father who said to his son, "Son, I'd rather you fail in school than cheat."
            To which the son replied, “If that's what you want, I guarantee results."
            The world needs people who have a vision—a vision that rises above the fallen creation. Who better to supply that vision than God’s people?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Protect the Criminals

            WORLD Magazine recently published a story about a movement in Great Britain. There, police are warning homeowners to remove all chicken wire from the windows of their garden sheds.
            Placed for reinforcement, there have been a number of injuries recently to burglars breaking into sheds, which are protected by chicken wire. Many of the injured have sued the property owners—and won.
            I have to admit, I am a fan of personal responsibility and facing consequences for one's behavior. I think Paul was too, “7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life (Gal. 6:7-8.)” ESV

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Water Down the Creek

            I have in my home library Connie Mack’s autobiography. It is an old book, published in 1950. It is a good book.

            Connie Mack was a Hall of Fame baseball manager. His career ranged from the late 1800s all the way to 1950.  Mack retired when he was 87!
            He won more games than any other manager in history; he lost more games than any other manager in history.
            I give this background to say that Mack offers a unique perspective on life. One area on which he is entitled to expound is worry.
            This is what Connie Mack wrote he learned early in his career, “I discovered that worry was threatening to wreck my career as a baseball manager. I saw how foolish it was and I forced myself to get so busy preparing to win games that I had no time left to worry over the ones that were already lost. You can’t grind grain with water that has already gone down the creek.”
            (For younger readers, back in the day, creek water was channeled to grind grain. If the water missed the channel, it was never going to be recovered.)
            Connie offers good advice for life. What’s done is done. Nothing past can be recovered. We have to move on.
            So why worry.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Cheerleaders

            A quarter century ago, Richard Blaisden wrote a bulletin article that inspired me. He credited Knute Larson with the account of Bill Broadhurst. 
            Bill had love running; unfortunately, he became partially paralyzed after suffering an aneurysm. Gradually, he recovered enough to where he could run again, albeit it very slowly—more like a jog for most people.
            Bill looked up to the great runner, Bill Rodgers. Near Bill’s home, organizers were hosting a 10K (6.2 miles) race. Rodgers was slated to participate. Broadhust badly wanted to enter the competition and run with his hero, so he did.
            Not surprisingly, Bill Rodgers easily won the race. Everyone else finished the race within 90 minutes, except for Bill Broadhurst.
            Battling numbness in his left side, Broadhurst struggled to finish. He had fallen so far behind, boys began ribbing him that he had missed a good race. Bill kept running.
            Organizers began moving the barriers to the course. Some began to leave for home.
            Finally, Bill hobbled within sight of the finish line—at least where the finish line had been. The event’s banner had been taken down. No one seemed to be present, yet Bill pressed on until the end.
            As he completed the course, Bill Rodgers and other runners appeared from a nearby alley. Rodgers received Bill in his arms and hugged him. He took off the gold medal he had won and placed it on Bill’s neck.
            The article appropriately cited Hebrews 12:1 -  "Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every thing that hinders and the sin that easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
            I truly believe those in Christ, who have gone on before us, are waiting to receive us in glory. No matter how hard it is, let us run the race until completion.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Craziest Language

           Someone sent me the following poem several years ago. It gave me a chuckle. The author is unknown:                

The Craziest Language

            We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes.
            But the plural of ox should be oxen, not oxes.        

            The one fowl is goose, but two are called geese.
            Yet the plural of moose, should never be meese.

            You may find a lone mouse or a nest of mice.
            But the plural of house is houses, not hice.
            If the plural of man is always men,
            Why shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?
            If I spoke of my foot, and show you my feet,
            And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?           

           Then one may be that, and three would be those,
           Yet hat in the plural would never be hose.              

            When we say brother, we say brethren.
            But though we may say mother, we never say methren.           

            Then the masculine pronouns are he, his, and him,
            But imagine the feminine, she, shis, and shim.

            So, English I fancy you will agree
            Is the craziest language that you ever did see.

            English is my mother tongue; yet, like the author of this poem, I still find it challenging. That is why I respect the discipline of Bible study.
The Bible is a book written over a 1500-year period. It was written in three languages—none native to me. The final book in the Bible, Revelation, was written almost 2000 years ago.
I do not take for granted the understanding of the Bible, and I take seriously the study of God’s word.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


            Back in the early nineties, the joke went around about the newspaper publisher who decided to retire. He had three sons. He wished to transfer leadership of the paper to one of his sons. To facilitate his choice, he declared a competition. The son who wrote the most sensational headline, using three words or less, would win.
            The first son wrote a pretty good headline: “Reagan Turns Communist.”
            The second son’s headline proclaimed: “Hussein Becomes Christian.”
            The third son, though, won the prize: “Pope Elopes.”
            I suppose to the world, the news of the gospel sounds sensational. But I am so glad it is true.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

He Believed; Therefore, He Spoke

 13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself (II Cor. 4:13).

            I have enormous respect for Richard Wurmbrand. In his book, TORTURED FOR CHRIST, Wurmbrand recounts how he and others spent years in a Communist prison in Romania.
            Wurmbrand himself served fourteen years in prison. During some of those years, he was placed in a cell beneath the earth’s surface. Can you imagine spending several years without seeing sunlight? In time, images such as flowers and grass faded from Wurmbrand’s memory.
            Those who guarded Wurmbrand tortured him. Some sought to dehumanize Richard by urinating on him. He was severely beaten, and suffered other atrocities at the hands of his captors.
            Above all, speaking about Jesus was anathema. To do so was to submit to savage punishment. That did not stop Wurmbrand. He formulated a means of communication using exposed water pipes. With a spoon, Richard tapped out good news about Jesus in Morse code.
            In spite of the fact that he was hungry and hurting, Richard Wurbrand shared the gospel with his fellow prisoners. I am amazed by his faith.
            Like the Apostle Paul, Richard believed; therefore, he spoke.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Curse vs. The Cross

             When I was a graduate student in Abilene back in the eighties, I heard Rick Atchley tell a story about the great Russian writer, Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Decades ago, Solzhenitsyn was sentenced to a prison camp in Russia.
            Inside that camp, Soviet officials were determined to break Solzhenitsyn’s spirit. Part of their effort consisted of assigning him a job of moving a pile of sand from one spot to another. When he had finished, he was to move it back to the original spot. Solzhenitsyn was ordered to fulfill this mindless task day after day.
            Working under a hot sun—sweating and toiling— Solzhenitsyn one day reached the breaking point. He simply dropped his shovel; he couldn't do it anymore. He knew the guards were going to beat him, but he could not go on.
            It was then that one of the other prisoners, a believer in Christ, went to the sand and drew a cross. Then he rubbed it out with his foot before the soldiers could see it.            
            In that moment, a flood of hope filled Solzhenitsyn’s soul. Thereafter, every time he felt like the world was going to break him, he just remembered that cross.
            The curse of the Fall brings you down. The cross lifts you up.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Titanic Teaching

            The movie TITANIC came out in 1997, but I think it is as popular as ever with girls. I know my two teen-age daughters seem to want to watch every time it comes on TV.
            Terry Mattingly is a nationally syndicated columnist, who typically writes on religious issues. The follow is a column he wrote on the movie TITANIC, just a few months after it appeared in theaters:

Titanic’ Theology Sinks on Vice
By Terry Mattingly

Scripps Howard News Service

            Soon after Titanic opened, director James Cameron ventured into cyberspace to field questions.
            One mother described how her young daughter sat spellbound through the romance between a first-class girl trapped in a loveless engagement and a starving artist who liberates her, then surrenders his life to save her in the icy North Atlantic. As they left the theater, the mother said, her daughter noticed older girls weeping.
            It's OK. Don’t worry,” the child said, giving one girl a hug. “Rose is with her Jack now.”
            That's so sweet,” wrote Mr. Cameron.
            With receipts of $1.1 billion and rising, Titanic has changed how at least one generation views one of this century's most symbolic events.
            For millions, the Titanic is now a triumphant story of how one upper crust girl found salvation - body and soul - through sweaty sex, modern art, self-esteem lingo and social rebellion.
            Titanic is a passion play celebrating the moral values of the 1960s as sacraments. Rose sums it up by saying that she could abandon her old life and family because her forbidden lover “saved me in every way that a person can be saved.”
            “Titanic reminds me of the distinctions between people of faith and secularists,” says conservative commentator Elizabeth Farah. “While all agree that death is inevitable and very often unexpected, the religious and secularists do not agree on the behavior life's fragility should promote. Those of faith know they may meet their Maker at any moment, at which time they will account for their sins. Their fear and deep love for God inspires them in their constant struggle for righteousness. To the secularist, life is short - get what you want, when you want it, and in whatever way necessary.”
            “The heroes of this modern Titanic fit into this latter category,” says Ms. Farah. “Their sins become virtues because they are rebelling against people who are portrayed as even worse. This isn’t just a bad movie,” she adds. “It is manipulative and fundamentally immoral.”
            Father Patrick Henry Reardon, a philosophy professor and Orthodox priest, goes even further in the next issue of the ecumenical journal Touchstone. The people who built the Titanic were so proud of their technology that they boasted that God couldn't sink their ship.
            Today, the creators of Titanic substitute romantic love as the highest power. Jack is Rose's savior, and he does more than save her life.
            Had that been all that happened I would not have complained,” says, Father Reardon. “But they made that Christ symbol into a very attractive anti-Christ. The line that set me off I believe also to have been the ... defining line of the film: the assertion that the sort of saving that Jack did was, ultimately, the only kind of saving possible. If that were the thesis statement of the film, then I start looking for the cloven hoof and sniffing for brimstone.”

            I see art—movies, books, TV shows, paintings, music—to be a culture’s Bible. Art conveys, even when the artist does not intend it, the spiritual values of a culture. Consequently, I appreciate Mattingly’s column. It is several years old, but it still makes me think.

Friday, March 4, 2011


            So often, I see, in Scripture a God, who uses obstacles to make and mold us into the image of His Son. In thinking about this, I am reminded of an old parable:

The Obstacle in Our Path
 In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway.  Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock.            
Some of the king's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the big stone out of the way.
Then, a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. On approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road.  After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded.
As the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse laying in the road where the boulder had been.  The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king, indicating that the gold was for the person, who removed the boulder from the roadway.
The peasant learned what many others never understand. Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve one's condition.

            For the Christian, every obstacle does present an opportunity for improvement of one’s condition. Not for monetary enrichment, but for spiritual enrichment, because the adversity can serve as a tool of God to become more transformed into the image of Jesus.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Honor, or No?

            This week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED cover story focuses on the amount of athletes in college football, who have criminal records. Hint: the number is a large one.
            This week, Brigham Young University suspended the leading rebounder of their men’s basketball team—Brandon Davies—for violating the honor code. This was in spite of the fact BYU was one of the favorites for the NCAA Tournament, which begins in a couple of weeks.
            Moreover, word has filtered out that one of the reasons the PAC—10 has rejected BYU was because several schools within the conference considered BYU to be too “rigid.” (One example: school policy limits BYU from playing athletic contests on Sunday.)
            Question: Have the events of this week made BYU look commendable, or out of step with a rapidly changing culture?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Put Away that Television!

            I know first hand that it is hard to be part of a preacher’s family. One of my favorite stories is a humorous one. It concerns a preacher who was preaching a passionate sermon on the evils of television.
            “It steals away precious time that could be better spent on other things,” he proclaimed. He then challenged the congregation to do what he and his family had done.  “We put our TV away in the closet.”
            “That's right,” his wife mumbled to the kids, “and it gets awfully crowded in there.”

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Call Dropped

            Several years ago, guards at the Duluth, MN county jail turned the wrong prisoner loose. Authorities had issued the call for a prisoner, and he was asleep. Knowing this, another inmate, Craig Karl Anderson, answered the call.
            Re-reading this story, I could not help but think about how many times the Bible tells me, Jesus will be coming back. I want to be alert when he does.