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Friday, December 28, 2012

Climb the Mountain with God

[This week, in honor of the popular movie Lincoln, I am sharing my favorite stories from the past three years of TMAS on Abraham Lincoln.]  

            You’ve probably seen this before:

Lost Job-age 23

Defeated for Legislature-age 23

Failed in business-age 24

Elected to legislature-age 25

Sweetheart died-age 26

Nervous breakdown-age 26

Defeated for Speaker-age 29

Defeated for Congress-age 34

Elected to Congress-age 37

Lost re-nomination-age 39

Rejected as Land officer-age 40

Defeated for Senate-age 45

Defeated for Senate-age 49

Elected President-age 51

            Abraham Lincoln knew little success in his life, but when he succeeded, he succeeded well. However, his life serves as a reminder that much of life is NOT succeeding. Most of life is climbing the mountain, with some of that climb being imperceptible. A temporary portion of the journey can even be descending the mountain. Nevertheless, we continue the journey.
            I think the most satisfying climb is one traveling with God.
            Climb the mountain with God.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


[This week, in honor of the popular movie Lincoln, I am sharing my favorite stories from the past three years of TMAS on Abraham Lincoln.]  

He was a leading attorney of his state. Yet, he was young and desired to be a leader among attorneys in the nation.

George Harding was just such a lawyer. His firm was hired to provide legal counsel in one of the country’s most famous patent cases.

Harding decided to engage the services of a lawyer, who lived near to the client and, who “understood the judge and had his confidence.” He found one—the good, young, up-and-coming lawyer. Harding paid him a retainer and arranged a substantial fee for when the work was completed.

The young lawyer was ecstatic. This was an opportunity for him to test himself. He had great ambitions and felt this was a long-awaited opportunity.

The lead attorney lived in a city some distance from the ambitious lawyer, and he failed to provide much communication during the months of preparation. Arriving at the location of the trial in Cincinnati Ohio, the young, hopeful lawyer spotted Harding, accompanied by an additional attorney.

Seeing the two of them together came as a surprise. Nevertheless, the young attorney suggested they walk together to the courthouse. Somewhat irritated, the superfluous attorney drew Harding aside and asked in a loud whisper “why did you bring that ______ long armed ape here… he does not know anything and can do you no good.”

With that, the two lawyers abandoned the young attorney and proceeded on their way into the courthouse. The additional attorney became Harding’s second-in-command.

The young attorney took the hint and removed himself from the case. Even though he had prepared a detailed manuscript for Harding, Harding, as lead attorney, never gave the work so much as a glance.

Neither Harding nor his second-in-command ever asked the young lawyer to join them for meal or any other endeavor. When the presiding judge hosted a meal for lawyers on both sides of the case, the young attorney was completely ignored and never received an invitation.

As one might imagine, this experience was devastating for the young attorney. He had been ignored and disrespected. The young attorney and the second-in-command would not see each other for another six years–when the young attorney would offer the second-in-command “the most powerful civilian post within his gift.” That office was Secretary of War.

Doris Kearns Goodwin tells the story of Abraham Lincoln and Edwin Stanton in her book TEAM OF RIVALS. In offering the government position to Edwin Stanton, Abraham Lincoln showed magnanimity uncommon for most human beings. Ultimately, this act and many others would be appreciated by Stanton. Goodwin writes that he would “come to respect and love [Lincoln] more than any other person outside his immediate family.”

I have personally seen the spot, where Stanton stood over Lincoln’s assassinated body, when he issued the proclamation, “Now he belongs to the ages.”

Many of us know that Abraham Lincoln offers example after example of living Jesus’ command, “love your enemies…” how transformative would it be for each one of us to truly implement this command of Jesus within our churches?

Friday, December 21, 2012


            Tony Campolo once wrote that he has never hated anyone, but he was tempted when he attended a church camp several years ago. The camp was made up of Christian young people, including the best and the brightest of junior high, and Campolo was the resource speaker.
            At the camp, you had the jocks and the cheerleaders, the handsome and the beautiful, the popular and… the unpopular. One of the unpopular ones was a young man who was born with cerebral palsy. He walked in a disfigured way; his speech was disfigured too. His name was Jerry.
            Of course, as we know, junior high students are the most sensitive humans on the planet, right? (You probably noted my sarcasm there.)
            Tony would catch people treating Jerry with scorn and contempt; they cruelly mimicked the way he talked—“Whhaaaaaaat… tiiiiiiiiiimmmmme… isssssssss… ccrrrraaaaafffffttttssss… ccllaaaassssss?” —and then they would all bust out laughing. They ignored the fact that he understood what they were saying and what they were doing. It infuriated Tony to watch the way they treated Jerry. It was brutal.
            Finally, on the last day, the leaders of the camp held a final worship assembly. Students were encouraged to offer their personal testimonies. One after another, the popular students paraded in front of the microphone. It was as if their testimonies were memorized and recited, and they impacted no one.
            Then, Jerry, in his disfigured way, walked slowly to the microphone. This surprised the campers. They began giggling and pointing. Struggling, Jerry mounted the platform and stood behind a microphone. He paused for a moment and then proclaimed, “I… loooooovvvvvve… Jeeeeesssssuuuuusss… aaaannnnnnddddddd… Jeeeeeeessssuuuusssss… loooooooovvvvvvvesssssss… mmeeeeeeeeeeeeee.”
            There was silence as Jerry returned to his seat. And then the dam burst. The effect of his imperfect testimony was electrifying.
            Jerry offered God his love, in spite of the fact that he was so marred physically and despite the fact that so many people made fun of him. His walk with Jesus, spiritually whole, convicted his fellow campers of their sin and selfishness.            
            They confessed sin. They asked for prayers.
             God moved that day, and he spoke through the least likely person. As through Paul, God spoke through Jerry’s weakness.
            You and I need not fear our weaknesses. God will speak through them.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (II Cor. 12:9b.) NIV 1984
Source: When God Doesn't Make Sense by Dr. James Dobson 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Lone Friend

            Steven Spielberg's popular new movie, Lincoln, is based on the historical work Team Of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. In that book, Goodwin tells of the thousands of appeals for pardons Lincoln receive involving soldiers facing military discipline.
            Typically, an appeal came with supporting letters written by influential people. However, Goodwin relates a story of one soldier who sent in an appeal on a single sheet of paper without any supporting documents.
            Lincoln exclaimed, “What! Has this man no friends?”
            “No sir, not one,” said the adjutant.
            “Then,” said Lincoln, “I will be his friend.” And Lincoln pardoned him.
            Without knowing the soldier, Lincoln offered him greater friendship than any other person. Friendship is a commitment, not a feeling.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken (Ecc. 4:9-12.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Charles and Andy Stanley: A painful father and son relationship

     Today's story was written by CNN's John Blake. It is an intimate account of the complex and at times painful relationship between two icons of evangelical preaching: Charles Stanley and his son, Andy.
     I found Blake's effort to be thorough, fascinating, and engrossing. And for any preachers out there who think that creating large churches or cultivating a huge readership is the key to experiencing a happy life, this account of Charles and Andy Stanley will irrevocably prove otherwise. Here is the link:

Friday, December 14, 2012

Where Is Your Heart?

            An old commentary carries the story of a soldier of Napoleon’s army who was wounded one day by a bullet that entered his breast above his heart. As the surgeon probed for the bullet the soldier exclaimed, “An inch deeper and you will find the emperor.”
            Were your heart laid open, would Christ be found there?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Drone

            The story is told that the great concert pianist, Paderewski, played before Queen Victoria. Listening, she exclaimed with enthusiasm, “Mr. Paderewski, you are a genius!”
            “Your Majesty,” he replied, “perhaps, but before I was a genius, I was a drone.”
            I don’t know if Paderewski was ever a drone; however, there was a time when he had to work and work hard to become a better pianist. Writer Malcolm Gladwell says that “geniuses” must put in a minimum of 10,000 hours pursuing their craft before they can look forward to impacting culture.
            I hope this helps us put our own pursuits in the proper perspective. There is no such thing as an overnight sensation. As we strive to labor in the kingdom of God, it is good to remember that we will need to work hard, no matter how much talent we have.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Hug

            Greg Krebs and his wife gave life to a baby named Chris. Chris was born with cerebral palsy. He was also severely retarded. Yet, Chris affected the lives of his parents in profound and loving ways.
            One occurred when Chris was seven. Greg’s wife worked at a hospital, and one afternoon he and Chris went to pick her up. She was running late, so they waited for her in a waiting room.
            In the waiting room was a man poorly dressed. He smelled bad too. 
            Greg walked over to the nurse’s station to inquire as to when his wife would be getting off work. As he walked back to his seat, he discovered Chris sitting by the man who reeked. The poor gentleman was sobbing.
            Greg panicked. He searched his mind trying to imagine what Chris had done to so offend the man. Greg apologized, “‘I'm sorry if my son has offended you.”
            “The man replied, ‘Offended me? Offended me? Your son is the only person who has hugged me in the last 20 years!’”
            “I realized at that moment Chris had a more Christlike love for this man that I did,” reflected Greg.
            Thank you, God, for offering the world blessings like Chris, who show us what it means to love people in an unconditional way—just like Jesus.

Story Source: When God Doesn't Make Sense by James Dobson

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Great Reward

            The story is told of an elder from a church in Scotland who was going to take a trip to the Holy Land. Enthusiastically, he said to his preacher, “And when I get there, I'd mean to climb Mount Sinai and read the 10 Commandments from the top of it.”
            With some skepticism, the preacher replied, “I can tell you something better than that to do. If I were you, I would spend some time here at home and keep the 10 Commandments.”
            Remember, when it comes to the 10 Commandments, keeping them is the great reward.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

One Bad Habit

            Chemists say that a single grain of iodine will impart color to 7000 times its weight of water. A bad habit is like that–it may exponentially influence a person’s character... or life.
            Perhaps that is one reason the apostle Paul invited us to examine ourselves before taking the Lord's Supper.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


           Josh was special.
            His mother experienced a very tough pregnancy and there were complications at birth, yet Josh survived that difficult beginning, for which his parents were exceedingly grateful.
            He showed talent and promise early in life, and he grew into a godly young man. His parents loved him deeply. 
            Josh learned a trade, following in his father's footsteps. After a few years of working on his own, he made the decision to leave his profession and enter into fully supported ministry.
            He was a strong leader and very charismatic—the kind of guy that affluent people wanted to be around and blue-collar guys would follow.           
            Josh could have chosen to minister to people in the United States. Instead, he saw his mission as expanding the Kingdom of God to all parts of the world, and he chose another country.
            Josh was a dynamic preacher. Crowds of people would flock to hear him. His messages also contained real spiritual meat. He was extremely sound doctrinally and no one who knew his Bible would dare accuse him of proclaiming false teaching.
            Josh committed himself to mission work. His effort paid off and he helped grow a small community of faith.
            Tragically, not everyone appreciated Josh's ministry. Some of the native religious leaders found his message threatening. They offered trumped up charges to local government officials who, unfortunately, did not always seek to do right. Events spiraled out-of-control and, incredibly, some political leaders executed Josh.
            Members of Josh's congregation were crushed. Where was God in all this? Why would God allow such a good man—with all of his life ahead of him—to die? Why did God allow him to die in such an unjust way?
            Has tragedy ever happened to you? Has catastrophe struck anyone you have known? Have you ever witnessed someone young and full of promise struck down with major illness or death—and all of that promise go to waste? Has a family member suffered an unspeakable tragedy leaving all of you wondering why God let you down?
            Maybe you suffered through a job loss. Perhaps you lost your health. Maybe you agonized through the death of one of your children.
            The truth is each one of us at one time or another has probably experienced an encounter with the painful side of life in a fallen world. It may have left you shaking your head and questioning the work of God.
            I certainly cannot account for what God actively did or passively allowed in your circumstance; however, I can say this. Returning to Josh’s story, as strange as it may sound, I'm awfully glad Josh died.
            You would think that a guy who was such a good missionary, good preacher, a guy who made such an impact on people, and a guy who was such a good man would be indispensable. The fact is… it was his death that was indispensable.
            You see, after Josh died, some of his friends buried him. Three days later, he rose from the dead. Yet, the spiritual accomplishments rooted in that 72-hour period defied description. As strange as it may sound, the tragedy of Josh (Joshua, or as we in my country call him–Jesus) was the most important event in human history. In addition, the reality that his resurrected body departed this world meant that his spirit remained—residing in the physical bodies of his disciples, which empowered them for ministry.
            I am still trying to learn from those who loved Josh long ago. What appeared to be a tragic and unexplainable mistake of God would ultimately prove to be the greatest blessing for people. God continues to work in that mysterious way.
            As for those worried about what Josh might have missed dying so young, I would say that he has had a pretty good life for the past 2000 years.

Friday, November 30, 2012

“I’m Moving Again.”

            Too many believe that great people reached their heights without trials, tribulations, failures, and heartaches. They did not.
            The story is told of a young man, who was a struggling newspaper writer in San Francisco. A lady saw him one day with a cigar box under his arm looking in a shop window. “Mr. Clemens, I always see you with a cigar box under your arm. I'm afraid you are smoking too much,” she told him.
            “It isn't that,” he replied. “I'm moving again.”
            In spite of those dire circumstances, Samuel Clemens would go on to write great novels under a pen name—Mark Twain.
            If you are God's man or God’s woman and are presently facing difficult times, it does not necessarily mean that God is displeased with you. Nor does it mean that you are to remain in difficult times.
            I invite you to faithfully look to God, allow this time to deepen your intimacy with him, enjoy his presence, and wait expectantly for what he will do next in your life. 
            If you do, I can promise your life will never be boring!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Of Monsters and Men—“Just Listen”

           Periodically, a popular song comes along that presents the Christian a great opportunity. The song offers a cultural cue—pointing to the Kingdom of God. Such is the case with the popular contemporary song called “Little Talks” by the Icelandic indie group Of Monsters and Men.
            Now I must admit, when I first heard the song on the radio, its catchy tune caught my attention. Although I am not a dancer, I can relate to what participants on (the old TV show) American Bandstand’s segment, “rate a record”, use to say about a good tune, “Its got a good beat, and I can dance to it.” However, Stephanie Schoppert has blogged a profound interpretation of the lyrics.
            To Schoppert, the song is about a couple in a long and loving marriage arriving upon a season of adversity. The wife begins to deal with issues of dementia, Alzheimer's, or some other debilitating affliction of the mind. As Schoppert writes,Both [husband and wife] are struggling with the woman losing her grasp on reality and the knowledge that one way or another they will soon be completely separated. One of the main lines of the song ‘Though the Truth may vary, the ship will carry our bodies safe to shore’ tell that even though they may both seen the world differently they will both end up in the same place. One day they will both be on the other side and together the way they used to be.”
            That is the Christian hope!
            I have no idea whether or not the members Of Monsters and Men are Christians, nor if Stephanie Schoppert is one; nevertheless, Schoppert’s interpretation and “Little Talks’” lyrics—at the very least instinctively express the hope that humans harbor in their hearts... there is something on the other side. Furthermore, people want to believe that our decaying bodies and minds do not represent all there is to human existence. Surely there is more; and surely there is meaning in the experiences of our lives!
            Well, there is. And we Christians should seize the opportunities our culture offers to share the Christian story of redemption and hope.
             I would encourage you to listen to “Little Talks.” Who knows, perhaps you will find other ways to connect with our culture through the song. Here’s a link:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Grudge

            George Washington was a great man, but he was not perfect. In 1798, he allowed himself to be swayed by Alexander Hamilton into taking command of the United States Armed Forces. (Washington was concerned about a potential French invasion.)
            John Adams was president, and you might imagine how difficult it was for him to give up his role as commander in chief. He resented the fact that members of his cabinet had been working behind the scenes against him, and that Washington allowed himself to be involved in the process. Because of this, historian Joseph Ellis wrote, “… Adams, who believed that holding grudges was a measure of personal integrity, never forgave him….”
            John Adams’ reason for maintaining a grudge is a common one. He (and those like him) mistakenly believed that holding a grudge is a  badge of honor. Sadly, this idea is mistaken. Holding a grudge is a sign of self-righteousness.

Friday, November 16, 2012

How to Learn

            A young boy once approached his father to ask, "Dad, why does the wind blow?"
            His father responded, "I don't know, son." 
            "Dad, where do the clouds come from?"
            "I'm not sure, son." 
            "Dad, what makes a rainbow?"
            "No idea, son."
            "Dad, do you mind me asking you all these questions?" 
            "Not at all, son. How else are you going to learn?"
            Let’s hope that father, and those of us who are parents, do a lot better job when our children ask the question, “Why should I follow Jesus?”