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Monday, April 30, 2012

Reggie Jackson Steals Second

            Several years ago, TODAY IN THE WORD related this story about Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson:

            Players who are in the game don’t always see the game. Even a star like the great Reggie Jackson still needed a coach.
            Earl Weaver demonstrated this point when he managed Reggie for the Baltimore Orioles. One of Weaver’s rules about base stealing was that runners had to have a signal before stealing.
            This upset Reggie because he had studied many of the pitchers and catchers in the league. He knew those he could steal against.
            During one game Reggie stole a base without a signal. His technique was flawless. He certainly didn’t expect the coach to disagree with his decision.
            But Weaver pulled him aside and explained why there had been no signal. Reggie’s action, though successful, had actually helped the other team. By having first base open, the opponents had been able to walk the next man (a powerful hitter). That forced Weaver to use a pinch hitter too early in the game.
            The coach trusted Reggie’s ability, but he also knew that it wasn’t time to steal a base. The player had a limited view; the coach saw the whole game.

            Humility realizes that this is the way it is with God. We have a limited view; God sees all.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Hurray for Mediocrity

           Bob Uecker was baseball’s patron saint of average. He parlayed a forgettable career as a catcher for several teams into a television career (MR. BELVADERE and numerous appearances on talk shows) and a broadcasting career, which gained him an entrance into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
            Known for his wit and self-deprecating humor, here is how he described his biggest thrill: "The biggest thrill a ballplayer can have is when your son takes after you. That happened when my Bobby was in his championship Little League game. He really showed me something. Struck out three times. Made an error that lost the game. Parents were throwing things at our car and swearing at us as we drove off. Gosh, I was proud."
            Talent can take you to the major leagues, but a sense of humor can take you even further.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Faithful Husbands

            Faithfulness is important for husbands, and it must be demonstrated. One wife, long ago, perhaps was influenced by the old Russian proverb, “Trust but verify.”           
            Her husband had not arrived home from work. It grew very late. At last she sent telegrams to five of his friends, each bearing this message, “Bob is not home. Is he spending the night with you?”
            When Bob finally made it home, he was met by five telegrams from his friends, all replying, “Yes.”
            Husbands should be faithful to their wives. If they are not, those indiscretions have a tendency to be discovered. This story reminds me of what Moses said in Numbers 32, 23 But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out. ESV

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Food Porn

            Sarah Gim offers Internet users a website where they can click on images of food. Recipes are often posted alongside these dishes, which are dressed up to look delectable. The word “photograph” does not seem to do justice. Viewers can drool as their gaze lingers on the images.
            Guess what this site and sites like it are called in our Internet culture’s current vernacular? Food porn.
            Only in a country as sensual and affluent as the United States can citizens elevate eating to an expression of lust in flesh.
            I was surprised when I looked at how many times the Bible talks about gluttony. Here is one, “Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags” (Prov. 23:20-21.) ESV
            The way we treat food is an external manifestation of what lies in our hearts.

            Source: “Los Angeles Times” March 31, 2011

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Price of Excellence

            Excellence does not arrive with ease. Even the great ones work hard.
            It is said the renowned pianist, Paderewski, was once asked why he bothered practicing everyday.
            “If I miss one day’s practice, I notice it. If I miss two days, the critics notice it. If I miss three days, the audience notices it.”

Monday, April 23, 2012

Seven "Deadly" Sins

             I am about to begin a sermon series on “Seven Life-Affirming Virtues.” What I plan on doing is staking out the territory God inhabits (the virtue), and addressing the two extremes that flank either side. Both flanks are sins. For example: the virtue humility is flanked on one side by pride (too high a view of one’s self) and on the other side by low self-esteem (too low a view of one’s self.)
            My story this morning concerns an article I read about DISCIPLESHIP magazine back in 1992. In the article, readers individually responded to a survey by communicating to the editors of the periodical the greatest spiritual challenge of each reader.
            Here is how they ranked:

               1. Materialism

              2. Pride

              3. Self-centeredness

              4. Laziness

              5. (Tie) Anger/Bitterness

              6. (Tie) Sexual lust

              7. Envy

              8. Gluttony

              9. Lying

            If you count materialism as greed, you find all seven of the traditional “seven deadly sins” present.  Notice none of these sins will get you thrown in jail. None will even get you disfellowshipped from today’s churches. As far as the secular and spiritual cultures are concerned, you and I can practice these sins with impunity—free from unpleasant consequences.
            Maybe that is why these sins are called “deadly.”

Friday, April 20, 2012

Two for the Plate

           One form of ingratitude is doing everything for oneself. It's like the little girl who won two dollars for doing memory work and she put it in the offering plate. The preacher saw that and said, “I'm sure you'll receive a blessing for that.”
            She said, “Yeah, now maybe God will let me do something that I want to do.”             Some people are that way. They think, “Okay, God, that was a tough thing that I did for you; now, surely, you will not let anything bad happen to me.”
            Jesus suffered shame on the cross. We should do everything we can to serve him out of our gratitude toward him, not his gratitude toward us: 11 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place where he offers this blood for sins. But the bodies of the animals are burned outside the camp.12 So Jesus also suffered outside the city to make his people holy with his own blood.13 So let us go to Jesus outside the camp, holding on as he did when we are abused (Heb. 13:11-13.)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Insight into the minds of 6th graders

            My wife teaches English, Reading, and Writing at a local middle school. So you might imagine the interest I had when I came across a compilation of answers supplied by 6th graders for a history test. (This was from another school in the U. S. about ten years ago.)
            I’ll share one with you. Watch the spelling!

            The greatest writer of the Renaissance was William Shakespeare. He was born in the year 1564, supposedly on his birthday. He never made much money and is famous only because of his plays. He wrote tragedies, comedies, and hysterectomies, all in Islamic pentameter. Romeo and Juliet are an example of a heroic couple. Romeo's last wish was his last wish.
            Humanity doesn’t always get the answers right either. Here’s is just one rebuke from history, directed at Man’s hubris: We have heard of the pride of Moab—how proud he is!—
of his arrogance, his pride, and his insolence; in his idle boasting he is not right (Is. 16:6.) ESV

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

When the Homeless Give

            Back in 2002, a New York City police officer by the name of Eduardo Delacruz received a very special Christmas gift—$3,000. What made the gift special was that it came from the homeless people.
            It seems that Officer Delacruz had refused to arrest a homeless man he had found sleeping in a parking garage. The police officer had nowhere else to go, so he decided to let him remain.
            For that decision Officer Delacruz, who had a wife and five children, was suspended for 30 days without pay. That is when the homeless community acted. Some contributed portions of their welfare checks, others recycled cans and bottles and contributed the money, still others went to passers-by in the city streets seeking change for the officer.
            When they had finished, they had raised $3000. All of this to show a man how much they appreciated him standing up for them. One of the homeless men, Joe Bostic, said this, "We just wanted to thank him by contributing however we could.”
            I think Christians have been called to cultivate that gracious spirit toward God. Reflecting on the sacrificial death of Jesus, the Preacher writing to the Hebrews says, 15 Our sacrifice is to keep offering praise to God in the name of Jesus (Heb. 13:15.) CEV
            That means we Christians live lives filled with gratitude toward God for what he has done for us.

                December 28, 2002

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Long-winded Lazy Preachers

Few people appreciate long-winded preachers; fewer still appreciate lazy ones.
While a lawyer, Abraham Lincoln once combined both flaws in a story he told for effect in a trial: "It's a like the lazy preacher who used to write long sermons, and the explanation was, he got to writing and was too lazy to stop."

Monday, April 16, 2012

I Never Picked Cotton

            I never picked cotton, but my daddy did and his brother did.
            I did live in West Texas for several years. A lot of cotton farming is done out there.  That is why a story Calvin Partain wrote for a magazine a few years ago interested me.    
           Calvin, who grew up in cotton country, noted one day how straight the rows of cotton were on a fellow’s land. He asked the farmer how he made the rows so straight.
            The farmer replied, “When I plow a new role I fix my eyes on an object at the far end of the field and never look back. You can't plow looking back.”
            The Preacher who wrote Hebrews tells us in chapter twelve that God, the angels, and those who have gone on before us join us in the worship assembly. God encourages us, and we in the church encourage each other to set our eyes on what we cannot see—God and his celestial city, and to head in that direction. By the grace of God, the worship assembly helps our lives to be straight.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A $10,000 Football Card

            Last February, a man in central Michigan was cleaning out his farmhouse. He found an old card and started to throw it away. He reconsidered and decided to take it to a sports memorabilia shop in Kentwood, Michigan.
            It was a good thing that he did. The Mayhill Tobacco Works Company of Richmond, Virginia manufactured the card in 1894. The card was of Harvard College football player, John Dunlop. Today it is considered to be “the holy grail of football cards.” And it is valued at nearly $10,000.
            Paul writes to the Ephesians that there is a treasure that is obscure to most people in the world, but it is of supreme value to those who see from a heavenly perspective: 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe (Eph. 1:18-19a.) NIV 1984


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Flash--Tooth Fairy Paying Less

            Hard times have affected a lot of people the past few years, and now they have even impacted the tooth fairy. Delta Dental, an insurance provider for dental coverage, recently commissioned a survey in which 1355 people responded.
            In 2010, according to the survey, the average amount the tooth fairy left under a child's pillow was $2.52. In 2011, that amount dropped 16% to $2.10. That’s an average of 42 cents less for a lost tooth.
            Paul writes good news to us in the New Testament—the value of God’s grace does not fall: 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding (Eph. 1:7-8.) NIV 1984 God’s grace does not drop in value because it is backed by the inexhaustible riches of God.
            I'm glad that God's gift of grace does not drop in value. How about you?


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Master of the Universe

            We need loved ones to keep us humble. For Shikhar Ghosh, that person was his wife.
            In July of 1998, Ghosh was on the cover of FORBES magazine but forgot to tell his wife. At supper, on the day of the magazine’s release, he asked her pass the rice. She replied, “You're a ‘Master of the Universe.’ Make it come to you.”

Source: FORBES, April 23, 2012

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


            Nobody likes to be cheated. Cornelius Vanderbilt once wrote a letter to some of his business rivals expressing his outrage and retribution:
            You have undertaken to cheat me. I will not sue you, for law takes too long. I will ruin you.
            Sincerely yours,
            Cornelius Vanderbilt

            Ever felt like that? God’s word continually proclaims the need for ethics in business and work. Here’s an example: Proverbs 11:11 The LORD abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight.
Source: Edmund Fuller

Monday, April 9, 2012

Aim for the Spot

           I love the story of Bill Knox. Bill was a successful bowler back in the 1930s. He once bowled a perfect game—blind. Let me explain.
            In an exhibition, Bill instructed that a screen be placed just above the foul line to prevent him from seeing the pins and the bowling lane.
            He then bowled aiming for a specific mark on the lane’s floor within his eyesight. Bill’s purpose was to illustrate the benefits of spot bowling—a technique that calls for bowlers to aim for a mark in-line with the specific spot the bowler wishes to hit the pins.
            Incredibly, Bill bowled a perfect game.           
            To the Thessalonians, Paul wrote a letter encouraging them to live like Jesus. The key, he taught in I Thess. 5, was to visualize where they wanted to be in the end, and back up and focus on how Jesus wanted them to live each specific day—spot living, you might call it.  
            That is good advice. Let us live today with our eyes on Jesus.

Source: Our Daily Bread, August 4, 1992

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Rose Parade Float

             Here is one of my favorite Easter stories as told by my friend Rick Atchley:

            Is the resurrection’s power relevant to you today?
            Several years ago, there was a float in the New Years Day Rose Parade that stalled out and stopped the entire parade. [It] backed it up. The float had run out of gas and somebody had to go get a gas can. The ironic thing is that the sponsor of the float was the Standard Oil Company.
            Here is something that represents all of these vast resources that doesn't have the capacity in the moment to use them.
            How many Christians live that way? God did not intend [the resurrection] as something to be explained; he intended [the resurrection] to be experienced.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

“How Many Times”

            A tomcat and a tabby cat were courting on a back fence at night.
            The tom leaned over to the tabby with pent up passion and purred..."I'll die for you!"
            The tabby gazed at him from under lowered eye lids and asked, "How many times?"
            Jesus asked us to die to ourselves, everyday: 23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Believing What You Hear

            “How this world is inclined to slander,” noted an unmarried young lady to an English nobleman. “Can you believe it, sir, some of my malicious acquaintances have reported that I had twins!”
            “Madam,” he replied, “I make it a rule to believe only half of what I hear!”
            Gossip is one of the descriptions Paul offers of the typical pagan in Romans chapter one. It is a sin for a number of reasons, one of which is that it hurts people. Like his Lordship, people often believe at least a portion of the information they hear—even if the entire story is false.
            Sadly, Christians, too, can all too often be guilty of the sin of gossip. Maybe that is while Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, 25 So you must stop telling lies. Tell each other the truth, because we all belong to each other in the same body…. 29 When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you. 30 And do not make the Holy Spirit sad… (Eph. 4:25, 29-30a.) NCV

Source for story: Edmund Fuller

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Bank Robber

            Christians have the potential to cause either great harm or great good to the cause of the Lord with their moral lives. Stuart Briscoe tells a story about an episode that took place when he was in the banking business in England.
            An investigation revealed that a coworker had embezzled a tremendous amount of money from the bank. His excuse was that he was living a double life and that it was too expensive.
            He had two wives, two homes, and two families. He apologized profusely, adding, “I am very sorry for what I have done; now I need to know whether I should fill my preaching commitments on Sunday in a local church.” (I think I would've been tempted to ask him, “Both churches?”)
           Our witness can be destroyed by the way we live our lives.