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Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Photo

            Defeating the sin of gluttony is hard. I read about a woman who decided that her added weight reflected the fact that she ate too much. Consequently, she did everything she could to lose weight. 
             She tried diets; she tried exercise; she even tried pills. Nothing worked… until she placed on the door of her fridge a 12 x 16 photo. The photo was of a physically striking woman: thin, beautiful, perfect figure… dressed in a bikini. Whenever the lady craved a snack and went to her fridge, that photo motivated her greatly.            
            Over the course of the next month, she lost 10 pounds. 
            Unfortunately, her husband gained 20 pounds!
            When it comes to regulating your appetite for food, the same plan of attack does not work for everyone. The important thing that applies to all is the understanding that our relationship with food is an outward manifestation of our inward relationship with God.
            When we control our appetite for food, it demonstrates that God is controlling us.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Load

           A boy was helping his father bring wood into the house for the fire. The wood was heavy, and the boy’s knees buckled under the load.
            “Why don’t you use all of your strength?” the father asked.
            Gloomily, the boy replied, “I am.”
            The father gently encouraged him, “No, you have not. You have not asked me to help you.”
            Then the father stretched out his hands and picked the boy-and the log in the boy’s arms-up.
            When Paul wrote to the Philippians, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13 ESV), he was not doing so in order that a guy who was five feet, two inches tall could be inspired to someday dunk a basketball. Instead, Paul was giving a church hope that by the power of Jesus, they too could overcome sin and demonstrate the qualities of Jesus in their lives.
            I believe this teaching applies today.
            Empowerment by God typically does not mean that God will MAKE us do the right thing… or that he will take away the temptation to do the wrong thing. Neither does it mean that if we strain hard enough, we can overcome sin exclusively by our own power and live out the qualities of Jesus.
            What it does mean is that God gives us the power to collaborate with him in his work, and God’s grace and love motivate us to offer everything within our means to participate with him in his work.  
            Here is a mathematical equation for you:

Jesus—the marriage of God and flesh=The Christian—the marriage of God and flesh.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Criticizing Aristotle

         Legend has it that Aristotle was once criticized for giving assistance to a profligate man in need. Aristotle replied, “I did not give it to the man, I gave it to humanity.”

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Haunting Poem

Memorial Day is a time of appreciation for me. Here is a story and poem I posted a couple of years ago:

World War I produced moving poetry. To me, the most haunting poem of that era was an anonymous one.  It is inscribed on a modest headstone of the grave of one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century.  His name was Hobey Baker.

Hobey Baker was a Princeton graduate.  He is the only athlete ever elected to both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Hockey Hall of Fame.  His hockey records lasted for decades.  Today, college hockey's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy is called The Hobey Baker Award.

Baker volunteered to serve in World War I. He was one of the first to fly an airplane in war.  Tragically, he crashed to his death in Toul, France. He left behind many grieving family members, friends, and fans.  We do not know who the author was, but this is the poem written on Hobey Baker’s tombstone:

                  YOU SEEMED WINGED, EVEN AS A LAD,

Extraordinary, isn’t it?  Such is the power of poetry dedicated to help humanity remember those lost in The Great War.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Bad Thing About Lust

            Actually, there are probably a lot of bad things about lust. But the following, according to one practical book, is one:

            Lust treats people like football players treat a football in a ball game. How does a running back treat a football?            
            He cradles it; he cuddles it; he risks life and limb to take that ball to the goal line. But once that football crosses the goal line and he scores a touchdown, what does he do? He will spike it. He'll pound it to the ground; he'll dance around proclaim his conquest. Finally, when the game is over, he will ignore it.
            The purpose has been served. It has simply been an object to accomplish a goal. If you have been the object of someone's lust, you know how demeaning it feels.

            Make no mistake; it is the lust in the heart that drives one to dehumanize people. Maybe that is one reason Jesus said,  You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Mt. 5:27-28.) NLT


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Switchyard and Purity

            There was a large railroad switchyard in St. Louis, Missouri. One switch, which commenced with a slender piece of steel, headed a train from one main track onto another.
            The first track, if followed, would have taken the train to New York City. The other track took the train to San Francisco.           
            The thoughts we choose are like that. The choice we make concerning potential thoughts may seem insignificant (like a slender piece of steel seems insignificant). However, one “train of thought” could lead us to purity; another could lead us down the track of impurity.
            Carefully guard your thoughts 
because they are the source of true life (Prov. 4:23.) CEV


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What is it like to Die?

            Some of you may have the book,  A MAN CALLED PETER. I’ve read it and have seen the movie based upon the book.
            It was written by Peter Marshall’s widow, Catherine. He was an amazing preacher—one of the most influential in the twentieth century. His most famous pulpit was in Washington DC, but he also ministered to the U. S. Senate as its chaplain.
            The movie portrays Marshall speaking to a regiment of midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. He was addressing the December graduating class. Sensing the need to change his message, he switched his text to James 4:14: For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away.  
            Marshall included the following story in his sermon. Watching the movie, I got goose bumps; what I share is the story as recorded in the book:
            In a home of which I know, a little boy—the only son—was ill with an incurable disease. Month after month the mother had tenderly nursed him, read to him, and played with him, hoping to keep him from realizing the dreadful finality of the doctor’s diagnosis.
            But as the weeks went on and he grew no better, the little fellow gradually began to understand that he would never be like the other boys he saw playing outside his window and, small as he was, he began to understand the meaning of the term death, and he, too, knew that he was to die.
            One day his mother had been reading to him the stirring tales of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table: of Lancelot and Guinevere and Elaine, the lily maid of Astolat, and of that last glorious battle in which so many fair knights met their death.
            As she closed the book, the boy sat silent for an instant as though deeply stirred with the trumpet call of the old English tale, and then asked the question that had been weighing on his childish heart: “Mother, what is it like to die? Mother, does it hurt?”
            Quick tears sprang to her eyes and she fled to the kitchen supposedly to tend to something on the stove. She knew it was a question with deep significance. She knew it must be answered satisfactorily. So she leaned for an instant against the kitchen cabinet, her knuckles pressed white against the smooth surface, and breathed a hurried prayer that the Lord would keep her from breaking down before the boy and would tell her how to answer him.
            And the Lord did tell her. Immediately she knew how to explain it to him.
            “Kenneth,” she said as she returned to the next room, “you remember when you were a tiny boy how you used to play so hard all day that when night came you would be too tired even to undress, and you would tumble into mother’s bed and fall asleep?”
            “That was not your bed…it was not where you belonged. And you stayed there only a little while. In the morning, much to your surprise, you would wake up and find yourself in your own bed in your own room. You were there because someone had loved you and taken care of you. Your father had come—with big strong arms—and carried you away. Kenneth, death is just like that. We just wake up some morning to find ourselves in the other room—our own room where we belong—because the Lord Jesus loved us.”
            The lad’s shining, trusting face looking up into hers told her that the point had gone home and that there would be no more fear … only love and trust in his little heart as he went to meet the Father in Heaven.

            In the movie, you see Marshall driving back to Washington that morning after the sermon. It was then that he heard the announcement on the radio that Pearl Harbor had been bombed.
            Many of those young men were soon sent to war. Some were soon dead.
            With spiritual prescience, Marshall prepared those boys for what was to come.
            Death will be here all-to-quickly for all of us. We will be ready?


Monday, May 21, 2012

The Kiss of God

            I love the old story of the nobleman and his garden. The source is unknown:

            A nobleman had a garden of beautiful flowers. He had a gardener who was a wonderful steward. He was responsible and cared for the garden with great detail to make it like a paradise.
            One morning, the gardener entered into the garden to inspect his favorite flowers. To his dismay, he discovered that one of his most lovely flowers had been cut from its stem. Next, he saw that the many of the most magnificent flowers from were missing.
            The gardener's adrenaline began to surge through his veins. He was filled with anxiety… and then anger. He hurried to some of the laborers who worked under his leadership and demanded to know, "Who stole my treasures?"
            One of the workers replied, "The nobleman came into his garden this morning, picked those flowers himself, and took them into his house. I guess he wanted to enjoy their beauty."
            That’s when the gardener realized: he had no reason to be concerned. It was good for his master to pick some of his own prize blossoms.

            Deut. 34:5 describes the Lord taking Moses home,  So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. KJV
            Moses did not die of old age; he died because the Lord said it was his time.
            The original word for “word” is used 341 other times in the OT where the KJV translates it “mouth” instead of “word.” Many of the ancient rabbis noted that and interpreted it in a tender way, “Moses died at the kiss of the Lord.”
            I like that phrase.
            Whenever God is ready to pick me for his house, I am ready. I am ready for the kiss of God.
            How about you?


Friday, May 18, 2012

Between Two Thieves

            An old, humorous story depicting the evils of greed goes like this:        
            An old preacher was dying. He sent a message for his doctor and his lawyer, both church members, to come to his home.
            When they arrive, they were ushered up to his bedroom. As they entered the room the preacher held out his hands and motioned for them to sit, one on each side of his bed. The preacher grasped their hands, sighed contentedly, smiled and stared at the ceiling. For a time, no one said anything. Both the doctor and lawyer were touched and flattered that the preacher would ask them to be with him during his final moments.
            They were also puzzled; the preacher had never given them any indication that he particularly liked either of them. They both remembered his many long, uncomfortable sermons about greed, covetousness and avaricious behavior that made them squirm in their seats.
            Finally, the doctor said, "Preacher, why did you ask us to come?"
            The old preacher mustered up his strength, then said weakly, "Jesus died between two thieves… and that's how I want to go."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

To Love or Hate

            The English essayist Charles Lamb once said, “Don’t introduce me to that man! I want to go on hating him, and I can’t hate a man whom I know.”
            Jesus did not consider knowledge of man necessary for loving him. As a matter of fact, Jesus said to love him, even if he is an enemy, “But I tell you: Love your enemies…” (Matt. 5: 44.)  NIV 1984
Source: Edmund Fuller

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Severed Arm

            Rick Ezell recounts the fable of a prosperous investment banker, who was driving his new BMW sedan on a mountain road during a snowstorm. He encountered trouble, lost control of his vehicle, and began sliding off the road toward the edge of a cliff.             
            Reacting instinctively, he flung himself out of his door and leaped from the car. The car careened down the mountain and burst into flames.
            The man escaped with his life, but he had experienced a grotesque injury. As he was jumping, the hinge of the door ensnared the banker’s arm. Consequently, the arm was severed at the shoulder.
            A trucker saw the accident and pulled his rig over to the side. He ran to see if he could help. He found the banker standing by the roadside—looking down at his car burning away below.
            The banker cried out, “My BMW! My new BMW!”
            The trucker pointed at the banker's shoulder and said, “Buddy, you've got bigger problems than a car. We've got to find your arm. A doctor might be able to sew it back on.”
            The banker looked at the spot where his arm had been, and began to moan, “Oh no! My Rolex! My new Rolex!”
            Sometimes, fables can reveal important truth. In our society, people are obsessed with material things. That is not a 21st-century phenomenon. People have always been what the Bible calls “greedy.”
             Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf—Prov. 11:28.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Balloon Boy

            I saved a sermon on greed a few years ago. The illustration was six year old Falcon Heene being sent up in an air balloon by his father, who hoped the stunt would draw the attention of a TV network… and a contract for a new “reality” show.
            As you might imagine, one of the points of the sermon was the way greed had driven the father, Richard Heene, to put his child in danger. Other good points were made and, in the end, the message was extremely clear—greed is bad.  
            What made the sermon interesting to me was the Preacher: a major news magazine in the United States.
            The Bible has preached this sermon for a long time. Here is one way Paul preached it: For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs (I Tim. 6:10.) ESV

Monday, May 14, 2012

Like Water to a Drowning Man

            A prominent bishop was once approached after a service by an old lady. She said to him in a tone of appreciation, “Bishop, you’ll never know what your sermon meant to me. It was just like water to a drowning man!”
            Unfortunately, from time to time I know exactly how that Bishop felt. I hope, though, I never forget the power of the gospel in its purest form:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile (Rom. 1:16.)

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Parrot and the Burglar

            An old story goes like this:

            Late one night, a burglar broke into a house that he thought was empty. He tiptoed through the living room but suddenly he froze in his tracks when he heard a loud voice say, "Jesus is watching you."
            Silence returned to the house, so the burglar crept forward again. "Jesus is watching you," the voice boomed again.
            The burglar stopped dead again. He was frightened. Frantically, he looked all around. In a dark corner, he spotted a birdcage and in the cage was a parrot.
            He asked the parrot, "Was that you who said Jesus is watching me?"
            "Yes", said the parrot.
            The burglar breathed a sigh of relief; then he asked the parrot, "What's your name?"
            "Clarence," said the bird.
            "That's a dumb name for a parrot," sneered the burglar. "What idiot named you Clarence?"
            The parrot said, "The same idiot who named this Rottweiler, Jesus."

            Like the burglar, all of us will be held accountable some day by Jesus, and this Jesus is more powerful than a Rottweiler, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare” (I Pet. 3:10.) NIV

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Courage and the Tooth

            Rick Ezell tells a story of a woman and her husband who interrupted a vacation to see a dentist. “I want a tooth pulled, and I don't want Novocain because I'm in a big hurry,” the wife said. “Just extract the tooth as quickly as possible, and we will be on our way.”
            The dentist was very impressed. “You're certainly a courageous woman,” he said. “Which tooth is it?”
            The wife turned her husband and said, “Show him your tooth, dear.”
            It is easy to be courageous when it comes to another person’s tooth. It is much more difficult when it is one’s own.
            God never calls us to be courageous vicariously. Courage, for God, is always personal.
            Be strong and courageous…” (Josh. 1:6a.)