VOLUME VIII, Number 2 Circling the Wagons In the American Old West, the pioneers used a kind of self-defense called "circling the wagons." It involved driving a wagon train in a circle so that the pioneers could camp inside and keep the wolves out. Today, some people see the church as a circle of wagons, protecting them from the world around them. The Hebrew people had to circle the wagons in Babylon. They chose not to eat the Babylonian food or adopt the Babylonian customs. They stayed separate, kept their rituals, preserved their culture, and protected themselves. This lifestyle produced a group that would be called the "set apart ones," or in Hebrew, "perushim," which we translate Pharisees.
The problem was Jesus took a different approach. He taught His disciples to reach out to outsiders. As a result, the Church started a mission to reach Gentiles rather than keeping separate. With Jesus, there would be no circling of the wagons.
Funny thing about those pioneers. They called their wagons "Prairie Schooners." A schooner is a sailboat. Those tarps stretched over their wagons looked a bit like sails. And like a boat that sets out to open sea, the pioneers weren't searching for safety but for adventure.
We must continue to do the same. We are not here to keep people safe from the world; we are here to change the world. We're here on a great adventure; to reach lost people for Jesus, not to hide out from the world.
"Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age'" (Matthew 28:18-20).
VOLUME VIII, Number 1 The Peril Of "Covering Up"
Misty Ann Weaver made a tragic decision. The Houston-area licensed vocational nurse is charged in the burning death of three people after she started a fire in her six-story office building. She started the fire because she was behind on an audit for her plastic surgeon boss, and she feared being fired. She hoped the fire would buy more time. Obviously, her actions had unintended consequences.
Ms. Weaver is an extreme example of the tendency to try and avoid consequences by resorting to sin to “cover up” a shortcoming or failure. While few of us will wind up facing three felony murder counts, we are all tempted to “cover up” in this way. When we fail to study for a test, we may resort to cheating to “cover up” that fact. When we have a low self-image, we may resort to gossip or backbiting to “cover up” perceived flaws about ourselves. When we are afraid of negative consequences for not meeting some responsibility or expectation, we may turn to lying to “cover up” that inadequacy. The irony is seen in that the “cover up” inevitably puts us in greater spiritual trouble than before we engaged in it.
We may “cover up” for fear of the disapproval of others, out of embarrassment or shame, or out of concern for certain repercussions. Yet, to turn to sin to shield ourselves from the ramifications of our actions is to compound the problem. Let us have the courage to face God and man, to provide things honest in the sight of all men (cf. Romans 12:17).
Israel was warned about the danger of adding sin to sin (Isaiah 30:1). It is strength of character to do our best in our every endeavor, but it is also strength of character, when we have failed to so do, to courageously, honestly “face the music.”
"Woe to those who dig deep to hide their plans from the LORD. In darkness they do their works and say, "Who sees us, and who will know?" (Isaiah 29:15).
VOLUME VII, Number 52
Miracle on 34th St First Premiered in Summer
Did you know that the famed Christmas classic movie MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, which premiered in 1947, was originally released in June, not December? That's right. The studio knew that it had a potential hit on their hands, so they didn't want to forgo the extra dollars that a summertime blockbuster could rake in (apparently, holiday blockbusters weren't yet a sure deal back in 1940s).
Producers knew that selling a "Christmas" movie in the summertime could be a bit tricky, so they billed it as a romantic comedy--a love story!--and totally downplayed the film's holiday theme. The marketing department even tailored the movie posters to show the film's "love interest" stars, Maureen O'Hara and John Payne, coyly eying one another, with the film's other stars--Edmund Gwenn, who played Kris Kringle, and then child-star Natalie Wood--tucked neatly and discretely in the background.
In essence, it was a Christmas story pretending to be a love story.
The ploy worked, and the film was a huge success. It has now been viewed and cherished over and over again--not in the summer, but every Christmas, by every generation since.
Did you know that the Christmas story--you know, the real one with shepherds and wisemen and the baby Jesus--isn't just a Christmas story?
At its heart, it is a love story! A love story that just happens to be celebrated at Christmas. It first premiered over two thousand years ago and has been cherished over and over again--not just at Christmas, but every day, by every heart longing to be loved, in every generation since.
This holiday season, don't just rehearse a Christmas story. Rehearse the great love story that is the gift of Jesus.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever would believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
VOLUME VII, Number 51
The Science of Gifting
Through the "science of gifting," researchers have been able to get a clearer picture of how gifting impacts both the giver and the receiver. For instance, as far as the receiver is concerned, it's not the thoughtfulness of the gift that really counts, nor is it even the cost of the gift that makes the biggest impact.
One study found spending more money on a gift doesn't necessarily translate into greater appreciation. That might come as a surprise to many gift givers, who often assume that a more expensive gift conveys a higher level of thoughtfulness, according to the research, published in 2009 in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
Some gift givers spend time and energy trying to find just the right gift. But thoughtful gifts don't necessarily lead to greater appreciation, according to another study published in November … The benefit of a thoughtful gift actually accrues mainly to the giver, who derives a feeling of closeness to the other person, the study found.
What is it then that makes a gift a "great" one?
People are more appreciative when they receive a gift they have explicitly requested, according to a similar study published last year …"
We can certainly see the veracity of these findings in the gift of God's Son to the world. No other gift has ever been more thoughtful or more costly. Yet, few seem to value it. It is only those who have seen their need and desire of a Savior--and "explicitly request it"--who can look down into the manger or up onto the cross and say, "What a GREAT gift!"
"For God so love the world that He gave His One and Only Son …" (John 3:16).
VOLUME VII, Number 50
To Warm a Heart You First Have to Break It
NY Times TV critic, Neil Genzlinger rightly observes that the schmaltzy holiday movie fare served up on the Hallmark and Lifetime channels every year at this time are filled with as much pain, heartache and disaster as they are with holiday cheer. The themes are strikingly similar and predictable: a lonely widower struggles to make Christmas happy for his children after the loss of their mother; a young wife can't allow herself to celebrate the season at all since the death of her husband at Christmastime a few years prior; a family faces a giftless Christmas in the wake of a job layoff; etc., etc., etc.
Genzlinger astutely comments that in the world of made-for-tv movies, "To warm a heart, you first have to break it."
Isn't that true of real life, as well? We can't truly experience Christmas joy--the joy of God coming to earth to live and die on our behalf--until we have first come to see our need for a savior. And that is a realization that can only come when we have been broken, when we have come to mourn the sin that separates us from our God.
But just like those schmaltzy made-for-tv movies, there is the promise of a happy ending: "A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise" (Psalm 51:17). "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18). "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds" (Psalm 147:3). "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted" (Matthew 5:4).
VOLUME VII, Number 49
Police Dole Out Gifts Not Tickets
"Getting pulled over by a police officer can make a good day bad and a bad day worse. Unless, of course, he helps you with your Christmas shopping instead of writing you a ticket," reports the HUFFINGTON POST:
In a video released Tuesday, the police department in Lowell, Michigan, did just that.* Over two days in November, Officer Scot VanSolkema stopped unsuspecting drivers for minor infractions, like illegally tinted windows, that the department might normally let slide, according to Today. After he pulled them over, VanSolkema made small talk and sneakily asked drivers what they or their kids wanted for Christmas. Meanwhile, a group of helpers were standing by at a nearby store. As soon as they heard a driver's Christmas wish, they'd race to find, buy, wrap and deliver it to VanSolkema.
Instead of tickets, the officer handed over gifts, like a new TV and an electric scooter. Drivers had reactions that turned from irritation into confusion before melting into joy, and, in some cases, hugs.
Isn't it sad that those who have been tasked with the job of "keeping the peace" usually evoke such a sense of fear and dread within us? There's no doubt that those Lowell, Michigan, citizens were convinced that the officer approaching their car was there to drop the hammer and nail them on one infraction or another.
Some of that stems from our own sense of guilt and shame. We're just sure that we must have done something wrong! And some of it stems from an expectation that those who are charged with keeping the law take some sort of perverted delight in catching us when we break it.
But on this day, all expectations were shattered. It's important to note that the officer pulled over the drivers for legitimate reasons (illegal tinting or a burned out turn signal). Yet he chose to look right past the driver's guilt to the driver's need for those yet unfulfilled gifts on their Christmas lists.
This is exactly the way our gracious God chooses to deal with us each and every day!
While many of us see Him as the great "law keeper" in the sky, just waiting to nail us on one thing or another, the reality is exactly the opposite. He's the great keeper of the peace Who has Himself already satisfied all the requirements of the Law, so that He can look right past our guilt to our need. And the best part is HE is our gift!
It shatters our expectations. It's confusing. But let the reality sink in, then just melt into the joy!
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).
VOLUME VII, Number 48
Visit from the Queen Requires Over 3 Tons of Luggage
The following is an article published by Cox News service about the 2007 visit of Queen Elizabeth II to the United States:
The British are fond of saying they'll just "pop in" for a visit. But when Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, travel to the United States this week, a lot of planning will have gone on before the popping begins. The royal visit will last six days. The planning began eight or nine months ago, a spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace said. Every step of the queen's route must be gone over — all corridors, for example, must be wide enough for her to pass people without touching them. Her preferences in food — reported not to include fish — must be conveyed to her hosts; a plane must be chartered and the interior configured to make it fit for a queen.
And then there's all that packing to be done. She must bring, of course, gowns, crowns and other queenly accoutrements. Black garments are always included in case events suddenly call for mourning. She'll need at least one diamond tiara and, of course, the requisite assortment of hats. The queen also has to bring gifts, such as brooches, cufflinks, pens and the like. There are boxes of royal papers to which she must attend. And she has been reported to travel with as many as 50 pairs of white gloves: They get soiled when she shakes hands, and soiled gloves would never do. The queen has been reported to always travel with an assortment of personal items, as well — photos of family members, a certain type of water, homeopathic remedies, special jams, and her favorite tea along with her favorite teapot. The palace declined to comment on these details. Asked about past reports that the luggage on the queen's trips amounts to two or three tons, the spokeswoman said, "That sounds about right."
Contrast this with the manner in which the King of Kings came into this world. There were no accoutrements, little fanfare, and far less-than-optimal conditions. The Incarnation was not what we would expect from a royal visitor, unless that royal visitor was also a merciful Savior.
"On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords" (Revelation 19:16).
VOLUME VII, Number 47
Please Come Home
A young Brazilian girl, Christina, longed to experience life beyond the confines of her poverty stricken village and her humble home. With no modern conveniences and nothing but a pallet on the floor to call her bed, she fantasized about how much better life would be in the city. Discontentment finally got the best of her and she ran away. Her distraught mother, Maria, immediately set out to find her. Max Lucado tells the story:
On her way to the bus stop Maria entered a drugstore to get one last thing. Pictures. She sat in the photograph booth, closed the curtain, and spent all she could on pictures of herself. With her purse full of small black-and white photos, she boarded the next bus to Rio de Janeiro.
Maria knew Christina had no way of earning money. She also knew that her daughter was too stubborn to give up. When pride meets hunger, a human will do things that were before unthinkable. Knowing this, Maria began her search. Bars, hotels, nightclubs, any place with the reputation for street walkers or prostitutes. She went to them all. And each place she left her picture—taped on a bathroom mirror, tacked to a hotel bulletin board, fastened to a corner phone booth. And on the back of each photo she wrote a note.
It wasn’t too long before both the money and the pictures ran out, and Maria had to go home. The weary mother wept as the bus began its long journey back to her small village. It was a few weeks later that young Christina descended the hotel stairs. Her young face was tired. Her brown eyes no longer danced with youth but spoke of pain and fear. Her laughter was broken. Her dream had become a nightmare. A thousand times over she had longed to trade these countless beds for her secure pallet. Yet the little village was, in too many ways, too far away.
As she reached the bottom of the stairs, her eyes noticed a familiar face. She looked again, and there on the lobby mirror was a small picture of her mother. Christina’s eyes burned and her throat tightened as she walked across the room and removed the small photo. Written on the back was this compelling invitation. ‘Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come home.’
That's God's message of grace to you. "Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn't matter. Please come home."
"What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?" (Matthew 18:12, cf. Luke 15:4).
VOLUME VII, Number 46
Inoculate Yourself with Gratitude
John Henry Jowett was an English pastor and teacher who shepherded prominent churches in both England and America. Renowned for his depth of Bible knowledge, his motto was, “I have had but one passion, and I have lived for it-the absorbingly arduous yet glorious work of proclaiming the grace and love of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” He also was quoted saying: “Gratitude is a vaccine, an antitoxin, and an antiseptic.”
Gratitude is a vaccine … by focusing on that which is praiseworthy, gratitude inoculates us against the disease of bitterness and resentment.
Gratitude is an antitoxin … by focusing on that which is praiseworthy we counteract the poisonous lie of the Evil One that says trials are proof that God has abandoned us.
Gratitude is an antiseptic … by focusing on that which is praiseworthy we sterilize our thoughts of all that would breed the germ of discontent.
"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones" (Proverbs 17:22).
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
VOLUME VII, Number 45
Remember to Bait the Hook
A dad took his 6 year old son fishing. They put down a trotline and went up to the cabin. After an hour they went back down to the river to see if they had caught anything. Sure enough, there were several fish on the line. The son said, “I know there would be, Daddy.”
The father asked, “How did you know?”
The child replied, “Because I prayed about it.”
So, they baited the hooks again, put out the line and went back to the cabin for supper. Afterward, they went back to the river. Again, there were fish on the line. The boy said, “I knew it!”
“How did you know it?” The father asked again.
“I prayed again,” he said.
So once again they put the line back into the river and went to the cabin. Before bed, they went down to the river one more time. This time there were no fish. The boy said, “I knew there would be no fish.”
“How did you know?”
“Because I didn’t pray this time.”
“And why didn’t you pray?”
“Because I remembered that we forgot to bait the hooks.” – Wesley Taylor, UMC, Tualatin, Oregon
It’s one thing to trust God; it’s another thing to test Him. God does not promise to do for us what we can do for ourselves. Remember to bait the hook first, THEN pray for God to bring the increase.
“I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6)
VOLUME VII, Number 44
A Terrible Secret
At the one hundred year anniversary of the arrival of missionaries to the Congo, a large celebration was planned. In commemoration of the lasting impact of the work of the original missionaries, speakers were invited to address the gathering. Special music, a festive meal, and other activities were planned as a memorial to this important occasion.
As the story goes, an aged native came forward and introduced himself to the crowd as the last person alive who was privy to a terrible secret. The old man confessed that one hundred years earlier, when the missionaries first came, the natives didn’t know whether to believe the message they carried. So, in order to test their sincerity, they devised a plan.
Slowly, secretly, systematically, they began to poison the missionaries. Then they watched intently as mothers said goodbye to children, as husbands said good-bye to wives, as friends and colleagues said good-bye to one another. The old man explained that it was only as they saw how these missionaries died, that the truth of their message was confirmed. As a result, many of the people believed and embraced the Gospel message.
In what manner must these men and women have died to have so convincingly confirmed the message they brought to the Congo? No doubt, they died just as they had lived—as those who clung tenaciously to eternal promises. They died as those who were blessed, despite losing every earthly reason for happiness. They died as those who had traded in their earthbound dreams for heaven bound certainties.
VOLUME VII, Number 43
David Taylor, a wild animal expert and vet, tells of the injuries incurred by an elderly gentleman who ill-advisedly wandered into a camel pen to pet the animal. The “kindly old man” who meant the camel no harm suffered a fractured skull, two broken arms, and a broken thigh. “Camels may build up a pressure cooker of resentment toward human beings until the lid suddenly blows off and they go berserk.”
He goes on to explain how camel handlers in Asia help their camels let off some steam. “In Asia, when a camel driver senses trouble, he gives his coat to the animal. Rather like Japanese workers reported to work off frustrations by beating up models of their executives, the camel gives the garment hell—jumping on it, biting it, tearing it to pieces. When the camel feels it has blown its top enough, man and animal can live together in harmony again.”
Unloading all your anger on a surrogate might work for camels, but God would rather we humans simply do away with our anger all together. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31). If the anger is “righteous” (justified), then own it, but "don't sin by letting anger control you” (Ephesians 4:26, NLT).
Remember, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back” (Proverbs 29:11).
When you don't control your anger, "You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly carnal? Are you not acting like mere camels?" (1 Corinthians 3:3).
VOLUME VII, Number 42
The Corpse Flower
What flower has been likened to "3-day-old road-kill," "rotting flesh," and "fish gone bad"? The answer is the corpse flower.
The corpse flower (titan arum), native to the equatorial forests of Sumatra, can grow up to 10 feet tall. Once opened, the spiked, bright red bloom even looks like rotten meat, a veritable welcome mat for the insects that pollinate it—flies and carrion beetles.
According to University of Connecticut research assistant Matthew Opel, the corpse flower "looks like something has died. It smells like something has died. It has the same chemicals that dead bodies produce."
The flower, however, which begins to disintegrate after two days, is nothing but a big practical joke to the flies and other carrion insects, says Opel. "Unlike other plants that offer nectar, there's no real reward here. They think they're going to get a meal because it smells like something dead."
The Corpse Flower is a picture of sin. It looks beautiful, like a flower, but it reeks of death and delivers nothing that it promises. What's more, we proudly parade it as something to be admired, live streaming our sin, so to speak, for the world to see.
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12, New King James Version).
VOLUME VII, Number 41
Don’t Dread the Unknown
In August of 2010, the Associated Press reported the story of 75 yr. old Ron Sveden of Brewester, Mass., who was suffering from failing health, difficulty breathing, and aggravated coughing spells. Tests showed "an ominous dark spot" on his lung, which he concluded was probably cancer.
Though Sveden himself feared the worst, his doctors told him that tests were inconclusive, and only exploratory surgery would prove definitive. Upon removal of the mass, lab work concluded it was nothing more than an aspirated pea which had sprouted in the dark, moist environment of his lung. Needless to say, Sveden was greatly relieved to know the certain doom he'd projected would not come to pass.
Don't dread the unknown...wait on God...sometimes what looks like an "ominous dark spot" is really just a pea sprout. Unfounded speculations of what God has in store for us can prove to be the damp, dark environment in which fears and anxieties are left to grow unchecked.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).
VOLUME VII, Number 40
Pastor and author Chuck Swindoll shares this humorous story:
A man asked his wife, 'If you could have anything in the world for one day, what would you want?' She responded with a smile, 'Well, I'd really love to be six again.' Early the next morning, the morning of her birthday, he got her up and off they went to a nearby Waffle House for waffles and whipped cream with a tall glass of milk. Next, they headed to a local theme park. What a day! He put her on every ride in the park. The Death Slide, the Cyclone Whip, the Screaming Loop, the Wall of Fear, the Double-Ring ferris wheel--everything they had, she rode. Five hours later, she staggers out of the theme park with her husband … her head still reeling, her stomach still churning. Off to McDonald's next. He ordered her two Big Macs along with extra fries and a thick, chocolate shake. After that they took in an exciting animated movie--the latest Hollywood blockbuster. They had popcorn and Pepsis, a bag of M&Ms … toping off the day full of fabulous six-year-old adventures. Exhausted, she stumbles into the house late that evening with her husband and collapses on the bed. That was when he leaned over and softly whispered in her ear, 'Well, dear, how'd you like being six again?' One eye opened, she said, 'Well, actually, I meant my dress size.'
Talk about misunderstanding! It not only missed the mark, all that food, soda, and candy actually ballooned her to a bigger dress size.
More important than what we think someone meant is what they actually meant by what they said. We forget this sometimes when we read the Bible. We read the words and then we set off to do what we think God wants us to do, never stopping to determine whether we've discovered the true intent of the original author.
"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15, ESV).
VOLUME VII, Number 39
The Benefits of Gratitude According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, researchers have found that "adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not. . . . They’re also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and have greater resistance to viral infections."
Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California-Davis, was one of the leading researchers in study that reached these conclusions. He’s quoted as saying that the act of feeling gratitude requires "self-reflection, the ability to admit that one is dependent upon the help of others, and the humility to realize one’s own limitations."
As Christians, we are frequently exhorted and reminded to be thankful--not just in general, but specifically to God--not just some of the time, but all of the time. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
The benefits of giving thanks are among the countless examples of the way obeying God's Word has benefits we never would have expected.
VOLUME VII, Number 38
Michael Monsoor, a U.S. Navy SEAL, was killed during the Iraq War. In 2008, President Bush posthumously awarded him the Medal of Honor for his iconic act of heroism.
Delta Platoon was sent to Iraq in April 2006 and assigned to train Iraqi Army soldiers in Ramadi. Over the next five months, Monsoor and his platoon frequently engaged in combat with insurgent forces.
On September 29, 2006, an insurgent threw a grenade onto a rooftop where Monsoor and several other SEAL and Iraqi soldiers were positioned. Monsoor quickly covered the live grenade with his body, absorbing the resulting explosion and saving his comrades from serious injury or death. Monsoor died 30 minutes later from the catastrophic wounds caused by the grenade explosion.
Monsoor selflessly and willingly covered a live grenade with his body to save his fellows soldiers. The grenade ripped through his flesh and resulted in tremendous blood loss. Monsoor covered sure death for the entire platoon by giving his life for theirs. A 28-year-old lieutenant who served with Monsoor said, "He never took his eye off the grenade, his only movement was down toward it. He undoubtedly saved mine and the other SEAL's lives, and we owe him."
As Kristen Scharnberg of the ChicagoTribune summarized in tribute, “The men who were there that day say they could see the options flicker across Michael Mansoor’s face: save himself or save the men he had long considered brothers. He chose them.”
From the verb “to cover” comes the word "atonement." Jesus is our atonement, our covering. He selflessly and willingly threw Himself over the live grenade of human sin, offering both His body and His blood to save us. Not once did Jesus take His eye off of His goal. His movement from heaven was only down, until He arrived at the cross. And there He had a choice, save Himself or us. He chose us.
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” Romans 5:8-11 (KJV).
VOLUME VII, Number 37
Listening for Mosquito Tones
Light & Life Magazine asks:
Have you heard about the cell phone ringtone that junior high and high school kids are using to keep teachers from discovering that they are using their cell phones in school? The pitch of this ringtone, called the "mosquito tone," is too high for people over 25 to hear. So the kids can still send and receive text messages during class without the teacher knowing.
The mosquito tone was first developed in Great Britain to irritate teenagers who were loitering around convenience stores and keeping customers away by their loud and obnoxious behavior…Some kid simply figured out how to use that sound as his cell phone's ringtone and—voilà—kids are downloading it by the millions.
Just as our ability to detect the sounds of high frequencies deteriorates as we get older, our sensitivity to spiritual frequencies also fade. That's why Jesus cautioned that those who would come to Him must come like little children. It is the humility and innocence of a child that makes it possible for us to hear the voice of God. So, we must either come to God early in life when we are better able to hear His voice, or become like little children so we can hear it.
"He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:2-4).
VOLUME VII, Number 36
The Chicken Cannon
The FAA has a device for testing the strength of windshields on airplanes. They point this cannon-like thing at the windshield of the aircraft and shoot a dead chicken at it--at about the same speed the aircraft normally flies. If the windshield doesn't break, it's likely to survive a real collision with a bird during flight.
The British had recently built a new locomotive that could pull a train faster than any before it. They were not sure that its windshield was strong enough, so they borrowed the testing device from the FAA, reset it to approximate the maximum speed of the locomotive, loaded in the dead chicken and fired.
The bird went through the windshield, broke the engineer's chair, and made a major dent in the back wall of the engine cab. They were quite surprised with this result, so they asked the FAA to check the test to see if everything was done correctly. The FAA checked everything and then wanly suggested that they might want to repeat the test using a thawed chicken.
According to 1 Corinthians 3:13, there is coming a "Day" when God will test the quality of every believer's works. That's right, even believers will stand before God and their lives will be tested. This test won't involve a chicken fired from a cannon, but something even more intimidating--the consuming fire of God's scrutiny. Paul tells us that some won't do so well; that their works will be "burned up;" that they will suffer a "great loss."
Nevertheless, the ill-prepared believer is assured that they "will be saved, like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames" (1 Corinthians 3:15, NLT). Though their works fail them, their faith in Christ does not. This is one of the most powerful statements in the Scriptures, offering assurance to every believer that their salvation is, indeed, based on the promise of God.
VOLUME VII, Number 35
It All Depends On Whose Hand It’s In!
Bishop Kenneth Ulmer from Los Angeles offers the following insights: "You see a clump of marble in my hand is just a piece of glass, but marble in Michelangelo’s hand will get you a magnificent statue of David, because it all depends on whose hand it’s in. A cello in my hand will get you some squeaky noise, but a violin in Yo Yo Ma's hand will get you the music of a master, because it all depends on whose hand it’s in. A basketball in my hand is worth about $29.95, but in Shaquille O’Neal’s hand it's worth about 30 million dollars, because it all depends on whose hand it’s in. A tennis racket in my hand is a dangerous weapon, but a tennis racket in Venus Williams’s hand is a Wimbledon champion, because it all depends on whose hand it’s in. A golf club in my hand means ‘look out!’ but a golf club in Tiger Woods’s hand is a golfing champion, because it all depends on whose hand it’s in. You see if you look at a rod or stick, a rod in my hand will fight off the dogs, but a rod in Moses’ hand will part the Red Seas of your life, because it all depends on whose hand it’s in. A slingshot in my hand is just a kid’s toy, but a slingshot in David’s hand will stop the Goliaths in your life, because it all depends on whose hand it’s in. Spit and clay in my hand might get you some mud cakes, but spit and clay in Jesus’ hand will open up the blinded eyes, because it all depends on whose hand it’s in. Two fish and five loaves of bread is a couple of fish sandwiches in my hand, but two fish in Jesus’ hand will feed the multitudes, because it all depends on whose hand it’s in. Nails in my hand might get you a birdhouse, but nails in Jesus’ hand is salvation for the whole world, because it all depends on whose hand it’s in."
Bishop Ulmer concludes, "This (life) of yours in your hand is a dismal failure, but when you put it in the hands of God you will glorify the kingdom, God’s name will be exalted, His church will be edified, His people will be glorified and the devil will be horrified in the name of Jesus. Because it all depends on whose hand it’s in.”
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us" (2 Corinthians 4:7).
VOLUME VII, Number 34
You Are God’s Stradivarius
Over the years there have been numerous theories and explanations offered up concerning the unique sound of a Stradivarius violin. Everything from climatic effects on the wood from the surrounding forests, to secret molding techniques employed by the master craftsman. One of the more recent, scientifically based explanations is found in the illustration below.
“Antonio Stradivarius was an Italian violin maker who lived from 1644-1737. His violins are now the most prized violins ever made because of the rich and resonating sound they produce. The unique sound of a Stradivarius violin cannot be duplicated.
"Surprisingly, these precious instruments were not made from treasured pieces of wood, but instead were carved from discarded lumber. Stradivarius, who was very poor and could not afford fine materials like his contemporaries, got much of his wood from the dirty harbors where he lived. He would take those waterlogged pieces of wood to his shop, clean them up, and from those pieces of trashed lumber, he would create instruments of rare beauty.
"It has since been discovered that while the wood floated in those dirty harbors, microbes went into the wood and ate out the center of those cells. This left just the fibrous infrastructure of the wood that created resonating chambers for the music. From wood that nobody wanted, Stradivarius produced violins that everybody wants.”
So also, long before you were saved, while you were still floating in the dirty harbors of the world, God was at work. His microbes were there, using the trials of your circumstances to eat away at your fibrous infrastructure, creating chambers better prepared to resonate with the sounds of His love and grace.
That's why the Stradivarius among us, those who resonate most beautifully with God's love, are seldom formed from treasured pieces of wood, but from discarded, waterlogged, pieces of scrap. That's how the Master violin maker uses wood that nobody wants to produce violins that everybody wants.
“For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son …” (Romans 8:29).
VOLUME VII, Number 33
Overcoming the Past
Backstage at the circus, motivational speaker Jim Donovan noticed that the elephants were kept in place by nothing stronger than a thin rope that tied one leg to a stake in the ground. Puzzled, Donovan asked one of the trainers what prevented these powerful animals from just snapping the rope and running away.
The answer? Raised in captivity, the animals are held like that from an early age when they're much smaller and weaker. They get so accustomed to the fact that they can't break the rope that they eventually quit trying. When they're full grown, they never attempt to pull themselves free.
Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging on to a belief that we cannot do something simply because we failed at it before. Have you avoided trying something new because of a limiting belief? Worse, how many of us are being held back by someone else's limiting beliefs?
Don't let yourself be held prisoner by beliefs and expectations that are no longer true—if they ever were.
"No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead" (Philippians 3:13).
VOLUME VII, Number 32
Vicks VapoRub Cubs
A Reader’s Digest once published this article:
Gary Alt one of the nation's most respected wildlife experts had a problem. The biologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission often found lost or orphaned bear cubs, but he couldn’t persuade wild female bears to adopt the foundlings.
A mother bear labels cubs as her own by licking them, and she uses the smell of her saliva to identify them later. If a female smells a cub that isn’t hers, she may kill it. Alt got around this with the help of Vicks VaopRub.
He sedated a mother bear, smeared the decongestant ointment on her nose and then left an orphaned cub with her in her den. When the bear woke up, she couldn’t smell any difference between her own cubs and the stranger. By the time the Vicks wore off, she had already licked the new cub and so treated the orphan as one of her own.
Appealing to a momma bear's sense of compassion is fruitless. You can plead with a momma bear all you want, you can tell her, “Hey, momma bear, we’ve got special circumstance here," but it will do little good. The momma bear needs a little help if she is going to respond properly to the needs of someone else's cub. She needs some Vicks VapoRub smeared on her nose to help her overcome her prejudices, her biases, her lack of unconditional love.
How do we overcome our prejudices, our biases, our lack of unconditional love? Wouldn't it be nice if we could smear a little Vicks on our faces and suddenly begin treating others the way we'd like to be treated? The truth is, we need more help than the momma bear if we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Our need goes much deeper. We need a new heart. We need the very heart of God.
"If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, 'Love your neighbor as yourself,' you are doing right" (James 2:8). "No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us" (1 John 4:12). "And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows" (1 Thessalonians 3:12).
VOLUME VII, Number 31
There was once a flock of pelicans that happily fished off the coast of California. One day, a fishing company began cleaning their catch at a nearby dock, where it was convenient for them to cast the discarded fish scraps into the water. The pelicans, drawn to the daily ritual, soon gave up fishing for themselves and settled into a more domesticated existence. Life was pretty good for these pelicans, at least until the fishermen discovered that there was a market for fish scraps. Abruptly, the free meals ceased.
Despite this regrettable change of fortune, the pelicans continued to show up every day at meal-time, only to go away with empty stomachs. It wasn’t long before the lack of sustenance began to take its toll. The unsightly appearance of the emaciated birds eventually drew the public’s attention, and experts were called in to investigate the cause of their plight. For some unknown reason, the pelicans no longer seemed able to access the abundance of food that teemed just below them in the sea. After a thorough investigation, it was concluded that the pelicans were starving to death because they’d forgotten how to fish!
Have you ever heard of anything so absurd? Pelicans were made to fish. But they had forgotten who they were and what they were made to do.
Sadly, there is a spiritual parallel to this, and it’s just as puzzling. It’s when a child of God forgets who they are and how they are to access the profound blessings teeming just below the surface of their everyday life. We suffer from spiritual amnesia when we allow our doubts and fears to rob us of the joy and fruitfulness that would naturally be ours. Believe what God says about you and you will thrive. You are His beloved child, fully accepted, and profoundly valued. You have been given great and eternal purposes to fulfill. Those who forget who they are in Christ waste away.
VOLUME VII, Number 30
We Died Before We Came Here
Wesleyan Methodist missionary, James Calvert (1813-1892), committed his life to reaching the indigenous peoples of the Figi Islands. It is widely reported that upon his voyage, the ship’s captain warned him to turn back, saying, “You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages.” Calvert purportedly replied, “We died before we came here.”
God has sent us, his children, into the world to proclaim the good news of His love, just as He sent His Son. But dangers lurk around every corner and behind every bush, as our world grows increasingly hostile toward the things of God.
To be faithful to the task that has been given to us, there will be times when we will have to forget about ourselves. This is a weighty responsibility, especially to a modern generation of believers who seem to be unwilling to pay even the small price of ridicule.
Nevertheless, to fulfill the Great Commission we must, just like our Savior, love the lives of those we have been sent to save more than our own.
"If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it" (Luke 9:24, NLT).
VOLUME VII, Number 29
God is Bigger Than Your Troubles
Inspirational writer Raymond McHenry notes that in times of uncertainty it is good to know these simple facts from Isaiah 40:
* The oceans of the world contain more than 340 quintillion gallons of water, yet God holds them "in the hollow of his hand" (40:12).
* The earth weighs 6 sextillion metric tons, yet God says it is but "dust on the scales" (40:15).
* The known universe stretches more than 30 billion light years (200 sextillion miles), but God measures it by the width of his hand (40:12).
* Scientists claim there are at least 100 billion galaxies and each galaxy is made up of about 100 billion stars. To such mind-boggling math Isaiah reminds us that God calls each star "by name" (40:26).
If God can hold the waters of the ocean in the hollow of His hand, consider the weight of the Earth as but dust, measure the width of the Universe with span of his hand, and call each start by name, surely he can handle the details and dramas of our lives.
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:6-7).
VOLUME VII, Number 28
Put the Glass Down
How heavy does something have to be, to be too heavy? Consider the following story:
A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they'd be asked the "half empty or half full" question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: "How heavy is this glass of water?"
Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn't change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."
"The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything."
It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses. As early … as you can, put all your burdens down. Don't carry them through the evening and into the night. Remember to put the glass down!
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:28-29, ESV).
VOLUME VII, Number 27
The Secret to Losing Weight
Harry Jackson, with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, reports:
Renee Berdar, 51, of Weldon Spring, says it’s easy to lose 250 pounds. OK, maybe not all that easy, but it worked for her.
“I just didn’t eat anything I liked to eat,” she said. That’s what she decided when her weight topped 420 pounds nearly three years ago. “My problem was if I liked what I was eating, I’d eat all of it. If I liked the flavor, I’d just keep eating.”
Finding the wherewithal to choose what we need over what we want can be a real challenge, whether it's a proper diet or exercising a spiritual discipline. But must we really swear off doing what we like in order to overcome temptation?
To aid us on this journey, God doesn’t just leave us with a list of "do"s and "don’t"s, but offers us the gift of the Holy Spirit. And with this gift comes a whole new set of desires--godly desires. This is how God empowers believers to love those things that are good for them, things that produce blessing. By the work of God's Spirit, we prefer others before ourselves, we show mercy rather than seek revenge, we seek to serve rather than be served.
Don't settle for a life of doing what you don't want to do in order to avoid the negative consequences of doing what you do want to do. Let God change what you want! Then your life will be filled with both goodness and joy.
“For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me” (Romans 7:22-23).
"For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died" (2 Corinthians 5:14).
VOLUME VII, Number 26
All the Gold in the World
According to the World Gold Council, to date (up until 2009) only about 165,000 metric tons of gold have been mined in all of human history. This amount of gold, if consolidated, would fit into a cube measuring just some 70x70x70 feet (give or take a few cubic feet)-- a space not much longer than an average tractor trailer rig, not much wider than an average ranch style home, and not much taller than a six story building! Yet, its total value, in the modern market, would exceed $5 trillion.
Few things have held their value over time like gold. This is due to the fact that gold is not only very rare, it is also a very useful metal. From jewelry to electronics, the unique qualities of this metal cause it to be in constant demand. Rarity and practical usefulness combine to give gold its lasting value.
There are two things that add value to a persons life, and they happen to be the same things that add value to gold. 1) Their intrinsic helpfulness. 2) Their relative rarity. These qualities combine to make the child of God invaluable to the world. Self-serving, self-consumed people are of little value to others or to God's purposes in the world. They are also quite common.
God has called us and set us apart to be a special people. Why be common when you can be rare? God has also commissioned us to share His love with the world. Why live for yourself when you can live for God? Those who live for God are more helpful and more rare. They make themselves priceless!
"You have been set apart as holy to the LORD your God, and he has chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be his own special treasure" (Deuteronomy 14:2, NLT).
VOLUME VII, Number 25
Teenager Calls 911 to Avoid Vacation
CBC news in Toronto reports,
A Mississauga teenager was cautioned by the Ontario Provincial Police after she called 911 last Tuesday to complain that her parents "forced her" to go on vacation with them at a rental cottage east of Toronto in Trent Hills.
"This appeared to be a case of a teenager being a teenager," Northumberland OPP Const. Steve Bates told CBC News. "Although she perceived this as a real issue, it was not an appropriate use of 911."
Officers attended the rental cottage on Trent River, about 180 kilometres northeast of Toronto, to ensure everyone was safe and that there was no "real" emergency, Bates said. The 15-year-old girl has been cautioned for misuse of the emergency number.
"Calls such as this tie up police resources which could impact the safety of others in the community who are in real need of assistance," said Bates.
Is it possible that what we think is an emergency and what God thinks is an emergency are vastly different things?
This young lady suffered from an acute case of "first world problems." But you don’t have to live in the first world to suffer from this condition. Whether you’re rich or poor, first world or third world, we all suffer from first person problems. This condition is the direct result of viewing life from a first person perspective. We do this when we become so self-absorbed that we don’t appreciate our many blessings, or see the real needs around us. The solution is to shift our focus away from ourselves and on to the genuine needs of others, to choose to take on a third person focus.
"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28, NLT).
VOLUME VII, Number 24
Your Marriage is an Air Filter
Dust and airborne particles circulate throughout the rooms and ventilation system of your home unimpeded until they get to the filter, strategically located in the air handler of your a/c unit. That's where the junk is caught and hopefully dealt with, lest the system become clogged and fail.
Like airborne debris, your spiritual junk floats unimpeded through most of the airspace in your life, barely noticed at work, or in your community, or even among your friends and other family members. But there is no way it's getting past the most intimate of human relationships. You can't hide your junk from your spouse! Your marriage is an air filter. It is a mechanism, strategically located by God, that is intended to both serve and protect your spiritual life. If there are issues in your spiritual life, they are sure to be "caught" in your marriage relationship.
Unresolved anger, selfishness, spiritual or emotional immaturity all "come home to roost." If you aren't who you should be at home, the filter is soon clogged and everything comes to a halt until the junk is dealt with. This is why, when there is real trouble, it is almost always felt in your marriage before it is detected anywhere else. Thus, your marriage is where you will most often be challenged to work on your junk.
Those who fail to understand this principle are inclined to see trouble in their marriage as proof that the marriage itself is the problem. This erroneous thinking leads some to conclude that the solution is to end the marriage, which is like blaming the filter itself for the clog. Rather, you must learn to see the conflict in your marriage as a divine alarm, sounding off to warn you that your junk needs to be dealt with before you will be able to move forward and become the person God has called you to be.
"In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself" (Ephesians 5:28).
VOLUME VII, Number 23
Stick with the Kitty-Litter
Megan Geuss, with arstechnica.com, reports:
The Los Angeles Times is estimating that an explosion that occurred at a New Mexico nuclear waste dumping facility in 2014 could cost upwards of $2 billion to clean up.
... The 2014 explosion apparently occurred when engineers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory were preparing a drum of plutonium and americium waste—usually packed with kitty litter (yes, kitty litter)—and decided to "substitute an organic material for a mineral one."
"The new material caused a complex chemical reaction that blew the lid off a drum, sending mounds of white, radioactive foam into the air and contaminating 35 percent of the underground area," the LA Times wrote. The dump's filtration system, which was supposed to "prevent any radioactive releases," subsequently failed.
... That means that WIPP cleanup, including indefinite housing costs for nuclear waste around the country that was to be shipped to WIPP, could rank among the costliest nuclear waste cleanup efforts in US history, on par with clean up after Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island disaster in 1979.
You can purchase a 25 lb bag of premium Kitty-Litter at Walmart for less the $5, but because these engineers chose to disregard the tried and the true, the cleanup will cost taxpayers 2 billion dollars! They should have stuck with the Kitty-Litter!
Sometimes we’re tempted to think there’s a better way than God’s way. In a world always searching for something new and exciting, Christianity may not seem very enticing, even though its principles are tried and true.
Nevertheless, the world prefers moral and social experimentation. Rather than appreciate the gift of God's wisdom, they choose to rewrite the rules of what marriage and family should be. Only time will tell what the cost will be for the cleanup.
Although the Kitty-Litter worked every single time, they said, "Yes, but let's try this instead!" Likewise, built on the foundation of a Judeo-Christian heritage, we became the greatest nation on earth. Nevertheless, our world says, "Yes, but let's try this instead!"
Don’t allow anyone to persuade you to abandon the simplicity that is Jesus Christ.
“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).
VOLUME VII, Number 22
Man Digs Hole in the Jungle for God
The Mirror reports:
A man claims God told him to start digging a hole 18 years ago, and he literally hasn't stopped since.
Santiago Sanchez, 69, says he regards it as the Lord's work and he devotes every waking hour to the project.
The pensioner heads to the tunnel in the city of Berlin, in the western El Salvador department of Usulutan, at around 3 AM.
And every time he emerges he is carrying around 90 pounds of rock, stones and debris, following what God told him.
… It is no easy task, and the journalist who went into the tunnel to have a look confessed that by the time he got halfway, was struggling to breathe and had to leave quickly.
… Despite his conviction that he is following God's orders, he has many critics and many more who laugh at what he is doing.
His wife, named Isabel Ventura, said that "there are people who say that he is crazy" but he answers that "no one knows what God is going to demand from you."
Is Santiago Sanchez doing God's will by digging a hole in the middle of the jungle? He certainly thinks he is, and that may be all that matters. Here’s the really interesting thing about God’s will; it can be attached to anything you do, even the most mundane of activities.
The Bible says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24). That means any task can become a divine calling, if it's done with the right motivation!
The real question isn't whether Mr. Sanchez is doing God's will but are you? If you flip hamburgers, you can choose to flip hamburgers for the Lord, or you can flip hamburgers for the pay. Every person in every walk of life and vocation can choose to serve God there.
It doesn’t take a special revelation from God to discover His will for your life. It just takes a heart that wants to please God in all circumstances.
"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money" (Matthew 6:24).
VOLUME VII, Number 21
The Regret We Regret the Most
Joe Robinson, author of the new book, DON’T MISS YOUR LIFE, makes a case that one of life’s most dogging of emotions, regret, may just have a beneficial purpose: to prod us to step out and take action.
According to Mr. Robinson, "researchers have found that the biggest regrets come not from what you do but from what you didn't do." It's the course untaken, known as the "inaction effect" in one study, which produces more regret than actions that don't work out.
Other research shows there's more intensity to the regret that comes from lost opportunities and that it stays with you longer. Since we “seem to be wired to not leave possibilities on the table,” why then do so many of us fall prey to the "inaction effect?"
Robinson explains that it is “because we're wired with some other tendencies, too -- fear, procrastination, cynicism, prior disappointments." These negative psychological agents work hard to hold us back from experiencing life to the fullest. “Life is short,” he concludes, “regrets are forever.”
If the regrets for lost “earthly” opportunities are haunting, how much more the regrets that come from lost “spiritual” opportunities. Don’t allow “fear, procrastination, cynicism, or prior disappointments” to lull you into the “inaction effect” and rob you of eternal possibilities. As Robinson himself concludes, “Life is short; regrets are forever.”
Resolve to make each new day of this new year a day of possibilities.
“So, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts’" (Hebrews 3:7).
VOLUME VII, Number 20
The Law of Love
Thomas Burrows, with the Daily Mail, reports:
The highest court in Austria has said a resident cannot smoke on his balcony or with the windows open during set hours as it is disturbing his neighbor’s sleep ...
A university professor, living in the Austrian capital, had filed the case after complaining about the smell coming from the flat below.
The court heard how the resident below enjoyed a cigar on his balcony during the summer, typically between midnight and 2am.
In the winter, he tended to smoke with the windows open in his apartment.
... The country's highest court said the resident cannot smoke outside or with the windows open between 10pm and 6am.
In the summer, he is also prohibited from smoking during 'eating times' - between 8am and 10am, midday and 3pm, and 6pm and 8pm.
The decision could have far-reaching effects on the country.
It’s amazing that a single dispute between neighbors could find no solution until it reached the highest court in the land. Shouldn’t two people be able to work something like this out? And even if they need help from an authoritative third party, should an entire nation be forced to comply to a new set of laws because two people refused to accommodate one another?
There is no end to the need for new laws when the hearts involved are unyielding and selfish. By contrast, the end of the law is the love of Christ. When God’s love is the guiding principle, there is no need for any other principle. Laws aimed at enforcing compliance over such trivial disputes become unnecessary. It’s God’s love, not mans laws, that brings peace.
“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14).
VOLUME VII, Number 19
A Prodigal Finds Amazing Grace
Many now know of the amazing (pun intended) story of John Newton—former slave trader and author of the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace.” Less well known is that Newton--not just a slave trader, but a debauched man of various vices who once deserted the British navy to have his “fill” of sinning--was born to a godly mother who had planted seeds of faith in the young boys life. Chuck Swindoll retells the story:
Newton’s godly mother died when he was only seven. He was turned over to relatives and soon forgot the Scriptures she had taught him.
He went on to become an apprentice seaman and later joined the British navy. By then he had earned the reputation of being able to curse for two hours straight without repeating a word. Because he couldn’t stand the navy’s discipline, he deserted, fleeing to Africa so that, in his own words, ‘I might sin my fill.’
And he did.
Debauched and distant from God, Newton fell into the hands of a Portuguese slave trader. For months the chief woman of the trader’s harem treated him like an animal, beating him and forcing him to grovel in the dirt for his food.
By now a gaunt rail of a man, the angry Newton escaped and found his way to the shores of Africa. There he was picked up by a passing ship. Because he was a skilled navigator, he earned the position of first mate. But while the captain was ashore one day, Newton broke out the ships rum and got the entire crew drunk. When the captain came back, he was so incensed he hit Newton, knocking him overboard.
Newton would have drowned were it not for a sailor who pulled him back on the boat by spearing his thigh with a boat hook. The wound was so immense that it left a scar big enough for Newton to put his fist in. Some weeks later, when the ship neared the coast of Scotland, it sailed into a storm and almost sank. Manning the pumps was the wounded Newton.
Then and there he cried out to God.
God answered that helpless, wretched cry, and later John Newton would emerge from the hold of that ship to become chaplain to England’s Parliament and even to preach before the king.
Here was a prodigal who had abandoned the spiritual investment his godly mother had poured into him. Nevertheless, the seeds of faith had been deeply planted, and Newton was able to annex their power in his moment of helplessness and desperation.
“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
VOLUME VII, Number 18
If Christianity is True, Why Do Christians Behave So Badly?
Apologist and blogger Joel Furches, in an article entitled "If Christianity Is True, Why Do Christians Behave So Badly?" seeks to correct the illogic of such questions. At the root, he suggests, is the anti-Christian bias which tries to inexorably tie the behavior of the Christian with the validity of the faith.
"If it could be shown, then, that Christian behavior is overwhelmingly reprehensible, and that Christians get away with acting this way while claiming to be followers of God, it is only reasonable that people see this as evidence against the truth of Christianity, and of the Christian God."
He goes on to cite the anti-Christians' favorite examples used to disprove the "truth" of the Christian faith: the Crusades, the Inquisition, the cruelty of John Calvin, and the bigotry of Martin Luther.
The truth of Christianity does not stand or fall on who believes it, their motivations for believing it, or their personal behaviors. Either Christianity is true or it isn’t. That certain people embrace Christianity and then behave in a despicable manor does not somehow prove that Christianity is untrue. This same person doubtlessly holds a number of other beliefs that are in fact true. They probably believe that the earth is round, that exercise is good for the body, that rain comes from clouds, and that when they strike another person, it will hurt that person. These things do not somehow become untrue if the person believing them behaves badly.
"Christianity," he concludes, "stands or falls on its own merits. If Christianity is true, those who believe it will be held accountable for how they have represented those beliefs to others. If it is untrue, their behaviors have not made it untrue."
"Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the TRUTH, and the life ..." (John 14:6).
VOLUME VII, Number 17
The Drowning Stranger Dilemma
Here’s an excerpt from the Well Spent Journey blog.
Here’s a thought experiment.
Imagine that you’re a healthy, athletic, 20-year-old male. It’s the morning after a thunderstorm, and you’re standing on the banks of a flooded, violently churning river.
You notice an object floating downstream.
As it moves closer, you suddenly realize that this object is a person. The head breaks the surface, and you see a panic-stricken elderly woman gasping for air. You’ve never met her before, but vaguely recognize her as an impoverished widow from a neighboring village.
You look around for help, but there’s no one in sight. You have only seconds to decide whether or not to jump in after her – recognizing that doing so will put your own life in significant peril.
The author continues:
Is it rational for you to risk your life to save this stranger? Is it morally good to do so?
For the Christian, both of these questions can be answered with an emphatic “yes”.
The Christian is called to emulate the example set forth by Jesus, who not only risked, but sacrificed his life for the sake of others. The Christian believes that the soul is eternal, and that one’s existence doesn’t come to an abrupt end with death. Additionally, he can point to the examples of countless Christian martyrs who have willingly sacrificed their own lives.
For the secular humanist, the answers to these questions are much more subjective. When I previously asked 23 self-identifying atheists, “Is it rational for you to risk your life to save a stranger?” only 4 of them responded with an unqualified “yes”.
Biologically speaking, the young man in our scenario has nothing to gain by jumping after the drowning woman. Since she’s poor and elderly, there are no conceivable financial or reproductive advantages involved. Evolutionary biologists often speak of “benefit to the tribe” as a motivation for self-sacrifice…yet the young man’s community would certainly place greater practical value on his life than that of a widow from a neighboring village.
Secular humanists argue that people are capable of making ethical decisions without any deity to serve as Moral Lawgiver. On a day-to-day basis, this is undeniably true. We all have non-religious friends and neighbors who live extremely moral and admirable lives.
In the scenario above, however, secular ethics break down. The secular humanist might recognize, intuitively, that diving into the river is a morally good action. But he has no rational basis for saying so. The young man’s decision is between empathy for a stranger (on the one hand) and utilitarian self-interest & community-interest (on the other).
In the end, there can be no binding moral imperatives in the absence of a Moral Lawgiver. If the young man decides to sit back and watch the woman drown, the secular humanist cannot criticize him. He’s only acting rationally.
VOLUME VII, Number 16
What Happens When You Double a Penny Everyday for 30 Days?
Alan Yu, on his business blog, asks an interesting question. “If you were given a choice to receive one million dollars in one month or a penny doubled every day for 30 days, which one would you choose?"
HERE'S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DOUBLE A PENNY EVERYDAY FOR 30 DAYS:
Day 1: $.01 Day 2: $.02 Day 3: $.04 Day 4: $.08 Day 5: $.16 Day 6: $.32 Day 7: $.64 Day 8: $1.28 Day 9: $2.56 Day 10: $5.12 Day 11: $10.24 Day 12: $20.48 Day 13: $40.96 Day 14: $81.92 Day 15: $163.84 Day 16: $327.68 Day 17: $655.36 Day 18: $1,310.72 Day 19: $2,621.44 Day 20: $5,242.88 Day 21: $10,485.76 Day 22: $20,971.52 Day 23: $41,943.04 Day 24: $83,886.08 Day 25: $167,772.16 Day 26: $335,544.32 Day 27: $671,088.64 Day 28: $1,342,177.28 Day 29: $2,684,354.56 Day 30: $5,368,709.12
A million dollars sure sounds like a lot more than a mere penny doubled every day for 30 days. As it turns out, a penny doubled over the short course of a month is five times more profitable! Go figure.
In a similar way, the profits and gains of this life sure seem like greater rewards than the ones we have to wait on from God. But faithfulness to God in small things will one day prove to be of far greater value than anything the world has to offer us now.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal:" (Matthew 6:19-20).
VOLUME VII, Number 15
Beautiful People In an episode of the old television series “All in the Family,” Edith and Archie are attending Edith’s High School class reunion. Edith encounters an old classmate named Buck who has allowed himself to become extremely obese. Edith has a delightful conversation with him about old times and the things they did together, but remarkably, Edith doesn’t seem to even notice how extremely heavy her friend has become.
Later, Edith and Archie are talking. She says, “Archie, ain’t Buck a beautiful person?” Archie replies: “Edith, I’ll never figure you out. You and I can look at the same guy and you see a beautiful person and I see a blimp!” And Edith replies, simply, “Yeah, Arch, ain’t that too bad!”
Jesus tells us that when we look at other people, we should see something special in them; we should see them not just as beautiful people but as people for whom He gave His life; we should see them not just as fellow believers but as people in whom He lives.
What do you see when you look at the broken person, the dysfunctional person, the needy person, the sinner? If you see anything less than one for whom Christ died, "ain't that too bad!"
Jesus said: "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
VOLUME VII, Number 14
Prayer Changes Me
In the 2003 movie Bruce Almighty, Jim Carrey portrays a television reporter named Bruce Nolan. Bruce is a man who constantly complains about God. At one point he complains that, “God is a mean kid sitting on an anthill with a magnifying glass, and I'm the ant. He could fix my life in five minutes if He wanted to, but He'd rather burn off my feelers and watch me squirm.”
God (played by Morgan Freeman) confronts Bruce and says, “You've been doing a lot of complaining about me, Bruce. Quite frankly, I'm tired of it.” To prove to Bruce that He knows what He’s doing, God offers to let Bruce try to run the world in His place. Feeling confident he is up to the task, Bruce excitedly accepts. He soon realizes, however, the enormity and complexity of God’s work, particularly in answering prayers. In one scene, Bruce is so overwhelmed at the amount of prayers he has to answer, that he has them all put into a database and answers “Yes” to every one. As a result, over 400,000 people get the winning lottery numbers, but they only win $17.00 each.
Intellectually we all understand that God cannot say yes to every request we bring before Him, but I imagine many of us have wondered why he doesn’t say yes more often. We have difficulty understanding why some people seem to have their prayers answered, but when we pray for the same thing, heaven seems silent. We wonder, “Does prayer really change things?” Yes, it most certainly does! But it might not always bring the change we are expecting.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." Jesus' initial request was not granted but the ultimate desire of His heart was. God's will was done. And His own heart was prepared for what would follow because He submitting Himself to God's will ahead of time. He went from "deeply sorrowful" to accepting of His circumstances. God cannot say yes to every request, but desiring His will before our own changes the most important thing ... us!
VOLUME VII, Number 13 The Foolishness of Missionaries
Many years ago, when the Fiji Islands were first civilized, there was great interest in bringing commerce to this primitive society. This was a daunting prospect, considering that the natives had a particularly harrowing reputation for brutality. Yet seeking to take advantage of the opportunity, a young merchant visited the Islands in the hopes of getting in on the ground floor. It just so happened, as he visited the home of a certain chief, that he noticed a Bible prominently displayed, which he took to be evidence of missionary influence. This prompted the young man to comment, “What a shame that you have listened to the foolish nonsense of the missionaries.”
The chief, taken aback by this remark, responded saying, “Do you see the large white stone over there? That is a stone that just a few years ago we used to smash the heads of our victims.” Then, pointing toward the center of the village, he asked, “Do you see that large oven over there? That is the oven where just a few years ago we used to bake the bodies of our victims before we feasted on them.” The chief then leaned into the face of the young man and added, “Had we not listened to what you call the nonsense of the missionaries, I assure you that your head would have already been smashed on that rock and your body would already be baking in that oven.”
The message of the cross is one of love and reconciliation. Wherever it has been genuinely heeded, peace has replaced animosity, kindness has replaced brutality, and acceptance has replaced hostility. Its transforming power dismantles old ways of life and replaces them with the peacemaking ways of God.
That’s because God has given each and every believer the task of bringing peace to our world. 2 Corinthians 5:18 tells us that through the message of the cross, God “has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (NKJV). Having been reconciled to God ourselves, we are now commissioned members of God’s peacemaking task force.
VOLUME VII, Number 12 Revenge Always Fails
In a series of articles on the greatest acts of revenge, grunge.com writes, Mariya Oktyabrskaya was a telephone operator, the wife of a Soviet army officer, and the proud owner of a T-34 tank, with which she used to kill enough Nazis in World War II to earn her the title of "Hero of the Soviet Union." After the outbreak of war, Mariya was evacuated to Siberia, while her husband went off to fight. He was killed almost immediately, though the news didn't reach Mariya until nearly two years later. Driven by rage, and with nothing left to lose, Mariya sold her house and belongings in exchange for a T-34, which she donated to the Soviet Union under the condition that she be the one to drive it.
... Though her unit was initially skeptical of what they saw as nothing more than a publicity stunt, their opinions quickly changed after her first battle, in which she eliminated numerous machine gun nests, artillery guns, and the Nazis who manned them. When her tank was hit and immobilized by heavy enemy fire, she immediately jumped out to repair it. For this action, she was promoted to Sergeant…
Unfortunately, after many battles and many dead Germans, her luck caught up with her in January of 1944. She was killed during a battle near the village of Shvedy, while making yet more repairs to her immobilized tank. She did not, however, die before eliminating several machine gun nests, trenches, a self-propelled gun, and yet more Nazis for good measure.
Revenge is a powerful motivator. It has the power to motivate a wife to sell everything, buy a T-34 tank and kill Nazis. What it doesn’t have the power to do is to motivate us to forgive, to heal or to restore. Although Mariya Oktyabrskaya's story is one of great courage, but there is nothing redemptive about it. That's because there is nothing redemptive in revenge.
Love, on the other hand, also has the power to motivate us to make great sacrifices. Jesus was motivated by love when He left it all behind and came to earth to fight the powers of sin and death. The difference is that once He accomplished His mission, He secured forgiveness, healing, and restoration for all mankind.
No doubt the Apostle Paul was thinking of Jesus’ example when he wrote, “love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:8).
"Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord" (Romans 12:19).
VOLUME VII, Number 11 The Bug Letter A story is told of a man who was on a business trip and stayed in a hotel that had a bug problem. There were bugs all over his room. He complained about this to the management and later wrote a letter of complaint to the main office of the hotel chain.
Sometime later he received a letter signed by the President of the company. It said: “We are humiliated that a man of your integrity, a man of your reputation, a man of your importance in the community should have had this experience in one of our hotels. We are deeply sorry.”
This made the man feel somewhat better about the situation until, as he was folding the letter to put it away, he noticed a little piece of paper at the bottom of the envelope, obviously not supposed to have been included. It was in the President’s handwriting and it read: “Send this guy the ‘bug letter.’”
Unfortunately, this is the way we sometimes treat other people. We send them the ”bug letter,” the form letter. We give them the old cliches: We ask them: “How are you?” when we don’t really care. We say “have a nice day," or "I'm so sorry,” when really we couldn’t care less.
The Lord said that we should be compassionate. We must truly care about others. Each day we come into contact with people who will have one thing in common: they're struggling with something. They will tell us about loved ones who are sick, loved ones who have died, loved ones who have problems. They will share with us their sufferings, their heartaches, their fears. Perhaps Mark Twain was right when he said, “You should never tell people your problems because 80 percent of them won’t care, and the other 20 percent will think you deserve them!”
Let us not send them the “bug letter.” Let us listen carefully and mean it when we say we care. Jesus never sent anyone a “bug letter.” We shouldn’t either.
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." (Colossians 3:12).
VOLUME VII, Number 10 Never Try To Catch the Catcher
In the world of trapeze performance, there are "flyers" and there are "catchers." Imagine yourself a trapeze flyer sailing through the air, flipping as you go. Then at the end of your rotation, as you hang in mid-air, you see the catcher. Your natural impulse is to reach out and grab for him. That’s certainly what I would do. I’d grab anything I could -- his hands, his arms, his shirt, his hair. It wouldn’t matter. I’m grabbing a hold of something, anything, and hanging on to it for dear life But the flyer is trained to resist this impulse. He understands that it is preemptive for him to attempt to catch the catcher. Any such attempt would actually prevent the catcher from performing his task. In the world of high wire acrobatics, this principle has been reduced to a well-known axiom, attributed to Rodleigh of The Flying Rodleighs, which says, “The flyer is the one who lets go and the catcher the one who catches. The flyer must never try to catch the catcher!”
One of the great lessons of the spiritual life is to learn not to strive when God has called you to rest, or rest when God has called you to strive. The most important place of rest and trust is in the promise of salvation. The Bible says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). In other words, don’t try to catch God, let God catch you! When it comes to the salvation of your soul, you are the one who must let go and trust God to catch you. Those who insist on catching God will only prevent Him from doing what He has promised to do. It isn’t your job to finish the work of Christ, but to rest in the finished work of Christ. This means you must cease from striving to earn your salvation and put your trust in God’s promise to save you. As Jesus declared, “It is finished!” So, let the Catcher catch you!
VOLUME VII, Number 9 The Japanese Adopt Adult Men
Lianna Brinded, with Business Insider, writes: In Japan, 98% of adoptions are actually adult men, aged between 20-30 years old — not children. That is according to government data cited by economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dubner in their book "Freakonomics," as well as a number of other reputable media outlets also citing government data.
It all started hundreds of years ago when Japan’s civil code dictated how a family's wealth would be passed on after the death of the family elder.
In households which only have daughters, a family would look to adopt a son, so they could fulfill the role of carrying on the family business as well as receiving and being custodian to the family's cash and assets.
Nowadays, legal adoption of this kind is paired up with an arranged marriage — known as "omiai" — of a daughter, meaning the adopted son becomes son and son-in-law at the same time because he changes his name to the wife's family name ("mukoyoshi").
In Japan, there are even matchmaking companies that recruit voluntary adoptees for Japanese corporates. Some of Japan's most famous companies have remained a "family-run" businesses because of "mukoyoshi," such as carmaker Toyota, which was founded by Kiichiro Toyoda in 1937.
Suzuki is also famously run by adopted sons — in fact, the current chairman and CEO Osamu Suzuki is the fourth consecutively adopted son to run the group.
In Japanese culture, adoption is a practical solution to perpetuate the bloodline in the absence of an heir. God has a similar dilemma. Since “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God,” God has also turned to adoption! No one is born a citizen of Heaven. Every son and daughter of God is so by adoption.
“I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:50).
“He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Ephesians 1:5).
VOLUME VII, Number 8
Woman Faces Court for Parking Two Seconds Too Early
Richard Hartley-Parkinson reports:
Known only as Sarah, she ended up in court after it emerged that she had broken parking rules by arriving at a bay two seconds too soon.
... Judge Frank Caprio from the Providence Municipal Court, read details of the case which stated that she had parked in a bay at 9.59am and 58 seconds.
Parking was not allowed in the area between 8am and 10am.
He told her in mock anger: ‘You violated the city ordinances.’ He added: ‘Our parking enforcement offices are second to none in the country.’
She explained her actions by saying her car clock said 10am.
Judge Caprio laughed the charge out of court in Rhode Island after hearing details of the case.
He said: ‘I think 9.59am is close enough to 10am, matter is dismissed.
Is this what you imagine will happen when you stand before God? Are you hoping that He will, likewise, release you from the finer details of His moral will?
That’s not how it will work. You will either stand before God to be judged by the minutest details of your non-compliance, including the thoughts and intents of your heart, or you will stand before Him having been credited with the minutest details of Christ’s compliance. There is no middle-ground. There is no third option. It's either law or grace. You decide!
“Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law” (Galatians 2:16).
"Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin" (Romans 3:20).
VOLUME VII, Number 7 The Feasts God gave Israel three vital revelations. The Law, to reveal our rebellious hearts, the Temple to picture the sacrifice that would be paid for our transgressions, and a set of Feast days to point to the fulfillment of God’s redemptive promises.
When Jesus came to die for the sins of the world, He was crucified on the very day the first of the seven feasts, Passover, appeared on the Hebrew calendar. As the Jews celebrated how God’s judgment passed over the Israelites due to the blood of the Passover lamb, Jesus was shedding his blood for us! On that very day! Remember, the Last Supper was a meal in preparation for the Passover.
The pattern continued. His body lay in a tomb as a sinless offering as the Jews observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Leaven represents sin and the Israelites were to remove all leaven from their homes during this Feast.
Jesus then rose from the dead on the third day, the very day the Jews were celebrating the Feast of First Fruits. The New Testament tells us that, "Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have died" (1 Corinthians 15:20).
Jesus then appeared to His disciples for 40 days before His ascension. But just before His departure He instructed them to go to Jerusalem and to wait there for the promise of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church. Jesus didn’t tell them how long they would have to wait, He just told them to remain there until this event occurred (Acts 1:7-8).
Imagine yourself one of those disciples. Perhaps you would have noticed that Jesus had just fulfilled Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits on the very day these Feasts appeared on the Hebrew calendar. You might have thought about the fact that the next Feast would be in 10 days, the Feast of Pentecost, which celebrates the beginnings of a new harvest season. You might have even turned to the other disciples and said, “I can’t be sure about this but based on this pattern, I think the Lord will send His Spirit and begin this new thing called the Church in 10 days, on the day of Pentecost." And, of course, you would have been right.
But there are three more Feasts that also speak of God's redemptive plan that have yet to be fulfilled. These Feasts pick up at the end of the growing season in Israel, in the Fall. The first one, and the next in line for fulfillment is the Feast of Trumpets. It is the celebration of the bringing-in of the harvest. The Apostle Paul wrote that it will be “at the last trump” that the Church would be gathered at the end of this age, a reference to the last of a series of trumpet blasts that take place during the Feast of Trumpets in Israel. So we see that the next Feast in the line of succession just happens to correlate perfectly with the next event promised to the Church in the New Testament.
Let me conclude by emphasizing that the New Testament does not reveal when the Lord will return. Like Jesus' disciples who didn’t know when the Holy Spirit would descend, we don't know when Christ will return. But just as they should have had a heightened expectation as Pentecost approached, we should have a heightened sense of anticipation for his arrival.
"It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed" (1 Corinthians 15:52, NLT).
VOLUME VII, Number 6 The Power of the Locomotive
The power of a locomotive boggles the mind. Some trains are more than TWO MILES in length, yet the locomotive can pull these cars across the entire country – loaded with coal and oil and lumber and ore and manufactured goods and all manner of heavy cargo. And they pull them up steep inclines, through mountain passes, and over all manner of terrain. It seems as though nothing could stop them. The combination of the sheer power of the locomotive and the focus of placing that strength upon two narrow rails results in a mechanism that can accomplish tremendous things.
But do you know what can render a locomotive completely ineffective? It’s easy – simply remove it from its tracks. Despite its great power, if the train’s engine is not on the tracks, it will be unable to move the train (or even itself) a single inch! Unless it is returned to its tracks, it will never accomplish the purpose for which it is intended.
So it is with those of us who follow Christ. God has filled us with the power of the Holy Spirit, and has equipped us to accomplish amazing things for His kingdom. But unless we remain “on the tracks,” we will become completely powerless. We must be on guard for anything with the potential to derail us and thus remove us from our God-appointed mission.
"Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons" (1 Timothy 4:1).
VOLUME VII, Number 5 Man Robs Bank to Get Away from Wife
KANSAS CITY, Kan. Associate Press reports: A 71-year-old man who said he robbed a Kansas City, Kansas, bank so he could get away from his wife blamed his actions on depression.
A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced Lawrence John Ripple to six months of home confinement and 50 hours of community service.
Ripple went to the Bank of Labor — a block from the Kansas City, Kansas, police headquarters — last September and gave a note to a teller saying he had a gun and demanding money. After he was given money, Ripple waited for police.
Court records indicate Ripple wrote the robbery note in front of his wife and told her he would rather be in jail than at home.
He must have been thinking about the verse found in Proverbs: “Better to live on a corner of the roof [or in prison!] than share a house with a quarrelsome wife” (Proverbs 21:9).
Who hasn't attempted to avoid facing their problems? But the real lesson here might be the punishment Mr. Ripple received, and how well it fit the crime. But rather than allow him to escape his dysfunctional home life, the judge sentenced him to six months of home confinement! Perfect!!
Sometimes God puts us in circumstances we can't change to force an inner change in us. It's not that the punishment fits the crime as much as the challenge fits our need to grow and mature as a believer.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance" (James 1:2-3).
VOLUME VII, Number 4 When Are You Going to Die?
Richard Carlson, Ph.D., was an author, psychotherapist, and motivational speaker, who became famous with the success of his book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff... and it’s all Small Stuff (1997). The book became one of the fastest-selling books of all time. It is divided into 100 brief chapters.
The last chapter is entitled, “Live This Day as if It Were Your Last. It May Be.” Carlson lived his last day on December 13, 2006. He died of a pulmonary embolism during a flight from San Francisco to New York, leaving his wife and two teenage daughters.
Carlson said that he ended his book with this chapter as a reminder of how precious life and loved ones are. He wrote: “I often wonder, when listening to the news, did the person who died in the auto accident on his way home from work remember to tell his family how much he loved them?” Carlson started the 100th chapter asking, “When are you going to die? In fifty years, twenty, ten, five, today? Last time I checked, no one had told me.”
He died suddenly and unexpectedly nine years later at the age of 45. We do not know when our last day will be on this earth but we can live every day to the fullest.
"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12).
VOLUME VII, Number 3 Were Lost Sailors Really Lost?
Lost at sea for nearly 5 months, two women had harrowing tales of survival that included shark attacks. They also claimed that 6 forms of communication all mysteriously and simultaneously malfunctioned. The Coast Guard, however, suspects that for some reason these women did not want to be found.
That's because it gets even weirder: Besides the malfunctioning of all forms of communication, there was also an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) on board their vessel. This device should have virtually guaranteed their rescue. Yet, for some reason, it was never turned on. Their excuse was that they never felt they were "truly in distress."
I wonder how many lost people simply do not want to be found. Perhaps they're afraid that coming to Christ will mean a change of lifestyle. Or, maybe they're like the prodigal son who had to hit bottom first.
Sadly, many know of the saving grace of Christ but choose to remain adrift, lost at sea, believing they have time. They know the EPIRB is on the boat, but they don't feel the urgency to turn it on.
"For he says, 'In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.' I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2).
VOLUME VII, Number 2
Fishing for a Friend?
The Independent reports:
The fish friend programme caught the imagination of the internet after radio producer Michelle Cook tweeted a picture of the fishbowl and sign. The caption read: “My friend is staying in a hotel in Belgium. They've offered her the option of renting a fish for the night, in case she's lonely.”
... Hotel manager David Dillen told The Independent that the fish rental service has been running for several years and is popular with guests.
He said: “We started a few years ago. The idea was to surprise our guests, as we always try to do.
“It’s brilliant to see how people react to it. They smile, they take pictures to put on social media. We rent a few fish per week.”
There are a lot of ways to deal with the problem of loneliness. You could order a fish. Or, you could get out of yourself and focus on trying to help someone else. Whatever might be said of Jesus' followers, it should never be said that they are lonely.
First, you’re never alone when you walk closely with Jesus. He is constantly by your side. Also, He compels you to seek and serve others—particularly the lost. His promise to every faithful follower is that He will make them fishers of men. So, the next time you're feeling all alone, don't hang out with a fish, but go fishing!
"Come, follow Me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19).
VOLUME VII, Number 1
The Half-Life of Facts
David Mcraney writes:
In medical school, they tell you half of what you are about to learn won’t be true when you graduate — they just don’t know which half.
In every field of knowledge, half of what is true today will one day be updated with better information, and it turns out that we actually know when that day will come for many academic pursuits.
This is what author Sam Arbesman calls “the half-life of facts.” The premise is that for every domain, silo, discipline, and school of knowledge, the facts contained within are slowly being overturned, augmented, replaced, and refined — and in medicine, for example, the rate of that overturning is high enough that if you never really complete your education. Medical school, in other words, never ends.
... For instance, in physics, about half of all research findings will be disconfirmed within 13 years. In psychology, it’s every seven. In other words, if you graduated with a degree in psychology seven years ago, half of the information in all your textbook is now inaccurate.
By contrast, the Bible claims to be the very “Word of God.” The fact that millions of people the world over have found that claim to be credible for 3500 years proves that the truths that matter the most are not nullified by the passing of time or rendered passé by better information.
There is no half-life to the truth that God loves us or that Jesus came into this world to die for the sins of mankind. These truths are grounded in God’s unfailing nature and will never be overturned or replaced.
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
“For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18).