What Others Say

I have read your columns many times, have saved the ones that "speak" to me and reread them....... I just want to thank you for your inspired writing, illuminating faith and the day to day that focuses on God and His Son....
- Carol C.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Good News

There was a day when we assumed that our elected officials told the truth.  All that changed when Richard Nixon lied about the Watergate break in and proclaimed, “I’m no crook.”  Our confidence took another major hit when Bill Clinton told us, with passion, that he never had sex with that woman.  The truth, he argued, depended on your definition of “is.”  Today the truth is highly elusive.   
We once depended upon journalists to tell the truth.  If Walter Cronkite said it, it had to be so.  He guided us through John F. Kennedy’s assassination like a wise father encouraging his children.  He reported Vietnam with candor.  The news media have always served as a check on those in power, ferreting out the truth when government and corporations tried to sweep ugly and unseemly actions under the rug. Today their reporting is dismissed as “fake news.”

It makes us wonder: where is the truth and what is the truth.  We have awakened to the fact that each of us must discern the source of the story and its truthfulness for ourselves

There is one source, tested and tried, that provides a framework for discerning the truth and living our lives above reproach.  It is sometimes referred to as the “Good News.” 

This “Good News” is documented from the first century and proven in the global context of 2000 years.  In every generation it has caused men and women to turn from greed, lust and destructive addictions to embrace sacrifice and love for their fellow man. 

Peter testified, “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” (1 Peter 1:16).   John wrote, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also.”  (1 John 1:1-3)

Jesus grew up in the obscure village of Nazareth, never held an office, never wrote a book, but His life changed the world. We date our calendars by His birth. If we consider those who verified the truth of His transforming power over the last 2,000 years, our considerations would fill a library.

St. Augustine was born in North Africa in 354.  He fathered a child out of wedlock when he was 18 and began a quest for the truth  that led him to Christ when he was 42. He became the leading theologian of the early church and later wrote, “The precious things that came from the mouth of the Lord were written down for us and kept for us and read aloud for us, and will be read by our children too, until the end of the world. The Lord is above, but the Lord of truth is here!

Francis of Assissi was born 800 years later to a wealthy merchant family in Italy. He lived a life of luxury and had a reputation for drinking and partying in his youth.  A desperate illness following his experience as a mercenary soldier led to his conversion to Christ when he was 20.  He refused his father’s wealth and devoted himself to serving the poor and preaching love for God, nature and others. The current Pope, Francis, chose his name in honor of Francis of Assissi.


This is the “Good News,” that God has loved us in His Son, Jesus, and continues to transform men and women in every generation on every continent. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Finishing Well

One of the great lessons taught in every sport is the importance of finishing well.  An athlete or a team can stumble at the start, but it is how they finish that makes the difference. 

On November 26, 1994, 30,000 fans filled Texas Stadium to watch John Tyler play Plano East in a high school football play off game.  With three minutes and three seconds left, John Tyler led the game 41 to 17.  On the next play, Plano East scored a touch down, then proceeded to recover three on-side kicks to score three more.  With 24 seconds remaining, Plano East took the lead 44-41.  They kicked off to John Tyler whose returner took the ball on his three yard line and returned it 97 yards.  Final score: John Tyler 48, Plano East 44.

Everyone who follows golf immediately recognizes the name, Jean Van de Velde.  Leading the British Open at Caroustie in 1999 by three shots, the Frenchman only needed a double bogey 6 on the final hole to claim the coveted Claret Jug.  After a series of reckless shots that ended up in the creek protecting the 18th green, he removed his socks and shoes and waded in debating whether to hit from the water   He triple bogeyed the hole and lost in a play off.

Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya won the Boston Marathon four times.  He was striding triumphantly across the finish line in the Chicago Marathon in 2006 when he tripped.  Although he won the race by falling across the finish line, he had to be carried away in a wheel chair. 

Most of us can make a good start at whatever we choose.  Everyone can sprint at the beginning of a race, but, what matters most is how we finish. 

Paul didn’t make a very good start.  Known in his youth as Saul, he pursued blind ambition for advancement proudly searching out Christians and throwing them in jail, both men and women.  He assisted in the cruel execution of Stephen, an innocent man, stoned to death as the first martyr following Jesus’ resurrection.

But, following his conversion to Christ, he lived a consistent life of faith and finished well.  Looking back over his life the Apostle Paul stated, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”

When Jesus prepared for the cross, he said to the Father, “I have finished the work you gave me to do.”  The last word he spoke before he died was, tetelestai, “it is finished.”  He had demonstrated God’s glory on earth in a perfect, sinless life and “paid in full” the penalty for our sins so that we might have eternal life with Him in Heaven.


You might stumble today.  You might regret some things in your past. But a race is still to be run and God gives to everyone the opportunity to finish well. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Reboot

I bought my first computer in 1982, a Commodore 64.  It used a 340k floppy disc and operated with machine language.  After typing in the machine code, the little floppy started to whirr ... and whirr ... and whirr a little more.  It whirred so long that I could get a cup of coffee or make a sandwich.  When it finally loaded the program it worked great: word processing, spreadsheets, database and games, with surprisingly good graphics.  With each program change, I started the process all over again, something they called “booting up.”

I think the term came from the farm.  You didn’t want to track that barnyard stuff into the house, so when you went inside, you took your boots off.  And, when you wanted to go to work. You put your boots back on.  So, for the little PC, we put our boots on, or “booted up” the program if we wanted to go to work or play.

I graduated from the Commodore to an IBM compatible Compaq that ran MS-DOS.  The screen lit up with an eerie green glow and pulled its data from two floppy discs, one of which I replaced with a hard drive.  In those days PC users were kind of like shade tree mechanics.  You just plugged and unplugged exchangeable parts and turned it on. It seemed to work.

It took a long time for me to convert to Microsoft Windows, but I finally made the leap.  So, today, I use a DELL laptop and sometimes throw up my hands in exasperation when the Windows 10 operating system demands an “update.” 

I usually leave it in sleep mode so it wakes right up and we get going whenever I want. I get my cup of coffee before I turn it on.  I like leaving my “boots” on with my laptop. But sooner or later, it slows down. It begins to creep along. The mouse drags or freezes in place and I am stuck.  It has too much going on in its PC memory, too many programs trying to run at once. Too much “barnyard stuff” tracked in and making it stink. There is nothing to do but “reboot” it.  So, I turn it off and let it reload the operating system.  After the “reboot,” we are good to go and back up to speed.

We are a lot like my computer.  We fly from one task to another, filling our lives with frenzied activity, trying to constantly multi-task between family, business, community and personal obligations. We freeze up.  We are no longer efficient. We do nothing well.  Sometimes we need to “reboot.” 

This is why God gave us the Sabbath.  It is the fourth of the ten “Big Ones.”  And, as Jesus pointed out, it was given to us by God because we need it.  “Man was not made for the Sabbath,” Jesus said. “The Sabbath was made for man.” 

If we want to live full, meaningful, productive and effective lives, we need time for worship and rest.  We need to “reboot” physically, emotionally and spiritually.  We are made in such a way that we have to power down if we want to power up.  This means turning off the TV, disconnecting from social media and taking a deep breath. We need to listen the laughter of children, to birds singing, the wind in the trees, waves lapping on the shore and listening to God.  Meditations in the Psalms and the Sermon on the Mount help me most.


We need to take the Apostle Paul’s advice: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”  Philippians 4:8

Monday, February 6, 2017

Doomsday Clock

Last week the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to midnight.  Humanity is now only two and one-half minutes away from total annihilation.  It is the closest the Doomsday Clock has been to the moment of ultimate catastrophe since 1953.

The Doomsday Clock was created by scientists in 1947, after World War II, to warn the world of the nuclear dangers that lay before us.  Those of us who were children in the 1950s can remember bomb drills, hiding beneath our desks (as if that would have saved us).  My uncle built a bomb shelter in his back yard, stocked it with food, batteries and a radio to hide from the ultimate disaster.

We haven’t thought about the Doomsday Clock in a while.  When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, the clock was set back to 17 minutes to midnight.  But, with the recent rhetoric and saber rattling by powers that possess the ultimate weapon, scientists have moved it to within 150 seconds of our doom.  Last week, Mikhail Gorbachev, the man who oversaw the dissolution of the Soviet Union, was quoted in Time Magazine, “Politicians and military leaders sound increasingly belligerent and defense doctrines more dangerous ... It looks as if the world is preparing for war."

While some fear the threat of nuclear war, others fear global warming, pollution of the environment or genetically engineered viruses.  In 2014 Stephen Hawking stated that he believed development of full Artificial Intelligence could result in the annihilation of the human race. “Once humans develop Artificial Intelligence, it will take off on its own and redesign itself at an ever increasing rate. Humans,” he warned, “... would be quickly superceded.”

Predictions for the end of the world are not new.  Jesus spoke of it when He said, “For then there will be a great tribulation, such has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” (Matthew 24:21-22)  Peter predicted, “The present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgement.” (2 Peter 3:7)  John wrote the book of Revelation predicting the end of time and the ultimate battle between good and evil.

The Bible is not just a “feel good book.”  The Bible deals with real dangers, real life and death issues.  It warns us of the dangers of pursuing prejudice, violence, hatred, greed, anger and lust.  Those paths always end in death and destruction.


But the Bible offers hope. Any individual and any generation can turn from their sins, place their trust in God and receive His loving forgiveness through Jesus Christ and be saved. Left to our own devices, we are doomed.  But God has prepared something better. “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.” (Isaiah 65:19).  “But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:13).