What Others Say

Thank you for using your gifts to help others see faith in their creator and their savior in God's son Jesus Christ.
Brian M.

Friday, June 29, 2018

What Your Won't Do For Yourself


 Left to myself, I will sit around and vegetate. I know that other people don’t do this, but I do. When I look across the room at my dog who follows me from room to room and is happy to be wherever I am, I know that he needs to walk. So, I get up, put on my shoes, find his leash and off we go. It is good for him and it is good for me. What I won’t do for myself I will do for my dog.

This little act highlights an important point I have discovered. We all need to be motivated for someone or something outside ourselves. I have heard it said, “If you won’t do it for someone else, do it for yourself!” But I have discovered that doing it for myself is the lowest and weakest motivator in my life.

Some have assumed that our democratic system works because it is based on self-interest. If everyone looks out for himself, seeks to make the biggest profit and accumulate the most wealth, it all just seems to work out for everybody. But that isn’t true. Our democratic system works because people are willing to sacrifice their own self-interest in the interest of others. The key to American democracy is selfless altruism. Not greed.

Life is not like Monopoly. We don’t win by owning the largest number of properties, raising the rent and amassing stacks of money on our side of the board until we drive everyone else into bankruptcy. That might work for a board game, but even then the players seldom feel good about it. In life we win by giving ourselves away.

We are made in such a way that we must be called to something higher. We will endure great pain, hardship, discipline and even death for people we love and causes that challenge us.

When we live our lives and make our decisions based upon self-interest and self-gratification we are led into dead end tributaries, into a shallow existence that results in isolation and loneliness. When we choose to orient our lives around serving and helping others, we launch out into the deep where we discover meaning and fulfillment.

Howard Hughes, one of the wealthiest men of the twentieth century who spent lavishly to indulge his whims and idiosyncrasies, died a recluse, lonely, isolated and mentally deranged. The FBI had to resort to fingerprints in order to identify his body.

Mother Teresa, who was penniless, spent her life caring for the poor, sick, orphaned and dying. When she died in 1997 the Missionaries of Charity, which she founded, had over one million co-workers serving the “poorest of the poor” in 123 countries. In 2010, the 100th anniversary of her birth, she was honored around the world.

This is why the Scripture urges us to put others first. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4).  Jesus said, “Give and it shall be given to you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over shall men give into your bosom.”  (Luke 6:38).

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Does God Exist? Does Life Matter? What Happens When We Die?


I always liked Stephen Hawking.  I admired his brilliance and the courage he demonstrated in his fight with ALS.  In March Dr. Hawking died at 76.  A couple weeks ago, June 15, his ashes were buried in Westminster Abbey between the graves of Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton.

Hawking was diagnosed with ALS in 1963 when he was 21. The doctors gave him two years to live. For 55 years he defied the odds.  His best known work, “A Brief History of Time,” sold more than three million copies.

I was saddened a few years ago when he said, “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

It is difficult for me to comprehend how such a brilliant mind can reach the conclusion that all we observe in the universe is an accident, that there is no intelligent force or design behind our existence.  It seems as illogical to me as finding a state-of-the-art functioning PC in the desert and concluding it just accidentally evolved from nowhere. 

The question Hawking dealt with is bigger than any religion or denominational expression. It is also bigger than science.  It is a question we all must face and answer.  How we answer it makes a great deal of difference in how we live and how meaningful our lives are. 

Hawking concluded that since there is no God, humans should seek to live the most valuable lives they can while on Earth.  This too, makes no sense to me. If there is no God  we are sucked into a black hole of non-existence and non-meaning.  What does it matter?

If we argue that love matters then we are thrown back into the very lap of God.  Love is the greatest and most mysterious reality in our existence, eclipsing all other discoveries.  Who wants to live in a world of technological perfection and scientific achievement without love?  A loveless world would leave us shallow, fragmented, lonely, isolated, fearful, and miserable.

Here lies the greatest truth:  “God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”  (1 John 4:16).  “We love because He first loved us.” “God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”

Faith or non-faith is a choice.  We can choose to believe that our world is the result of a creative God who desired and designed our existence from the tiniest molecule to the most distant star or we can choose not to believe. The historical resurrection of Jesus makes this more than wishful thinking.

For my part, I will choose love, faith and the promise of eternal life in Jesus Christ. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Lessons from the Border


The America I grew up in was seen as the shining light on a hill.  We took pride in the inscription on the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Instead of decimating our enemies after World War II, we helped them rebuild.  Germany and Japan embraced freedom and prosperity and became two of our strongest allies.  

We fought and died in the jungles of Vietnam, not for ourselves, but for others.  In its aftermath we welcomed Vietnamese and Hmong refugees who integrated into our cities.  Christian churches sprang up among various groups: Vietnamese, Chinese, Laotian, Thai, Korean, Liberian, Nigerian and many others.  Spanish speaking churches exploded and continue to thrive.  The Christian faith swept across South Korea until it became the second largest mission sending nation in the world.

When I visited Brazil I was welcomed as a celebrity because I was an American.  Children ran through the streets and people crowded in the windows to see someone from the United States. When I served briefly as pastor of an English speaking church in Nuremburg Germany older Germans often expressed their gratitude for GIs who helped them rebuild their nation.  We thought of ourselves as a generous and welcoming nation, blessed by God to bless the nations of the world.

But all of that seems to be changing.  We are well down the road of putting “America first.”  The question is no longer, what is best for mankind, for the world and for posterity, but what is best for us.  The MAGA has transitioned into a “me first” mentality.

Instead of asking, how can we help out neighbor nations fight the gang violence and corruption that causes families to flee to our borders, we ask only, “how can we keep these people out?” Children are torn from the arms of their desperate parents as punishment for seeking a safe asylum in the United States.  In our efforts to “make American great again” we seem to be losing the values that made America great in the first place.

Our movies, our media and our politics portray us as a covetous people.  We seem to have adopted Gordon Gekko’s maxim that “greed is good.”  We have turned a deaf ear to the tenth commandment: “You shall not covet.” (Exodus 20:17).

The Apostle Paul confessed that this commandment was his undoing. “I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’  But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting.’” Romans 7:7-8).

When we start down this self-centered path we sow the seeds of future calamity in our communities, our nation and the world. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet, but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.” (James 4:1-2).

Paul’s conclusion is applicable for all of us: “The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” You shall not steal, “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Romans 13:9).

Sunday, June 10, 2018

A Crisis of Deception - Who Can We Trust?


There was a day when we felt we could trust those who spoke to us, the Presidents who led us and the journalists who interpreted the news.  We believed Washington “could not tell a lie.”  Lincoln was known for his honesty.  We always knew we could trust Walter Cronkite, whether he was reporting the assassination of JFK or describing the first lunar landing. But those days seem naive and far away. 

The world has become much more complex.  The truth is far more difficult to discern.  Nixon’s claim that he was no crook and Clinton’s assertion that he “never had sex with that woman,” eroded our trust in the Presidency.  Today we feel caught between “fake news” and “alternate realities.”  Brian Williams and Matt Lauer left us disillusioned with journalists.  We hardly know who to believe.

Former NY Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, speaking at Rice University’s commencement, stated that we are facing “an epidemic of dishonesty … an endless barrage of lies and alternate realities.”  …“ The greatest threat to American democracy isn’t communism, jihadism or any other external force or foreign power,” he said. “It’s our own willingness to tolerate dishonesty in service of party, and in pursuit of power.” 

NBC News reporter Andrew Rafferty said, “We live in a world where lying has become an art.  Politicians, celebrities, characters on the screen, all lie.  They do so convincingly and without remorse.  And technology has moved prevarication into a whole new realm.  The world where ‘seeing is believing’ has vanished.”

The ninth commandment is essential to personal, relational and societal health. “You must not lie.” (Exodus 20:16 Living Bible).

When we ignore God’s instructions on truthfulness and honesty, we sow the seeds of our own misery and destruction. Whether marriage, family, business or politics; in the home, the school, the work place and the world.  

So, what should we do?  First, we must practice telling the truth to our children, to one another, in business and personal relationships.  Above all, we must be known to be honest. We must not lie.

Second, we must practice discernment. We cannot believe everything we hear and see at face value, especially social media that has little or no accountability.   “Do not be deceived,” the Bible says, “God is not mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Galatians 6:7).  And again, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.  Every good thing given and every perfect gift from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:16-17).


Third, we must place our trust in the One who alone is truthful, honest and above reproach.  We must trust God, confident that He knows our hearts, our secret thoughts and every word we speak.  “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar.” (Romans 3:4).  Jesus said, “If you continue in my word then you are truly disciples of mine; and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32).

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Eighth Commandment Property Priorities


An Atlanta businessman boarded MARTA to make his daily commute to work.  He stood in the crowded car scanning the newspaper accounts of crime when he felt a stranger bump him.  He instinctively felt for the wallet in his back pocket and found it missing.  He folded the paper and kept his eye on the stranger who had moved to the opposite side of the car.  When the train stopped and the stranger exited, he followed.  His rage continuing to grow, he grabbed the stranger and threw him up against the wall.  His face crimson with wrath he demanded, “Okay Bub, hand over that wallet.”  The stranger, trembling, placed the wallet in his hand. Without looking the businessman shoved the wallet into his pocket and stomped off to work.  When he arrived at his office his secretary stopped him.  “You  have a message from your wife,” She said.  “You left your wallet on the night stand at home!”

I suppose all of us have been victims of theft.  Shortly after we married we drove to Houston to visit my wife’s mother in the hospital.  I left our car parked on the street filled with our clothes on hanging rods. When we returned, we were clothes-less.  Most of us have lost bicycles at college. Some have had home break-ins with far more serious losses. My wallet fell out of my pocket at a theater once.  I found it a few days later, sans cash and credit cards. 

Theft is widespread.   Every day the eighth commandment is broken: “You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15).

The first step in respecting other people is respecting property.  It is one of the first lessons we teach to toddlers.  Some toys belong to them. Some toys belong to their friends. It is not an easy lesson for a toddler, and some never learn it.

The Atlantic cited a study that concluded that out of 1 million self-check transactions totaling $21 million, merchandise totaling $850,000 left the store without being scanned. 

The rich and the well-off are just as guilty as the poor, maybe moreso. We only need launch a Google search for a list of celebrities who have been convicted of shoplifting. White collar crime is rampant. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners estimated businesses lost $895 billion to fraud in 2016.

As always, Jesus raised the commandment to another level.  We have not fulfilled the heart of the commandment when we refuse to take something that does not belong to us.  We fulfill the commandment when we move beyond seeing property and possession as primary.   People are primary. Jesus said, “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well … give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:40-42). 

We can keep the eighth commandment and still live a selfish and self-centered life.

The Bible says, “Give generously and do so without a grudging heart; then, because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land.  Therefore I command you to be openhanded.” (Deuteronomy 15:10-11).