Monday, September 29, 2008

About Our Country's FInancial Crisis

The following link is to ABC This Week With George Stephanopoulos from this past Sunday (9/28). The round table discussion is on the financial crisis that is looming. If you stick to the end of the conversation, you'll hear George Will give his opinion on one of the root causes of the crisis, which is not merely the greed on Wall Street, or the lack of or overabundance of government influence and/or regulation (depending on which party is speaking at the time!)....but a basic inability or unwillingness of Americans...yep...plain old Americans like you and me, to delay gratification.

This has led to a nation living on debt and saving nothing. I know that is oversimplistic, but I also know that amazingly few Americans have substantial savings, and that amazingly many are drowning in their own personal debt either because of fear, greed, or ignorance or a combination of the three! These same three oh-too-rampant human qualities are what drive much of our economy, whether on Wall Street, or as the politicians keep reminding us...Main Street.

Paul reminded Timothy about the dangers of the love of money when he wrote, "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Timothy 6:9-10

Hmmm...some things never change. This was true then, and is true now. So pray for our country, and then do everything you can to pay off your credit cards, live within your means, and save!

Here's the link:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Great Quote - Don't Bypass Any of These Three Truths!

I caught an interview with Robert Wagner on Good Morning America this week, and he gave a quote by U.S. Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Eugene O'Neill that bears repeating again and again:

We are born broken.
We live by mending.
God's grace is the glue.

I have witnessed so much unnecessary suffering that people either bring on themselves by ignoring one or all three of these truths. For a person to live abundantly he or she must:

Realize his or her own brokenness. (Blaming others just doesn't help!) Remember, there are only two kinds of people in the world: messed up ones who know it, and messed up ones who don't!

Be intentional about getting better at living and at responding to adversity. (Too many people let their feelings and emotions "dictate" reactions to circumstances that can add unnecessary damage to an already negative situation.) James reminds us, "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, (1:19,20)for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires."

And finally, realize that in your brokenness and in the process of mending, God provides His unmerited, unearned favor (love, healing, salvation, power, truth, wisdom, etc.) daily into the process of growth and transformation. Paul knew the power of God's grace, even in the midst of dealing with his painful "thorn in the flesh." In 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 he writes, "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

So remember: We are born broken. We live by mending. God's grace is the glue.

Surviving a Shipwreck/Snake-Bite Kind of Day

I'm having a bad day. No, not because of an impending financial crisis that we're all waiting on. I'll wait and feel bad about that when it happens! Truth be told, my bad day is one of my own making. I'm in one of those Jeremiah kind of moods when I'm tempted to whine to the Lord about a great many things, but I don't want to get started on that list, because it wouldn't do any good...who's going to waste time reading someone else's complaints.

In the midst of my funk, however, God managed to encourage me in a reading from Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson. In a chapter entitled Sometimes It Takes A Shipwreck, Batterson recounts one of the Apostle Paul's bad days as recorded in Acts 27 and 28....actually, it was a bad two hurricane force winds!

To make a long story short, Paul is one his way to face Caesar in Rome and possibly his own death; the ship runs aground off the shore of Malta after being tossed around for TWO WEEKS, and when Paul and 275 other passengers finally make it to shore, they are greeted by "unusually kind" islanders by bring them food.

So Paul's bad day is over? Nope...Paul, as a helpful guest, brings some wood to put on the fire, then a snake crawls out from the bundle to bite him...a poisonous one! we're talking bad day...shipwrecked AND snake bitten! But God miraculously spares his life (this in NO way endorses the handling of poisonous snakes as a worship practice!), and the people think he is a god.

Paul is taken to see Publius, the chief official of the Island, whose father is gravely ill. Paul pray for him, and heals him. Others come from all over the island and are healed. In the process, you can be sure Paul shared the gospel with everyone he could. He had to wait three months to continue his journey, but what a great three months that must have been.

Still, the impact of the Gospel was dependent on the shipwreck and the snake bite Paul endured. The lesson: God doesn't back off on our bad days. He's ready and willing and able to take what happens to us, to make something happen IN us and AROUND us for His glory and for the benefit of those we meet.

My bad day will pass, probably a lot more quickly when I realize that God is here ready to use me to bless someone with some good news...unless I just sit and whine and complain about what's out there, instead of asking God what He wants to do "in me" in the midst of storms, shipwrecks and snakebites. Remember that Paul, who was shipwrecked and snake-bitten, also wrote these words: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:28)

God does not promise that this process will be easy or pain-free, but only that He won't waste anything that happens to us! So if you're having a bad day, don't forget God is the expert in dealing with bad days, and in redeeming them for purposes we can't even imagine. But you have to trust Him like Paul did, even when you're wet, exhausted, and snake-bitten. The only way to short-circuit the miracle is to opt out of the process and to settle for whining! So if you're having a bad day, you can keep complaining or you can be transformed for a higher purpose! It's your choice!

By the way, if you want to see a clip of Anthony Hopkins as Paul on Malta after the snake bite, click here:

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Pay Attention to LIFE!

I just read a couple of articles concerning Friday's (9/12) head-on collision between a freight train and a commuter train north of Los Angeles resulting in (as of Sunday, 9/14) 25 deaths, and 135 injuries (45 of which were critical). What is shocking and adds to the sadness is a preliminary finding by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board that this horrible accident (the worst in 15 years), may have been caused by the commuter train's engineer missing a stop signal because he was texting a friend on his cell phone just one minute before the crash. (For more info go here:

If this turns out to be true, how sad that this incident could have and should have been avoided.

Once again, life teaches tough lessons. Just a moment's inattention can cause unbelieveable pain and heartache and even death. Studies are showing that cell phone use in the car can so slow a driver's response time that it is like driving legally intoxicated. I hope NO ONE reading this EVER texts while driving...EVER. By the way, did you know that when you are driving 60 MPH you travel 88 feet A SECOND??? So if you are looking at your phone for a second, it's like driving 88 feet blindfolded! So take this as your public service announcement of the day.

The same can be said of life in general. I'm amazed at how often we don't pay attention to the really, REALLY important things like our relationships with God, our families, and each other... while being obsessed and hyper-focused on things that don't ultimately matter. What do you find yourself focused on during the day? Are you paying attention to the important things?

Peter had trouble "paying attention" to the Lord before Christ's crucifixion, often acting on impulse, but Peter finally learned to listen before he spoke or acted, and in his second epistle would write: And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (2 Peter 2:19) So let us pray for those involved in this horrible train accident, including the families of the dead, the injuried, and those who were involved in rescue efforts, and let us pay attention to our driving, and to everything that really, REALLY matters!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

On Being Busy, Questioning Jesus, and Telling Him What to Do!

I'm too busy! A lot of people are TOO busy! It causes us stress, worry, frustration, high blood pressure, and generally robs us of joy. It is not a new problem, however. Look at this Jell-O commercial from the 50's! Notice the advanced graphics!

An a more serious note, neglecting my own Sabbath is one of my worst sins, and I pay for it. We all pay for our lifestyles that are crammed with too much stuff. Again, it is not a new problem, and neither is the solution. When Jesus came to visit his friends, Mary and Martha in Bethany (Luke 10:38-41), Martha was busy doing good things in the kitchen. She was a good person, who loved her Savior, and wanted to do good things for Him.

Her busyness gave her a platform from which she judged her sister Mary, who was not helping in the kitchen, but was at the feet of Jesus listening to Him; learning from Him. How do you know when you're too busy? Maybe one telling warning sign is when you tell Jesus what to do like Martha did! She was so frustrated she said to the Savior in v. 40, ""Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

Ouch! Not only did Martha tell Jesus to tell Mary to get moving, she also questioned whether or not He cared about her! There in one verse, someone is so busy, so distracted that she questioned Jesus' love for her, and gave Him an order!

Maybe you are doing a lot of good things! Maybe you are using "instant" things as your busy-day desserts or meals or whatever. But when you start questioning God's care for you and start issuing orders to Him, it might be time to pull out that box of instant pudding so you can have more time to...sit and listen and learn and love our Savior. The last time I looked, there wasn't an instant version of that.

Don't Let This Tradition Take Hold Here!

On the BBC News website, the headline reads: Easter Rocker War Hits Greek Isle.

The article opens with this: Every Easter Sunday on the small Greek island of Chios a fireworks war breaks out between two rival parishes. In a bizarre but long-cherished local tradition, two Orthodox churches in the town of Vrodandos fire rockets at each other's churches - while services are held. The objective is to hit the other church's bell, but many rockets go astray, causing locals to rush frantically for cover. And some say they are sick of having to repair their damaged homes.

Read the complete story here:

Better yet, click here:

The news story states that "Amid the melee, priests in both churches attempt to continue with mass, although the deafening sounds of fireworks and cheers as the rockets hit their targets often drown out the proceedings entirely." Imagine that...the noise of thousands of rockets drowns out what the priests are saying! Hmmm....ever heard of a church where there are "fireworks" over some issue; where the noise of disagreeable members drowns out the message that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life?

This doesn't mean we can't have different opinions, but it does mean Christ-followers cannot express their opinions in any manner that contradicts the truth of Galatians 5:13-15: You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

As a member of the Body of Christ, you have a right to express your opinion on church matters, but be careful you don't ever use your opinion, preferences, or desires to bite or devour anyone! So the next time you're tempted to light the fuse on your own personal rocket, take a moment to pray about it and think about Galatians 5:13-15!

When Sharing Good News, Watch Your "Ticker!"

A news ticker is that little band that runs during a TV broadcast telling of breaking news, weather warnings, etc. Well, I saw one Friday morning that irritated me a little. It was on Good Morning America when they were doing a great piece on the NC Teacher of the Year, Cindi Rigsbee, who credited much of her success to a Mrs. Warnicke, her first grade teacher.

To make a long story short....wait... you can read the long story here - and it's a great story about gratitude for those important mentors in your life: or see the actual video here (without the ticker!):

During the interview, the news ticker continued to run with all kinds of news items, most of which were not in keeping with the upbeat, affirming tone of the interview...things about politics, war, etc. It was like, "yeah, good news is great, but don't forget how awful, and stressful, and negative things really are!" It reminded me of some people who seem to have a negative news ticker running in their lives all the time. No matter what good news they communicate, there is this underlying negative, pessimistic, worrisome world view that comes through.

Christ followers are given the great privilege of sharing good news, and this sharing can be compromised if it is given from a perspective or fear or negativism or worry. May we each make sure that when we're televising our own good news, that we don't have anything running in our lives that distracts people from the BIG story of how great our Savior is!

I like what Paul says in Colossians 4:5,6: "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."

So go out there in converse with the world about the ultimate good news, filled with grace, seasoned with salt, and without the distraction of worry or fear!