Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Dillon Stewart, hero

Dillon Stewart, Brooklyn police officer, died in the line of duty while chasing a fleeing suspect. Though shot, this brave man continued pursuing the murderer until he was too weak.

He leaves behind a wife and two children. I couldn't bear to experience their grief at this time. I hope that amid their grief, somewhere deep down, they are able to rejoice in the legacy he left behind.

Lord, please comfort the family and other loved ones of this honorable man, especially during this usually festive season. Help them to always hold him close in their hearts, and celebrate who he was and what he stood for. We thank you that such heroes still walk this earth, defending us against the evil in our midst. May people realize that this is true love, giving oneself to save others, as you did on the cross.


Born again through abortion?

[Click the header for the story]

Sadly, this self-professed Billy Graham wannabe has distorted utilitarianism to its perverted conclusion--that destroying one life to benefit the selfish desires of the mother is somehow akin to saving her soul. Will the selfish now be blessed, because theirs is the kingdom of heaven?

Apparently what led Dr. Harrison to begin this crusade was when a woman came in his office in 1967. When he told her she was pregnant, she replied, "'Oh, God, doctor, I was hoping it was cancer.'" How anybody could consider an unborn baby worse than cancer is beyond me, and such a statement should have led the doctor to seek help for such a misled woman.

Instead, his desire to rid the world of any children their mothers might be considered a "cancer" has led him to commit some 20,000 abortions since 1973, when Roe v. Wade supposedly made abortion legal. Now that John Roberts heads the Supreme Court, Dr. Harrison fears Roe v. Wade could be reversed, harming his ability to provide more of his supposed saving graces.

"He calls himself an 'abortionist' and says, 'I am destroying life.' But he also feels he's giving life: He calls his patients 'born again.'

"'When you end what the woman considers a disastrous pregnancy, she has literally been given her life back,' he says."

Does this mean that Dr. Harrison agrees with the infamous "health of the mother" defense, which "legitimizes" abortion for any reason, including the mother simply not wanting her baby because it cramps her style? Any pregnant woman can claim her pregnancy is "disastrous" and evoke the "pity" of an abortion doctor. Harrison want his patients' pregnancies to be joyous rather than feel like an obligation. Sorry doctor, but life ain't easy. I want my job to be joyous; it's often not. I don't really want to bear the burden of cleaning our home; should I therefore seek to have a law passed that will protect my emotional "well-being"? When these women enjoyed sexual intercourse, did they consider the implications of their actions? In many cases, they did not even try birth control methods. They just figured they'd enjoy themselves now, and worry about any "consequences" later. Dr. Harrison prefers they use birth control if they don't want to become pregnant, but their carelessness does not lead him to change his mind about providing abortions for them.

Amanda, a pregnant 20-year-old, believes she has also seen the light: "'I've been praying a lot and that's been a real source of strength for me. I really believe God has a plan for us all. I have a choice, and that's part of my plan.'" So whose plan is it, Amanda, yours or God's? It seems that because Amanda doesn't feel ashamed for getting the abortion, that makes it OK. That abortions are so common adds to her sense of legitimacy.

Sarah, another patient of his, has been sexually active for six years. She doesn't want a pregnancy to make her wedding dress hard to fit into, so off to Dr. Harrison she goes. He'll "redeem" her as well.

Does the LA Times support him and these women? "He has learned to focus on the facts he considers most important: This woman does not want to be pregnant. He can give her back control of her life and keep a child from coming into the world unwanted. He believes in this so strongly, he waives his fees for women who can't come up with the money."

OK, I've seen nothing in this story about any of these women being forced into sex. And I seriously doubt that a large percentage of his 20,000 patients were raped. The focus seems to be on the fact that the discomfort started after the sexual act, when they discovered they were pregnant. They were in control of their lives during the sexual act, and I doubt any of them were shocked to discover that pregnancy sometimes follows.

May the Dr. Harrisons of the world see the truth: that Jesus gave his life so that we might be born again. He would be appalled at this distortion of such a sacrifice.

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Monday, November 28, 2005

Don't settle for crumbs

And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, "Have
mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a
demon." 23But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged
him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying out after us." 24He answered, "I
was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." 25But she came and
knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." 26And he answered, "It is not right
to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." 27She said, "Yes, Lord,
yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." 28Then
Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you
desire." And her daughter was healed instantly. (Matthew 15:22-28, ESV)

Jesus is testing this woman's faith. He tells her that He came only for the Jews, but she knows that in Him alone is hope for life and victory. In Bruce Marchiano's portrayal of Jesus in the Visual Bible's presentation of the book of Matthew, Jesus is portrayed as being full of vibrance and joy. During this scene, when she is willing to settle for even the "crumbs" of His ministry, a big smile comes across His face. Of course, it would be out of character for Jesus to provide only crumbs for her; that moment her daughter is healed.

I don't think God wants us to settle for crumbs in our relationships either. My wife had seen me doing that, and it really bothered her. And it bothers me deeply when my wife, my soul mate, the woman to whom my heart is knit, is not valued properly. I read a book where a woman went to meet a friend at a restaurant to discuss a matter of great personal importance. She started pouring her heart out, only to discover that her friend's attention was not on her but on the TV show behind her. Of course, the woman was crushed. She wanted attention and compassion, but got crumbs. When my wife and I are merely given crumbs while putting our hearts out to others, we too are crushed.

Yes, we should love everybody unconditionally, but I believe that God wants us to spend most of our time around those who build us up and truly care about us. He tells us not to be unequally yoked. How many times have you heard about couples where one is not a Christian? So often, it's the Christian who compromises his values to the non-believing spouse. If that's the case in marriage, should we not expect that hanging around non-Christians, or selfish Christians, or uncaring Christians, will bring us down as well?

My wife and I have decided we have plenty of people in our lives who love us deeply, who clearly enjoy spending time with us, who value what we say. They welcome us into their homes with open arms, and when others are present they treat each person with equal respect. They go out of their way to make us feel valued. That's true friendship, the kind Jesus would smile at. So why should we settle for crumbs when such a feast awaits us?

And it should go without saying that we aren't going to offer crumbs in our relationships either. Only miserable people do, after all. May the Lord help us to love abundantly and joyously, as He does.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by
Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Some more blogger thanksgiving posts

Before I go, here are a few more thanksgiving offerings from fellow bloggers:

Eph2810 wishes us a Happy Thanksgiving, and gives thanks that we are like pumpkins (you'll have to see for yourself).

Paul at Paul's Ponderings challenges us to be thankful if, like Job, we lost it all, and to show our thanks for what we have by using it honorably.

Epiac's Place provides a short history of Thanksgiving.

I was hoping I would find more sooner. I surfed several times that number of blogs, but Thanksgiving posts are scarce. Just do a Technorati search for thanksgiving (click below), and I'm sure you'll find more good ones.


Happy Thanksgiving; gone for a few days(?)

To all you bloggers and blog readers,

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. May you appreciate all the bountiful blessings the Lord has provided. I might be away from this blog for a few days, but I look forward to interacting with you when I get back.


Thanksgiving Prayer


Thank You for who You are. You are the only true God, and the only being worthy of worship. In You alone is our hope of salvation; that You would offer your very life on behalf of such wretches as ourselves is unfathomable. That You would use us to help show forth your glory is an honor beyond words.

Thank You for my wife, Kim, and son, John, and for our adopted daughter to be, Sarah Joy. I wondered if I would ever find the right woman and get married, and You have shown your impeccable timing and perfect will by bringing along a woman whose heart is so beautiful and with whom I can be united in spirit through You. Along with her, I am so blessed to have her teenage son as well. John has such great potential, and an even greater heart. I eagerly await the arrival of Sarah Joy. Kim is so wonderful and loving with children, as she has shown by her dedication at the day care where she works; and she can't get Sarah soon enough. And John will be a big brother Sarah will love, as does his younger brother Joey.

Thank You for our parents, who provided our needs and helped us grow into responsible adults, and for our brothers and sisters. Thank You for our friends at church and at work. Kim, John, and I have been so blessed to grow deeper in relationship with our Touch Group family, and with so many people we meet each Sunday.

Our church leaders have provided us a firm foundation for your truth and have shown us that a relationship with God can be powerful and joyous. We are better ministers both inside the church and out because of their godly influence.

Thank You for providing us a comfortable home to live in, food to eat, and a place to work. We are not wealthy, and have no desire to be. We're thankful for our daily bread, so whatever else You provide is extra special.

Thank You for our wonderful country, and for the brave men and women fighting overseas who help preserve our liberty and honor.

We don't know what awaits us in the future, but we're so blessed that You'll be there in the midst to guide us through it. If difficulties, we know You'll use them to refine us. If good times, they will be so much better knowing You are in them. All in all, it will be perfect.

I realize I've fallen far short in recognizing all You have given us, so I pray that in the coming days, weeks, and months as more comes to mind I will continue to show my gratitude for all You have done. Of course, my greatest thanks will be shown in living a life that pleases You and blesses others.

Your humble servant, Jeff


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

What are you thankful for losing, or not having?

In my previous post, Coloconnect reminds us that we can also be thankful for things we have lost, or don't have. So in what ways are you thankful for things you have lost, or never had?

For me, I'm most thankful I'm not really rich or good looking or popular or talented, because I know that if I was I'd find it hard to think I needed God (even though He provides all we have). I'm also thankful I have lost my keys and other things on several occasions, because it helps me realize how much I need my wife to keep me better organized, and it also shows her grace in putting up with me whenever I do lose or misplace things (which is quite often)!


Thanks to some thankful bloggers

Here are some posts you might like from truly thankful bloggers.

Paul, at Paul's Ponderings has this post giving thanks for our very lives, which God holds in His hands. Read the link to the Relevant Magazine story that shows an example of how precious life can be.

This post at Broken Shivers isn't necessarily about Thanksgiving, but I think it shows how grateful Johnny is (as am I) for all of us "insignificant" Christians who really do make a difference for God's kingdom. Thanks for the encouragement, Johnny!

Jon at Jon's Web Journal encourages us to be thankful, and to share what it is we're most thankful for. Let him, and others, know.

Please offer both thanks and intercession for Matt at Matt's Fight, whose recovery from serious burns progresses, but not without struggles and setbacks.

Here's a nice Thanksgiving prayer, which encourages us to show how thankful we are by reaching out to the less fortunate.

The bloggers at Zum Kripplein Christi Lutheran Elementary School have several posts about Thanksgiving. Read what Sarah has to say about slowing down and offering thanks, not just today but everyday. Justin reminds us it's not just about turkeys, but the Maker of turkeys, and the Savior of our souls. Daniel realizes that we shouldn't be selfish and take what we have for granted. And Rachel offers her well wishes. And like Rachel, why not write some cards or notes to share your thankfulness with others.

Coloconnect at Second Chances reminds us with this bit of humor that we should also be thankful for what we are not and do not have.

Let's join Barbara at Mommy Life in thanking God for Daniel, her son with Down's Syndrome who was having a period of antisocial behavior but is now much happier. Pray that their Thanksgiving will be especially joyous. And look at pictures of a happy Daniel while you're there.

Here, Dr. Ralph Wilson tells us of Miles Standish and the first Thanksgiving. Take his message to heart, and don't allow all you have to lead you away from thankfulness. "The Pilgrims lived close to the edge of survival. Perhaps that is why they were so thankful."

Tomorrow, I'll post some more. Have a great Thanksgiving, and may the Lord be blessed and honored above all that day.


Monday, November 21, 2005

BotB suicide?

OK, so I'm trying to balance the battles I make and take at Battle of the Blogs. At times I'll choose battles with people whose records are much better (and most are). At other times I'll choose battles with blogs that have worse records (much harder to find those). As of now, I'm ranked #2116 (somehow I keep managing to avoid the bottom 50--yea!). I just accepted a battle with a blog ranked #5. That oughta be interesting. Will I get any votes? Will I pull a huge upset? I think I'll laugh from the obviousness of it all if I get creamed, and sit stunned if I win. After I had lost my first 20 contests in a row (or something like that), I'm now 5-23, so I'm on a roll (ha-ha!).

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Enhancing our thanks-giving

I was pondering how to make our thanks more meaningful, and as I searched through the Bible several verses and concepts stood out. We all know we need to give thanks when we are given something, so I won't cover that obvious aspect (although, sadly, it's not obvious to some). I pray God will use this to bless you. And if you have anything to add regarding how to enhance giving thanks, please let me know.

First of all, Jesus was a thankful person. In a mystery only God can fully unravel, Jesus set aside some aspects of His deity when He came to earth (that does not mean he became any less than God, mind you). So He was dependent upon the Father. For example, in John 17:8, Jesus says, "Because the words that You gave Me, I have given them." And in John 14:24, He says, "The word that you hear is not Mine but is from the Father who sent Me."

As I said, Jesus was a thankful person. And since we are called by His name, we should emulate Him. He realized his dependence upon the Father, and didn't merely take it for granted but expressed appreciation for all the Father provided. When Lazarus died, before Jesus raised him, He prayed, "Father, I thank You that You heard me." He gave thanks when He multiplied the loaves and fishes (Mark 8:6). And He gave thanks at the Lord's Supper (Matthew 26:27).

Psalm 100:4 says we should "enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise." So for us to come into God's presence and focus on ourselves is getting things backwards. Sure, there may be times of desperation when we need to seek God's favor, but our general approach when coming before the Lord of the universe should be to acknowledge all He is and all He provides. Once we do that, we'll be able to have a greater trust that He can and "will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).

In the Old Testament, the Lord required thanksgiving sacrifices (Lev. 7:12, Psalm 107:22, Psalm 116:7, for example). Though we are no longer bound under the Law, our thanks-giving should show a sense of sacrifice. In a recent episode of Focus on the Family, James Dobson discussed how his wife's upbringing contributed to her not knowing how to show gratitude. At first he thought it was because she wasn't thankful, but he came to discover the real reason. Now, she goes out of her way to say thank you, to write notes of thanks, etc. We should not merely mumble "thanks" to those who give us things, and we should especially not take what we've been given for granted. Our thanks-giving should be given with a sense of sacrifice, to show we truly appreciate the gift(s).

In Richard Nelson Bolles' annual What Color is Your Parachute, he says that one major factor in whether a person gets a job is whether he sends thank-you notes to those at the company he met during the interview process. He says that this is largely a lost art, and those job hunters who actually take the time to write such a note stand out in the prospective employers' minds.

Just being inheritors of Christ's salvation ongoing presence should lead us to overflow with thankfulness (Colossians 2:7), just as our cup of blessing overflows (Psalm 23:5) from a God "who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think" (Eph. 3:20). So if we truly realize all we have been given, and how blessed we are to have it, we will find it hard not to express thanks.

Sure, it's easy to give thanks when things are good. But we are commanded to "give thanks in everything" (1 Thess. 5:18), just as we are commanded to "rejoice always" (v. 16; see also Phil. 4:4). Of course, this doesn't mean we should be thankful for the trials and tribulations we face. Jesus wept at Lazarus' death (John 11:35). But then He gave thanks, because He knew of the Father's power over death, and He knew that in the Father's overarching plan all would come out right in the end. Isn't it true that Christian funerals are generally more hope-filled than others? Sure, the loved one who has died is grieved and missed, but knowing that they are enjoying the Lord's presence in heaven helps the healing process.

Thankfulness also requires humility. In John 11:25-26, Jesus expresses gratitude and praise to the Father for revealing things to the simple while keeping them hidden from the "wise." The Pharisees and Saduccees prided themselves on possessing great wisdom, but Jesus berated them for their foolishness. No matter what He said, they were too proud to be grateful that Jesus was in their midst. They berated those who were too "simple" to understand their convoluted theology, but in the end they were the ones who ended up missing it.

Lack of humility is also seen in Luke 18:11, where "The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: 'God, I thank You that I'm not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector." Of course, that tax collector of whom he was speaking had a more humble view of himself, not even lifting his head to heaven and realizing his sinfulness (v. 13). We know that "this one [the tax collector] went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted" (v. 14). Thanking God for what we do not possess, like moral superiority, or with wrong motives, is not pleasing to God and shows that we don't truly realize that all we have comes from Him. If I'm living a godly life, and somebody expresses appreciation for my example, I should give glory to the One who has enabled me to do so.

Finally, Romans 1 talks about those who embrace godlessness.
For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude.
Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds

were darkened.

22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools

23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man,
birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles.

When we fail to realize and appreciate all God provides, we start believing we are the be all and end all of our existence, which is of course "nonsense" and "senseless," leading our minds to become "darkened." We think we are wise, but we are fools ("For to those who are perishing the message of the cross is foolishness" 1 Cor. 1:18), and we're deceived into worship idols

May you all have a truly thankful Thanksgiving, and may that attitude spread throughout the year.

All Bible quotations from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.


Friday, November 18, 2005

Honor your parents, but not like this!

Short take: Russian mother and her sons accused of strangling and cannibalizing a man. She's in her late 30s, the sons are about 16 and 19. God help the family of the man whose body was desecrated, and God help this distorted mother and sons who committed this ghastly crime. What happened that would lead them to agree to do such a thing? Only God knows, and only He can turn their hearts to Him.

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Honesty will pay this fine man

If you found $350,000 dollars in diamonds in your taxi, would you have kept the money? Afghan immigrant Haider Sediqi didn't. I truly believe that whatever riches that money could have bought him, he'll be a far richer man for doing the right thing. Thank goodness he wasn't like the Mr. Potter in It's a Wonderful Life, who found the money lost by Uncle Billy and nearly ruined the Bailey Savings and Loan. Thank you for your honesty, Mr. Sediqi, and may the Lord bless you.

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Quid pro quo? Or no go?

I have noticed that bloggers often adopt a "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" or "I'll scratch your back, and expect you to scratch mine" policy when it comes to linking to other blogs. How about you? I'm thinking, link to me only if you like my blog, and I'll link to you only if I like your blog.

Or, if I link to a blog I don't particularly like or agree with, should I put a header like "Opposing Viewpoint"? I do know I will not link to a blog that is patently offensive. Anyway, let me know how you handle this. God bless.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

No more "Heidi game" faith!

Football fans may remember this as the day the movie Heidi intercepted the Jets-Raiders football game in 1968. The Jets were ahead, and then Heidi stepped in, based on the broadcasting standards of the times. What fans wouldn't find out until later is that the Raiders scored two touchdowns in 9 seconds, winning the game. Irate fans blew the switchboard, leading the networks to agree to broadcast the games until their conclusion.

Many times, we have a "Heidi game" faith. Like the networks on that fateful day, we hang on until our faith is "preempted" by a challenge we deem too great, and so we allow our hopes to fade away, forgetting that God is the expert at last-minute comebacks.

The disciples of Jesus tuned out at Gethsemane. Remember how they fled in fear? The show was over, as far as they were concerned. But Jesus turned the game around. And like the networks, which later agreed to hold on to the end, the disciples learned to hold on to Jesus in spite of attempts to preempt their hopes. May we also trust that, as Yogi Berra said, it's never over 'til it's over.

How firm a foundation

On this date in 1777, the Articles of Confederation were submitted to the states for ratification. Of course, we all know that our nation's current governing document is the Constitution. The Articles were considered ineffective and had to be scrapped for a better system. One that would hold the states together more firmly while still allowing them to have a measure of authority.

But isn't this attitude true of many concerning the Bible? They find passages that don't meet their preferences, and so they try to rewrite what God said. And like the Articles, they splinter the body of Christ rather than uniting it. And it's not just about uniting the body with each other, but uniting our hearts with the Lord's.

The book of Revelation warns us about altering what's in Scripture. And Jesus said that not one pen stroke would disappear from the Law until everything in the Father's will was accomplished. May we treasure the beauty and authority of the word of God so that we form a mighty, cohesive army against His enemies.

Nature's Artwork By Doris Jennings

Nature's Artwork By Doris Jennings

Some great pictures here. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

FCC lax on indecency (but God's not)

Seems the FCC levied nearly $8 million in fines last year, but 0 through September of this year, despite 189,000 complaints. New FCC chairman Kevin Martin was expected to up the enforcement activity, so I wonder what's going on. Perhaps this(?):
Mr. Martin, a Republican, has had difficulty achieving a majority among the four
sitting commissioners on some indecency complaints before the FCC, prompting
some aides to suggest he reduce the backlog by seeking fines or dismissals in a
more piecemeal fashion, rather than resolving a large number at once.

And this(?):
Two other commissioners, a Republican and a Democrat, generally favor more
modest actions, and their unease at handing out big fines and expanding the
FCC's definitions of unacceptable programming has slowed Mr. Martin's efforts.
Seems answers will not be quickly forthcoming:
Mr. Martin declined to be interviewed, addressing concerns about the slow pace
of indecency enforcement in a statement. "We are working very hard to address
the backlog of complaints before us, which is fairly substantial," he said. "In
clearing out this backlog, we are trying to act in a consistent and
comprehensive manner."
Seems some people are looking for guidance on what is and isn't indecent:
Mr. Martin wants to provide that guidance, aides say, so that networks and local
stations will know, for example, when it is acceptable to broadcast the f-word
.... "Broadcasters would like a little more clarity," says Dennis Wharton,
spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters. "If we know what the
rules are, we'll play by the rules."

Or are they looking to see how far they can push the envelope?

As noted in the story, is it not indecent to use the F word in a movie like Saving Private Ryan, but indecent to do so in, say, an awards show?

There will always be debates as to what's indecent, and whether the government should be involved in such issues (or, to what extent it should be involved). I'm not clear on the grayer areas of this issue, but my first concern in what I watch, say, and portray to others is, "Would Jesus be offended by it?" We shouldn't have to wait until some government official tells us what is indecent. There will be more FCC heads in the coming years, with a variety of ideas about what is and isn't indecent. And with many people considering the Constitution to be a "living document," who's to say how far they'll attempt the push the envelope?

God willing, we Christians will focus more on being pure light in a dark world rather than allowing the shadows of perversion slip in.

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Alarm Clock Tag

Eric from Little Bit of This 'n That has tagged me with this alarm clock meme:

1) Do you use an alarm clock to wake up in the morning?
Yes, but thankfully I have my wife as a backup because I don't respond very well to it.

2) What time do you set it for?
Monday - Friday: About 6:15 AM; Sunday About 8:00 to 8:30 for church

3) Do you hit the snooze button? If so how many times?
No, I turn it off and hope and pray that I won't fall asleep again, or that my wife will wake me up.

4) Have you ever abused an alarm clock?
Only in my mind (is that still considered a sin?)

5) It's "time" to spread some "It's Blogcess" linky love.

Tag, You're It:

Anna's Blog has some great pictures.

Go to The Complimenting Commenter to receive an encouraging word.

God Even Loves Idiots Like Me shows us that we can be imperfect and still have fun as Christians.

Go to Eph2810 for some words on godly living.

Lair of the Penman waxes about God in poetic prose.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

"Not my responsibility"

Whether or not this story is legitimate, it is believable, including the employee saying, "It's not my responsibility." I have worked in places where certain employees look at the job description and follow it to the letter. I suppose there was nothing in this nurse's job description saying what she should do in case of ants crawling on a patient's face, but to leave the patient in such a state is ridiculous and cruel. The family had complained about the staff on other occasions as well.

Sadly, this is all too often the mantra of employees in various roles. Sure, if you don't have the ability to do the task, or if doing so would cause greater problems than not, or if you are just too busy, then fine. But if you are just being selfish or lazy, or wish to take advantage of others, then shame on you.

As Christians, we should go all out, setting the standards for excellence and contribution. After all, doesn't God overflow our cup of blessing (Psalm 23:5)? Doesn't he provide streams of living water (John 7:38). Isn't God abundantly good (Psalm 145:7), and gracious (Romans 5:17, 1 Timothy 1:14)? Didn't He go well beyond what most people would have done--offering his life for us while we were still sinners, enemies of God (Romans 5:7-8)?

Imagine if God only provided us the bare minimum! If He said, "Well, I paid for your sins. Isn't that enough?" No, we don't have to eat the scraps left behind by the pigs, as was the case in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). He offers us more of Himself than we can even ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

Now, imagine if Christians all over the world were known for offering more of God's heavenly treasures than people could ask or imagine. Imagine if they gave much more to worthy causes (we don't give much more now, if at all). Imagine if they regularly offered to help other people. There are indeed many who do, and God will bless them for it (though they most likely know it is more blessed to give than to receive [Acts 20:35], so they don't do it just to be blessed).

Lord, please forgive us for our laziness, selfishness, and stubbornness. Help us look to You as an example of one who gave of Himself abundantly, far beyond what we deserved. We thank You for all You have done, and may we one day be able to look back on our own lives and say we gave it our all, as You did. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Monday, November 14, 2005

My commitment to God (past due)

Just before the terrorist attacks on our nation, I made the following commitment to God. The attacks came, and this commitment was relegated to the background. But this past weekend, our church had a wonderful speaker who challenged us to take back our towns and cities for Christ. So here, for your perusal and my accountability, is that commitment:

Dear Lord,
Up to this time I have allowed You to be my Savior but not my Lord (except when it was convenient). You never promised an easy life. You never say being a believer will yield great riches, fame, etc. In fact, ignominy is the fate of many who believe in You. Yet in your eyes the heart dedicated to You is the most beautiful asset one has. I want to please You in all I am and in all I do. I want You to receive the glory. Whatever praise I may get for your work I owe to You. So at this time I lay myself on the altar, as it were, as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1), for I know that my life is more an example of worship than is merely my singing songs of praise on Sundays. You have the reins now. I will go wherever You call. All I ask is that you help me understand that it is You who is calling me to go, and that I would be given whatever I need to go and do all You ask. I am fully aware of what I have written here and with no further delay, with no hesitation, with no excuses I now accept that my body is God's temple (1 Corinthians 6:19) and has been purchased by the wonderful and terrible sacrifice of Jesus. Thank You that I saw my need to do this, and that I am able to do this. Please help me remember this commitment to You whenever the opposing forces call. In Jesus' matchless name, Amen.
September 9, 2001

Friday, November 11, 2005

If I Were a Soldier

I found this great poem (by a 9-year old Austin Davis). Click the header to read it--you'll need to scroll about halfway down the page. You'd think Austin had been in the thick of battle. Thanks to Jon for posting it.

Thank you, veterans!

Today we celebrate those military veterans who have served are are serving our great country. Whether you were in a war or served during peacetime, whether you were in battle or in the mess hall, whether you were in for 1 year or 30 years, you have helped make our military the best in the world. Each one of you is important; if you don't do your job the best you can it affects everybody. I don't care whether you're a General leading a large battalion, or a Seaman Recruit swabbing the deck--if you go about your job with excellence it will benefit those around you and, ultimately, our country.

I served 4 years in the Navy on the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) during peace time. It was towards the end of the Cold War, so tensions were still fairly high, but of course not like our military is facing today in places like Iraq. Still, I'm honored to have added my small contribution.

Finally, a special thanks to those who are continuing to put their lives on the line. Where would we be without such brave souls? You are going after a ruthless and evil enemy, whose continued presence and expansion would one day lead to our destruction. But you are taking them down, slowly but surely. Even more, you are helping to rebuild hope in a nation torn by fear for decades. It is because of you that people can actually vote for the candidate they want, and not be forced to vote for Saddam. It is because of you that smiles are coming back to men, women, and children in that country. People who don't follow the gloom and doom attitude of many news agencies know that you are making progress in Iraq, that those soldiers who are acting shamefully are few and far between. So please don't lose heart. Just keep doing the right thing, and you will be vindicated.

A prayer: Dear Lord, please bless these men and women in all branches and facets of the military, who have served us past and present. Grant them and their loved ones the peace of mind that they are doing a good thing. Show them wisdom, and shower them with your gracious love. We are honored to have such wonderful people; may we honor them by making this the best country we can. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Some great (and not so great) Nov. 10 moments

1483: Martin Luther, whose 95 theses led the way to the formation of Protestantism, was born. In an era when Roman Catholicism was law, and speaking against it was considered a heresy punishable by death, Martin's bravery in standing up for the true Christ, the Christ of grace and mercy, not of indulgences and works, has inspired many for generations. I strongly recommend the 2003 movie, Luther, starring Joseph Fiennes.

1775: Let's give a rousing round of applause for the United States Marine Corps, who celebrate their 230th anniversary today. These brave and patriotic people have defended us against the worst of enemies, and I know they will continue to do so. God bless you all!

1871: Henry Stanley locates medical missionary Dr. David Livingstone in Tanzania with the famous words, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" Thank God for Dr. Livingstone, who helped bring light into the "dark continent" of Africa, a man of whom Florence Nightingale said, "God has taken away the greatest man of his generation." But the humble Livingstone would not have spoken so highly of himself: "I am a missionary, heart and soul. God had an only Son, and He was a missionary and a physician. A poor, poor imitation of Him I am, or wish to be. In this service I hope to live; in it I wish to die."

1926: Michinomiya Hirohito is crowned emporer of Japan. This man would achieve god-like status in the minds of his countrymen, but his loss in World War II led him to declaring to his nation that he was not immortal (of course, his death in 1989 confirmed that!).

1938: Kate Smith sings "God Bless America" for the first time. This would become her signature song, and for decades after the patriotic among us would belt it out at memorable events.

1975: The freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald sinks in Lake Superior during a storm. 29 men died. The tragedy was immortalized in a 1976 Gordon Lightfoot song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

1982: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial opened in Washington, DC, providing some solace to the tens of thousands of heroic soldiers and their families who had borne the shameful treatment during and after that war. In 1984, also on this date, the US Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp of this memorial. Sadly, many soldiers in our current war against terrorism have also received poor treatment not only from certain citizens but also from many in the media. Men and women of our military, we salute and honor you, and we will not allow the indiscretions of a small minority in your midst to belittle all the good you have done. You fight so we may have the right to continue our freedom of speech, a freedom we might no longer have if Communism or extreme Islam were to overtake us. One day, we'll also build a memorial to the many who fought and died against terrorism.

1997: Au pair Louise Woodward was convicted of 2nd-degree murder in the shaking death of Matthew Eappen. Originally sentenced to life in prison, she ended up being sentenced to time served (279 days), upon appeal, and was freed.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

In the blink of an eye

This morning, God got my attention with this MercyMe song. Out of the blue I started singing it in the car, and then I changed the radio station and there it was! I love how He does that! It makes me think He's trying to tell me something.

The song seems to be about how we should ask ourselves whether or not we are so wrapped up in ourselves and the world around us that we aren't doing all we can for God's kingdom. He has sent here on a mission, but compared to our time in heaven, our time on earth is short and will be gone before we know it. But our legacy, good or bad, will live on in our children and the generations to follow.

I know I don't always make the best of my time. I too often live reactively rather than proactively. Doing the important things, in God's eyes, is a matter of whenever I "feel the Spirit lead me." My history has shown me that I need to schedule times of prayer and Bible reading and other methods of Christian growth or else the things of the world will crowd them out.

And at times I am more concerned how others will see me rather than how God sees me. I'll be with God for eternity, but before I know it the people I'm trying to please will be long gone. And as we all know, there's no way to please everybody, and no matter who we try to please, we should wonder whether they really have our best interests in mind.

Lord, may we truly realize that compared to eternity, we are only here for a blink of an eye. Please forgive us for seeking the things of this world, for forgetting so often that it is far better and far more rewarding to honor You even when some people world disagree. And help us to live in such a way that who we are and what we do during our short span on this earth will leave others blessed for years to come until the day their joy and hope are fulfilled in You. We thank you for the privilege of being your ministers, for being used by you for eternal purposes. May we love and honor You this very moment and each moment to come. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

God even loves idiots like me: Would you sell your soul?

This is sad. Please know that Jesus values your soul very much. He paid for it with His life.

God even loves idiots like me: Would you sell your soul?

Are you voting for the fearful or the fearless?

Today is election day, where all too many candidates will run away from their convictions and stick their finger into the wind to see which way is most popular. Success to them will mean winning the seat rather than doing the right thing.

And this coming Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, where we commemorate the millions of believers who are being oppressed and even murdered because they hold firm to their convictions. They know their destiny is secure, so they consider earthly gains to be rubbish in light of the surpassing glory in Christ.

What a contrast. What a shameful picture of how our nation's leadership has fallen so far from its roots. Think of how brave and firm in their beliefs were the Founders, who risked their very lives to form this nation.

And not only did these brave people "campaign" for the right things, they carried them out despite what others thought was the popular decision. Like those persecuted Christians all over the world who know that by standing up for Christ, they might suffer but His light will shine forth brighter than ever because of their faithfulness and courage.

Maybe there is nobody on your ballot that has similar convictions. Please pray that God will give you the wisdom to make the right choice. Sometimes we need to vote for incremental improvements, the person who is not ideal but who is at least somewhat better than the other candidate.

Many of the candidates we don't want in office will be elected because people will choose to not vote. So please do. And please pray continually for the wimpy and misguided politicians of today and tomorrow, that they will develop a heart for God and right living, and the courage to back that up, so that we can speak proudly of our leadership.

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Monday, November 07, 2005

Today in history, and the importance of your vote

November 7 has been a day to remember for its contribution to the memory of good and evil in government and elsewhere. May we learn from its lessons.

In 1793, the French Revolution had been going on for 4 years. Just a decade or so after the American Revolution, fought largely because the British monarchy held a tyrannical hand against religious freedom in the colonies, the French did the opposite and fought for a godless state, culminating on this date as Christianity was abolished, and secularism was "deified." In the next several years thousands of churches were destroyed and many priests were murdered.

In 1900, Heinrich Himmler, who was Adolf Hitler's head of the Nazi SS and the Gestapo, leading organizer of the Holocaust, and founder and officer-in-charge of the concentration camps and death squads, was born on this date. He willingly played a key role in the murder of millions of innocent people.

The 1900s would show the evils of dictatorship on a never before seen scale. November 7 dates alone show some of what was to come. In 1917, the October Revolution brought Vladimir Lenin and communism to the forefront. Lenin partnered with Leon Trotsky, who was born on this date in 1879, in bringing this to pass. The scourge of communism would lead to the deaths of tens of millions and the oppression of hundreds of millions under such names as Stalin, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro, and Kim Jong Il.

On this date in 1921, Benito Mussolino declared himself to be leader of the National Fascist Party in Italy. Of course he would later team up with Hitler, who temporarily joined with the Russians before turning against them.

Thankfully, we also remember November 7 for moral and brave people and events. Evangelist Billy Graham was born in 1918, and from the 1940s through today God has used his ministry to bring millions of people to the Lord. His legacy continues through his son Franklin Graham, who preaches at many evangelical crusades.

In 1916, women finally made a significant step in government as Jeannette Rankin was the first congresswoman elected.

I'll close with a couple of lesser known but nonetheless significant events on this date. In 1876, Albert H. Hook patented the cigarette manufacturing machine, unknowingly (I imagine) making it possible to greatly increase the number of people who would become hooked (pun intended) and fall gravely ill.

And then there's journalist, editor, and ordained minister Elijah Lovejoy, who was, appropriately enough, born the same year as Abraham Lincoln--1809. But he would be murdered about 28 years earlier, on this date in 1837, because his abolitionist newspaper, the Alton Observer, was offensive to the racists of the day. This courageous man, flying in the face of pervasive bigotry, was an inspiration to those who would follow.

Tomorrow is election day. For most states, no major races are being run, so the numbers of people going to the polls will be pitifully small. Please, don't stay home. Vote. Every politician starts somewhere, and if you can make a positive change in the "lesser" elections now, that will one day carry forward to the day when some of those people become big names in government. History is full of examples of evil triumphing as the result of good people doing nothing. Do something. Pray, vote, and play your own role in making the history of the future better than ever.

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Friday, November 04, 2005

A prayer of praise and gratefulness

Dear Lord,

I have seen days go by with little thought of the wonderful blessings you give us, the mercy you show despite our hearts being bent on evil, and the warm and uplifing fellowship of your presence. May I continually remember that you are here with me this very moment. I too often take for granted the salvation you offered at such a great cost, which not only snatches us from the fires of hell but carries us to your glorious dwelling. Please help me get a glimpse of heaven every now and then so I can exult in its awesome beauty.

Thank you for the promise of your Holy Spirit that enables us to live in victory amid the trials and temptations life hurls at us. Thank you for your commandments, which we can see as promises because we don't have to steal or kill or worship false idols with your Spirit guiding us.

How wonderful it is to be your adopted child; may I learn from your Father heart how to be a better parent to my children. May I see the deep beauty of my wife, and love her as the queen that she is.

How I long to more fully grasp all the riches you pour forth from your storehouse, not necessarily riches of gold or silver but riches of peace, joy, hope, love, patience, etc. How I long to behold your face so the things of this world grow strangely dim, and the light of your glory shines through me to bless others. It is indeed far better to serve as a doorkeeper in your dwelling than to be a king on the earth.

Finally, I thank you for the everyday things we often don't even associate you with, but which indeed come from your hand. There is no thing we should consider too small for you to care about, and no thing too big for you to handle. Without you all that seems good is actually pale, and all that seems pale is wonderful if you are in its midst.

If in my smallness and weakness you can use me to further your kingdom, I'll be deeply honored. Thank you for all you are, all you give, and all you will do, because it is very good.

In Jesus' majestic and loving name, Amen.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Mixed up highway ramps reflecting life

Have you ever dealt with poorly designed highway onramps and offramps? In particular, the ones that have the offramp after the onramp, so you're fighting the oncoming cars for that lane as you try to exit and they try to enter the highway? Or vice-versa. Some time back I wrote the government asking about this, and they said they hadn't foreseen the traffic being as voluminous as it now is.

I too often mix up my priorities because despite the history of my life, I fail to foresee that my days will be more busy than I expected. And like the lost time resulting from dings and fender-benders from cars jockeying for position at those mixed up highway ramps, I tend to lose (forget) important responsibilities because my mind is filled with competing responsibilities.

Like recently, when I lost my debit card. I was probably thinking about what I was going to do next, and not being "in the moment" so I could be sure I had everything in place. I probably had too much "traffic" on my schedule and was rushing to keep up. In short, I was caught in the middle, like those cars in that lane trying to enter and exit, and didn't know whether I was coming or going.

I suppose we shouldn't blame the highway designers for failing to foresee such a high amount of traffic. But for those of us who are Christians, we have access to the Lord, who can guide us in planning our days so we don't become overloaded and accident prone. My wife and I were praying recently, and she was convinced that it was when we don't seek God that our days are all out of whack. Martin Luther once said that he didn't have time not to pray for 3 hours a day. Well, maybe 3 hours is too much for most of us, but perhaps if we remember to seek God for even several minutes out of the day, we'll be riding smoothly on the road of life (sorry, just had to toss that in there!).

Dear Lord, please help us to always put You first. Give us wisdom to plan our days according to your will, so we don't crowd out and forget the true priorities. We thank You for always giving us the time we need to do the things You call us to. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

So much more than a bowl of candy

Our son "cleaned up," as it were, for Halloween. He was going to go to a party with friends, but that didn't materialize, so he went around town looking for people to give out candy. And he came home with a 13 pound sack of it! He poured it out and we sorted through and counted. Nearly 300 pieces! He told us he wanted to eat it in a week, but we kinda figured that 40 pieces a day was a bit much.

When we were children, we would look at a big pile of candy and think, "It doesn't get any better than this!" Of course, we grow older, and that comment is reserved for nice cars, nice houses, and nice vacations. Yet the Lord has more than we can even ask or think in store for us (see Ephesians 3:20). He says in Isaiah 55:2, "Why do you spend money on what is not food, and your wages on what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and you will enjoy the choicest of foods" (HCSB). Now that doesn't mean that enjoying candy or even something more than that is not good. But if that's what excites us most, we are missing out on so much. C. S. Lewis said it so well in his sermon, "The Weight of Glory":

It would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We
are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when
infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud
pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday
at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

So what is it about the things of earth that captivate us and take our minds from the riches, the overflowing? Satan wants us to focus on those things. "What if there's no God"? he tempts. "This fruit will give you all you could possibly need and want." And so we get the candy, the car, the house, the vacation, and think we're doing well. But we fall so far short.

At times, our perceptions are totally backwards. I received an e-mail about an article in the Barnabas Fund about 3 Christian girls who were beheaded, and one who was seriously injured. One of the heads was found outside a church, leading police to suspect a religious motive. Possibly Islamic militants committed the murders.

These girls must have known the danger they placed themselves in by proclaiming their Christianity. Maybe they had some candy in their lives, but I would imagine that thoughts of expensive cars and houses and jewelry were beyond possibility in their eyes. The murderers perhaps thought they were earning favor with the false god Allah, and keeping the girls from any hope of reward. How I wish they could see the richest of fare (Isaiah 55:2) these girls are now enjoying. They are at the Lord's table rejoicing in His presence and tasting of His goodness. Those poor fools who murdered them are like the Laodicean church. The Lord scolded them for thinking they had all they needed. In Revelation 3:17, He says:

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that
you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked (ESV).

Remember, God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Whatever the murderers and their victims had possessed in riches or lack thereof, God blessed or cursed them according to how they saw Him. The girls saw (I should say "see") Him as Lord and Savior, and He has showered them with unspeakable joy and love. I pray the murderers will one day turn to Jesus, but if they keep thinking that their current path is going to lead them to glory, they are very mistaken. They will acquire more and more riches and glory according to their perverted beliefs, but in God's eyes will be "wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked."

OK, I'll admit it. If my stepson allows me to I'll have a couple pieces of candy tonight. But God willing, I'll see at as a small example of how God so richly pours down His blessings upon us.

Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

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