Rhinos, Albinos, and Tanzania

mount kAs I usually do of the morning, I stopped by McDonald’s for a cup of coffee. As I was leaving, I saw a young father with his children—Isaac of the clan McNary.

We chatted a few moments about his good work in addressing the needs of the hungry. Part of his ministry with the Outreach Program is to minister to the hungry at home and abroad—even to faraway places like Tanzania.

When he reminded  me of the work in Tanzania, it stimulated a neuron or two in my brain and retrieved the memory of a post I made a few years ago; I’ve updated it below:

Most of us have only seen pictures of Tanzania, and its colorful landscape that includesrhino the majestic peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro and the Ruaha National Park which is home to over 10,000 elephants and 430 species of birds. Among the many different animals that are found in Tanzania, one of the best known and most endangered is the black rhino.

While the plight of the black rhino is a concern, even more, worrisome is the warped and wicked mistreatment of the Albinos.  In Tanzania, albinos represent one in every 1429 births, and the innocent children among this number live in constant fear.  They live with the terror of knowing that some people want to harvest their body parts.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation has reported that the adherents of witchcraft place a high value on albino body parts.  Because some villagers believe albinos have magical powers, they hunt them and harvest parts of their bodies.

The National Geographic commented on this gruesome practice, saying:  “Some even believe that the witchcraft ritual is more powerful if the victim screams during the amputation, so body parts are often cut from live victims, especially children.  The use of children is likely linked to the pursuit of innocence, which, it is believed, enhances the potency of the witchcraft ritual.”

As I think of these brutalized children, I’m reminded that Jesus loves all of God’s children whether they are red, yellow, black or white. And, He loves the albinos of Tanzania every bit as much as He loves you.

Two Powerful Words

FOLLOW-JESUS-footprintsTwo words changed the lives of two men, and they gave birth to a spiritual revolution that changed the world. The two words were spoken by Jesus when He called out to Peter and Andrew, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men (Matthew 4:19).”

The best way to follow Jesus is to walk in His footsteps.  To make sure you’re on the right path, you can ask yourself a few questions:

  • Am I walking in love?
  • Am I walking in the light?
  • Am I walking with wisdom?
  • Am walking or living my life in a way that is pleasing to God?

Before I was tall enough to see over the corn stalks and heads of milo that filled the fields where my dad would take me hunting, I never got lost; all I had to do was step where Dad stepped.  The same is true as you journey through life, simply walk like Jesus.

The apostle Peter said, Jesus suffered for us and left us His example so that we could follow in His steps (I Peter 2:21).

I encourage you to follow Jesus, walk in His steps, and use the words of Psalm 119:133 as a prayer: Father, Direct my steps by your word!

A Key Ingredient

Julia-ChildIn this age of reality TV there’s a vast array of channels with do-it-yourself (DIY) programs. Many of these are food-related and highlight the cooking skills of kitchen-famous chefs.

A pioneer of the DIY cooking was the Queen of Cuisine, Julia Childs. Aspiring chefs would jot down her mouth-watering and salvia-stimulating recipes and file them away for a special occasion.

Good recipes are the key to stirring-up some tasty treats, and even an inept cook can appear to be a polished chef when he measures and mixes according to a cookbook.

The recipe for a good and godly life is more likely to be found in the Bible than it is in a cookbook by Gordon Ramsay or Rachel Ray.  While your status as a cook can change by following a good recipe, your standing before God changes when you follow His Word. This is why we are encouraged to hide God’s Word in our hearts—it is the key ingredient to a robust and healthy spiritual life.

By the way, if you need to sweeten that favorite dish just a little, add a pinch of God’s Word—Its sweeter than honey and the honeycomb (Psalm 19:10).

The Ups and Downs of Life

wepnerLife is an adventure.  Some people seem to stumble their way through it, while others have the ability and agility to bob and weave their way through its obstacles.  Some people have the knack to fall face first into every mud hole that dots their path in life, while others can transform the sourest moments of life into a sweet and exhilarating experience.

Muhammed Ali’s life was more exciting than it was boring.  Ali was fond of saying that he “could float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee,” but even the Champ learned felt the brute force of a punch that was akin to the kick of a mule.

On March 24, 1975, Chuck Wepner introduced Ali to one of the universal laws of life:  Sooner or later you’re going to get hit by a punch you’ll never see coming!

Suffering is a thread that’s woven into the fabric of life, and it’s the sucker punch that can drop you to your knees.  

This universal law is the subject of discourse by both Peter and James:

  • Peter said you should not, “be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you (I Peter 4:12).”
  • Even though suffering is anything but pleasant, James said to, “Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (James 1:2–3).” 

It’s important to note that James did not say that the suffering or trial is a joyful experience; instead, he said the joy comes in acknowledging the result of the trial—steadfastness.  The situations that shake your faith are the ordeals that form a faith that’s unshakable.

Your faith is like your muscle tissue—to get stronger, it must be stressed.

The trials of life can buckle your knees and make it hard to see the end of the journey. It’s only from the perspective of hindsight that we have 20-20 vision.  Paul confirms this in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9. When he contemplated the past through the light of the present, he could see the boldly colored thread of hope in the tapestry of his heartache.  He could see God’s purpose in the suffering he had endured: “We want you to know, Christian brothers, of the trouble we had in the countries of Asia. The load was so heavy we did not have the strength to keep going. At times we did not think we could live.  We thought we would die. This happened so we would not put our trust in ourselves, but in God Who raises the dead.”

“This happened”, so Paul would know that God is able and that He would enable him. What God did for Paul, He will also do for you.

 

In the Blink of an Eye

USP OLYMPICS: SWIMMING-EVENING SESSION S OLY BRAI used to wonder why I wondered about certain things, but I’ve decided that somewhere in my DNA I must have an inquisitive gene that is alive and well.

So, I wasn’t surprised when I noticed my curious nature thinking about the speed of a blinking eye. After a quick Google search, I learned:

  • If you are an average blinker, you will blink about every 4 seconds.
  • Each minute of the day you will blink about 15 times or roughly 20,000 times a day.
  • The surface of your eye is cleaned and lubricated,  in the 10th of a second it takes you to blink.

A 10th of a second is fast, and this fact jogged my memory: I remembered the 2016 Olympics and Anthony Ervin. At the age of 35, Ervin set a record for being the oldest individual competitor to win a gold medal in the Olympics. Ervin swam the 50M Men’s Freestyle, and he won the gold medal; France’s Florent Manaudou finished second and won the silver.

The difference that separated these two men wasn’t the 10th of a second it takes you to blink, but the hairbreadth of just 100th of a second. Ervin finished the race in 21.40 seconds and Manaudou finished it in 21.41.

Even though the critical factor that separates the winner from the runner-up can be as minuscule as 100th of a second, the minuscule can be mighty powerful.

Had Anthony Ervin succumbed to the power of a negative thought for just 100th of a second, he may have returned home with the silver medal and not the gold.

Ervin achieved his dream because he trained hard in preparation for the Olympics.  To have success in life we should do the same. This is why the Scriptures encourage us to discipline the body and to focus the mind.

Another Olympian who attained great success is Jesse Owens. At the 1936 Olympics, he won four gold medals, turning his dreams into reality. Later in life, Owens said: “We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.”

I encourage to keep your eyes on the prize and run life’s race with determination, dedication, and self-discipline.

Remember When

rememberThe older I get, the more often I ask, or I am asked the question: Don’t you remember how it used to be?

This question was repeated several times this morning in a conversation, and it reminded me of a tender scene in The Lion King when Mufasa challenges Simba: “Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one true King. Remember who you are.”

Like Simba, there are times we need to remember who we are—We are children of the King. This is not some simple mantra to be repeated; it is a truth full of practical applications when, like Simba, you lose your way.

When you truly realize you are a child of the King, you can:

  • Worry less by spending more time in prayer as you turn your problems over to God.
  • Stand tall when you feel like you are in over your head; God is in it with you.
  • Remember that God is bigger than any of your problems.
  • Be certain that you will never be so lost that you can’t be found.
  • Be assured that when you feel like no one likes you, God still loves you.

As a child of the King, God speaks to you and says: I will hold your right hand: Fear not, I will help you.

Strength for Today

bicepI started today as I do most days–with a cup of coffee and the Psalms.  As I was reading Psalms 31, I stopped to consider the 24th verse: Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.
When you step outside of the safety of your house to face the world today, do so with the confidence that God’s:
  • Strength will build you up
  • Love will fill you up
  • Arms will lift you.
Keep this thought with you today, and you’ll begin to know the power of God’s promise to Paul:  My grace is sufficient.
The God of old is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He drives out the enemy before you and commands, “Destroy!”
Deuteronomy 33:27

Scripture: Breaking It Down

MorningDevotionsFrom time to time, a person will say to me: “I know that I am to meditate on Scripture, but I’m not sure how to do that.”

When I meditate on God’s Word, I try to break it down by asking myself some questions that will help me see what it suggests, implies, or commands.

Since Psalm 16:11 has been on my mind for several days, I’ll use it as an example of how I approach a verse of Scripture:

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

  • What does This Psalm mean when it says: You make known to me the path of life
  1. There is more than one path in life that a person can follow.
  2. If there is a path of life, then there must be a path of death.
  3. While God will reveal the path of light to you, He will not force you to walk it.
  4. Companion Scripture: Proverbs 3:5-6
  • What does This Psalm mean when it says: In your presence, there is fullness of joy
  1. A person is either in or out of the presence of God.
  2. If fullness is a characteristic of being in His presence, is there a sense of unfulfillment or a lack of satisfaction when a person is absent His presence?
  3. If there is a correlation between joy in His presence, is there a lack of joyfulness in His absence?
  4. Companion Scripture: Psalm 1
  • What does this Psalm mean when it says: At your right hand are pleasures forevermore
  1. If there is a place where there are pleasures evermore, is there a place where there are pleasures nevermore?
  2. If these pleasures are associated with God’s right hand, what’s left when a person steps away from the hand of God’s provision?
  3. If these pleasures can be recognized, they are to be utilized.
  4. Companion Verse: Philippians 4:19

I hope this example of how I examine a verse of scripture will help you as you study God’s Word.

Monikers and Meanings

baby-name-surprisedMost people who know me call me by the shortened form of my name.  Although my birth certificate reads, Stanley Lee Seymour,  most people call me Stan.   An etymological search of Stan reveals that it is Old English in origin and means rocky meadow or from the stony field.

Etymology, however, had nothing to do with the selection of my name.  Because my last name starts with an S, Mom and Dad thought it would be trendy for the first name of each of their children to start with an S.  My older brother’s name is Steve and my younger brother’s name is Brad.

Before he was born Brad’s name was going to be Stuart, but Mom was already having trouble calling Steve, Stan, and Stan, Steve, so Stuart became Brad.

Had Mom continued her practice of using an S in the naming of her sons, Brad would have been Stuart; and, his name would carry the idea of one who is a guardian or steward.

Here, in America, we seem to be more ambiguous than rigorous when we consider the meaning of the name written on the birth certificate that labels our children for life.

This has not always been the case. In the biblical eras, names were pregnant with meaning and often prophetic in nature. The best example is the name that is above all names and the Old Testament descriptor assigned to Him: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Little did Mary know the angelic proclamation and the meaning of her son’s name would be as full of pain as it was promise:  You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

When that babe lying in Bethlehem’s manger was named Jesus, it was not just a slip of the tongue or a casual moniker, it was a bold declaration: The Savior has been born.

May we all remember the reason for this season.