For the Forty-Third Time: Thank You!

IMG_0712The phone rang twice, and then I heard Johnny Lawson’s voice say a raspy, “Hello.” I said, “I just called to see if you’re still among the living.”  He replied, “Hi Stan, I still recognize your voice after all of these years.”

Johnny was my immediate supervisor when I reported for duty at Peterson Field, in Colorado Springs.  I had one measly stripe sewn to my shirt sleeve and a big mouth that kept getting me into trouble.  Fortunately, Johnny’s uniform was lined with stripes, and he had my back.

Each year when October makes its appearance on the calendar. I think quite a bit about Johnny.  I’ve called this fine man my friend for the past 43 years.

Johnny did more than save my hide, he was also instrumental in saving my soul. Through the wonderful kindness of him and his family, I came to know Jesus as my Savior.

When I think of Johnny, I think of the way Solomon spoke of friends:

  • Some friends may ruin you, but a real friend will be more loyal than a brother (Proverbs 18:24)
  • A true friend loves regardless of the situation, and a real brother exists to share the tough times (Proverbs 17:17)
  • In the same way that iron sharpens iron, a person sharpens the character of his friend (Proverbs 27:17).

I have to agree with Charles Spurgeon, “Friendship is one of the sweetest joys of life.  Many might have failed beneath the bitterness of their trial, had they not found a friend.”

In October of 1972, Johnny Lawson walked into the emergency where I was being treated for a severe head injury. Over the next month, he and his family went far beyond the call of duty to help nurse me back to health.

Had this friend not found me, I might have failed beneath the bitterness of my trial.  Johnny Lawson is my definition of what a friend is to be.

Thanks Johnny!

The Hum of Sweet Harmony

egoIt seems to me that friction and factions are striking a note of discord much too frequently.  Everyone is asserting their rights, and no one is willing to play second fiddle.  As a result, society has lost the sweet sound of harmony.

This is evident whether you are looking inside of the church or outside of the sanctuary, and it was one of Paul’s major concerns when he wrote the letter to the Philippians. Paul knew that sweet songs of harmony are sung in the key of humility.

Humility is the love song of the church, and Paul penned the lyrics in the second chapter of Philippians:

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy,  fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal.  Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.  Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.~ Philippians 2:1-4

One verse of this song seems to summarize all of it: “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.”

A good understanding of humility is important, so I encourage you to give a little thought to these wise words :

  • C. S. Lewis: Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.
  • Thomas Merton: Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.
  • Andrew Murray:  Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you.
  • D.L. Moody:  A man can counterfeit love, he can counterfeit faith, he can counterfeit hope and all the other graces, but it is very difficult to counterfeit humility

The difference between the genuine and the counterfeit, is the difference between a juice harp and the music of the Boston Pops.  One is noise, and the other is the hum of sweet harmony.

You can listen to the difference for yourself by clicking on each of these words: Juice Harp and Boston Pops.

The Pope, The Military, and Boy Play

pope-hugs-girlAfter he met with a sex abuse survivor group on Sunday morning, Pope Francis addressed a group of 300 bishops:  “It continues to be on my mind that the people who had the responsibility to take care of these tender ones, violated that trust and caused them great pain, and God weeps.”

Another report from last week focused on a culture of corruption that the U.S. Military is reluctant to confront.  According to an article in the New York Times, “Rampant sexual abuse of children has long been a problem in Afghanistan, particularly among armed commanders who dominate much of the rural landscape and can bully the population. The practice is called bacha bazi, literally ‘boy play,’ and American soldiers and Marines have been instructed not to intervene — in some cases, not even when their Afghan allies have abused boys on military bases.”

When some of our military have intervened, their careers haven been jeopardized.  martlandCaptain Dan Quinn, a former member of the Army Special Forces, gave an American-backed militia commander a thrashing for keeping a boy chained to his bed as a sex slave.

Quinn isn’t the only soldier to be punished.  Because Sgt. First Class Charles Martland helped Captain Quinn the Army is trying to forcibly retire him.

Even if “boy play” is culturally permitted and a sign of status in some parts of the Middle East, it doesn’t take much sense to know that it’s morally reprehensible.  Whether it’s in the USA, Afghanistan, Russia, or China, people would do well to recognize the love of Jesus for children:

Unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.  ~Matthew 18

October is 10 on 10 at First Christian

Since October is the 10th month of the year, you are encouraged to take 10 on 10.  This resource (OCTOBER Is 10 In 10) offers a brief verse and prayer that you can use at 10 AM, 10 PM or any time of the day.

Since October has 31 days and the book of Proverbs has 31 chapters, you are also encouraged to read 1 chapter a day from Proverbs.

I thank you in advance for joining me in this daily exercise.


Are You a Putter or a Put-er?

Putting-the-ballYou probably know what a putter is, but you might have some doubts about a put-er. A putter can be thought of as a person who is putting a golf ball, and it’s also the club that’s used to putt the ball into the hole.

A put-er is some one who “puts on” or “puts off” specific characteristics specified by the Apostle Paul:

  • Be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man (Ephesians 4:23-24)
  • Put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth . . . and put on the new man of tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering (Colossians 3:8-12)

The Putter loves golf; tries to get the ball in the hole; and, thinks being under par is good.  The Put-er loves the Gospel; tries to stay out of ruts; and, thinks being less than par is bad.

Both have an eagle-like focus.  The Putter scores an eagle when he’s two strokes under par.  When the Put-er puts on the new man, his strength is renewed; he mounts up with wings like an eagle; and, he runs without growing weary.

Putter or Put-er:  Are you one or the other, neither, or both?

More Than A Smudge

fingerprint_scanThey do more than just give birth to dirty little smudges.  Your fingerprints are unique to you, and they are the means by which you are identified.  With the advance of technology, fingerprints are now being used as replacements for computer passwords and to unlock gadgets such as your smart phone.

The Office of Personnel Management has reported that in a recent cyber-attack, 5.6 million people’s fingerprints were stolen.  The Washington Post reported on the significance of this data theft:  “Breaches involving biometric data like fingerprints are particularly concerning to privacy experts because of their permanence: Unlike passwords and even Social Security numbers, fingerprints cannot be changed. So those affected by this breach may find themselves grappling with the fallout for years.”

Just as your fingerprints can’t be changed, neither can your spiritual identity once you join the family of God.  Have you ever given much thought about who you are in Jesus?

  • Ephesians 1:4: He has chosen you in Him and you are without blame before Him in love.
  • Ephesians 1:7: In Him you have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.
  • Ephesians 1:11: You have an inheritance in Him.
  • Ephesians 3:12: You have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.
  • Colossians 2:7: You are rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith.
  • Colossians 2:10: You are complete in Him.

The words of the Psalmist are a fitting conclusion to this discussion:  “You are blessed because you have put your trust in Him (2:12).”

A Nutty Disregard for Life

WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 11: Stewart Parnell, owner and president of the Peanut Corporation of America, is sworn in before during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Capitol Hill February 11, 2009 in Washington, DC. The committee is hearing testimony on recent salmonella outbreaks associated with peanut butter manufactured by the Peanut Corporation of America. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The verdict is in and Stewart Parnell, former chief executive of Peanut Corporation of America, has been found guilty.   Parnell has been sentenced to a 28-year prison term for knowingly selling peanut products contaminated with salmonella.  After eating some of the fouled food over 700 people became sick and at least 9 people died.

If you contrast Parnell to, George Washington Carver, the pioneer of peanuts, you see a stark contrast.  On one hand you have Carver who was a humble and brilliant man whose fame was closely connected to his peanut-related discoveries.  On the other hand is Parnell who was bankrupt of ethics, and his myopic goal for more wealth, robbed his customers of their health.

carverCarver found over 100 ways the peanut could be used for human consumption; however, this unassuming man only filed three patents on the products he’d developed. When asked why, Carver explained: “I never patent my products because, it would take so much time I would get nothing else done. But mainly I don’t want any discoveries to benefit specific favored persons. I think they should be available to all peoples.” Carter also said: “Someday I will have to leave this world. And when that day comes, I want to feel that my life has been of some service to my fellow man.”

I can’t help but think of Parnell within the context of The Lord of the Rings, and the unsightly character called Gollum.   This Hobbit had been warped by his overpowering desire to possess the ring.  In the end, this desire possessed him, and Gollum became symbolic of the corrupting influence of power without limits.Young_smeagol

When I think of Parnell and Carver, I’m reminded of a couple of statements by Paul:

  • “For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me (2 Timothy 4:10).”
  • “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have (Hebrews 13:5).”

If Parnell had considered the biblical principles above, his life may have been more like Carvers’ and less like Gollums’.

Coming to America or Becoming an American

head-heart-hands-conceptThis is one of those moments in history that we need to make sure we are thinking with our heads and not our hearts.  When I see the images of suffering refugees and dying children my heart says do something; however, my head says be cautious because of comments made by, Michael McCaul, the Chairmen of Homeland Security:

“We’re a compassionate nation and this is a tragic situation but I also have to be concerned as Chairman of Homeland Security about the safety of Americans in this country and the concern that I have and that the FBI testified to is that we don’t really have the proper databases on these individuals to vet them passed and to assure we’re not allowing terrorists to come into this country and until I have that assurance, I cannot support a program that could potentially bring jihadists into the United States,” Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Michael McCaul said in an interview with Fox News Monday. “We don’t know who these people are and I think that’s the bottom line here and until we know who they are, we cannot responsibly bring them into the United States . . . Both the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have told me privately that they don’t support bringing in Syrian refugees because of the threat they pose to Americans.”

clintonIn the name of immigration, Hillary Clinton says we should open the doors of American to another 65,000 refugees from Syria.  The real question of concern is this:  Does coming to America mean becoming an American?

When America was the melting pot of the world, immigrants aspired to  learning our language, embracing our principles, and blending in with our culture.  Immigration has been redefined.

When refugees come to America today, too many of them never learn our language or blend into our culture.  Their desire is to be a hyphenated-pocket-American.  In the case of the Syrian refugees, many of them will want to remain distinctly Syrian and may well move to a community that is already calling for the establishment of Sharia Law. This is not the form of immigration that was practiced in the early years of our nations history.

I’m not some xenophobic nut, and I know these comments may be politically incorrect; however, before you call my concerns unfounded, I suggest you read the information below:

  • We need to consider the actions of countries that are experienced in dealing with refugees from Islamic nations:
  • The response of Hungary’s President, Victor Orban: 
  • American laws for American courts:

Call me stupid, but I think coming to American should mean becoming an American.

Faith, Fractures, and Football

romodow1.0As the camera focused on the face of Jerry Jones, the agony of the Cowboys owner was only exceeded by the pain of his quarterback.  Tony Romo had just been sacked, and the force of the tackle had broken his clavicle.

While I watched Romo walk off the field, I wondered about the severity of the break.  I also thought of a phrase in the New Testament where Paul instructed Titus to “set in order the things that are lacking.”

This phrase describes the need of Romo.  “Set in order” is the Greek word epidiorthoo, and it is a construction of three words:

  • Epi which means upon.
  • Dia which means through.
  • Orthos is the main part of this word, and it means to straighten or make correct.

Orthos is the prefix of words like:

  • Orthodontist who is focused on the correct alignment of teeth
  • Orthopedist who is concerned with a straight skeleton
  • Orthodoxy which is associated with the correct teaching of the faith or of theology

In Romo’s case, the doctors will make sure the clavicle is aligned and straightened, so it will mend properly.   Romo will also need to give the injury time to heal.

Some people invest more time caring for their physical needs than they do their spiritual fitness.  This mindset can lead to a fractured faith.  To prevent this from occurring, the book of Hebrews says you should “strengthen your tired arms and your weak knees, and straighten the paths of your life, so that your lameness may not become worse, but instead may be healed. Pursue peace with everyone, as well as holiness, without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:12-14).”

If you fail to do this, you may be sidelined along with the Cowboys quarterback.

The Good Samaritan: Pay Day Some Day

Good SamaritanWhile I was doing a little reading last night, I found my way to Proverbs 19:17: “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lordand he will repay him for his deed (ESV).”  The Message provides this rendering of that verse:  “Mercy to the needy is a loan to God,and God pays back those loans in full.”

After reading this verse, a couple of questions came to my mind:

  • If God repays those who are generous to the poor, how does he reward those who are miserly?
  • Is this verse to be interpreted in just a physical sense or is their also a spiritual significance as in the poverty of the nonbeliever?

My musing led me to think about how this verse could be applied to the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.  In this story a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho was robbed and left badly beaten.  This man was seen by three different individuals:

  • The thieves saw him and said:  “What’s yours is ours, so we’ll just take it.”
  • The priest saw him and said:  “What’s mine is mine, and I won’t share it.”
  • The Samaritan said:  “What’s mine is God’s, so I’ll bless you with it.”

Which of these three individuals embraced the principle of Proverbs 19:17? Which one of the them showed mercy, exhibited kindness, and manifested generosity?  How do you respond when you see someone in need?

Whoever is kind to the poor is lending to the Lord
    the benefit of his gift will return to him in abundance.

Proverbs 19:17 (ISV).