Fighting The Good Fight

rockyOne of the true facts of life is that it is rarely a cake walk and it often serves up a big slice of tough times.  Regardless of the path you choose to follow or the dream you will pursue, you may have to scrap a little along the way.

When the odds seem to be stacked against you, you might want to heed the words of Sylvester Stallone’s alter ego, Rocky Balboa and take it, “One step. One punch. One round at a time.”

Even though I never liked the politics of Muhammad Ali, I admired his prowess as a boxer.  The champ once said that, “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”

Ali was known more for his ability to bob and weave than he was for a knockout punch, and his rope-a-dope antics frustrated his opponents as well as his fans.  There were few, however, who questioned his dedicated preparation for a fight and his desire to win.

Just as a boxer trains hard, studies his opponent, and then steps into the ring with faith in his skill set, the Christian needs to:

  • Endure hardness as a good soldier (2 Timothy 2:3)
  • Keep a cool head. Stay alert because the Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up (I Peter 5:8, The Message).
  • Fight the good fight, finish your course, and keep the faith 2 Tim 4:7-8
  • Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:10-11).

The myth of Rocky Balboa was his ability to reach inside and find the inner strength to beat the unbeatable foe—he willed himself to win.

When you have to face a battle, remember the words of Psalm 144:1:  “Blessed be the Lord, my rock, He trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.

God will do more than just train you, He will sustain you: “The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes (Deuteronomy 1:30).”

Note: One of my favorite theme songs is in this clip of  Rocky training with Apollo Creed https://youtu.be/TnqZl_blT7E

Thanksgiving: Thanks to a Special Person

When I posted  this call to  lift our law  enforcement officers  up in prayer, I had no idea that another tragedy would so quickly happen.  I was saddened by the death of  Police  Officer  Garrett Swasey, of the  Colorado  Springs  Police  Department, Colorado who died in the line of duty yesterday.  Please pray for his family, his fellow officers, and the those who were held hostage.

SwaseyToday is Thanksgiving, so I want to say thanks to a special person:  “Hey LEO, I’m thankful for you.”

I realize you might be asking:  “LEO? LEO who?”

Well, it’s not my Uncle Leo.  That fun loving, nephew-teasing, do-whatever-I-can-do-to-help-you fireman, left this world for a better place in 1990. While I am thankful for Uncle Leo, I want to go public, and say, “I’m thankful for a group of people called LEO.”

The character of our Law Enforcement Officers is under attack. This assault is Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc.  It’s poor logic that makes the mistake of claiming that one thing caused another just because it happened first.

Just because a rooster crows and then the sun rises, doesn’t mean that the sun rises because a rooster crows.  Too many people are making the same logical assumption.  Because one white LEO shoots a black person, does not mean that all white Law Enforcement Officers will shoot all black people.

Are there some bad apples in their ranks?  Most definitely, but the rogue are few in number.  Many of these men and women are college educated individuals who are punched, kicked, spat on, and cussed out as a part of their daily routine.  They go to work dressed in bullet proof vests, because they are willing to risk their lives to protect yours.

Are you aware that during the past 10 years, a total of 1,466 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty?  This is an average of one death every 60 hours or 146 per year. In 2014, there were 117 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.  During this same time period, there have been 58,930 assaults against law enforcement officers each year, resulting in 15,404 injuries.

Yes, I’m thankful for LEO:

  • I’m thankful for the more than 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers now serving in the United States.
  • I’m thankful for each one of the 20,538 individuals who made the ultimate sacrifice to serve and to protect, and whose names are engraved on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
  • I’m thankful that while I’m at home in the warmth of my house and feasting on a plate of food, that LEO is at work. Whether it is in Chicago, NYC, Wichita, or El Dorado, I’m thankful for you.

If you’re thankful for LEO, “I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.  Such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Savior.”                                                                                                                                       ~2 Timothy 2:1-3

Thanksgiving: Caring, Daring, and Sharing

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, my wife and I have been busy preparing for the occasion.    I am an eager goer because I know my going provides my wife with the ingredients she needs to be the skillful “doer” in the kitchen.  She prepares the list and I go for turkey, ham, yams, apples, or whatever she needs to make one of her delicious meals.

I also think about goers and doers in the context of our Forefathers and their many sacrifices.  Daniel Webster commended the sacrifices of these faith-filled and hardy Pilgrims when he said: Our fathers were brought here by their high veneration for the Christian religion. They journeyed by its light, and labored in its hope. They sought to incorporate its principles with the elements of their society, and to diffuse its influence through all their institutions, civil, political, or literary.

Webster’s words are the “secret sauce” that Kirk Cameron wished for when he began a project that focused on the Forefathers Monument. The sacrifices of these hardy souls is memorialized in this monument that stands an imposing 86 feet high and weighs 180 tons.

Lady Faith is at the center of the monument, and she is seen with her right hand lifted towards heaven as her left hand holds the Bible of the Pilgrims, the Geneva Bible.  

Standing 36 feet tall, Lady faith reminds us of the perseverance of our Forefathers.  Their faith was the source of their strength as they struggled to realize the liberties and freedoms they envisioned; it sustained them and guided through times of heartaches and trials.

Daniel Webster also reminded people of the need to, develop the resources of our land, call forth our powers, build up its institutions, promote all its great interests, and see whether we also, in our day and generation, may not perform something worthy to be remembered.

When Webster spoke of his day and his generation, I think he was comparing it to what the Forefathers had done.  Webster knew that if he and his generation were going to doing something worthy to be remembered, their lives had to be more than a selfish existence.

Isn’t this the message of Thanksgiving:  Sacrifice, remembering and giving thanks?  The Pilgrims were not content to just live; they wanted religious freedom for both themselves and future generations. They cared for others and dared for others, so they could also share with others.

…For this I give thanks.

Thanksgiving: A slice of Americana

macySince it began in 1924, Macy’s gift to New York City has become a time-honored tradition.  Macy’s miracle of 34th street is a festive celebration that runs for 2 ½ miles.  Some 3.5 million people will line the parade route to watch this amazing display of giant balloons and unique floats, and another 50 million will watch it at home.

For many people, this is the image they have of Thanksgiving, and it is what they think of as the start of the holiday season.  My thoughts are a bit different.

While I do think of the Pilgrims, the inaugural feast with the Indians and the giving of thanks.  This year, I find myself thinking of January 6, 1923, the year before Macy’s began their parade.

A record of the event was recorded in the pages of Eureka’s newspaper, The Democratic Messenger on January 11, 1923:  Harold Seymour, age 17 and Berta Hughes, age 18 were married by Probate Judge S.L. Chase in Reece, Kansas.

Harold and Berta would move a little east and a little north to Sallyards, a town that is now barren foundations, railroad tracks, cattle, and the Kansas wind blowing across the Flint Hills and through the Bluestem grass.

The white house where Harold and Berta lived is my slice of Americana.  My first memories of Thanksgiving are framed inside this house.  I can still smell Grandma’s cherry pie and chicken and noodles.  I can still see that big smile that lined the wrinkled face of Grandpa Seymour.

Even though I’ve forgotten the name of the songs, the vivid memory of Grandma sitting at the piano is fresh in my mind.  As she played, the family sang, and the clearest voice was Dad’s—a voice that was silenced by an untimely death 50 years ago.

Even though my grandparents, parents, and all but one uncle and one aunt are gone, I still have my slice of Americana.  Every time I pour myself a cup of coffee and eat a slice of cherry pie or dig into a heaping helping of chicken and noodles, I remember what I can’t forget, and I give thanks.

What are some of your memories and your slice of Americana?

The Year of the Naked Christmas

xmasI’m growing weary of the societal onslaught designed to strip Christmas of its dignity and clothe it in the seams of secularization.   One of the latest examples is the action of the “Executive Leadership Team” at the Salem VA Medical Center.  These mindless minions have banned Christmas trees, Christmas celebrations, and Christian speech, including the traditional Season’s Greeting of “Merry Christmas.”

Should the traditional Season’s Greeting be restricted to the “Ho, Ho, Ho,” of Santa Claus or should two letters be added to “Ho” and the greeting be: “Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” as we celebrate the gift of God’s Son?

Is Christmas to be the inflated plastic toys that line the shelves of stores like Home Depot who want your money, but deny the message of Christmas?  Is it to be a way for stores to profit while they reject The Prophet who is The Way, The Truth, and The Life (John 14:6)?

I realize that Thanksgiving is this week and Christmas is still a month away, but I’ve come to loathe the commercialization of Christmas.  When we forget the rich Christian history of this holy day, it becomes a remnant of empty boxes and crumpled wrapping paper.

The hope-filled Spirit of Christmas has transformed lives throughout the history of mankind.  One such incident is the World War I story involving Charles Brewer, a 19-year-old British lieutenant.

On Christmas Eve of 1914, Brewer and other soldiers of the Bedfordshire Regiment of the 2nd Battalion were shivering in a trench when they faintly heard the sound of singing coming from the trenches of the German soldiers.  After a moment, Brewer recognized the song was the familiar Christmas carol, “Silent Night.”  When the Germans were finished singing “Stille Nacht,” Brewer and other soldiers began to cheer, and they sang the English version of the song.

According to history.com, “When dawn broke on Christmas morning, something even more remarkable happened. In sporadic pockets along the 500-mile Western Front, unarmed German and Allied soldiers tentatively emerged from the trenches and cautiously crossed no-man’s-land—the killing fields between the trenches littered with frozen corpses, eviscerated trees and deep craters—to wish each other a Merry Christmas. Political leaders had ignored the call of Pope Benedict XV to cease fighting around Christmas, but soldiers in the trenches decided to stage their own unofficial, spontaneous armistices anyway.”

I think it’s time for the government to end this sterilization program and let our Veterans have their Christmas trees and its time merchants  begin  focusing less on the jingle bells of their cash registers and more on the message of Silent Night.

Dude, I Got A Dud

crowdfundingA parody by Stephen Colbert reminded me of a project that projected great benefits to potential investors.  On a recent show, Colbert mocked the Vessyl smart cup. The designers of the cup claim that it can distinguish between a cappuccino or a black coffee with the added benefit of tracking your caloric intake and how much sugar and caffeine you are ingesting.

This full-of-potential-cup has hit the market half empty of promise:  It only tracks how much water you are drinking and sells for $99.

This hoopla and hype reminds me of a crowd funding project that cost me somewhere around a $100 to get 3 or 4 tracking devices.   It sounded like an inexpensive way to track an expensive or important item.  After syncing the device to a smartphone, you attach it to whatever you want to track and then monitor the location on the screen of your phone.

Since Hank, my dog, is a prized companion, I attached a chip to his collar and said, “Alright,” which Hank interprets as, and “I’m free to run.”   I watched the blip on my phone for about 10 seconds and then it disappeared.

After I whistled Hank in, I contacted the company.  I was informed that the device was for finding things like a lost set of car keys in your house, and could only track items within a short distance—10 to 15 feet not a block or two.

Projects like these offer the hope of riches, wealth, and an easier way of life, but they can be empty promises.  When I read the story about the Vessyl, it reminded me of the wise words of Solomon:

  • A greedy person is in a hurry to get rich, but he is ignorant of the loss that is about to overtake him. Proverbs 28:22
  • One man pretends to be rich but has nothing; another pretends to be poor but has great wealth. Proverbs 13:7

The safest investment you will ever make is not going to found on Wall Street or in in a crowd funding project, it will always be Jesus:

“I assure you,” Jesus said, “there is no one who has left house, brothers or sisters, mother or father, children, or fields because of Me and the gospel,  who will not receive 100 times more, now at this time—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and eternal life in the age to come.  But many who are first will be last, and the last first (Mark 10:29-31).”

Have You Met The New You?

newuI have never found evidence of the long-sought after fountain of youth, but I do know that Paul wrote to the Ephesians about renewal:

If you have heard Jesus and have been taught by Him according to the truth that is in Him,  then you know to take off your former way of life, your crumpled old self—that dark blot of a soul corrupted by deceitful desire and lust— to take a fresh breath and to let God renew your attitude and spirit.  Then you are ready to put on your new self, modeled after the very likeness of God: truthful, righteous, and holy.                  ~Ephesians 2:21-24

Paul says you have the opportunity to get rid of the old, step into a new life, and take a fresh breath of life.  Spiritual renewal shapes you into the “likeness of God,” and you begin to realize that you are:

You’re not a crumpled model of this old world; you’ve been freshly fashioned in the likeness of Jesus, and this is why you:

Forget your former way of life, “that dark blot of a soul corrupted by deceitful desire and lust.”  Embrace the new you.  It’s time to “take a fresh breath and to let God renew your attitude and spirit.”

Loving God Because . . .

becauseIt was the insufficient, one word answer that I used as a kid to explain why I had done something:  “Because.”  It never made a bad situation any better, and in exasperation, Mom would say, “Because!  Because?  Because why!?

It may be “because” is in the 116th Psalm that its one of my favorites.  This Psalm begins with a four word statement:  “I love the Lord.”  Then “because” is the fifth word, and it states the condition or reason that the Lord is worthy of love.

I love the Lord because:”

  • He has heard my appeal for mercy (1)
  • He has turned His ear to me (2)
  • He is gracious and righteous and compassionate (5)
  • He guards the inexperienced and saves the helpless (6)
  • He is present in times of sorrows and trials (8)

When you get to verse 15 of the Psalm, you find one of the most tender verses in the Bible: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”  What I’m about to say is poor English; however, it emphasizes the truth of this verse:  “He be the cause of our hope in the time of death.”  Its because you’re so precious in the eyes of God, that He gave His Son to die for you, to provide salvation for you, and to make a place for you in heaven.

After reflecting on the goodness of God, and why he loves the Lord, the writer says. “I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving.”  May God be the cause that motivates you to say, “I love the Lord,” and to give thanks for His goodness.

Full of Grace and Truth

grace-and-truthThe message of the New Testament is to speak the truth in love, and not to use it to beat someone into submission.  When John wrote about Jesus, he described the Lord as being full of grace and truth.  Think about that for a moment and reflect on the manner of ministry embraced by Jesus.  What did Jesus do when He met the town prostitute at the city well?  Did he berate her with a long lengthy sermon?  No, He lovingly shared the truth with her and poured out His grace upon her.

What was the result of His one and one encounter with this sinful woman and the Savior of the World?  She drank from the cup of salvation and shared the water of life with those she knew, and revival broke out in her village.

Throughout the pages of John’s Gospel we see this same pattern repeated time and again.  The faces are different, the names are not the same, but the manner of ministry was always full of grace and truth.

When Paul wrote to the believers at Galatia, he said: If a person gets trapped by wrongdoing, those of you who are spiritual should help that person turn away from doing wrong. Do it in a gentle way. At the same time watch yourself so that you also are not tempted (Galatians 6).

What has always intrigued me about the verse above, is the phrase, those of you who are spiritual.  If we fail to embrace this manner of ministry, are we failing in our spiritual life?

There have been several times in my life that people have told me that I am full of things that I’d rather not discuss.  My hope is that when people observe my manner of ministry they see it as full and grace and truth.

Blending In or Standing Out

01hunter-girl-buck-wear-realtree-pink-shirt-3I’m not sure how they have been success in doing it, but many retailers have convinced the consumer to pay high dollar$ to purchase their goods and then become a walking billboard advertising their wares.  The clothing  companies are a good example:

  • Under Armour: Earn Your Armour
  • Nike: Just Do it
  • Reebok: Because Life Is Not A Spectator Sport

On a recent trip, I noticed the many different messages emblazoned on the clothing of people as they walked past me: I noticed their behavior as well.

When I thought of the contrast between their messages and they were actions, I was reminded that Jesus said we are known by the fruit we bear.  He also said: “Let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).”

Some of these walking billboards were advertising their faith.  Sadly, many of them were in violation of the truth in advertising laws.  Their shirts made bold statements declaring their allegiance to Christ; however, their words compromised the integrity of the message.

The incongruity between their walk and their talk, reminds me of James homily on the tongue:

It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.

This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!

My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you? ~James 3

One of the reasons people are so conflicted today is they’re more concerned with their reputation than they’re their character.  You may coast through life with a good reputation; however, character flaws made of sand eventually crumble like a weak foundation in a massive earthquake.