March Madness

By Dr. Mark Denison — It all began 76 years ago. We call it March Madness. I’m talking, of course, of the NCAA basketball championship. Back in 1939 only eight teams were invited to the “Big Dance.” In the final game, Oregon beat Ohio State, 46-33, to become the first national champion. Since that meager beginning, the tournament grew from eight teams to 16 in 1951. The number of teams would later expand to 22, 32, 40, 48, 52, and 64. In 2011 the pool was expanded to its current number of 68 teams. Exactly 20 percent of the 340 Division I teams get in. UCLA has won 11 titles, more than anyone else. My Alma Mater, Houston Baptist University, is just 11 behind them, but gaining fast.

March Madness has become the most gambled upon event in America. Millions fill out their brackets every year, and billions of dollars are on the line. Last year, Warren Buffet offered $1 billion to anyone who picked a perfect bracket. No one won, not even my wife. But that is no surprise when you consider the odds against picking a perfect bracket. One source claims the chances of picking every game are one in nine quintillion. Dr. Jay Burgen, math professor at DePaul, says the odds are one in 128 billion. Dr. Jonathan Mattingly, of Duke, says the odds are one in 2.4 trillion. Mr. Buffet’s money appears safe. Let’s put this in perspective. You have a chance to fill out a perfect bracket, picking all the right teams. But you are ten million times more likely to win an Academy Award. You are more likely to be struck by lightning, killed by a shark, or crushed by a falling vending machine. You are more likely to become a movie star, be killed by a falling coconut, become President, or get hit on the head by a meteorite while competing on Dancing with the Stars. In other words, the odds aren’t very good.

Try this for long odds. The Old Testament is full of prophecies of the coming Messiah: where he’d be born, how he’d be born, the condition of the world when he would be born, how he would die, how much money his betrayer would make off the betrayal, etc. What are the chances of a man fulfilling 60 of these prophecies? That would be 1/10 to the 64th power. You would have a better chance of picking a certain coin out of a pile two feet deep, the size of Texas. But Jesus did it. That is beyond dispute. So you have a choice. You can pick the brackets and play life’s lottery. Or you can bet it all on the only man who has already beaten the odds. Because of what he’s done, the odds are turned in your favor. You can’t lose.

10 Facts You Might Not Know About St. Patrick’s Day

by Niall Cinneide — The tradition of St. Patrick’s Day began hundreds of years ago when a boy in Roman England was captured and taken to Ireland as a captive where he found God. It is said that St. Patrick could hear from the angels, and that he had raised people from the dead. He was a very active missionary throughout Ireland for 30 years, and that is why he is called the patron saint of Ireland. There have been many legends attached to this saint, and they have lasted throughout the centuries. This holiday began as a Holy Day in the Catholic Church, but over the years this religious Catholic saint’s day has turned into a more secular celebration of the upcoming new spring. Here are a few facts for St. Patrick’s Day: – March 17th, the day of celebration, is the day of Patrick’s death. – St. Patrick, the patron saint of the Irish, was not from Ireland. – Patrick was an old time missionary in Ireland during the 4th century. – He brought many people to conversion and into the Christian religion. – The Shamrock, symbol of St. Patrick’s Day, was a plant with three leaves that Patrick used to demonstrate to the pagans the trinity of God – Father, Son and Holy Ghost. – Maewyn is the name St. Patrick was born with. His name was changed by the Bishop in a monastery in France, after he escaped his captivity. He was not religious at all when he was a child. – The first St. Paddy’s day parade in America was in 1737, 40 years before the Revolutionary War. – The first day of spring is March 21st and this could be the reason St. Patrick’s Day celebrations have caught on so big. – Everyone turns Irish for a day – just wear green, the sign of life. – Irish dishes include Corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew, Irish cream pie, Irish soda bread, scones, Irish cheese bread, and all of these would be a good choice on St. Patrick’s Day. There are many traditions and legends that have been passed down through the generations, so even the barest of facts have gotten confused. It is not even certain exactly when Patrick was born, the actual date varies about 30 years in early 300 AD but the day of his death is certain, March 17, and that is the important day. So whether you are celebrating the life of a glorified Catholic saint or the oncoming spring and all the new growth and new life possibilities that a new life can encompass, it really doesn’t matter. Wear something Green, grab a green hat, give someone a shamrock and join in the parade. Good luck and Blessings are meant for all! About the Author: Niall Cinneide loves to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. He publishes news, views and information about St Patricks Day at St Patricks Information. All rights reserved. Copyright Source: Permanent Link:

How Good Were They?

Classic Zig Ziglar– Most of us make the comment, “Things are not what they used to be — oh, for those “good ol’ days”! Question: How far do we want to go back? Quotable Business author Louis E. Boone lists “Eight Rules for Office Workers in 1872”: Office employees each day will fill lamps, clean chimneys, and trim wicks. Wash windows once a week. Each clerk will bring in a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day’s business. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to your individual taste. Men employees will be given an evening off each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go regularly to church. After 13 hours of labor in the office, the employee should spend remaining time reading the Bible and other good books. Every employee should lay aside from each payday a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society. Any employee who smokes Spanish cigars, uses liquor in any form, or frequents pool and public halls or gets shaved in a barber shop, will give good reason to suspect his worth, intentions, integrity, and honesty. The employee who has performed his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of five cents per day in his pay, providing profits from business permit it. Appreciate the good things we have today and we will have something to smile about. To find out more about Zig Ziglar and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2015 CREATORS.COM

Friday the 13th…Should I Be Worried?

By Dr. Mark Denison — It happens every 212 days, on average. It happened last month, it will happen in November, and it is happening right now. I’m speaking of Black Friday, or simply stated, Friday the 13th. My dad was born on a Friday the 13th. The date was June 13, 1924, one day after George H.W. Bush was born. My dad missed being President by one day. Indeed, Friday the 13th is considered the unluckiest day of the year in Western superstition. It occurs when the 13th day of the month in the Gregorian calendar falls on a Friday. The fear is real. The fear of the number 13 is known as triskaidekaphobia. The fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, from the Greek words paraskevi (meaning “Friday”) and dekatreis (meaning “thirteen”).

So what is the origin of this fearful Friday? There are four views. The legend of the Middle Ages traced it to Jesus’ last supper, as there were 13 gathered in the Upper Room on the Friday before his death. (Never mind this happened on a Thursday.) A second view traces the roots of Black Friday to the 19th century. In 1869 Henry Sutherland Edwards wrote the biography of Gioachino Rossini, who died on a Friday the 13th. It seems Rossini was surrounded by friends as he died on what would be the unluckiest of days. Then there is the theory that is rooted in the 1907 novel, Friday the 13th, written by Thomas W. Lawson. In the novel, an unscrupulous broker created a Wall Street panic on a Friday the 13th. Fourth, we have the urban legend connecting the superstition with the date of Friday, October 13, 1307, when hundreds of knights of the Knights Templar were arrested by King Philip IV. Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code furthered this legend.

Today, people travel less on Friday the 13th, they call in sick more, and they take fewer risks. A study in the British Medical Journal, published in 1993, concluded that there “is a significant level of traffic-related incidents on a Friday the 13th.” According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Ashville, North Carolina, an estimated 17 to 21 million people are affected by a fear of this day. They estimate that America loses $800 million in business that day. So, the legend lives on. Other cultures have their own versions of Friday the 13th. For the Spaniards, Tuesday the 13th (martes trece) is considered a day of bad luck. In Italy, the big day falls on Friday the 17th.

For those of you willing to crawl out from under the covers and turn on your computer, we have hope. Paul, pulling no punches, said, “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather, train yourself for godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7 ESV). There are other translations. “Refuse and avoid irreverent legends” (Amplified). “Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales” (NLT). “But steer clear of all these stupid godless fictions” (Phillips). The word in the Greek is mythos, meaning “myth.”

Black Friday is a myth. But it doesn’t stand alone. Perhaps you have swallowed some of the following myths. Chewing gum stays in your stomach for seven years. Carrots improve your vision. Touching a toad will give you warts. If you swim right after eating you will die (my mom’s favorite). Chocolate causes acne. The Cowboys will face the Texans in the next Super Bowl. And here’s my mom’s other favorite: if you sit too close to the TV you will go blind. What is a Christian response to these myths? We have three options. We can go along with them. Read your horoscope. Avoid black cats and open ladders. Second, we can laugh along with true believers. What does it hurt, anyway? What harm is there in wishing upon a star while you watch UFOs fly overhead? Laugh along with the crowd. Third, we can obey Scripture. Here’s the crux of Paul’s instructions to young Timothy. “Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, spend your time and energy on training yourself for spiritual fitness” (NLT).

So go ahead. Come out from under the covers. Friday the 13th is a lucky day because it is “the day the Lord has made.” So let’s rejoice and be glad in it. Today is what you decide to make it. You have 24 hours that you will never get back. Don’t waste one of your precious 1,440 minutes in fear. Faith beats fear every time, so choose faith. Turn your day over to God. It only takes a second. And then you will still have 86,399 seconds to spare. This day was made for you. So get out of bed. Kick the devil in the teeth. Storm hell with a water pistol. This is a day you will never get back. So make it count.

Fireside Chats

By Dr. Mark Denison — Eighty-two years ago today, President Franklin Roosevelt addressed the nation with his first of thirty “fireside chats.” The date was March 12, 1933, just eight days after FDR’s inauguration. The nation was in the depths of depression, with unemployment at its highest mark ever, 25.2 percent. Adolf Hitler was rising to power as Chancellor of Germany. America was in the midst of a national banking crisis. War was not far away. So what was this polio-stricken President’s message to the 60 percent of Americans blessed to own a radio (average cost: $52)? His message was simple: “Don’t worry. Be happy!”

Roosevelt encouraged Americans to keep their money in the bank. He would offer 29 more fireside chats over the next twelve years, on everything from The New Deal and the Works Relief program to the European War and the Declaration of War on Japan. His theme remained constant: “Don’t worry. We will be okay.”

1933 was an interesting year. It gave us the invention of Monopoly and the chocolate chip cookie. It marked the birth of Joan Collins, Willie Nelson, and Jayne Mansfield, along with the 50th birthday of Larry King. A house cost $5,700, gas was a dime, and yearly wages struggled along at $1,550. America was in crisis. But thanks to the radio, all would be okay. Roosevelt’s cheery voice and optimistic message calmed the country. “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” he would say, in our darkest hour.

James MacGregor Burns, Roosevelt’s biographer, said the President’s first fireside chat actually came as Governor of New York in 1929. He appealed to listeners to pressure legislators to pass his agenda. Carrying this practice to the White House, he did not call his talks “fireside chats.” He had no name for it. Harry C. Butcher, of CBS, coined the term, and the entire media soon adopted it as an official descriptor for Roosevelt’s talks, which came about two or three times per year.

What made the fireside chat so effective? It is simple. John Maxwell says, “You impress people from a distance, but you influence them up close.” When I think about great men and women in history, I think of presidents, inventors, and world leaders. But when I think of people who have made the most impact on my life, I think of teachers, pastors, and friends. And when I think of the one person who has influenced me more than anyone else, I think of a carpenter. He didn’t say to his followers, “Come, watch me.” He didn’t say, “Come, listen to me preach.” On day one, “they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent the day with him” (John 1:39).  Jesus spent far more time giving “fireside chats” to the twelve than he did preaching sermons to the masses. His church building was a hillside, his congregation a band of misfits. He had no pulpit, passed no offering plates, and never formed a committee. What he did was deliver “fireside chats” that his closest friend said the rest of us will never hear (John 21:25). Draw near to Jesus so you can hear his “chats.” And then decide how you want your life to count. Impact or influence? Do what President Roosevelt did. Do what Jesus did. While the church is preaching big sermons behind big pulpits in big buildings, your neighbor is waiting for someone to sit down next to him and just chat.