Suspected Burglar Dies After Getting Stuck in Chimney

That title comes from the Associated Press. Here’s what happened. A man attempted to enter a California home through the chimney Saturday, but got stuck. When the homeowner lit a fire, the man began to scream, but the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office confirms they were unable to save him before he succumbed to the effects of fire and smoke. Apparently, the intruder crawled down the chimney late the night before and got stuck.

The homeowner tried to extinguish the flames, but couldn’t do it in time to save the man’s life. Firefighters had to dismantle the chimney to get the man out, but by then it was too late. But I love the title provided by AP. The man stuck in the chimney was only a “suspected” burglar. I guess that means it could have been an accident. Perhaps he was sleep walking when he fell down the chimney. Or he thought he was Santa Clause. Or he was a chimney cleaner. There could be any number of explanations for why the man was in the chimney of another man’s house. We don’t know he was a burglar, but we can certainly “suspect” it.

From this we learn two lessons. First, sin comes with a price. You get to pick your sin, but not your consequences. Sin never seeks to merely tease us; it is not content until we are stuck. You don’t bounce off a life of sin, you enter it. Sin will take you further than you want to go and keep you longer than you want to stay. Sin has a price.

Second, we tend to want what we shouldn’t have, but not want it once we have it. Remember a guy named David? He wanted Bathsheba, but it cost him his son’s life. He wanted her until he had her. Addiction is like that. It always satisfies, but not for very long.

In a few weeks, a portly old soul will be making his way down chimneys everywhere. If you’ve been good this year, leave the light on for him, not the fireplace. If you’ve been bad this year, it won’t matter. He isn’t coming to your house anyway. The Bible says to not covet your neighbor’s house. Stay out of his chimney. What you think you want isn’t worth it. You can go where you shouldn’t be, but when you think you can just move on, you will get stuck. And it will cost you more than you want to pay.

 

Black Friday

Today marks the official launch of Christmas shopping, 2015. The name, “Black Friday,” originated in Philadelphia, where it was originally used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic that would occur on the day after Thanksgiving. Use of the term began in 1960 and began to see broader use outside Philadelphia around 1975. Later an alternative explanation was given: that retailers traditionally operated in the “red” from January through November, and “Black Friday” marks the day they begin to turn a profit, or to be “in the black.”

For years, it was common for retailers to open at 6:00 a.m., but now many open at 5:00 or even 4:00. A few stores open at midnight. There have been reports of violence occurring between shoppers on Black Friday. Since 2006, there have been seven confirmed deaths and 98 injuries caused by shoppers tromping over each other in a race for particular sales items. Some shoppers camp outside the stores in an effort to be the first in when the doors open.

In 2014 spending on Black Friday fell for the first time since the 2008 recession, down 11 percent from 2013. Still, over the four-day Black Friday weekend, Americans spent an amazing $50.9 billion. I did the math. That comes to about $150 for every man, woman, and child in America. From this, I offer four observations.

1. Where your treasure is, your heart will be also. An incredible 139 million Americans will shop today, accounting for 44 percent of our population. By comparison, on a good weekend, 45 million attend a church or synagogue. More people shop on Black Friday than watch the Super Bowl (114 million viewers this year). More people shop on Black Friday than attend church all year, run a mile in a year, or travel 100 miles on an annual vacation. Have you ever been to Disney World, the most crowded park on earth? With 47,000 visitors a day, it takes eight years for Disney World’s daily crowds to add up to one Black Friday shopping crowd. Said another way, if all the shoppers on Black Friday wanted to visit Disney World, it would take nearly 3,000 days to get them all in.

2. Retailers set the rules. There was a day when no one shopped on Sundays because stores were closed, in honor of the Sabbath, or day of rest. Now, a certain chicken establishment still honors this tradition, reaping great benefits as a result. But when one store began to open on Sundays, others soon followed. When one store opened early on Black Friday, others followed. When Walmart began Black Fridays on Thursday nights at 8:00, many workers walked. Today, many stores do the same thing. And because shoppers are sheep, the retailers set the rules.

3. We have lost our spiritual compass. Christmas shopping has been replaced with “Black Friday,” the Christmas tree has been replaced with the “holiday tree,” and “Merry Christmas” has been replaced with “Happy Holidays.” I would argue that these changes are not the problem, but the symptom. We are not in trouble because of the secularization of Christmas; the secularization of Christmas happened because we were already in trouble.

4. We as believers have a role to play. The solution is not to boycott Black Friday or picket Starbucks for discontinuing their Christmas cups. The solution is to exhibit a better way. Many churches provide amazing Christmas programs to which we can invite our friends and neighbors. That is a good start. But a better finish is to live our lives in a way that portrays the character of the Christ of Christmas. Living the life of Christ and sharing his love will make a statement the world longs to hear.

It is okay to shop on Black Friday. My wife will be among you, while I choose to bunker down with chips and college football. But if all the Christians who visit the mall on Black Friday would return to church Sunday, attendance would be up 300 percent. Whether you hit the malls today or not, keep Christ in Christmas. Now, let the shopping begin.

Thanksgiving and the Nickel Uncle

Every time he came to visit Timmy got another nickel. He followed Billy around the house. Every time they were together for even a few seconds, Uncle Billy gave Timmy another nickel. One day, Billy took Timmy to see his trunk, filled with an almost unlimited supply of nickels. “Every time I’m with you, Timmy, I will give you another nickel.”

After that, Timmy rarely left Billy’s side. A few days passed, and Timmy offered a proposal. “Uncle Billy, I can see where this is headed. Every time I’m in your presence, you give me another nickel. Eventually, I’ll have all the nickels. So why don’t you go ahead and give them to me now, and you can go back to wherever you came from.”

“That’s the problem, Timmy. That’s exactly why I don’t give you all the nickels now. I want to bless you with nickels, but I’m more interested in enjoying your company.”

Most of us are guilty of chasing after the “nickel God.” He says to us, “I’d much rather you chase after me than my nickels.” God wants time with us each day. William Blake said, “The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.” Paul said, “In everything give thanks.”

Today is Thanksgiving Day. Enjoy your turkey and football. Enjoy your family and friends. Enjoy the bountiful blessings of God. But mostly, enjoy God himself. Gladly receive the “nickels” God tosses your way, but don’t fixate on them. Rather than seeking the hand of God, seek his heart. Be thankful for what you have, but mostly for who you have. He is more than the “nickel God.” He is the personal God of the universe. And he is as close to you as your next prayer. Be thankful for that!

Top Democrat Breaks with Obama on Syria

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) warns that attacks like those in Paris “could happen here” and the United States needs to escalate the fight against ISIS. Breaking with President Obama, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee has called for creating a “safe zone” inside Syria as part of an escalated campaign to thwart potential Islamic State attacks on the United States.

“We see ISIS branching out in places around the world, and it is a growing menace,” Rep. Schiff told Yahoo News in an interview on Sirius XM. “Until we successfully evaporate that sanctuary they have in Syria and Iraq, they will have the time and the space and the resources to plot against us,” Schiff said. “And even the best intelligence agencies – and we have the best – aren’t going to be able to stop every plot.”

Obama, who recently deployed 50 elite U.S. commandos to Syria, has ordered expanded information-sharing with allies in the aftermath of the massacres in Paris late last week, while France has escalated its airstrikes on ISIS targets. But the president has rejected calls to send U.S. ground troops into Syria or to carve out areas of Syria that would be protected from attack by ISIS or by government forces loyal to strongman Bashar Assad.

Schiff said the White House’s plans were not enough. “We’re going to have to do something to change the dynamic on the ground,” he said. “I don’t think that merely additional air sorties or a handful of special operators are going to change the dynamic that much.” Instead, Schiff said, the U.S. should talk with allies like Turkey and Jordan about the possibility of creating “a safe zone, or buffer zone, that would be policed on the ground by Turkish or Gulf nations and from the air by the United States and the coalition.” The goal would be to ease the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria while creating an area where anti-ISIS forces could be trained.

Rep. Schiff’s comments follow those of fellow critics and former Secretaries of State under President Obama, Leon Panetta and Robert Gates. What we seem to have here is a failure to listen. The President is getting good advice. The Book of Proverbs says there is wisdom in many counselors. But to hear them and ignore them is not wise. The result is not a “contained ISIS” or a “JV Team,” but a growing international threat that did not even exist the day Mr. Obama took office. Thank you, Mr. Schiff for speaking out. We need more patriots like you.

Why We Don’t Pray

“I don’t pray more because I’m not convinced God is for me.” Those words were spoken by my pastor, Jason Smith, at church Sunday. The Bible says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). A better translation would read, “Since God is for us, who can be against us?” But too many of us live what Craig Groeschel calls the life of a “Christian atheist.” We say we believe in God and have actually entered into a relationship with him, but the faith by which we live daily suggests we don’t fully embrace the God of the Scriptures.

Jason also said, “We confuse a personal relationship with Jesus with a private relationship with Jesus.” I have yet to meet the grandparent whose personal relationship with his or her grandchildren was a private one. The worst mistake I ever made was asking a grandmother if she had any pictures of her grandchildren with her, on a plane. Her answer wasn’t complete until we landed. Had we been less than 30,000 feet up I might have jumped out. When we believe God is for us we move our relationship with Christ from merely personal to public.

But the thing Jason said that has rolled around in my head for 48 hours was this: “Anything I ask for (in prayer) today is less than what God has already given me.” That is profound and life-changing. If the 2.2 billion adherents of Christianity really understood that one truth, it would change everything. “Anything I ask for today is less than what God has already given me.” When I doubt God’s ability to handle my doubts, finances, marriage, temptations, uncertainties, addictions, confusions, relationships, and fears, I am saying my issues are bigger than the cross on which Jesus died and the tomb he overcame. I am saying the God who paid for my redemption doesn’t have a plan for my credit card debt. I’m saying the God who defeated Satan hasn’t met my boss, my neighbor, or my ex-wife.

“Anything I ask for today is less than what God has already given me.” I’m going to take that to the bank today. I didn’t say it as well as Jason did. That’s why I go to church – to hear God’s Word from God’s man on God’s day. If you live within 5,000 miles of Bradenton, Florida, you should join us this Sunday at Good Life Church. We hear teaching like this every Sunday. Until then, live by these incredible words of hope. Anything I ask for today is less than what God has already given me.

75-Year-Old Woman Sends Her First Text

Eleanor Brodeson has seen a lot in her lifetime. Born during the FDR Administration, she has witnessed WWII, the Korean War, and man’s first steps on the moon. She predates television, the computer, and John McCain’s first term in the United States Senate. Eleanor has seen the cure for polio and has survived the terms of 13 presidents and 48 years of Gilligan’s Island reruns. And now the resident of Pompano Beach, Florida has conquered her final great quest. On November 16, 2015, Eleanor Broderson learned to text.

Yahoo News reports that Eleanor got a new smart phone, and with the help of many advisors, surmounted the final technological advancement of her lifetime. “Oh, there, I think I’ve got it,” she said after investing considerable time and mental energy learning how to use a new cable remote, multiple touchscreen devices, her car’s keyless ignition system, and various versions of Windows over the past decade. Now she finds great relief in knowing she can coast through the rest of her days without having to absorb any new technological skills or master any more gadgets.

“I just press ‘send’ and then I’m finished, right? That’s it? Wonderful.” At the time of their report, Yahoo News said that because she forgot her password, Eleanor was locked out of her phone.

Congratulations, Eleanor! You have learned something most of us never grasp. All progress involves change. And change is never easy, or we’d do more of it. Most of us are more comfortable with the problems we know than the solutions we don’t. Eleanor, you have reminded us that we all still have room to grow, dreams to pursue, and goals to achieve. You have taught us that success is not measured by the height of the mountains we climb, but by what it takes to make us give up the climb.

 

Doug Flutie Loses Both Parents – One Hour Apart

We have funny definitions of a “bad day.” We think a bad day is when our team loses, the traffic is bad, and we left the umbrella at home. When our socks don’t match, it’s a bad day. For former NFL quarterback Doug Flutie, Wednesday was a bad day. In one day he lost both of his parents. They died just one hour apart from each other.

Dick Flutie had been ill for some time, and was in the hospital when he died of a sudden heart attack. Less than an hour later Joan, his wife of 56 years, died of a sudden heart attack. The cause of Joan’s death, according to Doug – a broken heart.

Doug Flutie is an icon to Boston College football fans. He is less known for a 12-year professional career in the NFL and Canadian Football League than he is for one play. He is less known for his Heisman Trophy and Grey Cup Championship than he is for one play in college, on November 23, 1984, when he threw the Hail Mary pass that beat the University of Miami on the last play of the game. With that one play, Flutie took down the defending national champions, 47-45, and became the first player in history to pass for over 10,000 yards in his collegiate career. That has kept him in the news ever since.

But today, Doug Flutie is more proud to be one of four children of Dick and Joan, whom he honored on his Facebook page. “I would like to honor my parents for all they did throughout my and my brothers’ and sister’s lives. My parents were always there for their children, from the days my Dad coached us as kids and my Mom would work the concession stands, through to this morning. The most important part of their 56 years of marriage were providing opportunities to their children. They were incredible parents and grandparents and my family and I will miss them both. On behalf of the entire Flutie family, I would like to thank you all for your well wishes and prayers during this difficult time.”

I love Doug Flutie – not for his football exploits, television commentary, or personal achievements. I love Doug Flutie because he did what so few do today. He honored his parents. Life is about more than scoreboards, money, and fame. I’m thankful for Doug Flutie because he gets it.

 

NCIS Star Credits God for Saving Her Life

Pauley Perrette was happy to be at church following a violent attack. The iconic star of the top show on television, NCIS, was assaulted by a psychotic homeless man. Her life threatened, she turned to God. “I believed he was going to kill me,” she says. After escaping, the attacker was tracked down and is in custody.

Days later, the 46-year-old actress was in her typical pew at the Hollywood United Methodist Church. The pastor recognized her from the pulpit. “Even though this man was punching her and threatening her life, Pauley prayed for her safety and for him.” He continued, “One, she was able to pull the strings of God’s love for each of us . . . and was able to ask his name, then connect with him on a human level and say, ‘Your name is William? That’s my sweet nephew’s name too.’ Pauley was telling her story to the media on Friday, first by proclaiming herself as a person of faith. Second, she proclaimed her forgiveness for the man who assaulted her.”

The pastor also spoke of David Merck, the attacker, calling for him to receive necessary treatment. Then turning to Perrette, he said, “We just want to say we are so glad that you are here and we love you very much.” Following the sermon, church members applauded the actress, and the CBS star was greeted by church members with hugs and kisses. She tweeted, “So so so good to be at church today.”

I admit it. I’m a fan. I’ve been watching Pauley Perrette and NCIS since the show’s debut on September 23, 2003. For several years, I’d drive an hour to my mom’s home to watch the show with her. It was her favorite show. I’ve been a fan of the quirky character, Abby Sciuto, a forensics specialist, played by Pauley Perrette, for years. But today I’m a bigger fan. It is always refreshing with a Hollywood star gives God the credit for saving her life. Thank you, Pauley, for sharing your faith with the world. Thank you for your honesty, boldness, and transparency. Thank you for letting your darkest hour shine God’s greatest light. Thank you for making a difference. I’m glad we’re on the same team.

A New Definition of “Containment”

Containment: n, “the action of keeping something harmful under control or within limits.”

That is the old definition of containment. The military definition of containment is “a strategy to stop the expansion of an enemy.” But we have a new definition of containment, espoused by President Obama last Thursday, and confirmed by National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes on Sunday and Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday. “ISIL is contained,” said our president.

On October 31 ISIS took “credit” for the bomb that killed all 224 on board a Russian plane. On November 12 an ISIS attack killed 43 people in Beirut. On November 13 an ISIS attack killed 132 in Paris. So in a matter of two weeks, three ISIS attacks killed 399 innocent lives. Additionally, hundreds of others have been critically injured and ISIS has announced their plans to attack Washington, D.C. Among their numbers are several dozen American citizens who have signed up in recent weeks.

Yet, “ISIS has been contained.” To their credit, governors of 26 states have declined the Administration’s call to bring in 10,000 lightly screened Syrians to their states. Yet, “ISIS has been contained.” Three days after the savage slaughter in Paris, our president called it a “setback.” Why not? “ISIS has been contained.” The Russians are now bombing ISIS with furor. The typically passive French are bombing ISIS. But why? After all, as Kerry reminded us just yesterday, “Our strategy is working. ISIS is contained.”

Our leaders can’t bring themselves to call these brutal murderers Islamic terrorists (though none of them are Methodists or Presbyterians – they are all Muslims). But what our president does call them is “the JV team.”

Senator John McCain called President Obama’s comments “embarrassing.” The President says our current, still unspecified strategy “is working.” This was just another “setback.” The “JV team” is losing ground. The enemy has been “contained.” To McCain’s credit, he is using an old dictionary. He is defining “containment” by old standards.

We live in a dangerous world. ISIS is our greatest threat, and despite Bernie Sanders’ ridiculous claims that ISIS “was caused by global warming” (comments yet to be repudiated by democratic leaders), they are coming for us. They will not stop until we stop them. In two weeks they carried out three massive attacks. More are being planned at this minute. To call this “containment” is to adhere to a naive view of the world and our worst enemy.

Here’s the scary part. How can we expect our administration to take the necessary steps to “defeat and eradicate ISIS” if they think they are already “contained”? Are we reduced to cheering on the Russians and French? Are we waiting for the planned Washington attack to take place before we get serious?

At a time when ISIS is winning, peace is losing, and America is releasing terrorists from Gitmo while saying the “JV team” is now “contained,” we must turn to God for our protection. And a little help from the French and Russians would be good, too.

America’s Disturbing Response to Paris Attacks

Within hours of the horrific, planned ISIS attacks in Paris, the top level of American leadership has issued numerous responses that are disturbing, almost beyond belief. With 129 dead and 352 injured, French President Francois Hollande said, “We are at war.” British Prime Minister David Cameron has braced his people for pending casualties in his own country. By contrast, the American response has been mostly verbal and strikingly tepid. I offer three examples.

1. President Obama considers the Paris attack a “crime,” not “war.”

President Hollande has called this an “act of war.” Prime Minister Cameron calls it a “planned jihadi terrorist attack.” By contrast, President Obama has called this a “crime.” Really? Shoplifting is a crime. Petty theft is a crime. Not reported one’s baby sitting money on his tax statement is a crime. But a planned attack, done on three levels, led by radical Muslim extremists, hitting 481 innocent people, is not a crime. It is terror and it is absolute war. Mr. Obama called ISIS the “junior varsity” of terror. To this day he has not renounced that description. Consistent with that philosophy, he considers this most recent act of terror a “crime.”

2. Our Administration still plans to receive 10,000 Syrian refugees despite “gaping holes” in security.

The attack was planned in Syria, organized in Belgium, and carried out in France. Did you catch that first part? The plan was hatched in Syria, the country from which refugees are fleeing. President Obama’s stated goal, before the attacks, was to receive 10,000 of these refugees into America. Following the attacks, his new plan is to receive 10,000 refugees from Syria. Two of the Paris attackers were Syrians who had left the country as refugees. Michigan, Alabama, and Louisiana governors have rejected the call to take in these refugees due to “gaping holes” in America’s screening process. National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes says the Obama Administration is moving forward, as if Paris had never happened. Chris Wallace, of Fox News Sunday, challenged Mr. Rhodes. “One of the attackers in the French slaughter was carrying a Syrian passport that seemed to indicate that he had been a refugee that had come into Europe along with the flood of migrants in October. Given that, is President Obama reconsidering the plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year?” Rhodes responded, “No, Chris. We’re still planning to take in Syrian refugees.” So we are now committed to take in undocumented “refugees” from the very place that hatched the attacks of just two days ago.

3. Five more detainees were just released from Gitmo.

The facility at Guantanamo Bay has now released half its inmates since Obama took office. Included among those released was Ali Ahmad Muhammad al-Razihi, a personal bodyguard for Usama bin Laden, and whose release was opposed by our own Guantanamo Review Task Force. Each considered an “enemy combatant” by the Administration, they are now released to live freely in the United Arab Emirates State.

In summary, yet another ISIS terrorist attack has savagely killed or injured nearly 500 innocent citizens. France calls it “war,” England calls it “terror,” and America calls it a “crime.” Our President has recommitted to bringing in 10,000 lightly screened Syrian refugees to America, knowing that is exactly how one of the thugs entered France to execute his plan. And we are continuing our release from Gitmo of terrorists whose stated goal is the eradication of Israel and America.

We are not at war with Muslims, but with Muslim extremists. But it is a war – not with the JV team, as Mr. Obama has called them, but with a growing international threat to our very civilization. France gets it. Britain gets it. I’m not sure America does.