Clear Direction

Pastor Clifford Stewart, of Louisville, Kentucky, sent his parents a microwave oven for Christmas one year. This is how he recalls the event.

“They were excited to join the instant generation. When my dad unpacked the microwave and plugged it in, within seconds, it transformed my parents’ smiles into frowns. Even after reading the directions, they couldn’t make it work. Two days later, my mom was playing Bridge with a friend and confessed her inability to even get the microwave to boil water. Her friend asked her, ‘What seems to be the problem?’ My mom responded, ‘The problem is that only my son knows how to work it. What I need is for my son to come along with the microwave.'”

When God gave us the gift of salvation, he didn’t send a complicated booklet to give us directions to figure everything out. He sent us his Son. Life is complicated. We have the Bible as our manual. But even that is not enough, because until you know the Author, it is difficult to understand the Book.

But God left nothing to chance. For your salvation, there is no assembly required – for one simple reason. God has given us his Son.

Trust Him Anyway

Helen Roseveare, a British missionary in Conga, survived the uprising that resulted from the invasion of the Mau-Mau revolutionaries. This godly, gracious lady was raped, assaulted, and humiliated. But she never abandoned her faith.

While recovering from the horrible attack, Helen and the Lord grew closer together than they had ever been. She wrote a statement in the form of a question that every person needs to ask himself, from God’s perspective. “Can you thank me for trusting you with this experience, even if I never tell you why?”

Golfer Bernhard Langer had one putt that would decide the Ryder Cup winner, between Europe and the United States. He missed the putt. But he told a reporter afterwards, “If I had made that putt, it wouldn’t have made God love me more. And by missing it, it didn’t make God love me less.”

God’s love is perfect, whether our shots go in or not. It’s one thing to trust him when you miss a putt. But when you go through a truly horrific experience, listen for God’s voice. “Can you thank me for trusting you with this experience, even if I never tell you why?”

The Death of a Comic

We need to laugh more. The Bible says laughter is good medicine. It really is. That’s why we love comics so much. I grew up watching The Bob Newhart Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show with my parents every week. I still love the classics: The Dick Van Dyke Show, Leave It to Beaver, Get Smart, and that “it really makes you think classic,” The Three Stooges.

Yep, we love our comedy and we love our comics.

That’s what makes this day in history so sad. It was nine years ago today – it’s hard to believe it’s been that long – that George Carlin died. The 71-year-old comedian died of heart failure.

Carlin made his first appearance on The Tonight Show in 1962. He became known as a clean-cut, conventional comic. But around 1970, that all changed.

Carlin reinvented himself as one who disdained all things conventional. He became a biting critic and commentator in a successful effort to appeal to a younger crowd. In 1973, the FCC held the comic’s famous routine “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” to be “indecent,” and the FCC order banning its broadcast was upheld by the United States Supreme Court.

This did not curtail Carlin’s rise to fame. In 1975, he was the first guest host on Saturday Night Live. Two years later, he starred in the first of a series of 14 comedy specials for HBO. Carlin continued to perform his HBO specials and his live comedy gigs into the early 21st century.

No, Carlin’s brand of humor wasn’t to my liking. He became too distasteful for me – and millions of others. But he always had his following, and it was a loyal following, to be sure.

Why? Because we need to laugh. Even if what we are laughing at isn’t that funny, even if it’s rather crude – we still need to laugh.

So, while I don’t miss the comedy of George Carlin, I do miss what he brought a generation of Americans. He brought what we need now more than ever. He brought laughter.

Comfort vs Wisdom

I used to make the mistake of trying to fix everything. I felt the need to share my wisdom, whether it was wanted or not. Then I discovered that people would rather have a part of my heart than a piece of my mind. People want comfort, not answers. We have plenty of critics; we need encouragers.

When Robert Fulton showed off his new invention, the steamboat, the critics cried, “It’ll never start! It’ll never start!”

Once it started, they shouted, “It’ll never stop! It’ll never stop!”

It is easier to criticize than to comfort.

A football coach was having a bad year. It got so bad that he confided in his wife, “I feel like my dog is my only friend, but a man needs at least two friends.”

So his wife bought him another dog.

Pooh bear was walking along the river bank. Eeyore, his stuffed donkey friend, suddenly appeared floating downstream, about to drown.

Pooh said, “You look like you’re drowning!”

Eeyore asked Pooh if he could save him.

Pooh hesitated, then pulled him out of the water.

“Thanks,” said Eeyore.

“No problem,” said Pooh bear. “You should have said something sooner!”

Pooh offered his wisdom. But Eeyore, like us, needed comfort. I love the old song, Rescue the Perishing. I’m sure you have a lot of wisdom. But your drowning friends need rescuing. They need comfort.

God said it like this: “Comfort my people, says your God” (Isaiah 40:1).

One Word for God

We were in high school. Mary was completely normal in every way but one. Mary was blind. She often asked me to describe what things looked like: clouds, flowers, and the sunset. I could never do it in less than ten minutes. Clouds, flowers, and the sunset are too awesome to describe with just a few words, to someone who has never seen them.

So how would you describe God for someone who have never seen him? The old prophet Isaiah took on this task. Read his words. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. The whole world is full of his glory.”

In the Hebrew language, repetition performed the role of our modern highlighter. Repetition stood for emphasis. No verse ever describes God as “strong, strong, strong” or as “wise, wise, wise.” The only description given three times was “holy.”

The Hebrew word is qadosh, meaning “cut off, separate.” In other words, Isaiah is saying that God is unique. He is like no other. And he calls us to holiness, as well.

Sure, you’re smart, beautiful, and funny. But are you holy?

“Be holy because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).

 

Facing Opposition

There once lived a man named Nehemiah. He built a wall of Biblical proportions. In fact, you can read about it in the Bible in the book that bears his name. In 52 days, Nehemiah built a massive wall to protect Jerusalem against enemy attack.

But he built more than a wall. Nehemiah built the nation’s self-esteem, beauty, and pride. But at every step, he faced opposition. And from his experience, we learn two valuable truths that apply only to people who try to do something bigger than themselves.

First, we learn to expect opposition. The only person who faces no opposition is the person sitting still. Expect criticism, but don’t take it personally. Remember, you will be criticized for doing anything, so make sure you are doing the right thing.

The second truth is that you must keep on track. Keep working as though it all depends on you. And keep praying as though it all depends on God. Don’t give up, and don’t get discouraged.

Jerry Falwell was right when he said, “You can define the greatness of a man by what it takes to discourage him.”

The First Roller Coaster

On June 16, 1884, the first roller coaster opened in New York City’s Coney Island Amusement Park. It was LaMarcus Adna Thompson’s “Switchback Railway,” opening 133 years ago today.

This was the first roller coaster designed as an amusement park ride in America. It was designed by Mr. Thompson in 1881 and constructed in 1884. It appears Thompson based his design, at least in part, on the Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway which was a coal-mining train that had started carrying passengers as a thrill ride in 1827.

For five cents, riders would climb a tower to board the large bench-like car and were pushed off to coast 600 feet down the track to another level. The car went just over six miles per hour. At the top of the other tower the vehicle was switched to a return track or “switched back” (hence the name).

This track design was soon replaced with an oval complete-circuit ride designed by Charles Alcoke and called the Serpentine Railway. In 1885, Phillip Hinkle developed a lift system which appeared in his ride called Gravity Pleasure. The Gravity Pleasure also featured cars in which passengers could face forward instead of in the awkward bench-like seats of the first two roller coasters.

Now, I’m not a fan of roller coasters. It’s not because I’m afraid of heights. I’m afraid of falling.

But roller coasters are a good example of the Christian life. Life ends where it started – with God. There are lots of crazy, unexpected turns, and there are often moments of sudden darkness, followed by light. Life is full of ups and downs. And once aboard the roller coaster of life, we are no longer in control.

That’s the other reason I don’t like roller coasters.

Save One Child

Nicholas Winton was a young stockbroker in London. The year was 1939. Hitler’s armies were ravaging Czechoslovakia, tearing families apart. Parents were marched to concentration camps, and the children were abandoned.

Winton got wind of their plight and resolved to help them. He used his vacation to travel to Prague where he met parents who were willing to give their children over to his care. Over the next five months, Winton took five trips, transporting 669 children to safety.

After the war, Winton didn’t tell anyone what he had done, not even his wife. But in 1988 she discovered an old scrapbook in the attic, which told the whole story, listing every name.

She got Winton to tell her the story, and then Mrs. Winton went to work. Unknown to her husband, she contacted the rescued children, now in their 70s and 80s. And on a fall morning of 2009, she gave her husband the biggest surprise any 100-year-old man has received since the days of Sarah and Abraham.

The 22 survivors showed up at his house to say “Thank you.” And they presented him with cards from their 7,000 descendants.

The Bible is right when it says, “It is good to give thanks” (Psalm 92:1).

Continental Army Established – 242 Years Ago Today

On this day in history, 1775, The Continental Army was established by the Continental Congress, marking the birth of the United States Army. This happened after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. The Army was created to coordinate the military efforts of the 13 colonies in their revolt against the rule of Great Britain. The Continental Army was supplemented by local militias and other troops that remained under control of the individual states. General George Washington was the commander-in-chief of the army throughout the war.

Most of the Continental Army was disbanded in 1783 after the Treaty of Paris ended the war. The 1st and 2nd Regiments went on to form the nucleus of the Legion of the United States in 1792 under General Anthony Wayne. This became the foundation of the United States Army in 1796.

The United States Army has a rich and glorious history. So find a military person today and tell them “Thank you.” And “Happy Birthday.”

 

 

Eternity

It was November, 1942. The city was Sydney, Australia. The man was Arthur Stace, a WWI veteran and a homeless alcoholic. On a Sunday night, Stace stumbled into a small church, where he heard a simple message on eternity from the pastor, John Ridley. That night, Stace made a course correction, with eternity on his mind. He dedicated the rest of his life to doing what he could to help people find the God who had found him.

Every day, for more than 25 years, he rose early, had a cup of tea, then went into the streets of Sydney with a piece of chalk, and he wrote the word “eternity” thousands of times. As the city awoke, they saw it everywhere.

Today, in a certain government building, you can still look up and still see “eternity” scribed inside a tower overhead.

Stace died in 1967 at age 83, but his legacy lives on. His gravestone reads, “Arthur Malcolm Stace – Mr. Eternity.”

He wrote the word 500,000 times. And 30 years after his death, in his honor, Australia hosted the Olympics under the banner of the theme “ETERNITY.”

This life is so short. What matters is eternity. Just ask Mr. Stace.

Wise old Solomon said it like this. “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has set eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).