The Power of One Man

Why don’t you do more?

“I’m just one person,” you say.

To that, I quote the old Hebrew word. “Bologna.” One person can do a lot! Let’s consider an example. One man invented the bifocals most of you are using to read this print right now. He did it at the age of 79. The same fellow was the first to harness the electricity needed for you to turn on your coffee pot this morning. He founded an Ivy League school and fathered the U.S. Mail.

And he found time to invent the lightening rod and designed the heating stove. This fellow spoke and wrote in five languages, despite just two years of formal education.

Who was this man? Most of your guessed it – Ben Franklin. One might call him a bit of an over-achiever. Do you know people like that?

Mark Twain said, “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.”

At the risk of annoying you with the example of Mr. Franklin, I challenge you to look into your own life. You are just one person. Correction – you are one person. (Leave out the word “just.”)

But did you know the Bible says, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength”? Don’t trust me . . . ask Ben.

10 Things Great Dads Do

Mark Merrill, of Family First, has given us some great advice for being a great Christian dad. With Father’s Day just two days away, I thought I’d share with you some of his thoughts.

1. Love your kids’ mother. This is the best thing you can do. A husband and wife who love each other provide a secure environment for their kids.

2. Spend time with your kids. How you spend your time with your children reflects what is important to you. No matter what you might say to make up for lost time, if your children feel you are not as concerned about them as you are with work, they get the message that they are not valuable.

3. Earn the right to be heard. That means showing a genuine interest in their views and interests. Children want to be led, but the successful father earns the right to lead.

4. Discipline with a gentle spirit. True discipline is a function of a father’s love for his children, which is why it should never be harsh.

5. Be a role model. Fathers are a role model, whether they want to be or not. Being a living example of Christ is worth more than anything you ever say to your kids.

6. Teach the lessons of life. For far too many fathers, teaching is something someone else does. But God has given you the first-line joy of instructing your kids in the ways of the Lord.

7. Eat together as a family. Most children today don’t know the meaning of a family dinner time. But this is your best time to be with your kids and listen to their hearts.

8. Read to your kids. In a world wired for sound, it is important that fathers make the effort to read to their children. Kids first learn by seeing, then by hearing and reading.

9. Show affection. Children long for a secure place in this fast-paced world. They find it most often in the warm embrace of a parent.

10. Realize it’s never too late. Some of your best parenting will come when your kids are grown. They still long for the approval of their dad. It is never too late to be a great dad.

Flotation Device

On my flight from Tampa to Dallas the other day, I had forgotten to put my tray table up in its “upright and locked position.” The flight attendant gave me “the look.” I left my phone on as the plane was approaching Love Field. The pilot spoke over the speaker, “Turn off your electronic devices.” It felt like he was speaking just to me.

My immediate thought was, “Is my tray table really going to bring this plane down if I don’t lock it into place? And will my iPhone really throw off the million-dollar computer on this aircraft?” One day, out of sheer curiosity, I think I’ll throw caution to the wind and leave the tray table up and maybe even leave my phone on, just to see what happens.

But what the flight attendant said just before take-off was the most troubling thing I’ve heard in awhile. Pointing to the sides of the plane, she instructed, “The white lights lead to the red lights that lead to the exit doors.” Now, I’m thinking, “Why do we need exit doors at 30,000 feet?” But she wasn’t through. The flight attendant then told us our seat cushions doubled as “flotation devices.” Now I was really worried. If my plane dove into the Gulf of Mexico from 30,000 feet, at 300 mph, if I’m remembering my physics class from the 12th grade (and I took it twice), this will not be a smooth landing. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which my seat cushion will save me.

At least the plane had a “black box.” You know what that is. It’s the thing they retrieve after the crash. It tells them how the tray table, cell phone, exit doors, and seat cushion all went in together to bring the plane down. The black box will be the sole survivor of such a crash.

So here’s my question. Why don’t they just make the entire plane out of the same material they use to make the black box? Until they do, I’m avoiding the exit signs, keeping my tray table up, disarming my cell phone, and holding onto my “flotation device.”

Wouldn’t it be easier if they just gave us all a parachute?

That’s what God did. He understood that in life, sometimes we crash. And nothing can save us when our plane starts to go down. So he provided a parachute in the person of his son, Jesus Christ. In life, there are no guarantees of a gentle take-off, a smooth flight, or a soft landing. But we know that even if our plane goes down, we don’t have to go down with it.

Meaningless Trivia

I used to play Trivial Pursuit. I love meaningless information. For example, did you know that adults watch twice as much TV as teens? Did you know that at any given time, half of all adults are on a diet? Here’s some more for you. The can opener was invented 48 years after they invented the can.

The most common first name in the world is Mohammed. Every year, 2,500 left handed people die while using products designed for right handed people. The most productive work day is Tuesday. The least productive is Friday. The average person knows 5,500 words. When the temperature hits -41 degrees Fahrenheit, it is also -41 degrees Celsius.

Now, for one more, if you haven’t already turned off your computer or phone. The average person blinks every six seconds, or 250 million times in a lifetime.

Okay, enough for meaningless trivia.

Let’s consider meaningful non-trivia. For example, did you know that God has an incredible plan for your life? He wants to bless you richly, today. He wants to bless you right now! Don’t blink, or you may miss it.

The old prophet said it best. “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

The First Salem Witch Hanging

It happened 326 years ago today, June 1692. In Salem Village, Bridget Bishop, the first colonist to be tried in the Salem witch trials, was hanged after being found guilty of the practice of witchcraft. Trouble in the small Puritan community began in February 1692, when two young girls began experiencing fits and other mysterious maladies. A doctor concluded that the children were suffering from the effects of witchcraft. Under compulsion from the doctor and their parents, the girls named those allegedly responsible for their suffering. With encouragement from adults in the community, the girls joined other “afflicted” Salem residents in accusing more than 150 women and men from Salem Village and the surrounding areas of satanic practices. The Salem witch trials, which resulted in the executions of nineteen innocent women and men, were halted and dismissed by Governor William Phillips in October of that year.

In reflecting back on the Salem Witch Hanging, I offer two thoughts. First, we must be careful to avoid assigning Evil as the root of all problems. There is not a demon behind every bush. Greater is He who is in us than he who is in this world. Sometimes there are reasons for the bad things that happen to us other than Evil. Sometimes, it’s called “traffic,” “bad choices,” or “a rainy day.” Not all malodies are the result of some spiritual force.

Second, we must be careful to not dismiss all problems as having no spiritual component. There is an evil being who “seeks whom he may devour.” Though God is stronger, the evil one is still strong. It is a mistake to assign him too much authority. And it is a bigger mistake to assign him no authority at all.

Make no mistake. The Salen Witch Hanging was a horrible time in our past. Witches and demons aren’t the cause of everything wrong with your world. But we do wrestle against the powers of darkness, Paul warned us. And we cannot go into battle without the full armor of God.

No Place Like Home

Dignitaries lined the street when the funeral procession passed. Thousands waited just to catch a glimpse of the coffin. In fact, the people of the United States and all parts of the world loved and revered the deceased man so much that his remains were disinterred in Tripoli and brought to the United States for a magnificent funeral.

His name was John Howard Payne. You probably haven’t heard of him. But his well-loved poet was best known for composing one simple verse:

“‘Mid pleasures and places, though oft I may roam, Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.”

There’s no place like home. And the good news for the believer is that he isn’t home yet. This world is full of struggles, illness, and pain. But remember, we aren’t home yet.

So the next time you complain about life’s problems, remember that it gets better. God said, “I know the plans I have for you – plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). And the greatest hope of all is . . . there’s no place like home.

The Dark Night of the Soul

In one of his lesser known plays, Orpheus Descending, dramatist Tennessee Williams wrote, “We’re all of us sentenced to a solitary confinement inside our own skins for life.” What a sobering description of loneliness. Perhaps the only worse feeling than human loneliness is separation from God’s presence. You might describe this desperately solitary feeling with phrases such as “my prayers don’t get past the ceiling” or “I’m going through ‘the dark night of the soul.'”

Imagine the lonely feelings the children of Israel experienced. Because of their sinfulness they became strangers in strange lands, scattered in exile among foreign nations. Yet God declared that he was providing a sanctuary for them even in their exile. Although they didn’t always see his hand at work in their circumstances, God never left them alone.

God showed up in the darkest hour. The prophet Ezekiel wrote, “The word of the Lord came to me. ‘Son of man, the people of Jerusalem have said of your fellow exiles and all the other Israelites: They are far away from the Lord; this land was given to us as our possessions.’ Therefore say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone'” (Ezekiel 11:14-15).

Thomas Kempis wrote, “Bear patiently your exile and the dryness of your mind. The time will come when I will make you forget these painful moments and you will enjoy inward quietness. I will open the Bible for you and you will be thrilled by your new understanding of my truth.”

God never promised that we wouldn’t have “dark nights of the soul.” He did better than that. He promised that we’d never face them alone.

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 the age of 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 short. What matters is eternity. Just ask Mr. Stace.

In Every Church

Every church has a few. When we see them, we think of the old chorus., “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.” But we change the words to, “I’m surprised you’re a part of the family of God.”

They are fearfully and wonderfully weird. They have a gift for sucking the joy right out of those around them. They are a French fry short of a happy Meal, missing a few buttons off the remote. You know the type. The porch light is on but nobody is home. They even look funny, as they apparently shop at “Nerds Are Us.” There is always something that is unbuttoned, undone, unzipped, or untucked. They are the Dagwoods of Simpletown.

When you see them, you want to ask, “Where are Moe, Larry, and Curly?” They stand when they should sit and speak when they should listen. They are everywhere. And they always find you, excited to tell you the same story they told you last week. They are the church.

You find yourself avoiding them. And then it occurs to you that you, too, are weird. Your life is often untucked. But you realize and rejoice that God came to love untucked people. And when you mistreat these untucked people, you are really mistreating Jesus.

Jesus said, “Whatever you do for the least of these, you did for me” (Matthew 25:45).

Civil War Ends

In an event that is generaly regarded as marking the end to the Civil War, Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith, commander of Confederate forces west of the Mississippi River, signed the surrender terms offered by Union negotiators. With Smith’s surrender, the last Confederate army ceased to exist, bringing a formal end to the bloodiest four years in United States history. It happened on this day in history – June 2, 1865.

The American Civil War began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate shore batteries under General Pierre G. T. Beauregard opened fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in South Carolina’s Charleston Bay. Following the battle, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteer soldiers to help quell the Southern “insurrection.” Four long years later, the Confederacy was defeated at the cost of 620,000 Union and Confederate lives.

Most of you are thinking, that’s not how the war ended! It ended with General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at the Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, two months earlier. For all practical purposes that would be true. But despite the end of the War, some kept fighting.

When Jesus hung on the cross, breathing his last breaths and speaking his last words, he whispered, “Tetelestai,” meaning It is finished. Jesus’ death finished what he came to do – provide for the salvation of all mankind for all times. But many of us are like that last Confederate troop. Like Gen. Kirby Smith, we keep fighting as though the war had not already been won.

What an affront to Christ! He did all that needed to be done. The price has been paid and the war has been won. It’s time to lay down our weapons, quit fighting, and rest in His victory.