Celebration of Joy

Pastor and author Bruce Larson writes, “The bottom line for you and me is simply this – grimness is not a Christian virtue. If God really is the center of one’s life and being, joy is inevitable. If we have no joy, we have missed the heart of the Good News.”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest, paleontologist, and philosopher, put it even more simply. “Joy is the surest sign of the presence of God.”

I have discovered two truths in my Christian journey. First, if you walk with God, you will always be in trouble with someone else. Second, you will experience outrageous joy. James, the brother of Jesus, said it like this: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2-3).

Joy is the result of walking with God. Joy is a mark of mature living. Joy is the nature of God. Joy is the promise of God. Joy can be yours today. You will meet a lot of somber saints along life’s path. Keep walking.

St. Teresa of Avila said, “From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us!”

Amen.

The Rushmore Report – The Faith of George Bush

The 41st President of the United States died Friday night at his home in Houston at the age of 94. George Herbert Walker Bush was a quiet man who lived a life of a quiet faith. He rarely spoke out about his faith, but to him it was real. It was a faith he embraced from childhood. Last year, historian Gary Scott Smith noted that, above all, he was for all his life a man of quiet but persistent faith:

Bush was raised by devout Episcopalian parents and remained affiliated with this denomination almost his entire life. His father Prescott, a Republican senator from Connecticut, and his mother Dorothy led family worship every morning, using readings from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer and A Diary of Private Prayer by Scottish Presbyterian theologian John Baillie. They strove to teach their children how the Bible applied to daily life. While worshiping for many years at Episcopal churches in Houston, Washington, and Kennebunkport, Maine, Bush’s theology and social policies have more in common with evangelicals than with many fellow Episcopalians.

While flying a combat mission for the Navy in September 1944, Bush’s plane was severely damaged on a bombing mission, forcing him to parachute into the Pacific Ocean south of Japan. The Japanese hunted him, but a U.S. submarine picked him up. Bush thanked God for saving his life and asked, “Why had I been spared and what did God have for me?”

Their three-year-old daughter Robin’s battle with and eventual death from leukemia in the early 1950s both tested and deepened Bush’s faith. He declared that “prayer had always been part” of his and his wife Barbara’s lives, but it became more fervent during this ordeal. “Our faith,” Bush testified, “truly sustained us.”

Bush saw God as active and all-powerful and the Bible as divinely inspired and authoritative. “One cannot be America’s President,” the Republican frequently asserted, without “the strength that your faith gives to you.” The Bible, which had helped shape America’s values and institutions, Bush attested, “has always been a great source of comfort to me.” He affirmed that Jesus was God’s divine Son and frequently referred to Christ as “our Savior.” Moreover, Bush peppered his speeches with biblical quotations, precepts, and stories to underscore his positions.

Bush’s cabinet meetings always began with prayer. The Bushes prayed together every night before going to sleep. “My husband,” Barbara declared, “prays and believes enormously.” During his presidency, Bush referred to prayer in 220 different speeches, proclamations, and remarks. In hundreds of letters Bush thanked citizens for praying for him and testified that he drew “great strength” from their prayers.

Consider the beginning of Bush’s first inaugural address, which bears the eloquent touch of Peggy Noonan — and reminds us of the kind of honest piety and simple grace that is now so rarely heard from our leaders:

We meet on democracy’s front porch. A good place to talk as neighbors and as friends. For this is a day when our nation is made whole, when our differences, for a moment, are suspended. And my first act as President is a prayer. I ask you to bow your heads.

Heavenly Father, we bow our heads and thank You for Your love. Accept our thanks for the peace that yields this day and the shared faith that makes its continuance likely. Make us strong to do Your work, willing to heed and hear Your will, and write on our hearts these words: “Use power to help people.” For we are given power not to advance our own purposes, nor to make a great show in the world, nor a name. There is but one just use of power, and it is to serve people. Help us remember, Lord. Amen.

He concluded with these words:

There is much to do. And tomorrow the work begins. And I do not mistrust the future. I do not fear what is ahead. For our problems are large, but our heart is larger. Our challenges are great, but our will is greater. And if our flaws are endless, God’s love is truly boundless.

Some see leadership as high drama and the sound of trumpets calling, and sometimes it is that. But I see history as a book with many pages, and each day we fill a page with acts of hopefulness and meaning. The new breeze blows, a page turns, the story unfolds. And so, today a chapter begins, a small and stately story of unity, diversity, and generosity — shared, and written, together.

May the Lord bless him and keep him.

From the Book of Common Prayer:

O Almighty God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, who by a voice from heaven didst proclaim, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord: Multiply, we beseech thee, to those who rest in Jesus the manifold blessings of thy love, that the good work which thou didst begin in them may be made perfect unto the day of Jesus Christ. And of thy mercy, O heavenly Father, grant that we, who now serve thee on earth, may at last, together with them, be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; for the sake of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord … 

About the Author

Deacon Greg Kandra is a Roman Catholic deacon in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York. He is a husband, deacon, journalist, writer, preacher, coffee addict, and frequent blogger with a national following.

A Big Universe

Our solar system has a diameter of 7.5 billion miles. That means if you drove your space car 65 miles per hour around the clock, it would take you 13,172 years to get across it. And there are over 100 billion stars in the Milky Way (galaxy, not candy bar). That’s 100 billion solar systems in our galaxy. Astronomers estimate that there are 50 billion galaxies in the universe.

As I meet people I didn’t know I knew, I often comment, “It’s a small world.”

But as I look to the sky, I conclude, “It’s a big universe.”

And call me simple, but I figure that if a watch must have a watch maker, then a universe must have a universe maker. But the majesty of God is not that he is big. It is that he is small.

During World War II, Viktor Frankl was a prisoner in the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp. In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl chronicled his experience and found something outside of himself. He wrote, “Being human always points, and is directed, to something, or Someone other than oneself.”

That was Frankl’s way of saying the God of the universe wants to be the God of your heart.

This Day in History

It all happened in a day . . . November 30. How many of these events do you remember, that all occurred this day in history?

  • Earliest eclipse on record (3340 B.C.)
  • Second siege of Pensacola, ending with Britain’s failure to capture Pensacola, Florida (1707)
  • U.S. Senate begins impeachment trial of Federalist Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase (1804)
  • Civil War Battle of Franklin, Tennessee; the South lost six generals (1864)
  • Lucille Ball marries Desi Arnaz in Greenwich, Connecticut (1940)
  • Civil War begins in Palestine, resulting in creation of the State of Israel (1947)
  • Only documented meteorite to hit a human directly, crashes through house in Sylacauga, Alabama (1954)
  • Michael Jackson’s album “Thriller” is released; becomes best-selling record in music history (1982)
  • Official end of Operation Desert Storm (1995)
  • Exxon and Mobil merge to form ExxonMobil, the largest company in the world (1998)
  • Jeopardy Show champion Ken Jennings finally loses, having won a game-show record $2.5 million (2004)

Yes, a lot can happen in a day. How ’bout these for good days – the resurrection of Christ, the creation of the heavens and the earth, the Sermon on the Mount, the parting of the Red Sea.

It’s amazing what God can do in a day. And only heaven knows what God plans to do in your life – today!

Banks

A farmer who had experienced several bad years went to see the manager of his bank. “I’ve got some good news and some bad news to tell you. Which would you like to hear first?” asked the farmer.

“Why don’t you tell me the bad news first, and get it over with?” the banker replied.

“Okay. With a bad drought and inflation and all, I won’t be able to pay anything on my mortgage this year, either on the principal or the interest.”

“Well, that is pretty bad,” said the banker.

“It gets worse,” the farmer continued. “I also won’t be able to pay anything on the loan you gave me for that great machinery I bought.”

“Wow, is that ever bad!” said the banker.

“It’s worse than that. You remember I also borrowed money to buy seed and fertilizer and other supplies? Well, I can’t pay anything on those things, either.”

The banker said, “That’s enough! Tell me what the good news is.”

“The good news,” replied the farmer, “is that I intend to keep on doing business with you.”

You and I have the greatest Banker in the universe. Despite our defaults and faults, debts and moral bankruptcies, he still does business with us.

A Matter of Perspective

Sugar Ray Leonard was one of the greats of boxing. He was asked to speak to the intellectual crowd of Harvard.

“I consider myself blessed. I consider you blessed. We’ve all been blessed with God-given talents. Some of you have the talent to create rockets that will inhabit the universe. Others can cure disease. My God-given talent happens to be beating people up.”

That’s an interesting perspective.

Agatha Christie once offered this perspective on marriage. “An archaeologist is the best husband a wife can have. The older she gets, the more interesting she will be to him.”

The great Picasso once asked his friend Rodin if he liked Picasso’s latest painting that was yet unsigned. Rodin studied the painting from all directions and, only after careful deliberation answered Picasso. “Whatever else you do, sign it. If you do that, we will know which way to hold it.”

God has signed his handiwork with a sunrise, a rainbow, a gentle breeze. But until you recognize the hand of God, you will never know which way is up.

The Old Testament tells us of a man named Ahithophel, who killed himself simply because he never discovered the right perspective. Only a close walk with the Creator can give you the perspective you really need.

The Rushmore Report – Leading Pastor Identifies Three Misconceptions About Heaven

Craig Groeschel, pastor of Life Church, has identified three misconceptions about heaven. Furthermore, he highlighted why it’s important to have a proper understanding of the afterlife. In a sermon titled “The Glory of Heaven,” Groeschel made news with a riveting idea – we should imagine what life will be like one minute after we die. The three misconceptions about heaven follow.

1. Heaven will be boring.

One reason many think of heaven as boring, said the pastor, is that the devil is a liar and wants people to believe that God is a “killjoy” who robs us of everything fun.

“I hope you’ll understand – heaven will be the opposite of boredom. It is the absence of everything evil, and it is the presence of God. When you think about it, everything that you enjoy on earth is the result of a gift from the God of heaven.”

2. This world – not heaven – is our home.

Groeschel encouraged his congregation to refrain from getting upset about the small, mundane things, and rather to live for what matters most. “I want to live on earth in a way that makes a difference in eternity,” he said. “What matters is how I love. What matters is what I give. What matters is who I serve. What matters is what I say that gives life – the things that we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”

3. Heaven is a “default destination” for most people.

The misunderstanding is that most will go to heaven – if they are relatively good. “Don’t forget what Jesus said,” Groeschel warned. “Jesus said, ‘Broad is the road and wide is the path that leads to destruction and many people are on it. Narrow is the road and small is the gate that leads to life, and few people find it.'”

The mega-church pastor continued, “The truth is, good people don’t go to heaven when they die. Forgiven people go to heaven when they die.”

Groeschel concluded his message by emphasizing that those who truly understand the holiness of God are “acutely aware of the sinfulness of mankind” and that all people fall short of God’s standards. “But by the grace of God, anyone who calls on the name that is above every name in the name of Jesus, that person will be saved.”

He then said he decided to preach on the afterlife to remind those who are in Christ that they don’t need to fear death, and to create a “spiritual urgency” – to allow the reality of heaven to impact how we live today.

This was the third message in Groeschel’s message series, “One Minute After You Die.”

The Rushmore Report – Stephen Colbert Reveals What Brought Him Back to Jesus

“The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert says a chance encounter with a person handing out Bibles on the street is what brought him back to faith when he was an atheist. Colbert, a Roman Catholic, spoke last week with the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor at America magazine, and said he was a convicted atheist in his 20s.

“I had lost my faith in God, to my own great grief,” Colbert said. “I was sort of convinced that I had been wrong all this time, that I had been taught something that wasn’t true.”

In past interviews, Colbert has opened up about the tragedy of his childhood, describing how his father and two brothers died in a plane crash when he was 10 years old.

In his interview with Martin on the “Faith in Focus” program, he said that it was a cold night in Chicago, Illinois, when one stranger handed him a little green pocket Bible. He was 22 then.

That Bible was indexed by topics, and so Colbert turned to the page about anxiety. Jesus’ words at the Sermon on the Mount were presented:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?… Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

The talk show host revealed that he was “absolutely, immediately lightened” by Christ’s words.

“I stood on the street corner in the cold and read the sermon. And my life has never been the same,” he added.

In another exchange posted online, Martin asked Colbert to tell him “who is God for you?”

“It’s Jesus Christ,” Colbert immediately replied. “Not an old man with a beard.”

The comedian went on to say that physically, he thinks of Jesus when someone asks him that question, but “that image dissolves, as I try to subsume that image into the Trinity.”

He added that one of the things he prays about is the ability to love.

“If I can love, I can be free,” he said. “When I think of love, I think of God, and when I think of God, I think of love.”

Colbert has featured several segments and comedy bits revolving around religion on his CBS “Late Show” program. He has also debated some notable atheist celebrities, such as comedian Ricky Gervais, on the topics of Creation, God, science, and religion.

He has also challenged some conservative Christian leaders, such as megachurch Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas.

After Jeffress suggested last year that God has granted U.S. President Donald Trump the authority to “take out” North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, Colbert featured a comedy bit where a white-haired spoof version of God suggested that he agreed with Jeffress’ comments.

“Oh yeah, I’m always on America’s side when it comes to blowing stuff up,” the spoof version of God said. Colbert then pointed out, “But that goes against your whole message of peace and forgiveness,” to which the character said that such thinking comes from his “hippy” son Jesus.

About the Author

Stoyan Zaimov writes for The Christian Post.

Who Killed the Cat?

Stephen Pile has written a book titled The Book of Failures. It’s got unbelievable stuff in it. For example, back in 1979, during the fireman’s strike in England, one of the greatest animal rescue attempts was made. Valiantly, the British Army had taken over emergency firefighting. On January 14, they were called out by an elderly lady in South London, to rescue her cat.

They arrived with impressive haste. Then they proceeded to cleverly and carefully rescue the lady’s cat. Then they started to drive away. But the lady was so grateful that she invited the squad of heroes in for tea. After their time with the appreciative woman, they bid farewell. Off they drove, waving to the lady. And in the process, they ran over her cat and killed it.

Now, this is either a sad story or a happy one, depending on your view of cats. But don’t miss the point. We can go to a lot of trouble doing everything right, and we should. But just one mistake can be deadly.

Think of the ones you love the most. Then be reminded daily, that in one moment, by one bad choice, you can destroy the very lives you have spent years building up.

Power of the Saw

A man had a firewood factory that employed prisoners. He gave them a place to live, specific directions on what to do, and he paid them good wages, but they were unproductive. Eventually the man had no choice. He fired them and purchased a circular saw powered by a gas engine. In one hour, the new saw did more than all the men had done in a week.

The man talked to his new saw. “How can you turn out so much work?” he asked it. “Are you sharper than the saws my men were using?”

The saw answered, “No, I am not any sharper than the other saws. The difference is the gas engine. I have a stronger power behind me. I am productive because of the power that is working through me, not because my blade is any sharper.”

Many of us work for God in the power of the flesh. We use our best intellect, charming personality, and enthusiasm to its fullest. We are like the saw. We’re really pretty sharp. The problem isn’t our blade. It’s our power source.

Until we are plugged into the right power, we will never produce the right results, no matter how sharp we may be.

Jesus promised, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (Acts 1:8). That is the power than makes any blade sharp.