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Coca-Cola

In 1997, one of the finest business leaders in the world died. His name was Roberto Goizueta, and he was the chairman and chief executive of the Coca-Cola Company. A few months before he died, he said, “A billion hours ago, human life appeared on Earth. A billion minutes ago, Christianity emerged. A billion seconds ago, the Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show. A billion Coca-Colas ago . . . was yesterday morning.

He told the Atlanta newspaper he had no plans for retirement. Six weeks later, he was dead. And so was Coca-Cola. Or was it?

Normally, when the CEO suddenly goes away, the company goes in the tank. But not so with Coke. Goizueta had grown Coke from a $4 billion company to a $150 billion company. But he did something more important than that. He groomed Douglas Ivester to take his place, if and when the need would arise. Goizueta taught Ivester everything he knew, just in case. And “in case” happened. It always does.

You see, the key to your success in any venture is not what you do, but what you prepare others to do. Paul mastered this concept, and he told Titus to do the same. He understood the importance of finding good men and training them to lead the next generation.

 

Golf and God

I am go golf what rap is to music. Technically, I am a golfer, as I have hacked at the ball an average of once a year over the past ten years.

One day, I was playing out of the rough. There was a tree directly between me and the green. God knew my ball would be right there, but he stuck a tree in my path anyway. I never hit my target, so I aimed right for the tree. And then it hit me – the ball, that is. It didn’t hit the trunk of the tree, just a small branch. But the ball came right back at me. It is amazing what big damage a small branch can cause. One tree limb turned a promising double bogey into something much worse.

What are you aiming at? Standing between every man and his target is a small branch. Remember, not all branches are made of wood. Some are made of bad habits or attitudes. What is your target?

An old philosopher once said, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” The best way to miss the branch is to not swing the club. But if you do that, you will never hit the green.

So keep swinging, and keep your eye on the ball, or the ball may keep an eye on you. And watch out for small branches.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

Titanic

Robert Ballard was a man on a quest. He wanted to find the Titanic. And on September 1, 1985, he discovered the sunken ship in the North Atlantic, more than 350 miles off the coast of Newfoundland.

I got chills when I read his account for the first time. He sent down that bright probe light and saw that sight more than two miles below the surface of those icy waters. “My first direct view of Titanic lasted less than two minutes, but the stark sight of her immense black hull towering above the ocean floor will remain forever ingrained in my memory. My lifelong dream was to find this great ship and during the past 13 years the quest for her has dominated my life.”

What quest is dominating your life? What do you dream about when you are laying in bed late at night? What would you do if you could do anything? What is the carrot that keeps you going?

God created us with passion. Ask him to give you a passion worth committing your life to.

Paul wrote, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

First Issue of the ‘New Republic’

The New Republic’s editorial board was presided over by the journalist Herbert Croly, author of the influential 1909 book The Promise of American Life. Impressed by Croly’s arguments for greater economic planning, increased spending on education, and the need for a society based on the “brotherhood of mankind” – ideas that were said to have influenced both Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson – the heiress Dorothy Payne Whitney and her husband, the banker and diplomat Willard Straight, approached Croly and asked him to join them in launching a new liberal journal that would provide an intelligent, opinionated examination of politics, foreign affairs, and culture. After recruiting his friend and fellow journalist Walter Lippmann, Croly saw the first issues of the new magazine hit the stands 102 years ago – on November 7, 1914.

Millions of Americans read the New Republican in its early years. It was met with wide acclaim and approval. But a funny thing happened along the way. No one much reads the liberal magazine anymore, as its circulation has dropped by more than 50 percent since 2000. That happens when something passes its 100th birthday.

There’s another book that has been around a little longer than the New Republic. And it’s more popular now than ever. Each year, it is the #1 book sold in America. It is still changing lives, 2,000 years later. It’s called the Bible. And if you want to be successful and happy in life, you will take this book seriously. You must love it, learn it, and most importantly, live it.

Hysterical Laws

In Alabama, it is against the law to buy peanuts after sundown. Pennsylvania law books record a case in 1971, when a man sued Satan for his own bad luck. The case was thrown out on the grounds that Satan did not live in Pennsylvania. In Vermont, it is illegal to whistle underwater.

In Lake Charles, the law forbids allowing a rain puddle to remain in one’s front yard for more than 12 hours. And Kentucky has several wise laws. You must bathe at least once a year. If you throw an egg at a public speaker, you will spend a year in jail. And females in bathing suits are  not allowed on any highway, unless they are escorted by two officers armed with a club. This law does not apply to females who weigh less than 90 pounds or more than 200. Nor does the law apply to female horses.

Did you know the ancient Jews had hundreds of laws? They had one law for every day of the year, and another for every bone in the body.

Then a man named Jesus arrived on the scene. He said, “I have come to fulfill the law.” Translation: “Just follow me.”

And don’t visit Kentucky this year unless you took a bath last year.

I’m so glad Jesus came to refocus us from law to grace. The Bible says, “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4).

Criticism

One of Aesop’s fables tells of an old man and his son bringing a donkey to market. Passing some people on the way, they heard one remark, “Look at that silly pair, walking when they could be riding.”

The old man thought about it, then he and the boy got on the donkey and continued on their way. Soon they passed another group. “Look at that lazy pair,” a voice said, “breaking the back of that poor donkey.”

At that the old man slipped off, but soon heard more criticism. “How terrible! The old man has to walk while the boy gets to ride.”

They changed places, but soon heard, “What an awful thing! The big, strong man is riding, and making the little boy walk!”

The man came up with a final solution. He and the boy carried the donkey on a pole between them. But as soon as they crossed a bridge, the donkey broke loose, fell into the river, and drowned.

Aesop’s conclusion: “You can’t please everyone.”

I love what Dr. Ed Young says about criticism. If one person says you’re a donkey, ignore him. If two say you’re a donkey, don’t sweat it. But if three people say you’re a donkey, it’s time to buy a saddle.

Rarely is all criticism valid. But rarely is it all invalid, either. Knowing how to respond to criticism is one of the marks of a mature believer.

The Bible says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

Pizza

Welcome to the food section of The Proud Americans! I know what you were thinking when you began reading. “Would someone please give me some pizza trivia!”

We sure will. This is just one of the things that make this such a great read. Where else can you get pizza trivia when you want it? So, here we go.

For starters, let’s talk about national policy. Domino’s Pizza locations in Washington, D.C. report that whenever they have a marked increase in late night deliveries to the Pentagon or White House, a major news story will be announced within two days.

Now, for trivia #2. Do you know the day that more pizza was delivered than any other day in history? The date was June 17, 1994, the day that millions of Americans watched O.J. Simpson’s Bronco drive across Los Angeles. Viewers weren’t about to leave their television sets to make dinner.

Pizza plays a defining role in society today. You see pizza at college study groups, kids’ parties, and sporting events. Why is this? We like to be fed. It’s that simple. Do you like to be fed spiritually?

Paul said, “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready” (1 Corinthians 3:2).

Plant Corn!

There’s an old joke about a farmer whose farm was failing to produce good crops. Then he looked up one day and saw the two letters “PC” in the clouds. Thinking this was a sign from God to “preach Christ,” he left his tractor and enrolled in seminary. But he struggled in his course work. Frustrated, he turned to his adviser and told him about the vision he’d had. Knowing his struggles, his adviser asked, “Son, did you ever stop to think that ‘PC’ might have meant ‘plant corn’?”

Sometimes, we make God out to be too spiritual. Yes, I really said that. Here’s what I mean. God is Spirit, but he is also truth. He cares as much about our physical, emotional, and mental being as he does our spiritual being. He is the God of all four. Only in Western civilization have we mastered the art of compartmentalizing what God has done.

God is not in the business of doing for us what he has already told us to do for ourselves. Sometimes, we cry out, “Why don’t you answer my prayer?” God is thinking, “Why don’t you answer your own prayer?”

The great intellect, O.S. Guinness, said it like this – “Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service.”

God is a practical God. Sometimes he tells us to preach Christ. Other times, he simply tells us to plant corn.

 

 

Big Boys Don’t Cry

When we were little boys, a simple scraped knee or a harsh word from a friend could send us instantly into the arms of our parents. We felt no sense of shame in our tears or in seeking the comfort of a loving person.

And then we grew up and became big boys.

As men, we find that too often the pain and weight of failure, loss, disappointment, and regret weigh relentlessly on our hearts and souls. The more intense our emotional or mental distress, the more our bodies feel resulting aches, pains, and fatigue. As big boys, we presume the correct “macho” response is a grin, and we are to endure it and just get over it. “Bite the bullet,” we tell ourselves.

King David was a man’s man, and a woman’s man; a bare-handed killer of bears and lions and a slayer of giants; a brilliant military strategist and a decisive national political figure. Yet, when in distress, David didn’t just “get over it.” Rather, he felt his aches and pains fully, to the point of becoming faint! In the Psalms, David wept profusely and openly groaned about his feelings of despair and anguish.

Jack Hyles said it like this: “Laughter means nothing unless there have been tears.”

“I’m No Moses!

Gladys Aylward must have felt something like Moses leading the children of Israel out of Egypt. The year was 1940 and Gladys was in China, leading 100 orphaned children away from the invading Japanese armies. Eight years earlier Gladys had followed God’s calling and moved from London to Yangcheng, China, with one plan in mind: to serve God by serving lost children.

But when the Japanese army came to Yangcheng, no one in the orphanage was safe. Gladys had no choice but to lead the orphans on a treacherous journey over the mountains to reach free China. After one particular sleepless night in the mountains, as the bleakness of this month-long journey overwhelmed her, Gladys was ready to give up hope.

That was when a 13-year-old orphan girl came to sit by her side. The child tried to encourage the missionary by reminding her of the time when Moses and the Israelites had escaped from the land of Egypt.

“But I’m no Moses,” Gladys explained.

“Of course you aren’t,” the orphan replied. “But Jehovah is still God.”

Gladys suddenly realized that, like Moses, she was an imperfect person. But that didn’t matter, because God had chosen her to shepherd his children to safety. And with his guidance and direction, an imperfect person could work miracles.

It took a full month, but with God’s help Gladys and all 100 children made it safely to freedom.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and ready to throw in the towel? Are you convinced that the situation you’re in is bigger than your abilities to overcome it? Then take a cue from the stories of these two faithful workers. As did Moses, and as did Gladys, accept that you’re imperfect and remember that God loves to work through imperfect people.

Charles Cos said, “God calls me to be faithful. The end result is in his hands, not mine.”