Monday, August 30, 2010

The Wisdom of Don Henley

One of my favorite all time bands is the Eagles and I consider Don Henley as one of the great song writers of our generation. In recent years you can see a change in his spirituality through the songs that he's written; such as these lyrics to the song "Hole in the World":

They say that anger is just love disappointed.

They say that love is just a state of mind.

But all this fighting over who will be annointed

Oh how can people be so blind?

There's a hole in the world tonight

There's a cloud of fear and sorrow

There's a hole in the world tonight

Don't let there be a hole in the world tomorrow.

I believe the cure for that hole in the world would be this:
1John 3:16-18:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in Him?
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Jonah and the 60 Million Dollar Man

This past Sunday the guest speaker in my church was Father Zakaria Botros, the Coptic Priest who has a 60 million dollar bounty on his head by Al-Quada. Father Botros is the most effective Arab-American evangelist, and has been reaching Muslims with the gospel of Jesus Christ for over 40 years. Since being exiled from Egypt in 1989, he preaches in the Middle East via satellite radio and television, and reaches many here while living in the states.

I thought it was perfectly fitting that this man, who was imprisoned at a time for preaching to Muslims, made his entrance during our worship service while we were singing "How Great is our God".

Before giving us a presentation on understanding Islam and Muslims, Father Botros explained:

"Christianity teaches us to love all man-kind and love our enemies. But by no means does it tell us to be blind to reality and truth, or be misled by misinformation."

Father Botros also made it quite clear that:

"Many Muslims are good constructive members of society, therefore the problem is one of Islam and not of Muslims in general."

So Father Botros' mission is to reach Muslims with the truth by exposing the false religion of Islam. Here are some facts on Islam:

Islam is the only religion that adopts "terrorism"

There are 35,213 verses in the Quran that speak about terror and killing those that are not Muslim

In the West, Islam is viewed as just another religion

Father Botros explained that Islam has 2 faces:

1. Mohammed's character in Mecca:

In 610 A.D. Mohammed started out as peaceful and loving because he was not yet strong
An early verse in the Quran is "Let there be no compulsion in religion".

2.Mohammed's character in Medina:

Now that he has become stronger he spreads his religion by the sword

He also makes claim that Allah told him to kill whoever rejects Islam, primarily Christians and Jews

A later verse in the Quran,"And slay them wherever ye catch them".

Father Botros chose to follow Christ at an early age when discovering some notes in his older brother's Bible after his brother was beheaded by Muslims in 1947 for preaching the truth.

So here's Father Botros in 2010, reaching Muslims by the thousands with The Truth.

Now your probably thinking, "How does Jonah fit into this?"

Well if you can remember, Jonah was extremely loyal to the Jews and God wanted him to go deliver the Good News to the Gentiles(the non-Jews,who Jonah considered to be the enemy). Jonah was reluctant to obey on that one and chose to run the other way. Next thing you know he's inside the belly of a large fish for three days!

Once being deposited to land, and his mind obviously changed about the situation, (which my guess would happen to any of us if we were inside of a large fish for three days)Jonah agreed to declare God's message, and much to his dismay the Ninevites "responded" to God's call.

I think if Jonah knew that it was going to be that easy to reach the enemy with the gospel he probably would have had a different response then running the other way.

Father Botros obviously trusts God as he delivers the Good News to Muslims who follow the Islamic religion. He chose not to run away from the will of God but move forward in response to the call.

So I guess the question for us is: Do we need to spend three days inside the belly of a large fish in order to decide? Or do we follow the example of Father Botros and respond to our call with complete trust in God?

Monday, August 23, 2010

View From The Back Pew

One of the advantages I have of sitting in the back of my church on Sunday mornings while recording the service for podcast, is viewing the congregation during worship.
Yesterday I witnessed:

African Americans
Asian Americans

all worshiping God together in one accord. So when seeing this diverse group of people singing together "Jesus Messiah Lord of All" naturally it struck a cord with, what else?... all of us being in one accord.

"With one accord" means: being unanimous, having mutual consent, being in agreement, having group unity, and having one mind and purpose.

Throughout the New Testament we see the leadership carrying this dominant trait of "being of one accord". Whenever church leaders gathered in Jerusalem they were in unity and harmony with each other and with God.

It's obvious that these leaders were setting an example for the church today,
to put aside our theological differences and work together for the greater purpose: that of reaching others with the gospel through His Word and through His love.

When we sing "Jesus Messiah Lord of All" it really means that God is Lord of all.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Successful Seed

While running on the trails the other day I came across a detour, (yes even in the woods there's some kind of construction these days), the trail I usually don't go on had some interesting nature info signs such as the one in the above picture. Of course what came to mind for me when seeing this sign was the interesting parallel between this seed and the seed mentioned in The Parable of the Sower:

1. Seeds move in many ways to find sun, water, and soil they need to grow and succeed. Some seed gets eaten by birds, squirrels, and other animals.

2. Jesus explains in the Parable that the sower(us) sows the Word of God. Some seed is sown by the wayside and the enemy comes and takes away that Word that was sown.

Then there's seed sown on stony ground where some receive the Word with gladness, endure it only for a time, then stumble when a situation arises.

The seed spread among thorns are the one's who hear the Word but become distracted with the things of the world which chokes the Word and it becomes unfruitful.

Then finally we have the seed that is sown on good ground: those who hear the Word, accept it and bear fruit.

Something of importance in all of this is: that seed (the Word of God) needs to be tended to. It needs to be watered and nurtured in order to grow on good ground.

Oswald Chamber once said,

"God is not saving the world, it is done. Our business is
to get men and women to realize it."

Does God make you feel good? Has He ever turned you down in the time of need? If God is worth having in your life, isn't He worth sharing with others?

I like how one author describes himself,and this sums it up best:
"I'm just one beggar telling another beggar where I found bread."

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Tale of Two Trust's

1. Last week a Manhattan homeless man asked a New York exec for change. The woman didn't have any change but lent the man her American Express Platinum card.

"I asked her for change and told her I wasn't working. She said she only had a card. She said, 'Can I trust you?' I said, 'I'm honest, yes."

Many who witnessed this act of kindness outside a New York restaurant doubted the man would return. A short while later the man returned to the restaurant to return the credit card to the woman, as her friends looked on in amazement. The man only spent $25 worth of goods: deodorant, body wash, vitamin water, and cigarettes.

The woman exclaimed, "What he did was no surprise to me. People kept telling me,
'Why would you talk to him and trust him? But are we only supposed to trust people we know?

2. Over a year ago NFL player Donte Stallworth's car hit and killed a man who dashed across the highway to catch a bus right before dawn. Stallworth was legally drunk, and was arrested,convicted,sentenced, and suspended from football for one year.

What has been overshadowed in all of this, until now, was the fact that Donte ordered his lawyers to accept a plea deal that convicted him of a felon, even when evidence showed he had an excellent chance of being found innocent.

Donte said it was his fault, and didn't want to make the man's family sit through a court trial and relive the man's death.

"Any little decision you make will have a subsequent reaction. Be cognizant of your decisions", Donte now preaches when speaking at kids camps.

In the first story the New York exec's trust and the homeless man's honesty were, in a sense, both rewarded: her's for getting her card back with no real harm done to her pocketbook and the homeless man's honesty and the publicity that came from it may eventually open a door for someone to offer him a job. I think the woman's greater reward is that her act of kindness sent the message for us to approach the homeless with a better view of them as people.
(one sidebar to this story though: in the picture, the man, who had lost his job in real estate, did not look like a homeless man, he was actually dressed okay. In today's economy you do not necessarily need to look the profile of homeless to actually be homeless)

Second, Donte Stallworth was a pretty good guy of integrity and character before his accident: volunteering his off season time working with kids camps. He made one mistake, honed up to it, served a short time in jail, and this season returns to playing football.

"Everything has been challenged. My faith has been tested. My character has been tested. I try to think positive for everybody", Donte exclaims.

Donte was honest with his mistake and placed his trust in his own character as a person.

"Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value." -Albert Einstein

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What's in a Name?

"Now when I go into the Hall today, I'm not going in alone. You see, I'm carrying my grandfather, I'm carrying my father and I'm carrying my son along with me; because I bear all their names. Now, I have to say to my dad and to my son, our name will be forever enshrined into the history of football."

These words were spoken by Emmitt Smith of the Dallas Cowboys at his induction speech into the NFL Hall of Fame last weekend. He also told the story of a conversation he had with his father while sitting together at last year's Super Bowl and finding out about his being voted into the Hall of Fame. His father wanted to play professional football, but never got the chance to go to college. Emmitt said he was living his father's dream, fulfilling his own dream and fulfilling God's purpose in his life.

Whether you are a man or woman you can look back at your parents and grandparents and see traces of them within your own life's work and actions. Sometimes we tend to forget, not our last name, but what that last name may have been through and meant throughout history. I unfortunately cannot trace back too far in history my last name because my father lost his parents in an accident when he was about five or six years old. But I can carry on and bear that name and set an example for future generations in my family.

There are many out there who share the same story as Emmitt Smith, especially athletes. I admire those that do become successful and never forget where they came from, and share that wealth with their parents,family,and community.

Carrying on with pride that name you have been given is important. It is even found in the Book of Ecclesiastes to be so:

Ecclesiastes 7:1- A good name is better than precious ointment,
And the day of death than the day of one's birth;

People will remember you more at your death for that life that you led.

Winston Churchill once said,

"We make a living by what we get,
We make a life by what we give."

No matter your lot in life, live each day to the fullest. Carry on with pride the name that you've been given. It will make a difference for generations to come.

Monday, August 9, 2010


I heard this great testimony in church a couple of weeks ago from a gentleman who was up here in Chicago from Florida visiting a family at our church and giving his testimony at a few churches:

The man was in dire need of a liver transplant and was in a coma for 3 months. That whole entire time his wife stood by his side in faith praying for a miracle, while the doctors gave him no hope to live. The gentleman came out of his coma, received a new liver and is in perfect health today with no ill side affects.The last page on his medical report simply states: miraculous recovery. This gentleman now preaches in a Hispanic community in Florida.

I love testimonies because they are just a greater witness to the power of God. Many people fall into the "seeing is believing" concept of thinking so miracles are one the more powerful tools we have.

In the Miracle of the Nobleman's Son, there was a man who traveled to Cana to solicit Jesus to come and heal his son who was on his death bed. The man had already heard about the miracles that Jesus was performing in other cities. Jesus told the man, "Go your way, your son is healed".
Now Jesus didn't even travel to the place where this boy laid, he just simply told the father to go, your son is healed. And sure enough the man traveled back home to find his son healed.

An interesting note to all of this is:

Jesus was in Cana in the past and performed His first miracle there, turning water into wine. So, if that first miracle in Cana never would have happened, might this Nobleman have argued with Jesus to come to his son to heal him instead of just taking Him at His word that his son was healed?

Miracles happen everyday, so what's stopping us from just plain old trusting in God for the miraculous?

Simple answer: Faith

Friday, August 6, 2010

Fear First, Laugh Second

Do you remember the first time you went into a haunted house at an amusement park? Most of us could probably answer that one easy and readily admit that, "yes, we were scared!"

My first time entering a haunted house was in fifth grade and I can sort of remember myself being completely terrified. Especially passing by a closed coffin which opened in front of me and a vampire slowly rising out of it.

While at Universal Studios Amusement Park this past summer I dared to enter the Haunted House. I remember going in it last year for the first time and being caught off-guard in fear at the different special effects that sneak up to scare you.
And they do a pretty good job of it at Universal Studios!

This time going through it I kind of knew what to expect so the thrill of being scared wasn't there. But what did catch my attention was the group of pre teens from China who were obviously going through it for the first time. We were only inside the fright house a mere 15 seconds when one of the kids turned back and declined to face the fear. As I followed, the group of kids before me were all huddled together, embracing each other as they walked through the dark corridor, jumping at every movement of creatures that came up to scare them. This Haunted House had everything from a roomful of mirrors (that was hard to find a way out), to finding our way through some dead bodies(fake, mind you) wrapped in plastic hanging from the rafters.
Once the wolfman jumped out, these kids were so scared they did not want to complete the crossing of the bridge. My brother and I were amused but encouraged the kids to move on, we were almost finished with facing our fear.

Afterward, when we made it out "alive", I found the teens from China laughing out loud in good nature at the fear they had just faced and survived.

Thanks to these kids from China whom I got a chance to talk to,I suddenly realized something:

There are some things in life we may face and our first initial reaction may be one of fear. When we approach that fear with faith we get through it. We are now more prepared for the next fear factor that enters our life and so our fear is now, or should I say "should be", replaced with the attitude of: "No big deal, I've been through this before, nothing to get scared about, I'll make it".

F.D.R. once said that, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Facing your fears is a good thing, for the next time around you should find yourself laughing out loud! If not, then you didn't face your fear in faith.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The 3 Little Pigs and Then Some

I think our first lesson in deciphering between being wise and being foolish had to
have been when we were 3 years old and the story of The Three Pigs. In case you've forgotten the story( yeah right!) I'll refresh your memory:

When the three little pigs were old enough to go out on their own, their mother's advice to them was, "Whatever you do, do it the best you can because that's the way to get along in the world."

The first little pig built his house with straw because it was the easiest thing to do. And you know what happened, the wolf blew the house down and ate the pig!

The second pig built his house only a little bit stronger by using sticks, and again the wolf had himself another tasty meal.

But the third pig, now he was smart, he built his house using bricks, and you know what happened, the wolf did not succeed. When the pig invited his mother to his house she would exclaim,

"You see it is just as I told you. The way to get along in the world is to do things as well as you can."

When we grew a little bit older we got this same message through:

1.The Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote. The devious Wile E. tried all kinds of contraptions and elaborate schemes to catch the Road Runner, but the bird was wise to his actions and always outsmarted him.

2. Tom and Jerry. As pesky and conniving as that cat Tom was, Jerry was always one step ahead of him in the smart department.

Then when we really began to grow older, I think most of us may have unfortunately learned wisdom through our foolishness: chasing after the things of this world and never finding that real peace, joy and blessing that only comes from a life following Christ, and so we became wise through our stupidity.

In Ecclesiastes King Solomon reminds us that:

Eccl.9:2- All things come alike to all: One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; To the good , the clean, and the unclean;
To him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice.
As is the good, so is the sinner;
He who takes an oath as he who fears an oath.

This is good Word to remember if we become jealous of those around us who may seem like "they have it all" even if they are not living a Christ-like life.

So why choose wisdom over being foolish?

First, we need to know what the word "wisdom" means. The dictionary defines wisdom as having knowledge and judgement.

The biblical definition for wisdom is: uniting God with your daily life and applying the principles of right living to your life.

Wisdom in God eyes is:

1. Being responsible

2. Making the right choices in life

3. Knowing and trusting that God provides, loves, and forgives

4. Getting from just believing in God(accept as truth)to trusting(having a firm assurance)in God

5. Not putting a limit on what God can do for you

Foolishness is not living according to the standards God has set before us.

But when we choose wisely to live the way God wants us to live, and live that life responsibly, God will bless everything we put our hands to and our life will be filled with joy.

Psalm 16:11- You will show me the way of life.
Being with You is to be full of joy.

Though we can't always understand God's ways or thinking,we know that His plan for each of our lives is a perfect plan. And we can be assured that: His love never fails, He cares for you, and He knows what you have need of.

Choosing to place God first in your life and placing your trust in Him in everything you do, is the wisest choice you will ever make.