When Life Unravels Due to an Unexpected Death . . .

Yesterday, my family experienced a tragic death. A family member died unexpectantly, leaving many grief stricken people behind. And as is always the case with death, those who remain must at some point begin to put their lives back together. Always a difficult and painful process.

When life begins to unravel due to death, it is easy to look for someone to blame. And all too often that someone is God. We look his way and shout, "God, why? Why did he or she have to die?" I know. I've been there. But once the fog of our emotional pain begins to dissipate, we must quickly rid ourselves of our anger toward God. He is NOT to blame for death. We are. It is because of our sin, our rebellion against the God who made us, that death exists (see Romans 5:12). God never intended for us to ever experience death. This is why, I believe, the experience of losing a loved one is so painful -- it is downright unnatural! So, as we go through this experience ... I am so very glad that we do not have to walk through it alone. As King David wrote, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for YOU are with me!" (Psalm 23:4)

Thanks for stopping by . . . and thanks for your prayers for our family . . .


T-minus 42 Hours and 11 Minutes!

As I write, the year 2009 will soon be over (in just 42 hours and 11 minutes to be specific). Wow! Where did all the other 8718 hours go? They went where all the rest of the 45,000 (give or take a few) hours of my life have gone (and where one day all the remaining hours of my earthly life will also go!). They are done. Finished. Never to be lived again. As I sit here thinking about this, here are a few thoughts I offer for your consideration:

1. Since life passes so quickly (and can never be reclaimed) - don't waste it! Make the most of the time God gives you ... to live for Him. Heed these words of the Apostle Paul, "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity" (Ephesians 5:15-16a). Strive to live your life in such a way that your days matter .... to God and the work He is doing in this world!

2. Work on daily cultivating an attitude of thankfulness and joy. Each day is a gift from God. As the book of psalms reminds us, "This is the day that the LORD has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!" (Psalm 118:24).Put off griping and complaining and put on a spirit of gratitude!

3. Spend more time in prayer. I know I need to do this ... but with life being so short and passing so quickly, we MUST ask God to anoint our days with His grace and His enablement, without which we are destined to fail. Let's practice the instruction of 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to "pray continually."

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Yum! Let's Eat Some Crow!

The expression, "to eat crow" is an idiom referring to a person humbling themselves by admitting that a previously held opinion was a very wrong opinion.Why is this referred to as "eating crow?" Well, just as no one likes to eat crow (I have yet to see crow on any restaurant menu), no one likes to have to admit that something they had previously stated was wrong. So when a person must do so, he or she is said to be "eating crow!"  Recently I ran across the following quotes that made me think of this idiom of eating crow:

- "With over 50 foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn't likely to carve out a big slice of the US market." (Business Week, August 2, 1968)

- "But what is it good for?" (Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip)

-  "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." (Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962)

- "Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy." (drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859)

All of us realize that these individuals quoted here not only got it wrong ... they got it VERY wrong! But we can rest assured that our God NEVER gets it wrong. What he proclaims to be true in His Word is true! And what He says in His Word will one day happen, WILL HAPPEN! Are you prepared for the future that God lays out in the Bible? Why not pick up the book of Revelation and read chapters 19-22? What is described in those pages will one day occur - you can count on it!

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Post Christmas Reflections

Christmas 2009 is now past. And for me, it was a good Christmas. We had the family to our house for a good part of Christmas Day. I also enjoyed the two Christmas Eve services we conducted here at Grace. In fact, my only regret is that Christmas is just ONE day! On a recent tour of Mt. Vernon (George Washington's home), I learned that in George's day, the common practice was to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas (you are familiar with the song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas," aren't you?). Hmm. 12 days of Christmas? That might be a little much! But one day sure doesn't seem to cut it! But I am glad that even though Christmas Day comes around only once a year, the truth that it marks (the incarnation of the Living God) is a truth that impacts my life EVERY day of the year! How I thank God that He "so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that WHOEVER believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life!" (see John 3:16). Have YOU thanked God TODAY for the indescribable gift of His Son, Jesus Christ?

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Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Please take a moment to watch this video. I found it a refreshing way to remind me of what Christmas is truly all about! 

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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It's Only Two Days Until Christmas!

December 25th arrives in just two days! For almost all of us that means a day off of work (when normally, since the 25th falls on a Friday, we would be putting in a routine day at the office). But I am hoping that it means far more than that! Christmas Day is the day we commemorate and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ (at least, that is what Christmas should be all about - the word itself literally means "Christ's Mass."). However, all too often Jesus gets lost in all the feasting and gift giving with our family and friends.

Please take a moment and read the following parable:

"A wealthy Boston family held a christening party after the baptism of their baby. Guests and friends swarmed into their palatial home. Soon the party was in full swing. People were having a wonderful time, enjoying one another, eating, drinking, and being merry. Somebody asked, "By the way, where's the baby?" Instantly the mother's heart shuddered! In questioning panic, she left the room and rushed into the master bedroom where she had left her baby asleep in the middle of their large bed. There on the bed she found a huge pile of the guests' coats. The mother rushed to them and began to fling them aside as she clawed down to the bottom of the pile. To her horror she found her baby. . . dead. . . smothered by the coats of her guests." 

This parable was written to caution us against allowing all the activities and hub-bub of Christmas to cause us to lose sight of the very reason for the season - and that is the Christ child. Please be sure to be very intentional about worshiping Jesus Christ, who "though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9).  Where would we be if Jesus had not been willing to leave the glory of heaven for the depravity of earth?

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Are You Mad?

James Bain has spent the last 35 years in a Florida prison for a crime he did not commit. It was back during my senior year in high school (1974) that Bain was convicted of a kidnapping and rape that he did not commit. Recently, DNA evidence exonerated him and just last Thursday a judge ordered his release. Asked by reporters if he was angry about his wrongful incarceration, Bain replied, "No, I'm not angry." And the reason he gave as to why he was not angry (in spite of the fact that most of us would agree that he has every right to be angry!)?  "Because I've got God." 

Ouch! I've got God. Yet I get impatient, irritated and yes, downright angry at times. Usually it happens when I am behind the wheel of my car and some idiot (ouch - my anger is starting to surface!) ... I mean some nice sweet driver cuts me off.  Yet here is a guy who was locked up for three and half decades ... and he is not angry about it! If he is telling it like it really is - that is quite commendable!

How about you? Got anger?  Something making you mad? God says, "Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger" (Ephesians 4:26). You have heard it said (and said rightly) that righeous anger is not sin. But let's be honest. For most of us, the anger we experience is far from righteous! So let's do what the Scripture tells us to do ... and deal with whatever it is that is making us angry, confess to God and get it right!

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Now That Is One Cancellation to Get Excited About!

Due to this past weekend's snow storm (the biggest snow storm ever to hit Lancaster County in the month of December!), I experienced four major cancellations of important activities (at least they were important to me). Although I was glad for some unexpected time to slow down and catch my breath (at what is always a busy time of year), I was still disappointed about the cancellations.

One cancellation that I am NOT disappointed about is referenced by the Apostle Paul in Colossians2:13-14. There he writes the following:

"When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross."

Wow! The Law of God which we have violated has been cancelled! And that is something to rejoice about because violating God's Law leads to the sentence of eternal condemnation (and we are ALL law breakers!). Now God did not cancel His Law and its judgment against us in some arbitrary manner. No, justice was served. Jesus Christ lived out His life in perfect submission to the Law of God. Therefore, when He experienced death on the cross, he was not paying the curse of the Law (see Galatians 3:13) for His own breaking of God's Law (for He had never done so). Rather he was fulfilling OUR just sentence. And because he did so - the penalty of the Law against us was fulfilled!

So ... the next time you experience a cancellation for whatever reason - allow that cancellation to remind you of the one cancellation that is most definitely worthy to get excited about - not just during this week of Christmas, but every week of the year!

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Aliens on Earth!

This morning my wife and I were talking about the various homes we have lived in across the course of our thirty-one and a half years of marriage. The briefest stay in any one home was about 11 months. That was our first apartment, located on the first floor of an apartment building at 1813 Arch Street in center city Philadelphia. Our longest stay has been ten years and two months. That was 109 Main Street in Refton (although in about a year, should we still be in our current residence it will become our longest stay). Now in between Arch Street and Main Street have been numerous other homes ( five, if I have my math correct). Really that is not all that many compared to some people, but a lot for others. But given the mobility of our society, it probably surprises none of you!

This reminds me of what the Bible calls us in 1 Peter 1:1 where Peter refers to his readers as "aliens,"  "strangers" or "sojourners." When it comes to this earthly life, that is exactly what we are. We are travelers who have yet to arrive at our final destination. And we must always remember that! The temptation to "settle down" into this temporal, earthly life is very alluring. If we are to fulfill the mission God has given us, and prepare ourselves for the life that awaits us in heaven, then we must live our lives HERE and NOW in light of the life we will live THERE and THEN! So ... don't get wrapped up in storing up for yourselves treasures here on earth, "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal", knowing that "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (see Matthew 6:20-21).

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Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful . . .

The meteorologists are having a hay day -- or better said, a SNOW day! It always makes me chuckle about how much these weather forecasters get all excited about weather in general and big snow storms in particular! Well I must say they have done pretty well so far in forecasting this particular storm. As I write this posting, it is snowing fairly hard out there and we already have several inches on the ground. And the forecast I just viewed said the heaviest period of snow fall will be this afternoon into this evening! I guess that means we will be looking at well over a foot of snow before it is all over. Throw in some stiff winds that are forecast, and I am thinking that church services tomorrow will be only a dream! Of all Sundays (the Sunday before Christmas) to have to cancel! But I must remind myself that God is sovereign even over the weather. In Job 37:6 we read that God "says to the snow, 'Fall on the earth." So this snow storm is all part of God's providence.

Let me encourage you to use this time to slow down and reconnect ... with God and with your family. Spend some time around your Christmas tree. Moms and dads, share some childhood memories of your Christmases of yesteryear. Sing a Christmas carol or two. Open your Bible and do some long overdue reading. Play some games. Call a friend (you should catch them at home if your friend lives anywhere near Lancaster!).  Whether you are a snow lover or hater - "This is the day that the LORD has made" (Psalm 118:24) - so "let us be glad and rejoice in it!" Even if the weather outside is frightful!

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Security? What Do We Have to Fear?

Harvey and Paula Darden of Hogansville, Georgia arrived at the White House for what they thought was a tour. Instead they were ushered into an invitation-only breakfast with the President. It seems that the Dardens showed up a day early for a tour that had been arranged by their congressman for his constituents. When they arrived, they went through all the routine screening of the Secret Service. When it became increasingly apparent to the couple that this was not their tour - they approached a White House staffer. After voicing their concerns, they were simply told to "just go with the flow." So they did and enjoyed a wonderful buffet breakfast and even had their picture taken with the Obamas (which they are still waiting to receive).

I chuckled as I read about this. What an experience for this couple! But at the same time I also grimaced. On the heels of the news of the D.C. socialites who crashed a recent state dinner, I had to ask myself, "What does this say about the security at the White House?" Whatever it says, it is definitely not complimentary!!!

So the security around the President seems a little lax. But the security around the follower of Jesus is anything but! Jesus states in John 10:27-30: "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. 30I and the Father are one." 

The Apostle Paul adds to this thought of the security of the believer in Christ when he states in Romans 8:38-39: "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, have you thanked your Father lately for the security you have in Christ? Be assured - there is nothing that can breach the security He provides!

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It Will Be a Blue Christmas . . .

The occurrence of depression is something that seems to spike around the holidays. And those who have gone through serious bouts of depression know that it can be quite life disrupting. According to current statistics, approximately 15-20% of Americans will go through a serious time of depression at some point in their lives. And no doubt ALL of us will go through significant bouts of discouragement throughout our life times. So what should we do? For serious cases of clinical depression, professional help is in order. If you think you might be suffering from clinical depression, a trip to your family physician would most certainly be in order. But what if you are not suffering from a clinical depression but you are experiencing "the blues." What steps can you take to rid yourself of discouragement?

Consider Psalm 13. In this psalm, King David is down in the dumps. This is clear from what he says in the first two verses. Then as he moves on, he gives the path we must walk if we are to encourage our downcast hearts. Take a moment and read the psalm ... and then I will share a couple more thoughts:

Psalm 13
How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? 3Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; 4my enemy will say, "I have overcome him," and my foes will rejoice when I fall. 5But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 6I will sing to the LORD,  for he has been good to me.

David takes two steps to get beyond his blues. First he prays. He asks God to give light to his eyes. I believe what he is asking for is that God would grant him His perspective on his, David's problems. It is so easy to lose perspective when troubles hit. To see our problems as God sees them is a big part of overcoming discouragement. Secondly, David chooses to trust God - specifically God's unfailing love and salvation. Friends, when difficulties hit and we grow discouraged, it is easy to doubt God's love for us and his goodness toward us. We must refuse to go down this path and instead choose to go down the path of trusting our loving and our good God. When we take these two steps, our hearts will begin to move from sadness to singing!

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Wanted: A Car Thief!

Yesterday, the Lancaster City Police Department began handing out citations to people who leave their cars unattended, unlocked and with the engine running. You know the routine. It's a cold morning. The windows are frosted over. So you run out to the car, start it up, and then run back into your warm house while your car warms up. The problem of course, is that would-be car thieves also know the routine. And this practice by many just makes it all that much easier for the crooks to drive off with a car (which in turn makes a lot more work for an already overworked police force!).So the police are hoping that the citation, along with a minimal fine, will be enough motivation to encourage people to forgo this unwise practice.

I guess for some people, the threat of a fine will be enough motivation to skip this routine. But my guess is that for others, they will take their chance on a ticket (or worse yet, on their car being stolen). Why? First off, we Americans love our personal comfort. We live to make life more comfortable. Comfort and convenience are two highly cherished personal values. And so we take the chance of a ticket or theft because of our desire to slip into a warm car and avoid the shivers that come from sitting in an ice box. In addition, we really don't think our car will get stolen. Yes, the police warn us ... and yes, we hear about it happening, BUT it surely won't happen to us. This is how many of us approach life. However, it is downright foolish to think like this. If we are unguarded enough to leave our car unattended with the keys in the ignition - we are simply asking for trouble. And life brings enough trouble are way without us advertising for it! The Scripture is clear, "A man reaps what he sows" (Galatians 6:7). What are YOU sowing today? An important question to consider because what you sow today you will reap tomorrow!

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Black Ice and Common Sense!

Wikipedia defines black ice (or sometimes it is referred to as "glare ice") as "ice frozen without many air bubbles trapped inside, making it highly transparent. This type of ice appears in the color of the material beneath it, often wet asphalt or a darkened pond. Because it may be difficult to detect, it presents a significant hazard to automotive traffic, pedestrians, and sailors."  Yesterday, black ice proved to be a major headache for many here in the Lancaster County area as rain began falling while some road surfaces were still at a temperature below the freezing mark. As a result, dozens of ice related accidents occurred, including one that resulted in a fatality.

Now if you have ever hit a patch of "black ice," you will know the terrible feeling of utter horror and helplessness as you feel your car begin to slide out of control. If you encounter it once, I will guarantee that you will slow down the next cold wet day we have - unless of course, you are one of those people who like to throw caution to the wind! Now what makes black ice so treacherous is that it is almost impossible to spot. So before you know it - you are on top of it and your tires are spinning and your car begins to slip and slide. Hopefully you get it under control before you collide with some immovable object! So ... please if you are driving on a wet day and the temperature is anywhere near freezing - PLEASE slow down and drive with care!

So bottom line, it all comes down to driving with a bit of common sense. In fact - much of life comes down to living with a bit of common sense. It amazes me at how so many of us lack so much of this commodity of common sense and that includes what I call "spiritual common sense." This type of common sense is what comes our way from getting to know the basic scriptural truths that the Bible gives to us over and over again. Truth that is designed to help us become more like Jesus. So we need to be in the Word so we get this spiritual common sense into our heads ... and then we need to be intentional about the Word as we seek to apply it to our daily lives!  How about it? Are YOU living your life with a lot of spiritual common sense?

Thanks for stopping by . . .


A Thought for Your Weekend . . .

A week ago yesterday, a homeowner in Ephrata, PA was awakened by her child, informing her that some stranger was asleep on their living room couch. After confirming her child's report, the startled  homeowner immediately called police who upon arrival arrested the 16 year old boy, charging him with trespassing and underage drinking. It seems that he was so intoxicated, that he wandered into the house and fell asleep on the sofa!

As I thought on this, the first question that came to my mind is, "How did he get in?" The fact that he was not charged with breaking and entering tells me that the door to the house was probably unlocked. If this was the case, it reminds me of how so often we leave the door to our heart unlocked. We allow sin to enter in and take up residence when we should be doing all we can to keep it out. Such sins as selfish ambition, pride, envy, jealousy, greed, bitterness, anger, etc. This leads me to the question: What have you allowed to take up residence in your heart that you need to get rid of right now? If you are not sure, ask God to show you ... and when he does, take action!

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Climategate and Integrity

Recently a scandal involving the scientific community has hit the proverbial fan. Computer hackers broke into the computer system of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England. The emails they uncovered seem to suggest a plot among the researchers there to hide the truth about recent changes in global temperatures. Now my purpose in bringing this to your attention is NOT to discuss global warming (or non global warming, depending upon your position). Rather I want to point out what the director of the research unit, Phil Jones had to say in defense of a rather condemning email. In the email he wrote that he had used a "trick" to "hide the decline" in a chart detailing recent global temperatures. When called on the carpet, he claimed that he did not use the word "trick" to refer to an act of deception but merely as a "clever thing to do." Hmm. Really? I always thought the word trick carried the idea of deception. But I decided to give Dr Jones the benefit of the doubt - that is until I had the chance to consult several online dictionaries. Every single dictionary I checked with indicated that the definition of the word "trick" carried the idea of deception. Dr. Jones apparently needs to check his dictionary a little more carefully!

All this to say - as fallen sinful people, we have a tendency to do whatever it takes to rationalize our sin and when caught, to do whatever is needed to find some "wiggle room" so we do not have to take responsibility for any wrong doing. For those of us who follow Jesus, we need to be on the alert for this tendency and make sure we don't fall into doing the same. When we are wrong (whether we get caught by others or not is NOT the issue - God sees ALL!) - we need to take responsibility for our actions, repent and confess, embrace God's gracious forgiveness and right any wrongs.

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Frozen Tongue and Right Talk!

I read a brief newspaper article yesterday morning that immediately transported me back to my days as a student at Melrose Elementary School in Harrisburg, PA. The story related the incident where a ten year old boy in Boise, Idaho got his tongue stuck on a frozen metal pole - most likely the result of a dare. (Sound familiar? If you have ever seen the classic movie, A Christmas Story - you will have to shake your head "yes!" - see adjacent photo). Back in my elementary school days, on a frigid winter morning, a student was dared to lick the metal hand rail on the stairs leading up to the school's main entrance (just so you know, I was neither the boy who licked the metal hand rail, nor the boy who issued the dare - in fact, I was no where near this unfortunate incident - really!). The boy was not one to turn his back on a dare and he licked and immediately his tongue froze to the hand rail! The police and EMT's came and the boy was finally freed from the hand rails frozen grip!

Silly? Yes! But every year it seems like some ten year old some where decides to lick a cold metal object. You can count on it happening (last year it was a ten year old in Hammon, Indiana). Perhaps more of us should consider doing just that. Well, not really. But all of us could benefit from keeping our tongues in check. All too often our tongues (that piece of flesh that wags between our jaws) get out of control. And with a thoughtless word (or words) we pierce another person's soul. Let's purpose to practice Ephesians 4:29 in our talk: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but ONLY what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

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While on Vacation . . .

I am currently enjoying some time off. I will be back in the office on Thursday. Until then, just a brief thought that hit me yesterday (Monday). My wife, Sharon and I were eating breakfast at a Hampton Inn in Williamsburg, VA. The table at which we were seated overlooked the hotel's indoor pool. I commented to Sharon about the stillness of the pool's surface. In her reply she used the word "undisturbed." Undisturbed. That will one day be our experience ALL THE TIME! Our soul will be at perfect rest, undisturbed by anything external or internal! But for now ... there are those times of rest when God gives us an undisturbed soul - if even only for a moment. Take some time to "stop striving" (Psalm 46:10) and rest in God's presence today. Ask him for a time of peace ... a time when your heart and soul is undisturbed in His presence.

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Laugh a Little!

 According to research, laughter is very good for you! Life is too short and too hard to never laugh. Take a moment and consider the following benefits of laughter:

Physical Health Benefits:
  • Boosts immunity
  • Lowers stress hormones
  • Decreases pain
  • Relaxes your muscles
  • Prevents heart disease
Mental Health Benefits:
  • Adds joy and zest to life
  • Eases anxiety and fear
  • Relieves stress
  • Improves mood
  • Enhances resilience
Social Benefits:
  • Strengthens relationships
  • Attracts others to us
  • Enhances teamwork
  • Helps defuse conflict
  • Promotes group bonding 

Given these benefits ... I decided to post the following Muppet Youtube video in hopes you will laugh a little - I certainly did when I first viewed this clip. Enjoy!


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Tiger's Confession

As I write this, Tiger Woods, undoubtedly the world's highest paid athlete and probably the most famous as well, has just gone public with a statement in which he says that he has let his family down and regrets “transgressions” he has committed. Since his early morning accident over this past weekend, allegations have surfaced that he has had affairs with several women. Now at this point, only Tiger knows the answer to the questions "Who?" and "How many?" and perhaps in time those answers will be revealed by the relentless investigation of the media. All this to say, Tiger's squeaky clean image is now tarnished. And whether his marriage will survive is hard to say at this point.

A verse from Proverbs came to my mind as I thought about Tiger Wood's current situation. In Proverbs 22:1 we read that "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold."  Tiger has a lot of "silver and gold," but due to his "transgressions" he has lost his good name and probably a lot more!  Let's learn from this. Even when we think we have "gotten away" with a sin - we really have not!  Our sin will find us out - some how, some way! And when it does ... the good name we have worked at building for so long can be gone in an instant!

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4 Cops Slain! Why?

Why? That was a question I asked myself when I heard about the assassination of four Seattle area police officers this past Sunday morning. The four were just beginning their shifts, working on their laptops at a local coffee shop. In walked Maurice Clemmons. He pulled out a gun and shot each of the four. In the struggle with one of the officers, Clemmons was apparently shot in his abdomen. He ran for two days before he was finally shot by police in a standoff in the early morning hours of Tuesday.

This story saddens me for many reasons. For starters, I feel for the families of the slain officers. I believe all were married with children still at home. As a result of one mad man's senseless act, wives are left without husbands and children are now fatherless. That not only saddens me - it angers me! Something else that angers me is the revelation that the shooter had been given clemency in 2000 by the then governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee. He had been sent to prison for a teenage crime spree, but had his sentence commuted after he demonstrated to the satisfaction of the governor and the parole board that eleven years in prison had changed him. This is what he wrote concerning his change: "Where once stood a young (16) year old misguided fool, who's own life he was unable to rule. Now stands a 27 year old man, who has learned through 'the school of hard knocks' to appreciate and respect the rights of others. And who has in the midst of the harsh reality of prison life developed the necessary skills to stand along and not follow a multitude of do evil, as I did as a 16 year old child."  Unfortunately for the four cops and their families (not to mention other crime victims - Clemmens had 7 pending felony charges in Washington at the time of his death) - his change did not run as deep as he claimed. Now I understand hindsight is 20-20 - but somewhere and somehow the justice system failed!

This brings me to ask about changes you have made in your life. Are they deep and abiding? Or are you just mouthing change while deep down inside you remain the same old ..... whatever. It is easy to claim change ... far more difficult to actually experience it. Now there are a number of reasons for this such as the reality that our sinful flesh bulks at any change toward Christlikeness; and our Enemy (a.k.a. "Satan") sure does not want us to experience change toward godliness; and our entire world system is hell bent on keeping us in line with all of its godless values. All this to say we must PRAY with all our might that God would work deep within us to change us and make us more like Jesus AND we must WORK at disciplining ourselves for godliness. Or as someone once put it: Pray as if everything depends on God and WORK as if everything depends on you!

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Hell? No!

In a survey released just a little over a year ago by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, just 59% of 35,000 respondents said they believe in a hell "where people who have led bad lives, and die without being sorry, are eternally punished." And this is down from 71% who said they believed in hell as reported in a 2001 Gallup poll. As I reflected on this finding concerning hell, the following thoughts came to mind:

1. I was not surprised that belief in hell is waning. For starters, who among us like to think about a place where people suffer terribly for all eternity - yet alone believe that such a place actually exists?

2. The Enemy would like nothing better to ease people's fear of any eternal judgment to come. Why should anyone run to Jesus for salvation if, at the end of the day, everyone eventually goes to heaven any way? (by the way 74% of the same respondents believe in heaven)

3. The growing disbelief in hell corresponds with the growing belief in God as a God of love and love alone. Even among evangelical believers, the troubling trend of the disrobing of God of his majestic holiness is a happening! This in spite of the fact that Scripture portrays a God who is as much a God of wrath as He is a God of love, many turn a deaf ear to the teaching of the former and prefer to think of God primarily (if not only) in terms of His love. This is tragic for as A.W. Pink points out, "A study of the concordance will show that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God than there are to His love and tenderness." If you want confirmation on this - just read through the book of Revelation and note the references to God's wrath!

4. Hell is indeed a real place. It is referred to over and over again in Scripture (and mentioned often by the Lord Jesus Himself). But how can God send someone to hell (that God will do this please see Revelation 20:11-15) for all eternity when the person has sinned for only 60, 70, or 80 years? Doesn't that seem like the punishment is a bit "over the top?" Read the following quote from Lee Strobel's book, A Case for Faith (in which he quotes J.P. Moreland): “You have to understand that God is infinitely greater in his goodness, holiness, kindness, and justice than anyone else. To think that a person could go through their whole life constantly ignoring him, constantly mocking him by the way they choose to live life without him, saying, ‘I couldn’t care less about what you put me here to do. I couldn’t care less about your values or your Son’s death for me.  I’m going to ignore all that’– that’s the ultimate sin. And the only punishment worthy of that is the ultimate punishment, which is eternal separation from God.”

5. The fact that an increasing number of people reject the concept of hell - this does not mean hell is not real (consider that for centuries the vast majority of people believed the earth was the center of the solar system - yet this strong belief did not make it so!). Hell is real and therefore people who continue to live with out Jesus Christ are in danger of eternal judgment. Those of us who have the good news must strive to be more intentional about sharing that good news with others. It is their only hope!

Thanks for stopping by . . .


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