Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Brief Math Lesson

OK. Most of us, by now, are completely numb to the whole economic stimulus banter, as well as all the figures being tossed about with respect to the bailout. I must admit it has become tiresome.

But, maybe this will awake you from your media-induced slumber.

Let's take a million seconds (as in time). How far will one million seconds take us? You have a guess?

The answer is 11.57 days - a little more than a week and a half.

In terms of minutes, one million minutes is a little more than 694 days, or not quite two years.

That's one million.

Now, let's consider a billion.

One billion seconds is more than 11,574 days. That's 31.71 years.

Sobering, isn't it?

A million bucks is a lot of money. We'd all be quite happy to have a million bucks in the old bank account.

It certainly puts our economy in a completely different light when we are tossing around figures like $85 billion like it's chump change.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Rock

No, I am not writing about Dwayne Johnson, or the Nicolas Cage movie about Alcatraz. I'm talking about Cephas (Aramaic for "rock) - Simon Peter - the rock upon which Jesus built his Bride - the Church.

I'm now in Acts 5, having just read through Acts 3 and 4 this morning. Powerful stuff.

Peter and John are heading into a prayer service at the Temple, when they see a lame beggar at the gate. The beggar is wanting money. His goals fall far short of what Peter and John have in mind. Peter responds to the beggar, saying, "I don't have money, but I will give you what I do have."

He tells the beggar to stand up and walk in the name of Jesus. And, that is exactly what the man does...for the first time in more than 40 years! The man is jubilant, and proceeds to walk into the Temple with Peter and John. Of course, the crowd takes notice immediately. The dude who has been lying at the foot of the gate to the temple for decades is now up on his feet. Incredible.

Here's what scripture then tells us: Peter saw his opportunity and addressed the crowd. (Acts 3:12 NLT)

Peter had not just commanded the man to get up and walk in Jesus' name for kicks. He didn't do it simply to show compassion, or because he felt bad for the guy. He used God's healing power to open a door. He preached boldly to the people there who witnessed this miracle, proclaiming God's glory, while insisting he himself had not given this lame beggar the ability to stand up.

Following his sermon, Peter and John were arrested by the temple priests and Sadducees, and imprisoned overnight. The next day, the were brought before the Jewish high council, where they were essentially asked one question: "By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?"

I guess they weren't listening closely to Peter's message (though I doubt that was the case). Perhaps they expected Peter to fess up that he was pulling a Houdini. But Peter, the most outspoken of the disciples, stated clearly who healed the man: "He was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified, but whom God raised from the dead."

Despite the overwhelming evidence, the religious leaders refused to believe in Christ, and did all they could to thwart the message the apostles were bringing to the people. They gave Peter and John a stern warning, commanding them to never teach in the name of Jesus again.

And, Peter replied exactly as we would have expected him to. "Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than Him?" (Acts 4:19 NLT)

And, that's the question each of us need to ask ourselves often, but are often too afraid to.

But it all goes back to Peter not only seeing an opportunity, but doing something when he had the chance. We cannot let these opportunities slip by when eternity hangs in the balance.

Show compassion and mercy. Live with integrity and character. Then, allow God to use your witness to influence others to know Him.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Come in from the Rain

I woke up this morning. I am still breathing. My kids are healthy. My wife hasn't left me. I have a roof over my head, and the heat is still running in the house. I have a job. I can walk. I have friends. The list could go on and on. I have an overabundance of things for which I am thankful.

So, why is today regarded as the "most depressing day in history?"

Here's what one article said: Cold weather, fading Christmas memories and broken New Year resolutions mean this period is usually miserable, but the effects of the economic downturn makes this year worse than ever.

The article goes on to say:

Psychologist Dr Cliff Arnall has devised a mathematical formula that pinpoints today as Blue Monday.

He says there are six depressive factors which will come together including the winter weather, Christmas credit card bills and abandoned New Year's resolutions. Fears over job security, mounting debt and the house price collapse make this year the toughest yet.

Monday is regarded as the worst day of the week with many dreading the prospect of returning to work. Dr Arnall, 43, said: 'The credit crunch means today is potentially the most depressing Blue Monday we have had.'

You see that? There's a key word in that quote from Arnall: potentially. Do you know what potential means? It means it hasn't happened yet.

It'll happen IF you allow it to happen...and I don't mean your circumstances. I mean your attitude and your heart.

Don't buy in to the gloom and doom. Be positive and influence others for the good!!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Teacher Bewildered Over School Decision

I was listening to Sean Hannity last night on my way home from work, and a lady called in to share some information with Hannity and listeners.

The caller is a high school teacher, and she said that next Tuesday, January 20, the entire school - 1,200 students - will all watch the Presidential Inauguration during class time.

That fact, in and of itself, is great. Students should have the opportunity to witness historical events in our great nation.

But, the teacher also explained that never before in the school's history had a decision been made that ALL students, teachers, administrators, etc. would watch a Presidential Inauguration.

Seems a little inconsistent, doesn't it? Will this school continue to show the Presidential Inauguration every four years from now on?

What are your thoughts on this?

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Gospel of John

I was reading the Gospel of John this morning, and something struck me. I normally try to read a chapter each morning, but I was getting toward the end of John - Chapter 18 - and I couldn't stop reading. I read to the end of book - through Chapter 21.

I mean, I have read this many times before, but John's writing style is so different than the other writers of the Gospels, and each time I read his poetic version of Jesus' life, I am riveted.

Anyway, I find it interesting that John didn't dwell on details too much. Instead of giving complete explanations of everything that happened, John chose to focus more on Jesus - who he was, what he said, and how he related to others.

The final chapters are no exception. While Matthew and Mark spend the bulk of their final chapters thoroughly taking the reader through the grueling torture and crucifixion that Jesus endured, John talked more about the post-resurrection Jesus. In fact, two full chapters - Ch. 20-21 - talk about Jesus' three appearances to his disciples after his death and burial, as well as Jesus' critical - and incredibly tender - final conversation with Peter.

If you haven't read the Book of John recently, I encourage you to do so. And, pay really close attention to Chapters 14-17, which are some of the most beautiful words - Jesus', no less - in all of Scripture.

And, now it's on to Acts.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Turning the World Upside-Down

Rick Reilly is one of the greatest writers around. For years, he was a regular columnist for Sports Illustrated, and is now a part of ESPN - both as a writer, and as an occasional on-air personality at major events covered by the network (I'd prefer he stick to the writing. He comes across as an arrogant and smug know-it-all on-air).

Reilly writes a weekly column for ESPN The Magazine entitled The Life of Reilly. Equally humorous and poignant, his stories seem to inspire and soften the hardest of hearts.

A recent story about a Texas high school football game is no exception. As much as I'd love to give away the crux of the story, I'd prefer that you read it yourself.

As you'll see, sometimes the greatest blessings come packaged in the most unexpected ways.

Click HERE for the Story

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sore Thumbs

Ever gone out of town, and eaten at a popular local dive? You walk in and feel like all eyes are on you…because they are!

Or, perhaps you’ve been on vacation and have your digital camera on your person everywhere you go. There’s no hiding the fact that you are an out-of-towner. A tourist.

But, what about in your “normal” surroundings? In your hometown, your place of work, or just out in the community? Do you ever stick out? Or, do you blend in?

Maybe you’ve heard the phrase: “To be in the world, but not of the world.” While that exact phrase cannot be found in scripture, I believe they are words to live by. God put each of us here to make a difference in others’ lives and to impact His kingdom. Not to get caught up in what the “world” offers.

But, how can we avoid getting swept up in what the world offers? Certainly, it’s easier said than done. But, there are appropriate – and necessary – measures we can take to prevent it.

In his book The Best Question Ever, Andy Stanley paints a picture of blending in with the world’s value system. When we go to the beach, we’ll run out into the ocean and play in the waves. Before long, we look up and we’re 100 yards down the beach from where we first entered the water! We got swept away by the current, but it happened so subtly and gradually, we didn’t notice.

The same thing happens in our lives. We don’t set out to make poor decisions or sacrifice the best things in our lives. It happens bit by bit. And, without realizing it, the TV shows we’ve been watching, the habits we’ve picked up, and the damaging relationships we’ve gotten ourselves into have put us way off course.

According to Stanley, we’ve got to establish a point of reference. Just like being in the ocean, and drifting down the coast, we have a tendency to lose sight of where we need to be. Andy said his dad would set up a stack of rocks about 50 yards down the beach. When he got to that point of reference (the rocks), he would get out of the water and walk back. It was a visual reminder – simple, but powerful.

We need the same types of reminders for ourselves – ethically, morally, and spiritually. We need to develop guidelines and boundaries – points of reference – for our journey here on earth. Otherwise, we’ll just “go with the flow” and compromise our character – and hurt those most dear to us – along the way.

God wants people who will stick out – like sore thumbs. He’s desperate for people who will look, act, and live differently than the earthly standard. He wants people who follow him, and who love and serve others. He wants people who swim against the current, not those who drift.

I believe Jesus said it best in his Sermon on the Mount: "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” Matthew 5:14-15

Just as a sore thumb sticks out, a bright light cannot (and should not) be hidden. In fact, the darker the night, the brighter that light shines.

Don’t drift. Put your feet down, and look to the One who continues to offer all He has just so He can walk with you!