Is That the Truth?

Do you ever have trouble delineating whether something is true or not?  Our society today is inundated with social media and television reporting “facts” in things that have happened.  But are they really true?

Some scientific reports have been tainted by lack of truth.  Last year a highly respected journal Science had to distance itself from a New York Times’ major headline-generating study on same-sex marriage.  One of the social scientists doing the study falsified the information received and turned it into a scam.

Last year Japanese researchers reported a breakthrough on stem-cell research.  It was based on a scientist’s falsified results.  In 1998 phony data was used to link autism to childhood vaccines.  A scientist stated that “every day, on average, a scientific paper is retracted because of misconduct.”

The world of entertainment has experienced misrepresentations of truth.  Remember the rock star NBC news anchor Brian Williams?  He appeared on all the late night talk shows and hosted “Saturday Night Live.”  He was considered the number one news anchor and was recently ranked as one of the most trusted people in America.   Investigations showed he wasn’t always telling the truth.  At first there were two or three incidents reported.  An investigation later showed there were 11 additional stories where Brian Williams did not tell the truth.

This problem also touches the world of religion.  Remember Alex Malarkey who was critically injured in a car crash?  He wrote a book, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, in which he told how an angel took him through the gates of heaven where he met Jesus.  This book sold millions of copies.

This past year Alex admitted that it never happened.  He said, “I did not die.  I did not go to heaven.  I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention.”  He lived up to his name – “Malarkey!”  Recently a couple of “Christian” musicians admitted they lied about their faith and used Christianity only to sell records.

This past year we saw Philippine President Benigno Aquino tell a lot of untruths in order to white wash last January’s disastrous police massacre.  The president sent special police forces to Mamasapano to arrest two alleged bomb makers.  This was a stronghold of Islamist militants.  The entire operation was badly planned and the police were ambushed.  Forty-four officers were killed – the largest loss of elite forces in Philippine’s history.  Aquino didn’t tell the truth about his ordering the operation, then he didn’t tell the truth about his refusal to send a rescue mission.

Lack of truth has also hit the sports world.  Penn State is learning about consequences.  The world champion New England Patriots will be without their starting quarterback for a few games because of “Deflategate.”  Four great American Olympian swimmers couldn’t tell the truth in Rio.  A lot of college athletic programs are on some kind of probation because of disregarding the truth about adhering to rules.

Sometimes we think repeating a lie will make it come true.  Falsehood is false regardless of how many times we say it!  (Tweet this)

The first step in determining truth is to recognize genuine truth.  Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6) and “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:36).  Solomon writes, “Lies will get any man into trouble, but honesty is its own defense.  Telling the truth gives a man great satisfaction . . . Truth stands the test of time.  Lies are soon exposed” (Prov. 12:13-14; 19).

And that’s the truth!

What Is It Worth?

How good are we at determining the value of things? Some people are experts in their field such as a car salesman who has to know the value of a trade-in vehicle, or a person examining a piece of jewelry, or an appraiser giving a value to an antique. These things are important, but in everyday life we all have to make value judgments.

Kevin Nguyen is 16-years old and TJ Khayatan is 17. They were visiting the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and were somewhat amused that some of the museum’s exhibits were considered art.

The boys decided to conduct an experiment to see how smart the people were in determining the value of museum artwork. Kevin and TJ decided to create their own artistic piece. They took Kevin’s glasses and placed them on the floor. Sure enough, visitors started crowding around and mistakenly took them for an avant-garde exhibit. People were taking photos. It was just a pair of glasses on the floor! The teenagers got a big laugh out of the event. I doubt if the Museum of Modern Art staff thought it was very funny!

Stephen Fletcher is an appraiser on Antiques Roadshow. Once he was given a “grotesque face jug,” and he dated it to the late 19th century and valued it at $50,000.

A viewer was watching the show and called to say she recognized the piece, and that it had been made by her friend Betsy from an Oregon high school ceramics class in the 1970s. Betsy Soule, now a horse trainer, confirmed the story and produced a photo of herself as a teen surrounded by several similar looking sculptures. Stephen, the appraiser, admitted he had been very wrong and downgraded his estimate of value to $5,000.

What is the value of a one dollar bill? The value of the dollar might be dropping, but some one dollar bills may be worth more than the face value. Brian Hershberg in the The Wall Street Journal says that if it has the right serial number, a one dollar bill can bring a lot of money as a “fancy bill.”

A low serial number – 00000046 – recently carried a bid for $114 on eBay. If serial numbers ascend or descend (like 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8) called “ladders,” they are quite valuable as are those bills with “radars” where the numbers read the same back and forth (1 2 3 4 4 3 2 1) and “repeaters” (like 2 0 1 5 2 0 1 5). Don’t spend too much time checking the serial numbers on your one dollar bills! Some are very valuable, but there are very few of them.

You can find something valuable in the least likely places, if you are alert and looking for it. Lindsay Hasz was eating a plate of mussel and clam linguini at a favorite Italian restaurant in Washington State. She bit down on something hard and spat out the offending item. It turned out to be a spherical, purple stone, identified as a rare gem stone produced by saltwater clams and valued at over $1,600. Even a good mouthful of food might have unexpected extra value!

Don’t let potential success blur how you see your values. Last winter, Leslie Binns was just 500 meters from the summit of Mount Everest when he abandoned his attempt to reach the peak in order to save another climber. The British army veteran was preparing his final ascent when he saw Sunita Hazra, an Indian climber, sliding down the mountain. He saved Sunita’s life and helped her down the perilous descent back to camp, sometimes falling into waist-deep crevasses. He didn’t reach the top, but he made a far more valuable decision!

Let God help you determine the value you place on the price tags of life!

A General Who Served Us

Twenty-two years ago in Montgomery, a decorated brigadier general retired from the Air Force after 30 years of distinguished service.  He was encouraged by city leaders to help serve as leader of the Montgomery Area Food Bank (MAFB).  General Parke Hinman felt a calling to help people in need.  He wasn’t looking for employment, but he wanted the rest of his life to make a difference.  He accepted the challenge and went on to serve the MAFB for 22 years!  I attended his retirement in July.

Parke Hinman and his wife Cookie were active members at Frazer on two different occasions during his assignments at Maxwell AFB.  Parke became a good friend through our mutual interest in athletics.  He was the first person to letter in football, basketball, baseball and track at the United States Air Force Academy.  He is also one of only two people who ever had a perfect score on the original Air Force Academy and West Point physical fitness testing! 

Parke attended a high school in Washington State that required ROTC.  He chose Air Force ROTC because “his mother said he looked good in blue.”  He initially got a basketball scholarship to Washington State University.  But in his freshman year, the coach took back the scholarship because he said “he wasn’t good enough to play.”  That was the wrong thing to tell Parke!

He applied to the Air Force Academy, received a congressional nomination and was accepted.  He gave leadership to the football team that had a tremendous record.  He was the most valuable player on the basketball team which went to the NCAA tournament.  He set track records that lasted for years.  He didn’t quit when his first college coach told him he wasn’t good enough.  He knew God had something better in store for him.

I wouldn’t think that an Air Force General with 30 years’ service would really fit the role of being a servant leader in a mission like the food bank that serves so many people in need.  I was certainly wrong about that!  He had a fruitful ministry at the MAFB.  I am sure he gave a lot of orders as an Air Force General, but in a service ministry like MAFB, you have to put up with a lot of unjust criticism and not many thank you’s by folks whom you are serving.  Leaders know how to do that.  Parke is a leader!

When Parke assumed leadership at the MAFB, they were dispensing about 4 million pounds of food a year.  In 2015, the Food Bank dispensed over 23 million pounds of food!  When he started, they had 9 employees – today they have 31.  The Food Bank services 37 counties in Alabama – that’s over 50% of the counties!  Compared to food banks in other parts of the country, MAFB has less employees who dispense more food!

Parke and his wife Cookie have been married 52 years.  He is a great leader and a man of deep Christian commitment.  His son described Parke as “a person with 50 years of selfless service; a godly man, a coach, a mentor, a man of unequivocal integrity who is caring, compassionate, leads by example, and is a role model.”

His employees gave glowing reports about his leadership.  They presented him with a nice embossed plaque.  They composed the content of the plaque, which says in part, “You’ve always been the person who was encouraging us to look forward, leading with humility, honesty and courage, challenging us all to do better.  You have transformed us, and we are more than we ever dreamed we could be.  You have made a lasting impact on both your food bank family and the people we serve.”  Wow, that is coming from the folks who worked for him! 

Thanks to a leader who has served the people of Alabama so well.  This should be a call to each of us as to where God is calling us to serve.  Parke followed One of higher and greater rank who said “I didn’t come to be served, but to serve” (Matt. 20:28).  God is not interested in our rank, but in our willingness to go where He calls us.  Thanks, Parke and Cookie, for answering that call!

Burden Bearing

The Bible places a high priority on how we treat each other and work together.  Paul instructs us to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2).  Burden bearing blesses both parties.  Here are some current examples:

Rhemy Elsey is in the fifth grade in Peoria, Illinois.  He is deaf.  A group of his classmates have given up their recess time so they can learn sign language to better communicate with him.

The kids meet in the library every Wednesday at lunch to be taught by Rhemy’s interpreter, Tammy Arvin.  She explained that often deaf children feel isolated with adult interpreters who follow them around all day.  “So it’s wonderful to see him have interactions with students that are one-on-one.”  When Rhemy realized how much his classmates cared for him by learning to sign with him, he said, “It’s like they want to be like me.”

Landen Palatino was recently diagnosed with brain cancer.  He is a nine-year old from Springfield, Massachusetts.  Landen’s buddy, Brady Kahle, empathized and wanted to help his friend.  He has decided to sell his beloved baseball card collection to help pay for Landen’s treatment.  He has been collecting baseball memorabilia since he was three years old.  He has now earned more than $7,000 from his sales to help Landen.  He is even going to part with his prized signed ball by Baltimore Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr. to help his friend.  Brady’s mom, Tina, says it is really incredible what Brady has done.  Most adults wouldn’t do that.

Two Pennsylvania middle schoolers, Andrew Mindy and Casandra Stewart, had to sit out their school’s music classes because each has only one hand.  But now they can play along with other students thanks to a 3-D printer and a talented ninth-grader, Nicholas Brown.  Nicholas spent the past year designing two custom prosthetic hands:  A right hand guitar strummer for Casandra, and a left-hand drumstick gripper for Andrew.

Nicholas has made it possible for Andrew and Casandra to participate in music class.  What we cannot do by ourselves, we can join with somebody else and make beautiful music!

Even the corporate world is emphasizing empathy as a means to improve management, retain employees and influence design decisions.  The Wall Street Journal reports that about 20 percent of U.S. employers now offer some empathy training.

At Ford Motor Company, newly hired design engineers don weighted “empathy bellies” to simulate the experience of being pregnant.  This training has led to ergonomic tweaks in the company’s vehicles.  People will be safer, but those new empathy skills have also been a boost to the bottom line.  The top ten businesses on the 2015 Global Empathy Index, which examines factors like how well companies treat workers and communicate with customers, generated 50 percent more income per employee than the 10 lowest ranked firms!

How quickly are we willing to go to those in need?

Martin Aircraft has spent the last 35 years trying to develop a personalized jetpack which can carry one passenger weighing up to 265 pounds more than 3,000 feet in the air.  It’s gasoline powered and can take off and land vertically, “meaning rooftops, gardens and parking lots are all viable launch pads.”  It will go on sale in 2017, and isn’t being marketed as an “expensive toy” but as a device for first responders.  The idea is that it can quickly get to people in need, even in tight, hard to reach spaces.

Burden bearers already have spiritual jet packs provided by God to get to people in need quickly!

Fighting – Finishing – Faith

When you pick someone to fight, be careful about the illusion of outward appearance that can be deceiving. Nobody except God would have picked the little shepherd boy David to fight a nine-foot tall Philistine Goliath. (Tweet this) What you see on the outside doesn’t always measure what is on the inside! An old adage says “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog!”

Let me give you some modern examples of effective fighters:

A Brazilian mugger recently attempted to rob a woman. She appeared to be an easy target. Little did he know that she was a mixed martial arts champion. Monique Bastos, 23, is a professional MMA fighter. She knocked the man to the ground and wrapped her legs around his neck in a “lion killer choke” until police arrived. It was videoed by an onlooker. The mugger picked the wrong woman to deal with!

A great American fighter died in 2015. His name was Ben Kuroki. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, Ben wanted to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Force. He was rejected by recruiters – they doubted his loyalties since he was the son of an immigrant Japanese farmer.

Ben drove 150 miles to another Army recruiter who signed him up. He had to endure a lot of doubts and racial slurs, but once people began to see his skills, they made him a B-24 tail gunner. Despite the policy that people of Japanese descent could not serve aboard bombers, Ben flew missions over North Africa. The rule was superseded because of his superb talents. He said, “For the first time I belong.”

He also went on missions in northern Europe and took part in raids over Nazi oil fields in Romania. 310 fliers in his group were killed. When he finished 25 missions, the policy was to let people go home. Kuroki insisted on flying more raids “to prove my loyalty.” By outward appearances, he was considered “ineligible.” But inwardly he made a difference in American history. His crew mates nicknamed him “Most Honorable Son.” In 2005, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. At the ceremony, he said, “I had to fight for the right to fight for my own country, and now I feel vindication.”

Another Japanese American who fought a different kind of fight is my friend Rev. Ben Sawada. He was constantly fighting against Satan who seeks to destroy – Ben always won! He grew up in Mobile, Alabama and entered the Methodist ministry. He had to endure the same kind of doubts and racial slurs that all Japanese Americans endured during the 1950s and 1960s. Ben is one of the finest Methodist ministers I’ve ever known. I’ve spoken at a lot of churches where he has served, and he is always referred to as one of the most beloved pastors of that church.

Ben Sawada has a keen sense of humor. He once was invited to speak at a banquet that drew people from several states. A high ranking Methodist was also at the head table and just assumed Ben couldn’t speak English. He made such statements as “like-ee tea or like-ee coffee? Like-ee food?” Ben said nothing. After Ben gave a stirring speech using impeccable English, he sat down, and the man and his table mate were embarrassed and astonished. Ben, in his inimitable way, looked at him, smiled and said, “Like-ee speech?”

Whether you are fighting giants, muggers, American enemies, or Satan’s forces – don’t judge an effective fighter by an outward appearance. Be sure you are wearing the full armor of God (Eph. 6:10-18). Be like Paul who finished his career saying “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:7-8).

Are you ready to fight, finish, and keep the faith?

Perseverance Pays Off!

Adrianne Haslet-Davis was one of the spectators at the 2013 Boston Marathon when she experienced the explosions ripping through the crowd.  She lost the lower part of her left leg.  While recovering, she set a goal to run the Boston Marathon someday.

This year, 2016, she did just that.  She is 35 years old and had to stop at the seventh mile for an hour because her stump began to swell up, causing problems for her prosthetic running leg.  She kept thinking, “I can’t pull out.”  She knew she had to finish.  She gave a lot of credit to her “pit crew” on whom she leaned in order to experience the emotional finish.  She said, “If you put your mind to something, you can get there.”  That’s perseverance!  No quit in Adrianne!

Ingeborg Sylim-Rapoport was a student in Nazi Germany.  She was not allowed to complete her doctorate because her mother was Jewish.  Getting that PhD was a dream she had. 

She was 102 years old last year when she got a second chance of finishing her education at the University of Hamburg.  The university officials heard about her case on her 100th birthday.  This is 80 years after she had written her thesis on Diphtheria.  She successfully took her final oral exam and graduated magna cum laude!  At 102 years old – she never quit.  She accomplished her goal, and she did it in fine order!  That’s perseverance!

Micah McDade was born with cerebral palsy and has been confined to wheelchairs his entire life.  His goal was to receive his diploma standing on his feet.  He went through two grueling years of physical therapy, conducted largely in secret.  Micah’s big day came when he made his way across the stage at his graduation from Okmulgee High School in Oklahoma in June 2016.  He shocked his fellow students and parents by slowly rising from his wheelchair and taking his first steps.  Everyone at the graduation ceremony erupted with applause.  The announcer said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I have been doing this a long time, but this is the best ever!”

Michael Valudreuil had a plastering business that went out of business eight years ago.  He got a job as a college custodian cleaning classrooms at Massachusetts Worcester Polytechnic Institute.  WPI employees could take classes free.  He started studying engineering.  He worked his classes and his studying around his custodial job.  In June 2016 he graduated with a mechanical engineering degree. 

His accomplishment made national news, and job offers started pouring in.  He has accepted an engineering position at a Connecticut aerospace firm.  Michael didn’t quit, and his degree and his job are value rewards for his perseverance.

How many times do you think Adrianne, Ingeborg, Micah and Michael thought about quitting?  They went through a lot of tough times, but quitting did not seem to be an option for any of them.  They endured and persevered and continued until they finished!

Winston Churchill, speaking at Harrow School, his alma mater, said, “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing great or small, large or petty – never give in!”  Thomas Edison said, “Our greatest weakness lies in quitting; the most certain way to succeed is always to try one more time.”  I remember my Dad saying, “It’s always better to have one simple goal and complete it than to have a big goal and never get around to finishing it.” 

We are reminded in Hebrews 12:1 to run our race with perseverance and never give up.  Paul said that good works always produce a harvest if we do not give up (Gal. 6:9). 

Perseverance pays off!

How Do You Look at Things?

What do we see when we look at things?  We can see the best in that situation, or we can see the worst.  I believe my attitude toward the situation is more important than the reality of the situation itself.  (Tweet this)

There is a story of the seven-year old boy who was getting ready for the Little League baseball season.  He had his uniform, his baseball cap and bat and ball.  He decided to practice a little bit in the back yard. 

His daddy heard him saying to himself, “I’m the greatest homerun hitter that ever was.”  He then tossed the ball in the air, swung his bat wildly and missed.  The boy called out, “Strike one!”  That didn’t seem to faze him.  He picked up the ball again and boasted, “I’m the greatest homerun hitter in the world.”  He took another swing and missed again.  “Strike two!” he cried out.  At this point, he paused and examined his bat very carefully.  He readjusted his stance and a third time he threw the ball into the air saying, “I’m the greatest homerun hitter that ever lived!”  He swung again and missed a third time.

The little fellow cried out, “Strike three!”  Rather than feel defeated, he saw the best in that situation.  His daddy smiled when he heard him say – “What a pitcher!  I’m the greatest pitcher that ever lived!” 

What we see in a situation is our choice.  It was reported that Oliver Wendell Holmes once attended a meeting in which he was the shortest man present.  A man quipped, “Doctor Holmes, I should think you’d feel rather small among us big fellows.”  Holmes replied, “I do.  I feel like a dime among a lot of pennies.”

The best attitude is to look for the best in every situation.  There’s a story about a two-engine train that was traveling across America.  When it came to the Western mountains, one of the engines broke down.  One of the engineers said, “No problem.  We can make it to Denver and get a replacement engine there.”  They carried on at half-power.  A little later the other engine broke down, and the train came to a stand-still in the middle of nowhere. 

The passengers were somewhat confused and scared.  The engineer needed to address the situation.  He had a great attitude and made the following announcement – “Ladies and gentlemen, I have bad news and good news.  The bad news is that both engines have failed.  We will be stuck here for some time until the replacement engines arrive.  The good news is that you weren’t making this trip in an airplane!”

Jesus always saw the best in every situation.  When other people saw problems, He saw possibilities.  When an important citizen, Jairus, wanted Jesus to look after his very ill daughter, everybody looked at the situation and saw the very worst.  The child was dead.  It was a hopeless case.   Jesus looked at the same situation and saw the possibility of a young girl who could be alive.  The people laughed at Him, but He took her hand and said, “Get up.  The girl is not dead.  She is just asleep.”  The girl got up.  She started playing.  Jesus told them to give her something to eat.  Read Luke 8:40-56. 

Try practicing each day looking for the best in every situation you encounter.  Remember – all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).  God loves to help us change our attitude.  A Godly attitude will help create Awesomeness, Accountability, Availability, Authenticity, Authority, Action, Acceptance and Altitude.  In the school of life, a Godly attitude gets an A+!!

How do you look at things? 

Are We Drifting?

When I was about seven years old, I remember going out on a private pier at Perdido Bay.  A friend, about my age, and his father pulled up to the pier in a small motor boat.  The father told his son to hold the boat to the pier while he went to run a brief errand.  My friend and I were talking, and he let go of the pier and the boat started drifting away from the pier.  I couldn’t reach the boat, and my friend couldn’t reach the pier.  The boat continued to drift.  He didn’t know how to crank the motor, so I watched him drift helplessly out into the bay.

This could to be a picture of where America is today.  God has safely brought us to this point in history where we have enjoyed unbelievable successes.  He has told us to hold on to what is secure and safe, and we will be able to continue the journey He has for us.  Unfortunately, we have let go of the pier and begun drifting.

Here are some 2016 examples of how we as a nation could be drifting.  When I finished college, the polls showed that the number of non-religious people in the United States was just over 3.5 million.  Today the number is 50 million people!  The number of atheists in the U.S. has quadrupled in the past few years!  Are we drifting?

Ruth Provencal has worked five elections in Derry, New Hampshire.  She was recently ordered to stay home by county officials for saying, “God bless you” to voters.  Ruth had made a habit of saying, “Thank you for voting, God bless you” as voters left the polls.  County officials said using the word God violated the state’s ban on electioneering.  Are we drifting?

A 33-year veteran of the Air Force was forcibly removed from a retirement ceremony because he invoked God in a speech.  Are we drifting? 

Monifa Sterling is a U.S. Marine who is appealing her court-martial for refusing to remove a Bible verse from her desk.  She had the verse “No weapon formed against me shall prosper” taped to her desk.  Her supervisors deemed it to be “contrary to good order” because the work place must remain free of “divisive or contentious issues” such as politics and religion.  Are we drifting?

A group of students at the University of California at Irvine voted to remove the American flag from a campus building to avoid “triggering” students who see the flag as a symbol of American “colonialism and imperialism.”  The student group argued that displaying the flag was a form of “hate speech.”  Are we drifting?

The Brookings Institute monitors Twitter.  They have ranked the top nations in the world which make posts on Twitter in support of ISIS.  The United States is ranked fourth.  That’s right – fourth in the number of tweets in support of ISIS!  Only Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iraq ranked ahead of us.  Are we drifting?

In April security guards ordered 50 middle school students from North Carolina to stop singing the National Anthem at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City because it was considered a public demonstration.  Their teacher, Martha Brown, said it was their way of showing respect.  Are we drifting?

There is an answer to drifting!!  I remember that day on the pier when the father returned and saw the boat drifting.  He dove into the water and swam out to the boat, and rescued it and put it back on its correct course. 

My Heavenly Father wants to rescue us!  His greatest desire is to come to us where we are drifting, provide everything that is necessary for us to get back on the right track, and take us where He wants us to go!  Drifting stops when we accept His intervention!  My Heavenly Father is ready to swim!

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and I will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).

Let’s Get It Right!

Should we say “Under God” in our Pledge and should our coins bear the motto “In God We Trust?”  That is an ongoing legal, philosophic and religious debate.

Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow entered three law suits arguing that God should be removed from the Pledge and the coins.  He says the phrase alienates non-religious people in the United States.

An initial ruling in 2002 by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Newdow.  Years later, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed its decision and said that the phrase “under God” can remain in the Pledge of Allegiance because the phrase is religious but does not represent a prayer.  A similar ruling was issued about “In God We Trust” being our motto on our currency because it said the use of “God” is ceremonial and patriotic, but not religious. 

I am glad the Court reversed itself, but I regret it was done for the reasons stated.  I hope God never just becomes a patriotic or ceremonial term.  That has never been the case in the history of mankind, and specifically in the history of the United States.

The prophet Amos wrote, “For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: ‘Seek Me and live’” (Amos 5:4). The psalmist David wrote, “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1).                                                            

The first pilgrims made it clear that the colonies were being established “to the glory of God.”  The framers of our Constitution recognized the role of God in our independence.  Benjamin Franklin said, “The longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: that God governs in the affairs of men.  And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?”  Thomas Jefferson said, “The liberties of a nation are secure only when there is a firm conviction in the minds of her people that these liberties are the gift of God.”

That doesn’t sound like God was being used as ceremonial or patriotic.

The Preamble to the Constitution of each of the fifty states contains some reference to God.  Forty states specifically call Him God, while the other ten refer to Supreme Ruler, Creator, Supreme Being, etc.

This debate was pretty hot at the beginning of this century.  A lot of that quickly changed when 9/11 occurred.  I understand that congressmen and government leaders on 9/12/01 quit debating about the use of God in public settings – they joined hands on the Capitol steps and started praying and singing “God Bless America.”  Baseball stadiums dropped the traditional 7th Inning “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and replaced it with “God Bless America.”

It is amazing to me that we even debate this issue.  We are here because of the goodness and grace of God.  We will survive and prosper only as we accept God’s grace and goodness and live appropriately.

When Francis Scott Key penned our National Anthem, he ended the first verse with a question, “O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”  I believe that is a legitimate question to ask today.

Most people don’t know that there are other verses to the National Anthem.  Most people think the next verse is “Play ball!” 

The last verse ends with these words – “Then conquer we must / when our cause it is just / And this be our motto: ‘In God We Trust’.”  The verse ends, not with a question but a statement.  When we know what our motto is – “In God We Trust” – the future is not a question.  That verse ends with the affirmation “And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave / o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

Francis Scott Key got it right!  The Bible got it right!  Our forefathers got it right!  Isn’t it time we get it right?

The Good Life

Do you want more of God’s kindness and peace? Do you want to know God better? Do you want to be open to His power which gives many rich and wonderful blessings that He has promised? These are all questions that Peter asks in 2 Peter 1:2-7.

It all begins with faith. Faith is when we receive the gift of God’s grace and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord. Years ago someone shared with me an acronym of faith as Forsaking All I Take Him. That’s faith.

Peter reminds us that faith is the beginning, but not the end. Some people view faith as an insurance policy or ticket to heaven, but hope that it doesn’t interfere with their present lives. Faith is the beginning that leads to the life of peace and blessings and the gifts of God. Peter then lists four steps to what he calls “the good life.”

Step 1. “To obtain the gifts of God, you need more than faith – you must work hard to be good” (2 Pet. 1:5).

I’ve been around people who say they are Christians but are not very good people. Their faith hasn’t filtered down to their language, or attitudes, or pocketbook, or motives. I don’t think that’s real faith, because faith expresses itself in being a good person.

Step 2. “We should learn to know God better and discover what He wants us to do” (2 Pet. 1:5).

James reminds us that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Faith puts us in such a position that God’s gifts become evident as we use them to serve Him. The big struggle in life is determining whether we are doing what we want to do or doing what He wants us to do.

God has given each of us a gift. Many people are too often recruited to serve at church just to fill a slot. They feel guilty if they say no, so they try to serve in an area in which they are not gifted. That can end in frustration and burn out. People who know their spiritual gifts, and then deploy them in His service, discover the greatest joy there is in life. Jesus said, “When you lose your life in My service, you find Life” (Mat. 10:25).

Step 3. “Become patient and Godly, gladly letting God have His way with you” (2 Pet. 1:6).

Being patient means we are on God’s timetable and not ours. It means we don’t put a period where God puts a comma. Patience is not a weak term, but a strong term, because it requires us to allow God to be in charge of our motives and actions (Tweet this). The word patient is followed by the word Godly which means that we do things the way God would do them.

Peter says “gladly.” I’m afraid a lot of times in life we only reluctantly let God have His way with us. We even complain about it at times. When we submit to Him gladly, we open up the possibilities of what God can do through us.

Step 4. “Enjoy other people and like them, and finally you will grow to love them deeply” (2 Pet. 1:7).

This means that we have to learn to relate to people. We have to communicate. We can’t harbor prejudice. We first begin to like people, then we can grow to love them. Read Matthew 22:37.

Peter then gives a warning –“Whoever fails to go after these additions to faith is blind indeed – or at least very short-sighted.” God has given us faith so that we “can live a strong, good life for the Lord” (2 Pet. 1:9).

The Good Life is a gift provided for us through faith and our works that are a result of that faith!