Tennis Ball Lessons

Recently, Lynn and I were having dinner with our friends Pat and Jackie Mathews in their home.  They have a big Labrador retriever, and they are very proud of him.  Pat took a tennis ball and threw it, and that dog took off after it.  The Lab brought the ball back to him.  He threw the ball again, this time to a spot that was not easily visible.  The dog went right after it, found it and brought it back.  He even threw the ball behind a barrier, and the dog went over the barrier and brought the ball back!

The more I watched the dog and the tennis ball, the more I thought about life.  Every day God gives us a new day that is like a ball He’s going to throw.  That Lab can teach us a lot about life in at least four areas:

FOCUS.  The dog always stays focused on the ball.  He is single-sighted.  He doesn’t look to the left or the right.  He keeps his eye on the ball.  Remember – if you chase two rabbits, you catch none!

I remember watching the Olympic runners.  As soon as the gun sounds, they look to the finish line and run straight towards it.  I didn’t see any of them looking up at the stands or checking out other things that were going on in the stadium.  They were focused on going to the finish line.  Is my life focused every day?

DISTRACTIONS.  When that dog goes after the ball, he doesn’t have any distractions.  I heard a cell phone ring, but it didn’t faze the dog.  A breaking news item came on television, but he wasn’t distracted.  No distractions!  Is my life distraction-free every day?

My dad taught me a great lesson when I started college.  He reminded me that I would be playing basketball, which would take a lot of time, but it shouldn’t interfere with my studies.  He said it’s not how much you study, but how you study.  He suggested I not study in the dorm room because there were too many distractions.  People walk in and want to talk, you hear noises in the hall way, you can hear radios playing.  My dad suggested I go to the library and study without distractions.  I learned a great lesson.  I could spend one hour focused and studying in the library without distractions and get far more done than I could have in four or five hours if I had studied in the dorm room.  That was good advice!  I have employed that concept throughout my ministry.

FINISH.  The dog always finishes the task.  The ball may go behind some object, but he doesn’t stop till he finds the ball.  He never once returns without the ball.  He completes the task.

Every day we have responsibilities.  We have tasks to be completed.  Failing to finish a task today usually means the task will never be completed.  Procrastination is a dangerous thing.  If you don’t finish it now, when will you have time to come back and finish it later? (Tweet this)

Some athletic teams don’t complete the task.  This year a lot of football teams have played great and have been ahead at the end of 59 minutes and 30 seconds.  But in those last 30 seconds they lost the game.  They didn’t finish.  Am I finishing strong every day?

PURPOSE.  Productive living is always the result of knowing and fulfilling our purpose.  God has a purpose for every person.  If we spend our time doing things outside that purpose, we are wasting our time.

A happy life is never a merry-go-round of meaningless activity, but it is a focus on God’s purpose for our lives.  The inner satisfaction of knowing we are fulfilling our purpose for that day in our work, and the commitment to fulfilling God’s will for our lives, are the most valuable paychecks we ever receive.  Read Matthew 10:39.  Is my life focused on fulfilling God’s purpose for me every day?

It’s tennis ball time!

Nip It! Nip It!

A Chinese man discovered that his washing machine was on the blink.  He stuck his head inside the washing machine to check out the drum and see if he could identify the problem.  He encountered a bigger problem when he couldn’t get his head out!

His friends tried to free him, but then had to call the fire department which cut up the machine with an electric saw.  The man was extricated without injury.  Upon being freed from the washing machine, the man said, “It was easy to get my head into the machine, but almost impossible to get it out.”  He learned a valuable lesson about life.

Temptation is much like that experience.  It’s easy to stick your head in – it’s awfully difficult to get your head out. 

Sometimes we think we’ll just flirt with temptation and it will be harmless.  No temptation is harmless!  The best way to deal with temptation is to resist it before you consider it.  I like to watch “The Andy Griffith Show.”  Barney Fife was giving advice on the importance of discipline as Andy was raising Opie.  He said the way to respond to the first sign of a behavior problem is to “nip it in the bud.”  “You got to nip it, Andy – nip it in the bud.  Nip it, nip it, nip it!”  Barney continued saying, “You go ahead and check any child psychology book.  They all believe in bud nipping.”

Bud nipping is important in dealing with temptation.  Once a temptation begins to take root, it becomes awfully hard to resist.  A boxer does not wait until he gets into a fight to work on improving his techniques.  He does that in practice, so when he is in the ring facing his opponent, all he has to do is demonstrate the results of his preparation. 

Good football coaches develop a game plan before the game is played.  They anticipate different situations and decide what they are going to do before the situation occurs.  Coaches who prepare properly keep their jobs –   those who prepare poorly will be looking for another job. 

When you are tempted, turn to God first and ask for His help.  When Jesus was tempted three times by Satan in the wilderness, He went to Scripture to state why He was resisting that temptation.  Read Matthew 4:1-11, when Jesus resisted the temptation, “Satan left and the angels cared for Him (v. 11).”

God is always ready to help.  If we ignore Him and try to handle it ourselves, we are in trouble.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “When we are tempted, we do not say ‘I hate God and God hates me.  Rather we just forget about God, and then we are liable to do what we were tempted to do.’”  You win over temptation by what you do before the temptation comes.  (Tweet this)

St. Columba came from a royal family in Ireland.  In 563 AD he sailed and found himself on a desolate bay in the Isle of Iona, off the coast of northwest Scotland.  He had gone there to bring the Gospel to the wild tribes in the Highlands.  He became desperately homesick and anxious to return to Ireland.  He anticipated the temptation of homesickness and getting in his boat and returning to Ireland.  Instead, the first thing he did upon landing at Port-na-Curraich in Iona was to burn his boat so he couldn’t yield to that temptation. 

That’s the way to defeat temptation – Keep your head out of the washing machine, burn the boat, nip it, trust God!! 

Doing the Right Thing!

We often cross paths with people who have stumbled and fallen.  We have a decision to make – go ahead and “walk by on the other side of the road,” or stop and give them a hand.  There have been dramatic instances recently of people who have done the right thing. 

In the Summer Rio Olympics, a moving scene occurred when Nikki Hamblin, a New Zealand runner in the 5,000-meter run, tripped and fell. Running behind her was Abbey D’Agostino from the USA, who tripped over Nikki.  While Nikki was lying on the ground, Abbey stopped and grabbed her by the arm and said, “Get up!  We’ve got to finish this race.”  Abbey helped Nikki continue the race.  They finished last and next to last.  While some people felt the gesture of helping Nikki might have cost Abbey a medal, she strongly indicated it was more important to help someone.   She did the right thing!

One of the most grueling Olympics contests is the triathlon.  That’s a tough race.  You have to swim .93 miles, then bike ride 24.8 miles, then run 6.2 miles.  Two brothers from England, Alistair and Jonny Brownlee, won the gold and silver medal, respectively, in Rio. 

Following the Olympics, the brothers competed in a World Series event for triathlon competitors in Mexico.  Alistair and Jonny were leading the race.  When they had only a few meters to finish, Jonny started staggering and fell.  Rather than going ahead and capturing first place, his brother Alistair stopped, picked him up and helped him move along at a slow pace to cross the finish line.  Their biggest competitor passed them and won first place.  When the Brownlee brothers came to the finish line, the Olympics gold medal winner Alistair made sure his brother Jonny crossed the line before he did so his brother could finish in second place.

I love the comment that Alistair made when people asked how he could carry his brother to the finish line.  With his British accent, he quoted the great song, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.”  He did the right thing!

In August of 2015, 20 Syrian refugees were crossing the Mediterranean in a flimsy little boat.  When the motor suddenly stopped, Yusra Mardini, a teenager, dove into the water and pulled the little boat for over three hours to the island of Lesbos.  Everybody was saved. 

Mardini eventually reached Germany.  For the first time in Olympics history, a refugee team was recognized.  Mardini made the team and swam in the recent Rio Olympics.  19 refugees owe their lives to Yusra.  She did the right thing!

During the recent flooding along the East Coast, 36-year old Jason Barnes went to his toy store in Ellicott City, Maryland to try to stop the flood waters from running into his store.  He saw a woman trapped inside a car floating down Main Street.  He tried to go through the thick, high water to her car, but he was knocked off his feet and swept down the street.  When Jason regained his footing, he raced back to his store, got some friends to form a human chain, and holding on to each other, he was able to pull the trapped woman to safety.  He did the right thing!

Read in Luke 10:25-37 the story Jesus told about the Good Samaritan.  A Jewish man was robbed, beaten and left on the side of the road.  Two religious figures passed by on the other side of the road, but a man from Samaria, enemies of the Jews, came along and didn’t consider the consequences of helping the Jewish man.  He stopped, helped him, carried him to an inn where he could recover, and offered to pay for everything.  He did the right thing!

Will you do the right thing today? 

Old Time Religion in the 21st Century

For the past several years I have preached in a couple of camp meetings each year.  Alabama doesn’t have but a few camp meetings, so I suspect most Alabamians have never visited a camp meeting.  This is not true in our neighbor states of Georgia and Mississippi where many camp meetings are a time-honored tradition.

Most of the camp meetings are over 150 years old. Some of the camp meetings last a week, or ten days or even two weeks.  Most of them have a large, open-air tabernacle in the center of the camp ground that can seat in excess of 400 people.  Usually they are surrounded by cabins or what they call “tents.”  Many of them have more than 50 tents, and some tents sleep as many as 20 people.

Most of the tents are owned by families and passed down from one generation to the next.  Some camp meetings have people on the waiting list to secure a tent.  The tents vary from nice, air conditioned cottages to 75-year old un-air-conditioned primitive structures with saw dust floors.

A camp meeting is always held on the same week every year, such as the week following the third Sunday in June.  Many families have their family reunions in conjunction with camp meetings.  Families always know in advance when the family reunion will occur and make plans to attend.  Sometimes as many as 75 people gather in a tent for their family reunion.

While attending Young Harris Junior College in north Georgia and Candler School of Theology at Emory, I remember hearing stories of so many people who made a Christian commitment at a camp meeting, and so many of the people going into ministry were called to preach at a camp meeting.  Camp meetings have been a vehicle God has used to change the population of heaven and supply Christian pulpits across this country!

Strong Christian programs for children and youth are offered during the camp meeting time.  I recently preached twice a day at the Shiloh camp meeting near Carrollton, Georgia.  They had 100 young people on campus for the entire week of camp meeting and 13 college students who served as camp counselors.  They have a nice dormitory that sleeps 50 boys and another one that sleeps 50 girls.  Youth have to sign up early to get a dormitory spot at this camp meeting.

Music is always a vital part of camp meeting.  Most often a different church in the area brings their choir for one of the worship services.  One night at Shiloh, the Carroll County Symphony brought 40 of their members who supplied special music, and their conductor was the song leader for the week!

Camp meeting stories are inspiring.  One night, two 11-year old girls played a clarinet and piano duet.  The pianist is a wonderful story of God’s miraculous grace.  When her mother was pregnant with her, there were severe complications.  The doctors told her parents they should abort the child because she would have little chance of going to term, and no chance of a life without severe handicaps.  The God-fearing parents had people at the camp meeting pray.  Abortion was not an option.  When she was born, she received a perfect bill of health, and today she is a dynamic witness.

You don’t have to go to a camp meeting to have a miracle.  Miracles can happen anywhere.  God is redefining what is possible in life.  I’ve written a book When God Redefines the Possible which many people are finding helpful.  It is only available on our website or by calling the ministry office at (334) 270-2149.

Lay people attending camp meetings, most of them whose families have been going to camp meetings for generations, are excited about this venue God is using.  The “old time religion” camp meeting is still a venue that is growing and God is using effectively in the 21st Century.  We also must ask what new venues God can use to strengthen the faith of our families for generations to come.

What Is the Value of an Olympics Medal?

The U.S. won 46 gold medals at this Summer Olympics.  How much is an Olympic medal worth?  Here are three possible answers.

FIRST, you can look at the actual value of the components that make up the parts of the medal.  The melted gold and silver in an Olympics gold medal is worth about $600 in current market prices.  The last time pure gold was used to make gold medals was at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden.

The gold medal weighs 531 grams.  Of that, only 6 grams are actually gold plating – 6 grams is the minimum.  The rest is made of other materials.  If the entire medal was made of gold, it would be valued at $22,000!  The silver medal is less expensive to make.  The value of a silver medal is about $550.

There is also another reward associated with the medals.  The U.S. Olympics Committee awards athletes $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver, and $10,000 for bronze.  Those cash bonuses are considered taxable income.  The swimmer Michael Phelps has won more gold medals than anyone and is in the top tax bracket.  Phelps will have to pay an estimated $55,440 in income taxes for the 5 golds and 1 silver medal he won in Rio!

SECOND, each individual medal winner gets a lot of satisfaction by displaying their medals.  Some of the U.S. medal winners wore their medals to each of their meals, and even on their trips home.  Many are framed.  Each medal represents the achievement and reward of years of hard work.

THIRD, I think the greatest value of a medal is how athletes use the medal as a platform to do something for other people.  There are many stories about medal-winning athletes who have come back to America and have dedicated a portion of their time to challenging, encouraging, inspiring and helping young people.  When the medal opens a door to serve someone, that makes it more valuable!

The Polish discus thrower, Piotr Malachowski, recently said, “My silver medal is worth more than it was a week ago when I won it in Rio.”  He said this because he sold his medal in order to help pay for eye cancer medication for a three-year old boy named Olek.  Not many athletes would do that!  The value of Piotr’s medal is Priceless!

A similar incident occurred at the Invictus Games.  Britain’s Prince Harry was stunned when he handed a gold medal to an American swimmer, only for her to give it back.  Sgt. Elizabeth Marks, a 25-year-old military medic, won four events at the games, a Paralympic-style competition for wounded service members.  During the award ceremony, Marks, who suffered a hip injury in Iraq, asked Prince Harry to give the medal to the staff at England’s Papworth Hospital where she was treated after developing a near-fatal lung condition.  Marks said, “They absolutely saved my life.  I can’t thank the U.K. enough.”  That gold medal is Priceless!

While few people receive gold medals for competition in the Olympics, we may receive compensation and rewards for good things we have accomplished.  Each of those rewards will have a different value based on the component parts.  Each of those rewards will bring a certain degree of satisfaction to us.  Those things may be priceless.

But when we give away a reward in order to make a difference in someone else’s life, it makes that reward extremely valuable.  In Matthew 25, Jesus said that what we do for people who are hungry, without clothes, in prison, etc., is precisely the way we treat Him.  He said, “In as much as you do this for one of the least of these, you have done it for me.”  Something done for Jesus is Priceless!

Every day, we live our lives competing.  Make sure the reward is worth the effort.  Spend your time and energy on the medals that are Priceless!

God’s Scoreboard

I enjoyed watching the Olympics and was proud of the tremendous victories of Team USA.  It was really interesting to watch a lot of sports that I don’t see often.

What intrigued me most was the variety of scoring systems in different sports.  USA was the big winner in gymnastics, but I had trouble keeping score.  Watching those men and women perform on the balance beam, floor exercise, the rings, etc., was amazing.  But I couldn’t tell the exact score.  Even the TV commentators predicted scores but the judges did not agree.  The same thing occurred in diving, synchronized swimming and other sports.

But the winners came from those who understood the scoring system and won based on how the sport was scored.  You have to understand the scoring system to compete effectively.  I might go out this afternoon and play a game and score a 75.  That would be real good if I were playing golf – it would be very poor if I were bowling!

In sports you have to understand the scoring system.  Do you need more points or fewer points than your opponent?  I have a grandson who was on last year’s state champion cross country team.  His team had the lowest score and won the state championship by one point.  You want a low score in cross country because it indicates your runners finished ahead of the others.  I have other grandchildren playing football, baseball and soccer.  Their teams try to score a lot of points because the team with the most points wins.  In most of the running events in track, the lowest score wins.  In soccer and in diving, the highest score wins.

The most important game is the game of life.  God has a different scoring system than we do.  If we are going to win at this most important game, we must understand God’s scoring system.  It is very different from our scoring system.  Here are some examples:

  1. Giving versus getting.  The world says we should strive to get all we can, and we measure success by how much a person gets.  God’s scoring system is exactly the opposite.  He says it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).  He says, “For anyone who keeps his life for himself shall lose it; and anyone who loses his life for me shall find it again” (Matt. 16:25).  The givers win – the getters lose.
  2. Being served versus serving.  The world’s scoring system counts how many people are serving you.  God’s scoring system is the opposite (Read Matt. 20:28).   He doesn’t count the number of people that serve a  person, but rather how many each of his followers serve.  Successful business people are not those who have the most people working for them, but those who are willing to work for the most people.
  3. Strength versus weakness.  The world says the strongest will prevail.  God’s scoring system is different.  He says that power is not in our own strength but in our willingness to trust and obey Him.  When we think we are strong, we develop pride and overestimate what we can do.  When we recognize what we can’t do, we turn to God and trust His power.  God’s scoring system is not based on size, strength or numbers, but on obedience and trust in Him.  Paul wrote, “When I am weak, then I recognize my real strength” (2 Cor. 12:9-10).  Read the story of Gideon in Judges 6.

Albert Einstein once said, “Everything that counts can’t be counted, and everything that can be counted doesn’t always count.”  If you want to be a winner – you must follow God’s scoring system.

What’s the score?

Time to Exercise – No Excuses!

Exercise and fitness have become big business in today’s culture.  Because exercise addresses many important aspects of life, we shouldn’t just give it lip service, but take it seriously and become engaged.

I had an opportunity to serve as one of the first members on the Governor’s Committee on Physical Fitness when it was formed in 1966.  I learned enough that I wanted to do my best to stay physically fit.  I’ve always enjoyed competing in basketball, tennis, racquetball, etc.  Physical exercise has been a tremendous asset for me not just physically but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  (Tweet this)

Today there are a lot of up-to-date studies that verify things that I’ve always believed.  Not only does exercise make us feel better, but it can help deter a lot of things that are challenges as we grow older.

New research suggests that strenuous physical activity can slow brain aging by as much as ten years.  The Los Angeles Times reported a study of 876 older adults which tracked their physical activity and tested their memory and thinking skills.  The study showed that participants’ brain functions were closely tied to how physically active they were.  Strenuous exercise such as running and aerobics had the highest scores and lowest risk for memory loss and decline in executive function.  Other people engaging in less intense exercise activities such as walking and yoga produced moderate benefits.  For people who were sedentary, their brains looked a decade older than the brains of their very active peers.

A good time to start treating your brain well is now.  Researchers say that rigorous exercise improves vascular health, increases blood flow to the brain, and keeps the brain healthier into old age.

One of the challenges in today’s culture is Alzheimer’s disease, which has struck 46 million people worldwide. reports that the National Institutes of Health study found that people who are overweight at age 50 can be more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease sooner than their healthy weight peers.  This research tracked the BMI (body mass index) ratio of weight to height of 142 people who eventually developed Alzheimer’s.  They found symptoms of the disease six and a half months earlier for every step up on the BMI chart.  The lead author of this study, Madhav Thambiesetty, concluded, “Understanding how risk factors in midlife may accelerate the onset of Alzheimer’s can speed efforts to develop interventions and treatments.”

The journal Cell Metabolism has indicated that physical activity can change your DNA – for the better.  Alice Park writing for Time magazine reminds us that “we are stuck with the genes we’ve got, but it turns out you can change the way they behave with consistent exercise.”

A lot of people try to get around the responsibility of exercise.  Remember – the Bible says that our body is a temple (I Cor. 6:19).  An overweight friend said that he had added a fellowship hall to his temple and was rapidly becoming a megachurch!  One patient told his doctor, “I exercise religiously – one push-up and I say ‘Amen!’”  Another man reported that his doctor said he and his wife needed more exercise, so he went out and bought himself a set of golf clubs.  His neighbor said, “That’s good, and what have you bought for your wife?”  He replied, “A lawn mower.”  Joey Adams said, “If it weren’t for the fact that the TV set and the refrigerator are so far apart, some of us wouldn’t get any exercise at all.”

Some have tried to find some “logical excuses” for avoiding exercising by saying – “A whale swims all day, only eats fish, drinks water, but is still fat.”  “A rabbit runs and hops and only lives 15 years, while a tortoise doesn’t run and does mostly nothing, yet it lives for 150 years.”  “Did you say ‘extra fries . . . or exercise?’”

Instead of putting off or finding excuses, begin exercising today!  Treat your brain, body and soul to a more healthy future.  Don’t forget to exercise daily your spiritual life.  “Physical exercise has some value, but godliness is valuable in every way.  It holds promise for the present life and for the life to come” (I Tim. 4:8).

A Young Man With the Right Answers

How would you introduce yourself?  What words would you use to communicate to somebody who you are?

I had a great young friend who did that.  Nathan Harris was an outstanding athlete and a tremendous young person.  About a year ago, Nathan’s coach had asked him to write his own introduction for a special event.  He finished high school and was completing his first year at Troy University.  He was involved in a terrible accident on April 30, 2016 that took his life.

In late August 2016, Gulf Shores High School retired Nathan’s number and jersey.  The two schools where he played, state champion Spanish Fort and Gulf Shores, gathered at the 50-yard line for the ceremony and joined hands and prayed.  The State of Alabama and the City of Gulf Shores planted trees in his honor.  They also both erected plaques which contain the introduction Nathan wrote to describe himself.  They read:

My name is Nathan Harris.  I am a son, brother, brother in law, uncle and grandson.  I am a student, quarterback, shortstop, spear fisherman, hunter, fisherman.  I spent the first 15 years of my life growing up on a cattle farm.  I am proud to be an American, Southerner and Alabamian.  All of these labels may say something about me but the only thing that defines me is my relationship with Jesus Christ.  More than ever I have seen how things don’t always go as planned.  Injury can change so much in sports but God is always faithful.  I don’t know what the future holds or where I will be this time next year but I do know it will be exactly where God wants me to be.

I met Nathan’s grandparents, Dr. and Mrs. Andy Harris, when I first moved to Montgomery in 1972.  They were new to Montgomery as well.  I remember going to visit them in their home after they visited Frazer one Sunday.  They joined Frazer, and Andy and Kay became two of the best leaders the church has ever had!

They had two wonderful boys, Johnny and Scott.  I watched them grow up.  Johnny married Carol, a member of Frazer.  They had two daughters and then came Nathan.  They moved out of town.  I followed Nathan’s athletic career with great interest.  He was an extremely talented athlete.  More importantly, he was a Godly young man.  He influenced countless people with his friendship and Christian witness.

Nathan understood his priorities.  He wanted everybody to know that of all the things he had accomplished in his life, the thing that defined him was his relationship with Jesus Christ.  He had a terrible football injury that robbed him of one year of high school football, but he had a great attitude toward that injury.  He knew who he was and Whose he was.

It’s an amazing thing that one year ago he wrote, “I don’t know what the future holds or where I will be this time next year but I do know it will be exactly where God wants me to be.”  His faith was so strong when he wrote those words, and I know that today he is in a Place enjoying life much better than he ever enjoyed here!  It is a statement of faith to know that he is exactly where God wants him to be.

What defines us?  What (who) is most important to us?  What kind of attitude do we have in times of hardship?  How committed are we to always stay in God’s will?  Do we know for sure Who holds our future?

Nathan Harris had those answers.  Do we?

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!