Memorial Day Reminder!

john mccainJohn 15:13

Before you fire up the grill… before you add the bacon to your baked beans recipe… and  before your spread out the checkered table cloth across the picnic table… pause… remember… and give thanks.

A patriotic story to help us gain some focus, told by Senator John McCain:

“Let me tell you what I think about our Pledge for Allegiance, our flag, and our country.  I want to tell you a story about when I was a prisoner of war.  I spent 5 ½ years in the Hanoi Hilton.  In the early years of our imprisonment, the North Vietnamese kept us in solitary confinement or two or three to a cell.

In 1971, the North Vietnamese moved us from these conditions of isolation into large rooms with as many as 30 to 40 men to a room.  This was, as you can imagine, a wonderful change.  And was a direct result of the efforts of millions of Americans, led by people like Nancy and Ronald Reagan, on behalf of a few hundred POWs, 10,000 miles from home.

One of the men moved into my cell was Mike Christian.  Mike came from a small town near Selma, Alabama.  He didn’t wear a pair of shoes until he was thirteen years old.  At seventeen, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy.  He later earned a commission.  He became a Naval flying officer, and was shot down and captured in 1967.  Mike had a keen and deep appreciation for the opportunities this country — and our military — provide for people who want to work and want to succeed.

The uniforms we wore in prison consisted of a blue short-sleeved shirt, trousers that looked like pajama trousers and rubber sandals that were made out of automobile tires.  I recommend them highly; one pair lasted my entire stay.

As part of the change in treatment, the Vietnamese allowed some prisoners to receive packages from home.  In some of these packages were handkerchiefs, scarves and other items of clothing.  Mike got himself a piece of white cloth and a piece of red cloth and fashioned himself a bamboo needle.  Over a period of a couple of months, he sewed the American flag on the inside of his shirt. 

Every afternoon, before we had a bowl of soup, we would hang Mike’s shirt on the wall of our cell, and say the Pledge of Allegiance.  I know that saying the Pledge of Allegiance may not seem the most important or meaningful part of our day now, but I can assure you that – for those men in that stark prison cell – it was indeed the most important and meaningful event of our day.

One day, the Vietnamese searched our cell and discovered Mike’s shirt with the flag sewn inside, and removed it.  That evening they returned, opened the door of the cell, called for Mike Christian to come out, closed the door of the cell, and for the benefit of all of us, beat Mike Christian severely for the next couple of hours.

Then they opened the door of the cell and threw him back inside.  He was not in good shape.  We tried to comfort and take care of him as well as we could.  The cell in which we lived had a concrete slab in the middle on which we slept.  Four naked light bulbs in each corner of the room. 

After things quieted down, I went to lie down to go to sleep.  As I did, I happened to look in the corner of the room.  Sitting there beneath that dim light bulb, with a piece of white cloth, a piece of red cloth, another shirt and his bamboo needle, was my friend, Mike Christian.  Sitting there, with his eyes almost shut from his beating, making another American flag.  He was not making the flag because it made Mike Christian feel better.  He was making that flag because he knew how important it was for us to be able to pledge our allegiance to our flag and country.”

That flag is still waving due in part to the men and women who have laid down their lives to defend it.  Greater love has no man or woman than this.  So salute that flag  proudly!  Thank you…

You are now free enjoy your weekend!

memorial day

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Set Your Sail!

sailboatPick up the Phone:  God’s Calling on Your Life

Part 4 of 5

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Acts 17:10-12

10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.  11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.

Now what did Paul and Silas do next?  They set their sails and when to Macedonia.  This will determine whether or not you will ever discover the will of God for your life.  God more often calls the willing.  If He knows that in calling you to Macedonia you will spend forever reading travel brochures and learn native customs and read articles about how Macedonians think… and never get around to booking passage to the country… He would rather call someone else.

Amazama Ministries

Amazama Ministries

I concur with Katie Davis, the 20 something missionary in Uganda in her book, Kisses from Katie:

“I don’t always know where this life is going I can’t see the end of the road, but here is the great part.  Courage is not about knowing the path.  It is about taking the first step.”

Kathy Lang heard such a calling.

“A veteran surgical nurse for over 25 years, Kathy was looking for a new job. An agency that staffs nurses offered her a position at a prison. Without hesitation, Kathy replied emphatically, “No!”

A few days later in the car, she was listening to a Keith Green CD when her ears were startled by the lyrics: “I was in prison, and I rotted there; I’d prayed that you’d come.”

Over the next ten days she was bombarded with prison references everywhere she turned. On the TV and the radio—prison news. Her devotion book had references to prison. Kathy finally relinquished: “Okay, God, I get it!”

When she arrived home, she called the agency, but the job had been filled. Undaunted, she visited a local youth detention facility to inquire if they needed a nurse, only to learn there was a hiring freeze. For the next four months she kept calling agencies to inquire. And she prayed.  One night, Kathy and her daughter Jessica were driving home from the store. As they passed the prison at exactly 9:00 p.m., she and Jessica prayed, asking the Lord to open the door if it was truly his will for Kathy to work there. She promised to never stop praying for those girls.  Exactly 12 hours later, at precisely 9:00 the next morning, the agency called to offer her that job. …

[As Kathy worked in the clinic,] she had the idea to give every girl a Bible. Through a small grant, Kathy was able to get a few hundred of them for the cost of shipping. …  At the end of each appointment [Kathy had with a female prisoner], she offered the girl a Bible, briefly explaining how to use it. Their responses were mixed between joy and refusal.  Kathy’s heart ached for these girls, most of whom were from difficult backgrounds with little hope for change.

After [Kathy] gave out the first batch of Bibles, her vision was expanded to do more. She contacted various prison chaplains and was able to place more than 6,000 Bibles in four years. …  Kathy’s goal is to see a Bible in the hand of every prisoner. And she has kept her promise to God—she never stops praying for them.  Kathy’s guiding verse for her mission with these troubled youth comes from Isaiah 9:2: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”  (Cindy Huff, “Taking Jesus to Jail,” Today’s Christian, July/August 2008.)

Have you heard a calling from God and then sat on it?  Earlier I said God more frequently calls those that are willing.  But he also calls a few Jonahs.  Maybe you are one of those.  I know where I am suppose to go… but I am unwilling to.

Get those sails up!  Take that first step.  Make that call.  Start praying.  You will be able to do more than you could ever imagine.

Heated Debate

fightActs 15: 36-41

37 Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. 38 But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.

I read a recent article on a Christian website titled:  “10 Honest Observations from a Former Church Insider.”  The author of the article had been a pastor for many years and then at a relatively young age (for reasons not cited) had to step down.  He mentioned what it was like to now be an “outsider” in church.  He listed 10 things that he saw were problems that perhaps someone so close to the heartbeat of a church might be blinded to.  I agreed with him on just about everything and appreciated his insights… and was about to move on.  Then I read the comments from pastors that read the article before me.  Many were not kind!  They didn’t like much of what the author had to say, but sometimes it bordered on people not liking him personally.  One critic wrote:  “I will gladly take advice from anyone willing to get in there and do the work. Not just leave when things are not going their own way.”  Another wrote:  “I became bored with hearing the same “complaints” from yet another disenchanted church goer.”   The idea of hearing ideas from a “quitter” was too much for some.

Just when I was completely discouraged… a number of Barnabas people stepped in and saved the day… offering encouragement and peace.   Some were among bloggers that I trust David I. Guinn and Joe McKeever.

I call these men Barnabas people because the comment page appeared to me at times to be a retelling of the sharp disagreement Paul and Barnabas had over Mark way back in the book of Acts.  It was a “sharp” disagreement… as the Greek will bear out.  Barnabas wanted to give his cousin another chance.  Paul wanted to show him the door.

The Bible does not tell us who was right or wrong,  just that the debate was heated and the result was a split of the Apostolic Missionary Super Team.   NT Scholar A.T. Robertson remarked:  “No one can rightly blame Barnabas for giving his cousin John Mark a second chance nor Paul for fearing to risk him again.  One’s judgment may go with Paul, but one’s heart goes with Barnabas.”

There is so much irony in this passage.  the second missionary journey began with the idea of checking up on people and churches from the first journey and seeing how they were doing spiritually .   Yet Paul is ready to give John Mark the boot before he even takes the young man’s spiritual temperature!  The second ironic thing is that Paul should have known by now the heart of his friend, Barnabas.  It wasn’t too long ago that Barnabas pulled a snot nosed kid out of the gutter and offered that young man a chance when no one else would even trust him… I refer, of course, to Paul himself.

My heart goes out to those who wrote out of concerned for this young man and his quest to find God… and to all Barnabas types that may face some rough criticism, but are still willing to extend a hand to “quitters” in an effort to help.

More on this… and a story too… later this week.

Declare Something!

From preachingtoday’s “News that Illustrates” 8/8/2011

What’s Happened to Our Convictions?
I stumbled across this provocative video from a poet, teacher, and funny comedian named Taylor Mali. This short clip raises some interesting issues about speaking with conviction in our culture. With humor Mali ponders why it’s suddenly “become uncool to sound like you know what you’re talking about.” Instead, our conversations have become “infected by this tragically cool and totally hip interrogative tone as if to say … ‘I have nothing personally invested in my own opinion. I’m just asking you to join me on the bandwagon of my own uncertainty.” Mali also asks, “What has happened to our conviction? Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?” This would be a great clip to set up a sermon on truth, doctrine, or evangelism.