Monthly Archives: January 2015

Full

I couldn’t believe it!

I filled my wife’s Prius the other night for $14.95.

Gas prices are at a new low.

Even for a Prius!

Consumers rejoice. Producers moan.

My friends in Texas tell me it’s a market glut – the old law of supply and demand. An abundance of oil brings the price down. Soon America will be a leading petroleum producer. We will wean ourselves from dependence on the Middle East.

Given the instability there, most folks think this new energy independence is a good thing.

Still, the American oil and gas industry is a huge employer and there are plenty of concerns about the impact this new relief at the pump will have on the economy.

The low price won’t last. Maybe it can’t. Perhaps it shouldn’t.

Regardless of the economics, the gas in that car will be consumed. It will be gone. We’ll need a refill.

There’s hardly a limitless supply of anything.

You’re probably out of something right now. Or you’re in low supply.

We live in a world of limits.

Our time, our abilities and our energies are all limited.

The globe warms as its resources are consumed.

You and I face restrictions and limits every day. There are limits on size or amount. Only one bag is free at the airport and you pay for the second one, depending on how much it weighs.

Size limits, age limits, weight limits, number limits and speed limits.

We live with limits and nothing lasts.

Even our time on earth is limited.

Yes, you and I are bounded on all sides by life on this planet. We can only run so fast and jump so high. We have invented and we have soared yet even then, we have explored only an infinitesimal fraction of our own universe.

We are circumscribed creatures, you and me.

But here’s some great news: there’s one thing you and I need more than anything else in our lives – and it is unlimited.

It’s the love of God.

Our patience, our forgiveness, our understanding, even our own love – are all limited. We wish they weren’t but after all, we’re only human.

There is no limit to the love of God.

Paul gets excited about this incredible reality – this amazing abundance – this vast expanse of divine expression. The heart of God is big, Paul tells the Ephesian Christians – very big.

Writing of this to them, Paul says:

“That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3: 16, KJV).

Out of God’s “glorious unlimited resources” (NLT), Paul wishes for the Ephesians to be strengthened and rooted in their new faith. He wants those roots of faith to grow deep “into God’s love” (3:17, NLT). And he wants them to try and understand – to grasp, if they can – “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height” of the love of God (3:18, KJV).

Consider the unfathomable dimensions of his love.

God’s love for you is broader than the scope of your sins. It is longer than your time on this earth. It goes beyond time. It is eternal. His love for you reaches deeper than your deepest despair and soars to Heaven itself, where Jesus Christ pleads on your behalf as your advocate with the Father.

How many individual grains of sand are on all the shores and beaches of the earth? Abraham didn’t know. He couldn’t tell God when the Almighty promised to multiply Abraham’s seed accordingly.

So is the love of God for us.

His love for you and me is unbreachable, unchangeable, unquenchable and unstoppable. Paul told the Romans that nothing at all – nothing in all of creation and nothing above, below or beyond it – could ever separate you and me from God’s love.

When a young German immigrant named Frederick Martin Lehman sat on some lemon crates in Pasadena California in 1917 he began writing a song about God’s love, inspired by a sermon he had heard a week earlier.

He had the chorus down:

“Oh, love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong! It shall forevermore endure— The saints’ and angels’ song.”

He later found the words for the third stanza written on a card buried in his files at home. The words had been copied from the cell wall of an insane asylum years earlier. One of the workers wrote them down before he painted the cell after the inmate died.

It was later discovered that those words were actually remembered by the inmate from a Hebrew poem, written in Aramaic, and later translated and carefully preserved. The poem was written by a rabbi named Meir Ben Isaac Nehoria.

He wrote it in 1050 AD.

“Could we with ink the ocean fill, And were the skies of parchment made, Were every stalk on earth a quill, And every man a scribe by trade; To write the love of God above Would drain the ocean dry; Nor could the scroll contain the whole, Though stretched from sky to sky.”

 You may run out of many things this year.

God’s love for you will always read “full”.

May God bless you and your family.

 

 

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When Giants Strode the Earth

He stood high on the admiral’s bridge.

The great, gray warship floated in Placentia Bay, as the sun began to slowly rise over the coast of Newfoundland.

The rumpled stout man with thinning and unkempt sandy hair peered intently across the Atlantic. He had just gotten up but he couldn’t wait – not even to comb his hair.

Eager anticipation crossed the countenance of his determined features.

He had carefully labored and hoped for this moment – this meeting.

“Can you see any sign of them yet?” he asked an aide.

When the U.S.S. Augusta approached the HMS Prince of Wales at 11:00 AM, he had already dressed into a dark blue military uniform. He crossed the bay and boarded the ship.

There, on Saturday morning, August 9, 1941, Prime Minister Winston Churchill met President Franklin D. Roosevelt for the first time. Roosevelt, supported on the arm of his son Elliott, smiled broadly and shook Churchill’s hand. Though always a painful risk, especially on board a ship, the president had insisted on standing in his braces for this historic occasion.

It was a warm greeting FDR extended to his British counterpart. They had been in communication by cable. The meeting had been kept from the American press and public – a secret rendezvous on the high seas that would help determine the course of the world.

FDR jauntily lifted his head and smiled again at Churchill. “At last – we’ve gotten together,” he said. Churchill nodded and smiled back.

“We have,” he replied.

They hit it off instantly.

England was standing alone against Hitler’s Germany in World War II. Churchill hoped to persuade FDR, who faced staunch isolationism at home, to help Great Britain.

The stakes had never been higher for civilization. Both men knew that.

The next day, Sunday, on board the Prince of Wales, the President and Prime Minister joined American and British sailors in a church service.

Churchill had carefully selected the hymns.

They were rich and glorious Anglo-Saxon declarations of faith and courage. They are not so frequently sung in churches today.

The first was O God, Our Help in Ages Past, based on the 90th Psalm.

The second was Onward Christian Soldiers.

 The service concluded with the singing of a hymn that FDR and Churchill, lovers of the sea and the Navy, would have found moving: Eternal Father, Strong to Save, known traditionally as “the Navy Hymn.”

Churchill wept and pulled a handkerchief from his breast pocket. “It was,” he later said, “a great hour to live.”

Prayers were offered. The scripture passage was from Joshua 1. The words rang clear and strong:

“…as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage …be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:5, 9, KJV).

Military and political strategies aside, that single worship service on the deck of the Prince of Wales, moved FDR deeply.

Later he confided to his son Elliott:

“If nothing else happened while we were here, that would have cemented us. ‘Onward Christian Soldiers.’ We are Christian soldiers, and we will go on, with God’s help.”

And they did.

Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill forged a close friendship of rare candor, warmth and mutual admiration.

It was the friendship that won the war and saved the world.

Yes, it was a “great hour to live.” And a time of maximum peril and challenge for the whole world. There was nothing quite like it before. There has been no time like it since.

And as great as the danger was, great leaders rose to meet it.

In a poignant scene from the film Lincoln, the president asks a young soldier:

“Do you think we choose to be born? Or are we fitted to the times we are born into?”

While interesting, it’s not likely Lincoln ever said that. He did confess that events had controlled him, rather than he controlled events. He quoted Shakespeare’s Hamlet about the “divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will.”

History reveals the hand of a sovereign God.

Great events and great lives remind us that this is indeed His Story.

No one who believes in God would dismiss the close collaboration of FDR and Churchill in the world’s greatest war as mere coincidence.

It was divine providence. It was God saving his world.

This year, interestingly, will serve as reminders of God’s sovereign control of events. January 24th marks the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s death. This April marks the 70th anniversary of FDR’s passing. That month is also the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination and the end of the Civil War. In August, we commemorate the 70th anniversary of victory in World War II.

History, like a kind father, reminds us of the power, purpose and watchfulness of God and points us to a renewed faith in his judgment and care for us.

He rules the nations.

But let us remember too that the Lord of Hosts is also the God of Jacob. He cares about the individual no less than the universe.

“Remember the days of old,” sang Moses, “consider the years of many generations …” (Deuteronomy 32:7, KJV).

And thank God for the day when giants strode the earth.

May God bless you and your family.

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The Truth about Islam

It again struck.

Unreasoning, brutal and deadly, its calling card read “revenge for the honor” of the prophet Muhammad.

This time it was the Paris headquarters of a satirical newspaper that had dared to poke fun at the Prophet. Twelve people, including the editorial director, were killed. Three of the terrorists were later cornered and gunned down. But not before four other innocent victims lay dead on the floor of a kosher market.

France was stunned. Nothing like this had happened in a half century.

The civilized world recoiled and then united in defiant solidarity against terrorism. Millions marched in Paris and throughout the country. The mayor of the city made clear her determination to fight back. President Francois Hollande joined the leaders of Germany, Great Britain, Israel and representatives from more than 40 other nations, arm in arm, for the show of resolve.

And once again, pains were taken to explain that this was a united resistance only to “radical” Islam, not Islam itself.

With each attack, with each mindless invocation of Muhammad and each bloody cry for “Allah”, even the most reasonable are beginning to question this persistent premise.

Is it true?

Is the religion of Islam, the world’s second-largest with 1.57 billion followers, totally blameless in the rising tide of global butchery committed in the name of its god and his messenger?

Is it possible that the guilt-ridden and dangerous dogmas of political correctness and multiculturalism have blinded us to the stubborn facts – the unvarnished truth – about Islam? Have we, in the name of a false peace and uneasy co-existence, turned a blind eye to the troubling reality of this oftentimes fervent, harsh and unforgiving religion?

By embracing acceptance do we practice cowardice?

“Tolerance,” observed GK Chesterton, “is the virtue of a man without convictions.”

Ideas have consequences. And some of the ideas – and history – of Islam lend themselves to a stridency of belief and an extremism of behavior.

It is ideas that unite terrorists around the globe who repeatedly shriek that they are acting in the name of “Allah.” And when we see this religious violence committed in the name of a single religion – over and over again – we have every right – and the duty – to be aware, informed and suspicious.

And we have the moral obligation to condemn any religion that breeds this violence; whether it is deliberate or unwitting. The danger is no different.

If our political leaders had any spine they would stand up.

These attacks, such as the one in Paris, may appear to be isolated but they are in fact united. What unites them is a sworn hatred of Western civilization and of Christianity in particular.

Muhammad is diametrically opposed to Jesus Christ. They cannot both be God’s sole messenger.

In Pakistan last November, a young Christian couple, living in poverty, was beaten to death with hockey sticks, rods and crowbars by an angry Muslim crowd of more than a thousand. The couple had been accused of burning a Koran while disposing of trash.

Muslim clerics used loudspeakers to incite the crowd while the couple was held captive. After being clubbed to death, their bodies were burned in the kiln where they had labored their whole lives. They left three small children. She was pregnant.

Where then was the outrage of Islam at such an act? Where indeed has it been throughout the Middle East in the face of savage persecution of Christians?

Even the new president of Egypt warned imams that they must rise up and condemn this terror committed in the name of Islam or their religion will disintegrate in a cauldron of vengeance.

When Abraham, doubting God’s promise, listened to his wife and was intimate with her slave Hagar, the son they had, Ishmael, was destined for violence. “‘This son of yours will be a wild man,’” the angel told the pregnant Hagar, “‘as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives’” (Genesis 16:12, NLT).

Ishmael is the father of the Arab race – the progenitor of Islam. Hate and violence are his legacy.

“I have been ordered (by Allah),” declared Muhammad, “ to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah’s Apostle”

Blasphemy against Islam is a criminal act in many nations, punishable by death. Responsible Muslims must call for the abolition of these repressive laws.

There are many peace-loving Muslims and we must never hate anyone. The right to worship must be protected in this country – for everyone.

This must be the Christian response.

We must continue to evangelize Muslims – to lead them to the love of Jesus Christ and the freedom, grace and forgiveness that only he offers. This is both right and effective. Haggai Institute, the great ministry for which I work, has trained thousands of ex-Muslims in leadership for evangelism. At their grave peril, they spread the Good News to their friends, family and colleagues.

Many Muslims around the world have told of seeing the Savior in dreams and visions.

Yes, he loves and he comes. Yes, he comes to them too.

Let us pray that the scourge of religiously-inspired violence will end.

Let us love all people everywhere, as He wants us to.

And let us recognize the destructive danger of falsehood, the glorious power of truth and the triumphant reality that Jesus Saves!

May God bless you and your family.

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Highly Effective

It’s Habit Number Two.

It’s what we all should do if we want to be happy and successful.

“Begin with the end in mind.”

That’s what Stephen Covey told us in his best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

“The most effective way I know to begin with the end in mind,” Covey wrote, “is to develop a personal mission statement or philosophy or creed.” Covey said that this “mission statement” should be based “on what you want to be (character) and to do (contributions and achievements) and on the values or principles upon which being and doing are based.”

That sounds like good advice to me.

It’s practical, wise and grounded.

It makes perfect sense and is undoubtedly “highly effective.”

I wish I had read Covey’s excellent book before I began assembling toys on Christmas Eve. No matter how carefully I laid all the parts out on the floor of our living room; no matter how closely I studied the diagrams and read the instructions – several times – I still ended up with a leftover washer or screw.

They went somewhere, I just didn’t know where. I had made a mistake but didn’t know what it was, how I had made it or how to correct it. Still, if the toy functioned I didn’t worry. Not once did one of our girls ever ask me, “Daddy, where’s the missing washer?”

It wasn’t perfect but it was close and certainly good enough coming from a mechanical klutz like me.

My daughter was happy – she never knew the difference.

I tried to begin with the end in mind but still couldn’t get it all together.

My life seems to have been taken up with its share of unanticipated consequences.

It takes a lifetime to learn how to live and it’s only hindsight that offers the wisdom of clarity.

My dad used to tell me that “if our foresight was as good as our hindsight we’d be a sure sight better off.”

Some are good at predicting the future and making choices based on their intuition and perceptions. It seems always to turn out as they thought it would.

For the rest of us, life holds surprises. It is cooked in crisis, marinated with choices and threaded throughout with irony. But no matter how unexpectedly it turns out, life still tastes pretty good.

Of course, there’s no crystal ball for 2015.

All of us are going to be surprised by something. The future isn’t like a checkbook – it can’t be calculated, managed and neatly balanced each month. The beginning of the year reminds us that the future is enveloped in mystery – coincidence, happenstance, serendipity.

And it is determined and guided by Providence.

“Our God, our help in ages past,” wrote Isaac Watts nearly three centuries ago, “our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.”

The ancient immortal lyrics burst forth upon our human frailty with a majestic and resounding reassurance that has resonated with every generation of Christian pilgrims.

The unchangeableness of God is contrasted with the transitoriness of man. Our mortality is laid out next to his sovereignty.

“Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away; they fly, forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.”

To God, time is an unobtrusive irrelevancy. He lives and moves in what theologian Paul Tillich described as “the eternal now.”

Watts was inspired by the 90th psalm.

“Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.  Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (Psalm 90: 1-2,NKJV).

God is the premier Highly Effective Person.

He begins with the end in mind.

He always has.

God planned the whole of the future – yours, mine, the world’s – in the very distant past. And in God’s plan, there is no left-over screw and no wayward washer. His assembly of human existence – past, present and future – is perfect and complete, right down to the last detail.

It lacks nothing because its Creator lacks nothing. God never goes back to the drawing board of history. He scraps nothing and he has no “Plan B.”

He doesn’t need one.

As God begins with the end in mind, so too he begins with us in mind.

Paul told the Philippians that they could confidently rejoice in knowing this:

“God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6, NLT, emphasis added).

What a promise as we begin a New Year of living. To know God is working in us, for us and through us.

He will never abandon what he started – he has the end in mind.

Long before you were born, God had you in his mind – and in his heart.

“Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God” (Psalm 139:16, NLT).

This alone gives us confidence and hope as we once again venture into the unknowns of time and circumstance.

God always begins with the end in mind. He’s highly effective.

May God bless you and your family.

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