Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Remember that Christmas is a Birthday

My grandson, Konnor, was King for a day when he turned eight years old. He was the center of attention. In the morning, my wife and I called and wished him a happy birthday. He took treats to school, got cards in the mail, and had a birthday party with his own customized birthday cake, compliments of grandma.

When we celebrate someone’s birthday, it is normal to make them the center of attention. They are the focus of the party, gifts and treats. It is a happy time, surrounding the celebration of their birth.

Christmas Day is a gigantic worldwide birthday celebration for Jesus. Although Christians honor Him all year long, it is a concentrated time to remember the day when he came from heaven to earth in miraculous fashion being born through His virgin mother, Mary.

The modern Christmas Day does not seem to reflect the celebration of Jesus’ birth. Rather, it more bears the marks of an annual family gathering accompanied with gift giving and food while the Birthday Boy sits quietly in the background.

How can we make Christmas Day more about Jesus? It is very simple. Go to God in prayer and say, “God what would your Son like for His birthday?” I believe God may show you the two greatest commandments in the Bible, which can serve as the two greatest Christmas gifts for Jesus. “You shall love the Lord your God . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (The Bible, Matt. 22:37-40, ESV) First, give the gift of love to Jesus. Second, give the gift of love to others.

On Christmas morning, we can show our love for Jesus by dropping to our knees and yielding ourselves anew to Him giving praise for who He is and what He has done. Then throughout Christmas Day, we can show our love for others in three ways: 1) Going and sharing the good news of Christ with someone in a creative way. 2) Going and giving something to a person in need – a meal, toy or clothing. 3) Going and visiting someone in need – a widow, foster child, or someone in the hospital.

Take the challenge. Give Jesus what He wants for His birthday. Then watch your Christmas be filled with a divine and everlasting hope.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Sinking Dollar and The Steady Cross

The other day I opened up our latest statement on our retirement account and gasped as I looked at the two columns “Current value” versus “Value one year ago”. Ouch! Even though the markets appear to be doing better than earlier in 2009, we still have a long way to go before confidence is restored on Main Street and Wall Street.

The economic road to recovery has a dangerous and growing pothole. Experts are concerned over the declining value of U.S. currency. The dollar is traded daily on the Foreign Exchange Market. Its value is determined by its relation to other currencies on the market like the European euro, the Japanese yen or the Canadian dollar.

Here is the concern – from March to September the dollar has fallen 14.9% against the euro. What is affecting the value of the dollar? There is a mix of technical things, but a major issue is the growing U.S debt, currently at $12 trillion. As investors see the massive and growing debt, it reduces their confidence and they invest elsewhere, like other currencies.

What is the big negative to Main Street? If the dollar keeps sinking, the costs of our foreign goods will start climbing. That is inflation. By the way, what in your home has stamped on it “Made in China, Japan, Mexico” or some other country?

There is so much economic instability right now. We Americans are so used to our government’s wealth, our personal capacity to make and spend or the generosity of others. As a result, when something cleans out the American pocket book, it knocks the legs right out from underneath us.

Is there anything that is sure in this unstable world? Yes. There is only one thing that is a constant and stable source of trust – the person Jesus Christ.

Around 38 A.D. Jesus was tortured then died on a wooden cross. His blood stained that cross. His life and blood was unlike any other. Its value was enough to pay for the debt and penalty of the sin of the world’s population. Through His death, then His resurrection three days later, you and I can be saved from our sin and given a future and hope.

Jesus Christ. He is a sure investment. No matter the conditions of our world, He is a rock that remains. Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” (The Bible, John 14:6, ESV) May He be your source of hope for today and all eternity.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Respecting Our Opponents

This summer Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, was asked what she thought about the town hall attendees who were voicing their opposition to the health care reform proposals. Her response was, “They are Astroturf.” While watching video of some of the town halls I saw one man standing nearly face to face to his U.S. Senator. He was looking him squarely in the eye, waiving his finger and angrily yelling his message.

The name calling of Pelosi and the disrespectful attitude of the man were both equally wrong and shouldn’t be championed or rationalized. There is no justification based on the person who said it, the position they hold or where it was said. There is also no justification based on the issue or group it’s aimed at. It’s wrong for the left and right, democrats and republicans and for liberals and conservatives.

I know there is admirable intent in the passions we have and causes for which we stand. We want to do what is right, stand up for others and speak out against those who do otherwise. No doubt, the message we have is important. We want it to be heard. However, the reason our message may not be getting through could be that our manner of delivery is offensive.

When Jesus lived on this earth He faced strong opposition to His life changing message. Yet, He successfully communicated it without compromising His godly character. What can we learn from Jesus? First, his own heart was pure and conscious clear before God His Father and others. Second, he was empty of any bitterness or unforgiveness towards his critics. Third, He never tried to exalt Himself by cutting down others. Fourth, He truly loved His opposition. The honest intent of His heart was to see them changed versus destroyed. It is written, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (The Bible, Romans 12:21, ESV)

Jesus was truthful, firm, humble, forgiving and loving in the midst of a fierce battle over the message He brought. May the example of Jesus Christ give us hope for today as we passionately stand up for what we believe.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

God and Socialism

Socialism. I have never heard the word used so much in the news from the presidential campaign to the present. It is being used often in the health care debate by opponents of the President’s plan. Republican National Committee Chairperson, Michael Steele, while taking questions before the National Press Club in July agreed that the president’s healthcare plan was socialistic.

What is socialism? The word was coined by Henri De Saint Simon in the early 1800s. Then in the mid to late 1800s German Philosopher, Karl Marx, co-wrote the Communist Manifesto which laid a philosophical ground work to socialism that evolved into a movement influencing many governments of the world.

There is wide range of definitions, but many experts say socialism is an economic system at its root. According to the writings of many early socialist fathers their system was suppose to combat the inequalities and unfairness that they saw in the industrial revolution. The rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer.

On the surface, the principles seem noble. Beneath the surface, the history of socialism has meant government control of private capital (property, wages, and trade) and the administration of production and distribution of goods in a society.

God is the Creator and King over His universe. How does He govern? First, He governs from a position of selflessness. He does not seek to forcibly control for selfish gain. Second, He governs with compassion and personal sacrifice giving of Himself to His creation. Then God teaches those who have received from Him to do the same. Third, He governs by distributing His greatest gift, the forgiveness of sins, equally to all only if they meet His standard. If a person chooses to believe in His Son, Jesus Christ, repent from their sinful behavior and are willing to confess Jesus Christ publicly, then they can receive God’s gift of forgiveness. If they don’t, then they willingly choose suffer the consequences of that decision.

God is the example of how to govern a society. He is a wise King. He governs with justice and compassion and He patiently waits for you. Will you make Him your hope for today?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Worrying About The Future

Huge job losses are a primary symptom of the critical condition of our economy. Nationally, the unemployment rate is approaching 10% at the time. Michigan is nearing 16% and Oregon 13%.

The good news is that no matter how you slice the numbers a majority of Americans are still employed. The numbers show employers are still hiring and people starting up new businesses. In July, businesses in North Carolina hired 4,700 people while Mississippi hired 4,500.

Even though 90% of Americans continue working, some might be worried about job security when they watch the nightly news. The reports on proposed congressional legislation dealing with healthcare and the environment are costly. Some experts warn of a higher federal deficit and more private sector job losses.

How should the majority of Americans live who still have their job, but wonder where things are headed?

1. Be aware. Know what is happening in your industry and company.
2. Be financially prepared. Start saving up emergency funds and paying down your debts.
3. Be the best employee. Do not give the boss a reason to let you go.
4. Be not a worrier.

It is so easy to worry when we feel like we are losing control at events swirling around us. However, worrying is a choice and you do not have to choose it. The God-Man, Jesus Christ, has given us a better way. He once said, “Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (The Bible, John 14:1, ESV).

Jesus is the antidote to a life filled with selfish worry. Yes, worry is selfish. You are usually the primary subject of your worries. Most of the things we worry about never happen anyway. When we turn from self-focused life to a Jesus-focused life, He is able to bring abiding peace in a worry-worn heart. May you find hope for today in the peace of Christ.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Supreme Examination

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is the first female Hispanic nominee to the court in American history. Her Senate confirmation hearings begin this month. If confirmed she will not only make the history books, but receive a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. It is the highest court in the United States and a powerful seat in the U.S. Government.

U.S. Senators are presently combing through thousands of documents going over speeches, court rulings and almost every area of her life trying to determine how she might execute her duties as a Justice. How would she rule on potential cases? How does she interpret the U.S. Constitution? Does she believe the court has the power to make policy?

The position she will potentially hold is influential in literally shaping America's future. On account of that, the process is brutal in making sure our nation places the best person on the bench.

One day I will actually go through something like a senate confirmation hearing. It will be much different though. There will not be any republicans or democrats and it will actually be an honest and fair hearing.

According to the Bible, the most accurate book ever written, there will be a day when every human being will be personally examined by God, the creator of all humanity. Prior to the meeting, God will dissect every area of our life, public and private, from the moment of our birth. His examination will go further then the confirmation hearings. It will also include our thought life and inner motives.

As I anticipate that day, I am not worried. I have confidence and peace. Why? Because God exams without partiality and favoritism. God says, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (The Bible, Romans 9:15, ESV). I have peace today because He has helped me to turn from my sins and brought me total forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

You may not have peace. The thought of being examined by God may leave you with a feeling of uncertainty.

One day we all will be personally examined by God to determine our destination for eternity. Followers of Christ can ponder the implications of that day with a sense of confident hope and abiding peace. May you turn to Him and find your hope for today.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Chrysler Debt and Christ’s Forgiveness

Nearly 800 Chrysler, Jeep, and Dodge dealerships across the country got an unwanted package last month. They received a letter from Chrysler’s corporate office telling them to close up shop. In the end, 25% of the dealership’s network got the bad news. One of those I read about was Frederick George of Flint, Michigan. His family has been in the automobile business since 1928. He said, “Were upset, stunned.” Many others probably echoed his statement across the country.

The executive management miss-steps of Chrysler brought in the federal government and bankruptcy courts. The ripples of this financial mess are far reaching. Local Chrysler dealers are now being pulled under by the company's bad decisions and federal government pressure. After reading a comment from a dealer in Mississippi, I thought his words made a point. The summary of his comments were “Chrysler has their own investments, we have our own and we are not the problem.”

The financial debt that Chrysler accrued over the years is apparently too much for their CEO and board of directors to take care of themselves. All of us have a debt too, of a different kind. It is a sin debt.

A large, heavy debt has been accruing since the moment of our birth. Jesus can take this. He never had a debt of sin of his own, but is willing to take ours. Moreover, when He takes our debt, we will become free from its bondage. There is no greater feeling then being debt free. Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (The Bible, John 8:32, ESV). Let Him take your debt and experience hope for today.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Finding Freedom in the War on Drugs

During President Richard Nixon’s administration, he coined the phrase “War on Drugs.” In the 1980s and 90s Mexican drug cartels began to rise to power becoming stronger than the Mexican military. Now, the war on drugs has reached new levels. Since 2006, over 10,000 people have been killed and the start of 2009 has shown no decline in deaths along the U.S. and Mexico boarder.

How does this drug war relate to you and me? The Justice Department reports that Mexican drug organizations have a sophisticated network of distribution points throughout the United States. Among those are obvious boarder states like Florida, Texas, Arizona, and California. However, they are moving their centers north to places like Wichita, Kansas; Billings, Montana and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There are 230 cities where the cartels have operations. From urban to rural communities, many are at risk.

What drives the risky business of illegal drugs? The user. What would happen if there were no more users? Like a regular business, if people no longer bought the product, business would shut down. What would have an immediate impact on the drug war? If people no longer used illegal drugs. Sales would stop, street values would plummet, profits would be cut and the lure of making a fortune in drug trafficking would be gone.

What is the leading cause of drug abuse that dealers depend upon? A person’s need for help in coping with physical pain or emotional trauma. All of us experience real and serious challenges every day. For some, their defense or escape mechanism is drugs. However, I believe that most users, when thinking straight, really do want to quit.

If you are hooked, you can be free. A drug dealer is not genuinely concerned about your problems. It is a business and they want their money. However, someone sincerely cares about your welfare – Jesus, God’s Son. He is not primarily interested in your money. He is interested in you, your present and your future. God says, “For I know the plans I have for you . . . plans for wholeness and not for evil to give you a future and a hope” (The Bible, Jeremiah 29:11, ESV). He loves you. He wants to be your Savior and save you from your sin of drug use or even drug dealing. Will you turn from your addiction and find freedom through the complete forgiveness of Jesus? May He be your hope for today.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Who is your HP?

“Tom, do you believe in God?” “Yes and no. I believe there is a God, but I choose to believe in my higher power.” According to different religious surveys, more Americans believe in a higher power then ever before. In 2008, one survey found that 92% of American’s believed in God or a higher power. In another religious survey rolled out last month it found that atheism has doubled in America, and another pollster found that even 21% of atheists are open to belief in a higher power.

Alcoholics Anonymous coined the phrase “higher power” or HP in the 1930s through their 12-step program. The modern consensus of a higher power is something that is greater then yourself, which is some type of god or supernatural force. One website asked people to talk about their higher power. One person said they wanted a higher power that was “on my side and non-judgmental”. Another said, “Mine has a sense of humor and helps me”. One more said, “I sat down and wrote out a list of qualities I wanted in mine.”

Many people find comfort believing in a higher power because it gives them an alternative to how they were raised, brings flexibility to their beliefs and allows them to live how they choose. Yet, their higher power generally does not have a name and there is no reliable source to find a clear description of who their high power is or what it does.

Through my personal experience and study, I believe there is a Being who meets and exceeds what millions are looking for in their higher power. This Being is not just a wandering supernatural force among countless others. He is a person. He has a name. He is above all. And there is a reliable source where people can learn about Him.

This month millions around the world through Easter celebrations are remembering His life. His name is Jesus and you can learn about Him through the Holy Bible. Through reading the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, you will discover Jesus. One writer describes Him as “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (The Bible, Isaiah 9:6, ESV). I believe He is what you and many others are searching for. May Jesus be your hope for today.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Lesson from Lincoln

On October 4, 2008, former President Bush signed a $700 billion bailout bill and last month, on February 17, President Obama signed a $787 billion stimulus package. The combined pieces of legislation represent $1.487 trillion, the most expensive government actions in the history of our nation and as one commentator said, “Maybe even the history of the world.”

The two bills were responding to a series of crises – the mortgage crisis, the banking crisis, the market crisis and the unemployment crisis. Depending on what party you are from you may see the solution differently. One party sees the answer in government spending more to simulate the economy, while the other feels it is better to cut taxes and allow the citizens to spend more. In the end, both look to money as the savior of our economy.

Former President Abraham Lincoln has been getting much attention recently. We can learn a lesson through observing how Lincoln and Congress responded to their national crisis. During the civil war, when our nation was literally divided and on the brink of collapse, U.S. Senator James Harlan of Iowa introduced a resolution for a time of national prayer. The resolution stated,

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!”

President Lincoln and both chambers of Congress agreed with Senator Harlan. The resolution was approved and signed on March 30, 1863, with an urgent call to a national day of prayer scheduled just 30 days later on April 30.

There are many other times in American history when our nation was facing difficult times. Our national leaders and its citizens formally humbled themselves and called upon God for His help – God responded!

May we realize that the future hope of our nation will not come from the wealth of our own wisdom or prosperity. It comes from God. May we not forget Him in this hour of need. In this fragile world, may He be our hope for today.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Humanity of a President

Barrack Obama has ascended to the greatest seat of power in the world – the President of the United States of America. The ascension came with the sacred rituals given all presidents wrapped in an atmosphere of splendor with the praise of millions.

The public grandeur of the Presidential Inauguration was awe striking. Then following his oath of office, the private moments of President Obama walking into the Oval Office, assuming his new duties in the world’s most renowned political office, was breath taking.

As we see our new President carry out his role before a watching world, we might forget his humanity. We might think that with the pomp and circumstance of his rise, he is no longer human, but has been transformed into a tireless machine of power and influence.

Beyond the pageantry, President Obama is just like you and me. Throughout his future presidency, there will be public and private moments that display his humanity. Although he is President, he is also a husband, father, and son. In these roles, he will experience times of happiness and sadness, attention and isolation, success and failure.

Across the landscape of history, there was only one great world leader who never had to ascend to power, but always had it and still governs today. He is history’s only leader who was fully human and fully God. In His humanity, He grieved the death of a friend, was misunderstood by the public and betrayed by His friends. In His deity, He forgave sins, raised the dead and healed the sick. Who is this? Jesus. He is the Great King. He is the King of all Kings and President of all Presidents.

There is one person who is above all world leaders - Jesus. There is one person that can be looked to for wisdom and understanding by us all, including President Barrack Obama - Jesus. Jesus said about Himself, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” (The Bible, John 14:1).

May we exalt Jesus above all and put our trust in Him alone, the Great King. May He be our hope for today.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A New Start

As a sunrise means the start of a new day, so January means the start of a new year. Our world is filled with examples of new starts. The toss of a coin on a football field is the start of a new game, a wedding is the start of a new marriage and the birth of a child is the start of a new life. Examples are all around us in every sphere of life. They can teach us a few things.

First, a new start teaches us about perseverance. Life can make you weary. It can make you feel like giving up telling yourself, “I can’t do this anymore.” However, January can be a new start. Will you give up or accept that last year is gone and renew your commitment to give your best and keep pressing onward?

Second, a new start teaches us about opportunity. January shouts saying, “Hey, it is a new year. What are you going to do with it?” You may have an opportunity to begin a new career, help someone who is in need, or fulfill a lifelong dream. Will they come and pass you by or will you seize them?

Third, a new start teaches us about the grace of God. As a New Year’s Day is the chance to begin a new and better year, so the grace of God is a chance for you to begin a new and transformed life.

Like you have done nothing to bring about a sunrise or a new year, so you have done nothing to bring about the grace of God. What is this amazing grace? It is a form of God’s love shown to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that provided for the forgiveness of sins of all humankind.

As January is a start to a new year, Jesus Christ can be the start of a new life for you. Through Him, you can become a new person. Receive His grace by turning from your sin and receive your hope for today and all of 2009.