Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Light of Christmas

"Jobless, Inflation, Poverty, Recession”, then “Sirens wail in Tel Aviv, Gaza rockets hit suburbs”. This is what I read at the top of my screen when I went to an Internet news website. I thought to myself, “What is happening?” The headlines communicated the larger story of the dark and perilous times America and the world is facing. Our world needs hope!

Centuries ago, on the eve of history’s first Christmas the world was also in perilous times. Rome was the world’s superpower. They were a dictatorship whose government was immoral and cruel. For over 300 years the Jewish people lay under the foot of Roman rule. Day after day they longed to be free from this heartless empire. They needed hope. On the original Christmas Day the dawn of a new era had finally come. Hope arrived.

A young Jewish couple, Joseph and Mary, gave birth to their newborn son, Jesus. It was foretold this child would become the hope of the world. As the years passed and the boy became a man He lived out His destiny. At age 30 He began a public speaking ministry drawing crowds in the thousands. He coupled that with supernatural works of miraculous healings, displayed power over demons and even tamed the fury of nature. Jesus said of Himself, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). Indeed, His powerful light sliced through the curtain of darkness covering the world’s stage bringing hope to many.

However, the public eventually turned against Jesus. Why? His light brought hope, but it also exposed things. It exposed liars, cheats and the immoral lives of all rank and file in society. He lovingly called them to turn from their darkness and follow Him. Instead, they said “Enough!” Jesus once said, “The light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness because their deeds were evil” (John 3:10). And that is what happened. Soon, the hands of the crowds were dripping with Jesus’ blood when they murdered Him. For three days He lay dead. Then on the third day they discovered they could not keep hope in the grave.

Jesus overcame the darkness once and for all being raised from the dead. He was and still is the unquenchable light of the world. This Christmas let us call upon Jesus and let Him save us from the darkness bringing the light of hope within us. May Jesus be your hope this Christmas.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

HOPE FOR TODAY - Eternal Value Of Thankfulness

Early in our marriage while we eating a dinner Kathe had prepared I said, “Thanks for dinner, honey” She responded a little surprised so I followed up with, “You have taken the time to put it together and it tasted great so I think you deserve a thanks.”

One of the easiest ways to celebrate Thanksgiving is by sharing a simple “thank you” with someone who has served us. On the public platform our culture seems to do fine with this. It is normal for celebrities and politicians to express thanks while the cameras are rolling and crowds gathered. However, what are we like when our guard is down and have nothing to gain? In those moments how often do we express “thank you” to our parents, children, co-workers, friends or classmates?

Thankfulness is a character issue. It is about humility. When we say “thank you”, we lower our self and elevate another. And when we do that we are giving people a sense of dignity. We are honoring their act of service toward us no matter how insignificant or routine we may consider it to be.

Secondly, it is about awareness. In order to give a “thank you” it requires that we shift the focus from our own world to someone else’s. It is where we hit the pause button in our busyness for a moment and acknowledge what someone has done on our behalf. It is a simple act of courtesy that is polite and the mark of a true gentleman or lady.

The life altering affect of Jesus’ suffering, death, burial and rising again from the dead is dependent on our attitude toward thankfulness. It takes a sense of awareness to realize that Jesus did all this for you and the people of the world. Awareness is required to realize it was done because you are a sinner and need a savior. And after you are aware of this it takes humility to say “thank you” for all He did. And in that moment, life-change happens because you have lowered yourself and exalted Jesus in your heart. The Scripture says, “Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name” (1 Chronicles 16:8).

May God help us to be a thankful people that our souls might be altered forever. May parents, church leaders and employers model humility and awareness that Christ may be our hope for today.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

HOPE FOR TODAY-Spells, Magic & The Supernatural

I was visiting with a young woman whom I had lost contact with for several years. As we caught up about her family, work and faith she said, “I’m a pagan.” It surprised me. I never had anyone tell me that before. After our conversation I asked myself, “What does it mean when she calls herself a pagan?”

According to the Pagan Federation it is “a follower of a polytheistic or pantheistic nature-worshipping religion.” In simple terms, it is someone who believes in many gods and goddesses and deification of nature. The religion has a number of distinctions like nature worship, rituals, spells, magic and exploring the supernatural.

In October, pagans celebrate one of their most sacred events – Samhain. When Americans are trick-or-treating on Halloween, pagans world-wide will be honoring their ancestors through various rituals believing the supernatural veil that divides this world and the next can be crossed.

Many experts say paganism has grown from a few thousand to upwards of 1,000,000 since 1990. Books, television shows, movies like Harry Potter, and the Internet have helped expand paganism among women and our youth.

The religion reveals a spiritual searching that has been common to the human race for centuries. Many have travelled the path of paganism seeking rest for their soul through the supernatural only to find emptiness at each turn.

Only Jesus can satisfy the longing of the soul. When He gave His life as a sacrifice on a cross then rose again from the dead a few days later, He ended the need for a man-made system of spiritual rituals.

Once a pagan jailer was in a desperate place when he pleaded, “. . . what must I do to be saved?” which was followed by a simple answer - “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:30-31). No longer do we need to bear the burden of trying to do or say the right thing to find rest for our soul. We just need simple faith combined with surrender wholly to Christ. We need to yield our allegiance to Him, who is Lord of all creation. If you do, His gift of rest for the soul and adjoining mission of service will be yours. Discover His gift and may Jesus be your hope for today.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

HOPE FOR TODAY - Religious Professors

A Florida teenager made national news giving experts a lot to talk about. Matthew Scheidt, 18, was arrested by authorities after an impersonation stunt. He wormed his way into being a Physician’s Assistant at a local hospital. He had an I.D. badge, had the right clothes and was even trusted by a doctor to do CPR on a patient. Matthew said and did all the right things so folks gave him a pass in spite of some inner suspicions.

In this column I’m talking about religious professors who are just like the fake P.A. They are religious people who say and do all the right things so well that genuine believers give them a pass despite having silent questions about the sincerity of their profession.

Jesus once said that many religious professors will stand before Him on their day of reckoning and plead for mercy saying, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” (Matthew 7:22). Yet they will be utterly shocked to hear Jesus say, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Mathew 7:23).

The saddest part is they believe they deserve heaven because of all the religious things they have done. By inference they look upon Jesus as heaven’s door man, where He is supposed to just open the door and let them in because they earned it.

In a way they are guilty of blasphemy to the highest degree. In essence they are saying, “Jesus did not need to come to suffer, die, and rise again for me. He did it for the other folks. You know, those who are not good enough.”

Jesus said “. . . unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). This is not something we do ourselves it is only something God can do. We must become a new person from the inside out. If we do, our sins are forgiven and we are redeemed, justified, and sanctified by God’s power.

Has all that happened to you? It does when you become born again, not by your efforts, but by the power of God. Turn from being religious and commit your whole life to Christ. Call upon God in a spirit of humility and become a new person. May Jesus be your hope for today.

Monday, July 30, 2012

HOPE FOR TODAY - Responding To A Secular Humanist

America is facing one of the worst droughts in its history. By mid-summer 63% of our nation’s landmass was dry and over 2,000 counties in 29 states were declared natural disaster areas. The extremely hot temperatures and barren skies are causing a huge economic impact, which will affect every American, beginning foremost with our nation’s farmers.
Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of the USDA, has been watching the drought conditions closely. In a White House press briefing he said, “I get on my knees every day . . . And I’m saying an extra prayer now. If I had a rain prayer or a rain dance I could do, I would do it.”

This comment bothered Tom Flynn, Executive Director for the Council on Secular Humanism. “It sends the wrong message to distraught farmers when the Agriculture Secretary suggests that the best response is to pray,” said Flynn. “For a Cabinet official to recommend prayer as a solution . . . may violate the Constitution’s prohibition against establishment of religion. Most important, though, is that prayer doesn’t work . . . Apparently Secretary Vilsack has been praying for rain every day; how’s that working out?”

A tenet of Mr. Flynn’s world view is Fairness and Justice. In response Flynn violated his own tenets when he mocked Vilsack’s beliefs, falsely accusing him of constitutional obstruction and intentionally misrepresented his views.

I live in an agriculture community that has been affected by the hot and dry temperatures. On the day Vilsack made his comment about prayer the clouds moved in, temperatures cooled and we received rain. Prayer works!

Prayer can be a loose word. Many world religions use the word “prayer”. As a Christian I pray to the one true God. He is no myth or legend. He is as real as the computer I am typing on. And He is the One who created heaven and earth and has power over the weather. No human being can lower temperatures, create a cloud, or send rain at a specific location, time or in a certain amount.

We should pray for our nation and also pray for the growing number of skeptics that doubt the existence of God and power of prayer. His desire for all humanity is to “. . . know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him” (Deuteronomy 4:35). May in Him they find their hope for today.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

HOPE FOR TODAY - Losing Our Way

The story of how a nation was formed along with its reason for existence is pivotal to its future direction. That is why the remembrance of July 4, 1776, is so vital for the United States of America. We must not forget. If we do, we will lose our way and put our future in jeopardy.

Patrick Henry, a ratifier of the U.S. Constitution, said "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.” The cornerstone of America’s founding is God, the Bible and a clear Christian faith. The most valuable documents in our history and the story of our founding reveal this without question. However, the new age in which America lives, this element of our history has been buried with the shovels of political correctness and tolerance. Departing from it is causing us to lose our way and evolve into a morally and spiritually bankrupt nation. It appears that we the people are America’s greatest security threat and we are on the verge of collapsing in upon ourselves. The Scriptures say, “The nations have sunk in the pit that they made; in the net that they hid their own foot has been caught” (Psalm 9:15).

I believe the management of our national prosperity is contributing to our self-destruction. Since the industrial age America has prospered to become one of the wealthiest nations on earth. Wars and the Great Depression tested it, but we have continually bounced back becoming even more prosperous. However, has our nation’s wealth blinded us, causing our bountiful blessing to become our dreaded curse? Perhaps we are becoming our own gods thinking that through our wealth, education, technology and science we can keep this Great Experiment going.

Let us not forget the One who formed us into a nation. Oh, may it never be! There has not been one like it in the history of mankind. America is truly unique. The providential, Sovereign hand of our Creator has guided, blessed and used us in countless ways. Let us humble ourselves before Him. He has been our hope in the past and through God’s grace, may He be our hope for the future.

Monday, June 4, 2012


We are in the midst of an ongoing crisis within the ranks of our young men and what they are seeing is not inspiring them to become Men of Honor. Many are influenced by what they see in sports, music, television, movies and they are not seeing positive role models. Additionally, a growing number of young men, especially in our inner cities, are starved for good examples in their own home. Sadly, some just do not have a dad in their life. Indeed, a child who has grown up with a loving and honorable Father is blessed.

We need an army of Men of Honor whose lives can become the standard bearers for a future generation. What is a man of honor? It is a man whose life has great value, yielding the respect of those closest to him. A sparkling diamond is held in high esteem because of its incredible worth. It is the same with an ornament of pure gold or a garment of beautiful silk. Their worth breeds honor.

If we discover what makes a man valuable we will discover what makes him honorable. When a man leads his home with gentleness, protects those he loves with vigilance and possesses humility he is a man of honor.

What decreases a man’s worth and brings dishonor? When a man views his marriage vows as situational, walks in a spirit of arrogance and puts the needs of himself above the needs of those he is entrusted to care for he is a dishonorable man.

Is there a man who truly embodies honor? Jesus. He is THE MAN among all men. He invited 12 men to follow Him, whom He willingly led and mentored for three years. He stood up against the corrupt religious leaders of His day being a courageous voice for justice. He was a servant feeding the hungry, being a friend to social outcasts and healing the sick. Then He faced false accusations and death valiantly. His friends and enemies could find no wrong in Him. One enemy said, “I find no guilt in this man.” (Luke 23:4) He finished His life by dying a torturous death. Then He rose again conquering death and sin providing forgiveness and eternal life to millions of people who trust in Him today.

What a man of worth, and the highest of honor! May every man aspire to be a man like Jesus. May He be your hope for today.

Monday, May 7, 2012

HOPE FOR TODAY: America Salutes its Mothers

On May 8, 1914, Congress passed a joint resolution to establish the second Sunday of May as Mother’s Day. Then on May 9th, the President signed the first proclamation saying, “I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States . . . invite the people of the United States to display the [United States] flag . . . as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.”

The proclamation sounded incredibly patriotic as I read it. Nothing was said about cards, candy and roses, but flying the American flag. It seemed odd. Then I got it. Embedded in the foundation of the United States are its mothers.

During the years 1776 to 1914 America fought in numerous wars beginning with the American Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War among others. Following 1914, America entered into World War I, then World War II. How could young husbands with children have gone off to defend this nation without courageous wives and mothers staying behind to defend their homes and care for their children? Thousands of these women never saw their husbands return becoming widows at an early age.

The role of women in our nation has changed much since 1776 and even 1914. Today, America’s landscape is filled with mom’s serving in the workforce, military and in elected office. However, the value of service they provide their families and America hasn’t changed. I sincerely believe there would be no America if it wasn’t for the sacrifice of our moms.

God also is embedded in the foundation of our nation. The acknowledgement and worship of God is evident throughout the historical accounts of America’s founding. However, where would the role of God be in our country without godly mothers? Mothers who carried out their faith by example and purposely invested godly qualities in their children. The difference between a good mom and a great mom is God. The Scriptures say, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).

The future of America is not bound up in our military might, academic achievements or financial strength. America’s hope rests in the priority of God and that begins in our homes with godly mom’s helping to raise godly boys and girls. Mom, America salutes you! May Jesus be your hope for today.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

HOPE FOR TODAY: What it Means to Believe

Jesus, God’s only Son, was miraculously raised from the dead around A.D. 35 and still lives today. One of His disciples was a little skeptical. He was known as Doubting Thomas. Jesus appeared to him saying, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 10:27). Thomas responded “My Lord and my God!” (John 21:28). How many of us are like Thomas having sincere doubts?

Do you believe in President Abraham Lincoln? You may respond, “Yeah. I’ve read about him and seen pictures. He was a good man and one of our greatest Presidents.” However, what if I say, “Do you believe in Jesus?” The definition of “belief” in regard to Jesus is much different. The biblical synonym is “trust”. A good definition for belief in Jesus would be a “self-surrendering trust in the person of Christ”. One of the major reasons He died and rose again was that we might believe in Him.

Is Jesus calling us to believe (or trust) in Him, simply because He viewed Himself as a good man? He fed the hungry, cared for the sick, reached out to the minorities of his day and taught with unequaled wisdom. Indeed, He was a good man. The greatest that ever lived. However, if Jesus was just a good man that puts Him in the “created being” class (along with angels and humans). If that is true, how can we entrust our eternal soul and the weight of our entire being in His care?

Jesus’ death and resurrection changed everything. The blood that was shed during His torturous death provided for the forgiveness of sin for all mankind. Only one being in the universe has the sole authority and power to forgive sin. God. The Creator of heaven and earth. Jesus was not just a man. He was the one true God in human form. Additionally, only God has ultimate power over the cords of death. When Jesus rose again from the dead to never die again, He proved He was not just a man but was Deity! He was and still is the most Holy, most Righteous and most High God.

Jesus was calling Thomas, along with you and me to a self-surrendering trust in Him as Almighty God. He is worthy of our trust. He has proved it. May Jesus be your hope for today.

Monday, March 12, 2012

HOPE FOR TODAY: The Sin of Silence

I was stunned to hear about Whitney Houston’s sudden death in February. As a youth I was a huge fan of her music. What does her death have in common with Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson? They all battled the demons of substance abuse and to some degree, it contributed to their deaths. The crafted legacies by industry historians along with family and friends will give little or no attention to the substance abuse issues in their lives.

In music, film, politics, sports and even religion we want to paint successful figures in their given fields in a positive light for what they contributed. However, it is often not an accurate portrayal of their life. Edited out are their failures. Silenced.

I have been reading the Scriptures since I was a boy. One of the fascinating things I like about them is their honesty. You would think the stories in Scripture of the giants of the Christian faith like Abraham, Moses, King David, Paul and Peter would only feature their successes. God did include their incredible exploits, however, He also included their failures. Really embarrassing ones.

Where is the good news in relationship to our failures? Jesus came into our world to bring us this news. First, it means we admit our failures or sin to our self. We say “Self, I’ve got a problem”. Second, we admit to God, turning our lives towards Him seeking His help. Third, we admit to others who have been hurt by our actions. Fourth, we use our mistakes to help others avoid them. The sin of legendary King David in the Scriptures was written about at great length. He had an adulterous affair that he tried to cover up by killing his mistress’s husband. After a period of time he finally admitted what he did. He sought God’s forgiveness then said, “I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you” (Psalm 51:13). Through our sin and failures we can teach people the consequences of bad behavior and urge them to avoid what we have done. I believe that is why God included the failures of His great workmen.

Let us stop trying to keep up appearances and explain away our actions. In our failure, may we turn to Jesus and let him take our ashes and turn them into something beautiful. May He be our hope for today.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

HOPE FOR TODAY: Awakening the Mysteries of Love

My wife and I got to know each other when she came and asked me to help her start up a community wide youth ministry. As we worked together, feelings for her began stirring within me. I found myself confused saying to myself, “I have these feelings for her, but what should I do?” 

When we are in these situations, our human emotions, friends and the cultural influences tell us to move quickly. Ask him or her out. Then go on a second date. Then it’s the first touch of the hands. The first embrace. The first kiss. The first, “I love you. Then marriage. And all this, 0 to 60, in just a few months. Where is the budding romance? Where is the love story to retell children and grandchildren?  

We want whatever we want instantly. We think because we can instantly access movies, music, our money and a host of other things, we ought to have an instant relationship with instant love and happiness. Let’s slow down! That kind of thinking leads to divorce, unplanned pregnancies, adulterous affairs, emptiness and countless broken hearts.

Listen to the wisdom of God who says, do “not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (Song of Solomon 3:5). God is warning us not to awaken the passions of love too soon. There is divine wisdom in employing self control over our emotions, while letting the shrouded mysteries of love stir within us. Over time we allow it to mature, grow and become a blossoming beautiful flower that can be cut at its peak of beauty at just the right time.

God created us with the capacity for love. When we follow His plan there is fulfillment. How do we know when to move forward and awaken love? The Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5,6). Our path seems anything but straight while walking through the ups and downs of love. Fortunately, the Lord straightened my path and led me to marry Kathe. When we turn our lives to Jesus and seek Him He’ll give us the clarity and direction we need. He is the author of this crazy love and it’s no mystery to Him. May Jesus be your hope for today in love and life.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

HOPE FOR TODAY: Gifts for the New Year

Have you ever eaten 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Day? How about having eaten some black-eyed peas or set off fireworks? The people of the United States, Japan, Scotland, Spain and other nations have their unique traditions for bringing in the New Year which they hope will bring them good luck in the future.

The start of New Year’s celebrations date back to around 4,000 years ago, during the ancient Babylonian era. From those days to modern times there has always been a common theme among New Year’s traditions – “good-bye to the old and good luck in the new”.

The origin of the month of January embodies this. The name evolves from Janus, the Roman god of new beginnings. He had two faces; one looked back to the old and the other to the future. The Roman people would then celebrate before Janus, wishing they would receive good luck from him in the New Year.

No doubt, in all of our lives there was a mixture of good and bad in 2011. Like the Japanese do, maybe we would like to attend a “Forget-the-year” party and bid farewell to the difficult memories of last year. As you enter 2012 what are you relying on to bring a new and better year?

While researching for this column, my mind raced to a quote from the Bible I have read many times, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18). This ties in perfectly with the New Year!

The old can pass away and the new can come through gifts from the God of heaven. First, the gift of forgiveness can totally wash clean the sins of the past and bring healing to the wounds of yesterday. Secondly, the gift of eternal life can instantaneously create a new heart and mind that will breed new attitudes, desires and a future filled with an adventurous mission from God. These gifts originate from the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s only Son. He gave His life that we might have new life.

Begin this New Year by turning your life to Jesus Christ. Humble yourself before God and call upon Him. Say good-bye to your old life and receive the gift God has for you in Christ. May Jesus be your hope for today and the New Year.