Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Gift of Salvation

This Friday many people will once again enter the frenzy of materialism and validate spending time and money on what they see as expressions of love. Many will be unpleasant and impatient as they purchase these tokens of love (if a $2,000 big screen TV or mounds of presents under the tree can be seen as a token). Many will leave their children on one of the rare days they could spend together--without the distractions of work, school, sports practices and music lessons--to shop for presents to give in the name of a folk hero named Santa Claus. Many will stress the family finances to "buy memories" for their kids.

Lest one think I am setting myself up as better than that, I myself have played this game, even, one Christmas, receiving a "token" of love in the form of a motorcycle from my husband. So I personally understand and have not been exempt from over-the-top, present-focused, Santa-obsessed Christmas gift giving (I no longer have the motorcycle).

As my husband and I grow in our faith, our idea of giving gifts in the name of love has changed dramatically because our understanding of what love is has changed dramatically. Until we understood and became the recipients of God's love for us through Jesus, we had no clue as to what a real gift is or what real love is. We had no understanding of the meaning and purpose of Christmas (lest people reading this think I'm saying that God only loves some people--NO--God loves all of us. But not all people accept that love. They reject it and in rebellion go their own way, not being able to experience the love of God because they've chosen not to.)

So as I ponder my gift-giving this year, I'm thinking about the greatest gift I ever received--Salvation and New Life in Jesus Christ--and I'm trying to find resources God can use to bring that gift to others. The following message by Pastor Alistair Begg is one of the gifts some of the people in my life will be receiving this Christmas, along with my prayers that God will bless their hearts, minds and souls with the desire to know Him through His Son Jesus Christ.

You can listen to the message here:

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23

Friday, November 19, 2010

Gettysburg Address

On this day in history:

The Gettysburg Address

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
November 19, 1863

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?" Isaiah 58:6

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand

Laura Hillenbrand, author of "Seabiscuit," has written another book, this time about an Olympic athlete and World War II hero. The subject of the book, 93-year-old Louis Zamperini, is a born-again Christian. An article in the Friday, November 12, Wall Street Journal explains his conversion, which came about following his return to the United States after enduring 25 months in various Japanese POW camps:

“Although Mr. Zamperini came back to California in one piece, he was emotionally ruined. At night, his demons descended in the form of vengeful dreams about Mr. Watanabe. He drank heavily. He nearly destroyed his marriage. In 1949, at the urging of his wife, Cynthia, Mr. Zamperini attended a Billy Graham crusade in downtown Los Angeles, where he became a Christian. (The conversion of the war hero helped put the young evangelist on the map.) Ultimately Mr. Zamperini forgave his tormentors and enjoyed a successful career running a center for troubled youth. He even reached out to Mr. Watanabe. ‘As a result of my prisoner of war experience under your unwarranted and unreasonable punishment,’ Mr. Zamperini wrote his former guard in the 1990’s, ‘my post-war life became a nightmare—but thanks to a confrontation with God…I committed my life to Christ. Love replaced the hate I had for you.’” Steve Oney, writing in The Wall Street Journal

The Mr. Watanabe mentioned above was a guard in one of the POW camps who incessantly punished and humiliated Mr. Zamperini, and who was ranked seventh, according to The Wall Street Journal, among Japan’s most wanted war criminals.

To read Steve Oney’s full review of Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken,” go to

Needless to say, I’ll be reading “Unbroken,” an incredible testimony to the new life available in Christ.

“May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” 2 Thessalonians 3:5

Monday, November 15, 2010

Foolish Chatter

Last week, my son and I visited a Bible college that my son is interested in attending after high school. While there, we sat in on a Freshman Spanish class. The professor explained how, in America, we talk casually and don’t really think a whole lot about what we say or how we say it. However, in the Hispanic culture, according to the professor, speaking is much more formal and not nearly as cavalier. In short, they just don’t whip out responses. They think before they speak, and they speak much more succinctly.
In the days since our visit, I’ve been thinking about what the professor said. His illustration has motivated me to curb my own talkiness, for lack of a better term. For instance, I’d like to stop speaking off-the-cuff and thinking out loud. I’d like to consider first and verbalize last, if at all. And it's not so much about putting my foot in my mouth, although that does occur with regular frequency. It’s that I often make mindless comments or contribute my two cents worth where it isn’t needed, which aggravates situations, clutters conversations or results in gossip.
The Bible makes it clear that we will be held accountable for every word we say—every single word (Matthew 12:36-37). So doesn’t it make sense to hold our tongue more? It surely pleases God and I’m sure will please others when we talk less, observe more and realize that not everything requires our instant perceptions and running commentary. And then when we do finally speak, perhaps we’ll actually have something to say.

copyright Barb Harwood

“He who winks maliciously causes grief, and a chattering fool comes to ruin.” Proverbs 10:10
“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6
“Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.” 2 Timothy 2:16

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Going Forward Under God

Yesterday, as I voted and watched the election results, I wondered if America is perhaps at a point in time where the newly elected politicians and the people already in office are finally ready to sit down and act like the grown-ups they are and do the work they are elected to do (while checking their egos, party, vendettas, power-plays and future election goals at the door). I'm praying they will govern in humbleness and an attitude of being teachable. And I’m praying that the Christians in office will seize this opportunity to be the salt and light we so desperately need in the leading of this country.

I believe the words of two of the founding fathers below provide excellent wisdom on how politicians and citizens alike can best proceed:

James Madison:
“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity…to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.” [1778 to the General Assembly of the State of Virginia]

Benjamin Franklin: | Portrait of Ben Franklin 
“God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel” –Constitutional Convention of 1787 | original manuscript of this speech

“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” Psalm 127:1