Archive for January, 2012

Greed: Is It Good?

Are you among the deprived having to live without what advertisers tell us are the bare necessities of life: a car that is more than two years old without high tech sensors plus a camera, heated seats and Sirius radio, a 4G smart phone, a 3D Plasma TV, a Super Micro Computer, and an assortment of techno-gadgets?

These staples of life are depicted as basic to life for the average citizen. They can’t live today without certain items even if it is necessary to indenture tomorrow beyond reason.

Remember a formerly popular mantra: “Greed is good.” It was once called avarice, but now greed. It is an inordinate desire to gain and hoard wealth or material things. It is even broader than that narrow definition. It includes a desire to possess, control, and dominate.

There was a cartoon depicting a little man standing at the base of a ladder looking up repeating, “I want. I want.” He is a clone of many today. Food, clothing, and shelter are basics. Even with them moderation is expedient.

A generation has been reared to live beyond ones means in order to try to find meaning and fulfilment for life.

One study shows greed is not primarily a desire for money, but for the things money can get, such as, acceptance, power, influence, popularity, prestige, and clout.

We are material creatures and live in a material world. Therefore, it is apparent things aren’t bad, they are neutral. They were placed here to be our servant. It is our attitude toward them that makes many people their servants.

The inability to feed greed has increased as our economy has decreased. The disparity between our desires and resources has increased discontent among many.

It has been said we are rich in relation to the number of things we can do without. Conversely, we are poor according to the number of things we consider essential to function. The operative word is “contentment.”

Reputedly a Baptist moved in next door to a Quaker and the Quaker visited the Baptist and said, “If thou needest anything ask me, and I will tell thee how to do without it.”

Greed is a merciless master, a tyrannical taskmaster.

Patience, temperance, and self-discipline are essential to finding the desired state of being more elusive than a butterfly. That state is contentment. Many in our society, and the society of many cultures, have been led to believe “things” afford contentment. NO! Write it across the horizon of your mind from heaven to earth — no they don’t. Our attitude regarding them does.

Consider these words of a sage who had position, prominence, power, and possessions, but not contentment until . . . .

“We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and have pierced themselves through with may sorrows.”

Then, he nailed it, “Now, godliness with contentment is great gain.”

It was the Apostle Paul who recorded that profound insight in I Timothy 6: 6-10.

This is not an anti-wealth article for it is “God who gives us the ability to get wealth.” This is an encouragement to find the contentment that comes from the right attitude and use of money.

God’s Judgement On America

Delightful themes run through the Bible.

God’s love is a prominent and popular one. “God is love” is descriptive. The Scripture does not just say He loves, but that He is love.

His compassion is reassuring and comforting.

Fortunately He is depicted as longsuffering.

His mercy is interwoven with His longsuffering. Mercy speaks of Him protecting us from the bad we deserve.

The counterpoint to His mercy is His grace. Grace is Him providing the good things that we don’t deserve.

Patience and longsuffering go hand in glove.

Gentleness and kindness are indicative of Him.

These are but a few of His many admirable traits. Sometimes various traits commingled. At times only one of these attributes in involved in a situation.

There is an attribute people want to ignore or at best think because He is loving, patient, and forgiving this trait does not apply. In Scripture it stands out like Mt. Everest would on a Florida beach.

Axiom: God is just and exercises judgment.

The word “judgment” appears 496 times in the Bible and “justice” 45 times. In a judicial sense “just” appears many times.

In reaching your conclusion regarding divine retribution consider these secular testimonies.

In the Jefferson Memorial in DC are inscribed these words of the statesman, “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

During the Constitutional Convention someone raised the question: “When does a nation answer to God?”

In his notes taken during the deliberation George Madison records George Mason replied, “Nations can’t be judged in the hereafter as people, so Providence punishes national sins by national calamities.”

Ever aware of this Ben Franklin concluded, “We need God to be our friend, not our adversary.”

One of several Bible evidences of God’s judgment on a rebellious nation is provided by the rhapsodic prophet Jeremiah who presided over the death of the nation summarily said, “Disaster follows disaster; the whole land lies in ruins.”

In considering supernatural discipline the explanation given by the prophet is worth noting. “Your own conduct and actions have brought this upon you. This is your punishment. How bitter it is! How it pierces the heart!” (Jeremiah 4:18).

In an effort to ignore the possibility of divine retribution most folks just look the other way. Others angrily retort with criticism of anyone who would suggest He does. Some just deny the very existence of God. Others are inclined to comply with the spiritual antidote noted in II Chronicles 7:14: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins (now observe this) and heal their land.”

Now consider your role in this equation.

The Value Of The Christian Culture To Atheists

Non-Christians have cause to value Christian values. Not all so called Christians live the values espoused by the one whose name the movement bares. Some are an occasional embarrassment and some are an absolute abiding disgrace. Add to that the cults who mascarade under the guise of Biblical faith but are totally fraudulent giving a bad name to the authentic.

Still there are core values by which millions contentiously seek to live. These life changing values sustain devotees and color their conduct.

There is a global shift in the world Christian population. The Christian share of sub-Saharan Africa has soared over the past century from 9 percent to 63 percent. Meanwhile the Christian population of Europe has dropped from 95 percent to 76 percent and the American decline is from 96 percent to 86 percent.

In Nigeria thousands have died in Islamist bomb attacks targeting Christians gathered for prayer. In Iran and Pakistan Christians are on death row for “apostasy,” that is defecting from Islam.

Many churches in Indonesia, the world’s most populace Muslim county, have been attacked or shut. In Egypt Muslim zealots threaten long entrenched Christian groups.

Globally Jews are suffering a similar fate.

Here in America there is little blood shed; however, there is increased encroachment on freedom of Christian speech by PC extremists which limits participation in the market place.

There are those who say America was not and is not a Christian nation and I agree. Nations, schools, and organizations aren’t Christians. Only people are. However, there will have to be a lot of books burned to deny America having been formed and governed by Christian values for years. Not nearly all Founding Fathers were Christian, but with very rare exceptions they knew Scripture and were tutored in Christian values which they incorporated in establishing the country.

It is these values and virtues that give liberty to opponents of Christianity. Atheists particularly should be thankful for that freedom. You don’t hear of any atheists in Muslim ruled countries. Guess why? You don’t hear of atheists from America going to one of those countries trying to tell them there is no Allah. Imagine the response if Mohammad were debased as Jesus often is.

Christians will defend the rights of atheists. In those countries not only are atheists not granted the liberty to disparage a person’s faith, they are denied the right to life itself.

Having a right and neglecting it is little better than not having it. This is an appeal to clergymen of all faiths, study the history of our nation and the Old and New Testament values of our nation and teach/preach on those values using Scripture to validate the truth. If ministers do not these truths will be eroded from our history and the knowledge of the roots of our origin as a nation lost. Christians and Jews alike have a lot at stake.

Though atheists and radical Muslims are poles apart on most issues they have a common desire to see our history obscured.

Son Of God – What Does It Mean?

Various disciplines have their own vocabulary. They use language peculiar to their discipline that is well understood within the circle of users. Athletes talk “sports speak,” musicians “music speak,” Geeks “computer speak.” It is only reasonable that various faith groups have their own distinct terms.

“Christian speak” as spoken by a few is perplexing. Some speak like they have a steeple in their throat or are speaking through a stained glass window.

One of the descriptive words used of Jesus is understood within the Christian community, but not outside. It is the title “Son of God.”

Children sometimes ask, “Who was Mrs. God?”

The dictionary recognized “son” to signify not only generation but association.

The apostles James and John were called “sons of thunder.” Barnabas was known as “the son of encouragement.”

Following is how the word “Son” as used in the Bible for Jesus is understood within the Christian community.

In Scripture Jesus is called “God’s only begotten Son.” The word “begotten” is a compound of two Greek words used in Scripture. One word is mono, meaning “one.” The other is genes, meaning “kind, type, or species.” Combined they are used to speak of God’s only one of a kind son. The Greek monogenees is used to mean the only one of the same nature as. In Scripture Jesus is not spoken of as a Son of God, but the Son of God.

Two different Greek words are translated “son” in Scripture.

Teknon stresses the fact of human birth. It is used of homo sapiens.

Huios emphasizes dignity and character relationship. It is used of Jesus.

This is the line of logic that leads Christians to revere Jesus as the nexus of God. The angel messenger in speaking to Joseph called Jesus Immanuel, meaning God with us. Incarnation is a word describing the process. The root “incarnate” means embodied in flesh.

As such Christians believe Jesus was God manifest as a corporeal, touchable, human being: the man/God-God/man.

Ideologically this belief separates Christians from persons who are not Christians, but it does not have to separate us in our interpersonal relationships. In all of life when our understanding of an issue differ we are given an opportunity to prove we can disagree without being disagreeable.

A summary of why Christians celebrate the birth and life of Jesus is noted in I John 4: 9, “In this the love of God is manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.”

That enables persons to give the right answers to these questions raised by the brilliant Henry Van Dyke.

“Are you willing to…stoop down and consider the desires of little children; to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old, to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough … to bear in mind what others have to bear in their hearts…? Are you willing to believe love is the strongest thing in the world — stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death — And that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem two thousand years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love?

Life In Outer Space

You don’t know what you don’t know, you know.

Scientists are constantly making new discoveries and disposing of long held theories. Discovery is an endless process. There are two recent ones with enough support to cause scientists to rethink two major concepts regarding the origin of our planet. Both of these concepts are awaiting confirmation.

New research by NASA suggests Jupiter’s moon Europa has a body of water the size of the Great Lakes just two miles below its surface. Scientists have long believed there exists below Europa’s surface a huge ocean more voluminous than all the earth’s oceans combined.

One theory regarding how our world could have been flooded in the days of Noah involves a great underground water depository
here on earth. The Scripture related to the universal flood speaks of the “fountains of the deep” being broken up.

Couple this with the envelop theory regarding the earth at one time being surrounded by water vapor similar to the water causing rings around Saturn. Add an upheaval causing the rising and collapsing surface of the earth to the surfacing of the fountains of the deep and you have a scenario for a possible global flood.

A second recent discovery comes from a group of preeminent scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research postulates they have witnessed neutrinos traveling at 60 nanoseconds faster than light. That is 0.0025 percent faster than light. So!

The speed of light which has long been considered a constant is integral to measuring time and space. If the speed is off dating is off. If the measurement of the speed is off could it be off even more than 0.0025 percent?

Imagine this. Is it possible there was an occasion when light and time stood so still they didn’t even exist and suddenly there was light, space, and matter in an event called creation? It may not have happened that way, but there will be persons who will hop all over the concept in an attempt to disallow anything hinting of creation. For them to do it will require three scientific principles that are essential for a thing to be considered scientifically creditable.

It must be observable.
It must be demonstrable.
It must be repeatable.
Otherwise a thing is a theory.

Maybe it wasn’t that way, just maybe. However, did anyone see the origin of the universe? Has anyone demonstrated it or repeated it?

The respected response of the NASA scientists is admirable. These learned scientists had been trained in a certain way of thinking. They had long accepted Einstein’s theory regarding the speed of light. Light is the constant in dating the universe. Suddenly they were confronted with evidence disputing what they had always believed. Though their study is yet to be confirmed they didn’t disregard the new findings they admitted they would have to rethink the evidence.

These and other emerging discoveries evidence true scientists are open to new evidence. They are not intransigent refusing any evidence contrary to what they have always believed. They realize you don’t know what you don’t know, you know.

Sports In America Today

Landry, Bodwen, Osborne, Teaff, Dodd, Dooley, Dickey, Gaither, Curry, and a myriad more I knew them all, some very well. They defined college coaching greatness. Add to them a legion of unheralded other men and women who did and do more than coach X and Os.

The ranks of high school coaches I have know have among them some of society’s most influential citizens. They don’t just coach boys and girls they build men and women.

Coach Tom Landry told me that every day on high school campuses across America there is one man hundreds of students look at as something slightly less than God and they call him “coach.” That identifies how important a coach is in the lives of youth.

For six years I served as Chairman of the National Board of Directors of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I spoke to numerous pro, college, and high school teams in a variety of sports.

Speaking at national conferences and retreats and athletes at the Hula Bowl for several years has allowed me to get to know some of the most outstanding big name athletes who are men and women of character. Many of them give generously of their time and resources to help young people.

Over the years I have also known some coaches and athletes who brought discredit to their role. Again some of them I have known well and know they regret their actions. Some engaged in action completely out of character for them and lament it greatly.

The good guys are big men and women in a big business: sports. While top level coaches garner enormous salaries some find their gratification not in remuneration but redemption of lives. I don’t want to disparage high salaried coaches and imply they aren’t concerned with the welfare of their athletes.

The notoriety is not as great, but the number of athletes is the same in Division One all the way to the NAIA. It is expanded in high school and organized teams outside schools.

The real value of sports is not only in the income derived from it, but the lives changed. If you want to make it merely a matter of economics, consider the number of athletes who if not involved with influential coaches would end up in prison. Some do, but more would if not for the influence of a good coach. That saves millions of dollars in court and prison costs.

The transformation of a person from a street person to a responsible citizen is of inestimable worth. This remodeling occurs in sports more than any other activity. One reason is it is one of the few areas of life where discipline is mandatory.

So many youth today come from dysfunctional homes. The only father or mother figure of character they know is the coach.

I ask one coach if most of his athletes were reared by a single parent and he said yes, the grandmother. Often the team is the only “family” the young athlete has known.

I have worked close enough with sports program recently to see the baggage many youth bring to school and the patient and often prayerful effort coaches of all disciplines make to redeem them. Any way you interpret the word “redeem” it is applicable in their case.

The arena of sports isn’t perfect, but overall it is vital to society. Judge it not at its weakest point.

An Athletes Responsibility

Whatever region of the country a person lives in they are often unaware of some of the very good things happening in other regions. In the South we can talk southern football, but often have little understanding of what is going on elsewhere and know little of the character of athletes out of our region.

Kirk Cousins, outstanding quarterback for the Michigan State Spartina spoke at the 2011 Big Ten Football Luncheon. Having heard a bit of the character of Kirk I viewed on Facebook his speech.
His brief speech had three parts. He said playing football was many things and one special thing is it is a privilege. Athletes are privileged. Humbly he spoke of the favor shown athletes, the honor of being asked for an autograph by a child, delight of using the platform afforded by being an athlete to try to influence young people, and the opportunity of being interviewed and sharing personal values.

His second point focused on an area overlooked by many athletes as well as persons in various walks of life. Often privileged persons develop a sense of entitlement. They grow to expect favors and acclaim. Being privileged to be an exceptional person they want exceptions made for them. They grow to feel moral and civil laws don’t apply to them. This feeds their ego.

This is where he made his most valid point. He said being privileged should not result in a sense of entitlement, but rather a sense of responsibility. Privileged persons are responsible for not letting down those who have made it possible for them being privileged. They are responsible to live up to the highest standards and be accountable. Privileged people have a responsibility to embrace responsibility that goes with the privilege. To set a standard of true manhood for youth. To use ones God given potential to the fullest. To redefine what it means to be cool. To set a new standard of how to treat others. That excellence in the classroom is a worthy pursuit. That it is more important to do what is right that what feels good. Athletes have a responsibility not to do anything to dishonor the name of the front of the jersey and those who make it possible for them to play football. A responsibility to the name on the back of the jersey so family and friends will not be ashamed to say he is one of ours.

With just the right amount of spiritual insight he acknowledged the ability to play football is by the grace of God. Then quoting from the Book of Luke he recounted that “to whom much is given much is expected.”

He concluded by saying, “May we have the wisdom to handle the privilege and the courage to fulfill the responsibility that goes with our role.” That is good council for all of us.

Some athletes have such a bloated egos they can strut sitting down. Arrogance and impudence characterize many. An inflated sense of self-worth permeates sports. It is good to hear an athlete who combines confidence, humility, and wisdom. Candidly, there are many with such high morals, admirable ethics, and commendable spiritual values. Their standards don’t insure them against losses, but they surely mean they aren’t losers.

Does God Love Tebow More Than Other Quarterbacks?

Does God love Tim Tebow more than He loves opposing quarterbacks?

No!

I am not even sure God loves football. I do know, however, He loves football players because they are included in the “whosoever” of John 3: 16.

Through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes I have had the good fortune of working with athletes in several sports of all ages and stages. I have observed that spiritually mature Christian athletes rarely pray to win. They all pray for God to bless them that they might play their best.

They apply a principle found in the theme text of my life recorded in the Bible in the book of Colossians 3:23. “Whatsoever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord and not to men.”

The game is played to an audience of one. Life is lived for the approval of one, the Lord. It is called emotional equilibrium.

If persons do what they do to the best of their ability and God approves, but people criticize and complain, they don’t get depressed. They didn’t do it for them, they did it for Him.

If persons do what they do to the best of their ability and God approves, while people compliment them , brag on them, pat them on the back, and cheer, them they don’t become egotistical. They didn’t do it for them, they did it for Him.

Before we became PC elitists and the courts of our land decided all of their predecessors including the founders had been violating the Constitution, I often had the pleasure of being a chaplain for several local high school teams. One year the two top teams in the county were to play and the winner would be the region champion. After the team meeting four athletes asked to meet with me privately. They then requested we pray around the circle. That was one of the most meaningful prayer session I have been in. One athlete prayed, “Lord help us to play our best and bless the other team that they might play their best.” That was much more spiritually mature than I was at that age.

I don’t think God has a warm fuzzy feeling regarding the actions of persons who mock those who love Him because of their faith. Rarely has there been an athlete subjected to such ridicule as Tebow. To date his responses have been commendable.

One can’t help but wonder what response there would be to a display of devotion by a Muslim. Their faith is accommodated even in prison. They are given a clock and compass. This is so they can know the direction in order to bow toward Mecca and at what times to pray.

“Chariots of Fire” is a true story based on the life of Eric

Liddel, a devout Scottish Christian, and the 1924 Olympics. In the film Liddel is represented as saying, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also make me fast, and when I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”

That is what spiritually mature Christian athletes desire, God’s pleasure. That is the proper aspiration of all persons of faith. It provides emotional equilibrium in an unbalanced world.

My wife is a graduate of LSU. We are now pondering whether God loves Alabama more than LSU. In reality we know He just let them play it out.

An Atheist Considers God

The recent death of Christopher Hitchens garnered press for his field of expertise, atheism. The belief there is no God was represented well by his sharp mind. It is a subject that minds small and great have grappled with for ages.

Vernher von Braun, a man with the mind of a rocket scientist, addressed the subject on several occasions. For those who don’t know him, he was the German rocket scientist brought to America near the end of World War II who become known as the father of our space program. His research led him to conclude, “One cannot be exposed to the law and order of the universe without concluding that there must be design and purpose behind it all.”

After commenting on the many scientific evidences of God, he postulated, “They challenge science to prove the existence of God. But must we really light a candle to see the sun.” The line of logic is the sun is so obvious a candle isn’t necessary to see it and the evidences of God are so obvious no scientific experiment is needed to conclude He exists.

Atheists often demand proof there is a God. Turn that. One basic law of logic is you can’t prove a negative. The negative, there is no God, can’t be proven. To prove it one would have to know all there is to know about everything and know that in that body of knowledge there is no God. Does anyone know even ten percent of all there is to know about everything? Atheists can’t prove that in the unknown ninety percent there is no God.

The eternal existence beyond death was also an object of his interest. He averred, “Nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation. Everything science has taught me — and continues to teach me — strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death. Nothing disappears without a trace.”

Blaise Pascal, a 17th Century philosopher and renowned mathematician, proposed what is known as Pascal’s Wager. This genius made contributions in many scientific fields and is known for developing the schools of hydrodynamics and hydrostatics.

He described the payoff of the gamble of his proposed wager this way: “If God does not exist, then you neither gain nor lose anything from belief or disbelief. In either case, you just die and that’s the end. However, if you choose to believe in God, and you are right, then the reward is infinite: Eternal bliss in heaven. On the other hand, if you chose not to believe in God, and you’re wrong, your payoff is negative infinity: Eternal suffering in hell.”

As a sidebar, isn’t it interesting that advocates of two distinct schools of thought, evolution and atheism, both make the same fallacious claim that no scientists believe in God or creation. Countless scholars with terminal degrees from reputable academic institutions believe there is a God who created.

Reasons vary as to why people are atheists. C. S. Lewis, well known author, was an atheist. He said that he knew that if he ever admitted there was a God he would have to admit his guilt before

Him and he was enjoying his sexual sins too much to do that. Fortunately for him the day came he did make such an admission. It was also fortunate for the world of literature.

To say there is a god is little better than to say there is no god. It only really matters when you can say, “You, Oh God, are my God.”