What would you do?

 

After a few of the usual Sunday evening hymns, the church’s pastor slowly stood up, walked over to the pulpit and, before he gave his sermon for the evening, briefly introduced a guest minister who was in the service that evening. In the introduction, the pastor told the congregation that the guest minister was one of his dearest childhood friends and that he wanted him to have a few moments to greet the church and share whatever he felt would be appropriate for the service.

With that, an elderly man stepped up to the pulpit and began to speak. “A father, his son, and a friend of his son were sailing off the Pacific Coast,” he began, “when a fast approaching storm blocked any attempt to get back to shore. The waves were so high that, even though the father was an experienced sailor, he could not keep the boat upright, and the three were swept into the ocean as the boat capsized.”

The old man hesitated for a moment, making eye contact with two teenagers who were, for the first time since the service began, looking somewhat interested in the story. The aged minister continued with his story. “Grabbing a rescue line, the father had to make the most excruciating decision of his life: to which boy he would throw the other end of the life line. He only had seconds to make the decision. The father knew that his son was a Christian, and he also knew that his son’s friend was not. The agony of his decision could not be matched by the torrent of the waves. As the father yelled out, ‘I love you, son!’, he threw out the life line to the son’s friend. By the time the father had pulled the friend back to the capsized boat, his son had disappeared beneath the raging swells into the black of night. His body was never recovered.”

By this time, the two teenagers were sitting up straight in the pew, anxiously waiting for the next words to come out of the old minister’s mouth. “The father,” he continued, “knew his son would step into eternity with Jesus, and he could not bear the thought of his son’s friend stepping into an eternity without Jesus. Therefore, he sacrificed his son to save the son’s friend. How great is the love of God that He could do the same for us. Our heavenly Father sacrificed His only begotten Son that we could be saved. I urge you to accept His offer to rescue you and take hold of the life line.”

With that, the old man turned and sat back down in his chair as silence filled the room. The pastor again walked slowly to the pulpit and delivered a brief sermon with an invitation at the end. However, no one responded to the appeal. Within minutes after the service, the two teenagers were at the old man’s side. “That was a nice story,” politely said one of the boys, “but I don’t think it was very realistic for a father to give up his only son’s life in hopes that the other boy would become a Christian.”

“Well, you’ve got a point there,” the old man replied, glancing down at his worn Bible. Sorrow began to overtake the old man’s smiling face as he once again looked up at the boys and said, “It sure isn’t very realistic, is it? But I’m here today to tell you that I understand more than most the pain God must have felt to give up His only Son. For you see, I’m the man who lost his son to the ocean that day, and my son’s friend that I chose to save is your pastor.”

– Author Unknown –

Read on Air by Phil Foley, Host of Tabernacle Presbyterian Church’s Good News From Tab Program on 12/6/2000

Look for the Stars

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4)

You don’t have to sit outside in the dark.  But unless you do, you’ll never see the stars.

A piano holds endless music.  But it remains silent unless someone plays it.

A child has incredible potential with a reservoir of capability and creativity.  But adults must take the time to listen, train, encourage, correct, challenge, support and model.

Time, which is, by itself, directionless and vacant, can be filled with meaningful activities and personal accomplishments.  But to make that happen, you must think through a plan and then carry it through.

Your mind is a blank slate.  It will absorb whatever you feed it:  imaginary worries, fears, filthy and seductive thoughts, hours of television or games…or good books, stimulating conversations, exciting risks of faith and learning new skills.  The mind neither requires it nor demands it.  But, if you want to experience the joy of discovery and of learning new and doing exciting new things, you must put in the effort.

So, what are you waiting for?

The Seasons of Our Lives

To everything, there is a season…. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

A long time ago in a what seemed to be a galaxy far, far away, I lived my life as a teacher, youth pastor and coach.  I loved what I did.  And, hopefully, I made a difference in at least some of the children who passed by me on their way to learning who they were, what they wanted out of life and who they would become.

Then, suddenly, it all changed for me.  After being incredibly healthy for all of my childhood and into early middle age, my body began to fall apart.  Three heart attacks, a knee replacement and an epileptic seizure later, I finally realized that my time for those particular activities was over.  I fought long and hard against giving up those things.  I wanted to hang onto what I had always loved and what I had always done for most of my adult life.  But I could feel my ability to do those things slowly slipping away.

No one likes change.  Especially when that change separates us from what we have always loved.  But, seasons change.  It seemed like, in the springtime of my life, God gave me certain abilities and desires that led me to work with children.  As I moved into the summer of my life, I began to recognize and develop those talents–realizing that working with children was indeed what I was meant to do.  In the fall of my  life, circumstances began to change–making what I had always done more and more difficult.  Then as I entered into the winter of my life, I found myself completely separated from the things that had always given me the greatest joy.  That part of my life had ended and I felt lost.

But after the winter came a new season with new challenges, different abilities and desires.  I’m now involved in things that I would never have imagined twenty years ago.  Never having been a father, I find myself sometimes being looked at as a father figure to those who actually are fathers.  I’ve gotten closer to my family and have been able to help out when things have gotten tough for them.  I volunteer my time to the area library and do yard work for our town’s historical society.  I’ve rekindled the love I’ve always had for art and have helped put on a local art show each year for the past seven years.  There are a myriad of things that I now have the time and the desire to do.  None of these things are more or less important than the things I used to do.  They’re only different.  And they are things that I would never have had the time or the inclination to do when I was younger.

Seasons change, but life keeps moving on.  We either keep moving and growing through each new season, or we die on the vine.

Watch out for the boomerang!

Have you ever been the recipient of some sharp criticism by someone who either should have known better or someone who didn’t know what they were talking about to begin with?  Have you ever been in a crowd where you saw such criticism take place and wondered, “What in the world were they thinking?”  Worse yet, have you ever been the one to speak that stinging criticism?  I’m sure if each of us would be honest, we’ve all been a part of all three–unfortunately, including the last one.  I know I’ve been guilty of looking at certain people through “black-colored glasses,” and seeing in them only the negatives that I think I perceive.  I recently saw a situation where several people became so upset with what they thought they were seeing in someone, that they separated themselves from him and from his friends.  It turned out that what they were accusing him of had a perfectly logical and appropriate reason behind it.  Unfortunately, the accusers had made a big deal of their criticism and were unable to take a step back and offer their apologies.

While some people have a hard time with the Bible, read what Matthew had to say in chapter 7, verses 1-5: “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.”

Sounds like a great suggestion to me–unless you like being bombarded by boomerangs.

Why Do People Hate Winners?

John Wooden’s UCLA men’s basketball teams won 10 National Championships in 12 years–including 7 in a row during the mid-60’s through the mid-70’s.  At one point, they won 88 games in a row.  Detractors cried, “Foul!”–implying that they must have broken some rule or done something else unethical to get there.

The New York Yankees have won 27 World Series–including 5 in a row from 1949-1953 and 3 in a row from 1998-2000.  People wrote off their success by attributing it to the deep pockets of the owner.  Allegedly, no one else could afford to compete.

The Boston Celtics have 17 NBA Championship banners hanging from the rafters at the TD Garden and chief architect, Red Auerbach was considered an evil mastermind.

The New England Patriots have won 5 Superbowls and have been divisional champs 14 of the last 16 years.  Can you think of any other NFL team that generates as much loathing from fans from coast to coast?  Everywhere but in New England and with former New England transplants

The University of Connecticut women’s basketball team has won 11 National Championships and has the 2 longest win streaks in NCAA history (men’s or women’s) with 111 and 90.  They also have the 3rd longest streak for women’s teams with 70.  Their coach for the last 33 years, Geno Auriemma, will be coaching for his 1000th win against 135 losses on November 19th.  And the sports pundits claim that the Huskies’ success is bad for women’s basketball.  Since when is doing your best year after year bad for your sport.

I coached high school cross-country for over 25 years and was blessed with many hard-working athletes who earned 4 State Championships and a record over that time of 377-37–including a 55-meet win streak.  We didn’t cheat or act in an unethical way.  Coming from a small school where football was the big fall sport, we certainly didn’t outspend anyone.  And I seriously doubt that anyone ever considered me an evil mastermind.  And I certainly don’t believe that our success was detrimental to our sport.

We simply believed that “Here’s how we’re going to beat you.  We’re going to outwork you.  That’s it.  That’s all there is to it.”  I think it’s always been that way with teams and individuals who have attained some measure of success.  Too many people “hate us because they ain’t us.”  And that’s a sorry state to be in,

Hard work always pays off; mere talk puts no bread on the table. (Proverbs 14:23)

I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

 

Christmas Past

God so loved us that He gave us the greatest gift, His Son, so that whoever believes in Him,….will have eternal life.  (John 3:16)

My first Christmas memory was being awakened by my mother and, along with my sister, being led into the living room where this wondrous tree was glowing with large colored lights.  The brightly wrapped gifts under the tree were almost an afterthought.  Opening the gifts to find out what was inside was great fun, but playing with the boxes and the wrapping paper was even more fun.  I was 4 and my sister was 2.

My next memory was of the following year.  I discovered tinsel and threw handfuls of it all over the tree.  This year I had a better idea of what to expect from this guy called “Santa.”  So, I got up at 4:00, put on all the Christmas lights, ate breakfast, organized the presents by name into nice neat piles and then watched TV until everyone woke up.  Mom and Dad were not all that appreciative of my unsolicited help.

At age 6, I discovered a hidden hoard of presents in my mother’s closet.  Somehow, she managed to convince me that some gifts came from her and Dad, but the rest were delivered by Santa.  I was always amazed at the number of gifts under the tree.  Of course, my parents were very imaginative.  Mittens were wrapped one hand to a box and a toy requiring 4 batteries would fill 5 separate boxes.  Christmas stockings made their debut this year.  They were Dad’s real socks (freshly laundered).

During the summer I turned 7, I got into the first and only fight of my life.  It was with one of my best friends because, right there on my front lawn, he informed me that Santa Clause wasn’t real.  Boy, did I feel foolish when Mom admitted he was right.  By the way, I lost the fight, so it was a bad day all around.  Somehow, we managed to keep the truth about Santa from sister for a few more years.

When I was 11, Mom and Dad were pleasantly surprised (shocked!) to find themselves adding a new baby girl to the family.  I was a big brother–again.  So, for the next 7 or 8 years, we went through the entire children’s Christmas all over again.  I was now at an age where it was more fun watching her reactions to everything Christmas than it was opening gifts myself.

When I was 12, my dad found a picture of some snowmen caroling that he liked, and he asked me to help him make an outdoor sign out from it.  I always liked art, so I painted the images on a 4 x 8 piece of plywood and then painted “Christmas Greetings” at the top and “The Knowltons” at the bottom.  We fastened that sign to the side of the house and shined a spotlight on it.  He used that sign until they moved away nearly 20 years later.  The sign now hangs from my fence wishing all who see it, “Christmas Greetings.”

I’ve always loved the excitement and festivity surrounding Christmas.  Getting together with family and friends has always been one of the highlights of the season.  But once I became a young adult, I began to realize that the reason for this season was more than family, friends or gifts.  It really was about the birth of a tiny baby in a straw-filled cattle trough, attended his mother, his stepfather, some shepherds and a few animals.  Yet his birth was so amazing that angels sang and kings traveled to bring him gifts.  That child was, is and always will be the greatest gift any of us will ever receive–one that no one can ever buy and one that need never be exchanged.  It’s been delivered and is sitting at your heart’s doorstep, waiting for you to pick it up and claim it.  That’s what Christmas is all about.

I know too much to do anything!

“Be doers of the Word…not merely hearers.” (James 1:22)

With thanks to “The Word for You Today:”

A businessman known for his ruthlessness, arrogance and religiosity told Mark Twain that before he died, he intended to visit the Holy Land, climb Mount Sinai, and read the Ten Commandments aloud.  “I have a better idea,” Twain replied.  “Just stay here in Boston and keep them.”

Most of us would rather think about what we don’t know than act on what we do know.  The growth in the internet, 24-hour television and mobile phones means that we now receive five times as much information every day as we did in 1986.  But that pales into insignificance compared with the growth in the amount of information we churn out through email, twitter, social networking sites and text messages.  It’s been said that until 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the end of World War II knowledge was doubling every 25 years. Today on average, human knowledge is doubling every 13 months.  According to IBM, the build out of  the “internet of things” will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours.

That’s too incredible to even imagine.  So, our problem isn’t a lack of information.  It’s knowing too much and doing too little.  Here’s an everyday example: People would rather debate the merits of proteins vs. carbs, French cooking vs. vegetarian, lifting weights vs. cardio, than change how they eat.  The bottom line is simple:  Expend more calories than you take in.

In the same way, some people would rather debate church doctrine than simply do what the Bible says.  Instead of reading and talking about the idea of living a “good” life, practice loving a difficult person; try forgiving someone; give some money away; stop and say thanks; encourage a friend; bless and enemy; when you’re wrong, say, “I’m sorry.”  Face it:  You already know more than you’re ever going to use.  And nothing turns people off faster than someone with a head full of knowledge, who lacks grace and character.  It’s the same today as it was when James wrote, “Be doers of the Word and not merely hearers.”