Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Best Toys Ever

Wired magazine ran an article on the five best toys ever.  Wired is one of the most innovative, bleeding-edge publications you’ll read about all things technological.  Which is why at first the list surprised me, but then I realized their angle and couldn’t help but appreciate their wisdom. 

Here’s the list:
1.         Stick.
2.         Box
3.         String
4.         Cardboard Tube
5.         Dirt

Anybody want to argue with them?  I doubt it.

It’s an important reminder that the best things in life – and often in ministry, leadership, business and family – are the simple things.

The dilemma is how our culture seems to refuse to give simplicity a place.
But think about when it insists on intruding and the wake it leaves behind.

For example, a snowstorm brings your town to a standstill.  You went out and stocked up on bread and milk and a few other things you didn’t really need, and settled in.  The power goes out, so you light the candles and gather by the fireplace for warmth.  Board games that had been gathering dust for years are pulled out.  You play them and have more fun than you can remember.  You then go outside and actually play, throw a snowball, make a snow-angel, build a snowman.
It’s golden.

You talk, years later, about that magic night.  You’d give almost anything to go back and relive it, and wish there was a way to recreate it in the here and now.

In a complex, “always on” world, perhaps what we need to remember is that we need to intentionally unplug every now and then.

Even if just to remember that the best toys in the world – like the best times – are the most simple.
And in truth, the most available.

That is my holiday wish for you.  May you enjoy the simplicity and holiness that resides in the stillness between Christmas and the new year. 

And maybe some fun with a leftover box or two.

James Emery White

“The 5 Best Toys of All Time,” Jonathan Liu, Wired, January 31, 2011. Read online.

Editor’s Note
To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world.  Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Many Ways To Divide And Hate

A suicide bomber has blown up a car outside the interior ministry in Baghdad, killing seven people and wounding more than 30.
Today, another 7 people died of suicide bombing in Iraq. During the past weeks, more than 70 Iraqis had been killed through this type of senseless attacks. It is understandable when recently, the extremist Muslims killed Christians in Nigeria. But why are Muslims killing Muslims? The reason is because they are from different denominations - Shi'ite and Sunni. Let's say if all the believers of one faction are eliminated, would the people in the remaining denomination find differences in their belief? Most probably because it is not the differences in what they believe but it is the evil in the hearts of men.

As the Prophet Jeremiah said years ago, "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?" (Jeremiah 17:9).

How does Christendom fare in this aspect? Sadly, atrocities happen among the Christians too. Church history is filled with blood sheds and tragedies. You will remember centuries of conflicts between the Catholic and Protestants in many countries. Then we read about certain Protestant denominations persecuting other Protestant denominations. Even translating the bible can be a reason for execution. Believers are tortured horrendously and even burned on the stakes by fellow believers in the name of God. It is definitely not God's doing but the results of deceitful and wicked hearts.

Indeed, we can find many ways to enter into conflict because we are all different. The short people against the tall people; dark against fair, Chinese against Indians, Indians against Malays, fat against slim, Southern dialects against Northern dialects, Hokkien against Cantonese and even the bigger heads against the smaller heads etc.

Instead of celebrating our difference and uniqueness, we choose to see all these as barriers and reasons for hatred. Did God make everybody the same? We must remember that we were once unbelievers and how God, through His love, grace, mercy and full acceptance, brought us salvation. We were never rejected just because we were unbelievers. The enlightened people of God shared their love with us. We then become people who do not only experienced God's love but also shine forth His love to mankind. Therefore, showing the way of love begins with us, the Disciples of Christ. 

We begin by first overcoming our prejudices and learn to accept and embrace others who may have different ideologies and religions. After all, we have been called by our Master to evangelize the world. And we cannot fulfill the Great Commission if we treat those whom God loves with our hatreds or prejudices. The message of God's love is only effective when the messengers of His love show it by their actions and lifestyles. Until and unless, we allow the Holy Spirit to transform us, we will forever be stuck in the level of our deceit and wickedness.

"Father, forgive us because we know not what we do!"

Pastor Albert Kang
27 Dec 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Newly Translated Ancient Document Says Dozens Came From the East to See Baby Jesus

Newly Translated Ancient Document Says Dozens Came From the East to See Baby Jesus

"The story says that Seth passed down a prophecy that at some point a star would appear that would signal the birth of God in human form. The Magi waited thousands of years, passing down the prophecy and then the star appeared where the Magi were… Later the Apostle Thomas turns up and baptizes the Magi and tells them to go into the world." -Brent Landau

(Norman, Oklahoma)—One can never be too cautious when it comes to giving theological credence to extra-Biblical accounts of the Gospel, even by purported Biblical "experts." From a purely historical perspective, however, it's fascinating to see how ancient non-Judaic documents treated the birth of Christ.

A current example is that of an 8th century ancient manuscript held in the Vatican for 250 years and claimed to be written by the Magi in Syriac, an ancient Syrian dialect. It has just been translated into English for the first time.

This newly interpreted script, according to Brent Landau, a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Oklahoma, indicates over a dozen "wisemen" came from as far away as China to see Jesus after His birth.

According to a report in The Daily Mail, the sect that authored the manuscript claimed to be descendants of Adam's third son, Seth, and called Shir, located in present-day China, their home.

Said Landau: "The story says that Seth passed down a prophecy that at some point a star would appear that would signal the birth of God in human form. The Magi waited thousands of years, passing down the prophecy and then the star appeared where the Magi were... Later the Apostle Thomas turns up and baptizes the Magi and tells them to go into the world."

No doubt, whoever these Magi were—like all non-Jews in the world at that time—they were walking in darkness, possibly steeped in the occult, and certainly ignorant of the full-extent of redemption. Which makes it all the more amazing that God would include them into the narrative of His Son's birth.

But then, God so loved the WORLD—not just Christians—that He gave His only begotten Son. Thank you, Jesus! 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Twelve Days of Christmas - Preacher's Version

In the spirit of the holidays (to be sung to the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas"):

On the first day of Christmas, my preacher gave to me
A sermon on the birth of a King.

On the second day of Christmas, my preacher gave to me
Two Christmas plays,
And a sermon on the birth of a King.

On the third day of Christmas, my preacher gave to me
Three illustrations, two Christmas plays,
And a sermon on the birth of a King.

On the fourth day of Christmas, my preacher gave to me
Four applications, three illustrations, two Christmas plays,
And a sermon on the birth of a King.

On the fifth day of Christmas, my preacher gave to me
Five video clips, four applications, three illustrations,
Two Christmas plays, and a sermon on the birth of a King.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my preacher gave to me
Six sermon outlines, five video clips, four applications,
Three illustrations, two Christmas plays,
And a sermon on the birth of a King.

On the seventh day of Christmas, my preacher gave to me
Seven snappy endings, six sermon outlines, five video clips,
Four applications, three illustrations, two Christmas plays,
And a sermon on the birth of a King.

On the eighth day of Christmas, my preacher gave to me
Eight pot-luck suppers, seven snappy endings, six sermon outlines,
Five video clips, four applications, three illustrations,
Two Christmas plays, and a sermon on the birth of a King.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my preacher gave to me
Nine Christmas neckties, eight pot-luck suppers,
Seven snappy endings, six sermon outlines, five video clips,
Four applications, three illustrations, two Christmas plays,
And a sermon on the birth of a King.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my preacher gave to me
Ten trustees griping, nine Christmas neckties, eight pot-luck suppers, 
Seven snappy endings, six sermon outlines, five video clips,
Four applications, three illustrations, two Christmas plays,
And a sermon on the birth of a King.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my preacher gave to me
Eleven deacons deac-ing, ten trustees griping, nine Christmas neckties,
Eight pot-luck suppers, seven snappy endings, six sermon outlines,
Five video clips, four applications, three illustrations,
Two Christmas plays, and a sermon on the birth of a King.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my preacher gave to me
Twelve days vacation, eleven deacons deac-ing, ten trustees griping,
Nine Christmas neckties, eight pot-luck suppers, seven snappy endings,
Six sermon outlines, five video clips, four applications, three illustrations,
Two Christmas plays, and a sermon on the birth of a King.

Michael Duduit

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Story of the Humble Knife

By Albert Kang
Chef Chong is well-known in Singapore as one of the leading chefs in Cantonese cuisines. To help him maintain his impeccable reputation is a whole array of cooking equipments. His kitchen is filled with fascinating machinery that will make most homemakers drool. Chef Chong shares all these equipments with his eight helpers. The only tools that he does not share are his knives. He has a set of seven very sharp knives that nobody is allowed to touch, except him.

One day, one of the old knives, having been sharpened till it is a shadow of its former glory, broke. Chef Chong is sad that he has to replace it with a new knife. He calls his supplier who promptly sends him another knife of the same make and type.

Chef Chong is very pleased with his new knife. Its weight is just nice; it balances well in his skilled hands and by looking at the color, he knows that the steel is forged in the correct tensile strength. With great expectation, he places his new knife on the sharpening stone and begins to work on the blade. After one hour of hard work, he expects the blade to be sharp. To his disappointment, the blade remains blunt. In frustration, he put down the new knife and sighs, "What is wrong with you?"

The new knife replies, "Master, there is nothing wrong with me. I just want to be humble. You see, I am not like all your other knives that are proud and boastful. I am a humble knife!"

Recovering from his shock, Chef Chong cannot believe what he is hearing. In disgust, he says, "What is the use of being humble when you remain blunt?"

The humble knife replies, "You see, my Master, I do not want to part-take of your glory. If I were to be like all the other pompous knives, then all the glory that you deserve will be given to us, knives. Imagine, if you were to be able to cut or carve out all the meats with a blunt knife, then everybody will be praising you for your great skill."

Chef Chong protests, "My great skill is in sharpening good knives and then in using them in whatever ways I like!"

The humble knife quickly retorts, "But then I will get the glory. No, my Master! I shall remain blunt so that you can get all the glory!"

The chef is too upset to even speak. He continues to work on the blade for another hour. Putting his thumb to blade, he throws the knife down in anger, "You are unwilling to be sharpened".

The irritated knife replies, "No, I must be humble and remain blunt!"

In frustration, Chef Chong almost tears out the few strands of hair that he has on his balding head. The humble knife refuses to become sharp no matter what its master does. Finally, the only option for the miserable chef is to put this humble knife aside. He buys another knife, sharpens it and adds that into his collection. Now, he is happy because his reputation and business continue to grow because of his skills in using his seven sharp knives.

The humble knife thinks to itself, "One day, my Master will use me because I am the humblest of all his knives. There it sits on the shelf, day after day, month after month, year after year. Then one day, it looks at itself and finds its lovely blunt blade has lost its shine. A coat of rust soon covers it.

One Chinese New Year, during spring cleaning, one of the helpers unceremoniously tosses the humble but rusty knife into the garbage bin. As the lid covers the garbage bin, there is a deep darkness surrounding the humble knife. It is puzzled and still wondering, "Why didn't the chef use me?"

The humble knife has never served one day in the kitchen of the master chef. It dies unfulfilled.

This is the same with many people. They refuse to use their talents and gifts for God. How many potential singers and worship leaders die unfulfilled? How many potential pastors and preachers go to their graves without gracing the pulpits? How many very gifted people because of false humility are not being used by God in His kingdom? 

What are your talents and skills that God has given you? Are you maximizing them for the glory of God?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Lasting Results from Evangelist Dr John Sung’s Ministry in Manila, Philippines.

“Three Churches in Manila – the Episcopal, the United Evangelical and the Christian Assembly Churches – united in extending an invitation to Dr Sung to conduct meetings from June 6th to 14th. he traveled to Manila after another great campaign in Peking in April.

Crowds gathered from all over Luzon and from other islands to attend the meetings. About 800 people filled every seat and blocked the aisles and stairways of the Chinese United Evangelical Church. Pastor Silas Wang of the United Church who took a prominent role in the meetings said: ” Dr. Sung had one line of teaching: sin, repentance, the new birth, holiness.” As usual, his denunciations of sin were fearless – the sins of professing Christians especially so. Sometimes he would single out an individual, a pastor or an office-bearer in the church, and say, “There is sin in your heart !”and he was always right. 

Sung used some of the old illustrations and some new ones. Once he appeared carrying a miniature coffin half full of stones. These represented sin committed and the death which sin would bring. For every fresh sin committed a stone would be added to the load until the bearer was almost bowed down under the weight. To emphasize the New Birth, he came on to the platform one day wearing an old gown with the names of different sins written all over it. Then, at the appropriate moment in the address, he discarded the old gown “at the Cross” and put on a new robe of righteousness produced from somewhere! 

The sermons lasted as usual two hours or more with the favorite choruses copiously interspersed. Evangelism was followed by instruction to newly converted and the other Christians, and towards the end there was healing meeting. Crowds went to the platform to be prayed for, yet Dr. Sung, days later, would met the individuals and recognizing them as among those who had sought healing, ask “How are you?” He has a prodigious memory.

There were lasting results from these meetings. The United Evangelical Church was greatly straightened and its evangelistic zeal kindled. The Evangelistic Band organization which was formed at that time was still active in 1953, eighteen years later having survived the years of war and grown out of all recognition. It was divided into ten sections, each with its own leader and its own responsibility for prison, hospital and radio evangelism, for personal visitation, cottage meetings, devotional gatherings and the like. 

A missionary, writing in 1954, reports: “So many of the true Christians in the Philippines are the direct result of John Sung’s ministry”

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ten Commandments for Getting Along With People

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."1

Relationships are truly the spice of life. When we get to the end of our life who wants to be the richest man in the cemetery? Not me, but I do want to be rich in loving relationships.

I have no idea who the author is but I have read the following commandments for getting along with people.

1. Speak to people. There is nothing as nice as a cheerful word of greeting.

2. Smile at people. It takes seventy-two muscles to frown and only fourteen to smile.

3. Call people by name. The sweetest music to anyone's ears is the sound of his or her name.

4. Be friendly and helpful. If you would have friends, be friendly.

5. Be cordial. Speak and act as if everything you do is a genuine pleasure [make sure that it is].

6. Be genuinely interested in people. You can find something interesting about every person.

7. Be generous with praise … and cautious with criticism.

8. Be considerate of the feelings of others. It will be appreciated.

9. Be thoughtful of the opinion of others. There are three sides to a conversation/argument: yours, the other person's, and the right one!

10. Be alert to give service. What you do for others is important.2

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to be a friendly person and a channel for your love to every life I touch. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."

1. Jesus in John 13:34 (NIV).
2. Encounter magazine (Australia).

By Dick Innes

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Deeds Undone

It isn't the thing you do, friend, 
it's the thing you leave undone,
Which gives you the bitter heartache, 
at the setting of the sun:
The tender words unspoken, 
to letter you did not write,
The flowers you might have sent, 
are your haunting ghosts at night.

The stone you might have lifted, 
out of a dear friend's way,
The bit of heartsome counsel 
you were hurried too much to say:
The loving touch of a helping hand, 
the gentle and winsome tone,
That you had no time or thought for, 
with troubles enough of your own.

These little acts of kindness, 
so easily out of mind,
These chances to be angels, 
which even mortals find.
They come in night and silence, 
each chill reproachful wraith,
When hope is faint and flagging, 
and a blight has dropped on faith.

For life is all too short, friend, 
and sorrow is all to great,
To suffer our slow compassion, 
that tarries until too late.
So, it's not the things you do, 
it's the deeds you leave undone,
Which gives you a bitter heartache, 
at the setting of the sun.

- Bertha A. Lawson

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Move Your Mind Forward

Whatever you dwell upon in your mind, you give power to. So of course it makes sense to focus on what you want rather than what you don't want. Yet there are many ways in which the things you don't want can sneak into your thinking.

Worry and doubt focus your thinking on what you don't want. Rather than worrying about the bad things that might happen, direct your actions toward making positive things happen.

Complaining can also get your mind sidetracked into thinking about what you don't want. What do you complain about? The things you don't like. Rather than complaining, take action. Action moves you toward what you do want.

Anger is one more way to get your thinking negatively directed. Rather than getting angry about what you don't like, use that energy to give you determination for what you want to achieve.

Keep your mind positively focused on the good things that life can offer. Those things will grow stronger and more abundant in your world.

- Author Unknown

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
- Philippians 4:8

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Butterfly Effect

By Andy Andrews

Not long ago, I finally told the story of when, at the age of twenty-three, homeless and scared, I was given guidance in a most unusual fashion by an old man named Jones.

What the old man told me did nothing less than change my life and my future. He said..."With a little perspective you can live a life of permanent purpose."

When I asked what he meant, the old man answered with a question. "Do you sometimes find yourself unconsciously judging your actions by level of importance?

I frowned a bit, not certain I understood. "For instance," he continued, "the time you spend with friends is important, but the time you spend with family, is more important. You might rank an hour fishing as very important, thirty minutes visiting a sick friend in the hospital much more important than the fishing, and a sixty second conversation with a convenience store clerk as not very important at all."

I nodded my understanding and he returned to his initial point. "When you know that everything matters - that every move counts as much as any other - you will begin living a life of permanent purpose. A life of permanent purpose will make you a better parent, a better spouse, and a more valuable friend. Your productivity and financial success will soar to new heights while the old days of uncertainty, doubt, and depression fade into the past."

Of course, that conversation with Jones changed me. But even more, it became the guiding force that produced the kind of speaker and author I have become. You see, I understand fully that my very value as an author and speaker must ultimately be judged by the success you achieve. And as I consult with companies or speak to organizations and teams, I am keenly aware that much of my client's (your) ability to succeed beyond imagination depends upon my ability to prove this very concept!

When a sales organization sees proof that casual conversations in town matter just as much as an arranged meeting with a major prospect -

When the second string right-guard sees proof that his every action on and off the field, whether he plays or not, is as critical to the team's successful season as everything the starting quarterback does -

When a teenager sees and understands proof that every choice made in leisure today will affect the choices that will be available to him in more pressing times ahead -

When one lives a life of permanent purpose, sales figures soar, team chemistry thrives, and teenage decisions become wiser and more cautious. And these are just a few examples of what will happen...Simply put, when we understand that every action matters, every result of our actions immediately improves!

In these pages, I know you will find hope and direction for yourself, but I am most excited that you will now be equipped to lead others to their own life of permanent purpose! My hope for our families, our places of worship, our businesses, our nation, and our world is an incredible life of permanent purpose that can be achieved when at last we understand: Every move we make and every action we take, matters not just for us, but for all of us...and for all time.


What you just read was an excerpt from Andy Andrews' book, The Butterfly Effect.

Monday, November 14, 2011

25 Books Every Christian Should Read

HarperOne has recently published 25 Books Every Christian Should Read: A Guide to the Essential Spiritual Classics, selected by Renovare and a “specially appointed editorial board,” including Richard J. Foster, Dallas Willard and Phyllis Tickle.
Renovare has had great success with previous compendiums, such as Devotional Classics and Spiritual Classics.  Their format, followed here as well, is to list the “classic” and then offer an excerpt, accompanied by reflection questions.
In the foreword, Chris Webb, the President of Renovare, admits this particular listing is a huge claim.  After all, are there really any definitive books every Christian should read, other than the Bible itself, and are these those books?
Having compiled a few reading lists myself, most notably in A Mind for God (InterVarsity Press), I found the list interesting:
On the Incarnation - St. Athanasius
Confessions - St. Augustine
The Sayings of the Desert Fathers - Various
The Rule of St. Benedict - St. Benedict
The Divine Comedy - Dante Alighieri
The Cloud of Unknowing - Anonymous
Revelations of Divine Love (Showings) - Julian of Norwich
The Imitation of Christ - Thomas a Kempis
The Philokalia - Various
Institutes of the Christian Religion - John Calvin
The Interior Castle - St. Teresa of Avila
Dark Night of the Soul - St. John of the Cross
Pensees - Blaise Pascal
The Pilgrim’s Progress - John Bunyan
The Practice of the Presence of God - Brother Lawrence
A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life - William Law
The Way of a Pilgrim - Unknown Author
The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoevsky
Orthodoxy - G.K. Chesterton
The Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins
The Cost of Discipleship - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
A Testament of Devotion - Thomas R. Kelly
The Seven Storey Mountain - Thomas Merton
Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis
The Return of the Prodigal Son - Henri J.M. Nouwen
The list is obviously tilted toward devotional and spiritual classics, as opposed to theological works, and is a weakness.   Considering Renovare’s emphasis, this wasn’t a surprise.  But accepting their emphasis, how could one have Nouwen on such a short list, but not Francis de Sales?  Or in poetry, Hopkins over Blake?  Such choices smell a little trendy.
Of greater issue was their list of highlighted contemporary authors – the “future” required reading, if you will.  Wendell Berry, okay.  But Brian McLaren?  Really?  And isn’t Anne Lamott another trendy choice, but far from a substantive one?  (And I like reading her as much as anyone).
But I welcome any and all such listings, if for no other reason than the ensuing conversation about which books deserve to be on the list.
For a sampling, would any of the following deserve inclusion?
Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica
Martin Luther, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church; The Small Catechism
John Milton, Paradise Lost
William Blake, Songs of Innocence and of Experience
John Henry Newman, Apologia pro vita sua
Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets; Murder in the Cathedral
Simone Weil, Waiting for God
Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
Flannery O’Connor, A Good Man is Hard to Find
Martin Luther King, Jr., Why We Can’t Wait
Solzhenitsyn, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich; The Gulag Archipelago
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Of course they would.  And more.  But then again, it wouldn’t be a list of 25.
And perhaps that’s the problem.
Twenty-five books could never begin to reflect what every Christian should read.
But giving credit where credit is due, you could have worse starts.
James Emery White
25 Books Every Christian Should Read: A Guide to the Essential Spiritual Classics, edited by Julia L. Roller (HarperOne).
James Emery White, A Mind for God (InterVarsity Press).

Editor’s Note
To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world.  Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

The Right Doors Open

You try one door after another, yet no one responds to your résumé. No university accepts your application. No doctor has a solution for your illness. No buyers look at your house.

Obstacles pack your path. Road, barricaded. Doorway, padlocked. Do you know the frustration of a blocked door?

God uses closed doors to advance his cause.

He closed the womb of a young Sarah so he could display his power to the elderly one.

He shut the palace door on Moses the prince so he could open shackles through Moses the liberator.

He marched Daniel out of Jerusalem so he could use Daniel in Babylon.

And Jesus. Yes, even Jesus knew the challenge of a blocked door. When he requested a path that bypassed the cross, God said no. He said no to Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane so he could say yes to us at the gates of heaven.

It’s not that our plans are bad but that God’s plans are better.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.

“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isa. 55:8–9 NLT)

Your blocked door doesn’t mean God doesn’t love you. Quite the opposite. It’s proof that he does.

Max Lucado

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Heaven Is Beautiful

You may have seen the video of the blind man sitting by the wayside with a sign that said, "I'M BLIND PLEASE HELP." He received very few coins. A lady walked by and, when passing, glanced at the blind man's sign. After taking a few steps, she turned back and re-wrote the man's sign without saying a word and went on her way. Soon endless passerby people were donating coins. When returning, the lady who re-wrote the sign stopped to see how the blind man was faring. He asked enquiringly, "What did you write on my sign?" She simply said, "I wrote the same but in different words." She had written, "IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAY AND I CAN'T SEE IT." Her "vision" changed this man's world and life.

This brings to mind how many people we pass by every day that are totally blind spiritually and cannot "see" Heaven, most of whom don't wear a sign to ask for help, let alone having a sign that says: "Heaven is beautiful and I can't see it."

So let me share with you how God in his Word, the Bible, has painted a beautiful picture of Heaven that the mind's eye, when opened, can clearly see.

No more hunger or sadness: "Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat…. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."1

No more death, grieving, crying or pain: "Then I saw 'a new heaven and a new  earth,' for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.' He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."2

Beauty beyond compare: "The wall [of Heaven] was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.

"I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's [Jesus Christ's] book of life."3

Jesus himself made many references about heaven. The Apostle Paul and several of Jesus' disciples also wrote about heaven. In fact, in the New Testament section of God's Word, the Bible, there are 237 references relating to Heaven. There are many more in the Old Testament section of the Bible. Rest assured, God himself repeatedly  validates Heaven.

The critical issue is, are you ready to literally see Heaven from within when your life's journey on earth is finished? God's Word makes it plain that there are only two places where we will spend eternity after death—either with God in Heaven or in Hell with Satan and his evil demons. We need to make sure we make our choice today as to where we want to spend eternity. Heaven is beautiful so make absolute sure you get to see it. To make absolutely sure that you do, be sure to make peace with God today. For help go to: http://tinyurl.com/find-peace.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, Thank you for the promise in your Word that assures all your true followers that there is a Heaven that is beyond all beauty we can ever imagine, and that because of your free pardon for all my sins you have guaranteed me a home in Heaven to be with you for all eternity. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus' name, amen."

1. Revelation 7:16-17 (NIV).
2. Revelation 21:1-4 (NIV).
3. Revelation 21:18-27 (NIV).


Daily Encounter by
Richard (Dick) Innes of ACTS International


It's in the Valleys We Grow

Sometimes life seems hard to bear,
Full of sorrow, trouble and woe
It's then we have to remember
That it's in the valleys we grow.

If we always stayed on the mountain top
And never experienced pain,
We would never appreciate God's love
And would be living in vain.

We have so much to learn
And our growth is very slow,
Sometimes we need the mountain tops,
But it's in the valleys we grow.

We do not always understand
Why things happen as they do,
But I am very sure of one thing.
My Lord will see me through.

The little valleys are nothing
When we picture Christ on the cross
He went through the valley of death;
His victory was Satan's loss.

Forgive me Lord, for complaining
When I'm feeling so very low.
Just give me a gentle reminder
That it's in the valleys I grow.

Continue to strengthen me, Lord
And use my life each day
To share your love with others
And help them find their way.

Thank you for the valleys, Lord
For this one thing I know
The mountain tops are glorious
But it's in the valleys I grow!

- Unknown

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Love versus Obligation

A house is a house is a house-until love comes through the door, that is. And love intuitively goes around sprinkling that special extra that transforms a house into a very special home for very special people: your family.

Money, of course, can build a charming house, but only love can furnish it with a feeling of home.

Duty can pack an adequate sack lunch, but love may decide to tuck a little love note inside.

Money can provide a television set, but love controls it and cares enough to say no and take the guff that comes with it.

Obligation sends the children to bed on time, but love tucks the covers in around their necks and passes out kisses and hugs (even to teenagers!).

Obligation can cook a meal, but love embellishes the table with a potted ivy trailing around slender candles.

Duty writes many letters, but love tucks a joke or a picture or a fresh stick of gum inside.

Compulsion keeps a sparkling house. But love and prayer stand a better chance of producing a happy family.

Duty gets offended quickly if it isn't appreciated. But love learns to laugh a lot and to work for the sheer joy of doing it.

Obligation can pour a glass of milk, but quite often love will add a little chocolate.

- Author Unknown

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What does the Bible say about the end of the world?

The event usually referred to by the phrase “end of the world” is described in 2 Peter 3:10: “The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” This is the culmination of the events referred to in the beginning of that verse as “the day of the Lord,” the time when God will intervene in human history for the purpose of judgment. At that time, all that God has created, “the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), He will destroy.

The timing of this event, according to most Bible scholars, is at the end of the 1000-year period called the millennium. During these thousand years, Christ will reign on earth as King in Jerusalem, sitting on the throne of David (Luke 1:32-33) and ruling in peace but with a “rod of iron” (Revelation 19:15). At the end of the 1000 years, Satan will be released, defeated again, and then cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:7-10). At this point, the end of the world described in 2 Peter 3:10 occurs. The Bible tells us several things about this event.

First, it will be cataclysmic in scope. The “heavens” refers to the physical universe – the stars, planets, and galaxies—which will be consumed by some kind of tremendous explosion, possibly a nuclear or atomic reaction that will consume and obliterate all matter as we know it. All the elements that make up the universe will be melted in the “fervent heat” (2 Peter 3:12). This will also be a noisy event, described in different Bible versions as a “roar” (NIV), a “great noise” (KJV), a “loud noise” (CEV), and a “thunderous crash” (AMP). There will be no doubt as to what is happening. Everyone will see and hear it because we are also told that “the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.”

Then God will create a “new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1), which will include the “New Jerusalem” (v. 2), the capital city of heaven, a place of perfect holiness, which will come down from heaven and descend to the new earth. This is the city where the saints—those whose names were written in the “Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 13:8)—will live forever. Peter refers to it as “the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13).

Perhaps the most important part of Peter’s description of that day is his question in verses 11-12: “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” For Christians, this means we should live our lives in such a way that we reflect our understanding of what is going to happen. This life is passing away quickly, and our focus should be on the new heavens and earth to come. Our “holy and godly” lives should be a testimony to those who do not know the Savior, and we should be telling others about Him so they can escape the terrible fate that awaits those who reject Him. We wait in eager anticipation for God’s “Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

Monday, October 24, 2011

Some Great Advice

Don't date because you are desperate.
Don't marry because you are miserable.
Don't have kids because you think your genes are superior.
Don't philander because you think you are irresistible.

Don't associate with people you can't trust.
Don't cheat. Don't lie. Don't pretend.
Don't dictate because you are smarter.
Don't demand because you are stronger.

Don't sleep around because you think you are old enough and know better.
Don't hurt your kids because loving them is harder.
Don't sell yourself, your family, or your ideals.
Don't stagnate.

Don't regress.
Don't live in the past. Time can't bring anything or anyone back.
Don't put your life on hold for possibly Mr/Mrs Right.
Don't throw your life away on absolutely Mr Wrong because your biological clock is ticking.

Learn a new skill.
Find a new friend.
Start a new career.
Sometimes, there is no race to be won. Only a price to be paid for some of life's more hasty decisions.

To terminate your loneliness, reach out to the homeless.
To feed your nurturing instincts, care for the needy.
To fulfill your parenting fantasies, get a puppy. Don't bring another life into this world for all the wrong reasons.
To make yourself happy, pursue your passions and be the best of what you can be.

Simplify your life.
Take away the clutter.
Get rid of destructive elements: abusive friends, nasty habits, and dangerous liaisons.
Don't abandon your responsibilities but don't overdose on duty.

Don't live life recklessly without thought and feeling for your family.
Be true to yourself.
Don't commit when you are not ready.
Don't keep others waiting needlessly.

Go on that trip. Don't postpone it.
Say those words. Don't let the moment pass.
Do what you have to, even at society's scorn.
Write poetry.

Love Deeply.
Walk barefoot.
Dance with wild abandon.
Cry at the movies.
Take care of yourself. Don't wait for someone to take care of you.

It is true that life does not get easier with age. It only gets more challenging.
Don't be afraid.
Don't lose your capacity to love.
Pursue your passions.

Live your dreams.
Don't lose faith in Jesus.
Don't grow old.
Just grow YOU!

- Unknown

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Lord's Prayer... Really?


"Our Father which art in heaven."

--- Yes?

Don't interrupt me. I'm praying.

--- But you called me 

Called you? I didn't call you. I'm praying. "Our father which art in heaven."

--- There you did it again.

Did what?

--- Called me. You said, "Our Father which art in heaven." Here I am. What's on your mind?

But I didn't mean anything by it. I was, you know, just saying my prayers for the day. I always say the Lord's prayer. It makes me feel good, kind of like getting a duty done.

--- All right. Go on.

"Hallowed be thy name."

--- Hold it. What do you mean by that?

By what?

--- By "Hallowed be thy name?"

It means... it means... Good grief, I don't know what it means. How should I know? It's just a part of the prayer. By the way, what does it mean?

--- It means honored, holy, wonderful.

Hey that makes sense. I never thought about what "hallowed" meant before.

"Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

--- Do you really mean that?

Sure, why not?

--- What are you doing about it?

Doing? Nothing, I guess. I just think it would be kind of neat if you got control of everything down here like you have up there

--- Have I got control of you?

Well, I go to church.

--- That isn't what I asked you. What about your temper? You've really got a problem there, you know. And then there's the way you spend your money - all on yourself. And what about the kinds of books you read and what you watch on TV?

Stop picking on me! I'm just as good as the rest of those people at church.

---Excuse me. I thought you were praying for my will to be done. If that is to happen, it will have to start with the ones who are praying for it. Like you, for example.

Oh, all right. I guess I do have some hang-ups. Now that you mention it, I could probably name some others.

---So could I.

I haven't thought about it very much until now, but I'd really like to cut out some of those things. I would like to, you know, be really free.

--- Good. Now we're getting somewhere. We'll work together, you and me. Some victories can be truly won. I'm proud of you.

Look, Lord, I need to finish this up here. This is taking a lot longer than it usually does.

"Give us this day our daily bread."

--- You could cut out the bread. It would help you lose weight.

Hey, wait a minute! What is this, "Criticize me day?" Here I was doing my religious duty, and all of a sudden you break in and remind me of all my hang-ups.

--- Praying is a dangerous thing. You could wind up changed, you know. That's what I'm trying to get across to you. Keep praying. I'm interested in the next part of your prayer...

(Pause) Well, go on.

I'm scared to.

--- Scared? Of what?

I know what you'll say.

--- Try me and see.

"Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us."

--- What about Ann?

See? I knew it! I knew you would bring her up! Why Lord, she's told lies about me, spread stories about my family. She never paid back the money she owes me. I've sworn to get even with her?

--- But your prayer? What about your prayer?

I didn't mean it.

--- Well, at least you're honest. But it's not much fun caring that load of bitterness around inside, is it?

No. But, I'll feel better as soon as I get even. Boy, have I got some plans for that neighbor. She'll wish she had never moved into this neighborhood.

--- You won't feel any better. You'll feel worse. Revenge isn't sweet. Think of how unhappy you already are. But, I can change all that.

You can? How?

--- Forgive Ann. Then I'll forgive you. Then the hate and sin will be Ann's problem and not yours. You will have settled your heart.

Oh, you're right. You always are. And, more than I want to get revenge against Ann, I want to be right with you. (Pause)...(Sigh) All right.
I forgive her. Help her to find the right road in life, Lord. She's bound to be awfully miserable now that I think about it. Anybody who goes around doing the things she does to others has to be out of it. Some way, some how, show her the right way.

--- There now! Wonderful! How do you feel?

Hmmm. Well, not bad. Not bad at all. I feel pretty great. You know, I don't think I'll have to go to bed uptight tonight for the first time since I can remember. Maybe I won't be so tired from now on because I'm not getting enough rest.

--- You're not through with your prayers. Go on.

Oh, all right. "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

--- Good! Good! I'll do that. Just don't put yourself in a place where you can be tempted.

What do you mean by that?

--- Don't turn on the TV when you know the laundry needs to be done and the house needs to be picked up. Also, about the time you spend with your friends, if you can't influence the conversation to positive things, perhaps you should re-think the value of those friendships. Another thing, your neighbors and friends shouldn't be your standard for "keeping up." And please don't use me as an escape hatch.

I don't understand that last part.

--- Sure you do. You've done it a lot of times. You get caught in a bad situation. You get in trouble and then you come running to me: "Lord, help me out of this mess, and I promise you I'll never do it again." You remember some of those bargains you tried to make with me?

Yes and I'm ashamed. Lord, I really am.

--- Which bargain are you remembering?

Well, there was the night that my husband was gone and the children and I were home alone. The wind was blowing so hard I thought the roof would go any minute and tornado warnings were out.
I remember saying, "Oh God, if you spare us, I'll never skip my devotions again."

--- I protected you, but you didn't keep your promise, did you?

I'm sorry, Lord I really am. Up until now I thought that if I just prayed the Lord's Prayer every day, then I could do what I liked. I didn't expect anything to happen like this.

--- Go ahead and finish your prayer.

"For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen"

--- Do you know what would bring me glory? What would really make me happy?

No, but I'd like to know. I want to please you. I can see what a mess I've made of my life. And I can see how great it would be to really be one of your followers.

--- You just answered the question.

I did?

--- Yes. The thing that would bring me glory is to have people like you truly love me. And I see that happening between us.

Now that some of these old sins are exposed and out of the way, there is no telling what we can do together Lord, let's see what we can make of me, OK?

--- Yes, let's see...

Kinda hits home doesn't it. Don't just say the Lord's prayer - mean it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ugly the Tomcat

Everyone in the apartment complex I lived in knew who Ugly was. Ugly was the resident tomcat. Ugly loved three things in this world: fighting, eating garbage, and, shall we say, love.

The combination of these things combined with a life spent outside had their effect on Ugly. To start with, he had only one eye and where the other should have been was a hole. He was also missing his ear on the same side, his left foot appeared to have been badly broken at one time, and had healed at an unnatural angle, making him look like he was always turning the corner.

Ugly would have been a dark gray tabby, striped type, except for the sores covering his head, neck, and even his shoulders.

Every time someone saw Ugly there was the same reaction. "That's one UGLY cat!"

All the children were warned not to touch him, the adults threw rocks at him, hosed him down, and squirted him when he tried to come in their homes, or shut his paws in the door when he would not leave. Ugly always had the same reaction.

If you turned the hose on him, he would stand there, getting soaked until you gave up and quit. If you threw things at him, he would curl his lanky body around your feet in forgiveness.

Whenever he spied children, he would come running, meowing frantically and bump his head against their hands, begging for their love.

If you ever picked him up he would immediately begin suckling on your shirt, earrings, whatever he could find.

One day Ugly shared his love with the neighbor's dogs. They did not respond kindly, and Ugly was badly mauled. I tried to rush to his aid. By the time I got to where he was laying, it was apparent Ugly's sad life was almost at an end.

As I picked him up and tried to carry him home, I could hear him wheezing and gasping, and could feel him struggling. It must be hurting him terribly, I thought.

Then I felt a familiar tugging, sucking sensation on my ear. Ugly, in so much pain, suffering and obviously dying, was trying to suckle my ear. I pulled him closer to me, and he bumped the palm of my hand with his head, then he turned his one golden eye towards me, and I could hear the distinct sound of purring.

Even in the greatest pain, that ugly battled scarred cat was asking only for a little affection, perhaps some compassion.

At that moment I thought Ugly was the most beautiful, loving creature I had ever seen. Never once did he try to bite or scratch me, try to get away from me, or struggle in any way. Ugly just looked up at me completely trusting in me to relieve his pain.

Ugly died in my arms before I could get inside, but I sat and held him for a long time afterwards, thinking about how one scarred, deformed little stray could so alter my opinion about what it means to have true pureness of spirit, to love so totally and truly.

Ugly taught me more about giving and compassion than a thousand books, lectures, or talk show specials ever could, and for that I will always be thankful.

He had been scarred on the outside, but I was scarred on the inside, and it was time for me to move on and learn to love truly and deeply. To give my total to those I cared for.

Many people want to be richer, more successful, well liked, beautiful, but for me. . . I will always try to be Ugly.

Author Unknown