1529) The Witness of a Life Well Lived

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Tim Tebow (1987- )

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By John Stonestreet and Roberto Rivera at http://www.breakpoint.org, June 13, 2017.

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     Chuck Colson liked to quote Karl Barth’s observation that Christians should do theology with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.  I’m not sure what Chuck would have thought of podcasts, but Barth’s quote came to mind while listening to a recent episode of the Tony Kornheiser Show.

     In the final segment, Kornheiser and his guests talked about two stories in the news.  The first was an article in the Washington Post about Tim Tebow playing in baseball’s Single-A minor league after his stint in sports limelight.

     Tebow was a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at the University of Florida.  And while his NFL career wasn’t nearly as successful, he still had great moments.

     But what has long set Tebow apart, of course, is his Christian faith.  It has drawn millions of people to love him.  It’s also why he has been the object of what George Weigel called “irrational hatred,” despite his many charitable efforts and the fact that he doesn’t force his faith on anyone.

     Recently, the Post’s Barry Svrluga spent a day in Hagerstown, Maryland, watching Tebow in action.  And he admitted that his initial skepticism (maybe even cynicism) quickly changed when he saw Tebow interact with fans, some of whom had driven hundreds of miles to see him.  He talked about Tebow’s “prom experience for kids with special needs” called “Night to Shine.”

     Svrluga had this to say to those who are cynical or dismissive about Tebow’s decision to now play minor league baseball and to question his motives:  Before you form your opinion about Tim Tebow, “Talk to the people who made the pilgrimage here,” he said, “and look at the smiles in right field in the early evening.”

     Everyone on the show agreed.  Kornheiser, who’s Jewish, even joked that if he had spent a few more minutes with Tebow he might have ended up converting.  He and his guests could not say enough good things about Tim Tebow.

     Then the conversation turned to a very different subject:  Harvard’s rescinding of at least ten offers of admission to members of its incoming freshman class.  Harvard took this highly unusual step because of a Facebook group created by members of that class.

     Their posts contained “offensive jokes about school shootings, the Holocaust, [sexual perversion] and the death of children and minorities.”  And these are just the ones we can mention on this commentary.

     All the guests on the Kornheiser show agreed— and so do I:  Harvard did the right thing.

     But it’s the juxtaposition of the Harvard story with Tebow that brought to mind what C.S. Lewis said in The Abolition of Man: “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise.  We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.  We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

     The kids on that Facebook group represent the pinnacle of American educational achievement:  They got into Harvard.  Their problem is not a lack of “digital literacy” as the New York Times suggested.  It’s a lack of any governing sense of right and wrong, what Lewis called ‘the chest.’  The problem isn’t that they lacked discretion; it’s that they lacked decency.

     But we know that no one will ever say that about Tim Tebow.  Listening to the Tony Kornheiser podcast it’s clear that for all the cultural devotion to moral relativism these days, people still know virtue (and vice) when they see it.  The Bible calls this the law written on our hearts, and it underscores to Christians who think that all is lost— it’s not.  God’s world is still deeply embedded with God’s moral laws.  And a life well-lived still stands out.

     Now sometimes the reaction will be admiration and sometimes it will be scorn, even mockery.  But that doesn’t change the fact that the difference between virtue and vice is unmistakable, no matter how much our culture wants to deny it.

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Tim Tebow continues to impress off the field. (Twitter/Tim Tebow Foundation)

Each year the Tim Tebow Foundation hosts proms around the nation for tens of thousands of special needs individuals (32,000 in 2016, in proms held at 200 churches, with 70,000 volunteers). 

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Matthew 5:16  —  (Jesus said), “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

I Peter 3:15-17  —  But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

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O God, grant unto me such a knowledge of your will and trust in your grace that I may truly exemplify in my life the faith that I profess, so that others may see the light of Christ shining in what I say and do; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.  Amen.

–adapted from Service Book and Hymnal, Augsburg Publishing House, 1958, pafe 227.

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1506) Challenge Accepted

     The strongest argument for the Gospel of Christ is the personal testimony of someone whose life has been changed by it.  The changed lives of Christians does not prove the historical truth of Christianity, but it is an important piece of supportive evidence; and, it is consistent with the Biblical promises and descriptions of what can happen when someone comes to faith in Jesus Christ.

     In the later part of the nineteenth century, political activist Charles Bradlaugh (1833-1891) was one of the most outspoken atheists in London.  During those same years, down in one of the slums of London, was a Christian evangelist by the name of Hugh Price Hughes (1847-1902).  Hughes was investing his life in the poor people of London.  He had gone to those who were alcoholics and others who did not have a place in society.  He started homes for women who had been abused, and many other ministries to those who were down and out.  All London was aware of the miracles of grace accomplished at his rescue mission.

     The atheist Charles Bradlaugh publicly challenged this Rev. Hughes to a debate on the existence of God and the truth of Christianity.  Both men were well known, and London was greatly interested.  What would Hughes do?  Hughes told Bradlaugh he would agree to the debate on one condition.

     Bradlaugh was a lawyer, and Hughes pointed out that in a court of law you are always allowed to bring witnesses.  Hughes therefore agreed to debate Bradlaugh if Hughes could bring one hundred witnesses-– people whose lives had been changed because of the existence of God and the truth of Christianity.  They would be people who once lived deep in sin, some having come from poverty-stricken homes caused by the vices of their parents.  Hughes said these people would not only tell of their conversion and how their lives have been improved since trusting in Jesus Christ as their Savior, but would also submit to cross-examination by any who doubted their stories.  

     Hughes told Bradlaugh that he could also bring one hundred witnesses, non-believers whose lives had been changed because there was no God, and they could tell how they have been helped by their lack of faith.  Hughes said, “I propose to you that we each bring some concrete evidences of the validity of our beliefs in the form of men and women who have been redeemed from the lives of sin and shame by the influence of our teaching.  I will bring one hundred such men and women, and I challenge you to do the same.  If you cannot bring one hundred, Mr. Bradlaugh, to match my one hundred, I will be satisfied if you will bring fifty men and women who will stand and testify that they have been lifted up from lives of shame by the influence of your teachings.  And if you cannot bring fifty, then bring twenty people who will say, as my one hundred will, that they have a great joy in a life of self-respect as a result of your atheistic teachings.  And if you cannot bring twenty, I will be satisfied if you bring ten.  Nay, Mr. Bradlaugh, I challenge you to bring even one, just one man or woman who will make such a testimony regarding the uplifting of your atheistic teachings.”  All Bradlaugh had to do was to find one person whose life was improved be atheism, and Hughes, who could bring one hundred people improved by Christ, would agree to debate him.

     Mr. Bradlaugh withdrew his challenge.

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Hugh Price Hughes

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The ‘evidence;’ early residents of the West London Mission whose lives were improved by knowing Jesus

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“It is because the spirit of Christ has not been introduced into public life that Europe is in a perilous condition today. . . My wish is to apply Christianity to every aspect of life.”

–Hugh Price Hughes, in Social Christianity, 1890.

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The West London Mission continues to serve the needy today.  This is from their website:  

The West London Mission was established in 1887 as part of a new initiative within Methodism – the mission movement, which combined evangelism with radical social action.  The driving force behind WLM was the Rev. Hugh Price Hughes.  The opening service was held in October 1887 in St James’ Hall, Piccadilly, and over 2,000 would come to services each Sunday.  At that time the West End was rife with poverty and vice alongside great wealth and riches.  WLM developed a wide range of ‘social rescue’ alongside their religious activities.  Early work included ministering to the sick, a dispensary, a nursery, children’s clubs, a soup kitchen, a ‘poor man’s lawyer’ and a hospice.  Hostels and homes were run for unmarried mothers and their babies, ex-offenders, those on bail, elderly people, and recovering alcoholics– all pioneering projects long before any general public provision.  Professional social work of high standard, alongside a worshipping centre and a strong Christian motivation are WLM principles that continue today.

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I Peter 3:14-16  —  But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”  But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Matthew 5:16  —  (Jesus said), “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Romans 12:9-13  —  Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.

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O loving Father, we pray for all who get left behind in the race of life.  We pray for those worn with sickness and misery, those wasted with addiction, for the dying, and for all unhappy children.  May they come to know the suffering love of Christ, and may they have a heart that trusts you even in the dark.  We ask this in the name of Him who took our infirmaties upon himself, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  Amen.

–A. T. Fisher  (1906-1988), Chaplain, Magdalen College, Oxford.

1504) It Depends on What You Mean by a Miracle

The Wanderer, 1935, Josef Sigall (1891-1953)

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By Joan Chittister, National Catholic Reporter, vol. 37., #18.

     Once upon a time, a seeker went from land to land to discover an authentic religion.  Finally, the seeker found a group of extraordinary fame.  They were known for the goodness of their lives and for the singleness of their hearts and for the sincerity of their service.

     “I see everything you do,” the seeker said, “and I’m impressed by it.  But, before I become your disciple, I have a question to ask: Does your God work miracles?”

     “Well,” the disciples said to the seeker, “it all depends on what you mean by a miracle.  Some people call it a miracle when God does the will of people.  We call it a miracle when people do the will of God.”

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Matthew 12:50  —  (Jesus said), “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Matthew 5:16  —  (Jesus said), “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

John 14:23  —  Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.  My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

John 14:12  —  (Jesus said), “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.”

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O God, grant unto me such a knowledge of your will and trust in your grace that I may truly exemplify in my life the faith that I profess, so that others may see the light of Christ shining in what I say and do; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.  Amen.

–adapted from Service Book and Hymnal, Augsburg Publishing House, 1958, pafe 227.

1481) Hallowed Be Thy Name

     The first petition of the Lord’s Prayer (after the introduction) is perhaps the most difficult to understand.  We know what the other petitions mean when they ask for things like daily bread or forgiveness or help in times of temptation.  These are things we might pray for on our own anyway.  But what does it mean to pray “Hallowed be thy name?”  That’s not the kind of phrase we normally use in our personal prayers.  Martin Luther asks in the Large Catechism, “Isn’t God and His name holy in and of itself?  What can our poor prayers add to that?”  Why is this odd petition even included in this most perfect prayer?

     In the catechism Luther brings the meaning down to earth.  Certainly God’s name is holy in heaven, Luther says, but it is on earth where it needs to be honored and respected and hallowed far more than what it is.  How many times, Luther asks, don’t we hear God’s holy name used in a very unholy way, with all the cursing and swearing we hear every day?  This petition is not for God’s sake, but for our sake, Luther says.  We are praying, in other words, that we may keep God’s name holy; that we may live our lives in such a way that it brings honor, and not dishonor and disgrace, to God’s name.  We are CHRISTians, we bear Christ’s name, and when we live our lives in ways contrary to God’s will for us, we dishonor that holy name of God.  In this petition, says Luther, we are praying that God give us the faith and the strength to live our lives in ways that will bring honor to the name of the God we believe in.

     Saley is an immigrant I met several years ago.  Saley grew up in Cambodia which is 99% Buddhist.  His entire family and all of his friends were Buddhist.  But Saley became a Christian.  Why?  Because he saw how the Christian missionaries in his country served the poor and the downtrodden.  He would say to his friends and family, “We don’t even help our own people like these Christians help them.”  He said to me, “I wanted to know the God that inspired those missionaires to leave their home and family to come to my country and help my people.”

     God’s name was honored by the work of those missionaries.  Saley saw that and became a believer.  That’s what can happen when God’s name is hallowed.  That’s how the early Christians were able to spread his message to all the world.  In an otherwise corrupt and dying Roman society, Christians stood out as people of courage, faith, conviction, hope, and unselfish service to others.  God’s name was hallowed among them, and others wanted to know this God.

     But this does not happen when the actions of believers dishonor God’s name by their lives and actions. 

     Mahatma Gandhi was born a Hindu.  However, he would not accept the injustices of the Hindu caste system.  Instead, he admired Jesus Christ above all others.  In his desire to identify with the poor, Gandhi had few possessions.  He owned only one book– the New Testament.  Yet, Gandhi refused to become a Christian.  He said he would not become a Christian because of the Christians he knew.  When Gandhi lived in South Africa, he was persecuted by ‘good Christians’ because of his dark skin.  When he returned to his native India, the Christian British were in control of his country, and they opposed all of Gandhi’s efforts to bring peace and freedom and independence to his people.  Gandhi, the Hindu who did not believe in Jesus as Lord, wanted to live by Jesus’ principles of forgiveness and love of their enemies and peaceful resistance.  The British, who did believe in Jesus, responded with oppression and violence.  God’s name was not honored or hallowed by the Christian British in India, and a great opportunity for evangelism and mission was lost.  

     We bring honor or dishonor to God’s name by how we live.

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Related image

Mohandis Gandhi (1869-1948) as a young lawyer in South Africa

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Ezekiel 39:7  —  (God says),  “‘I will make known my holy name among my people Israel.  I will no longer let my holy name be profaned, and the nations will know that I the Lord am the Holy One in Israel.”

Matthew 6:9  —  (Jesus said), “This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…”

Matthew 5:16  —  (Jesus said), “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Philippians 1:27a  —  Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

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 The First Petition and explanation from Martin Luther’s Small Cathechism, 1529:

Hallowed be Thy name.

What does this mean?

God’s name is certainly holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may be kept holy among us also.

How is God’s name kept holy?

God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it.  Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven!  But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us.  Protect us from this, heavenly Father!

1476) Speechless

Forgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable

Coffins are carried to the funeral of Egyptian Christians killed in Palm Sunday bombings.

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By Jayson Casper, April 20, 2017, at:  http://www.christianitytoday.com

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     Twelve seconds of silence is an awkward eternity on television.  Amr Adeeb, perhaps the most prominent talk show host in Egypt, leaned forward as he searched for a response.

     “The Coptic Christians of Egypt … are made of … steel!” he finally uttered.

     Moments earlier, Adeeb was watching a colleague in a simple home in Alexandria speak with the widow of Naseem Faheem, the guard at St. Mark’s Cathedral in the seaside Mediterranean city.

     On Palm Sunday, the guard had redirected a suicide bomber through the perimeter metal detector, where the terrorist detonated.  Likely the first to die in the blast, Faheem saved the lives of dozens inside the church.  (Even so, forty-five worshipers were killed in two suicide attacks.)

     “I’m not angry at the one who did this,” said his wife, children by her side.  “I’m telling him, ‘May God forgive you, and we also forgive you.  Believe me, we forgive you.  You put my husband in a place I couldn’t have dreamed of.’”

     Stunned, Adeeb stammered about Copts bearing atrocities over hundreds of years, but couldn’t escape the central scandal.

     “How great is this forgiveness you have!” his voice cracked.  “If it were my father, I could never say this.  But this is their faith and religious conviction.”  Millions marveled with him across the airwaves of Egypt.

     So also did millions of Copts, recently rediscovering their ancient heritage, according to Ramez Atallah, president of the Bible Society of Egypt, which subtitled and recirculated the satellite TV clip ( https://vimeo.com/212755977  ).  “In the history and culture of the Copts, there is much taught about martyrdom,” he told Christianity Today.  “But until Libya, it was only in the textbooks—though deeply ingrained.”


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/212755977″>Forgiveness Incarnated</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user22194617″>The Bible Society of Egypt</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

     The Islamic State in Libya kidnapped and beheaded 21 mostly Coptic Christians in February 2015.  CT previously reported the message of forgiveness issued by their families and the witness it provided.  “Since then, there has been a paradigm shift,” said Atallah.  “Our ancestors lived and believed this message, but we never had to.”  Now they must, and now, even in death, the Copts forgive.

     For example, the night of the bombings, Orthodox priest Boules George said he loves those who did this crime.  Speaking to a congregation in Cairo, his words were broadcast on the popular Coptic TV station Aghaby.  “I long to talk to you about our Christ, and tell you how wonderful he is,” said George, addressing the terrorists.  But then turning to the church, he said, “How about we make a commitment today to pray for them?  If they know that God is love and experience his love, they could not do these things—never, never, never.”  You may view his amazing “Message to Those Who Kill Us,” (with subtitles) athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iO6MwqDlIYY&feature=youtu.be

     Clearly the Coptic heritage and Jesus’ teaching have an impact on the aggrieved…  The traumatic impact and subsequent forgiveness have overcome Coptic lethargy, reviving the church.  The services of Holy Week have doubled in attendance, and the churches are flowing out into the streets…

     This Coptic defiance is not only against an enemy outside, according to Bishop Thomas of Qusia.  It is also against the Enemy within.  He said the Libyan martyrs were a turning point, as Copts watched the victims call out to Jesus in their moment of death.  In his Orthodox diocese 170 miles south of Cairo, many have since repented of sin and changed the focus of their life, making faith a priority.

     “Martyrdom is linked to the Christian life. To carry your cross and follow him,” said Thomas.  “Since we are united to Christ, in this life we are his image.  As he forgave, so must  forgive.”

     “The families of the martyrs are promoting a worldview that is 180 degrees contrary to that of the terrorists,” said  Ehab el-Kharrat, a licensed psychiatrist, former member of parliament, and an elder at Kasr el-Dobara Evangelical Church (KEDC) in Cairo.  “The great majority of Egyptians now carry deep respect for the Copts, who are viewed as patriotic people of faith.”

     Muslims had Christian ancestors, said Ramiz Atallah, and the Coptic heritage is strong…  Middle Eastern culture, however, is based on honor and shame, demanding revenge…  Within this clash of cultures, Atallah said many are now witnessing Christian forgiveness, and find it to be exactly what the country needs.

     Besides frustrating the extremists who want to provoke the Copts, Christians like the widow of Faheem are winning over Muslims as well.  “Their testimony is like a domino, with incredible ramifications in the country,” Atallah said…  The spiritual ramifications run even deeper for Bishop Thomas, who has recently received many unexpected visits of sympathy and solidarity from local Muslim sheikhs and charity workers.  For the past 15 years, his school in Qusia has been a home of civic engagement for Muslims and Christians, discussing ethics and child-rearing for the sake of their kids.  But now Muslims are asking about other issues altogether.

“When people see this attitude from Christians and the church, they ask themselves, ‘What kind of power is this?’” he said.  “But with this witness we must also declare the message of Christ, which we are fulfilling— literally. We may not see the response immediately.  But we will in the near future.”

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Matthew 5:16  —   (Jesus said), “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

I Peter 3:15-16  —  In your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

I Peter 4;16  —  If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

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Lord, I have heard of your fame;
    I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
    in our time make them known;
    in wrath remember mercy.

–Habakkuk 3:2

1403) Bad White Cop Frames Innocent Black Man; and Then…

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The bad white cop and the innocent black man– why are they smiling?

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     While many non-Christians in our society are becoming increasingly anti-Christian, the power of Christian forgiveness can still astound and inspire everyone.  No other belief system has the equivalent of forgiving your brother “seventy times seven,” much less commands you to love your enemies, and bless those who persecute you.  This radical nature of Christian forgiveness is so startling and so overwhelming, that it made the CBS Evening News.

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Watch the video here:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/on-the-road-innocent-michigan-man-ends-up-working-alongside-crooked-cop-that-locked-him/

Or read the transcript from CBS:

     It all went down on a block in Benton Harbor, Michigan.  Back in 2005, Jameel McGee says he was minding his own business when a police officer accused him of, and arrested him for, dealing drugs.

     “It was all made up,” said McGee.  Of course, a lot of accused men make that claim, but not many arresting officers agree.

     “I falsified the report,” former Benton Harbor police officer Andrew Collins admitted.

     “Basically, at the start of that day, I was going to make sure I had another drug arrest.”  And in the end, he put an innocent guy in jail.

     “I lost everything,” McGeee said.  “My only goal was to seek him when I got out and to hurt him.”

     Eventually, that crooked cop was caught, and served a year and a half for falsifying many police reports, planting drugs and stealing.  Of course McGee was exonerated, but he still spent four years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

     Today both men are back in Benton Harbor, which is a small town (population 10,000).  Maybe a little too small.

     Last year, by sheer coincidence, they both ended up at faith-based employment agency Mosaic, where they now work side by side in the same café.  And it was in those cramped quarters that the bad cop and the wrongfully accused had no choice but to have it out.

     “I said, ‘Honestly, I have no explanation, all I can do is say I’m sorry,'” Collins explained.

     McGee says that was all it took.  “That was pretty much what I needed to hear.”

     Today they’re not only cordial, they’re friends.  Such close friends, not long ago McGee actually told Collins he loved him.

     “And I just started weeping because he doesn’t owe me that.  I don’t deserve that,” Collins said.

     But he didn’t forgive just for his sake, even for Collins’.  “For our sake,” McGee said. “Not just us, but for all our sake.”  McGee went on to tell CBS News about his Christian faith, and his hope for a kinder mankind.  He wants to be an example; so now he and Collins give speeches together about the importance of forgiveness and redemption.

     And clearly, if these two guys from the coffee shop can set aside their bitter grounds, what’s our excuse?

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     Collins is right when he says forgiveness, and the healing it brings in its wake, has nothing to do with “deserve.”  As McGee, a Christian, understood, we forgive one another because, as Paul told both the Ephesians and the Colossians, God in Christ has forgiven us.  There is a power at work here that even the most hardened skeptic cannot deny.

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Matthew 5:43-44  —  (Jesus said), “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Luke 6:27-28  —  (Jesus said), “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Romans 12:14  —  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Ephesians 4:32  —  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

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O God of love, who has sent us a new commandment through your Son Jesus Christ, that we should love one another, even as you have loved us, the wayward and unworthy, and has given your Son for our life and salvation; grant to us, your servants, in all the time of our mortal life, a mind forgetful of past ill will, a pure conscience, sincere thoughts, and a heart to love and forgive others.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship, (Presbyterian Church, USA), Westminster, 1906, (altered), originally from The Liturgy of St. Cyril (fourth century).

1386) Instilling Hope

 

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Rosalynd Harris

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Jason White

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Three men from West Texas walk into a Washington, D. C. restaurant Monday morning, before going home after attending the Trump inauguration.  They are waited on by a young African-American woman who had been in the Women’s March protesting the Trump presidency…  This doesn’t sound like the beginning of a heart-warming ‘feel-good’ story, but that is what it turned out to be, as reported in this article by Colby Itkowitz in the Washington Post, January 25, 2017.

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     When Jason White walked into Busboys and Poets Monday morning, a Washington restaurant that promotes social justice, he looked around and told his friend he might want to remove his red “Make America Great Again” cap.

     The three white Texan men knew they stuck out in a place where African-American art and images cover the walls.  And White said he could sense when his waitress greeted them that she knew they did too.

     But Rosalynd Harris had arrived at work that morning still high off the energy from the Women’s March.  Her customers Saturday had been abuzz with an optimism that was contagious.

     So she was especially cheery when she greeted White and his two friends.  They chatted warmly.  They told her they were from West Texas.  White is a dentist and he complimented her on her smile.  They were jovial and fun.

     Harris admits that White was right.  She did prejudge them, by instantly assuming they were in town for President Trump’s inauguration by appearance alone, even though by that point the signature red baseball cap at been tucked away.

     When the men finished their meals, White decided to leave Harris, a 25-year-old African American woman, a personal message on the receipt.  Then, after he wrote it, he left a $450 tip on their $72.60 bill, which is a nearly 625 percent tip.

     “We may come from different cultures and may disagree on certain issues, but if everyone would share their smile and kindness like your beautiful smile, our country will come together as one people,” the note reads.  “Not race.  Not gender.  Just American.”  Then he added, “God Bless!”

     The $450 was a nod to Trump, the 45th president, White said in an interview, as a symbolic gesture that he hoped everyone could move forward together.

     White, 37, didn’t even tell his friends what he’d done.  But he’d felt so moved by all he’d seen in Washington that weekend.  A Trump supporter from the very beginning, he said that he believed Trump would infuse the government with new leadership and a new mindset.  A devout Christian, he doesn’t agree with all of Trump’s rhetoric, but said he believes that the president sometimes speaks without thinking first.

     Being in Washington for Trump’s inauguration and then witnessing the Women’s March the next day, White felt both events represented the very foundation of what it means to be an American.  On Saturday he and his friends went to Arlington Cemetery and he said he was so moved watching the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, thinking about how they perform the same 21-step tradition regardless of politics or who the president is.

     “We have to think about being better Americans, we have to look into ourselves and how we treat one another,” he said.  “If everyone did a little something to show respect… we can love one another.”

     The men were gone before Harris saw the receipt.  She read White’s words before she saw the tip, and the words alone were enough to overwhelm her.

     “You automatically assume if someone supports Trump that they have ideas about you,” she said, “but [this customer was] more embracing than even some of my more liberal friends, and there was a real authenticity in our exchange.”

     The windfall also came at a time when Harris could really use it, she said.  A professional dancer, she started waitressing about a year-and-a-half ago to make extra money to pay her bills.  She needs to move to a new apartment soon and has worried about how she’ll have enough cash to pay any upfront costs.  She scheduled herself to work extra shifts to ensure she had enough, and the extra $450 is “a huge weight off my shoulders,” she said.

     But she said the men left her with so much more.  Their words were a reminder not to make assumptions.  And that so many Americans want unity, regardless of their politics, and to not be afraid to connect with someone as human beings, she said.

     “This definitely reshaped my perspective.  Republican, Democrat, liberal are all subcategories to what we are experiencing,” she said.  “It instills a lot of hope.”

     For White, he said he wanted to show her that they probably have more in common than it would appear.

     “As I sat there I thought about the entire weekend and I thought I don’t know her, she doesn’t know me, but if most Americans have a preconceived perception about people then we’re never going to get better,” he said.

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Galatians 5:22-23a  —  The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control.

Colossians 3:12-15  —  Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.

Matthew 5:16  —  (Jesus said), “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Ephesians 4:1a-6  —  I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

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Teach me to be kind, O Lord.  Help me to remember that everyone I meet is fighting a hard battle.  Amen.

–Prayer based on words attributed to Plato, Philo, Socrates, Ian MacLaren and others

1378) One Way God Speaks

By Daniel Ritchie, posted January 16, 2017 at:

http://www.desiringgod.org

Ritchie is the student pastor at Lake Norman Baptist Church in Huntersville, North Carolina.  He is a husband and father of two.

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     I was born without arms.

     That is the best way to summarize my story.  I stepped into suffering at birth.  My physical body is a billboard for my pain.  This has brought mocking, cruel jokes, stares, and the constant feeling that I am not like anyone else that I meet.

     I have never been able to hide.  Many people can bury their pain, but my heartache is written all over my two empty sleeves.  Those sleeves tell a story without my mouth ever saying a word.  My pain almost swallowed me.  But Christ showed me how much greater he was than my empty sleeves.

     I used to think that being born without arms was the most horrible thing that could happen to a person.  Christ has helped me say that the worst and most painful thing that has ever happened to me is also the best thing that has ever happened to me.

     I am thankful for my pain.  All of the frustration that has come with it has reaped a bounty that I never could have produced on my own.  God stepped in and carried me along in my weakness, letting me taste his strength, grace, and love in new ways.

God’s Megaphone

     I have always been drawn to C.S. Lewis and his perspective on pain.  Lewis lost his mother at an early age, saw his dad emotionally abandon him, suffered from a respiratory illness as a teenager, fought and was wounded in World War I, and finally had to bury his beloved wife.  Lewis wrote about his heartache in his book The Problem of Pain, in which he penned one of his most famous lines:

Pain insists upon being attended to.  God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

     We are most keenly aware of God’s character in our suffering.  It is when our self-sufficiency is peeled away that we see how weak we really are.  It is in that moment of weakness that, as God tells Paul in II Corinthians 12:9, “my power is made perfect in weakness.”  It is in our pain that God has us taste his power most intimately.

     I see the reality of Lewis’s statement clearly in my own life.  God has shouted to me through my pain and reminded me of his truth.  As the mocking words of men fell on my heart like an avalanche, God showed me that it is only his words that bring life (Psalm 119:25).  It was in my brokenness that I saw God’s true strength as he carried me along.  God used my hurt so that he could clearly write the lessons of his grace on my heart and set my affections on him (Psalm 119:67).  

Using God’s Megaphone to Speak to a Dying World

     One of the most interesting realities of suffering is that our personal pain also speaks to those around us.  Our pain becomes God’s megaphone to a watching world.  The world gravitates to the cancer patient who has hope and peace.  Bystanders are astounded over the parents who cling to their heavenly Father as they bury their own child.  My friends are taken back when I can shrug off hateful words of my disability and turn my focus to what God says about me.

     Our pain gives us a platform.  The question becomes then, what am I saying to the world in the midst of my pain?  Do I let my faith become the product of my circumstances or is God still good even if my circumstances are not?  As I trust God, even in my heartache, I let my life speak of a hope that extends well beyond what we can see or touch.

Rejoice in Trials

     We have the difficult call of I Peter 1:6-7 where we are commanded to rejoice when we are grieved by various trials.  Why are we rejoicing?  “So that the tested genuineness of your faith . . . may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  Our willingness to suffer joyfully for the glory of God carries a testimony that none of us could ever express.  We point to a glorious God who offers treasure that neither moth nor rust can destroy (Matthew 6:19-20).

     As we suffer and trust, we receive unique comfort from the Father.  In our pain, we know God is still reigning, whether we taste comfort or affliction.  As Paul says in II Corinthians 1:3-6:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.

     Christ comforts us so that we might share his comfort with a hurting world.  His grace to us is meant to be displayed and not hidden by our silence.  As our pain shouts to a hurting world, may our lives always sing of the fact that God is glorious even when our circumstances are not.

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Help me, O Lord, to make a true use of all disappointments and calamities in this life, in such a way that they may unite my heart more closely with you.  Cause them to separate my affections from worldly things and inspire my soul with more vigor in the pursuit of true happiness.  Amen.

–Susanna Wesley (1669-1742), mother of John and Charles Wesley and 17 other children

1297) Giving Thanks

     The coffee shop was a tiny hole-in-the-wall place, open 24 hours a day.  The lunch counter had the antiseptic shine of stainless steel, and in the early morning light looked sanitary and impersonal.

     Assorted persons were lined up on the stools:  yawning college students up early for a test; a tired looking man in a blue suit with a briefcase; two young nurses, rumpled and hollow-eyed from night duty at the nearby hospital; a family with a little girl; and a sullen teenager putting lipstick on her already too bright lips.

     The coffee shop was quiet except for the sputter of frying bacon, the occasional crack of an eggshell by the cook, and a not-yet-awake voice asking for a second cup of coffee.

     Each person was lost in his or her thoughts.  All were anonymously met together for nothing more than the custom of having an eye-opening cup of coffee in the morning.

     The little girl sat between her mother and father, happily swinging her legs from the stool.  The cook, who was also the waiter, put their orders before them, turned and walked away, polishing the already spotless counter as he went.

     The little girl whispered loudly, “Mother, don’t we ask the blessing here?”  No one else was talking, so everyone heard what she said– and then they all paused to see what the embarrassed parents would do next.

     The waiter stopped his polishing and grinned at the little girl.  “We sure do, sister,” he said with authority.  “We’ll all bow our heads, and you say the prayer,” he said as he stood quietly with his head bowed.  

     The girl then bowed her head, and waited a moment.  Then, up and down the counter other heads bowed– the nurses, the students, the man with the briefcase, then slowly the teenager.

     The little voice seemed loud in the room:  “God is great, God is good, and we thank him for this food.  By his hand we all are fed.  Give us this day our daily bread.  Amen.”

     As heads raised there was a noticeable change in the atmosphere.  The man with the briefcase smiled at the nurses and informed them that he had a new baby son at their hospital.  The college students sipped their coffee quietly, perhaps thinking about little sisters and brothers at home.  The teenager looked in the mirror thoughtfully, and then grinned at the little girl’s mother.

     A momentary bond of friendliness had come into the room.  The little girl, oblivious to what she had done, drowned her waffle in syrup and ate it happily.     –Source unknown

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“Saying Grace”  Norman Rockwell 

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Matthew 5:16  —  (Jesus said), “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Isaiah 11:6  —  The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat,
     the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.

Luke 18:16  —  But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

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God is great, God is good, and we thank him for this food.  

By his hand we all are fed.  

Give us this day our daily bread.  Amen.

1190) An Old Lady’s Prayers

Think all is lost?  Feel like you don’t know how to make a difference in our crazy world?  Here’s a personal story that just might change your mind.  

–John Stonestreet, at http://www.breakpoint.org, May 25, 2016.

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     In 9th grade, I was a knucklehead.  Even worse, I was a Christian school knucklehead.  Those are the worst kind.  Six days a week, between that Christian school and the church that operated it, I was in the same building hearing the same Bible lessons, often from the same people.  But I didn’t really have much of a faith that I could call my own.

     That all began to change on the last day of classes before Christmas break in December of 1990.  Now we all know what’s supposed to happen on the last day of classes before Christmas break:  not much.

     Well, that day, my Bible teacher announced that our boys Bible class was being sent out two by two to visit the elderly “shut-ins” of our church.  I suppose the intention was to bring Christmas cheer, but as you might imagine, that’s not what happened.  The only thing we wanted to do less than school work on the last day of classes before Christmas break was visit old people we’d never met.

     My only consolation was that I was paired with my friend Brian.  He shared my disdain for the assignment we’d been given.  “What are we going to do?” I asked.  “I don’t want to go see any old people.”

     “I’ve got an idea,” Brian replied.  “We’ll go visit one person, but say that we couldn’t find the other person’s house.  That way, we’ll be done fast and can go to the mall.”

     And that’s how I met Ms. Buckner.  She lived down a windy, rural Virginia road in a small little apartment her grandson had built for her on the end of his farmhouse.

     She invited us inside, and there we were:  an 11th grader, a ninth grader, and an 89-year-old widow.  We didn’t have a lot in common.

     Just when we thought it couldn’t possibly get any more awkward, Ms. Buckner said, “Let’s sing Christmas carols together.”  We stumbled our way through Silent Night, and then she decided one carol was enough.

     “Well, Ms. Buckner,” Brian said, “we’d best be on our way.”

     “Yes,” I lied, “we still have one more person to visit before heading back to school.”

     And then she asked, “Can we pray together before you go?”

     So I prayed, and Brian prayed— that took about 45 seconds.  But then Ms. Buckner prayed.

     At that point, I’d been in the church my whole life.  I’d heard thousands of prayers.  But I had never heard anything like this.  I remember looking up just make sure that Jesus wasn’t sitting next to her, because it sure sounded like He was.  She spoke to God as if she knew Him, with a simultaneous confidence and humility that only comes when you’re certain you’re being heard.

     We left her house and headed to the mall, distracted by our plan to meet some girls.  But I do remember, however, Brian saying to me, “She’s a cool old woman.”  And I agreed.

     Two years later, I woke up with the strangest feeling.  Typically, I’d wake up thinking about basketball or my girlfriend, but I woke up this particular morning thinking of Ms. Buckner.  And to this day, I have no idea why.

     But I ended up going back down that windy road to her house.  “Ms. Buckner,” I said, “you probably don’t remember me, but two years ago I came here with my friend Brian.  My name is John.”

     “John,” she smiled. “I prayed for you this morning.”

     From that point on, Ms. Buckner became a close personal friend.  In fact, she prayed for me every day for the rest of her life.  To this day, I cannot imagine what she prayed me into or out of.

     At age fourteen, I found myself— seemingly by chance— in the home of an 89-year-old woman I didn’t know, and didn’t particularly care to know.  I didn’t want to be there.  I lied to her.  And yet, God used her to alter the trajectory of my life.  I found out later that she had actually impacted many, many others in that community as well.

     God uses us, often in ways we can’t even imagine.

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James 5:16b  —  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Romans 1:9  —  For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.

I Peter 3:12a  —  The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer.

II Timothy 1:3  —   I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.

Colossians 1;3  —  We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.

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 Eternal God, you have led us through our days and years, made wisdom ripe and faith mature.  Show men and women your purpose for them, so that, when youth is spent, they may not find life empty or labor stale, but may devote themselves to dear loves and worthy tasks, with undiminished strength; for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–1970 Presbyterian Hymnal, page 185.