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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

#PRAY4UNITY


Have you ever watched a rowing team in action? You probably won’t see much television coverage outside of the Olympics, but there’s always YouTube. These teams are incredible. The amount of unity it takes to be successful in this sport is nothing short of amazing.

Do you know how the eight-man (or woman) teams get every single team member working together in such perfect sync? The secret is the coxswain.

The what? The coxswain is a member of the team (a 9th person on board an 8-man team) who sits in the stern facing the bow (while the rowers sit with their backs to the direction of travel). He or she is responsible for steering the racing shell, coordinating the rhythm of the rowers, executing race strategy, giving instructions, and encouraging and motivating the crew to give it all they’ve got. He’s literally the coach in the boat.

If the coxswain (pronounced “COX-en”) provides the right guidance and the team follows his lead, then their vessel will take a straight course toward the finish line and find good success.

But if the team members fail to follow directions, then not only will they struggle to even make it to the finish line, everyone will grow quickly frustrated with the effort, the team will implode with accusations and blame, and their very safety in the water will certainly be jeopardized.

In our nation today, we’re like a rowing crew who’s thrown the coxswain overboard. We quit listening to the one voice who knows the direction we need to go, who can steer us in the right way, and who can provide all the encouragement and help we need to be successful. Everyone, it seems, hates being told when to pull, when to take correction, when to change pace, or when to do anything. No wonder we’re so far off course!

When everyone thinks he’s in charge, then nobody’s in charge. And if there’s not a single, clear, unifying voice we all agree to listen to, then there’s no hope for unity and no hope for victory. We’re each rowing to the beat of our own inclinations, our own opinions, our own philosophies, our own standards of right and wrong, and the results are becoming predictably disastrous.

Friend, the voice we need to hear is the voice of God. It’s His Word that provides clear instruction for our good, for our success. It’s His way that we need to follow in order to navigate toward the goal. “This God – His way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him” (Psalm 18:30).

The division and disunity we’re seeing today – in the home, in communities, in our nation, etc. – and all of the disastrous consequences thereof, can be traced at its root to the fact that we don’t like God telling us what to do. We’d rather do whatever seems right in our own eyes, not realizing that, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12).

Let’s come together on Thursday, May 3, and pray for unity in America. Join us on the west lawn of the Menard County Courthouse at high noon, and let’s agree that we need to hear the voice of God and follow His truth. Let’s tune our hearts, our minds, our words, our attitudes, and our actions to His will. And let’s row in unity as He calls the shots to see our nation start moving in the right direction.

Monday, April 23, 2018

What about this spring winter weather - and other things you can't control


Spring, O Spring, where art thou?

It’s snowing again in Petersburg as I write this [April 16], with a 17 degree wind chill that makes it feel far more like February than April.

I think a great title for a book would be, “The Spring that Never Came.” Here’s the opening line:

“With the tenacity of a snail slugging past the Stylianos Kyriakides statue at the Boston Marathon, winter just wouldn’t quit.”

Perhaps I should enter that line in The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for terrible opening sentences. I might win a pittance.

Seriously, though, I want that 83 degree day back we had last week. Anyone else ready for a few nice spring days?

At least it’s good to know the One who’s in charge of the weather and the seasons, the days and nights, the sunshine and the rain, the snow and the wind – and I assure you it’s not Cheryl Lemke. There’s not a moment that God is not fully and firmly in control of this creation of His. He spoke it into existence and He sustains it by the word of His power. I’m glad to know that.

Really, it takes the worry away. Because I trust that His ways are higher than mine, His purposes more perfect, His wisdom flawless, and His goodness unquestionable, there’s truly no need to fret. I can’t control the weather, I can’t control what’s happening in Syria, I can’t control what other people do, I can’t even control many things about my own health. So what good does it do to worry?

Someone has once said, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but won’t get you anywhere.” The Bible says that you can’t add a single hour to your life by worrying (Matthew 6:27).

I’d rather trust that a Sovereign God has it all under His control, and I’ll choose to rest peacefully and contentedly in His will whether the timing, the method, or the outcome works in the way I think it should, or not. I can only see a sliver of the picture, like looking through a crack in the door. God sees it all, beginning to the end, and has already written the full number of my days in His book. And since He’s the Author of the story, I know the book unfolds for my ultimate good (cf. Romans 8:28).

What about you? Are you worried and troubled about things? Anxious about the “what ifs” in life? Let me encourage you to take your burdens to the Lord in prayer. “Cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

And here’s what happens when you learn to trust God with all your stuff. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). If you’re looking for peace, turn to the Prince of Peace – no matter the weather going on in your own life – and find rest for your souls.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Gratitude for Government?


Oh joy, tax day is coming quickly! Who else gets excited about filing taxes and forking over your hard-earned money to Caesar? Yeah, me neither.

I should go back and delete that line. I’ve been trying to cut back on sarcastic remarks for a number of years now, but haven’t made as much progress as I’d like.

Here’s a thought: What if we renamed April 15 “Governing Administrators Gratitude Day”? We could call it “GAG Day,” for short. There I go again.

I know it’s easy to bemoan the government’s wasteful spending and overreaching bureaucracy (and I’m all for keeping our leaders accountable and our laws less intrusive), but at the same time let’s not forget the many benefits we do enjoy as citizens of this nation, which remain the envy of the majority of the world population.

Here then are seven reasons to be grateful to those who serve in the government we have – at any level, and in no particular order.

1. The protection and service of local emergency responders. From our police presence to firefighters and EMS workers, when there’s an emergency I am glad for those who can arrive at the scene quickly and handle the situation. We’re blessed to be able to call 911 and know that help is on the way. Many thanks to the likes of Dave Coulter, Rod Harrison and Mark Oller, Patrick Rebbe, Mayor Rick Snyder, and the countless others who serve our community well in this way.

2. Our national defense. Terrorism is real, obviously, as are threats of war and all kinds of security issues, and it is to our great blessing that our military provides a strong national defense against those who would love to destroy us. To all who now serve or have served in our Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines, we say a huge thank you!

3. Accessible transportation. Despite the potholes you may be dodging on your way to work, the fact that we have such open interstates, highways, bridges, back country roads, and city streets bear evidence that our governing officials seek to keep the Monday morning traffic moving, commerce flowing, and vacation-bound families on their way. Add public transportation options to the mix and you see that we do have quite a fine transportation system going here. Toll roads notwithstanding.

4. Parks. We are fortunate to have two outstanding parks/recreation spaces in our own backyard. Lincoln’s New Salem and Jim Edgar’s Panther Creek provide beautiful open air venues to soak in the goodness of God’s creative glory. Or if you like to venture out, our National Park Service and other tax-funded organizations offer a plethora of thrilling sites all across America. I am happy to help pay to keep our parks open.

5. Education. We’re blessed to have wise school administrators, outstanding teachers and coaches, good bus drivers, and all kinds of helpful and caring support personnel at the PORTA schools. I wish they could all be paid double what they’re making now. Thank you to all who work and serve in our local schools!

6. All the others I don’t have space to mention, like Civil Works, Veterans Affairs, our justice system, postal system, FDA, FCC, FEMA, and more. I have a feeling we don’t even know how much good such governing bodies do for us.

7.  We can be grateful because God ordains and appoints the governing authorities. The Bible says, “the authorities are ministers of God;” so, “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:6-7). And if God designs and desires government to work for the good of the people, who am I to argue?

I’ll try to remember all this when I write out my check on April 15.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Cubs win the World Series and Jesus rises from the dead


Here’s something funny for you. As the new baseball season gets into full swing, I keep hearing people talking about how the Chicago Cubs won the World Series two years ago. HaHaHaHa!

I don’t know what medications they’re taking, but the Cubs winning the World Series?! LOL! Impossible! It never happened, people. You’re delusional. Come on back to the real world now, and face the facts that the lovable losers will always be losers.

So, there were some 38,000 people who saw them win the game in person, you say? And more than 40 million who watched it on TV? And you would have me believe that another 5 million showed up in downtown Chicago for a victory parade?

Big deal. It’s a conspiracy, folks! These Cub fans have colluded together to produce the biggest whopper since, well, since the day the disciples of Jesus claimed that He actually rose from the dead! In the immortal words of Vizzini, “Inconceivable!”

Now, that was quite a ruse, wouldn’t you say? Can you imagine a man coming back to life after having been crucified on a cross? Not likely. Do you know what crucifixion does to a man? It sucks his life right out of him. If you could devise the most torturous way to make a man suffer unbearable pain before killing him, you’d crucify him. And the Romans were experts at the craft.

No, there’s no way Jesus escaped that one. His fans likewise are delusional. They said He appeared to them alive and well three days after being killed. They say they touched Him, spoke with Him, and ate with Him. They say later He appeared to more than 500 people at one time. And then He was just “lifted up” to heaven in a cloud. Poof! He’s gone! “Beam me up, Scotty!”

That’s impossible. It never happened, people. Don’t be so na├»ve. Dead men don’t come back to life. And they don’t get beamed up to heaven.

Oh, and get this. They say He’s coming back someday as a King! Yeah, right. Like this one Jewish rebel-rouser who was tried by the authorities and convicted as a criminal is the “Savior of the world” and the “King of kings.” It’s foolishness. This is the biggest scam ever, and people are still falling for it!

The only way this could ever happen – and I mean, the only way – is if somehow God Himself came down from heaven and took on the flesh and blood of a man. Then I suppose He’d have authority to lay His life down, and He’d have authority to take it up again. I guess then it would be impossible for death to hold Him down. And I reckon the whole thing about Jesus being the “sacrifice for sins” and “the resurrection and the life” might actually make some sense.

If He were God then He would be the King of the world. He could have healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind, and cleansed the lepers. He could have turned the water into wine, calmed the raging storm, and walked on the waves of the sea.

If He were God He could give everlasting life to whoever believes in Him. He could turn our mourning into joy. He could give rest to the weary, make beauty from ashes, and replace our darkest night of despair with a peace that passes all understanding.

But that sounds pretty ludicrous, doesn’t it? Just like the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series.

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).