Stephen and I finished a bike ride and run workout on the Air Force Academy. We loaded our bikes on the back of the truck and headed home. But when we got there I couldn’t find my cell phone. I quickly realized that I had placed it on the back of the truck by the license plate and drove off without securing it. A hundred “O no!” thoughts flashed through my mind. About to take off on an international trip to Africa, it would be a disaster not to have my phone. While most of the phone memory was backed up on my computer, it would still be a major setback and financial hit to lose that stellar black piece of technology.
Luke 13:8,9—He answered him, “Sir, leave it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you shall cut it down.”
Jesus shared the parable of the barren fig tree to His listeners about a man who, frustrated with the fact that his fig three after three years was still not producing figs, told his vinedresser to cut it down. The vinedresser was more patient and felt like corrective steps were necessary before just killing the tree.
Every year about 1500 volunteers gather on December 24that Building 910 on Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. They arrive fifteen minutes before the start of their two hour shift to receive instructions and then move to one of four conference rooms where phone lines are set up. During eleven shifts, over 134,000 calls and over 6500 emails will come in from all over the world, (mostly the U.S. and Canada), from children and adults who want to know where Santa Claus is.
I recently had the opportunity to respond to the blog of a friend, Dillon,* who suffers from a life-threatening disease. In his blog Dillon related the difference between “fading away” and “going out with a bang.” Immediately after reading his heart-felt thoughts, I was inclined to respond with the hope of the gospel. Below is my letter to which Dillon thoughtfully replied and which has opened up a channel for further sharing.
Sometimes I find the best way to determine a person’s spiritual condition is to ask indirect questions. While waiting for a car at the Avis rental in Baltimore, I noticed the name of the man behind the counter was John. So I asked him, “Do you know what my favorite book in the Bible is?” He looked across at me with a smile and said “No.” I told him it was the book of John. To this he responded by saying yes, he also liked John. Then he proceeded to tell me what Matthew, Mark, Luke and John emphasized about Jesus in their accounts. While John arranged for me to rent a car, we had a splendid time of fellowship.
Jesus had a meeting with His disciples in response to their questions about how they should operate after He returned to heaven. He told them that they needed to write down a vision and mission statement—this would help keep them focused. Second, it would be very wise to have a clear rule book with His stated commands so people would know what they could and could not do—much simpler and more elegant than what the Pharisees were teaching. Third they would need to get a solid 501 (c)(3) so that they would get credit with the tax collectors for their donations. Fourth, they certainly would want to set regular meetings up—preferably on Sunday mornings to differentiate themselves from Jews meeting on the Sabbath. Finally, they should call themselves Christians so they would not be confused with idol worshipers or Jews who refused to believe in Him. You can read the aforementioned discussion in the book of Machinations—a lost part of Scripture recently unearthed in Portland, Oregon. (Of course this is not true).
Mark 8:38—For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.
We sat around the table and talked for hours on the peaceful boardwalk in front of Angry Nates, a restaurant that served tasty dishes. We were quite the interesting bunch, a Mormon, a Catholic, two men of unknown conviction and me. While discussing politics and Army life, swapping stories and enjoying the balmy weather of St. Croix, we discovered many shared values.
Wolfgang Simson was scheduled to speak to church leaders in Cairo, Egypt at 5:45 P.M. His contact arranged for a taxi 45 minutes ahead of schedule and gave the cabbie the address. Thirty minutes later they arrived but it was not the right place. The only Arabic Simson could speak were the words for left, right, straight ahead and counting from one to ten. The German knew he was in trouble and quickly prayed for help. God answered immediately telling him to prophesy to the taxi driver. Simson protested, “Lord, I-I’m Lutheran and I don’t even know which direction it is.”
Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s youthful dictator pushes his nation towards the brink of war. Threatening a “‘preemptive nuclear attack’ on the United States, a ‘final destruction’ of South Korea, and a ‘nuclear attack’ on Tokyo” leaves much of the world holding its collective breath. While we should pray that war does not break out, we should also remember that even bullies and police states cannot keep God from revealing His love in amazing ways.
Last week I stayed at the Crown Astor in New Orleans for a military conference. On Friday night I got almost no sleep. On the fifth floor near my room was a group of visiting university students. Evidently, the guys partnered with girls to drink and engage in loud and vulgar revelry. It saddened me to think how many parents don’t care or have no idea what their children are doing.
Every evening at sundown, 78 year-old Don Brittain stands on his back porch, places his trumpet on his lips, and plays Taps. At the first sound of the 24 notes his neighbors stop what they are doing and walk outside to stand at attention. Most of them have never served in the military. Nor has Don who suffered polio as a child. Yet, like this aerospace worker who chooses to honor our military veterans, they are gripped and inspired by the solemn music he so carefully plays. And as much as his ritual is for the military, it is also for his neighbors. Lyle shared reporter Steve Hartman’s story with me and you can view and listen as well if you go to
Every day I receive emails from the Pentagon with news of a soldier taking his or her life. Some days there are multiple messages. The reports are concise and heartbreaking. Today after three emails I just had to cry. A colonel facing retirement put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger; a female captain hung herself; a sergeant overdosed on drugs; a private threw himself in front of traffic; and, a specialist leaped from a bridge. Relentlessly these bitter messages invade my computer.
Acts 2:36,37—“Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!” When they heard this, they came under deep conviction and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what must we do?”
Whenever Lee takes a new job, one of his first acts is to publically share with those he will be serving his faith in Jesus as his Savior and the priority He holds in his life. There are several reasons Lee does this. First, Jesus said in Matthew 10:32, “Therefore, everyone who will acknowledge Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven.” Second, by stating his conviction upfront, Lee makes himself accountable. If he acts or speaks in a way incongruent with Jesus, those who work for him are quick to point out his error. This also helps kill the temptation for him to do anything that might discredit God. Third, by sharing his faith, opportunities arise for Lee to help those who are struggling and who would like prayer, counsel, or information how they too can follow Christ.
On my flight to Minneapolis I sat next to a fascinating gentleman. He is a successful economist who asked if I would be interested in reading his paper on solving our nation’s current economic woes. I read it with interest and afterwards as our conversation turned to things more personal, he shared his story. It was obvious that Walt* lived most of his six plus decades working through much physical pain and challenge. Forced to take an assortment of medicines and constantly in need of relief I asked him if he had God in his gut (in the context of the conversation that meant did he have the Lord to help him through his stomach issues). He said “no” but that he did believe there was a higher power.
Eight months into his tour of duty in Vietnam, Navy gunner Dave Roever burned horrifically when a phosphorous grenade exploded in his hand. This mild mannered Texan spent fourteen months in a hospital undergoing several major surgeries. By God’s grace, he lived. Yet, what he does with his survival is truly heroic.
In 1928 a book called Nestorian Missionary Enterpriseby the Reverend John Stewart was published. It shattered a misconception I held and brought to light valuable lessons. I thought that much of China, northern India, Afghanistan, Mongolia and the nomadic regions had little exposure to the gospel. In reality, by the middle of the sixth century, Nestorian missionaries canvassed India, Ceylon, China, and Mongolia. Professor P.Y. Saeki states that “the leaven of Nestorianism has penetrated the whole of Chinese literature.” From China the gospel spread to Japan and the Empress Komyo in the eight century was reputedly a Christian. While Genghis Khan and his heirs wiped out millions of people through his brutal campaign across Asia and into parts of Europe, his grandson Guyuk was a Christian and under his leadership Christianity flourished across the Mongol empire.