Monthly Archives: February 2017

Communication Requires Willing Listeners

Communication is key to victory. Of course, today we have incredible means of communication. But it wasn’t always so easy. In ancient days, riders on fast horses brought messages across the vast empire of Alexander the Great. Smoke signals, flags, and trumpets were used on battlefields. But it was 1979 that brought an unexpected innovation in communication, for a different kind of victory – milk carton campaigns for lost children.

Last week’s guilty verdict in the Etan Patz case marks the end of an era. Pedro Hernandez was found guilty of kidnapping and murdering the 6 year-old, Patz, in 1979. After thirty-eight years, the case that captivated a nation is finally closed.

Patz’s disappearance brought the horror of child abduction into every household in America. I was about the same age as Patz when he went missing. And though I can’t say that I specifically remember him, I distinctly remember growing up with faces on milk cartons.

Of course, today we have the Amber Alert, “code Adam” at Wal-Mart, Twitter, Facebook, and other methods of communicating emergencies instantly. But back then there was no World Wide Web. “Social media” didn’t exist.

So with cooperation from the Dairy Industry, an idea emerged. Milk cartons had ads on them. Most people buy milk. Replace the ads with pictures of lost children. “Push notifications” emerged.

Did you know that the gospel also came at a time when communication was on the brink of major change?

In the Old Testament, as prophesied by Daniel, the unshakeable Kingdom of Heaven would begin at exactly the right time in history. Jesus began His ministry accordingly: a universal language (Greek), which travelled on a new “super-highway” of roads, in the peace of the Roman era. And because of these innovations, Christians spread the good news of salvation like wildfire.

But, there was a flaw with the milk carton program – people got used to seeing those faces and quit paying attention. Some worry the Amber system might also lose the public’s attention. Sadly, it might even be possible that we could become too familiar with the extraordinary content of God’s Word, the awe of reading His story.

Communication is great, as long as listeners see the content as important. We must remain vigilant to hear and respond to important alerts. Of 184 Amber alerts in 2014, 154 resulted in recovery, 51 of which were in direct response to the alerts. So far, the system seems to be working. But what about God’s Word? Are we still seeking to save the lost with diligence?

The Bible warns us many times to guard against being “dull of hearing.” Will the Bible be the life saving message that listeners fail to hear? May it never be!

For, as important as earthly alerts are, they pale in comparison to the emergency alert of our spiritual eternity. Hear Him today, act upon His message, and warn others. In so doing, you will “save yourself and others” (1 Timothy 4:16).

The Danger Of A Little Damage

 As I write this article, about 200,000 people have been evacuated from below the Oroville Dam in California. The citizens of California, the evacuees, and all the families whose lives are being impacted are in our prayers.

Oroville Dam is the tallest dam in the United States, and it sits about 150 miles northeast of San Francisco. Built in 1968, it holds back Lake Oroville. The lake is crucial to California’s “State Water Project,” a system of retaining water for use in the dry spring and summer seasons.

Because of heavy rains and snowmelts, the water levels are extremely high…almost at capacity. And with more storms on the way, state officials and engineers have been frantically releasing as much water as possible. This effort has been hampered by damage to the main spillway and erosion on an emergency spillway. 

If the dam fails, at any spot, there could be a massive, uncontrolled release of water…a 30-foot high wall of water entering the valley below. It could cause significant damage. It would certainly be devastating financially for citizens and the state. And it would cause a significant depletion to reserve water needed in the year ahead.

As I read about the challenges facing these workers and the decisions being made to shore up the weak spots, I remembered something my friend David Pharr once said. A paraphrase would be: “you don’t have to destroy the whole fence in order to render it useless; a break in a small section will let all the cows out.”

Of course, the same principle is true of our adherence to God’s Word. It is easy to be tempted by phrases such as: “it is such a small thing,” or “that isn’t really an essential command,” or “we’ll fix that some other time.” If small cracks aren’t identified and shored up, they can lead to catastrophic failure of faith.

The song, My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less says the words better than I have (see below). It is a song that reminds us that there is no foundation, no rock, no trust as great as the one we have in Jesus. If we build on that firm ground, we will remain secure.

We pray for the workers and all those who are trying to secure safety for the citizens of California. As we do so, let us also remember to remain vigilant in our faith and secure eternal safety for others and ourselves in Christ, our solid rock.

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand,
all other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace;
in every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil. [Refrain]

His oath, his covenant, his blood
support me in the whelming flood;
when all around my soul gives way,
he then is all my hope and stay. [Refrain]

When he shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in him be found,
dressed in his righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne. [Refrain]

Sealed With Secure DNA

Super Bowl 51 is over. The Patriots won. That is that. But when Super Bowls end, there is another team just beginning their battle. Their name is PSA/DNA, and their fight is against the counterfeiters!

You see, one of the bigger post-game businesses is in the collectibles market: the footballs, sideline pylons, coin toss coins, etc. The problem, though, is that counterfeiters are always trying to sell knock-offs to unsuspecting collectors. Enter PSA/DNA.

PSA/DNA has a technology to authenticate collectibles by stamping each with a unique, synthetic DNA “fingerprint.” The fingerprints can be seen only with a special laser, and they have a 1 in 33 trillion chance of being replicated. Now that’s a secure stamp!

But did you know an even greater authentication stamp exists? It is the stamp that Christians bear. He is the Holy Spirit, and His seal is impossible to fabricate.

Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22

That’s right! The authentic Christian bears a stamp. It is a royal seal, inked with the blood-bought DNA of Christ, as a pledge to prove that we are His.

Now, I wish we could point a laser at the seal and know whether someone is a Christian. It sure would make it easier to know who is authentic. But even without that technology, there are signs.

A believer (John 6:29) receives the Holy Spirit at their baptism (Acts 2:38); they can check the things they hear and see against the Word to know if they are truly from God (1 John 4:1); and they can assess whether or not men are faithful stewards (1 Corinthians 4:2).

Ultimately, though, God alone knows the authentic from the counterfeit. “Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, ‘The Lord knows those who are His’” (2 Timothy 2:19). Is your faith authentic or counterfeit? The heart is a great place to check: “The one who loves God is known by God” (1 Corinthians 8:3).

You Play Your Role, And Let Him Direct…That’s Best!

Ben Affleck has had a hard time lately. He has recently been through a divorce, and he has faced harsh reviews on recent films. And, while he has made his share of poor choices, I want to congratulate him on his most recent decision – choosing to step down as the director of the new Batman movie.

Successful actor-directors are rare. Very few actors have been able to take on a leading role while managing and directing a film. With few exceptions, history has not been kind to actor-directors in major films.

Why is it so hard to direct and act at the same time? The actor should focus on doing the best at their own role. The director, however, focuses on all the actors accomplishing his vision. And he has to manage people, time, budget, etc. There is a lot to do!

It occurs to me that the life of the faithful servant of God shares similarities with the actor-director dilemma.

  • Most of us would do far better to concentrate on our own role. As the Apostle Paul taught, we should attend to our own business (1 Thessalonians 4:11).
  • Often, we worry too much about God’s job and try to question His direction. As Isaiah 45:9 reminds us, “Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker…Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?…’”
  • Psalm 23 is an amazing reminder that God directs us to what is good and best. It is a place where we can do His will, for His glory.

A good director explains His vision and gives the actors the tools they need. He knows his actors, their talents, and their abilities. He brings the picture in on time and in budget.

God has given us the Word to lead us, the Spirit to encourage us, and the talents to complete the task. He knows the hour for the completion. He paid the price to accomplish the production. What a director! And guess what? Your role is still available in His Kingdom – a part made just for you.