For “Scripture Sunday”:
It’s Back-to-School Time
“Many of you are probably in the midst of getting your family ready for the beginning of a new school year. For parents, this can be a hectic time as they shop for clothing, shoes, school supplies and the myriad other items that seem so necessary for success in the modern educational system. I can tell you it is a frantic time for teachers too. For the students themselves, it is often a mixture of excitement and a bit of wistfulness as the few remaining days of summer vacation dwindle away.
For those of us who live where public education is considered a universal right, it’s easy to take education for granted. There are many people in our world who must make great sacrifices in order for their children to have even a basic education. And for some, though they would gladly make those sacrifices, education is still out of their reach.
In the United States billions of dollars have been invested in public education, yet most studies show virtually no correlation between the money spent and the educational outcomes. In fact, four key factors, only marginally related to money, have been shown to be the most reliable predictors of educational success in children:
- The quantity of homework done at home.
- The amount and quality of reading material in the home.
- How much television is watched in the home.
- Most important of all, having both parents in the home.
Where both parents are involved and children are expected to complete and submit their homework, where parents set an example of reading, and where television viewing is limited, children tend to be far more successful—even when the family may be at or near the poverty level.
This is actually encouraging. It means that parents who may not be able to provide all the physical blessings can still, by their example and involvement, create a learning environment in the home that will help their children succeed.
One of the unstated but important goals of education is to give the individual a foundation for a lifetime of continued learning. Sadly, for many people, learning stops the day they complete their formal education.
What have you learned recently? Is your example one you would want your children or grandchildren to follow? Even if you cannot afford the time or expense of continuing your formal education, you can still provide an important example of studying, learning and applying what you learn. When a child is exposed to adults who are excited about learning, the long-term impact on that child is powerful.
What could you study? Here’s a suggestion: Chances are, you already own the best textbook ever printed. There is nothing you will ever study—in a classroom or on your own—that will have as great an impact on your life as the words of the Book of books, the Bible. The Bible provides much more than “head knowledge.” It gives wisdom; it teaches how to live a successful life, how to find and build positive relationships with others and how to be genuinely happy. Nothing you will ever study will pay off as richly in your life as the study of God’s inspired Word.
Wouldn’t this be a good time for you to go back to school too?” From: http://lifehopeandtruth.com/speaking-of/its-back-to-school-time/ For Life, Hope & Truth, I’m David Johnson. August 15, 2012
Six Surprising Ways Jesus Changed The World
But why does anyone care?
Yale historian Jeroslav Pelikan wrote, "Regardless of what anyone may personally think or believe about him, Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of Western Culture for almost 20 centuries. If it were possible, with some sort of super magnet, to pull up out of history every scrap of metal bearing at least a trace of his name, how much would be left?"
It turns out that the life of Jesus is a comet with an exceedingly long tale. Here are some shards of his impact that most often surprise people:
In the ancient world children were routinely left to die of exposure -- particularly if they were the wrong gender (you can guess which was the wrong one); they were often sold into slavery. Jesus' treatment of and teachings about children led to the forbidding of such practices, as well as orphanages and godparents. A Norwegian scholar named Bakke wrote a study of this impact, simply titled: When Children Became People: the Birth of Childhood in Early Christianity.
Love of learning led to monasteries, which became the cradle of academic guilds. Universities such as Cambridge, Oxford, and Harvard all began as Jesus-inspired efforts to love God with all ones' mind. The first legislation to publicly fund education in the colonies was called The Old Deluder Satan Act, under the notion that God does not want any child ignorant. The ancient world loved education but tended to reserve it for the elite; the notion that every child bore God's image helped fuel the move for universal literacy.
Jesus had a universal concern for those who suffered that transcended the rules of the ancient world. His compassion for the poor and the sick led to institutions for lepers, the beginning of modern-day hospitals. The Council of Nyssa decreed that wherever a cathedral existed, there must be a hospice, a place of caring for the sick and poor. That's why even today, hospitals have names like "Good Samaritan," "Good Shepherd," or "Saint Anthony." They were the world's first voluntary, charitable institutions.
The ancient world honored many virtues like courage and wisdom, but not humility. People were generally divided into first class and coach. "Rank must be preserved," said Cicero; each of the original 99 percent was a personis mediocribus. Plutarch wrote a self-help book that might crack best-seller lists in our day: How to Praise Yourself Inoffensively.
Jesus' life as a foot-washing servant would eventually lead to the adoption of humility as a widely admired virtue. Historian John Dickson writes, "it is unlikely that any of us would aspire to this virtue were it not for the historical impact of his crucifixion...Our culture remains cruciform long after it stopped being Christian."
In the ancient world, virtue meant rewarding your friends and punishing your enemies. Conan the Barbarian was actually paraphrasing Ghengis Khan in his famous answer to the question "what is best in life?" -- To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women.
An alternative idea came from Galilee: what is best in life is to love your enemies, and see them reconciled to you. Hannah Arendt, the first woman appointed to a full professorship at Princeton, claimed, "the discoverer of the role of forgiveness in the realm of human affairs was Jesus of Nazareth." This may be debatable, but he certainly gave the idea unique publicity.
Jesus had a way of championing the excluded that was often downright irritating to those in power. His inclusion of women led to a community to which women flocked in disproportionate numbers. Slaves--up to a third of ancient populations--might wander into a church fellowship and have a slave-owner wash their feet rather than beat them. One ancient text instructed bishops to not interrupt worship to greet a wealthy attender, but to sit on the floor to welcome the poor. The apostle Paul said: "Now there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave or free, male and female, but all are one in Christ Jesus." Thomas Cahill wrote that this was the first statement of egalitarianism in human literature.
Perhaps as remarkable as anything else is Jesus' ability to withstand the failings of his followers, who from the beginning probably got in his way at least as much as they helped. The number of groups claiming to be 'for' Jesus are inexhaustible; to name a few: Jews for Jesus, Muslims for Jesus, Ex-Masons for Jesus, Road Riders for Jesus, Cowboys for Jesus, even Atheists for Jesus.
The one predictable element of this fall's U.S. presidential campaign is that it will be called "the most important election of our time." As the last one was called, and the next one will be.
Meanwhile, the unpredictable influence of an unelected carpenter continues to endure and spread across the world.” From: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-ortberg/six-surprising-ways-jesus_b_1773225.html?utm_hp_ref=religion&icid=maing-grid10%7Chtmlws-main-bb%7Cdl19%7Csec3_lnk2%26pLid%3D192308
A Reflection on Driving
“It is amazing how often life’s everyday endeavors can point us to the spiritual. There is much we can learn from the most mundane situations, if only we take time to stop and meditate on them.
One of the best-known signs on roads around the world is the stop sign. Obviously, when we reach one of these signs we must stop our vehicle immediately for a short time. Not just slow down, but completely come to a standstill. We then have time to look around and ensure that it is safe to proceed.
Accordingly, when we are confronted with a problem in our lives, God wants us to stop and think. When they were facing a great adversity—the Egyptians pursuing them—Moses told the ancient Israelites to “stand still” (or stop!) and see God work a miracle (Exodus 14:13). When they did so, God miraculously delivered them. Sometimes, in our personal lives, we need to stop and allow “emotional traffic” to pass. This gives precious time to think before making a decision, just as the stop sign gives us time to assess our surroundings before we again begin to drive.
Another commonly seen sign tells us to give way or yield. When we follow the sign’s instruction, we avoid the risk of serious accident. Additionally, when we are on the road, there are other times when we can pick and choose when and where we will give way or yield to other drivers who are indicating their desire to change lanes.
I know from personal experience how hard it can sometimes be to “let someone else in,” particularly if the other drivers seem to be pushing their way into your lane. However, once I do the kind thing and let someone in, the release of stress and tension is immediate and gratifying. Sometimes I even receive a friendly wave from the other driver, thanking me and acknowledging my generosity. This brings to mind Christ’s words, recorded by the Apostle Paul, that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Indeed, “giving way” to someone on the road demonstrates this principle to be true. Try it, and see how it works for you—both on and off the road!
Finally, there are those speed limit signs, about which we sometimes complain. “Those other drivers are always too slow!” some say, or “They slow me down too much! The people who set the speed limit don’t know what they’re doing!” Although many of us must admit that we do not always stick to the speed limit, we should reflect on what we are doing when we exceed it—or even just complain about it. Do we realize that road safety experts have spent hours, perhaps days, working out what the speed limits should be? On what basis can we claim the right or the expertise to question them?
Likewise, God has given us His laws and commandments as “spiritual speed limits” in our personal lives. Although many people who profess Christianity say that God’s laws and commandments are not imperative for them, Jesus Christ stressed the necessity of these “limits” in order for us to have life and show our love for Him (Matthew 17:19; John 14:15, 21). Consider: if questioning a simple point like a speed limit is ill-advised, how much more should we refrain from treating God’s laws—which guided the path of King David (Psalm 119:105)—as unnecessary and limiting?
Yes, God’s living laws are in effect all around us, as we can see in so many everyday things that we do—including driving. If we take the time to meditate on such things, we can begin to see the true God and His ways revealing themselves again and again in the world we inhabit.” From: http://www.tomorrowsworld.org/commentary/a-reflection-on-driving By Paul Kearns
Feel Better - Quit Lying!
“A recent study has found interesting connections between telling lies and better health.” “The science of honesty.” August 9, 2012
Transcript at: http://www.ucg.org/beyond-today-daily/christian-living/feel-better-quit-lying “The Ninth Commandment: Truth as a Way of Life: http://www.ucg.org/booklet/ten-commandments/ninth-commandment-truth-way-life How important is truth? To fully appreciate the Ninth Commandment, with its prohibition of lying, we must realize how important truth is to God. Do We Lie?
Studies show that 98% of us are tempted to lie or cheat? What does God say about this?”
God used dirt in the creation of humanity, and there is still much we can learn from this incredible substance.
“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7).
Because of that biblical understanding, many years ago I had a friend who was in the habit of referring to himself as “just another dirtbag waiting to be glorified.”
Then there’s an old joke floating around about a scientist challenging God. The scientist in the story explained that since science could now clone human life, we don’t need God anymore. Patiently God listened and suggested a challenge of His own. They would compete in a man-making contest, to which the scientist agreed. But when the scientist reached down to grab a handful of dirt, God replied, “No, no. You make your own dirt!”
Connotations of dirt
Dirt. It’s the stuff of which we humans were made. Genesis reminds us that “dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”
Yet in today’s nonagrarian society, the term “dirt” has lost something of its previous noble connotation. Some people have the reputation of “dishing the dirt,” while others “don’t want to get their hands dirty.”
So, is that all there is to us? Dirt?
Dirt convinced me beyond the shadow of a doubt
My first in-depth experience with dirt—the real stuff plants grow in!—came in a college biology lab. We were doing an experiment, planting seeds and transplanting seedlings. I will never forget that moment when my hands first dug into the rich, black soil—it was electrifying, teeming with life—palpable, pulsating life!
At that moment, I knew beyond the shadow of any Darwinian doubt nipping at my early biblical understanding that my Creator was the only plausible explanation for the marvels of the universe, the miracle of life I now held in my hands.
A partnership with the Creator
Over the years, as I took up gardening and raising small livestock, I felt a partnership with my Creator many times. Hatching chicks in the spring or helping our pregnant does giving birth, I could see the hand of God in everything and feel His tremendous power.
Whether it was the vital healthy bleating of a wobbly newborn struggling on new legs or a stillborn, stiff and lifeless in my arms, I was reminded of the Master’s touch. Only God can give life.
Of course, becoming a mother myself was the crowning achievement of that partnership—bringing to life new human beings in the very image of our Creator! Watching my children and grandchildren come into this world and grow is both a joy and a marvel beyond description.
Year after year, the springtime miracle of planting seeds continues to delight me. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground,” it cannot grow (John 12:24). The joy of watching things grow and produce fruit—and the satisfaction of enjoying the fruit of my labors—has never diminished.
Those first fruits in early summer have provided much insight into the meaning of Pentecost and just how precious we are as firstfruits to our Creator. More than just “dirtbags,” the Bible tells us we shall be just like Jesus Christ—the very sons and daughters of God!
Jesus Himself confirmed this idea with a rhetorical question He answered Himself. “Who is My mother, or My brothers? … Whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother” (Mark 3:33, 35).
Today we cannot fully comprehend what Christ is like, but when He returns, we shall not only see Him as He is, but we shall be just like Him (1 John 3:2).
Composting and abundance
About three years ago, we added composting to our gardening activities, and this year we were ready to use what we had processed. Once again I felt that same electricity of reaching into a barrel of what, for all intents and purposes, would have been garbage—except for God’s miracle of life.
That God has a sense of humor became very clear to me too. Wherever I used that composted mulch, a bumper crop of cherry tomato plants sprang abundantly forth! These hearty, thriving little darlings had come from sad, little, withered plants yielding poorly, worth little more than compost fodder—except that I had prayed for God’s blessing of abundance!
There is a great lesson in this. Only God can transform garbage into life. Through His calling, He can take even our sadly broken lives and bring forth joyful abundant ones.
The apostle Paul reminds us, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:26-27).
God can turn dirt into people, and people into children of God! What a wonderful Creator and Father we have!” From: http://cogwa.org/godly-women-blog/entry/deep-thoughts-about-dirt By Lynda Wasser on August 15, 2012
Chick-fil-A and the Civil War, August 17, 2012
“We in the United States are at war, the worst possible war. It is a war far more threatening to our survival than any military conflict because it is a civil war, a conflict among its own citizens. Some call it the Culture War because it revolves around core values, with adversaries on both sides deeply driven by strong convictions and beliefs that make them committed to winning, not compromise.
The latest battle flared up a couple of weeks ago when Dan Cathy, president of the restaurant chain Chick-fil-A, publicly stated his support for “the biblical definition of the family unit.”
Opponents immediately, and vigorously, attacked Cathy as being anti-gay, intolerant, discriminatory, even guilty of hate speech. The mayors of Boston, Chicago, Washington and San Francisco were outraged, some rashly declaring they’d ban Chick-fil-A in their cities. Lawyers quickly made them retract such illegal threats, but they did not back down from assailing Mr. Cathy and anyone who supported him as bigots and hatemongers.
Cathy’s backers counterattacked, though, swamping Chick-fil-As nationwide on August 1 in a coordinated “eat-in” to show their support. That, in turn, prompted pro-gay forces to organize “kiss-ins” to protest the protests.
And so it went—speeches, editorials, commentaries from all perspectives defending and attacking. Truth itself often became a victim amid the emotion and anger.
Chick-fil-A has now fallen off the page-one news, but the issue hasn’t gone away. This skirmish resolved nothing but to undeniably illustrate this fact: We are a seriously, profoundly divided country, separated over numerous issues of fundamental values.
Americans are split roughly 50-50 over gay marriage, polls tell us, and that generally holds true for other hot-button issues, such as abortion, censorship, separation of church and state, recreational drug use and government control.
Such core cultural, moral, philosophical and ethical matters shape and define societies. That’s why feelings are running deep, and both sides are fighting for what they correctly believe will determine the future of our country.
Resisting the temptation to comment here on any or all of these matters, I want instead to take a longer look at a larger picture—where this civil war is taking us.
A hundred and fifty years ago, as 700,000 Americans were dying in the War Between the States, Abraham Lincoln warned the nation that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Lincoln was actually lifting a quote from someone he admired—Jesus Christ. “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation,” Jesus said, “and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.” He is the One who also inspired the proverb, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”
Lincoln also once said, “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” If a unity with God is not the basis for our human unity, our house will not stand.
This cultural, moral and philosophical conflict is a different type of civil war. You don’t have to fill graveyards to die as a nation—division and disunity over foundational principles of righteousness can kill a people and destroy a nation in other ways too. Remember our motto—“United we stand, divided we fall”? No one can forecast how long it will take or exactly how the decline and fall will take shape, but it will happen. What Jesus said is simply a law of life.” From: http://lifehopeandtruth.com/speaking-of/chick-fil-a-and-the-civil-war/ For Life, Hope & Truth, I’m Clyde Kilough.
On This Day:
John Wesley Hardin killed in Texas, Aug 19, 1895:
“John Wesley Hardin, one of the bloodiest killers of the Old West, is murdered by an off-duty policeman in a saloon in El Paso, Texas.
Born in central Texas on May 26, 1853, Hardin killed his first man when he was only 15 during the violent period of post-Civil War reconstruction. During the next 10 years, he killed at least 20 more men, and some have suggested the total might have been as high as 40.
In 1878, Hardin was convicted of killing a Texas sheriff and sent to the Texas state prison in Huntsville. Prison life seems to have calmed Hardin--during his 14 years behind bars, he studied law. Released in 1892, he settled down in Gonzales where he worked as an attorney and tried, unsuccessfully, to win political office. Eventually, Hardin relocated to the violent town of El Paso, where, since the demands for his legal services were limited, he spent more time arguing in saloons than in court.
In 1895, the sheriff of El Paso tried to make the town a bit less deadly by outlawing the carrying of guns within city limits. In August of that year, Hardin's girlfriend ran was caught with a gun in the city and arrested by El Paso officer, John Selman. Hardin, who had never learned completely to control his vicious temper, became angry. Bystanders overhead him threaten Selman for bothering his girl. Not long after, on this day in 1895, Selman went looking for Hardin. He found the famous gunman throwing dice at the bar of the Acme saloon. Without a word, Selman walked up behind Hardin and killed him with a shot in the head.
Whether Selman was acting out of anger, self-protection, or perhaps to burnish his own reputation as a gunslinger remains unclear. Regardless, an El Paso jury apparently felt that Selman had done the town a favor. The jurors acquitted him of any wrongdoing.”
The foster mom who took Prime to Petco for Adoption Day, said that a storm going through Conroe knocked out the air conditioning and the cash registers there, but not the lights. It was the only store affected. The cashiers were having to do everything manually. It was very uncomfortable for the volunteers and pets at the Adoption Day, so she brought Prime back early. Then she took some more pictures of the puppies to put on their websites.
Here, we had lots of thunder, but no rain, for the second day.