Archive for November, 2008

24
Nov
08

Try Thanksgiving

Let’s take a break from blogging the week of Thanksgiving.  Before we break off, however, I thought I would share these two jewels with you.

From the mission field we read:

Henry Frost served for many years as a missionary to China.  In his journal he wrote of a very difficult time in his life.  He says, “I had received sad news from home, and deep shadows had covered my soul.  I prayed BUT the darkness did not vanish.  I summoned myself to endure, BUT the darkness only deepened.  Then I went to an inland station and saw on the wall of the mission home these words: ’TRY THANKSGIVING.’  I did, and in a moment every shadow was gone, not to return.

From Rudyard Kipling we learn:

Rudyard Kipling was a great writer and poet whose writings we have all enjoyed. Unlike many old writers, Kipling was one of the few who had opportunity to enjoy his success while he lived.  He also made a great deal of money at his trade.
One time a newspaper reporter came up to him and said, “Mr. Kipling, I just read that somebody calculated that the money you make from your writings amounts to over a hundred dollars a word; Mr. Kipling raised his eyebrows and said, “Really, I certainly wasn’t aware of that.”
The reporter cynically reached down into his pocket and pulled out a one hundred dollar bill and gave it to Kipling and said, “Here’s a hundred dollar bill, Mr. Kipling.  Now, you give me one of your hundred dollar words.”
Mr. Kipling looked at that hundred-dollar bill for a moment, took it and folded it up and put it in his pocket and said, “Thanks.”

And finally, from the Word of God, we read:

…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:19

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20
Nov
08

Do not love the world

My most competent blog master Jonathan Howe is traveling today; and I did not get my blog to him before he hit the road.  He begged me to put it in his hands last night, and I did not.  That being the case, it may be late in the day Thursday before you read today’s entry.

Thank you, Jonathan, for your tireless effort.  Your service is a blessing.  And, such is the life of a busy pastor and a travelling blog master.

So, why does the Bible call God’s people to a life of humility, brokenness and contrition?

Yesterday we learned that God calls us to repentance because pride has its price.  Pride is expensive.  Pride will cost you.  Pride places man at odds with God, and whenever man is pitted against God, God always wins.  Pride will ultimately cost you your life.

Today I want us to consider another purpose for a call to humility: to keep our eyes fixed on the Lord.
The world screams for attention.  The world begs to be worshipped.  Man is what he worships, and that is why so many Americans are selfish, insolent, rude, greedy and childish.  We either worship ourselves, our children or our culture.

Psalm 115 teaches reinforces the truth we are what we worship:

2 Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
3 Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.
4 Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
5 They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes, but do not see.
6 They have ears, but do not hear;
noses, but do not smell.
7 They have hands, but do not feel;
feet, but do not walk;
and they do not make a sound in their throat.
8  Those who make them become like them;
so do all who trust in them.

Psalm 115:2-8

God’s continual call to humility is the antidote to the worship of the world.  God’s continual call to brokenness is the answer to every appealing and misleading thing the world offers us.

This is what John had to say about the world:

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

1 John 2:15-17

John builds a striking three-point argument on why we should not love the world:

  1. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (15b).
  2. For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world (16).
  3. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever (17).

James espouses a similar warning about loving the world:

4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?

This is James’ three-point argument:

  1. Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God (4a)?
  2. Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (4b)
  3. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us” (5)?

The world is like a magnet; it is constantly drawing man into its vacuous hole of depravity, lostness and emptiness.  Humility before God is the only answer.  Brokenness before the One who made you is the only way out.  That is why James concludes his argument against the cravings of the world with these imperatives.

First, James says God gives us what we need:

But he gives more grace.

James 4:6a

When we submit to God He gives us more grace, all the grace necessary for life.

Then James reminds us of this incontrovertible truth:

Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

James 4:6b

Finally, James applies his teaching with ten imperatives, and I have listed each of them separately for emphasis:

Submit yourselves therefore to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
Cleanse your hands, you sinners,
and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Be wretched
and mourn
and weep.
Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

James 4:7-10

We are called to humble ourselves before the Lord so that the world and its fleeting desires do not appeal to us.

One more lesson on humility tomorrow and we head off in a new direction the week of Thanksgiving.

Peace be with you.

19
Nov
08

Because he did not give God glory

Monday and Tuesday of this week have been unmistakably busy for me.  Both days began dreadfully early and ended exceptionally late.  Thank goodness, after a good night’s sleep, I am back to a normal routine.

While reading my Bible this morning I read of a striking difference between pride and humility.  If you are reading through the New Testament with me you will note these passages for today and tomorrow.

EXHIBIT #1: THE PRICE OF PRIDE

This is how pride will cost you; it always does, it always will.

20 Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. 21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. 22 And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” 23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.

Acts 12:20-24 (bold added)

Note the commentary that follows.  It is as if God’s Word is saying in response to Herod’s mortality:

24 But the word of God increased and multiplied.

Acts 12:24

EXHIBIT #2: THE TRUTH ABOUT HUMILITY

Then, with great clarity, in another town and in another setting God’s Word presents the truth about humility:

8 Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well,   10 said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. 11 And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, 15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 16 In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” 18 Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them.

Acts 14:8-18 (bold added)

There are many lessons we can draw from these two accounts.  Here are just two.

If Herod could speak from the grave he would tell us PRIDE HAS A PRICE.

If Paul and Barnabas could address us audibly they would implore us to HUMBLE OURSELVES.

During this Bible reading I could not help but to remember some haunting words about pride from two other parts of the Bible.

The first word is from the life of Uzziah.   Uzziah was one of the great kings of Judah.  He introduced lasting reforms across the land, during his 52 year reign.  When he died the nation, along with the prophet Isaiah, grieved for many days (see Isaiah 6).  Yet the Bible says this Uzziah:

16 But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the Lord his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.

2 Chronicles 26:16-17 (bold added)

The second word is from the Wisdom Literature of Solomon, where he writes,

18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Proverbs 16:18

We continue our quest tomorrow.

17
Nov
08

God opposes the proud

Thank you for the positive response to my uncle’s story.  It is a meaningful story.

Although I am a week late, I want us to return to the subject I introduced on Friday, November 7.  I want us to return to the subject of humility.

We concluded the blog that Friday by asking the following set of questions:

Why is it that the Bible so clearly and succinctly calls God’s people to brokenness, repentance and contrition?  So, WHAT is it?  Better yet, WHY is it?  Why is God so overwhelmingly calling us to a life of humility?

So, have you considered your answer?  Do you have a response?  Have you considered why the Bible calls us to a life of repentance?

I realize humility is not an exciting topic.  Exciting or not, let’s take a look at humility for the next few days.
Why is it that the Bible calls God’s people to humbleness?

Perhaps one of the greatest reasons the Bible repeatedly calls God’s people to humbleness is because every human being is PRIDEFUL.

People are prideful.  Humans are arrogant.  Every human being possesses a fulsome attitude.  Young or old, quiet or outspoken, bashful or playful, we are all full of ourselves.

Pride is the origin of the human disease called sin.  And the disease of sin is terminal.

Call it whatever you like – pride, arrogance, conceit, self-importance, hubris – it is the origin of man’s depravity.  When we sin we are saying, “God, I know better than You.  Therefore, I will do as I please.”  That is pride, and it is the root cause of all sin.

When Adam and Eve chose to eat of the fruit of the tree in the Garden of Eden, they said they were smarter than God.  When Cain murdered his brother Abel, he determined he knew more than God.  When David committed adultery with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, he took matters into his own hands because his plan was superior to God’s.  When Judas betrayed Jesus, he was wiser than God.  And when we sin, we know what is best for ourselves, regardless of what God says.  The root of every sin is pride.

Conceit is self-given.  We are born conceited.  Whether one is secure or insecure, an extrovert or an introvert, outgoing or shy, vanity is at the root of either extreme.  Every human is prideful.  No one is exempt from it influence.  From the most self-confident to the least confident, every human is arrogant.

Thus, God’s Word calls us to continual repentance because we are prideful.

If the Bible said something once, would you pay attention?  I certainly hope so.

What if the Bible repeated something twice, would you adhere to the instruction?

What if the Word of God taught something three different times in three different places?  Would you pay close attention?

Three times the Bible declares, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Proverbs 3:34, 1 Peter 5:5 & James 4:6).”

Read that sentence again – GOD OPPOSES THE PROUD BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.

What is the problem with pride, besides contributing to our act of sin?  The problem with pride is that is the cause for God opposing us.  God opposes proud people.  Our pride puts us in direct conflict with the Holy One.  Pride puts at odds with God.  I would rather take on the armies of the world than to have God oppose me.  God opposes prideful people.

Why does God oppose the proud?

Prideful people put themselves in the place of God.  Prideful people know what is best; God does not.

Prideful people choose their own path; God will not.  Prideful people remove God from His rightful place of authority.  Therefore, we are called to repent in order for God to have His will and way in our lives.

As you wrestle with your own pride today, consider the Word of God:

25 With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
26 with the purified you show yourself pure;
and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
27 For you save a humble people,
but the haughty eyes you bring down.

Psalm 18:25-27

As if there is further need, tomorrow we will consider another reason the Bible calls God’s people to continual humility.

14
Nov
08

The final piece of the 63 year old story

consolidated_pby-5aFor those of you waiting on a response to my initial question one week ago, please be patient.  We will pick up the conversation on the Bible’s call for humility next Monday.

Today is my final entry about finding my late uncle’s roommate from WW II.  Please indulge me these last few thoughts.

For several weeks, from August 9 until early October, my uncle and I were trying to work out our schedules to meet Bob in his home in New York.  Our schedules finally synchronized and the plan was in effect.

After preaching three times on Sunday morning, October 19, my uncle and I rendezvoused at his farm in Knoxville.  From there we drove to Staunton, Virginia, in his recreational vehicle.  We spent the night in a Wal-Mart parking lot.  Now there is a first for me.

The next day we drive all day to Baldwin, New York.  After supper we check into a hotel near Bob’s residence.  No Wal-Mart parking lot this night.  We want a good night’s sleep for the big day to come on Tuesday.

During breakfast Tuesday morning Uncle Luke is anxious.  Bob Lee is anxious as well.  He’s already called to see if we made it into town safely.

Thankfully I turned on the video camera as we pulled into his driveway.  We walked up the steps, rang the doorbell and waited.  In just a moment or two Bob Lee appears at his front door.

The introduction to one another was emotional.  Neither man spoke a word.  All they could do was embrace one another and cry.  I videoed the moment and cried as well.

From the first minute in his house we knew we were welcomed.  We spent the first several hours telling each other’s story.  Bob was just as interested in us as we were in him.  Yet we were there to hear his story.  He recounted as much as he could recall.

Bob was such a gracious host.  We spent two days and two nights with him.  Three of his kids came over the first night to eat dinner with us.  They were great people, just like their father and father-in-law.

Bob is a born-again believer and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He worked for the Lutheran Church most of his adult life.  He is also an accomplished author and musician.   Additionally, Bob is a movie producer.

In 1967 his documentary on race relations, A Time for Burning, was nominated for an Academy Award.  This is an incredible man.  We watched the documentary together our last night at his house.  The Documentary Channel plans to re-broadcast his production sometime in the future.  I will let you know when it is aired.

If you would like to know more about Bob Lee, check out his webpage at http://www.realworldcomm.com.
The conversation was stimulating.  The fellowship was invigorating.  The visit was beyond memorable; it was life-altering.

I asked Bob how he could remember my uncle after 63 years, and only after knowing him for 21 days.  This is where the story comes together.

Cecil is burned into Bob’s memory due to a poignant moment they shared 24 hours before he was killed.  This is the way Bob recalled that moment in the book Squadron 13 and the Big Flying Boats (Hellgate Press), edited by Mary Bracho:

When the kamikaze threat became intolerable, smoke boats were used to lay a blanket of protective fog over the entire harbor.  That preventive action worked, but it also exacted a painful price.  The crew of one of our planes on a night flight returned to discover that they couldn’t come home.  They couldn’t see land for all the lingering smoke in the early morning.
It would have been disastrous to try to come in through the fog for a blind landing with hundreds of ships underneath.  They had to crash land in the open sea outside the narrow gateway to Kerama Retto.  Not all survived.  Several days later the body of Ens. Cecil Henley of Knoxville, Tennessee, washed up on shore.  We joined the chaplain in a small boat and helped carry our friend to a gravesite on one of the safe islands that was not still occupied by the enemy.
The poignant funeral rite for a rommmate remind a couple of us that, several days earlier, we had stood side-by-side with Cecil at another religious occasion he had shared with us aboard ship at a chapel communion service.  With us he had heard the chaplain’s words we were hearing again – words of love, faith, sacrifice and hope!

And now, you know the story.

One final note: please pray for my friend Bob Lee.  He is battling cancer for the second time in his life.  His spirit is strong.  Pray for his strength to increase as he undergoes chemotherapy.

13
Nov
08

Finding the needle within the haystack

Let’s see if I can take a shot at explaining how my Uncle Luke found his brother’s roommate.

On Tuesday, in the Knoxville News, Sam Veneable wrote:

Then this summer, Henley was visiting his former pastor in Florida. A neighbor dropped by. Casual conversation eventually drifted back to World War II.
“When I mentioned the PBY (Cecil’s airplane), the guy said, ‘Why, that’s the kind of aircraft I flew!’ He hooked me up with a PBY veterans group, and I wrote an item for their newsletter, telling them I was looking for a needle in a haystack.”
And wouldn’t you know it: The needle got found.
On Aug. 9, Henley received a telephone call. It was from 87-year-old Bob Lee, a retired television producer from Long Island, N.Y.

There is more to the story.

The pastor’s neighbor my uncle met last summer was Roy Carthen.  And yes, Roy placed my uncle’s contact information on the PBY veterans group.  Before Uncle Luke spoke with Bob Lee, however, there were a few more phone calls in between.

The first phone call came from Richard Gregg.  Richard is a 95 year-old WW II vet, who got the ball rolling.  He read my uncle’s story on the PBY blog.  He did some research and found his brother’s roommate.  His name was Bob Lee, and he lived in New York.  Richard Gregg gave Uncle Luke Bob Lee’s phone number.
However, when my uncle called the number the person on the other end was not Bob Lee, but it was Bruce Boyd.  Neither did he live in New York, but in Arkansas.

And this is where the plot thickens.

My uncle apologized for bothering the man.  Before hanging up the phone, however, he gave a brief explanation as to why he made the contact.  Bruce Boyd, who was from Arkansas, was intrigued.  He asked my uncle to tell him the name again.  My uncle Luke told him the contact was Bob Lee.  Bruce thought for a minute, and then said, “Wait.  I’ve got a good friend from Houston, Texas, who flew PBYs in the war.  I have heard him mention the name Bob Lee.  His name is Chuck Nelson.  Let me give him a call.”

Hang on.  It gets better.

Bruce takes my uncle’s phone number.  In a few minutes Uncle Luke’s phone was ringing again.  This time it was not Bob Lee, but Chuck Nelson from Houston, Texas.

Okay, is anyone getting it yet?  This is a God-thing.

Chuck Nelson informed my uncle that he knew Bob Lee.  Chuck added that he and Bob Lee were best friends, and that they spoke to each other at least once a week.  He also informed my uncle that even though Bob was on vacation in Wisconsin with his daughter, he would contact Bob immediately.

A few more minutes later, Uncle Luke’s phone was ringing again.  This time it was not Roy Carthen from Florida or Richard Gregg from Wisconsin or Bruce Boyd from Arkansas or Chuck Nelson from Texas, but it was the real Bob Lee from New York.

Every time Uncle Luke repeats the story he tears up.  My eyes are teary-eyed again.  He tells me he felt like he was talking to his brother, 63 years later.

Not long after that, Uncle Luke and I were planning our trip to New York.  Wow, now that, too, is a great story.  And if I have time, I will tell that on Friday.

Perhaps now you can appreciate the “needle in the haystack” allegory.

12
Nov
08

Reaching out to his brother

As each of you know from experience, my skill at writing is increasingly limited.  That is why I have asked for Sam Veneable’s permission to complete the story I started yesterday.  At least I will let Sam complete it in part.  Perhaps I can fill in some details in the days to come.

Sam Veneable is a columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel in Knoxville, TN.  The following article was printed in the paper yesterday.  Read and enjoy and then I will use my blog from Thursday and Friday to fill in more blanks.

This Veterans Day will be like none other for Luke Henley.
After 63 years, he has finally connected, albeit indirectly, with one of his two brothers who were killed during World War II.
“I was shaking like a leaf as I walked up to that door,” Henley told me. “When he opened it, we hugged, and I cried like a baby.”
Before we go any further, permit me to set the stage:
Henley, 81, is the retired owner of a Knoxville roofing business. He is descended from Col. David Henley, who fought with George Washington in the Revolutionary War and for whom Henley Street and the Henley Bridge are named.
Luke was too young for military service during World War II. But his family sacrificed dearly nonetheless. He lost older brothers Charlie and Cecil, then 24 and 22, respectively.
Charlie, a lieutenant in the Army Air Corps, was killed Feb. 2, 1945, when his B-24 crashed in the mountains between India and China. The wreckage was never found, his body never recovered.
Cecil, navigator aboard a Navy patrol bomber, perished the following May 10. His four-engine aircraft had completed a mission near the Japanese coastline and was returning to base.
“They’d been flying for 14 hours,” said Henley. “When they radioed in, they learned the base was under kamikaze attack. They were ordered to fly in another direction until the attack was over.”
It was the worst possible no-win situation. The plane was already low on fuel. At 3 a.m., in high seas and only 10 miles from base, it plowed into the ocean and disintegrated. Of the 11-man crew, only three survived.
“They found Cecil’s body the next day,” he said. “It was returned to Knoxville, and he was buried at Lynnhurst Cemetery.”
In the decades that followed, Henley often thought of his two brothers and wondered if anybody knew anything about them. He checked leads as they became available, but the trails always dead-ended.
Then this summer, Henley was visiting his former pastor in Florida. A neighbor dropped by. Casual conversation eventually drifted back to World War II.
“When I mentioned the PBY (Cecil’s airplane), the guy said, ‘Why, that’s the kind of aircraft I flew!’ He hooked me up with a PBY veterans group, and I wrote an item for their newsletter, telling them I was looking for a needle in a haystack.”
And wouldn’t you know it: The needle got found.
On Aug. 9, Henley received a telephone call. It was from 87-year-old Bob Lee, a retired television producer from Long Island, N.Y.
Lee had been Cecil’s roommate on their tender ship. Not only did he remember Henley’s brother, he had written about him in his own autobiography, “My Wings at Sunset.”
Late last month, Henley and his nephew, Ryan Whitley, drove to New York to meet Bob Lee. They stayed at his house two days and two nights.
Said Henley: “Bob and my brother had only roomed together 21 days before Cecil was killed, but they had become good friends.
“They were both very religious. They went to a special service and had communion the day before Cecil was killed.
“It was a very emotional time for me,” he added. “I felt like I had found my brother.”

Thank you, Sam for permitting me to reprint your fine article.  To read more of what Sam writes visit http://www.knoxnews.com