Thursday, July 31, 2014

666,216 Hours by Mike DeCamp


666,216 is the average number of hours that a man in the United States can expect to live.  (709,640 for women.)  I’m approximately 52.5 years old.  That means I’ve used up somewhere around 460,212 of mine…should I only be average.  Which begs the question: How do I want to use the last 206,004 hours of my life?

Of course, I hope to be above average.  My personal goal is to live to be 100 years and one day old.  But, you just can’t count on ‘beating the house.’  In fact, there are a good number of people who fall short of the average.  So, let’s just say I’ll be average.  How do I want to spend those hours?

Maybe playing Candy Crush?  Nope!

Maybe watching TV?  Not anymore.
I don’t watch TV nearly as much as I used to, but let’s examine that one.  For conjecture sake…because I’ll never figure this out exactly…let’s say that I’ve watched two hours a day for the last 50 years.  Some days and years were much higher than others.  That’s an estimate, and it may be low because I used to watch A LOT of TV.  But, okay…two hours a day for 50 years is 36,525 hours.  Hmmm.  I’ve wasted 1522 days of my limited life sitting in front of the television.  That equals over four years sitting in front of an electronic brain-sucker.

That’s kind of staggering, if you think about it.  And, my guess is most of us don’t.

Sit on a sofa...or, go see this?
Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not opposed to relaxation or entertainment, and I’m not likely to give up TV altogether.  (I need my Walking Dead fixes.)  But, I can tell you, as a guy who has likely crossed the halfway point, I want to be a lot more mindful of how I use up those remaining hours.  I will no longer be donating them to mindlessness.

Frankly, I want to do something worthwhile with them.

I want to create.  I want to see beautiful and interesting places.  I want to worship with zeal.  I want to love deeper.  I want to make a difference in people’s lives.  I want to be available and useful to God.

Living a life well-spent!
I am challenged and inspired by the way that my fellow Christian and friend, Dr. Kent Brantly has devoted his life to serving others.  He could be living a fairly cush life here in the U.S. as a physician.  Nice house.  Nice car.  Maybe a club membership.  Instead, he has been donating himself to a cause where the only reward is the satisfaction of seeing people survive.  Since last fall, he has been working with Samaritan’s Purse at ELWA Hospital in Liberia, West Africa, sharing hope and providing medical care to people that most of the world ignores.  And further, now that he has been stricken with one of the most deadly diseases known to man—Ebola, he still remains committed to his course.  No regrets.  No second-guessing.  He is “praying fervently” for God to save his life, but either way, he has put himself in the Father’s hands.  He is faithful regardless the outcome.  And, based on news reports, still donating himself to others.

Whether he will meet or exceed the average life-span of the US male is very hard to say right now.  The next week or so will likely tell.  But, I can tell you with no hesitation that he has already made more of a difference in this world than most of us ever will.

So, I’m going to make some commitments right now.  I had already put Candy Crush in a cyber-coma.  (Whoever created that game should be…well, I won’t say, it wouldn’t be nice.)  But, I am now declaring it ‘dead to me.’  I had put Words with Friends on hiatus.  That hiatus is now permanent.  TV has been skimmed way down, and will stay that way.

I am going to look forward to my next 206,002 hours with much more intensity.  I will use them with a great deal more intentionality.  (I just gave a couple of them to you.)  And, I will renew my dedication to serving my God.

Now, a question for you…how are you going to use the hours you have left?  Are you ready to make some new, intentional commitments?


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"Bittersweet" by Frank Black

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(F. Black – July 2014)

            As many of you know, my wife and I recently served with a Medical Mission team at Chimala Mission Hospital in Tanzania.  We returned about one month ago, but the mixed memories are indelibly stamped in our brains.  Why the title “Bittersweet”?  I give the credit for this term to Janice Bingham, the Nurse instructor from Harding University, who had eight of her senior nursing students with us.  In addition our team had three other nurses plus Dr. Dean Paulsen from Anderson, Indiana.

            I’ll write about the “sweet” part first.  First and foremost, it’s such a pleasure and a blessing to serve people who are so medically needy and so amazingly grateful. Our journey, long and laborious as always, went well.  Of course the trip had it’s usual hiccups – such as missing our flight from Zurich, Switzerland, to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania – necessitating spending an extra day in Zurich.  Nothing wrong with spending an extra day in Switzerland. Very enjoyable!!  Not to bore you with travel stories, I’ll just say that the journey is long, hard, fraught with necessary changes, and summons up all your energy and patience.  Along this line I’ll compliment our group. They were great travelers with not a ‘complainer’ or ‘wimp’ among them!  In adding to the “sweet” list:  Everyone worked very hard and well with excellent attitudes; We were able to medically help many, many patients and had a few cases we called our “miracle cures”; Everyone displayed a compassionate spirit in trying to represent Jesus to our patients; Lou Ann and I had a joyous reunion with our Tanzanian friends (remember that we lived there for five years); Everyone stayed healthy; We so appreciated the fine spirits of the Tanzanian people in the midst of their hardships; We enjoyed the beauty of the Tanzanian mountains and marveled at the African animals in Mikumi Game Park (elephants, lions, zebra, impala, giraffe, hippos, wart hogs, cape buffalo, etc.).

Now to the “bitter” part. I don’t want this to be a “downer” or depressive, but this is reality – their reality. You need to know this and consequently not only appreciate your blessings more but be more willing to help others.  When people ask, “How was Africa?”, I never know quite what to say.  I’m appreciative and know you are interested, but my mind spins with mixed emotions.  If I use the term “Bittersweet”, I get a quizzical look.  So I usually say something to the effect that, “We had a good trip, good group, and worked hard.”  To really explain the “bitter” part is rather difficult and takes longer.  I always feel at a loss and quite inept. Add to this that most Americans can’t really grasp the situation in a Third World ‘bush’ hospital.  They really don’t have a reference point.  My service in this type setting goes back 37 years, yet I still have difficulty in meaningfully explaining the situation. As Christian medical missionaries, we try and render the best health care possible while manifesting the love of Jesus. We know that our Lord cares for our physical health but that our spiritual health is more important.  So in addition to compassionate medical care, I always look to pray with patients, present devotionals at the hospital, and speak in churches.

Let me just give a few examples of why we come back with a bitter taste in our mouth.  No, it’s not disgust or disdain or dislike.  The bitter taste is more a sadness – a feeling of helplessness. 

  • Many of our student nurses had never seen a patient die.  In one 24 hour period we had five babies die.  Can you just imagine the effect on the babies’ mothers and on our emotionally sensitive students!  Most of these babies were prematures – in the range of two to three pounds.  The facilities at Chimala are just not available to sustain these prematures. Our students took turns going to the hospital day and night to feed the babies with a dropper. The loss of these tiny lives really impacted our students.
  • Rosina Kulanga is a lady about 65 (many Tanzanians don’t know their birth date).  She fell and broke her hip.  Many of you know of folks who’ve broken hips.  In the USA generally such patients are operated on the next day, get physical therapy, and are up on their feet within a day or two using a walker or a cane.  We didn’t have operative orthopedics available; and consequently, I put Rosina in traction (I call it 1950’s orthopedics).  She stays like this for six weeks!!  Can you even imagine?  She can’t read; no radio; no TV; no computer; etc.  She just lay there very patiently day after day with such a sweet spirit.  We took her books with pictures, some food, even coloring books.  Can you even imagine?
  • HIV/AIDS:  Most of you don’t know anyone with this horrible, diabolical disease. Not so in Chimala where about 20% of adults are HIV positive. (I always hasten to add that HIV in Tanzania is almost always passed heterosexually – from man to woman or woman to man).  Untreated HIV cases then progress to clinical AIDS – which is fraught with horrible infections, organ failure, and the list goes on and on.  About one/half of both male and female wards were filled with end stage AIDS patients.  I felt horrible and hopeless in not being able to substantially help them.


I’ve only begun to scratch the surface.  I hope you can realize why the term “Bittersweet” seems to fit. I just want you to better realize how much of the world is forced to live and how blessed you are.  I’ve summarized this concept by saying that:

“You have the blessing of location.”

“They are the victims of location.”

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Health Ministry Newsletter-July 2014 by Lisa Fleetwood

Taking the Temperature of Your Health Ministry

When Jesus set the example for the early church, he was clear about the role of health promotion and restoration. Matthew records that Jesus’ “health ministry” began almost immediately after choosing his disciples.

Matthew 4:23-25 (NIV) states:
“23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan

followed him.”

Jesus also validated his commitment to health through his miracles. Of the thirty-five miracles recorded in the gospels, twenty-three involved healing the body (and three more involved raising the dead). Jesus not only healed the sick, but he charged his followers with healing as well.

Matthew 10:1 ESV “And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.”

So, (1) if Jesus centered his ministry around healing and (2) he commanded his disciples to heal the sick, why doesn’t the twenty-first century church take more responsibility for the care and health of our members and greater community? Perhaps, we don’t know where to begin. After all, we live in the age of modern medicine with state of the art technology and medical advancements. Isn’t it the physician’s, hospital’s, insurance company’s and now the government’s responsibility to heal the sick? Have they been successful? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Despite our technology and wealth, we aren’t healing. In fact, we are sicker than ever.

The reason for this is simple. Healing doesn’t end in the hospital, it only begins there. Healing doesn't end when we check out of our physician’s office. Instead, we are challenged to begin the real restorative work when we walk out of the waiting room and into our life. We are looking to secular organizations to provide us what traditionally has been owned by our faith body. The church provides the encouragement to steward our body the way we would our bank account and gives us the skills we need to handle stress by relying on our faith. The church brings meals to the sick, transports members to the doctor, and opens pill bottles for those without strength and dexterity. These actions and more restore the sick to wholeness as they are lovingly provided by fellow members.

Prevention. According the CDC, the vast majority of chronic conditions can be prevented. They state in 2009’s The Power of Prevention, “As a nation, more than 75% of our health care spending is on people with chronic conditions. These persistent conditions—the nation’s leading causes of death and disability—leave in their wake deaths that could have been prevented, lifelong disability, compromised quality of life, and burgeoning health care costs.” Health ministries can focus on prevention by providing educational courses on diet and exercise, organizing a walking group or Zumba class, or teaching a CPR course. Flu shot clinics and blood pressure screenings also serve as powerful educational springboards for topics ranging from sodium and stress to hand washing and over-the-counter medication safety.

Discharge Care. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, 23% of heart failure patients, 19% of heart attack patients, and 18% of pneumonia patients are actually readmitted to the hospital within thirty days of hospital discharge. Why? Often times, the patient does not receive adequate care at home. Unfortunately, family members are not prepared, supported, qualified, or able to provide effective home care despite their best intentions. Discharge instructions include cautions on medications, activity, follow-up appointments, and diet. When understanding and implementing the entire discharge plan depends upon one individual, the task can seem daunting. Now add in the age of the caregiver and their own health issues, it may prove impossible. A church’s care team can assist the member with reminder phone calls and encouragement to maintain activity, provide meals that adhere to the patient’s recommended diet, ensure the member has necessary medication and supplies, and provide transportation if needed to follow-up appointments or therapy. These actions, though simple, contribute significantly to patient recovery and ensure the patient avoids re-hospitalization and complications that delay healing.

Support. There is no other organization capable of providing the level of support and sense of community like one’s faith body. Galatians 6:2 NIV says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” An effective health ministry does just that by providing members opportunities to learn, grow, and share through grief support groups, parenting classes, substance abuse programs, and caregiver respite services.

So how does your health ministry stack up? For resources, information, and support contact Faith Health Initiative at or today.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hurry, Hurry, Hurry; Go, Go, Go! by Chris Kirby

Hurry, Hurry, Hurry; Go, Go, Go!

This summer has flown by. We are over half way from when school dismissed in early June to the start of a new school year. As some of you know, this is my crazy time of year. Between youth group trips and the normal craziness that comes with having a family with young kids, it’s just a whirlwind for me! The first “big event” each summer for the Youthreach is a trip to IMPACT at Lipscomb. The event itself feels like it was ages ago (I’ve been to Charleston, SC and Spring Mill since then, and am in Chicago this week). However, the message at the heart of IMPACT really stood out this year and gave us a lot to chew on. There have been several times in the last couple of weeks that I’ve gone back to think on it more and to really unpack how it applies to my life personally. There were several facets to the message, but one of the aspects that really hit me was the concept of living within our present reality and being used by God for opportunities that are right in front of us.

Ironically, it is this time of year that is so full of ministry opportunities that I can easily miss out on the heart of what God wants me to see. I can get so busy planning, organizing, and running at full speed in youth ministry that I look right past something powerful that God might be trying to show me. I might miss the point of why we are so busy; I have to be careful to stop and re-center so that I don’t just survive the blur of a summer schedule, but rather experience the greatness of the mission I’ve been invited to participate in with the awesome teens in our congregation. I am afforded the opportunities to see how God cultivates spiritual growth in them, how He exposes them to their gifts and how to use them to minister to the world, and witness the development of community in our group that reflects Christ. Hopefully, the distraction of busyness doesn’t make me miss these powerful opportunities to see God’s grace and mercy play out in His Kingdom.

Not everyone shares the same distractions as I do. For some of you, summer is the most laid back and relaxing time of year. However, distractions can take many different forms. For many of us, we’ve allowed our technology to consume us. We become so tied to what is on our phone, TV, or social media that we don’t know what is going on the in the reality around us. Some of us have turned things that aren’t overly important into idols that devour our time, energy, and focus. I’m always amazed at how sports, designed as games for recreational activity, run the lives of so many families in our culture and create so much stress and frustration that they are now counter-productive to their original intent. For some, the drive for success can lead us to a perverted sense of what is important. Sin can darken our hearts from allowing God to lead us in his desires. Whatever the case might be for you personally, I hope that you will step back and ask honestly what it is in your own life that keeps you from living out God’s full plan in your life. I hope we can be a people who seek after God with all our being and witness the great things that he has in place for us. As the author of Hebrews states in 12:1, “let us throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles”!  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

E. A. Elam--A Peacemaker on Confessing our OWN Sins by Terry J. Gardner

E. A. Elam – A Peacemaker on Confessing Our Own Sins
By Terry J. Gardner
Edwin Alexander Elam was his mother’s firstborn child. Just a few minutes after his birth—on 7 March 1855 in Fosterville, Tennessee—Sister Elam “earnestly prayed for divine help and guidance to train E. A. for usefulness in the service of God.”
In 1871 Elam was immersed into Christ but that did not cause him to be zealous or regular in church attendance.  Elam entered Franklin College in 1872 and studied under Jack Fanning.  Fanning taught him how to study and to think for himself.  As he was leaving for college his mother gave him a Bible with special passages marked for him to remember.  By 1874 Elam had become more zealous and regular in his church attendance.
In 1879 Elam moved to Florence, Alabama, to teach with and study under T. B. Larimore in Mars Hill Bible School.  Earl Irvin West noted that both Larimore and Elam “had notable similarities in oratorical powers and in the gentleness of the inner man.”
By the early 1880s Elam had begun to write for the Gospel Advocate and to develop a relationship with David Lipscomb.  By 1901 Elam was on the Board of Directors of the Nashville Bible School (now Lipscomb University) and was the front-page editor of the Gospel Advocate.  From Elam’s association with David Lipscomb came a character of steely resolve. He soon developed a personal slogan, “For Truth and Right, Always the Same.”  Combining Larimore’s gentleness with Lipscomb’s firmness and his own commitment never to be a respecter of persons, Elam became a peacemaker who was often called to help resolve congregational conflicts.
In 1929 F. B. Srygley wrote of this friend, “Brother Elam did more, perhaps, than any other man among us in settling church troubles.  He was sought after far and near to help settle church troubles.  It seems to me that the promise Christ made when he said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers:  for they shall be called the children of God,’ was his; and this promise can be relied upon.  Another passage seems applicable:  ‘Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.’ ”
In 1919 Elam offered insight not only into his way of resolving church conflicts but also into making peace between angry Christians.  In part, he wrote,
Why should I be always confessing the faults of others, telling them and relating to others how unwarranted, uncalled for, inexcusable, unjust, slanderous, and wicked many of their deeds are, and never be able to see and to confess my own sins?
Confess therefore your sins one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed.”  (James 5:16).
The only right way and, therefore, the shortest way out of wrong is to confess it, repent, and seek forgiveness.  Then it has gone forever.
One of my sons when very small ran in crying and told me his brother had struck him.  I seized the opportunity to teach him a lesson which I hoped would benefit him in after life.  So I asked him what he had done to his brother.  He was confessing his brother’s wrong.  He replied to my question that his brother had hurt him by the lick.  I replied, “I do not doubt that,” but pressed my question, “What did you do?”  He answered again by saying:  But he hurt me.”  I replied again:  “I believe all you say:  your brother struck you, he hurt you, he should not have done so, and has done wrong, therefore; but tell me what you did to him.”  Seeing I was fair and just, he said:  “Well, I bit him.”  Then I had both sides, and got them from the one who made the complaint.  Another little fellow at another time came with his waist soaking wet from top to bottom, complaining that a grown boy had “poured a pitcher of water down his neck.”  “What did you do?”  I asked.  “I threw some water on him,” was the reply.  “Were you both playing?” I asked.  “Yes,” was the reply.  “Go, then,” I said, “out on a dry waist, and do not come home crying because the other fellow got the better of the play.”  Just so, grown children in the church come complaining that they have been very badly treated in various ways, but they rarely ever tell what wrongs they have done.  I want to ask: What did you do?
There can never be a quarrel without two quarrelers; there can never be a fight without two fighters.
A man ran in haste down the street.  One met him and asked why such haste.  “I am trying to prevent a fight between two men.”  “Who are they?” was the question.  “I am one,” he said, and ran on.  Suppose church members were so afraid of strife, trouble, and a church fuss that they would run from them?
I have assisted in settling a few very grave church troubles.  At one time two congregations were united when the church had separated and the withdrawing faction had built another house of worship.  This was done by fair and just and frank dealing—by teaching from the word of God each one to confess his own faults.  I have never failed when I could persuade the parties to the trouble to do this.  I have always failed when I could not lead them to do this.  If wrongdoers cannot see their own sins and will not repent of them, troubles can never be adjusted and their souls can never be saved.
Some seem to care no more for God’s teaching on “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” and the things essential to this than some others do for the teaching of the New Testament on baptism, the Lord’s Supper, or against the divorce evil.
Some people seem never to have learned how to say they have done wrong or to beg another’s pardon; and some others seem never to have learned how to grant pardon or to forgive.  They can never “get over” anything.  There is as much grace in granting pardon as is required to ask pardon.
Let us think on these things a while, and the Lord have mercy upon us all.[1]

E. A. Elam, “Was It ‘An Unwarranted,’ ‘Uncalled-For,’ and ‘Inexcusable’ Thing?” Gospel Advocate 61 no. 1 (2 January 1919): 11.