Friday, November 20, 2015

"What Is Safe?" by Frank Black


(F. Black 11/22/15)


        The above was the title to one of the best talks I have ever heard.  Dr. David Thompson, a life-long medical missionary in Africa, gave this inspiring message at the Global Missions Conference about a decade ago.  His point was that we are safe nowhere in our world today.  [Remember that his talk predated all our current world crises.].  He reminded us that our earthly life is temporary and our eternal home is with God [our ultimate source of safety].  Dr. Thompson’s talk came at a time when he and his wife were preparing to return to Africa.  He also knew quite personally what he was talking about.  Both his parents, missionaries in Viet Nam, were killed during the Tet offensive. His father-in-law, a missionary in Cambodia, was taken away by soldiers and never seen again. 


        So what about today?  Are we really safe anywhere?  The answer is a resounding “NO”!  Of course we exert due caution, but none of us is safe or immune to tragedy or terrorists.  The recent events of mass killings with ISIS bringing down a plane and their horrific Paris attacks show quite starkly that no one is safe.  So, do we cover our heads, retreat, and hide in fear?  Another resounding NO!  We must remember that the forces of evil are prevalent and ever present, but that our God is greater! 


        But I do think that the USA needs a “reality check”.  Something to shake us up, so that we again can see what is really important.  Here we are in a nation of surplus and wealth – a nation where much of the world would like to live.  I’ve known many well educated African people, and virtually all of them have as their number one dream to come and live in America.  But it seems that many USA nationals have grown complacent with our wealth.  It’s taken for granted.  So we see too many people self absorbed, immature, and overly concerned about being “PC”, name calling, feeling entitled, feeling like the ‘victim’, others being ‘intolerant’ of or ‘offending’ them - just add in the current fad or trend.  Frankly, much of this behavior is sinful – not what Jesus would have us be or do.


        So, what do I mean by a “REALITY CHECK”?  I mean something worthy of being really distressed about – not like much of the piddly stuff of today. Something like not enough food.  Most Americans today cannot conceive of such a thing – real hunger and when it’s virtually impossible to get food.  I’ve used the phrase before, but we Americans have the “Blessing of Location”  as opposed to being the Victim of Location.”  

I’ll let the words of Janice Bingham speak for themselves.  She’s our dear friend and co-worker, a nurse practitioner, who has been in Zambia with Harding University students this semester:


        “The Southern province of Zambia has experienced a significant drought.  Only about 1 out of 10 crops produced anything during the last harvest.   [One characteristic of Third World is that they have no stock or storage set aside for such disasters].  We hear of so many people suffering. So one Friday we loaded up several large sacks of corn meal and bags of beans and headed down some rough, dusty roads.  Most of the people we encountered were the elderly – weak and malnourished.  In the African culture it is the responsibility of the children to care for their aging parents, but many of the younger generation have died of AIDS, thus leaving many “elder orphans”, older people with no one to care for them.  One older woman, unable to walk due to extreme weakness, had come to meet us by traveling in an ox cart.  We came to a hut occupied by a man with polio – unable to walk because of atrophied and contracted legs. There was no family to help care for him.  He thanked us over and over for remembering him in his time of need. There was hardly a dry eye in the group as we drove away.  //  The next day we again came face to face with people in desperate need.  We went to a church where the people were told to meet us.  When we pulled in, a crowd of women came running out singing, clapping, and overwhelmed us with their welcome.  [In the Third World it’s the women who always come first – whether to church, to see a doctor, or to get food].  We had brought twenty 25kg bags of corn meal – one problem:  60 people were there.  Everyone got a portion.  As we sat on the bricks in the tiny church building, I had to wonder yet again, why did God chose to bless us?  ‘I don’t know.’ Now we know at least something of the plight of the poor, and I pray that these students will be motivated to dedicate their lives in service to the poor and down-trodden of this world. It is definitely what Jesus would do.”


In another letter from Janice she told me of an African man who cried [most unusual] because the Clinic had none of the heart medicine he so desperately needed.  Can you even imagine such a thing in America – not being able to get the medicine you needed.  She told of another teenager with severe rheumatic heart disease and heart failure, who desperately needed heart surgery in order to survive much longer.  Not possible there!!

I know I’m “preaching to the choir”, but let us keep our priorities in order and count our blessings and remember, “What Is Safe?”

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Peace and a Red Coffee Cup by Mike DeCamp

Last year, when Kent Brantly said that he felt a “sense of peace” when he was first advised of the diagnosis of having Ebola himself, I think I sort of scratched my head and wondered how in the world that could even be possible.  How can a man get a death sentence—a sentence to die a horrifying, miserable death—and somehow be at peace?  I think I was a little in awe of him.  I was in awe of his faith that could provide him that peace.

As if this was somehow his own doing.

Anxiousness can be debilitating.  It can lock us up so that we can barely function.  It can cause us emotional, spiritual, and physical distress.  We can literally get ill from worry.  These days, it seems that potential sources of anxiety are hitting us from all sides.  Politics.  Elections.  Culture.  Terrorism.  Wars.  The color of coffee cups.

How do we find that sense of peace?

Would it help us if a certain coffee company printed “Peace on Earth” on the sides of their cups?  I doubt it.

Two things happened this week that have helped me better understand this whole “sense of peace” thing.

First, I was part of a meeting and discussion the other day that had the potential to be quite intense and I was very concerned, both about the way it would transpire and the outcome at the end.  This anxiety even affected the quality of how I slept the night before.  Frankly, despite my  best attempt to be faithful, I was worried about it.  Prior to the meeting, I did a little praying.  I asked God to help, and you know what?  All of the sudden, I was at peace about it.  I can’t explain it.  I just was.  Not only that, but the meeting actually went off very well.
I think it was a God thing.

Second, I related the following story about my dad to some friends as we discussed Veterans Day.
Ralph DeCamp is the first man on the left.
In World War Two, my dad served in the Army Air Corps.  He was a crewman on a B26 Martin Marauder flying out of North Africa and the Mediterranean.  He wasn’t a kid.  Rather, he was a man in his early thirties.  He didn’t tell me many stories from the war, only a handful.  One stands out, though.  He said that on his very first combat mission, he was scared to death—literally terrified.  I got the sense that he was nearly frozen with fear.  If you need help to understand why, try watching those scenes from the mini-series “Band of Brothers” where they were flying over Normandy to drop the paratroopers for D-Day.  That will give you an idea of what he was facing.  Anyway, as he struggled with his tremendous sense of terror, he prayed.

 “God,” he said, “please take away my fear.” 

My father told me that at that point, a sense of peace came over him.  He couldn't explain it.  It just happened.  As a result, not only could he fly with his crew and do his job, but when his own crew was idle, he began to fill in with other crews.  When men would find a reason to avoid a planned mission, he would volunteer to fly in their place.  He reached the required number of missions to be sent home long before the other men on his own crew, but instead of leaving them behind for the safety of home, he stayed.  He wouldn’t leave until they all could leave.  I have a document provided by a commanding officer that lists his missions--over seventy.  

Then he came home.

I used to be in awe of my father’s faith.  The faith that allowed him to be so brave.  Like he had something to do with it.

I’m proud of him, of that there is no doubt, and it was his faith that spurred my own.  However, this wasn’t about my dad.  It was a God thing.

Consider Philippians 4: 6-7....

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and you minds in Christ Jesus.

We may not know the answers, but God can still give us peace.  We may not understand where it comes from or how it even works, but God can put our hearts at rest.

So, let me just encourage you to turn to God the next time you’re feeling anxious.  If you’re worried about a test.  If you’re concerned about an election.  If you are bothered by the direction of our society.  If you’re frightened by world events.  Give it to God.

He’s got this.

Now, after all this, if you want to talk, I’m available.  If you need an ear to hear you, I’ve got a couple of them.  Give me a call.  I’d be glad to meet you at Starbucks for a cup of coffee.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Fresh Start by Clint Davis

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A Fresh Start

By Clint Davis


Jeff Walling tells the story from several years back when he was having some problems with his computer.   He had tried everything to get the problem resolved, but nothing worked so he had to call telephone tech support from the place where he bought the computer.  The person was very helpful, but after trying numerous fixes nothing worked.  And that is when the person said I think we are going to need to re-install your operating system.   Those are never the words you want to hear because that means you have to strip everything off the computer and start all over.  It is the only way to get a “fresh start”. 

At times, there are things that I don’t want to deal with that I must deal with in order to get a fresh start in my life.  Sometimes I want to just press a button.  I want to find the Staples “EASY” button to press and suddenly my problem is solved or my life will be different, but it does not work that way. 

From the start of creation, humanity started corrupting itself with the virus of SIN.  Our natural reaction when we do something wrong has not changed.  Our first reaction is to cover-up because we do not want someone to see the “real me”.  We want to hide it.  If we make a mistake or have an accident our reaction is to run away and hide. 

I remember several years back, Karen and I were getting ready to head out on a short vacation to Mexico.  We were in the airport terminal and my phone rang.   It was Chandelle.  She had been in a parking garage and hit a parked vehicle; actually she had ripped the bumper off the parked car.  She was not sure what to do.  I have to be completely honest and say that my first thought was to tell her to take off and not tell anyone.  But that was not the right thing to do.  We talked and I told her to leave a note to have the person give me a call so we could pay for the damage.  She did, and the person called me and we paid for the damage.

How do we get a fresh start when we have made a mess, when we have made a mistake, when we have sinned?

We have to realize, that we cannot fix it. Covering it up will not fix it and lying about it will not fix it.  Running away from it and rationalizing it will not fix it.  It can only be fixed by God.  In Jesus, God gave us a new beginning, a fresh install.  We just need the courage to accept it from Him.

I think it was Bob Herndon that gave an analogy that trying to cover up your sin is like being in a swimming pool with several balls where you are constantly trying to keep them all under water at the same time so they cannot be seen.  It can never last and you grow weary.

Psalm 32 describes a new beginning and fresh start for David.  It starts painfully….Blessed is the man in whose spirit there is no deceit.  The picture here is that a person has to carry around their deceit/ sin like a bag around their neck for all to see.  David tried to carry his deceit and not let it be known, and the passage says his bones wasted away from his groaning all day long.  Carrying the burden of his sin wore him out.  David kept trying to cover up his adultery with Bathsheba to the point that he literally committed murder for having Uriah purposefully killed in battle.  But God sent Nathan to convict him of his sin and David confessed his sin to the Lord and God “forgave the guilt of his sin”.  David tried something else; he acknowledged his sin to God and did not cover up his iniquity.

To have a fresh start today, have the courage to accept the gift of God’s grace.  God will forgive you and his grace will lead you to different life choices.

Stop running and lying and covering and hiding and say to the Lord this is who I am….please forgive me.

Titus 3: He saved us because of His mercy…He saved us through the washing of rebirth and the renewal of His Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ our Savior. He saved us because of His grace.