March 30, 2011

Reflections on Heaven

C.S. Lewis has an incredible quote to remind us of what awaits in heaven--and how God has perfectly prepared a place for each person who trusts in him alone for salvation. I know I personally do not spend enough time anticipating the joy that is to come in heaven--if I did, my daily life would look different. Mr. Lewis has an incredible knack for taking an everyday object and using it to illustrate a far higher purpose. I hope you enjoy this little object lesson.

So, happy Wednesday!

"The mold in which a key is made would be a strange thing, if you had never seen a key: and the key itself a strange thing if you had never seen a lock. Your soul has a curious shape because it is a hollow made to fit a particular swelling in the infinite contours of the divine substance, or a key to unlock one of the doors in the house with many mansions. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it - made for it, stitch by stitch, as a glove is made for a hand."

March 24, 2011

Haley's the Man!

Why Haley Barbour Is A Serious Republican Presidential Candidate
By Rick Karlgaard

The easiest job in political punditry is to laugh off Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. On the surface, Barbour is almost a caricature of a Southern pol. His delta accent is so thick you might think he was Billy Joe MacAllister jumpin’ off the Tallahatchie Bridge in Bobby Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Joe.”

Mama hollered at the back door

“Y’all remember to wipe your feet.”

Pictures of Barbour show a hog-jowled, self-described “fat redneck” – though in person the newly slimmed Barbour (down 25 pounds) looks more like TV anchorman, Lou Dobbs.

Finally, there is the lobbyist thing. In the decade between his time heading up the Republican National Committee in the 1990s and his current gig as Mississippi’s governor, Barbour made millions representing the two industries most hated by the media – big oil and big tobacco.

All of this led the Weekly Standard’s influential conservative Bill Kristol to call Barbour a “yahoo.” Barbour, you see, is from Yazoo City, Miss. Yazoo City = Yahoo. Very original, Mr. Kristol.

But there are four solid reasons why Barbour could be the Republican sleeper in 2012. Let’s look at them in ascending order.

4. The Republican field, less than 10 months from the 2012 Iowa

caucuses, does not have a front runner yet. Mitt Romney has troubles with evangelicals and small government conservatives. Sarah Palin has squandered her fame (though not her fortune) and now looks unserious.

Mike Huckabee doesn’t want it … the telltale sign is that he has comfortably settled into his old overweight self. Newt Gingrich, though he imagines himself a Churchill in the wilderness, is past his sell date. Tim Pawlenty is trying to be all things to all conservatives but so far he is unable to convey much passion. Some deep part of Mitch Daniels apparently doesn’t want the job. Jeb Bush has the wrong last name. Chris Christie might be too regional.

3. Barbour is easily the most connected of all Republican candidates.

He knows every governor, most legislators, all the fundraisers. He is well-liked.

2. He has performed well as Mississippi’s governor, both during the

Hurricane Katrina crisis and in the everyday governor’s stuff of tamping down the state’s notorious tort bar, balancing budgets and promoting Mississippi as a place to do business. Barbour is, simply, a terrific salesmen for Mississippi’s business community.

1. He is the only Republican candidate who talks about economic

growth as Ronald Reagan would have. When Romney talks about growth, it is in the white-paper language of the Boston private equity swell he used to be. Daniels and Christie have lashed themselves to trimmed budgets, and that’s mostly what they talk about, especially Christie.

Fine as it goes – essential, even – but we don’t hear enough growth talk from either Daniels or Christie.

Last Friday, Forbes columnist Ken Fisher and I had lunch with Barbour at a Silicon Valley event. It was hosted by one of the Valley’s big CEOs. A small group of 30 or so attended, with a mix of recognizable names and up-and-coming entrepreneurs. (I’ve left out the names, because it would imply an endorsement among CEOs who attended mainly to learn more about Barbour. I can say that some were avid Obama supporters in 2008.)

While Washington punditry is quick to see Barbour and his state as backwater (see Kristol, Bill), the CEOs, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs in the crowd took a different view. I talked to two Indian immigrant entrepreneurs who are building solar panel plants in Mississippi, and not just because of Barbour’s salesmanship or tax credits. They liked the complete package of business friendly taxes, regulations, a tamed tort bar, and a good supply of young engineers coming out of Mississippi State in Starkville.

“Are the Mississippi State grads up to your Silicon Valley standards,”

I asked.

“Oh, yes. They are very practical, too.” Translation: Techies who build things other than social networks.

The Republican field for 2012 is wide open because no candidate, until Barbour, has made the consistent, compelling and credible case for economic growth. That case should be easy to make. It is simply this:

All of America’s problems will get worse with 2% or less annual growth.

That’s the growth America had in the first decade of this century.

Actually, it was 1.8%, and sure enough, all of our fiscal problems got worse.

Say it loudly: America must grow at 3.5% or better to have any chance of transcending the fiscal messes, while providing a decent social safety net and securing our safety in a hostile world. That is the plain truth of it.

Reagan, inheriting the Nixon-Ford-Carter malaise, understood this.

There is evidence to believe that Barbour, assessing the Bush-Obama fiscal disasters, gets it, too.

Barbour also gets another thing that is a core truth about American politics. The pro-growth candidate always comes off as the optimist.

And Americans, given a choice, will almost always vote for the optimist.

March 22, 2011

Jesus Calling today

"Rejoice and be thankful! As you walk with Me through this day, practice trusting and thanking Me all along the way. Trust is the channel through which My Peace flows into you. Thankfulness lifts you up above your circumstances.

I do my greatest work through people with grateful, trusting hearts. Rather than planning and evaluating, practice trusting and thanking Me continually. This is a paradigm shift that will revolutionize your life."

What a great message to those of of us who like to plan ahead and wish we knew the timing of the future! God calls us to trust him fully instead of obsessively planning. We are commanded to bring our worries and concerns to him and have the blessing of knowing that He will work it out in his perfect timing--despite what we think is perfect timing.

Can I set an outlook reminder to help me remember this? :)

March 20, 2011

Sacrifice of thanksgiving?

"Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High"
Psalm 50:14

When I think of "sacrificing" something, two different scenarios enter my mind. The first, the Old Testament ritual of animal sacrifice, which was necessary because Jesus had not died on the cross yet. Old Testament believers were commanded to sacrifice animals on behalf of their sin. Once the Lamb of God (Jesus) paid the ultimate sacrifice, this ritual was no longer necessary.

The second time of sacrifice I think of applies directly to our lives today. We sacrifice time to help those in need or we sacrifice money to aid the poor and struggling. To me, sacrifice does not always have a negative connotation. I think that love and sacrifice go hand in hand. For example, my parents sacrificed hours of sleep, money, and valuable hours of their time to raise me. Their unselfish attitudes and personal self sacrifice enabled me to be the person I am today. I have also had the privilege of watching my parents sacrifice for one another out of love--ultimately meaning that they put on another's needs before their own needs. It is a beautiful exchange to witness.

So back to Psalm 50: "Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving." Sarah Young prompts her readers to consider this in Jesus Calling today: "As you bring me the sacrifice of thanksgiving, regardless of your feelings, My Spirit is able to work more freely within you. This produces more thankfulness and more freedom, until you are overflowing with gratitude." I had never considered bringing God the sacrifice of thanksgiving. As humans tend to do, myself included, when we are facing a trial or hardship, we zone in on that and forget to see what the trial is teaching us or what other blessings God is providing us.

God knows this, which is why he has told us in his Word to "give thanks in all circumstances" and bring him the sacrifice of our thankfulness. Being thankful during difficult times and sometimes being thankful in general do not always come naturally, because we are sinful. However, it is our responsibility to keep ourselves in check and be thankful at all times.

I challenge you to try it this week. When you feel frustrated or tired or un-thankful, pray to Jesus and thank him for the circumstance he has given you and see if it does not bring you closer to him.

March 17, 2011

Prayers for Japan

As many of you know, in the summer of 2006, I lived in Perth, Australia and taught ESL (English as a second language) to Japanese and Korean International Students. The missionary family I worked with (Steve and Sarah Young) had spent time in Japan before moving to Australia. In fact, Steve grew up in Japan as his parents were missionaries there.

First Pres’s weekly newsletter contained a letter from a PCA missionary in Japan, Michael Oh. He is the head of Christ Bible Seminary. I wanted to share it with you in hopes that your prayers and thoughts would expand for Japan and that you would see this as an opportrnity to examine your own heart.

Michael writes:

"As you all know, the most powerful earthquake in the history of Japan and the 5th most powerful earthquake recorded in the history of the world rocked the Sendai area on Friday and reverberated throughout Japan and even into Asia. The tsunami even claimed life as far away as a California beach.

"Reports are now coming out that half or more of an entire village of 17,000 people is missing. Many are likely washed out to sea.

"We're thankful that all of our CBI Japan team and Christ Bible Seminary students are safe. None are in the immediate Sendai area where the quake hit hardest. Prayers are going out that Japanese Christians and the church in Japan will rise up to claim its call to be the light of the world in the midst of darkness. Churches and Christians are mobilizing already to respond with the love of Christ to feed and clothe those who have been most hard hit (Matthew 25:38).

"Over the years I've often described our mission in Japan as praying and preparing toward the day of opportunity in Japan. In the back of my mind I've often thought of the possibility of great suffering being a part of the opening of the heart of the great nation of Japan. A massive earthquake or a nuclear missile from North Korea topped the list of possible devastating ways the Lord might awaken that nation that I love. This, perhaps, could be one of the ways the Lord pierces the darkness of Japan with His light (John 1:5).

"Our burden for the Japanese did not start with this earthquake and we hope that your burden for the Japanese will not end as the days pass by.

"Tragedies will continue to occur throughout the world. Friends in Haiti have lamented that many are already forgetting the devastation that that nation experienced and is still experiencing this day. The point will not be to merely keep our focus on the latest terrible events and locations. The point will be to remember that the Lord has called us to pray for, to intercede on behalf of, to ask for (Ps. 2:8), and to go to the nations.

"Japan is the largest unreached nation in the world. In Japan they are reporting upwards of 1100 dead so far. Again, it is very possible that that number will multiply 10 fold. But every 11 days an equal number of Japanese (1100) take their own lives. In hopelessness they turn to suicide.

"Every day is a tragedy in Japan for those without Christ. An exciting thought is that perhaps in these days there are more prayers being prayed for Japan throughout the world than at any time in the history of the world. What purposes could God have both in this tragedy and in the active response of the Church of Jesus Christ? Spurgeon spoke about how oftentimes within God's sovereignty, God moves His people to pray prayers that He desires to answer.

"So please do pray. Pray not only for the physical life and well-being of the Japanese but for their spiritual salvation. And may the prayers of Christians around the world be used not only to bring the comfort of Christ to Japan but also as a prayer tsunami to break the powerful dams of the rock-hard hearts of the Japanese.

"And please do give to respond to this tragedy. Gospel ministries in the Sendai area will take months, even years to recover. I heard from Churches Helping Churches that they are seriously considering giving aid to rebuild churches and ministries in Japan. Please ask them to do so, and please give. Our MTW Chiba team (mtw.org) is already mobilizing trucks and food to bring to the hardest hit areas. These efforts come at a dear financial cost.

"And please give to respond to the every day tragedy in Japan. The greatest need for Japan now and before this tragedy is for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Japan is often described as the most difficult mission field in the world. What a day of opportunity this is for the Gospel! Won't you respond by supporting mission work, spiritual relief work in Japan?....

"And please do consider your own life. Is your heart and your life right with your Maker? Are there unreconciled relationships in your life? Do you need to seek forgiveness from someone? Have you a need to repent of particular sin in your life? Have you held something in your life back from the Lord? Do you need to share the life-giving Gospel with someone you love? Or hate? Your life is but a vapor (James 4:14) that at any moment can vanish from this earth. Why live life as if you will live here on earth forever? Why live life as if your life were your own?

"Serve God's eternal purposes and your life will be the best response to the every day tragedy of this fallen world and the every day opportunity to bring glory to the worthy name of Jesus."