Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Thoughts on "The Book."

In 1986 I completely dedicated my life to Christ. I was so blown away that God would want anything to do with a guy like me that I signed up for the full ride. I dedicated my life’s work to furthering the Gospel, advancing the Kingdom and generally trying to be useful somehow. Consequently, I became a Bible thumper.

Now I wasn’t always like that. There was a day when the Bible looked more like a Chinese tech manual than anything actually worth reading. Stephen King had taught me how to read giant novels. I’ve been blessed with a good reading aptitude so I didn’t think reading the bible would be any problem. It wasn’t that easy.

Carrying My Security Bible
Volunteering for an outreach ministry in Dallas, a friend suggested that reading the Bible could “save my life”. I had no idea what he was talking about. Less than a week later I went to a James Roberson convention in downtown Dallas and survived an attempted robbery in the parking lot by slamming my King James up side the head of the perpetrator.
I was only 19. Sitting in the nosebleed section of the Dallas Convention Center I looked at my bible and thought, “This thing really CAN save your life”.

I started taking it with me everywhere I went. I struggled through the “thee’s” and “thou’s”. I learned to focus on the red letters. I began to comb through the Commentary and Biblical history books. Slowly, the light began to come on.

It’s not the black ink on the white pages. Its not the actual book itself but rather what the book testifies of. I am amazed at what happens when “the book” gets into the hands of the average Joe.

This book combined with the power of the Holy Spirit, changes lives, families, lifestyles, society, nations and entire generations.

There Goes The Neighborhood
The Bible transformed the entire world when the early Christians startled the pagan world of Rome by their unselfish love and caring for the poor, the sick and the hopeless. The Romans didn’t know what to do with this bunch, so they tried to snuff them out.

Despite the overwhelming wealth of the Roman Empire, Historians have not found one single example that these societies had a single hospital, housing for the poor, orphanage, or old folks home. There were not even universities for the masses. This great example of worldly civilization didn’t give a rip about the betterment of others until people with the book showed up.

The Egyptian empire, the Babylonian empire and the Syrian empire were the same way. Nations never had any of these things until the Bible got into the hands of common people.

The Greeks and the Spartans prided themselves on the being the “light of advancing wisdom and higher thought.” These same people threw infants off of cliffs for having birthmarks.

The idea of taking on the cause of the betterment of ordinary people didn’t show up until the idea of equality showed up. The value of life and the cause of the helpless are Biblical principles. The dark ages and the atrocities of that time didn’t end until the common European had access the Bible in his common language. Hundreds of thousands died during the 1500’s so the average Joe could get his hands on the book.

Say Uncle
One person that stood up for his faith and conscience during that terrible time was my ancestral Uncle, Robert Farrar. We recently discovered that his family was an important part of the modern Brewer bunch. He was a Bishop of St David’s and Protestant martyr that was burned at the stake in London in 1555. He wanted people to have access to what was written about in the book.

Ironically, somebody was quoting the Bible wile they set him on fire. I know that some of the meanest people on earth have thumped their bibles while living hate-filled lives. I also know this; people that study the Bible either allow it to change them and they become world changers, or they remain the same and use the Bible to somehow support their evil agenda.

Loving the Author
This tells me that the book is not enough. There have been and still are today, people that love that book but do not love the Lord the book is testifying of. There are people that love to study the track but do not care a bit about the foot that actually made the track.

The Bible is awesome because Jesus is awesome. As soon as we get away from that, we get into big trouble.

“I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given man. All the good from the Savior of the world, is communicated through the book.”
Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Leap Of Faith

When the sun finally came up it proved to be a beautiful Tuesday morning. Cool fall air and not a cloud in the sky. The morning commute to downtown Manhattan seemed a little more pleasant than usual. Jonathan Briley walked into the World Trade Center that fateful day looking up as always. I think about him.

The son of a Baptist Pastor, Jonathan grew up working on his daddy’s P.A. system. His interest in music and speaking eventually landed him a job at the famed restaurant Windows of the World as the sound engineer. Anytime there was a conference or a celebration, it was Jonathan’s job to set up and run the sound equipment.

On September 11th, 2001, the restaurant was holding a breakfast for 16 members of the Waters Financial Technology Congress, and 71 other guests. It was a day Jonathan had to be there early. About 20 minutes after he arrived, American Airlines flight 11 slammed into the North Tower just a few stories beneath him.

Eating in that same restaurant was Alayne Gentul, 44, a senior vice-president of the Fiduciary Trust and mother of two. As the room began to fill up with smoke she called her husband.

“Smoke is coming in from everywhere, Jack.” She labored to tell her husband. “Guys are breaking the windows.”

“Honey, go to the stairs and get out of there.”

“We can’t,” she responded, “it’s too hot in the stairs. Like an oven.”

Cameras and History
So many terrible things happened that day we will not forget. Some, we will want to.
As the estimated 1000 people trapped on floors 100 through 107 began trying to move away from the inferno, New Yorkers looked up with their hands over their mouths.

A photojournalist named Richard Drew, lived close to the towers. Richard was already no stranger to history. He had been one of only four photographers in the room when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated nearly forty years earlier.

At 9:41 am, 56 minutes after the ordeal had started; Richard pointed his I-lens upward and caught a man falling. He took 12 pictures of Jonathan Briley as he plunged 1300 feet to Church Street below.

The Falling Man
It’s believed that Jonathan is the famous “falling man”. The picture seen by millions throughout the world, of a person headed straight down completely vertical, almost casual.

His arms are by his side; his left leg is bent at the knee, and his white jacket billowing free against black pants. In the one famous picture he perfectly splits the towers. The north tower is to his left and the south tower to his right. Its an amazing photograph and one most of wish we hadn’t seen.

Jonathan was asthmatic and the toxic fumes forced him outside for almost an hour before he took flight. I think he thought it better to die flying then to die choking. In a place where every option had been taken away from him he somehow mustered the courage to step out of the heat and into the hands of God.

In one of many interviews, Jonathan's elder sister, Gwendolyn, says: “When I first looked at the picture... and I saw it was a man like him, tall and slim, I said, ‘If I didn't know any better, that could be Jonathan.’

When asked if his apparent jumping collided with their Christian theology she said something I think is quite brilliant. “Let me tell you how much Jonathan loved God. He trusted him so much that he jumped 105 stories expecting God to catch him.” To Gwendolyn there was victory for her brother even in this tragedy…. especially in this tragedy.

No matter what terrible thing we are facing today, it pales compared to what Jonathan faced. Whatever tough decisions, I hope we have the courage to trust God when nothing else makes since. Jonathan Briley and his sister Gwendolyn preach to me. They help me.

I believe the next time we see Jonathan; he won’t be falling at all…he’ll be risen. Now that’s a picture I want to see.

1 Corinthians 15:54
“So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Facing Your Torpedoes!

Old Salamander
During the War of 1812, a ship called the Essex sailed to South America, where the precocious David Glasgow Farragut took a captured British ship into Santiago, Chile. His ship was defeated and sank after a cannon blast. He didn’t much care for his ship going down but he sure loved the Navy. 49 years later at the start of the Civil War, Farragut was now a 60-year-old naval Captain living in Virginia. A Southerner by birth, Farragut nonetheless pledged his allegiance to the Union and was given command of a heavy fleet. His orders were to open the Mississippi by taking New Orleans, which he did, and was made the first Rear Admiral in U.S. Naval history. He ran his ships into terrible cannon fire, survived and became known as "Old Salamander." A naval term of endearment for the crusty Admiral.

Sixteen months later, he took the last Confederate stronghold on the Gulf of Mexico in the battle of Mobile Bay. Ready to end the battle, he charged the heavily guarded bay entrance even though it was loaded with mines, then known as torpedoes. When they spotted the deadly explosives, Farragut pointed his saber towards the enemy and cried, "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” The stuff of legends.

Heart Breakers
114 years later a Florida boy living in Los Angeles was trying to think of a good title for his latest recording project. It was not a good year for Tom Petty but things were about to get better. The pressure of the music business was getting to him. His Label ABC Records tried to sell his contract to MCA records without Tom and the Heartbreakers even knowing about it. He was angry at the whole system. He was defiant. He decided to go forward anyway, refusing to be victimized. The band pushed forward through every thing that threatened them and recorded a classic which he titled “Damn the Torpedoes!”

It was in that kind of mood; a mood that said, “things might blow up, but I’m going forward,” that Tom and fellow Heartbreaker Mike Campbell wrote a smash hit titled “Refugee.” It’s a song about refusing to lay in defeat and going full steam ahead.

“Somewhere, somehow somebody must have kicked you around someTell me why you wanna lay there and revel in your abandon.Listen, it don't make no difference to me. Everybody's got to fight to be freeYou see, you don't have to live like a refugee.”

Safe Havens
A refugee is somebody that doesn’t have a refuge, a sanctuary or a shelter. Refugees struggle to survive because they don’t have a place of protection.

Miraculous survivor stories tend to have something in common, a place of refuge.

A Japanese businessman survived the Hiroshima blast because he was working in a bank vault. An Indonesian woman survived 5 days at sea after the tsunami carried here away from her family. She did so by clutching a palm tree in the Indian Ocean and eating the fruit and bark of the tree she held on to. Don’t you just love a good survival story?
So does God.

God knows the importance of refuge. He doesn’t offer to build you one; He offers to be your refuge. In Psalms 57:1 David writes, “Be merciful to me oh God. For my soul trusts in you: And in the shadow of your wings I will make my refuge.”

Max Lucado, in his Thomas Nelson book, “Facing Your Giants” says it a lot better than I could. “Make God your refuge. Not your job, your spouse, your reputation, or your retirement account. Make God your refuge. Let Him, not Saul, encircle you. Let Him be the ceiling that breaks the beating sun, the walls that stop the wind, the foundation on which you stand”

Tom Petty says you don’t have to live like a refugee. Jesus says, “Come to me…”

Proverbs 18:10
“The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.”

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