Saturday, November 26, 2016

Future Shock

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,
but only the Father.

-- Matthew 24:36

With Thanksgiving now behind us, a special December event is right around the corner.

No, we don't mean Christmas. Instead it's that day when The National Enquirer publishes its list of predictions for 2017. According to, this much-anticipated annual issue is one of the most successful for the infamous checkout-line tabloid. Why? Let's consider some of The Enquirer's previous prophecies:
  • Good Morning America hostess Joan Lunden will become engaged to NBA star Shaquille O'Neal.
  • Nuclear missiles will be used to break up a giant asteroid found to be hurtling toward Earth.
  • O.J. Simpson will become a minister after confessing during testimony in a civil suit that he killed Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
The National Enquirer's predictions are fun to read, but its accuracy is way off the mark. On the Futureother hand, the prophecies found throughout the Bible are remarkably precise. For example, God promised in the Old Testament that the city of Tyre would be destroyed because of its harsh treatment of Israel. This seemed unlikely because of Tyre's impregnable fortifications. However, the armies of Alexander the Great indeed leveled the city. God also promised to one day re-gather his scattered people from around the globe. For centuries this made no sense because Israel had long been erased from the map. But in a miraculous series of events, the State of Israel was proclaimed shortly after World War II. And thousands of Jews came--and continue to arrive to this day--from distant nations to claim citizenship in their ancestral homeland.

J. Barton Payne's Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy lists more than 1,800 other promises from God in Scripture. And no doubt the Creator's greatest was fulfilled--again, as predicted centuries earlier--through the birth of the world's Savior in an obscure outpost of the Roman Empire. It was then that God came to Earth to live among his people in the person of Jesus. And the Bible's remarkable prophecies don't end there. It's in the Old Testament's Book of Daniel and the New Testament's Book of Revelation that we can read about world events that are unfolding today before our eyes.

In all fairness to The National Enquirer, one or two of their predictions actually have come true, and some of their legitimate cover stories have scooped the so-called Mainstream Media. But its record is still dismal when compared with the Bible, which was inspired by our Creator, who--unlike mankind--already knows the future. Let's consider these fulfilled words of prophesy from the Book of Jeremiah:

"When 70 years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you." 

What does the future hold for us in these uncertain times? We won't find the answer when The National Enquirer hits the newsstands in December. Instead, the truth is as close as our nearest Bible.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

In God We Trust

I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land.

-- Judges 6:9

Here's one for you history buffs and Trivial Pursuit champions: 

What's the official motto of the United States?

Stumped? Chances are that you'll find the answer in your wallet or between your sofa cushions. For more than 140 years, American coins--and later paper money--have featured the inscription PennyIn God We Trust. The U.S. Treasury's website reveals that in 1861 a Pennsylvania minister recommended to Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase that the nation's coins "recognize Almighty God in some form." Chase agreed and instructed the director of the Philadelphia Mint to prepare an appropriate motto.

"No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense," wrote Chase. "The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins."

In God We Trust made its first appearance on the two-cent coin in 1864. How ironic that "Godless" money should declare such an important reminder about the real source of our security. But if we're really honest with ourselves, shouldn't the motto read In GOLD We Trust? After all, when life get tough, it's only natural to depend on paychecks, investments and possessions rather than the One who enables us to make a living. But reliance on our career and the stock market is never wise, particularly in these days of economic, social and political upheaval.

It's an unsettling fact: our bank account is no defense against life's hard realities. Illnesses strike, relationships fail and that which once seemed solid turns to dust in our hands. What we desperately need is something--or Someone--who's utterly dependable, unchangeable and trustworthy.

Jesus paints a vivid picture of this universal quest through his story about a foolish man who built his house on shifting sands. When the storm struck, the rains came and the winds blew with fury. It's no surprise that the flimsy structure collapsed. But a wise man, in comparison, built his house on a foundation of solid rock. So when the winds howled and the storm clouds boiled overhead, that house withstood even the heaviest downpour.

This leads us to an obvious question: Are we counting on our money to save us when life happens? If so, let's switch our confidence to God: the One who knew everything about us before we were even born.

"Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust," we read in Psalms, "who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods."
It's an eternal truth that we can take to the bank!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Pride and Prejudice

Our foolish pride comes from this world, and so do our selfish desires and our desire to have everything we see. None of this comes from the Father.

-- 1 John 2:16

According to Proverbs 16:18, "Pride comes before disaster, and arrogance before a fall." An excellent illustration of this truth comes from the business world. You've probably heard of Microsoft Word, the popular word-processing software found on millions of personal computers and other devices. But what about WordPerfect

Back in the 1980s and early '90s WordPerfect was the dominant word processor until Microsoft introduced its game-changing Windows 95 operating system. WordPerfect, which operated on the old DOS operating system, suddenly became obsolete. And although there were subsequent Windows-based versions of the software, there were also compatibility issues. Microsoft Word eventually overthrew the once-invincible WordPerfect. And in 1996, Norvell--WordPerfect's owner--sold WordPerfect for only 10% of what it had paid just two years earlier.  

The resulting multi-million-dollar loss was, to say Pridethe least, a disturbing reality check for Norvell. Its management of WordPerfect and the employees who created it is a textbook example of blind corporate pride and arrogance. And in much the same way, Christ-followers must also understand that pride can cause untold loss and damage if they overlook it and take their situations for granted.

At pride's root is our love of the world's values rather than our devotion to God. And pride happens to be a disease with some nasty side effects. One symptom is farsightedness. That's because we tend to see it in others but not in ourselves. Our heads then grow and our minds shrink. And eventually, we reach the point where we actually think we're strong and smart enough to do it all--and all while forgetting that God is the only true power and source of our successes. We become arrogant, vain, stubborn and defensive. And we may even develop a strange sense of satisfaction when others (often our closest friends) face difficulties or tragedies in their lives.

These painful symptoms can last for days or even years. But we'll eventually reach the point where God lets us crumble and fall flat after some unforeseen situation or circumstance. It's only when we're struggling helplessly in the debris that we finally regain our senses and return to our Creator.

Like the common cold, we're all bound to catch the pride bug every once in a while. So what's the best way to battle the illness once it's set in? First, the remedy doesn't call for adopting an artificially low self-esteem or a terminal woe-is-me attitude. Instead, we'll heal by replacing deceptive self-confidence with reliable Christ-confidence. The prescription is to always put God first in our lives and remember that we can do nothing without him. Always give God the credit for your blessings and successes. Help others through their struggles. And then remember that God chooses and uses humble people to do great things in the world.

The Bible sums it all up with some solid advice: "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up."

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Conflict of Interest

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

-- Matthew 6:24

What comes to mind when you hear the term conflict of interest? Maybe it's a politician who sponsors legislation without revealing that he or she would gain financially from its passage. Or perhaps it's a prosecutor who's trying a case against a relative.

According to a paper published in the Electronic Journal of Business Ethics and Organizational Studies, such double-dealing extends well beyond the Washington Beltway and the courtroom. In fact, conflicts of interest are all around us--from investment banks to accounting firms to the Pentagon to the media. And it's a costly problem. For example, the consulting firm Marsh & McClennan once lost nearly $12 billion dollars in just a few days after New York's attorney general announced his investigation into the firm's alleged conflict of interest involving price fixing and collusion!

With so much at stake, what's evident Conflict of Interestis the importance of eliminating even the appearance of impropriety in politics, the legal system and the business world. But how about conflicts of interest involving something that's much more important: our spiritual life?

As Christ-followers, we've accepted God's invitation to meet our every need. That covers deeply intimate issues involving our significance, happiness, value and self-worth. And let's not forget our money and possessions. Deep down, too many of us depend on the size of our bank accounts, 401Ks and stock portfolios for security. We struggle for years to build our nest eggs. But even if we make it to the top by the world's standards, this supposed victory turns out to be a worthless idol that gains us nothing once we leave this life.

It's an ancient dilemma. We read in the Old Testament that King Solomon--once the richest and wisest man in the world--had his own problems with divided spiritual loyalties. Rather than depending on God and following his word, Solomon decided to pursue a life of pleasure by accumulating hundreds of wives and concubines. His other futile ventures involved possessions, knowledge and achievements. And what did Solomon learn after his time straying from his Creator?

"Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless."

How about you? Are there conflicts of interest when it comes to your relationships, money and possessions? The fact is that what we do with each paycheck and how we treat others are tests of how we use God's blessings. And as Jesus reminds us, we will one day be rewarded with the opportunity to manage many things. But first, we need to demonstrate that we're faithful with just a few.