News That Illustrates for Sunday, November 10th and 17th
Warlord Turned Pastor, a Generation of Wimps, and "You're Still Dead"
Hurricane Sandy One Year Later
File this story under "Will we ever learn" or "The power of bad habits" or even "A dog returns to its vomit." USA Today ran an article one year after Superstorm Sandy smashed the East Coast. The article stated, "Surely, 117 deaths and nearly $50 billion in damage should have forced our government to change its behavior." Unfortunately, governments act a lot like us—we don't change even when our actions cause pain to ourselves and others. The article continues: "Yet a year later, federal and state governments continue to make bad decisions and encourage risky rebuilding. The article summarizes the way many of us live our spiritual lives: we keep forging ahead without even bothering to look in the rearview mirror.
PREACHING ANLGES: Change; Repent; Repentance; Self-examination
Liberian Warlord Turned Pastor Seeks Forgiveness from Others
He called himself "General Butt Naked," and stripped himself bare before wading into battle during Liberia's horrific civil war. His real name? Joshua Milton Blahyi, a man responsible for the deaths of 20,000 people. And, repentant now, he is seeking forgiveness from those who survived his cruelty, one by one. During the war, his mix of guerrilla warfare, torture, folk magic, and even cannibalism was cruel, indescribable. Because of legal difficulties, it is likely that he will never be punished for his crimes. The German magazine Der Spiegel recounts an interview with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in which he confesses to recruiting nine-year-old children for his war efforts. Then he trained these children to be ruthless killers. When asked why he volunteered to come to the commission, he simply said, "For my faith. I was told that I should tell the truth, and the truth will set me free." He is now a Christian pastor and evangelist who seeks out his victims, bows to them, and begs forgiveness. He is met with a variety of responses—fear, anger, indifference. His story highlights the pathos of forgiveness. If the man who had murdered your family came to your house, groveling and begging you to forgive him, what would go through your mind? Only the power of Christ could enable forgiveness like that. And that truth can surely set us all free.
PREACHING ANGLES: Forgiveness; Repentance; Resentment
Are We Raising a Generation of Wimps?
Blogger Mark Tapson wonders if we're raising a generation of wimps. Tapson notes that one New Hampshire elementary school has banned the game of tag during recess, because the contact is potentially harmful. "We want them running, we want them jumping and releasing the energy, but just in a safe way," said principal Patricia Beaulieu. A middle school in Port Washington, New York recently banned footballs, soccer balls, baseballs and lacrosse balls on its playgrounds, because those "hard" balls are potentially injurious. "In that same paranoid vein," Tapson writes, "the Postal Service announced it was scrapping a line of stamps depicting children in various forms of play such as skipping rope, walking and jogging, dribbling a basketball, etc. The reason? It received 'concerns' from the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition over apparently 'unsafe' acts shown on three of the stamps … as if youngsters these days even know what a stamp is." Tapson claims that "in our overprotective zeal to create ultra-safe environments" we're raising kids "who will be unable to handle adversity or defend themselves on a personal or national level."
PREACHING ANGLES: Children; Discipleship (counting the cost of); Parenthood; Risk; Trials
"Extreme Clutter" Hampers Fire Crew as House Burns
It's a brief news item, but oh-so-preachable. In a recent Portland, Oregon house fire, "firefighters had trouble accessing the home and difficulty fighting the fire mainly because of the 'extreme amount of clutter' in the home." At last report, firefighters were working to remove the clutter from the burned areas so investigators could get into the home to figure out what caused the fire. Like houses, a clean life is more than just convenient. It could also be the difference—in a crisis—between a close call and destruction. Honest confession of sin provides the opportunity to clean out your stuff now. You don't want people tripping over it in an emergency.
PREACHING ANGLES: Confession; Sin, confession
Judge Declares, "You're Still Legally Dead"
Donald Eugene Miller Jr. can't catch a break. In October 2013 he was declared legally dead—again. In 1994, the court ruled that Miller was legally dead, eight years after he disappeared from his home in Fostoria, Ohio. In 1986, Miller was an alcoholic who was unsure what to do after losing his job. So he disappeared. Along the way, he worked at odd jobs in Atlanta and Florida. By the time he moved back to Fostoria in 2005, he had been declared legally dead. Now Judge Allan Davis ruled that Miller is still dead—in the eyes of the law, anyway. During the court case the judge said, "We've got the obvious here. A man sitting in the courtroom, he appears to be in good health." But the judge said that the three-year limit on the death ruling is clear. "I don't know where that leaves you," Judge Davis told Miller, "but you were deceased as far as the law is concerned." This guy needs the gospel: "You were dead in your trespasses and sins … but Christ made you alive …" (Eph. 2:1-7).
PREACHING ANGLES: Gospel; New life; Spiritual death
Navy Secrets, Prostitutes, and Bribes
Here's a story as old as the Garden of Eden. A Malaysian businessman nicknamed "Fat Leonard" who used his connections to obtain military secrets from a Navy commander, bilking the Navy out of $10 million in just one year in Thailand alone. The Japan Times reports, "The unfolding investigation is shaping up as the biggest fraud case in years for the navy. Federal prosecutors allege that Glenn Defense Marine, which has serviced and supplied navy ships and submarines at ports around the Pacific Ocean for a quarter century, routinely overbilled for everything from tugboats to fuel to sewage disposal." So how did "Fat Leonard" (his real name is Leonard Francis) get the Navy commander to turn over secrets and move Navy vessels "like chess pieces"? Did he use torture or blackmail? No, he did it the old-fashioned way—by appealing to the "lusts of the flesh." Specifically, "Fat Leonard" offered the Commander (or "former Commander") prostitutes, Lady Gaga tickets, luxury hotels, and other bribes. It's a sober reminder of Paul's advice: "Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12).
PREACHING ANGLES: Flesh; Temptation
Real-Time Map of Births and Deaths Puts the World in Perspective
Craving a little perspective on the brevity of life? Here's a God's-eye view of the earth. Check out this real-time map of births and deaths around the world. How many people will die in the next minute? How many will be born? How should these numbers motivate us? Think of each of them as a story, as a unique soul loved infinitely by God.
PREACHING ANGLES: Death; Life, short; Mortality; Salvation, need for