AIR FORCE, Part 2

Angels do not originate any plans; they carry out God’s. They do not marry, nor do they procreate. The Apostle Paul says, “In him (Christ) all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities…” (Col. 1:16). God’s creation includes a realm on earth where visible beings exist and a heavenly sphere invisible to us. Angels appear to have ranks, just as armies do. The book of Daniel tells us that the archangel Michael (“Who is like God?”) serves as the prince of Israel, overseeing its affairs and standing in defiance of powers arrayed against it.

Satan, formerly Lucifer, apparently chief-of-staff in Yahweh’s army, imitated God’s pattern of government when he was thrown out of heaven. There exists a great ongoing cosmic conflict, not star wars, but angel wars, not World War III but a titanic struggle of far greater magnitude and with much more at stake—the armies of heaven and hell in constant battle over the lives of people on earth, the planet visited by a Babe. St. Paul tells us mortals that “we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Destinies of nations are not settled ultimately in legislative assemblies or on thrones or in an oval office but in heavenly places.

Heaven was never more excited than with the birth of God’s Son. Now they wait for the next big day, the return and the marriage of that Son, the desire of the ages, the Beloved. They are not given the full picture. They love probing the depths of the Gospel to find further clues of God outrageous love for humans (I Pe. 1:12). They will never call God Father as the redeemed are privileged to. Jesus did not become an angel. He was born into the race of humans to rescue us from the clutches of an angel once close to God. The Child came, according to John, “to destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3:8).

Gabriel (“God is my strength”) appeared to Mary in Nazareth to announce how God was going to use her to activate this plan. The visit proved more pleasant than the one five months before in Judea with a doubting priest. An unnamed angel appeared to Joseph in a dream to give him the go-ahead with his betrothed. The star that led the wise men to the Child could very well have been an angel ((Jude 13, Rev 1:16, Rev. 9:1, 12:4). When they left, “an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream” to save Jesus from the slaughter of infants by Herod. When he died, an angel guided the family back to Israel. And yet another dream (and perhaps an angel) warned Joseph not to live in Judea. How remarkable are these servants of God, who figure often in stories surrounding births, and especially in the birth of the ages. How reverently they carry out the will of the Most High God. 9-1-1 prayers are often answered by angels.

The mysterious invisible realm is no less real than the visible realm. Ceaseless activity of good and evil surrounds us and is only apprehended through eyes of faith. We focus on what they focus on, the God of glory and the Lamb! May we join them this beautiful Advent season in giving praise to the Child of Bethlehem, the Savior of the world, and may we, like these ministering spirits, serve as dutifully and as accurately as they. And maybe you, like the servant of Elisha, will sometime have your eyes opened to see one of them!

AIR FORCE, Part 1

“I only know the names of two angels. Hark and Harold.” Gregory, 5
“Angels talk all the way while they’re flying you up to heaven. The basic message is where you went wrong before you got dead.” Daniel, 9
“Everybody’s got it all wrong. Angels don’t wear halos anymore. I forget why but scientists are working on it. Olive, 9

“Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive.” Superman? No, angels!

They show up at Christmas in our songs and Sunday School plays. Our first encounter–the annual Sunday School Christmas pageant. Our vocabulary is sprinkled with angel talk: angel food cake, angel’s hair, angel’s dust, angel fish, the City of the Angels, the California Angels. 275 Bible references suggest their importance. We need to brush up on our angelology!

These superhuman beings, glorious and terrible, share God’s joy when sinners repent and wipe out a third of the earth’s population near the end of time. They join with the archangel Michael in warring with the dragon and his angels.

Not bound by time or space as earthbound creatures, one moment before the throne, the next moment announcing the birth of God’s Son, traveling faster than the speed of light. Are they omnipresent? No, but they can get from here to there quicker than we can. Are they all-knowing? No, but they know many things we don’t. They are the army of God. Scripture says that when the announcement to the shepherds was finished, “a great company of the heavenly host appeared” in a chorus of praise (Luke 2:13). The word “host” means “army.” The “Lord of hosts” is the Lord of the heavenly army.

If heaven includes an innumerable company, any one of which could clean up the United States in seconds, you begin to appreciate the awesome power of these amazing creatures—hardly the Christmas pageant variety. One can also understand that when an angel appeared to Zechariah, “he was startled and was gripped with fear” (Luke 1:12). We have emasculated these glorious creatures, genderless but not powerless.

These immortal beings serve God and help in the administration of His universe.They figure prominently in the Old Testament, often as instruments of judgment. They destroyed Sodom and rescued Lot. An angel led Israel through the wilderness and gave them the law. One angel smote the Assyrian army of 185,000 soldiers. An angel saved Daniel from the lions. God allowed Elisha to see a mighty, invisible host of fighters. Angels paid visits to Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, David, Elijah, Zechariah, Joseph, Mary and Peter.

Angels appeared to Jesus at important points. He spoke often about them, indicating that little children have guardian angels (maybe adults, too), that angels cannot die, that they will separate the righteous from the wicked on the final day.

They play a prominent role in the last book. They dictated the letter to John. An angel is used in answering the prayers of the saints. An angel will bind Satan near the end of history. These servants of God will return with Jesus in flaming fire. Hell will be populated to a large extend by the devil and his fallen angels, as heaven is inhabited by an innumerable host of angels. (Part 2 in three days).

6 THINGS DEPRESSED PEOPLE CAN DO!

Please share this if you know someone who is. Please try these things if you are. Depression creates passivity. Activity helps to keep the mind focused. Depression tires the mind, so passivity is a major threat. Other components like counseling are essential, but the depressed person is the key to the healing process. You need to take ownership for your healing, even if you think that is not possible. Try going for it! Your cooperation will enhance the healing process.

A distraught father once came to Jesus with the request to heal his son, saying “If you can do anything, have pity on us and help us” (Mark 9:22). Jesus didn’t say, “Yes, I will do it.” He put the ball back in the father’s court. He said, “If you can! All things are possible to him who believes” (23). He wanted the father to take responsibility for the healing. Fate says, “Whatever will be will be.” Faith changes what will be. So will you.

SPEAK IN TONGUES.
Speaking in tongues can help cure depression if done enough. Scriptures says that “he who speaks in tongues edifies himself” (I Cor. 14:5). No one needs more encouragement than depressed people. It happens when we speak in tongues, not because we sense we are feeling better, but because God promises it. Do it in faith. If you try for five minutes and nothing happens emotionally, don’t give up. Go for an hour if you can. It is touching you deeper than your emotions. Healing is on the way. How long you speak in tongues depends upon how much you want to be built up.

SPEAK TRUTH TO YOURSELF.
During a time of depression my last year at seminary, I carried a piece of paper in my pocket with five statements:
I am free in Christ.
There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Nothing will separate me from the love of God.
Great is He who is in me than he who is in the world.
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Truth confessed works itself into our subconscious. Depression often means that our subconscious works against us. We need to feed it the truth, even if we don’t feel any different. Depression is a powerful negative tool. It took two world-class leaders out of the game–Elijah and John the Baptist. It isolated them and gave them doubts about their future.

EXERCISE.
The body houses the spirit. A healthy body enhances health in the spirit, and vice versa. “A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). Depressed people sleep more and exercise less. Makes it harder to heal. Go for a run or a walk; do some sit-ups while you speak in tongues. It is a bigger part of healing than you realize.

STAY IN TOUCH.
Depressed people self-exclude. John the Baptist was behind bars when depression took him out. Elijah ran south, and he had suicidal and bizarre thoughts, like, “I’m the only one left.” God told him to go back and mentor Elisha. People need people. Don’t crawl in a hole if you can help it.

MEMORIZE SCRIPTURE.
“Thy word is truth.” Truth sets free; lies imprison. Depressed people are bombarded by lies. The defense Jesus used against Satan was, “It is written.” For many years I carried the Scripture with me on 3 x 5 cards. You’d be surprised how many free moments we have in a day. Fortify yourself in the truth. It works when done for weeks, not just days. Hey, good to do even if you’re not depressed!

LISTEN TO WORSHIP MUSIC.
Satan wants to fill your mind with doubts and discouragement. You can fill it with praise! What you do does impact how you feel, if not immediately, eventually!

DEVELOPING GRATITUDE

DEVELOPING GRATITUDE

What if…
…you thanked God when tested—and He turned it into a testimony?
…you thanked parents for what they gave and forgave them for what they didn’t?
…couples tossed expectations and chose gratitude?
…you changed your environment with gratitude and started an epidemic?
…you shed your whining, developed gratitude—and found it fun?

A STORY ABOUT GRATITUDE
“Now on his way to Jerusalem…” (Luke 17:11). Jesus had set His face for the showdown. What could slow Him down? Ten lepers. His last miracle in this region. Those who said, “Next time,” lost their chance.

Outcasts in every way, they didn’t dare get close. They knew the rules and cried out: “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.”

One command changed their lives: “Go show yourselves to the priests.” “And as they went, they were cleansed.” Priests were the Department of Health. They needed to act in faith for God to act. It often works that way. They went—it happened. One returned, while nine kept going: “That’s what He said to do.”
“I know, but don’t you want to say, ‘Thank you?’”

That guy was a Samaritan, the least likely to return to a Jew. Jesus asked three questions: “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

Jesus expected people touched by love to show gratitude. Saying, “But He told me to go to the priest” doesn’t settle the issue. Who is Jesus waiting for you to thank—parents, a teacher, coach, neighbor, relative, policeman, Holy Spirit?

INGRATITUDE IS SERIOUS
It doesn’t go unnoticed in heaven. It disconnects us from Jesus. While gratitude sets us up for a miracle, ingratitude closes us off. It suggests entitlement. The elder brother said, “You never gave me a kid so that I might make merry with my friends” (Luke 15:29). The last days will highlight ingratitude (2 Tim. 3:2). Don’t you!

Ingratitude sets you on a path toward perversion: “Although they knew God they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21).

On the other hand…

GRATITUDE IS CONTAGIOUS
Thankful people are fun. They exude a radiant countenance. Gratitude allows you to receive grace from heaven, because you don’t feel like you deserve it. Think prodigal. Gratitude connects you to the people for whom you express appreciation. If you want to grow relationships, develop gratitude. Works every time.

Far better to join the Samaritan who returned than the presumptuous group who just kept walking.

You are most likely a grateful person. As you read, you may think of areas where you can walk in greater gratitude. Suggestion: try “thank-you” in difficult times and wait for miracles—when you’re being tested, when temptation presses in, when irritation is rising, when pressures at work escalate, when tension at home mounts, when conflict in relationships bring extra tension. Thanksgiving shows that your God overturns evil with good. Hardship either discourages us or forces us to upgrade our confidence in the sovereignty of God.

YOU KNOW YOU HAVE A GRATEFUL HEART IF…
…your prayers sometime don’t get beyond thanksgiving.
…you often reflect on those who have impacted your life.
…you manage to give thanks in the midst of pain.
…you can only stand in awe of a God who has been so kind and faithful to you.

GRATITUDE INVENTORY

Suggestion: print & use for your Thanksgiving time together. Happy Thanksgiving!

• Have I expressed thanks to my mother and father?
• Have I thanked any teachers who made a positive contribution to my life?
• Have I thanked coaches, pastors, siblings, people who serve me, like mail carriers?
• Do I give thanks in the midst of difficult circumstances?
• Do I resist temptations to complain because my situation is not better?
• Have I chosen to give thanks rather than hold onto a wound?
• Do I give thanks instead of expect others to wait on me?
• Am I content with what I have or do I deserve more?
• Do I have a distorted picture of God that keeps me from thanking Him?
(The elder brother was angry and could not receive from his father).
• Have I chosen as an act of the will to be thankful rather than waiting for proof?
• Do I need to receive more before I will have a heart of gratitude?
• Would people close to me say that I have an attitude of gratitude?
• Has gratitude turned to skepticism because things turned out differently than expected?
• Am I generous with my money? Generous people are thankful (2 Cor.9:10); ungrateful people are stingy.
• Am I a happy? Grateful people are (Ps. 92:5).
• Do I live in the peace of God? Gratitude keeps me there (Phil. 4:6,7).
• Do I recognize that God’s in charge? If so, I’ll be thankful (Ps. 97:1).
• Is life for me a matter of giving? “Thanks—giving” means both thanks and giving?
• Will I fit with the atmosphere of heaven, full of thank-you’s? (Rev. 7:12).
• Do I struggle with lust? Thanksgiving guards against sin that takes from others.
• Do I live close to Jesus who has a thankful heart? (Matt. 15:26, Jn 11:41,Lk 10:21f).
• Do I express gratitude every day? (David appointed the Levites to give thanks twice daily: I Chr. 16:4, I Chr. 23:30).
• Do I thank God in hard times, knowing He will bring good out of bad?
• Am I able to thank God when my security is threatened? (Dan. 6:10).
• Am I thankful for people God has connected me to? Paul gave thanks for people he wrote to.
• Have I thanked God for healing & health? (“Where are the nine?” Luke 17:17).
• Have I grown self-indulgent? (They are “lovers of themselves, lovers of money.. ungrateful, unholy…” 2 Tim. 3:2).
• Am I thankful for God’s truth? (“At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws.” Ps. 119:62).
• Am I thankful for food ? (Acts 27:35; Ro. 14:6; I Tim. 4:3).
• Am I thankful that God is gracious? (I Cor. 1:4).
• Am I thankful for deliverance from death, even though I wasn’t aware that it was happening? (Angels attend to us and keep us from harm).
• Am I thankful for government leaders? (I Tim. 2:1,2).
• Am I aware that ingratitude can harden my heart? (Rom. 1:21).
• Am I humble? Thankful people are humble people.
• Am I modeling a thankful heart for my children and for others that I serve? (Col.3:15,17).
• Do my prayers often include thanksgiving? (Phil. 4:6; Col. 4:2; I Tim. 2:1).
• Do I enjoy singing? (Is. 51:3; Jer. 30:19).
• Is my thanksgiving contagious? (Paul’s gratitude caused “thanksgiving to overflow” 2 Co.4:15).

NOT-TO-DO LIST

What’s that about? I know about to-do lists. They keep me on track. My son said that leaders need a “not to-do list” to stay on target.

1 I DON’T CHECK EMAILS SIX TIMES A DAY. Not anymore. Too distracting. Divided my energy. I now check it once in the morning and once before dinner. I control my emails rather than letting them control me.

2 I DON’T LET MINISTRY MESS WITH MY DATE LIFE. I promised “to love and to cherish.” One way is to get her out of a busy household where we can eat alone face to face, eye to eye and enjoy the evening together. Calls don’t get answered. Leave a message.

3 I DON’T READ MAIL TWICE. Exceptions: a letter that requires a thoughtful response or one that needs to be shared for input.

4 I DON’T STALL ON IMPORTANT DECISIONS. Procrastination, a gift for low-level decisions, is a killer when you need to move with momentum. “If the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who will be called to battle?” Don’t stutter, General.

3 I DON’T LET MINISTRY SUPERSEDE FAMILY PLANS. I did as a young man. No excuse, but I didn’t know better. Now we have lots of time with the extended family, including highly impacting retreats with the whole gang. When you think family, think generations.

4 I DON’T LET A BUSY SCHEDULE TAKE AWAY EXERCISE. Used to. Didn’t like the recovery time to get back in the groove. I feel God’s presence when I work out–in my study. Short-term pain–long-term _________. At 72 I feel like I am two-thirds there. Hope to finish strong.

5 I DON’T SAY YES WHEN NO WORKS BETTER. A majority of no’s enable me to accomplish a few legitimate yeses. If I can’t work harder, I can work smarter. I don’t stay at meetings not going anywhere. I look for the door. I’ll meet once with someone and see where he is going. Then I delegate it to a more capable friend. I used to feel indispensable. Yeah, right!

6 I DON’T REACT. I favor acting to reacting. Many people spend time reacting. Takes time and energy. It’s a negative game plan. I am here by divine appointment. I do not want to be sidelined by the distraction of reaction. Reactionary people have anger issues. They are not living; they are being lived.

8 I DON’T ANSWER “UNKNOWN” CALLS. Leave a message and I’ll decide. Wasted too much time helping people who “desperately” needed my time–and took it, who asked for fifteen minutes and only took two hours.

9 I DON’T OVERWORK. Well, not usually. Even God took the weekend off after six days of creation. Change of pace refreshes and resets. A recent three-month sabbatical made me ready for the next seven-year stint. Looking to another sabbatical at 79.

11 I DON’T WATCH MUCH TV. Karen and I sometimes see a movie on our date night. Love sports. Enjoy the Vikings highlights if they win. What did you do with your life? I watched 11,256 hours of TV. Way to rack up the minutes. (Normal length).

12 I DON’T PROCRASTINATE, especially on the hard assignments. Used to, but it took energy to put things off. Usually start my taxes on New Year’s Day. Not my favorite thing, but don’t like it looming over my shoulders. If I am tempted to put something off because I don’t like it, I try to do it sooner. Sometimes I succeed.

13 I DON’T RETIRE. Dr. Art Vincent, now slowing down with health issues in his 90’s, kept impacting nations as a 90-year old. He couldn’t think of a good reason to retire. Pastor Don Richman has me by ten years and travels to Eastern Europe to oversee a strategic ministry. Two of my heroes.

GRATITUDE, AN INVITATION TO GRACE

When it went went well one day last week, I expected tomorrow to go the same. It didn’t. By the afternoon, my stress level was high. It felt like a planned conspiracy. What could go wrong did. Anxiety replaced peace. I finally stopped in the midst of my dilemma and said, “Thank you.”

As soon as I did, it was as if the pressure built up was released like a popped balloon. I felt lighter. And I became truly thankful for the test. God Himself was behind this difficult day, engineering events to demonstrate to me that I do not after all live circumstantially. I should know that by now. As a child of God who settles in heavenly places, I dare to live above the circumstances rather than under them. Situations do not determine my day–God does. But it took me a while to remember that.

I could either fight it or thank God for it. “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thess 5:18). God’s will that day was not that things go smoothly, so I could enjoy an easy day and accomplish much. It was that I learn to express gratitude in the midst of potentially stressful days, so that the praise flows from earth to heaven regardless of what is happening on earth. Certainly a better way to live than to ride the roller coaster of up-and-down emotions depending upon whether or not I am happy with the situation at hand.

“Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day,
I’ve got a wonderful feeling, everything’s goin’ my way.”

Piece o’ cake. No challenge to live by faith. You don’t need God to be happy on such a day. How about this line? “I’ve got a wonderful feeling, everything’s goin’ south.” Now that takes a different kind of person. Does it describe you? It didn’t me–until the afternoon.

Gratitude closes the door to whining and self-pity. It invites the grace of God, which is to power to be what God wants us to be and to do what God wants us to power. Grace is power. It elevates us to live above the circumstances, and gratitude unlocks the door.

God tests us to see what we are made of. When we flunk tests, they will return. When we pass tests, we don’t care if they do return, because we have learned how to respond. A passed test becomes a testimony. By faith we can not only pass, but it can encourage others to live the same way. I shared last Sunday at Lydia House Church how I was tested and how I passed my test–finally! I hope that my testimony helps my brothers and sisters to pass their tests.

Our first response isn’t always to give thanks–but it can be. The apostle passed a major test when he was cruelly and unjustly beaten up and thrown into prison. So what did he do? He leaned over to Silas and asked, “Do you know any good choruses?” Gratitude in the presence of serious tests releases the power of grace. Then watch God really work!

HOW GOD DISCIPLINES US

…but first, HOW HE DOESN’T.

HE DOESN’T YELL.
Parents often use volume. That is abuse, an attempt to control with intensity rather than with words. Imagine if God raised His voice. We only need sound if we lack character. My parents never raised their voice with me.

HE DOESN’T GIVE US A TIME-OUT.
Short time-outs can be helpful to let a child cool down and get a grip. It might serve as a chance for a child to think through his or her behavior and make some changes. A time-out is not discipline. A discipline is meant to hurt, and time-outs can be instructive, but they are not a typical disciplinary action. God draws near to us in discipline. He has never used anger to discipline, though He does get angry. But it doesn’t modify His style. Careful–when you go from a two to a seven in three seconds, YOU NEED THE TIMEOUT.

HE DOESN’T OVER-DISCIPLINE.
The correction fits the crime. The father who beat his boy for forgetting to feed the dog was not acting appropriately, making his son bitter, not better. A correction should endear a child to the parent, not distance him. My girls intuitively hugged me after discipline. The way discipline is carried out will decide whether the child is drawn to the parent or chooses later in life to check out. Some do, and the parent asks: “I always loved him–why this?”

HE DOESN’T WITHDRAW LOVE. Improper expressions of anger or chastisement are an illegitimate trading of love for punishment. Proper discipline is corrective, not punitive. It is a gift meant to stick in our minds, not to terrorize us but to instruct us. If we saw anger on the face of a parent, we probably didn’t get the lesson we were supposed to.

HE DOESN’T SURPRISE US
When Jonah found himself inside a fish, he didn’t say, “What’s this about?” He humbled himself and cried out for deliverance.

HOW HE DOES

HE HURTS US.
Discipline is like touching a hot stove: “Not going to do that again.” Pain hurts, making it a great teacher if administered properly. Vengeful discipline (“he’s getting to me”) is damaging. Calm down and remember you are the parent, not the police.

HE DISCIPLINES GENTLY.
Was being swallowed by a big fish gentle? I wouldn’t say so, but read Jonah’s prayer. It gave him courage to preach at risk of life. Discipline and punishment are not the same thing. One is judicial; the other is educational. It is a teaching tool, so it is done carefully, deliberately. If we are not in control, we are not disciplining.

HE SOMETIMES TAKES A STEP BACK.
In doing so, He lets cause and effect work us over. The father of the prodigal gave him his share of the inheritance. I wouldn’t have given the jerk any money. As a young adult I remember contemplating an action that would have been foolish and damaging. I sensed God taking a step back and saying, “Go ahead.” I trembled as I thought how easy it would be to leave the Father’s house for pleasure. The prodigal finally “came to himself.” The most powerful Person in the world is the least controlling–and the most convincing in His love!

HE THINKS LONG-TERM.
Discipline builds character. Some kids need more than others. A parent is doing it FOR the child, not TO the child. Discipline is one important aspect of that long-term teaching-training process. “Foolishness is wrapped up in the heart of a child.” Fifteen years of loving discipline turns foolishness to faithfulness. It’s all about love!

THE VALUE OF FAILURE

I heard a leader once say, “Don’t hire someone with no failures on his resume. He’s playing it too safe.” People who want to make a difference take well-calculated risks, which means that they don’t bat 1.000.

Failure really hurts, which can make it a great teacher if we are listening. Ade Christenson, former football coach and athletic director at St. Olaf College and the father of my mentor Larry Christenson, said to a group of us, “Nothing feels better than winning, and nothing teaches more than losing.” In football, it can teach us where we are weak. Maybe we need to shore up or defense or strengthen our running game. Teachable people learn from failure rather than letting it take them out.

Peter almost left the game after an empty promise turned into a wipeout. Thanks to the reinstatement from the Master, he was able to capitalize on his failure and turn it into a glorious string of victories. It put reality into his overly confident heart that had declared, “Though they all forsake you, I will never forsake you.” Yeah, right! “Let him who thinks he stand take heed lest he fall.” He needed to build up his defense against the enemy. He held too much trust in his own ability and not enough in the words of Christ meant to warn him.

Thomas Edison failed five times before he succeeded. (He said he failed 10,000 times). Samson lived as a self-centered womanizer. Delilah spelled his biggest failure. He lost his strength when the Philistines gave him a haircut, then cut out his eyes. But hair grows in prison. God’s Spirit was still with him, and he finished strong, even making it into the “Faith Hall of Fame” (Hebrews 11). Winston Churchill said, “Failure is not final; it is courage that counts,” and Samson’s last act of courage severely weakened the Philistine foe. Way to convert your failure, Sam!

Failure can humble us and build character if we let it. For some it only hardens them, and they give up. Or they grow cynical and doubt their ability. Infants learn to walk by falling their first thirty or more tries. We applaud them for their effort. Finally they get the hang of it and manage a few steps, building confidence for their infant future.

When I took a study leave at Cal Lutheran as a young pastor, John Wooden, the legendary coach at UCLA, was conducting a basketball camp and living next to me. I had the privilege of interviewing him and discussing a variety of subjects, but mainly his faith in God. He said, “Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be.”

Motivational speaker Denis Waitley said it this way: “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” And Henry Ford said, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”

Any failures that discouraged and defeated you? Learn from it and watch God turn it into a success! It’s called grace.

THE INSIDE STORY, Part 2

The methods used to abort life are in the womb are as brutal as Roman gladiators in the arena. One method is suction. A tool is inserted, the suction turned on, and the young life is sucked out. A second method is dilation and evacuation. The doctor reaches in with an instrument, grabs on, and pulls and twists. Out comes a leg. In again—pulling and twisting. Out comes an arm, then another arm, another leg. Finally, the head is crushed with another instrument. The pieces are laid on the table. The nurse assembles them to make sure the body parts are all there.

After the “procedure,” the woman leaves the clinic. She came in with a baby; she leaves without a baby. The baby has been massacred. Some mothers can handle that; others go crazy. Sixty to seventy per cent of women do not want an abortion. Husbands, boyfriends, friends, and fathers are often the jury that decides the fate of the unborn child. We call it euphemistically a termination of the pregnancy or a “cleaning,” a term used in Latvia. In truth, it is a killing. The baby’s heart was pumping one moment. After a horrendous invasion into the womb, the heart is silent. Another life has been taken.

A third method is injection with the RV486 chemical, which kills the baby. And a fourth method is the much-publicized partial birth. The baby is turned around and delivered in part feet first, all except the head. An instrument is inserted that sucks out the brain, after which the head is crushed. And the mother is sent on her way.

Some political leaders speak out for the rights of whales and Iraqis but seldom for the rights of the unborn. Many of the most prominent religious leaders are not defenders of the pre-born. The womb is not a safe place. I’d hate to start my life in the womb of a pro-choice woman, wondering what my destiny would be.

If we are devaluing life, what will our children do? What example are we giving to them? Will they go further than we have gone? Will they choose, like some societies have, to eliminate us when we get too old to be an advantage to them? When we are in the way, will they decide to take us out of the way, like we are doing with the unborn?

The mother of a pastor friend in Latvia had eleven abortions. He was one of the finest preachers in Latvia, but he could have easily been one of the aborted ones. Now he has a rich destiny in Christ. His name is Janis Bitans. The aborted ones don’t have a name here, nor a future. Janis is fortunate to be alive; most of his siblings are not.

A pastor friend, Don Richman, told the youth at a public high school in Latvia that they were special. The principal told us afterward that his comments made the students uncomfortable. They didn’t see any evidence of their being special. Almost 100% have father wounds from drinking dads. They didn’t feel special to their parents. They feel unwanted and without value. But at least they go on living. The epitome of devaluing life is exterminating it. That is what we do every day in America with thousands. Something needs to change in our value system. Please don’t vote for anyone who favors killing.