Thursday, January 22, 2004

Sanctity of Life

More than 300 million people in the Sub-Saharan Africa make less than $1 a day. This number is expected to rise to 400 million by 2015 (The World Bank).
Every year Sub-Saharan Africa spends $14.5 billion dollars repaying debt to the world’s richest countries and international institutions. Nigeria debt payments are 11 times higher than the national health budget (IMF).
6,500 people are dying of AIDS each day in Africa, and another 9,500 contract the HIV virus. 1,400 of those contract the disease during childbirth or by their mother’s milk. Africa is home to 30 million or 70-percent of the global AIDS infections (UNAIDS).
AIDS is a preventable and treatable disease. With proper training and involvement, Uganda has reduced its rate of infection from 15-percent to 5-percent (USAID).
4.1 million African AIDS patients are in need of anti-retroviral drugs that allow patients to restore their health and help them to continue living a productive life, caring for their families. Of these 4.1 million, only and estimated 50,000 will receive them (WHO).
Last year during his State of the Union Address, President George Bush committed the United States to sending more aid to Africa to help fight and prevent the spread of AIDS, yet the majority of the money has been caught up in red tape.
And while 6,500 people die each day -- we simply step back and say it’s not my problem.
How have we come to a point where we place so little value on human life?
Since 1973, 43 million babies have been innocently killed in the name of choice.
Rulers and dictators around the world have killed millions and millions of people because they disagree with their race or religion.
Yet I continue to read e-mails from people complaining about a war that was fought to protect the rights and lives of the citizens of Iraq.
Do we really value human life, or just the lives of those close to us?
When congressional leaders can argue passionately that the horrendous procedure of partial-birth abortion is an American right, we’ve lost the value and sanctity of human life. And it shows in more ways than one.
King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:18-21, “I said to myself regarding the human race, ‘God's testing the lot of us, showing us up as nothing but animals.’ Humans and animals come to the same end -- humans die, animals die. We all breathe the same air. So there's really no advantage in being human. None. Everything's smoke. We all end up in the same place--we all came from dust, we all end up as dust. Nobody knows for sure that the human spirit rises to heaven or that the animal spirit sinks into the earth.”
Solomon is saying that without revelation from God, we are no different than the animals.
Everything’s smoke. From dust we come and to dust we go.
At first glance it sounds like Solomon could have been the first animal rights activists. After all isn’t that what they all want?
They want animals elevated to a status equal or higher than that of mankind, while at the same time they reduce the value of human life to nothing more than something that can easily be tossed aside in a time of inconvenience.
I was astonished Tuesday night as I watched the O’Reilly Factor and heard author Alexander Sanger ("Beyond Choice: Reproductive Freedom in the 21st Century") tell O’Reilly that our government should protect the right of a mother to kill her baby as long as it was still attached by the umbilical cord.
The value of life has been cheapened and reduced to something that can be tossed in the nearest trash can at our convenience.
Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
This scripture entails all of humanity.
From the living fetus at conception, to the orphan children in Africa, to the aging saints living in a retirement home, we are all created in the image of God.
The Psalmist writes, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Human life is priceless.
Yet our society continues to put a price tag on it.
If a birth is inconvenient, or if saving a life will raise my taxes, or if I have to make a donation - it’s not my problem to take care of.
How can we continue to ignore the value of life?
We all want a good life for ourselves, our families and those we love -- yet we can’t seem to take the time to give value and help to a mother of three, dying of AIDS in another country.
There is so much we can be doing to show our fellow man that we do care and that we will come to their aid.
But before we can do that, we must each look at our own lives and see how much we really value life.
And I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I’m just as guilty as the next person when it comes to loving my neighbor.
So during this month recognizing the Sanctity of Life let’s ask ourselves:
Do we care for the poor orphans in Iraq, Africa or Ukraine?
Do we care about the homeless seeking shelter and warmth under a highway overpass?
Do we care about the poor in our community who need a helping hand just to make it week to week?
Do we care about the unborn children who have no one to protect them or watch over their rights?
Or are we too busy to care and love anyone but our friends, families and ourselves?
I hope that for each of us, the latter is not the case.
In closing I leave you with a statement from United States Secretary of State Colin Powell.
"AIDS is not only sapping their (Africa's) today, it is stealing their tomorrow. And it is threatening democracy, prosperity and security all around the world. None of us can afford to look the other way and pretend that the AIDS crisis is somebody else's concern or that it isn't a crisis at all. It affects us all. All of us are vulnerable.”

Get involved:

Thursday, January 15, 2004

The Problem of Life With God

The last few weeks in my single’s class I’ve been teaching from Tommy Nelson’s book, “The Problem of Life with God.”
The book takes a close, in depth look at the book of Ecclesiastes, which besides the book of Phillipians is probably one of my favorite books of the Bible.
King Solomon is so brutally honest in the book it amazes me.
He says many things that as a “good Christian” you have to ask yourself, “Can he say that?”
This week we looked at chapter three of the book.
Chapter three is where Solomon really gets honest.
“There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven,” Solomon writes.
Then he begins to explain that there is a time to be born, a time to die, a time to kill and a time to heal.
At the end of his commenting on life he takes a moment and makes a very human response.
“What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men,” Solomon said.
Solomon saw the soveriegnty of God and realized he didn’t exactly like it.
That means that life is going to be ruff and tough and unfair and there’s nothing you can do about it.
You’re going to get a call someday saying your parents are dying, you’re going to have a serious tooth cavity and you might loose that great job because of coorporate downsizing.
And Solomon looks at the facts of life and says, “What’s the point? What do we gain from our toil? Why do we work so hard when we have no control over anything in our lives?”
Now that all sounds super depressing, but luckily Solomon doesn’t leave us hanging.
“He has made everything beautiful in His time... I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere Him.”
Solomon looks closer and decides that while God’s sovereignty can be troubling, we can find comfort in knowing that He is in control in all things.
In “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom, she tells that the one thing she hated most about the concentration camps was the bed bugs.
One day as they’re saying their prayers, her sister instructs her, “Thank God for the bed bugs. Corrie, thank God for the lice.”
She couldn’t understand why. It was the worst part of being stuck indoors. They bit her and made her misserable.
Then a few weeks after her prayer her and her sister began a Bible study in their room.
They feared everyday that the guards would break in and stop them.
She found out later that the reason the guards stayed out, was they were afraid of the lice. The one thing that Corrie couldn’t stand was the one thing that saved her everyday.
Only God could use a bed bug.
So don’t fret when the down times come, because it will all be made beautiful in His time.
It may not make sense that very day, but when the time comes. It will all be made perfectly clear.
And in closing -- big props to Heath Peloquin at First Baptist Church Belton.
Excellent message Sunday night. Excellent.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

With No Pain, You'll Get No Gain

Well, it’s January 8 and I’ve had eight days to work on my New Year’s resolutions.
So far, it’s going good.
I must admit, I’m out of shape way more than I remember.
I’m sure it’s due to being forced out of my position as co-captain of the Cold Cuts Intramural team, upon graduation in May.
Not that I was in the best shape while I played intramurals, but I sure don’t remember getting this winded after a short run.
I also don’t remember crunches hurting this much either although I don’t remember doing them since six grade gym class.
I’ve been very tempted to accept my fate as having love-handles slightly larger than the average man.
But then where would the progress be? And where would my pride and ego go if I gave up after only a week?
Change hurts. My abs can affirm that.
But yet I don’t think I can think of a single instance in my life where change didn’t hurt.
Maybe it wasn’t physical pain; it might have been financial or mental stress, but either way there was some sort of pain.
I think we’re seeing that in Belton and Bell County right now.
There’s a wind of change coming. People are beginning to realize what many of you have known your entire life.
Belton’s great.
And that’s why we continue to see more and more people packing up and moving to Belton in droves.
I think that’s great. I’m glad it’s not the other way around. I’m glad people aren’t packing up and leaving Belton in droves.
In the next 24 months, we’ll see some major changes in Belton -- and it will hurt.
There will be road construction on I-35 (hopefully). There will be new roads constructed and Les and his crew will continue working to maintain and update streets throughout the city.
New stores and shopping centers will be built.
Something will be done with our current jail/ courts situation (and I’m still hoping for that Christmas wish).
The citizens of Bell County will hopefully see the need and benefit of building the new facilities on Loop 121, rather than forcing the county to lease jail space elsewhere or clogging up downtown Belton anymore.
BISD is looking to expand the High School and update several campuses.
The students, teachers and staff won’t enjoy working around the construction I’m sure.
I know those students, teachers and staff won’t enjoy working around the construction work and we won’t enjoy paying an extra $5 or $10 a month on our taxes, but in the end we’ll all appreciate the hard work we all did together.
I also believe that in the end, if the voters approve the new bond issue, the county as a whole will be very pleased with the new county facilities moving to Loop 121.
I think we’ll all be pleased that we can find parking in downtown Belton again and I know the judges, clerks, attorneys and others will greatly appreciate the added security and room to grow.
Now we could sit back and reject the change. We could say “No, I’ve had it. We’ve changed too much and I want Belton to stay as it is. The change just hurts my pocketbook too much.”
But what we had always said that?
I don’t think Belton would be the place we’ve come to love.
I’d hate to think that Billy Smitha’s grandkids had to walk four or five miles to school -- like he did -- just because there was only one school for minorities.
I’d hate to think that we didn’t have the privilege of beating Temple every year in sports, because some people didn’t want to change the high school to from a 4-A to a 5-A classification.
Just like my abs hurt and my legs ache after I work out, these changes will hurt, but I can’t wait to see the results.
I’m also looking forward to achieving my other resolutions.
I’ve already noticed a difference in my thoughts and talk after a week of scheduled Bible reading.
Sure I don’t like getting up earlier. But making myself take those few steps from my bed to my Bible make a world of difference in my day.
A friend once told me, “Those few steps from my bed to my desk each morning, are the most important steps I take every day.”
Yes, it’s cold in the morning and my new down comforter makes my bed even more desirable, but disciplining myself to take time reading God’s instruction manual is well worth the effort.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman church: “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
In other words, don’t rejoice and be happy just because things are going good – rejoice also in suffering and in change and in hurt, because it produces character and hope.
So while the next 24 months may be frustrating – and you may continue to say to yourself, “I didn’t ask for these changes,” let’s work together, for the betterment of ourselves and the community – and give change and progress a chance.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

And Thus I Resolve

Wow it’s 2004.
I understand why people say the year’s fly by faster, the older you get.
It seems like just yesterday we were worried that the world would end amidst the Y2K crisis.
Geesh, what were we scared of?
As I sat and pondered this week’s column, I thought about following the example set by the Texas Monthly year end edition and give my own Bum Steer Awards for Belton.
After a few moments, I figured I better gain a little more credibility before I jump on anyone else’s case.
So like most columnists you’ll read this month, I’ll fit the typical mold and share my New Year’s Resolutions.
Now I’m not sharing this really for your benefit, but more for mine.
I’m a guy who can always use accountability.
Like scripture says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
So, I’m sharing my resolutions for you to hold me accountable to them.
Of course in doing so I realize I’m opening myself up to judgement and critique, so you better uphold your end of the bargain.
My good friend Aaron told me today, that since most resolutions go overlooked or ignored, the wisest thing to do is resolve to eat more junk food and stop exercising. He might have a very good point there.
But, my goal is to fulfill these resolutions -- and to get you, the wonderful reader, to help me. So here we go.
In 2004 I resolve:
- To loose 20 pounds by June 1.
Now I must admit, this one is probably the first resolution to go, maybe that’s why it’s first on the list.
- To exercise more, including running at least three times a week.
This running shall not include running to the kitchen during commercial breaks, but quality running for an extended period of time. (This is also probably one of the first to go, but it feels good to say it.)
- To write more stories and columns earlier so I and others have a chance to proof and edit them several times before they go to the press. (Just a note, most of this column was written two days before press time - I’m doing good so far.)
- To cover my body with at least three more tattoos. (Just kidding mom).
- To become more active in the things of God.
This is a big one.
I’m always regretting that I spend too much time worrying about me and staying busy with things I need to get done, rather than focusing on things of eternal value.
I’ve said it before, but I believe my favorite quote of all times is by C.S. Lewis, “All that is not eternal is eternally insignificant.”
If I’m not focusing on the things God is focusing on, then I’m wasting my time and my life is truly nothing more than a vapor of smoke.
- To become more active in loving and helping my fellow man.
Ben’s example a couple weeks ago reminded me of the needs that are around us every day, in Belton and around the world.
Thousands of people go hungry and thousands more die every day and we turn our eyes away because we’re too busy to notice or care.
Personally I’ve become a part of DATA and hope to step up my evolvement this year.
I won’t spend much time giving you the details -- this week -- but visit their website if you’re interested:
As a part of this resolution, I also resolve that I don’t get sidetracked by an international issue and forget about loving my neighbors around me every day.
- To tell my friends and family, “I love you,” more often.
This might get be a little awkward sometimes in a group of guys, but it’s still needed to be said.
Sometimes this phrase is tossed about carelessly by people, but it’s also too often overlooked and not said sincerely enough.
May my friends and family never wonder how much I truly care for them.
- To find and highlight more of the good in people. (Good thing I live in Belton.)
Sometimes I feel like we, the media, only print and show the negative side of stories.
I really wish we had more room in the newspaper to highlight all the good things people do, every day.
We do print as many as we can.
But for each story you read, there are hundreds of examples of goodness that go on in our midst.
Finally, I’ll take some advice from Joe Baisden:
- To be more reliable.
May my yes be yes and my no be no.
May you always be able to count on me to show up and do the things I say I will.
May my word be my bond.
- Be enthusiastic.
No matter what the story is, no matter where I am, may I be enthusiastic and do all things without groaning or complaining.
“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.” (Philippians 2:13-15)
May I rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS. May my gentleness be evident to all. (Phil. 4:4)
- Do more than is required.
May I always fulfill my duties and always be willing to go the extra mile.
Whether it’s stopping to sweep the floor, clean a toilet or spending time talking to a stranger.
“If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” - Matthew 5:41.
I know I can find a number of other areas I need personal improvement in, but I think these few may take the next 50 years at least to even come close to perfecting.
But above all, I hope and pray that at the end of 2004, we can each look back at our year and say “I know I am closer to God today, than I was Jan. 1, 2004.”
Happy New Year and may your year be blessed.
Now you better hold me accountable!