By Pastor Bobby Schuller
“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
Jesus was talking to farmers when he said, “You’ll know them by the fruit.” When I lived in Oklahoma, I loved farmers. Farmers have a good way of seeing the world.
I used to go fishing with my buddies in the summer, often near to farms in the woods. We’d knock on a farmhouse door and ask the farmer that answered, “Can we go fishing in your pond?”
The farmer would look us up and down, and he’d say, “You look like good men. You can fish on my land.” Somehow, he just intuitively knew we were not going to harm his land.
The farmer sees the world in a way that’s simple, the way Jesus would want us to view life. He wants us to judge people, especially those speaking into our lives, by their fruit. He wants us to surround ourselves with people who live lives as fruit bearers. He doesn’t want us to be tricked by people who speak well and are attractive, but are grumpy, angry, legalistic, selfish, greedy, or negative in any way.
Surround yourself with people who remind you of Jesus, and then become that kind of person.
Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to identify those people in my life who are fruit bearers. I want to surround myself with these people to help me become more like you. Amen.
Reflection: Is there someone in your life you consider a “fruit bearer”?
INTRODUCTION: Paul’s speech before Agrippa is the culmination and climax of Paul’s defense in Acts 21-26. It brings together and presents in final form all the themes of the previous five chapters. The charges against Paul that began with the temple mob in 21:28 were given their final verdict by the Jewish King himself. Paul is innocent of all accounts and he could have been set free (Acts 26:31-32), however, he appealed to Caesar in Rome.
In Luke 23, we are told that Jesus went through the same type trials. Having stood before Pilate, He was then sent to Herod. Neither found any fault with Him.
When the dust settles on Acts 26, Paul wants all to know that his commitment to the risen Christ was the real reason for his bonds.
The reason this meeting is taking place is the request from Festus for Paul to be examined by King Agrippa, but there is no record that he did. Before the session ends, Paul became the Judge, and Festus, King Agrippa, and Bernice became the defendants.
As a Great Commission Christian, note Paul’s Primary Goal:
- It was not to exonerate himself, but to convert Agrippa and all present (28-29). Paul saw himself, not as a prisoner, but an ambassador, representing Jesus Christ to the world, begging people to be reconciled to God. That was his primary goal.
2 Corinthians 5:17-20, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf …
Just recently, I was driving my SUV and the “maintenance” light went on. Not knowing exactly what “maintenance” needed to be done, my frustration was directed towards automobile manufacturers in general for putting these lights into vehicles causing us to worry and take time out of our day to go into a dealer and find out what it means.
I thought to myself, this is probably just a “nuisance light” reminding me to change the oil, check the brakes or inspect the belts. These are all things I regularly take care of myself…..well, usually.
“Maintenance” just wears me out – maintenance on cars, maintenance around the house, maintenance on my finances, etc.
The word “maintenance,” associated with anything, has such an undesirable connotation.
People who are classified as “high-maintenance” are those who are often difficult to work with or be around. The field of maintenance is often looked upon as a less desirable line of work. “Maintenance” as a whole just seems exhausting, time-consuming and something that ends up low on the priority list of things for most.
Still feeling somewhat convicted at my unfounded disdain for the automobile industry, I did what I often do when I want a different perspective on my situation: I dig deeper into the reason or try to find the meaning of what is causing me the unrest, oftentimes looking up the definition of the word.
Maintenance: continuing repair work: work that is done regularly to keep a machine, building, or piece of equipment in good condition and working order. (According to Bing Dictionary)
Then it hit me, that maintenance light I saw on the dashboard was not just a reminder for me to “maintain” my vehicle, but also for me personally.
Aspects of my life began flashing before my eyes where I needed to do “maintenance” – my spiritual life and relationship with God, my health and well-being, my home and finances, and my relationships and friendships.
Have I gotten so busy being busy I have forgotten to do continuing repair work to keep me and my life in good condition and working order?
At the outset of every year, health club memberships spike up. In February, couples focus on their relationship just a little bit more. After tax season, many vow to take better care of their finances. Around Easter and Christmas church attendance goes up.
However, as the busyness of life takes over, many of those intentions and well-meaning plans start to fall away.
The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year (or planned to start)and not let those good intentions grow stale (2 Corinthians 8:10-11).
Relationship with God
Retail companies often determine their success in one measure by “same-store sales,” which means comparing retail sales this year to the previous year’s same period to gauge if growth is occurring.
If we were to do the same, could we say our relationship with God is now stronger than last year at this same time? Are you spending more time with God this month than you were a year ago? Have you been more consistent in growing the relationship or has it been faltering of late?
We all go through our personal daily ups and downs for whatever reason, but over the long run, are we consistent in our time with the Lord and in our faith throughout all aspects of our life?
The Lord, who once saved a people out of Egypt, later destroyed those who didn’t maintaintheir faith (Jude 1:5).
Maintaining our relationship with the Lord mean spending time in his Word, spending time in prayer, spending time serving the church, spending time with his people and spending time taking action on what we are told we should do.
Our relationship with God requires an investment of our time and energy; it will not happen by itself.
Relationships with Others
In the same way, our relationships with others will take effort if we want them to grow. Tens of thousands of divorces are dissolved and marriage vows broken each year due to “irreconcilable differences,” the reason often given is because they “grew apart.” Another way of saying it is they failed to grow together.
Technology has helped to make the world a smaller place and bring people together, but it has also contributed to laziness in our relationships. I have seen guys text a girl for a date, heard of break-ups through e-mail, read posts of what should be kept private and heard twitter-apologies.
This is not the way to satisfy John 15:12: “This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you.”
Whether you are in a marriage, a dating relationship or just a friendship, it must be maintained for it to grow stronger (and together). We sometimes have a tendency to take things for granted and believe the status quo will stay the same, take care of themselves or “be fine” without any effort. The truth is relationships of any kind require maintenance.
We all need to be a little more deliberate in our communications within our relationships.
Ongoing Maintenance Required
My mother called me the other day to tell me the pipes in her house were leaking. They are original to the home and haven’t been maintained properly over the years. Corrosion has built up through the decades of use restricting the water flow. Joints and connections that were once tightly sealed and washers one time pliable have now decayed and hardened over time and, under the constant pressure, are starting to leak.
If your spiritual life, health, home, finances, and relationships were likened to a plumbing system, have they been properly and regularly maintained and in good working order, or have they deteriorated? Has a lack of attention caused blockage in those systems that will soon cause problems when placed under extreme pressure?
Whether it is our faith, our life or our relationships, we must make the time to nurture them, and we must be proactive in order to make them what we want them to be.
Don’t put off to tomorrow what should be done today. Be a “high maintenance” person – one who regularly checks and maintains the conditions of their life so it will be in good working order and work properly.
Cliff Young is a contributing writer to Sandlot Stories (ARose Books), as well as the monthly column, “He Said-She Said,” in Crosswalk.com’s Singles Channel. An architect and former youth worker, he now works with Christian musicians and consults for a number of Christian ministries. Got feedback? Send your comments and questions to email@example.com. Find him on facebook and twitter.
WASHINGTON — A veteran Republican digital consultant warned Thursday that a successful election this fall could set back the Republican Party’s efforts to modernize its approach to campaigns.
Michael Beach, co-founder of Targeted Victory, spoke at a gathering of technology, business and campaign executives and consultants, organized by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics and the Internet Association.
Beach, who came up through the ranks of Republican campaigns at a time when the GOP was ahead of Democrats in terms of voter targeting, said his party has actually gone backwards in technological terms over the last few electoral cycles — in part because the midterms have been “wave” elections, in 2006 for Democrats and in 2010 for Republicans.
The tea party wave of 2010, Beach said, “was great for Republicans, [but] it was the worst thing that ever happened to our profession because it just reinforced bad habits.”
“All you had to do was be standing after the primary and you won,” Beach said. “We could have done anything in ’10 and won. We could have done leaflets.”
As a result, Republican consultants and operatives did not focus on the tech advances that were being made in politics. President Barack Obama’s team had pioneered new uses of digital campaigning in 2008, and Democrats built on that experience for the next four years, while Republicans insisted that high unemployment and Obama’s unpopularity would be enough for another GOP romp in 2012.
“Senate races we worked on in ’12 were worse than the ones we worked on in ’10,” Beach said.
Republican campaign sophistication has atrophied since Karl Rove, Ken Mehlman and other GOP operatives were the first to “micro-target” voters, using a vast array of data about the electorate. President George W. Bush’s reelection campaign in 2004 was the pinnacle of the Rove-Mehlman machine’s efforts, but Republicans have since slipped backwards in many ways, Beach said.
“In 2004, you knew how many votes per precinct you had to get in order to win that state,” said Beach, who worked on voter turnout in the crucial state of Ohio that year. “Ask a campaign now how many votes they need per precinct, and you won’t find anybody [who knows] because it’s like, ‘We’re either going to win or lose based on a tidal wave.’”
The wave elections in 2006 and 2010 reinforced the impression among many Republicans that diligent, labor-intensive work on identifying, persuading and turning out voters is less important than the overall political climate.
Following Obama’s win in 2012 over Mitt Romney, due in part to a campaign that identified new voters through state-of-the-art data analytics and modeling, and turned them out with aggressive and precise recruitment, Republicans said they were going to catch up to Democrats.
The problem, Beach said, is that the same dynamic that shaped 2010 and 2012 is gearing up for the 2014 and 2016 elections.
“Guess what ’14′s going to be? I believe a tidal wave,” Beach said. Many political observers believe Obama’s declining popularity and widespread dissatisfaction with Obamacare is going to hand control of the Senate to the GOP as well as increase the party’s majority in the House this November.
If that happens, Beach said, “It’s just going to reinforce more bad habits.”
Republican consultants, he said, will observe the results and say, “‘Oh, ’12, that was just an outlier. We don’t need younger voters.’”
And that, he said, will only set the party up for a bad result in the 2016 presidential election.
“For us, I think it’s going to be a rude awakening in ’16,” Beach said.
Friday, 14 Mar 2014 10:01 AM
By Robert Royal
This week marks the first anniversary of the election of Pope Francis. It’s one of the great paradoxes of his papacy that this man, hailed from the first for his simplicity and humility, has generated more puzzlement than any pope in modern memory.
Quite apart from the usual media ineptness, which almost always reads religious questions in crude terms of left and right, in some ways that’s no surprise. Simplicity is never as simple as it looks. In fact, simplicity is so rare that it’s hard to follow for most of us, whose heads typically buzz with half-formed theories and distorting pre-conceptions. And that’s when we’re even trying to pay attention. It takes real work to get to clarity or simplicity – about anything.
Editor’s Note: Do You Approve of Pope Francis? Vote Now in Urgent Poll
I was in St. Peter’s Square last year when Francis stepped out on the balcony. His first words as pope, “Buona sera,” marked him out as strongly as John Paul II’s famous “Be not afraid!” in the same situation. When he bowed and asked the crowd to pray for him – often misreported as asking for “the blessing” of the people – his image in the media, rightly or wrongly, was settled: a humble man, trying to reform the Church, eliminate harsh rules, and welcome the whole world.
Subsequent interviews, of course, have raised questions about just how his whole vision fits together. Whatever the answer to those questions – and they cannot simply be wished away, as some would like – it’s not “simple.”
He’s repeatedly said he’s a “man of the Church” and, of course, believes all that the Church teaches. But we’ve also had the unfortunate static introduced by stray remarks such as: “Who am I to judge?” about gays; last week’s “civil unions” comment; mounting pressure in the Vatican itself, it appears, to change teaching about divorced and remarried people being able to receive Communion. His real positions are more nuanced and different than the wishful thanking of many reporters and dissenters, and attract wide attention because of the pope’s palpable spontaneity and infectious charisma. Still, they’re not always easy to parse out.
Just this week, a clever article appeared comparing the pope’s American and practical bent to the pragmatism of William James and Charles Saunders Pierce, contemporary philosophers Alasdair MacIntyre and Slavoj Zizek, and other anti-theoretical theorists. I don’t know if that’s the case – no one can. And it’s more than a little odd to invoke these heavyweights to explain Jorge Bergoglio. But if true, it would mean that the pope resembles President Obama when he claims that he’s “not very ideological” and is only interested in “what works.” There’s a lot of complex theory packed into that seemingly simple goal.
For instance, he’s miles beyond movements like the old Liberation Theology with its limping Marxist praxis. Some American conservatives claimed, absurdly, that Francis is a Marxist merely for saying the global economic system must be re-ordered to help the poor and marginalized.
We should give the pope – and Karl Marx – a little more credit than that. Marxism offered itself as “scientific” socialism that would inevitably replace false economic and political systems. An engineer who built a bridge on a “science” that failed so spectacularly would be in jail.
Francis is nobody’s fool and quite aware of all that. Like all modern popes, he knows that he doesn’t know how to get to where he’d like us to be. That’s a job for others – he’s merely pointing the way. Besides, as we see every day, no one is really in charge of the global economy or the international political order. We muddle around trying to respond to economic crises, smooth out regional conflicts, and give some semblance of international law to the world. But the world is fallen, as are we ourselves. Maybe that’s why Francis’ description of the Church as a kind of “field hospital” during a battle made such an impression.
The world likes him to talk about politics and justice – and who, by the way, is against improvements in either realm? Talking about poverty and inclusion, which John Paul II and Benedict XVI did as well (but received little credit for), helps the journalistic narrative that the pope wants to turn away from neuralgic sexual and life issues.
But Francis has also often denounced the throwaway culture that thinks children in the womb are disposable. And he’s even called Pope Paul VI “prophetic” for holding onto the ancient Christian teaching on contraception, not that long ago the common understanding in all Christian churches. You didn’t hear about that? Maybe you should send a letter to the editor. But don’t get your hopes up.
Still, to be frank, it didn’t help when, early in his papacy, Francis spoke of Catholics not always “insisting” and “obsessing” about abortion and similar questions – perhaps a beginner’s stumble. More recently, he’s said to interviewers that he wishes to be careful because his every word is scrutinized and, he fears, sometimes misunderstood.
So, at least for now, we are left with an enigma. We have a remarkable pope, a man who has an uncanny ability to reach out and electrify the whole world with an uncommon touch. John Paul II did the same, though in a more public, less personal way. We also have a pope with a deep appreciation of our moment, and therefore is not reluctant to put his name to Lumen fidei, the brilliant analysis of the state of things, largely written by his predecessor, Benedict XVI, with whom – pace the troublemakers in the media – he has warm relations.
And yet, after this first year, we remain puzzled about how, exactly, all these different parts of him fit together. The workings of the Holy Spirit are often a mystery. And that, for the time being, may be the best answer, while we follow this singular shepherd, to all our queries.
Editor’s Note: Do You Approve of Pope Francis? Vote Now in Urgent Poll
Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is ”The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West,” now available in paperback from Encounter Books.
© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
China obtained F-35 secrets through an extensive cyber spy operation carried out in 2007 against U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin, U.S. officials and defense analysts said, and they have shown up China’s new stealth fighter jet.
Codenamed Operation Byzantine Hades, the multiyear cyber-espionage operation yielded sensitive technology about the United States’ latest fighter jet which in turn was incorporated into the development of China’s new J-20 fighter, the Washington Times reported.
According to Defense officials, a Chinese military unit known as the Technical Reconnaissance Bureau (TRF), located in the nation’s Chengdu province, was behind the cyber-espionage. Once the data had been acquired, the TRF is said to have transferred it to the state-run Aviation Industry Corp. of China, which then used that stolen data in building the J-20 fighter jet, the Washington Free Beaconreported.
Having started 10 years ago, the F-35 development program is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon that has cost $392 billion, making it the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program ever. The program’s original price tag was $233 billion; however it ballooned due to delays brought on by cost overruns.
Referred to as a “fifth-generation” warplane, the F-35 fighter jet will be replacing the popular F-16 and more than a dozen other warplanes that are currently in use by the United States and foreign governments around the world.
As of late 2013, the U.S. partner countries of Britain, Canada, Australia, Norway, the Netherlands, Italy, Turkey and Denmark, Israel, and Japan have already ordered F-35 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin.
Also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35 is said to be the most technically-advanced plane in the United States’ arsenal with 7.5 million lines of computer code controlling its weapons system, which is triple the amount of coding currently used in the top Air Force fighter, the Government Accountability Office told The Wall Street Journal.
“You’ve seen significant improvements in Chinese military capabilities through their willingness to spend, their acquisitions of advanced Russian weapons, and from their cyber-espionage campaign,” James A. Lewis, a cyber-policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Washington Post. “Ten years ago, I used to call the [People's Liberation Army] the world’s largest open-air military museum. I can’t say that now.”
In addition to the apparent cyber theft of secrets pertaining to the F-35′s development, China has also reportedly accessed other U.S. weapons systems, including the Patriot missile system, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, and the Army’s ballistic missile interceptor program.
Editor’s Note: ObamaCare Is Here. Are You Prepared?
- China Nuclear Subs on Display Shows Confidence, Say Experts
- Chinese Deploy New Bomber With Long-Range Land Attack Missile
- Chinese Stealth Drone, Called the ‘Sharp Sword,’ Undergoes Testing
© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Michael Mullins
US Secretary of State John Kerry has criticised Israel’s insistence that the Palestinians publicly declare Israel to be a Jewish state.
Kerry said Thursday that recognition had already been made in UN resolutions and by the late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat and it is a mistake for Israel to keep insisting on it as the two sides work towards a two-state peace agreement.
“‘Jewish state’ was resolved in 1947 in (UN) Resolution 181 where there are more than 40– 30 mentions of ‘Jewish state,’” Kerry testified at a Congressional hearing.
“In addition, chairman Arafat in 1988 and again in 2004 confirmed that he agreed it would be a Jewish state. And there are any other number of mentions,” he added.
“I think it’s a mistake for some people to be raising it again and again as the critical decider of their attitude toward the possibility of a state and peace, and we’ve obviously made that clear,” Kerry said in a session of testimony on the State Department budget.
Israeli public radio on Friday broadcast Kerry’s comments, followed by what it said was a recording of Arafat commenting on a 1988 decision by the Palestinian National Council, the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s parliament-in-exile at the time.
“The PNC had accepted two states, a Palestine state and Jewish state,” Arafat says in English.
There was no official Israeli response to Kerry’s comments, but the radio quoted an unidentified political source as saying that it was “easier for the Americans to pressure Israel to give up on the demand for recognition of a Jewish state than to deal with the Palestinians.”
Israel and the Palestinians have been locked in talks that US Secretary of State John Kerry fought hard to kick-start in July after a three-year hiatus, but the negotiations have faltered over key issues.
After a meeting chaired by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Wednesday, the PLO Executive Committee blasted “attempts to extract recognition of the Jewishness of the State of Israel in order to erase Palestinian history and rights in one sentence”.
© AFP 2014