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When We Fail to Achieve Our Dreams  

It is earth’s highest mountain above sea level. 

It is also the the most coveted prize in mountain climbing. 


At 29,029 feet, Mount Everest pierces high enough into the sky to be on a level with commercial jetliners. Since Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzig Norrgay made the first successful climb in 1953, nearly 4000 others have made the attempt and about 200 have died in the process. 

This season alone, after forking out $25,000 for a climbing permit, at least 11 climbers have died.  Among them is Christopher Kulish, a 62-year-old attorney from Boulder, Colorado. 

Ironically, Mr. Kulish did not die in his attempt to reach the iconic summit.  He successfully climbed to the top (nearly 5.5. Miles up), having finally achieved his dream of climbing the tallest mountains on all seven continents. According to early reports, he died at a camp somewhere below the summit—exact details unknown.

Without in any way wishing to trivialize the death of Attorney Kulish, I see in his tragedy a cautionary spiritual tale.  We followers of Christ often set high goals for ourselves, or envision ourselves ministering in grand ways in grand places and spaces.  Some of that bravado springs from good and noble motives.  Some of it is of the flesh.  

When we fail to achieve our dreams, we often ball ourselves up in a tangle of hurt and humiliation.  I'm reminded of a conversation God had in the Old Testament with a character named Baruch. Through the prophet, Jeremiah, God said:

But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them.

—Jeremiah 45:5


Some times we wonder why God hasn’t allowed this or that specific ministry dream to materialize.  Could it be that having achieved “the summit” God knows we would collapse on the way down?  After all, every mountain top experience has its downside.   Or maybe, having achieved the goal, we would somehow pronounce our work for God “finished”—and lose our spiritual fervor. 


I do not say we should not set goals or attempt great things for God.  I'm simply reminding myself (and perhaps you, as well) that my ultimate goal must be nothing less and nothing other than the glory of God alone. 


Memorial Day Salute  

Not many get shot out of the sky and live to tell about it.

Even fewer reach the age of 100.

Freelin Carlton has done both. 

The World War 2 vet was captain of a B-24 bomber, notoriously tricky to fly.  The “Liberator’s” controls were stiff and heavy.  No cabin pressurization, no heater, no windshield wipers—and no washroom.  Worse, the plane had only one exit—in the tail—which was challenging to access in an emergency evacuation.  Hence, the bomber enjoyed the dubious title, “The Flying Coffin.”  Between 1940 and 1945, the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation built more than 18,000 of the massive planes, more than any other aircraft in the war.

On February 24, 1944, Captain Carlton, nosed his bomber over the Netherlands in an Allied Air offensive known as “Big Week,” when anti-aircraft fire hit his plane.  But the crew managed to limp into Germany until intercepted by Luftwaffe fighters that killed three of the plane’s gunners before delivering a death blow to the aircraft itself. 

All of the remaining seven crew members parachuted, with Captain Carlton—bleeding from a shrapnel wound in his right foot—landing between two trees.  Two hours later, Germans hauled him off to Stalag Luft 1 where he spent the balance of the war as a prisoner.

Fast forward 75 years later.  In Carmel Valley, California, Captain Carlton received an unusual 100th birthday gift: a package that came all the way from Germany.  Aviation History Magazine reports that inside the box were fragments of his ill-fated bomber.  Eberhard Haelbig, a member of a non-profit group that tracks and researches air war relics, had verified the pieces as part of Carlton’s doomed aircraft.

Along with parts of the plane, Haelbig included a note which said, in part, “Thank you, Captain Carlton, and thank you to the Greatest Generation for your fight against evil and for liberating my country.  I’m a German by birth, but an American at heart.”

Consider this blog a Memorial Day salute to  Captain Carlton—along with a nod of appreciation to Eberhard Haelbig, whose comment takes me to Philippians 3:20-21.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it, we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to himself.


SOURCE: Aviation History Magazine, July 2019
When Civil War Looms  

We are a nation at war.  With each other. 


For now, the battles are fought with blogs rather than bombs, tweets rather than tanks.  Still, we appear to be inching toward a civil war of values.   


So where does the Bible fit into a culture like ours?  What exactly is the role of Scripture in a divided nation?  And can we really expect the Bible to have a hearing as the fighting heats up?


These are the questions that gushed over the banks of my mind as I held a copy of the American Bible Society’s 1864 annual report. Recalling that this book was released right in the middle of a literal Civil War (1861-1865) I was dying to know: What was their perspective on the conflict that ultimately engulfed the nation?  What role did the Bible have during these tumultuous years?



The testimony in the following excerpts from the 1864 report are profound:


Amid national convulsions…producing such untold calamity in the land…there is no check upon the spread of God’s Word.  

The great number of prisoners of war held by the armies of the United States has made a constant demand for the Word of God among them.  Many letters have been received from prisoners requesting reference Bibles for themselves  and for their fellow prisoners, who desire them for use in their Bible classes.  The Word of God has been received with gratitude and eagerness.

Fearful as the war has become, every true friend of the Bible will rejoice that “the Word of God is not bound,” and that the American Bible society, true to its name and principles, has been enabled thus far to carry on its great work above the stormy passions and conflicting interests of the times.

Amid these strange scenes, the Bible, by the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit, is doing it’s appropriate work.  


(End of quote!) 


You and I can do little to stop whatever cultural clashes may be ahead.  But we need not doubt the power of God—and the power of His Word.   It’s a lesson America learned in the first Civil War.  May that truth comfort us as we move toward the second.  


Exit Row  

I won the lottery! 

Well…not really.

It only felt that way, when on a recent flight to Pennsylvania, I was seated in an exit row.  For those who don’t travel much, sitting in an exit row seat means you don’t have to hunch, lurch, twist and otherwise contort your body to fit into what the airlines claim is a seat.  The amount of legroom is almost humane.

But the gift of this non-smooshed seat comes with a catch. A flight attendant actually “interviews” you just before take-off.  You must confirm that you…

A. Will read and comply with the emergency instructions.

B. Are strong and able enough to assist others.

C. Promise to assist others getting off the plane, should a disaster strike.

I was intrigued by the language of the exit row safety card.  It said that we exit row passengers must be able to:

  • Reach upward, sideways and downward to the location of emergency exit operating mechanisms.
  • Grasp, pull, push and turn or otherwise manipulate those mechanisms.
  • Push, shove, pull, or otherwise open emergency exits.
  • Lift out, hold and deposit the hatch, weighing up to 42 pounds, out of the exit door opening. 
  • Maintain balance while removing obstructions.
  • Assess, select and follow a safe path away from the emergency exit.

Because air safety is a life-and-death issue, it got me to thinking about eternal life and death issues. What if we took spiritual rescue just as seriously?

Wouldn't we “read and comply” with God’s emergency instructions?  Wouldn’t we make sure we were spiritually strong enough to assist our lost neighbors, friends, and coworkers?  Shouldn’t the fact that we’ve been “rescued” by Christ motivate us to help others escape the flames of judgment to come?

I noticed a lot of intense verbs in the flight card instructions: pull, push, shove, hold, turn, reach, lift out. But how active am I in the spiritual rescue of others?  Do I go down on my knees for them in intercessory prayer?  Do I shoulder their burdens?  Do I hold out Christ’s words of life—or am I embarrassed to do so?

Paul wrote in Colossians 1:29, “To this end, I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”

Time to get serious about spiritual rescue.  Time to learn from that flight safety card so we can help others “assess, select, and follow a safe pathway”—Jesus!


Always Forgive You  

She was just seven years old.  But Lynnette had clearly crossed a line. It was an offense that called for an apology.   I went to her room wanting to teach her that an apology is more than a quickly mumbled, “Sorry.” It means naming your offense, acknowledge that it was wrong, and then asking for forgiveness. With a bit of prompting, Lynnette came through with a very nice apology.

As she uttered the words, “Will you forgive me?” I looked her squarely in the eyes (I was down on one knee).  I said, “Of course I forgive you. I’ll always forgive you, Lynnette.”

But just two weeks later, the offense was mine, and Diana let me know it was my turn to apologize to our daughter. I found Lynnette in her bedroom.  Having named my offense and apologized for hurting her, I then asked, “Will you please forgive me?” As I look back, I’m not sure what I expected.  Maybe a mumbled, “okay” or something like that.

Lynnette replied sweetly and without hesitation, “Of course I forgive you. I’ll always forgive you, Daddy.”  It was almost as if  a recorder was playing back my exact words from two weeks prior.  

Not one teeny smidge of hesitation in her voice.  There was only kindness and generosity.  

Does this sound familiar? Can you think of someone else who freely assures His children, “Of course I’ll forgive you. I’ll always forgive you”?


1 John 1:9  is such a familiar verse that it may well have become mundane to some of us. Hear it again: “If we confess our sins (agree with God, admit our wrong), he is faithful (utterly reliable and 100 percent dependable) and just (the wrong we’ve done is paid for by Jesus Himself to meet the requirements of a holy God) to forgive us our sins (drop all charges and give us the full standing of legal justification) and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (a slate wiped fully clean!).

It’s not just the “little” sins He cleans up. It’s all of them. The big sins. The premeditated sins. The you-wouldn’t-speak- to-me-again-if-you-knew-I’d-done-that kind of sins. He cleanses us from every last streak and stain, every dark mark against our souls. Astounding!


It happened to the woman caught in adultery.

It happened with the prodigal son in Jesus’ story. 

It happened with David, who committed the double crimes of adultery and murder. 


Person after person . . . sin after sin . . . crime after crime . . . ask for forgiveness and it is yours!

Remember this the next time the voice in your head whispers, You’ve confessed this sin so many times, how can you even think about asking for forgiveness! Or maybe you’ll hear this old accusation: A true Christian wouldn’t have done what you’ve just done! You will never beat this sin!

If the voice sounds like a hiss, it is so only because it belongs to a serpent. You know his name. You know his destination. So resist him. Claim the name of the King who defeated him on a hill outside Jerusalem two thousand years ago.

As you claim the lovely name of Jesus, hear those lovely words one more time: “Of course I forgive you! I’ll always forgive you!”




 Jon's new book, Kids Say the Wisest Things--is available at https://www.moodypublishers.com/ or Amazon.  Download a free sample chapter and watch a video clip at: http://kidssaythewisestthings.com/


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