new hebrides

The Life of John G. Paton

by Reggie Osborne II
Follow @reggieosborne on Twitter, friend me on Facebook or Google+.

I have been remarkably blessed by the story of John G. Paton.  The lessons about parenting and prayer alone have been worth the investment of my time.

I first heard about Mr. Paton from Desiring God.  John Piper delivered a powerful biographical message on his life and spurred my search for the autobiography of the man.

I found a free digital version of the book at Amazon.com which you can access by clicking here. I enjoyed it and think it’s well worth your time as well.

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Bee-lieve it. We’re in Trouble.

by Reggie Osborne II
Follow @reggieosborne on Twitter, friend me on Facebook or Google+.

Last night the Associated Press published an article by Seth Borenstein that began with this staggering line:  “More than two out of five American honeybee colonies died in the past year…”

The article reports that since April 2014 beekeepers have lost 42% of their bee colonies.  That’s 42% of all American bee colonies wiped out in 13 months.  That is absolutely staggering.

My daughters would be thrilled to know that there will be far less bees moving forward.  Bees send them running in terror, squealing and screeching their way to safety.  But my oldest has learned how important bees are.  When I asked her recently if she understand what bees did, she answered, “They help the flowers and crops to grow and stuff.”

Well said.  If you’ve forgotten what exactly the bees do, then take a few minutes out of your day and watch the video below:

Bees are essential to our food production processes; absolutely essential!  If we entered a massive drought that prevented rain for months on end, we’d be far better off than if we lost all the bees.

So where are the bees going?  Well, the most likely culprits are the makers of insecticides in the United States of America, and if you don’t know much about the way our country works, let me just say, insecticide makers are huge power-brokers in our world.  They run massive corporations like Bayer, Dupont, and Monsanto.  These are not small companies.  These are giants.

Giant companies like these have the ability to control the press and control the government with big money.  They can make campaign contributions to candidates running for election, but more importantly, they can contribute massive amounts of money to Super PACS that effectively sway public opinion on important candidates and issues.

If a candidate takes their money, he or she is expected to vote their way on all important legislation.  If a candidate doesn’t vote their way as much as they’d like, their money is going to one of their opponents in next election cycle.

Aside from the money, these companies also have massive legal teams that constantly challenge any new regulations that might threaten their bottom-lines.  They win in courtrooms because their lawyers work endlessly on whatever they see as a threat.  Legal fees are not problem for them.  That’s just the cost of doing their business.

They are huge employers of lobbyists, Washington based groups dedicated to swaying votes and legislation one way or another.  These people are not paid to work in the best interest of the country or in the best interest of the world.  They are paid to work in the best interests of Monsanto, Bayer, and Dupont.  They are like the Patriots fan who has convinced himself that Tom Brady didn’t throw deflated footballs.  They’re not paid to be unbiased.  They’re paid to promote the company line.

These companies want their own places in government.  When they support a candidate for office, they expect that candidate to reward them with important positions once they’re elected.  Both Republican and Democratic presidents continue to put employees of these companies in powerful political positions.  Michael Taylor is the most prominent example.  At various times he has been a corporate officer for Monsanto, as well as the presidential appointment to head the FDA.

If it seems odd that an officer of a drug and seed company would be put in charge of regulating all the drug and seed companies, that’s because it is odd.  It’s more than odd.  It’s inexcusably reckless. As this article and many others explain, it’s essentially letting the wolves decide the best way to protect all the chickens.

It should not surprise us that these companies don’t want to take any blame for the disappearance of the bee colonies.  In fact, in the very article that the AP released last night, it’s a Bayer executive who argues against any alarm:

Dick Rogers, chief beekeeper for pesticide-maker Bayer, said the loss figure is “not unusual at all” and said the survey shows an end result of more colonies now than before: 2.74 million hives in 2015, up from 2.64 million in 2014.

So according to a Bayer representative, there’s no reason for any of us to be alarmed!  According to Bayer, we shouldn’t even care that 42% of the bee colonies died last year.  We shouldn’t be worried about the disappearance of bees at all!

Somehow, I’m not reassured.

Is it possible that Mr. Rogers is not being honest with his neighbors?  As the article explains, whenever a bee colony dies, the beekeepers split a healthy colony and replace it.  This means that the replacing colony has fewer bees, undergoes more stress adapting to the new work, and bears less genetic distinction from the previous colony.

In other words, Dick is right when he says that there are more colonies today than in 2014.  But he fails to mention that more than 50% of those colonies are  much weaker than the ones they replaced, and more likely to die themselves.  That’s not exactly an honest representation of the truth, is it?

It’s not surprising that the heaviest bee colony losses were in agricultural hubs like Oklahoma, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, and Wisconsin.  Each of those states lost more than 60% of their bee hives since last April.  Can you even wrap your mind around that?  60% of the bees in those places, gone?

The head bee scientist at the USDA, Jeff Pettis, apparently claimed that “last summer’s die off included unusual queen loss and seemed worse in colonies that moved more.”  It’s logical to believe that the colonies that move the most are the colonies exposed to the most insecticides.

But the reality is that no one can definitively prove why the bees are dying.  So long as Bayer, Monsanto, and Dupont can deny any responsibility, they will.

For Christians, this is a reminder of how little we actually control our world.  God made bees to do the job that they do, and they cannot be replaced by man-made robots or lasers or radio waves.  He is the Life-Giver, and yet it’s often uncomfortable for us to be reminded of how much we depend on Him.

For the human side of it, if it turns out that these chemical companies are destroying the bee population, than what a silly lie we’ve all believed about the importance of their work.  The argument has been that without their products, we could never feed the world.  But if those same products are inadvertently killing off the very creatures we depend on to pollinate crops, then they’re marching hundreds of millions of people to hunger and starvation.

They don’t want people thinking about that possibility, but if the bees keep dying, this story will inevitably generate a tremendous amount of buzz.

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Thinking About My Death

by Reggie Osborne II
Follow @reggieosborne on Twitter, friend me on Facebook or Google+.

Yesterday was a perfectly fine day.  It was better than fine.  I preached a sermon that I’ve been waiting some time to preach.  I played basketball in the afternoon, an event I no longer take for granted with how scarcely it happens these days.  I survived the evening service.  I came home to happy children and went to bed at a reasonable time with my wife.

Then I thought about my own death.

I don’t know why I started thinking about my death.  It just happened.  I closed my eyes to go to sleep, and the thought of it came to me:  What would I do if I found I was going to die?

Questions like this haven’t bothered me much lately.  Life is hard and often times unrewarding.  For the last six years or so, I’ve lived predominantly for heavenly reward.  I no longer hoard money or possessions as I used to.  I’m not trying to retire early.  In fact, I no longer plan on retiring at all.  I push myself to work to exhaustion on projects and meetings and jobs that could bring glory to God in His church.

I want to go to bed completely spent, for Jesus’ sake.

So for awhile now, thoughts of my own death have not bothered me much.  I will not miss my family after I die.  I will be with Jesus, and there will be no more sorrow for me.  And I have no other major things in life I would like to accomplish if the Lord decides to call me home.  Now, I have other things I would like to accomplish – but at the top of my list of goals is the desire to be with Jesus.  So I would not delay goal #1 to accomplish #2 or #3.

But last night, when I thought of my own death, I thought of my son.  He is four years old.  He has far more energy than I do and routinely asks me to do things that I am too exhausted to do, or that are hilariously impractical.  It might be 30-degrees outside when he asks if we can go swimming, or it might be pouring rain when he asks if we can ride bikes.  Or I could be flat-out exhausted to the point of a migraine when he asks if we can wrestle, and all I can mange is to tickle him for a few minutes.

I love my son.  I love my daughters as well, all four of them in their own way.  But I am convinced that, should I die, my wife would be for them what they need the most: an example of life and godliness as a woman of our King Jesus.  But who will be that to my son if I am gone?

Last night that question deeply troubled me.

I am sure that there are honorable people in my life who would try to help my son if I were to die, my own father and brother first among others.  But I also know that nothing can replace having a father in the home.  And though I have repeatedly told my wife not to stay single for my sake should something happen to me, I am not convinced she would remarry.

Who will raise my son in my stead?

This troubling thought tormented me for more than a few minutes last night.  And as irrational as it is for me to be concerned about these things at the age of 32 and in relatively good health, I cannot dismiss the notion of it.  People die.  I don’t imagine myself immune to that reality.

Now, from the time my first child was born, I would go into her room, hover over her crib, place my hand on her little belly and pray, “God, please be the Father to my little girl that I cannot be.”  I have repeated that prayer more times than I can count now 11 years into her life.  And I know that the same God who has been faithful to me, will be faithful to my children, should they call upon Him as Lord.

But I want to be there for my son.  I want to be his father, the father that every boy should have.  So I guess I will go to my yearly doctor visits without neglecting them.  I will make sure I go to sleep on time, and not pass the semi-truck who is swerving  slowly in the right lane on I-70 at 6:00 AM.  I won’t climb up ladders that haven’t been anchored properly or eat a diet of foods that come wrapped in paper or cardboard boxes.

But most of all, I will pray for life.  Not necessarily long life, but life just long enough to see my son to manhood.  That would be very generous of God to grant me that much.

And I will try to honor the Lord, so as not to bring His discipline in my life in ways that might hurt my family.  I do not want my life (or theirs) to be cut short because of sin.

And I will not take my days for granted.  I will make time, even now, to be a father to my son.  This does not mean doing all that he wants to do.  That’s not remotely possible, nor would it be good for him.  But I will invest more time into his little life.  I will bring him along with me where I go.  I will show him, by example, how a godly man talks and laughs and works and cries.

I will do these things to the glory of God, in hopes that He will redeem my son’s life from the clutches of sin so that I might spend eternity with him, with Him.

So thinking about death is never enjoyable.  Frankly, it’s often very unsettling and disturbing.  But if being disturbed is what causes me to come to godly convictions, then I will think of death as unto the Lord and remember the words of Paul:

“I say this, my brothers, the time is short…” (1 Cor. 7:29)

Indeed, it is.

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california-drought

When God Stops the Rain

by Reggie Osborne II
Follow @reggieosborne on Twitter, friend me on Facebook or Google+.

California is in the fourth year of drought.  The video below demonstrates just how serious this problem really is.

Of course, the people of California and the rest of the modern world don’t believe God has anything to do with this.  They blame it on climate change.  Apparently their god has nothing to do with the climate.

The God that Christians worship, however, repeatedly claims responsibility for the weather (Gen 6, Ex. 9, Josh 10, 1 Sam 7, 12, 2 Sam 21, 1 Kings 8, 16, Hosea 13, Amos 4, Jonah 1, etc, etc, etc).  It’s beyond me to know why God has let a drought come over California for the past 4 years, and I don’t care to guess.  But I certainly believe He’s in control of it and that the rain (or lack thereof) remains in His jurisdiction.

On a side note, it’s pretty remarkable that this kind of an epic drought isn’t being treated like major news.  Outside of California it’s hardly even discussed.  Sporting events, social issues, and television shows dominate airwaves, but the fact that it’s not raining in one of the world’s most prominent places is barely mentioned.

Since 2012, the state has been literally dying.  Golf courses are still watered and the lawns are kept green, but the video above demonstrates the undeniable consequences of the drought.  Wells are drying up.  Entire communities are having water trucked to them each week.  Lakes have turned into ponds, and the state’s poorest populations are the ones who suffer most.

In the video above, the governor of California is confronted by the fact that the agricultural industry, responsible for growing food and supplying many low-income jobs, has not had their water cut off yet.  That’s right – the people of California are beginning to demand that their farmers let the crops die and food production be significantly scaled back.

And all of this is a sobering reminder of God’s power.  But it’s also more than that.

It’s a demonstration of how far we’ve come as human beings from acknowledging that an all-powerful “god” even exists.  Just a generation ago, national figures would be calling for our country to pray in the face of many modern-day troubles, including this drought.  But those days are gone, replaced by a time when religion (specifically Christianity) is mocked and scorned.  Christians are spoken of with the same ridicule that one might expect to be directed towards morons and clowns.

God has been dismissed.  He is no longer considered a significant factor in anything.

He is not considered or acknowledged in any form of national policy.  We do not think of Him before we go to war, before we sign agreements, before we change laws, or before we spend money.  We are not quite ready to strike His name from our currency and Pledge of Allegiance, but we have certainly struck God, Himself, from any position of influence.

In God’s book of wisdom we come upon the following counsel:  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths. (Prov. 3:5-6)”

But we prefer the polar opposite of this wisdom.  We prefer to acknowledge Him in absolutely nothing, to direct our own paths, and to imagine that He does not mind being ignored out of existence.

This cannot continue.  It is an impossibility.  God will not be forever ignored.  One way or another, He will be glorified as Creator and Sovereign Lord.  He will not be despised forever.  That is the message repeatedly issued throughout Scripture.

And so when we think of four-year droughts, climate changes, strange weather patterns, and when we think of hostile enemies, lawlessness, and great economic suffering, we should remember that God is not dead, nor does He sleep.

We would do well to remember the northern Kingdom of Israel, which in a short 80 years went from dedicating the Temple to the Lord under the reign of Solomon, to worshiping golden calves and the Baals.

That’s right – it was only 80 years from Solomon to Ahab and Jezebel.  Time flies when you’re embracing heresy.

They went from strict laws forbidding sexual impurity to widespread homosexuality and adultery.  They went from a holy priesthood ordained by God through the tribe of Levi, to a sacrilegious priesthood of people consisting of anyone who wanted to be a priest and had the right connections.  They went from justice and integrity to the murder of Naboth for a pretty vineyard.

Nothing quite sums up the state of the kingdom like 2 Kings, chapter 1, when King Ahaziah – the son of Ahab and Jezebel – became gravely injured to the point of death.  But rather than going to Elijah, he sent his messengers to Ekron, the land of the Philistines, to seek the wisdom of Beelzebub.

He preferred the “Lord of Flies” to the Lord Jehovah.

2 Kings 1:6 – “Thus says the LORD: ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?”

The tragedy of the United States of America is that we once celebrated the idea that God will hear our prayers and bless those who honor Him.  But now we don’t even bother to pray, let alone attempt to honor a God who seems at odds with our own ideas of morality.  Who is God to tell us what’s right and wrong?

This seems incredibly arrogant, and incredibly stupid of us – to put God in a position where His only recourse would seem to be supernatural judgment.  Maybe that’s why God has stopped the rain in California.  Maybe not.

But the Lord of Glory will only be robbed of it for so long…

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Easter Prayer

by Reggie Osborne II
Follow @reggieosborne on Twitter, friend me on Facebook or Google+.

O Father, forgive my sins.

And thank you for Jesus, whose loving and tender hands You saw fit to bind; whose head You saw fit to wound; whose heart You saw fit to pierce.

What sorrow to look upon Your only Son, innocent and kind, gentle and sweet, and to know that He must die.

And to see His skin split open, and to hear His crying, and to watch Him ruined beyond recognition, this man who you knew in His mother’s womb – this boy You call Your own – this child You fathered. What gruesomeness is this? What cruelty is this?

It is not Your gruesomeness. It’s mine. It is not Your cruelty. It’s my own.

He was wounded for my transgressions. He has suffered for my sins. You have laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

It has pleased you, Father, to break your little boy for me. Did you not know how unworthy I am of this? Has this not been a disappointing trade, his life for mine?

Did you not know how little I would live up to such a thing as this? I am not worth the price! Would that I could go back and beg You to stop, to lower the knife, to leave me in sin – for this would be justice.

You have not given me justice, but mercy. You have exchanged anger for grace and wrath for love. With innocent blood you have redeemed me from hands of death. At the price of an only son, you have bought a worthless sinner.

Oh that I would not disappoint you! Oh that I will, somehow, be granted strength to merit some fraction of this exchange, for truly it is far beyond my own power to earn any part of this.

I will sing, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain. He has redeemed me to God with His blood. He is worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing. He has borne our sin on His shoulders, and by His stripes, we are healed.

“Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever.

“Amen.”

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Crystal-ball

Psychic Evangelism

by Reggie Osborne II
Follow @reggieosborne on Twitter, friend me on Facebook or Google+.

Me:  “Hello, my friend.  I am Pastor Reggie Osborne, and I will be your spiritual adviser for the evening.  What brings you to this illustrious church of paneled walls and dated drop ceiling?”

Searching Stranger:  “Well, I was talking to my friend here. And I just decided that I needed to make some changes in my life.  I haven’t been to church in forever, but I believe in God.”

Me:  “Ah, I see.  Well let me tell you about Jesus…”

{The Gospel is shared in a clear and simple way.}

“My main concern for you is that you trust the Lord for the forgiveness of your sins – that you’re saved from Hell.  Are you ready to trust Jesus with your life – to call upon Him as Lord – to follow Jesus with all your heart?”

Searching Stranger:  “Yes.”

Now, to this point, this conversation has gone about as well as it possibly can.  And frankly, that’s a little disturbing to me.  Because I’ve been in plenty of gospel-sharing scenarios before, and practically none of them go this smoothly.

I’ve been derailed by ghost stories, alien visitations, and countless deals that people think they’ve made with God in their pasts.

There’s always something.

So when someone shows up for one church service, asks to speak with me afterwards, and is immediately ready to trust Jesus as Lord and Savior, warning bells start to go off.  My sermon wasn’t even that good!

It’s not supposed to be this easy, is it?

What if you went to the bank for a loan, but when you got there the banker was already waiting for you at the door with a suitcase full of money.  What are you gonna’ do?  Sure you want the money – but at what point do you take a step back and ask yourself, “Is this for real?”

Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing greater in the world than seeing someone be saved.  I could not possibly tally the number of hours I spend working to see someone trust Jesus as Lord.

But, on the other hand, there are few things as depressing as baptizing someone, completing membership classes with them, and embracing them as a brother…only to see them disappear forever a month later!  That sucks.  It really sucks.

So what I’d really like to do here is look into the future and figure out exactly where this is all leading…

Me:  “Before we pray, let me peer into my crystal ball and determine whether or not I’m wasting my time with someone who is going to stab me in the back and vanish like a ninja three weeks after your baptism…”

I do not want to be hurt.  I don’t like being duped.

So what I need is a radar gun that I can point at the chest of new Christians to detect whether or not they’re really saved.  If they are, then I’ll be happy to baptize them and throw all my energy into helping them grow.  If they’re not…well, I’ll keep praying and sharing the gospel until the radar gun gives me a confirmation!

See, at some point you start asking yourself, “Is it even wise to baptize someone so soon after a profession of faith?  Maybe we should just give this some time and see how this all plays out…”

Now, that’s my human nature infringing upon my faith in God.  That’s my desire not to get hurt interfering with God’s instructions.

And praise God, just about the time I start thinking that way, the Word of God saves me from incurring His anger – for what could possibly anger Him more than a pastor turning away a perishing sinner at the gates of Heaven?

Rather than a crystal ball, my fears are relieved by Scripture:

Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.”  This is desert.

So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning.  And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet.

Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.”

So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?”  And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.  The place in the Scripture which he read was this:

“He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opened not His mouth. In His humiliation His justice was taken away, and who will declare His generation?  For His life is taken from the earth.”

So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?”

Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.  Now as they went down the road, they came to some water.  And the eunuch said, “See, here is water.  What hinders me from being baptized?”

Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”

And he answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

So he commanded the chariot to stand still.  And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. (Acts 8:26-38)

Philip couldn’t have possibly thought up an easier encounter.  Wouldn’t it be great if everyone we shared the gospel with was coming home from worship, reading a Bible, and asking for help with understanding it?
And, by the way, what if they just so happened to be reading a passage about Jesus dying on the cross for their sins?
You know what this tells me?  It tells me that sometimes, it really is that easy.  Sometimes, God does all all the hard work – and all I have to do is keep from tripping all over myself as I recite the gospel and pray.
And sure, there are going to be professions of faith that aren’t genuine. In the same chapter of the Bible, Acts 8, we have the story of Simon the Magician who believes, is baptized, and doesn’t make it twenty verses before Peter is doubting his salvation.
And yeah, I wish it didn’t hurt so much when people’s faith proved false.  But what are we going to do?  Turn people away at the altar?  Of course not.
So it’s time for me to retire my crystal ball, share the gospel plainly, and rejoice whenever anyone responds.  I’ll just keep serving God and let the Lord sort it out from there.
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Sabrina

Incapable of Love?

by Reggie Osborne II
Follow @reggieosborne on Twitter, friend me on Facebook or Google+.

I don’t like romantic comedies, but I love the movie Sabrina.  I’m pretty sure that my love of Harrison Ford overpowered my chick-flick resistance and suckered me into this one.  If Han Solo puts on a suit and tie and decides to change his name to Linus Larrabee, then I won’t apologize for watching and enjoying and silently waiting for Chewie to show up in a cameo appearance.

(Side Note: I realize this movie is a remake of some classic movie from the 1950’s.  I have been told this many times.  I have also been told that this movie is not nearly as good as the 1954 original, but I reject this notion on the premise that any movie with Harrison Ford is better than the same movie without him.)

The movie is about a young woman (Julia Ormond) who happens to be the daughter of a chauffeur for a very wealthy family.

“Once upon a time, on the north shore of Long Island, not far from New York, there was a very very large mansion, almost a castle, where there lived a family by the name of Larrabee. There were servants inside the mansion, and servants outside the mansion; boatmen to tend the boats, and six crews of gardeners: two for the solarium, the rest for the grounds, and a tree surgeon on retainer. There were specialists for the indoor tennis courts, and the outdoor tennis courts, the outdoor swimming pool, and the indoor swimming pool. And over the garage there lived a chauffeur by the name of Fairchild, imported from England years ago, together with a Rolls Royce; and a daughter, named Sabrina.”

She lives above the detached garage next to the family beachfront mansion.  She’s not very pretty or noticeable when the movie begins.  She’s getting ready to leave on a trip to Paris.

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Oh, and by the way, she’s desperately in love with the David Larrabee (Greg Kinnear).

David and Linus Larrabee are brothers, but they are nothing alike.  Their father died when they were boys, and each of them grew into completely different men.  They clearly love one another, but neither understands the other’s life.  Linus is a businessman.  David is a rich playboy.

Linus makes Donald Trump look like a hobbyist.  He makes money.  He buys companies.  He’s powerful and respected and always right.

David is the screw up.  He has a new girlfriend every week.  He nonchalantly spends the family’s money, which Linus makes, and does whatever he pleases.

There’s a subtle tension in the relationship that occasionally surfaces.

David Larrabee: You’re talking about my life.

Linus Larrabee: I pay for your life, David. My life makes your life possible.

David Larrabee: I resent that.

Linus Larrabee: So do I.

 

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Linus Larrabee (Harrison Ford) argues with David Larrabee (Greg Kinnear) in Sabrina (1995)

The basic plot of the movie is as follows:

  • Sabrina goes to Paris and transforms herself into a beautiful, confident young woman.
  • When she comes back, David falls in love with her, but he’s already engaged to another woman.  This new romance with Sabrina threatens a business deal that Linus is working on.
  • So Linus decides to make Sabrina fall in love with him.  He pretends to love her back, but he’s really just trying to get rid of her so she won’t interfere with the big business deal.

Something strange happens to Linus, though.  As he’s trying to get Sabrina to fall in love with him, he accidentally falls in love with her.  This doesn’t happen all-of-the-sudden.  It happens gradually as they talk and listen to one another.

The closer Linus gets to Sabrina, the more meaningless his business life seems.

Sabrina picks his life apart, questioning his heart and his character and his lack of joy and passion.  She is relentless in her observations of him, and he is repeatedly surprised by the way her words cut to the heart of who he is.

Sabrina: You probably don’t believe in marriage.

Linus Larrabee: Yes, I do. That’s why I never got married.

Over the course of time, the plan seems to work.  Sabrina does fall in love with Linus.  No one is more surprised by this than she is.  She realizes that her crush on David was just a fantasy – an “illusion”, as the movie describes it.  Her feelings for Linus are real.

She doesn’t know that he’s only trying to get rid of her so his business deal won’t be hurt by her romance with David.

Then everything falls apart.  Linus can’t go through with it.  He can’t jilt her.  It breaks her heart (and his) when he tells her the truth – that it was all just a ploy to keep her away from David until the business deal was done.  She goes to Paris alone.

But Linus can’t bear to think of her alone in Paris.  So he goes to his brother, David, in a last ditch effort to make things right.  He tells David to blow off his engagement, to fly to Paris, to meet up with Sabrina, and to make her happy.

Linus : This whole thing was a business tactic, I let it get out of hand. Somehow I lost my focus. I screwed up everything. But I know it can be fixed. I manipulated her, I confused her. But she’s loved you all her life. You’re what she really wants. You’re what she’s always wanted. Go with her, it’s not too late. Things will work out. She’ll make you happy. I don’t want her to have to leave here alone.

David : What about Patrick and the merger? You’d blow a billion dollars for this?

…I see.

Linus : Get going. Go on. Don’t miss the plane.

David’s stunned.  He’s shocked that his brother could love a woman more than he could love money.  He orchestrates his own plan to complete the merger himself, without Linus, and to send Linus off to Paris to be with Sabrina.

This works, of course.  Linus meets her there, professes his love, and pleads with her to forgive him and love him back.

Linus: Paris is always a good idea, you said.  You said I’d be happy here.  You couldn’t have meant without you.

Sabrina: How did you know where to find me?

Linus: Your father.  I told him I need you.  I told him I’d make you happy.  I promised him.

Sabrina: I thought it was all a lie?

Linus: So did I.  But something happened.  It was a lie.  And then it was a dream.

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Why do I love this movie?

I’ve been in the same church for twenty years, and I’ve seen the Christian version of Linus Larrabee my entire life.  I’ve been the Christian version of Linus Larrabee.

It’s not that I didn’t believe in God or church or total devotion.  I just thought that sort of thing was for other people.

I attended church.  I went to activities.  I wanted the church to grow.  I wanted people to be saved from Hell.  These were all noble goals – but they weren’t my goals.  I was too busy with other things.  I said I loved God.  I’m not sure that I actually did.

I would see the passion of other people, men and women who were clearly willing to sacrifice everything in their lives to serve God and advance the gospel, and I admired that passion.  I admired my dad.  I marveled at how he could be so careless about things that seemed so important to me, all in an effort to give every part of himself to the church.

I was even jealous of his passion from time to time.  But I thought I was incapable of it. In my mind, I wasn’t capable of loving God and His church the way that other people were.

I was wrong.  I was so wrong.

My life was a joke.  The passions I had weren’t real.  Slowly, like Linus in the movie, men like Alistair Begg and John Piper and Albert Mohler began to poke holes in my life.  Maybe I was capable of a devotion to God far beyond what I had ever expected.  This happened gradually, but once it began, I couldn’t shut it off.

And now that I am finally alive in Christ, it breaks my heart to see so many who are only flirting with God.  I wonder what their lives would be like if they could let go of the things that keep them from being “all-in”.  They seem almost like tragic figures to me, admiring the passion of others but not willing to be passionate themselves.

What could the church be like if we truly sought after God’s kingdom first?  What if we made everything else in life take a backseat to the pursuit of God’s kingdom?

What if we all are capable of loving God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strengths – but our own pursuits and passions have led us to believe that that kind of devotion belongs to other people?

It’s sad to see people not really accomplishing anything for God’s kingdom, never truly committing, never truly going 100%, always holding back, always tapping the brakes for fear they might get caught up in something that will jeopardize their other goals and agendas.  I don’t know what to make of it.

God has given us the keys to His kingdom, but we’d rather play sports or watch television or make money.  We’d rather let other people love God with all their hearts, so that we can get by with just loving Him enough to avoid Hell.

We’re not incapable of love.  We’re just too busy for it.

 

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Be Like Jesus, Not Daddy

by Reggie Osborne II
Follow @reggieosborne on Twitter, friend me on Facebook or Google+.

I love my kids, and I think I know what’s best for them, just like I think I know what’s best for me.  I think I know the decisions that they should make, and the things they should value, and the sins and temptations that are coming for them down the road.

So I sometimes tell them what they should do, and what I would do, and how to prepare for what lies ahead.  And it’s good that I do this.  We’re supposed to be having these discussions.  This is parenting.

But in the midst of all this instruction and teaching, there is a danger for them.  And the danger is that they’ll hear my counsel and my wisdom and my experiences, and what they’ll take away from all of that knowledge is, “I should do my best to be like Daddy.”

And there’s something heartwarming about that, isn’t there?  There’s something loving and respectful and utterly innocent about the little boy who looks up at his dad and says, “I want to be just like you, Dad.”  Or the little girl who sees her mom trying to hold things together and completely stuns her with the words, “Mommy, I want to be just like you someday.”

Kids don’t realize how fragile we are.  They see us as confident decision-makers.  They see us with control and command of a situation.  They have no idea what’s really going on in our heads and our hearts.

What if, with all of our counsel and wisdom that we give them, the message I end up mistakenly communicating is, “Just be like me”?  That’s not the right message.

The message they need is, “Just be like Jesus.”

So, officially and for the record, here are three ways that I hope my kids will model Jesus instead of Reggie. (And yes, I realize the potential for such a list is infinite.)

1.  Don’t look for joy in games and sports like Dad did.  Experience real joy in seeking God’s kingdom.

Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Mat. 13:44)

Jesus gave all that He had for the kingdom of heaven, and He did it for joy – real joy, not the kind of fake joy that ends when the video game’s over or the sports are done.  The joy of God’s kingdom is eternally satisfying.  It is genuine and fulfilling.  It doesn’t leave you empty, looking for another game or another league.  It doesn’t disappoint.  It’s not ruined by pulled hamstrings or computer crashes.

It’s real!  That’s the joy I want for them.

2. Don’t look for peace or power or satisfaction in money like Dad did.  Find all of those things (and so much more) in God.

“Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.” (1 Tim. 6:9)

Money will not protect you from catastrophe.  It will not immunize you to cancer.  Insurance for your house, car, life, and health may be wise and prudent, but if your peace rests in your bank accounts and insurance policies, then you’ve built your life on sand.  And when the tide comes in, and when it strikes at the foundation of your life, you will crumble.

The power and satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that money affords will not be worth the cost when you stand before the Lord and give an account of all that you’ve done.

So make money.  Make as much money as you honorably can.  But don’t keep it.  Don’t horde it.  And, for the sake of your own soul, don’t trust in it.  It will fail you.  It will fail you every time in the end.

Use your money with a vision of eternity in Heaven.  You will be glad that you did.

3. Don’t lie to yourself about your own sinfulness like your Daddy did.  Humble yourself, confess your sins, and see Jesus for the Savior that He is.

Jesus has always been honest about my sin, even when I wasn’t willing to be.

I understand that you hate your sin.  But denying that it’s there won’t help you.  Turning a blind eye to it, or (worse) trying to justify it, will only hurt you and those you love.  Ignoring or justifying sin rips a hole into the heart of the gospel.

If you can’t see your sin for what it is, then you won’t see your Savior for who He is.

Paul wrote, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (1 Tim. 1:15)

You cannot fight an enemy until you admit that he’s there.  You cannot fight against the power of sin in your life until you recognize its presence (confession), assess your own strength (salvation by grace alone), and attack it at its core – those evil desires that have tricked you into thinking they’ll give you something good.

Jesus will never lie to you about your sin.  He’s given His life to save you from it and all its ugly consequences.

So Halle, Ashlynne, Jocelyn, Reggie, and Evelyn – don’t be like Mommy or Daddy when you grow up.  Don’t set your sights so low.  Be like Jesus, and never see me or your mother for more than what we are:  chief sinners, saved only by the blood of our cross-carrying King of kings.

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Pirates Attack Lumber Liquidators

by Reggie Osborne II
Follow @reggieosborne on Twitter, friend me on Facebook or Google+.

Something happened Sunday night.  Pirates tried to kill Lumber Liquidators.  By the time the sun came up, the Lumber Liquidators ship was sinking fast.  Now they’re bailing water, and preparing to fight back.

Let me explain.

In case you don’t know, Lumber Liquidators is a company that sells flooring.  They sell it out of storefronts, and they sell it online.  It’s been a huge success.  My wife and I bought flooring for most of our house through their website then picked it up at a local store.  So have a lot of other people.  The company’s stock price has been a bit of a roller-coaster, but very profitable.

Then came Sunday night’s episode of 60 Minutes.  The CBS reporting juggernaut that prides itself in its investigative journalism ran a segment on Lumber Liquidators, and boy was it bad news for the company!  According to 60 Minutes, Lumber Liquidators has been selling tons of laminate flooring that contains unreasonably high levels of formaldehyde – the stuff that causes asthma, leukemia, and other kinds of cancer!

Just stop for a second and ask yourself:  if I wanted to ruin a company, what would be the worst possible story I could come up with to absolutely destroy them?  Could I come up with ANYTHING that compares to the story 60 Minutes reported?

I mean, if the report from 60 Minutes is true and can be proven in a courtroom, this is the end of Lumber Liquidators.  It would be better for them to be caught in the middle of a prostitution ring than to be knowingly selling flooring that causes leukemia and other kinds of cancer!  Can you even imagine the potential cost involved with removing all the laminate flooring they’ve sold, replacing it, and paying all the medical claims that would undoubtedly be made against them?

Forget it!  They’d be finished!

And, by the way, the 60 Minutes report is totally believable.  Lumber Liquidators buys most of their laminate flooring from Chinese manufacturers.  Anyone who has worked with Chinese manufacturers could tell you that the inspection process is not always on the up-and-up, and when it comes time to actually mass produce a product, every importer has essentially two choices:  the legit way, or the cheaper, somewhat-legit way.

So it’s very believable that Lumber Liquidators has been using sub-standard material in its laminate flooring and making a killing by beating out their competitors who’ve been paying (and charging) more money for the proper material.

But wait – wasn’t there something about pirates in the title of this article? Yep!

Enter into the scene the actual attackers of Lumber Liquidators, because if you thought CBS’ 60 Minutes came up with this “investigative report” on their own, then I’ve got a bridge to sell you!

See, in the financial world there are basically two types of bets.  You can either bet that a company is going to do well by buying their stock, or you can bet that a company is going to do bad by “shorting” their stock.  And without going into too much detail, let’s just say that if you’re shorting a stock, you want that company’s stock price to go DOWN, DOWN, DOWN.  And if it goes down quickly, that would be even better!

See the people who buy stock are like cheerleaders.  They root for that company.  They tell their friends how great the company is.  They cling to any good news that the company reports.

But the people who short stock are like hecklers.  They’re boo-birds.  They’re worse actually, because a heckler just stands up and screams, “You SUCK!”  But if you’re shorting a stock, you do more than stand up and scream.  You find reasons to stick the refs on them.  You accuse them of cheating.  You officially protest every win.  You wait for them in the hallway after the game and hit them in the knees with a baseball bat.

Well as it turns out, some pretty powerful people decided awhile back to short Lumber Liquidators, and they’ve launched all kinds of attacks at the company.  They’ve sued them, they’ve accused them of cheating on their financial reports, and now they’ve persuaded 60 Minutes that they might be selling cancerous death sticks instead of normal laminate flooring.

This is the equivalent of a Tonya Harding baseball bat to the knee.  This is the pirate ship that sails up alongside the unsuspecting freight-liner in the night and fires every single cannon at the same time just to see how fantastically they can sink the other ship.

And boy was it sinking this morning!  Lumber Liquidators’ stock price dropped immediately by more than 20%.  It dropped so quickly that they had to stop all trading!  That’s the kind of stuff that happens when the sky is falling and the CEO excuses himself to go jump out of the 30th-floor window.  They stopped trading!  Then they fired back at the 60 Minutes reports with everything they had.

It’s been quite the spectacle, and if you’re a private company thinking about going public on the stock exchange, you should certainly be thinking twice this morning.  After all, the pirates can essentially go after anyone they want.  It’s so much easier to run a smear campaign than to defend against one.

Now there’s a lot of different ways this could play out.  Lumber Liquidators could successfully prove that there’s nothing wrong with their laminate flooring.  If they do that, this whole fiasco is still going to hurt them because defending against these types of allegations is expensive.  The same type of thing happened to LINN Energy recently, and even after they proved that all the accusations were false, the company’s still in the tank.

Or, the pirates could actually be right.  After all, this is Wall Street.  The people who run these big companies doon occasion, lie. And if they can actually prove that Lumber Liquidators knowingly did this, then people are going to go to jail, and the company is finished.

More than likely, something in between will happen.  There probably is bad flooring out there (and maybe a lot of it), but if Lumber Liquidators can shift blame to the mills and the inspection agencies (which are certified by the state of California), they’ll take a hit as a company but survive.

However, as dramatic as all this is, one question matters to me more than anything else:  DO I HAVE CANCER-FLOORING IN MY HOME?!

Isn’t that what every other average person is wondering because of this?  And unfortunately, if I want to the know answer, it’s fairly expensive to find out!

A one-time, disposable formaldehyde test can be bought for about $100, but if you go that route, you can only test one area of your home.  Also, formaldehyde levels change with the seasons and climate, so just because your test looks good now doesn’t mean you’re safe in six months when when summer rolls around.

The other option is a formaldehyde monitor.  Just like a carbon monoxide monitor, these stay on all the time and give you an up to date measurement.  However, their are only one or two reliable ones that are made, and they cost a ton!  Like $400!

You can get a cheaper Chinese version, but isn’t that somewhat ridiculous?  Why would you buy a cheap Chinese version of a formaldehyde monitor to test the cheap Chinese version of flooring that got you into trouble in the first place?  If you can’t trust the flooring, how good are you going to feel about that monitor?  This is CANCER we’re talking about!

Now I could go on and on and on about financials and sickness and companies and testing devices, but for me – that’s not the point.  At the end of the day I’m going to do what I have to do to check the air in my home and hope for the best.

The real point of this whole article is just to say that last night, when I went to sleep, I had no idea that I was potentially breathing cancerous formaldehyde air into my lungs.  I didn’t know my children might be breathing cancerous air.  I didn’t know any of this even existed as a potential danger.  Formaldehyde, in my mind, was just the stuff that smelled horrible in biology class when we dissected things.

And now?  Well…now I have reason to be concerned, and it makes me wonder:  how does anyone survive in this world without a faithful relationship with God that they can rely on and trust?

We are so ignorant to the details of 99.999% of the things that we do on this earth.  I’m a person who tries to be informed, and I’m still no better off than most anyone else.  If I can’t trust that God’s in control and working all things out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), then I don’t know how in the world I’d keep from worrying myself to death.

I would have to constantly distract myself with television, movies, sports, parties, the internet, social media, games, adventures, relationships, drugs or some combination of all those things just to keep myself from dwelling on the fact that at any moment I could be stricken with cancer from something as innocent as a flooring selection I made three years ago!  And I guess that’s exactly what people do!  They don’t think about danger and death until they have to!

Well, this morning a whole bunch of people woke up and realized that now they have to.  Thanks a lot, 60 Minutes.  Thanks a lot, Lumber Liquidators.  Thanks a lot, stupid pirates!

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The Patriot

This evening, after I’d finished going through the sermon and preparing for tomorrow morning’s service, I laid down on my couch to relax.  I wanted to watch something.  Not something funny or lighthearted – no, I wanted to watch something that mattered.

(As a side note I think this is why people love sports as much as they do.  For all the colors and cheerleaders and jokes and bloopers, sports feel like they matter because they’re real.  They’re not actors playing on a stage.  In the best of moments, the passion and the heart of the athlete shines through in a way that feels meaningful.  This resonates with what we’re really looking for in entertainment…or in life, for that matter.)

I briefly looked through a slew of movies that we’ve collected over the years, mostly lighthearted ones that any child could watch and chuckle at.  After all, that’s the way of things with five children in the house.

Then I stumbled upon a movie I hadn’t seen in quite some time:  Mel Gibson’s, The Patriot.

Setting aside my concern for the blood and violence and mature themes that I knew it contained, I turned the movie on, somewhat relieved when all of my children seemed totally uninterested by the opening scenes and moved on to other activities.  The movie starts with beautiful scenes of 18th century farm life, a cinematic introduction they found utterly boring.

It doesn’t stay boring for long.  Soon there are battles, villains, atrocities…there are betrayals and heroic sacrifices.  There are children experiencing the inglorious realities of war as those who love them try to keep them safe.  Homes are burnt.  Lives are lost.  And all the while the subtle theme of a greater cause underlines the narrative.

“The cause,” as it’s referred to time and again in the movie is, of course, The American Revolution.

The Patriot isn’t a perfect movie. In fact, if I remember correctly, it was panned by most historians, probably for good reason.  They would know better than I would how those events truly unfolded.  The movie is a lot of things, but a history lesson, it is not.

Yet there’s something about it that is nonetheless compelling, something far more human than historical.

There is a man, Benjamin Martin, with the weight of his former sins hanging on his conscience, fearful of what their consequences might be and aware of a divine Judge who will hold him accountable.

There is a son, Gabriel, played by the late Heath Ledger, totally committed to a cause that is greater than himself, all too willing to risk his own life (as well as others) to see victory achieved.

There is a racist, white man fighting next to a black slave, slowly realizing that the color of his skin does not make him a better man. There is a small-town pastor with a good heart (and, albeit, a questionable way of applying Scripture) who goes to war with his people.

And there is a villain, totally evil, unquestionably reprehensible in all of his unconscionable brutality.

And then there is the “the cause”, this whisper of an idea, barely spoken of throughout the movie’s dialogue, more felt than heard.  “The cause” will lead to a new world.  “The cause” will lead to liberty.  “The cause” will lead to life and happiness and relief.

“The cause” is worth dying for. And many do, in fact, die.

There’s no sex in this movie.  There’s no language to speak of, either.  It’s rated “R” for violence, and there is no shortage of that.  But as I watched the movie, and as my five children were slowly drawn into it as well, I couldn’t help but feel that a certain amount of violence was worth the principles that were being conveyed.

“Why does he keep burning the toy soldiers, Daddy?” asked my daughter, 9.

“Because those belonged to Thomas – his son who was killed.  He’s turning them into bullets.  Thomas wanted to fight in this war, so he’s using Thomas’ toy soldiers to fight with.  It would have meant something to Thomas.”

My dad would never let us watch a movie with a sex scene, and one sound of an “F-word” was a sure fire way to get something immediately turned off.  But Dad could respect the kind of violence that is necessary to convey a higher truth.  If it could help teach his two sons, my brother and I, that there were things in life worth dying for, than he could stomach a little (or, a lot) of blood.

I suppose the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.

As I look back at the movies of 2014, I see super heroes and fantasies, sci-fi flicks and comedies, and some ridiculous movie about an actor who used to play a “birdman”.  It’s hard to believe that last one was the film of the year.

And while I’m sure there are a few noble character builders in the mix (many will point to American Sniper), the foul language and the sexual themes will make most of them off limits to my children.

So I miss the older movies that were rated “R”, not because of their vulgarity or their nudity or their drug use, but because they were violent…violent in a way that depicts loss as loss and sacrifice as sacrifice.  We have remnants of that in The Hunger Games and The Hobbit.  

But I wish, for all his personal faults, Mel Gibson was running to war to risk it all for the greater cause.  He’d probably need a walker or a wheelchair these days.  Such is life.

Maybe I’m just fond of reminiscing about “the good ole’ days”, but it seems that modern-day movie-making has turned away from noble character-builders.  I’m not a movie critic, so I could be wrong.  I probably am.

But here’s hoping there’s a few more like The Patriot next year and a few less like Birdman.  If somebody’s gotta’ get shot at the end of a movie, I’d like it to actually mean something.