If you're an older "Star Trek" fan, your guy was Captain Kirk. If you're a younger "Star Trek" fan, as in "Star Trek - The Next Generation," then your guy was Captain Picard. And if you've never watched "Star Trek" any generation, you could care less. Kirk and Picard were the captains of the Starship Enterprise. And no matter what conflict or calamity they encountered, those guys were in charge. I've been told that Captain Picard would speak three words after he gave an order - and you knew who was in charge. With this commanding tone, he would simply say - "Make it so."
Last fall, we were having a fun family outing at a nearby theme park – until we found out that our grandson was in the infirmary with his parents and with the park’s emergency medical staff. The problem was that he had somehow gotten a small metal object in his eye – which resisted all efforts to remove it. Well, without hesitation, we quickly brought our park outing to an end and headed for the hospital – where, thankfully, a specialist was able to remove that object from his eye. But we had to take it seriously – he had something potentially damaging in his eye – and that could affect how he sees things from now on.
Our daughter gave us one of the greatest gifts of our lives when she and her husband gave us our grandson. We all got the blessing, but she had to do the work. And now she’s getting ready to do it again! Yep, grandchild number two! Now I know it’s not the process of having the baby that made her go through this again. Her first pregnancy wasn’t a whole lot of fun, and labor, well it really wasn’t fun at all. But in spite of that painful process, she’s doing it again – because of the beautiful result it produces.
It took a while to determine the winner of the 2000 Presidential election in America – but as soon as George W. Bush was declared the winner, he and his staff went into high gear to staff his new administration. It’s got to be pretty exciting to pick up the phone and hear someone from the President’s staff inviting you to join his team. Right after the Inauguration, I watched the swearing in of Bush’s White House Staff. You could tell the significance and privilege of what they were about to do. They committed themselves to some pretty high standards of integrity and morality. But nobody seemed to mind. They understood what an honor it is to be asked to serve in the administration of the most powerful man in the nation.
For a lot of people in California, the year 2001 began in the dark! The headlines kept telling us that millions of Californians were having to endure what was called “rolling blackouts”. Apparently, when the energy industry was deregulated, it was supposed to lead to utilities buying power at lower prices – instead, prices skyrocketed. And deregulation also forbade them to raise prices to the consumer. Whatever the cause, the result was clear. For certain designated hours, the power company had to turn off the power to different areas at different times. So when the blackout rolled into your area, you suddenly had no electricity – and if you had something to do during that time that required that power – tough!
In the last hours of his Presidency, Bill Clinton created quite a bit of uproar. He did what all outgoing Presidents of the United States do – he issued pardons to scores of Americans convicted of felonies. He was actually exercising a unique power granted to the President by the Constitution – to release a person from the legal penalties for a crime that they have committed. In the case of the Clinton pardons, there were a few that evoked reactions that ranged from surprise to shock to even anger – people who seemingly did not deserve a pardon. Whatever the merits or mistakes of those particular actions, all of us were reminded of a power we sometimes forget the President has – he can confer mercy far beyond what a person may deserve – in the form of that beautiful six-letter word – pardon.
After the Gulf War in 1991, hundreds of thousands of Kurdish people fled Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. They made it to a mountainside just inside the Turkish border where they set up a refugee camp with little or no food, medical help, or sanitation. Christian agencies, of course, felt the urgency of people who were dying there every day, so they rose to the occasion, and they came in with a flood of emergency help and supplies. Many Christian representatives were there – but missionaries from one agency reportedly experienced a unique receptivity to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While many Christian representatives worked from truck and distribution points, handing out food and blankets, the Operation Mobilization missionaries succeeded in getting unusually close to the people…because of the garbage. Mountains of trash just rapidly overtook that camp – dirty, smelly garbage that no one wanted to touch. But these missionaries plunged into picking up that repulsive trash. And the ones who were willing to pick up the garbage were the ones who found many people willing to hear about their Jesus.
The election of 2000 will not soon be forgotten in the United States – it lasted 36 days past Election Day. The loser actually got the most popular votes, and George W. Bush finally prevailed with the most votes in our Electoral College. Now it wasn’t the first time there was an interesting presidential election. Take the one in 1888. Like Al Gore, Grover Cleveland carried the popular vote but he failed to carry his own state. And like George Bush, Benjamin Harrison became President with a majority in the Electoral College. In those days, of course, it took a while to get the news. When the head of the Republican Party arrived at Benjamin Harrison’s home in Indianapolis, he proudly announced that they had emerged victorious. As the Party leader crowed over the victory, he found the President-elect in what was described as a prayerful mood. Benjamin Harrison’s response? He simply said, “Providence has given us the victory.”
I had a special visitor the other day – Steven, who is the son of one of our Team members. Cerebral palsy left Steven with some severe mental and physical limitations – in fact, more than any parents could manage at home. So Steven is in a special care facility – and he’s a special young man from whom his parents say they have learned so much about God’s love. Because he’s not home much – and because I’m away a lot – his Mom brought him in the other day so I could meet him. I was just on my way to the radio studio to meet a pressing deadline when Steven came in. I got to tell him how much his Mom means to us, how much she talks about him and loves him, and how much I liked what he was wearing. Even though we were just visiting for a few moments, Steven suddenly started pulling at his coat. His Mom said, “You want to take off your coat and stay a while, don’t you, Steven?” She said he doesn’t do that much. That really got to me.
Most of the top-selling Christian videos in America have the same name on them - Bill Gaither. He has assembled some of Gospel music's legends for what he calls "homecoming" musical gatherings. And as the videos have grown in popularity, some of yesterday's Gospel legends have become legends to a new generation. One of those is a pillar of Gospel music, Vestal Goodman. Belting out her songs with her trademark hankie in her hand, she uses one of the most powerful voices in her field.
But, according to her husband Howard, it wasn't always that way. In fact, he said that when they were first traveling together from revival to revival, Vestal had just this quiet little voice, which is pretty hard to imagine today. But he said something happened the day a storm blew through the camper park where they were staying and that storm destroyed most of what they owned. That night, at the revival service, Vestal got up to sing as usual - except it wasn't usual. Suddenly, for some unexplainable reason - no doubt, supernatural - she belted out her song with a power and authority neither she nor her husband had ever heard - and that has been her trademark ever since.