That’s a Lot of Concrete!

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Credit: Wikipedia

Interstate 10 (I-10) is the major east–west Interstate Highway in the Southern United States. It stretches from the Pacific Ocean at California State Route 1 in Santa Monica, California, to I-95 in Jacksonville, Florida. The only longer Interstate Highways are I-80, which runs 2,906 miles from San Francisco to Teaneck, and I-90, which runs 3,085 miles from Seattle to Boston.

In Texas, I-10 runs east from Anthony, a small town near the New Mexico border, through El Paso, San Antonio, and Houston, all the way to the border with Louisiana in Orange, Tex.

At just under 880 miles, the Texas segment of I-10, maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation, is the longest continuous non-tolled freeway in North America that is operated by a single authority. In recent years toll lanes have been added on portions of the highway west of Houston, yet it is still possible to travel the entire length of I-10 with no toll.

I-10 is also the longest stretch of highway with a single designation within a single state. Mile marker 880 and its corresponding exit number in Orange, Texas, are the highest numbered mile marker and exit on any freeway in North America.

After widening was completed in 2008, a portion of the highway west of Houston is now also believed to be the widest in the world, at 26 lanes. There is a wider section in China on the G4 Beijing–Hong Kong–Macau Expressway, but that section is a toll plaza approach.

More than one-third of I-10’s entire length is located in Texas alone. El Paso, near the Texas–New Mexico state line, is 785 miles from the western terminus of I-10 in Santa Monica, California. That makes El Paso closer to Los Angeles than it is to Orange, Tex., 857 miles away at the Texas–Louisiana state line. Likewise, Orange is only 789 miles from the eastern terminus of I-10 in Jacksonville, Florida.

That’s a lot of concrete!

Travel on the Interstate Highway system, notwithstanding the frequent bottlenecks and pileups those of us who live in major cities along that system regularly experience, allows those who drive it to travel long distances in relatively short periods of time.

Compare that reality with the time and effort it took biblical characters like Abraham to travel from his point of origination, Ur of the Chaldees (present day Iraq), to God’s chosen destination of Shechem in Canaan, known today as the Holy Land. Only several hundred miles as the crow flies but more than 1,000 miles along the route taken to avoid the Sahara Desert. Not much concrete on that journey. Only lots of faith in the God who was leading him.

“Republicans and Ex-Crackheads”

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Credit: Aranami

When Terry and I are home, after dinner we sometimes turn on the TV and look for something worth watching. This past Monday we had done the first part of that routine but not yet the second. The TV was on but we were reading and hence paying no attention to program selection.

The channel on our screen was showing the 70th Emmy Awards. I looked up from my book after a few minutes and noticed two men, apparently co-hosts. Neither looked familiar to me. I later discovered that that they appear on Saturday Night Live, which we never watch.

Here’s how CBN News summarized a portion of a dialogue between these two co-hosts: http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/entertainment/2018/september/emmys-host-says-only-white-republicans-and-ex-crackheads-thank-jesus

Hollywood’s biggest celebrities descended on New York City Monday night for the 70th Annual Emmy Awards. The show began with the usual political banter but it took a bad turn during Michael Che’s opening monologue with co-host Colin Jost when he took a jab at conservatives and a particular racial group.

“My mother is not watching,” Che said. “She says she doesn’t like watching white award shows because you guys don’t thank Jesus enough. That’s true. The only people … the only white people that thank Jesus are Republicans and ex-crackheads.”

Later in the evening, Best Supporting Actress winner Thandie Newton continued the theme about mocking winners who thank Jesus [telling] the crowd, “I don’t even believe in God, but I’m going to thank her tonight.”

One can only imagine the media furor that would have erupted had similarly derogatory comments been made in the same venue, by the same people, about Muslims or atheists.

Welcome to the Year of our Lord 2018. In some circles the Christian church no longer occupies the position of honor and respect it has enjoyed almost since the birth of America. I wonder how many Christians have responded in protest to NBC or whoever is responsible for the Emmy awards. I would hope such responses would be multitudinous yet reasonable and responsible.

St. Peter seems to encourage such with these words: “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)

Frankly, a spirit of gentleness and respect is not easy when communicating with individuals who say the only people who thank Jesus are “Republicans and ex-crackheads.” Know what I mean?

My New Book

Life, Love, Faith, Family: Perspectives from a Veteran Church Leader. That’s the title of my new book now available for pre-order from Concordia Publishing House. Here’s CPH’s description:

The Christian life is often not an easy one. Struggles occur in marriages and vocations. Death cannot be avoided. Natural disasters and illnesses arise unexpectedly.

With pastoral care, a spiritual perspective, and real-life wisdom, Dr. Gerald (Jerry) Kieschnick has written on matters of life and faith for years. This collection combines some of his best writing on a variety of everyday topics, encouraging you to turn to God’s Word, the ultimate source of wisdom, for guidance in navigating the Christian life.

May these brief musings offer you spiritual encouragement and comfort as you experience all that the Christian life encompasses—grief, happiness, tension, contentment, fear, and joy.

The Preface sets the stage in my own words:

For more than half a century, I’ve served in numerous Christian leadership capacities, from developing a mission church starting with nothing to president of a national church body of over two million members. Throughout those years, I’ve met and known many people who experience much joy, meaning, and fulfillment in life and love. Yet, many of these wonderful people have encoun­tered challenges and difficulties along the way, often in the arenas of family and faith.

 Every week, for the past nine years, I’ve written my personal perspectives on these and a variety of other topics. In this little book, I share one hundred of those stories and reflections for your reading enjoyment, emotional encouragement, and spir­itual enrichment.

Late last week I received word from CPH that this book is now available for pre-order. Go to:

https://www.cph.org/p-32843-life-love-faith-family-perspectives-from-a-veteran-church-leader.aspx Copies will begin shipping on August 15.

My first book published by Concordia Publishing House was Waking the Sleeping Giant (CPH, 2010). It’s an honor and privilege to work again with CPH. I pray this new book will be a blessing to those who read it. And if you happen to have your copy with you next time we’re together, I’ll be happy to sign it.

God bless your day!

God Bless America

Before today’s article, allow me a personal note. Today would have been my father’s 102nd birthday. He was born in 1916 and died 35 years ago, in 1983. My 102 year old mother Elda still misses him. So do I and the rest of our family. Martin Kieschnick was a godly man and great father. He wasn’t perfect but he loved the Lord and he loved his family. To God be the glory!

Next Wednesday is the Fourth of July. Star-Spangled Banner was written in in 1814 by Francis Scott Key. God Bless America was written in 1918 by Irving Berlin. Both have become  nationally known and frequently sung songs of American patriotism. Some even suggest God Bless America would be a better national anthem than Star-Spangled Banner.

Here’s a bit of reported history I found regarding God Bless America. In the late 1930s America was still in a terrible economic depression. Hitler was taking over Europe and Americans were afraid we’d have to go to war. It was a time of hardship and worry for most Americans.

In this era just before TV, radio shows were quite popular. American families, including mine and very likely most of yours, sat around their radios in the evening, listening to their favorite entertainers. One popular entertainer was Kate Smith, a very patriotic person.

One source I read says Kate went to the famous American song writer, Irving Berlin, and asked him to write a song that would make Americans feel good again about their country.

Another source says that in 1938 Berlin went to his files and found a song he had written 20 years earlier, but had decided not to publish. He redid the song and began searching for the right singer to introduce it. He thought about Kate Smith and gave it to her and her orchestra.

Regardless of these details, God Bless America become an overnight sensation. Smith and Berlin agreed not to take any revenue from God Bless America. All profits would go to the God Bless America Fund he established to support the Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of America. It’s reported that Scouting programs have received millions in royalties from this song.

To this day, God Bless America stirs patriotic feelings and pride in our country. Kate Smith and Irving Berlin succeeded in encouraging and raising the spirits of their fellow Americans during years of hardship and worry. Their song continues to do so today for many Americans.

So on this Fourth of July and every day, God Bless America!

The Center of Life

Bible

Q: What is the shortest chapter in the Bible? A: Psalm 117
Q: What is the longest chapter in the Bible? A: Psalm 119
Q: What chapter is in the center of the Bible? A: Psalm 118

Facts: There are 594 chapters before Psalm 118. There are 594 chapters after Psalm 118. Add those numbers together and the result is 1188.

Q: What is the center verse in the Bible? A: Psalm 118:8
Q: Does this verse say something significant about God’s perfect will for our lives?
A: “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.” Psalm 118:8

The next time someone says he or she would like to find God’s perfect will for his or her life and that he or she wants to be in the center of his will, just send him or her to the center of his Word!

My prayer for each of you: Dear Lord, bless my friends in whatever area of their lives you know they need this day. May their lives be full of peace, prosperity, and power, love, life, and laughter as they seek a closer relationship with you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Reformation 500

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Next Tuesday, October 31 is the day we’ll observe as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Many Christians, especially we Lutherans, have been anticipating this day for some time.

The blessing of the Reformation is the return of a distracted church to the central truth of Christianity that eternal salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, through faith in Christ our Lord.

Here’s a brief summary of the Reformation and its primary causes:

  • In the late 15th century the Catholic Church was afflicted by internal corruption.
  • The sale of “indulgences” raised money to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
  • Indulgences made people believe deceased loved ones could be released from purgatory.
  • The slogan was: “When a coin in the coffer clings, a soul from purgatory springs.”
  • Onto this scene arrived a troubled man named Martin Luther.
  • Luther saw God as a God of justice and was tormented by unforgiven guilt and sin.
  • In a thunderstorm during which Luther’s traveling companion was killed by a bolt of lightning, Luther exclaimed, “Save me, St. Anne. I will become a monk!”
  • He survived, became a monk, but could find no peace with God through his own effort.
  • Luther’s discovery of God’s grace came primarily from Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
  • What happened next was an act of courage, motivated by what Luther had discovered.
  • He boldly spoke biblical truth to the church’s power by posting his 95 theses, intended as an invitation for debate on topics of faith and church practice.
  • Pressure was placed on him to retract his criticism of church belief and practice.
  • He refused to do so and was threatened with excommunication from the Catholic Church.
  • Asked to retract his writings, Luther simply stated: “Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason, for I do not accept the authority of popes and councils because they have contradicted each other, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”
  • Ultimately, Luther was excommunicated for refusing to retract his beliefs.

The assertion that salvation comes only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by our own doing was the primary catalyst of the Protestant Reformation. That truth is the essence of the Christian faith still today and I pray that will continue till Jesus comes again!

A Time for Everything

Clock

Today’s quote comes from Holy Scripture in Ecclesiastes 3:

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.

These words were written by King Solomon, son of King David and builder of the temple in Jerusalem. Solomon goes on in this chapter to talk about other times, seasons, and activities in addition to the ones quoted above.

His list includes a time for killing, healing, tearing down, building up, crying, laughing, grieving, dancing, scattering stones, gathering stones, embracing, turning away, keeping, throwing away, tearing, mending, being quiet, speaking, loving, hating, war, and peace. Quite a list!

The impetus for selecting the quote above is this past Monday’s arrival of the season of spring. For everything there is a season…a time to plant and a time to harvest. Although spring has just arrived, much planting has already occurred. Harvest will come.

Spring is my favorite season, partly because it brings vast fields of wildflowers. Even before the official arrival of spring we’ve been blessed by the beauty of Bluebonnets and other strikingly gorgeous blankets of blooms across the fields and along the highways of the great state of Texas.

Other parts of the country have similar but different floral beauty. Even a simple list of official state flowers in the U.S. includes an impressive variety of natural beauty, from the Camellia in Alabama to the Indian paintbrush in Wyoming and everything in between. Check out the list at: http://www.50states.com/flower.htm

Martin Luther has an interesting quote of his own in this regard: “God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.” He also said: “Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring time.”

Indeed, this is a season for planting, harvesting, and thanking God for his grace, displayed this season in the flowers that add beauty to his earth and to our life!