As Ray Lewis ends his career on the field after a stunning year, and the Lombardi to top it off, some might say that for this athlete to find God after being connected to a stabbing is suspect.  Doesn’t God operate similarly in many lives?  That is to say, for some, the only way to look is up, once hitting rock bottom.  If the man was involved, and has truly been changed, he WILL own up to it.  If he is not involved, then is it not a pity that his new life was not better received by the naysayers? I say give the man his quote on national television. “If God be for us, who can be against us“, this from Paul’s words in Romans (8:31 NIV).  Ray Lewis has a vigor and personality that many shake their head at, but the man on fire for The Lord has an opportunity to reach a very large audience.  Some hate him, but Jesus said “They will hate you because they hated me first“. This is no surprise to Ray Lewis, nor is it a surprise for Tim Tebow, and the scores of other celebrity Christians.  He is tough, and his legacy begins now.  God Bless You, Ray Lewis, stand strong and pray often, the world is tough, but Jesus Christ has overcome it!

Baltimore Orioles’ Luke Scott faithful to ‘planting seeds’ while hitting ‘lefties’ & ‘righties’

By JOSHUA COOLEY
Special to Florida Baptist Witness

BALTIMORE (FBW)—Aaron Cole vividly remembers the first time he met Baltimore Orioles slugger Luke Scott.

It was a cold winter morning nine years ago. Scott was a junior outfielder on the Oklahoma State University baseball team with a nose for trouble. He and Darren Heal, his best friend and teammate, loved to carouse. When the two of them got together, they were “ornery,” as Cole recalls.

Days before the meeting, Scott’s mother, Jennifer, called Cole out of the blue. She and her husband, David—residents of DeLeon, where they attended First Assembly of God church—had become Christians several years earlier and now felt a deep spiritual burden for their son. Though Luke had been reading the Bible Jennifer gave him two years earlier, there was no discernable fruit in his life.

Jennifer looked up the First Assembly of God congregation in Stillwater, just a few miles from Oklahoma State’s campus, and dialed the number. Cole, the church’s longtime senior pastor, answered her call, and after listening to her story agreed to contact Luke.

He didn’t have to. Two days later, Luke walked into the church unannounced and introduced himself: “Hi, I’m Luke Scott. My mom said I need to talk to you.”

And so began the radical spiritual transformation of one of baseball’s most outspoken Christians.

On June 9, 2001—a year and a half after he met Cole—Scott placed his faith in Christ.

“God has worked miracles in my life and brought me here, and I’m very thankful,” Scott said. “It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.”

The Orioles, it appears, made a pretty good decision by acquiring Scott. He came to Baltimore in the December 2007 blockbuster trade that sent five-time All-Star shortstop Miguel Tejada to the Houston Astros for five players. In his second full major league season last year, Scott, 30, hit .257 with 23 home runs and 65 RBI in 148 games playing mostly left field.

“I was very pleased to see the talent and the power and the ability to play every day,” said Orioles hitting coach Terry Crowley. “I don’t say that lightly. He can hit lefties, and he can hit righties.”

For Scott, the climb to everyday-player status was arduous. Drafted in 2001 by Cleveland, he spent his first three years in the minors, got traded to Houston shortly before the 2004 season and didn’t enjoy a full big-league season until age 28, when he batted .255 with 18 home runs and 64 RBI in 132 games in 2007. But the Astros, with a glut of outfield talent in Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence, considered Scott expendable.

Scott’s first season in the American League was a wild roller-coaster ride. He hit. 279 in March/April, .212 in May, .333 in June, .185 in July, .326 in August and .181 in September/October. He is hoping to rediscover his 2006 comfort zone, when he hit .336 with 10 home runs and a .621 slugging percentage in 65 games after being called up for good by Houston.

“God had a big test for me [in 2008],” said Scott, who still resides in DeLeon Springs for part of the offseason and attends his parents’ church. “It’s the same with 2007. I had an Achilles’ [heel] injury, and I kind of changed my batting stance a little. I was locked in during 2006. I haven’t felt that the last two years. I kind of miss it, but I have the potential to do so much better.”

The Orioles acknowledged the potential by avoiding arbitration and signing Scott to a one-year, $2.4 million deal in January. He is an extremely diligent player who takes notes on every pitcher he faces and religiously reviews video footage of his at-bats, looking for any helpful morsel of information.

“He’s one of those guys that when he gets hot, he can carry you for awhile,” said Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail.

But Scott’s one-year contract also sends a signal that the Orioles aren’t fully convinced that he is a long-term solution to their rebuilding project. Despite his solid play in left field last year—he only made two errors in 205 total chances—he will likely be relegated to mostly DH duties this season thanks to Baltimore’s acquisition of 24-year-old prospect Felix Pie this offseason. Nick Markakis, 25, who just signed a six-year, $66 million contract in January, is entrenched in right field, and rising star Adam Jones, 23, looks like a keeper in center.

Scott is taking everything in stride.

“I’d like to stay healthy throughout the year and maximize the potential the Lord has given me,” he said. “I’d like to get back to 2006. That would be nice. I’ve worked hard to get here.”

Spiritually speaking, Scott’s clubhouse presence is a boon to any team. He’s a faithful prayer warrior and a winsome ambassador of Christ, according to those who know him well. In fact, Scott led Cincinnati Reds center fielder Willy Taveras to the Lord when they were roommates during their time in Houston’s organization, according to Cole.

“It’s amazing to me how many people in pro baseball have been affected by Luke,” Cole said.

Chris Adomanis, the Orioles’ Baseball Chapel leader, will be relying mainly on Scott and second baseman Brian Roberts to be strong spiritual influences on the team and invite players to Bible studies.

“We are to be in the world and not of the world, and that’s what they’re doing,” Adomanis said of Scott and Roberts. “We want to really focus with those guys this year on being a witness for Christ.”

Ultimately, Scott sees this season through the lens of a biblical allegory. He is a farmer who has worked his fields and is anticipating a bountiful spiritual crop, both on the diamond and in his relationship with God.

“I’ve been planting seeds,” Scott said. “Now I’m waiting for the harvest to come. There are a lot of things I don’t understand. God’s ways are higher than mine. But whatever he wants me to do, I’ll do. He is faithful.”

Original Article: http://www.floridabaptistwitness.com/10182.article

Sandra felt as low as the heels of her shoes when she pulled open the florist shop door, against a November gust of wind. Her life had been as sweet as a spring breeze and then, in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a “minor” automobile accident stole her joy. This was Thanksgiving week and the time she should have delivered their infant son.. She grieved over their loss.

Troubles had multiplied.

Her husband’s company “threatened” to transfer his job to a new location. Her sister had called to say that she could not come for her long awaited holiday visit. What’s worse, Sandra’s friend suggested that Sandra’s grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer.

“She has no idea what I’m feeling,” thought Sandra with a shudder “Thanksgiving? Thankful for what?” she wondered.. “For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended me? For an airbag that saved my life, but took my child’s?”

“Good afternoon, can I help you?”

Sandra was startled by the approach of the shop clerk. “I . . . I need an arrangement,” stammered Sandra.

“For Thanksgiving? I’m convinced that flowers tell stories, ”

she continued.. “Are you looking for something that conveys ‘gratitude’ this Thanksgiving?”

“Not exactly!” Sandra blurted out. “In the last five months, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.”

Sandra regretted her outburst, and was surprised when the clerk said, “I have the perfect arrangement for you..”

Then the bell on the door rang, and the clerk greeted the new customer….

“Hi, Barbara, let me get your order.” She excused herself and walked back to a small workroom, then quickly reappeared, carrying an arrangement of greenery, bows, and what appeared to be long-stemmed thorny roses. Except the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped; there were no flowers.

“Do you want these in a box?” asked the clerk. Sandra watched was this a joke? Who would want rose stems with no flowers! She waited for laughter, but neither woman laughed.

“Yes, please,” Barbara replied with an appreciative smile.

“You’d think after three years of getting the special, I wouldn’t be so moved by its significance, but I can feel it right here, all over again,” she said, as she gently tapped her chest.

Sandra stammered, “Ah, that lady just left with . . . uh . . ..

she left with no flowers!”

“That’s right,” said the clerk. “I cut off the flowers. That’s the ‘Special’. I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet. Barbara came into the shop three years ago, feeling much as you do today,” explained the clerk.. ” She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had just lost her father; the family business was failing; her son had gotten into drugs; and she was facing major surgery. That same year I had lost my husband,” continued the clerk. “For the first time in my life, I had to spend the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too much debt to allow any travel..”

“So what did you do?” asked Sandra.

“I learned to be thankful for thorns,” answered the clerk quietly.

“I’ve always thanked God for the good things in my life and I never questioned Him why those good things happened to me, but when the bad stuff hit, I cried out, ‘Why? Why me?!’

It took time for me to learn that the dark times are important to our faith! I have always enjoyed the ‘flowers’ of my life, but it took the thorns to show me the beauty of God’s comfort! You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we’re afflicted, and from His consolation we learn to comfort others.”

Sandra sucked in her breath, as she thought about what her friend had tried to tell her. “I guess the truth is I don’t want comfort. I’ve lost a baby and I’m angry with God.”

Just then someone else walked in the shop.

“Hey, Phil!” the clerk greeted the balding, rotund man.

“My wife sent me in to get our usual Thanksgiving arrangement, twelve thorny, long-stemmed stems!” laughed Phil as the clerk handed him a tissue wrapped arrangement from the refrigerator..

“Those are for your wife?” asked Sandra incredulously.

“Do you mind telling me why she wants a bouquet that looks like that?”

“Four years ago, my wife and I nearly divorced,” Phil replied. “After forty years, we were in a real mess, but with the Lord’s grace and guidance, we trudged through problem after problem, the Lord rescued our marriage. Jenny here (the clerk) told me she kept a vase of rose stems to remind her of what she had learned from “thorny” times. That was good enough for me.

I took home some of those stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific “problem” and give thanks for what that problem taught us.”

As Phil paid the clerk, he said to Sandra, “I highly recommend the Special!”

“I don’t know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life” Sandra said to the clerk. “It’s all too . . fresh.”

“Well,” the clerk replied carefully, “my experience has shown me that the thorns make the roses more precious. We treasure God’s providential care more during trouble than at any other time.. Remember that it was a crown of thorns that Jesus wore so we might know His love…. Don’t resent the thorns.”

Tears rolled down Sandra’s cheeks. For the first time since the accident, she loosened her grip on her resentment. “I’ll take those twelve long-stemmed thorns, please,” she managed to choke out.

“I hoped you would,” said the clerk gently. “I’ll have them ready in a minute.”

“Thank you. What do I owe you?”

“Nothing. Nothing but a promise to allow God to heal your heart… The first year’s arrangement is always on me.”

The clerk smiled and handed a card to Sandra. “I’ll attach this card to your arrangement, but maybe you would like to read it first.”

It read:
“My God, I have never thanked You for my thorns. I have thanked You a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear; teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed closer to You along the path of pain. Show me that, through my tears, the colors of Your rainbow look much more brilliant.”

Praise Him for the roses;

thank Him for the thorns.

God Bless all of you.

Be thankful for all that the Lord does for you.
“Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly,
and leave the rest to God..”

Catherine Vogt is an 8th grader in Oak Park, Illinois. Just before the election, Catherine, with the approval of her history teacher, decided to conduct an experiment about tolerance at her school.

As John Kass wrote in the Chicago Tribune, “She noticed that fellow students…overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama for president. His campaign kept preaching ‘inclusion,’ and she decided to see how included she could be.”

So one day she wore a T-shirt to school on which she’d written “McCain Girl.” She carried a journal with her to record the reactions she got. And what was the response? She was called stupid, very stupid, and told that she shouldn’t be wearing it. Then fellow students told her to “go die.” In fact, she reports that she was told many times she should be killed. One student told her she should be “crucifixed” for wearing the shirt. Catherine found it almost funny that he didn’t even know the word “crucified.” One teacher also remarked on the shirt, telling Catherine that she wouldn’t judge her for her choice, but “she was surprised that I supported McCain.”

Catherine got very few even remotely positive comments. One girl privately told her that she liked the shirt.

The next day, Catherine wore a T-shirt on which she’d written “Obama Girl.” The response to that? “People liked my shirt. They said things like my brain had come back, and I had put the right shirt on today.”

After the experiment was revealed, her history teacher engaged her class in a debate. “I said, here you are, promoting this person [Obama] that believes we are all equal and included, and look what you’ve done? The students were kind of like, ‘Oh, yeah.’ I think they got it.”

And the teacher who had expressed “surprise” when Catherine wore the McCain shirt? When she found out about the experiment “she was embarrassed because she knew I was writing down what she said.”

Catherine turned the experiment into a report for her history class and got extra credit.

Story Credit:
Marcia Segelstein
Original Story:
http://www.onenewsnow.com/Blog/Default.aspx?id=319972

In 4 days America will have elected a new president. What is in store for the next administration is yet to be seen. But I am convinced that the past 8 years with George W Bush as president was no by accident. Only God could have so ordained that the right person was in the right place at the right time. God has done this many times in the past… Moses, Joshua, David, Esther, Elijah, Mary, Paul, Peter, Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Regan…on and on.

My perspective comes from a country boy Ohio childhood in the 1950’s; a high school and college student in the radical 60’s; an adult family builder in the 70’s thru the 90’s. Life was generally good with little concern for security, safety, and provision.

When George W. Bush was elected in 2000 by the narrowest of margins, I really don’t think we expected much from him. We would have been satisfied with him if he just restored some order and morality to the White House after Clinton’s immoral sexual escapades while in office. George W. Bush took the helm of a prideful, self satisfied, smug America.

The events of September 11, 2001 changed all that.. War was declared on America by a truly evil enemy. The perpetrators of that evil called US the "Great Satan" and Evil. We, America, are guilty of much… overindulgence, arrogance, over expectation of wealth, and more. But we were not the evil ones here…not even a little bit. Radical murderers supported by radical nations attacked us; killed thousands of us; declared war on us.

Only God could have known that this President, George W. Bush, was the man for such a time as this. Nothing in his background could have revealed his willingness and ability to pilot the U.S. into and through this turning point in history. I am convinced that it is President Bush’s willingness to submit to God and do the best he could that has kept us as a nation safe from further harm from the terrorist evil that assaulted us on 9/11/01.

I, for one, want to say "THANK YOU PRESIDENT BUSH".

THANK YOU.. for stepping up the days following the 9/11 attacks and rallying us as a nation to confront the evil of radical terrorism.

THANK YOU.. for clearly stating the simple fact that the attackers are wrong and evil and that the U.S. is right and righteous in this fight.

THANK YOU.. for narrowing your focus to the clear and present danger, and putting into place the measures to stop the evil in its tracks and insure eventual victory of good over evil.

THANK YOU… for mustering the forces and taking the measures necessary to invade, defeat, and hold Afghanistan and Iraq, the central supporters and safe harbors of Al-Qeda and the Taliban; the perpertrators of Evil.

THANK YOU… for staying the course for RIGHT even to the point of ridicule from your detractors.

THANK YOU… for recognizing that we must support Afghanistan and Iraq with military, rebuild infrastructure, build democracy, feed and house the innocent until they can stand strong and democratic on their own.

THANK YOU… for keeping focus on the greater evil of terrorism, even though I and others suffer slightly from having to tighten our belts in this current economy.

THANK YOU… for not bowing to political pressure and unpopularity. This is the key to victory in this war instead of the shameful outcome of Vietnam.

THANK YOU… for demonstrating that right and wrong are as clear as black and white, not shades of gray.

THANK YOU… for stand up clearly for  God, Family,Country, Right, Good.
THANK YOU… for being a righteous Commander in Chief that my son in law, a decorated navy hero, wounded in Iraq, proudly salutes as "Mr. President"

THANK YOU… for showing US and the world that the Americal heart is resolved in Right and Victory, not in slinking away in defeat as Washington DC and liberal educators in the 60’s caused us to do from Veitnam.

THANK YOU… most of all for standing strong for all us Americans, for following God’s lead and doing your best for what is right regardless of what others say.

President Regan left office with his head high even though his detractors held him to ridicule and derision. It took only a few years for America and the world to realize that he is among the few giants who have held the office of President of the United States. I am convinced that you, President George W. Bush, are the first great President of the 21st. century and will be counted as one of the greatest in our history.

Again I say, "THANK YOU, PRESIDENT BUSH’.
Dave Howell
DeLand, Florida

I came across this story in CNN and I think it needs to be read by all, what a wonderful testimony of Faith for this Minister here is his story the story of Robert Rogers as reported by CNN:

Five years ago, Robert Rogers was driving home with his family from a wedding when a flash flood took his wife and four children from him in an instant. Rainfall from a torrential downpour swept the Rogers’ minivan off a Kansas highway. As water filled the van, Rogers kicked out a window in a last-ditch effort to save his family. Instead, he and his wife, Melissa, and daughter, Makenah, were sucked out of the van. Hours later, the bodies of children Zachary, 5, Nicholas, 3, and Alenah, 1, still buckled in their car seats, were found inside the van.

Rogers survived. Instead of falling into despair, he became a minister dedicated to honoring his family by preaching messages of hope in the face of adversity.

“It was a huge choice of faith,” Rogers told CNN. “It was a determination to live life to honor God, to honor my heavenly family, and to make something productive out of it and not just to wallow in my pity.” Rogers’ mission manifests itself in a variety of ways. In the past five years, he estimates he has told the story of his loss at least 400 times to more than 120,000 people. The message behind his story is to live life with no regrets by embracing your family and faith.

“People have responded to me that they want to change the way they live their life. They want to have a personal relationship with God and they want to get right with their spouse and children,” he said.

In addition to his speaking tours, Rogers has established a ministry dedicated to serving orphans across the world. Rogers also traveled to Haiti and tsunami-ravaged parts of Asia to minister and deliver aid to orphans. Video Watch Rogers talk about his ministry »

His mission is to establish five orphanages in five continents to symbolize the five family members he lost. One, called Melissa’s House, already exists in Russia, where eight orphan teens live with a married couple, and another is under construction in Rwanda.

“We dedicated it in honor of Melissa because she loved being a mom and I hope she is a role model to these girls,” Rogers said.
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Since that fateful day five years ago, Rogers has begun to heal. He is married with one child and another on the way. More than anything, he hopes his story will inspire others to live each day to its fullest.

“We are not guaranteed the next five seconds,” Rogers said. “Life is very fragile and I hope my stories and inspirations are compelling people to live that life of no regrets.”

In war, every great successful battle plan has an equally well planned retreat plan. The retreat plan was planned along with the battle plan. Sometimes things change in the course of the battle campaign and require changes in the battle plan as well as the retreat plan, but retreat must always be considered and planned. Only the suicide missions,(i.e. Kamikaze, etc.) have no plan for retreat or return to safety. It is a fact that all wars have included victories and defeats. The definition of the winner of the war is which side wins the final battle. In order to get to the final battle, the winner must be prepared to retreat from the defeats in such a manner that he can live and prepare to fight the next battle.

Life, marriage, family, etc. are not significantly different from war. Life in total is the ultimate personal war. We war for our very survival (food, clothing, shelter, etc.). We battle to get ahead; to provide well for ourselves, family, marriage, loved ones. In that war, there will be defeats/failures. It’s important that we prepare for the defeats by planning our retreats. It is inevitable that we will have to retreat, perhaps several times when income dries up; when illness or injury occur; or when numerous other negative conditions come about in our lives.

In a perfect world, we would have money set aside, or have insurance policies that would save us from emotional and social pain when we are defeated in one of life’s financial battles. In the real world where most of us live, those protections do not exist. In those cases it is critical that we have the mental attitude that it is ok to retreat with our emotions, health, and relationships (marriage and loved ones) healthy and in tact. That way, we can live to attack life and love again.

In these retreats, the most expendable things are possessions. It is critical that we be emotionally ready to let stuff go. The planning for this would set a priority of possessions. What are the most important thing to keep? What must we have to survive now and start again? Always the top items are spiritual, relational, health, and emotional in nature. With those strong, the physical hardware and property things can be regained. A place to live, food, and transportation are obvious physical things needed, but we can set other item/type of item in order after that. However, we alone cannot always set that priority. Sometimes lenders or others upset the priority…. payments get behind or a specific payment is not possible to make, etc.

The reality though, is that the battles never do stop in this lifetime on Earth. God is in charge, and will have His way in spite of my own shortcomings, doubt, and bad decisions. I believe God is guiding us in a different direction for the next phase of our lives here on Earth. I must remember that the old adage… “God helps those who help themselves” is not Biblical. The Bible teaches clearly that God helps those who depend on Him.

Most important though is that marriage, mental health, emotional health remain strong as we go through letting go of possessions, property, etc. Pride and shame (both are the same like hot and cold) are the things which get in the way most of the time. Humility and honesty are the greatest tools to control pride and shame. It is ok to fail. It is painful, but ok, to not be able to perform (ie pay bills on time, fulfill a promise to a friend or loved one regarding a loan, etc.) as promised or expected. It is very important that communication continue and that restitution be made if and when it is practicable (making sense, not to the destruction of recovery).

Again, above all make sure that Christ, marriage, mental, spiritual, and emotional health, family relationships, be prioritized in that order before all else, especially property and possessions. Opportunities for possessions and property will come again so long as we keep our faith in God and our spouses through our current temporary retreats.