Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

It's New Year's Eve. Time for a little reflection on 2005. No doubt, this has been one of the strangest years of my life. It began in about the worst way a year could begin. My previous employers decided to give the Rosses a joyful holiday season last year by terminating me. So, my 1st sermon of the new year was a farewell. There is so much I would love to bring to light about the way things were conducted, but that is water under the bridge. The Lord has a way of taking care of things, and so it is better left with Him.

After the experience I had there, I began 2005 with serious doubts about myself, my preaching and whether I should even remain in ministry. I began considering other possibilities. Ironically, Jeff Jones (a deacon and incredible man from the Decatur Church of Christ) had asked me to come preach on the following week. So, my 1st week as an unemployed preacher found me preaching in Decatur.

I began putting out resumes and contemplating my future. There was a lot of time for that. I talked to churches in Tennessee and Colorado and all over Texas. At the time, I just did not want to consider Decatur. I was so gunshy from what had just happened to me that I wanted to make sure that the next place I served was one of integrity and love.

Finally, after several weeks of discussions and ups and downs, Beverly and I agreed to come to Decatur. As we now come to the end of this year, I am so incredibly happy for the decision we made. My reluctance has been turned to sheer excitement. We have never been a part of a more affirming, more truly loving group of Christians as make up this community of believers. And having been there for 8 months, it is safe to say that my observations are not those of someone still stoked because they are in the "honeymoon" period.

So, we look forward with great anticipation to what the Lord has in store for 2006. I had many moments in 2005 in which I wondered where He was and what He was doing. We went months being anxious about selling our house -- wondering why it was taking so long. All the while, He was putting the pieces together for things to work out in ways that we couldn't have written a better script for.

I learned a lot in 2005. About myself. About the faithfulness of my wife. About the Lord. I want to continue to learn and grow in 2006, but I sure hope the Lord choses something easier this year:).

Blessings to you all! And Happy New Year!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Holiday Wishes

Merry Christmas! And Happy New Year!

I am on vacation from December 26th through January 2nd. I will try to blog a couple of times, but will be out of town from Wednesday through Friday. Beverly and I are going to San Antonio with Josh and Kayci. They are going to go to the Alamo Bowl, and Beverly and I are just going to hang out. We're looking forward to that.

We had a wonderful Christmas! It was so nice to have everyone together at church yesterday. Well, Jenny wasn't there. She got sick on Saturday night, so she spent Christmas day in bed. But she is fine today.

Whenever my family is all together, I am again reminded of just how blessed a man I am. Thank you, God!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Happy Holidays? Merry Christmas?

Maybe it's because I'm getting older -- and hopefully wiser. Maybe it's the influence of Donald Miller and my son, Josh. I don't know. But I find myself seeing things differently today than I would have just a few years ago. One example is the current to-do over businesses' and governments' use of the greeting "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." Ironically, this has come full-circle. I can remember when I was a kid, in our churches we were encouraged to say "Happy Holidays" because we "didn't believe in Christmas." Anyway, I digress.

I'd like to share a rather lengthy piece from an article written by Brian Mavis of His words express my feelings on all of this. He says:

In the political and business sector the word "Christmas" has been dropped in favor of "Holiday." Governments have put up "Holiday Trees" in public places. Retailers wish customers "Happy Holidays" and hang banners selling "Holiday Trees." So how have some Christian leaders reacted? With lawsuits, boycotts, and petitions. Two groups, Liberty Counsel and the Alliance Defense Fund, have almost 1,600 lawyer-volunteers to fight this movement against display on public grounds of Nativity scenes and Christmas trees -- and even the greeting "Merry Christmas." And it's working. For example, Lowe's home-improvement stores took down "Holiday Trees" banners and put up "Christmas Tree" banners. And House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., ordered the "Capitol Holiday Tree" be renamed the "Capitol Christmas Tree." As Jerry Falwell told ABC News, "We've gone on the offense now. We've put them on the defense. We're kicking their butts, and they're unhappy." (Rick's comment: Sounds just like something Jesus would say.)

I think the Christian groups fighting for our civil liberties have good motives, but bad strategies. Lawsuits, boycotts, and petitions. Is this fighting the good fight? Is this what Jesus would do? Is this obeying, "If someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well" (Mt. 5: 40)? Is this applying, "For though we live in this world, we do not wage war as the world does" (2 Cor. 10: 3)?

In addition, what are they fighting for? That we call a pine or fir tree a "Christmas tree'? There is nothing Christian or biblical about a Christmas tree. We are forsaking Christian principles in order to fight for man-made traditions. Go ahead and let Lowes, Walmart and Macy's sell "Holiday Trees." It's just crass commercialism anyway. It's best that Christ's name not get mixed up in that kind of capitalism. Do you think that these companies are changing back from "Holiday" to "Christmas" because they want to honor Christ? What a joke. They know it's good business.

I appreciate Brian for his thoughts. If we as Christians want to effect change in this nation, we need to turn our attention to feeding the hungry, helping the addict and showing the love of Christ. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Vote for Least Favorite Athlete

OK, my blogging creativity level is running low this morning. So, let's talk sports. I watched the Mavericks lay down against the Lakers last night. Actually, I turned it off at the end of the 3rd quarter and went to bed. What is it with the Mavs when they play the Lakers? I bet Kobe wishes they had the Mavs on their schedule about every other game. 62 points! And he sat out the 4rd quarter!

Well, allow me to express my negative side today. There are some athletes I just don't care for (I'm carefully choosing my words here). I can't even tell you why for some of them. So, here is my current least favorites in the major sporting world:

Football: Terrell Owens and Randy Moss

Basketball: Kobe Bryant and Shaq

Baseball: Barry Bonds (Sorry, Josh) and Alex Rodriguez

Golf (I know, it's not a major sport. But it's my sport, and this is my blog): Veejay Singh and Sergio Garcia

So, cast your vote today.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

That's a Wrap

Today, Beverly and I, along with our granddaughter Malaya, are going to Waco to see my brother John and some of his family. John is a minister in Florida, and so we don't get to see them very often. His wife, Dianne, is also from the Austin area, so they are going to see parents -- but we're going to meet for lunch. I look forward to that.

In our home, I am the official gift wrapper. My family accuses me of being Monk (have you seen the TV show?). It takes me forever to wrap. I would estimate that I spend 15-18 hours every Christmas just wrapping our gifts. Carefully placing every piece of tape. Cutting with care to get the seams just right. And then. And then. AND THEN -- Christmas morning comes. Paper flies! No one notices the well-placed pieces of tape. No one acknowledges how nicely the seams come together.

Then, 1-1/2 hours later -- it's over! All that work -- stuffed into garbage bags and thrown away.

Oh, well. It sure beats being the shopper. That's Beverly's gig. At least while I wrap, I can watch a ballgame, or reruns of Gunsmoke.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Providence? or Free Will?

There are several theological issues that I admit I don't understand. The more I study them, the less sure I am about them. One of those issues is God's providence vs. human's free will.

There is an old joke told about a man who steps from a curb and narrowly misses being hit by a car. "God (Providence) was looking out for him," some would say. Next day, the man steps from the curb and this time gets hit. After months of recovery, someone says, "Isn't it marvelous how God spared him?" Later, he steps from the curb again (this guy is a slow learner), is hit again. This time, he dies from the injuries. "Well, God saw fit to take him home."

While I certainly don't want to be lumped in with the deist who basically believes that God once set things into motion, but has now retired to heaven -- I also don't believe that God orchestrates every situation / event. However, I do believe that He can work in every situation -- both good and bad -- to bring something good from it (Rom. 8: 28).

Again, I don't understand this theological dilemma. But I am also comfortable in my faith journey at this point to say I don't understand. There are some things that we are not wired to be able to understand. But my Father in heaven does. And my faith is in Him -- not in theology.

What do you think?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A Great Opportunity

Today is election day in Iraq. I don't know what the future holds for the Iraqi people. However, recent reports coming from that country give us reasons for hope.

We in the States are interested in the outcome. These are people who have lived under the repressive rule of a cruel tyrant for several decades. And now, they have an opportunity to begin again. To walk in liberty. To bask in freedom. My prayer is that they do not give up on that and return to repression.

We are interested in the outcome because we played a large part in their opportunity. Our forces drove the dictator out, and have helped to provide an environment in which they can hold this election. So, we have a vested interest.

Can you see where I'm going with this one? We, too, were once victims of the repressive rule of a cruel tyrant. But Jesus came to drive out the tyrant and to give us an opportunity to begin again. To walk in liberty. To bask in freedom. Yet, many give up and return to a life of repression.

Jesus, our Deliverer, has a vested interest in the outcome of our lives. He has spilt blood to give us our opportunity for new life. And, by His Holy Spirit, we have been provided an environment in which we can be overcomers.

Let's pray for the Iraqi people. But let's also pray for all who bend our knees to Jesus, that we will choose to follow the path to freedom. Freedom from sin. Freedom from bondage. Freedom from the evil tyrant. Freedom in Jesus!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Sharing A Little Yancey

Certain authors just resonate with me better than others. Donald Miller challenges me to rethink my comfortable paradigms, and he does it in such a way that convicts me of how obviously off-base I have been. But Philip Yancey pulls me in because he seems to struggle with faith and issues the way I do. I relate so much to him. Many things he says I have thought about, but just hadn't put them into words. If I had, I guess I could be a best-selling author, too.

I have just begun reading Searching for the Invisible God. It's not a new book (2000), but I just hadn't read it before. Wow! It is loaded with stuff I really need right now.

Let me just share two WOW's with you today.

He quotes George Everett Ross:
I have served in the ministry thirty years, almost thirty-one. I have come to understand that there are two kinds of faith. One says if and the other says though. One says: "If everything goes well, if my life is prosperous, if I'm happy, if no one I love dies, if I'm successful, then I will believe in God and say my prayers and go to the church and give what I can afford." The other says though: though the cause of evil prosper, though I sweat in Gethsemane, though I must drink my cup at Calvary -- nevertheless, precisely then, I will trust the Lord who made me. So Job cries: "Though he slay me, yet will I trust Him."

Wow! I can so relate.

The second quote is one that addresses a trend in evangelical churches (us included) today:
"I asked the Lord..." "The Lord told me..." "God is whispering to me right now..." The wording implies a kind of voice-to-voice conversation that did not take place, and the fudged report has the effect of creating a spiritual caste that downgrades others' experiences.

Later he adds: "I have friends who see a demon behind every bush and an angel behind every vacant parking place, and I sometimes marvel at what their simple faith accomplishes. When there is no miracle, however, when they need something closer to long-term fidelity than short-term wonder, I note that they turn to people with a more cautious and longsuffering faith."

Yancey! You da' man!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Capital Punishment

For the last few days, there has been a lot of talk about Tookie WIlliams -- the co-founder of a violent gang known as "the Crips." No doubt, this man was involved in many murders -- four in 1979 for which he was tried and convicted.. He was given the death sentence in 1981. Since then, he has made amends. He has written a number of children's books deploring gangs and gang violence. He was even nominated for a Nobel Prize.

Many Hollywood actors had taken up his cause -- calling for a reprieve. Last night, Tookie was executed.

I have to confess: I don't know where I stand on the issue of capital punishment. I do think it is biblical, and I used to know that I was in favor of it. Maybe it has been through watching the Islamic extremists' carrying out of "justice" (I don't know for sure) -- but I am no longer as firm in my position as I once was. I, too, want justice. But perhaps life in prison with no parole is justice enough. I don't any longer buy into the idea of capital punishment being a deterent. I just don't know that there is anything statistically to support that. Especially is that true of the death penalty in its current form (lethal injection).

So, I guess right now I'm on the fence. I think both sides have some good arguments. Hollywood actors and Jesse Jackson being opposed to capital punishment might be enough to sway me to being in favor of it (just kidding, I think). I would be interested in hearing what you think.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Difficult Sermons

Here in Decatur, I am preaching through the Sermon on the Mount. It's like sitting at the feet of our King as He tells us what He expects of His subjects. The last two weeks have been difficult, as we have heard Jesus' words on sexual sin and divorce. I especially wanted to be sensitive yesterday, because historically we have been so hard on divorced people in the church. Instead of being a place of healing for the divorced, we have often been the source of even greater pain. God forgive us for that!

I'm not sure if I have ever had as much affirmation over two lessons in all my preaching life. This church is so incredible! It is a family who loves each other and cares for one another. And there is such a hunger for the Word! The last time I preached on divorce (before coming here, and I presented it in a very redemptive way), I was scolded by an elder. "Don't you care that you might hurt so-and-so's feelings?" Sure I do! So which pages of the words of Jesus do we begin tearing out? I hope that -- as a preacher -- I never hurt anyone's feelings. But don't you imagine there were people in Jesus' audience who were made uncomfortable by His words? And His words are just as forceful today. Further, as a servant of the Word, I would be dishonest to my calling to gloss over anything Jesus said.

I was especially touched by the couple who came to me last night. They had both undergone divorces over 30 years ago. In fact, they have been married to each other now for 31 years. They both thanked me for the lesson. And they encouraged me to continue to be proactive in attempting to prevent others from going through the pain of divorce. That seems to me to be a more spiritual response to Jesus' words on divorce.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Hittin' the Malls

Today, Beverly and I head out to make our donations to the U.S. economy. As the stock market seems to pay a lot of attention to consumer spending, today might be a good day to invest. I enjoy shopping with Beverly. Just hanging out with her is guaranteed to be fun.

I saw a report this morning about a 5-year old girl who feels no pain. She is the only known person in the United States with this handicap. Sounds good on the surface. But think about it. When she teethed, she bit through her gums. So, they had to have her teeth pulled. When her eye itched, she didn't know when she had scratched it enough. So, one of her eyes had to be removed due to the damage she did to it. Pain is necessary to experience life in its fullness.

Wow! Talk about implications spiritually! In fact, Paul often makes references to our sufferings being for our own good. Hmmmm. There may be a sermon in the making here.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Am I Missing Something Here?

I needed yesterday! Snowed in with my honey (I guess technically we were sleeted in.) Probably should be today, too. But I'm here at the office.

I was watching Good Morning America this morning. They are doing a series on Faith. Today they had several religious leaders who were commenting on the issue. One of them said, "When you come to the end of your life, all that matters is how you have loved others, how others have loved you, and your relationship with God -- however you define that."

I was with her up to the "however you define that." But it got me to thinking. Who defines a relationship? Try that one on your boss. "Sir, all that matters at this job is my relationship with you -- however I define that." Try it with your spouse. "Honey, all that matters is my relationship with you -- however I define that." Try it with your parents. "Mom and Dad, all that matters is my relationship with you -- however I define that." How far would that fly?

And here is our Creator. Our Judge. Our Redeemer. Our Father. And we are being told that WE can define this relationship? Am I missing something here? Doesn't He have any say?

I believe when it comes to relationship with God -- He has all the say. Because He is always the initiator.

Romans 5: 10-11 says "For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."

Thank you, God! Thank You for defining the relationship. But more than that: Thank You for even making the relationship possible.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Just Ramblin'

I'm sitting here this morning watching the weather map. It's starting to rain (freezing, by the way). I had gone by the hospital this morning, and when I left -- my windshield was frozen over. Beverly got about 10 miles down the road and turned around, as the situation continued to get worse. They're calling for sleet today and snow tonight. So, I don't know if we will be meeting at church or not.

Beverly and I went to the widow / widower's banquet last night. It was so sweet. There is much to be learned in the family of faith from those who have "been there and done that." I want to know how people used to keep warm during weather like this when all you had was a potbelly stove in the kitchen -- which was allowed to burn down at night! I wouldn't want to be the 1st one out of bed the next morning!

By the way, do you struggle with self-importance? Arrogance? I want to be a humble person. But I feel pretty good about my level of humility when I see Saddam Hussein at his trial. Wow! Talk about pompous and arrogant! (I guess you're not too humble when you compare yourself to others, right?)

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Lessons from the Dental Chair

I'm like a kid when it comes to winter weather. They are predicting a sleet / snow event for our area beginning tonight and through tomorrow. I hope I'm not disappointed. I think I enjoy it so much because it forces us to step out of our routines. People seem less frantic. And of course, the scenery is often breath-taking. So, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow (but we could do without the freezing rain and sleet).

Yesterday morning, I spent a couple of hours in a dentist's chair. I don't know what it is about my teeth, but I always seem to have to spend about twice as much time as the dentist has allotted. I had a crack in one of my molars, so he was preparing it for a crown. Right now, I have a temporary one. Boy, I could try to make a spiritual application there, couldn't I? Being prepared for a crown.

But here is the application I was thinking of yesterday in that chair. I am grateful to live in a day when broken-down, diseased body parts can be repaired or replaced. I sat there wondering what someone who lived several hundred years ago would have done in my situation. No doubt, that tooth would have absessed and become a serious health problem at some point.

Then I got to thinking about my heart (spiritually). I have been praying for about a year -- more fervently than ever -- that God would examine all those hidden places in my heart. I have prayed that He, like a surgeon, would just cut out all the junk and disease. Anything that does not resemble Him I want cut out! I want to be a Jesus-clone. I want to be possessed by the Holy Spirit. Oh, how I want that! And I have so far to go. But the joy is in the journey. And that I am discovering more and more each day.

Monday, December 05, 2005


My family has been blown away and touched at the number of people who have flowed to my daughter and provided her comfort and covered her with prayers over the last few days. What a blessing! Thank you -- each one -- so much.

Saturday, I spent about 6 hours with David,my son-in-law, hanging Christmas lights at our new house. David is such a great man with an incredible servant heart. I am really proud of my daughter's choice in a mate -- as well as a daddy for my granddaugher.

We are so loving this house! I had a fire in the fireplace yesterday (the 1st one ever at this house, although it is 4 years old). The firewood was a housewarming gift from Bob Clemans. I haven't had a real fire in a long time. I just love listening to the pop and crackle of wood burning.

Yesterday I preached from Matthew 5 -- where Jesus deals with the subject of "committing adultery in your heart." The response was absolutely incredible. I don't know if I have ever had so many positive comments from any sermon I have ever preached. Perhaps it is because this is such a huge problem, but we in the church have tried to pretend it's not. Yet, as I mentioned, statistics show 5 out of 10 men in churches in America struggle with pornography! We must talk about this! We must provide help!

From the comments on Friday's blog, I was surprised that several of you put "Little Drummer Boy" as your favorite Christmas song. I would have expected it from Jeff Jones, but not from some of the others:) I am available to provide counseling on this subject.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Christmas Carols

Christmas season is in full swing now. Everywhere you go, you here Christmas Carols (why do we call them "carols" instead of songs? Is it the alliteration thing?)

My favorite Christmas SONG is "O Holy Night." I also love "O Come All Ye Faithful." But I also like some of the lighter songs like "Let It Snow," "Winter Wonderland" and "It's Beginning to Look A lot Like Christmas."

Now for my least favorite: "Little Drummer Boy." Now remember: I AM an ex-drummer. But the whole premise for this song just grates on me (please understand: most of my comments here are tongue in cheek You'll have to figure out which ones).

So here's this little Jewish boy in the 1st century -- walking around WITH A DRUM? And these wise men come up and say, "Come, see the newborn King." Right away, I am questioning them as wise men if they are inviting a little boy WITH A DRUM to come see a newborn baby. Imagine that, ladies. You've just given birth. "You have a visitor." "Who is it?" "It's a little boy WITH A DRUM. He wants to see you."

So, this little boy WITH A DRUM says, "I don't have anything to give. How 'bout I just lay a few paradiddles (sp?) on you?" AND MARY NODS "YES"! Tell me any mother with a newborn who is going to let a little boy WITH A DRUM start jamming for her baby!

And the sound of this drum drives me up a wall. "Pa-rum-pum-pum-pum." It sounds more like a plastic garbage can that's just been hit by a car at about 40 mph.

And get this: The ox and lamb kept time. Yeah, buddy. Those two incredible examples of rhythm from the animal kingdom. "Moo-moo-moo-moo-moo" and "Baa-baa-baa-baa-baa."

If this had really happened, I think it may have been enough to cause Jesus to reconsider. Oh, well -- I guess it could have been worse. Whoever came up with the idea for this song (written in the 60's, I think. That might explain a lot) could have called it "The Little Moog Synthesizer Boy." 'Come, they told me -- woo-WOO-woo-WOO-woo."

So, what's your favorite Christmas carol (song)?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Special Prayer Request

As I sat down at my computer this morning, I was trying to decide what to write my blog about. I checked some blogs that I keep up with, and came to my daughter's. Many of you know that she and her husband have been dealing with some infertility issues for several years, and desperately want another baby. They are incredible parents, and so we have been praying as a family and friends for years that the Lord would bless them again.

Well, my daughter's most recent blog absolutely broke my heart and caused me to shed some tears. Instead of telling you all about it, I am going to ask you three favors today:
1. Go to and read her blog.
2. Please leave her a note of encouragement
3. Pray! Please pray! Pray that the Lord will allow them to have another baby. Let's fill the throneroom of heaven today with prayers on their behalf.

I will be so grateful. Thanks.