Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Importance of Friends

Tomorrow night as we continue our study of David, we will be looking at the importance of friends. After Bathsheba-gate, David's life began to cave in. His son, Absalom, attempts a hostile takeover. David leaves Jerusalem in disgrace. But on his way, he is met by a number of friends who vow allegiance to him. It must have been like soothing ointment to his hurts.

It has caused me to reflect on what happened in my own life last year. There was such a feeling of loneliness. As I shared the news with my preacher friends, they disappeared as if I had leprosy or some disease that they thought they might catch. But I know, when we went to the ACU lectures last February, how good it felt to have one of my preaching mentors hardly leave my side.

And our family! My goodness! Our kids surrounded us like parents normally would their children. I have no doubt that they would shed blood for us. Their calls and letters and prayers lifted our wings. The gift they gave us last Christmas -- to take US on vacation -- was overwhelming!

Back here at home, very few from the church called. But there were exceptions, like John and Linda Francis -- who, through very special acts of kindness, helped us to heal. And our prayer group of Tommy and Jennifer Maddox, Scott and Tonia Beard and Steve and Sandy Morris prayed with us and cried with us and held us up. Really special friends.

Then it wasn't long until new friends came into our lives. Guys I haven't known long, but feel like I've known forever. As David had his mighty men, I feel the same about these guys. Jeff Jones, David Isham, Jacob Baker, Robert Isham -- just to single out a few. These guys, I have no doubt, would go the distance for me.

Then there is Beverly. Wow! Her pain was as great (if not more so) than mine. But just as always, she was my rock -- my constant encourager.

What a blessed man I am! Sometimes it takes difficult times to show us just how blessed we are. David learned that. And so have I.

Monday, January 30, 2006

When the Mind is Blank

I want so much to be disciplined enough to blog every day. It keeps me fresh and does me good. But occasionally there are days I sit down to write, and nothing is there. Today is one of them. I have sat here for quite a while waiting for something to come to me. It hasn't.

So, let's turn to sports today. That's always a topic that stirs discussion. Tiger Woods has to be the most incredible golfer in history. I grew up idolizing Arnold Palmer, and being amazed at Jack Nicklaus. But I don't think either of them struck terror into their opponents like Tiger. Looks as if he's off to another great year. I also like the way he has grown as an individual. Yesterday, he was very gracious in victory.

How about them Mavs? Do they have what it takes to win the NBA championship this year? I sure like Avery Johnson.

And finally, who wins the Super Bowl? Is anyone going with Seattle? I can't wait to see my friend's (Tommy Maddox) Super Bowl ring.

Friday, January 27, 2006

American Idol

Tonight, my granddaughter and I are going on a date. Earlier in the week, I asked her if she wanted to go out to eat or go see a movie. She called me later to inform me that she really wanted to do both. So, I imagine we will eat at Keller Pizza, and then go rent a movie from Blockbuster. Life doesn't get any better.

Beverly and I have been watching American Idol. I love Simon. She doesn't. As a preacher, it's kind of in my blood to spiritualize everything. But aren't you glad that the Godhead is not like the panel on American Idol, where you get one shot to show what you can do? By your performance, you either pass or fail. And your judges are 1. a sarcastic hyper-critic, 2. a sappy, sentimentalist, and 3. (I can't think of words to describe Randy Jackson. He's pretty cool, but not easy to peg.)

Give me the loving, forgiving grace of a God who has invested Himself in us any day!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Sorry For No Blog

It is now 11 AM my time. I have been trying to get on to write a blog all day, but have not been able to. We are getting ready to take one of our retiring secretaries out to lunch, so I will not be writing much today.

Let me just throw out a question to you that I posed to my class last night. If your family could be like any TV family, who would you choose?

If you are a reader of this blog -- I want to encourage you to join in and leave a comment at any time. It makes blogging more fun when there are people joining in the dialogue. So, let me hear from you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

End of the Spear

I've been fascinated by the story ever since I heard it told at a Steven Curtis Chapman concert a few years ago. It's the story of 5 men who became convicted back in the 50s that they needed to go to the most dangerous tribe in the world in South America (murder rate of 60%)! They wanted to share the gospel with these people.

At 1st, they thought they were making inroads, when suddenly the tribe turned against them. All 5 men were killed.

But that is just the beginning of the story. Their wives took their children and went to live among these people. One of them stayed her whole life. The rest -- over time -- returned to the States. When the woman who had stayed her whole life died, many returned for her funeral. One of them was a man, now in his 50s, who had been only a boy when they went to those people. His name is Steve Saint.

The tribe asked him to stay and work with them. Finally, he agreed. As he worked among them, he discovered who the man was who had actually killed his father so many years earller. Here's the incredible part: That man baptized Steve's kids, and is now "Grandad" to them. The tribe has been changed; they are now "God-followers."

The story is documented in a film called, "Through the Gates of Splendor." But there is a movie that is currently at the theaters that tells a secularized version of the story. It is called "End of the Spear." Beverly and I went and saw it. We enjoyed it. But it has pretty much been declawed of its power. Jesus is never mentioned as the reason the people were changed. Still, if you know the story behind the story -- it is a movie I would recommend.

The most famous of the men who were martyred is Jim Elliot. He is remembered because he wrote a journal that has been published. Perhaps his most quotable line is this: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Blessed at IHOP

Last night, Beverly and I went out to eat. We hadn't been together with a chance to just talk in a while. We chose IHOP (It's real romantic, Jenny). We hadn't been to Decatur IHOP yet, and we had a 2 for 1 coupon.

The food really was delicious. And our waitress was very good. We sat and visited, and just as our meal was about completed -- she came over. She asked us if we would mind if she told us something. We said, "Not at all." She said, "I've been watching you two. And I have pictured in my mind that when my husband and I get older, we will look like you two." She went on to tell us that they have only been married for about 5 months. She is 18. At 16, she left home and has been on her own ever since. She has been homeless at times. They live near Denton, but she really likes working at IHOP in Decatur. They both plan to enroll in college in Denton next semester.

Beverly and I were so impressed with her -- this 18 year old, confused young woman who is trying to make something of her life. Beverly talked to her about the importance of having the Lord in your marriage -- and invited her to church. She said they were looking for a church, and talked as if she would come. Beverly gave her one of her cards, and said, "If you come, I want you to sit with me."

It was just so sweet and special. Makes me want to go back to IHOP and ask for Heather. However, I don't know how well that would help me in my New Year's resolution to lose 10 pounds.

Please pray for Heather -- that the Lord will capture her heart.

Monday, January 23, 2006


I have a couple of pet issues right now, and I know they come through in my preaching. One is that we Christ-followers are counter-cultural people. The other is that Jesus has called us to authenticity.

Yesterday, I preached on authenticity. But more powerful than a sermon -- we also got to witness it. One of our young men came and allowed the church to see behind his masks. He confessed sin, apologized to those he has hurt -- but praised God for a 2nd chance. We prayed for him, and then the church surrounded him with love and suport.

Here's what happens when we are authentic, though. Immediately after the "Amen," another young man came to me confessing sexual sin in his life. He said that as a result of what he had witnessed, it had given him the courage to be real. I was able to give him information that, if he will follow through, can lead to his healing.

This never would happen in a church of plastic masks. It can only take place where people are real. AUTHENTICITY! It's what the community of believers needs to be about.

Maybe we ought to adopt the motto: "GET REAL!"

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Some More Yancey

I had another ah-ha from Yancey yesterday that I want to share. He is talking about the Holy Spirit's work in us -- from Romans 8: 26-27. Listen.

"The Spirit announces the good news that we need not figure out exactly how to pray. We need only groan. As I read Paul's words, an image comes to mind of a mother tuning in to her child's wordless cry. I know mothers who can distinguish a cry for food from a cry for attention, an earache cry from a stomachache cry . . . It is the inarticulateness, the very helplessness, of the child that gives her comapassion such intensity."

He continues, "The Greek word applied to the Holy Spirit, Paraclete or paracletos, meant "one who stands by the side," such as an advocate or defense attorney . . . The same Greek word described a kind of cheerleader called upon when an army prepared for a decisive battle. For fearful and intimidated troops, the paracletos made audible a voice of confidence and morale building. We have access to that kind of inner voice, the voice of God himself."

Wow! That brings me such comfort.

He also addresses the Christian community's obsession with the "extraordinary" gifts of the Holy Spirit. I love this.

"We dare not devalue the 'ordinary' -- actually, most extraordinary -- work of God making himself at home in our lives." He then quotes J. I. Packer, who chides the church: "With a perversity as pathetic as it is impoverishing, we have become preoccupied today with the extraordinary, sporadic , non-universal ministries of the Spirit to the neglect of the ordinary, general ones. Thus, we show a great deal more interest in the gifts of healing and tongues -- gifts, which, as Paul pointed out, not all Christians are meant to partake anyway -- than in the Spirit's ordinary work of giving peace, joy, hope, and love, through the shedding aboad in our hearts of konwledge of the love of God."

Boy, I love that. It has been my contention for some time that the Spirit's primary purpose in our lives is to produce fruit. What is the fruit? Well, the fruit is simply a reflection of the Vine. The fruit is Jesus.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Satan's Playground

Today's blog is going to be somewhat of a downer -- but it's just kind of where I am right now. I feel like I'm on foreign turf. Like a kid who is out playing, and suddenly finds himself surrounded by thugs. Except the thugs are Satan and his henchmen.

It doesn't seem like there is ever a let-up. Just about the time we get through one crisis -- he hits us with another. Tsunami. Hurricanes. Drought. People are quick to blame God for all these things. But check out the book of Job, and you will see that Satan brought the tornado, etc.

On top of that, there is always some nutcase waiting to replace the last one. From Qadafi to Amin to Ayatollah Khomeini to Saddam Hussein to the current leader of North Korea (I can't remenber his name) -- and the list goes on and on. People who threaten the stability of the world. And if that wasn't enough, now we have a real lulu: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the leader of Iran. This guy has some serious issues. He believes the holocaust was fabricated by the Jews. He has called for the extermination of all Jews. And he is actively seeking nuclear weapon capabilities.

Interesting: Other than the North Korean guy, notice a common thread with the rest. They are all Islamic (you know, that religion that claims to be all about peace). I really wish that the US would rachet up our pursuit of alternative fuels and cut off supporting these nations by buying their oil.

So, it appears that we may be fighting a war on three fronts: Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. And we're not far from being in North Korea.

It all wears me out. I'm ready to be on home turf. I'm tired of the playground bullies. All the more reason to pray, "Lord, come quickly."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Joy of Eating

Sunday at lunch we were talking about this guy who has come out with a book about nutrition and health. He basically says that there is a government conspiracy to hide the truth about prescription drugs and foods. He claims that people ought to live to be 150 -- and would if they followed his dietary recommendations (all-organic, etc.). I will be interested to see if he makes it to that age.

I haven't read the book, and am only going off of what I was told. I'm sure the guy has made a bundle of money, and given many people yet another reason to hate our government.

But here's the thing for me: I love to eat. Oh, I try most days to eat in moderation. In fact, I had a physical yesterday (still carrying my extra poundage from the holidays), and the doctor said I appeared to be in excellent health (thank God). I love to eat shrimp -- any way you fix it, and all-you-can-eat. I love a good steak occasionally. I love Mexican food. I love a good piece of pie. Occasionally (actually too rarely), I love to go to Marble Slab and get an ice cream cone -- sweet cream with Heath Bar.

So, I'm wondering: Who wants to live to be 150 if you can't enjoy good food? Really.

Again, I believe in the Biblical view of moderation in all things. But how do you feel about what this guy says? Would you want to live to 150 -- eating only bean sprouts and vegetable smoothies? And what food could you not do without?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Tribute to a Great Man

I grew up in Mississippi in the 1960s. I witnessed segregation at its worse. I found myself stuck in an environment steeped in ignorance (that's what prejudice is). I don't know how many times I heard white people say, "I'm not prejudice. I don't hate niggers, just as long as they stay in their place." Really? What was their place? To recognize that they weren't equal to whites?

Or, "Hey, they have their freedom. What more do they want?" How about a chance?

I wish I could say that everyone has progressed beyond such ignorant attitudes, but I still occasionally hear similar comments. And saddest of all is that I most often hear them from "Christians."

Today, America honors one of her greatest -- Martin Luther King, Jr. A man who awakened the conscience of a nation. And he did it without inflamatory rhetoric or threats of violence. Oh, I know that morally he had his failings (many whites love to point that out, as if it negates all of the good he did.) But so did FDR and JFK.

He patterned his reforms after Jesus. He was imprisoned, beaten, spit upon, mocked. His family was threatened. His house was a target of vigilantes. Finally, he was murdered. But through it all, he was even-tempered. He continually called for love for and equality to all races. His "I have a dream" speech has to rank as one of the greatest speeches ever given.

So, today America honors this man. I'm shocked that people say, "This holiday is just a token, PC holiday to appease the blacks." Huh? No, this is a day to remember a man who awakened a nation from SIN -- the sin of hating and mistreating those made in the image of God for no reason other than the color of their skin. This day is a day to remember a man who stirred the conscience of a nation to begin doing what was right. We "whites" have as much reason to be thankful to Martin Luther King, Jr. as African-Americans do.

My prayer is that the last holdouts in our nation (our churches) will "catch the dream."

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Looking for the Good

My father-in-law came through his surgery great yesterday! He had to wait several hours in recovery until a room opened. As the nurse and my mother-in-law were discussing that, he was just coming out of his anesthetic. He said, "Let me just go home!"

Before he went into surgery yesterday morning, the surgeon came in and prayed over my father-in-law and the family. You think that didn't mean a lot to them?

And then last night, Beverly and her mom went to get a bite to eat. As they were leaving the restaurant, they noticed that a tire was flat. So, they went back in the restaurant to call someone to come help them. One of the waiters insisted on letting him help. The jack didn't work. He went to get his, and it wouldn't work. He went in to the restaurant and found someone who had one that would. Then, he changed the tire for them.

After he finished, Beverly offered him some money, and he refused. She continued -- finally having to force him to take it.

The reason I am telling you these stories is that we hear so much negative stuff today. We hear about how people just don't care. We hear that everyone is just in it for themselves. But if we would just stop and look around! There are so many good people -- doing so many good things! I know we live in a fallen world. But even in our fallenness -- there is beauty. And we are going to see exactly what we look for.

Today, let's train our eyes on something good!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

How to View Scripture

As I'm writing this blog on Wednesday morning, Beverly's dad is in surgery in Tyler. The surgery is pretty invasive -- involving his spine. Mr. Jones is quite a character. He's 77, and excited because the surgery will make him 1-1/2 inches taller.

I began a new class at Amberton last night -- teaching the Gospel of John. I was talking about how Scripture can be understood by all. One of the students asked, "Then, why are there so many ideas as to what Scripture means? Why do the Jehovah's Witnesses believe this and the 7th-Day Adventists believe that?" What would you have said to answer him?

I told him that it's part of the fallenness of humanity. We humans tend to choose some particular view of theology -- and then everything we read filters through that particular view. For Luther, it was "faith only." So, he saw everything through that filter -- even to the point that if something didn't fit in his filter (the letter of James), he thought it should not be in the Canon. I do not think people, in general, view things differently because "everyone else doesn't love truth like I do."

So, being from a Church of Christ background -- what filters have we brought to Scripture? I know we have been criticized for seeing baptism in every verse. I personally don't know if that is true, but it could be because my filter is so engrained I can't see otherwise. I do think that we have wanted to defend acappella singing so much that our whole theology of the Old Testament and the silence of Scripture have been shaped by that filter.

Perhaps it's best to try to view Scripture through its major themes: Love, redemption, mercy, justice, grace, obedience, etc. What do you think?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Animal News

I'm not much of a pet lover. I LOVE watching and hearing animals in nature. I love going to the zoo. But I'm not big on pets. Someone once told me that you can't love people if you don't love animals. ??????? That's like saying you can't love apples if you don't love oranges. You can't love football if you don't love baseball. By the way, everything Scripture says about dogs is negative. And cats aren't even mentioned. Jesus came to save human beings, not the spotted owl. (I'm writing with tongue in cheek, OK?).

I'm not against people having pets. Just keep them in your own yard, and don't let them bark 24-7. Yet, everywhere we live, there is a neighbor around us who violates this principle. We have dogs who dig in our flower beds, and one that must get a sore throat from barking. I think he barks at every star he sees at night. But what can you do about it without coming off looking bad?

So, I listened with interest this morning to the story about a woman who found her pet cat of 13 years dead in her front yard. She decided to have a DNA analysis done ($500) to find out what killed it. She had suspicioned the neighbor's dog. And sure enough, the DNA evidence pointed there. The owner of the dog defended his dog's actions by saying it is natural for dogs to chase cats. Well, if the cat was in the man's back yard -- he might have an argument. But HIS dog in HER front yard -- killing her cat? Sorry, that just isn't right.

I'm going to start a petition drive. PFPOR. People for Pet Owner Responsibility! MOTTO: "Keep 'em in line or pay a BIG fine."

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Holy and the Common

"they do not distinguish between the holy and the common." It was an indictment brought by the Lord through Ezekiel to the city of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 22: 26).

Yesterday, Beverly and I were talking about a trend that troubles us. We, God's people, are called to be lights -- to shine into the darkness. Yet it seems that oftentimes we are trying to convince the darkness that we are not so different from them. As if we are into darkness, too.

Now don't get me wrong. WE are not the light. We simply reflect THE LIGHT. But no darkness is found in light, either. And there should be no apology for "walking in the light." There is no gospel in calling the darkness into semi-darkness. The gospel is calling people from darkness to light. Again, we are to be a counterculture (I'm kind of on a hobby here, if you haven't guessed already).

A couple of weeks ago, Malaya was singing some Christmas song. I decided to add my percussion sounds to her song. She looked at me with a look of disgust, ran to Beverly and said, "Grammy, Grampy's spitting in a godly song." Well, I had obviously never thought of it like that, especiallly since that's not what I was doing. But that imagery has stuck with me. I don't ever want to be guilty of mixing the common with the holy. There's just no "good news" in that.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Anyone Have a Muzzle?

I'm so glad I became a Christian before we had such nationally-recognized "personal representatives" of Jesus. I think if all I knew of the Christian faith (that is, my frame of reference) was what I see in Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson (and occasionally, James Dobson), I would have rejected it. These mens' agenda is to politicalize the faith -- and it makes it come off looking really bad. Interesting, Jesus never did that.

So, Pat has now received word from on high that Ariel Sharon's stroke is God's punishment for pursuing peace with the Palestinians? Pursuing peace -- that's not a God-thing anymore? As in "seek peace, and pursue it"? As in "blessed are the peacemakers"? But now, God has had a change of heart and has stricken a man down for pursuing peace?

The man is 77 years old! Is it really that abnormal for a 77 year old man to have health problems? And what is the punishment that God is meting out against Pat when he eventually dies or has a health issue? I know I could think of several:)

Being a witness for Christ today is hard enough. But these guys -- who have a public platform -- are doing us no favors. God forgive them.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


It may be the most incredible game I've ever seen. Of course, it helps that my team won. I have never seen any greater performance by an athlete than displayed last night by Vince Young. The guy just wins. And he makes it look easy! I don't mean that the win came easily. But he looks like he's out for a stroll when he's running. And he never looked panicked at all -- even as they needed two scores with 4 minutes remaining.

I loved the headline in the Dallas Morning News this morning. It said, "INVINCIBLE."

It's been a long time coming. I was living in Austin the last time Texas won a national championship (8th grade, to be exact). It's great to have a Texas team on top again.

I was disappointed to hear Matt Leinart in the post-game say that they were still the better team. I have heard that he is a classy guy, but that comment wasn't. Beverly quickly reminded me that it was said in the heat of the moment, and he is probably sorry this morning that he said it. I hope so.

Talk about class, though. Mack Brown. I have had reservations about him through the years. But this year, he has stepped it up. I heard his post-game comments, as well as an interview on ESPN later. His words were full of grace and totally classy. I don't know if it's true, but I read on another blog this morning that he grew up in the Church of Christ.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Pity the Field Goal Kickers

Maybe it's just me, but does it seem like an extraordinary number of football games this year have been decided by missed field goals? It cost the Cowboys a playoff spot. And every college game seems to have several errant kicks. I was watching the Orange Bowl last night. Florida State should have won on a field goal. No, Penn State should have. No, Florida State should have. Finally, Penn State did. I feel sorry for those kickers when they show them on the sidelines after they have just missed kicks they probably make 99 out of a hundred times in practice.

Last night's game was interesting from the angle of the coaches. Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden have been head coaches for 40 years! I like them both. I'm glad Penn State won, because so many critics have said over the last couple of years that Paterno is washed up. 79 years old! And he has not hinted at retirement. I hope at 79 that I can even stand up for 5 straight hours -- much less do all he does during a game.

For a long time, I didn't care for Paterno. My 1st memories are from 1970, when he whined so much to the media because Texas was ranked #1 over his Nitanny Lions. But who knows? He may have been right. Now I admire him. He's a coach who not only makes his players better athletes -- but in general they leave Penn State as better people.

So, who wins tonight? Texas? Or USC? My heart is pulling one way, but my practical side says "Not likely." Still, go Horns!

On another note: What a sad ending to the mining story from West Virginia. Last night, the report was that 12 of the 13 miners had been found alive. This morning, I wake up to the report that 12 of the 13 are dead. What a cruel roller coaster ride for those men's families. May the Lord surround them with His presence and peace.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Clothes that Cling

I have a couple of pairs of pants. Why is one piece of clothes called a pair? If it's because pants have two legs, why don't we call a shirt a pair of shirts? But I digress. These two pairs of pants are incredible quality -- but they have terrible static cling. In fact, my legs feel like they are being shrink-wrapped when I wear these pants. They almost feel like when you're having your blood pressure checked. So today, I am planning on going to the store to get some anti-static cling spray.

One of my goals for 2006 is to surrender more to the possession of the Holy Spirit. We hear of people claiming to be possessed by evil spirits. Well, I want to be possessed by the Holy One. I am reminded that Scripture describes my baptism as a time when I was "clothed with Christ" (Galatians 3: 26). And this year, I want Him to cling to me like those pants. I want Him to take me captive -- every thought, every action, every word.

I believe that we humans have free will. I am at the point in my life, though, that I wish I could freely choose to surrender everything about myself to God. I would gladly give up my free will to become possessed. I'm talking about like in one of those sci-fi movies where someone is totally taken over by an alien. It's still their body -- but it's totally taken over by another. I want the Lord to do that with me!

Happy New Year!