Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Greatest Generation

Conducting the graveside service at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery yesterday reminded me again of how grateful I am to those who have served our nation in the military. And while I include all vets in that statement, I am especially grateful to those who served in WW2. We as a nation are losing them by the thousands every day. But that generation -- both those who fought against Hitler and Imperial Japan, as well as those who remained at home -- were perhaps, as Tom Brokaw labeled them, "The Greatest Generation."

My 2nd-cousin led a fighter squadron in the Pacific. Prior to that, he was in flight training in May of 1944, when he was given a leave. He came back to Fort Worth and told his sweetheart that he wanted to elope. He said he just wanted to make sure that they were married before he "got his wings." He said they would tell no one, and they could have a church wedding later. So, they eloped.

They then went straight from the JP's to his parents' house, where he said, "Dad, I have some news for you." His dad said, "Son, I have news for you, too. But you go ahead." Lawrence said, "Doris and I just got married." His dad said, "That's fine. But your leave has been cancelled."

So, he had to return to flight training immediately, and they did not even see each other again until November. They never got their church wedding -- especially after Doris' parents found out about their eloping. And their marriage lasted only 61 years.

Stories like these were common during that period of history. Newlyweds went years without seeing each other. The sacrifices both on the battlefield and at home are beyond our current generations' collective imaginations.

So as "Taps" was being played yesterday, I thanked God again for these wonderful people. I have been allowed the luxury of living in the shade of their sacrifices. And I am grateful.

Monday, February 27, 2006

A Reason to Rejoice

It's Monday morning, and I am in the office about to prepare for a funeral this afternoon. I'm often reminded as I do this that Christian funerals are unique. We are unique. We are the only ones who can stand at the grave and be rejoicing. Others have "Celebrations of Life" -- and it's about a life that has ended. A life that was lived. A life that is over. But for those who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ -- we celebrate a life that has only begun! "Oh, death, where is your victory? Oh, death, where is your sting?" "Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Friday, February 24, 2006

Friday's Filing

My dad's cousin passed away Wednesday. Lawrence was a wonderful, pleasant man. He was extremely proud of his Scottish roots, being only one generation removed from Scotland (his grandparents came over in 1906, and his mother was born shortly after.) A couple of years ago, when my granddad (his mother's brother) died, in lieu of flowers -- Lawrence had a Scottish bagpiper come to the graveside. It was very moving.

The family has honored me with the privilege of preaching his service. The graveside will be at the Veterans' Cemetery. I have done a couple of services there in the past. I don't cry very easily, but let me tell you: When those soldiers fold the flag and deliver it to the survivor and then they play taps -- I am moved to tears every time.


This Sunday, I am preaching on the text in Matthew 7: 1-6. It is probably the 2nd-most known verse by non-believers (John 3: 16 is probably #1). And yet, it is probably the most misquoted. "Judge not, lest you be judged." I think most people believe that Jesus was speaking this verse to 21st-century amoral America, and was saying, "Live and let live." As always, context is a wonderful thing!


On a lighter note: How about them Mavs? They are playing lights out! And TIger -- winning his 1st match 9 and 8. I've never heard of that before. His opponent had made a comment the day before about Tiger being vulnerable because of his poor driving recently. You would think people would learn: Don't poke a tiger with a stick.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Forgiveness has been on my mind a lot over the last few months due to events in my own life. However, in recent days the theme of forgiveness seems to have snowballed. Beverly and I have been talking a lot about it in relation to a marriage retreat we will be involved in at the end of March. Further, she is in Abilene until tomorrow for a forgiveness workshop. And then, last night as we studied David, the subject was forgivenss (or David's lack of).

Well, back to Randy Harris: In his class I attended on Tuesday, he made a remark that really struck me. I'm not quoting here, but I think this gets to the gist of his comment. He said it is the cross, and only the cross. that empowers a human being to be able to forgive. We do not tend toward forgiveness naturally. And even when we try, our attempts are pretty feeble. For a season we forgive, only for the issue to raise its head again later -- sending us back to square one.

But it's at the cross where perfect forgiveness is demonstrated for us. We would not know it except for the cross.

I want to be a forgiver for a number of reasons. For one, just because I know that I feel better when I release my grudge and forgive. But that is kind of a self-serving reason.

I want to be a forgiver because the goal of my life is to become conformed into the image of Jesus.

But foremost in my mind at this season of my life is this: I want to be a forgiver because to the extent I do not forgive, I am revealing my lack of understanding and appreciation for the cross. To the extent that I withhold forgiveness, I am announcing how poorly I have grasped the mercy of God that has been extended to me.

George Herbert put it like this: "He who cannot forgive others destroys the bridge over which he himself must pass." This statement would certainly agree with a number of things Jesus Himself said on the subject (Matthew 6: 14-15, Matthew 18: 35.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Back Home

I was hoping to have blogged Monday and/or Tuesday, but there just wasn't a convenient time or place to be found for that in Abilene. Beverly and I were busy from early to late. But it was great! I wish I could have stayed through today, but I had to come back yesterday to give a final at Amberton last night.

The theme for the lectureship was The Gospel of John, which is right up my alley. It will be the continued theme for the fall lectureship. For those who may not be aware, ACU's lectureship is moving from its long-held (89th) date in February to a September date. So, this year -- there are two lectureships. The fall date will be September 17-20. I have been asked to teach a one-day class during that time, so I will be looking forward to it.

Just a couple of "ah-ha's" to share: I went to Randy Harris's class on Providing Spiritual Direction. It was very interesting. He gave three "not-point points," as he called them.
1. To provide spiritual direction, we must be comfortable with the mystery of God. We must give up the idea that we can change anyone. Spiritual guidance is not about "fixing" people. The power to change is in the Holy Spirit, not me.
2. To provide spiritual direction, we must 1st deal with our own "spiritual stuff." We must come to the realization that God loves us just the way we are. He could never love us more than He does right now.
3. To provide spiritual direction, we must have a contemplative prayer life. We must sit before God, and allow Him to speak to us. We must enter into God's divine pathos -- much in the same way that Hosea came to understand God's love for unfaithful Israel by his own experience with his love for his unfaithful wife.

I would love to have been able to go to all of Randy's sessions.

Another great line came from Dr. Neil Lightfoot's class on John: The Different Gospel on Monday. He said, "We sing, 'Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.' John would say, 'Blessed assurance, I am His.'"

I left yesterday with a hunger to go deeper.

Friday, February 17, 2006

ACU Lectures

Yes, the cold front has pushed through. We have known it was coming for several days. So, knowing I would not be able to play golf today, I went out yesterday afternoon. Interesting: Yesterday morning, the wind was blowing hard from the south. I got to the golf course about 2 PM, and the wind was calm -- temperature about 83. I played 11 holes with the wind hardly moving the flags. On the 12th tee, I was waiting for the group in front of me, when I could feel it. First, a slight breeze from the north. By the time I hit my tee shot, it was gusting to about 30 mph. Within about 20 minutes, the temperature had dropped into the lower 60s. Pretty incredible.

Beverly and I will be leaving tomorrow for the ACU Lectureship. We are looking forward to our time there. Sunday is Jonathan's last one as worship leader for the Southern Hills Church, so we will be with him and Jennifer. We will be staying with Josh and Kayci. It ought to be a great few days. I will blog in from Abilene next Monday and Tuesday.

Throw another log on the fire and keep warm!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Sacred Marriage

Beverly and I are reading a book in preparation for our church's marriage retreat next month. It's entitled Sacred Marriage, by Gary Thomas. The subtitle is "What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?" Wow. That's something to think about all by itself.

Let me share a couple of quotes: "What both of us crave more than anything else is to be intimately close to the God who made us. If that relationship is right, we won't make such severe demands on our marraige, asking each other, expecting each other, to compensate for spiritual emptiness."

He continues: "We need to remind ourselves of the ridiculousness of looking for something from other humans that only God can provide . . . We want to get the largest portion of our life's fulfillment from our relationship with our spouse. That's asking too much. Yes, without a doubt there should be moments of happiness, meaning, and a general sense of fulfillment. But my wife can't be God, and I was created with a spirit that craves God. Anything less than God, and I'll feel an ache."

Imagine if we would get this right! It would take a whole lot of pressure off of our relationship with our spouse, wouldn't it? And it's really not such a new concept. Jesus said long ago, "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things (marital relationships included) will be added to you."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

God's Judgment on America

I just began meeting with a group of men on Wednesday mornings to discuss John Eldridge's Wild at Heart. This morning we had such a good discussion. I feel blessed to be surrounded by such a great bunch of guys.


Last night as I traveled home from Amberton, I was listening to one of the Christian radio stations. The segment was about prophecy. There was a guy on there who claims to receive messages from the angel, Gabriel. He inherited this from his grandfather. He related how his grandfather had predicted after Desert Storm that we would again have to go to war with Saddam and Iraq. He also said Israel would enter in, and that nuclear weapons would be used. He was proud that his granddad's prophecy had come true.

Well, we are at war with Iraq again, but anyone could have predicted that after we left so much unfinished business after Desert Storm. But Israel is not involved, and no nuclear weapons have been used. He said he went back and checked his granddad's notes, and he hadn't said anything about nuclear weapons. But he did say that it has been reported by some guy no one has heard of that a neutron bomb was used in the Bagdad Airport by our forces when we first went in. So, did granddad say it or not?

Anyway, he went on to blast everyone who doesn't believe his prophecies as being complacent, fat and lazy Christians. He said that time is short, and America is headed for disaster.

You know, he's right about a lot of this. But I don't believe he needed a message from Gabriel to reveal it. For Christians, time is always of the essence. This is no time for complacency. But whether Jesus comes today or in the year 5006 doesn't matter. We need to always be prepared. Scripture says no one knows the date and time of His coming. In fact, we are told not to spend time speculating, so I guess Gabriel isn't paying attention to God's advice. Scriptures advice to us is: BE READY! The Lord will come like a thief in the night.

So, will American be judged by God? I think in many ways we already are reaping the consequences of what we have sown. And people of faith need to get serious about being salt and leaven and light. We need to get serious about the Great Commission! People -- souls headed for eternity -- are dying every day without Jesus. So, let's go! There's a lot of work to do.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day

Some would say that Valentine's Day is a silly holiday. There was a time I totally agreed. And while it still might not rank up there with Christmas and Thanksgiving, I think it's pretty special to have a day to remind people of how much they are loved, don't you? Yes, of course we need to do that every day. But we need to be thankful every day that special people in our lives were born, too. Yet we have no problem honoring them in a special way on their birthdays.

I have so many people in my life who are special, and who I love so much. Today, I wish you all a Happy Valentine's Day. But especially, I want to wish one to my girls.

To my daughter, Jenny: You have brought joy to my heart through your sincerity and innocence. I marvel at your faith. HVD (that's Happy Valentine's Day).

To my granddaughter, Malaya: You light up my life, girl! You are such a joy! I love being with you, and have thought back so many times on our "date night" of a couple of weeks ago. That will always be one of grampy's treasures. HVD.

To my daughter-in-law, Kayci: You are like a steady rock, and your passion for those things that are important to you is contagious. HVD

To my daughter-in-law, Jennifer: Your compassion for others is so obvious. I especially love watching you interact with children. HVD

And finally, to the one who defines Valentine, Beverly: Each day with you brings me closer to God. I feel like a man who won the lottery -- LUCKY! And so blessed. HVD

Monday, February 13, 2006

Warning: This Gets Sappy

Well, the concert was really good. Nicole Nordeman is incredible. And Casting Crowns' drummer is worth the money himself. I'll tell you: The lyrics to both Nicole's and Casting Crowns' songs could make for a great sermon series!

The men's breakfast was so good, too. Jerry Nicholas did the cooking, so you know that was great. But to hear our elders share the early stages of their vision for the church was incredible. I have such respect for these men. I'm excited!

Yesterday afternoon, I was channel surfing, and came across the movie, Sabrina. So, I began watching it (again.) Yes, it is a chick-flick. But it is such a great movie! Maybe it's because Harrison Ford is in it, and I can't help but so relate to his character in the movie. I bought it for Beverly several years ago, and have seen it a half dozen times. But the ending still gets to me. As he is in the taxi trying to get to his flight on the Concord -- but gets stuck in traffic. Sabrina's dad is his chauffer. He says, "You don't deserve her." Harrison Ford says, "But I need her." The dad stops the taxi and tells him to hurry -- then shouts her address to him as h takes off running for the airport. (yep, my eyes start to tear up.)

Then, when he arrives in Paris before her, and is waiting across the street. He walks across and says, "You told me I would have the time of my life in Paris. It must include you." (There I go. And I'm not even much of a cryer.)

I know I have disappointed some of you guys today. Sorry, but it's a great movie.

Tonight, the woman who completes my life and I are going out for Valentine's Day. I know, it's tomorrow night. But we both work on Tuesday nights, so we're celebrating tonight. I can't imagine life without this incredible woman! Tonight will be our 30th Valentine's Day celebration. And they just keep getting better and better.

Look out Pappadeaux's -- here we come!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Ramblin' Man

Hey, does it get any better than this? The Mavs beating Kobe and Shaq in the same week! And what's with Phil Jackson? Is it just me, or does he seem to be from another solar system?

Today it's rainy and cold here. I'm glad I snuck out yesterday afternoon and played golf. Friday is my regular day off, but I don't think I'd be out on the links today.

Tonight, Beverly and I are joining some friends and our daughter and her husband for a concert at American Airlines Center. We're going to see Casting Crowns and Nicole Nordeman. We have seen them both before, and they are really good. Should be a fun evening.

Tomorrow morning we are having a men's breakfast at the church. Our elders are wanting to hear what kind of dreams are on the hearts of our guys. I hope every guy's wife has filled their ears with ideas! I am grateful for our elders and their desire to move us to look beyond ourselves to something greater.

I'm just ramblin' today, OK. Not trying to make any theological statements or even profound ones. But have you ever wondered what the Moslem nations do for fun? They seem to just sit around looking for something to get upset with the world about. I don't think I've ever seen them smiling (I know, that is a generalization). They live by such a double standard. They can pronounce jihad against the world, call for the extermination of all Jews and death to the infidel (that's us). But someone draws some cartoons (I admit, that wasn't smart), and they get themselves worked up into a frenzy. I admit, I will probably never understand their world view. I just wish we could cold-turkey cut off all our dependence on them for oil. For one, we are indirectly funding much of their terrorist activity. And for another, they would lose their leverage with us.

Oh, well. Have a great weekend! And be careful what you draw.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Best Prayer

I received an email from Troy Brumley yesterday. So many of the stories and poems, etc. that I receive, I have seen before. But I hadn't seen this one. I think it is worth sharing.

The Best Prayer I Have Heard In A Long Time

Heavenly Father, Help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children.

Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can't make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.

Remind us, Lord, that the scary looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day (who really ought to get a job!) is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.

Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment. Due to their age, it may be the last year that they go shopping together.

Heavenly Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts You give us, the greatest gift is love.

It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts-- not to just those who are close to us, but to all humanity.

Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy and love.


I so want to be of that mind! The Lord has a lot of work to still do on me!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


I truly have a strong desire to spend more time with God. I want to become more intimate with Him. So why don't I just do it? Because I am busy. Busy with good things. Busy with mundane things. Busy meeting others' expectations. Busy with my own self-imposed "got-to-get-this-done" stuff. Busy.

So, I'm reading Yancey yesterday. This guy so connects with me because his spiritual journey and mine seem so similar. He was talking about how easy it is for him to move through a whole day without stopping to spend real quality time with God -- beyond the prayer over a meal type of thing. To break out of his rut, he said he would set his watch to beep on the hour to remind him to 1. stop and reflect on what he had done with the last hour and 2. to pray.

I've decided to give it a try. I'm going to program my cell phone alarm to call me to prayer. Not out of a sense of legalistic ritual, but to break old habits and ruts.

What works for you?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Wisdom of Proverbs

In my daily devotional readings, I have just begun Proverbs. I am struck by how relevant Solomon's words remain today. And the imagery he uses that makes concepts (like wisdom, for instance) take on physical attributes.

I have watched in pain as too many people derail their lives for fleeting moments of pleasure. Oh, how I wish we would listen to the Wise One. Here are just a few exerpts from my reading today, as Solomon says what we can expect if we seek wisdom:

"then you will understand what is right and just and fair -- every good path . . .
It will save you from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words,
who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God.
For her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead.
None who go to her return or attain the paths of life."

"The woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without konwledge.
She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city,
calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way.
'Let all who are simple come in here!' she says to those who lack judgment.
'Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!'
But little do they know that the dead are there.,
that her guests are in the depths of the grave."

"Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.
Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.
Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil."

These words alone could save so much heartache! They would have even saved Solomon a lot of pain if he had just listened to his own advice.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Super Bowl?

Years ago, Duane Thomas of the Dallas Cowboys was asked what it was like to be getting ready to play in the "ultimate game." His response: "How can it be the ultimate game if they play it again next year?"

The Super Bowl has become a cultural phenomenon. Probably as many people watch it for the commercials as for the game. This year didn't deliver either one. Neither team played like a championship team, and the commercials (except for the Budweiser Clydesdale colt) weren't memorable.

I'm glad Pittsburgh won, but if I were a Seahawks fan I would be ticked. There were at least two crucial calls that went against them. Both resulted in touchdowns for the Steelers. And one took points away from the Seahawks.

Well, with that behind us -- this week ushers in the Winter Olympics. It doesn't seem as if there has been much hoopla over this. Maybe I've just missed it.

All of this is just a lead-up to THE event (No, I'm not talking about anything related to NASCAR): The Masters. I love it!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Money, Money, Money, Money

"You cannot serve God and money." That is part of my text for this week. I came across a study that I will use Sunday that says the average person spends 80% of his/her waking hours either 1. making money, 2. spending money, 3. worrying about money. That would mean that if a person is awake for 16 hours, nearly 13 of them are focused on money.

We would like to think that Jesus' words about materialism are directed toward others. Forgive me if this is too much of a generalization, but I think anyone living in America must make a conscious effort not to be materialistic. It may be the strongest pull that our culture has upon us.

Notice: Jesus didn't say, "You should not serve God and money." He didn't say, "Serving God and money will be really hard." He said, "You cannot serve God and money." Cannot! No way.

Coming back to the Sermon on the Mount has reoriented me once again to those things that are important to living in the Kingdom. It's a constant challenge. Our culture so subtly pulls us back into its kingdom expectations. But Jesus makes it crystal clear. There can be no mixed loyalties.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Just One Hole-in-One, Please

For Christmas, Beverly got me an "Amazing But True Golf Facts" calendar. Listen to this one!

"You wouldn't think another ace would be all that special to someone like Mike Hilyer of Gulf Shores, Alabama. After all, he'd had ten previous ones. But his hole in one in 2004 was special enough for Hilyer to alert the media. No, he didn't win big bucks or do anything otherwise remarkable in terms of aces. But it was the first ace on a par-3. His ten previous aces all happened on par-4s."

That makes me sick!:) I've been playing this game since I was 9 years old, and I have never had an ace. And I am a better-than-average golfer. I've sunk shots from the fairway on par-4s for eagles, but never had a hole-in-one. This guy has had 11! And 10 of them on par-4s!

So, here is the theological dilemma (I've got to make some kind of application): People view God's "providence" in many ways. What do you think is the application in my never having had a hole-in-one?
The extreme Calvinist would say that I have not had a hole-in-one because it is not God's will. When it is God's will (if indeed it ever is), He will direct my ball into the hole.
The extreme Armenian would say that God has availed me to the potential for certain talents and skills. When my talents and skills get to the point of perfection, I increase my chances for a hole-in-one.

I don't always agree with either extreme in the discussion of "providence." But on trivial things like this, I really don't think God involves Himself. Does He care who wins the Super Bowl? Or if I ever get an ace? I think He is more concerned with how we, His children, conduct ourselves in every situation -- win or lose.

As to a hole-in-one: It's got a little to do with skill, and a lot to do with luck.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Treasures In Heaven

I'm working on a difficult text today and next week from Matthew 6. They are about putting trust in money and worrying about "stuff." And I stand convicted!

I guess I am a fretter by nature. When we 1st got married, I worried about making the car payment and if we would ever have a house. The next stage was how to pay for the kids' diapers. Then it was how to pay for the kids' braces. Then it was how to pay for the kids' college. Then it was how to pay for the kids' weddings. Then it was how to pay for the grandkid's everything!

Now, I've moved into a new chapter of fretting. Now it's how will I pay for our healthcare and will I ever be able to retire.

But as I look back over my list of "frets," there is a clear pattern here. God provided! He provided for every one of them. I didn't know how we would do it at the time, but every one of them were taken care of. Not one late payment. And we haven't missed a meal, either (I know, that is obvious).

So, you would think I would learn. "You cannot serve two masters." I choose with my heart to serve the One who has been faithful to me all the way. But I will continue to battle in my head. Because my head says, "2+2=4." But somehow, God makes 2+1-1/2=4." He always provides what I can't figure out.

So, these texts will capture my attention. Part of me is really looking forward to them. But part of me isn't, because they are a direct shot at the heart of my (lack of) faith.

LATE UPDATE!!!!! I just found out that Jonathan and Jennifer are going to have a boy! Jedidiah! Due in June.