Friday, July 28, 2006

Gems from Bible Study

Last night I led a Bible study from James 5, where he 1. gets pretty direct with those who are rich (us) and 2. encourages his readers to live in the awareness that Jesus is coming. So this morning let me share a couple of quotes.

In relation to wealth, Andrew Carnegie, one of the great industrialists of the 19th century, once said: "I was born in poverty and would not exchange its sacred memories with the richest millionaire's son who ever breathed . . . Some men think that poverty is a dreadful burden and that wealth leads to happiness. What do they know about it? They know only one side. They imagine the other. I have lived both, and I know there is very little in wealth that can add to human happiness beyond the small comforts of life. Millionaires who laugh are rare."

And on the subject of Jesus' return, C. S. Lewis wrote: "If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this."

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Justice? Or Mercy?

Justice and mercy. We humans rarely balance the two out well. I confess it is a concept I often find myself struggling with -- from world events to the local church to close relationships.

So this Andrea Yates case brings the whole issue up again. This woman murdered five of her own children! Yet in her retrial, she has been found not guilty by reason of insanity. I agree! A person would have to be insane to kill her 5 children. But where is the accountability? Where is the justice for those 5 innocent lives that were snuffed out by a person whom they should have been able to trust? I don't know what the answer is. If she is indeed insane, I hope for her sake and others' that she remains in the state mental hospital for a long time.

In Romans 3, Paul talks about how God presented Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement. He then says in vv. 25-26: He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished -- he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justified those who have faith in Jesus.

Through this, we see that God is both Just and the Justifier. So, I rest in that thought. I know that I want mercy. Therefore, I believe it best for me to err on the side of mercy in my dealings with others.

On a lighter note (pardon the blond joke, but sometimes truth is greater than fiction): Runway model Tatyana Simanava, 21, was hospitalized in May after she turned the wrong way upon emerging from the rest room of the luxury motor home she was riding in through Brooklyn, N.Y., and fell out the back door into traffic, suffering a broken arm and wrist. Newspaper stories described her as a blonde.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Prayer Request

Each Wednesday morning I meet with a few guys to share and pray. This morning, we were talking for a while about Lasik surgery, and it occurred to me that it has been nearly 6 years to the day since I had Lasik. For me, it has been an incredible experience -- as it corrected not only my near-sightedness, but also my astigmatism.

However, I find my prayers and thoughts constantly going right now to a good brother who had an eye procedure done a couple of weeks ago, and is really struggling with the results at this time. His name is Kyle Reeves. He is a dentist (a very good one, I might add). And so his recovery is doubly difficult because he is unable to work right now. Kyle and his wife, Shelly, are an incredible couple. They are extremely mission-minded, servant-minded and generous. They are truly in love with Jesus.

So, please lift Kyle up in your prayers today. He usually reads my blog (I'm not sure if he is now, because of his eyes). I would like to encourage you to reply to this blog with a note of encouragement for him and Shelly today. Thanks.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Congrats to Tiger

Over the weekend, I enjoyed watching the British Open. If Tiger stays with his new strategy of hitting irons off the tee and staying in the fairway, he might be unstoppable. And what an incredible show of pent-up emotions after he finished!

I promise not to make this blog simply an A. W. Tozer quote of the day. But right now, his words are hitting us (me) right between the eyes. Listen to this:

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. --Galatians 6:14

The old cross slew men; the new cross entertains them. The old cross condemned; the new cross amuses. The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it. The old cross brought tears and blood; the new cross brings laughter. The flesh, smiling and confident, preaches and sings about the cross; before that cross it bows and toward that cross it points with carefully staged histrionics--but upon that cross it will not die, and the reproach of that cross it stubbornly refuses to bear.

I well know how many smooth arguments can be marshalled in support of the new cross. Does not the new cross win converts and make many followers and so carry the advantage of numerical success? Should we not adjust ourselves to the changing times? Have we not heard the slogan, "New days, new ways"? And who but someone very old and very conservative would insist upon death as the appointed way to life? And who today is interested in a gloomy mysticism that would sentence
its flesh to a cross and recommend self-effacing humility as a virtue actually to be practiced by modern Christians? These are the arguments, along with many more flippant still, which are brought forward to give an appearance of wisdom to the hollow and meaningless cross of popular Christianity. The Pursuit of Man, 53,54.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Another Tozer Quote

This is an exciting weekend. British Open in the morning. Tomorrow night, Beverly and I are going with Jenny and Malaya and some of our friends to see my favorite artist, Stephen Curtis Chapman. I'll be up late Saturday night. So, hopefully I won't fall asleep in the sermon.

In past weeks, I have shared thoughts from A. W. Tozer. Here is another:

We do have many professing Christians in our day who are not joyful, but they spend time trying to work it up. Now, brethren, I say that when we give God His place in the church, when we recognize Christ as Lord high and lifted up, when we give the Holy Spirit His place, there will be joy that doesn't have to be worked up. It will be a joy that springs like a fountain. Jesus said that it should be a fountain, an artesian well, that springs up from within. That's one characteristic of a Spirit-filled congregation. They will be a joyful people, and it will be easy to distinguish them from the children of the world.

I wonder what the Apostle Paul would say if he came down right now and looked us over in our congregations. What if he walked up and down the aisles of our churches, then went to a theater and looked them over, then on to a hockey game, on to the crowds at the shopping center and into the crowded streets? Then when he came back and looked us over again, I wonder if he would see very much difference?

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Life in the Fast Lane

It was so nice being back in Crockett. Seeing old friends and preaching last night for them was a special treat. Beverly and her parents and I met Jed for lunch yesterday. His parents tagged along as well. We ate and then visited for about an hour and a half -- just taking turns holding the little booger. He is so cute!

Last night after church, we got on the road -- arriving home about 12:30. Beverly called her mom on the way home, and it was raining in Crockett. So, I just missed seeing my first rain in a couple of months.

Are we spoiled or what? As I got to the office this morning, I went on line. We have DSL, and it is running slower than the old dial up. I'm sitting in front of my monitor tapping my foot. "Come on! You're wasting my precious time!"

I can remember when dial up internet was incredible. And that was only a few years ago!

I have to keep telling myself to slow down and enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Returning to Crockett

Today after work, I am picking up Beverly in Grapevine and we are going to go spend the night in Crockett with Beverly's parents. Tomorrow night I will be speaking there.

Crockett was my first full-time work. Even though we were only there 5 years, in many ways it still seems like home. We made life-long friends there. It was the perfect place for an inexperienced preacher to cut his teeth. They were so supportive, and must have endured some real yawners.

I think we sense many of the positives in Decatur that we did in Crockett. We like the smaller town, and the genuineness of the people.

Hopefully, our ministry career can be bookended with the Crockett experience and the Decatur experience. That would be cool. I only hope that there aren't as many yawners left in my repertoire.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Pray for Relief!

Wow! It's hot! Today it is supposed to be 104. No rain in sight. I'm about to go mow while it's still cool (meaning under 95).

How about let's join in praying for rain. Those of you who read my blog in the Houston area or other areas that have gotten an abundance of rain, you can still join us in praying -- just be sure to state your specified target. We are desperately in need of rain here in Decatur (and the whole DFW Metroplex).

Tonight at 8 (the temperature ought to be down to about 100 by then), we have a softball game. Our team (the Decatur Church of Christ JV) is playing the Deatur Church of Christ Varsity. It could turn real ugly.

Lord, please bring us an abundance of rain. Eight o'clock tonight would be nice.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Friday Morning Scattershooting

OK, enough of the Michelle Wie hype! I realize that she is an incredlble 16 year old golfer. But she has yet to even win an LPGA event. Yet, for several months, the John Deere Classic has been hyping her attempt to make the cut in this week's PGA event. It is one of the weakest fields of the year on the PGA tour -- being the week before the British Open. Result yesterday: Only two men in the field scored higher than Wie. She has had similar results in past PGA events. So, stop with trying to make this a story! PLEASE!


I didn't know until this morning that the Dallas Mavericks 1st round draft choice, Maurice Ager from Michigan State (drafted 28th over all) is a faithful Christian and member of the Church of Christ.


Wow! I can't recall if the world has ever been in such a volatile state in my life! Iraq. Afghanistan. Iran. North Korea. Israel / Lebanon. In the words of Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?" Big oil is licking it's greedy lips -- with crude topping $78 a barrel. The worse the conditions in the world, the better their bottom line. What a sick way to make a profit.

Of course, Pat Robertson and his ilk are also enjoying this, as they try to predict how all of this is the playing out of Biblical prophecy. I imagine donations go up as people attempt to "get right with God" before Armegeddon.

Sorry. I'm probably sounding a little cynical this morning.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Eyes for the Poor

I stayed up way past my bedtime last night. My son Josh and his wife Kayci were in town. Josh spoke at our church last night, and did an incredible job.

Josh has such a passion for the poor. So, we stayed up late -- sitting on the patio talking about the plight of the poor, and the failure of the government, the church, etc. to adequately address this issue. We've all heard people say, "God helps those who help themselves." That's not in Scripture. In fact, when it comes to spiritual matters -- that statement is even unbiblical. But Paul does say, "If a man will not work, he shall not eat" (2 Thess. 5: 8). And he said that anyone who does not provide for for his family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim. 5: 8).

So, yes, those verses address those who refuse to work. But people are poor for any number of reasons. And there is no way to morally place them all in the same box. I was especially convicted last night as Josh said that, for the most part -- we never even see the poor. They live "over there." Rarely do we even encounter them.

I want to challenge us today to have the eyes of Jesus. And let His words from Matthew 25 penetrate our hearts and work on our consciences today:
"Then the righteous will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, our thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

More from Tozer

Here's another thought from A. W. Tozer:
Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.
--1 Timothy 6:17

We in the churches seem unable to rise above the fiscal philosophy which rules the business world; so we introduce into our church finances the psychology of the great secular institutions so familiar to us all and judge a church by its financial report much as we judge a bank or a department store.

A look into history will quickly convince any interested person that the true church has almost always suffered more from prosperity than from poverty. Her times of greatest spiritual power have usually coincided with her periods of indigence and rejection; with wealth came weakness and backsliding. If this cannot be explained, neither apparently can it be escaped. . . .

The point I am trying to make here is that while money has a proper place in the total life of the church militant, the tendency is to attach to it an importance that is far greater than is biblically sound or morally right. The average church has so established itself organizationally and financially that God is simply not necessary to it. So entrenched is its authority and so stable are the religious habits of its members that God could withdraw Himself completely from it and it could run on for years on its own momentum. The Warfare of the Spirit, 9-11.

That last part reminds me of a quote I once heard (it may have been Tozer). It went something to the effect of "Remove the Holy Spirit from the early church and everything would have stopped. Remove the Holy Spirit from the church today, and we would go on with business as usual."

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Comic Criminals

I love reading about silly things criminals do. Here are a couple I came across this morning:

1. Richard and Stephanie North were arrested in April and charged with taking a big-screen TV from an appliance store in Middletown, N.Y. Police had stopped their car on suspicion because a rear door was propped open to accommodate the huge TV set sticking out of the back seat.

2. Richard Costello, 29, was arrested in Clearwater, Fla., in May and charged with stealing motorcycle parts after police recovered photos of the parts, which they suspect were snapped by Costello. At the bottom of each photo, the photographer's bare toes are visible and display the tattoos "white" and "trash," matching Costello's own tattooed toes.

I guess I like reading / hearing about such things because it makes me feel smarter. But this morning, I was reminded that God and the hosts of heaven probably grin when they watch me bumble through life, too.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The World Cup

Yesterday, I watched bits and pieces of the World Cup. I am amazed at the popularity of soccer (futbol) worldwide. No doubt, it is the world's most popular sport. But it would take some getting used to before I could be a fan.

Now rugby is another matter. Two years ago, when I was in Australia -- they were in the middle of the rugby playoffs. It is a great game, somewhat like football without the 40 second break in between plays. Much faster moving than our football.

Anyway, so I'm watching the game yesterday: Italy vs. France. I'm surprised France didn't just surrender (just joking). After regulation, the score was tied. So, they played one overtime period -- and it was still tied. So the World Cup comes down to this: Who can make the most penalty kicks in 5 tries? Huh?

These guys have been playing in the World Cup tournament for what seems like a couple of months -- with up to a billion people watching. And the champions are going to be determined by who can make the most penalty kicks in 5 tries?

Can you imagine the Super Bowl coming down to this: Game tied after regulation. They play one overtime period -- still tied. So, the game will be decided by which field goal kicker can make the most extra points in 5 tries.

Or the NBA championship being decided by who can make the most free throws in 5 tries.

Needless to say, I was not impressed. But I realize that my American point of view is not one that is shared by the rest of the world. So, congratulations to Italy!

Friday, July 07, 2006

What if . . .?

An interesting question was posed last night at our covenant group / Bible study. Suppose you lived in the time when Jesus was in the flesh. How do you think you would have received Him?

I had to admit that I am glad I live now -- post-resurrection. As cynical as I tend to be when people make claims for themselves or about others, I fear that I would have missed Him. I don't think I would have sided with the Pharisees. I probably would have simply been one in the crowd who saw (or heard), weighed it against my own experiences -- and returned home to my routine.

It's a scary thought.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Missed Rain, Jedidiah, and Ken Lay

I did not realize when Beverly and I moved to Decatur that we were moving to the largest dome in the world. Since Monday, it has rained all around us. Over the last several days, the DFW metroplex has received multiple inches of rain. Within 4 miles of my house, a friend got two inches on Tuesday. But we are dry.

Beverly and I had a nice treat yesterday. Jedidiah came to see us! (Oh, yeah. Their parents, Jonathan and Jennifer, came too). They spent the night with us last night, and are on their way to Odessa today -- then to Abilene for the weekend and next week. Jonathan is leading singing for Kadesh camp there.

I told Beverly that I would not rub it in, but it is quite a coincidence. Our 1st grandbaby, Malaya, smiled first at her grampy. And last night? Jed smiled at me (1st again). But I won't rub it in.

Ken Lay passed away yesterday. I could not believe the newspaper headlines this morning. It was about how Lay got out of paying restitution for his crime! For goodness sakes! The man is dead! I realize his crime was a grievous one -- leaving many people hurt. But where has our common decency gone?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Founding Fathers

I hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July. I did. Beverly and I (mainly Beverly) got some projects accomplished at the house. More pictures hung. But the best thing: MY CAR IS NOW IN THE GARAGE! This is one of the best signs that we are officially moved in to a house. There isn't a day goes by that Beverly and I don't thank the Lord that we are in Decatur.

Every 4th of July I am again reminded of what an incredible group of men the Lord brought together 230 years ago to birth this nation. I wonder what our founding fathers would think about us today. Would they be proud of their "kids"? Or would they be ashamed?

I sometimes think those same thoughts about Jesus, Peter, Paul, etc. Would they be proud of where the church is today? What would they commend? What would make them sad?

I think I know at least some of the answers to both.