Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Tomb of Jesus?

There has been a lot of media attention given to The Discovery Channel's announcement of a TV special to air in March. It is called, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus." The show exploits the discovery in 1980 of 10 "ossuaries" at a construction site in southern Jerusalem. It is believed that they are from a 1st-century burial plot. On the ossuaries are inscribed the names, "Mary", "Matthew", "Jesus, son of Joseph" and "Judas son of Jesus." Because these names were so common in 1st century Palestine, the discovery was passed over by scholars and archaeologists.

Now however, with the sensation of "The DiVinci Code" and other skeptic efforts, a Hollywood producer has decided to break this sensation news. They will claim that these tombs are those of Jesus of Nazareth, Mary Magdalene (his wife), and his children. They will, thus, try to discredit the Christian claim that Jesus arose from the dead.

Israeli archaeologist Amos Kloner says that of 900 1st-centry tombs uncovered around Jerusalem, 71 have included someone named Jesus -- and at least one other "Jesus son of Joseph." Further, one of every 5 women in the 1st century was named Mary. This does not even consider that Jesus Christ was from Galilee, and it seems very unlikely that, if he had survived the cross -- he would have made his home in Jerusalem.

Further, if that had been his body, don't you imagine that the Romans and Jews would have put it on display to squelch the claims of the apostles and early Christians.

Yet, because we live in such skeptical times, with Christianity being the target of most of the skeptics, we will have to endure yet another media shot at the very core of our faith. Times are difficult. We must draw together and face the onslaught of the Evil One with a united front.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Jim Walker

Last night at about 9:30, I received a call I have been dreading for some time. My dear brother in Christ and elder, Jim Walker, had passed away.

Jim was just a good man. Down to earth. A lover of people. A unifier. A peaceMAKER. His presence in the Decatur Church is evident, and will continue to be for years to come.

I first met Jim nearly two years ago. I was being considered for the pulpit job here in Decatur. Beverly and I had met on a Thursday night with the search committee, and been very impressed with them. The next night, I met alone with the elders. At that point, it just did not seem like things were going to work.

I was also interviewing with a church in East Texas. On Sunday night, we were eating with a couple of their elders when I received a phone call. I didn't take it at that time, and so the caller left a message. It was Jim.

The next morning, I was playing golf when I again received a call. It was Jim. He said, "Rick, we've just got to get together again and work this out. We've just got to." So, we met again that night. And I left Decatur with an offer.

To think that I might not be here if not for Jim. I didn't get to know him long, and he has been sick for a while. But I learned a lot from this man about what is really important.

My prayers are with Jim's precious wife, Velda as well as his children, Steve and Sara and their families. The Decatur church joins them in mourning.

Monday, February 26, 2007


I was saddened to hear about the junior Grapevine baseball player who was killed in the batting cage last week. My heart goes out to his parents, and his teammates. Also, sad news from the Denver Broncos. One of their players was participating in a benefit basketball game (benefitting his brother who just had a heart transplant.) Suddenly, he fell over dead. That is the 2nd Bronco player who has died since the end of the season.

I know this Monday morning, you are wanting to learn some vitally new information. So, here it is:

Mosquito repellents don't repel. They hide you. The spray blocks the mosquito's sensors so they don't know you're there.

Dentists have recommended that a toothbrush be kept at least 6 feet away from a toilet to avoid contamination from airborne particles resulting from the flush.

No piece of paper can be folded in half more than 7 times.

Donkeys kill more people annually than plane crashes.

You burn more calories sleeping than you do watching television.

The first product to have a bar code was Wrigley's gum.

The king of hearts is the only king without a mustache.

A Boeing 747s wingspan is longer than the Wright brother's first flight.

American Airlines saved $40,000 in 1987 by eliminating 1 olive from each salad served in first-class.

Venus is the only planet that rotates clockwise.

Apples, not caffeine, are more efficient at waking you up in the morning.

Most dust particles in your house are made from dead skin.

The first owner of the Marlboro Company died of lung cancer.

Michael Jordan makes more money from Nike annually than all of the Nike factory workers in Malaysia combined.

Marilyn Monroe had six toes.

All US Presidents have worn glasses. Some just didn't like being seen wearing them in public.

Walt Disney was afraid of mice.

Thirty-five percent of the people who use personal ads for dating are already married.

The three most valuable brand names on earth: Marlboro,Coca-Cola and Budweiser, in that order.

The reason firehouses have circular stairways is from the days when the engines were pulled by horses. The horses were stabled on the ground floorand figured out how to walk up straight staircases.

Richard Millhouse Nixon was the first US president whose name contains all the letters from the word "criminal." The second was William Jefferson Clinton.

Butterflies taste with their feet.

In 10 minutes, a hurricane releases more energy than all of the world's nuclear weapons combined.

Elephants are the only animals that can't jump.

Only one person in two billion will live to be 116 or older.

Women blink nearly twice as much as men.

It's physically impossible for you to lick your elbow.

The Main Library at Indiana University sinks over an inch every year because when it was built, engineers failed to take into account the weight of all the books that would occupy the building.

A snail can sleep for three years.

Our eyes are always the same size from birth, but our nose and ears never stop growing. SCARY!!!

The electric chair was invented by a dentist.

All polar bears are left-handed.

In ancient Egypt, priests plucked EVERY hair from their bodies, including their eyebrows and eyelashes.

An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain.

TYPEWRITER is the longest word that can be made using only the letters on one row of the keyboard.

"Go," is the shortest complete sentence in the English language.

A crocodile cannot stick its tongue out.

The cigarette lighter was invented before the match.

Americans on average eat 18 acres of pizza every day.

Almost everyone who reads this email will try to lick their elbow.

I bet you feel smarter already, don't you?

Friday, February 23, 2007

A Stick in the Mud

I want to be a person who is open-minded. I fear being an old man who is so set in my ways that I am stuck. Yet, there are some things that just appear to be no-brainers -- I guess I will never understand the other view on.

Two of them came up last night. Beverly and I went to a gala benefitting Wise Choices -- the local pregnancy clinic (obviously pro-life). The whole issue of abortion reminds me of just how barbaric we humans still are. Since 1973's Roe v. Wade, there have been approximately 75 million abortions in America. How, as a nation, we could justify this is beyond me. I might be talked into making exceptions in the event of the mother's life being in danger (or rape). But how many abortions would that be?

Interesting: When these pro-life pregnancy centers can get the women to see an ultrasound of their babies, over 90% choose to carry their babies to term (compared to about 25% who do not have an ultrasound).

But last night, as they were presenting the information about their clinic, they mentioned how many young women had been led to a prayer decision for Jesus. I find it interesting that we in Churches of Christ receive so much criticism for our teaching on baptism. As I am reading and studying through Acts again, I am struck by the centrality of the baptism theme. And yet, we are marginalized by the religious community for pointing out what the Word says. Where is the verse about praying Jesus into your heart?

I realize that part of the problem is that we have have a few "squeeky wheels" who teach baptism as if it is a meritorious work. I realize that some people's approach to the subject has been legalistic. But none of that changes how cental it is to the life of the early church.

So, I guess on those two issues, I'm just an ol' stick in the mud (I wonder where that expression came from?)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Hungering and Thirsting

In our Wednesday men's class, we are talking through the Beatitudes. Last night was "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." I was really encouraged as I listened to so many of our men share what that means to them in their daily walk.

Major points I came away with were:
1. Jesus knows that we all hunger and thirst to fill the emptiness that God has placed within us. It is an emptiness that only HE can fill, though.
2. When we are famished, we sometimes grab whatever is close to us and gorge ourselves -- but if it's junk, it never satisfies. In fact, it might be bad for us.
3. I can hunger and thirst for righteousness, and be filled today. But I will still be hungry and thirsty again tomorrow.
4. Even though we KNOW that the food and drink that Jesus offers us is what is best, we still find ourselves eating and drinking from the false fountains that are all around us. They never satisfy, but we find ourselves returning again and again.

If I think of other major points, I will update later. Or, if you were in the class you might want to add to my list.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Spring is Sneaking In

After the cold spell we had here (10 days -- imagine what they must feel like in Buffalo, NY), the weather this week has been nice. However, it has reminded me that spring is nearly here. The clover and weeds in my yard are coming out. I have yet to find a pre-emerge or weed killer that will take care of them.

So, it won't be long before I'll be fertilizing, weeding, mowing and edging again. I have always loved yard work. However, it seems like I don't have as much free time to "putter" in the yard as I used to. I don't really understand that. I used to coach the kids' teams, was involved in Boy Scouts, etc. -- and still had plenty of time to keep a nice yard. Now that my kids are gone, it seems like I have less time. I need a time expert to explain that one to me.

Being that we just celebrated Presidents' Day, I have been thinking about presidents this week. I love history -- and especially enjoy The History Channel's series on them. Who, in your opinion, were the best and the worst presidents?

For me: Abraham Lincoln would be the best. No president has had to hold together a fractured nation like he did.

The worst? Probably one of the presidents in the mid-1800s: Filmore, Pierce.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Golf and "24"

Yesterday turned out to be a beautiful day out on the golf course. It was windy -- but not unbearable. I tied my best nine-hole record ever on the front nine (-3), but then the wind affected me more on the back nine (yeah, right!). Still overall, it was a good day.

Beverly just knew Jack Bauer was going to be killed last night. His dad is one bad dude! I'm disappointed, as the previews for next week show them bringing back that weasel of a president from last year. I wonder if Wayne Palmer is going to be assassinated? I hope not. I really liked his brother, David. In fact, if the actor who played him really ran for president, I think I would vote for him.

I don't know what made me think of this yesterday as I was playing golf: I wonder what Jack Bauer would be like on the golf course. PUT THE FLAGSTICK DOWN! NOW!

Tonight I give a final for Gospel of John. No more drives over to Garland for a while. I love teaching John. But I don't like the drive -- especially over there. The traffic is terrible! Coming home, it's not so bad. Some of you readers do it every day. There has to be a special reward in heaven for that.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Monday Musings

Beverly and Malaya and I went to see Beverly's parents this weekend. We had a wonderful visit. Jennifer (our daughter-in-law) came up and brought Jed, so we got to spend time with our two grandkids. It was special.

Beverly's parents are hopeful that they will have a contract on their house any day. They have a serious prospect. If so, they will be moving here to Decatur within a few weeks. That would be such a blessing to us -- having them closer so that we can see after them. Please join us in praying for that.

I'm not sure how my blog has suddenly become the ESPN of NASCAR. I feel like I have been infiltrated by gremlins. Hey, guys, blogging space is free.:) Rumor is that they had a race yesterday and burned up who knows how many thousands of wasteful gallons of fuel. I wonder if that's why the prices at the pump went up about a nickel yesterday.

Last Monday I passed on golf because it was raining -- but then to my surprise it became a beautiful day. I was thinking about passing today because the wind is supposed to be gusting to 40 mph, but I haven't played in two weeks. So, I think I will go visit the greens this afternoon.

Good Morning America is obsessed right now with the Oscars. Does anyone really care (kind of like NASCAR)? I can't remember the last time I watched even a minute of the Oscars.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Mavs See-Saw

We went to dinner last night at the home of some folks from church. After dinner, we caught the half-time score of the Mavs' game -- and they were down by 7. We watched a few minutes of the 3rd quarter, which looked more like the 3 stooges than an NBA game.

A few minutes later we got in the car to leave, and I turned on the radio. Mavs up by 3! I listened for a couple of minutes, and they lost the lead and even fell behind.

Fifteen minutes later, I got home and turned on the TV. Mavs were ahead. I watched for a few minutes and they fell behind (do you see a trend developing here?) Beverly told me to stop watching. But I hung with them, and they pulled another game out.

This team is so deep I think they know that if they can stay close into the 4th quarter, no one can stay with them because they are worn down.

After lunch today, Beverly and I are going to pick up our granddaughter from school and head for east Texas. We will spend tonight and tomorrow with Beverly's parents. Please continue to keep her dad in your prayers. Also, pray that their house will sell soon.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Losing Weight

Some of you are aware of my recent discovery that I have high blood pressure. I had gone in to have my teeth cleaned about 6 weeks ago, and my dentist (Kyle Reeves) wanted to get a baseline b/p. It was 160/110. He thought it might simply be white coat syndrome. I said that had never happened before.

Well, I was due for a physical anyway, so I scheduled one for the next week. At the doctor's office, my b/p was again 160/110. My cholesterol was a bit elevated as well. The doctor advised that I exercise every day and lose a few pounds. He also put me on some b/p medication.

This is the first time in my life I have gotten serious about dieting. It is really hard! In the first week, I dropped 10 pounds. I thought, "What's so hard about this?" Over the marriage retreat weekend, I gained back 3. I lost one more this week. So I have now lost a total of 8 pounds (not the direction I want to be headed). It's like after the first 10 pounds, I have hit a wall.

I really miss eating a lot of chips and hot sauce. I miss ordering fried foods. I'm getting tired of grilled or baked chicken and salads. I hate going to bed hungry (not really hungry, but compared to past experience it seems that way).

But I am determined to lose another 10. Hopefully, that will lower both my b/p and cholesterol.

When I get to heaven, I do have a question for God: Why does everything that tastes good have to be bad for you?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day

Today is Valentine's Day. It is a day that people either seem to love or hate. No doubt, it is a very commercialized day. And yes, if we loved people like we should, it would not be necessary. Both of these views of Valentine's Day are views I have shared at one time or another. I kind of went along with V-Day because is was expected.

Maybe it is because I am getting a little more sentimental in my not-so-older age, but it seems to me that there are too few opportunities to show our love in special ways. Can't we still love people as we should -- and yet show them that love in a more special way one day a year? And the commercialism thing: What event that is special to us Americans has not been commercialized?

Listen: Life is short. As Beverly is fond of saying, "Make sure your people have no doubt that you love them." Enjoy special occasions rather than resisting them and making oneself (and others) miserable.

So here is a shout to all my homeys: Happy Valentine's Day! (My kids are hiding their faces in embarrassment, I'm sure).

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Cuban on Gays In Basketball

Yesterday I had made up my mind that I had to decide by 1 PM whether to go play golf or not. It was still cloudy and rainy at 1, so I started on my taxes. At 1:30 the sun came out. Oh, well. At least I got my taxes done.

I read with interest Mark Cuban's comments in yesterday's Star-Telegram. Cuban is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks. He said that if an active NBA player would come out of the closet and admit he was "gay," he would be instantly flooded with indorsement offers and would be a national hero. If what he says is true, my, how our culture has changed!

I wonder why the homosexual community chose the perfectly legitimate word "gay" to describe their lifestyle? They appear to be anything but gay (This word used to be a common word for "happy," for those of you under 40).

But here is something that, if I were an African-American, would tick me off. Cuban used the old argument that this athlete who "comes out" would be like Jackie Robinson back in the late 40s -- breaking the color barrier in baseball.

First of all, there are no rules in any sport today saying you cannot play them if you are "gay." That was not the case when Jackie came along. "Coloreds" were not allowed. Period.

Secondly, there is a huge difference here. A person who is discriminated against because he or she was born with a certain color of skin does not compare to a person who has made his or her own lifestyle choice. I know that we have pretty much bought into the "scientific evidence" that there is a gay gene. Sorry, but this has yet to be proved. To make the comparison with racial discrimination mocks the struggles that the African-American community faced for hundreds of years.

Personally, I love what Mark Cuban has done for the Mavericks for the most part. I do think the guy needs to shut his mouth. It probably cost them a championship last year. Dwyne Wade going to the foul line as much as the whole Mavs team could very well have been paybacks by the refs for Cuban's constant public criticism. Further, on this issue I think he is wrong. Even with the erosion of morals in our country, I don't think a gay basketball player is going to be flooded with endorsements. And I hardly think he would be a "hero" -- except to gays.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Great Retreat

We had a rewarding time together at the couples' retreat. I love hanging out with God's people. We laughed and joked and cried and shared. Good stuff.

My bride never ceases to amaze me. She is so spiritually discerning -- and so smart! I could have easily sat back and listened to her all weekend. Mark me down as an admiring fan.

Other than hearing her share, I think the most powerful part of the weekend for me may have been the movie clip from the end of "The Story of Us." I have seen it so many times, but I think I get more emotional each time.

Thanks again to Shelly and Kyle Reeves for pulling the weekend off. And thanks to my partner in ministry and friend, Jacob Baker, for leading us in worship.

It's a little after 9, and I am sitting here wondering if I want to go play golf in the drizzle this afternoon. It looks like the only day this week that might work. If I don't do that, I will probably go home and work on income tax. Hmmmm. Golf or income tax. That makes for a tough decision.

Friday, February 09, 2007

What Are We Committed To?

Tonight we will be going to our church's marriage retreat. This event has been on the church calendar for a long time, so I am somewhat disappointed that more couples have not made this a priority. We had so envisioned couples in our church coming together to commit themselves to helping each other battle Satan. I'm sure that the Lord will still use those who do come, and we will have a great weekend. But it is discouraging.

We live in a difficult time for churches. One of the great challenges as a church leader is trying to get "continuity" with any theme or goal. After all, today priority to church is way down people's priority list. Imagine the challenge of a youth minister trying to plan a retreat so that the youth group can share a common goal. When would you plan it? Fall? No way! How dare you consider interfering with football? OK. Let's try spring. Are you kidding? There's baseball and track. Winter? No, there are the holidays. Summer? Well, no. We have to work. And then, there are the family vacations (Anytime you mention "family" -- that trumps church commitment today).

It used to be that at least Sunday was set aside for "church." Not anymore. Now, youth sports and activities has even trumped the Lord's Day.

And we wonder why our churches aren't growing.

That's my vent for the week.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


Last week my oldest son, Josh, sent me a quote from Jim Cymbala. He said:

"One day I told the Lord that I would rather die than merely tread water throughout my career in the ministry...always preaching about the power of the Word and the Spirit, but never seeing it. I abhorred the thought of just having more church services. I hungered for God to break through in our lives and ministry."

I have thought a lot about that over the last week. One of my New Year's resolutions was to have more passion about life and my ministry. And has the Lord ever answered my heart-cry. Anyone who was in the men's class last night will know what I am referring to. Wow! Is the Lord ever giving me incredible opportunities to minister! And I am loving it!

Beverly and I thank Him every day for directing us to Decatur, Texas. It don't get no better than this.


Cowboy nation: Are you excited to learn that Wade Phillips will be the next coach? Wow. Looks like more of the same. As long as we have Jerry Jones as an owner and the stadium is full, we Cowboy fans are destined to mediocrity.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The "Aroma" of Christ?

I don't know how you feel about Michael Irvin making the Hall of Fame. Personally, I think he belongs there. Some might think I am being inconsistent -- considering the way I feel about T. O. Irvin has had well-reported off-the-field problems. But he was the consumate team mate. Hard-working. Supportive.

On the way home from Amberton last night, I was listening to ESPN radio. The late-night guy said some things that I at first found offensive. But the more I think about it, the more I realize he was somewhat right. He had received a lot of flack for saying that Irvin ought to be in the Hall. The emailers objected because of his poor character.

The talk-show host said that Irvin is a guy who wears his emotions on his sleeve. What you see is what you get. He said he preferred that over religious folks who presented a good public image, but who lived secret lives of immorality. He brought up Ted Haggard. A man who was publicly vocal against homosexuality, and who ended up being a "closet" homosexual. He also made the statement that for every two people who have become pediophyles because of pornography, he could name a thousand "Christians" in history. Of course, he was referring to the many Catholic priests, etc.

What he said broke my heart. This is what a person outside of our "Christian" bubble thinks about us. And quite frankly, he has a good argument. I have been thinking a lot lately about how poorly we have been salt, light and leaven in our communities. When our marriages fail at the same rate as non-believers. When we have as many men caught up in pornography (including ministers). When we are known in the community for dishonest dealings. When waitresses dread to see "church folks" coming because we are difficult.

It breaks my heart. But to whatever degree my heart is broken, imagine how Jesus must feel. It sure doesn't make Him look good. How unfair to Him! Because He is sooooooo good.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Stepping Into a Different Culture

This morning as we were getting ready for work, Beverly told me that at her pretreat for her trip to Africa she learned that in that culture it is taboo to point with your finger. You point with your lips. I tried to envision that -- but it seemed difficult. I even caught myself -- as I was shaving -- looking in the mirror and trying to point with my lips!

Isn't it interesting how different cultures view things so differently. A gesture that is considered in a positive way in American might be an insult in another. It almost makes going to another country scary.

Well, I've been thinking a lot lately about how uncomfortable it must be for a person of the world -- or even a new Christian -- to come into our church buildings. It's like entering an unknown culture. When do I sit? When do I stand? What can I say (or not say), and when? Do I keep my hands in my lap the whole time? It would not be unlike someone who grew up "in church" going to a bar or a men's club.

I pray that the Lord will give me more sensitivity to such people. How sad that a building -- intended for convenience and comfort -- could become such a daunting place.

Monday, February 05, 2007


The Colts are the champs! The monkey is off of Payton Manning's back! Good for him.

I was so proud of what I saw in the post-game comments. No crowing or strutting. Tony Dungy was asked how it felt to be the 1st black head coach to win the Super Bowl. He said he was glad for what it meant for African-American people. But he then said that he is more proud that he and the Bear's head coach, Lovie Smith, showed that you can be a Christian -- and win the big game while living like Christ.

I loved the story that was told about Dungy during the game. He tells his players on the 1st day of practice -- in a normal-level speaking voice -- that he is speaking as loud as he ever will, so they need to listen. The announcers then said that he NEVER cusses, except for one time. He was discussing his calendar, and told someone he was scheduled to appear on "The Best D___ Sports Show." The person said, "Tony, did you just hear what you did? You just said d___." Dungy said, "Yes I did. But it will be the last time."

Between Dungy and Smith, I would say the score after this Super Bowl is Christ-followers -- 2, Satan -- 0.

Friday, February 02, 2007

What's With The Weather?

Once again, I woke up to a surprise this morning. A couple of inches of snow. As I was praying earlier, I thanked God for its beauty. I'm waiting for our youth minister to get in so we can have a snowball fight. Right now, I just keep glancing out my office window -- enjoying the scene.

The reserves for the NBA all-star game were announced yesterday. Dirk Nowitzki was named (how could he not have been voted on?) But Josh Howard was overlooked. Three Phoenix Suns were named to the reserves. I personally think the league is punishing the Mavericks for their owner's past brashness. He has toned down the rhetoric this year. Oh, well -- the all-star games are ridiculous anyway. Fans should be allowed one vote -- period. How can you judge who is an all-star when people can stuff the ballot? (I feel the same about American Idol). What reallly matters is that the Mavs maintain their NBA-best record.

I think I'll go build a snowman.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Marriage Retreat

Next weekend Beverly and I will be sharing some new material at our church's marriage retreat. We are convinced that one of the most effective ways in which Satan is currently attacking the church is by breaking down marriages. There are so many fronts he is attacking us from.

He is confusing us in the defining of roles. I don't mean by that the old "tradition" of the man being "boss" and the woman being subserviant. I mean the whole demasculization of males in our culture and the radical feminist movement.

He is breaking down the family by keeping us so busy. Both husband and wife working. Kids have something going every night of the week. No time for the building of relationships.

He is doing it through pornography. God intended for us to have eyes only for our spouses. But today, a person can rent a movie, or have movies piped right into their living rooms. And of course, there is the internet. All done in the privacy of one's own home. More addictive than crack cocaine.

Beverly and I have committed ourselves to taking Satan on in this area. We can't wait to spend time with the couples who have signed up to be a part of this special weekend. Together, working in community, we can establish a beachhead to take on the Evil One.

God wants to bless us so much through our marriages. But, like anything of value in this life, it takes being intentional.