Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Influencing Our Culture

Last night I read a column on the editorial page of the Star-Telegram, written by a woman from Missouri (I think).  She was basically smearing Rick Warren for his views on homosexual marriage.  The whole tone of the article rankled me.  You would think I would learn (but I haven't) that those who preach the loudest about "tolerance" are the most intolerant of all.

She accused Warren of being barbaric and bigoted in his views.  Here is where a distinct line is drawn between people of faith and those who are not -- and neither side seems to get the other's.  People of faith base what they believe in a standard that is not theirs.  It comes from Scripture, which we believe to be from God Himself.  There are many things in Scripture that I would, in my fleshly nature, prefer to ignore.  But I can't.  My Father has called me to something different.  So, I have not arbitrarily decided what I am going to believe.  It is pretty objective.

People of the world, on the other hand, base their beliefs on a moving target.  Right now, Darwinism pretty much rules the day when it comes to believing why we are here.  This belief has led to our current devaluing of human life.  But that is what people of the world choose to believe.  They also base their beliefs on the moving target of Hollywood "experts on all issues because we can read a script" opinions.  So what is "in" this decade may be "out" next decade.

Finally, they base their beliefs on the media.  Again, a volatile moving target.  For the last 25 years or so, it has been extremely biased to the left -- perhaps as a reaction to the distrust established during Watergate.  There exists today an obvious bias against traditional morals, and Christianity in general.  This has had a profound effect on non-believers' belief systems.

So what are we of faith to do?  I do not think we are going to promote our cause by publicly lambasting folks.  That is what they expect, and they turn a deaf ear.  Plus, it usually is not within the context of love.  So are we to compromise?  Of course not!  But we can speak the truth IN LOVE.  How do we do that?  By offering friendship to the very people who oppose us.  By SHOWING them, though Christlike living, that we really do care (I am assuming that we do).

I know this is getting kind of long, but I want to say one more thing:  How serious is the homosexual marriage issue?  I am waffling right now.  Obviously I oppose it, but it seems inevitable, in today's political environment, that it will eventually happen.  So here is my take right now (I reserve the right to change my opinion).  There are many things that are legal in a free society -- even though they are not morally right.  We as Christians have never been called to be the morality police for a whole earthly society.  What we ARE called to be is different.  Light.  Salt. Leaven.  Working and influencing quietly.  Showing, through the peace in our lives, the way to the Prince of Peace.  Calling them into a DIFFERENT Kingdom.

Early Christians lived in a culture that was MUCH more vile than ours.  People who compare our current society to the Roman Empire (I have been guilty of doing that) need to read more about it.  But Christians didn't change that society by starting The Moral Majority or a voting bloc.  They did it by contacting people with the "aroma of Christ."  Eventually this lead to the conversion of Constantine, who then passed an edict declaring the Roman Empire to be "Christian."  Ever since, the Christian faith has moved away from being what it was originally intended to be.  We have come to think that we should "be in charge" -- even though Jesus said, "Not so with you" (Matthew 20: 25-28).   

Whew!  Here is wishing all of you a wonderful 2009.  HAPPY NEW YEAR!                  

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thanks Jerry

Another Cowboy season bites the dust.  Let's see -- that makes 12 seasons in a row without even a playoff victory.

Who is to blame for this mess?  Wade Phillips?  He certainly has to take his share of the blame.  Tony Romo?  Not really.  I think he will prove to be a good player who is not as good as touted -- but that's not his fault.  T. O. and the rest of the misfits?  They certainly didn't help team chemistry.  No, let the fault fall squarely where it should. 

19 years ago, Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys.  At that time, he was harshly critical of the previous owners and coaches because the Cowboys had not delivered a Super Bowl for 11 years, or a playoff win for 5.  His words suggested that such a record made them deserving of national humiliation.  Well, Mr. Jones, it has now been 12 years without a playoff win, and 14 years without a Super Bowl.  Are we to judge you by the same criteria you judged your predecessors?  At least they had an organization that was respected.

I think the fans of the Cowboys are partly to blame too.  Why?  For continuing to support this mess.  What motivation does Smiley have to change when he sells out every game?  Every year, like a snake-oil salesman, he sells the public a bill of goods -- but doesn't deliver.  And every year, the public buys it.  I get so tired of hearing "Cowsheep" (as Randy Galloway calls the Cowboy fandom) say, "Well no one wants to win more than Jerry."  I would agree with that -- to a point.  Jerry wants to win -- if it can be done Jerry's way.  He wants to win with HIM receiving all the credit for building the team.  We all think back to the 3 Super Bowl victories he delivered.  Let's be perfectly honest:  Those were teams built by Jimmy Johnson.  And maybe even Jimmy gets more credit than he is due.  Take away the Hershel Walker trade -- and would those teams have been so great?  I don't think so.  So if anyone deserves credit for the three Super Bowl victories -- maybe it is Minnesota.

So, Cowboy fans:  Accept the fact that this team is a sinking ship so long as Jerry Jones insists on running it.  He has turned a DIE-HARD life-long fan into a guy who watches with passing interest -- and sometimes even hopes they lose.  

Tom Landry and Tex Shramm:  We miss you!      

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Good News

"Good Morning America" is showing some of the most heart-warming segments this week.  Yesterday it was about a man with 4 children -- one of whom has severe autism, and the man was going to be laid off from his job.  Another man stepped forward and asked them to lay him off instead.  So here he is -- at Christmas, looking for work and collecting his unemployment check. 

But he seemed to be SO at peace with himself.  When asked why he did it, he said that this man was his friend, and it was just the right thing to do.   And the family he helped -- oh, the gratitude!  One of the children, a girl about 10 years old, called him her hero and said it is the best Christmas present she will ever have.   

There are still so many examples of good people doing good things.  We just don't hear much about them.  It is to a large degree OUR fault.  We, as media consumers, would rather hear about economic doom-and-gloom forecasts and how many affairs some Hollywood diva has had.

But it makes us more cynical.  You ask the average person if conditions / morals are getting better or worse, and they will immediately say, "Oh, worse."  Really?  I can think of a couple of issues where it is getting worse (gay marriage seems to be more acceptable).  Abortion is still too common, but even more liberal people's views on it are changing.  And teens today are at least more aware of the need for abstinence than they were when I was growing up.  

And racism?  Maybe we are just blinded to how immoral that was / is.  And that from the "moral" 50s!  In a couple of weeks, we will swear in a black president.  I would say morally we have come a long way on this one.

So, let's get our chins up!  People as a whole are still good.  Life is still rich.  And we are blessed.  Let this be a joyous Christmas for you and your family.   

Monday, December 22, 2008

Such Faith!

I know some people think I am an alarmist when it comes to Islam.  I guess if I could read some good news about it -- for instance if the religious leaders would come out condemning terrorism -- I might change my mind.

Saudi Arabia is supposedly one of our greatest allies in the Islamic world.  Yet they are totally intolerance of Christianity in that country.  Following are excerpts from a story I read in The Voice of the Martyrs magazine:  

Last August, a Muslim cleric in an eastern province of Saudi Arabia killed his sister, 26-year-old Fatima Al-Mutairi, after she proclaimed her faith to her family.  Before he killed her, Fatima's brother locked her in her room for four hours.  During that time she wrote a final letter and posted a poem on the Internet.  A portion of that poem is as follows:


. . . There are tears on my cheek, and Oh! the heart is sad
To those who become Christians, how you are so cruel!
And the Messiah says, "Blessed are the Persecuted"
And we for the sake of Christ all things bear
What is it to you that we are infidels?
You do not enter our graves, as if with us buried
Enough -- your swords do not concern me, not evil nor disgrace
Your threats do not trouble me, and we are not afraid
And by God, I am unto death a Christian -- Verily . . .
. . . As to my last words, I pray to the Lord of the worlds
Jesus the Messiah, the Light of Clear Guidance
That He change notions, and set the scales of justice aright
And that He spread Love among you, Oh Muslims

--Fatima 2008 

A faith like that makes me feel small.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

An Incredible Thought

Last night in our men's class, we were talking about how God can only use us when we are broken and surrendered to Him.  We talked about John 15, where Jesus speaks of Himself as the Vine -- and us as the branches.  We bear HIS fruit -- as we allow Him to again live His life through us.

Sometimes we can talk about a concept so much that it becomes too common.  Maybe we have done that with the idea of Jesus "living in us."

Then we read another verse that I have read many times through the years.  But it struck me with renewed meaning last night.  Here it is:  

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promised, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  2 Peter 1: 3-4

Participate in the divine nature?  That is an incredible thought!  That God would invite me to do that?  WOW! 

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tiger's Caddie and the NFL All-Pro Team

I really like to keep my blog geared toward more spiritual things.  It seems like lately I have written a lot about sports and news.  I really just deal with whatever is on my mind as I sit before my computer.  So, today?  More sports.

Have you heard about what Tiger Woods' caddie, Steve Williams, said about Phil Michelson in an interview in Australia (maybe it was New Zealand)?  I can't repeat some of what he said, but he spoke very disparagingly about him.  The one comment that I found especially interesting was when he said that Phil didn't show respect to him.  What does that mean?  Phil is a professional golfer!  Steve Williams is a caddie!  Did he mean Phil treats him rudely?  Or that he hasn't "buddied-up" to him?

This guy makes over a million dollars a year to get to walk next to the greatest golfer perhaps in history over beautiful landscapes.  He gets 1st-class treatment at every tour stop -- treated like a celebrity.  And he is going to publicly rip one of the premier golfers of our day?  I think either Tiger needs to fire him -- as good as he has been for Tiger, or the PGA needs to suspend him.

The NFL All-Pro team was announced yesterday.  There is some sanity that has returned.  Half the Cowboy team did not make it this year.  Five Cowboys were named to the Pro Bowl. Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, nose tackle Jay Ratliff, tight end Jason Witten, guard Leonard Davis and center Andre Gurode were selected.  The only other one who might should have made it is Brandon James.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

News and Commentary

So Carolyn Kennedy is going to run for Hillary Clinton's senatorial spot in New York.  I have never known a time in my life when a Kennedy wasn't in office.  But that family has sure had its share of tragedy, too.  If I was her, I think I would stay away from the public.

I don't claim to understand everything about the U.S. automakers.  And I don't mean my comments to be taking sides one way or another.  In fact, I hope they rally and once again are able to provide great cars that will knock the other world auto makers for a loop.

This is somewhat tongue-in-cheek:  I saw where the Arlington GM plant is going to shut down for a month -- but the workers will receive their wages.  They (the media) are acting like this is a bad thing?  I wish my elders would offer that to me:)

The plant does this every year, I think I read. And I am sure they have it figured out that in the slow season, they save money by not being open -- even as they pay the workers their wages. It just SEEMS odd at this particular time.

I guess you have all seen the shoe-throwing incident at Bush's new conference in Iraq.  As a letter to the editor pointed out in today's paper, this is a sign of good things in Iraq.  Do you think anyone would have done that if Saddam Hussien were still in power?  It is a sign that democracy is changing that country -- and freedom of speech is catching on.   

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sports Recap

Last night as we left home for our evening worship service, the temperature was 75.  This morning, it is 23.  Welcome to Texas!

We had our open house for the church yesterday afternoon.  I don't know how many people came, but it was a really nice event.  Beverly does such an incredible job preparing for that.  I am so proud of her.  She is a wonderful hostess.  I told her last night:  Everything she touches turns to gold.

We watched the Heisman Trophy Presentation Saturday night.  All three candidates this year seem to be outstanding human beings.  I think Sam Bradford won because OU has simply timed everything well this year.  If I were voting, he would have been 3rd out of the three choices.  

Imagine:  Of the three candidates, there were two juniors and a sophomore!  Last year a sophomore won (Tebow) and this year another sophomore won.  That is the only times in Heisman history.   

I wonder if any of the three are going to jump into the draft?  McCoy has said he is coming back -- and to a Texas team that SHOULD be better than this year's.  Bradford's OU team is going to be hit hard by senior grads.  I wouldn't be surprised to see Tebow go pro.     

Last night's Cowboy game was a defensive slugfest.  Both quarterbacks are probably wondering why they didn't pursue another line of work this morning.  Romo is still having trouble sailing passes, but he hung in like a champ last night.  But who were the "studs."  MY two "All-Pros" -- Jason Whitten and Demarcus Ware.  I told Beverly that Ware must weigh around 280 (I'm guessing), but the guy looks like there isn't an ounce of fat on him. 

Things don't get much easier for the Cowboys if they are to make the playoffs.  They face a TOUGH defense on Saturday night in Baltimore (9-5).  Then they finish up against the always-tough division rival Philadelphia Eagles.  They really cannot drop either game.  

Is it just me or does Jerry Jones look like a total doofus when they show him on the sidelines at the end of a game?  He just throws all dignity out the window.  (Sorry, JJ fans)   

Friday, December 12, 2008

Problems in Big D and Illinois

(Sniffle, sniffle)  "He's my quarterback, man."  (sniffle, sniffle)  

I'm feeling somewhat vindicated this morning.  When the pretend-general manager of the Dallas Cowboys (of Pac-Man Jones fame) signed T. O. a couple of years ago, I said he would wreck the team.  That's what he did in San Francisco and Philadelphia.  Many told me that T. O was a changed man.  Well, he's has been somewhat in remission for two years.  Oh, there have been occasional small hints of his past behavior, but nothing big. 

So now we hear that T. oW. (Team Wrecker) has gotten Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton worked up with this idea that Tony Romo and Jason Whitten have private meetings to draw up plans for themselves -- excluding the wide receivers.  They have gone to Jason Garrett (offensive coordinator) with their "complaint." 

Statistics prove differently.  The receiver who has the most passes thrown his way is (drum roll, please) -- T. O.  Of course since he drops so many, the actual number he catches are about half of what are thrown his way.  Whitten is next -- but he actually catches a much higher percentage.  I know, many of them are shorter routes -- but some of them are also in heavy traffic.

(sniffle, sniffle)  "He's my quarterback, man."  Another QB thrown under the bus.

Pretend-GM Jones needs to turn this team over to a real GM.  His circus act has caused me to totally lose interest in what was once the most envied professional sports team anywhere.  He has been selling us a bill of bad goods (no pun intended) for 10 years or more.  And people buy into it every year.

The governor of Illinois sure makes Rick Perry look good, doesn't he.  That guy has some serious problems.  It is amazing to me how people want to automatically try to connect Obama with the scandal -- even though the Illinois governor called him all kinds of bleeped cuss words in a taped phone conversation -- and even ackowledged that Obama would be of no help to him in his "plan."

When is this vicious cycle going to stop?  It seems like it got really bad when Clinton was president and the Republicans went after his impeachment.  So the Democrats have been trying to get paybacks against Bush for 8 years.  And now the Republicans are going after Obama before he even gets in office.  I think talk radio fuels a lot of it.       


Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Paradox of Death

I am conducting a graveside service today at 10.  The temperature MIGHT rise to 32 by then.  Pray that my mouth will still work.  I tend to sound like a drunk when it gets cold.

The man we will be remembering died at 97.  His story is interesting.  He was a long time member of the Decatur Church, and was a bachelor -- until he was 67!  He then married a widow -- and they were married for 20 years.  He was her caretaker when she became ill.

I remember thinking this when my granddad died at 99-1/2:  In a way it is sad when people live to such an age.  They outlive almost all of their friends and acquaintances.  With so many things they have lived through and so much to share, they are often left to die alone -- or, if lucky, with a handful of relatives to attend their memorials.

Life is full of such paradoxes.  But there is One who doesn't forget us.  "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."    

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Herod the Great

This morning my prayer group met at our house because I had DVR'd a show on the National Geographic Channel about the discover of Herod the Great's tomb.  The show visited several of his engineering marvels (Masada, Caesarea, the Temple in Jerusalem), but centered on Herodium -- where he built a fortress palace, as well as his burial site.

I found these some of the most fascinating places in our trip to Israel.  Herod was a paranoid individual -- always afraid that someone was out to kill him.  So he had his wife and two sons killed, as well as countless others he considered to be threats.  He is perhaps best known for the murder of the babies when he heard that a king had been born in Bethlehem (probably about 30 male children would have been killed).

One fact I find interesting is Herod feared there would be no one to mourn  his death.  So as he lay on his death bed, he had 1,000 people arrested in Nazareth, and gave the order that they be killed upon word of his death.  That way, he felt there would be mourning.  Fortunately the order was not carried out.

For all his lunacy, Herod was an engineering genius.  He still baffles experts today as to how he did what he did.         

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Merry Christmas!

News flash:  Oprah announces she has fallen off the diet wagon.  She has again gained back her weight.  This will allow her to co-write another best-selling diet book.  (Forgive me.  I know my cynicism comes out on things like this).

How many times will people follow a story like this?  All the millions that people spend on diet books and diet pills, etc.  It comes down to the "less-more" diet.  Eat less and exercise more.

Does it bother you to hear a traditional Christmas tune having secular words sung to it?  This morning, I heard a commercial for a kids' movie.  The words?  "We wish you a happy holiday.  We wish you a happy holiday.  We wish you a happy holiday, and a happy new year."  Wow.  They're certainly all about "happy."

Then there was a commercial that was sung to the tune of "Noel."  No more "born is the King of Israel."  No, now it's used to sell some product.
I am sad that in my religious tradition, we have been more aligned with the secular world when it comes to Christmas.  We do the Santa Clause thing, but not the Jesus thing -- because we can't know for sure when He was born.  It almost seems like we were proud of knowing that the date of His birth is not known -- and this is how we show it.  Yet, most people who have celebrated Christmas as the birth of Jesus knew that too.

So it seems inconsistent for us to be upset that traditional Christmas songs have been stripped of their religious meaning.  But for the last 20 years or so, that has been different for me. Christmas is the celebration of the incarnation -- God breaking into this world as a man.  And I want to stand with all those who want to recognize that.

What's happening in our country is so interesting.  The Jews can celebrate Hanukkah.  The Moslems can celebrate Ramadan.  Even Kwanza is talked about in schools.  But we Christians are accused of being totally insensitive and intolerant to call this season Christmas.  I'm going to need someone to explain this to me.

I love to go to a store where the employees have been told to say, "Happy Holidays."  I respond with a joyful, "Merry Christmas."  And they smile at me, and say almost undercover, "Merry Christmas to you, too."  Folks, it reminds me of the Russia I was told about when I was a kid!

Am I over-reacting?       

Monday, December 08, 2008

Armchair Quarterbacking

The Cowboys choked big time in Pittsburgh yesterday.  Perhaps the worst play came from Cowboy Kingdom idol, Tony Romo.  Tony is a good guy, and perhaps has exceeded anyone's expectations.  But he has a long way to go to being lumped in with Staubach and Aikman.

And what's with "the Barbarian"?  He can't play in the most crucial game of the season because his little toe hurts?  

I've said it before, and I'll say it again (I know I'm no expert on the subject, but it is my blog:)  This team has TWO Pro-Bowlers -- Jason Whitten and DeMarcus Ware (Romo MIGHT make it as a backup).    

Once again the BCS took a whippin', as No. 1 Alabama got thumped by Tim Teebo and Florida.  Now I have to make a choice:  Do I root for Big 12 champion OU (which is very distasteful for me) or a team I have never liked -- Florida?  Right now I am leaning toward Florida.  I like Teebo.  I must admit:  Sam Bradford seems like a classy guy, too.  While I admire Bob Stoops for his coaching ability, I don't like him.  I think he takes too many pot shots at Mack Brown.

Sign that things can't be too bad:  People hiring airplanes to fly over arch-rivals' games towing banners.  OU fans hired one to fly over Austin last week,  telling Mack Brown to quit crying.  I wonder if OU would have had that same attitude if the Big 12 had chosen Texas over them for the championship game?  Then last weekend, a Texas fan hired a plane to fly over the Big 12 championship game with a banner that said something like, "Loser Bowl:  Both teams lost to Texas."

I was hoping to see Texas play Alabama in a BCS bowl game.  Again, this seems fruity to me, but why is Texas (at #3) playing a #10 ranked team, Ohio State?

COME ON, OBAMA!  BRING US A PLAYOFF!  High schools do it.  Other divisions of the NCAA  do it.  America wants it!    

Friday, December 05, 2008

Challenging (Good) Week

This has been a challenging (in a good way) week for me.  This Sunday morning, I am beginning a quarter's study (13 weeks) on how we got the Bible.  This will deal with the history of the text, but also with different English translations.  I've never taught anything remotely similar to this, but I feel like it is something Christians need to be better aware of -- with the skepticism that is within our culture.  People hear about "The DaVinci Code" (a work of fiction) and things like that, and believe it to be true.  

Then there is The Discovery Channel and National Geographic Channel.  I like some of the shows on them.  But any time they deal with Christianity, they get the most liberal, fringe scholars they can find to explain things.  They make "The Gospel of Thomas" out to be THE authoritative words of Jesus -- while casting dispersions on Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  

So, I am challenged by this study.

Then, my Sunday morning sermon series will be from the Gospel of Luke.  Again, I have never preached through Luke before.  I have preached the parables -- and most of them are in Luke.  But I love when, as a church, we can journey with Jesus for an extended period of time.  I already anticipate Luke 4 (Jesus' mission statement) -- which has changed my view of Jesus to a large degree.  And of course, my favorite chapter in the Bible -- Luke 15, the story of the Prodigal Son / Loving Father /Elder Brother.

Add to that:  On Sunday nights we are studying Elisha -- another subject I have never preached before.  And the passage before me this week is really difficult.  

This is part of the reason I love what I do so much!     

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Narrative Identities

Yesterday I was reading an article in the latest issue of Christianity Today.  It is entitled, "The Advent of Humility:  Jesus is the Reason to Stop Concentrating on Ourselves," by Tim Keller.  

I have read the following paragraph over and over -- its simple truth drawing me in:

There are two basic narrative identities at work among professing Christians.  The first is what I will call the moral-performance narrative identity.  These are people who in their heart of hearts say, "I obey; therefore I am accepted by God."  The second is what I will call the grace narrative identity.  This basic operating principle is, "I am accepted by God through Christ; therefore I obey."  

For too many years, I operated under the moral-performance narrative.  During those times, my spiritual life was dry, going through the motions and unmotivated.  In more recent years I have accepted the grace narrative identity.  As a result, I believe the fruit in my life to be more genuine, and the peace and presence of God much more obvious.  

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Be Careful What You Pray For

The stock market tanked yesterday on news that we have "officially" been in a recession since last fall.  I admit ignorance as to how the market works, but why was this considered news?  I would think that these financial "experts" would have already known that.

One of my daily prayers is that God will do WHATEVER it takes to make me like Jesus. I ask Him to cut out of my life anything that does not resemble His Son. I know as I pray it that such a prayer can result in pain. Tozer discussed this in today's devo:

Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. --Hebrews 12:11

If God has singled you out to be a special object of His grace you may expect Him to honor you with stricter discipline and greater suffering than less favored ones are called upon to endure....

If God sets out to make you an unusual Christian He is not likely to be as gentle as He is usually pictured by the popular teachers. A sculptor does not use a manicure set to reduce the rude, unshapely marble to a thing of beauty. The saw, the hammer and the chisel are cruel tools, but without them the rough stone must remain forever formless and unbeautiful.

To do His supreme work of grace within you He will take from your heart everything you love most. Everything you trust in will go from you. Piles of ashes will lie where your most precious treasures used to be. That Incredible Christian, pp. 122-124

So I am reminded today: Be careful what you pray for!  But I will continue to pray for radical transformation in my life.

Monday, December 01, 2008

"Unethical" National Championship and Ethics

A huge thank-you goes out to my daughter-in-law, Kayci, for updating my blog picture.  It has been a joy to Beverly and me to have our family with us for the last week.

Oklahoma jumps Texas (who beat OU by 10 points) to represent the Big 12 South in next week's conference championship game. So the number 2 (or 3, depending on the poll) team in the country will be snubbed in national championship talk, while 7-4 Missouri plays for a conference championship. Go figure. Why not just take the two top teams in the conference and let them play each other?


Here is hoping that Colt McCoy wins the Heisman.

The results of a recent survey on high school aged students' ethics was published over the weekend. The findings show that 30% of students have stolen from a store in the last year. 64% have cheated on a test. 36% have used the internet to plagiarize an assignment. And get this: 93% said they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character, with 77% saying that "when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know."

I am not reporting this to say that the current group of teens is worse than in the past. I don't know what similar polls would have shown from when I was a teenager, for instance.  I would guess cheating was a problem then as well.  And while we didn't plagiarize from the internet (Al Gore hadn't invented it yet), I know that plagiarism was not uncommon.  

However, there is one area that baffles me. In my own experience in recent years with premarital counseling, I have been amazed how many young people think there is nothing immoral about living together before marriage. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, since movies and TV present it as the norm.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I want to wish all of you and your families a happy, peace-filled Thanksgiving.  I count the Decatur Church of Christ, behind Jesus and my family, as my greatest blessing.  

I went to a Mavs' game last night with my three sons (Yes, David is my son, too).  We had a great time!  And the Mavs won!

Today we head to the greens.

Enjoy this one from A. W. Tozer:

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. --Romans 8:1

God knows that sin is a terrible thing-and the devil knows it, too. So he follows us around and as long as we will permit it, he will taunt us about our past sins.

As for myself, I have learned to talk back to him on this score. I say, "Yes, Devil, sin is terrible-but I remind you that I got it from you! And I remind you, Devil, that everything good-- forgiveness and cleansing and blessing-everything that is good I have freely received from Jesus Christ!"

Everything that is bad and that is against me I got from the devil--so why should he have the effrontery and the brass to argue with me about it? Yet he will do it because he is the devil, and he is committed to keeping God's children shut up in a little cage, their wings clipped so that they can never fly! I Talk Back to the Devil, 6.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pushing 400!

Update:  As of about 1:10, we had given out over 380 turkeys!

W.A.R.M. Up Those Turkeys

Today is a busy day at W.A.R.M.  We will give away 300 turkeys, along with pies.  I plan to go help this afternoon.  I LOVE being involved there.

Also, our church will open a clothes closet for the county -- with a startup date of February 1. Decatur does not currently have one.  The Bridgeport Church of Christ operates one.  We have a number of people here at our church that are excited to be involved in this ministry.

I am SO grateful to be in a place where we are concerned about the poor.  I have been reminded in recent years of just how important this is to God.  The prophets stress this theme over and over again.  Jesus has SO much to say about it, as well.  In fact, in two weeks I am going to begin a series (it may turn into more of an epic) on the Gospel of Luke.  Of the 4 Gospels, this one tells us more about Jesus' emphasis upon ministry to the poor and disenfranchised.

A sign of tough times:  Buick has dropped Tiger Woods.  He has been receiving $7 million a year for his endorsement (commercials, golf bag logo).  I hope he doesn't have to let his house go back as a result of this financial setback.

Three finalists for the Davey O'brien Award (given to the top college QB):  Colt McCoy, Graham Harrell and Sam Bradford.  ALL from the Big 12.  What a turnaround for this conference.  It seems like only a couple of years ago that pundits were saying it was one of the weakest conferences.  Now it has 3 teams ranked in the top 10 (Texas, Tech, and OU), and others hanging around (Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma State).      

This is a late addition to my blog:  I just received word that Prentice Meader, longtime minister at Prestoncrest Church of Christ, passed away this morning in Nashville.  Prentice was a good example to me of how much more positive our influence can be when we emphasize Jesus in our preaching.  Our prayers go out to the family.    

Monday, November 24, 2008

No, It Wasn't Basketball

Do you want to build up your upper body in only three hours?  Go to an ACU football game and follow the Aggie tradition of doing a pushup for every point scored -- after every score.  Last Saturday you would have done several hundred, since the final score was 93-68.

It reminds me of the old Aggie joke.  It seems that A&M bribed the head referee into sounding the final gun to end the game early in the 4rd quarter with Texas leading 7-0.  The Longhorns left the field, thinking the game was over.  Three plays later, A&M scored.  But they lost 7-6 when they went for 2 and didn't make it.

(Aggie fans:  Save your wrath.  I love the Aggies.)     

How do two teams score 161 points in one game?  That's 23 touchdowns!  Nearly 6 every quarter.  A score every 2-1/2 minutes!  The paper said ACU scored every time they had the ball, except once when they missed a field goal.  I'm told that West Texas A&M started kicking on-side kicks after their scores, hoping they might keep the ball out of ACU's hands. 

Yesterday we had a memorial service at our church for my friend Jerry Nicholas.  His life was an inspiration for many as he battled cancer with such dignity and peace.  I think my favorite story was when he had his leg amputated, the family went home and dressed as pirates for a family picture.  It was his "amputation celebration" picture.  He sat in front as the peg-legged pirate.  What class! 

Friday, November 21, 2008

Football Weekend

I have real mixed feelings about the big game tomorrow between Oklahoma and Tech.  I really want Texas to be in a better position for the BCS, but I love the Tech story this year too.  I really admire Leach and what he is able to do in Lubbock.   And I have NEVER rooted for OU.  So that's my great dilemma for today.

Also, here's a shout-out to ACU, who earned a bye last week in the NCAA II playoffs.  They are playing their 1st playoff game this weekend, ranked #2 in the nation.  GO WILDCATS!  I never thought I would see this day again. 

And the Cowboys?  Pac-Man is back.  Can you believe it?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Pot Calling the Kettle Black

Maybe it's the cynic in me.  If what I am about to say is wrong to you -- or if I am missing something, I welcome your comments.  

Yesterday the CEOs of the Big 3 Automakers appeared before Congress to request a bailout.  The media exposed how these men had flown to Washington on private jets at a cost of $20,000 round trip.  I'm thinking, "Bad PR move, guys."

But here's what got me:  Congress then wanted to beat these guys up over this.  They had them on the hot seat -- continuously questioning them about this.  Was it a big blunder?  Yes.  Should it be addressed?  Yes.  But by Congress -- the greatest wasteful spenders anywhere?  Spare me the utter hypocrisy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Extra! Extra! The Daily Paper

I grew up in a home in which I would get up and get ready for school, then sit down to a quick breakfast and the sports page.  I would pour over the stats -- be it baseball box scores or football and basketball game stats.  I guess I have begun my days like that for 40+ years.  

As an adult, the order goes like this:  sports page to business page to front page to section B to Lifestyle (and comics) to crossword puzzle.  It throws me into confusion when my kids are at home.  I go for a section -- AND ONE OF THEM HAS IT!  Do you know what that does to someone who borders on obsessive-compulsive? 

Well, I came within days of canceling my daily newspaper this month.  I would not want to be someone that is mid-career in the newspaper business.  I can't see newspapers being around for too many more years.  We have that information too readily available in other places -- and on our electronic devices that we have such an infatuation with.

I had about convinced myself that canceling the paper would free up some time for me each day.  After all, my personality type is such that I can't get a daily paper -- and then not read it.  I had told Beverly that I would buy her a Sudoku book and I would get a crossword puzzle book.  But when push came to shove, I finally caved in.  I renewed my subscription.  So for at least three more months, I will continue my 40-year tradition.     

Monday, November 17, 2008

Obama On Family

I want to share with you some excerpts from an article I found to be interesting as well as encouraging.   Let us be praying for President-elect Obama and his family.

Atlanta Journal Constitution
November 16, 2008
Cynthia Tucker

President-elect Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, are members of a minority: They are a black married couple.

Wed 16 years in October, the Obamas conceived their two daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, after the wedding. While that kind of traditional couplehood is losing popularity in every corner of the country, it has all but disappeared in black America, where more than 70 percent of children are born outside marriage.


Just in case you want to read it again, here are core remarks from the speech President-elect Obama made at The Apostolic Church of God in Chicago this Father's Day, June 15, 2008:

Good morning. It¹s good to be home on this Father's Day with my girls, and it's an honor to spend some time with all of you today in the house of our Lord. . .

. . . .Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation. They are teachers and coaches. They are mentors and role models. They are examples of success and the men who constantly push us toward it.

But if we are honest with ourselves, we¹ll admit that what too many fathers also are is missing -- missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.

You and I know how true this is in the African-American community. We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled -- doubled -- since we were children. We know the statistics -- that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.

How many times in the last year has this city lost a child at the hands of another child? How many times have our hearts stopped in the middle of the night with the sound of a gunshot or a siren? How many teenagers have we seen hanging around on street corners when they should be sitting in a classroom? How many are sitting in prison when they should be working, or at least looking for a job? How many in this generation are we willing to lose to poverty or violence or addiction? How many?

Yes, we need more cops on the street. Yes, we need fewer guns in the hands of people who shouldn't have them. Yes, we need more money for our schools, and more outstanding teachers in the classroom, and more afterschool programs for our children. Yes, we need more jobs and more job training and more opportunity in our communities.

But we also need families to raise our children. We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need them to realize that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child -- it's the courage to raise one.

We need to help all the mothers out there who are raising these kids by themselves; the mothers who drop them off at school, go to work, pick up them up in the afternoon, work another shift, get dinner, make lunches, pay the bills, fix the house, and all the other things it takes both parents to do. So many of these women are doing a heroic job, but they need support. They need another parent. Their children need another parent. That's what keeps their foundation strong. It¹s what keeps the foundation of our country strong. . . .

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Al-Queda's "Victory"

I don't usually blog on weekends, but I read an interesting article this morning. It seems that al-Queda is taking credit for ruining the economies of the West, and feels that they are proving victorious in their cowardly acts of terrorism.

Now let me see if I understand this: The West (along with the rest of the world) is going through an economic downturn that is a part of the historical cycle. More severe? Yes. Many will have to curtail purchases and make some cuts in areas.

But al-Queda is hiding in caves -- staying one step ahead of being taken out. Many of their higher-ups already have been. And the price of crude has dropped -- drying up many of their resources. Also, the world seems to be committed to finding alternative fuel sources -- which will hurt al-Queda even more.

Seems like a hollow victory to me. Am I missing something?

Friday, November 14, 2008


It's good to be back home.  We got in late yesterday afternoon, moved around like zombies until 8:30 last night when we both fell asleep.  But after a good night's rest, right now I'm feeling OK.

The trip was everything I had hoped for and more.  Moslems require that all of their faith try to make a trip to Mecca in their lifetime.  I think we Christians would do well to make a trip to the roots of our faith as well.  It is not a vacation; it's a pilgrimage.  But the rewards were life-changing.  

Today I just want to mention how much I was impacted by the idea of "shalom."  Our outstanding tour guide, Anton (an Arabic Christian who grew up near Nazareth) continually asked us to pray for "shalom" (peace) for his land.  He was a brilliant man and we were especially blessed to have him as our guide.

We met Sunday night for worship in our hotel.  Joining us was a preacher for an Arabic Church of Christ just outside of Jerusalem.  He shared with us the struggles he faces every day.  We asked him what he needed from us.  I was moved by his simple unselfish requests:  1.  Shalom for his land, and 2.  He needs money for Arabic bibles.

Join me in praying the blessing of shalom.  Our only hope for that in this world is the Prince of Shalom -- Jesus.         

Friday, October 31, 2008

We're Marching (Well, Flying) to Zion

News flash:  Exxon-Mobil set a record quarterly earnings figure last quarter -- while nearly  every other industry was down.  Trivia question:  Whose record did they break?  Answer at the end.

This will probably be my last blog for a couple of weeks.  We leave early Monday morning for Israel.  We fly into New York on Monday -- scheduled arrival is about 5 PM.  We leave from there for Tel Aviv at 11:50 -- flying all night.  We lose nearly a day -- arriving in Tel Aviv at about 5PM on Tuesday.  On Wednesday we begin our touring -- from Joppa to Caesarea to Mt. Carmel.  We stay in Tiberias for 2 nights (near the Sea of Galilee).  We will tour Capernaum, Nazareth and take a boat on the Sea of Galilee.

From there we travel along the Jordan River.  We will stay one night near the Dead Sea, and have an opportunity to swim there if we want.  We will view the Qumran community, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.  From there, we will go to Jericho.

We spend 4 nights in Jerusalem -- taking a side trip to Bethlehem.  In Jerusalem, we will see SO many things.  David's tomb, the Wailing Wall, the Temple mound, the Jewish Holocaust museum, the traditional site of the Upper Room, the Via Del Rosa, the traditional site of the Garden tomb, the Mt. of Olives, Mt. Calvary, another tomb site -- and much more.

We leave on Wednesday night -- and arrive home on Thursday afternoon.

I have been asked to lead devotional thoughts on Mt. Carmel and at the Garden Tomb.

I CAN'T WAIT!  I never thought I would be able to take this trip.

Answer (This will shock you.  Sarcasm is dripping here):  Exxon-Mobil.       

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Marker Days and Halloween

It's hard to believe that my dad would have been 79 today.  He's been gone now for 13 years.  I can still hear his voice and see his mannerisms.  I wish I could talk to him again to try to find out the pain that was in him that led him to addiction.  And I would like to again hear him talk about his deliverance from it.

Yesterday marked 6 months since Beverly's dad passed away.  What a mark he left on his family!

I will be out of the office tomorrow.  So -- BOO!

Halloween has changed so much!  When I was a kid, we would set out at about 5:30 and hit neighborhoods steadily until about 8:30 or 9.  We had the old-fashioned paper grocery sacks.  I have no doubt mine would weigh at least 10 pounds by the end of the evening.  

Then I would go home and dump it all on my bed.  My older brother would come in and grab all the Bit-O-Honeys.  My favorites were popcorn balls and Almond Joys, followed by Butterfingers, Mr. Goodbars and Baby Ruths (I can't remember ever getting Heath bars, which are one of my very favorites).  As you can see, I wasn't too picky when it came to chocolate.

It was a dentist's dream.     

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My Grandson the Priest

My daughter-in-law Kayci asked my grandson Truitt what he wanted to be for Halloween.  he said he wanted to be "Dad."  Well, she thought about that.  Dad is a preacher, but there is nothing in particular that stands out about that as far as his dress, etc.  So she decided on the next best thing -- and dressed him like a priest.  My guess is that he is extending his blessing in this picture.

What a cute kid!  I guess  you might say he is from a lineage of "priests" now.  

Have I told you -- I have 4 of them now!  Life is good.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Racism: Alive and Well

So two skin heads have made threats of assassinating Barak Obama.  I find it hard to believe that in 2008, racism is still alive and well.  So much for my naivety

I must say that I have sensed racism in the unjustified anger some people feel toward Obama.  I TOTALLY understand people opposing his political positions.  But Christians, let me ask again:  Why the hatred for the man?  Some of us need to ask ourselves if it is racially motivated.  And if it is, we need to get down on our knees and ask God to forgive us.

Am I passionate about this?  YES!  I grew up in racially-segregated Mississippi.  I have seen the ugliness of judging a person simply based on the color of his/her skin.  I have heard the cruel and ungodly jokes told and broad generalizations made.  I wish I could say that what I witnessed was outside of church.  But it was as common in church as out.  Even as we claimed to be "the right church."  How "right" is that?
The truth of the matter is:  I don't see a HINT of Jesus in it.  And being Jesus to the world is the clearest evidence of being "the right church."     

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday Morning Quarterbacking

OK, let's talk a little football this morning.

ACU is now ranked #2 in NCAA II.  They beat Tarleton State, who was also ranked, on Saturday at their homecoming 37-17.  They have three players that are projected to make it to the NFL.  They have a running back that must be incredible!  I really did not think I would ever see ACU return to prominence in football again.

Can you think of a college team that has played a tougher stretch of games than the Texas Longhorns?  Three weeks ago, they beat then-#1 Oklahoma.  The next week, they stomped 4th-ranked Missouri.  Last week, they hung on to beat #7 Oklahoma State.  And this week, they have #7 Texas Tech.

Speaking of that, my opinion of Mack Brown has really changed.  When he 1st came to Texas, he had the reputation of not being able to win the big game.  But did you know that his record speaks differently?  Against top 10 teams, he is something like 26-5!  And Bob Stoops, who was early-on hailed as the guy who could win the big ones?  Well, again -- the record speaks for itself.

Best coach in the country?  I don't know.  But I bet Texas is glad to have him.  They have increased the size of their stadium, and could probably fill it if they doubled the capacity.  

I heard some "experts" talking the other night about who they think the best coach in college football is.  While they put Brown up close to the top, they said they think Mike Leach of Texas Tech and Tom(?) Mangino of Kansas are the best.  Their reason:  Because of their remote locations, they only get category 2 and 3 recruits, and yet have winning programs year after year. 

For most of my life, I watched every play of every Cowboy game.  I have seen two games this year.  Yesterday I went home after lunch to watch the game.  I was asleep in a few minutes.  Talk about boring!

So Wade and Jerry are celebrating like they won a playoff game.  Wade even got the game ball (why?)  Suddenly the wiz kid Jason Garrett doesn't look so great.  I know, Romo is out.  But they weren't lighting it up his last couple of games.  Their best offense yesterday was the Bucs defensive penalties.  Without the four in one drive before the half, the Cowboys are hung with another loss.

I still say this team is WAY overhyped.  13 Pro Bowlers?  Right.  Give me Whitten and Ware.

In response to Donny, who replied on Friday's blog:  I thought Tina Fey was hilarious!  I was cracking up.  Will Farrell's George Bush was funny, but not nearly as funny as Fey.     

Friday, October 24, 2008

You Missed It!

I had written a blog for the ages (yeah, right).  Great insights about the Stock Market (sure!), Tina Fey impersonating Sarah Palin, and the joke of a team called the Cowboys.  But for some reason, my post failed.  So, have a good weekend. 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Message of the Prophets

I have been focused for most of three days in a study of the minor prophets.  Some of them, particularly Amos, spoke words that would be every bit as relevant today if they were spoken on the steps of Wall Street or in the halls of Congress.

Several messages seem to run like a thread throughout the prophets -- even as they spoke to different audiences about differing issues.  One theme is this:  God desires mercy -- not sacrifice.  Our obsession with what we do for one or two hours a week "in church" flies in the face of God's priority -- which is how do you treat people

Another theme is justice.  This is similar to the idea of mercy.  God wants us thinking communally.  What is best for the whole -- not just what is best for me and mine.  That's something to consider at election time.

Another theme is that God wants humble people.  As James wrote:  "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."  This was played out in God's dealing with nations in the days of the prophets.

Maybe it boils down to this:  God wants people who reflect His heart.  He wants us to love people the way He loves people.  So there it is.  Summed up by Micah (6:8):  "He has shown you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."  

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Israel Trip

I haven't even been to Israel yet, but I already find myself thinking about actually being in those places I read and study about.  I can't wait!

I have been asked by John Scott, our tour host, to present devotional thoughts on Mt. Carmel and at the Garden tomb.  I've just finished a study on Sunday nights about Elijah, so Mt. Carmel has been on my mind a lot.  And the Garden tomb?  Wow!  What other person's tomb in the world do people visit where they walk into its emptiness?


Friday, October 17, 2008

Football Trivia

Last night, TCU put it on #9 BYU (yeah!).  I find it interesting how a person develops likes and dislikes for different teams.  For most of my life, I have rooted against Notre Dame and BYU -- no matter who they were playing.  I'm glad to see TCU doing so well.

And my alma mater, ACU, is tearing it up!  It has been a long, dry spell for ACU football.  They have their "game of the year" this Saturday.  Go Wildcats! 

Also, here is hoping that UT puts the whoop on Missouri.  Another thing I root against:  Anything Southlake:)  Chase Daniels is a product of that money machine. 

And how about those Church of Christ boys playing quarterback for big-12 schools?  Colt McCoy for Texas, is currently the leading Heisman candidate.  And don't forget Texas Tech's Graham Harrell.  

While we are on the subject of football, has anybody seen "The Express"?  Beverly and I are thinking about going to see it.  

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Presidential Debates

I kind of doubt that the presidential debates have changed many people's minds, much as most religious debates through the years.  I have watched all three of the presidential debates, plus the vice presidential debate.  I find myself hearing one of the candidates begin to say something on a subject -- hoping they will offer a solution.  But they always seem to stop short.

I grew up in a home that dripped with sarcasm.  And I lived much of my adult life falling back on it myself when I was losing an argument.  I have come to see it (for the most part) as a negative way to deal with conflict.  When I find myself reverting to it, afterwards I don't feel clean.  I realize that even the apostle Paul used it at times, but I have tried to break that in my life.

So as much as I would like McCain to be able to verbalize his message, I have to say his sarcasm and eyerolling (a sign of contempt) probably lost him votes in the debates -- especially last night.  The split screen did him no favors.  Maybe that is just my opinion, but early morning polls seem to support that. 

I would like to know more about Obama's relationship with his former pastor and the former terrorist.  His explanations sound fairly reasonable, but I would like to hear it verified by legitimate to confirm what he is saying.  But please:  Don't send me stuff from radical groups.  They only cloud the picture.  If it can't be verified legitimately, then it is gossip and slander.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Quality or Quantity?

It's been a while since I shared any Tozer with you.  This man spoke so prophetically.  As you read the following, remember he wrote this nearly 50 years ago.  Yet it may be more true now than it was then:

But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness-God is witness. --1 Thessalonians 2:4-5

Time may show that one of the greatest weaknesses in our modern civilization has been the acceptance of quantity rather than quality as the goal after which to strive....

Christianity is resting under the blight of degraded values. And it all stems from a too-eager desire to impress, to gain fleeting attention, to appear well in comparison with some world-beater who happens for the time to have the ear or the eye of the public.

This is so foreign to the Scriptures that we wonder how Bible-loving Christians can be deceived by it. The Word of God ignores size and quantity and lays all its stress upon quality. Christ, more than any other man, was followed by the crowds, yet after giving them such help as they were able to receive, He quietly turned from them and deposited His enduring truths in the breasts of His chosen 12....

Pastors and churches in our hectic times are harassed by the temptation to seek size at any cost and to secure by inflation what they cannot gain by legitimate growth. The mixed multitude cries for quantity and will not forgive a minister who insists upon solid values and permanence. Many a man of God is being subjected to cruel pressure by the ill-taught members of his flock who scorn his slow methods and demand quick results and a popular following regardless of quality. The Next Chapter After the Last, 7-8.

While I, too, would love to see great numerical growth in the church I serve, I really hope my legacy will be more about growing and maturing disciples.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fair Ratings

Yesterday at the Fair was nice.  The weather was pleasant -- and the company ideal.  The crowds were not to my preference, but we got through that.

I tried several foods.  I may have managed to stay within my calorie limit from yesterday's blog. 

So this year's "specialties" are ranked as follows:
Fried cheesecake:  I could have eaten a bucketful.  Crispy on the outside, but moist on the inside.  Delicious.  

Grade:  A+

Chicken-fried bacon:  This has gotten all the attention this year.  Extremely salty.  After a couple of bites, I was craving something to drink.  The 1st strip was OK.  I was ready to stop at that point.  While it was good, it did not live up to its billing.

Grade:  B

Fried avocado chunks:  Just plain nasty.  I took one bite, and it left an aftertaste that I had to find something else to cover it.  Beverly seemed to like it all right.  Jenny and I both had looks on our faces like we had bitten into a green persimmon.

Grade:  F

Edward Fudge had some frank insights into the current financial crisis.  They are words that may be unsettling for some, but are important for us as we keep our Kingdom perspective:

In the midst of such circumstances, believers do well to remember that God has no special deal with America, and America has no guarantees from God. However, actions do have consequences, and societies cannot plant one crop and harvest another. Whether God still chastens nations directly or simply allows their own moral corruption to take its course, the effect is the same. Godly people often suffer and die alongside the scoffers and scoundrels. Faith does not mean that God will always protect us from evil now. It does enable us to trust him, whatever may come, in the confidence that he will have the final, victorious, eternal word.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What a Missions Sunday!

I am SO proud of our church! The missions' committee had set a goal of $30,000 for our Mission Sunday. This would be used in addition to the $50,000 that is in our budget for missions. I have to admit: I was thinking with the recent financial crisis that we might not meet our goal. But these faithful people proved me wrong. Not only did they meet the goal -- they far exceeded it! $54,000! When it was announced, I began to cry. Talk about priorities and sacrifice! God be praised!

Today I am doing what I said I would not do. I am going to the State Fair on a holiday when most of the Dallas area schools are out. Why, you ask? Because my three local girls want me to go. It's hard enough to tell your wife "No." But try telling your daughter -- AND GRANDDAUGHTER.

So I will spend some time in prayer for patience -- and go have a good time. My calorie limit for today is 15,000.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Rant

I confess: I am not an economic expert.  Not nearly in the same league as the "experts" who have put the world in the worst financial crisis of many of our lifetimes.  But I must say, if I hear the word "correction" one more time, I'm going to scream.  

I'm wondering, too, about the $700 billion Wall Street bailout.  Wasn't that supposed to help stabilize the markets?  I would hate to think where they would be if they hadn't been "stabilized"! (that is a sarcastic comment, in case you didn't already know).  

And here is another question:  If the markets are going to tank anyway, can't we renege on making tax payers bail out these greedy folks?  Further, I may be showing cold-heartedness here, but I also find it hard to be overly sympathetic about people who bought more house than they could afford with an ARM -- and now get to refinance at taxpayer expense. 

There.  I feel better now.

God is still on His throne.  And this crisis, too, shall pass.  I spent time today in prayer for the poor, who are the forgotten ones in this kind of situation.  Also, I ask you to join me in praying for W.A.R.M (Wise Area Relief Mission).   We want to be able to continue to provide food for those who are in need.  But right now, getting food is difficult.  The food banks are running extremely low.  This week, we had to purchase food at retail from Wal-Mart.  This REALLY stretches our already-limited budget.  So please pray for us.  God has always been faithful to our ministry.  

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Theology According to T. O.

I haven't written about T. O. for a long time.  I think it is because I have come to feel sorry for him (a little).  No matter what he says, it gets twisted by the media in a way to make him look bad.

But I want to write about Sunday's game.  I didn't see it live.  I have seen the replays of him crying on the bench.  The media was all over him for that -- saying that he was crying because he only had a couple of balls thrown his way.

Well I was on my way back from a funeral in Garland yesterday, and just happened to hear him on "The Michael Irvin Show."  He said that he was crying because his mother had called him the night before to tell him about a relative who had died.  So he had called his pastor -- who told him that he believed God was going to give him the opportunity on Sunday to bring Him glory. He felt that the touchdown he had scored was from God.  Thus the crying.

That's sweet.  It does at least give a different twist than the media had put on it.  But that got me to thinking about T. O.'s claim.  As I heard Dale Hansen say, if God made the play so that T. O. could catch the pass, doesn't that mean that God had to make the defensive back fail?  When a guy hits a homerun and steps on homeplate and immediately thumps his chest and points to heaven, doesn't that mean that God had to make the pitcher throw a fat one up?

I totally agree that God has given certain people athletic abilities with which they can bring Him glory.  But does it break down to individual plays like that?  If so, who are God's favorite teams?  (I know it was once the Cowboys, but He HAD to have changed teams when Jerry Jones fired His favorite coach, Tom Landry).

I truly think theology like this has only sold in America -- where we are so self-absorbed that we think God is interested in our personal successes more than he is in the Kingdom being advanced.  It will be interesting to see how well this "God wants you to be rich, successful, happy and a winner" is going to weather the economic downturn.  Joel Olsteen is going to have a rough time explaining where God went to many of his flock when they have lost 30% of their investment portfolios.  I KNOW such a distorted gospel doesn't sell today in 3rd world countries.  Or in China or Russia or Islamic nations  -- where Christians are persecuted.          

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Month From Now

One month from today, America will have a new president-elect. I know he wouldn't admit it, but I bet George W. is counting down the days.

Also, one month from today (Lord willing), Beverly and I will be in Israel. We leave on Monday, November 3rd. And I will admit it: I am counting down the days.

Crude oil prices are now down below $90 a barrel again. I believe that is probably what the true market value is right now. Last time it was running at that amount, the price at the pump was below $3 a gallon. But we consumers are so gullible, we are just thankful it's not $4 anymore. Let's see what kind of obscene record profit the oil companies post this next quarter.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Call of Preaching

I came across this article by John MacArthur this morning. I think he comes across a bit harshly on a couple of points. But overall, I think he says some things that today's preachers need to consider. So I have left the article uncut. What do you think?:

I have never aspired to be known as a theologian, a polemicist, or an academician. My passion is teaching and preaching the Word of God.

Even though I've dealt with theological questions and doctrinal controversies in some of my books, I have never done so from the perspective of a systematic theologian. It is of little concern to me whether some point of doctrine fits with this tradition or that. I want to know what is biblical. All my concerns are biblical, and my desire is to be biblical in all my teaching.

Preach the Word
That is how I have approached ministry from the beginning. My father was a pastor, and when I first told him years ago that I felt God had called me to a life of ministry, he gave me a Bible in which he had inscribed these words of encouragement: "Preach the Word!" That simple statement became the compelling stimulus in my heart. It is all I have endeavored to do in my ministry--preach the Word.

Pastors today face a tremendous amount of pressure to do everything but preach the Word. Church growth experts tell them they must address people's "felt needs." They are encouraged to be storytellers, comedians, psychologists, and motivational speakers. They are warned to steer clear of topics that people find unpleasant. Many have given up biblical preaching in favor of devotional homilies designed to make people feel good. Some have even replaced preaching with drama and other forms of staged entertainment.

But the pastor whose passion is biblical has only one option: "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction" (2 Timothy 4:2).

When Paul wrote those words to Timothy, he added this prophetic warning: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth" (vv. 3-4).

Clearly there was no room in Paul's philosophy of ministry for the give-people-what-they-want theory that is so prevalent today. He did not urge Timothy to conduct a survey to find out what his people wanted. He commanded him to preach the Word--faithfully, reprovingly, and patiently.

In fact, far from urging Timothy to devise a ministry that would garner accolades from the world, Paul warned the young pastor about suffering and hardship! Paul was not telling Timothy how to be "successful"; he was encouraging him to follow the divine standard. He was not advising him to pursue prosperity, power, prominence, popularity, or any of the otherworldly notions of success. He was urging the young pastor to be biblical--regardless of the consequences.

Preaching the Word is not always easy. The message we are required to proclaim is often offensive. Christ Himself is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense (Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:8). The message of the cross is a stumbling block to some (1 Corinthians 1:23; Galatians 5:11), mere foolishness to others (1 Corinthians 1:23).

But we are never permitted to trim the message or tailor it to people's preferences. Paul made this clear to Timothy at the end of 2 Timothy 3: "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness" (v. 16, emphasis added). This is the Word to be preached: the whole counsel of God (cf. Acts 20:27).

In Chapter 1, Paul had told Timothy, "Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me" (v. 13). He was speaking of the revealed words of Scripture--all of it. He urged Timothy to "Guard . . . the treasure which has been entrusted to you" (v. 14). Then in Chapter 2, he told him to study the Word and handle it accurately (2:15). Now he is telling him to proclaim it. So the entire task of the faithful minister revolves around the Word of God--guarding it, studying it, and proclaiming it.

In Colossians 1 the apostle Paul, describing his own ministry philosophy, writes, "Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God" (v. 25). In 1 Corinthians he goes a step further: "When I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (2:2). In other words, his goal as a preacher was not to entertain people with his rhetorical style, or to amuse them with cleverness, humor, novel insights, or sophisticated methodology--he simply preached Christ crucified.

Faithfully preaching and teaching the Word must be the very heart of our ministry philosophy. Any other approach replaces the voice of God with human wisdom. Philosophy, politics, humor, psychology, homespun advice, and human opinion can never accomplish what the Word of God does. Those things may be interesting, informative, and entertaining, but they are not the business of the church. The preacher's task is not to be a conduit for human wisdom; he is God's voice to speak to the congregation. No human message comes with the stamp of divine authority--only the Word of God. How dare any preacher substitute another message?

I frankly do not understand preachers who are willing to abdicate this solemn privilege. Why should we proclaim the wisdom of men when we have the privilege of preaching the Word of God?

Be Faithful In and Out of Season
Ours is a never-ending task. Not only are we to preach the Word, we must do it regardless of the climate of opinion around us. We are commanded to be faithful when such preaching is tolerated--but also when it is not.

Let's face it--right now preaching the Word is out of season. The market-driven philosophy currently in vogue says that plainly declaring biblical truth is outmoded. Biblical exposition and theology are seen as antiquated and irrelevant. "Churchgoers don't want to be preached to anymore," this philosophy says. "The baby-boomer generation won't just sit in the pew while someone up front preaches. They are products of a media-driven generation, and they need a church experience that will satisfy them on their own terms."

But Paul says the excellent minister must be faithful to preach the Word even when it is not in fashion. The expression he uses is "be ready." The Greek term (ephistemi) literally means "to stand beside." It has the idea of eagerness. It was often used to describe a military guard, always at his post, prepared for duty. Paul was speaking of an explosive eagerness to preach, like that of Jeremiah, who said that the Word of God was a fire in his bones (Jeremiah 20:9). That's what he was demanding of Timothy. Not reluctance but readiness. Not hesitation but fearlessness. Not motivational talks but the Word of God.

Reprove, Rebuke, and Exhort
Paul also gives Timothy instructions about the tone of his preaching. He uses two words that carry negative connotations and one that is positive: reprove, rebuke, and exhort. All valid ministry must have a balance of positive and negative. The preacher who fails to reprove and rebuke is not fulfilling his commission.

Years ago I listened to a radio interview with a preacher known for his emphasis on positive thinking. This man had stated in print that he assiduously avoids any mention of sin in his preaching because he feels people are burdened with too much guilt anyway. The interviewer asked how he could justify such a policy. The pastor replied that he had made the decision early in his ministry to focus on meeting people's needs, not attacking their sin.

But people's deepest need is to confess and overcome their sin. So preaching that fails to confront and correct sin through the Word of God does not meet people's need. It may make them feel good. And they may respond enthusiastically to the preacher, but that is not the same as having real needs met.

Reproving, rebuking, and exhorting are the same as preaching the Word, for those are the very same ministries Scripture accomplishes: "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). Notice the same balance of positive and negative tone. Reproof and correction are negative; teaching and training are positive.

The positive tone is crucial, too. The word "exhort" is parakaleo, a word that means "encourage." The excellent preacher confronts sin and then encourages repentant sinners to behave righteously. He is to do this "with great patience and instruction" (4:2). In 1 Thessalonians 2:11, Paul talks about "exhorting and encouraging and imploring . . . as a father would his own children." This often requires great patience and much instruction. But the excellent minister cannot neglect these aspects of his calling.

Don't Compromise in Difficult Times
There is an urgency in Paul's charge to young Timothy: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires" (2 Tim. 4:3). That is a prophecy reminiscent of those found in 2 Timothy 3:1 ("Realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come"), and 1 Timothy 4:1 ("The Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith"). This, then, is Paul's third prophetic warning to Timothy about the difficult times that were to come.

Note the progression: the first warning said that the time would come when people will depart from the faith. The second one warned Timothy that dangerous times were coming for the church. Now the third one suggests that the time would come when those in the church would not endure sound doctrine, but desire instead to have their ears tickled.

That is happening in the church today. Evangelicalism has lost its tolerance for confrontive preaching. Churches ignore the biblical teaching on women's roles, homosexuality, and other politically charged issues. The human medium has overtaken the divine message. That's evidence of serious doctrinal compromise. If the church does not repent, those errors and others like them will become epidemic.

Note that Paul does not suggest that the way to reach such a society is to soften the message so that its people will be comfortable with it. Just the opposite is true. Such ear-tickling is abominable. Paul urges Timothy to be willing to suffer for the truth's sake, and keep preaching the Word faithfully.

An appetite for ear-tickling preaching has a terrible end. Second Timothy 4:4 says these people will ultimately "turn away their ears from the truth and will be turned aside to myths." They become the victims of their own refusal to hear the truth. "They will turn away" is in the active voice. The people willfully choose this action. "Will be turned aside to myths" is in the passive voice. It describes what happens to them. Having turned from the truth, they become victims of deception. As soon as they turn away from the truth, they become pawns of Satan.

The truth of God does not tickle our ears, it boxes them. It burns them. It reproves, rebukes, convicts--then it exhorts and encourages. Preachers of the Word must be careful to maintain that balance.

There have always been men in the pulpit who gathered crowds because they were gifted orators, interesting storytellers, entertaining speakers, dynamic personalities, shrewd crowd-manipulators, rousing speech-makers, popular politicians, or erudite scholars. Such preaching may be popular, but it is not necessarily powerful. No one can preach with power who does not preach the Word. And no faithful preacher will water down or neglect the whole counsel of God. Proclaiming the Word--all of it--is the pastor's calling.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Marriage Research

Interesting marriage research results from the UK as reported by John Bingham:

Couples who described themselves as 'happy' recommended regular romantic gestures and time spent without the children. 

A poll of 4,000 couples found that spending at least 22 periods of "quality time" together every month, such as going for a walk or sharing a romantic meal, were also key to maintaining a healthy relationship.

Researchers asked couples who described themselves as "happy" or "very happy" to estimate how much time they spend together in an effort to work out the secret of their success.

Analysis of their responses suggested that couples looking for happiness should aim to spend at least seven evenings in together every month with two proper dinner dates.

Other important elements included two romantic walks a month and at least one visit to a pub or cinema without the children or other friends.

Educational Psychologist Dr Ludwig F.Lowenstein said: "Affection, cuddles and romantic gestures are part of a whole romantic scene which is desired by those entering a relationship.

"They are the safe gestures which say 'I like you, I am glad to be with you, I like and appreciate your support and care.'

"In this busy world we often take our partners for granted whilst we get on with our daily struggles of work and rearing a family.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Looking for Weeds but Missing the Flowers

A story from Yancey's book, Prayer, has stayed in my mind.  I don't know if I will use it in my prayer series, but wanted to share it with you.

When I moved to Colorado I soon learned about noxious weeds.  Unwelcome species such as dandelion, oxeye daisy, Russian thistle, and toadflax are spreading like botanical viruses in my part of the state, threatening the survival of native species.  Wanting to be a good citizen, I bought a hardy weed-puller and began a routine I have kept up through each spring and summer.  I take an afternoon walk on the hill behind my home in search of the noxious invaders.  As it happens, that walk presents an ideal opportunity for prayer.  For a few minutes in the middle of the day I am alone in the beauty of nature, and away from the distractions of my home office.

One day when my wife accompanied me I had an epiphany about my weed walks and also my prayers.  Her keen eyes helped in the process of spotting weeds, yes, but more importantly she changed the entire nature of the walk by pointing out more than twenty species of wildflowers.  I had been so intent on finding the weeds that my eyes had skipped right past the wildflowers adorning the hills -- the very flowers my weed-pulling endeavored to protect!

It occurred to me that I do something similar in my prayer practice.  I tend to bring a tangled mess of problems to God, not unlike the snarl of weeds I carry home in my collection bag, while overlooking opportunities for praise and thanksgiving.  My prayers are essentially selfish, an effort to employ God to help me accomplish my ends.  I look on God as a problem-solver (a weed-puller) while overlooking the striking evidence of God's work all around me.  And when nothing much seems to happen, I grow impatient.

Thanks for the great illustration, Philip.  I do not want to be the type person that is so focused on the weeds that I overlook "the striking evidence of God's work all around me."    

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Wednesday Night Church

THIS is my weather!  What an invigorating morning!  I will enjoy all two or three weeks of it (in Texas we call that Fall) and then the two or three weeks we have in March (we call that Spring).  Just kidding.  But it is SO nice after 4 months of 95+.

I can't wait for church tonight.  I LOVE our men's class.  And I hear such good things about Beverly's ladies' class, too.  There is just something special about getting together with the people I love on Wednesday nights.

I think it is because I am a person of habit.  On Wednesdays, Beverly and I go out to eat together before church, and then we treat ourselves to a Brahm's yogurt after church.  And sandwiched in between is great fellowship!  THAT makes for a good evening.     

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Start From Scratch

Some days I sit here to write, and nothing seems to come to me.  But here goes anyway.

I am a little surprised at my reaction as we find ourselves in this current economic crisis.  Usually I get antsy and fret.  But at least currently I am totally at peace.  I have no idea what the future holds, but I know that the One who holds it is faithful.

I do wish that there were some way to begin a national movement to vote for anyone running against an incumbent.  I used to enjoy politics.  I even considered going into it at one point.  Now it nauseates me.  I can't remember when there has been more rhetoric and less action than by the current crop of public "servants."  (Since when did servants make the kind of money these folks do?)  I would LOVE to be able to vote them all out -- and start from scratch.  You're probably saying, "But they're not experienced."  Experienced at what?  Politics as usual?

Maybe I should have gone with my gut and just not written anything today.    

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hollywood Talk

Every believer has to go see "Fireproof"!  Beverly and I LOVED it.  The acting is not THE best, but the story is so powerful.  Beverly is thinking about getting some copies and making it required watching for some of her clients.  

And to think:  A great movie that gets down to where people REALLY live -- and not ONE cuss word or questionable scene.  Hollywood would have us believe that can't be done.

PLEASE:  Go see the movie.  

Speaking of Hollywood:  We lost one of my all-time favorite actors over the weekend.  Paul Newman died of cancer at the age of 83.

I loved movies he was in:  Hudd, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (in my top 5 movies all time), The Sting, Absence of Malice, The Color of Money.  He had a charm about him -- even when he was playing a bad guy.

But I also loved the way he didn't get caught up in Hollywood.  He and his wife of over 50 years, Joann Woodward, lived in Connecticut, far from the limelight.  And he was an extremely benevolent man.  The proceeds of his "Paul Newman Salad Dressing", Spaghetti sauce, etc all went to charity.  Over $175 million!  

Beverly and I were talking about this after his death:  Who is my favorite actor/actress.  Newman was in my top 5.  My list would be as follows:
1.  Denzel Washington
2.  Paul Newman
3.  Harrison Ford
4.  Mel Gibson
5.  Tommy Lee Jones / Sydney Poitier

Sorry, but no women make my top 5.    

Friday, September 26, 2008

Marriage, Football, the Economy, and "Fireproof"

The following is from an article by Sharon Jayson, of USA TODAY:

   Around the house, women rule. And men aren't putting up a fight about it, according to a study from the Pew Research Center that examines how gender and power play out at home and in the community.
   Of 1,260 individuals surveyed this summer— either married or living together — women wield more decision-making power at home. In 43% of couples, women made more decisions — almost twice as many as men — in the four areas Pew surveyed: planning weekend activities, household finances, major home purchases and TV watching.
   The survey also found 43% of men don't have the final say in any of those decisions; they either share decision-making or defer to their partners.

What do you think?  A partnership arrangement has worked well for Beverly and me.  Well, at least she TOLD me it did:)

What a stunner of a game last night.  Oregon State beat USC!

I find it interesting that our elected officials can't solve the Social Security problem, but seem to have no trouble coming up with $700 billion to bail out the fat cats on Wall Street. Something tells me that amount of money would make Social Security solvent for a long, long time.  But we the taxpayers are going to be burdened with this debt because of the excessive greed of a handful of powerbrokers.

It just doesn't pay to be poor (I guess that is somewhat of a paradoxical statement).  Read Amos and see what you think God might have to say to a nation with such upside down priorities when it comes to our distribution of wealth.   

There is a new movie coming out today called "Fireproof."  It is made by a group of Christians who also made "Facing the Giants."  They are hoping for people of faith to make this opening weekend a big one.  Beverly and I are going to the 4 PM matinee today.  

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What's Important to God?

Beverly and I returned yesterday afternoon from Abilene where we attended Summit (once known as Lectureship).  It was really good this year -- with the keynotes all from Romans.  Of course, Beverly his a homerun with her class, and my daughter-in-law, Kayci, taught an excellent class as well. 

I went to a class on Amos that was outstanding.  I am only now becoming convicted as to how important justice is in Scripture.  As was pointed out in the class, when Scripture speaks about justice, it is not in the sense of punishment for crime.  Rather it is about concern for the plight of our "neighbor."  It is about concern for the poor and fair treatment of the "have-nots" as well as the "haves."   

How have we missed that emphasis?  "I desire mercy, not sacrifice."  "You should tithe, but what is more important is justice, mercy and faithfulness."  "Away with your religious rituals . . . let justice roll like the rivers."    

Jeff Jones sent me the following:

1. The Bible will still have all the answers.
2. Prayer will still work.
3. The Holy Spirit will still move.
4. God will still inhabit the praises of His people.
5. There will still be God-anointed teaching
6. There will still be singing of praise to God.
7. God will still pour out blessings upon His people.
8. There will still be room at the Cross.
9. Jesus will still love you.
10. Jesus will still save the lost.