Thursday, January 31, 2008

Let There Be Light!

I have heard people commenting about how dark it was getting in our auditorium because a number of lights were burned out. I had not really noticed it -- until last night. A few of our men have been changing the bulbs out. They had to rent a cherry picker in order to do it. Well, they were close to being finished last night and we had a baptism. When they turned on the lights -- it was unbelievably bright in there! My face felt like Moses' face must have felt at the burning bush (I'm just kidding). Someone told me I might want to wear sunglasses to preach Sunday morning.

I found Tom Brady's off-the-cuff comments during media day for the Super Bowl to be enlightening. There were some women in the audience with posters that said, "Tom, Will You Marry Me?" He said (not a quote, but a paraphrase): "I already have several Mrs. Bradys."


This weekend Beverly and I are going to be with the Crockett church for a marriage retreat. This is the church with which I began my ministry 20 years ago this year. What a special place they hold in my heart. I look forward to being with dear, life-long friends. It's hard to believe that I have been gone from there for 15 years. My friend Rick Kelley has been preaching there for over 11 years now! Wow, time is moving on. By the way, his wife's name is Beverly, he has a daughter named Jennifer and a son-in-law named David. If he ends up with grandkids named Malaya or Jedidiah or Truitt, I'm going to think I am in the Twilight Zone (Nu-ne-nu-nu, nu-ne-nu-nu).

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Preaching Politics

If anyone out there is actually reading my blog, you may notice that I have not written in a few days. After doing this for several years, my well is running dry. So I have decided that for this year, I am simply going to write when I have something to write about.

Today my mind is on politics. Without tipping my hand as to who I am for in the presidential race (I'm not even sure yet), I want to make two observations:
1. I don't know if an endorsement is a blessing or a curse. For instance, Barbara Streisand has endorsed Hillary Clinton. Does that help Clinton or hurt her? Streisand is not far from being openly communistic in her politics. And her "I'm above the common people" attitude is such a turnoff. And did Chuck Norris help Mike Huckabee at all?

Then there is the announcement yesterday that Ted Kennedy is endorsing Barack Obama. Obama has been running on the platform of change. Yet, Ted Kennedy defines "politics as usual." He has been a notorious partisan divider through the years. Is he the guy you want endorsing you? On the other hand, having Oprah's endorsement may mean a shoe-in. It seems that all she has to do is speak, and America falls ga-ga at her feet.

2. I appeal to all my readers who are Christians: Let's practice Christlikeness in this election process. I have gotten a number of emails that propagate rumors about the candidates. One suggests that Hillary Clinton is a lesbian. There is nothing to substantiate this claim. Though I am not tipping my hand as to who I am for, I will say that I am not voting for Hillary. In fact, Streisand's endorsement confirms that she is NOT the candidate for me. But I also refuse to be a part of spreading gossip about her.

Perhaps more disturbing are the emails that attempt to assassinate the character of Barack Obama. They claim that he is a Muslim who wants to take over the US and make it an Islamic state. They further suggest that he is anti-American and will not salute the flag. And get this: If he wins, he will take the oath of office on the Koran.

Please, when you get such emails -- take a minute to check them out on Obama is not a Muslim. This is fear-mongering at its worst. And the whole story of taking the oath of office on the Koran is made up. There is an elected official who took the oath with his hand on the Koran, and that story grew into a legend about Obama.

I am pleading with you: DO NOT BE LIKE THEM! (the words of Jesus from Matthew 6: 8) We are Christ-followers. Scripture warns over and over again about the sin of gossip and rumor-mongering. That is the way the world that is subject to Satan behaves. If we do not know for a fact the way a candidate believes on an issue-- then let's not take part in spreading lies. Character assassination is SO ungodly.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Kingdom Inconvenience

I haven't shared a dose of A. W. Tozer for a while. Here is a good message for today:

But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. --1 Corinthians 9:27

What must our Lord think of us if His work and His witness depend upon the convenience of His people? The truth is that every advance that we make for God and for His cause must be made at our inconvenience. If it does not inconvenience us at all, there is no cross in it! If we have been able to reduce spirituality to a smooth pattern and it costs us nothing--no disturbance, no bother and no element of sacrifice in it--we are not getting anywhere with God. We have stopped and pitched our unworthy tent halfway between the swamp and the peak.

We are mediocre Christians!

Was there ever a cross that was convenient? Was there ever a convenient way to die? I have never heard of any, and judgment is not going to be a matter of convenience, either! Yet we look around for convenience, thinking we can reach the mountain peak conveniently and without trouble or danger to ourselves.

Actually, mountain climbers are always in peril and they are always advancing at their inconvenience. I Talk Back to the Devil, 48.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Racist Comments?

At the risk of being misunderstood, I want to point out what appears to be an inconsistency here. Recently, one of the commentators on the golf channel was discussing how tour players might be able to beat Tiger Woods. She said something to the effect of they ought to take him into an alley and lynch him. No doubt, a bad choice of words. She called Tiger and apologized -- and he accepted her apology. He said he knows her and they are friends, and he has no doubt that she meant no animosity by her comments. Shouldn't that be the end of the story? No, Al Sharpton is calling for her to be fired.

In the presidential debate last night, a question was asked to Barack Obama about references to Bill Clinton being the "1st black president." Obama said that he would have to withhold judgment until he sees Clinton dance. Now I guarantee you that if a white person had said that -- he or she would be crucified by the media. And to some degree, I understand that. But I haven't heard anything from Al Sharpton.

A few years ago, Jesse Jackson referred to New York City as "hymie town" -- a direct insult to the Jewish people of New York. Where was Al Sharpton then?

People are going to make mistakes in things they say. My gut says we need to consider their track record, as well as their intent. The golf commentator was making an off-the-cuff joke about how to stop Tiger. If she had said, "They ought to take him in an alley and beat him up" -- people would have known it was just a joke. She made a bad choice of words. That is going to happen. Obama was making a joke. Let's laugh about it. Jesse Jackson on the other hand? He expressed a racial slur -- and got a free pass.

I guess I'm saying, LIGHTEN UP, AMERICA! When comments are made in a racist way -- roast the speaker. But let's stop looking for things to get worked up about.

It really makes me question Al Sharpton's sincerity.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Super Weekend, Super Church, Super Man and Super Bowl

Our weekend with the girls went incredibly well. Beverly had cooked some wonderful meals, and we enjoyed hosting the reunion. The greatest treat was being able to be with our grandson Truitt for a few days. He is now 8 months old, and his personality is really blossoming. I had a blast with him!

Just in case anyone has forgotten how I feel: I LOVE our church! Every gathering is a time of encouragement for me.

Today we honor one of America's greatest: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He took on an America that was living in denial -- and confronted us with our illness. But he did it in such a humble way. He is one of my heroes in history. May God bless his legacy.

So the Super Bowl is set. New England and New York. I was sure hoping for Green Bay. But I will definitely be pulling for the Giants. Is anyone out there for New England and their philandering quarterback and Unibomber coach?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Economic Report

2008 has had a rough start. The stock market is down about 15%. Gas prices are skyrocketing. Inflation threatens. The national debt escalates. Recession looms.

I really want to turn every part of my life over to the Lordship of Jesus. He has proven to me over and over again that He can handle things better than I can. But I must confess: I think the hardest thing for me to relinquish is my future. I want so much to be able to take care of that. So I have spent many an hour worried about retirement -- which suddenly isn't as far out there as it has always seemed to me. And the quality of my retirement (from a human perspective) is pretty much going to depend on the performance of the stock market.

In the past, I would have been very concerned as the market has dropped so much recently. But I am choosing to look to God's faithfulness now. My wife has been so helpful to me in this. She reminds me that we are doing all we can and worrying about it isn't going to change anything. And I look back over my life at all the time I have spent worrying about things -- but they all were taken care of. Every one.

So I take comfort in Habakkuk's prayer. Remember that the economy of his day was dependent upon crops and herds. Yet he prayed in Habakkuk 3: 17-18: Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Idol is Back

American Idol kicked off a new season last night in Philadelphia. At this point, Simon appears to have a softer side. I like these first shows of the season. There are some absolutely incredibly bad contestants. I know some of them know they are bad, but they just want their few seconds of fame. But some of them are terrible, and then act so surprised to find out they are.

There was a guy last night who said before his audition that he had a great bass voice that would really impress the judges. He then sang "Let My People Go." It was one of the most horrible (yet funny) auditions that I have ever seen. He really thought he was good. Randy had to take a piece of paper and cover his face, and turn his back to the guy because he was laughing so hard (I may be getting that part mixed up with another contestant).

Tonight they are in Dallas.

The critics hate this show, and to some extent I can understand. But you can't argue with the fact that the winners have sold over 20 million records. In six previous seasons, they have managed to find three superstars -- which I read is far above music industry percentages. I wonder if we would know who Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood or Chris Daughtery are were it not for Idol?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It's a Girl!

Yesterday afternoon I slipped out to the golf course. It was a gorgeous January day. On the 10th hole, my cell phone rang. It was my youngest son Jonathan. I could hear my daughter-in-law Jennifer giggling in the background. They had just been to the doctor -- and they are having a girl. So we will have 2 boys and 2 girls come June. God is SO good! At this time, they are thinking about naming her Jocelyn.

This morning I asked Beverly, "I wonder how Jed will be with a baby sister." After I thought for a moment, I then asked, "I wonder how a baby sister will be with Jed?" He is such a blast!

As Beverly and I watched GMA this morning, there was a man on there who has "superior memory." There are only two documented cases. He remembers EVERYTHING. He can remember the date of his elementary school play, for instance.

I got to thinking: Is that something I wish I had? It would be good for remembering names -- a gift I wish I had. But I can also think of ways in which it might not be so good.

Here in Dallas the media has made a huge deal out of Tony Romo going to Cabo for a few days during their bye week. Interestingly, no one has mentioned the fact of him staying with a woman he is not married to. There is not scandal to that any more. In fact, I bet the majority of people did not even consider it. We have been numbed to it. After all, TV makes it look like the norm. I asked Beverly the other night if she could think of a TV show that even portrays a married couple? We couldn't.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Ross Bed-N-Breakfast

Beverly and I feel so honored! Our precious daughter-in-law Kayci gets together with seven of her old friends every year around MLK, Jr. Day. When she and Josh were here over the holidays, right before they left Josh asked Beverly if she could come to Houston and help him with Truitt while Kayci was gone.

Well, they must not have gotten too far down the road when Beverly received a call. It was Kayci. She wanted to know if she and her friends could retreat to our house! Isn't that cool?

So, for about a year we have had a leak in the shower upstairs. We never use it -- it only gets used when we have company. Plus I was having a hard time locating where the leak was. Well, this weekend I think I got it figured out with the help of a plumber-friend. So I am trying to have it fixed before the "girls" get here this weekend.

I preached about the reality of Hell yesterday. To imagine a place that is totally void of God and all God is makes me SO grateful for my Substitute.

I'm also glad to return to the subject of Heaven this coming week.

Friday, January 11, 2008

"O" Magazine, the Cowboys and Movies

Beverly has been getting "O" Magazine for a couple of years now. The thing is about the size of an old Sears catalog. After going to the mailbox and retrieving this brick for years, I have decided something. One of the best jobs on earth has to be that of cover editor for "O" magazine.

Here's how their monthly meetings must go: "Anyone have any ideas for this month's cover?" Hmm. Everyone sits in silence for a few minutes, drinking their coffee and eating donuts. Then someone says, "I know! Let's put a picture of Oprah!" "Yeah! Great idea, Sally. OK, everyone back to work. We'll meet again next month. And keep those creative juices flowing!"

I am a lifelong Cowboy fan -- except for a boycott of last season. But does being a fan mean you have to be blind to reality? I am really hoping we win Sunday. But I don't have a good feeling about it. I am afraid that we might have peaked too early, while it looks as if the Giants are playing better now. I'm not saying we will for sure lose, but I think I would feel better about it if we had played better over the last month.

I'm sure my loyal sons will roast me on this one.

I saw "I am Legend" last night. It was a good movie, but I think I was expecting a somewhat different story line. I went to the theater in Decatur, and there were 5 people -- two couples and me. But as is my luck in going to a public theater, a woman of one of the couples answered her cellphone and talked as if the person on the other end was having trouble hearing her. The man in the other couple talked to his wife throughout the whole movie. He must have thought he was a psychic, as he spent the whole time trying to predict what was going to happen next. The icing on the cake for him was when he must have finished off his drink, he burped so loud it felt like an earthquake.

I think I'll stick with DVDs. The popcorn is better, Beverly doesn't talk (I know you find that hard to believe) and she very rarely burps. (Just kidding, cutie)

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Sunday I began a series on Heaven. I have never had as much feedback from a lesson as I did this one. I'm guessing because it is a subject we just don't talk about much. People were extremely inquisitive. So I am looking forward all the more to coming weeks. However, this week is one I would just as soon forget -- even though we need to study it to. This week I will preach about hell.

I am going to mention it in my lesson, but I wonder: Is hell an eternity of torment? If so, people in hell also have eternal life. Or, is it a place of separation from God -- and then annihilation? I believe one could make an argument both ways. After all, if a person who commits a capital crime under our court system is found guilty, he might receive the death penalty. That is an eternal judgment against him, but if it is carried out -- he doesn't stay in jail for eternity.

I guess I am at a point in my life where I hope hell is like the latter description. I am being selfish in that, because I loved my granddad -- but he refused to ever claim the name of Jesus. I would prefer to think that he simply ceases to exist rather than the thought of him spending an eternity in torment.


Tonight Beverly goes to Southside Church of Christ for her monthly "Young Mothers' Night." I have been wanting to see "I am Legend" -- so I think I will go to the movies.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Let's Have a Playoff! Let's Annihilate Racism!

Congratulations to LSU, the only two-loss team to ever win the BCS championship. I would have hated to see Ohio State back into being champs.

I've heard every argument that a few "traditionalists" hold for not having a BCS playoff system. None of them make sense to me. I think there would be excitement in the sporting world like none other if college football was decided by a playoff. Three extra games is all it would take. Eight teams (who below #8 could legitimately argue that they are #1?) But I bet I will never see it in my lifetime.

Beverly and I rarely go to the movies. I would much rather eat my own homemade popcorn and watch a movie on DVD. But last Friday night we went to Denton for dinner and a movie. We saw "The Great Debaters." It was an excellent movie. Of course, starring Denzel Washington -- it had to be good. I would highly recommend it. It highlights racism in the 30s in America.

I still find it amazing that the kind of racism I saw in the 60s ever occurred in this great nation. Occasionally you will hear someone talking about how the morals in America were so much better in the 50s. In some ways that is true. But I know of few things more immoral than racism. Oh, how Satan had blinded those who had such feelings. Unfortunately, he continues to poison people's hearts today.

I wonder how God is going to deal with those who wear His name and yet hate those made in His image? Oh, I forgot. God is white, right?:)

Monday, January 07, 2008

Presidential Debates

I'm not real into politics. I used to be, but I have grown cynical about what Washington can do. However, Saturday night I had planned to watch football, and as I was flipping to the station I saw that ABC was airing the New Hampshire debates. It was two hours of the Republican candidates and two hours of the Democratic candidates. Beverly and I ended up watching most of it, and it was pretty interesting.

In the past, I have been a die-hard in both the major parties. Now, I am thinking as more of an independent. So, as a neutral observer, I must say that nearly all the candidates handled themselves well. I think each party will have some good options this year. I am being particularly drawn to the candidates who are calling for change in the way things have always been. I realize that is pretty idealistic, but at least it is a start. Don't hear me endorsing anyone, but I was especially tuned in to John Edwards and his strong resolve to do away with PACs. I think PACs are a threat to democracy as our founding fathers intended it.

I was really interested to hear what the different candidates said about fighting terrorism. The moderator, Charles Gibson (I like him) said that experts estimate the odds are 50% that a nuclear "dirty bomb" will be detonated in a major US city in the next 10 years. That is a scary thought.

With all that the next president has to face, I still can't help wondering why anyone would want that job.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Iowa Caucuses

The natives appear to be getting restless. They are tired of "politics as usual." They are voting for "change." Thus, the winners of the Iowa caucus are Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee. What happened to Hillary Clinton and Rudy Gulliani -- who appeared to be running away with the nominations months ago? I must say, I am glad to see the way some of this appears to be shaking down.

But what are the changes people are hoping for? I can think of some. Better health care. Shoring up social security. Dealing with the situation in Iraq.

I guess I must confess to a bit of skepticism, however, as to any change that will happen in Washington. It's a machine that is fed by PACs -- that make what you or I want pale in comparison.

But we can always hope that "politics as usual" has taken notice. While PACs determine how our politicians vote, it's still we the people who put them in office. Let's hope they are listening.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


Sunday I will begin a series on heaven. In all my years of going to church (many of them as the preacher), this is a subject that we mention a lot -- but I don't remember hearing a sermon totally dedicated to heaven. I did, however, heard many sermons on hell when I was younger.

Interesting tidbit: I heard Randy Gallaway yesterday on ESPN radio say that in Buffalo it is "cold as hell." Is that not the ultimate oxymoron?

I fear that heaven is kind of like our default setting. We prefer it to the alternative. But if we had a choice, we would stay right here on terra firma.

How often do you think about heaven? I am convinced we do not rival the Thessalonian Christians. If Paul were among us today, would he need to write a letter telling us to quit waiting for heaven and to get on with life? I don't think so. We would need the opposite instruction. We need to fix our gaze on eternity. As C. S. Lewis once observed (I paraphrase), it is those whose eyes are fixed on heaven who are of the most benefit here on earth.

Again, perhaps our songs have outpreached our preaching. Just think of how many songs talk about heaven.

So, what am I going to say? There is so much, I am still not sure how deeply to delve into it. And the more I read, the more I realize that to hold a doctrinal position on heaven is pretty difficult. I hope this series doesn't bog down into that. Rather, I hope to ignite an excitement in us as we all journey home.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Seizing the Moment

I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year's! Now it's time to get down to 2008 and the business at hand.

This time of year I am reminded so many times over of how fortunate I am. I think back to 3 years ago, when Beverly and I walked through a pretty dark valley. Feelings of total rejection -- happening right at Christmas time. Actually, it brought to an end a two-year season of frustration, causing me to lose confidence in myself due to a desert -- a vacuum -- of affirmation for my ministry. I began to wonder if I needed to change professions. I looked into a number of possibilities -- about convinced that I had "lost it."

But God has a way, doesn't He? Through that humbling experience, He has rewarded me with something much better. And I don't think I would have appreciated it nearly as much if I had not experienced the valley of Lake Cities. Where I am now is like a 180 degree difference. After 2-1/2 years, it is still so rewarding each Sunday to be told how much the words I have shared from God mean to people.

So as I find myself 3 years removed now from the pit, I find my heart is healed. Oh, I still remember the dishonesty and the rejection -- but the pain is nearly gone. And I thank God every day for my Decatur church family. I am so excited about journeying with this church for many years to come. And I enter a new year with great anticipation and enthusiasm.

Let's seize the moment!