Monday, November 30, 2009

What's Up, Tiger? And Good Football

It has been an interesting sports weekend -- and we have a big one coming up, too.

What's with the Tiger Woods' story? It sounded far-fetched to me from the beginning. He is involved in a wreck in which the airbags did not even go off, and yet his wife has to break out the back window of his SUV to "rescue" him? Hey, I am as big a Tiger Woods fan as anybody, but come on!

Beverly keeps telling me we don't need the details. I wouldn't care so much if there was a more believable explanation.

The college football season is coming down to an exciting conclusion. However, it is leading to some waffling on my part. Here is my dilemma: I really like Colt McCoy, and would love to see Texas play for a national championship. But my oldest son is a HUGE Nebraska fan. And Texas and Nebraska play Saturday for the Big 12 championship. Who do I root for? Sorry, Josh -- but I will have to go with Texas in this one.

Then there is another really big game -- Florida and Alabama. I also really like Tim Tebow. But I don't like Florida. Is there any way he could quickly transfer to Nebraska? That might pull me over to them.

But the other factor involved here is that our area is suddenly TCU-fanatical. This has been a team that, for the last couple of years, has been building momentum. They are looking REALLY good, and they are a fun team to watch. So, as they sit at number 4, I am trying to figure out what it would take to get THEM into the national title game. My guess is that it would take a Texas loss to Nebraska, #5 Cincinnati losing this week, and Alabama losing (I don't know if Florida would drop far enough if they lost). It's a stretch -- but wouldn't that be exciting?

A lot will be decided this coming Saturday.

Finally, the most exciting game in the NFL yesterday played like a repeat of the national title game from several years ago. Matt Leinart got the start for the Arizona Cardinals as they played the Tennessee Titans. The Titans started 0-6 before putting Vince Young in at quarterback. They have since gone 5-0. Matt Leinart. Vince Young. Deja vu.

Leinart's team had the lead coming down to the closing minute. Young proceeded to take his team 90 yards for a winning touchdown. I'm wondering if Leinart was suffering from flashbacks during that time?

Fun stuff.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

"No one is perfect -- not even me." This was California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's reaction to photos of his car illegally parked in Beverly Hills. It's good to see that humility is alive and well.

Today many of you will be on the road. Drive safely. And have a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving. My prayer is that as we journey together through life, we will come to the place in which our lives are lived out of a constant awareness of gratitude. I am becoming more aware in my own life that this is the only environment in which the fruit of the Spirit -- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control -- can flourish.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009


Yesterday was a rich day for Beverly and me. We were able to return to our 1st full-time ministry in Crockett, Texas to be a part of their 40th anniversary. The worship was great! I taught during the Bible class hour, and my son Josh hit a grand slam during the worship hour.

We served in Crockett from 1988 to 1993. Only 5 years. But it is incredible how deeply that 5 years impacted us. I made deep friendships there. When we occasionally go back, there are 3 guys in particular that are such good friends that when we see each other, it's like we just pick up from the last time.

I wish I had mentioned to the church yesterday about an "ah-ha" I have had. When I was in Crockett as a young, wet-behind-the-ears preacher, there was another preacher in town who was mean, who did not mind slandering people in public -- but who claimed to be the protector of "the truth." He made all kinds of false accusations about me, and I must admit that it really bothered me then. His tag line was, "Do I make you mine enemy because I tell you the truth?"

At that time, I was also a legalist -- thinking that what was REALLY important was what we did during our hour of worship each week, church organization, etc. It's just that my legalism and his were a little different.

Here is my point: Many in Crockett still feel badly for the way he treated me. But I have come to see that it is one of the most important events in my spiritual journey. I was headed down a path in which I could have ended up being somewhat like him. I don't think I could have ever been as mean and dishonest as he was -- but I could have been as "zealous" in my misplaced gospel. But seeing him and how UNLIKE Christ he was brought me to a crossroads. It made me realize that what the gospel is about is not those things that I had made of primary importance. The gospel is about a loving God extending His unbelievable grace to me. It's about me being allowed to journey with Him through life -- allowing Him to complete His work of transformation in me. To what goal? To become like Jesus. To be filled with the fruit of the Spirit -- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Qualities that are amazingly absent in the lives of people who pursue legalism.

God works in mysterious, unexpected ways to get our attention. And looking back on those times, I am SO glad He got mine.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Great American Smokeout.

Today is the "Great American Smokeout." I look back with interest at the ways in which our culture has changed throughout my life -- some things for the worse, and some for the better. When I was a kid, smoking was common. Between Bible class and worship on Sunday, the entrance into the church building would look like Indians sending up smoke signals. Many was the person that had that deadly combination of early-morning-coffee-cigarette-smoke-breath (Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about!).

As Beverly and I were cleaning the kitchen the other night, there was an old "Andy Griffith Show" on. Andy was relaxing and smoking, and Beverly went, "Wow." Seeing that now just seems strange. But that was once the norm.

I truly don't think smokers realize that their habit is so hard to hide. The smell lingers on them and anyone close to them. I used to not realize that. Having parents who smoked, everywhere I went I carried that smell. It seemed to especially cling to my clothes and my hair. Now my nose can pick up a smoker from a distance.

It's funny to me how different tobaccos smell so differently. Cigarettes stink to me -- but some more than others. I don't know if the difference is in whether they are menthol or if it is just differences in brands. But I like the smell of some cigars. And I enjoy the smell of a pipe. My granddad used to smoke a pipe -- cherry blend. The aroma still holds good memories for me. I'm sure the 2nd-hand smoke is no better for my lungs whether it is from good smelling cherry-blend tobacco or a stinky cigarette.

While I recognize people in our country have the right to smoke, there are times I wish they would be more considerate of those around them. There is an old saying: "Your rights end where my nose begins." Perhaps that is never so true as it is with cigarette smoking.

I wish every smoker who wants to quit the best of luck today. To give up cigarettes is to add years to your life -- more years to love your kids and grandkids. More years to give to living out the Christ-life. And it is also to live more healthily.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Reality of War

I am watching the documentary series on World War II that is showing on the History Channel this week. As I watch it, I wonder what MY life would have been like had I been born 40 years earlier? How would I have dealt with the sacrifices that were made domestically? What kind of soldier would I have been? What would I have done if I had been on the 1st wave to hit Omaha beach -- or Okinawa?

I find myself becoming more and more of a pacifist as I grow older. I no longer argue in favor of the death penalty. It seems that life without parole is a better alternative. And I don't think that just because our country enters a conflict -- that makes it right or justified. But I just can't see any way around us getting involved in World War II. And as I watch this show and consider the MASSIVE casualties -- 5,000 young men killed in single battles -- I wonder how people today would react.

We owe a great debt to those men and women who sacrificed through the 40s to defeat the oppressors.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Aroma of Messiah

I have started a new book: Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg. The book's goal is to take us back to our Jewish roots -- and the Jewishness of our Messiah.

One story, whether perfectly accurate or not I can't know, captured my imagination in a powerful way. As the authors relate the story of Mary anointing Jesus' feet only days before His crucifixion, they give us some interesting perspective:

By anointing him with expensive fragrances, Mary may well have been making a statement about who she believed Jesus was, proclaiming him as Messiah. In fact, the Hebrew word for Messiah is Mashaich, which literally means "the Anointed One." Hebrew kings were anointed with sacred oil perfumed with extremely expensive spices
. . . The marvelous scent that it left behind acted like an invisible "crown," conferring an aura of holiness on its recipients.

They then note the similarities between Solomon's "anointing" and entry into Jerusalem (1 Kings 1: 38-40) and Jesus' anointing by Mary and subsequent entry into Jerusalem.

But here is the part that captured me: Everywhere Jesus went during the final days of his life he had the fragrance of royalty. Jesus smelled like a king. Imagine, in the garden of Gethsemane, as Judas and the guards approached Jesus to arrest him, the guards must have sniffed the air and wondered who stood before them. When Jesus was on trial, mocked, whipped, and stripped naked, even then the aroma may have clung to him.

The authors then note how this gives a whole new slant to Paul's words about us being "the aroma of Christ (the ANOINTED One) in 2 Corinthians 2: 14-16. As Jesus' followers, we spread the fragrance of our anointed Messiah everywhere we go.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

WIsh I Had Read It 30 Minutes Earlier

Today is Veterans' Day. In recent weeks as Beverly has been gone on retreats and "keeping the grandkids" gigs, I have rented dvds of the miniseries "Band of Brothers." It is the true story of a group of soldiers from one of the most honored units in American history. They fought at D-Day, through France, and held their line in the Battle of the Bulge. They secured Hitler's fortress mansion at the close of the war.

Something that really struck me was at the end, one of the soldiers became very depressed and despondent because he HAD survived. There was something within him that felt guilty because he was going home. It was very moving.

We owe these men and women so much!

I wish I had read this exerpt yesterday BEFORE I had posted my blog. I struggle between a fleshly response to terrorism, etc -- and a Christlike response. This is from M. Scott Peck:

I cannot be any more specific about the methodology of love than to quote these words of an old priest who spent many years in the battle: "There are dozens of ways to deal with evil and several ways to conquer it. All of them are facets of the truth that the only ultimate way to conquer evil is to let it be smothered within a willing, living human being. When it is absorbed there like blood in a sponge or a spear into one's heart, it loses its power and goes no further."

The healing of evil -- scientifically or otherwise -- can be accomplished only by the love of individuals. A willing sacrifice is required . . . I do not know how this occurs. But I know that it does . . . Whenever this happens there is a slight shift in the balance of power in the world.

We ourselves in recent history have seen this truth embodied in Martin Luther King, Jr, Nelson Mandela, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

This from Philip Yancey: "The cross redefines God as One who was willing to relinquish power for the sake of love. Jesus became, in Dorothy Solle's phrase, "God's ultimate disarmament." Power, no matter how well-intentioned, tends to cause suffering. Love, being vulnerable, absorbs it. In a point of convergence on a hill called Calvary, God renounced the one for the sake of the other."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Unfortunate Information from Fort Hood

Well, my concerns about Nidal Malik Hasan are daily becoming more affirmed. This is definitely an issue that I wish I could not say, "I told you so." The tragedy is multiplied as we are discovering that the FBI has been onto him for quite some time. There HAS to be something that they can do in a preemptive way! I know their hands are tied until he actually does something. And I certainly don't want the United States to become a police state. Anyone have any answers?

Today the execution is set for John Allen Muhammad, who went on a killing spree in 2002 that left 10 confirmed dead -- and maybe as many as 17.

I am disturbed about this. As a nation, we think that if we just ignore the problem, it will go away. We did the same thing in World War 2 with Hitler.

Yet, if you study the Eastern world view of Muslims, it's not going away. They are very patient -- realizing that their goals may not be reached in their lifetimes. It's about what is best for the community.

Americans want to believe that Islam is a religion of peace. And we are SO into beating ourselves up right now (especially Christians). Sure, we have done some things poorly in history. The Crusades were an ugly chapter, but even those were ugly on both sides. The sad thing is that "Christians" ever became involved in a "Holy (?) War" in the 1st place.

Yet I challenge anyone to just look around the world. Who is primarily providing clean water and food and medical help to the poor? Christians. And where are the large majority of trouble-spots in the world today? In Islamic nations.

When Islam becomes the majority in a country, religious freedoms are denied. People of other religions are persecuted, tortured and/or killed. Citizens are repressed. Peace? It only happens in an Islamic nation if people become slaves to the repressors. I know of no exceptions.

I know this seems to be a huge issue with me. It is . . . and it isn't. I don't obsess about it. But when things in the news pop up, I do THINK about it. And I do want us to get our heads out of the sand.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Tragedy at Fort Hood

What a tragedy yesterday at Fort Hood. 14 young, defenseless people massacred by a coward. Countless others wounded.

The bravery of people in these kinds of situations always amaze me. The ones who, in the midst of the barrage of bullets, made their way to block a door into an auditorium where a graduation ceremony was taking place. And the police officer who, only moments before had been directing traffic, but made her way into the carnage and shot the coward several times -- herself being wounded. Who knows how much worse the situation could have been?

Information is beginning to emerge about the shooter. A major in the US Army, he was a psychiatrist. He was getting ready to be deployed, and didn't want to go. Already, the media are attempting to explain what he did as a form of traumatic stress syndrome.

I will be interested to hear what his being a Muslim had to do with this event. Just before I left the house, a report said that his computer showed he had been discussing suicide bombings and other Islamic terrorist tactics. It did not say if his discussions were for or against. At this point, I am praying to God that I might withhold any judgment.

I am especially praying for the families and friends affected by this act.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

I Just Don't Get It

"He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and prays the believer's prayer will be saved . . ." (Mark 16: 15-16)

"Go and make disciples of all nations, having them pray the believer's prayer in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . ." (Matthew 28: 19)

"When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' Peter replied, 'Repent and pray the believer's prayer, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'" (Acts 2: 37-38)

"Or don't you know that all of us who prayed the believer's prayer prayed the believer's prayerinto his death? We were therefore buried with him through the believer's prayer into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the death through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (Romans 6: 3-4)

"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who prayed the believer's prayer into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." (Galatians 3: 26-27)

"He saved us through the believer's prayer and renewal by the Holy Spirit . . ." (Titus 3: 5)

". . . and this water symbolized the believer's prayer that now saves you also -- not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God." (1 Peter 3: 21)

I hope you recognize that the phrases I have italicized in these passages are actually substituting for "baptism." Yet this is what many in the evangelical Christian world teach today. Not only that, but anyone who dares to insist upon obedience to the verses cited above as they actually read is prone to being labeled as a legalist, narrow-minded, a cultist or even a heretic.

Yet for over 1500 years of church history, from its inception until the Reformation Movement, baptism was considered to be the means through which grace and salvation is mediated. While there was disagreement as to the mode of baptism (immersion, pouring, sprinkling), its purpose was never discounted. That is, not until Ulrich Zwingli, the lesser known of the big-3 reformers, decided that it was not necessary or essential.

So over the last 500 years, a "new way to Jesus" has become the norm: the believer's prayer. It is so much more convenient. People don't object to it as much. You can get whole crowds to do this simply by raising their hands.

I wonder why the disciples didn't know that? On the day of Pentecost, it would have been SO much easier to have just had those 3,000 people pray the believer's prayer. Of course, it hadn't been invented yet -- but that's beside the point. Instead, those narrow-minded disciples must have spent wasted hours baptizing all of those folks (I know, my sarcasm is leaking through).

To claim Jesus without baptism seems to me like a couple who shack up but never get married. They never experience the commitment that comes with making a covenant -- which ALWAYS includes a covenant symbol. It is so beautiful. It was Jesus' idea. The apostles taught it and practiced it. Not one person comes to Jesus in the book of Acts without being baptized. Why, oh why, is there such a rejection of it -- and anyone who teaches it -- today?

As a part of the Churches of Christ, I personally carry some baggage. There are verses we have used out of context to say things they were never intended to say. I repent of ever doing that. I repent of having been a sectarian. I repent of holding myself and my "church" up as the only lovers of truth. I repent of arrogance and self-righteousness. I have re-evaluated many of my preconceived assumptions and positions. But I've got to say, I still believe Scripture teaches a lofty view of baptism. Not as a work. Not as earning us anything. But rather, as a means through which grace and salvation can be mediated.

I would rather stand at the judgment and have to say, "God, I am sorry to discover that You didn't think baptism is necessary. But I was just preaching what You wrote in the Word" -- than to say, "God, baptism didn't make a whole lot of sense to me, so I just told people they could come to Jesus another way. So we came up with 'the believer's prayer.' It was all for You, You know. I'm sure You will understand."

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Could I Get Used to It?

Last night Beverly and I went to a fundraiser at Vaquero Country Club. It was for an organization that my daughter volunteers for called "KidStand."

The food was INCREDIBLE! This is now the 3rd time I have been out to Vaquero, and each time I am blown away. I find it difficult to allow myself to be waited on the way they do.

A part of my flesh craves that -- even envies it. I try to imagine what it would be like to actually be a member there. Gorgeous golf course. Nicest staff ever. EVERYTHING is done for you -- short of actually swinging the golf club. And to be able, even on a cool night, to sit outside on the veranda with an open-pit fire warming you -- staring at an awesome full moon as it rises. Can life be any better?

It makes me almost wish in reincarnation. That way I could say to myself, "Maybe in another life." Don't get uptight. My spirit-filled side kicks in about here -- bringing me back to the reality of how good I have it in Jesus. But still . . .

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Why Miracles?

I know this is a late blog, but I have been struck this morning by my devotional reading. It's in a chapter of Yancey's dealing with the subject of Jesus' miracles. He wraps it up like this:

Why, then, any miracles? Did they make any difference? I readily concede that Jesus, with a few dozen healings and a handful of resurrections from the dead, did little to solve the problem of pain on this planet. That is not why he came. Nevertheless, it was in Jesus' nature to counteract the effects of the fallen world during his time on earth. As he strode through life Jesus used supernatural power to set right what was wrong. Every physical healing pointed back to a time in Eden when physical bodied did not go blind, get crippled, or bleed nonstop for 12 years -- and also pointed forward to at time of re-creation to come . . . To put it mildly, God is no more satisfied with this earth than we are; Jesus' miracles offer a hint of what God intends to do about it.

Some see miracles as an implausible suspension of the laws of the physical universe. As signs, though, they serve just the opposite function. Death, decay, entropy, and destruction are the true suspensions of God's laws; miracles are the early glimpses of restoration. In the words of Jurgen Moltmann, "Jesus' healings are not supernatural miracles in a natural world. They are the only truly 'natural' things in a world that is unnatural, demonized and wounded."

Monday, November 02, 2009

Recapping Weekend Sports

Wasp-count update: We are now up to 62. I'm getting to be a dead-eye shot with the fly swatter. It was fun last night as I took down 2 while we had small group. I didn't want to be guilty of friendly-fire.

Looks like the Yankees are on their way to another championship. BOO!

While I didn't like the way Brett Favre handled himself in the last couple of off-seasons, who can deny that the man still has game? What he is doing in Minnesota is unbelievable!

Alert: Terrell Owens is missing. Hasn't been heard from since sticking it to the Bills. Any leads?

Here's hoping for a Texas-Florida national championship. The battle of the good-guy quarterbacks. ACU is getting more free publicity from the broadcasters of Texas games than they could ever pay for. Each game, the broadcasters recount several times how Colt McCoy's dad and Jordon Shipley's dad were roommates at ACU.