Friday, December 21, 2007

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A BABY CAN MAKE!


During this season, we’re reminded of the earth-shattering impact that a Baby born in Bethlehm has had on our world.

In my message on December 23, I’m summarizing the wonderful short story by Francis Bret Harte (1836-1902) entitled “The Luck of Roaring Camp.” Harte is the only American author who truly captured the wild atmosphere of the California gold rush days.

“The Luck of Roaring Camp”is a home-spun story that colorfully illustrates how one little baby can make a tremendous difference in the world.

In my message, my brief summary doesn’t do it justice, so I’ve provided a link to the full story for your reading pleasure. It will take you about 15 minutes to read, but you’ll be rewarded for your diligence in wading through the 19th Century language and phrasing.

ENJOY AND MERRY CHRISTMAS!


http://www.classicreader.com/read.php/bookid.810/sec./

Saturday, December 15, 2007

MIKE HUCKABEE - LOSING WEIGHT AND GAINING SUPPORT


If you follow this blog you know that I came out in support of Mike Huckabee for President a few months ago. He doesn’t have a perfect record as Governor of Arkansas (which public official does?), but right now, he has my prayers and support over the next 11 months.

According the latest polls, Huckabee has surged ahead of the other Republican candidates in both Iowa and South Carolina. South Carolina holds its Republican Primary on January 19, and according to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll taken December 9-12, Huckabee was the choice of 24% of those polled. This compares with 17% for Fred Thompson, and 16% for Rudi Guliani, who is tied with Mitt Romney who also had 16%. Senator John McCain came in fifth with 13%.

Huckabee’s campaign has just hired former Ronald Reagan campaign strategist Ed Rollins as his new national campaign manager. Rollins is best known for managing President Reagan’s sweeping 1984 re-election.

As should be expected by Huckabee’s surge, both Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson have increased their attacks against Huckabee for everything from his immigration plan to his ethics.

One of the most interesting things about Mike Huckabee is the transformation that he brought about in his own life. He woke up one day and realized he was overweight and out of shape. He decided to make some changes. As a result, in 2003 he lost over 110 pounds and has since run several marathons. He wrote a book about his experience entitled, Quit Digging Your Grave with a Knife and Fork. Anyone who has ever tried to get in shape or stay in shape realizes that he must have a great amount of positive will power.

But is America ready for an ordained Southern Baptist minister as President? Frankly, I believe that Huckabee’s former job as a pastor may actually hinder his chances. There are doomsday liberals who are always shouting that the “religious right” is bound and determined to establish a “Theocracy” by electing a “preacher.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The religious right only wishes to bolster America by returning the our nation to the moral and religious foundation upon which our nation was founded. We don’t want a weekly sermon from the President, we want bold, courageous leadership by someone who possesses a dynamic personal faith in God.

I encourage readers of this blog to seriously consider the positions of Mike Huckabee. Don’t support him because he was once a Baptist preacher – support him because he has some workable ideas to fix some of America’s problems.
For instance, he has a revolutionary idea of doing away with the IRS. Click on this link if you want to see more:

What do you think?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

WELCOME ABOARD YOUR FLIGHT TO NOWHERE

The title of this blog may sound like a line from Rod Serling as he introduced an episode of The Twilight Zone, but this story is true.

An Indian entrepreneur, Bhadur Chand Gupta, is selling tickets to his fellow countrymen on his “Gupta Airlines" Airbus 300 for $4 a ticket! However, there is a slight catch. The plane never leaves the ground. (Doing so would mean flying in circles because it only has one wing! And besides, the plane doesn’t even have engines.) Nonetheless, Gupta is selling thousands of $4 tickets to willing "passengers."

What gives? Gupta isn't selling airplane flights--he's selling fellow Indians just the chance to experience sitting in a real airliner. Fewer than 1% of Indians will ever travel on an airliner, so Gupta is cashing in on the mere desire of people to experience virtual flight.

Gupta bought the dismantled aircraft from an insurance company in 2003. He reassembled the plane (most of it) in a Delhi neighborhood and soon began offering his “non-flights” on his non-airline.

The plane has no lighting and the lavatories don’t function, but the passengers are seated in actual airline seats inside the fuselage which is cooled by a generator. Airline music is playing from the speakers, and the passengers are given a safety demonstration. They even hear “captain’s announcements” from non-pilot Gupta himself.

Gupta’s wife and other family members serve as a crew of six “flight attendants” who walk up and down the aisles with their drink trollies serving drinks and airline food to the passengers.

(Hold it! To have MEAL SERVICE on a flight isn’t very realistic today!)

During their simulated flight, the passengers hear Captain Gupta make several announcements such as “Prepare for takeoff” and “We will soon be passing through a zone of turbulence, please make sure your seat belts are securely fastened.” And, “We are about to being our descent into Delhi.” But the scenery never changes because the aircraft never moves.

Gupta reports his countrymen are traveling hundreds of miles across India just to have the experience that only 99% of them can only dream about. A $4 chance of sitting in a cramped airline seat for 30 minutes is as close to air travel as they will get--and they're happy to do it. When they leave the plane, they still have never flown, but they relish what it might be like to really fly.

When I first heard about this, I thought that anyone who’d pay money to sit on a grounded airliner couldn’t be very smart. But after thinking about it, I realize that these people are simply doing what millions of tourists do everyday at Disney World – they’re paying to experience what it’s like to have some of their dreams come true.

Of course, I couldn’t help but extract a spiritual analogy from this interesting story. To me, those Indians who pay $4 to experience “virtual flight” are like thousands of Americans who flock to our churches just to experience “virtual spirituality.” They listen to songs as if they are only piped-in, pleasant background music. They watch the ushers move up and down the aisles with offering plates – and they might even drop in a few bucks for the “show.” Then they hear someone deliver a message from the Bible. But they walk out of church exactly like those non-fliers in Delhi--their faith having never left the ground. They “experienced” a form of godliness, but they’ve never experienced the actual power of God. We shouldn’t be too quick to criticize those Indians when our churches are full of virtual worshippers!

It’s a yes or no question – “Have you ever flown?” Sitting in a dismantled aircraft doesn’t qualify.

It’s a yes or no question - “Do you know God?” Sitting in a pew and leaving unmoved and unchanged doesn’t qualify either.

Virtual spirituality may give a clue about what’s possible, but authentic spirituality can only be realized when you EXPERIENCE a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

For those of us who know, love, and serve God, we soar to heights unknown even without the aid of an aircraft! “For those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles.” (Isaiah 40:31)

Monday, December 3, 2007

JESUS ISN'T WORRIED THAT PEOPLE SAY "HAPPY HOLIDAYS"


A CHRISTMAS LETTER FROM JESUS:

Dear Children,

It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season. Maybe you've forgotten that I wasn't actually born during this time of the year. Historically, some of your predecessors decided to celebrate My birthday on what was actually a time of pagan festival. Although I do appreciate being remembered anytime.

How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Now, having said that, let Me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all My followers did that, there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be plenty of them all around town.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grapevine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. Remember to look up John 15: 1 - 8.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth, here is my wish list. Choose something from it:

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of writing George complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up. It will be nice hearing from you again.

4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms--no matter how old they are--and remind them that I love them.

5. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take his or her own life this season, feeling so alone and hopeless? Since you never know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make all the difference.

6. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a 'Merry Christmas', that doesn't keep you from wishing them one.

7. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary-- especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.

8. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no 'Christmas' tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity that believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.

9. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of Mine.

Don't forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember.

I LOVE YOU,
JESUS

Friday, November 30, 2007

HAVE YOURSELF A POLITICALLY CORRECT WINTER HOLIDAY


And Joseph went up from Galilee to Bethlehem with Mary, his espoused wife, who was great with child. And she brought forth a son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. And the angel of the Lord spoke to the shepherds and said, "I bring you tidings of great joy. Unto you is born a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:4-11)

"There's a problem with the angel," said a lawyer who happened to be strolling by the stable. As he explained to Joseph, angels are widely regarded as religious symbols, and the stable was on public property where such symbols were not allowed to land or even hover.

"Besides," said another lawyer who was with him, "there are no such things as angels, and telling a child that they're real will only hinder the child's emotional development. And I have to tell you, this whole thing looks very much like a Nativity scene. That's a no-no, too."

Joseph had a bright idea. "What if I put a couple of reindeer over there near the ox and ass?" he said, eager to avoid sectarian strife.
"That would definitely help," said the lawyer, who knew as well as anyone that whenever a "savior" appeared, judges usually liked to be on the safe side and surround it with deer or woodland creatures of some sort. "Just to clinch it, throw in a candy cane and a couple of elves and snowmen, too," he quickly suggested. "No court can resist that."
Mary, who had been listening in, asked, "What does my son's birth have to do with snowmen?"
"Snowpersons!" cried a young woman, changing the subject before it veered dangerously toward religion.

Off to the side of the crowd, a federally-subsidized artist was painting the Nativity scene. Mary pointed out that she and Joseph looked unusually tattered and worn in the picture. "Artistic license," the artist said. "I've got to show the plight of the haggard homeless in a greedy, uncaring society in winter," he quipped. “But we're not haggard or homeless. The inn was just full," said Mary. "Whatever," said the painter.

Two women began to argue fiercely. One said she objected to Jesus' birth "because it privileged motherhood." The other scoffed at virgin births, but said that if they encouraged more attention to diversity in family forms and the rights of single mothers, well, then, she was all for them.

"I'm not a single mother," Mary started to say, but she was cut off by a third woman who insisted that swaddling clothes are a form of child abuse, since they restrict the natural movement of babies.

With the arrival of ten child advocates, all trained to spot infant abuse and manger rash, Mary and Joseph were pushed to the edge of the crowd, where arguments were breaking out over how many reindeer (or what mix of reindeer and seasonal sprites) had to be installed to compensate for the infant's unfortunate religious character.

An older man bustled up, bowling over two merchants who had been busy debating whether an elf is the same as a fairy and whether the elf/fairy should be shaking hands with Jesus in the crib or merely standing to the side, jumping around like a sports mascot.

"I'd hold off on the reindeer," the man said, explaining that the use of asses and oxen as picturesque backdrops for Nativity scenes carries the subliminal message of human dominance. He passed out two leaflets, one denouncing manger births as invasions of animal space, the other arguing that stables are "penned environments" where animals are incarcerated against their will. He had no opinion about elves or candy canes.

Signs declaring "Free the Bethlehem 2" began to appear, referring to the obviously exploited ass and ox. Someone said the halo on Jesus' head was elitist.

Mary was exasperated. "And what about you, old mother?" she said sharply to an elderly woman. "Are you here to attack the shepherds as prison guards for excluded species, or just to say that I should have skipped patriarchal religiosity and joined some dumb new-age goddess religion?"

"None of the above," said the woman, "I just wanted to tell you that the Magi are here." Sure enough, the three wise men rode up.

The crowd gasped, "They're all male! And not very multicultural!" "Balthasar is black," said one of the Magi.
"Yes, but how many of you are gay or disabled?" someone shouted.
A committee was quickly formed to find an alternative group of wise-persons who reflected the cultural, racial, and social diversity of Bethlehem. Just then a calm voice said, "Be of good cheer, Mary, you have done well and your son will change the world."
"At last, a sane person," Mary thought. She turned to see a radiant and confident female face.
The woman spoke again: "There is one thing, though. Religious holidays are important, but can't we learn to celebrate them in ways that unite, not divide? For instance, instead of all this business about 'Gloria in excelsis Deo,' why not just 'Season's Greetings'?"

Mary said, "You mean my son has entered human history to deliver the message, 'Hello, it's winter'?"

"That's harsh, Mary," said the woman. "Remember, your son could make it big in midwinter festivals, if he doesn't push the religion thing too far. Centuries from now, in nations yet unborn, people will give each other pricey gifts and have big office parties on his birthday. That's not chopped liver."

"Let me get back to you," Mary said.

In the meantime the Magi had been asked by others how much their gifts had cost, and when told the price several protested and said the money could have been better spent on the poor and homeless. "Besides," said one, "what can a baby do with gold, frankincense, and myrrh?"

"You don't understand," said one of the Magi, "we brought these gifts to honor and worship this child who has been born King of the Jews." Whereupon the child advocates protested that adults should not pre-determine a child's future. "It should be left up to the child to decide for himself what he wants to be."

One of the shepherds called out from the back of the crowd: "The prophet Micah wrote that out of Bethlehem would come a Ruler to shepherd God's people."

"That's just a myth," countered the head of the Prophet's Seminar who had just arrived with his committee. "We scholars have determined that the prophets actually said very little of what they are credited with saying, and everything they reportedly said about a Messiah was added years later by other writers."

"How did you determine that?" asked Joseph.

The most intelligent member of the Prophet's Seminar was chosen as spokesperson and replied, "We flipped a coin."

After much talking, the various advocates agreed to meet again at a later date in a place more suitable for them and continue their discussions about the child's welfare. Gradually they drifted out of the stable and left the shepherds and the Magi alone with Joseph and Mary and the child.

Mary took Joseph's hand and said, "Husband, tell me again what the angel Gabriel said to you about our son."

Squeezing her hand, Joseph answered, "He said that we should call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."

Mary looked down at her son and sighed deeply, and then said to no one in particular, "I wonder if they will let Him?"


(Thanks to Harold Chadwick at Omega Faith Ministries for his article that inspired this blog post. I have taken his original idea and made slight revisions.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

POTENTIAL REGRET: Let it motivate you NOW!


As I’ve been preparing my weekly message, I am focusing on the judgment seat (bema) of Christ. The difficulty of message-preparation is that the truth of the biblical text must flow through me before I can share it with others. As I consider what will happen when I stand before the Lord to receive the rewards (or lack thereof) for what I’ve done (or not done), I am painfully aware of my own shortcomings and failures.
However, at the same time, I realize the bema won't be a time of CONDEMNATION but a time of COMMENDATION; it won't be a time of PUNISHMENT but a time of PRAISE; and it won't be a time of REBUKE but a time of REWARD. I'm not interested in rewards for the sake of rewards; I just long to hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Over the past 37 years in ministry, I have tried to serve the Lord with diligence and faithfulness. Why? Not to earn salvation, or to even repay Him for His grace (I cannot be a debtor to grace, because it’s impossible to repay the debt of love I owe). I have simply and solely desired to bring glory and honor to Jesus Christ by faithfully loving Him, seeking His face, and serving Him.

There might be some outsiders who would look at my (God's) "ministry” and declare that I’ve done a lot. However, I am aware that as much as God has blessed and used me, I too have fallen short of the potential and gifts that He has given me. This possibility of experiencing regret at the bema motivates me to be more faithful and to stay faithful to Him who called me.
American Poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892) wrote, "For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: 'It might have been!'" Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896), who was a contemporary of Whittier and author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," had this to say: "The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone." What are these two like-minded individuals telling us? The saddest words of all are the words of regret, especially if they are uttered at one's deathbed.

Without becoming “preachy” in this blog, I wonder if you and I both need to ask ourselves if there are some things that we don’t want to leave undone? Are there letters to relatives you've left unwritten, telephone calls left undone, family time left unspent, broken relationships left unrepaired, and goals left abandoned? That wouldn't be a problem if we were immortal, for then we could always do those things "someday" in the future. But we're not. We have a limited amount of time available. To avoid experiencing "the saddest words of all," to avoid facing the bema with regret, we need to get out of the habit of leaving things undone.What value is a blossom that doesn't open? What value is our life if we don't fulfill the potential God has given us? If we surrender to Him and allow His power to flow through us , then when opportunity strikes, we will lead fulfilled lives. But those who lead lives of inaction are like stones in a field that exist but have never truly lived.
Are there things you've done or failed to do that you regret? (Of course, what a silly question!) After all, we're human, which is another way of saying we're imperfect. So, there's no need to panic or obsess over our regrets. Instead, we can use regret to our advantage. First, we can use the regrets about our past as a positive force in the future. We can accept them as a wakeup call. Second, we can avoid the potential regrets of the future by letting them spur us on to new behavior by choosing to act, not postpone. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, "Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it come to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh."
When we close the gap between what God created us to be and what we are now, we will have a sense of humble satisfaction – which leads to a healthy, God-inspired self-image. Low self-esteem is due to a huge gap between the two. How can we fail if we always remember we have the choice between becoming better or becoming bitter?
We need to refocus our attention from our failures and regrets to the opportunities that beckon us. As Jerome K. Jerome wrote, "Opportunities flit by while we sit regretting the chances we have lost, and the happiness that comes to us we heed not, because of the happiness that is gone." Sometimes we avoid confronting our regrets because of the pain. But that's a mistake. Use them as a lesson, as a stepping-stone to more faithfulness to God. "At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal," said Barbara Bush. "You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent."

Max Lucado has written: "Go to the effort. Invest the time. Write the letter. Make the apology. Take the trip. Purchase the gift. Do it. The seized opportunity renders joy. The neglected brings regret."

My two daughters are grown now and I’m learning how to be a grandfather, but when I read this poem by Diane Loomans, it resonated in my soul.
If I had my child to raise all over again,
I'd build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I'd fingerpaint more, and point the finger less.
I would do less correcting and more connecting.
I'd take my eyes off my watch and watch with my eyes.
I would care to know less and know to care more.
I'd take more hikes and fly more kites.
I'd stop playing serious and seriously play.
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I'd do more hugging and less tugging.
I'd see the oak tree in the acorn more often.
I would be firm less often and affirm much more.
I'd model less about the love of power.
And more about the power of love.
I think that great theologian, Madonna, sang a song once about "The Power of Goodbye." My study of this subject has led me to see "The power of regret." I want to allow the potential of future regret to motivate me to never miss an opportunity to let my light shine that others may see my good works and glorify my Father in heaven. How about you?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

FOOTBALL FEVER


I love football. I loved playing it in high school and college, and I enjoy watching it now. Growing up in LA (lower Alabama), there weren’t any professional teams in our state, so college football reigned. Ninety-five percent of the residents of Alabama are interested in Alabama/Auburn football, and about 40% of Alabama residents are CONSUMED by Alabama/Auburn football.

Where I come from, you have to declare by about the third grade whether you’re an Alabama Crimson Tide fan or an Auburn Tiger fan – and you can only change loyalty ONCE in your life without losing everyone’s respect. For most residents, it’s not a choice because unless you want to risk being cut out of your parents' or grandparents' will, you will support the team your family supports.

This rivalry bleeds over into business and politics. Besides Republicans and Democrats, Auburn and Alabama alliances are utilized. There are “Alabama” banks and busineses and “Auburn” banks and businesses.

I grew up during the time of legendary Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, who was purported to be only the second man to walk on water. A typical joke ran like this: One cold winter evening, Bear Bryant came home after a high school recruiting trip. He crawled into bed and his wife said, “God, your feet are cold!” Bear replied, “Honey, when we’re alone you can call me Paul.”

It was hard to choose against Coach Bryant, but I decided at an early age to be an Auburn fan. Don’t ask me WHY they are the Auburn TIGERS, but their motto is “WAR EAGLE!” And don’t ask me WHY it’s the Crimson Tide, but their mascot is an Elephant.

The fable I like to tell is that years ago during an Auburn game, a Golden Eagle swooped down over the playing field and the announcer said, “Ladies, and gentlemen, look at that eagle.” And since everyone talks with a noticeable drawl in Alabama they all looked up and said as one voice, “WHAR EAGLE?” But I doubt that story is true.

For years, Alabama regularly trounced Auburn in the annual “Iron Bowl.” It was called that because it was played in Birmingham at Legion Field which is in the shadow of the old US Steel Iron works. It was supposedly a neutral site, but with Tuscaloosa just 45 minutes down I-20, it always seemed like a home game to Alabama. The game has since been moved to alternate between Auburn and Tuscaloosa where they each have stadiums that can seat almost 80,000 fans. An Auburn/Alabama ticket is hard to get. It’s still the most important sporting event in Alabama. A team can lose every game of the season, but if they win the Alabama/Auburn game, the season was a success. Coach Mike Shula was a great coach for Alabama, but he's gone because he just couldn't beat Auburn.

Alabama still holds the edge in the series (38-32-1), but there have been some notable Auburn victories. One of the most memorable came in 1972 when Alabama was leading 16 to 3 late in the fourth quarter. Auburn blocked a punt and ran it into the end zone to make it 16 to 10. Then, with only seconds remaining, Alabama punted again, and Auburn blocked it again and scored for a 17-16 win. For years after that you could see bumper stickers that said: PUNT BAMA PUNT!

But Auburn has beaten Bama the last five meetings and 7 of the last 10 games. One of the nice things about living in Texas for the past 16 years is that I haven’t had to hear about Auburn/Alabama football 365 days a year. They take it so seriously that when I was a pastor in Gardendale, Alabama I had to chide the people to come to church the day after the big game even if their team lost. One Sunday morning I showed up for church on the morning after an Iron Bowl that Alabama had won and there was a 40 ft banner hanging in the baptistry that said, “ROLL TIDE.” And I’m certain there were some men in our church who never sang a word in a hymn until we came to that line from “Jesus saves” that says, “Waft it on the ROLLING TIDE, Jesus saves, Jesus saves!” You could actually hear the volume increase on that line!

I still pull for Auburn, but since my oldest daughter, Jenni, graduated from OU and my younger daughter, Laura Grace, is in graduate school there, I’ve become an Oklahoma Sooner fan. As I watched Adrian Peterson break the NFL rushing record a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but think that he should be playing as a senior at OU this year.

Of course in Tyler, many of us are also pulling for LSU this year. Matt Flynn, the starting QB, is from Tyler and a member of Green Acres. He waited patiently in the shadow of Jamarcus Russell to get his chance to play and now LSU is at the top of the BCS standings.
Because OU went to sleep in their only loss at Colorado, they’re stuck at #4 in the BCS poll. I think Missouri will beat Kansas, and OU will beat either Kansas or Missouri in the Big 12 Championship game. But I’m afraid that won’t be enough since Oregon is currently #2. I’d love to see OU and LSU in the BCS Championship game on January 7, but unless the Ducks sink, it probably won’t happen.

I’m also a Dallas Cowboys fan and Tony Romo and Coach Phillips has the ‘Boys at 8-1 this year. But to be honest, I like college football 100 times better.

How about you? What are you thoughts about the College/Pro game? Who should be #1? Let me hear from you ……
BOOMER SOONER! And WAR EAGLE!

Monday, November 5, 2007

WHEN A "CHURCH" IS NOT A CHURCH




I am generally reluctant to criticize any other religious body even if I believe their doctrine is suspicious. But I can no longer remain silent about the so called “church” that really isn’t a church at all.

They call themselves Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. Maybe you’ve seen “members” of this church as they picket public events displaying signs that say things like:

GOD HATES FAGS
GOD HATES YOU
THANK GOD FOR 9/11
THANK GOD FOR KATRINA
GOD IS YOUR ENEMY
THANK GOD FOR DEAD SOLIDERS

Offshoots of this hate group have sprung up in other places, including East Texas. Members of Green Acres may remember some of the “painted buses” that were parked outside our facility on multiple occasions. Their painted slogans blasted me (even though they couldn’t even spell my name correctly!) comparing me with (horrors!) other heretics like Billy Graham. The purpose of these groups is to try to intimidate people. They yell at people trying to approach worship (while being sure to stay on public sidewalks rather than church property). They hope some church member will get fed up and slug them which would lead to a lawsuit, and most-often a generous out-of-court settlement.

At the risk of being picketed again, I’m ready to go on record in saying:

Westboro Baptist Church isn’t a church at all – it’s a hate group and a cult that calls itself a church to hide its cowardly behavior behind the laws that protect religious organizations.

Their core “belief” is that homosexuality is a crime that should be punished by death, and that all of America’s problems, (and the world’s) stem from the practice of homosexuality. This premise misguides their practice of expressing hate toward everyone who doesn’t embrace their extreme position.

This cult was founded by Fred Phelps in 1955 when he was kicked out as pastor of a more traditional Baptist Church in Topeka, Eastside Baptist Church. Although they have “Baptist” in their name, they are not affiliated with any Baptist group. The “church” is comprised primarily of the children and grandchildren of Phelps and another family, the Hockenbargers, who followed Phelps when he was forced out of Eastside Baptist Church. Since the church has few new members, and does not allow members to marry outside the church, this has led to a narrow family tree comprised of descendents of these two families. (Remember John Denver’s song, “I’m My Own Grandpa?”)

Phelps’ oldest daughter, Shirley, is the founder of the Phelps Chartered Law Firm, and the main spokesperson for the hate group. She is a shrewd attorney who stretches the law to its full extent to protect the church’s expressions of hate. They claim that soldiers dying in Iraq, 9/11, Katrina, and the California fires are “God’s judgment against America.” Well, Westboro’s judgement has already arrived.

Two weeks ago a federal judge awarded nearly $11 Million to the father of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, one of our brave soldiers who died in Iraq. Phelps and his hate-group picketed Snyder’s funeral in 2006 displaying signs that said, “Thank God for Dead Soliders.” The jury awarded Albert Snyder $2.9Million in compensatory damages, $6Million in punative damages for invasion of privacy and $2Million for emotional distress.

The cult routinely pickets military funerals displaying their signs, but this is the first time they have been successfully sued for their hateful behavior. Phelps responded by saying that they plan to continue picketing military funerals (as well the funerals of the seven college students who died in the house fire in North Carolina recently). Westboro has appealed the verdict and Phelps has bragged that “it will take about five minutes to reverse that.”

We need to pray that the appeals courts don’t allow this cult to get away with their hateful behavior under the guise of a church. We must also inform as many people as we can that “Westboro Baptist Church” has nothing to do with “Baptist” and even less to do with a “church.”

A real church doesn’t tolerate any kind of sinful behavior, but it doesn’t consider one particular sin more heinous than others. And a true church of Jesus Christ offers the solution of grace and forgiveness rather than simply pointing out the sin.

I wonder if this scripture has been read and studied at Westboro “Baptist Church?”
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)
WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Monday, October 29, 2007

"The Golden Compass" points in a dangerous direction



In December, New Line Cinema will release a movie called “The Golden Compass.” It's a thinly-veiled attack on God and the church (known as the Magisterium in the movie).

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog, many of the cyber-claims about attacks on Christians and Christianity are unfounded, but this isn’t a false alarm. It’s real. You can verify this information by clicking on the snopes link I’ve added at the end of this blog.

“The Golden Compass” is a children’s fantasy film starring Nicole Kidman which features a little girl on a quest to kill God. The movie is adapted from the first novel in Philip Pullman’s trilogy called “His Dark Materials.” Pullman, a British writer, is an outspoken atheist. His trilogy is an obvious rebuttal to C.S. Lewis trilogy, the Tales of Narnia. Like Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Pullman’s story begins with a young girl named Lyra who discovers an alternative world from inside a dark closet.

New Line Cinema has attempted to minimize the Christian backlash by removing the more obvious religious themes in the movie. Atheistic fans of the trilogy have been complaining loudly that the movie has stripped the book of its overt down-with-religion themes.

While the first installment is rather innocuous, the anti-God themes grow progressively more evident with the next two books, “The Subtle Knife” and “The Amber Spyglass.” In the final installment, the characters succeed in killing a character called God (who is identified as YAHWEH) – who turns out to be a phony, and not God after all.

Pullman has not been shy in the past about verbalizing his beliefs — or, some might say, nonbeliefs — and his intentions in writing the "Dark Materials" novels. The novelist himself has admitted that they are in response to C.S. Lewis' "The Chronicles of Narnia.”

"I loathe the 'Narnia' books," Pullman has said in previous press interviews. "I hate them with a deep and bitter passion, with their view of childhood as a golden age from which sexuality and adulthood are a falling away." He has called the series "one of the most ugly and poisonous things" he's ever read.

When asked about his beliefs, Pullman has said, “I don’t profess any religion. I don’t think it’s possible that there is a God. I have the greatest difficulty in understanding what is meant by the words ‘spiritual’ or ‘spirituality.’” In a 2003 interview, Pullman said, “My books are about killing God.”

It’s interesting to me that while concerned parents have been yelling about the witches and magic in the Harry Potter series, “His Dark Materials” have been largely ignored. They are MUCH more dangerous than the Harry Potter series!

I’m not planning on boycotting the theatres in Tyler that show it. But I’m encouraging parents to spread the word about the dangerous message communicated in this movie. The movie cost over $200 Million to produce, so the best thing that could happen for concerned Christians is for it to be a total flop at the box office.

Here’s the link to the snopes verification of the anti-God theme of The Golden Compass:

http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/compass.asp

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

LIVING IN-TENTS LIVES ... now


As I am preparing to share God’s Word this next Sunday, I have the incredible joy of teaching from one of the most precious passages in all the Bible. In 2Cor 5:1-5 we read:

“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed, but to clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal shall be swallowed up by life.”

I have too much material to be limited to a 30 minute message, so I want to share with you an imaginary correspondence between a TENTOWNER (that’s us) and the TENTMAKER (that’s God). (from Do Not Lose Heart, by Dave Dravecky).

O Mr. Tentmaker,
It was nice living in this tent when it was strong and secure and the sun was shining and the air warm. But Mr. Tentmaker, it’s scary now. You see, my tent is acting like it is not going to hold together; the poles seem weak and they shift with the wind. A couple of stakes have wiggled loose from the sand; and worst of all, the canvas has a rip. It no longer protects me from beating rain or stinging fly. It’s scary in here, Mr. Tentmaker.Last week I went to the repair shop and some repairman tried to patch the rip in my canvas. It didn’t help much, though, because the patch pulled away from the edges and now the tear is worse. What troubled me most, Mr. Tentmaker, is that the repairman didn’t seem to notice I was still in the tent; he just worked on the canvas while I shivered inside. I cried out once, but no one heard me. I guess my first real question is: Why did you give me such a flimsy tent? I can see by looking around the campground that some of the tents are much stronger and more stable than mine. Why, Mr. Tentmaker, did you pick a tent of such poor quality for me? And even more important, what do you intend to do about it?

In his reply, the Tentmaker writes:
O little tent dweller, as the Creator and Provider of tents, I know all about you and your tent, and I love you both. I made a tent for Myself once, and lived in it in your campground. My tent was vulnerable, too, and some vicious attackers ripped it to pieces while I was still in it…on a cross. It was a terrible experience, but you will be glad to know they couldn’t hurt me. In fact, the whole experience was a tremendous advantage because it is this very victory over my enemy that frees me to be a present help to you.O little tent dweller, I am now prepared to come and live in your tent with you, if you’ll invite me. You’ll learn as we dwell together that real security comes from My being in your tent with you. When the storms come, you can huddle in my arms and I’ll hold you. When the canvas rips, we’ll go to the repair shop together.Some day, little tent dweller, some day your tent is going to collapse. You see, I’ve designed it only for temporary use. But when it does you and I are going to leave together. I promise not to leave before you do. And then, free of all that would hinder or restrict, we will move to our permanent home and together, forever, we will rejoice and be glad.



I pray that after you’ve read this, you’ll rejoice to know that our Heavenly Tent-maker has something so much better for you that it is beyond anything you can ever dream or imagine. So when life gets too INTENSE just remember that this IN-TENTS time is only temporary!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

MIKE HUCKABEE IS MY CHOICE...for now


The 2008 Presidential election is 383 days away. I’ve been polling opinions and listening to the candidates, and I’m ready to declare my support for Mike Huckabee.

In this election, it’s interesting to note that four of the strongest candidates are either current and/or former senators, and another candidate is the former mayor of the largest city in America. So, if you are a conservative, you may be looking for a strong, socially conservative governor among the lot that can stand up for values and be a serious contender to win the election. For those of you who, like me, vote mostly on issues of social concern, Mike Huckabee may need to be on your radar.

You probably already know that Huckabee, 51, served as the 44th Governor of Arkansas. What you may not know is that he was also a former pastor and enjoys playing bass guitar in his rock-n-roll band, Capitol Offense. (They must be pretty good because they’ve opened for artists such as Willie Nelson and the Charlie Daniels Band!) A significant part of Huckabee’s adult life was spent as a pastor and denominational leader. He became the youngest president ever of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, the largest denomination in Arkansas. Huckabee led congregations in Pine Bluff and Texarkana. According to his website, those experiences gave him a deep sense of the problems faced by individuals and families.If you haven’t already heard what he had to say in a Republican debate about his views on Creation, you need to hear it. I believe every concerned Christian should hear not only what he says, but HOW he says it.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-BFEhkIujA

If you weren’t able to see the video, then go to http://www.youtube.com/ and put “huckabee” “evolution” in the search line.

Huckabee is on record saying that he has no problem with teaching evolution as a theory in the public schools and he doesn't expect schools to teach creationism. "We shouldn't indoctrinate kids in school," he said. "I wouldn't want them teaching creationism as if it's the only thing that they should teach.” Also, students should be given credit for having the intelligence to think through various theories for themselves and come to their own conclusions, he said. He said it was his responsibility to teach his children his beliefs though he could accept that others believe in evolution. "I believe that there is a God and that he put the process in motion," Huckabee said.

According to the National Center for Science Education, Gov. Huckabee is also on the record as saying, “I think schools also ought to be fair to all views. Because, frankly, Darwinism is not an established scientific fact. It is a theory of evolution, that’s why it’s called the theory of evolution. And I think that what I’d be concerned with is that it should be taught as one of the views that’s held by people. But it’s not the only view that’s held. And any time you teach one thing as that it’s the only thing, then I think that has a real problem to it…I think that the state ought to give students exposure to all points of view. And I would hope that that would be all points of view and not only evolution. I think that they also should be given exposure to the theories not only of evolution but to the basis of those who believe in creationism…I think it’s something kids ought to be exposed to. I do not necessarily buy into the traditional Darwinian theory, personally. But that does not mean that I’m afraid that somebody might find out what it is…”

I believe Huckabee wisely handled the question of evolution and turned his focus to the broader issue: how we determine what should be taught in our public schools. Republicans who believe in evolution and those who believe in a literal interpretation of the Genesis account share one important belief in common. That is the conviction that Washington should not determine curriculum in our local schools. That responsibility and right lies squarely on the shoulders of local governments and local people.

Let me hear your comments on Huckabee’s remarks!

Friday, October 12, 2007

WHAT IS YOUR TOLERANCE LEVEL?


Almost 17 years ago, when I attended one of the first meetings of the “ministerial alliance” here in Tyler, I was asked to pray. But the leader specifically requested that I NOT pray in the name of Jesus. I politely declined to pray, and quietly never returned. I like all the guys, but it’s just not for me. I know some people label me as one of those “narrow-minded religious bigots.” And I’ve been called “intolerant” as well. What does it mean to be tolerant?

Last Friday, President Bush gave an interview with Al Arabiya reporter Elie Nakouzi. (Al Arabiya is Al Jazeerah’s top competitor in the Middle East.)

In the interview, President Bush said, “I believe in an Almighty God, and I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God. That's what I believe. I believe that Islam is a great religion that preaches peace.”
I love and pray for our President, but let’s remember that while he is Commander-in-Chief, he isn’t Theologian-in-Chief. I unapologetically affirm that the only true God is Yahweh (Jehovah) and Jesus Christ is His unique Son and the only way to heaven.

Yet, I agree with what President Bush said later in the interview. He said, “I want people to understand that one of the great freedoms in America is the right for people to worship any way they see fit. If you’re a Muslim, an agnostic, a Christian, a Jew, a Hindu, you’re equally American. … it’s your choice to make. It’s not the state’s choice. And that’s a right I jealously guard.”

The first quote was a statement of religious syncretism, which is dangerous. But the second quote is about true tolerance.
“Tolerance” became a new buzzword at the turn of the century and its meaning continues to evolve today. What can we say and not say when someone’s beliefs differ from our own? If I voice my disagreement, I risk being labeled as “intolerant”—which, according to the media, is a fate worse than death.

Not long ago, the word “tolerant” carried a dictionary definition that read something like this: “the allowance or sufferance of conduct with which one is not in accord” or “allowing the right of something that one does not approve.” The same constitutional laws that give me the right to freely preach the Gospel at Green Acres also grant others the same right to personally proclaim their own different beliefs. That’s what tolerance means—to allow two contrasting beliefs to co-exist side by side, protected by the same laws and rights of religious freedom. While I do not agree with the tenets of the Muslim faith, for example, I respect every person’s right to practice Islam or any religion of their choice. Destroying another person’s religion and/or his religious freedom is true intolerance. History is full of examples of religious intolerance that resulted in defamation and death.

However, in today’s society, we’re seeing a not-so-subtle shift in the meaning of intolerance. It’s no longer enough that I tolerate another person’s belief system…I must actually EMBRACE it and accept it as EQUAL to my own or any other belief, lest I offend someone by my own convictions. The result is a society where truth is relative and “everyone does what is right in his own eyes.”

Listen to what Chuck Colson says about this new form of tolerance (from Christianity Today, The Ugly Side of Tolerance): “Our founders, many influenced by Mill and Locke, were seized by the great liberal vision of a society in which ideas arising from a plurality of interests would be freely exchanged. From this dialogue, truth could be rationally discovered. But in today's relativistic environment, pluralism no longer means tolerating competing ideas, but rather forced neutrality: no one should express any idea that could offend another.”

It is increasingly difficult to speak the truth today in an ultra-sensitive society. However, Jesus said that the truth would set people free. Josh McDowell, in an interview with Focus on the Family, said: “Pursuing truth in this context means countering the new doctrine of tolerance. It means teaching our children to embrace all people, but not all beliefs. It means showing them how to listen to and learn from all people without necessarily agreeing with them. It means helping them courageously but humbly speak the truth, even if it makes them the object of scorn or hatred.”

So call me intolerant if you wish, but I still don’t accept the teachings of the Muslims who live and worship here in East Texas. I don’t believe we pray to the same God. I have several Jewish friends, and I’m crazy about their friendly rabbi, but I believe they need to embrace Jesus for salvation. However, like our President, I will jealously guard their right to practice and express their faith. To me, that's what true tolerance is.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Monday, October 8, 2007

SEMPER FIDELIS - What's REALLY Happening in Iraq?


THIS IS A LITTLE LONG, BUT WELL WORTH READING!
Major General (Sel) John Kelly was a recent guest speaker at the San Diego Military Advisory Council networking breakfast. Here are some of his remarks about what’s happening in Iraq.

"I left Iraq three years ago last month. I returned a week ago after a two week visit of getting the lay of the land for my upcoming deployment. It is still a dangerous and foreboding land, but what I experienced personally was amazing and remarkable--we are winning, we are really winning. No one told me to say that, I saw it for myself. The higher command in Baghdad told us four years ago when we first took responsibility for the Al Anbar not to worry about victory, as no one--military or civilian--thought it possible. That thirty years from now when the rest of Iraq was a functioning democracy, Al Anbar would still be a festering cancer within...

Our success, so we were told, would be in containing violence, not defeating the Al Qaeda and other foreign born terrorists that were deeply entrenched in the Province. The reality is that today the incidents of attack in Al Anbar--mostly by Al Qaeda--are down by over 80% in the last six months--that translates to dozens and dozens every day then, to perhaps three or four today. Since the spring, local inhabitants and their sheik leadership are now joined with us at the shoulder in fighting the extremists that plague their country. Three weeks ago, I went to a gathering of sheiks from the Province outside of Ramadi that numbered over 300 of the most influential men in the west. Three years ago, my entire days and nights were devoted to tracking many of these same men down, and capturing or killing them, which is exactly what they were trying to do to me. However, by relentless pursuit by a bunch of fearless 19-year-olds with guns who never flinched or gave an inch, they have seen the light and know AQ can't win against such men. By staying in the fight and remaining true to our word and our honor, AQ today can't spend more than a few hours in Fallujah, Ramadi, or the Al Anbar in general, without being ID'd by the locals and killed by the increasingly competent Iraqi Army, or by Marines.

That's the way it is today in this war, but it is also the way it has been since the birth of our nation. Since our Declaration of Independence, 42 million Americans have claimed the honor of having served the nation in its military forces. Since that time, over a million have lost their lives serving the colors, with millions more wounded. Since George Washington first took command of the Continentals besieging Boston, America's warriors have stepped forward and endured horrors unimaginable to most Americans and saw it all with their young eyes so that those safe at home would never have to. With all this service and loss of life, we as Americans can be proud of the kind of people we are, as we have never retained a square foot of any country we have defeated. We possess no empire. No man or woman calls us master, as we have never subjugated any society. On the contrary, billions across the planet--and billions more yet unborn--are today free and increasingly prosperous because America took a stand; but it has always fallen on the shoulders of our soldiers, sailors, airmen Coast Guardsmen, and Marines that the task fell to...and they have never wavered.

The reality was that when many in this room grew up, and I know I am showing my age here, we were surrounded by men, real men, who had gladly worn the country's cloth in wars against fascism and communism. The earliest memories we had as kids back then were of comic books and paperbacks that honored the sacrifices of the super heroes of those conflicts. It was a time when little boys could play guns and weren't considered at risk to be psychopaths. To stand up when the national anthem was played or say the pledge of allegiance and a prayer to any God you worshiped before school, wasn't considered offensive to the sensitivities of the nation's self-proclaimed intellectual elite. Places like Guadalcanal, Coral Sea, Normandy, Iwo Jima, the Chosin Reservoir, and Hue City were real to us then, and we knew without thinking that we owed the nation a debt.

We live in a very different world today. Today, Memorial and Veteran's Day are more about a day off to take advantage of the big sales at the malls, or fighting the traffic to get a long weekend at the seashore. But we should not forget that as we stand here today we are at war, and a new Greatest Generation is fighting a merciless enemy on our behalf in the terrible heat of Iraq and mountains of Afghanistan.

Like it or not America is engaged in--and winning--a war today against an enemy that is savage, offers no quarter [and] whose only objectives are to either kill every one of us here in our homeland, or enslave us with a sick form of extremism that serves no God or purpose that rational men and women can ever understand. Given the opportunity to do another 9/11, our vicious enemy would do it today, tomorrow, and every day thereafter. In addition to killing thousands of innocent victims that day, they also killed hundreds of heroes: police, firefighters, and first responders of every sort that were not victims in their deaths, but the first fallen warriors of this generation's war. Given nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons--and the experts bet they will get them--these extremists would use these terror weapons against our cities, and smile. The best way to fight them is somewhere else...for whatever reason, they want to destroy our way of life. I thank God we still have enough, just enough, young people in America today willing to take up the fight and defend us all.
Our enemy is on a 100-year campaign to victory and believes without question that he is winning. We, on the other hand, look out two years at best and seem to be wavering and looking for a way to rationalize our way out. The problem is our enemy is not willing to let us go. Regardless of how much we wish this bad dream would go away, he will stay with us until he hurts us so badly we surrender, or we kill him first. To him this is not about jobs, economic opportunity, or solving social problems in the Middle East. It is about way of life, about every man's and every woman's worth and equality in the eyes of the law, about the God given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He doesn't believe in these cherished concepts--we do. Our positions are irreconcilable.

The good news is our service members are as good today as their fathers were in Vietnam and their grandfathers were in Korea and World War II. In my two tours in Iraq as an infantry officer with the 1st Marine Division, I never saw an American hesitate, or do anything other than lean into the fire and with no apparent fear of death or injury take the fight to our enemies. They also know whose shoulders they stand on and would die before anyone of them shamed any veteran of any service, living or dead.

You should see them. They have a look in their eye and a way of walking that marks them as warriors as good as any that have ever marched to the guns, but they are not born killers. They are, on the contrary, good and decent youngsters mostly from the neighborhoods of our cities, and small towns across America. Almost all are from "salt of the earth" working class homes, and, more often than not, are the sons and daughters of cops and firemen, factory workers and farmers. Kids who once delivered your papers, stocked shelves in the grocery store, played Little League, and served Mass on Sunday morning. They were athletes, as well as "couch potatoes," drove their cars and motorcycles too fast, and blasted their music a bit louder than they should. They are ordinary young people, performing remarkable acts of bravery and selfless acts of devotion to a cause bigger than themselves. They could have done something more self-serving, but chose to serve knowing full well Iraq and Afghanistan was in their future.

America's Armed Forces today know the price of being the finest men and women this nation has to offer, and pay it they do everyday in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over 4100 in all services have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, over a thousand of this number Marines, and Sailors serving with Marines - our precious Docs. And the sacrifice continues as Americans have gone to God since we all went to bed last night and slept free and protected. Their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, wives and husbands, aunts, uncles, cousins and fianc├ęs have only just learned of their deaths and begun to deal with the unimaginable pain that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Thousands more have suffered wounds since it all started, but like firefighters and cops who fall protecting us here in America, they are not victims as they knew what they were about and were doing what they wanted to do.

Rest assured, my fellow citizens, the nation you are a part of, this young experiment in democracy called 'America' that started just over two centuries ago, will forever remain the 'land of the free and home of the brave' so long as we never run out of tough young Americans willing to look beyond their own self interest and comfortable lives and go into the darkest and most dangerous places on earth to hunt down, and kill, those who would do us harm."

Semper Fidelis

Sunday, October 7, 2007

PRAY FOR TONY SNOW

I recently read this interview that former Fox Newscaster and Presidential Press Secretary, Tony Snow, gave to Christianity Today. It was such a blessing I wanted to share it with you!


Commentator and broadcaster Tony Snow announced that he had colon cancer in 2005. Following surgery and chemo-therapy, Snow joined the Bush administration in April 2006 as press secretary. Unfortunately, on March 23 Snow, 51, a husband and father of three, announced that the cancer had recurred, with tumors found in his abdomen—leading to surgery in April, followed by more chemotherapy. Snow went back to work in the White House Briefing Room on May 30, but resigned August 31. CT asked Snow what spiritual lessons he has been learning through the ordeal.

"Blessings arrive in unexpected packages—in my case, cancer. Those of us with potentially fatal diseases—and there are millions in America today—find ourselves in the odd position of coping with our mortality while trying to fathom God's will. Although it would be the height of presumption to declare with confidence What It All Means, Scripture provides powerful hints and consolations. The first is that we shouldn't spend too much time trying to answer the why questions: Why me? Why must people suffer? Why can't someone else get sick? We can't answer such things, and the questions themselves often are designed more to express our anguish than to solicit an answer. I don't know why I have cancer, and I don't much care. It is what it is—a plain and indisputable fact. Yet even while staring into a mirror darkly, great and stunning truths begin to take shape. Our maladies define a central feature of our existence: We are fallen. We are imperfect. Our bodies give out.

But despite this—because of it—God offers the possibility of salvation and grace. We don't know how the narrative of our lives will end, but we get to choose how to use the interval between now and the moment we meet our Creator face-to-face. Second, we need to get past the anxiety. The mere thought of dying can send adrenaline flooding through your system. A dizzy, unfocused panic seizes you. Your heart thumps; your head swims. You think of nothingness and swoon. You fear partings; you worry about the impact on family and friends. You fidget and get nowhere. To regain footing, remember that we were born not into death, but into life—and that the journey continues after we have finished our days on this earth. We accept this on faith, but that faith is nourished by a conviction that stirs even within many nonbelieving hearts—an intuition that the gift of life, once given, cannot be taken away. Those who have been stricken enjoy the special privilege of being able to fight with their might, main, and faith to live—fully, richly, exuberantly—no matter how their days may be numbered.

Third, we can open our eyes and hearts. God relishes surprise. We want lives of simple, predictable ease—smooth, even trails as far as the eye can see—but God likes to go off-road. He provokes us with twists and turns. He places us in predicaments that seem to defy our endurance and comprehension—and yet don't. By his love and grace, we persevere. The challenges that make our hearts leap and stomachs churn invariably strengthen our faith and grant measures of wisdom and joy we would not experience otherwise.

'You Have Been Called'
Picture yourself in a hospital bed. The fog of anesthesia has begun to wear away. A doctor stands at your feet; a loved one holds your hand at the side. "It's cancer," the healer announces.
The natural reaction is to turn to God and ask him to serve as a cosmic Santa. "Dear God, make it all go away. Make everything simpler." But another voice whispers: "You have been called." Your quandary has drawn you closer to God, closer to those you love, closer to the issues that matter—and has dragged into insignificance the banal concerns that occupy our "normal time."
There's another kind of response, although usually short-lived—an inexplicable shudder of excitement, as if a clarifying moment of calamity has swept away everything trivial and tinny, and placed before us the challenge of important questions.

The moment you enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death, things change. You discover that Christianity is not something doughy, passive, pious, and soft. Faith may be the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. But it also draws you into a world shorn of fearful caution. The life of belief teems with thrills, boldness, danger, shocks, reversals, triumphs, and epiphanies. Think of Paul, traipsing though the known world and contemplating trips to what must have seemed the antipodes (Spain), shaking the dust from his sandals, worrying not about the morrow, but only about the moment. There's nothing wilder than a life of humble virtue—for it is through selflessness and service that God wrings from our bodies and spirits the most we ever could give, the most we ever could offer, and the most we ever could do.

Finally, we can let love change everything. When Jesus was faced with the prospect of crucifixion, he grieved not for himself, but for us. He cried for Jerusalem before entering the holy city. From the Cross, he took on the cumulative burden of human sin and weakness, and begged for forgiveness on our behalf. We get repeated chances to learn that life is not about us—that we acquire purpose and satisfaction by sharing in God's love for others. Sickness gets us partway there. It reminds us of our limitations and dependence. But it also gives us a chance to serve the healthy. A minister friend of mine observes that people suffering grave afflictions often acquire the faith of two people, while loved ones accept the burden of two people's worries and fears.

Learning How to Live
Most of us have watched friends as they drifted toward God's arms not with resignation, but with peace and hope. In so doing, they have taught us not how to die, but how to live. They have emulated Christ by transmitting the power and authority of love. I sat by my best friend's bedside a few years ago as a wasting cancer took him away. He kept at his table a worn Bible and a 1928 edition of the Book of Common Prayer. A shattering grief disabled his family, many of his old friends, and at least one priest. Here was a humble and very good guy, someone who apologized when he winced with pain because he thought it made his guest uncomfortable. He retained his equanimity and good humor literally until his last conscious moment. "I'm going to try to beat [this cancer]," he told me several months before he died. "But if I don't, I'll see you on the other side."

His gift was to remind everyone around him that even though God doesn't promise us tomorrow, he does promise us eternity—filled with life and love we cannot comprehend—and that one can in the throes of sickness point the rest of us toward timeless truths that will help us weather future storms. Through such trials, God bids us to choose: Do we believe, or do we not? Will we be bold enough to love, daring enough to serve, humble enough to submit, and strong enough to acknowledge our limitations? Can we surrender our concern in things that don't matter so that we might devote our remaining days to things that do?

When our faith flags, he throws reminders in our way. Think of the prayer warriors in our midst. They change things, and those of us who have been on the receiving end of their petitions and intercessions know it. It is hard to describe, but there are times when suddenly the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and you feel a surge of the Spirit. Somehow you just know: Others have chosen, when talking to the Author of all creation, to lift us up—to speak of us!
This is love of a very special order. But so is the ability to sit back and appreciate the wonder of every created thing. The mere thought of death somehow makes every blessing vivid, every happiness more luminous and intense. We may not know how our contest with sickness will end, but we have felt the ineluctable touch of God.

What is man that Thou art mindful of him? We don't know much, but we know this: No matter where we are, no matter what we do, no matter how bleak or frightening our prospects, each and every one of us, each and every day, lies in the same safe and impregnable place—in the hollow of God's hand."

Saturday, October 6, 2007

CAN FRED BEAT HILLARY?



I received the link at the end of this blog from a trusted friend, who sends me a lot of the good stuff that I’m able to share. It’s not a joke, it’s a real website that will ask your opinion about several moral/political issues. Once you’ve registered your answers, it will show you the candidate or candidates who most closely match your position. It’s not biased toward either political party or position.

It only took me about a minute, and the results showed that Fred Thompson most closely matched my positions. Hmmm. He is definitely a conservative politician, but I still have questions about his personal faith.

Has anyone reading this blog been able to find a quote or article about Fred Thompson being a follower of Jesus Christ? I’ve found that he was baptized in a Church of Christ in Tennessee, but that it doesn’t appear that he has attended church much as an adult. He married his second wife, Jerri, in a liberal United Church of Christ (which is as different from an ultraconservative Church of Christ” as grits are from waffles).

Take the test yourself, and let me know which candidate matches your convictions.

By the way, it’s EASY to leave a comment. You don’t have to register or leave your name, you can comment as “anonymous” if you like.

Here’s the link:
http://www.wqad.com:80/Global/link.asp?L=259460

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

FOR CRACKED POTS ONLY


I had several people ask me to repeat or send them the story I used to close the message last Sunday entitled “GOD USES CRACKED POTS.” In my opinion, the theme verse of 2 Corinthians is, “But we have this treasure (thesaurus) in jars of clay (ostrakinos) to show that this all-surpassing (huperbole) power (dunamis) is from God and not from us.” (2Cor 4:7)

There is a beautiful fable that comes from the East (both China and India) that illustrates a wonderful truth about how God can use cracked pots.
Once upon a time there was an elderly Chinese woman who owned two large clay pots. She would hang each pot on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck. Every day she would walk from her house to the nearby stream to fetch water. She would fill both pots, pick up the pole and walk back to her house. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full pot of water. At the end of the long walk back to her house, the cracked pot always arrived only half full. Because of the crack, half the water had leaked out during the trek.

For two full years, this happened daily. The Chinese woman arrived home with only one-and-a-half pots of water. Of course, the perfect pot was proud that it had never lost a drop of precious water. But the poor, cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfection and was miserable, thinking it was a complete failure. One day, the cracked pot was so tired of failing that it spoke to the woman. The cracked pot said, “I am ashamed of myself because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house. I have failed you, and I’m sorry. Maybe you need to replace me with another pot that isn’t cracked.”

The old woman smiled and said gently, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other side? I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on the path on your side. And every day as I’ve walked back you’ve been watering those seeds. For the past two years I’ve been able to pick the flowers to decorate my table. Without you being just the way you are, there would have been no beautiful flowers to grace my home.”
The cracked pot no longer felt like a failure, nor was it jealous of the perfect pot. Instead, the cracked pot continued to contain and share the precious cargo it carried.

One of the mysteries of the Bible is how God uses less-than-perfect vessels for His service. You don’t have to read far into the Bible to see that the “heroes” of the faith, weren't always heroic. Abraham lied; Jacob cheated; Moses murdered; David committed adultery; and Peter blasphemed. God can use cracked vessels. So don’t despair if there are flaws and failings in your life; God can use cracked vessels who are clean and empty!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A WOLF IN CASUAL CLOTHING
















QUESTION: Who’s more dangerous than Osama bin Laden, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il combined? Here’s a few hints: He doesn’t rant and rave in the fashion of Hitler, Krushev, or Castro – he speaks quietly and eloquently. He doesn’t dress up in an opulent solider’s uniform bedecked with fake medals like Idi Amin, Sadaam Hussein, or Moammar Khadafi – instead he prefers sport coats with open-necked shirts.

I’m talking about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Born to a blacksmith, educated as a revolutionary, trained as a killer and derided by rivals as a mystical fanatic, Ahmadinejad is easily cast as the personification of everything there is to fear about a nuclear Iran.

This past week he spoke at Columbia University and the United Nations. Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, who was criticized for inviting Ahmadinejad to speak, issued an excoriating introduction in which he said, “Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a cruel and petty dictator.” President Bollinger also challenged Ahmadinejad’s public denial of the reality of the Holocaust, noting: “In a December 2005 state television broadcast, you described the Holocaust as a fabricated legend. One year later, you held a two-day conference on Holocaust deniers.”

One reason Ahmadinejad is dangerous was revealed by his calm reaction to such a negative introduction. Where some leaders would have been so insulted they would have left the stage, Ahmadinejad acknowledged that the introductory remarks were harsh and that in his country, guests are treated with respect. Then he launched into his speech.

If you read or watched the news reports, most of the attention was focused on the Q&A time in which Ahmadinejad denied there were homosexuals in Iran, (to the hoots and laugher of the audience). He also blatantly questioned who was really responsible for the 9/11 attacks on America, then talked about his desire to visit Ground Zero (which was refused, of course). He denied that Iran was influencing any of the insurgency attacks in Iraq. He also calmly denied that he had ever questioned the reality of the Holocaust. His actual recorded remarks from 2005 are: "They have invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets," and "The West has given more significance to the myth of the genocide of the Jews, even more significant than God, religion, and the prophets. (It) deals very severely with those who deny this myth but does not do anything to those who deny God, religion, and the prophet." Here’s a man who can lie easily without even looking uncomfortable.

But what most of the public didn’t read or hear in the news clips were his remarks in the text of his prepared speech. Ahmadinedjad talked more about God in his speech than perhaps any speaker in the past 20 years at this liberal Ivy League school! Of course, he was talking about Allah, the god of Islam, who is NOT the God of the Bible. But most of the hearers at Columbia wouldn’t have made that distinction. Here’s a sample of some of his remarks:

"Dear academics, dear faculty and scholars, students, I believe that the biggest God-given gift to man is science and knowledge. Man's search for knowledge and the truth through science is what it guarantees to do in getting close to God [sic]. But science has to combine with the purity of the spirit and of the purity of man's spirit so that scholars can unveil the truth and then use that truth for advancing humanity's cause.

God is aware of all reality. All researchers and scholars are loved by God. So I hope there will be a day where these scholars and scientists will rule the world and God himself will arrive with Moses and Christ and Mohammed to rule the world and to take us toward justice.

My dear friends, all the words and messages of the divine prophets from Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, to David and Solomon and Moses, to Jesus and Mohammad delivered humans from ignorance, negligence, superstitions, unethical behavior, and corrupted ways of thinking, with respect to knowledge, on the path to knowledge, light and rightful ethics.

Science is the light, and scientists must be pure and pious. If humanity achieves the highest level of physical and spiritual knowledge but its scholars and scientists are not pure, then this knowledge cannot serve the interests of humanity.


If you care to read all of his speech and the Q&A you can find the transcript at:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,297930,00.html

I read every word of the transcript, and if you take the time to read it, you’ll have to admit that Ahmadinejad is NOT a wild-eyed, ignorant, Islamic fanatic. He is a calm, educated, confident Islamic fanatic. In my opinion, that makes him much more dangerous. I’m not saying that he’s the Antichrist, or that he has 666 stamped under his scruffy beard. But he’s part of a new breed of Islamic radicals who aren’t content to hide in a cave and direct covert terrorist attacks on America. Instead he visits our country and smiles while he lobs perverted intellectual/religious ideological bombs with impunity.

Jesus said, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matt 7:15)
Ahamadinejad denies his country is interested in building a nuclear bomb. But scientists believe that Iran is close to having enough enriched Uranium to fabricate a weapon. Adamadinejad has made statements that would indicate that he believes he is called to usher in Armageddon. He has called for the total extermination the nation of Israel. When he spoke at the UN in 2006 he ended his speech by making reference to soon-coming "return of the Hidden Iman" who Shiites believe will usher in the end of time.
You can bet that Israel is watching Iran closely. I suggest that every patriotic American and every Christian who understands end-time prophecy keep a wary eye on this wolf in casual clothing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

COULD WE PLEASE HAVE A LITTLE MORE LIGHT?



Sometimes I write about serious stuff, but sometimes I like to just make people smile. Let me know which one of these you like the most – and add your own to the comments section!

After attending my first meeting of the SBC Executive Committee in Nashville, I’m ready to answer the question:
“How many Southern Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?"
One hundred and nine people - seven on the Lightbulb Task Force Sub-committee, who report to the twelve on the Lightbulb Task Force, appointed by the fifteen on the Trustee Board. Their recommendation is reviewed by the Finance Executive Committee of five, who place it on the agenda of the eighteen-member Finance Committee. If they approve, they bring a motion to the twenty-seven Member church Board, who appoint another twelve-member review committee. If they recommend that the Church Board proceed, a resolution is brought to the Congregational Business Meeting. They appoint another eight-member review committee. If their report to the next Congregational Business Meeting supports the changing of a lightbulb, and the Congregation votes in favor, the responsibility to carry out the lightbulb change is passed on to the Trustee Board, who in turn appoint a seven-member committee to find the best price in new lightbulbs. Their recommendation of which hardware is the best buy must then be reviewed by the twenty-three-member Ethics Committee to make certain that this hardware store has no connection to Disney. They report back to the Trustee Board who then commissions the Trustee in charge of the Janitor to ask him to make the change. By then the janitor discovers that the light bulb just needed to be screwed in tighter!

While on this subject:

How many Calvinists does it take to change a light bulb? Calvinists do not change light bulbs. They simply read out the instructions and pray the light bulb will decide to change itself.

How many liberals does it take to change a light bulb? At least ten, as they need to hold a debate on whether or not the light bulb exists. Even if they can agree upon the existence of the light bulb, they still may not change it to keep from alienating those who might use other forms of light.

How many fundamentalists does it take to change a light bulb? Change?????

How many Church of Christ members does it take to change a light bulb? None. The Bible DOES NOT SAY anything about light bulbs!

How many charismatics does it take to change a light bulb? Three. One to place hands on the old bulb and one to catch it when it falls, and one to pray against the spirit of darkness.

How many United Methodists does it take to change a light bulb? We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey, you have found that a light bulb works for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your personal relationship to your light bulb and present it next month at our annual light bulb Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-lived, and tinted; all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence through Jesus Christ.

How many Jehovah’s Witnesses does it take to change a light bulb? None. The lights are on, but nobody’s home.

How many egotists does it take to change a light bulb? One. They hold the bulb and the world revolves around them.

How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb? To get to the other side.

How many post-modernists does it take to change a light bulb? Each and every one of us.

How many teamsters does it take to change a light bulb? Forty. Hey, you gotta problem with dat?

How many straight San Franciscans does it take to change a light bulb? Both of them.

How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb? None, they all scatter when exposed to light.

How many accountants does it take to change a light bulb? What kind of answer did you have in mind?

How many engineers does it take to change a light bulb? Approximately 1.0000000000000000000000.

GOT ANY MORE? LET’S HEAR THEM!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

O.J. Simpson: Oops he did it again




As you know, O. J. is in jail again. The timing of his recent arrest couldn’t have been more perfect to promote his book. In 2006 Simpson wrote a book “IF I DID IT” (the original cover is seen on the left) which is a “hypothetical” description of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
The original release of the book in Oct 2006 was cancelled.

Last month, a Florida bankruptcy court awarded the rights to the book to the Goldman family to partially satisfy the settlement of the wrongful death civil trial in which Simpson was found guilty.

The Goldman’s have expanded the title to read “IF I DID IT: Confessions of the Killer.” The word "if" is written so small you can hardly see it! (Notice the new book cover to the right). Over the past couple of weeks, it has been one of the best sellers on Amazon.com.

The murder trial of O.J. was a sensational event caused more people to tune in to the 24 hour cable news channels. We probably all remember people who were glued to the television for the full duration of the trial.

Simpson hired a team of expensive (totaling $4 million), high-profile lawyers, including F. Lee Bailey, Barry Scheck, Robert Shapiro, Robert Kardashian, Alan Dershowitz, and Johnnie Cochran, who argued that Simpson was the victim of police fraud and sloppy internal procedures that contaminated the DNA evidence. Simpson's defense team, dubbed the "Dream Team" by reporters, argued that LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman had planted evidence at the crime scene. Police evidence collector Dennis Fung also faced heavy scrutiny. In all, 150 witnesses gave testimony during the eight-month-long trial.

On October 3, 1995, in front of an estimated 150 Million television views, Simpson was declared not-guilty.

A CNN poll after the trial in 1995 revealed that 33% of Americans agreed with the verdict and 56% disagreed.
The essence of our judicial system is that a jury of his peers determined that the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty. Legal verdicts are not determined by popular opinion. The principle of Double Jeopardy guarantees that O.J. won’t be tried again for murder.

Some people believe that in our celebrity-obsessed culture, we utilize a different standard for sports and movie stars like O.J. (or Michael Jackson). Michael Vick’s arrest and guilty plea for dog-fighting may represent a backlash against this double standard.

But now O.J. has been arrested for armed robbery in Las Vegas. Only God and O.J. know for certain whether he got away with murder or not. But if he gets sent to jail for armed robbery there would almost be a sense of poetic justice about it all.

However, according to our legal system, he is innocent until proven guilty. Every person gets “their day in court.” It looks like OJ will end up having several!

This only serves to remind me that I stand before the Judge of the Universe and plead that I am completely guilty and deserve the fullest punishment under His perfect law. And in the moment that I throw myself upon the mercy of the court, the Judge steps down from the Divine bench and becomes my advocate. Then, Jesus steps up and accepts the punishment that I deserve.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2cor 5:21)
WHAT DO YOU THINK?