Thursday, August 30, 2007


The legal phrase voir dire literally means, “truth say.” In this context, voir comes from an old word in middle French meaning “truth.” (Even though the modern French word voir means “to see.”)

In the American justice system, voir dire refers to the process by which prospective jurors are questioned about their backgrounds and potential biases before being invited to sit on a jury. Today, I experienced voir dire up close and personal. Pardon the length of this blog. (I did want to be an attorney before God called me to preach at age 17, so I am still fascinated by legal issues!)

Here in Smith County, Texas we have Municipal, State, and Federal Courts, so that means that citizens get called up for jury duty on a frequent basis. When I pastored in the Birmingham area for ten years, I was never called for jury duty. But in my 16 ½ years in Tyler, I’ve been called for jury duty at least eight times – including municipal and federal courts. In addition, I served on the Smith County Grand Jury for six months. Most of my experiences for jury duty have been to show up and be dismissed before noon.

Today was another kind of experience. I arrived at the Smith County Courthouse at 8:30am and sat down with about 200 other people. I was happy to see and greet at least a dozen other Green Acres members there (does this count as visitation?)

It was a slow, lengthy process, but after another couple of hours, the clerk of the court announced that three juries were needed that day. I was selected to be a part of a panel of 60 potential jurors for a criminal case, and we were dismissed for lunch and requested to be back in the courtroom by 1:30pm. 59 of us were back at 1:30. One juror had apparently misunderstood the directions and was not present. A Texas Statute requires all of the panel to be present, so officers were dispatched to find the missing juror. That took a little over an hour – and during that time I got to meet the jurors sitting on either side of me and read some of the book I'd brought with me. Throughout the day, I was able to read 120 pages of The Man Who Shook the World, an excellent biography of the Apostle Paul written by John Pollock. (Cambridge-educated Pollock has also written excellence biographies of Hudson Taylor, Dwight L. Moody, and Billy Graham)

When our final juror arrived, escorted by the bailiff, we were taken upstairs to another courtroom for voir dire to begin. In keeping with the admonition of the Judge, I won’t reveal any details of the case or any of the names involved in today’s process. I want to just give some general observations about the experience.

We are all asked to stand and respond to an oath to give honest answers to the questions we were asked. We weren’t known by our names, only by the numbers on our juror cards. The attorneys for both sides had detailed profiles of each of us before them. The judge did a great job of condensing three years of law school into about 30 minutes. The judge taught us about the fifth amendment right of every citizen: to remain silent and not incriminate themselves. The judge taught us that in a criminal case the prosecution has the heaviest burden – they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. The judge talked about the powerful judicial principle called “the presumption of innocence.”

After the law lecture, the judge gave us a “pop quiz.” The judge said, “Suppose I go crazy right now and decide we aren’t going to select 12 jurors, and we’re not going to hear any evidence... we’re just going to let all of you vote now on the defendant. You can vote ‘guilty,’ ‘not guilty,’ or ‘I don’t have enough information to decide.’ How many of you vote, ‘guilty'?” No cards were raised. “How many of you vote ‘not guilty'?” I raised my card with a couple of other jurors. (I had suspected it was a trick question). “And how many of you vote, ‘don’t have enough information to decide?’” The remainder of the cards were lifted.

The judge admitted that it was a trick question, and the only correct answer was, “not guilty.” The judge explained a juror might not ever think they have enough information to decide, but at this stage, the defendant can only be “not guilty.” And so, the judge then gave remedial lecture #2 and we voted again – and this time, every juror lifted their card for “not guilty.” I thought it was a memorable way to teach the doctrine of “presumption of innocence.”

In voir dire, we, the potential jurors are the ones that must “speak truth” when asked specific and sometimes personal questions by the prosecutors and defense attorneys. Again, without going into details, this case involved a felony drug possession charge, and one of the questions the attorneys asked was if anyone among the 60 potential jurors had ever personally (or had someone in their immediate family) arrested and charged with any kind of drug-related charge. I was surprised to see a majority of the cards being raised. At that moment, my pastoral heart skipped a beat, and I was reminded again that we live in a world of struggling, hurting people.

Because policemen often testify in trials such as this, we were asked if there were any of us who had a great respect for law officers and the job they do. I raised my card along with many others. But when the question was asked if anyone resented policemen because of how they or someone in their family had been treated – again, cards went up. I was reminded that we don't all see law enforcement officers the same way.

There were other questions asked and answered. Some of the questions were of such a personal nature that they were set aside for a private audience with the judge and counselors. I was eventually rejected as a juror, but I came out of the courtroom at about 5:00 pm thinking, “this process really works.”

My brain is spinning with more spiritual applications than I have space to share. Spirtually speaking, we’re all "presumed guilty until forgiven" … but I won’t chase that rabbit out of the woodpile. Instead, I want to remind you that it is our privilege to practice voir dire daily. The Bible says, “Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Eph. 4:15). We are admonished to be loving and truthful in our relationships with others.

Also, voir dire means that we should be sharing the Truth about Jesus with others. The reason we are redeemed is because someone practiced voir dire with us – they "spoke truth" about Jesus to us. The Bible tells about, “the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the WORD OF TRUTH, the gospel that has come to you” (Col 1:5-6).

So go forth, and carpe diem and voir dire today!

Monday, August 27, 2007


Let’s observe a moment of irreverent silence please ………

The world’s most sensational fake newspaper is going out of business! After 28 years of journalistic jesting, the August 27th edition of the Weekly World News was the final printing of this paragon of print pretense.

I for one, am going to miss such headlines as:

“Alien Bible Found – They Worshipped Oprah”

“Bigfoot Kept Lumberjack as Love Slave”

“Abraham Lincoln Was a Woman”

“Preacher Explodes During Sermon” (add your own comment)

“Man Poses as CPR Dummy to Meet Women”

“Seeing Eye Squirrels for Blind Dogs”

“Sadaam and Osama Adopt Shaved Ape Baby” (I’m not making these up)

“500 ft. Jesus Appears at U.N.”

“Man Marries Computer – Becomes Gigamist”

“Bat Child Found in Cave” (this spawned many headlines and even a musical)

“Heaven Photographed by Hubble Telescope”

“Statue of Elvis Found on Mars!” (more “Elvis sighting" headlines than you’d ever believe!)

I’m probably a little sadder than you are because the only national publication I’ve ever appeared in was the …… you guessed it … the Weekly World News. About ten years ago they featured some weird article about angels actually being aliens from outer space. Somehow they found my book, “Do Angels Really Exist” and even printed a picture of the book, and my picture beside it. They quoted a short section from my description of Ezekiel’s vision of the fiery wheel and the cherubim, where I mentioned that some people speculate that this description sounds similar to modern descriptions of UFO’s. So, that was my claim to national attention – and I think I probably sold three more books because of that erudite endorsement!

At its height of popularity, in the 1980’s, WWN had a readership of 1.2 Million, last year that number fell to 83,000. It’s banner on the cover originally said, “NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH” until too many lawsuits convinced the publishers to add this caveat to each issue: “The reader should suspend disbelief for the sake of enjoyment.” It only had two writers, but they used pseudonyms to make it appear that more people worked there.

In commenting on the death of the WWN, Columnist Joel Stein made this sarcastic observation: “It’s actually a sign of progress for a society to go from inventing gods and monsters to seeking catharsis in the real life of Paris Hilton.”

Now that the Weekly World News has gone to that great printing press in the basement, what will we have to peruse in a slow-moving checkout line at Brookshire’s Grocery Store? Oh, yeah, the number of celebrity-obsessed gossip magazines are multiplying like … well, like Elvis sightings.

In a world full of so much junk and gossip, isn’t it refreshing to open the Word of God and feast on the REAL TRUTH? Jesus said to His Father, “Your word is truth.” (Jn 17:17). Newspapers and magazines come and go, but the WORD OF GOD ENDURES FOREVER!

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Are you as puzzled as I am?

Obviously, the 2008 Presidential election is a critical piece yet to be inserted in the jigsaw puzzle of our culture. The election is still 436 days away, but the candidates are raising millions of dollars and already trying to get their message out to the public.

Frankly, I’ve been a staunch conservative republican for as along as I can remember. I must confess that I did vote for Jimmy Carter in 1976, because of his “born again” claim and his confession that he had “lusted in his heart.” He made that revelation in an article in Playboy ..I didn’t read the actual Playboy article by the way.

I think Ronald Reagan was a great president. I thought George Bush (the President’s dad) was one of the most compassionate, caring men we’ve ever elected. I still can’t figure out how Clinton beat him, unless it’s because George didn’t finish the job in the First Iraq War .. or maybe it was really was “the economy, stupid.” I didn’t vote for Bill Clinton, and I was the founder and chairman of an loosely organized group called “Pastors for Bush” in 2000 and 2004.

However, like many conservatives, I was disappointed that a Republican-led legislative majority with a Republican in the White House couldn’t seem to muster enough votes to address issues like Health Care Reform, Immigration, crime and the war on poverty. I also know the Democratic minority did everthing to prevent Republican legislation. Since, 2006 when the Democrats won majorities in the House and Senate, it's the same story, only the names have been changed to protect the political.

It all reminds me of a definition of "politics" I once heard. "Poly" means "many" and "tics" are "blood sucking insects!"

Even now, as I listen to some of the front running Republican candidates, I can't get excited about any of them now. Both Rudy Giuliani and John McCain have less-than-ideal personal lives, and they both lean toward pro-choice positions.

I think Mitch Romney is a pretty good guy, but some of my friends who are former Mormons insist that Mormonism is straight from Satan.

Mike Huckabee, the former Baptist preacher, has a good platform – but something tells me that America would be reluctant to elect another former governor from Arkansas!

Anyway, this is the first time in my blog that I’m ASKING readers to comment back to me on WHO you think will be the best President in 2008, and WHY. So, if you’re out there, let me hear from you! You can even leave annonymous comments. And if I don't hear from anyone, I guess that means nobody is reading this anyway!

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Tomorrow, we’re wrapping up our series on GSPN—God’s Spiritual Playmaker Network. We’re talking about Reaching the Goal and I’m going to use football as an analogy of the Christian life. In my research this month about sports, I came across some pretty neat statistics about coming back from failure. Did you know that Babe Ruth struck out nearly twice as often as he hit a home run? Or that the average NBA player makes only 50% of his shots? Behind every major accomplishment is someone pushing through despite the odds.

When Jesus’ disciples were about to embark on their first mission trip, He gave them some good advice. If a certain village did not accept them or their message, they should “shake the dust off your feet” and move on to the next village (Luke 9:5). He was teaching them something we need to understand and practice today. Jesus knew the disciples faced the possibility of rejection in their new endeavor. The act of “shaking off the dust” was a symbolic way of saying, “I don’t want the failure and rejection associated with that event to remain part of me.” Jesus didn’t want them to lose heart. Instead, He told them to shake it off and move on to the next village. What a simple way to deal with failure: shake off the dust and move on.

When we allow defeat and disappointment to haunt us, we feel as if there is no hope. The Bible says in Proverbs 24:16, “For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.” Winston Churchill, the prime minister of England, had the tenacious personality of a bulldog. He once said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” Shake off the dust—keep moving ahead. Try, try again.

Friday, August 24, 2007

BRECKENRIDGE VILLAGE - Compassion in Action

The tranquil 70-acre campus of Breckenridge Village is located just west of Tyler, Texas among the tall trees and rolling hills of scenic East Texas. Campus facilities include residential houses, chapel, administrative building, candle workshop, greenhouse, swimming pool, physical fitness room, computer lab, RV park, indoor activity areas, and plenty of space for outdoor activities. Excellent facilities are tools which enable us to offer a wide range of programs that meet the individual needs of our residents.

One of the greatest blessings in my life is the ministry of Breckenridge Village (also called BVT for “Breckenridge Village Tyler”). About 16 years ago, Jean Breckenridge, a member in our church, approached me with the idea of using her property as a facility for adults with mild to moderate mental retardation. Her son, Jimmy, fit that profile and she was worried about what would happen to Jimmy after she died.
Realizing this was a huge challenge, our church studied the feasibility of operating such a ministry and determined that it would require a larger organization than just one church to make Jean’s dream a reality. Not long after we studied the issue, I just happened to meet Kevin Dinnin, Executive Director of the Baptist Child and Family Services Ministry in Texas. In our conversation, I mentioned Jean’s dream. Kevin’s eyes got larger as he told me that his agency was currently looking for property to build and operate that very kind of facility and ministry–it was one of those God things!
It was with great joy that I was able to introduce Kevin to Jean Breckenridge .. and as they say, “the rest is history!” Rather than history, however, it’s more like ‘His story!”
Hundreds of Texas Baptist Men (and their wives) descended on Tyler and built the initial facilities for Breckenridge.
For the past ten years or so, happy residents have enjoyed a beautiful facility where they can build relationships, live independently, learn more about God’s love, and learn a meaningful trade.
I love the residents of BVT! Although they are all adults, we often call them, “God’s forever children.” Many of them attend worship at Green Acres and I can always count on them laughing loud (and long) at anything remotely funny that I say (and sometimes my humor is VERY remote!). One Sunday morning, one of the guys decided he wanted to sing in the choir, and the next thing the leaders knew, he had disappeared. A few minutes later, he was seen entering the choir loft with a robe and stole on – he had found the robing room, robed up, and was ready to make a joyful noise!
Due to the cost of building materials and start-up expenses, BVT faced a huge financial challenge over the past couple of years. The initial $3.5Million debt was a chronic drain on the budget of the Baptist Child and Family services, which operates other care facilities and ministries all over Texas.
Two years ago, it seemed (from a CPA's perspective) that the prudent thing to do would be to sell BVT – with no guarantee that the next owner would operate a faith-based home for these "forever children."
But Kevin Dinnin, along with me and many others decided that if BVT went down, we would go with it! Some of the residents of BVT have no living parents – we are their family, and the possibility of having them moved into a state facility was beyond our level of acceptance.
This past spring God performed a miracle! Thanks to the donations from the Rogers Foundation in Tyler, and Green Acres church, and several other benefactors (including a Jewish family), the entire $3.5 Million was committed, and now BVT can move into the future without the millstone of a huge debt around its neck.
Charles Dodson, the Director of BVT, and Linda Taylor, the development director have worked tirelessly to help reach this goal.
I’m humbled and thankful to be a small part of the team of people who are providing a loving environment for these who may be the ones Jesus meant when He spoke of, “the least of these my brothers.”
I can rest easier at night knowing that Jimmy Breckenridge, and all of his friends will be cared for as long as they live.
NOTE: There are currently some vacancies at BVT. If you know of a family who would benefit from the ministry of Breckenridge Village you can call 903-596-8100 for more info. Or, you can leave a comment on this blog, and I’ll make sure BVT gets your request.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

HOSPITALS: Still blessed after all these years!

I guess I'm a little different from some of the mega-church pastors in that I still love to visit the hospitals every week. I say that because I’ve heard that some of the guys who lead large congregations like ours (we have almost 14,000 members) have gotten to a place where their schedule doesn’t include hospital visitation on a regular basis.

Of course, I’m not in town every week because of Mission Trips, vacation, or other meetings, but when I’m in town, Wednesday afternoon is my time to visit the two main hospitals in Tyler. (My main mentor, Jim Henry, the long-time pastor of FBC Orlando continued this practice throughout his ministry.)

For me, it’s not a burden, it’s a blessing. Today I visited a real hero, Joe Fritcher, who is one of the ever-shrinking group of Pearl Harbor survivors. It was an honor for me to visit him and pray for him. I felt as if I was in the presence of greatness. His humble acceptance of whatever God has in store for him blessed my heart beyond description.

I visited Ruth Overton, a precious lady who is nearing her home-going-to-heaven time. I was at her side when her husband unexpectedly committed suicide 15 years ago and since that time she has occupied a special place in my heart. Her daughter, Linda, is bearing the burden of caring for her mom, and her mildly retarded sister, Carol. As I hugged her today she asked me to hug her just a little longer. She is a brave lady who is carrying more than any person should have to bear alone. But as she smiled bravely at me, I knew that she knew that she wasn’t alone. Her strength amazed me.

I cried and prayed with Peggy Gipson and her family today. Her husband, Dale, suffered a terrible injury when the all-terrain vehicle he was riding fell into a creek due to the rain-saturated ground. His spinal chord was severed, and if he survives, there’s the possibility that he’ll be paralyzed. Peggy looked at me and told me she was ready for whatever happens – her tremendous faith reminded me that I am sometimes lacking in that kind of mustard seed faith.

There were others that I won’t mention. But for me, visiting these precious people gives me humility, strength, and faith. They blessed me more than I could have ever blessed them! Thank you, God for allowing me to be a part of their lives!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

When the Race is tough, our Father will carry us!

During this month, I've been comparing the Christian life to different sports. The best sports analogy is that of running a race.
Hebrews 12:1 says, “Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and th esin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

On August 3, 1992 in the Barcelona Summer Olympics, there was a British runner by the name of Derek Redmond who was competing in the 400 meter dash. In one of the semi-final heats, Derek took off with the other runners, but at about 100 yards into the race, he tore his right hamstring muscle and fell to the track in agony. But in an amazing display of courage, Derek rose and began to limp toward the finish line. Medics rushed toward him, but he waved them away. Then a heavy set man ran down from the stands and ran onto the track. It was Derek’s dad. At first his Derek didn’t recognize him, and pushed him away. Then when he recognized his as his dad, he fell into his arms crying and said, “I have to finish! I must finish the race!” As his dad took him into his arms he said, “Well, we’ve started everything together. We’ll finish it together.” And with few dry eyes in the stands and among the television audience, the two of them struggled together across the finish line to thunderous applause.

What a wonderful illustration of a father’s love for his child. God our Father is willing to do the same thing. If you have fallen and failed, God sees you in all of your brokenness and pain. He comes to help you. At first, you may not recognize Him, and you try to push Him away. But God is there. He has promised to carry you through the tough experiences of your life. God says, “You whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you.” (Isaiah 46: 3-4)

Monday, August 20, 2007

MAJOR IAN THOMAS (1915 - 2007)

On August 1, 2007, Major Ian Thomas left this mortal body and found himself in the presence of the God he served and loved for many decades. His book, The Saving Life of Christ, has had a tremendous impact on my life as well as thousands of other Christians. Those who knew him testify that His favorite saying was:
“Only Christ can live the Christian life – He never said we could; He always said He would!”

I want to honor his memory by posting an excerpt from his book:

The One who calls you to a life of righteousness is the One who by our consent lives that life of righteousness through you! The One who calls you to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, is the One who by your consent, goes into all the world and preaches the Gospel to every creature through you!

This is the divine genius that saves a man from the futility of self-effort. It relieves the Christian of the burden of tying to pull himself up by his own bootstraps! If it were not for this divine provision, the call to Christ would be a source of utter frustration, presenting the sorry spectacle of a sincere idealist, constantly thwarted by his own inadequacy.

If you will but trust Christ, not only for the death He died in order to redeem you, but also for the life that He lives and waits to live through you, the very next step you take will be a step taken in the very energy and power of God Himself. You will have begun to live a life which is essentially supernatural, yet still clothed with the common humanity of your physical body, and still worked out both in the big and the little things that inevitable make up the lot of a man who, though his heart may be with Christ in heaven, still has his two feet firmly planted on the earth.

You will have become totally dependent upon the life of Christ within you, and never before will you have been so independent, so emancipated from the pressure of your circumstances, so released at last from that self-distrust which has made you at one moment an arrogant, loud-mouth braggart, and the next moment the victim of your own self-pity ­ and, either way, always in bondage to the fear of other men's opinions.

You will be free from the tyranny of a defeated enemy within. You will be more than conqueror, for even death itself is conquered by His life. Christ through death destroyed "him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2:14). This indeed is victory!

You will be restored to your true humanity ­ to be the human vehicle of the divine life.

From: The Saving Life of Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House. ©1961.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Most straw polls indicate that a Democrat has a good chance of being elected President of the U.S. in 2008. And other opinion polls indicate that the next President might be Hillary Clinton. I’m not voting for Hillary, but how should Christians respond if our nation’s leader is a liberal Democrat? Read Peter’s words again found in I Peter 2:13-17: Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.
When Peter wrote these words, Nero was the Emperor. Maybe a little background will help you understand the radical nature of Peter’s admonition to submit to the government. The setting is Rome and the year is 44 A.D. Claudius was the Roman Emperor. His niece, named Agrippina seduced her uncle and he agreed to marry her and to adopt her son - he gave his adopted son the name NERO.
Agrippina was an ambitious woman who had poisoned her two previous husbands, including Nero’s biological father. Claudius already had a biological son named Brittanicus who was in line to the throne. But through the crafty scheming of Agrippina, she convinced Claudius to name Nero as the next in line to the throne - and he finally agreed.
Soon after, Agrippina arranged for Claudius to be poisoned to death. (After her first two husbands died of poisoning, you’d think the third husband wouldn’t eat the soup!) So at the tender age of 17 Nero became the fifth Roman Emperor. Nero earned a reputation as one of the most wicked, depraved rulers of history.
According to the Roman historian Seutonius, Nero and his mother then plotted the death of Brittanicus so that he couldn’t pose a threat to the throne. What goes around comes around, because by the time Nero was 21 he hated his mother. He made four attempts to kill her, three times with poison and once with a boat that was especially designed to break apart and sink. Agrippina avoided the poisons (she was the expert) and when the boat sank, she swam ashore. Soon after Nero sent an assassin who clubbed and stabbed her to death.
Nero fancied himself to be a great singer. He had little talent, but he loved to dress up in costumes and perform on stage in front of an audience who were forbidden to leave while he performed.
In the summer of 64 a terrible fire broke out in Rome. It raged out of control for nine days and two thirds of the city were destroyed. Although it was rumored that Nero set the fire, most historians agree that he wasn’t in the city when it started, but upon hearing about the fire he returned. The notion that Nero fiddled while Rome burned is a fable of history - fiddles or violins weren’t created until the 17th Century. But Tacitus reported “At the very time that Rome burned, he mounted his private stage and sang about the destruction of Troy.”
Because of the rumor that he has set the fire, Nero quickly looked for a group to blame. He found the perfect scapegoat in an obscure sect of people called Christians. At his direction, Believers were arrested and executed. Tacitus wrote: “Besides being put to death, they were made to serve as objects of amusement; they were covered with wild beasts’ skins and torn to death by dogs. Others were set on fire to serve to illuminate the night when daylight failed .... covered by inflammable matter, they were set on fire to serve as torches during the night. Or they were tied to stakes in Nero’s gardens while he drove around in his chariot, naked, indulging himself in his midnight revels, gloating over the dying agonies of his victims.”
After a few more years of perverse behavior, there were plots to remove Nero. In 68 the Senate voted to have him flogged to death. As they were coming to take him, Nero committed suicide. His last words were “Qualis artifex pereo.” (What an artist the world loses in me.) Nero was 31 years old when he was executed.
If Peter exhorted Christians in the first Century to submit to government authorities, and that authority was Nero, we shouldn’t have any trouble submitting to our government if it is led by Hillary, Obama, or even a Mormon!

Friday, August 17, 2007

God WILL Provide!

I have always been fascinated by religious art. When I was a child I usually sat with my mother in church. My dad hung out with the ushers (I thought they were “hushers” for a long time because that’s what he was always saying to me!). As I sat beside my mother I would I would thumb through her Bible because there were reproductions of famous religious art in various sections. This was before I could read, so I was fascinated with the pictures. I learned the heart of several Bible stories from the pictures.
In more recent years, I took a study leave and traveled to Europe to view many of the best examples of Renaissance Art in the world. I wrote an essay on the impact of religious art during the Renaissance Period.

If you have trouble sleeping, you can read the full study leave report at this link:

One of my favorite Renaissance artists was the Italian painter, Caravaggio. His ingenious use of color and light make his paintings realistic. One of my favorites is the painting above called “The Sacrifice of Isaac.” It hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Caravaggio painted it in 1603 for Cardinal Maffeo Barberini who later became Pope Urban VIII.
Caravaggio freezes the action of Abraham as he is preparing to slit Isaac’s throat. The angel can be seen grabbing Abraham’s arm and preventing the sacrifice. With his left hand, the angel points to the substitute ram just to the right of Isaac’s head. Light directs the viewer to scan the scene from left to right as you see the angel’s shoulder and then the questioning face of Abraham and then the terrified face of Isaac, and finally the submissive ram.
You probably know the story. God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son (from Sarah). As they approached Mt. Moriah, Isaac asked, “Father, where is the ram for the sacrifice?” Abraham said, “God will provide a ram.” Abraham was such a man of faith that, according to Hebrews 11, he believed that even if he killed Isaac, God would raise him from the dead. At just the right time, God intervened and provided a substitute for Isaac. Abraham called God, “Jehovahjireh” which means, “God will provide.”
What a glorious picture of what God has done for us. We deserve to die for our sins, but at just the right time, God provided a sacrifice for us – His only Son. He went to a hill near Mt. Moriah, and took my place
As the words from my favorite hymn say:

Guily vile and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
Full atonement, can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!”

Look at the picture above again, and rejoice that God is Jehovahjireh! He will provide!

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Several months ago, I received an email from a friend with a link to print out a Blockbuster Video coupon good for 2 movie rentals, a tub of popcorn, and two 20 oz. cokes. Wow! That sounded like such a good deal, that I printed out the coupon and even sent it on to another friend.
But it was a hoax. According to Blockbuster officials, the coupon was valid at one time but only for specific locations and only for a select number of customers who had been participating in an online affiliate program with Blockbuster. The coupon was never issued on a mass basis and not intended to be duplicated and used by anyone. I never tried to use mine, but thousands of people have tried to use the coupon only to discover that it was worthless.
How can that be? If you read it in an email, or on the internet, it’s GOT to be true, right? If you believe that I have some beachfront property in Nebraska I’d like to sell you.
This is just another example of how e-rumors spread like wildfire. I don’t really have any “pet peeves” (I have a pet, but she’s a Schnauzer),

But I do have a STRONG CONVICTION that Christians should be careful about forwarding emails without authenticating the truth contained in them.

Non-believers often think Christians are a bunch of crazies anyway, and when we continually pass on sensational fiction as truth, we only verify their opinions about us. As recently as last year I received a revived copy of the worst e-rumor in history: the warning that atheist Madlynn Murry O’Hair was attempting to get all religious broadcasting off the air. Before the internet, this rumor spread through the printed page, (usually copied and passed out in a Sunday School class) and the advent of the internet has given it new life. (with the addition of trying to get CBS’s “Touched by an Angel” off television). This chain-letter/email urged Christians to write to the FCC and register their opposition to the measure.
The truth: There was a petition (RM -2493) submitted to the FCC by two men named Lansman and Milam (O’Hair had nothing to do with it). It was rejected by the FCC on August 1, 1975. But even after the death of O’Hair, the rumor continues to live. Over the past 30 years, the FCC has had to hire full-time personnel to deal with the hundreds of thousands of letters that Christians continue to send in on this non-existent issue. How much money have Christians spent fighting this and other phantom crusades? Only God knows.
I’ve received other mythical email stories about George Bush leading a campaign worker to Christ after the election in 2000; new laws that supposedly went into effect in Texas on July 1; Proctor and Gamble promoting Satanism; J.K. Rowling (author of Harry Potter series) being an avowed Satanist; … and the list goes on.
Before you pass on an email offer that sounds too good to be true; or too bad to ignore, remember the admonition of scripture found in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
How can you verify e-rumors? Add these sites to you favorites: . When you receive a forward that sounds a little fishy, visit these sites first before passing it on to anyone else!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


One of the greatest joys of being a pastor is hearing first-hand how God is moving in the lives of the individuals and families in our church. During August I’m doing a special series entitled, “The Gosple According to GSPN.” (God’s Spiritual Playmaker Network). Last Sunday I spoke about fishing. Mandi gave me permission to share this delightful “fishing story” with you.

Dear Bro. David,
Sunday morning we brought our almost five year old son into to "big church" because my husband remembered the GSPN series you were doing. (We had just gotten back into town late Sat. from L.A., "lower Alabama...a.k.a Gulf Shores", after a week long family vacation). Trent loved the fishing theme, and really seemed to pay attention throughout the whole service - so much so that the lady sitting next to my husband stopped Trent and told him how proud she was of him for listening! Yesterday during lunch, Trent, his older brother and I were talking about the sermon and what we learned. I asked them if you were just talking about fishing for fish, and Trent said "no!" that you were also talking about "fishing for men." We then began to discuss why we should fish for men and how we all have a "sin problem" and that the only thing that can cure our problem is the blood of Jesus. Well that was that...or so I thought. Last night before bed, Trent came in and told me that he had just asked Jesus into his heart. I was shocked. I asked him what he prayed and he said that he told Jesus that he was sorry for acting ugly to Mommy (he had gotten into some trouble earlier) and that he had a sin problem and he wanted Him to come into his heart. I couldn't believe it. We went in and he told his daddy what he had just done, and the words that then followed floored me...he told his daddy that now when God looks at him, He only sees Jesus! Wow.
We wanted to share this story with you and let you know we are so grateful for your willingness to follow the Spirit's lead...being open to the Spirit's creativity. Because of your willingness, the Lord has one more fish in His net! We are so humbled and thrilled at His goodness and the simiplicity of it all! Thank you Jesus....Thank you Bro. David.
Mandi & Brian Adams

That’s just one of the reasons why serving as a pastor is a JOY!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Nobody likes to admit that they’re a hypocrite, but I am one. I am a seafood hypocrite. I have had a strong aversion to ordering seafood anywhere except when I’m near the coast. Being in Destin this week, I’ve been enjoying seafood every evening. Last night I enjoyed a delicious Tuna Steak, the night before that it was filet of Halibut. (I ate it “just for the halibut!”)
Tonight I enjoyed the all-you-can-eat Snow Crab Legs at Elmo’s Seafood Restaurant on highway 30A. My son-in-law, Jason Holman, M.D., holds the record there (19 sections at one sitting). I didn’t threaten his record tonight, but I did manage to go through about eight sections. Yum. Yum. I love tuna, halibut, and snow crabs!
So why am I a hypocrite? Because the halibut was from Alaska, the Tuna was caught off the coast of North Carolina, and the Snow Crabs were from the waters near Alaska. Why is it that I’ll order seafood that has been flown in thousands of miles when I’m at the beach, but not in Tyler? I dunno. Maybe it just TASTES better here at the beach.
There are several really good restaurants in Tyler where I’m sure the seafood is as fresh there as it is here in Destin. My friend, Ken Hunnicutt, used to joke when we were eating at restaurants in Tyler, “you can order the fish here, because they fly it in fresh every day from Abilene!”
I know in my mind that fish is much healthier for me than beef, but my seafood hypocrisy has prevented me from eating more fish when I’m at home. The exception to my seafood hypocrisy has been enjoying fried catfish in Texas – but that’s not really SEAfood is it? I think it’s more like PONDfood or something.
I’ve come to realize that my seafood hypocrisy is a blind spot in my life that has prevented me from eating healthier. I really believed that seafood HAD to be fresher at the beach … but that just isn’t necessarily the truth. I’ve seen the light.
As followers of Jesus, I believe we should constantly be examining our lives to see if there are any areas where improvement is needed. After being subjected to protracted religious scrutiny by some of the members of the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul fires this salvo toward the end of his second letter, “Examine yourselves to see if you be in the faith. Prove your own selves.” (2Cor13:5). Regular self-examinations are more important that regular health examinations.
If this was a blind spot in my life, I probably have several others of a more serious nature. I’ll ask the Holy Spirit to shine His spotlight and help me find them as well. Meanwhile, I’ll see you at the Red Lobster back in Tyler!

Monday, August 13, 2007



Most of us preacher-types have encountered guys who say something like, “I don’t think you have to attend church to worship. I can worship God just as well on the golf course.” Can you really worship God on the golf course? Well, I hear the name of God and Jesus invoked quite often when I’m playing with guys who don’t know who I am!
I was playing with a guy several years ago who didn’t know (yet) that I was a pastor. He kept saying, “Jesus Christ!” whenever he missed a putt (which was often). Finally, I had enough. He had just uttered, “Jesus Christ!” and I looked up to the sky and shouted, “WHERE?” He looked at me like I was crazy, and I said, “Jesus said He would come back some day, do you see Him?” He didn’t use the Lord’s name again that round … but his putting didn’t improve either.
Folks in our church probably get tired of hearing me say that “I grew up in LA (lower Alabama).” But it usually gets a laugh from the new folks, and I like to get people laughing when I’m teaching. While their mouths are open laughing, I try to stick some truth in there for them to chew on.
So, when I grew up in LA, I played every kind of sport there was (and we made up some of our own). I can’t even remember hearing about golf before I was in high school, and there wasn’t a golf course in our little town. I never really had the opportunity to start playing golf until until I was in college and seminary in the 70’s.
At Southern Seminary in Louisville, there were no classes on Monday (a throwback to the time when pastors had to ride the train back from their churches). My buddy, Mike Northcutt and I started playing golf on Mondays at Crescent Hill Golf Course, a short little 9 hole municipal course where you could play all day for $4.
It was ugly. Real ugly. Of course, we didn’t take lessons. We were both pretty good at all other sports, so we thought we could figure this game out. After all, nobody was throwing the ball at you, it was sitting there on the tee! You didn’t have to run or catch the ball .. how hard could that be? Pretty hard. If we had finished every hole and kept score, I’m certain neither one of us would have broken 60 for nine holes that first year. But we stuck with it, and the time came when we were occasionally making scores on a hole that actually had names like “double bogey” or “bogey.” A par was reason for celebrating and a birdie was as rare as a pork chop at a Hebrew picnic.
That started my love/hate relationship with golf that has lasted for the past 32 years. Sometimes it’s still ugly. But for those of you who play golf, you’ll understand it when I say that there is nothing quite like the feeling when you nail a drive on the sweet spot and the ball flies high, far, and straight. That’s what keeps me coming back for more … that and the fellowship with the guys who play golf. I used to play with one old gentleman who often made poor shots, but he would smile and say, "I'm just thankful to be on the topside of the grass."
Teeing off early in the morning with the sun reflecting on the dew like a million sunrises can be a religious experience in itself. Even the most hardened, non-religious golfers often pause and stand in awe at the beauty of God’s Creation. Of course you can worship God on the golf course. You can worship God anywhere.
But should a person substitute worshipping on the golf course (or at the lake, ballpark, or the flea market) for gathering with God’s people in corporate worship? Not according to Hebrews 10:22-25: “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Seeing the beauty of God’s creation on a golf course, or on a mountain top, or seashore stimulates the wonder to ask the question, “WHO made all this?” The only place where that question can be answered is in God’s Word, and God's Word is taught to God's people in God's house. See you in amen corner, Sunday!

Sunday, August 12, 2007



It’s Sunday afternoon. After preaching three times, I packed my bag and went to the Tyler Airport and got on a Continental Express turbo-prop bound for IAH. As I write this I’m on a Continental ERJ Jet cruising at 550kts level at FL330 toward Ft. Walton Beach where I will spend a week’s vacation in one of my favorite spots – Destin. You might say I’m “pre-Destined” at this moment!
Folks often ask me if I believe in predestination. Of course I do! But as I understand the wonderful doctrine of predestination, it’s NOT a predetermined plan by which God has decided to send some people to hell and take others to heaven.
To me, the key predestination verse in the Bible is Romans 8:29. Have you ever noticed that verses beside “great verses” often get overlooked? You can quote John 3:16 to me, but can you quote John 3:15? Romans 8:29 has the unfortunate distinction of following one of the BIGGIE verses, Romans 8:28.
The promise contained in Romans 8:28 is to those who love God and to “the called according to His purpose.” So what IS God’s PURPOSE for me and you? It’s found in Romans 8:29: “Those He foreknew, He also PREDESTINED to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that he (Jesus) might be the firstborn of many brothers.”
It seems to me that predestination doesn’t address who will or won’t be saved – instead it tells us will happen to those of us who are already saved. Once we are a member of God’s family, He has already predetermined our DESTINATION – that we will become more and more like Jesus. If you’re looking for a 50cent word, that’s the process of SANCTIFICATION. God starts the process when we’re saved and He doesn’t finish with us until the Day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6).
Here’s how I understand it in my simple mind. It’s like when I boarded that Continental Express flight in Tyler this afternoon. I had a choice about whether or not to get on the aircraft, but once I got on board the aircraft, I didn’t have a choice about the destination – the plane was going to Houston.
I believe that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph1:3), but I also believe He gives us a choice in the matter. I believe God wants us to choose to love Him and trust Him. Love that is coerced isn’t really love.
I know …. There’s NOTHING I can do to be saved – it’s ALL God and nothing of me. So I’m okay in saying that I didn’t buy my ticket, Jesus paid it all. And I didn’t even drive myself to the airport, the Father brought me (John 6:44), and I didn’t even walk on the airplane myself, the Holy Spirit carried me.
Predestination isn't the same thing as Calvinism. There is a ongoing conversation in the Southern Baptist Convention about the role of Calvinism (Reformed Theology is the preferred label for those who embrace it). There is no doubt that Reformed Theology was one of the main streams that produced the Southern Baptist River. I don’t know too many FIVE POINT CALVINISTS. (google Calvinsim and TULIP for more info). Most of the ones I know are 3 or 3.5 or 3.798 point Calvinsists!
However, within the past year I have personally seen the introduction of hard-line Calvinism divide and wound apparently stable congregations. I’m grieved by that. We need to keep this issue within the boundaries of love. Calvin? I’d like to put Herschel Hobbs beside him if I could - and then we'd have our own Calvin and Hobbs dialogue!

Saturday, August 11, 2007


During my current teaching series, "The Gospel According to GSPN" I brought a message on "fishing tips for the Master." I didn't have room/time to include this parable. I wrote this parable several years ago based upon something I read in "Youth Specialties" and from a message by Darrell Robinson.
Once there was a group of people called the Fishing Society. They gathered every week to talk about the importance of fishing but they never fished. They said they wanted fish, so they decided to build a big new aquarium. They pooled their money (no pun intended) and built a sparkling new meeting hall they named “The Aquarium Center.” They employed a scholar to teach them from the Fishing Manual. Each week they gathered in their beautiful building and recited portions of the Fishing Manual. Their fishing scholar explained some of the mysteries of the Fishing Manual. The meetings ended with the scholar dramatically casting a net in the large tank in the center of the Aquarium Center. The members were all hopeful that some fish would be caught. None were ever caught, of course, because there were no fish in the tank.
This led to disagreement among the members of the Fishing Society. Why didn’t fish come to their beautiful aquarium center? Some said, specialization was the answer so they built smaller tanks specially designed for fish of all ages and sizes. Still, no fish. Some blamed the problem on the lack of attendance of members of the Fishing Society. So, they conducted week-long fishing crusades. They constantly talked about new and better methods of fishing. They bought some of the finest fishing equipment on the market. The one thing they didn’t do, however, was to fish.
They even elected numerous committees to operate the Fishing Society more efficiently. One group kept busy by regulating the water in the Aquarium. Others worked to keep the glass walls polished; others sorted and arranged the expensive fishing gear.
One young man in their group had a radical idea. He said if fish were to be caught, they would have to go out to the ocean and lakes and catch them. Some people were alarmed at such a suggestion. The young man actually went out and tried fishing. To everyone’s amazement, he came back with a couple of fine fish. He was such a sensation he was given the title “Doctor of Fishology” and started a school to teach other aspiring fishermen. All of this consumed so much time he had no time for fishing himself.
Then the Fishing Society sent a few brave professional fishermen to live a few blocks from the water. These were called “fishinaries.” These foreign fishinaries sent back pictures of themselves standing by the water holding their catches. They sometimes returned to the Aquarium Center and gave power point presentations of them actually catching fish. This excited the members but only for a few minutes.
Over the years, some members of the Fishing Society forgot about fishing, there was plenty to do without worrying about that. Some even suggested they change the name of their group from the Fishing Society to just “The Society.” After all, they didn’t want to offend the fish.
One day a bearded stranger appeared at their weekly meeting. This longhaired, sandaled man claimed to be the Master Fisherman. He extended hands to appeal to the fishermen to follow him out to where the fish were. Some noticed there were ugly scars in His palms, probably from fishing. He had the gall to say He was the One who started the Fishing Society. Many angrily disagreed, they had worked hard and given their money to build up their society. As the Stranger turned to leave, His final comment made some of the respectable members of the Society so angry that they stopped up their ears. He said, “If you never try to catch fish – you have no right to call yourself a fisherman. If you aren’t fishing – you aren’t following me.”
The members of the Fishing Society asked the bearded young man to leave and take his radical teaching somewhere else. After their initial discomfort, the members of the Fishing Society resumed their busy activity of maintaining their beautiful hall. As they polished away and consulted their Fishing Manual, they were glad their beautiful hall had not been built in vain, after all, it made them feel good about themselves.


Friday, August 10, 2007

I got the name of this blog from an incident I had as a young pastor in South Alabama. We had a wonderful man in our church who would qualify for 95% of Jeff Foxworthy's redneck definitions. He was rough around the edges, but he had a good heart. I liked him because he liked me! He was always getting his words and expressions mixed up. He would say things like, "You can lead a horse to water, but don't look that gift horse in the mouth." Or "About the time you get out on a limb... somebody will pull the rug out from under you." And he spoke with such a pronounced drawl that even other rednecks had to play close attention. (We spoke in such a deep south dialect that when we took English in school, we could have called it English as a second language!) One day he was leaving church after I preached and he said, "David, you're the best pasture we've ever had!" I had to listen twice to make sure he hadn't just slurred "pastor." But then he clarified it by saying, "Yep, if I had a pasture like you on my farm, I could feed all my cattle in that one pasture." So I just said, "Thanks!" I've never forgotten that encounter ... and having been in the pasture as a pastor for 30 years, I like the analogy. Jesus said, "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and FIND PASTURE." (Jn 10:9) Life is good in the pasture of the Good Shepherd. Over the next few days, I'll be sharing my heart about things I observe from the pasture. But maybe you should go to bed now because it might be "pasture bedtime."