Thursday, October 27, 2005

Have I told you about my older boys?

I am blessed to be the Dad to two young men who will make an impact on the world. Let me tell you about them.

Jim Bob is my oldest. He's 21. That's not hard to remember because he lacks one week being exactly 20 years younger than his Dad. Having a child when you're 20 is challenging but I'm glad I have Jim Bob.

Where'd his name come from? I grew up with the Waltons on TV. Remember John Boy, Elizabeth, and Jim Bob? I am James Robert and I go by Bob. I thought (when I was just 12 or so) that having a son and naming him James Robert, Jr. would be cool. So I did.

When he started school he started going by James because that's what the teachers always called him...that's what was on their roll. Then he came back to Jim Bob but then moved on to just Jim. Now he's Jim Bob again. I think the name is great. And I think the young man is great.

He attends the University of Central Arkansas and is in his fourth year working toward a double major in music and theater. He wants to change the way high school choirs function. He writes music, arranges music, and leads a male quartet. He performs in operas and other theatrical productions. He's quite a guy and I love him. He'll impact the world by touching the lives of teenage boys and girls who are trying to decide who they want to be.

Caleb just turned 19. He's a freshman at Arkansas Tech University and wants to be a high school football coach. I think he'll be good at it. He's been playing on a team since he was in 5th grade and in the backyard as long as I can remember. He was always a little taller and faster than the other kids so he started out at tailback and set all sorts of rushing records in the Boys and Girls Club league. He aspired to play in the NFL.

As the other kids started growing and catching up to Caleb, and as he started filling out, he told me that he didn't think he'd be playing on Sundays. A bit of reality in the midst of a child's dreams. His mind for football matches his ability. He'll be a great coach because he wants to help teenagers. He had great coaches like Coach Bobby and Coach Wear to be his examples. He even has Coach Wear's phone number in his cell phone memory. He will impact kids like Coach Wear has impacted him.

I'm not sure if I contributed "Caleb" and his mother contributed his middle name, "Tanner," or if it was the other way around. That was 19 years ago! "Caleb" is the name of a person of great integrity and faith in the Bible - I pray those qualities for my son. "Tanner" became the nickname "TanTan" but he's long since outgrown that. I love him and look forward to his impact on the lives of teenagers.

I can see a little of their Dad in both my boys. More importantly, I can see a little of their Heavenly Father in them.

Father, bless my boys and guide them in your ways. Help them impact the world and help them impact eternity.

Good night, Jim Bob. Good night, TanTan.

Seven Minutes

Do you know what a "noisy toothbrush" is? It's the battery-operated toothbrush that people of all ages can buy at Wal-Mart or most other retail outlets. Are we a lazy people or what? Has moving our arms ever so slightly become grueling? Can we not stand to operate a manual toothbrush two or three times a day?

So we bought "noisy toothbrushes" tonight. Not me. Just my wife and little boy. His is shaped like a Hot Wheels car. Maybe he'll like brushing his teeth now. He's almost five and not too interested in tooth and gum health.

The dentist suggested Deana get one. I guess that's a good idea; I really don't want all her teeth falling out. Although I would love her just the same. I just might not kiss her as much. We'd probably eat lots more mashed potatoes.

I don't remember the source but I do remember reading an article suggesting a person should brush their teeth for at least seven minutes. That's a long time. Gather four of the world's best half-milers and they could run a 2-mile relay in less time. I can shave and shower in about seven minutes when I wake up late or hit the snooze button too many times. Nothing cooked in the microwave takes seven minutes!

High school boys can eat all the food on their lunchroom tray and what they can swipe from someone else's in less than seven minutes. I knew Deana was the one for me in about seven minutes.

You can drive 8 1/6 miles down I-40 at 70 mph in seven minutes. You could cook seven batches of minute rice in seven minutes, couldn't you? I've preached sermons just barely longer than seven minutes.

Try praying for seven minutes! I participated (and later led) in a Bible study called MasterLife. Part of the course was to pray for an hour. Wow! After seven minutes you're looking around the room praying for things you see in the pictures on the walls. You begin to pray that God would impress upon your mind something to pray about. I think I have figured out the answer to one of the great theological questions of all time. How long is eternity? Seven minutes.

Do you know why weddings are so long? It's not the preacher. All the preacher really needs to say takes about seven minutes! It's all the other stuff that drags it out. Six bridesmaids parading slowly down the aisle. A mama trying to convince the flower girl to come all the way to the front without crying. Three solos that may or may not be a close rendition to the original.

So I tried brushing my teeth for seven minutes. I rubbed a hole in my lower gums. Won't do that again.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


I don't know if it's me or if it's them. I try to give them messages that will make a difference but it doesn't seem to be making a difference. I joke about being middle aged but I'm really not there yet. But a characteristic of middle-age is the quest for significance. The question "Am I making a diffference?" is prominent.

That's me. Or is it them? This is frustrating. More than that, it's distracting. I should be casting a vision, inspiring excellence, motivating the masses. Is it me? Am I unable to cast or inspire or motivate? Or is it them? Are they immune to vision, excellence, and movement.

Are other pastor's telling the truth? Are their churches growing, going, and doing? Am I making too much of this? The emotional drain is intense. Maybe I have too much to do. Maybe I'm expecting too much. Maybe I'm ineffective.

I can't think of one person who is excited about being there.

I'm dry. Lord, rain down on me. Flood me with your Spirit. Refresh me. Revive me.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


It's been one week since I sunburned at the Air Show. As is typical with such things and me, I began peeling a few days ago. I rarely tan. It's just burn and peel, burn and peel, etc.

So the affect of the sun on my skin in regard to tanning is minimal at best but mostly non-existent. Some people have a very good response to the sun: tan, even dark tan. I don't aspire to be a Coppertone Girl or anything like that but something besides WHITE legs would be good during the summer.

I hope the Son has a greater impact on my life than the sun has on my skin. What really matters lies well below the skin anyway. It's your heart. Does the Son of God have control of your heart?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


I had to look closely. What I thought I saw disturbed me. As I drove along I-40 there was a billboard on the opposite side of the road. I could clearly see the beer can and the fact that there were people on the billboard. But what really caught my eye was something behind the pictures; almost a watermark.

So I stared intently as I drove closer and closer. My contacts are really old and don't work so good anymore. Focusing is sometimes slow; sometimes impossible. But I was able to focus on the billboard and what I saw disappointed me.

The initials of the beer are BL; so are mine. The watermark on the advertisement was BL.

That really bothers me. Scripture instructs Christians to be in the world to influence it for Christ but not to be of the world (meaning, influenced by it). We are also to avoid all appearance of evil.

I have a personal conviction that this means I should not order a non-alcoholic drink that would be served in a glass similar to the alcoholic versions because someone might think I'm drinking an alcoholic beverage. By the way, I believe it is a sin to drink alcoholic beverages.

Here's another one: I should avoid looking at the rack of calendars on the bookstore if the rack contains calendars of bikini-clad women. I don't want people to think I was looking at those instead of the landscape calendars.

Or what about this: I believe that gambling is a sin because it is not good stewardship (using wisely all that God gives you). So I won't watch the Texas Hold 'Em touraments or learn the specifics of the game even though I enjoy playing cards and even think Poker is a challenging game. But I don't want to give the impression that I gamble or think it is OK.

So, I guess I need to change my name so that my initials won't be associated with beer. Or, better yet, I'll just live in a way that people think of Christ when they see those initials rather than thinking of beer. It's up to me to honor God's name with my name.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

UFOs, Jet Trucks, Sun, and JJ

It was about this time last year.  Deana and I were making our usual trip to town after church on Sunday night.  There was still about an hour of daylight left and the sky was partly cloudy.  Dropping out of the clouds was what I thought was an airplane.  Living near the airport, we see this every day.  But with a closer look, this didn’t look like a commercial jet or ever the C130s that trek the sky from the local Air Force base.

UFO?  Maybe.  Really it was a B2 Stealth bomber.  The base was hosting an Air Show that weekend and this participant was headed to his home base.  Very impressive.  If you’ve never seen the Stealth, it’s worth a trip to an Air Force Air Show.

Today was the Air Show comes around again so we loaded up and went to it.  I’m not a military or air flight enthusiast, but I enjoyed the day.  Well, except for the sore feet and legs and the excessive sun on my face and bald spot.

We walked through a transport plane large enough to hold six tour busses or 105 Ford Mustangs.  The seating was just a bench along the perimeter.  That must be really uncomfortable on long flights.

We walked through a refueling plane.  It had a “cockpit” in the rear for the guys who steer the fueling nozzle to the receiving plane.

Riley’s favorite was the J J the Jet Plane exhibit.

The B2 was there along with almost every kind of plane the Air Force uses.  And we saw a demonstration of all of them.  The freestyle demonstrations were pretty impressive.  But the diesel truck (18-wheeler type) with the jet engine mounted on the back was over the top.  The driver holds the land speed record at 326 mph.

Have you ever spent three or four hours on the concrete tarmac of an airstrip?  Good thing it was cool today.  There aren’t many trees out there.  The best shade is from the big and tall guy behind you.

But you have to go to an Air Show.  Just be sure to take the sunscreen, great walking shoes, and patience.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Your Friend, Grady Money

This was told by Dr. Bruce Chesser at a Pastors Breakfast.

All pastors have a group of people we call on to pray.  After a while we learn the person’s pattern in praying.  So at the end of one service Dr. Chesser called on Grady Money to say the closing prayer.

Grady was an older gentleman know for his praying.  He began as he always did thanking God for the day and the services.  Then he thanked God for the message and prayed he hoped we would all learn from it.  Next he prayed for the missionaries around the world: for their safety and effectiveness.  At last he prayed thanking God for the food we would all have for lunch when we got home.

Most people close their prayers with the familiar words, “In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”  That was Grady’s typical ending but for some reason his thoughts locked up on him and he couldn’t remember those words.  He had prayed a beautiful prayer in his typical pattern but when he brought her in for a landing he couldn’t get the landing gear to come down.  He couldn’t think of those words so he did the only thing he knew to do.

Instead of landing that prayer he took her up for another round.  He thanked God for the day and the services.  He thanked God for the message and prayed he hoped we would all learn from it.  He took us overseas and prayed for the missionaries.

By this time Dr. Chesser said even he was looking around.  He looked to the pulpit where Grady was praying.  Grady’s eyes were closed and he was praying hard…and probably trying to remember how to close the prayer.

He prayed for our food and came to the point of landing that prayer a second time.  There was a long silence but no, “In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”  After what seemed like eternity but couldn’t have been more than ten seconds, Grady took her up again.  Like a nervous pilot bailing out of a landing just prior to touching down with the hopes that the next time around would be better.

Dr. Chesser saw that nobody except Grady Money had their eyes closed.  Everyone was looking around wondering what was happening.  He had prayed the exact same prayer twice and was starting it again.  Grady’s hands were locked onto the pulpit, his knuckles turning white.

He prayed for the day and the services, the message and the missionaries, and finally the food.  The entire congregation waited to see what he would say next.

Another long silence.  Surely nobody would blurt out, “In Jesus’ name I pray.”  But maybe somebody would.  The silence lingered.  Just when you thought he would take her up for a fourth round, he said….

“Your friend, Grady Money.”

Humility and How I Attained It

Twenty-one preachers in the same room. A little scary, huh? It was the weekly breakfast for local pastors. I have another job so I seldom get to go. In fact, this was my first time. I found a couple of familiar faces and sat down at their table to eat my biscuits and gravy, sausage and bacon, scrambled and fried eggs, coffee and juice.

Preachers always have to take a little of everything at a potluck so as not to offend any dear lady in the church who brought her prized recipe. I’m not sure who cooked our breakfast but it wasn’t the ladies from the church. Still, I had a little of everything.

Speaking of potluck dinners, did you know the Marriage Supper of the Lamb will be potluck? At least that what us Baptists believe!

I spent a few years traveling the state singing in a Southern Gospel quartet. It’s hard to get five or six guys together often enough to maintain a busy schedule so we eventually became a trio singing with soundtracks. (The extra numbers in the quartet were the musicians.)

By the time we had spent a few years going from church to church (most of which would serve some form of potluck after we sang) we thought it would be a good idea to put together a cookbook using recipes gathered from the cooks at these churches. It was a great idea…we just never did it.

So twenty-one preachers are in the dining room eating breakfast and someone says we ought to share humorous stories. What? We don’t have all day! I didn’t say it out loud but I thought it real hard. I could tell what was coming next. Twenty-one preachers would each tell a funny story (we all think we are good storytellers) and then we’d go around again trying to “one up” the last story. This could go on for a while.

I’ll relate two stories: one of my own and one from Dr. Bruce Chesser.

One of the dates for our quartet was at the church where I was serving as music director. That position used to be called song leader but now it’s called minister of music or worship pastor. I was just the music director. And I managed to have our quartet booked for a singing, complete with potluck!

I am by no means a prolific songwriter (nor blog-writer) but we did sing a few songs I had written. The two verses were cleverly crafted if I say so myself. Here’s the first verse:
Blind and by the wayside, cast out from society,
The old man had to beg to live, the world he could not see.
Jesus sent him to a pool there to wash his eyes.
He came forth in victory much to the world’s surprise.

And the second verse closely following the first:
One day when he passed my way, Jesus found me there,
Bound by this world’s pleasures and lying in despair.
Jesus sent me to the cross there to save my soul.
Because of that one glorious day I’ll let the whole world know.

The clever part of this was the way the third lines in each verse mirrored each other. I usually didn’t sing the verses; our fantastic lead singer did. And he did great. But we now had a new lead singer and somehow the group decided I should sing the first verse and the new lead singer would take the second verse.

So I’m a little nervous wanting to get the words right in front of my own church and this would be the first time to perform the song this way.

I’m singing along pretty good until I get to the third line of my verse. Then something in my head snapped. My ability to think a coherent thought left me. Oh, I looked normal but I couldn’t talk or sing normal. Here’s what I should have said: “Jesus sent him to a pool there to wash his eyes.” But, no, that’s not what came out. Instead, I sang, “Jesus sent him to the pool there to cross his eyes.”

I was so worried about singing the wrong line that I just sang both lines at the same time. I immediately came to my senses no sooner than the words left my mouth. I couldn’t sing another word. I was stunned. Shocked. Not yet embarrassed but that would soon follow.

Our pianist was always the comedian and he couldn’t let it go. “Did he say, ‘Cross his eyes’?”

Had I kept singing I might have been able to make everyone think they just heard it wrong. But I had to stop and draw attention to the error. I always tried to be the professional even though we were just a local group. I admired the quartets that traveled the country singing four or five times a week. I wanted so much to be like them. But, nooooo, I have to sing, “There to cross his eyes.”

And I did it in front of people I would have to face again next Sunday. And the next.

We survived. I was embarrassed. Everyone laughed for several minutes. Then they made us start over. I got it right the next time.

So I’m thinking I made it past this moment. No. The pianist had brought his video camera. We came to his house to practice the next week and he gathers us in the den to “see a video of a song I want us to learn.” It was the video of our concert queued the that moment. We watched it. They laughed. He rewound it. We watched it. They laughed. Over and over again.

The other story from the breakfast is the next entry in the blog. It’s called “Grady Money.”

Not much like Christ

"Christian" is a term first used to describe a group of believers in Antioch. It was a term of derision: "You little Christs! Ha! Fools, all of you!" Something like that. But the religious slur has become a badge of honor for many who have followed Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord over the two millenia since he lived and died. And rose again.

To be a Christian is to be like Jesus. We should love like Jesus. We should act like Jesus. We should talk like Jesus. We should care about others' needs like Jesus. We should seek to include everyone like Jesus.

The Bible teaches that Jesus' death on the cross was a vicarious sacrifice: he died in our places, for our sins, taking upon himself our punishment. Some say that he died only for those who would actually believe in him and accept him. I think the Bible is pretty clear on this point: Jesus died for everyone; God extends the offer of salvation to everyone by his grace. None of us deserve it but he freely offers it.

So everyone is invited to come to Christ. It's true that most people alive today (or who have ever lived) have rejected the invitation. The result of such a decision is that the person rejecting Christ determines for himself his eternal destination: separation from God in a place called Hell. Jesus died for that person's sins just like he died for mine. Jesus wants that person to accept the grace gift of salvation. The offer stands for anyone who will accept it.

But not everyone will accept it. God's love, however, causes him to extend the offer anyway - even if the person will not accept it.

The Bible is also clear that there is only one way to spend eternity in the presence of God in a place called Heaven: Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me."

While the offer is universal, salvation is not. The idea that everyone will somehow be saved in the end is simply not what the Bible says. The person who rejects Christ will not see Heaven. No matter how good they were or how many good things they did. It's not about that; it's about accepting or rejecting Christ as Savior and Lord. If someone is excluded from Heaven it is because of a choice they made, not a choice God made. God made the choice to offer salvation to everyone through the death of Jesus on the cross. He choose to offer it with the condition that salvation must be actively accepted.

Christians are to be like Jesus. One of the many things this means is that it was wrong for a church group to exclude some church members from a function that was intended for a specific group but where some from outside the group were still invited. One person outside the group was invited; another person with similar credentials was excluded because he was outside the target group.

I'm glad God chose to offer salvation to everyone, including me. I'm also glad that I have chosen to accept his grace gift. What a tragedy that some will reject the offer.

If we claim to love one another but act like we don't, we must not. Fellowship has become a buzzword that makes us feel good about our churches. New Testament fellowship not only said to love one another but acted like it, too. "By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another."

Jesus said that. Jesus lived like that. We should, too. Or else we're not much like Christ.