Thursday, December 28, 2006

Reading the Bible Through

I resolved to read the Bible through this year.  It has been a long time since I’ve done this.  I’ve resolved many times but haven’t completed the task often.  I just finished.  What a wonderful book!  Genesis recounts the beginning of all things (except eternal God) and Revelation predicts (with absolute certainty) how this world and time ends.  In between are accounts of God’s interaction with people demonstrating his perfect character and his desire for us to be in relationship with him.  Genesis tells that we were created for that purpose and Revelation tells we will be rewarded for pursuing that purpose.

The Bible is the compelling story of God’s glory.  Praise the Lord, all who are alive.  Praise the Lord, everyone who takes a breath.  Praise the Lord and give him glory.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas Eve Update

So it was worth coming to church!  William and Crystal came to seek salvation in Christ Jesus.  We had great services throughout the day…well worth the effort.

Journal of Grace

I’ve often made the resolution to keep a journal.  I love to write and this would be a good way to express my thoughts.  Journaling would also be a good way to track God’s work in my life.  The problem is…I never have done it consistently.

I have a Word document that I started many years ago that has just a few entries.  I even have an entry confessing that I dropped the ball and promising to get back on track.  But there are many gaps since then.  Didn’t Paul talk about this in Romans when he wrote about the struggle to do what he wanted to do?  I feel that way.  I want to; I know it would be good; I am blessed when I do it; I can see God’s hand at work through the thoughts.  But I don’t keep it up.

Even this blog has gaps of elapsed time when I didn’t bother to post anything; and this is supposed to be my online journal!  I am so thankful for grace.  My promises to God are sometimes unkept or forgotten but he will forgive me when I confess my neglect.  I’ve learned that he expects not only confession but repentance – that is, to turn away from what I’ve done wrong and toward what is right.

My prayer life is a journal of grace: I confess, he forgives, I fall off the wagon (so to speak).  Then the cycle goes again…and again.  What I need is a good dose of repentance to go with the confession.  Then I wouldn’t go through the cycle so much.  The hard part of repentance is not turning away from the wrong and toward the right but continuing in the way of the right.  But God is gracious.

Henry Blackaby says to drive a stake in the ground each time God does something in your life.  Then as you look back you can see where God has been working.  Today I am driving a stake – planting a spiritual marker.  Just as a bridge needs many points of support to span a wide canyon, so I need many spiritual markers to keep me on the right path.

Have you ever thought about keeping a journal?  There are many different ways to do it: thoughts, activities, “God” events, successes/failures.  The important thing is to look for and see God in the midst of your life.  Although he is transcendent, he is near.  The Christmas season reminds us of the most explicit example of this.  Your life is also a tremendous example of God’s near interaction with humanity.  Keep a record of it.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve

It's about 8:30 Christmas Eve morning. I'm sitting in my office making final preparations for today's services. Deana and Riley may (or may not) already be up working through their Sunday morning routine. Deana's sister Kay has spent the night with us. Roscoe and Suzy (two stray dogs I've given names) are nowhere to be seen but are surely near the house or the church.

For many people, having Christmas fall on or near a weekend is a great thing. Those who are worldly take advantage of the extra time off work for parties and family time. I like those things, too, as long as the parties are civil and sober. But it seems that some Christians feel having a Sunday and Christmas so close together puts a kink in their plans. If you are a marginal Christian (OK, a "backslidden" one) then you probably don't want church services to interrupt your Christmas activity.

HELLO!! Who said it was OK to separate church and Christmas? Christmas and Easter are the only two services each year that some people come to church. We call them CEO Christians (Christmas and Easter Only!). Even those so far out on the fringe of Christianity understand the link between Christmas and church.

Before you think I'm a dogmatic fundamentalist, let me say that the Bible says nothing about the schedule a church should keep other than to meet regularly. The New Testament indicates that Christians met for regular worship on Sunday; the writer of Hebrews warns against forsaking the regularity of meeting together. So, I'm OK with rearranging the "normal" schedule today. And I'm OK if some can't make it to everything we do today. And I'm OK if some are out of town long as they attend church where they are.

Our church normally has a Bible study at 6pm and a worship service at 7pm. Tonight we are having a worship service at 5pm instead. And I want our congregation to know this is not a "mandatory" meeting; however, attendance is encouraged. Quite frankly, if a person pins their hopes of accomplishing true worship on one service or one day a year they are way off the mark anyway. We celebrate Christmas (Christ coming into the world to save us from our sins) every day and we've been specifically "Christmas-y" for the last month. One day isn't going to make or break a person's trip to Heaven.

Nevertheless, this is a great time to worship the King of kings. I hope our church will be filled with people seeking to praise him. I hope we have some of the CEOs here so that, maybe, they can catch the fire of commitment. I hope we have non-believers here - family members who come just to appease the Christian in the family - so I can present the gospel clearly and invitingly. This is Christmas Eve! What a great gift - to receive the gift of salvation today; to receive the gift of forgiveness today; to receive the gift of love, joy, and peace today; to receive the gift of reconciled relationships today.

I'm not all that concerned about the reason they will come today but I hope each one leaves having been drawn closer to Christ and with a clearer understanding of his will for them - if they can reach that point in one service or if it takes all our services.

However you choose to celebrate the holiday season, I pray the Christ of Christmas is or becomes your Savior and Lord.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Manger and the Cross

Now that we’ve turned the corner into the last week before Christmas, the excitement has ratcheted up a few notches at our house.  While we love the excitement of the Christmas season we cannot lose sight of the Advent of Christ.  Deana has pictured this perfectly with our nativity set at home.

Atop the entertainment center (is that what these things are still called?) to the left is the stable scene with Mary, Joseph, and Jesus surrounded by the shepherds.  Behind them is a lamp that shines on the scene like the Bethlehem star would have shone.  To the right – way to the right – are the magi.  We place them away from the rest of the scene because the Bible indicates they weren’t at the stable but at a house.  Since they were still on their way, we place them away from the manger scene.

There is greenery around all of this to provide depth and beauty.  In addition to this, Deana has placed one other item in the scene: a cross.  Not giving her the credit I should have, I asked if she placed it there on purpose.  She said she thought about moving it (it is part of the non-seasonal decorations atop the entertainment center) but felt like it belonged with the nativity.  And it does!

If we gaze into the manger and see only the baby Jesus we have missed the point of Christmas.  If there had been no need for the cross of Christ there would have been no babe in a manger.  The songs of Christmas are beautiful and capture the essence very well, but maybe we should sing this list of songs back-to-back during the season:

Silent Night
The Old Rugged Cross
Up From the Grave He Arose
The King is Coming

The cross casts a shadow across the nativity scene.  And, these days, can’t you see a shadow of Jesus cast across the world as he prepares to descend from Heaven?  He’s coming a second time in power and glory!  He’s coming soon.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I'm Lovin' It

Life is really good. I'm excited about this church. I am not four Sundays in; we've added members and beginning to lay plans for improved missions involvement. I love being able to spend all day studying God's Word and ministering to his people. I have believed for many years that God has called me into the fulltime pastorate; these last few weeks have affirmed it.

I thank the Lord and Cross Road for the opportunity. I pray I'll always be up to the challenge of the call.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Team Players

I just read the article in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette about three UA freshmen who are unhappy about their team's offense this year. They all came from the highly successful Springdale High School state championship team that went 14-0. Their high school coach is now the offensive coordinator for the Hogs. They say they committed to play at Arkansas because they were told they would run the same offense in the SEC as they did at Springdale. That didn't happen and now they are mouthing off about it.

First, Arkansas won more games this year than in 18 previous seasons (something like that). Do these boys want to be winners are stars? Do they want to see their team's name on a trophy or their own names in the paper? Last year they were the team. This year they are part of a team. It's clear to me that they prefer last year's high school success to this year's SEC success.

Arkansas plays in the best college football conference in America. To win in this conference is pretty significant. To be key players (each of them were) on a winning team in this conference is big. You may or may not get all the accolades a high school superstar gets but you are part of something bigger than yourself. If you want to play on Sundays you will get plenty of looks from scouts when you play on a winning team in the best conference in America. Whatever the motivation, get past it and be good teammates on a good team.

One of the parents said two of the players were used to getting 60 receptions a year and wanted the same in college. OK - that's fine. The greatest chance for that to happen is at Texas Tech or dropping down to a lower level school. Good luck getting the pro scouts to notice you there. Jerry Rice is not the norm. Scottie Pippen is not the norm. If they think they are Hall of Famers then they should try the small college route. Otherwise, their best chance to make the NFL is right where they are.

It is clear to see that Gus Malzahn's offense is not yet fully installed at Arkansas. But it is just as clear to see that he made a huge impact on the offense and the number of wins in just his first year on the job. I expect next year to show more improvement. Gus' brilliance is in being able to craft an offense that works. He'll do that at Arkansas and it might not look exactly like his Springdale offense.

If these boys had gone to school at Florida, Notre Dame, or Tennessee this might not even be newsworthy. But since they are in college within a half-marathon distance from their home town and high school it's big news. Everyone is interested. Everyone wants the local boys to excel. (I do, too, because that would mean the Hogs are excelling.) But would disgruntled (and successful) FRESHMEN make news at these other places? I don't think so.

Finally, take a look at Felix Jones. Felix was a superstar in a Tulsa high school. He came to Arkansas just like these three from Springdale: with hopes of being a star on the collegiate level. This season, his rushing total is just 30% of the team's total. Is he complaining? If so, I'm not hearing it. I don't think he's complaining. I think he's enjoying a successful season on both the individual and team levels.

Here's the bottom line: you are talented freshmen with a successful history; if you will realize that football is not all about you you will then find success at this level and beyond.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


‘Tis the season of Christmas. Isn’t this a great time to be a child of God? The birth of Christ reminds me of so many things. I’m reminded of His purpose for taking on the robe of flesh: that he would die for my sins. I’m reminded of His love that would reach all the way through time to me. I’m reminded of his humanity and his deity.

I remember my grandfather – we called him Dado. He died several years ago and Christmas just hasn’t been the same. Dado loved his ten grandchildren. We would gather in the living room watching the Lawrence Welk Show and Hee Haw. He was the first person I knew to have a TV with a “clicker.” Just three buttons: On/Off, Channel Up, Channel Down. What would Dado think about today’s TV shows and our multi-functioning remotes?

Dado operated a dairy and farmed soybeans and cotton in Logan County. I remember the Sunday afternoon we played in the loaded cotton trailer. Our clothes were never the same. What’s left of the farm equipment sits rusting under the huge oak trees of the home place. The black-n-white cows – each with a name – are gone.

I remember the Christmas of 1975. My family had moved from Dardanelle to Bryant because my father was transferred to manage the Kroger store on Cantrell in Little Rock. We were farther from Mom (my grandmother) and Dado’s than all the others so we spent Christmas Eve night with them. We woke up on Christmas morning to the presents Santa left and about a foot of snow in yard. I can’t remember any of the presents but I remember the snow!

My mother is one of four sisters and all of them live down the same country lane in Paris. Except for us. We were in Bryant. But not for Christmas! What a time we had playing in the whitest Christmas I’ve ever seen.

I love my family. We’ve grown up and our traditions have changed, but the mention of “Mom and Dado” brings us all back together again and generates memories that too often slip way back in our minds.

Do you know what is so great about being a child of God? Just the mention of his name brings us all together. Christians are a diverse people. Even Southern Baptists have differing opinions on things. I suspect even our church family would not agree on everything.

Let’s choose to focus on what makes us a family: the love of God clearly displayed through the birth of Christ. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

New Beginnings

Today I will stand in the pulpit of Cross Road Baptist Church as their pastor for the first time. Just a few weeks ago I preached in view of a call (which was unanimous!). Today is different. Now I must begin vision-casting. This is a two-fold process. One is to place a vision before them, to fling it out there like casting a lure into the water. That's the easy part. Just like with fishing, casting is pretty easy but catching is much harder.

Vision-casting also involves shaping the vision so the people can understand it. Like an artist might use a form to cast an image, I must give shape or life to the vision. A great artist (Michelangelo?) said the image is locked inside the slab of marble and he just had to chip away what didn't belong to the image could be released. Today I begin chipping away in an effort to release the vision to God's people.

I hope to lead this church to grow in five ways: the depth of their relationship with Christ, the warmth of their fellowship with one another, the breadth of their service to others, the strength of their devotion to God, and the effectiveness of their winning the lost. The success in reaching these goals will be seen through increased attendance, baptisms, offerings, and missions involvement.

Impacting eternity at the cross road of life!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Time is Running Out

I just finished my last Wednesday night with Reynolds. It was the monthly business meeting. We talked about the bank balance, the gaining and losing of members, the upcoming missions offering. And my replacement.

It wasn't odd like I thought it might be. Actually, the discussion was very good. I was able to give input on the process and even slide in a kind word for a guy.

The best part is that I think the church may actually have a positive attitude about moving forward. I expect them to do good things.

And I expect good things at Cross Road. Time is running out at Reynolds but just beginning to tick at Cross Road. I'll be close enough to stay in touch; I want to celebrate the good things with them.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What you CAN do

Lori was a little irritated with me. I kept complaining about something at work. Someone demanded something of me and it just wouldn't work that way! "It won't work. I'm telling you, it won't work!"

"Then tell me what you CAN do!"

Yikes. That hurt. But she was right.

Now, let's take off the "job" hat and put on the "pastor" hat. So many folks at church can only tell me why ideas for outreach and ministry won't work.

Helping a needy family who has requested help for Christmas: "those kids are old enough to get a job," "is there a husband in the house?" "we don't want to give them money and nobody has clothes the size they need."

I just don't believe it!

Canvasing the neighborhood for prospects: "we've done that" (twenty years ago), "everyone in the neighborhood goes to church somewhere," "too many in the neighborhood have ill feelings toward the church" (from twenty years ago).

I just don't believe it!

What we CAN do is follow God and trust God. Faith is believing that God will be God and do what only God can do. What we CAN'T do God CAN do!

Just believe it!

Monday, November 13, 2006


God's moving.

Have you heard the song by FFH about God moving? The writer pleads with God to move...and if not, MOVE ME!

I know the request is for God to change our desires to match what God is doing. But I've been asking God to do something in my current church but the resistance is great. I'm concerned about the church; really, I'm concerned about the members. Some of them, anyway.

I believe God has a great plan for this church, but the people have to be willing to move with God. Only a few have said and demonstrated they are willing. I'll continue to pray that God will move.

In the meantime, God is moving me. I completed my seminary degree recently. I've always served bivocationally but feel God is calling me to fully supported ministry. Sunday is my last Sunday at my current church. We're moving this weekend across town to another church. I'll be in the office Monday.

I'm praying God will continue to move like only he can.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


The Cincinatti Reds were in the race longer than most seasons. Most years they are out of the race realistically much sooner than mathematically. But the Reds made it all the way to within 3 days of the end of the season. Many changes over the last 6 months but they stayed in it. The did NOT have a winning season but in the NL Central it didn't take much. Just one extra win each month and they would have locked up the division early last week. You have to do the little things a little more consistently...then, great results.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Humility v. Humiliation

There is a difference, you know. Humilty is a person's demeanor regarding who he is or what he has done. Humiliation is a person's degradation because of who he is or what he has done. Seems like Christians are more interested in humiliation while Christ is more interested in humility.

I, like most, have done things I am not proud of. I confess these things to Christ and ask for his forgiveness; then I count on his promise of forgiveness. When he died on the cross he was humiliated...that was just as much for me as was his actual death. That someone would desire to drag another person through their FORGIVEN past is near sadistic.

I, like most, have done things I am proud of. It's wrong of me to boast of those things; instead I should be humble. After Christ died on the cross he was exalted, not me. He gets all the glory for anything I accomplish for I realize that I can accomplish nothing on my own anyway.

Humility and humiliation are words so close in spelling and derivation but their meanings are so far apart. Forgiven Christians need not feel or be made to feel humiliation. Maturing, active Christians must only act within humility.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Radical Christianity

Rosie O'Donnell has done Christianity a favor. No, the comparison to radical Islam is totally unfounded. She has no concept of true Christianity. Unfortunately, she speaks some truth because some of the Christians who have become public figures or publicity hounds aren't living out the Christian faith as Jesus would have us do. Some TV/cable/satellite figures and many protestors simply do Christianity a disfavor.

A commentary on admits that we've not quite reached the pinnacle of radical Christianity. Christ calls us to an level of allegiance unknown by so many of us. It's not a matter of priorities; that would imply other things are important in and of themselves. Christianity calls followers to forsake all else and take up our cross to follow him daily. There are to be no other gods in the face of or in the presence of God. Christ is the priority and all else is next...better, all else is last.

In a day when we are taught to prioritize our time, budget items, relationships, work tasks, and everything else, the concept of denying self and selling out to Jesus is out of the question. But it is the calling of our Savior. It was his calling; the reason he lived, died, and lives again. And it is what he calls us to do.

I want to be a truly radical Christian. One who will do anything and everything Christ expects. One who will make every decision under his counsel. One whose character will reflect his. One whose words will be spoken like his words were spoken. One who will share his faith with others. One who will share Christ's love in ministry. One who will worship in spirit and in truth. One who will turn the other cheek. One who will pray for his enemies.

To some, radical means militant or evil. We've seen this from too many "religious" people who bomb buildings and kill innocent people. The attitude creeps out in the angry tone of TV personalities speaking out against others.

Don't misunderstand. Christians must speak up and speak out and speak against. It's the tone of some of the mouthpieces that aren't very Christlike.

So, thanks to Rosie for allowing Christians the opportunity to define for her and the world what radical Christianity really is. She speaks for many who, like her, do not understand who we are or why we do what we do. She may not be in the majority but she's generalizing who we are based on a limited knowledge of those who call themselves Christian.

The main thing about being Christian is not that I call my self a Christian but that Christ lives in me and transforms me into his likeness.

A mark of true discipleship is radical allegiance. Does that describe you?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

ComAir 5191

A tragedy. 49 fatalities with just 1 survivor. Plane crashes don't happen everyday but often enough to not stay in the headlines very long. We'll see how the nation and the media respond to this one.

The initial reports indicate the jet took off from the wrong runway. Blue Grass Airport near Lexington, KY has a short non-commercial runway and a longer one for commercial flights. What went wrong? How could the pilot, co-pilot, and control tower all miss this?

Sometimes you try to do the right thing but the problem is that you are one the wrong path. I'm sure the pilot was capable of doing his job. I'm sure he had flown the CRJ-200 many times. I'm sure that he did everything just like he always did. I'm sure he was doing the right thing regarding the take-off. He was just on the wrong runway. If he had been on the longer runway this never would have happened.

Our lives are like that, too. Not only do we have to do the right thing but we have to be on the right path. Miss either of those critical components and disaster awaits. That's how important it is to make sure we are following Christ closely. Veer just a little to the right or left and it's a disaster - even when you are doing the right thing. Or follow the right path but take the wrong action - again, disaster.

You can't be too careful.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Balanced Diet

Does ice cream count as milk? Milk is good for you...calcium, vitamin D. So ice cream must be good for you. Maybe better...add a little strawberries or peaches (that's a serving of fruit!) and chopped pecans or peanuts (protein!).

Riley started out drinking formula then milk. He loves milk. He's beginning to slow down on the milk a little and is adding meat (chicken strips and roast beef, but no hamburgers?). His diet is beginning to balance a little.

Balance. That's the key. He'll never (or shouldn't) stop drinking milk. And if he'd never started eating meat, fruits, and vegetables he wouldn't have developed like he has. Proper health depends on a balanced diet.

Proper spiritual health depends on a balanced diet, too. Peter wrote that Christians should crave pure spiritual milk now that we have tasted that the Lord is good. The purpose is so that Christians will grow up in their salvation.

Spiritual health relies on a balanced diet of godly principles. We must never outgrow the bedrock principles of our faith: salvation by grace, God is love. But we must partake of meatier truths as we mature (in order to mature): faith in God's sovereignty, developing godly character, iron sharpens iron.

Sometimes Christians can be so involved in the study and application of meatier subjects that we lose sight of and appreciation for the basic principles. That's why we should focus on a balanced diet. As a pastor who dishes up the servings three times each week, I have to remember that and look for ways to lay out a balanced buffet. As parishioners, we must purposefully look for the basic and the advanced if we want to mature into healthy Christians.

Cool Job

I like my two jobs. I really am not looking to make a change unless God directs it. So I regularly look at job postings in my two fields.

Alltel (wireless phones) has a posting for an Advertising Manager. I spent a total of 3 years in radio advertising sales and I have several years of management experience.

The job is specifically tied to Alltel's sponsorship of Ryan Newman's NASCAR team. "Some travel required." Daytona, Charlotte, Talladega...

I can almost hear God's voice. Probably just a little voice rattling around in my head. I guess I'll stay put.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Independence Day

Today's a great day. America's independence is celebrated in grand style. Little Rock's first fireworks display of the season was last night at Ray Winder Field. We watched the Travs lose (again), then the fireworks. Spectacular!

We'll see more tonight.

While our Founding Fathers may have believed in God and may have even been Christians, I'm not sure they are the devout followers some claim them to be. Don't get me wrong; I think America has Christian principles in its foundation but there are other bricks there, too. America began as a place of religious tolerance AND taxation relief. Let's no forget the Boston Tea Party!

But certainly, part of the mix is religious freedom. At its core, the USA is not to dictate a religion on anyone and is to allow all people to pursue religion as they please. This is tempered only by the government's obligation to protect the citizenry - in other words, human sacrifice in the name of religion is still wrong because it is murder.

It's a great freedom. The greatest, in my opinion. I am free to worship God. I am free to proclaim the Gospel. I am free to seek the conversions of others to Christianity.

And those who follow other religions are free to do the same. So we better get to work! We have to reach the lost before the others reach them. We must take advantage of our independence as Americans and dependence (on Christ) as Christians and do the task of the Great Commission.

Jesus saves. All others fail.

Monday, July 03, 2006

At Home with Riley

I've got the day off as an optional holiday. I'm home with Riley and we're having a good day. We started out by cleaning his aquarium - I did most of the work. But it's clean, he helped, and the fish are still alive.

Then we worked on the lawn mower. I'm in the middle of changing the blades on the mowing deck. The nuts are on tight! So we squirted a little more WD-40 on them and played baseball.

He's good at baseball. Since the T-ball season has ended I pitch the ball to him. He'll be a good hitter. We're practicing catching fly balls now. We have more work to do.

Then we went to the bank, Lowe's for a tool to work on the mower blades, and Wal-Mart for birthday cards.

We finally got the nuts to break loose on the mower blades. That was difficult! So I changed the blades, put everything back together, and mowed the backyard while Riley played with bubbles and walkie-talkies.

We took showers, naps, and ate junk food.

Now we are getting ready to go the the Travs!

What a day.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


We had a great week of Vacation Bible School. Our church is small and most of the members are 60+. Maybe 60++. So for the first two years of my pastorate we've had a one-day VBS on a Saturday. But this year we decided to do the full week. We started on Sunday night and went through Friday night.

Our community is challenging. Mixed races, mostly low income, very small percentage of the population that actually go to church. We didn't know what to expect.

We started with 13 on Sunday night. We were thrilled since that was more than the last two years. And with it being Sunday night we figured we'd have more as the week went on.

Monday night: 29 enrollment. Tuesday night: 39 enrollment. We ended the week with 50 children enrolled and an average attendance of 33.

We raised $165 in our Pennies for Missions drive.

One girl gave her life to Christ.

This may be the spark our church needs. God has provided that spark; we have to work hard to follow up.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

If You Can't Say Something Good...

Don't say anything at all. Your mom's advice is good advice. More people should heed it.

We're doing "Discussing the DaVinci Code" in our Discipleship Training class. Attendance is very good but there are a few who refuse to come. It's not that they don't like the DaVinci Code, it's that they don't think they need apologetics.

"It's just fiction." I agree. And I know the fact from the fiction. But with so few people actually knowing what the Bible says these days it is important that Christians hone up on the truth. We need to prepare to give an account for what we believe.

"It's just fiction." Yes but millions don't know that. They don't know that Dan Brown is taking enormous license with the facts. They don't know how and why the Gospels in the New Testament came to be accepted as "scripture." They don't know historical facts regarding Mary Magdelene, Constantine, and others. Because they don't know they could believe anything.

"It's just fiction." That means it is a lie. And if people believe the lie the spend eternity in Hell. It's a huge statement of selfishness to avoid learning all you can about heretical works under the excuse that it's not real. IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU! It's about lost people becoming hardened to the gospel because they believe the lies about the church and our Savior.

"It's just fiction." That's a cop-out and Christians who use these words as an excuse to avoid learning about the DaVinci Code and how to refute it should be ashamed.

I guess every church has one or two people who can't say anything good but constantly run down what you're trying to accomplish. We have as much to overcome in the church as outside.

I guess I shouldn't have said all that.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Seeing Reds

The Big Red Machine. I was just a kid. That's why I love baseball.

Lately, the Cincinnati Reds play pretty good in April. May is weak. June is enough to do them in for the season.

This year could be different. April was great! But May has been so-so. They need to continue like they start. Baseball is a long season: 162 games over 6 months. The challenge in the Major Leagues is to be consistent over the long haul.

Some teams start out weak then finish strong...last year's Houston Astros. The Florida Marlins a couple of years ago. That's a lot of work and stress.

Almost as stressful as watching your team fade into or below mediocrity before the All Star break.

Why can't the Reds just win 16 or 17 games a month? That would be about 100 wins and would put them in the playoffs almost every year.

I wonder if God asks similar questions. "Why can't Bob just be steady? Why does he live an ebb and flow existence?"

The ups and downs of baseball resemble those of life, don't they? It's an easy solution - just win 16 or 17 games a month. It's not that easy, really. And winning in life is not simple. The answer is not so hard - trust consistently in Jesus - but the application is.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Lame Lincoln

Did you hear Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln on KARN radio this morning? Host Neil Gladdner's question was, "What's so bad about a military person heading the CIA?"

She rambled on and on about how in this new era of warfare we needed a source of intelligence from the civilian side. Will Gen. Hayden actually DO the gathering of intelligence? Will he actually make every decision at the CIA? The director obviously is the head of the organization but certainly will not make every surveillance and every decision. He's not much of a leader if he does not have a network in place to make decisions at lower levels. Leaders who demand all decisions pass through themselves won't be leaders very long.

Both sides of the aisle are going nuts about this. I don't get it. Do we not trust the military so much that we have to gather intelligence at their exclusion in order to verify what they provide?

If Hayden DOES gather intelligence he should distribute some to Lincoln.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Actual Job Descriptions

These are from actual job descriptions for pastoral positions.

INDIANA "Our church needs a pastor with a strong constitution (a backbone!) to deal with some strong personalities in the church and bring unity among the membership."

MISSOURI "Preach, lead in outreach, resuscitate the church."

TEXAS "Full time, 6+ hours"

Live at the Improv!

A girl from our GA class told this to me tonight.

The Sunday School teacher was quizzing the young children and asked, "Is there anything God cannot do?"

Only one child dared to answer. A little 5-year old boy raised his hand and said, "God can't clap his hands."

"Why do you think God cannot clap his hands?" the teacher asked him.

"Because Jesus ascended to Heaven and sat down on the Father's right hand!"

Little two-letter prepositions make a big difference, don't they?

The DaVinci Code

Have you read the book? I don't think it's a sin to read it or even go to the movie. It's probably a riveting story. But it's a sin to believe it.

Post-modernity rejects the idea of objective truth so Christianity rubs them the wrong way. The exclusivity of the Gospel just isn't politically correct. But it's right.

What's wrong with being black and white? If there is a definite right and wrong then I have no choice but to be black and white about it. Someone once told me, "We can be no more dogmatic than scripture but no less." Most Christians (even preachers) don't mind the first half of that statement but are timid implementing the second half.

Do you know what gray is? Gray is just black's attempt at being white. (Please don't make anything racial out of that.)

I'm not the greatest scholar of biblical documents, etc., but I have no problem accepting the authenticity of the Christian scriptures and accepting its message. Jesus is the son of God. He was born to a virgin. He was tempted like any of us yet was sinless. He died on a cross as the only sufficient sacrifice for sin. He arose from the dead on the third day and ascended to Heaven after 40 days. He sits at the right hand of God this very moment (remind me to tell you a joke later) and will return in glory to establish his eternal kindgom.

Dan Brown missed it. I hope he sees the truth and turns to Christ for eternal salvation. Have you?

First Peter

I'm reading through the Bible this year. I've done it only once before. I've read most of the Bible many times but there are parts I just avoid. But I read a blog telling how she read the Bible through last year but didn't handcuff herself to reading a certain amount each day or even reading the lists verbatim. She said it freed her to really read the Bible. I like that idea so I'm trying it. I've started many times but failed in frustration and guilt. Not this year, baby! I read Nehemiah today. Esther tomorrow and then on to Job.

A couple of books in the NT I've avoided over the years are the epistles of First and Second Peter. I'm not sure why. I've read them a few times; I don't think I have ever preached from them. I do have a few memory verses from them, though. But I am using First Peter as the text for the Wednesday night Bible study. I've wanted to do that a few times but never really got into it. That's a terrible confession for a preacher.

On Wednesday night I usually give a devotional message for about 20-30 minutes. But I'm doing First Peter verse by verse and I'm excited about the studies. Week 1 was 1 Peter 1:1-2. Week 2 was 1 Peter 1:3-5. Tonight was Week 3: 1 Peter 1:6-9. At this rate, I'll be here for a while but I'm loving it. The Week 1 "main thing" was that we are God's chosen strangers in this world. God chose us to be aliens. He initiated our salvation, the Holy Spirit drew us to salvation, and the blood of Jesus washed away our sins. What a trinitarian statement!

Last week's main thing was that salvation is an inheritance, a gift, that culminates in glorification when Christ returns. What great hope there is in Christianity! No other religion provides it.

Tonight's main thing was about joy/rejoicing even in the hardships and sufferings of life because God uses these things to strengthen our faith. The joy is in knowing that God is at work in our lives even in the down periods and that Christ is coming again to complete our salvation. All other religions ask, "What did you do to deserve this?" while Christianity asks, "What is God doing through all this?"

That'll preach! It has...the last three Wednesday nights.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Are We There Yet?

Riley is getting so big. He's playing T-ball. He can do the monkey bars. He asks several times on any trip if we are there yet. He's so cute.

I've been asking God that question for quite a while. My job away from the church continues to grind on me. I'm tired of it. I believe God has a place of ministry in mind for me that will fully support the needs of my family. We just haven't gotten there yet.

I know he's saying to me what I say to Riley: "Not yet. And don't ask me again." Well, maybe he's a little more patient with me than I am with Riley. Riley has a DVD about two caterpillars who question God about why they are not like the other bugs. God's reply is simply to just wait because he's not finished with them yet. In the end, the caterpillars become beautiful butterflies; more beautiful than they could imagine.

Blackaby says that until you hear the direction to act you should just continue acting according to the last word you heard from God. He says that the reason God waits to move or do is that he is growing some aspect of your character in preparation for that next step.

I can think of plenty of character points he may be working on. Are we there yet?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


The best thing, from a nuts-n-bolts perspective, I learned at the National Conference on Preaching was to plan ahead. I learn this at every conference I attend. I learned it more than once in seminary. I just don't do it!

I guess maybe I haven't really learned it.

I'm planning a series of sermons on the family beginning Sunday and going throug Fathers Day. In July I'll be preaching a series entitled "In God We Trust" with sermons on citizenship, abortion, alcohol, gambling, and homosexuality.

On Wednesday nights I'll be going verse by verse through First Peter. That will take several weeks. I just need to get a plan for Sunday nights and I'll be set.

I like the idea of planning ahead because it takes the pressure off of me to come up with something every week. I believe in letting the Holy Spirit lead; and he can lead me to plan just as easliy as he can bail me out when I don't plan.

Planning will give some incubation time. A sermon needs time to stew or brew. The preacher needs time to find better illustrations. Things hastily thrown together seldom meet the quality of things created over time. Think about pianos or hardwood flooring or garments. (I'm Baptist so I won't mention wine or whiskey.)

I've preached some pretty good sermons hastily prepared. But I've preached some pretty bad ones hastily prepared, too. I prefer to preach good sermons so I'm planning more. Hopefully, I'll get to the point that I'll be planning 6 months in advance. Until then, I'll be working on tonight's Bible study in 1st Peter.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Not My Nature

I didn't want to do it. I wanted to hold my ground and force them to do what I wanted. Turns out, it's not a hill to die on.

Have you ever had a tense moment when you were nose to nose or toe to toe or, in this case, email to email with your antagonist? Sometimes you just don't want to give in just because it's your antagonist you're giving in to! Sometimes you just don't want to give in just because YOU'RE RIGHT!!! It's not my fault that they aren't prepared and organized. It's not my responsibility to do their jobs for them.

But it's not a hill to die on. So I changed my plan and covered a need for them. But it's not my nature.

Yet. The Holy Spirit is working on me. He has his hands full, too. This time he prevailed. He is slowly but surely changing my nature; I am being transformed by the renewing of my mind.

Monday, May 01, 2006

What Sins Are You Talking About?

It seems that Christians still can't get past ranking sins. Since we can't deny we are sinners we must then rank sins so that we aren't as bad as others. "Well, yes, I am a sinner, but I've never..."

Amazing. Not amazing grace but amazing arrogance. It is true that you'll always find someone worse than you; but it's also true that someone else will find you to be the one worse than them. I don't understand the arrogance.

What sins are YOU talking about? Murder? Divorce? Lying? Adultery? Pornography? Child abuse? Stealing? Cheating? The list could go on and on but the truth lies in scripture: if you are guilty of one offense you are guilty of all of them.

The greatest sermon ever preached had to be the Sermon on the Mount. In it, Jesus declares that the thoughts associated with the sin are as bad as the sin. OK - anyone still think they haven't committed one of the BIGGIES?

They say the ground is level at Calvary. It's not because the insignificant need boosted toward significance but because the proud need knocked down a notch or two. The ground is level at the cross to remind us that we are all just as guilty as the next guy. But remember, you are standing at Calvary!

Since the sin is equal at Calvary, so is the forgiveness! It's easy to think that God can easily forgive a person who hasn't run up too big a tab. But the truth is that it is just as easy for him to forgive the vilest of sinners.

Actually, it is hard for God to forgive. Imagine how hard it was to give his son to die on the cross so I could be forgiven. Not very easy. But forgiving one person is no more or less hard than forgiving another...for God.

For us, it's easier to forgive someone who has committed fewer and/or similar sins in comparison to ours. It's harder to forgive someone who has sinned greater than we have sinned. What sins are YOU talking about?

What sins are you talking about?
I don't remember them anymore.
From the Book of Life they've all been torn out;
I don't remember them anymore.

That chorus reminds me of the completeness and simplicity of God's forgiveness. I wish people could be like God.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Journal: National Conference on Preaching

April 24 9:30am
I am sitting in the terminal at Gate 3 awaiting the boarding of AA flight 3368 to DFW. From the looks at the waiting area, the flight must be full. Steve Landers (Landers Auto Group) is in the group. Sounds like he had a good weekend of sales.

The weather is great for flying, er, riding. I suppose the pilots like the weather for flying, too. I’m in seat 5A. There is only one seat on the left side so I’m in the window/aisle seat. I like it that way: no elbows with which to fight over the armrest, no worries with a weirdo sitting next to me. For an introvert, this is the best situation.

Don Shockley drove me to the airport. That saves the parking fee. Bill Huey will take care of the Wednesday night service. I’ll update the prayer guide and email it to Deana. Don volunteered to pick me up Thursday when I return. I need to call him Wednesday with the time or arrival.

I am so excited about this conference. Creative Preaching. I need that. My church needs it. We do church like Baptists have done church for 50 years. I try to vary my preaching but I find that I’m very predictable. Young and old alike know what’s coming. I don’t give them much reason to sit on the edge of their pew. That’s what I want: a congregation eager to hear the Word of God and eager to apply it to their lives.

Too often, church-goers arrive on time, go through the motions, leave on time, and never interact with the Word. We need a confrontation! It’s my God-given responsibility to drive that confrontation between Christians hungry and thirsty for righteousness and the Word of the Lord. It is life. It is sustenance. It is guidance. It is the answer.

In it I find God as the Holy Spirit leads me to understand him. I love God and I love his Word.

Lord, help me learn so much this week. Help me become a better preacher and pastor as I discover different ways to deliver your Word to your people.

April 25 6:45 am
Yesterday was great. The flight was perfect – except I spilled cranberry apple juice on my white shirt. Just a drop or two. But it caused me to adjust my wardrobe for the week. I changed shirts at the hotel before the conference started, rinsed out the stain in the other shirt, and shifted my shirt/pants relationships so that I’ll wear the stained shirt Thursday on the flight home. No harm, no foul. I rode on the hotel elevator with an AA captain. He said his goal for 37 years has always been to have one landing for every take-off. So the flight was great!

I’m a little uncomfortable when forced to mix and mingle. Actually, I would rather have a mediestinoscopy than do that. I can do the initial greeting: “Hi, how are you? Where are you from? Do you pastor there? Yes, I pastor Reynolds Baptist Church in Little Rock.” Beyond that, I’m just an idiot. I don’t know what to say. Kenny from the cornfields of Illinois must think I’m rude and he’s probably right. We talked for about three minutes then nothing. I envied the two guys sitting behind us. One from the Seattle area and one from Canada. They went on and on and I was fascinated by the conversation; especially the depth of the questions. Who would have thought to ask things like: Are you married? Children? What ages? School? What’s the area you are from like? Have you always lived in that area?

Conversation is not rocket science but it’s only a notch below in terms of mental dexterity. Is there a pill for this?

The speakers on stage were fantastic, too! We learned the Ten Commandments of Creative Preaching. We saw an example of creativity used at The People’s Church in Franklin, Tennessee. A seminary Dean spoke of being creative in communicating to our culture. And Brian Carter, pastor of Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas, preached on Judges 7. Gideon’s army was downsized.

Two things really stand out in my mind about Brian’s sermon. First, those who are with you are not always with you. God’s law allowed those in the army who feared for their lives to leave the army and return home. Twenty-two thousand of Gideon’s 32,000 left. Second, God writes post-dated checks. His promises are good as gold but you just can’t cash in on them yet. You have to wait until he says it is time.

The conference provides shuttle service to and from the hotel with stops at a mall where there are several restaurants. That process is a little tedious. I was amazingly calm through it all. There have been times in my life when I would have romped and snorted and demanded options: like the “pastor” from Florida. He was on his cell phone calling a taxi then jumped on the first shuttle anyway. He was pretty vocal and showed his lack of Christlikeness. Shouldn’t a group of pastors be extra Christlike?

I believe the waitstaff at restaurants when they say they hate to see a bunch of church people coming after a service. David McLemore taught me that those are opportunities to share the love of Christ.

Today’s shuttle service begins at 8:00 with the conference starting at 9:00. I like to get there early so I’ll head to the American Buffet Breakfast (not included in the room charges) then off to another great day.

Lord, I want today to be even better than yesterday. I don’t expect the bumps in the road to be smoother but I do expect to learn about you and your call on my life.

April 25 9:35 pm
Just got back from a day of length at Fellowship Church. I wouldn’t call it a long day, just one of length. It started at 7:15 am when I had the breakfast buffet for $14.95. Taxes and tip and I spent $18 on breakfast. At home, I’ll eat a banana for breakfast. Fifty cents. Oh well.

I caught the 8:00 am shuttle from the Hyatt to Fellowship Church. By 9:00 we were packed into the chapel – which is plenty roomy for our meetings. Their sanctuary – er, auditorium – er, theater – seats 4,100. The church unlocked it today for 30 minutes so we could gawk. And gawk we did. It is nicer than the Grand Palace in Branson in every way. The members/attenders/seekers at this church are going in style. No church facility in Little Rock compares in any way. It looks like a showplace. But I trust that it is used for God’s glory. FC is doing a phenomenal work in the DFW area.

And they are exceptional hosts. I’m guessing there are at least 75 volunteers working this conference. Every entrance to the building, every entrance to every meeting place, and just standing at strategic places. Plus the sound and light crews in the Chapel and various meeting rooms. Plus the many people who clean up after us. A-One.

Guidestone Financial Services (formerly “the Annuity Board when we served Southern Baptists; but now we serve many churches from many denominations and many other entities”) provided Texas-style Bar-B-Que brisket with all the trimmings for lunch. Outstanding!

Haddon Robinson was the highlight of the day for me. He preached twice and was humorous, engaging, and prophetic. Dr. Robinson is professor of preaching at Gordon-Cromwell College in Boston. I think he may have had a stroke at one time. His speech is clear but the right side of his mouth is drawn. He’s an excellent communicator of the gospel!

Dr. Jack Graham of Prestonwood Baptist Church and Leroy Armstrong of St. John Missionary Baptist Church, both in the Dallas area, also preached. The conference is chock-full of wonderful preachers who are inspiring me, challenging me, and convicting me. I hoped to learn something about God and his call on my life and I am not disappointed at all.

Lord, I am learning so much about you. Thank you for revealing yourself to me through your word and your preachers.

April 26 9:45 pm
It’s over. What a great conference. Top to bottom, side to side. I paid for the expensive breakfast buffet again today. Yesterday there was a small glass about the size of a roll of quarters. It was filled with pink stuff.

I thought about the story Wendy Bagwell told about eating lobster in New York City. His business friends had invited him and his wife to the city for a business dinner. Wendy Bagwell is from Georgia and had never been to a big city. And he and his wife Melba had never eaten lobster. Anyway, it’s a funny story about how they worked their way through the meal not knowing how to use the utensils, etc. At the end of the meal the waitstaff brought everyone a bowl of pink liquid. Wendy had been watching his friend deal with the lobster then followed what he did. But with the bowl of pink liquid he wanted to take the lead – he was full of confidence. So he thought about how to get that stuff out of the bowl. “They didn’t bring a spoon so you don’t spoon it out. They didn’t bring a straw so you don’t suck it out. So, I thought I would just sip it out. About the time I got that bowl of pink liquid to my lips I noticed my friend and his wife dipping their fingers in their bowls cleaning their fingers. So I said, ‘Naw, I believe I’ll wash my face later.’”

I wasn’t sure what the pink stuff was for and I didn’t want to make a mistake like Wendy made! This morning I was sitting at the table when the waitress put it down. Turns out it is a sample of a fruit smoothie. And I had almost dipped my fingers in it yesterday!

Fancy things happen in fancy hotels. Like, for no apparent reason, the lit buttons on the elevators will sometimes go dark. If you don’t notice it the elevator will fly right past your floor. Then you have to ride all the way up and then stop on every floor all the way back down to your floor. Fancy.

Fancy hotels have lots of people who want tips. “Shine your shoes, sir?” “Carry your bags, sir?” “I shined my shoes before I came, thank you, and I packed light so the bag wouldn’t be heavy. I can carry it myself!” I’m glad I didn’t actually say that out loud; they might have thought I was that “pastor” from Florida.

Fancy hotels have bottles of water for your refreshment waiting in your room with a sign that says, “Drink more water.” But if housekeeping reports a bottle missing the next morning you will be billed $3 a bottle. That’s for a 24 ounce bottle with sports cap that would be less than $1.50 at home in a convenience store. Needless to say, the bathroom water is awful! But it’s free.

Actually, nothing is free. I am not looking forward to seeing the final bill. I know the room rate but I’m not sure of the taxes.

Nothing is free. Preaching is the hardest work I’ve ever done. I crawled on my hands and knees about three miles gluing rubber baseboards on the walls in a school. I unloaded a truckload of boxes of rubber gloves. I pulled up carpet that was glued down from the floor in 6 inch strips – throughout an entire daycare. I stayed up nights worrying if our business would pull out of financial ruin or not.

Preaching is the hardest work I’ve ever done. When I’ve done it right. I’m afraid my priorities are messed up because it’s been a long time since preaching has been hard. I don’t spend enough time preparing. I don’t hit the hardest subjects. I’m shortchanging God and his people. Radical change is necessary.

I’m not sure what the radical change may be. Quit my day job? Sleep less? Spend a few evenings a week and most of every Saturday preparing to preach? Quitting my job will cost me money. Sleeping less will cost me health. Spending nights and weekends will cost me what little time I have with my family. It’s a no-brainer. But it’s not my brain that’s the problem. It’s my guts.

I must come to the place in my faith that I trust God completely to provide. Coming from me, that’s an odd statement. If there’s one thing I know about God is that he is Provider. He’s proven it over and over again. Yet I’m afraid to step away from my day job and the salary and benefits it provides.

I do not believe God is calling me to quit my day job while I’m in the current church situation. But maybe God is going to change the situation. I believe that is what he is up to. I just don’t know when he will do it.

That’s my biggest spiritual struggle: I can trust God’s action but not his timing. People have told me that I’m patient. But not enough. Can you imagine the patience Jesus must have had while he waited two days across the Jordan from Bethany while his friend Lazarus was dying in that town? His father was up to something big but Jesus had to wait. If he had not waited the miracle in Bethany would have been another healing. But by waiting on his father’s timing, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

Misapplication: God can move me now and I’ll be part of healing a sick church or God can move me later and I’ll be part of raising a dead one. Preachers who don’t prepare very well tend to misapply too much.

Correct application: I must wait for God’s timing so that God’s plan can be faithfully executed so that God gets all the glory.

So I’m waiting across the river (figuratively, not geographically) while my two days (figuratively, not chronologically) pass. And that’s hard (literally).

Have I learned anything at the conference? What do you think?

Lord, thank you for showing me news things about you and about this call to preaching and pastoring.

April 26 10:50 pm
Here are a couple of observations about Calvin Miller’s preaching and teaching. Dr. Miller is 70+ years of age; one would think he is old school, verse by verse exposition of the text. But he said the most effective method of preaching is expository narratives: storytelling. He said you start with the text, give a precept, support it with a story, give another precept, support it with a story, continue this process until you’ve covered all the precepts, then top it off with a call for decision. You move from text to the altar using precepts (left brain) and stories (right brain).

He also said to do away with the pulpit. “It’s just 80 pounds of wound between you and the people.” He quoted someone who said that your communicate with your whole body but when you are behind 80 pounds of wood you communicate only from the chest up.

Ed Young, Jr. was the first speaker of the conference, which meets at his church. There was a clear acrylic pulpit on the stage. Ed had the stage crew take the pulpit away (although it was clear and not 80 pounds of wood) and replace it with a chair and something that looked like a plant stand. The stand didn’t get in the way. Nor was the lack of 80 pounds of wood a distraction.

Lord, help me glean from this week the things that will be useful to my church. Keep me from pushing too far beyond the limits of acceptance but far enough beyond the limits to improve the ministry.

April 27 6:20 am
Time to get going. I’m mostly packed. It’s a Bob-thing. When I’m leaving for a trip I will wait until the last minute to pack but when it’s time to go home I am packed for all but my sleeping shorts and bathroom products. I just jump up, clean up, pack up, conduct the bomb search, and go.

Donnie Martin taught me about the bomb search. In our “Jubilee” days we traveled overnight just a few times. The first time I stared at Donnie as he opened every drawer and looked behind the curtains and under the beds. “I’m conducting a bomb search.” “What?” “Sure. When bomb squads conduct a bomb search they look everywhere expecting to find one and don’t stop until either they do or they’ve exhausted their search. I just assume I’ve left a sock or shirt or pair of underwear and I’m going to find it.”

I’ve been conducting bomb searches ever since. I rarely find anything but I have peace of mind knowing I didn’t forget anything and leave it behind. Some things would be costly to replace: a sport coat, a pair of glasses, accessories for the laptop, my cell phone, my plane ticket.
Bomb searches are good. The parents of the school children feel better about letting their kids go back into the school’s buildings. The spouses of the Congressional staff breathe a sigh of relief. The chauffeur can start the diplomat’s car with peace of mind. And I can check out of the hotel with no worries…just be sure not to pack one of those $3 bottles of water.

Luke 15 tells of the shepherd leaving 99 sheep safe in the fold while he goes out to find the one that is lost. The shepherd conducts a bomb search and finds the lost sheep.

I must have been hard to find. Crowded on the small terrestrial ball with 6 billion others some 2000 years after the cross and eons upon eons beyond the idea of salvation was planned in God’s mind and heart. He must have conducted a bomb search that culminated on Calvary. He was looking for me. He was not wanting me to stay lost. He was looking for you.

Lord, that you would seek me like you did is an awesome realization.

April 27 8:00 am
I ate breakfast in the airport. $10. Almost half the price of breakfast at the hotel. Food is food and my requirements in one place are no different than my requirements in another. And my expectations are the same: good food in a reasonable amount of time. But one is $18 and the other $10.

Arrogance is eye-catching. There he was wearing his dark suit, blue dress shirt, dark socks, and dark leather shoes. Dark, short hair with the front turned up. Perched high on his throne: the shoe shine booth. He just stepped down and walked past me. I am supper impressed with his shiny shoes.

He was second in line. The patron (they would just die if they thought someone called them a customer) before him sat in the same chair while the lady cleaned, polished, and shined his shoes, too. Then he paid with a credit card. Give the lady cash and a good tip!
I really can’t think of why someone would actually need a shoe shine in an airport. As poor a time manager as I am I still found time to polish mine the night before I left. How busy does one have to be to ask someone else to polish his shoes while he is still wearing them? I can understand a drop-off service. I just don’t get why someone would think they need to sit on the throne while someone shines their shoes.

The gate next to mine is headed to Baton Rouge. To make them feel at home the gate attendant must have been speaking Cajun; I didn’t understand a thing she said.

Oops! We are boarding all seats and all rows for Little Rock. Gotta go.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

My New Favorite School

Remember the old AIC? Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference. I am an alumni of ATU. Arkansas Tech University. There was UCA, UAM, HSU, SAU, and others. OBU. Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia.

I probably should have gone there. I surrendered to preach in June 1982. Just 6 weeks after graduating high school. I had been determined to attend the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville to major in accounting and nothing would stop me. Not even my new calling to the ministry.

Teenage Baptist boys in Arkansas who have surrendered to the call to preach are supposed to go to Ouachita Baptist University to prepare for ministry. Then on to seminary. Then to a series of churches serving them and the Lord until you died.

But I went to UA and then ATU. I never thought about OBU. I probably could have played football at OBU. I probably could have met my wife 15 years earlier at OBU. And I would be a proud alumni of my new favorite school.

Go Sand Lizards! (High school) Go Wonder Boys! (College)

Go Tigers! (OBU) One of my favorite preachers and a good friend and supporter has just been named President of Ouachita Baptist University. Rex Horne will be great for the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and supporters (even new ones, like me) of OBU.

My prayer is that he makes it a priority to mentor those teenage and twenty-something Baptist boys and girls like he has mentored me. He can impact the Kingdom even greater at OBU than at IBC.

My favorite team? The OBU Presidential Search Committee. They found a winner.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Got it!

David Jeremiah's daily devotional includes this qoute from Vance Havner: God marks some of our days, "Will explain later."

Just because I don't know or understand doesn't mean he doesn't. Some explanations will come in this life while others will come in eternity.

Lately, more days are marked this way than not.

In the Trash Can

It's official. My NCAA Men's Basketball bracket has been a mess for a couple of weeks. But when the wrong SEC team advanced to the Championship Game, well, just throw the bracket in the trash. My last hope for pulling out a bit of dignity is gone. I'm thrilled that the Gators won it. Down year for the SEC, huh?

Differing Expectations

My surgeon and I have differing expectations. I called today to see if the biopsy results were in. He indicated Friday that he was sure it was sarcoid, not cancer. He said I should call Monday. So I did.

I spoke with the receptionist/secretary. She called the surgeon, read the test results to him, relayed his message to me. "It is not cancer." Great news.

My next question was, "What about sarcoid." She didn't know. She can't decipher the test results - I don't expect her to be able to do that - and the surgeon said to just tell me it's not cancer.

I was/am prepared for cancer. I trust God's will and if it's his will that I have cancer then that's OK. I just want to find out what he wants to teach me through this whether it is cancer or sarcoid. And I'm ready to move on with treatment. I've been dealing with a nagging cough for a few years and it is probably the result of the enlarged lymph nodes. I'm glad we found them. But if it's cancer, let's treat it. If it's sarcoid, let's treat it.

"Just tell him it's not cancer" is not what I wanted to hear. The receptionist/secretary couldn't believe I had the nerve to ask when we would know about sarcoid. She actually said, "I just gave you the best news."

That's a matter of perspective. For me, cancer or sarcoid means this: I have a disease of some kind that must be treated and God will see me through it and show himself gloriously in it. (I do realize the gravity of cancer. I also trust God's will.)

"It's not cancer" is great news but not the best news. I now know one thing God is teaching me through all this: patience. I'm still waiting. It's still 10 days before the surgeon releases me (back to the pulmonologist, I guess).

The surgeon and pulmonologist both come highly recommended but I'd rather sit in Scott's office (my primary care physician and friend) and pray about this. I spoke with the surgeon for less than 30 minutes. I spoke with the pulmonologist even less. That's how the system works. Scott talks to God with me.

What lies around the corner in my life must be something for God to build my patience like he is.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

48 Hours

I've been home from the hospital 48 hours. I still feel like a punching bag; a sleepy punching bag.

Dr. Rowen performed a mediastinoscopy to biopsy a lymph node. He told my wife that he was almost sure the problem is sarcoid. This is great news because the next most likely diagnosis is lymphoma. We'll know for sure early next week.

I first went to the doctor with this on January 23. There have been several trips to the doctor, xrays, a ct scan, a bronchoscopy, and a mediastinoscopy. I'm almost smart enough to be a doctor!

Rusty knew everything about his daughter's cancer. I thought that was a little strange. I understand now.

More than anything, I've been looking for God in all of this. I expected to learn something new about him and I'm not sure I have yet. I've learned much more patience and I learned about his provision. These things I've know before but I'm probably smarter about it now.

What I do know is that God is faithful.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Little Consistency, Please

Wasn't it a liberal Democrat who proposed, "It's the economy, stupid"? A former President Bush was defeated because, the liberal politicians and liberal media said, he was touting his foreign policy record rather than tending to the business of economics at home.

Today there is a shake up in the current President Bush's White House staff and the reason pressed upon us by the press is that this is necessary due to the low approval ratings W enjoys. Then the same major news outlet reports (almost as a "by the way") that consumer confidence is at a 4-year high. Consumer confidence, let's see, that's an indication that the economy is good, right?

So the libs pound one Bush because the economy is sour and don't give props to the other when the economy is good. Rather than blast the headlines with the good economic news they choose to promote the poor approval ratings (likely a product of the media anyway).

Politics and the reporting of it needs a dose of consistency.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

It's Maddening

I've picked 35 winners out of the 57 games in the tournament. Not too good. But I still have two teams in. And one already in the Final Four. We'll see how it goes from here.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Of Mice and Men

Last week I blogged about a long week ahead of me waiting for a biopsy and then the results. It hasn't worked out quite like I had planned. At the moment, I'm still waiting a call from the pulmonary specialists to give me the results.

What's God doing? I am certain he hasn't turned away from me. Nor is he playing games with me. He is acting out of his purpose and will. The difficulty is that I don't often know what that is. So the waiting for me is simply part of God's unfolding plan.

The Bible tells me that God exists on an eternal platform from which he sees and knows all things: past, present, and future. He also is not bound by time or the passing of time. The waiting is all on my part while I pass through time to get to what God already knows.

I find peace in that. He already knows! He knows the biopsy results, he knows the correct treatment of whatever it is, he knows the outcome of that treatment, and he knows what my family and I will need each step along the way.

You can say that the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray, but God's plans never go astray.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Difference

One father taught his son the family business. Then he sold it to his son with the burden of supporting the father's family and the son's family. The result was bankruptcy and estrangement.

Another father learned he had a terminal illness. He prayed that God would give him two years so he could teach his son the business. The father died just a few weeks short of two years later.

The difference? One father passed on the family business so he could retire comfortably. The other father passed on the family business so his son could retire comfortably.

Both sons are separated from their fathers but one has a much happier memory.

Motive is supremely important. God knows the motives behind our thoughts and actions and will discipline and judge us accordingly.

Saturday, March 18, 2006


The RN said the biopsy results would be available in 24 hours. The pulmonologist said it would be Friday. The family practice doctor said it would be the middle of next week.

And the winner is...the family practice doctor.

David Jeremiah says that when our timetable and God's do not match it is often because God is developing our trust, faith, and patience.

OK. I'm told that I am a pretty patient person. My response is always, "Well, you just don't see what's boiling beneath the surface!" But God does and he knows how impatient I am. Even now. So he's working on that.

All my life I've heard people say not to pray for patience because God will send trouble your way. I say you better pray for patience because problems are definitely on the way!

Marching Home

Thursday was a good day in the tournament but Friday was awful. The Razorbacks lost, as did most of my other picks. I picked 14 of 16 winners on Thursday but only 9 of 16 on Friday.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

March Madness

I'm not a gambler. I believe it is poor stewardship of the resources God has given me. But I always fill out the NCAA brackets just to see how I do. I don't do very well. But it's fun.

Eleven games are complete and I've picked ten winners. Duke, Illinois, Syracuse, Washington, and Indiana are my remaining picks for the day. I stand a good chance of doing extremely well.

You have to feel sorry for some of the teams. They come from small conferences, won their conference tournament, and then get matched with a powerhouse. But games are played on paper so the boys suit up and take it to the hardwood.

We get to watch it all. CBS has a $6B package with the NCAA for tournament rights. The premier announcing team for CBS raked the NCAA selection committee over the coals for some of the teams picked for the tournament. You'd think Jim and Billy would just do their jobs.

ESPN is no better. They invested $s in this Bracketology thing and their guru ripped the committee. Would you like a little cheese with that whine?

I guess I should be living in another time. I don't appreciate anything about an announcer ripping a player, coach, team, another analyst, etc. I may boycott the CBS broadcasts and listen on the radio. CBS probably gets a cut of that, too. It takes a lot of money to pay Jim and Billy to act like they don't care that they have jobs most guys would love to have. I just don't get it. It's madness.

Monday, March 13, 2006

One More Day to Pray

"Do not be anxious about anything," the Bible says. OK. How about anticipatory? Antsy?

The bronchoscopy is delayed until Wednesday morning. 24 hours. 1,440 minutes. 86,400 seconds. I guess I'm a little anxious!

The reason? Something came up and the doctor needed to move the appointment. Could I get away with that? "Hello, doctor? This is Bob and, well, something has come up and, well, uh, I'm moving the appointment. I'll be in the next day." I'm not irritated about that. I understand that I'm being worked into his schedule because of the possible severity of my condition. A regular situation would have resulted in an appointment being set a couple of weeks away. So, one day is really no big deal. I assume that someone came to him with a much more obviously severe situation than mine. I gladly give up my spot to that person.

It's just the idea of having to wait. My family practice doctor is playing it safe by saying it's probably Sarcoid but could be Lymphoma. Then he goes on to tell me that there's also a chance that he'll have a bike wreck and crack his skull or a chance that I'll have a wreck on the way home from the doctor's office. But just in case it is lymphoma, he has to play it safe.

A couple of weeks ago I was thinking it was the worst case scenario: cancer. Now I'm feeling like it's Sarcoid. BUT I NEED TO KNOW!

And I will know either Wednesday afternoon or Thursday. Of course, that could have been Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday...but we rescheduled.

"Don't be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6.

I guess the doctor just gave me one more day to pray. I'm doing very well, by the way, praying for and trusting God's will.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Big Week

  • Pastors breakfast
  • Pick up X-ray films and CT scan prints
  • Pick up new glasses - stylish: the lady said my wife would love them
  • Put in a full day's work
  • Spend the night at in-laws'


  • Bronchoscopy
  • Wait for biopsy results


  • Wait for biopsy results
  • Take Riley to the doctor to check hearing
  • Put in a full day's work
  • Services at church


  • Wait for biopsy results
  • Chaperone K4 field trip to Krispy Kreme & Fire Station
  • Put in a full day's work


  • Wait for biopsy results
  • Put in a full day's work


  • Wait for biopsy results

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Put Up or Shut Up

I've heard many Christians say something like this: I have always told others to trust the Lord and have faith in him during times of trouble; then when the storms hit my life I was faced with a crisis of belief - do I really believe what I've always told others?

Today, I understand the feeling. The doctor said there were many reasons why the lymph nodes in my chest would be swollen that are not malignant.

Driving away I prayed. First, I prayed these words: Lord, I trust your healing power. Then I thought about how selfish that was. I was presuming upon God that he wanted to heal me. My understanding of God is that his ways are not my ways, his thoughts not my thoughts. In this circumstance that means that while I may desire healing, he may not. And I am not to question his will.

Often a person's life has more impact in dying than in living. God's will for me is still unknown to me in full. But I do know that he desires that I trust him for salvation from my sins and that I live all my days (few or many) to bring glory to him. These things I know for sure. The details are sketchy, at best.

So I then prayed, "Lord, I trust your will." Then I cried. Because the hardest thing in the world is to trust his will over yours.

My Savior did that. "Father, let this cup pass from me. However, not my will but yours be done."

Someone told me today that everything would be OK because our God is the healer. Yes, he is. But he may not heal this body. The difference in our beliefs are that she believes God does what I want and I believe God does what he wants. Have you ever wanted something so badly only to later find out what a mistake it was? But have you ever known God to do something that later turned out to be a mistake? His ways are not my ways.

I trust his will to be perfect. Perfect for me. Perfect for my wife. Perfect for my kids. Perfect for the rest of my family. Perfect for my church. Perfect for my job. Perfect.

I still have lapses of weak faith. I guess I always will until God takes me home. Sooner or later.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perserverance. And perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4


It's an awkward situation. One of my heroes of the calling just completed preaching three stirring sermons to my congregation. He's always so gracious to offer his assistance with anything I need. "Just let me know how I can help you, Bob." "Let me know if there is anything I can do for you." And he has so much to offer and he means it.

How do I let him know that I would do anything for him without it sounding like I'm asking to do something for him? I do not presume repayment in kind and struggle painfully trying not to sound that way. So I said, "If I can help you in any way, I would love to." Thud. Hopefully, he took it in the right way because what I heard sounded awful!

Please don't think I'm thinking poorly of myself or my abilities or elevating him to highly. It's just awkward when the mentoree offers assistance to the mentor. But I would like to be on his list of people to call on when he needs something. I'll work toward that.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Burger and Fries

The Trio's first album had a bit in it where the three were discussing naming the group. Kirk Talley suggested a name with Talley listed first. Ivan Park wanted his name listed first. Anthony Burger suggested "Burger and Fries." The crowd roared.

The posthumous tributes to Anthony mention that he has played with the Gaither Vocal Band for many years. Truth is, he learned to play the crowd (and the southern gospel piano) while on stage with Jim Hamill and the Kingsmen. His hands were severely burned as a toddler when his walker tipped over on a floor heater grate. Nobody thought he would be able to use his hands normally, much less become the man for whom the Singing News Magazine's favorite instrumentalist award is named. He won it ten years in a row so they named it after him and made him ineligible to win it again so others would have a chance. Had the Singing News not done that he would have won it again last year keeping the streak alive.

What the Cadek Conservatory of Music in Chatanooga, TN, taught Anthony Burger about playing the piano, Jim Hamill matched in his educating Anthony about playing the crowd. Bill Gaither just put it on a bigger stage.

And who would've thought that there could be a bigger stage than playing piano for the Kingsmen or being a member of any number of top Southern Gospel groups in the 70's and 80's and 90's? Then Gaither called a few friends into the studio to sing with his Vocal Band on an old standard called, "Where Could I Go?" It came to the me as a single release and I played it over and over on my radio program. Everyone else did the same. There was a short video with just the one song. While none of Gaither's productions are shot from the hip, this one was very orchestrated. Gaither says his intention was to get these heroes of the genre recorded one more time.

And then again, and again... Does anyone really know how many videos he's produced over the last 15 years? Homecoming has created a great following. Most arenas in the country won't contain the crowd so you may have to drive a ways to see them. My wife and I have driven across half of Arkansas and all of Tennessee more than once. And many more have driven much farther.

Some even went on a cruise with Gaither and company this week. And Tuesday night Anthony Burger died. On stage. Playing the piano. Pleasing the crowd. Pleasing his Lord.

Danny Jones of the Singing News Magazine brings up a great thought. I wonder if the Lord let Anthony finish the tune he was playing when he got to Heaven?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

About to Bust

I don't know how much longer I can take it. It's like Christmas when I was a kid. You know how you would have so much anticipation built up? Sometimes the anticipated event was anticlimactic due to the build-up. But not this time.

I'm a novice photographer. I am also interested in mission work. I was browsing the International Mission Board's website just to see what type of work was available on a short-term volunteer basis. I think every Christian who is physically able should go on at least one international mission trip in their lifetime. Money shouldn't be an issue because their local church should sponsor them if they can't pay for it themselves. God has a wonderful plan for financing his work. It's called tithing. We bring our tithes to the storehouse (the local church) to be used for kingdom work. So your church should be willing to finance your mission trip if you cannot.

So I'm looking for opportunities. I've only been on one mission trip of any kind. That's sad. I'm 41, have been a Christian for 33 years, and have served on local church staffs (staves?) for 23 years. And all I've ever done is canvas a rural community to see if there was interest for a Baptist church. That's very selfish and I'm trying to correct that.

I found opportunities to preach revivals. That's glamorous. Imagine thousands of Nigerians coming to Christ after I preached! We're not all "Billy Graham," though. And that is a little intimidating for a never-been-on-a-mission-trip guy who speaks only English.

I found opportunities for prayer walking. This is neat. You walk through neighborhoods and cities praying for the people you see, schools you pass, businesses in operation, government offices, etc. You would probably have the chance to have conversations with people along the way about what you are doing and why. I like that as a entry point into missions. Some of the areas were described as "rugged terrain" or "hot and humid." I need to do some physical training beofre attempting some of those areas.

There are opportunties for medical missions for those qualified. I've been to a medical clinic but not to med school. And I don't think they want me on a construction crew except for fetching and toting.

What I'm most excited about is a request from missionaries in Turkey to come and spend a week or two taking pictures of the people and places. The missionaries want to create a database of images to use in promoting their work. How cool is that. I'm so excited that I'm about to bust. I've requested information about the few opportunities listed; I can't wait to hear back from them!

Remember, I'm a novice photographer but I really hope and pray that my skills and equipment are sufficient. And that my church will cover the $2000 to send me.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


I learned this in seminary: revival is an act of the Holy Spirit to stir in believers' hearts the desire to know God better and serve him more. That's good. A bit clinical, but good.

Revival is God showing me how I fall short of his glory and then challenging me to step up my walk with him so that I grow with him. The ultimate result is that I become a tool God can use in his hands to accomplish his kingdom work in the world.

I want my life to glorify God. Not because I want to repay him for what he's done for me because I could never do that, but because he is soveriegn and majestic and omnipotent and more. He's my Savior and Lord. There is no other.

Did you know that if your motivation for serving him is to repay him you have missed what salvation is? If I can repay Christ for my salvation that means that eventually I could have gained my salvation without him. Not gonna happen. Foolish to try. I'm not sure that a person can be saved if they believe they have to repay Christ for salvation.

Really, salvation is my understanding that I cannot gain it myself and must rely on the free grace-gift provided by God through the death of his son Jesus on the cross where his precious blood waits to wash away my sin. All I have to do is accept the gift and come under his lordship.

Salvation is costly to God but free to me. Salvation is hard for God but easy for me. All I have to do is accept the gift. God had to give his son to die for me...and you.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Something New

In the mid-80's a Southern Gospel group called The Singing Americans were on top of the charts. Every singer in the group were or would be greats in their field. They recorded a live album on which they revived the old gospel standard "I Bowed On My Knees And Cried Holy." It was number one for several months and Song of the Year.

Another song on the album was called "Something New." It talked about how walking down the streets of gold and all that Heaven has to offer will be something new. It was a pretty good song.

I have something new. I've had the flu, tonsilitis, a tibial plateau fracture, general aches and pains. But never have I had pneumonia until now. Last week the doctor said I had "mini flu." He was careful to say there was nothing "mini" about it except the name. I believe him. That was tough. But I didn't get better...worse, in fact. It's not that the doctor misdiagnosed me; I just got worse.

I went back today. Bloodwork, XRays, vital stats. Oh, by the way, my weight was down from last Monday and my blood pressure was 120/80!

I get to stay home a few more days while the new high-powered medicines do their thing.

If I had to have something new I would have preferred a Chevy Extended Cab pickup.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Orange Juice and Cold Pizza

I can't wait until 3:30. I'm not sure what the deal is, but I've had a nagging cough for a couple of months. It has escalated. So I stayed home from work today and called the doctor. The appointment is at 3:30.

Until then I'm drinking orange juice. I'm told that drinking 32 ounces of OJ over a short period of time will cure what ails you. We'll see.

While I'm sitting at home waiting for 3:30 I've got ESPN's Cold Pizza on. I've never seen this before because I'm usually working this time of day. ESPN has too many networks. The hosts of CP are good but some of the guests they have on are awful. You would think that ESPN could afford to bring in better personalities. The coaches and players they've interviewed have been great, but the sportswriters are hit and miss. ESPN is spread too thin if they have to rely on some of these guys for content.

Monday, January 02, 2006

I'm Always Right

Except for that one time when I thought I was wrong but was right all the time.

Then there was that, I was right then, too.

I just asked Deana to help me with times I was wrong. She said, "Oh there are so many." "Well, name one," I said. "I can't really think of anything." YES!!

The only other time I can think of when I was wrong was today. We have DirecTV with local channels. Last April we lost the local channels. All the other signals were strong, but no local channels.

I called DTV a few times and they insisted it was either: 1.) tree limbs or 2.) a bad LNB. They offered a service call for $70.

I tried all the tests and determined it must be the LNB. A nieghbor's tree was a little in the way but I didn't think it would be a problem. But I decided to use rabbit ears for local channels and wait until the leaves fell from the tree. So, in mid-November still no local channels.

I finally broke down and called for the $70 service charge. Not only am I always right, but I'm a tightwad, too.

Harvey just left. And he's a miracle worker. Turns out I was right, sorta. It was not the LNB. It was a tree. But not the neighbor's tree. It was a tree in OUR yard! Harvey dug up the pole on which the satellite was mounted and moved it over, replanted it and remounted the dish. It was a modern miracle. Next, I'll move the rabbit ears so they won't mess up the landscape on top of the entertainment center.