Tuesday, December 18, 2007
I'm going to Russia in 6 weeks. I've been warned that the most used mode of transportation will be my feet and legs. So I started walking in the early morning hours. But then it rained for about a week straight - or at least the area where I walk became a pond for several days - and I used that as an excuse to stop. Now I can't start again. And all the while, Russia is getting closer.
It's a terrible time to try to eat right and exercise. Have you tried Tuti's Crock Pot Candy? If not, you are missing one of the finer things in life. If so, you know what I mean. Now Deana is making it and one of the ladies at church is making it. I can't get away from it. Not that I try very hard.
That's the real problem. It don't try very hard. I preach that what you say really doesn't matter until you act upon what you say you believe. OUCH!
Here's the revised exercise plan. I'll take my walking clothes to the office (which is next door to the house) and take time during the day to walk. I'll also ride the stationary bike when weather is wet. I can't use cold as an excuse because the place in Russia I'm going to hasn't seen 20 degrees in weeks. It will be worse when I get there.
I don't think I can lose 100 pounds in six weeks but I did lose about 40 pounds in 8 weeks one time. Watch the carbs, cut the calories, drink lots of water, eat lean meats and vegetables, and exercise at least 4 times a week for 30 minutes per event.
I should feel better soon. I should fit into my clothes better soon. I should be able to walk around Russia without dying.
Pray for me!
This girl had every opportunity ahead of her but she gets sexually involved with a guy from church. A guy from church!
Let me chase this rabbit for a minute. Guys at church are not always the best guys. And the girls there aren't always the best, either. But don't we expect church to be the safest place to meet guys and girls? It's been my experience that meeting your future spouse at church is far better than meeting her anywhere else.
But she had choices, and making decisions is one of the hardest things anyone ever has to do. Another hard thing is living with your choices. Another is correcting bad choices.
Life's hard but making better choices...at any age...would make life easier.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
I watched a lot of ABC's The Wide World of Sports when I was growing up. Every Saturday morning I would watch a few cartoons then settle in for Cowboy Bill Watts, Skandar Akbar, Mr. X and others on wrestling on Channel 4. That would be followed by the Major League Baseball Game of the Week with Joe Garigiola and Tony Kubek. Please excuse my spelling of any of these names!
I watched the Summer and Winter Olympics every four years. The first Olympic heroes I remember are Mark Spitz and Franz Klammer. I remember Dr. J and his exciting dunks. The undefeated Miami Dolphins. I was at the 1976 Cotton Bowl with Arkansas v. Georgia.
I'm one of those guys who can watch, listen, or participate in sports constantly. Trouble is...I'm no good at any of them. For example, my average in golf is about the same as my average in bowling. That's not good for either sport.
I thought I could pick up snow skiing pretty easily - afterall I idolized Franz Klammer - but I broke my leg on the bunny slopes. That's not good.
I like playing softball but when I'm in the outfield there better be two cutoff men in order to get the ball back to the infield. That's not good.
I was the deep snapper in high school football. I was the guy who snapped the ball to the punter. My record is 35 yards in the air...over the punter's head. That's not good.
I've decided that most sporting events require too much preparation and skill and fitness. I'd rather watch on TV or listen on the radio or sit in the stands.
You know what? I'm OK with not being any good at all that. But I won't be satisfied if I'm no good when it comes to serving the Lord. I'm willing to put in the preparation, develop the skills, and get spiritually fit. How 'bout you?
Saturday, July 21, 2007
For me, the worst part of divorce is that my relationship with my boys has been forever changed. The best way – God’s plan – is that divorce never happens and children always live with their parents. Over the last fifteen years I’ve done a sometimes good and sometimes bad job of keeping a good relationship with them. I suspect I could have done better. I’m proud of them and love them but feel I could have been more influential in their lives.
And the non-custodial parent – that’s what the court calls me – gets four days a month to be with the kids. At least that’s how it was in my case since their mother moved 120+ miles away. I missed a lot of games and plays and concerts and just everyday living that you can’t really experience through a phone call. I missed the Tooth Fairy, PTA, lunch at school… They could probably create a longer list than I can.
Now I have two grown men and I still want to influence their lives. I want them to be godly men. In order to influence them in this way I have to be a good example. I can’t miss these opportunities.
Friday, July 13, 2007
It seems like we’ve had rain almost every day for a couple of weeks. Most days the rain has been heavy. But I’m told that we are still short on the year-to-date totals. Once you get behind it’s hard to catch up!
I’ve learned that this principle works in our walk with God. Christians refer to the spiritual life as a daily walk – with the emphasis on daily. How often do we forget or neglect to spend time with God? It doesn’t take long and it seems we are so out of touch with him…that he is so far away.
A church a few miles from here posted a message on their sign that reminds me of a truth that hits home far too often: When it feels like you are not as close to God as you once were, God is not the one who moved!
It will take a lot more rain for catch up with the YTD average. Fortunately, it only takes a prayer to return to a close walk with God.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Baseball, hotdogs, apple pie, & Chevrolet. What is more American than that?
Last night I had three of the four plus fireworks. Although the Arkansas Travelers are not very good, I love baseball and had a great time. We had a rare partial double header!
Last week the Travelers played the Frisco Rough Riders in Frisco. The game was delayed three times by rain until it was finally halted in the middle of the tenth inning with the score tied at zero. Since the Travelers won’t play again in Frisco this year and since Frisco is in Little Rock this week, the natural decision was to complete the game prior to the game Wednesday.
The teams took to the field. Bottom of the 10th. Score 0 – 0. Two pitches later the Frisco catcher pounds the ball over the left field wall for a walk off home run. Game over. It didn’t take long for the July 4th fireworks to start! It took even less time for them to fizzle out! We had to wait 57 minutes for the start of the regularly scheduled game – the second game of the double header.
The second game was great baseball – for the Rough Riders. Their pitcher went the distance pitching a 1-hit shutout. Frisco swept the double header 1-0 and 3-0.
Since the game was moving along quickly (1-hitters usually do) there was plenty of time between the end of the game and the start of the city’s fireworks display on the Arkansas River. So the kids got to run the bases! Riley loves that.
Then the fireworks display! I enjoyed baseball, ate a hotdog, drove home in my Chevrolet, and watched fireworks. I need a piece of apple pie.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
I had a blast! It's pretty cool to see the kids have such a good time playing in safe environments. It was my first opportunity to spend quality time with many of them and I'm thankful for the chance to be with them. We also had Bible study each day and a missionary report - from a real missionary! The kids loved it.
If Christianity is all about relationships then this is a great Day Camp. Hopefully, these kids will remember the fun we had this week and turn to me for help as they grow older. This week was the foundation for that kind of relationship.
Saturday, June 09, 2007
As she told me about it all I could see in my mind was the Chinese New Year parades with the paper dragons bouncing from side to side and up and down.
Last Sunday Dianna was preparing for the worst. All the doctors said she had cancer and that it was spreading quickly. Her mother wanted to me to talk with her about her salvation because there was a good chance she would not live much longer.
Monday morning Dianna went to surgery. Monday afternoon her mother called to tell me there was no cancer. They had been parading down the halls of UAMS.
Tuesday morning I went to see Dianna again. She looked much better than she had on Sunday night. Physically, she was tired from the surgery. Emotionally, she was on cloud nine. Spiritually, she was thankful and praising God.
Dianna told me that as soon as she woke up she began to ask those tending to her how bad the cancer was. There was no cancer! She began to wave her arms and shout (almost like a cheerleader) “No Cancer! No Cancer!” When it was time for the family to see her they all joined the cheer. As Dianna was moved back to her room she and her entourage paraded down the halls of the hospital, “No Cancer! No Cancer!”
People along the route joined in. Nurses station after nurses station. It was a parade…orchestrated by God.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Billy Graham said, “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.” Those men and women who died in military service for the United States lead all of us to greater courage. And so we remember them and honor them this weekend.
The US Army website offers this statement about courage:
Personal courage has long been associated with our Army. With physical courage, it is a matter of enduring physical duress and at times risking personal safety. Facing moral fear or adversity may be a long, slow process of continuing forward on the right path, especially if taking those actions is not popular with others. You can build your personal courage daily by standing up for and acting upon the things that you know are honorable. (http://www.goarmy.com/life/living_the_army_values.jsp#courage)
Many who gave their lives defending freedom did so with great courage standing up for what is right. Others showed the same courage and returned home to family and friends. To each person who has courageously defending our freedom we say,
“Thank you and God bless you.”
As a Christian, we have someone to help us stand up for and act upon those things which we believe. Jesus Christ is the perfect example and the Holy Spirit is our source of courage. And when one of us takes a courageous stand, the rest of us gain the courage to do the same.
Memorial Day is reserved for remembering the courageous who died defending our freedom. Praise God for them! Now, let us remember to be courageous as we follow Christ.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Every pastor enjoys baptizing new believers. I guess we should. I can’t imagine not enjoying it.
Today was kicked up a notch more. My youngest son, Riley, accepted Christ as Savior last Sunday night – my birthday. Today – Mothers Day – I baptized him.
I have baptized three couples. I have baptized older men whose wives had been praying for them for years. I’ve baptized children, teenagers, and young and old adults. I’ve enjoyed them all. It’s a special feeling to stand waist deep in water (sometimes warm, sometimes not!) with someone you’ve recently helped in the journey to Christ and share that moment.
For me, baptism has always been about celebration because someone has accepted Christ and is starting out on this fantastic journey. Today’s celebration was extra special.
Monday, May 07, 2007
As a pastor, I am cautious when a child comes forward to accept Christ as Savior and Lord. My experience tells me that certainly a child can be truly saved. I was 8 years old when I was saved. I knew very little about God, Jesus, and salvation at that time. I only knew that I was a sinner and that sin was a problem between God and me. I knew that Jesus was God’s son and that he died on the cross for me. There’s a lot I still don’t understand!
But I also know people who walked the aisle at a young age, were baptized, and thought they were saved. Salvation is an act of the will to agree with God about your sinfulness and to accept his resolution for that problem: Jesus’ death on the cross. Upon confessing Christ as your Savior and committing your life to him, you are saved. It can only be accomplished by grace through faith. Grace is where you don’t deserve what you get. Mercy is where you don’t get what you deserve. Many folks think grace and mercy are the same but there is a subtle yet significant difference! I not only want mercy (not getting what I deserve – punishment and hell) but I also want grace (not deserving what I get – forgiveness and Heaven)! Faith is believing that God is exactly who he says he is and that he will do exactly what he says he will do. Salvation is by grace through faith.
What an awful thing to do to a child to allow him to run through the motions of walking the aisle and being baptized without ever having a true salvation experience! Many adults think they are saved because they walked the aisle, repeated a prayer, and were baptized when a child. They believe they have their ticket to Heaven punched and don’t really care about how they live or living for Christ. That false sense of security that churches place on them can be an eternal disaster.
I don’t want that to happen to any child. So when my son Riley started asking questions about salvation, being a Christian, being baptized, and taking the Lord’s Supper, I was cautious. This has been going on for several months but I just didn’t think he understood the basics: what sin is, that he is a sinner, that Jesus died on the cross as punishment for his sins, that being a Christian is about more than baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Last night I sat on the edge of the bed with him as we said our bedtime prayers. After I said mine he asked me what sin is. He pronounced it with a “d” on the end of it (“send”) so I answered based on that. He corrected me. I wanted to see if he really understood; his correction let me know he had a good idea of what sin is. We talked for a while and also talked with Deana (my wife, his mother). We finally felt comfortable with him praying to receive Christ as Savior.
I think it’s real. And I’m real happy. There is nothing like helping your child be birthed into God’s family. I’ve been privileged to be present when all my sons were born into my family and born into God’s family.
Monday, April 30, 2007
I just spent 4 days in the Gentilly area of New Orleans. The levees along the canals off Lake Ponchartrain failed in the hours after Katrina’s landfall flooding, among other areas, Gentilly.
I am compelled to be a Southern Baptist Christian because of my beliefs regarding the security of the believer, believer’s baptism, the priesthood of the believer, and other theological doctrines.
I am pleased to be a Southern Baptist Christian because of the Cooperative Program, the outstanding seminaries within the convention, the swift response to natural disasters worldwide, and other practical applications of scriptural truths.
Arkansas Baptists were waiting “at the water’s edge” to enter New Orleans after Katrina hit. Feeding units staged at Kenner First Baptist Church made use of hundreds of volunteers preparing thousands of meals each day. Remember all the meals served by the Red Cross? They were prepared by Arkansas Baptists. Chainsaw crews comprised of Arkansas Baptists helped clear the mess from the streets and yards of New Orleans. A member of Cross Road Baptist Church who drives a school bus drove to New Orleans to pick up a load of evacuees and transported them to Camp Paron in Arkansas. Churches across the state (and other states, too) collected, packaged, and sent personal hygiene products, bottled water, and snacks to the people who had lost everything.
The North American Mission Board’s Operation NOAH is a city-wide disaster relief effort aimed at helping homeowners and churches rebuild. Arkansas is assigned the Gentilly area. A team of 6 from Cross Road Baptist Church spent last week working on this project.
Jerry Queen’s home sat under water in the early days of September 2005. Last week, we completed hanging new sheetrock in her home. She was so happy because she now actually could see the rooms again. She has a long way to go before moving in but she’s well on her way. That’s one reason I love being a Southern Baptist Christian.
Odell did most of the work on his home himself. His employer has allowed him all the time off from work he needs to complete his house with the promise that his job awaits him when he is ready to return. He lacked only setting the plumbing fixtures and having Entergy connect the electricity. We completed the plumbing fixtures. When we flushed the toilet to test the connections, Odell came running (and smiling) from the other end of the house saying, “Is that water I hear? My wife will be so happy!” That’s one reason I love being a Southern Baptist Christian.
We completed the sheetrock installation in another home but did not meet the homeowner. Another worker (hired, I suppose) was in the house mudding the sheetrock. He heard us singing while we worked and told us as we left that he liked our singing. That’s one reason I love being a Southern Baptist Christian.
Mable Taylor is an octogenarian. Her daughter drove by the house to make sure the house and building material were safe when she saw us working…to her surprise and joy. The daughter brought Mrs. Taylor later in the afternoon. As we were working to install insulation in the exterior walls and sheetrock to the ceilings and walls, Mrs. Taylor bounced into the room with her hands waving in the air, singing, “I’m Mable Taylor and I’m glad to meet you.” Her excitement was more fresh than the bowl of fruit she brought us. That’s one reason I love being a Southern Baptist Christian.
Jerry Queen said she would see us again in Heaven, if not before. Odell gave good answers to our questions about his salvation but I will still pray for his personal relationship with Jesus. Mable Taylor affirmed her salvation with words, as if her attitude weren’t enough. That’s one reason I love being a Southern Baptist Christian.
God uses all of us without regard to denomination or church affiliation. I’m not so narrow minded that I believe Southern Baptists are the only ones who have salvation figured out or are useful instruments in the Master’s hands. But I sure do love being a Southern Baptist Christian.
Friday, April 13, 2007
My sister and brother-in-law set out during Spring Break to travel Route 66. They, along with their two daughters and a dog, left with very little on the agenda: no specific places to go and no hotel reservations. The plan was to simply go and do until they had spent all but what was necessary to get home – in other words, until they were broke!
After five or six days on the road my youngest niece called her grandmother and said, “We’re headed home; we’re broke!”
Have you ever been broke? Initially, we think of being broke as a financial situation. I’ve been there. Those were hard times when valuable lessons were learned. Those were times when I was burdened with the weight of not being able to provide for my family like I wanted. Those were times when I felt very inadequate.
“Broke” can also describe your relationships. Maybe a high school sweetheart broke your heart or an adult relationship fell apart. Times like these often spin a person into despair. If it happened to you, did you feel hopeless? This is often the case.
The loss of a job breaks our hearts. The loss of a dear friend or loved one hurts. An arrest or conviction or jail time (your own or a loved one’s) leaves you broken. The doctor’s words bring so much pain yet have a numbing affect at the same time.
For me, I rarely experience one “breaking” thing at a time; it seems like they come in pairs or even in waves.
The apostle Paul might calls these things “a thorn in my flesh.” This great man of God experienced it, too. The burden is so heavy it seems unbearable. When Paul pled with the Lord to remove the burden, Jesus simply replied, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
It is often said that grace is not getting what you deserve. Let me clarify the point. MERCY is not getting what you deserve. GRACE is getting better than you deserve.
God’s grace is sufficient – enough – best – OK – just what I need.
Sufficient grace is this: when you think you’ve spent all you have and your are broke…you still have enough to get home.
Many years ago a local radio station carried Imus in the Morning. I listened some. I’m not sure why. Kinda like a fly drawn to cow manure, I guess. Don Imus is very insightful regarding economics and politics. His roster of guests was impressive. He’s a Jew (I think) that is willing to embrace “the baby Jesus,” as he says. But the good content was not the basis for the show. His sharp, degrading humor seemed to be the canvas upon which he chose to create. The local station dropped his program due to content issues. I haven’t kept up with him much since then except to notice the huge amounts of money he raises for medical research.
Hard NOT to keep up with him these days. But now that both MSNBC and CBS have fired him, unless he goes to satellite radio like Howard Stern, he’ll fade away again. I’m OK with that but not because of what he said about the Rutgers women’s basketball team. That was just representative of things he has said over the years.
I don’t think the problem is that his comments were sexist or racist – which they were. The problem is that they were mean. God’s principles teach us to respect all people because we are all made in his image. What Imus said contradicted that principle. By simply focusing on the sexist or racist aspect of the comments is to fail to see the real problem. It’s not just Imus’ problem though – our culture in America no longer cares about God.
The two leading the charge against Don Imus can’t focus on the real issue – lack of respect for God and his creation – because they would then have to treat Don Imus differently. By focusing on the sexist and racist aspect of the comments, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson can also disregard God and his creation. God’s authority in how people treat one another is not considered by the main players in this saga.
I wonder what God thinks about all this. Is it possible that God is concerned not about female people or black people but just simply people? If that is the case, then Imus, Sharpton, Jackson, et al should think before they speak.
So who wins in the firing of Don Imus? American culture that disregards God wins because another issue has been settled without considering the real issue: God’s authority over all people and all things.
And America loses.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
The baseball season is very young. No team has completed two cycles through their starting pitching rotations. Cincinnati is atop the National League Central standings in a tie with Pittsburgh at 4-3. Surely one team will create separation; but for the moment, the six teams in the NL Central are packed in between records of 4-3 & 3-5. If the Reds hope to reach the post-season they need to have a good start. Typically, they start fast they taper off through the summer. They are on pace to win 92 games which might be good enough. The problem with the NL Central is that only one team goes to the playoffs – rarely is the NL wildcard from this division.
Most gurus expect St. Louis and Chicago to have good seasons. Both teams have started slowly. But the season is just a week old.
I love baseball.
Sunday, April 01, 2007
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Hard drives are wonderful things. The documents I use in my work (pastorate) are on there. The documents from the last three churches I've served are on there. Like most of what I save, electronic or otherwise, is of little value but some of it is very helpful. One documents is my preaching calendar. I keep a record of sermons I've preached as well as those I plan to preach. Now I'm scrambling trying to recreate the next few weeks. But my hard drive FORGOT!
God never forgets. Anything. He remembers me. He remembers my needs. He remembers to look out for me. He remembers that I accepted Christ as my Savior and Lord when I was eight years old. He remembers!
In Jeremiah 31:34, God says, "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."
What? God forgets something?
I believe the Bible. All of it. So when the Bible teaches that God knows all things (it does teach that), I believe it. So when I read something that seems to contradict something else in scripture, it must be that I just don't completely understand something. The Bible really cannot contradict itself. My confusion is just proof that I don't know all the Bible holds.
So how can God be omniscient yet not remember sins? I'm sure that God knows I'm a sinner - he knows everything.
The key to understanding this "contradiction" is in the Hebrew word translated "remember" in this verse. It's primary meaning is "to remember." It also has a meaning of "to recall." To me, it seems that recalling is a bit more active than remembering. It's not that God forgets my sin but that he chooses not to recall them. When I accepted his salvation God choose to forgive my sins and not recall them anymore.
I wish my hard drive would choose to recall my data.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
I have a new HP notebook ordered. Maybe it will be here tomorrow. It's been over a week since my old one worked right. I'm having awful withdrawal symptoms. I guess you could say I'm a junkie.
Hello. My name is Bob. I'm addicted to my computer.
Addictions are controlling features, really. Something has control of you and you can't do much about it. Drug addicts often have to experience an "intervention" to break free. Alcoholics slip into addiction without realizing it: they started drinking as a teenager because everyone else did and it turned into an addiction that often costs them their families and jobs.
If there is anything a person should be so connected with that everything they think or do revolves around this, it would be Jesus. I'm so thankful for my relationship with him; it radically affects every part of my life. Like my computer, he died. But he lives again!
Hello. My name is Bob. I'm addicted to Jesus.
Sandy is growing. She has almost doubled in weight since we got her on January 13. She now weighs close to 40 pounds and is about 6 1/2 months old. According to the humane society, she was only supposed to get up to 40-45 pounds. I'm thinking she'll blow past that before long.
She ain't nothing but a hound dog. Actually, probably a little something else, too. It's hard to tell. We went to Memphis a couple of weekends ago and showed Riley some of the Elvis stuff in town. He was impressed that this was the guy who sang "Hound Dog."
We've been talking about taking her to the training sessions at PetSmart but haven't done it, yet. We really, really need to do that. She has some bad habits: jumping up on you, running close to the road and not coming back when you call her, running to the edge of the woods and not coming back when you call her, standing on the other side of the room and not coming back when you call her. School would probably be worth the tuition.
About a week ago Deana was taking Sandy for her 8:00pm potty trot. Deana starts yelling at Sandy (who doesn't come when you call her) to get her back in the garage - evening sleeping quarters. There was something in the bushes across the yard. Deana said whatever it was was bigger than both of them put together. Rumor has it that there are bear(s) in these woods.
I went out and didn't see or hear anything.
The next night I'm taking Sandy for her 8:00pm potty trot. I hear something in the bushes across the yard. Of course, it is dark and the light at the garage is not shining bright enough or in the right direction. I get my flashlight and shine it in that direction.
Four sets of eyes were staring back at me. I couldn't see anything except the light reflecting in the eyes of four deer. I suppose they were deer; I hope they weren't bear(s).
Tonight was Deana's turn again for the 8:00pm potty trot. She saw a deer standing in the tall grass next to the tree line. With Daylight Savings Time kicking in, it was a bit lighter than usual. Light enough to see an outline anyway. By the time she called for Riley and me, the deer had disappeared.
Deana and Riley are pretty special people. Can't live without them.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
I'm 4 months into my first full-time pastorate. Having left a salaried position and a part-time church to move here, I really wasn't sure how my daily and weekly schedule would evolve. I am learning that ministry is cyclical, too. Each week I have the task of preparing for the scheduled services. I preach twice on Sundays and teach a Bible Study on Wednesdays. I read, study, and pray every day in preparation for these. Then I have my personal quite time and time spent praying for the church and our needs.
Still there is ample time to sit at the piano for a few minutes each week. I would probably go crazy without some piano time!
The past two weeks have had a few extras added in that aren't part of every week. Hospital visits and funerals are the cyclical parts of ministry. "Crises" - which includes these and other similar situations - round out the calendar.
A deacon called me a few days after I started and asked if the phone was ringing off the wall. I told him he was the first to call in several days.
It's almost 4 months later and I can't say that anymore. Pastoral ministry is applying the truth of scripture to a person's point of need. So these things are certainly NOT interruptions; they are the reason I am here.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Recent news about a film regarding the tomb of Jesus and his family have ignited quite a discussion. Some hope to discredit the claims of Christianity that Jesus was resurrected. Others hope to use the film as a springboard into a discussion about the validity of the resurrection. Still others simply take a condescending approach toward those who believe differently – on both sides!
I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Here’s why.
The Empty Tomb
The Bible speaks repeatedly of an empty tomb. And the Bible is reliable evidence because there are more copies of the New Testament from dates very close to when the events happened than of any other writings regarding that period. We have no trouble accepting Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, yet we have hundreds more copies of the Bible than of Homer’s works. A rational person cannot reject the validity of the Bible – and the Bible tells of an empty tomb.
The Post-Resurrection Appearances
Although many, including the Jewish officials of that day, claim the disciples stole the body from the tomb, Jesus appeared to many people after the resurrection. He appeared to the women, to the disciples multiple times, to a group of 500, to the two on the Emmaus Road, and to Saul of Tarsus. This many witnesses in a court of law is overwhelming evidence that nobody would dare contradict.
The Thorough Transformation of the Disciples
This is one of the most compelling pieces of evidence supporting the resurrection. If the resurrection is a hoax, how could the disciples stand up to the authorities like they did? They either scattered or denied knowing Jesus just a few weeks earlier but beginning on Pentecost they were bold. Christian historical tradition tells us that all the disciples except John were put to death for their beliefs; many of them died a tortuous death. Why were they bold? Why were they engaging the culture? Why were they able to do things they had never done before? When you embrace the truth of the resurrection of Jesus you change.
The Conversion and Testimony of Saul of Tarsus
We are first introduced to the great missionary Paul before his conversion as Saul of Tarsus – a Jewish religious zealot. Instead of going down in history as the biggest persecutor of Christians, we know him as the greatest missionary ever. Why did he forsake his former way of life and embrace Christianity? He met a living Jesus.
The Absence of a Valid Contemporary Denial
The authorities had many opportunities to deny the resurrection: Peter and John stood before them accused of preaching in the name of Jesus and all the authorities said was to stop preaching in his name. One would think that Jewish historians would have depicted Jesus in a negative light – if they mentioned him at all. Yet hear what Flavius Josephus, who lived 37-97 AD wrote about Jesus in Antiquities. “He was the Christ…He appeared to them alive on the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold.”
The Immediate Growth of the Christian Church
The immediate and sustained growth of the Christian church can only be explained in light of a resurrected Lord. If this is a hoax then the disciples would not have preached as they did, the converts would have been fewer, the story would have lost enthusiasm from generation to generation, the story would have grown as legends do, and the millions of lives changed over the years would have felt no lasting affect. But the story is the same today as 2000 years ago, it has gained momentum, and lives are truly changed as believers continue to aggressively proclaim the gospel.
The Lord’s Day
Do you know why we worship as a believing community on Sundays? It’s because of the resurrection. It happened on the morning after the Sabbath, which was from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday. The women found the empty tomb on Sunday morning. The church began meeting on Sunday in honor of the resurrection of the Savior. Just one more piece of evidence pointing to the truth of the resurrection.
I believe in the resurrection and my life is different because of it.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Do you still have the sense of wonder that you had as a child?
Here’s a silly example: We purchased our first color TV when I was about 8 years old. In over-dramatic fashion, I fell to my knees then prone on the floor as if overcome by the terrific sight of the 19” set on the roll-around cart.
Here’s a better example: One line of the Oak Ridge Boys’ song Thank God for Kids says, “Daddy, how does this thing fly? And a hundred other ‘where’s and ‘why’s. I really don’t know, but I try; Thank God for kids.” A child looks at all things with a sense of wonder. They wonder how it works. They wonder how it is made. They wonder where it came from and whose idea it was. Sometimes we are irritated with the barrage of “Why?” questions. It’s the wonder of it all.
Have you ever seen the Grand Canyon, the Grand Cayman Islands, or the Grand Ballroom at the Waldorf Astoria? Remember the first time you sat on the airplane as it accelerated down the runway? Have you stood at Ground Zero or in a Presidential Library or on foreign soil? Remember the wonder of it all?
But the wonder of wonders is that Jesus would take a place in our world as one of us so that we might spend eternity in his world with him. Have you lost the sense of wonder? Isaiah 9:6 says Jesus will be called “Wonderful” (wonder full). Begin looking intently at Jesus and regain the wonder of it all.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
I just completed reading the book of Exodus this morning. In 1:8 we are told that the king of Egypt did not know Joseph – or his fathers or God’s promises to them. In 2:24 we are told that God heard the Hebrews’ cries from oppression – and that God remembered (not that he had ever forgotten) his promises to the Hebrew people.
Then God called Moses to go to Pharaoh, the Hebrews finally make a run for the border, God dries a path through the Red Sea, the Ten Commandments, periods of rebellion, the details of the tabernacle.
Fast forward to chapter 40. God filled the tabernacle with his presence as a cloud and led them.
I’m encouraged in my daily walk with Christ to know that God is with me from beginning to end just like he was with the Hebrews on every page of the book of Exodus. He is ever-present and cares enough to guide me, too.
Friday, February 09, 2007
I don’t know when our judgment began to wane. It used to be that “news” was about politics, schools, the economy, and such. Then our judgment went sour and the death of a “model” dominates the news websites and cable networks. Obviously, I don’t agree with her lifestyle and I get just as irritated at the news media with the clamor surrounding the death of entertainment icons I do admire. This is not a commentary on Anna Nicole Smith; rather a question regarding why we call “news” the things we now call “news.”
The bombing of the World Trade Centers deserved wall-to-wall coverage. The initial invasion of Iraq deserved “above the fold” space – although the around-the-clock stuff probably hurts the cause much more than it is a benefit to the public. National elections deserve much attention. Health epidemics should be “broad”-cast.
I think I just answered my “Why?” question. A broadcast is a term indicating that the information is presented to a large audience. The programs or news items are broadcast because there is a great demand for them. The audience is “broad” as opposed to “narrow” or “small.” In a culture not known in America for many years once was greatly interested in a different kinds of news.
Our culture today is different. There is a segment of the culture known as “pop culture” (popular culture). I’m not normal and I hope you aren’t, either. Pop culture is the stuff consisting of the goings-on of models, movie stars, sports figures. So a model (please understand that there is a difference between a model and a Playboy model) dies an untimely death and it is the headline. Another example: murders happen everyday but the sports figure is involved so it makes the headlines. Need more proof? OJ Simpson. His celebrity drew the attention to the case; not the crime.
But keeping up with the stars is America’s favorite pastime. That’s why we have Dancing with the Stars. Aren’t all the reality shows really only about regular people wanting to be a star? Pop culture!
This changes how churches do church. If we continue to try to reach those lost in the culture (actually, lost in their sin) like we did decades ago, we will miss the mark (which is sin, too). Christians have to understand the people within the context of the current culture in order to reach them. Please note that I do not say we should adapt the message to the culture; but the messenger must adapt his method to the culture.
For me, this is a work in process. I first must get past the irritation for such lifestyles that is deep within me. The irritation is healthy if it motivates me to introduce them to Jesus so that they can begin to live to glorify him. Otherwise, the irritation is simply a stumbling block (which is a sin).
Once I get past the irritation issue I must then find ways to become all things to all people. I think that means using a method that communicates in the pop culture while leaving the message as it is. Who said ministry was easy?
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
I watched the Super Bowl in fast motion; It took about an 90 minutes – and only because I watched the commercials in regular speed. I recorded the game on DVR and sped through it to see what happened. Caleb, my 20 year old son, had called earlier in the afternoon and left a message for me to call him so I did with about 4 minutes to go in the first half – according to MY version of the game. I wouldn’t let him tell me who won the game!
I rarely watch NFL football anymore because my Sundays are workdays for me. I can’t remember the last time I actually watched the Super Bowl as it was played. I’ve listened to many, many Super Bowls on the radio as I would take my boys back to Bentonville; seems my weekend always fell on Super Bowl Sunday. At least on the radio you don’t have to watch the commercials!
My favorite commercial was the Taco Bell commercial with the lions watching the campers eat some new burrito or something. The lions talked with each other with one trying to teach the other to roll his “R”s.
You may know that the head coaches in the Super Bowl are Christians and openly apply Christian principles to both life and coaching. Tony Dungy, of the winning Colts, said this to CBS’s Jim Nance as he received the Lombardi trophy for winning the game:
“Lovie Smith (Chicago’s coach) and I are not only the first two African-Americans (to coach in the Super Bowl), but Christian coaches, showing that you can win doing it the Lord’s way. And we’re more proud of that.”
Here’s a guy at the top of the game. There is opportunity awaiting him that few people ever realize. His audience was larger than all but two television audiences EVER! The final episode of M*A*S*H and the Pittsburg/Dallas Super Bowl in the ‘70s are the only television programs to draw a larger audience. The Baptist Press headline put is this way: “Tony Dungy, at NFL’s pinnacle, points still higher to God.”
He didn’t have to do that. Or did he? Something inside true believers compels them to point toward God. That “something” is the Holy Spirit. It’s been said that the Holy Spirit’s primary role is to point to Christ – and this is true. The Holy Spirit is within true believers and he compels us to point to Christ. Tony Dungy did something many believers would not do. Tony Dungy did something many Christians would be ashamed to do. Tony Dungy did something many Christ-followers shy away from.
Tony Dungy did NOT quench the Holy Spirit as the Spirit compelled Dungy to point to Christ. My stage may never be as large as Dungy’s. My accomplishments may never draw the excitement from the sports world as his. My opportunities to point to Christ may never be as public as Dungy’s. But I must still never quench the Spirit as he compels me to point to Christ.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
We registered Riley for Spring baseball at Bryant today. He played in Maumelle last year on a T-ball team and would again this year there. But we feel he’s ready for pitching machines and Bryant offers that for 6 year olds. The guy who helped us register asked a few questions and answered a few. Deana asked about the try-outs that are scheduled for Feb 17; she wanted to know if there was a possibility Riley would be passed over. That would be terrible. It’s one thing to be the last kid picked for kickball at recess but another thing to be completely left out! Fortunately, everyone gets drafted; everyone plays.
In his response, he said, “We’re pretty competitive here.” What does that mean? Bryant is more competitive that Maumelle? Riley better be good if he wants to play? You better come early for a good parking space? I bet your kid can’t outsell my kid in the fundraiser? We like to pitch pennies under the bleachers between innings? My SUV is more expensive than your SUV?
I’ve grown weary of those who claim their kid is so far advanced beyond the ability of the other kids on the team that it’s not fair to their kid to have to play with them. I just heard a sports updated on TV about the University of Memphis. Apparently, they play basketball in a weak league: so weak that the announcers said the lack of competition was actually hurting Memphis’ preparation for the NCAA tournament. IT’S A GAME!
I think this may sum up the competitiveness of the Bryant baseball leagues: parents have to sign an agreement to be nice. Who actually enforces this? That person wouldn’t be displaying “nice,” would they?
Saturday, January 27, 2007
I’ve just completed a seminar to learn the ropes of leading a missions team. Lots of dynamics involved in planning the trip, recruiting the team members, and executing the plan. I’m ready to get started! My first task will be to mobilize our church to work with Arkansas Baptist Builders in restoring homes in New Orleans that were ruined by the floodwaters of Katrina. I would like to take a group of 6 – 8 sometime before the end of April. I also want to take a group that will include youth sometime during the summer months.
Friday, January 26, 2007
When I asked Deana to marry me we talked about the life of a preacher’s family that involves moving around and sometimes away. She said that was OK and that she was willing to go anywhere except Africa.
A couple of years ago a church is Hawaii had me on their short list. We were pretty excited! That must not have been where God wanted us to serve because he didn’t open that door but has opened the door to serve here at Cross Road. It’s good to be where God wants you to be. I can’t imagine any reason for being miserable in Hawaii except to be there when it’s not God’s will.
At Cross Road we are looking at ways to share the gospel all across the world. We have ministry/missions plans for our community and across the state of Arkansas. We will soon work in New Orleans on construction projects. And we have adopted the Tukulor people group of The Gambia – in Africa!
I’ve only been on three mission trips in my life. That’s a sad statement for someone who has been a Christian for almost 35 years! I went as part of a youth group to an area where our church was considering starting a mission. We went door to door taking a survey to determine the interest in a Southern Baptist church in the community. Last year Deana and I went to Hoboken, New Jersey on a project called “Paint the Town.” This was a NYC-area campaign to paint school buildings. Last week I went to New Orleans to view the possibilities of our church joining other Pulaski Baptists on a project to refurbish homes devastated by the floodwaters of Katrina. That has been the extent of my missions “going.” I’ve been good at “giving” and “praying” but my “going” stinks. But I’m changing that.
By adopting the Tukulor people group our church is pledging to pray for them. They are part of the “Last Frontier” meaning that they have very little evangelical influence with less that 2% of the population Christian. In praying for them we are praying that God will prepare a missionary for them and, until then, that he will speak to them through supernatural means, such as dreams and visions. He has chosen to spread the Gospel through people but can certainly use other means. We are praying that the influence of Islam and animism will be minimal. We are also praying for evangelistic material to be translated into their language. For now, only audio gospel presentations are available but we pray for translations of the Bible, the Jesus Film, radio and tv broadcasts, and other printed material to become available.
The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention is seeking volunteers to go to The Gambia this year. The mission will be to prayer-walk the villages seeking God’s direction for evangelization. The cost is about $2,500 per person. I am praying for discernment regarding going to the Gambia for the one-week project.
Monday, January 22, 2007
I just put her out there so she could spend most the day outside since it's not raining. But she stands as far as the lead will allow and whines. I'm sure she'll get used to it; if not, I'll get used to the whining.
Isn't she acting just like people act? We have boundaries on how we are to live yet we like to stand at the edge of the boundaries and whine. Sociologists call these people "deviants." Many of them end up on TV or in the movies. OK, maybe it's just the Jerry Springer Show but it's still TV!
There is no difference with Christians. The Bible clearly states that since we are in a relationship with Jesus Christ we have both freedom and restrictions. God gives us boundaries in biblical instruction but we are so free to move within the boundaries; there's plenty of room for differences in lifestyle within the boundaries of Christianity. I'm not embracing sin nor saying sin is OK but there is plenty of fun, excitement, challenge, etc., within Christianity - within the boundaries God established.
I've forgotten most of what I learned in Mr. Drittler's Geometry class so I can't quickly figure the area of a circle. But I do know that Sandy is on a 30' lead so she has a circle of freedom that is 60' wide - lots of room to roam and play. More than a crate in the garage! Maybe she'll learn to enjoy the freedom she now has. Maybe Christians will learn that, too.
I wonder if God ever gets used to the whining?
Saturday, January 20, 2007
I was part of a 17-member team from the Pulaski Baptist Association to tour reconstruction of New Orleans this week. The drive down there was about 8 ½ hours so we spent 17 of the 39 hours of the trip on the road…in a bus…with preachers. We preachers like to talk and tell stories and tell jokes. I figure I have 6 months’ worth of sermon illustrations and outlines. We solved difficult theological problems like creation, the rapture, eternal security, and KJV vs. NIV. With these issues settled, we’ll have much less to talk about from now on.
Solving the problem in New Orleans won’t be as easy. Arkansas Baptists have been on the ground since the hurricane hit 16 months ago. We have fed workers and refugees, we have cleared debris, we have shared the gospel, and we are rebuilding homes. Our project was to tour the area learning about the work managed by Arkansas Baptist Builders. We saw devastation left by the flood waters and hope in the eyes of people watching there homes being restored and thankfulness on the faces of those benefiting from the work. Now we’ll all go back to our churches with the mission to motivate our people to be On Mission. Our churches have prayed and they have given. Arkansas ranks 2nd in the nation in charitable giving per capita. This is in part due to the higher percentage of Christians living here than in other places along with our proximity to the affected areas of 2005’s disasters and our desire to help.
Praying and giving are important. Now we need to go. We need to go to New Orleans putting our muscle into the mission. Anyone can help. Everyone can do something. It’s an affordable trip. It’s worthwhile ministry. The volunteers don’t have to be skilled carpenters, electricians, plumbers, etc.; just willing to help. I hope to motivate and mobilize our church to take at least two trips to New Orleans before August.
One trip of adults to hang sheet rock, staple insulation into the walls, and run new wiring. Again, these people don’t have to be skilled in these trades. Another trip will be for youth during the summer. This trip can be more of the construction work or conducting VBS. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate that we are sheep, not goats. (See Matthew 25)
Saturday, January 13, 2007
We stopped by to see what is necessary in order to adopt a cat from the Humane Society of Pulaski County. We left with a dog. Yep, we are the proud owners of “Sandy,” a five-month old hound mix. She weighs 20 pounds and will grow to be about 35 pounds, so they say. I guess it’s really hard to tell exactly what a dog will grow to be when you don’t really know what kind of dog it is. So, only time will tell!
Her name was “Merry” but we felt it necessary to change it. Why “Sandy”? Her color is a reddish tannish brown. I guess her color is as mixed as her breed. But it is somewhat sandy colored. And the girl who helped us get all the accessories at PetSmart looks like Sandra Bullock.
“Sandy” is almost house broken. We don’t intend for her to be an inside dog but we certainly don’t want her going inside. OOPS! I just got a call from home…Sandy peed on the rug. Time to go into the carrier.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
But a woman in our church said this was the first time she's had a pastor younger than she was. She's not old...but I'm not young.
There are advantages to having an old pastor. He's been around the block and has answers to almost everything. He's heard "we've never done it that way before" so many times he has finally given up trying to lead and simply wants to stay out front without getting run over. He's baptized every size of believer so he's not intimidated when the 6'5" 290 lb woman gets saved - or man, for that matter. He's like the grandfather all the 30-somethings are missing. He's preached through the Bible at least twice so he has a sermon for every occasion. Since he's preached through the Bible at least twice he doesn't have to study as much so he has more time to just sit and talk.
But there are also advantages to having a young pastor. This is his first time around the block so you can tell him anything and he'll believe it. If he can't stand hearing "we've never done it that way before" anymore he'll leave and you might get an older preacher next time. He's just learning to baptize so you get a good laugh when you see him sweating as he stands in the baptistry awaiting the 290 lb water-displacer. He's like the younger brother you never had. He hasn't even read the New Testament twice so you can pretty much tell him your ideas are in there somewhere and get away with it. Since he doesn't have a shoebox full (or a hard drive full) of sermons he'll spend most of his time studying and stay out of your hair.
And then there's me.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Then they just went away. Rumors swirled around the gospel music community; some of them must have been partially true. Mark (the brother) continued in SG music right away. Dad stayed home. Kenny went into politics. Now he's back.
I was reading another SG website a couple of days ago and came across a link to his website. I hadn't really thought about him since I first found his sight months ago. But I went back to it out of curiousity. I listened to the MP3 files from his new album...absolutely great. So I headed to Lifeway to make my purchase.
I listened to it today and will again tomorrow. It's a wonderful collection of songs about grace, mercy, forgiveness, repentance... Sounds like he's come full circle and I am glad for that. I would love to have him come to my church; I've already started working on that.