Thursday, August 29, 2013

What if...

I'm sitting at Subway just down the street from Riley's school. They are having a preseason game tonight so I picked him up to get him some supper before going back to the fieldhouse. Instead of eating with me, he sat with some others from his team. That's probably best.

I overheard them talking about their fathers' ages. I am the oldest! Hope that doesn't embarrass him. At least they weren't talking about the mothers' ages. She's even older than me.

Since I can't spend this time with my son I've turned to watching people. Most everyone in here is a student. My mind wanders back to 30+ years ago.

Did I treat everyone the same?
Did I respect my parents, teachers, and friends' parents?
Was I a good influence in their lives?
Was I an ambassador for Christ in my school?

I can answer some of the questions "yes" but some "no."

What if I had been a better witness for Christ? What if I had made better decisions?

I can't go back and change things, but can I make a difference now? I'm trying even with those same folks. And I'm trying in my current environment.

And I'm trying to teach Riley to be a good influence and a difference-maker in these wonderful years of his life. I didn't do that for Jim and Caleb. I think that's an important part of fatherhood.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Weekly Devotional - August 23, 2013

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Hebrews 12:2 NIV
Several months ago I was running down Rushing Road at 5:00 in the morning. The sky was overcast so there was no light from the moon to illuminate the road. It was dark! I came to this particular portion of the route where there is a street light. But it's on the other side of a crest so it cast a shadow where I was running.

I had learned from earlier runs that when I am first able to see the street light it lines up perfectly with the middle of the road. If I run directly toward the light I will stay safely on the road. So that's what I planned to do on this dark morning.

I ran a few strides. Looked down a few strides. Looked up again and discovered that a tree blocked the light but I could still see the light pole. So I set my eyes on the pole. A few strides later the light appeared from behind the tree and I was shocked at what I saw.

The light is set off the road in a pasture. The pole I had been following was right up on the road. The closer I got to the pole and the light, the farther from each other they were! And I had fixed my eyes on the wrong guide. As a result I was running right down the middle of the road toward the top of a hill. I was a sitting duck for oncoming traffic.

Isn't that just about how life is? We think we are going in the right direction - a safe direction. But the least miscalculation in judgment sends us off course. Maybe even into dangerous territory. Do you see how important it is to use the right guide to determine your course?

I know people who use the latest fashion magazines to determine their dress code. Too often modesty is forsaken. I know people who use the latest interviews of sports stars to determine their attitudes. Too often humility is forsaken. I know people who use the latest sitcom to determine their relationships. Too often faithfulness and purity are forsaken.

But if we fix our eyes on Jesus we will run the course of righteousness, holiness, and faithfulness. You'll find some impostors and pretenders. Remember my problem of following the pole instead of the light?

Jesus is true and faithful. He will lead us where we need to go. Pray that God will help you fix your eyes on Jesus today.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Is God Bothered By That?

I saw evidence yesterday that many people reject God because they do not understand the Bible. It was a reminder that our culture has made a drastic shift in the last few generations.

We could easily be offended when someone tells us to stop bothering them with our testimony of God's activity in our lives. We might shy away from further conversations when a neighbor tells us they don't believe like we do about the Bible. We might react in a militant way when those whose lives contradict biblical morality flaunt their choices in front of us.

So I wonder, is God bothered by that? Is he bothered by the way they react to him? Bothered? No.

Grieved? Yes.

God is not willing that anyone would perish in hell. That's why his son Jesus lived and died. And lives again. Rather than leave all humanity hopeless in regard to forgiveness and salvation, he did all that needed to be done to provide a path of reconciliation and redemption. A friend who had rejected the biblical notion of God once told me that if Christians could show us something that led to love, forgiveness, and redemption he and those like him would accept the faith.

Because so many people like my friend are wandering and wondering, God is not bothered by those who may reject him. He is not deterred from his plan. He is not challenged to back down.

But he is grieved when one person chooses to reject the offer of salvation. He is grieved when one person rejects the authority of scripture. He is grieved when one person ridicules his character.

Yet God loves them, stands ready to forgive, and offers redemption.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


I came across this quote from Al Mohler about preaching. "If there is no controversy in your ministry, there is probably very little content in your preaching."

I hate conflict and controversy. Can't we all just get along? The answer to that question is simply, "No." And the reason is just as simple: we are bent on fulfilling our own needs without much regard to others.

My ministry leadership calling is to lead Christians to be disciple-makers. My job is to do it at Cross Road Baptist Church. One platform I have is preaching to those who attend our services.

The Bible is overflowing with information. It's easy to find the "Thou shalt" and "Thou shalt not" passages but even greater than these is the constant message of God's holiness, our sinfulness, and Jesus' sacrifice that makes possible our reconciliation to God. Along the way we read that salvation is God's work; we can only accept or reject it but we cannot accomplish it. Then we read that Christians do have a responsibility for the way we live.

Millions, maybe even billions, of people have misunderstood this to mean that you must do something to earn God's favor and forgiveness. But it's just the opposite. You can do nothing to earn his favor. Because he has shown grace and mercy to us we are to live as grateful recipients by honoring him with our lives. No, we are not saved by our works. Yes, we live a life of good works because he has saved us.

So the rub comes when a preacher speaks the truth to a person or to people who prefer to 1.) work for their own salvation or 2.) not live to honor the Savior. Thus, controversy and conflict.

I hope my aversion to conflict does not quiet my preaching. Then I would be sacrificing the truth to satisfy my own preferences. In James 3:1 the brother of Jesus wrote, "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." If I omit or water down the principles of the Bible I am at great risk. First, I can be ineffective as one called to preach the word. Second, I am at risk of judgment for taking the call to teach lightly.

So the question I face is this: Would I risk being faithful to the Lord in order to be pleasing to the people? Paul told Timothy to steadfastly preach the word even though many would rather hear something less convicting and more pleasing (see 2 Timothy 4:2-4). The preacher should want to please God, who can eternally judge him, rather than man, who can only affect temporal conditions. Maybe this is part of what Paul called "light and momentary troubles" (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Could it be, though, that conflict and controversy can be avenues to peace and maturity? I think so when we deal with them positively. Problems arise (sometimes) because of our spiritual condition. We wage a spiritual battle that is much more difficult than the battles in the physical realm. Tense moments in relationships happen because one or both parties are not in tune with God's Spirit who gives us unity. If we see conflict and controversy as a flashing light alerting us to spiritual issues, and if we address these issues honestly, we can progress in spiritual maturity.

What do you do when you are driving along the highway and come upon flashing lights? Most of us slow down and take a look! What do you do when you are living life and come upon flashing lights warning of a spiritual problem? Don't look away and avoid the warning. The problem will only get worse. Instead, give proper attention to the problem and resolve the conflict or controversy. Otherwise, you'll have a perpetual roadblock keeping you from joy and peace.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Back to School

Today is the day the public schools in our area get back at it. The teachers have been working for several days. The private schools have been in for a week already. Now everyone is back to the normal routine. A hundred years ago I guess the planting would be over so the kids would get in a few weeks of school before it was time for the harvest. I'm glad we don't live in those days.

Most kids have mixed feelings about going back to school. They will miss the free schedule of summer but - truth be told - they've been missing their friends and the activities of school. And, yes, some have even missed their teachers. I'm sure I complained like kids do today, but I really don't remember not wanting school to start. I liked school and still do. I need to try harder to instill that into my youngest son!

In the children's sermon yesterday I told the kids I had three words for them that I was sure would bring some emotion from them. "Back to School." When I said those words almost everyone under the age of 18 groaned; even the kindergarteners sitting on the steps with me. And almost everyone who had a school-age child cheered. What a difference of opinion about this time of year.

I also told the kids about a teacher that is always on the job and never gets a summer vacation. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would be our Teacher so that we could know what Jesus taught. He is our constant companion helping us, encouraging us, guiding us, convicting us, and teaching us. Just imagine your favorite teacher in your favorite subject getting to spend all the time with you. Have you ever finished a class but still wanted or needed to know more? Maybe the final exam proved you hadn't learned everything. Maybe you had questions that the course content had not answered.

Fall Break, Christmas Break, Spring Break, or Summer Break never come with the Holy Spirit's teaching. And that's not a bad thing. Instead, you always have a chance to know God better. Some of the Holy Spirit's lessons are in the classroom and some are in the lab. Some are fun and some are not so fun. But they are always for your good and will always help you as you live this life.

Don't be tardy or truant. And be safe, watch for kids and buses, and have a great school year.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Weekly Devotional - August 16, 2013

"Do not swerve to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil."
Proverbs 4:27 NIV

Walk with me for a few minutes. I want to take you down a road that might look a lot like the road you are traveling today. There's no exotic destination; it's no thrill ride. It's just a day in the life of most of us.

Your alarm just went off: WAKE UP! Are you tempted to hit the snooze button and sleep a little longer? What will happen if you do? Maybe you built in a nine minute buffer because you know you'll procrastinate getting out of bed. I see nothing wrong with that if you did, but if you didn't then snoozing might cost you. You may miss the first bell at school or the first appointment at work. Giving in to a selfish desire and missing a responsibility is swerving to the right or the left.

Your spouse or children need your attention today - like every day. Isn't it easy to rush through the day and run out of time for them? When our obligations are too heavy the family is often the first to take the hit. We cut out time with them. We move our attention away from them. We swerve to the right or the left.

That friend request you just received - don't be so quick to accept it. Do you know this person? Have you looked at their profile? Filth-peddlers are trolling the social media looking for people who swerve easily. Take a minute to see if this person is really someone you should connect with before accepting their request. Pornography is an easy bait to get you to swerve to the right or the left.

Money's tight, isn't it? I like to say that most of us live on a fixed income because there's not much we can do to go out and make extra money this week. The boss won't let you work all the hours you want to work. You can't just raise the price of everything in your shop and expect customers to swallow it. So we make what we make and sometimes that's not enough. Does that ever make you think about cutting corners on taxes or piggy-backing the neighbors wifi or doing something else to ease the financial burdens? Don't swerve to the right or to the left.

Followers of Jesus are to have integrity that reflects his character. "What would Jesus do?" is a pretty good question to help us know how to walk through this journey of living. Pray that God will help you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus so that you can reflect his character and stay on the path of righteousness.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


A preacher was interviewing with a church's Pastor Search Committee as a prospect for becoming the church's next pastor. One elderly gentleman leaned across the table toward the minister and said, "What are you convictions?" The man was shocked at the question and paused a moment to gather his thoughts then said, "Arrests but no convictions!"

You might have guessed that the candidate did not receive a call for a second interview.

Our English language has many words that have multiple meanings. An example is the word fan. On a warm day you may wish to sit near the fan so you can feel a cool breeze. But you may also take off to the ballpark because you are a fan of the local team. Think about the problem you could get into if you confused the scales on a fish with the scales on a piano!

The man-who-would-not-be-pastor in the story I made up really messed up when he confused the two meanings of the word conviction. On one hand, a conviction is the proving of guilt. On the other, a conviction is a firmly held belief. Which do you think the committee member was asking about? OK, OK, maybe both! But the prospect would have been wise to answer the question based upon his firmly held beliefs - his convictions.

What are your convictions? What do you firmly believe? Specifically, what do you believe about God, about life, about purpose, or about salvation? I can tell you what I believe and even tell you what to believe but you must really discover the options and settle on a belief yourself.

Maybe your background includes Christianity. Whether or not you call yourself a Christian, you are familiar with some of the basic beliefs of the faith. I encourage you to read the Bible and attend a Bible study. You'll learn about God, life, purpose, and salvation. And much more. Then you can decide to embrace or reject the Christian faith.

Some of you may have very little or no connection to Christianity. You could listen to someone go on and on but never understand much if we spoke with "churchy" words. Again, you can start by reading the Bible, especially the Gospel of John in the New Testament. If you don't have a Bible then send me a message and I'll send you a copy. If you want to go buy a Bible then ask for or look for "NIV," "ESV", or "HCSB" for a version that will be in a modern language. And start looking for a friend or acquaintance who is a Christian and will help you as you read the Bible. Again, if you need help with this, send me a message.

Convictions are firmly held beliefs. Whatever you believe, hold firmly to it. But how can you really make a choice about God, life, purpose, and salvation until you know what the Christians' beliefs are?

Oh, and be careful out there. I just read that the Arkansas State Police will be using low-profile cruisers so they can blend into the traffic flow. You don't want any traffic convictions on your record.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

When Preachers Get Together

I just had a lunch meeting with 25 ministers from central Arkansas. First, I must say that the bacon cheeseburger was more like a meatloaf on a bun. Wow! Each was served with a knife stuck through the top. Most places just use a toothpick but a toothpick would have been an insult to this burger. So, thanks to the chef at Markham Street Baptist Church for a wonderful meal. Oh, and we had a BIG cookie and chocolate shake for dessert. What's that? You think you hear God calling you into ministry?

I sat at a table with pastors and staff from several other churches. Some were a little bigger than the church where I pastor. Some were much bigger. A pleasant aspect of this fellowship of ministers is that everyone feels like they belong in the group. Nobody (that shows up) looks down on guys from other churches. If there is a spirit of competition it's hard to see it here. There's something about a huge burger than levels the ground where we all stand.

Actually, it's not the burger - as excellent as it was. The Spirit of God has created a lovely spirit of fellowship and unity here. Everyone is valued. Everyone is respected. We have a common goal of reaching central Arkansas for Jesus. Even here in the Bible Belt, we have a gospel-deficiency. We all serve in churches where the Christians are on a journey of spiritual maturity. And these churches are in the midst of communities that have become less and less Christian.

Jesus once looked out over a Samaritan village and said the harvest was plentiful. Another time Jesus said to ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers into the fields. We live in an area where the harvest is plentiful and the workers must join together in the power and direction of the Holy Spirit if we hope to make much of an impact. That seems to be the desire of the men who gathered for burgers today.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Back to School

"Some of the best years of my life." How many people have said that about high school. Yeah, I know we all have some regrets about who we were or what we did back then but we also made great friends, had wonderful experiences, and became who we are back then. The past is a double-edged sword of glory and groaning, remembrance and regret.

If we have leveraged the bad times into learning opportunities then we can truly say those years were good years. Like at any point in life, to fall or fail or flounder and not learn from it is opportunity lost.

The Bible says we are to make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:16). That takes wisdom. Not the wisdom of this world but that of God. The Bible also says that there is a way that seems right to man but in the end leads to death (Proverbs 16:25). In other words, you aren't always right but God always is!

Years from now you will look back on today. You'll likely have one of two reactions. "That was a great day!" or "I wish I'd done better."

Riley heads back to school today. He's beginning seventh grade. Ah, seventh grade. Those were some of the best days of my life! I hope they are for Riley, too.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Matter of the Heart

So I'm out there running Saturday morning. Saturdays are our endurance days. We go four miles or more and now I'm running them again.

I'm not going very fast but not too bad considering the layoff. At about the 2.5 mile mark I'm struggling to get to the top of a long hill. And I make it. Then I walk.

My running buddy and trainer is about twenty yards ahead of me and can tell immediately that I've slowed down. So he turns around and comes back to me. "There's time to rest later. Get moving!"

I didn't say anything. I couldn't. Then he said, "You worked too hard to get your heart rate up. That's why we got up at 4:00 this morning."

There is a reason for everything. The reason I get up early three days a week is to improve my chances a living a few more days of quality life by strengthening my heart.

So I started thinking about my journey with the Lord. What's the point? It's a matter of the heart. Love the Lord with all your heart. Remember that verse? With my heart I love the Lord and I love other people. Above all else guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life. Remember that verse? My values are set in my heart.

And strengthening my heart takes work. I can't work a little and rest a little. I have to work hard and rest later. It would be a shame to run 2.5 miles, get my heart rate up, then stop and let my heart rate go back down before my heart really benefits from it. So I started running again and finished the 4.33 miles in 1:01:30.

I can't walk with the Lord every now and then. I have to stay with it in order to strengthen my heart, guard my heart. I can finish this race when I fix my eyes on Jesus. You can, too.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Alone with God

We are in our 19th month of walking or running three days a week. What started as a group of three and maxed out at eight was a duo this morning. Stuff happens. People change their minds. It gets hard.

For the last three or four months it's mostly been Forrest (leader/trainer), Deana (wife), and me. To encourage Deana and to baby my left knee, I've been walking at her pace most of the time. That's a lot different from the pace I had been running. It was actually a struggle to keep up at first because my knee problems had flared up. That's why I stopped running.

I have gotten used to the walking pace even as it picked up a little over the weeks. But I was never pushing myself to the point that I couldn't take part in the conversation. Here's my take: if you can carry on a conversation you're taking a stroll, not exercising.

Today it was just Forrest and me. I jogged a little on the last outing and we jogged the whole way today. I hope my knee can take the more aggressive pace. My weight has crept up since I stopped running and I want to get headed in the right direction again.

For the most part I've been at the head of the pack except for Forrest for the last 19 months. And recently I've stayed with the pack. Today Forrest was ten to forty yards ahead of me the whole way. When I compare myself to the others I look pretty good. I've stuck with it. I can pick up the pace and get out front.

But I could do nothing to keep up with Forrest. He could have beaten me by a mile if he wanted to. And the route was just 2.5 miles!

What happened on Rushing Road this morning between 5:00 and 5:30 exposed a great life-lesson. We can get a false sense of accomplishment when we compare ourselves with others who are struggling along the same road we are. The true picture of our status comes when we compare to the standard of excellence.

I don't feel bad that I couldn't keep up with Forrest. But I am encouraged to do better.

In the spiritual life some people like to compare themselves with others making the same journey. You can always find somebody to whom you compare favorably. It's easy to point out the struggles or downfalls of other people.

But how you stack up with other people really doesn't matter. Only one person is the standard of excellence by which we are judged: Jesus Christ. Comparisons to anyone else lead to a false sense of accomplishment, a puffed up spirit, and a sure fall into disappointment.

Time alone with Forrest helped me see my true level of physical fitness. I could make no excuses or false comparisons.

Time alone with God will help you see your need for his guidance and power in your life. There will be nobody to compare to. There will be no acceptable excuses.

And the good news is that Jesus wants to help you meet his expectations and example. You'll never be able to do it alone. He won't hold that against you as long as you follow him and give him glory with your life.

The last thing Forrest said before driving away was, "That was a good run." I hope one day to hear my Lord say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Friday, August 02, 2013

Weekly Devotional - August 2, 2013

"He replied, 'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away."
Luke 19:26 NIV

"Use it or lose it." How often have you heard that phrase? We might refer to muscles or brain power or many other things. And most often, it's true!

United Airlines sent a notice to me in the mail last week because my frequent flyer miles are about to expire. "Frequent flyer" doesn't describe me at all but I did go to Russia last year and that's a lot of miles! My expiring mileage balance is 8,231.

The airline apparently (and correctly) assumes I'm not going to use those miles to purchase airfare so they sent a voucher to redeem for magazines. How about a gift card to my favorite coffee shop or pay for the next semester of tuition? That would be useful.

But I get magazines. Either that or I lose my miles. I wonder how many dollars I'll save if I use all my miles for magazines. I would prefer the airlines just reduce the price of airfare by that much and forget the mileage program.

So I use the miles or I lose the miles. Just like in the story Jesus told about the servants who managed their master's resources differently. The two who did well and showed an increase were praised and rewarded. The one who did nothing was punished. His was taken from him.

I want Jesus to find me being faithful, don't you? I can use my abilities and resources for his glory or not. That's my choice. But I think I know how he'll respond. Pray that God will help you be faithful when your blessings today.