Sunday, September 30, 2007

Leading with Integrity

A few weeks ago, the talk of the National Football League centered on one team that had cheated by filming the calls of the opposing team's coaches. One weekly sports magazine ran a headline that said something like "Everyone Does It. It's Only Cheating if You Get Caught." I was disappointed in the coaches and ownership of the cheating team, but I was more disappointed in the magazine that sent out such an irresponsible message on its front cover.

I don't believe the cover of the sports magazine...some (perhaps many) may cheat, but surely some lead their teams with integrity.

Coach Tony Dungy addressed the controversy a few weeks ago on his blog. His comments gave me hope that some coaches and owners lead with integrity. His post may be read at

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Homer Simpson Theology

As I remember the old episode of The Simpsons, Homer was being chased by a ferocious bull. Just as the bull was closing in on him and he thought that he was going to die, Homer cried out, "Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha...I love you all!"

Homer Simpson's theology reminds me of the theology of the Israelites from the days of the judges until the Babylonian captivity. They never abandoned the true God; they simply added other gods to their worship. (However, God saw it as abandonment, and he was right. By adding other false gods, they had forsaken him in reality. They demonstrated that they did not really trust him.) They attempted to use the Lord when he was needed (to win a war or to produce a crop), but when they perceived that he was failing them, they would turn to other gods in hope that the other gods would give them what they wanted.

I understand that Homer Simpson theology is still a problem in areas where idolatry is common today. Some people may claim to believe in Jesus in India, for example, but they may have only added him to their pantheon of gods, making him another idol to use for selfish reasons.

In America, someone may believe in Christ to some extent, but check the horoscope for direction in daily living rather than the words of Jesus Christ. When we engage in such activity, we are embracing Homer Simpson theology. Christ has simply become another idol to use for our personal benefit. We have rejected him as Lord. Our proclamations of love for him ring hollow. Many more examples of Homer Simpson theology could be cited, but the important thing is to heed the words of the apostle John: "Dear children, keep yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21, NIV).

Combined Federal Campaign 2007

"And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased" (Hebrews 13:16, NIV).

Every Fall, federal employees get an opportunity to fill out a form in order for deductions to be made from their paychecks to the charities of their choice. Several hundred charities are listed in the brochure. Both military and civilian employees may participate in the program, the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC).

This week, I brought the brochure and form home to discuss with Janet. After some thought, we decided to donate to the same charities we have designated for years: Christian Relief Fund ( and Pioneer Bible Translators (

The Christian Relief Fund (CFC #11862) is an organization operated by members of Churches of Christ and Christian Churches. It works around the world to alleviate poverty. For a number of years, Janet and I sponsored a girl in El Salvador through the organization, until she left the sponsorship program. With so many needs around the globe, we believe it is important for Christians to help however possible, and the Christian Relief Fund makes it possible for us to help in a small way.

Pioneer Bible Translators (CFC #11481) is also run by members of Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. It works to translate the Bible into languages that have no Bibles at this time. In addition, its members teach native people how to read, because most of them are not only deprived of the Bible but of literacy as well. This group engages in frontier mission work, taking the good news of Christ to people who have never heard of him.

Every year, we are able to talk to the people who operate the Christian Relief Fund and Pioneer Bible Translators, because both charities have booths at the Tulsa International Soul Winning Workshop. (Next year, we may get an additional opportunity to visit with them when the National Missionary Convention of the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ meets in Tulsa.) It is good to be able to see the people who work with these organizations at least once a year.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Britney Spears

While browsing through some of my favorite blogs today, Jennifer Taylor's blog caught my attention. She tells about the efforts of Lexington's Southland Christian Church to write notes of encouragement to Britney Spears, the singer who has made headlines for bad choices over the past several months. I like the idea. We need to reach out to people in trouble, whether they are rich and famous or poor and unknown.

Jennifer Taylor's post may be viewed at

Southland Christian Church's blog post may be viewed at

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Holy Spirit Within the Christian

These are a few of the Scriptures that teach the actual presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the follower of Jesus Christ:

"Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38, NIV).

"You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ" (Romans 8:9, NIV).

"For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children" (Romans 8:13-16, NIV).

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own" (1 Corinthians 6:19, NIV).

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV).

This was not an exhaustive list, but it is enough to be encouraging to any Christian who feels alone at times. We are never alone. The Holy Spirit is with us.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Active Husands and Fathers

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church---for we are members of his body. 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a profound mystery---but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband" (Ephesians 5:25-33, NIV).

"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4, NIV).

Passivity among men is a common temptation in the home. We are tempted to come home from work, turn on the television, read the newspaper, and go to bed. After all, we have worked hard all day.

However, if we give in to the temptation to be passive in the home, our relationships will die. Our marriages will grow cold and possibly dissolve. Our children will become distant and possibly rebellious.

God has called me to something better...something more noble. He charges me with loving my wife and guiding my son to maturity in the Lord. He calls for me to be an active and involved husband and father. With God's help, I intend to live up to the high calling that he has issued.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

People and Programs

This is a quote from Up Close and Personal: Embracing the Poor by Harold Shank, Anthony Wood, and Ron Bergeron:

"Most people like Josh (a homeless man) can get free food, clothing, and shelter at many places, but few places offer a connection with a compassionate person. 'Compassion' comes from two Latin words meaning to 'suffer with.' Giving to the poor without feeling their hurt falls short of true compassion.

Novelist Leo Tolstoy tried to rid Moscow of the poor by giving money to beggars in the worst sections of Moscow. The experience soured Tolstoy. He gave to people who only 'needed money to buy a railway ticket home,' but felt cheated when he later spotted them still in town. Next he organized the Moscow census to seek out the 'truly' needy. Yet his list didn't advance his cause. He concluded, 'Of all the people I noted down, I really helped none...I did not find any unfortunates who could be made fortunate by the mere gift of money.'

Tolstoy organized programs but never connected with people. Most poor people need other people, not expanded programs. God uses people to help other people. Andrew introduced Peter. Ananias taught Saul. Paul mentored Timothy. Since God uses people to reach other people, we shouldn't be surprised at its effectiveness in our lives. If we meet them where they are, we can be used by God to lead them out of bondage. Clothing closets and food giveaways work most effectively when they provide a connection between two people" (p.35).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Quiet Strength

I finished reading Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy, and it was worth the time. Tony Dungy is the coach of the Indianapolis Colts and the first African American coach to lead a team to win the Super Bowl. His book describes his life and the lessons that he has learned along the way. Sometimes people may become discouraged about the negative news in football and other sports; sometimes people may wonder, Where are the positive black role models in the media? This book is encouraging, because you see that decent people can be successful in pro sports and positive black role models can be found there.

One of the recurring themes of Quiet Strength is found in the counsel of Tony's father, Dr. Wil Dungy: "What are you going to do to make the situation better?" From an early age, Tony Dungy learned to look for ways to improve things, rather than fall into a pattern of whining and self-pity. It gave him a good worldview. It gave him a strength of character that he would need in order to persevere in a challenging career.

When Tony Dungy played football for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s, coach Chuck Noll would say, "Champions are champions not because they do anything extraordinary but because they do the ordinary things better than anyone else." Coach Dungy would keep that in mind throughout his life. He concentrated on doing the basics well in coaching his teams. As a result, his teams performed extraordinarily well. However, he applied the same principle to his life in general. He treated people well, volunteered in projects to help his community, kept his marriage strong, and loved his children. He was always aware that he was a role model to his family and to the public at large.

I enjoyed reading about the adoption of three of his children. However, the most emotional part of the book came when he discussed the suicide of his oldest son. You could feel that he loved his son deeply and that it hurt just as deeply when he took his own life. To this day, the Dungy family does not know what happened in Jamie's life to bring him to suicide. It was a difficult time, but the Dungys stayed together, grieved together, and survived together.

Tony Dungy's faith in Jesus Christ is woven throughout the book. I liked that he was not ashamed to let people know about his faith in Christ, but I love that he has earned a reputation of integrity to back up his words. He closes the book with these thoughts:

"I coach football. But the good I can do to glorify God along the way is my real purpose. I want to help people see the path to eternal life through Christ, to enjoy an abundant life now, and to fulfill their God-given purposes here.

We are all role models to someone in this world, and we can all have an impact---for good."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Happy Anniversary, Janet!

Tomorrow will be our 14th wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary, Sweetie!

"He who finds a wife finds what is good
and receives favor from the LORD" (Proverbs 18:22, NIV).

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Actively Pro-Life

"For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well" (Psalm 139:13-14, NIV).

In 1990, Chuck Swindoll produced a book titled Sanctity of Life, in which he made the case for being pro-life. Then he offered these suggestions regarding how to put pro-life convictions into action:

1. "First of all, volunteer your time, energy, and financial resources." Many crisis pregnancy centers and adoption agencies could use volunteers and additional finances. I recommend Christian Services of Oklahoma ( since it helped us to adopt.

2. "Second, make your home available to unwed mothers and/or be of support to homes that are open to them." This is an excellent idea. We volunteered to do this once when the need was mentioned during church services, but someone got ahead of us in line and was able to meet the need before we could. Now we could not do it, because we do not have the spare room. However, others may be able to do it.

3. "Third, write letters and make phone calls." Occasionally, I have written to leaders in our government, asking them to help protect the lives of children. Congressman John Sullivan has been exceptionally responsive, whether I have asked him to vote against abortion or to vote for funding AIDS drugs for poor pregnant women in Africa. Others have not been so responsive. Also, local newspapers will print pro-life letters to the editor every once in a while.

4. "Fourth, participate in demonstrations of your personal preference." I attended a couple of pro-life rallies at the state capitol building while in college, but I have not done anything like it in many years. I have not found it to be something that fits me personally.

5. "Fifth, participate in community projects." I am not sure what Chuck Swindoll had in mind with that suggestion, since he did not give examples. However, I hear about the Walk for Life or pro-life banquets every once in a while, but we have never been involved (except for a banquet for our adoption agency).

6. "Practice in your private life what you claim to believe publicly." Mr. Swindoll suggested that we practice sexual morality, refuse the option of abortion when the possibility arises in our own lives, and consider adoption.

He also wrote, "It is extremely important that you (1) select one with which you are comfortable and (2) refrain from judging another person for not choosing the option you prefer. Great grace is need here. I know whereof I speak! It hurt when I was told over the phone recently that because I chose not to participate in a certain way as the caller told me I should, he responded angrily by assuring me I would 'answer for it in the day of judgment.' Such an exclusive, judgmental attitude polarizes an otherwise united front that various meaningful involvements provide. People need to be given the freedom to respond as God leads them." Those are good words. We are not all the same, and we can work in different ways toward the same good goal without judging each other (as long as we are not working against each other). However we choose to get involved, let's contribute to saving the lives of some children.

Emerging/Emergent Churches

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NASB).

Gary Zustiak, a professor at Ozark Christian College, has written 3 very useful articles about Emerging, Emergent, and Missional churches in the latest Christian Standard magazine. While the Emerging and Missional church movements have some positive features, I believe that the Emergent church movement will undermine and destroy congregations that embrace it. The Emergent church movement does not respect the teachings of the Bible.

The articles may be read at:

Thursday, September 13, 2007

My Favorite Question About Adoption

When we first adopted Christopher, Janet and I were asked, "Are you going to tell him that he's adopted?" I still don't know how we could keep it a secret. The average little black boy with white parents will figure it out, so why hide it?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Best Thing My Son Has Ever Said to Me

My four-year old son, Christopher, said to me, "Daddy, if you were a baby, I would adopt you." Priceless.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Can Osama bin Laden Be Saved?

Can Osama bin Laden be saved? As scandalous and disgusting as this sounds, the answer is: Yes. Even the worst mass murderer of our time can be saved. Even the most satanic leader of Islamic terrorists can be saved.

Does bin Laden deserve to go to hell? No question about it. He is a murderer. He mocks the true God who will judge him. He promotes a distorted view of God and humanity. He is evil to the core.

However, another enemy of God who was an unlikely prospect for salvation once reflected back on his life and wrote, "Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 1:13-14, NIV). The apostle Paul could identify with Osama bin Laden in his hatred of Jesus Christ and his followers, but he was changed by an encounter with the Lord.

Osama bin Laden can be saved, but not until he submits to Christ.

So what can we do about it? We must pray for the Islamic world to open up to the gospel. Over one billion Muslims do not know the true Christ. (The one that they know about never died and was never resurrected so that their sins could be forgiven.) They need a Savior, because they have sin in their lives as much as any of us.

In addition, we must send missionaries to Islamic lands. (I know that this has been happening for years. I met a missionary to Indonesia at the National Urban Ministry Conference of the Churches of Christ a few years ago, and I heard about a former urban minister who was serving as a missionary in Pakistan. We simply need to send more missionaries, because the need is so great.) As the apostle Paul also wrote, "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'' (Romans 10:14-15, NIV).

With prayer and evangelism (accompanied by a love for Muslims and a willingness to die in order to reach them), people like Osama bin Laden have a opportunity to be saved. Otherwise, it is hopeless.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Epistle to Diognetus

This is an excerpt from a letter written around 150 A.D. The Epistle to Diognetus describes second century Christianity.

"For Christians are distinguished from the rest of men neither by country, language, nor customs. They do not dwell in cities of their own, nor do they use some strange language, nor practice a peculiar kind of life. Their teaching indeed has not been discovered by any speculation or consideration of men full of curiosity, nor do they busy themselves with human doctrine as some do. While dwelling in Greek or barbarian cities, as each has received his lot, and following the local customs in dress, food, and the rest of life, they display the marvellous and admittedly unusual constitution of their own citizenship. They live in their own countries, but as sojourners. They share all things, as citizens; and they endure all things, as foreigners. Every foreign land is their fatherland, and every fatherland is a foreign land to them. They marry as do all men; they bear children; but they do not abandon their offspring. They furnish a common table, but not a common bed. Their lot is cast in the flesh, but they do not live according to the flesh. They pass their time upon the earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They are obedient to the appointed laws, but they surpass the laws in their own lives. They love all men and are persecuted by all. They are not understood, and they are condemned. They are put to death, and they are made alive. They are poor, and they make many rich. They lack all things, and they abound in everything. They are dishonored, and they are glorified in their dishonor. They are evil spoken of, and they are justified. They are reviled, and they bless. They are insulted, and they give honor. While doing good, they are punished as evil. Being punished, they rejoice as being made alive. They are fought against as foreigners by the Jews, and they are persecuted by the Greeks. And those who hate them cannot state a reason for their enmity."

Friday, September 07, 2007

Persevering to Produce

"But the seed on the good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop" (Luke 8:15, NIV).

I have read about great evangelists like T.B. Larimore, Marshall Keeble, and Jimmy Allen. Each one of them would come into a community and conduct evangelistic meetings for a small congregation of Christians. By the end of the series of meetings, hundreds would be added to the local church either by faith and baptism or by repentance and restoration.

How were they so productive? More personally, why am I not so productive?

One reason for their productivity is that each of those men was gifted by God to be an evangelist. I am not gifted in the same way. God has given me gifts, but he has not given me the gift of being able to speak effectively in large public gatherings.

However, while I do not want to take away from the accomplishments of great evangelists, I have come to believe that they are not as productive as they appear. Very seldom are evangelists solely responsible for bringing people to Christ. While they have a crucial role in presenting the gospel in clear and attractive ways, they need other Christians as much as we need them.

Most of the people who are baptized into Christ by an evangelist were actually led to Christ by rather inarticulate people. How many children grow up to know the Lord primarily due to the teaching and example of godly parents? How many employers, employees, and co-workers have been nudged toward Christ by the people who work with them? They may have noticed that a co-worker took the time to visit them in the hospital, lived with integrity, and put in a good word for Jesus every once in a while. Perhaps their co-worker even persuaded them to come to the evangelistic meeting. How many neighbors have learned to respect God because of a saintly neighbor who would rather help than judge?

Everyday, Christians are making a difference. They are persevering. When they think that they are spinning their wheels and going nowhere, they keep going with the hope that somehow God is using them. The good news is: He is! As Jesus taught in the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46, he notices the good that his people are doing even when they don't recognize it.

I'm thankful for the evangelists, but I'm just as grateful for the unknown disciples whose less articulate words but godly attitudes and actions are backing up the message of the evangelists. We all need each other, and we need to keep persevering in order to produce a harvest.

I must not give up despite my apparent ineffectiveness.

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9, NIV).

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

What Does God Want?

"What does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.' Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness" (Romans 4:3-5, NIV).

From the days of Adam and Eve, God has wanted us to trust him. Regrettably, we have failed him. We have tried to make up for our lack of faith by working at being good, but that has not brought us any closer to God. He is not impressed with manipulation. He simply wants us to trust him. God wants us to see him for who he is, and to place our confidence in his character and power.

When God sent Jesus Christ to die and to be resurrected for us, one of his primary goals was to show that he was worthy of our trust. He was demonstrating how far he would go on our behalf. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose...What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all---how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:28, 31-32, NIV).

God has proven himself to be trustworthy. Now he asks to be trusted.

Monday, September 03, 2007

A Scripture for Labor Day

"'So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,' says the LORD Almighty" (Malachi 3:5, NIV).

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Iglesia de Cristo

"Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?" (Acts 2:8, NIV).

Last week, I noticed a poster in the hall of our church building. It was apparently advertising the formation of a new congregation (I say "apparently" because the poster was in Spanish and I can read very little Spanish). The Park Plaza Church of Christ (which started the Contact Church) has started the Iglesia de Cristo Park Plaza. I was glad to learn of the formation of a new Spanish-speaking church in Tulsa, because we have many Hispanics but few churches that speak their language. More information about the new congregation can be found at

Later in the week, I asked a Hispanic co-worker, "What is the most common version of the Bible that Hispanics read?" He told me that they read one that would be equivalent to the English King James Version, one that few truly understand because of the out-dated language. I was a little surprised, because I know that the International Bible Society and World Bible Translation Center have produced translations in more modern Spanish. I expected one of those translations to be more popular.

My co-worker's answer reinforced how I felt about the establishment of a new Spanish-speaking congregation. It is certainly needed. From the beginning of the first church in Jerusalem, God has been concerned that the good news be presented in people's native languages. Hispanic people need Bibles that they can read and churches that speak their language. (By the way, English-speaking Christians can help the Iglesia de Cristo by volunteering to teach Hispanics the English language. Information is on the church's web site.)