Friday, April 27, 2007

Another Amazing Grace Movie Review

Amazing Grace can be seen at discount (or dollar) movie theatres now. The film describes the efforts of William Wilberforce to end the slave trade in Great Britain. Soon, I'm sure, it will be available on DVD.

You may read an excellent review of the movie by Darryl Tippens at

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Partial Birth Abortion Decision

"For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother's womb" (Psalm 139:13, NASB).

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Congress could outlaw partial birth abortions. For the first time since 1973, a method of killing pre-born children has been banned. I appreciate the courage of the 5 Justices who ruled in favor of protecting children from unnecessary abortions performed as the children were being born.

I look forward to the time when unnecessary abortions will be as socially unacceptable as racism. Someday, I would like to see the laws of our country changed to protect pre-born children from death, just as they were changed to protect minorities from discrimination. I would like to see pro-abortion politicians find it as difficult to be elected as segregationists find it. I would like to see advertisers pull their ads from radio programs that support unrestricted abortions, just as they pull such ads today from programs that use racist language. I would like to see a massive change in societal attitudes toward aborting children.

It may seem impossible, but it's not. Consider the changes that have taken place over the last 50 years in the area of racism. Has it been eliminated? No, but it does not retain the respect that it had 50 years ago. Will unnecessary abortions be eliminated? No, but significant changes can occur. This injustice can be fought successfully. Lives can be saved. The Supreme Court's decision was a step in the correct direction.

For a good article by John Piper on this issue, go to:

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Some Wise Counsel

"Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ" (Philippians 1:27, NIV).

Contact church minister Ron Babbit says, "Don't make the preacher lie about you at your own funeral."

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Blinding Power of Bitterness

"See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled" (Hebrews 12:15, NASB).

Twelve years ago, Timothy McVeigh allowed his resentment to fuel the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, murdering at least 168 people. This week, Cho Seung-Hui's bitterness led him to murder 32 people at Virginia Tech before committing suicide. By surrendering to resentment, two men missed the grace of God. They were blinded by their rage.

Most of us will not allow our bitterness to drive us to murder, but none of us will go through life without scars. Each one of us will be hurt by someone, sometimes intentionally but often unintentionally. What will we do when we are hurt? Will we become weak and bitter? Or will we become strong and forgiving? How we answer those questions may determine whether we miss the grace of God. As Jesus Christ taught, "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors...For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions" (Matthew 6:12, 14-15, NASB).

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Purpose of Our Good Works

"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16, NASB).

Max Lucado wrote, "If we ever get to the point where our goal is to have people say, 'What a wonderful person,' we're missing the mark. Instead, our goal is to have people say, 'What a wonderful God this person serves.' Our task is to have people say, 'Tell me about your God,' and point people to him" (from an April 1999 desk calander).

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Concepts Are Significant

I wrote the following letter to the editor which appeared in the July 25, 2004 edition of the Tulsa World.

Several recent letters to the editor have raised interesting questions about God's grace, faith in Jesus Christ, and Christian baptism. While the arguments may appear meaningless to anyone relatively unfamiliar with Christianity, each concept has great significance in the lives of people who desire to follow Christ.

Christians recognize the great need of God's grace and forgiveness. We have sinned against God and the people created in his image. We have been selfish, hateful, envious, immoral, rude, arrogant, and self-righteous. We have failed to love our neighbors, our enemies, and our God.

"All have sinned and are not good enough for God's glory, and all need to be made right with God by his grace, which is a free gift. They need to be made free from sin through Jesus Christ. God gave him as a way to forgive sin through faith in the blood of Jesus' death" (Romans 3:23-25, NCV).

Acknowledging our inability to completely reverse the damage that our sins have inflicted upon others and even ourselves, we need someone to help us out of our messy lives. When Jesus took the full impact of our sins in his death and returned to life, he proved himself capable of handling our flaws.

"But people cannot do any work that will make them right with God. So they must trust in him, who makes even evil people right in his sight. Then God accepts their faith, and that makes them right with him" (Romans 4:5, NCV).

When we entrust our lives to Christ, God gives us a new start to life. At baptism, we mark the end of our lives of guilt, while entering the new life made possible by the grace of God.

"We died to our old sinful lives, so how can we continue living in sin? Did you forget that all of us became part of Christ when we were baptized? We shared his death in our baptism. When we were baptized, we were buried with Christ and shared his death. So, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the wonderful power of the Father, we also can live a new life" (Romans 6:3-4, NCV).

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


"And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Matthew 6:13, NASB).

Sometimes I forget about Satan. He usually works in such subtle ways that I fail to notice. Then something happens to remind me that Satan exists and that he is a powerful leader of strong spiritual forces.

I remembered Satan yesterday after hearing about the mass murders that took place on the campus of Virginia Tech. A young man chose to murder over 30 fellow students and professors. I do not know what was going through that man's mind, but I recognized the influence of the one called a "murderer from the beginning" by Jesus.

When we returned home from our Monday night Bible study, Janet showed me an e-mail from the prayer ministry of the Jenks Church (our former congregation and a supporter of one of our ministers at the Contact Church of Christ). In the e-mail, Lynessa Yeats forwarded a prayer request from her brother-in-law at a Church of Christ in Connecticut. The daughter of one of his congregation's elders had been attacked, beaten, raped, and cut for 19 hours by a "Satanic thug" (as one newpaper apparently described the man) over the weekend. Then, the thug left the young college student in her apartment as he set it on fire. She is in intensive care at a hospital in New York, and we have been praying for her since learning of her situation.

Satan is real, and sometimes we can see that truth with perfect clarity.

Jesus knew it, too. He dealt with him face-to-face. And he knew that we would need the help of God, so he taught us to pray, "Deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen" (Matthew 6:14, NASB). Thankfully, God is real, too.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Why Hope?

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ will be ashamed of their slander" (1 Peter 3:15-16, NIV).

The apostle Peter expected Christians to be asked, "What reason do you have to hope?" It's interesting that the apostle did not tell Christians to give a reason for their ethical choices or for their doctrinal convictions. He could have done so (and it is appropriate for us to have good reasons for our choices and convictions), but he chose to focus on a reason for our hope. Especially in a context of criticism and persecution, Peter wanted followers of Jesus Christ to be asked about their hope. He wanted us to be known for being people of hope.

This is a challenging passage. Once in a while, I am asked about ethical issues or my understanding of Scripture. However, rarely have I been asked, "Why do you have hope?" Perhaps I need to think more about the return of Jesus Christ. Maybe I need to remind myself continually that I am in the kingdom of a powerful, merciful, and promise-keeping God. Then, perhaps someone may be more inclined to ask me to give a reason for the hope that they will see in my life.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

International Orphans

I found the following information on the Christian Relief Fund web site (

700,000 children live in Ukraine's orphanages today.

65% to 75% of the children in ophanages are there due to alcoholism in their homes.

15% of the orphans commit suicide within one year of leaving an orphanage.

70% of boys are arrested within 3 years of leaving an orphanage.

60% of girls are involved in prostitution within 2 years of leaving an orphanage. Twenty-thousand prostitutes live in the capitol city (Kiev), and the typical prostitute is a 19 year old orphan.

The world's children are crying out for Christians who will care for them. God wants his people to help these children and others like them (James 1:27).

Jason and Erin Carley are preparing to adopt a little boy from Vietnam soon. (Erin is Gary and Mary Lasarsky's daughter, and George Sly's granddaughter---see yesterday's post.) The Carleys are doing something special in providing a home for their son. I know that they will be incredibly blessed by his presence, just as he will be by their's.

It is not possible for everyone to adopt, but everyone can encourage those who do. Perhaps we can support organizations like the Christian Relief Fund or an adoption agency (like Christian Services of Oklahoma) with money, prayer, and volunteering. The world is full of needs and opportunities to meet them (and the blessings of meeting those needs are indescribable).

Friday, April 13, 2007

Granny Winn's Eulogy

"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8, NIV).

Yesterday, I was able to leave work early to attend the memorial service of George Sly (a member of Jenks Church and the father of Mary Lasarsky). During the very good service, Tracy Ellis quoted Micah 6:8 and demonstrated how George Sly had lived out the principles of that verse. It reminded me of the eulogy that I wrote 4 years ago for my last living grandparent (and the only one who had the opportunity to see my son, Christopher). My cousin, Bryan Winn, read the eulogy at the funeral for me. The following is the eulogy as I wrote it:

Lovada Almalee (Maggard) Winn was born in Venice (Huntsville) Arkansas on February 13, 1930 to John and Bell Maggard. In 1933, the Maggard family moved to Westville, Oklahoma, where Lovada attended Westville Public Schools. On December 19, 1946, she married James Troy Winn in Lincoln, Arkansas. In 1958, they moved to Catoosa, Oklahoma. Lovada owned and operated Rainbow Mini Storage. She was preceeded in death by her husband, James Troy Winn. She is survived by...

...two sons (Henry Winn and Glenn Winn, both of Catoosa)
...three daughters (Joyce Laudett of Bella Vista, Arkansas; Glenna Beeler of Inola; and Lisa Taylor of Catoosa)
...three brothers (Neil Maggard of Westville; Ancil Maggard of Proctor; and Kenneth Maggard of Proctor)
...thirteen grandchildren
...and eleven great-grandchildren.

In Micah 6:8, the Bible asks one of the most important questions in life: "What does the Lord require of you?" Then, it reveals the answer: "To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Lovada Winn lived by those principles.

She was a woman who dealt fairly with people in her business and in life in general. She was known for her honesty and loyalty to people. She acted justly.

Lovada was also helpful to many people in need. Whether visiting a sick friend or church member, caring for her grandchildren, or helping a stranger, she touched many lives with her concern. She was both a great listener and a gifted conversationalist. Nobody felt alone in Lovada's presence. She love mercy.

In 1963, Lovada Winn professed her faith in Jesus Christ and was baptized at the Catoosa Church of Christ. She served as a member of the Plainview Church of Christ for a quarter of a century. Over those years, she taught numerous children about Jesus, encouraged many others, and became an example for all. Lovada's faith impacted generations, as her children and many grandchildren became believers. She considered the fact that all her children and many grandchildren were Christians to be the most satisfying aspect of her life. While she did many good things, Lovada always wanted to do even more and to be even better than she was. In her last days, she looked forward to heaven, and hoped to be found worthy because of God's grace. She walked humbly with her God.

Lovada Winn passed from this life to the next on May 7, 2003.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Think About Such Things

This is a devotional piece that I wrote for the Christian Standard. It appeared in the July 21, 1996 edition.

Think About Such Things

What consumes your thoughts? Do you worry about deadlines? Are you anxious about finances? Does revenge find a home in your heart? Do immoral thoughts race through your mind? Such things shatter our peace and distance us from God.

Realizing the impact of our thoughts, the apostle Paul wrote, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable---if anything is excellent or praiseworthy---think about such things" (Philippians 4:8, New International Version). Meditating upon those attributes draws us closer to God. Acquiring those ideals may transform our lives into the image of God's Son, since Jesus Christ personifies those attributes.

Christ is true, honest, genuine, and real. He is completely trustworthy. He perceives everything with keen accuracy, and He speaks with absolute integrity. If He says it, you can believe it.

The Lord is noble. His character commands respect. He has earned the loyalty of His people.

Christ is right in all ways. He lived under the law of Moses without committing one transgression. He kept the rules and fulfilled the law.

Jesus is pure. His heart has never been contaminated by evil. He has overcome every temptation.

The Lord is lovely. His self-sacrificing spirit turned an ugly crucifixion into a beautiful demonstration of God's love. As promised, all kinds of people have been drawn to Him since He was lifted up.

Christ is admirable. Even His critics and skeptics often admit an admiration for His teachings.

Jesus is excellent in His goodness. He is the genuine epitome of morality and virtue. His standards are unsurpassed.

Finally, Christ is praiseworthy or commendable. He rescues us from a destiny of Hell and prepares a home in Heaven for us. He deserves our praise!

Focusing our minds upon Jesus Christ and His attributes can settle troubled minds while bringing us into the presence of a gracious God. Let's think about such things.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Agony of Christ

"And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground" (Luke 22:44, NASB).

Before Jesus went to the cross, he spent some time praying in a garden. During that time, he became so involved in talking to his Father that his sweat became like drops of blood.

Earlier this week, I heard that people doubted that such sweating could occur, until the Germans conducted experiments during World War II involving how people responded to fear. They discovered that people could be terrified to the point of sweating blood.

If that is the case, what could have frightened Christ to such an extent? He had taught his disciples that they did not need to fear circumstances or people. Even more, Jesus had modeled fearlessness every day of his life. So, what was happening? Was he afraid of death? No, he feared neither people nor what they could do to him. Was he afraid, as I have heard taught, of being seperated from his Father? Not exactly.

I am convinced that Jesus feared facing the wrath of God. As the apostle Paul wrote, "Much more then, having now been justified by (Jesus') blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him" (Romans 5:9, NASB). As he faced death, Jesus knew that he was dying in the place of sinners who deserved to face the awesome wrath of God. While we may wish to downplay the seriousness of our sins and their consequences, Jesus recognized that "it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31, NASB).

So why would Jesus Christ place himself in such a position? He looked forward to the results. He knew that his Father would be satisfied with his sacrifice. He understood that many people's lives would be changed forever as they placed their faith in him and what he had done for them. He realized that his resurrection would change everything, bringing hope to all who would follow him.

Jesus approached the cross dreading the agony of facing God's wrath, but anticipating the joy of renewing the relationship between his loving Father and his rebellious brothers and sisters. "For the joy set before Him, (Jesus) endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2, NASB).

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Cousins in Haiti

"Whoever heard me spoke well of me,
and those who saw me commended me,
because I rescued the poor who cried for help,
and the fatherless who had none to assist him"
(Job 29:11-12, NIV).

While we were in the process of adopting our son, we were unaware that Janet's cousin, Sherry Watson, was adopting her son, Joshua, from Haiti.

Four years have passed.

Now Sherry and Joshua are preparing to return to Haiti in 2 months, where Sherry will serve as a missionary and a house mom for several children in an orphanage. Janet and I are impressed with their faith and willingness to help the orphans of the Western hemisphere's poorest country. Their trust in Christ has led them to take risks so that others may know him.

Sherry's blog is We plan on checking it out frequently.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Common Christianity

"There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all" (Ephesians 4:4-6, NASB).

I had been thinking about what all Christians share in common when the apostle Paul's words came to my mind.

One Body--A people who have been changed by the message of Jesus Christ. We share the following...

One Spirit--The Holy Spirit lives within each member of the body of Christ, prompting us to express greater levels of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. He has provided us with the Scriptures to assist us in knowing Christ and to guide us in following him.

One Hope---We live with the anticipation of seeing the return of Jesus Christ, the one we admire and respect and love above all other people.

One Lord---The body of Christ responds to the directions of our one Lord, Jesus Christ. He has earned our obedience in becoming a man and suffering the punishment that we deserve for our sins. When he returned to life, Jesus demonstrated that he was worth following.

One Faith---We trust in Jesus rather than our own good works, our own good intentions, or our own good ideas. Our one faith is placed in the one who has proven himself to be completely trustworthy, the Lord who is accurately revealed in the Bible.

One Baptism---Followers of Christ have been motivated by faith in Jesus and by repentance to be immersed in water as Jesus taught. In a way that symbolizes burial and resurrection, our immersion marks the end of our lives without God and the beginning of our lives of following Jesus Christ.

One God and Father---Each member of the body of Christ enjoys a father/child relationship with the Creator of the universe. We have the honor of being in the family of the most honorable of all.

While every Christian is unique, we have some powerful bonds holding us together and making us one.