Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Isaiah 53

I owe my parents (Billy Laudett and Joyce Parks) a great deal of gratitude and respect, because I grew up knowing about Jesus Christ. When I was young, my family thanked God for our food before our meals. My sister Tina and I were always in Bible classes on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. We were always in the worship assemblies on Sunday mornings and evenings. Therefore, I came to know most of the historical accounts of the people in the Bible. Most importantly, I knew about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. I was provided with a good amount of basic knowledge that would later serve as a foundation for my personal faith in Christ.

However, I did not become a true believer until I was 17 years old. At some point in that year, I found the following passage in the Bible:

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors (Isaiah 53:1-12, NIV).

I recognized that the passage was describing the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but I found it strange that it was in the Old Testament. I knew enough about the Bible to know that the Old Testament was written before the birth of Christ. After a little research, I discovered that the passage from Isaiah was written 700 years before the birth of Christ!

How could someone living 700 years earlier have such a clear vision of what the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus would look like? I understood that no one could accurately predict anything 700 years in his or her future, so how could Isaiah have done it? Obviously, it was supernatural.

With my childhood knowledge of the Bible and my recent discovery of Isaiah 53, a genuine faith in Jesus Christ started to develop within me. I had come to recognize that the Bible was reliable and authoritative. It could be trusted. Therefore, I could trust the one it was pointing to as the Savior and Lord. After a few months of reading the Bible, contemplating its message, and assessing my life, I knew that I needed God. I placed my trust in Jesus (who he is and what he has done), committed myself to following him, and was baptized in his name. That passage from the Old Testament gave me a new life...and it is a life of gratitude to God for what he has done for me.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day 2007

"There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven...A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up...A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace" (Ecclesiastes 3:1,3,8, NASB).

In honor of Memorial Day this year, I would like to share two articles.

The Uncertainties of War and the Hope of History by John Piper explains why war is necessary at times. It may be read at

Our Need to Remember by Phil Ware reminds us of our need to honor those who serve to protect innocent people. It may be read at

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Christian Homes

"Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart" (Colossians 3:18-21, NASB).

Two weeks ago, we spent the weekend with my mother, Joyce Parks, for Mothers' Day. It was a fun weekend for everyone. On that Sunday, we sang a song at the Southside Church of Christ in Rogers, Arkansas, that was unknown to me, but I liked it. Apparently, it was not a new song, but it was new to me. It's called "God Give Us Christian Homes." These are the lyrics:

God, give us Christian homes!
Homes where the Bible is loved and taught,
Homes where the Master's will is sought,
Homes crowned with beauty Thy love hath wrought;
God, give us Christian homes;
God, give us Christian homes!

God, give us Christian homes!
Homes where the father is true and strong,
Homes that are free from the blight of wrong,
Homes that are joyous with love and song;
God, give us Christian homes;
God, give us Christian homes!

God, give us Christian homes!
Homes where the mother, in queenly quest,
Strives to show others Thy way is best,
Homes where the Lord is an honored guest;
God, give us Christian homes;
God, give us Christian homes!

God, give us Christian homes!
Homes where the children are led to know
Christ in His beauty who loves them so,
Homes where the altar fires burn and glow;
God, give us Christian homes;
God, give us Christian homes! Amen.

The song captures the heart of a Christ-honoring family in such a good way.

It was nice to visit Mom and Jerry (along with my sister, Tina Hurst; brother-in-law Jeff Hurst; nephew Aaron Hurst; niece Laura Hurst; and nephew Ryan Hurst). This is a late post about that weekend, because I forgot the name of the song that I wanted to quote. It took a while to find the lyrics, because I could not remember the song's title. Better late than never, I guess.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Medical Missionaries in the Christian Chronicle

"The rich and poor have a common bond,
the LORD is the maker of them all" (Proverbs 22:2, NASB).

I read an interesting article in the June 2007 edition of the Christian Chronicle. Living a Medical Mission by Erik Tryggestad tells the story of Kemmel and Lisa Dunham, a couple of health professionals who left their jobs in the United States in order to work as medical missionaries for the Churches of Christ in Guatemala. The article may be read online at

I found one quote very interesting. Dr. Lisa Dunham said, "We see many of the same illnesses here...people worry about the same things here as they do in the States...interpersonal problems that go unresolved and spiritual needs that haven't been addressed."

I have noticed the similarities of the problems that people face also, whether we are rich or poor. On my job, I serve some of the wealthiest families in Oklahoma. In the Contact Church, I serve Christ with some of the poorest people in Oklahoma. Whether rich or poor, I have seen people struggle through many of the same problems. I have seen wealthy and poor families fall apart. I have seen wealthy and poor people battle cancer. We are not as different as we sometimes would like to believe. All of us struggle with problems that are bigger than we are. Everyone of us needs the Lord.

On another subject in the same article, Mr. Tryggestad wrote, "They (the Dunhams) recently finished reading through the entire Bible--for the first time." I like that. They did not wait until they had all the answers or had read the entire Bible before they started serving as missionaries. However, they disciplined themselves to undertake something that took months in order to complete, because they wanted to know God better (and there is no better way than by listening to his complete message). I would love for everyone to follow their example. It's a great way to get to know God better and to honor him.

John Piper and Racial Harmony

Three years ago, I read one of the best books that I have ever read, Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper. In it, Mr. Piper challenged his readers to embrace a life-changing, eternal perspective. He challenged us to live to glorify God and to enjoy living for his glory.

John Piper is a pastor of a Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Although I am neither a pastor nor a Baptist, I share his great love for God and respect for the Bible. In addition, we have at least one more thing in common: both of us are white fathers of black children whom we have adopted. (He has a black daughter who was recently baptized, and I have a black son.) When I read his writings or listen to his sermons, they connect with me.

Earlier today, I discovered that we can listen to a 7-part series about racial harmony at his ministry's blog ( . I have not listened yet, but I know from experience that it will be worth hearing, and that it will glorify God.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Praying for Our Government's Leaders

"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone--for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1Timothy 2:1-4, NIV).

On Sunday mornings at the Contact Church of Christ, I have been teaching through the book of 1 Timothy. Last week, we worked through the second chapter, which included the above verses concerning the need to pray for the leaders of our government. I tried to convey the idea that we need to pray for our leaders whether we agree with them or not, because our lives are blessed by government. Even a flawed government (which describes every government) provides some measure of peace and stability that cannot be found in anarchy.

Yesterday, I found a copy of a prayer that Joe Wright, a preacher for the Central Christian Church in Wichita, used when he was asked to open a session of the Kansas House of Representatives with prayer as a guest chaplain in 1996. It was a slightly modified version of a prayer that Bob Russell, a pastor (elder) and minister of Louisville's Southeast Christian Church, offered at the Kentucky Governor's Prayer Breakfast in 1995. (We heard Bob Russell speak at the Tulsa International Soul Winning Workshop in 2006.) Next time I teach on these verses, I may use this prayer as an example of how to pray for our government.

This prayer is a courageous prayer of repentance:

"Heavenly Father, we come before you to ask your forgiveness. We seek your direction and your guidance. We know your Word says, 'Woe to those who call evil good.' But that's what we've done.

We've lost our equilibrium. We have inverted our values. We have ridiculed the absolute truth of your Word in the name of moral pluralism. We have worshiped other gods and called it multiculturalism.

We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle. We've exploited the poor and called it a lottery. We've neglected the needy and called it self-preservation. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. In the name of choice, we have killed our unborn. In the name of right to life, we have killed abortionists.

We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power and called it political savvy. We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it taxes. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, O God, and know our hearts today. Try us. Show us any wickedness within us. Cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of the state of Kansas and that have been ordained by you to govern this great state.

Grant them your wisdom to rule. May their decisions direct us to the center of your will. And, as we continue our prayer and as we come in out of the fog, give us clear minds to accomplish our goals as we begin this Legislature. For we pray in Jesus' name. Amen."

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Good Quote

"The world is a dangerous place to live--not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it." --Albert Einstein (from a Focus on the Family e-mail)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Key to T.B.Larimore's Effectiveness

"Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near" (Philippians 4:5, NASB).

T. B. Larimore was one of the best preachers to serve in the Churches of Christ in America. Converted to Jesus Christ after the Civil War, he started preaching a few years later and did not stop until his death in the late 1920s. During that time, Mr. Larimore was instrumental in bringing thousands of people to the Lord.

Although T. B. Larimore was known as an eloquent speaker, he was even better known for his character. He was a careful Bible student, a devoted family man, and a man of integrity who obviously cared about people. In an era when religious debates were popular, he avoided arguments. (He only engaged in one debate, in which both participants treated each other with deep respect and courtesy.) Even when insulted from the audience by a potential opponent, T. B. would thank the antagonist for his comments and move on with his biblical message.

Several years ago, while reading In Step with the Spirit by Rubel Shelly, I came across this paragraph:

"A while back I was reading of a man who was led to Christ by a gentle soul named T. B. Larimore. The man in question had been to hundreds of church services and dozens of evangelistic meetings before Larimore came and preached in the town. So someone asked him, 'Why did you respond to the gospel under Brother Larimore's preaching when you hadn't before?' His answer is a rebuke to some of us and our methods. 'From other preachers I'd learned I was going to hell,' he said, 'but they seemed pleased that I was. From Larimore I learned I was going to hell, but I could tell it broke his heart to have to tell me so.'"

I would like to be like T. B. Larimore...faithful to the biblical message (even the hard parts) while caring about the people who hear it. I believe that was the key to his effectiveness. Obviously, the Spirit of Christ lived in T. B. Larimore.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Abortion in the News

Yesterday, the Oklahoma Senate approved a bill that will prohibit tax money from supporting most unnecessary abortions in our state.

The Tulsa World's article about the measure stated, "The measure bans the use of public money and facilities for abortions except to save a woman's life or in cases of rape or incest."

The Oklahoman's report stated, "State senators easily gave final passage Wednesday to a new abortion bill that prohibits public money and institutions from being used to perform abortions...SB 139 allows abortions to save a mother's life and in cases of rape or incest."

Woman or mother? Since the Tulsa World officially supports the legal killing of any pre-born child, it chose the term "woman," because to say "mother" would imply that a child is involved in the abortion, making its justification more difficult. The Oklahoman recognized and reported the truth: a pregnant woman is a mother, a woman responsible for nurturing a child. The Oklahoman is to be commended for its honesty.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

For the Children

This devotional is from Our Daily Bread for May 16, 2007. It was written by Dave Branon. You may find many more good articles like this one at

"Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them" (Mark 10:14, NKJV).

As the teenagers left Robin's Nest orphanage near Montego Bay, Jamaica, many of them were in tears.

"It's just not fair," one girl said after their too-brief visit. "We have so much, and they don't have anything." In the 2 hours we visited, handing out stuffed animals and playing with the kids, she had been holding a sad little girl who never smiled. We learned that before she was rescued she had been abused by her parents.

Multiply this little girl's plight by the millions, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed. My teenage friends were right. It's not fair. Abuse, poverty, and neglect have turned the lives of millions of little ones into a nightmare.

How this must grieve God's heart! Jesus, who said, "Let the little children come to Me" (Mark 10:14, NKJV), is surely saddened by the way these children are treated.

What can we do? In Jesus' name, we can give monetary support to good orphanages. When possible, we can offer physical help. If we feel led, we can seek to provide homes for these precious children. And all of us can pray--beseeching God to help those for whom life is so unfair.

Let's show children the love of God through our hearts and our hands.

"Reaching out to needy children,
Showing them our love and care,
Is one way that God can use us
To bring hope in their despair."--Sper

Be Jesus to a child today.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Gang Graffiti

"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:3-7, NIV).

While taking Christopher to the park in our neighborhood this evening, I noticed that the playground equipment had been covered with gang graffiti. I was grateful that Christopher could not read yet, because of the absolute obscenity of what had been written. However, I was saddened by the dark and evil mindset that has captured the children who wrote those words filled with hatred, arrogance, and disrespect (especially directed toward their girlfriends).

I do not know the identity of the gang members, but I know that they are in danger. They are on a path of self-destruction. They are on the path to hell. They need people who care about them, people who will pray for them, people of courage, and people who will lead them to Jesus Christ. Otherwise, they are heading toward certain disaster.

As an urban ministry, the Contact Church of Christ reaches out to kids like those who defaced our neighborhood park. Thank God for all the teachers, preachers, and volunteers who are trying to make a difference. And it's all because of the difference that God has made in our lives.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Christian Economics

The Christian Standard has some powerful and thought-provoking articles this week about economics, poverty, and the (false) prosperity gospel. You may read them at:

Hope Fulfilled

This is an article that Janet wrote about our adoption of Christopher a few months after his birth:

On Christmas Eve 1994, a little over a year into our marriage, Terry and I decided to start trying to have a baby. So with excitement and prayer, we set off on our journey.

After 2 1/2 years, disappointed at our lack of success but still hopeful, we talked to our doctor. Next we spent about a year doing tests, treatments, and medication, again with no results. We were referred to an infertility specialist.

During the next year, we were ruled by the calendar--see the doctor on these days, take medicine on other days; and so on and so on, month after month. Through it all I, who hate the sight of a needle coming my way, got more blood tests than I could imagine in a lifetime; and also discovered I could give myself shots. (I never dreamed that possible in a million years!) But at the end of twelve months we had tried artificial insemination five times; I still wasn't pregnant; and we were frustrated, stressed out, and emotionally and physically exhausted. We knew we had to call it quits.

We needed time, as Terry put it, to "enjoy what we had." So, for the next year, we rested, healed, and tried not to dwell on the idea of having a child. (We found out later that we were really mourning the loss of the biological child we were unable to have.) After this period of refreshing, and a lot of prayer, we contacted Christian Services of Oklahoma about adoption in July 2000.

The next 2 1/2 years were spent on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, broken hearts, prayers, and tears. So many times we heard about a possible available child; our hopes would rise, only to be dashed to the ground.

Through one of the most difficult periods, when we had been extremely disappointed and hurt, Terry was reading Hosea. He realized that, just as Hosea saw his love for his unfaithful wife as a metaphor for God's love for Israel, so our longing to adopt a child could serve as a metaphor for God's longing to adopt people into his family.

My key thought through it all was "God in in control; He knows and will do what is best." While I believed that and prayed for God's will to be done, it was hard to submit! So I had to repeat it to myself, day by day, hour by hour, sometimes minute by minute, over and over.

The first part of December 2002, we received a call about a little boy who would be born the next month. We did some checking, but it didn't seem like this one would work out, either. However, we were ecstatic when we received a letter on New Year's Eve 2002 that said we were the chosen family for that little boy.

The next three weeks went by in a blur; until on January 21, 2003, at 6:46 am, we were in the delivery room as our son, Christopher, was born.

In the months since then, we have been blessed beyond measure, both by our wonderful little guy and the lessons we learned in the process of finding him. Now, when our family members say with awe, "You got the right baby. You just had to wait for the right one," I can answer with joy, "Yes, God sent us the right one; He knows what He's doing!"

Saturday, May 05, 2007

When the Christian's Task Seems Overwhelming

"Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.

Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest" (Matthew 9:35-38, NASB).

The challenges of life can be overwhelming. People are losing their jobs. Children are dying of cancer. Wives are being abused. Men are becoming enslaved to alcohol and drugs. Teenagers are killing each other. Homes are falling apart because of divorce. Children are moving from house to house in the foster care system, without the stability of fathers and mothers who love them and guide them.

Little girls in southeast Asia are being kidnapped and sold into forced prostitution. People are dying of AIDS, malaria, and starvation as they search for food in the city dumps of Africa. Terrorists are gaining the loyalty of disturbed young men, even as they murder thousands in the Middle East. Billions of people around the world have never seen a Bible in their own language, nor have they ever met a follower of Jesus Christ. They have no idea that God cares about them.

We live in a world of distressed and dispirited people, much like the people who moved Christ's heart with compassion as he walked the streets of Israel. Today, his church shares his compassion for such people...sometimes we are those people. So, what can we do? We cannot be everywhere. We cannot solve every problem.

First, we can pray. The problems of this world are too much for anyone of us to handle alone. We must pray that God will send us more people who will be able to do what we cannot do. We need people who can go where we cannot go. We need help...and we are in desperate need of it!

Then, we must do what we can. We must love the people around us. We must pray for their needs and help them bear their burdens however we can. If we cannot help, we must find someone with the Spirit of God who can help. Networking is essential. In addition, we must support and encourage those who are going where we cannot. We need each other.

Our task is overwhelming, but God still cares and answers prayers. He simply wants us to do our part in joining him by caring and praying, realizing our inadequacies and relying on his power.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Comic Book Heroes

"From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked" (Luke 12:48, NIV).

"With great power comes great responsibility" (Uncle Ben to Peter Parker, the amazing Spider-Man).

I'll admit that I'm a nerd. I love comic books and comics strips. I always have. I always will. From my childhood, I remember Mom and Dad reading the Sunday comics and comic books to me before I could read myself.

I loved the X-Men. (The first two movies captured the essence of the comic books that I read in the late 1970s and early 1980s). The New Teen Titans were great in the early 1980s (but the cartoon series of a few years ago was a disaster for those of us who enjoyed the comic books). I developed a sense of social justice from reading Green Lantern/Green Arrow. I read and enjoyed all kinds of comic books until sometime in the early-to-mid 1980s, when I found other interests to occupy my time. But I still have fond memories of spending hours reading the great morality plays of my childhood.

I started thinking about comic books today, because Spider-Man 3 opened in theaters this morning. Spider-Man was a superhero that all people could love, because he was so normal in so many ways. He had acne. He was misunderstood. He disappointed the people he loved. He succeeded in some areas and failed in others. However, he was driven by an inner sense of responsibility to do good in his life. He was a good role model (as were many other superheroes in those days) for children wrestling with questions of right and wrong. I am thankful that my parents read such material to me, and that they encouraged me to continue reading such material on my own.

I have not seen Spider-Man 3 yet, but here are some links to movie reviews and articles about the movie from Christianity Today:

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A Weekend to Remember

"Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; be exhilerated always with her love" (Proverbs 5:18-19, NASB).

Last weekend, Janet and I attended FamilyLife's A Weekend to Remember, a Bible-based marriage conference. In it, we learned about being a good husband, a good father, (Janet learned about being a good wife and mother), communication, sexual intimacy, God's plan for marriage, and other biblical ideas. The conference met at Tulsa's Downtown Doubletree Hotel. On Saturday evening, we enjoyed a date night.

If anyone ever gets a chance to attend FamilyLife's A Weekend to Remember, please do it! It is outstanding!

We appreciate my mom (aka Joyce Parks and Nana) and Jerry, who took care of Christopher while Janet and I attended the conference.

Also, we are grateful to FamilyLife and radio station KCFO 970AM for the free passes to the marriage conference. (I won them by being the 9th caller during a radio promotion of the event.)