Friday, August 31, 2007

Worth Reading

Today, I found two good articles worth reading on the Internet.

At, rock star Bono discusses his views of Christ, grace, and karma. He understands the good news of Christ better than I ever expected. (I didn't even know that I had such a prejudiced view of European rock stars---assuming that they had no grasp of Jesus Christ---until Bono surprised me with his defense of basic Christianity. I guess that all of us have prejudices that we don't recognize until they are challenged.)

At, Sarah Logsdon discusses Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and the Contact Church of Christ. Her post was a very compassionate and thought-provoking piece about some of the problems faced by an urban ministry.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Communication Problems

Like most churches on Easter Sunday, the sanctuary of the California church was packed. The worship service was close to starting, and long-time deacon Harry Butts was serving as an usher for the congregation on that day.

Two little old ladies arrived just as the service was about to begin. They were visitors who had never been in the building before, but fortunately Harry was there to help them. However, Harry was having a hard time seeing two open seats for the little old ladies. So the three of them were standing at the back of the sanctuary as the preacher approached the pulpit.

"I would like to welcome everyone to our church this beautiful Easter morning," the preacher began. Then he noticed Harry and the two little old ladies straining to see any open seats. Trying to be helpful, the preacher spoke into the microphone, "We have two open seats up here on the front row for the two ladies with Harry Butts at the back of the sanctuary."

The two little old ladies stormed out offended. The preacher and Harry stood there, scratching their heads and wondering what their problem was.

---adapted from a sermon by Chuck Swindoll on his radio program, "Insight for Living"

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Exam at the Last Supper

"When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, 'I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me---one who is eating with me.'
They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, 'Surely not I?'
'It is one of the Twelve,' he replied, 'one who dips bread into the bowl with me'" (Mark 14:17-20, NIV).

When we take part in the Lord's Supper today, we are following a tradition that started with Jesus' last supper before his execution by crucifixion.

Later, Paul the apostle would call upon Christians to examine themselves before eating the Lord's Supper.

I find it interesting that the original disciples also examined themselves during the last supper. They had to ask themselves, "Do I have the heart of a traitor? Could I betray Jesus? How important is he to me?"

Those are good questions for us to ask ourselves today as we take part in the Lord's Supper. Do I have the heart of a traitor? Could I betray Jesus? How important is Jesus to me? If we can think about those questions, they can help us to become what God wants us to be as we honor Jesus.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Submission to Authority

I have been reading Coach Tony Dungy's Quiet Strength, listening to ESPN radio, and watching NFL pre-season games lately. So needless to say, football has been on my mind.

Thinking of football reminded me of a passage from The 12 Essentials of Godly Success by Tommy Nelson, a pastor of Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas. This is from pages 81-82 of his book:

"In the early 1970s I was the chaplain of a high school football team. We love our high school football in Texas. We are connoisseurs of high school football. In other states they have high school football; in Texas, they live for high school football. For a whole bunch of folks it may as well be the state religion.

So to be a great player in Texas means you are doing something. And on the team I served was a young man who was the finest high school player I have ever seen. He was one of only three athletes in the history of Texas to be a three-time high school all-American (meaning, he was a high school all-American as a sophomore!).

When he was ready to graduate, he had his choice of colleges. He picked a school whose previous running back was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. The question was not whether this young man would be good, but whether he was going to win the Heisman.

After he made his decision, I said to his high school coach, "What do you think? Will he win the Heisman someday?" His coach replied, "He'll never carry the ball in college."

I was shocked. 'What do you mean?' I demanded. And he told me this young man had a character flaw that would eventually disqualify him. He knew that his college coaches would see it right away, and that would be the end of his career.

Well, this young man ended up attending four different colleges---he quit two and was kicked out of two. He finished without a degree. The last I heard he was living in a common-law marriage and struggling every step of the way.

What was the character flaw that the coach saw? 'He cannot submit to authority. He cannot submit to his parents. He cannot submit to an employer. He cannot submit to a teacher.' The coach told me, 'We've carried him along for the sake of the ball club. But I assure you, he will not submit to his college coaches. His football career is done.'

That coach could have just as easily quoted to me a verse from Proverbs: 'The eye that mocks a father and scorns a mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out' (Prov. 30:17, NASB)."

What a sobering story. What a tragic story. I hope I can teach my son how to submit to authority so that he can live life well as he grows up.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Conversion of Seth Wilson

I liked "The Conversion of Seth Wilson" by H. Lynn Gardner in this week's edition of The Lookout magazine. In the article, Seth Wilson credited the example and teaching of one of his elders for leading him to Christ. Faith, love, joy, and simple Bible teaching combined to make an impact on the young Seth Wilson. The story may be read at

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Half-Hearted Christianity

"The Lord says:
'These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is made up only of rules taught by men'" (Isaiah 29:13, NIV).

Todd Box, one of our ministers in the Contact Church of Christ, has been preaching for us for the last couple of Sundays. This past Sunday, he emphasized the need for our hearts to be totally involved in our love for the Lord.

With a personal illustration, Todd demonstrated how easy it is to let our hearts wander away from Christ while we go through the motions of serving him and worshiping him. He reminded us that when he first came to the Contact Church a few years ago, he was living in the Salvation Army shelter. At that time, he was eager to help everyone at the shelter come to know God. He volunteered to drive the church van to pick up the other homeless men at the shelter. Now a few years later, he confessed, when someone called him for a ride, his first thoughts were not gratitude for the opportunity to help someone get to the church; instead, he thought, "Can't someone else do it?"

I completely understand. Sometimes my heart is not where it should be, either. I wish that were not true, but it is.

So how do I keep my heart right? I need to follow the advise of an old hymn called "When My Love to Christ Grows Weak." These are the lyrics:

"When my love to Christ grows weak,
When for deeper faith I seek,
Then in thought I go to Thee,
Garden of Gethsemane!

There I walk amid the shades,
While the ling'ring twilight fades,
See that suffering, friendless One,
Weeping, praying there alone.

When my love for man grows weak,
When for stronger faith I seek,
Hill of Calvary I go
To thy scenes of fear and woe.

There behold His agony,
Suffered on the bitter tree;
See His anguish, see His faith
Love triumphant still in death.

Then to life I turn again,
Learning all the worth of pain,
Learning all the might that lies
In a full self-sacrifice.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Heart of the Church

In Our Daily Bread today, Cindy Hess Kasper has a good devotional piece titled "The Heart of the Church." It may be viewed at

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Meaningful Scriptures on Baptism

I was baptized into Christ 22 years ago today. These are a few meaningful scriptures on baptism from a variety of translations and paraphrases of the Bible:

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20, NIV).

"He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16, NKJV).

"Peter said to them, 'Change your hearts and lives and be baptized, each 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, NCV).

"So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we've left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn't you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace---a new life in a new land!

"That's what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we're going in our new grace-sovereign country" (Romans 6:1-7, The Message).

"Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you---not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience---through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 3:21, NASB).

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Fear Graced With Love

Jesus said, "But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell" (Luke 12:5, NIV).

Later his apostle John wrote, "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love" (1 John 4:16-18, NIV).

When we first learn about the holiness of God, the wrath of God, and our sins, we fear God. Such a fear is entirely appropriate. We recognize the gravity of our situation. We can see that we deserve hell.

When we learn about the love and grace of God as it was shown on the cross of Christ, our fear begins to be mixed with an strong appreciation of the Lord. While we deserved death and hell, Christ died and faced the wrath of God in our place. Motivated by a mixture of fear and love, we become followers of Jesus Christ.

As we mature, we grow more secure in our relationship with our God. We fear punishment less and love him more.

However, while our fear of punishment subsides, our fear of the Lord does not vanish. It changes. Now we fear the possibility of bringing shame or embarrassment to our Savior. We love him so much that we want to honor him in every way possible.

In some ways, we are like children. In early years, a child will obey because he fears punishment. In later years, his fear will change. He will not want to embarrass his parents by behaving badly. He loves them too much. As Bible teacher Jim Roberts at the Contact Church has said, "By the time I was old enough to realize that I could resist my father, I couldn't."

As hymn writer John Newton put it, "'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed!"

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Double-Wide: The Rest of the Story

"Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God" (Luke 6:20, NIV).

This is a small portion of Ron and Judy Babbit's monthly newsletter (Tulsa Urban Ministry) to their supporters. Ron is our preacher in the Contact Church of Christ. If you are a supporter of the Babbits, thank you!

"Do you remember our Double-Wide story? He obeyed the GOSPEL, and his wife was mad at him for his commitment to be baptized into CHRIST. I gave her a book and she read every word. Afterward he called and said, 'Ron, my wife now understands why I made the commitment to the LORD. She wants to be baptized.' The next Sunday, Double-Wide baptized his wife into CHRIST. Amen church! This is a story of a family who was living on the side of a mountain in a two man pup tent. I gave them who bikes and a large 5 man tent. That's why he obtained the name Double-Wide---he went from a two man tent to a double-wide tent. Muscles and Touchdown moved them into their home, that was a 6 month blessing. Bob Fitz called and said, 'Does that dude living on the side of a mountain need a job?' Fitz gave him a job and Double-Wide loves to work. He and his wife now have their own apartment, full of furniture. They are starting a Bible study in their home so we need to find another van to haul families from their hood because they are sharing how GOD has blessed their live. Kingdom opportunities!"

Sid (Double-Wide) and Beverly (Sonic) are a great couple. Sid is very out-going and appreciative of everything that everyone has ever done for him. Beverly is very reserved, but a nice woman. I always feel honored to be a part of the Contact Church. It's great to be able to play a small role in the urban ministry.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Purpose Driven Life Part 2

Here are some more good quotes from The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren:

"We obey God, not out of duty or fear or compulsion, but because we love him and trust that he knows what is best for us" (p. 95).

"We are often challenged to do 'great things' for God. Actually, God is more pleased when we do small things for him out of loving obedience. They may be unnoticed by others, but God notices them and considers them acts of worship.

Great opportunities may come once in a lifetime, but small opportunities surround us every day. Even through such simple acts as telling the truth, being kind, and encouraging others, we bring a smile to God's face" (p.96).

"A church family moves you out of self-centered isolation. The local church is the classroom for learning how to get along in God's family. It is a lab for practicing unselfish, sympathetic love" (p.133).

"It may seem easier to be holy when no one else is around to frustrate your preferences, but that is a false, untested holiness. Isolation breeds deceitfulness; it is easy to fool ourselves into thinking we are mature if there is no one to challenge us. Real maturity shows up in relationships" (p.134).

"If you're not involved in any service or ministry, what excuse have you been using? Abraham was old, Jacob was insecure, Leah was unattractive, Joseph was abused, Moses stuttered, Gideon was poor, Samson was codependent, Rahab was immoral, David had an affair and all kinds of family problems, Elijah was suicidal, Jeremiah was depressed, Jonah was reluctant, Naomi was a widow, John the Baptist was eccentric to say the least, Peter was impulsive and hot-tempered, Martha worried a lot, the Samaritan woman had several failed marriages, Zacchaeus was unpopular, Thomas had doubts, Paul had poor health, and Timothy was timid. That is quite a variety of misfits, but God used each of them in his service. He will use you, too, if you stop making excuses" (p.233).

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Toilets and Christianity

"If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor,
he too will cry out and not be answered" (Proverbs 21:13, NIV).

The Christian Standard has several good articles about how Christians are responding to poverty, hunger, and HIV/AIDS in the current issue. The best of the articles is titled "Toilets and Christianity." It may be found at

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Nothing Better

"I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live" (Ecclesiastes 3:12, NIV).

Enjoy your life! Thank God for it! Look for ways to show kindness! Treat people the right way! God loves it!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

I've Been Tagged!

Bobby Ross Jr. ( has tagged me.

The rules:

1. Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.

2. Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.

3. Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.

My 8 Random Facts:

1. Our dog is named Batdog. Our son, Christopher, is a huge fan of Batman.

2. I am watching Babylon 5 on DVD this summer.

3. We are a transracial family, a technical term that I did not know until after we adopted Christopher. A transracial family includes parents of one race and children of another. Janet and I are white. Christopher is black.

4. I can't talk Janet into moving into an apartment so that I can avoid yard work and repairs.

5. I am reading The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren and Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy.

6. My car is a right-hand drive station wagon.

7. On September 18, Janet and I will celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary.

8. I received my B.S.E. degree from Oklahoma Christian University.

And tags:

1. Bob and Sarah Logsdon

2. Janet

3. Phil Sanders

4. Terry Rush

5. Sunshine Church bloggers

6. Preacher Man

7. Arron Chambers

8. Jennifer Wright

Friday, August 03, 2007

Children's Bible Class Teachers

"At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me'" (Matthew 18:1-5, NIV).

Sometimes it can be difficult for churches to fill the positions of children's Bible class teachers. It can be a difficult job. The younger children may need diapers changed. The older children may have questions that could never be answered in a mere hour. It can be a thankless job. Parents may never express appreciation. A church may never recognize the contribution that the teacher is making (although the Contact Church has always been good about showing appreciation to teachers).

However, a children's Bible class teacher has a great responsibility and potentially profound influence in the lives of children. When a child becomes a follower of Jesus Christ, he or she may not even remember that the Bible class teacher was the first person to introduce him or her to God, Christ, or the Holy Spirit. He or she may not recall that the teacher first explained such concepts as faith, repentance, baptism, prayer, heaven, hell, atonement, or propitiation. How many people would not be Christians today if not for children's Bible class teachers?

For years, Janet has taught Bible classes in the Jenks Church and the Contact Church of Christ on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. For the past 6 years, she has taught the children at the Normandy Apartments while I have taught their parents and grandparents on Monday nights. In her honor (and in honor of others like her), I am posting a portion of Harold Shank's Children Mean the World to God:

I never ran away from home, but I readily identify with...loneliness, vulnerability and despair. The confusion mounted in my mind throughout my sixth grade year. Finally the Church of Christ VBS came around again. The teacher was a nice gray-haired woman named Mildred Stutzman. After VBS, Mildred took me aside. I couldn't figure out why she wanted to talk to me. I was just a kid from the neighborhood who went to VBS every summer. She explained that she also had a sixth grade class on Sunday morning. It met in the same room. Some of the same children that were in VBS were in her class. She invited me to attend.

I remember being amazed at what Mildred was asking. In the grand scheme of things I wasn't important. I was the naive child who never went to church. But I was struggling with the God question, wondering where I would get answers. Then came a voice asking me to come to a place where those questions might be discussed. God heard my cry. He answered it with Mildred Stutzman...

So I started going to Sunday school and staying for church...

Two years later, with a great deal of thinking about the God-stuff in between, I told the preacher, "This is what I want. I want Jesus in my life and I want my life in this church." I became a Christian.

Today, Harold Shank is one of the most influential leaders among the Churches of Christ and a Bible professor at Oklahoma Christian University. It all started with a children's Bible teacher named Mildred Stutzman reaching out and teaching an ignorant little boy about God. The most amazing thing is: This is happening all the time in Sunday schools, Wednesday night classes, and urban ministries around the country and around the world. Often, we miss seeing it, because it takes time to see believers develop.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Radical Generosity

"Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share" (1 Timothy 6:18, NIV).

"Radical Generosity" is the topic of today's devotional article in Our Daily Bread. When I read Marvin Williams' piece, I thought of the wealthy and generous Christians and churches that support the Contact Church of Christ and our ministers. Where would we be in the urban ministry without kind and generous believers who are willing to share their wealth? We could never do it alone. We need God and his people. The article may be read at