Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I have made a few changes to my blog this week. I deleted the previous two posts, because I did not enjoy reading them. If I found them irritating, why should I expose others to them? So they no longer exist.

More noticeably, I have deleted several links on my blog. For a few days, I have been locked out from posting on my blog, because has a program to lock blogs it believes may be spam blogs. Apparently, a large number of links can cause the program to mistakenly believe that a blog is a spam blog. Therefore, I have deleted my Favorite Web Sites section, Christian Charities section, and several blogs from my Blog Roll section. I apologize to bloggers that I had to delete. I tried to eliminate mostly dormant blogs, but a few active blogs were deleted also even though I liked them. I hope you understand.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Let It Shine

During the past week, I listened to Chuck Swindoll preach on his radio program about women of noble character. Using Proverbs 31 as his text, Mr. Swindoll provided some insight that I had not heard or read previously.

For example, he explained some of the Middle Eastern cultural practices behind Proverbs 31:18. Describing the noble woman, the verse stated, "She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night" (NIV). I assumed that the woman stayed up most (if not all) of the night working on various projects. However, Chuck Swindoll explained that compassionate, generous, and hospitable families of the Middle East would leave a lamp lit during the night so that poor and distressed people would be able to approach their houses for help. If someone needed bread for his family, he would know that the house or tent with the lit lamp would be the place to go. If a traveler needed a place to spend the night, he would look for the light of a lamp in the night.

As I thought about Chuck Swindoll's explanation of Middle Eastern customs, I gained a new perspective of Jesus' words to his followers: "You are the light of the world...Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14, 16, NIV). I realized that Christ calls for his disciples to be compassionate, generous, and hospitable. I understood his intent for us to be helpful toward those in need and to provide some measure of safety and security for those traveling through a dark world.

Now I must ask myself: Am I letting my light shine? Do people in need see me as approachable and welcoming? Am I generous with my time? Will I stop to listen? Am I generous with my resources? Will I give away my money? Am I safe? Will I judge someone who struggles? Am I secure? Will I harm someone by spreading their secrets? Will I protect innocent people?

Letting my light shine means far more than I ever realized. It is more than being polite and putting in a good word for Jesus once in a while. It involves a high degree of compassion, generosity, and hospitality. Now that I have a richer understanding of Jesus' intent, I am determined to follow through and become one who lets his light shine.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Good Stuff

Here are a few good items on the Internet this week:

Terry Rush discusses how compassion adds meaning to life at

Mike writes about sex as a birthday gift at Be sure to check out the link in his post, also.

Arron Chambers challenges readers to a fun contest at

The Christian Chronicle contains a good book review about why Christians sometimes leave the faith of their youth, but Linda Jackson's comment on the right side of the page is even more powerful than the article at

The Christian Chronicle offers advice about being faithful and evangelistic among people who reject Jesus Christ as the only way to eternal life at Be sure to check the link in the article to the story about baseball legend Bobby Murcer's life of faith, too.

I hope you enjoy the articles. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sin, Temptation, and the Dark Knight

This is not a review of The Dark Knight, the latest Batman movie, but it is a post about one of the movie's major themes. A good review can be found at

In The Dark Knight, we see the Joker creating chaos and desperation through terrorist attacks upon the citizens of Gotham City. His ultimate goal appears to be to cause enough distress among the people of the city that they will turn on each other, harm each other, and murder each other.

The Joker convinces one police officer to aid him by bribing her. Since she was struggling with paying her mother's hospital bills, she caved in to the Joker's offer and became an accomplice in murder.

In one scene, the Joker rigged two ferry boats with explosives. As the ferries were crossing the bay with people trying to escape the chaos in Gotham City, the Joker cut their power. He provided a trigger devise for each ferry, but each devise would trigger an explosion on the other boat. Then he announced that the people on one boat could blow up the other ferry. If they did so, they would survive. If neither ferry exploded by midnight, the Joker would blow up both of them. The people were facing the choice of murder or be murdered.

The Joker exploited a weakness in human character, a weakness acknowledged in Scripture: As people become more desperate, they become more vulnerable to the temptation to commit evil acts against others. For example, in Deuteronomy 28:53-57, we read, "Because of the suffering that your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the LORD your God has given you. Even the most gentle and sensitive man among you will have no compassion on his own brother or the wife he loves or his surviving children, and he will not give to one of them any of the flesh of his children that he is eating. It will be all he has left because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of all your cities. The most gentle and sensitive woman among you--so sensitive and gentle that she would not venture to touch the ground with the sole of her foot--will begrudge the husband she loves and her own son or daughter the afterbirth from her womb and the children she bears. For she intends to eat them secretly during the siege and in the distress that your enemy will inflict on you in your cities" (NIV). As Jesus said, "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold" (Matthew 24:12, NIV).

Unfortunately, we don't need to get very desperate before we are tempted to sin. Losing a few hours of sleep over a few nights can make us vulnerable to impatience and outbursts of anger. A tight budget can tempt us to cheat others out of their money or to refuse to help someone in greater need.

While The Dark Knight has a few flaws, it explores some weighty issues surrounding human nature, sin, and temptation. In showing our vulnerabilities, it humbles us. It reveals how close we may be to becoming villains ourselves.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Creation (Part One)

These are my notes for next week's Sunday night Bible study at the Normandy Apartments. We are starting a study of Genesis.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1, NIV).

In the opening chapter of Genesis, God reveals the origin of the universe. It began with him. God is seen as incomprehensibly knowledgeable and powerful. In a series of miracles which will never be completely understood by the most intelligent people on earth, God created the universe, prepared Earth for life, and created life (including humanity).

The first chapter appears in a poetic format. However, poetry is not a synonym for mythology. Truth can be found in poetry. For example, read Job 29. In it, we find a poetic description of Job's life and character before Satan attacked him. Although poetic, the passage describes a real man and his life accurately.

Since Genesis 1 was written as poetry, should we believe that God created everything in 6 literal days? Or should we believe the author never intended for us to believe in a 6-day creation? In Exodus 20:11, we read, "For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy" (NIV). When God himself gave the 10 commandments, he interpreted the Genesis account as a literal 6-day event. Since he worked 6 days during creation week and rested 1 day, the Israelites were commanded to work 6 literal days and rest 1 literal day, too. A non-literal interpretation of the rule and the reasoning behind it would have been unthinkable. So we accept the Genesis account of the days as accurate.

Does Genesis 1 conflict with current scientific understanding of our origins? In some areas, I'm sure it does. However, scientists continue to discover, study, and modify their theories. They do not possess all knowledge. They are still learning, just as biblical scholars are. We may never understand the miracles of creation completely, but we can accept that they happened.

Finally, what do we do when the scientific community presents evidence that seems to contradict the Bible? Do we consider God a liar for planting contradictory evidence in nature and in the Bible? No. We must not assume God to be a liar when we must admit that we don't have all the evidence or a complete understanding of the evidence we possess.

In the end, we can trust God even when we do not understand how he has performed his miracles.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Just Courage

Gary Haugen, the president and CEO of International Justice Mission (, senses a restlessness among American Christians. We appear to be dissatisfied with the safety of our routine suburban Christianity in which we pray, read the Bible, attend worship services, and perform small acts of kindness for our neighbors. While none of that is bad and each of those activities is necessary to be fulfilled, we know something vital is missing in such a life.
In his new book, Just Courage, Mr. Haugen argues that many Christians are missing out on the risks and adventure of pursuing justice for the poor. Throughout the world, the poor are suffering from injustice. Little girls in southeast Asia are being kidnapped and enslaved in brothels by adults who will profit from their continual raping by violent men. Widows in Africa are being forced from their homes and property by bullies who would have never had the guts to take on their deceased husbands. Men, women, and children in India are being deceived into slavery and brutally beaten and mutilated so that they remain enslaved.
"The sin of injustice," Mr. Haugen writes, "is defined in the Bible as the abuse of power--abusing power by taking from others the good things that God intended for them, namely, their life, liberty, dignity, or the fruits of their love or their labor" (p. 46). He goes on to argue that Christians need to stand up against violent perpetrators of injustice. Feeding the hungry and providing medical care for the poor are good deeds, but sometimes the world's poor need something more: they need to be rescued from their oppressors, and they need men and women who will risk personal harm to stand between them and their oppressors. They need courageous Christians who will love and protect them.
In the last chapter, Gary Haugen writes, "There are two things that are always the will of God and almost always dangerous: telling the truth and loving needy people...Doing what Jesus does--telling the truth and loving needy people--is inherently unsafe in a fallen world of lies and selfishness...It's not safe to love people in need...It's messy, untidy, unsafe, and even dangerous. And yet, paradoxically, Jesus tells us this is where the deepest joy is found"(pp. 115-116).
Just Courage is a small book with a powerful message. If you are bored with your Christianity, this could be the book for you. You just might be inspired to join International Justice Mission in its efforts to rescue slaves and prosecute oppressors. You might be inspired to serve the poor in some other way. You will be challenged to have the love and courage to
"Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow" (Isaiah 1:17, NIV).

Friday, July 18, 2008

Don't Give Up

Our preacher Ron Babbit has a godly perspective on grace and forgiveness that drives his ministry. He also has a unique way of expressing biblical truth. This is an excerpt from his latest letter to supporters of the Contact Church of Christ:

"Have you ever given up on anyone? Has anyone ever given up on you? Someone said, 'Robert just needs to quit showing up.' As if we have it all together. Amen? However, TJ didn't get the memo to give up. TJ continued to read, encourage, teach, pray, call, pray and call, teach and encourage for 40 days and 40 nights. Robert had served time in prison. He was a #1 anger filled, fist slinging, jaw jacking, Satan serving murderer, looking for another clown's jaw to place his fist into. That was his heart, his way of life. Mitch asked GT if he would go visit Robert. GT told Robert about JESUS--The Peacemaker, Covenant Maker, Forgiver, Soul Cleanser, Guilt Remover, Reconciler. The One who brings families together at the CROSS and heals hearts. A few weeks ago we witnessed Robert's baptism into CHRIST. A time of many emotions. I'm sure some guilt, maybe some release, some re-focus, some gratitude, some remorse, some 'I get to hold my head up.' Now Robert doesn't have to fight with his fists. He gets to fight against the real enemy, Satan. Praise GOD for this church called Contact, that GOD had raised up to accept people and reach into hearts. Forgive us that we have too often found ourselves being the 'older brother' standing on the outside saying, 'I've been faithful all along, I have never had any ugly thoughts, I have never wasted any $. I have never cheated. I have never lied. I have always had it together.' Then along comes a brother or sister who remembers what it's like to have been bought by the blood of the LAMB, to have forgiveness, to be loved by the KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. PRAISE GOD another soul has been united with JESUS! The Devil just won't win. Amen Church! Keep loving, praying and giving because HE continues to give!"

Interesting Items on the Internet

Here are a few interesting items on the Internet this week:

Jackie Chesnutt wrote about "Behind the Scenes Greatness" on his blog at He mentioned several of the great things happening at the Southside Church of Christ in Rogers, Arkansas, where he serves as a preacher and elder. Jackie noted that the good being done could not happen without the people behind the scenes who are serving and honoring God in quiet ways. (I think that some of those "behind the scenes" people might be some of my family members. My mom, her husband, my sister, brother-in-law, nephews, and niece attend the Southside Church in Rogers.)

Whatever happened to A.C. Green, the professional basketball player for the L.A. Lakers who made a commitment to remain a virgin until marriage? Did he succeed or fail? An update on A.C. Green may be found at

Finally, the NAACP held its annual convention this week. It received some media coverage, but something important received little attention. African American pro-lifers held a demonstration in which they attempted to persuade the NAACP to change from a neutral position on abortion to a pro-life position. I would love to see the organization known for protecting minorities broaden its fight for justice to include seeking legal protection for pre-born children. It has not happened yet, but the time could come. More of the story can be found at

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Good Black Men

"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, NIV).
Our son Christopher seems to be grasping some of the subtle teaching moments in his life. Yesterday he told me, "NBC Nightly News has a lot of black people." We do not watch much news on the television, but I try to watch NBC Nightly News on the weekends because it is anchored by Lester Holt, a good Christian black man (see I was able to mention that Lester Holt attends a Church of Christ just like we do. We want Christopher to be exposed to good black men in the media and in life. He needs to see good black men as role models. Lester Holt serves as one of them.

Of course, we took Christopher to see Bill Cosby ( a couple of months ago when he came to Tulsa. In addition to being a talented entertainer, Mr. Cosby has been a bold advocate for responsible behavior among African American boys and men. He has a message that we want to be integrated into our son's life. We want him to grow up to be responsible and decent, too.

We also follow the Indianapolis Colts because of coach Tony Dungy (, one of the National Football League's greatest coaches and most respected men. Whenever Coach Dungy is interviewed, we try to listen. In many ways, he reminds me of Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry of a generation ago. He exhibits a calm and kind competence rarely seen among coaches at any level in sports. Perhaps Christopher will notice those qualities and seek to emulate them as he grows up.

I recognize my duty to be a positive male role model, but I also recognize that I cannot be a positive black role model. I know that young black boys need positive black role models. It would be ridiculous for me to pretend to be black, but I can point to good black men, hoping and praying that Christopher will join their ranks someday.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

National Missionary Convention

"He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:15-16, NIV).

In 4 months, the National Missionary Convention of the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ will be meeting in Tulsa at the Tulsa Convention Center. Several missionaries will lead workshops dealing with topics such as reaching Muslims and Buddhists, poverty, AIDS, orphans, and human trafficking. The dates are November 20-23, 2008. More information may be found at I hope to see you there!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Religion Respected by the Working Class and Poor

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16, NIV).

I read a very interesting column in our local newspaper today. You may access it at Here are the first few paragraphs:

"In her 2001 memoir of seminary life, Episcopal priest Chloe Breyer expressed befuddlement that the Rikers Island inmates to whom she was ministering mocked her liberal approach to religion.

"'They want answers, not questions,' Breyer wrote in frustration. 'The more contradictions I point out in the Bible, the more the inmates decide there is no point in wasting their time with a religion that lacks answers.'

"Can you blame them? The poor and working class tend to prefer non-squishy religion prescribing a stark moral code--even if they struggle to live up to its demands.

"It's not hard to see why. Unlike Breyer, whose father is a Supreme Court justice, and other social elites, folks living nearer the economic margins have far more to lose from individual and communal moral failure.

"A Mexican immigrant housekeeper whose husband works on the road told me that her Pentecostal congregation in Dallas is the only thing she has to help her keep her teenage girls on a path to a stable future. Given the skyrocketing teen pregnancy rate among Latinas, you can see why a mother like this housekeeper gravitates toward Pentecostalism, not liberal Protestantism or laissez-faire Catholicism."

As a guy in a working class job (mail carrier) who is involved in a ministry to the urban poor (Contact Church of Christ), I concur with the conclusions of the author. Among the majority of people with whom I associate, the moral relativism of postmodernism has little appeal. It's more of a concept to be discussed among university professors, editorial writers, preachers, and guests on National Public Radio programs. In real life, most of us understand that genuine right and wrong exist. We do not debate whether it is right or wrong to torture children, cheat people out of money, or spread harmful gossip. We do not respect churches without the sense to recognize the existence of truth or the backbone to tell the truth.

Because we fail to live up to the highest ethical standards, we also want to be in churches that will tell the truth to us with grace. We want leaders who are both honest and compassionate. We are attracted to the forgiveness available through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf. We are drawn to the hope offered in his resurrection and promised return. We appreciate being in the presence of people who have his Spirit within them, people who care about us and will help us in dealing with our sins, temptations, and problems.

If a congregation wants to reach the working class and poor, it will proclaim the truth and love the people.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hot Links

Here are a few posts and articles worth reading:

Trey Morgan provides great advice for husbands at

Mike relates a heart-breaking story of a family neglected in their time of need by their local church at

Phil Sanders offers some insightful analysis of data from the Pew Forum's latest religious survey of Americans at

Allen Hickerson mentions the small rural church that he serves. Its Vacation Bible School was a success. I appreciate the effort of a small congregation in a small town exerting the energy to help the children in their area to know Christ. His post is at

Rubel Shelly reminds us that God gets mad and that it's okay for us to get mad too at

Sarah Logsdon writes about the women of the Contact Church who are mentoring the girls and young women in our congregation. Please don't miss this one at

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

First Contacts

Last Sunday evening, I asked our small group Bible study members at the Normandy Apartments what topic or biblical book they would like to study next. Earlene suggested that it would be fun to pretend that God had inspired a letter to the Contact Church. What would it say? So I asked for each member to think creatively this week and write a letter to the Contact Church expressing what he or she believes God would want the church to hear. Of course, we realize that this is merely a creative exercise, but it could give us an idea of how each person in our group is thinking at this time. It also could open our eyes to some blind spots, as each person shares different perspectives. This is my letter:

The First Epistle to the Contact Church of Christ

Brothers and sisters,

God has been good to you. Some of you were in rebellion against God. You hated God and everyone associated with him. Some of you were simply wandering through life lost. But God has changed you. He has not destroyed you. He has not even allowed you to destroy yourselves. He has saved you.

When Jesus gave his life for you, he changed the course of your life. Your trust in him is well placed.

Therefore, continue to do good in God's name. Continue to fight the temptation to sin. Stay sober. Don't allow alcohol or drugs to enslave you again. Be intoxicated with the Spirit of Christ.

Avoid anger, envy, and anxiety. Live in joy, gratitude, and peace.

Be sexually pure. No adultery. No homosexuality. No sex outside of marriage. Enjoy your husband or wife, but do not share.

Continue to help others. Keep looking for people who need help. Keep sharing the message of Christ with everyone. Keep growing. Keep praying. Keep reading or listening to the Bible. If you do these things, you will continue to become everything you and God want.

Finally, have hope. You may face disease, racism, job loss, and other serious problems, but don't let go of hope! Jesus Christ will return, and everything will be made right for you.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Vote for James Simmons

If you live in northeastern Oklahoma, please vote for James Simmons tomorrow night (July 7, 2008) on Gimme the Mike, the local singing competition similar to American Idol. James (aka Jamie) is the former worship leader for the Contact Church of Christ. He is an outstanding young man currently studying at Oklahoma State University. The phone lines should be open for 2 hours after the show airs at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow night on KOTV Channel 6.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Fighting Poverty

"He who gives to the poor will lack nothing,
but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses" (Proverbs 28:27, NIV).

About a year and a half ago, we began to memorize Scriptures as a family. Typically, we spend about 10 days reading a verse during meal times. Lately we have been reading Proverbs 28:27, a verse that emphasizes how much God wants his people to care for the poor.

Poverty comes in various forms.

The economically poor cannot meet their financial needs. They cannot make enough money to pay their rent, buy groceries, or purchase other necessities.

The physically poor suffer from health problems. They may deal with a chronic disease, a mental disability, depression, or other health issues.

Those who are poor in wisdom deal with the results of bad choices in life. They may have dropped out of school. They may have become addicted to alcohol or drugs. They may have joined gangs. They may have divorced their spouses. They may have been fired from numerous jobs due to perpetual conflicts with bosses or co-workers.

The spiritually poor live without a spiritual connection to God. They are missing the benefits of life with Christ.

Sometimes people face every form of poverty at once. Sometimes we face different combinations of poverty at the same time. Sometimes we face only one form of poverty at a time. However, nobody goes through life without ever facing poverty.

So the question is: How can I help? Could I buy someone lunch? Could I take a sack or two of groceries to their apartment? Could I help someone find a job? Could I visit someone in the hospital? Could I listen to someone feeling depressed? Could I help someone study for the GED? Could I teach a class about building and maintaining strong families? Could I let someone know how good Jesus Christ is?

Let's fight poverty in every form, and receive God's blessings in the process.

Preachers Say the Funniest Things

I love irony. Here are a couple of ironic statements I have heard from preachers:

"We do not allow solos in this church, because it leads to pride." Then the preacher preaches an entire sermon solo.

"You don't need a commentary. Just read the Bible." When a preacher says that, prepare yourself for a 30 minute oral commentary on a single verse, complete with the historical background and context, definitions of Greek or Hebrew words, maps, charts, and lessons on the nuances of the grammar of an obscure language.

If you have heard or said an ironic statement from the pulpit, please share it. I would love to read it.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Good Citizenship

"Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men" (Titus 3:1-2, NIV).

In the spirit of America's Independence Day, here are a few ways to be good citizens (without being political):

1. Obey the traffic laws.
2. Pray for our leaders.
3. Recycle.
4. Volunteer at a pregnancy resource center or adoption agency.
5. Initiate a canned food drive at your work place for a local food bank.
6. Adopt a pet at a local animal shelter. (But leave behind the pit bulls.)
7. Donate blood.
8. Join the military.
9. Pay your taxes.
10. Invest time in your family.

Feel free to add to the list. Thanks for reading, and have a happy 4th of July!