Sunday, August 31, 2008

What Would You Fight For?

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile" (Romans 1:16).

As hard as it may be for some fellow bloggers to believe, I'm not much of a fighter. I don't go around looking for an argument. I don't even care about many of the issues that preoccupy some of my fellow Christians, much less have a firm opinion about them. I would love to get along with everyone I meet. I enjoy serving rather anonymously in the church of Jesus Christ.

However, once in a while, I feel the need to get involved in an argument...not just any argument, but an argument about the essentials of Christian faith and ethics. For example, I could not remain silent when an urban ministry leader in Texas started undermining the trustworthiness of the Bible, the book that led me to faith in Christ (see How could I call myself a follower of Jesus Christ if I were too embarrassed to stand for him when I could receive harsh criticism, ostracism, or worse? Would I rather be comfortable or faithful to my Savior? I owe Christ my life. Why should I deny my faith in him when things get a little heated?

At, Tim Woodroof has written an excellent article about the need for Christians to be willing to fight for their faith without being quarrelsome. He asked, "What would you fight for?" It's a question for every disciple to consider.

I plan on writing a couple of more posts this week about convictions and the character of Jesus Christ which will supplement this post. I hope to demonstrate the need to be faithful to Christ even when it makes us look bad.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Encouraging Transracial Adoption

Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is advocating transracial adoption on his blog ( Here is a small sample of what he is saying:

"Given the vast number of at-risk orphans in the world--now numbering in the millions--this resurgence in adoption among American evangelicals should be a matter of public celebration. In the United States, 127,000 children are considered 'unadoptable,' and many of these are racial minorities. Shouldn't the adoption of these children be a priority for the church?"

Although I don't expect public celebration (as Dr. Mohler explains in his post, some social workers are pushing segregation of the races), I agree with Dr. Mohler that Christians should consider it a priority to care for children who need homes, no matter the racial background of the children or the parents. Dr. Mohler has been a consistent supporter of adoption, racial harmony, and biblical ethics.

(I need to credit Adam Faughn at for pointing me toward Albert Mohler's blog post. Thanks, Adam!)

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Challenge for Labor Day

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

I had intended to write an encouraging post about Labor Day for this weekend. I was searching the Internet, looking for a good story about Christians who had made a positive difference for people who were laboring under oppressive conditions. When I stumbled across the historical documents at, I was disturbed by what I read.

I discovered the story of a white minister who had married a Hispanic woman in the 1960s. They were serving a community of Hispanic farm workers in south Texas when the young minister became aware of the injustices faced by his fellow Christians on the job. Trying to make a difference for the people he was seeing mistreated, he joined a labor union's march to increase wages for the farm workers. Leaders from a church that supported his outreach to the Spanish-speaking world were upset that he would participate in an event organized by a labor union. As a result, he was ordered to stop trying to help improve the living conditions of the Hispanic workers. He perceived it to be his duty as a human being to help the people who were struggling. Eventually, he lost the support of the large and influential congregation; his wife was driven to suicide; and he became a skeptic who rejected the miraculous accounts found in the Bible.

In my previous two posts, I called on Christians to respect the poor, the unhealthy, and the uneducated because it reflects the heart of God. In this story, I discovered a principle I did not expect to find: If we disrespect the poor and turn away from them when they are mistreated, we are harming people emotionally and spiritually. In significant ways, Christians (and especially Christian leaders) represent God to the world around them. When people are expecting God to be a God of compassion and justice, but they see uncaring Christians who either side with injustice or are blind to injustice, they can be devastated. Emotional barriers can be erected which may never come down.

If believers can be men and women of compassion and justice, God will be honored. Barriers to faith will not be built. Perhaps they will even be removed. Perhaps healing will begin in the lives of the oppressed, and in the lives of other decent people who have witnessed wrongdoing but who have never seen the people of God help in any meaningful way. Let's honor God by caring for people who are hurting and disrespected.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Church that Respects the Poor

In my previous post, I encouraged churches to respect those who are unhealthy, poor, and uneducated. Mike from the Upper Room blog asked me for more information about how to do it. (By the way, he is one of the most thoughtful bloggers around. Check it out at In response, I will be quoting from Up Close and Personal: Embracing the Poor by Harold Shank, Anthony Wood, and Ron Bergeron. The three ministers had found that they were able to lead people in poverty to Christ, but they could not keep them in their middle-class, suburban-style congregations. As a result, they started an urban ministry to plant churches in inner-city Memphis, Tennessee.

"We learned three things in starting inner-city churches. First, respect inner-city culture. Effective missionaries study the culture first. We mistakenly believe inner-city dwellers are either just like us or inferior to us. Neither is true. Each urban center has its own culture, values, and language that must be learned through study and observation.

"Insensitivity to different cultures creates barriers instead of bridges. Missionaries learned to bring Christ, not their hometown culture, to a new country. Jesus loved people by respecting them. We will do the same. Here are a few ways to get started:

1) Educate your church biblically, culturally, and missiologically concerning urban church planting and ministry. Read books like Ray Bakke's The Urban Christian or William Pannell's The Gospel from the Bottom Up.

2) Visit an existing inner-city church that is reaching the urban poor to appreciate the faith practiced in cultural diversity. Research what others have done.

3) Ask people knowledgeable about the local poor to guide you through the existing outreach programs in your city.

4) Ask a poor person for honest answers about why he doesn't attend church where you do. Brace yourself for the truth. Then ask your new friend, 'If there was a church in your neighborhood that you would go to every week, what would it be like?'

"Second, expect inner-city leadership. We found more sense of community in the poorer areas of town than we've ever experienced in the affluent sections. The inner-city neighborhood has a social structure and leadership network. There is a saying in our inner-city, 'It takes a whole community to raise a child.' Family, school, social service, and church all connect. Networks flourish in the inner city. Church workers can connect to these networks. Our goal is to establish a fellowship of inner-city churches with local leadership designed to serve their communities. The church must be built according to this urban blueprint. Our inner-city brothers and sisters are better equipped to take back their neighborhoods for Christ by using their own networks to build God's church community.

"Third, expect inner-city theologians to arise. The Bible established doctrine, but Christians develop traditions. We establish the order of a Sunday morning service, decide how long the sermon should be, work out details on who can spend church money. Suburban preachers speak to issues that confront the average middle-class American. While fundamental doctrines do not vary, their application...varies, depending on the situation of the local Christians.

"In our suburban church, ushers stand at the back of the auditorium to serve. If a homeless woman tried to walk to the front during the sermon, they would stop her and talk with her in the foyer. To suburbanites, that seems a reasonable and loving policy. To inner-city Christians, that policy is offensive and unacceptable. They know that people often come into the service as a last resort. To turn away a homeless woman at that critical time may lead her to drugs or to her seeking help from different people. They value an uninterrupted sermon just like the people in the suburbs, but they understand the rejection of forcing a homeless person to wait" (pp. 60-62).

Thanks for the question, Mike. And thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Are We Thinking Like the World?

I have been thinking for about a week about how God views people differently than how we are conditioned to view people. We tend to be overly impressed with healthy, wealthy, and educated people. We tend to disrespect unhealthy, poor, and uneducated people. Why? I'm not sure, but I notice who gets their photographs on the cover of People magazine and who gets interviewed in the Wall Street Journal. I also notice who doesn't.

Are churches immune to our culture's over-emphasis on such superficial characteristics? I'm not advocating that we disrespect healthy, wealthy, and educated people. But I wonder if we unintentionally disrespect unhealthy, poor, and uneducated people in churches? For example, would we hire a minister with AIDS? Would we appoint an elder living in a trailer park? Would we accept a deacon with a GED?

The words of the early Christian leader James are challenging to the church in every culture and every generation. He wrote,

"My dear friends, don't let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, 'Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!' and either ignore the street person or say, 'Better sit here in the back row,' haven't you segregated God's children and proved that you are judges who can't be trusted?

"Listen, dear friends. Isn't it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world's down-and-out as the kingdom's first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn't it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren't they the ones who scorn the new name--'Christian'--used in your baptisms?

"You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: 'Love others as you love yourself.' But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it" (James 2, The Message).

Will churches be guided by the worldview of our society or by the worldview of the inspired Scriptures? Will we meet the challenge as churches and as individuals to see people as God sees them? Will we refuse to discriminate on the basis of social standing?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Prepare to be Moved

Rex posted a link on his blog ( that I would like to share. Every follower of Jesus Christ has a testimony. I found the cardboard testimonies of the Richland Hills Church of Christ to be especially moving at I hope you will like them, too.

After you have viewed the video, please post your cardboard testimony in my comments section, if you feel comfortable with it. I believe our testimony would say something like: "Infertility...Frustration...Depression/God Blessed Us with the Adoption of Our Son."

Thanks, Rex!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Joy of Teaching Children

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

We have been working on memorizing 2 Timothy 3:16.

At the breakfast table this morning, Christopher repeated the verse for us. Wanting to make sure he knew what he was repeating, I asked him, "Do you know what rebuking means?"

He answered, "Throwing up."

I responded, "No. That's puking."

I'm glad I asked.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

You Help Us by Your Prayers

"On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many" (2 Corinthians 1:10-11).

The unknown heroes of the church are the men, women, and children who devote themselves to prayer. They are the people of faith. They know that they are dependent upon God. Usually we do not know that they are praying, and we do not recognize it when their prayers are answered.

*We see sinners being saved.
*We see the sick being healed.
*We witness the immature developing into godly men and women of wisdom.
*We watch as the former Soviet bloc allows missionaries to reach their people.
*We hear about the explosive growth of independent churches in China.

But we do not see the many devoted disciples of Christ who secretly spend hours each week asking God for his kingdom to come and for his will to be done.

They do not receive praise, but neither do they seek it. They do not appear to accomplish much, but appearances can be deceptive. They are essential to the health and growth of the church of God. If you pray for the kingdom of God, thank you! Your help is indispensable. If you pray for me, a special thank you! Your helpful prayers are greatly appreciated.

Political Decisions

"Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper" (Jeremiah 29:7).

I have followed politics to one degree or another for most of my life. As a student at Oklahoma Christian University, I minored in social studies, volunteered for a couple of political campaigns, and served as the chairman of one of the political clubs on campus. Over the years, I have searched the Bible for principles to guide me in making political decisions which I would like to share here:

1. The government exists in order to protect innocent people from those who would harm them (Romans 13:1-7). In a democratic republic, ordinary citizens are more responsible for their government than are the subjects of a dictatorship. We are responsible for seeking good leaders and just policies.

2. God's people have an obligation to seek the good of their communities, even if they are a minority within it (Jeremiah 29:7). We may not win every battle--in fact, we may lose most--but love for our neighbors will prompt us to continue our efforts to benefit them.

3. Many political decisions are matters of applying wisdom to differing circumstances. For example, sometimes wisdom demands that taxes be raised (Genesis 41:28-36). At other times, it requires that the burden be lowered (1 Kings 12:1-17). We need humility and wisdom from God to know the best course of action. Also, we need to be gracious toward those who do not see things as we do. They may not have as much information as we do, or they may have more. We need to be open to learning from those we see as our political opponents. Sometimes they are right.

4. On most political issues, God's people can remain quiet. However, when an issue involves an unjust threat to innocent human lives, we cannot keep quiet (Esther 7:3-4). We should risk making enemies (even powerful enemies) in order to save the lives of innocent people. This is the difficult part of loving our neighbors as ourselves, because it would be much easier to live in peace and quiet while others are suffering rather than to take risks on their behalf. We are not likely to be popular, but it is worth the risks in order to help others and to please our Savior.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A True Pastor

"To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers--not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away" (1 Peter 5:1-4).

A few years ago, an elder of the Jenks Church led a unique Wednesday evening Bible class. Rather than meeting in a classroom as usual, he invited everyone interested to join him in the lobby. From there, we traveled around the area visiting our elderly and disabled members who had difficulty making it to our Wednesday evening classes. We visited some in their homes and others in a nursing home. I knew some of our members, but due to their long-term health problems, I had never met others. We were able to sit and visit, read a few verses from the Bible, and pray with some of our great saints.

I will never forget those summer classes. A great elder showed me what a true pastor looks like: a man who takes care of his flock, especially the members who would be easy to overlook.

An Orphans Ministry Workshop

"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).
I received the following e-mail from FamilyLife today and would like to share it with anyone who may be interested:
"It's likely that you or someone you know has been deeply impacted through an encounter with an orphan. It might have been a missions trip to an orphanage while in middle school. Maybe it was a foster child you mentored during college. Maybe your relative or friend is considering adopting. Whatever the case, God has planted the seed and now, it's time for that seed to take root and grow.
"Your Church and the Orphan is a biblically-based, informative, powerful, and interactive one-day workshop that will bring together a group of passionate, like-minded people from your church to pray, dream and learn about how God wants to use your church to care for orphans. The workshop is designed for Christian lay leaders (though pastors and other church leaders are welcome to attend!) who want to explore how their church can make an eternal difference for orphans and waiting children.
"Your Church and the Orphan will be held on:
Saturday, September 27, 2008
9 AM until 4:30 PM
Irving Bible Church
2435 Kinwest Parkway
Irving, TX 75063."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dad, Why Are You Not Voting for Barack Obama?

"Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
If you say, 'But we knew nothing about this,'
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?" (Proverbs 24:11-12)

Among the virtues Janet and I are attempting to instill within Christopher are concern for vulnerable people and the courage needed to protect them. He knows a little boy about a year younger than himself who has developmental disabilities. The little guy is physically weak and mentally slow, but he loves Christopher. The problem is: he can't keep up with our son. He cannot wrestle, and he cannot even defend himself verbally when playing with the other boys. So Christopher knows that it's his job to protect the weaker little boy.

Last week, Christopher asked, "Dad, why are you not voting for Barack Obama?" I would have loved to have told him that I was voting for Mr. Obama. I would have loved to have been able to point to Senator Obama as another positive black male role model for my son to emulate, but I could not. I explained to Christopher that some people kill little babies before they are born, while they are still in their mothers' tummies. Barack Obama will not try to protect those babies. Instead, he defends the people who kill them.

Immediately, Christopher understood. He knew that something is wrong with a man who will not try to protect innocent and vulnerable people. He comprehended why his mother and father could not vote for Senator Obama, despite the man's personal charisma. Our son has already started to internalize our values.

Of course, Christopher's next question was: "What about John McCain?" I could not answer his question yet. His choice of a vice presidential running mate will give us a hint about how seriously he takes his responsibility to protect innocent people from those who would harm them. Perhaps we will know in a week or two, but for now, I'm pleased with our son's developing sense of moral responsibility.

Love One Another

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35).

If you need a little encouragement and inspiration for today, please read the Christian Chronicle article at As far as I'm concerned, Bobby Ross should be awarded a Pulitzer for writing the story, and Kayla Balliew should receive the Nobel Peace Prize for living it.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Baptism and Grace

Tomorrow marks the twenty-third anniversary of my baptism. I would like to share a few quotes from British Baptist theologian G.R. Beasley-Murray on the subject of baptism:

"(T)he idea that baptism is a purely symbolic rite must be pronounced not (only) unsatisfactory but out of harmony with the New Testament itself. Admittedly, such a judgment runs counter to the popular tradition of the Denomination to which the writer belongs, as it does to some of the significant contributions to the study of baptism that have appeared from theologians of other Churches in recent years. But the New Testament belongs to us all and we stand judged by it. Few, if any, are concerned to oppose the contention that baptism is 'a beautiful symbol.' The Apostolic writers make free use of the symbolism of the baptismal action; but they go further and view the act as a symbol with power...

"The extent and nature of the grace which the New Testament writers declare to be present in baptism is astonishing...

"(T)he 'grace' available to man in baptism is said by the New Testament writers to include the following elements: forgiveness of sin, Acts 2:38 and cleansing from sins, Acts 22:16, 1 Cor.6:11; union with Christ, Gal. 3:27, and particularly union with Him in his death and resurrection, Rom. 6:3 ff, Col. 2:11 f, with all that implies of release from sin's power, as well as guilt, and the sharing of the risen life of the Redeemer, Rom. 6:1-11; participation in Christ's sonship, Gal. 3:26 f; consecration to God, 1 Cor. 6:11, hence membership in the Church, the Body of Christ, 1 Cor. 12:13, Gal. 3:27-29; possession of the Spirit, Acts 2:38, 1 Cor. 6:11, 12:13, and therefore the new life in the Spirit, i.e. regeneration, Tit. 3:5. Jn. 3:5; grace to live according to the will of God, Rom. 6:1 ff, Col. 3:1 ff; deliverance from the evil powers that rule this world, Col. 1:13; the inheritance of the Kingdom of God, Jn. 3:5, and the pledge of the resurrection of the body, Eph. 1:13 f, 4:30...

"Now while it is undeniable that the Church in all generations of its history, including the first, has been prone to lapse into lower forms of sacramentalism, we have not perceived that lapse in the Apostolic teaching itself. Paul in 1 Cor. 10:1 f gave a clear warning against a magical-sacramental view of the sacraments, and 1 Pet. 3:21 yields an emphatic denial that the external elements of baptism constitute either its essence or its power: 'Baptism saves...through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.' Does not this very saying point in the direction to which we should look for the solution to our problem (of recognizing the importance of Christian baptism without making it a magical sacrament)? Baptism saves, not because water washes dirt from the body, but as the occasion when a man is met by the Risen Christ" (Baptism in the New Testament, pp. 263-265).

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Creation (Part Two)

These are my notes for our Bible study at the Normandy Apartments tomorrow night.

"So God created man in his image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27).

Please read Genesis 1:26-2:25.

These are some implications of humanity's creation:

1. God is relational. "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness..." God's use of the plural in referring to himself suggests the doctrine of the trinity. (See Genesis 1:2 and Colossians 1:15-20.) In his nature, God exists relationally. We have been designed to relate to him and to each other.

2. People are special to God. We bear his image. Whatever else that may mean, it means that we have a special connection to God, a connection not shared with plants and animals.

3. All people are related to each other, because we are descendants of Adam and Eve. We are related to the richest man in the world and to the AIDS orphan who is barely surviving in Africa. We are related to the Swedish supermodel and to the Chinese prisoner. We are related to the Olympic gold medalist and to the comatose woman in the nursing home. Since we are related to each other, we should consider how we treat each other.

4. People are responsible to care for the world's animals. We are to rule over them not as selfish tyrants, but as righteous kings and queens. Their interests will not take precedence over human needs, but they will be considered. (See Proverbs 12:10.)

5. Men and women are similar, but not the same. God separated masculinity in men from femininity in women as a part of his "very good" design for humanity.

6. God has blessed sex between a husband and a wife as a part of his "very good" design for humanity.

7. God has blessed the roles of father and mother as a part of his "very good" design for humanity.

8. Men and women complement each other in marriage. Neither is complete without the other. Each has a role in building up the other. (Ephesians 5:33 provides good advice in this area.)

9. Marriage was designed to provide security for both the husband and the wife. They can stand before each other completely naked, open, and vulnerable, but without shame.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Beautiful Prayer

Our son Christopher prays during Vacation Bible School last summer.

"Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:4).

Saturday, August 09, 2008

An Introduction to the Contact Church

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen" (Ephesians 3:20-21).

I have the privilege of being a member of a special congregation, the Contact Church of Christ. We began nearly 10 years ago as the Park Plaza Church of Christ launched an effort to reach the inner city of Tulsa with the good news of Jesus Christ. Soon, other congregations joined the effort. (Janet and I started as volunteers from Jenks Church in January 2001.) On Easter Sunday of 2002, the Tulsa urban ministry launched the Contact Church of Christ.

The Contact Church has Bible classes each Sunday morning. We have several solid Bible teachers with years of experience at all levels of our Sunday school program.

Our worship services include singing praise to God (with a variety of traditional hymns, spirituals, and contemporary praise choruses), observing the Lord's Supper, a sermon, and an offering. We have a period for prayer requests and praise in which anyone in the congregation can share. This usually takes 10 to 15 minutes, and is a vital part of building a sense of community within the congregation. After worship services, we usually enjoy lunch together, with an area church usually providing the meal.

Our ministries include a food bank which serves thousands of Tulsans each year and a clothing room which serves hundreds. Our youth group (led by Bob and Sarah Logsdon--see their blog at keeps our teens connected and into God's word. The church sponsors a Christian club at Clinton Middle School. Our members provide donuts, juice, Bible lessons, and listening ears to the students before classes start on Wednesday mornings. (It has become the most popular club on campus. The principal credits the Contact Church with changing the school's atmosphere and enabling it to be removed from the state's at-risk schools list.) Our Contact Recovery House provides housing, recovery groups, and Bible studies for men struggling with drug and alcohol addictions. Our ministry to new mothers provides prenatal and postnatal care, Bible lessons, lessons in parenting, and necessities like baby formula, baby clothing, maternity clothing, and cribs for young mothers and their children. We conduct Bible studies at several low-income housing projects. In addition, our members volunteer and reach out to people in need throughout the week in a variety of ways (from providing transportation to children and homeless people to visiting the local jail), without fanfare or organization.

If you would like to help our ministers or ministries, become involved in urban ministry, visit a worship service or prayer meeting, or receive help, you may find more information at Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

You Shall Not Murder

"You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13).

A few years ago, I learned a method of developing a richer understanding of negative biblical commandments. For example, what is at the heart of God's negative commandment against murder? By approaching the prohibition from a positive perspective, we can discern more of the intentions of God when he gave the commandment. You shall not murder becomes You shall protect the lives of innocent people.

As God built upon the prohibition against murder, he legislated against hitting a pregnant woman in order to protect her life and her child's life (Exodus 21:22-25). He prohibited anyone from allowing his violent animal to roam unrestrained so that it would not kill an innocent person (Exodus 21:28-32). He even ordered his people to build guardrails around the roofs of their houses so that people would not fall to their deaths (Deuteronomy 22:8). In many ways, the Lord designed legislation to protect the lives of innocent people.

So how can we apply the commandment against murder today? How can we protect the lives of innocent people? If we own violent dogs, we must keep them away from people at all costs, even if it means euthanizing the animals. If we own swimming pools, we need to build fences around them so that small children cannot wander into them and drown.

I heard about a creative and effective way of protecting the lives of innocent people a few months ago. A husband and wife wanted to adopt a baby. Every weekend, they stood outside an abortion clinic, handing out business cards with their phone numbers printed on them. Each card stated that they wanted to adopt a baby. Finally, after approaching dozens of girls and young women over a period of several weeks, they were able to arrange for the adoption of their child. This couple protected the life of at least one innocent person: their child.

When we dig deeply into the 10 commandments, we can see the heart of God. When we approach the commandments with a positive attitude and a little creativity, we can change our world.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Power Behind the "Get To" Lifestyle

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing, and perfect will" (Romans 12:1-2).

Our preacher Ron Babbit does not say "I have to." Instead, he says "I get to." For example, Ron says,

"I get to teach the darlins and clowns in Sunday school..."
"I get to go into the hood and sling the word..."
"I get to help Odie Mae move into her new apartment..."
"I get to forgive that cat who took advantage of me..."

By his example, Ron Babbit teaches us that mercy turns obligations into opportunities. He does not approach life as being full of obligations he has to fulfill; rather, he sees life as being full of opportunities he gets to enjoy. How can he see life in such a manner? Because each of his sentences above ends with these words:

"...because of the One who died on the cross for me."

The mercy of God gives us the power to approach even difficult tasks with a sense of gratitude and joy.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Parental Teaching Tips

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates" (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

Janet and I teach Christopher about God and his word in many different ways. Most of our teaching is informal. Biblical topics arise while we are playing, traveling, and watching cartoons.
However, ever since we were able to hold him in the hospital after his birth, we have tried to help our son know Christ intentionally.
After meals, we read the daily devotional from Our Daily Bread. Then we read a memory verse. (Lately we have been concentrating on Proverbs 29:25.) We try to make sure Christopher understands unfamiliar words and concepts. After he is able to repeat the verse from memory (which usually takes about 10 days), we move on to another verse. Then we pray. Most of the time, Christopher prays for the firefighters, police officers, and paramedics.
At bed time, Christoper will sit on my lap in my recliner. I will read a story from either The Beginners Bible or the Little Boys Bible Storybook for Fathers and Sons. Then I will sing I Stand in Awe and How Great Thou Art. (Sometimes Christopher sings along with me.) After I'm done, Janet takes my place and sings Jesus Loves Me, Lord Give Me Peace, and Sweet Little Baby Boy (an original song by Janet for Christopher). Then he goes to bed.
Of course, as Christopher grows up, our methods will change. Eventually, he will be reading, too.
Do you have intentional methods of teaching your children about Christ? Please share them in the comments section. I would love to read about some other ideas.

Transracial Parenting Tips

Janet and I have been parents for a little over five and a half years. So far, we have learned a few lessons that could be beneficial to new transracial families:

1. When someone asks, "Are you going to tell him that he's adopted?", just respond, "How did you know? We've been trying to keep it a secret."

2. The ethnic hair products aisle at Wal-Mart exists for a good reason. No amount of conditioner will keep African American hair moist. Look for hair lotion in the ethnic hair products aisle.

3. White women cannot cut the hair of black boys. They do a fine job with mine, but not with his. Trust me. Find a black barber shop. You may look out of place, but he will look great.

4. If possible, join an interracial church. Your child needs to be able to relate to peers of his or her race.

5. Teach your child to respect authority early in life. Give him an opportunity to succeed.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Life-Changing Books

"Of making many books there is no end" (Ecclesiastes 12:12).

Several good books have influenced me over the years. Here are a few:

Life Application Study Bible (NIV)
A couple of years ago, I was on sick leave from my job, recovering from surgery, when a co-worker called. Paula explained to me that she wanted to buy a Bible for her mother who had never read more than a few verses from a Bible in her life. She needed a recommendation. I recommended the Life Application Study Bible, because of its excellent introductions to the books of the Bible as well as its study notes. A newcomer to the Bible needs a little direction, because it can be difficult to figure out how a book or passage relates to the overall message. This Bible helps tremendously. Although it's available in many good translations, I recommended the New International Version because it is both very accurate and very readable. It was the first version I read that I could understand.

Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper
This book challenged me to focus on honoring Jesus Christ in every area of my life because of what he has done for me. Its intent is on pulling us away from selfish, petty, and trivial pursuits to pursuing the glory of God.

Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur
This is a novel about an arrogant, dictatorial, and self-righteous pastor who is shaken to his core when his estranged daughter dies suddenly in an accident and his neglected wife dies soon afterward of a broken heart. As the man searches for the granddaughter he has never seen, he starts a journey from legalism to skepticism to real Christianity. Even though it's a novel, Wisdom Hunter is filled with truth and reality.

Rekindling the Romance by Dennis and Barbara Rainey
This book contains great insight into men and women. We bought it at FamilyLife's A Weekend to Remember marriage conference last year. I highly recommend the radio program FamilyLife Today, the marriage conferences, and any book (including this one) by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. You will learn much about your spouse from this book.

Up Close and Personal: Embracing the Poor by Harold Shank, Anthony Wood, and Ron Bergeron
This book inspired me to become involved in urban ministry. It will help any reader in understanding the culture of poverty, the effects of racism, the need for friendship in the midst of poverty, and how to help people come to faith in Jesus Christ. It contains good practical advice about how to help people in need.

Children Mean the World to God by Harold Shank
This book is surprising because of the depth of the theology. I did not expect a book about children to be a book about God and his character. I read Children Mean the World to God in the middle of the adoption process for our son. It gave me the encouragement I needed when the days were dark and I could not see the dawn coming. It will inspire any Christian parent, Bible class teacher, or lover of children to keep making the effort to show love to the children of the world for God's sake.

The Measure of a Man by Gene Getz
This book encourages all Christian men to aspire to the qualities of an elder as described in 1 Timothy and Titus. Whether a man ever becomes an elder is irrelevant; a Christian man needs to make it a goal to grow in the virtues described within this book.

No More Jellyfish, Chickens, or Wimps by Paul Coughlin
This is a parenting book like no other. It deals with instilling children with courage, security, and assertiveness. In addition, it helps parents and children deal with predators and bullies. Its goal is not to produce nice and compliant kids, but rather good and brave children.

Do you have any books that have made a positive impact on your life? Please share information about them in the comments section. Thanks for reading!