Friday, February 29, 2008

Why Do I Blog?

"The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters,
but a man of understanding draws them out" (Proverbs 20:5, NIV).

Why do I blog?

1. Blogging helps me to think through some ideas, concepts, and events in my life. It's a discipline that clears away some of the nonsense. When I am able to write about something, I am forced to give it a little more thought.

2. Someday, I want my son Christopher to know what I have been thinking. If I were to die tonight, he would have many fond memories of his dad. However, at age 5, those memories would become hazy and possibly confused as the years would pass. With my blog, he would be able to know me a little better. He would know what I love, hate, hope to see, and fear to ponder. He would be able to read about my challenges, failures, and victories. He would be able to sense some of my personality (although my sense of humor does not come across much on my blog). My wife Janet would not need to read my blog to learn such information, but my son would at this point in his life. This blog would be a gift for him.

3. A few other people may read this blog. I hope that they would be able to receive encouragement to trust God and follow Jesus Christ. I hope that my words would be able to provide some insight about life that could help in some way. Perhaps people may learn from some of the things I have done right and some of the things I have done wrong. I do not know how many people read this blog, but it doesn't matter much. If anyone benefits, it's a bonus.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Training to be Godly

"Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come" (1Timothy 4:7-8, NIV).

When football players train, they exercise in order to build strength and endurance. They lift weights. They run. They know that the game is tough. They put effort into it, because they want to win.

When Christians train, they also exercise in order to build strength and endurance. They pray. They read and study the Scriptures. They know that life is tough. They put effort into to it, because they want to win.

Football players will think about their goals and about the possible tactics of their opponents. They will think ahead. They will succeed when they are not caught off guard.

Christians will consider their goals and possible obstacles to reaching those goals. Wise Christians will be asking themselves questions.

*How will I avoid the temptation to be selfish?
*How can I demonstrate to my wife that I love her?
*How can I teach my son to be a man?
*How can I show kindness to a co-worker?
*How can I stand firm for biblical principles when compromise and tolerance are more valued in society?
*How can I share the good news about Christ with an unbelieving friend?
*How can I forgive someone who has harmed me?
*How can I grow older with grace and avoid becoming a bitter old man?
*How can I become more thankful?
*How can I confront sin in someone who is hurting himself and others?
*How can I think, act, and speak in ways that glorify God?

Successful saints will think ahead. They will succeed when they are not caught off guard.

Football players depend on others. They need the team owners, the coaches, and other players. Even in training, a limited amount can be done alone. They need support, guidance, encouragement, and cooperation. Even the player named the Most Valuable Player never wins the game alone. He receives help both before and during the game.

Christians depend on others. They need God, pastors, teachers, and other disciples. They may be able to pray and study on their own, but they need support, guidance, encouragement, and cooperation. One Christian cannot make it through life successfully without help from God and his people.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How to Identify and Help a Prostitute Who Visits the Church

"Jesus said to them, 'I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you'" (Matthew 21:31b, NIV).

The Baptist Standard had an excellent article about helping people who are sexually exploited and coerced into prostitution at In the article, you will find helpful information about recognizing and helping sexually exploited people who visit church services. I realize that this information may be more pertinent to the Contact Church of Christ and other urban ministries, but even suburban and rural congregations should be prepared to help a visting prostitute, stripper, or other sexually exploited person.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Anabaptists and Campbellites

In my earlier post today, I wrote about taking a theological survey to determine which church I would fit into best. The top two on my survey were: "Anabaptist" and "Church of Christ/Campbellite." After some thought, I realized that those are unfamiliar terms in most circles. So I decided to describe those terms in this post.

Anabaptists are a group of believers who broke from the Roman Catholic Church in the early 1500s, during the Protestant Reformation. They wanted to return to the faith and ethics of the early Christians. They received the name Anabaptist (baptized again), because they did not accept the sprinkings that they had received as babies. They believed in and taught the necessity of believers' baptism. They were committed to the highest ethical ideals of the Bible.

The term Campbellite was a derogatory term attached to members of the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ during the 1800s, because of the influence of Alexander Campbell as a dynamic and thoughtful leader among the churches. Along with his father Thomas Campbell, Barton W. Stone, and Walter Scott, Mr. Campbell led a movement of people who wanted to restore the unity and the nondenominational structure of the early churches. Today few among the Churches of Christ and Christian Churches would likely be able to recognize his name, but he had a powerful influence on who we are.

I can see why the survey indicated that I think more like an Anabaptist and a member of the Church of Christ than the other groups mentioned. I do share their goal of living by the Spirit and intent of the Scriptures.

I Nearly Fit In With The Church of Christ

Since I'm at home today with a cold, I decided to play on the computer for a while. I found a site that helps you determine which church matches your views of the Bible and theology ( These are my results:

100% 1. Anabaptist (Mennonite, Quaker, etc.)
92% 2. Church of Christ/ Campbellite
79% 3. Baptist (non-Calvinistic/Plymouth Brethren/ Fundamentalist)
78% 4. Pentecostal/Charismatic/Assemblies of God
78% 5. Methodist/Wesleyan/Nazarene
66% 6. Congregational/United Church of Christ
57% 7. Baptist (Reformed/Particular/Calvinistic)
56% 8. Seventh-Day Adventist
44% 9. Eastern Orthodox
38% 10. Lutheran
37% 11. Presbyterian/Reformed
35% 12. Anglican/Episcopal/Church of England
28% 13. Roman Catholic

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Peacemaking for Families: A Biblical Framework

These are the notes for my next Bible class at the Contact Church of Christ:

*Human conflict has a long history. It started with the disobedience of Adam and Eve. This put them in conflict with their Creator and each other. Their relationships were strained. They were at odds with each other. To this day, everyone of us lives under the influence of their sin. Each of us deals with the results of their sin. We even imitate their sin. As a result, we struggle with how to relate to God and to other people.

*God was not satisfied with leaving us alone in our messed-up world. He knew that we faced hell apart from himself. He cared too much to let us remain in conflict with himself, so he sent Jesus Christ to save us (John 3:16). "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit" (1 Peter 3:18, NIV). "God presented him as the one who would turn aside his wrath, taking away sin, through faith in his blood" (Romans 3:25a, alternative reading in the NIV). When we trust in what Christ has done to forgive us, to bring us back to God, and to give us new life, we change. We turn away from everything we know to be in conflict with God in order to follow his Son. We allow our old lives to be buried in baptism, so that we can live new lives for God's glory (Romans 6:1-4). Having been reconciled to God by Christ, we are on a mission to spread reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).

*If our mission is reconciliation, how should Christians view conflict? As an opportunity to show God's power in a difficult situation. "Glorifying God is the highest calling of a Christian" (Ken Sande and Tom Raabe, Peacemaking for Families, p. 35). When we keep in mind what God has done for us through Jesus Christ, we will approach conflict (and all of life) thinking about how we can please and honor God in it. We will find ourselves motivated to resist pride and resentment while seeking to do the right thing in love.

*Jesus said, "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye" (Matthew 7:5, NIV). If we are going to make peace in a God-honoring way, we must examine our words, actions, and attitudes to determine what must change within ourselves before helping others in areas where they need to change. Have I used words to hurt when it was not necessary? Have I used sarcasm to belittle? Have I been complaining or nagging? Have I lied? Have I jumped to conclusions and then shared those unfounded conclusions in gossip? Have I been lazy or negligent in the relationship? Have I failed to keep commitments? Have I withheld kindness or affection? Have I been selfish? If so, I need to change my thinking, confess my wrongs, and ask for forgiveness. I must not stand in the way of reconciliation.

*After dealing with ourselves, we are ready to confront another person's problems. Confronting the sins of others should not be done with eager anticipation, but neither should it be passively avoided if the offense has seriously dishonored God, seriously damaged a relationship, hurt others, or hurt the person who committed it. Sometimes the offender would love to change, but needs someone to come along with helpful advice. It can lead to repentance and a healthier way of living (Matthew 18:15; Galatians 6:1). "Loving confrontation can serve as a positive example to others. Whether you realize it or not, people are constantly watching how you handle adversity and treat those who wrong you. How you comport yourself gives others a chance to either mock Christians and reject Christ or become open to hearing the gospel. Christians watching your behavior, on the other hand, will either feel justified in responding improperly to conflict or be encouraged to honor God in their own reactions as well. Because imitation is a form of love, this last point has tremendous spillover effect with children. Kids study how their parents react to conflict, and will often imitate them when conflict arises in their lives as well"(Peacemaking for Families, p. 39).

*Finally, after a conflict has been dealt with, forgiveness must be the God-honoring resolution (Matthew 6:12; Luke 11:4; Matthew 18:23-35). "Here are four concrete promises one must make to truly forgive another:
~I will not thnk about this incident.
~I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.
~I will not talk to others about this incident.
~I will not allow this incident to stand between us or hinder our personal relationship" (Peacemaking for Families, p. 41).

*After the pain and heartache that Christ endured to bring about peace between us and God, we can endure some discomfort in making peace in our families. After all, the final result of the process will be a God-honoring joy for all involved.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Hating Evil

"Hate evil, love good;
maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy
on the remnant of Joseph" (Amos 5:15, NIV).

Four weeks ago, I forwarded an e-mail from Shared Hope International about the need to fight human trafficking in the United States. I asked a few friends to e-mail Mr. Craig Newmark (, the founder of Craigslist, asking him to stop aiding the practice by facilitating prostitution on his web site.

I e-mailed him myself with this simple message:

"I ask that you remove the 'erotic services' page from Craigslist, because it aids in the sale and exploitation of women and children. This must stop."

Mr. Newmark responded, "Terry, how does it do that?"

In today's edition of The Oklahoman, I found the answer (which I believe Mr. Newmark already knew, because of the long history of arrests connected with people using his web site). These are a few quotes from the story:

"A man accused of pimping a 16-year-old girl in a handful of states will remain in jail until his trial, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

"Irish Levon Woods, 22, is facing two felony counts in federal court in Oklahoma City that could land him in prison for life.

"A federal magistrate opted not to allow Woods to be released from jail Thursday after hearing testimony he had threatened to kill the girl he allegedly forced to become a prostitute if she talked to authorities...

"(FBI Agent Mitchell) Thompson said Woods used Internet-based exchange site Craigslist to attract customers for the teen, whom he had met through a mutual friend in December 2006.

"Oklahoma City vice officers have arrested more than 100 people over the past two years using ads posted on the site, Thompson's affidavit stated."

Over 100 people in Oklahoma City alone? How many others across the nation and around the world? How many other girls have been enslaved and sold for sex using Craigslist?

I hate the evil behind the abuse and exploitation of those young girls! And I am disgusted by the people who are making money from the exploitation of those children! As I told Mr. Newmark, "This must stop."

(The entire story may be read at )

Thursday, February 14, 2008


"He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor" (Psalm 112:9, NIV).

Today, we received information about our sponsored child from the Christian Relief Fund. Yunior is a six-year old boy from the Dominican Republic, a nation in the Caribbean that shares an island with Haiti. He lives with his parents and two siblings. Although both parents work, they cannot make enough money to meet their family's needs in such a poor country. Their house is made from various materials and has a tin roof. They have sparse furnishings.

With sponsorship, Yunior will be able to go to school. He will receive clothing, basic medical care, and spiritual training from local Christians. The family will also be supplied with food supplements.

For several years, Janet and I sponsored a girl in El Salvador through the Christian Relief Fund. However, shortly after we adopted our son Christopher, the girl left the program. At that time, we decided against another sponsorship. However, we believe sponsoring Yunior will help him and his family, as well as allow Christopher an opportunity to learn about conditions in much of the world and how to be compassionate toward people in different circumstances.

After seeing Yunior's photograph, Christopher asked, "Why are we sending money for him?" I explained that Yunior's family could not provide everything he needed. Christopher responded, "He probably needs food." Yes, he does. It's good to see him recognizing a need and wanting to meet it at five years old.

If anyone else would like to start sponsoring a child through the Christian Relief Fund, you may contact the group at

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Three Men

"Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong" (1 Corinthians 16:13, NASB).

As someone who enjoys the TV series 24, I found the article at to be an interesting piece. I have enjoyed James Bond movies. (However, some of them---like Pierce Brosnan's first---were so outrageous that I laughed all the way through them. I had to be told afterwards that it was not a comedy. Actually, Austin Powers' parodies of the Bond movies are so funny because he does not need to exaggerate much.) I have never seen the Bourne movies. However, I was addicted to 24 and Jack Bauer's character after only one episode. Who could help but admire a selfless, courageous, and responsible man taking on the worst people in our world on behalf of his family, friends, and country?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Motives for Baptism

"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).

"Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every 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, NIV).

Last Thanksgiving, my 15-year old cousin came to me with a question that was troubling her. She is a member of a Church of Christ in one of Tulsa's suburbs. Her boyfriend had died about 2 weeks before Thanksgiving from a congenital heart problem. A few months before, he had been baptized at a Baptist summer camp. Her question was, "Is he okay? Will I see him in heaven?"

I sympathized with her. One of my friends died when she was just a few days short of her 16th birthday. She perished in a flood at the end of my sophomore year in high school. So I knew some of her feelings.

I let my cousin know that if her friend had been motivated in his baptism by faith in Jesus Christ and a change of heart about his sins and his need for God, she did not need to worry. He was at home with the Lord. It did not matter that he had been baptized by a group different than hers (and mine). He needed only faith in Jesus Christ and repentance in order to be baptized according to the Bible. He could have been baptized in an Assembly of God, a Baptist Church, a Bible Church, a Christian Church, a Church of Christ, a Church of God, a Community Church, etc. He could have been baptized by a military chaplain in Iraq or Afghanistan. He could have been baptized by a prison minister who visits the local jails and prisons. The important thing is that he had a faith and a repentance prompting him to follow Jesus in being baptized. The benefits flow from such motives, not from who does the baptizing.

If I have any readers who have not been baptized because of faith in Christ and a repentant heart, please consider the passages that I quoted at the beginning of this post. If I can help you with being baptized, please leave a comment with information about how I can help. I would like to help if I can.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Muslim Neighbors

"Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD" (Leviticus 19:18, NIV).

At, John Piper shares some good insights about loving our Muslim neighbors.

Friday, February 08, 2008


In the latest issue of World Magazine, Marvin Olasky has written a good piece about how conservative Christianity can make us better voters by teaching the need to love our neighbors as we love ourselves ( These are my favorite paragraphs:

"Churches and Christian schools that teach us to love our neighbors can grow better voters. They should teach that expansive, non-defensive Christianity has been the outstanding vehicle in human history for increasing the liberty of those seen as subhuman until Christians began viewing them as neighbors: the poor, the sick, the sexually exploited; racial, ethnic, and religious minorities; the not-yet-born and the declining but not-yet-dead."

"Like or dislike his politics, it was good that Barack Obama could win in Iowa, where few African-Americans live. Like or dislike the Clintons, it's shameful that they have fought back by playing racial cards. While recognizing the need to control our borders, we should be sad to see some GOP candidates playing the immigration card."

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Church Dropouts

Last Saturday, the Tulsa World ran an interesting story about why many people "drop out" of churches after leaving high school ( Some of the reasons were understandable. After all, some churches are "boring" for some reason. Some do not see the Christian life as an adventure with both fun and danger. Some churches put on "an act." They concentrate on a show without substance.

However, some of the reasons cannot be changed. A church must teach that homosexuality is a sin, even though it may appear "homophobic" to young people. We must teach the truth with compassion.

In No More Jellyfish, Chickens, or Wimps: Raising Secure, Assertive Kids in a Tough World, Paul Coughlin mentions a reason for young people dropping out of churches that I have never read before. He writes,

"(It) is spiritually neglectful not to explain to our children that if they align their lives with God's will, they will be met with challenges. If we don't, we can be sure we'll be raising a generation of what I call Second-Seed people---those who walk away from their faith when the going gets tough.

When we read Jesus' parable of the sower (Matthew 13; Mark 4; Luke 8), which describes why faith grows in some but not in others, we hope we'll only find our inner lives described in one key passage. When we find our faithlessness laid bare on the page, we sometimes fail to understand the real reason: We simply don't have the backbone to withstand the difficulties that come from being the oddballs God wants us to be.

Second-Seed people respond superficially to God's Word.

These are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. (Mark 4:16-17 NRSV).

They lack the rugged virtue of fortitude. Why? Because their training makes them so eager to please others that they crumple under even mild criticism. They were trained to be nice kids instead of good ones" (pp. 112-113).

I want to raise a good son, not necessarily a nice one. Although his teachers may not like it and it may cause me some problems in the future, I have told Christopher to intervene when another student is doing something wrong or hurting another. I warned him that he may get into trouble at school for doing so, but that he would have my support at home. I would be proud of him for standing up to those who would harm others. He would be a hero. I want to train him to do good despite opposition, misunderstanding, and trouble. If he is to become a godly man, he will need such training to make it in a world in which evil and wrong are rarely challenged. I am convinced that, if he grasps such lessons, he will not become another "church dropout."

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Church Shopping

" every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive" (Titus 2:10, NIV).

I've been thinking about people who want to follow Jesus Christ, but they have not connected with any particular church. What if I were in their situation? How would I find a church? What would make a difference in my search?

Generally, churches look alike in their yellow pages ads and mass mailings. Their radio and television commercials seem very similar. I might visit a church based on advertising alone. However, if a church did not live up to its projected image, I would not return.

Recently, I have been thinking about another method of finding a church. What if I started looking at the people around me to find the most Christ-like men and women? What if I decided to visit congregations that they attended? I have little doubt that I could find an excellent church using such a method.

I would look for men and women of kindness, the type of people who will reach out in compassion to others around them who are hurting or lonely. I would look for people of conviction, people who would stand for biblical standards and doctrines despite the unpopularity of their positions. I would look for men and women who would not only refuse to participate in office gossip, but who would not allow it to go unchallenged in their presence. I would look for people of wisdom, people who know how to live godly and attractive lives at the same time. I would look for men and women who enjoyed life and had grateful attitudes. I would search for people who spoke of faith in Christ and lived by faith in him. I would seek out men and women of humility, people with a sense of security without a sense of arrogance.

Such people reflect well on Christ, but they also reflect well on their local congregations. They are the best advertisements that a church could place in a community.

I want to be that kind of living commercial for Jesus Christ and for the Contact Church of Christ.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Peacemaking for Families: The Heart of Conflict

These are my notes for the Bible class I'm teaching this week at the Contact Church.

*When we are engaged in a conflict, we would be wise to examine our own hearts. Our hearts may be the problem. As Jesus said, "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander" (Matthew 15:19, NIV).

*James wrote, "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures" (James 4:1-3, NIV). Many fights occur because our desires become demands. When our demands are not met, we blame whoever is not meeting our demands and conflict breaks out.

*Some desires (like greed) are inherently wrong. Other desires (like peace and quiet) are not inherently wrong. If good desires are not being met, talk with your spouse or children. Don't let it cause bitterness or resentment. If wrong desires come up, turn away from them and look for something good to replace them.

*"It is often not what we want that is the problem, but that we want it too much. For example, it is not unreasonable for a man to want a passionate sexual relationship with his wife, or for a wife to want open and honest communication with her husband, or for either of them to want a steadily growing savings account. These are good desires, but if they turn into demands that must be met in order for either spouse to be satisfied and fulfilled, they result in bitterness, resentment, or self-pity that can destroy a marriage" (Peacemaking for Families, p. 19).

*One dangerous tendency of engaging in a conflict can be judgmentalism. As Ken Sande and Tom Raabe wrote, "Scripture teaches that we should observe and evaluate others' behavior so that we can respond and minister to them in appropriate ways, which may even involve loving confrontation (see Matthew 7:1-2; 18:15; Galatians 6:1). We cross the line, however, when we begin to sinfully judge others, which is characterized by a feeling of superiority, indignation, condemnation, bitterness, or resentment. Sinful judging often involves speculating on others' motives. Most of all, it reveals the absence of a genuine love and concern toward them...The closer we are to others, the more we expect of them and the more likely we are to judge them when they fail to meet our expectations (Peacemaking for Families, p. 21).

*After our desires become demands, and we start judging the one who is not meeting our demands, we are likely to resort to punishing him or her in some way. Our tactics may vary: mean or sarcastic words, pouting, withholding affection, physical violence, sexual abuse, or other tactics. But our goal is the same: punishment.

*Ultimately, we must look to God for the cure for our bad hearts. He alone can break the cycle and bring us freedom from our destructive thoughts and patterns of living. "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:1-2, NIV). "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (Romans 6:4, NIV). "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:1-2, NIV).

*After our initial salvation, God gives us at least 3 aids to help us to live free from our sinful tendencies and temptations: His Word, His Spirit, and His Church. "As you diligently study and meditate on the Bible and sit under regular, sound preaching, God will use His Word like a spotlight and a scalpel in your heart. It will reveal your idolatrous desires and show you how to love and worship God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. The Holy Spirit aids our helping us to understand the Bible, to identify our sin, and to pursue a godly life (1 Corinthians 2:10-15; Philippians 2:13)...Finally God had surrounded us with brothers and sisters in Christ who can teach us, lovingly confront us...and provide encouragement and guidance in our spiritual growth (Galatians 6:1; Romans 15:14)" (Peacemaking for Families, p. 26).

*When we find our satisfaction in God, our lives find ultimate fulfillment. Our desires are less likely to become demands. We are less likely to become judgmental and determined to punish others. We are more likely to live with our families in true peace.