Sunday, March 29, 2009

Do Hard Things

Alex and Brett Harris are teenage twin brothers who are tired of society's low expectations of teenagers. If a teenager does not use drugs or get his girlfriend pregnant, he is considered an outstanding young man. The Harris brothers' new book, Do Hard Things, challenges teens to go beyond such low expectations.

In Part 1 of Do Hard Things, Alex and Brett Harris provide a historical perspective of adolescence. They point to George Washington, David Farragut, and Clara Barton as models of people who took on heavy responsibilities as teenagers. In doing so, those teenagers prepared themselves to become the first U.S. president, the U.S. Navy's first admiral, and the founder of the American Red Cross.

In Part 2, the Harris brothers encourage teenagers to do five kinds of hard things:

1. Hard things that take you outside your comfort zone
2. Hard things that go beyond what's expected or required
3. Hard things that require collaboration because they are too big for you to do alone
4. Hard things that don't pay off immediately
5. Hard things that go against the crowd

In Part 3, the brothers tell inspiring stories of teenagers who are doing hard things today. Some are providing clean water to poor communities around the world. Some have become modern-day abolitionists who are advocating for the freedom of slaves around the world. Some volunteer to help abused children in their communities. Some have run statewide political campaigns. Some have raised tens of thousands of dollars to purchase ultrasound machines for pro-life pregnancy resource centers. Some have started ministries to feed and evangelize the homeless. Whatever they are doing, they are doing far more than society expects from good teenagers. They have taken on responsibility to improve their world; and they have taken the initiative to get the job done.

In explaining Jesus' description of his disciples as the salt of the earth and the light of the world, Alex and Brett write, "He's saying we have been placed here to preserve (the earth) until He returns--to fight against the decay of sin, to combat sickness and suffering, and to oppose corruption and injustice...The picture of us as a city on a hill or a lamp on a stand means that as Christians we display the truth in word and action--shining the light of God's Word and the gospel all around us, in every corner...(W)e are change makers who influence our world both as salt and light. That is to say, we influence our world both by fighting against sin, suffering, and decay and by fighting for truth and justice. And that covers a whole lot" (pp. 172-173).

I highly recommend this book for parents, teenagers, and youth ministers. It casts a biblical vision for using the teen years as a launching pad into responsibility, significance, and adulthood. It will inspire young (and older) readers to reject low expectations and to make a difference now.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I received my Bachelor of Science in Education (B.S.E.) degree from Oklahoma Christian University. With a minor in social studies, I took several classes under Dr. John Thompson. I was reminded of those days when I read the article about Dr. Thompson at It brought back many good memories.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Just Do Your Part (Part Two)

"...whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31, English Standard Version).

After my last post, Wes Woodell left a comment. He suggested that many members of the church have not left the benches and entered the game. They have not started to do their part to become an effective church.

I thought about Wes' comment for a couple of days. He is right. So I thought about reasons for members to fail to do their part. Perhaps they do not know what they should be doing. With that in mind, I have come up with a few ideas to share in order to help members do their part in being an effective church.

Here are a few ideas:

1. Offer to pray for co-workers, customers, and neighbors who are having trouble. E-mail your fellow church members with the prayer requests. Usually, people welcome prayers and appreciate a church that cares enough to pray for them, whether they are believers or unbelievers.

2. Read spiritual books while on break. Keep a Bible at your desk or work area. Be open to questions. People will come to you with questions about your faith.

3. Be among the first people to visit or call when co-workers or neighbors are facing problems (like surgery, cancer, depression, drug abuse, death in the family, rebellious children, loss of job, divorce, etc.). Let hurting people know you care. Do not be intimidated by difficult circumstances. Run toward people with problems, rather than away from them.

4. Loan out books, CDs, and DVDs with biblical messages.

5. Recommend good, practical, and biblical radio programs.

6. Invite people to church services and Bible studies.

7. Look for opportunities to help people in every way possible.

I hope these ideas help in our efforts to do our parts to honor our God. If you would like to share more ideas, please leave a comment. Thanks!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Just Do Your Part

"Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it" (1 Corinthians 12:27).

In Uncommon, Tony Dungy wrote, "We use faith all the time in football as well. Our Cover 2 defense requires a great deal of faith, and it can take players quite a while to get acclimated. Some never do. Because the defense is so assignment oriented, our players need to have trust and faith for it to work. They aren't allowed to freelance and simply run to the ball. They have to protect their areas, stay in their gaps, and 'trust the system.' They have to trust that everyone else will do his particular assignment and have faith that if that occurs, the defense will be effective" (p. 208).

As I read that paragraph (especially the sentences I italicized), I realized that the church needs to operate like a football team's Cover 2 defense. Each member needs to be responsible for his area, stay in his gap, and trust the system to work. Each member needs to care for the people within his sphere of influence. Each member needs to use his gifts to better the lives of others and to honor Christ in the process. Each member needs to trust that other members are doing their parts to fulfill their Lord's goals. Then the church will be effective.

My responsibilities may push me into the spotlight at times, but usually it would be a rare occurrence. Most defensive football players get a tackle every once in a while, but few get one on every play. And none would be able to get anything done without the other 10 teammates doing their parts. In most games, some of the defensive players never get a tackle, but by playing their positions well, they aid those who do. Whether they look important or not, every member is important. All of us need to help each other by doing our parts, whatever those parts may be, so that the church will accomplish what it needs to do.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Our ministers receive their financial support from individual Christians and churches that care about the Tulsa urban ministry. I would like to share a few excerpts from our main preacher (I don't know his actual title--he may not have one--so I'll call him our main preacher) Ron Babbit's newsletter to his supporters:

"Thank you for praying. Thanks for praying for Roger who is always asking for a ride to get to his job because he lost his drivers licence because of the hooch. Thanks for praying for Dan as he battles depression, confidence and feeling needed. Thanks for praying for Robert who asked if he could come to church and now feels that Contact is like family. He asked us to pray for his sister who is a senior in high school and is pregnant.

"Thanks for praying for Roo and Muscles who are raising grandchildren because of parents not taking responsibility. Their grandson, Joey, has been living at the David L. Moss Hotel, that is our local jail house rock. He was released from the Moss Hotel and is now focusing on listening to his FATHER.

"Thanks for praying for Mercy Daz, a young single lady who will deliver a baby in June. She has battled with drugs and hooch. Mercy Daz and her mom have been attending Contact ever since our Christmas Store. They love us and continue to learn of HIS grace. Mercy Daz has a brother who has hearing loss. He can hear some, however, he brings his buddies who are totally deaf. We need some gifted families to share their sign language abilities for these families who are showing up...

"Thanks for praying for Tree as he continues providing UA tests for the folks who keep calling his number. He has been free of drugs for over a year and is truly being a disciple of our LORD. Thanks for praying for Toad as he strives to encourage his wife to become honest with JESUS, to quit hooking up with all the hairy legs, and to stop being involved in drug activity. Thanks for praying for Scooter who has been on drugs for 25 years. He continues to deal with health issues and is encouraging his adult children to learn of the forgiving JESUS.

"Thanks for praying for Robert. Someone crashed his car and the offending driver fed him false information. Therefore, he can't get his car repaired, but he never misses services or complains. Thanks for praying for K & M as they continue to be drug free and faithful to their LORD...

"Thanks for praying for the children who continue showing up to be loved, to be taught, and to be fed a meal. Thanks for the healthy donuts that are provided on Sundays for the children and adults who answer a Bible question from Blondie. It's fun listening to the questions and answers as several get to go for their third healthy donut. Thanks for praying for all the volunteer teachers who come to teach and love and share the stories of love from GOD'S WORD...

"Thanks for praying for the children who haven't eaten since their last day at school. Thanks for praying for PFC, Panthers for CHRIST, at Clinton Middle School. We are blessed to show up and encourage these 50-60 kids every Wednesday morning with healthy donuts and touch them with a smile, a hug and a kind word. Thanks for praying for the 'Reed Feed.' At Reed Park Community Center we get to feed 50-60 youth every Monday. These clowns and darlins show up after school just to hang, some to fight, and others wait for a ride to their pad. Some are homeless, looking for a smoke and a place to stay for the evening. Keep praying for these clowns and darlins that are showing up at Contact on Sunday. Thanks for praying for the churnheads who continue showing up at Contact, many of them have dropped out of school. However, they seek occasional counsel, kind words, and firm discipline.

"We're thankful for those who lead our worship services, teach, pray and love families showing up to praise our FATHER. Thanks for giving, helping hearts turn to JESUS. Thanks for telling others the story of LOVE. Thanks for loving Blondie and me as we show up with a MESSAGE from the CROSS."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

God, Cocaine, and Music

"Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5:19-20).

Sometimes I wonder, why does God want Christians to sing to him?

Today, I received a little insight into the answer from an unlikely source. While listening to the local classic rock radio station, I heard a man singing the praises of cocaine. Then it dawned on me: People sing about what they love. Drug addicts sing the praises of cocaine. Christians sing the praises of their Lord. God gave his people permission to express in music what is in their hearts.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cultivating a Lifestyle of Respect

"Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited" (Romans 12:16).

"When Art Rooney Sr. was alive, he lived on the north side of Pittsburg. As the owner of the Steelers, he would walk to the stadium every day, and people always looked out for him and his house, even as the neighborhood got rougher and many others moved out. Mr. Rooney never moved, but he continued to treat everyone the way he always had. Mr. Rooney knew everyone in our organization, from stars like Terry Bradshaw to the bottom-of-the-roster guys like me. He knew the secretaries and cleaning staff by name, and he made it clear that they were all important to the success of the team. Similarly, the people of Pittsburgh knew that he cared about them and their well-being, and that the Steelers were a community trust, cared for by the Rooneys. What he demonstrated day after day at the office, in his neighborhood, and in the larger community of Pittsburgh was an authentic and sincere respect for all those whom his life touched and who touched his life.

"One year, the sanitation workers in Pittsburgh went on strike. As I recall, trash was piling up everywhere around the city except in front of Mr. Rooney's home. As it turns out, some of the workers were picking up his trash on their own. They didn't have to do it. They just wanted to pick up the trash for a man who had always demonstrated a caring interest in them and so many others. A man who had shown them respect.

"True respect starts with the way you treat others, and it is earned over a lifetime of acting with kindness, honor, and dignity" (Tony Dungy, Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance, pp. 177-178).

Monday, March 16, 2009

I'm Not Who I Need To Be Yet

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4).

"Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions" (Hebrews 10:32-34).

When I read those Scriptures, I realize that I am such a wimp when compared to what God has called me to be. I do not approach trials and persecution with any sense of joy, never mind "pure joy." Even as I write this, I am fighting off another virus. My temperature is between 100 and 101 degrees. I have missed more church services, Bible studies, and work this winter than in the past 10 years combined. And I'm whining about it.

What would I be like if I really had problems? What if I had serious health issues? What if my job were in jeopardy because of my faith? What if I faced problems like those faced by the original recipients of the letters of Hebrews and James?

I'm convinced that I need to grow in this area. I need to be prepared to face such problems as serious persecution. I need to learn to face difficulties with joy. I need to develop a tougher faith in Christ, a faith that faces challenges with peace.

I'm convinced that the inerrant Scriptures hold the key to developing such strong faith. I know that the Holy Spirit has been given to comfort believers...I will need his help.

I'm not who I need to be yet, but with God's help, I will change.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Introducing My Gospel Blog

"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. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith'" (Romans 1:16-17).

I have created a new blog with the purpose of sharing the gospel of Christ at Please feel welcome to check it out.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Gift Exchange

A faint knock at the door awakened the old man.


"Yes, come on in, son," the old man said from his hospital bed.

"Where are Mom and the people from church?" asked the young man.

"I asked them to take your mother out to eat. She needs a break, and I wanted to talk with you alone."

A little nervous, the young man asked, "Is everything all right, Dad?"

"Well, you know what the doctor has said. I'm not going to be around much longer." The old man coughed. "But I wanted to give you a gift before the end comes."

"A gift?" the son said with curiosity.

"Yes. You see, son, I've been thinking about the day your grandfather died. I would have wanted him to tell me something like I'm going to tell you tonight." The old man paused and wiped away a tear before continuing. "I remember as a boy when my dad walked down a church aisle to give his life to Christ. I even remember his baptism--that sort of thing makes a huge impression on a young boy. I remember how he led prayer around the dinner table as I was growing up, and I even remember how he led prayers in church every once in a while. But long before you were born, something changed in Grandpa's life. He stopped praying, or going to church, or expressing any interest in Jesus-- as far as I could see. I could not tell whether he really believed in Jesus Christ or not. I never knew whether he was ready to meet God when he died."

The young man did not know how to respond.

The father continued, "I would have loved for him to have given me the gift of assurance that he truly trusted in Christ and expected to be with God forever."

The older man looked at the muted TV before going on. "I just wanted to let you know that you don't need to worry about me. I really do believe in Jesus Christ. I really am committed to him. And I really do expect to be in heaven in a short time from now."

"Dad, you did not have to tell me," the young man answered. "I have seen your faith in the way you live. When I was growing up, I never told you, but I often found you in the early mornings reading your Bible and praying while you thought you were alone. I heard your prayers, when you thought no one but God was listening. I saw how you treated Mom. I know how you treated me. I saw how you would help friends, strangers, and even people who did not like you much. I saw God's Spirit in you. So you didn't really need to give me the gift of letting me know that you were right with God. I knew it, but I'm glad you told me anyway."

Choking up a little, the father hugged his son and said, "Thank you for that gift. Now I have only one more thing to ask from you: Meet me in heaven some day, son."

"I wouldn't miss it for the world, Dad."

"But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Religion in the News

Yesterday's edition of USA Today contained two important articles about religion.

At, you will find a report about how the American people are changing in their religious affiliations. A large number are abandoning Christianity for a variety of reasons.

At, you will find an opinion column about why the poor are attracted to theologically conservative Christianity.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

A Simple Man, A Simple Question, A Profound Impact

I heard this true story in our adult Bible class this morning:

A man was on a business trip to Sydney, Australia a few years ago. While there, he had some free time and decided to walk around the city. As he was about to cross a busy street, he felt a tap on his shoulder. When he turned around, a homeless man asked him, "If you were to die tomorrow, where would you spend eternity?" Then, the homeless man walked away without saying another word.

The homeless man's question haunted the businessman for the next several days. He began to evaluate his life and his destination.

When he arrived back at his home in Atlanta, Georgia, he decided to attend a large church nearby. The preacher gave a powerful and eloquent sermon about Christ. At the end of the sermon, the businessman stepped forward, announced his faith in Christ and was baptized. Afterward, he wanted to speak to the congregation. He told them that the sermon was very good, but that it had little to do with his conversion to Christ. He told the church about the simple question of a simple homeless man in Australia that had changed the direction of his life earlier in the week.

Two week later, another man who had walked away from following Christ many years earlier came forward at the end of the worship service. He wanted to confess his sins and recommit his life to the Savior. Without knowing the story of the man who had become a Christian a couple of weeks earlier, this man told about his recent vacation to Sydney, Australia. While there, a homeless man had tapped him on the shoulder and asked him, "If you were to die tomorrow, where would you spend eternity?" The homeless man's question provoked the man to re-evaluate his life and the emptiness of it. He decided to return to Christ and to the church.

The congregation was amazed at the impact of a homeless man's question who lived half a world away. It revolutionized their desire to make a difference in the lives of the people around them.

Years later, the minister of the congregation was on a short-term mission trip to Sydney, Australia. He remembered the stories about the homeless man who had changed the lives of two of his members. So, he decided to walk the street on which the homeless man had confronted two strangers who would become dedicated members of his church. He walked the street for hours without success. Just as he was starting to feel like giving up, he felt a tap on his shoulder. The preacher turned around to see a homeless man. Before the homeless man could get a word out, the preacher said, "I know what you are going to say. You're going to ask me, 'If you were to die tomorrow, where would you spend eternity?'" The homeless man was surprised. Then, the preacher told the story of what had happened in his hometown church because of that man's question. The homeless man was overwhelmed. He broke into tears as he explained, "I have been asking that question everyday for years, but I have always wondered if I was making any difference at all."

Do you ever wonder if you are making any difference at all? I do. Please be assured that if you are following Christ, caring for the welfare of others, and living to honor God, you are making a difference. Our simple actions can have a profound impact, even when we are unaware.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Parenting Advice and Pastoral Care for Adoptive Families

John Piper has written an excellent piece explaining why fathers should not allow their sons to wrestle girls at This is important advice because parents are allowing their girls to enroll in wrestling programs. At least two girls were in Christopher's wrestling class last fall (but he did not wrestle them). As John Piper explains, we need to teach our sons that "men don't fight against women. They fight for women." As counter-cultural as this may seem, it's right.

On the same blog, an article appears suggesting 10 ways to pastor adoptive families and those considering adoption. It's at

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Walking With the Wise

"He who walks with the wise grows wise,
but a companion of fools suffers harm" (Proverbs 13:20).

Since I would like to be wise, I try to learn from wise people. Here is a list of some wise authors and some of their books:

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Holiness: The Heart God Purifies

Tony Dungy: Quiet Strength, Uncommon

Bob Lepine: The Christian Husband

C.S. Lewis: Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce

John Piper: Desiring God, Don't Waste Your Life

Dennis and Barbara Rainey: The FamilyLife Marriage Bible (New King James Version), Two Hearts Praying as One, Moments Together for Couples

Haddon Robinson: Trusting the Shepherd, Decision Making by the Book

Harold Shank: Children Mean the World to God, Up Close and Personal: Embracing the Poor

Sunday, March 01, 2009

"I Was Sad...We Ran Out of Food"

"Rich and poor have this in common:
The LORD is the Maker of them all" (Proverbs 22:2).

Sometimes I read romanticized ideas about poverty. I read about how a life of poverty is a simple life, even a life to be envied. But I don't quite buy into it. I have seen the stress of people in poverty. They wonder about their ability to care for their children. They worry about their ability to feed their children. They experience the fear of living in a hood filled with drugs, alcohol, domestic violence, and gangs. They are not living in conditions to be envied.

Today, my wife Janet was teaching the 4-year olds in Bible class at church. One little boy said to her, "I was sad." Janet asked, "Why were you sad?" He responded, "We ran out of food."

The little boy, his siblings, and his mother attend the Contact Church on a regular basis. They are almost always present. His mother wants to be a good mother. She attended the class I taught last spring on the subject of biblical parenting. But the family struggles with problems that are difficult to solve. The mother has difficulties in finding and keeping a job. A responsible father is not in the picture. She wants to do the right thing for her family, but she needs help.

Thankfully, the Contact Church steps up to help such families. In addition to high-quality Bible teaching for parents and children, the church helps in physical ways. Each Sunday morning before Bible classes, anyone can come into the kitchen to get a donut (or two) and some juice. (Judy Babbit uses the opportunity to teach a little about the Bible when the children come to get donuts. Before they get a donut, she will ask them a question like, "How many books are in the Bible?" Then, even when they do not know the answer, she gives them a donut.) After the worship assembly, other local churches in our area usually provide a lunch in our kitchen for anyone who wants to stay and eat. Every Sunday, people who have nothing at home can come to the Contact Church and find some food and some love. In addition, our food bank provides food for hundreds of people throughout the week.

When I heard Janet's story about the little boy in her Sunday school class, I was sad too. But I was happy to be associated with a church that cares about little boys like him and families like his. He and his family were not hungry today.