Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Transitioning to a New Congregation

I had thought that I was done with blogging, but I was mistaken. I've discovered that I may need to write a little more every once in a while.

This is a week of transition for my family. Nearly a month and a half ago, we decided to move from one congregation to another.

Eleven years ago, Janet and I became involved in Tulsa Urban Ministry, a cooperative effort of Churches of Christ in the Tulsa area to serve and to reach the urban poor of our community. In March 2002, the urban ministry became the Contact Church of Christ. We have served in the church in a variety of ways since its beginning.

Last Sunday, we enjoyed our final Sunday as members of the Contact Church. Janet taught the 2- and 3-year old children's class during Sunday school. I presented the Communion message and prayer. Our son Christopher helped serve the Communion and take up the offering. It was a nice moment, because we left serving a congregation we love.

A few months ago, we started attending Cedar Ridge Christian Church on Wednesday nights. The Contact Church does not have Wednesday evening programming; and we wanted to expose our son to more Bible teaching during the week (than what he was already receiving at home), so we checked into the Cedar Ridge Church. From that first Wednesday evening, our son connected strongly with the other kids and with the teachers in his Bible class. He absolutely loved it and was eager to return each week. He loved having fun with other boys his age, and he loved the challenge of learning memory verses and the books of the entire Bible. He was rewarded each time he was able to recite a memory verse (or the books of the New Testament or Old Testament), each time he showed up early, and each time he brought his Bible with him. He was able to participate with others in packing shoe boxes full of toys to ship to poor children overseas as Christmas gifts.

After several weeks, Janet and I realized that Christopher needed to be in a congregation full-time in which he felt connected to friends who were a positive influence in his life. And the truth is, Janet and I have enjoyed being with the Cedar Ridge Church, too. One of Janet's old friends from her hometown happened to see us walking through the halls on our first night of visiting the church, so we already had a personal connection within the congregation. And I especially appreciated the congregation's solid conservative theology as I attended Bible classes and heard online sermons from its website.

Over the last few weeks, we have told a couple of the Contact Church's leaders about our decision to move. They have been very understanding, realizing that we have made a difficult decision to move to another congregation, especially since we love the church so much. We appreciate their understanding and friendship. (And we plan to visit a few times a year.) We also look forward to working with Cedar Ridge Christian Church as members of our soon-to-be new congregation. (The children's minister has already asked us to volunteer, even though we have not formally joined yet. I imagine it's just a matter of time before we'll be back to teaching more kids about Christ again.)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Growing Up Colt

Like many people, I became very impressed with Colt McCoy after he lost the BCS Championship Game in January 2010. Colt was the quarterback of the Texas Longhorns. Early in the first quarter of the football game, he was knocked out of the game after being injured during a tackle by one of the University of Alabama's defensive ends. His dream of winning the national championship was crushed.

In the nationally broadcast post-game television interview immediately following the game, Colt McCoy congratulated the winners, complimented his teammates for working hard to win, and expressed his disappointment at being injured and unable to do more for his team. Then he made a fascinating statement: "I always give God the glory. I never question why things happen the way they do. God is in control of my life, and I know that if nothing else, I am standing on the Rock."

It's fairly common to hear an athlete thank God after a victory. But Colt McCoy gave glory to God after a major defeat. His response stood out. I kept hearing portions of his interview the next day on ESPN radio. He had made an impact in his disappointment and defeat that others do not make in victory.

In Growing Up Colt, current Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy and his father, Brad McCoy, tell the story of how Colt grew up to be the man he has become. (Professional writer Mike Yorkey, author of an excellent book titled Playing With Purpose, also collaborated in writing this book.) The book is filled with stories of faith, family, and football.

As a father, I was impressed with the counter-cultural mindset and positive attitude nurtured in Colt by his parents. Colt grew up with parents who helped him to develop a strong faith in Jesus Christ, a commitment to high ethical standards (including sexual purity and compassion for others), and a winsome style of leadership which he has used to bring out the best in the people around him.

Growing Up Colt is a good book for anyone who likes football. But it's an even better book for Christian parents who want to be inspired to raise good and godly children who will make a positive difference in their world.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's Reality for Too Many People

I don't write as much as I could on the topic of urban ministry. Sometimes my experiences and knowledge of the topic seem surreal. Sometimes they seem unbelievable. However, they are real and true...and sometimes I need to write about them, because the process of writing helps me to think a little more clearly about life.

For the last few days, I've been thinking about the family at church who left their apartment last week because of the violence in their neighborhood. The overnight gunfire became so frequent that they were sleeping in the hallway. They were trying to put more walls between themselves and the gunfire so that they would be less likely to be struck by a stray bullet. Obviously, no one could sleep or function well under such stress. The family has left their apartment. They have been staying with other family members and church members until they can find a safer home.

Their experiences are a reality for too many people. And I need to remember it.

"Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.'
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and
speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday" (Isaiah 58:6-10).

Monday, July 18, 2011

Studying the Bible with Humility

During our vacation last month, my family and I visited Redeemer Community Church, a nondenominational Bible church in Little Rock, Arkansas. I have been listening to their minister Bob Lepine's online sermons and reading his blog for some time now. Although we were unable to meet Mr. Lepine during our visit since he was away on vacation at the same time, we enjoyed our time with the church. Our son Christopher loved it because the guest speaker was an Army chaplain.

A couple of Sundays ago, I was listening to Bob Lepine online as he was preaching through the twenty-first chapter of the Gospel of Luke, a text focusing on the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and the coming of Jesus Christ in power and glory.

In the introduction to his multi-part lesson on this text, the preacher presented the four major views of the end times: historic premillennialism, dispensational premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amillennialism. He explained that your view of the end times will influence the way you interpret Luke 21.

Then the pastor said something that I found extremely interesting. He warned the congregation to hold their views softly, with a large dose of humility, because there is a good chance that you are wrong.

He pointed out that many biblical doctrines are very clear and need to be held firmly. For example, every Christian would affirm that Jesus is the only Way to the Father. "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'" (John 14:6). However, some biblical doctrines are less clear and more difficult to understand. Bob Lepine reminded the church that whether they chose to believe the historic premillennial view, the dispensational premillennial view, the postmillennial view, or the amillennial view, they had a 75% chance of being wrong. However, that is not an excuse to ignore difficult passages in the Bible. Mr. Lepine encouraged the assembly to wrestle with such passages, but to do so with humility.

I had not thought of it in such a way before, but I found Bob Lepine's advice to be wise. We should hold on to clear biblical teachings firmly, but hold on to less clear understandings of the Bible softly. We may be wrong, and we need to be open to correction.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Love is not Irritable

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Erasing Hell

In his latest book, Erasing Hell, Francis Chan tackles one of the Bible's most difficult doctrines with sensitivity and humility. In the introduction of the book, Mr. Chan writes,

"The saddest day of my life was the day I watched my grandmother die. When the EKG monitor flatlined, I freaked out. I absolutely lost it! According to what I knew of the Bible, she was headed for a life of never-ending suffering. I thought I would go crazy. I have never cried harder, and I don't ever want to feel like that again. Since that day, I have tried not to think about it. It has been over twenty years" (pages 13-14).

The author understands the gravity of the doctrine of hell. He understands that the fate of people depends on our understanding of hell. If there is no hell and he warns people about it, he could waste his life scaring people about a destiny that does not exist. If there is a hell and he tells people to not be concerned about it, he could lead many people to a horrible ending.

In this book, Francis Chan defends a biblically orthodox view of hell. He rejects all forms of universalism. He describes hell as a reality of the future. He teaches that hell is a place of punishment, not a place of purification. He warns that it is eternal. (Mr. Chan, however, does recognize some degree of ambiguity concerning Jesus' statements about whether a soul is annihilated or whether it suffers forever in hell. He sides with the traditional view that a soul suffers forever, but admits that the other side makes arguments worth considering. In either case, hell is a horrible place.) He acknowledges that degrees of punishment exist in hell, although the details about those degrees are vague. He teaches that faith in Christ is essential to being saved from hell.

Perhaps the best part of the book came in the fifth chapter, where Mr. Chan detailed some of the implications of the biblical doctrine of hell. Here are a few quotes from Chapter 5:

"Jesus threatens hell to those who curse their brother (Matt. 5:22). He's not warning drinkers or smokers or murderers. Jesus preaches hellfire against those who have the audacity to attack a fellow human being with harsh words. It's ironic--frightening, actually--that some people have written books, preached sermons, or written blog posts about hell and missed this point completely...Whoever calls his brother a fool may find himself guilty of hell. Have you called your brother a fool lately? On a blog? On Facebook? Have you tweeted anything of the sort?" (page 118).

"And how about Matthew 7, probably the scariest passage on hell in the entire Bible?...The most frightening word is many. Jesus says, 'Many will say to Me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?" (Matt. 7:22 NASB)...How will Jesus respond to your laundry list of Christian activities--your Easter services, tithe, Bible studies, church potlucks, and summer-camp conversions? Are you sure you're on the right side? What evidence do you have that you know Jesus?" (pages 118-119).

"Or take racism. The Christian church in many ages and in many places has stood on the wrong side of this issue, and it's damnable--literally. What's racism got to do with hell? you may ask. According to Jesus, it's got everything to do with it. In Matthew 8, Jesus smuggles a warning about hell into the context of racism and ethnocentrism (the belief that your ethnicity is superior)...We need to see the glaring contradiction in saying we believe in hell while making no effort to tear down the walls of racism and ethnic superiority" (pages 120-121).

"And what about the poor? While Jesus is ambiguous at times about the nature and duration of hell, He's crystal clear about the necessity of reaching the poor. Yet many hellfire preachers are overfed and overpaid, living in luxury while doing nothing for the majority of Christians who live on less than two dollars a day. Contrast that with Jesus, who in His longest sermon about judgment made helping the poor a vital criterion of who goes where...There's a literal hell, and helping the poor is essential. Not only did Jesus teach both of these truths, He saw them as necessary and interrelated" (pages 121-122).

Erasing Hell is a challenging book. It's a short book with numerous footnotes. It will motivate the serious Christian to believe the warnings of Jesus and the apostles and to live differently because of what they have said and written. It's very much worth reading.

Monday, July 04, 2011

How to be a Patriotic Christian

Today Americans celebrate the 235th anniversary of the founding of the United States of America. It's a time for citizens to express our patriotism, our love for our country and its people.

Recognizing that many of my blog's readers live in different nations around the globe (some of which are hostile to the Christian faith), I have been thinking about how the Bible gives us some guidance in expressing our love for our countries and their people.

Here are a few ideas:

1. Pray. "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:1-4). If we have a fair, decent, competent, and honest government, we are more likely to be able to live peaceful and quiet lives. We will be able to spread the good news of Christ with fewer obstacles in our way. Perhaps more people, even leaders within our governments, will be able to hear God's message more clearly. Perhaps they will respond favorably and join with us in following Jesus.

2. Submit. "Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities..." (Titus 3:1). "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God...for he is God's servant for your good" (Romans 13:1, 4). Generally, when we follow the rules, we help our societies to function better. Anarchy and rebellious attitudes can bring societies to ruin. Our neighbors could suffer harm when we are rebellious against authority.

3. Go Beyond the Legal Requirements in Order to Do Good to Others. "Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people" (Titus 3:1-2). A person can treat people horribly and not violate a single law in my country. The law tends to set minimal standards of behavior in a society. A Christian can stand out in a community by going beyond the requirements of the law, by being "ready for every good work," by refusing to slander others (especially the government's leaders), by avoiding quarrels (especially concerning relatively unimportant political preferences), and by being gentle and courteous toward everyone.

Whether a Christian lives in the USA, Russia, China, Nigeria, Iran, Brazil, or anywhere else on the planet, he can love his country and its people by adhering to these principles.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

The Seasons of a Christian's Life

"Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

"He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers" (Psalm 1:1-3).

As I read this Psalm, I noticed a phrase that I had not paid any attention to in the past: "yields its fruit in its season".

As I was considering those words, I thought about the pecan tree in our back yard. Every fall, we spend the months of October through December picking up pecans. In most years, we pick up hundreds of pecans from our one tree.

However, our tree does not produce pecans for us to harvest throughout most of the year. During the winter months, it is dormant. It rests. It survives the cold, the wind, the snow, the freezing rain, the hail, the sleet, and the ice. It does what it needs to do, but it does not produce.

In the spring and summer, our tree starts to grow. Leafs bud. Branches develop and expand. Pecans begin to develop. It starts to produce its fruit, but the pecans are not ready for the harvest. It still does what it needs to do, but we do not enjoy its fruit yet.

Finally, in the fall, our tree begins to give us its fruit. We are able to pick up the pecans and enjoy them.

A believer's life, according to Psalm 1, is much like our pecan tree. He avoids evil, loves God's law, thinks about the meaning and application of the Lord's words throughout his day, and lives his life according to his understanding of the Lord's message. He will go through seasons in which he is doing everything right; but like the tree in winter, he is not productive in yielding fruit. He will go through seasons in which he is developing; but like the tree in spring and summer, the fruit is not ready to be harvested and enjoyed. He will go through seasons of great productivity; and like the tree in fall, the fruit of his life has matured and has become available to be shared and enjoyed by others.

If you are a Christian who feels down because your life does not seem productive at the moment, you are not alone. We all go through it. It's biblical. Just keep avoiding evil, loving God's law, thinking about the meaning and application of the Lord's words throughout your day, and living according to your developing understanding of the Lord's message. Then someday, you will enter a season of fruitfulness, a season of harvesting as you bless many people around you. And the cycle will begin again.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

John Piper on Interracial Marriage

I tried to embed the video of John Piper's sermon on this topic earlier today, but I could not get it to start at the beginning. So I'm linking to the video and the sermon notes. Hopefully, this will work better. The link is below:

Racial Harmony and Interracial Marriage

Friday, June 24, 2011

What is Urban Ministry Like? It Can Be Messy.

I was amused last week when I read a note from one of our church's summer interns. He is a college student spending his summer learning about urban ministry. On his first Sunday with us, he was assigned to teach the third through fifth grade boys' Sunday school class.

I'm not sure, but I suspect that he came into urban ministry with a few naive ideas. If he was like me, he probably thought that the main problem confronting the urban poor had to do with a lack of money. He probably thought that the boys would be grateful for his willingness to give up his summer in order to teach them a little about Christ.

However, it did not take him long to be relieved of some of his naivete. He took a van to pick up people in the low-income apartment complexes when he discovered that 99% of parents would send their children to church services alone. They were not really interested in Bible classes and worship assemblies themselves, but they did not mind letting their kids leave for a few hours every week.

Then, as he tried to teach the Bible class, he discovered that most of the boys were not interested in the Bible study either. They were more interested in showing the other boys how cool they were by refusing to pay attention or obey simple requests like, "Please sit down and join the group." Finally, as the class ended, four of the black boys piled on a white boy and tried to beat him up.

He discovered that while poverty was one problem faced by the urban poor, it was not the only problem (and very possibly not the worst problem). Our new intern learned that he may not be appreciated for his compassion toward the poor and that our full-time urban ministers cannot be paid enough for their often difficult work.

It reminded me of my most difficult Bible class.

A few years ago, our congregation started the morning with a worship assembly, followed by Sunday school, and a meal. One of our ministers realized that many of our smoking members were neglecting the Sunday school classes so that they could smoke a cigarette or two before the meal. He tried in vain to persuade them to go to a Bible class every week. After a few weeks, he grabbed about a dozen chairs, set them up outside the front door where everyone was smoking, and started a Bible class on the Bible's wisdom literature for them.

Although I didn't smoke, I joined the class too. As summer was nearing an end, our minister needed to be gone for a few weeks of vacation and travelling to other congregations to raise support for his work. He asked me to take over the class for those weeks.

The first few minutes were uneventful. The class members helped me to set up the circle of chairs.

However, as we sat down to start the Bible class, a young teenager rushed through the front door and ran to his mother who was sitting in our class just outside the front door. A few seconds later, our youth minister came through the door. He grabbed the young man by the shoulder and said, "I know you're new here, but we don't punch other kids in the face and run out of class." After a little more admonition, our youth minister returned to his class, but the teen boy remained with his mother.

Thinking that things were calming down, I opened my Bible to Psalm 15 and asked the class to follow along as I read it. Since my eyes were focused on the Scriptures, I did not know what was happening around me. But I saw a blur run past me to the other end of the church building.

As I finished reading the passage, I saw that the teen boy had left the group. His mother got up and went to him. A few seconds later, the woman was screaming every profanity and obscenity imaginable at her son. Naturally, we could not focus on the Bible study with this scene going on. Of course, I'm sure that the neighbors were not appreciating the profanity-screaming woman on our property.

Our recovery minister (who worked with our members who had drug and alcohol addictions) was present in the class, so I asked him to take over the teaching while I tried to talk to the upset mother. Regrettably, I was not making any progress, and our recovery minister dismissed the class early so that he could join me in the conversation.

The screaming mother was angry because during the part of the class when I was reading from the Psalms, two visiting homosexual young men were kissing each other. Her son was disgusted and ran to the other end of the building. She began yelling at our recovery minister and me, "I didn't think that this was that kind of church!!!" Our recovery minister replied, "We're not that kind of church...but we're also not the kind of church that lets parents scream obscenities at their children."

Eventually, she calmed down.

As one of our ministers says, "Urban ministry is messy."

Does this mean that urban ministry makes no difference? Does it mean that everything is hopeless? No. It just means that the problems involved in urban ministry run far deeper than the lack of money or employment. It means that urban ministry requires patience, perseverance, and love for people who struggle. Within a year, the obscenity-screaming mother turned to Christ in faith and repentance, seeking God's forgiveness, and submitting to baptism. While the two homosexual young men have not become Christians yet, they have continued to study privately and in public with our Bible teachers and ministers. They have also stopped kissing each other in church services. Progress comes slowly and with difficulty at times, but it's worth it.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Purposes of Predestination

The doctrine of predestination is a difficult topic. I would be the first to admit that I have not mastered it.

While I may never fully understand every aspect of the doctrine, I have found two purposes (or goals) for predestination.

1. God has predestined Christians to be conformed to the image of his Son. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those he justified he also glorified" (Romans 8:28-30). The Lord is at work in the life of a believer, shaping circumstances and providing guidance through the Holy Spirit, so that the disciple of Christ can think, feel, and act more like Jesus Christ every day. This is a life-long process of progress and occasional setbacks, but God is determined to see every one of his children develop into the image of Christ.

2. In conforming followers of Christ to the image of his Son, God has predestined us to bring him glory through our continually transformed lives. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:3-6). As we grow in holiness, humility, grace, mercy, justice, kindness, and every other attribute of Jesus, we lead lives that reflect well on our Savior and bring him the glory he deserves.

Our destiny as Christians is conformity to the image of God's Son so that he may be praised for his grace toward us. It's why we were predestined for adoption into his family.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How to Have a Good Life

"Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
let him turn away from evil and do
let him seek peace and pursue it.

"For the eyes of the Lord are on the
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those
who do evil" (1 Peter 3:10-12).

Friday, June 17, 2011

Everyone Needs Jesus

"Jesus came and told His disciples, 'I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age'" (Matthew 28:18-20, NLT).

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Achieving Low Self-Esteem

This is a story from The Reason for God by Tim Keller (pages 167-168):

"Andrew Delbanco is a humanities professor at Columbia University. Some years ago he was doing research on Alcoholics Anonymous and was attending AA meetings around the country. One Saturday morning in a New York City church basement he was listening to a 'crisply dressed young man' who was talking about his problems. In his narrative he was absolutely faultless. All his mistakes were due to the injustice and betrayals of others. He spoke of how he was going to avenge himself on all who had wronged him. 'His every gesture gave the impression of grievously wounded pride,' Delbanco wrote. It was clear that the young man was trapped in his need to justify himself, and that things could only get worse and worse in his life until he recognized this. While he was speaking, a black man in his forties, in dreadlocks and dark shades, leaned over to Delbanco and said, 'I used to feel that way too, before I achieved low self-esteem.'

"...By 'low self-esteem' the man in the dreadlocks did not mean the young man should come to hate himself. He meant that the well-dressed young man was 'lost in himself' until he could admit he was a very flawed human being, a sinner. He would never be liberated to see his own flaws in their true light, or forgive those who had wronged him, or to humbly seek and receive forgiveness from others."

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Something Special in Memphis

I witnessed something special while on vacation in Memphis, Tennessee, this week.

The National Civil Rights Museum had nothing to do with it. The musicians of Beale Street were not involved. Neither the panda bears nor the Komodo dragons at the Memphis Zoo had anything to do with it.

Instead, it involved a small family eating lunch together at the Incredible Pizza Company.

When I first caught a glimpse of the husband, he didn't appear to be anything special. He looked a little overweight and unkempt as he picked up a tray and a couple of plates to fill with pizza. Nobody special, I assumed.

However, he began to seem quite a bit more special as he approached the table where his wife and young son were sitting. They were waiting patiently as the husband and father brought their meals to them.

As the man left the table in order to get his own pizza, I noticed his wife for the first time. She looked like a normal young woman in her twenties, but something about the manner in which her head jerked and her hands trembled indicated a problem with her motor skills. Upon a closer look, I realized that she was sitting in a wheelchair.

Had the young woman experienced a stroke or suffered a severe brain injury during an accident in the couple of years since her son's birth? I didn't know. But I knew that I had just witnessed something special: a man who was serious about loving his wife and providing his son with a good example.

This man had not merely remained with his wife following her debilitating injury. He had not merely met her basic physical needs. This man went out of his way to serve his wife.

He made sure that his wife would be present for both the meal and the games that their son would play afterwards in the restaurant's arcade. She would not be able to fully participate, but her husband made certain that she would at least be there.

It was simple, but thoughtful. It was something special in Memphis.

"Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman..." (1 Peter 3:7).

Friday, June 03, 2011

Favorite Posts

I've added a new feature to my blog: Favorite Posts. You may find it on the right side of this blog. It's a short collection of some of my favorite (but not necessarily most popular) posts. You will find a variety of topics from my personal experiences to issues with which I have wrestled over the years.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Denominational Loyalty

I've been thinking about denominational loyalty lately.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to one of my customers on my mail route. She was excited about her daughter's upcoming wedding. As my customer discussed her daughter's plans, she mentioned one regret. The daughter was marrying a young man from a different denomination, and the daughter had followed her future husband in joining his denomination. My customer sighed, "I don't know what is with kids these days. I would have never left the church of my parents. It would have broken their hearts. I wish they would stay with my church, but at least they are a great Christian couple."

This conversation prompted me to think about my son and his future choices. Would he someday leave the network of churches in which he has been raised?

As I thought more about it, I wondered about myself. Would I someday leave the churches (the Churches of Christ) with which I have been affiliated for decades?

I had to admit to myself that it was a legitimate possibility. I have seen trends among some of the leading preachers which concern me. Some of the most popular speakers among us have been teaching that the Bible cannot be fully trusted because of errors within it. Some have been teaching that a sinner does not necessarily need to place his faith in Jesus Christ in order to be saved. Some have been teaching that God is not truly all-knowing since he cannot know the future.

In contrast, I believe in the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, the necessity of faith in Christ, and the omniscience of God. We are on different trajectories. Eventually, if the popular trends in teaching become the normative doctrine among my fellowship, I may not be able to stay. It would not be because I would want to go, but it would be because denominational loyalty (for lack of a better term) would be of lesser value to me than the desire to cooperate with other believers who hold to the central truths of the Scriptures and to the Savior revealed within those Scriptures.

I hope it never comes to that scenario, but I need to admit to myself that the possibility certainly exists. If it becomes necessary to choose, I hope that my family and I would make a conscientious choice to remain loyal to Christ despite the pain involved in the decision.

"But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1).

Over-Interpreting the Bible

Justin Taylor has posted a good parody of over-interpreting the Bible at the link below.

A Parody of Over-Interpreting the Bible

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Conservative, Liberal or Christian?

Evangelical Christian author Randy Alcorn says,

"I get tired of being told I have to choose between conservatism’s emphasis on truth and liberalism’s emphasis on compassion. Why can’t we oppose injustice to minorities and to the unborn? Why can’t we embrace biblical stewardship of creation and the primacy of human beings over the rest of creation? Why can’t we oppose the greedy destruction of the environment by some businesses and the anti-industry excesses of New Age environmentalism?

"Why can’t we affirm the biblical right to the ownership of property (along with the command “thou shalt not steal”) and emphasize God’s call to his people to voluntarily and sacrificially share their wealth with the truly needy?

"Why can’t we uphold the truth of God’s condemnation of sexual immorality—including homosexual practices—and reach out in love and compassion to those imprisoned in this degrading lifestyle, as well as those dying from AIDS?"

Please read his thoughtful article on this topic at the link below:

Conservative, Liberal or Christian? - Resources - Eternal Perspective Ministries

Friday, May 27, 2011

Our Son's Finest Moment

The little girl stank.


Our son Christopher wanted to have nothing to do with her. She was a girl in his second grade class who had no friends. No one wanted to be close to someone with her odor.

Some of our son's friends called her derogatory names. Some mistreated her, tripping her when she walked by or "accidentally" running into her on the playground.

Christopher knew better than to do anything that would get himself into trouble. He avoided the temptation to mistreat the little girl. But he didn't like her. He did not like her smell. And he could not bring himself to intervene when she was being picked on by other kids.

After a few weeks in school, we discovered the cause of her smell. The girl had a medical condition preventing her from completely controlling her bladder. Sometimes she would wet herself.

She could not prevent an occasional accident; and it made her life difficult.

When Christopher found out about her medical condition, he still did not like this little girl. However, he began to ask us, "Do you feel sorry for ________? She doesn't have any friends." Slowly, he began to empathize with his classmate. He began to think about what life would be like for him if he could not control his ability to go to the bathroom when needed. He began to realize that he might have problems in making friends. He started to understand that he might be defensive, too, if he were called names or picked on by other kids all the time.

It took a long time, but near the end of the school year, Christopher announced to us one evening, "___________ and I are allies now." (He refers to his friends as his "allies".) He had convinced a few other boys in his class to accept the girl into their group. He had risked the rejection of his friends in order to bring an ostracized little girl into his group.

For the first time as a second grade student, the girl had "allies". She had a group who accepted her. She had a few boys who would defend her rather than mistreat her.

It was our son's finest moment.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Mystery of Frederick Jermaine Carter's Death

A few months ago, I posted a short piece about Christianity's influence on the civil rights movement. Tonight, Valerie Hicks Powe of the Citizen-Advocates Foundation for Justice left a comment on that post asking me to help her organization to publicize the case of Frederick Jermaine Carter in the hope that additional publicity will help to solve the case of his death.

In December of last year, Mr. Carter's body was found hanging from a tree in Mississippi. Originally, law enforcement officials ruled it a suicide without a thorough investigation. However, the coroner has determined that insufficient evidence exists to declare Mr. Carter's death to be a suicide.

Mr. Carter's mother wants answers. She does not believe that her son would have committed suicide; and she rightfully wants an investigation. Wouldn't you if you were Frederick Jermaine Carter's parent?

The Citizen-Advocates Foundation for Justice has more information about the case and who can be contacted to help in resolving the case at

"But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream" (Amos 5:24).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Doing Good When It Looks Bad

As one of his requirements in the Cub Scouts, our son Christopher needed to pick up trash in our neighborhood. It was a part of the requirement dealing with learning to care for creation.

Yesterday, I told our son that it was time to meet this requirement. However, he absolutely did not want to pick up trash. When I asked why he didn't want to do it, he replied, "Everyone will think I'm in jail!"

In our community, inmates pick up the trash on the streets as a form of community service. Christopher did not want to be mistaken for an inmate.

His reaction made sense, but he picked up the trash anyway.

Later, I explained that we need to have the courage to do the right thing even when it looks like we're doing something wrong. After all, Mary, the mother of Jesus, looked like she had done something wrong when she was carrying the baby Jesus even though she was not married. In addition, Jesus often looked like he was doing something wrong when he healed someone on the Sabbath or associated with sinful people at a meal. However, in the cases of both Mary and Jesus, they were doing good. And God was pleased, even though others misunderstood.

It's okay to look like you've done something wrong. Just make sure that you've done something good.

"Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil" (1 Peter 3:13-17).

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Why Do We Go to Church?

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:24-25).

"What then, brothers (and sisters)? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up" (1 Corinthians 14:26).

This morning my son asked me, "Why do we go to church?"

We study the Bible together at home; we pray at home; and we sing at home. My son also knows that the vast majority of my personal "ministry" takes place in my everyday life---at home with my family and on my job as a mail carrier. He knows that my coworkers and customers often come to me with questions about the Christian faith and with prayer requests. In fact, only a small part of our lives is spent at the church building or engaged in official church-related projects. He wonders why we meet with the church at all, since it takes up such a small percentage of our time during the week.

I told him that we meet as a church primarily for encouragement. We need encouragement to keep following Christ, and our fellow Christians need encouragement from us to keep following Christ. It's true that most of our lives are not spent in church meetings, but those meetings serve a good purpose. It can be discouraging to think that we are alone in our spiritual lives; but being in the physical presence of other committed followers of Jesus as we worship, serve, and share our lives together can give us a shot of courage that could be essential in keeping us going and being productive.

I'm sure that there are many other good reasons to go to church, but that's the answer that immediately came to my mind.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Helping Abused Women


In this video from TV station KFOR in Oklahoma City, you will see the story of a couple who own a trailer park in Edmond, Oklahoma. Motivated by their faith in Christ, they use one of the trailers as a shelter in which abused women can live as they try to get a new start in life.

"You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:13-16).

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What Robs Men of Courage?

Last month, I reviewed Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood by Dennis Rainey. This is a link to an article by Dennis Rainey based on a portion of the book:

What Robs Men of Courage? -

Saturday, May 07, 2011

A Good Night in the Hood

This is a portion from our minister Ron Babbit's newsletter to his supporters. I know that my fellow Contact Church members do not need my notes to explain some of Ron's statements, but those who are unfamiliar with his way of saying things may be confused so I have included a few explanatory notes.

"We walked up to a door and knocked. At first there was no response. The doors have peep holes so they can see who is beating on the door. I usually stand to the side, so they can't see the sheriff! (Note: Ron had explained previously in his newsletter that when someone asks "Who is it?" when he knocks, "I usually respond with 'Sheriff!' Don't ask me why, I just like to keep 'em guessing! Yes, I sometimes get in trouble.") It was night time and it is a different world in the hood when the sun goes down. A dude came to the door and I told him our names. We followed him into the living area...

"His name was Tyron. He went into the kitchen. Stan-the-man and I took a seat in the living room and started visiting with another dude---the live-in daddy to the three children, along with his honey and a 16 year old gal. The 16 year old had recently gotten out of jail for beating up some people. Her 17 year old hairy-leg (Note: her boyfriend) is still in the David L. Hotel (Note: the Tulsa County jail), looking at 10 years for beating up some folks. This clown was in on a couple of our Bible studies. I read the WORD from the book of Proverbs and shared three or four points.

"While I was talking, the hoss who wouldn't shake my left hand (Note: Ron broke his right hand a few weeks ago) left the apartment and was gone 5 to 10 minutes. When he returned I asked Tyron, 'Would you like to join us?' He said, 'How did you know my name?' He removed his ball cap that was shading the sun off his left ear and then the stocking under the cap. This was the first time any dude had removed their head-gear and joined the conversation.

"I was sitting on the floor in front of the 16 year old gal. Tyron started asking, 'Who are you? Why did you come here?' He said that as he was getting off the bus that day a lady told him that JESUS loved him. That blew him away. He said, 'Then you men show up talking about GOD. Who are you with?'

"He shared his frustrations, hurts, anxieties, fears and disappointments. I would have a response to some of his sharing and he would say, 'I'm not through talking.' This made me nervous. He would stare at me and then he would stare at Stan-the-man and then resume his conversation. He described his time in prison and how he wouldn't take a shower with the other men. He said we would never believe what happened in prison and that they had access to more drugs in prison than outside the walls. He said they had to strip buck-naked and the guards looked for drugs...

"He said, 'I respect you men. You come out here to read the Bible. This is a dangerous place and you men show up; people don't do that.' He asked again what church we were with. I said, 'If you were to look for a church, what would you look for? What would be on your list of items that you would look for?' He said that he didn't like white churches. He didn't like black churches. He didn't like Mexican churches. He said, 'I like a mix.' The folks who lived in the apartment said, 'That's Contact.' He said, 'What is Contact?' He said that he would look for a church where the people are accepting and not judgmental...

"I was somewhat nervous at the beginning of our visit, but now I noticed a softening of his heart, a breaking down of his being hip, slick, cool, and out of sight. The room was very quiet; no one was moving around or jumping up and down. Everyone was listening with a seriousness about why GOD had us there. When I had the opportunity, I told Tyron that I would like to pray but he didn't respond. He just walked into the kitchen. I talked some more about the seriousness of us walking with the LORD and responding to HIS call to obedience. I noticed Tyron standing in the kitchen looking around the corner. I said, 'Tyron, come and join us as we talk to GOD.' He very quietly said, 'I will pray here.' I got on my knees and asked everyone what they would like for me to pray for. The young 20 year old said the healthy delivery of her baby. The 16 year old asked for prayers for patience when people jumped her so that she wouldn't hurt them. She wants to get back into the Job Corp and finish her high school education with a diploma in hand. The hairy-leg clown said he needed a job...We petitioned our LORD in prayer. When I finished praying, I raised my head and guess who was kneeling beside me? That's right, Tyron. I couldn't believe it, but why do I doubt GOD at work in so many hurting hearts?

"I wish I could tell you how the SPIRIT OF GOD was moving in that swingin' apartment. Tyron said thank you over and over again. He told us that he respected us for what we were doing in the apartment complex. He said, 'One of these days, I will come to Contact.' Praise GOD for what HE does through HIS clowns as we get to continue showing up, paying attention, and responding appropriately. The church of our LORD continues to grow at Contact..."


Thursday, May 05, 2011

The National Day of Prayer

President Obama and Congress have asked Americans to pray for them and for the nation today during the National Day of Prayer.

This is an excerpt from President Obama's proclamation:

"Let us pray for the men and women of our Armed Forces and the many selfless sacrifices they and their families make on behalf of our Nation. Let us pray for the police officers, firefighters, and other first responders who put themselves in harm's way every day to protect their fellow citizens. And let us ask God for the sustenance and guidance for all of us to meet the great challenges we face as a Nation.

"Let us remember in our thoughts and prayers those who have been affected by natural disasters at home and abroad in recent months, as well as those working tirelessly to render assistance. And, at a time when many around the world face uncertainty and unrest, but also hold resurgent hope for freedom and justice, let our prayers be with men and women everywhere who seek peace, human dignity, and the same rights we treasure here in America."

Let's honor their request. As the apostle Paul wrote,

"I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth" (1 Timothy 2:1-4, NLT).

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Every Baby is a Little Miracle

"Every baby is a little miracle to celebrate, support, and protect" (Pampers commercial).

"Children are a gift from the LORD..." (Psalm 127:3, New Living Translation).

"You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother's womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous--how will I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in Your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed" (Psalm 139:13-16, New Living Translation).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Adopting Children with Disabilities

On the Hope for Orphans blog today (see my blog roll on the left side of my blog for a link), a story was posted concerning a little boy with a heart defect being adopted. It reminded me of the time that Janet and I tried to adopt a child with disabilities. Our story is found at this link...

A Disciple's Thoughts: Sage

Every child is special.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Kevin Durant Commits to Daily Bible Reading

Thunder's Kevin Durant commits to daily Bible reading |

The Oklahoman carried a story today about Oklahoma City Thunder star basketball player Kevin Durant's commitment to read the Bible each day. (See the link above.) I have been very impressed with Kevin Durant. He and several of his teammates have been setting great examples for young people in our state.

"...his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night" (Psalm 1:2)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

How to Find a Good Church

Lately, people have been asking my advice on finding a good church. It certainly can be hard to determine which church one should attend.

Generally, churches look alike in their yellow pages ads, on their web sites, and in their 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. Their lives would help me in determining which church to visit (and possibly join).

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

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Doing Good in Politics

I came across this excerpt while reading Wayne Grudem's Politics According to the Bible (page 48):

"Clearly, if we are here on earth to glorify God, we will glorify him (in part at least) by obeying the command, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself' (Matt. 22:39). But that means that I should seek the good of my neighbors in all parts of society. 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself' means that I should seek good laws that will protect preborn children. It means that I should seek good laws that protect marriages and families. It means I should seek good laws that protect children from the corrupting moral influences that want to use the classroom to teach that all kinds of sexual experimentation outside of marriage are just fine and that there is nothing wrong with pornography.

"One reason why Jesus left us here on earth is that we should glorify him by doing good to other people in all areas of life. 'So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith' (Gal. 6:10). Certainly that means that we should do good to others, as we have the opportunity, by being a good influence on laws and government and by having a good influence on the political process. Paul says this about Christians:

"'For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them' (Eph. 2:10).

"Jesus left us here on earth in part because he wants to allow our lives to give glory to him in the midst of a fallen and sinful world: 'Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven' (Matt. 5:16).

"So, should churches teach their people how to do 'good works' in hospitals and in schools, and in businesses and in neighborhoods, but not in government? Why should that area of life be excluded from the influence of the 'good works' of believers that will 'give glory to your Father who is in heaven'?

"I conclude that Jesus' command that 'you shall love your neighbor as yourself' means that I should seek the good of my neighbors in every aspect of society, including seeking to bring about good government and good laws."

I share Professor Grudem's perspective. Here is a link to a post that complements his views on this matter:

A Disciple's Thoughts: Political Decisions:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Think About Such Things

This is a devotional piece that I wrote for the Christian Standard. It appeared in the July 21, 1996 edition.

Think About Such Things

What consumes your thoughts? Do you worry about deadlines? Are you anxious about finances? Does revenge find a home in your heart? Do immoral thoughts race through your mind? Such things shatter our peace and distance us from God.

Realizing the impact of our thoughts, the apostle Paul wrote, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable---if anything is excellent or praiseworthy---think about such things" (Philippians 4:8, New International Version). Meditating upon those attributes draws us closer to God. Acquiring those ideals may transform our lives into the image of God's Son, since Jesus Christ personifies those attributes.

Christ is true, honest, genuine, and real. He is completely trustworthy. He perceives everything with keen accuracy, and He speaks with absolute integrity. If He says it, you can believe it.

The Lord is noble. His character commands respect. He has earned the loyalty of His people.

Christ is right in all ways. He lived under the law of Moses without committing one transgression. He kept the rules and fulfilled the law.

Jesus is pure. His heart has never been contaminated by evil. He has overcome every temptation.

The Lord is lovely. His self-sacrificing spirit turned an ugly crucifixion into a beautiful demonstration of God's love. As promised, all kinds of people have been drawn to Him since He was lifted up.

Christ is admirable. Even His critics and skeptics often admit an admiration for His teachings.

Jesus is excellent in His goodness. He is the genuine epitome of morality and virtue. His standards are unsurpassed.

Finally, Christ is praiseworthy or commendable. He rescues us from a destiny of Hell and prepares a home in Heaven for us. He deserves our praise!

Focusing our minds upon Jesus Christ and His attributes can settle troubled minds while bringing us into the presence of a gracious God. Let's think about such things.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood

In his latest book, Dennis Rainey writes, "I believe there's something in the chest of a man that responds in a unique way to stories of courage. There's a piece of every man's heart that longs to be courageous, to be bold and gutsy and etch a masculine mark of bravery on the human landscape. In our hearts, we know that a part of the core of true manhood is courage" (page 5).

Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood contains many stories of courage to inspire a man's heart. From reciting tales of physical courage to feats of moral courage, Dennis Rainey demonstrates what it means to be a man through five stages of a man's life. In this book, he acknowledges the identity crisis that many men in our culture face due to poor training from fathers who were either silent, or missing, or who provided inappropriate advice and examples to their sons as their boys were growing up. But he meets men where they are and gives them the guidance and encouragement they need in order to take the next steps toward fulfilling their duties as men in their families and communities. Rather than approaching the subject in a condemning manner, Mr. Rainey seeks to instill the courage men need to take responsibility and initiative.

He outlines five stages in a man's life:

1. Boyhood: a time of adventure and exploration in which a boy needs guidance from responsible fathers and other men in his life. He needs to learn to differentiate wisdom from foolishness and how to love others. He needs to understand his spiritual identity, his sexual identity, and his purpose in life. As the author explains, "One of my favorite passages about children in the Scriptures is found in Psalm 127: 'Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them' (verses 4-5, NASB). This is powerful imagery. Think about what an arrow is created to do. Was it designed to stay in the quiver, comfortable and protected? No, it was made to be aimed and shot by a warrior at a target, to deliver a blow in battle. Can you see the connection? Boys need to understand that they are not here on earth just to achieve worldly success and comfort. They're here to strike a blow against evil, to make a mark on their world. Just like you. After all, dads are arrows too" (page 47).

2. Adolescence: a time of further training as a boy transitions into manhood. This is when a boy needs to start the process of thinking like a man. "They need help assassinating selfishness and pride...They need to learn and apply fundamental convictions and character qualities to real-life issues" (pages 78-79).

3. Manhood: a time in which a man takes the initiative and steps up to protect those in his care. Primarily, he protects his family, but he also takes responsibility to protect his community from evil. He does this physically, of course, by locking the doors of his home at night and holding his small child's hand while crossing the street. But that is rather easy. It gets more challenging when he seeks to protect his marriage by meeting the needs of his wife, when he seeks to instruct his children in the moral choices they face among their peers, when he stands up against unethical business practices on his job, or when he challenges his children's peers to treat each other with dignity. This is a time for courage to be displayed with wisdom.

4. Mentor: a time in which an experienced man teaches younger and less experienced men how to meet the challenges they face every day. He shares his successes and failures. He intentionally connects with younger men who want to approach life with more wisdom than they possess. He guides them in their quest to be the men God intended them to be. "A mentor purposefully builds life lessons into those he mentors," Dennis Rainey writes. "As you consider being a mentor, think through what makes life work for you--at work, at home, and in your relationship with Christ. What have you learned about the following?

*handling pressure and balancing the pace of life
*working with people
*building and keeping friendships with other men
*investing in your marriage
*resolving conflict
*facing unexpected crises or tragedy
*managing your finances
*developing a real relationship with God
*reading, understanding, and applying the Scriptures
*raising your children
*developing the type of character needed to succeed at work
*growing through failure" (page 147).

5. Patriarch: a time in which a man moves from the role of an authority figure to the role of a dignified older man who leads and impacts his world through the intentional good influence of his life. He keeps the extended family together. He connects with his adult children, their spouses, his grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He refrains from exercising authority over the lives of his adult children--after all, they are leading their own families now--but he is always available to give wise counsel when asked. His priority is to have a positive influence on his extended family; and he spends much time in prayer for the future of his family. He works at leaving a good and godly legacy for his family and community.

Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood is an excellent book. I can highly recommend it for any man who wants some encouragement and guidance toward being a good man. I purchased the book from FamilyLife. It can be ordered at or by calling 1-800-FLTODAY.

"Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love" (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Soul Surfer

Soul Surfer, a movie based on the true story of a young surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack, hits movie theaters on April 8. I have heard a couple of good interviews with people involved in the movie. The family's strong Christian faith and commitment to glorifying God sustained them during this difficult period of their lives. It appears that the movie will accurately reflect their faith in Jesus Christ.

As I have heard the family speak about the experience, I have been reminded of this passage from the Scriptures:

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock" (Matthew 7:24-25).

This movie has great potential. I'm looking forward to taking my family to see it.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Guest Post at the Family Fountain Blog: The Challenge of Infertility

When my wife Janet and I were engaged to be married, we would talk for hours about our hopes and dreams. We would discuss careers, home life, and children. We planned to raise a household of biological and adopted children.

"The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps" (Proverbs 16:9, ESV). Our lives did not work out in quite the way we had planned. A couple of years into our marriage, we realized that we needed help. We had no children. After visiting a few doctors, we accepted our diagnosis. We were an infertile couple...

The rest of the post may be read on Warren Baldwin's Family Fountain blog at You may also check out his blog by clicking on his name on my blog roll at the right side of this post. Thank you to Warren Baldwin for the opportunity to write a guest post for your blog!

Friday, April 01, 2011

Today I'm Gonna Try To Change The World

This is a great song with a great message.

The Successful Dad

The Successful Dad
(Author Unknown)

I may never be as clever as my
neighbor down the street,
I may never be as wealthy as some
other men I meet.
I may never have the glory that some
other men have had,
But I've just got to be successful as
that little fellow's dad.

There are certain dreams I cherish,
that I'd like to see come true,
There are things I would like to do.
There are things I would like to
accomplish before my earthly life is through.
But the task I've set my heart on is
to guide a little lad,
To make myself successful as that
little fellow's dad.

Oh, I may never come to glory, I may
never gather gold,
And when my business life is over,
I may be considered a failure as told.
But the task I've set my heart on is
to guide a little lad,
To make myself successful as that
little fellow's dad.

It's the one job that I dream of,
The task I think of most,
For if I fail that little fellow,
I have nothing else to boast.
For the wealth and fame I'd gather,
all my fortune would be sad,
If I fail to be successful as that little
fellow's dad.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Kindness of Kevin Durant

The Kindness of Kevin Durant |

The Oklahoman ran a good story over the weekend about Kevin Durant, one of the NBA's rising superstars who plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder. (Click on the link above to read the full story.) He stands out among his peers because of the kindness and respect he shows to others around him. Everyone can be inspired by his example. He serves as an excellent role model for younger men coming up behind him.

"Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness
will find life, righteousness, and honor" (Proverbs 21:21).

Friday, March 25, 2011

Gender Inclusive Language in the Bible

While attending a Christian conference yesterday, someone asked my opinion of the revised New International Version (NIV) of the Bible and its use of gender inclusive language. I have not bought a copy of the latest NIV, but I have read portions of it online. I have not read enough of it to give an informed opinion about whether the NIV has been improved or damaged by the changes.

However, I read a couple of versions of the Bible that use gender inclusive language. The Message and the New Living Translation do a good job of capturing the general spirit of the text, but I'm not comfortable with relying on either when I'm engaged in a serious study of a biblical text. I'm not an expert in the original biblical languages, so I depend on essentially literal translations of the Bible to guide my studies. I want to study from a version of the Bible that places an extremely high value on accuracy.

I like the approach taken by the translation team of the English Standard Version (ESV):

"In the area of gender language, the goal of the ESV is to render literally what is in the original. For example, 'anyone' replaces 'any man' where there is no word corresponding to 'man' in the original languages, and 'people' rather than 'men' is regularly used where the original languages refer to both men and women. But the words 'man' and 'men' are retained where a male meaning component is part of the original Greek or Hebrew." (Preface to the English Standard Version)

It's important to get an accurate understanding of the Scriptures. Sometimes a more accurate understanding can be achieved with gender inclusive language, but sometimes it can't. Whatever the case may be, I want to be able to study from a Bible that gives me a highly accurate translation of the original words in a text.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Hope of Christ's Return

"The Lord isn't really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.

"Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, He will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth He has promised, a world filled with God's righteousness.

"And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in His sight"
(2 Peter 3:9-14, New Living Translation).

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bob Lepine on the Rob Bell Controversy

Bob Lepine serves as a co-host of the FamilyLife Today radio program and as a pastor of Redeemer Community Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. On the church's blog (which can be accessed from my blog roll on the right side of this post) on March 16, 2011, Mr. Lepine wrote an excellent article about the controversy concerning Rob Bell's latest book.

This is his post:

Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of on-line and, more recently, on air talk about Pastor Rob Bell’s new book “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.”

Based on the reviews of the book I have read and the interviews I’ve read or seen this week with Rob, I would say that the book is neo-liberal at best and heretical at worst.

I’ll have a little more to say about Love Wins in my message this Sunday. But what I want us to think about here is the role you and I may have played in nudging Rob Bell in the direction he’s going.

Kevin DeYoung, a pastor who has written a helpful critique of Love Wins makes what I think is a very astute observation about where we are as evangelicals at this moment in church history:

“As younger generations come up against an increasingly hostile cultural environment, they are breaking in one of two directions—back to robust orthodoxy (often Reformed) or back to liberalism.”

“The neo-evangelical consensus is cracking up. Love Wins is simply one of many tremors.”

I think Pastor DeYoung is right. As the culture becomes increasingly hostile toward Christianity and a biblical worldview, many younger evangelicals find themselves facing a fork in the road – either they stand for biblical orthodoxy and find themselves marginalized and castigated by the culture, or they soften their positions and find that the culture is friendlier. Because many younger evangelicals want to take the gospel to the culture, they decide that the softer approach is the only way to gain a hearing for their message.

But there is another reason that I think some younger evangelicals shy away from holding on too firmly to biblical truth.

It’s because they’ve seen some of us hold onto truth in a way that was unattractive and unlike Jesus.

They have seen Christians who care more about being right than about caring for people.

They have seen Christians who turn secondary issues into primary issues, getting angry and divisive over things that shouldn’t matter as much as they end up mattering.

They have seen Christians deal harshly with sinners, acting more like the Pharisees with the woman caught in adultery than like Jesus.

They have seen Christians who think too highly of themselves instead of taking on the form of a servant.

They have seen Christians who are dogmatic about issues where godly, committed, Bible believing people disagree.

They have seen Christians turn prejudices and preferences into tests of fellowship and holiness. From hair styles to worship styles, from piercings to politics.

In short, they have seen people committed to a high view of God and truth who are very harsh, stubborn, unloving, ungracious and self-righteous.

And they’ve said to themselves “I love Jesus, but there’s no way I want to be that guy.”

At the same time, they’ve have seen non-Christians who have been kinder, more selfless and more caring. And they have rightly asked themselves in the process “How much does this high regard for truth really matter anyway? Looks to me like it hurts more than it helps.”

It is hard sometimes to find the place where grace and truth come together, with no compromise in either. Jesus was full of grace and truth. He is who we look to –not the TV preacher or the Koran burning pastor or the funeral protesting pastor – as our model for what being His follower should look like.

More than a generation ago, A.W. Tozer commented on a similar slide toward a softening of truth in his day. He said:

“Little by little, evangelical Christians these days are being brainwashed. One evidence is that increasing numbers of them are becoming ashamed to be found unequivocally on the side of truth. They say they believe but their beliefs have been so diluted as to be impossible of clear definition.”

“Moral power has always accompanied definitive beliefs. Great saints have always been dogmatic. We need right now a return to a gentle dogmatism that smiles while it stands stubborn and firm on the Word of God that liveth and abideth forever”.

It’s true in our day as well. We must stand stubborn around the truth of the gospel and stand firm on God’s Word, while we demonstrate grace and love and care and kindness for all. Let’s make sure we’re not giving younger evangelicals a reason to doubt the gospel because we make it so unattractive.

And when we do, I think there will be fewer Rob Bells leading people in dangerous directions.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sincerity as Evidence for the Christian Faith

A few nights ago, I was reading a portion of the Gospel of Luke to my son Christopher before bedtime. In that portion of the Scriptures, Jesus was healing men and women of various illnesses and afflictions.

At a break in the reading, my son asked, "How do you know that's true?" Puzzled, I responded, "What do you mean?"

Christopher said, "Those miracles. How do you know they happened? It sounds like someone's lying to us."

At that moment, I realized that our son was taking a huge step in his development. He was not believing something merely because his parents believed it. He was questioning it.

My wife Janet and I assured him that it was proper to question us and the Bible. He needed to know that he was not alone in his doubts; he needed to know that it was a part of spiritual growth to raise questions. After all, those kinds of miracles do not happen every day in our lives. We have seen some remarkable answers to prayers for healing, but we have not seen anything like someone walking on water or someone being raised from the dead. In fact, even the apostle Thomas did not accept the resurrection of Jesus until he saw the Lord for himself.

We explained to Christopher that we have not seen the miracles recorded in the Bible firsthand, but eyewitnesses to those miracles preserved a record of them for us.

A few nights later, we returned to the subject. I let my son know that those eyewitnesses spread the word about Jesus and his miracles to everyone they encountered for the rest of their lives. Even though they faced severe persecution and death for telling people about the resurrection of Christ, they never stopped spreading the good news that Jesus had died for their sins and had risen from the dead in order to save them.

If the apostles had not honestly believed what they were saying and what they were writing in the Scriptures, they could have changed their story very easily in the face of death. But they remained committed to their account of Christ's message.

Sincerity does not necessarily prove one's testimony to be true. However, when a man remains committed to his eyewitness testimony in the face of death, it's a strong indication that he truly believes his message. Something happened in his life that he cannot deny.

And that's one good reason to take seriously the message of the apostles and other early Christians who wrote the New Testament. We know that they were not lying.

"And they have conquered (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death" (Revelation 12:11).

(The picture above portrays the crucifixion of the apostle Peter)

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Aruamu: Transformed By God's Word

On July 2, 2005, the Aruamu people of Papua New Guinea celebrated the completion of the New Testament in their own language. With the support of Pioneer Bible Translators, missionaries Marsha and the late John Relyea spent nearly 20 years translating the New Testament into the language of Aruamu for the first time in their history.

"Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near" (Revelation 1:3).

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Need to Believe in Christ

"For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus" (Romans 2:12-16).

I received an e-mail last week from a minister who used those verses to propose that some people who have never heard of Christ do not actually need to believe specifically in Christ in order to be saved. As I understood his premise, the minister asserted that a non-believer could be saved by living a good life and trusting in the existence of a god who is unknown to him (or who is misidentified by him).

I could see how the minister could come to such a conclusion by reading those verses, but I have concluded that he has taken the verses out of context and has misunderstood them.

In the first chapter of Romans, the apostle Paul informed his readers that the problem with humanity is not the absence of God and his standards. The problem is that we have rejected and replaced God and his standards (Romans 1:18-32).

In chapter 2, Paul made the point that people have not lived up to God's law, whether they were Jews or Gentiles. He was not making the point that people could be saved from their sins by simply being decent people who acknowledged the concept of the existence of deity. In the passage quoted above, the apostle was making the point to Jewish men and women that a knowledge of the law was insufficient. After all, many Gentiles who did not have the written law were living better lives than some of the people who were experts in the law. But even among the good Gentiles, conflicting thoughts were a part of their lives. They could not stand before God with any degree of real confidence because some of their thoughts accused them of guilt while other thoughts excused them.

In chapter 3, Paul made it clear that everyone has a problem with sin. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). From that point on, the apostle Paul emphasized that all who would be saved from the consequences of their sins "are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith" (Romans 3:24-25a). "For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law" (Romans 3:28).

I believe the preaching pastor who thinks that a decent non-believer who has not been exposed to the gospel of Christ is safe has a kind heart. He does not want to believe that the unbeliever is in any real danger of hell. But I believe the preacher has made a mistake in underestimating the pervasiveness of sin and evil within the hearts of the best of us. The truth is: we are in great danger without Christ, no matter how good we are, because we are not good enough. That is why Christ came as one who would take the punishment that sinners deserve. We needed him, and God loved us enough to send him to save us.

The preacher's e-mail asserted that non-believers who respond favorably to "available light" will be saved. In a sense, he was right. For example, Cornelius the Roman soldier was saved because he had responded favorably to the light of God available to him. However, he was not saved without any knowledge of Jesus Christ. Cornelius sent for the apostle Peter to tell him the message of Christ because an angel had told him, "(Peter) will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household" (Acts 11:14). The Lord gave Cornelius the saving message of Christ because Cornelius had responded favorably to the will of God that he already knew. He still needed the gospel of Christ, despite being a very good man because his goodness was not good enough.

Contrary to the preacher who sent the e-mail, I cannot presume that some people do not need the gospel of Christ. The gospel is the good news of salvation in Christ, but it starts with the realization that everyone is in a bad situation to begin with.

I published this post on my blog nearly two years ago. I have re-published it since the topic came up in our Bible study at the Normandy Apartments tonight. A couple of participants were asking me to recommend speakers to hear at a Christian conference in our city next week. They also asked whom I would not recommend. Since a couple of the speakers teach the doctrine of inclusivism (the doctrine that unbelieving, but ignorant, sinners do not need to believe in Christ in order to be saved), I felt that I needed to explain why I cannot recommend listening to them.


This is the trailer for the upcoming movie Courageous: Honor Begins at Home. I'm looking forward to seeing it. The movie was made by the same group that made Facing the Giants and Fireproof.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Build Me a Son, O Lord

BUILD ME A SON, O LORD by General Douglas MacArthur

Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

Build me a son whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be; a son who will know Thee….Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clean, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.

Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, “I have not lived in vain.”

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Ordinary Christians

Sometimes it's good to notice the extraordinary impact of ordinary Christians around me.

These are the Christians who serve God faithfully without knowing how much of a difference they are making in the world around them.

They love and respect their husbands and wives. They honor their parents. They nurture, discipline, and instruct their children.

They show up to work on time and ready for the day. They approach their jobs with good attitudes. They care about their co-workers, employees, and customers. They take the time to listen to the concerns of others, sometimes offering helpful advice and sometimes offering a prayer. They are sincere in their gratitude when they are helped; and they are willing to help others whenever possible.

They spend time reading their Bibles and praying. They want to be close to their Lord. They want to know him better. They believe what they read in their Bibles; and they trust that God is listening to their pleas on behalf of the people for whom they pray.

They enjoy worshipping with their local churches. They participate in and teach Bible classes. They clean the church buildings. They mow the grass and shovel the snow on the church's property. They serve food when the church shares meals. They drive the vans to pick up people who want to worship with them.

They volunteer to help teachers at their local schools. They coach and support their children's sports teams. They are involved in their children's scouting programs. They e-mail and meet with their political leaders in support of just legislation or in opposition to unjust legislation. They raise money to fight diseases. They recycle paper, plastic, and aluminum products to help the environment. They get their pets from the local animal shelter.

They share the good news of Christ whenever an opportunity arises. They adopt children, volunteer for pro-life ministries, and sponsor children around the world through Christian relief organizations. They send money to organizations that fight global poverty and others that translate the Scriptures into native languages around the world.

They are ordinary Christians, but they are intentionally committed to doing good so that others are blessed and God is glorified.

"...let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).