"...and I will dwell in the House of the LORD forever!"

Monday, December 12, 2011

Incredible Investments

There are numerous ways to make money. Many have found fame and fortune through simple ideas and investments. That's one of the many things that make America great.

One growing industry in the United States is the auctioning of storage units. Companies like American Auctioneers make a killing every year by giving investment entrepreneurs the chance to purchase furnished storage units. The rules are pretty simple. Storage units, with all of their furnishings, are eligible to be auctioned off if rent is three months past due. Most units aren't worth very much, but some units provide huge pay offs for those who are willing to take the risk.

One man in San Jose, California was willing to take the risk, and he took the phrase, "One man's trash, another man's treasure" to the extreme. He purchased a unit for $1,100 and found $500,000 of gold and silver in a box so heavy that it required three men to carry it out. I guess you could say that $498,900 profit in one day is a fairly good investment.

As God's children, we have the opportunity to invest in Jesus Christ. It carries the cost of our lives, but the pay offs are incredible, and there is absolutely no risk involved. Jesus already purchased us at Calvary, and in Him we find the treasure of eternal life.

Invest in Jesus. It's the opportunity of a life time!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Guilt's Grip

How long does guilt stick to your mind and wear on your soul? For an elderly Seattle man, the answer is more than six decades. Over 60 years ago, he stole $30.00 from a Sears' cash register. Last Monday, he went to a local Sears and hand-delivered an envelope addressed to the "Sears Manager." Inside the envelope was a remorseful note giving his apology for theft, accompanied by a $100.00 bill. The man said he wanted to pay back the money, "plus interest." Apparently, Ben Franklin can put anyone's conscience at rest?

Guilt's grip is a very powerful thing, it's very difficult to overcome, and it will destroy us if we don't confess and repent of our sins. That's why repentance is always an urgent matter. The "Sears Bandit" had the time to right his wrong, but as Christians, we never know when our time will be up.

Guilt is building. The clock is ticking. Repent, less you perish.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sirhan Sirhan Speaks!

This past week marked the 48th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, one of the most traumatic crises and conspiracies to ever plague American soil. During the anniversary, to everyone's surprise, the voice of Sirhan Sirhan, convicted assassin of Robert F. Kennedy, was heard from the West Coast. Sirhan's lawyers have presented their own conspiracy theory about what happened that day on June 5th, 1968.

They argue that there were at least two shooters involved in the assassination, and at least thirteen shots were fired. In fact, they claim that Sirhan's 1969 trial was fraud, because a substitute bullet was allowed as evidence rather than the real bullet that was pulled from Kennedy's neck, which Sirhan's legal team claims doesn't even fit the revolver found on Sirhan's waist when he was arrested. To make matters even worse, Sirhan's attorneys claim that Sirhan was hypnotized before the assassination to be a diversion for the real assassin. It wasn't until recently that David Brown of Harvard Medical school evaluated Sirhan to test the hypnosis. According to Brown, Sirhan just now remembers the assassination. Brown testifies that the day of the assassination, Sirhan thought he was at a gun range shooting at circular targets.

Confusing? I would say so. It's just another reminder of a common discouragement of life--we will never know the complete truth and we will never have all of the facts. Regardless if it's a Kennedy assassination or everyday concerns, the world sends a heavy fog over what's real and absolute. But, Jesus removes the fog and gives us encouragement when He says, "I am the way, I am the truth, and I am the life..." (John 14:6)

Do you believe Him? Follow His way, and see for yourself. It's as clear as crystal!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dr. Marcel Petiot

World War II was a terrible time for the world, particularly in Europe. Hitler's Nazi regime was responsible for more than six million deaths. The brutal tactics of the "Gestapo" and the hopelessness of Auschwitz instilled fear everywhere. But during the Nazi struggle, another brutal murderer was flying under the radar in Paris, Dr. Marcel Petiot.

Petiot was known as a very charming and talented physician, but during the war, Petiot became a serial killer. Towards the end of the war, Paris was a terrible place to live. Hundreds, if not thousands of people "disappeared", but respect for the law had been tarnished by the Nazis; everyone was afraid to come forward and report the "disappearances", especially if they were Jewish. Petiot, consumed by evil, captivated on the times. He preyed on Jews desperate for escape by promising his aid for their getaway. Petiot would invite them into his luxurious townhouse, tell them to write letters to their relatives detailing their escape, and then he would kill them. He was finally caught by police when a fire was reported near his townhouse. When fire crews entered his home for "damage control", they found multiple body parts. Petiot was convicted and sentenced to death for 26 confirmed murders. However, it's believed that Petiot killed more than 150 people!

Petiot's story is very frightening, but what's even more frightening is Satan preys on us the same way today. Peter writes that Satan is like, "a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8) When we realize who we're up against, it can fill us with doubts and unresolved fears. But if we listen, James supplies the words for our rescue, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God, and he will come near to you." (James 4:7-8)

Resist. Come Near. For the day is almost over!

Monday, November 7, 2011

A High School Hero

The athletic ability of teenagers this day and age is absolutely amazing. They can hit multiple homeruns, rush for thousands of yards, and score hundreds of points in one season. Many of them skip college and join the ranking of professionals. When I was on the golf team in high school, there was a young man at a rival school who consistently shot three or four under par in every golf tournament. To this day I still don't know how he did it!

But even among all of the high school talent, in my mind there is one young man who stands head and shoulders above the rest, Rhett Gutierrez, quarterback for Standley Lake High School in Colorado. Gutierrez suffers from junior Macular Degeneration, diagnosing him as legally blind. But even with this setback, he has been playing quarterback for Standley Lake's shotgun offense. How? Gutierrez has memorized all of the routes for his receivers and running backs, and he can pass or hand off the ball as well as any player on the field. Now that's impressive!

As Christians, how much more "talented" would we be if we studied the word of God like Gutierrez studies the routes of his teammates? We don't have to memorize it word for word, but I'm quite confident we would gain a much better understanding of God's will for our lives if we digested it every day. The Psalmist wrote, "I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word." (Psalm 119: 14-16)

The problems and temptations of this world will continually keep us from focusing on what's truly important. But even when we can't "see", we must yearn for the word of God. It's a "lamp to our feet, and a light for our path" (Psalm 119:105), and it shines down the "narrow road that leads to life." (Matthew 7:14)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Famous Last Words?

If you've been keeping up with the news, you know the world recently lost a technological pioneer and hero, Steve Jobs. Jobs was responsible for revolutionizing the computer industry. As CEO of Apple, similar to "Johnny Appleseed", Jobs "planted" Apple Products (ipod, iphone, ipad, etc.) all over the world. All in all, Jobs changed the way we function today.

At his memorial service on October 16th, Job's sister Mona Simpson gave the eulogy. To everyone's surprise, she included Jobs' last words as he lovingly stared at his family and passed from this life, "Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow!" After everything that Jobs had seen and accomplished, "Oh wow" is the way he ended his run? Is that an expression of hope or despair? We'll probably never know.

What will your famous last words be? You may not be a computer whiz or CEO of one of the most successful businesses in American history; but as a child of God, when this passing world is done, "Oh wow" will be appropriate. I'm sure that the "Holy City" and the "New Jerusalem" will have that effect!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Insights from Hayden

This past week Natalie and I experienced a miracle, the birth of our precious baby boy. I don't know how we can view the birth of a child any other way. Hayden Jacob Hawk was born Tuesday, October 18th, 2011, at 1:05 P.M. at Methodist Hospital in San Antonio. He weighed in at 8lbs., 8oz., measuring 19.25 inches long.

October 18th, 2011, is a day I'll never forget. I'll always remember that call at work with the famous four words, "My water just broke." I'll always remember the high speed, sixty-three mile race to the hospital, swerving in and out of rush hour traffic. I'll always remember putting on scrubs, deep prayer in the surgery room, and finally hearing that first cry. I'll cherish forever the tears that filled my eyes when Hayden clasped my finger with those small, delicate, hands just minutes after birth. We bonded. I kept whispering to him over and over again, "You are my son. I am your daddy. And there is nothing that can make me stop loving you!"

As I've taken it all in, I've had some spiritual thoughts I've never had before. Why did God send Jesus as a baby? You know, there was about twenty-five years in Jesus' life when He didn't do much! Why not just send Jesus as a grown man for his three year ministry, get it done, and go back home? Obviously, Jesus needed to be taught like the other children, He needed to build relationships with those He would lead, and He needed to fulfill prophecy; but as a new dad, Hayden gave me some different insights.

Maybe God wanted to take in the whole process. Maybe God wanted to experience what we experience, feel what we feel, and see what we see. When Jesus was born, surely God watched from above as the proud Father. He heard that first cry. He saw the miracle. And even though Jesus couldn't physically clasp God's finger, they still bonded. "You are my Son. I am your Father. And there is nothing that can make me stop loving you!"

Thank you, Father, for such an amazing miracle! I will never forget! And as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Clinging to a Cooler

On Saturday, October 8th, 2011, a loving Florida family set out for a family fishing trip in their 22 foot fishing boat. The weather conditions weren't the best. They knew there was a great possibility for storms, but their desire to fish was stronger than the danger of the seas.

After they cast their lines, they realized the storms were worse than they originally thought. The waves picked up momentum, and the winds gusted more than 40 miles per hour. Their boat capsized. An elderly woman who wasn't wearing a life jacket was swept away and drowned. Three men grabbed the tip of their boat, but a four year old girl and her mother drifted away, clinging to a cooler.

Storms were so fierce that rescue helicopters couldn't get close to the water. Many hours later, after the storm had subsided, a commerical boat found the men hanging onto their capsized boat. They informed the Coast Guard that the women were missing, and the Coast Guard found them a few hours later. After 20 hours of treading water, mild hypothermia, Jelly Fish stings, a dark rainy night at sea, and utter exhaustion, the mother and daughter told reporters that one thing kept them alive--clinging to the cooler.

As Christians, when we feel like we're "Lost at Sea", there's only one thing that keeps us alive--clinging to the cross! When was the last time you reached for your lifeline, the anchor of Calvary? Through faith, grab it and hold on for dear life. Without it, it's only a matter of time before you drown.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Words from the Grave

Last week at Harding's 88th Annual Lectureship, I was blessed to witness a very "historical" event for a preacher, the memorial service of Dr. Neale Pryor. Dr. Pryor taught Bible at Harding University for 45 years and served in many different leadership roles for the University. He is one of the best Bible professors our brotherhood has ever seen or heard. I was privileged to sit at his feet my junior year and take "Joshua through Esther." Even in the fog of Old Testament symbolism and legalism, Dr. Pryor made the words on the pages come to life.

It's been a while since I last spoke with Dr. Pryor face to face. Several years ago, his health began to deteriorate, and I moved from Searcy, Arkansas back to Texas after graduation to begin my preaching ministry, but I still remember the power of his teaching and the soothing tone of his voice. At his memorial service, it was very clear that thousands of people still remember as well.

In Hebrews chapter eleven, the Hebrew writer mentions the Heroes of the Faith. I've always loved his words about Abel, the young hero whose life was stolen by his jealous brother Cain, "And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead." (Hebrews 11:4) Like Abel, Dr. Pryor's message still echoes in the classroom. I still hear his favorite words, accompanied by that loving smile, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" (Luke 9:25)

We will all die, and when we do, the words that summarize our lives will still speak. What will you say? What will people hear?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It's the Simple Things...

This past week was extremely busy for me. Between sermon preparation, speaking engagements that required me to travel, graduate studies and church activities, it felt like I was travelling 1,000 mph. By 9:00 Sunday evening, after Sunday's "hustle and bustle" had come to a close, exhaustion had set in.

However, I had the opportunity to enjoy something the Texas Hill Country hasn't seen in months. As soon as we walked in the door, Natalie and I sat on our back porch and watched the storm roll over the hills of Kerrville. With every flash of lighting and roar of thunder, I felt the presence of Almighty God. The aroma from the much needed moisture reminded me of God's faithfulness. As the rain fell from the sky, my soul was refreshed like the parched ground below. Sometimes, it's the simple things that mean the most.

When was the last time you stopped to appreciate the "simple things"? They come in many forms and fashion, but they all serve the same purpose; they remind us how great God is, and how small we are in comparsion. In this complex world, search for simplicity. It makes all the difference.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Learning from a Snake?

The College Football season has once again made its dwelling among us. College bands play their school anthems with pride, players battle like warriors on the field, coaches lose sleep, and America watches with excitement as we make our early "picks" for Bowl Season.

As coaches ignite the testosterone flame in their helmet wearing heroes each week, I can't help but remember the story of Erk Russell, football coach for Georgia Southern College. Russell's team had a serious drug problem. Many of the players were addicts, and each week Russell lost players due to eligibility violations. But, Russell was more than just a coach, he was also a mentor. Not only did he want the best for his players on the field, but also in life. Russell contacted some good ol' country boys, and asked them to make an "appearance" at the next team meeting. That next Friday during the team's big meeting before game day, the country boys burst into the room and threw a writhing, hissing, six-foot long rattle snake on the table in front of the team. The players screamed and scattered; even a 6'9 Defensive Tackle ran to the other side of campus. Russell ordered the snake to be removed from the room. He called his team back together and told them, "When cocaine comes into a room, you're not nearly as apt to leave as you are when that rattle snake comes in. But they'll both kill you!"

Anyone who knows me very well knows that I can't stand snakes. I avoid them like the plague. In fact, I would rather get a good, strong kick to the stomach than be within fifty yards of those hissing creatures. But, Erk Russell brought everything into perspective--cocaine or snake--either way, you're playing with death.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death..." Do we believe him? I don't know about you, but I don't need a rattle snake to get the point!

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Special Memory of 9/11

"Where were you on 9/11?" It's the question of the millenium. Just like older generations remember the JFK assasination and Pearl Harbor with crystal clarity, this generation remembers that September morning when the world stopped turning.

I remember it all too well. I was a freshman in High School, eating a bowl of cereal, about to walk out of the door for 1st period Geometry. As I was watching ABC's coverage of the first plane hitting the first tower, I saw the second plane hit the second tower on live TV. Not a re-run, but live. I dropped my bowl of cereal in disbelief. I remember a congregational prayer service that evening at Waterview Church of Christ, where I saw some of the toughest men I knew crying like babies. I remember visiting New York City that next June, and the thousands of "Missing" pictures of family members that lined the subway walls; the unbelievable sadness that encompassed my heart when I read hand written messages from young children, "Daddy, we miss you. Please come home." Just like you, it's a day I'll never forget.

For the past ten years, we've heard touching stories from families directly affected by the terrorist attacks, but are you familiar with Ron DiFrancesco? Ron was a 37 year-old Canadian money-market broker for Euro Brokers. His office was on the 84th floor of the South Tower, and he is only one of four people to have escaped above the 81st floor. When the plane struck, Ron began running down the stairs, but safety crews told him to run back up because the flames were too bad below. Ron ran back up the stairs in search of clean air, but realizing that the doors of the stairwell were locked, he covered his mouth and nose with his foreamrs and ran all the way to the bottom fighting the flames. When he reached the ground floor, he heard a giant roar as the building began to collapse. Days later, he woke up in the hospital with burns all over his body and a broken bone in his back. He still has the watch he was wearing on 9/11, which stopped at the exact time the building came down. We can understand why Ron struggles everytime he tells the story, smelling the smoke, feeling the flames, and tasting death like it was yesterday.

Ron DiFrancesco's story is very touching, but his memory is life changing. When reporters asked him what he would remember most about 9/11, Ron said, "Guilt. I will carry with me to my grave whether I should have taken somebody with me." Ten years later, Ron is grateful to be alive, but he still feels the burden of rescuing only himself.

As Christians, it's our responsibility to escape the dangers of this world so we can see Heaven, but we're commanded to take people with us. When the tower of your life falls, who will you rescue? Begin today, before the smoke, flames, and chaos keep you from being a hero!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Will You Be Disqualified?

Have you heard about the fastest man in the world? Usain Bolt, a track and field hero from Jamaica, is the fastest man to ever lace up his track cleats. In 2009, Bolt ran the 100 meter dash in 9.58 seconds. 9.58 seconds! I can't even tie my shoes in 9.58 seconds, much less run 100 meters! Bolt's name suits him very well.

However, last week at the world championships in South Korea, Bolt's speed was his downfall. Bolt "bolted" out of the block too early, disqualifying him from the race. Bolt refused to discuss the disqualification with reporters, but as they followed him around the track, he finally turned and gave these few words, "Looking for tears? Not going to happen."

The Bible is very clear that Christians are running a race. I guess we could say that Christians won't be disqualified for beginning the race too early, but we will be disqualifed for ending the race too soon. We can't quit until we cross the finish line.

I admire Bolt's maturity and confidence to say, "Yes, I was disqualified, but I won't shed a tear." However, if we're disqualified from our "race", we will weep bitterly, and the tears will keep falling for all of eternity. By the grace of God, may we echo the words of the apostle Paul, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness..." (2 Timothy 4: 7-8)

Keep running; finish the race; wear the crown!

Monday, August 22, 2011

"Turn off Your Light!"

An umpires job isn't easy. He calls balls and strikes and determines if runners are safe or out, often in the presence of angry spectators. Sometimes umpires must tell coaches, players, and even fans to "cool it", or they will be removed from the stadium. Last week at Oakland Coliseum, the home of the Oakland Athletics, umpire Tony Randazzo made the strangest request ever heard from the bases--"Hey fellas, can you turn off your jackets?"

Two fans sitting behind home plate were glowing. Not with bright clothing, but with actual neon lights built into their jackets. It caught the eye of Randazzo when he was standing behind second base, and he claimed that the jackets were a visual hindrance to the players on the field. Randazzo's request was challenged with resounding "boos" from the seats, but eventually the lights disappeared.

Jesus wasn't exaggerating when He described the power of our "light." From His hillside "pulpit" during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house." (Mt 5: 14-15)

Unlike Tony Randazzo, Jesus will never say, "Turn off your light", but Jesus will always say, "Turn it on!" I hope we will listen!

Monday, August 8, 2011

"What Did You Say?"

Last week I read a very interesting article about marriage. The article listed nine things wives shouldn't say to their husbands. I found some of them to be very amusing. I hope they will publish an article listing 100 things husbands shouldn't say to their wives! Here are a few of my favorite "no no's" on the list:

1) "When are you going to find a new job?" (You might be upset with the time he spends at work, his lack of determination for the promotion, or the small salary he brings home. However, you're attacking his ability to support the family. If this is an area of concern, have regular discussion about jobs, career ambitions, and budget concerns.)

2) "Mother warned me you would do this!" (You're letting him know that there are "others" in your camp, and this "other" is a painful blow. Keep marital problems in the marital bond.)

3) "Do you really think those pants are flattering?" (Are you trying to hint that he's putting on weight? You may think you're being subtle, but he gets the point. Congratulations, he will now eat more pie and buy more "flattering" pants.)

All of this marital etiquette did get me to thinking: Are there some things we shouldn't say to God? What about these statements?

1) "Are you listening?" (Of course God is listening! God might be teaching you patience. Wait on God and learn from the opportunity. He always comes through!)

2) "Why did you do this to me?" (God didn't do anything to you. Life might be difficult and unfair. That's because we live on this side of Heaven. Have faith in God. He will always take care of you!)

3) "When will I get what I deserve?" (Do you really want what you deserve? You deserve condemnation, but God gave the Cross, and Jesus gave His life. What you "deserve" is the last thing you desire!)

Regardless if you're speaking with your husband, wife, or God, here's a simple reminder: Choose your words very carefully!

Monday, August 1, 2011

God's Gift

Today, Natalie and I celebrate two years of marriage. It's impossible for me to forget our wonderful wedding at Waterview Church of Christ. Hundreds of people came to witness that very special day. However, I've also found my mind drifting back to the softball fields where we first met.

It was a cool March evening at Harding University, and I was playing in a club softball game. These games were always very well attended, mostly by female attendees. Natalie wasn't watching me, but little did she realize I was watching her. I worked up the courage to speak with her after the game. We had a brief conversation, but in those five minutes, I knew she was special. She ran off with her girl friends for the routine "Sonic Run", forgetting about me as soon as she ordered her lemon berry slush. Poor girl; she didn't stand a chance! She was now being watched by the eyes of a "Hawk". Natalie Stancill was going to be my wife.

The last two years have been full of excitement, joy, but also many challenges. Since May of 2009, Natalie and I have graduated college, began full time ministry, moved to a new city, bought a new house, and received the fabulous, yet unexpected news that we will be having a baby boy. These aren't exactly "stress-free" conditions, and I'm certain that I couldn't have faced these challenges without Natalie. She's God's gift to me.

I thank God every day that He gave me intuition. That night on the Searcy softball fields changed the course of my life. I met the "gift", and I immediately knew she was mine. Very soon, someone else will realize how lucky he is to have her, Hayden. To have a mother like Natalie Hawk is a true blessing. It will only be a matter of time before Hayden joins me in thanking God for our priceless "gift"!

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Poolside Parable

If you want a love story to remember for those "rainy days" of marriage, file Rachelle Friedman and Chris Chapman into your memory. Even in life-changing circumstances, their love grew by leaps and bounds.

During Rachelle's bachelorette party, Rachelle and her friends were relaxing by the pool on a warm summer day. When Rachelle wasn't looking, she was pushed into the shallow end of the pool. The girls were laughing, but Rachelle knew something was wrong. She wasn't moving. She was paralyzed from the waist down. The wedding was postponed, and Rachelle's life was changed forever.

Chris Chapman, Rachelle's groom to be, was interviewed after the incident. The reporters had the audacity to ask him, "Did you ever consider leaving Rachelle? You're young and handsome with your life before you." Chris answered the questions like a knight in shining armor, "I never thought, 'What am I going to do?' I thought, 'What are we going to do?' It was one step at a time." Now, a year later, the wedding is back on. The young couple will honeymoon in Fiji, and as Rachelle's father wheels her down the aisle, Chris will lovingly stand by her side.

As the divorce rate in America creeps towards 60%, it becomes painfully clear that America doesn't get it. Sure, marital unfaithfulness really challenges continued matrimony, and even Jesus understood that (Matthew 19:9). However, when wrinkles surface, finances tighten, and stress increases, there's no excuse to "hit the road" and look for something better. You took a vow. You looked into the eyes of your partner and you promised, "In sickness and in health, in poverty and in wealth." You might experience "rough patches" in your marraige, but those vows still mean exactly what they say!

In His abundant love, God created marriage. Take a lesson from Rachelle and Chris. Keep your vows, remember your promises, and thank God through the beauty of your marriage!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sermon from a Sonogram

This week Natalie and I were blessed to once again experience the amazing technological advances of this age. It gave me chills when I saw Hayden's eyes, lips, nose, arms, legs, and feet developing so quickly. But then, something struck me I'll never forget. Hayden is a product of Natalie and me. We created him. In some ways, he is the replica of our image.

I can't imagine what it's like for God to look down from His porch in Heaven and see His children He created, all of them replicating His image. However, I did feel a connection to God's Fatherly qualities. I already love Hayden more than life itself, but I have a sense of anxiousness. Not only will Hayden be a physical extenstion of Natalie and me, but he will also bear the Hawk name. What character will he carry? What reputation will he hold? I can only pray he will make us proud.

Even my baby boy preached a sermon to his daddy preacher. God created all of us in His image, and as His children, we bear His name. Let's make Him proud. We're an extension of Him, and that isn't an "image" or "name" we want to distort!

Monday, July 4, 2011

A "Smugly" Signature?

With a story as special as the Declaration of Independence, heroic rumors spread from ear to ear. One of the most controversial rumors stems from John Hancock's "smugly" signature. Why was his signature so much bigger than everyone else's? Some historians quote Hancock saying, "...so fat old King George can read it without his spectacles." It's a neat story, but most likely, the truth is less dramatic.

History tells us that Hancock was the first to sign the Declaration, so it's possible that he didn't realize his fellow patriots would sign on a smaller scale. In addition, the National Archives explains why Hancock's signature is positioned front and center. They claim that the signatures were arranged by geographic location of the states each signer represented. New Hampshire, the northernmost state began the list, and Georgia, the southernmost state ended it. Hancock represented Massachusetts, explaining why his signature is towards the top of the document.

Regardless which "tale" we choose to believe, Hancock's signature gives us a veiled reminder for the Christian life. Jesus once said, "...the last will be first, and the first will be last." (Matthew 20:16). Being the center of attention might give us the "glory" on earth, but that attention isn't worth missing the "glory" of Heaven!

We can't know for sure if Hancock was groaning for the glory when he signed the Declaration. His bravery earns our respect because he was the first to sign the document that could have cost him his life. But this we can know--when we sign our lives over to Christ, large, "eye-catching" letters aren't necessary!

When Jesus asks for our "John Hancock", all Jesus wants is our signature!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Inspired by Inheritance

It was a normal Saturday afternoon for Max Melitzer, a hopeless homeless man from Salt Lake City, Utah. Max was walking through the park pushing his shopping cart that held all of his posessions, and then it happened. David Lundberg, a private investigator hired by Melitzer's family, finally tracked Max down after weeks of searching for him. As they sat on the park bench together, Lundberg relayed the message that changed Max's life. One of Max's brothers had died, but before he passed, he left Max a "significant" sum of money; enough money to purchase clothing, food, a car, a home, and health care. When asked how Max reacted to the news, Lundberg said, "He's still in shock. This came out of nowhere."

In Ephesians chapter one, Paul relayed a message that changes our lives. He wrote, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ." (Ephesians 1:3) These "spiritual" blessings are greater than anything money can buy. There's only one problem: We're not always in "shock." We forget the beauty of our inheritance, and we convince ourselves it's something we deserve.

Lundberg said Max was in "shock" because his inheritance "came out of nowhere." As Christians, our inheritance comes from a specific place. It travels to earth from God's porch in Heaven, but it's transferred to our lives from Calvary's Cross.

Live each day inspired by your inheritance. Remember, it changed your life!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Pretense from the Pulpit?

We all know the stereotypical list of deceiving professions: Lawyers, Used Car Salesman, Insurance Salesman, and Preachers. Preachers? Yes, that's right. Preachers. It's hard to believe, but many "distinguished" members of the clergy have been caught in elaborate and eloquent lies.

When United States Navy SEALS took out Osama bin Laden, a Pennsylvania Preacher succumbed to the heroic hype. He wrote the local newspaper and gave impressive details about his years as a Navy SEAL. With picturesque words, he described the rigor of SEAL training and the stress of fighting in the jungles of Vietnam. He even mentioned his dishwashing duty, giving this statement about his "rebellious" years, "I had almost no discipline. I was as wild as they came. That was my nemesis." Now, there are just a couple of "minor" (cough, cough) problems with these details. He was NEVER a Navy SEAL, and he NEVER went to Vietnam. The only Vietnam combat he's experienced is the stomach pains from the Vietnamese restaurant down the street. Don Shipley, retired NAVY seal offered these remarks, "We deal with these guys all the time, especially the clergy. It's amazing how many of the clergy are involved in lies to build up the flock."

It's mind boggling that people bring this type of criticism and embarrassment on themselves, particularly a Preacher who is charged with the duty of proclaiming the truth! But it doesn't matter if we're a Preacher or a Parishioner, we must be people of integrity. The Proverbs writer wrote, "A truthful witness saves lives, but a false witness is deceitful." (Proverbs 14:25)

When you're called to the "stand", what type of "witness" will you be?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Holding His Hand

This Father's Day will be different than any I've ever experienced before. This year, it's my turn. My beautiful son is only four months away from blessing this world with his grand "entrance." I would roll out the red carpet, but I'm not sure the doctors (or Natalie) would allow it. As I gaze into the beautiful sunset of blessings on the horizon, my soul is also overcome with anxiousness. Am I ready? Am I capable? Will I adequately raise him in the Lord, so that when he's older, he won't fall away?

It's only natural that I as I embark on this new journey called "Fatherhood", I reminisce about my relationship with my father, Danny Hawk. For the first month of my life, he held my hand as the doctors questioned if I would survive. As I grew older, his hand guided me through the pressures and temptations of life. His hand shook mine in pride when I walked across the stage at Harding Univeristy with diploma in hand. When I became a husband, his hand was ready to be the example of what a Godly husband should be. As long as there is air in my lungs, I will always "hold his hand". I'm his son. He's my dad. We wouldn't have it any other way.

Looking back at the last 24 years of blessings, I realize that "holding hands" began at birth. With my mother who is greater than gold, they didn't wait to form a relationship with me. As soon as my parents heard my first cry, our family unit was formed, and we began making memories. Now, as I think about the memories Natalie and I will form with our "gift" from God, I promise that for every smile, every tear, every special event, I'll be there. He's my son. I'm his dad. As my father held my hand, I'll always hold his.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Which Hat Will You Wear?

This past November, baseball lost a legend. We didn't hear much about in the midst of the World Series, but as fans were cheering in hopes for a ring, former players and coaches were mourning the loss of an indescribable icon. George "Sparky" Anderson was one of the greatest baseball coaches to lace his cleats and spit sunflower seeds. He began his coaching career in the 1960's as a hot tempered Minor League coach, but Anderson became one of the most successful major league skippers in baseball history. He led the Cincinnati Reds and Detroit Tigers with dignity. In appreciation for Anderson's leadership, Cincinnati retired his number in 2005, and Detroit will do the same on the 26th of this month.

But on the other hand, behind the walls of Anderson's life lived two different men. "George" loved his family. "Sparky" adored baseball. Unfortunately, for over four decades, "Sparky" lived ten months of the year. As time progresed, "George" barely recognized his children, and they barely recognized him.

But once "Sparky" took off the uniform for the last time, he morphed back into "George." With every ounce of his being, George determined to reunite with his children and captivate on every opportunity to know his grandchildren. And as he was lying on his death bed, even through the thick fog of dementia, Anderson knew which "hat" he would wear; not "skipper", but "father." With family by his side, he would go as George Anderson.

From what I know, Anderson's spiritual life wasn't where it needed to be, but he did inadvertently give lasting, spiritual advice. Which "hat" will you wear the day you die? Choose wisely, because that choice begins today. When death comes knocking at your door, it's too late to change "hats!"

Monday, May 30, 2011

Message in a Bottle?

Children have crazy ideas. Through their innocence and ignorance of life, they come up with hopeless tasks they believe are feasible. On this list of "cute" ideas, right next to digging a hole to China lies sending a message in a bottle. Children idolize the concept of placing a message in a bottle, dropping it in the ocean, and seeing who finds it. Now, little do they realize that oceans cover 71% of the Earth's surface, and the only "recipient" of the message is probably a whale looking for an afternoon snack, but it's the thought that counts! However on the Curonian Spit, a 60 mile stretch of sand running through Lithuania and Russia, a child's dream came true.

Danill Korotkikh, a 13 year old Russian teenager, saw the bottle glistening in the sand when he was walking on the beach with his parents. He opened up the bottle and read the message, "My name is Frank, and I'm five years old. My dad and I are travelling on a ship to Denmark. If you find this letter, please write back to me, and I will write back to you." The letter dating back to 1987 even included a return address in Coesfeld, Germany. Daniel looked up the address and found the "author", Frank Vesbeck, who is now 29 years old. Several weeks ago Korotkikh and Uesbeck met each other for the first time over an Internet Skype session. Uesbeck was amazed that the letter was actually found, and thrilled that he made a "positive impact" on a young person so far away. Uesbeck even said, "Who knows, perhaps one day we will actually be able to arrange a meeting in person."

It's a neat story, but it really opens our eyes as Christians. The media went to great lengths to cover a story of a message in a bottle. After the connection was made, the author gloated, "I made a positive impact!" How? Did he include godly advice? Did he offer solutions for the problems of life? No, he simply said "Write me back!" Not necessarily "life changing" counsel. As Christians, we've received a message in a bottle called the Bible, and this message truly makes a positive impact; it paves the paths to salvation.

With excitement, Uesbeck said, "Perhaps one day we will meet in person." For followers of Christ, we wait with faith for that day when we will meet the author and editor of the Bible face to face. But before that "meeting" takes place, make sure to open the "bottle" and obey the message!

Monday, May 16, 2011

"You're an Easy Target!"

Since the beginning of time, theft has been a common aspect of life. Humans love to take what isn't theirs. This week I read an interesting article that discussed ways we become "easy targets" for thieves. Some of the ways are very common and easy to solve, but the statistics are alarming. The article said that 50% of "break-ins" aren't "break-ins", but "walk-ins". 43% of American households don't lock their doors! Something as simple as keeping all doors and windows locked will cut down on half of the home robberies. Also, leaving the garage open is a huge detriment to keeping your possessions safe. Obviously, thieves can steal your possessions in the garage, but since the theives can't be seen from the street, they wait for the opportune time to break in the house. However, the article mentioned one of the biggest causes of theft I had never considered, Facebook. That's right. When you inform the world "What's On Your Mind" with exciting vacation plans, theives read them and can't wait for you to get out of town! The article recommended leaving inexpensive kids' toys on the lawn and sharing news of your vacation when you return.

But Satan, the wisest thief who steals the Christian soul, can view us as an "Easy Target" if we aren't extremely careful. If you're guilty of these poor spiritual "habits", you're inviting Satan into your life to take whatever he wants.

1) Failing to study the Word (When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by Satan, each time Jesus combated Satan's schemes with "It is written." Do you know what's "written"? If you don't, Satan will come right in and steal your salvation.)

2) Forgetting to pray (James wrote in James 4:7-8, "...Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you." How can you resist the devil and come near to God the Father if you don't communicate with Him? Through the name of Jesus Christ, speak with Almighty God multiple times a day!)

3) "Forsaking the assembly" (One hour a week is NOT enough to fight the power of Satan. EVERY time the church opens its doors you need to be there. If you don't surround yourself with God's people, Satan will surround you!)

It was Peter who said, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8) Satan is searching, and Satan is ready to steal. Make sure you're not an "Easy Target!"

Monday, May 9, 2011

"The Longest 40 Minutes of My Life!"

Have you ever wanted to be a "fly on the wall"? I'm sure it would have been an experience to be in the White House last week when President Obama ordered the Navy Seals to take out Osama bin Laden. When Obama was interviewed on "60 Minutes", Obama said, "It was the longest 40 minutes of my life!" He used words like "Nervous" and "Tense" to describe his feelings at the Command Post. It's understandable why he was so anxious--lives were at stake! Obama was dead on when he said, "...there would have been some serious consequences..." if the mission was a failure.

For some reason, Obama's comments about operation "Geronimo" made me think about the Day of Judgment. Will that promised "Day" seem like the longest 40 minutes of our lives? Just like the song says, "Many will meet their doom!" Should this make us nervous? Should we feel tense? We don't know how long our "Day in Court" will last on the Day of Judgment, when we stand before God and Jesus speaks in our defense as our mediator. I can only imagine that it will last longer than 40 minutes! However, for faithful followers of Jesus Christ, washed in the blood of the Lamb, it should be a day of excitement and peace. When the trumpets sound and Christ descends on a cloud of glory, it won't be the longest 40 minutes of our lives, because our lives will truly begin!

Are you ready for that day? If you aren't, there will be "serious consequences." And make no mistake--these consequences will last much longer than 40 minutes!

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Mother's Love

Mother's Day is a very special day. Children remember their mothers with homemade art, breakfast in bed, precious cards, and priceless memories. But as children remember their mothers on this day devoted to them, mothers remember their children with love only mothers can feel. They remember the first day of school; the first t-ball game; for some, when their children crossed the stage and received a diploma, or walked the aisle and entered into the joys of holy matrimony. However, there are a few details every mother remembers just like it was yesterday. She remembers the smell of the delivery room; the texture of that cheap hospital gown; the nerves in her stomach when the doctor said, "We're going to have this baby today"; but most of all, that moment when time stood still, when she heard that first cry, held that bundle of love in her arms and said, "I will love you forever." When I was searching for the love of my life, I desperately wanted to find a partner who would do just that. As I continually fall deeper in love with Natalie day by day, I see her love for our child and it's indescribable. She's already an exceptional mother.

A mother's love never dies. It doesn't matter how old or independent a child gets, a mother's child is always her "baby." But what's a mother's greatest gift? It's not the hours spent cooking or cleaning. It's not the willingness to always offer a hug or kind word. Make no mistake, these acts of love are building blocks that build great mothers, but they're still not her greatest gift. It's her faith. It's her confidence in the God of heaven and earth and in the word of the Lord that stands forever. There are many ways to diagnose a loving mother, and many books to aid good parenting, but none compare with a mother who feeds her family with faith!

Mothers, are you giving that gift? Your children are waiting!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Training Today, Leading Tomorrow?

This past weekend, thousands of young people across the state of Texas participated in LTC (Leadership Training for Christ). For the past several months, they have prepared for this weekend of Leadership Training. Participants engaged in events such as Bible Bowl, Song Leading, Scripture Reading, Speech, Sign Language, Puppets, Chorus, and many other activities that enhance spiritual training. It's always priceless to see these young people gather together once a year for the same purpose--training to become Leaders in the Lord's Kingdom.

I have always been a strong supporter of LTC. I began participating in the third grade and I continued to participate every year through High School. I now serve as a Speech Coordinator for one of the three Dallas conventions. I think it's imperative that we support the three building blocks of LTC's structure. Leadership (L) is extremely important. As the leaders of today resign their posts, who will take their place? Our young people! What better way to lead than to lead for Christ (C)? However, in my mind, the middle letter (T) is the catalyst that brings Leadership and Christ together. We must TRAIN our young people to be leaders in the church. It doesn't just happen! When they're young, we must begin go train them, and as the wheel of time continues to spin, we'll see these same young people mature into full fledged leaders.

Even Jesus, the greatest leader to ever live, was in his early 30's when He went to the cross. Have you ever thought about why Jesus didn't "finish" God's plan and show the full extent of His love at a younger age? I'm sure there are many reasons, but I have to believe that God knew Jesus needed three decades of "Leadership Training" before Jesus was ready to complete His task.

The future of the church is always right around the corner. We need Leaders to lead us to Christ, and it starts today as the church trains them! The LORD expects you to help!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Last Supper On Wednesday?

Christianity is constantly under rampant fire. So many desperate minds strive to prove that Christian beliefs should be tossed aside into a pile of ignorance. This past week, Colin Humphreys, scientist and professor at the University of Cambridge, brought some debatable details about the Last Supper to the table. Humphreys claims that the Last Supper took place on Wednesday, rather than Thursday like Christian tradition says. Humphreys didn't make this argument off the "cuff", but it stems from his biblical, historical, and even astronomical research that attempted to pinpoint the exact timing of Jesus' final meal with his apostles. If we look at all the gospel accounts of the Last Supper, the scriptures do cause some confusion. Matthew, Mark, and Luke imply that the Last Supper took place at the beginning of the Passover. John implies that the Last Supper took place just before the Passover. Humphreys claims to have the answer. He argues that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Jesus used an old fashioned Jewish calendar, but John used the lunar calendar which was very common in Jesus' day and that we still use today. Based on the lunar calendar, the Last Supper took place on Wednesday. According to Humphreys, this also explains how so many events took place between the final meal and the crucifixion. Jesus' arrest, interrogation, and separate trials didn't occur overnight but over a longer period. This fuels the fire for many biblical scholars who claim that because of the Gospel's contradictions, we can't trust the Gospels at all! What a tragic and meaningless way to live!

Humphreys is so focused on when the Last Supper took place, but I wonder if he understands why it occured! This doesn't mean that the timing of the Last Supper isn't important, because the New Testament blueprint shows us we should partake of the Lord's Supper on the first day of the week, every week. However, even though we have the "when", we must never forget the "why." Hours before his death, even in dire agony and distress, our Savior administered a feast so we could remember his indescribable love. "This is my body, this is my blood, do this in remembrance of me..."

When it comes to the Upper Room, don't solely focus on the "when"; with every wrinkle of your mind remember "why"!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Does God Shut Down?

I can only speculate, but I think it's fair to say that I wasn't the only one who was troubled by discussions of the government shutting down last week. As I listened to the news, the same question kept circling through my mind, "How can the United States, the Home of the Brave, the Land of the Free, support a government that quits?" I'm not a political expert. I never have been, and I never will be. But from the eyes of a Hawk, this dilemma stems from one basic detriment of life, human selfishness. When we focus on our personal agendas rather than the utopia of the greater good, success is a dim light in the distance we can't reach. I fear that even if the government moves on from this threat of shutting down, last week's "solution" is only a band-aid for a fatal disease. Until the selfishness disappears from both sides of the aisle, or at least significantly decreases, this lack of cohesiveness will be very common and destructive.

Once again, I don't care to debate this political party clash. I'm sure that many political connoisseurs could devour my argument. That's ok. I know it's not Harvard Law material. But even though I don't care to focus on the political arena, I must focus on the spiritual realm. I take great pride, confidence, and assurance in the fact that our God will never shut down! He's always open for business, ready to govern, and willing to listen. In our world that's constantly changing, God doesn't change! In our world that's full of violence, God is full of peace! In our world that's slowly, but surely passing away, God is eternal!

Where is your allegiance? Pledge it to God! He will never shut down!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Are You "Wise?"

Many educators claim that children today are growing up with greater knowledge than previous generations. Obviously, this claim is open to heated discussion and debate. However, Jacob Barnett, a twelve year old genius with an IQ of 170, is a convincing example.

Jacob began solving 3,000 piece jigsaw puzzles at the age of three. A few years later, he taught himself calculus, alegebra, and geometry in two weeks! By the age of eight, he finished High School! He is currently taking college level advanced astrophysics classes, while tutoring his older classmates. Scott Tremain, professor at Princeton University's Institute for Advanced Studies, offered these comments about the pre-teen genius, "The theory he's working on involves several of the toughest problems in astrophysics and theoretical physics. Anyone who solves these problems will be in line for a Nobel Peace Prize."

It's very easy for us to say, "Wow!" Barnett truly is one of a kind. On the other hand, I'm sure this amazing analytic lacks something we all lack--wisdom. There's a significant difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge understands an abundance of facts; Wisdom puts those "facts" into good use! Even as Christians, we might be knowledgeable in the scriptures and spiritual matters, but we desperately need wisdom! James says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." (James 1:5) However, once we ask, let's make sure that we listen to what God tells us! Even if we know all the facts, if we don't understand God's will for our life, wisdom is absent from our psyche!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Convicted by a Camera?

As we watch the news, we quickly learn that national conversation drowns with debates. Different issues are tossed around like dust in the wind. Statements like "What's Your Opinion" or "What's Your Stance" control most discussions. Some of these debates are important, others are pointless, but this debate in South Carolina grabbed my attention.

On Intersate 95, South Carolina Law Enforcement has installed High Definition cameras that catch speeding cars. These cameras have caught thousands of motorists and won countless awards for highway safety, but they have also attracted heated opposition from law makers and angry drivers. Last month, a Mercedes with South Carolina license plates sped by a camera going 83 mph, 13 mph over the speed limit. The camera fired pictures of the license plate and driver to a computer monitor viewed by Law Enforcement. The driver of the Mercedes happily continued north, only to find a ticket in the mail two weeks later for $133.00. Larry Grooms, South Carolina Senator and chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee said, "We're absolutely shutting the cameras down." Grooms claimed the camera was promoting Unconstitutional Selective Law Enforcement. Convicted drivers agreed with Grooms and added these thoughts to the discussion, "If you get a ticket you should be stopped by an officer, informed why you have have been stopped, and have an opportunity to state your case." I see why they're frustrated, but it's hard to justify their frustration when I see the statistical results from the cameras. From January to July of 2010, before the cameras were installed, there were 55 crashes and 4 fatalities in South Carolina on Interstate 95. Since August of 2010, there have been 38 crashes and no deaths. There has also been a 50% decline in the number of motorists driving 81 mph or more. Numbers don't lie. The cameras seem to be doing their job!

I don't care to get in the middle of the "lion's den", but these cameras do "capture" some truths about the Christian life. We often ask, "Is it right to do this? Is it wrong to do that?" Well, here's the answer: If you behave like you should, you don't have to worry about what cameras or people "catch" you doing. Perhaps that's what Paul meant when he wrote in Romans 13:13, "Let us behave decently, as in the day time..." If we truly seek God's will for our life, we shouldn't worry about being "Convicted by a Camera", but with confidence we should say, "Go ahead. Take the picture. You'll like what you see."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Listening for Life

With heavy hearts and saddened spirits, we've all seen the horrific images from Japan. The piles of rubble give us a sense of Japan's broken lives and desperation for brighter days. As the death count continues to raise, our fear of this tragedy occuring on American soil quickly increases.

Even though Japan is full of heart break, a little "miracle" shined through the gloom. In Ishinokami City, a small northeastern town of Japan, at least 2,000 bodies washed up on the shore. As the Japanese Defense Force continued to go from door to door pulling bodies from demolished homes, they heard the sound of a baby's cry, but they passed it off as a mistake of exhaustion. For hours, they had been hearing the sounds of crunching ruins and sloshing mud. The chances of a baby crying out for help were slim to none! Then they heard it again. The crew quickly made its ways over to the pile of debris and carefully removed all the wood, slate, shattered glass, and there she was--a four-month old baby girl in a pink woolen bear suit. As the baby was re united with her joyous father, a Japanese Civil Defense official said, "Her discovery has put a new energy into the search. We will listen, look, and dig with even more diligence after this."

Through the chaos and disasters of our own lives, Jesus' voice will always cry from the wood work. With a soft, yet vibrant sound, He will say, "Come Unto Me!" Like these Japanese officials, let's diligently look and dig for the Savior. In our world full of darkness that leads to death, if we listen for the "Anointed One", He will lead us to life!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Categorizing Calories?

Last week, Natalie and I broke out of our shell and we went to Jack in the Box. I can't make any sense of it other than that's what "Little Hawk" was craving, and "Little Hawk" already takes priority in our family! I've always enjoyed Jack in the Box, but I've never been a huge fan. Obviously, it's fast food which demotes it on the "delightful" scale, but what do you expect? Have you seen their prices? 99 cents for two tacos; Come on, who can beat that? Then again, it does make you wonder what's in those tacos if they are willing to sell them for less than two quarters a piece! But when I was standing in line struggling to decide what "dish" I wanted to clog my arteries, I couldn't help but listen to the woman in front of me. As she was searching the menu, which seemed like half an hour, she finally decided on a #4. The worker at the counter who was equally as tired as I was asked the usual question, "Would you like fries with that?" To which this woman responded, "No, I don't need the fries, but I will take the bacon cheddar wedges!" Now that's the way to cut back!

I'm afraid that we often live in this same world of self-denial. As Christians, we don't necessarily "Categorize our Calories", but we seem to "Categorize our Sin!" We convince ourselves that it's wrong to committ "that" sin, but it's ok to committ "this" one. Since when? God detests all sin, and every short coming stunt of the flesh is equally wrong in the eyes of God!

So next time you step up to the "menu" of sin, please remember: It's ALL bad, NONE of it's worth it, and it will CERTAINLY catch up with you! Better yet, just step aside and don't even order! Stick to the "Bread of Life."

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Disheartening Discovery?

In our current political climate, the Presidency is constantly under rampant fire. Words like "impeach" and "remove" easily roll off America's tongue. It's refreshing to reminisce about a President the majority of America holds in high regards. His face is portrayed on our currency and precisely carved into a mountain of American champions. He sternly sits on a throne of justice, staring at the reflecting pool and Washington Monument. At his feet, another innovative icon stood years later shouting to the masses, "I Have a Dream!" His name is Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln was the "glue" that held the nation together during the Civil War. As a social pioneer, or even "rebel" of sorts, Lincoln freed slaves with his powerful "Emancipation Proclamation", proving that the United States really was a land where ALL men were created EQUAL.

But as the nation celebrates the 105th anniversary of Lincoln's first inauguration, some troubling news has come to light. Some historians claim that Lincoln supported colonization and segregation, rather than the integration of all free men, regardless of their color. Newly uncovered documents found at the British National Archives and the United States National archives quote Lincoln stating to a group of free blacks standing outside the White House in 1862, "For the sake of your race, you should sacrifice something of your present comfort for the purpose of being as grand in that respect as the white people." In other words, Lincoln believed free blacks who envisioned their future in the United States were selfish, because Central America was an ideal climate for someone of their ethnicity. Now on the other hand, some historians disagree with this new evaluation of Lincoln's character. They say Lincoln might have originally supported colonization, but towards the end of the Civil War, his views changed. I sure hope they're right. Any man who promotes social justice and equality is high on my list of heroes.

This debate about Lincoln does make me wonder, if we show Christ to the world through the integrity of our lives, what does the world see? Do we illustrate the "lamb without blemish", who was "full of grace and truth", sent to do the "will of the Father?" Or, do we illustrate a persona that fasely represents the Messiah? From time to time we will make mistakes, and we'll fail to be the exact "blue print" of Christ. But even though we aren't divine, our mistakes don't give us the excuse to distort who Jesus really is!

Take a long, hard look at your life. Does it portray Christ correctly? Make sure there aren't any "disheartening discoveries" about the Savior!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Victim of Injustice?

Talk about bad luck! Anthony Graves served 18 years in a Texas Penitentiary, 14 of those years on death row, for a wrong conviction! That's right! The man served more than a decade and a half behind bars for something he DIDN'T do!

How should the government compensate Graves after taking 18 years of his freedom? It certainly doesn't replace the years he lost, but Texas law allocates $80,000 a year, for each year served, to any individual who was wrongly convicted. This means that the state of Texas owes Anthony Graves $1,440,000! But to make thigns even worse, Graves won't receive a penny! When ample evidence was presented by Graves' attorneys proving that Graves was innocent, the Brenham prosecutor's office of Brehnam, Texas decided to dismiss charges orginally filed against Graves, instead of retrying him all over again and finding him "Innocent." Sure, it was thoughtful to refrain from dragging Graves and his family through a long trial and courtroom chaos. However, unless there is proper documentation filed with Texas courts stating that Graves is "Innocent", Graves receives zero monetary compensation. No one disputes Graves' innocence. Everyone says he deserves the money. And sadly enough, this how Graves comments on his misfortune, "It doesn't feel good being a 45-year-old man and having to depend on your family just to make sure you eat. It's kind of embarassing. But right now, this is my life."

I feel like Graves and I have something in common, but not because I served 18 years behind bars. I can't imagine how terrifying and lonely that must have been! But like Graves, I too have been a "Victim of Injustice!" I've been found "Innocent" when my life clearly proves that I'm "Guilty!" Perhaps Isaiah said it best when he spoke of Jesus in this way, "He was assinged a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth." (Isaiah 53:9) Everything I've done wrong, and every sin I still committ, Christ Jesus paid the price! How amazing, how wonderful, how meaningful it is that because of JESUS, God holds back what I DESERVE!

The truth is that all of us are "Victims of Injustice." Jesus didn't go the cross just for me, but Jesus "...gave his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28) So here's the real question: What will YOU do with YOUR Freedom? Graves can't replace the years he lost, and we can't change the things we've done wrong! But all of us can repent; all of us can be cleansed by the blood of Jesus in the waters of baptism. And like Paul, all of us can "forget what is behind", "strain toward what is ahead", and "press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus!" (Philippians 3: 13-14)

Now that's what I call compensation!

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Lesson from the Lottery?

Have you ever thought about how you would react if you won the lottery? Besides struggling to keep your sanity as the rivers of excitement and unbelief flow through your body, what would you feel? Would you wait to take possession of that life changing check, or would you get in your car and speed for the sum? I don't know about you, but if I won the lottery, it wouldn't be long between my winning and taking!

However, for lottery winners Raleigh and Erin Hill of North Carolina, this wasn't the case! When they learned that they would be mega-millionaires, the Hills didn't claim their million-dollar ticket for six months! In fact, they waited until the day before the ticket expired to claim their winnings! Why the delayed gratification? It wasn't because they didn't need the money. They were worried the money would control their lives! When time was almost up, the Hills cashed their winning ticket. In a matter of minutes, they progressed from living "paycheck to paycheck" to being set for life.

I admire the Hills for their hesitancy to focus on the big bucks. It's obvious that they're down to earth and they understand the evils greed can bring! On the other hand, their reluctance to become millionaries reminds me of our reluctance to become spritually "rich." Jesus paid the ultimate price on the cross, and because of His sacrifice, He offers us so much more than any lottery! Unfortunately, we aren't too quick to claim what is ours! We know the "wealth" that awaits us, but we continue with our current lifestyle of sin because we are more "comfortable" living how we want to live! And then we remind ourselves, "That offer will always be on the table, and whenever I want it, it's mine for the taking!" Not necessarily. We don't know when our ticket to salvation will "expire!"

As I think about the Hills, I can't help but to think about Paul. He was punctual and he was ambitious, and when he spoke of his own conversion story, he said it best. "And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name!" (Acts 22:16) Please take the time to listen to that lesson!

Monday, February 14, 2011

“Seto was Vetoed”

The NFL football season has officially come to an end. Our "Cheese Head" friends to the North are reveling in their prestigious victory and restoring honor to the "Green and Yellow." On the other hand, the rest of the teams are brainstorming about what they can do differently next year. The "offseason" is always a critical time for professional organizations, but one component is often considered; the hiring and firing of coaches. Rocky Seto, assistant coach for the Seattle Seahawks, has always been a "behind the scenes" coach. However, a few weeks ago, he had secret conversations with UCLA about becoming their new Defensive Coordinator. A promotion from an assistant coach to a Defensive Coordinator is certainly climbing the ladder, and Seto must have been very confident about the direction of the meetings, because he couldn't contain his excitement. The next day, he texted reporters and told all of his friends and family that he was the NEW UCLA DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR, even though UCLA hadn't reached a formal decision!

As Seto was watching congratulations pour in on his Facebook page and living the "coaches" dream, he received a heartbreaking phone call from UCLA. Since Seto had broken confidentiality and rampantly spread a rumor that wasn't even true, UCLA decided to "pursue other options." In just a matter of minutes, Seto was demoted from a proclaimed Defensive Coordinator to a Disgusted Assistant Coach. Seto was "Vetoed!"

When I listen to the conversations of Christians, it concerns me how many things we discuss that we don't even know for sure! What "stories" do we feel like we have to tell? At the dinner tables and at the coffee shops, what "dirt" do we thrown on "good names" just for entertainment? Solomon, the wisest King to ever live, understood the danger of these conversations that God calls "Gossip." Solomon illustrated the power of gossip when he said, "The words of a gossip are like chocie morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts." (Proverbs 18:8) But Solomon also reminded us about the pain gossip causes when he uttered "...a gossip separates close friends." (Proverbs 16:28)

Take a lesson from Seto! Don't pull the tongue's trigger without a testament of the truth! Because if gossip controls your chatter, Seto won't be the only one who's "Vetoed!"

Monday, February 7, 2011

How Much Do You Really Spend?

Have you ever considered how much you spend on the small "luxuries" of life? No, I'm not thinking about cars, homes, home renovations, boats, or anything that you have to finance. I'm referring to the day to day, week to week, month to month hobbies or habits you might have. Last week, I read a very interesting article that analyzed this question. It contemplated the trade-offs we make when we don't consider the long term costs of our "pampering", because as the old saying goes, "There's no such thing as a Free Lunch!" The article presumed and argued that if we didn't spend money on certain things, we would have saved the money and earned an average of 8% on our investments. Here are just a few of my favorite expenses on the list:

Item, Today, Over 10 Years , Over 30 Years

Coffee/Donut, $4 a day, $22,389,$190,453

Manicure, $40 a week ,$29,857, $253,969

Golf, $75 a week, $55,983, $634,924

Isn't that amazing? Obviously, these figures aren't exact and they do vary from person to person, but nevertheless, they speak volumes! I'm not too worried about the costs of manicures because I've never had one and I never will, but I'm a chump for coffee and golf! I guess I'll just have to plan ahead, because I will continue my steady relationship with java and the links! However, I don't think I'll pay $75.00 for one round of golf unless it's a special occassion!

But here's the real scary thought: Have you ever considered how much your sin builds up over time? Chances are very good that you will committ a sin today because your human flesh will make a human mistake! Now, multiply your sin, or even sins of today, by 10, 20, and 30 years! I don't know about you, but when I consider my life, it sure does give me new understanding of the words from Isaiah's pen in Isaiah 53:6, "...and the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all." When I think about how many "iniquities" I will place upon the shoulders of Jesus in my life, I can't help but to think about Calvary! I can't help but to survey the wondrous Cross! And words will never fully describe my appreciation when I read what Isaiah prophesied about the King of Kings, "...but by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5) We will all continue to spend money because it costs money to live! And it's ok to spend money from time to time on "luxuries" that we don't always need! But we must make it a priority to put down our checkbooks, to flee from our credit cards, and to spend our time and our money for the Savior!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

“I Went to the Super Bowl!”

Sunday marks the greatest day in the tantalizing world of the pigskin, Super Bowl Sunday! By now, avid football fans are amply prepared. They've already picked their tastiest snacks, chosen the most entertaining house, found the biggest TV, and pulled out their most comfortable pants to watch the big game. They do all of these things for one main reason--to see which squad of "brutes" will be Super Bowl Champs! But even those who aren't football fans love the Super Bowl! They have the chance to see the most creative and amusing commercials of the year. Music fans also look forward to the half time show which encompasses the biggest stage in all of music entertainment!

For some reason, this year the Super Bowl has demanded my attention more than usual. It doesn't have anything to do with the teams, because if it's not the Cowboys, I'm not too interested. It has nothing to do with the half time show because most of the time, I'm still at church winding down Sunday activities. As far as commercials are concerned, I enjoy them, but I'm never swayed to purchase. This year, the price of everything keeps striking my radar! Most recent reports show that they average Super Bowl ticket costs well over $1,000! You don't even want to know the price of downtown hotels, but I even heard that a Super 8 in Arlington is charging $800.00 a night! What's "Super" about that? But here's my favorite crisis of commerce--fans can pay $200.00 to stand outside the Cowboys Stadium during the game. That's right, stand OUTSIDE! Can they walk in and use the restroom? Of course not, but for $200.00, they are more than welcome to stand on the sidewalk and "take all of it in!" What exactly are they taking in except the bitter cold in their fragile lungs? I guess they can look back and say, "I went to the Super Bowl!"

I'm afraid that's how many people see Heaven. Whether they admit it or not, they believe they can live how they want to live, and still stand outside the pearly gates and take in the pleasure of paradise! Jesus seems to disagree! He uses words like "Unless you deny yourself", or "...drop everything", or "...follow me daily." And even after we do ALL of these things, only by the grace of God will we ever enter Heaven! Heaven comes with a cost, but the cost is certainly worth the reward! And if you listen to Jesus, one day you will say, "I went to Heaven", as you sing, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come!"