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

Monday, December 17, 2012

"You Shouldn't Have!"

After reading many articles about the Connecticut tragedy, it was refreshing to read a humorous article that lifted my spirits. The title immediately caught my attention—“15 Worst Gifts for Women”. Since Natalie and I have been married, some years I’ve hit a homerun with Christmas gifts. Some years a double, other years a single, a Fielder’s Choice, and unfortunately, some years I’ve struck out miserably. So, I always welcome advice when I find it. Here are a few of my favorite “terrible” gifts on the list:

1) Diet or fitness products

2) Tickets to sporting events

3) Gifts for yourself (Flat Screen TVs, New Recipe Cookbook, etc.)

4) A framed picture of yourself

5) Anything that can’t be easily exchanged

Needless to say, I’m appreciative for the tips. I’ve never placed the atrocities listed above under the tree, but I have been told, “You shouldn’t have”, knowing they were words of humiliation rather than humility.

We can read countless advisory articles about giving gifts, but we’ll never be able to give gifts as good as God's. He gave His Son. He gave His time. He gave His Spirit. He gave, and continues to give, His grace. That’s why Paul so appropriately writes in 2 Corinthians 9:15, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”

This Christmas, if you unwrap the bow, open the box, and find yourself saying, “You Shouldn’t Have!” don’t let it silence your Jingle Bells or steal your Christmas cheer. God has given gifts that far exceed anything under the tree. He shouldn’t have, but through His love, He gave anyway. What will you do with the gifts?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dinner with Mormons

Saturday evening, right before I watched Johnny “Football” become Johnny “Heisman”, I went on a walk in our neighborhood. Along the way, I met up with two Mormon missionaries knocking doors. They told me a little about themselves and asked some questions about me. After I told them I was a Minister in town, the conversation began to lose steam. I walked back to our house, but then I went back and offered them an invitation into our home for dinner, which to my surprise, they immediately accepted.

As the dinner began, they opened up about their own lives. One young man was twenty years old from Las Vegas, Nevada; the other was twenty-two from Lexington, Kentucky. Both of them had loving families at home, which they hadn’t seen in almost two years, and had only spoken to on the phone twice in that duration. As dinner progressed, we talked about doctrinal beliefs within the Mormon faith. As dinner concluded, they asked to give a “Christmas Message”, which Natalie and I agreed to hear; but before they left, Natalie and I explained with scripture why we disagreed with their doctrine. The dinner closed with a prayer, and a gracious “Thank You” from both parties. Because of that dinner, I will always remember:

1) Commitment (These young men were engaged in a two year mission program, away from their families, with very little communication, knocking doors on a Saturday evening just hoping someone would take the time to listen. Some Christians say church three times a week is “too much”. How does our commitment compare to theirs?)

2) Commonality (While there were some vast differences in our beliefs, such as Joseph Smith and his divine revelation, and referring to themselves as “Elders” even though they were young and single, there was common ground in our faith, such as baptism being administered through immersion and praying through Jesus’ name. Many times we refuse to accept similarities because we strive to find differences. This happens all too often, even within our churches. If we will begin where we agree, rather than where we differ, this provides conversation where truth emerges.)

3) Candor (They were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. They were gracious in their disagreement with us, and they were gracious when we disagreed with them. Are we always that gracious, even when we disagree in our Bible classes?)

Lest you think I’m considering conversion, I still believe the Bible is infallible, that there’s a pattern for the Lord’s church, and that the Mormon faith misses the mark in serious areas that can’t be compromised. However, I do pray that one day these young men will look back and remember the Hawks. We will remember them.

Allow yourself to be challenged. Force yourself out of your “comfort zone”. It will strengthen your faith, open your eyes, and expand your vision. It did for me.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Different Thanksgiving Experience

I pray everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday. Thanksgiving is a special time when everything seems right in the world. We might have recently lost loved ones. We might be struggling with finances. It might even seem like our health is weakening by the hour; but when we come together as family and friends, it’s easy to find multiple reasons to be thankful.

As usual, Thanksgiving was very busy for the Hawks. We clocked nearly 750 miles in four days visiting relatives and enjoying the holiday spread at each location (By the way, if you were wondering, big meals and long drives are a terrible combination). However, this year I had a different Thanksgiving experience.

Towards the end of the week, we spent time with Natalie’s family in Ranger, Texas at “Ma” and “Pa’s” farm outside of town. It was a true “country” Thanksgiving, very different than the “city” Thanksgivings I’ve experienced the previous 24 years, but equally as special. The weekend was filled with memories, but I will always remember Friday evening when over twenty relatives took time just to sing. We sang new songs and old songs; serious songs and fun songs. As a physical and spiritual family, we took time to thank God for being our God.

You might already share this tradition with your family, and if you do, I’m preaching to the choir; but if you don’t, I highly recommend making this a tradition. You know what it’s like to sing Sunday after Sunday during worship, but if you’ve never experienced singing in your home with loved ones, you’re really missing out on one of life’s greatest blessings.

“I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.” (Psalm 89: 1-2) One day, your family’s future generations will thank you.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Protecting Your Password

If you spend much time on the computer, you probably use passwords. Regardless if it’s online banking, shopping, or the all too famous “facebooking”, a secret code known as a “password” makes it possible. Chances are, most people will get “hacked” at least once in their lifetimes. Professional computer hackers will find all kinds of ways to crack the code; most of the time, so they can simply sell your password to other hackers for a handsome profit—I guess there really is such a thing as a “wholesale hacker”.

Here are a few tips from IT professionals on how to protect your password:

1) Forget the Dictionary (If your password can be found in the dictionary, you might as well not have one, because it’s too easy to guess.)

2) Never Use the Same Password Twice (If hackers can crack a code to one of your accounts, they can crack the code to several of your accounts.)

3) Jam On Your Keyboard (For sensitive accounts like bank accounts, randomly type in keys on the keyboard, hit the SHIFT and ALT keys, then copy the result into an encrypted, password-protected USB drive. Whatever that means!)

4) Ignore Security Questions (Questions like “What is your favorite color” or “What high school did you attend” have a limited amount of answers, or they can be found on the Internet.)

If you love to be on the computer, these tips are helpful; but as Christians, we have only one password that connects us to God, and that’s our heart. It defines our spiritual well-being and identity. Unfortunately, Satan does everything he can to crack that special code. That’s why the writer of Proverbs so appropriately writes, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

On the computer, if your password is compromised and your account is hacked, you can always make another one. However, you only have one chance with your heart. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and there’s no replacing it. Protect your password with everything you have. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6: 21)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Finding Tim Taylor

On September 8th, 2012, Larry Wright embarked on a hike in Sequoia National Park with his son and grandson. Being an avid hiker, Larry had already mastered the hike six times, but this time it was very different. As they were climbing Milestone Mountain to view a lake below, they ran across an old, rusty container. Inside the container, they found a note in perfect condition from 1972 that read, “Tim Taylor climbed to this peak, Thursday, August 17, 1972. Age 13 years. Anyone finding this note please write.” Tim even included his home address! I’m surprised he didn’t include a stamp.

As soon as Larry came down off the mountain, he began to search for Tim Taylor so he could write him a note as Tim requested. However, finding Tim Taylor has been much harder than climbing the mountain that housed his note. Tim no longer lives at the address (records show that he did at one time). Larry tried searching for him on Google, but that didn’t work either. Larry even wrote into the local newspaper, hoping that by publishing the story, it would gain publicity and produce Tim, but even that hasn’t developed the desired result.

This unusual event reminds me of our relationship with God’s word. The Bible has been compiled by finding documents in different areas. One of the biggest discoveries came back in 1947 when the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in caves. These scrolls are believed to have been hidden on the eve of the Roman Destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Nevertheless, regardless where these “notes” from God are found, they send a message; not “Write Me”, but “Follow Me. Trust Me. Obey Me. Honor Me. Love Me.”

I’m confident Larry will find Tim Taylor because he is using every method available at his disposal. However, I’m certain we can find God, because God tells us exactly how to do it. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
Seek. Find. Live.

Monday, October 8, 2012

From Summit to Valley

Life often deals a difficult hand, but Pat Neshek and his wife Stephanee, understand how painful and unpredictable the cards can be. Pat Neshek is a star pitcher for the Oakland A’s, playing a critical role in Oakland’s “fairy tale” season, bouncing back from a thirteen game deficit and defeating my beloved Texas Rangers to win the Division. Pat’s career hasn’t always been so magical. Neshek has been pitching in the majors since 2006, but in 2009 he was forced to have Tommy John surgery—a serious procedure that often ends careers. But, Pat bounced back from that surgery just like the A’s bounced back from double digit despair.

However, Pat and Stephanee have recently travelled from the summit to the valley in one of life’s toughest challenges. Read the course of events that both Pat and Stephanee posted to their Twitter accounts:

October 2nd

Pat Neshek @PatNeshek

Thinking of the long nights in AAA, my TJ surgery & the days I thought it was over…Makes for the sweetest playoff birth of my career!

October 2nd

Pat Neshek @Pat Neshek

What a day, my wife is now in labor! #playoffbaby

October 3rd

Stephanee Neshek @StephaneeNeshek

It’s a boy Gehring John Neshek…8lbs 5 oz. born 10/2/12. Pat flew Oakland to FL just in time for birth! #playoffbaby

October 3rd (2 Hours Later)

Pat Neshek @Pat Neshek

Please pray for my family. Tonight my wife and I lost our first & only son 23 hours after he was born with no explanation.

Life supplies many tough questions, but we can’t always supply adequate answers. “The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away” isn’t a comforting explanation during the fiercest winds of the storm.

However, we can hang our hat on some good news—even though our circumstances change, our God remains stable. We will travel from the summit to the valley several times in our lives, but with faith, we know our Father will once again lift us up to higher ground.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Left Behind

A group of friends went on their annual deer hunting trip, and one morning they decided to pair off in twos. After a long day in the blinds, one hunter staggered back to the cabin without his partner, carrying an eight-point buck on his shoulders. The other hunters asked him, “Where’s Harry?” He responded, “Oh, Harry tripped and broke his ankle a couple of miles back up the trail.” The other hunters were appalled at his lack of concern for his friend and asked him, “You left Harry lying there, and carried the deer back instead of him?” The man quickly replied, “Well, I didn’t think anyone was going to steal Harry!”

We laugh, and we might even say, “That’s terrible”, but how many friends have you left behind on the “trail”?

During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (Matthew 5:41). It’s impossible to walk a step we aren’t commanded to walk with entitlement attitudes, so Jesus tells us to let go of entitlement and give Him eight laps instead of four.

In Luke 6:31, Jesus gave His disciples strict orders we call the “Golden Rule”, when he said, “Do to others as you would have them do unto you.” None of us want to be left on the "trail", but we often leave others behind with the circumstances we strive to avoid.

Possibly Paul gave us the greatest challenge when he said, “…in humility, consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) Do you really consider others better than yourself? It’s very difficult to do in our “bigger and better” society.

Whatever burden we’re carrying, appointment we’re keeping, or promotion we’re seeking, it doesn’t hold the same importance as the “cargo” we leave behind when we focus on the problem and prize rather than the person.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Saved by a Shark?

If Gilligan thought he was in a predicament with his “three hour tour”, he should have met Toakai Teitoi from the island of Maiana. Toakai was travelling back home with his brother in law. It was supposed to be a short, easy voyage, but during the trip, they decided to fish along the way, but they fell asleep. When they woke up the next morning, they realized they had drifted miles from shore in their fifteen foot wooden boat. They tried to sail back to shore, but they ran out of fuel, and shortly after, drinking water. Dehydration set in, and it was so severe that Toakai’s brother in law died on July 4th, 2012. Toakai slept next to him that evening in that cramped boat, and the next morning buried him at sea.

The night his brother in law died, Toakai prayed earnestly for God to save him. The next day, there was a massive storm, and Toakai was able to fill five-gallon containers with fresh water, but as the weeks and months continued to pass, so did Toakai’s chances for survival.

On September 11th, 2012, Toakai woke up to the sound of loud scratching against his boat, as a massive shark was bumping against its hull. As Toakai came to his senses, he saw another boat full of fishermen, ready to take him home. Toakai believes that shark was God coming to the rescue, because without it, he would have never seen the fishermen in the distance.

God used a massive fish to save Jonah. God used a donkey to save Balaam. God used a bronze snake to save the Israelites. God used a shark to save Toakai Teitoi. What will God use to save you?

When you find yourself “lost at sea”, keep your eyes open and your faith alive. He can rescue you in ways you can’t imagine. As they say, “stranger things have happened.”

Monday, September 10, 2012

Outlining an Obituary

Have you ever outlined your obituary? Ever thought about writing your own? If you have, meet Val Patterson.

Mr. Patterson passed away a few weeks ago, but before he passed, he included some “important” details to the local newspaper. His obituary began with the usual loving tribute to family members and his personal resume of accomplishments, but then it transitioned to Patterson’s confessions. Patterson, a man who lived by the motto, “Anything for a laugh”, lifted these humorous burdens off his chest.

1) University of Utah

“When I went to pay off my college student loan, the girl working the desk put my receipt into the wrong file, and two weeks later, a PhD diploma came in the mail. I didn’t even graduate. I only had about three years of college credit. In fact, I never learned what the letters PhD stood for, but they did provide a professional career in engineering. Thank You University of Utah!”

2) Disneyland and Sea World

“Now you can throw away the ‘Banned for Life’ file you have on me. I’m not a problem anymore.”

3) Park Ranger

To that really mean Park Ranger—it was me who rolled those rocks into your geyser and ruined it. However, I did notice that you were able to get Old Faithful working again. Sorry about that.”

Even from the grave, Val Patterson honors his motto. These confessions provide a few laughs, but, if you sat down and outlined your obituary, what would you include? Would you seek a worldly laugh, or would you sustain a godly legacy?

Even if you’re a “humorous” soul, choose the latter. On the Day of Judgment it will be holiness, not humor, which warrants the words, “Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Creative Theft?

Thieves can be very creative, but Michael and Margaret Pollara, a mother-son team, have taken creative theft to the next level. They stole more than $2 million from Toys R’ Us, by simply walking out the door with toys in hand.

How did they do it? They would pull big boxes of cheap toys off the shelves, fill them with expensive toys such as Lego sets (valued at $150.00 apiece), and then sell them on EBay. The Pollora duo realized that when workers would ring up the boxes at the register, they would scan the bar codes on the boxes without ever even checking what was inside. Genius!

Now, the Pollaras were still spending their own money. They hit over 139 stores in 27 states, and spent over $7,000—but, they stole more than $2 million of product! Their parade finally came to an end when they were caught in Southern Florida after workers noticed items missing that hadn’t been paid for. Authorities were able to track down “Bonnie and Clyde” because the son used a Toys R’ Us Rewards Card. Not Genius!

Unfortunately, even Christians can be creative thieves with the same strategy. Paul tells us to be filled with the Fruit of the Spirit, and we might pretend to be; but then, when no one is watching, we pull out the right stuff and replace it with the wrong stuff. We exchange virtues like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and gentleness, for sins like hatred, fits of rage, jealousy, and discord.

If we engage in theft, like the Pollaras, we’ll eventually get caught. And when we get caught, we won’t answer to police or the courts; we’ll answer to the Great I AM, and anxiously wait for His verdict.

Are you guilty of creative theft? Come clean, before it’s too late.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Missing Promotions?

I read an interesting article this week that offered employees ten possible reasons why they weren’t climbing the ladder of success and entering into managerial positions. Here are a few I found eye-opening and insightful.

1) Gossip (Crossing professional boundaries and breaking confidentiality are bridges that are very difficult, if not impossible, to rebuild.)

2) Lack of Prioritization (Mangers need to look at a landscape of projects and define the most important tasks, and then stay focused on those goals.)

3) Complaining (Managers need to have the maturity to understand how the momentary negatives can strengthen the long term positives of a company. They also need judgment to raise concerns professionally through the right channels, rather than sharing negativity with anyone who will listen.)

4) Lack of Initiative (Promotions are given to those who go above and beyond the minimum.)

Why are these reasons eye-opening? They also explain why we miss promotions in our faith. These same handcuffs handicap our potential.

1) Gossip (The Proverbs writer said it so well in Proverbs 16: 28 when he wrote “gossip separates close friends.” Have you found this to be true?)

2) Lack of Prioritization (Paul said in Philippians 3:8 that he considered everything a loss comparing to knowing Jesus. Paul grew with this mindset, have you?)

3) Complaining (Paul told the church at Philippi in Philippians 2:14, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God…” Have you become blameless and pure?)

4) Lack of Initiative (Jesus said in Matthew 5:41, “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” How many miles have you clocked on your odometer?)

You see, we struggle in our faith just like workers struggle in their workplace, but you can change the trend. Here’s a great place to start.

Monday, July 16, 2012


An abnormal amount of garage sales cover the streets of Kerrville; at least more than any other place I’ve lived. It’s become a weekend hobby for the Hawks to hit the streets looking for that “sweet deal” with the rest of the garage sale gang. Every now and again, we will find that “diamond in the rough”, or how some have phrased it, “one man’s trash, another man’s treasure”.

Last weekend, we bought an old wooden chest built in the 1800’s. The wood is cracked. The finish is peeling. Without a doubt, it has seen better days. Natalie, who has recently turned into a HGTV fanatic, plans to refurbish the piece into a beautiful toy chest for Hayden’s toys. Better her than me!

As God’s personal creation and beloved children, that’s exactly what God does for us. He takes our deficiencies, scars, and bruises from life, and through His grace and mercy, refurbishes our well being. It was the Apostle Paul who wrote, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)

When you feel like that old, worn piece of furniture wasting away in that hot, dusty garage, take heart. Almighty God is ready to refurbish your life—if you let Him.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A "Volvo" Faith?

Have you heard about Irvin Gordon? He’s the proud owner of a 1966 Volvo P1800s. This coupe of antiquity has not one, not two, but nearly three MILLION miles clocked on the odometer. The warranty expired 43 years and 2,950,000 miles ago.

Gordon bought the car brand new in 1966 for $4,150. With hesitancy, he decided to splurge and purchase the $10 upgrade for AM/FM Radio. I’d say Gordon got his money’s worth out of Volvo. Companies like Toyota, Nissan, and Honda brag about their cars lasting 250,000 miles, but 3,000,000 miles? Come on! I guess “they just don’t make them like they used to”, do they?

Do you have a “Volvo” type of Faith? Paul describes this same, spiritual longevity when he writes, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

It doesn’t matter if your journey last 3,000,000 miles or 3,000,000 minutes, the prize is waiting. Press On.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Refreshment for the Soul

This past week, my travels took me to Red River Family Encampment in Red River, New Mexico. It was my first time to attend the encampment and it was such a blessing. The scenery was beautiful. The cool temperatures were delightful. But, nothing compared to the refreshment of my soul.

The singing last week was some of the best I’ve ever heard (when thousands of people sing at the top of their lungs, you can’t help but be covered in goose bumps). I heard fantastic speakers open the Word and impart God’s will. I made new friends, and re-united with old ones. For one week, Christians took over the small town of Red River.

Red River Family Encampment, Lectureships, and Seminars are great. They give us that extra “push” for Kingdom work and our journey of faith. But, we need that same strength every week, and God has afforded us the opportunity. We can assemble, hear the word proclaimed, sing praises, partake of the Lord’s Supper, enjoy fellowship, and many more blessings that come with the Lord’s church. Are you benefiting from the opportunity? If you aren’t, you may not realize it, but your soul is starving.

If you’ve made church into a “hobby” or a monthly “get away”, I beg you to reconsider. You need the church. The church needs you. And together, our souls will be refreshed.

“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the House of the LORD.’” (Psalm 122:1)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Snake Handling Christians?

For the last year, we have been dissecting and discussing the Gospel of Mark during our Sunday Morning Bible Classes at Riverside. This Sunday, we conclude our study with Mark 16: 9-20. It causes much debate and curiosity, to say the least. 

A couple of weeks ago, Mark Wolford, a Pentecostal Preacher in West Virginia, died after a rattlesnake bit him in an outside, traditional Pentecostal worship service. During the service, Wolford passed around the rattlesnake for everyone to hold, and read Mark 16: 17-18, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” After he read the passage, he told the audience, “Anyone can do it who believes.” How strong was Wolford’s belief? When it was his turn to hold the snake, the snake bit him, and Wolford died eight hours later.

You can develop your own interpretation of this passage. I believe the ability to drink deadly poison, and pick up snakes without being hurt, was similar to the “miraculous” gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 13 such as speaking in tongues and prophecy. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:8 that these “gifts” no longer exist, because “prophecies will cease” and “tongues will be stilled.” I also think we have to contextualize Jesus’ statement. In these verses, Jesus is speaking to the eleven remaining apostles. One could argue that only the apostles would have the ability to drink poison and avoid the dangers of snakes. You might disagree with me, and that’s fine; many do.

However, this we can know for sure—God gives us a brain, and He expects us to use it. What makes this even more tragic is that Wolford’s father died the same way years ago at the age of thirty-nine. He also believed that if he had faith, snakes couldn’t touch him. A snake took his life.

We can’t test God just to confirm our ambiguity. Didn’t Jesus say, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test”? (Matthew 4:7)

My sympathy goes out to the Wolford family; but I also pray for all Bible students, including myself, that we may humbly, and logically, seek after the true interpretation of God’s word.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Friendly Church?

I recently read an article that evaluated the “friendliness” of a church. I thought some of these “ways” were too good not to share. Granted, they are fictitious, and extremely “unfriendly”, but they make a very powerful point.

When the sign out front says, “For Members Only”.

When the parking lot signs say, “Unauthorized Vehicles Will be Towed at Owner’s Expense”.

When the church lobby signs say, “No Loitering”.

When in worship you say “Praise the Lord”, and the guy in front of you says, “We Don’t Do That Here”.

When at fellowship, coffee is $1.50 a cup and donuts are a $1.00 a piece with a limit of two.

When the church’s motto is “We’re Getting Smaller but Purer”.

Are we concerned about making guests feel welcome? Are we serious about true, heartfelt worship? Do we long for fellowship with our brothers and sisters? Are we devoted to growing the Kingdom within our own community? Hopefully, the answer “Absolutely” immediately comes to your mind, but here’s the reality—the friendliness of a church is defined by the friendliness of its members.

How friendly are you?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Mother's Power

Mothers shape us in one way or another. That’s why it’s so appropriate for us to celebrate and honor mothers on days such as these. However, their love and guidance can never be repaid, and our cards and flowers really don’t do justice for their existence; even so, Mothers Day equips us to do one thing—give honor to whom honor is due.

This Mother's Day is unlike any I’ve ever experienced. For the last six (almost seven) months, I’ve witnessed Natalie’s amazing motherly qualities and capabilities. I always knew she would be a great mother, that’s one reason why I was so attracted to her when we were dating; but, Natalie has surpassed any and all of my expectations. As her love grows for Hayden each day, my love grows for her.

With tear filled eyes, I can confidently say that Hayden is one of the luckiest babies to ever live. Natalie’s love for him will imprint a lasting mark of godliness in his life. And one day, when he is grown with his own children, he will remember his beautiful mother. Why? There is power in a mother.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Living Without Power?

In 1992, Hurricane Andrew stormed the shores of Southern Florida. An elderly woman named Norena lost everything, as her home was severely damaged from the storm. Like many southern Floridians, Norena received an insurance settlement to repair her home, but the settlement was minimal; and when the money ran out, so did the contractor, leaving Norena in a home without electricity.

For fifteen years, Norena lived without power. She didn’t have any air conditioning for the humidity of Florida’s summer, or any heat for the occasional winter chills. She didn’t enjoy one hot shower, or one home cooked meal. It wasn’t until the mayor from the Miami area heard of the situation, that he hired an electrical contractor to get power restored in Norena’s home. When her home was finally repaired, CBS interviewed Norena and asked her the first thing she would do with electricity. She responded, “I’m going to take a really hot, long bubble bath.” Can you blame her?

How many baptized believers have lived decades, or maybe even their entire lives, without fully understanding the power of the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit, though it might be theologically obscure and confusing, gives us power as God’s people. Without it, we cannot do what God has called us to do. And if we aren’t very careful, we can “turn off” the Spirit’s power for so long, we won’t recognize it when it comes back on.

Paul told the church at Ephesus, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Ephesians 5:16) Are you living with power or without power? Live by the Spirit, and you’ll immediately know!

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Facebook Fugitive

The Facebook frenzy addicts computer users across the world. There’s just something about “updating” that status, “liking” that picture, and “tagging” that friend that keeps us coming back for more. Everyone wants in on the action, even fugitives!

Last week, a fugitive in Washington found time to update his Facebook while running from police. This man has been convicted of five felonies and has already served time behind bars, but this time he dodged extensive police searches and outran a police dog.

But even with all of this activity, the fugitive wasn’t too busy to get his “Facebook fix”. One friend posted on his wall, “Cops are all over you”, to which he replied, “Ya, I got away, thanks bro!” He even had time to change his relationship status to single. What a guy!

Facebook isn’t a bad thing, but it can become a terrible thing if it takes over our lives. Now, a man updating his account while running from the law is an extreme example. But if we can’t find the time to do what we need to do, but find time for Facebook, our priorities are seriously out of order.

Luke gave us the perfect example for a daily “habit” when he spoke of the “Noble Bereans” who “examined the scriptures daily…” (Acts 17:11) Enjoy Facebook. Connect. Comment. Search. Share. But don’t neglect what’s really important!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Landing the Plane

Last week in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, a heroine of all heroines rose to the occasion. 80 year old Helen Collins was enjoying an afternoon “stroll” from the air in a family plane, when her husband, the pilot, became unconscious and later died. At that moment, she was faced with a decision—live or die.

Helen had flown the plane a few times, but she didn’t know how to land. She called into the traffic controllers from the air and informed them of the situation. They contacted a family friend, who jumped into another plane the Collins owned and flew up to meet her in the air. He believed that it would be easier to talk her down from the air than the ground, as he flew next to her at the same speed.

But, Helen still had to land. He couldn’t ditch his plane, climb into her cockpit, and land the plane for her; she had to listen and obey. In fact, he told the reporters after the incident was over, “We were all watching and we knew she had to do it.” Thankfully, Helen listened and she was able to land. The landing was rough and the plane skidded about 1,000 feet before coming to a rest, but Helen survived.

As Christians, when we face danger in the “cockpit” of our lives, it’s wise to call on God for help. He will fly alongside us and give us instructions to navigate through the obstacles. But just like Helen Collins, we must “land our own plane”. God can only protect us if we listen and obey His commands.

“O Lord, open our ears, that we might hear.”

Monday, April 2, 2012

Lunch with the McGuffins

Last week, Natalie and I were blessed to have lunch with Lyle and Colleen McGuffin for Colleen’s 95th birthday. If you’ve spent much time with this fabulous couple, you know they’re very special. Their lives, and particularly their marriage, are a living testament to godly success, embodying such love, patience, and humility for one another.

We were privileged to watch and listen as Lyle sang a sweet love song to Colleen, whom he has appropriately named his “Little Angel.” Tears rolled down Natalie’s cheeks, as did mine, when I realized that now Lyle had raised the bar! Lyle shows all husbands how to “step up their game”. Without a doubt, Lyle and Colleen prove that if a marriage yearns for God, then faithfulness, sincerity, holiness, and passion will still exist after seventy plus years.

I’m so thankful that God created marriage. When marriage follows God’s advice, it’s such a beautiful thing. We went to lunch that day to encourage Lyle and Colleen, but when we left, Natalie and I realized that we were the ones who were encouraged.

Dear Lord, thank you for priceless lessons such as these, and thank you for servants like the McGuffins who show us the way!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What's Your Shoe Size?

For the past 16 years, Ray Allen has been known as the NBA’s (National Basketball Association) “sharpshooter”. He has set record after record with his shooting ability. Without a doubt, he is one of the best 3-point shooters to every play the game.

Much of his success has been attributed to his discipline in physical fitness. Allen maintains his health like a well oiled machine. In one press conference, when asked about his everyday diet, Allen said that he had never eaten a cheeseburger. A cheeseburger! Poor guy.

But now, deep into his 30’s, Allen is taking even deeper strides to keep himself in the game. He isn’t turning to more cardio, or push-ups, or even the latest diet fads. Allen is getting bigger shoes. He claims the bigger shoes provide more flexibility and comfort for his weakening ankles. He must be right, because since he “upped” his size, Allen’s shooting percentage is even higher.

But you know, even if we aren’t millionaires or future hall of famers, we aren’t much different than Ray Allen. Not because of our love for basketball or love for cheeseburgers, but because of the “shoes” we wear. When Jesus left earth to return home, he left some big shoes for us to fill. Statements like, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14) prove that Jesus expects us to wear his shoes. We might feel “out of our league”, but spiritually speaking, the bigger the “shoe”, the better the person.

Do you want to improve your performance? Wear “Bigger Shoes”.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Longest Word in the Dictionary?

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocias. You probably recognize this 34 letter word from the classic musical, “Mary Poppins”. It created quite the jingle and was the test of all tests at Spelling Bees.

But did you know that there is another word that gives Supercalifragilisticexpialidocias a run for its money as the longest word in the dictionary? Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. Yes, it’s a real word, measuring 45 letters in length. It refers to a rare, but real lung disease. Some scientists claim there is a protein that is 1,185 letters long, but I don’t have the time or interest to go and find it. Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis will have to do.

God doesn’t need a long, drawn out word to get our attention. God told Moses, “Tell them the I AM has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14). Moses didn’t need any more explanation.

The “I AM”. It’s only three letters, but it’s good enough for Moses, it’s good enough for me, and it’s good enough for you. The “I AM”, was, is, and always will be.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Talking or Listening?

One day an angry wife went to see her marriage counselor. As soon as she walked in the door, she yelled, "I want to divorce my husband." The counselor replied, "Well, do you have any grounds?" She answered, "Why, yes. We have almost an acre." The puzzled counselor then asked, "You don't understand. I want to know if you and your husband have a grudge." The woman answered, "Actually, we don't, but we do have a nice carport." Frustrated, the counselor shook his head and said, "Ma'am, I'm sorry, but I don't see any reason why you should divorce your husband." The disgruntled wife looked at her counselor and said, "Well, I do. He can't carry on an intelligent conversation."

Wow, not only was this woman confused, but she was extremely hypocritical. If she would have just slowed down, stopped talking, and started listening, she wouldn't have been so illogical.

As Christ followers, we tend to be very illogical, but James tells us how to be logical people. "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry..." (James 1:19)

Are you talking or listening?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Time for a Change?

Alexander the Great is one of history's greatest conquerors. He was an admirable leader, and fearless in battle. He even rode into battle with his men to fight the enemy.

Alexander would often hold court on the battlefield following a war to evaluate each soldier's courage during combat. Those who fought valiantly were honored, and those who deserted were punished severely. One day, a young boy was brought to Alexander's throne. Alexander asked the boy's name, and the boy said, "My name is Alexander." The General's tension immediately softened, and he was flattered that the boy bore his name. Even some of the nearby officers relaxed, because they knew this young lad had fled in battle, and possibly the General would be more lenient. However, when Alexander learned this young soldier was guilty of "cowardice", Alexander's face changed to intense anger. The General looked at the boy and asked him again, "Young man, what is your name?" The boy replied, "Alexander, sir." The general asked again, "What did you say?" Again the boy replied, "Alexander, sir." The General jumped down from his throne, grabbed the terrifed boy and said, "Either change your behavior or change your name!"

Today, many use the name "Christian" too loosely, and it has become popular "slang." People promote it when they're honored, and hide it when they're persecuted. But Jesus knows all; every thought of the mind; every motive of the heart. And from the cross, Jesus gives the same verdict, "Either change your behavior or change your name!"

What's your name? If it doesn't match your behavior, it's time for a change.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Blue Skin?

In 1975, baby Benjamin Stacy alarmed maternity doctors with something they had never seen before--blue skin. Not white. Not black. Not red. Not yellow. Blue. In fact, doctors said his skin was "...as blue as Lake Louise". Doctors later discovered that Benjamin's condition ran in the family. His great grandmother Luna Fugate was one of the "Blue Fugates of Troublesome Creek", a family with blue skin. Relatives described Luna as "...blue all over".

"Blue Skin" is a rare but real genetic condition, medically known as Methemoglobinemia. In Methemoglobinemia, an abnormal amount of hemoglobin (responsible for distributing oxygen to the body) is produced. Since an abnormal amount of hemoglobin is produced, it's difficult for the hemoglobin to carry and release oxygen to body tissues, consequently turning skin and lips blue.

It would be very difficult to live with this disorder. We can only imagine the stares and strange looks one would receive with such a poignant color of skin.

As Christians, we aren't commanded to have "Blue Skin", but we are commanded to be different. Scripture is full of metaphors that describe our uniqueness: "Light of the World" (Matthew 5:14), "Salt of the Earth" (Matthew 5:13), "Shining Stars" (Philippians 2:15), "Ambassadors for Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:20), "Royal Priesthood" (1 Peter 2:9). Take your pick. Each one, in its own way, dares us to be different.

Regardless of your "shade", God sends the same message--"Be holy, as I am holy." (Leviticus 11:44)

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Massive Mistake

The Facebook frenzy continues to sweep the world. Originally a "hobby" of college students, Facebook is now a worldwide, competitive networking tool with millions of users.

If you're a Facebook user, you've heard of Mark Zuckerberg, the Ivy League rebel drop-out who founded the social media goldmine. Zuckerberg didn't "fit in" with his Harvard colleagues, and he didn't finish his degree, but now he's worth $17.5 billion. I'm sure Harvard is proud.

Zuckerberg became an icon, but you probably don't know Joe Green. Before the Facebook behemoth was born, Zuckerberg asked Green, one of his buddies in the dormitory, to also drop out and help begin Facebook. Green declined the invitation and decided to take the "safe route", stay at Harvard, and complete his degree. Good for him. Other than the fact that Facebook business consultants say Green's decision was a $400 million dollar mistake! Green graduated from Harvard, started his own business, and he's doing well. But he certainly hasn't replaced that $400 million.

Jesus has asked us to be His partner in Kingdom work. The work is very difficult. It takes us down the road less travelled, and it certainly isn't the most popular choice. But if we turn down His invitation, it will be a "Massive Mistake." And this mistake won't be monetary; it will be eternal, and it can't be replaced!

The offer is on the table. Jesus is waiting for an answer. Will you accept?

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Supplemental Spirit

These past few weeks have been stressful at the Hawk's Nest. Natalie was attacked by the ominous "Cedar Fever" that constantly graces the Texas Hill Country, spinning everyone's allergies out of control. To make it even worse, her ailments were transferred to Hayden, and for the first time, I watched my baby boy cough, sneeze, and cry out for relief.

Natalie is already a superb "Dr. Mom". Since she stays home with him every day and attends to him like a pro, she had a better understanding of what Hayden was trying to say through his cries; but me? I was helpless. I didn't have a clue. I wanted to step in and be the hero, but I don't speak "Infant", and I don't understand. With a broken heart aching for my son, I was so glad that Natalie was my translator.

In all of these ordeals, I was reminded of Paul's thoughts abut the "Supplemental Spirit" in Romans 8:26 when he writes, "...the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." When we don't know what to say, the Spirit does. When we can't say it, the Spirit will. Long, eloquent prayers aren't necessary, but only pure hearts that ooze with comforting, supplemental groans of the Spirit.

Hayden has seen the doctor, and Lord willing, he will be much better soon. But when I span over the history of my life, I'm so thankful that I can pray with confidence and pour out my aching heart to the Father. Even when I'm at a loss for words, with the aid of the "Supplemental Spirit", the "Great Physician" provides healing.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Phrases to Avoid

I recently read an article entitled, "Seven Phrases Never to Use at Work". I have to admit that these phrases are as dangerous as sulfuric acid. They can destroy goals, hopes, and dreams within a matter of minutes.

"Someday" (Someday is a deceptive word. It excites us about the future, but decades pass and we realize that "Someday" is still "Today"!)

"Not Good Enough" (It might not be perfect, but something has to be "Good Enough" to keep your job!)

"I Don't Have the Time" (Everyone has time to improve. If you don't, you'll have more time when you're unemployed!)

I can see why these phrases destroy workplace morale, but these same phrases are just as detrimental to the Christian life. "Someday" quickly fades into the mist of missed opportunities. "Not Good Enough" is one of Satan's best lies. "I Don't Have the Time" is simply an excuse given by everyone who has time. If Jesus had the time to die for us, we have the time to live for Him!

Choose your words carefully.

Monday, January 16, 2012

"Please Don't Stop"

You may or may not be a baseball fan, but you've probably heard about the Shannon Stone tragedy that occured last season at Rangers Stadium in Arlington, Texas. During the game, Josh Hamilton, star outfielder for the Texas Rangers, threw a foul ball into the stands. Thirty-nine year old Shannon Stone reached over the ledge to catch the ball for his son Cooper who idolized Josh Hamilton, but Shannon reached too far and fell over the ledge to his death. The entire stadium was in shock, including Josh Hamilton. A young boy lost his father who was simply trying to secure a souvenir for his son. It's tragedies such as these that send us searching for life's toughest, spiritual explanations.

Shortly after the accident, there was a great deal of discussion in the news over whether or not foul balls should be thrown into the stands by players on the field. Even Josh Hamilton questioned his motives. But during the heat of the debates, Suzann Stone, the mother of deceased Shannon Stone, wrote a letter to Josh Hamilton.

In the letter she told the story of how her husband Al used to take Shannon to games when he was young. One day, Shannon's favorite player Buddy Bell threw a foul ball into the stands, and Al wrestled the crowd to catch the ball for Shannon, and the ball became a treasure in their family. Suzann said that without a doubt she knew this is why Shannon leaned over the edge to catch the ball for his son, Coooper. And then she concluded her letter with this plea, "Please, don't stop throwing those balls, because that's so important. That's why daddies bring their little boys to the ballgame--for reasons like that. Please, don't stop."

As Christians, if God was going to write us a letter, I wonder if the wording would be similar. When we question our faith, and when we struggle with our committment and devotion to Him, I wonder if God would write, "Please don't stop, because your faith is so important. That's why my only Son died for you, and that's why I created you--so one day we can be together in paradise. Please, don't stop."

Even in tragedy, God gives us His plea. When the wind blows, and when we feel lost and alone, God says, "Please don't stop! I'm right here with you!"

Monday, January 2, 2012

Divorced in Days

2011 was the year of short marriages. Kim Kardashian made headline news when she divorced her husband after only 72 days. The world was in shock that the high profile celebrity couple called it quits so soon.

Well, singer Sinead O'Connor has outdone Kim Kardashian. She wins the trophy for the shortest marriage in 2011--18 days. That's right, 18 days. Come to find out, this was O'Connors fourth husband and fourth divorce. O'Connor claimed that within three hours of their wedding, the marriage was in trouble. I hate to say that I'm surprised she completed two weeks!

It's tragic how our society distorts and dillutes the sanctity of the marriage bond. It seems like people only get married so they can have a wedding. When the wedding is over, the marriage is over.

The Lord's Church is known as the "Bride of Christ". (Revelation 19:7) Unfortunately, Christians who make up the church often run from their groom when problems come. But it shouldn't surprise us when problems come; it doesn't even take three hours for problems to develop! When we open our eyes every morning, Satan tries to tear our marriage with Christ apart. However, just because we experience "rough patches" from time to time, we can't seek a divorce!

The world will continue to flee from committment. Marriages will continue to fail. But as Christians, members of the Lord's church, we can't be divorced in days. We took a vow to be faithful to our groom; faithful unto death.