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

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Honey vs. Vinegar


I met up with a good friend last week. As we discussed the various events taking place in our lives, and the different courses our lives are beginning to travel, he told me about one of his favorite “sayings”, but it didn’t originate with him. It’s a saying that is packed full of theological importance; a saying that contrasts the difference between honey and vinegar; a saying that he learned from his grandmother.

She would always say, “Some people are as sweet as honey. Some people are as sour as vinegar. But, I will choose to be sweet like honey—because honey is stronger, stickier, tastier, and it always lasts longer.”

 As God’s people, we need to remember that wisdom. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Two rights never make a wrong. Our words and actions need to be as sweet as honey, because these are the virtues of God. “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103)

Are you sticky and sweet, or slick and sour?

Held Any Money Lately?

One afternoon, a woman was relaxing on the beach under her umbrella. A little boy in his swimsuit, with towel in hand, ran up to her and asked, “Do you believe in God?” She was somewhat surprised by the boy’s question, but she answered, “Yes, I do.” Gaining confidence, he then asked her, “Do you go to church every Sunday?” Again, she answered, “Yes.” Finally, he crossed his fingers and laid it all on the line “Do you read your Bible and pray every day?” The woman was baffled and said, “Yes, sweetheart, I do. Why are you asking?” He smiled and asked, “Will you hold my money while I go swimming?”
This story paints the beauty of Christian character. Because we have been washed by the blood of Jesus and brought into the Kingdom of God, people should see our worth and esteem our values. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:12 that our daily lives can “…win the respect of outsiders…” You see, when we follow the steps of Jesus, and live in harmony with the Spirit, daily respect hovers over our existence, even when others don’t admit it.
When was the last time someone asked you to “hold their money”? Granted, they may never hand over the cash, but if they can hand over their trust, the goal has been accomplished.

Top Five Benefits to Being a Man


What are the top five benefits to being a man? Consider these “blessings” in disguise:

#1) Phone Conversations rarely last more than 30 seconds.

#2) Wedding Dress Purchase: $2,000; Tuxedo Rental: $75.00

#3) If a man shows up wearing your same outfit, you will most likely be life-long friends.

#4) You aren’t expected to know the names of more than five colors.

#5) One wallet; one pair of shoes; one color; all seasons.

Now, what are the top five benefits to being a Christian? Are they easier to recognize? Do they slide off the tip of your tongue, or get bogged down in the muck of memory? I’ll get you started:

#1) You don’t deserve any blessing you can list, but you receive it anyway.

 
Think about that this week.

Paying it Forward


In our capitalist society, deceitfully driven by the great American dollar, it’s refreshing to hear of occasional acts of good will—particularly when these “acts” are anonymous. In a chain of grocery stores and a few Wal-Marts in Oregon and Southwest Washington, some good citizens have literally, yet secretly, been “Paying it forward”. The last few weeks, stores have confirmed that their customers have found $100.00 stashed in egg cartons, shoes, ice cream containers, and other grocery items. When customers found the money, and reported the discovery to managerial staff, they were allowed to “keep the change”.

 The news has been buzzing around Oregon, even developing a conspiracy about the identity of this generous donor(s). The rumor mill produced a steamy myth that the anonymous gifts were from a recent lottery winner. After more digging, it has been discovered that the $100 bills are being deposited by a local radio station in town, trying to encourage others to “Pay it forward” as well. I wish some radio stations in Texas would get the same idea!

 God expects this same generosity from His people. With the physical blessings we receive, we can bless others. With the emotional strength we gain, we can strengthen others. With the security of faith we enjoy, we can help others feel more secure. We may not have money to stash in the shelves of the local supermarket, but we can improve the daily lives of our friends and family. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

 
You’ve been paid by God. When was the last time you paid it forward?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Thanks for Everything!"


The picture you see is one for the history books. That is Mariano Rivera, the famous Yankee’s closer, leaving the Red Sox a personal note in his last visit to Fenway Park. Rivera, the most successful closer in baseball history, is no stranger to Fenway. In his illustrious 19 year career, Rivera has played dozens, if not hundreds of games in Boston. From playoffs to pennants, Rivera has represented the pinstripes to the best of his ability. He will be retiring at the end of the 2013 season, but before he left Fenway for the final time, he wanted to leave one final note on the walls of the Pitcher’s Bullpen—“Thanks for everything!”

 
There’s arguably no greater rivalry in all of sports than the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. This feud has been scratching its baseball claws since the days of the Homerun King, Babe Ruth. Police in Boston and New York both consider it extremely dangerous to ride a subway following a game in the visiting team’s jersey.  In all of the angry yells, thrown beer cans, and even death threats (yes, it’s true), Rivera believes the Red Sox made him a better player; to sharpen his competitive edge; to block out unneeded criticism; and most of all, to focus on the game.

 

 As God’s people, we can learn a lesson from Rivera’s attitude. Our challengers, critics, and even our enemies, can teach us lessons; to be more competitive for Christ; to block out the unneeded criticism that dampens our spirit; and most of all, to focus on the cross.

 

During the battle of rivalry, it may not be pleasant. It can certainly be stressful. But one day, when we look back at how far we’ve come, we will say, “Thanks for everything!”

Big D Gets A+


Last week, my beloved hometown of Dallas, Texas won a unique competition. Dallas was rated the happiest city in the United States. That’s right—the citizens of Dallas have the biggest smiles and the strongest hugs from sea to shining sea.

 
 What criteria awarded Dallas the title? I found it to be eye-opening and surprising, especially when we consider the current ethical and moral trends of America. Dallas received this award because 75% of its citizens have spiritual beliefs, 67% believe that their voices are heard, and 59% rarely worry about their health. Therefore, they’re “happier” than the rest of us.

 
I don’t exactly buy that—the chorus of honking horns and the waving of fingers (finger) on Dallas highways don’t exactly emulate harmonious happiness. People seem to be a lot happier in Kerrville than they do in the Metroplex. Nevertheless, Dallas received the winning nod.

 
 Regardless of the city or town in which we live, it strokes our memory as God’s people. When we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, we have spirituality. God listens to our concerns. And because of the grace of God and the blood of Jesus, we’re “healthy”.

 
We may not live in Dallas, but we still fit the bill. As Christians, we should be the happiest people around. Are we?

Announcements from the TSA


If you’re a frequent flyer, great news has surfaced for your schedule. Last week, the Washington Post provided an announcement from the TSA, the Transportation Security Administration, which oversees all security checkpoints and stations in United States Airports. In the next few weeks, in at least 40 airports across the country, travelers will be able to keep their shoes and belt on as they walk through metal detectors and computerized screenings. Travelers must be pre-approved through hurdles of paperwork and regulations; but, if you become “approved”, you can keep your stinky socks and saggy pants to yourself.
 
 Since 9/11, airport travel has become difficult and tedious. This change will certainly expedite clearing security and airport maneuvering. Realistically, TSA is “catching up” to one of the most poignant passages of scripture. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 that we are armed with many pieces of spiritual armor. Two of the most important pieces are the “shoes” and the “belt”—the shoes make our feet ready to carry the gospel, the belt shows us how to carry it with the undeniable, unchanging precepts of God.


I’m glad to know that next time I’m in the airport, I might be able to clear security without untying my shoes and loosening my belt; but, then again, spiritually speaking, why would I ever take them off? You see, I walk with a lighter step and stronger confidence, knowing that I’m armored for life. Don’t you?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Send it Back!




One afternoon a preacher went to visit a family in his congregation. As soon as he entered the home, the mother volunteered a tour of the humble abode. She showed the preacher her antiques, furniture, and even the family’s large Bible on the bookshelf. Hoping that her minister would view her as a devout Christian, she kept talking about “God’s book”, and how important it was to her family. Her seven year old son listened carefully, but then interrupted the conversation and said, “Well, if that’s God’s book, we better send it back. We never read it.”
 
Are you using God’s book that’s on loan to you? If your GPS gets used more than your Bible, your sense of direction is severely misguided. If your recipe book is more worn than the pages of your text, you aren’t gaining the nourishment you need. If your check book ledger is closer to your heart than the pages of scripture, you’re storing up treasures in the wrong place.
 
God’s book, for your hands. God’s book, for your life. Are you using it, or should you send it back?

The Hallmark Trademark


How often do you visit your local Hallmark? If you enjoy greeting cards, unique gifts, and over-priced chocolate, Hallmark is the place for you. There’s always something special to find.

I read a humorous article  that listed some phrases you will never find on Hallmark’s greeting cards. Here are a few of them:


“Look backing over the years we’ve spent together, I can’t help but wonder…what was I thinking?”

“I always wanted someone to hold and someone to love…after I met you, I changed my mind.”

“When we were together you said you would die for me…now that we’ve broken up, you should keep your promise.”

“I’m so miserable without you…it’s almost like you’re here.”

“If we were on a sinking ship and there was only one life jacket left, I’d miss you tons and think of you often.”

These little “snippets” would make terrible greeting cards, wouldn’t they? Unfortunately, they often enter casual, Christian conversations. We may not say them word for word, but the affect is the same. We may think we’re offering compliments, but our words may not be complimentary. We may not define our comments as insulting, but others might be insulted. Yes, we might even think we’re providing hope, but we might be creating hopelessness.
 
You see, Hallmark understands the concept of Christian communication, even if they don’t always communicate Christian messages. Through our words, we must send our very best. And if our words don’t reach that standard, they’re not worth sending.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Signs of Burnout


Last week, I read an article that listed six ways to know you’re “burned out” at work and that you should probably switch careers. I’ll touch on just four.

 

#1 Your job makes you a jerk (When you begin your job, you’re excited about employment, but as time progresses, you become irritable and cynical. People notice and prefer avoiding you.)

 

#2 You think about everything but work (At one time, increasing profits and establishing new contacts summarized your schedule, but now your mind constantly wanders to what you will do when you leave work, rather than enter.)

 

#3 You’re in a dying industry (Competitors design faster, newer, safer, cheaper, and greener products; your product feels like a waste of money. Therefore, since you’re no longer “cutting edge”, the only thing that’s “cut” is your earnings.)

 
#4 You would rather go to the dentist (Having a root canal is more enjoyable than sitting in your cubicle. Work is the absolute last place you want to be.)

 
 That’s the work place, but do you see the connection with faith? Sometimes, Christian conviction makes us moody. Sometimes, we think about everything but Jesus. Sometimes, we believe Christianity is a dying movement because morality decreases with every turn of the calendar. Sometimes, we would rather be anywhere but the House of the Lord. But, when it comes to a life with Christ, we can’t just “switch” careers. Granted, we can walk away from our job, but when we do, we walk away from every spiritual blessing.
 
 If you feel “burned out”, join a host of biblical heroes like Noah, Elijah, and David who watched their flame of faith cool. Nevertheless, they kept fighting, kept trying, kept praying, and their faith was re-kindled. When you burnout, call on the Father. He will ignite the flame.

"I Double-Dog Dare You!"


“I Double-Dog Dare You!” When those words plug the drums of your ears, you either become the hero or the victim—the legend or the loser. Dares produce damages when they lack virtuous acts.

Last week, a good ole’ chap named John Morillo from Windsor, Ontario was reminded of this cosmological truth. For years, he had been telling his friends that he could swim across the Detroit River, a river which separates Canada and the United States. After a night of drinking (first mistake), and friends daring him to do it, Morillo accepted the challenge. He dove into the river and started swimming. After about thirty minutes, he looked up and saw the Coast Guard helicopters circling him and boats sailing towards him. At that point, logic surfaced. He thought to himself, “This is really stupid”. No kidding.

The Canadian, “want to be” Michael Phelps, arrived to the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave at about 12:50 A.M. When Morillo climbed out of the river, some took his picture. Some clapped. Some laughed. Morillo had made history, but at what price? He will be fined up to $25,000 for swimming in a shipping channel. That’s one expensive swim.

Morillo’s ridiculous choices help our minds travel back to the righteous reminder of Jesus. Even if our “stunts” produce high fives and camera flashes, when we seek the praise of men over the praise of the Father, we have received our reward in full. (Matthew 6:5) In other words, it’s really not worth it.

 Live for Jesus, and Jesus alone. I double-dog dare you.

A Timeless Treasure


A man can spend his entire life with a metal detector in hand, scavenging for that perfect “treasure”; but, even if the sensor sounds, his “treasure” is often trash. Looking for a treasure is rarely a pleasure.
 
 
Every now and again, a needle is found in the haystack. Last week, some ancient silver coins were found on a hunt for something else. A Welsh farmer named Ifor Edwards dropped his keys in one of his fields and couldn’t find them, so he hired a detecting specialist; not only did the specialist find the keys, but these coins that were probably used as currency during the reign of Edward III, Henry V, and Henry VI. During the reign of these kings, the coins would have been worth only a few American dollars, but today, they have an estimated value of $700.00 a piece. If losing our keys could be as profitable as finding Edwards’ keys, we would lose our keys more often.
 
 
As Christians, we often forget that in our hands, we hold a timeless treasure. To find the treasure, it doesn’t require a metal detector or a specialized, metal detecting service. Rather, the Holy Spirit inspired this “treasure” into words that the mind can understand and the heart can appreciate.
 
 
In speaking about the words of God, David said, “They are more precious than gold…they are sweeter than honey…” (Psalm 19:10) The earthly treasure we seek will never compare to the heavenly message we find. Honor the “Book”. It’s a timeless treasure.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Wendy's Code?

Last March, the beloved fast-food chain, Wendy’s, re-vamped their logo for the first time in twenty-nine years. Like many "drive-through" empires, the entire franchise has been resurrected from top to bottom with healthier menu options, breakfast tacos, new salads, and specials almost every week. Why not change a logo that has been collecting 20th century dust?

The logo is pictured here. However, it has more than new colors and design. Look carefully to see if you can notice a “hidden” word.






On Wendy’s collar, you can vaguely read the word, “Mom”. Wendy’s Graphic Artists claim this “subliminal message” wasn’t intentional; regardless, it’s pretty creative. Some marketing teams expect “Wendy’s Code” to possibly boost sales, as customers find a quick and cheap meal, just like “Mom’s”, very appealing. Only time will tell.

As Christians, we can be thankful that scripture doesn’t house hidden messages. Granted, some biblical teachings have sharper teeth than others. Even Peter, speaking about his spiritual brother Paul, said that some of Paul’s writings could be difficult to understand. (2nd Peter 3:16). But, when we study with the mind and depend on the Spirit, we sift through the ink and find God’s message. When the Holy Spirit inspired the hands of biblical writers, He didn’t provide messages for the “simple” and messages for the “savvy”. We don’t have to be a Ph.D., M.D., J.D., or C.E.O. to understand God’s will; but, if we’re humble and hungry for the meaning of God’s word, we're filled.

 
Read. Study. Taste and see that the Lord is good. No “code” is necessary.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Undivided Attention?

After the preacher’s sermon, Mrs. Bowen came forward asking for prayers. She was very anxious because her husband, George, was shipping out to sea with the United States Navy. Not only was the separation emotionally draining, but she worried about George’s safety in uncharted waters. When she walked down the aisle, she handed her note to the preacher. The note read, “George Bowen’s wife requests prayers for her husband’s safety who has gone to sea.” The preacher, pretending to listen and care, picked up the card and read to the congregation, “George Bowen, having gone to see his wife, desires prayers for his safety." Needless to say, Mrs. Bowen wasn’t too “comforted”.

We all fall victim to this atrocity, regardless of our profession. Scripture says we should have courage to confess to others, passion to pray for others, and compassion to carry the burdens of others. In our individualistic society, encouraging people to become venerable and transparent is quite a challenge. When we finally do “open up”, there’s nothing worse than discovering our painful testimony is going through one ear, and out the other.

Life is full of challenges, and we need the body of Christ to help us endure them. When we listen to a brother struggling from the storms of life, the least we can do is offer our undivided attention. His heart is aching; shame on us if we make it ache more with our meaningless distractions. If you care enough to love, care enough to listen.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Return of the Twinkie

BREAKING NEWS: Get your elastic pants and insulin needles ready—the Twinkie is making a comeback. That’s right—after an eight month sabbatical of the “cream-filled life”, the “Golden Cakes” are returning to shelves at a grocery store near you.


You probably remember that in 2012, Hostess declared bankruptcy—sending over 10,000 employees to the unemployment line and depriving even more Americans of “processed” goodness. But, Hostess has been resurrected, and Hostess predicts that Twinkies, and their less glorious, chocolate sidekick, the “Ho Ho”, will return somewhere around July 15th, 2013.

When the public was informed last year that these timeless treats would no longer be sold, internet sales sky-rocketed. In November of 2012, the starting bid on Ebay for one Twinkie was $5,000. That’s almost $1,400 a bite! Another man sold one of the final assembled boxes for $10,000!

Can you imagine spending all of that money to buy a treasure that will now be the norm—to spend thousands for something that will be sold for pennies? That’s certainly not the best return on an investment, but why are we surprised? Even Jesus, a man who never enjoyed a Twinkie, warned us about placing value on such invaluable things. Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

Enjoy the return of this cream-filled treasure. Eat until you’re satisfied or miserable—whichever comes first. But remember, the “Golden Cakes” will never compare to the “Golden Streets”, so listen to Jesus. Store up the “treasure” that matters.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Debt Free?

Every year, Americans climb the debt charts like Mount Everest. Most households spend more than they make to carry an image they can’t afford.

But, have you heard about Ken Ilgunas? In 2005, Ken graduated with a BA, as well as $32,000 in Student Loans. After entering the resume round-up in a terrible economy, Ken moved to Alaska—the only place he could find employment. He worked at a Truck-Stop that was 250 miles away from the nearest town. Because there was no cell service, he had no cell phone bill. Room and board were provided. Every dime Ken made paid down his student debt. The next summer, Ken was a backcountry ranger in Alaska. With this job, he paid off his remaining balance.

It wasn’t long before Ken realized he needed more education, so he enrolled at Duke University for Graduate School; but, even though Ken became a student at a prestigious school, his thrifty, Alaskan life-style went with him. He purchased a 1994 Ford Econoline van for $1,500—for flashy wheels? Quite the contrary—this was Ken’s home. Ken removed the back seats to make room for “furnishings”. He used a plastic bin to store food and other supplies. He did all of his cooking on a backpacking stove which he used in Alaska. He joined Duke’s campus gym for $34.00 a semester, which provided a shower. Cold nights weren’t a problem, because he slept in his thermal sleeping bag from his days as a ranger.

Ken graduated from Duke in May of 2011 with his Masters. Both his Undergraduate and Graduate degrees are debt-free. He has already written one book describing his journey, and his second book is almost finished. Financially, I would say Ken is on the right track.

As Christians, we should be drowning in spiritual debt—debt that is so great, even extreme thriftiness won’t move us to the “black”. But Jesus the savior, and God the “banker”, forgives our “note”. God credits righteousness to our account, just like Abraham. Jesus paid a debt he did not owe. And because of those transactions, we’re debt free.

God credits. Jesus clears. You Capitalize. So here’s the question: what have you done to thank them?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Which Mouse Are You?

“Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn't quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out. Gentlemen, as of this moment, I am that second mouse.”

You’ve probably heard that “adage” before. It’s a simple, motivational proverb, stemming others to success. In fact, it’s most well known from the 2002 film, based on a true story, “Catch Me if You Can”. The movie starred Leonardo Dicaprio, who played Frank Abignale Jr.—the young counterfeiter who stole millions of dollars from the United States government. After finally being caught, Abignale Jr. served out his sentence working for the FBI, tracking down other counterfeiters. In the film, Frank Abignale Sr., Frank’s father, used the story in a speech at an awards banquet. He also quoted it to his son, Frank Jr., on the eve of every difficulty. Ironically, even though Abignale Sr. claimed to be the second mouse, he was always the first. His life was full of financial fraud, unemployment, and struggling to make ends meet.

For the businessman and lover of the American Dream, it does motivate commitment. It sends the message that if you keep working and never, never, never give up (in the words of Winston Churchill), you still have a chance. You can walk out of your own financial grave.

For the Christian, the adage sends the wrong idea. The reason we don’t give up is because God doesn’t give up on us. Deep in the muck and mire of sin and human frailty, we can “churn the cream” with every ounce of our being, but we won’t make butter. If we believe we can “crawl out” because of our own strength and dedication, we will drown like the first mouse.

Paul describes the “bucket of cream” in this way—“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God…” (Ephesians 2:8). Which “mouse” are you? Be the one who points its eyes to Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. Then, and only then, will you survive.



Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Shame in the Booth

Memorial Day is full of American pride and tradition. It’s refreshing to see professional sports teams join in the accolades. Last weekend, in Major League Baseball, every team wore camouflage hats. Some teams even wore camouflage jerseys to honor the heroes who fight everyday in uniform. I thought this was a nice touch and very appropriate.

But on the other hand—words from the announcing booth at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, were absolutely despicable. David Wright stepped up to the plate. When he swung at an inside fastball, it not only jammed his hands, but it broke his bat in half—half of it flying all the way down the first base line. Referring to the broken bat laying on the ground, Announcer Keith Hernandez said, “There’s another dead soldier”. On Memorial Day? You’ve got to be kidding me.

Now, as a baseball fan, I know what he meant—and if you’re a baseball fan, you do too. “Dead Soldier” is common terminology for a broken bat. The same way people refer to a football as “Pig Skin”, or even the three point line on the basketball court as the “Top of the Key”. But on a day to honor fallen heroes, Hernandez says over the air, “There’s another dead soldier”; terrible, horrific, timing. Reactions have stormed the media and I understand why. Hernandez will learn to choose his words more carefully.

Sadly, Christians need to examine their words just like Keith Hernandez. What we say at the time may not seem wrong to us, but to others, our words can cause emotional damage. We must know our context, our setting, and our listeners. If we don’t, we can make an eternal mistake.

The writer of Proverbs said it this way, “A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly.” (Proverbs 12:23). Just because you think it, doesn’t mean you say it; because sometimes, when you do, shame covers your brow.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Losing the Purpose

I hope you’re all geared up for Memorial Day weekend. It’s refreshing to kick off summer with family and friends, sitting around the pool, dabbling in the pleasures and novelties of the grill. It’s a privilege to remember those who have paid the ultimate price so we can enjoy our freedom. We owe this holiday to them.

But on a deeper, spiritual level, we can quickly lose the purpose of memorials. Consider this excerpt from Dr. James Dobson’s book, “Coming Home: Timeless Wisdom for Families”.

“The Taj Mahal is one of the most beautiful and costly tombs ever built, but there is something fascinating about its beginnings. In 1629, when the favorite wife of Indian ruler Shah Jahan died, he ordered that a magnificent tomb be built as a memorial for her. The shah placed his wife’s casket in the middle of a parcel of land, and construction of the temple literally began around it. But several years into the venture, the Shah’s grief gave way to a passion for the project. One day while he was surveying the sight, he reportedly stumbled over a wooden box, and he had some workers throw it out. It was months before he realized that his wife’s casket had been destroyed. The original purpose for the memorial became lost in the details of construction.”

Can you imagine being Shah Jahan when he discovered his faux pas? Words fail to capture the heartache, but Dr. Dobson makes a valid point. Excuse after excuse can be made for the shah’s oversight, but the cause is the same—“the original purpose for the memorial became lost in the details of construction”.

As we continue to grow, both in spirit and number, may we never lose our purpose. In the memorial of all memorials, Jesus defined that purpose in this way, “Do this in remembrance of me”. His body and His blood stand at the forefront of our lives, sharing the limelight with no one or nothing. Don’t lose it in the details.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Have You Forgotten?

An elderly man moved into a retirement community. Very quickly, he made a number of friends. One lady was very attracted to him, and he was very attracted to her. After spending much time together, one evening he proposed, and she agreed to marry him.


The next morning he woke up remembering his proposal, but he couldn't remember her answer. So he went to her and said, "I'm really embarrassed to admit this. I know I proposed to you last night, but I can't remember if you said 'Yes' or 'No.'" The woman replied, "Oh, thank goodness! I remembered saying 'Yes' to someone last night but I couldn't remember who asked me."

We can all relate with a story like this. Regardless of our age or mental capability, we forget some of the most important memory pegs of life. But when it comes to our relationship with Jesus—when and why it officially began—our memory can’t fail us.

As the Son of God, Jesus said, “I love you so much I gave my life for you.” As a baptized believer, you said, “I love you so much I give my life to you”. The proposal was offered. It was accepted. The rest is history.

Have you forgotten? Some say they have, but they haven’t. And on the Day of Judgment, God won’t forget either.



Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Master Among Masters

Another Masters in Augusta, Georgia has come and gone. Amidst the beauty of Azaleas and Pines, the world’s best golfers regrouped at the golfer’s paradise of Augusta National. Each player gave it his all for the Green Jacket—the ultimate crown in the golfing Kingdom. “Aussie” Adam Scott became the first Australian to ever win the Masters.

Scott’s career has experienced many ups and downs. In 2008, Scott placed third in the US Open, a significant achievement; but, after that tournament, the wheels quickly began to fall off. In his next 14 tournaments, Scott missed the cut 10 times. He found himself in financial trouble as he purchased a jet to fly him from tournament to tournament. Unfortunately, this purchase was made the same time his career went south.

But in 2009, golf hero and fellow Australian Greg Norman asked Adam Scott to play for the President’s Cup. In that tournament Scott did even worse. He was literally about to “hang up his cleats” and walk away from the game, until a gentleman named Angel Cabrera, 2009 Masters Champion, entered the scene. Cabrera agreed to play with Scott to help calm his nerves and find his swing.

Fast forward four years to Sunday, April 14th, 2013. As fate would have it, Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera were walking down the fairway together; this time, not as teammates, but as competitors, in the second playoff hole to win the Masters. Cabrera hit his second shot and landed at the front of the green. Scott laced a seven iron 12 feet from the hole. From underneath his umbrella, Cabrera gave Scott the “thumbs up”—a gesture foreign to the world of competitive golf. On his third shot, Cabrera chipped up onto the green and missed the hole by inches, tapping in for his par. Scott sank his 12 foot birdie putt for the win, as roars from the crowd echoed through the trees and the hills.

Adam Scott was adorned with the Green Jacket and all of its glory, but it was only a matter of minutes before Scott recognized the power of his competitor, and former teammate, Angel Cabrera. Scott reminisced of Cabrera’s encouragement and gave Cabrera the credit for saving his career that was literally hours away from ending. Even though Cabrera missed the Green Jacket by inches, in my opinion, he is still a Master among Masters.

You see, we never know just how powerful our words really are. Green Jackets are nice, but nothing compares to the sweetness of encouragement. That’s the true mark of a Master.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Trimming the Tongue

One day a lady went to visit her preacher. She was one of the members who always complained. She walked into the preacher’s office and told him, “Preacher, there is something you do that offends me.” The preacher wanted to be accommodating, so he asked her, “What is that?” She answered, “It’s the way you wear your tie.” The preacher, somewhat surprised and confused asked, “What is it about the way I wear my tie that offends you?” She said, “Preacher, your tie always hangs two or three inches below your belt buckle. A tie properly worn strikes the belt buckle.”


The preacher sat there a moment, then reached into his desk and pulled out a pair of scissors. He then said to the woman, “Well, I certainly don’t want to be offensive to you. Here, take these scissors and cut my tie to where you think it ought to be.” The woman took the scissors and cut off about two inches of the preacher’s tie. “Does that make you feel better?” asked the preacher. “Yes, it does,” replied the woman.

With that, the woman got up and started to leave the office, but the preacher stopped her. “Before you leave,” the preacher said, “There’s something about you that offends me.” “What is about me that offends you,” asked the woman. The preacher responded, “Your tongue, stick it out please.”

I hope you found that fictional story as humorous as I did. In my ministry career thus far, I’ve haven’t cut any tongues, and I don’t ever plan to do so. But, it does provide a reminder for us all, regardless if we’re the preacher, teacher, or member. How carefully are we choosing our words? James says, “…the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” (James 3: 5) Before we know it, we set the Lord’s Kingdom on fire with the ruthlessness of our tongues; and that, my friends, is a tragedy of all tragedies.

Does your tongue need to be trimmed two inches?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

To Worry or not to Worry: Is that the Question?

Since I’ve lived in Kerrville, I’ve flown out of San Antonio International Airport many times for speaking engagements, seminars, and personal travel. In doing so, I’ve created a frequent flyer routine. I always park in Parking Lot B. When I’m clearing security, I always get in the line on the far right because it’s quicker. Once I clear security, I always peruse Raising Cane’s Fried Chicken just to get a “whiff” of the fried goodness, but I don’t buy. Then, I head for Starbucks, where I do buy. And finally, I make a stop at the Shoe Shine booth for a fresh shine of the shoes—my most important stop.

Working there is a young man named Alden. Alden never went to college because he couldn’t afford it. After graduating high school, he began shining shoes to pay the bills. Now, after years of working hard to earn a living, Alden’s job might be up in the air. San Antonio International Airport is getting an “Extreme Makeover”, and with all of these updates, new contracts have been acquired. Alden isn’t sure if the new company will hire him back or let him go, but he still shines shoes with enthusiasm and candor, and continually says, “Something will come along”.

Last time I sat in his chair, with a job that I love and that supports my family, I realized I worry more about my life than Alden does his. Alden provides a powerful reminder—one which originated with our Savior; “…do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

Is it ok to be concerned? Yes. Is it natural to be stressed? Sure. Should we worry? No.

Jesus asks us, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6: 27) Through worry, we can’t add hours to our life, but we can certainly take them away. Thank you, Alden, for the reminder. Keep Shining.

Monday, March 18, 2013

What's Your Story?

Before you jump down to the bottom of this article to unlock the answer, see if you can guess who this riddle defines:

36 have been accused of spousal abuse.
7 have been arrested for fraud.
19 have been accused of writing bad checks.
117 have bankrupted at least 2 businesses.
3 have served time for assault.
71, repeat 71, cannot get a credit card due to bad credit.
14 have been arrested on drug-related charges.
8 have been arrested for shoplifting.
21 have been defendants in lawsuits.
84 have been arrested for drunk driving.
Total # of People: 380

It’s not the NBA or the NFL. It’s the alleged 2009 United States Congress. That’s right—it's rumored that 380 of the 450 members had these plots attached to their stories (100% confirmation can't be found). And since many of our current Congressmen were serving in 2009, it's possible not much has changed. We can see why words like “Fiscal Cliff” and “Sequester” so easily roll off the tongue in Washington.

I realize Congress shouldn’t be elevated to a platform of spiritual virtue. Many recent morality legislations, which have been supported and approved by Congress, break my heart as a disciple of Jesus, and I find them in direct violation of God’s will. 380 Congressmen have made significant mistakes and committed grievous sins, yet they still have held, and some continue to hold, high positions in our country.

This political example makes a spiritual application. God’s people have always been “mess ups”. Abraham lied about Sarah being his sister, but he still became the “Father of Many Nations.” David committed adultery and murder, but he was still a “Man After God’s Own Heart.” Zacchaeus was a deceitful tax collector, but salvation still “came to his house.” The church at Corinth was full of division, sexual immorality, idolatry, and confusion, but Paul still called them the “church of God in Corinth.” (1 Corinthians 1:2)

What’s your story? It’s not any worse, or different, than a story that has already been written. But, here’s the good news—regardless of our resume, God, our potter, can mold the clay of our lives into what it needs to be. Don’t allow a troubled past to determine a terrific future. God won’t give up on you. Don’t give up on Him.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Unknown Secrets

How well do you know people? Probably not as well as you think.

I read an interesting article last week that mentioned secrets travelers don’t know about Flight Attendants. I spend a fair amount of time in airports, so I found some of them to be eye-opening, and fairly humorous. Here are just a few from the list:

1) When the plane door is open, we aren’t getting paid. (That explains why Attendants are so adamant about overhead bins and finding a seat quickly. Every minute spent boarding and de-boarding is time off their pay check—they’re paid for “flight hours only”, which begins when the plane pushes back from the gate. So, when they rush you to find a seat, it’s nothing personal—they just want to be paid.)

2) We can be too tall or too short. (This sounds pretty shallow, but in reality, it’s much better than it used to be. During the Pan Am era of the 1960’s, Stewardesses had to be at least 5’2 and weigh no more than 130 pounds. They also had to retire by the age of 32. Today, those restrictions are gone, but female Attendants must still be at least 5’3, and no taller than 6’1.)

3) We hate pouring Diet Coke. (No wonder I always get a roll of the eyes when I ask for my favorite beverage. Diet Coke takes twice as long to serve because the fizzle from the carbonation takes twice as long to settle. Attendants say they can serve three beverages in the amount of time it takes to serve one Diet Coke. This is a significant factor on the short, 45 minute in-state flights.)

I realize these secrets aren’t “Breaking News”, but they do explain why Flight Attendants often seem irritable. In one way or another, it serves as a reminder for the church. How often do we share our struggles, fears, pet-peeves, and disappointments? Church should provide an environment where we feel comfortable to share our unknown secrets. When we do, people understand us better and can relate with us more. Granted, these secrets may not be life-shattering, but it’s comforting when people listen and care.

Find someone to listen to you. Find someone you will listen to. You will be glad that you did.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Credited to the Wrong Account

We’ve all made banking blunders here and there, but hopefully you haven’t been as careless as British hairdresser, Sally Donaldson. Every month, Sally’s paycheck was automatically deposited into her personal bank account. Then, per Sally’s instructions, her bank would take these funds and automatically transfer them to a joint-checking account she shared with her husband at another bank. Sounds harmless, doesn’t it? Not really.

When Sally originally set up these automatic deposits and transfers, she gave her bank the wrong account number for the joint-checking account at the other bank. Approximately $40,000 (USA currency equivalent) later, Sally realized the account number she supplied was off by one digit. All of her transferred money had been given to someone else, and the transactions couldn’t be reversed. Two years of earnings had been credited to the wrong account! Expensive mistake.

Our loving God and Father in Heaven “credits accounts” the same way, but it’s on purpose. When we believe, obey, and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, we receive an amazing gift that’s credited to our account. In fact, it’s the same gift Abraham received nearly four thousand years ago. Paul describes the transaction in Galatians 3:6 when he writes, “Consider Abraham: He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

What are you doing with the gift you didn’t deserve, but the credit you received? God makes us righteous so we can live righteous lives, proclaim His power, and advance His Kingdom. But if we don’t, we abuse the transaction. God just might say, “I credited it to the wrong account”, and unlike English banking regulations, God’s transactions are reversible!

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Receipt Reputation?

I’ve always known that being a waiter or waitress is a tough way to make a living, but I didn’t realize how tough until last week. A man who claimed to be a preacher left a “cheap” tip to say the least. He went to a restaurant, enjoyed his meal, and received a bill for $34.93 for his purchases. Due to the size of the party he was dining with (20 people), the restaurant added an automatic 18% gratuity ($6.29) to his tab. This obviously rubbed this “preacher” the wrong way, because at the top of the receipt he wrote, “I give God 10%. Why do you get 18?” Then, in the tip column, he wrote a large, emphatic ZERO. Some might find it humorous. I don’t know about you, but as a preacher, I find it embarrassing.

As Christians, we can assemble and worship all we want. We can sing with excitement, passion, perfect pitch and four-part harmony. We can teach classes, quote scripture, and give bountifully and generously. But until we make our faith a daily affair, we’re simply stage actors who write our own plays, and then act them out before fellow actors in the fortress of our buildings.

Paul wrote in Colossians 3:17, And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”Whatever you do”—that includes tipping the waiter or waitress who serves you so they can feed their families. God wants us to develop a good reputation inside and outside the family of God. Don’t let a receipt get in the way!

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Power of Confession

We’ve all received unique letters in the mail, but a recent letter sent to the Riphagen family takes the cake. Years ago, Margot Riphagen invited a few of her teenage friends over for a party when her parents were out of town. Like most teenage parties that convene at such locations, in such inopportune times, the number of attendees grew by leaps and bounds in a matter of minutes, even though these “attendees” were never invited. Bad news. When the party was over, the family noticed that many valuable items were missing, including four rings that were the family’s most prized possessions. The rings were never found, and Margot’s parents even turned her into the police thinking she had stolen them!

Years later, the Riphagens received an anonymous letter in the mail. It was composed of an apology note, the four rings, the confession of the crime, and this unusual signature: “A dumb kid who wants to right a wrong.” As you can imagine, the family was overjoyed to receive the rings, which house four priceless memories: Margot’s mother’s wedding band, a ring Margot’s father gave Margot’s mother when Margot’s sister was born, and the wedding bands of Margot’s grandparents.

Confession is one of the most powerful virtues of our faith. It breaks God’s heart when we rebelliously sin against His will, but it fills Him with joy when we humbly confess our shortcomings. That’s why James writes, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)

This was a “dumb kid who wanted to right a wrong.” We’re “sinful Christians who want to be forgiven.” Both are possible through the power of confession.



Monday, January 14, 2013

Conviction from Grad School

I spent last week at Harding for a one week intensive course for my Masters degree that I will receive in May. Since this graduate program is mostly online, it’s always a blessing to sit face to face with classmates and professors. This year, we had students from Arkansas, Texas, Missouri, Florida, and even Suriname! This course is entitled, “Theological Foundations of Ministry”. Throughout the week, I heard many lectures that made my mind spin in a sea of “isms” and “ologies”, but our professor, Dr. Bill Richardson, began the course on Tuesday with a quote that has convicted me forever—“Theologians who don’t engage in ministry aren’t good Theologians, and Ministers who don’t study theology aren’t good Ministers.”

It’s powerful to ponder on the deepest thoughts of God, but if we never leave the fortress of the classroom or library, we miss the purpose of our study. Jesus, the greatest theologian to ever live, still said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10) It’s also powerful to be involved in the lives of people and minister to their needs, but if we don’t academically build a foundation on the precepts of God, we simply form earthly friendships rather than eternal bonds. Jesus reached out to the poor, marginalized, and broken, but Jesus still said, “…Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

What is your vision for the Kingdom and its mission? If you only peek through the lens of theology, your vision is lacking. If you only gaze through the lens of ministry, your vision is blurry. Remember, “Theologians who don’t engage in ministry aren’t good Theologians, and Ministers who don’t study theology aren’t good Ministers.”

Study. Minister. Succeed.