Out of the Box's Swan Song

This may come as no surprise to those of you who still read this blog. This, barring unforeseen developments, is my last entry. Times are a changing. I don't read blogs anymore. Technology is changing the way we get information. The only physical books I acquire now days are those given to me. I get my news and entertainment through short videos on my phone or iPad. My truck manual is on my phone where I can tap an icon and read only the paragraph that relates to the question I have. The only blogs I listen to are video or audio podcasts from Christian leaders I choose to learn from.

Not only am I changing the way I communicate ideas based upon technology, but also because of basic human behavior. I have written 382 blog posts prior to this one. Most posts solicit around 100 views the day they are released and quickly drop to 25 - 30 a day for days following. I haven't done the math, but I quickly scanned my previous entries just before writing this one, and I found that 90% solicit 0 responses from the readers. However, when I wrote about controversial issues like Bruce Jenner's sex transformation or my opinion about the new leader of our missions board, the number of readers and comments would spike. People love controversy. They also love to be ugly to people who don't share their social, religious or political views. I don't enjoy controversy. I most often keep my opinions to myself. I don't like that rush of  selfish pride when I step up on my stump to speak of or defend my personal opinion. It feels good for a minute, but it quickly melts into regret. I have the greatest job in the world. I get to teach what I know is truth. I didn't write it. It isn't my opinion. I don't even have to defend it. I just tell it.

One other reason I'm ending my blogging career. I want to reach as many people as possible in the time I have left occupying the awesome position God gas allowed me to fill. If you are not willing to stir up controversy, blogging outreach is minuscule compared to other forms of communication. For example, just last week I sat down with a young lady who helps Dallas Bay with social media  and a camera phone. We live-streamed  as I answered a list of question posted on Facebook. In a little over 24 hours that video had reached thousands; no script, not setup and no expense. It takes much more effort to sit down, put my thoughts together, and peck out my thoughts on a keyboard. The results compared to the time and effort expended is greatly in favor of the video format.  

I'm going to leave the link to my blog on the church's website for the near future. I hope you will go back and read some of my earlier posts again. I do that on occasion. I have even spent some time assembling them together as a kind of online devotional. After all, there are more than enough to do one for each day of the year. It's also a good place for newcomers to Dallas Bay Church to get to know their pastor. I already feel a bit of tension leaving my body as I write these last few words. I pray I will no longer will feel guilty for not writing entries often enough. Look for more live-streaming Q&A videos to be announced soon. So I bid you a farewell as I ride off into the blogging sunset. God bless!     

A Nearly Forgotten Prophetic Word


While exercising this morning I was listening to a podcast by a pastor who gives helpful advice to other ministers. He refrained from his usual advisory format and gave the account of his call to the ministry. One portion of his story brought back memories I had not thought of in years. They related to my own call. He spoke of an evening during a prayer service when a visiting evangelists paused in front of him. After a few awkward moments of silence the minister declared to the teenager that he would enter the ministry and speak in front of thousands. The young man had not considered such a career before that moment, but that indeed became his life's pursuit.

This account took me back 40 years ago.  As many of you have heard me testify that I was a part of a youth "witness team" as a teenager. The reason I was associated with the group was because I was dating the leader's daughter. I was as lost as a ball in high weeds. I had grown up in church, but I had never accepted Him as my Savior. I was as far from God as anyone could ever be. Partly due to the influence of the group, and to a great degree as a result of my pastor, I finally became a true believer. I would soon break up with the girl that had been the reason for me being on the witness team to begin with, but not without one significant event that occurred before she and I parted ways.

I had only been saved for a very short time. The team had spoken at a small church during one of their Sunday evening services. The pastor invited the team and our sponsor to have snacks with him and his wife in their home afterward. I don't remember anything about that evening except one thing. The pastor had each of the youth line up at his door as we departed so that he could bless each one individually. I listened as he spoke very kind and affirming words to the each person as they met with him. Soon I was standing before him expecting a similar blessing.

The old pastor looked me in the eye. He did not pause as in the story I related about the podcaster's calling. This man simply said,"Young man, may God make you a great preacher!" I was stunned, but also expected something to follow. It did not. He turned to the guy in line behind me and repeated a similar blessing to one's that had gone before me. I sat in the van on the way home wondering if the words this man spoke were just an attempt to change up his repeated blessing. Or did he really get a word from the Lord that he was instructed to speak over my life.

Years passed and it seemed more and more like the man was just being kind. No such future seemed to be in the cards for me. I graduated college. I got married. I became a retail buyer, a computer programmer and a father, but not a preacher. More years passed and I forgot the words of the old minister altogether. I did not become a pastor for more than 15 years after his prophetic blessing. While listening to the man's story this morning as I worked out, the scene from all those years ago flooded my mind. And then this thought, "All the promises of God are yea and amen." He does not withdraw His gifts. However, their activation in our lives wait until the moment God has planned.

I wonder if David felt the way I did when he was called in to his father's house to stand before the prophet Samuel. He had spoken kindly of all Jesse's sons that went before him, but there were no prophetic utterances. Then Samuel declared that David would become the king and poured oil over his young head. The prophet then departed and Jesse sent his youngest son David out to tend the sheep again. God had chosen him, but the time was not right. His time would come.

Do you ever wonder if God will use you? Is His promise for you so far in your past that you have forgotten that it had ever been given? Don't lose heart. God's timing is perfect.  If you are feeling a little discontent right now, take it as a good thing. Remember, God always rattles your cage before He ever opens the door.    

How Would I Want You to Treat Me?

It's not uncommon to be asked by a layperson or another pastor who is my favorite Christian author or preacher/teacher. As far as an author is concerned, I'm afraid my answer often disappoints. I don't read Christian fiction and I don't read books of sermons. However, I have found books written by Jim Cymbala, pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle, filled with testimonies of deliverance to be inspirational.   I don't read devotionals. I know many people do, and I think they're very helpful for a lot of believers. I'm in the process of writing one for adults and the devotion I co-wrote with other Christian leaders for children will be out in October.

No, my favorite reading is in the discipline of apologetics.  I read Ravi Zacharias, John Lennox, and F.F. Bruce. I'm pretty sure not many are going to be as interested in the subject of Christian apologetics as I am, but I may be wrong. If I am, then I can wholeheartedly recommend the writings of these brilliant men to you.

However, when it comes to preachers and teachers I am less likely to give a quick reply. And let me set the record straight before your thoughts begin wandering down this road; I do not think my teaching is  so superior that all others are beneath my appreciation. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am very aware of my limitations. If it were not for the Holy Spirit's last second inspiration many more of my messages would have prompted  resume updates than those that solicited praise from the congregation. No my problem is that I have a very short attention span. As soon as I detect the 3 point, poem and prayer formula in a sermon I have already checked out. I just don't think in lists and formulas. So when I listen to many preachers I just get lost in random thoughts. It's a terrible trait that limits my appreciation to a few creative speakers. Some of these people are also very popular with the business community. It seems Biblical insights are so right-on that they not only work well in the Christian's life but in business as well. Since speaking at leadership conferences pay better than faith gatherings, many of their talks have increasingly less to do with my world. And, unfortunately,  it seems that the same DNA code that makes these guys creative also makes them vulnerable to many temptations.

Just yesterday I had a few free minutes. I thought how long it had been since I had gone online and listened to a message.  I looked for one particular preacher I had always been interested in his out of the box approach to sharing God's Word. So I googled his name. What I received was not a list of current sermons, but what I uncovered was a list of current sins, poor judgments and improprieties. Newscasts, websites and Christian blogs were full of dirt on this guy. I didn't have the stomach to read much of this man's fall from grace. I looked only far enough to learn some of his misguided antics. I will not list them here. It is important for me to say that there were no illegal activities listed. There was no reports of unfaithfulness to his wife. No accusations of abuse. The man simply got off track. Reports said he was still employed by his church, but that attendance had fallen dramatically. How sad. How sad too were the Christian bloggers who were so eager to throw his damaged reputation under an oncoming bus. Just skimming the articles it appeared that their harsh criticism was greater than the secular media that seemed to have a degree of remorse over the man's condition.

So I've been thinking. What is the proper response? One part of my brain says that we who are called to leadership positions in the church are called to a higher degree of accountability. There is no doubt about that. What would Christ do? Would He consider this man, and the many others like him, more like the religious leaders of His day? Would He call him a hypocrite as He did the Pharisees. Would He condemn this man? Or would He treat Him like the sinners who gathered around to hear words of life fill their empty lives? Was this man setting a bad example or teaching bad doctrine. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish the two. It is true that our actions speak louder than our words.

While considering out loud what my response should be I am reminded of Christ's words, "Whatever you would have men do to you, do to them..." Matthew 7:12 So here's how I will respond. I would want Christians to pray for me. So I will pray for this man. I would want Spirit filled believers to hold me accountable. I would want a chance to restore my reputation. I would not want to be judged but loved. So these are the things I will do. I would want others to remember how God had used me in the past and pray that He will use me again. So accountability means I will wait to listen to this man preach.  I will look for creativity in others. I will not join those who look to hurt him more than he has already been hurt. I will not judge lest I be judged. And I will pray for the day when my brother has been restored.      

From Despair to Desperation

Excuse me for the brevity of this entry. I just returned from 10 days off and realized it's been awhile since I jotted down any thoughts on this blog. So I thought I would just share with you what's on my mind. 

The Sunday before I left on vacation I shared a message entitled "Speak to this Mountain." In it I detailed the issues we are facing as a church. The previous Sunday being Easter I had observed the traffic jams and overflow issues we had. We have for years wanted to have a facility large enough for two services instead of the three we have each weekend and the four services necessary for holidays. I suddenly came to realize if we were to have such a facility the roads, parking lots, preschool space and children's areas could not handle crowds. In effect, if we solved one problem we would in fact create many more. I have to admit my first thoughts were very discouraging. Many of these issues no amount of money can fix. For example, I can't enlarge the street leading to our campus. So just for a moment the dark shadow of hopelessness enveloped me.

Then it hit me. This is exactly where God wants us. We have always been able to reason or resource ourselves through every obstacle that has ever stood in Dallas Bay's path. Now this mountain is too big. It's too big for my pea sized brain. So what's the alternative? Turn to God. Admit that the mountain is bigger than us, but not bigger than Him. "Speak to this mountain" is what I felt in my spirit. Suddenly the discouragement turned to anticipation. We've never seen God knock down the walls of Jericho or part the Red Sea around here, but I believe.

I've come to conclude that discouragement can be a good thing. It can lead you to despair. Which is certainly not a good thing. But despair only takes residence in our hearts when we look to our own abilities to move the mountain. Instead of despair, this mountain has moved me to desperation. I'm desperate to see God do what  is impossible for us. I'm desperate to see God's people lift up their hands in praise to our "ever present help" instead of throwing their hands in the air from despair. I believe God has brought us to the end of our resources so we can see where His begins!          

Another of God's Prophets is Called Home

LoweryOne of the greatest preachers of this and the last generation was called to heaven Sunday. Most of my Baptists readers have probably never heard of him. T. L. Lowery, was a pentecostal pastor, preacher, evangelist and spiritual leader. I have been impressed with very few people in my life more than this man. When I was a child he would come to our church and hold revivals. Sometimes indoors and at other times the church would set up a tent on the lawn and throw sawdust on the floor and line up folding chairs. Where ever he preached it was to a standing room only crowd. Yes they were fiery. Yes they were emotional. But they were also filled with a lot of truth.

No man ever looked like a preacher more than Brother Lowery. Billy Graham may be better known, but with their commanding appearance neither could have been mistaken for anything but mighty men of God. In a day when genuine spirituality  is often replaced with trumped up theatrical performances this man's character would not allow him to "fake it until you make it." If he served as a pastor, the church experienced exponential growth. When he preached revivals they became great movements of the Holy Spirit. He was not forced into pushing people to the ground so they might experience God's power. I have never known him to bring attention to himself as he ministered in the Spirit. God always took center stage as this man of God stayed out of His way.

My father is not a man who would ever fake his spiritual experiences either. Dad has shared with me many times how on one occasion he was knocked off his feet in a church service. T. L. Lowery was holding a revival when my father came forward for prayer. As dad approached this man he stretched his hand toward him but never touched him. My father describes a sudden shock of electricity that hit him in his forehead that pushed him to the ground. While lying there God ministered to his spiritual needs.

I was speaking to a pastor one day who had a similar experience in one of Dr. Lowery's services. The young man had only recently surrendered to the ministry. As he sat in the the service  he began to smell a wonderful scent that reminded him of flowers. Thinking it was a powerful perfume of a nearby female he moved to another spot in the room. He did this twice only to find the distinctive aroma was each place he went. About that time Lowery spoke from the pulpit, "Do you swell the sweet scent of the Rose of Sharon passing by?" Then Dr. Lowery pointed to him and called him to come forward. Just as in my father's case he didn't lay a finger on this young preacher. However, he was knocked to the ground by a force he could not see. Then  in a few moments when he attempted to get to his feet and leave Dr. Lowery said that God wanted him to receive a double portion and once again this young man found himself on the floor. 

Such stories could be repeated over and over by those who were touched by this man's ministry. He would go on fasts for weeks at a time just so God would use him to change lives and powerfully preach His Word. If I could have one-third the impact on people's lives as Dr. Lowery's when my life is over I would consider myself a blessed man.  

The End of Civility

 It should be fairly obvious by now, even to the casual observer, that the best and the brightest no longer run for president of the United States. I should also note that civility is a thing of the past. Politicians hurling insults at one another has reached an all time high. Or an all time low would be more accurate. Why would a qualified individual submit themselves to such attacks on their character? Policy has been replaced with personality as the driving force behind a person's surge in public opinion polls.

I propose this hasn't happened overnight. My mother, God rest her soul, voted for Nixon because "he looked like a president." In retrospect that probably wasn't a good reason for choosing our commander-in-chief. Before Nixon voters were captivated with an American version of "Camelot" as Kennedy took office in the early sixties. History reveals that Americans have often elected their president for reasons other than sound policy platforms. The current occupant of the oval office was elected with an ambiguous promise to bring about "change." He certainly did that. Many, even in his same party, wonder if the changes have been beneficial or detrimental to the well being of the country.

So it's not so much the weight given to personality over policy that has me worried, but the lack of civility between the candidates. I still remember when Reagan would call his arch nemesis in congress, Tip O'Neil, to have a talk about issues that separated their parties and our country. I don't remember attacks on their character from members of their respective political caucuses because each was reaching across the aisle for the good of the country.  They were applauded by most for their willingness to set aside personal agendas for the benefit of everyone. We can't even get members of the same party to be civil to each other much less towards someone from the other side.

This all reminds of what I've been reading in First John. I was struck with the odd composition of one verse as I was beginning to share it with my congregation. The 7th verse in the first chapter reads "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." As I read that verse something struck me as profound. You would imagine if we walked in the same light as Jesus is in the light the result would be fellowship with Him. However, John says the result is fellowship  with one another.  Walking in the light refers to walking in a way that is pleasing to God and is the opposite of walking in darkness. So my take away from that verse is that our fellowship among ourselves has more to do with our relationship to God than it does with each other.   Could the same be true of our politicians. Is it possible that we as a country have gotten so far away from God that it is becoming more and more difficult to be civil with each other? Has our turning away from Him and our dependence upon government to fix our problems taken us to a place where we longer walk in the light but in darkness? In the darkness it is difficult to identify who is your friend and who is your foe so we attack everyone.

The only hope I see is the church. Not a denomination. We have a tendency to attack one another just as the politicians do. I mean "the church." The "called out ones" from every denomination. Is it possible that if we set the example by walking in the light that we could once again regain the influence we once had in this country? It may be entirely too late. The genie may already be out of the bottle, but does that justify not trying? I don't think so. Our responsibility is to be salt and light in this world of darkness. That commandment has never changed. We are charged to be the bearers of His light. I am encouraged by the truth that it is always darkest just before the dawn.        

Have the Pundits Overestimated Our Unity?

While I have not been as captivated by the political process this election cycle as it seems much of the country is, I have been watching sporadically. What I have noticed is that one specific interest group is being courted by several of the candidates. Political pundits often group evangelicals together as a voting powerhouse. Two things about this line of thinking strike me as profound. One, do those who don’t consider themselves a part of this evangelical community really believe we ever unite for anything except in times of crisis? We spend more time knit-picking one another than we do uniting our voices. Second, it is also clear that they do not lump evangelicals in with Christianity at large or the church. We are seen as that fringe element of Christianity where our faith actually has some influence on how we live and how we vote. While that should be a fairly accurate evaluation of most evangelicals, it also sends up a red flag. Once we are identified as outside the norm for Christianity it is not too far a stretch for us to be labeled extremists. The next step is to lump us all together with those who bomb abortion clinics or hijack airplanes.

This spotlight from those outside the evangelical community has caused me to consider who we really are. From my perspective I think the political strategists give us more credit than credit is due. I don’t think we are as united as they assume. However, I think we were at one time, but not today. When I read of the early church I see a powerful influence in society. I see a group of people who are united for the cause of Christ and the expansion of the gospel. Yes there were some early divisions within the church. In her formative years some members of the church brought their former prejudices with them. These needed to be reminded that there were neither Jews nor Greeks, men or women, slave-owners or slaves in the fellowship. When they came together they were all equals. (Galatians 3:28) Some who were wealthy and were accustomed to having priority over others found that this type of behavior was not to be tolerated in the church. (I Corinthians 11:33) Even widows who were from outside Israel, by necessity were beggars before becoming believers. However, they were not to be ignored in God’s new economy. (Acts 6:1) These issues, and several others, were dealt with head on by the leadership of the early church. They knew their influence on the world would be amplified if they remained together (John 17:21)

So early on believers would unite under the banner of Christ in a city and become a powerful influence to change lives where they lived. Churches were known by the city in which they were united. There was the Church at Pergamos, the Church at Smyrna, the Church at Sardis and other churches in other cities in Asia Minor. In Europe you had the great Church in Rome. In Israel you had the Church in Jerusalem. Each of these churches had elders and deacons. Internally, they shared within their ranks so that no one would suffer need. Externally, they infiltrated and influenced their cities with the good news and were prepared to give a response for the hope that resided within them. (I Peter 3:15) United, they were the single most influential segment of society. (Acts 17:6)

Prophetically, Jesus warned His disciples about the human propensity to elevate self and separate over minor differences. 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. Mark 3:24-25 (NKJV) No wonder he prayed just before He was betrayed,
11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. John 17:11 (NKJV) I wonder if Jesus looked down through the centuries and saw the church become splintered into numerous denominations and divisions within those denominations? Did He anticipate hundreds of churches within the same city speaking with different voices in favor of different agendas? Was He praying for churches He knew would choose to divide over the color of their skin, their rituals, or their emphasis of one Scripture above another or one spiritual gift as greater than the rest? While we have become many we have also become weak. When a volume of water is narrowed into a single powerful stream it can spin turbines that can light entire cities. But when that same amount of water is diverted into thousands of shallow streams, its force is diminished so that any obstacle in its path can halt its flow. The result is a puddle that eventually stagnates and evaporates into thin air.

Sadly, outside of another crisis I see no evidence that the church will be united until we do so in heaven. I don’t want to sound like an eternal pessimist. I think I am a realist. I truly hope I am proven wrong. I would like nothing better than to see churches working together until the Lord returns. Personally, I want to do my part in joining the forces of Dallas Bay with other great churches to influence the world for the cause of Christ. Wouldn’t it be great to be more than just a political interest group to be won at election time and become a force for good every day of the year. We should influence the political process with our participation by the Spirit that dwells within us while never forgetting that we serve a King Whose Kingdom has no end and the government shall be upon His shoulder. Somebody say AMEN!

Do You Wike Arwopwanes, Poppy?

Our grandson, Graeme, just stopped by my office on the way to preschool. As soon as he saw me he came running down the hallway and jumped into my arms. "I wuv you so much Poppy! I was so wuwied about you." He then proceeded to climb into one of my office chairs to draw me a picture. "That's a wocketship Poppy...no, no that's an arwopwane. Do you wike arwopwanes, Poppy?" I couldn't order up a better way to begin my day.

In contrast, I visited my Dad a couple of days ago. Dad is 83 years older than my grandson. As uplifting a visit from Graeme is, a visit with Dad is equally difficult. He's struggling just to make it through each day. Each day becomes more difficult than the one before. The harsh reality of aging does not settle well with my father. His sudden outbursts of singing old gospel songs used to be the source of some uncomfortable moments with my Dad as he waited for the forthcoming compliments for which they were intended. Now these sudden outbursts of singing are welcome reprieves from the awkward periods of silence or the difficult ramblings of negativity.

Such is the cycle of life. One young life with years of discovery and learning ahead; and the other nearing the end of the journey. Earthly discoveries are passed. Days of unbridled enthusiasm are long forgotten. Now the future holds life's greatest adventure. The fading light of this temporal existence giving way to the brilliance of an eternal home.

Which deserves my greater love and attention? Do the final days of life hold less value than the first? No, life is a precious gift from God to be celebrated at every moment along the way. So today, I am thankful these two men in my life. They remind me of my own mortality and the need to make the most of this precious gift I've been given. Thanks guys. I love you both.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NKJV)
1  To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:
2  A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted;
3  A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up;
4  A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance;
5  A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
6  A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away;
7  A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;
8  A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.

What Donald Trump's Popularity Should Teach the Church

Let me begin by stating that I do not publicly endorse any candidate for any office at anytime. I have strong political opinions that I share with family and friends, but I make it a policy to never speak as a pastor for or against any local or national party or candidate. So don't interpret what I am about to say as an endorsement of any kind. Here goes: I think that churches and preachers could learn a valuable lesson from Donald Trump.

Mr. Trump is bombastic and braggadocios.  Those are not the traits I think would advantageous for churches to emulate. Donald Trump doesn't seem to remember a time he ever had to ask for forgiveness. Nope, that is not a beneficial or realistic trait either. What I am referring to is his willingness to speak his mind without regard to public opinion. He says what he believes to be true. Whether it is only true in his mind or not can be debated. The fact is that he is not afraid to be taken to task for speaking his mind.  As he does his popularity continues to skyrocket. His rallies overflow and the news media covers his every word to the degree that Mr. Trump has no need to buy advertising.  

Now let's consider the church. A decade or so ago some churches and church leaders decided to take the non-offensive approach to church growth. They purposefully removed, from their messages and music, portions of the Christian faith that non-believers declared to be offensive. So essential doctrines like holiness, the necessity of the cross, the reality of hell and the exclusivity of Jesus Christ for salvation were either dismissed as not important or avoided entirely. For a season those churches saw an increase in attendance. The pastors and leaders justified their actions by pointing to the increase in the size of their congregations. What could not be immediately measured was the weakness of the faith of those ingesting doses of watered-down Christianity. Only now are we seeing the devastating effects of faith dictated by public opinion and political correctness. Mainline denominations are in a nose-dive decline. Many evangelical churches that adopted this new philosophy to gather a larger crowd have lost that crowd along with many who were with them prior to the change. What happened?

It has been my personal observation that people do not respect persons or organizations that twist in the wind of popular opinion. When times get tough they don't ask "where is the shifting sand?", but "where can I find a solid rock?"Churches and church leaders who consistently stand for what they believe are finding that people are more willing to listen to what they have to say. People are tired of those who only tell them what they want to hear. They may initially disagree with the church and its doctrine, but are increasingly drawn by the church's unwillingness to modify its doctrine to attract a larger crowd. An uncompromising stand for foundational truths is powerful in this uncertain world. So my advice is to take a play from Donald Trump's playbook. Speak out for what you believe. Never compromise your core beliefs to persuade those who will most likely abandon you or the cause later anyway.  We don't have to be offensive, but we should never apologize for the offensiveness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have been approached after a Sunday morning message to be told how much guts it took for me to speak on a certain unpopular topic. I am often taken back by the statement. I never think about whether a subject is controversial or unpopular. If its in the Bible it is my responsibility to say "this is what the Bible says about it." God never consulted me about the contents of His Book. I'm not preaching or teaching my opinion. I don't have the authority to change what the Bible says because it is currently unpopular. I am more concerned about God's opinion of me than I am afraid of what people may think. I would rather people respect me than like me. While I would not recommend the church adopt all of Mr. Trumps character traits, his unwavering resolve to say what he believes to be true should be a core value of those of us who believe in God's eternal Truth.

16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. Romans 1:16 (NKJV)   

What Does a Charlie Brown Christmas Mean to You?

Tonight on ABC Charlie Brown's Christmas special will celebrate 50 years. This 30 minute cartoon has several milestones to commend it to the TV Hall of Fame. We know of Schultz's insistence on leaving the Biblical narrative in the script. He also introduced children and their parents to jazz music against the advice of those in the know. His refusal to use a "laugh track" was also well before its time. However, none of those things are as important to me as it is to TV historians.

You see this annual holiday tradition first aired during my family's last year together. I was eight years old when Charlie Brown premiered on our black and white TV. Before the next Christmas season began our home would be visited by strangers who were not as welcome as the jolly old elf driving 8 tiny reindeer. The first was a policeman who suddenly appeared at our door. In a few moments my father had packed a bag and had driven away. He would never step foot in our house again. I don't recall my parents ever speaking to one another after that day. A few days after the policeman had knocked on our door two more men came calling. This time my mother answered and after a brief conversation she went to her bedroom and closed the door. I would learn later that these two men had been dispatched to inform my mom she was no longer a member or welcome at our local church.

My only sibling was my elder brother. I'm not sure how the events of that year affected him. We never talked about it. I remember how it affected me. As a 9 year old with an absent father and a mom who worked outside the home to feed two boys and herself, I found myself watching Charlie Brown alone the next year. My world had been turned upside down, but at least Charlie Brown understood. I became emotionally tied to this round headed kid whose world seemed forever to kick him in the seat of his pants. Heck, even my dog looked like Snoopy.

So for me watching a Charlie Brown Christmas is a nostalgic trip to a happier time. A time when Christmas didn't mean deciding which parent's home to visit first on Christmas day, but when my parents would sit at the same table together. A time when dad would get up during the night and place an orange, a nut, and a candy cane in our tube socks that were pinned on the window sill. A time when I could always be sure to get a pack of jockey shorts and white socks under the tree. When our tree was dressed with popcorn and lead based tinsel tossed in thick bunches by my brother and me. My parents would sit on the green naugahyde divan with a cup of coffee as we would open the 1 toy that each of us would receive in a box marked "from Santa."  

I am grateful for the many Christmas Eve's that Marilyn and I have put our boys to bed and quietly placed their presents under our tree. I am thankful that our boys never had to wonder which parent to visit first on Christmas Day. I am also thankful that we have been able to spoil our children with presents consisting of more than sox and underwear. I always wanted to give my family what I missed out on as a kid. Thank you Lord for that opportunity. 

Don't take these moments for granted. Love and cherish your family and friends this Christmas and all year long. We cannot change the past but we have much we can do to insure a better tomorrow. Merry Christmas!

Things that Go BUMP in the Night

 This is the week that Americans visualize, conceptualize and create ghostly and ghastly images for their children and themselves. They drink too much, eat too much and post inappropriate pictures of their alter egos on Facebook. 

It is also the season where water fountain conversations at work take a turn toward the macabre. Subjects that ordinarily are avoided are at the forefront of our thoughts.  

Man is incurably spiritual.  We are forever seeking out the unknown.  When our world appears too mundane, creative people often create other worlds.  I propose that if you are bored with creation you have not looked closely enough.

 Let’s look at Creation.

  Psalms 19:1 (NKJV) 

The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.

God's handiwork is displayed within three dimensions.  The first is "The Immense." 

Since God created all the heavens we see, it must be awesome in its magnitude. Check out these stats:

         The universe contains at least 100 billion galaxies.

         Each galaxy has 100 billion suns.

         Our galaxy alone has over 100 billion black holes

There is a neutron star that weighs over 100 million tons, but could sit inside a teaspoon.

 He also created the earth so its beauty and detail are unimaginable:

Psalms 90:2 (NKJV)
2 Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

The earth is 93 million miles from the sun. If we were 94 million miles would freeze. If the earth were 92 million miles from the sun would be carbon crispies. 

 The earth tilts 23.5 degrees on its axis. If not it would be tidally locked and one side would get stuck facing the sun and burn while the other would freeze. It tilts because 40% of gravitational pull comes from the sun and 60% from the moon. So if the moon were not exactly in it's location the earth's could not sustain life.

The earth’s atmosphere is 21% oxygen. If it were more or less, we could not breath.

 The oceans are 3.4% salt. So is our blood. If it were 4% neither could support life. 

These statistics reveal that our world is finely tuned for for life. God is a Master Builder and Mathematician.  

There are hundreds of these exact ratios necessary for earth to function. It is not that one has to be correct, but that they all must be set correctly for life on earth to exist.

The second realm in which God's handiwork is displayed is the intricate.

Our Heavenly Creator made us so we are more complex than you could ever imagine. 

Psalms 139:13-14 (NKJV) 13 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my                                 mother's womb.  14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;                                Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.

 Each of you has billions of brain cells. (Some of you burned a few million before you came to Christ.) Every second they perform a trillion computations. Every second your body produces 2 – 10 billion red blood cells. 100 million white cells are stored in your bone marrow right now.  

Your visual cortex in the brain contains sight. Here you will find 110 million cones and 6 million rods. 

You have millions of cells within you that comprise your being. Inside those cells there are atoms. Atoms are small. To count the number of atoms in one drop of water every person on earth would have to count 1 atom every second. The process would take 20,000 years.

Then someone discovered that related to each atom there are protons, neutrons, and electrons.

Now we have discovered that atoms are not the smallest unit of matter. Atoms can be split into quarks. Even quarks can be split. Quarks can disappear and appear in another place without leaving a trace of their path. They simply disappear from one place and suddenly appear in another. (Kind of like Jesus after His resurrection.)  

One final dimension in which God's handiwork is displayed; Or maybe not displayed: The The Unseen. 

 When God created everything He created it out of nothing. There is a realm of the unseen that is as real as the visible world around us. 

Moses was perplexed when God asked him to return to Egypt and win release of his fellow Hebrew slaves. Who am I going to tell the people sent me to free them. Pharaoh demands that these people be set free? 

God answers:  “I AM!”

 This term “I AM” is sometimes rendered as “I was and am and always will be!”

It is even richer than that. It means “I exist!” Forget time (before, during, and after), think in terms of every place at every time. Even places you do not know exist.

When God created everything the materials had to come from the realm of His existence. The writer of Hebrews explains it this way: 

Hebrews 11:1-3 (NKJV)
1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of  things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word  of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of  things which are visible.

The things that exist today were first formed in the realm of the unseen.  

These things that exist outside of the natural (observable) are called “supernatural.”

Natural scientists are reluctant to accept things they cannot discover in the realm of the visible. When we only accept those things we can see, taste or touch we become incapable of pleasing God. God expects people of faith to believe there are things outside of our knowing. On occasion, He even brings things into existence, even if for a brief while, things from the realm of the supernatural.

Those who participate in the hunt for ghosts and angels or demons admit they are looking for evidence of life after death or existence outside our senses. They are looking for the supernatural. There are glimpses of the unseen world that God at times allows to influence the world of the natural through divine intervention. There may be something unseen after all in that bump in the night. Bible records some of these supernatural experiences and name them miracles.

-- When angels appear to men.

--  King Saul who is tormented by evil spirits.

-- Two prophets appear on the Mt. of Transfiguration with Jesus.

-- Peter is invited to walk on water. 

Those who truly seek after the supernatural would do well to explore Christianity. The Bible can actually satisfy their curiosity.  I can confidently say you cannot be a true follower of Christ without believing in the supernatural. What defies the world of the natural more than a dead man coming back to life. That fact is a non-debatable doctrine of our faith necessary even to be a member of the body of Christ. 

 Romans 10:9-10 (NKJV) 

9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

So be careful and limit the carbs and bad fats this weekend. Don't act too much like a fool. And remember, the Holy Spirit can lift you higher than drugs or alcohol; and you can remember where you put your keys the next morning.