Sunday, December 25, 2005

Feliz Navidad, Y'all

OK...it's Christmas...

I feel weird about it. The "Christmas" feeling just wasn't there this year. I don't know why, all I know is that this year is different that past years.

So, I posted some Tejano Christmas stories below, but I guess you have to be Tejano to understand them fully.

I bought one gift this year; for Linda. All the other gifts were made. I sculpted crosses out of wood for my siblings and my mom. Each one is unique. I used wood from an old fence, and some wrought iron from an old railing I took down at the rent house. Some are decorated with pieces of colored and stained glass.

Linda took down some old paintings (from 1975-76) I never finished, and I cleaned one up and finished it for our oldest son. I then matted and framed it for him. I actually liked it when it was completed. It is one of the first large paintings I ever did - an Autumn scene of a cabin in the mountains, complete with pine trees and fall foliage. I had signed and dated it "Sept 1976." I wish I had my camera so I could take a photo of it.

I made Izzy a stick horse out of a large canvas coin bag I got from when the bank I worked at moved a couple of years ago. I cut the horse's head from the bag, sewed it up, complete with a fringed mane, and stuffed it. Then I painted eyes and nostrils on it, and mounted it on a hanger rod I had in my wood scrap pile in the garage. She loved it.

So now we're getting ready for Christmas dinner. I smoked a turkey on the grill last night. I stuffed real butter under the skin of the breasts, sprinkled it with celery salt, lemon pepper, and seasoned salt, and put oregano and thyme in the cavity. It cooked for about 6 hours on the smoker, so it's got some very good flavor. We've got enough food for a small mexican family, and it's going to be just a few of us eating here. I have no idea why we made so much food.

So all the gift-giving, food, phone calls and visits from family are just the superficial stuff of Christmas that has me a bit unfulfilled. I'm grateful for all the abundance we have, but it's reall just stuff. My real joy came from sitting down and telling my 4 year old granddaughter the story of the first Christmas. She understood and enjoyed the story as I told it to her while she sat on my lap. When I told her about the wise men coming on horseback or camels, she remarked, ""Cause they didn't have no cars! or motorcycles, or bikes..." Then she wanted to know if they had dogs. Of course they did...

Merry Christmas, Y'all...my regular readers, the few commenters I have, my family who reads me, and whoever else might stop by. This Christmas remember the most important thing is not the "stuff," it's about celebrating the birth of a Savior - the man named Jesus, whose birth was the reason for CHRISTmas. Without his birth, everything else would mean nothing.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Christmas Story, as told by a Cholo

Back when I was just a muchacho, they passed a law from El Rey, Cesar Augustino, that all the barrios should be registered. So we all went to our hometowns, every vato to his own barrio.

Jose also went up from L.A. back to his barrio in Bethlehem to be registered with his prometida, Maria, who was embarazada. And while they were there, it came time for her to deliver, and she had the ni┼ło, and wrapped him like a tamale, and laid him in the back of the carro, because there was no room at the motel.

Now in the same country, all us cholos were in our parking lot, showing our lowriders and hanging out in the night. And suddenly, an angel of the Lord stood before us, and the glory of God was shining all around us, and we were big time freaked out. Then the angel said to us, “Calmate, vatos, don’t freak. Orale, I bring you buenas noticias of great joy which is for todos. Today, ese, in David’s barrio, was born a Savior, who is Cristo El Senor. And here’s how you know for sure: You will find the bebe wrapped in his ropa like a tamale, lying in the back of a ’57 Chevy.”

And suddenly the whole sky was full of grupos musicales, conjuntos, and Tejano bands with the angel, praising God, throwing gritas and singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward all people.” So when all the angels went back to heaven, the cholos said to each other, “Vamanos! Let’s all cruise to Bethlehem, and let’s check it out, what the Lord told us about.” And we burned rubber down there. We found Maria and Jose, and the bebe in the back of the lowrider.

When we saw Him, we all got on our cell phones and called all the gente and told them everything the angel said about the Bebe. And all the tias and mis compadres were freaked out and said, “Way cool, que suave, ese” about everything us cholos told them. Then we all cruised back to our barrios, throwing gritas, glorifying and praising God for all we had heard and seen, as it was told to us.

From the gospel according to Pauly, paraphrased from Luke 2:1-20

Pancho Claus - A Bilingual Christmas

"Pancho Claus" by Michael Paglia
Image is copyright protected and used with written permission

In his more than sixty years as a singer and songwriter, Eduardo 'Lalo' Guerrero has given voice to the barrios, weaving their energy, their sorrow,and especially their humor into songs that made Mexican-Americans across the Southwest realize their common identity. In a career that spanned the great depression of the 1930's, the zoot suit riots of the 1940's, the Chicano movement of the 1960's, and the genuine Mexican-American political power of the 1970's and 1980's, Guerrero embodied the essential humanity of the barrios. He transformed what he saw and heard and lived through as a child, into songs that touched millions of people, and he has become one of Tucson's ambassadors to the world. In the spirit of the holidays, one of his songs is presented below. Happy Holidays!-------


Pancho Claus (The Night before Christmas)

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through la casa
Not a creature was stirring, Caramba! Que pasa?
Los ninos were all tucked away in their camas,
Some in vestidos and some in pajamas.
While Mama worked late in her little cocina,
El viejo was down at the corner cantina.
The stockings were hanging con mucho cuidado,
In hopes that St.Nicholas would feel obligado
To bring all the children, both buenos y malos,
A Nice batch of dulces and other regalos.
Outside in the yard there arouse such a grito,
That I jumped to my feet like a frightened cabrito.
I went to the window and looked out afuera,
And who in the world, do you think que era?
Saint Nick in a sleigh and a big red sombrero
Came dashing along like a crazy bombero!
And pulling his sleigh instead of venados,
Were eight little burros approaching volados.
I watched as they came, and this little hombre was shouting
and whistling and calling by nombre.
Ay, Pancho! Ay, Pepe! Ay, Cuca! Ay, Beto!
Ay, Chato! Ay, Chopo! Maruca and Nieto!
Then standing erect with his hand on his pecho
He flew to the top of our very own techo.
With his round little belly like a bowl of jalea,
He struggled to squeeze down our old chimenea.
Then huffing and puffing, at last in our sala,
With soot smeared all over his red suit de gala.
He filled the stockings with lovely regalos,
For none of the children had been very malos.
Then chuckling aloud and seeming contento,
He turned like a flash and was gone like the viento.
And I heard him exclaim and this is VERDAD,
Merry Christmas to all, And to All Feliz Navidad!
{Special Thanks From www.hepm.org}

Saturday, December 10, 2005

More on Home Church

There's a lot being written about home church, and a lot of questions/curiosity on the subject. It seems, though, that few are actually willing to jump out there and see what it's really all about. There are plenty of fellowships available, if one would take the time to seek them out. There's also the option of actually starting one in your own home, if you dare. Real live preacher had a post, If We Could Do Church, and I replied to one of the commenters. The question of legitimacy was raised:

"Not to be flippant, but it if a "church" like this is legitimate, then what about a
church of one? Is a church of one still a church? I think you're sliding down a
slippery slope there."
Here was my answer:
My greatest spiritual growth has been made in the last 14 years meeting in groups of as little as 2 and sometimes greater than 100, mostly in homes, but the for the larger groups in the past we have rented a banquet room at a hotel, or met out at the lake.
Legitimate? Only when our meeting/fellowship meet to glorify God and build the faith of those in attendance. Have we done that with only 2 people present? yes. Have we missed it with 50 people present? maybe. Maybe it was just me. The point is, that wherever 2 or more are gathered in Jesus' name, He is there. And when we know His presence, and we honor that with our words, deeds, and worship, we've had church.
We don't have a paid pastor, but rather, a plurality of leadership. Worship is open for anyone to participate and offer a song, psalm, a word of encouragement, a prophecy... even a sermon, if that's been led by the Spirit. In short, we have adopted the "priesthood of the believer," and recognize, even encourage the use of whatever gifts God has given someone. Is it always a perfect service? No. But we're open to allow the Holy Spirit change us, admonish us, and even correct us.
A church of one? Well, that may be pushing it, since the purpose of a church involves "the assembling of yourselves together," and corporate worship is intended for the glory of God, the edification of the body, and the teaching of doctrine. The five-fold ministry is not intended to be present only in the pastor, or leader of the group. It was given to the body of believers for prophecy, evangelism, aposotlic ministry, pastoring and teaching. It requires a body of believers to carry out the "perfecting of the saints, the work of the ministry, and the edifying of the body of Christ." So one person, although said person may be able to have a powerful worship time alone with God, is not a church by himself. We are designed for relationship, and the body of Christ is fashioned to be dependent on interdependent relationships with God and each other.Just as I believe that the instiutional church has legitimacy, so I believe that the smaller fellowships such as home churches, be it 2 or 100, have the same legitimacy...as long as the body is functioning as the body of Christ, and not just meeting for the sake of meeting, or to meet the overhead.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

My short trip

I just returned from Washington, DC, as I was up there for a short meeting. I love going to DC. I love the history, the architecture, the sculptures, and the culture. I love being at the capitol of our nation; there's just a different feeling there.

I got there Sunday and had a few hours to spare before dinner, so I took the Metro to Arlington National Cemetery. Walking around, I could not help but be overcome by the awesome understanding that I was walking among the remains of the greatest heroes of our nation. I spent some quiet time there in front of a headstone of a Major General in the Air Force. I thought of my dad, and the hundreds of men he served with, was friends with, and led. I saluted the General's headstone, and then bowed my head to give thanks for the freedoms we have

I thought about my own impact on this earth, and what I might be remembered for. It's a sobering thing to gather the thoughts of all the things I may have done that have made a positive impact on someone's life. It's even more sobering to think about what I might have done different.

Life is short, and visiting the cemetery, with row upon row of headstones, memorials, and markers, made me realize we have only one life, one opportunity to make something of ourselves. We choose who we will be. We choose what we will do, and we choose what we may become.

I had a good cry while I was there, and I made a decision to make good choices. I know how prone I am to screw up, but I won't dwell on that. God puts choices before me every day, even every hour.

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess.But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” - Deuteronomy 30: 15-20

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Another Thanksgiving Day

This is the second Thanksgiving since my dad died, and I still miss him. This is a very difficult time of year for me for a number of reasons, and missing my dad makes it even harder. His 76th birthday was yesterday, which is young by today's standards. I have clients in their 80's who are still vibrant and healthy, and I know my dad would have been still full of energy if cancer hadn't taken him.

I guess I am thankful I had him as long as I did, but a part of me feels lost without him here. I miss his laughter, his voice, and his humor. Every Thanksgiving Day for as long as I can remember, he was the first one to call me in the morning. I could always count on hearing from him, no matter where I was.

I am also thankful I still have my mom, who I still call almost every day. Well, at least 5 or 6 times a week anyway. As much as an influence my father was, she was certainly instrumental in my development . Mom was always there. She was a SAHM, and I could always count on her being there when I got home from school. She was the one who listened to me, bandaged me when I got a scrape, made sure I was clean when I went to bed, and taught me how to tie my shoes. I spent more time with her my first 10 years of life, because my dad was in the Air Force, and was gone a lot.

Mom taught me how to cook, sew, and take care of myself. Dad taught me how to love and respect a woman, and showed me by loving my mom. I'm thankful they chose to stay married for 48 years before he died. Even though they had issues of their own, they stuck through the hard times and made the best of the good times. I know in her heart, my mom is still married to him. They loved each other deeply, and taught us about love.

I'm thankful I have 5 siblings who love me and still stay in contact with me regularly. I'm thankful all of us have chosen to stay married to our first spouses, even when it's been hard. I'm thankful we all love each other and are not fighting over piddly stuff.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I am thinking about family, and how temporary life is. Life is short...enjoy what you can.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

"I speak "Dog"

I love being a grandfather…. Even more so, I love still being young enough to really enjoy watching my grandkids grow. I took Izzy with me Friday to to meet with a leasing agent at our rental house in Copperas Cove . I explained to her that the house was where her mother grew up. When we went inside, she wanted to se “her mamma’s room,” so I showed her. Then she wanted to see the kitchen. The first thing she asked was, “Where’s the dishwasher?” (That house never had one, but everywhere she’s ever lived in her short 4 year life has had one…) When I told her there was no dishwasher in that house, she just gave me an incredulous look and asked, “Why?”

Just prior to going to the house, we had some time before we had to meet the leasing agent, so we went to a park around the corner. I had told her that I used to bring her mommy to that park all the time when she was a little girl. She was fascinated.

It’s an older park, perhaps constructed in the late 60’s when the neighborhood was established. There are some very old swings that are small horses that can be mounted, with handles coming from the temples, little saddles, and bars for the feet to rest on. There’s also a tall slide that has three humps on the way down, and a standard swingset with four swings. There are good old-fashioned monkey bars and a geometric dome constructed of hexagonal bars to climb. There are also some little horses, complete with handles and footrests, but they are on a base with a large spring holding them up so you can rock back and forth, even side to side. I’m sure none of these older “playscapes” would pass city codes for safety if they were new today, but to a 4 year old, damn, they’re fun.

After running for 25 or so minutes, from the swings, to the slide, to the horses, then the merry-go-round (also complete with horses), the bars, the slide, then back to the swings… she was having a great time on the swings while some neighborhood dogs were barking away at her. She kept yelling at the dogs to be quiet, and she told them several times, when all of a sudden she blurted out, “Wait a minute….I speak dog!WOOF WOOF WOOF!!!” I was laughing so hard, I forgot about the dogs.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Veteran's Day 2005


You gotta love this guy. Every year he’s created something different on this rock. I think it’s awesome.

I salute the men and women of the armed forces of this great country today, especially the veterans who have sacrificed for our freedoms.

[Bubba Sorrenson's Website]

Saturday, November 05, 2005

In Honor of My 48th Birthday - Nov 6


This was just too good not to post. Linda's making me a cake tonight and it smells so good. So I know it's not a "sheet" cake...

From the Weekend

Sketch of an idea I have for a painting

 Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Sermon

I was struggling with whether or not to post this. As the weekend retreat came to an end, we had a memorial service for our lost children, having named them, and offered them up to the Lord. Following the memorial service was a Resurrection service, to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and the fact that our children live with Him.

As I delivered the closing words, I wanted to encourage us to maintain what God had started. Take this in context, as it was delivered after much healing was done. I hope this will encourage someone else, too.

Here’s my sermon:

The weekend has brought a wide range of emotions. Think back on what you were feeling when you arrived: the apprehension, the anxiety, the sadness… The exercises over the weekend have brought healing for all of us in many different degrees. We have gone to the past to remember painful times, and in some cases uncover things we haven’t thought about because it was too painful.
We’ve shared with each other our pain and our joys. Understand that the pain and sadness of death and grief does not have the final say in our walk of recovery. The joy that God brings through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus is the last word.
Even as we have faced the reality of the loss of our children, even more now is the reality of our healing, and the hope of what lies ahead – an eternity with our children and our Lord.
As we reflect today on the hope that we have and that we now feel, I want to encourage us as we go forward with this hope. We have the privilege now of living this life of hope as a witness to those who knew us in our darkness.
Be encouraged that God is familiar with our emotions. He sent Jesus to become man so that He would know us, feel what we feel, suffer as we suffer, and experience joy as we experience joy. He understands us intimately, and even deeper than we know ourselves.
His Word tells us that “He came so that we could have life, and have it more abundantly.” Jesus Christ is intimately aware of our feelings, our actions, and our needs. He has already provided everything we have need of through His life, death, and resurrection. He knows us intimately – He knew us while we were sinners and still loved us then. He knows us in our broken heartedness, through our times of darkness, and he knows us through our healing.
Hold on to and embrace the intimacy you found here this weekend. Some of you may be afraid of losing that closeness when you head home today; or that the joy and peace you found will be lost as we go back to our daily lives.
Today is not “the end” of our healing process; it is a new beginning, a new starting point, a “launching pad” back into the world. The same intimacy you found here is the same intimacy Christ desires with us every day. God’s grace and presence is just as real at home, at work, at school, in times of loneliness, in our temptations, our struggles, our celebrations, as it is here.
Grace is portable. He is with us wherever we go. His understanding patience, compassion, gentleness, humility, and His love are with us – even when we don’t feel Him. Remember some of the exercises we did. Remember what you felt as you listened to each meditation:
The forgiveness of the woman caught in adultery
The healing of your blindness
The raising of Lazarus, and our own dead parts of our life
The touching of Jesus’ cloak
The hope Jesus gave the woman at the well
The cup of grace we poured and shared today
The breath of heaven…
Remember you are healed…You are forgiven…You are included in His mercy.
God loves you. And He loves us so much that He doesn’t want us to stay where we are. Paul tells us to “press on toward the prize of the high calling of Jesus Christ.” Jesus endured the pain and suffering of humanity and His death and crucifixion, for the hope of the glory that lay ahead.
Now go – hold onto Christ. Run after Him with everything you’ve got. He loves you and wants the best for you.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

More on Recovery

It literally took me a couple of days to recover from the weekend. It was emotionally, spiritually, and mentally exhausting. I don’t even know how I was able to function Monday, much less, work. I had an appointment scheduled Monday, so I went in, intending to do only that, and wound up staying until after we closed. I wish I had just rescheduled because I had to push all the feelings aside to be “on my game” for my clients. Whew.

Yesterday was just as hectic, and on top of it all I had a pastor’s meeting at lunch, then met with a missionary couple and another lady at dinnertime, so I had to rush home and cook dinner real fast. It was a whirlwind day.

You know that feeling you get deep in the pit of your stomach when you’re really stressed over something? You know… the kind that makes you a little queasy and makes it hard to eat??? …That feeling that all is lost, and it’s hard to move??? That was the last couple of days, but God got me through it.

I wish I could relay all the stories the ladies told this last weekend. Some of them really broke my heart. One common theme though, was the fact that every one of the ladies there at one time or another was disappointed, humiliated, or abused by their father. That really made an impact on me. The lack of a good relationship, and the disappointment or abandonment by a father was influential in the process that led to every one of these women to have a crisis pregnancy that ended in abortion.

I think about my own decision, and I wonder what made me think I couldn’t go to my parents and let them know I needed help and advice. I think they might have been disappointed, but they would have been there for me, and helped me. They certainly would have encouraged me to be responsible and raise my child, rather than kill their grandson before he even had a chance to breathe.

I began to deal with this back in 1997, when I did a bible study called “Healing a Father’s Heart.” It was a difficult 3 or 4 months of healing, and I put to rest a lot of feelings and shame. It took me several years to forgive myself, although I finally did. As I mentioned in a previous post, I was finally able to let go of the rest this past weekend, and memorialize my son. In all, 10 babies were memorialized, 9 that had been aborted, and 1 miscarriage. As I put my son’s memory to rest, I felt years of guilt and shame be put to rest also…

More later.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Some Quick Notes on the Weekend

I closed the final door on my own experience 25 years ago. I had never named my child, nor had I ever really given him an identity or let him go. I was able to do that this weekend, and God radically changed my heart. I can now believe David Louis is with the Lord.

There were 4 ladies and a young, teenage girl there this weekend. I must be careful how I write about the weekend so as not to disclose any details that might break confidentiality. Suffice it to say that there was one salvation experience, and I saw her changed radically this weekend. Also the other ladies there were able to deal with grief that had been bottled up for so long. More than one woman admitted they had never been able to talk to anyone about thier experience before.

I guess what I'm going to focus my weekend experience on is what happened in my life. For right now, I am tired...but it's a good tired. I'm going to take it easy today, and if I feel like it, later todayI'll write down some things I started or did over the weekend.

My hope is that men will hear this message, and find hope in the realization that they can grieve also.

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Abortion Recovery Process and God's Grace

This weekend, beginning this afternoon, and going through Sunday evening, Linda and I will be leading an abortion recovery weekend for some ladies through Rachel's Vineyard. I am going as a minister, so my role will be more for spiritual support. Linda is the leader/facilitator, and we have a counselor and two others on the team. I'm looking forward to what God will do in the lives of all that will be attending, including the team. I'll share a little about my own experience in this area.

25 years ago, I took part in a decision that separated me from the life of my unborn son. I can only imagine what type of young man he would be today. Sometimes when I mow the lawn or am doing work around the house, or on my car, I think how much I miss not having him here next to me, helping me, telling me about his day, learning from me, sharing jokes, or telling me his plans. The decision for abortion didn't seem like much of a 'choice' at the time. It seemed like there was no other choice. We were pressured by the doctor, society's view at the time, and the fact that we weren't married. It seemed like such an easy thing to do at the time, and I had no idea how it would impact my life for years to come.

I lived with this silence for the next 16 or 17 years. There were many manifestations of my shame and guilt, mainly in the way I related to women and even other children. I could never get close to my daughter, who was a year younger than what my son would have been. Even though I loved her so deeply, there was a part of me that could just not let her in too close to me. How I wish I could have dealt with the grief and shame earlier in my life. Abortion recovery is not really talked about openly in most churches. Even though the subject of abortion is sometimes addressed in churches, it is usually brought up in the context of sin to be avoided, not something of the past to be dealt with. I'm afraid many pastors or congregations are not really equipped with the understanding or sensitivity to deal with post-abortion recovery, especially when it comes to men.

We can all relate to why a woman who chose abortion would need to deal with that decision at some point in her life. Certainly, any woman who would carry her baby to full term, and then lose it suddenly would be looked on with compassion and be recommended for counseling. And even worse, if a woman gave birth to her baby, and then purposely ended its life, she would be looked at as evil, sinful, and judged by society, the church, and the law. But because ending a life while still in the womb is 'legal' under U.S. law, that 'choice' can be made in secret, and it is between a woman, her doctor, and only those who she shares it with. Many women live with shame and guilt, in silence; grieving alone, and dealing (or not dealing) with the loss of her child. It is an awesome burden, and for some, one too great to bear alone.

One thing we tend to conveniently forget, though: for every woman who terminates a pregnancy, there is a man involved too. Until a few years ago, I never thought about that impact on my life, my decision-making process, or my inability to be emotionally or spiritually intimate with my wife and daughter. Even more of a disconnect was evident with my 2 step-sons. Today I can look back and see a pattern of self-destructive behavior and sin that was directly related to my part of a 'choice' that was made in ignorance.

in 1997 I met Steve, and together we met weekly for several months to walk me through the beginnings of a painful process of healing and restoration of a very damaged and shame-filled heart. Over those weeks, I began to see how my 'choice' influenced many of the other decisions I made, especially when it involved women and children. Over the years that followed, I realized there were many other things I needed to deal with, and even today, I continue to have new revelations. The healing process is a long and sometimes painful journey. I haven't 'arrived' yet.

I'm not through sinning or making bad decisions, but now the process of recovering from those decisions is shorter, and I tend to not be so easily influenced by things I know will have long-term or fatal consequences. Every day presents new challenges. At the beginning of this year, I had a profound revelation of how short my life is. As I continue this process of healing and discovery, I am comforted by a very merciful and forgiving Father. His grace is what gets me through, and allows me to be changed, on day at a time.

Pray for us this weekend, especially for the women who are just beginning the journey toward recovery; and also for those of us who are seeking an even deeper healing, and a closer, more intimate walk with God.

[One woman's story] from the blog "Transitions"
[Another blogger writing on abortion] from the blog "JivinJehoshaphat"
[After Abortion] blog

Friday, October 21, 2005

What Do I Want From Church?

I read an article posted by one of my favorite bloggers, “From the Morning,” He spoke about the “Emerging Church,” and expressed an attitude that has been creeping through the institutional church for quite a few years, but only recently has begun to get noticed and written about. “From the Morning” makes the statement,

“I've realized something about 'church': I'm not interested.”
read the rest of it here

George Barna’s new book, Revolution, not yet in print, addresses this phenomenon that is sweeping Christianity and radically changing the face of the church in America today. He specifically addresses some of the frustrations and shortfalls the church is currently facing today. Chapter 4, titled, “How is the local church doing?” looks at the condition of the 77 million churched, born-again Christians in America. Some of the points he makes:
  • Worship – the bi-weekly attendance at worship services is, by believer’s own admission, generally the only time they worship God. 8 out of 10 believers do not feel they’ve entered into the presence of God or feel they’ve experienced a connection with Him during the typical worship service. In fact, half of all believers do not feel like they’ve entered into the presence of God or experienced a genuine connection with Him during the past year.
  • Faith-based conversations – the typical churched believer will die without ever leading even a single person to a life-saving knowledge of or relationship with Jesus Christ.
  • Servanthood – In a typical week, only 1 out of 4 will allocate any time to serving other people. In fact, most of that time is dedicated to volunteering in church programs that serve fellow congregants. Little time is invested in serving needy people outside of the congregation.
  • Spiritual friendships – Fewer than 1 out of 6 believers have a relationship with another believer through which true spiritual accountability is provided. The most significant influence on the choices of churched believers is neither the teachings from the pulpit nor advice gleaned from fellow congregants; it turns out to be the messages absorbed from the media, from the law and from family members.
From personal observation, I have seen little that is attractive about the church to someone outside the church. In fact, there is little about the church that is attractive to many believers. Many churched believers blend into their surroundings without ever giving a clue of their faith, or giving any hope to the lost. Even worse, some churched believers are better at back-stabbing, gossiping, and intolerance than non-churched people. I have been routinely and rudely cut-off or passed on the highway by someone with a fish on their bumper going 90 mph.

So what is it about the church? So many believers are burned out with activities and programs that take their nights and weekends. Sermons are “the same-old, same-old,” and church budgets are stretched because of building payments, overhead, and salaries. There is little left for benevolence and helping the communities they occupy. “Praise and worship” time becomes more of a production rather than a time of joy and giving to God.

We tend to forget that our motivation for corporate worship is not so that we are the primary beneficiaries, but so that God and God alone would be the primary beneficiary of our worship. That means HE must benefit from our time of worship. HE must be the recipient of our praise; HE must be the focus of our teaching and our anticipation. That one little paradigm shift will make a wholesale change in our relationships, fellowship, worship, and allow the sermons (and the rest of church 'business') to take on a whole new meaning.

Whether we meet in a mega-church with thousands or in a home with a smaller body of believers/worshippers, if the focus is on what we can benefit from church, we'll eventually walk away empty and frustrated. We've been meeting exclusively in homes for 14 years, and our services, as intimate as we'd like to believe they are, can be just as dry and empty when we take our eyes off the real reason for being there. If we want our "church" experience to change, we need to change our focus.

Acts 1:14 gives us the setting in the "upper room" right before the Holy Spirit blew in. "They all joined together constantly in prayer..." There were 120 believers upstairs, all anticipating and waiting for the baptism of the Holy Spirit that Jesus said would come "in a few days". (ch 1:4-5) I don't think they were in a 10:00 a.m. Sunday service with a flow chart that read,

Welcome
Opening Prayer
New Visitors
Announcements
Baby Dedication
Praise and Worship
Elder's Prayer at the Altar Rails
Peter's Sermon
Discussion and Drawing of Lots to Fill Judas's Vacancy
Usher in Holy Spirit...

No, they were in communion with God, praying, and waiting for the gift God had promised. A supernatural, spontaneous thing happened because they were waiting on God. The order of the service was not scripted, planned, or on a flow chart. The 120 were waiting in anticipation of what God promised he was going to do. Had they had their sights set on the temporal issues (i.e., the order of the service), they might have missed the whole thing. In the flow chart, Peter's sermon and the discussion and drawing lots is found in Acts 1:15-26. I threw in the other stuff because that's what we do at church. Having been part of the institutional church leadership for years, and having written plenty of flow charts and directed many services and meetings, I can personally attest to the fact that many, if not most services could be totally void of the Spirit of God and continue to flow anyway.

Barna said, “It’s interesting that the bible neither describes nor promotes the local church as we know it today. The order of the services, its programs, offices, buildings and ceremonies is neither biblical nor unbiblical. It is 'a-biblical'.” The scriptures mention nothing about the type of institution we traditionally refer to as "the church." I am not just slamming institutional churches. Our non-traditional, small home groups can be just as traditional by focusing inward and people coming to church with the attitude of "what will church do for me, who is there, how is the music?" Although there is a certain intimacy in a small group setting, meeting in someone's living room or at the lake doesn't make the church any more spiritual if the meeting is not intended to reach out and make a connection with God.

Please hear me out. I have been to many services where the move of God was quite evident, peoples' lives (including my own) were changed and victories were won. It was in the "institutional" church where I answered an altar call, made a profession of faith and grew in an understanding of Jesus Christ. It was the teachings I received from my pastor and many evangelists that strengthened my faith and caused me to grow. But overall, the condition and effectiveness of the church has been diminished by our need for organization, tradition, relationships, and programs that are designed mainly for the benefit of the membership.

I am not talking about avoiding structure or relationships. Again, my point is that the focus of corporate worship, meetings, sermons, etc is to make God the primary beneficiary. Community and relationship with each other should be a secondary product of our relationship with God.

Here’s what people get burned out on... self-centered, inward-focused churches that have no life and don't grow, and churches that are totally centered on the ministry of the pastor, the denomination, or a doctrine. While the church should teach sound doctrine for the purpose of facilitating our worship and relationship with God, doctrine should not be the focus; otherwise we are in danger of error, idolatry, or legalism. A church that is out of focus can also foster a high predisposition toward spiritual abuse.

There is a new move afoot, because people are seeking more from their relationship with God, not their church experiences. People are seeking a real understanding and knowledge of a living God that is fresh and full of hope. The image of a stoic Jesus and a disconnected, judgmental God is simply not the answer. A list of “thou shalt not’s” is not attractive. And the churchy, Christianese-speaking, born-again bible thumpers are what so many are running from and want to avoid becoming.

Ceremony, religious acts, and multi-million dollar complexes are not filling the voids that are in people’s souls. Only a real, life-giving and hope filled relationship that offers grace, forgiveness and healing will do. The church is not the hope of the world. God is.

OK, where is the stake, and who’s going to light the fire?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A Letter From Satan

A friend of mine, John Esters, sent this to me today. I wanted to share it with those of you who read this blog regularly. It’s funny, in a creepy kind of way. The problem, though is, it really would be funny if it weren’t true. Thanks, John, for always keeping me on my toes.

A LETTER TO YOU FROM SATAN

Dear Son,
I saw you yesterday as you began your daily chores. You awoke without kneeling to pray. As a matter of fact, you didn't even bless your meals, or pray before going to bed last night. You are so unthankful, I like that about you. I cannot tell you how glad I am that you have not changed your way of living, you are mine.
Remember, you and I have been going steady for years. And I still don't love you yet. He kicked me out of heaven, and I'm going to use you as long as possible to pay him back.
You see, Fool, GOD LOVES YOU and HE has great plans in store for you.  But you have yielded your life to me, and I'm going to make your life a living hell. That way, we'll be together twice. This will really hurt God. Thanks to you, I'm really showing Him who's boss in your life with all of the good times we've had.  We have been cursing people out, stealing, lying, being hypocritical, fornicating, overeating, telling dirty jokes, gossiping, being judgmental, back stabbing people, disrespecting adults, and those in leadership positions, no respect for the Church, bad attitudes. SURELY you don't want to give all this up. Come on, let's burn together forever. I've got some hot plans for us.
This is just a letter of appreciation from me to you. I'd like to say "THANKS" for letting me use you for most of your foolish life. You are so gullible, I laugh at you. When you are tempted to sin, you give in. HA HA HA, you make me sick. Sin is beginning to take its toll on your life. You look 20 years older, and now, I need new blood.So go ahead and teach some children how to sin. All you have to do is smoke, get drunk or drink while under-aged, cheat, gamble, gossip, fornicate, and live being as selfish as possible. Do all of this in the presence of children and they will do it too. Kids are like that.
Well, I have to let you go for now. I'll be back in a couple of seconds to tempt you again. If you were smart, you would run somewhere, confess your sins, and live for God with what little bit of life that you have left. It's not my nature to warn anyone, but to be your age and still sinning, it's becoming a bit ridiculous.
Don't get me wrong, I still hate you.

Your father,
The Devil

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Where does the bible tell us to lead others to Christ?

The question came up one Sunday; where does the bible tell us to lead others to Christ? A believer was asking this, since he was of the opinion that the bible didn’t have a scripture that actually says, “Lead others to Christ,” and that the sinner’s prayer is actually for the church, not the unsaved. It was a challenge, because, in a sense, he was right, and I didn’t have a two minute argument. I asked him for a few days to put a study together that would clarify the need to bring the Gospel message to unbelievers, and lead them to a relationship of grace and salvation. This is my first draft, and if you take the time to actually read through this, you might want to add something to it. I’d like to rewrite it with a little more clarity. Please feel free to add your comments, as this is really a work in progress.

The New Testament is full of direct references to evangelism and leading others to repentance, and many scriptures give a compelling argument for the saving of souls and leading others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. This study is by no means exhaustive, and I can find no scripture that directly says, “Lead people to Christ;” however, there are many direct references to evangelism and telling people they must repent, receive remission of sins, and be transformed in order to be saved. The life of a disciple involves not only bringing others to Jesus, but teaching them to bring others as well.

Even the Old Testament admonishes us to evangelize the lost. Approximately 1000 years before the ministry of Jesus, David wrote in Psalm 51:12-13 – “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.” King Solomon also wrote, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.” Proverbs 11:30 Evangelism has been at the heart of godly men from long before Christ showed up on earth.

The “Great Commission,” is found in Matthew 28:18-20, and Mark 16:15-17. It is touched on in Luke’s account, chapter 24:46-47, which gives us some specific charges. Even John’s writing of Peter’s restoration (in chapter 21:15-19), reveals the heart of Christ in His charge for Peter to “Feed my sheep,” and, “Follow me.” While Jesus did not say directly, “Go out and have people recite a sinner’s prayer,” His direction to us involves some very specific actions that are necessary for us to fulfill His commission. At the heart of this matter is the process of repentance, transformation, and restoration of the soul. The subsequent response and more outward evidence of this is evangelism.

Matthew 28 gives us 4 parts:
  • Go – a definite action, a command to get away from the immediate area

  • Make disciples of all the nations – no limited to our surrounding area, the spreading of the Gospel is not limited to a geographic area

  • Baptize – a definite, outward expression of faith

  • Teaching to observe all things – all of the commands and precepts of God, “teach” – to disciple, instruct
Mark 16 tells us 3 things:
  • Go – as above

  • Preach the Gospel – “preach,” kerusso, Gr. Strong’s #2784 - to herald (as a public crier), tell abroad, proclaim, publish, especially divine truth (the gospel), exhort, call out with a clear voice, communicate, preach. “The herald is to give a public announcement of an official message to issue whatever demands the message entails. The Christian herald is to proclaim the message of salvation through Jesus Christ and issue a summons to repent and receive forgiveness of sins.” (note from the “Spirit-Filled Bible”)

  • Signs will follow
- Casting out of demons
- Speaking in tongues
- Immunity to snakes – ref. to be able to shake off snakes, as Paul did, immunity to its effects
- Healing the sick – lit. physical and emotional healing

Luke 24:46-47 tells us to preach repentance and remission of sins to all nations.
This is a conscious act of bringing the Gospel to the lost, witnessing, and “leading people to Jesus”

Examples in Jesus’ ministry:

In John 3:3, Jesus tells Nicodemus, “…unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This is the foundation of repentance, transformation and restoration. Here is the beginning of making disciples; getting a person to new birth. A person that does not have a transformation will not be able to understand spiritual teaching. Romans 8:7 tells us that “the carnal (natural) mind is enmity (in direct opposition to) against God; for it is not subject to the laws of God, nor indeed can be.”

Jesus commissions the disciples to “Go …to the lost sheep of Israel.” Matt 10:6. verse 27b…”that what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.”
V 32. Whoever therefore shall confess me before men, him I will confess before my Father which is in Heaven.” Luke 9:2 “…And He sent them to preach the kingdom of God.” Chapter 10 has Him commissioning and sending out 70 disciples, two by two, to heal the sick and preach the kingdom of God.

Luke 22:32 KJV But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

Examples from the apostles’ ministry:

One doesn’t have to get far into the Acts of the Apostles to find them first commissioned to be witnesses (v. 8), and after being filled with the Holy Spirit in Chapter 2, Peter delivers a bold sermon that reignites their ministry. Peter states in v 21 “that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Here he is proclaiming Christ’s own words and further confirming that a man needs not only to be led, but confession is necessary. Peter later calls for repentance and baptism for the remission of sins, and further, to receive the Holy Spirit. At the end of chapter 2, we see that their fellowship (no doubt involving the sharing of their faith with the unsaved) caused signs and wonders. The Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Chapter 3 again solidifies Peter and John’s example of discipleship ministry. There is healing and preaching. Again Peter states in v 19, “Repent…and be converted…” bringing the message of Christ, the Gospel, leading people to Him. He was doing what Jesus commissioned him to do. (Feed my sheep. – John 21:15-19)

The power of the disciple’s ministry continues throughout the book of Acts. Chapter 5:12-14 “…through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders…believers were increasingly added to the Lord…” healings, demons cast out, they continued to preach and lead people to Christ. V 42 says, “…they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”

The book of Acts is full of the apostles leading others to Jesus. The only instance recorded where Jesus personally appeared to a person that got converted was in Chapter 9, when he appeared to Saul as a light, and He directed him to go into Damascus. V 6 …”the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” Then, Jesus directed Ananias to go speak to Saul. V 15, “But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:” Paul’s mission was revealed to Ananias, that he would be leading people to Jesus.
V 17, “And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” V 20, “Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.”

More scripture that encourages evangelism:

Jude 1:21-23 21keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. 22 And on some have compassion, making a distinction, 23 but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.

1 Cor 9:19-20, 19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law;

John 4:35-36 35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! 36 And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.

Luke 12:8-10 8 “Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. 9 But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. 10 “And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven.

Luke 15:10 “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

John 5:25 Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.

John 15:8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

John 15:16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

John 17:18, 23 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world… I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

1 Cor 11:1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.

There are many direct references and charges from Jesus, examples from the apostles’ ministry, and words to the church from Paul that direct us to lead others to Christ. 2 Tim 4:5 tells us to “do the work of an evangelist.” Eph 4:11 lists evangelists as one of the necessary components of the ministry. This one passage, however, is probably the most convicting:

Romans 10: 8-17 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart ](that is, the word of faith which we preach): 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. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved, 14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “ How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, who has believed our report? 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

The study of this scripture has me conclude this one thing; we are called to lead others to a saving relationship with Jesus, and to preach the kingdom of God.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Let It Be Known...

I am not complaining when I sarcastically make comments about loving our fall weather here in Texas. I would prefer it to be hot year-round. If my wife would let me, I would move to somewhere on the equator, where I would never have to worry about cold days.

Honestly, when the mercury dips below 70F, I start digging out sweaters and long-sleeves. I'm just not a cold weather person, and right now (Trish) I am living as far north as I care to be. When it starts to cool down in the fall, I try not to venture any further north than Waco, and even that's too far. Thanks for the invite, but from now until mid-July, I'll just "hunker down" for the Texas winter, and pray for no more than a week of sub 50F weather. I only venture north of Waco from July-September 1.

I like mowing my lawn over the Christmas holidays.
I like playing golf wearing shorts in mid-January.
I like not having to scrape ice off my windshield.
I like not having to shovel snow.
I like having to apply sunscreen and weekends at the lake, even in February.
I love Texas summers....the hotter, the better.

We had a cool front blow through yesterday, which will make our high today a "cool" 90F, tomorrow 94F. Suits me just fine...

Monday, September 26, 2005

I love our Fall weather

I love our Fall weather… We broke another temperature record today. Yesterday’s temp was only 102F. My car's thermometer recorded 110F on the road home. It really is that hot today.

That’s what I love about Texas!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Weather, My Dad, and People Over-Reacting

Anytime there was major weather or a major news event in our area, I could count on a call from my father. Dad would call if he heard there was rain, a tornado, or front coming through. He loved the weather, and taught me to observe the weather too. He was a navigator in the Air Force, and I was one on a ship in the Coast Guard, so we shared an affinity for weather and cloud observation. We could both identify clouds, their composition, and their altitude. He could forecast short-term weather better than the news meteorologists. He taught me the movement of weather patterns, and could calculate what time an approaching storm would hit. I'm lucky that his knowledge passed on to me as well.

This week has brought Hurricane Rita to the Texas coast. In Central Texas a week ago, they were predicting the storm would pass through here and forecasting 50 mph winds and lots of rain. All of the tracking models were showing the path coming right through here, so we were preparing for some major weather.

On Thursday, even Ft. Hood (30 miles west of here and where my office is) announced that the entire post would close and only "essential personnel" like police, fire and EMS would be allowed access. They closed the PX, both financial institutions, food outlets, etc. So now, with the biggest threat to us being 20-25 mph winds, the whole post was locked down this morning, but they decided to open the Exchange, shoppettes, commissary, and gas stations at noon today. There is still an elevated alert and official safety alerts are posted.

Gasoline is in short supply all along Interstate 35, and places here in Temple are awaiting new supplies. People really freaked out, and went on a frenzy buying up all the water and batteries they could find. In the meantime, I knew all along there would be no danger to us, except maybe a gas shortage. The most I did was secure my patio furniture, and stow my barbecue pit and some loose items on the back porch so the wind wouldn't blow them around. We're not even going to benefit here from some of the rain on the fringes of Rita. So this morning, I turned the sprinkler on in the front, and watered all my plants in the back.

The thing I thought the most about though, is that I've talked to my brother from Katy, my brother from Oklahoma, my sister in Austin, and my sister and mom San Antonio this week. The weather connected us like it has all of our lives. Even though my dad isn't here to call us all, we've just called each other because there's a hurricane. And we were all concerned about my brother who lives near Houston who's now tucked away safely at my mom's house in San Antonio.

I've enjoyed being outside today. It's a little strange with 90 degree temps, and 20 mph winds. This morning the winds reminded me of an approaching front in the fall. It was cool enough to fool us, but now it's hot, and the wind is warm and dry. Even my front yard I watered this morning looks dry again. The wind and heat are causing some pretty rapid evaporation.

I love weather, and I love watching the sky. Today has made me feel close to my family, and I can feel my dad's appreciation of the weather situation. Lots of things remind me of him, but the weather especially does...especially when it makes all us siblings call each other. I think I'll call my sister in Colorado now.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Thing About Grace

I was on pins and needles yesterday waiting to hear from my brother and his family that were on their way to San Antonio from Houston. Linda and I prayed for them the evening before and the morning they left. We had to put our concerns in God's hands and believe they would arrive safely. They did.
While I don't know if my prayers actually made God stop what he was doing, and say, "OK, I was going to let them wreck if you hadn't asked me." I don't know if my prayers made God dispatch a few more republican angels to watch over them. And I don't know that God made a force field around them just because I prayed. But I do believe this, that He was aware of my prayers, and I found comfort in knowing that He has the ultimate say, and He will be there for me no matter what.
I do know that He is all I can hold on to, and that He has yet to forsake me, even though many might have looked and thought He did. I'm thankful for His grace working in my life, and that I can place my faith in Him. I know tests and difficult times will always be there, only grace can get me through.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

I Wanna Play Tag

Why don't adults play tag? Linda and I took our two grandkids, A.J. and Izzy, to the park this morning. I love to go to the park with Izzy, and today it was twice as special because we have A.J. for the weekend (our 5 year-old). They had no sooner let their little feet hit the ground coming out of the car, that they started running to the playground. There were a dozen or so kids there playing, all of them unfamiliar faces, but within a couple of minutes, they had joined in a game of tag. Just like that....no walls, no issues, no trying to size up or assess another kid's politics or religious background. Color didn't matter either. It was simply, "Play now, ask questions later."

I watched them run and play, all the while they were laughing and screaming with the fun they were having. No one got mad because they were "it." When my grandson tripped while being chased, the little boy who was "it" stopped and said, "Time out...you can't be tagged if you fall." As soon as he got up and dusted off, the kid tagged him! It was hilarious.

I looked at Linda and asked, "Why don't adults play like that? Why don't we play tag?" We're too preoccupied with all the things we think are important to start a game of tag. We take life too seriously to start having fun. Wouldn't it be fun if one day at work we all just decided to go outside and engage in a game of tag?

I think I'll start a game inside on Monday, and see where it goes...

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A Spiritual View of Katrina

I woke up this morning with a question on my heart: Why is there so much HATE aroused about Hurricane Katrina, the War in Iraq, conservative Christians, and President Bush in particular? Why are the liberals reaching a fever-pitched frenzy of blame and accusations about how the events of last week have unfolded? Why is the hatred and anger spreading like wildfire?

The answer is simple: it's a spiritual issue.

While the war and the election of the President was man's choice, the hurricane was a natural disaster that no person or organization could have possibly caused. Global warming? I don't think so; tell that to the victims of hurricanes going back for centuries. It was simply a natural occurrence, an act of meteorology, not controllable or preventable by anything man is capable of now. The anger and lashing out is spiritual.


The hurricane’s effects on this nation have just begun to be felt. Not only is our entire nation going to be affected economically, physically, and emotionally, but the spiritual impact will be felt for generations, even eternally for some. Many will come to God for answers, and many will find Him. No wonder the enemy has unleashed such a horde of demonic activity, full of hatred, and propagated by those who adamantly and obstinately oppose Christianity.

There is a greater war at hand than the one in Iraq. It is a war for the soul of our nation, and every warrior in Satan’s army has been given a free rein to divide our nation, separate the weak and destroy their souls. The bible tells us that “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Eph 6:12.

We are in a war. The enemy is Satan and his army of demons. THe battle lines are drawn and we have the power to overtake the enemy if we do not get into a defensive position. The best defense is a good offense. We must offensively fight this battle with prayer and intercession for this nation, especially for those who are so bent on division. Pray for their hearts to soften. Pray for them to hear the message of hope with an open heart. Pray for them to find God’s love through those of us who have the opportunity to show it to them.

Fighting a fleshly battle does no good. Arguing and trying to reason with the ones who spread their hate with words and venom will not change their minds. Lowering ourselves to their level with cheap shots and name-calling doesn’t show the love of Christ, which is what they need most. We are at a spiritual crossroad, and how we choose to fight will have eternal consequences.

There are many practical things that are being done as a nation who is struggling to pull together and overcome the enormous obstacles cause by the wind, waves, and the flooding. There are many other “rescuers” being called during this time to mobilize with prayer and intercession. We must not forget the power that prayer has to change even the direst of circumstances.

Pray for the hearts of the refugees. Yes, I will use the politically incorrect term. A refugee is simply someone who is seeking a safe place or taking refuge. Is “evacuee” any better a description? Why do we have to split hairs over semantics? Pray that they seek and find the heart of God in this matter. Pray that they do not get overtaken with bitterness and blame. Pray that they turn their hearts to seek refuge from a Holy God, who alone can heal their hearts and truly save them.

Pray for the hearts of those called out with the task of evacuation of the rest of the city, and cleanup of the destruction. Pray that they will also find refuge and comfort in the hands of the Father. Pray for their safety as they undertake a dangerous task, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Pray for their strength as they uncover the dead and face an overwhelming test of their emotions and will. Pray that they will see the hand of God in this terrible situation.

Pray for the hearts of those that choose to use their hurt and anger to lash out with division and harsh words. Pray that in seeking answers, they will find none in their outrage and anger. Pray that their hatred not reach those that are hurting, but that the confusion and blind rage would be quelled by love. Pray that the blindness would be removed and they can see what God is doing. And pray for their hurts, that they too will be comforted.

And most of all, pray for the hearts of our leaders on all levels of government. They need our support and encouragement, not hate and blame. Pray that they also will be moved by God and they can see the truth. Pray that their hearts would be softened by the outpouring of love from the people of God. Pray that their hearts would be led by the Lord, and the hard decisions they have to make would be preceded by prayer and seeking God. Pray that as they seek God they will find him, and they too will be comforted.

We MUST remember that spiritual issues cannot be fought with any words except those words we lift to God in prayer. We cannot afford to fight with those who are politically or philosophically opposed to us. They are not the enemy, Satan is. I encourage you with these words. If you are spiritual, pray. Pray like your life depended on it, because it does.


Monday, September 05, 2005

HOUSING Opportunities for Katrina Survivors


I came across this website today. If you have housing for any survivors, please go to this site and register.

HOUSING Opportunities for Katrina Survivors

You can register what you have available, number of rooms, how many people you can take, how long you can provide housing, and whether or not you can provide transportation from a designated area. There is also a place you can leave a more detailed description of what you have available. The local resources (Salvation Army, Red Cross, etc.) are getting overwhelmed, and I haven't even gotten a return call from them yet. I'm going to go down there physically and volunteer today.

If anyone can help me provide a more permanent link underneath my title, please contact me and help me out.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

In the Wake of Katrina, What are We Going to Do?

I am profoundly moved by the events of the past week concerning Hurricane Katrina, and its impact on us as a nation. I have wept over the destruction of property and lives, but I have also been greatly dismayed at the blame and division so many have been fostering and propagating. The right of free speech carries with it an enormous responsibility.

Ted K. gave the sermon in our church meeting today. He opened with a story about a lesson he learned when he was 14. Some ladies at the church were “passing around” a baby for everyone to hold. Someone passed it to Ted and as soon as he took hold of him, he smelled “the mother load.” He promptly returned the baby to its mommy for a changing. As poop can be, it was a rather strong smell, and it lingered even after Ted had given the baby back. Even after he went outside, he continued to smell the poopy baby, and when he looked down at his shirt, he realized why. The baby had leaked a little onto his shirt. The lesson he learned from this was simple: “If it stinks everywhere you go, it’s probably you.” People that blame everything on someone else maybe need to look at themselves.

It’s human nature to blame. In Genesis 3:11, we find Adam answering God about eating of the forbidden fruit. Adam responds to God, blaming the only 2 other people he knew; Eve and God. “It’s not my fault. You made the woman and she listened to the serpent.” Even Adam passed the buck, rather than taking any personal responsibility.

“When we start blaming, we cut off the flow of solutions.” – Ted

In John 9: 1-5, we read the story of Jesus healing a blind man. This is the story from The Message Bible:
Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, "Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?" Jesus said, "You're asking the wrong question. You're looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world's Light."
He said this and then spit in the dust, made a clay paste with the saliva, rubbed the paste on the blind man's eyes, and said, "Go, wash at the Pool of Siloam" (Siloam means "Sent"). The man went and washed--and saw.

When we try to place blame on others we become blind to what God can do. When we become blind to what others are doing, we can focus on what God can do.” – Ted

Notice Jesus’ answer: “You’re asking the wrong question…” Jesus told his disciples that trying to figure out “why” or whose fault it was didn’t matter. The real question is looking instead for what God can do, and to energetically get to work while it was time to work.

In the case of the wake of Katrina, there has been a lot of blame being thrown around that is extremely counter-productive. It is dividing the people of this great nation who really need to come together, putting aside our political and philosophical differences and work “while the sun shines.”

Who cares who’s fault it is? It doesn’t matter anymore.” –Ted

What’s important now is not what has or hasn’t been done, but what we can do as a nation now. It’s time to heal, time to work together, and time for us to console the grieving and give what we can to help the victims.

This disaster was natural, not man-made. The aftermath of the disaster is what we choose for it to become. The destruction Katrina left is a wound on our nation. We will all feel the effects, both short-term, like paying more for gasoline, and long term; economically, spiritually, and emotionally. We still have the power as a nation to make a difference for the good of all. Petty animosity, blaming political leaders, and name calling isn’t going to heal our nation. Prayer, hard work, and stepping out of our comfort-zone will; but only if we, as a nation, are willing to put aside our politics and hatred.

If I saw someone drowning, I would not stop and ask their politics before extending a hand to rescue them. I wouldn’t even care. I would just try to save the person, even if it meant putting myself in danger. I am of the opinion that taking care of what needs to be done first is more important than discussing why it happened and trying to put the blame on someone. I am committed to doing whatever I can to help heal our nation. Spiritually, I must pray. Economically, I must give what I can. And practically, I must roll up my sleeves and volunteer my efforts, my home, my car, or whatever it takes. I am going to do my part. I implore us all to do the same.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

All differences aside...

I remember the attitude of Americans in the face of 9/11, for too short a period following that disaster. I noticed we were all more tolerant of each other, as Americans we recognized we had a common enemy and it was not each other. We rallied together, locking arms, and dropping political differences, setting aside religious differences, and looking beyond color and racial lines. It was a proud time to be an American.
Now here we have another type of disaster; a natural one. We see the pictures of the disaster unfolding, hear the broadcasts of the rescues, the looters, and the dead. We see those displaced by a vicious storm. It's time to act again, and come together as Americans. Our own are being displaced, have lost their homes and loved ones. There are so many left with literally, only the clothes on their back.
I have a nice home that I am thankful for. It's just my wife and I living here. We've got spare bedrooms. I've offered it up in craigslist.com for a family that may need a place to stay. If you know of someone who might need a place in central Texas, please contact me via my email link in my profile.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Blogjam

The analytical part of my brain has been in high gear, leaving little room for the left side to work. I've been fast and furious at work, trying to recover from a week's absence at the beginning of the month. I'm not sure when things will restabilize, but there's a lot to write about.
I've been contemplating this relationship with the Lord. How is it, that we lose the zeal we had as new Christians and settle for a mediocre existence as Christians in the world? I'm really fighting a battle with a lack of prayer, bible study, and consequently, enthusiasm. My creativity has suffered as well. I have so much in my head that I want to do, but circumstances have created a stifling effect. Even now, I find it difficult to write this.
If you're the praying type, please keep me in prayer. Thanks

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Goodbye Liberal Weenies

I've decided to quit reading and posting comments on "Liberal" blogsites. It's pure stupidity. I've never run across a bigger bunch of nincompoops, sourpusses, and self-exalted pinheads in my life. It's depressing, even. No logic, pure rote. They must all be reading the same blogs and faxes.
I just have to remember that "the carnal mind is emnity against God and is not subject to the laws of God, nor indeed can it be." Romans 8:7. There's just no making any sense to these people, so I quit. It's like arguing with my dog. It makes no sense to the dog, and I just get frustrated.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

I Give You Permission

with thanks to Bob, who gave me the idea for this post...

I give you permission:
  • to ask me how I am doing, and not accept "Fine" for an answer
  • to ask me if I am telling you the truth
  • to ask my wife the same question
  • to ask me if I am struggling with any sin
  • to get real with me
  • to ask me about my prayer life
  • to ask me about where my relationship with God is
  • to ask me where my relationship with my wife and kids is
  • to ask me if I am being honest in all of my financial dealings
  • to ask me about my integrity
  • to put your arm around me and tell me you love me
  • to accept mine too
  • to pray for me
  • to call me no matter what time it is

Thanks, Bob...

Monday, August 08, 2005

Jimmy the Boss, Guido, and Little Ray

Pete came to JC and asked, “Lord, how much slack do I cut my brother and let him backstab me over and over? The dude’s pushed my buttons seven times already, ain’t that enough?" JC took a breath and told him, "You ain’t even close, little bro, try it another 500 times. Let me tell you what it’s like, man, if you’re gonna walk this walk. There was a man named Jimmy the Boss and he was out collecting his accounts. Guido had a meeting with the Boss, and he was nervous, because he owed the Boss some serious coin: close to 100 grand, and he couldn’t pay. He’d been ducking him for a while, but now it was crunch-time. He was trying to figure out a way to ask the Boss for a little time, but even then, he knew the debt was too large.
When the Boss showed up, Guido was pretty edgy, because the Boss had some of the other family with him. “Let’s take a little ride,” said one of the Boss’s men, holding open the limo’s door. Guido got in, and as the door shut behind him, the limo took off. There he was, face to face with the Boss, who was preparing to deal with one of his most faithful men in his organization.
“So whatabout the cash, Guido? It’s over a year’s pay for you. Since you can’t pay, you know what I gotta do. It’s strictly business, Guido, it’s not personal.” The Boss ordered cement shoes for Guido, and then to have his family picked up to settle the debt. Guido fell on his knees, kissed the Boss’s ring and begged, “Give me a little more time, Boss, and I’ll pay every dime. You know I’m good for it.”
Jimmy the Boss was soft on Guido, so he told his boys to let him go, and then told Guido. “Fugetaboudit…someday I may need to ask a favor of you.” So Guido split and found Little Ray Smalls, who owed him about fifty bucks. He knocked Little Ray in the knees and said, “Pay up, you loser!” Little Ray fell on the ground, kissed Guido’s hand and begged for mercy, just as Guido had done. But he would not have mercy and ordered his boys to break his fingers until he could pay his debt. When his boys saw what he was doing, they went and ratted Guido out to Jimmy the Boss.
So the Boss had Guido picked up again, and said, “You ain’t right, Guido, I cut you slack because you showed me respect, and this is what you do to Little Ray? The Boss cut Guido off right there and ordered his men to work him over until he paid back all that was due.
That’s how it is, Pete. You ain’t gonna get no slack if you can’t cut your brother no slack."
(Paraphrased, Matthew 18:21-35)

This is a story that centers on three things: forgiveness, mercy, and remembering where we came from. I wonder why Peter came and asked this question of Jesus. What was going on with him? Who had offended him? Or, was it just a hypothetical question? But Jesus went to the heart of the matter quickly, telling Peter, the kingdom of heaven is like this…
The story itself is a paradox. Why, we wonder, does a man who has just been forgiven of a huge debt, turn right around and not show mercy from someone who used the same course of begging for mercy as he did, and for a much smaller amount? Looking at it from the third person, we may even be indignant and judgmental of this servant. Yet, in reality, many times we are guilty of doing this very thing. We tend to want judgment for others and mercy for ourselves.
We forget we were once lost, apart from God, and had to ask forgiveness and mercy. We are offended by the lost people around us, and even worse, our Christian brothers and sisters. It’s been said that the “Army of God” is the only army that regularly shoots its own soldiers. The bickering and backbiting in the church is a disgrace, and it’s no wonder that the world wonders where the hope is. It’s interesting that Peter asked about forgiving a “brother” who offended him.
The principle of “seventy times seven” is not a formula to give us a limit on the number of times someone can offend us before we don’t have to any more. Forgiveness, by its nature means we no longer hold the offense against the offender any longer. So, in a sense, technically, it is as if he had never sinned or offended us. Isn’t that how God handles our sin when we confess and ask for mercy?
I think though, that the master in this story probably was wise enough to not ever trust the servant with such a large account again, and might not have allowed further credit unwisely, unless he was again willing to lose it all. We need to exercise wisdom in forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean we just blindly trust the offender again, at least not until the offender can rebuild trust. In other words, we may forgive an abuser, but not allow that person back to cause more abuse. That’s another issue.
God’s grace was enough to forgive my sin, as great as it has been. Who am I to hold judgment on another for something less than I did to offend God?