Thursday, April 13, 2017

Come to Brownwood's Annual Community Easter Sunrise Service

I am blessed once again to bring the message at the annual Community Easter Sunrise Service, which will be at 7 am Sunday, April 16, at the Stuart and Margaret Coleman Plaza (the Depot Pavilion) in downtown Brownwood, TX. I would love to see you there.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Scarlet Letter D

Divorced people feel judged.

It doesn't matter whether you feel as if you are judging them, or not. They feel judged.

Perhaps they are. Perhaps they were abandoned by their Sunday School classes, their small groups, their friends and families when they went through their divorce. Maybe their perception of abandonment and judgment was born of the inherent loneliness that follows when your life partner is no longer a part of you.

For this reason, teaching the Biblical position on divorce has become more difficult. Everyone has been touched by this issue. They've either been divorced, or have a close friend or relative who has. Seeing the potential for hurt feelings and estranged friendships, many churches have dropped the issue altogether. Others embrace divorce, hoping to show love and acceptance to those who have endured this tragedy.

The problem with teaching God's position on divorce, the position God clearly spells out in the Bible, is that all too often we miss the fundamental premise of Christianity when we teach this doctrine. The fundamental premise of Christianity is redemption and restoration. This premise materialized in the Gospel, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sins according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

We believe that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and as a result, all are condemned to an eternity in Hell (Romans 6:23). However, Jesus Christ died that death on our behalf, settling God's need for justice, and He rose again conquering death and opening the doors of Heaven. We believe that we can be redeemed and restored, and welcomed into God's Kingdom as one of His children if we repent and believe that Jesus died for us on the cross (Romans 5:6-12, 1 John 2:1-2).

This is a concept that we celebrate. We celebrate the redemption in our lives. We celebrate that the Lord turned our lives around, and we are no longer lost in the darkness that once defined our lives.

We celebrate being redeemed from alcoholism, immorality, substance abuse and hopelessness. Not only that, but we celebrate when we see the Lord redeem and restore others as well. Some of the best-selling testimonials come from hardened-criminals-turned-redeemed-saints who are now spreading the good news of their salvation, and telling others how they too can be redeemed.

We love it when a man tells us about finding Christ in prison, how he went from living a ruined life to living a life that has purpose. We'll buy the book, we'll schedule special screenings of the movie, we'll invite the man to preach at our church. The story of redemption, restoration and reconciliation is an encouragement, and exciting to every believer.

Except, of course, when it comes to divorce. For some reason, unlike substance abuse, youthful sexual immorality, theft, incarceration and hedonism, divorce is treated like a permanent scar, that even after the salvation experience, one bears in their forehead. We may not intend to treat divorce like this, but we all too often preach God's plan for marriage, without including God's redemptive plan for when we fail to live up to His plan.

Divorce was never God's plan.

In Mark 10, The Pharisees asked Jesus if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife. When Jesus asked what the Law of Moses said, they replied "Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away." (Mark 10:4).

God's attitude toward marriage and divorce was then succinctly stated by Christ in Mark 10:5-9, which say:
And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.  For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Notice what Christ did. Instead of splitting hairs over legitimate and illegitimate divorce, Christ stated God's plan. The plan of marriage was for a man and a woman to be joined together in marriage, and to stay joined together for life. However, because of the hardness of men's hearts, a provision allowing for divorce was written into God's law. In other words, if God's plan for the married life was not being followed, there was a way out for the innocent spouse.

In Matthew 19, and Matthew 5, Jesus stated that a legitimate reason for divorce is fornication. Fornication is defined as sexual immorality, which includes adultery, sex before marriage, pornography, sexual abuse, and physical and emotional abuse meant to allow for physical domination. In these cases, the offended spouse not only suffers intense emotional pain, but is also in physical danger. So, the Lord allows an escape through divorce. Ephesians gives a provision for abandonment.

In these cases, God's plan is violated, and God's word provides a remedy, as it does in other areas where His plan is violated.

So, God's law allows for divorce for certain reasons, but His plan is still for lifelong unity. Still, as broken human beings, we often fail to live up to God's plan.

Later, in Mark 10:11-12, Jesus states that getting divorced just so you can hook up with someone else is the same as committing adultery. These verses do not teach that those who have been divorced and remarried are living in eternal adultery. They merely state that divorces for the intent of sexual liberation are adultery.

Now, given God's plan for marriage, and His allowance for divorce, we need to remember that we never live up to God's plan.

For the spouse who was victimized by the fornication mentioned in Matthew 5 and Matthew 19, we need to remember that there is healing in the Lord. For the spouse that committed the fornication in Matthew 5 and Matthew 19, we need to remember that there is redemption in the Lord. For the one who committed adultery in the sense Christ mentioned in Mark 10:11-12, we need to remember that there is forgiveness, redemption and restoration in the Lord.

Even "amicable" divorces are brutal, devastating, painful, and leave one emotionally scarred. We, as the church, need to be aware of this, and remember this. We need to show our friends, brothers and sisters who have been devastated by divorce that there is healing and forgiveness in the Lord.

And when we address the issue of God's design for marriage, and His stance on divorce, we need to hold firm to what the scriptures teach, while extending the Lord's grace to those who fall short.

Who knows? Next time we might be the ones receiving the scarlet letter.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

If Your Life Were A Movie...

Did you have a good life when you died?
Enough to base a movie on?
-Jim Morrison

My previous declaration of The Case for Christ being the movie of the year may have been premature, now that I learn that Same Kind of Different as Me will be released to theaters in October. 

Same Kind of Different as Me, based on the book of the same name written by Ron Hall and Denver Moore, chronicles the intersection of the lives of Ron and Debbie Hall, and Denver Moore. Moore was a homeless man living on the streets of Fort Worth. Ron Hall is an international art dealer from Dallas, who was roped into volunteering at the Union Gospel Mission by his wife, Debbie. There, he meets Moore. He learns to love, serve, and minister through his experiences with Moore. 

I first became aware of this story 12 years ago while attending Texas Baptist Institute-Seminary in Henderson, TX. Debbie Hall was related to the president of our seminary, who used their story to teach us what ministry is really all about. 

The story is about a man who finds redemption in the forgiveness of his wife, and in learning selfless love toward a man who can do nothing to benefit him materially. The story also chronicles the rise of Moore from poverty to becoming one of the most beloved philanthropists Fort Worth has ever known. 

The common theme shared by The Case for Christ and Same Kind of Different as Me is the transformation God works in our lives. The inspiration of these movies is drawn from the fact that both chronicle real transformation that came as a result of real pain and suffering. 

The level of pain that Leslie Strobel felt as her husband, Lee, worked to destroy her faith cannot be overstated. The struggle Lee Strobel experienced as he searched for the truth about the resurrection cannot be overlooked. The pain and betrayal Debbie felt at the hands of Ron cannot be imagined. The suffering Moore experienced at the hands of his persecutors early in life is unconscionable. This is real pain that transformed real people.

As these individuals endured these hard times, it is highly unlikely they were thinking of book deals, or who would portray them in a movie. As they endured those transformative times,  they likely prayed that they would merely survive. All involved will probably tell you that they are surprised that anyone is even interested in their stories, let alone that the books sell, or that people turn out to watch their movies. 

The idea of the crucial times of our lives being made into movies struck me today. It made me think about my own struggles, and the possible outcomes and legacy that could be built if I stay faithful to the Lord.

Granted, I'm not enduring anything compelling enough to make a movie about, but if such a film were made, what would I want the plot to look like? How would I want that movie to end?

If your life were to be made into a movie, would you be the hero? Or the villain? Would you be the one who overcame, or the one who was overcome?

Chances are, none of us are headed to the silver screen. However, if we were, what would you want the audience to take away from your show?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Sunday, April 9, 2017

And The Movie of the Year Goes to...

Few movies inspire me to reflect on my life, my faith, and my purpose. The ones that do are instantly numbered among my favorites. The Case for Christ, a movie based on the book by the same title authored by Lee Strobel, has just moved to the top of my favorites list.

Released this past Friday, The Case for Christ follows the story of Lee Strobel, an investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune, a self-described atheist, whose world is turned upside down when his wife converts to Christianity (while visiting Willow Creek Community Church, of all places).

In an effort to undermine his wife's faith (so life would go back to normal), Strobel draws on his investigative reporting skills to debunk Christianity. His target? The resurrection. His investigation uncovers facts and evidence that forces him to the conclusion he most feared.

In addition to riveting drama, the movie provides tons of ammo for the up and coming apologist.

I am not writing a movie review, but if I were, I would tout the movies true to life set that captured life in the 1980s (right down to the pull tabs on the beer cans), the superb acting by Mike Vogel and Erika Christiansen, the suspense building around the next steps in his investigation, a side-plot involving a police shooting, and the health of Strobel's infant son. And once again, I find that my life is missing a 1980 Camaro Z-28.

Seeing a man struggle against the pull to accept Christ as his savior hit home for me. Just as Strobel rebelled against God through intellectualism and alcohol abuse, so I ran from God into the bottle on many occasions. Just as Strobel resented his wife's faith, so resented I my wife's faith until the Lord finally broke me.

In seeing how the Lord took Strobel on his journey to faith, I am reminded of how God brought me through the valley of darkness to the mountain of faith. I am reminded of how God transformed me. I am reminded of the hope that dwells within me, and the purpose God has given me.

Strobel eventually left a prominent role with the Chicago Tribune to become a pastor, and currently serves at a church in The Woodlands, Tex. God has truly transformed him.

God has taken me from being a half-drunk country radio DJ to being a voice for truth in the Brown County, Tex., area. God has truly transformed me.

In addition to the introspection sparked by The Case for Christ, the movie also reminded me why I believe what I believe. Christianity is not superstition, nor is it an illogical emotional cult. Christianity is deeply rooted in fact, evidence, logic, and the resulting faith. And, the movie reminds us that, while it does take faith to fill in the blanks of the Christian faith, it takes an equal, if not bigger dose of faith to subscribe to atheism.

The Case for Christ gives us solid facts regarding the truth of the Gospel, and reminds us of how God transforms the non-believer into a child of God. For that, the movie earns 5-stars and movie of the year honors in my opinion. Too bad I don't get to vote on the academy awards.

God's Will for Man (The Point, Ep. 2)

In Episode 2 of The Point radio and podcast, I discuss how God created man in a special way, and the purpose God gave man. God handcrafted man, "formed" man, like a potter sculpts his creation. After forming us, and creating us in His image, God breathed into us the breath of life, and man became a living soul.

God gave us a special consciousness and an eternal spirit that was meant to mimic His creativity, intelligence and love. We were created to worship Him by choice, and to create and cultivate. We were created to fellowship with Him, and each other. Do we live up to that purpose?

Check out The Point, posted above, for a more in-depth study.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Newly Revamped "The Point" Launched On-Air and Online

After much prayer and consideration, I have decided to take "The Point," my theological radio show on News/Talk 102.3 KXYL, to the next level. I have produced a new intro and outro to the show, new theme music, and now I have added podcasting to the mix. From this point forward, all episodes of "The Point" will be made available on demand, and online.

In this first new episode, I begin a "through the Bible" series. I have attempted this many times in the past, and have yet to finish. Life and ministry tend to happen. All that notwithstanding, here goes another round.

Episode 1 deals with the pre-existence of God, His creation of the world, His authority over all creation, and His special love for mankind. I hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Selma is a good movie (I know I'm late)

The struggle for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is as old as life itself. Since the fall of man in the garden, man has fought to stay alive, yearned to follow the desires of his heart, and fought to improve his lot in life. This desire fueled the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity, built the Roman empire, led the insurrections that ultimately brought down the Roman empire, and fueled the Renaissance and Reformation.

The desire for liberty and self-actualization sparked both the American and French revolutions, the Mexican Revolution, the Texas Revolution, and even the Civil War.

The desire to live safely, as one believes fit, and to advance one's station in life, is universal in every human being to walk the planet. A man born into slavery, a man born into absolute poverty, and a man born to privilege all share this same desire. No man is born without this desire, and this desire is foreign to no man.

The struggle for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and the demand for equal protection under the law, and the extension of dignity from society to African Americans were well articulated in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech to the Jobs and Freedom March in Washington DC in 1963. That speech was Dr. King's manifesto, his creed, and the foundation of his leadership in the Civil Rights Movement. While Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech articulated the vision to bring equality and dignity to the African American people, his activism demonstrated those values.

Such came to a full head of steam in Selma, Ala., March 7-25, 1965. Dr. Martin Luther King, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, went to Selma to protest the immoral, if not illegal, denial of African Americans the right to vote. As demonstrated in the movie, Selma, if African Americans could not vote, they had no say in government, could not determine their own destinies, and could not qualify to sit on a jury. In a free country, African Americans living in the Deep South were little more than serfs living on a manor controlled by lords who hated them. (I know that's a strong statement, but it's true. I was born in the South, raised in the South, and there are a lot of things I love about the South, but I'm ashamed of it's Jim Crow history.)

In order to free African Americans from their serfdom, Dr. King knew they had to secure the right to vote. So, to raise awareness, to pressure Alabama officials to give them the right to vote, and to pressure Lyndon B. Johnson to push the Voting Rights Act, Dr. King led a march from Selma to Montgomery. Efforts to launch this march took weeks, and the march was attempted in his absence to devastating results.

Selma captures this. In addition to the historical accuracy of the film, Selma puts a human face on the history of the Civil Rights Movement. No one is bestowed sainthood, no one (outside of Gov. Wallace, the local sheriff, and the state police), is demonized. The movie even gave prominence to white people who went to Selma to march with Dr. King, chronicled their persecution, and noted how white participation in the movement, and recognition of the Civil Rights Movement was important.

The film also showed the human side of the Civil Rights Movement. While LBJ gets credit for the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, the movie chronicles Johnson's reluctance to take up voting rights, his desire to control the Civil Rights Movement, and his surveillance of Dr. King's activities. While no one can dispute the wholesale changes Dr. King influenced in America, the movie also addresses his personal weaknesses, his moral failures, and the tension between he and his wife, Coretta Scott King.

The movie showed the Civil Rights Movement for what it was, and moreover, it showed us who we are, imperfect sinners struggling, vying for a better way, a better world, and a better life. It showed the struggle that man wages in an effort to better himself.

And for that honest depiction of who we were, who we are, and for what we strive, I say the movie Selma deserved more accolades than it received.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Spiritual Resolutions

New Year's is a benchmark. It's a snapshot day where we take stock in our lives, determine whether we are where we want to be, then resolve (i.e. make resolutions) to get to where we want to be. In reality, we could do this any day of the year, but the day that we take the 2016 calendars down, and hang 2017 calendars seems just as good a day as any to take stock in our lives.

Interestingly enough, when most Americans evaluate their lives and resolve to change, they tend to focus on their bodies and health. According to Google, the top searches regarding resolutions revolve around wellness, whether that be losing weight, exercising more, or eating right. Other top-ranked resolution searches involve enjoying life more, visiting loved ones more, and making career advances.

These resolutions are all well and good. Being healthy, enjoying life, loving others and advancing careers are all really great things. If we are to be honest, we are horrible at keeping these resolutions, but still, they are all worthy goals.

However, if we only focus on these things at New Year's, we miss the chance to truly inspect ourselves to see if we are where God wants us. Yes, taking stock of our physical lives and resolving to change is one thing. We'd be remiss if we neglected to take stock of our Spiritual lives.

The Aposle Paul wrote about this in Philippians 3:13-14:
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
In Philippians 3, the Apostle Paul discussed how suffering not only identified him with Christ, but also helped him to understand the Lord more. Through suffering, he more fully understood the Lord's love and sacrifice. If suffering brought him closer to Christ, the Apostle Paul's attitude was, "Bring it!" His goal was to be as Christlike as possible, and he was willing to endure anything to get there.

So, in Philippians 3:13-14, the Apostle Paul discussed what it took grow Spiritually and to become more Christlike. It takes a willingness to forget those things which are behind, to reach forth to those things which are before, and to press toward the mark.

In setting New Year's resolutions, let's resolve to forget those things which are behind. Now, this doesn't mean to erase those things from memory. It simply means to let go of those things. Those things that are behind, the past, can be good or bad. The Lord wants us to let go of both.

God wants us to let go of the past hurts that we have endured, whether they came as the result of abuse, or unfortunate incidents. He wants us to trust Him to take vengeance on those who have hurt us. He wants us to have the faith to move on. Furthermore, the Lord wants us to trust that whatever hard times we have endured had a purpose, and that God's will worked through those times for our betterment.

God also wants us to let go of prior victories. Yes, there were good times in the past, but holding on to the good ole days may prevent us from enjoying future blessings. We need to be willing to move on from yesterday's revivals, baptisms, meetings, and building programs so that we can reach more people, thus sparking future revivals, baptisms, growth and building programs. This applies to us on a personal level as well.

As we release the things of the past, God wants us to reach forth to those things before us. Whether that is a new ministry He has called us to, or whether He has called us to repent from a sin in which we've become entangled. Reaching forth to those things that are before simply means moving forward in the way God has directed you.

For me, this means better time management, better attitude, and renewed commitment. For Grace Pointe, this means completing the new worship facility and going self-supporting.

For you, it may mean accepting the Lord as your Savior, or following God's call into ministry. It may mean kicking a bad habit, overcoming an addiction, or aligning your views with scripture. Whatever it is, God has already convicted you of it, and called you to make the change. Will you reach forth to what He has set before you?

As we do this, we will be pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

So, as you set your New Year's resolutions, will you take stock of your Spiritual life? What do you need to release? What do you need to reach toward? What is it that God wants you to do this year? Answer those questions, then set your resolutions accordingly.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Simply Thanks

The quiet, serene day, mildly cool with a deep blue sky, and the emptiness of the normally busy street in front of my house made for a beautiful Thanksgiving holiday. Having lit the fire on the grill which would soon be adorned with 10 Cornish game hens, I enjoyed the peace of the moment. Normally at 10 am, I'd be working to build a 5 pm newscast, and sifting through emails hoping to book a guest for the next show. However, today was different. No ringing phone, no last minute production orders, no deadlines, and no stress.

Nope. Today was different. Today was simple. As the flames died down and the charcoal ashed over, I had little to worry about other than these birds being placed on the grill. It might take an hour to cook them, it might take more. No worries. If they took longer than expected, we'd just have lunch a little later. If the kids became hungry waiting, we had an array of snacks to tide them over.

The kids were happy, enjoying several rousing games of Uno, playing Minecraft on their tablets, or showing Papa Benjamin their latest achievements. Life was good.

It's at this time I remembered just how blessed I am. These Cornish game hens were seasoned with a new blend, and Jessica had an array of sides lined out. Today's meal was more than a family meal. It was an adventure, an exploration of new flavor, a new experience altogether. Most people in the world are denied such privilege.

My brick home, heated to just the right temperature, would provide the perfect setting for the holiday meal. My father-in-law would sit with us, having recovered from a tragic accident a year before to be able to spend this time with us.

And best of all, no stress. No deadlines. No hurry. Just relax, check the grill, and enjoy the day.

I hope your day went just as well, but if not, take heart. God's will is not for you to struggle through a never-ending series of heartbreaks, pains, and defeats. God uses those things to form you, but he never intends on keeping you there.

In Exodus 15, God led the Israelites to Marah, so named because the waters there were bitter, and undrinkable. As the Israelites complained about the water, God showed a tree to Moses to cast into the waters to make them sweet. Then, He led the Israelites to Elim, where there were 12 wells of good water.

I tell you that to tell you this. Sometimes, you find yourself in a place of bitterness. That happens in life, but like God moved the Israelites to Elim, He never intends to keep you in bitterness. He can make the bitter sweet, and then move you to an oasis.

Keep trusting Him, and shift your focus from the bitterness to the things that are good in life. This is a practice that has taken years for the Lord to teach to me, and He'll teach you as well, if you let him.

For the transformation that God has worked in my life, and for the continuing transformation taking place, I say, simply, thanks.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Can Reality Come Between A Man, and Christ?

"Hi, I'm at Lifeway. Want anything?" My wife asked over the phone after attending one of my oldest daughter's basketball games.

"Absolutely! If they have The Great Good Thing by Andrew Klavan, pick it up!" I replied. She did. And over the past day and a half, I have been in reading heaven.

I first discovered Andrew Klavan by accident. Someone had linked to one of his videos on Facebook. Klavan's most recent incarnation is that of a political pundit on The Daily Wire. His daily podcast mixes satire with politics and current events. Klavan, without being risque or rude, says what we really think, and turns the turmoil of today's political corruption into a daily sitcom. The first video I watched, a rapid fire assault on the ridiculousness of the boycott on North Carolina due to their bathroom law, said essentially everything I thought about the controversy, only in a more entertaining way. 

Andrew Klavan
If I had only known Klavan for his political commentary, I'd have been a fan. However, a few weeks after I discovered him, Klavan released his new book, The Great Good Thing. The book is Klavan's story of growing from a secular Jew to a believer in Jesus Christ. The title, premise and author were enough to sell me on the book, but Klavan's commentary on his book, offered on a series of TV interviews and podcasts I found on YouTube, enticed me even more. 

During those interviews, Klavan discussed his search for the truth, his never-ending self-assessment of his motivations, and ultimately how he came to believe the truth, and to show his conversion via a Protestant baptism. 

So, as soon as Jessica returned home with the book, I opened it to the introduction. Introducing the premise of the book, Klavan discussed his struggle with converting to Christianity. Among other things (doubt as to his motivation, family heritage, etc), Klavan discussed his love for life, his fascination with the things of this world, and his attraction to what is real. 

Klavan discussed how, during his struggle with converting to Christianity, he feared he would lose touch with reality. Already well-known for writing thrillers, murder mysteries, and TV shows, Klavan was concerned that his writing would drift toward softer stories, like a little girl whose bunny turns up missing but miraculously returns. While this may seem silly to some, Klavan understood the gritty nature of the real world around us, and he didn't want to be converted to a fruit-loop with his head in the clouds when he converted to Christianity. (My words, not his). 

To a degree, I can understand his concern. Working in the news business, and political talk radio, I see every day the effects of sin on this world. I read and research news stories about kids who kill their parents, parents who kill or torture their children, politicians who carelessly leave America's finest to die while they plan their next fundraiser, and the devastating effects avarice and lust have on this society. 

Being a minister of God's Word, I've had to counsel with the teenage girl 'abused' by her father, the child who witnessed his/her father nearly murder his/her stepmother, the teenager whose been left homeless, the kid abandoned by both parents, the war veteran living with PTSD, and the family living in extreme poverty.

These experiences propel me to do battle. This is a Spiritual war that can only be won by proclaiming God's word, confronting evil, and honoring your responsibilities. It's the kind of battle that you cannot win by saying "too blessed to be stressed." Such pithy sayings, in my opinion, are a disengagement of the Spiritual battle we face, and constitute living in denial. Sure, God is good all the time. Sure, God holds us in the palm of His hand. Sure, God is in control. However, God not only gave us the capability to join His cause and battle on His behalf, but has also called us to do so. 

As a result, I lack the polished appearance, speech and demeanor many pastors have. (And they use that demeanor as an armor they wear into the Spiritual battle.)

So, when Klavan feared that he would lose his edge, his understanding of reality upon conversion, I understand where he is coming from. Furthermore, I find it interesting that his understanding of the Christian nature was one where reality is denied, and people keep their heads in the clouds. Have we as Christians put forth an image of softness, denial, and rose-colored glasses? If so, that's a shame. 

We have been put on this earth to shine God's light, to spread His Gospel, to visit the orphans and widows, and to feed His sheep. That process involves standing against evil, and from time to time, beating away the wolves. 

Life is a gift. It's wonderful, fun and interesting. It's also hard, gritty, dirty, and deadly. We need to engage the reality around us, and rescue those who are perishing. The lost around us need to know that we can help, and that we can speak true wisdom into their lives, not just quote "God's Little Instruction Book."

May God bless you as you do the Lord's work. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

We're Still in the Starting Blocks

I'll admit it. Even though I did not vote for Trump, nor did I ever feel any confidence in his candidacy, I did breathe a sigh of relief when Pennsylvania turned red, and Fox News called the Presidential election in his favor.

I'm still not confident in his future administration, and I do not feel that Christianity has won a huge victory. I am, however, relieved that Hillary Clinton did not win the election. At least now, there's a chance (a small chance) that the next round of Supreme Court justices will be friendly toward religious liberty. There is a chance that the executive branch of government might back off churches and para-church organizations. It's possible, but not guaranteed.

All that said, many of my Christian friends are actively celebrating this election. Seeing the nation outright reject a pro-abortion, anti-religion, anti-Second Amendment candidate is reassuring. It tells us our nation may not be too far gone. However, seeing this victory as a win for Christianity might amount to counting the chickens before they're hatched.

It's easy to look at an election win and think that things are okay, or that they're even getting better. However, elections do not effect change in the hearts of people, and if we are to see America truly come alive, it'll take more than a Trump victory to make that happen.

In Isaiah 6, Isaiah notes that he saw the vision of the Lord, high and lifted up on His throne in the Temple, in the year that King Uzziah died. King Uzziah was a Godly king who restored a certain level of greatness to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Despite his sin that led to his untimely death, hs is regarded as a king who did right in the sight of God. Upon his death, his son Jotham became king. Jotham had been running the kingdom since Uzziah contracted leprosy as a punishment for unlawfully entering the Holy Place in the Temple. Jotham was also a good king, a Godly king, one who did right in the sight of God.

It would have been easy for Isaiah to think that, with Jotham's coronation, everything was going to be okay. However, it was at that time that Isaiah saw the vision of God in the Temple. Upon seeing this vision, Isaiah was reminded of his sin, his nation's sin, and was then told that his nation would rebel against God until the captivity came. Isaiah had work to do in order to reach those who would repent. He would be charged with speaking God's truth, and calling the nation to repent.

Despite the glimmer of hope that the 2016 election might have presented, we still live in a society where partial birth abortion is seen as a legitimate form of birth control to which a woman has a right. Sexual immorality is still being normalized. The family continues to break down. Younger Americans still want to trade in the opportunity of freedom for the "security" of socialism. And America continues to turn away from God, His church, and His Word.

Our work as Christians, pastors and missionaries did not come together and conclude with the 2016 election, it's just beginning. This is going to be a long race, and we are still in the starting blocks.

This election has presented us with an opportunity to spread God's word and spark a revival in this country. Let's not squander it.

Thursday, November 17, 2016


Recently, my wife and I found a new show on NBC called "Timeless," which follows three main characters who are pursuing a time-travelling terrorist, trying to stop him from going back in time and changing the past, and thus, destroying America.

In each episode, the crew learns of how a small detail in history actually impacted the country in a major way. Those plot twists are reminiscent of "Quantum Leap," an NBC show from the late 1980s where a time traveler "leaped" into the lives of individuals to stop some catastrophic event from happening that would ultimately destroy the individual's life.

In each show, we see the importance of ordinary people, and the importance of empowering people to great things. It stirs the imagination. What if you could go back in time and fix ___________? What if you could prevent the Kennedy assassinations? Pearl Harbor? What if you could warn the engineers building the Bay Bridge, thus saving hundreds of lives from the 1989 San Francisco Earthquake?

If going back in time to fix the past captures our imaginations, then why doesn't fixing the present?

If we can imagine changing the world for the better by warning President Lincoln to avoid Ford's Theatre, or by tackling Lee Harvey Oswald as he entered the Texas Book Depository, then why can't we imagine changing the world for the better by uplifting the people around us?

The lesson we learn from time-travel stories is not "what could have been," but rather that we have the potential to impact the world in big ways, simply by helping people and speaking truth.

So, embrace your mission! What will you do to change the world today?

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Why This Election Will Not Stop The Great American Decline

Sorry for the reference to The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again," but I've been through enough elections to know that the results of this election will not bring sweeping change to our country. The United States has been on a downward trajectory for years, and it has less to do with whom we elect, than who we are.

Our elected leaders stink, because we stink. Our government is dysfunctional, because we are dysfunctional. Our society crumbles because we removed the bedrock foundation that made it great. I don't care how magnificent the structure, you remove it's foundation, and the whole thing falls.

The foundation of American society was faith. Faith in God who built this country and blessed it. Faith in the American people who built this country and defended it. Faith in the American dream which built the greatest society and economy the world has ever known. Faith.

In his book, Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville noted the role that faith played in the American experiment. Faith, he wrote, was essential to democracy working, because it was the faith of Americans which convicted us that we had a responsibility not only to ourselves, but to do right by others.

Following de Tocqueville's logic, if you remove faith, then America descends into a conglomeration of warring factions, with each group and individual seeking pleasure and power at the expense of others. The nation degrades into a group of fractured demographics, all of which are opposed to the others, with leaders seeking the support of these warring factions until ultimately the country tears itself apart.

This is not Obama's fault, and it's not going to be solved by Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. This crisis will only be resolved by a revival in our country.

This Decline Is Evident In The Foster Care Crisis

Every week, I read stories about the supposed "failing" foster care system in Texas. There aren't enough workers, foster homes are overcrowded, and of course, there isn't enough money.

The problem with the foster care system, at least in Texas, is not that there's a lack of money, foster homes or case workers. It only appears such because we have an abundance of parents, who, after having rejected faith, have elected to abuse drugs and their children. Right now, there are approximately 6,000 children in the Texas foster care system awaiting adoption. That's not including the children who were taken into care last month, or those whose parents' rights have not been terminated. Think about that, there are enough children in foster care in Texas to populate a small city. That means that thousands of parents have shirked their responsibilities, and actively harmed their children.

The increase in abusive households is not the fault of the federal government, government policy, nor is it the fault of Child Protective Services. The increase in abusive households is the result of the degradation of society brought on by the abandonment of faith.


The fact that, with all the prosperity we see in America, poverty affects families across generations is another sign that our foundation has been compromised. America is the land of opportunity. Despite all of our complaints with the tax system, welfare state, and corporate corruption, America is still the one place that you can go from rags to riches in one generation.

While millions of people find themselves temporarily in poverty, perpetual poverty is the result of the foundation of faith being removed from American society. Once again, if you remove faith, you remove hope, and you remove personal responsibility.

Currently, we have millions living in multi-generational poverty, when the formula for escaping poverty is as simple as it has ever been. The left-leaning Brookings Institute has released three steps to escaping poverty. Basically, if you follow these three steps, you will escape poverty without fail.

These three steps are: (1) Graduate high school, (2) wait until you turn 21 to get married, and don't have children out of wedlock, and (3) get a full-time job.

Yet, we have generations of Americans who are dropping out of education, who are having children out of wedlock, and who refuse to do what it takes to get a job. These decisions are influenced, not only by a lack of hope, but a never-ending list of voices who tell the impoverished that there is no hope, they are not responsible to make good decisions, and that their plight is caused by the rich man. These dishonest voices are motivated by greed, as an entire class of activists and political operatives draw their power and income from the plight of the poor. Once again, faith has been removed, and ruin follows.

Calling Good Evil, and Evil Good

America is going through a time of transition where our values are fundamentally changing. The institutions that made America great, the church, higher education, the family and the community, are metamorphosing in ways we never imagined. In order to remain relevant, many churches are abandoning orthodox teachings and normalizing sinful behavior. Many avoid standing on moral principle, or standing for God's word, by employing a "judge-not" philosophy on life.

Higher education no longer seems to challenge the thinking of its students, electing rather to avoid hurting anyone's feelings. (That's really a shame. Though I had liberal professors who challenged my conservative Christian views, it was through defending those views to said liberal professors that I learned to think for myself, and construct my own world view, which is even more in line with scripture, and more conservative than it was prior to going to college).

The family is being redefined from a mother, father, and children, to any group of people who happen to live together. This arrangement diminishes and even negates the responsibility to raise children, which gets relegated to government schools.

As these changes progress, the American world view degrades into a cesspool of self-loathing, moral ineptitude, and rampant sin, which will ultimately result in the loss of America's greatness.

I could go on...

... but I won't. I could address how rampant sexual immorality is victimizing today's children, thus perpetuating itself to the next generation, or how the abdication of personal responsibility is leading us to communism and the loss of all freedom. I could talk about the evaporation of the American economy as companies are less interested in creating value and products, and more interested in automating financial reports. I could discuss our fascination with violence, the loss of decorum, the rejection of truth, and the admiration of evil. But I won't. That would be running up the score.

So, if your candidate loses, don't lose heart. If your candidate wins, don't celebrate too much. The real problems in America originate with our hearts, and not in the Oval Office.

It's time for America to repent. It's time for us to turn from our sin and turn back to the Lord. It's time for us to renew our faith in God, our faith in each other, and our faith in the American way. If we fail to do that, even a resurrected Ronald Reagan won't be able to help us.

Renew your faith, and I'll see you in church on Sunday.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Let Us Not Do Evil, So That Good May Come

There's an old saying that "the ends justifies the means." Basically, if you get a good result, it does not matter how you arrived at your destination. Therefore, you can freely justify any behavior so long as your intentions were for a good result. This line of thinking has caused thousands of good Christians to sacrifice their integrity and surrender their testimonies, all for the sake of pursuing a goal, whether that goal was a legislative or electoral victory, or whether that goal was effecting change in their local churches or communities.

History is full of churches that died as a result of splits caused by members pursuing a Godly goal through unGodly means. Maybe the preacher did deserve to be fired. Maybe the church needed to launch a youth ministry or transition its worship style. Maybe the red carpet was the best choice... however in many cases, those changes were pursued using the unGodly means of gossiping, backbiting, slander, and vote stuffing. The results of this behavior have been devastating each time this strategy has been employed.

This morning on News/Talk 102.3 KXYL in Brownwood, TX, I once again drew fire from listeners for not defending Donald Trump's candidacy for President. Particularly, I said he was as deplorable as Hillary Clinton, and when asked about his Christianity, I expressed my doubts.

(1) He has never made a public profession of faith. Trump has never publicly stated that he has had a conversion experience.

(2) He has publicly stated that he hasn't had to ask forgiveness for anything, because he hasn't done anything wrong. (I'm referring to the statements he made back during the primary, not during a recent Presidential debate.)

What we do know about Donald Trump is there is a line of women accusing him of sexual harassment. There is audio tape of him describing his tendency to grope women (statements that mirrored a 1997 sexual harassment suit against him). There are questions about his business practices, and just a few years ago, he was pro-abortion, and pro-government healthcare. There are serious questions about his character.

Now, this is the part of the discussion where people ask me, "What about Hillary Clinton?" She's deplorable, and could possibly be the most despicable person to be elected President. However, Clinton does not claim to represent my values. Clinton does not claim to speak for my Lord, and Clinton is not trying to court my vote. Clinton represents the other side of the political aisle. It is not my job as a conservative, evangelical Republican to hold the Democratic Party accountable for its values and nominees. It is my responsibility to make sure my own house is clean. Before I should seek to remove the speck from the Democrats eyes, I must first make sure my own are clear.

While I understand that a Hillary presidency would be disastrous, I have no obligation to endorse anyone who opposes her. At the same time, I have to keep in mind that when I sign my name to a candidate, I am also putting my credibility and testimony on the line. While a Trump victory would give Republicans the White House, I would also have to explain why it's okay for Trump to commit adultery, but not Bill Clinton. I would have to explain why Trump is inherently innocent of all accusations brought against him, but why Hillary is automatically guilty.

Furthermore, I have to look at the girls in my youth group and tell them why we should support Trump, in spite of his "locker room" talk, while at the same time teaching them about living in holiness. For those reasons alone, I cannot bring myself to endorse Donald Trump. That's before we even delve into the issue of his changing positions on conservative issues.

Donald Trump may win the 2016 election. He may lose. Regardless, the Republican Party, and the evangelicals that supported Trump's nomination and campaign, are about to learn a hard lesson. Compromising the means to achieve a desired end leads to devastation each and every time. Perhaps we should have actually consulted our Bibles during the primaries, and remembered Romans 3:8, which says (paraphrased) let us not do evil so that good may come.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Orlando and Its Aftermath: It's Spiritual

It takes an unspeakable evil to murder.

There's a phenomenon that happens during deer season called "buck fever." This is when a first-time hunter has a buck in his sights for the first time. The adrenaline of bagging your first trophy buck, combined with the focus to keep the deer in your cross-hairs while squeezing the trigger without flinching and missing the shot can wreak havoc on a hunter's steady hand. Many a hunter missed their first shot at a buck as a result.

Recently where I live, a gunman grabbed a rifle, went to his neighbors house, killing them and their dogs for no other reason than one of the dogs had "used" his yard. Police responded, and immediately came under fire from this deranged individual. As the responding officer was pinned down by the gunman's rapid fire, another neighbor retrieved a pistol, and "neutralized" the shooter, killing him with about three shots fired. The good neighbor, later dubbed "the Good Samaritan Shooter" was honored by the local Sheriff's Office, the County Commissioners and the Governor of Texas.

During one of the ceremonies, a war veteran approached me, and said, "His hand must have been shaking something fierce. Buck fever doesn't even begin to describe what you go through when it's another man in your sights." The veteran then shared with me his first combat experience.

Here you have two men, the Good Samaritan Shooter and the War Veteran, placed in a position where they had no choice but to take the life of someone to either (a) end a murderous rampage, or (b) survive combat and defend the country. Both expressed the anguish and intensity of having to make that choice. In situations where the shooting was completely justified, it troubled these men to have to do it. This is the natural reaction for most people.

However, for the hundreds, if not thousands of people who commit murder each year, and those who have perpetrated terrorist attacks, that anguish seems absent. The idea of taking human life is no big deal to them. In fact, it becomes their means to an end. It's the vehicle they use to achieve their goals.

The Orlando shooter was evil. Plain and simple. There are those who say I shouldn't judge. If you cannot call someone who takes 50 lives and wounds 53 others, who carried out this attack for three hours evil, then what can you call it? Whereas most people shutter to think they could take another person's life, and whereas most hunters shutter before they bag their first deer, the Orlando shooter placed another person in his sights and pulled the trigger no less than 103 times. This is evil personified.

The tragic part about this is that we've seen this evil manifest itself many times, in America and around the world. Whether it's the San Bernadino shooting, Aurora, Newtown, Virginia Tech, or Charleston, the root cause of these tragedies is evil. The motives are different, but the root cause is evil.

From where does evil originate? Satan. Satan was the one who entered into Judas' heart, prompting him to betray Jesus. Isaiah 14:16 says Satan has made the earth tremble and has shaken kingdoms. On three different occasions, Jesus referred to him as the "prince of this world." Satan is evil, and he influences men, and human events.

Why are we experiencing so many mass shootings and terror attacks? Simple. Evil. And Satan is the one influencing that evil. If it seems like all of this is part of some well-coordinated conspiracy, well, it is. However, it's not the so-called Illuminati coordinating these events... it's Satan.

Which brings me to the coordinated response to these shootings, particularly the one in Orlando. In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, there was the predictable call to enact more gun control. There was the predictable outcry about the persecution of homosexuals. And, I'd be remiss if I didn't include the predictable call to "not judge all Muslims by the actions of this one."

While there was outcry that we shouldn't judge all Muslims, suddenly there was a backlash against Christians. While there are extremists all over the internet who post insanity on Twitter, I was shocked to find that a high-profile cable news commentator decided to lash out at Christianity.

In a series of tweets following the Orlando shooting, CNN's Sally Kohn called Christians who offered prayers and comfort to the victims of the shooting as "hypocrites" whose "guilt was showing." In the aftermath of a massive terrorist attack on homosexuals perpetrated by an Islamic extremist, Kohn said that Christians value the humanity of homosexuals less than moderate Muslims do. That must be why homosexuality is a crime punishable by death in many Middle Eastern countries, but I digress.

Meanwhile, according to the Washington Examiner, an ACLU attorney tweeted that the Orlando shooting was caused by a homophobic atmosphere cultivated by Christians.

Somehow, these commentators, as well as a number of others not worth mentioning, have found a way to blame Christians for a terrorist attack committed by a man who pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State, who professed Islam, who claimed to represent a religion that dominates the Middle Eastern countries that execute homosexuals. An Islamic extremist representing a religion that bans homosexuality kills homosexuals, and Christianity is blamed. How can any reasonable person follow that logic? Simple. It's not logic. It's evil.

The same spiritual force that influenced the attack is influencing the reactions.

Satan opposes Christ. He opposes Christianity. His name literally means "opponent." So, it should make sense that, given the opportunity, he would try to steer the rage of a nation against Christians. So, he puts it in the mind of political influencers that Christianity bred the homophobic atmosphere that led to the attack. If people don't believe that argument, simply state that Christians are no better than the Orlando shooter. The only way to prove that they are better is to reverse Bible doctrine and accept homosexuality as a righteous behavior. Many Christians are following that path today.

Stephen Colbert said it best. He said it is as if we have adopted a national script, and we follow that script every time. If it all seems collaborated and coordinated, it is. Where there is a script, there is a screen writer. In this case, that screen writer is Satan.

We are in a Spiritual battle. Satan, his demons and his followers are seeking to turn the world away from God and toward destruction. God, and His followers, seek to lead the world to repentance and restoration. The battlefield is the heart and minds of all people. The battle will continue until Christ returns and wins the final victory.

Our role as Christians is to wage that battle by speaking the truth in love, and spreading the Gospel of salvation. As we do this, we recognize the Spiritual battle for what it is, and look forward to the return of Christ.

My heart, and prayers go out to the victims of the Orlando shooting, and their families. The last thing I wanted for them was what happened this past weekend. May God comfort them, may God help the rest of us to know how to minister to them, and may God forgive us where we fall short.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Mother of all What-If's....

Several weeks ago, around Easter time, I was preaching on the Triumphal Entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. The text was from the book of Luke. During that sermon, one of the points I made was that Jesus had entered Jerusalem, just as the Old Testament foretold. The people who said they wanted Messiah to come were now witnessing the arrival of the Messiah, but they didn't recognize it because they were Spiritually blind. Because Jerusalem had failed to receive the Messiah, electing rather to turn Him over to the Romans to be crucified, the city was condemned to total destruction, which happened some 35 years later in AD 70. The city could have received its promised Messiah, but instead rejected Him and chose destruction.

Following church that day, my wife asked me, "What would have happened had they received Him? What about His death for our sins on the cross?"

The simple answer to that would be that God knew that Jerusalem would reject Christ, so He worked it into His perfect plan of redemption. That's the answer I gave, and that's how we left it.

Still, does that mean that Jerusalem was doomed from the start? Was there a way they could've received the Messiah, and for the plan of Redemption to go forward? I mean after all, Jesus Himself said in Luke 19:42, "If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes."

Jesus said "If thou hadst known," indicating possibility. If Jerusalem would've been worshiping and serving God, and thus would have recognized Jesus as the Messiah, things would've turned out different for Jerusalem. AD 70 would've never happened, and the Temple would still stand today because the Messiah would've defeated the Romans. But, what about redemption? Salvation was purchased by the death of Christ on the cross. So, if the Jewish leaders didn't turn Him over to the Romans to be crucified, how would we have salvation today?

Granted, this is a big what-if scenario, and this is all conjecture, but it could be that God would've worked the plan of redemption into Jerusalem's acceptance and obedience. Consider the following possibility:

Jesus enters Jerusalem to the cheer of the crowd. The religious leaders open their Bibles, read the scriptures that Jesus was in the process of fulfilling, and realize that the Messiah has arrived. They proudly and victoriously announce that Christ has indeed come, as God promised in the scriptures, and proclaim that God's Kingdom has once again been restored. Christ arrives in Jerusalem, where a coronation ceremony is held and He is crowned King.
The Romans would not have just accepted that. The Roman army would've marched on Jerusalem, just as they had in previous insurrections, taken the leadership, and crucified them. The result: Christ would've been crucified anyway, and still would've paid for the sins of the world. Once He rose again on the third day, He would've destroyed the Roman army and restored the Kingdom once and for all. Salvation would then have been extended to the Gentiles based on whether they accepted Him or rejected Him. 

Granted, there are holes in that theory. But instead of going into deep theological debates as to how God would've completed the plan of redemption if Jerusalem would have accepted Jesus, let's just be glad we have an all-powerful God who completes His plan no matter what man does, and that His plan called for our redemption, salvation, and inclusion into His Kingdom. Praise the Lord!