Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Man Who Cut Woman’s Throat Becomes Successful Preacher

That sounds like a headline from The National Enquirer, but I am not making this up. I read in the Dallas Morning News, last Sunday (different headline) about Maury Davis. Davis is the very successful pastor of Cornerstone Church in Madison Tennessee, just outside of Nashville. Their church has over 6000 members who are deeply devoted to Davis. Davis hosts a Sunday television show that is followed by over 125,000 viewers. He has been married for 23 years and is the father of four children.

Tragically, one morning in 1975, he killed a woman named Jo Ella Liles. And when I say he killed her, I don’t mean that he knocked her over and she hit her head on a rock and died. He slit her throat.

Davis had abused drugs such as LSD during his teen-age years. As an 18-year-old, he committed this violent crime under the influence of drugs. From the beginning, Davis admitted his guilt and expressed no remorse. The article describes in detail how Davis was sentenced to prison and his testimony about how he became a Christian.

While in prison, J. Don George, the pastor at Calvary Church in Irving began to visit him. The following really impressed me concerning George and the people at his church. They had the guts and the fortitude to reach out to Maury Davis and teach him how to become a disciple of Jesus. In time, as he earned their trust, they gave him more responsibility. George saw the potential for ministry in Davis. With his encouragement, and many others, Davis ultimately went into fully supported ministry and wound up in Tennessee, becoming the preaching minister at a church.

Our congregation has members who have served time in prison and have since been released. All of them honor God. I am proud of them and proud of our church. I have to admit though, we have never been stretched like the people at Calvary Chapel. They passed the test. Many lives have been blessed through the years by Maury Davis.

One life that has not been blessed has been that of Jo Ella Liles’ son, Ron. He is a bitter man. While people who have admired Davis through the years and look at him as “a trophy of God’s amazing grace”, Liles sees him as “Satan’s angel.”

Davis has never tried to hide what he has done. This is not Robert Duvall’s character in the movie, The Apostle—a man who committed a violent crime and then tries to hide it. Davis has freely and authentically shared his story through the years, albeit in a tasteful and tactful way. He has carefully offered Liles’ family members space, while at the same time standing ready to meet with them personally to share with them his deep sorrow over the pain he has caused them. Ron Liles has always refused.

I find it interesting. Maury Davis served his time and was released from prison. Sadly, Ron Liles is currently serving his 34th year in prison—a prison whose walls he has constructed himself, brick by brick. For you see, Ron Liles serves time in the prison of bitterness. Currently, it appears that he will not be released anytime soon.

“Flatliners”—One Spiritual Movie

I saw Flatliners back in 1991 or 1992. I don't remember being particularly enthusiastic about the movie, but it seemed okay. A few years ago, one of the deacons, at the Church in West Texas where I preached, mentioned he had seen the movie and it really made him think. That caught my attention. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed it was playing on TV, so I decided to record it. Last Monday night, I watched it with my wife and my two oldest daughters. (Actually, my wife remembered how the movie scared her years ago, so she did a lot of chores around the house!)

This go around, I found the movie to be extraordinarily profound. It's about premed students, who have been studying those who have supposedly died, experienced the afterworld, and then been brought back to life. The students decide to, one by one, orchestrate their deaths using medical technology. After a few minutes, they used that same technology to bring themselves back to life.

The fascinating part is the imaginative aspect of the story. In the afterlife, each person comes in contact with an event that is rooted in past sin. Because the cosmic breach has been broken, each person faces consequences on this side of the barrier, after their lives have been restored. For example, Kevin Bacon's character is haunted by a girl he made fun of as a child. The movie implies that these events are real, although it never says these are NOT hallucinations.

The fascinating thing to me is how each character is traumatized by their past. The cast begins to speak of "atonement" and "making amends." Although, this movie is not explicitly Christian, it makes a strong case for the need to have someone make amends and atone for our sin. (Hum, I wonder who that could be?)

Lately, our church has been looking at the themes of reconciliation and forgiveness in passages such as Philippians and especially, in the book of Philemon. That's why one character in this movie stood out to me. Her “sin” was her inability to forgive her father for committing suicide, and her inability to forgive herself as she carried much guilt.

In the movie, she was able to experience reconciliation as her father asked for forgiveness, and she was able to offer that forgiveness to him. She has made amends and she was able to find healing.

I have discovered one of the greatest barriers to a life of joy and contentment has been the inability to forgive someone who hurt them in the past. It has been particularly difficult for those who have been violated by one who is now dead. For forgiveness to be achieved, one has to use her imagination and visualize herself offering forgiveness, and that seems so abnormal, most people are unwilling to do so.

The value of the movie Flatliners is it spurs our imagination to see how we can pull this off. A forgiving spirit is essential for a life well lived. To achieve this objective, we must be able to forgive those who have hurt us in our past.

Prayer Requests and Teenagers

Wednesday night, in the Bible class I teach, we were entertaining prayer requests. I had asked Matthew Blake to lead our prayer.

My wife asked Matthew to pray for the seventh graders from our daughter’s (Abby) school. The seventh graders were leaving on Thursday of this week for a field trip to San Antonio. Matthew immediately responded, "Am I to pray that they don't come back?"

My Most Controversial Sermon Ever

Last week, I wrote about Time’s cover story on the opportunities that our current economy offers, including the opportunity to reevaluate our priorities. In connection with this topic, our unpaid video minister, Mark Hutchins, finished placing, on YouTube, a sermon I preached that had created quite a stir.

I preached it back in February as part of a series we were doing on stewardship called “Spiritual Bungee Jumping.” In this particular sermon, I was attempting to wake up the imagination of those who were of the younger generations. Concerning this goal, I succeeded. I have never received as much positive feedback as this. Unfortunately, with some who were older, the sermon did not go so well. Let me explain.

My purpose was to take Jesus’ passage out of Matthew 7:7-12 and preach it like the prosperity gospel. And I mean I laid it on thick: tell God what you want and you will receive it, God wants you to be happy—all of the clich├ęs. Having been a young man when David Letterman got his start, I have spent virtually my whole life in the realm of satire and irony. Sorry to say, I think there were several who were not used to that. For them, this sermon was a shock.

Add to this, I used heavy irony in a visual illustration that totally threw some people off. (I looked at the video for the first time after Mark posted it; I cracked up because during the first third of the sermon there was total silence. You can feel the shock.) I’m not going to go into extensive details, but my illustration included 700 Hershey Kisses, the Boy Scouts, and feigned sickness. (Ironically,—no pun intended—three of my children and my lovely wife had terrible cases of the flu that week. I spent many hours as a nurse and I wasn’t sure if I had not contracted the flu myself. I had asked John Thompson to be ready to preach just in case. You can imagine his horror as I pretended to be sick. (There would never be a worse sermon to take over in the middle than that one!)

For those who were not on my wavelength, this was an excruciating experience—sort of like watching Loretta Lynn have a nervous breakdown on stage. A few days later, I had one good friend tell me he almost went up to help me because he thought I was having a stroke! One lady, who was a member, got up during the first ten minutes and walked out—and she’s never been back.

Ultimately, I don’t think the visual aids are what bothered the people who were upset. Through the years, I have used many visual aids—from bringing a goat into the assembly to illustrate the sacrifices of Leviticus to mixing up pure water, Seven-Up, tomato juice and milk to illustrate the impurity of adultery—and have never gotten much criticism for it. Most seem to appreciate it. That is what makes me feel so thankful to preach for this church. I think my problem with those who were angry was my use of irony and satire. I have been blessed with the gifts of sincerity and authenticity. In that light, I can easily understand how irony and satire can prove disillusioning to one who has learned to trust in me.

Do I regret preaching this sermon? No. I had been telling folks in my church about how those households that make $40,000 a year, rank in the top 1 % of the world in terms of wealth. (My friend, Jim Hackney, shared with me this stat from his research.) That means most of our church households make more money than 99 % of the rest of the world. Does God intend for us to make ourselves sick on our consumption? Or do his blessings represent a higher purpose and higher calling.

Some have told me this is the best sermon I have ever preached. Not the most polished, but the best. I don’t know about that. I am, however, glad I preached it.

If you are interested viewing that sermon on YouTube, you can do so by clicking on the following link. It is divided up into three parts to fit YouTube’s guidelines. Just push the “Control” button on your computer and, while holding that button down, left-click the following link.

Five things I think I think (a tip of the hat to Peter King for this idea)
1. I had a chance this week to drop off some old books in exchange for cash at a Half Priced Bookstore. Of course, it was my moral duty to scour the store for good books or good buys. I found some too. I know this is weird to 99% of the population, but I enjoy doing that as much as I do going fishing, playing golf, attending a professional sporting event, or going hunting. In a sense, going to a good bookstore is like hunting -- treasure.

2. Saw where someone asked the actor Michael J. Fox how he stays optimistic in the face of living with Parkinson's disease. His answer was classic. He said he did not have a choice about whether or not to have Parkinson's, but he did have the choice about how to react to it. Some Christians could take note of that attitude.

3. Finished 90 Minutes in Heaven this week. One of our members loaned it to me. Don Piper wrote it telling about his experience of dying in a car crash and remaining dead for over 90 minutes. While dead, he recounts that he was taken up into heaven and given the opportunity to experience it. Obviously, I cannot verify whether this was true or false. However, whether or not you believe Piper did indeed experience heaven, you could appreciate his experiences recovering from a horrific auto accident. His account is raw, authentic, and brutally honest. I found this refreshing.

4. I’ve been watching NBC’s broadcast of the 1968 World Series between the Tigers and the Cardinals. What a classic series. It was the last year that MLB had the high pitching mounds. They lowered them the next year in response to the “year of the pitcher.” I crack up every time I hear a talking head complain about the World Series being broadcasted at night. They say the kids can’t watch the games. What are they talking about? I missed the ’68 Series because they played all of the games during the day, while we were in school!

5. Love Hurts by Nazareth—over thirty years later and still a great song. I think one of the best songs of all time.

It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Coming

Have you ever seen a football player with eye black on his cheeks with the scripture citation “Phil. 4:13”? Guys that I admire and have great affection for have worn this. I think many times the intention is noble. The reference is to these words from Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

The idea is that our athletic goal is very difficult, but we can achieve it because of the power of Christ. I have used this verse for this purpose as well from time to time.

Here is the problem. Using Phil. 4:13, in this way, is taking the passage way out of context. Paul is not saying that if you want to win the national championship, you can do it because of Christ’s power. Paul is not saying that if you run 100 meters in eleven seconds, you can reduce your time to ten seconds because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. He is not saying that if you have a small business, you can build it to be a Fortune 500 business because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. No.

He is talking to two women in a church who are fighting. And he is writing to a church that is divided. He is saying to the one who does not think she can forgive, yes, you can. To the one who is being bitter and thinks he cannot escape from that bitterness, yes, you can. To the one who is discontented and thinks that he will always be a complainer, Paul is saying you can be content because you can do this through the power of Christ.

Maybe, Paul would apply this to a wider area. I don't know. But I do know he applies this to our spiritual lives, in our church relationships, and even our relationships outside the church.

You want to know what gets my goat? What really bothers me is hearing this verse applied to a number of areas where Paul did not; however, these same people would never dream of applying this to a spiritual facet of their lives—as Paul intended.

Phil. 4:13 is not a rabbit's foot. It is not a four leaf clover. It is not a genie to get us what we want. It is a challenge and a message of encouragement and hope that we can be what Christ wants us to be. And, more importantly, it is a message of encouragement concerning the number one goal in our lives: growing to be like Jesus. Paul is saying, YES, you can achieve this goal.

I cannot promise you that you can someday make the salary of your dreams. I cannot promise you that you can someday live in the house of your dreams. I cannot promise you that you will score a touchdown on Friday night and have Suzie Q. escort you off the football field. But I can tell you, those attitudes and beliefs and those feelings of contentment and joy that you think you will get from having Suzie Q. walk you off the field, I can promise you, you can experience those through Jesus who will give you strength.

11I am not complaining about having too little. I have learned to be satisfied with [whatever I have. 12I know what it is to be poor or to have plenty, and I have lived under all kinds of conditions. I know what it means to be full or to be hungry, to have too much or too little. 13Christ gives me the strength to face anything (Phil. 4:11-13 CEV.)
Have a great weekend!

Friday, April 17, 2009

April 17, 2009

It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Coming

HDJT. How did Jesus think? For years we have asked the question “What Would Jesus Do?” I wonder how Jesus would think. Paul tells me in Philippians chapter 4.

The context is Paul addressing two prominent women in the church, who are fighting. They had been coworkers. They had contended with him in the cause of the Gospel. That's why it distressed him to know that these two women were not getting along with each other. They evidently were the ones who were engaged in a rivalry (see Phil. 2:3), they were not of the same mind, and this conflict was jeopardizing the gospel being proclaimed to this community.

Paul even asks a third party to get involved. He wants this party to bring peace. And notice this, the Holy Spirit, through Paul, is not concerned about sparing the consequences of the sin of these two women. We know their names. They will be remembered forever—for a fight. How would you like to have your life summed up in this way in one sentence?

Working with others in the church can be difficult. There is an old poem that goes like this --

"To live above with the saints we love,
oh, that will be glory.
But to live below with the saints we know,
well, that's another story.

We are not called to agree on everything, but we are called to be agreeable.

Notice Paul's prescription for this conflict. In chapter two, he had already told them to have the mind of Christ. And how did Christ think? I think in Phil. 4:4-9, we see the mind of Christ:

4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Paul’s points reflect the mind of Christ. Jesus had a joyful attitude, he was gentle, he bathed everything in prayer, he was thankful, and he had a mind of peace. Jesus was constantly open to what God could do in his life. Gentle means, Jesus was not about his own agenda, but about God's agenda. But that's not all, the following verses also demonstrate the mind of Christ:

8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Jesus thought about true things, noble things, excellent things, pure things, and lovely things. He did not worry; he was not anxious. So Paul encourages us to program our minds like Jesus.

You know our brains are capable of great things. Kent Hughes writes there are 12 to 14 billion cells that make up our brains. Each cell sends out thousands of connecting tendrils so that a single cell may be connected with 10,000 neighboring cells. Each one of these are constantly exchanging data impulses. That means 12 to 14 billion brain cells times 10,000 connectors are working together. Wow! What a computer!

Someone has compared the human mind’s activity to a thousand switchboards, each big enough to serve New York City, all running at full speed as they supersede and send messages and orders. That is to say, there is more electronic equivalent of one human brain than in all the radio and television stations in the entire world put together.

I don't know about you, but sometimes it seems to me that everyone of those switchboards is racing as I worry about a problem. And that is not good. This mind needs to be harnessed in the power of the Holy Spirit. This mind was created to be like the mind of Christ. That is the mind redeemed. John Milton wrote, "a mind is its own place, and in itself/can make a heaven out of hell, and a hell out of heaven...." I believe that.

I suspect what is happening here, these women are burning a tremendous amount of emotional energy nursing their wounds, trying to gather allies, trying to get their way. And this unforgiving competitive spirit is stealing the joy and peace out of their lives.

So, we let Christ take over our minds. "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (II Cor. 10:5.)

Who said the following?

Let’s take a quiz. Who said the following?

“No one wishes for hardship. But as we pick through the economic rubble, we may find that our riches have buried our treasures. Money does not buy happiness; Scripture asserts this, research confirms it. Once you reach the median level of income, roughly $50,000 a year, wealth and contentment go their separate ways, and studies find that a millionaire is no more likely to be happy than someone earning one-twentieth as much.”

"A consumer culture invites us to want more than we can ever have; a culture of thrift invites us to be grateful for whatever we can get. So we pass the time by tending our gardens and patching our safety nets and debating whether, years from now, this season will be remembered for what we lost, or all that we found."

A. Franklin Graham B. Mark Edge in one of his sermons
C. Time magazine

Answer? C.

This is from the latest issue dated April 27, 2009.

Help! I’m Being Adopted

I told you last week that our family was going to LTC. On the way last Friday, we stopped by a shopping mall in Arlington. On the way out, we were exiting through the Barnes & Noble bookstore. I was engaging in horseplay with my second oldest daughter, Abby. She said something and I grabbed her. And in fun she hollered out, “Help! I being abducted.”

My son, Timothy, who is age 6, heard Abby. He thought that was pretty funny and he immediately began hollering out the same thing. Only, he had never heard the word “abducted,” and he did not know what it meant. Consequently, he thought Abby had said “adopted.” So Timothy begins hollering out, “Help! I’m being adopted!”

I’ve got to admit, I lost it. Of course, Timothy was adopted a few years ago. Who knows? Maybe he was having a Freudian slip. Still, I thought it was pretty funny.
Out in the parking lot, I repeated to Judy what has become my new mantra, “I love having grandchildren.” I’m years away from it, but I am old enough to have had grandkids several years ago. This is all part of my strategy of going with the flow in the midst of chaos. “Mind over matter.”

Great Lines from Kids

My friend, Scott Fosse, is the president of East Texas Christian Academy. They meet on our campus and we share many of the same facilities. I am proud of our association, and even have the privilege of teaching the senior-level Bible classes.

Yesterday, I came across one of our kindergarten teachers, Amanda Arrington. And she was telling me that earlier this week, she was trying to get Scott's young son, Devon, who is in kindergarten, to take a nap. She was gently patting him on the back, I suppose thinking he would go to sleep, and he looked up and said to her, "You know my daddy is the president of this school."

She replied, "Yes, I know that."

Then Devon said, "He can do whatever he wants."

Any temptation that I had to be depressed for the day was removed when I heard that story. Rumor has it that our president blushed greatly when reported the news from “Romper Room.” No need; we all know what it’s like. Don't you just love kids?

Five things I think I think (a tip of the hat to Peter King for this idea)

1. I was shocked and somewhat sad to hear of the retirement of John Madden. For years, Madden represented the big game. You knew if John Madden was announcing a ballgame, it was the big game of the week. When Madden replaced Tom Brookshire on CBS back in 1981, I, like Pat Summerall, was not pleased. But in time, he grew on me and I learned to respect his work. I also respect the fact that he became among the best in two separate fields -- coaching and broadcasting. (His NFL winning percentage of .750 is the best of all-time.) Add to that, his tremendous success in lending his name EA Sports videogames, and you have a tremendous success story in business as well. He will be missed.

2. Last week, I found a copy on sale of Last Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four. It was written by John Feinstein. Feinstein may be the best non-fiction writer on sports today. I have read a number of his books and have never been disappointed. Feinstein could write about moss growing on a septic tank and make it sound like a fascinating experience. This book is a must-read for college basketball fans. The setting is the 2005 Final Four of men's college basketball, but it is in essence a compilation of stories of some of the greats who, through the years, were part of the Final Four.
Favorite story: John Wooden pushing his wife, seated in a wheelchair, through the lobby of a Seattle hotel during the Final Four in 1984. Wooden is headed for the elevator, that will take him and his wife to their floor. They are going to retire for the evening. The lobby is crowded with the greatest men’s basketball coaches in America. Suddenly, someone begins to applaud. Then others. At last, hundreds of people are giving John and Nellie Wooden a standing ovation. It was her last Final Four; she died a few months later.

3. I received this week’s Time magazine this morning. It’s a good issue to take a look at. The aforementioned Time magazine article is a good one to read. It is the cover story called “Thrift Nation.” Also, there is an interesting article about top-tier universities who are offering free public online access to their best lecturers (p. 43ff).

4. Tony Woodlief wrote a thought provoking article in the latest issue of World magazine entitled “Practical Atheism.” He argues that our danger as churches is to sacrifice sermons and teachings on Scripture and God for messages that are “relevant.” This is symptomatic of practical atheism, which is not the pursuit of godlessness. Rather, it is what Woodlief calls “the slow slide into lives where God is irrelevant.” Words worth pondering.

5. Frost/Nixon comes out in DVD next week. I want to rent it.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, April 10, 2009

April 10, 2009

It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Coming

This is a big weekend coming up. Today, my family and I leave for the Hyatt Regency DFW and for LTC. LTC stands for Leadership Training for Christ. Young people from churches all over the Southwest gather together in different hotels for a weekend of activities ranging from drama to puppets, from signing to singing. Kids learn skills, leadership, problem solving, and, oh by the way, how to serve Jesus in more affective ways.

Our youth minister, Tim Henderson, plays a major role in LTC. I am proud of him and his wife, Denise, for the work that they do. I am also amazed at how much they accomplish. We also have a number of our people, who volunteer to help make the weekend a success. Dozens of people spend hundreds of hours helping kids get ready, packing meals, loading trucks, and much, much more.

Another reason why this is a big weekend is, of course, Easter. I like the fact, each year we have many guests, who visit us at Shiloh for worship services on Easter Sunday. I would like to think our congregation properly emphasizes the resurrection each Sunday. Still, I know we are granted a marvelous moment on Easter Sunday morning to reach out to people.

Easter Sunday is a challenge. We probably have about three hundred people who will go and minister at LTC this weekend. A few others travel to visit relatives. Still others remain here to minister to people in Tyler. A lot of missional work will be done by Shiloh for the Kingdom this weekend.

While most people in LTC remain for a huge Sunday service, my family always hurries back after the LTC banquet on Saturday night. I grab a little sleep and get up at 5:00 or 5:30 on Sunday morning to ready myself for the busy day. It is an exhausting, yet exhilarating, weekend.

This Sunday morning I plan to address Paul's desire to know the power of Christ’s resurrection. There is power there. The power that raised a man from the dead and transformed his body is available to us today. I believe that power can help us overcome envy, strife, division, bitterness, sexual immorality, greed, addictions, and much, much more. I want to know that power. I want us to know that power.

The Created World is Fallen, and My Eyes are not Doing Much Better

I’ve been nearsighted now for more years than I’ve been sighted. However, when it came time to check out my prescription for contact lenses, I made a bold decision. I decided to compensate for my deteriorating vision. Here’s what I mean.

Previously, I had a prescription for my left eye that allowed me to see things at a distance, and a prescription in my right eye that allowed me to read or see things up close. I decided to forego that option, and I went with contact lenses they gave me 20-15 vision in both eyes—from a distance. I see like an eagle things that are far away. The problem is, I see like Helen Keller up close. I mean my food at supper is literally a blur. So, I got a prescription for reading glasses to compensate. This was a change for me. I can normally read without corrected vision. But with my contacts, I have to have reading glasses. Hence, I traveled to my local Wal-Mart and purchased for myself an inexpensive pair.

Problem. With my contacts in, I cannot see the computer well, and it strains my eyes to look at my computer through my reading glasses. So, I received another prescription for glasses to look at my computer when I’m wearing contacts. Again, my local Wal-Mart came through. Yet, what do I do on those days when I cannot wear my contact lenses? My local optometrist gave me another prescription for glasses to wear when I’m not wearing my contact lenses. Let’s tally the score. I now own three pairs of glasses plus contact lenses.

I like the vision that my contact lenses provide. Still, it can be quite a circus when I am at the office, at my desk, and wearing my contacts. If I am reading and I want to see somebody who walks into my office, I must take off my reading glasses. If I want to look at my computer, I must put on my computer glasses. If I want to read a book, I must take off my computer glasses and put on my reading glasses. If someone then walks into my office… well, you get the idea.

There is no question that we are living in a fallen world. But I am sad to say, I think my vision has fallen even farther.

“What Losing Taught Me About Winning”

I was never a big fan of Fran Tarkenton, but I have always respected him. He was a record-setting quarterback with the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants back in the 1960s and 70s. (Any of you 60s or 70s boys remember the character, based on Fran Tarkenton, in the fictional book Throw the Long Bomb, by JACK LAFLIN?) You may also remember Fran Tarkenton formed part of the famous troika of That's Incredible! He joined John Davidson and Cathy Lee Crosby in one of the first TV reality shows.

Well, Fran Tarkenton has since become a very successful entrepreneur. As of the writing of this book, which was 1997, he had founded 12 companies that had taken in more than $200 million in businesses stretching across 50 countries.

Since then, Tarkenton has faced his problems. He recovered and is still a player in the business world today.

I found this book on tape, online for a dollar or two, when I was ordering some other books. I figured with free shipping, I could not go wrong in buying it. Tarkenton is very folksy in this book drawing upon his personal experience, as well as, many anecdotes.

Tarkenton states that your job in business is to make other people’s lives better. Does the entrepreneur want to profit in his or her business. Certainly, but one does so by leaving someone better off than before.

My favorite part is where he emphasizes the importance of focusing on the customer and his needs as opposed to your own. He goes so far as to say become obsessed with the customer’s needs. I wouldn’t go that far, but I like the idea that good business is not thinking about how much money you can make off someone; rather, it is focusing on the needs of another. That sounds suspiciously like Jesus. Moreover, Tarkenton encourages people to forge relationships with people. Good business is relational.

I also found extremely helpful the section that related to the book’s title—failure. Tarkenton lists seven steps to facing failure:

1. View failure as an essential part of success. No one escapes failure.
2. Don’t run from failure. It is not a terminal disease. Failure can depress you, drive you to quit, or it can energize you. Use it to invigorate your life.
3. Acknowledge your responsibility in failure. Allow this to give you perspective.
4. Claim control of your life.
5. Turn the negative into a positive.
6. Practice optimism grounded in reality.
7. Face failure again by finding a new challenge. Trial and error are partners to success.

It will not be required reading for Harvard Business School, but if business is your thing, he offers principles that are definitely not outdated. And if you find a copy for a buck or two, I think it's worth giving up your change.

I Wish I had Said That

“Today, the average person -- including a good many scientists -- treat the ideas, concepts, and theories of science in exactly the same way as the ancients treated their golden calves. We take quarks, black holes, and the big bang story to be objective elements in an authoritative description of an external, independent reality. We forget or suppress the fact that all of these elements are ideas that came originally from the human mind, as do all the arguments we use to justify them. All scientific concepts and theories, together with the whole system and rationale of the so-called scientific method, clearly originated in the human mind. The complex, extensive, detailed, and astonishing picture of the natural world that we call science is the product of human imagination, thought, insight, and genius. It is neither external, nor independent, nor final, nor even provable. The whole structure and content of science, including its fabled empirical method, is like a vast and intricate game whose rules, playing board, and pieces were all created by human beings for their own use, benefit, amusement, power, and security.

“It wasn't for nothing that the Old Testament prophets singled idolatry out for special condemnation. We can easily see its destructive effects on modern civilization. Every other culture in history has invented or ‘received’ a creation myth whose express purpose was to rationalize human existence -- to tell us who we are, how we got here, and what our value and purpose are. Indeed, it is the job of creation myths to tell us the meaning of life. Modern science does precisely the opposite. For the first time in history, a culture has conjured up a story about itself that altogether denies any meaning, value, or purpose in human existence. This is far more perverse than simply fouling our own nest; this is a total denial of any need for a home, a haven, or any sense of belonging....

“In a sense, science has taken over the role of state religion in modern culture, and it has become a very influential religion at that. Who can deny that the scientific establishment has become a modern priesthood? The pronouncements of scientists are respected and accepted by today's public just as the doctrines of the church fathers were respected and accepted by people a thousand years ago. The rigorous training in arcane mathematics and methodology is no less exacting, demanding, and monastic than was the medieval study of ancient languages and theology. Modern scientific training today is an insuperable barrier to the lay person who would question the authority of science, just as the ecclesiastical training of the Roman Catholic priesthood was a great obstacle to the medieval laity with its questions and doubts. If anything, modern science incurs far less challenging criticism than the church ever did. The church fathers would have given their eyeteeth to command for medieval Catholicism the kind of obedience and blind faith that we freely lavish on science today.

“Although we condemn them today, we cannot fail to appreciate the church's efforts to defend itself in a war that it ultimately lost to science, just as it had feared. It is science and not religion that gives today's world its rationale, morality, sustenance, and story of creation, such as it is.

Despite protestations that science has nothing to do with religious and spiritual questions, it is science that dictates to the church and not vice versa. It is science that determines the character philosophy of civilization. The danger in all of this is that it has happened unconsciously and without liberation or consent. Science has been of enormous and indisputable material benefit to modern civilization; but if we fail to recognize and take account of the deeply religious role that science plays in our lives, we run the risk of destroying not only our material benefits but our souls as well.”
--Roger S. Jones, Professor Emeritus in the field of Physics, University of Minnesota, from his book Physics for the Rest of Us, pp. 132-136.

Except for the part about the creation myths, I could not have phrased these thoughts any better. I have no idea the religious views of Dr. Jones. But he has given voice to beliefs that I have held but have not been able to articulate well. My thanks to Dr. Jones.

Five things I think I think (a tip of the hat to Peter King for this idea)

1. Okay, so I was wrong about North Carolina.

2. I posted this on my Facebook page the other day. If you are over thirty, buy a copy of the book Grown Up Digital. Don Tapscott does the best job I have seen describing what is happening to our world as we transition into this new electronic and cultural era. Ten years ago, Tapscott wrote GROWING UP DIGITAL. I believe this is the fourth major shift in the past 150 years. First came the telegraph age, next the radio age, then the TV age, and now we are transitioning into the digital age. More on this another time.

3. Did you read Newsweek’s major story this week on Christianity and the U. S.? It stated that a recent survey found that the number of people who claim to be Christians dropped from 86 % to 76 % since 1990. Just because a majority of people still claim to be Christians, it does not mean that we are a Christian nation.

4. Last Saturday, I sprayed to kill the weeds in my yard. They’re still going strong. Amazing how Judy and I can work hard to cultivate the grass and lose it. However, we can do all we can to destroy the weeds, and they grow just as if we cultivated them. Something is wrong with this world.

5. There is not a single movie in the theaters that I want to see.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday, April 3, 2009

It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Coming

How do you use your appetites? Your hunger? Your sexual desire? Your yearning for relationship?

Paul gave these questions some thought years ago and decided that the best place to channel them first is in pursuit of Jesus. He said, in effect, “I want to know Jesus, and I want to experience him and to become more like him.”

Hunger, sexual desire, and every other yearning are symptoms of a deeper need—the need to be close to Jesus. And Paul says don't give up. He says keep on running. Clearly, Paul's seen some track meets. He may have attended the Olympic Games a time or two.

Chariots of Fire is my all time favorite movie. Eric Liddell was Scotland’s greatest athlete and a favorite to win the 100 meter dash in the 1924 Olympic Games. He instead won the gold medal in the 400 meters, an event that was not his specialty, because he refused to run the 100 meter dash on Sunday. He thought to run was to violate the Sabbath. What a great moment, celebrated on film, of when an athlete sacrificed to honor God—and triumphed.

However, I also love Eric Liddell’s life after Chariots of Fire. As Phillip Hughes writes, Liddell, in 1925, received a degree in divinity and set sail as a missionary to China. In 1932, during his first furlough, he married his wife Florence. In 1941, facing the growing Japanese occupation, he sent his wife and three daughters to Canada to stay with her family while he remained to work among the poor and to serve them.

Liddle suffered many hardships, but he kept on running hard after Christ. And then in 1943 he was placed in the Weihsien Internment Camp where he again cheerfully served those around him. In 1945, at the age of 43, Eric Liddell died of a brain tumor that may have been caused by his malnourishment and overwork. His grave was marked by a simple wooden cross, with his name written in boot polish—a seemingly inglorious end to a man who desired to know Christ and live for him.

What you may not know is that after the producers completed the filming of Chariots of Fire, they flew to Canada to show preview the movie for Liddell’s widow. After the movie was over, they turned on the lights, and she was weeping. The producers were crestfallen. She did not like the movie.

No, she said, that was not the problem. She responded that Eric died thinking that he was a terrible speaker and that he failed in sharing Jesus. He had not made a difference.

No. Eric Liddell did indeed make a difference. You might say that he died pressing on for the gospel and pressing on to know Jesus. Let’s use our appetites to know Christ, instead of allowing our appetites to use us.

10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
15All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
17Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. 18For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (Phil 3:10-21).
New International Version (NIV)

The Stockholm Syndrome

One of the neat things about living in a college town is the interaction with college students. Tyler has a campus of the University of Texas here, which means we have dealings with graduate students. This week, a couple of graduate students from the UT Tyler psychology department, Amber Leech and Joni Bryant, asked to interview our family for a project.

The first question was something to the effect of, "What do you see as different about your family?" They asked our daughter Annie, who is age seven, to answer first. She replied, "Because we are not poor like my friends."

(I was thinking, “Uh, oh. Looks like we are going to need some damage control. I am sure all of the doctors and lawyers who are parents of Annie's friends at school would really appreciate that remark.”)

My son Timothy, who is age 6, said he liked our family because they have a bunch of toys.

(“Oh, great, now these graduate students are thinking we raised a family of materialists.”)

As I was dying a thousand deaths, things actually improved from there. As a matter of fact, I became concerned that all four kids’ answers were too good. They began telling the interviewers how calm our family life was, how there was peace in our home, how good we were as parents to them, how much fun they had being part of our family…. In other words, I began to ask myself, "Who are these kids?"

Then it hit me. I remember in the 70s hearing about terrorist groups such as the SLA (Symbionese Libertation Army), kidnapping individuals, including people who were famous. Sometimes, the kidnapped suffered from what they called "The Stockholm Syndrome." The Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological response sometimes seen in abducted hostages. It is the emotional attachment to a captor formed by a hostage as a result of continuous stress, dependence, and a need to cooperate for survival.

I thought to myself, “Our kids suffer from The Stockhome Syndrome!”

Book Review

A couple of weeks ago I finished the book, When Trumpets Call Theodore Roosevelt After the White House. I found it very interesting because of its focus exclusively on the post-presidential years of TR. TR lived about 10 years after he left the White House. But what a decade!

He spent the first couple of years on an expedition to Africa, followed by a tour of Europe meeting with heads of state. On that tour, he stopped by Norway to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. He returned in time to jump in the political fray, landing with a nomination for President from the Bull Moose party.

Of course, most children cannot make it through elementary school without seeing a photo or drawing of Roosevelt shortly after he had been shot by John Schrank. The assassination attempt occurred in Milwaukee during October of 1912. The bullet passed through the manuscript of his speech, slowing it down and possibly saving his life, before entering his chest. Still, Roosevelt insisted upon going to his next speaking engagement. With blood oozing from his wound, and with sweat pouring out of his body, Roosevelt spent 80 minutes on stage, most of which was taken up by his speech. The TR legend grows!

With Republicans split between Taft and Roosevelt, TR lost the election to Woodrow Wilson. However, shortly thereafter, he received the opportunity to map out an unknown river in South America. The river had a name reflecting its mystery: River of Doubt. Shortly after Roosevelt and his small party began their expedition, they saw a transformation take place.

The expedition became an epic. Other than contending with fire ants, grasshoppers the size of sparrows, rapids, days lost as axes cleared paths on banks and made log rollers for transporting 2500 pound dugout canoes, bees, wasps, black flies, more rapids, termites, ticks, mosquitoes, 100° heat, rainy season, clothes and bedding permanently wet, bodies’ covered with insects, boils, fever, and dysentery, a drowning, days of delay spent hewing new boats from trees with axes, dogs losing tails to piranhas, hunger due to food running out and food loss to rapids, a murder, a murderer abandoned to the jungle, a discovery of natives never before seen by civilization, and rapids, rapids, and more rapids, not much happened.

The fever and infection made Roosevelt so sick that he begged members of the expedition, including his own son, to abandon him so that he might die and they might be spared the burden. They refused and his sickness and wounds probably bore major responsibility for his death in four years. However, one caveat to this episode, the Brazilian government changed the name of “River of Doubt” to “River Teddy” shortly after the expedition.

When World War I began, TR desperately wanted to raise a regiment and travel to Europe to fight. Woodrow Wilson turned him down. TR supported the war effort by speaking at bond drives and by providing four sons for the fighting. Quentin was the youngest. He was a pilot, who was shot down over German territory and killed. Out of respect for both Roosevelts, father and son, the Germans conducted a full military burial service and marked the grave with a cross and the English inscription, “Lieutenant Roosevelt, buried by the Germans, July 14, 1918.” A few days later, members of the German military flew over enemy lines to drop off a bundle containing Quentin Roosevelt’s effects.

The work that the Brazilian expedition had begun, aided and abetted by Quentin Roosevelt’s death, helped hasten TR’s demise. The fever and injuries had robbed TR of much physical vitality; the death of his son robbed him of his spiritual verve. He died a few months later on January 6, 1919 at the age of 60. Upon receiving word, Archie Roosevelt cabled his brothers Ted and Kermit, “THE OLD LION IS DEAD.” And he was.

Years later, Noel B. Gerson, wrote a biographical novel on Theodore Roosevelt. He said part of his motivation came from an event in childhood that he never forgot. In those days, before radio and television, afternoon newspapers were important sources of news. One day, he came home from school to find his father in the parlor, crying. The boy saw the afternoon newspaper and its headline, “Theodore Roosevelt: Dead.” And he understood.

Boredom Alley

Recently I completed listening to an abridged version of Ken Alder’s book, The Measure of All Things. It was captivating in some sections, tedious in others. The book tells the story of two astronomers from France who were seeking to establish the meter as the standard of measurement for France, Europe, and the rest of the world. Their theory was, the meter consisted of one-ten millionth of the distance between the North Pole and the equator.

Alder researched his book extensively. He discovered documents tucked away that had not been read for decades, documents that held a secret. It seems the two astronomers, Pierre-Francois-Andre Mechain and Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Delambre, had arrived at separate conclusions.

What happened was this. Delambre was to travel the meridian north of Paris to Dunkirk, Ireland. Meanwhile, Mechain was to move south of Paris until he arrived at Barcelona, Spain. Alder narrates the amazing effort that was made to achieve this feat. Measurements were taken from the spires of church cathedrals and volcanoes. The astronomers worked for over seven years to measure one third of the earth.

Unfortunately, Mechain’s measurements disagreed with those of the Delambre. Panic stricken, Mechain covered up his mistake. His guilt led him to a breakdown and ultimately contributed to his death. It was after his death that the Delambre discovered what had happened. He chose not to reveal the truth.

So, the meter which is used worldwide today, is actually a fraction off. Those of you who lived back in the 70s may remember when the U.S. announced it was going to come in and join the rest of the world by using the metric system. This was so unpopular in our country that we never did truly connect with the world community. Not that Alder's findings in any way offer vindication, but it is still interesting the meter is wrong.

Students of geography, I think, will be fascinated by this book. Alder based much of his work on never-before-read letters and mission logbooks of the two men. The book was written in 2002. Seven years say history will not be change, but you never know.


Many thanks to Jessica Boyd who caught a mistake in my blog of March 20. She wrote asking, “Did you mean Michael Moore, when talking about Ben Stein’s movie (‘Michael Moore did the Bowling for Columbine and the anti-Iraq war movie and the Cuba’s perfect healthcare movie….’)?”

I had written ROGER Moore. As I told Jessica, I did indeed mean Michael Moore. As far as I know, James Bond has nothing political to say about guns or health care.

I think my mistake ranks right up there with the time my friend mentioned in a sermon about the famous 1804 duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. Unfortunately, or fortunately for those of us who wanted a good laugh, my friend said "Raymond Burr"--the actor who portrayed "Perry Mason" and "Ironside."

Management regrets the error.

Five things I think I think (a tip of the hat to Peter King for this idea)

1. Here’s how I see the Final Four: Villanova defeats North Carolina and Michigan State defeats Connecticut—both upsets. Next, I see Villanova upsetting Michigan State.

2. Saw a cleaned up version of Witness last night. Peter Weir’s 1985 tale holds up well. Harrison Ford is less like Indiana Jones in this movie—a nice change.

3. Most startling headline of the week came from the Dallas Morning News: “Romania May Allow Consensual Incest.” The law would apply to adults only, as if that would make the world community feel better.

4. I am pleased to have made it through Wednesday without receiving the Conficker computer virus, at least I hope that I have not.

5. Is it me, or is Queen Elizabeth really starting to look her age?

Have a great weekend!