Monday, March 29, 2010

Child Abuse

The girl in this photo is the granddaughter of Pastor Fred Phelps, Sr. This photo was taken four years ago outside the St. John’s Catholic Church in Westminster, Md. Inside, a funeral service was being held for Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, who was killed in the war in Iraq.

Phelps’ granddaughter was standing outside the church building carrying two signs her grandfather told her carry. One said, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers. The other sign read, “God Hates” Other members of the protest group carried signs that read “Matt in hell.”

Fred Phelps, Sr. believes that God has punished soldiers, such as Matthew Snyder, because God is punishing the United States, since the U. S. tolerates homosexuality. (For the record, Matthew Snyder was not a homosexual.)

It doesn’t take a biblical scholar to discover that Fred Phelps has an evil, twisted view of scripture. Phelps’ evil is compounded by brainwashing (or forcing) his grandchildren to participate in his horrific schemes.

The reason this event is in the news is because Matthew Snyder’s father sued Phelps, and won. Phelps’ appealed and on March 8, the U. S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case this October.

Sometimes, we Christians scratch our head when we see or read that secular people dislike us. There might be many reasons, but one is that some identify us with people like the Pastor Fred Phelps.

I hate it that I had to even say this—I wish it were a given—but I, along with the majority of Christians, renounce this man of evil. He is abusing people he does not know, and he is abusing people he does.

May God help Fred Phelps find Jesus.

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. Thank you Damon and Melody Parker. You did a magnificent job at our marriage and parenting seminar. You both taught terrifically in Bible class. Damon, you hit two home runs in your sermons. Well done.

2. I showed Judy and my two older kids an old Mark Harmon movie I saw my second month in Argentina. It is called AFTER THE PROMISE. It’s a real tearjerker and I thought my girls would love it. Boy was I wrong. “Dad, this is depressing! Thanks!” (The old sarcasm apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.) I think they will appreciate it in time.

3. I hope I preach at a church where those who are happy about the new health care bill can worship and fellowship with those who are opposed to the new health care bill. I think I do.

4. I’m sorry to see the Baylor men lose last night. Best line I heard about the Baylor men’s and women’s basketball teams came from one of our members, James Farmer. He said, “If both of Baylor’s basketball teams make it to the Final Four, we all need to convert.”

5. This weekend, thousands of students ranging from grades three through twelve with gather in cities pursuing Christ in art, drama, song, preaching, Bible quiz and other categories. The focus will be on II Samuel. The theme will be “God is our rock.” I like LTC and am proud my kids, and my church, are participating.

Have a great week!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Do We Ever Leave Discipline Behind?

Because of the things we parents make our kids go through, our kids must oftentimes think we are mean. Timothy played Upwards T-Ball last year. He is now in overhand pitch baseball. This is more difficult. When we work out together, he often becomes impatient. He wants to stop. What I know is he must get through this next step in his baseball life. When he gets better, when he improves his skills, he will feel very rewarded.

We place our kids in school for 12 years. Most kids hate school. Yet, we know there is a payoff.

However, as adults, when it comes to us, we often want to bail out when our “drill” gets tough. If things are not as pleasing as we want, we tend to move on. We are less willing to pay the price.

I have been thinking lately about how blessed I am to preach at a church that allows me to preach out of the Old Testament. Yesterday, we finished up II Samuel in our Sunday morning assembly. We have also been studying the book in Bible class and in Leadership Training for Christ.

I realize we might well be in the minority. A lot of churches won’t allow that. They insist on trendy topics or New Testament studies only.

Some churches insist on Bible study and preaching from “the gospel.” Yet, when I listen, gospel can mean anything from the “plan of salvation” to not having Bible classes divided by age.

I am not against preaching topics, nor New Testament studies, nor gospel preaching. I am also for the preaching and teaching of the Old Testament. I am for it because I think God is for it. If God is not, he is guilty of waste because it takes a lot trees to print the thing. I believe in a pursuit of the Old Testament because I believe the Old Testament helps us understand what God is like.

You know, salvation is not simply a matter of point in time—

“We’re saved”—and, boom, now we move on to the next phase of our lives. God saves us, yes, and Christ’s blood continues to wash us. However, salvation is not just “from hell”, it is also from ourselves. Salvation is, likewise, the transformation process that helps us become more like Jesus.

Our goal is to become like Jesus. Jesus showed us the Father. By studying the Old Testament, we get valuable insight into the character of the Father, which is also the character of Jesus. The essence of the gospel of John is Jesus saying, “You’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.”

Is there a price to pay for learning from the Old Testament? For some, undoubtedly the answer is, “Yes.” Nevertheless, let’s be careful about spoiling ourselves a luxury we refuse to indulge our children.

Never pass up the chance to become more like Jesus. Let the Old Testament spiritually form you into the image of Christ.

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. Last Friday I wrote, “Could God be making a more beautiful painting than is springtime in Tyler?” Yesterday, I posted a photo I took of the snow in Tyler. Our spring tourism may soon be based on the Azalea Trails—and snow skiing!

2. Last week, I watched the movie AWAY FROM HER while exercising. This is a powerful movie about a man, who must let his wife go as Alzheimer’s takes over her existence. Wow! Very powerful. My favorite line, which I shared with my church yesterday was this, “It is never too late to become what you might have been.” A great thought on redemption.

3. I’ve been watching the 1980s mini-series, GEORGE WASHINGTON, with Judy and our two older girls. We finished it Friday. It was marvelous—compelling drama containing great history. Based on James Thomas Flexner’s four part biography, it is truly great television. I can’t wait until we see GEORGE WASHINGTON—THE FORGING OF A NATION next.

4. I am so sad to see HOLLYWOOD VIDEOS is closing in Tyler. I am not surprised, but I am feeling sad. That was a great place to go for older movies.

5. Go Northern Iowa! Go Cornell! Go Baylor—both men and women!

Have a great week!

Monday, March 15, 2010

When God Fights God

The older I get the more I appreciate the relationship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit maintain with each other. Now, that has not always been easy. At times, they have had conflict. We tend to sentimentally gloss over these.

I remember a time in Luke 22:39ff, where Jesus was having a meeting with the Father in the garden, and Jesus was saying, in effect, “I know, Father, you sent me here to Earth to die, and I know it is important to save all these people, but I’m having second thoughts about this, and I would like some really graceful way to back out—if it would be okay with you.”

It’s interesting; I have articles in my files from the field of medical science. They state that sometimes when human beings experience conflict or extreme stress, they are mentally and spiritually so frazzled that a physical symptom appears. This symptom is a reflection of the subconscious mind and spiritual state. Supposedly, the symptom is rare, but does occur. The symptom is sweating drops of blood.

Did this happen to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane? Perhaps. Most versions translate the passage as Jesus sweated drops like blood. Clearly, Luke wishes to portray the agony and anguish of Jesus. That suffering of Jesus reflected a conflict between the Father and the Son.

Go to Matthew. Jesus was on the cross. Remember? What did he say? “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Somehow, though, the Son was able to serve us. He readied himself to die, and he said, “Into your hands, I commit my Spirit.” Everything worked out in our favor, but the Father and Son had to work through severe conflict.

Now, you may be experiencing conflict in your marriage. You may be feeling emotional turmoil because of tensions in your relationships at church. Perhaps you may be facing conflict at your job.

Don’t think this is unique to you. Do not believe that it authorizes you to bail out. You have something in common with the Father and the Son. Look to them. They worked it out, and so can you.

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. I checked out from the public library, LEONARD BERNSTEIN’S YOUNG PEOPLE’S CONCERTS WITH THE NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC. These were CBS telecasts in the 50s and 60s, designed to teach children about music. I was introduced to these telecasts in Mrs. Glenda Winkle’s fifth grade music class. She would show old films of these broadcasts. Through these and her teaching, I fell in love with classical music and even some works of opera. I have been playing the Bernstein DVDs as background music. Beautiful music, and Bernstein has been helping improve my music education.

2. Last week I experienced one of my great moments. I saw Little Joe Otter cross the road. I was driving through Henderson, Texas when a river otter bounced across the highway. I had heard rumors they were coming back. I had never seen one in the wild. I hope to see more. By the way, Little Joe Otter is one of the characters in the Thornton W. Burgess books for children.

3. First, the huge earthquake in Chile, and, then, last week, the aftershock. May God be with the people of Chile.

4. I was so sad to see that Merlin Olsen passed away last week of mesothelioma. My kids know him because of LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRARIE. I remember him as a member of the LA Rams Fearsome Foursome. Merlin Olsen—definitely a gentle giant.

5. In three weeks I will share with you my picks for the Final Two in both the men’s and women’s NCAA Basketball Championships.

Have a great week!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Who Wants Perfect Fathers?

I have a perfect Heavenly Father, yet I am so twisted in my fallen nature that, too often, I fail to respond to his love and grace. I respond better to adversity.

Here is an example. All through junior high and through my freshman and sophomore years in High School, I was basically groomed to be the starting quarterback of the Winnsboro Red Raiders. The year the coaches planned on my starting was to be my junior season. Unfortunately, I played poorly in our pre-season practices and scrimmages. So much so, I was benched in favor of another quarterback.

Guess what that benching did? It woke me up. I became determined that if I ever received another chance to play, I would play well. Instead of making me tense, my benching actually loosened me up.

We lost the first two games of the season. The third game, I received another chance and started. I never relinquished the starting role again.

I have been turning over in my mind, the past few weeks, some concepts difficult to express in words. Let me make another pass at it, and if I fail, you can email me and tell me what you are hearing.

We get so hung up on how others are treating us, or how others treated us. Typically, we focus on the treatment we receive from parents, spouses, or bosses.

Often, people lament what they could have become were their parents better. In spite of their success, some grieve their raising because they feel their parents inflicted too much pain upon them. Careful, there are plenty of instances where a parent’s flaw actually makes a positive impact on a child.

When I was growing up, my daddy smoked. Most men of his generation did. Looking back, some of my childhood illnesses were probably due to his smoking. However, I have never had the desire to become a smoker. I owe this to having a father who was one.

Listen, there are times you fail to live, as you should, and this is with a Heavenly Father who is Perfect. What in the world makes you think you would have been better if your earthly father was?

Here is the catch. God, in his wisdom, trumps our sinful natures. He actually uses the flaws of others, be it a parent, a spouse, or a boss, to motivate us to respond in the way we should have from the beginning. Since we refuse to respond to his perfection, we respond to someone else’s IMperfection.

Next time someone is treating you wrong, think—they may be fallen and mean and need your tender loving care. Or, they may be unwittingly serving as God’s instrument to help you become what he designed you to be.

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. Congratulations to Sandra Bullock for her Best Actress win at the Academy Awards. I enjoyed BLINDSIDE and am pleased, and a little surprised, Bullock snagged the Oscar. I was also taken aback when THE HURT LOCKER won for Best Picture, beating out AVATAR. However, I have seen neither.

2. I have seen THE SPY NEXT DOOR. Strangely enough, it was not nominated for BEST PICTURE. Judy and I saw this Jackie Chan vehicle Friday night. This is one of those movies they made for the entire family to see: no cuss words or crudity. The plot is paint-by-the-numbers, but that is okay. I am thankful Hollywood is making so many family-friendly movies that I don’t have time, or money, take my clan to see them all.

3. Remember when kids played peewee baseball during the summers? Now, even in Texas, the seven-year-olds have to shovel the snow and ice off the diamond to practice.

4. For the first time I can remember, I have no regular TV show or sport that I am following each week. Maturity, or old age?

5. Congratulations to Haleigh Edge and Jenny Munoz. Haleigh made second team on the TAPPS All-State Basketball Team. Jenny was honored with an Honorable Mention. Jenny is a sophomore and Haleigh is a junior. With the team they have coming back, wait until next year.

Have a great week!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Memories of a Great Trip

Last week, my daughter, Abby, and I spent the week touring Washington D. C. and the surrounding areas. We did so with her eighth grade class. As I told my congregation yesterday morning, sure signs of mid-life crisis are shaving your head, growing a goatee, and chaperoning a class of eighth graders on an eight-day trip. Actually, the students were marvelous.

There were various things on our excursion that moved me; one was seeing the Capitol for the first time in 38 years. I thought of all the great presidents, who made a trip to the House and spoke to Congress.

I thought of 1917, when Woodrow Wilson came to declare America's entrance into the Great World War; Franklin Delano Roosevelt, arriving on December 8, 1941 and asking Congress to declare war upon Japan; the afternoon in April, 1961, when John F. Kennedy announced to a joint session of congress that we would go to the moon; and so many more.

An event that impacted me also was seeing George Washington's bed, in his and Martha’s bedroom, and being told that it was there that he died in 1799. It was easy to be transported back, in my mind's eye, to that time over 200 years ago. Standing only a few feet away from that bed, I could see the sick hero; I could imagine him taking his last breath. It felt like I was there when the great man’s spirit left this world.

At Monticello, I was struck by the genius of Jefferson. The man truly possessed restless intellect. That intellect blessed a nation and a world.
Because my dad fought in the Korean War, I was touched by the Korean War Memorial. We were there at night, so it was not easy to see. Yet, looking closely in the darkness at the sculpture of the soldiers marching in formation during that war, I was able to connect with my father.

We watched the House of Representatives in session as they voted on three or four amendments. It was fascinating to see people, who I have been watching on television for a number of years.

Our congressman, Louis Gohmert, took us on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Capitol Building after hours. For me, the emotional sight in the Capitol was, believe it or not, the spot, where the bodies of Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan lay in repose, while thousands of mourners filed by. Again, I could easily imagine those crowds passing by the flag draped coffins.

Washington at night is brilliant. At the Lincoln Memorial, I could have sat for hours at Lincoln's feet, while the spotlight shined brightly upon his image; meanwhile, in the distance, the Washington Monument and the U. S. Capitol were glimmered under the lights. I felt such tranquility.

It has been almost 38 years since my last trip to Washington, D. C. I hope it is not 38 more years before I travel again.

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. Caught the final U. S. Hockey team goal and their overtime battle with the Canadians. Like most people, I was too proud of our team to be disappointed.

2. I’ve started reading the book SWITCH: HOW TO CHANGE THINGS WHEN CHANGE IS HARD on my iPhone. It is by Chip and Dan Heath. This ultimately may be one of those momentous books you are fortunate enough to come across occasionally. I am biased, because the authors’ have given words to lessons I have intuitively learned. Still, this is an amazing read so far.

3. I am grateful to have a new MacBook Pro laptop computer at my office, along with a 23 inch LG monitor purchased from for a $150. These should keep me functioning well the next few years. I feel like a kid does with a new toy: I can’t wait to arrive at work and play with it—I mean learn how it operates.

4. TIME had a fascinating article on Secretary of Defense Robert Gates a couple of weeks ago. My favorite line was this one from Gates himself: “I always used to tell people that Texas A&M football caused me more stress than any job I've ever had. And they always thought I was exaggerating." He was not.

5. If you are interested in my photos of Washington, check out my Facebook page.

Have a great week!