The Silhoutte of Truth

basketballLike many other sports fans, I spent much of last weekend in front of a TV watching college basketball. While I’m happy that four of the teams in the Sweet Sixteen are from the Big 12, I’m disappointed that Wichita State was knocked out of the tournament in the first round.

It was either the success of Kansas and Kansas State or the failure of WSU that reminded me of coach John Wooden. The coach was a man of character and wise words, and he once said: “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

Wooden’s words remind me of the self-portrait Paul painted in Philippians: If it were right to have such confidence, I could certainly have it, and if any of these men thinks he has grounds for such confidence I can assure him I have more. I was born a true Jew, I was circumcised on the eighth day, I was a member of the tribe of Benjamin, I was, in fact, a full-blooded Jew. As far as keeping the Law is concerned I was a Pharisee, and you can judge my enthusiasm for the Jewish faith by my active persecution of the Church. As far as the Law’s righteousness is concerned, I don’t think anyone could have found fault with me (Philippians 3:4-6).

As a Pharisee Paul thought he knew it all, but when he met Jesus he underwent a life-changing transformation: But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith.  My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead (Philippians 3:7-11).

Let me paraphrase the verses above in just a few words: I got rid of my worthless-self-righteous-know-it-all attitude so I could know Jesus.

Stephen Covey said that “In the last analysis, what we are communicates far more eloquently than anything we say or do.”  The “what-we-are” communication of Paul, was the harsh restrictive, and punitive mindset of the Old Testament.  Paul knew the nitty-gritty essence of what it took to be a Pharisee, but he didn’t have an itty-bitty speck of “what-we-are” grace. Paul was a know-it-all theologian, and at his core, he would abhor the grace-themed principles of Christianity.

Paul’s pace was slowed on the Damascus Road, when he had a personal encounter with Jesus. Up to this point in his life, Paul had tried to find fullness in a silhouette of truth. When he met the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Paul couldn’t ignore the majestic mercy and the grace galore that Jesus offers.

The arrogance of what Paul was, was quickly overshadowed by the eloquence of what he became. He became a Christian of significance because he was not content to just talk-it-up.  He knew he needed to live-it-out.

The Covey quote I shared earlier seems to be based on the teaching of John: “Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  If “what we are” determines the effectiveness of what we say, how influential is your life?

Tragedy in Texas

broken-heart-valentine-background_1048-4957For many people, today’s shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas has stirred-up unwanted memories of Las Vegas, Columbine and Charleston. We should not be surprised that these events are beyond our comprehension, because they are often perpetrated by people who lack a conscience.

Sociopath and psychopath are words that have been used to described shooters or mass murders like Harris, Klebold, and Roof, as well as Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Dennis Rader. The DSM-5 classifies sociopathy and psychopathy as Antisocial Personality Disorders and sets certain criteria for a diagnosis:

  • A disregard for laws, social mores, and the rights of others
  • A failure to feel remorse or guilt
  • A tendency to display violent behavior
  • Sociopaths are agitated, disorganized individuals, and they are unable to blend in with society

Psychopaths are high-functioning individuals who manipulate people with their charming personality. While they do not actually feel emotion, they can learn to mimic emotions to blend in with the crowd.

Due to their lack of conscience, people with these disorders process emotions like a blind man negotiates a maze; one doesn’t feel, the other doesn’t see, and both find the task daunting.

Dr. Martha Stout a Clinical Psychologist and former Harvard Medical School instructor, offers this assessment: An emotional word is love, hate, anger, mom, death, anything that we associate with an emotional reaction. A nonemotional word is lamp, street, hair, rug, that kind of thing. If I had electrodes hooked up to you right now and I said a string of words, and some of them were emotional and some were not, I’d get a larger spike on the emotional words. We are wired to process those words more readily than neutral, nonemotional words. We are very emotional creatures. But sociopaths listen as evenly to emotional words as they do to lamp or book—there’s no neurological difference. ~THE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR

The obvious question is: How do you treat someone who has no conscience?  The prerequisite to change is a desire to do so, and without a conscience there is no desire. Without a conscience there is no good or evil, and the need for true healing is a recognition of that which plagues the heart.

One thing that never changes in these instances is the need for prayer, and I encourage you to pray for those who were touched by the tragic events of today.

 

 

Prayer and Faith

faithroad-660x330Like most of you, I have watched the news and thought often about the people who have felt the fury of hurricane Harvey. The needs of the people of Texas have been the focus of some of my prayers.

As I’ve thought about the devastating power of Harvey and the many homes, businesses, and lives that have been left in ruin, I’ve also thought of the strong faith of a little woman: Corrie ten Boom, who faced the wrath of the Nazi holocaust, once said: Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.

Corrie’s life is an example of a person who lived by faith. The subject of faith is mentioned over 600 times in the bible, and Hebrews 11:6 speaks of its importance: Without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

The Bible refers to three degrees of faith: little, great and perfect:

  • Little faith (Matthew 8:26) says, “God can do this.”
  • Great faith (Luke 7:9) says, “God will do this.”
  • Dynamic faith (Acts 6:8) says, “It’s as good as done.”

Dynamic faith considers the character of God, and says: I will trust God to:

Dynamic faith will also declare the greatness of God.  Moses said: I will proclaim the Lord’s name. Declare the greatness of our God! The Rock—His work is perfect; all His ways are entirely just. He is a faithful God, without prejudice, and He is righteous and true. ~Deuteronomy 32:3-4

As you begin a new week, I encourage you to think about your faith and this quote: A little faith will bring your soul to heaven; a great faith will bring heaven to your soul. ~Spurgeon

Sweet Words or Bitter Breath?

bluebonnets-793x526Even though I’m Kansas born and Kansas bred, I was a resident of the bluebonnet state of Texas for about ten years. Texans are proud of their state’s scenic beauty, its abundant natural resources, and the tasty Tex-Mex cuisine.

Texas is also a state that is rich in history. Long before cowboys herded their cattle across the vast expanse of West Texas, and the ancient trails became the thoroughfares of highway 84 and Interstate 20, the Kiowa Indians cherished an enclave for its water. Because the water at this oasis was much more refreshing than the bitter-tasting gypsum streams that surrounded it, the natives christened it Moabeetie—their word for sweet water.

Whenever I drive through Sweetwater, the city’s name reminds me of the words of James: Praising and cursing come out of the same mouth . . . these things should not be this way. Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening?

While the answer to this question is obvious, people live as though it’s dubious. In a matter of seconds, some people proclaim the sweet water of God’s goodness with one breath and profane His name with salty language with their next breath.

I encourage you to think about the words of James, and this companion verse in the Psalms” Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer (Ps 19:14).

Are the words of your mouth and the thoughts of your heart acceptable or detestable in the eyes of the Lord?

Graduation: Another Step in Life’s Journey

IMG_0133Last week I attended two celebrations that involved two of my grandchildren; one was promoted from 8th grade to begin her high school journey, and the other said goodbye to high school and Gig ‘em as she looks forward to four years at Texas A&M.

While many students were involved in these ceremonies, many more people were assembled in the stadium seats to applaud their accomplishments and to cheer them on as the pursue their dreams. The parents, some teary-eyed, and all proud, were witnesses to the academic successes of their young graduates.

Each family member took on the role of the great cloud of witnesses of Hebrews 12. They can testify of their son’s or daughter’s accomplishments to this point, and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. The wise parents will nudge their children forward and remind them that the milestone they have just reached is not the finish line—it is a significant step in the marathon of life.IMG_0106

Most of this year’s high school graduates have expended 6,570 days of an average lifespan that is about 29,200 days long.  There’s not a single one of these grads who has lived their life exactly life one of their peers, and this is because each of them are unique.

The words of  Max Lucado are a fitting conclusion to my thoughts: You weren’t an accident. You weren’t mass produced. You aren’t an assembly-line product. You were deliberately planned, specifically gifted, and lovingly positioned on the Earth by the Master Craftsman

Dumb Kid or Racist

IMG_0009I was just a dumb kid from Kansas when I enlisted in the Air Force in 1971. Like all new recruits, I was sent to Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio for boot camp.  This was the camp where all new recruits learned the Air Force way of doing things.

One of the requirements of boot camp was to have a spit polish on your boots that would reflect the ugly mug of the drill sergeant. During the first inspection my boots didn’t pass muster, and I suffered the consequences; I decided I had to do something before the next inspection.

Since the recruit next to me had polished his shoes to a high sheen and the drill sergeant had praised him, I offered to pay him if he would polish my boots. This dumb kid, a white boy from Kansas, never thought his request would be considered racist. I simply wanted to benefit from the skill of the person next to me, and I didn’t see him as a black man—just another guy trying to get through boot camp; but, he thought I was looking for a “boy” to shine the Master’s shoes.

Our difference in perspective, due to history, and culture, led to a flash of anger that had its roots in the riots of the late 60’s. The events of this past week rekindled the memory of that experience from 1971.

Was I a dumb kid from Kansas or a racist?  I can undoubtedly confirm that I was dumb, but just as certainly I can say there was no racism in my request.

It would be naive to think that racism did not exist then or that it does not exist today. Sadly, the hideous face of racism has been present since the early days of man’s history.

Paul spoke of the ethnic and racial divide between Jews and others when he wrote to the church at Ephesus.  He said Jesus “brought an end to the commandments and demands found in Moses’ Teachings so that he could take Jewish and non-Jewish people and create one new humanity in himself. So he made peace.  He also brought them back to God in one body by his cross, on which he killed the hostility.  He came with the Good News of peace for you who were far away and for those who were near.  So Jewish and non-Jewish people can go to the Father in one Spirit.~Ephesians 2:15-18 GW

After the multiple tragedies of last week, I think most of us are looking for healing.  If you only look to the past and the many failures of social engineering, you might through your hands up in despair.

The answer is not more government, it’s more God and the hope of becoming one in Jesus Christ.  We need to “Try to live peacefully with everyone, and try to live holy lives, because if you don’t, you will not see the Lord.  Make sure that everyone has kindness from God so that bitterness doesn’t take root and grow up to cause trouble that corrupts many of you.”  ~Hebrews 12:14-15 GW

As Reinhold Niebuhr said in The Irony of American History:

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, could be accomplished alone; therefore, we must be saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our own standpoint; therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.

R.I.P. #23: Death In The Line of Duty

R.I.P. Deputy Goforth

R.I.P. Deputy Goforth

You shouldn’t have to worry when you stop to fill your tank that you’ll be shanked or shot.  Sadly though, Darren Goforth was ambushed and shot multiple times while pumping gas into his patrol car.

This violent and inhumane act has saddened the heart of law enforcement officers (LEO) across the nation, and it has left many in Harris County Texas stunned.  Goforth is the 23rd officer that has been shot and died as a result of his injuries in the first 8 months of this year.

Please pray for any LEO you know, and all of them in your community.  Also pray for Goforth’s family.  He is survived by his wife and two children, ages 5 and 12.

First of all, I encourage you to make petitions, prayers, intercessions, and prayers of thanks for all people, for rulers, and for everyone who has authority over us. Pray for these people so that we can have a quiet and peaceful life always lived in a godly and reverent way. This is good and pleases God our Savior. ~I Timothy 2:1-3

I encourage you to visit https://www.facebook.com/HCSOTexas, and leave a comment supporting them in their time of grief.

A Clear and Present Danger

advisoryAn article in the Saturday edition of the Washington Post caught my attention: “The U.S. military has boosted security at all of its stateside bases and stations, broad recognition that the United States has heightened its awareness of a possible attack inspired by the Islamic State militant group, U.S. officials said Friday.”

With this report following on the heels of the recent incident in Garland, Texas, it was a frequent topic of discussion on Saturday morning.  When the security level is raised it gets a person’s attention.

Pentagon spokesman, Army Col. Steve Warren said: “The military believes there is an increased and predictable security threat at home, with extra precautions, ID checks and searches launched across the country. It does not mean that an attack is considered imminent, however.”

How would your behavior change if you were told the danger is most certainly “imminent”?  You may not be aware of it, but here is a statement that warns you are in grave danger!

Keep your mind clear, and be alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion as he looks for someone to devour. Be firm in the faith and resist him, knowing that other believers throughout the world are going through the same kind of suffering.  ~I Peter 5:8-9

Watch your back, there’s a lion on the prowl.

March Madness

Stanford v TexasMarch Madness is an annual event that sports fans look forward to each year.  I would imagine that more TV sets are flashing images of slam dunks than they are of Duck Dynasty.

The Big 12 entered the tournament with high expectations and much optimism; however, by the end of the first round reality had struck.  The University of Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma State, and Iowa State University had suffered defeat and have been sidelined for the rest of the tournament.  The youthful enthusiasm and hard work of their players was outmatched by the effort of their opponents.

Three teams from the Big 12 live to fight another day.  Kansas University, Oklahoma University, and feisty West Virginia move forward into round two.

Of these three, the Rock-Chalk-Jayhawks of KU have one of the more interesting matchups.  The regular season Big 12 champs will face the Wichita State University from the Missouri Valley.  This is a game that many from the state of Kansas have been asking for since Greg Marshall placed his winning brand on the WSU program.

Basketball, like other sports, can have a long-lasting impact on the lives of those who have played the game.  Players benefit from both the positive influence of coaches and teammates, and the discipline they have learned.

There is another benefit to sports, and it’s seen in the ministry of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  This group uses sports as an arena to teach their four core values:

  • Integrity: A Christ-like wholeness that is to be demonstrated privately, and publicly. (Proverbs 11:3).
  • Serving: A life that reflects the servant’s heart of Jesus (John 13:1-7).
  • Teamwork: A unity in all of our relationships that is possible through Christ (Philippians 2:1-54).
  • Excellence: A life that honors and glorifies God in all we do (Colossians 3:23-24)

When you set down in front of your TV to watch your favorite team, give some thought to these four core values.  During the timeouts or commercials, examine your life to see if these values are at the core of your life.

The Rescue Mission

In the late 70’s I was enrolled at Arlington Baptist College, and I was fortunate to serve on the staff of Dr. Raymond Barber at Worth Baptist Church.

One of the ministries I was involved with was the Rescue Mission in downtown Fort Worth. At that time, the Rescue Mission was located close to the Fort Worth Water Garden. water

The setting of this ministry was a stark contrast in reality. On one side of the street, there was a dilapidated building that served men who were the outcasts of society—men who had been beaten down by the trials of life. On the other side of the street, there was the magnificent beauty of the water garden with the relaxing sound of its refreshing water.

As I worked with the men at this mission, I would often say that not only does Jesus save to the uttermost, He safes even the guttermost. I based this on Hebrews 7:25: “Therefore He is able also to save to the uttermost (completely, perfectly, finally, and for all time and eternity) those who come to God through Him, since He is always living to make petition to God and intercede with Him and intervene for them (Amplified Bible).”

Just as the water running down the steps of the water garden never ran dry, the grace and mercy of God is an abundant resource available to you. Regardless of where you are in your journey, Jesus died for you:
• If you are a drunk, the sobering news is that Jesus loves you and He can quench your thirst.
• If you are hooked on drugs, Jesus is the only way that gnawing hunger in your hear will ever be satisfied.
• If your life seems to be one trial after another, Jesus promises to ease your burden and to help carry your load.

Jesus said He came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10), and one day I realized that I was the object of that search. Jesus was not searching for me to criticize me or to be demeaning to me. He came to give meaning to my life, to give me a purpose for living, and most of all to save me.

Jesus changed my life on an October day in 1972. What He did for me and for those men at the Rescue Mission, He will do for you.