What Others Say

Thank you for using your gifts to help others see faith in their creator and their savior in God's son Jesus Christ.
Brian M.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Putting God First

I grew up in the Tom Landry era of the Dallas Cowboys.  When he was hired for the expansion team in 1960 they had little prospect for success. After going winless in their first season, Landry told the team his priorities were God, family and football, in that order.  Bob Lilly, who had just joined the team as the All American recruit from TCU said to himself, “We will never win.”  Under Landry they went on to appear in 5 Super Bowl games, winning two. His 20 playoff wins is second most in NFL history.

I heard Tom Landry speak at the Billy Graham Crusade when Texas Stadium was built. He described his emptiness when he achieved each of his career goals as a star running back for the University of Texas and all-pro defensive back for the NY Giants.  He quoted Augustine, “Our hearts are restless indeed, O God, until they find their rest in Thee.”  A year before he became the first coach of the Dallas Cowboys, he came to faith in Christ and gave God first place in his life.

Similarly, Jordan Spieth at 24 has already won three major golf championships.  When asked about his priorities he said, “My faith, then my family and then, after that, you know, this is what I love to do.  Golf is not number 1 in my life.”

Our oldest son had difficulty “launching” when he grew up.  His first semester in college he passed racquet ball.  It was the only course he attended.  His second semester he was on probation.  It was a struggle, for him and for us.

During this time I told him he needed to put God first in his life.  “If you put God first,” I said, “everything else will come into focus.”  His response wasn’t immediate. It took several years, including boot camp in the Marine Corps. But he followed through and put God first.  Everything else came into focus. Today he is a wonderful husband and father of three teen-agers, leads a Bible study for high school youth and has a successful career in Information Technology.

The first of the Ten Commandments is God’s invitation for us to know Him.  “You shall have no other gods before me.”  This is amazing. The creator of the universe wants to have a personal relationship with us in which He alone takes first place.  If He is not first in our life, He is not God. Everything starts here.  Life comes into focus when God becomes the priority of our life.

Sometimes we are drawn away from God by personal pleasures and the pursuit of sin. Sometimes we are drawn away by things that simply make us too busy for God.  We think we know what is best and we pursue our goals and dreams without taking time to submit those goals and dreams to God.  


In His sermon on the mount Jesus addressed the fragmented life that is filled with worry and anxiety.  He said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33).

Monday, April 9, 2018

Finding our Moral Footing


For centuries Western Civilization has embraced the Ten Commandments as the bedrock for law and conduct. But, in the twenty-first century, such an assumption no longer holds true. Bit by bit the Ten Commandments are being chiseled from their central position in our culture.

In 2001, after a two-year legal battle, a 5,280 lb. granite Ten Commandments monument was removed from the rotunda of the Alabama State Capital.

In 2004 the Sixth District Court of Appeals in Kentucky ruled that the Ten Commandments could no longer be displayed in public schools and courthouses. To do so, the court ruled, would be an endorsement of religion.

In 2014, followers of the pagan faith, Wicca, sued the city of Bloomfield, N.M. over a 3,000 pound Ten Commandments monument that stood in front of the City Hall. The court ruled the monument had to be removed as a violation of First Amendment rights.

In June 2015 the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the presence of the Ten Commandments on the capitol grounds was unconstitutional. On October 5, under cover of darkness, the 4,800 lb. slab of stone was moved from the Oklahoma State Capitol grounds to a private location. 

These reflect sensitive legal issues in our nation that values freedom of religion and separation of church and state. But what is more disturbing than the removal of monuments is the removal of the Ten Commandments from our consciousness.  Few can name them. Stop for a minute and see if you can recall all ten of the commandments?  Can our children or grandchildren quote them?   If we don’t know the Ten Commandments, how can they guide us in our values and action?

Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mathew 5:17-19).

The first four of the Ten Commandments tell us how to have a healthy relationship with God.  The next six tell us how to have healthy relationships with each other.  

Zhao Xiao, a leading economist in China, researched America’s secret to prosperity. He concluded, “... the key to America’s commercial success is not its natural resources, its financial system or its technology but its churches.  ... The market economy is efficient because it discourages idleness, but it can also encourage people to lie and injure others.  It thus needs a moral underpinning.”  Xiao’s conclusions are remarkably similar to Alexis de Tocqueville’s in 1840.

Starting next week, this column will reflect on each of the Ten Commandments and their implications for today.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Light Within


Five years ago the earth shook and a mushroom cloud rose above the small town of West, Texas on April 17, 2013.  A devastating chemical explosion leveled a large section of the town killing fifteen and injuring more than 200.  Last year a memorial was constructed near the site so that those who were there might never forget.

Two days before the West explosion terrorist bombs ripped through crowds gathered near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three were killed and 264 were injured.  The bombings have not stopped the race.  This year, on April 16 more than 30,000 will participate in the 122nd running.  

Authorities eventually determined the West tragedy was the result of arson. The Boston bombing was an act of terror.  But both cases are remembered by remarkable stories of courage, faith and determination.

On the first anniversary in West, a choir sang Amazing Grace while surrounded with flickering candles on which students wrote, “Rise Up West!”  CNN reported, “Residents say their faith has been instrumental in understanding and dealing with last April's tragedy. Montgomery Irwin says the anniversary falling so close to Easter -- with its message of resurrection and renewal -- is especially appropriate for the people of West.”

When the bombs exploded in Boston, many ran for their lives.  Carlos Arrendo did the opposite.  Not knowing if another bomb might be set to detonate, he tore through the fences to get to the victims and render aid.  He rescued 27 year old John Bauman whose lower leg had been blown away. Carolos, 52, was attending the marathon to honor his son who was killed in Iraq.

Perhaps the Apostle John had this kind of human resilience in mind when he wrote, “That was the light which coming into the world, enlightens every man.” (John1:9).  Every human being is born with a reflection of that light that is at the source of creation.  In some way we are like the clouds that reflect the rising sun, streaked with crimson, purple and gold prior to the sun’s entrance. Often in our moments of greatest heartache and difficulty we reflect the greater glory.  But when the sun rises, its brilliance supersedes everything that has gone before.

This may be what Zecharias meant when he said, “The sunrise from on high has visited us!” (Luke 1:78).  Or John, when he wrote, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as the only begotten Son of God.”  (John 1:14).  All of our expressions of courage, faith and determination, mixed as they are with our shortcomings and our sins, are but dim reflections of the perfect light that is found in God.

It seems fitting that before the anniversaries of these two tragic events, the world paused to celebrate Easter and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Seeking comfort, consolation and inspiration, we turned our eyes toward that event in human history when God entered into our suffering through His Son and overcame death and the grave.

Our human resilience reflects not on our own glory, but on the glory of Him who made us in His image, Who sent His Son to forgive us our sins and transform us into children of light. He is the source of all comfort and all strength.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Centerpiece of History

Every time I write a check, I document the date with reference to the most important event in human history.  This year is 2018 A.D., Anno Domini, Latin for “Year of our Lord.”  Approximately 2018 years ago Jesus was born.    Any date before that is B.C., “Before Christ.”

This makes our secular world uncomfortable.  But, we have to reference history by some date, and it needs to be universal enough that we all know what date we are talking about.  In 1615 Johannes Kepler adopted the “Vulgar Era” designation, a reference that was later changed to C.E. “Common Era.”  Today, in most academic documents, the terms B.C.E. “Before the Common Era” and C.E. “Common Era” are used.  But the years remain the same, 2018 AD is 2018 CE.

The date for both designations A.D and C.E remains the time when the Emperor Augustine ordered that all the Roman world should be taxed and a little known carpenter in Nazareth started out for Bethlehem leading a donkey on which sat his pregnant wife. The life of that child defines every other event in history.  

Why is Jesus the centerpiece of all human history?

Part of the answer is the teaching of Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount is the most radical teaching in the history of the world. If everyone practiced Jesus’ teaching the world would be totally transformed. God’s Kingdom would have come on earth.

Part of the answer is the death of Jesus. We cannot practice the Sermon on the Mount without a transformation of heart.  The Cross of Jesus Christ makes this possible. Our sins are forgiven and God is able to create in us a new heart.

Most important of all is the resurrection.   If Jesus had not been raised from the dead, his followers would have quickly dispersed and he would have been forgotten. The disciples had all forsaken him at his trial. Peter had publicly denied him.  But, when Jesus appeared for forty days with many undeniable proofs, everything changed.

This was the message that changed the world. “This Man,delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.  But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.” (Acts 2:23-24).

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-18).


Jesus destroyed the rule of power and prejudice, retaliation and revenge.  On the Cross he overcame violence and injustice. By the resurrection He conquered death and the grave.  For this reason every document we date this year bears the number 2018. 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Looking For Spring


In Minnesota, winter releases its grip by degrees, reluctantly withdrawing with snow skirmishes that can last through April into the first of May.  The northeast was  hit by a  fourth winter storm this week.But in Texas, it is winter one day spring the next, with summer soon to follow.

There is nothing gradual about spring in Texas.  One week forecasters issue winter weather advisories for snow, freezing rain and ice. The next week, redbuds and dogwoods explode in the woods; daffodils bloom; bare limbs put forth buds and the air is filled with the fragrance of cut grass.  

By this time, we are all ready for spring.  All that appears dead “springs” to life.  It is the harbinger of things to come: the growing season when empty fields sprout with corn and cotton.  Gardens yield their miracles: seed and soil and water and sun produce ripe red tomatoes, yellow squash and fat round watermelons. 

When Jesus chose a metaphor to help us anticipate His return, He chose spring.  He said, “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.”   As exciting as spring is with its promise of summer, it cannot compare with what God has in store for us in the age that is to come, when He will establish a new heaven and a new earth. 

For many years, I have thought it significant that Jesus chose a “spring” image to signify the end of the age.  Most futurists paint a dismal picture. Bookshelves and movie lists are full of doom and gloom prognostications.  Their predictions include alien invasions that wipe out the planet, a catastrophic meteor collision that makes earth unlivable, nuclear holocaust that destroys civilization as we know it, or a gradual erosion of earth’s resources. 

Jesus held no illusions about the reality of our human condition.  He plainly taught us that we would have wars and rumors of wars, that we would experience famines and earthquakes. (Mat. 24:6-7).   The prophet Isaiah said, “Lift up your eyes to the sky, then look to the earth beneath; for the sky will vanish like smoke, and the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants will die in like manner; but My salvation will be forever, and My righteousness will not wane.” (Isa. 51:6).

Erosion and pollution will likely continue.  Nations will wage war. Our strong and youthful bodies will yield to disease, crippling injuries and old age.  But in the midst of the woods the dogwood blooms. Through His Son, Jesus Christ, God is preparing a new heaven and a new earth. Spring and summer are coming!  (2 Peter 3:13; Rev. 21:1). 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

When God Calls Your Name


Some readers have asked when I am going to write another Buddy column.  Buddy is our tri-color Pembroke Corgi that we adopted nine years ago.  His story is available on Amazon in a book I wrote, “just the way he told it to me.” He is still happy and healthy, but his energy level, like mine, has diminished.  Instead of retrieving a ball all morning he chases it 2 or 3 times and lays down. He thinks that is enough. After 9 years, Buddy knows my voice and he knows his name.  When I call, he comes! 

Sometimes he comes when I first call him, running at top speed, which is not all that fast.  Sometimes he loiters around, distracted by new smells and sounds  So, I call him again.  Occasionally I have to clap my hands.  And sometimes he comes at a very slow walk, grudgingly. But he eventually comes when I call.

It seems to me that I am a lot like that with God.  There are times when I sense God’s call, and I come running. But there are other times, much more often I think, when I am distracted by other interests, worries and concerns.  I don’t listen for his voice as I should, and I don’t come as quickly as I should.  Sometimes I come grudgingly.

When I was a child my parents always took me to church.  At the end of every service the church offered an “invitation.”   We all stood and sang a song while the preacher waited at the front to talk with anyone who wanted to make a decision for Christ.  Sometimes we sang an old hymn.

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling
Calling for you and for me
Patiently Jesus is waiting and watching
Watching for you and for me.

Come home.  Come home.
You who are weary come home.
Earnestly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!

One day, I let go of the pew in front of me and went forward.  Those first few steps made all the difference. When He called, I came.  Ever since that day, I have been listening for His voice. I have never heard God speak audibly, though I do not doubt God can speak audibly to whomever He chooses. For me, it is an inner voice.  Sometimes His voice acts like a compass, pointing the way forward.

 Even when we wander away, drawn away by smells and sounds of the world, He is always calling, waiting and watching for us to come home to God.

Jesus said, “The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.     (John 10:2-3, 14-15).

In Psalms the Bible says, “He heals the broker hearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.”  (Psalm 147:3-4).  God knows your name. He knows mine.  If we listen, we can hear him calling.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Culture at the Crossroads


We just laid to rest Billy Graham, only the fourth private citizen to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol rotunda, his casket supported by the same bier that held Lincoln’s casket in 1865.  Mr. Graham was given this honor because he profoundly shaped the spiritual life of our nation in the last half of the 20th century.  Preaching a simple message of saving faith in Jesus Christ, his messages inspired millions to repentance and faith.

Our nation’s history has been largely written by repeated spiritual awakenings.  In the 1730s George Whitefield preached in the colonies along with John and Charles Wesley.  Benjamin Franklin made reference in his autobiography to the profound spiritual change that took place.  He noted that “one could not walk thro’ the town in an evening without psalms sung in different families of every street.” Orphanages were established.  Princeton was founded to educate preachers, the same purpose for which Harvard and Yale had been formed earlier.

A Second Great Awakening swept America from 1790 into the 19th century.  Millions came to Christ through camp meetings and revivals. Thousands of churches were started including Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist and others.  Much of the movement was led by young people under 25.

In the 1870s Dwight L. Moody teamed up with Ira Sankey to launch evangelistic meetings that swept the U.S. and England.  The movement extended all the way to China through Moody’s connections with Adoniram Judson.  

Without these movements of faith in Christ our nation’s history would have been written far differently.  The moral and spiritual fiber of the United States has been paramount to its successes and achievements.

Someone once said, God has no grandchildren.  Every generation is accountable before God.  The faith past generations experienced will not sustain us. We must experience our own life-changing faith in Jesus Christ. While there is evidence of such movements in other parts of the world, especially in South America, Africa and Asia, the evidence of our own spiritual dearth is profound.

We are awash in an opioid epidemic never before known.  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 90 Americans die every day from opioid overdose. Suicide rates have surged to their highest level in 30 years. Suicide tripled among girls age 10-14 since 2000.  The Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2015 reported that 8.6% of youth in grades 9-12 said they made at least 1 suicide attempt in the past year. 

Innocent men, women and children have been gunned down in our churches, schools, theaters and the open streets. Teenagers are demonstrating for change. They have never known a world without metal detectors and x-ray machines.  Sexual misconduct and harassment is rampant with a list of politicians and celebrities too long to name.  Abuse is widespread. Prejudice is rampant.

Who can doubt that this generation needs a Savior?  Our nation and this generation are at a crossroads. 

The challenge Moses issued in his day is relevant to every generation: “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendents, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him.”  (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)  Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10).