What Others Say

I have read your columns many times, have saved the ones that "speak" to me and reread them....... I just want to thank you for your inspired writing, illuminating faith and the day to day that focuses on God and His Son....
- Carol C.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Election

Next week Americans will go to the polls and elect the President of the United States, a time-honored tradition since the founding of our nation. The people will determine the person to occupy what can be arguably described as the most powerful position in the world. And, four years later, that person will submit once again to the judgment of the people. The election of our president and other government officials is essential to the political experiment our forefathers launched two hundred and twenty-four years ago to establish a nation governed “of the people, by the people and for the people.” .

People typically vote for the candidate they believe will provide peace, security and economic prosperity. We typically ask ourselves, “Am I better off than I was four years ago? Is the world a safer place?”

It would be helpful to consider the standards by which God judges our nation and its leaders. What are the questions that God asks of us? Every nation, every political leader and every person is ultimately held accountable to God. The Bible makes God’s expectations clear.

Proverbs puts it simply: “Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people.” In Jeremiah’s day God issued strong warnings, saying, ““Why should I pardon you? Your sons have forsaken Me and sworn by those who are not gods. When I had fed them to the full, they committed adultery and trooped to the harlot’s house. “They were well-fed lusty horses, Each one neighing after his neighbor’s wife. Shall I not punish these people,” declares the LORD, “And on a nation such as this Shall I not avenge Myself?.” (Jeremiah 5:7-9). “For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, Everyone is greedy for gain, And from the prophet even to the priest Everyone deals falsely.” (Jer. 6:13).“

And again, "For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.” (Jer. 7:5-7).

As we approach this election we are reminded that we have choices, but the most important choices that will determine our future are not as simple as marking a ballot and casting a vote. The more important choices we face deal with issues of honesty, generosity, compassion, truthfulness, acceptance, forgiveness, faith and faithfulness. We are all faced with these choices every day, and these are the choices that make or break a nation. Any nation that chooses these things sets its path toward greatness. Any nation that chooses promiscuity, greed, prejudice, and deceit chooses a path that leads to decline and ultimate ruin.

Monday, October 22, 2012

What Are You Waiting For?

When I married Jackie we repeated the customary wedding vows promising to cherish one another “in sickness and in health, in poverty and in wealth.” Perhaps we should have added an additional line. Something like. “I promise to wait for you.” Since we married we have waited for each other. We have waited at airports, train stations and bus stops. I have waited on her to put on last minute make-up and she has waited on me to put down my book or close my computer. When she gave birth to our children, I waited. When I had a motorcycle accident, she waited. In too many ways to enumerate or remember, we have waited on each other. If we added it all up it would be a huge chunk of our lives. And now, it makes me happy. She is worth waiting for.


When we had children, we waited. We waited for their birth. We waited for them when they got out of school. We waited late at night in dark parking lots for their buses to return. We waited for them in the car, the motor running, the clock ticking, knowing we were late to church. We stayed up waiting for them to come home from their first dates. And we waited for them to come home from college.

Waiting is a part of life. We choose to wait for those we love.

That is why God waits for us, because He loves us. Isaiah says, “Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you for the Lord is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him. (Isa 34:18). In Jeremiah, God says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” (Jer. 1:5). God has waited an eternity for you.

We often miss God because we haven’t learned to wait on Him. We blast through busy schedules making quick decisions without taking time to connect with God’s better plan for us. The Psalmist said, “My soul waits in silence for God only. From Him is my salvation.” (Ps. 62:1) “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.” (Ps. 40:1) The prophet Micah said, “But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord. I will wait for the God of my salvation.” (Micah 7:7)

Waiting on God involves prayer and finding time to be quiet before Him. Sometimes it includes fasting. But waiting isn’t always about sitting still with our arms folded. The Apostle Paul waited on God by remaining in motion. Acts describes his efforts to discover God’s plan for the next chapter of his life. While he was moving through the regions of Phrygia and Galatia, the Holy Spirit forbade him from entering Asia. He then sought to go into Bythinia, but the Spirit of Jesus said no. Only after his visit to Troas did God make it clear to him he was to head west toward Macedonia. (Acts 16:6-10).

Jesus said, “Seek and you shall find. Knock and it shall be opened.” The secret is to remain open to God’s direction and to listen to His voice while we remain in motion constantly seeking and knocking. When we “wait upon the Lord” in this way, He will direct our paths.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Same Kind of Different

I like to read. Always have. As a kid I rode my bike to our local library with my friends to browse and check out books. When I met my wife, we spent our evenings together in the library at Baylor University and, across the years, libraries have remained one of our favorite places to visit on our “dates.” When we moved to Waco, Texas two weeks ago, one of the first things we did was sign up for our library card. Most of the books I read soon evaporate from my memory. But, once in awhile, a book sticks with me. Same Kind of Different as Me is one of those books that stuck. Apparently the book has been out since 2005. But sometimes it takes a book a long time to find me.

Same Kind of Different As Me is actually two stories. One, the story of an illiterate black man named Denver who was raised in the cotton fields of Louisiana and ended up homeless on the streets of Fort Worth. The other, an upwardly mobile white man named Ron Hall who graduated from TCU and made a fortune in the art world. They each tell their story, and the remarkable intersection of their journeys.

Maybe I was drawn to the book because Ron Hall spent his childhood summers on a farm near my boyhood home of Corsicana. His descriptions of Corsicana resonated with my memories growing up on Collin Street, one of the signature brick streets that reflect the glory days when the city boasted more millionaires per capita than any other town in Texas. Maybe I was drawn to the book because Ron and Denver intersect in the slums of Fort Worth east of downtown where my wife started her teaching career forty years ago.

But the true stories of Ron Hall and Denver Moore are not the main stories in the book. They represent other stories: the story of our country and its culture. Ron represents those who rise from middle class with professional opportunities that can lead to great wealth. He also represents the dangers of that path that include temptations for greed, materialism, shallow and broken relationships. Denver represents the alarmingly huge segment of our population that falls between the cracks, victims of prejudice, oppression, injustice and neglect. He also represents the dangers of that downward spiral that includes temptations of bitterness, anger, isolation and despair.

But the greatest story underlying and connecting all of these is God’s story. Ron’s wife, Deborah is the entry point for His work, one person who was open, willing and obedient who became the catalyst for connecting these two broken men from different ends of the social spectrum.

In a day when many look to government to heal our wounds and solve our social problems, Same Kind of Different As Me serves as a reminder that the real solution to our personal and social problems lies within us. It is often buried beneath our own prejudices and fears, but it can be unlocked and released with the keys of acceptance, trust, faith and love, all the things Jesus demonstrated and talked about.

God wants to use each of us, whatever our race, whatever our circumstance, whatever our background to make a difference in the world. You can learn more about Ron and Denver’s stories by visiting their website, http://www.samekindofdifferentasme.com/.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Freedom from Frenzy

We live in a time-crunched world where life is lived on the run. Millions pull out of their driveways in the pre-dawn dark, grab a last-minute breakfast burrito and navigate their way onto freeways while listening to the morning news and traffic reports between cell phone calls. It is a frenzied start to a frenzied day. Weary from long hours at work, the same drivers re-enter the stream of traffic making their way home past memorized billboards that serve as markers for their movement. Weekends are filled with a hundred errands, second jobs, T-ball, soccer, football, and the race to cram in as much recreation as possible. Church is squeezed into an already full schedule that has no margins.

Richard Foster analyzed it like this: "We are trapped in a rat race, not just of acquiring money, but also of meeting family and business obligations. We pant through an endless series of appointments and duties. This problem is especially acute for those who want to do what is right. With frantic fidelity we respond to all calls to service, distressingly unable to distinguish the voice of Christ from that of human manipulators." We are increasingly depressed and suicidal. We have turned to alcohol and drugs in a desperate effort to cope. We know deep down that something isn’t working. There must be a better way.

Most people recognize the Ten Commandments as foundational to human conduct and life. But somewhere along the way we reduced the Ten Commandments to nine. We eliminated the fourth commandment as irrelevant and archaic: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” A half-century ago, businesses were closed on Sunday and sporting events recognized Sunday as a day for worship. All that has changed. Today our calendars are filled up to a 24/7 frenzy.

When Jesus said that man was not made for the Sabbath but the Sabbath was made for man, he affirmed the need for the Sabbath in our lives. He underscored the importance of the Sabbath to all of us for mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health.

In his book, Living the Sabbath, Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight, Norman Wirzba writes, “Put simply, Sabbath discipline introduces us to God’s own ways of joy and delight. … When our work and our play, our exertion and our rest flow seamlessly from this deep desire to give thanks to God, the totality of our living --- cooking, eating, cleaning, preaching, parenting, building, repairing, healing, creating --- becomes one sustained and ever expanding act of worship.”

Sabbath requires time for rest, silence, solitude and worship, but it is more than a day of rest. It is a way of life that is filled with wonder, worship, awe and delight. When Jesus declared himself the Lord of the Sabbath, he offered to us a better way. He said, “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest to your souls.”

Monday, October 1, 2012

Making the Right Call

Last week NFL football fans were incensed when replacement referees made a call as time ran out that changed the outcome of the game. Instant replay clearly showed a Green Bay Packer interception that was ruled, instead, as a game-winning touchdown for the Seattle Seahawks. After three weeks of miscalls on the field, the fans couldn’t take it any more. Some demonstrated in the streets protesting with placards. Others lit up Twitter, Facebook and You Tube. The story dominated newscasts and talk shows. Las Vegas gamblers and Fantasy Footballers complained about their losses. Within three days the NFL owners restored the professional officials and promised justice would once again prevail on the gridiron.

It was interesting to watch the widespread outpouring of opinion over this issue across our country in the media, coffee shops, pubs and break-rooms, when other issues of injustice go unnoticed. While the officials were missing their call on the field in Seattle, judges in Massachusetts considered awarding a rapist rights to visit the child that was fathered by his crime. International Justice Mission reminds us that “More children, women and men are held in slavery right now than over the course of the entire trans-Atlantic slave trade.”

International Justice Mission (ijm.org) was established in 1997 in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide. The organization seeks to rescue victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent crime. Over 400 lawyers, social workers and other staff work in 15 field offices in Asia, Africa and Latin America to protect the oppressed and prosecute the oppressors. 95% of those working for IJM are nationals of the countries in which they serve.

Making the right call and seeking justice is at the center of God’s heart. David writes, “The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.” (Ps 33:5). Isaiah says, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” (Isa. 1:17). Predicting the Messiah, he writes, ““Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.”

Maybe this NFL fiasco will serve to remind us that every generation is challenged to throw off its social blinders to see injustices and inequalities that need to be corrected. We all have opportunity to see that justice and fairness prevail. Each of us must make “the right call” for justice and fairness as parents and children, co-workers and employers, students, teachers and administrators, citizens and government officials. For the seemingly distant and complex issues that are beyond us, we can encourage and support organizations like IJM.