What Others Say

"Thank you for the words of wisdom in today’s Abilene Reporter News. In the midst of wars violence and pandemics, your words were so soft spoken and calming."

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

When A Loved One Commits Suicide

 Ten years ago, Rick Warren’s son, Matthew, ended his life with a self-inflicted gunshot.  Author of one of the bestselling books of all time, The Purpose Driven Life, with more than twenty-million copies sold world-wide, Rick Warren and his wife, Kay, have been open about their grief and the long struggle with their son’s mental illness that led up to his suicide. Warren’s church described Matthew as “an incredibly kind, gentle, and compassionate young man whose sweet spirit was encouragement and comfort to many. Unfortunately, he also suffered from mental illness resulting in deep depression and suicidal thoughts.”

 Virtually every family has been touched, directly or indirectly, by suicide and its painful aftermath. According to the American Foundation for the Prevention of Suicide a recent survey indicates 8.9% of children ages 8-12 attempted suicide.  There were 130 suicides per day in 2020 with suicide rates highest among middle aged white men.  Suicide’s social stigma coupled with fear, embarrassment, grief, and spiritual misunderstanding may contribute to our inability to address helpful solutions. But increasingly, churches are seeking ways to help people who wrestle with this deadly emotional illness.

 Frank Page, former President of the Southern Baptist Convention, lost his 32-year-old daughter to suicide in 2009. His book, Melissa: A Father’s Lessons from a Daughter’s Suicide, was published in June 2013. He writes, “Suicide is not a situation that lends itself to casual conversations with God. It hurts. And more than that, it seems as though He could have prevented it all if He'd wanted to. At those times when the loss seems the most impossible to bear, at times when you can't believe what your child is doing or has done to themselves, it can feel like God is nowhere this side of heaven to offer all that comfort His Word so confidently promises.

 “But I can tell you by the testimony of Scripture, He is strong enough to weather our hot accusations against Him, patient enough to withstand our desire to seek distance from Him and compassionate enough to feel emotion at the deep, hollow anguish that can often stand between us and our tottering faith.”

 I received the following from a reader who read my column about suicide ten years ago:  “No one other than our closest relatives has mentioned our son’s suicide in conversation or written word since it happened. That alone; being the white elephant in the room that no one dare acknowledge; is sometimes the most painful emotion. We are used to it and we understand…..it is just very strange.  Suicide can be a complex issue to a theologian.  It is a simple fact of love and faith for those close to it.  It is through the grace of God that we survived.  It is through the grace of God that we love life and have a genuine peace that passes all understanding.”

 If you are wrestling with suicide issues in your own life reach out to those who love you. Reach out to your local church. There are resources to help. If you have lost a loved one to suicide, visit www.allianceofhope.org.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Spice of Life

 My wife loves cooking.  When we take road trips she passes the time by reading cookbooks. When browsing the TV, she usually settles on a cooking show.  Any cooking show, it seems to me.  When we watch jeopardy and they introduce a food category, she usually knows the answer.  When I get stumped on a crossword clue that includes spices or food, she helps me fill it in.  I am pretty well limited to breakfast:  bacon, eggs and biscuits. And I can grill steak, hamburger, or salmon.  But that’s about it. Recently she taught me how to boil an egg and cook instant rice.  

 Cooking seems to come down to the spices.  How you use them: which spices you put in, at what time, in what amount.  She has a pantry full of spices.  When it gets beyond salt, pepper, and a little garlic, I am pretty well lost.   Oh, and chopping.  Lots and lots of chopping

 In 1885, at a corner drug store in Waco, Texas, a young pharmacist named Charles Alderton was experimenting with various flavors for a new soda he could serve.  He came up with a blend of 23 flavors people loved.  Customers called it the “Waco” until the owner of the drug store came up with the name Dr Pepper, after his good friend. They had trouble making enough to meet demand. Today Dr Pepper is distributed in the U.S., Canada, Asia, Europe, Mexico, South America, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. They still use the same 23 flavors that remain a secret. We stopped for a hamburger last week in Colorado Springs and they were featuring Dr. Pepper shakes.  If you go to Waco to see Chip and Joanna, be sure to stop by the Dr. Pepper Museum.

  Harland Sanders learned to cook from his mother when he was 7.  In 1934 he started selling fried chicken from his roadside filling station in Corbin, Kentucky.  It took a few years to perfect his secret 11 herbs and spices. But when he did, people liked it. They liked it so much that the governor made him an honorary colonel. Today KFC is served in 119 countries and territories worldwide.  If I got hungry for a taste of home when we were visiting Prague and Nuremburg, I walked to a nearby KFC.    

 It is amazing what the right blend of flavors and spices can accomplish. What is true for food is also true for the way we live and the way we speak.  Life is more fun, satisfying and meaningful when we find the right “spices.” 

 Jesus recognized this when he told his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt has lost its taste, it is good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”   (Matthew 5:13). 

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (Colossians 4:6).

 Unlike Dr Pepper and KFC, the ingredients are no secret.  The spices and flavors that make every Christian life desirable are listed in Galatians. “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”  (Galatians 5:22-23).  When these “spices” are cooked into our souls, everyone benefits.  Including family, friends, communities, and the world.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

March Madness

 They call it March Madness.  For the next 3 weeks, the best college basketball teams in the nation will compete against one another. Every game is elimination,  win or go home.  There are markers along the way: Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, the Final Four and, eventually the championship game which will be played April 3 at NRG Stadium in Houston. 68 teams will compete in March Madness.  Any one of them can win.

 Basketball has become one of the most popular sports world-wide with 2.2 billion fans.  It is fast-paced, confined to a relatively small space. The basketball court is 94 by 50 feet. The net is always 10 feet from the floor.  But it is the clock that makes it exciting. The clock is ever lurking. The seconds are always ticking. Each team has 5 seconds to inbound the ball; 10 seconds to advance it past midcourt, and 30 seconds possession to take a shot. NCAA men’s games are divided into two 20-minute halves. Scoring is often rapid-fire requiring agility, stamina, strength, and speed.  

 Basketball has a way of capturing our contemporary imagination.  Life is lived fast. Life is lived against the clock. We are all seeking to get the most done in the shortest amount of time. Like basketball, we want to score the most points possible before time runs out.

 Our generation is obsessed with the clock. We just levied daylight savings time upon ourselves, losing an hour sleep to get up an hour earlier so that we can get the kids to school, hit the highways, commute to our offices and get home before dark. And then do it all over again tomorrow.

 Maybe we feel this way because we know that a more important clock is ticking.  Many believe that we are living in the “last days.” That time for humanity is running out. For the first time since 1947, the Doomsday Clock has been moved to 90 seconds to midnight.  Jesus said that no one knows the day or the hour, but the Bible is clear that there will be a consummation of the age, a time when Jesus said He would return and time would be no more.

 Like the games in March Madness, the final seconds elevate our sense of urgency.  Jesus said, “We must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day.  Night is coming when no man can work,”(John 9:4).  Each of us must ask ourselves if we are ready.  

Peter wrote, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,  looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells,” (2 Peter 3:11-12).

Monday, March 6, 2023

Dealing With The Devil

 When my mother was eighty-seven, she called to ask my opinion about some counsel she had received from some well-meaning Christian friends. They told her that the Devil was always present, always beside her, always trying to make her fall. Near the point of tears, she asked if that was true. A widow for thirty-three years, the thought of the Devil constantly beside her, testing her, only served to deepen her sense of loneliness and fear.

 I was glad to reassure her that her friends, as well meaning as they were, got it wrong. The Bible does not teach that the Devil is present everywhere. Nor does it teach that the Devil is always standing beside us tempting us. In the last days before her death at eighty-nine, my mother demonstrated complete confidence in  God's presence and His promises.

When Jesus was tempted for forty days in the wilderness the Bible clearly states that after the temptation the Devil left him. If the Devil left Jesus, he also leaves us. He cannot remain constantly by our side tempting us. The Bible also says, “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.” If he has fled, he cannot remain by your side. 

Unlike our Adversary, Jesus is always with us. He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Giving comfort to followers of Christ, Paul stated, “Greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world.” 

Of course, not everyone believes the Devil is real. But there is a lot out there about the Devil. He shows up in books, movies and videos. To show just how confused people are about the Devil, a nation-wide survey conducted by the Barna Group indicated that a minority of Christians believe Satan is a personal being, but a majority of Christians believe a person can be under the influence of spiritual forces such as demons.

No one would argue with the fact that there is enormous evil in the world.  Our news reports are filled daily with murders, thefts and atrocities both local and global. The Bible teaches that the Devil is a real, personal being, our adversary that seeks our destruction. (1 Peter 5:8). But the Bible also teaches that the Devil is a defeated being. (Revelation 20:10). 

We need not fear the Devil or all his demons. We need not live our lives in fear of the evil and violence that is so evident in our world. We can live with confidence. “If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was [raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:31-35).

Bill Tinsley's book, We Beheld His Glory is available Free as an Amazon eBook March 7-8. 

Monday, February 27, 2023

Singing A New Song

My wife and I slipped into our seats at the theater last Thursday to view the opening of The Jesus Revolution, the movie just released portraying the Jesus Movement of the 1970s.  It brought back memories. 

 We were not California hippies in 1970, though I did wear bell-bottom pants, a white belt, and played a guitar.  I was already a 24-year-old pastor.  The Lord had called me into the ministry a bit earlier, in 1965.  I remember celebrating what God was doing on the West Coast among those of my generation that had “turned on, tuned in and dropped out.”  It was thrilling to see thousands coming to faith in Christ.

 That movement changed things.  It changed how we do church. The music changed.  We had been singing the hymns of our fathers and grandfathers, the songs that emerged from the previous spiritual movements that swept our country.  Songs written by John and Charles Wesley during the Great Awakening of the 1700s.  Songs like O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing. Christ The Lord Is Risen Today, Love Divine All Loves Exceling. Songs written by Ira Sankey and Fanny Crosby during the days of Dwight L. Moody: Blessed Assurance. All The Way My Savior Leads Me , Jesus Is Tenderly Calling and many more.

 In the late 1940s a youth revival movement swept the nation.  During that movement Dick Baker wrote over 200 songs, among them Longing For Jesus, His Way Mine, I’d Rather Have Jesus, All To Thee and Have You Been To Calvary?

 After the Jesus Movement, organs were out. Pianos disappeared.  Drums and electric guitars took center stage.  The songs and hymns of previous generations were replaced with songs of praise such as  Lord I Lift Your Name On High, Shine, Jesus Shine, Shout To The Lord.

 A new spiritual movement erupted spontaneously three weeks ago at Asbury College in Wilmore, KY.  Characterized by humility, confession and prayer more than 50,000 showed up from over 200 other campuses and many countries. The college of 2,000 was overwhelmed.  It has ignited similar movements on campuses at Samford University in Alabama, Lee and Belmont Universities in Tennessee, Anderson University in Indiana, Baylor University in Waco and Texas A&M. In all at least 20 campuses have reported revivals.

 Those involved are mostly Gen Z, young adults born after 1995 and the advent of the internet, true “digital natives.”  Demographers say they live more slowly than previous generations, consume less alcohol, have lower rates of teen pregnancy and are better at delaying gratification. A profile of Gen Z by The Economist considered them highly educated and well behaved, but noted high levels of stress and depression. According to the CDC 1 in 5 Gen Z high school students have seriously considered suicide.  

We can hope the movement continues to spread and demonstrates lasting power so that a new generation once again steps forward to inspire the world with hope and faith.  Perhaps they will teach us to sing a new song.

 Movements of the Holy Spirit are always accompanied by music. It was so in the first century and has been so in every century since. When Jesus finished His last supper with his disciples, the Bible notes, “after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives,” (Mark 14:26).

 The Apostle Paul exhorts all believers, “ be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your hearts to the Lord,” (Ephesians 5:18-19). 

Bill Tinsley's historical fiction, Bold Springs, is free as an eBook on Amazon Kindle February 28-March 2.  Bold Springs received the Reader's Favorite Award as the best Christian historical fiction in 2022.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Asbury Awakening

 On February 8, students at Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky, filed into Hughes Auditorium for their regularly scheduled chapel service.  What happened was anything but regular. What has continued to happen is far beyond anything anyone could have scheduled.

 A spontaneous prayer meeting broke out that has continued for weeks.  Tens of thousands of people have since been drawn to Asbury to participate in the outpouring. This week, the continuous prayer service is being moved to various other sites to accommodate the crowds that threaten to overwhelm the small town.   The University posted on its website: “the university in consultation with local law enforcement and city administration notified incoming visitors that parking and seating had exceeded capacity.”  The University’s Communications Director said people were coming from all over the country, including some who just arrived from Finland and the Netherlands.

 According to the executive editor of the campus newspaper, the continued prayer meeting has been “a mix of worship, testimony, prayer, confession and silence.”  According to other sources the Asbury experience has spread to at least four other Universities, including Samford, University in Homewood, Alabama.

 According to Beck Taylor, President of Samford, "This is spontaneous, organic, student-led worship.”  He continued, “What's happening isn't contrived, programmed, or scripted. Nor is it performative or disingenuous. Students and others see it as an opportunity for the Samford campus to find unity in Christ, to encourage one another to faithfulness, and to extend the love and grace of Jesus to everyone.”

The participants are young, many are students, others in their 20s and 30s.  It is not the first time.  In 1970 a similar spiritual movement started spontaneously at Asbury and spread across the country.  The broader context of that movement came to be know as The Jesus Revolution of the late 1960s and 1970s.  Thousands of lives were changed as many who had sought fulfilment in drugs and the hippie culture found faith in Christ.

 There have been others spiritual movements in our nation’s history, most notably the Great Awakening of the 1700s that swept England and the American Colonies.  That movement included John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield and was witnessed by Benjamin Franklin who published Whitefield’s sermons. 

 At noon on September 23, 1857, a businessman named Jeremiah Lamphier waited for others to join him for prayer in a room on Fulton Street in New York.  Six people showed up. The next week, 20 came.  Then 40.  They started meeting daily. The crowd swelled to more than 3,000 following the financial panic of October 14.   In less than 6 months, 10,000 businessmen were attending daily prayer meetings in New York. More than 10,000 came to faith in Philadelphia, 5,000 in Boston. At its peak, 50,000 people a week were professing faith in Christ.  In Bethel, Conn. businesses closed for prayer.  Led by laity and crossing denominational lines, the movement swept more than one million people to faith in Christ leading up to the Civil War.

 We don’t know what the long-term results will come from the current experience at Asbury. It is too early to tell.  What is undeniable is the evidence of deep and widespread spiritual hunger among the young across our nation.  We can pray that God will do something in our day and in this generation that will redeem our nation and produce the fruits of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

What Do You Know?

 No one knows what you know. And everyone else you meet knows things you don’t. Even though my wife and I have been married more than fifty years, we each know things the other doesn’t.

At birth we know nothing, but we immediately begin to build our knowledge from family and friends. Most of us tend to remain close to those who first taught us for a lifetime. But as we grow, our knowledge differs. We follow different paths, study different subjects, pursue different careers, live in different places, and meet different people. Our individual knowledge becomes unique, like our fingerprints.

The pursuit of knowledge is a good thing. And we should celebrate each achievement that increases our knowledge. But how much does any one of us really know? And how much do we all know if the knowledge of every human being could be combined?

Scientists are continually trying to piece together the puzzle of the past, to reconstruct our origins and the path we have taken to get to where we are. In 2012 physicists discovered the Higgs boson, what some refer to as the “God particle,” which could answer the origin of all mass. But, even with this discovery, the sum total of our scientific, philosophical and historic knowledge represents only a small fragment of the total knowledge in the universe. The more we discover, the more we realize what we don’t know. The puzzle pieces of the past are often misleading, having to be rearranged and reconfigured to correct our preconceived ideas.

Solomon, considered by many to be the wisest man to ever live, wrote, “I concluded that man cannot discover the work which has been done under the sun. Even though man should seek laboriously, he will not discover; and though the wise man should say, ‘I know,’ he cannot discover.” (Ecclesiastes 8:17).

Perhaps the most important discovery is not what we know, but the fact that we are known. David wrote, “You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways.Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it all.” (Psalm 139:2-4). To Jeremiah, God said, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” Jesus said, “the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”

As we expand our personal knowledge and strive to understand the universe, we can live with confidence that the One Who made it all knows us and loves us as He demonstrated in His Son, Jesus.