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."

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Fourth

Next Saturday we celebrate the Fourth, a uniquely American holiday.  No other nation on earth has aspired to a higher and simpler ideal. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Two of the most prominent men who created the Declaration of Independence died fifty years to the day after the signing. Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration, died in his home at Monticello on July 4, 1826. A few hours later on the same day, John Adams, who edited the early drafts and won approval for the Declaration before the Continental Congress, died in his home.

Thirty-seven years afterward, on July 4, 1863, Lee’s Confederate army withdrew in defeat from Gettysburg. On that same day, Vicksburg fell to Grant, two pivotal battles that decided the preservation of the Union and the abolition of slavery.

On July 4, 1884, France presented the Statue of Liberty to the United States.

In many ways the history of our nation has been written by our efforts to live up to the Declaration of freedom and equality for all. We have struggled among ourselves, often falling short. We have sought to defend and extend freedom among foreign nations by sending our young men and women to lay down their lives.

We have learned that ultimate freedom can never be achieved though legislation and government alone, as important as those are. Ultimate freedom must be achieved in each human heart. Every one of us must fight a personal war with our own sin nature that seeks to make us captive and steal our freedom. We see everyday in the lives of our politicians, sports heroes and celebrities the consequences of losing that battle in the secret places of the heart. Greed and corruption remain the greatest obstacles to freedom and equality among the nations of the earth.

The pervasiveness of sin is perhaps the best documented reality in our world. The media is filled with daily accounts of its presence and the horrendous consequences it can create.

Two thousand years ago another document was drafted. It was not voted upon by representatives and did not found any government. But those words spoken long ago hold the secret to the ideals that we have embraced. Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin … If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”

God sent His Son into the world not merely to pay the penalty for our sin so that we might enter Heaven, He sent Him in order that He might overcome sin’s grip on our lives and set us free. The Apostle Paul had once been enslaved to ambition, anger and resentment. He started his early career persecuting the Christian faith. But he found a better way. He confessed, “The good that I would do, I don’t. And that that I don’t want to do is exactly what I end up doing … Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:24).

This Fourth, as we celebrate the freedom envisioned by our nation’s founders, may we experience true freedom that is found through faith in Christ.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Violence - Overcoming Evil

The cold blooded killing of nine church members at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.  is the latest reminder of the violent world in which we live.  One month ago violence erupted in Waco between warring biker gangs who chose a local restaurant as their battlefield.  Two years ago the Tsarnaev brothers set off  pressure-cooker bombs at the Boston Marathon killing three people and injuring 264. Three years ago James Eagan Holmes walked into an Aurora, Colorado theater and opened fire, killing twelve and wounding seventy.  Four years ago Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford was shot in the head while delivering a speech in a Safeway parking lot in Arizona. These are but a few. The list goes on.

Some respond with fear, staying close to home, hoping to somehow hide from a violent and unpredictable world.  Others are enraged, arming themselves for protection, retaliation and revenge. Some wish we could go back to a simpler time when the world was safe. Most of us try to ignore the violence and put it out of our minds.  But the news reports will not leave us alone.

The world has always been violent.  It is part of the human DNA and has plagued every generation since Cain killed Abel. Jesus’ crucifixion is evidence of the violence and brutality present two thousand years ago.  History is filled with atrocities. 

Surviving victims of the AME shooting last week demonstrated a better way when they confronted their attacker.  They wept and grieved the loss of their pastor, their relatives and friends, and they expressed forgiveness.  To the man who days before gunned down their loved ones they said, “I forgive you, my family forgives you.  We would like you to take this opportunity to repent.”  Four days after the shooting, their doors were open on Sunday welcoming strangers once again.

We saw a similar response several years ago when a gunman entered an Amish school in Pennsylvania and shot ten girls ages 6-13.  The Amish responded with forgiveness and comfort to the murderer’s family saying, “We must not think evil of this man.” The gunman’s widow later wrote an open letter to the Amish. “"Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately need. ... Your compassion has reached beyond our family, beyond our community, and is changing our world, and for this we sincerely thank you.”

In every violent attack the number of people who respond with sacrificial courage and compassion outnumber the perpetrators many times over.  Violence and evil will not prevail upon the earth.
The Bible says, “As the garden causes the things sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.” (Isaiah 61:11). 

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21).  Jesus said, “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons of your Father who is in Heaven.” (Matthew 5:44-45). 

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Father's Gift

This week sons and daughters of all ages will browse stores searching for just the right gift to honor their fathers. Decades ago a tie would do. But few men wear ties anymore. When I was a child I could get by with a bottle of Old Spice.  I think my Dad had a shelf full. Today it is more complicated.

Actually, I haven’t shopped for a Father’s Day gift in more than three decades.  My father passed away 39 years ago.  But, every Father’s Day I think about him.

Along the way, I became a father myself.  My first child was born two years before my father died. Five years later, another son, and eight years after that, our daughter. Instead of thinking about what I might buy for my father at Father’s Day, I now think about what I want to give to my children.  I hope I give them some of the gifts that my father gave me.

He took us to church, ran the sound system and helped the elderly up and down the elevator. When he died more than 800 people crowded the church to express their grief.  For years after his death, our family received letters and cards from those who had been touched by his life.

I hope I will give them a good example of honesty, generosity and friendship.  I have always cherished the example my Dad set.  He never went to college, never held an office or position, but he was a true friend to others.  I often saw him choose to be cheated rather than to risk cheating someone else.

I hope I will give them encouragement. My father was a constant encourager. He believed in me, even when I did not believe in myself.  I still remember his hand upon my shoulder. His affectionate grin and his words of affirmation letting me know he believed I could do anything I set my mind to.

I hope I will give them a legacy of prayer.  My Dad was not eloquent and was not a public speaker.  I only heard him lead in a public prayer once. But he always prayed at the family table, usually a memorized prayer that included confession, forgiveness and protection in Jesus’ name. I don’t think we ever ate a family meal without my father praying that prayer.

I hope I will give my children and grandchildren a legacy of character.  I never heard my father speak disparagingly of another person.  He never complained.  I never heard him speak a single profane word. 

I hope I leave my children a memory of joy.  When I think of my Dad I think of him grinning, with deep dimples in his cheeks.  I remember him laughing, out of control until he couldn’t breathe. I remember him making other people laugh simply by his cheerful outlook on life.

When I think of fathers, and being a father, I think of Jesus.  He gave us the greatest honor when He taught us to think of God as “our Father who art in Heaven.”  He raised the bar when He challenged us saying, “Be perfect as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.”

Order a copy of my poetry book, People Places and Things FREE this week on Amazon. Click the image to the right

Monday, June 8, 2015


Most of us first experience grief as a child with the death of a pet who shared our childhood.  Many a dog, cat or bird have been tenderly buried beneath carefully turned soil moistened with childhood tears. 

Grief eventually comes more forcefully with the death of a parent, a brother, sister or friend. If we live long enough, it will come to each of us when we part with those we love most.

David, who wrote the Psalms, was famous for his grief over the death of his son Absalom.   Even though Absalom led a rebellion against him seeking to unseat him from the throne of Israel, when David heard that Absalom was dead, he was inconsolable. He wept and cried, ““O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33). On another occasion, when David grieved over the death of an infant son, he said, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Sam. 12:23).

Confidence in Heaven and the resurrection does not eliminate grief, but it takes away the sting.  That is why the Apostle Paul writes, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.”

A few years ago I visited a cemetery in old Boston where the tombstones date back to some of the earliest residents of The Colonies.  I discovered an interesting pattern. Those grave makers erected before 1730 bore skulls and cross bones.  They were the picture of death and despair. The markers erected after 1740 bore the images of angels and cherubim and were often inscribed with verses about heaven.  The only event that could have made such a difference in the Boston markers is the Great Awakening that swept the Colonies in the 1730s and 40s.  Benjamin Franklin wrote of the Awakening that there was a “wonderful...change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. … so that one could not walk thro' the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street."

Grief as a believer in Jesus Christ is deep and real, but it is not a grief without hope. Even Jesus grieved when he stood outside the tomb of his friend Lazarus. Although he knew he would call Lazarus from the grave and raise him from the dead, the Bible says, “Jesus wept.” When Jesus wept, he demonstrated to us that God not only knows our grief, he feels it. We do not grieve alone or in isolation nor do we grieve without hope.

Knowing His followers would experience grief, Jesus spoke these words to them only hours before His own death, “Do not let your heart be troubled; [a]believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

Monday, June 1, 2015

Prayer Perspective

Perhaps you have heard the story of the church that was incensed because a local bar opened across the street.  Knowing nothing else to do, the church members mounted a prayer campaign to rid themselves of this blight on the neighborhood.  They prayed that God would intervene to remove the bar. 

A thunderous storm soon swept across the town and a streak of lightning lit up the sky, striking the bar. The building burst into flames and burned to the ground.  The owner of the bar sued the church for the destruction of his property as a result of their prayers. The church defended itself claiming that the lightning strike was an accidental act of nature.  The judge sat perplexed in front of the plaintiff and defendant.  “It appears,” he said, “that I have a bar owner who believes in prayer and a church that doesn’t.”

During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln pondered the issue of prayer. Both the north and the south were religious. Both believed they were right and both prayed for victory.  After his death, the following note was found in his papers: “The will of God prevails — In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be wrong. God cannot be for, and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is somewhat different from the purpose of either party.” 

It is widely reported that during the civil war Lincoln met with a group of ministers at a prayer breakfast who tried to encourage him. They told the president that they had prayed that “God would be on our side.”  Lincoln corrected them saying, “No, gentlemen, let us pray that we are on God’s side.”

How do we pray and what do we pray for?  The Bible is clear that we should let our needs be known to God, that nothing is too great or too small for prayer.  We must be careful, however, that our prayers are not merely extensions of our own self-interest and desires.  And we must not allow prayer to degenerate into a tug of war to get God to line up on our side against the interests and desires of others.

When Jesus gave us the model prayer, he taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Everything else in the prayer flows from this and is secondary to this.  But Jesus went a step further.  He not only gave us a model prayer to guide our words, he demonstrated how to pray when he faced death on the cross and  prayed, “Father, not my will but thine be done.” 

Prayer works best when it brings us into alignment with God and his purposes on the earth, purposes that often are at odds with our own.  When we pray this way we will love our enemies, do good for those who abuse us and give ourselves generously for others.