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Friday, December 31, 2010

We’ve Got Them Where We Want Them

[If my calculations are correct, I have "blogged" 257 stories in 2010. This week, I am going to replay the 5 most viewed (read?) stories. I hope they bless your life.]

During the Korean War, the United Nations’ forces at one point seemed to be in a strong position. This was miraculous considering the devastation incurred by the North Koreans in their surprise attack in July, 1950.However, the future for the UN Forces, consisting largely of troops from the United States, seemed strong by November 1950. Then, an army of 300,000 troops from Communist China attacked. Disaster ensued.
Colonel Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller and his regiment were among those facing catastrophe. According to historian William Manchester, his troops were completely surrounded. There was no way out. 

I almost cheered out loud the first time I read about the way Puller responded to this crisis. He announced to his men, “The enemy is in front of us, behind us, to the left of us, and to the right of us. They won’t escape thistime.” Yes, Puller’s regiment suffered heavy casualties, but the majority cut through the Chinese army and made it out.

I love the spirit of optimism and courage Puller displayed in the face of what seemed to be a hopeless situation. God’s people have faced a number of “hopeless” situations throughout history, and they still do. I doubt it is coincidence that one of the most repeated commands in scripture is, “Fear not.”

In light of Jesus resurrection, and in view of the fact that God is moving history toward His desired outcome, we of all people, when we are “surrounded”, should be able to say, “Fear not.”

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Railway Women

There is an inspiring story told by Frances Rockmore Velie about four courageous women of the Quaker faith.  During the Second World War these women were in German-occupied Toulouse when they learned that eight hundred captured Jews were packed on a train, in a single cattle car, and were heading for an occupation camp.

In route, this train would soon arrive in Toulouse where it would stop briefly. The Quaker women knew that those Jewish “passengers” would have traveled two days without water. 

The four women promptly nabbed every reachable container and worked through the night pouring water in hopes of easing the torment of the suffering Jews.  But when the train arrived at the station a ghastly nightmare unfolded before their eyes. The train did not have eight hundred Jews; rather it was packed with three thousand Jews. 

Suddenly, the stark reality became apparent to the women.  Should they give eight hundred people the water they had prepared, and let the rest of the anguished passengers be made to endure unbearable agony? Was it right for some not to receive any water, particularly after having to watch others drink?  The four women had wanted to share a moment of mercy; instead, the moment of mercy had turned into a time of woe. 

Yet there was one woman who would not accept surrender in the face of such an evil challenge. Approaching the Gestapo officer in charge, she quietly, but with great authority, demanded that the officer engage in efforts to help ease the suffering of the prisoners. 

For a protracted moment the German soldier stared at her.  Then the Gestapo officer turned to his aide.  "This woman is from the American Friends Service Committee," he said.  "The Quakers saved our village from starvation after the last war."  "Yes," mumbled the subaltern, "they fed us, too."

And so the Gestapo officer ordered his men to move.  SS men rounded up baskets of food and additional water from shocked villagers; they were performing deeds of mercy.  The suffering Jews received their water and food--from their enemies.

The quiet strength of four Quaker women moved cold-hearted men-indoctrinated to kill-to comfort their enemies.  Likewise Christians, empowered by the quiet strength of the Holy Spirit, have the privilege to help determine the fate of the world, not by defeating people on the battlefield, but by telling human beings about Jesus.

One confusing statement in the Bible for me has always been Matthew 5:5b—"...for they {the meek} shall inherit the earth." What I believe the phrase "inherit the earth" to mean is that Christians have the privilege of participating in the salvation of Humanity. 

To put it another way, when Jesus said, "inherit the earth" he was using imagery from the Old Testament, which the Jews associated with the Kingdom of Heaven.  So when a first century Jew heard Jesus say this, there was a good chance he thought in his mind that he was going to have the opportunity to participate in the infiltration of the Kingdom of God throughout the earth.

I am not a Quaker. I don’t know if Quakers still exist, but those four women almost 70 years ago were definitely participating in Kingdom work on this earth. I would do well to do the same.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Kid Who Did Not Want to Play the Trombone

[If my calculations are correct, I have "blogged" 257 stories in 2010. This week, I am going to replay the 5 most viewed (read?) stories. I hope they bless your life.]

Farmersville High School in Farmersville, Texas, assigned their band director, Stanley Walker, the task of monitoring a study hall period. He did. One of his students was a young man named Charles Watson. Charles graduated, moved to California, and became known as “Tex.” He joined the infamous “Family” of Charles Manson and is now serving a life sentence for murder.

Shortly after Stanley Walker monitored Charles Watson in study hall, he accepted a job as the Band Director at a high school near Linden, Texas. While there, one of his students told him, “Mr. Walker, I think I am going to quit the band. I don’t like playing the trombone.”

Walker replied, “Well, Don, why don’t you play the drums?”

Don did. Later, playing the drums, Don Henley became a founding member of the Hall of Fame rock group, The Eagles.

Obviously, Stanley Walker and other teachers at Farmersville High School attempted to influence Charles Watson to do something more positive in life than join a cult and commit murder. Unfortunately, sometimes, people like Charles Watson reject the message. Others times, people can be influenced to make a seemingly minor decision that ends up producing amajor positive impact—such as the case with Don Henley.

Jesus called for his disciples to be salt and light. We infiltrate our culture, allow God to work through us, and accept the results with a faithful trust in God’s Kingdom work.*

* Thanks, Jamie Whitley, for sharing this story from the life of your family’s long-time friend—Stanley Walker.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Letting Your Light Shine

[If my calculations are correct, I have "blogged" 257 stories in 2010. This week, I am going to replay the 5 most viewed (read?) stories. I hope they bless your life.]

He says: ‘It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth,’" (Is. 49:6.)

"You are the light of the world…” (Matt. 5:14a.)

In the early 1700s, there lived in the mountains of Saxony in the central part of Europe a religious group known as the Moravian Brethren. They were refugees, having fled the persecution of the anti-Reformation movement in Bohemia and Moravia. Challenged in a chance encounter with a slave from the West Indian island of St. Thomas, this fellowship decided that they wanted to let their lights shine throughout the world. Thus in 1732, they sent Leonard Dober, a potter by trade, and David Nitschmann, a carpenter, to the island to live and preach the gospel.

Mind you, in those years missionaries didn't come home on furlough every two years. Yet, in the years following this small band of believers sent missionaries to Greenland (1733), the Indian territories of North America (1734), Surinam (1735), South Africa (1736), the Samoyedic peoples of the Arctic (1737), Algiers and Ceylon, or Sri Lanka (1740), China (1742), Persia(1747), Abyssynia and Labrador (1752). Beginning in 1732 and over the course of the next 150 years, this group of faith was to send 2158 of its members into the world to proclaim Christ.

Reading of the Moravian Brethren I am humbled. This truly was a group that maintained a divine discontent. They wished to be a light to the world. I hope that every disciple of Christ will capture this fervent spirit in seeing to it that every person on earth hears the good news. Surely, with all of our money and resources, we can take the gospel to every person on earth.

So often it is hard to discover what God's will is in making a decision. However, this is one area in which we know what God's will is; the question is will we meet the challenge. What it all boils down to is this, are there enough of us willing to go, and are we willing to send them?

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Gracious Guide

[If my calculations are correct, I have "blogged" 257 stories in 2010. This week, I am going to replay the 5 most viewed (read?) stories. I hope they bless your life.]
I read this week from Diane Neal Matthews, who made an interesting point about Annie Sullivan. You might remember that Sullivan, who was born in 1866, had experienced severe illness early in childhood. Consequently, she was left nearly blind. After three surgeries, risky for her era, she recovered most of her vision.

As a young woman, Sullivan moved to Alabama to help a rebellious, six-year-old girl named Helen Keller. Helen was blind, deaf, and unable to speak. Accordingly, the world did not make sense to Keller.

Annie Sullivan arrived to serve Helen Keller—teaching her to discern right and wrong, good behavior and bad behavior. Thus, Helen Keller experienced life in a more healthy and productive way. Helen Keller’s world began to make sense.

Many people, according to the Apostle Paul, cannot discern how to live in their world. Paul says in First Corinthians 2:14, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” The Holy Spirit helps people to determine how to live. He gives people a sense of vision. He helps people to avoid foolish mistakes.

Next time you ponder the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit, think of Annie Sullivan ministering to Helen Keller. Their story serves as a good word picture for the gracious ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Children's Christmas Carols

Okay, I don’t know if great theological truths can be gleaned from the following, but sometimes, it is fun just to laugh. Someone sent the following several years ago. I hope you enjoy them:

            Children's Christmas Carols

            No one can fracture a Christmas carol better than a kid. Sing along with these new takes on old favorites:

            Deck the Halls with Buddy Holly

            We three kings of porridge and tar

            On the first day of Christmas my tulip gave to me

            Later on we'll perspire, as we dream by the fire

            He's makin a list, chicken and rice

            Noel. Noel, Barney's the king of Israel

            With the jelly toast proclaim

            Olive, the other reindeer

            Frosty the Snowman is a ferret elf, I say

            Sleep in heavenly peas

            In the meadow we can build a snowman, then pretend that he
is sparse and brown

            You'll go down in listerine

            Oh, what fun it is to ride with one horse, soap and hay

            O come, froggy faithful

            You'll tell Carol, "Be a skunk, I require"

            Good tidings we bring to you and your kid

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Golfer Who Respected His Wife

A golfer and a friend are playing golf one day at their local golf course. One of the guys is about to chip onto the green when he sees a long funeral procession on the road next to the course.
He stops in mid-swing, takes off his golf cap, closes his eyes, and bows down in prayer.
His friend says, "Wow, that is the most thoughtful and touching thing I have ever seen. You truly are a kind man."
The golfer then replies, "Yeah, it was the least I could do. We were married 35 years."

I think this guy missed out on Paul’s words to the husbands in Ephesus:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… (Eph. 5:25). NIV

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Bidding Parrot

A gentleman goes to an estate sale and notices one of the items for sale is a large parrot. He's always wanted a talking bird, so when it comes up for bid he offers $50. The bidding proceeds hot and heavy, with someone always bidding ten dollars more than he, until the parrot is finally sold to him for $1,500.

When he goes to get the bird, he asks the auctioneer, "Can the bird talk?"

The auctioneer replied, "Who do you think was bidding against you?"

In business, ethics are always appreciated.

A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight (Prov. 11:1). ESV

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What Do Bishops Do?

Several years ago, a bishop in the United Methodist Church spoke to a congregation in the Denver area. The bishop began by asking the question, "Can anyone tell me what a bishop does?"

A six-year-old in the audience raised his hand and piped up, "Moves diagonally."

Well, I don’t know if “moving diagonally” is a necessary quality for a bishop; however, I know of other qualities that the Apostle Paul thought were important:

 1This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
 2A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
 3Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous… (I Tim. 3:1-3). KJV

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Soft Answer

A proverb I always try to remember is Prov. 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

A good example of how hard it is to live out this teaching is found in a story appearing in READER’S DIGEST several years ago:

            A woman who frequented a small antiques shop rarely purchased anything but always found fault with the merchandise and prices. The manager and her salesclerk took the woman's grumpy complaints in stride, but one day she went too far. "Why is it I never manage to get what I ask for in your shop?" demanded the woman.

            A smile on her face, the clerk calmly replied, "Perhaps it's because we're too polite."

Friday, December 17, 2010

Who's Flying the Plane?

I read once about a photographer from a national magazine assigned to cover the fires at Yellowstone National Park.  The magazine wanted to show some of the heroic work of the fire fighters as they battled the blaze.

When the photographer arrived, he realized that the smoke was so thick, it would seriously impede or make it impossible for him to photograph anything from ground level. 

He requested permission to rent a plane and take photos from the air.  His request was approved and arrangements were made.  He was told to report to a nearby airport, where a plane would be waiting for him.

The photographer arrived at the airport and saw a plane warming up near the gate.  He jumped in with his bag and shouted, "Let's go!" The pilot swung the little plane into the wind, and within minutes they were in the air.

The photographer said, "Fly over the park and make two or three low passes so I can take some pictures."

"Why?" asked the pilot.

"Because I am a photographer," he responded, "and photographers take photographs." 

The pilot was silent for a moment.  Finally he stammered, "You mean you're not flight instructor?"

Too many of us have photographers flying our planes. We need someone competent as our pilot. Otherwise, like the two men in the story, we are headed for a crash.

Only one is qualified to fly our plane—Jesus.   

Jesus said in the Sermon on the Plain (no pun intended), 39Jesus also used some sayings as he spoke to the people. He said:
Can one blind person lead another blind person? Won't they both fall into a ditch? 40Are students better than their teacher? But when they are fully trained, they will be like their teacher (Luke 6:39-40). CEV

We must daily reassert that Jesus is the teacher and we are his disciples.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


   In September, I turned fifty. Like it or not, I have to respect where I’m headed. Here is a humorous help that someone sent me:

You know you are getting older when…         

            1. You and your teeth don't sleep together.
            2. You try to straighten out the wrinkles in your socks and discover you aren't wearing any.
            3. At the breakfast table you hear snap, crackle, pop and you're not eating cereal.
            4. Your back goes out but you stay home.
            5. It takes two tries to get up from the couch.
            6. Your idea of a night out is sitting on the patio.
            7. You say something to your kids that your mother said to you, and you always hated it.
            8. All you want for your birthday is to not be reminded of your age.
            9. You step off a curb and look down one more time to make sure the street is still there.
            10. Your idea of weight lifting is standing up.
            11. Your address book has mostly names that start with Dr.
            12. The pharmacist has become your new best friend.
            13. The twinkle in your eye is merely a reflection from the sun on your bifocals.
            14. It takes twice as long -- to look half as good.
            15. Everything hurts, and what doesn't hurt -- doesn't work.
            16. You sink your teeth into a steak -- and they stay there.
            17. You wonder how you could be over the hill when you don't even remember being on top of it.
            18. You have more hair in your ears and nose than on your head.

             I’m going to start claiming this verse:

The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old (Prov. 20:29).


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

God is Watching the Apples

My Catholic friends tell the story of children lining up at lunch in the cafeteria of a Parochial school.  The food was served on a long, rectangular table.

The first food the children encountered was apples. The apples formed a large pile, behind which was a note written by a nun. The note said, “Take only one, God is watching.”

Moving through the line, the kids would find at the end of the table dessert, which was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies. Behind the cookies lay a note written by a boy, “Take all you want, God is watching the apples.”

Somehow, I think this violated the spirit of the nun’s teaching. We can do the same--with God.

The first step of following Jesus begins in the human heart.

We may think we are doing the right thing, but the LORD always knows what is in our hearts (Prov. 21:2). CEV

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Do You Know Where You’re Going To?

Legend has it that former Senator Dwight W. Morrow was on a train departing from New York City back in the first half of the twentieth century. Suddenly, he became aware that his railroad ticket was missing.

Talking to himself, he said aloud, “I must find that ticket.” Morrow was a wealthy man, and one of the nation’s most recognizable, consequently, the conductor said to him, “Don’t worry about it, Mr. Morrow. We know you had a ticket. Just mail it to the railroad when you find it.”

Morrow responded, “That’s not what’s troubling me. I need to find it to know where I’m going.”

It is a terrible thing to not know where you are going.

I am glad to serve a God of history who knows where He is going with it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What If It Had Been Three Wise Women?

I love this time of year. One of the benefits is the holiday season reminds me of how blessed I am to have Judy as my wife. With all of the parties and events, Judy is amazing in the way she serves others.

With that in mind, I thought of the following observation someone sent to me several years ago that gave me a chuckle:

You do know what would have happened if it had been three wise WOMEN instead of men, don't you?

They would have asked for directions,

arrived on time,

helped deliver the baby,

cleaned the stable,

made a casserole,

and brought disposable diapers as gifts!

Friday, December 10, 2010


Having preached in some Texas country churches, I appreciate the following post someone sent to me years ago. Here are some of the highlights:

1. The doors are never locked.

2. The Call to Worship is  "Y'all come on in!"

3. The Preacher says, "I'd like to ask Bubba to help take up the offering" and five guys stand up.

4. The restrooms are outside.

5. Opening day of deer hunting season is recognized as an official church holiday.

6. A member requests to be buried in his four-wheel drive truck because, "I ain't ever been in a hole it couldn't get me out of".

9. When it rains, everybody's smiling.

10. Prayers regarding the weather are a standard part of every worship service.

11. The church directory doesn't have last names.

12. The only time people lock their cars in the parking lot is during the summer and then only so their neighbors can't leave them a bag of squash.

13. There is no such thing as a "secret" sin.

14. There is a special fund-raiser for a new septic tank.

15. Finding and returning lost sheep is not just a parable.

16. You miss worship one Sunday morning and by 2 O'clock that afternoon you have had a dozen calls inquiring about your health. 

17. It's not heaven, but you can see heaven from there.

18. The final words of the benediction are, "Y'all come back now, ya’ll hear.”

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dandy Don

We lost Dandy Don Meredith this week. I grew up watching him play—my first Cowboy quarterback.

One of my favorite stories was retold by Walt Garrison this week:

“Joe Don [Meredith] looked at the world so much different than most of us.... One time he took five or six of us out to dinner the night before a road game, and then picked up a check of $250, which was massive in the ’60s.
“I protested and told him not to do that. His answer was that he’d just made a $250 profit off the evening. I went ‘huh?’
“He gave me that big grin, and answered, ‘I had five hundred dollars worth of fun....’”

Generosity blesses others.

24 One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
25 Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
and one who waters will himself be watered (Prov. 11:24-25). ESV

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Legend of Staubach

Roger Staubach was one of my heroes growing up, and I must admit he still is. Staubach still maintains a mythical status at the U. S. Naval Academy, from which he graduated in 1965.

One of the legends goes like this:

Staubach was a plebe in his first summer at the U.S. Naval Academy. Like all plebes, he was expected to be unobtrusive in the presence of upperclassmen. At breakfast one Sunday, however, an upperclassman began prodding Roger. He was backup quarterback on the football team, and was well aware that soon Roger would be in competition with him. “Hey, Staubach!” he barked. “I hear you’re going to take my job away. Is that right?”

“No, sir,” replied Roger.

The upperclassman pressed the issue. “That’s strange,” he said. “I’m sure that’s what I heard.”

“What is your job, sir?” asked Roger.

“Number two quarterback,” the upperclassman announced.

“I’m not going to take your job away, sir,” Roger assured him.

The upperclassman seemed satisfied until Roger added, “It’s the starting-quarterback job that I’m going to take, sir.”

Of course, Staubach won the starting job as a sophomore and went on to win the Heisman trophy.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Where I Used to Go to Church

An old story that has made the circuit goes like this:

A man was stranded on a desert island. It was several years before he was rescued. When he was found, it was noticed that there were three buildings he had built on this island. He was asked what they were for.

He pointed to the first one said, "That's where I live."

The rescuers were impressed.

He pointed to the second one and said, "That's where I go to church."

The rescuers were even more impressed. And then they asked, "But what about that third building?"

And he said (in a low voice), "That's where I use to go to church."

Unity is difficult to achieve in a church, even when you are the only member.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Farmer and the Mule

Kip Walker once submitted the following parable to a Bible study club. I received it in an email:

A parable is told of a farmer who owned an old mule. The mule fell into the farmer's well. The farmer heard the mule 'braying' - or - whatever mules do when they fall into wells.

After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving. Instead, he called his neighbors together and told them what had happened, and enlisted them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery.

Initially, the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back, a thought struck him. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back...HE SHOULD SHAKE IT OFF AND STEP UP! This he did, blow after blow.

"Shake it off and step up...shake it off and step up...shake it off and step up!" he repeated to encourage himself. No matter how painful the blows, or distressing the situation seemed the old mule fought "panic" and just kept right on SHAKING IT OFF AND STEPPING UP!

You're right! It wasn't long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, STEPPED TRIUMPHANTLY OVER THE WALL OF THAT WELL!

What seemed like it would bury him, actually blessed him...all because of the manner in which he handled his adversity.

THAT'S LIFE! If we face our problems and respond to them positively, and refuse to give in to panic, bitterness, or self-pity...THE ADVERSITIES THAT COME ALONG TO BURY US USUALLY HAVE WITHIN THEM THE POTENTIAL TO BENEFIT AND BLESS US!

 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4) NIV

Friday, December 3, 2010

What Preacher Said This?

What Preacher Said This:

In one hour on ESPN last Thursday evening, there were ads for an erectile dysfunction pill, a genital herpes drug and the sex-sex-sex TV show Desperate Housewives. Anyone ever wonder what happens to 13-year-old boys watching TV these days? One if our neighbors told me the other day her fifth-grade son had all kinds of questions when he saw, in early prime time, an ED pill TV ad that warned viewers that if erections lasted longer than four hours, you should see a doctor. I must live in Prude America. I just think we're pushing the envelope ridiculously far right now.

Okay. This was a trick question. The answer is: he was not a preacher. Peter King, a sportswriter for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, wrote this on SI’s website on October, 11, 2004.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep…

I, like others, have occasionally wrestled with guilt over falling asleep during my prayer time. A quote from Max Lucado changed my perspective forever—

"If you fall asleep as you pray, don't worry. What better place to doze off than in the arms of your Father." - Max Lucado

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


C.S. Lewis once wrote: "Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of."