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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Holidays and Possibilities

I was thinking this morning about people who dread the holidays.

I have a good friend who is in the middle of a separation from his wife. He can't be looking forward to this holiday season too much. Others have lost loved ones this year, like my father-in-law did a couple of years ago; everybody in the family misses Linda during the holidays. For many this year money is tight, and maybe they are wondering how they can afford gifts for their families... particularly for children. Maybe they are trying to figure out which faction of family members to spend time with this year. There are so many reasons why people might have lost their enthusiasm for this time of year, and I pray that if you are reading this and you are one of those people, that God will bring peace to your heart, peace to your situation, and joy to your holidays this year.

But there's another reason why people may have lost their enthusiasm for this time of year, and I know I've been struck by this one before: the "oh no, here it comes again" thing. Where the holidays seem like just another part of the year to be navigated safely. Where you feel like the season is a truck that hit you last time, and there's no chance of getting out of the street in time this time either. Extra responsibilities. Uncomfortable family relationships in close quarters. Expenses. It can seem like all you're trying to to is get prepared to withstand the punch that didn't knock you down last year, but might this year.

Children don't generally have that problem. Kids who have the advantages of loving families (and even sometimes kids who don't have that advantage) lofe Thanksgiving, Christmas, the whole deal. Why is that? Because they don't see the holidays as a challenge. They see the possibilities. They see that there is no school, nothing but playtime. They see that Aunt and Uncle Whoever will be in town for the first time since last year. They see that Mom and Dad will have a gift for them, and then so will Santa! They see getting to sing Christmas carols, and if they're lucky in their part of the world, they may get to throw a snowball or two. Kids see potential. They see what could be, while we adults sometimes tend to see what has been. Actually, I guess what we adults tend to do sometimes is to look into the future and extrapolate disaster. We're looking at what "could be" as well, but we don't see potential; we see heartache, or embarrassment, or tears. We are allowing ourselves to be gripped by the fear or failure or calamity, while our children's excitement grows because they believe that everything is going to be wonderful!

When God is in your life, when Jesus is your Savior, faith means what? It means looking into the future with our mind's eye and seeing that God will make all things work together for our good (see Romans 8:28). The negative version of faith is called "fear" and when we look into the future and forecast doom, we are running away from faith and toward fear. Is that the right attitude for a Christian to have? I think not.

Now, I'm not saying that we shouldn't plan for the holidays and try to make sure nothing bad happens; we want everyone to have a great time. Foreseeing things that need to be taken care of ahead of time is part of that. But once everything is thought of and you've done your best to make everything perfect, trust in God this holiday season to fill in the gaps in your plans. This is a perfect opportunity for us each to exercise his or her faith and show God that we trust Him to work in our lives.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Little Miracles

So, why are God's miracles so seldom of the "oh wow there's no way THAT could have happened other than a miracle!" variety?

I mean, I know that it's a miracle that I found my contact lens right in the center of a 12-inch square area I had just searched with my face two inches from it after I prayed, looked away, and then looked back. I had looked there. The thing is blue. Even a guy with only one contact in can't miss a blue circle two inches from the end of his nose, if he's desperately looking for it.

Recently I was looking at a Web site that postulates that because there are no thoroughly-documented cases of amputated limbs growing back after prayer, it is proven that God does not exist. That's just preposterous. Even before that, I was reading a book about prayer that talked about just such a thing... certain ailments seemingly not ever healed via prayer. The author of the book doesn't seem to have a satisfactory answer to the question of why not? I've heard that many more miracles from the "spectacular" side of the fence happen in non-Western countries... you hear about miraculous healings from missionaries and such. Some have theorized that it happens that way because faith is stronger in those places than in the West. Others have guessed that God heals them because adequate medical care is not available there; it is available here so God uses doctors to do the work. (Question: why would God force His people to get expensive, time-consuming medical procedures when God could solve the problem immediately, and for free?)

I've also heard it said that miracles sometimes don't happen because people don't have "enough faith" or the right kind of faith or whatever. Blaming it on the sick person, which seems a bit off to me as well.

I once read a book called When Heaven Invades Earth: A practical guide to a life of miracles by Bill Johnson. Pastor Johnson basically says that we don't see more miracles because (1) we don't expect them, and (2) we don't take the opportunity to do things that would create a situation where a miracle could occur (for instance, we don't pray for the sick, so they don't get healed).

So what's the answer? Man, if I knew, I would write a book and it would outsell Pastor Johnson's. I do think he is on to something; I do believe in miracles and I believe that God wants them to happen in the world every day, because signs are what leads the sinner to Christ. There must be a human element to it, too, although I also believe God can (and sometimes does) do whatever He wants to. I may not ever manage to understand God's workings in our world, but I can trust Him and know that His wisdom is much greater than my understanding could ever be!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Prayers and Blessings of Paul

I've just added pages listing some (all?) of the prayers and the blessings in Paul's Epistles to the "Sides" on the menu at my Bible verses site, The site is intended to be a quick reference for times when you may know you need something from the Word (verses about divorce, for example, or joy, of even Salvation) but don't have the time, tools, or skills you need to look them up for yourself. I've tried to do as little editorializing as I could in the verse lists, only providing the verses themselves without too much commentary, letting the Word speak for Itself. Some people would consider "Prayers of Paul" and "Blessings of Paul" all to be prayers... what do you think?

The "Sides" part of the menu is something that could come in really handy when you need something extra-fast: the entries point you directly to very famous things in the Bible that people commonly know are there but don't know how to find, like The Armor of God, The Fruit of the Spirit, The Great Commission, and The Ten Commandments. I've even provided a list of The Books of the Bible, just because I can. (Come to think of it, it would be fun to add a list of the books of the Old Testament in the Jewish Bible order... hmm!)

If you haven't visited the site and can't think of a good reason to do so, here's a teaser: there is a page with a list of verses about ESS EEE EX. You know, the three-letter word that everyone is interested in but nobody wants to let on. Go ahead... it's the Bible! Don't be afraid of it! :) Notice I didn't link to that article? Go to for yourself and find it! (It's easy... there's a link right on the front page.)

update: I've got Verse of the Day working on the new server! I apologize to anyone who was used to finding a new ESV Scripture on the page every day and didn't get them for almost a month while I got things squared away. We're back! I don't expect any more downtime anytime soon.

On a sad note, we will miss Pastor Billy Joe Daugherty very much. His accomplishments for God in this lifetime were amazing. I just know he's looking around and laughing that rooster-crow laugh of his in Heaven right now. :)

Friday, November 20, 2009

An Evening With Madeline

A few weeks ago I took Cathy and Mikey to see Newsboys at Mabee Center. As we were on the way into the parking lot, we saw something on the huge LED marquee out front: a picture of none other than legendary Christian songwriter and performer Andraé Crouch! I was stoked... we love his music (who doesn't?) but then we saw that it was a fundraising event with tickets costing anywhere up to $75 or more... it was going to be a night featuring a number of sports figures, and we quickly ruled it out based on lack of funds and generally lack of interest in sports. They handed us a postcard about the event on the way out... it featured pictures of Olympics superstars Carl Lewis and Madeline Manning along with the picture of Andraé and a guy I'd never heard of named Alfred Lee. I dropped it on the dining room table and basically forgot about it.

Fast-forward to about a week ago. My wife got a call from a cousin of hers who had some extra tickets to the event, which my wife didn't even remember until I showed her the postcard. Cathy always seems to become more enthusiastic about things when someone else is interested, and especially someone she is as close to as this cousin, so suddenly we were going!

...And we were SO GLAD we did. The baby stayed with her Meme, but Mikey came along with us. Here's the whole story: since Madeline's Olympic career ended years ago, she has continued to support the teams every year as a volunteer chaplain. However, because there are no certifying organizations for sports chaplains, she goes on her own dime, pays for her own accommodations and meals, etc. while other support staff is allowed much easier access. Training for chaplains is nonexistent, so sometimes they are ill-equipped to deal with things that are peculiar to sports figures' spiritual needs. Madeline has started an organization called United States Council for Sports Chaplaincy (USCSC) (no Web site that I could find) which will be dedicated to training, certification, and then continuing education of sports chaplains. So this was a fundraising event for that, and we did give some money on the way out because we believe in Madeline and what she is doing. But it was FAR from a dull fundraiser. This party was HAPPENING!

It turns out Alfred Lee is an incredible concert pianist, but last night he was doing something very unexpected... he had a keyboard set up in such a way that he could play what sounded like a fully-orchestrated piece, all by himself. Live. No sequencers, no backing tracks. He did it while people were on the way in, and then he did it again at the end as the olympic stars... but I'll get to that in a minute. Suffice it to say that he was amazing.

So were the other entertainers! There were singers, including Madeline herself, Sara Jordan Powell, and Ernestine Dillard (you may have heard Ms. Dillard sing "God Bless America" at the Oklahoma City bombing memorial service years ago; there was the amazing Souls A' Fire Gospel choir/band from ORU; there were dance groups, a drum corps (think marching band without the horns), and of course, the incomparable Andraé Crouch. And that wasn't all! After the intermission, greats from Olympic games in years gone by started coming down to the stage, one at a time, and they kept coming and coming and coming! There must have been almost two dozen of them up there. And these weren't the Olympic losers, either... Carl Lewis is of course legendary, and others included people like Wyomia Tyus, the first Olympic athlete to win a gold in 100m dash at two consecutive Olympic games, and Dick Fosbury, who was the first high-jumper to discover that going over the bar backwards led to better results than going over it forwards, revolutionizing the sport. There were a ton of athletes from the U.S. 1968 Summer Olympics team, and Madeline gave each of them (and the athletes from other years as well) a chance to briefly share something from their heart. It was inspiring, and awe-inspiring.

At the end Andraé came back out, and he and Madeline started singing "My Tribute (To God be the Glory)" with a CD track. Everybody from the whole show was on stage. Then I heard the CD skip once, then again. At first it seemed like it wasn't going to be a problem, but then, horrors... it went totally haywire! What were they going to do? Then I saw someone in the shadows on the edge of the stage make a throat-cutting motion, and the track faded out... and the Souls A' Fire band came in, sounding 100% better than the track, to my ears! The Souls A' Fire choir knew the background vocals, too, and the finale was incredible! My wife looked over at me during the finale and said, "Why are you smiling like that?"

It was friggin' ANDRE CROUCH! Singing MY FRIGGIN' TRIBUTE!! I was in heaven! :)

I'm so excited about what USCSC will accomplish. If you read this and think you might want to help out with a donation, here is some contact information I found on Mabee Center's Web site:

P.O. Box 419
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74101-0419
(918) 296-3967

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

NASB Bible Unboxing

A few weeks ago I got an exciting email... I had won a Bible! I had entered a contest run by Logos Bible Software to promote their new Web site, and they were giving away a bunch of brand new Bibles... and not just any Bibles, either. These were really NICE Bibles! I was gunning for a nice leather-bound ESV Study Bible. The one I won was a different one, though... an NASB Side-Column Reference Bible with a calfskin cover. When I started looking at the specs on the Bible, I realized that this was quite possibly a much better choice for what I wanted the Bible for... to take it to church! The cover would be durable, the translation would be VERY accurate (maybe even more than the ESV; NASB has a very good reputation for accuracy), and it would frankly be a little less cumbersome than the huge ESV Study Bible. I was PUMPED! I sent them my address at work so my new Bible wouldn't wind up spending a day sitting on my porch, and began to wait.

Today as I was warming up my lunch, a coworker asked me if I was getting Christmas shopping done early. She had seen something next to my door, and apparently I had walked right past it (if you're reading this on Facebook, by the way, click the link to see the pictures):

It turns out that there were actually two packages I was waiting for, both approximately the same size, and I couldn't wait to see which one it was. I was not disappointed:

"Black Calfskin Leather"... AWESOME!

I was dying to look at it, but I also wanted to share the experience with you, my blog readers, so I waited until after work to do my unboxing. Here's what came out of the shipping box:

My first look at the Bible itself wasn't terribly striking:

Just looks like a plain old black Bible, doesn't it?

Bibles always have plastic on them, but I don't think I've ever seen one completely sealed like this. Even with the plastic on it, though, I could start to smell that "new-Bible" smell... yay!

It's a fairly hefty Bible, pretty thick... the print is nice and big, so there are a lot of pages to fit in there. The cover doesn't look like much, but it is SO soft. You can't really appreciate the cover just by touching it... you have to open it and feel the cover on its own, between your fingers. It's very supple.

I definitely need to fill this out:

The Bible sits open comfortably right out of the box, as though it were already well broken in:

It has two ribbon bookmarks, one of which was marking Ezekiel Chapter 13 and one of which was marking 1 Samuel Chapters 21-22.

I've been slowly studying Ephesians from the ESV, so I decided I would read it first (which is what I did later):

There is an essay in the back about all of the books of the Bible:

I thought this map of the locations in Jesus' ministry was really nice:

There is also a concordance in the back.

This Bible is SUCH a blessing to me. It lists for almost $150, and most of that price is the cover (for comparison, the hardback version lists for $25). I expect the cover to basically last forever. The cover of the ESV Compact Trutone Bible that I've been carrying around is getting pretty worn after several years, and it doesn't have very many study helps. My favorite Bible for studying is still my ESV Study Bible, but this may be the last "carry-it-to-church" Bible I ever need. I can't wait for Sunday!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Of Course!

In my dream, I was a drop of water. I was part of a raging river, and a million other drops of water and I were jostling against each other, rushing downstream. I wondered out loud why we were in such a hurry, but none of the other drops of water seemed to have any idea where we were going. "We're just doing what drops of water do," one told me. "You can't change anything." "Well, I'm doing exactly what I want to," said another. "I'm the master of my fate, the captain of my soul!" It was funny to hear a drop of water talk about his soul that way. It was also funny to hear that he thought he could control where he was going. He was going exactly where we all were, wherever that was.

Then suddenly, as people sometimes inexplicably know things in dreams, I knew what awaited us drops of water at the end of the river's course. The river was taking us hurtling toward a waterfall, but just as we were no ordinary drops of water (ordinary drops of water do not think and talk), this was no ordinary waterfall. I discovered that I knew that this waterfall dropped into a hole, and I also knew that the hole had no bottom. Water that entered the hole would fall, fall, fall and never get anywhere, and it would never come back.

I desperately wanted to avoid the waterfall! I squeezed my way between the other drops until I reached the edge of the river, but I discovered that drops of water cannot climb out of rivers. I did find that when we crashed against the bank in a curve or against a rock midstream, I could actually jump out of the river temporarily, but I would always fall back in among the others. Some lucky drops had managed to jump at just the right time and land in little pools by the side, but I noticed that even those pools were flowing back into the river, a temporary postponing of the inevitable. There was no way we drops of water could save ourselves! We were doomed to go over the waterfall!

In despair I looked up into the sky, hopelessly trying to think of a way out before I got to the edge. If only I could fly like a bird and escape into the sky! If only I could go up into those clouds! If only the sun could somehow draw me out of the river up to where it was! Impulsively, irrationally, I cried out to the sun. Help me, sun! Please!

All of a sudden I began to feel warm. The sun was warming me! It filled me with its own heat, and I began to feel... different. I was still water, but I had absorbed something of the sun into myself. I had been transformed into something I wasn't before. I had ceased to be just a drop of water, rushing helplessly to my doom, and I had turned into vapor. I rose up from the river, and floated up into the clouds. The sun had saved me from the bottomless pit!
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world... -from Ephesians 2:1-2

I waited patiently for the Lord;
      he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction... -from Psalm 40:1-2 ESV

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed... -from 2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. -John 8:36 ESV

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bus Ride To Destiny

Every weekday morning, a bus comes by my neighborhood.

The bus has a destiny.

That bus's destiny is to go to downtown Tulsa. It is destined to get there just before 8am. Unless the traffic is really awful or something happens to the bus itself, it will get to downtown when it is supposed to. I have ridden that bus many times, and it has never failed to get downtown. I have also driven downtown and seen the bus arrive without me. Whether I am on the bus or not, it gets to downtown.

Now, if I get in the bus, my destiny becomes the same as the bus's destiny; the bus is predestined to get to downtown, and if I am on the bus, so am I. If I am not in the bus, I may not make it to downtown, but if I am in the bus, the bus and I are both predestined to the same fate.

Just thought I'd say that. Oh, and here's a Scripture. I added some italics:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. -Ephesians 3:1-6 ESV

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Bible!

NAS Wide Margin Reference Bible, Calfskin leather, Black
NAS Wide Margin Reference Bible, Calfskin leather, Black
By Bible / Foundation Publications Inc

Discover the truth in the inspired Word of God by reading the New American Standard Bible. The updated edition continues the NASB's commitment to accuracy while increasing clarity and readability. Vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure have been carefully updated for greater understanding and smoother reading. The NASB remains the most literally accurate Bible in the English language.
Last night I got an email that has me all excited. Can you believe it? I won a new Bible! Here's a link. It's an NASB with the text in a single column (like a novel, except with verses separated out like an old-school Bible) and with cross-references on the side (if you want to see the layout, click the link to and then find "additional views" and you can see several pages of Genesis). And check this out... we're not talking paperback. This is Premium Calfskin Binding... the cover should last just about forever! I generally use the ESV for my personal reading; the NASB has a reputation for being marginally more awkward in sentence structure than the ESV, but also marginally more faithful to the original texts (although both Bibles get good marks in both areas). So this Bible will be GREAT for carrying to church and using during a service! We don't even have a copy of the 1995 NASB update in our library of physical Bibles... although we do have a little paperback NASB New Testament from way back in history sometime. It may be from when the first version of the NASB was brand new (it was introduced in 1971, and this Bible's cover certainly looks like 1970's styling).

The giveaway is still in progress! As I blogged here, Logos is giving away some truly beautiful (and expensive) Bibles, and they still have some to give away in November and December. Click here to find out how to enter (you can enter five times each month... check the link for details). The event is that Logos is launching an online Bible site (you can also get to it through the LOGOS Bible search bar on the right-hand side of this blog). And, in case you've never heard of the Logos company, they make some pretty cool Bible software.

But wait... there's more!

Another win-an-awesome-Bible contest is going on at the Crossway Blog. They are giving away a copy of the incredible ESV Study Bible every day... but there are only two days left, so hurry and enter! I use my hardback ESV Study Bible for my personal study, and it's dynamite!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


A few days ago I was watching an old VeggieTales episode, Esther: The Girl Who Became Queen. In the story, which follows the Biblical story of Esther fairly closely (with a few Veggie-style touches), the king of Persia, who is apparently quite smitten with Esther (who has been selected to be his new queen via a hilarious talent show), is approached by her without her being called into his presence. Even for the queen, this is a crime punishable by... well, in the video it's punishable by banishment to the "Isle of Perpetual Tickling" (which if you ask me, might be a fate worse than death!) The king really wants Esther to like him, though, so he pardons her, saying "My little queenie-poo can visit me any time she wants!"

Okay, so maybe that's not an exact quote from the Bible story, but it got me thinking of something. In the VeggieTales video, the king spoke about Esther with a pet name, with some intimacy, showing that he cared very much about her and wanted to be close to her, even though it came off as a little bit clumsy. He didn't care about his reputation as the king; he just cared about Esther. It made me think of the desire that Jesus must feel toward His bride, the Church. He has given us permission.. actually, He has made the way and rolled out a red carpet... for us to approach the throne of God without fear of reprisal. Before Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross, people were terrified to see God, because they believed that His holiness would eradicate them completely (they were probably right). But by the blood of Jesus, we can spiritually come right into the presence of God and never have to wonder if we will survive the encounter. We won't die, because Jesus did.

Does God call us "Queenie-poo"? I kind of doubt it. :) But God does care for us with an intimacy that we cannot really understand, deserve, or fully return. So don't be afraid to enter His presence in prayer and in worship. You have already been spared and pardoned, and the King is calling your name!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Your Next Step

Last night at my church Pastor Orlando was talking about this being a time of change in the Church (not just my church, but the Church including all believers currently living on Earth). In fact, he told us to get a calendar and write the word "Change" on yesterday's date. This morning I was thinking about change and how confusing and scary it can be... with our recent church change we've had a firsthand taste of that. I got to thinking abotu walking in faith... how God promises that He will take care of the individual steps even as we plan out a course. So often we get stuck on one particular step, either because we don't listen for God's direction, or because we are fearful of taking that step. Faith isn't about knowing three steps ahead; faith is about taking the one step that God tells us to take, one at a time, into the dark (not dark as in evil, but dark as in not being able to see the next step), knowing that God will not leave us high and dry if we are truly following Him.

And I started praying for myself and for my family and friends and church, and then I prayed the same thing for everyone who reads this blog post, so you are included in my prayer from this morning. I prayed that God will reveal to me, and us, and you, your Next Step. Is it into ministry? Is it into business? Is it into a relationship of some kind, or into a physical move of living space? Overseas into the mission field, or across town into a very different mission field? Whatever it is, I pray that our Next Step will be made crystal-clear to us, and I also prayed that the Holy Spirit will encourage and empower us... provide the power and courage we need... to take that one next step. After that there will be another Next Step, but I'm praying for that one that happens NOW. The old Chinese proverb says that "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." Not a Bible Proverb, but true nonetheless... one step could be the one thing you need to get you moving in the direction God wants you to go. One step of faith will be the one thing that builds your confidence to take the next one. Soon you'll be able to look back behind you and see that you've walked miles and miles into God's will for you, and He has been faithful to you and taken you to a more incredible, amazing place than you ever thought possible.

And it all begins with the one step that you took today. I'm praying for you. Put on your walking shoes and take that step!

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Back when my son was around two or three years old, when they sang "Jesus Loves The Little Children" in his class in the nursery at church, they would always add a new verse: "Jesus died for all the children, all the children of the world..." and the rest was the same. I'm not much for reworking something that's been around a long time (ever hear someone who doesn't think he's still a "wretch" try to retrofit "Amazing Grace"? I have... whew! Not easy!) but I was OK with this change; after all, the point is to teach truths to children, and that's probably the greatest truth of all. And at least it fits into the melody. But apparently very small children have a somewhat myopic view of the world; one day I heard my boy singing it out loud and strong: "Jeee-sus dia-pered all the chiiiil-dren, aaaalll the chil-dren of the woooorld!" (Then again, come to think of it, Jesus came not to be served but to serve... and if he saw a baby who needed a diaper, gosh darn it, I believe he would have diapered that baby!)

Fast-forward to this morning. I was walking along, thinking about something I had done. Have you ever let something simmer on the inside of you until it spills out into the open? This was a sin of the heart, and nobody knew about it but me and God, but it had colored my perception of a friend and I needed cleansing. I started praying, telling God that even though I knew at the time that it was wrong, I willfully harbored those attitudes anyway, and I knew that sometimes there are consequences to our sinful actions even though we are forgiven, and would God forgive me for my sin, but also cleanse me so that my relationship with that person could be right again?

All of a sudden, I knew my prayer had been heard. I could sense that God had not only given me a gift of forgiveness, but also of a true perspective. I had been forgiven, but also made clean. I guess that's what 1 John 1:9 means when it says that not only will God forgive us our sin, but also cleanse us from unrighteousness! And then it hit me... I was a child of God that had made a mess all over myself, and I had been wiped clean, maybe had a little powder applied, and diapered with a fresh diaper! So, maybe Bible images in places like Ezekiel 16 and Luke 10 are a little less indelicate, but as a dad who deals with diapers on a fairly regular basis, I have to say, when I mess up and come to God for forgiveness, a new diapie does a lot more for me than a bandage full of oil and wine. Maybe Jesus DOES diaper all the children of the world!