Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

May the Lord bless your New Year!

I guess we're old now - Julie and I, of our own accord, decided to stay home on New Year's Eve. We made a rolicking trip to Tyler today to trade in a gift we received duplicates of and to purchase a new Bible for my use here at home (my old one took a swim in Florida and has, somehow, never quite been the same!). Wow! What a thrill! Well, for us, it was fun. We we're back before 5 PM, driving quickly past the crowded Beer stores in Coffee City.

It's amazing how much effort some people make in celebrating the entrance of the New Year but make almost no preparation for the actual New year! I hope that's not you! My plan is to read through the Bible at least once this year and to read through the New Testament at least twice. In the days to come, I'll share with you some of the things I do in my personal walk with the Lord to keep it fresh all year long.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

One of my favorite Christmas gifts

Christmas day always brings surprises doesn't it? I got one today. My amazing in-laws got me "Manuscripts of the Greek Bible"by Bruce M Metzger, a book I've long sought, even with great passion, but to no avail.I have no idea how they found it but I was surprised to say the least.I also got a great portable air compressor, and a gift card. More later - I'm on the Blackberry right now.

Merry Christmas

Julie and I arrived in Baton Rouge yesterday morning, greeted ever so warmly by her mom and dad, sister Jennifer, brother-in-law Jonathan and their children, Russ and Laura. We had a wonderful day, celebrated with a cajun meal of creole for supper. May the Lord bless your Christmas celebration and grant you a wonderful new year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Lunch with Santa Claus

For lunch today, Michael Hicks, member of FBC and Director of Operation Services at the Tyler Salvation Army, took me to a little Mexican place near downtown Tyler. After lunch, he toured myself and Kris Hutchins through the facility. Today at the Salvation Army was not just a Wednesday - it was the Wednesday before Christmas which means an army of volunteers giving away toys, food and bicycles. As I stood there with Michael and the volunteers, the thought occurred to me "I just had lunch with Santa Claus!" It's safe to say many of these children wouldn't have a Christmas without the work of the Salvation Army so it was amazing to get to see it all in action.
There's no way I can adequately describe it, so I used my handy-dandy camera on our new Blackberry and captured these shots. Trust me when I say these pictures don't convey the powerful emotion I sensed while I was there. Such a graciousness among the volunteers. Deep gratitude on the behalf of the recipients. The pride of the administrators that it was moving along so well and the joy at the thought of the happy children on the other end. Amazing. Take time today to thank God for the work of the Salvation Army. Take a moment to pray for those who needed the help. Take time to thank God for his goodness to you and your family.


Monday, December 17, 2007

End of the Year

The end of the year is always a time for evaluation for me - did I accomplish what I wanted to accomplish this year? Was I passionate about what I wanted to do? Did I put my whole heart and mind into the service of the Lord? How can I better use the skills God has blessed me with in the next year? Between now and the end of the year, pray with me for God to give us eyes to see ourselves as He sees us and how He intends to use us in 2008.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Finally - a local cell phone number!

Okay, so we've been here more than 6 months now - I guess we're safe to move our cell phone numbers to a local exchange! I'd grown rather attached to the old one - I got it when I first got a phone in 2001 (had a pager up till then - how old school is that!). It's gone now, however, and if you dial it, I have no idea who'll you'll be calling. Drop me an email if you'd like the new digits or catch me so I can show off my newest toy.

You see, I deeply desired an iPhone - you know, the coolest phone on the planet? But I couldn't stomach the $400 price tag. Nevertheless, we were due to get new phones, so we looked around carefully. Our guy (who helped us through getting a mess straightened out - thanks Dale!) showed me his Blackberry, the newest one. Get this - we caught them on a one-day manager special on the stupid thing, so it was the same price as a Razor. I'm no fool! Give me the Blackberry! It has more features than I'll ever learn to use, but it connects with my machines (already tried both work and home machines with it), tracks my whereabouts on it's nifty little GPS, has a browser, cooperates with my gmail and hotmail emails, watches movies and plays music - it just doesn't "look" as cool as the iPhone. For the$300 difference, I can live with it! Ask me about it and I'll happily show it off!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Speaking of POWER SOURCE. . .

This family in the Frisco, TX area, surely makes nice with their neighbors most of the year so they can create such havoc during Christmas! Check this out!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A fine Christmas gift for your favorite Pastor

I haven't admitted it publically here, but I'm an Apple guy. Yes, I'm one of those annoying people who believe if Apple Computers ruled the world, we'd all be a lot happier (except Bill Gates, of course). As such, I keep up with their technology and buy their products (when I can). They just opened a new store in NYC. I can think of no finer gift than to send your favorite pastor to NYC to see this fabulous store in person! Here's a look at the coolest store you're likely to see!
Cool, huh?

A good alternative

Sorry to be so chatty today, but I actually have some time this morning to catch up. I received two emails last week that I thought warranted your notice. The first is a video created by a 15 yr old Lizzie Palmer recognizing our men and women in the military. I've told you of the soft spot I have for our military services - I come from a long line of veterans - so I wanted to clue you in on it. The video is about 5 minutes in length and needs a high speed connection but is well worth your time. I've watched it about a dozen times now. Click here to go to it.

The other thing I got resounded within me. As a pastor, I'm bombarded with emails and requests for protests and boycotts, especially at Christmas. (On a related note, the abbreviation "X-mas" is not "X"-ing Christ out of Christmas, but shorthand for the Greek name for Christ. A Greek X translates to a "Ch" in English). While there is a time and a place for those, many times they lead to Christians appear angry, bitter or divisive, a mis-characterization the media is all too willing to oblige. I received a "Letter from Jesus" about this issue and thought it worth sharing. Here you go:
"
Dear Children,
It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season. Maybe you've forgotten that I wasn't actually born during this time of the year and that it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate My birthday on what was actually a time of pagan festival. Although I do appreciate being remembered anytime.


How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Now, having said that let Me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santa's and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all My followers did that there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1 - 8.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it:

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of writing the President complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up. It will be nice hearing from you again.

4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.

5. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.

7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn't make so much money on that day they'd close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families

8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary-- especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.

9. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.

10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.

Don't forget; I am Jesus and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember :

I LOVE YOU!

JESUS

Another place on Sunday

I don't know if you saw it, but a gunman killed four people at two locations in Colorado on Sunday - first at a Youth with a Mission Center (YWAM - based in Tyler) in Arvada, CO and later at New Life Community Church in Colorado Springs. I'm familiar with both ministries, making it feel closer than ever before. I must confess I learned of the first shooting before I came to church Sunday morning. Throughout the service, I had to struggle to stay on task and not wonder what our security procedures are here at FBC. You can rest assured, we'll be reviewing those to insure we have a plan in the unspeakable event that a problem should arise. Pray with me for those ministries as they struggle to cope with the events of this week. Pray for those who must now plan funerals instead of purchasing Christmas gifts. Pray for Brady Boyd, pastor at New Life - he's been there only slightly longer than I've been here. Talk about a difficult transition! Ask the Lord of grace, mercy and comfort to guide them through this dark season of the soul.

Sunday Review

Wow - what a full weekend we had! From the parties over the weekend to the Christmas musical Sunday night, it was a plateful of blessing! A special thanks is due to each of you who worked so tirelessly to make our musical happen. No matter your role, your contribution was recognized by the Lord! Thanks to our musicians, our children, our decorators, our organizers, and, of course, Bro. Kern for pulling it all together. Look for pictures on our website in the days to come.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Happy Hannukah!

Today is the first day of the Jewish celebration Hannukah (sometimes spelled "Chanukah" - Hebrew doesn't translate into English very well). This 8 day celebration means "Festival of Lights" and is celebrated by lighting candles. It commemorates the re-lighting of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabees after it had been desecrated. The Seleucid dynasty, led by Emperor Antiochus Epiphanes (his name means "praise of God." The Jews altered it slightly calling him 'Epimanes' - "mad dog"), had taken the Temple and slaughter a pig on the altar, smearing pig grease throughout the facility. The Maccabees confronted the Seleucids and overthrew them, retaking the Temple, cleansing it and relighting the ritually pure olive-oil lamps contained therein. There was only enough oil for the lamps to burn for a day, but miraculously, they burned for eight days until a new supply could be obtained.
The ninth candle, in the center, is called the "shamash." It's used to light the others.

Generally speaking, this festival is always in December. The shame of this celebration of light is that although it foreshadows the "Light of the World", the people of the Jewish faith still live in darkness. Pray with me for the light of truth, given to us by Jesus Christ, grant illumination to their hearts.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Fact or Fiction - "The Golden Compass"

Julie and I aren't movie-goers. Usually, we're just cheap and don't want to spend the money. But more often than that, there's usually not anything worth our time. There's a new movie about to be released that I've been asked about a lot lately. It's called "The Golden Compass" and looks very much like the recent "Chronicles of Narnia" movie or the "Lord of the Rings" series. In a manner of speaking, it shares many common themes - just coming from the other direction. Whereas C.S. Lewis wrote the "Narnia" series to aid children in understanding Christianity, Phillip Pullman wrote "The Golden Compass" to express contempt for God and, at the end of his three book series, kill God off. Color it however you like, it's there and specifically stated as such by Mr. Pullman (here's an article about it). No matter how many ways you put lipstick on a pig, it's still a pig. That's my thought about this movie as well. It's still anti-Christian and heretical in nature. Curiousity draws me to it, but I'll wait so I don't have to pay. After all, I'm cheap!

If that didn't move you. . .

Yesterday's service was a true blessing. It wasn't the preaching or the music. It wasn't the handbells or even the fellowship among believers. For me, it was overwhelming to see so many of our church family surround Taylor Kirkpatrick to seek the Lord to heal him. I've been chided for praying out loud asking the Lord (in public!) to heal Taylor. My response to those who chided me was "Why not? Doesn't God delight in doing good things for his children?" What if the Lord doesn't heal him? Doesn't that mean God didn't answer your prayer? No - it doesn't mean that. It means the Lord healed Taylor permanently by letting him come home. I'm completely not worried. My business is to seek the Lord with passion and zeal - His business is to heal and carry forward His kingdom.
Put it this way - I'm in distribution. God's the management. What He does is according to His good and perfect pleasing will!

Beulah "Boots" McClaren

I got a call yesterday that Mrs McClaren, a long-time church member, is sick. I called on her today in the ICU area of Trinity Mother Frances. You'll be pleased to know she's doing well! This morning, she had a stent installed in her heart today after tests showed she had a 99% blockage of an artery in her heart. Wow. She's doing well and already looking forward to getting home. Please continue to pray for this dear and gracious lady.