Syrian Refugees – Where Do You Stand?

This is a tough one. On one side, we have those who believe ISIS is using the Syrian refugees as camouflage for smuggling operatives into the United States. On the other side we have those who dismiss that idea, citing similar fears in American history; think Nazi infiltrators blending with Jewish refugees and the rounding up of Japanese Americans into concentration camps to mitigate the threat that they supposedly presented – both of these during WW II and neither, as far as I know, actually posing a threat in hindsight. They also cite a lack of hard evidence that ISIS does, in fact, have operatives hiding amongst the Syrian refugees seeking asylum in the United States.

Sadly, in the middle, we have thousands of people who have been displaced from their homeland through no fault of their own. These people pose no threat to anyone, yet because of a perceived threat to local and national security, many Americans including several candidates for president and 31 state governors oppose their entry into our country.

My Facebook feed is rife with strong positions on both sides of the issue. I get it. People are scared, and rightfully so given the tragic recent attacks on innocent people promulgated by ISIS. But are we too scared? Are we, in our fear, playing right into ISIS’ hands?

Personally, I don’t believe that ISIS needs the refugees to help them smuggle operatives into our country. They are already here and in touch with ISIS leadership. Don’t believe me?

Homeland Security Chief Jeh Johnson told CNN on February 8, 2015 that there are individuals living in the United States today who have contact with ISIS and other terrorist groups who have “a desire to conduct an attack” on U.S. soil.”

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, not normally a pundit I cite, reported on May 7, 2015 that “ISIS says it has sleeper cells in 15 states, ready to strike.”–441764419625

CNN quoted Michael Steinburg, head of the FBI’s counterterrorism division on February 3, 2015, “there are individuals that have been in communication with groups like ISIL who have a desire to conduct an attack.” He further said that those people are living in the U.S. right now, but the term “sleeper cells” is too simplistic, because the threat is much more complicated and diffuse.

Google “United States Sleeper Cell” for a plethora of additional examples.

So what’s my point? Simply this. No one can dispute the fact that thousands of innocent people have been displaced from their homeland through no fault of their own. These people need help. They need compassion. And I believe we Americans ought to offer it to them. I do not believe, based on what I have read and heard thus far, that accepting some of the refugees into our country presents a plausible threat to the point that it is reasonable to turn them away. ISIS does not need them to carry out its mission. In fact, I would venture to say that ISIS probably welcomes the distraction that this argument offers, given the news reports cited above.

As a Christian I am called to love my neighbor. When asked to define who is our neighbor, Jesus told a parable in which a Samaritan, loathed and despised by the Jews of that time, was the neighbor to the man who had been beaten, robbed, and left for dead alongside the road. (See Luke 10:25-37).

I choose to honor Jesus by loving those who are in need, and I trust that God will protect us as we do so. For I know that the war is already won through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Let us dispense with the fear. Let us look upon these people with the same level of compassion we would want if we were in their position. Let us be Jesus to those who need to see Him through us.

While we’re at it, let’s dispense with the personal verbal attacks on those with whom we disagree. I see both sides of this dilemma; I have chosen the side on which I stand. You are free to choose yours, too. Let’s not attack each other just because we happen to disagree. Never forget that we Americans are all in this together.

Soli Deo Gloria!

2015 Photo Some Days – Flu Shot Season

I am blessed to work for a company that provides flu shots for all employees who want them. They also offer shots to family members at a discount. I caught the flu several years ago. It came on really fast while I was at work. By the time I got home I could barely move, and it had me down for a week. Sadly, I know others whose lives were lost at the hands of the flu. Don’t be a victim. Doctor permitting, get your flu shot, too!

Thanks, IMA!

Did you get your flu shot?

Did you get your flu shot?

2015 Photo Some Days – Photobomb for Charity

The semi-finals were hard-fought, even as temps soared into the 90's

The semi-finals were hard-fought, even as temps soared into the 90’s

IMA Dallas’ annual Sandblast charity event took place on September 17, 2015 and was a smashing success. Benefitting Junior Achievement of Dallas and the IMA Foundation, we moved our venue this year to the Sandbar Cantina & Grill in Dallas’ Deep Ellum neighborhood. Several of IMA’s business partners and clients participated in the event. I was particularly impressed with the skill and stamina of many of the volleyball teams, as they continued to play hard as the mercury climbed into the mid-90’s yesterday afternoon.

Sandblast Photobomb!

Sandblast Photobomb!

Of course, we managed to have lots of fun in the process of raising money for these worthy causes. For me, the personal high point of my day was FINALLY delivering my first-ever photobomb! Indeed, I have attempted to bomb many a portrait as the phenomenon has gained in popularity, but have always managed to be busted prior to the shot. This, however, was perfectly timed as two of my coworkers posed for the camera. We work hard at IMA, and I feel particularly blessed to work with a group of good, fun-loving people.

But all joking aside, we raised $15,000 for Junior Achievement, and that is a worthwhile achievement in and of itself. It is indeed a blessing to work for a company that gives so much to the communities in which we live and work.

IMA Sandblast is an annual event. If you have interest in joining us next year, give me a shout. It’s lots of fun and supports a very worthwhile cause.

Sandblast 2015 raised $15,000 for Junior Achievement Dallas!

Sandblast 2015 raised $15,000 for Junior Achievement Dallas!

Cold Call Snafu

Surely you want to talk with this guy!

Surely you want to talk with this guy!

Those of us who cold call as part of our sales strategy know how difficult it can be to get that prospect to answer the telephone. I keep track of such things, and my personal average is a live person in only 7% of calls. I typically leave a message, and I feel especially gratified when a prospect actually returns the call. It’s rare, but it does happen. I received such a return call yesterday evening. I was on I-635 in Dallas headed westbound towards home when my cell phone rang:

Me: “This is Jeff, how may I help you?”

Caller: “This is Jan Brady.” (I changed the name. I had a crush on the real Jan Brady as a boy. Might as well pretend I spoke with her on the phone!) “My receptionist gave me a message that you called while I was in a meeting this afternoon. I don’t know who you are, but she felt I should return the call.”

Crap. The name rings a bell but I sure as heck can’t place the company she’s with. I made almost 50 calls this afternoon. And to make matters worse, I’m moving at 70 miles per hour and she is talking very fast, so of course I didn’t catch her name when she first said it. Buying time and hoping she’d say the name of her company I continued.

Me: “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name. Would you mind repeating it and letting me know who you’re with?”

Caller: “It’s Jan Brady. I live in Dallas and I own a business here. You called me. Do you not know who I am?”

Double-crap. No. I don’t.

Me: “Ma’am, I’m so sorry. I’m in my car and I don’t have my notes in front of me. What company are you with?”

Caller: “This is a solicitation call, isn’t it. My receptionist knows I don’t take solicitation calls and this is why. I’m just one of hundreds of names on a list to you; you have no clue who I am, do you?”

Me: “Ms. Brady, I represent IMA. We are a regional insurance brokerage firm, and we help our clients mitigate their total cost of risk. I am actually very selective about the companies I choose to contact, and I wouldn’t have called you if I didn’t think that we might be able to add value. I apologize for the confusion. You see, I have my office phone set up to automatically forward calls to my cell so that I don’t miss a client if I’m out of the office when they try to reach me. It’s part of the way I serve my clients, and I mean no disrespect.”

I figured it was best to be succinct in my honesty; perhaps I could salvage this call.

Caller: “I have no interest in speaking with you. Remove me from your call list.”


Of course, I have replayed this call time and again in my head. I’ve banged my head against the proverbial wall. I gave myself a good cussing out. When I arrived in the office this morning I checked my call list from yesterday afternoon and found Jan Brady. I removed her from my call list – for now. And, first thing this morning, I turned off the automatic call forwarding feature on my office phone.

Some day, when Ms. Brady is a client, I’ll relate this story and we’ll share a good laugh. Until then, back to the phones.

2015 Photo Some Days – Winds of Change

The parking lot sits empty as CEC's former  home awaits a new tenant. 9.14.2015

The parking lot sits empty as CEC’s former home awaits a new tenant. 9.14.2015

Given my lunch meeting in Irving the other day, I took a few moments to drive around the office building that, until recently, served as the home of Chuck E. Cheese’s Support Center. I’ve enjoyed a successful and rather fruitful career thus far, and CEC is in many respects my favorite stop along my professional journey. During my tenure at CEC I worked with many wonderful people, enjoyed a particularly vibrant and employee-friendly culture, and helped deliver some pretty impressive results along the way.

Things change. In business, ownership sometimes changes as it did at CEC last spring. With that change came new leadership, new people, a new culture, and new opportunities. In my case as with many of my CEC friends, CEC’s ownership change led me to a  new opportunity with another firm. For many colleagues who remain at CEC it led to new digs and a new culture that holds the potential for some nice financial rewards down the road. I wish them well.

Tattered flags on the breeze in front of the former CEC Support Center. 9.14.2015

Tattered flags on the breeze in front of the former CEC Support Center. 9.14.2015

In a way, it’s a bit sad to see this parking lot completely empty with tattered flags flying outside the front door. Seeing those tattered flags blowing in the North Texas breeze reminded me that change, although sometimes painful and often inconvenient, can lead to good things if we simply open our minds and trust God for that next phase in life’s journey.

What’s changing in your life? What is your attitude towards that change? Keep your chin up and trust the Lord. And all will be well.

It’s Not About Me… John 3:22-30

Several of the churches in my area send postcards by mail advertising the latest sermon series or newly launched program. I’m always curious when the pastor’s picture is featured prominently on the card, sometimes to the point of dominating the message. What is church all about, really, and who takes center stage?

(John the Baptist’s words): “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:29-30 ESV

After Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus, Scripture tells us that He and His disciples went into the countryside. People came to Him, and He baptized them. Some of John the Baptist’s disciples asked John about this, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness – look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” (John 3:26) It’s a perfectly understandable concern, really. John the Baptist had drawn crowds for quite some time, baptizing many for repentance from sin as he announced the presence of Jesus the Messiah. Now Jesus’ time had come; His public ministry was well underway. And, with that, John the Baptist had fulfilled his purpose. It was time to step aside.

How easy it would have been for John to let ego cloud his judgment. Had he shown bitterness, resentment, or envy at the fact that people were flocking to Jesus instead of to John, I suspect that many would have understood those feelings. Instead, John took his rightful place.

Egoism is a prevalent trait in our sinful world. As defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, egoism is a condition in which a person’s motives are driven by their own self-interest, sometimes with an overt display of self-importance. We see this all the time, don’t we? Be careful here. While we may be tempted to think that politicians, athletes, entertainers, or successful business executives have cornered the market on egoism, the reality is this: Even “regular” people like you and me can be overcome by an air of egoism manifested in feelings of entitlement, self-centeredness, or perhaps through overtly seeking attention for ourselves. We have many avenues through which we feed our egos – ever hear of Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter…? Yes, I am as guilty as anybody when it comes to putting myself out there in social media and taking pleasure as the “follows”, “likes”, and “retweets” come. Don’t misunderstand me; I think social media is great. I get news and information via social media. I stay connected with friends through social media. I also take hiatus from social media from time to time when I start to feel like it is dominating how I spend my time.

What is really important? What is it that should supersede everything else? John the Baptist knew that it was Christ.

So, back to the postcards. Since egoism is such an easy trap to fall into, I suspect that many preachers and teachers are sorely tempted, and even give in to the temptation once in awhile. While some postcards prominently featuring the smiling face of the church’s pastor raise the question, I know not to judge a book by its cover. But I wonder what those preachers talk about in their sermons. Do they present the Gospel? Is their message focused on Christ and the fact that He suffered and died to save us from the eternal damnation we all deserve because of our sin? Or do they feed egos by telling their flocks that God wants them to be happy; He wants them to be rich. Is the message they deliver each week about Him? Or is it about the people and their quest for happiness and self-esteem? Do they take the stage accompanied by pounding music and raucous applause or do they quietly, humbly, and contemplatively step to their position to deliver the Word?

What about the music and those who deliver it? Are they more concerned about their appearance and what the congregation thinks of their presentation? As they lead worship, do they move or dress to draw attention to themselves, or are they entirely focused on leading the congregation in worshipping the Lord? In my church, the congregation commonly applauds after the choir or soloist sings and after various ensembles offer their music. To be honest, as a musician I’m a bit uncomfortable with the applause, and I constantly remind myself, “this isn’t about me.”

God called John the Baptist to a very specific ministry. John was to announce to the world that the Messiah had come:

Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.” They asked him, “then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” “No.” finally they said, “Who are you?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” John 1:19-27 ESV

My role as a Christian is to announce Jesus to the world as He commanded in The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20). It is not to draw attention to myself in doing so. Yes, I want to sing well as a member of the choir and when I assist in leading worship. When I play bells, I want to hit the correct notes at the correct time at the proper volume. I want to do those things to give glory to my God and my Lord. I confess that I am sometimes tempted to relish in the applause when it comes; God forgive me. As a Christian, I must also lift my pastor and all who preach the Word in prayer, that they would honor God in presenting His Word and that they would present His Word faithfully, truthfully, and forthrightly.

John the Baptist announced Jesus’ coming to the world, just as he was called to do. And, as Christians, we are called to do the same. It’s not about us; it’s about Him.

Ponder This: What is my attitude towards God? What is my attitude in worship, especially when I play a leadership role in the service?

My Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, You and You alone are worthy of glory, honor, praise and worship. Even so, I confess that I sometimes forget that, as I focus on myself and what others think about me. I confess that I sometimes give in to the temptation to bask in the positive feedback others give me to the point at which it overshadows You. Forgive me, renew me, and continue to lead me on the path of sanctification. Help me use the gifts and talents you have so graciously given me to Your glory. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.


Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Scripture text from

The Prosperity Gospel: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Modern day Christendom is under invasion by a false teaching. The teaching is very attractive to a society whose members want to call the shots, desiring to accumulate for themselves increasing wealth and material possessions; a society in which the primary focus is achieving happiness in this life.

“You have a Bible right when you plant a seed to expect the God of the universe to give you a harvest; to give you a debt-free home, debt-free cars, jobs; to give you financial interest, to make you a millionaire for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!” ~ Televangelist Todd Coontz as featured on

Known commonly as the “Prosperity Gospel”, this teaching and those who promote it are deceiving Christians all over the world into believing that God exists to meet our physical and emotional needs and wants in this temporal life, most notably physical healing and the accumulation of wealth. They attempt to support their doctrine with Scripture, albeit via significantly errant interpretations of several key passages of Scripture.

Professor of Christian Ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary David W. Jones wrote a piece entitled 5 Errors of the Prosperity Gospel for The Gospel Coalition. Jones states that the prosperity gospel has its doctrinal roots in God’s covenant with Abraham discussed in the book of Genesis.

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3 ESV

According to Jones, Prosperity Gospel teachers misinterpret God’s covenant with Abraham to be about blessing him and his descendants with material wealth; that God’s blessing of Abraham and his descendants was simply that they would be rich! Both Orthodox Christianity and Prosperity Gospel proponents teach that all believers are children of God’s covenant with Abraham; thus, we all participate in the blessings that God promised in this covenant. Prosperity Gospel proponents err in their understanding of what construes a “blessing” in this context. This blessing is not about material wealth or personal happiness. The blessing is about our perfect rescue from the eternal consequence of sin; sin that each one of us commits daily. Sadly, teachers of the Prosperity Gospel have reduced God’s covenantal promise to nothing more than a large bank account. As a wise man once said, “you can’t take it with you.”

The Prosperity Gospel is a completely backwards understanding of God’s relationship with His creation. The “name it and claim it” ideal in Prosperity Gospel teaching says that one must have faith in order to receive the blessings of God – material wealth, physical health, and other temporal gifts. With enough faith, all one must do is “claim” or “expect” the blessings he desires and God will provide them. If the blessings don’t follow the claim, then the faith of the believer is said to be deficient – sort of like trying to buy a can of soda from a soda machine using a counterfeit coin. Since the coin is counterfeit, the machine won’t dispense the drink. Does that sound like the God of Scripture to you? God is not our cosmic granter of wishes. We exist to give praise, honor, and glory to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Prosperity Gospel preachers tend to be very skilled in presenting their message. They speak with authority and charisma, often accompanied by colorful light displays, booming sound systems and emotional music. Todd Coontz, in preaching the message quoted earlier to a roomful of screaming admirers, was accompanied by organ music under full vibrato, as if that somehow validates his message. The package is quite attractive and the message is compelling on its surface; thus these teachers draw huge crowds. Jesus warned us about such teachers:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Matthew 7:15 ESV

Is calling Prosperity Gospel teachers “false prophets” and “ravenous wolves” a bit harsh? I don’t think so. In preparing this piece, I visited the websites of several known Prosperity Gospel teachers, including Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen and others. Each website I visited offers a link to the teacher’s statement of faith. In a quick read, everything they say in their statement of faith appears copasetic with an orthodox teaching, but digging a bit deeper reveals the falsehood of their gospel. Benny Hinn’s statement of faith, for example, includes this statement,

“…all believers are entitled to, and should ardently expect, and earnestly seek, the promise of the Father, the baptism in the Holy Ghost and fire, according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (bold text added for emphasis)

Sound good? Sure, it does! We Americans are some of the most “entitled” people in the world! No wonder people are flocking to this message in droves! Tie this statement of Hinn’s to his featuring Todd Coontz screaming “You have a Bible right…” on his home page and you have the Prosperity Gospel in a nutshell.

I have been burdened for the Christian Church in America for quite some time. As I read and learn more about the Prosperity Gospel, my burden is increased. Paul’s words to Timothy come to mind:

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:3-10 ESV

Many good and decent people have been drawn into the falsehood of the Prosperity Gospel. My heart breaks for them, for the true promise of God – the promise that our sins are forgiven through Jesus’ death on the cross and that we believers will spend eternity in His presence – is not the focal teaching in Prosperity Gospel churches today.

What is your church teaching you? Is it teaching you that God wants you to be rich, and that your faith entitles you to wealth? Is it teaching you that lack of wealth and lack of good health are the result of a deficiency of your faith? As Coontz stated in the quote above, is your church teaching that you can be “…a millionaire for the sake of the Gospel?” Friend, if your church is teaching these things, please hear me loudly and clearly: That is NOT the Gospel of Jesus Christ! If this is the teaching of your church, run through the nearest exit and never look back.

Here is the true Gospel: God created man in His image. Sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, and has pervaded our existence ever since. Sin separates us from God, and because God is holy, righteous and just, He must punish all who are guilty of breaking His laws. But God is also loving, kind and merciful. Because He loves us so much, He sent His Son to die as the perfect atoning sacrifice for our sins. Only through faith in Jesus are we washed clean from the guilt of our sins, and only through Him are we given the hope of eternal life in God’s holy presence.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16-17 ESV

Jesus sacrificed Himself for you and for me, not so we can build wealth and gain earthly health, but so we can be saved for all eternity. This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If this is the teaching of your church, you’re in the right place.

Ponder This: Which is truly the greater blessing: Health and wealth in this temporal life or life eternal in the presence our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Your name is to be magnified through all the earth. Forgive our sins and grant us saving faith in the redemptive sacrifice of your Son, Jesus Christ. Open our eyes and our ears to Your Word. I pray for all who sit at the feet of those who preach a deceiving message. Give each of us discernment to recognize false teachings and lead those false teachers to true repentance. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.


The Gospel Coalition



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