Monthly Archives: December 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

It’s Christmas Eve already!? Where did the time go?

I find myself asking that question every year as we hustle to get ready for church, followed by our family’s traditional Christmas Eve dinner at Brio, followed still by wrapping gifts that will be torn open tomorrow morning. In the midst of our hustle and bustle, a little baby patiently awaits our attention.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” ~ Luke 2:8-14

As the baby Jesus rested in his makeshift nursery in a barnyard stable, angels delivered the good news of His birth to the lowliest people on earth – the shepherds. They deliver the good news to you and me, too.

As we enjoy the traditions of our Christmas celebration, my prayer for my family and yours is that the centerpiece of this beautiful holiday is always that precious Babe of Bethlehem, God Incarnate, come to Earth in human form to offer the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. ~ Isaiah 9:6

Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas from my family to yours. Taken at First Baptist Church, Keller, TX 12.24.2013

Merry Christmas from my family to yours. Taken at First Baptist Church, Keller, TX 12.24.2013

On Phil Robertson and Freedom of Speech

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. ~ The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America

We all need to step back and take a long, deep breath. Many who have voiced their opinions concerning A&E Network’s suspension of Phil Robertson for statements made during his recent interview by GQ magazine have staked their position based on a perceived violation of Robertson’s right to “freedom of speech”. While I agree with Robertson’s position, I disagree that his right to freedom of speech was violated. On the contrary, this whole flap is, in a way, “freedom of speech” on full display.

Phil Robertson photo credit: harvest.orgFirst, consider Phil Robertson, who offered an honest, albeit not eloquent, explanation of his view of homosexuality in response to a question posed to him by a reporter for GQ. Phil has the right to his opinion, and he enjoys the constitutionally protected right to express it. He was not arrested, nor has he been charged with a crime. A&E, however, suspended their relationship with Robertson because the network has taken a position contrary to Robertson’s.

Second, consider A&E. In suspending Robertson, A&E said in their public statement, “His (Robertson’s) personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.” In so doing, A&E chose a side. Some, of course, are pleased with their decision while others clearly are not. In any event, A&E’s executives have the legal right to take this action. A&E is not a governmental authority; therefore their suspension of Robertson is not a fundamental impediment to Robertson’s Constitutional right to freely speak his mind.

Finally, consider the People’s response. Some are advocating a boycott of A&E. Others have posted reprimands on A&E’s social media sites. Some have praised the network for standing up for the LGBT community. Boycotts, reprimands and praise are all expressions of opinion; and as far as I know, none of the individuals offering this feedback have been charged with a crime for expressing their views. They are freely expressing their opinion and the government has not intervened.

So, in a nutshell, Robertson expressed his opinion, A&E spoke by their action, and the People are speaking out in response. Constitutional freedom of speech is alive and well in the USA!

The Newseum's Five (5) freedoms guaranteed by ...

The Newseum’s Five (5) freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment ot the US Constitution. 1. Freedom of Religion 2. Freedom of Speech 3. Freedom of the Press 4. Freedom of Assembly Peaceably 5. Freedom to Petition the Governement for Grievances (Opening April 11, 2008) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now it’s my turn. As a Bible-believing Christian, I agree with Robertson’s statements. I would have stated it differently, but I agree with the substance of what he said. I also support A&E’s right to take action; after all, they are a proponent of gay rights and Robertson appears on their network. With that said, A&E’s suspension of Robertson reeks of hypocrisy. I enjoyed several episodes of Duck Dynasty last night – aired on A&E and starring Phil Robertson. While they’ve taken a position, their financial bottom line still rules the day.

A&E’s tagline is “Be Original”.  I’m sure they paid some public relations expert a lot of money to come up with that. I wonder what their meaning is behind those two words? What was it about those two words that struck a chord with A&E’s executive team? You see, no matter what position an individual adopts on homosexuality or any other moral issue, a person’s position is grounded in something. On the issue of homosexuality, Robertson’s position, and mine, is grounded in Scripture; A&E’s is not. Perhaps A&E should modify their tagline to something like this: “Be Original. Unless your Originality differs from ours. In that case, Be Quiet.”

(Phil Robertson photo source: Harvest.org)

On Phil Robertson and Homosexuality

Phil Robertson photo credit: harvest.orgSocial media is all abuzz after Phil Robertson of Duck Commander and Duck Dynasty fame answered questions concerning homosexuality during an interview for Gentleman’s Quarterly magazine. This statement seems to be the one that has so many people up in arms:

“It seems like, to me, a vagina – as a man – would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me,” Robertson stated. “I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.” (Source: http://houston.cbslocal.com/2013/12/18/duck-dynasty-star-a-vagina-is-more-desirable-than-a-mans-anus/)

From a purely Scriptural standpoint, Robertson’s take on homosexuality is correct. The act of sex between two individuals of the same gender is a sin. Scripture is abundantly clear on this point in both the Old and New Testaments (Romans 1 is one NT example). As Martin Luther would say, “This is most certainly true.”

With that said, Scripture also teaches that each of us has sinned and falls short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) which pretty much levels the playing field here on Earth for all of us sinners, regardless of the sins we commit. Hence, all of us are in need of salvation – the homosexual, the drunkard, the swindler, the liar, the thief, the foul mouthed, those living lives of debauchery…you get my point.

So how does the Christian respond to this issue? I believe we are to be honest about what God tells us in His Word, and in doing so we are to share His word out of an attitude of love and respect for our fellow human beings; we are to love one another as Christ loved us (John 13:34). If we know what Scripture says but are not honest in sharing it, we are not acting out of love for our fellow human being; we are doing them a huge and selfish disservice. Such honesty comes with a price, and Phil Robertson is experiencing that now. Personally, I’d rather be Scripturally truthful and pay the earthly price for that than bow to the whims of societal PC when such is contrary to what Scripture teaches. I suspect that Phil Robertson feels the same way.

Although the precept of “hate the sin, love the sinner” is not recorded verbatim in Scripture, it is a precept that Jesus demonstrated throughout His earthly ministry. I believe it is the precept that we who trust in Him as our Lord and Savior ought to live by as well, especially when dealing with sin in our own lives, in the lives of others, and in society at large. Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well offers a good example of this (John 4:5-26).

Phil Robertson also said this:

“If you simply put your faith in Jesus coming down in flesh, through a human being, God becoming flesh living on the earth, dying on the cross for the sins of the world, being buried, and being raised from the dead—yours and mine and everybody else’s problems will be solved. And the next time we see you, we will say: ‘You are now a brother. Our brother.’ So then we look at you totally different then…We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job…We just love ‘em, give ‘em the good news about Jesus – whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ‘em out later.” (See link above)

Those wanting to burn Robertson at the stake aren’t talking about that comment. I’d say he hit the nail on the head.

(Photo credit: harvest.org)

No Guarantees? Not So Fast…

Yesterday evening, as I learned of a friend who passed away due to complications from the flu, I was reminded that life offers no guarantees. Alan leaves behind a loving wife and two lovely daughters of high school age. As I lift his family and friends in prayer, I can’t help but think about my own family and how they would feel if God called me home at a young age.

Goofing off, Thanksgiving 2012

Goofing off, Thanksgiving 2012

As I write this, several other people dear to me also come to mind: a pastor friend battling metastasized cancer, a coworker recovering from major surgery, and another business friend & colleague who passed away suddenly while on vacation over Thanksgiving weekend. Each of these people woke up one day expecting a normal day; by the end of that day things had drastically changed. They all have jobs and they all have family and friends who love them, and they are all about my age.

At times like this I am compelled to reflect on my own life. I tend to live my life as if none of these things could happen to me. I go to work, I watch my football, I enjoy my family and I count my blessings. I don’t eat as well as I should, I occasionally drink a bit too much wine, and I rarely exercise. I sometimes stress over circumstances, which compared to the trials these friends are facing, are really nothing more than short-term inconveniences. My family, friends and coworkers are precious to me also. I pray for those in need of healing and those facing trials, but I don’t pray enough. I live my life as if I have forever during which to live it, when in reality, my “normal” could change just as quickly as it did for my four friends. As I take my allotment of time for granted, I realize that I sometimes take the people God has placed in my life for granted, too. For these transgressions I ask God’s forgiveness.

Naples, FL Sunset - July 2012

Naples, FL Sunset – July 2012

I’m sad today for those whom my friends Alan and Bob left behind. As I contemplate my own life I realize it’s not too late to change some things, and I will prayerfully seek God’s guidance in this respect. But more than that, I thank God for the hope He offers – real hope that each and every one of us can grab ahold of and celebrate every day no matter what circumstances we face:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. ~ John 3:16

Whether I live one more day or many more decades, my life on Earth will come to an end one day. So will yours. If I place my trust in the things of this world, it all ends the moment I take my last breath; I have no hope for eternity. God offers us so much more than that. He offers His Son as the perfect sacrifice to pay the price for my sins – and yours, too. God’s promise of eternal life comes only through faith in Jesus. While I enjoy life and the blessings God has bestowed on me, my hope for eternity is not in the things of this world. My hope is planted firmly in my faith in Jesus Christ. With that hope, even if my “normal” should change drastically today, I can live my life with no worries, for I know my eternity will be with my Lord. And with that hope, my last breath on Earth will not be the end; it will be the beginning of my eternal life in His presence.

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Until He calls me home, I resolve to live out my remaining days on Earth, whether one or thousands, with my eyes focused squarely on the Prize. I will breath more deeply, observe more thoroughly, and care more thoughtfully. I will be more diligent in prayer, more concerned about others, and more faithful to my Lord and Savior. Truly, I can do none of this on my own; but through Him I can succeed.

My Prayer for Today: Heavenly Father, as I go about my routine today, there are people dear to me who struggle with loss, illness, job transition, and so many other things. I pray for those who need comfort, those who need healing, and those in need of work. I pray that You would provide what they need. I also pray for those who don’t know Your Son, Jesus Christ. According to Your will, Lord, let me be a witness to this world that so desperately needs to know You. In Jesus’ name – AMEN.

Texas Ice

Even our Golden Retriever is avoiding the cold water! 12.6.2013

Even our Golden Retriever is avoiding the cold water! 12.6.2013

Every few years, we North Texans are blessed with ice raining from above and coating everything from roads to power lines to trees. We’ve watched countless news reports of vehicles stranded in lines miles long on the frozen Interstates – most of those are truckers just trying to get their loads through our region to their final destination. I know of at least one friend who is still without power at her home. I’m hearing that the ice storm of December 5-6, 2013 is much earlier than normal. Perhaps that’s true; the last major ice storm in these parts wreaked havoc on the 2011 Super Bowl at Jerry World.

My Redneck pool pump structure built of cardboard, 6mm plastic, duct tape and a heat lamp. 12.5.2013

My Redneck pool pump structure built of cardboard, 6mm plastic, duct tape and a heat lamp. 12.5.2013

Here in Keller, Texas we are just south and east of the worst-hit areas of Denton and surrounding communities. Fortunately we sustained no damage at my house. My pool pump, however, decided that just before the storm would be the perfect time to lose its prime. Since the motor still runs I’m hoping it’s repairable, so to keep it from freezing up and cracking I built a structure out of cardboard, plastic and duct tape. Inside of is a heat lamp that has been illuminated since the mercury first approached freezing. As I admired my handiwork the thought came to mind that even Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame would be proud!

IMG_3203We used our “iced in” time to enjoy some much needed R&R. As the ice fell Thursday evening we enjoyed NBC’s live presentation of “The Sound of Music”. I thought it was a cool production. Friday I worked from my home office, then treated the family to a double feature of “Jingle All the Way” starring The Arnold and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” featuring my favorite family man Clark W. Griswold played by Chevy Chase. Our double feature Saturday evening was “White Christmas” starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Allen and “Four Christmases” with Vince Vaughn and Reece Witherspoon.

Crepe Myrtle on Ice 12.6.2013

Life moves fast – so fast that we sometimes neglect our need for down time. Over the past few days, God gave us some much needed down time in the form of ice falling from the sky and, for that, I am truly thankful. And, as an added bonus, I am that much more ready to get back to work – that is, once the roads clear!

Lucy seemed to enjoy the frozen white stuff! 12.6.2013

Lucy seemed to enjoy the frozen white stuff! 12.6.2013

Our street, afternoon of 12.6.2013

Our street, afternoon of 12.6.2013

‘Tis the Season! ~ John 1:24-34

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer_9462

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer_9462 (Photo credit: Wonderlane)

Christmas. What’s it all about, anyway? Is it stockings and toys? Is it stress over lack of money and time to buy and do all the things we want during the holiday season? Is it a beautifully decorated tree and lights on the house? Is it a man in a red suit that magically descends the chimney, leaves an abundance of gifts, and then magically ascends again? (When I was a boy we had no chimney; I always wondered how Santa was able to get into our house)! In the American tradition, Christmas is all of these things. Sadly, for many, this is the extent of the Christmas holiday.

The next day he (John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” ~ John 1:29

Interior, St John the Baptist Church - geograp...

Interior, St John the Baptist Church – geograph.org.uk – 1096768 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Indeed, Christmas is much bigger than the secular traditions of the holiday. Christmas is about Love. It’s about a Love so big that our human minds cannot fully grasp it. God in His Word reveals this Love. Here, in this passage of Scripture, John the Baptist tells us why this Love came to earth. The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (see Romans 3:23). We need help; we need redemption. That redemption comes only through the Child of Bethlehem, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.

I’m no Scrooge; I enjoy my decorated home (my wife is quite talented), giving and receiving gifts, and gathering with family and friends. But those things pale next to the birth of my Savior. As a wise person once said, “Jesus is the Reason for the season.”

May your Christmas season be filled with love and joy!

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, Thank you for sending Jesus to save me from my sins. As I enjoy the holiday season, let me always remember and celebrate, first and foremost, the Holy Birth that is the centerpiece of Christmas. In Jesus’ name – AMEN.

Christmas Preparation ~ John 1:19-23

1-08-06 christmas tree 011

1-08-06 christmas tree 011 (Photo credit: takfoto)

Like me and my family, I’m sure you’ve begun your Christmas preparations: decorating the Christmas tree, shopping, making travel plans, baking goodies – all of the activities that bring us joy as we prepare to celebrate the holidays. As we work through these annual rituals of preparation, it is easy to lose sight of what Christmas is really all about, and the most important preparation of all can sometimes be shoved into the background as we make ready to celebrate with family and friends.

A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley; Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” ~ Isaiah 40:3-5

Scripture tells us that we must prepare for the Lord’s coming at Christmastide. It’s not referring to decorating trees, or shopping, or baking cookies. God tells us in His Word to prepare for the coming Savior. John the Baptist lived this preparation just before Jesus’ ministry.

(John the Baptist) said, “I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet ?” John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” ~ John 1:23-27

John’s message to the world in advance of Jesus’ ministry was a message of repentance. Jesus was about to enter the scene, and the people needed to prepare to meet him by repenting of their sins and being baptized as evidence of their repentance.

Guess what? Nothing has changed.

Birth of Jesus

Birth of Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I compose this essay, we are early in the season called Advent. The first season of the church year, Advent is a time of self-examination, confession, and repentance as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior. Just as in John the Baptist’s time, people are busy living their lives. Even in these days leading up to Christmas, we tend to live our daily lives with God in the background. We decorate, we shop, we party, and we plan – but do we stop amidst all of this to consider what it is we’re about to celebrate? Have you thought about Jesus’ birth, why He came and what His coming means to the world? If our first consideration of His birth comes during Christmas worship we’ve missed the boat.

Now is the time to begin considering these things. In what areas of your life is God shoved into the background? Are there sin habits that need confession followed by change? Have you done something that is eating away at you day after day as the shame separates you from God? Sin is at work in your life and in mine each and every day; we all fall prey to its siren song. Now is the time, ahead of Christmas, to acknowledge our sin, confess it, and seek the forgiveness that comes only through Jesus Christ. Give Him just a few minutes every day during this Advent season of preparation. If you’ll do that, you’ll find that your Christmas celebration is all the more meaningful as it embraces the true meaning and purpose of this wonderful holiday season.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, this is such a busy time of year. Help me to not shove you into the background of my life as I live this daily busyness. Instead, show me where I’ve done wrong so I may confess, repent, and seek the forgiveness that comes only through Your Son, Jesus Christ. In His Name I pray – AMEN.

%d bloggers like this: