Thursday, September 27, 2012

I don't think so...

Ok, during a search on the iPhone Livestream app, my friend Steve came across this page (above). Notice the 3rd link from the top.

Some broadcast called "God's Healing Power". And to the left a note for the use:


Can I just say....never. It's always online, always there for us.

The power, that is. Not the video stream.

Got it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Carrying around garbage

Yesterday in Tuscaloosa I visited a new church. On football weekends I often go to church up there before heading home. I enjoy Calvary Baptist which is about a block from my place. But I had heard good things about Vineyard Community Church, so I decided to go there.

Great atmosphere, welcoming community, enthusiastic worship and a very thought-provoking, Biblical message. I enjoyed everything about it. But one quick conversation grabbed me, and I don't even know whether the young lady meant to say what I got out of it.

Basically, they handed me a bag of goodies to welcome me as a first-timne visitor. The usual stuff - brochures, statement of faith, schedule of activities. But also a name tag. Well, I peeled the back of the name tag, stuck it to my shirt, and proceeded to wad up the back and put it in the bag.

That's when the young lady spoke up. She held out her hand, beckoned me to hand her the wadded up piece of paper, and threw it in the trash can behind the counter. And she said....(wait for it)...."We don't want you carrying your garbage around with you."

What an awesome statement of the church's mission! We all have garbage in our lives. Use whatever word you want for it - baggage, sin, addictions, idols - things that clutter up our lives and keep us from being everything we were created to be. Jesus came, launched the kingdom of God, died, and rose again so that we would not have to carry our garbage around with us anymore. And the church is here to help us realize that potential.

I don't know whether this mini-sermon was intentional. But it doesn't matter, because I think it was a byproduct of a church with the right attitude. They are there to help love people and help them shake off their garbage. I entered Vineyard  feeling like they get it. Before I heard a note of music or a word of a sermon.

So wonderful to be among a community of people who know what it means to live out God's purpose. A great Sunday morning. Thanks, VCC.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Another great Saturday

I love this time of year. Yes, it's redundant for me to say so. But there are worse things than redundancy.

Today's football Saturday had all the elements. Great weather. Good food. Family spending the whole day together. Football games to follow around the country. The wonderful atmosphere of football in Bryant-Denny. And oh, of course...another Bama win.

In addition, I had some visitors from the other side of the pond. Some friends that I work with from London were in town and got to catch the game with us. And see the entire campus atmosphere. It was so much fun to show them around. And I think they enjoyed it...

What do you think?

And then the day ended hanging out with family after the game. And I really enjoyed talking football and also some plans with two of my nieces. I am very aware that my nephew and nieces are now all adults now and our relationship is different than when I was their adult uncle who needed to take care of them. But tonight for some reason, I realized how much I like that. I realize that I used to dread it. But it just hit me anew tonight how cool it is to have four new grown friends...and that they will be so for the rest of my life. Thanks, y'all, for making that transition so easy. Looking forward to the next (God willing) 20-30 years.

Well, that's a wrap on September 22. Roll tide.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012 important as what

Then he said to them, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23)
If there's anything clear in Scripture, it's that following Jesus is a matter of the heart. It's not just about doing the right things, but about why we're doing them. He wants to change us from the inside out.

Today I read an article on sexual purity that was a compelling example of this principle. "True love waits" is a noble campaign to encourage purity in young people. But I'm a classic example of the question raised by the article: if the motivation for waiting is the "carrot" of marriage - when the waiting will be over - what is the motivation if marriage isn't in your immediate future? (For example, if you're going to be single into, say, your 50's or beyond.) Since the purity was temporary, until marriage, how do you respond when temporary approaches permanent?

The answer is complicated - like it is for all life questions - but the short version is this: God doesn't want us to be pure just because we're waiting for the day when we don't have to be. He wants us to be pure because we are denying our own selfish desires for a greater joy, fellowship with the Father through Jesus. In other words, future marriage isn't my motivation for purity; my faith is.

So purity in this area is spiritual discipline that will teach us to live Luke 9:23 in all areas. No wonder Jesus says elsewhere (Matthew 5:8) "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."

The whole article is here:  "True Love Does More than Just Wait" (Relevant Magazine)

If you'll take the time to read it, I think it'll challenge you like it did me.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Train: Bruises

Last night, for the first time, I saw one of my favorite groups in concert: Train. If you follow this blog, you know how much I like them. I can think of at least two blog posts I've done on their songs: I Got You and Maybe This'll Be My Year. Well, after seeing them last night, here's one more.

It was a wonderful evening, with great music outdoors in the new Tuscaloosa Amphitheater. If you haven't seen a show there, I highly recommend it. And let me tell you, Train puts on a fun show.

They played almost every one of my favorites, including the songs referenced above. It was especially poignant when they played Maybe This'll Be My Year, since the bridge of the song is about 9/11, and the concert was on the anniversary of the tragedy. I loved listening to a large crowd of college students sing along in the part of I Got You where it samples the Doobie Brothers hit Black Water (which was popular in my college days). They played with the crowd masterfully during the title song of the Save Me San Francisco album. They brought a pack of young ladies up to the stage and had them dance and sing during Mermaid. But one of my favorite moments is depicted in the photo above, when lead singer Pat Monahan chose a young lady at random to sing to during what he called his favorite song...Bruises.

Of course, it would have helped if the random gal had known the words (and he had plenty of fun with the fact that she didn't!). But it was still awesome the way that, by singing it to and with a partner, he illustrated what the song was trying to say. Take a listen:

(Warning: There is one instance of mild profanity in the song.)

Like many of their songs, this one touches a chord of real life in a way few lyricists do. These old friends haven't seen each other for about ten years, and in the meantime they both have experienced pain and in particular a broken relationship. The point of the song is that the bruises we collect from the pain in our life are not something to run from. They actually give us something in common - yes, a topic of conversation (the surface meaning of the chorus), but more than that. A reason to be there for each other. It reminds me of Galatians 6:2.
Share each other's burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. (NLT)
Yes, we all have bruises. And we can share them with each other. We long to share them with each other. What a great song.

And what a great concert. Great music, but not just get great music from the studio. Fun. Playfulness. A sense of "where did the time go?" Next time they come near, I'll be back. Maybe I'll see you there.

Monday, September 10, 2012


I have such a smart dog. Yeah, everybody says that...but Elphie really is.

It amazes me that she remembers things she hasn't seen for months; I don't expect that from an animal. When we go to the condo in Tuscaloosa and get off the elevator on the third floor, she knows exactly what door to go to, no matter how long it's been since her last visit.

The elevator. That is the most curious thing to me. You see, when we get on the elevator, she turns and faces the door...and waits. And waits. And when we get to the 3rd floor, she gets off and heads for the door. Then when it's time to go for a walk (something very important with a dog!) we go back to the same elevator. We get in, and she patiently waits for the door to open so we can go outside for her walk.

The thing is, I'm convinced that she knows exactly what will happen when the door opens. She knows that it closes in one place and opens in another. It's gotta be like magic to her. She can't possibly understand the physics, that we are actually going up and down. All she knows is that she gets in, and, voila!, we are in a different place! She doesn't know how. Or why. She just knows it happens.

I think Elphie's understanding of the elevator is similar to the way i muddle through God's creation. His understanding of his universe is so much higher than mine. So many things are true that I don't understand. (For a nice list, read Job 38-39.) But I know that they are. I know that if I trust the revelation God has provided, I can live the life he intended for me. I don't know how it works. I don't know why. But I know it's true.

So I'll wake up tomorrow, and I'll get on God's elevator. Can't wait to see where the door opens.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Politics and Idols

As we approach the height of political season, I think it's a good time to repost something I wrote a little over two years ago. It was originally a Facebook Note (before I had a blog) and the title was "Health Care, Politics, and Idols". The references to the political hot button of 2010  (health care) is a little dated, but the message is timeless. So here it is, unedited. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

“‘I am the Lord your God…you shall have no other gods before me.’” [Exodus 20:2-3]

One of the great challenges in my life (and the life of anyone following Christ) is finding the deep idols in my life and rooting them out. I recently read Tim Keller’s book Counterfeit Gods and I highly recommend it to everyone reading this note. In it, he talks about the things we elevate to the throne of our lives, how we can identify them, and what to do about it. Of course, he talks about the obvious ones – money, sex, power, etc. But he also shows that there are many GOOD things that we place so much importance on that they become gods to us, dethroning the true God; things like family, friends, relationships, work, financial security, comfort, hobbies, and politics. I am working on all of them, trust me, and it will be a lifetime process.

But, in the wake of the recent passing of health care reform, it’s the last one I want to write about at the moment. Most of you know where I stand on most political issues, so I won’t go into that here. Suffice it to say that I am writing this from the losing side of the latest battle, and so I am writing about my own self-examination as to how important the loss is to my significance and security.

So how can we tell that something is an idol, or at least in danger of becoming one? Keller talks about several tests, but a huge one is how we react when we lose something, or when it is damaged. Check out these comments from his book and how the test relates to our feelings about our political position:

“One of the signs that an object is functioning as an idol is that fear becomes one of the chief characteristics of life…If our counterfeit god is threatened in any way, our response is complete panic. We do not say, ‘What a shame, how difficult,’ but rather ‘This is the end! There’s no hope!’

This may be a reason why so many people now respond to U.S. political trends in such an extreme way. When either party wins an election, a certain percentage of the losing side openly talks about leaving the country. They become agitated and fearful for the future. They have put the kind of hope in their political leaders and policies that once was reserved for God and the work of the gospel. When their political leaders are out of power, they experience a death. They believe if their policies and people are not in power, everything will fall apart.” [Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods (New York: Dutton, 2009), pp. 98-99]

So I must ask myself – do I consider losing a Presidential election or a battle to keep government out of our lives a catastrophe? Is God in control, or do I need my political leaders to be in control to feel good about life? Is the reason I care so much because my lifestyle is threatened? Where is my hope?

Then Keller presents another test to see whether we are trusting more in our ideology than God:

“Another sign of idolatry in our politics is that opponents are not considered to be simply mistaken, but evil…The increasing political polarization and bitterness we see in U.S. politics today is a sign that we have made political activism into a form of religion.” [Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods (New York: Dutton, 2009), pp. 99-100]

I can see this in my life for sure. It’s easy to attribute evil motives to the other side and only good motives to ours. We’re all sinners, on both sides of the aisle, so that is always a distortion of the truth.

One final set of comments from Keller are important to wrap this up. We need to understand how it happens in order to know what to do about it.

“How does idolatry produce fear and demonization? …(P)hilosopher Al Wolters taught that in the biblical view of things, the main problem in life is sin and the only solution is God and his grace. The alternative to this view is to identify something besides sin as the main problem with the world and something besides God as the main remedy. That demonizes something that is not completely bad and makes an idol out of something that cannot be the ultimate good.” [Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods (New York: Dutton, 2009), p. 100]

What is my main problem? Sin. And the best President, Congress, tax structure, health care system, or any other political solution cannot do anything about it. The only solution is God’s grace and dependence on him. It happens from the inside out, one person at a time. Jesus didn’t go to Rome to change the world; he went to an obscure corner of the world, was born in a feeding trough in an obscure village, and gave up his power to die in our place.

One final, very important thought. I am not saying that it’s wrong to care deeply about trying to help our country be the best it can be. Just as it’s not wrong to love our family and friends deeply, work hard, or have hobbies we enjoy. But in all those areas, including our politics, I must always be on guard that nothing gets elevated to the position that God rightfully occupies.

God bless us all as we strive to live for him in a fallen world.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

In the air

You can feel it in the air. As I walked outside our Bedford, Texas hotel, there was something different in the air. It's the start of college football season and I love it. Why?

  • It's something I can do with family. Most football games involve going with my family. For home games, my sisters, my dad, and the rest of our family spend the whole day together. It's like a birthday party every week. And road games are a chance to travel with family too. Today, for example, my nieces Haley and Macy are in Arlington for the Bama-Michigan game and we will spend the whole weekend together. That's time I wouldn't miss for the world.
  • But not just family..friends too. I see lots of friends at games that I don't see any other time. This weekend is a great example. Out of my team that went to Ethiopia in July, two of them live here in the Dallas area. Along with Macy and another friend who traveled with us, we will have a mini-reunion this weekend - five out of the seven team members! Stuff like this happens all the time when we go to games. And I make a point of going to games with good friends (in fact, I'm a Florida State fan because of my good friend Steve) or getting together to watch games on TV with them.
  • It's a reminder of great times with my sister Kim. We went to games together from the time I was eight years old up until her passing in 1996. I never go to a Bama game without thinking about her and my mother.
  • I've seen alot of places going to road games. I love seeing new cities and different campus atmospheres on game day. It will be fun to see a game in Cowboys Stadium (aka JerryWorld) today.
  • Scoreboard watching. It seems the whole country is connected as the national drama rolls out throughout a day. I love feeling like we're all in the same place. It makes it a small world.
So many reasons. So much fun. Let's kick it off!

Roll tide.