Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Short Letter To My Daughters

I've often wondered why God decided that I should be a dad to the two of you.  There are times when I feel so ill equipped to to deal with the issues you two have to go through on a daily basis.  I still can't braid hair, nor put hair up in a decent ponytail, and me trying to coordinate clothing?  Jeans and t-shirts are the way to go and yes, I see how your eyes roll when I suggest them to you. 

You're both growing up so fast, I simply don't know what to do.  I turn around one day and Chloe, you have developed into a beautiful young lady who is getting noticed by boys.  Morgan, you've just turned eight and I still remember holding you after you left the hospital for the first time.  Where does the time go?

We've gone from "Daddy play Barbie with me?" to "Daddy, help me with my homework." 

Chloe, you are my artist, my poet, my writer.  You are one who will change the world and leave a legacy that will be looked upon by many.  Morgan, you are my athlete, my explorer, my inquisitive one.  You are the one that will excel at whatever you do, no matter what.  You will leave a legacy of your own that will shine as bright as the stars we have looked at at night.

There is an unselfish, innocent love about you both that gives me such hope for this world.  I know that one day that innocence will be gone and you will understand the ways of this world, but I know your love will help make it a better place.  I look into both of your eyes and know that to be true.

There is much much more I can write to you both, but I think I will save those for later.  For right now, I want to end this letter this way.

When I started this first letter to you both, I asked the question, "Why did God give me two daughters to help raise?".  Earlier today, while driving home from the store with Morgan, the sunlight fell on her, outlining her blond hair and bringing her freckles out on her face.  Morgan, you had such a smile on your face the it rivaled the sun for its brilliance.  And earlier in the week, Chloe, you plopped onto my lap and put your head on my shoulder and just stayed there, telling me you loved me.  Both of those moments, and many, many like them answer that.  He gave me both of you as a blessing to me.  I am blessed, privileged and honored to be the dad to the two of you.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Book Review: A Leader's Heart 365-Day Devotional Journal By John Maxwell

At first glance, A Leader's Heart 365 Devotional Journal by John Maxwell appears to be a book that belongs in a library of vintage books, as the book itself is quite lovely to look at and hold in your hands.  After reading through this devotional however, the book deserves a place on your desk, or nightstand, or wherever you may read and meditate on what you read.

For anyone having a leadership role in life, this book dispenses 365 days of thought provoking words of wisdom that are intricately tied into that day's particular choice of Biblical scripture located at the top of each page. Each day's devotion is written so that it can be read quickly, and with the space at the bottom of the page, designed to be used as a journal to think on what was written and how it can, or does apply to the reader's life.

Classified as a gift book, whether you would purchase this as a gift for a leader you know, or for yourself, this is a book that should not just sit on a shelf, but needs to be read and written in.  This is a book that will be enjoyed, one day at a time.

Please note that Thomas Nelson Publishing has provided me a complimentary copy of this book for my review; however, the opinions are my own. I have not been required to publish a positive review.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Love of A Child On Her Birthday

Yesterday was my youngest daughter's eighth birthday and what a birthday it was!  It started off with a private family only get together that happened in the morning.  We did a present unwrapping for the family.

If you are wondering about the theme here, she wanted items to help her become a magician.  The party theme however had to be Scooby Doo.

Later on that day her Papaw took her to Six Flags Over Texas where she rode as many of the rides as she could squeeze in.

Then we went to Shogun for her birthday dinner.  The Chef who gave us quite a show actually allow Morgan to try her hand at the grill!

Then we did presents again.  The roll of one dollar bills had to be one of her favorites.

Although the pillow pet came in very close.

All in all she had a great day and I was very happy for her.

Now the part I wanted to come to, the reason for this blog post.  My wife has been sick lately and has been putting off going to the doctor.  My youngest daughter looks at her mommy and says, if you go to the doctor now, I'll pay for it, and hands over her roll of one dollar bills. 

Unconditional, unselfish and true agape love as demonstrated by my eight year old daughter.  Did I mention how very proud I am of her?


Saturday, September 11, 2010

I remember 9/11

We had said our wedding vows two days earlier in Las Vegas.  My wife's parents were still there.  We woke up to a day that was sunny and bright, and I settled in to work from home, and my wife was heading out to work.  I turned on the television to CNN like I always did and saw that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center Towers.  I thought to myself  wow!  As I worked, I looked up and saw the second plane crash into the other tower.

At that point I thought "What the hell?".  Hell was what it was to become as I watched the events of 9/11 unfold from my living room in Dallas, TX.  After the Pentagon was hit, I called my wife and she said she was coming home.  The area she worked in was being evacuated as a precaution.

The hardest thing to watch, and I still remember the images as clear as day nine years later, were of people jumping off of the Trade Center Towers to their deaths below on live television.  The other image I will never forget was seeing clear skies over Dallas.  No airplanes in the sky at all.  My wife and I knew the world had changed forever.

On this day, I ask you to take a moment and pause and reflect, and then offer a prayer to God.  Pray for those who lost loved ones on that day, many of whom still need some sort of closure.  Pray for the situation in New York over the proposed mosque near ground zero.  Pray for those who would commit an offense like this again, that they would meet Jesus and renounce those radical ways.  And pray for our country an the leaders of this country.  Most of all just pray.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Book Review: Out Live Your Life by Max Lucado

When you die, will what you have done in life outlive you?  Are the things you are doing in life right now going to make a difference when you are gone?  If you want to make a difference in life, even if it is just in the life of a single person then the newest book by Max Lucado, Out Live Your Life   You Were Made To Make A Difference is the book that you will want to read.

Taking his cue from the Book of Acts from the Bible, Mr. Lucado, using both fictional and real life anecdotes illustrates many ways to make life count.  From simple hospitality and inviting friends and neighbors over for dinner in your home, to making eye contact and actually listening to a homeless person on the street that will come up to you for a handout, you will be shown how doing these and other actions not only emulates Jesus and his teachings, but that you are actually serving Jesus when you do them.

Reading this book is not the only thing to do with it however.  In the back of the book is a section dedicated to discussion and action.  Each chapter comes with discussion questions to be talked about, and action items to be used as a starting point to go out and simply do.  This is not only a great book to go through individually, but will be a wonderful book to use for group study.

If you want to make a difference in life and are not sure how to, then I recommend this book to you.

Please note that Thomas Nelson Publishing has provided me a complimentary copy of this book for my review; however, the opinions are my own. I have not been required to publish a positive review.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Praying Through Ramadan With Open Doors -- The Last Day

This is the last day of Ramadan. Thank you for praying with me during this. I urge you to please keep our brothers and sisters in Christ in continued prayer, even as this month ends.

For Indonesia

Sept 9 | Indonesia
With the world’s
largest Muslim population, Islamists incite violence against Christians and use legal means to oppress the church. Pray that God would grow and sustain His church as they stand firm in the faith.

“Spread Your protection over them, that those who love Your name may rejoice in You.” (Ps 5:11)


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Pray Through Ramadan With Open Doors -- Day 29

For those in Bahrain

Sept 8 | Bahrain
Without restrictions on religious choice, converts from Islam are often shunned by society. Pray for Christians to share their faith boldly and for God to protect and sustain new believers through His Word.

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He…who will sustain you.” (Isa 46:4)


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

It is not Un-American It is Free Speech

In an earlier post I stated that the church in Gainesville, Florida should not burn the Quran, but instead if they wanted to make a statement, that statement should be one of the entire church, as a corporate body on its collective knees in prayer.  I still stand by that. 

However, I heard something today that chilled me. 
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the administration hoped that more Americans would stand up and condemn the church's plan.
"We think that these are provocative acts," Crowley said. "We would like to see more Americans stand up and say that this is inconsistent with our American values; in fact, these actions themselves are un-American."(emphasis mine)
Since when is exercising your first amendment right to Free Speech and Freedom of Expression un-American? I agree that what they are doing is not the best way to protest, as I have indicated above and in my previous post, but seriously?  Un-American?

Washington needs to suck it up here and take a giant step back.  The church, in my opinion, is doing the wrong thing here by planning on holding the Burn the Quran day, but it is their right to do so in this country.


Pray Through Ramadan With Open Doors -- Day 28

If there is one area on earth that needs pray this is it.

Sept 7 | Palestine
On the West Bank there is no official opposition, but secret believers experience pressure from family and community. Pray for strength for those trapped in the political crossfire in Gaza.

“Strengthen me according to Your word.”
(Psalm 119:28)


Monday, September 06, 2010

Pray Through Ramadan With Open Doors -- Day 27

Praying for those in Ethiopia.

Sept 6 | Ethiopia
Persecution comes from Muslim extremists and the Ethiopian Orthodox church in the form of social ostracism, threats and physical abuse. Pray that believers would be equipped and restored through seminars.

“God places the lonely in families… He leads forth the prisoners with singing” (Psalm 68:6)

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Thoughts on Psalm 23 Part 2

 In part one of my thoughts on Psalm 23, I talked about verses 1, 2 and 3.  In part two, I would like to finish discussing the rest of the psalm.

I know that in part one I talked about the fact that to me this psalm spoke about the calming influence of personally knowing God and His Son, Jesus in your life.  That when you are stressed, when you feel the chaos of the world closing in on you so much that you are apprehensive and afraid, that God calms you, restores your soul and allows you rest.  I still believe that this is part of what is said from this psalm.  But there is another part of this that speaks to me as well, and I wanted to share that with you, with the remaining verses.

Verse four is perhaps one of the most quoted verses of the Bible.  If you have ever been to a funeral, or seen one on T.V., or have read about one in a book, chances are you have read or heard the following:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. (Psa 23:4)

We will all die someday.  It is a fact that one day, we will cast off these bodies of flesh and depart from this world into the next.  To most people, this is a frightening thought, a day looked upon with dread and fear.  Not so for the person who has that personal relationship with Christ.  For a true follower of Christ, one who has trusted his life, his eternal salvation to Jesus, that day is looked upon with longing and joy.  As Paul said, "to be absent from the body is to be with the Lord"!

When David was speaking of the "shadow of death,", what exactly was he speaking of?  In the original Hebrew, the term "shadow of death" was  צלמות (tsalmâveth pronounced tsal-maw'-veth) which meant
shade of death, that is, the grave (figuratively calamity): - shadow of death.
So I believe David meant the grave here.  David was not afraid to die, as he knew his God was with him, and not only that but God protected David as well. "Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."  Imagine the sheep that a shepherd took care of.  The rod and staff of the shepherd was what was there normally to provide protection to the flock as well as help lead a wayward sheep or lamb back on the path with a gentle nudge.  This is what David is conveying here, I believe.

Then we come to verse five, which again I believe to have more than one meaning here, both in this life and the next.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. (Psa 23:5)
In biblical times when you were invited into a camp or house, you were the honored guest and as such you were afforded certain rules of hospitality.  One was that you were anointed with sweet smelling oil, as well as offered water to wash off the dust with.  Another was that even if you had enemies pursuing you, you would be protected and given food and drink.  Here we see that as David knew that God would provide for him, and believed that with all his heart, so should we believe that God will provide for us as well in this life.  And God provides for us in the next life as well, and this is even in the presence of our spiritual enemies, Satan and his demons.  Jesus himself said:
Joh 14:2-3 NASB  "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  (3)  "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
So if we are having places prepared for us, then doesn't it stand to reason that we will have tables, oil and cups prepared for us as well?  To be honest, I am both thrilled and overjoyed at this prospect!

Finally David ends his psalm with verse six.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.(Psa 23:6)
What a great message to us, especially in this chaotic day and age.   The word "surely" to me acts as a promise from God.  In all the days we live, from the happy, joyful days, to those days that are the blackest and darkest, God's goodness and lovingkindness (mercy in the King James Version) are there with us.  You can count on that.  And knowing that you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever, well, what more could you say. 

David's 23rd psalm is one of the most recognized and quoted from the Bible.  But when you hear it or read it, don't just think of it as mere words to be spoken or read; think of it as God's promise to David.  And to you.


Pray Through Ramadan With Open Doors -- Day 26

Please continue your prayers.

Sept 5 | Jordan & Syria

Uphold Iraqi Christians who have fled to Jordan and Syria. Pray that isolated Christians will find other brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage them as they walk with the Lord together.

“The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow….” (Psalm 146:9)


Saturday, September 04, 2010

Pray Through Ramadan With Open Doors -- Day 25


Sept 4 | Morocco
Openness to the gospel of Christ is increasing even while government restrictions continue on Christian activities. Pray for needed Bibles and Christian literature.

“I urge that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone…” (1 Tim 2:1)


Friday, September 03, 2010

Thoughts on Psalm 23 Part 1

Psalm 23 is perhaps one of the most well known parts of the Bible, as it, or at least a part of it is said at almost every funeral I have attended, seen, heard, or have talked about.  It is also the subject of last weeks sermon at my Church and the topic of discussion at our community group meeting we had this week.

There were several things said about this Psalm, and I wanted to convey some of them here.  I am using the NASB translation.

A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.(Psa 23:1)
The first thing that was looked at, was not the fact that the Lord was being compared to just any shepherd, but this was an intimate, personal saying.  The Lord is my shepherd.  Not just any shepherd on the block, or not just anybody's old shepherd, but mine.  This reveals a very personable relationship that goes beyond friendship.

You might wonder why a shepherd?  Well, if you look at a shepherd, you would see a few things that make a shepherd stand out.  In biblical times, a shepherd was usually not the best profession around.  A shepherd was looked down upon by most people.  They spent time among the sheep they tended, probably didn't bathe very regularly, and well, you get the picture.  However, the shepherd protected the sheep they looked after, fighting off wild animals, looking for them if one or more became lost, and carrying one if it were injured and could not walk.

A shepherd also was around the sheep so much that the sheep knew the shepherd's voice and would come if called.  There was much trust there, between sheep and shepherd.

So David calls the Lord, his shepherd, his personal shepherd, as we all should.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.(Psa 23:2)
The second verse of this Psalm caused a little bit of an animated discussion among our community group.  One person wanted to know, why wold God make anyone do anything, as David says, makes me lie down.  Now the Hebrew word here is רבץ (râbats pronounced raw-bats') and means the following:
A primitive root; to crouch (on all four legs folded, like a recumbent animal); by implication to recline, repose, brood, lurk, imbed: - crouch (down), fall down, make a fold, lay (cause to, make to) lie (down), make to rest, sit.
 So the question posed was, "why would God make us (or David) lie down as a sheep in a green pasture?".  Personally I think that there is a couple of reasons. One, there is that matter of trust.  Do we trust God to know us better than we know ourselves, and two, sometimes we may not know when we need a rest.  Have you ever gone on doing something, say, like working, to the point of exhaustion simply because something needed to be completed on time?  I believe that this would be the case of God knowing when we needed a rest and therefore would make us lie down to rest.  Do we follow the doctor's orders if we are placed on bed rest?  Well, then if the greatest physician of all tells us to rest, who are we to argue?

In this particular verse,  I believe that we are God's sheep and as such we must trust the shepherd to know what is best for us.  David did.  Now before you decide to take offense at being called a sheep of God, please remember a couple of things about Sheep in biblical times.  One, sheep were considered a very valuable possession and as such sheep were bought at a great price.  Two, a person's or a family's wealth would sometimes be measured in how much livestock was owned.  And yes, that included sheep.  So God would value you as a prized possession, purchased with the greatest cost imagined.  I don't mind being thought of as one of God's sheep.  I am glad he purchased me!

He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.(Psa 23:3)

Let me ask you a couple of questions.  Have you ever experienced stress?  Have you ever taken a path in life that you regretted as it perhaps made you do things you thought you never would or could?  Most stress in life, at least the way I perceive it, is self induced, and usually brought on by walking down paths you really shouldn't have.  Having stress brought on by financial problems?  Was it perhaps because you decided to purchase things you didn't need, or you were living above your means?  That is but one example.  In verse 3, the Shepherd of David's psalm, the Lord God, does two things to David.  He restores David's soul, and He guides David in the righteous pathways for His (God's) own sake.  So what exactly does this mean?

Once again, I would like to go back to the original Hebrew.
The word restores in the original Hebrew is שׁוּב (shûb pronounced shoob) and one of the meanings of this word is:
A primitive root; ... recall, recompense, recover, refresh, relieve, render (again).
Now, I have to be honest is saying that I am not sure as to what period of David's life that the 23rd Psalm was written in, though I will find out if I can.  But two things come to my mind that would make David's soul need restoring, or refreshing.  Those times would have been when David was being pursued by King Saul, and when David sinned greatly with Bathsheeba. Both of those times surely must have caused David much stress in his life, to the point that his soul was probably restless and troubled.  Yet both times, David's soul was restored at the time God deemed it ready to be restored.

Now the other part of this verse is that God leads David (and us) in the path of righteousness, for His (God's) name's sake.  I want to highlight the word "sake" here.

Sake in the Hebrew is  שׁם (shêm pronounced shame) and means
A primitive word (perhaps rather from H7760 through the idea of definite and conspicuous position; compare H8064); an appellation, as a mark or memorial of individuality; by implication honor, authority, character: -  + base, [in-] fame [-ous], name (-d), renown, report.
What I take out of this is that God leads us on this path because one, this is his character and his character is one of perfect righteousness, and two, he does it to bring glory to himself.  If his people (including me) are living lives of righteousness, then we bring glory to God.  I know that I want to live a life of righteousness, but there are times in which I do stray, just like a wayward sheep.  God, as my shepherd, leads me back on that path of righteousness that I should not have strayed off of.

As for the rest of the verses of this psalm, I will continue this discussion in a second post a little later as it is late and I am ready to retire for the evening.


Pray Through Ramadan With Open Doors -- Day 24

As I am posting these, I really am ashamed that I have to look up a good number of these countries.

Today is for Djibouti

Sept 3 | Djibouti
Much of the pressure on Christians comes from communities and families. Pray for the encouragement and protection of secret believers and for an extraordinary revelation of God.

“For You alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Rev 15:4)


Thursday, September 02, 2010

Pray through Ramadan With Open Doors USA -- Day 23

Praying for those Brothers and Sisters in Turkey

Sept 2 | Turkey
Despite constitutional religious freedom, government restrictions on religious groups persist. Pray that church leaders will stand strong as they endure persecution and for the protection of Turkish believers who speak out boldly for their faith.

“…we rise up and stand firm.” (Psalm 20:8)


Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Pray through Ramadan With Open Doors USA -- Day 22

For Zanzibar, also part of Tanzania

Sept 1 | Zanzibar Islands
Pray for God’s hand in helping to register churches, get property, pursue education, and find employment. Pray for boldness among Christian foreign workers and fellowship for indigenous believers.

“May my cry come before You, O LORD; give me understanding according to Your word.” (Ps 119:169)