Friday, December 18, 2009

Gotta Love America...

I received the attached link from my father-in-law about an event that transpired at the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado a number of years ago. I know that the people who read my blog have a deep love for our great land; you will love this wonderful 3 minute segment. Enjoy it and then stop and thank God for the privilege of being an American.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

$500,000 and Counting...

This past Sunday was our World Mission Offering ingathering at FBC. It is always a special day of worship and sacrifice as we seek to assist our Southern Baptist mission sending agencies to reach the world for Christ. Our goal for 2009 was $425,000. At the end of the late service the FBC administrator handed me the adding maching tape for the announcement on how much we had received in our two morning services. When he handed it to me he said, "You might want to sit down" and was he ever correct. The total I was privileged to announce was $496,419. I was blown away! This is the largest one-day offering since I have been the pastor of FBC and, if I'm not mistaken, the largest missions offering in the history of the church. So what have I learned from this...

1) God does do exceedingly and abundantly above anything we can ask or imagine when we trust Him. He cares far more for missions around the world than I do so why would He not provide a truly excellent offering.

2) We can always do more together than we can ever do apart. I believe in the Cooperative Program of the SBC for this reason.

3) My faith is sometimes too small! I had prayed earlier that morning for us to have over $300,000 that day with full confidence we would collect the balance before year-end. My prayer was far too small as God far exceeded my expectations.

4) It was again confirmed to me just how great a church God has allowed me to pastor. I'm proud of you FBC Odessa! You have done, and are doing, a splendid job for the cause of Christ here and around the world.

God bless you all and thanks for your willingness to give to missions! We are over $500,000 and still counting...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pondering Major Change at the IMB...

The following was written last week as I was preparing to travel back to Texas from my most recent trustee meeting with the International Mission Board. I encourage you to read this and pray for the Southern Baptist Convention. Exciting days are before us!


I write from a hotel room in Jacksonville, Florida, having just completed a trustee meeting with the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention. Over the last three days I have attended numerous committee meetings to discuss the on-going work of the IMB. This gathering has been like no other during my trustee tenure as Dr. Jerry Rankin, president of the IMB, announced his retirement to the board during the plenary session yesterday. The announcement should serve as an explicit call to prayer to all Southern Baptists for such a time as this. Why do I say this? Read on...

Who is the most important person living on planet earth at this time in world history? Some would say the president of the USA while others would declare the most important person on earth to be those who control the world's petroleum or financial markets. I beg to differ. In my humble opinion the most important person at this time in world history is the president of the largest mission sending agency on planet earth. Why would I make such a bold statement? Please consider that this man has the responsibility of mobilizing an aggressive force of missionaries to go into all the world declaring the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He has the responsibility of establishing a strategic vision for carrying out the Great Commission in countries like Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia where if you convert to Christianity and it is discovered, you are executed with about as much forethought as one would have when swatting a common house fly. He has the awesome responsibility of humbling himself before the Lord so that God will fully use him to lead over 5,000 full-time missionaries to take the ONLY eternal message to "every nation, tribe, people and language" so that the multitudes can stand "before the throne and worship the Lamb." (Rev. 7:9) If you believe that this Gospel we treasure must be preached around the world before the end will come, you must believe that this position is one of the most important - if not the most important - on planet earth.

With this understanding, we as Southern Baptists should hear a clear call to prayer for the search committee who will be responsible for recommending Dr. Rankin's successor. Only God knows who this person will be and Southern Baptists had better get it right as we discover God's will in this matter. To fail at this crucial time in history and place the wrong man in this position would do damage to the forward movement of the Gospel message for decades to come. Prayer is the most important safeguard to ensure this does not occur.

God bless you!

Friday, September 4, 2009

"The Truth Project" and Other Happenings...

Well I'm back from blog sabbatical. Tons of "things" have kept me from spending time writing, but I am back at it again.

"The Truth Project" - If you were not at FBC-Odessa this past Wednesday for part 1 of "The Truth Project" you missed a great time of learning. The first session was all about truth (as you might imagine), what it is and is not. We spent an hour unpacking the importance of truth and how it determines everything when it comes to answering the question - "Do I really believe that what I say I believe is really real?" It was fantastic material and you don't want to miss part 2 this coming Wednesday. When we gather next week we will move out of the Fellowship Hall and back into the Sanctuary so we can accommodate our 14 foot viewing screen. This will make it an even more enjoyable time together. Invite a friend and come on - you won't regret it!

Last Wednesday we had over 700 people on our campus. AWANA had 210 children, we had a hundred students, 130+ in choir/orchestra, 160+ in discipleship, when you add in workers on top of these numbers it was a great night. Therefore, let me extend a huge THANK YOU to all who work hard to make Wednesday at FBC so wonderful! You are doing a great job. Keep up the good work.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fitness Recovery Update - #4

Hey folks, it is good to be back. This morning I've been humming that old song "Back in the Saddle Again" as I ponder the kids going back to school and the approaching change of seasons. I want to take a few minutes and update you on my Fitness Recovery Program as I have just concluded week 8.

This morning I hit the pavement at 6:30. It was still dark outside and I was thankful for the streetlights as I ran through our neighborhood. If you will recall just seven short weeks ago (on July 4) I got off the couch after having not run in several months and got back into the running game. I ran/walked 3 miles that hot, hot day in 37:21. This morning I ran 4 miles in 39:23. Last week I ran 19 miles (2 - 4 mile runs, 1 - 6 miler, and 1 - 5 miler). I am well pleased with my progress as I have not experienced any Achilles Tendonitis issues or any other pains of note. So I'm on my way back as a runner and I'm thanking God totally for the ability He has given to me.

But what about the weight loss goal? As of Sunday morning I have lost 20.6 pounds. If you remember I was only planning on losing 30 total. Perhaps I will revise this and stay on the same eating regimen longer, we'll have to see about that. As of now, I am again well pleased and I look forward to the next 8 weeks and the progress I believe will come. God is good!

Several people have asked me about running and how they could get started enjoying the sport. Being totally honest, more have wondered why in the world I would ever want to go run 6 miles as in their eyes this must be a special form of insanity. Perhaps they are right. But for those of you who have the same insane tendencies as I and would like to go pound the pavement but are not quite sure how, I offer these thoughts. I do not profess to be an expert in this area, so what I share are simply my opinions and what I have found works for me.

1) Set a goal. What do you want to do with your running? Do you just want to build your endurance to where you can run 1 mile or do you want to run 3 miles or maybe 10 miles? Do you want to run for weight control purposes only or would you like to run with a goal of completing a 1/2 or whole marathon? Whatever the reason, setting a goal will help. Being specific and writing the goal down also makes a difference.

2) Go run. It is a proven fact that you cannot become a runner without running. If you are unwilling to log the time on the pavement or treadmill you will not become a runner. Usually this is the most difficult step in the running process but once you get off the couch and begin to feel the positive benefits your motivation to become a runner will increase.

By the way - I detest the title JOGGER. I mean, who wants to become a JOGGER? JOGGING conjures up all sorts of counterproductive images in my mind. You don't even have to train to JOG. There are no goals involved in JOGGING, much less any sweat. Besides, almost anyone can JOG but not everyone can be a runner. I am a runner. To misspeak and call a runner by the slanderous title of JOGGER is to level an almost unforgivable insult. But, I digress...

3) Persevere. If you are unable to run very far (notice I didn't say "JOG"), then start out running for 1 minute and walking for 2 minutes. Use this formula for 10 days to 2 weeks and you will begin to see improvement. When you do, you need to increase the stress level a little so why not reverse the times and run for 2 minutes and walk for 1. After 10 days to 2 weeks of this, slowly increase your time spent running and decrease your time spent walking. You will see results quickly, but be flexible. These rules are not rules carved in stone, they are only suggestions. Modify them to fit your life and ability.

4) I do not run for time, I run for distance. I don't go out to run for 4o minutes. If I want to run 40 minutes, I am going to run 4 miles. If you've not run in a long time, I recommend beginning the run/walk combination for 2 miles at first. When this becomes less difficult then simply increase the mileage slowly. As you will notice I said "slowly" increase the mileage.

5) Run long enough that you run beyond the pain. I remember being told that most people quit running before reaching a point where their body has adapted and there is little or no pain as they run. They give up because until you get into shape, running can be somewhat painful. Muscles hurting and lungs burning is not particularly pleasing and fun. However, if you are to become a runner, you have to be consistent enough with your training that you get into shape and can run for the desired length of time with little or no pain. When I run I'm not feeling pain. I do feel the effects of the run for a while afterwards but my muscles and lungs no longer burn during the run. The only time I notice anything other than the cadence of my feet on the pavement and my corresponding rhythmic breathing is when I push the pace enough to take me out of my comfort zone. This is a good occasionally as it improves fitness; however, running in pain is not fun. I've been there and done that enough and prefer to enjoy my running rather than it being something I loathe.

There you have it - a few helpful hints to those of you who have asked about my running. Believe me, there is nothing scientific about what I have shared above. If you are looking for something more advanced and "official" I recommend checking out the Runner's World website. And if you have not been physically active in quite some time, I also recommend checking out your doctor - or, better yet, letting your doctor check you out.

Have fun and thanks for reading!

Have a blast on the pavement; I know I am.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

So Much To Do, So Little Time...

The title sums up my pastoral experience at this moment. I have done two funerals this week with another starting in less than 90 minutes. There seems to be so much to do and so little time right now.

But don't lose hope. I will be back shortly and will be sharing some more thoughts and ponderings from my heart as I blog later in the week.

As of now, please pray for the Ecuador mission team as they are doing VBS in this distant land even as I write. Please pray that they will boldly share Jesus with those they come in contact and that they will never be ashamed of the Gospel. Please pray for their safety and that God will pour out His blessings on their efforts in such a way that every member of the mission team will be changed in a real and tangible way.

God bless and I'll be back in touch soon.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

FRP Update - #3

Last Saturday marked the completion of week four since I have been running again. I have come far since that very hot July 4th afternoon and am well pleased. I have run four times a week every week except last. I ran three times last week but two of those run were four miles each. When I began four weeks ago I ran/walked the three miles in excess of 37 minutes. That is so slow that I’m almost ashamed to put this in written form, but if I don’t, there is no point in updating my progress to you. I ran the same 3 mile route yesterday morning in 30:21 – over seven minutes faster than my initial run. I have long been amazed at the human body as a creation of God. When faced with regular physical challenges, the human body quickly responds. The heart is an amazing muscle and adapts extraordinarily when pushed pushed beyond normal limits. God is amazing! All that said, yes, I’m pleased with my running progress and look forward to extending my distances in the weeks ahead.

This past Sunday I visited with a friend named James at FBC-O about running as he is taking up the sport. Talk turned to shoes so I thought I would answer his question on-line. Every runner who has logged more than a few miles is very opinionated regarding the best shoe on the market. I am no different. Asics are my favorite shoes, hands down. More specifically, I run in Asics GT-2140’s with extra inserts for increased padding. This shoe/insert combination is wonderful and works well for me. I have switched to a different Asics model only once and had some ankle issues so I stick with what has worked for many miles and have no plans on changing again.

My 1700 calorie per day diet has been successful in spite of having wanted to lose weight at a more rapid pace. In the five weeks I have been following the eating program outlined in a previous blog, I have lost 14 pounds. It sounds better than it is because of the huge weight loss in week one; however, I have averaged 1 pound per week since so that's not too bad. I am contemplating reducing the calorie intake by 200 per day, but we’ll see on that. A better alternative would be to insert 3-4 days of weight training, but we’ll also see on that.

That’s my update for now. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pondering the Existence of Dinosaurs...

Last night in Q&A at FBC Odessa I attempted to answer one of the most asked questions we have received over the past four weeks – Dinosaurs. Were their dinosaurs on earth? When were the dinosaurs present? What happened to dinosaurs? Where is the reference to dinosaurs in the Bible? Were their dinosaurs on the Ark?

These are good questions because they challenge us to dig deeply to determine what we believe regarding the Bible, science and creation. To this end, I want to ponder the issue of dinosaurs a little further for those who may not have been able to attend last night but have some of the same questions. I begin with some basic presuppositions.

First, I am not a paleontologist and did not take courses on paleontology in college or seminary. I also am not a physicist or archeologist. The following has originated from personal study and is the basic understanding that forms my beliefs in this area. Second, I am a creationist. The Bible teaches creationism. Any attempt to substantiate an evolutionary hypothesis from Scripture is a stretch that does not work. I do believe in the adaptation of animals over time to their environment but strongly oppose evolution as a viable thesis regarding the origin of man. Third, I hold to a “young earth” belief that dates the earth to be about 10,000 years old. I believe when God created the earth He created a mature earth. This poses no problem in my biblical hermeneutic of Genesis. When God created Adam & Eve – the first human beings – He created them as mature adults. When God created the animal and plant kingdoms, again they were created mature. If God created mature inhabitants, and we accept that, why would we not accept Him creating a mature earth? Now let’s talk about dinosaurs.

1. Dinosaurs existed on earth. I realize God could have provided fossil records to show only the appearance of them existing, but I do not believe that to be correct. I believe God created dinosaurs like He did all other animals on earth. This is supported by the abundance of fossil records that have been found principally in the Mesozoic strata proving the existence of dinosaurs on earth.

2. Since dinosaurs did exist, they were created on day six of the Genesis account of creation. Yes, I support a literal day being 24 hours in Genesis. Scientists and skeptics have long argued over the Hebrew translation of “day” and its meaning. I prefer to believe what God has said rather than diminish the authority of Scripture by postulating my beliefs of how creation took place and over what period of time. God defined the creation process in Genesis and He was the only eye witness. Not only this, but when using Scripture to interpret Scripture, the Bible supports a literal 24 hour day. For example, in Exodus 20:9-11 the Bible says “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” We readily accept a 24 hour literal day in this passage, why would we not accept it just one book previous in Genesis? Besides, the quoted verses from Exodus are translated from the Hebrew Bible, the Bible Jesus read and He never appears to be confused about the length of a day.

3. Dinosaurs became extinct at some point in time – no person knows exactly how that occurred. There were no eye-witnesses and the Bible does not speak directly to how or why they became extinct. Multiple scientific theories exist for their extinction – volcanoes, changes in environments, eating of dinosaur eggs, a dinosaur disease epidemic, food shortages, or a universal flood – but there is no ultimate proof. Therefore, to definitively state how dinosaurs became extinct is presumptuous when Scripture does not give a clear word on how this happened.

4. Dinosaurs were reptiles but most were not huge like the T-Rex we see on the movie Jurassic Park. Okay, assuming they were small, what if they were allowed to live and grow for many years, continuing to grow until they die? Before the flood the age of man was huge – Adam, 930 years; Seth, 912 years; Methuselah, 969 years. After the flood the age of life began to drop significantly with every successive generation. Terah, Abraham’s father lived 205 years. Abraham, 175, Isaac lived 180 years; Jacob lived 147, and Joseph lived 110 years. Imagine how large a West Texas rattlesnake that lived a total of 930 years feasting on jackrabbits would grow. I would not want to be around when it became hungry. I attach a picture of a rattlesnake recently killed in Odessa that proves my point to some degree.

5. Before the flood Dinosaurs were grass/plant eating animals. This seems apparent in light of Genesis 1:30 wherein God gave “to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” Then in post-flood Genesis 9:1-3, God provides meat for sustenance to man. He places the fear of man upon the animal kingdom and provides that “every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.” Based upon these texts, it seems logical that if dinosaurs still roamed the earth post-flood they began eating meat at that time.

6. Were dinosaurs on the Ark and how was the Ark big enough to handle all of the animals? If dinosaurs survived the world-wide flood described in the Bible, they would have to have been on Noah’s Ark. Was the Ark large enough to handle the large influx of animals? The answer is “yes” it was. The Ark was a gigantic barge (450 ft. long x 75 feet wide x 45 feet high) with a displacement of 43,000 tons and an inside capacity/volume of 1.4 million cubic feet (one cubit = 17.5 inches). There were multiple decks and levels within the Ark. The total deck area is estimated at over 100,000 Sq. Ft. The Ark had a carrying capacity equal to that of 522 standard railroad freight cars or the equivalent of 8 freight trains with 65 freight cars each. This means that at least 240 animals the size of a sheep could be accommodated in a standard 2-deck stock car. Multiply that out (240 x 522) and you can see the ark’s capacity for animals the size of a sheep to be 125,280. Now most likely the animals on the Ark were young so replenishing of the earth could occur. To this end, if there were dinosaurs on the Ark, they would have been young and certainly smaller. But can I definitively state without reservation there were dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark? No, but it is totally possible. (See "The Genesis Flood" by Whitcomb and Morris for more information on this subject.)

7. Where are dinosaurs found in the Bible? The clearest description of an animal that is extinct today but fits the profile of a dinosaur is the behemoth found in Job 40:15-24. This animal doesn’t exist today but did during the time of Job. It has been described as a brontosaurus – a creature not unlike Dino in the Flintstones cartoon. Now wouldn’t that have been a great pet?

As you can tell, this was not an exhaustive study on the creation and extinction of dinosaurs. There are Christian scientists like Dr. Kurt Wise, a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who holds a PhD in Paleontology from Harvard University, that spend their entire lives studying what I have only touched upon today. Could I be wrong in some of the information I have provided above? I would never be so arrogant as to presume to speak with final authority on that which God’s Word does not present a thorough discourse, so yes, I could be wrong in some areas. However, God’s Word is authoritative and regardless of differing opinions, when God’s Word speaks it is accurate and without error. As Adrian Rogers stated on more than one occasion, "I would rather be accused of taking the Bible too literally than not taking it literally enough." To that I give a hearty amen!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pondering the Great White Throne of Judgment...

Last night in Q&A I answered a question regarding the Great White Throne of Judgment as described in Revelation 20:11-15. Without argument this is one of the most gripping and serious passages in the entire Bible. Particular verse 15 which states that “if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” We are dealing with a most sobering passage of Scripture.

Upon being asked who was going to stand before this Great White Throne of Judgment, I exclaimed that I was not, nor would any other believers having professed faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. At this point a statement was emphatically made that every person would stand before this fearful Great White Throne and be judged. Some of the biblical reasons for my disagreement with that statement follow.

1. The sins of the Christ follower were judged at the Cross. On the day I accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, I received total and complete forgiveness of my sin. The blood of Jesus Christ was shed so that my sin would be atoned and His righteousness would become my righteousness. Through this glorious act of divine grace, I received positional (imputed) righteousness before God for eternity. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that “For our sake He (God) made Him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him (Jesus) we might become the righteousness of God.” Couple this magnificent act of mercy, love and grace on God’s part with Romans 8:1 and the believer rests assured that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” When one is “in Christ Jesus” it means that he has been purchased/redeemed by the blood of Christ shed at the cross and is forgiven because the sin debt he could not pay has been “paid in full” by the Lord Jesus. As such, the sins of the Christ follower were judged at the Cross when Jesus shed His sinless blood and there will be no future judgment of sin upon the Christian. Because of this, I can rest assured that I will not stand before the horrible Great White Throne of Judgment.

2. The Great White Throne of Judgment is for the unredeemed of all the ages. This is the last court that will ever convene and come to order. The unredeemed dead of all the ages will be arraigned before this throne, guilty of crimes committed against God. The out-and-out flagrant sinner will be there along with those who rejected Jesus because they felt salvation came through just being a good person. Hitler, Stalin, and other world leaders who sought power on this earth will be finally and ultimately judged for eternity as they come before this throne. There will be no place to hide. There will be no cross examination or rebuttal. All that has been done in opposition to God – particularly the rejection of God’s Son – will have been recorded in the books that testify to the guilt of all who stand before this throne. When the sentence is read – “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Mt. 25:41) – God’s justice will be fulfilled and the unredeemed of all the ages will be cast into the lake of fire for eternity.

3. The “Bema” seat of Judgment is not the Great White Throne of Judgment. But, you may reply, the Bible says “we must all appear before the judgment (bema) seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10). This is exactly true, but this is not the Great White Throne of Judgment referred to in Revelation 20. This is a time when all Christ followers are before God and the work done, or not done, for Christ will be judged with rewards distributed accordingly. Scripture is clear in stating “If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:14-15). So, yes, all Christians will be judged, but not at the Great White Throne of Judgment and not for our sin to determine our eternal destiny. The works that a Christian has done for Jesus Christ post-salvation will be examined and judged to determine reward and on that Scripture is very clear.

What does this mean to me? First, if you are a believer in Christ, you have eternal security in Jesus. You are now to live each day with an eye on eternity, honoring Jesus Christ with your life on this earth through what you do for Him. An unproductive Christ follower is an oxymoron. Every Christian is to produce fruit for the Kingdom of God and will be rewarded accordingly. Second, if you are not a believer in Christ, you have no eternal security in Jesus but only a fearful pending judgment that is to come before you are cast into the lake of fire. Call upon Jesus Christ today for salvation so you too can be saved. God's free gift of salvation is available by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Why not confess your belief in Him and receive salvation right now. What are you waiting for?

Monday, July 20, 2009

More Church Picnic Thoughts...

It seems I was a little remiss a moment ago when I thanked my pastoral staff only for pulling off a great picnic. No, nobody has called to tell me I blew it, I just kind of figured that one out on my own. So, here goes...

To all of you who volunteered your time cooking hamburgers, preparing the feeding lines, cutting watermelons, and contributing your service in any way possible to ensure success - THANK YOU! Without you, nothing happens. Thanks for serving the Lord by serving your friends and family.

Church Picnic Brings Out the Soreness in Some of Us...

Yesterday was the 4th annual First Baptist Church family picnic at Sherwood Park here in Odessa. We had a blast just hanging out and being a family together. My pastoral staff did an outstanding job in coordinating the activities - especially Earl Claypool our Pastor of Junior High and Recreation. Thanks Earl!

Each pastor spent time in the dunking booth with my allocated time being 5:30. Now I have swam in some really brown lake water before, but I'm thinking this is pretty close to the top on the dirty scale. Could it be because I got in the water after my two music guys? Not sure on that just yet.

There was an egg toss that transpired while I was being dunked. Afterwards we had an old-fashioned sack race. Yes I fell down because it was hard! Finally, the old guys took on the young 15-18 year olds in a game of football. Now that was fun! I haven't played football like that for quite some time and it was a blast. Of course, the old guys won in spite of my having dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone. I have never felt more like Terrell Owens that at any other moment in my life. But truly, it was all tremendous fun... and now I'm sore, but it's a good sore.

Yesterday reminded me of the four connections we need in life to make our lives most enjoyable. First, every person needs to be connected to God. This glorious connection is made at salvation and is the supreme connection that stands above all others. If one is connected to God, they are ultimately secure and can have peace regardless of what they encounter in life. Second, every person needs to be connected to God's church. Here is where we learn to live the Christian life in community and grow in our relationship with the Heavenly Father. Hebrews 10:25 says, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another." What a blessing to be part of God's local church and worship Him in Spirit and in truth with others in the Christian community. Third, every person needs to be connected to their earthly family as so much of our lives are spent investing in those to whom we are related. When these earthly relationships are broken, we suffer. My prayer for all who are struggling in a relationship right now is that God will be allowed to be central in the members lives so healing can occur. Fourth, every person needs the connection of friends.

Yesterday I witnessed all four of these connections played out in the lives of people I encountered. It began yesterday morning as I celebrated Jesus Christ in worship with my fellow believers. Then, at the picnic, I witnessed the Christian community having fun as they laughed and played together as part of God's family. Yesterday was a living testimony of Psalm 68:6, "God sets the lonely in families." I'm thankful for my earthly family and my church family. I am doubly blessed (and doubly sore today)... and I love it!

God bless and have a great week!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Fitness Recovery Program - #2

I am coming to the end of week #3 on my Fitness Recovery Program and want to update you as promised. Last week I shared the “why” of my FRP, today I will share a little about the “how.”

Byron’s Diet Plan – (Just the sound of that makes me want to write a diet book and make some money. I mean doesn’t that sound as good as “Grapefruit Diet” or “South Beach Diet” or “Weight Watchers” or “Jenny Craig?” It has a great ring to it… but I digress.)

Like many people who, as John Wayne once said, “tend toward the gut,” I have tried numerous diets over the course of time with limited success for any extended period. However, six years ago I stumbled upon the most simplified way of eating imaginable – counting calories. I know some of you are feeling the urge to click on the red “X” in the upper right corner of your screen, but just hang with me for a moment. As a concept, dieting is very simple - expend more calories than you consume and you will lose weight. As a practice, however, dieting can be very difficult.

On the day I turned 40 my body adopted an aversion to change. As the bonfire of candles were extinguished, it developed a mind of its own and changed from a hard-working, fat-fighting machine to a miser who sought to horde all gains it had made throughout my indulgent years. On that fateful day I could hear the faint sound of my body singing the Beatles classic, “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away.” And here I am saying, “We can work it out” to no avail. From that moment forward every gain I have made physically has been hard fought. (Does this resonate with any of my 40+ friends?) Exercise and counting calories is the only solution I have found to quench the rebellious coup my body attempted that day, and every day since. But as a practice, dieting is not easy, it is hard work all the way. You will not lose weight and have the body you desire if you are unwilling to do the hard things. Dreaming about it and wishing for it will not make it happen. Excess weight does not magically fall off. Weight loss and physical fitness comes at a price – a price that is well worth paying, but a price nonetheless. So what do I do?

When I am seeking to lose weight I restrict myself to 1700 calories per day. I eat vegetables (squash, onions, peppers) in large quantity that have been grilled or cooked in very little or no oil. I eat whole grains (brown rice is my favorite) and lean meats, much of which is grilled by the best griller in the McWilliams’ family – my lovely wife. I eat so much “yard bird” that I’m convinced that I sometimes cluck when I sleep. I eat fruit as desired and do not hesitate to utilize an energy/high fiber breakfast bar when I’m on the go. I never drink my calories – I must be part bovine because I love to chew! I take no diet pills. I do take a vitamin D and B6 everyday and I should take some fish oil for Omega 3 but right now I’m out. And there you have the Byron Diet Plan. Nothing new under the sun, remember?

About the same time I determined to count calories and exercise, God placed a verse of Scripture on my heart that has been my strength on many runs and at many times. Hebrews 12:11 in the NIV says, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have ben trained by it." My prayer for you is that God will use this verse to inspire your heart today as He has mine.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Plodding Forward and My FRP...

On Saturday, July 4, 2009 at 2:00 PM, just nine days ago, I was going through my usual routine of being a “man of constant sorrows” regarding my fitness level and weight. I am unequivocally my own worst critic and this was proving to be especially true on that hot summer afternoon. As I sat in my chair berating myself for not maintaining a previously attained high level of physical fitness, I made a decision. With the temperature soaring at 97 degrees, I put on my running shorts and shoes, my favorite running shirt and my stopwatch – I also strapped on my identity bracelet that has listed several phone numbers in case of emergency – and I stepped out my front door on a journey back into fitness.

As I said, the mercury was stretched to 97 and there was no wind. It was flat out hot, no two ways about it. But not to be deterred because, after all, I am a runner, I began hitting the pavement again on a 3 mile run. I ran the first mile complete and then began walking/running in 2 minute intervals until I was finished. Normally I would have been absorbed in self-pity for having to walk any at all (runners are fairly well convinced that walking is for wimps and old folks – no offense intended) but on this day just finishing the course was all that mattered. Besides, I had gotten off the “L” train, uh, that would be “Lazy” train, put my money where my mouth is, put up rather than shut up and made happen what had needed to happen for months – I was back on track with a true “Fitness Recovery Program” (FRP for short).

In 2002 I became convicted that I needed to take better care of myself physically so I did what most guys do, I started lifting some weights and running. I had exercised for a few weeks when a friend of mine asked me to run a marathon with him. It was late summer 2002 when he sprung the question on me and the date with destiny was January 17, 2003. I laughed and made some excuse about killing myself in order to train for a marathon in that short a time but we agreed to just run together and if I didn’t think I could do the whole 26.2 miles in January, I could always opt for the half marathon.

We began running 3 miles together at first, most of it on a ¼ mile track at the high school in Evadale, Texas. Many long hours were logged on that track in the next 8 weeks. It was cushioned and therefore didn’t take a toll on my knees and my ability to run progressed. I will never forget in October of ’02 when I ran 10 miles for the first time without stopping. It was beyond thrilling as I for the first time felt like I could actually be good at this thing called running. Then, in November my friend asked whether I’d decided to run the whole or the half marathon in January. I figured since we had run over 10 miles in training on more than one occasion I might as well run the full 26.2. We continued to train and on January 17, 2003 I completed the Houston marathon in 4 hours and 54 minutes. I was pumped!

The following year we again ran the Houston marathon and I completed it that day in 4 hours and 28 minutes. Life was good and I was enjoying being a runner. But as life tends to do, change entered the picture when my family moved from Southeast Texas to Odessa, Texas in July 2004. I continued to run but my routine was totally changed and the long runs gradually became shorter and shorter.

Long story short, due to inconsistency and riding the “L” train, I gradually lost the level of fitness I had been so pleased having attained. My long runs shrunk to an occasional 5 miles, with most runs being a 3 mile loop from my front door. Due to demands at church, studying to complete my doctorate, and increased activities with 3 teenagers, I neglected doing what I love so much and my running became increasingly intermittent. With inconsistency comes injury and last April I was attacked by an acute case of Achilles Tendonitis, something I had never suffered from before. I nursed the injury for some time with little improvement and finally decided to take a full 3 months off from the sport… and here I am today. The 3 months expanded to 9 months and my waistline expanded accordingly. I gained 20-25 pounds and lost the zip I felt in my step when I was running on a regular basis. So welcome to the first edition of my Fitness Recovery Program.

My plans are to update you on my progress on a weekly basis. If you are interested, and want to respond, please feel free. If you aren’t, no need to respond because you’ll find something better to read than a few words from a plodder who decided to tell others about his efforts.

Tomorrow I will tell you about my diet and how my running has fared for the last two weeks. In the days ahead I will give information on the type shoes I run in, my strategies and goals and will update you on my Achilles issue and how it feels. Stay tuned.

Now listen – if you have been sedentary for quite some time, I do not advise the strategy of personal tail kicking that I employed above. I felt confident (not smart) running in 97 degree heat because I have been to the Cooper Clinic in Dallas and have received a great report from them. So be wise.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Do Angels Speak God's Message Today...

Last night in Q&A the following question arose – “Do angels still come to earth and deliver God’s message to men?” Feeling spontaneous, I polled the audience through uplifted hand as to how many would answer the question in the affirmative. I was shocked when over 80% of those in attendance lifted their hand. To this end, further elaboration on this question is definitely needed.

First let me get our minds thinking along the same lines by asking a few questions. Are we talking Angel Gabriel type messages such as the one delivered to Mary in Luke’s gospel? Are we talking about the numerous references to the “Angel of the Lord” in the Old Testament intersecting the lives of men? Or are we talking about an angelic messenger appearing to a man/woman today to deliver God’s special message just for them? Regardless of the question, the answer to all of the above is an emphatic “NO!” Angels do not come to earth today to deliver God’s message (meaning revelation) to men at all in any context.

I know for some of you this is totally contrary to your opinion. I can hear it now, “Pastor, if God spoke through a donkey couldn’t he speak through an angel today?” He could, but tell me the last time you heard a donkey speak when you weren’t watching Winnie the Pooh on television. God does not speak His message through angels today for several reasons –

1. God spoke finally and definitively through His Son Jesus. Yes, God used a multitude of means to speak to mankind prior to Jesus coming to earth – even a donkey – but God communicated finally through the person of Jesus Christ, the one and only Son of God. Hebrews 1:1-2 confirms this in saying, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world.” Could there be a clearer word that God spoke finally and definitively through Jesus? I think not. God’s Word is clear.

2. God’s revelation of Himself to man is complete in Jesus Christ. There will be no further revelation from God to disclose who He is to mankind. John 1:18 tells us that Jesus came to exegete God for human understanding because Jesus “has made Him known.” Never will an angel come and declare an additional message to man to assist in understanding who God is; it is simply unnecessary. Jesus, having done that masterfully well, stated in John 14:9 “whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.”

3. God’s written Word is the full disclosure of Jesus Christ to man. This means that you will not learn the attributes and characteristics of God without time spent studying, analyzing, praying and obeying God’s written Word. God provided 66 books of Holy Scripture through inspired human instruments to unveil Himself to mankind. There will be no more revelation from God to man. The canon of Scriptures is closed. It is the complete written authority by which we learn about God. The only way to learn more about God than what is provided in His Word is to stand before Him in heaven and see face to face what “now we see in a mirror dimly” (1 Cor. 13:12).

4. God protects His Church from heresy through the closed canon of Scripture. The 66 books of the Bible is all the revelation any Christian will ever receive. It is also all the revelation any Christian will ever need. In His omniscience, God knows the ease in which His followers are led astray by every wind of false doctrine. He also knows Satan, the enemy, is cunning and will “disguise himself as an angel of light” (1 Cor. 11:14) in order to deceive and destroy. To this end, no Christian should ever seek after, pray for, desire, or listen to any extra-biblical message from an angel. Destructive heresy and cults are the outcome when Satan is allowed to convince someone of a special word they have received from God through His angel. The cult of Mormonism began on September 21, 1823 when an angel named Moroni began visiting Joseph Smith and shared with him a new gospel found on golden plates. This new gospel is a false gospel that has ensnared millions, leading them boldly to a Christ-less eternity in hell. Galatians 1:6-9 denounces this and brings it all together: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”

There you have it - sound theology over personal opinion. My opinion regarding what I think about something in God's Word is of infinitely less importance than the truth God's Word actually teaches.

Does God use angels today as ministering spirits? Sure He does; Scripture confirms this in numerous places. Do angels still come to earth and deliver God's message to men? Not hardly.

Monday, June 29, 2009

2009 Southern Baptist Convention - Final Ponderings...

Another annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention is now in the history books. I provided a small amount of information related to convention on-goings while in Louisville and found that I could not do justice as the time was so short. To this end, I will now share my thoughts on the meeting and what we might expect in the future.

1. Great Commission Resurgence - I feel confident the 2009 meeting will long be remembered as the Great Commission Resurgence Convention (GCR). This was the most highlighted and talked about pre-convention issue and it also received the most attention among the messengers attending the convention. The formulation of a task force to examine the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole was the first motion made when business opened and motions were received. It was the only motion brought to the floor of the convention for discussion and subsequent vote. It passed overwhelmingly as most realize a need for getting back to the basics of what we are called to be as Southern Baptists – intentional about winning the world for Jesus Christ! So what does this mean for the future of the SBC? Truthfully, nobody is sure at this moment. The GCR task force, headed by Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd, will examine the structure of the SBC and look for areas of overlap and waste. It will report its findings and make any proposals in Orlando during the 2010 annual meeting. With the GCR being an attempt to analyze the SBC from the top down to see how Southern Baptists “can work more faithfully and effectively” together I will be very interested in seeing the outcome of the study and what proposals will be forthcoming. I will keep you posted on this important issue.

2. Attendance and Demographics – One of the great shocks of Louisville was attendance. Many thought this would be the most poorly attended annual meeting in years; however, it proved to be just the opposite. There were 8,790 registered messengers, 1,500 more than last year’s meeting in Indianapolis. As the recording secretary put it, "it was also a much younger convention." Nobody needed to tell me this as I saw young families all over the place. There were more baby strollers to dodge at this convention than at any other I have attended. With there having been talk that the SBC was in decline and younger pastors were dropping out left and right, it was a welcome sight to see the huge proportion of the convention being the 40 and under crowd. I see this as a very good sign for the future of the SBC.

3. Resolutions – There were a total of 26 resolutions submitted to the Resolution Committee for consideration. These are requests by individuals that the SBC messengers make a public statement regarding a particular issue. Some are very important while others are nothing more than the efforts of an individual to further a personal agenda. They are all examined by the Resolutions Committe with full awareness that this is where the media can oftentimes voice major criticism of the convention. The resolution that held the greatest potential for controversy was “On Racial Reconciliation and the Election of Barack Hussein Obama” which was unofficially known as “The Obama Resolution.” This resolution passed nearly unanimously as it appropriately affirmed the election of Obama as “a step toward nationwide racial reconciliation” but it heavily criticized the actions taken by him in instituting policies contrary to the Christian way of life and the Word of God. It strongly opposed Obama’s assistance to pro-abortion groups and his declaring June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Month. There were other areas where opposition against Obama’s policies was voiced and all Christians were urged to pray for him as the president and for our nation. There were other very good resolutions considered and acted upon by the messengers. These can be viewed at

4. Election of Officers – Johnny Hunt, pastor of FBC Woodstock GA, was elected to serve as president for a second term. I have long held Dr. Hunt to be one of the finest preachers in the SBC and am highly supportive of his second term as president.

5. Broadway Baptist Church, Fort Worth – Due to the church’s on-going stance of allowing full participation in their fellowship by practicing homosexuals, the Executive Committee recommended there be no “cooperative relationship” with Broadway Baptist Church and the Southern Baptist Convention. In essence, the church was prohibited from seating messengers and fellowship with the church and the SBC was suspended. This issue at Broadway Baptist has been a media sensation for months and the action by the SBC Executive Committee was appropriate.

6. Southern Baptist of Texas Gift – If any person wants a clear example why I am proud to be affiliated with the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention, they need look no further than Louisville. During the International Mission Board (IMB) report, Dr. Jim Richards, Executive Director of the SBTC, provided IMB president Jerry Rankin a check for $100,000 to be applied toward the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering shortfall. This money would immediately go towards helping put more missionaries on the field around the world. The SBTC does many things to which I give my hearty approval. We are the only state convention that forwards greater than 50% of all Cooperative Program monies received in the state on to the Southern Baptist Convention to be used nationally. We have no problem stating that we believe the Bible to be the totally true and inspired, inerrant Word of God. Also, world missions is the heartbeat of the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention. I am so pleased to be part of a state convention that is strongly in support of the Southern Baptist Convention, stands on Scripture as the final authority, and is doing everything it can to fulfill the Great Commission. Praise God for the SBTC and for Jim Richards’ leadership of this state convention!

Well there you have my final wrap-up of the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention. It was time well spent and I am so pleased with what God is doing among Southern Baptists. We are clearly living in uncertain and unusual times that demand all Christians pray. We, the Christ followers who comprise the Southern Baptist Convention, have been appointed by God for such a time as this and we must not fail to be used by Him to effect quantum change around the world exclusively for His glory. What an honor it is to be part of a convention that has this as its goal!

Finally, thank you for your prayers for me as I hosted the Annual Alumni and Friends banquet in my role as National Alumni President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. All went very well.

Remember, "Never yield your shield, stay in the battle!"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

SBC 2009 - #2

It has been a very long day at the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.

It began at 8:15 with the gavel dropping and the meeting coming to order. I have heard some phenomenal preaching, great reports from agency heads and seminary presidents, and some interesting motions made from the floor of the convention. All-in-all the convention has been calm and peaceful with very little to report to those who look for conflict behind every corner. I'm pleased with what has transpired today and look forward to another productive day tomorrow as we close out the convention for another year.

Several items to point out -

1. A total of 8,400+ registered messengers are in attendance. Not too bad considering that this convention is not in the most populous of places in Southern Baptist life.

2. The Great Commission Resurgence was the most debated item of the night and it passed with flying colors. In a nutshell it is a call to examine ourselves and move back to the basics of doing the work God has called Southern Baptists to be about. I was/am very in favor of this taking place as it will prove to energize and stimulate areas of the Convention that have grown stagnant. A task force will be named tomorrow that will begin the study process and make recommendations to the Convention next year.

3. One of the greatest highlights of the Convention was when Dr. Jim Richards, Executive Director of the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention handed a check for $100,000 to Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board. This money was a small effort of the SBTC to do more to alleviate the shortfall in money needed for sending missionaries to the field. If you want to know why I love the SBTC it is because they have a genuine heart for mission work around the world through the Southern Baptist Convention. God bless the SBTC and the work we are able to accomplish through this state convention in Texas.

4. Another highlight was having my son hang out with me this evening as we attended the evening debates/discussions and listened to the IMB report. It was a true joy having Jordon by my side and introducing him to so many of my pastor friends within the convention. It was a blessing indeed! The girls took it easy tonight and let the guys hold down the Convention fort.

That's a brief update on what has transpired. Tomorrow the resolutions will be discussed and voted upon. It will be interesting and I will post more tomorrow.

Also, as president of the National Alumni for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary it is my honor to host the annual Alumni and Friends luncheon. Please pray for me that I do a superb job in carrying out my duties tomorrow.

My eyes are very tired so therefore the pillow beckons my company. Talk to you tomorrow.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Southern Baptist Convention 2009 - Pt. 1

We are in Louisville, KY for the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention. This will be the largest business meeting most have ever seen. There will be 7,000-8,000 registered messengers who will be hearing some powerful preaching and all motions and resolutions coming from the SBC. My plans are to keep you updated on what is going on through my website for the next 2 days. So, after tonight I will shout back with some details.

For now, these are some items we will be looking at -

1) Great Commission Resurgence - There is a movement in the Southern Baptist Convention to get back to the basics as to what we are all about - the Great Commission. As you know, many have quipped that the SBC is in a state of decline and that if something is not done there will be no convention in a matter of a generation. I am not one who feels that we are drying up and disappearing. I am convicted, however, that a Great Commission Resurgence is powerfully needed and that the SBC needs some energy and momentum. I will post more details on this as it comes available.

2) Resolution on Barrack Obama - A resolution has come forth from a prominent black pastor in Arlington, Texas calling the SBC to affirm Barrack Obama's presidency. No comment on my part right not, but I will update you as this comes forth from the Resolutions Committee.

3) Election of Officers - I am fully expecting Johnny Hunt, pastor of FBC Woodstock, GA, to be reelected to a second term as president. There will be others elected and I will post on that as it comes up.

All in all I do not expect a contentious convention. In fact, due to it being seen in that light there are some who will stay home. We will see what happens and I will let you know.

UPDATE - I am still writing the 10 things I've learned after 27 years of marriage and will post them upon my return from Louisville.

I'll be in touch.

Friday, June 12, 2009

We've Only Just Begun...

On this day, 27 years ago, I stood in Spring Baptist Church watching the woman I love walk down the aisle on the arm of her father. Little did I know, as he patted her hand looking into her eyes, he was making one final offer to help her escape. I am thankful that on that day she decided to ignore her father’s offer as it was the fantastic beginning of two different lives becoming one.

I was raised on country music – the Red Headed Stranger, Waylon Jennings, The Gatlin Brothers, David Allen Coe, Jerry Jeff Walker and other “redneck” recording artists of the 70’s. Andi could sing every Beatles song ever written word for word. The Bee Gees, Carpenters, and Journey sang the lyrics that came through her 8 Tracks. She was from an upper middle class family living in the suburbs of the 4th largest city in America. I was a country boy who wore boots and hauled hay in the fields that dotted the countryside around Tyler County. She was a Gloria Vanderbilt girl and I was a Levi’s and Tony Lama boy. She was a Spring Starlette; I a Woodville Eagle. We were different in 1,000’s of ways. Yet, in just a short period of time those differences would begin to become one.

In the fall of 1978 my life changed dramatically as we moved to the suburbs of Houston. My brother and only sibling had been killed in an accident that devastated my mother and me. Months later my widowed mom married a man she had been seeing and soon I was seeing Woodville in my rear view mirror headed for Spring, Texas.

Life in Spring was strange and unfamiliar but God provided. I made friends, found a job, endured high school and then one day – one of the top 10 greatest days of my life – a high school buddy hit me in the halls and said, “Hey Byron, Andi likes you.” I was floored! I mean, come on, I had noticed her but never talked to her. I had admired her incredible beauty from a distance but never once dared approach her. And now, the thought that this beautiful girl liked me was almost too good to be true. It was a call to action!

We went on our first date to “The Mariner” in May 1980 (I still remember what she wore that night). I graduated from high school a few weeks later and we saw each other almost every day during our first summer together. We were quickly falling in love and it was wonderful.

We went to more movies at Greenspoint Mall than should be allowed and sat for hours in Bennigan’s eating steak fingers, chimichangas, ultimate nachos and drinking iced tea. We talked and talked, looking at each other with “googly eyes.” I hung on every word she said and as we laughed together our love grew. We saw concerts together and swam often in the pool at her house. Life was good and love was flourishing for both of us. It was the closest thing to paradise I had ever experienced. God had rescued me from the dark days of tragedy by sending a beautiful young lady into my life who cared about me. We were destined to become soulmates and best friends. Then the moment of truth came…

After we had dated 18 months we were on our way to an Eddie Rabbit concert when talk turned to marriage. This was not the first time we had dreamed of marrying, but that night it took a more serious turn. Now I have to admit, I have always been embarrassed by my sloppy, juvenile tactics as I popped the question. There was no nice restaurant, no holding her hand while on bended knee, not even an engagement ring – you ladies are thinking, “You should be embarrassed” – there was simply a 19 year old guy who knew he was in love and that the best thing of his life was in the car with him at that moment. So in my youthful exuberance and before I could help myself, I blurted out the question – “Do you want to marry me?” Andi was a little shocked at my bluntness and perhaps a little surprised when she asked, “Is this it?” I grinned an affirmation, said “yes” and all of a sudden we were headed to the altar six months later. We’d only just begun.

After a six month engagement we were married at Spring Baptist Church on June 12, 1982. We did the Texas triangle for a honeymoon – San Antonio, Austin, Dallas and back to Houston. Upon our return, we set up house in an apartment off Southwest freeway and settled into a wonderful life together. We both worked long hours at our jobs but we spent every other bit of time together. I was paying my way through college so money was usually tight but we were happy! We talked for long hours and dreamed together of all God had in store for us. We traveled when we could and ate at a new restaurant just about every week. We became better than best friends. That was 27 years ago and yet to this day our love is so fresh I sometimes feel like we’ve only just begun.

For 27 years I have talked to Andi every day and but for just a few days of business travel or hunting, I have laid my head on the pillow beside my wife every night. There has never been one moment I have regretted saying “I do” to this woman. I have admired her tenacity and courage as she delivered our three babies. I have watched her spiritual strength and trust in God grow. I have seen her beauty increase with every day and our love grow beyond anything we could have dreamed or imagined on our wedding day. I have watched her arise in the morning early, take her bible and journal in hand and get alone with God for her strength for the day. I have counted it a great privilege to hold her hand as she cried and give a shoulder when she wept. Even in the days when we didn’t know what was coming our way, the one rock-solid truth we knew as a couple was that we had each other and with God’s help we would make it together!

I am blessed! I wouldn’t trade it for anything! And if God will answer my prayer that we get 70 years together then we’re not even half-way there yet so again... we’ve only just begun!

Andi, I love you more today than on any day we’ve ever had together and I will love you more tomorrow than I love you today! Thank you for loving me. BATW

(My next post will share with you 10 truths I have learned from marriage and ministry that every person who is newly married or planning to get married should hear. I will post it Monday.)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Almost Persuaded...

There are many who have a close walk with Christ and yet wonder if they are making any impact on this world. If you are one of those, perhaps the attached video will help you realize that what held true for the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:6 holds true today. This verse reads, "I (Paul) planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth." Now the Apostle is not talking about vegetable gardening; he is describing the development process of saving faith in the life of a person. It is all a work of God, we simply are allowed to participate by planting a seed or watering the salvation soil through a word or action on Christ's behalf. To see the impact of someone almost persuaded, check out the attached video. When you are finished, say a prayer for God's Spirit to grab hold of this man and saving faith to be realized.

I will post later in the week, but for now - Never yield your shield; Stay in the battle!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Embrace the Struggle...

In Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers, he tells the story of the Memorial Cup hockey championship in Vancouver, British Columbia. To say that hockey in the frozen lands of the north is not huge is equivalent to saying that people in Dallas know nothing of a team with a star on their helmet. As I read his story, I found most intriguing the description of the winning hockey team’s locker room. More specifically, just a hand-painted banner hung on the wall of the locker room that read "Embrace the Struggle." As I pondered those three words I saw a picture of life in so many ways. Let me explain...

How many times do we fail simply because we encounter difficulty or pain and refuse to embrace it on the road to victory? Whether a personal fitness challenge, weight loss goal, playing sports at the next level, becoming the best in your profession, or more importantly, walking more deeply with God, how often do we not achieve success because we refuse to embrace the struggle? I am utterly convinced the reason we do not experience more victories in our lives is due to an unwillingness to put forth the effort to overcome the obstacles we face. The temporary pain of perseverance through trials outweighs the satisfaction of the desired achievement.

I have long held that it is rarely the most gifted intellectually who finds greatest success in life. Nor is it the one born with a silver spoon in his mouth who stands atop the pyramid of success most often. It is the one who faces adversity, hardship, pain, and difficulty and yet through gritted teeth takes another step forward in spite of the immensity of the struggle. It is the one who endures hardship because the feeling of victory far outweighs the struggle to get there.

What are you facing today where the words “Embrace the Struggle” are necessary for you to advance onward to victory? Why not write those three words on a piece of paper that you will see often and pray for strength today. Hebrews 12:11 says "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." In other words, embrace the struggle and expect the harvest!

Never yield your shield; stay in the battle.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New Look...

Psa7872 has a new look.

In the header you see from right to left some of the phases of my journey through this life. The lion is the mascot of the high school from which I graduated. Yes, the U of H represents where I received my bachelors degree. The seashell is actually a pectin and is the national trademark for Shell Oil Company where I spent a number of years as an accountant before God changed our life and called us to full-time ministry. Therefore, the cross seems a fitting final item as this is where God has called me to remain - at the foot of the cross in my service to Him. It has been an incredibly exciting journey thus far, one that I wouldn't trade for anything.

I hope you enjoy the new look. With this completed, I will posting a little more regularly so stay tuned.

Never yield your shield; stay in the battle!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Do Not Fear...

Fear is a reality for far too many Christians. Every day they awake to find themselves afraid of unseen dangers lurking in the shadows of their imaginations. This type fear is irrational, unnecessary, and certainly not from God. It can center upon finances, personal health, relationship issues, work related problems, or any of a thousand other areas to which Satan seeks to saddle the believer. So, let me give you two pointers if fear of this type is something you are confronting at this moment in your life.

First, realize that a feeling of fear is really a call to action. It is a time to put on the whole armor of God and stand firm. It is a time to cinch up the belt of truth (the Word of God) in your life and fasten down the breastplate of righteousness that ensures your position and standing before God. It is time to be bold and brave, remembering that through Christ all things are possible, including your overcoming this assault on your peace by Satan. It is time to pray with increased determination. In Isaiah 41:10, the Bible says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” You can believe it Christian!

Second, let me encourage you with something I found several years back from Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a pastor in England in the 1800's. Read and ponder his creative word pictures as he describes reasons we should not fear. My prayer is that God will use these words to speak to your heart as they did mine years ago when I first read them.

"God has a strong reserve with which to discharge this engagement; for He is able to do all things. Believer, till you can drain dry the ocean of omnipotence, till you can break into pieces the towering mountains of almighty strength, you never need to fear. Think not that the strength of man shall ever be able to overcome the power of God. While the earth’s huge pillars stand, you have enough reason to abide firm in your faith. The same God who directs the earth in its orbit, who feeds the burning furnace of the sun, and who trims the lamps of heaven, has promised to supply you with daily strength. While He is able to uphold the universe, dream not that He will prove unable to fulfill His own promises. Remember what He did in the days of old, in the former generations. Remember how He spoke and it was done; how He commanded, and it stood fast? Shall He that created the world grow weary? He hangs the world upon nothing; shall He who does this be unable to support His children? Shall He be unfaithful to His word for want of power? Who is it that restrains the tempest? Does not He ride upon the wings of the wind, and make the clouds His chariots, and hold the ocean in the hollow of His hand? How can He fail you? When He has put such a faithful promise as this on record, will you for a moment indulge the thought that He has outpromised Himself, and gone beyond His power to fulfill? Ah, no! You can doubt no longer.

O You who are my God and my strength, I can believe that this promise shall be fulfilled, for the boundless reservoir of Thy grace can never be exhausted, and the overflowing storehouse of Thy strength can never be emptied by Thy friends or rifled by Thine enemies. 'Now let the feeble all be strong, and make Jehovah’s arm their song.'"

Remember... Never yield your shield; stay in the battle!
In Christ alone,

Monday, May 25, 2009

Jon and Kate - Is it too late?

I'm not sure how many of you have been following the saga of Jon and Kate Gosselin, but my family has been hooked this Memorial Day weekend on the JnK marathon. In case you are unfamiliar with JnK, five years ago they became parents of sextuplets and from that moment on they have been their own unique version of the Truman Show. America has watched as the kids grew, celebrated birthdays and learned to use the potty on Jon and Kate Plus 8. It seems that few details have been lost as the good, bad and ugly has been captured on film. Now, they are experiencing a very public squabble (as my grandfather used to say), a squabble that could easily lead to a very public and bitter divorce.

It seems that Jon has been feeling neglected, unloved and unfulfilled for some time. So much so that he was photographed with another (much younger) woman catting around on the town in the wee hours of the morn at 2 a.m. This occurred while Kate was on her recent book tour - one of many public engagements on her calendar. So, let me share several thoughts from my perspective.

First, JnK both claim to be Christ followers. I will not dismiss their claim as I have little or no basis to do so. Rather, I will say that when two people are Christians and are intent upon His will being done, there is no marital difficulty that cannot be overcome. Notice I said "two people" intent upon His will. That is the essential element when a marriage is crumbling because as Jesus says, "a house divided will not stand" (Mk. 3:25). In far too many cases when engaged in marital counseling, I find that only one really cares for the marriage to work. If this cannot be overcome, the time spent counseling is of less value than last week's newspapers. When two want it to work out, and those two are believers in Jesus Christ, it is never too late.

Second, JnK are examples of a torturous cycle present in every marriage I have ever witnessed on life support. They have the classic love/respect problem and seem totally oblivious to it. Ephesians 5:33 says a husband must "love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband." One only need watch one episode of JnK to see that Jon isn't very loving and Kate certainly does not respect her man. Hence, the vicious cycle is played out before approximately 4 million viewers each week. Jon shows Kate no love and she shows him no respect, so he continues to show no love and she escalates a lack of respect. For their marriage to survive, the cycle must be broken and both will be required to work hard to break it. With God all things are possible so never should it be seen as hopelessly impossible to break the cycle. Quality Christian marital counseling in this area would be of benefit to these two before it's too late.

Third, perhaps it is time that the marriage and children take precedence over the TV show and the resulting fame and fortune. You say, "but how will they live since their livelihood comes from the TV?" Good question, but there are many large families who live happy, productive lives on incomes much smaller who never stand in the limelight. To sacrifice the marriage on the altar of fame and fortune is not an acceptable alternative. However, it appears that giving up the show is most definitely not an option for JnK; but if their marriage collapses, the show may give them up. As Raegan, my 14 year old, said "nobody wants to watch a dysfunctional family for very long." With the growing weirdness of the American public perhaps this isn't true, but I can tell you one family of five who will quickly tune it out because it will be too late then.

Fourth, and this will sound harsh, but maybe a little more selflessness is needed for the marriage to survive. Jon expressed in a recent People Magazine article that he "got married at 22, had twins at 23 and the sextuplets at 27. I wouldn't have it any other way but I never went out in my 20's." Well boo hoo, my tears are falling for you... NOT! Jon needs to man up and assume the responsibility he has been given. He does not have the option of being a playboy on the town and being a good daddy. The two do not mix. His 8 responsibilities (plus Kate) demand he live a selfless life and put away childish things. We are in the shape we are in as a nation partly because too many men who have the ability to father children seem to have an inability to be anything but selfish jerks! I realize I'm speaking against my own gender here, but with great responsibility comes great sacrifice. Come on Jon, get it together. Take off the cool shades, put aside the sports car, and honor the vows you made before God to your bride before it's too late!

And Kate, lighten up a little! I know your personality drives you to be the critical woman who tends to nag her husband all the time but this can be overcome. Berating and snapping at Jon does not a lovely marriage make. Chill out and take a deep breath every now and then. You will enjoy life much more if you do.

Finally, JnK need our prayers. As fellow believers we are all subject to sin in our lives. No follower of Christ is immune to attack. When we say "that could never happen to me" we've made a strategic error and are playing into the adversaries hands. The public demise of JnK would cause the children to suffer, but even more importantly, it would broadcast a bad witness for the cause of Christ. For these reasons, and many more, may we as fellow believers pray for the survival of their marriage. I am convinced there are few things on this earth that gives God more glory than two people wholly committed to Christ in a loving marriage. May that be the end result for Jon and Kate because it's not too late!

Remember... Never yield your shield; Stay in the battle.

In Christ alone,


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Missions Moment...

I am at an IMB trustee meeting and have just spent the last two hours with 8 new missionary couples headed overseas. Three are middle age and the others are in their mid-20's or so. Truly beautiful, gifted, awesome men and women with hearts burning for those in Poland, Spain, London, and other foreign European areas. Several things jumped out at me tonight -

1. They were obediently following the will of God. They have been called to serve in missions and were being obedient in every way. They were giving up promising careers of worldly reward for a more promising service and eternal rewards. They will not regret it.

2. More than one stated in their testimony that they had grown up in Christian homes but came to the place where they had to own their faith and not live off their parents coattails of faith anymore. This usually was the crisis moment God used to transition them to His call. He works like that if we pay attention. I remember when he did it in my life and Andi and I decided our faith had to be our own and it had to be real. It was scary but it was the best road to travel. Is your faith your own?

3. Finally, one young lady mentioned that before she was ever born, when her parents thought their nest was full, her mother was challenged to pray that God would raise up one of her children to be a missionary. She began praying. After that a third daughter was born, I met the answer to her mother's prayers tonight. She and her husband are moving to Poland. Okay, will you pray for God to raise up a missionary in your home? I'm going to, why not join me.

It's been a long and rewarding day.

Never yield your shield; Stay in the battle.

In Christ alone,


Monday, May 18, 2009

IMB Meeting...

I am on my way to two days of trustee meetings in Denver, CO for the Inteernational Mission Board. It will be a packed couple of days. We will elect new officers, continue working on the structural reorganization, meet new missionary candidates, approve/disapprove other potential candidates. We will also hear a report on the state of missions globally from the president and I will attend a special international accounting sub-committee meeting (wonder why the put me on this). It will be a packed time of meetings and discussion. Please pray we accomplish all we should.

Regarding my last post on preaching - I strongly believe there to be an emptiness in most pulpits in America. For many, a watered down version of the Gospel that promotes easy believism and no change is the norm. However, you don't want me to write about preaching too much and I'd rather write about other matters myself. So, be watching for what comes next.

Have a great week. And remember, Never yield your shield; Stay in the battle.

In Christ alone,


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Emptiness of the American Pulpit...

Preaching is my calling. I understand that it is not simply preaching alone. I am called to pastor a local congregation of believers, oversee a thriving church administration, stay focused upon the spiritual growth and development of those who sit under my leadership, engage in the Great Commission call to make disciples, fulfill my prayer responsibilities, participate in ongoing personal development, stay current with the times in which God has placed me, prepare multiple sermons a week but most definitely to preach. So as I say, preaching is my calling. If I could not preach the truth of God's Word I would feel a vast expanse of emptiness in my life. Not because I would miss the public recognition of standing before people every week or the satisfaction of hearing myself talk (I laugh at that thought as I am my harshest critic). But if I could not preach I would be denying God's purpose for my life, suppressing what I have been created to do, and failing to live out God's will for me in Christ Jesus. I am a preacher!

So what is the purpose of this post? Over the past 10-15 years as I have studied preaching, read numerous books on the subject of preaching, attended many conferences where some preached and others dabbled at it, and as I have hopefully developed as a preacher myself, I have come to a conclusion in light of the increasing decline of the church in America - there is an emptiness in the American pulpit of alarming proportion. Where is that voice of authority calling people from a life of sin to the joy of living for Christ? What happened to those mighty men of God who would stand against the culture and declare "thus says the Lord!"? Where have the preachers in the vein of Spurgeon, Moody, Lee, Olford, Lloyd-Jones, Criswell, Falwell, Rogers, and Graham gone? I contend that one of the key reasons the Southern Baptist Convention – a Convention with a rich history of vitality from its pulpits – is in decline is due to an increasing emptiness in the pulpit. It is an emptiness that no longer challenges the declining morality in America but passively sits by watching this country slide down the slippery slope of pluralism and religious anarchy. It is an emptiness that is filling a religious void in awakened sinners but failing to call for true repentance and conversion. It is an emptiness that is spreading and must be remedied if we are to play a role in seeing spiritual awakening in this country once again.

Therefore, over the next several weeks I will be particularly self-indulgent (and somewhat opinionated) as I will be writing about preaching. I will examine the call to preach, the conviction necessary to preach, and the authority for preaching. I will talk about the necessity of precision in the pulpit coupled with passion and boldness. I will also share my thoughts regarding steadfastness, maintaining focus, and how to engage a desperate culture with a word from a desperate heart!

I hope you stay tuned and don’t cease to stop by Psa7872 because you feel this won’t speak to your situation in life. I realize most who read this blog are not called to preach from a pulpit but every Christ follower is called to “preach” in their walk of life. So hang around and I am convinced we can all learn something together.

Remember... Never yield your shield; Stay in the battle!

In Christ alone,


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pleasing Faith...

I remember leading God’s people to do a spiritual gifts assessment at a previous church. There was a buzz of excitement as each person worked their way through the list of questions to determine the gifts they had divinely received from God. When the tallies were completed and the results provided to the participants an interesting statistic emerged. Over 80% of the participants had the spiritual gift of faith. Wow, talk about an opportunity to do something great for the Kingdom! However, a small problem (I use the word small loosely here) also became evident – well over 90% of those who professed to have the spiritual gift of faith exhibited no evidence that they were regularly exercising their gift in any tangible form. Uh, forget what I said a moment ago about impacting the Kingdom by all the faithful.

I heard recently about a Chinese pastor who was returning home from a visit to America. When he arrived back in China and was giving his report to some fellow pastors he said, “It’s amazing how much the churches in America are able to accomplish without God.” In other words, he witnessed a great deal of hard work but little dependence upon God. Faith demands dependence upon God! It is believing God and taking Him at His word. It is trusting in God to do the incredible to achieve the impossible with power that is supernatural for His eternal glory! Faith is singularly pleasing to our Father in Heaven. In fact the Bible teaches us that "without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Heb. 11:6). So how pleasing is your faith today? What are you trying to accomplish on your own to the exclusion of God? Why not please God right this moment by drawing near to Him in faith and spending time with him in prayer.

And if you desire a little deeper emphasis on how pleasing real faith is to God, why not read Hebrews 11 and highlight or underline every occurrence of the word “faith” found in the chapter. See how many you come up with and you’ll understand more fully how important faith is to God.

Remember... Never yield your shield; Stay in the battle.

In Christ alone,


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Simple Power of Unusual Kindness...

This past Sunday I challenged my church to take ministry to the streets of Odessa by utilizing a very simple, non-threatening tool we are calling the Acts of Life card. The church was instructed to perform a random act of kindness for someone they did not know and then give them an Acts of Life card, smile, and say “God bless you.” It’s that easy and the great people of FBC-Odessa have taken to this new ministry like a duck takes to water. Beginning Monday morning I began hearing testimonies from all over town of how people in the church were using the card to bless others with a simple act of kindness done in Jesus’ name. Here are some examples of what I am hearing.

On Monday I ran into a church member while visiting some people in the hospital. She shared how she had given two Acts of Life cards away that morning and needed more to share simple kindness with others. She’s making a difference!

On Tuesday morning I received a telephone call from a local resident having trouble raising money to pay taxes on the home his mother had left him. He was a single parent of two elementary age children, and being out of work had decided to have a car wash on Sunday afternoon to raise money. While the car wash was a bomb, a woman from First Baptist Church pulled to the curb and handed the man $40 and an Acts of Life card through the window and said “God bless you.” He was overwhelmed!

Another person shared how his family pooled their efforts to baby sit twins for new parents who were overwhelmed. They kept the children all night and gave the mom and dad money for dinner and a movie along with an Acts of Life card. Those young parents will never forget that unusual act of kindness!

Today, a member of the high school golf team my son plays on shared with him how he was at the counter in Starbucks about to pay for his drink when the person behind him stepped up, paid his ticket and handed him an Acts of Life card. It made an impression!

Attorneys, students, neighbors, and others from all walks of life are using the Acts of Life card to impact lives for Jesus Christ. I’m so proud of the people of First Baptist Church who are sharing His love on the streets of Odessa in a way that is grabbing the attention of so many people. Every encounter is an opportunity to see Jesus glorified through an act of kindness. How about you, are you willing to share a simple act of kindness in Jesus’ name?

If you have shared an Acts of Life card with someone, tell me your story. I'd love to hear from you.

Remember… Never yield your shield; stay in the battle!

In Christ alone,


Monday, April 27, 2009

Demographic Call to Action...

We hear so much talk about an Islamic overthrow of the world but many wonder if it could happen. Others seem to dismiss the desire of the Islamic world to ensure it happening as preposterous and outlandish. Take the next 8 minutes and view this compelling video on YouTube that reveals what is transpiring around the world then see how you feel. In fact, if you want to share your thoughts with me I am going to leave the comment stream open on this one for that purpose.

Kind of sheds new light on God's imperative to "be fruitful and multiply" as found in Genesis 1:28 and other places in Scripture.

Remember... Never yield your shield; stay in the battle.

In Christ alone,


Thursday, April 23, 2009

His Eye is On You...

Because of my deeply held Christian convictions, it is with great pleasure that I am now considered a right-wing extremist. I weep not due to wearing this label. Rather, I consider it a worthy badge of honor and courage in light of the current moral, political, and theological climate in America. I would never want to be one of those poor miserable creatures trapped between the exaltation of humanistic arrogance and the denigration of hopeless disbelief anyway. No, not me, I heartily welcome and praise God for the distinction of wearing this title. Besides, it is how the ruling regime in America considers me so I may as well embrace the empowerment received from it while knowing that God is watching. His eye is on me, can I do any less?

Now, mind you, I have never picketed an abortion clinic, marched in a civil rights rally, or placed a derogatory bumper sticker on my vehicle as a radical statement. I have never made threatening phone calls requiring someone to adhere to my belief system or sent angry letters demanding conversion to my Christian convictions. I believe in the rights of all individuals to hold to their own religious liberty and would never put a sword to the throat of someone who believed differently (that wouldn’t be peaceable now would it?). I have never worked as a community activist seeking to register more people to vote so that my own causes and personal agenda might be furthered. I have never protested our government and called for national reform. I have never written the President of the United States demanding anything – or any government official for that matter. I have never been arrested or imprisoned. I ardently oppose the legalization of drugs as being bad for society. I have never intentionally sought to break any rules that our government has established. I consider myself so straight-laced that whenever I cross the established barrier called the speed limit I feel conviction and ratchet back the RPM’s in my pick-up truck. O, but perhaps that is it, I drive a pick-up truck and have lived in the South all my adult life and I own a Bible. Maybe those are reasons I have been labeled as a right-wing extremist. Add to that the fact that I believe in a republic form of government and denounce socialism, communism, and dictatorships. Add to that the reality that I regularly attend an evangelical church and I seek to daily practice my faith. Add to that the fact that I do not just attend church, but I am a pastor (oh my!) who fervently seeks to guide others to a deeper walk with God (oh my, oh my!). Add to that the preposterous conviction that I preach from the Bible and resolutely believe there to be only one way to eternal life, that being Jesus Christ. Add to that the outrageous idea that I happen to believe the Bible to be the holy, inerrant Word of God. Add to that the ridiculous reality that I refuse to be silenced from preaching regardless of what any administration says or demands – and there you have it – I am a right-wing extremist! And – one more thing – add to all of this my unashamed belief that what America needs now more than anything are increasing numbers of right-wing extremists who believe in God, the Bible, Jesus Christ for salvation, and the power of prayer and now we know for sure – I am a right-wing extremist (or so they say)!

Label me as you please for I am in good company. As I read the Bible – the book that gives left-wingers and middle of the roaders’ great heartburn and unending consternation – I am in good company! The heroes of faith I admire most from God’s Word stood for Him, refusing to waffle or waver in their beliefs. These men stood for something greater than enhancing the local government by simply being a nodding head of assent regardless of the demand to renounce or compromise their faith. Daniel is one such example. This man of God was targeted because he refused to refrain from bowing before his God in prayer. What about those radical extremists Peter and the apostles? They were jailed and reprimanded solely because their beliefs were so precious that they refused the compromise of silence. They held to the deep conviction that Jesus is not a tool to be used for bartering purposes but the singular path to eternal life. Even when being “strictly charged … not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” (Acts 5:28) they refused silence. “But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men’” (Acts 5:29). Most importantly, Jesus was crucified because He was considered a right-wing extremist by the religious establishment and rulers of His day. He had the audacity to equate Himself with God. Therefore, when all is considered, I am honored to be in the company of these men who stood for God and to kneel before my Savior sent by God as an act of utmost love. I would rather maintain my deepest convictions and bring honor to God with my life than receive a multitude of platitudes from those empowered now but who will be judged later. Therefore, call me a right-wing extremist if you desire. I will continue to label myself a fully devoted follower of Christ regardless of who is watching because I know that His eye is on me.

What about you, are you a right-wing extremist? I hope so.

Remember… Never yield your shield, stay in the battle.

In Christ alone,


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

On the Importance of a Shield..

I have been asked on numerous occasions why I close most of my notes to the church with the phrase “Never yield your shield, stay in the battle.” My answer is multifaceted. First, I am convinced that Christians in America have been lulled to sleep by Satan and have forgotten a battle rages all around them. Their shield has been laid aside. They are not fitted for war. They are easy prey for the enemy who is ever-vigilant in his evil practices against them. Second, few have a full understanding of the purpose of a shield as noted in Scripture. God told Abram in Genesis 15:1, “I am your shield” for the purpose of calming his fears. God revealed to David that He was his shield of protection. One verse confirming this truth is Psalm 3:3, “But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” David knew that God was who protected Him from the lion as a shepherd, from Goliath as a young warrior, as an anointed servant of God on the run from jealous Saul, and as a King when forced to flee due to a coup attempt from his own son Absalom. David rested in the protection of God. He treasured the rock-solid belief that God had him enclosed from his enemies and that nothing could touch him apart from God removing His shield of protection. It works the same way in every believer’s life. We are encircled by God and protected on all sides. Nothing can harm us apart from God deliberately lowering the shield of His protection - which He sometimes does for His divine reasons. We’ll discuss this in a future note.

Solomon, King David’s son, understood the role of God as the shield of the faithful also. Proverbs 30:5 states, “Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” This verse transcends time, applying just as perfectly today as it did thousands of years ago when Solomon penned these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Every believer can stand upon this truth that regardless of what is coming their way in life, God is their shield. He is their refuge. What a truth for living in 2009 with financial crisis, terrorism threats, apostasy rising, and morality plummeting. God is our refuge. He is our shield!

But finally, in the New Testament the Christ follower is told that “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16). As stated above, the enemy is vigilant as he continues to fire his flaming darts our way intent upon destruction. He does not stop. He attacks continually with no regard for rules of war. No Christian can stand against the attack when he yields his shield of faith. We do not stand in our own strength, we stand in God’s. We do not endure with our own intestinal fortitude; we endure by faith in God. We are only able to stand firm when we take up the shield of faith, appropriate the Word of God, and stand believing God will deliver us.

So today, how are you being attacked? What are you facing right now in your life where you need to cling tightly to your shield of faith with full assurance that God will not let you down? What area of life are you waiting for an answer from God and it appears the heavens are brass and God’s not listening? Whatever you are facing, both known and unknown, take up your shield of faith and refuse to yield that which is part of your Christian armor. Stand firm Christian soldier God will not fail you!

Take a moment and read the words of this anonymous poem (my favorite by the way) and decide today to never yield your shield!

I want to let go, but I won’t let go.
There are battles to fight,
By day and by night,
For God and the right –
And I’ll never let go.

I want to let go, but I won’t let go.
I’m sick, ‘tis true,
Worried and blue,
And worn through and through,
But I won’t let go.

I want to let go, but I won’t let go.
I will never yield!
What! Lie down on the field
And surrender my shield?
No, I’ll never let go!

I want to let go, but I won’t let go.
May this be my song,
“Mid legions of wrong –
Oh, God, keep me strong
That I may never let go!”

Remember… Never yield your shield, stay in the battle!

In Christ alone,