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,


Monday, April 20, 2009

Emir Caner

If you are looking for a new blog that tells it like it is regarding the ongoing war between radical Islam and Christianity, check out Emir Caner's blog at Dr. Caner is a leading mind in the area of Islamic studies in America and he tells it like it is. For those of you who have questions regarding what's happening in the Islamic world and its interaction and planned takeover of the Western world, you won't want to miss this.

More later...

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

In Christ alone,


Friday, April 17, 2009

The Incredible Fredom of Forgiveness

Unforgivable! If ever a word points toward a tragic ending filled with overwhelming regret, surely this one does. It is a word filled with heartache and heartbreak. It floods our conscience with pain and scrapes at our emotions like rough sandpaper over the surface of soft wood. Recently, someone shared with me that what had happened to them was unforgivable. They could not, would not, and dare not forgive for in their eyes they had been wronged so completely. Rather than allow grace to intervene, they chose to embrace their pain, with little regard to their future and how this decision would dictate their legacy. Upon hearing this, I began to ponder “unforgivable” and whether it should ever be a word used by a follower of Christ. My conclusion - I think not.

Over 50 years ago, African American John Lewis, now a Democrat Congressman from Georgia was brutally beaten by a Ku Klux Klan member named Elwin Wilson solely because of the color of his skin. It was a crime of hatred that went unchecked and was forgotten by most, except Lewis and Wilson. As Wilson aged, his burden of guilt increased as his viewpoint regarding hatred changed. He had committed what some would say was an unforgivable act, and yet now he found himself faced with an overwhelming need for forgiveness. Mr. Wilson sought out Mr. Lewis and on February 6, 2009 publicly apologized for the wrong he had done to him so many years ago. What he found was a man who understood grace. What he realized was the freedom of forgiveness because there are few moments in life more powerful than when forgiveness is sought and received.

Do you need to forgive someone today? Do you need to seek forgiveness from someone you’ve hurt today? The Bible speaks to this matter with perfect instruction – “Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive." (Col. 3:13). If you are reluctant, think about this next statement and see if your willingness might change: What if the Lord refused to forgive you when you asked for forgiveness, where in eternity would you be headed right now?

Decide right now that you are going to call someone you have hurt and bridge the gap in the relationship by asking for forgiveness. Determine when you will make this call and just do it!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Last night I had the privilege of being my oldest daughter’s date to a lecture on the campus of University of Texas Permian Basin. The intriguing and thought provoking lecturer was Malcolm Gladwell. Mr. Gladwell has written two New York Times bestsellers and his new book “Outliers” will no doubt make this prestigious list also. I was not sure what to expect as I had not attended a lecture on a secular university campus in years. I was pleasantly surprised.

Gladwell’s lecture centered upon the theme of “Capitalization.” Coming from an accounting background I thought he was going to speak about proper capitalization of assets during difficult financial times (yawn!). I’m glad I was wrong. Capitalization is the ability to maximize the potential for achievement of an individual or group of individuals in spite of factors which seek to limit success. In other words, why do some athletes achieve greatness while others refuse to capitalize on their raw talent and ability? Why do Asians excel in mathematics while the Western world struggles with a defeated mindset in this area? What factors influenced the success of Bill Gates to capitalize on his abilities? These were intriguing questions as I have longed believed a celebration of mediocrity to be the standard by which success is measured in America (and in the church). He had my attention.

As we walked to the car, the question regarding how capitalization can be increased by an individual/organization was racing through my mind. With never a mention about the church, Gladwell had just described one of the greatest frustrations pastors of older, established churches face – how to lead this organization to maximize its potential for the Kingdom of God when there are so many factors (both internal and external) seeking to suppress capitalization in the church? As Gladwell applied three major factors suppressing capitalization – poverty, stupid rules, and attitude – I will do the same for the church.

First, what about poverty? Does poverty in the local church impact Kingdom success? No doubt there are definite times when financial restrictions do suppress capitalization in the church. Even today there are congregations facing this reality due to the financial crisis we are experiencing across this land. However, poverty in the church can always be countered by the financial faithfulness of its members. As we are obedient with God's money, poverty for the purpose of advancing the Kingdom is minimized.

Second, stupid rules that constrain capitalization (Gladwell’s words not mine) flourish in the church today. Some traditions found in the church would fall into the category of a stupid and constraining rule. Whenever tradition dictates a church’s ability to maximize Kingdom potential, capitalization has been suppressed. When there are more effective means of reaching people but “we’ve never done it that way before” becomes the determining mantra, capitalization has been suppressed. When worship style garners more attention on Sunday morning than the God we worship, capitalization has been suppressed. When a church is unwilling to adapt to a changing demographic due to traditionalism or racism, capitalization has been suppressed. Clearly some of the extra-biblical “rules” inserted into the life of the Church should be examined as realities that suppress capitalization for the Kingdom.

Third, the attitude of a church and its leaders can be the greatest determinant for increasing/decreasing capitalization. Gladwell effectively revealed that Asians thrive in math not because they possess a "math gene" but because they possess an attitude of hard work and will settle for nothing less than success. Bill Gates arose at 1:30 AM most mornings during high school to utilize a nearby university mainframe for four hours – hard work. Athletes that excel epitomize an attitude of hard work. Far too often those responsible for leading God’s people have a “get by” work ethic rather than a “get after it” determination to succeed for Kingdom advancement. Their attitude permeates through the entire congregation suppressing capitalization due to lack of vision and hard work.

So what is the answer? As far as I can tell, Jesus believed in capitalization for Kingdom sake regardless of obstacles standing in the way. The Great Commission is proof. Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:19-20 ESV). Church leader, what are you doing to increase capitalization in your congregation to impact all the world for Christ? Christ follower, how are you maximizing your abilities to achieve more for the Kingdom of God than you ever dreamed? When understood in this context, capitalization is not a financial term, it is a Kingdom term!

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

In Christ alone,


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On War and Warriors

Ever pondered why God does not remove all the obstacles that block your path and the adversaries who challenge your peace? I am studying through the book of Judges in preparation for preaching this in the near future. I have read Judges numerous times and again I stand amazed at how this Old Testament book mirrors the times in which we live.

Yesterday I was confronted with the opening verses of Judges 3 and their relevance for today. In these verses God explicitly states that He allowed other nations to remain in the Promised Land for two purposes. First, to test the Israelites faith as they lived in the midst of pagans who did not know the one true God. Judges 3:4 says, “They [the nations] were for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the LORD, which He commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.” They failed this test and began serving other gods every single time.

The second purpose for God allowing other nations to remain in the land was so God’s people could learn to fight. Through the threat of battle, God provided the opportunity for His children’s strength and resolve to stand firm to increase. With war looming overhead God’s people would be forced to a deeper level of dependence upon Him than they had ever experienced. God wanted their perseverance and determination to be hardened by the challenges they faced. He wanted them to know war and become warriors!

The same two challenges face every Christ follower today. Will we remain faithful in the midst of blatant immorality, idolatry, and ever-increasing sensuality and will we learn the art of war and become warriors? From my years in the ministry I have surmised that most Christians are not good fighters. They don’t know war and are not warriors. We are a weak army, having been softened by the ease of Christianity in America. No longer do we stand for God regardless of what we face; no longer do we look the enemy in the eye while falling to our knees to engage in battle. We do not reside in the Word of God to find the unsurpassed strength needed to stand. The American church cannot be classified as warriors because we have forgotten how we are supposed to fight and have lost the will to do so. For this reason God is testing the church today to develop faithful fighters who stand for what is right at all cost.

My prayer for the Church in America is that we will again resolve to fight, to stand firm, to faithfully trust God in this time. May we be refined like precious gold and strengthened like stainless steel. So that when God does a troop inspection He will know that we have been pressure tested and found faithful. What about you?

Never yield your shield… Stay in the Battle!

In Christ alone,


Monday, April 13, 2009

We're Off and Running...

No, this is not the Kentucky Derby, I don't even like horse racing that much. It is the inaugural post of Psa7872 – “Ponderings and encouragement from one pilgrim plodder to another.”

The name Psa7872 comes from… well, you can figure that out. It has been my life verse for many years as a pastor and the goal I have set before me in pastoral ministry. My purpose will be to share from my heart various ponderings and encouragements. Ponderings are the meditations of my heart. These are those thoughts that push me to a deeper walk with God. They center upon the Word of God, sound theology, and the joy of being a Christ follower. Encouragements need no explanation. My prayer is that you will enjoy what you read and that you will receive the encouragement to plod on as a pilgrim bound for the Promised Land. So, enjoy. I’ll post more very soon.

In Christ alone,