Monthly Archives: November 2011

Love Gives the Best

My model and mentor for being a pastor was Dr. James G. Harris, Senior Minister of University Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. During our days at seminary, Dr. Harris taught a field education class to those of us seeking to fulfill our call as pastors. I was a member of his church, taught a fifth-grade boys Sunday school class and sang in the choir. Dr. Harris counseled us as Dorothy and I prepared to marry. Together Dorothy and I taught the junior high Training Union class on Sunday evenings and helped in the young adult department. Dr. Harris led my ordination council and sent us forth to Tulsa in 1973. In January of 1974, Dorothy and I returned to Fort Worth for a few days, where Dr. Harris, provided wise counsel as my responsibilities here at the church began to change.

One of the things Dr. Harris believed has always stayed with me. He would repeat this occasionally as the ushers prepared to receive the Sunday morning offering, and it is very appropriate during this Christmas season. He would say, “Anyone can give without loving, but no one can love without giving.” Hearing reports this week of the Black Friday crush of the crowds fighting, pepper spraying and using stun guns on fellow shoppers reminded me once again of how far off the mark we have wandered concerning Christmas and giving.

As messed up, off-the-mark and downright mean as we have gotten, Christmas continues to remind us that no one can love without giving—not even God. “God so loved the world,” the familiar verse says, “that He gave His only Son that we might have eternal life.” Dr. Harris gave his all to God and University Baptist Church. Dr. Harris died on a beautiful early Sunday morning in January, 1975, as he jogged around the high school track, preparing his mind, body and soul to preach of God’s love gift that day. His memorial service became a true spiritual and church-wide homecoming as hundreds of us returned to say thank you to God for giving us the gift of James Gordon Harris.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Give out of your love. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Serve Pray Love

Our grandson, Hudson, is preparing to become a missionary to China, like his name sake, Hudson Taylor. At 2 our Hudson is only vaguely aware that his family has put their house on the market in preparation for the move to Shenyang. He and his sister Molly (4) are fascinated by all the excitement of walls being painted and furniture being consolidated in anticipation that one day soon they will sell their home and move to China.

The missionary Hudson Taylor was born in England in 1832 and founded the China Inland Mission which expanded the Christian evangelization of the Chinese people. Overcoming language, health and cultural barriers, Hudson Taylor had established more than 20 mission outposts in China at the time of his death in 1905. He was a contemporary with Lottie Moon, the beloved Baptist missionary from America.

Dayna and Kevin Avery served in Changchun, China from 2001 to 2003 teaching English to college students as faculty members at the university. This time they are volunteering with the mission organization Serving Humanity in Crisis. Kevin and Dayna will be focusing on the medically and socially marginalized and neglected in a city of six million people located 425 miles northeast of Beijing. Being volunteers they will be seeking support from missions-minded friends and families. You can follow their story at their blog, where the fuller story of their calling, Kevin’s healing release to serve and minister, and the family’s preparations for the anticipated springtime move is told.

As we enter the Christmas season let us remember that all of the Christian missionaries serving around our world are family members too. They, too, are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles of everyday people. They live out their calling by serving others, praying and loving all in the name of Jesus.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Live your call. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Black Friday starts on Thursday

Black Friday starts on Thursday this year. The signal bell will ring Thanksgiving evening, two hours earlier than last year for some of the national chain stores. Some people are protesting this, especially the already hard-pressed employees. But let’s be realistic about this – would you rather “shop ’til you drop” starting at 10 p.m. or 4 a.m.? Next year, of course, starting time will be 8 Thanksgiving night.

According to the Universal Book of Common Knowledge (Wikipedia), the title “Black Friday” first shows up as a term used by the police to describe the traffic and shopping nightmares created on the sale day after Thanksgiving. In the 1980s the term, which had been associated with things like Friday the 13th and stock market crashes, was massaged to infer that it was the day retail businesses moved from red-ink losses to black-ink profits for the year. In 2005 first advertised “Cyber Monday” as the day to go online and order over-stocked/out-of-stock items from the internet. I have a suspicion, though, that some of the frantic Black Friday buying is not for gift-giving at all.

I would like to make a suggestion. Instead of rushing out to buy the latest, cheapest gadgets/toys/clothes ever made in the history of the world, why not buy some local goods/services/products to bless others? If the holiday season is the time when most businesses begin to show a profit, then local shops need our business even more. Other gift suggestions might include three months of lawn care, four oil changes and car washes, a manicure or pedicure, gift certificates to local restaurants, a computer tune-up, you understand. This is a season for giving to others.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Give local. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Shake, Rattle and Shake

Tuesday, November 08, 2011. So far this week Oklahomans have been shaken by a series of earthquakes, thunderstorms, hail, floods and a tornado, and that was just last night. Numbers like 4.7, 5.6, 3.4, 4.7 (again) are showing up in everyday conversations. Everyone hears a strange noise then the shaking begins. I had never felt an earthquake before so I checked that off of my One Day/Someday to-do list. Now I won’t have to do that any more. Within a 30-minute span last night there were earthquakes in Oklahoma (4.7) and Taiwan (6.9). Up in outer space an aircraft carrier-sized asteroid is zipping past between the earth and the moon, and the sun is sending our way the largest solar flares in more than a decade.

The average number of minor earthquakes per year in Oklahoma is 50. That figure held through 2009. In 2010, Oklahoma experienced a noticeable jump in tremors at close to 100. This year we are once again heading to the record book. There is some speculation that there is a connection with the introduction of “the fracking method” to obtain more Oklahoma gas. Others believe God may be trying to get people’s attention. Thousands are thinking it’s time to buy earthquake insurance, but that is like trying to buy flood insurance after the water came through your house. Insurance companies are asking Oklahomans to check back “in a few weeks.” Good luck.

Those who know their Scriptures point to verses about earthquakes and wars signaling the last days. If these are the last days, Christians do not appear to be too concerned about their non-believing friends and relatives. Some are shaken. The reports I get from other pastors say the churches are not filling with people trying to work things out with their Maker, yet. So I guess it is up to us to tell the Good News of God’s love through Jesus. By the way, there is a difference between salvation through Christ and “faith insurance.”

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Get shaking. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Isn’t It Interesting

Isn’t your life interesting? Isn’t it interesting what you are learning about the place of money in your life? Isn’t it interesting the things you are discovering about your own health and body after all of these years? Isn’t it interesting what your relationships with relatives, friends and neighbors are teaching you about living? Isn’t it interesting how the entertainment media and cultural news tend to raise our hopes or lower our expectations almost instantaneously? Isn’t it interesting that some people believe in a cause so much that they are willing to sleep out in an October snowstorm in New York City to make a point? Isn’t it interesting that the population of the world has more than doubled in the lifetime of anyone born before 1969, and more than tripled in the lifetime of anyone who was alive in 1927 when the population of the whole world was only 2 billion? Isn’t it interesting that God is always trying to tell us something about His love?

Isn’t it interesting that you are not a part of the ain’t-it-awful crowd? You know the ain’t it awfuls—they are down in the dumps about most everything. Ain’t it awful about _____ (you fill in the blank). Some of them are your friends and relations. They say, “Ain’t it awful that things aren’t the way they should be/once were/ought to be? Ain’t it awful that if only I’d/they’d/we’d done something about it/never did it/been better at it/thought it through or just done it, we’d all be better off?”

It is time for an intervention. It is time to help your friends quit the “Ain’t It Awful Club”* and join up with the “Isn’t It Interesting Society.” The benefits of the Isn’t It Interesting Society include: exploration, lifelong learning, insight and discovery. Isn’t it interesting what God is teaching you today about _____ (you fill in the blank). The Ain’t It Awful approach keeps me sitting on the couch, miserable and whiny. The Isn’t It Interesting approach keeps me on my toes, amazed and focused.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Keep it interesting. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

*Thanks to author Jack Canfield for coining the phrase, Ain’t It Awful Club.

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