“Is not wisdom found among the aged?  Does not long life bring understanding?”

When Job asks this question of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar (Job 12:12), he is being a bit sarcastic because they lack true wisdom.  Today, I can identify with Job’s three friends.

hearing-test-hairy-chestIt was a year ago that my audiologist suggested hearing aids.  I ignored the suggestion for two reasons.  First, I didn’t want to spend the money. (Yes, I’m a tightwad).  Second, I didn’t want to display yet another outward sign of my age.


Last week I shelled out the money.  Today I received my new hearing aids.  Today I made my wife happy.  No longer will she get these two replies: “Huh” and “I can’t hear you.”

Today I am hearing sounds that I haven’t heard in a long time.

Prideful, vain, obstinate . . . all three descriptions apply.   Like the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:24 I must say, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

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40 Years Ago I Was on Death Row

Forty years ago today I chose to trust Christ as my Lord and Savior.  My life has never been the same.  My plans, my dreams, my path in life . . . all of it has been altered since I made that decision.celebrating-40-years

I’d been going to church for just a few months.  I hadn’t learned a whole lot because I spent most of the time on the back row laughing at the preacher and mocking everyone else.  But, what I had figured out on January 16, 1977 was that I was a sinner and the result of being a sinner was that I was already on “death row” (John 3:18“Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”)

Being on “death row” motivates a person!  I telephoned the pastor on Friday the 14th and asked him to help me become a Christ-follower.  Rev. Gene Hitchcock wanted to do it that day, but I said I would wait until Sunday.

Sunday, January 16, 1977:  At the end of sermon the “invitation” began (yes, it was a Baptist church!), and I walked down the main aisle so that Pastor Hitchcock could help me.

I’ve never been the same.  Here is just a sampling of what I’ve learned from personal experience in these 14,610 days of being a Christ-follower:

  • Christ really does transform us (2 Corinthians 5:17) and I’ve experienced it.
  • I’m not perfect and I never will be (1 John 1:8-10), so ongoing confession and repentance is a must.
  • Being a Christian doesn’t exempt me from trouble (John 16:33).
  • God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable (Romans 11:29).
  • The Lord is serious when He says to follow Him we must “deny self.” (Matthew 16:24).
  • Jesus keeps His promise to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5b).

Being a Christ-follower has meant a vocational change, being far away from extended family, and having the never-ending burden of shepherding other dear people in the church’s that I have served.

I wouldn’t change anything.  Thank you, Jesus, for walking every step with me on this incredible journey.

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France Yesterday, the USA Tomorrow?

American Flag and EagleYesterday both the news and social media were atwitter with reports and outrage over the multiple and coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris. The headline that greeted us in this morning’s New York Times was . . . HOLLANDE BLAMES ISIS FOR ATTACKS IN PARIS AS DEATH TOLL RISES TO 127.

How tragic.  But, whew!  Aren’t we glad that’s all happening on the other side of the world?

Or is it?

It’s possible that I’m wrong.  It’s possible that the fairy-tale existence in which we live in the U.S.A. is actually reality.  It’s very possible that it’s very okay that what most of us are worrying about today is what “deals” we will take advantage of on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Sure, we had a cascade of “intelligence failures” that culminated in the horror of September 11, 2001.  But, surely we’ve fixed the system.  It can’t . . . it won’t happen again . . . not here . . . not in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Of course, since 9/11 we’ve also elected and appointed leaders at all levels that are united.  They care nothing about their personal interests or that of their political party.  They now rise above the pettiness of politics that pervaded our government prior to 9/11.  Now our leaders work together to zealously protect “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

In addition, those who subscribe to radical Islam (Isis, al Qaeda, Hamas) were undoubtedly thoroughly and forever frightened by the surge of patriotism that followed 9/11.  If that wasn’t enough, surely radical Islam was terrified by the surge of Americans going to church for three to four weeks after 9/11.

We also have our secret weapon:  God.  We are “one nation under God.”  (It says so right there on the backside of our money.)  The Lord will protect us.  Unlike Israel of old who disdained the Lord’s commands, we have been very careful to learn and also live out the Lord’s commands and instructions in the Bible.  Surely God will protect us.

Or not.

Be afraid, America.

We continue to be caught up in our fantasy football teams and our fantasy lives.   We ignore or pay lip-service to God.  We have allowed “majority rule” to overrule the Bible.  We are led by men and women who put career and party above the national good.

Wake-up, America.  Before it’s too late.

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What Made Me Think

I recently spent two days in a “History, Theology, and Polity” seminar hosted by tquestion markhe EFCA-West.  It was informative and challenging.  Here are my top seven “made me think” statements from  the seminar leader.

  • “We must be pastor-theologians.”
  • “Good theology not only helps you live well, it helps you die well.”
  • “Soteriology (doctrine of salvation) and Ecclesiology (doctrine of the church) are organically connected because we are saved into a “family.”
  • The question we should always ask: “Where stands it written?”
  • “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, and traditionalism is the dead faith of the living” – (quoting Jaroslav Pelikan).
  • “Chronological snobbery = anything old is bad.” (quoting C.S. Lewis)
  • “I know less about eschatology than I used to.” (quoting Warren Wiersbe)
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SHCC building 2My formal “installation” as pastor of Sonoita Hills Community Church occurred today at the conclusion of our morning worship service.  Surrounded by both my new church family and some dear friends from my past, it was a wonderful experience.  Truly I was humbled and blessed.

I was offered the opportunity to say a few words of thanks near the end.  However, what God put on my heart to share were eight promises to my new church.  This is what I promised . . .

  1. I will not seek to accomplish great things as pastor of Sonoita Hills Community Church. Instead, I will simply be faithful to the calling and assignment given to me by God.  I’ll let God be great and do great things.
  1. I will do my best to avoid the spotlight, so that God will get all the glory for what He purposes to do through us.
  1. I will not ask you to follow me and my leadership. Instead, together we will follow Christ and His leadership.
  1. I will not lean on my own wisdom and understanding. Instead I will strive to lead us in seeking God’s sovereignty and His guidance.
  1. I will always remember that God is king; which means that I am not. I am His servant and your servant.
  1. Although it’s natural to have a desire to grow numerically as a church, I will never put cultural relevance above Truth as I teach and live out the gospel of Christ in our community.
  1. I will gladly forego personal popularity so that I can always communicate the clear urging of Scripture for all to repent of sin, trust Christ as Savior, and embrace a life of obedience to God.
  1. I will begin each and every day praising God that He has blessed me with the undeserved privilege to live in Sonoita and be the Pastor of Sonoita Hills Community Church.
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I Got a Paycheck!

Treasure Chest with GoldLast Thursday I received my first full paycheck since October 2014. It was a great feeling.  It also was a nice check because I am paid monthly.

I was “sky high” and praising God as I walked into my bank on Friday morning to make the deposit.  My rejoicing wasn’t so much for the check, but for the people God has used in my life to help me build a solid theology and practice of stewardship.

It starts with my mother.  Her work ethic and money management skills set a great example for me as a child and teen.  We were poor (I didn’t know that fact back then!), but mom always found a way for us to have just enough.

Lynne and I were blessed early in our walk with Christ by two Pastors who taught and lived biblical stewardship:  J. Walker Campbell and James Morton.  Along the way they helped introduce us to the writings of Larry Burkett, one of the great pioneers in teaching total stewardship . . . not just tithing.  Burkett taught us to save money in advance of anticipated needs.  Later, Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace University helped us get on a track to be totally debt free (including mortgage), which we achieved in July 2014.

This solid background, plus more than a few present-day miracles by the Lord, got us through 233 days without a paycheck (my final partial paycheck in Michigan was on 11/9/14, and my first partial paycheck was on Arizona on 6/30/15).

Through it all, the Lord has proven the truth of Philippians 4:19 – And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

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Learning from Mexico

Gay marriage is now legal across the United States.  That’s reality.  I don’t like this new reality, but the Supreme Court of the United States has spoken.

The problem is that God had already spoken on this issue.  To state it simply . . . I “believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and rings and a BibleNew Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.”*

What will happen in the future when a church declines to host a gay wedding?  What will happen in the future when a pastor declines to officiate a gay wedding?  This is the next great battle that the courts will decide.

My best guess is that eventually the courts will say that if a church or a pastor participates in any weddings, they must participate in all.  However, I have an alternative idea.  Perhaps we can learn from Mexico!

It was in 2009 that Lynne and I were in Piedras Negras, a border town in the Mexican state of Coahuila, for a wedding.  I wasn’t surprised by how they did weddings in Mexico: I WAS COMPLETELY SHOCKED!  A marriage in Mexico is legal only if it is a civil ceremony performed at a local Civil Register Office (Oficina del Registro Civil).

So on Friday afternoon the bride and groom, both sets of parents, and Lynne and I had an appointment at the office of their equivalent of a Justice of the Peace.  A few questions and a few signatures later, they were married in the eyes of the law.   However, as followers of Jesus Christ the bride and groom wanted the blessing and affirmation of God upon their marriage.  So they were married again at their local church the next day.  As Christians, they didn’t consider themselves fully married until that act of worship at church.

I can’t foresee every result or ramification from today’s Supreme Court decision.  But I do now this:  I will never officiate a same-sex wedding.  If there is a cost to my civil disobedience, I will pay it.  But, I will not compromise my faith or the Bible.

*from the EFCA Statement of Faith


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