Monday, June 23, 2008

Be careful what you ask for...

I have been spending the last few weeks reading through some OT books. I am loving the process of reading through Proverbs every day.

I also am spending some time in I Samuel. I Samuel is really the story of Saul, the first king of Israel. As you read through the first few chapters of the book, you see a people who were bent on worshiping God when it was convienent. But as soon as things were good, they were on their own and God was in the corner. They spent decades under the thumb of the Phillistines and when they finally repented (chapter 7), God rescued them. He defeated the Phillistines and the Ark of the Covenant was returned to Israel.

Then Israel reverts to thier old ways. Instead of trusting God and believing that God would protect and bless them they decided they wanted to be like all the other nations and have their own king.(I Sam 8:6).

Why did they want this? Well, on the surface it looks like it was because Samuel's successors (his sons), were perveted and dishonest (vs. 3). But in reality it was deeper than that. They wanted to be like everyone else. I Sam 8:20 says, "Then we will be like all the other nations.. with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles."

God warned them... He told them that the King would draft their boys and girls, he would tax them to the gills, and eventually the people would cry out to God for relief (vs. 18). But they still wanted a king. They wanted something different than what they had. They wanted what everyone else had.

Sometimes what you have is exactly what you need. Not all the time, but sometimes. I don't think that "more of the same" is neccesarily best. But I am not sure that all this trumpeting about "change" is healthy either. We are in the middle of the longest and most costly poltical season in our nations history. Candidates for President are over working the "change" theme. Everything is about change. They come in with new programs, new ideas, new ways of getting to the same place. Candidates and their wives are on news shows, variety shows, late night TV shows,and even afternoon talk shows. All of them are trumpeting change.

I think also country would do very well to "be careful what we ask for." We just might get it.... change. But change to what? "Change agents" throw around how they want to change things, but do not say exactly what it is, or how much it will cost, or how we will pay for it. I fear that in 4 or 8 years we will be looking for a new candidate of "change". The difference will be that he/she will have to clean up the mess from the this last round of change.

It is a critical time in our country. I wish we could have educated debate on where we need to go. And if I could ask for one thing, it would be that we would have candidates and campaigns that would sincerely look to God for wisdom. Maybe the place to star would be with Proverbs...( full circle there).

Read through 1st Samuel... You will notice that the predictions and warnings of God came true. Its the same today for all of us... God knows...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Thinking Fathers...

When I think about this Father's Day....

I will think about my son-in-law Nathaniel. Two days before Father's Day 08, he became a father to little Grace.

I will think about a conversation I had with Joel last night. It was cool to hear the excitement in his voice as he talked about some positive developments at work. He's a man now...making his way in the world..I am proud of him.

I will think about the memorial service for Tim Russert. I watched part of it today and marveled at how his 22 year old son Luke, could play such a large part in eulogizing his father. You don't get that in the four days after your dad dies suddenly. You get that by being mentored by a great father.

I will think about a moment on Monday after Tiger won the US Open in a playoff, when he took his little girl in his arms and kissed her. When mom took her back, little Sam protested, and in an instant she was back in Dad's arms.

I will think about my three girls and how they have turned out to be wonderful, responsible and caring young ladies.

I will think how there's now way I get to be the father of all four, without their mother...who is the best thing to happen to me everyday.

I will think about my father who worked so hard for so many years, and who has managed to make retirement look good for anyone who works too much.

I will think about a father from the Bible named Jarius, who would stop at nothing to help his dying daughter. ( Mark 5)

I will think about the blessing my heavenly Father is to me. After all, the most difficult thing a Father could ever do is to "give up" His Son for me.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Our summer series this year is "Wise Words for not so wise people." I think we all need a heavy dose of wisdom... and Proverbs certainly is a great book to learn from.
So far,I have recieved alot of very positive comments. This book and the messages seem to resonate with people...

Planning preaching takes alot of time, prayer, thought and conversation. The fact is that I am not one of those guys that can wake up every Monday and say, "I wonder what I should preach about this week?" If I did that, I would not last 3 weeks. Some guys can do that... Other guys take chunks of time off in the summer, go away for 3-4 weeks and work up a full years sermon titles and texts. For me, things slow down enough around here that I can give more time in my daily schedule to this. I have found it is better for me to bite it off in chunks , rather than trying to plan for a full year all at once.

So I plan 6-8 months in advance. That way I have a good idea of where I need to go. I am reading for messages that are in Nov. and Dec. right now. And I read for stories and illustrations in newspapers and the net with an eye toward what I am preaching about in the coming weeks and months.

Right now I am planned through about Feb. of 09. That doesn't mean that I can't change. And certainly it is all really up to God and His leading. There are times I plan, and it does get changed. I am good with that...

Sooooo... I was thinking... If you go to FCC what things or topics would you like to hear about? Do you have a particular subject, or passage that you would like to hear more about and learn from? Is there a concern or a need that you would to hear more about what the Word of God says?

I have some ideas for next spring and summer, but I welcome the input.

By the way, if you don't attend FCC, send some ideas of what you would like your preacher to address. It may not fit for us, but you never know, it might spark something in my spirit... which I can pray about and see how God leads.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Life and Death....It's real

Tim Russert's death hit alot of people hard. It seems (at least from a distance), that he was a really great guy. I didn't watch "Meet the Press" much, because I am usually pretty busy on Sunday Mornings. But his political anaylsis, especially during the election years was always brilliant... and easy to understand. He was truly an "everyman" kind of guy.

I have been interested in hearing alot of the comments about Him. I am listening to his doctor right now. The statement, "We all struggle with the limits of what we can do." He is right.Great doctors are still limited. The fact is that God is the one who is the giver of life. Great doctors, medicine and lifestyle adjustments are all good. But the reality is that we all will die.

Soooooo.... we need to look beyond this life. We need to be ready for eternity. There is only one way to do that, and that is through a relationship with Jesus Christ. No one else offers what Christ offers. He offers life eternal. He offers a way to have our sins washed away through his blood.

I did DVR "Meet the Press" from yesterday. Tom Brokaw and Russert's collegues all talked extensively about one characteristic that he had. He was prepared. He was offended when politcal figures came into Meet the Press unprepared. ( David Dukes for instance.) Over and over they talked about how prepared Russert was for any one that came in and sat across from him.

My hope is that he was just as prepared to stand before God. Last Friday was his day. That is how it works some times. It is a surprise. Statistical information says that 400,000 Americans die of sudden cardiac arrests. We have to be ready.

On another note, Baby Grace is now 4 days old! Lizzie and Grace came home Sunday... everything is good. Pam is staying there with them. That has got to be great fun for her too... I think this must be one of the sweet payoff's for having girls ( for a mom). Thanks for your prayers for them both.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Grace Capri Smith was born at 5:54 PM on Jul 13, 2008. Her vital statistics are 8lbs, 9 oz. 20.5 in long. Everything is great for her, Mom and dad are great too. So are the grandparents...

Psalm 139:13-18

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!

Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
am still with you.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Ramdom thoughts about modern Jewish History ( Holocaust)

One of the strongest impressions that Jews try to make when a person comes to thier country is the history of persecution and hatred that they have had to endure over the generations. It was said that the walls of Jerusalem were built and rebuilt over some 17 times over the years. Invading armies would come in and destroy the walls, then rebuild the walls to their liking , and the cycle would start over again. Whether it was the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Turks, the Greeks, or the Romans, it seems like there was great pride and millitary strategy in destroying the walls around the city.

For the better part of one day on our tour we spent time at what is called YAD VASHIM, which is the National Musuem of Holocaust History in Jersualem. I am ashamed to say that I have not given this alot of part because I was born in 1958, decades after this terrible time for Jews. (That is an understatement.)

But going through the museum was a very emotional thing to do. To look at the depth of pain that the Jews throughout the world experienced as a result of Hitler and his atrocities was almost too much at times.

The new musuem was recently completed. Beyond the other memorials at the site, this museum included history of how the world stood by for years while Hitler strategized to destroy the Jews. We were given 2 hours to walk through it. We could have used 12-14 hours easily to read all the exhibits,view the films and to reflect on how our world got to the place where it could allow some 6 million people to be interned in death camps and then murdered. Men, women and children murdered. To look into their faces as they were herded into cattle cars was almost too much. Too know that they were told that they were being taken to work camps, when in fact they were being taken to camps with gas chambers, firing squads or to places where they would be left to freeze to death, was almost too much.

To learn more about how the world had ample warning that Hitler was up to something and did nothing was frightening. Are we that wrapped up in ourselves that we would just not pay attention

This has given me pause when I think about some of the things going on in the world. AIDS, starvation, ethnic cleansing, civil strife in countries around the world, all of those things are a result of the sinfulness of man and the product of a world that God did not intend to be.

I don't pretend to understand the World political situation. But it was Winston Churchill said, " Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

I can only imagine how hard it is to think about that time in Jewish history. Every school child is taken to the memorial. Millitary recruits are taken there. By the way millitary service is compulsory in Israel. (Two year committment in either the millitary or in some sort of national community service.)

German essayist Kurt Tucholsky said, "A country is not what it does, but what it tolerates." Can you see the application to our culture and world today?

Since "toleration" is the virture of the new millenium, we have alot to consider. To me, major concern should be given to world leaders who refuse to acknowledge the right of the Jewish state to exist. God told Abraham in Gensis 12 that he would "bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you." From that day on, there was a promise to the descendants of Abraham which God has said he would keep.

History has proved this to be true. Go through the list of conquerors of Israel. Short-lived victories were replaced by the renewal and rebirth of the nation of Israel. The Eygptians,the Canaanites, the Philistines, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Turks, all of them are gone. Israel is still here.

Iran says they will attempt to do the same...they will lose too. They would do well to learn from history.

Bottom line, the history of the Holocaust was not something I had thought about as I contemplated this trip. But I am very thankful that we went there. And I look forward
to doing more reading about this.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Temple Mount

Observations about Jews and Christians... per lizzie's request... I think it is hard for Jewish people to distinguish the difference between Christians and Americans. This is not alot unlike our own culture where so many people think, "Well I must be Christian, because I was born in American." Of course we know that is not true.

But in Israel, the same is true. While people may claim to be Jewish by "race," they seem to have some sort of thought that because they are living in Israel then they are part of God's chosen people

Our study in Romans pointed out that a Jew is a Jew because he one inwardly in God's sight. Same thing with Christians. Its a heart thing, not a location deal.

For the Jewish people we encountered along the way, they view Christians as well meaning people who love God. And they expect that we would afford them the same thought. I heard many times, "We are all part of the same family." Or "We believe in the same God." But try to take the conversation to Jesus and there is a decided difference in tone and receptivity.

Part of my view of Jewish people is a bit colored because they are so dependent on the USA for their protection. The fact is that if we do not stand up for them, no one will. It is an awesome responsibility. So when we bought things from them, they were grateful. They thanked us over and over for coming to their country, and reminded us how much they depend on America.

Back to the tour... One hot afternoon, we gathered together on the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount. 300 of us make quite a spectacle. We found some shade and had our teaching time from Kay Arthur. But what struck me was that we sat there, being taught from the Word of God, being taught about Jesus Christ, right under the dome of the El-Asqua Mosque. We are told that what we were doing was under the watchful eye of the Muslims. But we sang some great worship songs, and studied anyway. I really liked that.

Later in the week, we went up on the Temple Mount. The Dome of the Rock ( the golden one in all the pictures) is amazing. But what really caught my attention was the fact that Muslims watched your every move. They demanded that you not express any physical affection with a person of the opposite sex, and that you do not engage in laughter or any other "frivolity". Just to get on the Temple Mount is a hassle. You have to go through security, including metal detectors, they check your bags, etc. The security is all under Jewish control, because part of the agreement with the Jordanians (after the 6 day war in 1967) was that the Temple Mount would remain Muslim, but the Israelis would maintain control and security. Another example of "peacful co-existence." Lots of guns and security there.

Then you have to go up this long "boardwalk" kind of thing which is very rickety. Kind of creepy really...not safe and the City inspectors are all over the Muslims to get it together and get a safe ramp up the Temple Mount. Once you cross into the Temple Mount area, you are under the scrutiny of the Muslims... They are looking you over top to bottom. Do not hold hands, do not touch a woman, wear "holy clothes" ( men wear slacks and women must have their shoulders cleavage or anything like that.)

Interstingly enough , our guide, Kenny, was a bit nervous on the Mount. He is a Jewish man, and said that on more than one occassion he had been escorted off the Temple Mount by Muslim authorities. So we kept moving, he told stories without his usuall dramatic flair... Our Bus guide, Bob, was even more uncomfortable and kept things moving too... You just got the feeling that you were being watched.

One last thing about this. When we got up on the Temple Mount , we were besieged by young boys "selling" postcards which contained interior pictures of the Mosque athe Dome of the Rock. They were pretty agressive. Eventually, after most of us had bought a pack of postcards for $1, they were shooed away.

Captitalism still reigns, even on a Muslim Holy Site.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

"We will drive Israel into the sea..."

There is so much more to Israel than archeology and history. There is a political reality that can not be denied.

One of the very interesting things about Israel is the fear that the country lives in. Israel is a country that is about the size of New Jersey. You can cover most of the country in just a few hours of driving. I suppose that would not be a big deal if you lived in New Jersey.

But think about it. On the north is Lebanon. Just beyond Lebanon is Iran. To the North East is Syria. To the due east is Jordan. To the south is Egpyt. All of these nations at one time or another have wanted the Jews run out of the promised land. Arabs through the ages have made this their stated intention. Some countries have modified their stand... negotiated peace and co-exist with Israel. Iran and Syria seem to be the major threats right now. Iran's leader has come out and said that the goal of his administration is to destroy Israel. He has claimed that the Holocaust was a concoction of the CIA, Israel and other pro-Israeli groups, in an attempt to steal back the land.

Syria is more subtle. Damascus has chosen to take a more subtle approach by funding terrorists groups like Hezbollah ( in Lebanon), and Hamas(rooted in the Gaza Strip, south and west of Jerusalem). From both the north and the southwest the Jews have seen bombs rain down on them. Just two years ago some 800 bombs were sent from southern Lebanon into the Tiberias area... Our Guide said that only two out of the 800 hit anything and no one was injured. But can you imagine going to bed each night wondering what would drop out of the sky upon your home? It is almost unimaginable to us.

I was very interested in the Golan Heights... which is due west of Tiberias. We drove along the Syrian Border and heard about the desire that Syria has for the Palestinians to regain control of this strategic mountain range. It is no secret that the ones who control the Heights will indeed control the northern part of the country. Syria wants it, and they have fought with Israel over that strategic area for 40 years.

While we were there, President Bush and Secretary of State Rice were in Jerusalem. It was a tense visit at best. They were there to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Israeli independence. On the one hand our leaders were saying, "Israel has a right to to exist...we will stand with you... etc. " But then they met with Palestinian leaders and in effect said, "Everyone needs to negotiate the division of land in the area." Boy that really made the Jewish leaders mad. It worries the Jews that we send mixed messages. The older Jewish people are adamant that they do not give up any more land than they already have. I heard this several times on the tour... " When it comes to Palestinans and Jews, a peace treaty is not worth the paper it is written on." Perhaps this comes from the consistent message of Israel's enemeies that says, "We will drive you into the sea." It is kind of hard to trust someone when that is the message. It is hard to negotiate when you have this kind of statement hanging over your head.

I am so thankful to live in America. We live with limited fear of an attack. We do not fear those neighbors to the south or west. Internally, we are trying to identify the enemies that have made their way into our country and thwart their efforts to destroy us. Aside from 9/11, our government has been pretty successful. But it would not take much to see fear invade our country... I would never want to live the way the Jews do. They know where their gas masks are. They know where the bomb shelters are. They live under the very real threat that Iran will successfully manufacture a nuclear device and if they do they have only one target: Israel.

Ultimately, God is in control. I believe he gave the promised land to Israel. While Arabs and Jews have been battling over this land for generations, it is Israel's. But, while I believe that... the fear of the Jews only reveals the lack of understanding about Christ and God's plan to finally settle this once and for all. Christ is the difference maker here... If only they would come to Him, recognize him as the Messiah who has come, has died, and has risen from the dead. If only they would come to Him, recognizing that He will come again, this time not as a lamb, but as a Lion and he will make everything right once and for all...

Jews may say that it is not that simple...but I really think it is.

More info on our trip to come....

A POSTSCRIPT: TODAY Iran's Leader said tht Israel will soon cease to exist..and that the decline and destruction of the US has begun. (USA TODAY). He is crazy and that is what makes him so scary...

Sunday, June 01, 2008

A Stormy morning

After a flying across the Europe and the Mediteranean, we arrived in Tel Aviv. Then we had a 2 1/2 hour bus ride to Tiberias, which is on the southwest side of the sea of Galilee.

The Sea of Galilee is not our standards. But it is down in a valley, with Golan Heights ( long disputed land between Syria and Israel)on the east, and the mountains that lead to the Jezreel valley and the coastal region on the west.

We fell into bed the first night. Our bodies were definately confused by the 8 hour time change. We both were so tired when we went to bed about 9:30 that night.

The first morning on the Sea was very memorable. About 4 AM (about 8 PM Oklahoma time), I was awakened by the clap of thunder. I laid their for a moment thinking, "Where am I?" I did not expect a storm. But God has a surprise for us. I got up and looked out the window over the sea and it was a full-fledged storm broiling on the sea. I looked at streaks of lightning across the sky. Then the rain, then more lightning and thunder. Pam was sleeping, but I woke her up with, "How cool is that!" God was giving us a storm on the Sea of Galilee.

I did not see Jesus or a boat, but I could imagine it. Locals said that the storms come up from time to time, totally by surprise. And when they come up, they are loud and crazy. Wind, rain, lightning... the whole thing.

I thought about the storms that the disciples experienced on the Sea and how Jesus calmed them. It was a "miracle moment" for me. It was like God was saying to me on that first morning..."You really are here."

I came back to Oklahoma and our church family with a new appreciation for the calming influence and presence of Christ. This week many have needed to be reminded of it. One of our members mother died. Another member had been given a terrible cancer diagnosis and was undergoing exploratory surgery. ( Guess what??? After all the tests , they got in there and did not find a thing!). Another member found out that her mother has been given very little time to live. One of our secretaries is dealing with a terminal illness in her family.

Where do you go in the storm? You look for, you call for, you pray for Jesus. Even when it is stormy, His presence helps. It calms us, reminds us that this fallen world we live in is not all there is. His presences gives us hope, since he has conquered death.

It was all brought home to me this morning. I went to church with high hopes for a big crowd, the introduction of our series called " Wise Words." ( Proverbs). It had been stormy over the weekend, but not a really big deal.

First service went fine... Then the storms hit. Deluge, lightning, hurricaine force winds, and hail. It was incredible. Our water retention pond was nearly full. Things from our phase II construction were flying around. What a storm!

It all calmed down... and then it hit again during our second service. Attendance was way down, but we pressed on... and then as I got up to preach, ( two sentences or so into ), the power went out. What do you do? You keep going. You press on. Worship and preaching are not dependent on sound systems, lights and all the extras that we have in our building.

It was great moment, not unlike the moment from the Sea of Galilee. Storms come and storms go. That is life. But you keep on trusting, keep on searching, keep on believing. At the end of our "dark" service one of our members came forward for prayer. It is really stormy in her life. And another family came forward to join (Kyle had been baptized last Wednesday.)

I was proud of our church this morning. They pressed on and after it was all over, they said, "It was kind of neat." And they appreciated the fact that we did not stop.

I am also extremely proud of our Early Children, Childrens and Worship teams. They did not panic, and just kept on. They are great people.

Storms are part of life, in Isreal and Oklahoma. Jesus is there no matter where you are.