Sunday, December 14, 2008


Freedom! It is a word that naturally brings emotion to most Americans. That is because we know our history and we know what it cost (and what it continues to cost). But for believers it is not a word that stirs us as it should. I really think that it is because most of us never really experience true freedom, the freedom that Christ died to bring us. We have been doing a series on Galatians in our Lifegroup and a couple of weeks ago I taught on chapter 5. I had been longing to do this for some time because I feel that it is one of the two most important chapters in the Bible (the other being Romans 8).

Why is it so important? In verse one Paul begins by saying that it is for freedom that Christ set us free. When one has been freed, he pursues one of three paths. One path is to be fearful of the new found freedom and to go back to the old ways which even though is bondage, it is safe and familiar. For the believer, this means going back to living under the law. By that I mean that we go back to trying to appease God by doing a lot of good things and hoping that the good outweighs the bad. That works when we compare ourselves to each other, but fails miserably when we are brought in the light of a Holy God. The second path is to go the other extreme and use the freedom to pursue all sorts of wild and crazy things. Obviously, this is not where we want to go either. Of course the right path is the middle path where we use our freedom to serve one another in love.

Now for the good stuff! In verse 16 he says to live by the Spirit and we will not satisfy the desires of the sinful nature. This is the middle path we talked about. Not satisfying the flesh is not a hope, but a truth, a reality that we can count on. Of course it does not mean that we never sin, but that we do not live in continuous, repetitive sin. But remember that there is a war going on (see Romans chapter 7) for our soul, and many of us try to walk the fence, doing just enough to satisfy their conscience and hopefully God.

But what is this sinful nature (or flesh) that we conquer in the Spirit? I think that there are three levels. The first is obvious (see v.19-21) and most believers that try to follow God do not have a major problem with this. The second is not so obvious. It is the vain attempt to put ourselves on the throne of our lives and try to control our destiny. This is the flesh taking over. The third is even less obvious but is more likely where we are. That is to pursue things that in and of themselves are good, but in our pursuit of them we get sidetracked from that which is best. These are such things as family, work, sports, ect. When we make anything other than God ultimate in our lives we are living in the flesh.

So how does one live by the Spirit and not the flesh? I wish I could give you a ten step plan that you (and I) could follow, but I cannot do that. If I could I would have done it because that is my personality. I have tried doing it all on my own and it definitely does not work. But I can give some ideas that have been helpful to me. First is to spend the day setting your mind on the things the Spirit desires (Rom. 12:2). Second is to pray, asking the Spirit to help us in our prayer (Rom.8:26-27). Ask the Spirit to direct your day and do this all throughout the day. Be ready to follow Him with unquestioned obedience. Indulge in meditation and waiting on God. Lastly, develop a passion for Jesus. All of these things affect our mind, will and emotions which is our soul. Go for it with reckless abandon.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Cookies, cookies and more cookies. What is it about cookies that causes one to drive 100 miles and everyone else to stop what they are doing and come together during the busy Christmas season? Nothing other than the famous anual Sudan Cookie Decorating Contest. What exactly is this? Well every year in mid December all of the Sudans (usually with friends) get together and decorate sugar cookies. We start out from scratch and roll the dough, then punch our favorite shapes, put them in the oven and get ready to decorate. We have of course the traditional colored icing but over the years have added all sorts of sprinkles, red hots, colored lining and so much more. We all sit around the table and work diligently to make the best cookie. There is no limit to the number of entries. When all have been decorated we vote for the top cookies. This year Blake came out on top (again) and I got second (first time that I have ever placed), Mary Beth third, Christy for honorable mention and best theme. In fairness though, all agreed that Jason put forth his best effort and should have been awarded a prize, if not the top spot.

So how did this all get started? It began when Iwas a little boy and my mother would make sugar cookies with icing. I loved eating them (still do) and so one year early in our marraige, I asked Luana if we could make some. We did and the kids helped out. As they got older , they were really able to decorate and the natural competiveness of the Sudans came out, each of us vying for accolades as the best cookie. Thus we resorted to the judging and a tradition was born.

How long have we been doing this? No one is sure but we think it has been at least 12-15 years

What is the big deal? Again I am not sure but it has become one of those traditions around which families are built. My family did not have many traditions when I grew up, but as we started having kids Luana and I realized the importance of these in bonding as a family. So slowly over the years we have developed a number of them, mostly not intentional but just by doing the same thing each year. And out of all of them the cookie decorating has become the most popular and the one most likely to be passed to the next generation. I encourage you parents with young kids to begin thinking about establishing your own traditions.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


What can you say about Thanksgiving except thanks. That seems so trite, but in reality that is what it is all about and as long as our thanks is to Whom it is due then it is okay. And I certainly have a lot for which to be thankful. We went up to Dallas where 3 of our 4 children live and had the traditional dinner at my oldest daughter's home. She is a good cook but really everyone chipped in and it was a real feast. She also is quite the decorator and all of the table decorations were so cute. We were blessed to have all four of our kids there which is unusual when 3 are married. It was also a little unusual in that we had Christy's in-laws and Amy's mother-in-law celebrate with us. Being good friends with our kid's in-laws is another reason to be thankful.

Well we did not just sit around eating and watching football. As per tradition, we got up that morning and ran the 8 mile Dallas Turkey Trot. I made it the whole way and felt good but was humbled as I was beat out by my two pregnant daughters. Yes you heard that right. In case you did not know, in addition to my one grandson I have two on the way. Amy is due at the end of April and Christy is due to deliver number two at the first of July. So yes I have plenty to be thankful.

The list could go on and on but I will not bore you with all of them (though I have mentioned them all to our Lord). The point is that it is easy for me to be thankful during this season of our lives. God has blessed us in multiple ways. But Scripture says that we should be thankful in all circumstances (not necessarily for all things) and to rejoice always. That sometimes can be a challenge and I hope and pray that as circumstances change, my thankful heart will not. If you find yourself in a difficult time right now, and have a hard time being thankful, then I have two thoughts. The first is to remember the goodness of the Lord. That is what the Psalmist did when he was down and defeated. Secondly, I would love to pray for you if you would allow that.

May God bless you and keep you and cause His face to shine upon you. Artie

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A listening ear

I am not a very good listener to begin with. Part of it is the fact that I am male, part of it is that I am a type A personality and part of it is I don't like to take the time to listen. My wife, Luana, is an exceptional listener. That is one of the many reasons that people love her. She can sit for hours as people pour their heart out to her and she may barely say a few words. I don't understand it but I love that about her. Well tonight I am going to talk about listening to God. I am not very good at that either, but I am learning and I really want to get better. If anyone has ideas please send them in the comment section.

The first thing is that we need to have correct theology. Don't turn me off here. All I am saying is that if your theology teaches that God does not speak to us today, then more than likely you will not hear Him. I came from a very traditional Baptist background and I am very thankful for all of the things I learned and many wonderful people. But there was very little about God speaking to us personally, other than through the Scripture. There is certainly ample Biblical evidence for it and no shortage of personal testimonies. The second thing needed is to have the proper focus. As we seek to hear His voice, we need to be sure we are true believers, that we are following Christ and fix our eyes on Him (Heb. 12:2), that we are living a holy and godly life and that we are obedient to His commands. And our desire to hear His voice should not come from an obsession to experience the supernatural, but from a desperate need to hear His voice for direction or wisdom or just encouragement.

The third thing is related to this and involves our desire. As we trust Him He will give us the desires of out heart (Ps. 37:4). Have we really abandoned our will and our desire to run our own lives? Are we really open to anything He has for us? If we are not ready and willing to be obedient without questioning to whatever He says, then He is not likely to speak much to us. Do we really trust Him and really believe that He is powerful enough to do what He says and that He really has our bests interests at heart (see blog on agape love).

The fourth thing is wheather we are willing to sacrifice. Are we willing to get up early each morning to spend time with God, allowing time to listen? Are we willing to just wait on the Lord Is. 40:31). Are we willing to practice the discipline of fasting to better prepare ourselves to hear? And are we willing to make the sacrifice to study the Word of God so that we can hold what we hear up to the authority of the Word of God. Fifthly, we need to be willing to seek help. Christianty was not meant to be lived out individually but in community. Ask others who hear the Lord well to help you. (Prov. 11:4). Learn to admit your weaknesses and be vulnerable for two are better than one (Ecc. 4: 9-10).

Lastly, we need to be willing to step out in faith. Take one step at a time. Be willing to risk failure or to be ridiculed. If you are not sure that what you hear is the Lord, hold it up to the Scriptures, seek advice from a friend and go for it. Even if you are wrong, I believe that God blesses the attempt to step out in faith. Failure is the template for future success.

That is the first installment. There will be more later. I am excited about this journey toward hearing the voice of God.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Lasting Friendships

This blog is a tribute to some very dear friends of ours over the years, Larry and Ellen Forrester. Actually I have been friends with them since my sophmore year at Bellaire High School in Houston - 38 years ago. We all went to Baylor together and then ended up in the same Sunday School class at South Main Baptist Church in Houston while I was in medical school. During the ensuing years we had kids together and have stayed close, even after we moved here to Waco. Virtually every year they would come up here to Waco for Homecoming and all of our kids would get together. We would always eat fiesta on Friday night and go to the parade on Saturday morning. Luana and Ellen would dress the girls up in Baylor attire and then we eat lunch at McAlister's. Sometimes we would go to the game, but we always had fun and many laughs. As the kids grew up they went to Baylor (most of them) and the tradition continues.

This year, for the first time in a number of years we had all but one of the kids back, four of whom are now married. It was so much fun to all be together and remember so many stupid things we did. There is nothing quite like having friends that you feel totally comfortable with, who would do anything for you, rejoice with you in the good times, mourn with you in the difficult times, love the Lord and share decades of memories. It was also the first time for little Jayden and a new generation to experience the tradition. It will be fun to see it grow. Thanks for the memories.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


What is love? I'm not talking about the sweaty palms kind of love when you try to talk to a girl in Jr. High. But I want to know about true God inspired love. After all the two most important commands involve love. But what does it really look like? Unfortunately, the English language does not really do the concept justice - the same word is used for baseball, our country, your wife and God. In reality we love all of these things differently. But the Greek language is much more precise in speaking of love. As most of you know there are four words that we translate love, but only two of which we are really concerned. The first is phileo which is a love of friendship and which is usually in response to pleasure received from the person or thing loved. It is never the word used of God's love for us. That word is agape. It is a self sacrificing type of love which is derived from placing value on the one loved, not because of anything he did but simply a choice. It does not expect anything in return. It's most comprehensive expose of course is in I Corinthians 13. I have been studying it recently and have a few thoughts.

First of all we see that love is greater than the three main areas of our lives - speech, thought (prophesy, knowledge, faith) and actions. Secondly we see what it looks like in real life. It does not expect people to be perfect and offers forgiveness readily. It treats people with respect and gentleness as if they were important, paying no attention to their status in the world. It protects others' emotions, reputation and honor, even at the expense of ours. It gives the one loved reason to hope and it hopes for better things for them - it truly desires the highest good of the one loved, and not just the immediate happiness. It allows us to endure suffering, false accusations, betrayal, disappointment ect. because it is not based on getting anything in return.

Next we see what love is not. It has a balanced perception of self ( no righteousness of our own, but worthy in God's sight) and others (not perfect but loved by God) so that there is no need for comparisons or getting self worth by judging myself against others rather than God. Thus there can be no pride. By treating everyone as valuable and honorable, it cannot allow improper conduct. It does not expect others to act in any certain way, and thus it is not disappointed or hurt thereby leading to anger. Because it freely forgives, it does not talley up wrongs and blessings. It is not bestowed based on one deserving it by doing enough good, but is freely given as an act of the will, regardless as to whether it is deserved. Since it arises within the heart of the one loving and does not require a response from the one loved, it can never fail to accomplish its purpose.

Lastly, we come to a most interesting idea. When we get to heaven, many things of this world will pass away, even good things. Three things will remain - faith, hope and love. It is obvious that love will be important in heaven as it has to do with relationship, and there will be plenty of relationships in heaven. The Trinity had a love relationship before the world began and that will certainly continue. The more we grow in our love for God now, the closer we will be to Him when we are in heaven and will make it even better. Likewise, the more we learn to love others with true agape love here now, the more of a headstart we will have in heaven. I do not think that we will immediately be able to love perfectly but will continue to grow in that grace forever. What is troubleing is that faith and hope also remain. How is that if God is present with us? I think that it means that heaven is going to be a much more active and growing type of place than we can possibly imagine. We will still need to trust that God is good and has our best interests in mind and we will still need to hope for growth and maturity. I think it is saying that our progressive sanctification is not complete when we pass through the Pearly Gates, but will continue. How exciting is it to think that heaven will be such an active place of work and growth, without the constraints of sin, but with an atmosphere full of agape love. Are you ready?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hidden Treasure

My second blog of the night is about my weekend hike with Jason in Colorado Bend State Park. It is a neat little park just west of Lampassas in the Texas hill country. We drove to Lampassas Friday night and then got up early to begin our hike. The terrain was typical semi arid with abundant short cedars and we walked about a mile and one half to a little house sitting on a creek. To the right was a short trail to Gorman Falls. This is one of the more incredible hidden treasures in Texas. It is about 60 feet high and there is not a huge volume of water, but when you see it you feel like you are in a tropical rain forest. There are ferns and lush green moss with crystal clear pools. We had a great time exploring all over the falls and then from there we travelled up the creek to its source, Gorman Springs. It was a beautiful hike with lots of vegetation.

From there we hiked all around the park, about 10 miles in all, but it was mostly the same from there on. It was so great to be with my son and we talked about all sorts of things. He has become quite the hiker with a very good sense of direction and very good at picking up the trail. He is also unafraid and was a real joy to hike with. I feel so privileged to have a son like him. So if you are ever in the Texas hill country, stop by and see Gorman Falls for yourself.


In the 1970's there was a group called Three Dog Night. Well tonight may be a three blog night. The first has to do with my grandson, Jayden. He was with us this weekend as his parents were out of town. Right now he is in a bit of an insecure stage with separation anxiety. It is not unusual and will pass but for those who are not in his safety net is can be frustrating. He will not allow me to hold him and sometimes even cries when I come into the room. Now nobody loves Jayden any more than I do (well maybe his parents and grandmothers) and it is my heart to just take him up in my arms and hug him and love on him. I want to lavish him with gifts. I want nothing but his good and his joy and happiness.

Then it dawned on me that that is exactly how God feels about us. How He wants to take us up in His mighty arms and love us and lavish us with gifts. But how often we shy away from Him and look on Him with fear rather than love and push away from Him rather than run toward Him. We treat Him as a thing and not a person to have a relationship with. So what does that mean for us? How can we respond to that and redirect our energies toward relationship.?

First we need to have a new understanding of who God is - that He is good and desires our highest good. He is not a celestial policeman. When we can understand that deeply in our soul, we will rush toward Him with our praise, thanksgiving and our hurts. Secondly we need to allow God to love us. How do we do that? One way is to rest and wait in His presense. Another is to open ourselves up and allow His people to minister to us. Still another is to allow Him to misister to us through His Word. Thirdly we need to able to receive from God His gifts. How little we receive because we do not ask or when we do, we ask with wrong motives or for selfish interests.

So I encourage you to examine your life and see how you view God, are you allowing Him to love you and are you receiving His gifts. May you experience His love in a new and rereshing way.

Monday, October 6, 2008


This blog is in response to three things. First is a study we did in lifegroup about our role in mission with specific reference to our role in our community. Secondly I am responding to my son-in-law's question posed to me about the role of the Christian in government. Thirdly it is appropriate in view of the upcoming elections.

This is obviously a big topic and people have written books on the subject. Don't worry. The first area is how we are to respond to our government officials. It is pretty clear from Scripture that we are to be under the authority of those over us ( Titus 3: 1-2, Rom. 13: 1-7, I Pet. 2:13-21). There is not much to argue about there except in cases of injustice and civil disobedience, but that is beyond the scope of this discussion.

The second idea is how involved we should be in the political process. This is relatively new since for 1700 years very few people had the ability to be involved. I maintain that part of loving people is to love the community in which you and your neighbors live. Jerimiah 29:7 says for us to seek the peace of the city to wherever He sends us. Christians for centuries have done this as evidenced by all of the hospitals, orphanages, ect. that have been built by Christians. However in recent times that has become blurred as our government, in the name of compassion, has taken over the role of defender of the poor. Unfortunitely, the Church has been only too willing to give this responsibility up. Thus people on the outside do not see a clear distinction between Believers and nonbelievers. At the same time, Christians have begun to hide behind the "walls" of the church, huddling in our groups and not engaging nonbelievers. How much better would it be if we were the ones who ran for the city council or school board, served in our neighborhood associations, PTA, and numerous other organizations alongside our nonbelieving friends and neighbors.

Lastly I need to address the more recent idea of conservative evangelical Christians equating their ideals with American patriotism. We need to realize that government is not the answer or the way to change the moral behavior of its people. The answer to these problems is the gospel and we need to be about the business of introducing the gospel to the people. There seems to have been some melding of the current Republican party with the "Moral Marority" and the "Religious Right", as if our goals were the same and this was the way to achieve them. While I agree that generally Republican idealogy is more in line with mine, it is important to realize that Republicans do not have a lock on truth, patriotism or morality. In addition, in practice most of the elected Republicans have sold their souls and do not vote the idealogy. I think we would even be surprised at Jesus' reaction to all of this were He here. He would probably be a lot more liberal than we would like to admit. The worst thing that happened to Christianity was in the 4th century when the Roman government merged with Christianity and for a thousand years it lost its idenity and uniqueness. In America we need to be careful to avoid selling ourselves to politicians and hoping they will do what we do not have the gumption to do.

Now I am not saying that we need to stay out of the political process, only that we do not trust in it. We need believers to run for office, we all need to be informed and vote, volunteer for candidates, push for righteous legislation and social justice. In the words of Jesus, we need to give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Power and Goodness

One of the things I have harped on for the past year is what I consider to be the two most important things to know about God. The first thing to know is that God is powerful. That may seem a little trite but it is actually critical. We would not want to put our faith in a God who is not powerful. And if God is who He says that He is then He must be all powerful and more powerful than anything else in the universe. Furthermore, since He is all powerful then we can trust Him to do what He has promised to do.

The second thing to know about God is that he is good. Again it may seem that that is obvious and not much else to say. But it is the goodness of God which is so important. An all powerful God could be dangerous if He is not good or if His temperment is arbitrary and people would tend to shy away from Him. But because we know He is good always, we can run to Him with our problems, our hurts and our pains. We can run toward Him with our joys and triumphs. Now within the concept of goodness lies His love and grace and mercy and forgiveness, but it is essential that we really take this to heart. This is not a head thing, or a cute little diddie. It is the gospel - it is the goodness of God that was embodied in Jesus and resulted in the cross.

Oh and one more thing. It is in grace that these two things come together. Grace is the favor and blessing poured out on an undeserving people which is the goodness of God. But grace also is the power of God in us to do the will of God. In other words, He does not reserve His power for Himself but freely gives it to us. The key now is how we respond to that power and goodness.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sustaining Power

Over the past week I have been in a little bit of a funk. I think that part of it is coming off of the high from Uganda, then our family reunion and lastly the trip to New York. We were not made to live on mountaintops. There has been nothing really bad that has happened, and I have not been in any gross sin. I continue to do all of the things I usually do, but there is no spark there. I was listening to a pastor talking about miracles and how wonderful they are, but how they can never be truly sustaining. It does not take much of a review of the Bible to confirm this. Just look at the Israelites who witnessed the amazing events of the Passover and then the parting of the Red Sea, and within a month they were bowing down to a golden calf. Are we much different than them? So I asked myself, What does it take to sustain our faith? I am just beginning to explore this and here are my early thoughts. If any of you have thoughts, please let me know.

Since God is a person and not a thing or force, a sustaining relationship with Him involves the usual things that relationships need. The first is spending time with God - good quiet times and prayer. Secondly is spending time in the Word, not just leasurely reading but quality time of exploring this truth. Thirdly we must be obedient to the truth we have. Jesus said that he who loves me will obey my commands. But all of this I have been doing and still the well is dry. Why?

As I have been thinking about this and praying about it, I felt the Lord saying two things. The key to sustaining power of God in our lives first lies in the ability to hear God on a regular basis. This is something I am not very good at but am really trying to learn how to listen well and to distinguish His voice. The second key to this involves our purpose here on earth which is to worship God. If we are active in worshipping Him throughout the day then the power of God will infuse into our life. There is probably more but that is all I have right now.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

New York, New York

Well this past week we had the opportunity to travel to New York to watch the US Open tennis tournament. Luana and I went with my tennis buddy, Bill Koziol and his wife Lana. Bill and I have been playing every Wed. afternoon for over 20 years, so it was fun to go with him. We stayed at the Wellington Hotel at 55th and 7th, about 4 blocks south of Central Park. I got to run in Central Park a couple of mornings which was fun. The rest of the day was full as we left at 9:30 each morning to take the subway to Flushing Meadow and the US Tennis Center. It is a beautiful place and is huge. It sits adjacent to Shea Stadium, where the Mets were actually playing the Astros, but we did not make that game. The general admission tickets allow you to watch any match except Center Court and court 2. Since that is where all of the top stars play, we did not see any of the big names but got to see a lot of very good tennis, and on the outside courts you are right there.

The evenings were spent eating, strolling and shopping along 7th Ave, Times square, Broadway and the like. We did make it to ground Zero but there was not much to see. One night we made to the Yankees and Red Sox game in one of the last games at fabled Yankee Stadium. It was a blast and especially since the Yankees lost. The saying is tiresome but true: New York is a great place to visit but i would not want to live there.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


I hope that I can express this as well as it is in my mind. I was reading in I Cor. 10 and came across something new to me about Communion. As a former Baptist, I grew up where Communion was something you did once a quarter and it was purely symbolic and nobody made much of a deal about it. I have also been in Catholic and Episcopal churches where it is done every week but it is so routine that there is no power in it. Surely there is something more.

Well in I Cor. 10:2-4, Paul talks of the Israelites in the desert and being fed by the spiritual food manna and the spiritual drink which was water from the rock. He then says that the rock was Christ. It dawned on me that this was a type of Communion and that the people partook of the food and drink and participated in the substance of Christ. In verses 14-22 he emphasizes the idea of participation. In so doing they identified themselves with God, agreed (or covenented) to follow God and to worship Him alone.

There are three views fo the nature of Communion. One is that the bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Christ. A second view is that the bread and wine are purely symbolic and have no inherent power. A third view which I think is more realistic is that it is somewhere in between. I think that there is something mysterious and powerful when we come together for Communion that is beyond symbolism. That is why Paul is so emphatic in 11:27-32 about being careful when you partake. I cannot explain exactly what happens but I feel that when we partake that we too are identifying ourselves as God's people, we are agreeing to follow only Him and we are committing to worship Him alone. One imperfect analogy might be wedding vows. When we state them, they are more than just symbolic jestures, but a real commitment to the other person, and in a real mystical sense (Eph. 5:31-32) they are joined together as one.

The Greek word for Communion is koinoneia which means to hold in common, to fellowship with or to share. So when we partake Communion we are sharing in the person of Christ and fellowshipping with Him. So next time you take Communion, pause to reflect on the profound mystery that it is and glory in the fellowship with the Son.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


This last weekend we had the second annual Sudan Family Reunion. We had a lot of fun but it was sobered by a couple of events. The first was the death of our oldest brother a year ago and the hole that that has left. The second was the recent MVA that my neice, Carly, was in where she fractured her C-6 vertebrae and had to have surgery. She is recouperating in Houston with her father, Phil, and that whole branch of the family was unable to make the reunion. Fortunately she is doing well and should not have any long term deficits. God truly had mercy on her even in the midst of a tragic event.

Despite these things we gathered at our Lakehouse on Cedar Creek Lake, though because of numbers some stayed at a hotel in Gunbarrel City. It started out on a bad note as it rained all Friday morning (though certainly hard to complain when you get rain in Texas in august). We were able to visit, eat some pizza and then the sun came out and it was beautiful with perfect temperature, and we were able to get out on the boat and do some tubing and wake boarding. We capped it off with some juicy cheeseburgers and lots of googling after grandkids.

The next morning we had the Sudan version of the Olympics with darts, game of washers and a new game of golf rings. It was a lot of fun and of course we Sudans are all competitive. Then it was back on the boat for the youngsters and some lounge time for the rest of us. Late that afternoon we donned our new Reunion T-shirts and posed for the Reunion picture. Asetting on the dock was chosen and after a few pics with one more left to go, we suddenly found ourselves on the bottom of the lake. The dock collapsed under the weight of all of us and we fell in. Fortunately nobody was hurt badly (my mother had a hematoma of her leg) but it was a little scarry as my mother does not swim and hates the water, and Jayden went under with Jordan holding on to him. It will be a fun memory in future years.

That night we were able to get it back together to play Hardhead Squares, Ginny's version of the old game show. It was a blast and Bruce won for the second year in a row. Sunday was a relaxing day with pancakes and then packing up to leave, but not without a few more games of golf rings. I never was able to beat Christy. I am so thankful for a family that truly loves each other and gets along so well. It was fun to have two new babies for the first time, both of whom were answers to prayer. It was last reunion that we all gathered around Erin to pray for her as she was having a hard time getting pregnant. Hopefully there will be more and more as the years move on.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


I was teaching at the Manna House last week on worship and I felt the Lord gave me some insight that I had not really appreciated before so I thought I would share it with you. Maybe you already know all of this but if you do then great for you.

The definition is the honor, reverence and homage paid to a superior being, i.e. God. The word in English means "worthship" and denotes the worthiness of the individual being honored. When used of God, it is an acknowledgementof who God is and what He has done. In Greek there are two words which are used mostly for worship. The first is proskyneo which means to kneel before or to bow down before face down much as a servant does before a king. The second word is latreuo which means to minister or serve, usually referring to a priest performing his duties during the sacrifices.

While we usually equate worship with singing, it really is so much more than that. This was first brought to my mind by Matt Reddman in his song "The Heart of Worship" and I have been trying to understand it more and put it into practice. When we pray, we acknowledge that we are in need and that there is One who is powerful. We also worship when we give thanks to God for what He has done and who He is. Other activities that are worshipful are giving, communion, confession, praise, obedience as well of course as singing, dancing, raising hands ect. I could go into detail on all of them but will not because of space.

The most important verse is in John 4:24 where Jesus says that His true worshippers worship in spirit and in truth. What does it mean to worship in spirit. You could probably write a book on that but I think that it involves our spirit connecting with God's Spirit. It has the idea of where our heart is. We can go through the motions of worship much as the Israelites did in the sacrifices, but God said their hearts were far from Him. Many of us today also go through the motions of true worship but our hearts are not in it and God knows what is in our hearts. We need to get back to a lifestyle where our hearts are in submission to God and have a passion for the person of Jesus. What about worshipping in truth? I used to think that that meant spending time in the Word and knowing the truth of the Scriptures, and certainly that is a part. But I have come to realize that it means that our worship should be real. We do not need to be hypocrites when we worship but we need to make sure that we believe what we sing, our praises are true feelings, our giving is cheerful, and our lives are full of humility and obedience. This is what it means to worship in truth.

So when you wake up tomorrow, begin the day with worship but it does not have to end there but can be a day long affair and a lifestyle. After all, if our purpose in this world is to glorify God then it behoves us to really understand what that means.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


As the temperature reached 105 degrees today, there were plenty of other things to keep us occupied. I have several things I wanted to blog about including worship and communion, but those will have to wait. This week it is on family.

As most of you know, this past Wed. was my birthday (53 for those who have to know). I am not really big on birthdays (which is good since my wife has been gone to camp on my birthday for the past 15 years), but this year was special. The day started with calls from my wife and Amy, then later in the day from Jason and then Alex. Christy and Jordan with Jayden came in to town and we had a great time eating and taking Jayden to the water park. Then this weekend Jason and Alex came in town and we had a great time playing tennis, mowing, doing house projects, Putt-putt, and eating. Did I mention eating - we did a lot of that. Mary Beth who is here already made me a birthday cake and then a big breakfast of gingerbread pancakes. I got more attention than I have had in years. But more important for me was not the attention, but the love of family.

I am so blessed to have four incredible kids (young adults now) who for some reason love their old man. I love being with each of them and they are all different, with so many gifts and talents. For them to take the time and effort to come down here and spend time with me (even with Luana gone) speaks volumes to me. With the institution of the family under attack from every corner, it is good to be reminded of the importance of family. When family works well. there is relationship, encouragement, building each other up, challenging each other, healing, comfort, laughing and crying together and so much more. When it does not work well, it is still needed and important to try to resolve the issues. So wherever you are in your family, put in the time, effort, prayer and whatever else it takes to make it work. It is worth it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

More on Uganda

Since my post two weeks ago, I have not given any more info on our trip to Uganda, so I thought I would tell a little more about it. The first was the broad strokes. Now for some detail. The weather was magnificent - I was expecting Waco type weather without A/C, but was pleasantly suprised to find high temps of 88, quite cool in the shade, and lows of 70 and actually requiring a blanket at night. We did have running water and flush toilets, although they were outside; but no electricity. Therefore when the sun went down it got dark quickly, and was amazingly dark, especially before the moon came out. The good part was that the stars were unbelievable - I felt like I was seeing what the Persians saw 2000 years ago. We did have headlamps and could do some reading and visiting but what it really meant was that you went to bed early. Life was definitely more simple and I could get used to that - though it was hard to let go of the Western mindset.

Since we were part of a total team of 23 Mzungus (white people), we often had to split up what we did during the day. A lot of us worked side by side with the Ugandans at RG. That involved making bricks, harvesting G nuts, washing clothes, tearing down termite mounds, clearing land, construction work on the orphan homes, painting, ect. At other times we went in to schools to give our testimony and play with the kids. One team went overnight to another village and had a healing service and fed some orphans. One day we held a medical clinic on site at RG and saw over 100 people. Another day we worked with a local church to do a community health evangelism project - we helped build a fence around a water site. So as you can see, we were plenty active and I think helped the work at RG, both in terms of actual work and also in fostering better relations with the local community and other churches.

As I reflected on everything going on there, I recounted all of the things that I enjoy. There was various types of construction ( electrical work, plumbing, carpentry), unlimited opportunities for gardening (both vegetable and flowers), lots of bird watching and plenty of photo ops, eventually there will be a medical clinic to work in or to teach and also a Bible school in which to teach, opportunities for hiking and National Park adventures, plenty of room to jog. The only thing I did not see was tennis, but who knows but that may be in the plans. In taking all this in, I felt like God was saying to me, "Why do you think I put all of these things in your life? It is what you were made for. The other was just preparation."

I hope that gives you a little better idea of the trip. May God bless you.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Community. It is an interesting word and conjures up a lot of different mental images. Whether we like it or not, it is something we all need and something we were all created for. God never meant for us to live life in isolation. Unfortunately, in our present society, we tend to live more isolated than ever before, even when we are around other people. What is Christian community and how is it different from community in the secular world?
In looking at the Scriptures I find that there are four main areas that create a sense of community. The first is a common purpose and a common vision. For the Christian, that would look something like the vision statement for our church - to love each other, love God and love those who do not know Jesus. That common purpose does not mean uniformity as each member should be allowed freedom to express his own giftings and personality. Secondly community should create a safe environment in which members are able to share their hurts and struggles as well as their victories. There must be an openness, a deep sense of trust, times of confession, forgiveness and accountability. This is not something that comes easily or quickly, and requires regular meeting together, including eating together, partaking of communion, serving together and fellowship.
The third area is encouragement. This is something we all need and community is the proper place where this can take place in all truth, and without flattery or ulterior motives. A part of this is to build each other up, helping them to see their own potential and giftings while letting them exercise them even if it is awkward at first.
Fourthly, community in a decidedly Christian context, should be a training ground for the exercise of our unique spiritual gifts.
So how is this achieved? I have outlined some things already. Others would include proper teaching in all these areas and then having it modelled regularly. Extensive times of prayer are needed both corporately as well as individually, where each one prays for the other members. Lastly we need to be ready to bear each other's burdens. We see these concepts throughout Scripture and outlined in the familiar passage in Acts 2: 42-47. These goals are lofty. Are they obtainable? I think that even in today's society this can happen through small groups within the church.
Incidentally, the pictures are from Uganda and do not relate to community, except in the larger sense of the worldwide Christian community.