Sunday, December 20, 2009

TWITTERING HIS PRAISE -- CBU Graduation, December, 2009

Mr. President & administration, members of the Board of Trustees, Distinguished Faculty, honored guests and most of all December, 2009 Graduates, I am deeply humbled and honored for the privilege of addressing you today. But, alas, I am faced with the dilemma of thousands who have gone before me: how to say something meaningful and relevant to graduates who, in their well-deserved excitement, are only slightly aware that my lips are moving. In the few moments allotted to me let me give it a shot.
For years I attended conferences where distinguished Christian leaders and role models would mention their “life verses” – that one verse from the Bible that is the theme for their whole life. For a long time I felt inadequate, as if a part of my Christian life were missing, as if I had missed out on one of the fruits of the Spirit or something because I had no life verse. So, I got me a life verse.
Prov. 14:4 Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
Doesn’t that bless your heart? Actually, for one who lives as a pastor, that verse has amazing application. Substitute people for oxen and church for manger. “Where there are no people the church has no problems (or as we like to call it at my church, ox mess). But much is accomplished by the people.” The church is the people; without the people there is no church.
But back to my life verse. Actually, what I found is that one life verse just doesn’t work for me. Reality is that in the seasons of life, specific verses often change with the seasons. Today I share with you my current life verse:
Psa. 71:18 So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.
I stand before you with my extremely premature gray hair to proclaim His might and His power to you, the generation after me. Here are my top ten reasons for proclaiming God’s might and power…minus five (due to time limitations). For purposes of the Twitter generation, which has given new meaning to the term textus receptus, I have 140’ed each of these, so that I may Tweet each one separately in the coming days. If I may, I’ll call this Twittering His Praise.
What I am proposing is, from this day forward, each of you will purpose in his or her heart to live your life for the glory, honor and praise of God. That you will seek Him first and love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.


If I were to mention nothing else, this is enough. As He said over and over to the in the prophet Isaiah: “I am the Lord , and there is no other, besides me there is no God.”
Lest there be any confusion of the God to whom I am referring, He is the God of the Bible, the one who can only be approached in and through the Lord Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father but through me.”
He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. He gives life. He is in the heavens and does all that He pleases. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Not because He has met some standard of holiness. He is the standard.
In times when the world’s view of God is skewed in so many directions from atheism to “good-buddy-ism,” a right view of Him in His perfect holiness is so desperately needed. The only reason any of us will not be wiped out when we stand before Him face to face, is because of what He has done for us in Christ Jesus, granting us His righteousness which, as Jude tells us, makes us able to stand.
The only possibility we have of entering into His eternal presence is by being perfectly holy ourselves. Since we have miserably and utterly failed because of sin, our only hope is to receive the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ as we place our faith and trust in Him.

Like every other inhabitant of this planet, I have a condition called sin that robs me of the delight of an intimate relationship with my loving heavenly Father. But God demonstrated His love toward me, in that while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me. “Oh, to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be.”

Since 1647 the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “What is the chief end of man?” has given us the answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”
But this type of wording is not reserved for the Catechist alone; it is also the language of Scripture.
Psa. 16:11 in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Jesus said:
John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
John 16:24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

His mercies are new every morning. His steadfast love never stops. I stand before you today as one who recognizes, not only the eternal faithfulness of God, but also His faithfulness in my life from the beginning.
God chose for me to be born in Tupelo, Mississippi. If I could have chosen to be born there I would have (and not just because it’s the birthplace of Elvis Presley), but He chose it for me. Tupelo is the center of the universe. This has been scientifically proven as Congressman Pvt. John Allen so eloquently articulated to our nation’s House of Representatives in the late 19th century. When one stands on the corner in front of the TKE Drug Store in downtown Tupelo at noon, the sun is directly overhead; the horizon is equidistant in every direction. Alas, the center of the universe. But I digress.
God led me to Mississippi College another Baptist school like CBU. God led me to California in the mid-1970’s with dreams of becoming a movie star. Yes, folks, I went to Hollywood. People always want to know if I was in any movies. I know you are young but have you heard of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” or “The Sting” or “The Godfather?” Well, I wasn’t in any of those.
No, God changed the desires of my heart and led me away from Hollywood. And He has faithfully given me the grace to serve Him as a Pastor these past thirty-plus years. God led me to my beautiful wife, Janet, at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. God eventually led us back to Southern California, to our wonderful church family in Beaumont where our five children were raised. God has abundantly, beyond all we could ask or think, provided for the needs of our family, including all five attending CBU, with three already graduated and at least some measure of hope for the other two to do the same.
Please hear me. As Joshua said to an often-stubborn collection of the tribes of Israel, newly arrived in the Promised Land, “choose you this day whom you will serve.” Will it be the gods of self, success, fame, wealth or other short-term pursuits? Or will you take the long look, the eternal look and serve the One True and Living God Who will never leave you nor forsake you.
Psa. 37:25 I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.
Graduates, congratulations on an amazing accomplishment. This is a new beginning for you. I pray you will live your life to the praise and glory of God. You can trust Him, He is faithful.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Conscientious Objecctor

I promise (I think) this will be my last entry on the Christmas Wars. Check out Warren Cole Smith's excellent blog. Brothers & sisters, please take heed.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Letter from Jesus about Christmas

(I didn't write this. Don't know who did. Came to me in an email from a friend. Normally, I don't like things that presume to speak for God. But this could have been written in the 3rd person just as effectively.)

It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are
taking My name out of the season.. How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Now, having said that let Me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all My followers did that there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15:1 - 8.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it:

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of writing the President complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow
up... It will be nice hearing from you again.

4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your
arms and remind them that I love them.

5. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.

7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn't make so much
money on that day they'd close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families.

8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary-- especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have
never heard My name.

9. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.

10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things
in secret that you wouldn't do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.

Don't forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all
those whom you love and remember:


Thursday, December 3, 2009


I’m about to step into dangerous waters here. But I must confess that I am having a bit of a reaction this Christmas season.

It’s amazing what we Christians will declare war over. For a year, or two, or three there has been a growing movement to “strike back” at those who are trying to take Christ out of Christmas by referring to this season as the Holidays or in the schools taking “Winter Break” plus any number of other real and/or imagined slights against our faith. Several big name Christian organizations are pushing hard for us not to let this continue. Christmas must be defended at all costs.

Now let me be the first to say that I love to wish folks Merry Christmas at this time of year. I’m one of those softies who even likes all the decorations and music in the mall. I know it’s way too commercialized but it’s also fun and, one must admit, there is usually a different feeling in the air when one is out in public this time of year.

There can certainly be no argument that I lack an understanding of the true meaning of Christmas. The true meaning of Christmas for me as a follower of Jesus Christ is that I am remembering and celebrating His birth (even though the Bible nowhere commands me to do so as it does His death).

Actually, what I am remembering and celebrating is His incarnation. God became a man in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He laid aside His heavenly privileges for a time to condescend and take the form of a servant. He served all the way to the cross. This time of year helps me remember that God loved so much that He gave His Son and His Son loved so much that He came into the world to save lost sinful people like me. Yes, I do remember that all year but I love to be reminded in so many ways like I am at Christmas.

Back to my reaction. Here’s my problem: We are being encouraged to strike back at the poor cash register girl who, under orders from corporate, says to us, “Happy Holidays!” instead of, “Merry Christmas.” Now I ask you, is that the Christian thing to do?

As in all things Christian, the answer lies in the motive. If our hearts desire is for the person to whom we are speaking to have a truly wonderful Christmas or holiday season, then, with a smile of warmth and sincerity we say, “Merry Christmas!” But, should our motive be to “fight back” against the evil Christmas stealers, then perhaps we ought to reflect more on the spirit of the One whose birth we are celebrating. He taught us not to fight back. He taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves. He even taught us to love our enemies, e.g., Christmas thieves.

Here’s a heart check for us: Before you say Merry Christmas to anyone, ask yourself, “Do I really want this person to have a Merry Christmas? If so, say it with love. If not, if your heart is not right toward that person, don’t say anything until you can get alone with the Lord and say to Him, “Please forgive!”