Praise


God favored me in a most refreshing and remarkable way the other day. After years of searching (and simply refusing to give up), I was able to reconnect with a dear friend I met over 30 years ago while we both were serving as young officers in the United States Army at Fort Benning, Georgia. Reassigned to a new installation in 1981, I moved on and we simply lost contact. We had not spoken since.

Finding him was not easy. It took time and effort, and the closer I got (it seemed), the more challenging the search became. When finally we spoke, the excitement in our voices was both unmistakable and indescribable. We laughed and cried as we talked. I was especially moved as he told of his painful path over the years. Injuries, sickness, difficulties, and even the shadow of death were all a part of his peculiar journey. On several occasions he shared how he almost lost his life in a few accidents during overseas maneuvers. His story brought me to more tears, but I was (and am) so happy to discover he was alive and well.

Of all the things he shared, his voice was strongest when he told me about how God alone had kept him and had brought him safely through. Confidently, he reported he held faithful membership with Eastern Star Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, where Reverend Jeffrey Johnson serves as pastor. He cited their motto there is the church “Where Jesus is exalted and the Word is explained.” What he said next shook me to the core. He said, “Reg, you know I’m not a preacher and I may not be able to explain the word like many others; but I can assure you of one thing; can’t nobody beat me exalting Him. Believe that!” There was even more joy!

In His own mysterious way, God granted me another measure of His grace by allowing me to reunite with a dear friend and brother who I have not seen in three decades. Incredibly, and perhaps equally as long he was also looking for me.

In case you haven’t already figured it out, I’m really excited about this reunion. I have only heard his voice, but I’m still glad about it. I have yet to see his face or even shake his hand, but I still have joy about it. Just the prospects of seeing him in the near future give me great encouragement, and each time I tell of this experience, my joy excites others.

I should tell you there is a Great reunion scheduled! In these days of economic challenge and personal difficulty, keep pursuing this Friend–the Lord—while He may be found. You, too, will find joy unspeakable and full of glory. In fact, you will be surprised to learn some good news in your search. This Friend has also been looking for you!

Football is perhaps my favorite of all organized sports. Routinely I enjoy a game on television, and will even catch a few highlights on a sports channel. While relaxing at home recently, a game caught my eye. The offense was executing their play as the ball was snapped, and wide receivers ran up the field hoping to get open. The quarterback unleashed a long pass toward the goal line (and near the sideline) as one receiver ran a post pattern toward the pylon—the end zone/out-of-bounds marker. Near the two or three yard line, the player inadvertently stepped-out-of-bounds, but reentered the field of play in pursuit of the descending ball. It was a remarkable catch! The referee signaled a touchdown. The stadium erupted as the crowd went ballistic. The defenders objected and I stood up in utter amazement at the acrobatic reception!

Instinctively, the scoring team’s field goal unit ran onto the field to line up for the ensuing extra point when all-of-a-sudden the game was halted. The play was being reviewed by those in the replay booth. After a short delay, the umpire repositioned himself on the field and reported, “After further review, the call on the field is confirmed; it is a touchdown!”

It is no secret we are often sidelined and knocked out-of-bounds—e. g. mistakes, blunders, indiscretions, bad judgments, weariness, fatigue, etc.—by the opposition (our adversary) while attempting to execute our Lord’s play (God’s will for our lives). In fact, to go “out-of-bounds” (in the eyes of many) actually renders one ineligible to continue or even further to touch the ball. This new rule in professional and collegiate football is affording us some valuable insights into spiritual truths I felt worthy of sharing.

Here they are:

(1) The goal of the enemy is to render us disqualified and totally ineligible to continue in ministry. His strategy is to cause us to “cross of the line” or “step out-of-bounds” through any number of discomforting means—mistakes, blunders, indiscretions, bad judgments, etc. So be aware of his schemes and ward him off at every juncture!

(2) No matter what happens, keep running the route! Had the receiver stopped his course (even though he was clearly pushed out), he never would have caught the ball and certainly would not have scored. Get back onto the playing field as quickly and as responsibly as you can, and continue with the route you have been given! After all, the ball is already in the air.

(3) Remember, lastly, the ultimate decision is not your call to make (nor anyone else’s)! There is another Person (God)—Power, Authority—who sits aptly in the replay booth; and He alone is the Official who determines whether you are “in” or “out!”

Work hard to avoid being side-tracked or side-lined, my brothers and sisters! Let the Lord use you TODAY. If you have been knocked down or in some way pushed out, get back up (or back in) and keep running your route. There’s an entire team (believers) and a stadium full of fans (Hebrews calls them “a great cloud of witnesses” [12:1]) who are counting on you! They (We) need you to score!

My daughter called to check on me and to fill me in on her upcoming summer plans which will include summer school. As our conversation neared an end, I thought I was about to get away when the inevitable topic surfaced. She said kindly, “I need some money, daddy.” I smiled and told her I would take care of it, and we hung up the phone. That was Friday. On Monday, she called to see if I had taken care of it. I reassured her I had. She called a day later because the money hadn’t hit. It arrived the next day. My baby needed a blessing from her daddy and called to make her request known. Notice how I handled it! Several hundred miles away, I never even left my office, nor moved from my desk. I did not go to the bank. I did not write a check. I would not later on go to the post office, nor did I mail to her a package. I simply continued to sit at my computer and executed an electronic transaction that deposited the necessary funds into her account. It only took me a matter of minutes. I did what she asked!

Did you get it? If I—sinful me—as an earthen father, have the capacity to respond to the needs of my children by long distance (and thereby keep my word), how much more do you think our Heavenly Father is likewise able to meet the needs of His children; and also keep His word? His word says, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up on wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) His word says, “…God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

Yes, at times it feels like we are being neglected or somehow overlooked when it comes to our prayer requests to God. The apparent delays are unnerving and can frustrate us to no end. Rest assured, dear friends, God heard you when first you asked; and is already doing (and maybe even has already done) something about it. The angel of the Lord came to reassure Daniel of this truth (read Daniel 10: 12). In essence, the angel said, “I was on my way, but unfortunately I got held up…” (paraphrase, mine) What great comfort Daniel must have received to learn that God was faithfully working on his behalf (sending help to see about him) even though the manifestation had not been revealed!

“Keep holding on, my brothers and sisters!” Help is on the way!

Not twenty minutes ago I made a hospital visit to the room of a gentleman who underwent a successful kidney transplant procedure last evening. We have been praying for Brian for a few years now that God would graciously allow him a chance to have a good kidney. The surgery went without-a-hitch; the new organ is an excellent match and is functioning fine. Brian told me he felt better than he had in years. Up and moving around, he was watching a football game with his family when I left his room.

As I drove back to my office, I thought about the anonymous donor family, and uttered a simple prayer for them in light of their apparent loss. To be sure, somebody—who we do not know—had to die in order for Brian to have this new opportunity to live a healthier, better quality of life.

His is no new irony! In fact, it is a very familiar paradox for many of us. We who know and enjoy redemption could not benefit from such were it not for the fact that Someone had to die that we might live. Bless His holy name!!!!!

The principle difference between these observations is clear. In Brian’s case, an accident made it possible for him to receive his new-lease-on-life. For you and I, it was no accident. Jesus died on purpose in order for us to have the privilege to live. Didn’t He do it?

Isn’t that good news?

A few years ago (1995) British doctors proposed a revolutionary course of action to save a girl with major heart problems. At two years old, they decided to implant a donor heart directly onto her faulty heart. With two blood-pumping organs co-existing inside her body for 10 years, Hannah Clark’s own heart began to do what many experts had thought impossible. It actually began to heal to the extent that doctors were able to remove the donated heart. While a donor heart sent blood throughout the rest of her body, it miraculously enabled her original heart the chance to be transformed and get well.  Commenting on the discovery, Dr. Douglas Zipes, former president of the American College of Cardiology said, “This shows that the heart can indeed repair itself if given the opportunity.” Though not associated with Clark’s operation and treatment, Zipes continued, “The heart apparently has major regenerative powers, and it is now key to find out how they work.”

A malfunctioning heart caused the Psalmist to beg God to “…give me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10). No matter what is the cause, whenever the heart is not right, life is miserable and devoid of essential peace. Here are a few truths I discovered about good heart health for believers in God. A healthy heart:

1. is necessary for welcome engagement of worship. (Psalm 24:4)

2. allows one to know joy and gladness (Psalm 51:8).

3. enhances one’s effective witness (Psalm 51:13).

4. is crucial for acceptable giving of our offerings (Psalm 51:17).

5. for sure delights God to prosper us (Psalm 51:18).

Are you having heart problems? Is yours hurting because of your own sin, sorrow, or perhaps an injury caused by another? There is good news. We know a donor who is willing to lend you His heart until your own heart can heal and get better. If you would allow Him to attach His heart to yours, a miraculous transformation will take place. Before long, your heart will begin to repair—be transformed—and function like He originally designed it to.

 

Jesus can fix it! I dare you to let Him!

On Sunday, June 28, 2009, Joey Logano became the youngest driver ever to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. At 19, the rookie somehow bounced back from a near debilitating crash that blew a left rear tire, and ultimately rendered him one lap behind the rest of the field. Forced to leave the race, his crew skillfully (and quickly) repaired the flat; and simultaneously refueled his car so that he was able to reenter the track. Incredibly, Logano took the lead when Ryan Newman, along with several others throughout the course, ran out of gas around lap 264. The scheduled 301-lap chase was shortened due to rain in the 273 lap, and Logano emerged as the front runner to take the championship. In spite of a tire-blowing crash and while everyone lacked petroleum, Joey Logano was able to win the race; all because somebody else on the team made sure he had fuel enough to finish.

 

We, too, encounter tragedies and experience setbacks that often sideline us along life’s unpredictable journey. Many times throughout the course, we are forced to make unscheduled pit-stops because we’re hurting and need to deal with the damage. Every tragedy, however, does not have to take us completely out of the race. No matter the disaster—debt, difficulty, divorce, even death—we can still continue the journey and finish strong if others on the teams would ensure we have sufficient fuel to finish. Worship, prayer, and praise, are necessary pit-stops for Christians. The church—the people of God—is her maintenance crew. It is our duty for those who have blown-a-tire or simply had a crash to readily help them get back in the race, so they can finish and win the prize.

 

Nine weeks beyond my rotator cuff surgery, my physical therapist tells me my range of motion is now around ninety per cent. Currently, we’re working on strength-training so I can again do the things I would normally be able to do. Were it not for the skilled intervention of some physical therapists, I would likely not be able to fully recover. I’m already back-in-the-race, because I have some qualified crew members who are helping me refuel.

 

May the Christ’s church likewise help others so they can continue the journey and be useful, too! He’s able!

While flying home recently from a conference, I sat in the first row (on the aisle) and talked with a lady who sat in the middle seat next to me.  As we dialogued, I asked her what she did for a living.  She told me she was a therapist, a professor, and a producer.  My curiosity was peaked.  I probed further into her diverse disciplines for clarity.  She told me about an online course she facilitated on digital imaging technology teaching students how to create visually interactive presentations on the internet.  She also mentioned how this related to her actually being in the production industry which routinely utilizes this kind of technology.  We then got to her capacity as a therapist.  About this subject, she was most evasive.  She hemmed-and-hawed about the various kinds of intervention she would normally engage.  Most of it was abuse related.  Around 15 minutes into our flight she eventually told me it was faith-based.  With no need to reveal my capacity as a minister, I pushed-the-envelope further; until at last she told me her therapy was a part of a Christian counseling ministry.  I could not help but ask why it took her so long to admit she was Christian.  Her response was classic.  She said she had to be careful to avoid inserting her faith as a therapist because of the strict guidelines related to her work.  Of course, I was not her client, and we were certainly not in her office; but I thanked her for the exchange and before long we each closed our eyes and endured the remainder of our flight.

A major shift has transpired in Christendom over the past two-thousand years, but more especially in the last thirty or so beyond doubt.  Though visibly persecuted, the early church boldly and fearlessly proclaimed its message and courageously sought to change the culture.  Today, the tables have significantly turned.  Alcoholics unashamedly own their habits and are commonly seen drunk in our cities.  Prostitutes and pushers have commandeered control of our street corners, and will intimidate people if they simply look at them wrong or say a thing about it.  The gay agenda is being brandished like a gun before the world, and they arrogantly dare anyone to challenge them.  At a local hospital in a surgery waiting room recently, I asked an admittedly gay man how old he was.  He comically (and publicly) replied, “Reverend, you never ask a woman her age.”  Even on television, networks present dubious products that may or may not work; and they do so without fear or a need for qualifiers.  Yet, when a Christian worship is aired, an urgent disclaimer precludes the program saying something like this:  “The program you are about to watch is a paid advertisement.  The views expressed do not necessarily represent the opinions of this station or its management.”  It seems every other genre has loudly and intrepidly emerged on the scene, while the church is held hostage and forced into quiet ambivalence.

This trend cannot continue if the church is to succeed.  James Gustafson saw the church as “the moral decision-maker” in the world.  He is right!  We have been commissioned to confront evil, and to be the voice of reason and righteousness before a sinful world.  When others cannot, it is our job to speak truth to power, to unashamedly proclaim the good news, and also the corresponding consequences of judgment and damnation for those who reject it.  In case you didn’t know it (or maybe just hadn’t thought about it lately), He is coming back!  And we should be careful to occupy (stay busy) until He comes.

If you need a text, Acts 4:31 portrays the church operating in the power of the Holy Spirit, and boldly proclaiming the genuine word of God.  No choir sang, no gifted psalmist was flown in to “minister;” no special musician mounted the instrument, and no celebrity preacher took the podium.  They ALL simply prayed, the place rocked, the Spirit overtook them, and they openly shared the gospel together.

It’s time for the church to come-out-of-the closet.  Own your faith and lovingly share it with others.

The year 2009 has been a real challenge for me. Having undergone two surgeries—one for my left knee and the other for my left shoulder due to a rotator cuff tear—God has yet been faithful and allowed me to move assuredly toward recovery. I am so grateful.

 

While seated in the waiting room during one of my scheduled office visits, I asked the receptionist to run off a copy of my account for me. She did and I was blown away at what I discovered. The costs for my knee operation were nearly $5000. My rotator cuff surgery was in excess of $39,000. Neither of these services includes the correlated office visits, x-rays, MRI procedures, medication, nor physical therapy. When it’s all said and done, already this year my medical expenses total over $50,000. As I reviewed the numbers, I was moved with joy in that I didn’t have to pay the balance. In fact, were I required to pay it, I wouldn’t have had it. Thank God for insurance!

 

Before I could fold the page and put it in my pocket, the Lord prompted me about another account. He reminded me there was another bill coming due. And for this balance, Mutual of Omaha, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, nor Cigna, had created a policy to cover these charges. Then it occurred to me that for these expenses, I didn’t need “insurance.” What I would need for this bill was “assurance.” I shouted; because I have exactly that! Blessed Assurance; Jesus is mine…

 

If you don’t have it, you should get it today! You’ll feel so much better!

 

Los Angeles area residents awakened Friday morning to see their local newspaper headlines stating, “They Finally Showed Up.” It reflected the series-long wait of many a Lakers’ fan who had watched their home team struggle against Denver for five grueling games during the Western Conference Finals. When game six was done, LA came through in a convincing manner and defeated the Nuggets by nearly a 30-point margin. They, at last, executed like they were able—with both confidence and competenceto bring their team to victory. For the players, it was a major sigh of relief.

I suspect the failure of Christians to demonstratively overcome evil in our world keeps unbelievers wondering in a similar fashion, “When will the church show up?” Think about it. We claim to know and love Jesus Christ! We say our lives have been miraculously changed! We even build huge monuments (churches) and create grand gatherings as evidence of our true devotion to Him! We assemble weekly to meet with others, receive a bulletin; may even recite a litany, and listen to some songs and a sermon; yet, often we fail to take part in those opportunities excitedly to signify we are truly grateful for having experienced the grace and mercy of God.


I am convinced it’s time for the church to show up! For when the church shows up, miracles happen! When the church shows up, lives are significantly changed! When the church shows up, something unmistakable takes place that clearly reveals that God is at work; and His people will be blessed! There are certainly other examples, but when Paul and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi (after having been beaten and bound and left bleeding in jail), the Bible says they “…sang and prayed.” In a real sense, the church “showed up,” and new souls were added to their fellowship (read Acts 16:25-31).


Two battered, bruised, and abused men brought their A-game! They authentically worshiped and praised God even under duress. Plainly, the lives of a first-century government employee and his entire family (and household) were never again the same. All this occurred because “the church showed up!”


Next time you gather with the saints, don’t neglect to do your part to makes sure the church shows up! Bring your A-game; truly worship and watch God work a miracle!  You talk about real joy!!!!!

On Wednesday, April15, 2009, I underwent a second operation.  This time it was to repair my shoulder.  You see, I tore my rotator cuff on my left side—my non-dominant side—trying to catch myself from a fall on the day following knee surgery in January (the 8th).  Some may be thinking, “Is dude falling apart?”  I certainly hope not.  It just happened.  Praise God, the operation went well and I’m on the mend.  God is good!

 

When I arrived at the clinic for this outpatient procedure, I alerted the medical staff of my prayer concerns for this undertaking.  I told them my prayer was when they got in there, (1) the damage would not be as extensive as they originally felt, (2) the operation would last as long as they had planned, and (3) healing and recovery would be much less than they had predicted.  Well, the operation was scheduled to be two and a half hours, but only took an hour and a half.  As I shout about that, I’ll have to keep you posted on the rest of the story.

 

On Thursday, the 16th, my sister flew from Carrollton, Texas, to spend a few days with me.  She’s the baby of the family and the only girl among four children.  Joyfully she came and literally ministered to me from Thursday until Sunday.  Besides making sure I took my meds as scheduled, she also prepared wonderful meals to my delight.  Angela (that’s her name) is an excellent cook.  Her husband truly appreciates it, too.  For the most part, the primary thing she needed to help me do was to adjust my sling so I could periodically reposition my forearm.  My post-op instructions are to keep the arm and shoulder very still (immobile) for the first week.  Beyond that, there wasn’t much she needed to do.  Her presence did me more good than anything.  When Sunday rolled around, we went to church and came home until her late afternoon flight.  I made arrangements for her to get to the airport.  As she was about to leave, I got up from my bed and reaffirmed my genuine appreciation for her taking the time to come.  We embraced; I cried unreservedly as we held each other!  I couldn’t help it.  I was (and am now) extremely grateful.

 

There is no substitute for family.  Yes, we were raised in the same house and grew up in the same family as brother and sister, but I do not take it lightly that she chose to come to Omaha to see about me.  I’ve mentioned in an earlier composition how if I am ever to experience family, it is usually at my expense; and then, when I am the one traveling to visit them.  Not so, in this case!  She came to see about me, and I am so thankful she wanted to and was able to do so.

 

Eventually (and after she left), I drifted off to sleep.  A few hours later, my phone rang to apprise me of her safe arrival back in the Dallas area.  Upon hanging up the phone, I thanked God, again, for the gift of family; and more especially the sweet spirit of my only sister, Angela.  It’s no wonder mom and dad gave her that name—she is an Angel like none other!  Thanks, Ang!  I love you!

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