George was my friend and I looked forward to spending an hour with him from 4 to 5 PM each Tuesday afternoon. His illness prompted my first visit but it soon became secondary to the relationship we shared. That first afternoon, however, we were sizing each other up. He was tempted to view me as Joyce’s preacher, while I was struggling to see him as a man in his own right and not just Joyce’s son-in-law.
Joyce loved George and couldn’t bear the thought of his impending death. Knowing that all things are possible with God, she was eager for me to pray with George for complete healing. However when I asked George if he would like me to ask Jesus to heal him he said, “Absolutely not. My times are in God’s hands and I don’t think we have any business interfering with what He has planned.” I could have debated the finer points of divine healing but that seemed somehow inappropriate. As the weeks and months slipped by I would ask him from time to time if he had changed his mind. Without hesitation he would reply, “Let’s leave things the way they are.”
We became friends and I found myself looking forward to Tuesday afternoon each week. Joyce would meet me at the door with a bottle of water and I would make myself comfortable while George expressed his views regarding the latest “liberal lunacy” with Fox News playing in the background. Once he got that out of the way we turned to other topics – usually George’s favorite – himself.Category: 2013
Corruption is as old as the human race and none of us is immune. If we do not guard our hearts at all times and practice absolute integrity in all things, even the smallest matters, we risk falling prey. One of the most heartbreaking examples of a good man who fell into corruption involves a former staff member of a Bible Church in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. He went to jail for embezzling almost $42,000 from the church over a six-year period. When I first learned of his crime I remember thinking, How could a minister do such a thing?
I was tempted to conclude that he was an aberration, an impostor, an evil man masquerading as a minister. Such a conclusion made his sinful dishonest easier to explain and it made it less likely that I might be capable of the same thing or something similar. Unfortunately it doesn’t fit the facts.
More likely he was a sincere man. No better and no worse than the rest of us. Somewhere along the way he took a wrong turn. Probably it seemed insignificant at the time. Perhaps he padded his expense account or hedged on his income tax return. Or maybe he was short of cash and “borrowed” from church funds until payday. He intended to pay it back, but somehow he never got around to doing it. After a while it was easier just to pretend it had never happened.Category: October 2009
While watching President Obama’s speech on health care reform to the joint houses of Congress on Wednesday evening, I couldn’t help remembering something my friend Jack used to tell me. He was an astute businessman who almost never made a bad deal. Once, while having lunch, I asked him the secret of his success. With a slow smile, he raised his finger and pointed toward the ceiling. When I pressed him for something more definitive than divine help he said, “Never fall in love with the deal.”
“A deal,” he said, “is like a beautiful woman. Once you fall in love with her you lose all objectivity. Passion takes over, distorting your judgment. Now all you can see are the benefits. You maximize the upside while minimizing or ignoring the downside. You turn a blind eye to the risks.”
I suspect this is what happened in the last election, not that we had much of a choice. Barack Obama swept the starry-eyed idealists off their feet. They fell in love with the deal and denigrated anyone who dared to suggest that their idealized version of reality might be tainted by passion. Never mind that Obama’s resume’ was terribly thin and that his campaign rhetoric was heavy on style but short on substance. He was charismatic, he promised to change America and he was saying the things many people wanted to hear. Toss in an unprecedented economic crisis, a less than inspiring opponent, a biased media, and it is easy to see why so many Americans fell in love with the deal.Category: September 2009
“For those who refuse to give up, who dare to see with both eyes, there’s something beyond the darkness, something beyond the pain and brokenness of our shattered world.”
Most people can overcome any adversity if they can be assured of three things. First, they must know that God cares. Then they must be convinced that He won’t forsake them. Finally, they have to know that God will redeem their situation. As rational creatures, the thought that a tragic accident or some other life-altering event might be pointless is simply unbearable. But if we are convinced that God will ultimately bring good out of what looks for all the world like a senseless tragedy, we can somehow bear it.
Do you remember the time Jesus and His disciples got caught in a terrible storm? Mark records it: “A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’” (Mark 4:37,38).
“Don’t you care?”Category: September 2009
Few things in life are more important than deep sharing with good friends. That kind of talking nourishes the soul and reaffirms our place in the world.
As I prepare to write today’s blog three or four memories juxtapose themselves in my mind. In the first I am just a boy ten or eleven years old. It is a Sunday afternoon and we have just arrived home from church. Although I waste no time shedding my church clothes for tennis shoes and blue jeans, our company arrives before I can finish. They have come to share Sunday dinner with us. The guests vary from week to week but we almost never eat Sunday dinner alone. We might scrimp all week, as Mom used to say, but on Sunday we had a feast – huge platters piled high with fried chicken, heaping bowls of mashed potatoes, fresh vegetables from the garden, homemade hot rolls, and gallons of lemonade. For dessert there was always a variety of cakes and pies from which to choose.
When we couldn’t possible eat another bite, us kids disappeared outdoors, while the adults lingered around the table talking for an hour or two. That’s all they did – just talked. It seemed like such a waste to me then. Now, I know better. Few things in life are more important than deep sharing with good friends. That kind of talking nourishes the soul and reaffirms our place in the world.
A second memory now superimposes itself upon the first and I listen as our adult daughter bemoans the fact that no one entertains at home anymore. She and her husband tried it a couple of times, hosting small dinner parties in their home, but when several guests canceled at the last minute and no one returned their invitation they were forced to conclude that dinner parties are a thing of the past. “No one has time to be friends any more,” Leah says wistfully, “not with everything they have going on in their lives. Oh, I know my generation is into social networking – facebook and twitter and all that – but sending emails and instant messages isn’t the same as sharing Sunday dinner!”Category: July 2009
"Your crisis may not come as a devastating medical diagnosis, but given time you will face things that will rock your world. So what can you do when your world is crashing down around you?"
Although medical science has made significant advances in recent years, a diagnosis of cancer still has the power to overwhelm. Let the doctor’s diagnosis include “Stage three,” and the level of fear ratchets up yet again. And should the prognosis include a life expectancy of less than two years the effect can be absolutely devastating. That’s what someone very close to me is facing as I write today’s blog. In two weeks time, her world has gone from safe and secure to one of fearful uncertainty and confusion. Needless to say my heart goes out to her and her family.
So where do they go from here? What do they do now? Of course, they’re going to get the best medical advice available before deciding on a course of treatment, but beyond that what can they do? For that matter, what can any of us do when our world is falling apart?Category: July 2009
"If I try to hang onto the past, to the old way of doing ministry, I will be left behind, yet that’s exactly what I’m tempted to do. Are there risks inherent in change? Absolutely, but the risks of looking back and trying to recreate the past are even greater."
I sometimes wonder what happened to the man I used to be. Friends and colleagues once described me as a man ahead of his time. Now I feel like a dinosaur. I don’t know if life is going faster and faster or if I’m just slowing down. Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not throwing in the towel. In fact, I’m running as fast as I can. I’ve even managed to get a web site replete with pod casts and blogs. I’m on facebook and twitter, but every time I learn something new it’s already dated!
I’m tempted to think that I hate change simply because I’m getting older, but then I look back over my life and realize that change has always been hard. In 1980, I moved my family from Craig, Colorado to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to become pastor of Christian Chapel. Although there were a number of challenges I was excited. As far as I was concerned it was the chance of a lifetime and yet our early months in Tulsa were characterized by a profound sense of loss.Category: June 2009
Like some of you, I have now reached that point in life when it is not unusual for yet another friend, or family member, to depart this life. The past four years have been especially difficult for Brenda and me, as we have lost both her father and mine, as well as my mother, and a special friend. Still, I was shocked when I received a telephone call informing me that Larry Dalton had died suddenly.
He was barely sixty-three years old and appeared to be the picture of health. We had reconnected in February, at Christian Chapel’s 35th anniversary. As we chatted, he informed me that he was leaving Nashville and moving back to Tulsa. I complimented him on the Christmas music he had done for Reader’s Digest and told him the Christmas concerts he had performed at Christian Chapel were still the highlight of my Christmas memories.
The service was about to begin, so he excused himself and made his way toward the platform. As I watched him walk toward the piano, I couldn’t help marveling at his youthful appearance and fitness. He worked out regularly and was an avid bicyclist. Involuntarily, I found myself trying to suck in my sagging stomach, but to no avail.Category: June 2009
It is an incredibly beautiful morning in Northwest Arkansas. The sky is nearly Colorado blue, the humidity relatively low with temperatures in the mid-seventies. Earlier this morning, I enjoyed a cup of coffee on the porch overlooking Beaver Lake, but in spite of the natural beauty of God’s creation my heart is heavy. This peaceful morning belies the reality of our world where violence begets violence and well meaning people risk becoming a monster in an attempt to destroy a monster. The thing that prompted my melancholy musings this time was the murder of late-term abortionist George Tiller. He was shot and killed on Sunday morning while serving as an usher at Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas.
The response from both sides has been predictable. Pro-life organizations decry it as a senseless act of violence without justification, while pro-choice groups, like the National Organization for Women are blaming the tragedy on the pro-life movement. NOW has labeled the murder an act of "politically-motivated domestic terrorism" and has called on the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to put their full resources behind the effort to "root out and prosecute...the criminal enterprise that has organized and funded criminal acts for decades." It doesn’t take a prophet to see where this is leading.
Everything about this tragedy is grievous. I’m grieved that George Tiller was murdered and that his wife, children, and grandchildren must suffer this senseless tragedy. And his murder was so pointless. Killing him does nothing to end the tragedy of abortion; in fact it probably hardens the resolve of pro-choice groups and legislatures. Without a doubt it makes it more difficult for pro-life advocates.Category: June 2009
Liberal politicians, jurists and even educators insist that there are no moral absolutes, creating a society where each person is a law unto himself.
Sometimes good people make poor choices that result in unintended consequences. Maybe you’ve done that, I know I have. Sometimes principled people make misguided decisions that produce unintended consequences. The more powerful the people making the decisions the more far reaching the consequences, even the unintended ones.
I suspect this is what happened in the case of Roe verses Wade, the infamous 1973 Supreme Court decision. I cannot imagine that the seven Supreme Court justices who voted to legalize abortion intended to set in motion forces that would result in nearly fifty million babies being put to death before birth, but they did. I cannot believe cruelty was the motivating factor or that they harbored a hatred of children. Laying aside the finer points of law, which in this case seem misinterpreted to me, I truly believe they were motivated by a misguided compassion. They wanted to help women and thought they were, but they were wrong.
Laying aside the deaths of fifty million innocent children for a moment, let’s consider some of the other unintended consequences. The decision to have an abortion is gut wrenching. It is usually made when the pregnant woman is in a crisis and more often than not leaves her psychologically damaged for life. The law may tell her she has the right to choose to have her baby put to death before birth, but in her heart of hearts she knows that is wrong, and she has to live with that knowledge. That’s why pro-life organizations all over the country now provide post abortion healing groups.
An equally tragic, but much less obvious consequence – unintended of course – is the unparalleled increase in domestic violence and child abuse in the last thirty-five years, not to mention the random killing sprees on school campuses, in shopping malls, and now in churches.
Anyone who watches the national news knows that mass murder in the United States has increased exponentially in recent years. The graphic images are indelibly imprinted on our minds. Who could ever forget the sight of frightened students fleeing from Columbine High School where two classmates gunned down twelve students and one teacher, or emergency vehicles and grieving parents surrounding a one room Amish School house in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where five school children, all girls, were killed execution style by Charles Carl Roberts IV? Then there’s the image of thousands of Virginia Tech students at a candlelight vigil following the murder of thirty-two of their classmates by Seung-Hui Cho.
More recently, on March 20 of this year, Robert Stewart entered a nursing home in Carthage, N.C., and opened fire on residents, killing seven of them along with one nursing home employee. And on April 3 Jiverly Wong, armed with two handguns, went on a killing rampage at an immigration center in Binghamton, N.Y. According to police reports, he fired 98 shots, killing 13 people before taking his own life.
Of course murder is nothing new. From the time Cain killed Able until now the human race has a long history of cold blooded atrocities. Still, there seems to be something different, something more sinister about the random killings being perpetrated by these troubled young men. For the most part their killing sprees were not prompted by religious fanaticism or political ideology or even personal revenge. Their victims were strangers by and large – innocent victims – and seemed to be chosen at random.
Mark Kopta, chairman and professor in the department of psychology at the University of Evansville in Indiana, has researched extensively the country's mass killings, which he defines as attacks leading to the deaths of at least five people, including the killer's suicide. He found three incidents in the United States fitting this profile between 1930 and 1970. Three more followed over the course of the 1970s. In the 1980s, however, there were ten such incidents of mass murder. The 1990s had seventeen; and, since the new millennium began, there have been twenty-five such mass murders. Six of them occurred last year. And 2009 has already topped that with eight such killings.
So what’s going on? Why this sudden rise in mass killings? Are they just a statistical fluke or might they be an unintended consequence of Roe verse Wade?
There are no easy explanations, no pat answers. The conditions conspiring to produce these troubled young men are varied and complex. The entertainment industry continues to produce video games, music and movies that glorify violence. Liberal politicians, jurists and even educators insist that there are no moral absolutes, creating a society where each person is a law unto himself. Corruption in high places, within business, government and the church, has produced a jaded cynicism in young and old alike. Then there’s the economic meltdown of recent months and the resulting despair. Finally there is rampant divorce and the resulting dissolution of the traditional family creating a generation of lost souls.
While all of these are contributing factors they are not the root cause. The root cause is spiritual rather than sociological or even psychological. America made a covenant with death and we are now reaping the unintended consequences. That covenant was sealed on Monday, January 22, 1973, when the United States Supreme Court ruled 7-2, in the now infamous Roe v. Wade decision. Since that fateful day nearly 50 million babies have been put to death before birth and, not co-incidentally, we have seen an unparalleled increase in domestic violence and child abuse. The random killing sprees on school campuses, in shopping malls, and now in churches, are just the inevitable consequence of devaluing life. When the highest court in the land rules that killing the child in your womb is an acceptable way of dealing with your unplanned pregnancy, we shouldn’t be surprised when children reared in such a culture turn to murder and suicide when life becomes overwhelming.
What, you may be wondering, can we do? How can we reverse this tragic trend?
If the root cause is spiritual then it demands a spiritual response. Our response must be three-pronged.
1) Intercession –Since we do not contend with physical foes, but spiritual ones, our weapons must be spiritual rather than the weapons of the world (2 Cor. 10:3-5). In prayer we must bind the spiritual forces that are operating behind the scenes and only then can we see men and women set free. Remember, Jesus said that before we can spoil the strong man’s house we must first bind him (Mt. 12:29). We must bind the spirit of death and we can only accomplish this through intercessory prayer.
2) Evangelism – those who do not know Christ, even those whose desperation have made them killers, are not our enemies but our mission. We are called to love them into the Kingdom.
3) Reformation (Spirit directed social action) – as evangelism redeems the individual so Spirit directed social action redeems the institutions of society restoring them to their God given purpose.
Remember, we are not holy warriors doing battle with those whose values and lifestyles are different from ours, but holy lovers who turn the other cheek, who go the second mile, who do unto others as we would have them do unto us. No matter how strident those who hate the cause of Christ become let us always live lives that reflect the love of Him who laid down His life for us.
This is already longer than I intended but I cannot close without addressing one more issue. Some of you may be living with the unintended consequences of a poor choice you made years ago. Try as you might you cannot forgive yourself or move on with your life. I bring you good news! Christ has redeemed us from the curse of our sinful mistakes by suffering the curse for us (see Galatians 3:13-14). You can’t undo the past. Not even God can do that but His forgiveness does unlock the future.
This is Richard Exley straight from the heart.