First Day Pics

Carley, Carrie-Anne, Valerie No Comments »

Today’s the first day of school and I must join the rest of humanity in posting a few pictures of my children. Give me a break; you know you’ve already done it.

Valerie has transferred this year to Oklahoma Christian University: the home of the Eagles, the former home of Enterprise Square USA, and the place where Carrie-Anne and I met and fell in love. The whole family piled into a couple of cars Friday to deliver Valerie to Edmond, to her new dorm room at Tinius Hall, and to meet her new roommate, Aimee, who lives in Childress.

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It’s at once wonderful and strange when your daughter enrolls at your alma mater. Valerie’s Bible professor this semester is a Delta brother I went to school with at OC, Jeff McMillon, and her history professor is her uncle, my sister Rhonda’s husband Geoff. There are twice as many buildings and ten times as many trees on campus as there were thirty years ago. Goldie’s is gone and I can’t even find Johnnie’s or Pumps. But OC still feels like a wonderful community of smart and caring Christians who will support and encourage, teach and challenge, shape and guide our daughter.

As for Carley, today begins her Junior year at Canyon High School — she’s an upper classman! Still playing golf, still completely obsessed with her grades, still totally driven to be Valedictorian, still incredibly social and motivated to spend time with her friends and, yet, still unbelievably void of any desire to get out of bed before 11:00 am.

I sang the song at 6:15 this morning. She rolled over and groaned.

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Carrie-Anne is beginning her third year as the culinary arts director for Canyon and Randall High Schools with three packed out classes. She has really grown that program into a regional powerhouse around here and they’re having to turn students away.

For Whitney and me, nothing much changes. We keep the same routine we’ve been managing all summer: getting up, going to work, and wondering why the Rangers can’t win a weekend series against a last place team.

Peace,

Allan

The Hope of Change

Ezekiel, Forgiveness No Comments »

JesusInvitesDon’t tell God you can’t change. Don’t tell anybody you can’t change. Don’t believe it about yourself: that you can’t change.

“The fathers eat sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” ~Ezekiel 18:2

God’s people are going through a really tough time. Most of Judah had already fallen to the Babylonians and a lot of the people had been captured and scattered throughout Babylon. Jerusalem was under siege and things were getting worse. And they blamed everything that was happening on their parents. Things are really bad and there’s nothing I can do about it.

And maybe we do similar things. My life hasn’t turned out the way I planned. My finances. My marriage. My sins. My life is a mess, it’s always been this way, and it’s always going to be this way. Some of us live in chronic crisis. When we have a personality crisis, we blame our parents. When we have a behavior crisis, we blame our family. When we have a marriage crisis, we blame our spouse. When we have a sin crisis, we blame the culture, the government, the boss. We’ll blame others for where we are and who we are and use that as an excuse for not doing anything about it. And God speaks through his servant Ezekiel and takes away all the excuses.

“‘As surely as I live,’ declares the Sovereign Lord, ‘you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son — both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.'”  ~Ezekiel 18:3-4

God says categorically this saying is not true. Both parent and child belong to the Lord. Everybody belongs to the Lord. And God is not only sovereign over all things, he’s also a just judge. He doesn’t punish people for sins they don’t commit. He goes on to explain that a person is judged by what they do and how they behave on their own. It’s not tied to the people who’ve gone before.

“The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.” ~Ezekiel 18:20

God takes away all the excuses. And he calls for a change.

“If a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him. Because of the righteous things he has done, he will live.” ~Ezekiel 18:21-22

I love the Ephesians 2 passage that says you used to be one thing but now you’re another thing entirely. You used to be an enemy of God. Guided by the growling desires of your stomach. Living by the principles of the world. But you’re not that anymore! By the Spirit of God through Christ Jesus, you’re not that anymore! You were rescued. You were saved. God changed you!

1 Corinthians 6 is just as good. Wicked. Sexually immoral. Idolaters. Thieves. Greedy. Drunkards. Slanderers. Swindlers. That’s what some of you were. But you’re not anymore. You were washed. You were justified. You were sanctified. God changed you!

Scripture says if you give yourself to God, he’ll change you. God changes people. God reaches down in power and love and grace and in miraculous ways he changes hearts and minds and lives. He re-creates people. He re-images worldviews and dispositions. He re-routes eternal souls.

God takes away all our excuses. But notice God doesn’t take away all our excuses just so we can be crushed under the full impact of the requirements of his holy law. He takes away all the excuses so we will turn to him and live. So we will submit and change.

“‘Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked?’ declares the sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?'” ~Ezekiel 18:23

When people turn to God and live, when people submit to God and live, God is pleased. This is what makes him happy. The Bible says God wants all men and women to be saved and to come to a knowledge of his truth. And our God doesn’t just make this change possible, he makes it his top priority. He’s so committed to your change, he gave up everything to come here in person to show us what it looks like.

“”Rid yourselves of all the offense you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone,’ declares the sovereign Lord. ‘Repent and live!'” ~Ezekiel 18:31-32

You can change. Not because you have the power to change, but because God has the power to change you. I will GIVE you a new heart, he says. I will GIVE you a new spirit. You can change. Not because you can live right if you try really hard, but because of God’s lavish grace and forgiveness. He gives you the grace to change.

Peace,

Allan

#NeverEverQuit

Central Church Family, MLB, Texas Rangers No Comments »

Two games in Denver. Two dramatic come-from-behind wins for the Rangers. Texas scored three runs in the 9th inning to beat the Rockies Monday night. Then 18-hours later in the sunshine at Coors Field, they rallied for four runs in the 8th to demoralize the Colorado bullpen and fans. That’s a two-game sweep, that’s maintaining a seven game lead on the M’s, that’s adding to the AL’s best record, and it’s more mojo for Bannister’s “Never Ever Quit” mantra that fuels this franchise.

There really is something to the strength and depth of this Rangers lineup that means they’re never truly out of any ballgame. You look up and down this team’s order and there’s really no weakness. There’s no break for an opposing pitcher.

Unless you’re playing in a National League park.

Over the past two days, I’ve been reminded again of how antiquated and ridiculous the NL rules are requiring pitchers to bat and how the DH rule in the American League is the only thing that makes sense. I can’t wait for the day when MLB finally completes this long torturous process of combining the leagues and never forcing us to watch a pitcher attempt to bat a ball again. They’ve done away with AL and NL presidents, there are no more AL and NL umpires, the divisions all have the same number of teams, interleague play is no longer a novelty — it’s time. Make the move already! Apply the DH to all games in both leagues. Go so far as to add the tricked-up “bonus batter” thing some people are talking about. I don’t care. I’m just sick of seeing a guy in scoring position with the pitcher on deck.

RangersRockiesTidmoresIt was great to see Bruce and Celia Tidmore at the Rangers game yesterday. They’re here in Denver getting some quality vacation time in the mountains with kids and grandkids. C-A and I are heading back home today after a wonderful three days in Colorado. Have a great rest of your week.

Peace,

Allan

Hello, Win Column!

Texas Rangers 1 Comment »

I can’t tell you how much fun that was last night. You know how when the Rangers are playing New York or the Red Sox in Arlington and it feels like there are more Yankees fans or Boston fans than Texas fans in the stadium? Well, it is so very cool to be on the other side of that deal.

Carrie-Anne and I are in Denver this week for a quick getaway together — no kids! — before the craziness of the school year hits. And the center piece of our trip is both games of this uncommon two game series between the Rangers and Rockies at Coors Field. My friend Jerry Schemmel, the radio voice of the Rockies, scored us some sweet tickets for both games — five rows up from first base —and hosted us in the KOA broadcast booth for the second and third innings last night. Being on the broadcast floor also gave us a chance to pop into the Fox Sports Southwest booth and say “hi” to my friend Steve Busby. Everything I know about baseball I learned by sitting next to Buzz in the Ballpark press box during my years with KRLD.

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C-A and I noticed it during the day as we sight-saw around Denver: there were lots of Rangers fans in town. We spent most of the late morning and early afternoon on 16th street downtown and then later in the day at Denver’s historic Union Station. And we saw lots and lots of Rangers shirts and caps. We met Rangers fans from Nacogdoches and Richardson, from Dallas and San Angelo. It was quite remarkable. But nothing like inside Coors Field. It looked and felt like there was one Rangers fan for every two or three Rockies fans. It got to be kind of a joke along the concourse and at the concession stands that the Texans were taking over Colorado here in August just like they do during the winter.

You may already know that the Rangers went into the ninth inning trailing 3-1, having only achieved three base hits. Cole Hamels went six innings, giving up just two runs, but it was a struggle. Colorado was playing excellent defense, robbing several Rangers of hits. And we just couldn’t get anything going on the field or in the stands. When Beltre hit a homerun to cut the lead in half at 2-1, it sounded like the home team had scored. It was loud. But it was fleeting because Kela gave the run right back and it didn’t look like it was in the cards for Texas.

But then Profar and Odor worked a perfect double-steal in the 9th, Andrus drove them both home with a sharp single through the box to tie the game, and then with two outs Moreland won it with a pinch-hit double into the right field corner. Three dramatic runs in the ninth to win the game and the whole place went crazy. The Rangers fans completely took over the stadium and it was so much fun. You know how that thing works: fans high-fiving across aisles, fist bumps, taking pictures. But the coolest thing was being a part of “Let’s Go Rangers! Clap, Clap! Clap, Clap, Clap!” in somebody else’s stadium. What a great night!

We’re taking in the get away game this afternoon and then heading home tomorrow. The Rangers have an 8-1/2 game lead in the West and we had a really cool experience here in Denver.

Peace,

Allan

Jesus is Judge and You Are Not

1 Peter, Bible, Christ & Culture, Jesus, Romans No Comments »

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.'” ~Romans 12:17-19

JudgeMosaic4When people hurt me, my gut instinct, my sinful human instinct, is to hurt them back. When someone does something that causes me pain or causes pain to someone I love, I want that person to suffer some pain, too. Even when that person apologizes, even when that person asks for forgiveness, even after I forgive that person, my gut thinks, “but he needs to feel some pain, too. He can’t get away with this and nothing bad happen to him. It’s his fault this bad thing happened to me or this painful thing happened to my family; he needs to have something bad happen to him, too. He needs to feel this, too.”

We know that justice will be served. We know that God’s children will all be vindicated. We know that evildoers will be punished. But that is not your job. Or mine. That’s not our job. Judging and taking revenge and seeking that kind of justice is the Lord’s job. And it’s his job alone. As followers of Christ Jesus, we do not ever seek to punish the people who hurt us. Ever.

God is the perfect judge. He knows all things, he sees all things, and he has all righteous power. He is a perfectly just God who will not allow evil to go unpunished. So we can trust him. If we try to exact any kind of revenge, we’re trespassing into territory our God has reserved only for himself. So we let him handle it.

Surrounding the above text from Romans 12, Paul quotes from the teachings of Jesus to make his point:

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (12:14).
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil” (12:17).
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (12:21).

We believe that God in Christ is ultimately going to make all things right. God is going to right all the wrongs and avenge all the evils. In the meantime, Christians respond to wrongdoing and to evil with kindness and love. This is one of the most distinctive things that sets Christianity apart from Islam and Buddhism and all the other world religions: we do not live tit-for-tat. Harming or killing our enemies is not an option for Christians. Our job is to love and forgive, to bless and to pray. Our job is to faithfully trust God. Trust God that he will judge and avenge.

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” ~1 Peter 2:21-23

Our Lord Jesus did not retaliate. He didn’t seek to punish or act to avenge the injustices he suffered. Look at Jesus. He refuses to lift a finger in his own defense. He rebukes his followers who try to defend him with a sword. He doesn’t call ten thousand angels to destroy his enemies. He prays for their forgiveness. The people who are killing him — Jesus prays for their forgiveness.

I know this is hard. I know this is counter-cultural, counter-natural, almost anti-American. But this kind of thinking and acting, this way of living, is not just for Jesus. Loving our enemies and being kind to people who do you harm and leaving all retribution to God is not some unattainable ideal or something only for super Christians or the spiritually elite. This very hard thing is required of all who confess Jesus as Lord. When Jesus says “teaching them to obey all I have commanded,” this is part of it.

There are people who say they don’t believe in the God of the Bible, the God who judges and punishes people, because they believe in a God of love. Now, what makes them think God is love? Can they look at the world today and see anything that proves God is love? Can they see anything in history, is there any evidence out there, any proof at all at that God is love? Where does that come from? Where do people get the idea that God is love?

The Bible. The Bible tells us over and over again that God Almighty is a God of deep and eternal love. And the same Bible also tells us that because of God’s deep and abiding love, he will judge and avenge and ultimately make everything in the world right.

Peace,

Allan

Jesus’ Judgment Will Be Fair

2 Corinthians, Jesus, John, Matthew, Ministry, Romans, Texas Rangers No Comments »

JudgmentDay

“A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out — those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. By myself, I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” ~John 5:28-30

The first Christians believed that what you do matters. The writers of Scripture all confirm that a fair and impartial judgment day is consistent with the character of God who doesn’t play favorites.

“God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.” ~Romans 2:6-11

2 Corinthians 5 tells us that all men and women are someday going to stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account of all their thoughts and words and deeds. Everything. And each of us is going to receive what’s right according to whether we’ve done good or evil.

JudgeSheep&GoatsJesus gives us a compelling picture of this in Matthew 25 with the separation of the sheep and the goats.  To the sheep on the right, Jesus says, “Come!” Come on in. Come close. You belong. You’re in. Come. How cool would it be to hear the Lord say that to you?

Notice the righteous in this story don’t say, “Boom! Nailed it! Yeah! That’s right! We’re feeding the hungry and clothing the naked! Yes! The Kingdom has been prepared for me! That’s what I’m talking about!” No, it’s more like, “What?!? We did what?!? You mean we got it right?” The sheep on the right are surprised.

Jesus explains that the way you regard the poor and the sick and the abused and the hungry shows your high regard for him and his mission. Our King associates himself with the lowly, with people who don’t have any resources. So when you show compassion for the poor, when you extend mercy to the sick, when you show love to the marginalized, that’s proof that you belong to God. These aren’t good works to earn favor from God. You don’t give a cup of water so you can go to heaven. That’s not why these people did these good deeds. They were surprised their kindness to prisoners and aliens had anything to do with it. The way they treated the poor and the minorities proved that they had submitted to the Lordship of Jesus and that his Holy Spirit was shaping their minds and lives. Clothing the naked is not a qualification to get in — it’s an evidence of a saving faith.

To the ones on the left, Jesus says, “Depart!” Go away. Get out of my presence. You don’t belong to me.” How awful and terrible to hear the Lord say that to you.

Notice the unrighteous goats who are eternally condemned are just as surprised as the righteous sheep. “What? When did these things happen? I don’t remember not taking care of you, Jesus, when you needed help.?

I don’t think they were deliberately rejecting Jesus when they turned their backs on the poor and the weak. It’s just evidence that they had not submitted to Jesus as Lord and to his mission to seek and save and make things right. They didn’t see Jesus in the poor and hurting.

Maybe they saw Jesus in their church, so they had perfect attendance. Maybe they saw Jesus in their political candidates, so they voted regularly. Maybe they saw Jesus in their Christian jewelry and T-shirts, so they went shopping. But they never saw Jesus in the poor. They never experienced his character in his mission to the lost. This was proof they had not allowed the Holy Spirit to shape them and transform them into the image of Christ.

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Being faithful, being righteous, doesn’t mean being burned at the stake or becoming a missionary to Yugoslavia. The righteous are just paying attention to the people around them and taking care of real, practical, every day needs. A cup of water. A sandwich. A visit. A coat. Just be faithful with what God puts right in front of you every day. What you do matters. It’s evidence.

The righteous will always produce evidence. You’ll always be able to notice the transformed speech and thoughts and actions and character of disciples of Christ. On that last day, Jesus will distribute rewards and penalties according to the clear evidence. And he’s always fair.

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RangersLogoYesterday, while basking in the glorious glow of another exciting round of last minute deals for the Rangers at the trade deadline, I wrote in this space that, with the additions of Beltran and Lucroy, this Texas team will score an average of more than five runs a game from here on out. Last night, Beltran and Lucroy went a combined 0-6 with three Ks in a 5-1 loss at Baltimore.

I’m sticking with it. Hold me to it. This Rangers lineup will average more than five runs per game the rest of the way. Starting……
Now!

Peace,

Allan