Friday, August 31, 2007

Headline: Baptists Turning From Public Schools

Wow, well, okay, at the risk of angering some people I am close to, I have to address another article in today's paper that reflects a growing trend among not only Baptists, but it is Church-wide. I have very close, personal friends who have made the decision as a family to homeschool their children and/or send them to Christian private schools. I totally respect that decision and know that those in each category are raising first rate children. There are major sacrifices of time, money and energy involved in either of those options. I am certainly not saying the decision to do so is necessarily a wrong decision, I simply want to approach this with an eye toward the end game, that is to say, where is this trend leading us and does that end game jibe with God's word.

Here is the first sentence of the article: Convinced that God has been erased from public schools, Southern Baptists are now working to open their own schools, where Jesus is writ large and Bible study is part of the daily curriculum. I am sorry, but that statement REALLY bothers me. If we as Christian parents do our jobs, our children will have all the knowledge and everything else necessary for them to make an informed decision to ask Jesus Christ to come into their heart. I know that, ultimately, it is the work of the Holy Spirit, but we can create a very fertile environment for that seed to take root. When it does, they carry Christ with them. While it is true that many of the things that existed in our schools prior to the mid 1960's, such as devotional Bible reading, corporate prayer and the like are gone, God is NOT. As long as our schools have godly administration, teachers, counselors, support staff and students, God is present and active in our schools. Our Christian kids have far more rights in the school than we want to believe. We have been scared into thinking otherwise. They can have their Bibles. They can pray. They can assemble and discuss biblical things. They can do A LOT! I recognize that what we enjoy here in East Tennessee may not be as prevalent in other places, but I am in enough schools here to know that at least it is here. Now if we accept the premise that God is present and active in our schools through our children, teachers and others, we must think about the ramifications of a wholesale exodus of Christ-followers from our schools.

Jesus prayed a prayer in John 17 of which this is a portion:

"I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. "I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified."

Before His ascension, He also left us some very important instructions you might find familiar in Matthew 28:

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

My question is this: If the church removes their children from the "worldly schools" and we bring our Christian teachers out as well so that we can create our "Christian schools," how are we effectively maintaining the wishes and commands of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Statistics overwhelmingly show that if an individual does not make a decision for Christ before his or her 18th birthday, the chances of that person coming to Christ plummets. How far down do the chances plummet if that individual has no Christian friends around to influence that decision through the formative years?

I simply refuse to believe that our Lord modeled for us a plan that requires us to create little Christian enclaves separated and set apart from the world that He loved and for whom He came to die (John 3:16).

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

This just in...

Beethoven Killed By Lead Poisoning From Personal Physician

Did you know that Austrian forensic investigators have spent the past several years and untold thousands of euros trying to figure out what happened to Beethoven? Me neither, but according to today's Kingsport Times-News front page story, it is a hot topic in Austria.

Beethoven died at age 57 in the year of our Lord, 1827. It was known for years that he suffered from cirrhosis of the liver and other ailments in the final years of his life. But the head of the Department of Forensic Medicine at Vienna’s Medical University recently posited the theory that treatments from his personal physician, a Dr. Wawruch, contributed to his death.

Pardon me for being highly insensitive, but who really cares? What good will come from this? Has Bubba Beethoven, the great, great, great, great grandchild and his family, been reeling from the lack of closure all these years? How does the Wawruch family feel now that they know their relative inadvertently killed inarguably one of the greatest composer/musical innovators of all time? I am sure that this has been a good, teachable exercise for the Viennese forensic students. For me, however, it is just another example of how sidetracked we can become as a society and a culture.

We can spend a lot of time and financial resources figuring out how one man died 180 years ago and not give one thought to the nearly 4000 children that were aborted just yesterday. We can demand that Michael Vick (yes, that little nugget again) serve some 12-18 months for killing and mistreating some dogs, as heinous as that may be, but forget about the child rapist that has served his shortened sentence and was released this week to terrify society again.

Yes, that was kind of a harsh departure for me, but sometimes I think that I too become numb to society's downward spiral and the encroachment of a Godless ethos. We begin to value the vacuous and ignore the important in our daily lives.

Help me, dear Lord, to be ever mindful of why I am here, and of who You are. Help me to care about the things you care about and do the things you want me to do. Help me keep my eyes focused on the higher pursuits and the higher calling to which You have called us all.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"Through this situation, I found Jesus."

When I heard that Michael Vick was going to make a statement I had to hang around long enough to watch him. The attention he and this entire case have received over these past few weeks, heck, even months has been unbelievable. I am ready for it to go away so we can talk about college football and other positive things.

But as I watched Vick deliver his statement which lasted a little over 4 minutes, I was glad that he did not read from a script prepared by some high dollar public relations firm. He seemed contrite and sincere. I have to admit, though, when he made the statement that he found Jesus, I cringed a little bit. We hear about so many people who "find Jesus" in prison or maybe they go through some serious, near fatal tragedy and they "find Him." These days the media picks up on that and plays it up so that "finding Jesus" sounds hollow and lacks the power it should enjoy. I remember when precious little Paris Hilton came on the Larry King Live show after her "tumultuous" jail sentence and she said she "found Jesus." Larry asked her point blank what that meant to her and she could not articulate or describe her faith at all. "Finding Jesus"--It is a curious word play when you think about it.

Jesus really is not the one that is lost and in need of being found. The person who finds Him is always the one who is lost. Unfortunately, people have to come to the end of themselves, a place where they are confronted with their sin and their own inability to do anything about it before they realize Jesus is right there, waiting, wanting to make a difference in their life. For many people, life has to crumble down around them before they are in a place to "see" Him. He was there all the time waiting for them to acknowledge Him, but most are too caught up in there own worlds to be aware.

I am not judge or jury. I cannot know how sincere Michael Vick, or Paris Hilton, or anyone else for that matter, is in their faith. Time will tell. Will we see the fruit of a life filled with Christ pour forth from a "Jesus Finder?" I pray we will. Above all, I rejoice in serving a risen Saviour who is always present in the dark valleys of life, in the jails, and in the muck and mire waiting to be "found."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Misc. Meanderings...

I know, no blog in few days. Sorry. I have been busy and today, it's another Sabbath spent all day at church. There's something wrong about that. Anyway, I finished up what I needed to prepare and now I have time to reflect on a few things:
  • During the pre-race festivities before the Food City 500 last night in Bristol, the guy who prayed actually prayed, "Thank you, Lord, for racing the way it out to be." For those of you that don't know, that is one of Bristol Motor Speedway's slogans. How awesome is that?
  • It is finally football time in Tennessee! High School kicked off this past week and this week the mighty Vols head to California for a pigskin tussle.
  • We are coming into my favorite time of the year. Now if the temperature would only drop about 30 degrees.
  • Rumor has it that despite everything, Michael Vick has signed a lucrative endorsement contract with yet another big time shoe company... Hush Puppies! I know, I know how insensitive? Grow up or read someone else's blog! :)
  • I cannot believe how hot it has been lately. This has got to be one of the hottest Augusts on record. I have put off doing a bunch of outdoor stuff and it is all going to catch up with me.
  • The following was a letter to the editor in today's Kingsport Times-News:
Free ads for local prostitutes
I am amazed at the number of times I have seen the Kingsport Times-News provide free advertising for prostitutes in this area. Has no one ever considered that when the names and complete street addresses of local women arrested for prostitution are placed in the newspaper that future clients of these women have no trouble locating them?
Heck, prostitutes are not able to pay for advertisement of their services in the local telephone directories, but the local newspapers provide totally free advertisement for them on a regular basis. Someone needs to wake up and realize what is being promoted to our community.

Lynn R. Schmidt

Is it just me or does old Lynn have too much time on his hands? Have you ever perused the FYI section and thought, "Hmmm, maybe I'll look this criminal up." My goodness...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

On Christian Music

I have been an avid listener to what is known as contemporary Christian music (CCM) for about 18 years. I have worked in the industry now for 6 years, albeit on a part-time basis. As an encouragement and faith-strengthening device for the person who has already made Jesus Christ the center of their life, CCM is very effective. As an outreach to the unchurched and non-Christian, I would say that CCM is only moderately effective. Don't get me wrong, I know of many people who have attended a CCM concert or event who accepted Christ on the basis of what they experienced, however I would say that would be the exception rather than the rule. The vast majority of people park their radio on a CCM frequency only after they become a Christ-follower.

A very high percentage of the songs are aimed at encouraging and uplifting the believer in some facet of the Christian walk. Several years ago, however, a band came along and "threw down the gauntlet." They went a slightly different direction with their lyrics. With their very first release, Casting Crowns posed a very pointed question, "If we are the body, why aren't His arms reaching-- why aren't His hands healing-- why aren't His words teaching...?" The song was their first in a long and ever growing line of hits. But the song strikes a powerful blow at the church, an institution that has, in many respects, become stagnant. I say that as an "insider." When we are really honest with ourselves many of our churches have adopted more of a country club mentality rather than a biblical, body of Christ mentality.

Casting Crowns followed up with several others such as, What If His People Prayed and Does Anybody Hear Her. When you consider the previous assertions that Christ-followers are the ones listening to CCM, in my view, we need more songs which shake us to our core and challenge us to once again be the kind of church that Christ would be proud to call His own.

For this reason, I am very excited about the fact that next Tuesday, August 28, the latest Casting Crowns album hits the shelves. It is entitled, The Altar And The Door. The album addresses the challenge of taking the things that go on inside the church, at the altar, and translating that to a lost world when we walk out the door. Now I am not stumping for Casting Crowns, nor am I getting any kickbacks (although I may check and see if I can work that out;). I would be plugging any group that understands the precarious position of the church of today, and has the guts to address the issues in song.

You can check out a preview of the album by viewing the movie below. Enjoy and God bless you today.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Cast Your Cares On The Lord

Before entering the ministry in 2000, I spent some 19 years working with my father at the Exxon service station he has operated for 43 years. It is a full-service business with complete car service and repair. One of the many duties I had was to run service calls when someone had a flat tire, had a car that wouldn't start, or had some other vehicle difficulty that did not require tow service (which we also did), but did need a little "expert" help. I was recently reminded of one such call I handled. It was from a regular customer who called stating that something was stuck under her car and she could not get it out or move the car.

When I arrived at the house, I discovered that the “something” under the car was a rather obese Bassett hound. He had managed to wedge himself under the son’s “low rider, ghetto cruiser” that had a ground clearance of approximately 4 inches. I quickly got the jack out, lifted the car up enough to get the jack under it, and was able to free "Fido." The customer was elated, I was happy to have been able to help her and the dog took a liking to me, as well.

Reflecting on that event, I think about the mixed emotions the lady must have felt. Feelings of embarrassment over having to call about something so strange, while at the same time feeling worry and heartache for her dog. Likewise, many times people are too ashamed to talk to God about certain circumstances in their life. They feel unworthy of His concern. Instead, they let things grow and fester until they are completely overcome by them. Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you…” Matthew 7:8 says, “ For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Our Lord wants us to give our burdens, the things that overwhelm us, to Him. He will take care of you. He promises.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Daily Dose Of Laughter

I promised a mixture of encouragement, challenge and entertainment. This post will fall squarely in the later category. After all, laughter is the best medicine.

This clip is from a local news broadcast in which the anchor tries to share footage of a runway model crashing not once, but twice as she sashays down the runway. Take particular care to notice right before the second dive how she appears to sprain both ankles about 4 times and triumphantly walks away from it.

This is classic...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Elvis Presley: 30 years later.

I would be remiss if I were to allow this week to slip by without taking note of the 30th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley. August 16, 1977 was a day that I will remember the rest of my life. I inherited a love for Elvis from my family, my mother and sister in particular. I remember hearing the radio and seeing the television reports detailing his death. I can only imagine what it would have been like that day had the internet and 24-hour cable news been around. What I remember most, however, was how distraught my female family members were.

Looking back now I think that must have been what really peaked my interest in Elvis. What was it about this man that caused his death to affect so many people this way? I had seen some televised concerts, I had seen some movies, I had seen his appearances on other shows and I had heard detailed accounts of his concerts, but the thing that really got me was the effect his death had on others. It sparked a lifelong interest in the man and his music.

I always had a knack and love for imitation and Elvis became a passion of mine. It was one of those things that the family would make me do at get-togethers. Later when I joined the church youth group it escalated. As we developed the program we would share at the campgrounds to which we ministered on our Myrtle Beach summer mission trips, we were told a portion of our "show" needed to be secular in order to keep everyone happy. So, you guessed it, yours truly was Elvis. It was a really easy promotion. People came out of the woodwork to see how a bunch of kids were going to pull off Elvis, and, by golly, we did.

Now, 30 years later, the music and madness that is Elvis are as big as ever. According to Forbes magazine, the Elvis empire generates an annual income of $40 million. Yes, that's right, Elvis has made more money dead than he did when he was alive. I already have plans to contribute to that cause at the beginning of next year. A good friend and I will travel to Graceland for a first-time visit for the both of us.

Try as I might I cannot think of another notable figure who has enjoyed continued fame, fortune and notoriety on the scale of Elvis 30 years after their death... other than Jesus Christ. What was happening 30 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Well, in a day and age when communications paled in comparison to what we have today, His church was growing at exponential rates. Paul was in the midst of writing his epistles to the various churches he had planted and disciples in whom he had invested.

Nearly 2000 years later, the correlations between the King of Rock n' Roll and the King of Kings are many. Although I still do a mean Elvis, I seek to imitate Christ more so in my daily life. Although I plan on making a journey to the king's house in Memphis, whenever I gather with all the King's men (and women), my church folk, within the four walls of the sanctuary or without, then and only then am I truly in grace land.

If you are a Christ-follower my challenge to the both of us is to do what we can to help the empire of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus, continue to grow and flourish until our King returns. After all, He is the one that is still very much alive, and He loves you... tender.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

OH MY, MY...High School Musical 2

You would think that it is Ellie's birthday AND Christmas! While mommy was helping to lead a women's conference this weekend, I got to make sure that Ellie didn't sneak an early peak and ruin the Brooks Family High School Musical 2 Premiere Party which, much to my dismay, starts in 5 minutes from this posting. I share a house with 3 women and 2 female dogs. Pray for me!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Calculator? Check. iPod? Check. .38 Smith and Wesson...

Okay, sometimes I have a thought that is not directy related to the church, so here goes:

College students packing heat.

The thought of it seems almost antithetical to the whole higher-learning, striving for greatness vibe we think of when we think about the college/university setting. Yet in the wake of the tragic shooting spree at Virginia Tech, student groups are organizing all across the college landscape to lobby for the right to bear arms on campus.

I am a gun owner. I also have a valid concealed carry permit. I got it years ago at a time when I was still working for my father’s business and was responsible for making large cash deposits at the bank, and Tennessee had adopted the concealed carry policy. I still carry a gun in my car when I travel and I have guns in my bedroom in the event that I need to defend myself or my family. They all remain safely stored away from my little girl or one of my crazy seventh -grade John Wayne wannabes.

Currently, there are a large number of states with which Tennessee has reciprocity, meaning it is legal for me to carry a gun in their state, as well. Because of this, there is no law preventing me from carrying my gun on the campus of my choice within states that have reciprocity. However students of that university have to abide by their university’s policies and most university’s do not allow their students to carry guns.

My first question would be why should our students have to give up the rights we all enjoy. Now I realize that there are certain institutions in our fair country that require the relinquishing of personal rights and freedoms. Our military organizations, for example, require many stringent policies to which the rest of us do not adhere. But why do our colleges?

Obviously, the criminal element, by their very nature, will not obey the policies and therefore will stock pile as many guns as they please. I know many of you will ponder the merits of allowing “kids” to carry guns, but think hard about this: Where are our leaders of tomorrow right now? Where are the presidential nominees of 2028 right now? Are they more likely to be in college or not? If a student meets the age requirement, passes the background checks, and takes and passes the required classes in order to obtain a concealed carry permit, in my view, she has the right to bear arms in order to defend herself against the next twisted assailant who gets bent out of shape with his professor, girlfriend, or society as a whole.

This is not about my personal feelings toward guns and I respect the opinion of those who differ. The law and bill of rights, however, are what they are at the present time. It is merely a question of fairly interpreting our laws and our rights for all citizens.

*photo courtesy of the associated press

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sudan 2006

Last November, I had the opportunity to make a trip to Sudan with a group of men to teach disciple-making strategies to some of the church leaders there. It was a blessing sharing our Thanksgiving tradition with our Sudanese family who spent so many years under persecution.

Since many of my friends and colleagues have never seen these pictures, I have made a movie for your viewing pleasure. This blogging stuff is handy.

The first few images were taken in Kenya, our first stop, where we were able to go on a little safari while waiting for our Samaritan's Purse plane ride into Sudan. The remaining images were of different activities in Sudan.

Thanks for taking the time to look. Enjoy, and God bless you.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"People need to know that they are not alone in their efforts..."

That statement rattled around in my mind for a moment as I struggled to focus on the conversation at hand. I was sitting in the office of the newly hired principal of John Sevier Middle School, one of two middle schools in our city, with my pastor, Frank. We went there today to acquaint ourselves with the new principal and to let her know that our congregation had adopted her school a number of years ago so that we could support it through prayer, volunteer initiatives, and any other way that we could be of assistance.

It was a surreal moment for me. It was one of only a handful of times I had been back in the school since the days I was a student there some 24 years ago. It had undergone a lot of changes both to the physical plant and to the personnel. Not only that, but this new principal we were seated across the table from was a classmate of mine from high school. She had made quite a name for herself athletically in high school and college, and now it was becoming increasingly more obvious to me that she was still making a name for herself in her vocational career, as well. For all the aforementioned reasons, my focus was lacking.

Principal Lyons was laying out her vision to offer some resource to the parents of the middle schoolers she was quickly growing to love when she uttered the phrase, "People need to know that they are not alone in their efforts." She had the vision to create a center within the school, staffed with volunteers who could offer training, education, and insight on parenting children in this new age. She went on, "Columbine doesn't happen if parents are taught to look for the warning signs, if people know what their kids are exposed to now in our schools and in our culture."

The words she was saying were deeply penetrating for me. I for one have to admit that I like to stand at a distance and cast dispersions toward "these parents of today" who don't seem to have a clue about how to handle or support their kids. It is easy to forget that these things are cyclical. "These parents'" parents did not give a very strong, positive example for their kids and now we are dealing with the second generation. It is one thing to observe and articulate the problem, it is all together a different matter to actually do something about it, and that is precisely what Principal Lyons was proposing.

As saints in this age, we need to stop throwing stones and start looking for ways we can actually show the love of Jesus to people through initiatives like that which Principal Lyons put forth. We are surrounded by people who are struggling with raising their children. I truly do not believe that they want their adolescent child to be pregnant, doing drugs, drinking alcohol or pondering suicide. Yet all these things are running rampant, yes, even among our 12-14 year-olds. Many of these parents feel that no one understands or cares and they have no where else to turn.

What if we showed them that they do have an advocate and His name is Jesus? He cares and He wants us to be salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16). Prayerfully consider how you can be an agent of change rather than an accuser. After all, Satan has that job and needs no help.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Check out GodTube- The Kingdom answer to YouTube...

This is just one of the videos I found after my buddy told me about this new site. You can check it out at This one is off the hizzy fo shizzle!

Monday, August 13, 2007

What's In A Name?

Bear Grylls. I just like saying that. For those of you not "in the know," Bear Grylls is the star of the hit Discovery Channel series, "Man vs. Wild." One of the kids in my youth group told me all about the show over the summer and my wife, Paige, and I were instantly hooked. Maybe it was watching him parachute into a remote jungle in Ecuador and find his way out while surviving on bugs, plants, and fish he killed with a homemade bow and arrow. Perhaps it was the episode in which he was dropped into the outback of Australia where temperatures rose to well over 100 degrees and he was forced to drink his own urine before finding a water source. I don't remember exactly, but I guess if I am honest with myself, Bear had me when I heard his name.

I thought Tiger was a pretty cool name to have all these years, but "BEAR GRYLLS" it is not. I mean really, with a name like that you should be able to wade into a room full of ninjas armed with nothing more than a feather duster and come out with a plate of Chicken Teriyaki and your calculus homework finished.

Just when we were really getting into recording all the episodes on the trusty DVR, we find out that "Man vs. Wild" was under a cloud of scandal. It appears that instead of spending all those nights out in the uncompromising elements, ol' Bear and the boys were really hold up in the local Hilton. I must say I was rather disappointed. Bear really didn't live up to his name.

Throughout the Bible, we are reminded of the power of a name. When Moses asked God what to say when the Egyptians asked under whose authority was he coming, God said, in effect, "Tell them, 'I AM' sent you." It is known as the Tetragrammaton, the Hebrew letters are "YHWH" and we say Yahweh, but the Jews sure didn't say it! The name God spoke to Moses was considered so holy that they dare not speak it aloud. They developed the hybrid name Jehovah by combining the letters for Yahweh and Adonai, which means Lord, in Hebrew.

In Acts 4, Peter and John were arrested for preaching and performing miracles such as healing. As they stood before the Sanhedrin, Peter said, "It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed...Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Now THAT is a name, my friend.

If you have never called upon that name, admitted your sin, believed in Him and confessed your faith in Him, please do it today! It will be the best decision you ever made. Then you will be starring in your own episode of "Man vs. Wild." But with Satan, you may need more than a knife, flint and water bottle. So stay tuned to this blog... and your Bible.