“He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. He goes on ahead of them and they follow him because they know his voice. They will never follow a stranger because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." John 10:3, 5
- As finite, limited people it is hard for us to comprehend things that are infinite. We want proof. In spite of God's revelations to us, the evidence of His grace and provision through Christ, we tend to forget – and instead want more proof. The Israelites were in the same situation in Numbers 11 – complaining, wanting proof, even pining for their old life in bondage. In spite of ALL the evidence from their redemption out of Egypt, it was not enough. "We're tired of manna. We want meat." Finally, God asked, "is my arm too short?" In other words, "Do you think I have been rendered powerless?" He then answers their prayer by sending enough quail to feed 600,000 people with the leftovers rotting on the ground as their punishment for lack of faith. Why did they somehow think God unable to meet their needs? Numbers 11:4 makes it pretty obvious. They listened to the "rabble", the non-Jews who existed on the edges of their community. They complained about the food and it spread like a virus. Who are we listening to? As John reminds us, are we listening to the Shepherd's voice, or are we lured by the countless voices of strangers making noise in our ears? When it's the latter, we start to yearn for past bondage. We won't risk that step of faith to move towards what gives us life but remain in our own chains, the very things which lead to death. So, what will we do? HIs arm is not too short. It can reach into any circumstance, any situation, even those which appear to be insurmountable. Step out. Risk faith. Follow the path of Life.
- BILLY GRAHAM'S PASSING brought both tears and joy. Watching the outpouring of love and affection as his memorial procession traveled from Black Mountain to Charlotte was deeply moving. Person after person, from every different walk of life, bore witness to how he had touched them or changed them. It seems impossible that another single person could ever again impact the world with the gospel – and have the breadth of influence that he did. That said, let's be sure we don't make him a caricature. He was far from perfect. He made some serious mistakes in his life and paid an enormous price for them, but that's also what made him so appealing. He owned his stuff. He confessed openly. Grant Wacker's book, American's Pastor, provides an honest appraisal of the many facets of Graham's life, both it's triumphs and its flaws. Even so, I have found it appalling that some people have chosen to attack him for the very things he confessed. In death, they offer no grace and thus reveal their own inability to truly grasp the gospel.
- As many of you know, I am from Dallas. I have been a lifelong Mavericks fan, attending countless games along the way, including the first one. For that reason, I was disheartened to read the Sports Illustrated report on the team, including multiple accounts of a hostile workplace that included sexual harassment and domestic violence. While Mark Cuban has appeared to be a great, player-centered owner who brought Dallas a championship, this will be his strongest test of leadership. I hope this will not turn out to be what it appears, but that seems hard to believe at this point. Let's hope the people in the right places do what is necessary to right this wrong and restore the organization to what it should and can be, one that treats women with absolute respect while rooting out the causes of what might hurt or dishonor them.
- As the brave students from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas HS continue to speak out, driving potential change in ways we have never seen, I heard one comment that struck me: "we can't walk into an airport with so much as a bottle of water, but we can get into our schools with ease." Many have said about potential changes, "We can't do this or do that. This is not the country I grew up in." That's actually the reason we should make changes. It's NOT the country it once was, and so we have to change in ways large and small, including hardening the perimeter of our schools. Again, we have to look at every option - there's not a single solution, but a variety of things that need to be done. Do we have the will?
- With lots of talks, these days centered on the power of opioids, I continue to be amazed by the addictive power of another drug: nicotine. I know so many people who started smoking or dipping or chewing at a young age, and yet it still remains a dominant part of their lives in spite of all the known risks. I see person after person as if in their own self-imposed prisons, smoking outside buildings or in special rooms in airports. They just can't stop.
- HIGHLIGHT OF MY WEEK: A mom in our church recorded her 5-year-old's answer to this question: What do you want to do when you grow up? His answer: "I want to tell thousands and thousands and thousands of people about God. What do you call that? Mom: you call that a preacher. Boy: Yeah, that's what I want to be – a preacher."
- OLYMPIC FIGURE SKATING: For those of you who watched some portion of the coverage, I loved the comment from one observer: "Watching figure skating with those commentators is like watching a new installment of The Hunger Games." (If you never saw that movie, just move on.)
- ART CRITIQUE: After my comments about the Obama's paintings, I felt a little vindicated when the NYT art critic held a similar view.
- WHAT I'M READING: America's Pastor, Grant Wacker. WHAT I'M LISTENING TO: Agnus Dei, Samuel Barber