The Battle Rages

Day 5 — My day began at 4 AM, as it usually does.  The day has been very busy which precipitated going to the gym much later than planned.  Visiting the gym after 5 PM on Friday is not a bad idea; not many people go to the gym on Friday evening, apparently.

Thirteen hours into my day, I was able to start a pretty good workout. Hundreds of crunches, wind sprints, rowing, and the stair master absolutely wore me out–in a good way. Debbie worked right beside me for most of the time; she is a strong woman.

Fitness is not easy, but it’s worth the effort. What did Spock say? Live long and prosper. I’m trying really hard.

The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD. Proverbs 21:31 [ESV]

Resolution VS Revolution

Every year, most of us resolve to do something different; something about our personal habits we need to change, our appearance, our relationships. Usually, the resolutions last about as long as it takes to make them.

Over the years, I’ve found that I’m no different from anyone else in this. Sometimes, I make a resolution in my mind but I never even voice it because I know it’s not going to last.

This year, I’ve decided to do something different. All this on the heels of leading several very successful fitness groups last year including a Biggest Loser campaign. I began with a new journaling strategy that leads me deeper into the Word of God along with many of the members of my church.  It’s called IFIT: I will be Faithful, Intrepid, & Teachable. IFIT is all part of the greater strategy designed to help me and those around me do a better job of taking care of our minds, our spirits, and our bodies.

After being in the IFIT journal for a week, and reexamining the lives of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis, it occurred to me that I must stop resolving and start a revolution. Resolve: to settle or find a problem. . .decide firmly on a course of action. Not a bad idea, but it seems to wear off too quickly. Revolution: a sudden or complete change in something. My idea: a sudden AND complete change in something, me.

Here’s what I’ve decided to do. For the next 30 days (I just completed day 3 when I decided to blog this), I’m determined to revolutionize my physical habits by going to the gym every day. I’m going on Sunday, too. I’ll preach, have lunch, rest a bit, and go to the gym. Never done it before. . .don’t know how easy it’s going to be.  This is where the wicket gets sticky. If this is truly a revolution, it won’t wear off and it will change the major habits of my life–eating, sleeping, studying, spending time with my wife, etc.

So, here goes.

DAY 1 — Wow, I didn’t think it would be this hard, but I’m glad it doesn’t take your muscles long to remember how to respond.  It doesn’t take them long to lock up and get sore, either. My gym habit is one hour of working out doing cardio, free weights, machine weights, more cardio and stretching.

DAY 2 — Sore! The muscles responded, alright. They obviously didn’t like what I did to them yesterday. I stuck with my plan, and I’m gradually going to recondition myself and lose a few pounds. My body weight is not really too high, it’s just not arranged right!

DAY 3 — The soreness has set in, I still can’t do a lot, but I’m forging ahead. It occurred to me this afternoon that I’m already 10% through this thing. Maybe it won’t be so bad after all. Yeah, right. If I’ve discovered one thing, it’s this–no pain, no gain is still the truth. Physical fitness ain’t easy, but it’s worth it. I tried to do a little running on the track in our gym today and on about lap 6 I ran slap into one of the steel poles that holds the building up. Remarkably, the steel pole wasn’t hurt–I was. How do you run into a steel pole that you’ve passed thousands of times. Don’t know, don’t care. It still hurts.

OK, I’ll try to keep this thing going tomorrow and for 27 more days. At the end of this, my hope is simple. Once again, I’ll have gotten myself back into the routine of taking care of my 62 year old body.  Routine can be good.

Psalm 19:14, Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in our sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. [ESV]


The Redefinition of Welcoming

Recently, James White, lead pastor at Mecklenburg Church in Charlotte, NC, posted a blog that really spoke to me. I use a lot of his stuff.  This particular blog, however, could have come directly from my pen. So, with credit given, and a small rewrite to reflect my own life, read it as if I wrote it–I could have, easily. . . .

I recently read an article which, once again, talked about a church being “welcoming” to the LGBT community.

Let’s define “welcoming,” shall we?

Historically, it has meant you, um, welcomed them. Said “hello,” that kind of thing. You were friendly and you seemed glad they had arrived. There weren’t cliques, there wasn’t racial or socio-economic bias or prejudice. You were an equal opportunity “welcomer.”

Yet today it means something different. It means “affirming.” As in, “whatever you do, say, practice or believe is fine by me and we embrace not only you, but ‘it’.” It means you condone, approve, and even facilitate their lifestyle. As a result, churches that are not “welcoming” in this sense are seen as, well, not “welcoming.”

 Can someone say, out loud, that this is officially insane?

 If acceptance becomes the same as affirmation, and welcoming the same as condoning, then Houston, we have a problem.

 Here’s why: It would mean that any relational embrace would necessitate moral endorsement. Let’s play that out, shall we?

 I am a father of one and grandfather of four. Any parent knows the two words “tough love.” You can love your child – fiercely – but not affirm their lifestyle. In fact, sometimes, a parent’s greatest act of love is “tough.” I can love you but not facilitate your drug habit. I can love you and not condone your life of crime. I can love you and visit you in prison, but not embrace what led you there. And this “tough love” is also going to add in a ridiculous dose of grace in the process that understands we could just as easily be standing in your shoes as you are.  Is this such a hard idea?

I believe our church is incredibly welcoming of… well, everyone. No matter their lifestyle, no matter their history. But we are not condoning of everything. The reason is simple: we so love people that when a lifestyle is damaging to them physically, spiritually, emotionally or relationally, we want them to know. We want them to turn from it. Even if they don’t agree, we’re going to stay in their corner and keep hammering away at what is best for them.

 It’s what love does.

 So come to our church. We welcome you. Really.

A Little Bit of Irony

Maybe you know the name Quentin Tarantino, actor, director, & producer in Hollywood. I actually like some of his films, weird though they may be.

Recently, Tarantino found himself in the news [that’s what he wanted] when he joined a rally against police in the wake of some of the police shootings that have made the national news.

“I’m a human being with a conscience,” Tarantino said at the rally. “And if you believe there’s murder going on then you need to rise up and stand up against it. I’m here to say I’m on the side of the murdered.”

There’s a bit of irony here.  If you’ve ever watched Tarantino’s movies, many of them are about murder. In fact, he makes light of murder and aggrandizes the killers.

I can’t help but wonder if Tarantino knows or even cares that since 1973 more than 57 million unborn children have been aborted in the United States with the blessing of the government. That’s more than one million killings each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and the Guttmacher Institute.

In the Bible, something Mr. Tarantino ought to read, Psalm 94:1-2 says, O LORD, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth! Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve! Yep, there it is. The one who will rise up against the evil of this world is coming–soon.

Quentin Tarantino will likely never read this short missive.  He’ll likely never sit face to face with a young woman who has suffered through an abortion only to regret it later, either. Life DOES matter.

I have a right, do I have more?

Just this morning, I was watching a news piece on a major network about “rights” in regard to traffic stops by police officers.  And it’s no wonder this is in the news. If you know me, you’ve probably already made up your mind that I’m going to side with the cops. Nope, ’cause cops are human, too. They make mistakes, sometimes big mistakes–and they have guns.  But, so do I and I do no want anyone telling me that I can’t own one or two, or a dozen.

That’s not what this blog is about.  I want to give you another word, responsibility.  Let me add something to that, personal responsibility.  When people live their lives in an environment where they always feel like a victim because someone else has told them they are a victim, they are going to grasp for rights.  This is especially true among the poor in the U.S.  When something seems to threaten their perception of what they ought to have, they can be quick to react, and react in a very uncivil way.  That brings up another word, entitlement; I’ll come back to that in a bit.

Recent events in Baltimore, Maryland bear this out.  Thugs reacted to the death of a citizen by destroying things and taking things that weren’t theirs.  Whether or not you seek to justify that type of behavior, it is simply wrong in a civil society.  But then the question arises, do we really live in a civil society now?

In every walk of life, you and I are going to face individuals who have little if any regard for the lives of others–they will always, yes always “react” and it will be at best negative and at worst, violent.  They are victims, victims of their own minds.  But that is not most people.

Most people really do just want to be left alone to live their lives in peace, whatever their perception of peace is.  If they believe their peace is threatened by the law, they will react, but with constraint.  Why? They haven’t lost sight of responsibility, personal responsibility. If their peace is threatened by the loss of an entitlement, their reaction will be stronger because they are entitled.  But are they really?

The entitlements of the welfare system in this country are nothing more than crutches that allow many lazy, “victims” of society to take advantage of the rest of us who work hard and want to live our lives in peace–while we work.  This may never end.  I can assure you it won’t end until and unless everyone stops focusing on rights and starts focusing on responsibility. Responsible people make their own way in life, regardless of the circumstance. They don’t bandy around all the social welfare epithets that claim their station in life is someone else’s fault. They pull up their boots, find work, work hard and do the best they can with what they have. And they live in peace.

You are probably thinking, this guy doesn’t have clue about being poor and needing help. He has never lived in abject poverty. No, I haven’t. But I have seen it up close. America’s poor do not know real poverty. The truth is, you don’t have to go very far from our shores to see real poverty. Please understand, I’m not making light of what many of our citizens face every day. But I KNOW you can live in poverty and still have peace. I see whole families that live on less than $10.00US each week in a one-room shack barely larger than the average US bathroom.

Here’s the thing that amazes me. When I talk to them, they are generally very thankful for what they have and they are not trying to take what belongs to someone else. They are not crying about what the government is not doing for them. They work hard for pennies a day, come home tired, eat the little they have, love their kids, and live in peace. It is amazing.

One more thing. If Americans ever wake up and realize their privileged status amongst the worlds’s population and take personal responsibility for their actions, stop depending on government to sustain them, and turn to God for their real, lasting help in life, our nation has hope. The Lord Jesus Christ gave his life to give us eternal life. By the way, the only way to have REAL peace is to turn to Jesus.


A few days ago, while sitting in my study getting ready to do a funeral, I reached across a table for a pair of scissors and my back “went out.”  Maybe you have experienced that sudden painful sensation that sends you to your knees.  This one was moderately painful as compared to other instances I’ve experienced.  After a few tears and regaining my composure, I made it through the day and on to Sunday worship.

By the end of the day Sunday, the pain was pretty intense.  I couldn’t “straighten up” and what started as occasional pain had become regular and pretty intense.  It was time for a visit to my chiropractor. (Dr. Alan Minks is amazing)

Did you know that there are billions of nerves in the human body?  Extending down from the brain, 31 pairs of nerves emanate from the spine.  The five pairs at the bottom are called the sacral nerves. The sacrum is a triangular bone at the bottom of the spine that rests in the pelvis at what is called the sacroiliac joint.  When that thing isn’t working right. . .the pain, the pain.

With the exception of the sciatic nerve, the others are less than a quarter of an inch in diameter and are made up of millions of tiny fibers.  The body is a marvelous creation from the hand of God, every detail planned for our benefit to get us through life day after day.

Since late last summer, my wife and others have been telling me I need to slow down.  For those who know me best, that ain’t easy.  I have been accused of being anal and obsessive, but it just isn’t true.  I just know how I want things done, that’s all.  Seriously, I know I’m OCD. And to think that anyone would accuse me of being overwrought or having too many irons in the fire.

And yet, here I am, flat of my back, barely able to stand and walk with a number of days to consider my plight. Choices, choices, choices.  Life is but a string of choices, at least that is what some have said and I’m not sure I disagree.

More than 40 years ago I chose to get married—and stay that way.  Over 35 years ago, I chose to become a father.  A little more than 30 years ago, I chose Christ—only because He first chose me.  I’ve made some good choices and some bad ones.  Most of the bad ones cost me money and brain cells; the good ones brought me closer to God.

And still, choices remain.  What am I going to do while I’m debilitated?  Lay around and whine and complain? (I might whine a little) I choose to think about recovery!  I’m ready to get up and get back to work just as soon as my body lets me.  What am I going to do when I get back on my feet?  Do too much for too long at a time?  Probably, but I hope I will choose to rest more and occasionally take a little time off.

At TCALF (The Church At Lake Forest), I just started a months-long series called ALL IN.  I hope to help those who hear me from week to week learn how to be ALL IN for God.  For me, ALL IN means knowing how to invest my life in my call to serve God as I serve others AND how to do it without killing myself in the process.

Choices. . .life is full of them.  What do you choose?

Houston, Texas. . .YOU have a problem.

By now, most people who pay much attention to “the news” have heard about the hoopla in Houston over the legality of pastors being told they must hand over the sermons and speeches.  Now, the attorney for the city, who denies any involvement by the mayor (cough, cough), has said keep you sermons but we want your speeches.  If this weren’t so sad, it would be laughable.

I’ve been thinking about this for several days, rereading the Constitution of the United States of America, the Amendments, and the Bill of Rights.  I’ve read quite a bit about Thomas Jefferson and material he wrote himself.  After some serious thought, I drafted what follows and hope you will read it carefully.  Whether you agree or not, consider the validity of the argument.  If you happen to agree with my premise, share it with others–the more people who consider and argue the case in the public arena, the more likely Americans are to make enough noise to stop the rampant advance of the liberal/progressive agenda.


I am amazed at the level of ignorance among people of good will, especially those who dutifully exercise their privilege to serve as attorneys and judges in the United States.  The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was written clearly and is easy to understand.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury pastors in 1802, describing the “wall of separation between church and state” and later referred to as the “establishment clause,” was clearly his reaction to the possibility of a State church like the ones the pilgrims fled when they first arrived on the North American continent 200 years earlier.

Here is the real problem with the issue as it is presented today.  Those who deny God has a place in the public square have been allowed to convince the average American that Jefferson’s intent was to completely separate the affairs of religion from the affairs of government.  Their arguments sometimes seem legitimate and are supposedly aimed at protecting the common good.  The truth is, these fools simply do not want the authority of God and his word to have sway upon their lives at any level.

Jefferson never, I repeat never, made a statement or wrote a paper, letter, or even any note that has been discovered to date that vaguely suggested people of faith should not have a deeply intrinsic involvement in affairs of state.  To the contrary, Jefferson was a man of deeply held faith as were his contemporaries in government.  He made no secret about his Christianity.

Thomas Jefferson had, as his letter makes clear, the intent of not showing any partiality towards any particular religious practice as a person of political sway so as to not give even the glimmer of suggestion that there should be a “state religion;” i.e., The Church of the United States likened to the Church of England.

How much more clear can the First Amendment be?  Congress, those who draft and pass laws, is to have no voice, no opinion and under no circumstances is the House and Senate to consider the establishment of a religion sponsored by the state(s).  And here is the part where the foolishness of the liberals, progressives, and so-called atheists comes in—the government is not to prohibit the free exercise of religion at all!  That’s pretty easy to understand if you want to understand at all.  Government is to keep their noses out of religious affairs and those who are part of churches (religious groups) are to have the free exercise to say whatever they want to say without fear of grievance by said government.  If you don’t like what someone is saying, don’t listen.  If enough people listen and take the issue to heart, whatever it is, those people, however misguided they may be, by right of the constitution can become a voting majority.

The last time I checked, government by the people and their collective will was still the standard for advancing any national idea in America.  We the people have lost our will and our desire to stand up to the legal mumbo-jumbo in this country.  It is just easier to do our nine to five, watch sports on TV, mow the lawn, and try to keep our kids out of jail.

When, and if, people of faith in the religious community and the legal community stand up to the tripe piled on by God-denying groups in this nation, the pain of religious intimidation may be assuaged and this might once again be one nation under God.


Rita Rudner once said, “I love being married.  It’s so great to find someone you want to annoy the rest of your life.”  Someone else said, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”

Today is the 42nd anniversary of the day I stood before a pastor beside my beautiful bride and said “I do” to the question, “Do you take Debbie to be your lawfully wedded wife?  Do you promise to love her, comfort her, honor and keep her for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful only to her, for as long as you both shall live?”

Being married, staying married for 42 years ain’t easy.  I’ve had to put up with a lot. . .yeah, right.  It’s true.  I’ve had to put up with a woman who loves me in spite of me, a beautiful Christian lady who has chosen to look past all my inconsistencies and continue to love me.  I have to put up with smiles and hugs, meatloaf and mashed potatoes.  I have to put up with a gal who works her butt off. . .literally. . .in the gym so she can stay healthy and continue to walk beside me.  See, I told you, I have to put up with a lot.

I noticed a post on Facebook this morning from my brother-in-law and sister-in-law who celebrated their 30th anniversary yesterday.  My son and his wife left on a cruise yesterday to celebrate 15 years of marriage.  And I’m still putting up with a lot.  For the next couple of days, Debbie and I have to put up with four of the sweetest grandkids in the world.  We have to go swimming with them, watch movies with them, go out to eat with them, get them dressed, watch them grow and all the other things that grandparents have to put up with.

What’s the best thing about being married for a long time?  Being married for a long time!


What’s the big deal?

People ask me all the time why I make such a fuss over fitness and nutrition.  Two reasons, one very personal, the other a matter of record.

Personally, meat & three used to be my mantra every day.  My whole world revolved around what and where the next meal would take place.  I ate for taste and ate to fill full (code word: full=gorged).  One of my favorite words in the English language was buffet.  Man, you can go to one of those things, act like a hog in fresh slop (I grew up on a farm), and fit right in with just about everyone else who is waiting on the next slab of whatever.

Then, it happened.  Severe chest pain–ever had it?  Shooting pains down the arms, tightness in the chest like a load of bricks laying on me.  General sluggishness became my friend.  I’d just tell everyone how overworked I was and being tired was the result.  No, the result was thousands of dollars in hospital visits, 17 medications a day, and a warning from a cardiologist that I was going to die soon and very soon if I didn’t change my lifestyle.

It’s kind of weird that people don’t want to talk about lifestyle changes.  They’ll be happy to talk about going on a diet.  Just about everyone I know has been on one–and off–and on another–and off–and on another–and so on.  They all work for a week to ten days and then, boing, it’s back to the way things were except worse.  Did you know that almost everyone who yoyo diets ends up gaining weight?

That’s why I can’t stand by and not say something–to anyone who’ll listen–for personal reasons.  Back to the personal in a paragraph or two.

Now, for the record.  The following article by Annie Hauser, published on May 23, 2014, appeared all over the web.  I found it while checking the local weather on  Read it and weep.

“The South might have more warm days than the Mountain West, but that hasn’t helped its residents’ health. Southerners and Midwesterners are the most-obese Americans, according to data, while those in the Northeast and West are more likely to be trim.

Nationwide, average obesity rates do not paint a sunny picture. The obesity rate among American adults is 27.7 percent, according to the latest data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, the highest annual rate the organization has measured since it began to track obesity in 2008.

In 2013, American adults had an average obesity rate of 27.1 percent.

Pollsters use the self-reported height and weight of more than 64,000 American adults to calculate body mass index (BMI) scores. Individual BMI values of 30 or above are classified as obese; 25 to 29.9 are overweight; 18.5 to 24.9 are normal weight, with anything below that number considered underweight.

In the six years since Gallup began collecting BMI data, two-thirds of Americans have had BMIs rendering them overweight or obese, a figure consistent with government data, which uses height and weight measurements from clinical exams. More than one-third of these individuals (35 percent) are obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Still, it’s important to note that BMI is an imperfect measure, as it does not take into account body composition (muscle vs. fat), so muscular athletes, for example, can be classified as obese.

Blacks are the most likely to be obese of any demographic group, a trend consistent with previous data, Gallup said in a press release. But older Americans (over age 65) experienced the largest percentage increase of obese individuals, from 26.3 percent to 27. 9 percent.

There might be some good news about obesity rates, however. In the past decade, children ages 2 to 5 have experienced a six-percent drop in obesity, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in JAMA in March. Still, the study noted: Across all youth age groups, “there have been no significant changes in obesity prevalence … between 2003-2004 and 2011-2012. Obesity prevalence remains high and thus it is important to continue surveillance.””

That same article had a lot of flashy graphics indicating the least obese and most obese states in America. For the upteenth time, my home state, Mississippi, had the highest rate of obesity, 35.4 percent.  How sad.

For the record, I’m trying to clean up my act and help everyone I can.  I slipped some, myself, in 2013.  My weight climbed back up near 200 pounds, where it was when I started having heart problems.  The warning signs were back–sluggishness, heavy chest, stupidity.  During the Thanksgiving holiday, while I was in South America trying to help some folks in Peru, I decided I better get back on track or I might not live to come back and share the love of Christ again.   I made a conscious decision to not let the holiday season become my fatter than ever season–I actually lost weight right through Christmas by simply controlling my intake (skipping some mighty tasty desserts and only having small helpings of Turkey and dressing and sweet potato casserole).

On January 1, 2014, I weighed 186 pounds which is totally acceptable according to my doctors for a 60 year old man of my height.  Yay!  However, what the doctors have on their charts can be misleading.  Those numbers are over-generalized and allow way too much leeway for continued unhealthy lifestyles.

So, I went to work knowing what to do.  I read and study a lot so I can do a good job teaching the Bible.  I want to look like someone who is in reasonably good physical condition when I stand up to preach.  My body is, after all, the abiding place of the Spirit of God.  Tweaking my nutrition and upping my physical activity did the job.  Now, I’m at 160 pounds–haven’t been there in about 30 years.  My heart is strong, my cholesterol is low, my blood pressure is that of a teenager (again), and I’m still writing and talking about how important it is to take care of your self so that you can help take care of others.

Please listen to what I’m saying. . .and take care of yourself.

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