Monday, May 27, 2013

"The last thing I ever wanted was to be a preacher"

The last thing I ever wanted to be was a preacher. I can remember wanting to be a lot of things. I had a great fascination with dinosaurs and space growing up. I'm sure at some point I wanted to be a paleontologist but I didn't really know that word back in second grade. Then I wanted to be an astronaut - that was my first big dream. However, I get motion sick when riding in the back seat of a car and science has been my academic downfall since grade school. The next big plan was archaeologist - but see the previous sentence and that science thing. Finally, I settled on being a writer. I loved, and still love, writing and reading. Pulp writers such as Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs have captured my fancy since my younger years. One of my father's greatest legacies has been passing these amazing authors and their books onto me. I wrote and wrote, and submitted and submitted. Alas, the only letters I received were ones of rejection.


In the midst of it all I met the love of my life and became a salesman. I remember telling her early in our relationship, "I'll do anything, but I never want to be a salesman." Funny how things work out isn't it? You have to understand, I'm shy, quiet and just not a people person. Somehow this turned into a successful career in sales. I've been doing it for almost 23 years now. That's right, for 40 hours a week I am a professional toilet salesman - a far cry from exploring the galaxy, studying ancient cultures and writing best-selling novels. However, in my wildest dreams, perhaps I would have called them nightmares then, I never imagined being a Baptist preacher.


I became an atheist in 11th grade, somewhere around 1986. I recall reading Edith Hamilton's "Mythology" and William Golding's "Lord of the Flies." I don't blame these books for leading me into atheism, but somehow, especially "Mythology", they did. I remember thinking how Jesus and the chronicle of the Bible were as much myth as the mighty heroes, gods and titans of ancient Greece. I wrote off any belief in the supernatural and embarked on my skeptical view of life.


I confess I remained rather conservative in my views. I classified myself as a Republican and was always staunchly pro-life. I never embraced evolution as it seemed to require too much faith as well. Understanding the origin of life and the universe could comfortably remain a mystery for me. A static universe seemed to be an acceptable theory, but honestly, I didn't ponder such things often.


I had a Bible that I always kept tucked back in my closet more out of nostalgia than any kind of faith. It had been given to me back in 1st grade during vacation Bible school at Tigert Methodist Church by a wonderful, elderly lady named Mrs. Freeze. Despite rejecting Christianity, I'd enjoyed that little old lady so much I could not bring myself to toss out that Bible she had given me. It would come back to haunt me one day.


It strikes me as strange - I've never achieved my greatest dreams. I never strapped myself into the seat of a space ship and rocketed through the earth's atmosphere into the cold depths of the solar system. I've never been on a dig at some ancient site of early civilization , or excised the bones of some prehistoric behemoth. I've never seen my name splayed across the glossy cover of a novel with "New York Times Best-Selling Author" under my name. I've sold a lot of toilets, tubs and faucets though. And the most unlikely thing? I've been preaching the glorious Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ for six years now. How does an atheist toilet salesman with grandiose dreams of becoming a xeno-archaeologist novelist become a Baptist preacher? I'll have more on that next time...

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Review of "Fearless"

Let me get all the disclosure stuff out of the way first. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review. I also received a free copy from the family, signed by Larry, Janice, Kelly and Shawn Brown, along with the author. I know Larry and Janice personally. Larry and I have ministered in Garland County Detention Center together for several years. The church I pastor sits on what is now called Adam Brown Road, right down the road from Lake Hamilton school where Adam graduated. That may make me a biased reviewer, but without all of those connections, I would still give this book a five star review.

I've been obsessed with Navy SEALs and the spec ops community since I was in high school. I read about SEALs before it was cool to read about SEALs. I've read many books concerning these top of the line spec ops men from their involvement in the Vietnam War to their current actions against international terrorists. In light of that, "Fearless" is one amazing read. It captures all the grueling demands of the SEALs, all of their patriotism and heart, and most of all their outstanding sacrifices. More than mere adrenaline junkies, these men are true warriors, true patriots, true husbands, true fathers and true Americans. In the case of Adam Brown, he was also a true follower of Christ.

Let me throw one more disclosure out there. This book is inundated with the Christian faith. Be warned. If seeing the name of Jesus offends you, this book will probably offend you. However, it could not have been written without the numerous mentions of Jesus and the Christian faith because they were so integral to Adam's life. I love what author Eric Blehm says at the conclusion of the book: "And though I hadn't opened a Bible in more than twenty-five years, his [Adam's] faith encouraged me to question my own questioning about religion." You see a bio of Adam Brown excluding mention of the Lord Jesus Christ would not be a bio of Adam Brown at all.

"Fearless" is the biography of Navy SEAL Special Operator Adam Brown who gave his life in service to his country on March 17, 2010 on a harrowing mission in the Kunar province of Afghanistan. He was a member of SEAL Team Six, the elite of the elite in the spec ops community. The book focuses on the journey of Adam Brown, which is an amazing, mesmerizing, exciting journey.

In the book we see Adam grow up a child who seems to be missing the "fear gene" and growing into a man that struggles with a dark addiction to crack cocaine. His addiction nearly ruined him, but three things saved him. First and foremost his faith in Jesus Christ saved him. Second, his lovely bride Kelly helped to save him. And finally, his enlistment in the US Navy and advancement to SEAL Team Six saved him.

Author Eric Blehm does a fine job narrating the civilian and military aspects of the book. If I could add anything to it, I would put a small dictionary in the back to explain things like MH-47 or AC-130 gunship and other military terms. Having read numerous pieces of military fiction and non-fiction I had no problem with it.

In Adam Brown, we find a man who could be a faithful follower of Christ, a compassionate husband and father, and a fierce fighter of international terrorism and be successful at all three. The story in this book will make you laugh, make you cringe, make you cheer and make you cry. It is a difficult read to put down when you start it. It is an encouragement to know that men like Adam are serving our country. He would never have labeled himself a hero, but all those around him considered him that.

I noticed that at Family Christian they have a warning about some of the language used in this book. After all, we are dealing with some full throttle soldiers and they can use colorful language occasionally. Do not let that dissuade you from reading this book. The language is extremely tame and I'd give it a PG or PG-13 rating at worst.

Readers may approach this book to learn more about the SEALs and specifically SEAL Team Six. They will not walk away disappointed. However, they will also walk away with much more. They will walk away with the story of how a man overcame his personal demons. They will walk away with the story of how a man can be a true husband and father. They will walk away with a picture of loyalty, commitment, determination and faith. They will walk away seeing what a true Christian should look like. As expressed by Adam in a letter he wrote for his children should something happen to him on the battlefield: "I'm not afraid of anything that might happen to me on this Earth because I know no matter what, nothing can take my spirit from me...No matter what, my spirit is given to the Lord and I will finally be victorious."

I offer my highest recommendation for "Fearless" as a pastor, as a husband, as a father, as an American. This book is powerful, and brings a message of hope that we desperately need in our nation today.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I Am The Way

I’ve done many things in the interest of customer service over the years. Maybe my most infamous incident was sitting in a tub with a customer to see if it could comfortably hold two people. We were still clothed, and yes, I did get the sale. Also on my list of more extreme measures was sitting in on an Amway sales pitch. A prospect I’d been after for awhile was involved in Amway and asked me if he could do a presentation for me. I thought it might be a way to get my foot in the door with him so I said, “Sure!”

The presentation was not really boring, nor compelling. It did not change any of my pre-conceptions of “multi-level marketing” at all. I did ask the presenter a question that could have made me jump on board, “How much residual income has this business generated for you?” Ultimately, the true testimony of success would be somewhere in the thousands of dollars. After all, I just sat through a presentation that promised me the moon – I could make enough money that I could quit my regular job and work from home making more money than I ever had. You know be your own boss and make your own hours.

This particular prospect is quite intelligent and prudent. Besides successfully running his own plumbing business, he has actually invented some items. In my assessment, if anybody was capable of earning significant income from Amway, he was the man. In order to convince me that I could be successful, I needed to hear of the results of his success. I’d already heard about people he had read about who were successful. I’d already heard about conference speakers he had heard that were successful. I’d even heard about people he had met and talked with personally and were successful. But was he successful?

He shared with me that on a good month, he might bring in an extra $100. Of course that involved an investment of time as well. He had been doing this for 20 years and that was the most he had ever managed in a month. His personal testimony failed to match up with what the product and service promised.

It struck me lately that this same attitude I possessed towards Amway can be the same attitude that non-believers have towards Christianity. After all, we are promising them a changed life, a resilient hope, a Savior that can heal brokenness, addiction, heartache and all other sorts of emotional and spiritual pain. We are promising better marriages, a part in a thriving community of believers, joy unspeakable, a peace that surpasses understanding and an abundant life. When the prospective unbeliever looks us over, quizzes us and finds us stressed out, depressed, in the middle of a divorce, strung out on sleeping pills, forming fighting factions in the church and using fake smiles to cover up our unhappiness he is just not “sold” on our “product.” He does not just want to hear how awesome Jesus is, he wants to see how awesome Jesus is!

Check out what James writes: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves (James 1:22).” Good works do not save an individual, but a saved individual should be marked by good works! Even more powerfully the Apostle Paul writes, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new (2 Corinthians 5:17),” or “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:2).” The verb in the Romans passage is especially strong, coming from the Greek word where we get our English word “metamorphosis.” The evidence of the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ and the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit is a changed life. A changed life does not result in salvation, but salvation should result in a changed life!

Consider the caterpillar. He spends his existence creeping around, a fuzzy, ugly, little bug. Yet then he goes into a cocoon, and afterwards emerges as a beautiful, colorful, soaring butterfly. Nobody ever mistakes a butterfly for a caterpillar. And a butterfly does not emerge from the cocoon to keep crawling around on the ground. He soars on his new wings! He has undergone a metamorphosis, a dramatic change. His new life barely looks like his old life.

Can you imagine a butterfly pitching the value of a cocoon to a caterpillar? The caterpillar can gaze on the colorful wings of the butterfly as he listens. “That’s right Mr. Caterpillar, I used to be just like you – crawling around and earthbound. But then, I bought a cocoon, and a few days later I came out changed forever! Check out these colors! Check out these wings! My life is totally new!” The new life of the butterfly is visibly evident for the caterpillar. How big of an influence would that be on his cocoon decision?

Unbelievers should see us in the same light, especially those that knew us before Christ changed our lives and the Holy Spirit filled us. A changed life is not to the glory of us, but to the glory of Christ. That changed life is evidence of the Gospel. Before people will read a Bible or read a book or an article, they will read you. Authentic Christians are a powerful tool for reaching the lost. Never underestimate the power of God’s word to reach people – a Bible in the hands of a seeker can accomplish miraculous things. However, some people want to see proof that our Savior and his Word have truly life changing power. Then they look to you.

Ultimately, my gambit with my prospective customer was a lose / lose scenario. I chose to not invest in Amway, and I failed to win him over as my customer. I didn’t see the value of buying into his offer, and he didn’t see the value in making me his primary supplier. Both of those were minor decisions when compared with the decision to accept or reject Christ. Has your life been truly changed? Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to work in you and through you? To “wash” you and “renew” you (Titus 3:5)? Do people see a change in you? Do people see the hope, mercy, love, grace and peace of Christ in your life? The coolest part of the deal is when they ask you how much that costs, you can tell them, “It’s free – the price has already been paid.” You’re not selling Amway, you are sharing Jesus, the one who said, “I am the way.”

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Album Review: Sinbreed - "When Worlds Collide"

I stumbled across Sinbreed while surfing youtube one day and discovered their hard driving song "Dust to Dust." It got stuck in my head and I decied to give the whole album a try. In a word: INCREDIBLE. I grew up on 80s metal - now let me clarify that, the real stuff, not the fluffy big hair stuff. I'm talking old school Metallica, Megadeth, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Sinbreed have this stuff in their musical DNA but that does not mean in any way they are some sort of anachronism - they keep it fresh and new. Perhaps my favorite part of the band is Herbie Langhan's (also of Seventh Avenue) powerful vocals. At times he reminds me of Paul D'iano and Blaze Bayley (both formerly of Iron Maiden) with his gravelly delivery, but his range is impressive and he hits some soaring and melodic notes at times too. Guitarist Flo Laurin, the brains of the project, delivers solid, impressive, hard driving riffage and solos throughout. Alex Schulz and Frederick Ehmke (of veteran band Blind Guardian) make up the rythm section of bass and drums respectively, and Ehmke especially shines with plenty of double bass and brutal drumming.

Stand out tracks include the aforementioned "Dust to Dust" along with "Newborn Tomorrow", "Book of Life" and "Salvation." However, there are no filler tracks here - hard driving, full on, adrenaline rush, head banging power metal from start to finish. A plus for me are the underlying themes of Christianity (vocalist Langhan fronts the Christian metal band Seventh Avenue) that are evident but not heavy handed. I believe Christ is exalted, but the music remains accessible (and encouraging)for anybody. I believe Christian themes may reach a whole group of metal heads who might think Christian metal is cheesy.

The price of the mp3 download at is tremendous and Sinbreed delivers 10 tracks at 44 minutes of pure metal fury that will make your heart pound, your ears ache and your head bang!

Saturday, September 24, 2011


"The Turtle"

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
(Ephesians 6:11)

After going a year without hiking and biking due to serious back issues, I've enjoyed returning to my favorite hobbies. I've heard lots of horror stories about back surgery, but my surgery in the Spring has been life changing for me. Saturday has become my regular biking day again. I have been loading up and heading down to one of my favorite paved trails to ride, but today, I just didn't feel like the extra effort. I got my bike down, did my regular once over on it, and just started riding from my front yard. I went down my street to a nice, long, easy ride in a low traffic area with some nice scenery. What usually keeps me from doing this is a lack of a leash law in the county and dogs chasing me and ruining my ride. Just a couple of scraggly mutts chased me today and I easily outran them.

I noticed something on my ride. In the road I saw a turtle that did not make it. His shell was crushed and his remains lay right in the middle of the road. Here is one of God's creations that has a great natural defense - he can just pull his head and legs into his shell and withstand the attack of almost any predator. However, that same defense does not work extremely well against the tires of a pickup truck or even a compact car.

When that little turtle went out today, he had his full armor on. However, he chose to venture into territory where that armor would be ineffective. I'm not sure he really knew how much trouble he was even in as he slowly made his way across the road. Suddenly, he found himself crushed by the enemy.

I wondered, do we sometimes go into places where, despite our spiritual armor, the enemy is destined to crush us? You see, if we step outside of God's will, if we venture into areas that he has not called us to go, then we are in grave danger. How far behind enemy lines do you have to go before you have sealed your own fate? I think about the way we sometimes gear up, but leave God behind. We think we are good. We think we can handle just one drink, or just one toke, or just one glance, or just one snort, or just one lap dance. Then...WHAM! Totally crushed. Sin slams into you like an 18-wheeler and smashes you.

I'm not saying the armor of God is incapable of saving you. Ultimately the helmet of salvation can withstand all kinds of damage. However, that does not mean you need to go out seeking a concussion. It struck me again as I was playing Halo today, trying to take out a massive Scarab that was decimating friendly forces. As I rushed into the midst of the fray with no thought of caution I was crushed by the enemy. Even the Master Chief in all his armor and with all his strength can bite off more than he can chew. Even with all our armor on as Christians, we should always be mindful of where we are venturing and what we are doing.

"Ant Hills"

Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
(James 1:15)

The ants have come late in the season this year. Over a period of a couple of weeks the ants have built several forts in my yard. My six year old daughter, Hannah, told me I needed to do something about them earlier this week. I told her that on Saturday, we would go ant hunting. On Saturday afternoon, I slid on my gloves, grabbed a container of my favorite ant killer, picked up a small shovel, and Hannah and I went on patrol.

She was my spotter. When she saw an ant hill she pointed it out. We had everything from small ones to one that was the biggest I have seen yet in my yard: over two feet wide and then some six inches or more tall.

I have a method when I hunt ants. Today, when Hannah pointed them out, I'd flip the switch on my spray can and say "Weapons hot!" Then she would say, "One, two, three FIRE!" That's just the results of growing up with a dad that spent 20 years in the Navy and watching and reading too much military stuff. So first, I would hose the hill down. Then I would take my small shovel and dig it out. Then I'd hose it down some more. We must have destroyed over a dozen ant hills.

I've found it's very important how you destroy ant hills. If you don't dig them out, if you treat just the surface level, the ant population springs back. Me and my fellow warrior dealt harshly with the ants in our yard today. "Small ant hills become big ant hills," I taught Hannah. She understood. It was important to wipe out even the little ones before they grew into something bigger.

I realized sin is the same way. Sometimes we just treat it at a surface level, but deep down inside, sin is carving catacombs and breeding more and more, greater and greater sin inside of us. In fact, those "sin hills" lead to the construction of even more "sin hills". Before you know it, you are infested with sin. Small sin becomes big sin.

You can't really show any mercy when dealing with ants. The only good ant is a dead ant. You can't really show any mercy when dealing with sin. The only good sin is a dead sin.


The New Covenant

This is the finale in a series I preached on covenants. I'm thankful to God for being faithful in guiding me through his Word and the things he desires me to preach.