Theology in Sound: Johann Sebastian Bach

The music of Bach “is a rediscovery of the world of which I have the joy of being part. It fills me with awareness of the wonder of life, with a …

Theology in Sound: Johann Sebastian Bach

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Christianity and the Arts

This fall I will be teaching a Seminary course on Christianity and the Arts in which we will determine how a Christian view of beauty and truth meets…

Christianity and the Arts

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Translation of Middle German in Goethe’s Gedichte

I recently found a great treasure in the “Old and Unusual” section of a half-price bookstore in Dallas: seven volumes of the works of Goethe in his …

Translation of Middle German in Goethe’s Gedichte

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The Grammatical Structure in Scripture

Have you paid much attention to the grammatical style of the Scriptures in the Bible? How important is grammar in Scripture? It is everything. It is …

The Grammatical Structure in Scripture

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The Grammatical Structures of Paul’s letters

In my last blog, I examined the importance of grammatical structures in Scriptures, specifically in the writings of the life and words of Jesus which…

The Grammatical Structures of Paul’s letters

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The Constancies of Life

Last night, I went to bed with much fear and anxiety amidst this new world of unknowns concerning the Covid-19 virus. This morning, I woke up to the …

The Constancies of Life

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National Holidays…

Americans love holidays, especially three-day weekends. Our Federal government mandates the observance of the following holidays: New Year’s Day, Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., George Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. In so many ways, our designated national holidays reflect the wonder and mystery of the American experiment. As “one nation under God” we celebrate the twists and turns of our history.

This week, our nation observed the “baby” of all our national holidays “The Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.” established in 1983 after years of debate. For those who may not remember Dr. King, he stirred the soul of our nation to confront the injustices of segregation and racism. As a Baptist minister, King called on our national leaders to confront bigotry and hatred institutionalized by unjust laws segregating people. Under his watch, no longer would those “created in the image of God” find themselves relegated to a lower class.

In prime of life, King fell prey to an assassin’s bullet as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. An archenemy sought to silence his voice with a deadly shot on April 4, 1968, but hatred never wins in the end. His voice still rings out today. In a nation being drawn back across lines that divide, we would be wise to heed his call in our day.

We may have all come from different ships, but we’re in the same boat now…” What would happen if we embraced this keen observation of King’s today? At times doesn’t it feel as if we row in opposite directions. Yet we wonder why we find ourselves stuck in middle of the sea going in mindless circles.

What counsel would Jesus give to those destined to sail on the same boat together? I believe the captain of our boat would call us to our higher selves saying,  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same.  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:44-48 ESV)

Likewise, King echoed these timeless truths saying, “Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.” He confessed, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend” he affirmed.

In our day of divisive rhetoric lacking civil discourse, we would be wise to heed such counsel. Can you imagine how you could change your little corner of the world if you did as Jesus instructed saying, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either” (Luke 9:28-29 ESV)? Jesus did not give these instructions to the vacationers at Disney World, but to his followers who would share the same boat with those who opposed them. What if we treated people so?

On the night before his death, King proclaimed, “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now because I’ve been to the mountaintop…I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land…” As a nation we have come a long way from those dark days, but we have yet to cross over.

I pray the LORD will turn our national nightmare into the dream rooted deep in the heart of King. Hear him anew today—“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh will see it together…” Amen!

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The Secret of Contentment

Having grow up in a upper middle class family with practically all my wants, and especially all my needs met, I must confess I have a tendency to be “contentment” averse. The passion for more and more seems to run deep in my veins, as I aspire to greater influence, presitage and position. Jesus never condemned his followers for seeking to be the “greatest of all” He just warned against the path chosen. He knew all too well the highway to more races by the “road less traveled” that leads to true greatness, contentment and godliness. Yes, the narrow path to life is rarely seen from the front seat of a sports car racing headlong af full speed ahead. No, the narrow path to contentment emerges for those who slow down enough to notice a footpath in the dirt winding away toward a distant destination that cannot be seen even after taking the first few steps down the path.

Paul spoke of “learning the secret of contentment” in an age that lived for much closer to the margins of life than those of us who grew up under the neon lights of the American Dream, which has really turned out to be more of a nightmare than dream for most of us caught up in its death grip. Immanuel Kant observed: “Give a man everything he wants and at that moment, everything will not be everything.” Isn’t sad, when even the blind see better than many of us who seek to walk close to the Creator of all things. In contrast, A.W. Tozer observed: “The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One.” It sounds and ring true, yet so hard to attain in the flesh that wars against the Spirit.

So where does one learn the “secret of contentment”? At the feet of Jesus obviously but what path does He take to teach this vital lesson. It seems that the path leads down the path of “giving away” and “pushing away.” Giving changes the heart, and frees one from the grip of greed. Is it any wonder Jesus advised the rich young ruler to give it “all” away and to come follow Him. Jesus knew as long as the young man held on to his possessions, his possessions had a death grip on him, his heart and soul. The demand seems outrages to us who seek to find fulfillment in the things of this world, which only reveals how blind we really are. Show me a generous man or woman and I will show you someone taking the early steps toward contentment.

In addition to “giving away” those treasures entrusted to your stewardship, we also must learn to “push away” the things that lure us away from simple joy and peace in the things of God, His quiet presence, and a joy not tied to entertainment. Push away those things that distract. Push away this “cotton candy” of distracting and numb entertainment, for the true intimacy of being in relationship with God even when heaven is silent. Our enemy, plus the imposer of our flesh urges us to seek happiness instead of joy, entertainment instead of peace, busyness instead of being still, static and noise instead of quiet reflection and prayer.

Let’s covenant together to seek the secret. Let’s stop robbing ourselves of life as it was meant to be chasing after the fantasies of our secular culture. Slow down, give more, listen more, love deeply, pray, mediate on the words of Jesus and His lifestyle while learning the secret from the master, and the lover of your soul.

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Translating Hugo: “L’Autre” from “A Guernesey”

My French Quest

Guernsey beach-xlarge

This is the third post in a series of my English translations from Victor Hugo’s L’art d’être Grand-Père.Hugo wrote a series of poems to his grandchildren, Georges and Jeanne, after he became their guardian following their parent’s untimely death in 1871. Several of these poems were written about his daily walks with his grandchildren in the Jardin des Plantes and my next three blogs will refer to these precious promenades in the Jardin des Plantes; however, I am writing today’s blog as a tribute to my blog followers in Guernesey.

Guernsey (Guernesey is the French spelling) is one of the Channel Islands in the English Channel (or known as La Manche to those who live in France!) near the French coast. There is evidence of Roman settlement from 100 AD  in the ruins of La Plaiderie and St Peter Port.  The most interesting fact about Guernsey, for me…

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Texas Baptist Executive Board makes wise decision, yet heart-breaking.

Yesterday the Executive Board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas face once again a very trying and difficult decision. In response to the actions of three prominent churches who decisively choice to affirm “same sex unions” and to be open and affirming to those who have chosen to openly live a homosexual lifestyle, the Executive Board voted 63-6 that these three congregations were “outside of harmonious cooperation.” This action terminates long standing and cooperative relationships with these congregations much to the dismay of many who long to find a better way.

Wilshire Baptist Church of Dallas, First Baptist Church of Austin, and Lakeshore Baptist in Waco, all three churches, knew without doubt that their actions would lead to this showdown of values and principles, yet they moved forward putting the relationship at risk. There are no victims here, except for those who will be disillusioned once again as the sons and daughters of God squabble over love, grace, truth and holiness.

On a personal level, I believe the actions of the Executive Board were right, yet difficult beyond measure. Standing firm for one’s convictions about revealed divine truth cannot be for the faint of heart in our day. What decades ago seemed to be timeless principles and standards are now all called into question, yet truth stands the test of time.

Our partnerships with Wilshire, First Austin, and Lakeshore will be missed, but choices have consequences especially in relationships. I wish them well. I pray God will continue to manifest Himself in their midst and guide their actions. I only regret they choose the path that divides rather than seeking ways of greater cooperation and understanding.

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.–Jesus (Matthew 10:34-39 ESV)

Once again we feel the cutting edge of division in the ranks. I pray I will be found in step with the Lord.

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