I'll miss you CHARLIE GIBSON....

Right now I am watching the final hour of "Good Morning America" with Charles Gibson as one of the three co-anchors of the wildly popular morning show.

Charlie has been on GMA now for almost 19 years, off and on. I think I have watched him most of those years....and he's been just magnificent.

But now Mr Gibson will be the anchor of "World News Tonite"--filling a seat that the legendary Peter Jennings so ably filled for many years. Charlie has those same very special qualities and graces that Jennings so marvelously communicated to his faithful audience day after day.

Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts are very close to tears on this morning. They are losing their "morning partner" who embraces the world every morning with them.

Mr Gibson has been "my friend" now for a long time, even though we've never met in person. I'll be one of his "faithful" disciples every chance I'll get on World News Tonite". Charlie grew up in Evanston, Illinois--a near north suburb of Chicago, here I live.

So I guess we do have a connection.

Charlie, I'll miss you every morning. And so will the rest of the world.

But I'll see you around 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

And I'll always admire you.

James C Pearson Sr, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

One of the truly great men in my life turns 77 years old today: Mr James C Pearson, Sr of Huntsville, Alabama!

There are so many great things about this fine, Christian gentleman--and I could fill up "cyber space" just attempting to list them all.

He has a great sense of humor. He has a generous and gracious heart with those around him.

One thing that I always remember about this good man:

I was in a high school physics class (many years ago now) and just couldn't understand some of the "math" involved. I called his son (Jim--whose birthday was yesterday by the way), and was asking for help with some of this "crazy stuff." Jim wasn't in at the time (this was LONG before cell phones had made their advent), so Mr Pearson volunteered to help me.

I was so confused and upset about all this math, that I was almost in tears. And it was FRACTIONS at that! Hated fractions then, and hate them now.

Some things never change.

Mr Pearson was good enough to explain how to invert fractions and multiply, or something to that effect. I will always remember his kindness in that regard.

There are SO many other things that I could say about him.

What a great father, grandfather, father-in-law, husband, and everything else he is. He has a brilliant and sharp mind--wish mine were that good at my current age!

But I'll suffice it to say:

Happy Birthday!

What Jesus really said....

I can remember reading these important statements from Jesus Christ, our Lord (but then again, EVERYTHING He said is important, since I am one of His followers):

"I am the Good Shepherd"

He never said "I am the great leader." Nor did he say "I am the good administrator"--He said "I am the Great Shepherd"--He was willing to give His life for all His sheep. And he did just that. He didn't have to go through three committees, or have a church business conference on whether he would give His life for His sheep. And He certainly didn't have to read alot of "leadership" materials, or go to eternally endless seminars on what it means to "be a leader."

"No man comes to the Father except by Me."

In this day of "multiculturalism" and "religious" pluralism, this particularly proclamation by Jesus Christ is crucially important. There is no other way to God except through His Son.

A blast from the past....

Sometimes I feel discouraged and think my life in vain,I'm tempted oft to murmer, to grumble and complain;But when I think of Jesus and what He's done for me,Then I cry, to the Rock of Ages, hide thou me.

O Rock of Ages, hide thou me,There is no other refuge, none, none but thee;Through this old world I wandered so far, far from thee,Then I cry, to the Rock of Ages, hide thou me.

Was listening to this grand song of testimony on the "Best of the Gaither Vocal Band" 2-CD collection.

It brought tears to my eyes. Tears, remembering the faithfulness of God. Tears, remembering all that He is, Has done, and will continue to be in my life.

What say ye?

Brothers and Sisters (and others): What should I do?

I'm in a bit of a dilemma right now.

Actually, I've been in this same dilemma for the last few years. Are you ready for this....are you sure?

I've resided in the great Windy City now for 6 years (less two months). I've lived in some fairly affluent neighborhoods, and in some not-so-affluent neighborhoods.

Where I live now (Logan Square) is right in the "middle" of the "affluency" scale.

This is the dilemma: I am constantly being approached by "pan-handlers." All the time. I am trying to remember a single day when I've not been asked for "change for the homeless...." Usually this is at the train stop, near the bus stops, near the places of business where I frequenty (grocery store, pharmacy, mostly), and even in front of the Church facilities on Sunday mornings.

And many times, it's the same people. I wonder why, many times.

I don't want to seem cold-hearted, non-compassionate, or uncaring--but I'm basically weary from getting "hit up" all the time.

When I first moved to Chicago, I remember going in a drugstore and buying a sandwich for a man who said he was "hungry and need something to eat." I spent my own money, and even asked him what he would like. He said "a sandwich." So I spent four bucks on a sandwich.

Which he promptly threw in the garbage can as soon as I turned my head. I walked over to the trash receptacle, and sure enough, the unopened sandwich was right there!

Sometimes the people asking for "spare change for the homeless" have a cigarette in their mouths, and often smell of alcohol. If they are truly hungry, I don't mind buying them a sandwich---but they will not con me into giving them "change" of any kind.

I can remember a lady holding a child down near all the Marshall Field's State Street store and telling me this sob story of how she needed to get on the bus with her baby, and how she needed 2 dollars to do this. I heard her out, and then waited for the bus with her.

When the bus arrived, I got on first, and offered to pay the bus driver to take the lady wherever she needed to go.

The lady REFUSED to get on the bus. The bus driver told me that she is one of the "regular con artists" at that busy area. She just wanted my cash--which she didn't get.

So what is a Christian supposed to do?

What say ye?

Even in the church....

I found this recently....read it, and pay attention:

A Crying Shame: Charlatans In the House

By J. Lee Grady

You've probably heard it on Christian television before. An evangelist opens his Bible, reads a Scripture and then suggests that you send an odd amount of money to keep your favorite program on the air for another month.

He begs. He pleads. He cries. And then he tells you that if you hurry and give right now, "while God is stirring the waters," the Holy Spirit will reward you in an extra-special way.
"Those who use manipulation, strong-arm tactics or Scripture-twisting to get money are not going to release any form of blessing." I've heard different amounts suggested?such as $64.11, or $72.14, or $53.24, to correlate with some obscure Old Testament Scripture reference. The implication is that if you write a check for this magical amount, God will release some kind of special blessing on you, such as the salvation of loved ones or the quick sale of a house.

To the untrained ear this may sound like a formula for blessing. Actually it is more akin to superstition?or worse, witchcraft. It's not even remotely biblical, but those of us in the charismatic movement are so used to tolerating such shenanigans that we think this is standard procedure for fundraising.

Some ministers who raise money for Christian television stations have succumbed to the infamous "debt reduction" tactic. It goes like this: "God says that if you will give a $1,000 sacrificial offering right now (God always seems to be in crisis mode in these situations), you will supernaturally get out of debt! The miracle anointing is here! You can release it by writing that check! And we take credit cards, too!"

Talk about voodoo economics. This kind of manipulation is actually against the law in Canada. The U.S. government allows American evangelists to get away with it, but that doesn't mean it's right. It is a spiritualized form of arm-twisting.

And believe it or not, it is getting more blatant and bizarre.

A widely traveled minister recently gave a message about what he called "the Boaz anointing" at a prominent church in Florida. He then invited anyone who wanted this "new" blessing to come to the altar, where gullible souls were encouraged to deposit a check for $1,500 in the basket.

Apparently the Boaz anointing can be yours if you can afford this hefty price.

At another church in my city of Orlando, a self-proclaimed prophet said that he would have a personal word of blessing to pronounce over any person who could give $1,000 in the offering. That's right?he was selling personal prophecies. Those who actually gave the amount (yes, some people actually fell for this charlatan) stood up to receive "words."

I want to rip my shirt in half and throw dust on my head.

Why should we be surprised that the church in America is making such a weak impact on society when we are allowing greedy impostors to pollute our pulpits? They are no different than the sons of Eli, who took the people's offerings "by force" so that they could spend it on their own selfish wants (see 1 Sam.2:12-16). They have fallen into the error of the sorcerer Simon, who offered to buy the power of the Holy Spirit so that he could impress people (see Acts 8:18-20).
And what happens to the people who buy into this craziness? I've heard some suggest that "God will bless anyone who gives," even if they give to a crook.

That's hogwash. Seed must be sown in good ground if it's going to produce. Those who use manipulation, strong-arm tactics or Scripture-twisting to get money, or who sell the anointing of God so they can buy clothes and houses are not going to release any form of blessing.

In fact, they just might release curses?of poverty, bankruptcy, fraud and confusion. Such dark forces actually follow ministries that have given themselves over to this spirit of financial manipulation. The Bible actually says that charlatans?those who follow the "error of Balaam"?will face a harsh judgment in the "black darkness" of hell (Jude 11,13).

What can you do about this? You don't have to stop giving. God loves a cheerful giver, but He does not want us to give under compulsion. Nor does He want us to reward the modern sons of Eli.

Speak out. Confront those who misuse the Bible to dig for money. Change the channel. Get up and walk out. Give to ministries that focus on meeting real needs and maintain ethical accounting standards. This financial foolishness will end when all of us take a stand.
J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma.

A very sad day for our nation...

Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston, and Pfc. Thomas Tucker, 25, of Madras, Ore., disappeared Friday after an attack on a checkpoint they were manning near Yusifiyah, about 20 miles southwest of Baghdad. The area is located in the so-called Sunni Triangle, a hotbed of insurgency activity.

A third soldier, Spc. David Babineau, 25, of Springfield, Mass., died in the attack.

All three were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment of 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), based at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.

The three brave men have given their lives in Iraq over the last few days. Privates Menchaca and Tucker were beheaded after they were captured in a surprise attack last week. Specialist Babineau was killed immediately in the attack.

I grieve for all of the brave men and women have given their lives in the military service, regardless of their locations.

Having served in the military, I feel such a loss.

But my loss can't come anything close to the incredible tragedy that more than 2500 families have experienced since March 2003. And those numbers don't include the American/coalition civilians, as well as Iraqis who have given their life.

Let us pray.

A very dangerous regime...indeed!

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has correctly and properly warned the sadistic, evil, and idiotic regime of the People's Republic of North Korea of the dire consequences should they exercise their "despotism" and launch a missile with the capabilities of reaching any part of the United States, her territorities, or protectorates.

While starving their populace to death, the North Koreans have been attempting to arm themselves to the "teeth" for the last 50-plus years. Their desperation for "world attention"--mainly exhibited through their sinister and evil acts--has endured them to no one.

Not even the once-friendly Chinese who borders them on the north.

I served in the United States Air Force and was stationed in the lower, Southwestern edge of the Republic of South Korea from January 11, 1990 until January 1, 1991, at Kunsan Air Base. We were made extremely aware of just how real the "threat" from the despots in the North actually was.

Two days after my arrival on the peninsula, military officials found three tunnels being built underground from Pyongyang to reach the capital city of Seoul. This literally scared the "crap" out of me--physically, emotionally, and militarily. I became acutely aware that I was facing a "real enemy"--and there would be no negotiating with them.

Somewhere along the time of mid-tour, I had the incredible opportunity of taking a trip to the Demilitarized Zone, along the 38th Parallel. Better known as the "DMZ" this border was spine-chilling at best. Looking across the border into North Korea was something akin to looking into the face of "hell"--not that I've ever seen hades, but you get the picture.

So, I've said all "that" to say this:

We are dealing with a very dangerous regime in North Korea. Far more dangerous than most of our other "international" enemies.

We need to pray for Secretary Rice as she assists the President in making some very important decisions.

Sixty-five million South Koreans are counting on us "getting it right."

This time, we must.

The Church....

I've been a follower of Jesus Christ now for 38 of my 44 years on earth. I came to Jesus when I was a small lad at the Greenfield Church of Christ, out near the County Lake, in rural Madison County, Alabama.

I remember the time, and I can take you to place--to quote one of the great songs of the "singing South."

I've worshipped among the "largest congregation" in the world--the Yoido Central Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea.

I've also had the magnanimous privilege of worshipping in homes, and in small congregations of varying sizes, and denominational flavors over the last many years.

But I've often wondered, "What does it mean to be the Church?"

Dr Erwin W Lutzer, Senior Pastor of The Moody Church (www.moodychurch.org) here in Chicago always ends our morning worship gatherings by encouraging the congregants to "go be the Church" this week.

Great advice...however, what does it mean to "be the church"? How can I, little ole Phil Hoover in this large city of Chicago "be the church" to someone? How and where does that happen?

With all the trials and heartaches associated with just daily living, I'm beginning to "re-think" what it means to "be the church"--in practical terms. And the verdict is in: I've got a lot to learn.

What did the New Testament Church possess that the "contemporary" church is missing? Could it be:

Vibrant, unpretentious worship?
Committed and contagious community?
Exciting and exhilirating evangelism?
Simple and sold-out servanthood?

From what I'm reading in the New Testament, it was all of these things.

But sadly, it seems like many in contemporary society will "evaluate" (since we Christians are "far too spiritual" to ever judge ) a group of people by how good the "show" is on Sunday morning.

Not whether God is pleased and present among those gathered to offer spiritual worship to His Son, Jesus Christ.

We will evaluate a congregation/group of leaders by all the "externals" that we can see, not by the "hidden" things that take some probing, praying, and thinking.

Quite honestly, I'm tired of the "show." I was part of a congregation for three years where the "show" was the main activity of the "church." Few people really wanted to "be the church" outside of the parameters of the twice-weekly show.

Of course, any time I made mention of what the New Testament Church could possibly look like, I was always reminded that I wasn't in charge. Often I was accused of being rude, rebellious, and disrespectful.

But as long as the "show" continued, then everything had to "blest by God." After all, God couldn't possibly speak through someone who had committed their life to the congregation, and wanted to see "real community" take root.

But the "show" had to go continue, regardless.

So what does it mean to "be the church"?

I'm not sure, right now.

What about you? What say ye?

"Big Russ and Me"

I know that I've mentioned Tim Russert's (of MEET THE PRESS fame) book about his life and how his father has played an unequivocal role in it. The book is entitled Big Russ and Me.

I read this book a couple of weeks ago, and have gone back started re-reading it. This is a wonderfully warm, and humorous book about Russert's development and formation into the great man that he is today.

And it all started in Buffalo, New York.

I've always enjoyed watching "Meet The Press"--when I have the opportunity to tune in. Here in Chicago, it comes on at 10 a.m. on Sunday morning, and I'm almost always in Sunday Morning worship at that hour.

But I do love "Meet the Press."

Big Russ and Me masterfully weaves the fabric of a city's kid's life, showing the grace and power of "doing right"--and realizing the worth of life, and the blessings of God therein.

It's a great read.

Better Late than never....I guess....

H A P P Y F A T H E R ' S D A Y!
There are alot of very special men in my life who, over the years have been a "father" to me, when I've most needed one.
I want to be very gracious in my remarks here, but suffice it to say, that my own "biological father" was a scoundrel.
Yet, my Heavenly Father knew that I would need "lots of fathers" to help me become the person that He wants me to be.
I want to say "Happy Father's Day" to the following men:
Leonard Kendrick
Jim Pearson Sr
Pastor Gary Langley
Dr Bill Sheeks
Howard Timmons
Pastor Phillip Morris, Sr
Will Baker
Dr R Hollis Gause
Pastor Chris Losey
Pastor Travis Robinson
Just to name a few. Each of these men have been very special in my life over the last 20+ years. They are constant sources of encouragement, edification, and have instructed and enriched my life in ways that only Heaven will be able to fully reveal.
I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to each of them.
Happy Father's Day.

What Happened?

As a child of the Deep South, I grew up hearing about "Heaven."

We sang about this glorious place in Church on Sunday--at least one song was about Heaven.

We heard sermons about this marvelous promise regularly--and not just at funerals either.

What happened?

Has contemporary society become so overwhelmed with the cares of "this life" and "these light afflictions" that we no longer gaze and long for that "City Whose Builder and Maker is God"?

Are we so convinced that we "have it all here" and that it doesn't "get any better than this" so why even think about these precious promises of God for eternal life hereafter?

What happened?

While I sincerely appreciate all the great things that are happening in the Body of Christ here in North America, I feel that we have truly cheated ourselves by not keeping "heaven" as prominent doctrine and an EVERLASTING reality in our local churches, in our families, and in our lifestyles.

I'm convinced that one of the reasons the "Bill Gaither and Friends Homecoming" tours and videos are so wildly popular is because these instruments are helping many belivers reconnect with the reality and promise of "the glory world" in the not-too-distant future.

I remember one of those grand songs that I learned as a child, and I still sing it often:

How beautiful heaven must be!
Sweet home of the happy and free!
Fair Haven of rest for the weary,
How beautiful heaven must be!

I have a precious Grandmother whom I loved and adored (and who raised me when I was abandoned by my parents as a baby) who is worshipping the Risen Christ up there.

In heaven!

I have many, many precious friends--marvelous saints of God--whom I've been blest to know through the years...who are now residing in that glorious place.


It's a real place, with real people!

"Special People"....

Julie Nixon Eisenhower wrote a wonderful book about 15 years ago (give or take a year) that she entitled Special People. This daughter of the late President Richard Nixon and his late wife Pat, wrote a very moving and detailed account about five special people in her life.

I've often thought that I would like to write such a book as well. There are so many special people who's stories should be told, and preserved for all who will come after us.

I can think of several very special people whom I'd love to chronicle:

Dr R Hollis Gause, Professor, Church of God Theological Seminary, Cleveland, TN

Bishop Raymond M Pruitt, retired minister, Oxford, MS.

Mrs Jane F Pearson, retired teacher, and mom "extraordinaire".

Dr Charles Paul Conn, President, Lee University, Cleveland, TN

Richard M. Daley, Mayor, The City of Chicago.

Mrs. Mary Smith Morris, Musician/teacher/mother and so many others things, Crisfield, MD.

Maybe I do need to start writing that book, after all.

If you were writing about "special people"--whom would you choose?


Taking Measure of Our Manners...

From this morning's CHICAGO TRIBUNE, the best mannered cities in the United States are:

1) Charleston, South Carolina

2) San Diego, California

3) Seattle, Washington

4) Peoria, Illinois

5) Omaha, Nebraska

6) Quad Cities (Moline and Rock Island IL, Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa)

7) Hollywood, Florida

8) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

9) Houston, Texas

10) Salt Lake City, Utah

First, congratulations to these ten areas that were named "the best mannered" by etiquette expert Marjabelle Young Stewart, who has compiled this list for the last twenty-eight years.

Second, it speaks well of the inhabitants of these areas that "good manners" and good "social skills" are important to the fabric of their societies.

It would do all of us a world of good to improve our manners. Sadly, in the "cyber age" far too many have disintegrating social skills and no earthly idea how to relate to others in an acceptable fashion.

Finally, maybe we do need to become a "bi-lingual" nation after all. And this foreign language is actually quite easy, and it's vocabulary is simple. Here it is:

"Thank You"
"You're Welcome"
"Yes" (sir/ma'am)
"No" (sir/ma'am)
"May I?"
"How can I help you?"

And that's a language I wouldn't mind hearing.

All the time.

165 Days and Counting.....No Caffeine

For years I had contemplated the possibility of giving up my "caffeine" habit. Now I wasn't a compulsive "all day with a cup of coffee each hour" kind of addict. Not hardly....but I did have a Mountain Dew affinity that I wasn't too keen on shaking.

But on December 30, 2005 I decided that I had imbibed my last 20 ounce bottle of Mountain Dew.

I've not touched caffeine since. I've only had very, very small amounts of chocolate--very negligible amounts, no coffee and no caffeinated sodas at all.

No hot chocolate, no caffeinated tea....


And I'm feeling great. The headaches have been minimal, and my energy levels have been much greater than any time in recent or even distant memory.

I've lost a few pounds, and I'm feeling good about that too. My personal physician is quite pleased with my progress....and so am I.

Now don't get me wrong---there has been a grieving process for me in all of this. I grieve every time I pass a soda machine and see the picture of my beloved Mountain Dew right there for my personal viewing.

But I am glad that I've come this far. I just remember the "12 steps." It is exactly 12 steps to get me out of the door, and away from the vending machine.

I often taken them.

And in a hurry at that.

Great, Great book! Get it!


Tim Russert, the NBC Washington Bureau Chief and the Sunday Morning host of MEET THE PRESS has written/compiled an amazing book, The Wisdom of Our Fathers.

I have admired Mr Russert for years on Meet the Press and read his first book, Big Russ and Me a few weeks ago. It was a fascinating, entertaining, and truly heartwarming account of his life. But more than that, it was a marvelous retelling of how supremely important his earthly father, "Big Russ" has been and continues to be in his life.

Russert was in Chicago at Borders Bookstore on State Street two weeks ago tomorrow. I had a business appointment, and was rushing into Borders just as he was leaving. I was so disappointed. I wanted to personally tell him how much "Big Russ" has meant to me, even though I've never met the man.

Watching an interview with Tim Russert last week on WTTW (PBS station here in Chicago), more than 60,000 people have also felt that special connection with "Big Russ" as well as his son Tim, and Tim's now "grown son" Luke--a sophomore at Boston College.

The Wisdom of Our Fathers is a fascinating collection of stories that Russert received in response to his first work, "Big Russ and Me."

It's a wonderful compilation. Get it. And give several to the important men in your life.

They will deeply appreciate such a gift.

And so will you.

Things I've Learned....for this week

These brilliant maxims are taking from LIVE and LEARN and PASS IT ON compiled by H Jackson Brown Jr (Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press) 1992.

I've learned that you can inherit wealth, but never wisdom.

I've learned that you shouldn't speak unless you can improve on the silence.

I've learned that relationships are more important than rules.

I've learned that the trick is to "live a long time" without growing old.

I've learned that you "form a committee to study the matter" when you REALLY would rather not do anything.

I've learned that people are influenced by how much I care rather than by how much I know.

My favorite verse.....

"Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13).

For many years I always used "John 15:13" after my signature on personal correspondence. For some reason I stopped doing that. At least for a prolonged period of time, anyway.

And now that I'm having my "midlife crisis"--that's your signal to laugh out loud--I'm beginning to rethink this whole idea of "friends" and exactly what it means in life.

And what it means to me. What should it mean to me?

There are people all over North America (and many in other countries) that I consider my "friends." Some of them are very close to me, and have a huge place in my heart. Some of them know that I care deeply about them, and would do anything that I possibly could on their behalf.

And some of them....well, I just wonder about.

I don't like "utilitarianism" in relationships that are supposed to be "friends." What I mean by this phrase is the way that someone befriends another, only if there is something to "gain" from that befriending in the first place. Can the one who is being "befriended" benefit me in some way? Do they fill a "need" or can they "do something for me"?

Or do I just value them as a person regardless of what they may or may not contribute to me?

These are difficult questions in a society (even in the church) that is submerged in the philosophy that only when people "contribute" to our goals is when the possess any value. And after they have finished "contributing" (or better yet have caught on to the selfishness inherit in such a philosophy) then said person ceases to have value.

If that's the way we measure friendships, then we are no better than those who do not claim Christ as Saviour--and in many ways, much worse. Our love has conditions, if we only "use people" for what they can do for us.

It's happen to me before. And sadly, I may have done it to someone--and I'm profoundly sorry if I have.

God help us.

Happy Birthday, JULIA STONE!

Though she is not "really" my niece...I've always felt that she is. Her mom, Marti has been like a sister to me for the last 30+ years. And what a great sister she has been.

I remember when Miss Julia was just a very small young lass--and what a delight she was to her mom and dad, her grandparents (on both sides) and to her Uncle Jim and Aunt Ginger.

And to me, her "Uncle" Phil-who has spent the majority of her life either in the Air Force, in seminary, and in Chicago.

My memories of Julia are grand though. I remember about 7 years ago when she, along with her parents, were driving through Cleveland TN, and stopped by my apartment. My longtime friend, and wonderful roommate Kevin Moses (who was celebrated in this forum back in February) welcomed them in as I was still on my way back to the apartment.

We also just happened to have some ice cream there....it was "Moose Tracks"...

Kevin and Julia had a heyday with that ice cream that hot July afternoon.

And now she is all grown up....18 years old to be exact.

She has graduated from Madison County High School--my alma mater, and also the alma mater of her mom, Uncle Jim, along with various and sundry other Alabama natives.

She is a wonderful, gracious, beautiful, and delightful young woman. She will be entering the University of Alabama in Huntsville this fall as a University freshman. I'm very proud of her!

So, in lieu of my being there, Julia....let me say for the entire "cyber world"...


Happy Birthday, ANN DOWNING!

One of those great gospel groups that I remember from my childhood was the Downings. My earliest memories of the great hit, "Gettin' Ready Today" was Paul, Ann, Joy, and Dony singing that wonderful song about HEAVEN and how we are looking for "that mansion fair."

Of course, that was almost 40 years ago, and Paul is now in that wonderful place he sang about for so long.

But his precious wife, ANN DOWNING, is still carrying the "gospel in song" all over the country, and she is also celebrating her birthday today.

Her website is www.anndowning.com

So, my precious friend Ann....Happy Birthday from Chicago!

Have a great one!

The REAL Jesus....

Erwin W Lutzer, Senior Pastor of The Moody Church here in Chicago (where I worship every week) is preaching a series on "The Real Jesus: Lies told about the man who claimed to be the Son of God"--and it has been great.

You can find more information about Moody Church and these sermons right here:


Check it out.

So what is this passage really saying?

"Therefore if thou bringest thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar and go thy way; First be reconciled to thy brother and then come offer thy gift" (Matthew 5:23, 24).

It seems like many of us in the Kingdom are far too quick to dismiss other brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ--particularly those we have had conflict with in the past. I'm no stranger to this phenomenon....nor am I "lily-white" from all the guilt that can be associated with it.

The congregation where I grew up in the mid-late 1970s emphasized the biblical commands on good relationships in the Body. It seems that we knew that we had BETTER be in good relationship with our fellow believers, and that God would expect and accept no less.

Doesn't seem to be that way anymore.

Someone whom I considered a good friend for several years has decided that I'm nothing more than a "manipulator" and a "coward"--in his words. Of course he didn't have the courage to say this to my face. He used other means. He lives here in Chicago...and I even attended his wedding a few weeks ago--since I received a personal invitation from him.

His accusations are baseless, and he's only following the lead of someone who now holds me in low regard, even though that wasn't always the case.

I don't like conflict...really I don't. But even less do I like people who can hurl accusations and falsehoods with impugnity--just because they are in a "professional ministry" position.

At one time, this brother considered me a good friend. Has eaten at my house, has prayed with more many times as a brother, and has asked my advice on a number of issues. We have been close....

That obviously isn't the case any more.

So, when do we reconcile?

Maybe we need to "save those gifts" for a while, until we do.

Happy Birthday, BETH!

One of the most wonderful women I have ever known in my short life is Mrs Beth (Nettles) Fender! She is celebrating her birthday today, and I wanted to take this opportunity here in "my space" to wish her a wonderful day!

Beth and her late husband, Pastor Billy Nettles, came into my life some thirty-plus years ago at the West Huntsville Church of God of Prophecy, where I was a parishioner.

Sister Beth was the finest example of class, elegance and grace that anyone would ever want to meet, and eventually emulate.

She still is just that today: classy and worthy of emulation!

Happy Birthday, Beth!

"Musical Mush"'---Amen, Chuck, Amen!

Musical Mush - Are We Impairing our Capacity to Think?

A BreakPoint commentary by Chuck Colson

When church music directors lead the congregation in singing some praise music, I often listen stoically with teeth clenched. But one Sunday morning, I cracked. We had been led through endless repetitions of a meaningless ditty called, “Draw Me Close to You.” The song has zero theological content and could be sung in a nightclub, for that matter. When I thought it was finally and mercifully over, the music leader beamed at us and said in a cheerful voice, “Let’s sing that again, shall we?” “No!” I shouted loudly. Heads all around me spun while my wife cringed.

I admit I prefer more traditional hymns. But even given that, I am convinced that much of the music being written for the Church today reflects an unfortunate trend—slipping across the line from worship to entertainment. Evangelicals are in danger of amusing ourselves to death, to borrow the title of the classic Neil Postman book.

The trend is also true of Christian radio, historically an important source of in-depth teaching.

Many stations have recently dropped serious programming in favor of all-music formats. For example, a major Baltimore station dropped four talk shows to add music. A respected broadcaster recently dropped “Focus on the Family,” claiming it had become too focused on “moral issues.”

When a Cincinnati station replaced “BreakPoint” with music, I told the station manager that believers need to think Christianly about major worldview issues. Her reply? Younger women want “something to help them cope with life.”

This view was confirmed by a Christian homemaker during a TV special on evangelicalism. She is so busy, she explained, with her kids, Bible study, cooking, and all, that she does not even get to read the newspaper. Church for her is getting her spirits lifted.

Now admittedly, modern life creates enormous stress, but can't the Church offer comfort and help people confront the culture?

Of course, music is important in the life of the Church. But it cannot replace solid teaching. The decision by Christian broadcasters to avoid moral controversies could result in the Church withdrawing from the culture as it tragically did a century ago.

The great strength of radio, as with books, has been to present in-depth teaching that engages Christians cognitively. Unfortunately, thinking analytically is something Christians find increasingly difficult. According to a government study, the average college graduate’s proficient literacy in English has declined from 40 percent in 1992 to 31 percent ten years later. The study defines proficient literacy as the ability to read lengthy, complex texts and draw complicated inferences. This is horrifying.

The Gospel above everything else is revealed propositional truth - truth that speaks to all of life. Sure, the Gospel is simple enough for a child to understand. But if you want to study doctrine and worldview, you need the capacity to engage ideas cognitively. Doctrine and biblical teaching does not consist of dry, abstract notions. It is the truth that must be carried to the heart and applied. And there is no escaping that it is truth that must he learned.

When Postman published his book two decades ago, he feared television would impair our capacity to think. He was right. But can we learn from this - or are we destined to follow suit, with the Church blissfully amusing itself into irrelevance?

Some of the current faux-music in the church has become nothing more than "charismatic jingles"--and not very good ones at that.

Not all of the "current" music is theologically thin, but this is true for a lot more than we want to admit. Most of the "contemporary" choruses that have inundated local congregations teach absolutely none of the great doctrinal truths of the Scriptures. And that is tragically sad for those like me who grew up singing the great songs of testimony about God, heaven, eternity, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

So what say ye?

And even more from the "I've Learned" department

I've learned that if you genuinely care, it will show.

I've learned that education, experience, and memories are 3 things that no one can take away from you.

I've learned that it is far easier to react than it is to just think.

I've learned that the best thing about growing older is that I don't feel the urge to impress anyone.

I've learned there is NOTHING you cannot teach yourself by reading....

I've learned that when "things" go wrong, that I don't have to go with them.

I've learned that people can become intoxicated with power more easily than they can with alcohol.

So what say ye?

The Gospel According to "OPRAH"....hmmmm

I remember when Miss Oprah was in Baltimore, before making it big in Chicago many years ago. And I also remember watching her television show when it was an interactive, Phil Donahue-like exchange for the 60 minutes (minus the commercial breaks) every week day.

Things have changed.

And so has Oprah.

I was browsing in the local Borders Bookstore on State Street Friday afternoon, waiting for a friend with whom I would be having dinner to show up. I was in the "Religion" section, and just perusing through all the different volumes, large and small, that captured my attention.

On the very bottom shelf of the last column of the section, was this small paperback by Marcia Nelson entitled The Gospel According to Oprah. Immediately it had my attention. So much so, that I decided to buy the book, and read through it.

I finished the book Sunday morning, right before leaving my place to attend Morning Worship at The Moody Church (www.moodychurch.org) where I am a regular congregant.

I arrived at the church building, and received a worship bulletin. Much to my surprise, Erwin Lutzer, Senior Pastor of The Moody Church was preaching the second message in a series "The Jesus Deception"--a series of sermons about the misconceptions and lies told about God's only begotten Son--and why we should be aware of these untruths.

The opening quote for his sermon was from Oprah herself: "It is a serious mistake to believe that there is only one way to God. There are many ways to God."

Pastor Lutzer wasted no time in dispelling and rebuffing Oprah's claims. And he did it all without slandering or badmouthing Miss Winfrey as a person. He even mentioned that he had read The Gospel According to Oprah.

I just about fell out of my seat! The message was truly informative, and not a political or personal diatribe against the "queen of television talk." Yet, Pastor Lutzer made no bones about Jesus Christ being the ONLY way to God the Father.

But even so, this book merits a very close reading. And particularly so by the Christian community, and those who are engaged in full-time ministry. The writer, Marcia Nelson, a self-proclaimed "woman of faith" studies Oprah for more than a year. She has made some very keen and astute observations concerning the "attraction"-factor to the whole Oprah enterprise. Here are some of the factors:

Oprah listens.
Oprah encourages.
Oprah provides community.
Oprah exhibits generosity.
Oprah demands accountability.

And there are several more important characteristics that are examined in this short paperback volume.

I would encourage everyone to get the book, read it discerningly and thoroughly. And then reach your own conclusions.

Could it be that Miss Winfrey has learned lessons about "life" and "people" that the Church should be learning and employing?

I think so.

More from the "I've Learned" Department.....

I've learned that you can get by on charm for about fifteen minutes. After that, you'd better know something.

I've learned that you should NEVER be too busy to say "please" and "thank you."

I've learned that money is a LOUSY means of keeping score.

I've learned that you shouldn't have a $1000 meeting to solve a $100 problem.

I've learned that a pig dressed in a tuxedo is still a pig.

I've learned that ANGER manages everything poorly.

I've learned that the person with big dreams is more powerful than the one with all the facts.

I've learned that when I give advice, it's BEST to make it BRIEF.

I've learned that expensive new silk ties are the only ones that attract spaghetti sauce.

I've learned that everything sounds romantic in a FOREIGN language, regardless of what was said!

I've learned the ARK was built by Amateurs, and the TITANIC was built by professionals.

I've learned to never confuse "success" with "usefulness."

So what say ye?

Some of the things that I've learned.....

These bits of wisdom are taken from Live and Learn and Pass It on:

I've learned that it is impossible to accomplish anything worthwhile without the help of other people.

I've learned that it is easier to "keep up" than it is to "catch up."

I've learned that silent company is often more healing than words of advice.

I've learned that even when I have pains, that I don't have to be one.

I've learned that I cannot change the past, but I can LET it go...

I've learned that it's easier to stay out of trouble than to get out of trouble.

I've learned that when you can either be brilliant or pleasant, always choose "pleasant."

So what say ye?