Archives For Erich Bridges

Ten years ago March 4, a bomb planted at a Philippine airport by a Muslim rebel group killed 23 people — including one American, a Southern Baptist missionary named Bill Hyde.

It’s ironic that Hyde, 59, died at the little airport in Davao City where he’d walked countless times — a place considered safe. He had made a habit of going into some of the most dangerous places in the Philippines. Places where you could get kidnapped, shot at, or worse, especially if you were a foreigner. He’d just returned from such a place that day.

Why did he willingly go to those dangerous places? After surviving the Vietnam War more than 30 years before, he vowed never to leave the United States again — or if he did, never to go anywhere near Southeast Asia. To understand his change of heart, you have to understand Hyde.

He grew up in a small farming town in Iowa, the home state he shared with his movie hero, John Wayne. He was a big, athletic kid with a ready smile — and ready fists. “His nickname was ‘Slugger,’”…

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Color.ofCross.pcom_-300x231Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

Regret is a painful thing. We look back on the foolish things we have done and the good things we have left undone. We lament wasted years, wrong attitudes, hurts inflicted on others, missed opportunities.

Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse, spent years caring for patients in their last days. She identified the most common regrets they expressed about their lives in an article, and later a book, titled “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.” They are:

1. “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

“This was the most common regret of all,” Ware writes. “When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.”

2. “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”

“This came from every male patient that I nursed,” Ware reports. “They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also…

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Legendary NBA basketball coach Pat Riley has led multiple teams stocked with superstars, so he knows something about dealing with egos.

He also knows about winning and losing. What prevents potentially great teams from winning championships, in his view? Not lack of size, speed or talent. Rather, they are sabotaged by what Riley calls the “disease of Me.” Selfish stars focus on themselves. They resent others getting any glory. They’re frustrated, even when the team is winning, if things aren’t going their way.

“The most difficult thing for individuals to do when they become part of a team is to sacrifice,” Riley says. “It is much easier to be selfish.”

That pretty much describes the central challenge of the spiritual life. Following Christ requires sacrificing your own agenda. To do that, you have to get your eyes off yourself — and onto Him. You don’t have to be a superstar to struggle with that. As human beings, our natural tendency is to focus on ourselves, our wants and our needs. Others, including the Lord, get the leftovers.

“I start many sentences both out loud and in my heart with the words,…

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Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq was known as “the republic of fear” among opponents — those who were still alive, that is.

The deposed dictator, who was hanged in 2006, so effectively instilled dread among Iraqis during his decades in power that the mere rumor of a visit from his henchmen was enough to make most citizens tremble and submit.

It’s an old tactic in the tyrant playbook: Rule by fear. Spill plenty of blood early on. Pit various social, ethnic and religious groups against each other. Crush any hint of resistance. Later, you can make a bloody example of the odd rebel here and there — or even a random victim plucked off the street — to keep the rest of your subjects anxious. They must believe that you have eyes, ears and knives everywhere. If you’re a good tyrant, you probably do.

Arab strongmen who have fallen from power more recently used the same methods to greater or lesser degrees, until their populations had enough.

“The Arab awakenings happened because the Arab peoples stopped fearing their leaders,” writes New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman of the Arab Spring revolutions. “But…

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He didn’t have time to encourage a confused kid, but he did anyway.

He was Hoffman Harris, the busy pastor of fast-growing Briarlake Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga. The confused kid was me.

I was a new member of his church back in the ’70s. I was finishing college and struggling with a call to serve God. Pastor Harris had sermons to write and things to do. He had hundreds of other people and priorities clamoring for his attention. But he made time on a regular basis to talk to me, patiently answer countless dumb questions and connect me to key people he knew from his many years in ministry.

When I became a Mission Service Corps volunteer with the Home (now North American) Mission Board, he persuaded an understandably doubtful mission committee at Briarlake to provide partial support for an untested, untried young man. After I left the Atlanta area to join the IMB staff in Richmond, Va., he kept in touch with me — more faithfully than I kept in touch with him.

There was something about “Hoff.” When he preached or talked to you, he…

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A letter recently published on my local newspaper’s editorial page helpfully summarized the view of many secular folks when it comes to religious expression in public.

We “stand for separation of church and state,” the letter writer declared. “Pick your religion, believe what you want, pursue greater knowledge toward that end. Do it for yourself — and keep it out of public discourse. That’s where the  left stands.”

I appreciate his honesty, if not his all-too-common misunderstanding of church-state separation. Open hostility toward freedom of speech is better than paying lip service to it while working behind the scenes to silence it. Either approach, however, is wrong.

“Keep your views about God and His commandments to yourself,” society increasingly tells believers — particularly conservative evangelicals, traditional Roman Catholics and Orthodox Jews. “Socially accepted truths and morals have progressed beyond your antiquated theologies. If you can’t embrace the new normal, just keep your mouth shut. If you don’t, we’ll shame you, shut you down, call you a bigot. We might even take you to court and charge you with ‘hate speech.'”

Such responses to religious speech undercut the spirit of the First…

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Don’t just do something; stand there.

Better yet, kneel there. Be there.

It’s easy to switch the verbs in the old, accusatory challenge to do something — anything — rather than stand around. Lots of preachers, speakers and writers invert the familiar phrase to encourage us to slow down and be still. But it’s hard for us action-oriented Americans to stop and just be. Inaction, even for a moment, seems lazy, unproductive, even weird. We should be multitasking.

Stillness? It’s a little scary.

Yet stillness is where we meet God. To be His heart, His hands and His voice — IMB’s overarching theme for 2012 — we must lay aside the sound and fury of our ceaseless activities, our personal priorities and our very selves to encounter Him. We need His heart to make a difference in the world, not our divided, selfish hearts. His hands do the healing, not our powerless hands. His voice cuts to the core of searching souls, not our meaningless chatter.

“If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me,” Jesus says. “For whoever wants to save his…

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Is your church defined more by its reaction to “boring” churches than by its response to a needy world?

I had to sympathize with rock singer Bono when he discovered he was uncool.

Uncool? The frontman for supergroup U2, one of the biggest bands in the world? The activist who travels the globe and meets with kings and presidents? The guy so hip he probably wears his trademark designer shades in the shower?

Yep. Uncool. He learned the hard truth a few years ago from his teenage daughters. First off, to teenage daughters a dad is uncool by definition, especially if he’s pushing 50 (Bono was 48 at the time). But they were particularly mortified when he droned on and on about global issues while some other celebs were visiting their home. He overheard one daughter telling the other, “He’s probably boring their off talking about Africa.” Actually, he admitted, “I probably was.”

The horror. I can relate.

In truth, I’ve been uncool so long that I no longer know (or care) what is cool. I haven’t even heard the bands that were topping the charts 10 years ago, much less…

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A missionary with years of experience in the Muslim world was visiting back home in the United States when he struck up a friendly conversation with an immigrant shop owner.

“I said, ‘Thanks for coming to America,'” the missionary recalls. The shop owner was moved almost to tears. “He put his arms around me and said, ‘You’re the first person who has ever welcomed me to this country.'”

During the same U.S. stay, the missionary spoke at a church in a Southern town. Before he arrived there, a member of the church surveyed the community’s 20 or so Muslim families. Some of them had lived in the area as long as 10 years. The church member asked them if anyone in town had ever visited to tell them about Christ. No, they answered. Had anyone ever mentioned the name of Jesus to them? No. What was their chief emotion about living in America?

“We’re so lonely,” they responded. “No one ever talks to us. No one wants to hear our story. No one wants to have a meal with us.”

The immigrants arriving in America these days include people who are…

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Easter is coming. It’s the day we mark the biggest moment in history: the moment the resurrected Christ conquered sin and death.

A few years ago I shared some “little Easters,” the quiet epiphanies that continue to reveal His risen presence on the move around the world. Here are a few more.

STEPPING UP — “This is what we’ve been waiting for, praying for: Zambian people telling Zambian people about Jesus!” reports an IMB mission team in Africa. “Recently an 18-year-old, blossoming preacher-in-the-making traveled more than three hours by public transportation and his own two feet to encourage the new Litoma Baptist Church.”

The small congregation, only 6 months old, had barely begun when the missionary couple who helped them get started returned to the United States for a time. The fledgling church’s members needed support and reassurance. The young “Timothy” taught the older members, and during a revival weekend, 18 new people came Sunday morning.

“Thank you, Lord, for making this young man missions-minded for his own people!” the IMB team prays. “Thank you that he refused to let anyone look down on him because of his youth (see 1…

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