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Archive for November, 2010

“Get Together”

UPDATE:  It was noisy and busy at our house for the past ten days.  Bedrooms were full.  Conversations were plenty.  Refrigerator was full of food and drink.  Kids and a grand child.  Wow!  What can I say.  It is amazing how a grandchild can change your whole perspective.  Time stood still for me this past several days.  It was very refreshing to see our family together in the same spot.  Mom was in from Marietta.  Jason and Jenn brought Camryn from Maryland on her first trip as a nine week old baby.  Jeremy and his sweet friend Karen were part of our world, and of course Kimberly sweetened up the mixture as well.  I wish I had a 40 acre farm and could allow all of them to live right under my nose on that property.  Getting them together for a brief moment in time was a delight.  They are now spread to the four corners of the job market and back home and I am able to get back to the routine of everyday life.

Funny, it is quiet at my house now.  I like it that way at times and yet inside me moans for more of those early morning conversations and sharing times.  But the quiet gives way to a time of thinking and reflection each morning uninterrupted for a while until the day starts.  When together you long to talk all you can and cram as much in those moments as possible because the inevitability of the “normal” will catch back up with you and sweep the kids back to their own homes and places of employment.  The silence in the room is only broken by Lacey barking at every shadow in the early morning.

The aroma of Christmas is beginning to invade our home.  Outside is lit and decorated.  The Christmas Tree is up, lit with ribbon and streamers topping it off.  I suspect that before the week is over it will be looking a lot like Christmas at our home.  I love homemade cookies and goodies that entice the taste buds.  I can’t wait until the sugar cookies come out of the oven.  Even though quiet, the season will scream loud and I love it.

Verse of the day!

12 When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.

Let’s see.  I have two planned appointments, a Bible Study with a great group of adults, lunch with friends, and a meeting tonight.  There is a staff of seven that will be in the office today and those are the interactions I know about.  I hope to get by the hospital and see some other people before the day ends.  There will be a lot of “get together” moments in my day…opportunities to be “comforted” or “encouraged” that may never repeat themselves.

The words “get together”, “I…You”, “I…yours” caught my attention.  The word encourage caused me to pause as well.  Getting Together is part of the divine plan.  Life is not meant to be enjoyed alone…it is a together deal.  My task is to encourage – “to be strengthened by” is what the word means.  Paul said that he wanted to strengthen them but also he had a need to be strengthened by them as well.

Maybe the job won’t get in the way of the possibilities in the people I meet today!  Maybe that job will be the open door to meet someone new and share life together – strengthen one another.  There is something to gain in giving life away!  That’s the way God made it.

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He didn’t Get It!

22 But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

I remember the feeling I got when preaching in Brazil.  Pastor Joel Baptista was kind enough to carry me each day of the six I was on the field in Rio, to another family who needed to hear the Gospel Story.  He would carry me to places I felt very uncomfortable.  The houses were nasty and poorly built.  One home had chickens walking on the table and there is nothing in the world nastier than a pre-cooked chicken.  Yet in those settings I would share THE Story and one right after another would hear it and be moved.  They would “get it” and it was amazing to me.  I have been in the ministry for years and never in my life did I find the people there in that “have nothing” world like those people who would so easily respond to the gospel.

I have spent 34+ years preaching to some of the most hard core people in the world.  Rich religious people are tough nuts to crack.  And the pews in all of the churches in which I have preached  are filled with people who attend, vote, and think that they are OK because they are rich.  I wish they could be part of this conversation that Jesus was having with America (I mean the Rich Young Ruler).  I was thinking tonight that maybe the poorest people I know may be the riches people I know.  Maybe the truth is that those of us who have the most are the ones that have the greatest trouble “getting it”.  Maybe it is God’s way of asking me to see if I really “get it”.  This young ruler had it all.  And all that he had was getting in his way of “getting it”.  His stuff got in his way.  Here the Lord Jesus, the one who made him, tells him compared to the God of heaven he is just a speck on the earth who sees Jesus and asks what does he have to do to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  He does not know that the Kingdom of Heaven, God’s reign, is so much bigger than he is.  So much so that he is willing to trade the bigness and the awesome nature of God for a house, travel, stuff, banks, etc. He has the audacity to compare his pitiful little stuff on this little earth and say I would rather have it than have Jesus.  And he walks away sad.  What a pitiful commentary.

The fear I have is that have settled for comfort, ease, stuff, security, safety and the ease of the American life, and have lost my daily edge of needing God.  Maybe I don’t need him.  I have insurance if I die.  I have an income that adequately provides for me.  I want a new this or a new that – and it hit me that maybe what I want and the ability I have as an American to get it is getting in the way of me “getting it”.  Maybe I would be sad if God said to me sell all you have and give it to the poor.  This pitiful poor old fool had his eyes on his stuff and not on the greatness and power and ability and sufficiency of God.  He traded all that for a little old house, money, and a desire for more…AND he was satisfied with the condition of his relationship with God.  He wanted more stuff when God wanted him to only want Him.  And the trade off was that he went away sad.

Maybe the saddest people in the world are people, (hard to admit but true, like me) who allow their riches to get in the way of their sold out on fire relationship with God.  Getting a camel through the eye of a needle really is a tough task.  Maybe I am more interested in marketing a church experience that please a compromising complacent complaining crowd who wants me to preach a gospel that gets them more stuff and accommodates their little bit of God, little bit of morals, little bit of church, etc.  I have enough God.  What I want is more stuff.  Don’t bother me preacher…don’t mess with my parade…don’t be pushy preacher…don’t challenge me…I already have my “rich young ruler lifestyle” figured out and I don’t need the truth getting in the way.

I can see Jesus say fellows it is nigh to impossible to get a rich man to give up his stuff for the joy of what is so much greater…

The truth of the matter is that if you “get it” you won’t need all the stuff.  Money does weird things to people.  Stuff does weird things to people.  Money does strange things to me.  A false sense of security accompanies the lack of desire on my part to pray “give me this day my daily bread.”  Some how this rich American discovers that I don’t need God.  I have bread, retirement, insurance, and all the things that I could want.

And that causes me to pause and tremble…as it should!

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One observation worth remembering:  Matthew says that “…as we are going…make disciples”.  I learned something again last night.

God is fishin’ for men and WE are the bait.  Steve Brown helped me to see it.  As I go where ever I go and I never know when the day starts where the day will lead me.   I never know WHO I will meet.  I simply know that God Almighty superintends all the affairs of men.  He sends me out.  He goes fishing.  He has people he wants to hear, see, enjoy, be affected by His Gospel Message.  He uses bait.  We are the bait.  We do not use bait…we ARE the bait.  The bait cannot catch the fish only the Fisherman can.  He takes us and puts us where HE wishes…sometime it is at the hospital, at the office, at WalMart, or at home.  And WE are the bait that attracts the fish.  It is amazing how he uses us – amazing that HE WOULD use some stinking bait like me.  I have to make a decision whether or not to represent well.  He throws me into the lake of pain and folk watch how I respond.  He puts me in line at WalMart and again I get to demonstrate the love of God.  He puts us at the table with a young waitress that is doing her best to get a menu and requests messed up.  He allows us to be the parents of a child that is having a real hard time in life.  God entrusts us with situations that require us to be selfless, humble, patient, kind, generous, and all those other things listed in Galatians.  Throws me out into life to be a living bait on the hook that God puts in front of others and we have to represent well.

I am simply the bait.  HE is the fisherman.  HE knows where to put me so he can attract them using my own testimony and witness.  I watched two yesterday struggle with their commitment to the Lord Jesus.  The way they responded was wonderfully eternal.  New life may have started last night, however, the work is just started.  IT is time to see a disciple grow.

Potter and clay, fisherman and bait, It ain’t our fishin’ trip it is HIS.  And to think that we are invited to go fishin’ with the master.  I was invited to be a part of what HE is up to – What a privilege!

Now the rest of the story.  Grandma’s  a prayin’…and again…we can testify that God was a listenin’ or at the very least the heart of God and the heart of Grandma, seemed to meet in a hospital room.  God’s timing is awesome.  How he gets the parts of the story in line is amazing to me.  Grandma knew.  I have never in my life seen anyone as persistent.  She called the hospital room.  She called everyone she knew to pray for her grandson.  God used a blood clot to put him in a place where he could no longer run.  He had to lay still and trust God.  She called every prayer chain in this part of the country and elsewhere.  People were a prayin’…  God was a listenin’  She cared.  A LOT.  And her prayers bore fruit.  After she called me to see how the fishin’ trip went, I told her she needed to call her grandson and hear for herself.  And she did.  Again!  She called her grandson and he told her of the change in his life to trust God.  She called me, again, this time with tears of happiness and so excited that she wondered if she could sleep.  Thank you Jesus.

Oh, God in heaven for a renewed heart like Grandma’.

By the way, He cleans the ones He catches.  He lovingly asks us to be in the boat with HIM.  I worship God today!

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34 Think carefully about what is right, and stop sinning. For to your shame I say that some of you don’t know God at all.

1 Corinthians 15 is filled with references to dying and then living a resurrected life.  I am not a part of a dead lifeless religion that has no life to it.  I went to a funeral this past week that was a religious ceremony.  Twice in it I wanted to go get the shocking paddles from the emergency room of the hospital and put it on the heart of worship in that place and pull the trigger over and over and over…those leading it were doing everything in the world to zap the life right out of it.  It was so antithetical to the life of the individual we were supposedly celebrating and I know it did not give living credence to the One who gives us life…LIFE that flows from Christ.  I wanted to stand up in the middle of it especially as the priest read from the Apocrypha (no slam there – well yes there is.  However, it is my blog, I can take liberty here…and I don’t care to hear comments about that…) and declare, “She is not dead – She is alive because of Christ – She is alive!”  Here we were in the middle of a large worship center not guarding what we were doing there, a place where a group of Believers in the Resurrected Christ gather to WORSHIP – give worth to the Resurrection and the Life.  Over an hour of unguarded time.  There were three places in the service where life was expressed and I was so thankful that resurrection happens even among the dead.

Guard how we live…The powerful truth of the gospel is that one of these days we will stand before God…staggering truth…Some of us will be stunned because we have spent all of our lives judging God – judging His actions, His thoughts, His ways.  “Why did you do that, God?”  Why did you allow that?”  “Why?”  “How can you possibly say that this is wrong, when it feels so good?”  We will be stunned to realize and discover the truth that He IS the judge and HE will question, judge, hold us accountable for our actions, thoughts, and deeds.

I guess today as I guard my trip to the house of God, I should be very careful to do so with great caution and reflection.  I should be careful how I open my mouth and the vows that I make in His presence.  HE is here.  He IS here.  He is HERE!  Big God!  Little me.  I should keep my foolish mouth shut and listen to the awesome words of GOD and change accordingly!  He invites me to enter his presence because of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.  My invitation is not to do what I want…but to become less of me and more like his Son the Lord Jesus Christ.

Stop sinning!  He made it where we can.  He is in the cleaning business.  Paul says that to their shame some of them don’t even know God.  You can tell by your actions.  They give it away every time.

Ecclesiastes 5 tells us to be careful…guard your steps into the house of God…

CHORUS
He is here, Hallelujah, He is here, Amen
He is here, Holy Holy, I will bless His name again
He is here, listen closely
Hear Him calling out your name
He is here, you can touch Him
You will never be the same
VERSE 1
I sence an awesome moving of the Holy Spirit
I see His countenance resting on your face
I know that there are angels hovering all around us
For the presence of the Lord is in this place
CHORUS
He is here, Hallelujah, He is here, Amen
He is here, Holy Holy, I will bless His name again
He is here, listen closely
Hear Him calling out your name
He is here, you can touch Him
You will never be the same
VERSE 2
I searched for peace among the shadow, dark and lonely
Gave up on finding that strong and lasting love
I tasted all the things that sin could think to offer me
But today I feast on manna from above
CHORUS
He is here, Hallelujah, He is here, Amen
He is here, Holy Holy, I will bless His name again
He is here, listen closely
Hear Him calling out your name
He is here, you can touch Him
You will never be the same
TAG
He is here, you can touch Him
You will never be the same

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Here’s to you, Ed Crooks! Remembering your service to our dear country!

Film Coverage of the bloodiest assault of the US Marines.  I am thankful to God that pops made it off the island alive.  He was part of the group that moved up the mountain to protect the men who placed the flag.  To watch this footage and remember that this is where my father served and the grandfather of my children put his life at risk so that we could have the freedom that we have today takes my breath away.

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It’s about HIM!

27but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,

28and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are,

29so that no man may boast before God.

Good words for a Monday!  Let’s see – foolish things, weak things, base things, the despised, things that are not.  About God it says that God has chosen, God has chosen, God has chosen.  So that no man may boast before God.  Tuesday’s were always interesting at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.   The Weekend Giants would “peacock” their way into the cafeteria strutting around to find the very best seat to spread their feathers so that the most could hear “how things went this past weekend” at their churches.  You could always tell the most spiritual ones because they had suits on with tie all in place, hair not pointing in twelve directions, and a briefcase that was leather and polished.  I guess if you can’t play tennis, the least you can do is dress up.  I still remember one of them who responded to the question raised by one of the lesser peons at the table as to how his perceived his weekend worth of great leadership.  He said, “There was greeeeaaaaattttt singing, grrrreeeeaaaat preaching, (and said quickly and a lot softer) and no decisions.”  I still like the response of the lady who said to the preacher as she walked out the door on Sunday.  She was asked by the pastor what she thought of the evangelist’s thoughts, she said, “Well preacher, he missed several good stopping spots this morning!”

29so that no man may boast before God.  That is so true.  I looked at the list of preachers and members that have been at our church over the past 60 years and I was blown away at how God still takes people like me, uses me, and all for the purpose of giving God the glory.  I am glad that He surrounded me with someone like Daniel Dulaney who was able to fill in for me at the very last moment on a day we celebrated our 60th Anniversary as a church.  Laryngitis is horrible.  Maybe it ain’t so bad…you have to listen more and speak less.   But when you make a living using your voice and it just ups and disappears, you depend on others to be able to step up to the plate and do their thing.  Nancy and Daniel were blessings to me yesterday.  It was an honor to recognize those who have poured 60 years of their lives into something.  Mrs. Mildred Tyner was the charter member present that still attends our church.  She loves the Lord, served her late husband, Wallace, her three sons, and a host of folk at Southside Baptist Church for sixty years.  She did it for the Glory of God.

That is what drives all of us today…giving God the glory…no boasting except in Him…It is not what I do for God but the humbling thought that He would do His great work by using human hands.

I bow before Him this morning.

 

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Becoming What I Am

28 And this is what he says to all humanity:
‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom;
to forsake evil is real understanding.’”

I keep forgetting that Job is not in an expansive American study with thousands of books and references.  He is not sitting comfortably in a recliner while sipping sweet tea as he adjusts the air conditioning to suit his fancy.  No his world is upside down.  I would wonder if your theology is as deep and settled in the context of comfortable as it is when developed in the midst of trials and tribulation.

He was comfortable in his relationship with God.  How many times one gripes and complains at the least bit of discomfort and yet Job’s relationship with the Father…a life of worship and reverence never changed.  I guess that surviving a shot like Job is enduring will focus your life on the things that truly matter.  A reverential fear – respect – consideration – a bending of the will to One far greater than ourselves – becomes an anchor that helps you navigate rough waters and tough winds.  Trust the One that brought you and the One that sustains you in the midst of it all.

Forsake evil.  OK.  Put off the old.  Put on the new.  Put off once and for all the old.  Don’t pick it back up.  It is one thing to declare our allegiance to Christ.  It is quite another to allow our lives to live out our commitment to Him.  Resurrection can only happen after there is a death.  One does not die to self and raise to walk a new life in Christ and continue to lay around in the old death position.  You get up.  Christ left the grave clothes in the tomb.  So should I.  If I have died with Him I also am enabled to rise with Him.  I hear Jesus tell the men around Lazarus who had just been called from death into life – Loose Him and Let him go…take the grave clothes off.  I hear him tell the demoniac flailing around a naked madman to be free from the demons that possessed him and the next thing I see is him sitting clothed and in his right mind.

It is one thing to have a proper understanding of whence true wisdom comes.  However, to act on that wisdom and forsake evil gives evidence that we have real understanding.  It is not the freedom to do what I want.  It is the liberty to do what I ought to do following the truths of Scripture.

Help me God to become what I already am in Christ.

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