Friday, September 07, 2012

All Good Things...

My last post was #750.  750 posts since starting this blog in 2006.  It's a good number to end with.  I mentioned several blogs back that I was considering closing out my blog so I could focus on some other writing plans.  After much deliberation and prayer, I have decided it's time to stop.  When I started this blog, I had a two-fold intent.  First, I wanted to keep family and friends updated on what was happening in our family.  All my kids had blogs, and it was a great way to keep up with them.  Secondly, I wanted to write up and throw out things that were on my heart and mind - things that were part of my spiritual journey - that might encourage and enlighten others.  I have stayed very true to both of those intents.
With so many people on Facebook, Twitter, etc. and with texting and FaceTime and such being used so heavily, I don't think as many people are checking blogs like they did five years ago.  I know my family stays so connected with those things that using a blog to inform is "ancient" now.  I still love to see the pictures of my grandkids on their mom's blog, but we send as many, if not more, with our iPhones now.  So the family "need" part just isn't as great as it was.  It helps that I am now pretty close to being technically up-to-date since I use my iPhone and iPad for nearly everything I do.
As far as the encouragement and enlightenment part, my sermons are on the church web page each week, as well as the church bulletin with my article.  I plan to do more "devotional" or teaching type articles in our bulletin each week and not as much church info stuff.  AND, Lord willing, I hope to be having my new book published sometime in the not-to-distant future, once I do some editing and find a publisher (piece of cake! NOT!).
It has been fun, though the pressure of not wanting people to check on my blog for days at a time and not find anything new caused me some stress as I tried to do 2-3 blogs each week.  I believe I did some of my best teaching and writing in some of those blogs.  I saw writing a blog as writing an article for a magazine.  When I wrote about THE church, I was talking about the church in general or universal, but some would occasionally think it was about my church family here.  It never was.  When I wrote about struggles, disappointments, or challenges to living a consistent life in Christ, it was never about people or events close to home.  I have never written an article, a blog, or a book, or preached a sermon for that matter, with someone in mind that I wanted to "get" "straighten out" or hurt in any way.  My integrity before God is far more valuable to me than to do something like that.
If you were blessed in any way by something I shared, I am thankful and praise God for that.  If you have been with me through 750 blogs over six years, thanks for sharing the journey, and for allowing me to share my heart with you through, what six years ago was new, but now is an old method of communicating.  What might we be doing five years from now?
God is good, and I give all the glory for anything good to him.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Good Friends - Good Times!

We were blessed to have our good friends, Don and Kathy Rose, with us for the Labor Day Weekend.  We had a wonderful time doing some touring of Forrest Park and the History Museum, and eating at all our favorite places.  Above is Las Fuentes on Saturday.  Notice the multiple bowls of salsa in front of Donna.  They know us so well there that several of the waiters bring her extra bowls - and occasionally a spoon.  Don and Kathy have been special friends since 1998, when we moved to TN, and we have stayed connected over the almost eight years we've lived in Florissant.  They go on all our bi-annual vacation trips with us, and they have come up to nearly every Bible Action Musical each year.  Last year, when they came to visit us over the Labor Day weekend, I informed them that it was a non-negotiable tradition, so they had to come back this year.  They are true friends, who we can count on and they can count on us.  We laughed a lot, played a lot of cards and Fargle (called Farkle by some) and ate way too much - but boy was it good.  It was especially good to have them with us last Sunday to again meet our church family.  God is so good to bless us with wonderful friends, like many in our church family, who we long to be with and who make life such an amazing experience.  The best part is that we're all children of God and heirs of the Kingdom, and we will have all eternity to enjoy being together!
I just happened to think - I hope there's salsa in Heaven!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Young Guns?

We had a special treat this past week.  Last Sunday evening we had a devotional that was led by several of our young boys, and an even larger group of young girls led a devotional on Wednesday evening.  The two groups trained and practiced all Summer long with a couple of our teachers before sharing their talents with us.  It was fun and encouraging to see these young people lead songs, make talks, read scripture, and offer prayers.  I loved the song leaders asking people to stand every time they led a song.  The preference of every song leader!  They all did such a good job, and it was nice to see some young people doing things that many adults seem more and more reluctant to do.
The fear of stand up in front of an audience has always been at the top of a majority of people's list of fears.  One of the great benefits of these young people starting out at such an early age overcoming that fear, is that it will enrich and benefit them for the rest of their lives - if they will continue to participate in such things.  It will certainly place them in the minority of people who have such talents and capabilities.  It brought back a lot of memories for me as I remembers those first times I got up in front of a crowd.  I think it was one of the great benefits of going to a small Christian school starting in the 7th grade.  We had chapel every day, and when I saw that all my buddies weren't afraid to get up and lead a song, read a scripture, or say a prayer - I thought "I can do that," and I did - for six years.  By my Junior year in High School, I was making Chapel talks and preaching occasionally at some area churches.  Overcoming my fear of being in front of an audience (to preach) was not one of the fears I had to work through when I went off to Harding University to get my degree in Bible.
One last thought about seeing young people leading an assembly.  I remember the "old folks" talking about how much they enjoyed it when I led something at church when I was a kid, and I remember thinking "It can't be that big a deal, because I know I'm not THAT good!"  Now, as one of those "old folks,"  I know it's not about "how good" a job I did or they do now, but about seeing young people give, share, rise above their fears, and do something to glorify God.  Even if those things aren't on their mind, it's what they/we "old folks" see - and that is always encouraging to anyone who wants to know that the future looks promising.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

It's Good To Be Like God!

I can be like God!  Really!  This isn't a joke about Doctors or some kind of misguided mythology.  Not only can I be like God, the Bible tells me that is exactly what God expects from me.
Probably one of the most ignored and intimidating verses in the whole Bible is Ephesians 5:1, "Be imitators of God."  I have certainly been guilty of "observing the pass-over" on that verse - which is amazing considering how much I use the verse right before it!  I always connected 4:32 with the "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths," (vs.29) which does seem to conclude with "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Period - new chapter - new verse - new subject!  Wrong.  If the "therefore" had come before that next phrase "Be imitators of God" I wouldn't have been able to miss the connection!  BUT - the call to imitate God is part of forgiving one another the same way God forgives us!  SO - BE LIKE HIM!
What really makes it difficult to deal with is our tendency to automatically associate being like God with ego and/or being in control.  We know that is the wrong mind-set, but we've heard too many jokes and too many stories about people who THOUGHT they were a god.  And then add the other complication of assuming it means being perfect/holy like God.  No problem there- right?  Even when we understand that his grace makes us holy, we know that self-generated perfection is not an option.  So - we end up skipping over this and moving on to the stuff about husbands and wives, and the armor of God.
The beauty of this passage is that the Holy Spirit tells us how we can imitate God.  As "dearly loved children" we "live a life of love."  That life of love is living unselfishly and sacrificially for others - the way Jesus did.  It's not about perfection but about loving others!  Jesus "loved us and gave himself up for us" and that is a "fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."  The Holy Spirit not only defines imitating God, but it gives us the perfect example of what it looks like.  Jesus!  Imitating God is living a life of love for others.  God is love, and love is greater than perfection, but his love for us makes us perfect.  Remember, according to 1 Corinthians 13, love is even greater than faith and hope.
So, in spite of my sin and imperfections, I can be like God.  As I grow in love and learn to love others in an honest, giving, and sacrificial way - I am being like God.  There is no ego, or control, or need to feel superior to anyone, but rather loving others so much, like Jesus did, that I'm thrilled to be His servant and love Him by loving others the way He does.

Friday, August 24, 2012

"The making of many books..."

I mentioned a while back that I was trying to get back into a routine of writing so I could finish a book I have been working on for a long time.  Well, the above picture is of the hard copy I printed off so I could edit the NOW finished book.  It's sitting on my desk, all 284 pages, double-spaced, and loaded with things to rewrite, correct, and - in a few small cases delete.  I've started reading through it for the first time and have been pleasantly surprised that I haven't found a lot of thing from those first days of writing that fit into the "What was I thinking" category.  I'm also adding some discussion questions to the end of each of the seventeen chapters.  While I'm glad to have it finished, at least the core writing part, I'm not excited about the chore of looking for a publisher.  My last published book came out nine years ago.  I actually have another book that I wrote after that entitled The Quest For Gratitude, but the only publisher I sent it to hung on to it for so long and never gave me a commitment, and I just lost interest in working to get it published.  Maybe I'll re-look at it after this one is placed with a publisher.  Anyway, maybe someday, in the not-to-distant-future you may see my new book on a book store shelf somewhere.  For now it's entitled God's Tool Box, an expanded version of some lessons I presented several years ago, and with a lot more stuff to get me in trouble with the Brotherhood Police.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Thinking & Speaking

We've been looking at some selected themes in Proverbs in my Sunday morning class.  Last Sunday we began talking about the need to Think Before You Speak.  My mother use to gently remind me of the importance of that regularly.  One of the Proverbs we discussed was, "A wise man's heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.  Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." (16:23-24)  One of life's greatest challenges is saying the right thing at the right time.  And timing is a huge part of it.  It is no accident that the very next verse is the familiar "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." (v.25)  While our words may not lead to a physical death, they certainly can lead to the end of a relationship.
My "after class thinking" since Sunday took me down a parallel road with that thought.  Sometimes wisdom isn't a matter of saying the right thing at the right time, but simply knowing when to keep your mouth shut.  One of the great lessons I learned from my wife's parents, my in-laws, is if your adult children don't ask for advice - don't give it.  In addition to seeking their own sense of independence, they are also seeking acceptance and affirmation.  They don't always approach life the same way you did when you were there age - so what!  They need to form their own priorities and family traditions just like we did.  Our job is to support and encourage them, and keep our opinions to ourselves unless asked.  My in-laws were the best at that, and I hope we are too.  I'd love to be asked for advice or in-put, if it's really needed, but the one thing I remember clearly about being a young married "out-law" is that need to prove I was capable and worthy, and at times that kept me from seeking guidance that I'm sure would have helped.  And through the years, after that "need to prove myself" became un-necessary, I did want to know "what they thought" about certain things.
I have seen the damage that can be done when wisdom is replaced by opinionated and judgemental thoughtlessness.  "Our way" is not the "best way" - it's just ours, and to selfishly insist on "our way" is the quickest way to have loves ones seek "the highway" and not the one that leads back home.  "Pleasant words are a honeycomb" and maybe that's why a loving, considerate, and wise family spend so much time sharing those words - on the phone, FaceTime, texting, Skyping, and - most of all - being together.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Just a though - from Whom?

It's been a long time since I mentioned it, but I believe there are four elements in our relationship with God.  We must seek him, serve him, sense him, and share him.  That'll preach!  It's not just a nice alliteration, but it's what I see in God's Word.  Seeking is the desire to connect, serving is the obedient response, sensing is the deepening relationship, and sharing is the witness we can't hold back.  Of the four, I suspect that sensing is the one we understand the least and scares us the most.
Our relationship with God is a relationship of faith.  I can't reach over and touch his arm like I can with my wife, but I need a relationship with him that is just as real as the one I have with my wife.  My relationship with God deepens the more we communicate.  That is the most important building block of any relationship.  As we talk more, my faith grows.  As my faith grows, my sense of his presence grows.  I know he is there - now - everywhere I go, and I find comfort in that, rather than feeling trapped.  The greater my sense of his presence, the great my sense of his reality.  It's not just "I believe" but "I know" when I think of him.
The more I sense his presence the more I am aware of his voice.  No, it's not some whispering in my ear or some new revelation, but it is the awareness that godly thoughts, subconscious ideas, and pangs of guilt may not all be just from my thought processes.  God can put a thought in my mind just as surely as Satan can.  Nothing has ever limited or restrained the voice of God except our own hearts.  Closing our ears is something that takes place about fifteen inches lower.  I wonder how many times I have ignored, blocked out, or openly rejected the voice of God?
The next time you get a great idea about serving, helping, lifting up, or just doing what is right - recognize that the voice you're hearing may not be your own.