Sunday, November 30, 2008

Missed It By That Much!

This is how it looked just out our back door this morning at 7:00. I had mixed feelings about it. First I thought how sad that everybody left yesterday (Saturday) and missed the chance to play in the snow - especially with all the grand kids here. It would be fun to see how Curtis reacted to his first snow. But then, I thought it was probably good that everyone got away before the snow got here - for safety reasons. Of course, the nice part of this snow was that there was nothing on the roads, driveways, or the church parking lot. So I vote for the extra day of family being with us!
I love the way an even small covering of snow makes everything look so clean and new. I always think about the blood of Jesus, which should cause stains, washing away my sins and making me whiter than snow. Wow! How can I not want to seek a deeper relationship with some ONE who does that for me? I truly am valuable to Him - how can I not value Him?
More to follow...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

We missed having Jonathan and Holly with us for Thanksgiving. We had enough food for an army, but we still tried to eat it all. It was awesome.
You can see what most of the "good stuff" was here. Don't let the small plates fool you. They were fixing plates for children on this run.

This is the children's table, or as we call it, the "pre-adult table". Good food, followed by a football game, and then, after the kids where all down for the night, we got out a new game for the adults to play called "Loaded Questions". We laughed way too much for people who had eaten as much as we did. It's been wonderful having everyone here all week. Chad and I even managed to get in a couple of hunts, but the best part is just being together. One of these days, we may even get to have Jonathan and Holly with us.
Hope you had a great Thanksgiving too.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Sorry Buddy, but God said, "Kill and eat" (Acts 10) not "Put together a tossed salad".

Anyone who knows me knows that I talk a lot about being thankful. It's not just something to think about because you're a Christian. Because you're a Christian - it's what you are - a thankful person. Thankfulness may be the single most important element in our walk with God. I know - you're shouting, "What about love?" That truly is the bottom line of our whole journey to God, but I would simply ask, can you learn to love without being thankful? Thankfulness is the foundation of every spiritual quality that we need to grow in. As I've said many times, we can't grow any higher spiritually, than our level of thankfulness. It's the foundation of our relationship with God (and any growing relationship for that matter). Thankfulness toward God means seeing His hand in everything that happens around us and to us. It gives us the sense of His presence that we must have in a relationship of faith. It's the cornerstone of our communication with Him as we thank Him for so much each day. In one sense, thankfulness is communication with God. Who are you thanking if you're thankful for something. Thankfulness is the secret to dealing with life's hardships and problems. Only a thankful life can see the big picture of how much the blessings have over-powered the problems. A thankful life doesn't expect more, demand "why?", or feel like God "owes" them anything. A thankful life treasures every day, enjoys it, lives in peace, and longs to be with the Father for eternity - whether that day comes sooner or later.

Here's that challenge. Most of us think we are thankful people, but we're really not. We are, what I call, situationally thankful and not attitudinally thankful. We appreciate it when good things happen, but we haven't made the decision to see the thousand daily little things that God does that we need to be thankful for. It's a choice. We can start right now to be thankful for everything that's around us, and we will immediately start looking at life, at relationships, and at eternity completely different. Then we will have Thanksgiving 365 days a year.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I Recommend Deception

I love discovering a new author to read. Randy Alcorn isn't new, but he is to me, and I need to thank David Judd for bringing me the above book to read. I generally prefer for someone to just recommend a book. When they hand it to you, you feel a greater obligation to make sure you read it. As it happened, I was just finishing up reading through The Shack for the second time so I could mark it up, and I was ready for another night time book. I immediately enjoyed Alcorn's writing style, and I especially loved his main character in the book, who is telling the story. His sarcasm, comedic cynicism, and quick wit are a joy to read. Those of you who enjoy such things, and see yourselves being described in like manner, will love this. It is one of the best murder mysteries I've ever read, and it all involves cops - at least one of whom seems to be the killer (I don't want to give anything away). It has all the excitement, turns and twists, of a Grisham novel, with the humorous flow of a Nelson DeMille work like The Gold Coast. There is a nicely done sub-plot of his friends talking to him about God, Jesus, the problem of pain and suffering, and some interesting comments from loved ones watching from heaven. It's not heavy discussions, but just an ongoing friend to friend debate, and concern for his emotional and psychological well-being as he blames God for taking his wife and others. He is a riveting character. Part redneck, part scholar, lover of dime detective novels and Sherlock Holmes. His family consists of a huge dog that eats everything he eats, and a large collection of firearms that he has stashed everywhere. You've never read a murder mystery with as many unexpected twists, potential suspects, and pure surprises at this. It's a wonderful page-turner, beautifully written, with clean language, no sex scenes, and some interesting characters that you will want to know more about.

Deception follows two earlier novels that are about the two close friends the main character has in the book. I can't wait to get them. So check it out of the library, buy a copy, or borrow this one from David. You'll love it. Just be ready to have a hard time putting it down.

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's A Letter!

Did Paul know that he was writing down the Word of God when he wrote his letters? Could he possibly imagine that one day his letters, along with several others and four Gospels, would be compiled into THE DEFINITIVE MESSAGE OF GOD TO MAN? Maybe that's not important if God was the master designer behind everything, but still, did he think his letter to Corinth, or any of his letters, was anything more than a letter to a family of disciples to help them understand God's will better?

It seems to me that it would be of immeasurable help for any student of the Word to remember that there is a huge difference in writing a letter and writing a document for the express purpose of being studied. Can you imagine a group of people minutely dissecting one of your letters to find hidden truths, implied meanings, and applicable examples to follow? It's a letter! Because it was a letter, there was no need to explain things THEY mutually understood and knew about. Because it was a letter, from people who had an on-going relationship, they knew why he said what he said, and maybe more important, the tone and the love with which he said it. They had a history, and there was no need to clarify, explain, and update readers he/they never expected to read it.

At the very least, as students and honest interpreters of the Word, we need to remember two things. One, don't waste time speculating about stuff we can't and never will know! 1 Corinthians is an excellent illustration of this, with all the division, spiritual gifts abuse, and failure to consistently grow in love for one another - they knew everything Paul was talking about - including their agape meals, their women prophets, and the self-centered tongues speakers. They knew who was messing with their heads about the resurrection. So why are so many so attracted to arguing and trying to figure out what Paul was talking about with these things? It's a letter! Find the principle - move on.

And the second thing, quit looking for patterns to follow. With so much information not being given - because it's a letter - how can we possibly believe that the Holy Spirit was trying to give us a "pattern to follow" to be "faithful Christians"? Since when did God make His will known to His followers by requiring them to discern the hidden pattern and assume it is synonymous with His will/plan? It's a letter! Find the principle - move on!

Again, what irony? Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians to get them to focus on the truly important things and quit getting distracted with stuff that - either isn't as important, or is simply a tool to help them stay focused! And even then, they weren't using the tool for what God intented. So what's his message? Focus on Jesus! Focus on growing in love! Yet, what do with do that that very letter? Argue about the details. It's probably the most fought over battle ground in the Bible. It's a letter! A love letter! Learn the principle and move on.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Three Cheers for Dad

About 15 to 20 of us have been meeting on Wednesday morning at 5:30 A.M. for a special men's class. It's call the Men's Fraternity and the subject is "The Quest For Authentic Manhood". It has really been interesting and thought provoking. The DVD teacher is Robert Lewis, a minister and author out of Little Rock, and he has some quality material that every man needs to hear - especially young fathers. He has been sharing some challenging material lately about father and son relationships, mostly from the angle of how adult men carry around a lot of baggage, wounds, and bad habits from our fathers. Not everyone - since many did have great dads, but a lot of us didn't - or maybe had no dad around at all. He's called for a lot of soul-searching and for men to work through any of the things that hinder us from being great dads and husbands. At my age, with grown kids, and having worked through all my baggage many many years ago, I truly don't feel any sense of "being wounded" or cheated or being the victim of a poor role model. God used my experiences to mold me into the person I am today and it took both the good and the bad. I made a conscious decision about what kind of dad I was going to be after seeing some pretty amazing dad's in action. I might not have made the same decisions if I'd had a bad role model around to copy when I was a kid.
Most of my reflection in the class has to do with what kind of dad I WAS not what kind of dad I missed out on. Dr. Lewis has been strongly making the point that there are three essential things that every child needs to hear from their dad. 1) I love you; 2) I'm proud of you; and 3) You're good at... (some strength or affirmation). I love tight - three point lessons, but this is one I learned before our first child was born. Our children heard all three of these often from both of us, and the truth is, we've never stopped saying it - we've just added grand children to the mix.
So maybe, when my three adult kids sit in a class some day and are challenged to confront their "Father Wounds" - they'll feel free to reflect on something else, unless you count making them listen to "Oldies" music all the time as psychological abuse.
If you haven't heard of those three "essentials" for every child to hear from their dad, jot them down somewhere and use them - and share them.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Bottom Line

Several years ago, I stuck a sticky-note on my computer that said, "So What?". It was a reminder note that my sermons need to have a clear point, a specific purpose, and a challenge for us to change. I began adding a line on the final draft of my sermon outline, just under the title and before the Introduction that says "Bottom Line". I force myself to write a one sentence summary of the lesson. This helps me stay focused on the "So What" of my lesson and also keeps me true to my goals of being simple, logical, and biblical.
In tomorrows lesson on 2 Thessalonians 3:6-18, where Paul warns them about idleness and how to deal with brethren who are guilty, I was impressed with his unspoken Bottom Line. I wonder if it was on Paul's outline somewhere. The reason it's unspoken is because it's the foundation Bottom Line for most of what our spiritual journey is all about. Be a giver not a taker.
Those who were idle at Thessalonica, or anywhere for that matter, are takers. They want everyone else to take care of their needs, make them feel good, give them what they want, sing their kind of songs, pay for all the costs, and demand nothing in return. They probably even used some doctrinal arguments about the Lord coming back at any moment to justify their non-actions.
Look at that description again. Not only does that describe a lot of folks in the church today, but because of our obsession with, and elevation of, the assembly, it's why so many congregations are having worship wars all across the country. When you put a bunch of takers together, the goal becomes comfort, predictability, and security. They don't want to hear about relationships, giving, love, truth, and transformation. Their Bottom Line: "If I don't get what I want, I'll find a place that will give me what I want. And I can even quote you some verses from the Bible to prove my point!"
Paul's command to the church was to quit enabling those idle brethren. If they don't work, they don't eat! I think his Bottom Line was - do what you have to do to help them go from being takers to becoming givers.
I many congregations are run by the takers rather than the givers? Givers see opportunities to give. Takers are all about receiving. Remember which one Jesus said was "blessed"?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ramblings On Politics

A passage that has always been very interesting to me is 1 Timothy 2:1-3. Paul said, "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Savior..." We don't reflect much on what this tells us about our relationship as followers of God to our government. How is it that God could want those early Christians to pray for an evil, totalitarian, repressive, blood-thirsty, ungodly, and idolatrous government? Why not call on His people to rebel and revolt and overthrow Rome so a good and virtuous form of government, like the one we have, could be installed? Maybe it's as simple as what I keep hearing Jesus say, "My kingdom is not of this world."

Don't misunderstand what I'm saying. The blessing of living in a free country is wonderful - but unique. Very few people, past and present, have been part of a true democracy. We are blessed to be able to vote and choose our leaders, who will in turn, pass the kind of legislation that we want. Our constitution says that we have that right. But that's a privilege those early Christians couldn't even fathom. I believe that I have a responsibility to obey my government, fight and defend it, and do what I can to keep our rights and privileges as a citizen of this great country. I can and should try to change it in whatever ways I have the right to change it - to make it better. But my kingdom is not of this world. Those early brethren prayed for a government that persecuted Christians, enslaved millions, and was wicked to the core. Should I pray for a government that won't protect the unborn, that promotes immorality, ignores spiritual values, and uses my taxes for things I don't support or believe in? Yes. What if I were born in communist China? What if my country's leader was a wicked despot? What if my country was killing Christians, like is happening in Africa? Yes - I would pray for it.

We have to look to God for our values, not our government. We must do our duty as submissive citizens, but we must first, last, and always be citizens of heaven. We must be thankful for our rights, but not confuse them with righteousness. That's exactly the battle our country is fighting right now. Our constitution, our legislature, and our courts are charged with protecting our rights, but our rights may not always have anything to do with righteousness. Where in the Bible would you go to prove that we have "inalienable rights... to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"? I love it, but these, according the the New Testament, only have real meaning and fulfillment in Jesus.

So what am I saying? 1) Be thankful to be in such a wonderful country; 2) Be a good, responsible, and submissive citizen; but, 3) Don't be surprised when your government allows things that your belief system abhors. Remember, rights and righteousness are not the same thing, and will, inevitably be in conflict with one another.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Be Still My Heart!

I started bowhunting in 1979. I can't begin to guess how many days hunting I've had since then. One of the things that always made me sad was to come home to my family, tired, but exhilarated from a day in the woods, and have them ask, "Did you get anything?" And of course the answer was usually "No." I've told many people on many occasions that bowhunting is about the experience - if you HAVE to bring home some meat for the freezer, take a gun. Most people don't get it because most of life's endeavors involve some type of achievement before it has meaning. This morning illustrates my point.
It was a cold, but still, 27 degrees when I began walking to my stand. I could tell it was going to be a beautiful morning even though it was still dark. I did, however, make a big mistake by hiking with my heavy coat and coveralls on instead of carrying them to the stand and then putting them on. I was dripping with sweat by the time I climbed into my stand and that's a good way to insure getting cold real quick. Within thirty minutes, I was cool, but a little buck coming down the hill to my left got the blood pumping again and it never had a chance to slow down. He was a little 1x2 and he ate down the hill on my left, stopping for long minutes to look all around, circled below me, grazed off to my right, only to reappear a few minutes later and come up the hill on my right. Thirty minutes of close deer watching and I wasn't busted. Ten minutes later, a small spike came up the hill on my left - oh so slowly - and just stood ten yards away looking all around. Another fun watch w/o being seen. I was spoiled by then so when 45 minutes went by with no sightings, I decided to try some "hunting stuff". I used my doe bleat and grunt tube to simulate a buck chasing a doe in heat. I barely put it back into my back pack when the BIG BOY came trotting in. I mean big! Not a "nice buck" like you say about a good 8 or ten pointer. This guy was "nice" like Bill Gates "has some money". He was standing 45 yards away before I could react. I grabbed my bow, though I wanted desperately to use my binoculars, but I didn't dare. He stood tall and proud, looking all around for the noise makers, and when he didn't see them, he immediately turned and trotted away. That's how big bucks get to be big bucks. He knew that if he didn't see what he thought he heard, something was wrong.
BE STILL MY HEART! He was the kind of buck you dream about but never see live in your life time.
Two more little bucks entertained me for awhile after that. A really tiny spike and a little 7 pointer, both stood ten yards away eyeing all around - including my tree and - in 15 minutes - never saw me. I literally had my left hand up over my face to break up the white showing between my nose and hat. Later, when I hiked out, I found over a dozen fresh buck rubs. Ah - what works of art.
Before I got out of my car as I pulled into my garage, the IL landowner called me to tell me he saw a huge buck run through the field behind his house at 12:30 in the afternoon. In the house, there was a phone message from Danny Younger saying he had a huge 8 pointer standing in his driveway when he came home for lunch.
"Did you get anything?"
A day in God's outdoors and loads of memories? Yes, I got something.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Happy Genes

With Donna down visiting her folks, after finding out that her Dad's cancer has returned, this picture made me think about her. I miss seeing her at this computer playing her favorite game - Solitaire. I know that they are glad to have her there for a few days, but that is one of the things that makes Donna so special. Everyone likes to have her around. I've known a lot of people in my fifty-seven years, but I know no one who is as genuinely positive and chronically happy as Donna Sue Root. A big part of that comes from her genes. So, while I pray for her to have a safe trip and to return soon, I continue to pray for her parents. I couldn't have had better in-laws if I'd picked them out of a catalogue. They are dearly loved by children, grand children, and great grand children, and all of us who came into the family after a marriage ceremony. I've been blessed so much to be part of the Curtis family for nearly thirty-six years now - and God "aint done yet"!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Reflecting On Obama

I liked Barack Obama from the first time I heard about him and heard him speak four years ago. I even agree with several of his political ideas for the country. But, as I mentioned a few blogs back, I can't in good conscience vote for anyone who is not interested in protecting the lives of the unborn. That having been said, I'm still excited about our new President elect. I never liked and I reject all the fear-mongering that has been flooding my emails and being spoken by many who think anyone new is going to cause our country, our constitution, and our rights to be discarded. I'm excited that so many seem to be energized by him and have a sense of hope about the future. Anything that restores some good feelings about our government, especially our executive branch, has got to help. I'm excited about having some new thinking, some young thinking, in our leadership. It brings back good feelings to think of kids in the White House again, and having a good, healthy family for so many to see and emulate. I'm excited to have someone sharp and articulate as my leader who can handle interviews and spontaneous questions, and look cool and calm while doing it. And I'm especially proud to see anything happen that destroys those racial barriers that have been ugly scars on our America the beautiful.
He will be my President - not a party leader, but my President! And I wish him success, because I want our country to have success. I will pray for him, like I have for every one of my Presidents since I started praying. I pray that as he helps to build national and international pride in America, he will help our nation rebuild a strong sense of values and integrity.
I am thankful for President Bush. I truly believe that he is a good man and that history will show him to be a far more effective President than the popular polls do now. I personally believe that his biggest mistake was poor public relations more than poor leadership. Nevertheless, if Obama can help heal our nation and unite the divisive partisanship that has been growing for twenty years - may God help and bless him, and may all of us support him.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Control Nut Test

I thought this was an appropriate election day picture. I took it last week when two trees across the street were so full of color. I was only going to take the one picture below, but as I stood there, I saw the Stars and Stripes blowing behind it and I decided to take this. The picture below shows the location a little better. The two bare trees are the ones I usually take pictures of as they've been bright yellow every year, but this year, our first non dry Fall, they just turned brownish yellow and fell off. The next neighbor over had the pretty trees this year. I wish we had some trees in our yard - but then again - we have a pond.
My family would have enjoyed my comments Sunday morning about why we like to control our future by planning and being time conscious. Some of us are a little more OCD than others. Like I said Sunday, I like to think of it as being more organized than others. Anyway, as per the previous blog, I though I'd share The Control Nut Test I came up with as part of my Introduction for my lesson Sunday.
Are You A Control Nut?
1. You're 30 minutes into a trip and you realize that you've left your watch at home. Would you...
A. Turn around immediately and go get it.
B. Tie your cell phone to your wrist and use it as a watch
C. It would never happen! It's impossible for you to go 30 minutes without checking your watch.
2. When you go on a vacation...
A. The only thing unplanned is the potty breaks
B. You never lose your sun glasses because they're always with your Day Timer
C. You take comfort in knowing that if you ever get stranded, you can always build a bond fire with all the maps, menus, and budget sheets you have with you.
3. When you go shopping for Christmas...
A. You prefer the "after Easter sale" over the 4th of July sale
B. Your shopping list is alphabetical, chronological, and interchangeable with birthdays and anniversaries
C. You think that clocks, watches, and egg timers are universally appropriate gifts for all ages
4. During the Sunday morning assembly (called church by some)...
A. Checking your watch is an "act of worship"
B. You've trained your stomach to growl at 11:30 (or whenever your assembly is supposed to end)
5. You may be a control nut if...
A. You plan to retire but fail to repent
B. You insure every possession but possess no salvation
C. You love to be known as a Christian, but you don't do anything to love Christians
D. You find it impossible to believe that Jesus will return before you decide to Be Real!
The real problem with being a control nut, is that we are trusting ourselves more than we are God. Maybe that's part of the freedom He wants us to have. Free from trying to think we are in control of anything.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

If It Fits...

Conspiracies are exciting, truth is mundane. At least that seems to be the way most of us think. It's much more exhilarating to think of a CIA conspiracy behind the JFK assassination than to think one crazed "nobody" was able to kill the most powerful man in the world. The examples are endless, but I can't help but wonder if the same mental tendencies that causes so many to love conspiracy theories isn't the same as what causes so many to focus so much of their spiritual energy on Revelation, prophecy, and any apocalyptic sections of the Bible? Simple explanations just don't work, because it's more exciting to speculate, wonder, read-between-the-lines, and play theological detective than it is to admit that we don't - and can't - fully understand the meaning of something that involved symbols and language that only contemporary Christians understood.
I've been studying 2 Thessalonians 2 all week and trying to decide how to preach it Sunday morning. This is one of the toughest passages in all the New Testament to understand. It talks about the Second Coming not happening until after the great rebellion or apostasy and it has a long condemnation of the "man of lawlessness" Who is, or was, that guy? The opinions are Legion, and there's more comparisons there than I have time to make. I've heard plenty of Bible teachers (especially from my early years as a young Christian) declare that it was the Pope. Others say it was a Caesar, or all of them. There are many ideas - most, like the way Revelation is interpreted, are conclusions based on the "it fits" approach to figuring out the Bible. It fits? How many JFK theories are based on "It fits"?
Paul clearly says this was a subject they had talked about when he was with them. Since it's a personal letter to the same people, there is no need to explain who and what he is talking about. So here's a novel theory - we don't know! Why is that so hard for us to live with? This speaks to how and why we study God's Word. It's not about figuring out puzzles but seeking the spiritual principles. Paul's principle is: quit trying to be in control of the future. Trust God! I've got four education degrees and thirty-five years of preaching/teaching/studying experience and I'm totally comfortable saying "I don't know." It sure makes for a short discussion of Revelation, Ezekiel, and 2 Thessalonians 2.
That being said - the "Man of Sin," the "Man of Lawlessness," and the "Anti-Christ" is Darth Vader. It fits.