Tuesday, May 31, 2011

God's Incredible Children

I have truly enjoyed, and been inspired by, my own personal study and preparation for the series of lessons I've done in May called God's Incredible Family. I did one lesson on what it means to be the family of God, and then I did lessons on Moms, Budgets, Dads, and last Sunday, Children. This last one was the only one I had a little trouble with. I didn't want to just do an old rehash of Jesus with the children in Matthew 18 - but then - I really looked at. You can listen to it on the church web page, but I wanted to share what I called Three Challenging Principles from Matthew 18:1-14.
1. A child was Jesus' best illustration of greatness in God's kingdom. (vs.1-4) Wow! Just think about what that means! Of all the things he could have chosen - he picked children as a powerful example of what God is looking for! What is greatness in God's eyes? A humble seeking heart! But here is the point from this that grabbed me - it's not just an illustration but a declaration! Children are in the kingdom of God and HE dearly loves them. It's not just a symbol but real! Everything else he says is supporting that fact!
2. Jesus clearly proclaims God's love for children! (vs.5-9) He warns anyone who would mislead them: 1) To welcome them is to welcome him; 2) If you cause them to sin - it's better to die! 3) If you are a Sin Carrier = cause others to sin = you need radical surgery! Then he warns anyone against minimizing their importance. 1) They have angels watching over them w/ direct access to God (vs.10), and they are individually more important than the whole. (vs.12-14)
3. Jesus presents one of the most challenging demands of His ministry! (vs.3) He declares it a truth = fact, indisputable, that gives us insight to God. He demands that we "change and become like little children." Spiritually speaking, the older you get in Christ, the more child-like you become. That's not what we see in many "older" Christians today! He wants to see humility (Importance comes from God); seeking (a heart wanting to know God), and the rejection of worldly greatness (what makes someone great and what makes a church great). He is clear about the failure to follow his challenge. "You will never enter the kingdom of heaven!" That's more than eternity with God in heaven - it is the spiritual world of God now!
With all the things we fuss and fume and divide over, there is nothing about what Jesus wants here that is hard to understand. He and His Father are always clear about what they really want! Maybe we're too grown up to "get it"!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Real Outback

It has been awhile, so I thought I'd say it again. I love our back porch. Here we are in the last days of May, and we're finally getting some nice days of consistent warm Spring weather. Our back porch is so peaceful that I love to sit out there and enjoy the flowers and the wildlife, and just relax for a while. If you look really hard (or click on the picture and zoom in) you'll see the Humming bird feeder at the far end of the porch. I love watching them. They're pretty and they are amazing. They come in so quickly and zoom away so fast that it's really difficult to even see them, let alone get a picture.

These are some of the flowers we got this Spring just to add some color to the view on the porch. Before I put the feeder up, the Humming birds would feed straight from the flowers. Neat to watch!

I did manage to get this picture of a Humming bird coming in to feed. I really was only about eight feet away and I had my zoom on full. If your computer will let you, click on the picture and zoom it in for a great up close look at a very beautiful part of God's creation. Hopefully they'll keep showing up when all the grand kids are here next week.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

God's Incredible Dads

FYI: Just wanted to share my points from last Sunday's lesson on God's Incredible Dads. I know it's a month until Father's Day, but, like I said about Moms, any and every day can and should be Father's Day. To any of my young preaching buddies - feel free to use any or all of the following if you're looking for a good Father's Day sermon. As I say often, "That'll preach!"

Ten Traits of Real Dads
1. Real Dads should be grown-ups! (Mature, priorities straight, & unselfish - Heb.5:11 - 6:3)
2. Real Dads want to be real men not peer wimps! (Stop trying to impress guys who haven't learned point #1)
3. Real Dads are heroes at home - first!
4. Real Dads value trust and integrity! (Small compromises for you become life changing rationale for your child later!)
5. Real Dads love and honor their wife! (Best thing you can do for your children! Say it, show it, make it clear!))
6. Real Dads respect their wife and demand the same from everyone in the family!
* Respect her work, her opinions, and her needs. Eph.5:25-33
* Defend her to kids, relatives, and everyone else!
7. Real Dads are thoughtful!
8. Real Dads are thankful! (Secret to a successful marriage & to being thoughtful)
9. Real Dads are developing a deeper relationship with Jesus! (Not arrived, but journey. Talk to Him = being thankful)
10. Real Dads see souls not just kids! (Priorities: "What does it profit a man..." and peace. The only way to live in a real life and death world.)
Conclusion: Notice I said very little about what to teach your children. Why? What they see is more important!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The $500 Cake

If you've ever wondered what a $500 cake looks like, take a close look at the one in the picture. It's a German Chocolate Cake, lovingly named five years ago as The Cootie Cake, because of the chocolate candy swirls on top. You've got to be old to remember The Cootie Game. Anyway, Donna made this for our annual Dessert Auction last night. It is a fund raiser for our Teen Mission trip this year to Mexico. I was planning to bring it back home - cause it's a great cake - for $100, but the opening bid was $200. The bidding was hot & heavy between a group who pooled their money together and a good friend who LOVES Donna Root's cakes. He won the bidding with $500 and had to run home to get his check book. Wow! Donna has made this cake every year and the highest it's brought in was $300. She wasn't even going to make it this year, but one of the organizers called her and asked her to make it - since it always made so much money.
It was a fun time together. I haven't heard what the total amount raised was, but I'm sure it was a lot. I hope my good buddy Steve Smith enjoys every slice of that cake. I know he enjoys knowing he helped a worthy mission effort.
Just a family note! Just for future references - when you make food requests for Nana, remember which one is NOW the MOST VALUABLE! Isn't that like $50 a slice?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sharing With The Family

This morning the cast sang one of the praise songs from this year's play. It's something we've done every years since we starting doing the annual musicals six years ago. Not only does it give us a chance to show off a little of what is in the play, but it allows us to get the rest of the church family excited about what the play will be like. We need members to help us hand out advertisements and personally invite people to come to the play. This helps get them motivated.

We had a few cast members out of town today, but the group did a great job. They sang one of our Southern Gospel songs from one of the Gaither Homecomings. They did Shouting Time In Heaven and did a little "rockin' out" as you can see in the above picture. They're clapping - just in case you were wondering why their hands where up. It will be interesting to see how "involved" the audience gets this year. You can also see some of the set that is partially constructed.

I mentioned this morning that starting today (Sunday) we can start saying that the play is next week. We've still got a lot to do, but it will be great. Hope you can see it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Reading Material?

A friend sent me this picture the other day. It had the caption "Volume One, On Understanding Women". I was going to use it my lesson this Sunday about "God's Incredible Dads" with a point about "Real Dad's recognize that they will never totally understand their wife." I decided it wasn't worth the effort for a brief laugh. I am intrigued by the picture above. It seems to me that there are many other potential captions that would fit. Here are my Top Dozen ideas.

1. "This is the latest commentary on the Silence of Scriptures"
2. "A few wise saying for my kids"
3. "Some Random Additions to my books on Worship"
4. "Things I don't like about other drivers"
5. "I'm tolerant, but these are a few opinions I have about bowhunting"
6. "Vol. One: Things I Shouldn't Have Said"
7. "So, you wanted to see how much a Flash Drive really holds?"
8. "A Short List of the Only Candy I Can Eat"
9. "600 Blogs - Now available for purchase!"
10. "An outline of Sunday's Lesson on 'The Pragmatic and Utilitarian Aspects of the Documentary Hypothesis' with discussion questions"
11. "Our Tax records so far in 2011 of our trips to Fritz's for Frozen Custard"
12. "Things in the Cabela's catalog I've highlighted for Christmas"

Any ideas?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

One Blog At A Time...

My previous post was my 600th post on this blog. Wow. I know it's an overused cliche' but it really does seem like just a short time ago I began this adventure. At the time, all three of our kids (yes, they're all thirty-something) had blogs and it seemed like a great way to share pictures, thoughts, and inspiration with them and anyone else who cared about us. I have tried to do two or three blogs a week and I try to keep it a mixture of personal/family stuff and devotional/inspirational stuff - and of course, sometimes it's a mixture of both. A lot of other peoples blogs have come and gone over the last five years that I've been doing this one, and frankly, I'm still a little surprised that I enjoy it and still do it. It's very difficult to "have" to write something, but most of the time I have so many things running through my mind that it's more a matter of "which" than "what"? I have been surprised to hear from people from all over the country who say they read it regularly so comments, or lack thereof, isn't a good measure of its reach. I'm surprised that there are nearly a thousand hits a month, but then, a hit doesn't always mean a reading. And one of the more interesting things I've had to teach myself about writing a blog is to not let it be a measure of love and friendship. Sometimes, the people you love the most and want to stay in touch with the most, don't see reading my blog as a test of their loyalty and love. I know that. In fact, I learned that a long time ago when I'd give copies of one of my books to family or friends - assuming they would devour it with as much passion as if it had been written by Swindoll, Lucado, or even the Holy Spirit - only to find out mouths later that it went straight to the shelf, just under the unread Reader's Digest. We must be careful about personal tests of love, just as the church should about tests of faithfulness.
Anyway, after rattling on for so long with this present "masterpiece"(?), I do want to thank any and every person who has checked in on my weekly compositions of family memories, pet peeves, wild theology, and occasional wisdom. Hopefully something in one of these 600, I mean 601, blogs has blessed you in some way. If it is the Lord's will, I plan on doing a few more.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Paul's Rights?

I can't remember a time when I complained about my salary as a minister of the Gospel. My brethren have always taken great care of me and my family. I haven't asked for a raise since our second child was born in the late seventies, and I've never moved to another church family for a salary increase. It was always a lateral or less financial move. I am thankful that the "vow of poverty" is not one of the Catholic traditions we still keep today (among others that we do).
So, with the disclaimer out of the way, as I was preparing this week's lesson on God's Incredible Budget (every family has to deal with finances), I was completely surprised to notice some very interesting things the New Testament teaches about every member's financial responsibilities to the family. There really are only two reasons why God commanded His children to give money to a general fund. The only times members contributed in the New Testament was out of compassion for those in need, and to support those who teach the Gospel. To use familiar institutional language, it was for Missions and/or Benevolence. Christians gave to help family members in their congregation or other congregations who were in need, and to support those spiritual leaders who worked locally or were spreading the Gospel somewhere else. (Acts 2:42-46; 4:32; 1 Cor.16:1-2; 2 Cor.8-9) Everything else is a matter of expediency.
That is probably not such a new revelation to most students of the Bible, but what I found truly interesting was how much New Testament scripture was devoted to paying ministers. Read 1 Corinthians 9 again. Paul devoted more space to his "right" to receive financial support than most of the doctrines we call "essential" and "correct." He gives multiple illustrations of the principle of paying, sharing, or rewarding those who serve, and where else does Paul talk so much about his "rights" as a minister and an apostle? He is very clear: "...the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel." But, after making all those arguments, he then explains "But we did not use this right".
I know it's semantics to most people, but I have argued for decades that ministers are not employees of the church or the elders, we are ministers of God who are supported by the church. That probably doesn't mean much to most people until you realize that ministers were never meant to be treated like employees by the church or by elders - even if that is what the government says we are. It's a relationship of partners in the gospel, not the "power of the purse."
Just a few sentences after deferring his rights, Paul declared, "...I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel." If getting paid ever becomes more important than that passion and commitment - well, that person is in the wrong line of work. Still, I'm thankful that I don't have to learn how to make tents.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mom's & Mantras

In my nearly four decades of preaching, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I actually preacher a sermon about mothers on Mother's Day. I have never liked letting the world determine which days are special, which by it's very nature is an admission that some days aren't. Hence, my hesitation to feel pressure to focus one day on things that should be every day (i.e. Day of Prayer, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, etc. etc.) Nevertheless (don't you love that word?), last Sunday, as part of a month long series on God's Incredible Family, I talked about God's Incredible Moms. She is a woman of "noble character" (Prov.31:10-31), a woman of "great worth to God" (1 Peter 3:1-6), and my last point was "She must be aware of Satan's successes." The three sub-points for this, were originally the main points, but I decided it was too negative for a Mother's Day lesson. I won't elaborate on them, but I did want to share them on my blog. (The whole lesson is on the church web page)
1. What is sad is to see women who have to be the spiritual head of the family.
2. What is sad is to see women who have learned to be as big of a jerk as men are - sometimes.
3. What is sad is to see women who don't understand the importance and joy of being spiritual Moms.
I suspect you can do your own "explain, illustrate, & apply" to each point, and yes I know there is a lot to say about Dad's, but his is about Moms. Dads are week after next.
One of the toughest things anyone has to deal with as a parent is remembering what REALLY MATTERS. Keeping priorities straight! Keeping the main thing the main thing! Basically remembering that you only have one chance to do it right and then you spend the rest of your life reliving your mistakes, your immaturity, and your regrets. It doesn't have to be that way if you stay focused on what REALLY MATTERS.
I believe the other side of the coin is just as important. A Rootism that I have written about before is this: Real wisdom is knowing when something "Just really doesn't matter." If you are uptight and stressed out about all of life's responsibilities and the need to "do it all perfectly," - learn to say that phrase as a mantra for life's "mole hills". Take a deep breath - think about what you are uptight about - it's not life or death, and it's not about eternal matters, and it's not about self-worth! Repeat it over and over several times - IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER.
I use it often - sometimes several times a day. It works for self imposed deadlines and for people who treat you by their own mantra of "What have you done for me lately." What does matter is being at peace with God.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Here are my two favorite Mothers helping each other pin their flowers on before we left for church this morning.

And this is the finished product with the roses from the Bills and the pretty card from the Miloms. I wonder whose Diet Coke that is? Duh. They clean up pretty nice don't they?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Cool Cards Game

If you are a Cards fan, you can tell by his stance that this is Albert at bat. Unfortunately, he didn't do much to help them win the game on Tuesday night. We took Donna's Mom to the game after visiting Union Station and then catching a great dinner at TGI Friday's. We had a lot of fun. It was a beautiful day except for being unusually cool for the first week of May.

I did say "unusually cool" right? Well, how about cold? This is a picture from early in the game and you can see that Donna and her Mom are already bundled up. I was too. It was only about 49 degrees, but the wind was blowing and with only jackets and light clothing on, it got pretty cold. We actually left after the sixth inning and listened to the rest of the game on the radio as we drove home - with the heater on. I was still a lot of fun and great to have the best Mother-in-law in the world visiting us.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

"Ding dong, the witch is dead!"?

We've all been reminded, and consequently rethinking, about the events of 9/11 almost ten years ago. In my nearly six decades of breathing, it is the only national tragedy that surpasses that November day in Dallas when we lost our President to a crazy man with a gun. The images of those airplanes slamming into those towers and knowing that hundreds just died right before my eyes, and the horrible sight of those giant buildings collapsing down, one floor at a time, taking the lives of WTC employees and hundreds of rescue workers, are burned into our minds as permanently as that iconic picture of the USS Arizona exploding on December 7, 1941.
Many of us have another image burned into our heads. One that many have forgotten about and I haven't seen replayed on the News yet. It is the video clips of people who hate America celebrating and cheering after hearing the news about the 9/11 attack. To them, it was a great victory. To them, the 19 Muslims who hijacked the four planes and turned them into suicide bombs were martyrs and heroes. To them, the man identified as the leader and architect behind the attack was idolized as a champion and super hero. I remember my anger building up as I watched them cheer and dance and thinking to myself, "Where's 'The Bomb" when you truly need it?" I'm glad I didn't let the sun go down on that anger, but the mental pictures are still there.
And now Osama bin Laden is dead. After nine and a half years of hiding and mocking our military and intelligence people, his body has found a cold grave in the depth of the sea. I am glad that justice was served, and that the world is a better and safer place. I deeply admire the soldiers who went in there and got it done, and all the support people who helped pull it all together. I am proud of our soldiers and the success of our country.
Please excuse me if I don't feel the call to dance and cheer. I don't want to look like those people who danced and cheered in 2001 when my country was attacked and my fellow country-men where massacred. I don't want to look anything like them. I don't want to criticize any American who has been cheering and dancing, but it makes me uncomfortable. This isn't a football game. This is life and death. This is about people who are walking and breathing one second and the next standing before God to give account of themselves. I can't see Jesus celebrating over someone being killed, even if it was justified - even if it fits the biblical definition of "Be sure your sins will find you out."
Thanks to a well known movie, and a vivid imagination, I also have a mental picture of people cheering the order "Crucify Him!" Of course, there is no comparison, but there is a principle of propriety, seriousness, and eternity that makes any death nothing like a college pep rally.
Can you imagine Osama explaining himself to God? That's heavy stuff! But then, each of us will do the same thing.