Thursday, July 27, 2006
As one with a notoriously bad sense of direction, I can understand how it is easy to get turned around in an unfamiliar place. More than once I have gotten up to leave after visiting someone and opened the door of their closet. (Of course, I did not step into the closet, nor was the closet traveling at 40 mph!) I can understand getting lost. It is easy to get lost. And sometimes there are serious consequences when you are lost.
That is the human experience. We are lost and there are serious consequences. The mission of the Son of God was to "seek and to save what was lost" (Luke 19:10). The word translated "lost" literally means "to ruin or cause destruction," and it is often translated by the word "perish." Paul says, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). He says that evil "deceives those who are perishing" (2 Thess 2:10). The condition of mankind is that of being lost; we have all taken a very serious wrong turn.
Shortly after her tumble from the bus, the banged-up fashion model said, "I am not angry, but I would like that there are some changes made, that nothing like this can happen again." OK, watching where you are going might help keep one from falling out of a moving bus. But then, we plunged into sin with our eyes wide open. The cross is God’s answer; He is "not wanting anyone to perish" (2 Peter 3:9). But those who know the good news that God found us and rescued us at the cross must share it with others. By our words and our lives, we are the smell of salvation. Paul said, "For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing" (2 Cor. 2:15). Our call today is to be the aroma that draws the lost to the only one who can save them.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
The gadget I am looking at now is PDA phone, like the Palm Treo (I’m not sure whether I want the Palm or Windows Mobile, but If it goes like the TV remote, I have 20 years to decide). But my reason for wanting the PDA phone is much higher (and spiritual)— I would always have access to my Bible program. There are times when you are out and don’t have a Bible with you, but it would be right there on the phone. Several versions. With search capability. I need all that because I am a preacher. Let me know if any of this is working for you; I have spring it on Lynn at some point.
OK, seriously. Is the reason that we don’t read the Bible more than we do really because we don’t have it yet in the optimal form? Would you read the Bible more if you had the perfect edition with just the right print size and style? Will I really read my phone more than I do my printed Bible (or computer Bible)? Or do you think our failure to make reading God’s word more a part of our lives has more to do with our priorities?
There was a man in Kansas City who was critically injured in an explosion—he was blinded, lost both of his hands and mangle in other ways. As he recovered, one of his great frustrations was that he could not read the Bible for himself. He heard about a woman in England who could read Braille with her lips, so he decided to learn Braille. He was discouraged again because the explosion had also damaged the nerves in his lips. But as he was trying to make the Braille-through-the-lips technique work, he accidentally he touched the Braille page with his tongue and he could feel the little bumps. He went on to learn Braille, and he would read through the Bible many times after that.
Here was a guy who wanted God’s word so much he could literally taste it! I think the “gadget” that would allow all of us to read the Bible more is a heart that so desires God and His truth in our lives that we’re going read and feed no matter what. OK, I still want the Treo, but what I really need is that hunger of heart that won’t be filled with anything less that God.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path. (Psalm 119:103-104)
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Tippens' vision of discipleship is not only human and personal; it is dynamic, earthy, and social. Biblical faith is embodied in a journey, Tippens insists, not in the clouds but here on the ground. It is a pilgrimage of people living in human bodies, experiencing "passion, tears and laughter" in company with others on the same journey with Jesus. "A faithful heart is always a passionate pilgrim heart," Tippens concludes, "ever on the road, ever moving forward - searching for understanding, seeking the face of God."The spirituality for which Tippens is looking is one that seeks the heavens but has its feet firmly planted on the ground. He speaks of “a God-focused spirituality that is also paradoxically creation-centered. Tippens spends the bulk of his book exploring 14 spiritual disciplines, what he calls “practices of the pilgrim heart,” that can lead us in the way of Jesus everyday. These
- Emptying: Lessening our attachment to possessions, power and prestige.
- Welcoming: A holy hospitality reflects Christ’s grace in everyday life.
- Resting: Rest and solitude refresh us and acknowledge our place in God’s creation.
- Befriending: The “mutual regard and care for souls” requires time, distance and self-sacrifice.
- Confessing: We must tell the truth about our weakness and hear a word of absolution.
- Forgiving: The divine activity of reflecting God’s forgiveness to other people.
- Listening: Waiting patiently and expectantly for God to reveal himself and speak to us.
- Discerning: Learning to think with one’s heart, head and imagination.
- Singing: Singing is “words of faith set to music convert us, encourage us, console us, sustain us, and take us to heaven’s door.””
- Feasting: The sharing of table fellowship and meories of the past.
- Creating: Focus on God’s “truth of beauty” in an appreciation of the arts.
- Reading and Story: These remind us who we are, where we are going and Who has called us and is traveling by our side.
- Suffering: We experience the suffering of Jesus and “the fire that purifies.”
- Seeking: The pilgrim heart is always on the pilgrimage, seeking the end of the journey.
Edward Fudge has a great review of this book in New Wineskins. You can buy the book from its publisher, New Leaf Publishers.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
The investigation will be ongoing and very difficult. Some health care experts point out that administering morphine and Versed to critically ill patients suffering in 100-degree heat was an indicated response. “No doubt it was appropriate to receive some morphine. The question is, did they give too much?” said Dr. Maria Silveira, a specialist in end-of-life ethics. These issues are complex ones, made even more so by the political complexities following the Katrina disaster. It is likely that we’ll he hearing more about this story for months to come.
One of the lines of the Hippocratic Oath is “to never do harm to anyone.” (Of course, the next line is, “To please no one will I prescribe a deadly drug nor give advice which may cause his death. Nor will I give a woman a pessary to procure abortion.” We’ll leave euthanasia and abortion for another blog, OK?) If these health care workers really did intentionally kill people, for whatever reason, then that is a violation of the trust we placed in them and they should be prosecuted. If the State of Louisiana is making political hay at the expense of dedicated medical professionals serving in an impossibly difficult situation (one which the State of Louisiana may have exacerbated by their neglect), then that is unconscionable as well.
We are especially outraged when people entrusted with the special responsibility to serve abuse that trust to hurt the very ones that they are to serve. That was one of the things that really got the juices of the prophets flowing (See Isaiah 1:23, Amos Micah 3:11, 7:3). The princes, priests and prophets of Israel were extorting bribes and promoting themselves rather than serving the people. Jesus says much the same thing about the religious leaders of his day. Jesus blasts the Scribes and Pharisees for their self-promotion that serves to slam the door of heaven in the faces of those who would seek God (see Matt 23:13, Luke 11:52). Like Old Testament leaders, the scribes and Pharisees leaders were supposed to serve people and show the way to heaven. But their legalistic piety only promoted their own status and served to obscure the face of God.
Has not the church today been given the sacred trust to help people see God? Is not our job to point to the Great Physican who can heal sin-sick souls? When the church turns inward on itself and promotes its own interests and fusses and feuds over its own issues, are we not violating that sacred trust given us by Christ? Jesus is the Great Physician who has sent us out into a sick and dying world. Are we seeking serve that world, or are we too busy erecting barriers to cross and hoops to jump through that keep the sick away?
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Jesse died of a stroke last June at the age of 93. After learning of her death, JN told a friend that Jessie was waiting on him. The friend called JN’s son and said, “You better get over here because he's going to join her.” And within 10 hours, JN died as well. The couple had been in declining health, and JN had survived for almost five years battling lung cancer. But there was no need to go on battling once Jesse was gone. His son says, “The cause of death is listed as pneumonia related to lung cancer, which is not accurate. He died of a broken heart.”
What a great story. In this day and age, you don’t hear too many stories like that (of course, most of their story wasn’t lived out in this day and age). If I could script the rest of my life story, I would like to use this same script. It is a sweet story. But remember that this real life story was lived out in real time. Imagine a man in a Buick with the window down reading the newspaper for two hours waiting for his wife to “get her hair fixed.” Imagine an old woman struggling with her own eyes reading to an old man who had gone legally blind. Imagine all the ups and downs, setbacks and struggles, tragedies and triumphs that together make up real life. The fairytale ending to the love story of JN and Jesse Mason was won by day-to-day life commitment and sacrifice that likely didn’t seem one little bit like a fairy tale! Happily-ever-after is always lived out one day at a time two people commitment themselves to each other and to living out what Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT)
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Friday, July 14, 2006
Well, it could be that a few folks don’t share my lack of appreciation of soccer. It is the most popular sport in the world... by far. It was estimated that 1.1 billion people watched the World Cup final on television. That means that roughly one sixth of the world’s population saw French star Zinedine Zidane's meltdown and head butt an Italian opponent! And FIFI estimates that if you counted all the people who watched the entire World Cup event including all the qualifying matches, the number would be 28.8 billion.
OK, so soccer is popular. I'll grant you that. Big deal. Just because a lot of people take something seriously, that doesn't does make it serious, right? Consider the following “serious” sporting events—
- Checkers: Ron King (great name for a checker player) won the U.S. checkers championship in Medina, Ohio. He is known as “Muhammad Ali of checkers” because he trash-talks opponents. Also competing was Alex "The Mad Russian" Moiseyev. These guys take their checkers very seriously.
- Polo: The Gilgit tribe beat Chitral, 9-6 in their annual no rules allowed Pakastani polo match. No rules means if opponent gets in the way, club him! (Just like in the World Cup). You can’t hit the guy’s horse though; that’s frowned on. When a star player was “killed” (really “only” a broken neck and concussion), fans screamed for him to be dragged away so the match could continue! Tough crowd.
What makes soccer the world’s sport is that a lot of people watch it! Profound, huh? If more people watched, then guys would make millions playing checkers, and No-Rules-Polo would be “the beautiful sport.” Right? Just because a lot of people watch something, doesn’t make it good. It just makes it popular.
At the risk of overstating the point, Christians need to have a very healthy skepticism of the popular. (I'm talking about life here, not sports). Is it true that we are to not love the world or the things in the world? (1 John 2:15). Is it true that the world in its wisdom does not know God? (1 Cor 1:21). Is it true that to follow Christ, we must follow Him outside the camp of the world? (Heb 13:13, July 12 blog). Because something is popular does not necessarily make it good. Christians need to be very careful when following the crowd unless we know where the crowd is going!
OK, if you like soccer, that great! It was a good World Cup. I was just kidding around a little; I’m not trying to pick a fight. (The last think I need is a head butt from some outraged soccer fan.) Sometimes something that is popular can be good as well. But I’m more of a purest. I am a fan of Arkansas Razorback football… which is usually neither popular nor good!
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Things can really look different from different perspectives. One of the things I have always disliked about wearing glasses (which I’ve done since first grade), is their negative impact on coping with weather. A light drizzling rain is no big deal; you don’t even have to walk fast to keep from getting wet. Unless you are wearing glasses, and then the raindrops that keep falling on your head obscure your vision. And what about those hot and humid days when you step outside and your glasses fog up to the point where you can’t see?
Well, that just happened to me a little earlier, but I had a whole new perspective on the experience. It seems that our air conditioning has been conspiring against us of late. My old Taurus decided that I really didn’t need AC, and so I drove around for while really wishing I had the AC back. Then both AC units at home decided that right before having company would be a great time to go on strike until they got some Freon. And then the AC went out completely on Lynn’s car last week. It needs Freon, plus a new line and switch... and a compressor to drive the whole thing. Arghh! So this morning, when I stepped our of my old, frosty car and my glasses fogged up, I had to chuckle to myself, “That’s what I’m talking about!”
A change in perspective would solve a lot of our minor annoyances and gripes. Ever complain about the soaring price of gas? But what happens if you pull into the same gas station and they are completely out of gas, as is every other station around? Sure, it’s annoying that gas is so expensive, but at least it is around for me to buy. And it’s relatively much cheaper than it is in the rest of the world. And I have a car (two cars) in which to put gas. And I have a job that allows me to have money to buy gas. The things were generally find to complain about usually are a whole series of God’s blessings if we will just look from a different perspective.
I was thrilled that my glasses fogged over this morning. It was a great gift from God. I hope I can become better at finding His goodness and gifts with the other daily aggravations of my day!
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
But the Wrights would not listen to the conventional reasoning. They had a vision of flight, and they were dedicated to its pursuit. They paid a heavy personal price at times, but they seemed to be on to something. Today there is a monument to their courage in Kitty Hawk… and there are other monuments at LAX and DFW and LaGuardia and even Newport News-Williamsburg International. The critics have been silenced, drowned out by the roar of vehicles that have taken man to the moon and back.
The Hebrew writer points his Jewish readership to what happened to Old Testament sacrifices after they were offered. The blood was offered at the Tabernacle, but “the bodies are burned outside the camp" (Heb 13:10). Ultimately the sacrifice was taken outside the walls of the camp. His point is about what it means to follow our sacrifice Jesus (Hebrews 13:11-14)
12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.If we are to live out the Christian faith in our postmodern, post-Christian world, then we must be willing to leave the camp of our culture. Through Christ, we have a vision of what man’s destiny can be and will be. But we must understand that this is a vision that differs greatly from the vision of our world. The conventional wisdom of the world must be left behind as we follow the Christ where He leads us. And where He leads us is outside the camp of respectability and acceptance by our culture. It is never easy to run counter to the prevailing culture; just ask Wilbur and Orville. But it is only when we leave the camp that we can soar to the heavens.
Monday, July 10, 2006
Will and Michelle really outdid themselves with the “This-Is-Your-Life” video (of course, they are waaaay too young to remember the “This Is Your Life” TV show, right?) Len and Anna Caroline (and the group) did a great job with the “It’s All Right (to Turn Fifty)” song. And whoever it was that talked Len out of the "viagra" line in the song... thank you.
Millard with help from his trusty (or rusty) sidekick Randy was hysterical (mostly) with the comedy routine. I especially liked the "never got a dinner" routine. And I do appreciate him making me feel younger—most of his jokes were way older than me! I greatly appreciated all of you who brought gifts. Even though it expressly forbidden. The thank you cards will be on the way.
Lynn did a fantastic job putting this all together, all the while keeping me pretty much in the dark (of course, that part wasn’t all that hard since I am pretty clueless). She cooked most of the food herself and took care of most of the details. What a blessing she has been in every part of well over half of my fifty years of life!
I was humbled and embarassed by all the attention. After all, all that one really has to do to turn fifty is just hang around long enough. All of those who participated in Friday night really make me glad that I have hung around this long. I have truly been blessed by God to have been a part of this church family. Thank you for my night; it really was something special.
Friday, July 07, 2006
I checked to see what significant things happened on my birthday. Not much. John of Arc was found not guilty of witchcraft in 1436 (4 years after being burned at the stake... ooops). Tennis star Chris Evert doesn't like July 7-- she lost 5 Wimbledon finals on this date (3 to Martina Navratilova and 2 to Billy Jean King). I do share a birthday with several celebrities-- Satchel Paige, Doc Severinson, Ringo Starr and Ralph Sampson (different years, of course). So it seems that not much of significance has ever happened on my birthday. What was most instructive to me was to note some of the things that happened in the year that I was born. Current events for the year 1956 included the following—
- Abigail Van Buren's "Dear Abby" column first appeared (Jan 9)
- Canadian Football Council was formed (Jan 22)
- Elvis Presley's first hit "Heartbreak Hotel" became #1 (Apr 21)
- The Red’s Frank Robinson hits the first of his 586 HRs (Apr 28)
- "The Bob Hope Show" last aired on NBC-TV (May 22)
- John Lennon and Paul McCartney met for 1st time (Jun 15)
- Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin ended a 16 film partnership (Jun 19)
- Dick Clark's first hosted American Bandstand (Jul 9)
- U.S. national motto “In God We Trust” was authorized (Jul 30)
- Chet Huntley and David Brinkley (NBC News) teamed up (Oct 29)
- "The Wizard of Oz" first appeared on television (Nov 3)
- President Eisenhower was re-elected over Adlai Stevenson (Nov 6)
- Supreme Court struck down segregation on public buses (Nov 13)
- Elvis Presley's first movie "Love Me Tender" premiered (Nov 14)
- Wilt Chamberlain's scored 52 points in his first college game (Dec 3)
It’s been a great first 50 years. God has blessed me more than I can imagine… and much, much more than I deserve. I have been blessed with a great family. It would be pointless to expect better parents, a better wife and or two better two daughters that the ones which which I have been blessed... they simply don't exist. And I have been blessed with a wonderful church family that has had such a rich influence on my life. In fact at some point this year (some math whiz with too much time on their hands can figure the exact date and time) I passed the point where I've been the preacher here longer than I lived before being the preacher here! Is that scary or what?
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. (Ephesians 1:3, NLT)
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Good habits are hard to create and easy to break. I decided to take a couple of days off work (and my blog) Mondays and Tuesday for the holidays. Mom and Dad are visiting with us this week, and I wanted to spend some extra time with them. Well, now it’s Thursday, and my blog responsibilities are still being shirked. Frankly I don’t know what you regular blog readers (both of you) have been doing for the last several days!
Mom and Dad lived here in Virginia for 46 years or so before they moved back to Arkansas (guess they decided they didn't like it). The whole time that they lived in Virginia, they referred to our annual trips to Arkansas as “Going home.” But now that they have lived in Arkansas for ten years, they say that they are “Going home” when they come back to Virginia. So they were never completely at home in either place-- they have family and friends that they want to spend time with in both places. So wherever they lived, they have had to “go home” occasionally. Thomas Wolfe’s often quoted titled really is true, “You Can't Go Home Again.” But we do try to go home, don’t we?
There is something restless in us all that never quite seems to feel totally at home. Part of that is the old “grass is always greener” thing that keeps us from being totally satisfied with whatever it is that we have. But on a deeper spiritual level, we understand in our better moments of clarity (though they be rare) that this world is never really going to feel like our home. With our spiritual ancestor Abraham, we are “looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb 11:10). We are “aliens and strangers” who are looking for a home and “longing for a better country—a heavenly one” (Heb 11:16). We live as strangers and pilgrims in a land that is never fully ours, never really home (1 Peter 1:1, 1:17, 2:11).
We remind ourselves of this as we sing “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through; my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue” and “I can only imagine what it will be like when I walk by your side.” Oh, much of the time we do feel comfortable and contented, and that is good. But then there are times when our restless souls cannot find the true and lasting peace that comes with we are really at home. We are not fully at peace because we are never fully at home.
You see, our real home is not a place at all—it is a story. Home is the story of the cross, the empty tomb and the home with God made possible by them both. So with Abraham, we continue to look for that unseen home. We live as pilgrims who enjoy the sweetness of the journey around us as we look to home. We live as sojourners who endure the perils of our passage by keeping our eye on our true home. We are never fully at home, but we are content in the knowledge that we are going there. St Augustine framed this truth in these words, “I am made for thee. My heart will not rest until I rest in thee.” We are never really home until we are finally with the Father.