Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Not sure about that? Look at Peter. I have been. For the last couple of days I have been "brushing up against" Peter's life in books and devotions that I read. Jesus declared Peter would be "the Rock" on which the church would be built. Talk about putting a bulls eye on your back, Peter had it. To the very end, Peter lived up to this reputation of being a hard-nosed supporter of Christ who would die for him...almost. There was that one occasion....
You remember it. Peter is standing outside in the courtyard after they have arrested Jesus. He is watching His Savior be led away to who knows what end. Watching from a safe distance. Still echoing in his mind is this startling prediction offered by Christ earlier that evening: "Peter, before the rooster crows you will deny me three times." How could Jesus say such a thing? But sure enough, Jesus' prediction comes true. Peter, the Rock, the stalwart of this group, turns his back on Jesus and denies he ever knew Him.
But catch this. It's an incredible moment in Luke 22:61. It says, "At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter."
Jesus' redemption is never very far away. Peter has just denied any involvement with the Man who would soon die in his place. Before the last words have fallen from his lips, Jesus is beginning His restoration. He looked at him. Now, the Bible doesn't say what was in that look and you can imagine what you will here. I see redemption and grace. Without giving Peter away, Jesus looks at him as if to say, "Hang in there friend. This will all be over soon and you will understand better what is about to happen. Regardless of what you do, I love you."
To borrow words from Joseph in the book of Genesis, Peter might have said, "What you intended for evil Satan, Jesus intended for good." Satan was setting up Peter for a life of guilt and failure. Jesus was building a church. And not just any church. A church built on the lives of people just like you and me who understand our need for His grace, His mercy...His look of love.
More about Peter tomorrow. For now, I confess that I'm too much like him not to appreciate his story.
Monday, March 30, 2009
The tomb is such anathema to the world. As I get older, I understand why. There have been lots of great teachers in the history of the world (admittedly, none as good as Christ). So, for Christ to have been a great teacher is easy for the world to admit. For His teachings to be revolutionary, no one has a problem conceding. The fact that He willingly died for the world is not such a far stretch either--there have been many men and women who gave their lives for people they loved or for a cause they believed in. But the tomb...oh, the tomb. "Experts" and cynics have tried for two thousand years now to explain this empty tomb. They have conjured up stories, myths, and other people's bones just to have cause for denying the tomb's reality.
"People simply die and that is all," they would tell you. Jesus died too. PERIOD.
Jesus erased the period and capped off the end of His earthly life with an exclamation point--one that said death is no more and sin has no more power (1 Corinthians 15). I know it's not Easter yet but such great news cannot be contained in one brief day out of each year. Rather, it must be the song that is sung from a thousand choirs and the announcement of heralds from a thousand times a thousand mountain tops. Jesus is alive and death is no more. Such news brings hope and freedom. It gives definition to our frail existence here and causes us to long for the presence of God. And it reminds me daily that I will see loved ones again. Don't know when, don't know what it will look like. I just know, thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, the resurrection is real and that changes everything!
Thursday, March 26, 2009
What blows my mind is when Christ followers sink down into the muck with the world and allow themselves to be tainted by the poor choices of others. For instance, last night I overheard a few teens talking about their "church-going" friends who love a show called "The Family Guy." Now, honestly, I've never watched the show nor had a desire to. The commercials are bad enough for me. Then this morning, I got an e-mail regarding one of the recent episodes of this show. WARNING: Do not go to this link if you are easily offended. This link shares graphic detail about the trash that was part of the show. Keep in mind that it was rated TV-14 (deemed appropriate for my 14 year old by the TV council). I wouldn't let my mother watch this stuff.
UPDATE: After going back and reviewing this video, I can't even feel good about allowing people to watch this. Therefore, I've decided to pull the link. If you feel a need to see what garbage was included in this episode, feel free to e-mail me and we'll talk about what was included.
And we scratch our heads and wonder why things aren't any better. Here's my point in a nutshell. If we don't act differently from the world then the world's got no reason to become...different. They can live their same lives in the same way without any reference to purity or holiness or morality. God forbid that the church stop being the church, that we stop being salt and light and that we forget to live our lives as the "called out ones". Let's get this right people. God deserves better than our leftovers.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Here's the catch though--you can go too far in either direction. It happens in the business world and it happens in churches. I see people who refuse to listen to the culture outside the walls of the church. The result is a follower of Christ who can be no earthly good. Unlike Christ, they have no compassion for the people they long to reach because they do not understand where they come from. On the other extreme, there are many who started out well who have become so "earthly minded" that they have compromised truth and failed to preserve the values that they once held dear. Either is bad, both can be dangerous. Learn to walk the ways of Christ with an eye and an ear for those who don't. Top leaders know this truth. Strong Christians would do well to learn it also.
Bottom line: We all see the world through our own personal filters. Make sure yours isn't creating too many blind spots.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Today is Abby's birthday--or Abigail as she prefers to be called these days. Eleven years old and growing taller by the day. I remember the day she was born and holding her in my arms that morning. I remember how excited Harrison was to have his new baby sister. (He's not quite as excited these days but it's obvious they still love each other). I can't believe the changes I've seen in her. I thank God for a big sister in Morgan who is helping her, encouraging her and modeling for her some good qualities. I thank God for my little Abby. What an amazing gift she is to me.
Next month, it's daughter number three...Landon. She is the highly creative one of the bunch, the entertainer. She flits from one thing to another with great energy and has been dreaming for months about how she wants to celebrate birthday number ten. I'm sure she will be entertaining me for the rest of my life.
I guess I share all this for two reasons:
1. With Abby's birthday today, it struck me last night that I am now closer to my retirement than I am to my high school graduation. My life is moving rapidly forward and things are changing daily in my family. I want to catch as many moments as I can and, until my brain gets tired of recalling them, play them over and over again.
2. I am very, very blessed. From the day I was born on this planet, God has chosen to give me family. And not just any family, great family. Godly parents, older sisters who loved me, a grandmother who prayed for me daily, children who blessed my life and filled it with laughter. He blessed me with not just one but two amazing women who knows what it means to partner in a relationship with their husband while living totally submitted to their Father. I AM BLESSED. I guess this little blog is just my way of praising God for ALL good things that He has given to me.
So, today, I honor you girls--Morgan, Abigail, Landon. I pray for you daily. I love you more with each prayer. I want you to blow the world away with the gifts God has given you then draw them to Him with the quiet spirit of a woman who lives daily before God. I pray for the punks (oops, did that slip out?) I mean young men, who will some day try to sweep you off your feet. I pray that they survive my interrogations and, more importantly, that they rise far above our greatest expectations for you. Don't ever settle for second best...God has more for you!! I love you girls. Thanks for letting me be your daddy!!
Monday, March 23, 2009
So, I finally got to bed about midnight last night. I went right to sleep. But as I was dozing off, I asked God to use His Word to remind me of why I am here, why I do what I do, and why I don't have permission to stay in bed on a Monday morning. (that alone requires something of divine origin)>
Man, did He ever deliver. It started with a verse-of-the-day that I am e-mailed every morning. Then, before I could finish mulling that one over in my mind, I arrived at the office. I opened my devotional on my desk and was challenged by another voice of encouragement from the Word. I won't go through all of the details but at least seven different times today (so far) I have heard God's voice coming loud and clear from the Word. Don't tell me His word isn't alive. Don't tell me it's out of date or irrelevant to where we are today. I believe God speaks personally to His children about where they are and what they need.
I want to close by sharing one of the seven passages that God brought my way to encourage me. I hope it will do the same for you today. It comes from my reading that I am doing in Psalms this year. Psalm 69:13-14
"But I pray to you, O Lord, in the time of your favor, in your great love, O God, answer me with your salvation. Rescue me from the mire, do not let me sink; deliver me from those who hate me, from the deep waters."
Good words for my Monday. Great encouragement from a God who loves me personally and knows my every need long before my heart cries out to Him. Way before. I started reading Psalms a year ago and I landed on this Psalm this morning--God knew where I would be. Makes me wonder if thousands of years ago, he woke David up on a Monday morning with these words of love and hope as well.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
- Challenge every member of Congress to return the pay increase they voted for themselves this year. ($4700 x 535 = $2,514,400 saved)
- Stop the bailouts. The U. S. is a free-enterprise society. That means those who do business well survive the lean times; those who don't will not. (e.g. the car makers in America. Haven't they been warned for years that they were not being competitive with foreign auto makers and it would come back to bite them? Consider yourself bitten).
- Challenge every person who has received a bailout dollar to this point to invest 50% of it in education. Right now, the state of Tennessee (who finished below the national average in reading and math scores according to the National Report card) is trying to figure out how to keep from laying off teachers. In the same paper that reports this, there is an article showing the income of the top 20 or so CEOs. They make as much as most of the school systems in the state combined.
- Speaking of salaries, why don't we do something about the outrageous disproportion of salaries in our nation. The little town I used to pastor in is losing over 600 jobs because a plant there is closing. It will rip the heart out of this little town. At the same time, the CEO of Home Depot in Atlanta (a company that continues to show loss after loss through each passing quarter) made more than three times the entire membership of my former church combined.
- Smack some sense into the sports industry. How do we justify the salaries of guys who play a game (albeit, very well) for a living when the teachers who taught them how to sign their contracts are being canned left and right? Why does A-Rod have the right to earn over $185,000 a day when the men and women who serve our communities as police officers and firemen will be lucky to see that much money in four years? Does anyone in Washington have any sense left?
- Learn to do what every other red-blooded American (liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats) is having to do--live within a budget.
The United States is going from the land of the free to the largest debtor nation in the history of the world and NO ONE in our capitol seems to care. Our patriots have turned to perverts and self-promoting prima donnas. Would the last American with common sense to leave the District of Columbia please take down the flag? They don't deserve to have it flown over their heads any longer.Be sure to catch the post below as well. It's a link to an outrageous report on what's going on in the housing industry. It's worth the read.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
We love the idea of grace. Who wouldn't? The idea of a perfect Savior coming to pay a price that we could have never paid for ourselves is astounding. So, we are very comfortable in applying God's grace to our present situation, whatever that may be. We cannot, however, forget that God still desires lives that are lived with a lean towards purity and holiness.
I'm concerned that, in an effort to have growing influence in our culture and strong relevance for our friends, we have backed away from the one word that must be a companion to God's grace--repentance. Repentance is that self-determination that our current condition is not good and we should do a "180" towards a better path--a path of holiness that God desires for each of us to live. The problem with our current understanding of grace is this: we believe it gives permission for continued sin. Grace is not ignoring our sin!! Grace is having the Cross applied to our sin so that we no longer stand in condemnation but in freedom. For those who have truly repented and received grace, we dare not return to the sin that God has called us from.
I see it all the time with people who blame their past for their condition and continue to live in that state. Others will acknowledge their sin but, six months later, continue to invite that behavior into their life. When will we learn to see our sin as God sees it--a direct blow against His holiness. We cannot sacrifice our identity as salt and light in the world. To do so would cease to be THE church.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Stupid 41 year old brain...I got sidetracked and, by the time I got settled in at the office, could only remember the chapter. So, I don't know what the actual verse was but I definitely read what God intended for me this morning. Here's the first part of Isaiah 59 that I read this morning:
Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore. Isaiah 59:1-2 NLT
I think there's two reasons I needed that this morning. Reason number one: Lisa and I got some (more) frustrating economic news last night. On the surface, it would seem to be pretty discouraging news. Deep down, we both know that God always has been and always will be the One who provides for us. He has watched the birds for centuries and looked after the grass and flowers. Why would I ever doubt that He sees my need? So I prayed pretty quickly, "God, don't let me get caught up in the here and now. Don't let me do it. I will trust You because I know you will not fail."
The second reason was this undeniable call for purity found in verse two. I, like many of you, ask the questions, "God, did you hear my cry last night? God, have you heard your church praying? God, I'm a little down because I haven't seen you or heard from you lately?" Isaiah's words remind me that God's call for holiness is unconditional. When you surrender your life to Christ, you dare not rest for the call only gets louder. God wants me for Himself; He will not share. So I can't give part of myself to "guilt, lies, or wicked things" (see v. 3). I must be unwilling to compromise and more willing to confess when I fail. So, the next part of my prayer was, "God, don't let me allow for one second of sin in my life. No excuses. I must see sin the way you see it and not leave room for Satan."
I want deep intimacy with God. The cool thing is...He wants it too. In order to have that, I must be willing to stand openly before Him, acknowledge my need, ask for His grace and move forward under the cover of His lovingkindness.
Give it a try today and see if you don't find a God who is mind-blowing in His mercy and love for you.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
I got to start my day here at the office with one of them. One of our leaders/friends/members dropped by the office to see me this morning. She wanted to share a few thoughts with me about some things that God is showing her.
It's at that point when their face lights up and their eyes glow with recognition that I say to myself, "She's getting it."
It is one of those points where we slow down life long enough to watch as God pulls back the curtain on His plan to give us a glimpse of what He has next. You might call it an "a-ha" moment. Whatever it is, it's sweet to watch someone catch that little glimpse.
I believe God has those for us more frequently than we realize. The key is slowing down long enough to see it and being awake enough to catch it. When it happens, it is a perfect example of life being lived in the sweet spot, a life lived on purpose. There are a lot of those happening these days around our church. My friend this morning is not the only one searching for and finding that "sweet spot." But if you aren't one of those...yet, I encourage you, slow down and seek. God is ready to show you His plan. He is simply waiting for you to seek it.
'Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.' Jeremiah 33:3 NIV
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Babies starving. People dying. Parents aging. Marriages crumbling. Families hurting. Leaders failing. Economy depressing. Government bailing (just had to stick that one in there). Not to mention the extra persecution and suffering that Jesus promised those who would follow Him.
I ask the question again: how foolish is it that we get so caught up in a world that never promises us anything worth holding on to in the first place? But we all do at some point. We worry about accounts--emotional, financial, physical and relational. Deposits in; withdrawals taken. Yet the Bible is clear that the only investments that will matter are the ones that extend beyond the scope of the here and now. They are the investments made in a Kingdom not of this world, not of this time. When we live our lives by that Kingdom's principles we can steer clear of the baggage that can so easily entangle us in this kingdom. Here's a great thought to close that I heard from a friend this week:
If you are disturbed by watching the economy around you culture, you must ask yourself which kingdom you are really living in. God's Kingdom has never crumbled; the earthly one will never stand. Better make sure your feet and your heart and your mind are firmly planted in a Kingdom not of this world.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
18 "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV
I believe God has great plans for you and me. They are limited only by our willingness to follow His lead. We serve a God who is ridiculously powerful, stupendously loving and maddeningly illogical (according to our understanding). Don't limit what He wants to do with your tomorrows because you refuse to leave yesterday behind. Life lived through the windshield holds limitless promises for those who will surrender the rear view mirror. Live dangerously in the arms of God!
Monday, March 09, 2009
As a pastor, I get involved in a lot of conversations that revolve around personal failure and weakness.
The fast track to failure in your battle against the "old self" is to make it your battle. Revivalist and theologian Henry Drummond once wrote, "Sin is a power in our life: Let us fairly understand that it can only be met by another power."
It makes me think of the scene in the Indiana Jones movie Raiders of the Lost Ark. There is this scene where Jones is chasing after the heroine who has been taken captive by some of the henchmen. As he runs through the crowded marketplace looking for her, he is confronted by a very large Egyptian with a bad attitude and an even badder sword. Jones stops dead in his tracks and watches as the warrior spins his blades with lightning fast reactions, showing his skills to his stunned foe. After Jones has watched for a few seconds and realized that he has seen enough, he pulls his pistol and shoots down the man as if to say, "Right fight, wrong weapon."
Do you ever feel that way? Day-after-day you step from your bed and begin your latest battle with addiction, depression, discouragement, anger or bitterness. You know your enemy is real and when the pressure is hardest, you whip out your weapons and begin to spin them with all your might, putting on your best display of fury only to have the enemy "shoot you down". There you find yourself again...right fight, wrong weapon. The only way to battle the enemy and his power is to stand again him in God's power. Take this to heart. Everyone battles this common enemy. The only survivors are the ones who learn to submit themselves to Christ's power in their lives.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12 NIV
Thursday, March 05, 2009
Much to my wife's dismay, I love maps. It doesn't really matter what kind--city maps, terrain maps, Bible maps or world globes. I love tracing the lines of countries as they have changed over the centuries as much as I love finding the shortest distance between where I am and where I want to be.
As I was reading this verse this morning, God gave me a little different perspective on it. In the past, I had always taken it to mean "God's watching you and He knows what you are doing." While I still know that to be true, I think there is another completely different aspect to it.
God holds the map.
You see, in this life there are places we want to be and places we wind up on accident. We make wise decisions that get us closer to our destination. We also make wildly wrong turns that take us on the "scenic route" to nowhere. One of the wisest things we do on this journey is to constantly check in with the one who holds the map. Through His word and through our prayers, God guides us and directs us. He tells us where the best routes lay and, probably more important for most of us, He knows exactly how to get us back on track when we've made a poor turn.
Several years ago, my family was leaving Nashville to visit family in Atlanta. It was a route that I had taken dozens of times and I knew it well. Just before we got to Chattanooga, traffic came to a stop. The word we got from the radio was that it was a combination of DOT work and a pretty major accident. I hate sitting still. So we pulled onto the shoulder, made our way to the off ramp and began a journey on a route we had never taken before. My wife looked at me with more than just a little doubt and said, "Are you sure you want to do this?" I was able to answer her positively with this reply, "We'll be okay. I've got the map." There should be great confidence for those who walk this journey when they know Who holds the map. He watches over our paths and is more than willing to guide us till we are safely home.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
I think that's why the series we just finished at Ridgeview was so relevant. When you get down to difficult times and difficult choices, you better know what your values truly are. There are some "hills" that I would choose to die on but I'm finding out just as many things that really don't matter to me. I want to learn to sift through my life and pull out the ones that are really at the core of who I am.
Solomon did some of this same soul-searching in Ecclesiastes. He talked about the purposes of everything under heaven. He talked about wisdom and Godly counsel. He made some general observations about all mankind. Then, in the next-to-the-last verse, he summed it all up with this statement:
"Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments,for this is the whole duty of man." Ecclesiastes 12:13 NIV
That's what I want to do with what's left of my life--live recklessly in anticipation of this journey that God has me on. I don't want to fear men, the future, or the condition of our culture. Rather, I want to see them as opportunities for God to show off His greatness. I don't want to live in a cage or, worse yet, as a "tame" follower of a predictable and boring God. May the balance of my life be an adventure-filled, passion-driven pursuit of Him. All else pales in comparison.
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
It's funny the things that get us excited, isn't it? Some have compared this day with a visit from Haley's Comet. Others won't even know the day has come and gone (and thanks to this blog you won't have to count yourself among those unfortunate blokes). One man celebrates math, another science. One looks in anticipation of natural phenomenon, another longs for opening day of the season. We all have different desires and passions--with one that we all have in common.
The Bible says that the souls longs for God. We were created to desire Him and to be with Him. Our dissatisfaction with life comes when we are separated from Him by time or by our own sin. And the great tragedy is that so many souls don't even know what they long for. One friend of mine put it this way, in referring to the loss of a close friend to death: "His soul now dances in rejoicing for it has realized the one thing it longed most for...to be with God."
Our souls cry out for satisfaction that cannot be found in work accomplishments, family gatherings or quirky holidays. They cry because they desire to be one with God. That begins today with submission and surrender--two words that most Americans don't like to hear. (But it sure beats eating "root products" and eating a square root cake).
Sunday, March 01, 2009
The second whammy was even more damaging. Since we meet in a school, we're only allowed in when someone else opens the doors for us. Billy, the amazing custodian who serves us on a weekly basis at Poplar Grove and Freedom, called at 6:40 this morning to let me know he was snowed in...over 8 inches down at his place in Southern Williamson County. No Billy means no key. No key means no one can get in. Hence, no worship.
I hope you got the word. Our system is an imperfect one regarding inclement weather notification but it's the only one we have. So, I hope you enjoy your day off. Take time to thank God and worship Him wherever you are and we will gather back together next week for worship as usual. Enjoy your snow day and be refreshed.