Friday, September 08, 2017

62 and Sunny

At the moment, it's 62 and sunny where I am. The morning sky is beautiful as the sun makes its way to apex. The trees' leaves are still wet with dew as are the rails on the deck. The droplets of water glisten. I took the trash can to the curb this morning. The dew on the grass was cold to my bare feet.

Not everyone has the beautiful morning I have and the prospect of such a perfect day. In southeast Texas millions of people are recovering from a massive hurricane that dumped billions of gallons of water in the form of rain on them just a few days ago. They may notice a clear sky and a comfortable temperature, if that happens to be the case today, but they are focused on something else.

Millions of people living in Florida are in the path of another hurricane that threatens to bring horrible devastation to most everything in its path. They are asking themselves, Do I stay or evacuate? I have family members who are in Arkansas today trying to get home to Florida. They are asking each other, Do we stay here are try to get home?

People in the Pacific Northwest are under a cloud of dangerous smoke from wildfires. The cloud, the residue, the air quality, the threat to property are all concerns for them today.

And these are just a few of the issues people in the United States are facing today. Look at news from around the world and the different circumstances are multiplied by thousands.

It's not 62 and sunny everywhere.

And other circumstances in your life that seem to be perfect don't mean everyone else is having a perfect day. While we all live under the same general circumstances like a morning sunrise, grass that needs to be cut every week or so, death of loved ones, jobs to go to, classes to attend, etc., it's the specific circumstances that attract our attention. And the specifics can vary vastly from one person to another.

My father-in-law died this week. Billions of people didn't know him and his death made no impact on them. Lots of people know someone who knows him and expressed sympathy. Many friends feel sorrow. The family is impacted more than anyone. Even the death of a great person effects people differently. The specifics of the circumstances make the difference.

Every person you see today is experiencing many of the same things you are but they also have circumstances specific to them. That's why some people are having a great day while the person in the next cubicle is having a terrible day. How we respond to people around us is important.

We shouldn't be critical of someone struggling with something we cannot see. We shouldn't be jealous of someone whose circumstance are better than ours. We shouldn't refuse to help others or reject the help others offer.

We should love them and be kind. We should help them see how God is the rock of stability in even the most stormy times. We should praise God in our good times. We should praise God in our bad times. We should trust him always and always express his character to others.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

He Is Mighty to Save

From time to time - not often enough - I remember what a great sinner I am. I have a pretty good memory. Actually, that's not something I can self-proclaim; I don't know what I've forgotten, right? But from time to time in images as clear and big as an IMAX movie I see what I've done. The reason this matters goes back to what I've read in the Bible. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). There is a target for how I live: the glory of God. Not that I could ever hit that target with my own righteous acts, but I am to live for his glory and reflecting his glory. My falling short happens too often.

Most of the time - not often enough - I remember God's grace and love that provide a way of forgiveness of my sins. This, too, is on my mind because of what I've read in the Bible: "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Jesus Christ didn't just die but he died for us. What that means is more fully explained in 1 Peter 3:18, "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God." I'm glad that each time I remember my sin I can also remember my forgiveness in Christ Jesus.

My "memory cinema" is always open. Some features are horrifying. Others are filled with suspense. Looking back, I can also see the comedy. I the real theaters I like to stay while the credits play; I don't want to miss anything. Some directors will put the outtakes after the credits. If I stay in my "memory cinema" long enough I always see that God puts an ending on the story that I might forget. The final scene is always of forgiveness and second (or third or…) chances.

I've lived long enough with glaring sins to know that my fellow humans don't always give second or third chances. My particular ministry calling is especially susceptible to this. But God does forgive. God does give another chance. Because he is with me and loves me.

He is with you, too. And he loves you, too. And he will forgive you just like he does me. And God will restore you by giving you another chance.

"The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing" (Zephaniah 3:17).

Look up! God is mighty to save! Do you hear that music? That is God rejoicing over you with singing! He's singing you a song like a parent quiets and comforts and celebrates a child.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Three Hours One Monday ... and One Friday

Today is the day. This day has had about as much press as the last Presidential election. What a stir God has created when he created the universe and put into action what would happen today in the heavens.

We will experience a total solar eclipse in our part of the world. Apparently the last one around here was in 1978. The next will be in 2024. This is the first one in the digital information age where everyone is a reporter. With cameras in hand and social media apps at our fingertips, this may break the internet.

Where I live, the eclipse won't be 100%. I think we max out at 89%. The moon will begin to nip into the sun at 11:48 this morning. The maximum eclipse will be at 1:18. It will be over at 2:47 this afternoon.

Matthew 27:45 tells us that during the crucifixion of Christ an unusual darkness fell on the earth from midday to mid-afternoon. Some say it was an eclipse like we'll have today. Some say a windstorm created such thick dust that the sky was darkened. I believe God supernaturally hid the sun because the of terrible scene of Christ taking on the sins of the world and absorbing the punishment for sin: death.

The three hours of darkness today will not be like the darkness when Jesus died. The sun is too bright for the moon to completely block its light. But we will get a sense of what it might have been like. And we certainly will be reminded of a great day in history when our sins were dealt with once and for all.

The darkness on this Monday afternoon will be pretty cool. The darkness on that Friday afternoon was part of an awesome plan of God to bring sinners into right relationship with him through the death of his son Jesus on the cross.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

A Time to Laugh

From King Solomon's wisdom we get the third chapter of Ecclesiastes. That's where we read there is a time for everything. Today is a time to laugh.

It's the first day of school for my son. He starts his junior year of high school.

A popular children's cartoon's theme song says there are "a hundred and four days of summer vacation." Not anymore. This year the summer break for high school students at Baptist Prep was 75 days. As much as kids moan about the school year being too long and the summer being too short, Riley has been ready to go back to school for a few weeks.

That makes me laugh. But I completely understand. I was the same way. Summertime was isolation time. Away from friends. Away from routines. We usually took a vacation trip somewhere but that was over way too soon and then it was back to the house. Just me and my sister. And we didn't get along too well back then.

I am a really good card shuffler. My mother-in-law thinks I have a Vegas background. All I'll say is that I didn't learn that in church! Actually, I learned that during those long summers. That makes me laugh.

I spent a day earlier this week driving to all the schools that kids from our church attend. I took a selfie in front of each school sign. And I prayed for the school. I prayed for students, families, administration, faculty, and staff. I prayed that believers would influence their schools. I prayed God will be glorified in each school.

I laugh because schools (even Christian schools) are not places students expect to experience a movement of God. Honestly, I don't know many students who EXPECT God to move in their schools. But I believe he will. And I laugh. Not a gotcha kind of laugh but a joyful expression of knowing God is up to something.

I extend my prayers for the schools I visited to the schools your family is involved in. May God do something great and may our response be to laugh because of the joy that will bring.

Friday, July 28, 2017

What Does a Pedicure Have to Do with a Desire for God?

I'd told myself I would eat healthy food while on a recent trip out of town. That commitment didn't last very long. I didn't eat sweets or eat too much at mealtime (sorta) but I didn't eat a salad or much that would be part of a salad.

Why is it so easy to say one thing then do another? Does that happen to you? It does. I know it. It's a universal problem and you aren't exempt from it.

If I began to tell you all the times I've resolved to do something better only to neglect the resolution almost before the words drift away into the clouds… I guess my head is in the clouds for thinking I could really do it.

Here's what I know about desires, temptations, and the struggles we all face.

Everyone has desires. We all want something. Sometimes the desires are selfish; sometimes they are noble. Desires can reveal a need for something good. Or desires can reveal the sinful nature within all of us. I think we all have both kinds of desires: those that reveal a need for something good and those that reveal our sinful nature.

Nothing is further from God's desire for you than for you to follow the bad desires of your heart. Yes, the Bible says to "delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart," but the key is delighting in the Lord. Only when we delight in the Lord are we assured of gaining the desires of our hearts. Why? Because our desires are of the good variety when we delight in the Lord.

Satan would love to help you fall for the bad desires. He would rejoice to see you take the bait of temptation to follow a path that leads to harm and destruction. If the angels in heaven rejoice when a person is saved then the demons of hell must be ecstatic when a person falls into sin through temptations aimed at fleshly desires.

Desire is real. So is temptation. The struggle is real. Even Paul (who wrote much of the New Testament) said he struggled wanting to do one thing but doing another. What can you do?

Delight yourself in the Lord. But what does that mean? Think about an experience that so pleased or fulfilled you that you could hardly stand it. Has your wife ever tried to convince you to get a pedicure? She explains how relaxing and rejuvenating it is. As she talks more about it she begins to melt into the chair just like she does when she is getting the pedi. Although I don't want anyone playing with my feet, that seems to be the ultimate in satisfying activities. To delight yourself in the Lord means to be completely satisfied with him and by him. You need nothing else.

Do you delight in the Lord? Do you delight in the Lord like that? When the Lord so pleases and fulfills and excites you that you can hardly stand it, he will give you the desires of your heart because your desires will be centered around him.

The next time you commit to something - which is an expression of your desires - remember to first delight in the Lord. Your desires (and commitments to them) may change; that's OK! The desires that come from delighting in the Lord will be better anyway.

photo cred: godswordimages.com

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mount Magazine

I left the house about 9:00 this morning with a long list of things to do. Drove almost 300 miles getting them done. Enjoyed the whole day. I need more days like this.
After the business part of the day was over, I went to Mount Magazine. I was already in that neck of the woods anyway. In Paris the temperature was 97 (on my truck readout). It was 91 at Cove Lake and 84 at the lodge on top. Mount Magazine is the tallest mountain in Arkansas at 2,753 feet.
My parents are both from Paris so we spent some time at the lake and on the mountain when I was a kid but it's been YEARS and YEARS since I've been up there. I'll have to take Deana and Riley.
I remember riding (literally) on my uncle Dwight as he floated in the lake. I learned to ski on Cove Lake. My cousin and I (I had little to do with it) pretty much sank my uncle's boat one day. Those are just a few of the great memories I have of this place.
Memories can be wonderful things. And memories can be horrible things. I decided today that I will cherish the wonderful memories and unhook myself from the horrible ones. By nature I tend to do just the opposite. The long drive down the back roads from Mount Magazine to Little Rock gave me plenty of time to talk to God about this. Let me share how that conversation went in case you also need to cherish some memories and unhook from others.
I thanked God for the good memories. I asked him for more things to make new memories of. Do you realize just how good God is? He wants to fill your life with the stuff the makes great memories. If you are like me you have a hard time seeing the good. It's not that there isn't a lot of good; it's just that the bad is so much easier to see. Today I asked God to help me recognize the good things he does for me that make the great memories like I experienced today.
Then I confessed my sin that was tied to the horrible memories and I repented. To confess means to agree with God that whatever it is is a sin. God already knows what I've done so I'm not telling him anything new. But I am agreeing with what he already knows. To repent is to turn away from the sinful thing and turn toward Jesus and his plan for that part of your life. The neat thing is that God will help you once you agree with him about the sin and turn from it toward Jesus' plan. How awesome is that!
There were a couple of things that I'm not sure I had ever honestly confessed and repented of. I'm glad God got my attention today so I could do that. Now I'm ready to unhook from all of that. Like a train engine pulling too many cars overloaded with cargo, I've been dragging stuff around for a long, long time. Sometimes you just have to unhook from the excessive and unnecessary stuff. Some have said you just need to put down all that excess baggage you've been carrying around. I won't forget the lessons I learned through those times but I won't let them drag me down anymore.
That frees us up for so much more than we've been experiencing. Does that sound good to you? Do you have some things in your past that you haven't gotten past? I did, too. I'll pray that you can know the freedom that only God can give.
If you want to see what Mount Magazine and Cove Lake looked like today, check out my photos in this Facebook album.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Working on a Hot Day

Yesterday and today have been hot and humid where I live. I watched the weather last night and the reporter warned about working outside between the hours of 10:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M. It was too late; I had already spent almost 4 hours mowing the lawn. I have the tan lines to prove it! I should post a picture. That would definitely break the internet.

But I'll use better judgement, otherwise you wouldn't be able to continue reading my wonderful posts!

The reporter was right. It's too hot to be outside for very long, especially if you are working. I have friends who have no choice because their jobs demand it. Their weariness by the end of the week is understandable. My weariness at the end of a few hours mowing the lawn is probably due to laziness.

So with all the wisdom gained from last night's news, what did I do today? I worked outside right after lunch. That's between 10:00 and 5:00, right? What was I thinking? But I didn't have to be out very long. Still my shirt is soaked and my mouth is dry.

Have I told you about the time I worked in a warehouse? An older fellow worked there, too. He was retired from IBM so he should have been smarter than to do what I'm about to tell you he did.

We would unload trucks and put orders together. One particularly hot summer day when break time came along, he pulled up a box and sat down. Then he reached in his shirt pocket and pulled out a cigarette. And lit it! It was hot enough to burn down the gates of you-know-where and he lit a cigarette! And chased it with a cup of coffee.

He wasn't the kind of guy to drink iced coffee. Hot, black, strong. He would often offer me "a slice of coffee" with a grin on his face. It was thick. So he's drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette.

I love coffee. I drink a lot of coffee. But never outside on a hot day. Never in a steamy warehouse on a hot summer day.

Another person once told me that the most refreshing drink for him during a break from hauling hay was…wait for it…coffee.

I don't get it. I want iced tea or gatorade or plain old water.

I guess coffee has water in it.

When your life is dry and parched and barren, don't forget the refreshment of God's Word and God's people. The Bible and believers can help you through some tough times. I just got off the phone with a Christian friend who helped me think through some things. Yesterday I was texting encouragement to a Christian friend.

God has given us the Bible and other believers to help us through whatever we're facing today.


clipart from tinyclipart.com
photo from lovethispic.com