Sunday, October 24, 2010
So I got to thinking about these questions.
Do I seek God’s counsel and then obey what I learn?
Do I spend time in prayer concentrating on myself or on others?
Do I share the gospel with others or even care that they may be lost?
Do I give of myself to my church?
Do I honor God with my money…all of it?
The answers to these questions indicate whether I am following the Lord wholeheartedly or sometimes chasing after false gods. False gods of pride, success, secular solutions, selfishness.
Like Solomon, sometimes I get full of myself. Do you ever think you are bulletproof? Do you think some or all of the Bible’s commands do necessarily apply to you? Do you have patterns of selfishness in your lifestyle and spending habits?
God was angry at Solomon. The thought of God being angry with me scares me. I want to please my heavenly Father. I want to hear him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” I want others to know that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation and eternal life.
Father, I confess that I am a sinner. Forgive me and purify me from all unrighteousness. Please make me into the person you want me to be. Lead me in paths that honor you. I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Friday, October 22, 2010
A friend left for Fort Worth early Monday morning. He made a commitment to the Lord before he left that he would share the gospel with at least one person each time he stopped along the way. He called me mid-morning and left a message, “Hey, call me. I need an accountability partner.” I could only imagine what kind of temptation he was facing.
I returned the call and he told me about his promise to the Lord. He wanted me to hold him accountable to that promise. He called me again last night on his way home. He has shared his faith with someone each time he has stopped for food or gasoline or anything.
I find that I can make promises with ease. Good promises that reflect good intentions. But as good at making promises as I am, I’m better at breaking them. Especially promises I make to the Lord. I need someone to hold me accountable.
Accountability requires transparency and I’m about as good at that as I am at keeping promises and commitments. David wrote these words in Psalms. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV). That is transparency before the Lord.
Being transparent before the Lord is much easier than being transparent before our friends and family. The Lord KNOWS everything. My friends and family know only what I reveal to them. I can hide NOTHING from God but my friends and family know very little about me.
Why is transparency so important? Why does accountability matter? My friend traveling to and from Fort Worth put it like this. “How can I share the gospel with someone when I know I have unconfessed sin in my life?”
O God, search me, test me, know me, lead me.
And may I find at least one person with whom I can confide for the purpose of accountability.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
It’s raining. And the prospect for a good rain today is pretty good. It’s been a while since that has happened.
And we need it. Our county has been under a burn ban for several weeks. The chance for a wildfire is high. The longer we go without rain the more dangerous the fire danger gets.
Reminds me of my spiritual life. It’s easy to dry out. It’s dangerous to dry out.
We enjoy the beautiful weather yet all the while the trees and grass get dryer and dryer. Sometimes I just coast through life enjoying things and neglecting the Lord. Before I realize it, my life is dry.
Rain on me, Lord. And let me soak it up.
Friday, October 15, 2010
This has been a roller coaster kind of week, but without the fun! A couple of key circumstances presented themselves over the last few months and I’ve been swaying back and forth trying to make a decision. Caught in the middle of all this is my doctoral studies.
I am writing a Final Project Prosposal to submit to my faculty advisor and the ProDoc committee for approval. Once approved, I can implement my project, write the Project Report, take the project interview, and graduate. I’ve been on this road for a long time and want to finish well.
Timing seems to be the issue placed on the table by circumstances. I must get most of my doctoral work completed within the next 5-6 months or wait almost 2 years.
I’m not sure why that frustrates me. I always procrastinate then complete my work under short deadlines. But in this situation, I’m not in control of the time table. I guess that’s what bothers me.
Wednesday, I decided to put the doctoral project on hold. Thursday, I decided to pick it up again. Counsel from godly people but a difference of opinion. So, like Steve Lemke told the doctoral workshop last month: “You da man!” I must make the decision. I am going forward with the doctoral project with the goal of completing the implementation step of the project by the end of February 2011. Then I’ll have until September 15 to write the Project Report. I’ll graduate with a Doctor of Ministry from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in December 2011.
Monday, October 11, 2010
In my sermon yesterday I talked about being ready to respond to anything the Lord says. Like Paul and his missionary friends were ready to move into Macedonia when the Lord gave the OK, we need to be ready to move, too. That means that as a church (or even an individual Christian) we must have processes in place that will allow us to proceed rather than hinder our obedience.
As an illustration I used my own family. I said, “Suppose the Lord wanted Deana and me to move to Russia to take Rusty and Lori Hart’s place in Ekaterinburg.”
A voice from the congregation shouted, “No!”
I was stunned. My response was that I had not sensed the Lord’s call in this but was just using it as an example. But what if Deana and I really did feel led to apply to the International Mission Board with the desire to be appointed to serve internationally? Would someone really say, “No!” to the Lord’s calling in our lives?
I hope Deana and I would say, “Yes!” I hope Riley would say, “Yes!” I hope our grown boys and our parents would say, “Yes!” I hope our friends would say, “Yes!”
And I hope my church would say, “Yes!” Maybe some would be glad to get rid of me! But I hope I’ve led this group of believers to understand that God’s agenda trumps ours. God does not give suggestions or options, he gives orders. If we say, “No!” to this, I wonder what other instructions from the Lord we are refusing to follow.
We can look inwardly (selfishly) and go against the Lord’s will or we can look toward eternity and say, “Yes!”
I guess the question is, “Are we going to follow the Holy Spirit or not?”
By the way, the point of my illustration was that my health and my financial situation would limit my ability to obey the Lord if he called me to serve in Russia. Would you pray for me about that?
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Riley and I love baseball and watch games whenever we can find one on TV. When I left to come to the office this afternoon Riley was watching the playoff game between the Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Rays. We are rooting for the Rangers.
Riley has come up with a cheer for one for the Rangers players. His last name is Cruz and Riley has been chanting “Cruz around the bases. Cruz around the bases.” I told him that would be a great homerun cheer.
The phone rang a few minutes ago. I answered and immediately heard, “Cruz around the bases. Cruz around the bases.” I knew he had hit a homerun. I asked what the score was, Riley told me, and we hung up. Short but special conversation.
You need a way to stay connected with your kids. What do you use?
Friday, October 08, 2010
My laptop is almost 4 years old. Seems like each week I can actually feel it getting slower and slower. Some of my software requires regular updates (big ones) and that takes forever! Plus, the internet connection out here is terribly slow but I won’t talk bad about HughesNet in this post.
Computer use can be frustrating. And expensive.
My computer woes resemble my spiritual woes I sometimes experience. The first problem is the speed of my connection with the Lord. He’s always available and I can communicate with him whenever I want. The problem is…sometimes I don’t want to or I let the busy-ness of life distract me. My internet connection is via satellite so sometimes clouds and storms can block the signal – because the satellite is so far away. Prayer is not like that at all, or it doesn’t have to be. God is not far away. Nothing has to be between us. Sin sometimes does get in between me and God but the clouds of guilt are easily dispersed when I confess. God always forgives when I confess. Immediately – clear connection.
But my software may need upgrades. If I don’t read the Bible and pray every day, I don’t have the latest word from the Lord. It seems like I always get something for that day. Obviously, if I miss my quiet time I miss a word from the Lord. And I can’t make it through the day without something stalling like a non-responsive program in the computer.
And then sometimes the hardware has to be replaced. God’s Spirit is working in my life to change me from who I was (even who I am) into who he wants me to be. These are not often just subtle changes or tweaks but complete overhauls. I like my old laptop. I’m used to it. I know what all the buttons do. I like my old self, too. I’m comfortable with me! But I’m sure God looks at me and easily sees what is not useful, or even harmful, in my life. And he wants to upgrade.
I always like my new computer after just a few days or weeks. And I always like the changes God makes in my life. I don’t know why I want to hang on to the familiar, comfortable, old me.
I really need a new laptop. But I really need a new me. And God is ready to do it.
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
I love baseball. I get excited when pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. I listen for news from training camp about the Cincinnati Reds. I look forward to Opening Day. Sunday Night Baseball with Jon Miller & Joe Morgan is about as good as it can get. And MLB Network is the bomb!
So now we are a day away from the Playoffs. The Reds go to Philadelphia for a divisional series with the Phillies. The gurus on the sports networks aren’t giving them much of a chance against the defending National League Champions. But I think they will do it and move on the face either the Giants or the Braves for the NL Pennant.
By the end of October we should know who wins the World Series. My prediction: Reds over Rangers in 6. That’s wishful thinking but let’s see how it plays out.
It’s a long season. 162 games in regular season and as many as 19 more to win the Series. Sometimes (almost this year) a tie-breaker game must be played to determine who gets the last playoff spot. About April 1 until October 31 is baseball season. Winter is my favorite season but it would be even better if there was baseball!
Life is long, too. We aren’t promised anything except that life will be full of choices, obstacles, opportunities. How we face each will determine much of what happens next. Sometimes the years seem to fly by and at other times it seems the day will never end. Is anything constant in life? Yes, only one thing: Jesus Christ.
Jesus loves you, died for you to pay your sin debt, lives again defeating death for you, offers forgiveness and hope, and will return one day for you if you commit your life to him. I did this on the first Thursday of August 1972. That was 38 years ago. Each day, the Lord works on me, in me, and through me to make a difference in my life and in others’. He wants to do that for you, too. Click here to find out how you can commit your life to him.
Friday, October 01, 2010
I spent the week in New Orleans attending a Doctor of Ministry workshop. If all goes as planned, I will receive and earned DMin from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in December 2011. That’s pretty exciting.
What stands between now and then, between here and there? Really, only me. I no longer will have deadlines imposed by a professor. I am in control of the rest of the journey. I will interact with a faculty mentor, a style reader, faculty readers, a field mentor, the ProDoc committee, and the exit interview team. Other than that, it’s on me.
Now will be a great time to finally get over procrastination. I’ve been meaning to do it for a long time but never got around to it. I keep putting off stopping procrastinating.
One of my many endeavors over the years was promoting Southern Gospel concerts in Russellville, Arkansas. I grew up going to the Hughes Center in Russellville for concerts promoted by Ray Baker. He would bring in the Rambos, the Galileans, and the Arnolds. Probably other groups, too.
Then Tom and Tommy (can’t remember their last names) promoted concerts at Witherspoon Auditorium on the campus of Arkansas Tech University. They brought the Kingsboys in at the height of that groups popularity.
I went to Little Rock and Fort Smith every time Frank Arnold promoted a concert. The Hinsons, Hemphills, Nelons, Cathedrals, and many more. I had fallen in love with a style of music that overlays everything I do today.
Sitting in Parsons Rodeo Arena in Springdale, Arkansas one hot August night I heard a group of siblings who were barely in their twenties. The first time I heard the Greenes I was impressed: impressed with their harmonies, impressed with their lyrics, impressed with their stage presence, impressed with everything about them. The Hinsons had recently retired – and I loved the Hinsons. I told myself that the Greenes could replace the Hinsons because of their vocals, stage presence, and spirit. That never really developed because the young Greenes’ development took them another direction. But I was hooked.
So when I thought about promoting concerts, I knew I wanted the Greenes. The normal rate to get them was $1,200 but they did not travel from North Carolina to Arkansas very often and my concert would be a special trip. I offered $2,000. I’m not a very good businessman. But Tony Greene is. He took the offer and the concert was set. I am so thankful for business sponsors who absorbed the deficit for this and every other concert I ever promoted – again, I’m not a very good businessman.
My sponsors and I had the most expensive tickets in the house! But it was worth it to me when the Greenes sang “When I Knelt the Blood Fell,” their first number one song and number one on the charts at the time they came to Russellville. It was worth it when the Greenes sang “Miracle in Me,” one of my all-time favorites from the Greenes. It was worth it when I was able to sit around the table at Shoney’s after the concert and get to know Tony Greene, his brother Tim Greene, and Amy Lambert. I was in heaven!
I brought the Greenes back to Russellville again and again. Each time was special. Tony invited my group Jubilee to come to North Carolina and sing on the Singing at Grandfather Mountain concert he promoted. We did that twice and had a ball. Jubilee recorded our last album at the Loft Studio with Tim Greene.
Then I dropped off the Southern Gospel radar. Churches who like Southern Gospel don’t embrace a divorced man. But Tony always did. Each time I saw him at NQC or some other venue, he remembered me and treated me like a buddy. I appreciate that. Tony, along with Mark and Kenny Bishop and Steve Perkins of the Bishops, always made me feel like I still belonged.
Tony died this Tuesday, September 28, 2010. He is now singing IN the presence of Jesus whom he so often sang ABOUT.
I’ve been in post-graduate studies since 1996. When I began seminary, my Dad took me to Little Rock to shop for a computer. He said a computer would be indispensible. He did his masters and doctoral work using an electronic typewriter.
The homework assignment due this morning in the Project in Ministry Design Workshop – the last formal classroom situation of my doctoral in ministry – is to right out the context, scope, emphasis, product, and one sentence statement for my project. The professors said it is OK to turn this in on notebook paper in handwriting. I haven’t done that in a long, long time.
My handwriting is awful. Hope that doesn’t bring down my grade.