Saturday, December 29, 2012

Weight Loss for 2012

One year ago I embarked on a journey, an uncertain journey. About 500 miles later, I'm 45 pounds lighter. My best was at 47 but we've just experienced the holidays and the snow canceled a few trips down Rushing Road. That's pretty good and I'm well on my way to longer life. I'm convinced that if I die of a heart attack or stroke today I've lived longer because of the exercise. And if I live to be 80 plus years old, I believe some of those days or years can be traced back to this year.

So many have made the journey with me and I appreciate all of you. Whether you laced up your running shoes with me or encouraged me or "liked" my posts or lifted my name in prayer, thank you! I still have more to do and will need you on the team. I'd really like it if more of you would hit the road with us. One reason is that we like to "share" Forrest with as many people as we can!

Forrest Grimmett is the instigator in all this. At our church Thanksgiving dinner over a year ago, Forrest suggested we start walking or running at the first of the year. I knew he was adopting me as his project but I didn't know the extent of his commitment at first. As the year progressed I understood. I couldn't ask for a better friend. Few have ever invested as much in me as Forrest has.

I'm ready for Rushing Road to thaw and clear so I can get started on my 2013 goals. Twelve months from now I want to weigh less that 200 pounds. That will require a loss of 49 pounds; a total of 94 over two years. During 2013 I will run at least 600 miles. I will participate in at least one 5K race improving upon my personal best time of 33:53.

Here are a couple of other goals for 2013. I will read the Bible completely. It's easy to read the easy parts of the Bible. Some of us get bogged down with some parts so we either skip it or quit. God's word is good - all of it. I've read it through a few times, most recently this year. If you want to join me, get a plan like the ones offered at that will help you stay on track. Apps for smartphones are available, too.

I will complete my doctoral work this year. It's time. This will challenge me and my church but we'll all be better because of it. Your prayers and encouragement will go a long way to seeing this goal completed.

Have you ever listened to a congressman make a speech on the floor of the Senate or House? They will say something like this: "I reserve the right to correct or extend my remarks." That means that they'll probably add to what they are saying later. So I might do that, too. Maybe I'll up the mileage goal or add something related to my family.

Will you set goals for 2013? Goals are good; life is aimless without them. Share your goals with me and some other folks. We'll try to encourage you and pray for you as you try something new, something hard, something scary, or something necessary. Let's all set a goal of loving God and loving each other and making disciples of all nations.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

It's Christmas Morning

The living room is quiet. The tree's lights glow on an empty floor beneath it. The physical remnants of gift-giving are just a few stray pieces of wrapping paper, a gift for a friend yet to be seen this season, and the glow of electronic devices on the faces of everyone in the room. Such is Christmas morning.

Yes, the gift-giving is over and my birthday is 126 days away. As that thought passes from my mind through my fingertips onto the screen and into your eyes, I realize what an inwardly pointing thought it is. We - I am too ashamed to take all the blame myself - have made Christmas all about the gifts we give and receive. Those gifts with a return receipt should they not "fit."

A better perspective might be to focus on the gifts both given and received that didn't come from a department store, weren't charged to a card, can't be exchanged, and never wear out. Time spent with those you love is a good gift and I'm so glad to have given and received that this year. I've spent way too little time with my grandmother, my dad and stepmother, and my adult sons lately. I corrected that this year and that makes this Christmas a special one.

Serving others who have no way to return the favor is another good gift. I've been on the receiving end of this special gift so many times. I'm thinking of people who went out of their way to help me and I am thankful. So I felt blessed to be able to help in a food kitchen this weekend. The idea came over a year ago while sitting in luxury enjoying the fine things of a holiday gathering. A guilty conscience can be a good thing. My family and I will volunteer regularly throughout the year. I do actually get something in return: the gratitude of those we serve is so obvious and heartwarming.

All of this turns my thoughts to Jesus Christ. He unselfishly served and gave. That's really why we celebrate Christmas. I hope my celebration reflects this as I give and receive gifts, spend time with my family, and as I serve others. I want to love others the way Jesus loves me. If it shows then I'm doing it right.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Weekly Devotional - December 21, 2012

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come!"
2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV
Christmas is next week and our family get-togethers start tomorrow. I've always heard that each family probably has an uncle that just doesn't quite fit. I look around my family and just don't see him. Does that mean that I'm him? I think I'll take a closer look and see if I can spot him.
You probably won't be able to change that person that rubs you the wrong way or makes you cringe when he starts to talk. Demanding better table manners might not get the results you long for. Sometimes he (or she!) is doing it on purpose just to see how you will respond.
Your response may be the only thing you can change. And change might take a supernatural effort. That's why God gives us the Holy Spirit who indwells us. Our ability to change is very limited. Getting my boy to change socks might be easier!
So the Spirit changes me. That's good on several levels. First, he's more powerful than me so he can make the hard changes. Second, he's smarter than me so he knows what changes really need to be made. Third, he has the big picture in mind rather than just the immediate circumstance.
I am so encouraged thinking about what the Spirit can do in my life! Those attitudes and actions that he will bring about in me will help me be a better Christian, husband, father, friend, pastor, and UNCLE! And the changes will help me see others differently. I may or may not get to the point that I don't notice the blemishes on others but I should be able to not focus on them.
The only thing standing in the way of the Spirit's good work in my life is me. He is all powerful and patient at the same time. He can force these changes upon me but often waits until I surrender my will to his. Pray that God will help you surrender your will to his so that you can become the new creation he desires.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Worth Another Look...or a First Look

Liza Long has a child suffering with mental illness. As the events of Friday, December 14 unfolded in Newtown and came to us on all sorts of media outlets, calls for both tighter and looser gun control laws dominated the noise. Liza's perspective is a bit different and perhaps and bit more on target.

You may have already read this or heard about the article. It's worth another read, or a first read if you've not yet seen it. We often treat symptoms and fail to deal with underlying problems.

I Read "Frank's Wig" to the Children

This blog opened its doors for business in 2005. One of the first things I did was fill out the profile information. The profile offered a spot to write about a random topic. I didn't like the first topic so I clicked on the button to get a new topic. After doing that several times, the topic was to tell the kids a story about a frog and a wig. Thus the birth of "Frank's Wig."

In the church where I pastor I have a time in the worship service where I gather the kids down front for a children's message. I will occasionally read "Frank's Wig" to them. That's what I did this weekend since the kids who gather with me had not heard it before. Click this link for the recording of the author (that's me) reading his story to the children.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Weekly Devotional - December 14, 2012

"O Lord, you took up my case; you redeemed my life."
Lamentations 3:58 NIV
Freedom is more than having no boundaries. Freedom is not equal to being able to do whatever comes to mind. Freedom is not the absence of oppression. Freedom is not exclusively a national thing.
Freedom is the release from the death penalty of sin. And it's accomplished only through redemption. Freedom is a spiritual thing more than anything else.
Have you ever been in a helpless situation? Maybe your car was stalled on the side of a lonely highway late in the evening. No cell service. No help. Then someone stops to help you. You can begin to understand redemption.
Redemption is necessary because all humanity is in a helpless situation. We are under a curse because of sin. We face an eternal penalty because of it. And there is nothing we can do about it. Oh, some will try. Maybe you've tried to resolve this problem on your own.
"If I can just do enough 'churchy' things maybe those will offset the bad." "I'm a good person; and I'm better than a lot of folks who go to church!" "I've never stolen or murdered or cheated." Keep going. Can you come up with some more reasons why you shouldn't be left to deal with your own sin?
God knows better than we know how bad sin is and how holy he is. And he says that sin must be dealt with effectively. His solution - the right one since he knows what he knows - is a sacrifice to make the sinner right with him. Hundreds of years ago, Anselm of Canterbury explained that God became man because only man needed the sacrifice but only God could be the perfect sacrifice sufficient for the need.
So God became man. Jesus was born. And Jesus died. He did this so we could be redeemed - set free from the clutches and penalty of sin. Have you trusted Jesus for your redemption? Pray that God will help you see your need for salvation and find it in Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I Promise to Pray for You

I had lunch today with about thirty other ministers from Pulaski Baptist Association and other churches in central Arkansas. We do this once a month and it's always a good opportunity to catch up with these guys. Sidney, David, Terry, Tim, and I sat together. I also talked with about five other guys. Each church has its opportunities and struggles so I come away with a short prayer list that I scribble in my memory while we talk.

Have you ever told someone that you'd pray for them? Christian people say that a lot but I wonder if we really do it. A friend told me to at least say a quick, silent prayer while I'm still talking with them so I won't be a liar! We sometimes forget to pray for each other.

Prayer is a powerful conversation with God about the opportunities and struggles you, your family, and your friends face. Instead of leveraging that power, we often go powerless and purposeless because we don't pray. And that promise you made to your friend...he may not get the boost he needs when you forget to pray.

Forgetting is one thing but sometimes we say we'll pray when we really have no intention of doing it. So we need to be honest, keep our word, and pray when we say we will. What helps you remember to pray? Some people keep a notebook and jot down requests one the spot. Others might use their phone or other electronic device. And a few people actually have good memories. If you are like me and don't have a good memory, then you have to come up with a plan so you don't let prayer requests fall through the cracks.

Someone is counting on you to pray. You told them you would. If you believe pray works, if you believe God answers prayer, and if you care about the people around you, you'll take it seriously the next time you say, "I'll pray for you."

By the way, how may I pray for you today? Leave a message and I'll do it. Promise!

Friday, December 07, 2012

Weekly Devotional - December 7, 2012

"So I will very gladly spend for you everything
I have and expend myself as well."
2 Corinthians 12:15 NIV
With Christmas fast approaching, a child might read this verse and get pretty excited. For that matter, most of us adults might perk up, too! If someone says they will spend all they have on you, well, you expect a lot.
I've received gifts that made me feel like the giver had spent everything on me. A toy pinball machine when I was about five years old, a shotgun when I was a teenager, or a piece of memorabilia from every Major League ballpark last year...these all made me feel like the giver was the most generous person in the world.
While these gifts weren't inexpensive, I think the most impressive aspect was that the giver spent a little of themselves, not just their money. They had to think about what would really be a great gift. They had to do more than scan the store shelves for something I might like. The gifts fit not because of a size label but because of something deeper.
Relationships are worth spending everything you have in order to develop and maintain them. And that means you'll need to expend yourself as well.
Paul felt invested in the Christians at Corinth. Because of his past investment with them he didn't think twice about investing even more with them. He visited them at least three times. He wrote them maybe as many as four times. He agonized over their mistakes and thrilled in their advances. He was glad to do it!
Do you have people in your life for whom you will gladly spend everything you have? And will you expend yourself as well? Our call as followers of Christ involves developing relationships like that so we can help others know Christ, live for Christ, and serve him. It's a costly investment but one that is rewarding. Pray that God will help you develop and maintain relationships by which you can pour yourself into the discipleship of others.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

I Can't Even Walk

Back in the day, I promoted concerts, had a radio show, and sang in a couple of gospel groups. There is a small handful of people in Southern Gospel Music that I felt like I could call friends and they would call me their friend. Tony Greene was one of those. He's gone on to Heaven now and I miss him and his music. Everyone once in a while I put together a little Southern Gospel concert using YouTube and I'm the only one in the audience. This video made the show this morning. I sure needed it; maybe it'll help you today.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Weekly Devotional - November 30, 2012

"His glory covered the heavens and his praise
filled the earth. His splendor was like the sunrise."
Habakkuk 3:3-4 NIV
For the past eleven months I've stirred from my sleep at 4:30 on most mornings to go walk and run with a few friends from church. By 5:45 I am back at home sitting in my chair in the living room with a Bible and a devotional book. I spend the next several minutes reading and praying.
The living room window faces east so I can watch the dark skies begin to brighten as the sun comes up. Unless the sky is completely cloudy, the sunrise is always spectacular. A perfectly clear sky allows the glow on the eastern horizon to explode into daylight. A few clouds cast streaks across the dark sky as the sun peaks around them. A sunrise is a splendid sight to see.
The prophet Habakkuk ministered to Judah's people just prior to their captivity by the Babylonians. It was a time when some looked to the Lord but many did not. Significant religious reforms put in place by Josiah were short-lived. The book of Habakkuk shows the prophet questioning God about the situation in which the Jews found themselves: threatened by and eventually captured by Babylon.
Don't you sometimes turn to God and ask, "Why is this happening to me?" That's understandable. I do, too. Then I take a look around and see God's glory and splendor in something as routine as a sunrise. The magnificent has become mundane to us because of familiarity, but when you take a closer look you'll see God's awesome power and consistent faithfulness.
Habakkuk ended his prayer with these words: "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and not cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior" (3:17-18). Pray that God will help you see his faithfulness even in the midst of trials.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Missed the Point

Honestly, I don't know who said it. I was in the kitchen making coffee. But I heard someone comment about the size of the group gathering in my home for Bible study. In the summer of 2011 we stopped meeting at the church on Sunday nights and began meeting in homes a couple of times a month. Attendance had gotten so low that I wanted to try something that might get more people involved. We've had some very well attended Sunday Night Bible Studies.

The comment I I heard was that if this kind of attendance keeps up we'll have to open up the church, turn on the heat/air, and go back to Sunday night services. My immediate thought was, "No, we could have two groups meeting and continue to get more people involved." My point in changing the Sunday night format was not to save money on utilities but to increase involvement.

Somebody missed the point. There's nothing wrong with meeting at the church on Sunday nights but that model has proven to be ineffective for us. Sure, it is comfortable, traditional, and known, but few people participated. Meeting in small groups in homes has helped develop fellowship and we still worship and study the Bible.

I think that's a much better way to do Sunday nights. And I'd really like to see us grow and add more groups. I believe that will promote even more participation. And more spiritual growth.

I learned a couple of things. First, our Sunday Night Bible Study has gained traction. Second, I didn't communicate the vision very well when we started. Or maybe I failed to stir the vision along the way.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday

Black Friday is aptly named. It's a dark day. Human instincts like meanness flow freely. Greed and envy are abundantly clear. If anyone doubts the depravity of man, just take a look at Black Friday.

It's been 19 years since I've worked in retail on Black Friday. Much has changed. And it's been 19 years since I was a shopper on Black Friday. Again, much has changed.

My first Black Friday experience was an early morning trip to Walmart in Russellville. A new Nintendo was out and my boys wanted it. I felt compelled to get it for them so I braved the crowd. Nobody was lined up at the doors waiting for an associate to unleash the crowd. Maybe twenty cars were in the parking lot with drivers casually sitting in their cars (me, too) waiting. Someone saw the associate opening the doors and the rest of us saw that person getting out of her car so we all headed to the entry. No stampede. No pushing. Nobody got hurt.

I walked - not ran - toward the electronics and saw a display of Nintendo neatly stacked at the end of an aisle. I picked on up and headed to the checkout. I was first to checkout. In and out in about five minutes. I didn't understand what the big deal was about Black Friday. I still don't.

My second experience with Black Friday was last night. That would be Black Thursday, right? But it's not right calling Thanksgiving "Black Thursday." Riley wanted to experience what he had seen promoted on TV and Deana had never done it, either - at least not the standing in line when the doors open variety of shopping. We all piled in the bed about 9:30 to get a two-hour nap before the big event. Too much excitement drove us from the bed and we headed to town around 10:30. Our plan was to go to Starbucks and then to Kohl's. Starbucks was open all night and Kohl's was to open at midnight. We left way too early. That was especially evident when it started raining.

We got our coffees and walked through the parking lot toward the stores. Lots of people were standing in line in the rain an hour before Kohl's opened. Target and another store were already open so we went in to get out of the rain. The line to get checked out in Target wrapped around and through and back. We spent about thirty minutes looking around and talking to an friend who had moved away but was back visiting family. By then the line was gone but we weren't buying anything so it didn't matter.

We shopped in the other store and ooh-ed and aah-ed over all the stuff but left without buying anything. The rain had let up so we thought we'd stand in line at Kohl's for the last 10 minutes. We passed the table where a church group was passing out hot chocolate. We passed on the free stuff because we had the great insight to buy Starbucks an hour earlier. The line was longer than it looked and we decided the fire marshall wouldn't let us all in at once and that it might be a long time before we got in the store.

So we went back to Target to get a few things we decided would be perfect gifts. The whole time Riley has been asking for this and that and everything else. We tried to explain that Christmas shopping was what you did for others, not for yourself. He's rebelling against that idea. But the parents prevailed and we got out of there without having to buy him anything.

As we searched for the car - we had parked about an hour and a half ago and had zigzagged quite a bit so this was an adventure, a long adventure - we noticed that the line in front of Kohl's was gone. No fire marshall, apparently. Riley and I continued searching for the car and Deana headed to Kohl's. We rendezvoused in a little while.

Kohl's was buzzing with activity but the check-out lines were short! How cool is that! So we looked at a few things but didn't really find what we wanted. As happens on most shopping trips, we migrated to Riley's stuff and ended up picking him up some clothes. So much for the lesson we tried to teach him earlier. We headed to the check-out but were re-routed to the back aisle to get in the line that wound all the way around the store. Unbelievable turn of events in such a short period of time. We had picked up nothing that was a "door buster" so we put it back and walked out.

Deana just headed out with her mother and sister to finish what we started last night. The shopping wasn't much but we had a good time. Nineteen years has really made a difference in Black Friday. I'm due to go again in 2031...if the nursing home van is making the trip.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I Am Blessed

God is good! I am learning to keep this in mind at all times. Cross Road Baptist Church met with two other churches last night for a Community Thanksgiving Service. You can listen to the message I gave here.

Now for a list of things I am thankful for...

  1. Jesus Christ, salvation, ministry
  2. Family, Deana, Jim, Caleb, Riley, marriage, fatherhood
  3. Heritage, parents, sister, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws
  4. Crisp mornings, cool afternoons
  5. Health, exercise, running
  6. Education, books, study
  7. Grapes, blueberries, bananas, yogurt, Cheerios

What's on your list of things to be thankful for?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Browsing the Archives

A few years ago I had a blog for the church but quit posting to it when we put up a website. Now I rarely post to the website blog and mainly use this blog. Anyway, I was browsing the archives and found a couple of posts I'd like to share.

Saved! is about the night Riley gave his life to Jesus Christ.

Sufficient Grace relates a story of my sister's family's vacation.

It's good from time to time to take a look back at stuff we've stored away.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Weekly Devotional - November 16, 2012

"Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed,
giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before."
Daniel 6:10 NIV
Daniel was persistent. He let nothing keep him from praying and giving thanks to God. You may need a little of the back story to fully appreciate what this means. Let me share it with you.

Darius ascended to power over the Ancient Near East when Belshazzar died, marking the end of the reign of the Babylonians and the beginning of the Medo-Persian period. Daniel had been useful to the Babylonian kings and as a result had a pretty good standing even though he was a Jew in exile there.

Daniel even received promotions ahead of those native to the land. He was in line for another promotion and those around him could stand it no longer. They devised a plan by which Daniel's Jewish worship traditions would get him into trouble since they could find nothing really wrong with him. They conned Darius into issuing a decree that everyone pray only to Darius for a thirty day period.

The Bible says, "Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published" he prayed anyway. One might think that Daniel would curtail his prayers for thirty days so he would stay out of trouble and in line for the promotion. But the possibility of punishment either never crossed his mind or he didn't care. I think he was fully aware but was determined that he would pray anyway. So he did.

And his prayer was one of thanksgiving. Not for protection or deliverance. Even when the things of this world are uncertain, be certain that you can give thanks to the Lord. For he is good. His love endures forever.

Are you determined to be thankful? Have you let circumstances push you away from that goal? A quick assessment of any of our lives will show that we have much to be thankful for. Pray that God will help you see the reasons to be thankful and to be determined to give thanks.

A Good Epitaph

What would you want said about you at your funeral? Have you thought about what will be inscribed on your tombstone? All Pro Dads sent this in email today. You can read the full article here.
  • "This world is a better place because he lived!"
  • "He knew what was important in life!"
  • "This was one faithful man."
  • "His family is going to miss him…but he left them equipped to thrive."
  • "He lived to the full, and he didn't waste the gift of life!"

Friday, November 09, 2012

Weekly Devotional - November 9, 2012

"The king will reply, 'I tell you the truth,
whatever you did for one of the least of these
brothers of mine, you did for me.'"
Matthew 25:40 NIV
Larry Johnson is an author and motivational speaker. He travels the country speaking to groups bringing encouragement. And he is blind. He tells a story of checking into a hotel late at night in New Hampshire. When he asked where he might get some breakfast in the morning he was told there was a McDonald's across the street. Since Larry is blind, he asked if someone could help him get there and was told the shift changed at 7:00 and to be back at the office then.
Larry arrived at the office just before the shift change. Promptly at 7:00 the young man who had helped him the night before said, "Let's go." He led Larry to his car, drove him across what turned out to be a busy highway, helped him order the breakfast, and drove him back to the hotel.
The hotel employee could have said a lot of things the night before to get out of this. "No, sir. The nearest restaurant is a couple of miles down the road." "I'm sorry but we don't have a shuttle service." "Shift change is at 7:30. Be here then and I'll help you." Instead, the employee served someone in need.
Jesus commends that kind of attitude. And condemns the opposite attitude. Not only did Jesus say that serving others was a good thing, hedid it. He served others by healing them of sickness and disease. He served others by comforting them in troubling times. Jesus served others by giving his life for our sins.
How can we ever serve people like Jesus did? How can we ever impact the lives of others like Jesus did? The answer is simple yet profound. Are you ready? Do you have pen and paper? Here it is: love them. Jesus served and served and served because he loved them. He still serves because he loves us.
Do you love people like Jesus does? Serving will become more than an action, it will become love that is seen. Pray that God will help you love and serve others.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

It's My Money!

I've recently heard people say they voted for the candidate that was going to protect Social Security because they had paid into the system all these years and it's their money. Do people really believe that Social Security is a savings plan like an IRA or other retirement account? I looked at the CNN Money website to see if I could find out if Social Security really is a savings account. Admittedly, my research is shallow and limited. What I found was that the Social Security benefits are just that, benefits.

I don't think that term describes the money you will withdraw from your retirement account. When I think of benefits, I think of something I get that I didn't pay for. An employer may provide health insurance in whole or in part to its employees as a benefit. A civic or religious group may have a spaghetti supper with all proceeds benefiting a family who has incurred unusual expenses due to a catastrophe. A neighborhood may experience an increase in property values because they benefit from a few nicer homes being built there.

CNN Money uses the term to describe Social Security payments. I think this is how it works: withholdings from today's employees are given to today's retirees; tomorrow's employees will be taxed for tomorrow's retirees. So the money I pay into the system today is not kept for me to withdraw later, it is used today as benefits for people currently drawing payments. Today's retirees don't draw their own money from SS because that money was used yesterday as benefits to yesterday's retirees.

One of the problems facing our nation regarding Social Security is the number of people entering retirement is growing and those already retired are living longer. The aging Baby Boomers and the advances in healthcare mean more people are drawing money for a longer period of time. The retiring Baby Boomers are also coming out of the work force so fewer employees are being taxed, therefore less money is going into the system.

Bottom line...Social Security payments are not "my money" but the money of people working at the time I'm receiving payments. "My money" is long gone having been the benefits of those retired at that time.

So whatever your political posture may be and whatever your retirement concerns may be, please don't demand your money from the Social Security system. And realize that such a system cannot go on forever without the fiscal responsibility of taking out no more than is being put in. I did not say that you take out what you put in. Today's retirees cannot expect to get out more than today's employees are putting in.

With fewer employees, the pie is getting smaller. And with more retirees, the smaller pie has to be cut into smaller pieces. That's reality.

A biblical perspective would be for Christians to take care of the elderly who need help. The church is tasked with that duty, not the government. But as America has trusted man more than God and has turned to government more than to the church for answers, we are where we are. The solution is to return to a dependence upon God and turn from a dependence upon government. A little personal responsibility would go a long way.

A few years ago, a Christian told me this: "If you can't trust your government to help you out, who can you trust?" The answer is simple: God and his people.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Election Day

The first Tuesday of November is marked on our calendars as Election Day in the USA. I'm glad we live in a country that respects the right to vote, protects it, and practices it. I'm glad I "early voted"! I've driven past several polling places today and the crowds are huge. Not so much a huge crowd of voters, but a huge crowd of campaigners standing as close to the polling place as legally allowed. I'm surprised there aren't accidents at these places with all the distractions taking drivers' minds off the road.

I'm thinking today of another election day. And it has nothing to do with politics. The first Thursday of August in 1972 was the day I chose to follow Jesus and entered into an eternal relationship with him. I just had my 40th spiritual birthday a few months ago. I know I've not looked, sounded, or acted like a Christian all those days since the summer of '72, but Jesus has always been King of kings, Lord of lords, and my Savior. The politicians elected today are likely to stumble or change their minds or just outright do the opposite of what they've told us they would do. Jesus is never like that. He's faithful and true.

Some people are disappointed with the choice they made four years ago. Four years from now some people will be disappointed with the choice they make today. But I've never been disappointed in choosing Jesus forty years ago and I'll never be disappointed for the next forty million years...or longer!

I have strong opinions about the choices you make in the voting booth today, but I'm more concerned that you choose to follow Jesus. That's the most important choice you'll make today or any day. Questions? Send me a message; I'd love to talk with you about following Jesus.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Weekly Devotional - November 2, 2012

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!
I have overcome the world."
John 16:33 NIV
Natural disasters, bitter elections, high divorce rates, economic downturns, shocking diagnoses. Jesus was right, "In this world you will have trouble!"
Do you sometimes wonder why the world is cursed with trouble? The Bible tells us that early in the history of humanity, Adam and Eve (the first humans) sinned in disobedience to God. This resulted in a change in the entire world structure. What had once been peaceful would now be tumultuous. What had once been easy would now be hard. What had once been of no concern would weigh heavily on our minds.
Thousands of years later, the results of sin still linger. In fact, we continue to sin and pile on the effects. We mistreat and misuse our bodies and have to deal with obesity, cancer, STDs, and other maladies. We live recklessly and have to deal with tragic and unwanted consequences. Self-centeredness fosters broken relationships. I could go on and on.
Is there a way out of this troubled world? Can it be fixed? How is the curse corrected? There's just one way: Jesus has overcome the world! Specifically, Jesus has overcome sin, its impact on creation, and its wages of death. But why does sin still exist, creation still suffer, and people still die?
What Jesus accomplished in this world will be fully experienced in another world. He promises a new heaven and earth in which all things will be set again in perfect order. That eternal world will be populated by God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit along with all those who follow Jesus Christ in this temporal world.
But for now we can live with confidence and hope that the trouble we now experience is limited because Jesus has overcome it all. Pray that God will help you take heart and live as an overcomer.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Shared from All-Pro Dads

I got this in email today and just have to share it with you. Hope it helps you and your family.

Do you have a family-centered life?  Review the list below and add your own thoughts in our Comments section.
1.    Mom and Dad have a consistent date night alone together at least once a month.
2.    Dad has scheduled one-on-one time with each of his children at least once a month.
3.    Entire family gathers for dinner at least 3 times a week.
4.    Dad texts, e-mails or calls each of his children at least once a day.
5.    A monthly family home video night.
6.    A monthly family board game night.
7.    Saturday chores are done with the kids helping.
8.    At least once every three months, Dad brings lunch to school for his kids.
9.    Dad prays with each of his children before they go to bed each night.
10.  Weekly church attendance.
11.  Three TV shows per week are watched by the entire family (with commercials muted).
12.  Dad's job does not keep him working a lot of late nights or weekends.
13.  Entire family has at least one week of vacation time together per year.
14.  Mom and Dad attend at least one marriage strengthening conference per year.
15.  Family attempts camping at least once a year.
16.  Dad attends or coordinates a Daddy/Daughter Dance.
17.  Dad personally knows all of his children's teachers and is involved in the PTA.
18.  Dad's time with his buddies more often than not includes everyone's kids.
19.  More family activities are planned outdoors than indoors.
20.  Dad honors his own parents.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Weekly Devotional - October 26, 2012

"I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing."
1 Timothy 2:8 NIV

You lift your hands for a lot of reasons. When someone asks for volunteers, you lift your hand. When you agree, you raise your hand. When you disagree, you raise your hand. You raise your hand in support. You raise your hand in protest. A raised hand is a welcome sign. A raised hand can also be a stop sign.

The Bible tells us to pray with lifted hands. A lifted hand is a surrendered hand. Prayer is hindered when the pray-er has not surrendered to the Lord. Prayer is not a way of telling God what to do. Instead, prayer is a way of joining God in what he is doing. Not "Lord, do this for me" but "Lord, I will do this for you."

Lifted hands must be holy hands. A popular end-of-prayer-tag is this, "Father, forgive us of our sins." We say it as if it is a formula and as if it is forgotten. Asking for forgiveness ought to be in our prayers as often as sin is in our lives. Holy hands are hands that aren't stained with sin. And there is only one way to wash the sin from your hands. Pilate tried to wash from his hands the guilt of handing over Jesus for crucifixion but could not do it with water. Some religions teach that baptismal waters wash away sins but they do not. Only the blood of Jesus, applied to the repentant sinner, can wash away sins and make hands holy.

Lifted and holy hands must be connected to a heart that is right with God and right with others. Anger and disputes drive wedges between the pray-er and God and between the pray-er and his fellow man. Isn't it ridiculous to pray, "Lord, help me do your will," or "Lord, here are my needs" when you have a wedge in your life separating you from God or other people?

Prayer is an act of worship. Surrendered, your prayers are rightly turned toward God's will. Holy, your prayers are unhindered by sin. With good relationships, your prayers are made with right motive. Pray that God will help you lift holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

God's Love

As we run we have some pretty good talks about God and people. I've gotten inspiration for many sermons and sermon illustrations on these dark mornings on Rushing Road. Today is just another example of God speaking to us through believers. (Remember, that's one of the ways God speaks according to Blackaby's "Experiencing God.")

I really don't remember exactly what we were talking about but my running buddy said, "Do you think God will ever learn?" He wasn't being disrespectful to God but was pointing out that we wouldn't be as persistent as God is. You know how God continues to have faith in the church to carry out the Great Commission? Or how he is ready to forgive the repentant, even repeating, sinner? Or how he continues to bless us even when we don't get it right. The conversation wasn't along those lines exactly but that's a good application of the thought.

So he says, "When I was a kid I slammed my hand in a car door. One time. I never did it again." That was in the context of "Do you think God will ever learn?"

I gathered my breath and in a little while said, "If we loved getting in the car as much as God loves us, we'd get our hands slammed in the door more often." We ran in silence for a few seconds.

Think about how much God loves you. John 3:16 says that he loves you enough to send his only son Jesus to die for your sins so you won't have to. Romans 5:8 says that he did this even before anyone placed faith for salvation in Jesus and his sacrifice, while we still enjoyed our sin.

Sometimes love hurts. Like slamming your hand in a car door. At some point the pain hurts more than the joy so we keep our hand out of the car door or off the hot stove. Or we keep our hearts out of relationships. Or we give up on somebody. But we miss the joy.

God must have decided that the joy of loving us was greater than the pain of loving us. I'm glad he did.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Victorious Day

The Major League Baseball Postseason is in full swing. These teams are out: Braves, Rangers, Reds, Nationals, Orioles, Athletics, and Yankees. These teams are still in: Tigers, Cardinals, and Giants. Detroit has a punched ticket to the World Series. St. Louis and San Francisco have one more game to play to decide who the National League team will be.

Every team - except the Tigers - that advanced to the next level did so in a win or go home game. The Cardinals beat the Braves in a one-game Wild Card game. The Cardinals beat the Nationals in the fifth of a five-game series. The Orioles beat the Rangers in a one-game Wild Card game. The Yankees beat the Orioles in the fifth of a five-game series. And tonight the Cardinals and Giants face off in the seventh game of their seven-game series.

The Tigers, however, swept the Yankees to win the AL pennant.

I expect the World Series will go six or seven games.

In other words, winning the World Series will not be easy.

Seems like that describes life on most days. Lots of hard work is necessary to succeed or just survive. Sometimes you find yourself in a win or go home situation. To be your best you have to play the best and do your best. You have to overcome obstacles, injury, loss.

Except for the Tigers/Yankees series, the winner who moved on won only one more game than they lost. Success isn't always a clean sweep with no losses or errors. Success is just winning more than you lose.

The good news for Christians is that we are on the winning team! Jesus died to clean up our mistakes. Jesus resurrected and lives now to promise our victory. We still have delays, face disappointments, and get derailed. But these are light and momentary issues, as Paul would say. In the end, we win!

There's just one way to lose. Refuse to be on Jesus' side of the battle.
  • "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10:13).
  • "No, in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Romans 8:37).
  • "But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57)
  • "Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God" (1 John 5:5)
Here's to a victorious day!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Weekly Devotional - October 19, 2012

"Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul
to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan's sake?"
2 Samuel 9:1 NIV
Saul was anything but kind to David. Israel's first king was the jealous type and tried to kill the young man who would be Israel's second king. Saul grew to hate David although David had been of great help and comfort to him. And David was Saul's son's best friend. David and Jonathan were like brothers.
David had sworn to be kind to Jonathan's family in spite of Saul's actions. Saul and Jonathan died in battle then David became king of Israel. Jonathan had a five year old son at the time of his death. Years later, after David had waged war against his enemies, the king remembered his oath to his friend. Jonathan's son was old enough now to have a son of his own but the passing of time did not diminish David's love for Jonathan.
Remembering his oath, David looks for someone from Saul's family to whom he can show kindness. A couple of interesting aspects are here. First, we should remember and keep our promises. David may have forgotten the promise along the way but he finally came around to remembering it. In his commentary, Matthew Henry suggests that this is because David was a good man who sought to please God. "Good men should seek opportunities of doing good." David was a man after God's own heart and that led him to keep his promise and be kind to Saul's family.
The second interesting thing about David's actions was that he did not hold a grudge. The oath was with Jonathan and certainly it was Jonathan's son  to whom David would show kindness. But I believe had there been another member of Saul's family living at that time that David would have been kind to him, too. David asked if anyone was left from Saul's house, not Jonathan's house.
Forgetting commitments you've made or neglecting to keep them because of ill feelings is not godly. Pray that God will help you keep your promises.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Get Going!

My trainer let me have it Saturday. He said I am hardheaded. Can you believe that! Actually, it's true. I've come to the point that I'm happy with the results and comfortable with the effort. What difference does that make? I'm not progressing in my fitness trek.

Doesn't the same thing happen spiritually? I mean, do you sometimes just get satisfied with your current level of spiritual maturity? So you slip out of drive into neutral and you coast. But the truth is that if you aren't moving forward you are going backward. That is certainly true in physical training and it's also true in spiritual growth.

Are you at a plateau in your path of growth? Somebody needs to get in your face a little. OK, I'll do it. GET GOING!

Apply these spiritual disciplines daily.
  • Pray in faith.
  • Read the Word.
  • Fellowship with believers.
  • Witness to the world.
  • Serve others.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Weekly Devotional - October 12, 2012

"I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow."
1 Corinthians 3:6 NIV

I had conversations recently with two men who expressed a desire to see the harvest of their labors. The desire is not limited to these two but seems to be a hunger across humanity. If you put in the labor you want to see the results.

Jesus talked about the value of each person involved in bringing a crop to harvest. The soil must be prepared. The seed must be sown. The growing plants must be watered. And the ripened grain must be harvested. That's a lot of work! You who are farmers or gardeners know the effort that must be used in each step. And you know the reward for putting out the effort.

No harvest ever comes without the prerequisite work. I was an accounting major in college for a couple of years. Because I transferred from one university to another after my first semester, I was behind and out of sync with the recommended coursework. Trying to catch up, I took Cost Accounting before taking Intermediate Accounting - a prerequisite course. I struggled through Cost Accounting more than I should have because I didn't have the groundwork of understanding needed for the course. I did not "harvest" a good grade because I had not "planted" and "watered" my knowledge of accounting!

The harvest will come and it will be bountiful when the planting and watering have taken place. So Jesus says each part of the process is important - not just the reaping.

Paul refused to argue about this and simply said, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow." At the end of the harvest, the glory belongs to God not to us. I believe that although those who sow and water may never know the outcome of their labors while on this earth, they will be pleasantly surprised in heaven.

Are you planting and watering? Are you looking for the harvest? Pray that God will help you see how you can be a worker in the field.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Adversity and Faith

Adversity waits along the pathway for everybody. Nobody is immune to it. The best we can hope for it to handle it effectively. Rather than let it turn us away from God, adversity can strengthen our faith.

How do you handle adversity?

Some of us just give up at the first bit of resistance. Life's going pretty good but then something happens and you struggle. Then you quit. You quit trying. You quit moving forward. You give up on your dreams.

Others will fight for a little while but then adjust their course so the resistance is bearable. If you believe your original path was right, worthy, or legitimate then to change that course for whatever reason is to cave into the pressure. The world calls this "compromise" but it's really just letting go of what you know to be true.

Then some will stay the course no matter what. You may not understand why the adversity came. You may not know how survival is possible. But you press on. You press on because you believe that God exists and that he has a plan for your life. You believe that his plan is greater than any plan you could devise and implement. Even though you do not know the plan, you know God. "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and confident of what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1).

Adversity can shake your faith. Or adversity can strengthen you faith. Which will it be? It's up to you.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Weekly Devotional - October 5, 2012

"And without faith it is impossible to please God."
Hebrews 11:6 NIV
Riley has been playing baseball for seven years. I won't say that he is a natural but he has learned the basics very well. He's in his second season of football and I can't say he's got the basics of this game down yet. But he's learning!
I go to all the practices. I'd really like to help coach like I do in baseball but I sit in my red folding chair ($10 from Walmart) like a bunch of other parents. Riley likes defense better than offense. He's worked his way onto the starting defensive unit. And when the first team offense is practicing, he loves to play on the defensive scout team.
So he plays on defense for most of the practice. His position is usually on the same side of the practice field where I'm sitting. When he makes a good play he looks over at me and I give him a thumbs up.
Riley wants to please me. He wants to know that I am pleased with him. He doesn't look for the affirmation with baseball because he's been doing it long enough to know when he's done something that will please me. But with football I get several glances each practice and game.
Christians ought to want to please God. You should try to live so as to please your father. But what does God expect? What pleases God? The simple answer is: faithfulness. The more in depth answer is: faithfulness.
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." That classic definition comes from Hebrews 11:1. When your hope is in Christ Jesus you can have faith. When you believe although you do not see, you have faith. Trusting God to do what only he can do is living by faith.
And if you live like this and then glance toward your heavenly father, he'll give you a thumbs up. Pray that God will help you help you live by faith and be pleased with you as his child.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Weekly Devotional - September 28, 2012

"The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love."
Psalm 103:8 NIV
When David wrote the 103rd Psalm he poured out praise to God. Read it and notice that David mentions dozens of attributes of the Lord. Each attribute praise-worthy and taken as a whole they paint a picture of one worthy of our honor and devotion.

Couched in the middle of the Psalm is a phrase we might overlook. We might even take for granted that the Lord is slow to anger. I've done enough - haven't you? - that the Lord would be totally justified to take immediate and harsh action to punish me for my wrongs. Yet he is slow to anger.

That makes me think about the way I treat other people. I would rather you not ask my family if I, too, am slow to anger. I'm one of those people who is pretty good at holding back the emotion but when it does surface...well, it's nothing to be proud of.

What is it about God, that I lack, that allows him to be slow to anger? The answer is not just a deficiency for me; I hear it from so many people on a regular basis. God is patient. He is supremely patient. We are not. Some of us may be more patient than others, but we are not supremely patient.

Patience keeps God's anger in check. He's not just stuffing his anger down inside until he will one day explode. He is actually willing to wait and put his anger aside. He's angry with sin. He will punish the sinner. The Bible makes clear that a day is coming when those who do not claim the blood of Jesus for forgiveness of sins will receive the most severe punishment - separation from him. Until then he is patient while people come to him for salvation.

If God can be patient, can I? Can you? Yes, because patience is a character quality that grows from a cultivated relationship with Jesus. See Galatians 5:22-23. Pray that God will grow his character within you.