I woke up in one of those strange blue moods so I was looking for something encouraging before my feet hit the floor. Out of routine I got up, put my tennis shoes and shorts on and struck out on my walk and somewhere between mile 3 and 4 I remembered something. I remembered when we were dealing with the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, and Fred, one of our elders would frequently ask, “Where have you seen Jesus today?” At the time we were looking for inspiration anywhere we could find it and Fred whom we love for his propensity to live in the world of “half full cups” was at work as usual.
Where have you seen Jesus today? Well, if Jesus represents all that is good and for this discussion, He does than I was still in bed when Jesus showed up. Everything from my girlfriend (better known as my wife Vicki) next to me and the daughter and two grand-girls beginning to stir in the other room to the two daughters who live elsewhere along with three more grand-girls, one grand-boy and two and one half son-in-laws :-). Then there is the church family I’ve been blessed with and loved by. Not to speak of the comfortable house and quiet neighborhood. Then there is the joy of knowing God and being loved by Him in Christ. The list can go on and on and still be incomplete.
What I have been reminded of is the foolishness of getting caught up in stuff that desensitizes me to the joy of knowing, trusting and loving God while living as a loving neighbor to the people God has placed in my little peace of life.
Theologian types may find this an over simplification and if you do that’s OK. I’m going to walk with Fred today you can dig deeper and find the more lofty thoughts if you wish but be careful that you don’t miss the simplicity of the love of Jesus as you dig deeper.
I take the occasion of my 39th Wedding Anniversary to try once again to blog. I can’t get the hang of this blogging thing!
Today I Have Been Married To My “Girlfriend” Vicki For 39 Years
Having been married this long means that I have been blessed, lucky, forgiven, encouraged, corrected, helped, loved, served, led and a host of other things that would say that I’ve done none of this on my own.
When this tall skinny guy with a neck a foot long entered the “Big K” on the corner of Two Mile Pike and Gallatin Road in Madison, Tennessee along with two of my best friends Dennis Wade and Jim Williams to buy an 8-track tape there was no message in the heavens but something of God was happening. Being a typical 18 year old male I couldn’t help but notice when the beautiful girl with long black hair and dark eyes wearing a sky blue skirt (very short skirt I might add) and white hose behind the jewelry counter where the 8-track tapes were sold (I found out later that she did not usually work the jewelry counter but someone was sick that night and they made her come down from the office and cover for them). The three amigos waited outside until closing time and since we had a good friend by the name of Denise Henderson who also worked there we were able to be introduced to the cute little thing named Vicki Pomeroy. Well, I tried to get Dennis to ask her out but he wouldn’t so we left but not without Vicki’s phone number which I called the next day to ask her out.
There are a lot of other details; her saying no to my invite, not eating when I did finally get her to go out with me, here coming to visit me in the hospital (collapsed lung) after I had pretty well given up, my mom telling she could not go in my room to see me because my church friends were all in there, etc. but I won’t drag you through that.
What I do want to do is to say thank you to God for such a precious gift!
I Love You Vicki and I thank God for you always.
You are the joy of my life!
I am blessed!
I was in lock down mode a couple of Saturdays ago while getting ready for Sunday’s responsibilities and the Hallmark channel was on in the background. The shows that cycled through as I sat there were the ones I had grown up with. A couple of them were in black and white and others were in color but not the quality color we experience today. The effects and acting were not as professional as we expect in our entertainment today and the story lines were pretty predictable. BUT, the values presented in the storylines were righteous. I don’t mean to over state but as I watched I had a sick feeling and I wondered where will children hear these values today? I had two of the greatest parents any kid has ever had and they both were wonderful examples of these same values. But I was also surrounded with a culture that was in the most part, supportive of those righteous values. Not only entertainment but also schools, neighborhood, political values, etc. were supportive and rarely hostile to the values of righteousness. When you compare that to our current conditions the contrast is stark.
Christian parents and churches will continue to teach these values but the world in which we live will not provide much reinforcement. That’s bad enough but the cultural environment in which we live is often hostile to these same righteous values.
It has always taken an investment of serious resources and energy to help children grow up to be people of righteous values and integrity. It will take much more today as we work to do the same with the limited reinforcement society and culture provide.
…what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives…
2 Peter 3:11
It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions,
and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age
What about it?
2011 New Years Resolutions:
#1. Read through the bible!
#2. Watch 12 hours of the Hallmark channel every week!
What a question for Jesus to ask, “…are you envious because I am generous?” If you’ll bear with me for a few too many words I’ll share some thoughts which got my attention when I read the discussion that led up to this question.
First, let’s go to where the story telling begins (Matthew 19:13-15).
People are bringing children to Jesus so he can touch and pray for them. He rebuts the disciple’s irritation with the children’s interruption when He says, “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” So Jesus sets the standard to entering the kingdom; the kingdom of heaven belongs to children of all ages.
The next discussion is prompted by a question Jesus received from a rich man (Matthew 19:16-22). “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
Jesus’ first response to this man’s question sets things in place for the possibility of a huge “aha moment” which the man misses completely! Jesus asks, “Why do you ask me about what is good? …there is only One who is good.” The standard for “good” is God and the only one who is good is God. “Now for you if you want to enter life, obey the commandments. But, you still will not be good. Only God is good. Here’s what God calls you to do, simply surrender your will to His and keep the commands of God and you’ll be saved.” But, don’t misunderstand; keeping the commands will not make you good. Even if you do good things, you are not going to be good and thereby heaven bound. Only God is good.
The man’s response reveals that he’s still not getting the point being made by Jesus. “All these I have kept… What do I still lack?” Jesus’ response seems to say, “Ok, if you want to play the going to heaven game that way, I’ll play it with you, “…go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” “So, if you want to play the game of being good and doing good gives you eternal life then let’s really go for it, sell everything and give it to the poor (Now that’s a GOOD thing!) and follow me.”
The man’s reaction reveals that he can’t handle the being good and doing good gives you eternal life thing after all. “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” Rather than getting the point, he holds on to the be good and do good and I’ll go to heaven way of getting eternal life and the result was and is always the same, he went away defeated and discouraged. Obviously, the point is not that, no one can be saved nor is the point that Christians are not to bother with obeying the commands. Jesus goes on to describe the rich man’s dilemma with the camel through the needle, illustrating the reality for a rich man (or anyone else for that matter) attempting the being good and doing good leads to eternal life way to heaven. .
The disciples who are listening to this and watching it unfold are shocked into a question of their own for Christ (Matthew 19:25-30).
“Who then can be saved?” “If this man who had obeyed God all of his life had to sell everything he had and give it to the poor in order to have eternal life then who will ever go to heaven?” NO BODY! That is nobody who is depending on the, be good and do good and I’ll go to heaven way of eternal life, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Salvation is only possible with God!
That leads Peter to want to know where he stands. He (and the others) had left everything and followed Jesus (unlike the rich man who tucked tale and ran) so he now wants to know what he can expect from all of the sacrifice he’s made? Jesus is willing to answer him, “In your eternal future there awaits each of you a throne and a position of judging the twelve tribes of Israel. AND EVERYONE “…who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” Jesus tells the apostles and everyone else who has made these sacrifices that it will be well worth the effort because of the inheritance of “eternal life”. Jesus doesn’t ignore our obedience and sacrifice. In fact he rewards our efforts, as feeble and inadequate as they are but remember only God is good.
Then Jesus ties a bow around things with a statement and the parable that follows (Matthew 19:30-20:16).
“But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”
That statement introduces a story with a profound lesson attached.
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard.“
The landowner in the parable went early in the morning and hired workers offering to pay them a denarius to work all day. He went back later in the day and hired more workers. He went back even later in the day and hired more workers. He went back even later in the day and hired even more workers. Then he went out even later in the day and hired more workers. When the day was over the landowner paid each of them a denarius.
Those who had worked longer and harder expected to be paid more so they grumbled against the land owner. “These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.”
The landowner’s response illustrates the folly of all attempts to gain control of the way to eternal life. “Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”
Jesus saves those He wants to save because He wants to and chooses to. Childlike faith and obedience is our effort to please and praise God for all the right reasons and salvation is the result of God’s loving mercy, given fairly and generously.
(Thanks John Dobbs for the encouragement to think of the preachers who have been a part of my life and the contributions they’ve made. There are many people who pour a little of themselves into everyone’s life so it just doesn’t seem right to start with the preachers so allow me to make a list of just a few of the “un-preachers” who quickly come to mind: Dad, Mom, Mrs. Mc, Mrs. Eva, Brother Paul, Norman, Norma Kay, Brother Roy and Brother Don. Thanks I feel better now).
Growing up I knew only one preacher week after week. Glendle Slate with his mild manner stood up and did what preachers do. Our family loved the Slates and we spent a lot of personal time with them (It didn’t hurt that Brother Slate and my Dad shared the same birth date).
Brother Slate was one of the least assuming men I have known. His preaching style was mild mannered and calm. I remember on our way home from church one Sunday morning my mom saying, “I just wish he would hit the pulpit with his bible or something every once in a while.” He had two obvious passions; evangelism and challenging young men to become preachers. I’m not sure how many preachers came from the Greenbrier Church of Christ during the time of his influence but I can quickly recall five. His habit of visitation every Sunday afternoon was his routine. I remember clearly the Sunday he came up to this 15 or 16 year old boy and asked, “Will you help me visit a few people this afternoon?” I’m not sure I was much help but this man opened my mind to consider the greatest calling for life.
From there I was steered toward preaching by my brother Lee who was preaching at the time. He had attended the Sunset Mission Forum and when he came home he told me, “You ought to go to Sunset and become a preacher.” Well, I was newly married and not real happy with my job so I said. “Why not?” Soon thereafter Vicki and I were on our way to Lubbock in our bright orange VW beetle (Named George. Not sure why we name our cars.), pulling a U-Haul trailer with everything we owned inside. Before we got to Memphis I met a very nice Tennessee State Trooper up close as he came up behind me with lights flashing and siren blaring. If you have ever tried to pull a U-Haul trailer with a VW beetle you know that you can’t go very fast UNLESS, you get real close to a passing 18 wheeler and draft behind them. You can go as fast as they go if you get close enough. Well, the trooper wasn’t impressed with my need for speed but had more interest in keeping me from being squished under the back of a semi so he gave me a little reminder (ticket).
Truth is there was no obvious divine calling or spiritual longing that led me to preach. I had a job I didn’t like and well, this looked like as good of an option as any so off we go. Well, we arrived and settled in and started school. HELP! Overwhelmed is not a big enough word so just multiply it by a few hundred or so. This less than greatly motivated young church boy from Tennessee was wondering what he had done! The load was huge, the environment was amazing and the challenge was to get busy and grow up! Surrounded by soon to be heroes, only one of which I had ever met and that was a strange Irishman named Jim McGuiggan who told me to come on down during a visit to Middle Tennessee a few months earlier. Lubbock, affectionately known as “the armpit of the US” was not quite like home and everyone wore funny hats and weird pointy boots (To church mind you!). The next three years were truly “the best of times and the worst of times.” That is what growth and challenge did to this 20 year old boy. This is when I learned to love and hate the most important men in my adult life. Their challenges were over the top and their love was absolute and complete. The load they brought was unbearable while the impact was priceless!
Richard Rogers brought the verses by verse study of scripture alive. Overwhelmed by the volume but so amazed at the crumbs I was able to pick up as he enthusiastically brought the text alive.
Ted Kell with that envious deep, clear base voice spoke of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in such a way that I knew I had to understand the heart of this text if I was ever going to comprehend “the rest of the story.”
Jim McGuiggan with fire in his words as he taught the prophets brought them alive. Alive, with grace and the longing of God for his people to understand Him and know the love he had for them and the good he was trying to do for them but they “were not willing.”
There was a moment when a lot of things changed for me. I was neck deep in classes and assignments on the books of Romans (taught by Ian Farr) and 1, 2, 3 John (taught by Gerald Paden) and they all collided in my head and left me with a broken heart. I remember crying but not out of the frustration that had motivated the tears of earlier days at Sunset. This time I cried out of relief. I had learned from a lot of going to church as a kid and as a young preaching student that I would never be very good at being a Christian. There was too much to do and I simply could not be good enough to be what I had to be. But, this was different. Not only had I finally learned how to define grace I had learned how to experience grace! The day changed me and the days to come continued to enlighten my relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Still with much to learn about His grace I still feel like crying from relief.
I owe so many more (Parker Henderson, Howard Winters, Dale Larsen, etc. etc. etc.) yet they have all taught me that the one I really owe is the one they taught me to love, Jesus!
That reminds me of a song I learned from Mrs. Eva and Mrs. Mc back in Bible class at the Greenbrier Church of Christ, “Jesus loves me this I know…”
Thank You All!
In an attempt to be more successful communicating and establishing the primary motivation for everything spiritual I have decided to work with a homiletic that is specifically focused. This approach will enable us to be flexible in studying anything deemed important for the overall needs of our church family while emphasizing the greatest reason for studying and acting on these spiritual principles = LOVE OF GOD AND LOVE OF NEIGHBOR!
Approach In Brief:
Consider the things we as a church need to study/learn/know etc. and use our sermons and classes to communicate these things.
Then filter everything we learn through Loving God and/or Loving Neighbor. In every lesson/class we will ask and address questions like: How is this an expression of our love for God? How is this an expression of our love for others? How is this an expression of God’s love for us? How is this an expression of God’s love for others (saved, lost, struggling, weak, etc.)? The primary purpose is to spend the year highlighting the motive/motivation of love in everything spiritual from God’s perspective and from ours.
Then apply these principles by discussing specific actions, life activities, practices, efforts, disciplines, decisions, etc. that manifest this same love motive in what we have learned.
I want the church family to participate with me. Lesson plans and PowerPoints will show these three elements in every sermon and class. We will work on using this same pattern in day-to-day life plans, decisions, etc. Together we will attempt to create a new and/or reinforce an existing paradigm that, SPIRITUAL LIFE IS A LIFE OF RECEIVED AND EXPRESSED LOVE FROM BEGINNING TO END!
I finished Tony Dungy’s book, “Uncommon” last night. Since we lived in Tampa during the years Tony coached the Buccaneers I have been interested in him as a Bucs fan and also as a Christian.
First, as a fan I think the Glazer Family was “NUTS!” when they fired Tony Dungy and brought in Jon Gruden! Absolutely “NUTS!” I am one who believes that Super Bowl XXXVII was Dungy’s first Super Bowl win.
Second, as a Christian I recall my disappointment in the change in sideline antics. Every time the cameras showed Gruden throwing the “F” bomb I cringed. What an opportunity missed for children to see how a man of God deals with anger and disappointment without resorting to such juvenile and inappropriate actions!
Now The Book:
The book presents thirty-one chapters of the stuff God created the family to communicate, things that a dad and mom say and show as they live with their children in the everyday conversations and experiences of life. I thought over and over as I read, “This is a good book for every young person to read as they grow up.”
At the same time I felt a kind of sick feeling because we need this kind of book as badly as we do. This book is a discussion of one character trait after another, traits that are a part of a life of integrity and spiritual values.
I would encourage you moms and dads to read the book. You may be reminded as I was of how much the incessant droning of the world has dulled your awareness of the simple things a life of integrity is made of.
Jimmy, Tina, Eric, Stacy, Dannon and Ashley you can expect a copy of this book to be delivered to you in the next few days.