Blessed

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. Genesis 12:2

I have reviewed and edited my blog posts beginning in the middle of 2008. It didn’t take me long to notice that I end nearly every one with “be blessed.” I’m not sure why I started doing that and after seeing it hundreds of times, I’m beginning to wonder if it’s right.

I love it when I’m checking out of a store and I’m told to “have a blessed day.” With that I know I’m in the presence of a believer. Some days I feel really alone as far as that goes and it’s a nice thing to hear. When I greet someone and ask how they are, it’s a good thing to hear that they  are “blessed.”

I want my postings to be a blessing. I’m sure some are; others not so much. After all can we really do anything to “be blessed?” The blessed state isn’t something that we control. It’s all in the hands of God. Aren’t we all, especially Christians, blessed?

Isn’t the thing under our control what we do with our blessing? Our blessed state is a foregone conclusion. We really are blessed. Some times we may feel more blessed than at other times. Some may feel more blessed than others. We are all blessed.

I sometimes wonder how a non-believer reacts to being told to “have a blessed day” or to learning someone else is “blessed?” Does he feel it as a put down? Is it a kind of “they are blessed and I’m not?” It’s just a thought.

Sadly, we are not always and at all times, a blessing. Blessed is our state; being a blessing should be our mission. It should be a natural outflow from our blessed state. It’s an essential part of our “make disciples” mission. It isn’t wrong to notice how blessed we are. It’s a good thing to acknowledge that before others. It’s best to pass it on to others.

Today I start a new tradition.

You are blessed so be a blessing.

Nick

My Lord

As Christians I think we do a disservice by the phrases we use. There are many examples. “Lord of my life” is the one that comes to mind today. We say Jesus is “Lord of my life.” That makes him sound a little like a concierge’, someone who has the duty of keeping our life straight. It sounds like his “job” is to make sure we are healthy, wealthy and wise. It also seems to make Him the responsible party when things don’t go right. If we are sick or unemployed, can’t pay the bills or parent like a drunken sailor, we think, “that’s okay, Jesus has this.” We sit around waiting for things to happen, for our ministry moment to arise “consoling” ourselves with the thought that it’s just not Jesus’ timing yet.

I think we say “Lord of my life” instead of “My Lord” because the later phrase puts some responsibility on us. It acknowledges ownership and not just a right of organization. Jesus is more than our calendar keeper and preparer of our to-do list. I’m not saying Jesus isn’t “Lord of my life.” I’m saying He’s much more.  He’s Lord of everything.

We make it worse by the words we attach to the phrase. I “made” Him “Lord of my life.” Really? I “accepted” Him as Lord. I don’t think so. Let’s get this straight. He is Lord. We don’t make Him Lord; the Father did that. We don’t give Him permission to be Lord. He doesn’t need that. He chooses, for a time to allow us some freedom. Perhaps the better phrase would be “acknowledge Him as My Lord.” I like that. One day all will acknowledge him. By getting the jump on the rest of the world, we put our priorities straight. We begin to act like we are His; and look more like Him.

His Lordship is a fact. For now, we can either acknowledge it and live so or rage against it and die so. It amazes me how difficult a choice that appears to be for so many.

For many who use the phrase, “Lord of my Life,” I get it. It’s not wrong; it’s just not complete, and a bit misleading. Many of you understand Lordship better than I do. Many of you know Him closer as Lord. I’m just suggesting we speak as clearly and plainly as possible about the things that matter eternally. Like Pastor Jason on Sunday, I want us to  grasp completely all that it means to be a Christian and how radical and wonderful that really is.

Blessings.

Nick

Plants and Pies

Yesterday Rose and I made one of our traditional Spring day trips. We drove up Interstate 49 toward Alexandria getting off at the LeCompte exit. We headed west to Forest Hill. Forest Hill has the largest collection of nurseries perhaps anywhere. Our favorite is Doug Young Nursery. It is a wholesale nursery spread over several acres. They allow retail shoppers and its fun to drive over their extremely substandard roads and marvel over the variety of plants. You just stick what  you want in the back of your vehicle and pay on your way out. The place isn’t really designed for the back yard gardener, so don’t expect great customer service or detailed answers to questions.

After we gathered up the plants we wanted, we headed back toward the interstate and crossed over to east side and into the town of LeCompte and Lea’s. Lea’s has made great plate lunches and wonderful pies since 1928. Since the inter state was built, it’s business is down, and it’s now about the only reason to go into LeCompte. We have pieces of pie and the coldest glasses of milk anywhere. We buy whole pies to take home and head back.

A day trip like that reminds you how great God is. He didn’t have to make such a marvelous variety of plants. They didn’t have to be fragrant or beautiful or food producers. He did all that as an extra glimpse into what heaven will be like. He didn’t need to make such a variety of food nor give us the talent to mix his ingredients into wonderful combinations like ham sandwiches and a variety of pies.

God is good, all the time.

The Parent Trap

“If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.” Mark 9:42

Last night Rose and I watched The Parent Trap with Samantha, the original version from 1961. In case you are too old to remember, Haley Mills played identical twins who were separated by their divorcing parents as infants and who meet each other at summer camp. The girls discover they are sisters and plot to get their parents back together. It was a shock to realize the movie was filmed 53 years ago, in a very different time.

In one scene the girls discuss their anger at their parents for denying each of them a parent. The twins remark how terrible divorce is and how they both have friends who have suffered from it. One of them says if this keeps up one day soon there will be more divorces than marriages. The line drew a laugh in 1961. However, the writer turned out to be more of a prophet than a comedian.

The divorce rate started a sharp rise soon after 1961 and in recent years the marriage rate has dropped. Someday soon there may, indeed, be more divorces than marriages.

 

 

It seems if we can’t kill off our offspring in the womb we will handicap their childhoods by denying them the benefits of growing up in a complete family. Just today I was reading that children with involved fathers are 98% more likely to graduate from college. Of course, fathers who are married are more likely to be involved.  That’s just one of the many benefits of growing up in a whole family.

I can’t escape the feeling that we are failing our children. I had lunch with a close Kairos friend. He lives in Baton Rouge. We both remarked how old our church congregations are and discussed the difficulty of getting younger people involved. My friend’s church is across the street from the campus of Southern University but they have almost no students attending their services.

It’s no accident that the 1961 world of the Parent Trap was before legal abortion, before the extraction of  prayer from school, before the “liberating” social movements of the sixties. Our children have less of a chance of being born, less of a chance of growing up in a whole family, less of a chance of growing up in church than did the Parent Trap kids.

Parents have fallen into a trap, a trap of believing that their “happiness” is more important that any responsibility they have to the children they conceive. We can’t fall into the trap of giving up on our kids. They are far too precious and our responsibility is far to great.

We have to find a way out of this trap. This generation may be seeing more grandparents raising kids. If that’s true, so be it. We may not have the youth or the energy, but we may just have the responsibility.

 

You’re Missing a Really Good Battle

bekind

I have extolled the virtues of home churches many times before. I need to do so again. The home church I attend just completed a twelve week cycle. We won’t meet again as a group until the end of summer. The twelve weeks were great. The food was great. The teaching was great. The prayer time was great.

I can get great teaching anytime I want, on the internet, on tv, from a book. I can get great food anytime I want. I live in a community with more great restaurants per head than anywhere in the world. My wife is a great cook. I don’t even have to leave the house.

I can hang around with people in any many places. I can go to ball games or bars. There is an international festival this weekend where I could rub elbows with a hundred thousand folks. The thought is frightening.

What I can’t get anywhere else is an atmosphere where folks are willing to share about the battles they are facing. In the last twelve weeks, we learned about and prayed for an amazing number of issues. It isn’t that our group is more needy or has more battles than the average group. The truth is we were blessed to be in a situation where we felt it was safe to share those battles.  Above all else, that’s what a home church or cell group provides. It’s an atmosphere that only gathered believers can have. Only when believers gather is the spirit present and active to allow the interaction that occurs.

Television teachers are probably lots better than the average pastor, but if a church is really good, the pastor knows the sheep and can offer personal pointed guidance and teaching with love that the most eloquent learned teacher can never give. Consider this. A pastor can’t know everyone in his flock that well. He can set up a community of small groups where that level of intimacy and vulnerability is possible. Groups where there are those mature enough in the Lord is preserve privacy and provide prayer and support.

Everyone you know  is fighting a battle. It’s a reason to be kind to everyone, but you can’t really help unless you are aware of the exact nature of the battle. You can’t really be helped unless others know the nature of your battle. You have to put yourself in a situation where vulnerability is safe and real help is available. That’s a home church or cell group.

There I’ve said it again.

Kids, Spring and Easter

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

I have had a lot of contact with kids and spring recently. We have been taking advantage of the spring weather to work in the  yard. School’s out this week so we’ve also been blessed with lots of kid contact. I couldn’t help but notice how kids and spring are similar. They are both fresh and exciting bursting forth with color and enthusiasm. They both possess promise of new things and futures filled with potential.

One of the many blessings of Easter, not the bunnies and candy part, but the risen from the dead part, is that the same kind of fresh promise is ours every day. With each new day comes forgiveness and forgetfulness of the mistakes and missteps of the past. Each new day brings the possibility of new faithfulness and following of the Savior.

We need to be more like kids and spring. We need to stay fresh and excited in our perspective and the promise of each new day. We need to shake off the tendency to be burned out by the summer or the failings that come with age. Easter makes it possible for us to be forever the best parts of kids and spring. Alleluia.

Empty Grave

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

What’s the meaning of the empty grave? Death is conquered. We tend to focus on the conquering of natural death. The real significance of the empty grave is that spiritual death is conquered. Because the grave is empty, the we can live eternally.

Take the empty grave, add faith, you have eternal life. The empty grave is about possibilities. Because the grave is empty, eternal life is possible. Being born again, is being born spiritually. Since Adam we are born dead, spiritually dead. Since Jesus, we can get that spiritual life back.

To be born again is to be different. Years ago I remember gathering in Baton Rouge to demonstrate in favor of life. There were two groups present: pro-life and pro death. The demonstrations were large but peaceful. Just before the crucial vote, the pro lifers without any direction, lay silently on their faces and began to pray. The pro deathers were confused but stood in respectful silence. They were in the presence of something spiritual. Something they did not understand. The two groups were different. It wasn’t that one group was good and the other bad. It wasn’t that one was right and one was wrong. It was that some were alive and some were dead.

Spiritual life is about possibilities. When we are born again we gain new possibilities: the possibility to love like Jesus loves, the possibility to grow, the possibility to bear fruit, the possibility to make an eternal difference.

Today we celebrate possibilities. Now it’s possible to live forever with God, if to the work of the cross and the resurrection, we add faith. It’s possible to make a difference, if to new birth we add following the Savior.

The empty grave trumpets unlimited possibilities. It’s why we celebrate. It’s why we sing, “hallelujah.”

Strong Passionate Finish

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 2 Timothy 4:7

Last night I got to see and hear Tim Tebow. As a Gator fan, he is one of my heroes. As a Christian, he is one of my heroes. His humble, sincere love for people and Jesus comes through in person. It was inspiring to listen to him. The crowd was pretty young and he was well received. His message also affected me as an older guy.

He talked about growing up with parents who taught him to follow his passion. In life, we too often become satisfied with what works and let our passions fall by the way side. If we find a job that pays the bills, that’s a good thing. Setting aside what really moves and motivates us is sad.

I have a passion that I haven’t really pursued. I am never happier or feel more in the will of God than when I teach or preach. I get to do so occasionally, but not enough. Tim motivated me to seek more opportunities to pursue this passion. I am committed to do so.

Tim also talked about learning from his NCAA Championship season. His coach at Florida, Urban Myers, set forth a standard for his team to “Finish Strong.” Tim learned much from that season. Last night he expressed his real desire to come to the end of his life and hear his savior tell him that he finished strong.

It’s easy in life to get to a point that we feel that we have “made it” and decide to coast the rest of the way. It’s easy not to work to the end, to not compete until it’s over, to fade at the end. Last night I got a renewed inspiration to push harder and longer to finish the race.

Today I pray for and will pursue a strong, passionate finish.

Be blessed.