September 23, 2017

Something really big was supposed to happen yesterday. If it did, I missed it. Lots of the so-called “Prophesy” teachers agreed. Some said it was the “end of the world.” Most were less definitive, hinting it might be the rapture or a really big disaster. Guess they were covering their bases if nothing happened. They pointed to the recent hurricanes and earthquakes or signs in the heavens or their personal insights into the Books of Daniel or Revelations. Some made money off of all this. I’m really sick of these guys.

First of all, please be clear. I do believe in the soon return of Jesus and the rapture. I was even disappointed that it didn’t happen yesterday. I also believe Jesus when He told us no man knows the date. I agree the world is getting really bad and that we haven’t seen the end of really bad things even maybe nuclear destruction.

These “prophets” are telling us we should “get ready” and “tell others.” Well, shouldn’t we be doing that anyway? Shouldn’t we live lives that make us ready at any time to be giving an explanation to our Lord? I don’t know when the world will end but the end of my world isn’t that far away. I’m 68 years old. Like many before me, I hope the rapture happens before my personal end, but I shouldn’t bet on it. 

These “prophets” spend tons of time and energy on their main interest and not much in making disciples or loving each other. The things that they predicted didn’t happen yesterday, but lots of things did. Millions died without Jesus. Hurricane and earthquake victims remained homeless. Children died of starvation. Most of the world dreamed of lives that we complain about. 

I am angry at those who divert others from the mission we are all called to. I am upset about the unloved strangers, unfed starving, and unvisited prisoners. I am also angry at the guy in the mirror who didn’t spend yesterday meeting those needs either. I spent the day in my recliner watching football with one eye on the news, in case the “prophets” turned out to be right.

It’s foolish to spend time trying to figure out when the clock will run out instead of doing all that we can before it does. I’m just as foolish as the next guy.  September 23, 2017, turned out to be just another day when important things weren’t done. That’s really sad. I hope I’ll do better with the days I’ve got left.

Uncommon

There’s a lot of bad stuff out there. Everywhere there seems to be exhaustion, worry, stress, anger, and hopelessness. For most, the goal has become just survival. It’s not just in the world, it seems to be the case for many in the church. Bad stuff is common.

We aren’t supposed to be living that kind of life. Our lives, as Christians, should be uncommon. Aren’t we a chosen people, a royal priesthood, taking the narrow way, being the exceptions.

We are called to lives of uncommon knowledge, strength, destiny, and mission. For most of us, it’s not happening. This Sunday morning at Amana Christian Fellowship, at the 9 a.m. teaching time I will be discussing the Uncommon life. Hope to see you there.

Marrying Your Best Friend

In the wee hours of this morning, I heard a discussion on the radio about a new book which apparently recommends you don’t marry your best friend. I don’t remember the name of the book and since I disagree with its basic premise I didn’t do a lot of research to find it. If you are interested, you know all about google.

I didn’t marry my best friend. When I got married in 1970, I wasn’t looking for a best friend, I was looking for a hot little number and that’s what I got. It’s a blessing that she turned out to be a faithful wife, wonderful mom and grandmother and, yes, eventually a perfect best friend. If after 47 years of marriage, your spouse isn’t your best friend you are doing friendship wrong. I don’t care what any book says. 

I will caution this way. Your spouse shouldn’t be your only friend. We lay way too much on our spouses, especially the good ones. There should be others that can share our emotional burdens and our whining and complaining. Most of us are too much for any one best friend to handle.  Once more chances are one of us will outlive the other. It would be great if there are persons out around who, though may never replace our best friend, will be around to help us through the loss of that best friend. Think about it. If your best friend went to be with Jesus today, who would you have to help you through

Further chances are one of us will outlive the other. Simultaneous death of life-long loves is romantic, but very rare. It would be great if there are persons who, though they will never replace our best friend, will be around to help us through the loss of that best friend. Think about it. If your best friend went to be with Jesus today, who would you have to help you through?

Call them your second best friend or your best-friend-in-waiting or your mourner-in-chief. I’m not sure I have one. Maybe that book served its purpose; it’s given me something important to think about. It’s just not fair to pray that I die first. Who would do that to a best friend or a hot little number?

From “I never knew you” to “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

I think when I get to heaven I will be shocked at how simple it all was and how complicated I tried to make it. My only consolation will be that I made it and that I wasn’t the only one who made it seem harder than it should be. 

At times I have known in my head that it was simple, but I never let it stay that way. I would think things like, “Surely, there has to be more.” or “I don’t deserve it. I need to do something else.” 

From the words of Jesus I should know that it’s all about relationship with Him and what He did and does through me. It’s not about what I do or deserve. I know that when I recognize what He’s done that I am compelled to do things. I can’t stop myself, but it’s not those things that earn my way; they are just evidence of what he’s done.

What about when things are not so great? When I do things I am ashamed of. Those too aren’t important, for forgiveness and forgetfulness or right at hand. He knew all along I would fall. He died and planned for that from the beginning.

I read “I never knew you” and begin to doubt the relationship in which he has daily made himself known to me, intervened in my life and blessed me beyond measure. Why should I doubt?

I read “well done” and look on the filthy rags of my efforts forgetting that doing well means not achievement but knowledge and reliance and trust. What else do I have?

It’s really not far from “I never knew you” to “Well done.” It’s a short trip glancing back at the footprints we, he and I,  have left in the sands of my life. Mostly just His when He carried me.

 

A Blessed Life

I was eating gumbo from Chris’ last night and got to thinking about my blessed life. I know gumbo doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I remember living for years in California or Florida or Mississippi when you couldn’t get good gumbo at a fast food place. I’ve lived back home since 1981 and that’s a blessed thing. Then I came across the above photo. 

I can look out my window from my air-conditioned room and see a forest of green in summer and changing leaves in the fall.  I have been able to work out of my house for years and spend most days with my lovely wife. I guess that makes up for being away for months at a time in the waters off of Vietnam. I have a beautiful daughter, grandkids and great grands. They all live around me. Harvey seems to be headed to Texas and not Acadiana. I am blessed.

I think being blessed is really an attitude. It’s the ability, that I don’t always have, of spending an appropriate amount of time looking up and looking down. 

I need to spend more time looking up at my great God and getting validation and inspiration from Him and not from a rapidly collapsing world system. I need to look “down” on a world full of folks who can’t even conceive of a life like mine. I can’t comprehend waking up with my family in a garbage dump.   

I need to somehow use these upward and downward views not as a cause of satisfaction, but a call to action. The only purpose of blessing is to be a blessing. I need to remember that standing or sitting during the national anthem, having Obama Care or Trump Care, whether statues of the long dead stand or fall,  aren’t really matters of eternal significance.  Wondering if there is any gumbo left over, probably isn’t the most important issue of my day.  Jesus wept over Jerusalem, I wonder what he’s thinking today about me in my air-conditioned room and those kids waking up in a garbage dump. 

Don’t Settle For Moses

After Moses led God’s People out of Egypt, he became their intermediary to God. He went up on the mountain and returned with God’s word for His people. Jesus changed all that and gave us the opportunity to deal with God directly, to go into His presence, learn His ways, and fellowship with Him.

We aren’t always that comfortable with that. We like the distance that an intermediary provides. Someone studying Jesus movements noted that they tend to start when the leader becomes particularly close to God and they end when the followers substitute the leader for God. 

Our current system makes it all about a couple of hours on Sunday. On Sunday mornings we try to provide teaching, worship, and fellowship. We make the followers think that if they made it on Sunday, they’ve done all that needs to be done. It’s just not so.

Teaching – You can get great teaching lots of places. The more a pastor tries to make Sunday morning about teaching the less time there is for worship and fellowship. Group teaching has to be general. It can’t address the individual struggles and questions of each member. In some churches, sermons are pretty much all calls to salvation, lots of milk and little meat. If the sermons are meaty, visitors are often lost. How is a pastor to balance those needs?

Worship – There is little time to really allow significant worship. The “music” times tend to be a performance designed to pep up the crowd and prep them for the sermon. There is woefully little real “presence of God” time. Actually, I think most churches don’t devote enough time to worship. It should be the focus of the Sunday gathering. 

Fellowship – Fellowship on Sunday mornings is superficial. A few minutes spent shaking hands and saying “hello.” In the early years of our marriage, we attended Baptist churches. Every Sunday there was “Sunday School” and a worship service. The “Sunday School” allowed for fellowship time with the same “small group” every Sunday. It wasn’t perfect. It was essentially an hour of fellowship and sharing and an hour service. That has evolved in most churches to a two-hour service.

Many pastors see the problem and encourage “small groups.” These can be great but it’s tough to get folks to participate. Pastors fall back on the idea that they still have to provide everything on Sunday mornings for those who aren’t benefitting from the small groups.

I think the root of the problem is reflected in all of our society, an erosion of individual responsibility. On the worldly side, we look to government to solve our problems. In church, we fail to accept responsibility to seek God’s face, learn His word, and fellowship with His people. Pastors can’t be expected to provide all that in an hour or two on Sunday mornings. At best, they are just Moses. They aren’t God.  Give your “Moses” a break. Take responsibility for your walk. You were created for fellowship with God; that doesn’t happen third hand. He wants to spend time with you and teach you His ways. 

Help! Police!

My weird dream this week reminded me of a weird dream last week. In that one, I was  

A. On foot

B. In a “bad” part of town

C. At night

D. At Burger King

E. With $1000 in cash bulging from my wallet. 

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s always fun to try to tie in my dreams with what’s happening in my life. This is a tough one. I’m never on foot. It’s not just that I’m too lazy to walk (which I am), but our house isn’t really walking distance to anywhere. I try to stay out of “bad” parts of town. My grandson is afraid to go in “rich” areas. Sometimes the apple falls way far from the tree. I tend to stay away from areas where drug deals are happening. I am rarely out at night or at Burger King.

Most fantastic of all I never have $1000 in cash bulging from my wallet. In my dream, I tried to pull money from the wallet with no one noticing I was “loaded.” It didn’t work as I was walking away with my Whopper in hand, and stuffed wallet hanging out of my pocket, I was jumped by scary looking youth. When you are my age, it should be noted, all youth look pretty scary. I shouted out “Help.” “Police.” Then I woke up. It was so real I woke my wife. She said I was yelling something but couldn’t make out what it was. Glad she’s not a cop.

Maybe the point of my dream wasn’t my unusual circumstances, but the thought that we ought to be willing to call for help a lot more than we do. In fact, it’s one of my pet peeves. I am very uncomfortable at church, for example, when everyone just smiles and says how blessed they are. You know most everyone is struggling with something and could really use some help. It’s just a case of churchy icorrectness (not to be confused with political correctness) to never ask for help. It’s apparently very politically correct to ask for help, especially from the government.

I don’t know if the police showed up in my dream. I like to think my brothers and sisters would show up if I let my needs and concerns be known and that I would respond in kind to the needs of the people whose love is supposed to be a witness of my discipleship.

If I see you at church on Sunday, don’t tell me “I’m great” or “I’m blessed” unless your life is perfect, because if it is I’ll probably ask you for something, like $1000 to stuff in my wallet. That will teach you. If you do have a problem, try not to discuss legal problems with me. My hourly rate is $200 and my timer tends to go off automatically.

 

 

Of Battles and Surrender

I had another weird dream last night. I was part of a contingent of American soldiers holding down a building under assault from a great number of Germans. We were out manned and out of ammunition. The question was whether or not to surrender. I awoke before having to make the fatal decision. I wish I could figure out where that dream came from. 

As Christians,  we are at war. Jesus talked about it often. We have more challenges than whether to surrender or fight on. For us, everything is different, including what constitutes victory or defeat and who determines the outcome.

If you look at church prayer lists, we fight principally on two fronts: health and finances. As to health, you would think we believe we should live forever. To succumb to disease or injury seems the most horrible thing in the world. It’s as if we had no idea, much less appreciation, of a forever life. Our bodies are designed so that health is always a diminishing asset. We have a responsibility to take good care of these temples, but it’s because we need to be useful in the work of God and not eternal residents of them. Our health is not a measure of our faith or even our blessings. Victory in health comes in being able to do all we are called to do with great joy, including meeting Him when it’s all over here. Health victory is when we leave this body.

Our financial struggles are even stranger. Jesus had no place to lay his head. He marveled at the lilies of the field and the birds of the air and their reliance on God. Our financial goals here are not to gather as much as we can. From my knowledge of the well-to-do, no amount is ever enough and no savings or treasure is ever really secure. We need to be more like the potent missionary, George Mueller, who set the table for him, his staff and orphanage charges to eat even when the pantry was bare and was blessed when a bread truck broke down in front of his building. Financial victory is achieving complete trust not self-reliance. 

The one thing absent from my dream was the thought that God would defeat the Germans even when we had no ammo.