Monthly Archives: March, 2011

The Bible: Jesus is returning!

Several weeks ago at AWANA, my kids listened to a special speaker boldly proclaiming that he would not experience death due to the impending arrival of Jesus Christ.  I hope he’s right.  He’s probably not.  I do appreciate his hopefulness.  The other day I had a discussion about eschatology (the doctrine of the end times) with two other people.  In the short conversation, one basically admitted to holding the pre-tribulational view of the rapture (the majority position).  One stated that she is leaning toward the mid-tribulational view.  I stated I hold the historical pre-millenial position of post-trib. (when I am not leaning “amill”!).  However–we all agreed that we need to live ready!  That was Jesus’ point in Matthew 25:1-13.  In this particular parable (a story with one main point), half of the virgins were simply not ready for the bridegroom’s return.  Jesus’ admontion was:  “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” (25:13).  The second parable stresses faithfulness (25:14-30).  Two servants were faithful with the money entrusted to them, one was not.  In the third parable in the chapter, Jesus contrasts the rewards of the sheep with the consequences of the goats.  The point is that God’s people need to be serving others, especially those within the body of Christ, the Church (25:40 [“these brothers of mine”]). 

When is Jesus returning?  I don’t have a clue.

How should I live in light of the fact that He is indeed going to return?  I need to be ready (parable 1).  I need to be faithful (parable 2).  I need to be serving (parable 3).  All God’s people need to be so. 

Are we? 

Maybe I should ask you–what exactly does it mean to “be ready”?  What does faithfulness look like?  How can I practically bless others in the body of Christ today?  These are great issues to meditate upon!  Let’s pray for opportunities to live these out!


Behind the Dugout: Victory!

TJ finally began his baseball career last night!  Although my little guy went 0-3 at the plate, he played very good defense.  Of the three balls that came his way (one in the air, two on the ground), not one got past him!  The Express won 12-9!

Savoring the Savior from the Psalms: Plugged into the power source

How is your battery level today?

I read Psalm 29 this morning before the morning chaos began in earnest.  Psalm 29 is a celebration of the omnipotence of God (the fact that He is all-powerful).  Verse ten also mentions His absolute sovereignty (the  truth that He is in complete control of His universe).  In light of who He is, it should not surprise us to read in verse nine, “And in His temple all cry, ‘Glory!'”  The God of the Bible is a very BIG GOD!  I enjoyed making that point yesterday in Training Church (our version of children’s church).  We studied Genesis 24.  It is the account of Abraham sending his chief servant all the way from Canaan to Nahor to find a wife for Isaac.  After reading the story and acting it out (I even played the role of the camels!), I asked our young students who they thought was the hero of the story.  They correctly answered, “God.”  Indeed!  He heard the prayer of the servant even before the prayer was completed (24:45).  The Lord graciously provided a wife for Isaac (24:67).  God hears and answers prayers (undoubtedly, one of the repeated themes of the entire Bible).  He also gives strength to His people.  That’s the conclusion of Psalm 29.  This amazing, transcendent God Who can do anything He pleases, is pleased to strengthen His people (Ps. 29:8)! 

Do you have needs today?  Pray!  Do you need strength?  Stay plugged into the power source.  Remain in fellowship with Christ.  Apart from Him, we cannot accomplish anything of lasting value (Jn. 15:5).

Behind the Dugout: “Just do your best, son”

He returned to the dugout dejected.  His eyes moistened and his lip began to quiver.  It was his second strikeout.  “I can’t make it to first base.”

Last night TJ’s team had a scrimmage game.  They lost 23-15.  Their first game is Monday night against the Rockhounds (5:30PM–Be there!)  “Just do your best, son,” was my reply to TJ’s emotional moment.  Thankfully, he pulled it together.  I’m a dad who understands that baseball is just a game.  If TJ does his best, I’m proud.  (I wish I sensed that in all the parents!)  When TJ went up to the plate for his final at bat, he was 0-5 with the two strikeouts.  Of the three ground balls that he hit, he reached 1st twice on errors and scored one run.  Then he hit a grounder to short and outran it!  A single!  Wait–there’s more!  There was a runner on third!  An RBI single!  What strikeouts?! 

Don’t you think that that is a picture of life?  Isn’t that what parenting is all about?  We should do our best.  We should challenge our children to do their best and be proud of them when they do so–even if their batting average is .167 (1-6). 

I wonder–is there a child in your life (kid, grandkid, nephew, niece) who needs to hear:  “Well done!” or “I’m proud of you!”  I’ll bet there is.

Red, White and Blue: Thank You, Frank W. Buckles

I learned in the March 26 edition of World Magazine that Frank W. Buckles died.  Let me quote from the brief article:

“The last American World War I veteran died on February 27, almost a month after reaching the age of 11o.  Frank W. Buckles was born in a Missouri farmhouse and quit school at age 16 to enlist in the Army  to fight World War I” (p. 18).

I finally got the nerve to watch Black Hawk Down this week.  I would not recommend it to sensitive viewers due to the realistic gore and profanity.  The movie  was a stark reminder that–can I say it–“War is hell.”  War is only glamorous to those who have not fought in combat, and heroes are the brave who do their duty regardless of the consequences. 

As I consider my day and the weekend to follow, I could easily make a list of all the freedoms I will enjoy.  Today finds me grateful to God for those freedoms and for the lack of fear I have in this quaint Tennessee town where I reside.  I have a profound sense of gratitude for the men and women who served in our armed forces, especially during periods of combat.  In particular, I thank the Lord for the veterans of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, World War I, World War II and the war against al-Qaeda.  I also deeply respect those who did their duty in other conflicts, including Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, the war against Iraq, and in places like Somalia (the setting of Black Hawk Down, a battle where 19 Americans lost their lives). 

Several years ago, my good friend Doug Bushousen passed away.  Doug served stateside during the Korean War.  He was proud of our country and did not have a lot of patience with critics who compared  the USA with places such as Communist China.  I agree.  The USA is far from perfect.  We’ve got some serious issues, and we need–more than anything–a Holy Spirit-authored revival.  But, as a citizen and veteran of the US Army, I continue to do what every citizen of every country probably ought to do–love my country.  I trust you do as well.  Be patriotic, and do what you can to help your country.  Frank W. Buckles did that.  He will be missed.  I wish I could have thanked him personally.  If you are a veteran, THANK YOU!

Reflections on the Quest: How to deal with the unexpected and unplanned

David did not have a perfect life.  Psalm 27 makes that clear.  In verse two, he stated that evil men were against him.  He mentioned war in verse three and enemies in verse six.  Life was not going as he had hoped. 

Can you relate?

Life is difficult.  It is filled with the unexpected and unplanned.  What are we to do?  David’s example is very instructive.  What was he doing during this particular season of his life? Seeking God (27:8).  He chose to both worship (27:4) and pray (27:7).  Great decisions, eh?!  I love how He concludes his psalm.  He transitions from prayer (27:12) to confession (27:13) to exhortation (27:14).  In other words, as he finishes this very personal writing he encourages all of us who can–in any way–relate to his circumstances.  And–since we can all relate–his final words are needed!  They read,

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (27:14)

Things are not going as we had hoped.  Wait for the Lord.  We would not have planned it this way.  Be strong and take heart.  The unexpected has happened.  Wait for the Lord. 

David’s heart told him to seek God’s face (27:8).  If we are believers, our heart will proclaim that same message.  Let’s do so–today!  And, I think that if we will truly seek God’s face the small stuff of life that we are so tempted to make into the big stuff of life will be kept in perspective.  The end result will be joy instead of discouragement, trust rather than doubt.  Those are two characteristics I’d like more of in my life.  What about you?

Reflections on the Quest: A Great Report Card

John and Ann Hostetler are friends of mine.  More importantly, they are awesome examples of the Christian I want to be.  If God gave report cards, John and Ann would receive four “F’s.”  One F would be for faith.  One would be for faithfulness.  One would be for fruitfulness, and one would be for finishing well.  In their seventies, the couple continues to believe the truth about Christ.  They also continue to serve Him at their local church as well as in parachurch ministries such as Rhea County Academy and Wycliffe Bible Translators.  Furthermore, they remain very active in their family and in other relationships, pushing believers closer to God while testifying about God’s grace to those who do not know Christ.  Without a doubt, they are making a difference, and they are committed to doing so until Jesus returns or they join Him after death.  When I think of them, the person of Caleb comes to mind.  Do you remember Caleb?  He was one of the two spies who trusted God after checking out the land (Nu. 13).  Forty years later–after forty years of wilderness due to the unbelief of others–Caleb is eighty years old.  While eighty then may not be the tired-out eighty of today, it is clear from the context that he’s no “spring chicken.”  What stands out to me as I read Joshua 14 is Caleb’s steadfast passion for the Lord.  He confessed that he followed God wholeheartedly (14:6).  Moses agreed with that assessment (14:9), and Joshua (or whomever the author of the book of Joshua is) confirmed it (14:15).  Three times Caleb is said to have followed the Lord with all his heart.  Now that’s a great report card!  When you think about your life, what grades are you hoping to receive at the end of the semester?  I very much want to earn F’s!  I want to be accurately described as full of faith, faithful, fruitful and someone who finished well.  The last description particularly resonates with me.  I deeply desire to finish well as a Christian, as a husband, as a father, as a son, as a friend, etc. etc. etc.  Caleb finished well.  John and Ann are finishing well.  I want to finish well.

But how do I do so?  How can you finish well?

Any thoughts?

I’ll share one.  I can finish the race by continuing to run the race.  In other words, today matters.  What I do today counts.  That’s why I kicked myself out of bed this morning in order to seek God.  That’s why I attempted to be productive.  Finishing well is not possible without faith and faithfulness.  Am I going to change the world today?  No.  Am I going to change the world on some future day?  Probably not.  However, that does not mean I cannot continue running the race to the glory of God until the very end! 

Are you running with me?

Happy Birthday…to me!

I turned forty-six today.   Some of you see that distant event in your rear view mirror.  Others of you see it rapidly approaching.  In reality, it isn’t a very significant event.  The “Big 5-0” is monumentous.  I’m already planning to be emotionally down on that day.  Today, I’m up.  I’m encouraged.  It’s a beautiful day, and the Lord has been very kind to me as I consider the many blessings of my life.  Not a whole lot is planned for this particular birthday (at least as far as I know).  That’s OK as I am rather tired out from a busy week.  Jodi and I have lunch together on our birthdays, so that will be nice.  After work I’ll practice baseball with TJ.  Tonight, maybe we’ll watch a movie.  We have an evening without anything scheduled.  Nice.  Happy Birthday…to me!  I live in a zoo (I’m not jesting).  I look like a monkey (or, my dad), and I smell like one, too (from playing basketball)!

In Giants’ Footsteps: Good-bye, Uncle Joe

God took a really “good guy” home this week.  My wife’s “Uncle Joe” died.  I did not know Joe very well, but from all that I knew, I can say confidently that he was truly a man committed to making a difference.  That is evident in his obituary (see link at the bottom).  Joe lived to honor God and bless others.  I’ve met others like Joe–men and women who refused to waste their lives.  I want to be such a person.  I want my life to count for something–namely, the glory of God and the good of others.  So many men live for that which is inconsequential–fame, fortune, power, and–in doing so–lose their own souls (Mt. 16:26).  Almost as tragic is the fact that their lives do not help the souls of others.  One example from history which comes to mind is that of Augustine.  Most of you probably remember that name.  He lived from A.D. 354-430.  His story is one of a dramatic conversion in his mother’s backyard.  After debating the pros and cons of Christianity for years, and after living for those same said years in sexual sin, God grabbed Augustine’s heart and mind, changing him from being useless to useful!  Do you recall the passage that the Lord used?  It was Romans 13:11-14.  It reads,

“And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (NIV).

I do not know your story.  Mine is similar to that of Augustine.  I did not behave “decently” (Rom. 13:13).  Some of the sins listed in the passage were regularly seen in my life.  I was lost in a deep slumber (13:11)! 

“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in trangressions–it is by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:4,5; NIV).

God invaded my life, and He transformed me from within!  His priorities increasingly became my priorities.  And–the longer I walk with Him, the more I desire to see His name praised and other people blessed.  Augustine lived for himself and made very little difference.  Then, God radically changed him, and he began to live with purpose!  Uncle Joe was dead in his sins, but God made him alive.  The result was decades of worship and ministry.  The Lord renewed me by His sovereign grace in 1984.  What difference is it making?  Is God being glorified?  Are people being blessed?  I desperately hope so!  I can tell you that I deeply desire for both to be happening in my life on a daily basis.  What about you?  Are these your passions?  Join me in following the examples of sinners saved by grace striving for reality!

The Bible: Did you hear what Jesus said?

The past couple of days I have been meditating upon two passages of Scripture:  Psalm 23 and John 10.  If you are familiar with the Bible, you know that both of these sections employ the metaphor of a shepherd.  In Psalm 23, David calls God (YHWH) his shepherd.  In John 10, Jesus claims to be the good shepherd (10:11).  I love the intimacy stressed by both kings.  King David took great comfort knowing that the Creator God was active in his life–his physical as well as his spiritual life.  King Jesus offered great comfort when He told His disciples that He was such a good shepherd that He was going to lay down His life for them (10:11).  I also appreciate the presupposition of Psalm 23 which is clearly stated in John, chapter ten.  God’s sheep hear His voice.  Jesus said it plainly:  “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd” (10:16).  Last night, I asked my little flock (my four kids) a very important question.  I said, “Have you heard the voice of Jesus?”  When I admitted that I have indeed heard His voice, my eldest child took my comment literally.  “No, I haven’t actually heard His voice (as I hear the voice of my wife).”  But, I’ve heard His voice in His Word.  In fact, I’ve read His words so many times that I could pick out His voice in a crowd.  The content of His speech would give it away! 

This morning I read a chapter in John Piper’s book What Jesus Demands from the World (Crossway, 2006).  Allow me to share the final paragraph in the chapter entitled “Listen to Me” (p. 61):

“Therefore, I urge you on behalf of Jesus, listen to His word.  Be like Mary and sit at His feet (Luke 10:39, 42).  Don’t turn away from the command of His Father given on the Mount of Transfiguration:  ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him’ (Mt. 17:5).  Don’t miss the merciful attraction in the words, ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away’ (Mark 13:31).  Don’t hate yourself by rejecting the One who said, ‘These things I have spoken to you…that your joy may be full’ (John 15:11; cf. 17:13).  Listen to Jesus.”

Did you hear what Jesus said?