Monthly Archives: May, 2011

Mountain Melodies and Meditations–Tuesday

Melody #2

“To water be the glory, great things it has done…”

We toured Tuckaleechee Caverns this afternoon (It’s a private cave on the eastern border of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park).  Honestly, it’s one of the nicest “cave experiences” I have had (I’ve probably only been to seven or eight, including Carlsbad).  There is more running water in this particular cave than any I’ve seen previously.  The beach area and the waterfall on the second half of the tour made it worth the entrance fee.  Our guide was informative though not extremely personable.  Several aspects of the event stood out to me, including the reminder that I really love caves and, second, how refreshing it was to visit another privately owned cave–Cumberland County Caverns (also in Tennessee)–where the Creator was praised more than the water He used to create the cave.  One of the characters in James Cameron’s movie Sanctum (an intense drama set within a cave) boldly asserted that God was not present in the cave.  Well, I’d have to disagree.  In every cave I have had the privilege of touring, I’ve seen HIS handiwork.  I’ve witnessed His power as He manipulated underground rivers and rain water to accomplish His masterpiece.  I’ve noticed His patient creativity as He dictated to each and every drop of H2O its mission from stalagmite and stalagtite to column.  The highest mountain tops and the lowest caves should cause us to worship.  It was good to descend into the depths this afternoon.  God was there.  I knew He would be.

“To God be the glory, great things He has done…”

Meditation #2

After a late dinner, we read and discussed 1 John, chapter two.  I have always appreciated the challenge to guard my heart when it comes to the world and the things of the world (2:15-17).  Too often, I fail in that area!  Can you relate?  Thought so!  Tonight, the admonition to be prepared for the return of Christ (2:28) encouraged me.  Believing the Bible to be accurate in its assertions, I am convinced that Jesus will indeed return to earth in bodily form (I could list many verses at this point).  As a result, I need to be ready for that glorious return!  I do not want to be ashamed (2:28).  How is it possible to have the confidence mentioned by the Apostle?  By obeying His commands (2:3), by walking as Jesus walked (2:6) and by doing the will of God (2:17).  Perfectly?!  No, not perfectly!  We all sin (1 Jn. 1:8).  John is speaking of consistent actions which prove that we are indeed children of God.  So–there’s a bit of application at the conclusion of another day.  Am I ready for the return of Christ?  Are you? 

Let’s live ready! 

Thanks for stopping by the cabin!

PS–Here’s the link to the cave:

http://www.tuckaleecheecaverns.com/

Mountain Melodies and Meditations–Monday

Melody #1

The thick veil of night has put my vista to sleep.  For several hours today, I thoroughly enjoyed a view of a high (high for Tennessee–5’000 ft.) ridge.  Our cabin looks out upon the backyard to the famous Cades Cove–only the third spot on the planet I’ve seen a bear in the wild.  We’ve had a good day of travel, settling and relaxing.  Tonight will be the first of four nights here in Townsend, TN.  Without a doubt, the R&R is needed.  Life is stressful.  Sometimes–especially when your health is like mine–a vacation is “just what the doctor ordered.”  Having said that, however, I very much hope that the children (my four plus one more) have a great time.  Today they went swimming and sat in the hot tub.  This week they will go tubing and into a cave for the first time.  We’re also planning to do something fun on the way home at the end of the week.  Hopefully, this will be a week we will all remember for years to come.

Meditation #1

We began a study of 1 John tonight.  Each day of vacation we are going to read and discuss a chapter in the first epistle.  This evening we enjoyed remembering John’s relationship with his dear friend, Lord and Savior–Jesus Christ.  At the time of the writing of 1 John, the disciple was the only one still living.  Judas hung himself.  The remaining disciples, including Paul, were martyred.  What would John have to say?  What would he choose to communicate to a group of individuals he dearly loved?  Are your ears pricked?  Do you care about what the last living disciple of Jesus Christ considered to be important?  Great!  In chapter one, he said no less than two things.  First, God is absolutely without sin (1:5).  He contains “no darkness at all.”  Second, believers are continually sinning (1:8).  Although we do not walk in darkness (live our lives in blatant disregard to the commandments of God), we still sin.  I still sin.  You still sin.  We rightly aim for perfection on earth, but only achieve perfection in glory.  That’s why the promise of 1 John 1:9 is so precious to us.  God forgives those who confess.  God is perfect.  We ain’t.  But God cleanses all those who “fess up!”  Have you “fessed up”?  It ought to be a regular activity in the life of a believer.  Perhaps we each should end our day with a little confession! 

Thanks for stopping by the cabin!

Reflections on the Quest: “We bow our heads and thank YOU”

The cutest thing happened this morning.  Cascade, my two-year-old, asked for some food for breakfast.  I gave her some microwaveable sandwich, told her to eat it at the table, and went about my business.  However, what she did next brought joy for her father’s heart.  Unprompted, Cascade began to pray.  Hovering over her breakfast, she sang the children’s prayer “God our Father.”  One of the lines in the prayer-song states, “We bow our heads and thank You.”  I trust that I was not the only one pleased at that moment.  It pleases God when we thank Him.  He, too, takes joy in our gratitude. 

Today finds me both exhausted and grateful.  I am exhausted at the conclusion of another school year at the Academy.  Our end-of-year program last night was our last official event from the 2010-2011 academic calendar.  Whew.  To ensure that I would be genuinely tired out after the final week of school, my teaching schedule for the college had me in the classroom Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings.  Did I mention I was tired?!  But I am also grateful.  God worked in many circumstances, in many ways, over the past year at our small school.  Lives were impacted.  It was not an exercise in futility.  I continue to remain thankful for the health and strength that the Lord granted to me throughout the days, weeks and months.  I was able to be on campus 179 of 180 school days, missing one complete day in October as Celena and I flew home from Las Vegas.  Knowing that I am not a poster boy for physical fitness, I praise God for His sustaining grace in my life on a day-to-day basis.  He was kind to me, kind to Rhea County Academy.  My list of reasons for my being thankful could continue.  I could mention our committed school board or our dedicated teachers.  I could specifically name very supportive parents who balanced out some who were not.  But–to refer back to a previous point–I’m tired.  Tired, but grateful.  So, I’ll conclude by joining my daughter in bowing my head and saying, “Thank You, God!”

Pleasant Places: A Twenty Year Celebration

Jodi and I are celebrating our twentieth wedding anniversary today.  In a world of litigation, I have come to see that less and less couples arrive at this milestone.  Divorce is the norm rather than the exception.  Many couples that actually survive to their twentieth, would not describe their marriage one worth celebrating.  As a result–as dawn awakens this sky this morning–I find myself celebrating my gracious God and my great wife.

I’ll never forget the moment I saw her.  Shortly before, I was informed that I would be working with Jodi Rouse that summer (in the Bryan College house keeping dept.).  It was May of 1989.  A beautiful girl walked by me.  Realizing it was Jodi (the name tag gave her identity away), I introduced myself.  She seemed glad to meet me and even appeared to look forward to working with me.  As you can imagine, I was very much eager to spend time with her.  Several weeks later, my classes ended and Jodi and I began working together.  We also began talking.  And boy did we talk!  For eight hours a day, we talked and worked, worked and talked.  Without a doubt, the handwriting was “on the wall.” 

Let me pause in the story and explain the mission I had embarked upon.  Everyone could see that Jodi was a beautiful girl.  A lot of the college boys had noticed.  But I was looking for something not always visible.  I was on a mission to find out if Jodi was beautiful on the inside.  They say that beauty fades.  In Jodi’s case, that simply has not happened.  But knowing the adage, I had to ensure that–to the best of my ability to determine–Jodi was “the genuine article,” a woman consistently living out 1 Peter 3:4, 5 which reads,

“Your adornment must not be merely external–braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”

Through our many discussions about life and theology, I was seeking to find out if Jodi was living her life in submission to God and if she was willing to live her life in submission to a husband (Eph. 5:22) who would strive-albeit imperfectly–to love her as Christ loved the Church (Eph. 5:25).  I was on a quest to find out if Jodi had the “imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Pet. 3:4).  Those of you who know my wife can easily see that I found what I was looking for!  God had indeed led me to a dignified woman who was not a malicious gossip, but temperate, faithful in all things (1 Tim. 3:11).  How blessed that I am!

In Proverbs 31, King Lemuel asks the question: “An excellent wife, who can find” (31:10)?  My enthusiastic reply is, “I HAVE!”  Jesus provided me with a wife whose worth is far more than jewels (31:10).  She fears the Lord, and this day I praise both Him and her (31:30).

Happy Anniversary Jodi!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knp9-GY6fHE&feature=related

Sights from the Sidelines: I am what I am due to I AM

It shouldn’t have surprised me early this morning when my friend casually informed me that he was unemployed again.  If memory serves me well, he just lost or quit his fourth job in four years.  This might not be a huge deal if my friend were–say–eighteen and single.  Instead, he’s about 35, married with five kids.  Having lost their home, he and his family are living with his sister (“Hi, sis. Hope you don’t mind me, the wife and the slew of kids living off ya indefinately.”).  Like me, my friend isn’t “a mover or a shaker.”  He’ll never be famous (hopefully).  Unlike me, however, my friend is struggling to do the simple stuff.  Now before you pat me on the back, let me make this admission:  I am what I am due to I AM.  Let me put it this way:  I am only proving to be faithful, striving to do the right things because of what the Lord Jesus has done in me for His glory.  It’s hard to believe, but our school year is about to be over.  Apart from taking one day off in order to save money on a flight, I have been on campus every morning before 8AM to unlock the buildings for my students and teachers (174 of 175 days).  Sure, I have a deep committment to being faithful.  My father was a faithful employee, setting an example for me by being on-time at a factory fifty miles from home for twenty-five straight years.  Likewise, my mother consistently took her responsibilities seriously both at home and in the workplace.  Thus–you might say–I have faithfulness in my genes.  More importantly, God has worked in me the passion to do the right thing at the right time in the right way for the right reasons.  And–to God be the glory for that work!  And–to God be the glory for His blessing upon my health these past ten months.  He has been very gracious.  Last year, I was hospitalized twice, once with a TIA, once with pneumonia.  This year, I haven’t missed a day.  Thank you, Lord, for all You have done!  Thank you for maturing me, in spite of the many days I kicked and screamed through the entire process.  Thank you, God, for sustaining my health through the long days, the unexpected meetings and the stress.

Friends, if you find yourself doing most of the things you are supposed to do when you are supposed to do them, understand that God deserves much praise!  He’s been gracious to you as well!

Behind the Dugout: Do your best in everything

TJ finished his first baseball season yesterday.  His team went 8-4.  TJ batted .380 (not too shabby for a rookie).  Once the weather cools back down this fall, we’ll practice again.  After the game, Coach reminded the players of the main lesson he had hoped to communicate:  Do your best in everything.  I suppose that isn’t a bad moral to impart to the boys.  We should all do our best.  However, I would add the motivation for doing so.  We should do our best so that God is glorified.  The Apostle Paul exhorted the Corinthian Christians to do no less when he writes, “Whether, then, you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).  In other words, we should so act and react that God be praised.  Sadly, God was not always glorified at the baseball complex.  I think, in particular, of some of the parents of TJ’s teammates who failed to understand that eight-year-old baseball is…well…eight-year-old baseball.  On several ocassions, the father of our first baseman unecessarily caused his son to cry.  But that was tame compared to how hard the parents of our third baseman rode their son.  I distinctly remember one practice when a ball took an unexpected bounce and hit their son in the leg.  As soon as the boy hit the dirt, the parents were yelling at him to get up.  Although he lay crying next to the bag in pain, the thought never crossed their mind to comfort him.  One thing I learned in my first year of youth baseball was “It’s just a game” is much better understood by the kids than it is by the parents.  I am grateful that Coach Greg didn’t take it all too seriously.  We enjoyed TJ learning and trying his best.  During every at bat, and in every attempt in the outfield, TJ gave it his all.  So, while some of the parents lost focus, my eight-year-old rarely did.  We’re proud of him.  We’re thankful for the positive influence of Coach Greg.  And–honestly–we’re thankful the season is over!

Mirror Image: Sunday afternoon contemplation

I sent an email response to a friend on Sunday that he found encouraging.  I’ll include it here with the hopes that it ministers to you as well. 

The older I get, the less sure I am of anything.
 
But I am sure
That God is great and I am not;
That God is perfect and I am a saint who sins;
That God is light and I find myself loving darkness far too often;
That God is good and I am too frequently ungrateful;
That God is love and I am guilty of lukewarm love;
That God is patient and I require others to match my expectations immediately;
That God is kind and I am particularly nice to those who can meet my needs;
 
That Jodi is an awesome wife and mother;
That marriage is much-easier than parenting;
That children are a blessing from the Lord;
That blessings can be difficult to live with;
That God deserves my trust as we wait on His provision;
That getting away to a cabin with the family in two weeks will be good for my body as well as my soul;
 
That I should be thankful you actually read this email.
 
Hope you were blessed!

Reflections on the Quest: Are you working with God or against God?

I am studying the New Testament letter to the Philippians this week.  As I read chapter two this morning, the concept of working out my salvation stood out to me.  You’re probably familiar with the verses I am writing about.  Here they are:

“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (2:12,13).

Now my question makes sense, doesn’t it?  Are you working with God or against God?  In other words, are we doing what we should to grow in our faith?  The Christians in the city of Philippi were to be consistency growing in their knowledge of and relationship with God.  It should not matter if Paul was with them or absent from them.  The same should hold true for us as well.  We are to be passionately pursuing God whether we are at church or at home.  We should be working out our salvation in the presence of our pastor on Sunday and when we are far from him on Thursday. 

Are we? 

Let me draw this to a conclusion for us by mentioning an application given in the context.  Individuals who are working out their salvation guard their hearts and their lips from grumbling and complaining (2:14 [It’s the very next verse!]).  Protecting ourselves from these sinful practices is the fruit of a transformed and  transforming life.  Although we do not need to be happy-go-lucky, having a laizze fair about life, it is just as true that we need not be upright, easy-to-offend individuals.

Are you easily irked?  Are you irritable, and don’t mind it showing?  Does your misery seek out others for company?  If so, it just might be a tell-tale sign that you’ve become lax in the working out of your salvation.  If God has saved you, join Him in His sanctifying work!  Exercise your faith into fruit–today!

I Think: The difference between acting like a jerk and being a jerk

The northbound lane on HWY 27 changed this weekend.  For what seemed like a year, the two-lane highway narrowed to one lane with large, orange markers gently moving the cars from the left to the right.  So this afternoon as we returned from Chattanooga, I was positioned–as usual–in the right lane.  HOWEVER, when the light turned green, I realized that the situation had changed.  I needed to be in the left lane, not the right one.  As you would have done had you been in my shoes, I watched the spacing between the cars to my left, hit the blinker and slowly, politely, attempted to merge into the moving traffic.  That’s when he began to blow on his horn and speed up.  When he saw that I was attempting to enter his lane–the only northbound lane–he angrily denied me the opportunity.  All of us act like jerks.  Some of us are jerks.  You know I’m right.  I’m just irked enough to be honest enough tonight to state the obvious.

A couple years ago the slogan “Random Acts of Kindness” became popular.  I’m not exactly sure who initially promoted the concept, but I liked it.  In a sense, it is biblical.  If the Bible teaches any virtue, it is that of kindness.  Even teachers of other religions encourage their faithful to be kind.  The Dali Lama himself (Tenzin Gyatso) said, “My religion is very simple.  My religion is kindness.”  Although I cannot dillute my religion down to one ethical principal, practicing kindness is indeed a fruit of the Spirit I am commanded to cultivate.  It should be evident in all of God’s people, the disciples of Jesus Christ.  Sure–there are times I act like a jerk.  If you spend any time with me on a regular basis, that confession does not shock you.  You can act like a jerk, too.  It is important, though, that we do not become jerks.  That’s why fellowship with other believers is vital.  Consider this exhortation from the book of Hebrews:

“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (3:13).

This is also one of the important reasons why church attendance is important.  The author of Hebrews also wrote,

“and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembly together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (10:24,25).

We all need to be encouraged lest we become hardened.  I need to be stimulated to walk more consistently in love and good deeds.  We need one another so that our isolated times of acting like jerks do not become daily occurrences! 

And–in conclusion–since I’ve undoubtedly acted like a jerk in your presence, I humbly ask your forgiveness!

Reflections on the Quest: “Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere”

David committed a pretty big sin.  He admitted it without specifically mentioning it in Psalm 51.  Someone later, led by the Spirit, informs us of the historical setting for this particular psalm.  “A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.”  Surely you recall the account.  David became an adulterer as well as an accomplice to the murder of the woman’s husband.  Rather than doing what he was supposed to be doing (“at the time when kings go out to battle…David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof…” [2 Sam. 11:1, 2]), the king got lazy.  He stayed home.  He became idle.  And, He sinned greatly.  Most of us will not follow in David’s footsteps, committing adultery and ordering someone’s murder.  However, we all sin, and some of our sins are big as well.  This is why we are grateful that Psalm 51 was written in such a way that each of us can find ourselves–along with the solution for ourselves.

First, consider the condition.  Like David, we have transgressions (51:1).  He used the terms iniquity and sin in verse two.  In the fifth verse, David stated that he was brought forth in iniquity, conceived in sin.  He is not meaning that he was an illegitmate son, Jesse’s son from an affair.  What was true of David is true of us all.  We are all born in Adam, carrying around spiritual death in our physically alive bodies (Rom. 5:12-21; Eph. 2:1-3).  We enter this world as sinners, and we sin as early as we possibly can (Rom. 3:23).  Any parent can attest that their “little angels” often act more like demons than cheribs!  But having children simply isn’t necessary to know of the fallen nature of man.  All one needs is a mirror.  Deep down, we know that we have done evil in the sight of God (Ps. 51:4).  We have an inherent understanding that we have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).  We need to be cleaned up.

And that’s the solution.  After coming to the realization that we are dirty (transgressions, iniquities, sin), our task is to follow the example of David, the convicted sinner.  Rather than attempting to further cover his sins or fix himself, David cried out to the Lord.  “Be gracious to me” (51:1).  “According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions” (51:1). “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity” (51:2).  “Cleanse me from my sin” (51:2).  “Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean” (51:7).  “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (51:7).  “Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities” (51:7).  “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation” (51:14).  Recognizing his desperate condition, David asked the Lord to forgive him.  He made no attempt to earn God’s forgiveness.  Contrary to what some religious traditions teach, the Bible clearly teaches that God’s forgiveness cannot be purchased.  We need the salvation available only from “the God of my salvation” (51:14). 

Psalm 51 is the honest confession of a convicted and forgiven sinner.  And, it is the written realization of a promise David made to the Lord.  If God would indeed restore his soul, David stated that he would teach fellow transgressors–like me and you–God’s ways (51:13).  What does David want us to do?  “Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere!”  Those are the words of a children’s song I think I heard on Barney.  It’s something we all need.  We’re all dirty and we all need the Lord to clean us up!  Can I ask you:  Have you agreed with God that you need His forgiveness, and have you asked Him to clean you up?  If not–do so today!  If you have, then point others to God as the solution–the only perfect remedy for their desperate condition.  Teach transgressors the ways of God (51:13).  Sing of God’s righteousness (51:14).  Declare His praise (51:15).  Jesus came and did for you what you could not, nor would not, do for yourself.  Shouldn’t you respond appropriately?