Monthly Archives: August, 2011

Trying to keep perspective in a pile of laundry

The laundry pile is overwhelming–even after I just spent the last thirty minutes folding and putting clothes away.  I’ve already swept the house and prepared the mop.  I cleared the table after dinner so that TJ could hit the sack early (he’s fighting a sinus infection) and Celena could work on homework (she’s fighting 6th grade math).  It’s been a long day, filled with unexpected news–both pleasant and unpleasant.  I’ll share the pleasant news in a few days.  It’s really good news.  The unpleasant news was related to the death of a Bryan student last night (I teach for Bryan in the Adult and Graduate Studies School [degree-completion program]).  Her name was Meaghan.  She was a twenty-year-old commuter student from Chattanooga.  Such news doesn’t make the mound of laundry generated from four relatively healthy children seem so bad after all.  The boys are both a bit “under-the-weather,” and their room continues to resemble a war zone.  But I can hug them in the morning–Deo volenti.  That’s Latin for “God-willing.”  Should God will it so, I  will love on my sons and they will love on me.  That’s a gift for which I should be thankful.  As I slave away on a night like tonight, I am reminded of a short video clip I watched this morning with the upper grades at the academy (7th-high school).  It’s from Francis Chan.  I’ll include the link below.  I hope you find it encouraging.  And–if you wouldn’t mind–ask the Lord’s blessing upon Meaghan’s family.  Thanks. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpB-FUg9PD4&feature=related

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Contentment– “Easy for you to say!”

Did you read my previous entry about contentment?  If not, scroll down and read it first.

Nobody said it.  I could see how someone might.  Great marriage.  Decent health.  Four relatively happy and healthy children.  Nice home.  Employed.  “You should be content!”  Indeed–I should be content.  Yet–like you–I am often discontent.  I’m getting it–learning to be content–but I wouldn’t say I’ve appropriated the secret. 

Many of you understand what I mean by “the secret.”  It’s the wording of the Apostle Paul who wrote,

“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).

Paul’s life wasn’t exactly the “piece of cake” mine might appear to be.  The Apostle’s sufferings make my issues minor inconveniences.  He went “through the wringer” for the glory of God.  But he was content.  Why?  One word.  Christ.  The same is true for the writer of the book of Hebrews.  Consider his words here:

“Make sure thatyour character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,”  so that we confidently say, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME” (Heb. 13:5,6).

This morning in Sunday School I taught Romans 8:28-39.  That “wringer” I mentioned above for Paul is hinted at in this passage.  Think of what this Apostle experienced:

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword” (8:35)?

Sort of makes your life seem a bit easier at the moment, eh?!

Did you notice the common theme among the three passages?  Christ!  Jesus is the key to contentment.  Paul found contentment in the love and strength of Christ.  The author of Hebrews expressed contentment with whatever possessions he had because he “possessed” the Lord.  These realities can be experienced by us today.  We all can have contentment.  It is available in a relationship with Christ, not simply a limited knowledge of Christ. 

Allow me to close with these words from Thomas Watson:

“Spiritual things satisfy. The more of heaven that is in us, the less earth will content. When a person has once tasted the love of God, his thirst is much quenched toward earthly things. The joys of God’s Spirit are heart-filling and heart-cheering joys. He who has these has heaven begun in him (Romans 14:17), and shall we not be content to be in heaven? Oh, get a sublime heart! “Seek the things that are above” (Colossians 3:1). Fly aloft in your affections; thirst after the graces and comforts of the Spirit. The eagle that flies above in the air does not fear the stinging of the serpent. The serpent creeps on his belly and stings only those creatures that go upon the earth. Discontent is a serpent that stings only an earthly heart. A heavenly soul that, with the eagle, flies aloft finds abundantly enough in God to give contentment, and is not stung with the cares and disquiets of the world” (The Art of Divine Contentment, Soli Deo Gloria, 2001, p.118).

Yet another boring night

I noticed in the Friday edition of the Chattanooga Times Free Press that Los Lobos will be singing at this year’s Brew Feast (today @ 10:30PM [Who goes to a concert at 10:30PM?!).  The group has been around for about forty years.  Think about that.  The most recent addition to the group–Steve Berlin–joined the band twenty-seven years ago!  Berlin is quoted in the article written by Casey Phillips:

“Everyone is still married to their first wives. We’re not the sort of people who are constantly sampling and thinking there’s something else better out there if we just keep looking” (Current, p.21). 

A word came to my mind when I read that–contentment. 

The grass isn’t always greener.  The Jones’ don’t always have it better.

That’s why I made sure I enjoyed the simple pleasures of a Friday night:  Dayton’s cute and meaningless ramblings as the men enjoyed a meal together at Krystal (“enjoyed” is a relative term), TJ’s swimming feats in the pool, Dancing with Cascade in the living room,  Watching a Star Trek episode. 

We’ve all known restless people.  We’ve probably all been restless people.  It is easy to fall into the trap of “the next thing.”  Our culture continues to persuade us that our life will be better, more satisfying, if we will only purchase the newest product or service.  But you know what happens.  The car’s new smell fades while the payments continue.  The next boyfriend or girlfriend ends up having just as many issues as the last.  The larger home is harder to clean and costs double to cool in summer and heat in winter.  You’ve been there.  So have I.

One of the reasons I am glad to be back in Dayton, Tennessee is the fact that people here haven’t bought into the American Dream as wholeheartedly as the folks out west have.  One example stood out to me.  In Las Vegas, most of the people we knew bought far more house than was needed and upsized as soon as they could.  Rather than using the extra money at their disposal to alleviate the sufferings of the poor or engage in missionary efforts on a radical scale, they tied up their income in mortgages and utilities.  On the flip side, many of the Christians we knew when we left this area in 1993 still live in the same homes some 18 years later.  Quite a few citizens in our county live in the same house their whole lives.  Perhaps contentment comes more naturally in the country.  Perhaps contentment is a state of mind available regardless of the geographical location.

Think about Berlin’s words today.  Are you looking for something you’re simply not going to find?

PS–If you have a moment study Paul’s comments about his search for contentment in Philippians 4:10-13.  Compare his words with those of the author of Hebrews in 13:5,6.

The Itsy Bitsy Spider

It was about 10:30PM last night.  I had almost fallen asleep when I felt something strange under my arm.  At first, I thought it was the sheet or the pillow case.  When I could not figure out the issue, I sat up and looked at the sheet, thinking by this point, it might just be a spider.  There wasn’t anything on the sheet.  But then I saw it–I noticed what looked to be a spider on Jodi’s shoulder.  Whatever I had to do, I realized that I needed to do it quickly.  When the spider moved, I pounced!  Better put–I slammed my hand down on my wife’s shoulder, killing the spider while waking her from a deep sleep.  You can only imagine her initial response!  I should inform you that after my hand came down hard on her shoulder, I kept it there, squishing the spider into her pj’s and ensuring that I had a dead spider on my hand. 

Kind of gives me the creeps to think about again.  I hate spiders. 

How did that song go?  “The things you do for love…”

We all do “things…for love.”  In order to give and receive love, we enter into relationships.  Due to the fact that I taught Acts, chapter two, today to the students in 3rd through 6th grades, the radical love experienced in the early church is on my mind.  Luke wrote,

“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47).

Isn’t that deep commitment remarkable?!  What things did they do for love?  Just about anything that was needed! 

Consider the intervention options available to me last night:

  1. “Spider!  I’m out of here!” (Exit I to the living room)
  2. “Jodi!  Wake up!  There’s a spider on your shoulder!” (Slip I out of the bed)
  3. Wham.  “Sorry!  Spider on your shoulder!  I think it’s dead.” (Remove I my hand from her shoulder) 

Easy decision, eh?!  My love for Jodi required my course of action.  The love the first century Christians had for one another required their course of action and reaction (even to the radical step of selling possessions to meet needs).  Think for a moment of those in your sphere of influence.  Who in your life do you love–genuinely love?  Do faces come to mind?  Some names perhaps? 

What are you doing about it?  Your love requires a course of action. 

FYI–I decided to include a photo of the spider for your viewing pleasure.

Actually–that’s not really the spider.  The invader to our bed was squished beyond recognition.  Thankfully–it was a lot smaller than the spider above!!!

Suggestion–check your bed for spiders tonight.  Can’t hurt.

Taking notice of sea creatures and purple flowers–today!

If you have five minutes, follow this link (then return):

http://news.nationalpost.com/2010/10/04/photos-marine-census-discovers-new-often-bizarre-undersea-life/

Wow!  Amazing pictures!  I was particularly astonished by the white crab found south of Easter Island! 

There is a line in the movie The Color Purple (1985) that reads:

“I think it ticks God off when you walk by the colour purple in a field and don’t notice it.”*

What’s the point?  Take notice of God’s creative hand and enjoy Him by enjoying it! 

Here’s an assignment for you:  Keep your eyes open tomorrow.  Try to see something you have never seen before.  Strive to notice beauty.  Then, praise the Creator who made all things for His glory and our enjoyment.

 

*Word (“ticked”) changed so as not to offend the reader.

Can’t you smell that smell?

I am cursed with a hyper sensitive nose.  Sometimes smells are overwhelming.  Like our household garbage with darkened diapers and puffy pull-ups.  Like the boy’s bathroom at school (it’s so bad I am going to paint the room over Fall Break, hoping to create a new scent).  Like Jodi’s hair after she swims (a nose full of chlorine isn’t high on the list of enjoyment).  Like a woman doused in perfume.  I could go on and on!

Smells.  Stinks. 

What stinks to you?

Do you ever wonder what stinks to God?  It’s an easy answer. 

Sin stinks to God.

That’s why He covered the world with water (Gen. 9).  That’s why He destroyed Babel (Gen. 11).  That’s why He wrinkles His nose in my direction.  God doesn’t like my sinful smell. 

What am I to do? 

I am studying 1 John each morning with the 7th and 8th graders.  On Monday we discussed 1 John 1:9 (actually, I talked about it while they struggled to wake up).  Do you know it?  It reads,

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

There’s the remedy for my stench!  Rather than leave me in that putrid place, God provided a cleansing!  Two times in 1 John 1, the Apostle discusses purfication.  We just read the second instance.  Here’s the first:

“but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:7).

Wow!  Because of the work of Jesus (His shed blood), I no longer smell to God!  In fact, I have the scent of the righteousness of Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).  Isn’t that amazing?!  Even more amazing is the fact is that millions of individuals have that scent!  It’s the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Christ (2 Cor. 2:14).  Those who know Jesus Christ spread His heavenly scent by their actions and reactions, their words and their deeds.  Earlier today a close friend from Las Vegas remarked that all believers should be overwhelmed by the truth of justification.  Indeed!  God has declared glorious things pertaining to His children!  The ordo salutis (Latin for “order of salvation”) of Romans 8:29-30 makes that clear.  In God’s eyes…in God’s nostrils…I am already glorified.  In other words, I smell like His Son! 

I don’t know how you are feeling today.  I am fatigued and sick (my stomach has been killing me for over 24 hours now).  On days such as today, I appreciate the truth about my position (even if my practice doesn’t quite fit yet).  It’s another shot in the arm.  I hope this blog serves that purpose in your life.  Thanks for stopping by!

Intro One Power Point

Here is the complete power point presentation for week one of Introduction to the Bible.

Intro. One Hybrid

Intro Two Power Point

Here is my power point presentation for the Introduction the Bible hybrid course: 

Intro. Two Hybrid

The Illusion of Random, Chance Processes

Friday morning–I sliced my back, right tire on the truck.  Friday night–Jodi locked the keys in the van while we were at a restaurant.  Saturday afternoon–I returned home with the cold groceries only to realize I had left home without my keys. 

Three inconveniences.  None the result of “random, chance processes.” 

Sometimes I think God purposely (“As if God does anything without purpose?!”) orchestrates the events of our lives to clearly illustrate biblical truths.  I taught on Romans 8:28 this morning.  Allow me to quote the passage here:

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Now–if I might, please allow me to quote a selection from a Romans devotional I wrote while serving as a pastor in Las Vegas in 2000.

Experiencing anything hard at the moment? Any circumstance particularly challenging? We all can answer those questions in the affirmative. Without a doubt, life is difficult. As a movie title once indicated, however, life can be beautiful. How?  By recognizing just how BIG GOD is and by getting a glimpse of what He is doing. Some of you are currently coming to this wonderful realization. Others of you remember when you first began to see these truths. It happened for me in the early 1990’s at Bryan College. I took a course on Romans and read some great books. Before long, I slowly began to see God break out of my box. It was awesome! Many of you can relate. At the same time, though, life was still difficult. Often and without much notice, the unexpected and undesired happens to us. I am reminded of Gideon’s question to the angel: “O my lord, if the Lord is  with us, why then has all this happened to us?” (Judges 6:3). Ever ask that question? I have! What’s the answer? Romans 8:28-30! Look specifically at verse 28. What grand truths! We know from both head and experiential knowledge that God causes all things to work together for our good. We’ve seen this in the Word of God as well as in our lives. He is active in each of our lives accomplishing His sovereign plan. When events are going well for us, how do we respond? In praise! How should we respond when things aren’t going well for us? Job answers the question: “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (The NIV uses the word “trouble.”) You’ve got to admire Job’s answer to the “adversity and trouble” that came into his life: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:20). Look at your life. What would you call “adversity or trouble?” Do those circumstances fall into the category of “all things?” Be encouraged! God has a plan. He knows what He is doing and it is “for good.” What good? His glory and your conformity into Christ’s image (see also Rom. 5:3-5). Of course, this is conditional. It is: “for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Does that include you? I hope so! You will know if you love God and live in such a way that you are proving your calling by your actions (see 2 Peter 1). I you truly believe that is the case, then be very encouraged! God is a work and He has your best interest at heart. He knows what He is doing in your life.

Keep your chin up Christian!  Strive to keep your gaze heavenward. Life is difficult, but it is also beautiful  because our God is doing beautiful, even if painful, things.

To Blog or Not to Blog–That’s not the question!

The question is a matter of time, not desire!  A very busy week has come to a conclusion!  It was the first full-week of school at Rhea County Academy.  Jodi and I are both teaching this year, making our days long and requiring us to “burn the midnight oil.”  Today I also needed to rework my Introduction to the Bible course for the college, making it into a hybrid (combination of face-to-face and internet instruction).  Needless-to-say, I find my body and my mind screaming for a day of rest!  I plan to give it just that on Sunday!  Rest is a very good thing.  That’s why God instituted the Sabbath.  That’s why Christians continue to set aside a day for worship and R&R. 

Believe it or not, I frequented my blog quite a bit this week.  I don’t know if you noticed, but there is a new page.  If you will look above, you will see the title “For BS24.”  That page is devoted to my Chattanooga State (that’s the location) group.  I will begin teaching their  Introduction to the Bible course on Monday.  I am looking forward to covering such topics as:

  • The glories of special revelation (the Bible) trumping the glories of gen. rev. (creation).
  • Inspiration, inerrancy, infallibility (the God-breathed Bible is perfect).
  • Canonicity (why the books of the Bible belong in the collection).
  • Interesting figures in the history of the Bible (Moses, Solomon, Paul, Erasmus, Jerome).
  • The meta-narrative of the Bible (main story) and the themes (Christ, redemption, etc.).
  • Hermeneutics (Bible interpretation) and techniques for Bible study.
  • Other uses of the Bible (God’s use of God’s Word and our use of God’s Word). 

I always enjoy illustrating that God’s Word is interesting and worthy of our attention!  My ultimate hope is that God might use His Word in all of our lives (student and teacher) to the end result that we might glory in Him and glorify Him much more than we do. 

Have you spent time in God’s Word this week?  I did.  Each morning I read and meditated upon Romans, chapter eight (I’m teaching Rom. 8:18-39, Part I in Sunday School in the morning).  I also led our 7th & 8th graders in a study of the first few verses of 1 John.  Furthermore, I taught Acts, chapter one to students in grades 3-High School at the Academy.  You know what I found?  God’s Word is interesting and worthy of my attention!  Time does not permit me to share what I found interesting (or encouraging, comforting, convicting, etc.).  However, I will readily admit that my time with my Bible was not wasted.  If you spent any time in the Scriptures this past week, I know you’ll agree with me. 

Well–there’s my update.  Thanks for stopping by the blog.  I hope you have had a great week.  If you love God and are called according to His purpose (that’s a theological way of stating “you are a believer in God through Christ”), our sovereign God worked all things for your good (whether or not it made sense to you presently)!  In that we take much comfort.  Have a great Lord’s Day!