Monthly Archives: February, 2012

“Shake it for me girl”

I’m not asking what the “it” is!

At first, I chuckled.  The scene was cute.  The words were being sung by a blonde, four-year-old boy as he walked into Dunkin’ Donuts listening to his iPod. 

Then I began thinking about his grinning father behind him. 

Then I began thinking of my daughter lighting up when she heard on the radio that the contemporary Christian band Casting Crowns was coming to Chattanooga in April.

God has been very kind to me.  He generously blessed Jodi and me with four children.  However, with that blessing comes serious responsibility.  As a father, I have been commanded to train my children in righteousness.  Their childhood is a boot camp to prepare them for a lifetime of God-exalting, people-blessing actions and reactions.  Consequently, my task to protect them from garbage and provide that which is spiritually edifying must remain a priority.  “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Jos. 24:15).  Like Joshua, I am vigilant to lead.  If I do, they will follow. 

With that in mind, let’s compare lyrics just for a second.  Here’s a line from the Luke Bryan song Country Girl the four-year-old was singing:

Get up on the hood of my daddy’s tractor
Up on the tool box, it don’t matter
Down on the tailgate, girl I can’t wait
To watch you do your thing

Here’s a selection from a Casting Crowns song Courageous my daughter enjoys:

the only way we’ll ever stand,
is on our knees with lifted hands.
make us courageous,
Lord make us courageous.
 
Today finds me thankful that my efforts have not been in vain, that my twelve-year-old girl likes better songs than a cute, four-year-old boy receiving poor instruction from an immature father. 
 
Parents, what songs are your children singing?  They will sing what they hear.  What are you allowing your children to hear?
 
“It” matters.
 
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The Purifying Power of Living by Faith in Future Grace

John Piper is currently on his annual writing leave.  One of his tasks is to revise his 1995 book Future Grace.  Have you read the book?  Trust me when I state that you will be blessed if you do.  In my opinion, the poem entitled Justified For Evermore is worth the cost of the book alone.  However, I will use the space below to share a thought-provoking quote.  Read it slowly.

“The world is desperate for a faith that combines two things: awe-struck apprehension of unshakable divine Truth, and utterly practical, round-the-clock power to make a liberating difference in life. That is what I want too. Which is why I am a Christian. There is a great God of grace who magnifies his own infinite self-sufficiency by fulfilling promises to helpless people who trust him. And there is a power that comes from prizing this God which leaves no nook and cranny of life untouched” (p.258, Multnomah).

Vintage Piper!  That’s enough insight for an hour-long discussion at the coffee shop!  But we can summarize the selection with these words:  Our glorying in God glorifies God and makes a tremendous difference in our daily lives.  Piper correctly asserts that those around us are searching for what we claim to have found:  a rock-solid confidence that the Bible is the Word of God and all that is necessary to live our lives to the glory of God (2 Pet. 1:3).

I appreciate Piper’s comment that God magnifies Himself by helping the helpless.  Have you ever heard (or worse, uttered) the Christian platitude “God never gives us more than we can handle”?  Ever wonder where that concept comes from?  Well, it probably generated from the pen of an American author whose suffering and trials have been limited to car problems and sinus infections.  Beloved, God regularly gives us more than we can handle so that we will clearly see our need of Him.  He demands our dependence.  He loves to come to our rescue.  He takes great pleasure in our praising His power. 

Finally, I believe Dr. Piper is right when he states that power comes from “prizing God.”  Translated, that means valuing God over everyone and everything.  When we do so, we are energized to live as we ought, no matter the circumstances or environment (the “nooks and crannies” of life). 

Three questions beg to be asked at this juncture:  (1) Do we prize God? and (2) Do we possess an awe-struck apprehension of unshakable divine Truth? and (3) Do our prizing and our possessing lead to an utterly practical, round-the-clock power to make a liberating difference in life?

Meditate upon your answers to those questions before you navigate to another webpage.

Thanks for stopping by Striving For Reality!  My hope is that this blog serves to equip you to better prize and praise Christ. 

If you have read Future Grace, you might be interested in this blog entry from Desiring God:

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/help-revise-future-grace

400–A milestone on my way to my goal

This is my 400th blog entry!

Pretty exciting, eh?!  I began blogging via WordPress almost two years ago.  It has been a creative and writing outlet for me and–hopefully–a blessing to some of you.

If you regularly read my blog, you are aware that I am not ashamed of my faith.  When God radically transformed me, it was a permanent renewal which affected my heart and my mind.  That work of sovereign grace resulted in actions and reactions that look increasingly less like the old and more like the new me.  I am not what I once was.  I am not what I will be.  My plan is to continue “Striving For Reality.”  In other words, I remain committed to my personal pursuit of Christ, hoping that Christ be exalted in me as I–albeit slowly–look more like Him in my daily living.  I also plan to add to my blog on a regular basis.  This outlet has proved to be a blessing in that endeavor. 

Let me step back in time just for a moment.  Here’s my first ever entry (June 2, 2010):

“The reality [substance] belongs to Christ” (Col. 2:17). Striving For Reality was selected as the title for my first attempt at blogging because it describes the purpose of my life. I deeply desire to exalt Christ as I exult in Christ. It is my prayer that this blog will glorify my great God and help others grow closer to Him. Thanks for visiting.

Indeed, thanks for stopping by the blog.  I do not take your visits for granted.  It is my privilege to be able to encourage you with God’s Word.

400–A milestone on my way to my goal–the glory of God in me!  (Though entries 500 and 1,000 will be worth celebrating!)

The Works and Words of Jesus Power Point

BS15–Jesus and the Gospels students!  Here’s the power point presentation from our final meeting together to guide you in writing your summary paper. 

The Works and Words of Jesus

You guys are a great group!  Thanks!

American Presidents’ Quiz

OK–How much do you know about the Presidents of the United States?  Here’s a quiz.  Reply below with the answers (if you know them)!

1.  Which US President would swim nude in the Potomac?

2.  Which US President liked to bowl in the White House?

3.  Which US President was shot in Buffalo, NY?

4.  Which US President was born in Tampico, IL?

5.  Which US President appointed his brother Attorney General?

6.  Which US President served as Director of the CIA before becoming president?

7.  Which US President beat his would-be-assassin with his cane?

8.  Which US President was nicknamed “Old Man Eloquent”?

9.  Which US President lived in a house his father ordered and built?

10.  Which US President is known for refusing to enter the Oval Office without a coat and tie?

Well, what are your answers?  Repy (or guess) below.  Good luck!

PS–CK out the Quick Takes page for some Presidents’ Day links.  You will find a second quiz if you  search the search window above.  Keep learning!

Prayer doesn’t “work.” It never has.

If your memory is clear, you probably recall how Americans were challenged to pray after the 9/11 Islamic terrorist attacks.  I remember repeatedly hearing, “Prayer works.”  The practice of prayer was almost deified as we worked through our national grief.  I have heard the cliche many times since.  It always bothers me.  Prayer doesn’t “work.”  It never has.  However, God works through prayer.  He particularly works on behalf of His people when they humble themselves and petition His sovereign and good throne. 

Jodi and I are reading a devotional written by Dr. Sam Storms.  The book is entitled A Sincere and Pure Devotion to Christ: 100 Daily Meditations on 2 Corinthians (Crossway, 2010).  Chapter four (“Prayer: Dealing with Our Doubts”) is based upon Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:11. 

“You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”

Storms spends the remaining space in the chapter proving that the Apostle Paul firmly believed that God both hears and answers the prayers of His children.  This, asserts Storms, is the rationale for Paul repeatedly asking others to pray for him (Rom. 15:30-32; Phil. 1:19; Philem. 22). Although absolute sovereignty is what Paul loved to ascribe to God, he took seriously the Scriptural exhortation to pray.  Consequently, Storms writes,

“…we must never presume that God will grant us apart from prayer what He has ordained to grant us only by means of prayer. We may not have the theological wisdom to fully decipher how prayer functions in relation to God’s will, but we must never cast it aside on the arrogant and unbiblical assumption that it is ultimately irrelevant to God’s purpose for us and others” (p.38).

Storms concludes the chapter:

“Here is the bottom line: If we don’t ask, God doesn’t give. If God doesn’t give, people don’t receive. If people don’t receive, God won’t be thanked.  Think about it.  Better still, pray about it” (p.38).

This morning in our devotional time, Jodi and I concluded our reading of the Sermon on the Mount.  Matthew, chapter seven, contains these words:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (7:7,8; NABS-Updated).

Jesus concludes His comments on prayer in that context by informing us that our heavenly Father enjoys giving good gifts to those who ask of Him (7:11). 

In my previous entry, I informed you of my decision to resign.  I also requested your prayers.  Like Paul, I am convinced that God does indeed both hear and answer the prayers of His children.  If you have (or will) pray for us as we wait upon God and search for a new ministry, thank you!  As you can imagine, we are praying daily for the Lord to guide and provide.  We are asking for “good gifts” (Mt. 7:11).  We believe God is capable and willing to give just that!

Again–THANK YOU FOR PRAYING FOR US!

Please know that we are more than willing to lift up your requests to the Father!  You can reply to this blog and we will pray for you and  yours. 

PS–If you would like to purchase Sam’s book, here a link:

http://www.crossway.org/books/1845-ebook/

See you before the throne!

Resigned?! You resigned? Yes.

Got your attention?

After five years as principal/teacher of Rhea County Academy,  I resigned earlier this month to follow the Lord into the next chapter of our lives and ministry.  If you are interested, here is the text of the letter I submitted to the board and teachers last week.

Truly sensing God’s direction for our future, and with great anticipation regarding His presence and provision, I render my resignation as the administrator/homeroom teacher of Rhea County Academy.

Words cannot express our gratitude to the Administrative Board and teachers of Rhea County Academy.  Your commitment to the glory of Christ, and your generosity, kindness and patience will always be remembered with much fondness.  We will also cherish many wonderful memories from our five years together in this ministry.

My reason for leaving RCA is two-fold:  professional fit and personal finances.  First, Jodi and I believe that I should actively seek out a new position—preferably in full-time ministry—which better fits my desires and passions, gifts and talents.  Specifically, we will be searching for openings in adult education and associate pastorate ministries. Second, we believe I should seek out a new position which will allow me to more effectually provide for my large family in terms of salary and benefits, particularly medical benefits. 

Please know that I have every intention of completing the 2011-2012 school year.  Should God allow us to remain in Dayton and should He graciously provide enough for us to partnership with RCA in the education of our children, Rhea County Academy will be our first choice!  Jodi would also be interested in any position for which you believe her to be qualified.  We will keep you abreast of God’s provision and timing.  Your prayers are greatly appreciated as we take this step of faith. 

Thank you for the step of faith you took in us five years ago.  It has been our joy to serve with you at RCA!

Several days ago I posted an entry entitled Steppin’ in Faith.  Having taken that step, we are now walking in faith, believing not only that our sovereign Lord and heavenly Father–who led us to step–is now enabling us to walk in such a way that He is most glorifed and others are blessed. 

Would you pray for us as we pray?  Would you pray for us as we search for a new position?  Would you pray for us as we wait?  Pray that we would not falter in our faith.  What a comfort it is to us to remember continually that God is absolutely sovereign in our present as well as in our future.  I simply cannot imagine facing the challenges and uncertainties of life without the confidence we possess in the character of God described in the Word of God and authenticated in the ways of God.  “You are good and do good” (Ps. 119:68) is an affirmation that we both believe and cherish. 

I know that many of you will indeed pray for us as I conclude my tenure at RCA.  Thank you.  We covet those prayers for us, for our ongoing trust in the Lord, for wisdom, and for an open door.  Might I also ask you to pray for RCA?  Please pray for wisdom for the board.  And please pray for the entire RCA community to trust in the sovereign and good God who knows exactly what He is doing.  Thank you.

Resigned?!  You resigned?  Yes.  I resigned, and I remain resigned to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7), trusting in the Lord (Prov. 3:5,6)! 

You with me?!

Reflections on the Quest: My God

The poem below was written after several days of meditating upon Psalm 115 and the works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  I apologize for the spacing.  I simply cannot figure out how to paste poetry into a Word Press blog. 

God, bountifully-creating God,

intelligently designing

His creation to perfection

commands with smallest words

a universe in grand complexion.

God, supernaturally-sustaining God,

mercifully holding

His possessions to redemption

bestows with triune wisdom

living gifts in rapid succession.

God, heavenly-sitting God,

sovereignly ruling

His galaxy to measure

dictates with loud decrees

for our great good and His great pleasure.

God, silently-speaking God,

imperceptibly moving

His will to perform

communicates with quiet nods

on days of sunshine, on days of storm.

 God, gracious-saving God,

lovingly calling

His sheep into the fold

speaks resurrection words

of eternal glories still untold.

 

Steppin’ in Faith

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to “take a step of faith.”  The line between faith-filled walking and faith-less inactivity is often blurry.  That’s why I found an article particularly interesting the other day (see the link at the bottom).  The author begins with this paragraph:

“Few questions confuse us more as Christians than what it means to live by faith. When does it mean sitting still and leaving a need completely in the hands of Christ? When does it mean taking prudent initiative to solve a problem or reach a goal?”

There is indeed a tension between resignation and resolution.  But different situations require different measures. 

In one passage of Scripture, we are exhorted to wait upon the Lord (Ps. 27:14; 106:13; Is. 40:31).  Another verse teaches us that God rewards faith (Heb. 11:6).  Jesus repeatedly commended the faith He encountered (Mt. 8:10; 9:2, 22; Mk. 2:5; 5:34; 10:52, etc.).  In reality, the two concepts are not contradictory.  A certain situation or season of life might actually require both.  There is a time to patiently wait upon the Lord.  And there comes a time to “take prudent initiative to solve a problem or reach a goal.” 

But how do we know when we have reached that moment–the moment when resignation transitions to resolution? 

God.

The Holy Spirit communicates to us.  He leads us to maturity resulting in joyful obedience to the commands of Christ and He leads us in our decision-making process!  Isn’t this one reason why our daily pursuit of Christ through prayer and time in the Word are so crucial?  God talks.  The Holy Spirit leads.  Our task is to listen and obey.  When we are told to rest, we should rest.  When we are told to take a step of faith, we should step out in faith.

What is the Lord asking you to do today?

We’re steppin’!

PS–Here’s the link to the article quoted above:

http://www.nehemiahministries.com/faith3.htm

Dayton, TN–Not such a bad town

Cathy Newman wrote a nice article in 2001 about our hometown entitled ZipUSA: 37321.  That month will always be remembered for the September 11th attacks in New York and Washington.  The article, quoted in part below, serves as a reminder that America–warts-‘n-all, is a nation worth protecting. 

I don’t know how long the Lord will have us in Dayton, TN, but I am thankful that our children have been able to experience small town USA for past six years. 

Cathy Newman wrote,

It was Thursday night in Dayton, Tennessee, and from the McDonald’s on Highway 27 you could hear the sound of gospel music floating high above the Golden Arches. It was fast food for the soul—a mix of Big Macs and hymns like “Hillbilly Heaven” and “Have a Little Talk With Jesus.” Among the gathered was Marcella Harris, who used to be a honky-tonk singer but changed her tune and was saved. And Henry Harris (no relation), who answered the call 25 years ago when he was running a bulldozer in a gravel pit and heard the voice of the Lord in the sound of the machine’s gears.

The McDonald’s gospel sing has been going for two years and is so popular that, word has it, Wendy’s is about to start one too. “There’s also one at the Hardee’s in Soddy-Daisy,” a town 20 minutes down the road, Anna Kyle informed me. A tiny woman with a mass of golden curls, Kyle acts as unofficial hostess for the big sing. “Hardee’s holds theirs the same night as ours,” she added. She did not look pleased.

In Dayton you can spend practically every night worshiping: the Wednesday night prayer meeting, the gospel sing on Thursday, a Friday night “Jesus Jam” (Jesus is an “awesome dude,” one teen explained), and a performance by the Dayton Christian Ballet on Saturday.

To the question “Why are folks in Dayton so passionately religious?” Daytonians would answer: “Why is everyone else not?” There are places to live, and there are communities. Dayton is a community. It’s a town where generosity is a given, whether in the form of a casserole or a grant for a local college, a place where kids grow up without the threat of drive-by shootings. It is founded on the rock-hard conviction that the world—not to mention Dayton, Tennessee—runs by the grace of God.

This is Bible Belt country. The defining question is not “What do you do?” but “What church do you belong to?” Dayton is the county seat of Rhea (pronounced ray) County, where there are some 130 churches for 28,000 people, from small rural wood frames to the mainstream big brick First Baptist downtown.

There’s a lot to give thanks for. First, the setting. Dayton snuggles in the Tennessee River Valley between the Smoky Mountains and the long slow roll of the Cumberland Plateau. Then the salt-of-the-earth people—about 6,000 of them—who work and pray hard. There’s a healthy economy, based on manufacturing plants like La-Z-Boy, which assembles 3,000 recliners a day, and a near-record low unemployment rate of 4.4 percent. Last, but far from least, is the Rhea County High School football team. To bear witness to a victory of the Golden Eagles is the closest thing to heaven on earth.

Here’s the link to the complete National Geographic article (September 2001):

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/data/2001/09/01/html/fulltext7.html

The picture at the top of this entry is the famous Rhea County Courthouse in Dayton, site of the 1925 Scopes Trial.  The picture below is a view of the Administration Building at Bryan College.