Monthly Archives: March, 2012

Passion Perspectives 2012: King Jesus Entering the City of David

The “Triumphant Entry” remembered via Eugene Peterson’s The Message:

“When they neared Jerusalem, having arrived at Bethphage on Mount Olives, Jesus sent two disciples with these instructions: “Go over to the village across from you. You’ll find a donkey tethered there, her colt with her. Untie her and bring them to me.  If anyone asks what you’re doing, say, ‘The Master needs them!’ He will send them with you.”  This is the full story of what was sketched earlier by the prophet: Tell Zion’s daughter, “Look, your king’s on his way, poised and ready, mounted On a donkey, on a colt, foal of a pack animal.”  The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do.  They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted.  Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat.  Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, “Hosanna to David’s son!” “Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!” “Hosanna in highest heaven!”

Join me in celebrating King Jesus entering the City of David on Sunday of Passion Week 2012.  For without the entering into Jerusalem, there is no passion.  And without the passion, there is no death.  And if there is no death, there is no resurrection.  And if there is no resurrection, there is no ascension.  And if there is not ascension, there is no arrival of the Holy Spirit.  And if the Holy Spirit does not arrive, there is no salvation.

Facts worth celebrating!

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Focus, Tim, focus!

  • A biblical command I often repeat to myself:

“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth.”  Colossians 3:2

  • Quotes from my pastor on Sunday:

“God’s direction doesn’t always appear best from our  perspective.”

“To get to the Promised Land, you have to go through the wilderness.”

  • From my reading this morning:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.  1 Peter 1:3-9

  • Encouraging words from an email this morning:

“He is in control.”

Jodi has pneumonia.  My three youngest children quite possibly have strep (dr. visit @ 2PM).  Numerous visits to the doctor, a variety of medicines, and a visit to the ER equate to some serious financial “Ouch!”  My future is foggy as we continue to wait upon God to reveal what He has planned for my career.

“…even though now for a litttle while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials…”

Focus, Tim, focus!

I bet you’ve had weeks like the one I am living.  Tough stuff.  High stress.  Little sleep.  I don’t know what helps you, but I am thankful today for truth (see quotes above).  I am grateful for the truth contained in the Word of God and for the truth uttered by friends.  It can be difficult to honor God in the difficulties of life, but I deeply desire to do so.

Focus, Tim, focus!

Under Pressure

We purchased and installed a water pressure reducing valve today.  Actually, we overpaid for the part from a plumber and asked him to install it.  Thanks to God working through our hot water heater (which kept me awake several nights), we were informed by the gas company and confirmed through the water company yesterday that our water was entering the house at 140 psi.  That’s bad.  That much pressure causes water heaters to break and pipes to burst.  $218 later–and our problem is fixed.  We have a new water pressure reducing valve.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have one of those valves on our lives?

Jodi has been sick for a week.  Her fever is down but maybe not gone.  Her cough remains as she continues to take antibiotics.  She’ll probably miss another day on Wednesday (part-time hourly equates to less money at the end of the month).  I’m sure hoping she turns the corner on this soon.  Thank you for praying.  We have appreciated the encouragement and prayers over the past week.

Today–Celena’s body shut down during P.E.  If she did not pass out, it was close.  She went limp and ended up at her doctor’s office.  He thinks it was dehydration.  I’m hoping he is correct and that she is not beginning to fight the bug Jodi has so graciously entertained for the past seven days.  Celena seems to be feeling better at this point.

When I confirmed with Jodi regarding the spelling of a particular word used above, Celena asked:  “Are you writing about our horrible day?”  I chuckled and then responded, “It wasn’t a horrible day.”  After she reminded me of the events, I stated,  “It could have been much worse.”

  • Celena doesn’t have a serious health problem.
  • Jodi might be on the mend.
  • $218 isn’t as bad as needing to purchase a new water heater or having to fix leaking, underground pipes.

It could have been much worse.

But it has been a challenging week.  Sometimes it would be nice if the trials were spaced out a bit more.  You understand.  You’ve had weeks like this.  Tough stuff.

In my fatigue, I am thankful tonight for the truth that God’s grace is sufficient.  I am grateful that my trials are not being wasted.  God is accomplishing His will in my life and in me.  I have joy because I can see the good in the bad, that which is redeeming in that which is rough.  With His help, we will survive this day.  May He be glorified in our suffering.

These “F” words aren’t so bad!

What words describe your passions and priorities?  Five “F” words come to my mind when I consider what makes me “tick.”  Mind if I share them with you?

Faith

My faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is an integral component of the fabric of my life.  I cannot be understood without your grasping that Jesus is much, much more than a great teacher I admire.  He is–in fact–my Lord and Savior.  Consequently, I deeply desire that He be exalted in my body whether by life or by death (Phil. 1:20).  Hopefully, no one will confuse that commitment with religion.  Without a doubt, I participate in what the world might describe as “religious activities.”  I pray and read God’s Word daily, and I regularly attend church.  My relationship with Christ also affects how I spend my leisure time and what I consider to be essential values.  My prayer is that Paul’s affirmation “For to me, to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21) becomes increasingly my reality.

Family

Simply put, my family is a HUGE priority to me.  I am passionate about being a faithful husband and father.  That explains why the movie Courageous proved to be such a blessing for me.  I found it to be yet another exhortation to finish well in these important roles I have been called to fill.  Spending quality time with my wife and four children is not an option for me.  Leading my family spiritually is a responsibility that I take seriously. I want to be known as a man who loves his wife like Christ loves the church (Eph. 5:25) and who trains his children in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).

Fidelity

In a world that is increasingly becoming accustomed to marital infidelity and sexual immorality, I have been called to faithfulness and purity.  The Lord commands me to be “a one-woman man.”  When I said “I do” in spring of 1991, I meant it.  “‘Til death comes or our Lord shall come” is a promise I intend to keep.  But I am not simply to remain physically present.  I am to remain engaged, loving my wife like Christ loved the Church (Eph. 5).  This year we will celebrate our 21st anniversary.  I am already dreaming about a trip to celebrate our 25th! In the meantime, I am vigilant about my day-to-day battle with the temptations which come my way (1 Jn. 2:16).

Finances

I once heard Dr. John Piper remark that God gives us money to prove that we love Him more than we love money.  He might be correct.  Money is a means to an end, not the end in itself.  Over the years, I have learned that handling my money to the glory of God is as much about trust in God as anything else.  Like you, I have experienced victories and defeats in this area.  Coming to discover that God (not Visa or Mastercard) is our Provider has been “priceless.”

Fitness

I lost 2.9 lbs. since January 1st!  Hip, hip, hooray!  It’s a start!  I have both short and long-term fitness goals for this year.  Although I will never become an exercise-enthusiast, I am becoming more proactive in the care of my body.  I do not want my health to hinder me from fulfilling my responsibilities and finishing well. By the way, I just found out my cholesterol has dropped 31 points, with the “good” cholesterol increasing 20 points! Additionally, my triglycerides have decreased 205 points. Finally, the changes I’ve been making for several years are showing up on the bloodwork! Whew! It is worth it.

Well–there you have it–a brief introduction to me!  I hope you have found it to be helpful as you think about the priorities of your life.  What makes you tick?  What motivates you?  Think about it.

“Whether, then, you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

Shopping Cart Forgiveness

Did you hear the story?

“The New York mother of two who suffered a serious brain injury and lost  the use of her left eye after two teenagers sent a shopping cart crashing down 50 feet onto her says she forgives the boys and is more  concerned for the welfare of her own teenage son, who witnessed the  accident…Marion Hedges was briefly in a coma and now needs daily physical therapy after two teenage boys hoisted a shopping cart over the railing of a shopping mall parking garage last fall” (“New York Woman Blinded by Shopping Cart Dropped by Teens Forgives Them,” Kevin Dolak and Dan Harris, Good Morning America, Yahoo News).

Here’s the link to the entire article:

http://gma.yahoo.com/york-woman-blinded-shopping-cart-dropped-teens-forgives-072433679–abc-news.html

Random acts of violence shock us.  Radical acts of forgiveness ought to shock us as well.

This week I have been studying Matthew, chapter eighteen.  I trust you recall Peter’s question to Jesus related to forgiveness?

Peter:  “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus:  “Every time.”

Jesus:  “Seriously–if you want to be forgiven, you need to be forgiving.”

The Lord’s point is obvious.  There isn’t an exact number.  Just forgive.  The Apostle Paul put it this way:

“Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13).

If you are an unforgiving person, it is because you are not a forgiven person.  Forgiven people forgive.

Is God speaking to you regarding this issue today?  The article and the Bible should prod us to do some self-examination.  Are we refusing to offer forgiveness to anyone?

Think about it.

Starbucks and Selflessness

I am turning forty-seven on Sunday–a truly insignificant year as far as birthdays go.  Yet I had to write about one of the best birthday gifts I have ever received.  Celena gave me a new Starbucks travel mug!

Isn’t that awesome?!  Perhaps the story of why this cup is significant will add light upon my gratitude and pride.

One day about two  months ago I asked Celena to carry several of my items to the pickup as we prepared to leave school for the day.  One of those articles was my favorite coffee cup.  When she arrived at the vehicle, she placed the cup on one of the steps behind the passenger side door so that she could free up her hand and open the door.  She proceeded to place everything in the truck–everything except my cup.  It remained on the step until we turned a sharp corner and it tumbled onto the shoulder, surely dented and scratched.  I had no desire to stop, turn around and look for the damaged cup laying in a roadkill-filled hole.

Dad:  Thinking:  “What was that?”  Saying:  “Celena, where’s my coffee cup?”

Celena:  “Oh no.  That was your coffee cup” (She recalls the conversation).

You will be somewhat glad to know that I didn’t completely lose my cool during the event.  I was disappointed, and I informed her that it was my favorite cup.  She cried for quite some time because she was the cause of my losing my favorite mug, even though I’d forgiven her and told her it was just an accident anyone could’ve done. This was a very encouraging sign to us since she has struggled deeply with self-centeredness throughout her young life.  However, what she did for my birthday was something that encouraged us even more.  Behind my back she insisted to her mother that she find and purchase a replacement cup. She didn’t care what the cost and was determined to get this for me. They found only one, and Celena gave $30 of her laptop funds to buy it. How considerate and selfless of her!

It’s rather easy to see why I am filled with gratitude and pride today.  I am grateful to God for the work He is doing in my daughter (we’ve seen several examples lately).  I am proud to be Celena’s father.

She immediately owned a mistake and did what she could to make things right.  I deeply desire for all of my children to consistently act this way!  Thanks, Celena, for setting such a good example!

PS–I decided to reward her selflessness by returning $20 to her savings.

My Foggy Future

As we drove to school this morning, the fog in Dayton was rather thick.  For some reason, I immediately saw an illustration for this particular season of my life.  I commented to the children, “My future is foggy.”  My eldest replied, “This is like how we see things every day.”  She went on to remark that God sees all things–all times–with absolute clarity.

Don’t you love to see children with God-exalting theology?!

Don’t you think we undersell their ability to think deeply about God and His Word?  We settle for warm and fuzzy presentations of the gospel (“Don’t you want to ask Jesus into your heart so that you can go to heaven?”) and Sunday School lessons filled with challenges to live boldly like Daniel or walk on water like Peter.

Beloved, children within the framework of Christian families and churches need more than milk.  Milk is needed for the spiritually immature (1 Cor. 3:1,2).  The meat of the Word is for the maturing (Heb. 5:12).  Let’s not be afraid to dish it up to them!

All that was an excursus, a sanctified rabbit trail.  Simply put–training our children in the knowledge of God is a necessary component in their spiritual upbringing.

Now–to my main point.  This weekend finds me rejoicing in my good and sovereign God Who is in complete control of my future.  I may see the coming months and years as hazy, unclear.  God views my future with crystal clear vision.  In fact, He is already there, preparing my future for me and me for my future.  That brings me great comfort.

I have about two months left at RCA.  This five-year chapter is coming to a close.  What’s next?  What does the Lord have in store for me and my family?  Where will I find myself this summer?

I don’t know.

God knows.  I’m trusting Him; we’re trusting Him.  I’ve been studying the transfiguration this week.  After the mountaintop experience of seeing Jesus in His glory, Peter, James and John found themselves in the valley, being exhorted to walk by faith, not by sight (Mt. 17:14-23).  My mountaintop experience of taking a step of faith is now distant.  I need to walk by faith in the valley today.

Where does today find you?  On the mountain top?  Then, enjoy your experience of Jesus.  Or, are you in the valley?  Then walk by faith in future grace.  Believe that a good and sovereign God has the future in His hands.  He remains worthy of our trust.

How to be a Great Dad–Part One

Friends from church are expecting their first child.  As Jodi attended the baby shower on Saturday, I thought I would compose an email to the proud pappa containing some of my thoughts on what it takes to be considered a “great dad.”  Jodi encouraged me to share the list with you.  Here it is:

1.  Love God more than you love your wife.
2.  Love your wife more than you love your children.  Deep down, this is exactly what your children will want to see.  Lovingly show them what your sweetheart means to you.  Be affectionate with her in their presence.  May your one-fleshness (Gen. 2:24) be evident to all.
3.  Love your children more than you love your work.
4.  Love your children more than you love your hobbies.  If you choose not to practice #3 & #4, you may–in the end–lose your children.
5.  Although you cannot make your children Christians, you are still responsible to train them in the discipline and instruction in the Lord (Eph. 6:4).
6.  The most effective way to do that is through the events of the day rather than scheduled times of training such as church events and services (Dt. 6:5-9).
7.  However, since the gathering of the body of Christ is vital to growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18), do not forsake the assembly (Heb. 10:25).  Your children will not believe pursuing Christ personally is a priority if they do not see it as a priority in your life.  Your children will not believe pursuing Christ publicly is a priority if they do not see you treat it as such.  Remember you continually live in Example Land.
8.  As you train your children and put them into situations where others are assisting you in the training process, repeatedly stress that your motivation is love rather than legalism.  Prove to them that joy, not judgementalism, is our catalyst for doing the right thing.  Your goal is to raise passionate pursuers of the glory of God rather than Pharisees.  Seek to cultivate humble-heartedness in yourself, your wife and your children instead of haughty-hearted religion–the type of religion Jesus disdained.
9.  Teach your children to do the right thing the right way at the right time for the right reasons. Do this first through your own actions.  Illustrate it for them.  Hold them accountable to doing the same.
10.  Hold your children accountable to honoring and obeying those God has placed in authority over them.  Your children will be conceived in sin.  They will be born in sin.  It will not take long for them to prove that they are–in fact–sinners.  Shortly thereafter, they will become professionals at sinning.  Discipline them–as you deem appropriate–for willful sins.  All children should honor and obey.  I particularly want to exhort you to ensure that your children treat their mother with the respect she undoubtedly deserves.  When your wife is sinned against by her children, own the offense and punish the offender.
11.  While taking your responsibilities as spiritual leader and disciplinarian seriously, be proactive in your children’s lives.  Be engaged in their interests.  If they know you truly care about them and what they like, they will be much more inclined to care about what you have to say.  Yet strive to enter their world simply because it is their world.
12.  Begin and remain faithful to family traditions.  I recently read an article about the security family traditions bring to children.  If you inquire of my children some of our traditions, things we do every year that they enjoy, they will give you a list.  These are high priorities to our family.  Never forget:  God is not entrusting you with a family with the expectation that you neglect quality time with that family.  Your wife is an unspeakable treasure.  Your children are blessings from the Lord.  Cultivate these relationships.  Spend quality time with the ones you love.  You will be blessed.  They will be blessed.  Most importantly, God will be exalted.
13.  Protect your children.  They will be inundated by ungodly, negative influences.  As long as the Lord has children “under your roof,”  prove to be their earthly security guard.  Do not be afraid to veto entertainment options or inappropriate gaming or music.  Put a filter on their computers. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” contains a concept that is far more inclusive than regular church attendance (Jos. 24:15). Guide them to choose friends who will build them up rather than tear them down.  Seriously consider homeschooling or a private school option for their education.  You simply will not have the time or energy to undo the errors which they will be taught in the government schools.  It will be near to impossible to balance the imparting of your worldview with the worldviews they will be immersed in for seven to eight hours–five days a week.  Your children’s education is your responsibility, not that of the federal government.
14.  Pray for your children.  Pray that they might come to know Christ at a young age.  Pray that they might value Jesus above all others.  Pray that they might be God-glorifying, people-blessing individuals.  Pray that God might bless your pathetic efforts at parenting.  Pray for wisdom as their father.  After doing so, pray for it again.  You need God to be a great dad.  Your wife needs God.  Your children need God.  Be a prayer warrior for your family.
15.  Rejoice in the opportunities to repent of poor parenting and in the fact that much can be done over the long haul in the hearts and minds of your children.  You will mess up.  Never believe the line, “I did the best I could.”  Do not be satisfied with being better than your father.  Do not strive to be a good dad.  Be the best.  Be great.  Do so in God’s strength and for His glory!
Thanks for reading!  Tune in again for Part Two.  And–if you are a dad, be a great one!

Snake! Sin! Spirit!

She never saw it.  She had spent hours enjoying beautiful Laurel Pocket Wilderness, a state recreational area just a short drive from Dayton.  She was within sight of the car when the rattlesnake struck with lightning speed.  She describes the bite as feeling as if hit by a baseball bat in full-swing.  Then the pain began to work its way up her body.  When she arrived at Rhea Medical Center, she was unconscious.

On Tuesday night in Business Ethics, I discussed the need for businesses and corporations to have and enforce ethics statements.  The answer is a very small word.  It describes a very big problem.  The word is sin.

Often when I teach about sin, I share something I found years ago as I was perusing the Apocrypha.

“Flee from sin as from a snake; for if you approach sin, it will bite you.  Its teeth are lion’s teeth, and can destroy human lives” (Sirach 21:2).

Sin is like a snake.

Like Indiana Jones before me, I hate snakes.  I am afraid of rattlesnakes and grass snakes.  The color or size does not matter.  I keep my distance!  Isn’t that wisdom?

But if I were truly wise, I would also keep my distance from sin!  Sin is bad (perhaps the biggest understatement in the entire history of this blog)!  I should hate it and stay far away from it.  The problem, however, is that it–sin–is inside me!  Theologians call it “indwelling sin.”  The Apostle Paul described the condition as “sin living in me” (Rom. 7:17).  Romans, chapter seven, is Paul’s autobiographical battle with this unwanted guest.  Thankfully, there is another Guest inside!

The Holy Spirit.

He, too, dwells within (Jn. 14:17 ).  And, although He is a quiet Guest (some have described Him as a “Gentleman”), He is not impotent.  Sin is a strong force within me, seeking to cause my death (Rom. 8:13; Js. 1:15).  But the Spirit of God is more than willing to help me kill sin before it kills me (Rom. 8:13).

So–a question we should ask ourselves is this:  Are we drawing near to God through His Holy Spirit (Js. 4:8), or are we drawing near to sin, allowing it to easily entangle us (Heb. 12:1)?

The Spirit is God’s power at our disposal.

Oh–my unconscious friend at Rhea Medical Center?  She’s fine.  God stopped the spread of the poison at her waist!  Now she’s got a cool story!  She was bitten by a rattlesnake and lived!  Not everyone who is bitten lives.  Not everyone bitten by sin lives either.

Beware of snakes.  More importantly, beware of sin!

Peyton Manning–The Classy Colt

I just watched a portion of the press conference in which Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay and future hall of fame QB Peyton Manning discussed the end of an era.  Peyton Manning is no longer a Colt.  My condolences to all of the Indianapolis fans.  The events reminded me somewhat of Brett Favre’s exit from Green Bay.  However, the particular way in which this situation was handled proved again that Manning is a “classy Colt.”  If you have a moment, watch this three minute clip from the press conference:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxoyrVrRxBc

An emotional owner and his emotional former MVP quarterback.  There’s something you did not see in Green Bay.  Half of the Packer fans wanted to hang Brett Favre.  The remaining half wanted to thump the leadership in Green Bay.  The situation became ugly.  Bad blood still drips.

Today in Indianapolis friends parted company with dignity.  It was soothing to the soul to see.  I wish both sides wearing green and gold would have done the same.

I’ve always liked Peyton Manning.  Now I like him more.  My worst nightmare is that he will now do what Brett Favre did–play for the dreaded Minnesota Vikings.

Please–Peyton–any team but the Vikings!

And–Peyton–thanks for the memories!