Monthly Archives: July, 2012

The Blame Game

Saturday night at supper illustrated the problem with mankind.  While we were talking about how much the kids fight–the eldest two in particular–my seven-year-old son said, “It’s not our fault; it’s because of Adam and Eve.”

Now there’s a practice which dates back to the garden itself!

“That woman….”

“The serpent…”

I suppose this is the reason why God allowed us to make mirrors.  They serve another purpose than our simply being able to see if we look presentable.  Mirrors are–in fact–a window to the soul.

Have you ever stood and looked at yourself in a mirror–I mean stared into your own eyes?  Yeah, I know.  It creeps me out as well.  Often the sentiment is:  “That’s all you got?”  In reality, I think disappointment is what I experience (not with my outward appearance, but either with the state of my inner man or with my circumstances).  I know–I should make an appointment with a counselor.  Tell me something I don’t already know!  But you know what I am talking about, don’t you? You often feel it too.  It isn’t necessarily comfortable dealing with ourselves.  It is much more easy to point the finger at others; to play the blame game.

Listen.  I agree with Dayton.  Adam and Eve rate pretty high up on my “jerk list.”  Now that I think about it, their names appear just below mine and Satan.  It is true that I inherited a sinful nature from Adam.  However, in Christ I am now a new man (2 Cor. 5:17).  I no longer have to sin.  When I do, the blame is deservedly my own.  Sin is a choice.

Several days ago, I vented in an email to a buddy.  His response to me included a list.  Allow me to share his first two points:

  1. Repent
  2. Repent

Later in his response, my friend gave me permission to vent in his direction.  Truth be told, however, I needed to do some repenting!  I wasn’t trusting God.  I was complaining.  I wasn’t praising.  I was ranting.  Been there?  I am convinced that if I would have been Adam, I would have sinned without Eve’s help.  I probably would have initiated the visit with the devil!

My point?  I think I have one.  We would do well to remember that we are sinners, and sinners naturally play the blame game professionally.  Rather than pefect our skill of blaming, we need, instead, to take a good look at ourselves.  We are guilty as charged!  Therein we find our constant need of a Savior! And without Jesus we would be left “high and dry”!  But we are not “without Jesus”!  He came, suffered, died, rose and ascended, and is ready to aid all who call upon Him!  And so I pray:

Thou God of all grace,
Thou hast given me a Saviour,
produce in me a faith to live by Him,
to make Him all my desire,
all my hope,
all my glory.
May I enter Him as my refuge,
build on Him as my foundation,
walk in Him as my way,
follow Him as my guide,
conform to Him as my example,
receive His instructions as my prophet,
rely on His intercession as my high priest,
obey Him as my king.
May I never be ashamed of Him or His words,
but joyfully bear His reproach,
never displease Him by unholy or imprudent conduct,
never count it a glory if I take it patiently
when buffeted for a fault,
never make the multitude my model,
never delay when Thy Word invites me to advance.
May Thy dear Son preserve me from this present world,
so that its smiles never allure,
nor its frowns terrify,
nor its vices defile,
nor its errors delude me.
May I feel that I am a stranger and a pilgrim on earth,
declaring plainly that I seek a country,
my title to it becoming daily more dear,
my meetness for it more perfect,
my foretastes of it more abundant;
and whatsoever I do may it be done in the Saviour’s name.

The selection above was taken from The Saviour in The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions (Arthur Bennett, ed., The Banner of Truth Trust, 1975).

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Keith Green–My Friend in Heaven

Today is the 30th anniversary of Keith Green’s passing.  You probably know the story of the airplane crash which took the lives of Keith, several of his, and another family.  It was a tragic day for the world.  I think, however, God choose to do more through the unexpected accident than any one of us could have ever imagined.  My story is only one of many.

Bruce Truss was a friend of mine while I was stationed in Northern Japan.  I’ll never forget the day he introduced me to the music of Keith Green.  It was a Sunday afternoon.  After church, we took our time eating at the base cafeteria.  Then Bruce insisted that I sit in his car and listen to a song.  I did.  I was hooked.  The song was The Sheep and the Goats.

Here’s a link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ix8ddosjg-k

So may of Keith’s song’s encouraged me as a young Christian to  grow in my love of God and my hatred of sin.  One song–in particular–was used of God to challenge me.  Make My Life a Prayer to You is an exhortation to wholeheartedly follow Christ.  If it has been a while, watch it now:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jd9MaBu3gAg

As we remember Keith today, join me in thanking God for a man who was radically changed by Christ and proved it by His faithful ministry.  I remain grateful for my friend in heaven.

I close with a link to Last Days Ministries, still led by Keith’s widow Melody:

http://www.lastdaysministries.org/

The Good and Hidden God

I found the following in a recent FB post by a former colleague:

God is always good, and perhaps at His very best when hidden from us!

Munch on that.

God is always good, and perhaps at His very best when hidden from us!

First, God is always good.  That fact about God’s character is indisputable.  The Scriptures loudly proclaim this to be truth and God’s track record attests to it.  He is good and He does good (Psalm 119:68).  Always.  Sometimes I become irked when people say and/or write “God is good” after they see or experience something which causes them joy.  God is good–always; in aneurysms, in bankruptcy, in cancer, in all the trials of life which come our way through nail-scarred hands.  God is always good.

But the sentence continues.

Second, God is perhaps at His very best when hidden from us.  In other words, God’s glory shines most brightly through His common grace and through His providential dealings.  Although an argument could be easily offered and defended that God is truly “at His very best” through the drama of redemption–the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit applying the work of Christ to hell-bent sinners like me–I appreciate the author’s sentiment.  Even though he cannot see God–even if God’s presence isn’t tangible–he trusts.  He clings to the previous proposition–the immutable goodness of God, and chooses to believe that God is not only present, but engaged.

Consider this paragraph from a book I am reading in preparation for a new course I will be teaching this fall:

“Luther goes so far as to say that vocation is a mask of God.  That is, God hides Himself in the workplace, the family, the Church, and the seemingly secular society.  To speak of God being hidden is a way of describing His presence, as when a child hiding in a room is there, just not seen.  To realize that the mundane activities that take up most of our lives–going to work, taking the kids to soccer practice, picking up a few things at the store, going to church–are hiding-places for God can be a revelation in itself.  Most people seek God in mystical experiences, spectacular miracles, and extraordinary acts they have to do.  To find Him in vocation brings Him, literally, down to earth, makes us see how close He really is to us, and transfigures everyday life” (God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life, Gene Edward Veith, Jr., Crossway Books, 2002, p.24).

I wonder what you might be going through today.  Are you facing a difficult situation? Would you describe your current condition as challenging?  Is your future hazy, perhaps even a bit scary?  If so, I exhort you to rest in the truth.  Take comfort in the unchanging character of God.  Remember that He is indeed active in the shadows.

Several years ago I went through a rather difficult trial.  In the midst of it, I wrote a poem entitled My God.  I’ll share it now, hoping you will be encouraged.  This entry concludes with a link to another blog–the author of which was at the movie theater in Colorado (the actual theater, just feet away from the shooter).  If you have the time, read her post before navigating to another page.  First, here’s the poem:

God, beautifully-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, graciously-saving God,
lovingly calling
His sheep into the fold
speaks resurrection words
of eternal glories still untold.

(You will find a more intimate poem about what we experienced on the Poems link above.)

http://aminiatureclaypot.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/so-you-still-think-god-is-a-merciful-god/

Raving Fan Review–Shoe Sensation, Dayton, TN

It is a rare day that I buy shoes for myself.  As a father of four on an extremely limited budget, I wear clothes and shoes until holes appear.  This weekend, though, the time came for me to look for a pair of tennis shoes; clearance, of course.  My first stop was Shoe Sensation, a small store here in Dayton.  As soon as I entered, the thirty-five-ish woman at the checkout kiosk welcomed me to the store and asked if she could help me  find what I was looking for.  When I informed her that I usually just buy items on clearance, she took me directly to that section and helped me search for shoes in my size.  Now that’s customer service!  Her attitude was especially noted in my mind as a result of what happened next.

Unable to find what I was looking for at Shoe Sensation, I walked several doors down to Hibbett Sports.  Three twenty-somethings were working near the cash register.  OK–“working” is too generous of a description.  The three were talking.  Did any of the three acknowledge my existence?  They did not.  Did they offer to help me?  Not a chance.  They kept right on chatting while I entered, looked around and left without purchasing a product.  They simply did not care.  I won’t be headed to Hibbett Sports  anytime soon.  Should the need arise, however, I will return to Shoe Sensation because they have sensational customer service–at least they did on Saturday!

Need a pair of shoes?  You might want to consider:

They Kept Right On

“Now I saw in my dream, that thus they sat talking together until supper was ready. So when they had made ready, they sat down to meat. Now the table was furnished with fat things, and with wine that was well refined; and all their talk at the table was about the Lord of the hill; as, namely, about what he had done, and wherefore he did what he did, and why he had builded that house; and by what they said, I perceived that he had been a great warrior, and had fought with and slain him that had the power of death, Heb. 2:14,15; but not without great danger to himself, which made me love him the more.”

I thought of that passage from Pilgrim’s Progress when I read the following in Acts, chapter five:

“And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (5:42).

The Apostles simply could not refrain themselves.  Even though they had just been flogged for talking about “the Lord of the hill” (5:40), these radically-transformed men continued to share “the whole message of…Life” (5:20).

The application from such passages truly is self-evident.  We must ask ourselves the questions which so quickly come to mind:

  • Have I been radically-transformed?
  • Am I now Christ-centered?
  • Is my conversation Christ-centered?
  • Do I take opportunities to discuss “the Lord of the hill”?

One of the reasons that I am grateful for today–Sunday–is that this first day of the week allows me the time to examine my life and my priorities.  In a very real sense, Sunday is my chance to start over, to begin afresh in my relationship with God.  My attendance in church is an important part of that endeavor.  Other moments in the day–whether they be used for reading or writing–also help me as I continue striving for reality.

I hope you have had a great day, and that if you did not teach or preach, you sat under teaching and preaching which boldly proclaimed Jesus as the Christ (5:42).

I agree with Harry Reid! I agree with Harry Reid?!

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid slammed the U.S. Olympic Committee Thursday over reports that the Team USA uniforms were made in China, saying officials “should burn” them.

Reid, D-Nev., made the remarks following reports that China has already taken gold from America by manufacturing the uniforms Team USA will wear during the opening ceremonies.

“I think the Olympic Committee should be ashamed,” Reid told reporters on Capitol Hill. He said they should “burn” the current uniforms, and would rather America’s athletes wear shirts with “USA” hand-painted on them.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/07/12/reid-calls-for-officials-to-burn-china-made-team-usa-olympic-uniforms/#ixzz20S66PGNA

Burn those uniforms!

I’m sure we can make ’em in the USA!

“Anybody?  Anybody?”

Rats!  Let’s at least have them made in Indonesia!

I jest.  Surely we have American manufacturers who can create appropriate outfits for our Olympians.  However, the cost would probably be double due to how much Uncle Sam  taxes small business owners.

Better plan–cardboard boxes painted by America’s school children!  Shoot–schools are on summer break!

What about our many inmates?  You’re right–scratch that as well.

I am running out of ideas!

Birthday suits are out.

OK–just wear the stinking Chinese-made uniforms and then beat them in competition!  They’ve got our money anyway!

Worthy is the Lamb: Ralph Erskine

Several years ago, I purchased a volume of poems which immediately proved to be great refreshment to my soul.  I am speaking of Worthy is the Lamb:  Puritan Poetry in Honor of the Savior (compiled and introductions, Maureen Bradley; Don Kistler and Joel Rishel, eds., Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 2004).  One of the poets I was introduced to through the pages of this book was Ralph Erskine.

Ralph Erskine was born on my birthday–March 18, 1685, in Scotland.  After preparing for the ministry at the University of Edinburgh, Erskine was ordained and served as a presbyterian pastor.  Alasdair B. Gordon states that Erskine was influenced by some of the men who have assisted me in my theological formation, including Thomas Boston (1676-1732).   Gordon then asserted, “But above all the books the one he studied most was, of course, his Bible” (see Some Sidelights to Ralph Erskine link below). Erskine died in November of 1752, having lived a life devoted to his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Some of his works have been included in Worthy is the Lamb.  Rather than reproduce one, I have decided to give you snippets of several.  I trust you will be encouraged as you read.

From Proofs of God’s Power and Wisdom in the Creation and Preservation of the World:

The Lord Jehovah built the skies,
And reared this stately frame;
The wide creation testifies
The Greatness of His name.

From The Glory of God in Christ:

All nature spreads, with open blaze,
Her Maker’s name abroad:
And every work of His displays
The power and skill of God.

But in the grace that rescued man,
His brightest glory shines;
Here on the cross ’tis fairest drawn,
In precious bloody lines.

From We Will Make Thee Borders of Gold, with Studs of Silver:

For with united power divine
We Father, Son, and Spirit,
Do stand engaged thee to refine,
And make thy form complete.
Keep thou no finite powers view,
To grace and deck thee thus;
Creation-work, both old and new,
Belongs to none but Us.

From The Difference between the Law and the Gospel:

An angry God the law revealed;
The gospel shows Him reconciled.
By that I know He was displeased;
By this I see His wrath appeased.

From The Victor of My Heart:

Jesus the God, with naked arms,
Hangs on a cross and dies.
Then mounts the throne, with mighty charms,
To embrace me from the skies.

From The Mystery of the Saint’s Old and New Man:

My heart’s a mirror dim and bright,
A compound strange of day and night;
Of dung and diamonds, dross and gold,
Of summer heat and winter cold.
Down like a stone I sink and dive,
Yet daily upward soar and thrive.
To heaven I fly, to earth I tend;
Still better grow, yet never mend.

http://www.puritansermons.com/erskine/erskin16.htm

Raving Fan Review–Romano’s Macaroni Grill

It’s human nature to complain more than we praise.  That’s why I decided to include an occasional entry entitled Raving Fan Review.  The concept is from the book Raving Fans written by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles.  It’s a fantastic book on customer service.  So–when I experience awesome customer service–when I become a raving fan of a particular establishment–I’ll let you know.

This afternoon I took my family to Romano’s Macaroni Grill on Gunbarrel Road in Chattanooga.  It’s nowhere near home, but we had a gift card to use.  Athough we arrived during the Sunday lunch rush hour, the restuarant wasn’t full.  We were immediately seated.  It didn’t take long, however, to begin noticing that the service we were receiving was a bit slow.  But we didn’t complain.  It was a Sunday afternoon and we were relaxed.  Every now and then our waiter would look in our direction, appearing almost confused.  We finally surmised the situation.  He was new and completely overwhelmed.  Our food finally arrived about forty-five minutes later.  Just before it was brought to our table, though, another waiter stopped by our table to compliment us on our patience and informed us that we would like what the general manager was going to do to thank us.  And–boy–did we like it!  The manager had been observing the situation from a distance and was both gently training his worker while taking care of his customers (we believe the new waiter actually forgot to enter our ticket for about thirty minutes).  What happened?  I know that you are dying to know!  We were not allowed to pay a single penny!  The manager did indeed “take care of us.”  We did not expect such generosity!  New waiters need a little grace.  Managers need to know how to treat customers.  Customers need to balance complaint with praise.

Thanks, Gunbarrel Romano’s Macaroni Grill.  We’ll be back!

Caleb’s Different Spirit

But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed Me fully…” (Numbers 14:24).

My friend Jane died this week, succumbing to cancer.  She was quite a woman.  In fact, she was a woman of God.  Like Caleb, Janie possessed a “different spirit.”  In other words, she stood out from the crowd due to the strength of her character and the passion of her faith.

I met Janie when I arrived at Bryan College in August of 1988.  She was the wife of the dean of students–a man who would befriend me and keep his eye on me during my first year in Dayton.  While I appreciated Paul’s ministry to me, I marveled at his wife.  Janie was one of the most encouraging people I had ever met.  I struggle to remember a time when I interacted with her when she did not say something to build me up.  In every conversation, my friend–with genuine love in her eyes–said something nice, teaching me by both example and words that people matter.  Her faith in Jesus–even in her suffering–poured over into the lives of others.

Beloved, these words of praise are not the empty platitudes often heard in funeral homes.  You know what I mean.  The dearly departed are almost deified.  Sometimes the contrast between memory and reality is stark!

Well–Janie was indeed “the real deal.”  Because of her different spirit, she made a real difference.  And that is what I want people to say about me when I am gone.  I may not be Jane.  But I can bless others through my words.  I can be on a mission to encourage.

If you knew Janie, join with me today in being a bit more like her!  Perhaps that’s the best way to remember her–by “paying it forward”!

Below is part of Janie’s obit.  You will get a flavor of her life and clearly see that her life was anything but hers!

EVENSVILLE Jane Ann Brown Ardelean went home to be with her Lord and Savior on Sunday, July 2, 2012. Jane was born in Oliver Springs, Tenn., on Dec. 18, 1935 to Martin Ernest Brown and Mabel Jackson Brown. She grew up in Pontiac, Mich., and graduated from Eastern Michigan University and earned a Masters from Tennessee Tech. In January, 1957, she married Paul Harold Ardelean and they moved to Hawaii for two years before returning to Michigan.In 1968, they moved to Brazil where they were missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators and then with the American School of Brasilia. Jane was a school teacher and spent the last 14 years of her career at Rhea Central Elementary School and Dayton City School. Jane served as a deaconess at Grace Bible Church in Dayton, Tenn., and was also involved with Moms for Moms and on the board of Rhea County Academy.