Congratulations, Dayton 500 winner–Jimmy Johnson! He was the first driver today to successfully navigate the 2.5 mile speedway from the green to the checkered flag.
I was meditating again this morning on Psalm 32. This section particularly caught my attention:
Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to Thee in a time when Thou mayest be found; Surely in a flood of great waters they shall not reach him. Thou art my hiding place; Thou dost preserve me from trouble; Thou dost surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah. I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you. Many are the sorrows of the wicked; But he who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness shall surround him. Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones, And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.
As I read these words today, I was struck with how God has done this in my life. He has instructed me. He has taught me. Did you notice the content of His instruction? What has the Lord taught me? “The way I should go.”
That–BTW–is a bit more complicated than what the NASCAR drivers at Daytona faced today: one direction, a lot of left turns with a short detour through pit road. Life has a few more turns–some left, some right, and quite a few more stops for fuel and new tires than a five-hundred-mile stock car race.
But through every turn, every pit stop, God has been present. He has been a faithful hiding place.
Early last week I was driving outside of Dayton, TN when I noticed a calf following her mother. It didn’t take long to see why. The heifer had a bulging sack of milk! That little cow knew enough to stay close to his provision. Then I saw another heifer, lying down. One calf was lying beside her. A second was standing right next to her. These mothers were surrounded with bovine songs of deliverance!
Surely the Lord has been near. And I have attempted–albiet imperfectly–to remain close to Him. However, I must not be content where I find myself today. I am not where I want to be spiritually. I want to grow more and more into the likeness of Christ. I want to know which way to turn when I arrive at the next corner!
What must I do?
I must “trust in the Lord” (32:10). Trusting God is juxtaposed against stubbornness (horse, mule). Animals typically do not want to be taught. Perhaps they instinctively know how ridiculous it is for us to be the instructors! But I have the CREATOR as my Professor! How blessed I am! Is this true of you? If so–stay near! Find Him to be your Hiding Place, your Instructor, and–
“Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones, And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.”
I have never met Chris and Michelle. But one day I will meet them. And when I do, I will thank them. If you have a minute, read this copy of the email Michelle wrote (FWD’d me by a friend on the mission field because I was praying).
To all of you all over the world who have been praying fervently for us through this time, this is Michelle. I am letting you know that Chris is now whole, healed, and safely in the arms of his loving, gracious Savior.
Chris was actually pretty stable today, but has been having “tremors” or “seizures” over the last few days. These were extremely painful for me to watch him endure. Throughout these weeks, as we have had a knowledge of Chris’ brain being involved, I have been asking his Heavenly Father to heal Chris completely, make him whole, and not give him more than he could handle if there WERE outcomes that involved blindness, seizures, or brain damage of any kind. Chris has always been VERY specific with me that QUALITY of life is a priority for him. As his “tremors” increased this afternoon, they had to reduce the medicine he was getting for pain because it was causing his blood pressure to fall pretty rapidly. It was at that time that I knew what God had so mercifully decided for my beloved.
Present at Chris’ bedside were me, my mom who had just arrived from California two nights previous, Dudley & Jan Pate, and a number of the nurses who had so faithfully and lovingly ministered to Chris. We shared the most intimate, deep, immensely moving worship time that I have ever experienced. We prayed over Chris, Dudley kept up a continuous prompting of beautiful hymns and songs that we sang together, Jan read passages from the Word about Heaven, and at different times, nurses would come in and pray with us, embrace me, and personally pray for me. God freed me of my fear of death so that I could be at Chris’ side, embrace him, and assure him as he entered Heaven. I sensed and incredible strength and peace.
I can testify that God has taken my BIGGEST fear, the ONE JOURNEY I had told God I was unwilling to take, and made beauty from the ashes. In addition, the hardest thing I have EVER had to tell my kids was also like being on holy ground. ALL of your prayers for us have been answered. We will have hard days, we will miss Chris deeply. He has been my best friend, my constant companion, and my PERFECT partner for more than half of my life. However, he has left a legacy in his kids and they were already laughing about stories about Dad as we sat and talked about him being in Heaven.
My prayer is that you will also see CHRIST high and lifted up, glorified, sovereign, and GOOD as you have walked this journey with us. Your prayers that Chris would be healed completely for wholeness and fullness of life have been answered. We got to witness it happen before our eyes as the striving and tremors ceased and he calmly rested.
Please pray that the seeds that Chris has planted throughout his life will bear much fruit. That God would be glorified among the NATIONS and through our family as we testify to His presence and goodness in the midst of our suffering. Pray that Chris’ life – and Homecoming – would bring revival in Lesotho, the mountain kingdom that he has grown to love so much. That they would know the ONE TRUE GOD, Sovereign over all spirits, the one who has known Chris from when he was knit together in his mother’s womb to this evening when he received his Heavenly reward.
Words cannot express my gratitude and the sense that God has already used Chris’ life to unite the Body of Christ for something powerful. We covet your prayers for this next season of our lives.
FINALLY at peace,
Congressional candidate Mark Sanford replied with that this morning to a pointed question asked by Today Show’s Savannah Guthrie. Do you remember Sanford? He is infamous for being the former governor of South Carolina who told his staff that he was hiking the Appalachian Trial while he was actually visiting his girlfriend in Argentina. Ring a bell? Sanford agreed that his unfaithfulness to his wife and four boys was an “absolute failure,” but quickly added that the one place he didn’t ever fail was with the taxpayer.Yikes!
I heard that this morning after meditating upon God’s Word. Our Scripture reading today brought us to Matthew 23. It is a section of the life of Jesus where His righteous indignation is clearly visible. Do you remember which group was in His verbal cross-hairs that day? The religious leaders–those that should have known better! This particular accusation stood out to me:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others” (23:23).
The important duties which the Pharisees neglected are mentioned in a verse each would know well. It is a verse you probably know. In fact, you have probably sung it before. It’s Micah 6:8.
“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
Justice. Mercy. Faithfully walking with God.
Based upon his personal life, not simply his voting record, I am not convinced that Mark Sanford is “the best candidate for the job.” Without a doubt, the Pharisees were not fit for the positions which they held. But what about us? What about me? Do these qualities describe me? Am I doing that which is just? Does injustice move me to action? Do I truly love mercy–so much so that I am merciful to those in need? Am I truly walking in humility, faithful to my God and to those to which I am committed?
Friends–I want to be so! Don’t you?
Let us walk in what is good. God has commanded us to live in right relationship with our fellow human beings and provided a way for us through Christ to live in light of His existence and character. May this gracious provision be the fuel for our God-exalting actions and reactions today!
One of the blog entries which continues to get hit repeatedly is entitled American Presidents’ Quiz. In light of its popularity, I have decided to post another quiz. Put your thinking hats on–here it comes!
1. Which U.S. President witnessed his eleven-year-old son die in a train accident?
2. Which U.S. President remained single?
3. Who was the first Roman Catholic president in U.S. history?
4. Where did George W. Bush go to college?
a. University of Texas
d. Southern Methodist University
5. Which future U.S. President served as the defense attorney for the British soldiers accused in the Boston Massacre?
6. Which of the following are assocaited with President Nixon?
a. The New Deal
c. Cuban Missile Crisis
d. The Iran-Contra Affair
7. Which U.S. President is buried in Abilene, KS?
8. Which U.S. President rejected the idea that he be called “Your Highness.”
9. Thomas Jefferson lived at:
a. Mount Vernon
b. Independence Hall
c. Jefferson Estates
10. Which U.S. President owned a plantation outside of Nashville, TN?
As I was reading through the Gospel of Matthew this week, I paused in chapter eighteen, meditating upon “stumbling blocks.” That contemplation led me to remember Jesus being both a stumbling block and a cornerstone.
Consider these words from 1 Peter 2:
And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone,” and, “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.
Don’t you love how Jesus is described in this passage?! He is a living stone. He is choice and precious in the sight of God. He is the cornerstone. And, He is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. You have seen these realities in action. Individuals either love Christ or they don’t. He is either precious to them or He is not. We really are not allowed to remain ambivalent regarding the identity and works of Jesus Christ. There will come time when we will be required to declare our allegiance. Either our knee will bow willingly or it will do so in forced submission (Phil. 2:10).
Did you notice the promise given in this passage to those to willingly bow their knee to Christ? The Apostle Peter tells us that they will not be disappointed. My friends, I can attest that I am living proof of this. I have known Jesus for over twenty years. I can truly declare to you that He has not disappointed! I have found Him to be “a precious cornerstone.” In fact, I have found Him to be my Jenga block.
Have you ever played Jenga? It is a game in which you stack blocks into a tower and then slowly pull those blocks out. The individual who pulls out a block which causes the entire tower to collapse is eliminated. For me–Jesus is that block, the one, if removed, would result in everything falling apart. I guess what I am saying is that Jesus is precious to me because of who He is and what He has done, is doing and will do–for the Father’s glory and for me. He is an active participant in my life. Coming to know Him as Lord and Savior in 1984 was just the start of what would turn out to be a two-decade-developing relationship. And–rather than disappointing me, Jesus has proven Himself faithful and true (Rev. 19:11). Many of you can relate to my admission. Continue valuing Him! Honor Him as living stones. Some of you cannot relate. Believe in Him! Get to know Him. Grow in your knowledge of Him. If you do, you will find Him to be “a choice stone, a precious cornerstone.” You won’t be disappointed, and you will rejoice to come to the realization that Jesus is your Jenga block as well.
I was disappointed with the movie. Having seen The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I was hoping that the The Hobbit would offer something new–something different. I guess I am just tired of the genre. I’ve seen enough orcs.
I was disappointed with the dinner. Jodi chose Mexican. I took her to an authentic establishment often visited by Hispanics. It was OK, a bit over-priced, average food, workers more interested in preparing for closing than serving customers.
I was disappointed with the coffee. We needed a pick-me-up on our way home. The coffee we purchased tasted like what you would find at a local diner. Cheap.
Some date, eh?!
In fact, it was a great date! Inspite of the above disappointments, I had a great time. Why? My best friend was by my side. I would do it all over again if it meant five more hours with Jodi. Today–the day after–I find myself grateful for one of God’s greatest gifts–friendship. I am thankful that I have a best friend. I am thankful for the friends who watched our girls and the friends who watched our boys to make our celebration of Jodi’s birthday possible.
I am rich with friends. Most of us are. Think through your list–whether it be short or long at this particular juncture in your life. Then, thank God for these flesh-n-blood blessings that make life a bit more bearable.
Are you surprised when you experience God’s Word at work within you?
I am! Progress amazes me. I see how far I have to go more than how far I have come. I just finished teaching a course entitled Christian Social Responsibility. If the content could be described by using one verse, it may be James 1:27.
“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
My friends, I do not want to possess an unpure, defiled religion! To put it another way: I want to have a religion which pleases God and blesses others! That’s the kind of religion mentioned by James. As a result, what he lists ought to have our attention. And what makes the list? Basically, two activities. First, he names our calling to personally connect with those in distress. Second, he states that we must do whatever is necessary to remain unpolluted by the world.
Would you mind if we camped on the first of these concepts in this entry?
We are called to personally connect with those in distress. James specifically mentions widows and orphans. His list could be longer.
The fatherless sons of the inner city
The lonely single
The single mother
As I considered the list–the needs all around me–I was convicted that I have not done enough to alleviate the suffering of “the least of these” (Mt. 25:40, 45). Perhaps you can relate. One of my students admitted in our last class that she is a self-centered individual. In reality–that’s a condition we all have. It was created by the fall and imprinted upon us in conception. Thus, we are consumed with our own little world–our needs and our wants–and we forget to consider the needs of those around us. Isn’t this why we have passages like Philippians, chapter two?!
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (2:3,4).
We might consider this to be a re-wording of the “Golden Rule.” It is what the Good Samaritan parable looks like in our lives. It is nothing but living like Jesus (2:5-11). And living like Jesus is everything! And living like Jesus is what I need to do more.
Today finds me encouraged that the class I recently taught has moved me to be more compassionate, being more willing to meet needs that I see around me. Believe me when I state that I have much growing to do. I am far too Tim-centered. My ultimate hope is that I will mature to the point that I actually am Christ-centered which is evidenced by being people-blessing.
My final devotional for the class allowed me the opportunity to encourage my students from the last portion of Philippians, chapter two. The Apostle Paul mentioned two individuals who did not merely look out for their own personal interests, but were also looking to meet the needs of others–Timothy (2:19-24) and Epaphroditus (2:25-30). These men were deeply committed to Christ (2:21, 30) and to others (2:20, 25). They willingly put flesh on their faith.
Isn’t that what we all are supposed to do? I hope you begin to see more of it in me.
Several months ago I heard some noise about Colin Kaepernick’s tatoos. For those of you with your head buried in the sand of survival, Kapernick is the young and very talented quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers. From what I can see, much of his upper body is covered in tatoos. One critic claimed that his body art was inappropriate because it resembles that of a member of a gang. Then I heard the response from someone on sports radio.
“Dude, they’re Bible verses.”
And–some of them are!
You and I can disagree regarding whether or not body art is allowed by Scripture. But the fact remains–this particular athlete is attempting to hold forth the Word of life. I taught that concept in one of my college classes this week. It is found in Philippians, chapter two. The best rendering of the passage is found in the King James Version. However, I appreciate the manner in which other translations present it as well.
Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. KJV
Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. NASB
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. NIV
Two different words. Two different actions. Forth. Fast. Both are fine to utilize. Both are necessary to do.
We are to hold forth the Word of life. Our calling as Christians is to “provide people with a glimpse of good living and the living God” as we “carry the light-giving message into the night” (The Message). The Scriptures are a wonderful gift that are to be shared. And–since faith comes through hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17)–it is essential that we proclaim it any way that we can.
We are to hold fast the Word of life. This can mean our cherishing, our valuing of the incredible gift God has given to us. It can also connote our need to continue to use the Bible as our measuring stick for that which we believe as well as for how we should live.
I have a lot of possessions. In fact, I have too many. But some of my possession are Bibles. My preferred translation is the New American Standard. My favorite copy is the LARGE PRINT edition I have. I read it daily, meditating upon the truths presented and how I should act and react as a result. I need to hold it fast. I do hold it fast. But am I holding it forth? Am I creating ways in which to present it to those around me? Honestly–that’s the first and foremost reason for the creation of this blog several years ago. I am also afforded with the opportunity of teaching God’s Word on the collegiate level. It is crucial that I take these responsibilities seriously. I should also find other ways to proclaim His excellencies (1 Pet. 2:9,10).
Consider for a moment your own situation. Are you holding forth and holding fast the Word? What role do the Scriptures play in your life? Beware of taking the Bible for granted. Love it. Read it. Apply it. Share it. (Listen–Tim!)
I close with the words of Matthew Henry:
It is our duty not only to hold fast, but to hold forth the word of life; not only to hold it fast for our own benefit, but to hold it forth for the benefit of others, to hold it forth as the candlestick holds forth the candle, which makes it appear to advantage all around (eSword).
PS–For a related discussion, stop by the Quick Takes page!