Monthly Archives: May, 2013

Latest News: Yikes!

I do not need a lot of examples to prove to me the reality of the power and presence of sin.  All I need to do is read God’s Word and examine my own heart.   God is perfect.  His Word is perfect.  I am not.  And–because this world is filled with fallen individuals like me–examples of sin surround us.  I was reminded of that tonight as I scrolled to the bottom of the Fox News homepage.  If you could click on all of the links I found and read them without either being discouraged or saddened, your are probably “absolutely fine.”  If your reading would cause you to act out irrationally, you could also claim to be “biopolar.”  But don’t worry, the Department of Justice will “affirm” you.

Yikes!

This is what I read:

Sin Sick

How to Celebrate Memorial Day: One Cigar, a couple whiskey-stiffened coffees and a lot of memories

I am a veteran, but I am no hero.  I faithfully served in the US Army from 1984-1987.  And although I am proud of my accomplishments from my time in uniform my, family knows well how uncomfortable I am with applause.  I do not deserve it.

Richard Arvine Overton does.

Hero1

Have you seen any information about Richard this week?  He is 107-years-old–America’s oldest living veteran.  He served from 1942-1945, spending time in Hawaii, Guam, Palau and Iwo Jima.

His plan for Memorial Day is simple–relax, smoke a good cigar, drink a few whiskey-stiffened coffees and remember.

Fox News reports, “He wished he could spend a few hours this Memorial Day reliving war stories with fellow veterans.”

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/05/26/america-oldest-veteran-to-spend-quiet-memorial-day-at-texas-home/

The problem–as you know–is that there are very few WWII veterans left.  He sits in an elite category:  A generation of heroes all but gone.  Thank you, Richard, for your service!

But another generation has reached the twilight of their lives–the veterans of the Korean and Vietnam Wars.  Those wars may not be as “glamorous” as WWII where America stood toe-to-toe against Hitler, Mussolini and the Empire of Japan, but they were indeed wars, and hundreds of heroes emerged.  The same can be said of the men and women of our war against Islamic extremism who went above and beyond the call of duty, many of whom lost their lives.

Memorial Day finds me thankful for more than another day away from the office. Extra time with family is a good thing.  BBQ’s are always awesome.  But these simple blessings are not possible apart from God’s grace and men and women willing to put their lives on the line that I might live free.  Although my heavenly citizenship trumps my American citizenship, I can promise you that this holiday I will once again bleed

Red

White

Blue

Thank you for pausing to “remember.”  Celebrate in Richard’s honor!

Anniversary Confusion and Contentment

Happy Anniversary!  Twenty-two great years!

Much of life is unexpected.  The journey is filled with obstacles.  The trip is a lot more difficult than any of us anticipated.  However, one experience has proven to be exactly as I envisioned.  Our marriage has been a piece of cake.  It’s been easy.  How rare of a story is that?!

Two have truly become one.

That unity isn’t the only mystery.  I am confused about a couple of other issues.  First, how is it possible for our friendship to be deeper today than it was in 1991?  You were my best friend that hot and humid day at New Union Baptist Church.  Now the term “best friend” seems trite as I apply it to you.  You are my bestest friend!  Second, how can it be that I love you more now than I did the moment you walked down the aisle with your father?  Yet I do!  My love for you is “immeasurable.”  I truly am head-over-heels in love with you as we both rapidly approach “midlife”!

How does this happen?

Surely this is a work of God.  But I also think another simple explanation presents itself.  Our friendship has deepened and our love has grown because  you are you.

You are a delightful person possessing a long list of positive attributes, strengths which continue to bless me, our children and others.  Jodi, I really like you.  I not only love you, but I genuinely like you.  God has been exceedingly kind to bless me with someone who completes me.  You are my perfect “other half.”

I am grateful today for God’s grace.  In you, He has given to me far more than I  deserved.  Thank you, Jesus.  And thank you, Jodi, for being you and for all you do!

To celebrate, let’s work outside all day!

Memories of Mom

Mom passed away this morning. She was eighty-one years old.  Several of my siblings were with her as she passed.  My mother was an interesting individual–almost a polarizing figure.  I think very few people who truly knew her were ambivalent.  She either liked you or she didn’t.  People either liked her or they didn’t.  For the most part–save for only a couple of incidents throughout my life–my relationship with my mother was healthy (I think it was a lot easier being a boy in our family than being a girl).  And I always knew–even when she was irritated with me–that she loved me and was proud of me.

I thought it might be helpful for me to sit down and draw up a list of things I appreciate about my mom.  She was not a perfect mom.  But she did more than a few things right.  In her honor, I’ll share my list (I stopped at twenty).

Mom

  • Was always there for me as I grew up.
  • Deeply loved my Dad, proving to be his best friend and lover through life.
  • Worked hard to help Dad provide for our family.
  • Trained me that a clean house is more enjoyable than a dirty one.
  • Enabled me to see that a good day of fishing doesn’t require catching a lot of fish.
  • Patiently proved to me that a tacky tree painted on a kitchen wall was actually cool.
  • Spoke the truth, even if it wasn’t always seasoned with grace.
  • Taught me that a hard life should be salted with fun activities.
  • Introduced me to good food–surf and turf (lobster, shrimp & steak)!
  • Helped me to see that the mentally-disabled are people deserving as much kindness as those self-described as “normal.”
  • Never ridiculed my conversion to Christianity.
  • Never judged my present or my future based upon my past.
  • Loved my wife as if she were a daughter.
  • Supported me in my educational pursuits.
  • Celebrated my seminary graduation–stuffing her own emotions as she was informed earlier in the day of her mother’s passing.
  • Was generous–even forcing me to take gifts from time to time.
  • Encouraged me as I served in my vocational roles as pastor, principal and professor.
  • Listened intensely whenever she heard me preach God’s Word.
  • Complimented me in my role as husband and father.
  • Illustrated–through quality time–that being a grandparent could be a blast.

Thanks, Mom. 

Loving Christ Heartily: A Devotion on Ephesians 6:24

My study in God’s Word the other day led me to Ephesians, chapter six.  I found myself flying through the familiar verses of the chapter only to slam on the brakes as I reached the last sentence of the letter.

“Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an incorruptible love.”   Ephesians 6:24

The gifted commentator, Matthew Henry wrote, “The words may be read, Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in incorruption, who continue constant in their love to him, so as not to be corrupted out of it by any baits or seductions whatsoever, and whose love to him is uncorrupted by any opposite lust, or the love of anything displeasing to him. Grace, that is, the favour of God, and all good (spiritual and temporal), that is, the product of it, are and shall be with all those who thus love our Lord Jesus Christ” (eSword).

Baptist theologian John Gill defined this as believers who prove to be “sincere and hearty lovers of Him” (eSword).

And Adam Clarke correctly connects love for Christ with obedience to Christ.  He wrote that this concept of incorruptible love is possessed by “those who show the genuineness of their love, by walking before him in holiness of life. Many profess to love our Lord Jesus who are corrupt in all their ways; on these the grace or favor of God cannot rest; they profess to know him, but in works deny him. Such can neither expect favor here, nor hereafter” (eSword).

Are you convicted yet?

I am.

I wonder if the believers in Ephesus were convicted when they first read these words.  I find it very interesting that several years later, the Apostle John would reprimand them for their lukewarm love for Christ (Rev. 2:4).  Perhaps many in the church did not take Paul’s words to heart.  Their love became corrupted.  Their once-upon-a-time passionate love for Jesus had grown cool.

It’s a sad statement.  And, it is sobering to think it could be true of us as well.

How thankful should we be for the final verse of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus?!

Allow me to close with a great exhortation from a sermon preached by Jonathan Edwards:

“Seeing that Christ is your all, give Him your whole heart. Let Him be the object not only of your highest esteem, but your supreme affection. Let Him engross your heart, and let all your powers and faculties be taken  up and employed in loving Him. Love Him with all your heart and with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. Let Him be the great object of your longing desires. Let Him be your exceeding joy, your only delight. Take your full contentment in Him.”

Christ is the Christians All, The Puritan Pulpit: Jonathan Edwards, Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 2004, p.204.

Abiding in Christ by fresh repeated acts of faith

Mind if I share a devotional I gave to a group of students this week?

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:1-5; NASB).
Observations
  • We are called to bear fruit.
  • Jesus is the Source for our fruit-bearing.
  • Apart from Jesus, we cannot produce fruit.

“‘except ye abide in me’ – which  strongly expresses the necessity of   abiding in Christ by fresh repeated acts of faith” (John Gill)

“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer.  He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken. Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me. I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing” (John 15:1-5; The Message).
“Fresh repeated acts of faith”
Surely this means our utilizing the means of grace purposefully.  Going to church for the right reasons.  Praying like we mean it.  Reading God’s Word carefully.  We do these activities regularly.  But it is the how we do them which determines whether or not they are “fresh.”
As I conclude another week, I am thankful for Jesus’ admonition.  I need to abide.  I cannot accomplish anything of eternal significance apart from an intimate connection to Him.  And–I need to ensure that my repeated acts of faith are fresh.  In other words, I need to remain engaged, seeking first His kingdom and righteousness (Mt. 6:33), loving God with heart, soul, mind and strength (Lk. 10:27).  We all do.
Thanks for stopping by the blog!  Have a great week!

The Need to Understand Death Before We Can Appreciate Life

As I was driving from Decatur to Dayton, TN the other day, I turned on the radio–hoping to be encouraged.

I was not disappointed.

I was just in time to hear Joni and Friends.  And–Joni’s words were awesome; biblically and theologically right on.  In fact, they were so good I simply had to share them.  Here they are in their entirety along with the link if you would rather listen.

Hi, this is Joni Eareckson Tada and welcome to “Joni and Friends.”

Like you, I am so very grateful for my salvation in Jesus Christ. I was looking through a couple of old photo albums the other day and came across some snapshots when I was 13 or 14 years old. Then the other day at Joni and Friends, I was reviewing a video, which included some old home movie footage when I was 15 years old. It had been so long since I had seen such young photos, such long-ago images of myself, that I had to stop and remember, ‘cause life on my feet seems like another lifetime ago. And I must confess, I got myself into a lot of trouble as a 14-year-old. I will never forget when the Gospel finally hit home in my heart, I felt so, well, to put it bluntly, I felt absolutely dirty and I knew that I had absolutely no resources to make myself clean. When it came to my salvation as a 15-year-old, I brought nothing to the table for I was, as Ephesians chapter 2, verse 1 says, “… dead in my transgressions and sins.”

You know, we say that but how many of us really believe that we were completely dead before we knew Christ? I once heard Dr. R.C. Sproul paint a fascinating picture of how “dead in sin” we were before Christ. He described the unbeliever as lying flat-dead-drowned on the bottom of a pool under six feet of water. The man is so dead he can’t possibly hear – he is utterly incapable of hearing—the “good news” that a lifesaver is on the way. That dead man on the bottom of the pool can’t respond. He can’t raise himself up off the floor of the pool and surface in order to meet the one saving his life because, well, he’s dead. Dead men can’t do a thing. This is why God, the Lifesaver, must reach down, pull the unbeliever out of the water, and breathe life into his dead body. Once quickened, the man happily recognizes his Savior, reaches up and embraces Him. Friend, that is the Gospel and that’s why I say I brought nothing to the table of salvation when I first confessed Christ. All I did was recognize Jesus as my Savior because He, first, quickened my heart to recognize and love Him. I love Him because He first loved me.

This is so important if we are to grasp just how amazing God’s grace really is for there are two different interpretations of the Gospel. One makes salvation dependent on the work of God, the other on a work of man. One regards faith as part of God’s gift of salvation, the other sees faith as man’s own contribution to salvation. One gives all the glory of saving to God; the other divides the praise between God who “built the machinery” of salvation, and man who operated it by believing. John chapter 1, verses 12-13 underscore that we are spiritually born “not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” Friend, we are made alive out of the deadness of our sin by the will of God, for Jesus said in John chapter 15, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.”

As much as it goes against our natural grain, we are not masters of our own fate or captains of our own souls. Throughout this day, rehearse in your heart that:

1) All men are sinners and cannot do anything to save themselves; (2) Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is a perfect Savior for sinners; and, (3) the Father and the Son have promised that all who know themselves to be sinners and place their faith in Christ the Savior shall be received into favor and no one cast away.

It’s why I thank God for quickening my spirit and giving me saving faith so that I might recognize Jesus and His great gift of salvation.

http://www.joniandfriends.org/radio/5-minute/lifesaving-truth/