Woe and Wonder

Posted: December 4, 2013 in QT's
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I am sitting in my reading chair as I write this. I have been praying and studying in preparation for Sunday’s sermon. I am listening to instrumental Christmas music, drinking a cup of coffee and looking out the back window. The sun is coming up and turning the morning sky a mixture of blue, white, pink, and orange. The temperature is mild and it’s a beautiful morning.

Blue_Jay_Rd_018I also know that a winter storm is on it’s way. The temp has already hit it’s high and will begin to drop. It’ll get bitterly cold and tomorrow the rain and sleet is supposed to hit. It will be cold and miserable. Certainly a good time to stay inside. Unfortunately life goes on, even in the midst of a winter storm. I will undoubtedly have to get out in it as will most everyone else. I’m not looking forward to that.

However, even in the midst of the danger and misery of a winter storm there is beauty. The weather man (if he can be trusted) says we may get 3 to 6 inches of snow on top of the ice. That means the kids could get out of school. If that happens they’ll be getting their sleds out and looking for hills and thrills (and there are plenty of those here in the Ozarks).

Our little corner of the world will be transformed into a winter wonderland. My family will gather together in the evening for dinner and then watch an old Christmas movie, or better yet, read from one of our favorite Christmas stories. Hot chocolate and laughter will flow accordingly.

We’ll also be watching to see how long the storm will last and when it will pass and, be assured,  it will pass. That’s the way life is isn’t it? Storms come and go and even though they are difficult there can also be beauty in them. It’s usually in the storms that we stop and consider the things that are most important in life. Storms have a way of getting our attention and we forget about all those other things that can distract us from the things that matter most. If not for the storms, we would miss much of the beauty.

Whatever storm you may be facing in life, hunker down, hold on, and try to see the beauty that can come from it.

“When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more,
but the righteous is established forever.”

Proverbs 10:25, ESV


Ith grew up in East Texas. It’s not like other parts of Texas, more deep south than west I guess. Instead of flat plains, tumbleweeds, deep canyons, and big skies there are rolling hills and tall pines. I now live in the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas where we have four seasons; in Texas there seem to be just two, hot and not as hot. I remember summers when you didn’t want to leave the air conditioning for anything, where just getting out of your car to walk across the parking would require a water jug. I mean, it was hot. My uncle told me how he once picked up a hitchhiker in the middle of that kind of heat and when the young man got in the truck my uncle said, “It’s too hot to be walking.” To which the young man replied, “Oh sir, it ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.”

I’ll let that sink in for a minute…

While he certainly meant “humidity” instead of “humility” his statement has not only caused me to laugh a little, it’s also given me something to think about. There are situations that we all face in life that will cause us to be humble, whether we want to be or not. There are always those circumstance that remind us that we’re not “all that” after all. We’re just people, trying to make our way through this life. We all have our ups and downs, our victories and defeats, our successes and failures. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we goof up. We all experience humility at times. It’s part of life, and while it may not be enjoyable, it’s not a bad thing either. Humility, being humble, is a good character trait to have, it’s a godly character trait that’s born out of humbling experiences. I recently had the opportunity to think about this trait as I have been preaching through the Gospel of Matthew with my congregation.

We are now in Matthew 5 and are spending some time in what’s called “The Beatitudes” which refer to the first 12 verses, the opening statement of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount”. These verses contain nine statements that begin with “Blessed are…” The word “blessed” actually means “happy”. Jesus is teaching those who would be His followers how to be happy. What we are learning is that true happiness comes from knowing God through faith in Christ and experiencing His presence and work in our lives. Part of that experience is learning humility. In verse 5 Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

humilityThe meek are those who have learned to be humble. He is in essence saying, “Happy are the humble.” To be humble is to have a right attitude about who you are in relation to God and to other people. The humble person is one who has experienced brokenness over sin and forgiveness in Christ and as a result is able and willing to show that same grace to others. It’s a gentleness of character that should be a trait of all those who call themselves followers of Christ.

I’ll admit, I often fail at this and it bother’s me. Maybe realizing that in and of itself is part of the humbling experience. I certainly hope so. Realizing a failure, being broken over sin certainly isn’t pleasant, but it is a necessary part of the process and with God, the end result is always worth it. Like a wise man once said, “It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.”

If you could choose to be lucky, talented, smart, or wise which one would you choose? There was a time when I would have probably chosen lucky or talented. I mean, if you happen to be lucky things just seem to work out for you and if you happen to be talented enough, some things tend to come easy. Since I’m not really either one of those I thought maybe I could study hard and become really smart. So I did, study hard I mean. I put a lot of effort into trying to learn how to read well, write well, and reason things out. I studied history, science, psychology, philosophy, and theology. I obtained a lot of knowledge but at the end of the day, what good is a head full of knowledge without knowing how to use it? That’s where wisdom comes in. Wisdom is knowing what to do with what you know. If I could choose to be any one of these things, I would choose to be wise.

ThreeWiseMenblueskyandstarsIn Matthew 2:1-12 we have the story of some wise men who came seeking the “King of the Jews”. These were men from afar who had obviously studied Old Testamment prophecy as well as many other things, who had seen a sign, and who had been led by God to find Jesus. These men were wise, they not only had knowledge, but had the sense to act on what they knew, and so they did. As a result they came face to face with God’s Son and when they did, they worshipped Him.

That’s a great story but unfortunately that’s not all of it. You see, there are two other kinds of people mentioned in the same passage. I call them the wicked and the complacent. The first is represented by a man named Herod who happened to be the ruler over the Jews under the authority of the Roman Empire. He was not a very nice person. History reveals that he had many people killed during his reign, including members of his own family. This man sought knowledge from the leading Old Testament scholars of his day concerning prophecies of God’s Messiah but for very different reasons than the wise men. Herod pretended to want to worship Him but really only wanted to destroy Him. Herod actively fought against what God was doing. He was certainly lucky, and maybe even a talented political leader, but he wasn’t very wise.

The third group, the complacent, are perhaps the saddest of all. This group is represented by the same Old Testament scholars that Herod consulted. These were the religious leaders of the day. These were the men who were the smartest when it came to the word of God, and yet they seemed to care very little about it. Oh, they were religious alright, but they were so religious that they completely missed what God was doing. They were happy, and complacent, with their own religion and knowledge. They were smart, but they weren’t very wise.

I saw a bumper sticker once that said “Wise men still seek Him”. Simple, but true. God has sent His Son into the world in order to save us, to actually seek us out. It would be foolish not to act on that knowledge.

wisdom-large-3Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. (Proverbs 4:5-8, ESV)

 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5, ESV)

One of the cool things about getting older (notice I said older) is that you’ve been around long enough to see some things come and go like hairstyles, fashion, TV shows, music, and technology. One of the things my older friends enjoy doing is playing a game I like to call Remember When?. That’s when we sit around and go, “Hey, remember when…?” It always brings a few laughs and sometimes some old pictures even get broken out. Then it’s not always funny anymore.

searchingAnyway, I was reminded of a song the othr day that I haven’t heard in years. It’s a song called Sweet Dreams by a band called The Eurythmics. Remember them? It’s kind of a catchy tune but I have to confess that the lyrics never made much sense to me. There is one line that stands out though and it was this line that came to mind. It goes like this “I’ve traveled the world and the seven seas, and everybody’s looking for something.” I do believe that the writer stumbled on to something there. Everybody is looking for something. People are looking for things like happiness, love, peace, and satisfaction. I think that everything we do is ultimately a result of longing for these things in our lives. We get married, have kids, go to school, pursue a career, buy things, get involved in activities, clubs, church… you name it, all to hopefully find these things. Unfortunately none of these things ever do bring us the ultimate satisfaction that we’re looking for. Oh these things can bring us happiness and love and peace, at least in a sense and for a while, but none of them, by themselves, ultimately fulfill  us. That’s because we were made for something more.

In Matthew 1:1-17 we run across one of those “begat” passages that are boring to read and frankly don’t seem to offer much in the way of answers, at least at first glance. However, as is often the case when it comes to God’s word, there is more than meets the eye. What I see in tis passage is the answer to what everybody is ultimately looking for. That answer is not found in a thing but in a person. Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior.

imagesIn these opening verses we read about the ancestry and geneology of Jesus, which is broken down into three segments of Jewish history. What Matthew is trying to show is that the promised Savior that God’s people have long been waiting for and looking for has arrived. Jesus is the one that we were all made for and it’s in Him that we will find our ultimate fulfillment. It’s in Him that we find true happiness, love, and peace. When we find our fulfillment in Him, then we can find it in those other things like marriage, family, and careers. Knowing Jesus is the key.

Do you know Him or are you spinning your wheels looking everywhere else and still coming up empty? If you find that you’re still looking for something then I encourage you to read through at least one of the first four books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, and meet the One you are looking for.

Who do you admire or look up to and why? This is a question I was asked recently during a Bible study I was going through. It’s a good question and the more I thought about it the more I was surprised by the answer. Let me explain.

My first thoughts were to those over the years who have been my role models in life and ministry; people who have encouraged and invested into me, my family, and my ministry; people who have taught me by both word and example. I am blessed to have several people like that in my life and I certainly admire and look up to them. I am grateful for them. I hope you have people like that in your life as well and that you are trying to be that person for someone else. It’s an intentional process and it’s rewarding on both sides.

imagesI thought about these people in my own life as I wrote their names down and thought of all the ways they have and continue to bless me, but then something else began to happen. This is the surprising part. I began to think of my children, but instead of considering the ways I might (or might not) be a blessing and encouragement to them I thought of the ways they are a blessing and encouragement to me. In that moment I realized that I admire my children and that in many ways I look up to these that have spent their lives looking up at me.

First of all I admire my son Randy, he’s about to be 16 and is the oldest. As I sat there that morning I thought of all the ways I admire him. He’s a good kid with a good head on his shoulders. He doesn’t just think about the moment but the future also. He has goals and plans and he works towards them. Boy, I wish I had had that kind of resolve when I was his age. He stays focused, stays out of trouble, and makes good decisions. He is a fine and responsible young man.

Then there’s Elizabeth who is about to be 14 (where does the time go?). She’s my oldest daughter and my middle child. I’m a middle child myself so we kind of share something there that no one else in our family really gets. We don’t talk about it much, we just know. I admire Elizabeth because she just may be the kindest person I know. She is always thinking of others and putting them first. She’s quiet, gentle, tender-hearted and never complains about anything.

And last but not least there’s my daughter Carly who is 8. She is still young and sees the world through the eyes of a child. The thing about Carly is that she loves life and lives it to the fullest. She is always full of joy, is very outgoing and knows how to get the most out of every minute of every day. She loves to be outside and sees the awe, the wonder, and the majestic in everything. She also keeps us laughing all the time, “never a dull moment” as they say.

The greatest thing about each of them, however, is their love for Jesus. I can walk into their rooms and see their Bible’s and devotion guide’s out and I know they’ve been reading them. I see it in the way they treat others and the ministries they’re involved in, and I hear it in their conversations and their questions. I am proud of and grateful for each of my kids.

I admire my children for who they are, each unique in their own way and each one reminds me of the kind of person I want to be.

And when Esau lifted up his eyes and saw the women and children, he said, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” Genesis 33:5 (ESV)