Posts Tagged ‘Family’

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

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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)

american-flagWhat do you love most about America? We have so much it’s difficult for me to pinpoint the one thing that I love most about my country. We also have much that we take for granted. If you’ve ever traveled outside of the US (and I don’t mean vacation spots geared towards rich Americans but the places where the people live) then you know what I mean. We have had so much for so long that we think we’re entitled to it and that it will always be there. We’ve had so much for so long that we don’t often take the time to thing about what we have or to be thankful for it. So, what do you love most about America? I think what I love most is the determination of the people.

As I think about our history over the last 237 years I think of the determination of a people to be free and to fight for freedom, not just ours but for other nations as well. As I think about more recent events like terrorist attacks, natural disasters, or a failing economy I see the same determination. Whatever may happen, whatever our differences may be, we always seem pull together. If we are anything, we are determined.

I hope that determination will continue. In my opinion there is much to be concerned about, as much within as without our borders. I don’t have the time or space here to address all of the things that concern me about the current condition of this great country. I don’t pretend to have all the answers either but as an American, a Christian, and a pastor I would like to encourage other followers of Christ to continue to pray and to pursue one thing above all others. Holiness.

The forefathers of our country wrote in The Declaration of Independence that all men have been endowed by their Creator with certain rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Amen, these are ours from God and I’m thankful for a country that recognizes that. I think those of us who are Christians should also understand that this right of ours to pursue happiness includes an obligation to pursue holiness first. 1Peter 1:16 says, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (ESV) Christians should understand that true happiness only comes from knowing God through Jesus Christ and making Him known.

holinessThe best thing we can do for our country is to pursue holiness first. I don’t mean pointing a self-righteous finger at everyone who believes differently or disagrees with us. I mean pursuing holiness in our own character and letting the light of Christ shine in and through us for those around us to see. In our pursuit of holiness we’ll find happiness and in that pursuit God will use us to draw others to Himself. Jesus says in John 12:32, “And I, if I be lifted up from earth, will draw all men unto me.” (ESV)

What I’m trying to say is this: If Christians in America will be determined to pursue holiness above all else then we will see God’s hand at work in and through our great nation.

Have you ever posted or texted something you wished you could redo? I do it all the time. I quickly type something, hit send, and then read it and immediately wish I would have read it before I hit send. Sometimes autocorrect will change a word and sometimes my fingers just don’t hit the right letters. Either way, it can certainly be embarrassing at least and/or offensive at worst. Sometimes though, it can even be insightful. Let me explain.

buildingforthefutureYesterday my wife had one of her kidneys removed as the result of a tumor. As I sat in the hospital with my wife, waiting for them to take her to the OR, the waiting room was filled with people who were there to simply show their love for us. You see, my wife and I have a wonderful family; parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, nieces, and nephews who love us and we know it. The thing is, we don’t live very close to any of them. We miss them, especially at times like this, and we know that they would be here if they could (her mom and sister were able to be here, which we are very thankful for). We are, however, extremely blessed in another way. We have a church family. All of those people I told you about in the waiting room? Yup, church family.

So, as I sat there, overwhelmed by their show of love and support for us I posted something on Facebook. It went like this, “Sitting in pre-op with my wife, getting lots of live from my church family.”

Live.

I meant love, of course. One letter changed the whole word, but in this case it added something to the meaning. A good friend of mine pointed this out after I posted a correction. He said, “To love is to live.”

I think he’s on to something. You see, my church family loves each other like we do because we truly are a family. We don’t just see each other on Sundays. Church isn’t just something we go to, it’s something we are. We experience life together. We live our lives together as a family of believers in Christ. It’s really an amazing thing and it makes an impression on others. I have heard more than one hospital worker and/or patient, on more than one occasion, make a comment about the amount of people sitting in the waiting room while one of our own is having a procedure done. I guess it’s unusual to many, but in truth it should be normal for any church. After all Jesus Himself said in John 13:34-35,

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

imagesOn his live album Where The Light Is John Mayer makes the comment that the only thing he has left to experience in life is to simply give and receive love. I have had that experience both through my blood kin and through my spritual kin. That kind of love is family love. I wish that everyone could experience this kind of love and I believe you can. It begins with knowing Christ. John wrote in 1John 4:16,

“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him”,

and in verse 19,

“We love because He first loved us.”

Thank you to all of my family for your love and support. It means a lot.

Last week we had a group of missionaries visit our church. They were part of a team called Creative Missions that was doing some work in Northwest Arkansas. (You can find out more about them here http://mediableep.com/2010/04/01/a-mission-trip-for-creatives/.) Anyway, this group was at our church and as we were walking through the facilities and discussing the deep things of ministry one guy all of a sudden asks, “Dude, what’s up with all the green beans?”

It was actually a good question. You see, we were walking by two stacks, probably ten or twelve cases of, you guessed it, green beans. Not only that but there were also several of the giant cans of green beans you get from Sam’s in our front office. I didn’t think anything about it but this guy was like, “Something’s up with this church and green beans” and he wanted to know what it was.

I was happy to tell him.

You see, our church has decided that we’re going to love the people in our community by feeding them. We run vans every Wednesday and Sunday to pick up kids, and sometimes even some adults, that don’t otherwise have a way to come to church, and many of them are hungry. The folks at my church have realized that this is a very real and practical way that we can show the love of Christ to the people in our community. So, people in our church donate food and now every Wednesday at 6:00PM we have a “Family Meal”.  We pick kids up, we invite all of our church family and families in the community to come and enjoy a meal together. It’s a way to reach out and share the love of Christ and have an opportunity to share the gospel of Christ.

I know, cutting edge ministry right?

Sometimes the simple things are the most effective. After all, Jesus did say, “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Matt. 10:42, ESV)

So, what’s up with all the green beans? Aw you know, just my church loving people with the love of Christ.

Don’t miss the opportunities that are all around you.