Friday, July 30, 2010

In God we trust

Somewhere around 605 BC, God allowed (or caused) King Nebuchadrezzar or Nebuchadnezar of Babylon to invade and capture the Jews of the Kingdom of Judah.

Allowed or caused...the Bible actually says God USED Nebuchadnezar to punish King Jehoiakim of Judah and take captive some of Judah's finest young men (including Daniel). This prophecy is told in the book of Jeremiah, by the way.

Interesting stuff, I believe.

God causes punishment in this lifetime, according to this writing, for blasphemous acts. The implications are both obvious and scary. God will only put up with so much, uh, stuff before he acts.

Look around at this country today. The parallels with the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah are obvious, I think. Countries founded on belief in Jehovah and the freedom to worship flounder, lose their relationship with Him above and finally fall apart.

The comparison isn't ideal, but the idea that without God the nation crumbles is as old as, well, the founding of the covenant between God Jehovah and Israel.

One can't go through the Old Testament without seeing the pattern: The nation is founded, the nation wants a leader (king/president), and one by one they come...good then bad then good then bad then good then a line of bads. This continued until God simply unwillingly let the kingdoms be conquered.

The circumstances of this country aren't the same. We were not formed as a non-separated union of God and people as was Israel.

But, and it's a big, big but....

Benjamin Franklin realized this. On June 28, 1787 a debate was raging in the Constitutional Congress concerning how each state would be represented in the new government. On that day, 81 year old Franklin make the following motion –

Mr. President:

The small progress we have made after 4 or 5 weeks close attendance & continual reasonings with each other - our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ayes, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding…

In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understanding?

In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for Divine protection. – Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of Superintending Providence in our favor.

To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth - that God Governs in the affairs of men (see Daniel 4:17). And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice (Matthew 10:29), is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?

We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that "except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.(Psa 127:1)" I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages (see Deut. 28:37)….

I therefore beg leave to move - that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessing on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.

Liberty is the blessing of God and our founding fathers knew it! I dare say that is why George Washington took his oath of office, placing his hand upon Deuteronomy 28 (opened to that portion at his request).

Deuteronomy 28:1, 13 & 15 says, "And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: 13 And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the LORD thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them: 15 But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:"

Liberty is the blessing of God! Now, let’s move on the pursuit of…

* Happiness

Psalms 33:12 says, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD…" Do you know what blessed means? The Hebrew word rva eh’-sher means happiness.

A nation will be happy when Jehovah is acknowledged and magnified in that nation. But what form will that happiness take? I would turn your attention to the first 14 verses of Deuteronomy 28 again. But also I would point you to Proverbs 29:2 "When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn."

Daniel refused, despite a rather wonderful degree of captivity, to change or reject his principals or his love of Jehovah.

What do we do? What will we not give up next?

It has nothing to do with political persuasion. It has everything to do with the freedom of the Holy Spirit through Christ himself.

In God we trust, indeed.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

No condemnation

Are there any more beautiful and meaningful words in scripture than these: "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong in Christ Jesus?"

Think of it, if only for a moment. No matter what you've done, I've done, we've done together, there is NO CONDEMNATION if we've found Jesus and added his magnificent beautiful capacity to love to our lives.

If any readers out there think this is a bit of a "in the by and by" promise, think of it this way. Just a few verses before Paul wrote the above line in a letter to the church in Rome, he wrote this: "I love God's law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. The power makes me a slave to sin that is still within me."

Did I mention that Paul, the apostle, the church-planter supreme, wrote that in one of his final letters? If Paul felt that way, what hope do I have? Plenty.

We all have problems, woes and worries. We all fall short of God, Paul told us.

So why are we not condemned for such actions?

Paul tells us: "Because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has FREED YOU from the power of sin that leads to death."

The Spirit makes us no longer bound to sin, even if the occasional sin pops up or even the DESIRE to sin still exists in us. We no longer are bound to activate that desire or act upon it, though.

We've been washed clean of all sins past, present and future by a loving Christ. Jesus pounded on the doors of the sin nature we were born with and eventually made the door open so that he could clean house.

Understand that even with a clean house, though, the occasional dust bunny pops up. But the owner of the house isn't condemned for that, you see.

That's who we are, for those who love Christ. Paul finishes in the 8th chapter of Romans, "Letting the sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace."

Oh, come Holy Spirit, come. To each who reads this add your blessings of life and peace.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The moments of God

When's the last time you had a God moment?

They exist; I promise. Oh, I wished they would come so often, but to my experience they do not. Maybe it's me. I digress.

Yesterday, my 57th (ughhh) birthday, I fought a bit of depression. I feel time sliding away like sand through my toes.

Then, God struck.

First, I was reading a book while children danced and screamed in the joy only they know as vacation Bible school took place outside my office. I had a stressful day fighting insurance and fighting my own fears and worries as time to rent our home slips away. As I worried, I read a line that told me that worries can't exist in the Kingdom of God. At that time, I promise, at that time I got a call from an old friend in the journalism business, and he suggested I cover some games for him this fall.

Built up by that call, with a dripping of excitement even, I went into the sancutary and watched the kids sing a song called "Ancient Words." And there was God, in the tender, innocent faces of eight children making hand gestures and signs and simply singing about the Bible, those ancient words of comfort.

God walked among us yesterday. God lifted me.

Nothing's changed. The bills are the bills. The days are shorter by the minute.

But God walked among us yesterday, and He lifted me.

It was a God moment.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Bucket list

Oh, the bucket list.

I feel the need, every year as time grows shorter, to take a look at my bucket list, that list of things I haven't done and always thought that I would or always wanted to.

Things like places I wanted to go:
1. Montana/South Dakota
2. Grand Canyon
3. Hawaii
4. Ireland
5. Back to New York

That's about it. I can't see me getting to any of those places now with my lack of funds, but who knows, I didn't see myself in Israel and I found myself there this year.

Otherwise, what have I missed?

I wrote this seven years ago on this same date:

Has it been another year, already?
Another year older and deeper in debt, Tennessee Ernie Ford sang, which dates me even further.
I was driving the other day, and I began to muse about age, again.
I think of things like that, more and more. I understand on some primal level that I’m running out of time with each birthday, and the number of mornings I can rise are flickering away.
My children aren’t children, any longer. Marriage and child birth have replaced youth softball and My Little Pony and Care Bears. The world is turning faster or my aches are growing at a disproportionate rate and I look in the mirror of my soul and I’ve become my Dad in some ways. And all I can think is:
Remember when gas was 50 cents? When you didn’t have to take out a loan to fill your truck? When you felt safe all the time?
Remember when music actually was sung?
Remember when clothes covered all body parts? When those body parts weren’t covered with anything but clothes?
Remember when marriage was between a man and a woman and the man and the woman actually stayed married?
Remember when political parties actually debated issues instead of screamed at each other, and we actually trusted our leaders?
I get these feelings, these urges, these thoughts each year around this date. It’s like a ticking bomb, these thoughts of how much time and how much can I do with it and how much have I not done and how much would I have done if I had known Christ longer. Now Jesus tells me that by worrying I can’t add a moment to my life. That merely tells me how old I really am. I can’t even remember when I didn’t worry.

What has changed since that 50th birthday? Darn near everything. Now I have back problems and diabetes and high blood pressure and no hair instead of little hair. I have or soon will have seven grandchildren instead of none. I have no "career" but a calling. I have changed nearly everything about my life in those seven years. But what is still missing?

I've had a book published, won all sorts of writing awards. I've seen my grandchildren play baseball. I've heard my son's new CD, or some of it. I've seen people come to Christ. So what haven't I done?

Here's the bucket list as it stands today, on my 57th birthday:
1. I want to see my children really come to Christ, placing him first in their lives with regular church attendance and true worship in their lives. That means or would mean more to me than gold.
2. I want to see my last two books published.
3. I want to be closer to the people in my life, friends I don't see any longer and those that I see occasionally.
4. I want to visit those places i mentioned, but more than anything, I want to go back to Israel and drink from the living water more deeply.
5. I want to help others more, live for them and not myself. I still have so many strains of selfishness in my DNA.
6. I would like to know who my real mother and father were, just for the heck of it. Not even to meet them if they're alive, and they've probably not.
7. I would like to have no bills and some sort of regular bank account.
8. I would like to be a better husband, father and maybe especially grand-father.
9. I would like to play more often, and laugh like I used to laugh before the years and the pains and the bills caught up to my laughter.
10. Finally, I would like to see my Frankie again, but I guess that will have to wait till I get there someday.

That's not a grand jumping out of airplane and climbing Mount Ranier type of bucketlist, but I don't care for any of those things. It's been a great life, a simply life with simple notions of what pleases me. The Saints won the Super Bowl. The Braves won the 1995 World Series. I've been near the top of the mountain and I've seen so far and so wide. What time I have left is up to the Lord, but I pray He allows me (makes me if He will) use it wisely.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The care that fills

Oh, to be back in the blog after two days away in training for being a part of a spiritual care team for the Gulf Coast.

I thought we might look at spiritual care for a moment. What exactly is that? How do we maintain our spiritual-ness, if you will?

The Bible is pretty clear on that. Jesus said: Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. (King James)

In other words, stay close to Jesus and he will stay close to you. How close? "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;" The Holy Spirit came to live in the believer.

That's a rather remarkable statement, isn't it? God lives in us. God is in us. So why do we continue to become spiritually dry? We have the very source in us? How can we NOT abide?

Easy. We take back territory already claimed by God. Or we give it back I guess would be the better illustration. We turn over without even a battle the part of us that God has taken.

In other words, we control more of ourselves and let Him control less of us. That is a recipe for if not disaster, certainly for dryness. The more territory away from the living water we take back, the less full we become.

How do we take care of what the Spirit has control of? How do we stay spiritually well?

We must, absolutely must, continue to pray, to read scripture, to meditate on that Word, and simply become closer to Jesus. This year, this year alone I've gone to Israel, done a three-day spiritual retreat, done a three-day prison ministry and now will be doing spiritual care "counseling" on the Coast. That's as much for me as it was for the ones I came in contact with. That's to keep the living waters washing over my sins and my errors and my mistakes, which are still after all these 15 years with Jesus more prevalent than I would like to admit.

Stay with Jesus. Walk with Jesus. Think about Jesus. Eliminate the noise of the world and let the river run with love for you.

That's the connection that means spiritual care. That's where we all need to be. That's where I hope to be one day, again and again and again.

He loves me. I could sing of that forever. Perhaps I will.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Kingdom living

This morning I've spent an hour working on the August contemporary service sermons, a series on back-to-school challenges taken from the Sermon on the Mount and I've been tugged in a hundred directions spiritually.

I'm reading a book about the sermon, and one of the things that stands out, perhaps the ONE thing that stands out so much I haven't been able to get it out of my mind is just what Jesus was teaching in the sermon or sermons.

When we were in Israel in January, we visited a mount above the Sea of Galilee that tradition says was one of the sites of Jesus' teaching of this sermon. Let me paint a quick picture of who would have been there on that hill:

At the time of the teaching by Jesus, the kingdom of God consisted of male, Jewish, persons of average wealth and looks. Those who were female or Gentile or poor or who were diseased, well, they could look elsewhere for the kingdom.

Then this Jesus came along and basically threw the mold away. He said it was acceptable for those who were poor (in spirit and in other ways), who mourned, who were humble, who hungered and thirsted (craved in other words) justice for all and not just for some who were male, Jewish, of average wealth and who weren't diseased.

Jesus came and opened the doors of heaven to those persons who were like, well, you and I. Those who were overweight and under funded. Those who didn't have great resumes but had great capacity for love. Those who sinned but hated sin. Those who wanted peace but were willing to accept that they were less than peacemakers sometimes.

Jesus said to all who would come, look to me and you will be blessed.

So what have we done with this wonderful teaching? We've led many to believe that this is a series of God gives you things if you do these things, again attaching the importance to our own actions. It's not. It's simply not. It's God opening the doors through the teaching of Jesus to those who can't reach the mountain without Jesus.

Our hearts are less than pure, but we are blessed when we see God through the man called Jesus. That's the wonderfulness of the gospel, the good news of Jesus.

We deal with our issues, anger, a lack of reconciliation, of insincere speech and action, but we do it not with our own strength but with the love of Jesus as our anchor.

The author of the book I'm reading says wonderfully that the kingdom of God isn't some far away eternity-land, but it can be where we live our abundant lives RIGHT NOW. All we have to do is let Jesus increase our capacity to love, to deepen our relationship with him, to open those doors even wider.

The mountain is large and the crowds continue to grow. Can we find a seat to hear the most wonderful sermon of all time?

Of course. That's the good news. All are invited. All will find comfort. All will find a home in the kingdom.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The eyes of Christ

Want some spiritual fun?

Look back from time to time and see where God has been moving in your life.

One of the best, most intriguing books of the Bible for this purpose is the book of Ruth. Read the second chapter of the book and you get a feel for a young woman and a young man who find, among other things, each other. Eventually this romance leads to a marriage which leads to a child who is Obed, the father of Jesse, the grandfather of David, an ancester of Jesus.

Just a quick look at how love grows:

11-12 Boaz answered her, "I've heard all about you—heard about the way you treated your mother-in-law after the death of her husband, and how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth and have come to live among a bunch of total strangers. God reward you well for what you've done—and with a generous bonus besides from God, to whom you've come seeking protection under his wings."

13 She said, "Oh sir, such grace, such kindness—I don't deserve it. You've touched my heart, treated me like one of your own. And I don't even belong here!"

14 At the lunch break, Boaz said to her, "Come over here; eat some bread. Dip it in the wine."

So she joined the harvesters. Boaz passed the roasted grain to her. She ate her fill and even had some left over.

15-16 When she got up to go back to work, Boaz ordered his servants: "Let her glean where there's still plenty of grain on the ground—make it easy for her. Better yet, pull some of the good stuff out and leave it for her to glean. Give her special treatment."

17-18 Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. When she threshed out what she had gathered, she ended up with nearly a full sack of barley! She gathered up her gleanings, went back to town, and showed her mother-in-law the results of her day's work; she also gave her the leftovers from her lunch.

19 Naomi asked her, "So where did you glean today? Whose field? God bless whoever it was who took such good care of you!"

Ruth told her mother-in-law, "The man with whom I worked today? His name is Boaz."

20 Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, "Why, God bless that man! God hasn't quite walked out on us after all! He still loves us, in bad times as well as good!"

Naomi went on, "That man, Ruth, is one of our circle of covenant redeemers, a close relative of ours!"

21 Ruth the Moabitess said, "Well, listen to this: He also told me, 'Stick with my workers until my harvesting is finished.'"

22 Naomi said to Ruth, "That's wonderful, dear daughter! Do that! You'll be safe in the company of his young women; no danger now of being raped in some stranger's field."

23 So Ruth did it—she stuck close to Boaz's young women, gleaning in the fields daily until both the barley and wheat harvesting were finished. And she continued living with her mother-in-law.

Without getting into explanations about kinsmen redeers and gleaning and such, what one reads here is a story about a man falling in love with a woman that is as wonderful as any coming of age story found outside of scripture.

Back to that premise about looking to see where God is moving or has been moving. Look at it this way: Elimelech moves his family to Moab, a non-Jewish nation, taking his wife and two sons with him. The wife was named Naomi. The sons were Mahlon and Kilion. The sons and the father die. The sons have married Orpah and Ruth, but within 10 years, the sons are dead. Naomi hears that God is blessing his people in Judah and decides to go "home."

Ruth says she will go with her mother-in-law, and she does. Ruth says, "Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God."

ruth follows Naomi into a land that is not hers, to worship a God she doesn't know.

The end result? Obed, grandfather of David.

Anyone want to tell me that God wasn't involved in all this? That somehow all this happens with no gentle pushes or gentle invites?

Ah, come on. Naomi is devastated by all that has happened to her, so much so that she wants to change her name to something that means "The Almighty has made life bitter for me." And yet Ruth follows this bitter, whining woman to a world that isn't hers and a God she doesn't know?


Why do we do what we do where we do it when we do it? Haven't you had that feeling you can't understand and done that thing you don't have an explanation for? Certainly I have. But I look back and see with the eyes of Jesus and suddenly I understand.

It's Peter walking down the road and suddenly being filled with the wisdom that says, "You are the Christ," when before he was a fisherman.

It's Paul riding a horse to Damascus to do some terrible business only to be knocked into having the light of the world shining through his eyes.

It's Moses overcoming stuttering to speak for God himself.
It's Joseph running Egypt, Daniel petting the Lions and cradling the fire, and on and on.

God doesn't make us do anything; He invites and initiates and makes wonderful circumstances happen even after tragedy.

Ever wonder why you made such and such decision that proved to be one of the most meaningful decisions of your life?

The Bible says this Moabite woman, a woman from a country most famous for the killing (and sometimes eating) of its own children, was the ancester of Jesus.

Oh, the joy of seeing where God is moving. Open our eyes, Christ, to have your eyes, Jesus.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Home is...

Ah, we go home today, after a week in Destin, Fla., soaking up the rays and dribbling off our dollars.

Today we go home to see the dogs and the cats and the parsonage and whatever little things that remained home while we packed most of everything we owned and came down here. We go home to return to what is our lives, two churches and telling everyone we can about Jesus. Home to normalcy. Home to, uh, home even if it isn't home since we moved but six weeks ago from what we said was home.

This notion of home is Biblical, by the way. After years of wandering, the Israelites surely noticed when God pronounced the land of Palestine as the HOME of the Jews. Though they would be conquered and displaced and though their temple would be built twice and destroyed twice and it would take until 1947 of our generation, this continues to be the HOME of the Jews.

God said it this way in the book of Numbers: 1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'After you enter the land I am giving you as a home 3 and you present to the LORD offerings made by fire, from the herd or the flock, as an aroma pleasing to the LORD ..."

The key part of this passage is "I am giving you as a home." Home, a place you can call your own. Home, a place where no one can say get out and you have to run immediately. Home, a place that Abram left and Joseph longed for and Job lost and regained. Home, a place that Jesus knew little of on earth. Home, a place that Paul left to start churches and Peter left to follow the Lord. Home, a place that is with great meaning but little value to Christians.

When the Israelites were in captivity, what did they want more than anything? To go home. They would say, often, "Next year in Jerusalem." Meaning, as all Saints fans would relate, NEXT YEAR we will take the journey we've all been waiting for.

That's what was so important and meaningful about what the disciples did when they followed Jesus, or what Jesus did for that matter when he came to earth.

The disciples left everything, including their homes, to follow this Rabboni. Jesus humbled himself enough to leave his home, the most wonderful of all homes, to come to save us.

Home is where we are ourselves. Home is where we are loved and we love the most. Home is where love is most pronounced. Home is beyond familiar. Home is beyond history. Home is beyond the moment.

But let me tell you what home most decidedly is not. Home is not this earth, this world, this time. As my son once wrote in song so wonderfully, this is not my home. This is not something I shall miss, though I will miss the people I've come in contact with for the moment at least. Hopefully I will see them all again one day. I know that I will be there and I have great hopes that so many, many of my dear friends and family will be there.

Then and only then will I see what home is truly like.

We could get into the differences in houses and homes and all that, but important thing to note is that in a home, those we love most are there.

In Revelation, John writes, "1THEN I saw a new [a]sky (heaven) and a new earth, for the former [b]sky and the former earth had passed away (vanished), and there no longer existed any sea.(A)
2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, all arrayed like a bride beautified and adorned for her husband;

3Then I heard a mighty voice from the throne and I perceived its distinct words, saying, See! The abode of God is with men, and He will live (encamp, tent) among them; and they shall be His people, and God shall personally be with them and be their God.(B)

4God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more, neither shall there be anguish (sorrow and mourning) nor grief nor pain any more, for the old conditions and the former order of things have passed away.(C)

5And He Who is seated on the throne said, See! I make all things new. Also He said, Record this, for these sayings are faithful (accurate, incorruptible, and trustworthy) and true (genuine)."

That is home, friends. That is the home I miss. That is the home I desire. That's where pets are friends and friends are loved and loved ones are beyond special. Home is where we are most comfortable because we are most loved.

Home is, in a word, heaven.

Friday, July 16, 2010


A lot of what we long for in life is something that eludes us. That would be closure.

So it is with something akin to regret, but also with a sense of gladness, that we close out vacation each year. We did it a couple or three times, actually, this wonderful God blessed year.

The lack of closure is what haunts me about my delightful little canine friend, Frankie, who died with me in Israel. Sometimes that brings me to tears, still. But then I notice that God was good enough this year to bring us to Israel for 10 days, to a prison ministry for three days, to a spiritual retreat for four days and then this marvelous week together with the girls and their families in Destin.

This afternoon, under stormy looking skies, we packed our gear and headed away from the beach one last time. I can't help but wonder if we'll be able to do this all again. Money has changed dramatically since the last time we were at Topsail, but a year ago.

But as the wind picks up and a gentle mist crosses the trailer yard, I reckong that doesn't matter. God will take us where God wants us. That's what this year has been about. That is what it should always be about.

That's closure.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The tank if full (not empty)

Well, things could be better.

Suddenly I'm in a Robin Williams RV movie. The commode refuses to flush (or at least allow the, eh, material to leave). I have fuses going out all over the place. I've been sick to my stomach -- which might or might not account for the sick to my stomach. A repair shop just told me it would take at least $350 to fix it, which I don't have. But I'm saved, Mary says she will get a job, despite joblessness in the country being at some sort of all-time high.

What do we do? Frankly, I don't know. I think the tank if full, so we can't use the bathroom. I know it smells, so we can't use bathroom. And I can't God in any of this.

Seems like every time we leave, something happens.

I guess the thing to do would be to not leave.

Or just trust.

I'll try, which is about all I can muster at this point. All this is a bunch of, uh, stuff.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Making disciples by the seashore

It's a cloudy, overcast day in Destin this morning. I believe that it rained during the night, for there is water sitting in some of the outdoor furniture. We've had one thing break after another, fuses blown, not sure about the pipes as the commode doesn't seem to be continually flowing properly.

Gabe is Gabe and Gavin is Gavin and through it all it is a wonderful time with the grandkids, the beach and the pool. We spent nearly four hours at one of those two places yesterday with Mary, Carrie and Karli riding horses on the beach while the boys and I played.

This has been a two-week excursion into the faith of the grandkids. We've prayed bebefore every meal, as we normally do, and they have to. We've talked about Jesus and the wonderful gifts he give us and has given us. I think of what Paul wrote to his pupil Timothy of where Timothy got his faith.

Paul wrote: "I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."

My mother's name was Delores and her twin was Eunice, who died at childbirth. I wonder sometime if my churches understand that without Delores, there might not be a Billy ministry for it was her prayers and her desires and her teaching that helped lead me to the Lord.

I hope we're doing the same for the grandkids, and I wish we could do something similar to the girl grandkids in Jackson. If we could come to know them enough to take them on a trip, well, that would be about the best I could imagine.

The Bible says of children (and the same holds true for grandkids) 19 For I have chosen (Abraham), so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him."

He will direct his children and his household after him (grandkids?) to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just.

See, it matters if they have respect for others. It matters if they learn to speak correctly (in terms of what words are acceptable). It matters if they learn basic manners. It matters if they know what the basics are.

But none of that matters if they don't know who the Lord is, deep in their hearts.

So, Mary and I preach, and occasionally we use words. (And the beach).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Not that I'm complaining.

I'm sitting outside of the camper on what appears to be a glorious morning as coffee brews inside the trailer and provides a fragrance that is better than ocean air.

It's been a tough night, with Gavin waking up every hour and crying and complaining. He's ready to go to the RV resort pool after spending an hour on the beach yesterday and complaining the whole time about either not in being in the water or being in the water.

But it's a new day and a new time and a new incident report. The kids are being, well, kids, but grandpa and grandma aren't used to this constant noise and constant movement and constant complaining.

Still, it's only one day till mommy comes and we get a break from the fighting and the complaining.

In the meantime, what do we? What do we do about the constant repeating of questions, the constant effort against us?

It's more than a peaceful-seeking person should have to bear. But it's who we are and what we are right now.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Morning isn't broken, it's freshly baked

Yesterday, Sunday, was a long, long day. I left the parsonage at about 6:45 a.m., heading to Fitzgerald UMC to cut on power and air and projector and finally putting my head on a pillow at about 10:30 p.m.

In between, there was a trip to Pensacola, a ride across town to see two of Mary's sisters and a long, long day of tussling with first Gabe, then Gavin, then Gavin, then Gabe and on and on and on.

But we're here, so, let the fun begin.

It's going to be a warm day, but there is a breeze this morning and a bird is singing Shout To the Lord in the distance. So the day is off to a grand beginning.

The Bible says of the morning, "Let all that I am praise the Lord. I will praise the Lord as long as I live. I will sing praises to my God with my dying breath."

Doesn't that lift you up this morning? To know that God is out there, watching waiting for me to make that sort of commitment raises the corners of my lips into a semi-permanent smile.

"Those who trust in the Lord are as secure as Mount Zion," the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 125. That's a certainty that one cant pack up and take to the bank. As secure as that big ol' mountain, that's the Lord's promises.

So this morning, as we wipe the sleepy out of our eyes, let us remember that the security and joy that comes with each new morning is freshly baked again this particular morning.

"yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us. What joy!"

Friday, July 9, 2010

Trust in Him

We journey to a little-known or read prophet today, Nahum.

But what he tells us is so true..."The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. he cares for those who trust in him ..."

Trust is such a difficult commodity, isn't it? The opposite of trust, I think, is control. We want so much to control our issues, and we often deal with the fears in our life by trusting ourselves instead of the one who actually can be our refuge.

We do not have to plan, control and schedule our lives any longer when we give that control over to God. We turn to him in times of trouble and in times of joy to direct and guide us. He will. He does.

The Lord is good... the prophet tells us and we believe that, but still we seek to control our own destiny, fate, careers, relationships. Does that make sense?

Turn to another minor prophet, Habakkuk, and you will see the proper way to trust. Habakkuk says, where are you God, asks how long must he call for help and generally fails to trust at all. Right up until one of the most magnificent ideas in scripture when he says: "yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, YET I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior."

Trust is giving over control, and whatever the outcome might be, not taking control back.

Can we do that? Are we capable of doing that?

Can we praise as did Habakkuk: "The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer. He enables me to go on the heights."

That's trust.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Trying in faith

Let's look today at what faith is and what faith is not.

Faith is, according to scripture, what we walk in as opposed to sight. In other words, if you can see what you are anticipating, then one is not using faith. Faith is the trigger for your salvation, for the grace of God. It is the mechanism for our justification. It is more than belief. It is followed by works, or deeds.

Faith is not, however, wishing, hoping, scheming.

I say all that to say this: I continue to send books that I have written to agents I do not know in a time of economic hardship that causes unsolicited books to be rejected with little regard to their worthiness. I will continue to do so against all odds.


I have faith that God meant for me to be doing this. It is one of only a couple skills or gifts that the Holy Spirit has given me, so to not TRY would, I think, be an afront to the Holy Spirit, quenching Him as it were.

But it's hard. It's hard when for 34 years I was semi-trained as a journalist to look at the facts and react accordingly. The facts are that my novel has been turned down by one publisher and is in the e-mail hands of six or eight agents. My book about God's call has been turned down by at least 10 agents and had no word on a publisher. Neither looks particularly promising because the agents don't make it past the proposal stage to the reading the manuscript stage so it really doesn't matter how well the book is written because they never get around to reading it.

Sort of like this blog.

But I continue to TRY because I believe that's what God would have me do.

Matthew 9:28-29 gives us a scary, scary thought: "And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus said to them, Do you believe I am able to do this? They said to him, "Yes, Lord." Then he touched their eyes, saying, According to your faith let it be so."

According to your faith, let it be so?

The scary thought is maybe we are all being blessed according to our faith. Maybe the blessings we have are in direct scale to the faith we have. Maybe it's on us, not on Jesus.

So look at your faith today and make a decision. I've always been like Centurian who said something akin to, "I believe, help me with my unbelief."

I don't dance to the tune of a happy, happy soldier. I believe, strongly, but I get down on my own chances. So I TRY, and I wait.

Is that enough faith to let it be so? Only time will tell.

Till then, let us try.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Moody blues

Ever experienced mood swings, the kind that can give loved ones whiplash?

I certainly have, and I suspect I'm not alone.

The Psalmist certainly did. Read with me portions of the 22nd Psalm in the Message.

1-2 God, God! Why did you dump me
miles from nowhere?
Doubled up with pain, I call to God
all the day long. No answer. Nothing.
I keep at it all night, tossing and turning.

Ever felt that depth of despair? Ever felt you had no hope? Ever felt that pain of rejection?

Then a few sentences later, the same writer says:

25-26 Here in this great gathering for worship
I have discovered this praise-life.
And I'll do what I promised right here
in front of the God-worshipers.
Down-and-outers sit at God's table
and eat their fill.
Everyone on the hunt for God
is here, praising him.
"Live it up, from head to toe.
Don't ever quit!"

27-28 From the four corners of the earth
people are coming to their senses,
are running back to God.
Long-lost families
are falling on their faces before him.
God has taken charge;
from now on he has the last word.

29 All the power-mongers are before him
All the poor and powerless, too
Along with those who never got it together

In a nutshell, there is life. Moments of deep despair and moments of sheer exhilaration. That's where life is lived, out there by one self with God our only companion.

I get that way. I look too hard into what is and forget too easily what could be. I take what I see at face value and forget that's not the eyes with which God sees. I look at my shrinking bank account and feel deserted and then I remember that God gave me that money in the first place. And over and over I go.

The answer, of course, is found in the 25th verse of this Psalm (the first of which Jesus quoted on the cross itself), "Here in this great gathering for worship I have discovered this praise-life."

When down, praise Him. When up, praise Him. Perhaps it is in the praising of the Other in our lives that we find balance. It is balance, the living of a five on a scale of one to ten, in which we find our souls desire.

Worship Him with praise this morning. Worship him with praise this evening. Ask someone who this God is that loves you enough to accept your mood swings.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A prayer life

How much do you pray for your own, those folks who mean so much to you?

I read a book recently that told of a pastor who kept the Christmas cards sent to his family each year and prayed for one of those families each week of the year. Wonderful idea that I have not incorporated but should.

Paul said this of his prayer for his own, "That's why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn't stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I'd think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally ...."

Man. Whew. Wow.

Every time he thought of the church in Ephesus, in which this portion of his letter appeared, he praised God for its people, thanking the Lord for them, praying for them, asking specificially that they be made intelligent and discerning in KNOWING HIM PERSONALLY.

As wise as the wind, Paul didn't ask God to heal them, give them a new job or a new house or a new car, but to make them intelligent and discerning.

I believe it is almost a primer in how we should be praying for each other. Today take a few minutes to pray for me, for my churches, for my family, for the intelligence and discernment as we try to open heaven's gates (as it says in Revelation) and allow the Holy Spirit to pour down over us like a river from the throne of God. Pray that we be able to change our ways to become more effective in the spiritual battle over those who don't know Jesus but feel a tug at their hearts they can't place or understand.

Then, like Paul, pray this: (that) your eyes (be) focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!"

Endless energy, boundless strength from Christ and Christ alone. That's my prayer for you, the unknown and unheard from reader of these missives. God loves you so much he gives you endless energy and boundless strength. In today's lives, we need such.

That's a prayer life, friends. Invoke it. Soon and very soon.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Motivation comes from?

The apostle Paul wrote in the fifth chapter of Galatians:
16-18My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness."

What motivates you is one of those questions that everyone needs to ask themselves.

Is it the desire to bring people to Christ? Is it the Spirit of God that turns your motor on? Or is it the terribly complicated compulsions of selfishness?

The answer to that question might be the one that determines your eternal home.

In an earlier verse in the same chapter, Paul wrote, " 13-15It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom."

You can not, repeat can not, love others as your love yourself if you are motivated by selfishness. Can't. Be. Done.

So ultimately your life is governed by what frees you, what helps you and what motivates you.

According to the dictionary, motivation is is the activation or energization of goal-orientated behavior. That being true, then, where to you turn to find the energy to love others, help others, do for others? Paul absolutely said it came from one place. God's Spirit.

Compelled to remember his labors in order to enlighten the Corinthians, the Apostle wrote: "Are they ministers of Christ? - I speak as a fool - I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fasting often, in cold and nakedness..." (2 Cor. 11:23-27).

In comparing himself to the other Apostles, his humility prompted him to call himself as the "least" among them, even though he would have been fully justified in declaring: "But I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (1 Cor. 15:10).

Where do you get your motivation? Family? Friends?

This week let your spirit spend time with the Spirit of God and be motivated to do one thing more and better than all others. Tell someone about the gloriousness of Jesus Christ.

Friday, July 2, 2010

None too little

What have you taken care of today for the Lord?

Anything at all? Something large? Something small?

I read a scripture today that absolutely floored me. It said, "Unless you are faithful in small matters, you won’t be faithful in large ones. If you cheat even a little, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. Luke 16:10 (NLT)

I was convicted immediately. I've been so longing for God to give me something big to do that I walked right past all the little things He gives me.

The question then becomes, "Lord, what can I do?"

And mean it.

Ask yourself again, what have you done for the Lord today? What little task presented itself that you thought was too little for your time? Maybe someone needed a ride. Maybe someone needed a call. Maybe somebody just needed a couple minutes of your prayer life.

All of us need to simply concentrate on the tasks God gives us and let Him decide what is large and what is small.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The vision

As a child, like Paul, I spoke like a child and I had visions of God like a child. I was scared spitless of God.

I thought, with a lot of prompting from various preachers and my mama, that my own inability to stay sinless in thought and deed would leave me sinning at the exact moment that Jesus parted the sky and returned.

Thus: hell was my destination.

Daniel's description of God was somehow my own, weirdly enough.

His vision was this: "Thrones were set in place
and The Old One sat down.
His robes were white as snow,
his hair was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire,
its wheels blazing.
A river of fire
poured out of the throne.
Thousands upon thousands served him,
tens of thousands attended him.
The courtroom was called to order,
and the books were opened."

Wow. I was destined for judgment that included thrones flaming with fire and a courtroom where I was without question going to be sent in the down elevator.

But somehow the rest of Daniel's vision was never adequately presented to me.

In the 13th verse of Daniel's seventh chapter, someone came on the scene who changed everything.

13-14"I saw a human form, a son of man,
arriving in a whirl of clouds.
He came to The Old One
and was presented to him.
He was given power to rule—all the glory of royalty.
Everyone—race, color, and creed—had to serve him.
His rule would be forever, never ending.
His kingly rule would never be replaced.

Jesus, the son of man, was, is and will always be a game-changer. Jesus, Paul said, "Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish! We don't play the major role. If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving."

Jesus changes those fears into teardrops of grace. The Old One is still on his throne, but the Son of Man makes us able to be seen by Him.

Oh, the beauty of it all. Daniel, who says he was troubled by what he had seen, concludes that in the future, "... the royal rule and the authority and the glory of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the people of the High God. Their royal rule will last forever. All other rulers will serve and obey them."

And the pain of this world will wash away. That's what I call a vision.