Sunday, June 29, 2008

Jonah and the sailors, part 2

So, our boy Jonah is asleep in the belly of the ship, so-to-speak. And there is a great, God generated storm tearing apart the ship, and the prophet is snoozing. Now the captain comes down, probably finds the original Napster behind some cargo getting ready to be tossed, and says, “What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish.” And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, “Please tell us! For whose cause is this trouble upon us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” So he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
This is amazing! The sailors have to ask Jonah about his religious preference. They don’t even know he is a Believer! I wonder…do the people where you work know that you are a Christian? You know I looooove college football. And nobody who is around me for more than a minute or two has to wonder who my team is. How ‘bout them Dawgs! Go you silver britches? Woof! Woof. So let me throw my first football analogy at you. Those wonderful boys in red and black do not receive a free education, great coaching from Brother Richt, and national exposure for no reason. Suppose that they came on the field on a sunny, Saturday, September afternoon in Athens, ran out to the middle of the field, and huddled up. Now imagine that they never broke the huddle. The 90,000 plus in the stands wouldn’t cheer for long. Eventually, they would expect them to get out of the huddle and run a few plays. And hopefully score a few TD’s! People, God did not save us so that we could gather up in our Holy Huddles on Sunday mornings! He saved us so that we could get out there and make a few plays. It is great, in fact needful, to get in the huddle. Sunday mornings are not supposed to be our Christian existence though. We huddle up so that we can learn the plays, then go out on Mondays, and execute.
Jonah told them he was a Believer. And the men freaked. They started to pray to their one gods. Eventually Jonah tells them he has to go for a swim. They don’t like it, but they do throw him in the drink. Instantly. I mean the second his big toe gets damp, the wind stops. What do the sailors do? The believe. And as close as you can make the analogy to an Old Testament event, they get saved! They make vows unto the Lord. Isn’t that what we do when we get saved? Make a vow to God? Absolutely. Jonah wasn’t happy. He was running from Nineveh to keep from having Gentiles saved, and he inadvertently leads to a mass Gentile conversion. One day I want to talk to those sailors in heaven. They are some of the heroes of the Old Testament to me. They were throwing a party, as Jonah was drowning. And why not, the angels were undoubtedly singing.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Jonah and the Sailors, Part 1

We last saw our hero Jonah boarding a ship, bound for Tarshish. He is running from the presence of the Lord. He doesn’t like his latest ministry assignment. Go and preach to the Taliban. Convert Osama Bin Laden. So, instead of following God’s instructions, he flees.
“But the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up. 5 Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep.”
A few things for this post. 1) Jonah is running. Notice the Bible says, “But the Lord.” The first “But” is Jonah’s. The last “But” is the Lord’s. He always has the last say-so. 2) The Lord sent out a great wind. The Hebrew term here is Tuwl (pronounced tool.) It means to hurl. God hurled the storm. Here, God means business. He is sending a sign to Jonah. God shows us His will on a consistent basis; many times, we either don’t perceive them, or too often, just ignore them.
The storm is so great that the ship is about to be torn apart. The sailors are doing everything they can to save the ship. They are manning the decks, rigging the line,…row, row, rowing the boat. But to no avail! Finally, in life threatening desperation, they throw the cargo overboard. Remember that this is a cargo ship. They take stuff from here, trade it for stuff over there, and then sell the over-there stuff over here to make a few drachmas. This is their livelihood, people! This storm is so bad that they are willing to sacrifice their fortunes to save their necks, and Jonah, the Lord’s man, the preacher, the pastor, and the calm assuror…is sound asleep!
Let’s camp awhile, shall we? The first thing I see is how our sin affects other people that are around us. Jonah’s sin cost these sailors. When they would get back from Tarshish, their wives would meet them at the docks, with the little rug rats in tow, waiting to go to Joppa Kroger, Joppa Wal Mart, and Joppa Payless (a lot of shoe need to be bought.) But because of Jonah’s rebellious sin, the sailors suffered as well. The principal is crystal clear to me. When we sin and refuse to repent, we hurt those closet to us. A man has an affair, he shatters his family. His wife is crushed, his daughter becomes untrusting, his son mimics his behavior. We lie, those near us suffer. We lose our temper, we hurt those we love. We sin, those close to us pay a cost.
The other thing is that Jonah was asleep! They are about to die and he’s taking a nap! Here is a clear analogy to the church in today’s culture. The world around us is going to Hell in a hand basket, and the church is dead asleep. Outside of our four walls, there is a whole world lost, dying, and on their way to Hell. And we argue about what color to paint the woman’s restroom or how much money we spent on our last Trunk-or-Treat!
In the meantime, the culture is invading the church! Listen, I’m all for becoming culturally relevant. Blend your worship service, put in rotating lighting, and preach wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt. But for the love of all that is right and holy, stop making yourselves so culturally reflective that you can no longer tell the difference between you and the world. Jesus said that we are to be a separated people. That’s what “called of God” means. To be separated from the world. Not isolated from the world, but to be a peculiar people. In other words, we are to be different from the world. In the world—but not of the world. Jerry Vines has said it best; “The church is not called to be a thermometer registering the temperature of the culture, we are called to be a thermostat setting the temperature of the culture.” We should show the world that there is something better. We can make adjustments and thereby make the culture want to be a part of our services. But there has to be a point when they recognize that they need something more. And that something is Jesus! WAKE UP, CHURCH! Show these people the Jesus in you.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bumper Sticker Faith

I heard a story (Don’t all preachers?) about a woman having a bad hair day. A guy in front of her stopped short at a red light and she blew a gasket. She honked, screamed and gestured with a certain finger, when suddenly a rap at the door startled her. She saw a police officer. He had her step out of the car and accused her of stealing the car. She asked why he would think she had stolen the car, and he said it obviously belonged to a Christian. There was a Christian fish symbol and Right to life bumper sticker on the car., Her gestures and foul language surely suggested that she was not the owner of the car!
That got me thinking, do we have a Bumper Sticker Faith? Are our beliefs boiled down to a bunch or pithy sayings and churchese. Sure, we speak of our faith. We can talk about being washed in the blood and giving the right-hand-of-Christian-fellowship. (I’ve always wondered where all that blood came from. I guess the guy missing his right hand!) Anyway, we speak of counting our many blessings, and praying through. But are they more than just words?
Peter told us that we are to be Holy, just as God is Holy. Can we ever truly achieve the same Holiness of God? Not here, obviously. One day, surely. But in the meantime, we are to strive to be more Christ-like. Don’t have a bumper sticker faith. Strive to be more like Him. Strive to have a holiness like Christ! Don’t just know about Jesus, don’t just know about your faith. Know Him. Paul said, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” What does that mean? Paul said I have put everything in this world on hold. I have made them secondary so that I might be able to reach out to Him, the way He reached out to me.

God Bless

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Pit

Let’s take a break from Daniel and Jonah. I listened to Ed Young Jr today (it’s Sunday). He was speaking about Joseph and his trials. First with his brothers, then Potiphar’s wife, and then the wine taster. A quick refresher: Joseph was the favorite son of Jacob, and Jacob showed it openly. He was next to the youngest of 12 brothers. Jacob didn’t mind showing that he was the favorite. He had a dream about his brothers falling at his feet, and so he told his brothers about the dream. This was no casual conversation mind you. He was boasting. I’m daddy’s favorite, I have the coat of many colors (spelled R.O.Y.A.L.Y.) and one day you will all be in submission… The brothers had had enough. They threw Joseph into a pit, took the coat and dipped it in animal blood, told Jacob that Joseph was dead, and sold Joseph into slavery. A really bad day! He woke up a king and went to sleep a slave. Ed’s sermon was about Betrayal. What God spoke to me from this message, and from the entire story, was about pits!
Why was Joseph, one of the greatest men ever to live, thrown into the pit? I think there are lessons here. Because Joseph was sold to a guy named Potiphar, a high-ranking official in Egypt. Now, Joseph was out of the physical pit but not out of the spiritual pit. He toiled as a slave for 10 years or so with Potiphar. Eventually, his looks and his brains got him to be Potiphar’s chief slave. He was a good-looking guy, and Potiphar’s wife took notice. She tried to seduce Joseph, and he refused. Eventually she tried to force him into bed and even ripped of his…hmmm...his coat. That boy had coat problems. The coat or cloak, like and outer shirt, was a sign of his rank. She falsely accused Joseph of rape. She gave the coat to Potiphar as proof of the “attempted rape.” Joseph had been a loyal servant to Potiphar for 10 years! He had proved himself, and even been faithful to God, by fleeing the seductress! Yet what happed? He is thrown into prison. He was thrown into another pit!
Why do we go from pit to pit to pit? Why do we work steadfastly, prove our loyalty, and even our devotion, and are still thrown into pits! It seems so unfair! Well, another decade goes by, Joseph proves himself faithful and loyal, and eventually he is made the chief of the prison! Still a prisoner, but over the affairs of the place. One day some new prisoners arrive. The baker and wine taster to the Pharaoh. They had been accused to plotting an assassination. The baker and the wine taster were in key roles. Obviously, the baker cooked Pharaoh’s food, and the taster ate some to make sure it wasn’t poisoned. After a few days in the prison, these guys have a dream. They are disturbed. I would think that the death sentence would have been disturbing, but they have a dream and freak out! Joseph, the dreamer, says, “Hey! I am your guy! The best dream reader in history!” Well, not really. Joseph says, “Doesn't God alone know the meaning of dreams? Now tell me what you dreamed and I’ll get God’s take on it.” Somewhere along the way Joseph has learned from his twenty some years in pits that “It ain’t about me! It is about God.”
The interpretations of their dreams come true. The baker in given a long walk on a short pier, and the wine sipper is sent back to Pharaoh. Joseph’s last words to this guy were, “Hey, remember me when you get back to Pharaoh!” And of course, he …didn’t. For two more years Joseph stayed in the pit. The rest, as they say, is history. The wine sipper eventually remembers Joseph when Pharaoh has a dream. Joseph makes and impression, because of God saves Egypt from famine and is made number two in all of Egypt, only under the Pharaoh himself. Eventually, Joseph saves his family, and yes, the brothers fell down at his feet.
Quite a story, but I have never really paid attention to the pits in Joseph’s live before. Joseph was in the pit because he had not gotten where he was going yet. Each pit taught him something, and each pit was a step along the progression. Had he not gone to prison, he would not have been in a place to influence Pharaoh. Had he not been at Potiphar’s house, he would not have been in an Egyptian prison. Had his brothers not sold him into slavery, he would not have been at Potiphar’s house. Joseph had some things to learn about himself. But ultimately, Joseph went through these pits so he could save his family. He got where he was going, where God intended him to be. The dream was not so Joseph could be lifted up above his brothers, but to show him he would be as a savior to them.
The pits in my life seem severe to me. I would like to think that I have grown through each one. And I hold out hope that I am not where I am going yet. That there is a place where God wants me to be where I can be an influence to a community of Believers. But through it all, I must remember that no matter how horrible my pit may seem, that Jesus Christ suffered a much worse pit than I can imagine. He took my place in the wrath of God poured out upon my sin. He paid the penalty, the debt that I owed, and in so doing, did not just become as a savior, but He became my Savior. When I think about that, it makes my pit a little more bearable. I hope it makes yours the same as well!

God Bless

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Going God’s Way

Ok. So Jonah is told to Arise and Go to Nineveh. And he arose to go to Tarshish. He was the original marathon runner. He was told to go 500 miles northeast, and he goes 2500 miles southwest. He first heads to the port city of Joppa so he can catch a ride to Nineveh. A ship, actually. Joppa was a port town in Judah on the coast of the Mediterranean sea. At the time it was still called the Great Sea. (They hadn’t seen the Pacific yet!) Tarshish was a port city in Spain, on the opposite end of the Great Sea. Two things we know about Tarshish: it was known for its iron goods. The word tarshish means “to smelt.” No doubt the boat Jonah boarded was a cargo ship. It would take cargo, olive oil, wool, and timber from Lebanon to Spain in trade for iron goods like weapons, tools, and ore. The second thing Tarshish was known for was that it was considered to be the far end of the world. Timbuktu. China. Outer Mongolia. It was far. About as far as you could get, in fact, in the opposite direction that God wanted.
Jonah had decided that if he went to Outer Mongolia, he would not have to preach to the Ninevites. But the first leg was to Joppa. “But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.”
So he went to Joppa, and what???!! He paid the fare. Wow. I could camp out here for a long while. But let us get right to the heart. This was not like going to Hartsfield International Airport and catching a flight to LA. It was not everyday that a boat was sailing to Tarshish. But when Jonah was running from the LORD, there was a boat waiting to set sail. What am I driving at? Simple. If you are ready to run from God’s will, the devil is waiting to provide the transportation! Thinking of cheating on your wife? The devil will make sure that some hussy comes strolling by with high heels and short skirts, with more make up on than Tammy Faye Baker! Thinking about scamming some dough from your employer? The devil will make sure that the boss never checks your expense reports. You get the idea. The second thing I see here is that when you run from God, you pay the fare. When you run with God, He pays the fare. I cannot even begin to express to you how many times God paid the fare. Nor how many time we had to pay the fare. Sin is like a box of choc.. oops. Wrong analogy. Sin is like a credit card. You can run up a tab with no pain. But one day the bill comes due.
Think about Moses’ mother, Jocobed. She trusted God and put her baby in the Nile river. Pharaoh’s daughter found the child and paid Jocobed a salary for nursing her own child! Run with God…He picks up the tab. And I think about the time Patty and I had bills due and no money. I prayed about it so earnestly. We were attempting to go God’s way. The day before our mortgage payment was due, the money was in our account! It was a God thing. Psalm 37:3 says, “Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.” We have had our share of issues, but verily we have always dwelt in the land and been fed. I want to go God’s way. What about you?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Rebellious Preacher

Jonah was a rebellious preacher. What!? Rebellious preacher? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms? Listen to Jonah 1:1-3. “Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.”
The first thing is that the Word of the LORD came to Jonah. Just so we don’t miss it, this is Amittai’s son, Jonah. Yeah, that Jonah, the famous prophet from Gath-hepher. (see 2 Kings 14:25 and Jonah’s famous prediction) Hmmmm. Not ringing a bell, eh? OK, lets put it into a modern perspective. Jonah was from Possum Trot, KY. He was from Pumpkin Center, GA. He was from Bell Buckle, TN. He was a down home, red neck, Tennessee windsucker of a preacher. In-other-words, he was a famous guy from a not so famous place.

It makes me wonder if Jonah had a small town chip on his shoulder. He shopped at the Jerusalem Wal Mart, while all of his contemporaries shopped at the Mall of Israel. Niemen Marcus wasn’t his thing. Neither was the high falutin politics of Israel in the reign of Jeroboam. The enemy was the Assyrians, specifically their leader, Tigleth-Pileser. Envision Hitler, Hussein, and Osama all rolled into one.
Now here was this country boy from Nowheresville, the famous preacher who had led Israel into a great time of national revival and to a certain point spiritual revival, and the word of the LORD comes.

At first I would imagine that Jonah was all excited . A word from the LORD. Would it be another famous prediction? A great word of oratory he should deliver to the priests? Perhaps a promotion…that rascal Jeroboam could stand to be taken down a notch or two. No. Nope. Uh-uh. The word of the LORD came to Jonah, the son of Amittai saying…wait for it… Arise. Go to Nineveh (Tigleth=Pileser’s home town) that great city and cry out against it.

You may say that’s not so bad. Except Jonah knew his theology. God would not issue a call of judgment unless He also offered a chance of repentance. And Jonah was not about to give the Ninevehites a chance to repent! He was a bigoted, racist, judgmental Bapti..uh, preacher. A rebellious preacher. Instead of following God’s sure, certain call, he ran in the opposite direction. I’ll say more about his run later. For now, I want you to see the contrast between Daniel’s purposeful position, and Jonah’s rebellious run. Both were godly men. Both knew the truth. But Jonah lost his way. How often do we lose our way? Pretty often I would guess. The great thing is that God still finds a way for us, even in our rebellion. That “Way” is Jesus Christ. Paul said that While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8. While Jonah was still formulating a plan, God was creating a really big fish. While you were still learning the ropes of sin, God was “dieing” on a cross to take your place. The great thing about God is that He doesn’t wait for to come to Him, before He starts planning the good things He has in store for us. Take a special encouragement from that this week, won’t you?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Jesus Christ, Superstar?

This blog entry was supposed to be about Jonah and his spiritual journey. Or at least the beginning of Jonah’s journey in comparison to Daniel. Then tonight I was asked a question that brought me to rethink that. So Jonah will have to wait another day.

The question was simple and innocent enough. “Was the woman at the well the same person as Mary Magdalene?” The answer is no, of course. Mary was from Magdala, hence Mary the Magdalene. The woman at the well was from Sychar. (Compare John 4 with Luke 8) Magdala was a small village near the Sea of Galilee. Sychar was in Samaria. But I digress.

Nevertheless, it is the source of the question that is distressing. The question came from the vile play Jesus Christ Superstar. I’ve never seen it, and probably never will. But apparently the insinuation or out right plot-line is that Mary and the woman from Sychar were one and the same. Here is the rub. Too many Believers today have a Jesus Christ Superstar theology. We receive our Biblical education at the hands of the Hollywood elite, who to a person hate the very existence of the light of Jesus Christ. We believe Indiana Jones when he says that the cup of Christ imparts ever lasting life—and that the eternal life spoken of is a fleshly life. We believe Dan Brown when he tells us that Da Vinci was some great potentate of the secreted truth and that “Christianity” voted as to whether or not we would believe in the divinity of Christ. We believe Peter Jennings when he tells us that the search for the historical Jesus proves that there is no proof of a resurrection.

We believe because we have a Jesus Christ Superstar theology. What kind of theology should we have, you ask? Let’s ask Jonah. (I can’t help but chase these rabbits and right now Jonah is one of them.) Jonah had a Jesus Christ Superstar theology. He cared more about what the culture thought than what God thought. Until, that is, the water flowed over his head.

Listen to Jonah 2…”When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.” When did he remember the LORD, in the moment of his distress. Jonah chapter 2 has no less than 12 Psalms referenced. Jonah discovered a Biblical theology.

We need to get into God’s Word. We should study it to show ourselves approved. (Any AWANA leaders out there?) Then we won’t be dependent on Hollywood to teach us the Scriptures. When we make His Word a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path, we will become like a tree planted by the river, that brings forth fruit in do season. Then we will be able to say, “'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” How can we know His plans, when we don’t know His Words?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Purpose of the Heart

Daniel is a complex character. In the book of Daniel it says that Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat. The back story has to do with the historical over throw of the kingdom of Judah. The neo-Babylonian Empire had conquered Judah. Daniel, a boy probably about Luke’s age at the time, was from the royal household. No one knows for sure, but he was probably a nephew of the king, Jehoiakim. The politics are interesting enough, but suffice it to say that the Babylonian king, a lovely guy named Nebuchadnezzar, conducted a policy to insure his kingdom’s power over the far flung empire. He would take young kids from the royal house holds, take them to Babylon, and turn them into Babylonian clones. In this case, he wanted Daniel to be Jewish on the outside, but Babylonian on the inside. Then he could send him back to rule over his own people. Accepted by the people, acceptable to Nebuchadnezzar.
One way to do this was by opulence. He would give the boys everything they could dream of! The best wine, the choicest cuts of meat, the most decadent desserts. Fine things, finer women, feather beds, and a heard of servants. Who wouldn’t be indebted to Nebuchadnezzar? Well, Daniel. The meat that was set before him would have been offered to idols. This was a small and trivial point, because Daniel himself didn’t do the idol worship. But it broke the rules none the less, and Daniel simply couldn’t break the rules. So he purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s meat. So he went on a diet of pulse and water. What is pulse you ask? That’s easy...grits! The Hebrew word Zeroa’ translates basically as “anything that is grown in the ground.” So it was vegetables.
Here is the point, the world offered this teenage boy anything he wanted, and he chose to honor God. Maybe one of his ancient relatives had a part in his understanding. Solomon once said that if you raise a child according to the truth, when they are “old,” (the term means “coming of age,”) they will do what is right. (See Proverbs 22:6) It is obvious that Daniel was raised right.
What about me? What about you? When the world offers us opulence, do we honor God? When we are given a heap full of grief, do we honor God? The man I want to be on the outside wants to purpose in my heart. However, the Jonah sometimes raises his head.
To be continued…..

Saturday, June 7, 2008

A Spiritual Journey

I can’t say that I want to get back to the roots of this blog, because I never really got started. I wanted this to be a place for me to reveal the truth of the Word, an outlet of sorts for what God is telling me as I read through the Scriptures.

So over the next several weeks I want to talk about my two favorite personalities of the Old Testament—Jonah and Daniel. Daniel is a favorite because he is so Christ-like. Jonah because he is so…well…me-like. The signature verse in the Book of Daniel is 1:8, “So Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat.” He purposed in his heart that he would not forsake God and God’s rules. For Jonah, the key verse is 3:1, “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time.” We all know how bad Jonah messed up, but God kept giving Jonah a second chance. (If you don’t know how bad Jonah messed up, keep checking back.)

You see, it doesn’t matter if you are a great man of purpose like Daniel, or a total screw-up like Jonah, God can use you. (And, can use me!) He is the God of the second chance, or third chance, or hundredth chance. I love the comparison found in these two men, and the internal comparison I make between what I strive to be on the outside, and who I feel I am on the inside. Both men took a trip—a journey of faith and self discovery. Over the next few weeks, join me on a similar trip of self searching and faith building. A trip of Biblical understanding that hopefully will help us all to realize the inner Daniel and combat the internal Jonah that keeps us from God’s presence.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Handling Fear in the Face of Oppression

What is fear? Webster’s says it is “A feeling of disquiet or apprehension.” I kind of think of it as an irrational feeling or emotion of anxiety or dread. So what do you fear? I fear money. I don’t worship money, I don’t covet money, I fear it. And sometimes, especially days like today, I fear money more than I fear God. It seems over powering and dreadful. I understand well why people feel so desperate over something so trivial.

God is working with me in his area, and is certainly teaching me some valuable lessons. I have been concentrating on Him, instead of the worry. There is precedent for this. The writer of the book of Hebrews said this… “Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you. Therefore, we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6 (HCSB)

Amen. What can man do to me? Despite my fear, I will trust God and move forward. This too shall pass. I am reminded of the story of a ship at sea that was dilapidated. The crew came to the captain and asked him about their fate. The captain said, “Well the ship is taking on water, so we may sink. And the boilers are old and decrepit, and they may blow. But whether we go up, or whether we go down, one thing is for sure, we are going on.” I may be rich, or I may be poor, but I am going on.

Do you know the difference between contentment and discontentment . Discontentment is a disease, and it takes away your joy and it takes away your peace. And what is contentment? Contentment is not getting what you want, but it is wanting what you already have. I think I’ll try being content.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Born Loser

When I was a kid, about nine years old, I really got into the comic section of the newspaper. Peanuts, Blondie and B.C. were all great strips. There was one strip I enjoyed in particular though. I think my attraction came from the fact that it was the only strip my dad would read. Boys at this age tend to emulate their dads. (A post for another day!) The strip was The Born Loser. The misadventures of poor old Brutus Thornapple can still be read today at
The Bible speaks of a born loser as well. His name wasn’t Brutus, however; it was Jabez. Listen to 1 Chronicles 4:9: “Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain.’” Jabez was born in pain. He undoubtedly lived his life that way as well. After all, Jabez means “Pain.” Most commentators believe that he had some form of disability that caused his life to be wracked with pain. This boy walked around everyday being constantly reminded of his pain whenever someone called his name. On the playground, “Hey, Pain, want to play kickball?” At the office, “Excuse me, Mr. Pain. Do you want to see the sales forecast now?” Now despite all of this it was Jabez…Pain…that uttered the prayer, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory.” Jabez, the born loser, called upon his God.
You know, the same prayer that Jabez uttered is available to you and to me. We can also call upon our God and pray for ourselves, for our families, and for our churches. Won’t you? Ask God to enlarge your borders, your circle of influence. Ask Him to walk with you, holding you by the hand. And pray that God would keep you from harming His witness. Listen to the HSCB translation: “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother named him Jabez and said, "I gave birth to him in pain." Jabez called out to the God of Israel: "If only You would bless me, extend my border, let Your hand be with me, and keep me from harm, so that I will not cause any pain." And God granted his request.”
In a sense, we are all losers! We lost the first moment we sinned; but we do not have to stay that way. I would challenge you to expand your prayer life. If you are praying five minutes a day, make it ten. If you’re praying two hours a day, make it three. Like Jabez, you may not be free from your pain, but you will have God’s blessing on your life.

Monday, June 2, 2008

plastic in the pulpit

OK. Occasionally, I read a weblog. When I do, it is either Al Molher’s or Wade Burrleson’s (See favorite places.) Until recently. My wife stared to “blog.” So I check out hers everyday, and would encourage you to do the same.
Alright, so much for the blatant advertisement.
I write emails, not blogs. I write sermons—well I used to write them, before God and Clarks River put a stop to that. I write job descriptions now. Whoo boy. Now I guess I write blogs. Who knew that I had a following with my emails. So this I write for my fan base at Annette Winn elementary school. You guys rock!

What I could not understand, but have just begun to realize, is why God did not provide a church for us when we left CRBC. What I have found is that God definitely wants us to learn something about church and ministry.

Here is a big one. What is up with all the plastic in the pulpit? We have visited a lot of churches since moving to Atlanta. Big ones, little ones, and everything in between. What I have noticed is that many preachers have forgotten that they are called to be pastors!

The Bible uses three terms for those who are called to be the “pastor” of a church. Elder (Presbuteros), Bishop (Episkopos), and Pastor (Poimen). We in the Baptist realm shirk the whole Elder and Bishop thing. We will leave the high falut’n titles to the Episcopalians and Presbyterians. Pay close attention to the Greek words in the title.

The term poimen translates literally into Shepherd. Ah, ha. Shepherd. A pastor is to be a shepherd, which is why I prefer the term. You see, a shepherd smells like his sheep. When a lamb is born, the shepherd will hold the lamb in his hands and rub it for hours. Forever after, that man is the sheep’s shepherd. He smells like sheep.

Sheep don’t like plastic, and I’m seeing a lot of plastic in the pulpit. Why can’t these guys see that church members care more about having someone who will sit with them at the hospital, that is just as comfortable talking on the front porch as from the pulpit, and (hello) actually cares more about their lives than they do about great oratory.

I can’t tell you the number of times I have sat in a church lately and watched a preacher stand at the front of the church, waiting to be approached! It makes me scratch my head. Have we come so far that we believe we are an elite group of Holy men? Plastic preachers, preaching from plastics pulpits. Well, ladies and gentlemen, step right up and see a real, live pastor. Or at least, read a real live pastor. Oh, well. I have vented. Check back to find out what I have to say about what God reveals in His word.