Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanks Living


So it's Thanksgiving Day, and our thoughts turn toward a list of things we are "thankful" for. I have such a list. Do you?
1) I have a “know-so-salvation.”
2) I have a wonderful wife and a healthy family.
3) I have the great joy of pastoring at a faithful church.
4) I have a great God and Savior.

On and on it could go...friends, shelter, cars, country, reaching self-actualization (OK. That one was to see if you're paying attention :)

Let me encourage you not to allow this Thanksgiving to come and go without taking inventory of your blessings.

However, I do not want us to be thankful for these things just because it is November. Biblical gratitude isn't something that should pass from our minds with the passing of a season. Biblical gratitude is an attitude of the heart; a God-centered response to whatever circumstances comes our way—each moment of each day of each year.

I believe that is what the Psalmist was thinking when he wrote “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” (Psalm 34:1) I couldn’t help but think about that little phrase, “At All Times!” What a thought. It is more than just an admonition; it is a command to be thankful! Thanksgiving may be only one day a year on the world’s calendar, but for Believers, thanksgiving is to become "thanks-living."

If you want a great study, trace the words “thanks” or “thanksgiving” through Paul’s epistles and see how much gratitude is part of what it means to be a Christian. You see, when thanksgiving becomes a way of life, it is the first thing that comes out of our mouths, and we can begin to thank God in any circumstance. How you ask? It’s simple really; God will never allow anything to happen to you that is outside of His perfect will. That’s why Jesus taught us to pray, “Your will be done” (Matthew 6:10). Once we know that God’s plan and purpose for our lives is perfect, that He makes no mistakes, we will say, “Thank You” for what ever comes our way, and we will practice Thanks Living.

May you, your family, and friends enjoy a blessed Thanksgiving season...all year!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Rabbi Walked Into A Bar With A Box Of Oil


2 Kings 9 and 10 tell the story of Jehu. This is the funniest, brutalist, and yet, most moving of the escapades of Elisha recorded in the Bible. While the story is long in its telling, it is direct and to the point in its application. Jehu, realizing God’s call and acting upon it in timely fashion, is able to overthrow the brutal regime of Jezebel. More specifically, it ends the regime of Joram, Jezebel’s vassal off-spring of the hellish union between her and Ahab.

The specifics are bloody and brutal, Jehu starts off as a hero and winds up a bloodied tyrant of a king, Jezebel ends up a crumpled mess on the palace floor, eaten by dogs to the point of unrecognizableness. Seventy princes are slain at Jezreel, and the line of ungodliness continues.

But, if you look hard enough, perhaps even with head cocked to the right and eyes squinted just so, you can see and hear the God of Psalm 2, laughing and shaking His head in bewilderment at the saga and drama of the lowly creatures He made. Their deft attempts to bring Him low, allowing the angels to snigger just a bit. The comedy revolves around a young rabbi and a task fitting for a priest.

Elisha tasks one of his seminary students with the job of anointing Jehu king of Israel. This is not altogether surprising, considering he also sent Gehazi to answer the door when Haaman came knocking. But it is not quite as irreverent as it may first seem. The young prophet would not attract the same attention as the venerable old Elisha, whom no doubt Jezebel had a cruel and crooked eye on all the time. Treachery, as Joram would later call this, would be less likely seen in the young rabbi. So he anoints Jehu as king, using his “box” of oil. This would not have been a simple, modern anointing…touching of the finger to oil, then transference to the head. Oh, no. This would be Six quarts of oil, poured casually over the entire body, head first.

Leaving the empty box of oil, the young fled quickly. Treachery is a tricky business after all. The funny part comes from Jehu’s reaction. When asked about the youngster’s motives, Jehu plays it cool. “It was nuttin.” When pressed by his comrades, Jehu, dripping from a fresh bath in 6 quarts of oil, fesses up to the prophet’s motive. They pronounce their intentions to recognize him as king, and off the troupe heads to Jezreel to see about the coup in proper fashion. Spelled: High Treason and Execution. He rides furiously, still covered in oil. I can imagine the dust and horse hair sticking to his skin and clogging up the pores.

Perhaps I read the Bible differently than you, but this always makes me crack a smile, and, turning my head just right, I think I might hear Elisha chuckle a bit also. The thought of this brute, covered with dirt, oil, and fur, bring down the most beautiful, and wicked, women who ever lived…her face painted, hair tired, looking very much like an ancient Tammy Faye Baker…must have brought some satisfaction to the old preacher.

Hard as we try, we are just human after all! And seeing the downfall of folks who come against you has some satisfying elements—at least when the down fall is God’s doing, not your own. I can sympathize with Elisha. Jezebel’s comeuppance was long overdue. And to think, it all started when a young Rabbi walked into a bar with a box of oil in his arms, looking to do God’s will.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Six K

Well, tonight--November 4, 2010-- I just passed my 6,000th visitor.

Thanks everybody who bothers to read. I'll try to get back to some serious writing soon. In the mean time, enjoy my favorite blogs

The Little Band That Did

So for several weeks now I have been posting about our little band at North Central High School. The NCHS Marching Band is the smallest marching band in the state of South Carolina with only 17 kids, three of which are color guard. The show for this season was entitled Versatility and each member played at least two instruments, including the three guard girls who played percussion, saxophone, electric guitar, and most of the musicians waving flags. All of this sounds impressive to me, an extreme musical novice. I often have trouble playing the radio, much less a musical instrument. It has; however, become an increasingly impressive feat as I have heard other band parents and musicians tout the incredible nature of this accomplishment. Most notably, the change from wood-wind to brass and back again has impressed the musically literate of my run-in-tos.

Now, my son is one of the members, which of course, you know. (And a wood-wind to brass switch-hitter, I might add.) But despite my natural inclinations toward prejudice, I can honestly say, the band of which I write is a group of phenomenal kids. I started calling them the Little Band That Could a few weeks back, as they kept performing beyond the expectations of everyone around us...but us. They kept hitting their stride, climbing higher and higher in their scores. Until, one crisp Fall evening, just North of Greenville, SC, the Little Band that Could…did. The band placed sixth in the Up-State Regional’s. They were just good enough to allow them to make the State finals. Now, mind you, there are 52 bands in SC that are in Division 1-A—a school with a population of 450 or so students. Most bands in this division have 40-50 kids on field. We were sixth out of about 25 bands in the up-state division. So when we went to the State finals, we would be ranked either eleventh or twelfth, depending on the score of the sixth best band from the lower-state. We ended up eleventh.

So, on we went to Batesburg-Leesville High School and the STATE compitetion. They played their hearts out and left everything on the feild. After all twelve bands preformed, our little band marched on to the field for the awards cerimony, dwarfed by the bands around us.
Twelfth was called. Not us! We expected as much.
Eleventh…where we were ranked when we started the afternoon. Not us again! Yes! We would be in the Top Ten.
But, not tenth.
Not Ninth.
Not even eighth.
With baited breath we listened...“And in seventh place, with a score of 89.92 (or something similar) The North Central High School Marching Knights.”

Wow. They might have been the smallest band in compitetion, but they were the seventh best band in the state of South Carolina! This was the best finish in the school's history. The Batesburg-Leesville High School Band ended up being first. (Maybe a little home cooking there.?) But they were no way near as happy or ecstatic as 17 kids, one band director, and a dozen or so parents from little old Boonetown, SC that night. For the Mighty Knights had conquered. They had conquered the prejudice of size. They had conquered the prejudice of reputation. And they had conquered the stinging budget cuts that threatened their ability to even travel to such competitions as these. Against all odds, they had prevailed.

And that warm Autumn afternoon, before my very eyes, The Little Band That Could became The Little Band That Did. They became champions; they became more than conquerors; they became my heroes.