The Sleep Denyer

Are you a little sleepy? Do your eyes refuse to stay open? Want to sleep, but can’t? Maybe you have  a test you need to study for, a book report you need to finish, or you have one of those last-minute school projects that the kids are “doing” and you are simply “observing.” Tired of coffee? Worried about the sugar in Mountain Dew?

Introducing, for your benefit, The Sleep Denyer. This new “superhero” weighs in near 30 pounds and stands about 30″ tall. Guaranteed to work no matter the need, or the hour. The Sleep Denyer specializes in those late night moments when you absolutely must not fall asleep, or for those nights when insomnia is preferred over a restful night of sleep.

The Sleep Denyer comes fully equipped to handle depriving you of sleep whether you are in a crowd or simply all alone. If you are in the company of some who have selfishly allowed you to fall asleep The Sleep Denyer will go into full ATTACK mode. The Sleep Denyer will call your name, Call Your Name, CAll YOur NAme, CALl YOUr NAMe, and CALL YOUR NAME! Once you have been spotted by The Sleep Denyer you can be assured that your doze does not continue. If you happen to find yourself alone The Sleep Denyer will normally resort to the “Stomp and Prod” mode. The Sleep Denyer will Stomp all over the offending sleeper and will absolutely ensure that they wake up. If the offending sleeper happens to be in a position which eliminates the Stop mode The Sleep Denyer will move to the Prod mode. In Prod mode The Sleep Denyer will poke and prod the offender until the offender is fully awake.

Maybe staying awake is not your need and instead you prefer to be woken up a few times throughout the night. The Sleep Denyer offers this service as well. If you have fallen asleep in the middle of a chapter The Sleep Denyer will wake you up 30 minutes after the house is completely quiet. This abrupt deprivation of sleep will give you the impetus needed to finish that chapter or wash those few dishes left in the sink. If, however, your need is for a middle of the night alarm The Sleep Denyer is available to serve here as well. Whether you just don’t want to sleep thru the night for fear that you may oversleep something important, or you have a puppy that is potty-training, The Sleep Denyer will ensure that you don’t enter that elusive level of REM.

For all of the problems associated with The Sleep Denyer I can assure you that you want one. The Sleep Denyer is more fun than a barrel of monkeys, dipped in hot sauce, and sprinkled with honey and powdered sugar.

Principles vs. Particulars

Principles vs. Particulars

 Explanation

 Particulars:     specific rules governing every area of our life. These rules are to bless and guide us spiritually. Also, they are to make us more spiritual people.

 Principles:       guidelines given to us by the Word of God and administered in our life by the Holy Spirit. Once again they are to make us more spiritual people

 The Journey

I have always been a “particulars” sort of person. I enjoyed particulars. Even when I disagreed with particular particulars I still liked them because they gave me a point of reference; a measuring stick of my beliefs, if you will. I like the direct guidelines that have been laid out by me, and others, over my lifetime.

However, over the last several years I believe the Lord has revealed to me some insight concerning this issue. In the paragraphs to follow I will give you just one example that has influenced my beliefs concerning this subject.

Youth are very affected and very much subject to the “particulars” teaching. Music, TV, friends, etc are always cited in this type of teaching. I have served as a Youth Pastor for the past six years and have worked with youth for more than a decade of my life. I have found though that seemingly the more we seek to define exactly what is right and specifically what is wrong for youth the more they struggle at some point in their life with choosing between right and wrong. Let’s use music as an example. As churches teach youth there are several styles of teaching about music:

     All secular music is wrong – ALL. If you listen to this music you are sinning. When         youth take time to examine this premise they quickly determine that we are wrong – all secular music is not wrong, or evil, etc. When one is bold enough to speak out concerning this issue and bring evidence of their understanding; i.e. songs, artists, etc, that are wholesome and entertaining they are usually met with this response, “well, if it doesn’t glorify God then you shouldn’t be listening to it.” That sounds so spiritual but a 16yo with the least amount of common sense sees the fallacy of that argument. They look at their pastor, youth pastor, parent, or any other authority figure and see that they watch football, love reading about coffee, or spend hours playing WordFind on Facebook, all things which bring absolutely no glory to God.

     Some secular music is OK, but certain artists, songs, or genres are wrong. This looks better on the surface and holds a better argument for a while but we have a tendency to approve of people who seemingly “change” down the road (Miley Cyrus). The danger here is that this gives us a platform to abuse a particular genre or artist as has been the case with rap music. Over the last two decades I have heard so many revile rock music and rap music but very few speak out concerning country music. Could it be that because they are preaching to middle-age white people that they find it easy too vilify those things their audience naturally dislikes? The next time you want to vilify the vulgarity of rap pull up the top ten country songs and read their lyrics. Sadly, many times there is not much of a difference. This argument is fallible because we make it more about who or what you don’t listen to with the focus being squarely on us.

     Listen to whatever; just make sure you by the clean version. Frankly, it ills me out that I would even have to address this but it certainly is a teaching “style” when it comes to music. In other words; as long as you look ok you are ok.

I have watched these very scenarios transpire in the youth that I have ministered to as well as many that I have observed thru their teen years. To be completely transparent I began in category one above, moved to category two and now I exist hopefully outside of both categories. These scenarios are played out daily in the lives of believers in every imaginable setting; music, marriage, finances, honesty, etc. As I studied Scripture, watched others, and made honest observations about my own life I saw two major problems with the “particulars” teaching.

 First of all, the particulars’ teaching leads many to dishonesty.  A young man discovers a song like “Pickup Man” written and sung by Joe Diffie, when he turns 16. The most “offensive” line in this song is: “I met all my wives in traffic jams.” If he likes this song he is branded as sinner who needs to repent and yet he looks at the reasoning which was mentioned above and finds himself disagreeing. Unfortunately many choose at this point to hide their disagreement and instead begin a life of secrecy which can have no good end.

Secondly, the particulars’ teaching leads many to a belief that they are more “right” or holier than others. Certainly there is a holier lifestyle but for many the judgment comes from a belief that they are personally more holy. 1 Peter 2:5-6  Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.  Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Every believer is holy because of Jesus Christ and not because of their own action.

As a caveat I must add that I certainly hold that believers are to live holy lives. Romans 12:1-3  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. The focus of the believer is that they present themselves to the Lord. This is a command to holiness and every believer is to spend their life in this reasonable service. Please understand that I am not advocating a complete lack of particulars; however, I believe those particulars should be governed by biblical principles alone. For example during the school year we send our children to bed at a certain time. There have been times when we have allowed them to stay up past that time and we use the results of the following morning to remind them of the principle that sets that particular. I have also let my kids change the radio station and then I ask them to tell me whether or not a believer should be listening to the song that is playing based on the song itself.

Why Principles?

 Principles teach a dependence upon the Holy Spirit.

This seems to be something that is lacking in many of our lives today. Depending on what your particular beliefs are some of you may be waiting on Rick Warren to weigh in concerning the newest question concerning belief. Others may be waiting on Piper, or O’Steen, or MacArthur, or whoever is your favorite blogger is at this time. This is dangerous.

Jesus told his disciples that he would send them a Comforter. Much of Jesus’ teaching on the Holy Spirit is recorded in chapters 14-16 of the Gospel of John. When people hear the Holy Spirit mentioned they become leery that some spell is cast over them, or they hear voices in their head. Look at just a few of the points that Jesus makes concerning the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is a gift from God given to each and every believer. John 14:26

The Holy Spirit is come to instruct the believer in the bodily absence of Christ. John 14:26 The instruction of the Holy Spirit is not based upon the feelings of individual believers but rather on the Word of God.

 Principles teach the individual believers responsibility to God.

The believer’s responsibility is not to the denomination, the church, the pastor, or even other believers. While they do have a responsibility in each of those areas their primary responsibility is to Jesus Christ. Particulars’ teaching leaves us constantly checking ourselves against others while principles should point us to the Author of our Salvation, Jesus Christ. Hebrews 4:12-16  For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

A Challenge

I’m not there. I pray that I am constantly learning. My struggle begins and ends with my pride, daily. I do find myself encouraged constantly through Scripture. It is my solace. I’ll leave you with just a few more verses:

Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?  He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Micah 6:7-8

Christmas Thoughts

What is the Christmas story?

As a child growing up I remember very distinctly my dad requiring us to remove the baby Jesus from the manger of our nativity scene. Yep, we took Jesus out of the nativity scene. (I must note that we did keep him wrapped up in his bubble cushioning and his porcelain body was not damaged in any way!!)His reasoning, which seems a lot sounder to me now, was that Jesus did not come to be worshipped in a manger. He wanted to be correct in his portrayal of the meaning of Jesus’ birth. In fact there were a few years when we had to place the wise men on a separate shelf or across the room so that we weren’t confused as to whether they were actually present at the birth of Christ or not. When I went back for a visit this past weekend I noticed that the baby Jesus was still not in the manger but if memory serves me correctly it looked like the wise men were really close to the manger. I’m not advocating against common manger scenes or attempting to appear holier than thou but I really do want to ensure that I focus on the meaning of Jesus birth.

Around this time of year you hear people talking of reading the Christmas story to their children. Normally they are speaking of the passage of Luke 2 or they may be speaking of a children’s book which has taken some liberties and attempted to retell the happenings that are recorded in Luke. But how do we tell this story in such a way that we realize and those whom we are telling realize that this was not an isolated incident which we remember in December? As I thought of how I would share the “Christmas story” with the youth this year I wanted them to focus on the overall meaning and reality behind the birth of Christ.

As an avid Facebook user I see so many post; “Jesus is the Reason for the Season,” and, “Keep Christ in CHRISTmas.” Go for it folks, but I always want to ask them to explain what they mean. Some would strongly remind me that I should be celebrating Jesus’ birthday. Others would simply stammer that people are trying to steal our Christmas and they are going to ensure that they don’t. Some would certainly know what they mean and others would possibly even point out some areas that I should recognize at Christmas myself.  With this in mind I wanted to point out a few things that I love about the Christmas story and why they mean so much to me.

Is the Christmas story just about shepherds and angels? Is it about a full inn and a stable? Or is it about the (three) wisemen and a star?  Are we wrong to focus on these things? I think all of these things are part of the Christmas story but it is my prayer that I will remember to focus on a few other things which were just as much a part of Jesus’ birth but seem to be a little overlooked when we reach this time of year. As a side note I must tell you that I love Christmastime. I love giving gifts – and receiving gifts. I love all that surrounds Christmas and while I personally realize that Christmas is somewhat of a formulated holiday I do use this opportunity to remember the wonderful event of Jesus’ birth.

The Christmas story is about a Promise. It is about a Promise which goes all the way back to the first man and woman as they faced their own sinfulness in the Garden of Eden. For in chapter 3 of Genesis God promises to bruise the head of the Serpent who beguiled Eve and this was accomplished by none other than Jesus. This promise is woven all thru Scripture; in fact, Abraham’s offspring is called the seed of Promise. This promise was fulfilled when Mary is told to call her expectant son, Jesus; “for His kingdom shall be without end.” Joseph is also told that the name of the Child would be Jesus; “for He shall save His people from their sins.” This is the promise which Christmas foretells. The Promise was fulfilled, as the Apostle John tells us; “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

I like also to consider those who were present following Jesus’ birth and those who saw Him shortly thereafter. If you have met Jesus how were you impacted? Was your heart filled with great joy such as the shepherds? These same shepherds who trembled in the field when visited by a great choir of angels; “And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” These same shepherds then told everyone they saw what they had heard concerning the child, Jesus. Jesus’ birth immediately brought joy to those who knew what was happening.

Not only were the shepherds impacted but there are two others who were present at the Temple when Mary and Joseph went to present a sacrifice for the firstborn child. Simeon, a devout man who had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would see the Messiah, needed no introduction to Who Jesus was when He was brought into the Temple. With vision beyond his physical eyes Simeon made this proclamation concerning who Jesus was: Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. Jesus’ birth brought fulfillment to Simeon. A devout man declared himself ready for death now that he had seen the Messiah, the one who would save the Jews not from the Romans but rather from their own sins.

Anna, hearing the proclamation of Simeon, recognized that this was the Messiah and gave thanks to God. Not only did she give thanks to God but she then told those who came to pray for redemption of this child. She too recognized that this child was the fulfillment of the promises which had been made throughout Scripture. Jesus’ birth gave her a continued mission as she told others of the Messiah who had been born.

I love the shepherds. I love the angels singing. I even love the story of the (3) wisemen, but we must remember that the story doesn’t start or end there. This is a greater story. This is a story of man’s sinfulness, and the awesome justice of God which separated man from God forever. This is a story of a merciful God, and the life of His Son which was offered as the only payment for the sins of man. This is the story of eternity and the reality that this world is not all that there is to life, there is something greater yet to come – Eternity with God.

Learning From A Child

As many of you may know there was a small, insignificant football game played this past weekend. Well, at least it was insignificant from the Georgia fans perspective. Of course, had the roles been reversed it would be the Florida fans opining as to how many other important things there were in their life and how much they have placed football on the back burners of their lives. I must say that while I was unable to watch no more than 5 minutes of the game I was not at all surprised by the outcome of the game – it has to do with coaching and I will simply leave it at that – however, I was surprised by one person’s reaction to the game.

 

Saturday night as our Fall Festival at the church was winding down my six year old son came up to me with a very sober look on his face and said, “Dad, Georgia lost.” He seemed very serious about it but because I was fairly busy I didn’t give it much thought at the time. Once again on Sunday morning as we were headed to church he looked over at me and said, “I can’t believe Georgia lost.” We talked about the game for a few minutes – he had watched more of it than I did – and I put the thought behind me. Then yesterday afternoon as our family went about our normal Sunday afternoon routines I heard the Playstation on in the boy’s room. As the announcer gave the score I realized that my six year old was in the room playing Georgia against Florida and this time he was getting it right. I don’t know what the final score ended up being on the Playstation but at the point in which I overheard the game Georgia was up 21-0. Given his proclivity for running up the score I am quite sure that the final score was much worse as my son rectified the problem of the previous day.

A friend of ours told me that she was the one who had to break the news to Landon on Saturday. He had come up to her very excited and told her that Georgia had won. Knowing from her husband – who had snuck off to watch the game while the Fall Festival was going on – that this was not the case she had told him that Florida had won. Maybe this was why he took it so seriously. Maybe after having thought they won and realizing that they really had not it struck him as being serious, whatever the reason he seemed to take this loss fairly seriously. As I thought about this I was struck by a few things.

My son’s realization that Georgia had lost motivated him to do something – namely, use the Playstation to change the outcome. Our lives are not like the Playstation where we can manipulate things to ensure that our favorite teams win championships but too often we sit idly by and refuse to act when we can.  As a child of God I can spend so much of my time focusing on mistakes I have made and bad decisions that have left me wondering about the future. At other times I simply ignore those things and pretend as if they never happened. I do this when I have something infinitely better than a Playstation with which I can seek to change the outcome of events – I have a relationship with my Heavenly Father the Creator of the Universe, Savior of my soul, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The problem lies in my unwillingness to acknowledge the fact that I have made a mistake. I fear that too often as Christians our pride controls us as we refuse to publicly acknowledge our wrongs.

If we’ve made a mistake in sharing the Gospel with someone by being mean-spirited,  well we can just write it off for certainly the person needs Jesus and we can walk away comforted in our own self righteousness.

If we’ve been unkind to our spouse we can justify it by reminding ourselves of all they have ever done against us and compare ourselves to how others treat their spouses.

If we’ve used a Biblical doctrine to drive a wedge between us and others who are in Christ we can simply accuse them of being simple minded people who reject the truth of God – and our wisdom.

May we throw ourselves upon the mercy of God who is accessible to us because of Jesus Christ! Christ is our High Priest who sits at the right hand of God the Father interceding on our behalf. As children of the Most High God we can not sit by and make excuses for our behavior, or worse yet, refuse to acknowledge that such behavior is wrong when we have access to the throne of God. Place yourself before Him not because of your worthiness or even because of your need but because of the sacrifice that Jesus Christ has made on our behalf. Call out to Him. Seek His face. Learn His Word. Apply our lives to serving Him and we will see the cares and worries of the world flee away.

Since yesterday afternoons bout of therapy on the Playstation my son has not mentioned the Georgia-Florida game again. Yes, he knows they lost but in his mind and life they also won. You may argue that our lives are not so easy to manipulate and while you can argue your point with great effort I will simply leave you with a few verses to think upon.

Revelation 5

1And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. 2And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? 3And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. 4And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. 5And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. 6And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. 7And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. 8And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. 9And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. 11And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; 12Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. 13And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. 14And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.

A Game For The Ages: Georgia-Florida Commentary

4-4

4-3

Weird numbers you say?

How about some more?

7-0

8-0

Yes, they have to do with football and anyone with even a passing interest in college football could easily discern what they mean. The first two sets of numbers depict the season record for both Florida and Georgia this year as they get set for this Saturday’s rivalry game. To many out there who would call themselves football fans they may be confused as to why this game would be important with such paltry numbers by both sides. A short trip down memory lane should serve to remind them of the other two sets of numbers.

The year was 1966 and Florida, led by their hotshot quarterback, Steve Spurrier, came into this game ready to clinch their first SEC title. Spurrier was on his way to winning the Heisman and the Georgia game almost seemed an afterthought. Alas, victory was not to be his as he threw three interceptions and Georgia went on to win the game. Spurrier lost his chance to win a championship as a player and Florida did not win their first championship until twenty- five years later in the third year with their new coach, Steve Spurrier. As a coach Spurrier certainly sought and received his revenge as his teams beat Georgia in eleven out of twelve games.

The year was 2002 and with Spurrier gone the Bulldog nation felt as if there was a chance they could finally win a game against Florida. Georgia entered the game ranked #4 in the nation and sporting an 8-0 record. Florida entered the game at 5-3 with the enigmatic Ron Zook in charge. Florida won the game and Georgia finished the season winning the SEC but unable to play for the national title due to their one loss.

Nothing tells the story of Gator fans “issues” more than the fact that most are absolutely uninterested in discussing the series as a whole. Instead they choose to look at the past 19 years in which Florida has won an impressive 16 games. They accuse the Georgia fans who point to the decades of the 70’s and 80’s as living in the past and unwilling to face reality. They talk of Tebow and Grossman (!?) forgetting that during the three games that Herschel played against Florida that he tallied up over 600 yards rushing and 8 touchdowns, never losing.

As they meet again this Saturday each fan – Bulldog and Gator – have some thoughts churning in their mind. As a slight diversion I thought we would peek into each of their minds and see what is happening. I am especially able to do this due to the fact that I spent 19 years living in the very heart of Gator country and was surrounded by their fans and understand the peculiar psychology that makes up a Gator fan.  As a Bulldog supporter and a resident of Georgia for the past 12 years I am able to glimpse into the makeup of the Bulldog faithful.

Florida thoughts:

“Whew, at least if we lose this year we can claim it wasn’t really a bad loss. Everyone already knows our team stinks – we lost to Mississippi State.”

“We can always tell those old Bulldog fans that Tebow was great and you just can’t replace a legend …as long as they don’t remember how good we said we were going to be with Brantley.”

“How many have we won in a row?”

“Will God listen if I pray for the Gators?”

“If I’m not Catholic can I say a Hail Mary?”

“What shirt did I wear last year?”

“You know the Bulldog fans are going to bring up the overall record, again. What can I say? I don’t know how to count to 48.”

“We never lose in the Swamp. We should play this game in the Swamp. Wait … isn’t that where we played LSU and Miss State?”

“If we lose can we just skip the South Carolina game?”

“I really don’t care this year, we’re rebuilding.”

“I really don’t care this year; football is such a small part of my life.”

“I really don’t care this year, Urban has been sick and he’ll be back next year with a vengeance.”

“I really don’t care this year, I really don’t care this year, I really don’t care this year.”

Georgia thoughts:

“Whew, at least if we lose this year nobody will make fun of us – we lost to Colorado.”

“What!?! Florida lost to Mississippi State … there goes the Colorado excuse.”

“It would be nice to have one player like Herschel again.”

“When is God going to shut up those Gator fans.”

“How many Gator fans are praying this week?”

“Can we play the Gators in the Swamp this year?”

“How many field goals is Mark Richt going to kick on Saturday?”

“Wow, we would have only needed 3 field goals against Florida two weeks ago.”

“It’s going to be a stinky season if we can’t beat Florida; as usual, Tech isn’t even on the map anymore.”

“Can we play Florida twice instead of playing Auburn – they have the same colors.”

My thoughts:

Once again this is all said in fun – from a Georgia perspective. As this Saturday’s game rolls around other duties and needs will once again prohibit me from watching the game but there is no doubt where my desire lies. However, as a fan of the real team from Florida, Florida State, I also have another game to look forward to in a month. It is my desire that everyone has an enjoyable Saturday and that the Bulldogs win by 50.

Confessions of an Apathetic Conservative: With Links To A Real Writer

I shall use the excuse which has been popular over the last decade or so, “it’s all Bush’s fault.”

In August of 2000 we moved to Thomasville, GA. It was our first major move as a family and I forgot to register to vote. I distinctly remember listening to conversations where George W. was touted as being a must have for our country. I didn’t necessarily disagree but I was a little afraid to tell my family and friends that I would be unable to vote for him. He certainly is who I would have voted for in that election. Bill O’Reilly was hitting the big time and I thought he would lead us, conservatives, into the Promised Land along with George Bush and his administration. Then the headaches started: the O’Reilly headaches that is. Somehow what he was saying just didn’t seem to ring as clear as it had before and I realized that behind his grandstanding he was really about Bill O’Reilly.

Fast forward to September 2004 and our family was once again on the move. This time we moved to the panhandle of Florida just 2 weeks after Hurricane Ivan swept through the region. Bush was once again up for election and my vote was needed. It didn’t happen. If you have ever lived somewhere following a devastating thing such as a hurricane then you will understand why I did not vote this time. Once again Bush won without my vote and in the evenings I switched from O’Reilly to the new guy leading the conservative charge on TV, Sean Hannity.

Hannity didn’t keep my attention very long and it was during this time that a conversation that I had several years before with my oldest brother came to my mind. Essentially we discussed the truth of the Rush on the radio and the Rush in real life and the fact that the Rush on the radio didn’t necessarily believe or adhere to what he espoused on the radio. That’s when it really set in – these guys are frauds. Actually they are not frauds because eventually it is revealed that they have two different standards, personal and TV/radio personality. Look at their cycle; they usually are very popular for about 6-8 years, sometimes longer if there isn’t a new kid to carry the torch and sometimes a little shorter if they are bypassed by a louder, more conservative, conservative.

Sadly though, we follow them as if they are idealist when in truth they are entertainers. The saddest part is that professing, Bible-reading, church attending, Christians are the ones driving these guys and their “success.” The truth of this was never more obvious to me than it was when Scott Brown was elected as Senator of Massachusetts earlier this year. When I read and listened to what Bible-believing (?) people were saying about this guy I just had to check him out to see if he was as good as they said. I didn’t go far before I realized that it was an absolute sham. Scott Brown may be a conservative and he may stand for some of the same things that I stand for but had he been a Democrat the same people who extolled his virtues would have hung him over his past.

I have said all of that to say this: if you profess to be a believer and have any interest in politics, or if you just are a believer, or just have an interest in politics I would encourage you to read a post by Dr. Russell Moore, vice-president of Southern Seminary, and his view of Glenn Beck’s latest freedom rally.

http://www.russellmoore.com/2010/08/29/god-the-gospel-and-glenn-beck/

Dear Lilah,

Dear Lilah Laine,

I love you. That certainly goes without saying but in case you become angry at the tone of this letter I must state this at the beginning. I have loved you since before you were born and that night/morning in the hospital simply was the fruition of the love that I have for you. It is because of that love that I am writing this letter to you. I know you are too young to read, but I rest assured that somehow this message will be communicated to you.

We have a problem. You see the bed that I sleep in at night was bought so that your mother and I could enjoy that very simple comfort. If you knew how cheap I was you would realize that this was a big deal for me. We deliberately bought a bed that was the right size for us, we did not include children into our measurements for we did not plan on children sleeping in our bed.

However, you seem to have another plan in that small head of yours that you are seeking to implement. I understand waking up in the middle of the night as you have been doing for the past couple of months – you see I am in my thirties now and I also have to wake up in the middle of the night now. I have no problem with you ending up in our bed in the middle of the night for that is simply the fault of your mother and I being too tired to make sure you go back to sleep in your own bed. As you know though we were making headway in that department as I had started taking you into the living room and sitting up with you until you fell asleep. I was then able to lay you back in your bed and I could go back to my bed.

Smart, yes you are very smart for you have figured out this pattern and have staged what for lack of a better word we shall simply refer to as a sleep-in. For the last three nights you have managed to outlast both of your parents in going to sleep which means you have ultimately ended up in our bed the entire night. Even last night after I woke up, remember old guys have to wake up in the middle of the night, and placed you in your bed you simply let it fly until I put you back in our bed.

I’m warning you child that it ends tonight, well, possibly next week, but it will end – one day. I would like to sleep without feeling your little heels beating like a bongo drum on my chest. I would also prefer for my nostrils to continue to widen at the natural rate that God has given them instead of you continuing to try to make mine wide enough for your entire hand to fit in while you are trying to go to sleep.

As I said at the beginning, I love you,

Dad

P.S.

I think your mother would also like to talk to you about the fact that you only sleep for about 45 minutes during the daytime, but that will have to be the subject of another letter.

Jesus’ Works: Do we understand the mind of Christ?

Jesus’ Works

In this week’s lesson on the life of Jesus we will turn our attention away from the action particulars of the works which he performed to look instead at the desire and motivation behind the works. Too often as Christians we find ourselves wanting to focus on the acts of Jesus instead of the purpose and the desire which was behind each and every act. Much of this stems from the fact that we are such a success oriented society that we are always looking for simply another quick fix to our mounting spiritual needs. Need to lose weight – take a diet pill – which gives you the runs and makes you feel nauseas all day instead of changing our diet and the focus and purpose of why and how we eat.

We think our works will bring about a greater spiritual awareness. As Christians, with enough conviction, whether it is of the Holy Spirit, or a result of our own guilt, we are oftentimes willing to wash someone’s feet, feed a multitude or work with the sick in an attempt to raise our spiritual awareness or dare I say our spiritual self-worth. Yes, Jesus healed the sick, washed the feet of his disciples, and fed a multitude but this was not to give him any greater sense of well-being but rather it is because he recognized and understood the purpose to which he had been called.

We think works will help us humble ourselves.

Yes Jesus tells us that we must humble ourselves as little children but as adults we generally take this the wrong way. We expend effort and energy in seeking to dumb ourselves down and pretending that our feelings and emotions don’t control us as much as they do. Jesus was not telling us to act like a child but rather to become as a child. There is a great difference and we would be well to understand this.

We think works are another weapon in our spiritual arsenal.

I have passed by a couple of churches in the last few months which have had the same sign posted outside on their marquee, “For every Goliath there is a stone.” This certainly sounds good and to some degree it even stirs our flesh and we get excited about this possibility for now we only have to find the right stone to correct the issues in our life. The problem with this thought pattern is that while God did allow David to use a stone to knock down the giant that was simply the tool of the moment. The overreaching and impacting reality in this story of David is the faith that David had that God would sustain him for he (David) was fighting for God in defense of his people. We like finding stones because then we can attribute our success, if there is any, to us. If there is no success in what we are battling then we just assume that somewhere out there is another stone and we must keep pressing towards this elusive 12 step, purpose-driven, mind motivated, better you process. If you truly understand the story of David and Goliath then you understand that it was not even that David had mustered this great amount of faith that brought upon him the blessing of God. Rather it was that David realized that God would protect the one who stood in the defense of Israel. David’s statement, “Is there not a cause,” exposes the condition of his heart. He was not stating that he had superior faith but rather God would provide for anyone who stood against the Philistine. David’s faith was in God not in his faith.

By and large as Christians we fail in this area of works.

So why do we as Christians have a hard time in the area of service. There have been a multitude of books written on the service of Jesus and how we should emulate such service. We should, and in no way am I seeking to detract from that fact. However, if we are honest we can all look back at times in our life when we enjoyed our service to Christ and were willing to do anything for the cause of Christ. Yet many times we find ourselves abandoning different areas of service and the things which gave us so much pleasure no longer bring any joy but rather seem as burdens in our lives. Certainly I have felt this way and if you have not just look around your church and ask where the Sunday School teacher is who was so faithful three or four years ago. As well as the preschool director and we could go on and on. In order to better understand why this happens we will look briefly at some realities of service.

If works are so good why are we quitting?

In today’s culture we have traded the word service for the word volunteer and have given it a great deal of attention and recognition. In fact many are aware that this year Disney World is offering a free ticket to those who dedicate a set amount of time during a particular time frame. Volunteering has probably never been lauded and approved as much as it is now. So why is the church having difficulty holding on to its volunteers? Are we not rewarding them enough? If the world is doing this with increased regularity then shouldn’t we be able to as well. After all aren’t we serving the Great Kingdom?

What is the purpose of our works?

In order to have a better understanding of how we should serve as Jesus I believe we should look deeper at the meaning and purpose behind his serving. For if we simply study the acts themselves and work to understand the setting, His positioning, the people and other variables then we will be placing our emphasis on the act of works and we must remember the words of the Apostle Paul; “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.” (Romans 11:6) Therefore we should seek to understand the mind of Christ as he was performing these works instead of simply placing on our emphasis on what he did and how he did these works.

John 5:16-47

Jesus understood the source of His power. Here is where as believers we get distracted and of course before we ever begin. We read, we study, and we plan to teach a lesson but how often do we seek for the source of power to attend the lesson we are teaching until we bow our heads as we are beginning and say, “Holy Spirit speak these truths to our hearts.” I must confess that while I have given cursory attention to understanding the will of God for this lesson until this point I have not sought and pursued after the mind of God in this teaching…now I have. Jesus tells us in verse 19 that the Son can do nothing of Himself or in his own power. The action of the Son is simply mimicking the action of the Father and receiving the power to commit such actions himself. 1 Corinthians 1:4-10 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

Jesus had an absolute dependence on the Father. This is shown in several ways in this passage as Jesus points to His dependence on the Father. First Jesus states that the authority which he exhibits has been given to him by the Father (vs. 26-27). Do we even understand that we must be dependent on the work of God? Our abilities are as the Bible says, “as filthy rags.”

Secondly Jesus tells us that in his works he is not seeking his own will but rather the will of the Father (vs. 30). These works were not an attempt by Jesus to manifest his power but rather they were to fulfill the work of the Father. How often as a child of God has this not been the case with me? We are too quick to show what we have learned and therefore we go and serve in an attempt to make our ability manifest our dependence on God instead of allowing our dependence to lead us into service.

Thirdly, Jesus states that although his works bring the praise of man he is not doing these works to earn man’s praise (vs. 34-36). We as individuals are prideful and we must constantly be aware of this in our lives and completely place our pride and need for recognition by man aside in seeking to do the works of God. Yes John came to bear witness of Jesus but Jesus was not doing these works to fulfill what John said about him but rather to fulfill the plan of God. A spirit such as this might change our willingness to press on when others do not notice. Too often I believe as Christians that we are seeking to become a self-fulfilling prophecy: someone has boasted of our ability in a certain area and thus we serve to fulfill what others believe to be already the case in our personal lives, or maybe someone has told others that we are willing to do anything and we begin to pride ourselves on the fact that there is no bounds to our service and we now serve to prove that there are none. A dependence on the Father and an understanding of this will lead us to say as Paul did: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

Jesus’ works were a manifestation of the presence of God and as such pointed to God. If we were able to fully grasp this one thought I believe the transformation that would take place in our lives would cause others to pause and consider our works. This area if understood and carried out with humility would rectify any other concerns and interests as we serve God. Our works as children of God are simply a manifestation of the work of God. Jesus proclaimed (vs. 36) that it is his works that prove that God has sent him. However, he was not out creating works to do but rather he was fulfilling what had already been ordained for him by God. James 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Our works, when done from a pure heart are an outward manifestation of the presence of God in our lives. John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. Would this change the way we act and the looks on our faces if we considered that our works are a visible manifestation of the presence of God in our lives?

Where am I?

Where do I seek to receive my strength? Is my attention given to my intellect, my “good” life, and other visible, measurable qualities?

Do I live daily dependent on the grace of God for my life?

Do the works which I do manifest the presence and power of God?

Lilah Laine Harding

As many of you know Lilah was born by Caesarean surgery early on Tuesday, 12/8 at 2:25am. Monday evening we went into the hospital as Christy had been experiencing regular contractions and had begun to dilate. Christy’s doctor gave her some medicine that they hoped would speed up the process and we settled in for a long night of contractions and little sleep. At 12:30am Christy woke up from her 2 hour nap for a quick (as you ladies know, quick for a 9 month expectant lady is pretty slow) potty break.

While she was up she began to experience some much more painful contractions and decided to ask the nurse for some pain medicine so she could get some rest during the night. At 1:15 the nurse gave her a dose of Stadol mixed  with Phenergan for her pain. The Stadol was to relieve the pain and the Phenergan was to offset the nauseau caused by the Stadol. The nurse stayed with us for a few minutes and then went to attend to another patient. Within 5 minutes Christy began to complain of dizziness and felt like she was going to pass out. Being the concerned and loving husband that I am I told her that it would pass and that she would be fine. Christy insisted something was wrong and I pushed the call button for the nurse and Christy promptly started snoring.

Thankfully the nurse was very quick to respond and we soon saw how serious the situation was. Christy was in and out and was unable to understand what was happening but Lilah’s heart rate was dropping to a dangerous point. Lilah’s heart rate had been near 140 beats per minute all night. Her heart rate dropped to 110 beats per minute and then over the next 10 minutes it continued to drop and was now dipping below 60 beats per minute. The nurses began to move Christy from one side to another in an attempt to manipulate Lilah and elevate her heart rate. They also began a free flowing IV to force the medicine through her system and dilute it with excessive fluid. Christy’s nurse, who was excellent, called her doctor around 1:30am and he advised her to prepare for surgery.

The next 3o minutes went past fairly quickly as they began to prep Christy for surgery. I called Christy’s parents as I knew the would want to know. We; nurse, dad, and husband, tried to talk to Christy and explain what was happening but she was completely oblivious to why everything was happening although she was fairly cognizant of individual events that were happening such as a catheter. Christy’s doctor arrived at 1:40am and told us that due to the reaction of Christy and Lilah he was going to go ahead and take the baby. Lilah’s heart rate at this time had now climbed past 160 beats per minute and was staying very rapid.

Christy was wheeled into the operating room (just across the hall) and I dressed in the scrubs provided so I could join them. When they arrived in the operating room Lilah’s heart rate began to fluctuate again and they made the decision to put Christy completely under for the sake of time. Due to her being completely sedated I was not allowed to enter the room. At 2:25am Lilah Laine was born weighing 6lbs, 11oz, and 19 1/4 inches long. The nurse did allow Christy’s dad and I to slip into a small anteroom outside of the OR and take a quick peek at Lilah as the Pediatrician checked her out.

It was almost 4:30am before they wheeled Christy down to recovery. During this time I was able to watch as the nurse weighed and measured Lilah and prepared her for her bath. Christy was brought back to her room at 5:15am and told me that she hadn’t “pushed” yet. While a very hectic and busy night there was not a moment that we did not know that God was in control and trust was only ours to give. For that one hour my prayer was simply, “Lord, you know what I am thinking.” Lilah is beatiful and now is 11 days old and is one day past her due date. We were thankful to have been in a hospital with a very caring and compassionate labor and delivery nurse, a competent and attentive doctor, and a host of others who were willing and able to do what was necessary to help my wife and daughter. Christy is doing great, although she has a tendency to overdue things right now, and is recovering well.

We probably will never know what caused Christy and Lilah’s reaction but we are grateful that all is well.

Why Children Should Obey

Why Children Should Obey

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4

Sometime in my past, I believe I was about 14 years of age, I heard this passage of Scripture interpreted in a way that I had never heard before. Sadly, I don’t remember exactly who the first person was that I heard interpret this passage although through the years I have heard many, many others do the same. While I believe the true interpretation of this passage to be greatly different than I have heard through the years this in no way says I do not hold those in regard who would disagree with me. A few semesters ago I had Dr Gary Habermas as one of my instructors in a video course that I was taking for college. Dr Habermas made a comment that has stuck with me over the past few months and in moments like these it has challenged me to ensure that I speak clearly and with love concerning areas in which brothers and sisters in Christ might disagree. Dr Habermas’ statement was that he was of the opinion that some of differences in the body of Christ in areas that he would deem of secondary importance; i.e. not essential to salvation and not directly addressing the deity of Christ, are what make being a child of God a beautiful thing. Wow, when is the last time that I considered someone’s difference of belief a beautiful thing?

Many have interpreted verse one of Ephesians 6 in this way: Children – those unmarried, obey – do whatever they are told or are expected to do, in the Lord for this is right – as if their parents are Jesus Christ Himself. While the issue of the statement concerning children is one that could be discussed it is the phrase “in the Lord” where I will differ with this interpretation.

As I noted before the phrase “in the Lord” is interpreted as if children should obey their parents as if their very parents are God Himself. This presents a myriad of problems and the greatest argument. When a parent can claim that their child should obey them as if they are God this opens the door to an ungodly parental authority in which the parent never questions their feelings or emotions when they demand obedience. As a parent myself I have come to realize that my emotions and feelings can impact the obedience that I expect from my children. When emotions and feelings are unimportant from one side and of utmost importance from the other side of a relationship this relationship has no balance and is bound to fail. Of great concern is the fact that in a relationship where one views their authority as unquestionable that is exactly what happens: the child is never allowed to question the parent in any way. Please understand here I am not talking about the instant obedience that a child absolutely should give a parent when they are directed to do something and I am in no way insinuating that a child has a right to constantly question their parents. What I am pointing out is that as a child grows older there are things that a parent and child could and should discuss and this is impossible if a parent views their relationship as one of complete dominance and control and the child is allowed no input in any situation or circumstance. As a child grows thru their teenage years their should be a transition of time as they move into adulthood and the parent no longer makes every decision but instead begins to involve the child in decision making. This type of relationship and progression is impossible in a relationship where the parent always views themselves as correct. As you can see this type of relationship can be very destructive and has no redeeming value.

The dispute I have with this type of relationship is not whether or not this is the correct type of relationship but whether or not this is what the Bible is instructing in this passage of Ephesians. If you search the phrase “in the Lord” you can see three things that seem very clear. First of all this phrase clearly applies to believers and believers only. The Apostle Paul uses this phrase the most frequently and many times he is addressing a believer: that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints (Rom 16:2a), For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord (1 Corinthians 4:17a). There are other times when the Apostle is speaking of a believer’s position in salvation: that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD” (1 Corinthians 1:31), Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, (Ephesians 1:15). The third use of this phrase is the one we see used in Ephesians 1 and this is dealing with the work of a believer: Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Our first clue is too whom Paul is speaking. We must not forget that in this verse Paul is giving instruction to children and not to their parents although in its misinterpreted state it is often assumed that this phrase is directed towards parents. Paul is giving direction to saved children that they should obey their parents not in their own power and strength but rather in the power and strength that is provided to every believer through the salvation of Jesus Christ. What a comfort this is for a child to know they are not dependent on their own strength when it comes to obedience! What a joy as a parent to look forward to having a child that obeys them “in the Lord”! Paul further clarifies this statement by making it all encompassing and declaring that children should obey “for this is right”. Therefore a child who is unsaved cannot claim that this does not apply nor can a child with unsaved parent’s claim that the same rule down not apply to them.

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