Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Reflecting and Resolving

A new year brings an opportunity to reflect on the past and, for some, to make resolutions for the days ahead.  Even if our commitments are eventually cast aside in the busyness of life, taking stock of our priorities is very helpful.  For followers of Jesus it might be a way to center our minds and hearts on our pursuit of Him.

Theologian Jonathan Edwards famously crafted a list of resolutions that he used as a regular reminder of what he had purposed to do in his life.  His list is extensive.  Frankly, the mind of Edwards was...well, extensive.   Here is a nice, organized version of his resolutions sorted by category.

Missions professor David Sills offers a challenge for believers as they approach the 2015.  He uses the oft quoted words of Baptist missionary William Carey, "Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God."  Sills' goal is to encourage believers to take seriously the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.  A worthy aim indeed.

For the Christian there is one thing that makes it actually possible to make wise resolutions and to keep them: the power of God!  We can approach this process with the knowledge that God is with us and He is for us. And hopefully we will maintain the glory of God as our motivation. After all, it is all about Him.

So I encourage you to consider what you plan to do (or not do) in 2015.  We have everything we need because of Christ...we can not fail.

Happy New Year!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Awe Inspiring Thought

One of the most awe inspiring thoughts for the Christian has to do with prayer.  We read in Hebrews 4:15-16, "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

What a wonderful privilege of drawing near before God...the One who spoke everything into existence.  I'm not certain we fully grasp the magnitude of prayer.  I often forget this profound truth and fail to be astounded at what is taking place when I pray.

Chuck Lawless sums up this idea nicely in his helpful book Discipled Warriors

"When we pray, we communicate with the Creator of the universe. He allows us to encounter Him without destroying us while we are in His presence. In fact, He delights when we come before Him as His children." [emphasis added]

The context of prayer is one that deserves a word that is so overused in our day, "Awesome!"  This opportunity ought to amaze and humble us.  Brothers & Sisters, go boldly before your King!

 "Grace" photo by Enstrom 1918


Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Clean Desk and Heart

I'm a procrastinator. I've known this for 40 years or more. Although there have been brief periods when I have been organized and on task, 95% of the time I am not. Knowing this should help. At least I'm aware. But it is a battle.

This week I tackled a long overdue task at home and I feel relieved and empowered. I see progress...and the top of my desk, for the first time in a long while.

My life, like my desk, is often cluttered with stuff I really don't need. It hinders my clarity. Also, I stuff things into the corners of my heart (and desk drawers) as if being out of sight is a good thing. Its not good at all. I have to dig down, sort through it all and clean out the mess. Then there is freedom and clarity to enjoy the blessings and to accomplish even more.  Once I've dealt with the pile of junk, I feel lighter. I gain joy.

I want this work to continue and to increase. By God's grace and His strength, it will.

Thankfully, in addition to the power of God, I have a few good friends and a patient wife who are on this messy journey with me...walking in the light!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Moving MVP Speech

I don't watch NBA basketball much.  "Never" might be a better term.  However, I like a good story.  I appreciate authenticity. Moreover, it is refreshing to see a high-profile athlete talk more about others than about himself.  Even better when someone, anyone, recognizes that God is worthy of glory and praise.

After seeing that others were impressed with Kevin Durant's MVP acceptance speech, I decided to watch.  It is over 26 minutes long...and I watched the whole thing.  You can watch it here.  I dare you not to cry!

Of course I don't know Durant and will likely never have an opportunity to chat with him. However, he strikes me as a genuine guy. He offered heartfelt words of appreciation to his teammates, speaking personally about each one. He thanked his coaches and friends, again giving them credit for helping him to be better.  Finally he thanked his family.  He expressed love for his mother who raised him under what sounds like difficult circumstances, saying she is the real MVP.  At the outset he thanked God. At the conclusion he thanked God again. He said God "is the Alpha and Omega" and "He changed my life" and "basketball is just a platform."  This young man seems to be very thoughtful.

I like his perspective and his insights.  His speech moved me.  It provided a very small glimpse at the heart of a man and what he thinks is important.  Good words.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thirsty in West Virginia

I'm a proud native of West Virginia.  I grew up in St. Albans, about 20 miles west from where a chemical spill impacted the drinking water for about 300,000 people in the Charleston area.  Although I now live in the Bluegrass State, I have family members who dealt directly with the water shortage.  In fact, my nephew parlayed the event into an opportunity to become a social media, "Johnny on the spot," and here.

I have been watching the situation develop from a distance via the national media and social media. What happened in the Kanawha Valley was tragic and extremely difficult for all involved.  But its a challenge to sort through all the stories, reports and rumors.

Emotional rants and rumors are unhelpful in crisis. But they have become so common with the rise of blogs, Facebook and Twitter. In a few seconds one can make an accusation or statement that millions might read and believe. [Btw, not everything on the internet is true.]  However, I get it, this was a situation that elicited extreme emotions.  But sometimes our emotions distract us from solving problems and engaging in helpful dialog.

What is helpful in a crisis like the one in WV is clarity, compassion and thoughtful suggestions offered in a calm and winsome manner.  This editorial is a great example. It was written by a high school classmate of mine.

As is often the case, there is also good that comes from tragedy.  From this water event we see neighbor helping neighbor, an awareness of our weakness and a recognition of how blessed we are by modern conveniences but so utterly dependent on them.

Additionally, tragic events offer an enlightening glimpse into our broken world.  Clean water is essential to survive in this life and not everyone has access to it.  But water is not our greatest need.  Although the water has been restored to my friends and family, there are still many thousands who are still thirsty, spiritually speaking.  This water crisis is yet another reminder that what we desperately need is the "living water" that will satisfy the deepest longing of our be reconciled to God.  My prayer for the thirsty in West Virginia, and around the globe, is that they will heed the words of Jesus to "repent and believe the gospel."

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Heart of Repentance

Although I'm pretty sure no one is listening (or reading ), I'm going to say this out loud, I struggle with sin.  This statement wouldn't come as a shock to those closest to me, because sadly they see it.  What I'm saying is that although God reached into my life 18 years ago and gave me a new heart, there is still some work to do.  And thankfully God is doing that work, day by day.

Not surprisingly, God uses His word to do much of this work.  In addition, He uses others...even those who have been dead many years.  That was the case today. Let me explain.

I have a copy of Charles Spurgeon's daily devotional, Morning & Evening.  I don't read it every day.  Frankly, I don't even read it weekly. But today, I picked it up and read this morning's entry.  The scripture text was Joel 2:13, "Rend your heart and not your garments."  I nearly fell off the sofa.  This is exactly what I needed to hear.  I needed to be reminded about biblical repentance.  Here are Spurgeon's words that really drove the message home for me:

"The text commands us to rend our hearts, but they are naturally hard as marble: how, then, can this be done? We must take them to Calvary: a dying Saviour's voice rent the rocks once, and it is as powerful now. O blessed Spirit, let us hear the death-cries of Jesus, and our hearts shall be rent even as men rend their vestures in the day of lamentation."

So in my mind's eye, I looked to the cross and there was my Savior!

The prophet Joel explains why we can have confidence that our repentance will be accepted by God. Because He is "gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness." What a blessing!

So, it is not in the outward anguish or religious act of kneeling at "an old fashion alter" that signifies our turning away from sin. But rather the heart-level, Spirit induced, honest assertion that our sin is an offense to God's holiness. That we despise this offense and desire, more than anything, to abandon it.

I am thankful for how gracious God is to His children.  He is still doing a work in me.  I'm thankful too for Mr. Spurgeon who, just this morning, pointed me to the heart of repentance.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Springtime Under the Steeple

I snapped a few shots around the church the other morning.  Who doesn't love dogwoods in the Spring?!  The changing of seasons provides us with a glimpse into the power and glory of God's creation.  As wonderful as it is, the taint of sin is still present.  Consider what awaits us when all of this is redeemed.

Love Springtime.  Hate allergies.  "I will glory in my Redeemer!"