Monday, May 31, 2010
This morning, the offices closed for Memorial Day, I slept late. I woke to the gleeful sounds of my children playing and the beauty of my bride next to me. I woke and rested and was at peace... and as I did, today I remembered that this peace was born of much war and sacrifice.
It has become axiomatic that a certain level of blood, sweat and tears are required for the job I do as a pastor, and that these are seldom seen. How much more for the blood, sweat and tears of the battlefields around the world whereon our soldiers have fought and died to keep freedom's peace at home. The uniforms we see are pressed and in regulation order. The medals shine with the gleam of parades and concerts, but that is not where freedom is won. It is won in places of pain that men and women try to forget; but far be it from us that we should forget the pain they so willingly took on our behalf.
Today, if you see a soldier, see the mud, the blood, the sweat and the tears behind the peace of the current context of enjoyment. See the pain that purchased freedom and say 'thank you.'
Today, and hopefully all days, let us remember.
In the peace of Christ,
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
This morning, I accepted the awesome challenge of hanging out with JeeP while Penny spoke at a conference. We loaded up, took Jordan to school in the Jeep, and then he and I went to City Park. Now I'm one of those weird ducks who loves his job and his calling, so as JeeP often puts up with having to come to the office on my day off, turn about was fair-play this morning.
We ran, we played, and we talked... and along the way, I snapped a few pictures.
One of the last pics happened when he wanted me to stand where he had stood. We stood together, and wanting to capture the moment, I looked down with my camera-phone and snapped the picture.
What I saw in the screen really preached the sermon. Big feet, little feet... and the trail I leave for him to follow.
I tell the congregation often that "we're all just a bunch of screwed up people trying to screw up less"... we're forgiven, redeemed, and doing everything we can to live up to that status! In life, I have found that my imperfections seem to crescendo as I follow Christ the more. Sometimes it's not fun to see, but reality is as it is, and no-one is perfect, especially me. But today, the little feet that live after mine, tell a tale of hope.
Some days, that's enough. There are so many things at which he will be greater than I am... some things at which we'll mirror one another completely... some arenas of life will find us completely different; but in all things, his feet have come from mine. Oh that my feet have led him to Jesus; to the cross which pays the price for our souls and the empty tomb which declares His power. Oh that our feet will follow His path together.
Every night, I tell my children that they will be greater than I am. In so many ways, they already are and just don't know it yet... but I see it. I hope one day they get to know the joy they have brought me today.
May the peace of Christ invade from all angles this day and always!
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Six years ago today, the daughter who knew my voice from the womb came out into the world and I held her.
I hope that I shall never forget the sequence that followed. As I took her into my arms, and began to move toward Penny's arms with her, I spoke her name, "Jordan Paige," and in the instance of hearing my voice she opened her eyes and connected with mine. Now doctors will say that infants cannot see when they are newborn, but Jordan did. When she heard my voice, it was as if mental recognition instantaneously sparked visual acuity, and we looked into one another's eyes and knew each other as if we had ridden the trails of life together for a while already.
Her beautiful brown eyes have been melting my heart ever since. I rebuild my heart from a melted pile of mush as often as I change shirts, it seems... and I love every moment of it with her.
She is all I could have hoped for in a daughter: loving, loyal, true, and beautiful! She wields my heart as a fine swordsman would wield the blade, and makes my heart burst with joy to be her provider, protector, Daddy, and friend.
I'm not sure what version of my heart I'm on these days. We're way beyond 2.0, or 3.0... somewhere around a thousand hearts melted and rebuilt with joy, and we'd be getting close to the right count, I think.
Happy Birthday, Jordan! Du bist meine wunderschone kleine liebe und ich bin sehr stolz von dir... SEHR STOLZ!!!
ICH LIEBE DICH!
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Well it's summertime! We made it! School is out and report cards are coming in! "How'd you do this year?" is being asked of students in carpool lines and kitchens across the country.
As we come to the close of Kindergarten in our family, it dawns upon me that grading doesn't stop with grade school. Think about it for a moment. In every arena of life, we're graded, aren't we?
Sometimes we can live with a good grade, or a bad grade. Sometimes we definitely want to get "high marks." Sometimes it just doesn't matter to us.
As school draws to a close and summer lays out the red carpet of relaxation, I want to challenge you to consider the grade you might get at church. Does it matter? Does it matter to God? In our modern mayhem of social philosophy, many have even begun to teach and believe that "going to church" is absolutely unnecessary... but is it? Why would we give our time and our tithe (10%) to a church... aren't we all part of one big global body of believers, anyway; and does God really care if I'm attending my church's worship service each week?
The answer is more simple than you might think. In the New Testament's Letter to the Hebrews 10:23-25, we are told,
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." (NASB)
Hebrews is not only speaking into the context of early Christians, but early Jewish-Christians, who knew full well both the commandment and benefit of the Sabbath. In a world where new spin produces excitement, the Scripture just makes a clear statement that we are to be consistently present, engaged, and active at the gathering of the Saints... and yes, the Greek word for church is literally, "gathering," so this means church. At least once a week, breathing in together to encourage one another and worship the Lord together. Refreshing our resolve and commitment weekly with our time, our energy, our worship, and our giving.
By now I'm sure you get the idea. So what grade would you give yourself? Is it enough to be "C" or "D" level Christians when it comes to our attendance and investment? Is it enough to be a "B"?
Our's is not a religion of legalism, but of service out of gratitude. This summer... indeed this year, let us show our gratitude to the God who saves us. Come to church each week. Give freely of your energy and worship. Tithe according to how God is blessing you financially. Then go home, read your Bible, and step outside of your door each day to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with your neighbors!
See if God's pleasure doesn't rain down upon you as you seek to serve and please Him even in the simplest of things!
May the Peace of Christ overwhelm you!
Monday, May 17, 2010
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
As I trail through the magnificent play which is the Song of Songs, I'm struck by the stark differential which God offers us in this Scripture.
Through the bulk of the Holy Scripture, our relationship with God is featured as the ultimate expression of love and intimacy; thence to be copied and reflected into the love and intimacies of this temporal realm. However, in Solomon's Song we find the opposite progression.
As Solomon honestly and boldly recounts his journey of love, passion, and purity in the engagement, wedding, and consummation of his marriage to the Shulamite bride, it is simply put to the test that our lives, in all their love and intimacy, must be a reflection upon the holiness of God, even under the honest microscope of passion.
It is worth noticing that Solomon has not followed the road of Godliness in all his relationships... engaging incredible numbers of wives and concubines. However, in this case, the beauty of holiness is found to feed the fire of passion more than the fire of carnal indulgence ever could. The marriage bed maintained, entertained, and engaged within the context of the holy finds passion at its height of fervor; the flames of desire at their apex of heat.
In this most excellent of songs, Solomon faces the test of holiness; that is the real-time examination of his own story, an honest look in the mirror, a look back upon the race now at its finish line. In it we find the reality of temptation and the blessing of endurance. We find the fires of passion and the blessing of intentional unleash. We find the beautiful revelation that temporal love, passion, and marriage, when done God's way, will be a natural reflection of the very holiness of God.
Oh how simple it becomes to wonder after the purity of love and passion found within the grace of Christ as God restores the relationship of service between Himself and us; and how arduous it so quickly becomes to examine that relationship's real-time impact upon our human intimacies.
Has my life, my marriage, my love and passion in real-time for my bride, naturally reflected the holiness of God?
This is the acid test of the Song of Songs.
If I fail to love Him first and most, then I am destined to fail to love as He loves. If I have failed to love as He loves, as we all most definitely fail, then I must return to Him first and often, else love in this temporal realm must be doomed to painful shortfalls.
The mirror of Godliness is held by the activity of, indeed the reality of marriage.
May the test show forth the reflection of holiness.
Monday, May 10, 2010
I was considering today, that our faith does not lead us to seek after diversity, but to embrace the common ground which ignores inconsequential differences altogether.
Think about that for a moment.
"For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:27-28, nasb)
It is not that we learn to live with, or tolerate, our differences, but that we learn that they no longer have meaning... as if they didn't even exist any longer.
In this day of "NEW" strategies, and gurus of church growth who continuously seem to be re-answering the question of how to reach a new and diverse generation (as if it were the first time that differential ever existed), the Scripture simply points out that diversity no longer exists in Christ.
It may be just my perspective, but I have found too often that I have been led by the modern movement to ask what people want to hear, and how they want to hear it; rather than seeking God for what He wants to say, and how He wants to say it.
As I preach and teach each week, and the fog clears from a generation of relativism, the cross remains ever constant. The same cross which held our Lord on Golgotha, which led the lives of the Apostles, the devotion of the Saints to come, and the church of our God and Savior even to this day.
It is a clarion call to let go of the nonsense agendas of modern relativism, and to embrace the ancient, always relevant Gospel of Jesus Christ... what God wants to say, the way God wants to say it... the way He said, "I love you."
When a person enters a worship service, it is what they are seeking, no-matter their race or socio-economic strata... somewhere within themselves they have sensed their own inadequacies and have come to see what God might have for them. Far be it from us that we hide God's grace behind modern strategies and "enlightenment."
Diversity... it is one of the things simply washed away by the cross. In the end, we are all simply confessed and forgiven sinners who have committed to serve the Christ who saved us, and nothing else seems to matter any more.
Consider it... and may the peace of the Cross of Christ invade your soul!
Saturday, May 8, 2010
My bride has spoken from her seat
From the seat of power has her voice been heard
From the center of unending cacophony I heard her speaking
From the place of unending joy and noise she spoke her oracle:
"Three things does your bride desire,
Indeed four desires the mother of your children this day:
That I might know the adoration of the generations
and the solace of temporary silence.
That I might live in magnificent delight
but retreat to the solace of the spa.
That I might dwell in the voices of my children
but inherit the peace of the coffee house.
That I might know the simplicity of hands that toil
but take joy in the sparkle of the adornment of my husband."
Three things, indeed four
And I heard her voice from the place of glory
From the seat of the Mommy Desk did I hear her heart
and it was so.
Let her reward be the reward of heros,
And her garland that of conquering heros;
For she raises the young, bearing not the sword,
but with fierce love has she raised them;
and with the heart of God has she loved us all!
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
As we approach Mother's Day once again, and consider those icons of womanhood which we all hold dear from the earliest of memories, I'm drawn to one of the Bible's clearest teachings on the gender, Proverbs 31.
Many, over the years, have disparaged this passage as idilic, unrealistic, archaic, and the list continues, as it were, ad infinitum. In our home, it is comforting.
I have learned through many trials, and the blood, sweat, and tears of pastoring and planting churches, that honor is won in time and with the aid of much pain and discipline. And as I read again this year, the oracle which King Lemuel's mother taught him, it seems the same to me with motherhood.
From what more iconic post can one begin than this, that all things have seemingly begun with her from the perspective of the newborn child. From birth, she is the center of love and sustaining life; and the honor of children rising up to bless is won over years and decades of loving and sustaining life... and in reality, working against the tides of life that so easily unravel the ones we love, and wearing thin the joints of knees and elbows as the Almighty is begged for the welfare of the loved.
The honors of this life are not won through the straws of fruity drinks on a beach, but through tireless, self-less, exhausting love. These things bring honor which lasts the generations.
I was blessed with a mother who rose early, and worked tirelessly; and I look into the kitchen this morning, as the mother of my children and my generations pours herself into the Holy Scriptures and prays for us all, and I see the oracle of Lemuel's mother come to life.
Truly, it is in being poured out that we are filled. It is in sacrifice that we are made whole, even as by sacrifice our forgiveness was purchased. May the object of our love be true, and the sacrifice of our lives unto only that which is holy.
The Peace of Christ to you this day and always!
Monday, May 3, 2010
Reflecting upon the fantasy-reality continuum of the Shulamite bride in Song of Solomon 1 & 2, it occurs to me that:
The intoxication of the Holy will produce focus and clarity upon that which is Godly, diffusing that which is detrimental, and enlightening that which is good; while the intoxication of the unholy will produce the skew of attention away from that which is good, and the blurring of reality.