Meanderings of a Minister

Eulogy of A Saint
December 7, 2017, 1:04 pm
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Recently, a friend of mine and a longtime, faithful deacon of our church, died.  As I reflected on his life, the following thoughts came to mind as an example of the kind of legacy every child of God should want to leave behind.

Lord, today Ivan died.  He was 93 years old, had been married for almost 75 years, and had been a deacon for longer than I have been alive.  He worked in the oilfield as a roughneck and then as a driller.  Normally, those statements would not go together, but they did with Ivan.  He knew how to work hard, but also was a very strong believer and a tender-hearted man who loved You and loved people.  Truly, he embraced 1 Corinthians 13.  Ivan knew that no amount of service or sacrifice meant anything without love as the prime motivator.

Ivan was patient.  Whether it was facing the health challenges of his wife at home, or issues at church, he was patient and kind in dealing with them.  He was patient to teach middle school Sunday School for years as well as being a deacon.  I never saw Ivan fly off the handle or even become visibly frustrated.

Ivan was kind.  The tender way he dealt with Martha, even when he was in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital, he was still reassuring her.  Even when there was conflict in the church among the deacons, Ivan was the voice of reason and of showing kindness.  He was a true example to be in this area.

I have never known Ivan to boast about anything.  As a matter of fact, Ivan much preferred to remain the background and not have the spotlight.  When we made him a Deacon Emeritus, he was embarrassed to receive the plaque and the applause of the congregation.  Ivan was also never rude, demanding, or arrogant.  It just was not his way.

Ivan was also never resentful or irritable.  The only point I was even saw Ivan on edge was in the hospital when he made the decision to stop the heroic efforts to save him.  He had told the doctor, and Linda, his daughter, that he wanted to stop treatment and just be comfortable.  I asked him if he was sure and he let me know it was his decision and was a bit irritated that he was asked again.  Ivan appreciated the God Who provided all he owned way too much to think it was because of him or that God owed him more.

While I know that Ivan was not perfect, he certainly showed the example of being a man of God.  He rejoiced when the truth was taught and was deeply bothered when something was put in its place.

Ivan’s love bore all things.  The death of a son, his wife’s illness, Ivan’s own pain were things he bore because he did not want to burden anyone.  Changes at church, retirement, decline of his own health, were all examples of what Ivan bore in love.  He bore it all and more with grace and composure.  While many others sour on life, Ivan never did.  He did not accuse God, check out on life, or think that God did not care about his struggles like so many others do with lesser problems.

Ivan believed.  He loved God and believed God.  All the way back to his younger days, Ivan believed God is real, Jesus is real, the Bible is true.  He believed the manger happened, miracles took place, the cross was where Jesus died for the sins of the world and for Ivan’s personal sins as well.  He believed Jesus really was buried and really did conquer death, hell, sin, Satan, and the grave when He walked out of the tomb.  He believed Jesus really did forgive his sins when he repented from his sins and placed his faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord.  He believed he would one day see Jesus and now he has.

Ivan loved God and lived with hope every day.  It is what gave Ivan hope and the desire to love his wife, daughter, and son like Jesus would.  Ivan’s love for God has changed because he has been able to see God as He is, but it will never go away.  That love never failed Ivan and it never will.

Ivan left a legacy of love for God and others.  I am thankful that Ivan showed me what a faithful man, husband, father, deacon, and Christian is supposed to look like.  What legacy will you leave behind?


How Do You Prepare for Christmas?


As Thanksgiving has passed, I have noticed people in various stages of hanging Christmas lights and decorating for Christmas.  As I have watched people climb onto the roofs of their houses to hang lights, haul boxes from their storage sheds, or buying decorations at the store, it has led me to ask myself if I am also preparing for Christmas.  No, I don’t mean have I hung my lights, which I haven’t.  I also don’t mean have we gotten out our Christmas tree, which we haven’t.  What I have been reflecting about is, “How do I prepare for Christmas?”.

I know that some people will not think of lights and trees in response to this question.  Others will respond with Christmas shopping, making lists of gifts for various relatives and friends.  Still yet others will respond with baking for preparing food for various parties and get togethers throughout the Christmas season.  Others will respond with stories of rehearsing for Christmas Cantatas at church, concerts at school, or sales at their businesses.  These are legitimate preparations as well, but still not what I am talking about.

How do I get my heart in a place where I am ready to think deeply about the miracle that the King of the Universe left glory to become a man?  Actually, to become an unborn baby?  How do I prepare my mind to absorb and concentrate on the real reason for the season so that Christmas is a time of renewing my commitment to Jesus as Lord and Savior as my gift to Jesus on His birthday?  How do I prepare my soul to be still and content with what God has provided?  How do I prepare my senses to notice the things of God amongst all of the glitter and glamour?

I don’t know what others will do to prepare for this, but one way I can do so is to get an Advent Devotional and spend some time, at the beginning of each day, reflecting on some aspect of the Christmas story.  Our church has produced one such devotional, but any devotional will do as long as it encourages you to spend time in the word and time in prayer.

Another way to prepare my heart for the Christmas holiday coming is to spend some time going through all of the stuff in my home and picking out some of the good stuff that I don’t use that often anymore and donating it to Stepping Stones Shelter, Center for Domestic Violence, or some other worthy charity.  It makes room in my home, but also makes room in my heart.

After thinning the overwhelming flood of things I own, another way to prepare my heart for the Christmas season is to pull out a book that I have bought, but haven’t read and actually read it.  Maybe it is a CD of music for you, or a DVD movie you bought but haven’t watched.  Perhaps it is a massager that you haven’t used or another gift that you deemed important enough not to donate, but haven’t use it.  Get it out and use it.

Another way that my family prepares our hearts for Christmas is to buy gifts for Angel Tree kids, provide shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, donate money to the Christian Motorcycle group from Trinity Faith, give toys to Toys for Tots, or some other means of giving to others so that I am reminded that Christmas isn’t my birthday, it is Jesus’ birthday.

While none of these suggestions may work for you, do something to ensure that we don’t fall into the trap that Christmas is merely a holiday from work, it is a Holy Day to worship our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  I need to get ready for that even more than I would to see the president, queen of England, or some Hollywood star.  He is the Bright and Morning Star.  He does not have 15 minutes of fame.  He is eternally famous.  Let’s prepare to meet Him and meet with others about Him at Christmas time.

Battle of the Heavyweights
December 5, 2017, 1:52 pm
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When I was little, my Grandfather used to love to watch boxing.  We would sit in the living room and he would explain to us why this boxer or that boxer wasn’t as likely to win as the other one.  He would go into lengthy explanations about why one had the advantage and was a sure win.  Most of the time, he was right, but once in a while, a boxer would surprise him.

In Nahum 2:1-3:19, we see God speaking to the people of Israel and telling them that, although they were convinced that the strongest government on earth could not be defeated, they would be.  Although Assyria controlled the entire known world of their day, they would not stand forever.  God was trying to tell Israel to hold on to their faith in Him and He would stand triumphant.  They had to decide if they would be on His side of if they would continue to rebel and trust in their earthly masters.

This choice is the same choice that faced the Jews in the days when the announcement came that John the Baptist would be born.  They were under the tyranny of the Romans and wanted out badly.  The temple worship had been reduced to mere religious exercise and they were badly in need of a national reform and revival, but they thought that their situation was controlled by their captors.  They considered Rome stronger than any force on earth.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

The people thought they needed someone to throw out the Romans before they could worship God.  What they needed more than anything was for them to turn to and trust in God and stay right there and wait on Him to move.  He was moving anyway, but they needed to focus on Him to find that out.  They needed to see the power of God for what it is…invincible!

This is the same choice you and I have every day.  Do we believe God is all-powerful, or do we need to take things into our own hands?  Do we believe God is all-knowing or do we need to help Him out?  Do we believe God loves us or do we need to earn it?  From this passage, we should see that God is sufficient for all of our needs.  No matter how big the problem, mountain or situation, God is bigger.  If we will trust Him, we will be victorious in the end.

Are We Fighting the Right Wars?
December 5, 2017, 1:49 pm
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I am sure that the title of this article will resonate differently with different people.  Just this last week, we remembered our Veterans on Veteran’s Day.  For many of those Veterans, especially the Vietnam Era Veterans, this is a question that stirs up feelings of betrayal and abandonment as our nation and its citizens failed this group by refusing to recognize their sacrifice and service because of a select group of people that characterized them poorly.  For others, they are tempted to say we should not be fighting in any of the conflicts we now face. That is not the way I posed the question, but it is probably a good example of how we are failing.  Allow me to explain.

In 1 Timothy 6:11-16, Paul wrote the following words to Timothy:

“But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.”[1]

In this passage, Paul says that Timothy is to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.  That is the fight we should be fighting.  As believers, that is the focus of living out the salvation we have been given.  Sadly, many have turned their backs on fighting for these things.  Since they are not fighting the war we have been called to fight, they turn and focus on many other things.  We criticize the Baptists because they don’t dance, the Pentecostals because they dance in church, the Lutherans because they are so predictable, the Charismatics because they don’t plan anything, the Hispanics because they are always late, or the Anglos because they are so caught up on time.  We find any number of things to fight about because we are not fighting the war we have been saved to fight.

We even carry this outside the Church, where we turn to the ballot box to try to accomplish what we are not willing to carry out ourselves.  We blame the government for handling the care of seniors so poorly when we were called to that task.  We blame the government for messing up everything from public education to healthcare to the definition of life.  The government was never given this war to fight, but, since we chose not to fight it, government took it over and then we are shocked that government handles it differently than we would.

Perhaps, on this week when we have spent some time thanking and thinking about the Veterans, and as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving,  it is time for us to get serious about living for God with all of our hearts, setting that example for others, sharing Jesus with our neighbors, and stop sitting in front of our various screens typing and talking about how things should be different and actually help to make them different.

It won’t be easy, but war never is.

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.

Does Sin Make You Run to God or Away from God?

If you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, you might think that this is a strange question.  If you are a follower of Jesus, you might think it is strange as well.  Let me restate the question.  When you sin, are you quick to run to God or do you avoid Him and His people hoping the feelings of guilt will subside?  Do you repent or run away?  Do you confess or confuse?  Maybe an example will help.

In Genesis 3, we get the story of how sin entered the human race.  Adam was created innocent and placed in a lush and wonderful garden where food grew easily with minimal work and effort.  He was given an instruction that he could eat from any tree of the Garden of Eden with one exception.  He was not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  He was warned that if he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would die.  Later, God created woman out of the rib of man.  The rules were the same for her.

One day, Eve was in the Garden and Adam was with her.  The serpent came along and tempted her by questioning God’s truthfulness, care and concern for the first family.  Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and then gave the fruit to her husband who was with her.  They both were instantly ashamed of their nakedness and their sin.

Later in the day, God came walking in the Garden of Eden to walk with Adam and Eve like He had done so many other times.  Where were Adam and Eve?  They were hiding in the bushes.  When God called out to them, they would not come out because they were naked, and they were ashamed.  From the bushes, Adam told God it was not his fault.  He blamed it on God for creating the woman and giving her to him.  The woman blamed God for making the serpent and the serpent deceiving her.  The serpent was the only one who did not try to defend himself.

Now, here is my point.  When Adam and the woman realized their sin (the woman was not named Eve until later), they hid from God.  They were ashamed and hid from God.  What did God do?  He walked in the Garden like He had always done.  He called out to Adam like He had always done.  He engaged Adam like He had always done.  What did Adam and the woman do?  They attempted to remain hidden from God in the bushes while excusing away their sin.

God did not take away the consequences of their sin, but He did engage them to lead them to repentance, but He did not remove the consequences.

Now, how could this have gone differently?  They could have sought out God to apologize and beg for mercy.  They did not.  They could have approached God and admitted their sin and asked God to help them not to repeat the process in the future.  They did not.  They could have come to God and cast themselves at His feet weeping for their sin.  They did not.  Instead, they hid.  They attempted to avoid God.   They thought they could dodge God’s presence.

Now, back to the question that I asked earlier.  Does sin make you run to God or away from God?  In 1 John 2, we are told that followers of Jesus Christ have an advocate with the Father in Jesus Christ.  When we sin, even though we do not want to sin, Jesus Himself stands before the Father and defends us.  He then invites us to come to Him to confess our sins and restore our fellowship with Him so that we do not have to hide in the bushes.  The enemy attempts to convince us God will never forgive us and that we are beyond His reach.  God tells us that the sin is already paid for in full by the blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross.  We have not lost our relationship, but have damaged our fellowship.  God’s desire is that we come to Him and trust Him to continue to love us and forgive us.  He wants us to run to Him.  We think we have to run away.

Does sin make you run to God or away from Him?  Good question.  Important answer.  For today.

Use It Or Lose It
November 6, 2017, 12:57 pm
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I went to the doctor recently for a problem with my elbow.  It seems that my elbow has gotten sorer over the past several years.  While it really did not limit me much at first, it has gotten progressively more irritating.  It is now to the point that I cannot straighten out the elbow to its full extension.  The doctor I saw told me that I will never get the mobility back because my body has adjusted to the lack of extension and has made adjustments that now prevent it from being used as it was fully intended.

As I reflected on this, I thought about how this is analogous of many other parts of life as well.  When we are dating, we communicate ad nauseam with our intended.  We talk about anything and everything just to be together, learn about each other and because we enjoy the sound of each other’s voices.  If we are not careful, over time, we stop communicating at this level and, twenty years later, we find ourselves in need of counseling because we just can’t communicate anymore.  We didn’t use it, so we lost it.

Sharing our faith also works this way.  Chances are, when you first became a believer, you were so excited about your new life in Christ that you wanted to tell everyone you came in contact with.  Over time, you began to become worried about offending people, what they would think of you, etc.  Now, you cannot remember the last time you shared your faith and to even think about doing so causes your adrenaline to flowing because you are afraid.  You didn’t use it, so you lost it.

This can also be the case when it comes to attending church.  As a kid, you went all the time because you were drug to church.  You went a little bit right out of high school, but then you fell away.  Now, you sometimes think about attending church, but can’t get out of bed to do so.  You didn’t use it, so you lost it.

The list could go on and on.  You used to exercise, but now huff and puff up the stairs.  You used to lift weights, but now a push up with be a challenge.  You used to watch your weight, now you watch your waist.  You used to read regularly, now you don’t have time because you have the tv, internet, computer and sleep to take up the time.  You didn’t use it, so you lost it.

Unlike my elbow, everything listed above is recoverable.  How do you recover that which you have lost?  First, you ask God to help you find it.  Second, you begin to do it again.  At first, it will seem awkward and maybe even make a little uncomfortable or sore, but you need to push through the discomfort and continue.  Lastly, you have to make it a regular part of your life again and make sure that it remains the priority you want it to be.  Who knows, maybe I will get to use my elbow, I can communicate with my wife better, I will be more consistent with sharing my faith, and I might lose some weight and keep it off.

What did you used to have, but lost it due to non-use?  What will you do about it?

“I Wish God Would Show Up Like He Used To”
October 27, 2017, 10:36 am
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I cannot tell you how many times I have heard or even said this, “I wish God would show up like He used to.”  Recently, I have been reading a book by J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Maturity.  In the book, Sanders takes on this very question and comes to a little different conclusion.  As a matter of fact, he counters with the question, “Are you REALLY sure you want that?”  Consider the following examples:

Job saw a vision of God.  His character was blameless in his own mind.  He even said, “I am clean without transgression, I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me.”  (Job 33:9)  God even affirmed this in 1:8 when he asked Satan if he had seen Job, His faithful servant.  How did Job react to the vision of God?  “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now thine eye seeth Thee.  Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”  (Job 42:5-6)

Jacob saw a vision of God.  He wrestled with God.  When God asked him his name, Jacob responded with his name as defining his character.  “Confronted by the vision of God, the man who had succeeded in deceiving others was compelled to acknowledge his own secret shame.”

Moses was another man who saw a vision of God.  He had attempted to deliver Israel from Egyptian abuse by his own power, but had to run away.  He lived passively in Midian watching sheep until one day when he came upon the burning busy.  How did Moses, the mighty man of God, respond?  “And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.”  (Exodus 3:6)

Elijah saw a vision of God.  Elijah, the prophet who faced off against 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel and experienced God in a dramatic fashion.  Elijah, who prayed and the heavens were shut up and who prayed and they were let loose.  The one who experienced the great, strong wind that tore the mountains apart, the one who saw the earthquake that shook the ground, the one who felt the heat of the fire, how did He respond?  When God showed up in the still small voice, “when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle.”  (1 Kings 19:13)  He could not look at God.

Isaiah saw a vision of God.  The one who would tell of the coming Messiah saw a vision of God.  The one who would, inspired by the Holy Spirit, announce woes on all of the enemies of Israel, and on Israel herself, saw a vision of God.  How did he react?  He was undone!  He cried out to God using the same woe that he would use to denounce his enemies.  He saw himself as unclean compared to the holiness of God.  He fainted away from the presence of God.

Saul was blinded by the vision of the risen Christ.  John was terrified at the Son of God who showed up to give him the Revelation.  On and on the list could go.  When God showed up, people fainted, became like dead men, were made intensely aware of their sin, ran away, were blinded, hid themselves, averted their eyes, averted their faces, and cried out in panic.  And we say we want God to show up like He used to?

Perhaps, rather than look for a vision of God, we ought to look into the Word of God.  The average American owns three Bibles, but less than 10 percent of Bibles purchased in the United States actually ever get read.  Churches offer Bible studies at their churches and very few people avail themselves of the opportunity.  The average Christian does not witness to their neighbor because they do not feel like they know enough scripture, but also are not doing anything about it.  Entire denominations have set the Bible aside to follow tradition, what feels good, what won’t offend, or what is shiny in the moment.  Perhaps we need to spend more time with our face in God’s Book than on Facebook.  Perhaps we need to spend time reading of more characters in the Bible than trying to format our message in 140 characters on Twitter.  Maybe we need to pin our hopes on our relationship with Jesus than on the pictures we can post on Pintrest.  Maybe we need to spend more time chatting with Jesus than Snap Chatting with friends.  Maybe we need to link in with God’s Holy Spirit more than we are Linked In with our business associates.  Maybe we need to spend more time on knee mail than email.

We don’t so much need for God to show up as for us to show up for worship, daily devotion, sacrificial giving, selfless serving and enthusiastic evangelism.  Just a thought.