Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Prayer

Patrick Morely offers the following prayer for our utterance.

Our dearest Father, we pause to humble ourselves and give you praise, glory, honor, and especially thanks. We acknowledge that you have given us one blessing after another. Even our troubles are the grace of God that keeps bringing us back to Jesus. We repent of all our sins. We turn to you, who alone can bind our wounds and heal our land. Thank you for our relationship with you, our families, our work, our health, our finances, and our service to others. Accept our deepest gratitude, O God. In Christ’s name. Amen.

And amen.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

African Jacob

Below are the thoughts of a missionary friend, Travis Jones. Travis & his wife, Charity, have served eight years in Tanzania. They will be returning to a new ministry in the States with their infant son, Zethan, next month.

Listen to Travis' heart. Consider what God is saying to your heart.

I feel, like Jacob, that I have wrestled with the Living God. I feel small. I feel loved. I pray that I am worthy of the call. His grace and love have been poured over me like never-ending, crashing waves. And in the middle of all of this love and grace, I have continued to sin and rebel and repent. The sovereign creator God has loved me to the utmost. It is this love that compels me to relentlessly pursue Him. We will finish the race.
Africa has taught me many things. But one of the greatest lessons I have learned is to have no sympathy for the person who believes that God is hard or conversely takes great delight in our comfort. God is more tender, more generous, more loving than we can even begin to fathom. I did not pursue God; He pursued me. I did not love Him first; He loved me first. And I have seen both men and women in the deepest grasp of poverty and pain come to the Cross and bend the knee. I have seen both men and women give up family, friends and all they have in order to follow Jesus. I have seen families try to kill and burn family members who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. No our God is neither hard nor overly concerned with our comfort. And anyone who would attempt to persuade you otherwise is in error.

Earth's crammed with heaven;
And every common bush aflame with God.
But only those who see take off their shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries!
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Poor Ostriches

Change is the new national buzzword. Some want change they can believe in while others may not believe the changes that have taken place. Churchfolk sometimes treat change within the church like it’s the four-letter-word that they don’t want the other churchfolk to know they holler when they smash a thumb. As a provoker of change toward Christ I’d grown fond of saying, “Change is not a four-letter-word,” until a dear Deacon Brother panned, “Preacher, it’s got six letters & that’s worse.”

Better or worse it’s part of life. It’s natural & expected. Who wants to be stuck in second grade forever or eat even the cheesiest of macaroni & cheeses for every meal? My second grader wouldn’t abide either of those options, would you?

Churches are poor ostriches however. We try to hide, deny, & avoid change while we should be expecting it as long as we’re still kicking. Lack of change equals death, right?

Challenging responses to change include: hand-wringing; past-preoccupation; denial; blaming; dividing; rationalizing; talking about others; checking out for self.

Christ-like responses to change include: anticipating change; prayer; Bible study; resisting sin; more prayer; talking to others; uniting; even more prayer; checking in to serve.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Godly Man

UPS came today. My monthly only a preacher would get so excited biblical commentary delivery. Ran to my office. Like a kid. Got scissors. Slit the packaging. Slid out the commentary. Shiny. Stiff.

Which one? They don't tell a guy what's coming. It's a sort of preacher surprise program. Not like the unexpected deacon with a long face and something on his mind surprise. This is a good surprise.

1 & 2 Timothy & Titus. The Pastoral Epistles. Written by Thomas D. Lea & Hayne P. Griffen, Jr. I held it. Tears welling. Throat lumping.

Dr. Lea. Tommy, as others but oh not me out of respect, call him is the father of one my best friends, Cliff. In his home. In his seminary classroom. Through Cliff. I learned so much more than a commentary might contain.

How to walk, really walk, with the Lord daily. Gentleness of steadfast strength. Scholarly discipline that could communicate with the simplest. Husband enamored & expressive. Daddy proud & forthright. Kind, easy humor. Captivating demeanor. Humility in authority. Grace of bearing. Perseverance through terrible trials. Dignity no matter the circumstance. Love so deep everyone knew it was supernatural. Bright outlook of unwavering faith in our loving God. Legacy solid.

Dr. Lea is with the Lord now.

Dr. Lea is still teaching however.

Here I sit. Pastor in an office. His book before me. Throat still lumpy. Eyes still watery.

Dr. Thomas D. Lea. A godly man.

I am thankful.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Good Hair

Few weeks ago... Mama out for hours. Mary Elizabeth wanted a pony tail. Big one. In the back. Yet proper preschool hairstyling is not in the Daddy Manual & Daddy seems to have missed Mama's ponytail lessons. What's a Daddy to do?

Grab ponytail holder. Pull back hair. Gently. Make a loop. Gently. And another. Gently. And a third. But can't. Quite. Get. Long. Auburn. Hair. Through. Third. Time.

Big brown eyes look knowingly at Daddy. He's struggling. She's sympathetic. What's a Daddy to do?

Daddy idea. Long hair. Not ponytailed. But pulled up. Don't know what to call it, but this Daddy gambles and as prestigiously as proud Papa possible pronounces, "Mary Elizabeth, you look like Sarah Palin."

Moment of truth. Big brown eyes look into the mirror. Head turns left. Looking. Then right. Satisfied smile spreads across preschool cheeks. Relieved smile spreads across Daddy cheeks.

Forward to last night... Prayer time. Daddy mentions elections. Tongue tip response of Mary Elizabeth, "I wanna vote for the Girl President with good hair. The one who Daddy made my hair look like."

If only good hair or a good personality made a good person or a good politician. A good politician is an oxymoron good for who? A good person is a reality good through Jesus. Heaven help our nation on this day of decision.