Thursday, December 31, 2020
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
One of the things that I missed most during the pandemic is worshiping side by side with my friends at church. Thankfully, a few of us have had the chance to be together in a smaller group once a week for the last 12 weeks. We have been reading and discussing, J.I. Packer's Knowing God, and I have written about a couple of the chapters in this blog. The content has been inspiring, but I am mostly inspired by the others in my group. They read, prepare and share every week, making each meeting meaningful. But the greatest blessing is knowing that each of us spent some energy that week desiring and working to know God more. I know that He is pleased by that. Thank you Jamie, Julie, Ron, Karen, Mike, Kim, Pam and Caroline. Merry Christmas.
Friday, December 18, 2020
Friday, December 11, 2020
One of the more puzzling traits of God is that He is a jealous guy. Jealousy in today's world is almost always considered a sin, so how can a sinless God also be a jealous God? We think of jealousy as an unwarranted desire for something that isn't ours. Envy is another word describing that feeling. Well, it turns out jealousy hasn't always been used that way. "Jealousy" came from the Greek word "zeal" which meant "to seek, request, desire" and biblically, "tolerating no unfaithfulness". One author described it like this. If you are at a party, and you see someone flirting with your spouse, that feeling of jealousy is like righteous jealousy because you are the only one that has the right to flirt with your spouse. That resembles God's jealousy for us. When He sees us flirting with the world, and not giving Him the attention He deserves, He is jealous, as He is the only one deserving of our attention. I want to do a better job of finding ways to give Him what He deserves.
Friday, December 4, 2020
Our small group from church has been reading and discussing J.I. Packer's "Knowing God". The last few chapters have been dealing with God's judgment and wrath. Many churches these days don't like to talk much about that - many Christians don't either. But, the Bible does, so it makes me want to sit up and pay attention. God created the world and the rules for how it works best. For those that believe this, and don't follow the rules, it makes God angry and his wrath will follow. We don't know exactly what form that will take, but what we do know is that our sin separates us from Him. I think that feels like Hell. Thank God that He allowed his Son to die on the cross as payment for all the times I mess up. Thank God that He loves me despite my sin. Thank God that he forgives me when I ask.
Monday, November 23, 2020
I wish I could come up with a clever spin on Thanksgiving, but nothing is coming to me. Let me just say that I have so many things to be thankful for, and I am quite sure I take most of them for granted most of the time. Here's what I got: The opportunity to work at something I love with my son, Michael, and Janet. Relatively good health. Close friends to share life with. My mom and brothers close by. Kids that are close by and grounded. Six grandkids that are pure joy (and energy). My precious wife, Caroline. A church with people we love and that loves others. A Savior that died for me. I hope your list is long, too. But if it isn't, I pray that 2021 brings you new hope and new life. Happy Thanksgiving.
Friday, November 20, 2020
Friday, November 13, 2020
I watched our country, my friends and my family struggle with the decision over who to elect as president. I struggled myself, but not publicly. I can't imagine the pressure that will be on Joe Biden as he takes office. The problems are enormously complex, and there won't be any easy solutions. Complicated solutions will cost a lot of money, and I understand I will be paying my share of that. I am encouraged that Biden is claiming to depend on his faith and on the Bible. I hope that is true and becomes more true over time. He referenced Eclesiastes: 3, 1-3 in one of his speeches. " For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up." I am praying hard for that building up part.
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
I was shocked and saddened this week when I learned that the sister of one of my best friends was killed in an automobile accident this week. My friend was devastated, but I treasure the few minutes we had to speak by phone. I could think of nothing to say that would help. His love for her is unbridled, and he misses her deeply already. I just listened. In the midst of unspeakable sadness, it is only God that gives us strength because of the promise of being reunited one day. One of my friend's pastors recorded this message, no doubt with my friend in mind.
Friday, October 30, 2020
I was fortunate to be able to take a few days away from work this week to visit some of my relatives in North Carolina this week. Caroline is my wife, and her brother has some serious health problems that have put him in and out of the hospital. He is currently living on his own, but some basic life tasks are difficult. It was great to be able to spend time with him and address some of the things that have been slowing him down. But the best part of my visit was getting to see Caroline in action. She is one of the most nurturing people I have ever known and is amazing at finding a balance between providing for her brother and loving him with strength and grace. I got to see Jesus working through her this week, so I feel like I know Him a little better now.
Friday, October 23, 2020
If you are an NFL fan, and especially if you are a Colts fan, you know about DeForest Buckner, or "Defo". Buckner was traded offseason this year to the Colts from the 49er's in exchange for a first round draft pick. (Buckner 49er's highlights here.) While he was initially disappointed with the trade, he tweeted yesterday, "Coming here, they went beyond my expectations. This is where I'm supposed to be." In addition to the excitement of being the NFL's highest paid defensive lineman, and a win over the Bengals on Sunday, Buckner had something else to celebrate. He committed his life to Christ and was baptized. Defo gives a lot of credit for his decision to follow Christ to the 49er's chaplain, Earl Smith. Earl has his own great story. After being shot 6 times in a drug raid in 1975, Earl committed his life to Christ and to a 25 year prison ministry that led him to the opportunity to be the chaplain for the 49er's and the Golden State Warriors. I love to see God working in His people, and with so many celebrities/athletes seemingly having no interest in God, I love it when He finds a way to break through to one of them. Praise God.
Friday, October 16, 2020
Josh grew up in a small town in North Georgia. He was relatively athletic, but was more into tennis and wakeboarding than team sports. His dad, William, also grew up in North Georgia. William had a job working at one of the carpet manufacturers, but his real passion was fishing, and he developed a knack for making his own lures. His friends that he fished with saw his fishing success and hoped that the lures might have something to do with it. William started making lures for his friends in his garage, and after several years, was selling them on eBay. The lures became very popular, and a friend of Williams approached him about turning William's hobby into a business. With money from the friend, and William's lures and reputation, the "lure" business grew into a successful company selling several lines of products for the outdoorsman.
At first Josh wasn't that interested in his dad's business - except for the fact that his company's success did allow the family to own an above average wakeboard boat. Josh took full advantage hosting his high school buddies for hours of fun at the lake.
But as Josh begun considering colleges, he recognized that his dad's company might offer him a place to land when he graduated. He elected to go to a technical school to study process improvement and advanced manufacturing techniques. He had seen how time intensive it was for his dad to make his lures and knew that the cost to produce them could be less with a better process. He studied hard and made good grades. On the weekends, when his dad was out fishing with friends, he would spend hours in his dad's workshop exploring what materials his dad had used to make the lures and pouring over pencil sketches of lures stored in one of the drawers in his shop.
In one of his final classes in college, Josh had to redesign a manufacturing process for an existing product. Without direct help from his dad, Josh used everything he had learned from his dad's shop and in college to redesign the manufacturing process for a new fishing lure. Josh hoped that his commitment to the project would help secure a place for him in his dad's business.
After graduating college with honors, Josh got with his dad to present the new lure manufacturing process. His dad listened intently and was pleased with his son's work. Then Josh asked his dad if he could be the Director of Manufacturing for the lure side of the business, promising to reduce production costs by 20% within the first year. William looked at his son, but didn't respond. A growing feeling of rejection started welling up in Josh's stomach. It was so strong that he thought he was going to puke. He didn't know whether to bust out crying or scream in rage. "All of that work. All of that time. Wasted. All for nothing.", he thought. Finally after what seemed like hours to Josh, but was probably only a few seconds, his dad said, "Josh, I love you so much. I will help you find a good entry level position in the right company - whether it's my company or another company." Josh couldn't believe it. "How could you do this to me, your own son, after all I have done?" His dad replied carefully, "I just wanted you to come fishing with me."
(Disclaimer: While this parable is mine, the idea was completely inspired by J. I. Packer's Knowing God.)
Friday, October 9, 2020
I have a good friend whose son committed suicide several years ago. I posted then about the helplessness I felt and the unimaginable pain and loss of his family. That pain is complicated by the feeling of wondering if there was anything we could have done to prevent it. I have a good friend whose nephew is struggling now. He doesn't know God and has mentioned killing himself on multiple occasions. We don't know if this is a plea for attention or something he is actually considering. He has lost respect for his family, and his friends support his "I am only living for me attitude". What do we do? We have a chance to do something. We can love him and pray for him. We can also pray that someone in his life that he respects, or someone from his past who knows God, can show him that there is a lot to live for when we recognize that we are children of God. I found this song about the hope that God can make out of his broken vessels. Please join me in praying for Justin.
Friday, October 2, 2020
I learned a new word today - polemic. A polemic is a strongly written or verbal attack on someone and comes from the Greek word, polemikos. Apparently, polemical debate has been going on for multiple millennia and continues vividly today. Jesus was frequently the subject of polemics, but he almost always chose a different response in his debates. His most famous debate was with the most powerful opponent the world has ever known, Satan himself. The story told in Matthew 4, 1-11 first tells of the devil tempting Jesus to perform a miracle turning stones to bread, as Jesus had been fasting for 40 days. Jesus responded, "Man should not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the Word of God". Satan then tempted Jesus to save himself after jumping from a cliff. Jesus responded, "It is written, 'do not put the Lord your God to the Test'". Then Satan offered Jesus the whole world if Jesus would bow down and worship him and Jesus responded, "Away from me Satan for it is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'" In the face of polemics, I pray that I might have more of what Jesus has, so that I can respond like he would.
Thursday, September 24, 2020
We had some spirited discussion in our ConnectGroup from church this week over the topic: "God is unchangeable". We all agreed that his character, his purpose and his will are unchangeable, but one of the sections in J.I. Packer's book, "Knowing God", talks about his "ways" being unchangeable. When we look at the Old Testament, we see some practices, seemingly condoned by God, that aren't accepted at all today - animal sacrifice, slavery and polygamy to name a few. My pastors helped me understand that in the Old Testament, we see people reaching up to God trying to do anything and everything possible to get his attention and get closer to him. In the New Testament, we see God coming down to us and showing himself to us through the person of Jesus. This was God's plan forever, so his plan didn't change. It is playing out in each one of our lives day by day.
Thursday, September 17, 2020
Our ConnectGroup from church met for the first time this week. We are studying J. I. Packer's book, "Knowing God". Most of the reviews I saw about the book were very positive, but there are a few recent reviews that said the book was old-fashioned and out of touch with today's world. It was written in 1973, so almost five decades have passed since it was released. In trying to learn a little more about Packer, I found that he was born in England and finished his career and life in Canada. He was influenced by writer's including Charles Ryle, Jonathan Edwards, John Owen and John Calvin. I was only familiar with John Calvin. These men were born in 1800, 1703, 1616 and 1509 respectively. If Packer can go back 50 decades to study the truth, I think we can go back 5. In Packer's own words, "I would rather be old-fashioned and clear than modern and muddled." I can't wait to get some clarity.
Friday, September 11, 2020
Friday, September 4, 2020
Friday, August 28, 2020
Friday, August 21, 2020
Jeff Shinabarger is an author, speaker and social entrepreneur that lives in Atlanta with his wife, Andre' and their two children. I came across his TedX talk from several years ago when I was doing some research on generosity. Jeff does a good job talking about how in order for one person to give, there has to be someone to receive. Many have gotten better about giving, but how good are we at receiving? By looking for ways to receive, we acknowledge that we don't have it all together, creating humility in ourselves. At the same time, we are becoming an outlet for someone else's generosity. Take 10 minutes to listen to Jeff's talk and think about ways that you can receive generously.
Friday, August 14, 2020
Friday, August 7, 2020
King Darius needed some help managing his kingdom. He appointed three administrators to assist him. One of those administrators, Daniel, showed a lot of promise. So much promise, that King Darius wanted to set Daniel over the whole kingdom. The other administrators were envious and worked to find some dirt on Daniel that would subvert the king's plans. Finding none, they suggested that the king issue a decree that anyone who prayed to a god or person other than the king would be thrown into the lion's den. Hearing this, Daniel went to his room and prayed to the God of Israel, as he had always done before. When he was found out, the king announced that per the decree, Daniel would be thrown into the lion's den, but he told Daniel, "may the God that you serve continually rescue you." The next morning the king ran to the den to see if Daniel was alright. Daniel emerged unharmed. The men who had falsely accused Daniel were thrown into the lion's den with their families, and all were slaughtered. The king then issued a new decree: "May you prosper greatly. You must fear and have reverence for the God of Daniel, for he is the living God and endures forever."
Keep the faith.