I Don’t Like Reading the Bible

As a pastor of a Baptist church, you might be thinking that I should not be writing this blog for the world to see. My job could be at risk.

However, I would like to explain. My wife Linda reads through the Bible every year. Every Year! She has a reading plan that she enjoys and puts it to use every year.

Only once in my life, was I successful in reading through the Bible. From Genesis through Revelation.

I just don’t like reading through the Bible. I cannot get comfortable with simply “reading” the text.

However, and this is a big however, I love studying the Bible. I love to dig into the passages and find the gems right below the surface. I enjoy “working” through a passage so that I can “rightly divide the Word of God.”

I have a habit of studying the Bible about three to four hours each day. For a thirty minute sermon, it takes me about four solid hours of study, writing, editing, putting together a PowerPoint, and refreshing my memory thirty minutes before I preach a sermon. I live for studying the Bible.

There you have it. I do not like “reading” the Bible. But I thouroughly enjoy studying the Word of God. The apostle Paul’s words to his protege Timothy keep me grounded and on target.

2 Timothy 2:14 (KJV) Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.
15 Study to
shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

How about you? Do you enjoy reading the Bible? Do you enjoy studying the Bible? Let me know.

For those of you that have reading plans that you have really enjoyed, put them in the comments.

The Wife of a Pastor

The pastor’s wife normally is seen in the background of most churches. These dedicated women of God have been thrust into a lifestyle and conditions not of their own choosing. And yet, behind every good pastor, is a good pastor’s wife.

I personally believe that I have been given by God, the best wife. Not only is she loving and caring for me, her children and grandchildren, but she cares for a different family, not of blood, but of the spirit. The church in which her husband serves.

My wife Linda, is loving, compassionate, dedicated, and led by the Holy Spirit woman. I am so amazed by her attentiveness, commitment, and swaying devotion to the church family.

I want to tell you about an incident that happened this last Sunday. I was preaching in the place of another pastor, at a church that we’d only visited two times before, and it was Father’s Day. I preached a Father’s Day message out of the Christmas story. The point of the message was that God not only choose Mary to be the mother of Jesus, but he chose Joseph to be the father, the earthly father of Jesus. It would be his task to teach the Son of God him how to be a man. Teach him the Jewish lifestyle and the law. Joseph would teach Jesus the tradecraft of being a carpenter.

Towards the end of the service, I asked all the fathers to approach the altar. I had them spread across the front of the church and then I asked the family members to join them. Those fathers had their family members join them at the altar, except for two, I noticed. They were older, and were standing there all by themselves. I remembered thinking that it was a shame that they would be standing alone during this portion of the service, however, I turned my attention to the remaining fathers. I asked the family members to love on their fathers and pray for them at the altar and that I would give them time for them to accomplish this. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed my wife get up out of her chair, moving to stand between the two men who had no family to stand with them. She spoke softly to each one of them and then reached out and took her hands into hers. She pulled them in close and prayed for each one of them just as any other family member would do. As each of the families completed their time of prayer, they went back to their seats, and Linda, stood on her tiptoes and kissed each of these fathers on the cheek and then she returned to her seat.

I have to tell you, I was in awe and very proud of my wife. Such a simple and honest gesture allowed these two men to join in in this part of the dedication service.

After the ceremony was over as I left the podium and went to be with Linda, I saw a woman move over to speak to her. I overheard part of the conversation. She said, “You sure are a good pastor’s wife. I saw those two men standing there but I didn’t think to get up out of my seat and go participate in the service with them. But you did!” With a smile on her face Linda just shrugged off the complement and turn to get her things.

smiled, with the pride and love for this pastor’s wife. My wife. Linda.

Life Was Simpler Then

As I grew up in the outskirts of Denver Colorado, life was simpler than it is today. Growing up in the 1950’s—60’s the world seemed so far away from Greewood Boulevard.

When I was in grade school (they call it elementary school today) my greatest joy was getting home and riding my bike. My bike could take me places faster than I could ever walk or run. My bike gave me a certain amount of freedom. Of course that freedom came with a cost. I had a whole list of “do’s and don’t’s” pilled on…but it was freedom and I got to make the decisions on which streets I would ride on going to Brancaccio’s lake to fish or the drain ditch to catch crawdad’s. I could ride it all the way to the 7-11 for a soda or to the makeshift diamond to play a game of hard ball.

The neighborhoods were safe. I could go all day away from the house without my mom being worried. We did not have cell phones. If I wanted to tell my mom I was running late, I would simply stop in at a neighbor’s house and ask them to call mom for me.

The evening meal, we called it dinner, was not to be missed. Mom would cook a great meal and the whole family would sit down together and talk. That was the information hub for my brother Jack and me. You see the internet was not created yet. We communicated with each other with our voice. When I wanted to tell Tonda, my girlfriend in the sixth grade because she always won at teatherball, that I liked her, I would walk up to her and talk.

At night, once the dishes were washed by my brother and I, we would lay down in the floor and watch one of three channels on the television. We had a 25” black and white TV and the whole family would watch “What’s My Line”, “Gunsmoke”, “Perry Mason” or “I Love Lucy.”

I don’t miss a lot from those early years, but, yes, I believe life was simpler then.

My mom, Geneva, holding Jackie and me in my shorts.
My mom, Geneva, holding Jackie and me in my shorts.

Arky, Arky

In the mid 1980’s we were going to a church in Arlington, Texas. Linda and I ministered to Young Adult Singles (YAS). It was a time of spiritual growth for us and we had a ball, watching God build a wonderful YAS class. These were such a diverse group of singles; every one of them was looking for something. Something that they could hang onto. Many were looking for their future husband or wife. Others were looking for a place to serve the Lord as they attended college a long way from home. Still others were just looking for a place where they could belong and feel safe. Some of you reading this enewsletter were members of that class and I have such great memories of each of you.

I also worked with the children’s church for a while during this time. I would act silly and teach the children wonderful stories out of the Bible as well as songs that contained a message and a catchy tune so it would be easy for the kids to remember. “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he.” And, “God said to Noah, go build me an arky, arky.” Those were such good times and I enjoyed teaching stories and songs for these kids to take out into the world with them.

However, one of the most important things we did was to teach Bible memorization to the children. Every week we would teach them a different verse that would help them in their lives as they were dropped off the church buses to their homes. For some of these kids, the church time was the only way they would ever hear the wonderful words of Jesus.

One of the verses that brings a smile to my face is 1 Peter 5:8. We taught them the verse, but it was not just the words as much as it was the actions that went along with the verse. Imagine if you will how you would act out this verse.

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant (hand over the eyes like you are looking for something shading your eyes because of the sun); because your adversary the devil,(make an angry, snarling face and taking your index fingers of both hands forming horns) here as a roaring lion, (growl as loud as you can) walketh (walk around the room at this point) about, seeking whom he may devour:(yell the word devour and act like a lion pouncing on it’s prey),

When I think of this verse, I remember my daughter Michelle. She would get so animated and so angry at the devil. She would snarl her mouth and show great disdain. At that point in her life she would view any temptation or trial in exactly the same way. She would just tell others that she would not do that, or that it is not right.

What happens to us a Christians when the world, Satan or his imps try to get us to disobey the Word of God? Do we just laugh at the joke, join into the wrong conversations, or get into situations that will drive us further from our close walk with GOD? Are we sober and vigilant knowing that Satan wants to devour us at every turn? Don’t we just need to get back to our time of innocence when we would simply stomp our foot and just shout NO, “Get thee behind me Satan?”

A “Do Over”

There is something exhilarating about beginning something new. A new school. A new job. A new career or a new relationship, they all have the same effect…it’s a “Do Over.”

When I was in high school, I took an art class and one of the projects was working with clay. Once you got over the messy and grittiness of the clay, it was quite enjoyable to make a vase, cup, or sculpture. The difference in working with clay as compared to woodworking, was that if you messed up, you could simply wad up the clay and start over. My art teacher called it a “do over.” I must admit that I was much better as a “do over” than an artist.

I think our lives are a lot like working in this medium. We begin by working with our very own lump of clay and it is up to us what we make of it. During my lifetime, I have experienced three major “do overs.” After my retirement from the Coast Guard, I took a job paying $5 an hour to learn the trade of a computer technician. I later sold my computer business and started another job paying $8 an hour to learn the call center business. And last, I followed the call of full time ministry. With each opportunity, I was given a fresh lump of clay. It was up to me how I worked that lump into a new life.

I have messed up many times in my life. I think we could all say that we wish we could undo a decision or take back some words spoken. Wouldn’t it be great if there was an undo button in our lives where we could just undo an event or a time where we got into trouble?

I have had missed opportunities where I wished I could have a “do over.”

Rarely do we get the opportunity to start over. Starting over would mean turning our backs on past mistakes and look forward with hope that this time around, things would be different and better.

I have found very few people that are absolutely happy with their lives. They wouldn’t think of making any changes and I admire them. However on the flip side, I find the majority of people wish that they had done things differently and generally would like to start over.

I feel like many of us see the advantage of a “do over” or two. We want to see what the future holds with the hope for something better.

Today I want us to focus on the most important “do over” given to man. Open your bible and turn to 2 Corinthians 5:14-17.

2 Corinthians 5:14-21 For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: 15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. 16 Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. 17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

“Is it nice out?”

English: Logo of Alzheimer's Society.
Image via Wikipedia

“Is it nice out?” is a question that my mother asks me many times when I visit her.  She lives in a Seniors Assisted Living community as she has developed Moderate Alzheimer’s.  She is a happy 85-year-old woman who has filled her life with love for her family.  But she cannot live by herself any longer.  She is mobile, she gets into her routines of when to go to the cafeteria and the many activities they have, but she cannot take her meds without assistance.

At least twice a week I visit with her while my wife Linda goes through her apartment, looking for dirty clothes, gives her a shower, washes and sets her hair.  When the hair dryer isn’t blowing, mom will look out the window and say, “Is it nice out?”  She will comment that “the sky is so blue and there isn’t a cloud in the sky.”  I will tell her that the temperature is in the seventies and the wind is blowing.  Mom doesn’t like the wind to blow.  It is perfect weather in Texas for January.

As she sits in the chair while Linda is styling her hair, she will ask me, “Is it nice out?”  I have already answered this question several times since we have been here, but have learned to treat each question as it is the first time it has been asked.  “Yes mom, it is nice out.  Would you like to walk us out when you are done and you can see for yourself?”  She smiles and says she would enjoy that.

We go through this every time we visit.  But on one visit, it hit me.  Every time she asks me the question, it is like it is the first time she has noticed.  How many times do I just slow down my busy schedule and just take in God‘s wonder?  How many times going from one appointment to another do I look at the sky as if seeing it for the first time?  As a child I used to lay in the grass and look up at the sky and try to make out pictures in the clouds.  A cow, a dragon, a flower or just the beauty of the blue sky spotted with fluffy white clouds.  No I don’t do this anymore.  I am grownup now.

So my 85-year-old mother continues to teach her 62-year-old son and I love the experience.  Momma still causes me to wonder.

One day, my mother will go to be with her beloved husband where they will spend eternity together.  I can almost hear her ask my dad, “Is it always this nice here?”

Let Freedom Ring

Normandy Liberty Bell
Image by dbking via Flickr

On Monday we celebrated the 4th of July for the two hundred and thirty-fifth time.  This holiday is celebrated in towns and  cities all across America with parades, picnics, barbecues, fireworks and concerts.  It is on this date that the United States commemorates Independence Day.
It is a federal holiday, celebrating the writing of the Declaration of Independence, declaring our desire for independence from Great Britain signed on July 4, 1776.

John Quincy Adams is quoted as saying, “You will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you make good use of it.”

Have you ever taken your freedom for granted?  The greatest sacrifice is one laying down his life for another.  We should remember the importance of Independence Day as a struggling group of people were united into a nation as they declared their Independence from Great Britain.

Our freedom has been purchased by the blood that has been shed by the men and women who have defended our country, some paying the greatest price with their own lives.

Today’s military is manned by some of the most interesting people.  They love the US so much that they will leave it and go to foreign lands to defend it.  They revere freedom so much that they will give up their own freedoms and serve this nation in the military.  And finally they love peace so much that they will go to war in order to have peace.

As citizens of the United States of America, we have a responsibility to be thankful to those who have served our great Nation.

However, we will never truly have freedom until we accept Jesus into our lives.  Jesus declares freedom for mankind in the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John.  “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:31-32, 36.  Little did those within hearing distance of Jesus realize that their freedom would cost Jesus His life.

The Apostle Paul wrote to his protégé Timothy and explained what Jesus did for mankind; “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all…” (1 Timothy 2:5-6)

Just as the military man will lay down his life for the defense of freedom for our nation, about two thousand years ago, Jesus was the ultimate example when he willingly gave up his life for mankind.

As you remember and celebrate Independence Day, remember those who gave so that this nation is still free today.  Also be thankful to God for sending His Son as a “ransom for all.”