Archive for March, 2010

31
Mar
10

Happy Birthday Squeek!

I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. -1 Samuel 1:27 (NIV)

Nineteen years ago at about this hour, I was anxiously and nervously pacing,  awaiting the arrival of the beautiful young woman in the picture above.  Sarrah Caroline Williams was born 8:28 AM March 31, 1991, which was Easter Sunday.  I remember the attending nurse commenting on her “lovely Easter shade of lavender.”  Well, I thought she was the most exquisitely beautiful thing I had ever seen, and needless to say I still think so.

Thank You Lord, for giving my daughter such grace, such beauty (inside and out), for giving her such a keen mind, and for making her into an absolutely amazing young woman.

Sarrah….Squeek (I know she’s mortified that I shared my special nickname for her)….your Daddy loves you.  If there is a father more proud of his child, I’d like to be introduced to him, because he truly is a blessed man.  I know I am!  Happy Birthday my precious one.

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30
Mar
10

Interview With a Vampire Novelist

The incredible story of Anne Rice who authored “Interview With a Vampire,” and the sequels which have come to be known as the “Vampire Chronicles.”  This is her accounting of how God delivered her from being a “Christ haunted aethiest,” and restored her faith in Christ.

28
Mar
10

Still Things to Learn

Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt.  He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism.  When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately. – Acts 18:24-26 (NLT)

Apollos must have been a pretty impressive person.  An eloquent preacher…a zealous believer…well educated with regard to Scriptures…a gifted teacher…a boldness in evangelism.  If he had lived in our modern day, he most likely would have been a well-known celebrity preacher.  We probably would have watched him on TV leading a mega-church.  He had charisma.  He had influence.  I’ll bet he was even strikingly handsome.  Apollos apparently had it goin’ on.  He sure got the attention of Aquila and Priscilla.  But, he obviously had a few things still to learn, so they took him aside to help him further develop his God given skills.

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  I’m glad that philosophy is not completely accurate.  There was a time in my life when people in church and religious circles told me that I “had it goin’ on.”  My problem was at that time that I began to believe them.  Unlike Apollos, I didn’t think there was anything anybody could show me or tell me.  My arrogance (pride) led to the destruction of my entire ministry and much of my life.

Thank God for allowing my experiences to bring me to humility and cleaning out the spiritual ear-wax so I could hear new things to learn about Him and His way.  Thank God for sending me lots of Priscillas and Aquilas.  Thank God for those in my life who “took [me] aside and explained the way of God even more accurately.”  

Who is it in your life who is willing to “take [you] aside?”  Is there anything left that you need to learn about God “even more accurately?”  Maybe you’re like Apollos and you may look like you’ve got it all “goin’ on.”  Maybe you’re an old smart dog, who needs a few more things to learn.  I know I do!  I’m always on the look out for  new Priscillas and Aquilas.  If that’s you….I’m listening.

23
Mar
10

While I Wait…

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
      and he turned to me and heard my cry.
  He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
      out of the mud and the mire.
   He set my feet on solid ground
      and steadied me as I walked along.
  He has given me a new song to sing,
      a hymn of praise to our God.
   Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
      They will put their trust in the Lord.  -Psalm 40:1-3 (NLT)

Ten years.  It will have been ten years in July, since I walked away from my career in ministry.  I didn’t wait for anything during the first few years that followed…I RAN!  But, the Lord waited for me.  He was the One who was patient and waited for my rebellion to end. (1 Timothy 1:16)  When I had finally run as far as I could, through the darkness and the despair, I found Him waiting to lift me up, clean the muck and the stink off of me and sit me back down on the firm ground of His grace and mercy.  Then He invited me to a new walk, in renewed fellowship with Him.  At the beginning I was like a man who had been crippled for a long time, having to relearn how to walk, and His firm hold was always there to steady my unsure gait.  I have been required to wait patiently, learning to walk (not run) again with confidence, depending on His strength to keep me from falling. 

I haven’t always been so patient during this process.  I have wanted to get ahead of my instruction on occassion and like any Good Teacher, He has allowed me to stumble and struggle until I fall once again into His waiting arms.  Then He always encourages me to try again.

I have found during this relearning process that it is not only my spiritual legs that have needed God’s healing touch.  It has also been my voice.  At first I wanted to sing my old song…the one I used to sing.  But, it stuck in my throat and emerged with a croak, with no beauty…it was flat and out of tune.  Slowly, I began to realize that the lyrics to that old song were repetitive and monotonous, because the chorus loudly repeated, “Me…me…me…me…me!”  These days, the melody, the lyrics and the voice have found freshness and a different theme.    “He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.”

Recently, with this new walk, and with this new song, the Lord is giving me a new desire to hear a new call.  He heard me call to Him from the heart of despair.  Now, I want to hear His call to me to serve and He has given me a new walk, a new voice, a new song and a new (transformed) mind with which to do it.  

Lord, will You once again enable me and send me (1 Timothy 1:12-14) so that  “Many will see what [You have] done and be amazed.”  So that “They will put their trust in [You] Lord.”  I am waiting….patiently.   

 

18
Mar
10

Too Deep to Swim Back!

“However, as it is written: 
   ‘No eye has seen,
      no ear has heard,
   no mind has conceived
   what God has prepared for those who love him’— but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
      The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” -1 Corinthians 2:9-11 (NIV)

I remember being a little boy playing on the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean.  I have a memory of getting on an inner-tube and being towed out, by my father, into far deeper water than I had ever been allowed to go before.  He took me through the breakers until even he had some trouble standing in the deepening current and began to swim until we reached a sand bar where he could once again stand in only about waist deep water.  I remember as I floated on that rubber tube, the feeling of both fear and thrill.  Fear, because it was somewhere I never been and was cautioned by my parents not to go alone.  Thrill, because this was totally new territory, both dangerous and adventurous.  And yet, I eagerly wanted to go to this place where only my Dad could be trusted to take me and I would still feel safe.

In this 55th year of my life, after having been a believer in Christ for longer now than I have lived, I find that I am still a child.  After having been long educated in Sunday School, in church and in a seminary preparing to become a pastor, I am finding that my Father, by the power of His Holy Spirit, is pulling me, on a vast ocean of His mystery, into far deeper water than I have ever before imagined.  It is not safe.  I cannot swim it alone.  I am too far from shore to turn back and apart from His keeping of me, I feel that I would surely sink and drown.  

I was afraid at first.  I could hardly take a deep breath!  But the farther He tows me and the deeper the waters, the more I find that my trust in Him is enough.  Slowly, the thrill and the joy in where He is taking me is revealed as a place not only of adventure, it is a place where my faith can grow strong.  This deep water is where only the Spirit can take me, and where only complete dependence on him can keep me from falling off and sinking down.  I am out where the Waters of God are over my head….and I love it!

17
Mar
10

“What is Your Name?”

“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” -Genesis 32:28 (NLT)

Consider Jacob.  Sent away from his home country by his father to earn his own way.  Ridden with guilt because he had cheated his brother Esau of his inheritance.  Constantly reminded that he was a cheat, a manipulator and a surplanter.  He worked for 14 years to earn the right to marry each of his wives and another six to earn his flocks from a crooked father-in-law.  Chased down by Laban for the return of his daughters and live stock that Jacob had already labored to claim.  And now that he was on his way back home, he is waiting for Esau to intercept him and his entourage, potentially to be killed at the hands of the vengeful brother.

Then on the night before Esau’s army is to arrive, Jacob encounters a Man who appears to be the preincarnate Christ.   Jacob engages in an all night wrestling match with Him, saying just before dawn, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  For his stubborness (and apparent wrestling skills) Jacob gets a dislocated hip socket and a permanent limp.  But, he also got more than the blessing he so passionately desired (which indeed he already had).  He got a new name!  He got a new identity!

It completely does not matter what or who anyone (even our parents at our birth or our most beloved friends and family) says we are.  Our past cannot dictate who and what we are.  Our life’s experiences good and bad, successes or failures need not identify us.  Even our hopes, ambitions and best laid plans for the future or our ability or inability to achieve them cannot effectively make up who I am.  Not even the man we see looking back at us in mirror each morning has a full understanding of who we truly are.  My identity and my purpose…my true name is known only to the One who made me.  

The God who says,  “For I know the plans I have for you.  They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11), also says,  “In those days when you pray, I will listen.  If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.  I will be found by you.” (Jeremiah 29:12-14)  When we find Him, we may also find the one He says we are.  We will hear Him call us by our true name.

07
Mar
10

Gimme Dat Ol’ Time Religion!

I met a man yesterday who was…well, let’s just say he was interesting, but disturbing.  I was waiting for my wife while she was having her eyes examined.  The man started the conversation by telling me that he was an “ordained Baptist preacher.”  I asked him where he ministered, and he said that he was retired.  From that point on the conversation deteriorated, because he then launched into a prolonged litany of seemingly everything that he hated and that turned out to be plenty!

His voice gradually morphed from a mild and friendly tone into an old fashioned, deep-south revivalist, and the longer he spoke the more the volume increased.  The topics of his rage were diverse, but he began by telling me, “there are some mean people in churches.”  My error was to remark in return, “But, there are some genuinely sweet folks too.”  I think that was about the last full sentence I managed.

He spoke at length about those “liberal, contemporary kinda churches, with their hippity-hop, rock and roll music,” how much he hated that style of church, and how sure he was that, “God doesn’t like it either.”  The only positive remarks he made during the entire “conversation” was that the church he attends now was a “southern gospel” only church, and that his preacher wasn’t afraid to preach about “the Blood,” almost every Sunday.  He also just could not figure out why “them black people would want to go to a white church.”  “I don’t mean no harm now, mind ya….they just don’t worship the same way we do, so why don’t they just go to their church and let white people go to ours?”  Almost without missing a breath, he eagerly said that he was “a God-fearing Republican” and he didn’t know how anyone could be a Christian and have voted for “Obammer” and the Democrats.

My smile must have revealed my cynicism toward his remarks, because he began to lean forward in his chair toward me as if intent on convincing me of his correctness.  I quickly and quietly interjected, “Well, you probably wouldn’t like my church.”  Whoops!  “Why not?” he asked.  So I told him about Lifepoint Church.  How we wanted the “people nobody else wanted,” and that our worship was very contemporary, diverse and that there were many young people attending.  Then I said, “Over a four year period there have been over 500 people pray to recieve Christ as their Savior,” and that I was encouraged that many of them were young, college aged people. (Now this is when I wanted to find something to hit this guy with.)  To this his only remark was, “Yeah well, its them college kids that elected that ‘Obammer,’ so you can have ’em.”

I’m not sure whether I was thankful at that point that my wife emerged from her appoinment or if I’m sorry about it.  I’m sure my face was getting redder by the moment and I had so many things I wanted to say.  As I turned to leave all I said was, “Well, god bless you and you have a nice day.”  That was what came out of my mouth.  What was on my mind was, “Mister, please….PLEASE don’t tell anyone…EVER that your a Christian!”  I’m glad I didn’t because frankly today, I’m left thinking that nothing he said was any more offensive than what I failed to say.