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My youngest brother sent me a text yesterday and posted a facebook picture marking the beginning of the construction of an apartment on his house. Its where my dad will move in just a few months. It is an interesting time. With interesting emotions. I have watched others go through this season with their parents and now it’s my turn. We close a long chapter of life and write a new one, knowing it will be much shorter. And maybe not near as delightful.
Dad has been in the same split level house for 40 years. The last 21 he has been there alone. He first went there to look at an in-ground pool that my mom wanted to install where we lived at the time. When he left he had a deal for the house too. That’s the last big decision I remember dad ever making quickly. It’s the house in which I spent the second half of my growing up time at home. It’s the only one my little brother has ever known as dad’s house. There’s so many memories and stories. The hole in my bedroom door is still there from when my middle brother kicked it because I wouldn’t let him in. It’s the same room where I sat on the bed when as a high school freshman my mom told me she was pregnant with my little brother. The intercom system is still there. We always found it easier to holler than use it though. The green shag is still there in the living room where we spent most Christmases. The same yellow, wired wall phone is still there in the kitchen (although it doesn’t work) where we all had many stationary conversations. The floor still creaks the same in front of the stove top. The dark brown paneling is still there where my dad had his home office. The same horizontal blinds cover my bathroom window. The same wood backboard and goal is still mounted to the house above the carport, with the same rim and chain net. Rattles the whole house when a game is on. All three of us brothers have broken scoring records on that goal.
But dad is 85 now. His knees are giving out. He’s not quite as sharp. And he’s had some “spells” that tell him, and us, it’s time to change. Dad doesn’t change easily. In fact, he has to feel forced. So while he has agreed to move and sell his comfort zone, he is reluctant. And really so am I. He feels like he is losing his freedom. I feel like I am losing my ties to the past. There will be no more going to dad’s for a holiday. No more traditional cork ball games in the back yard. No more spending the night at dad’s thinking I really need to fix that faucet that has leaked for 20 years. Or insist he get some new mattresses for that bed. No more opening the pool on Memorial Day and closing it on Labor Day. (Honestly I won’t miss this. But I will miss seeing the kids play in the pool.)
We haven’t even begun to clean things out yet. The dreaded attic still awaits. I really think most of what’s in the house is too worn out to even consider moving to his new digs. Or to Goodwill. He won’t have room anyway. But every worn out piece of furniture and faded tile is filled with delight. We won’t move those. But I hope we move every memory with him. There is always room for them. And even though this is all new territory for me, territory that may not be as memorable, I anticipate that the chapters we have written to get here will be what sustains us in this shorter chapter of life to be written now. Oh, I know that as a follower of Jesus, in ministry for 30 years, that because of Christ, I can delight in what I don’t know about the future. But right now, it’s hard to see the future with so many delights from the past.
So remember your Creator in the days of your youth: Before the days of adversity come, and the years approach when you will say, “I have no delight in them.” Ecc.12:1
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After a recent Sunday service in which I spoke about the character of God we see in the story of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, a regular attender asked me if there was room for a universalist in our church. I replied that there were plenty of chairs but he would not likely be happy because the view was simply unbiblical and would not be taught at all. Not everyone will go to heaven. Only those who have responded by faith alone in Christ alone. After a rather intense 45 minute conversation we ended with me sarcastically thanking him for the good news. I could go out and live like hell and forget all this gospel stuff. In the end it would just not matter. I also encouraged him to go to the Catholic church since he would probably resonate more with them.
Reflecting on my friend’s hang up about the “fairness” of who goes to hell and who goes to heaven, he represents a common mistake in our culture of making God in our image, according to our limited understanding. We would love a god who loves like want to be loved and judges like we want to be judged.
His searching will hopefully lead him to the truth of the God of the Bible. A sovereign, just, and merciful God who has shown His kindness from creation to redemption to glory. Praise the God who saves! My searching and skeptical friend has reminded me that God’s story is not always according to my own understanding, but in all my ways He is to be acknowledged, even in those things and times that I do not understand. He will in turn make my paths straight. He has reminded me that when it comes to the eternal destiny of lost people, “innocent” little kids, or natives in the jungle, I need to somehow get them the gospel truth. Jesus commissioned us, not to tell the nations that God is sending innocent people to hell, but that God has made a way for them to get to heaven.
But my friend asks, what of those who have not heard? I say, go tell them! Leave the rest up to God. And we’ll make more room for more worshippers!
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Today, I read 1 Corinthians 8. You may want to refresh yourself. Paul is telling the more mature Corinthian believers to be sensitive to the less mature ones when it comes to having the freedom to eat meat which has been served at a pagan temple of a non-existent god.
Here’s a thought for this Thanksgiving day…Paul is also saying that there are things that really matter when it comes to how we live our Christian lives. And the things that matter are not really our freedom. But they are…first knowing that we are known by God (v.3). And second our relationships with one another (v.11,13). Those are eternal things. They are blessings only God can provide. On this day our culture emphasizes gratitude for things we see and have and enjoy, I offer thanks for the things that really matter.
That God knows me. Me. That’s unbelievable! I am getting wet in the eyes just thinking about it.
And that God has brought into my life other people He knows. You. And I have a responsibility to your relationship with God as well.
It matters not what we have or what we enjoy. It does matter who knows us, and how we steward that knowledge.
I thank God in every remembrance of you.
May God remind you today of what really matters and may you be truly grateful for those things.
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We celebrated communion in our service this past Sunday. While the believers were going to the front to receive the bread and the juice from our elders, I gave an invitation to anyone who could not confess Christ as their forgiver to talk to me about it. I had a woman respond. We met in the back of the room. After we exchanged names, call her D, her first words were, I’m lost. Is that not what the unredeemed should get out of it when they see the redeemed celebrating the body and blood of Jesus broken and shed for their sins. Anyone who comes to Jesus must first realize what D has come to see. I pray for and anticipate the next time we observe communion, she will be taking the elements alongside the friends who brought her to church.
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Most Christians love missionaries; we love missions; we’re even willing to financially support missions. Unfortunately, we love missionaries, but we don’t really want to be like them. If we did, our churches would look less like what we want and more like what God would want as we adapt to reach people in the culture around us.
Ed Stetzer/Philip Nation, Compelled by Love
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When life crashes, you are laid off from work, spouses spat, rebellious children harbor grudges-it is hard to live by faith. But there is nothing else to live by. All the wisdom of the ages cannot fix the problems we struggle with. No matter how many times someone might watch Oprah, talk to someone like Dr. Phil, or sit a child on the “naughty stool” as Supernanny demands, there will never be permanent change. But, when we decide, as the old preachers say, “You can’t kill a dead man,” then our perspective on everything changes. Once we accept our own death in the redeeming love of God, no matter what the world does or anyone throws at me, I live because of Christ.
Ed Stetzer/Philip Nation, Compelled By Love, p.41.
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In a CT article this month titled “To Serve is to Suffer”, Ajith Fernando writes,
“The contemporary emphasis on efficiency and measurable results makes frustration even harder to endure. In the past four centuries, industrial and technological development in the West made efficiency and productivity top values. With rapid economic development, things once considered luxuries became not only necessities but also rights in the minds even of Christians. In this environment, the Christian idea of commitment has taken a battering.
We call our churches and Christian organizations “families,” but families are very inefficient organizations. In a healthy family, everything stops when a member has big needs. We are often not willing to extend this commitment to Christian body life.”
John 15:12-13 is Jesus model of biblical community. How does it compare with ours?
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Dear church leaders,
Leadership is not so much your ability to influence others, as it is that others notice the influence of God’s Word and Spirit on you. It is not so much that you are able to get others to follow you, as it is that it is obvious others know who you are following.
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Never make a principle out of your own experience; let God be as original with other people as He is with you.