Thursday, April 21, 2016 - Themes
I have been thinking about the word theme. One of the definitions of theme is a particular subject or issue that is discussed often or repeatedly. Our upcoming Ladies’ event has the theme, Taste of the World.
Country Music songs have recurring themes: drinking, cheating, truck driving, love, unrequited love, death, loneliness, family, prison, outlaws, cowboys, murder, misery, honkey tonking, trains, poverty and self-destruction. One survey summed up the three major themes of Country Music as truck, girl and beer.
There are great themes in literature: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedies, Tragedies and Rebirth.
There are great themes of the Bible. One writer identified them as God, Covenant, Humanity, Sin, Law, Messiah, Spirit, Grace, Salvation, People of God, Worship, Service and Reign of God.
A Google search for “themes of life” yields the answer, Character, Personality, Friendships, Relationship with God and Health.
One of our outstanding Bible teachers wrote, “The overarching theme of Romans is the righteousness that comes from God: the glorious truth that God justifies guilty, condemned sinners by grace alone through faith in Christ alone”.
Many hymnals have a Topical Index of Songs with themes listed and songs that mention those themes. Major themes include Adoration & Praise, Christ, Comfort & Encouragement, Commitment & Obedience, God, Love, Salvation, Thanksgiving, and Witness & Praise.
What are the great themes of your life? For some, faithfulness, service, selflessness, kindness, generosity.
I am concerned that for some (probably no one reading this) the theme of their life was the title of one of Frank Sinatra’s hallmark songs, “I Did It My Way”. May it never be the theme of your life or mine.
Despite his humanity and personal moral failure, Acts 13:22 describes David as, “a man after mine own heart”. What a great theme.
The actions of a day or a week do not define the great themes of our lives. We define life themes by the steady, consistent performance of a lifetime. One of the great writers of recent years penned a book entitled, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction”.
What are the great themes of your life?
Thursday, April 7, 2016 - The Christian Sieve
The route we drive to get to my mom’s house in Michigan takes us past the Marathon Oil refinery where my dad worked. I remember on several occasions going with my dad into one of the areas where he worked and experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of an oil refinery. On one of the visits, I remember seeing a stack of industrial strainers or sieves and learned they were used to determine what and how much non-gasoline particles were mixed in with the gasoline.
My grandmother had a flour sifter in her kitchen. Grandma used her flour sifter to get any unwanted particles or clumps out of the flour before using the flour to cook or bake.
A cook will use a colander for straining pasta or allowing water to pass through washed fruit or vegetables.
Every morning when I make my coffee, I add a paper filter to separate the coffee grounds from the wonderful brew the water becomes after passing through the grounds.
The industrial sieve, the flour sifter, the colander and the coffee filter are all designed to allow something to pass through while trapping, screening, or separating what will not pass through.
I propose there is another kind of sieve—a Christian sieve. It is located in the mind and used to filter everything we take in. Unfortunately, there is no automatic dispensing of the Christian sieve at the moment of salvation. A Christian sieve can’t be bought at a Christian bookstore, Wal*Mart doesn’t have them, and you can’t order one from Amazon. A Christian sieve must be developed, it must be nurtured, and it must be personal.
The blessing of a Godly Christian home helps with the initial forming of a Christian sieve. Engaged church attendance helps with the forming, development, and nurturing of the Christian sieve. Reading good literature can contribute to the development of the Christian sieve. The influence of mature Christians can contribute to the development and nurturing of the Christian sieve. And most certainly, reading and studying God’s Word on a regular basis develops and nurtures the Christian sieve.
The Christian sieve helps us filter the influences and ideas of the world system. The Christian sieve helps us answer the questions: Is that true? Is it the right thing to do? Does it bring glory to God? Will I be proud of it or thankful I did it at the Judgement Seat of Christ?
1 John 2:16 reads: For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
The draw and influence of the world system is strong. Only a well-developed Christian sieve will filter out impurities. The love of pleasure and convenience is strong. Only a well-developed Christian sieve will filter the bad from the good and the best.
I challenge each of us to daily development of our Christian sieve and to allow our thoughts and actions to pass through the filter for the best possible outcomes in our lives, our families, our ministries, our church, and our nation.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015 - The Joy of Commitment
Charles Colson is one of my favorite writers. His book entitled, “The Sky Is Not Falling: Living Fearlessly in These Turbulent Times,” was published in 2011. In chapter 10, Fixing Fragmented Worldviews, there is a section entitled THE JOY OF COMMITMENT. As I read and re-read the section, I was reminded of you and so many others in our ministry who have strong and longstanding commitments to the ministry we share. Your life is richer because of your service. You outwardly demonstrate your inward love for our Lord. Thank you for your commitment!
Beyond the ramifications for society as a whole, beyond the healing of cultural fragmentation, even beyond the obvious necessity of Christian commitment, when we refuse to commit, we miss out on one of the great joys of life. When we obsess over ourselves or our narrow clans of shared self-interests, we lose the meaning of life, which is to know and serve God and love and serve our neighbors. This was made clear when thirty-three research scientists investigated the relationship between human development and community in a 2003 report, Hardwired to Connect. Their research revealed that we are biologically primed to find meaning through relationships.
After nearly eight decades of living, I can vouch for this. My single greatest joy is giving myself to others and seeing them grow in return. You cannot discover that without commitment. I first learned it by watching my parents care for my dying grandparents in our home. This is a custom long forgotten today, when such care is subcontracted out. I later saw it in the Marine Corps. You cannot go into combat, commanding forty-five men, as I was trained to do, if you aren’t committed to one another. You are going to die if the man next to you does not cover your back.
That’s a point driven home in the excellent 2010 book Joker One, by Donovan Campbell. It should be required reading for every Christian, because the kind of commitment you see in the platoon—Campbell calls it love for one another—is what needs to be happening in churches. Finally, I see it at this point in my life, when my greatest reward is seeing ex-convicts restored and people I’ve taught begin to understand the faith in its fullness.
By abandoning commitment, our narcissistic culture has lost the one thing it desperately seeks: happiness. Without commitment, our individual lives will be barren and sterile. Without commitment, our lives will lack meaning and purpose. After all, if nothing is worth dying for (the anthem of the ’60s anti-war protesters), then nothing is worth living for. But with commitment comes the flourishing of society—of calling, of marriage, of the church—and of our hearts. It’s the paradox Jesus so often shared when he bid us to come and die that we might truly live.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014 - Heart Matters
The Bible is replete with timeless occupational metaphors that help explain various aspects of the Christian life. Builders, soldiers, farmers, fishermen, athletes and shepherds are all occupations or endeavors that have survived since Bible times to give us a more thorough understanding of the Christian life.
As a child, I was never really much of an athlete. For the most part, my athleticism was limited to the spectator sport of watching “ABC ‘sWide World of Sports,” every Saturday. However, back in the day, we played some sports with the other kids in the neighborhood. In the summer, it was baseball, in the fall, football. There was a basketball backboard and hoop attached to the garage. The only organized sport I played was little league baseball and I was never very good at it.
In my twenties, I played some racquetball, but it was mostly a social thing. In my thirties, I suffered a bite from the running bug. It was then that I got my first taste of what it means to be an athlete.
Athletes prepare and compete. Preparation includes training. Training includes equipment, diet and rest. Although equipment, diet, and rest are all important, the most important thing an athlete needs to compete well is heart.
When I took my running seriously, I began thinking seriously about what I was eating, how much sleep I was getting, the condition of my shoes, my sox, the number of days I was running each week, the length of the training run and the pace of each mile. For the serious runner, all these things matter.
Paul compared the Christian life to the running of a race. (Heb. 12:1, 1 Cor. 9:24, Gal. 2:2, Gal. 5:7, Phil. 2:16)
Paul encouraged us to run the race of the Christian life with patience. In the same verse in Hebrews 12, he instructs us to get rid of the stuff and sin that slows us down. Are there any sins in your life that are effecting your race? Are you carrying around any baggage that is slowing down your pace?
The runner trains rain or shine. I remember the first time I ran in the rain. That was nothing like the first time I ran in the snow. Someday, I’ll tell you that story.
As mentioned earlier, I believe heart is the heart of the matter for the athlete. No, not the organ pumping blood to the rest of the body, but what one source defines as the basis of emotional life: the source and center of emotional life, where the deepest and sincerest feelings are located and a person is most vulnerable to pain.
Heart is also the heart of the matter in the Christian life. The Bible warns about the vulnerability of the heart and instructs us to guard the heart. Proverbs 4:23 reads: Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
The hymn writer understood the matter of the heart when he penned the words, Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, O take and seal it; Seal it for Thy courts above.
Our pastor has said on many occasions that the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. How about your heart? Hot? Cold? Luke warm? Guard it. Keep the fires stoked. It matters!
Saturday, June 8, 2013 - See the Future
What if the you of today could give the you of 20 years ago advise? What would you say? Invest in Apple? Invest in Google? Watch less television? Exercise more? Eat healthier?
Someone said, "If I'd known I was gonna live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself." No one is sure who said it first, but the quote has been attributed to Mickey Mantle, Eubie Blake, George Burns and Mark Twain (amongst others).
Unfortunately, the truth is, we can't go back; but what if we look forward?
A recent research project conducted by Hal Hershfield, of New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business, determined that those shown a computerized picture of what he or she would possibly look like in 20 years, set aside more money for retirement than those in a group shown current pictures of themselves. The research cited most people having difficulty 'seeing' their future self, but an aged picture of a future self made a significant difference in the choices made regarding retirement savings.
All this got me thinking, what are the choices and decisions I make every day that have the potential to make a difference in the 20 years from now me.
The ability to see the future may not be quite as difficult as it first appears. We 'see' the future when we select a recipe, buy the ingredients and bake a cake. We 'see' the future when we plant a garden. We see a nicer looking yard when we take to the yard with the lawn mower, trimmer and edger. A vision of a better looking future is not that hard to imagine.
The present acts/future consequences theme is portrayed in the classic tale, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. The main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, is confronted with future consequences of his actions--should he not change his ways.
What about he 100 years from now future me? The Bible teaches (and I believe) that my never-dying soul and spirit will be somewhere in 100 years. In 100 years will I regret or be thankful for the choices I make today, tomorrow and in the coming week?
As important as my choices are for finances, healthy eating and exercise, they pale in comparison to my choices for Christian stewardship, commitment and faithfulness.
My life is a stewardship and I'm accountable. I am a steward of my finances and I’m accountable. I am a steward of my time and I’m accountable. May God grant us the wisdom to continue investing wisely in our futures.
If the next 20 years fly by as quickly as the past 20 years, the future is most certainly coming and it’s coming very quickly. The choices I make today have consequences--and so do yours. May God grant us wisdom in making the best choices today.
Thursday, July 19, 2012 - Teamwork
In Pat Williams' book, The Magic of Teamwork, he writes about a horse-pulling contest at a county fair. The first-place horse pulled 4,500 pounds. The second-place horse pulled 4,000 pounds. The owners figured the two horses together could pull 8,500 pounds. But when the owners hitched the horses together, they were able to pull 12,000 pounds, far more than the sum of their individual efforts.
In Ecclesiastes 4:12 we read: And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken . In Leviticus 26:8 we read: And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. Also, in Deuteronomy 32:30 one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight .
So, what applies to horses, cords and soldiers applies to singers and instrumentalists. Your faithful service to the Lord in our ministry allows us to accomplish more together than what any of us can accomplish individually. I want you to know that I appreciate your service to the Lord and your faithfulness to the ministry He has given us.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012- America's Crisis of Character
On Friday of last week Ryan sent me an email with a link to a Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Peggy Noonan entitled: America's Crisis of Character, The nation seems to be on the wrong track, and not just economically. It is a very worthwhile read.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - Who Am I?
I'm just like you. I'm a...mortgage banker wife retired nurse & encourager working wife Christian school teacher & mom willing servant, mom, wife & caregiver wife, mother, grandmother busy nurse & mom happily retired nurse proud grandfather good lookin', but humble guy Christian artist & husband grandma & loving it wife, mother & grandma lover of music grandmother of four grandmother of six faithful choir member good grandmother at 70 Christian patriot Christian mother & worker emotional, compassionate person and totally computer illiterate singing crybaby nurse librarian homemaker with four grandchildren & retired stay-at-home grandma & Sunday school teacher sinner saved by grace helper & team player grandmother of four & a good cooker gardener, cook & traveler dad, husband & engineer punctual & consistent choir member granddad Christian grandfather of three Sunday school teacher retired 82 year-old man happily serving the Lord teacher & mama retired soldier retired CSX engineer grandmother of nine child of God computer geek baritone finance guy & father hunter, fisherman & camper very busy person father of two retired, camper & Christian grandfather of ten wife, mother & nurse hard working grandma nurse, mother & dog lover aspiring writer & crazy cat woman realtor, mother & wife full-time nurse gun tot'n woman mother of one & retired wife, mother, grandmother & retired wife, mother & teacher realtor, singer, husband & father husband, father & nurse husband, banker & singer happily married wife housewife, grandma of 9 & mother of 3 retired legal clerk working grandmother nanny for two children retired newly-wed happily retired woman retired person grandfather of seven Christian mother of two mother, wife & nurse mother, teacher & coordinator extraordinaire full-time nurse banker happily tired yaya (new grandma) usually happy person college student grandma of seven & loving it! high school student very tired free spirit Christian mom of two wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother & retired business lady child of God, wife, mother, grandmother, sister & aunt great-grandmother of three retired registered nurse Christian, married southern woman DuPont retiree retired x-ray tech happily married woman child of God, art teacher, grad student Nana choir member.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - Happy New Year!
Happy New Year! I hope your year is off to a great start. When we open a calendar for a new year, we never know what is going to unfold. The seasons, months, weeks, days and hours will bring both new opportunities and new challenges as they unfold. The gift of time is more valuable than the gift of money. I pray that we will have the wisdom to make the best choices with the time God gives us.
Our pastor has challenged us to focus on three strategic goals in 2011. What I like about the goals is that they are simple, they can apply to every area of ministry and that they can apply to each of us in every area of our life.
Goal 1Honor the Lord in all we do. That is simple. Several years ago someone came up with the What would Jesus do? filter for us to ask in situations we may find ourselves in. For us, the question is, Does this honor the Lord? Do my choices, habits, practices, deeds, actions, attitudes, thoughts and actions honor the Lord? What is honor? When we honor someone or something we hold them or it in high esteem, we give respect. Simply put, when we honor the Lord we give Him first place.
I am convinced that so many times we fall short with our choices and can do better. As we begin 2011, I encourage each of us to make a conscious effort to ask the question, Does this honor the Lord?
Goal 2Love One-Another. It is a simple goal, not so simple to practice at all times and in every situation. I don't know about you, but there is room for improvement in my life in this area. Honestly, it is not hard for me to love some people. And to be equally as honest, it is very hard for me to love some people. It is hard for me to love rude people. It is hard for me to love people who disappoint me. And sometimes it is hard for me to love people with whom I disagree.
In the New Testament there are 42 uses of the one-another phrase. They flesh out the how of loving one-another. (Be kind, serve, forgive, honor, greet, comfort, etc.) If I practice love one-another, what do I need to change? In 2011, I am going to work at doing a better job loving one-another. I hope you will too.
Goal 3Grow in every area. Last week our pastor identified six distinctive areas we have in our life. (Physical, social, mental, financial, marriage & family, spiritual) We will be better off individually and corporately if we seek to grow in every area of our life. We will also be better off at the end of 2011 if there is growth in ministry. When compared to 2010, I hope that there are more people serving with us and more people serving the Lord more faithfully at the end of 2011!