You Just Got To Be Right

I am a very grateful 1985 graduate of Samford University in Birmingham, AL. Samford is a very prestigious school. Not all of the graduates are. That word would not be used of this guy.

Concerning my years at Samford, I regret telling most of my professors that I don’t remember them or much they said.

Dr. Karen Joines is a professor that does come to mind. For one reason, Karen is a he. What was his folks thinking? Another reason I recall Dr. Joines is a story he told that is, perhaps, the best thing I learned in 4 years. Dr. Joines was my Hebrew professor for 2 years. Hebrew. It is acknowledged, little is in the memory bank. However, in the course of the courses he told a story about a squabble he had with a neighbor that lasted a long time. At the end of the story he looked at us and said something to this effect: “Men, you know what I learned through all this? It’s not such a big deal to be right.” That phrase crosses my mind quite often in various settings.

Now we know that being right about many things is crucial. Our view on Jesus, salvation, biblical morals, and other like matters, it is important to be right. I did not take Dr. Joines’ story to be about such eternal matters. His story was about things that in 2 weeks or 2 days wouldn’t really matter. Things in the long run that having to be right about, just isn’t worth it.

Many relationships from marriages to friendships have been ruined because of little things that one person was determined to be right about and the other person was determined to not give in on no matter what. Prove your point and destroy the relationship all for the ability to say, “I am right!”

This lesson has made a difference in my life and relationships. If it is not a matter of biblical truth and principle, be more humble and not a know-it-all. Why not try it in your relationships? Who knows, your waiter may give you better service, your spouse may give you better attention, and your neighbors may not hide from you when they see you in public.

As I think about my 4 years at Samford; that sure was an expensive lesson. My parents would say, “Son, you are right about that!

Jon

Those Awkward Moments

Barney

Have you ever found you are in the middle of a very awkward situation and didn’t know exactly what to do? Barney Fife did.

Sheriff Taylor had misconstrued the new lady druggist’s gift of an ice cream cone to Andy’s boy, Opie. Through some wild imagining Andy thought that ice cream cone to Opie was a “down payment on a husband.”

Andy planned a scheme of his own. He knew he had to turn that “desperate hunter” to other game. Andy started sending one guy after another into the drug store to try to steal Ellie’s heart. It did not work and eventually Ellie figured out what Andy was doing.

Andy shows up at the drug store and Ellie starts giving him an ear full. She told him how arrogant he was in more than one way as Andy stood there speechless. Ellie concluded her rant by telling Andy she had no desire to marry him or even go to the church dance with him. In fact, she said she would go to the church dance with the first eligible man who walked through the door. Guess who entered? That’s right, ole reliable Barney Fife. Ellie heads straight for him and declared that Barney was taking her to the dance without giving him any option.

As Ellie turns and walks away Barney looks at Andy and says, “I just came in for some foot powder!”

The look on Barney’s face at being put into such an awkward situation was priceless.

You ever been in one of those moments? 28 years of pastoring has permitted me to be in plenty of them. Most of them occurring during hospital visits. One time this lady says to her husband as I am standing at the foot of his bed… never mind, I still haven’t recovered.

In those awkward moments we struggle what to say and what to do.

The book that James wrote that we have in the bible has some good, sound advice. James 1:19 says, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” Come to think about it, those words are good to apply in any situation. We often do the exact opposite in awkward situations and tense moments between people. We may think we have got to settle this situation and end up saying the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong spirit.

The next time you find you are in one of those moments, maybe Barney and his foot powder will come to your mind. More importantly however, think of James’ words. Listen intently, speak thoughtfully, and don’t let anger rule.

Caught Off Guard?

Caught Off Guard?

Caught Off Guard?

“He was chosen before the foundation of the world but was revealed at the end of the times for you.”
1 Peter 1:20

Let’s end this insane thought that Jesus was caught by surprise by His suffering and death. It would appear that there are those who feel they are accomplishing much in exalting the humanity of Jesus by presenting such an argument. Presenting Jesus as a confused, unsuspecting victim of uncontrollable circumstances doesn’t exalt Him. It is a foolish argument.

The scripture is very clear that Jesus knew who He was and what was going to occur. In John 10:17-18 Jesus said, “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” Matthew 21:16 informs us of Jesus knowledge, “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

This does not sound like a man that when arrested in the garden was thinking, “Wow, I didn’t see this coming.” No. Not only did He see it coming, He willingly laid down His life. He willingly went to the cross. He went to the cross as the prophet Isaiah says in Isaiah 53:7, “like a lamb led to the slaughter.”

On this Friday that we recall Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, let us be reminded that He suffered and died intentionally for the glory of God to be revealed in paying the sin debt mankind owed. Romans 8:3 states, “He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.”

Caught off guard? The scriptures make it clear that was not the case. His love for condemned sinners and His plan to save them was an eternal plan. Let’s be grateful and respond by faith in Jesus for His saving work.

1 John 4:10 tells us, “This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”

Grace

grace

We say it, we want it, we are to give it, and some of you have an Aunt by its name. Grace. Our most loved hymn of all time is entitled, “Amazing Grace.” There is a beautiful song that has been out for several months, “This Is Amazing Grace.” You may be able to think of a few more.
The number of books, songs, sermons, and thoughts on grace could never be counted. With all that has been said and sung about grace we should be reminded that there is one thing we should never do with grace. Take it for granted. That would defeat the very definition of grace – The unearned, undeserved favor of God that has been lavished on us through Jesus. It we take grace for granted then we feel we deserve it. Yet, the words deserve and grace doesn’t add up.
D.L. Moody’s book Sovereign Grace reminds me of this. In the first chapter Moody pens the following words:

The first promise to fallen man was a promise of grace. God never promised Adam anything when He put him in Eden. God never entered into a covenant with him as He did with Abraham, God told him, “ but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.“ Genesis 2:17; but when this came to pass then God came and gave him a gracious promise. He dealt in grace with him. As he left the Garden of Eden he could say to Eve, “Well, God does love us, though He has driven us out.” There was no sign that Adam recognized his lost condition. As for as we know there was no cry for mercy or pardon, no confession of sin. Yet we find that God dealt in grace with him. God sought Adam out that He might bestow His grace upon him. He met Adam in his lost and ruined condition, and the first thing He did was to proclaim the promise of a coming Savior. – D.L. Moody, Sovereign Grace

Moody’s point is well taken. Adam received what he did not earn. What was Adam going to do? Nothing. What did he know to do? Nothing. He knew he had sinned for he and his bride tried to hide, so I guess that is what he tried to do. Hide from the God of grace. I don’t suppose he was thinking like that though.
We have so much more that Adam. We have the full revelation of God’s grace, Jesus Christ. He is the fullness of God’s grace and truth. You and I need God’s grace and should never take it for granted. We need to cry out for His grace through Jesus to save us from the very fact that we are sinners and we need His grace in every aspect of life. Every aspect of life: work, finances, marriage, parenting, school, speech, driving, riding, and on and on.
Have you made it a regular part of your life to give thanks for the grace of God? Have you made it an ongoing prayer from your heart asking for His grace in every situation throughout the day? The Apostle Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5:10 that God is the God of all grace. Thank Him for His grace.
Jon

The Life Of Fanny

The Apostle Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 5:9-10, “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

March 24th is the birthdate of a lady who is a great example of living out the verses cited. Francis Jane Crosby entered into the world on March 24th, 1820. Shortly after her birth, a man claiming to be a doctor treated an eye infection Fanny had with a mustard solution. The infection went away, along with her sight. Her corneas were burned by the mustard solution.

This was not the end of the troubles in her young life. Her father died a year later. Her 21 year old mother went to work as a maid and her grandmother ended up being her primary care-giver during the day. What a care-giver her grandmother turned out to be. Eunice Crosby spent hour upon hour investing her time and energy into describing the world around Fanny. She taught young Fanny many things, most importantly, she taught her about faith in Christ and instilled in Fanny a love for prayer, the Bible, and having a close walk with God.

By the age of 15 Fanny started attending The New York Institute For The Blind. She was a devoted student with an amazing memory. She eventually went on to teach at the school.

What Fanny Crosby is most known for is her ability to write poetry, songs, and hymns. She penned more than 9000 songs. That’s Nine-Thousand! Her gift of poetry was noted early. At age 8 she penned these words that tell us she would not let her blindness keep her from living. She wrote:

“Oh what a happy soul I am, although I cannot see!

I am resolved in this world, contented I will be.

How many blessings I enjoy that other people don’t.

To weep and sigh because I am blind

I cannot and I won’t!”

She lived out her words. She didn’t let her disability dis-able her nor discourage her. In fact, Fanny didn’t desire pity. On one occasion some soul informed her how sorry he was that she could not see. For if she could see, she could have accomplished much more. Fanny told him, “Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I was born blind?” She saw far more than that person did at that time.

It is likely your voice has expressed some of her songs. “Rescue The Perishing,” “All The Way My Savior Leads Me,” “Safe In The Arms Of Jesus.” “To God Be The Glory,” “Jesus Keep Me Near The Cross,” and “Blessed Assurance” are a few of her songs.

The Apostle Paul’s words were lived out in Fanny’s life. Her weakness, her pain, her lot in life did not cause her to feel hopeless. She allowed the power of Christ to be seen in her weakness. Her weakness became the means for the glory of God to be known to others.

She loved Jesus and at 95 years old she finally “saw” him. She had stated, “When I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.” Wow. Imagine that moment for Fanny when she breathed her last, her eyelids closed, and then… “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face…” (1 Corinthians 13:12a).

Be thankful when next Tuesday comes, that 195 years ago Francis Jane Crosby was born. Be grateful she did not allow her blindness to rule her life. May the Lord grant us the grace to not let our weaknesses rule over us.

Chloe And The Goose

Mowing the grass has never been one of my most favorite parts of life. While some may use the word enjoyable to describe how they feel, I would pass on that word. Exciting! No, I would normally not choose that one either. Again, I would normally not use that word. Here is a story of one of those abnormal “mowing the grass” days.
This occurred about one and a half years ago. It all started as I was riding along the Alice Road part of our yard about to turn toward the Henery Drive part of the yard when I caught something out of my right eye’s peripheral vision. Our family dog, affectionately called Chloe the Great, is flying across our yard toward Henery Drive. I turn to see what she is after and it became one of those slow motion moments. My head is following her every gallop, my sight set on her graceful strides, and then it happened. She leaps in the air at about the halfway point on Henery Drive into our neighbor’s yard and the next thing I see, feathers all in the air.
Immediately I said something to myself like, “For the love of Pete, Chloe has done caught a turkey.” Then, the bird tried to take off, but Chloe’s vertical jump is pretty impressive and she takes off herself and brought it down. More feathers are in the air! As I watch this unfold I don’t know what to think. On one hand I feel sorry for the bird, and on the other hand I was thinking, “Way to go Chloe, that’s my girl!” Chloe the Great has struck. On to scene 2.
Chloe comes back across the road into our yard pridefully strutting with this bird in her mouth. I started yelling at Chloe, “No, No, No, Chloe.” At some point, I got off the mower and start walking towards her and she stops in the middle of our yard. She first lays the bird down and then lies down beside it. I draw closer and see how big this bird is and then see that this is no turkey, it’s a dead-gum beautiful Canadian goose. It’s missing a few feathers but still a beautiful bird. A dead, beautiful bird I believe.
I don’t know what to do. I go inside and tell my family and some friends who were at our house what just happened. I then look for a garbage bag to put the goose in. I figured I would wrap it up, put it in the freezer and ask someone what I should do with it. I also am thinking I need to hide the evidence because I am sure Chloe has broken some federal law, an EPA regulation, or some Obamacare tax will be levied for this action. Google earth has caught it all and Chloe will go to dog prison. Now for scene 3,
We go outside and call Chloe away from the dead goose so I can gather it up. All of our attention is focused on Chloe and we get her about 15 yards away from the flightless goose from Canada. As I turn to go back to the goose, the dead bird is getting up! Why the thing is not dead at all, or if it is, it is a part of the walking dead. Zombie geese! I’m sorry, back to the story. The bird starts heading back toward the lake across the street. Now grant it, the bird is wobbling back and forth like it is drunk. However, it’s moving. Crosses the street, goes into the pasture and down to the lake.
I like to think this bird went back and warned the other geese to stay away, don’t land anywhere close to Henery Drive, bad things could happen.
Chloe? Chloe, I believe, was doing what a good dog does, protecting her family from an intruder, even if it was a harmless Canadian goose.
What lessons can we take from this?
1. Mowing the grass may have something in store you never saw coming. The mundane can suddenly turn into a magnificent occasion.
2. There are going to be days that are “Chloe the Great” days. You accomplish great feats and feel good about your accomplishments. Even if the audience is yourself and a guy on a riding mower.
3. Some days you end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. You have a day like that goose had. The good news is you are alive. Wobbly? Yes. Stunned? Yes. Shook up from a hard day, perilous month, or year? Yes. Yet, you are on your way. You may never be the same but by the grace of God, you are on your way.
Jon
P.S. Here a pic of Chloe the Great and her temporary catch.

SAM_0669

  1. your way.

Jon

Under Construction

You have seen the words “Under Construction” used in various ways. A few places our eyes have noted the sign are while walking down a city block, alongside a road, by a building, or even websites.

The term “Under Construction” is a good term when it comes to life and the Christian life. Romans 8:29 says, For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.” Within that verse is a multitude of truth. Truth that for centuries has been debated among Christian theologians and students of the scripture. The terms “foreknew” and “predestined” are the hot-button words it would appear. Wonderful and fascinating are the topics. However,  If we are not careful we miss an obvious truth that has no need of debate. The genuine believer in Christ is going to be made into the likeness of Jesus. All who truly believe in Jesus are “Under Construction” by a Father who specializes in designing – have you peaked into the night sky lately? Our Father has a goal to make His child like His Son – Jesus.

There is good news in this. The One who is conforming us is very patient. The constuction process never ends until that day we are face to face with our Lord. He has told us this. Philippians 1:6 is a voice of encouragement concerning this process of constructing us into the image of Christ, “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Know brothers and sisters that we are a work in progress. Nothing that happens to us is useless. He is using all things to build, form, mold, conform us into the likeness of His dear Son. Why not thank Him for His promise to us and patience toward us as we see ourselves as a work “Under Construction.”

Jon