This Old House

We invested time, money, and sweat equity there. It represented memories, a chapter in our lives, and all the ups and downs that go with that chapter.

Billie Sue and I both get a melancholy feeling when we go back from time to time to make sure its clean for the realtor to show it to prospective buyers. It represents sixteen years of our lives.

We sometimes reflect on leaving our house in Benton to move to our current house in the Village. But our three-year-old grandkids, Molly, Maggie, and Asher, punched us with perspective!

Guess how many times they mentioned missing the old house they used to visit? Guess how many times they said they wished they could go back there?

Zero!

They haven’t missed it at all! They came at Christmas and this past weekend and they just wanted Gram and PawPa’s lap. They wanted to play with Gram and PawPa. They wanted to go fishing with PawPa. They wanted to go for walks with US!

It didn’t matter what house we were in. They wanted to be with US. What a joy that brings to a grandma’ and grandpa’s heart to have their warm bodies close and happy to be with US, not a house.

The number one, most mentioned, topic in the Bible shows up thousands of times. The New Testament uses three Greek words translated by this one English word.

  • Eros refers to marital or sexual passion. We get our English word erotic from it.
  • Phileo refers to friendship or family cohesion. The name Philadelphia finds its root here.
  • Agape refers to an ultimate, sacrificial commitment.

It is this third word, agape, John uses here for love:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. 1 John 2:15-16 ESV

As a grandparent I would be broken-hearted if my grands wanted our old house more than they wanted our laps! Maybe that’s an inkling of what God is trying to say to us in this verse.

Do you think God is broken-hearted when we love this world instead of loving Him? It is not about where we are but Who we are with!

Our Father, forgive us for loving this old world instead of loving You. We have broken Your heart when we have loved this old house instead of loving your lap. We commit  today to loving Your Presence instead loving this world and its stuff.

My First Time

Behind ole Doc Jones’ office building it happened for the first time.  I don’t know how old I was, but I was a bicycle-riding kid old enough for my parents to give me permission to go to a movie that night with two friends.

The two brothers, one and two years older than me, introduced me to it. I would not have dreamed of doing this on my own. You know how peer pressure goes and how a kid looks up to those who are older.

I met them at their house. We began our walk to town to see the movie. On the way they suggested we not go to the movie. Instead we hid behind Doc Jones’ office. They produced the contraband which they had smuggled out of their house.

They each took one and handed me one. I smoked my first cigarette. In one fell swoop, I succumbed to peer pressure, my words about going to a movie became a lie, and I indulged in something strictly forbidden in my family.

Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God. 2 Corinthians 7:1 NLT

The context of this verse is important, read chapter six. There you will find Paul’s warning not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. This could apply to marriage, friendships, or business partners. These partnerships can throw us off track spiritually in a heartbeat!

Then the apostle Paul introduces us to “these promises” in last verses of chapter six.

I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch filthy things, and I will welcome you. And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.”

Paul references Lev. 26:12, Ezek. 37:27, Isa. 52:11, Ezek. 20:34, and 2 Sam. 7:14.

I would not have smoked that cigarette if my Dad watched.  I would not have given in to peer pressure to break my word about going to a movie if my Dad stood there!

Here’s the promise: God is standing there!  More than that, He is living in us!

No, we don’t live a holy life because the bogeyman will get us if we don’t. We live a holy life because a loving Father made the costly sacrifice to have a special relationship with us and IT WILL BREAK HIS HEART if we don’t.

And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.

Why? So we can be saved? NO! Because we ARE saved! Be sure not to get those backwards. We work because He saved us by grace, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). We work toward holiness because we respect a holy God who LOVES us!

Our Father, thank-you for the promise to live in us and walk among us. Your grace gift of salvation motivates us to live lives pleasing in your presence. Thank-you for Jesus, the Immanuel, for in Him You are WITH US!

You Have an Appointment

“Honey, I made my favorite thing for dinner tonight!”

“Oh really,” he replied quizzically, “what’s that?”

She replies, “Reservations!”

Last week my parents asked me to go with them to his appointment at the U.A.M.S. Reynolds Institute on Aging. Memory loss issues runs in the family as they near their 80s. My Dad is no exception. I went with my Mom and Dad to help negotiate the morning traffic, construction, and the U.A.M.S. complex of buildings.

Every fall I get a physical. Every six months I get my teeth cleaned and checked.

Appointments, we look forward to some and others we don’t.

But there’s one appointment everyone has and no one will miss it. It is an appointment made by God himself.

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.  Hebrews 9:27-28 ESV

Our Father and Creator has provided everything we need so we can be ready for this appointment. We celebrate the first coming of Christ at Christmas. Christ will come a second time for those who are eagerly waiting for this appointment to arrive.

The first time Christ came he dealt with sin once for all. He is the total and complete sacrifice needed for sin. The Old Testament sacrificial system required sacrifices to be done over and over and over again.

It sounds gruesome to some, but I’m actually looking forward to dying. No, I’m not in a hurry to leave this earth. But as the writer of Hebrews says it, I am “eagerly waiting for him.”

That’s an appointment I look forward to keeping. I rejoice that my name is written in heaven. What a day of rejoicing that will be!

At the same time we wait with tears. We all have those we love and know who ignore the fact that they even have an appointment with God.

Reality check: “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”

EVERYONE will keep this appointment!

Pray urgently this Christmas for those who need to know Jesus as their Savior. Witness as the opportunities arise. Pray for our International Missionaries, over 4,000 of them scattered around this globe, that their sharing of the gospel will be successful!

Give a generous, sacrificial amount to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering this year. My challenge is to think in terms of giving your largest Christmas gift to this offering. How much did  you spend on your most expensive gift this year? Give at least one dollar more to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions!

Our Father, thank-you for sending Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice for our sin. Thank-you for the salvation that will be fully revealed on that day we stand before you. We urgently request that our friends, grandchildren, children, neighbors, and acquaintances come under the deep conviction of your Holy Spirit of their urgent need for a Savior. 

 

Nose Prints on the Window

Everyone pressed toward the window to get a peek. The two dozen people had waited for quite a while. A tangible excitement filled the room.

Grandmothers, Grandfathers, Great-grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and friends gathered for the event in Hot Springs. Then there she was! The first grandchild on both sides of the family and first great-grandchild too!

Our son dressed in scrubs and mask held her up to the window proudly. Eventually he handed her off to the nurse to do those newborn things.

What added to the suspense, our son and daughter-in-law had decided not to tell us her name until after she was born.

We saw our son ask the nurse for something. They left the nursery. He came back in with a plain white piece of paper and held it up to the glass.

Quickly-printed big letters spelled, ‘MOLLY MAE.’ An audible joy filled the hallway knowing her name for the first time.

Even with the advanced medical technology and understanding we have of a developing baby in the womb, the birth of a baby is still an extraordinary event!

Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God who does all things. Ecclesiastes 11:5 NLT

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

As you celebrate Christmas this year, remember how amazing this birth is. He is God’s Son conceived in the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit. “Ooohs” and “Aaahs” are appropriate.

As amazing as any birth is, the birth of the Son of God is even more amazing!

Bethlehem overflowing with those coming for the Roman census afforded little privacy. Born in a place animals rested. A feed trough served as a baby bed. The birth announcement was a sky full of angels. Just some local blue-collar workers out taking care of some sheep pressed their noses to the window that night.

And the Father did all of this knowing full well His perfect Son would be the perfect sacrifice for a world full of sinners – us!!! Oh, and his name, the name that is above all names, “JESUS!”

Press your noses against glass with a fresh amazement this Christmas!

Our Father, we “Oooh” and “Aaah” at the amazing grace you shared with us at the birth of Jesus. We thank-you and praise you!

 

Two-a-Days

Two-a-day’s. Boy, do I have vivid memories of two-a-day’s! In grades 8-12 I played football.  Every August we had an early morning practice and a late afternoon practice for two weeks.  We called those grueling, exhausting, get into shape, felt like we were going to die, football practices two-a-days.

Many times I wanted to quit! But the old football coach’s slogan would ring in my head, Quitters never win! Winners never quit!

How many times have you heard someone say, “Don’t give up!”  How many times have you have said it yourself?

How many times have each of us thought about giving up or wanted to give up?

The apostle Paul certainly had many reasons to give up in his life.  He was run out-of-town, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, snake bit, flogged, imprisoned, rejected, chained, starved … well, you get the picture.

Yet in the letter to the Philippians, while he is in prison, he gives one of the greatest pep talks in Scripture!

And then in the letter to the Galatians he tells them, “Don’t give up!”

So, let’s not get tired  of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone – especially to those in the family of faith. Galatians 6:9-10 NLT

Monday, I was on the receiving end of those who didn’t give up. The Disaster Relief Team showed up at my house to cut, haul, trim, and clean up … for four hours!  Thanks Gary Moore, Bill Gibbons, Harry Partlow, Jay Dirksen, Glen Barr, Dave Finton, and David Merkle!

I was humbled to be served by a group of Christian brothers who expected nothing in return.

So, let’s not get tired of doing what is good. Give God the glory in it. God will see to the harvest of the work, so trust Him. Now, don’t give up! I know you will feel like giving-up sometimes, but take each opportunity God puts into your day today, and do something good to someone. Especially do good stuff for your fellow brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ!

Our Father, thank-you for doing good for us by sending Your Son Jesus to die for us and give us grace, forgiveness, and eternal life. Help us today to do good stuff just because we should and expect nothing in return. Thank-you for the promised harvest You will give in Your perfect timing.

Why Don’t They Discipline That Child!

Isn’t it interesting that we seem to always know what someone else needs to do to discipline their children?  But with our own children our emotions usually clouded our judgment.  Clear-cut decisions on disciplining our own children often escaped us.  So we did the best we could.

Holiness, what is it?  This verse caught my attention: “Strive for peace with everyone, and for holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14

Holiness, my perception initially as a child and teenager didn’t make sense.  I knew good folk who worshiped at the “Holiness Church.”  These men and women wore long sleeves year-round.  The women wore no make-up and only long dresses. The women didn’t cut their hair.  I respected them for it.  I admired their dedication to the Lord.

But those are only external things.  Unless very careful, these things become legalism.  Holiness is primarily internal.  Of course it must have external results.

So, what is holiness?  It means to be different or set-apart.  But in the context of Hebrews 12, what is it?

So I backed up into Hebrews 12 and found holiness again in verse 10, “For they (our earthly fathers) disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he (our Heavenly Father) disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.”

So, our Heavenly Father’s discipline and holiness have something to do with each other.

First, holiness is a gift given to us at salvation through grace by faith.  Whew, that’s good!  I sure am glad of that!  Otherwise, I would never see the Father without this holiness (v.14).

Second, our Father disciplines us to bring holiness out in our daily lives.  Ouch, that hurts. He strains out the impurities, washes our mouths with soap, and gives an occasional spanking.  But unlike us who are imperfect fathers who disciplined in imperfect ways, our Heavenly Father always does it just right!  And He does it to so that “we may share his holiness” (v.10).

When do we need this discipline that leads to holiness?  Verse 4 says, “In your struggle against sin …”  Yes, as we struggle within ourselves and REACT to this world from our old nature when God wants us to REACT to this world from our new nature, then God disciplines us.  When we live, act, react, talk, work, and relate from our new nature, then we share in His holiness!

Why? Because our new nature is the HOLY Spirit living in us.  React from the old selfish nature, discipline!  React from the new holy nature, share God’s holiness!

God is so good!

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”  Hebrews 12:5-6

Father, thank-you for loving us enough to discipline us.  Thank-you for giving us the gift of holiness. Lead us out of temptation.  Deliver us from our struggles with evil. Glorify Yourself in us today.

Fourth of July

For several years while I was a child and teenager, my Dad’s extended family and friends gathered every Fourth of July at a remote spot on Lake Greeson.  We called it “the Fourth of July point.” We spent the day together. 

I can still take you to that exact spot today.  Papa and Granny Wright, aunts, uncles, in-laws, cousins, babies, children, teens, and old folks gathered together.  The Wright’s, Grant’s, Bright’s, McGrew’s, Tidwell’s, and also the Sorrel’s, a family who were close friends with us all came.  

We brought ski boats, picnic baskets, iced soft drinks, playpens, lawn chairs, and a relaxed attitude.  We ate, swam, skied, sunburned, and played practical jokes on each other.  Cousin A.G. (Alan George) jerked away the lawn chair my pregnant Mom was about to sit in.  She hit the ground hard.  BAD practical joke!!!  Anyway …

We experienced a togetherness I sense few families understand in today’s culture.  We could be who we were with no pretense.  We were family.  To my knowledge, no one brought an alcoholic beverage.  Just pure fun for a day!

“Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you?”  1 Corinthians 3:16

The New Testament word for ‘temple’ or ‘sanctuary’ was used of the temple at Jerusalem, but only of the sacred edifice or sanctuary itself, consisting of the Holy place and the Holy of Holies.

The ‘you yourselves’ in this verse is plural.  Paul is referring to a GROUP of believers, a congregation, a called-out body of saved people.

WE (plural) are the temple of the Spirit of God!  Sermons I heard over the years just referred to ME being a temple of God’s Spirit.  This is true.  But the first meaning of the verse is in reference to US.  Jesus taught us in His model prayer, to pray in the plural, it begins, “Our Father…”

I sense at Balboa Baptist this kind of family closeness similar to that of many years ago in my own extended family.  Many of you have extended family many miles away.  This church is your regular “Fourth of July get-together.” This congregation is your extended family.  You mourn with those who mourn and grieve with those who grieve. It is a privilege to be your pastor.

Billie Sue and I are looking forward to our first Sunday School picnic at Lake Balboa!  Barbeque!  Yummy.

Our Father, thank-you for the unique fellowship you give to us as believers.  Thank-you for indwelling US. Please protect our fellowship from conflict that will result in harm. Enable us to love each other, even in the differences we have with each other which every family experiences sooner or later.  Forgive US OUR trespasses as WE forgive those who trespass against US.  Father, thank-you for adopting US into Your family.