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.

A Loose Grip

Golf experts write a lot about how to grip a golf club. The tighter you grip the club the more likely you will hit a bad shot.

My brothers have ski boats that create huge wakes. We use a small surf board to actually surf on those wakes. The more relaxed you can stay the more likely you will be able to surf successfully.

The more you try to squeeze, hold, and demand the love of your grandchild, the more likely they are to push away. There is a delicate balance of letting go with love in order to receive the returned affection we grandparents crave so much!

The abundant life we all want comes much the same way. We attempt to buy it, build it, store it, accumulate it, get healthy enough to have it, work out enough to get it, yet abundant living alludes us.

This morning Paul’s words struck me to the core. Paul held a loose grip on life. He relaxed on the surf board God had given him. He didn’t seek to squeeze, hold, and demand that life serve him.  The apostle Paul said:

But I do not account my life of any value or as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24 ESV

What a powerful statement! Notice how he summed up what he valued more than his life on this earth. He loosened his grip on life to:

  1. Do God’s will: “if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus” and
  2. Tell the Good News: “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

Jesus said:

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.  Luke 17:33 ESV

Our Father, we hold on so tightly to this world and the things in it. Help us today to lose our lives for You and the gospel. Forgive us for holding on to the things that will pass away while ignoring the things that will last forever. Help us to let go of life so we may do Your will, share the good news of Jesus, and find Your abundant life.

 

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!

 

A New Whiz-bang-whatchamadoodle!

“Look what I got for Christmas!” she exclaimed. “See my new smart phone.  See my new coat.  See my new whiz-bang-whatchamadoddle!”

The new gizmo excited her so she wanted to tell her friends. Or was she bragging because her stuff cost more than their stuff?

Does receiving a gift give us the right to brag? After all, these are gifts. Gifts are given whether you deserve them or not. Right?

Or does the receiving of the gift depend on whether you’ve been “naughty or nice” as the famous song goes. The implication is that if you are nice, then you get gifts, but if you are naughty, you don’t get gifts.

Our Christmas traditions of Santa Claus are fun with our kids and grandkids, but really work just the opposite of the gospel.

The gospel says we’ve all been naughty, no one is nice. We are so naughty we deserve the worst of punishments. We have all disobeyed with a rebellious heart the loving Creator and holy God of the universe!

So the true Christmas meaning is that the Son of God was born to become God’s GIFT of salvation and forgiveness.

We are totally undeserving. There’s nothing we can do to earn this gift. We don’t get it by being nice.

It is a gift in the truest sense of the word. Only by a pure act of God’s grace do we receive this gift of salvation.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.  Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT

For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV

Our Father, our appreciation for sending your Son Jesus on that first Christmas cannot be expressed fully by our words. So look into our hearts and see the humble gratitude for the greatest gift of all. We praise you and you alone for providing what we did not deserve and could not provide for ourselves.

 

Mighty Mouse, Superman, & the Road Runner

Cartoons fascinated me as a child. The make-believe world of animated characters, creatures, and super-human stunts still grab the attention of my grandchildren today.

Does anyone remember the Roadrunner dropping an anvil on the coyote? Or do you remember Mighty Mouse flying through the air at supersonic speed and punching the villain in the nose?

I vividly remember as a child wishing there really was a Superman or a Mighty Mouse to come at just the right moment and rescue people from their impossible circumstances!

This morning I read this wonderful promise:

God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. Psalm 18:30

It was written by David in praise to God when God rescued him from Saul and his army. But the description David gives of God rescuing him would be a challenge for any animator.

Check this out this imagery in Psalm 18:

Then the earth quaked and trembled. The foundations of the mountains shook; they quaked because of his anger.
Smoke poured from his nostrils; fierce flames leaped from his mouth. Glowing coals blazed forth from him.
He opened the heavens and came down; dark storm clouds were beneath his feet.
10 Mounted on a mighty angelic being, he flew, soaring on the wings of the wind.
11 He shrouded himself in darkness, veiling his approach with dark rain clouds.
12 Thick clouds shielded the brightness around him and rained down hail and burning coals.
13 The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded amid the hail and burning coals.
14 He shot his arrows and scattered his enemies; great bolts of lightning flashed, and they were confused.
15 Then at your command, O Lord, at the blast of your breath, the bottom of the sea could be seen, and the foundations of the earth were laid bare.

The Holy Spirit inspired David to write this! We have our hero!  We have our rescuer! He is our Lord!  He is our God. Whether He rescues us from our here-and-now circumstances of life as He did with David or He rescues us ultimately in heaven, He is our hero!!!

Our Father, thank-you when you rescue us, heal us, or get us out of the messes we or someone else make. You are a great and awesome God beyond our imagination. Fill us with faith today in You. Whether our enemy is a physical illness, a human terrorist, an Ebola, a spiritual attack, or a discouragement, please give us the faith of David to face it knowing You are always with us.

 

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. 

I Loved the Family Vacation!

A contrary man spreads conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.” Proverbs 16:28

Each summer while growing up in Glenwood, we made an annual trek to Lake Greeson to camp for a week.  We went to the lake almost every week on my Dad’s day off during the summer, but this week was special.

Before the Corps of Engineers changed the rules, we even camped in an area with no camping facilities.  My Dad hunted a lot back then, so he knew all the back roads.

He pulled our small camper behind his pickup truck.  Dad piled the old homemade wooden picnic table upside-down in the back of the pickup with lots of other stuff on top it.  We camped at the end of a peninsula that jutted out into the lake.  We felt like the Swiss Family Robinson on our own deserted island!

My mother drove the station wagon packed with supplies.  My Mom’s parents, Victor and Gladys Cooper, usually came too.  They came in tow with an old army tent.  They slept on cots.

My Grandpa Cooper loved to make things instead of buy them.  He made a cooking table from a flat piece of metal and old plumbing pipes that screwed in for legs.  He was tight with the finances.  He rarely bought any fancy camping equipment because he could make just about anything from the old stuff he had stored in the old chicken house he had converted to a shop / storage building.

My Mom, Dad, younger sister and two brothers slept in the little camper.  I slept by myself in the station wagon.

We skied, swam, fished, played, ate, and hiked all day.  My Dad drove the boat a lot while we skied.  My Mom cooked.  Granny Cooper painted lake scenes. I still have some of her paintings (see photo).  Papa Cooper made the frame.

In the evenings, tired and sunburned, we drank lots of iced tea, and sat around a small fire.  The old Coleman lantern my Dad had pumped up and lighted hung in a tree nearby.

Granny Cooper always wanted to play the whisper game.  She would whisper a sentence into the ear of the person next to her.  Then they in turn would whisper to the next until it went around the circle.  Then the last person would repeat out loud what they heard.

Granny then revealed the original sentence.  The difference was amazing!  The end statement did not even resemble the original.  We would laugh and laugh at the ridiculous things that came out on the other end!

Wow, what a lesson it taught us as children!

Repeating half-truths, assumptions, exaggerations, and hear-say in life doesn’t get laughs.  It gets conflict and damaged relationships.  Ruthlessly reject gossip!  It will destroy a congregation’s unity and hinder God’s work and Spirit!

Encourage each other.  Praise the Lord.  Speak only truth.  Say lots of prayers.  Use your words carefully.

Father, discipline our lives to carefully build-up with our words instead of carelessly throwing words to the wind.