A Worthy Woman

Today, my daughter turned 13.  It is difficult to imagine that 13 years ago I become a father for the very first time.  Like most of us that have had children, we remember that 1st day, that 1st moment.

She was so tiny.  My wife used to say she wasn’t a football.  She was always accusing me of holding her just like I would hold a football.  I would always tell her not to worry.  I have never fumbled in my life.  (Thankfully the wife didn’t understand that offensive linemen weren’t supposed to handle the football).  I knew from the moment I first saw her, I would love her all the days of my life.  She was mine and all that I had and all that I am would go into raising her, loving her, teaching her, providing for her and helping her grow up to be a worthy woman.

This meant that I had a lot of changing to do.  I had things I had to do differently in my life.  If I was going to always be there for her, I needed to make those changes.  If I was going to be the best dad I can be, I needed to grow up in a hurry.  Regretfully, I failed in many ways over these last 15 years.  And, as I woke up this morning I was hit with the cold hard reality of my daughter becoming a teenager.  I moved out of my mom and dad’s at 17 and headed off to college (I turned 18 about a month later).  My daughter has less than 5 years left in my home.  My daughter has less than 5 years of waking up just a bedroom away.  I have less than 5 years to shape her, mold her, and help her along.  And I know that coming real soon, I no longer will be the man in her life.  Someone else will fill that role.  Someone else will be helping to shape her, take care of her, love her, and provide for her.  A cold hard sweat came over me.  I was running out of time.

We are only given a few years on this earth to shape our children into the people they ultimately will be.  For a child 18-20 years seems like an eternity.  I now understand what my parents met when they said you will blink and it will all be over.  I cannot waste a single moment.  We really cannot afford to.

I know that so far, things are on the right track.  My daughter knows how to change a diaper.  She can cook food that is not just edible, but quite tasty.  A couple of years ago she chose to put on Christ in baptism.  For the last year she has been looking for different ways to serve the church.  (She cleans the building, helps with the Lord’s Supper, and has been hounding me to teach a class).  Is she perfect?  No.  I am not that parent that sees his daughter with rose colored glasses on.  But, I am that parent that sees his daughter for what she really is.  She is no longer a little girl.  She is no longer my baby.  She is becoming a young woman… a worthy woman.

Feeling Beat Down?

rest

I would be lying to you if I told you I love winter. I don’t. I haven’t for a long time. This particular winter I have been sicker than I have been for a long time. It seems like I have one health issue after the next creep up on me. Just this past month I have had influenza. This particular batch has lingered on for a while. It has kept my exhausted, drained, and here lately I feel like even breathing can be difficult. (I know that is not a good sign and I have a doctor’s appointment coming up). I have also been battling tendinitis in my ankle. Between these two issues, I haven’t run more than 5 miles in almost 2 months. Being that I have two long races coming up soon this has me a little on edge. On top of these things I have all the other issue going on in my life. Next week my daughter turns 13. I get the big reminder that I am getting older. I have the added stress of having a “teen-ager” in my home. I also have the daily concern for the church here. I worry about the physical, emotional, and spiritual well being of every one of the brothers and sisters in Christ. At the end of most days I feel about 100 years old. And I am afraid that most days I look it. I am beaten down.

I thank the Lord that relief is coming. Spring is in the air. Yes, it did snow the other day, but Spring is finally, officially here. My grass is greener (and can I say I am excited that snow shoveling is coming to an end and that I get to teach my oldest son how to mow this year?) I noticed our tulips were peaking through the dirt. The ground is getting soft enough that we can begin to think about planting. I love the spring. I love the idea of a new birth. Spring is easily my favorite time of the year.

I thank the Lord that relief is coming. Our spring lectureship is right around the corner. April 10th through the 15th we will be having Frederic Gray present a series of lessons to us on How and Why God Wants to Change Your Life. What a great subject to have in the Spring when everything around us is changing for the good. I need some change in my life and this series of lessons is just what the doctor ordered.

I thank the Lord that relief is coming. My wife and I will be celebrating our 14th year together soon. We typically try to take a family trip somewhere to celebrate the birth of our family unit. While the beginning of this year was certainly better than the beginning of last year, I am tired, I am worn, and my soul is ready for a nice sabbatical where I can rest, pray, and recharge my batteries. (Only a month or so before that opportunity arises).

I thank the Lord that relief is coming. Eventually God will send his Son. Jesus will come again and the faithful will be caught up in the clouds and taken home. The knowledge of that fateful day keeps me going each day. I know that in the end, my struggles in this life will all be worth it. Praise God that peace and comfort is on the way!

Are You Preparing for Success

Prior to the announcement of the three compensation picks the Steelers ...

The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.”

– H. Jackson Brown Jr, P.S. I Love You

I am a huge sports fan. In fact, one of my favorite pastimes is to sit down Sunday afternoons and watch the game of football. It is nothing for me to sit there for 3 games every Sunday. The time passes so quickly I have often lost track of the fact that I have other obligations (like being a father, home owner, etc). To top it off, this time of the year I actually find exciting, even though no football is being played. The offseason is where dreams begin to be materialized. Personally, I am a Chicago Bears fan. Since 2006 we haven’t really had much to be excited about. (We have had a couple of good seasons sprinkled here and there but they were more surprises that legitimate hope building seasons upon which dynasties are made. This offseason however has been a little more hopeful that past offseasons. While I realize that winning the offseason is a far cry from winning the Superbowl, winning the offseason can be a first step to creating a championship football team. The Bears brass no longer seems content just sitting there and making money. They want to win and they are doing what is needed to make that happen. Even the harshest of critics on ESPN and the NFL Network cannot ignore the positive steps the Bears have been making. After years of being a joke in the NFL they are no considered one of the top 5 teams on the rise.

What does this have to do with my typically spiritually minded blog? In order to be a spiritual success you have to be preparing. A brother in Christ once told me no one will accidentally wake up in heaven, (the Christian’s “Superbowl”). That is, no one will sit there confused asking, how did I end up here. They will know exactly why they are there. They spent their lives preparing for their departure from this earth. John the Baptist’s job was to prepare the people. “… and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared (Luke 1:17).” We are to be prepared, ready and waiting for the coming of the Lord. Only those that have spent their lives preparing for departure will find their reward.

Conversely, hell will be comprised of a lot of people that won’t know why they ended up there. They will cry unto the Lord, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matt. 7:22-23).” There will be many who think that they have been properly prepared. There will be many who think that they have done all that they can to be pleasing unto God, but Jesus will say unto them, “depart from me.” Based upon my studies, this will happen because they did what they thought was good enough, rather than following the pattern God supplies in his word. It’s not that they were bad people, at least in the eyes of the world. But, God wants a people that follow His plan, His Son, and His way. His way is not complicated. It is not hard, but it does require me to say, “Not my way but yours. Not my will, but yours.”

 

 

To God Be the Glory

glory to god

We serve an amazing God. There is not a day that does not go by that I don’t thank Him for all that he is. My Creator, my Rock, my Shield, my Fortress, and my Help in an hour of need. He never fails to show me his love, wisdom, mercy, and grace. And this past week I was reminded of what truly is most important.

As a preacher I have been noted for having a booming voice. It is not to say that I have always used that booming voice well, but I have prided myself on knowing that those sitting on the back row will be able to hear me loud and clear. I can recall one “complaint” I had early in my preaching career was that it can be a bit overbearing if you are sitting on the front row. I smiled and simply replied, when the back row is empty I’ll taper off, until then, I want all in the house to have the chance to hear God’s word (that small little church didn’t have a speaker system).

Last week my family and I caught a nasty bought of influenza. I spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday trying to get healthy because Sunday would be my first Gospel Meeting (read my post from last week to see how I excited I was/am about this opportunity). On Friday I was still running fevers close to 104˚. To say I was uncomfortable is to make a vast understatement. I was completely miserable. If I didn’t feel better by Sunday there was no way I was going to be able to preach. It made me sick to my stomach to think that I was going to have to contact the elders of the church and let them know I couldn’t be there. I prayed, prayed, and prayed some more that God would just permit me to be healthy enough to bring his message to the saints in Madrid. I woke up Saturday feeling much better. I thanked the Lord for answered prayers. Sunday rolled along and I my voice was tired, but certainly strong enough to preach God’s good word. On my way to Madrid that morning my voice disappeared. I felt the moment it was gone. I couldn’t believe it. My booming voice was reduced to a horse, gravelly, shell of its normal self.

I managed to make it through three sermons that morning. My voice more sore than ever. I hoped that a good night’s rest was serve to strengthen my voice. Nope. Monday was more of the same. I made it through last night’s lesson, my voice even weaker than Sunday’s. Today I woke up with more of the same. Believe me, I am thankful for microphones and sound systems or no one past the first row would have heard me.

But, most of all I am thankful to God for this wonderful reminder. The power of salvation is not me. It is not my voice. The power of salvation is his word (Rom. 1:16)! We serve an amazing God that keeps me humble. That teaches me vital lessons. That loves me enough to never let me get to big for my britches. Tonight, I will give it another go and may God tonight and every time I step in the pulpit receive ALL the glory!

Fruit of the Spirit

On Saturday I will make the trip quick to Madrid, Iowa and spent the next several days with the saints there. A couple of years ago the elders there invited me to come in 2016 to preach during their spring gospel meeting. I was really excited and feeling very blessed because, besides the fact that I have been preaching for nearly 14 years, I have never been invited to speak for a weeklong (or in this case 4 day) meeting. A few months ago they called to let me know what subject matter they would like for me to preach on. They gave me the Fruits of the Spirit.

In Gal. 5:22-23 Paul lists the fruits of the Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I view these “fruits” much like I view the beatitudes found in Matt. 5. Paul is not telling us that there are different types of fruits that different types of Christians can bear. The church is not like a fruit farm that has all kinds of different fruits growing: apple trees, pear trees, orange trees, banana trees, etc Christians are supposed to be branches off the true vine (John 14) that produces all of these fruits. It is not just the preacher who is supposed to be kind, good, faithful, gentle, loving, joyous, peaceful, patient, and full of self-control. It is not just the elders who should be bearing these fruits. It is every person that bears the name of Christ!

Sadly, we often make excuses as to why we don’t bear the fruits we should. We say things like, “I’m working on it.” Could you imagine failing every day at work and you reply with “I’m working on it.” How long do you think you will have a job? I cannot imagine an employer will tolerate an unproductive employee whose only response to his constant shortcomings is “I’m working on it.” And yet, that is exactly how we expect God to view our personal shortcomings in his vineyard. When He shows us that we aren’t loving enough, we say, “I’m working on it.” Do you know what happens when we keep saying “I’m working on it?” The world is being impacted by your lack of fruit bearing! Children grow up watching dad constantly lose his temper all while he replies, “I’m working on it.” Husbands continue to be belittled by their wives why she says, “I’m working on my loving behavior.” Your neighbor continues to watch you play golf, watch football, sleep in on Sunday mornings, etc and yet when asked about your faith in attendance, you say “I’m working on it.”

Do you know what Jesus did to the tree that was “working on it?” “And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever. And presently the fig tree withered away (Matt. 21:19).” He cursed it and it died. Let that sink in for just a moment. When we constantly fail to produce the fruits we have been called on to produce, when we constantly make excuses as to why we aren’t fruitful God will cut us off! As John said, the ax is at the root (Matt. 3:10). He is ready to cut it down. When he returns again, will he find faith in you?

If you are interested in hearing more about the fruits of the spirit and you are in the area I encourage you to attend the meeting in Madrid, IA. Here is their website where you can find address, meeting times, etc. I hope to see you there.

http://www.madridchurch.com