Two Stories

Two cheesey stories

1st Story

A guy comes in for breakfast and starts grumbling about church. He says, “It takes too long, it’s really dull, and the sermons are boring. I think I’m staying home.” And then his wife said, “But honey, you’re the preacher!”

2nd Story

Two men sat down to eat. One opened his lunch box and said, “Peanut butter and jelly, everyday its peanut butter and jelly, I’m so tired of peanut butter and jelly.” Then his friend remarked, “Joe, don’t you pack your own lunch?”

It’s easy to get bored, restless, and tired of things. Someone will say, “Rick, if you want things to be better then its up to you.” True enough.

But couldn’t someone else do something to make my life better?

It turns out someone did. 

By Contrast

I was thinking about the differences between the early church and the modern church. What was worship like in the 1st century? Was it dull? Boring? Was it too long?

Since I’m the preacher I know the sermons are never dull and boring!

I don’t really know how their experience was different from our own. But I know we have something they didn’t.  

  1. Electricity
  2. Central Heating/Air Conditioning
  3. Restrooms
  4. Drinking fountains
  5. Kitchens
  6. Classrooms
  7. Lights
  8. Thousands of songs
  9. Parking lots
  10. Bulletins/ Order of Worship
  11. A gym, nursery, fellowship halls, offices, and comfortable seating
  12. Wi-Fi
  13. Giant screens
  14. Freedom to worship 
  15. Oh, and Bibles

I appreciate all of those. And guess what? I did absolutely nothing to invent, build, or develop any of them. I just walk in, sit down, and enjoy.

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The Southeast Church of Christ Meets Here: It’s A Great Place To Meet!

And

I have doctors, grocery stores, malls, and restaurants. I have access to countless businesses offering every kind of service and to countless stores selling every kind of stuff.

And I’ve done absolutely nothing to make any of that happen.

In Closing

Actually, when I think about it, lots of people have done lots of things to make my life better. Not the least of which is the Lord my God.

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Thanks everybody!

Shalom

The Promises

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc. It’s Latin, and means: after this, and therefore resulting from it. In other words, “one thing leads to another.” Does it?

Not Always

It’s erroneous to think that because the first thing happened that what followed was inevitable, that it’s always a cause and effect relationship. But sometimes it is.

We Don’t Always Know

There are many things in life that happen for reasons that are hard to pin down. But I know this, and have great confidence about it: the promises of God are certain. And because they are, I can make decisions and choices based on his promises. That assurance allows me to live my life with certitude.

In Christ

I have been sealed, with the promised Holy Spirit. The Spirit within is a guarantee of my eternal inheritance. It’s a foundation that I’ve built my life on. It’s a promise that allows me to not just survive, but to thrive.

I know life can be hard. There’s grief, sorrow, and sadness. There’s hardship and heartache. But they will not crush me, will not overwhelm me, and they will not defeat me.

My faith in isn’t based on a privileged, painless eternity on earth, that’s a rose garden not promised to me.

His Promises

The promises of God allow me to live in faith. I believe. Because I believe, I can commit to certain values. I can care for the poor, help the homeless, and give comfort to the suffering. I can give of my resources and give them generously. I can be assured that everything I need will be provided and restored.

To Close

I’m a blessed man. Not just because I write this blog from inside a warm home while others suffer in the cold. Or because I have a good breakfast while others go hungry. 

I’m blessed because I have the promises of God, I am sealed for salvation, and I stand strong on the foundation of His commitment to me.

With God, one thing does lead to another. 

resurrection-of-christ

Have a blessed Sunday.

Shalom

I Love Trains

Do you like trains? We had model trains growing up. For years we had an electric train, the Santa Express, that ran on a track around the tree.

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Not Our Tree or Train, But Really Close

A Bigger Train

There are train tracks between my house and the church office. Mostly the trains, which seem miles long, run late at night. In the last six months I’ve had to stop maybe three times.

Not As Fun

The big trains aren’t as cute, or as much fun, or as interesting as the Santa Express. Mostly, they are oil and chemical cars. Every car looks the same, a dull grey with some undecipherable black lettering. Once the engine goes by, and maybe a half dozen cars, boredom sets in and I’m just ready for it to be over.

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Not Exactly The Same Car, But Close, Very Close

Wednesday Night

Wednesday evening, as I was driving home from our mid-week service, I had to stop for a train. Many were stopped, an endless line of cars in both lanes. It was more of a parking lot.

The train had slowed to a sloth like pace. Meaning I had to squint to see if it was even moving. It was, barely. Twenty-eight minutes later, the train was finished, and so was I.

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Not Houston Or Houston’s Trains, But Close Enough

While I Waited

Here’s a list of things I did while waiting:

  1. I waited.
  2. Listened to music.
  3. Made two phone calls.
  4. Looked around at the other cars.
  5. Noticed other drivers getting antsy.
  6. Had an annoyance that morphed into irritation.
  7. Prayed a little.
  8. Wondered why I bought a house across the tracks.
  9. Did a happy dance when the train finished crossing.

Performing a happy dance while driving is frowned upon in the Texas State Drivers Manual. Fortunately, I was not stopped, ticketed, or asked to perform the dance for what would certainly have been a bewildered Houston Police Officer. Uh Huh.

Virtues

Patience is a virtue and highly prized in the sacred text of scripture. So are perseverance, longsuffering, and self-control. These virtues exist within me. I have them.

I just don’t have them in great supply.

To Close

On second thought. I love trains and appreciate every opportunity they provide to practice my religion.

Shalom

The Little Limbs

We had high winds Sunday evening. Not hurricane winds, but strong.

What Happened?

The gusts blew limbs off the trees; not big ones, just the little ones. The winds rained all manner of twigs everywhere. 

What Did I Do?

I had to pick them up and stuff them into a trash bin. The yard looks a good bit better and my back feels a good bit worse. I was grateful none of the really big ones fell.

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Not My Yard Or A Limb I Had To Deal With. But Close, Very Close

 

 

The Branches

Actually, branches and twigs are always falling. But usually they come down just one or two at a time, so they seem more manageable, less of a problem. 

But after a wind storm, the roof and yard are littered with limbs; and each one has to be dealt with.

Is Life Like That?

Are twigs like the sins in our lives? None of them are especially difficult. Nothing we can’t manage. They make a small mess that’s easily cleaned up, as long as they are small and come just one or two at a time.

We fear the big ones. The thick, massive limbs that damage the roof. Or the tree that blows down and falls on the car. That’s a mess not so easily cleaned up.

To Close

If I care about my home then I’ll clean up the limbs and whatever else that doesn’t belong.

If I care about my soul then I’ll clean up the sins and whatever else that doesn’t belong.

Shalom

Houston’s Except Clause

They say happiness is a state of mind. Okay.

Which State?

Our great republic has fifty states; some are sparsely populated while others feel crowded. My state is booming, it’s Texas.

Good Living

Houston has a strong economy, lots of new growth and lots of new people. Business is good, housing is exploding, and we are proud to once again be hosting the Super Bowl.

Most of the attention is given to what’s happening above: the tall buildings and soaring spires of commerce. But the key element, the thing that gets overlooked, are the roads.

i-45-traffic

Constant Longing

What Houstonians want most are roads. We don’t have enough, or at least they aren’t big enough. And, for some reason, our roads end up requiring a lot repair.

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The Except Clause

Here’s the except clause: All Houstonians want nice, big roads, and they want the bad roads to get repaired, they just want it done somewhere else. They want the roads they use for commuting to already be big and good to go. The motto is: “Let them build and expand somewhere else.”

Basically, all of Houston is closed for road work.

Me?

Well, we moved to the southwest suburbs. For two years a major Blvd was under construction and caused constant conflict. Then the Beltway 8 Toll Road, a mainstay of my commute, underwent a three-year overhaul. Then I-45 began its massive, larger than life, “your children will live to see it finished,” project. And I fought that mess for three or four years. Then we said enough. We moved.  

And Now?

We are so happy. No more freeways, no toll roads, no traffic jams, no anything. Except for this. The church I preach for is on Bay Area Blvd. The city has decided that Bay Area BLVD needs resurfacing, a major, high volume, four lane road. Traffic will be redirected from four lanes to two, so they can work on one side, the reroute the traffic so they can work on the other side. It’s going to be a big mess.

So I asked. They said it would take about six months. That sounds suspiciously like ten or eleven months to me. 

To Close

Yep, happiness is a state of mind. And the state I live in is driving me crazy.

Shalom

His Tender Mercy

Changed, not just affected or influenced, but different.

What Happened?

Actually, there have been several life events that were more than an amazing moment or a great idea. I’ll list some in the hopes that they’ll remind you of some of your own.

  1. An impoverished Haitian mother who begged me to take her baby.
  2. Walking through the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.
  3. Praying at the wailing wall.

Why they changed me isn’t relevant. The point is that I was changed.

Transformation

The process of changing from one thing into something else is metamorphosis. It’s also known as transformation. Like liquid to steam or water to ice.

It’s also known as sanctification.

Sanctification

It’s a religious word, meaning to be sanctified, or to sanctify. It’s found about a dozen times in the New Testament.

Examples

When I got a head cold, my mom filled the vaporizer with water, put some Vick’s Vapor Rub by the spout, and turned it on. Within minutes, I was able to breath much better. It was fantastic.

The water changed into steam. Because it changed, I was changed.

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Biblically

At its core, sanctification is making holy what is unholy; make righteous what is unrighteous. It’s the ministry of God. 

The Change

Jesus hasn’t just affected my life. He’s more than an influence or a new idea. Because of him I am a new creation and filled with the Spirit of God, it’s his gift to me.

Spirtiually, I’ve been sanctified.

To Close

God made me holy, for I was unholy. He made me righteous, for I was unrighteous. These changes didn’t happen by my goodness, but by his, by his tender mercy. 

It’s called sanctification.

Shalom

Blinded by the Light?

It was overpowering, it was just too much.

Here’s What Happened

I installed some exterior lighting in the atrium of our house. I’ve spent the last five months remodeling the space, but it’s finished now and it looks great. I’m enjoying the quiet atmosphere and peaceful tranquility.

But it needed some light for the evenings. So I installed some lighting.

Too Much

One of the lights was a halogen spot light that I bought specifically to light up one of the corners. It did. It lit it up like the sun. It was too much! So I disconnected it.

Some things just don’t need that much light.

The Spotlight

Some of us have a challenge with light. We love it. We love it too much. For us the light is about everyone seeing just how good and gifted we are. It’s about ego, pride, and a maybe a haughty arrogance. Maybe?

spotlight-293x300

Sound like anyone you know? Does it sound like me? Like you?

The Light

Light is a wonderful thing. Without it nothing survives. Everything that has ever lived was alive because of light. On the first day of creation, God made light. The sun, moon, and stars weren’t created until the 4th day. But there was light on the first day.

Jesus is the light of the world. As his disciples, we also are the light of the world. He said to let our light shine in such a way that others would glorify the Father.

Is there a difference between shining our light and letting our light shine? Is there a difference between serving so others will see us and serving so others will see God?

Today, try to shine so people will see him, for everything should point to him.

To Close

Some things can have too much light. It can be overpowering. 

Shalom

“I Can Do It Myself”

 

A young father came in to the bagel shop with his son who was about four and wearing his Spiderman PJ’s.

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Not Spiderman PJ’s, But Close

 Here’s What Happened

They got settled at a table with bagels, a cup of coffee, and a juice box. He gave a bagel to his son, pulled the straw off the juice box, and then immediately heard, “I can do it by myself, I can do it by myself.” “Okay, let me get it out of the wrapper,” said Dad.

He handed the straw to his son, who with a giant smile, plunged it into the box. I think the plunging was his favorite part.

“I can do it by myself.” 

Took Me Back

I was instantly transported nearly 30 years, to breakfasts with my own superhero, wearing his Bat Man costume or his Ninja Turtle PJ’s.

Honestly, I got a little emotional. Those were great times and sweet memories.

I remember my son saying, “Dad, I can do it, I can do it.” Then a few years later I heard it  from my daughter; just like my parents heard it from me.

Some Spiritual Application?

Is God still hearing the words? “I can do it myself Lord, I can do it myself.”

Does he see my stubborn will, choosing my own path, insisting on my own way? Does he grow weary, if the Lord gets weary, of my pushing him aside so I can think, say, and do what I want?

I’m a long way from four, and my dinosaur PJ’s are ancient history. But to the Lord, I may  still be a strong willed child.

To Close

There’s a line from an old hymn, “My stubborn will, at last I have yielded.” It’s a good line. Here’s another one:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time,” (I Peter 5:6).

It is a good line and pretty good advice. But am I too stubborn to follow it?
“I can do it myself, I can do it myself!”

Shalom

Getting Boxed

Good things come in small packages.

Sure They Do

However, dynamite comes in small packages, as do test tubes filled with bacteria. But yes, jewelry, gift cards, and cash come in small packages. Does that mean that bad things come in big packages?

A Delivery

I got a delivery from Amazon. It was a wrought iron bracket I needed to mount an outdoor lantern. The part that screwed into the wall was 3” long and the arm was 5” long.

The bracket came inside a cardboard box that was easily ten times too large. And that box was inside another box big that was big enough to hold a flat screen TV. To fill the extra space, they used those inflated plastic cells that are all linked together. There were miles of it.

The bracket wasn’t expensive, and I’m not an expert, but I’m guessing the packaging cost more than the bracket.

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It’s A Good Bracket

I was happy to get the bracket, it’s now attached to a wall in my atrium and is perfect for the lantern. It looks great.

Good things come in small packages. Evidently, they come in big packages too.

Somewhere, that made sense to someone. “Hey,” he thought, “I think I’ll pack this tiny bracket in a box that’s way too big and then put that box in another box that’s really way to big and then ship it to some poor sap in Texas.”

I thought about returning it in a refrigerator box! That would teach them. Yep, way to go Rick, way to stand up for something. But of course, I didn’t. 

In Closing

Okay, I know. There’s more to life than obsessing over the size of a shipping box.

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There are people in need, problems to solve, and situations requiring attention. I need to let it go. Put it behind me. Just move on and do something meaningful with my life. Yes, that sounds right.

Still….

Defined by Fingerprints?

Kids look like their parents, usually.

Identifiable

One way to identify kids is by their parental resemblance. Children will often have the facial features of one and a physical trait of the other. Maybe it’s hair or eye color, or something else.

Kids will often have the personality of a parent. People will say, “He or she is just like their mom or dad.”

“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” people will say.

Is It Guaranteed?

But identity by resemblance isn’t guaranteed. You can’t go through life using pictures of your parents as proof of identity.  

After science developed it, fingerprinting became a primary method for determining identity. Today, there are retinal scans, DNA testing, and facial recognition software.

But the standard has long been fingerprinting.

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 Spiritual Application

Spiritually speaking, how can others tell whose child I am? I’m created in the image of God, but just as chemicals or rough physical labor can erode fingerprints, sin can erode resemblance to the creator.

Are there new fingerprints for those who have been born again?

Perhaps the fruits of the Spirit? Or that of being filled with the Spirit? Maybe it’s the character of God manifested by ongoing transformation?

To Think About

Spiritually, we have divine identity. Every child of God has divine prints. For we are his children, born again into his glorious kingdom of light.  

What binds us together isn’t our looks, personalities, or parental similarities. Those things don’t define who we are in God, or who we are with each other. They don’t determine our divine identity.   

To Close

We are all different people. But if we are a new creation in Christ, then we take on his divine nature, and wear on our soul, the fingerprints of God.

Shalom