What I've been thinking and what I've been reading for you to compare notes.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Meaty Messages

So we're currently in this series on the Book of Hebrews at Pathway Church that I've entitled "Does God Care?" and every week as I pray and prepare to feed the flock I think to myself, "Man, this is meaty stuff! God, please help me share the meat of the Word in a digestable manner, especially to the younger Christ followers."

I've always been something of a Bible nerd, even when I first came to Christ as a 12-year-old and started taking Bible correspondence courses through the mail. Years later during the first week at my first pastorate, shortly before my 21st birthday, I made a desk out of cement blocks and wooden planks in the corner of the church nursery and said to myself, "You mean I get paid ($110 a week at the time - ha!) to study the Word and share it with others?! How cool is this!"

It excites me to study the Word for myself but I also want my friends to get deeper into God's truth because when we apply ourselves to understanding the "deep secrets" of God we are the recipients of truly practical and powerful knowledge! It puzzles me why some waste their time reading a horoscope or having their palms read or consulting with a psychic when God's Word reveals so many positive and factual things for here and hereafter!

I think Scripture itself is the best commentary on my current dilemma of sharing the Word in an understandable fashion.

Paul writes this to the church family at Corinth in chapter two of his first letter to them:

1 Dear brothers and sisters, when I came to you, I did not come preaching God's secret with fancy words or a show of human wisdom. 2 I decided that while I was with you I would forget about everything except Jesus Christ and his death on the cross.3 So when I came to you, I was weak and fearful and trembling.4 My teaching and preaching were not with words of human wisdom that persuade people but with proof of the power that the Spirit gives.5 This was so that your faith would be in God's power and not in human wisdom.

6 However, I speak a wisdom to those who are mature. But this wisdom is not from this world or from the rulers of this world, who are losing their power.7 I speak God's secret wisdom, which he has kept hidden. Before the world began, God planned this wisdom for our glory.8 None of the rulers of this world understood it. If they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written in the Scriptures: "No one has ever seen this, and no one has ever heard about it. No one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love him." — Isaiah 64:4

10 But God has shown us these things through the Spirit. The Spirit searches out all things, even the deep secrets of God.11 Who knows the thoughts that another person has? Only a person's spirit that lives within him knows his thoughts. It is the same with God. No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.12 Now we did not receive the spirit of the world, but we received the Spirit that is from God so that we can know all that God has given us.13 And we speak about these things, not with words taught us by human wisdom but with words taught us by the Spirit. And so we explain spiritual truths to spiritual people.14 A person who does not have the Spirit does not accept the truths that come from the Spirit of God. That person thinks they are foolish and cannot understand them, because they can only be judged to be true by the Spirit.15 The spiritual person is able to judge all things, but no one can judge him. The Scripture says: 16 "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Who has been able to teach him?" — Isaiah 40:13 But we have the mind of Christ. (New Century Version of the Bible)

I am praying for the church family who listens to the messages in our current series to be spiritually minded. I am asking God to help me avoid human wisdom and rely on heavenly wisdom. I am asking for the mind of Christ.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wrestling with The Almighty

After 14 years in exile, Jacob wrestled with someone all night before meeting again with his estranged brother Esau whom he had connived out of a blessing all those years earlier.

Various suggestions have been made as to his opponent. Some teach that it was actually Esau himself wrestling with Jacob, but Jacob concluded that he had seen God "face to face" and his life had been spared. (Genesis 32:40)

Been wrestling myself; several nights. No Esau in my life. No one I have defrauded or stolen a blessing from, just a restless spirit that comes from waiting on God's blessing. For, as you may remember, it was after Jacob "wrestled" with God that he was truly blessed. Spiritual interest that had been promised to him actually started to accrue after that famous confrontation with the Almighty.

Several things come to my mind about wrestling with God.

*A confrontation with the Almighty is tantamount to facing the fact that you are weak. I don't mean by this that God is a bully. He wasn't pushing Jacob around that night; neither does He manhandle us. But before we receive the great blessings that God has for us we do need to update our status as created ones and God as Creator; God the blessor and we the blessees; He as Heaven's Hulk (I won't say Hogan) and we as earth's dust.

*We get ahead spiritually, not by our conniving, but by heaven's blessing. How easy to make Jacob's characteristic mistake of trying to manipulate the circumstances (and others) toward an outcome that casts a good light on us. But God needed to train Jacob into receiving a blessing via prayer - versus his lifelong habit of stealing blessings by human duplicity.

*We need not fear the future if we are walking with God; even if that walk is with a limp. Yes Jacob would have a reminder within him until the day he died of that night God keep him all night - a hip joint out of socket, or something of that sort, that would, with every step he took, remind him of his need to rely upon God instead of himself. It is when we take every step with God that we have true security - and not one moment until then.

I'm anticipating some good blessings of God, not only because I've been wrestling with God, but because I'm limping. But its okay because I'm also still learning.

Don't take this the wrong way, but I hope you're limping too.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

"Where You Been Chinquapin?"

I haven't blogged this past summer. Grandkids Andrew, Caroline and Daniel were here (along with their parents Brooke and Matthew) and I wanted to spend as much time as possible with them. They live in Spain so when they're here time is precious and I put stuff like blogging on the back burner.

Plus, another grandson arrived in Nashville, Isaac, and we wanted to be there for his arrival and back to see him (and his parents Bethany and David) on July 4.

Deb and I are also excited about our grandson Carter's arrival in Indiana probably later this month. We won't have all the grandchildren together until next summer but here are the four that were together this summer.

The title for this blog is a saying I heard as boy in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. A chinquapin is a wild nut that grows on the side of the mountains. It tastes good but is so much smaller than a chestnut, which also grows inside a burr like a chinquapin, that it takes quite a few to make a mouthful. But its worth the work to pick & eat them because they are unique and delicious!

I used to take a lunch bag full of chinquapins to school to snack on. Boy was I country!

For some reason I've always compared some people I know to chinquapins. They take a lot of work to understand and love but when you get past their prickly burrs and spend enough time with them you see their good points.

"Be patient with everyone..." 1 Thessalonians 5:14c (CEV)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Jamie Bush's Testimony

[Jamie gave the following testimony recently at Pathway Church during a series Deb and I were co-teaching on relationships. She and her husband Thomas are actively involved in Pathway Church, dedicated to helping others find Christ and follow Him.]

I am overwhelmed and humbled by God's generosity and persistence.

Five years ago I was living with a man who was a drug addict, who physically punished me and belittled me daily.

My Aunt Sandy told me she worked with a guy named Thomas who was great, but also in a bad relationship...she was sure if we'd both free ourselves we would be so happy, BUT I was absolutely sure that I was worthless and that pain is what I deserved. EVERYone in my life tried to pull me away and help me, but I wouldn't listen.

God sent 3 friends and several family members to me telling me this would kill me if i didn't leave. I lost my house, my car, my job because I put this man in control of my life and he destroyed it. Finally, I was beaten and scared so much that I left, but when I didn't think I could live without that "love," I attempted suicide. I couldn't believe I survived. Why was God so cruel?

At that point, I really was mad at God. My dad was dead, my sister was dead, and i was absolutely alone. How did he let me go through this? I was a great person until I put all my "faith" in a horrible man.

What I didn't see, is that God had moved me to my mom's house to "recover" my life and be filled with love. God pulled me from that man because I wouldn't remove myself. God put me in court-ordered counseling and I began to realize I did have self worth.

I went to church with my Aunt Sandy from time to time and felt SO pulled to God that I still pushed him away because I wasn't ready to admit my failures. One Sunday I heard "Grace like rain" and it clicked....God did love me! God saved me from the fire I had put myself in! God did have a future for me! God already forgiven me for the horrible things I had yet to admit to him... does that sink in? Slowly...

I started working at the Neighborhood Thrift Store and slowly began dating again....met Pastor Brian and started coming to Pathway....still slipping up and not making great choices with dating, but I knew i wanted a Godly man.


my same Aunt Sandy that had taken me to church, finally convinced me to go out with Thomas....

Meanwhile in Thomas' life: painful divorce, living with a woman who took advantage of him financially and emotionally...then he made her leave and went to church one Sunday in February 2007....Thomas asked God to take control of his life again and promised to change his life...

We met the next Friday...three days later I told my mom Thomas would be the man I married.

God worked with me and through me and never let go of my hand...while I thought he'd ignored me, it was me looking away. I am in awe and humbled that God can work such miracles. The peace and love I have with Thomas is a daily blessing, to breathe easier around someone and know they have your best interest at heart is such a love I never imagined, and through God's love and grace, it is a daily reality. What is more much greater is the love God has for me? More than I can comprehend. I am not worthy, but I am grateful.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Ken Johnson's Testimony

[Recently at Pathway Church here in Huntsville, Alabama, Ken Johnson gave this testimony in the midst of my message on "How to Bring out the Best in Your Kids." It took a lot of guts for him to share this but it really spoke to a lot of hearts about the influence, good and bad, that parents exercise over their children. We are all proud of how Ken is growing in Christ.]

On January 9, 1961, a baby boy was born to parents with unresolved issues from their own upbringing. Back in "those days" it was considered taboo to mention anything like alcohol addiction and physical abuse. If you dealt with anything like that in your home, you kept it to yourselves.

Today it’s a much different world. Issues like those are out in the open and people talk about them more. In a "perfect" world things would have been different. But of course the world isn’t perfect and we don’t get to pick our parents or the environment in which we’re raised.

I was in for a rough and bumpy ride as I got older.

As a young skull full of mush growing up I naturally listened to anything my parents told me. Misbehave and you were disciplined. My father, who had unresolved issues of his own, was the enforcer – the one who dealt out anything that was coming to me. I can remember my father telling me, "You were a mistake, I wish you had never been born…you’ll never amount to anything!"

My dad at times would have his way with me, fondling me in unspeakable places. I would go back to my room afterwards and cry into my pillow. I knew if I said anything, I would get anything he was dealing out again.

My mom, who was what’s now called an "enabler," just stood by and watched everything that happened to me, saying nothing. To the best of my knowledge my father never abused my two sisters. If he did it was never while around me.

My mother was a wonderful person, even with everything that was going on. She did the best she could in raising my two sisters and me. She never worked outside the home and she knew that, if she left our dad, or if he left us, she would essentially have nothing.

My mother basically lived her life through her kids and smothered us with love. I can remember her always telling people, "You’ll never see my kids acting up because they’re always with me – which, at the time, was fine and good. But then again, she never pushed us to learn for ourselves. She always did things for us, especially me, always telling me, "Someday I’m not gonna be around so you’re going to have to learn for yourself." But I didn’t get the chance. I still struggle today with basic living skills. Slowly but surely I’m learning. I guess you could say I’m getting by.

Several years ago my mom and I were traveling from Arizona to Alabama in a car pulling a U-Haul trailer. In order to save money, we didn’t spend the nights in motels. Instead we would sleep in the car. One morning near the Oklahoma /Texas border, we were waking up to start the day, when mom got out of the car and fainted. She died in that rest area in Oklahoma, apparently from natural causes.

Losing a parent is one of the greatest disappointments one can have in life. I called my sisters, one in Huntsville, and one in Arizona to tell them that our mother had passed away. That was a devastating task.

When I finally got to Huntsville I was blessed with a great job. Little did I know, however, that I was beginning a downward spiral and quickly lost everything including my job and my apartment. I was even put out of my college classes after three years, because my grades weren’t measuring up. So I moved into the Downtown Rescue Mission. I started doing all right and even worked my way into a supervisory role. But not seeking help for my childhood trauma, plus having been diagnosed with adult ADD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Avoidant Personality Disorder, I developed another problem.

I became addicted to over-the-counter antihistimines, which also led to 3 different arrests for shoplifting. After attending a treatment center, I became aware that I was taking pills to sleep in an attempt to deal with the pain of past issues with my dad. I was afraid to go to sleep as a child for fear of what my dad would do to me. To this day sleep is still a struggle. Many nights I sleep little or not at all.

Sadly, some of the things in my past have left me with scars. There are a lot of things I can’t do, and a lot I have to pay for. But the biggest thing I can say in my life is GOD LOVES ME and I BELIEVE IT!

I gave my life to Christ several years ago at our church when it was meeting on 8th Avenue. Later, while staying at the rescue mission on 9th Avenue, my life was set on fire for God after hearing a man give his testimony at a chapel service. I had backslidden terribly because I didn’t place myself in the position to receive the proper support. Shortly after that, God blessed me with an apartment and an income again, but since I was never properly schooled and disciplined on how to be a proper steward of God’s finances I essentially put myself back into the same hole I was in before.

I was spending money I didn’t have…AND KNEW IT! It was nothing to check my account balance and see a negative $400 balance. I couldn’t eat the way I should. My cable was turned off. I barely paid my rent and my debts snowballed.

Thank God today I’m doing better. I’m surrounding myself with good people – NOT PERFECT PEOPLE – but I read the Bible every day and it helps me make it through the day. I’m a work in progress.
Today’s reading is one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life – all of my deepest, darkest secrets out there for all to see and know. Some of you already knew some of these things, but the coolest thing is, GOD KNOWS ALL OF THIS ABOUT ME AND MORE - AND HE STILL WANTS TO WORK WITH ME, AND IF I DO WHAT HIS WORD TELLS ME TO DO HE WILL CONTINUE TO BLESS ME.

Thank you for the opportunity to share with you. May God bless you.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Star Trek & My Birthday

The Star Trek movie has been out for a month but Deb and I waited to go with some friends to see it for my birthday. Though I can't really call myself a Trekkie, I enjoyed the original TV series years ago. I like futuristic. I enjoy most adventure stories. When the opening line of the TV series began with, "Space, the final frontier," I would nod my head in agreement. I grew up during the space race so exploring outer space resonated with me for that reason also.

I might be odd, or maybe since it was my birthday, I drew some paralells between the movie and my life up to now. If you haven't seen the movie and plan to, you may not want to read on. In fact, this blog entry won't make much sense to you without first viewing the film.

I do recommend the movie. It's fun as well as futuristic. Seeing it makes me wish that I had done that summer series on movies I thought about doing, because to me, there were some really significant spiritual overtones in this flick.

Here's where Star Trek, the movie, and my life and spiritual journey intersect.

  • I would love to have the opportunity for the older, wiser version of me to visit the younger. In the movie, a future version of Spock shares insight with himself as a young man. Wishing you could go back in time and talk to yourself to ward off some mistakes, make course corrections, etc., is not a new idea in literature and life. But the quantum physics stuff (the atomic world is nothing like the world we live in) of time travel dealt with in sci-fi means we wouldn't have to travel back in time, but forward in time to have a little chat with ourselves. What would you say to your self if you could travel forward (or backward if you just don't want to blow your mind that much)? My list is too long for here and now. But I do have a list, which I think means that the journey has been worthwhile, bad as well as good, because I've been growing.

  • Watching Star Trek I also theorized that I shouldn't get so uptight over my conflicted duality of natures. Again, Spock is the character in the movie that experienced a personality crisis that mirrors this point. Half human, half Vulcan, he fights the inner battle between logic and emotion. For Christ followers the inner wrestling match is between the human nature with which we're born, and the spiritual nature received when we make a faith commitment to Christ. Put very simply, our fallen nature doesn't mind breaking the laws that God has enacted for our overall and long term well being. Our new nature on the other hand wants to cooperate with the good things God is trying to do in us and in the world around us. Throughout our lives a duel is waged between these alter egos. But instead of being threatened by this inconvenient result of the fall, we need to adapt to it. Once Spock understood both natures his life became more balanced. The Christ follower knows that his journey will be complete only in heaven, when, and where, two natures will no longer compete. Until then we need to accept the rivalry within as part of our spiritual journey.

  • Friendship. Spock to Jim Kirk: "I have been, and always will be, your friend." Now it may seem hokey to you that this is one of my favorite cinematic quotes but I gladly own up to it. Having true friends is one of the greatest accomplishments of life. Having long-lasting, even lifetime friends, even more so. Star Trek, the movie, furnishes interesting and well-choreographed prequel information on Kirk, Spock, "Bones," "Scotty," and even the lesser characters that made the TV series a cult classic. To me the TV series as well as the movie is about friendship. The friendship between Kirk and Spock was born of conflict, tempered by crisis, and cemented by common goals. The lives of two tested adventurers intersect and follow a common course, which is a big part of how deep friendships are forged. Superficial frienships are a dime a dozen, or, 50 cents per dozen, accounting for inflation. But you get what you pay for.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lookout Lodge

Last week we rented "Lookout Lodge" in the Smoky Mountains and the entire family was able to set aside several days to be together. (I'm in the back row holding our granddaugher Caroline. She is teething - that's why she has her fingers in her mouth.)


- The peace and quiet of the mountains created a great atmosphere, not only for family time, but also for time with God. I went out on the deck and talked to my Heavenly Father morning, noon and night. It was spiritually invigorating. I also read quite a bit of Swindoll's biography of the Apostle Paul.

- Deb and I are so pleased with who our children are - and with who they married. Sometimes parents grow weary with the sacrifices they make, but I encourage any young parent to take the long view, especially when you are tired, spent and putting off personal endeavors so that your children can have the right kind of environment in which to grow and learn. When they become healthy, happy, Christ-following adults the satisfaction is unbelievable!

- As you can tell on the front row, our daughter Bethany (blonde) and her husband David are expecting a child, due in August - a boy - Isaac! Bethany will complete her work for her master's degree before Isaac gets here; David already has his master's. Our daughter-in-law Keshia (brunette) and our son Brandon are expecting their first child - also a boy - Carter - in September! Keshia just completed her MBA and Brandon is going back to work on his master's this fall. Brooke and Matthew (on the back row between Deb and I) have their master's degree in parenthood! Andrew (in Matthew's lap) is 2 & a half and the twins are 6 months. They are home from Spain on missionary furlough. When I watch them or the rest of the family with the children I know how blessed Deb and I are to have a family that cherishes life!

- I know why Jesus took vacations. It is great to refresh and replenish the supply in your spiritual well. I am now more focused and energetic than when we left on vacation. Take time off now and then to be alone with God. Take time off now and then to be alone with your family. Deb prefers the beach. So next year, as we do the every-other-year routine, we'll probably be there. But at least we'll realize that the world will go on revolving while we're not working.