Esteem

Scroll

It’s one of the highlights of the season – going to the mailbox and seeing who may have sent a card or annual Christmas letter and spending a little time catching up or reflecting on special people in our lives.  I especially like the ones that have family photos, to see how the kids have grown and changed.

It’s also interesting to see how lives have evolved and changed, too.  Ours certainly have in the last year.  And it was in that frame of mind that I read a different kind of greeting recently.  It had nothing to do with Christmas, yet it had everything to do with an updated snapshot into somebody’s life and how that life had evolved.  Check this out:

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother… (Colossians 1:1).

Seems like pretty basic stuff.  Season’s greetings from the mission field.

Would it change your perspective to know this was written from a Roman prison?

True that.

[click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

Heaven Worship

I could duplicate stories like these all day…

The Job Site

I was working construction (pausing here for those who know me to gasp or laugh or something).  It was a high-pressure day and I was off with a coworker on an assignment with a deadline that just wasn’t getting done.  It was Friday afternoon, I was leaving out of town, and the pressure just kept building.  I was a failure at this, and knew it.  I figured at that point the whole world knew it.

I had to swing by the other job site where my boss and Ricky were, to give the boss the bad news. Ricky and I usually worked together, but we’d been separated for a few days on different projects.  I’ll never forget the way Ricky made me feel – it was as though we hadn’t seen each other in years.  After hours and hours of devaluing myself in my head, his infectious smile and greeting made me feel like the king of the world.

It was a foretaste of heaven… where grace has the final word.

The Classroom

In a transparent moment in an online classroom filled with future and present church leaders I wrote this:

“If I could go back and do one thing over again in my 32 years of pastoring… I would be more ruthlessly intentional about leadership development.  I would allow myself to be criticized more for neglecting some things in order to focus more on developing discipling leaders. As passionate as I am and was about preaching, and as passionate as some of you are, may I just say, preaching alone won’t come close to accomplishing this.  Leadership development isn’t about lessons, outlines, or proclamation.  It’s about duplication of your passion, knowledge, skillsets, and passion in the lives of others.”

In reply to that, I got a simple, but profoundly encouraging reply from a student in that class:

I hope you know that by teaching guys like me you ARE accomplishing leadership development.  I doubt I will meet you here on earth, but someday I look forward to seeing you in glory! Thanks for everything, and may God richly bless you as you follow Him.

It was a foretaste of heaven… where grace has the final word. [click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

written on an old typewriter

Wrote a letter of recommendation the other day.  That in itself is nothing unusual – I do that often and have done it for years.  I often joke with whoever I’m writing it for that after I’m done I need a bath, or a priest or something.

“I’ve already lost the boots… I’m just trying to save the hat!”

But we both know I’m joking, and that I would never be deliberately dishonest – that would eventually catch up with them and me.

But between that and the opportunity I have to preach this weekend (here, if you are in the Mobile, Alabama area),  I’ve been thinking about relationships.

(Preaching moment:  Your life is the sum total of your relationships… with God, with others, and with yourself.  As your relationships go, so goes your life.  Okay, I’m done.)

This morning I was thinking about that reference letter, and about another one I wrote a couple of months ago.  That one didn’t have to do with a job application, and it wasn’t even requested.  I saw a friend and colleague’s LinkedIn profile, and spontaneously wrote a letter of recommendation for his professional practice.  It was honest, heartfelt, and a total surprise, really to him and me both.

It was also a wonderful relationship builder. [click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

Spider

All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord… Psalm 145:10

This is a work of God.

This little guy has lived at my house longer than I have.

Throughout the summer he’s maintained this exquisite work of art, despite several collisions with humans.

He’s not alone.

He joins with all creation, using their gifts and design, worshipping their Creator.

And on days like this, I get to have a front-row seat.

Blue jays, cardinals and mockingbirds call to each other nearby. [click to continue…]

{ 3 comments }

Praying at sunrise

Cesar Malan was a famous minister from Geneva.  He showed genuine interest in the spiritual welfare of anyone he met. And get this!  He would actually ask them about it!

Once Malan asked a woman he had just met about her relationship with God.  Caught off guard, and somewhat annoyed by his question, she curtly said she didn’t care to discuss the matter.

Apparently this wasn’t the first time Cesar had faced such a response.  The minister kindly assured her that he would be praying for her salvation.

It wasn’t long before circumstances brought the two together again.  As they talked, it became apparent to Pastor Malan that the Lord was responding to his prayers.  The once-antagonistic woman had recognized her spiritual need.  Now she was asking him what was required to become a follower of Christ.

The preacher replied, “Come to Him just as you are.” [click to continue…]

{ 2 comments }

stained glass 2

How was church today?

That’s a pretty common question in my family.  With four households all involved in some sort of ministry, all living and attending four different worship venues, it’s not unusual for me to ask.

But it’s also important for me to remember that I’m asking a consumer question.

I’m basically asking somebody in my family to evaluate their experience.  To interpret an event.  Yes, to tell me what they got out of it or whether they liked the goings-on down at the church house.

Is that wrong?  Not necessarily.  But it’s a pitifully limited – and limiting – question. [click to continue…]

{ 2 comments }

Horseshoe

In one of old his “Peanuts” cartoons, Charles Schultz has Linus bringing manager Charlie Brown a statistical report on the baseball team.  “In twelve games,” he said, “we almost scored a run and in nine games the other team almost didn’t score before the first out.  In right field, Lucy almost caught three balls and once almost made the right play.”  Then Linus concluded in the cartoon’s last frame with this classic statement:  “We led the league in ‘almosts.’”

No doubt about it – Linus is prime preacher material.   How many times have you heard a pastor say, “We almost met our offering goal?”  Or, “We almost reached our attendance goal.”  How many people have you known who almost came to church, who almost decided to follow Christ, or who almost trusted their situation to God?  It happens – er, almost every weekend.

Come to think of it, we almost do so many things, we could start a whole new church – the First Church of Hand Grenades and Horseshoes.  [click to continue…]

{ 2 comments }

Hope Community

Raise your hand if you want tomorrow to be better than today.

Raise your other hand if you would rather God give you prosperity than calamity.

Good.  I’ve got you where I want you.  Now give me all your money.

You and I were hard-wired for hope. Something in our DNA makes us want to believe that tomorrow can and will be better than today.  When times are easy, we tend to presume on that.  When times are tough, we go looking for it.

Maybe that’s why Jeremiah 29:11 has become such a popular verse in recent years. Go into any Christian book store or gift shop and you’ll see it on coffee mugs or on some idyllic painting or poster:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Doesn’t that do something for you?  It certainly does for me.  It tells me something about the heart of my God for me as an individual, and for the people I care about.

Trouble is, we take it completely out of context. [click to continue…]

{ 3 comments }

Sundet Prayer 2

Beyond the riot of the noise and the fury of the storm
I hear Your voice, and all else is peace and quiet.
Above the swelling of the sea and the tossing of the waves
I hear Your voice, and everything becomes so still.

Within the darkness of despair and the sinking in my soul
I hear Your voice, and rise again to living hope.
Against the doubts of unbelief and the questions in my mind
I hear Your voice, and rest in knowing You believe. [click to continue…]

{ 4 comments }

Baptism

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22).

They’re called watershed moments.  Critical turning points.  They’re moments in time when nothing that follows will ever be the same as before. And for the most significant of those, we may spend a lifetime unpacking what actually changed.

The watershed experience in the life of Jesus described above – when He was baptized – reminds me of the most significant watershed experience you or I could have – the day Jesus comes to indwell our lives.  And just as the experience of Jesus was a triune experience, with the Holy Spirit descending and the Father affirming, so, too was mine.  And the same is true for you, if you have trusted Him as your Lord and Savior.

Just what did you receive at conversion? [click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }