Monday, October 30, 2006

How I became a Christian

33 years ago today, I was born into this world. But roughly 23 years ago, I was reborn. I thought today on my physical birthday I would explain how I came to know the God of the universe personally. I was one of those who practically grew up in church. I went to a lot of Sunday services and heard someone talk about Jesus Christ and how He died for the sins of everyone and yet He rose from the dead because He was actually God. I came to know a lot more about Him and the Bible because I was fortunate to have parents who loved me to church (not a grammar mistake). They did not hassle me about going to church, but they did show me in their own life what they valued and thought was important.

One day in Vacation Bible School, my elderly teacher told us about God’s law. She said these Ten Commandments are God’s standard for life. But then at the end of the lesson, she said something that blew me away. She said everyone had broken God’s law. Now I had heard that before, but this time it was different. I began to look at that law just to see if she was right. I thought I never murdered anyone. I didn’t even understand what this “covet thy neighbor’s property” meant. But then I realized that she was right. I had lied. And I had put other things before God in my life. And as a final blow, she said that the Bible said that if you break just one of God’s laws, you are a law breaker. So it didn’t matter that I had only broken the lesser of the laws, I was guilty of breaking God’s law. Now understand something before I go on. She did not get up there and just wag her finger at us. In fact what really got me to think about all this was when she began to tell us how she herself had indeed broken God’s law just like the rest of us. I thought if this sweet, old lady, who I had never even heard cuss, could fall short of God’s standard, then what does that say about me.

Anyway, I tucked all that inside me for years until later at a youth service; a preacher got up and told us much of the same thing. But he began to tell us that if we had broken God’s law, then we had been separated from Him because God is holy and perfect. And then he said the greatest thing I have ever heard. He said that God loved me too much to leave me separated from Himself. He had created me to have a personal relationship with Him. A relationship I thought I had until that day in Vacation Bible School. That is why He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ to die in my place. He said God wanted me to have this new life with Him and so that is why Jesus Christ rose from the dead to prove that he could offer me that supernatural life. I knew right then what I had to do. I responded not to the preacher that evening, but to Jesus Christ because I heard His voice saying to my heart, “trust Me.” I placed my faith and trust in Him as my God and Savior that evening. I realized that when Jesus died on the cross, He died for me, to pay for my sins. I was the law breaker that had the punishment for breaking the law removed by Jesus Christ. He was sinless, and He never broke any law; yet that is the very reason why his punishment satisfied God’s wrath against my sin and my breaking His law. Jesus Christ is my God now and I see His hand in my life more clearly, directing me and providing for me. He speaks through His word and shows me how to follow and love Him. Before it was just church, now it's personal.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Open Wide

We have had a busy week. We hosted a huge meeting at our church on Tuesday, served lunch to college students and kids on Wednesday and I topped it off with a root canal on Thursday. I don’t know if you have ever had a root canal, but take it from me, we throw that phrase “I’d rather get a root canal” around way too generously. Mine was on my top front tooth; you know where there is only bone and no gums. The dentist put one shot in the front, just above the tooth and then another on the roof of my mouth behind the tooth. Here is the funny thing. As I arched my back and tore off the chair arms, he said “I want you to try to relax.” Try to relax? I try to relax when my Sooners are getting beat by the horns. I try to relax when I go up to the pulpit, knowing that my audience is expecting me to hit it out of the park and knowing that I don’t usually. I even try to relax when the line at McDonald’s is taking forever. But when I am in a dentist chair receiving a shot in my less than thinned gums, I TRY to hold on for dear life. I TRY not to punch the nurse out cold. I TRY not to …well you get the point (believe me, no pun intended).

I am over it now. But I wish Dentists and Doctors spoke my language more. When they are about to say “try to relax" or "this is going to pinch a little," why don’t they say instead, “this is going to make you scream like a little girl.” I mean, haven’t they ever had a shot? Or do they get those exclusions in medical school? Wait a second, I know they don’t. I should know because my wife used to be a nurse. Still, when they say things like that, I imagine them all gathered around laughing with a whole of bunch of pills that would do the same trick spilling out of their hands, saying to each other “now we can’t let the public know about these.”

It makes me realize how important it is to speak the language of the lost. Unbelievers don’t understand a lot of church language. Sometimes, I think some believers don’t understand it either. I am not saying they can’t ever learn it. But it is necessary to live in the world and yet not be of it. It is necessary not to exclude our realm of influence from those who have never placed their faith in Jesus for their eternity. If we only know and live around Christians, then we are simply sprinkling salt on salt. As a pastor, this is my most difficult task.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Main Thing

The youngest of our kids has been potty trained for some time now. That means no more diapers, at least until God gives us another one of His most precious gifts. You know, Tiffany and I never decided to have kids just so we could change diapers. I never asked Tiffany, “Can we have a baby, because I really want try this diaper thing.” In fact, with the three that we have, I never begged Tiffany, “can I change his diaper, pleeeaaase let me change that diaper.” I know that might be a shock to people, but honestly I never did (really!). That is not the reason why people have kids, but that has a lot to do with raising kids. And they never do it at a convenient time. And sometimes it comes out both ends. Nevertheless, just because our recent years have been filled with pampers and wipes, I can’t give up on my kids. I can’t quit on them because I didn’t know it was going to be a lot of hard work.

That is how Nehemiah got the Israelites to rebuild the walls in 52 days. He had all these distractions and yet he finished the construction in record time. How many road constructions have you seen that only took 52 days? How did Nehemiah do it? He did not give up. Yea, yea, he prayed and did a number of other important and necessary things, but in the end He did what God called him to do because he simply stuck to it. And he had three big distractions. Sanballet, Tobiah, and Geshem thought they could just walk right in and take Jerusalem with little or no effort. And when they saw Nehemiah rebuilding the walls, they plotted against him. They said at the beginning, “Nehemiah come down off that wall, we just want to talk to you” (Nehemiah 6:2). Now the last time I checked it is no sin just to go and talk with someone. But Nehemiah gave them his answer. He said “I am doing a great work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3). Nehemiah did what I need to do so often. He focused on what was important rather than what was urgent. He kept going despite of the distractions.

We have a lot of distractions in life and the reality is that most of the time, serving our Lord Jesus Christ and just doing the work is not very glamorous. But we can’t lay aside the tasks given to us. We can’t give up on those great intentions with which we started. Because once those walls begin to fall and we give up on those important things in our lives, an opening is created for the enemy to come in. Let me encourage you as I have been encouraged. Whether it is setting aside the time required to grow intimate with our Savior and to speak with Him and to read His word, whether it is serving in our churches, whether it is sharing the gospel with those around us, don’t let the distractions keep us from these most important things in our life. If He did not spare Himself by placing Himself on the cross in our place to secure our eternity with Him, why would He withhold His grace to strengthen us and give us the courage we need to carry on? Keep going and don’t quit.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Chris and Tiffany's Big Adventure

One of the best things about being married, I think, is getting to spend time with my best friend. There are nights when Chris and I fall into bed and go straight to sleep, and others when we lay there talking, enjoying the fact that we are not being interrupted by the kids. These are great because I love that no matter what else is going on, we are on the same side. Chris and Tiffany’s Big Adventure (or at times Chris and Tiffany against the world). But every once in a while these conversations turn silly, and I remember one of the things that I love most about my husband. No one makes me laugh like he does. I mean laugh till my eyes are watering and I have trouble catching my breath. Usually, these conversations are so ridiculous that we couldn’t even explain why they are so funny. But it doesn’t really matter that no one else would understand why the comment “What am I supposed to be, part Apache?!?” is so funny. What matters to me is that I am one Divinely Favored to be married to my best friend.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

“It’s Just Cornflakes!”

Last night we had an unexpected treat. We try to reserve Friday nights for Date Night, but last night it was not possible. Instead, my parents asked us to stay for dinner, and we were able to spend a very enjoyable evening with them and my sister, Heather, and her family.

Heather and her husband brought a movie for the adults to watch while the kids played in the playroom. The movie was the new Adam Sandler film, “Click.” Now, I had seen the commercials for this film and was expecting some typical Adam Sandler humor. While there were many funny scenes, the movie was so much more than a simple comedy. The story is of an average guy who, through the choices he makes, is forced to live his entire life on auto-pilot. In the end, the price he pays for those choices is unbearably high. The part of the movie that struck me the most was early on when his character was warned to be careful about the choices he made less he end up like the character in the “Lucky Charms” commercials who searches for the end of the rainbow only to find it’s just a bowl of cornflakes. Adam Sandler’s character, unfortunately, does not heed this advice, but what an important reminder for me.

How much energy do I waste on things that will not even matter at this time next year? Jim Elliot, the well-known missionary martyred in Central America, said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, for what he cannot lose.” It is so easy to be lulled into auto-pilot by all of the urgent things in my life, that I let the truly important things slip by unnoticed. Each of us has only one life to offer up as a living sacrifice to our Lord. May God help each of us to quit wasting time building with wood, hay, and stubble and focus on building that which truly lasts.“Turn my heart to Your decrees and not to material gain. Turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless; give me life in Your ways.” Psalm 119:36-37 HCSB

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Things that make you go ewe

We took our weekly pilgrimage to Wal-Mart today and between keeping the kids from knocking down that 50ft display of canned corn and putting back everything that Nate threw into the cart, we were just glad to make it out of there alive. At one point, Nate took off into a sprint and slammed smack dab into a utility cart. Why you ask? Oh, because apparently you can enjoy a mad dashing sprint a lot more with your eyes closed. Then as we were checking out, we sent the kids to the game room in our attempt to corral them. As we were leaving, Drew began to inform us that he had found a piece of candy just laying on one of the games. Tiffany looked at him and asked what he did with it (not really wanting to hear the answer). With a big smile on his face, he said “I put it in my mouth”…. Of course you did. Even now, all I can say is that it was a good thing we had not eaten yet.

Here we are in a store that can’t even sell us spinach in fear of bacteria and my son eats the one piece of candy that could contain the next plague. Now I don’t really eat spinach (not that there is anything wrong with that), but please don’t just put something in your mouth just because you found it. Is that asking too much? I know there is a sermon illustration in there somewhere. Oh well, thank God that His patience is more enduring than my own. And thank God for little boys. What would we do without them? Certainly, the Wal-Mart janitor would have a lot more to clean up.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

"And the winner is..."

I look like my dog

As I sit here biting my nails and worrying about whether or not my Sooners will beat the Longhorns today, the above website reminds me that some contests are not worth winning. There is only one goal worth accomplishing: "My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death" (Philippians 3:10)."

There is only way to reach that goal: "...let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus..." (Hebrews 12:1-2).

"Run in such a way that you may win. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly, or box like one who beats the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)." Lord, I never want to live my life aimlessly, so help me to stay focused on the real prize of knowing You....P.S. help the Sooners pulverize the Longhorns too.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Princess and Her Prince

Got home from church last night and Katie put on a puppet show. I was really impressed. She had theatre seating arranged, a puppet stage, and three paper sack puppets to entertain the whole family. I gave it two thumbs up. She told us the story about when the princess was being chased by this big bad ugly monster. I could tell it was a princess by the crown on her head. Usually when the kids show me a picture they've created, I have to work at, usually followed by “oh …of course that’s what that is.” But not this time. The princess being chased by the monster screams for her prince and sure enough he comes to her rescue. The prince stabs the monster with his sword and afterwards he gets the princess, they kiss, and they live happily ever after. Not bad for a 9 year old.

I loved it because it showed me that Katie knew what a prince looked like and what a prince did. The prince in her mind is the brave one, the courageous one. He is both the protector and the rescuer. He saves the day by being committed to the princess and by standing up for his bride. That is the kind of prince that she herself would feel safe with. That is the kind of prince I am praying for in her life. That is the kind of prince I want to be.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

First time for everything

This is my first time to blog. So I thank you for making it here. I actually decided to have a blog not because I had all this wisdom stored up and no podium to share it all. I am doing this for my own personal growth, so if it helps anyone out there then to God be the glory. I don’t even consider myself that wise although I have always tried to surround myself with wise people. My wife (one of those wise people in my life) says that I sometimes sell myself short. Who knows, if you stick with me for very long, one day I might sound like a master scholar and then the next day I might sound like Elmer Fudd.

I guess maybe as part of my first blog I should explain my title: “Hesed.” It is pronounced with two short e’s (not “He said”). Hesed is a Hebrew word that is used for God’s faithful and covenant love. It is a special word that defines God’s love as something that never fails and something that is always loyal. But it is unique because it is based on the covenant that he has established with His people. Jesus said in the new testament that His blood was the new covenant. I like that word because it tells me that God will always love me not because I do things that gain his love but because he has sealed his love towards me by sending His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross and shedding His blood. He truly loves me. He offers that same kind of love to everyone as a gift.

I can’t wait to share many more words but if I have anything that might be claimed as wise or helpful, then it will only be by God’s Hesed. Again I don’t consider myself as one who should blog, I simply want to look at Scripture, think about the life God has given me, and maybe share some funny stories about the kids. My wife is going to help me by doing some blogging herself. So we both invite you to come back. It is our hope that as we grow together to be more like Christ, that you might be encouraged in the process and see the Hesed of your Father.