Tuesday, May 31, 2005

I Might Decide to Preach All Day

Life at Work
Lyle Lovett sings “Church,” a song about a church service during which the preacher keeps on preaching to an increasingly hungry congregation. The moral of the story is in the last verse:

And the moral of this story
Children it is plain but true
God knows if a preacher preaches long enough
Even he'll get hungry too
And he'll sing

To the Lord let praises be
It's time for dinner now let's go eat
We've got some beans and some good cornbread
Now listen to what the preacher said
He said to the Lord let praised be
It's time for dinner now let's go eat

Some preachers preach through lunch time, others preach into the nighttime. That’s what Paul did in one of the funniest stories Luke records in his Acts of the Apostles.

I say it’s a funny story. It might not be if Eutychus, the man who fell asleep and then fell to his death had stayed dead. Luke says that Paul went “on and on,” and that Eutychus fell sound asleep. It is important not to sit in a window sill during a long sermon. Interestingly, after the man fell, died, and was brought back to life, Paul ate and then talked with them some more until daybreak. Even the dead man stayed around for the additional conversation.

These people in Troas really wanted to hear a word from God through Paul. Knowing that he was about to leave, they wanted to take in all they could. When you’ve been without food, you get so hungry so that you can’t get enough when you finally get some. When you know that food is about to be scarce, you take in all you can, like a squirrel before winter.

I come across a lot of people who don’t eat what they have set in abundance before them. In the natural world, I understand that. If I go to an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant, I get full the minute I walk in the door. Just the realization that when I finish one plate, I’m no closer to being without food than I was when I started, makes my stomach shrink in a hurry. Do you suppose that the availability of the Word keeps you from being hungry for it? Could it be that since you can listen to the word on the television and radio; you can hear it Sundays and Wednesdays; and you can read it any day from any number of versions that you feel full though you are receiving limited nourishment?

Do you feel that hunger pain for a Word from God? That’s Life at Work!

Absurd but Not Unbelieveable

Life at Work
Abraham was told that he and his wife Sarah would have a child. Why was it so great a thing that Abraham should believe that he was going to be a daddy? Because he and Sarah were right at ninety years old when they received the promise.

Imagine Abraham and Sarah talking with the local crib maker. "So, are you buying this for a nephew, a cousin, or what?" Abraham responds, "Nope, Sarah's expecting our first. We're getting this for him and his children to come. Better make that crib big. God said there's going to be a bunch of 'em."

Ridiculous? Yes. Preposterous? I'd say so. Absurd? You bet. Laughable? Sarah laughed, at first. Unbelievable? Well, not really. Remember, it was God who promised. God has often done ridiculous, preposterous, absurd, laughable things. That's why, even this, is not unbelievable.

For example, God said, "I'll forgive you of your sins, resurrect you from the dead, and bring you to heaven with me to live forever." Ridiculous? Yes. Preposterous? I'd say so. Absurd? You bet. Laughable? When I look at my own sinfulness, yes. Unbelievable? Well, not really. Remember, it was God who promised. God has often done ridiculous, preposterous, absurd, laughable things. That's why, even this, is not unbelievable.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Life at Work

Life at Work
“Give him a fair fight!” Most of us remember those words or words like them from our elementary school days. One of the funny things about that cry that usually had to do with making sure it was one against one is that we knew what a fair fight was. We forget what a fair fight is when we become adults. That’s why when you are reading books about relationships there is likely to be a chapter or two to educate us about how to fight fair. In Becoming a Couple of Promise (NavPress, 1999), Dr. Kevin Leman tells about unfair fighting.

It is not a fair fight when:

We generalize the behavior of another by using words like “you always” and “you never.”
We change the issue during an argument in order to make a personal attack.
We make a vague accusation instead of being clear about a complaint.
We respond to a complaint by citing a case where something worse has been done to us.
We flood the other by throwing out the multitude of things they have done wrong.
We bring out an old grievance that we’ve been saving in our minds to drop at just the right time.
We use passive-aggressive comments to lay guilt on the other.

The tendency of many will be to read that list to see when others have fought unfairly. Don’t do that. Read each one and ask yourself, “When have I used this tactic to fight unfairly.” Give him/her a fair fight! That’s Life at Work!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Artemis of the Ephesians

You’ve got to call her "Artemis of the Ephesians;" otherwise you might confuse her with another Artemis, goddess of the Greeks. The Artemis about whom the Ephesians cried, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” was born, so the myths say, near Ephesus. She did not make the temple that was built for her in Ephesus her home, she lived in the woods – or wherever living things lived. She was the mother of all the living. Anything, then, could be given or offered to her. Maybe that’s why her shrine in Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Greek World was so large and why so much of value came into the city.

Demetrius was a silversmith who made his money making Artemis memorabilia. No, that isn’t what they would have called it, but since her only lasting value has been the trinkets of her likeness that have been discovered, “memorabilia” is appropriate. Demetrius was a worshipper, it would seem. He mentions the fact that Paul slandered Artemis in his preaching against idols, and that he didn’t think that was right. Yet, twice, before he mentions the slander, he mentions the money that he and his cohorts will be out if people continued turning from Artemis to Yahweh. He no doubt knew that there could not be a profitable conversion for him, either. After all, Yahweh does not want any images made of his likeness – as if that could really happen.

Later on the city clerk is going to console the people who riot by saying that they all know that Artemis is divine and their beliefs shouldn’t be threatened. He seems concerned that he will have to answer to the higher authorities regarding a riot and really wants to avoid that. He succeeds in quieting the crowd, and is able to dismiss the crowd.

Demetrius is concerned about money and says that when Paul says that man-made gods are not gods at all that he was destroying the reputation of Artemis. The city clerk is concerned about riots and says that no one had blasphemed their goddess by what they had said. Someone isn’t telling the truth, here. The city clerk is avoiding reality to avoid a confrontation with his superiors. The message about the God of Heaven, the God whom Paul preached, the God who sent Jesus allows no room for other gods.

Yahweh is jealous. Yahweh demands all of your loyalty. Yahweh is real and alive. Do you think he is trying to push all of your other loyalties aside? Have you gotten the impression that he refuses to be one of two masters to you? Do you perceive that he wants you to love him with all your heart, soul and strength? Then you have understood correctly. He’ll have no place but the only place. That’s Life at Work!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Blessing Our Communities

Luke describes prayer clothes, demon possessions, Jewish exorcists, Seven Sons of Sceva, Ephesian Kung-Fu, beaten streakers, and book burnings. This is a wild story in Acts 19. Despite all of the strange things that make up this story, there is one part of the account that we are not surprised to see Luke include: "In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power" (Acts 19:20). What is it about the work in the areas where Paul traveled that brought about positive result so consistently? I’m going to suggest three things that seem to be true about Paul’s work that we can use to cause the word of the Lord to spread quickly and grow in power.

The dynamics of the area were considered when an approach was determined. Paul would not have tried to put on a brush arbor meeting in New York City. If an area was particularly philosophical, Paul was a philosopher. If the area was superstitious like Ephesus, showing power over the established superstitions would be a great way to go. So maybe, maybe the extraordinary miracles of Paul were needed in this extraordinary city of Ephesus.

Our primary push has been to reach people for Jesus who live around Yukon, Mustang, El Reno, and Piedmont. There are things that are peculiar about these areas that we need to consider when we think about serving. We provide opportunities for our college kids here, but we don’t have a campus ministry. The way we help the poor of our area is not going to look like an inner-city ministry. If we have high divorce rates, high teen pregnancy rates, drug/alcohol abuse problems, lots of kids at home by themselves in the afternoons, a high widow/widower population, a high single parent population, a high blended-family population, and a significant number of teens, then those things will help us decide what we do to be a blessing to our communities. We need to place high priority on those things.

Paul brought with him certain abilities and strengths. He also brought with him other people with certain abilities and strengths. He also used the local people to whom God had given certain abilities and strengths. We need to consider what talent God has put in the local body here as we move to reach our communities. To mention one, we have a great number of excellent teachers in this church. We ought to have the best Bible School available, and we should consider the other ways that we can utilize this extraordinary blessing of the Spirit.

One other thing that was true about Paul and the people with whom he worked that was important in their successful outreach was the determination they had not to let trouble get them off their path. They kept their eyes on the goal, hurdled their obstacles with help from Heaven, and moved forward. Let’s do that, too.

That’s Life at Work!

Monday, May 09, 2005

You Say One Thing and Do Another

“You say one thing and do another.” That is the regular complaint that I make to my preacher, the man I look at in the mirror every morning. “They do not practice what they preach,” Jesus said concerning the Pharisees. Then he calls them hypocrites for the rest of Matthew 23. That hurts.

I preach about marriage, parenthood, morality, service, faith, and priorities. But I’m not the husband or father that I ought to be sometimes. I sin because I don’t always behave morally. My service is lacking, my faith is weak, and my priorities are out of whack.

Those things are true of everybody at some point or another, but not everybody stands in a pulpit regularly calling people to repent of their failures. Preachers do. I do. So often, I look in the mirror and in the faces of the people who know my sin; and I am hit squarely with my failures, and I feel like a hypocrite.

Lord, forgive my sins – which are many. In my mind and heart I want to completely quit sinning, “but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members” (Romans 7:23-24). To quit sinning completely, I become more and more convinced out of my own experience is not going to happen. Thank God, for me and for you, there is forgiveness in Christ. That’s Life at Work.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

A Mom's a Mom

You might have brought your baby home from the hospital having delivered her yourself. She has your eyes, your husband’s hair (or lack thereof), your sister’s dimples, and your dad’s feet. One thing is for sure - she has all your love, and you have all of hers. Because a mom’s a mom.

You might have watched from behind a window when he was carried by a nurse from the birthing room to the nursery. You might have known that the baby that just went by would be at your home before long. You’ve been good to the birth mom who just couldn’t take care of the child in her womb. You’ll always know what she looked like because you’ll see her in the baby you’ve adopted as your own. His features don’t look like anybody in your family, but one thing is for sure, he has all your love. You have all of his, too. Because a mom’s a mom.

Maybe the kids you care so much about came to your home knowing who their birth mom was and knowing they couldn’t live with her anymore. You adopted them after personalities developed, after they had to consider whether they were loved, and after they could be held and rocked comfortably. You’ve struggle, you’ve taught, you’ve hugged, and you’ve spent yourself on them. One thing is for sure, they have all your love. And you have all of theirs, because a mom’s a mom.

You were going to be their grandparent, but your role has changed. There’s a huge age difference, and you find it hard to keep up most days. You’ve stepped up to the challenge, though. You take him to school and pick him up. You go to his soccer games and sit with the soccer moms smiling as he falls all over the field. You weren’t planning on this. There were days when you thought you couldn’t do it, and wished you didn’t have to. But now, one thing is for sure. He has all your love, and you have his. Because a mom’s a mom.

She’s lived in your house for six months. You have no clue how long she is going to stay. DHS could come tomorrow to take her from you. You’ve held her as she cried. You’ve comforted her when she’s been scared. You’ve done all you can to heal her heart. You’ve modeled a good home. You’ve hugged her and kissed her. You’ve told her things she should have been told all her life, but that she’s never heard before. You don’t know if the phone call will signal the end of your time with her, but one thing is for sure. She’s got all your love, and you’ve got hers. Because a mom’s a mom.

God bless you Moms. All of you.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Mother's Memory

Life at Work
Woman’s Day magazine was recommending some gift ideas for Mother’s Day. One neat gift idea was “Mom’s Memory Jar.” Write some memories, some special moments to you, on some colored pieces of paper, put them in a pretty cup or jar, then tie a Mother’s Day balloon to it. I like that idea. I think I’ll suggest it to my kids.

Funny thing about that, though, is that the real gift for my kid’s mom will be that they counted the moment as special. You see, JeannaLynn won’t need to be reminded of the moment. I promise you, she remembers.

As Luke wrote about Mary seeing the baby Jesus lying in that manger with all the shepherds around, he said that she “treasured up all of those things and pondered them in her heart.” Later, when she thought back on finding Jesus talking to the leaders in the temple when they thought he was lost, Luke wrote again, “His mother treasured all these things in her heart.”

Mother’s have a special gift from God that enables them to remember and cherish special moments with their children. Whether you write them on notes and put them in a jar, or call your Mom Sunday to talk a little, tell her about some occasion involving the two of you that is cherished by you. She’ll likely remember, and then she’ll never forget that you remembered, too.

Have a Happy Mother’s Day Sunday.