Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bucket List of Jesus: Close to God

"My God, My God! Why have you forsaken me?"

Those are the words of David, according to tradition. They are the beginning of a cry for help (Psalm 22:1). They are also the words of Jesus according to Matthew and Mark (Matt. 27:46; Mk. 15:34).

David begged for God to come close. "Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help," he cried (Ps 22:11). Though others were gambling for his clothes before he was even dead, David pleaded, "But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me" (Ps 22:19).

There was a crowd at the cross. There were Roman soldiers, Jewish leaders, criminals, male and female friends, and a sorrowful mother there. Yet with all the onlookers, Jesus felt alone. He felt forsaken by God, and he longed to be close to God again.

"Be close to God." One more item on the Bucket List of Jesus.

Wednesday night, Rusty Tugman from the Alameda Church of Christ in Norman will help us understand this Bucket List item. I hope you'll be there! That's Life at Work!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Did George Live Near Me?

Comedian George Carlin passed away. I remember a number of years back hearing for the first time Carlin talked about his unbelief. He said, "But I want you to know something, this is sincere, I want you to know, when it comes to believing in God, I really tried. I really, really tried. I tried to believe that there is a God, who created each of us in His own image and likeness, loves us very much, and keeps a close eye on things. really tried to believe that…"

Later in the same routine, he told Bible readers about other literary works they should consider reading. He recommended Humpty Dumpty. He said, "And finally, I've always drawn a great deal of moral comfort from Humpty Dumpty. The part I like the best? 'All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty Dumpty back together again.' That's because there is no Humpty Dumpty, and there is no God. None. Not one. No God. Never was."

I don't know who influenced Carlin in regard to his understanding of Jesus, the Father who sent Jesus to save, and the church. Carlin, like many others, had a picture of God that is far from the real God. I'm sorry for that.

Carlin commented, "Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time! But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He's all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can't handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more."

Carlin was vocal about his ideas of Jesus. He was not a quiet disbeliever. He spoke about his unbelief and his gift for comedy gave him a large audience. There are many more like him, however, who do not speak about their unbelief to audiences of thousands. Some of them live in the Bible belt. Their homes are between the homes of people who do believe, at least in word. These unbelievers are watching what the believers do, and they are developing their concept of what God is about from what they see and hear in the believers. That's important for us to know. That's Life at Work!

What can you do to enlighten your neighbors about the true nature of God?

Friday, June 13, 2008


Fathers filled with grace produce children filled with love. That's why Paul told the fathers in Colossae and Ephesus not to embitter or provoke their children. The consequences are too much and the result is a child moving away from God instead of toward him. Children have quite enough influences to take them from God; they sure don't need their father s to inadvertently show them door.

The sense of "do not embitter" and "do not exasperate" (Col. 3:21; Eph. 6:4) is that, especially by demanding more than children deliver and being harsh when they don't measure up, we can discourage them. We can take the spirit out them; and lifeless children don't love. They won't love their own fathers. And it's likely that they won't love God.

When you bring a child up in the training and instruction of the Lord, you equip him and empower him to be like Jesus. A child brought up in the training and instruction of the Lord knows the difference between right and wrong. He knows there are consequences for choosing wrong. She knows there is love and forgiveness that matches the wrong choice. And our children know that just like dad, God loves me and forgives me through the sin and its consequences.

Grace doesn't make sinning OK. Grace doesn't remove all of the consequences of sin. Grace does keep us in relationship, though. Grace enables us to live confidently in the covenant promises. Grace provides warmth when the coldness of disappointment tries to move in. Grace provides joy when the thief called guilt attempts to break in. Grace prompts love in those who have received it. Love for fathers, love for other strugglers, and love for God.

That's Life at Work!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hope for the Hopeless

What a colossal mistake! "The robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him" (Matthew 27:44). A man who was crucified had difficult time breathing. The core of a person is stretched to the limit on a cross. Yet, these two criminals were using their dying breaths to taunt. Mocking while they are dying; that is so sad!

But taunting while dying is not the biggest mistake! The biggest mistake is that they were wrong about Jesus. They didn't really think he could rescue himself and them, but he could have! Finally, one of them changed his mind. I don't know what caused it, but one of them realized he had been mocking the Messiah!

Imagine his predicament. He's dying and he is has just been mocking the one whom he has now concluded is the king who is about to come into his kingdom! (Luke 23:42) Is this a hopeless situation? Not when Jesus is the King. When Jesus is the king there is hope for the hopeless! "Today you will be with me in paradise," Jesus said.

If there is hope for that thief, then there is hope for us. That's Life at Work!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Stories, Pictures and Videos of the Past Two Weeks

On May 22, Brad and I headed east for South Fulton, TN. My nephew C4 married Casey on Saturday. It was a great occasion. We celebrated with them and their families at a rehersal dinner on Friday night and then on the Saturday that they exchanged their vows.

During our travels and with our family in we were in constant prayer for our friends John and Margaret Dobbs. On the Friday of C4 and Casey's rehersal, John and Margaret buried their son John Robert. It was the day that John Robert was supposed to graduate from Pascagoula High School.

On Satuday after the wedding, Brad and I headed south towards I-40 to make the trip back home. As we approached West Memphis on I-55 we got a call from JeannaLynn. Pauline Hardwick, the mother of our great friend Martha Skelton had passed away in Cleveland, TN. We lived in Cleveland before our move to Yukon. Martha and her husband Dean were our best friends there. Martha's mom was close to our hearts, too. Martha wanted us to come to Cleveland for her funeral.

Brad and I drove back to South Fulton, spent Saturday night and went to the morning assembly at my brother's church. Afterwards, we headed north and east on the Purchase Parkway, drove south on I-24 through God's beautiful Land Between the Lakes, picked up JeannaLynn at the Nashville airport, and then finished out the drive to Cleveland. We comforted and got comfort from our friends at Pauline's funeral on Tuesday, May 27 and then made the trip home, arriving mid-day Wednesday.

On Saturday, JeannaLynn and I drove west out of Yukon to the Berlin Cemetary just west of Sayre, OK. On May 4, 2008 Tim Hartman was flying with a good friend and three other passengers out of Wiley Post airport in Oklahoma City. The small jet flew into some birds over a lake near the runway causing the plane's engines to fail. Tim, our friend and missions deacon, died in the crash of that jet along with the co-pilot, Rick, and the three passengers they were transporting.

Tim's remains were released nearly three months after the crash. We were driving to Berlin Cememtary to bury his remains. Nearly 1000 people came to Tim's memorial service in May. This gathering was a small one - mostly family, and a couple of friends including us.

We talked about how the resurrection of Jesus proves that we don't have to keep looking down once dust has returned to dust. Instead, we look out and we look up. We released some silvery-white balloons. Three of them symbolizing for us the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and one with Tim's name written on it. Audra, Tim's wife released that balloon. We all watched as they ascended into the heavens - together. Matt and Mark, Tim and Audra's sons, are great young men.

Audra received an answer to prayer that Saturday. Along with Tim's remains, there was a box of Tim's belongings. This box contained the items found at the crash site that could be identified as Tim's. Audra had been praying that Tim's wedding ring had been found - and it had! She clutched it tight and we all rejoiced with her.

I'm including here a picture of C4 and Casey experiencing a real Cayman Islands sunset, a picture of Pauline, another of Tim, and a picture that Tim's son Mark made in memory of his dad. I'm also including a couple of videos. One that I got from John Dobb's Blog, "Hope Remains" in which Mercy Me is sing "Homesick." The second video is from a song played at Tim's funeral: "Better Hands Now."

One of the things I love best about life is getting heart to heart with family. One of the things I like most about ministry is getting heart to heart with people like Pauline, Dean and Martha (and their sons and families), Tim and Audra and their family, and John and Margaret and their family; even though that closeness leads us often to common places of pain. One of these days, it will all be about celebrating and those of us who have hurt together will laugh together forever "and we will dwell in the house of the Lord...forever".