Friday, May 25, 2007

Something to Laugh About

I have heard stories for years now about Pastor Stuckey and this past week I finally got to meet him. Pastor Stuckey is 97 years old and they say he is dying. You never know exactly what to expect when you are going into the home of a person who is dying, (especially a person who is that old and dying) but I guess I expected to find a dim and somber scene, serious and heavy with the weight of life and death. That’s not what I found. Tom and I pulled up into the driveway and were greeted by a fired-up dachshund barking his head off from inside the house. Once we went in, the barking was drowned out by laughter… Pastor Stuckey’s laughter.

Charles Stuckey was the lay pastor of Berean Bible Church in Knoxville for 30 years. He was my pastor’s pastor and my mentor’s mentor. Over the past nine years, I have heard story after story about Pastor Stuckey… about how he has entire books of the Bible memorized, about how he preached for 23 years out of the book of Revelation, about how he has a set of red PJ’s laid out beside his bed that he wants to go to heaven in and about how he is the sweetest person on this planet. Tom told me that when he was young and fired up about learning as much as possible, he was reading books like Evidence That Demands a Verdict so that he could defend and prove the validity of faith in Christ. Then he met Pastor Stuckey… and with that evidence, the case was closed.

Our visit to Pastor Stuckey’s house was a twenty-five minute flurry of emotions… When we walked into the room, he was seated on the couch reading. He closed his book and called us over so he could hug and kiss us. After that, he started talking and laughing so fast, that I had trouble keeping up. The entire time we were there he only stopped laughing one time and it was so he could tell us about a girl whose daughter he had prayed for had met Christ. When he told that one, he cried… and then he laughed again. I have never seen anything like him. He was literally bursting with joy! He had zero cares or worries and his face was filled with the light of untarnished mirth.

Tom said that Pastor Stuckey has been like that for thirty years. Later on I asked him, “How is that possible? What makes him like that?” Tom said that he just believes the simple Gospel without complicating it. He lets it remain simple and he just really believes it. Psalm 68:3 says, "May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.”

The righteous are supposed to be glad… and how did we get to be righteous? Jesus paid for and forgave all our sins absolutely for free because He just loves us… now we’ll never be punished for them and we’ll live forever in heaven… in perfect bliss with Him. Do you believe that? Do believe it enough to stop being sad? We like to complicate this message to make our life and problems a much bigger deal than they are, but what if we just really believed the Gospel… wouldn’t just about everything be something to laugh about?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Did You Know?

As I write this I am at a Young Life camp called Sharp Top Cove in Georgia while my girls are back home in Tennessee. Anna had a doctor’s appointment yesterday that she was really scared about and when I finally talked to her last night it was the first time we had spoken in a couple of days. I was missing Christy and the kids so much and I was just dying to tell Anna that I love her. Christy handed Anna the phone and as soon as I heard that little voice say, “Hey Dad!” it jumped out of me… “Anna, I love you!”

I was expecting and waiting on the “I love you too.” But it didn’t come. It was like she didn’t hear me. Instead, she said, “Dad, I went to the doctor.” I said, “I know… hey honey, Did you know I love you?” and again, I got no response. Anna just jumped back into her story and said, “Daddy, I did sooo good at the doctor!” I said, “I know baby… hey, did you know I love you?” Then she said, “Dad, I was so brave at the doctor.” I told her, “I know… I heard. I know all about your doctor’s appointment and what a good girl you were. Now, can I tell you something?” “Yeah” she said. “Did you know Daddy loves you?”

By the end of that phone conversation, I had told Anna six times that I loved her and she never responded… she either didn’t hear me, wasn’t paying attention or else just felt like her story was more important. And it’s not that I wasn’t interested in her story… (one reason I called was to find out about the doctor’s appointment) it’s just that I missed her like crazy and I hadn’t seen or talked to her in two days and I was just dying to tell her that I loved her and hear her say, “I know… I love you too.”

In John 6 some people asked Jesus, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent” I know that in my life there are so many times that I go to the Lord just to talk to Him about all the stuff I’m doing for Him and how hard I’m trying to be brave and good when the only thing He wants to talk about is how much He loves me… He’s dying to tell me while I’m trying to impress Him and all He really wants from me is to believe in His love for me… to believe in Jesus… the living proof of the love of God. Is He trying to get through to you too? In the midst of your ramblings, could He be saying, “Hey… did you know I love you?”

Friday, May 11, 2007

2007 High School Spring Retreat!! A three-day whirlwind of Speed Uno, Puppy Chow, Wet Suits, Waterballoons, German Attack-dog Trainers and a couple of Texans sweetly and strongly bringin' the Word...
Tears on Tape

Last night was Anna’s end of the year pre-school program. The teachers led the kids from each age group up on stage where they stood to sing the songs they had learned in chapel throughout the year. When the three-year-old class started making their way up the stairs, I pressed the red button on our video camera and disappeared behind the LCD display. I caught a glimpse of Anna’s face at the end of a row of pews but couldn’t see it very well on the little screen I was looking at. In my left ear I heard Christy say, “Uh oh…” and then I saw what she saw… Anna’s little face was crumbling and the tears were about to start flowing.

The next thing I knew, most of the three-year-olds were on stage and one of the helpers was holding Anna while her quaking voice rang out over the whole sanctuary… “I want my mommy!” Christy was out of the pew in a flash and up on the stairs of the stage sitting right under Anna as her class started to sing their songs. I zoomed in on those tear-stained cheeks as she looked down at Christy and said, “I’m just sad.” As the other kids mumbled their way through “The Butterfly Song” I watched crocodile tears run down Anna’s face as she looked at Christy and said, “I want my daddy!”

Christy sat with her and she calmed down… in fact, she even started to smile and by the time they got to the third and final song, “God is so good” Anna was pretty much laughing… Christy eased back away from the stage, Anna caught sight of her Granny and her Nan and started to smile in earnest… she even started to sing a little. But as the second verse rolled around, the tears came back…

All year long Anna’s teachers have told us about how she is their little singer… about how she loves chapel and always sings out above the crowd. This has been our experience at home as well. The child loves to sing, and she loves to sing loud. But when you go to pre-school music programs, you don’t really hear the kids singing… you hear them mumble or watch them tap their feet and blow kisses at the cameras while their teachers sing the songs… Last night the low murmur of pre-school singing was broken by Anna’s sobbing voice belting out through the tears, “He loves me so… He loves me so, He’s so good to me!”

It was one of the saddest and yet sweetest things I have ever seen, watching my little girl crying and singing about His love for her through a viewfinder… Psalm 56:8 says, “You have taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Your bottle, are they not in Your book?” (NASB)

After the program, I took Anna out for a chocolate ice cream cone and after we put her in bed, Christy and I sat on the couch and watched the tape again. It was sweet, sad and really cute… I mean, she stole the show. As we watched it back, our hearts broke in love for her. I was thinking about what David said in Psalm 56 when he was in the hands of the Philistines in Gath and how he cried out for God, trusting His love, but crying still and how he took comfort in the fact that God not only knows when we hurt, but He writes it all down. He puts our tears in a bottle… like a time capsule… like a video tape. Years from now we’ll be able to show that tape to Anna and she’ll see how in the moment when she was crying out for Mommy, there was a flash in front of the screen and seconds later, Mommy was there. In the same way, our Lord has recorded all our tears and all our cries to Him. Someday, He’ll show us the tape, and then we’ll see Him rushing to our side when the tears come. We’ll watch strength and laughter return to our faces and see ourselves start to sing (if even through more tears) “He loves me so, He’s so good to me.”

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Anna at the park...

Testing the Waters

Have you ever acted like you weren’t going to do something that you really were going to do? Have you ever acted like you didn’t care about something you really do care about? Have you ever pretended that you didn’t want something when you way wanted it? I think this is something we all do from time to time…. Like when a couple of your friends are talking about going to this one movie you really want to see and you’re like, “Oh, you guys are going to see that?” And they say, “Yeah, you want to go?” And then you’re like, “Um, I don’t know…” And then they say that thing you were longing to hear the whole time… “Come one dude! You gotta come… it wouldn’t be the same without you!”

We’ve probably all done it… and we do it because we all have a question we need answered. Does anyone want to hang out with me? Am I cool? Do I have friends? Does anyone love me?

This type of behavior is exactly what you’d expect from insecure, sensitive people who need reassurance, but what does it mean when Jesus does it? Not only that, what does it mean when the victorious Christ, risen from the dead does something like this? This week I was reading Luke 24 where the resurrected Jesus appeared to two people walking to the village of Emmaus from Jerusalem. They didn’t recognize Him, but He explained to them from the Scriptures why the Christ had to suffer. Luke says, “As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if He were going farther. But they urged Him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So He went in to stay with them.”

Jesus acted like He was going on past Emmaus, but in reality He wanted to go with them… What is up with that? Jesus isn’t insecure the way I am… He isn’t constantly needy the way so many of us are, so why did He act like He was going to do one thing when it is obvious that He wanted to do something else? I think the answer is all wrapped up in the whole point of the resurrection…

Jesus is alive from the dead and He wants something. He wants to be in your life. He is alive from the dead and He wants to live in You. He wants to be a part of your everyday. He wants to go with you into your town… into your house. He wants to sit down to dinner with you and He wants to hang out. The risen Christ has been made (by His victory over sin and death) Lord of all, and as Lord He has dominion over everything. But He doesn’t want to barge in. He wants to know if He’s invited. It’s not about insecurity or neediness, but He wants to know if you love Him. Do you want Him coming home with you? Do you want this Living One to be in your life? True love is not forced, but chosen. The question is: do you love Him? Do you ‘urge Him strongly’ to stay? ‘Cause He really wants to stay…

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