Thursday, November 25, 2010

We're in Huntsville for Thanksgiving with the Hulls and we took the kids down to NASA's space and rocket center:


If ghosts were real, they would be among the lamest things in the world. I mean, sure, probably the lamest thing around these days would have to be Brett Favre still trying to play football for the lowly Vikings, but a close second would have to be ghosts. In fact, now I think about it, Brett Favre is a bit like a ghost... a misty, unsubstantial shadow of something that used to really be something hanging about and pointlessly haunting his old stomping grounds... Lame! If ghosts were real, they would probably be scary for the first few times you met one, and then not at all after that. I mean, they can't do anything to you, right? After you really hung out with one, you would quickly learn that they can't hurt you and you could just walk right through them into the next room whenever they tried to annoy you. Annoying... that's what they'd be! After you got over the initial shock of these airborne, ethereal stalkers, you'd simply tell them to get over it and go bother someone else! "Move on there, dude! You're dead! The dream is over! Stop being lame! We're all trying to actually live here!"

Now I know this is all just silliness. I mean, there are no such things as ghosts. Hebrews 9:27 says this, "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment." So there. Once you're dead, you're dead and gone. People don't hang about, creeping on all their old places and relations, trying to half-exist in the bygone memories of a terrestrial life that has left them far behind. No, people die and then they're gone. They face the Lord and He sorts out the rest. So, why in the world am I talking about how lame ghosts would be if they in fact existed? Well it's because, quite frankly, sometimes I look around and think that I see one swooping about and haunting their distant past when they ought to just move on. Now, don't get me wrong... I'm not talking about literal ghosts here. I'm not seeing disembodied spirits of dead folks floating around. I'm talking about people; real, live people who act just like ghosts; and believe me when I say, it's lame.

Colossians 3 says this: "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming."

If you know Jesus, you died to your old life! When we get too wrapped up in things that have to do with this life, it's like we're ghosts, haunting old memories! We died to all that stuff and now we've been raised up with Christ for a brand new kind of life!! It's time to move on! It's time to leave behind the ethereal phantoms of greed, impurity and the like and step out into the firm reality of true and new life in Jesus!! If you know and love Him, don't get too wrapped up in earthly things! Don't waste your day haunting the old neighborhood of money, worry and terrestrial politics! Give your heart and your energy to the kind of stuff that Jesus cares about! Don't be a ghost... it's lame. Move on. Live. Breathe the fresh air of resurrected life. You're already raised up and hidden with Him in God... So leave all that other stuff behind, or as Paul says, "You died, so put the rest of that junk to death too!" Come and live!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

So, my computer died this week, but I did get an iPad...

Cooler Than You Think

When I was in college, I worked for an after school day care business at an elementary school in Cookeville, TN. It was a good college job that was always filled with some surprising ridiculousness... like the day my boss had to hose off the sidewalk because of a kindergartner who wasn't all that potty trained yet, but whose mother thought boxers would be a good idea... or like the consistent rhythm of lice outbreaks. One mother even shaved her daughter's head... Twice! Well, every fall we would take the kids on a field trip to a local farmer's corn maze and pumpkin patch to go on a hayride and pick out a pumpkin for home. It was always a fairly ridiculous trip... like the time a kid was so allergic to the hay and straw that his little face exploded into a bulbous, oozing, red balloon and one of our leaders had to spend the whole afternoon with him on the bus... or the time a kid got stuck in a rustic-themed obstacle course/fun house slide and got so freaked out that he screamed and then used the bathroom right there on the straw strewn slide.

These were my corn maze experiences. This is the kind of craziness I came to associate with pumpkin patches, so you can imagine my reticence and well, flat out fear when Christy suggested we take our kids to some farm out in the middle of nowhere and do the corn maze thing again. My initial internal reaction? "Lame..."

Long story short, our trip to the pumpkin patch was one of the funnest and sweetest things I've done in a long time. It turned out that Patty and Patrick came into town, so the kids got to spend the day with their sweet cousins, and folks, the corn maze we went to in Halls was awesome!! They had a giant blob buried in the sand that was basically just an enormous trampoline the size of a small house. They had a go cart track for little cars that kids could pedal around. They had a huge sandbox complete with shovels and Tonka trucks. There were slides, a bouncy castle and a great little hayride, and there was a ton more cool stuff there. It was a perfect day, we got some great pictures and had an amazing time. Lesson? The thing I thought would be lame because of some bad experiences wound up being a lot cooler than I thought.

I was reading Colossians 1 this morning and there is a place where Paul shares his prayer for these folks, and he starts building up this crescendo of things he wants for them, and it's a list that starts with walking and ends in all the glorious power of Almighty God... "And we pray this in order that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have..."

Have what?!? What's he building up to here? Paul seems to be pumping up the volume and cranking up the drama so that he can reveal the very height of spiritual maturity! Surely this next statement will represent the most amazing, earth-shattering ministry, right?! Well, maybe not. Or at least, not to our ears... Paul says, "...being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light."

That's the big ending... The height of spiritual maturity and manifestation of all the power of God in a person's life: endurance, patience and gratitude. It may not seem like much, but what God is really working for in the hearts of His people, the thing that really pleases His heart is a person that just patiently hangs in there every day, thanking God for where they are and what He has given. I'm not saying I'm there yet, but the older I get and the farther into this walk I get, it's what I want more and more. It may not look like much to us, but when you try it on, you find it's cooler than you think.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

More pictures from our Fall Break Hike at Frozen Head:


I’m kind of a nerdy person. I love Star Wars, comic books and every single product manufactured by Apple. I have read every Harry Potter book more than ten times each and can tell you more about the history of Tolkein’s Middle Earth than I can about our current American Congress. Of all this nerdery however, probably the dorkiest thing about me is my participation in Fantasy Football.

I’m fairly sure that if alien life forms from outer space ever visited this planet, they would say that apart from bull running, eating competitions and Joan Rivers, Fantasy Football is the weirdest thing about human beings. I mean, the sport of football is weird enough already, right? Twenty-two guys ensconce themselves in protective padding from head to foot so that they can hit each other as hard as possible for an hour without getting arrested, and the whole point is to see who can take the overgrown bean across a line. Hmm. And the people that are really good at crossing the line with the bean are among the most famous and wealthy people on our planet. Hmm. But the weirdness doesn’t stop there, because millions of people all over the world pretend that they are the owners, managers and coaches of the various millionaire bean toters (even though they’re not) and stage make-believe competitions loosely based on the actual toting of the bean.

Wow. When you break it down and analyze it like that, I admit it’s pretty dang weird. Here’s the thing: I love it. I’m one of those guys. I am a fully-grown man with a loving wife, three kids and a mortgage who basically plays make-believe dollhouse using statistics from the real-life athletic performances of actual people like Peyton Manning and Braylon Edwards. It’s part poker, part chess and part reality show that all come together to make a socially acceptable male drama, and the whole thing revolves around stats... Numbers. How many yards will they get on Sunday? How many points will that defense allow? Every day and all day long, millions of guys check their computers, crunch the numbers and weigh the advice of the experts, wondering who is going to put up the most impressive stats. And none of it is even real! What if you had stats? What if there was a system of measurement that weighed the performance of your life and spiritual growth? What if someone was betting on you, hoping you would have a really good day today? Yikes!

For quarterbacks and wide receivers there are a variety of stats that make them valuable players, and most people would probably name a million things that mark measurable spiritual maturity, but according to the Apostle Paul, there is only one thing that matters. For Paul, there is one stat, and it is love. In 1 Corinthians 13 he says,
"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing."

No matter how dynamic I think my ministry is, no matter what results I think I'm getting and no matter what anyone else tells me about myself, if I don't love, I don't have anything. Love is the most important thing about me and the only stat that counts, period.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Anna read her first chapter book silently to herself this week!! (Junie B. First Grader, Cheater Pants) Way to go, girl!

Our little Trunk or Treaters:

Poor Jack after his last minute surgery on Thursday:

Emergency Fervor

This week has been a bit of a ‘drop everything and put out a fire’ kind of week. You see, Jack has been sick for a month. Turns out one of the tubes put in his ears last February came out in the beginning of October and he immediately developed an ear infection that we still haven’t kicked. The poor guy got more and more sick over last month and the only thing the prescribed antibiotics did was serve up a heaping helping of stomach problems that have led to a host of other discomforts. Last week we even had to stop his medicine right in the middle because it was causing him so many more problems than it was curing! All in all, the guy has spent the last few weeks or so in pain, confused, saddle sore, with a faucet for a nose and sleeping badly. When he’s not been completely distracted by tons of people or something really awesome, he’s been fussing. Needless to say, it’s been tough on everybody.

Two days ago I took him in to see his Ear, Nose and Throat doctor, who looked at his dramatically infected ear for the second time in as many weeks and said, “Well Dad, he’s sick.” Yeah... I gathered that. Thanks. After reflecting on the history of this unsuccessful month of treatment, our doctor paused for a second in thought, looked at his watch and then, with an urgent look in his eye, said, “You know what? I think I have a little time tomorrow. You want to just do surgery tomorrow?” “Yes!” I said. “That would be awesome.” And just like that, we entered a whirlwind of getting ready for a surgery to happen in less than 15 hours. Christy and I were so glad that these folks were taking Jack as seriously as we were, and just like that, he was back in surgery yesterday morning. Turns out Jack was even more sick than the doctor first assumed. It was a bit of an emergency and a good thing they did what they did when they did it.

The thing that was interesting to me about this whole situation was how surprised everyone in our lives was to find out Jack was having surgery or was even sick. As far as they knew, and whenever they saw him, he seemed fine. Was he really so sick he needed surgery? Was he really so sick he needed immediate surgical attention? The more I think about that, it strikes me that lots of people are like Jack. They fill their lives up with distractions so that no one really knows the state of emergency that’s going on inside. They look fine on the outside and if you ask them how they’re doing, they’ll say they’re great, but oftentimes the truth is that they need to drop everything and put a fire out... or keep a fire burning.

This morning I was reading Romans 12 where Paul leads off by pleading with these folks to give themselves completely to God. He tells them that they are to be the ‘whole burnt offering’ of the old sacrificial system, completely consumed for the Lord. Paul says that when you look at what God has done for us, it only makes sense to offer yourself completely in this way. Then he spends the rest of the chapter showing what that looks like in real life. In verse 11 he says, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” When I read that verse, it made me think of the original ‘whole burnt offering’ sacrifice of the Old Testament, way back in Leviticus chapter 6. Check this out:
The LORD said to Moses: “Give Aaron and his sons this command: ‘These are the regulations for the burnt offering: The burnt offering is to remain on the altar hearth throughout the night, till morning, and the fire must be kept burning on the altar... The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it. The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.

How’s your fire doing? There’s nothing more important than keeping it burning. If it’s flagging or dying out, there is nothing more important than tending to it! I bet a lot of people are spiritually dry a lot of the time and never tell anyone. It’s like being sick! It’s like needing surgery! It’s urgent, and if it’s you, tell someone! Get someone you love to pray for you. Don’t let the fire go out! It’s a big deal that all of us do whatever it takes to keep our love for Jesus burning. If you need encouragement or if you’re low on fuel for the fire, don’t go it alone! Don’t pretend you’re okay when you need emergency attention. Drop everything and find someone who will drop everything with you. There’s nothing more important than keeping that fire ablaze.

Cluster Map