I Missed A Day

I apologize. We were on the road for about nine hours yesterday. By the time we got checked in it was time for ICOM to kick off. It has been amazing so far. We have been to some great workshops and heard some amazing speakers. The best part has been spending time with old friends. This has been like a family reunion and it’s not over yet. I can’t wait until tomorrow.

Where Has The Time Gone?

Dad and Jamie

I know I talk a lot about getting older and watching the kids grow up. I think that is only natural so I am not going to apologize for it. In fact, I’m going to do more of it. The photo at the top of this post used to hang in the cubicle in my office back when I worked for Habitat For Humanity. My daughter Jamie drew it for me when I was talking about getting a tattoo. I smiled and hung it on the wall but I never really considered getting it done. She actually drew several pictures for me to get tattooed but they never made it either. Looking back on it now, I kind of wish I had done at least one of them. I know tattoos are one of those issues that many of us disagree on and I really don’t want to debate it at the moment. This post is about Jamie, not my ink.

The picture, if you haven’t figured it out, is Jamie holding my hand. There is a really large red sun next to us so we may be at the beach, I’m not exactly sure. Believe it or not, she actually got pretty close to what my hair looked like at the time. I was going through a shaggy phase and I think she accurately captured it. When I look at this picture I am filled with all kinds of thought and emotions. It’s a happy picture but it also makes me feel a little sad because she has grown up so much and those days are gone. Like I said, I kind of wish I had gone with this as my tattoo. It would be even more special than the ones I have.

I make no bones about it, Jamie always has been a Daddy’s girl. I don’t love her more than Geo or Chris and I have always tried to treat them the same. At the very least, I have tried to be fair, even if I haven’t always been impartial. I don’t know what it is about a daughter that makes us guys lose it. I think part of it is the idea that we have to protect her. The older she gets, the tougher it is. That makes me sad too. I know that she is slowly slipping into adulthood and those days when she was Daddy’s Little Girl are gone. I realize that she will ALWAYS be Daddy’s Girl on some level but…well…I don’t know how to explain it. All of you Dads who have gone through this know what I’m talking about.

I’ve talked about the journey our family began ten years ago when we decided to go back to Bible college. Jamie was just a couple of months old when we moved. She just turned ten. Where did that little baby go? Don’t get me wrong, I have similar feeling when I think about Geo and Chris. Geo was nine and Chris was not quite five when we packed up. Ten years. Geo is a Dad now, Chris is a strapping young lad, and Jamie is starting to look like a woman. I am thankful for that. I know so many people who did not have the chance to watch their children grow up. I don’t take it for granted. I am beyond blessed. I can’t wait to see what these kids do with their lives. Whatever is is, I want them to know that Daddy’s proud.

Grace and peace

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Putting Legs On The Gospel

One of my professors at Roanoke Bible College (Mid-Atlantic Christian University) once talked about how we are supposed to put legs (feet) on the gospel. I honestly don’t remember which one of them said it and I’m not sure of the exact words used but that was the gist of it. I thought of that quote while I was working on my sermon last week and I was reminded of it again when Derek Stump preached at Grover Sunday night. He reminded us that sheep make sheep. By that he was simply stating that disciples of Jesus go out and make more disciples. Christians are supposed to put legs (feet) of the gospel and go out into the world. That’s what I believe Jesus was getting at when he said we’re supposed to let our lights shine and we’re supposed to be salt. Not only should we let the gospel change us, it should motivate us to go out and share it with as many people as possible.

One of the points I tried to get across in my last few sermons was that we are supposed to be people of truth but we cannot sacrifice grace and mercy in the pursuit of it. We have to find a balance between shouting the truth of Scripture from the mountain tops and accepting others unconditionally. We can’t sacrifice truth for grace either. I admit, it is much harder to put in practice than it is to talk about. I still have to ask God to help me be bold enough to speak the truth, even when it is unpopular, but do it in a way that is loving and merciful. I’ve talked about that up here before and I’ll probably talk about it again because I think it is that important.

Jesus showed compassion and mercy and reached out to the unlovable. However, he never once condoned sinful behavior, even when he was spending time with all of those who were actively engaged in it. He loved them just as they were but he also told them that they needed to leave behind their sins. The really interesting thing about Jesus is that the few times he got really upset and acted harshly was when he was dealing with those who were considered religious. He often rebuked his own disciples. He still loved them and he forgave them (look at how he dealt with Peter) but he seemed to be telling them that they knew better. He expected more from them. I believe that is still true.

I don’t know why those of us in the church expect those in the world to act any differently than they do. I don’t know why we expect them to magically transform the minute we share a Bible verse or hand them a gospel truth. If we’re honest we’ll admit that we still struggle with sin no matter how long we’ve been Christians. We say that we want people to come “just as they are” but our actions often betray us. Putting legs (feet) on the gospel means that we’ve got to get out there and mingle. We don’t need to take part in all the things going on but we’ve go to be willing to show people that Jesus loves them and that we love them too. That’s the only way we’re ever going to make sheep.

Grace and peace

Monday, Monday

I went in and worked in the office this morning even though I typically take the day off. We’ll be leaving Thursday so I will miss two of my normal office days. I figured that I would make them up today and tomorrow.

I had planned on going to Grover tonight but totally forgot that Robin had a Scout meeting tonight. She’s the treasurer so she tries to make all of them. We’re singing at Grover tomorrow night and I’m hoping to go Wednesday night as well.

I’m looking forward to ICOM. It just so happens that I’m preaching a series on the persecuted Church when I get back. It was developed by several preachers and a bunch of guys I know are doing it in November as well.

I’ve got Monday Night Football on but I’m just not interested. I haven’t been interested in much of the stuff on television lately, sports or otherwise.

NaNoWriMo begins at Midnight, November 1st. If you don’t know what it is, Google it. I have done it many years in a row but last year was the very first time I successfully completed it. Perhaps I can make it two in a row. 

Robin just got home, let me go.

Grace and peace

Get Out Of The Boat

Attended the first night of Grover Church of Christ’s Preaching Rally. Brother Derek Stump brought the message and really challenged us. He mentioned two times where the Bible says Jesus was amazed. Once was when the folks in his hometown of Nazareth rejected him. He wasn’t able to do a lot of miracles there because they lacked faith. The other was when the Roman centurion came to him and asked for his servant to be healed. Jesus said that he hadn’t seen that kind of faith in all of Israel.

Brother Stump also shared the account of when Jesus came walking out on the water in the middle of a storm and his apostles were amazed. They had seen all the things he had done and were still struggling with understanding who he was. Peter was the only one who stood up and said anything. It’s true that Peter had a habit of opening his mouth and inserting his foot, but he is also the one who was given the keys to the kingdom. He is the one credited with preaching that first gospel sermon on Pentecost. Peter is the only one who got out of the boat.

So many times we sit back and we laugh and ridicule those who are stepping out in faith. I wonder what the other apostles were thinking when Peter jumped out and started walking on water? Do you reckon they were taking bets to see how fast he would sink? Do you think they nudged each other when he did? Probably so. We do the same kind of thing when others act out in radical faith. We sit back and shake our heads and if they fail we nudge one another and go, “I knew that would happen.”

I bet some of the other apostles may have actually snickered when Peter sank and cried out to Jesus. They probably laughed under their breath when Jesus rebuked Peter. We probably do the same thing today when others do the unthinkable. However, we have to remember one thing.

Peter is the only one who got out of the boat. Are we going to sit back and watch others or are we going to get out of our comfort zones? Jesus is walking on the water and he’s calling out to us. His message is simple. Get out of the boat.

Grace and peace

He Wants Me

One of the most humbling things I have ever realized is that in spite of all the things I have done to offend Him, God still wants me. Romans 5:6-11 (ESV) says this:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Even when I didn’t care one way or the other, He loved me. Even after I came to faith and deliberately turned my back on Him, He loved me. That absolutely blows my mind. I understand it somewhat because I have a similar love for my children. I love them even when they blatantly disregard me. I love them even when they say they don’t love me. My love for them is unconditional. There is nothing that they can do that will make me stop loving them. If I (a messed up human father) can love like that, just imagine how much our perfect heavenly Father loves us.

No matter what I do, He loves me. That doesn’t mean that I don’t make Him sad (or even angry) when I disobey. That doesn’t mean He smiles and shakes His head every time I do something that offends Him. He is still Almighty God and He still has standards that He expects me to strive for. However, His grace and mercy are so great that He continues to love me in spite of who I am.

I am so thankful that He loved me even when I was a sinner.

Grace and peace

Writing Songs

Sometimes I feel totally uninspired and I don’t even want to look at a musical instrument. Part of it comes from the frustration of having to play within my musical limitations. I can play guitar, piano, bass guitar, and even a smidgen of drums. However, I do not excel on any of them. I am competent enough to play in church and various events. I am also competent enough to amuse myself. I have been in several bands (they would be garage bands but none of them actually rehearsed in a garage) since graduating from high school in 1988. A couple of them were decent and actually played shows. I wrote a lot of the songs that two of those bands played. I like some of the stuff I have written but I don’t know that I have ever written a great song. I think I have written a handful of decent songs and if cut myself some slack, I might even say that I have written one or two really good songs.

I moved my guitar amp, electric guitar, and keyboard into the office yesterday. I had several reasons for doing so. First, I spend more time in the office now and I like to have them here if the mood strikes me. Second, the dog wigs out every time I have tried to crank up the amp at home. Third (and lastly), I have felt compelled to actively write songs lately. I don’t know why, but I have. For some reason, I feel like writing stuff that would have fit the band I had with my buddy Phil. We were called Oldmangrady and we started playing together back in the late Nineties. I was the primary guitar player so the stuff was very simple. I am slightly better today but I’m still no Eddie Van Halen.

Most of the songs are blatantly Christian but I do occasionally like to write about every day life. I have penned a couple of love songs over the years. In fact, one of the new songs I wrote today is a straight forward love song. It’s pretty simple but I like it. I like the majority of the songs I have written in my life. There are some lyrics that still make me cringe and I sometimes try to fix them. I am not always successful but it does give me something to shoot for.

The stuff I recorded today it the very definition of low-fi. I sat my iPhone on top of the Casio keyboard that I’m using for drum beats and pressed record. I have the amp under the keyboard so the mic will pick up the guitar and I just sing. I have to do each one a few times so I can adjust the volumes on the amp and/or keyboard. It’s not like I’m trying to put out a marketable product right now. I just want to get the songs down so I don’t forget them. I also like to share them with folks who are interested.

That being said, I’m going to post the link to my SoundClick page. There are a few songs up there under the name Oldmangrady. That’s me. If you don’t like loud guitars, well, you probably won’t like them. That’s okay though, I know we all have different tastes. It’s all good. If you do like that late Eighties, early Nineties alternative rock, then you might want to check them out. They are ROUGH demos, I can’t stress that enough. They are good enough that I am not embarrassed to share them but I don’t want anyone thinking that you’re going to hear radio quality stuff. Hey, if you do listen to them, let me know what you think. I don’t mind constructive criticism.

Oldmangrady

Grace and peace

Long Day

I apologize for checking in so late. I have had a busy (but great) day. For starters, I wrote a new song this morning.  I have the music drafted and demoed (using my iPhone) and I have a first draft of the lyrics done. Here is what I have at the moment.

Lock up the doors, yeah there’s gonna be a riot

Nowhere to hide, no use in even tryin

The dream is over, no need to deny it

The system has failed and there ain’t nobody buyin

Got a treasure stored away

Moth and rust won’t cause decay

I’ll run my race and claim the prize

I put my hope in something real

A kingdom that no one can steal

I’ll leave this world and all its lies

Fallen kings will watch their castles crumble

The Son of Man has caused the wise to stumble

Lightning crashes, hear the thunder rumble

This whole world is gonna shake and tumble

Got a treasure stored away

Moth and rust won’t cause decay

I’ll run my race and claim the prize

I put my hope in something real

A kingdom that no one can steal

I’ll leave this world and all its lies

The melody line is slightly inspired by Kurt Cobain but the music is pretty much straight-forward rock. I don’t know when/if I will be able to get a proper demo done but I have enough to keep me from forgetting it. I have a couple more ideas I want to get down before I forget them.

I also listened to a Nelson Searcy webinar on Church Systems. It lasted about an hour and a half and had some really good information. It was an introduction to his pastor coaching program (which costs $250 a month) but I knew that going in. I have no intention of doing that (too much money) but the actual webinar had some really good information so it was worth the time.

Robin and I went up to Elmira and had date night. We used the gift card to Texas Roadhouse that we got from the church for Pastor Appreciation Month. Then we went to the mall and hung out. I bought a new capo (I lost mine sometime between Monday night and this morning) and some picks. I also played a Taylor T5 (my current dream guitar) and Robin tried out a couple of piccolos. They had a brand new bass clarinet there but I didn’t play it. It is smaller (and much lighter) than the one I played in high school. It’s cool but I can’t see myself paying $2500 for it.

Well, it’s almost 10:30 and I want to go hang out with my wife.

Grace and peace

I Surrender…All?

44 “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.

45 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. 46 When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!

Matthew 13:44-46 (NLT)

44 “God’s kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field for years and then accidentally found by a trespasser. The finder is ecstatic—what a find!—and proceeds to sell everything he owns to raise money and buy that field.

45-46 “Or, God’s kingdom is like a jewel merchant on the hunt for excellent pearls. Finding one that is flawless, he immediately sells everything and buys it.

Matthew 13:44-46 (The Message)

Am I really willing to give up everything in pursuit of the Kingdom of God? Ask yourself the same question. Are you willing to give up everything? Seriously? EVERYTHING?

I don’t have a problem saying that I want to follow Jesus and be a part of God’s Kingdom. I don’t have a problem saying that I believe the Bible. I don’t have a problem saying that I want put God before all things. The problem is that if I am just saying these things, then I’m not serious about it. Anyone can say these things. Putting them into practice and living them out consistently is something totally different. That is a problem that I have had my entire life. Making my words and my deeds line up is not as easy as it may sound.

Perhaps you are a familiar with the hymn I Surrender All. It has been sung countless times during invitations and altar calls. There is no telling how many people gave their lives to Christ while that song was being sung. It’s a really good song too. I love singing it. It may be one of my favorite hymns. However, how many times have I sung it and not meant it? Have you? Look at the lyrics and tell me if you can honestly say that you live them out 100% of the time. I know that I can’t.

  1. All to Jesus I surrender;
    All to Him I freely give;
    I will ever love and trust Him,
    In His presence daily live.

    • Refrain:
      I surrender all,
      I surrender all;
      All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
      I surrender all.
  2. All to Jesus I surrender;
    Humbly at His feet I bow,
    Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
    Take me, Jesus, take me now.
  3. All to Jesus I surrender;
    Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
    Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
    Truly know that Thou art mine.
  4. All to Jesus I surrender;
    Lord, I give myself to Thee;
    Fill me with Thy love and power;
    Let Thy blessing fall on me.
  5. All to Jesus I surrender;
    Now I feel the sacred flame.
    Oh, the joy of full salvation!
    Glory, glory, to His Name!

Judson W. Van DeVenter

Here’s the thing, I WANT to mean them. I really do. I want those words to be an accurate reflection of my life. The truth is, sometimes they are. There are times when I am focused on Jesus and I am able to give myself to Him. Sadly, there are also those times when I don’t. When I read that passage out of Matthew it convicts me. For most of my life I have not been willing to give Him everything. There are still things that I cling to. There are still areas in my life that I don’t want to completely surrender. My prayer (for myself and for you) is that His Spirit gives us all the strength to give it all up for Him.

Grace and peace

Gideons

Robin and I were blessed last night by attending the Pastor Appreciation Banquet hosted by the local Gideons. There was a very nice meal and we heard an amazing testimony from a local pastor who actually came to faith after receiving a Gideons Bible when he was a teenager. We also heard an inspiring message that shared the work of the Gideons as they take God’s word out into the world. Robin and I were honored to do special music.

The Gideons recently hit a milestone when they handed out there 2,000,000,000th Bible. Yes, that is TWO BILLION. They are currently in 200 countries. They are able to get Bibles into places where there are none. Being able to listen to the testimonies and hear the reports was really encouraging. It was also encouraging to be honored (as a pastor) by the organization.

I can remember getting one or two of the little New Testaments that they used to hand out in school. I didn’t take on every time they came because I had my own Bible but I did have a couple of them over the years. They still place them in hotel rooms, hospitals, and doctor’s offices around the country.

HERE is their website if you’d like to read more about them. Make sure toy go to the page where people share their testimonies. There are some powerful stories up there.

Grace and peace