More Than A Might Be Deity.

faithOne of the best-known and well-liked chapters in the Bible, is Psalm 23.  In times of heartache, people contemplate its principles and find solace in its truths.

This past week, I was offering comfort to a daughter as she said her final goodbye to her mother and father.  I called her attention to the word “is” in the first verse of the psalm:  The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.

God is an is God; He isn’t a has been or a might be Deity. This is the difference between the pain of the world and the promise of heaven. It’s more than a wish; it’s God’s centuries old pledge: The Lord is my shepherd.

The Lord is also:

The list above compliments the shepherd-sheep relationship woven within the verses of Psalm 23. I encourage you to refer to this list throughout the week so you can deepen your relationship with the good Shepherd.

The Journey From 36 to 63

b86b37a33a5544e8d823e5af1984dbbeIf 36 is old, how much older is 63?   A dyslexic would find this to be a challenging question, and it was one that has set my mind to thinking.

On the 18th day of this month, I’ll be 63.  It dawned on me a couple of weeks ago that 63 is the dyslexic version of 36—my dad’s age when he was fatally injured while working in the oil patch.

That was 1965 and this is 2016.  In 1965, I thought 36 was old.  Now that I’m 63, I realize how young Dad was when his life was snuffed out by an explosion. I began to reminisce about this while I was meditating on the first verse of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd, and I shall not want.”

To be honest, for the first third of my life, I wanted nothing to do with the Shepherd.  I was a black sheep who lived in a perimeter outside of the Shepherd’s fold.  I thought I didn’t need Him and was just fine without Him, but that all changed in 1972—I got real close to seeing Dad again.

As the ambulance rushed me to the ER, the scream of the sirens was muffled by the power of  the dark shadows of Death  as they began to close in on me.  I guess the Shepherd was just getting my attention.  He had to overwhelm with the darkness before I could be over-joyed by the light of His presence, and it was a life-changing experience.

Several years ago my Dad’s older brother was succumbing to the ravages of cancer, and I visited him almost daily.  Kenneth would drift in and out from being very lucid to a state that was both mysterious and delirious.

As Kenneth was crossing back and forth between the boundaries of heaven and earth, he’d see his loved ones, and say: “Well there’s Mom and Dad.”  When he drifted back into the reality of his room for a few minutes, we’d discuss what he’d just seen.

One time Kenneth drifted away and as he walked the streets of gold, his face lit up with a smile, and he said: “Look at that!  There’s Eddie.”

Since Kenneth had just seen my dad, I asked him for a favor: “Kenneth, when you cross over and get to heaven, tell Dad ‘Hello,’ for me.  I haven’t seen him for a long time, and I still miss him.”

Kenneth barely had time to honor my request before he began to drift away again.  This time was different; he became calmer than I’d seen him for weeks, and he said, “Well there’s Clara Mae,” and he was ready to die.

Clara Mae was his wife who had died a few years earlier.  Along with her, Kenneth had also found his parents, his brother, and his wife, but most importantly the Shepherd had found him.

Jesus has been a good Shepherd to me.  He once said that He came to “seek and to save the lost.”  I’m glad He kept pursuing me and that I finally heard the Shepherd’s invitation to join Him.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 ~The Message

What I Should Have Said

whisperOn my drive back from the cemetery at St. John, I thought of something I wish I would have said:  “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” This simple statement from Proverbs 22:1 offers a profound description of Roger Taylor.

When I spoke at Roger’s funeral yesterday, it was easy to think of good things to say about this extraordinary example of humanity.  Decent, kind, and generous, are three words that offer an honest estimation of the genuine life Roger lived as a husband, a father, and a Christian.

Ben Franklin once said that, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”  Roger lived a life of good deeds.  As I reflect on his many years as a member of First Christian, I remember his willingness to serve as a deacon, an elder, and the chairman of the board—always unassuming and never wanting to ruffle any feathers.

Because they would make Roger blush, I’m a little reluctant to close with the next line or two; however, they are so true, I shall.  D.L. Moody said, “If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself.”  Roger has been a man of character, and he developed the reputation of being a man of “tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, and longsuffering (Colossians 3:12).”

A sterling reputation is better than striking it rich; a gracious spirit is better than money in the bank. The rich and the poor shake hands as equals—God made them both! A prudent person sees trouble coming and ducks; a simpleton walks in blindly and is clobbered. The payoff for meekness and Fear-of-God is plenty and honor and a satisfying life. ~ Proverbs 22:1-4 (The Message)

Lightening Bugs

firefly-by-jessica-lucia-cc10:30–that’s 4 1/2 hours from now.  That is the designated moment when I am scheduled to say a formal “goodbye” to Johnny Browning.

Words can be brutally forceful and full of strength, but in other instances they seem so inadequate.   Mark Twain said: “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightening and a lightening bug.”

When I gather with Johnny’s family today, “goodbye” is a lightening bug.  How do you say goodbye to a lifelong friend like him?

  • I honestly can’t remember a time when I did not know him
  • I went door to door as a kid and sold the TV Guide, and Johnny bought them
  • When my dad died, Johnny was one of the first people at the house to see if he could help my mother and her three young sons.
  • He let me live, rent free, in one of his houses for a couple of months.
  • He worked side by side with me for the 25 plus years I’ve been the pastor of FCC.

I have walked with Johnny in both times of sorrow and joy.  I have seen him bury a son, his wife, a daughter-in-law, and another son, and I’ve seen him fight cancer and there was never a time his faith wavered.

I think “thanks” is more appropriate than “goodbye.”  So, today, I give thanks to God for my memories of Johnny, and I thank Johnny for taking the time to make them.

Is It Well With Your Soul?

When I went to bed last night, the words of a song were on my mind. Since I was still thinking of this song when I woke up this morning, I thought I would share them with you:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

While you might know these words, you may not know the story behind them. They are the result of six words that were written by Horatio Spafford (1828-1888), who was a successful realtor and lawyer in Chicago. At the height of his success, Horatio and his wife Anna suffered several tragic losses. The first of these was the death of their young son, and shortly thereafter, most of Spafford’s real estate holdings were destroyed during the Chicago fire of 1871.

Two years later Spafford decided to take his family to Europe. Due to some last minute business, he was detained, so he sent his family ahead of him. A couple of days later, he was notified that his family’s ship had been in a collision, and his four daughters had drowned.

Spafford took the next boat to England so he could comfort his grieving wife. As he sailed across the Atlantic, he wrote six words: “When sorrow like sea billows roll; it is well, it is well with my soul.”

A few years later, a songwriter named Phillip Bliss, took those six words and wrote the now famous hymn, It Is Well With My Soul. The song captured the essence of Spafford’s calm in the storm—the peace of God that attended his soul.

The prophet Isaiah spoke of this when he said: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You (26:3).”
Even though he had suffered the untimely death of his children, and his financial empire had been burned, his faith was not shaken—Spafford’s mind stayed on God; peace prevailed; and, it was well with his soul.