Saturday, October 31, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
I was eating out with some friends and the language had gotten worse and worse to the point of embarrassment. I had not spoken up (although I could tell another member of the group was offended by the language). Then, one of the girls in the group (who was also one of the most profane speakers) turned to me and said, "Will, I know you are a Christian. I have an f*&%& question. What possible difference can it make to God if I swear and cuss? I mean I like God, so why should it bother Him if I curse? If I drop my French book on my foot and say #*c&, why would that bother God?"
She wasn't asking to be rude or arrogant or mean...she just wanted to know. The situation caught me off guard a bit: most people I have met in my world just assume it is wrong to curse. They may do it, but they acknowledge it is a vice. This young lady's attitude was not argumentative or arrogant but more apathetic, "What's the big deal?"
So what is the big deal about sins that don't physically hurt others? What is the big deal about excess, profanity, drunkenness, pornography, etc? The verse that came to my mind in my conversation with this friend was Romans 14:7, "For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself."
While arguments could be made individually against all the sins mentioned above, I think one of the best ones to make with people engrossed in sin is one of influence. No reasonable adult wants little children to be profane, sex-crazed, drunken and foolish-talking. It is much easier to teach against these destructive habits when not practicing them in one's own life. While we obviously think of teaching children by example, we sometimes fail to see that we influence the adults around us as well. Remember, no one lives in a vacuum. The next idle word that falls might influence someone for a lifetime.
- I have now taught more graduate college courses than I ever attended. I was able to speak to graduate classes at Union and Freed-Hardeman about living with mental illness and by all accounts this went well.
- I bought my house! The house I have been renting for over a year was offered to me for purchase and I decided to settle down in Alamo and purchase the home. It is a good, solid house and I am happy here.
- I have been experiencing some stomach problems for several months and on Monday will have a procedure done to try and determine what exactly is wrong. I would appreciate your prayers.
These last couple of weeks have been high-stress with support group challenges, sickness and just overall busyness. I hope that after winding up October, November will be more stress-free.
Thanks for always being a support!
Friday, October 16, 2009
While the work has the advantage of being an easy read and having concise chapters, the book never seems to get beyond a surface level discussion of the difficulties that pain causes in our individual experiences. While using both experiences from their medical practices and the Bible, Drs. Meier and Henderson play it safe and secure with ideas that do not delve into uncharted waters but rather plot a course familiar to Christian counselors, ministers and spiritual leaders.
Readers who are looking for stretching their thinking, making theological shifts or new ways to confront the problem of suffering will need to look elsewhere while those looking for a practical book to help a loved one, family member or church member dealing with emotional pain may have found a great match.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
When I "came out" about being affected with mental illness, my speaking opportunities changed. Part of this was being in a different circle of people, but part of it, I believe was that I was being honest and open about a subject that most people were not willing to face in my conservative religious world. No longer was I speaking to congregations of hundreds but rather small gatherings of 10-15 in support group meetings. No longer was I being given awards for being "the student who most personifies the example of Jesus," I felt like I was literally becoming the hands and feet of Jesus in the the everyday ministry I was providing to the hurting, broken people with which I was dealing. God had broken me down, taken every shred of pride I had, but had, in due course, given me a new ministry. I was no longer a poster child or super boy preacher, I was a worker, a minister, a servant. God blessed me with a great congregation to support me, great new friends in this new work and a supportive family. We are still growing in this ministry of reconciliation, but God is hopefully being glorified through all He is doing in us and through us.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I think this is great advice from the apostle. How often do we hear Christians today say things like, "Well, what I do in my own private time is my own business!" or "They can just get over it: It's my life!" These are not the reactions that Christ would have us to have. While in American culture, vegetarianism is not a major issue in the modern church, many social practices are that do not affect the primary mission(s) of the church. The major of church divisions I know of personally were over two issues: money and social issues. Only rarely are congregations' dividing issues matters of doctrine. While division always brings heartache, division over "doubtful things" and social practice on which a difference of opinion may simply be just that, is surely an offense before the throne of Almighty God.
We ought to, as Paul will say in chapter 15:7, "receive one another as Christ received you..." When we have the spirit of Christ, unholy division will be the last thing on our hearts and the most distant thing from our minds.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
I am typing this on a desktop in a family member's office due to fact my laptop is currently under the weather. I hope to have it back soon so that I can access my files, photos, music, etc.
I will be speaking to Dr. Mark Crowell's Death and Dying and Human Behavior: Childhood and Adolescence classes at Freed-Hardeman University on Thursday. I am looking forward to this opportunity to share a unique perspective on grief and loss and some of the story of what God has done in my life.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
I decided to give up my $40 a month Starbucks habit and sponsor a child from Compassion International. This is a great way for me to spend that money in a godly way, support a child and help end poverty in the world. Rich Mullins was a HUGE supporter of Compassion and it has long been a charity I have wanted to get involved with. I chose a child from Ecuador (although I am sure Erin would have preferred Afghanistan) primarily due to the fact that I took the male child that was old enough to read that had been waiting the longest for a sponsor. Ironically, his name is Oswaldo (maybe named after Oswald Chambers?.. :) and he lives in the same area of Ecuador where Jim Elliot worked as a missionary among the Quechua peoples. Three of my greatest heroes of faith and his dire need combined led me to choose this young man to sponsor. I'll be looking forward to getting to know him and his family.
I have been reading the Bible with fresh eyes lately and the Word has been laid bare before me. I hope that each one of you will get to experience the joy that is found in reading the Bible purely for the sake of knowledge and not just as fodder to prove a theological position. God has richly blessed my focus and study lately and I am so glad He is allowing me to share some of those things with you on this blog.
Have a great Sunday tomorrow and, by the way, appreciate your minister! :)
Here are just a few of the things I am I thankful for as I look back on these years of transformation:
- I am thankful the church at Alamo encouraged me to preach at a young age. No one in my family had ever led a public prayer much less preached, but the church membership and leadership encouraged me from the point of my conversion to preach. People like Larry & Cindy Harper, Frank & Annette Kail, Billy and Louise Evans, the Rawsons, Mack and Mary June Goode, Judy and Judy, Harry and Jermie Fewell, Kimberly Kail and a host of others rallied behind me as a young man and wanted me to succeed in ministry. The church helped provide for me a Christian education at Freed-Hardeman University and I will always be in their debt for all this great congregation did and continues to do for me.
- I am thankful for my close-knit family. My family has been my greatest support system through all of my struggles and my greatest cheering section in all of my triumphs. I love each of them completely and I only wish that we could have spent more of the last few years together. I am so glad we are now getting to make up that time living so close together and spending so much time in each others company.
- I am thankful for the bonds that formed with other Christians in my time at Freed-Hardeman University, Sardis Lake Christian Camp and at all the retreats, Gospel meetings and events of which I have been a part over the years. I still receive calls and e-mails from Christians on different continents who I met through these connections and we share a unity that only Christ can bring.
- I am thankful God sent me to Lebanon at just the right time for both of us. The church at Lebanon needed a shot in the arm spiritually and so did I and we united at just the right time in 2004. Our work together has been fruitful both in number and in Spirit. This church is where my heart is and I truly love each of the members there. God blessed me so much by bringing this church into my life.
- I am thankful that God broke down to build me up again. I had never experienced anything like the devastation mental illness caused in my life. The loss of my longtime partner, the loss of my sanity, the loss of my ability to think and feel in a way consistent with my value system. I more than once with Job cursed the day of my birth. I prayed for death; invited death. God had other plans. God has led me in this experience just as He has in all others and is now using this experience to bring others to Himself. I feel as if I too, while still ill but in recovery, have received now my "double portion." A new, better relationship, stronger family bonds, a more fulfilling ministry and a greater sense of empathy than ever before.
God commanded Joshua and the children of Israel to build up a memorial of stones where they lodged after crossing the Jordan so that when their coming generations asked what the stones meant they might tell them of the power of Y----H. I hope my life is being built up into a powerful testimony for God so that when others ask how did you come this far, I can say, "By faith and faith alone."
On another occasion, I was floored when I read an article by a well-known preacher alleging some things that I knew to be misleading at best and untrue at worst. I went to this man directly (as I believe the Scripture would have us to) and he refused to speak with me about the article other than to say he stood by what he had written. I was both hurt and confused.
Why do I mention these two examples of negative experiences I have had with fellow Christians? Because I believe that God is bigger than the individuals that serve Him.
Though I believe both these men went about things in the wrong way and made mistakes, I know that, I too, make mistakes from time to time in my efforts to point people to Jesus. God can use my mistakes (and the mistakes of others) for His ultimate glory. God is bigger than me and my ministry and bigger than you and yours.
God took that opinionated man and sent him from local work to the mission field where he is making a great impact on believers around the world. While God did not change the heart of the second man, He lit a fire within my spirit to preach and teach a more compassionate gospel so that people will see the love of Christ living in me. Ironically, though this brother and I had disagreed strongly on this issue, I was supporting a member of his family in mission work in Africa unaware of their connection. God humbled me through that experience because I found myself praying that the heart of the one would be changed will the ministry of the other would be blessed.
There is always hope that the higher thoughts of God (Isa. 55:9) will swoop down and fill the minds of men for a brief moment. When this happens, our ministries will flourish and our paths will become clear and fulfilling in serving Jesus Christ.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
I personally think heaven, while a place for all who accept Christ and His message of salvation, will be a deeply personal experience. Worshipping God forever will be amazing and awe-inspiring. God shall dwell among us and in us and all around us. The Glory of God will be the light of that eternal homeland. Truly a wondrous place.
Provided we do in fact recognize one another in some way on the shores of the beyond, who do you want on your heavenly welcoming committee?
Consider this video from the Hillside Christian Church as you ponder a response...
Monday, October 5, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
People raised to respect, honor, love and be affectionate toward God oft grow up into adults who become some of our best church workers. Children taught to fear, dread, run from and mistrust God often blame God for the problems of adolescence and adulthood and have relationships with God that are far from healthy.
Christian artist Rich Mullins wrote the following song entitled "Boy Like Me, Man Like You" to describe the comparison of his own childhood to that of Jesus.
You was cryin' in the early mornin'
You was born in a stable Lord
Reid Memorial is where I was born
They wrapped You in swaddling clothes
Me they dressed in baby blue
I was twelve years old in the meeting house
Listening to the old men pray
And I was tryin' hard to figure out
What it was that they was tryin' to say
There You were in the temple
They said You weren't old enough
To know the things You knew
Well, did You grow up hungry?
Did You grow up fast?
Did the little girls giggle when You walked past?
Did You wonder what it was
That made them laugh?
Did they tell You stories
'bout the saints of old?
Stories about their faith?
They say stories like that make a boy grow bold
Stories like that make a man walk straight
You was a boy like I was once
But was You a boy like me
Well, I grew up around Indiana
You grew up around Galilee
And if I ever really do grow up
Lord I want to grow up and be just like You
Did You wrestle with a dog and lick his nose?
Did You play beneath the spray
Of a water hose?
Did You ever make angels in the winter snow?
Did You ever get scared
Playing hide and seek?
Did You try not to cry
When You scraped Your knee?
Did You ever skip a rock across a quiet creek?
And I really may just grow up
And be like You someday."
While the love of God is far beyond all we could imagine, we can see its demonstration in the life and ministry of Jesus. Not all of Christ's life was ministry; much of it was the ordinary daily events that you and I experience just as He did. I hope and pray we can meet all of life's challenges and opportunities with the mind, heart and spirit of Jesus.
"Now therefore, behold, now, the cry of the children of Israel has come up to Me and I have also seen the oppression with which they are oppressed..." -Exodus 3
When the LORD spoke to Moses and called him to return to land of his birth, the LORD said He had both heard and seen the oppression that the Egyptians exercised over the Israelites.
The LORD God is a sensory Being (or at least He chooses to relate Himself to man in a way that compares to man's senses). Jesus as a member of the human race felt fear, loneliness, grief, anger and love. When we cry out to God with our voices, we cry out to a God that once had ears that heard the recitation of Scripture written about Himself. When we show God our scars and broken hearts, God sees with eyes that once squinted in the glare of the Galilean sunshine. When we allow God to wipe our tears, He touches us with hands gentle, but firm from hours in the carpentry shop and the fishing boat.
It is when we hold things within ourselves that we rob God of doing His refining work in our lives. God wants so desperately to hold us, to hear us, to heal us. Consider the words of the song, "Deliver Us," and feel free to comment.
"Our enemy, our captor is no pharaoh on the Nile
Our toil is neither mud nor brick nor sand
Our ankles bear no calluses from chains, yet Lord, we're bound
Imprisoned here, we dwell in our own land
Deliver us, deliver us
Oh Y----h, hear our cry
And gather us beneath your wings tonight
Our sins they are more numerous than all the lambs we slay
These shackles they were made with our own hands
Our toil is our atonement and our freedom yours to give
So Y----h, break your silence if you can
Deliver us, deliver us
Oh Y----h, hear our cry
And gather us beneath your wings tonight
How often I have longed
To gather you beneath my gentle wings'"
Have a great Sunday and a great week,
Saturday, October 3, 2009
This person's spouse, child or lover is serving our country and they are torn. No doubt they are proud of his or her service otherwise he or she would not so boldly display these emotions bare before the world. Yet the heart was torn. Part of his or her life is occurring elsewhere; part of existence is happening away from the present scenery. Robert Burns wrote of this in his poem "My Heart is in the Highlands,"
"My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer -
A-chasing the wild deer, and following the roe;
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go."
Perhaps we will never know. Dickens called it the greatest short story ever told. I agree. What are not recorded for us are the parting words of the father. He must have said, or at least demonstrated, that his love was continuous, even in the face of his son's rebellion.
Here is a song by Tracy Chapman called "The Promise." It speaks about the true nature of that kind of love. A love that stays put and waits for the wayward. A love that never lets go. A love that is set as a seal upon the heart. Love that abides.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Crockett Goode introduced me to this organization, To Write Love on Her Arms (http://www.twloha.org/), a few years ago. As a sufferer and survivor of depression and self-injury, I have worn their shirts, carried their message, shared their pain and I wanted to share their story, Renee's story and the story of thousands of young people with you.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
I find that one of the best ways to experience God's work in my life is to talk and interact with people who are different than me. After all, if I am kind and considerate to those who are my carbon copies in race, gender, socio-economic class, sexual orientation, etc., what does that prove? Are not the immoral and the infidel doers of the same? It is only when I learn to transcend deep divides of culture and society that I become one with the heart of Jesus. Jesus was a transcender of cultural boundaries and to be His disciple I must be as well.
More to come...
How often today to we pray the wrote prayer before the meal without really pausing to be thankful to the God who makes life, breathe and being possible? At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread and broke it giving thanks. It is important to remember that while we should be thankful for the physical nourishment imparted by the bread, our ultimate gratitude is for the spiritual reality personified in the Bread of Life.
In chapter 24 of Luke, two disciples receive a revealing when Jesus in His resurrected form is "made known to them in the breaking of bread." Suppertime is a spiritual time. With His prayer over the dinner meal, Christ reveals something that their inner selves already knew: that He was the One risen from the dead.
Let us pray that in our Christian communities in so often as we eat, whether it be the common meal of fellowship or the sacred assembly of the saints around the Lord's table, we remember that any meal with Christ as its Guest is a blessed feast indeed.
Take for example the meal at Levi's (Matthew's) house. Jesus's purpose is not to indulge for a night in a party with the sinners, to drink their wine and eat their grub, but rather to evangelize. He says as much when He says in chapter 5:27-39: "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
Meals also provide an opportunity for people to be reconciled to Jesus. The dinner at the house of Simon the Pharisee (chapter 7) provided an opportunity for the sinful woman to anoint the feet of Jesus with her tears and to have her sins forgiven. She was reconciled, not as a table guest, but as an uninvited character who needed the healing only Jesus could provide.
Check back later for part two of "Happy Meals."
Special thanks to Professor John Mark Hicks for compiling much of this info into helpful charts on his blog at http://johnmarkhicks.wordpress.com
You will notice I have added a Twitter feed. I have been on Twitter a few months and update my status several times a day; mainly with quotes with what I am reading in preparation for Sunday. A person is limited to 140 characters of text, so longer quotes or points of interest I will have to feature here in the main portion of the blog.
Hope to have a new lesson up on love by the weekend that the folks at Lebanon got a sampling of last Sunday.
Also, check out the new feature "Off my Bookshelf" to see what I am currently reading. Some of this will be spiritual, some secular, but I think our knowledge of both impacts our knowledge of the other.
Peacefulness to you all,