Adversity, Bible

Big Tom

This coming Saturday my nephews, our family, our friends, and I celebrate the life of my Brother Tom. Our loss on March 26th was heavens gain. A few days before he left, I was reminded of something I learned from him…

“As I sit here at Tom’s bedside watching him sleep comfortably, I’m reminded of a family reunion on our Mom’s side. All the aunts and uncles were there except Aunt Peggie (we were all reunited with her many many years later). The gathering was held at Grandma Alpha’s and her latest husband Emory. They had a small farm somewhere in the outback of Idaho. Among the many incredible memories is one of both love and pain. While it never needed any help remaining seered in my memory, our Uncle Chuck kept it alive for everyone else as he would regale us with it absolutely everytime we had the pleasure of visiting either by phone or in person.

All the dad’s and boys were camped out one night in a big tent (in fact, I think it was actually an old white parachute, however I’m reaching the downward years of memory so I’m more than willing to be corrected on this little tid-bit of the story). Of course, there were all the usual suspects in that testosterone fueled environment…boys, teen males, and men on vacation. So there’s no need telling what it sounded and looked like…mayhem was afoot should suffice as a descriptive picture.

However, the hour finally approached when the dads finally obeyed the hollers from the moms in the house, “Paul, Chuck, Ed, John, get those boys settled down. It’s time for some sleep!” It took awhile, but sure enough the grunts, shouts, belches, woops, yee-haws, and laughs began to subside. I, on the other hand, was in rare form. Big Brother, Tom, joined Dad and the uncles in giving me increasing demands to pipe down. Nothing doing.

Through out the years Uncle Chuck held us all spellbound over and over with his telling of the tall tale that grew a little taller with each telling. It always concluded with Chuck’s final line and his acting out the scene…

“Then Tom reached the end of his rope and said, ‘Rick, if I told you once, I told you a thousand times…wham!!!!'”…as he acted out Tom’s blood producing punch to my nose.

Now as fond memories go this should rate rather low on the Human Fondness Scale, but oh nay nay. It’s one of my greatest childhood memories. Here’s why…it has come to represent for me the balanced dance of two unlikely partners…pain and love. Tom meant well. He loved me. Still does. I knew it then. I know it even better now. He knew I was well on my way to Dad’s end game. Much more shenanigans on my part were bound to arouse the flames of the old sarge. It was time for me to invite sleep into my disposition. Sure, there would be some crying as Tom carried me into the house to assist Mom in cleaning up my bloody nose, but there would also be some sweet brotherly reconciliation as he brought me back to the overnight camp out. Pain and love…like the Lord offers…the same Lord we read of in the Bible: “Who the Lord loves he also disciplines.” Hebrews 12:6

And now, now my brother’s love continues to instruct through the pain. He sleeps and I admire him all the more as I reflect upon his life time of overwhelming patience and compassion. He has offered them to everyone he has ever known…and I love him for it no matter the agony I feel now nor the grief which is to come.

Sleep well, Tom. Please wake up again. I have more to learn.”

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Adversity, Bible, Culture, identity

Missing the Mark

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Sin sometimes gets a bad rap. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not my intention to water it down. Sin hurts. It’s just that we actually minimize sin’s assault on humanity when we limit it to all those ugly things we do against God and one another. Of course, unfortunately, it’s often exactly this kind of  action and attitude that defines sin. It can entail seriously egregious stuff. However, not always. The whole story is a little more intricate. In fact, the most basic idea about sin in the Bible is “missing the mark” with God. For some that meant wholesale crime, iniquity, and transgression. The Bible doesn’t pull its punches regarding this kind of sin. For example, David’s sins against Bathsheba and her husband and the later sins of David’s children are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to biblical history regarding egregious sin.  For others, the story is not quite the same. For example, there was a lady who suffered with a physical calamity for years and years. She looked everywhere for a solution. Finally, she saw him…the Messiah…Jesus. She reached out to touch the hem of his robe… “for she said to herself, ‘If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.’ Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well'” (Matthew 9:21,22). She wandered far and wide missing–always missing–the mark. Then, at last, she met him…and she was healed. Sometimes we forget, that while it can be far more complex, the simple meaning of sin in the Bible is missing the mark with God. This is good news, because whether one’s sin is off the chart ugly and abusive or as simple as someone believing he or she is not lovable to anyone, Jesus came to ransom us from our slavery to such things.

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Adversity, Bible, Culture, identity

Judgmental Antipathy or Infatuated Affinity…there both hurtful…

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Ever notice how a lack of true knowledge and understanding can create problems? If you don’t much like someone — if you have a natural antipathy toward him or her — and you don’t have much biblical wisdom you run the very real risk of being judgmental regarding him or her. If you like a person — if you have a natural affinity toward him or her — and you don’t have much biblical wisdom you run the very real risk of being infatuated with him or her. Judgmentalism causes us to be offended by the person we don’t much like, while infatuation causes us to take up the offense of the person we like. In both cases we are wrong and starting down a path leading to hurt…the inevitable and logical conclusion to Spiritual Identity Disorder.

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Adversity, Bible, identity

Identity

As a pastor, I have seen one particular problem create for folks more negative issues than I care to remember. I call it SID…Spiritual Identity Disorder. If one doesn’t know her true identity then her purpose, security, and significance will always be dependent on who likes or doesn’t like her, how well she achieves or doesn’t achieve, and how well she feels about her appearance. The problem with all of these is the fickle essence of their nature. She will always be subject to their fluctuations. There is only one constant…God. The purpose we find in him will never change. The identity we receive as his child will never change. The security and significance given to us through his amazing love and grace will never change. This is why the Apostle Paul exclaimed, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

The song in this link to YouTube is by Lauren Daigle. It’s title is “You Say.” It’s spot on regarding spiritual identity disorder. I pray the Lord uses it to move you closer to him.

At your service, Ricki.

https://youtu.be/N8WK9HmF53w


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Adversity, Bible

Just Go For It

“Alright, alright, alright!” There are times when one’s only choice is to simply go for it. So you buck up and “get er done.” “Just do it,” because “when the going gets tough the tough get going.” They “keep on keeping on.” If others are involved there’s no use pleading, a simple “Let’s roll” or “Hoo-ah” should suffice. Ambiguity won’t do. “Cowboy up!” “Eye of the tiger,” man! Quit yer whining! Full steam ahead! Charge! “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…(for) in peace there’s nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility, but when the blast of war blows in our ears, stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage!” Stand in the gap. Don’t flinch. Never yield. “Never give in. Never give up.” “Press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called (you) heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Right on? Right on!

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Adversity, Bible, Life's Moments

Awake…Again…’Cus the Lord Knows Me Well.

3:00am, Ricki, do you know where you are? How far have we traveled together? Seriously, oh man, the challenges we’ve stared down, climbed over, worked through, or even ignored…remember? Do you recall that time, really it was a season or should I say siege, during which you just kept wagging your head back and forth muttering “No, no, no, no?” Yeah, that’s the one. And…yup, that one too. Well, yes, that also. Now do you know where you are? Where you always are? Umhmm, you got it.

Remember when I said, “I will never leave you or forsake you?”

Right. That’s how I said it in the later Letter to the Hebrews. But do you remember how I said it first?

Yup, there you go. Moses was finishing. Joshua was getting started. Your brothers and sisters long ago needed encouragement as the time for entering the Promised Land was upon them. So, what did I have Moses say? Exactly, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) That was a long time ago…about 3400 years! And then again, about 2000 years ago, my people needed that encouragement , so I reminded them again. (Hebrews 13:5)

So, “Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

Now do you remember where you are? Yes, yes, yes, you are with me. We got this.

Thank you, Jesus. O Lord, thank you.

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Adversity, Bible, Life's Moments

Josh McDowell and My Sister

Josh is one of my true heroes. I remember attending a conference back in the mid 80’s in which he was the keynote speaker. My sister, a single mom with three children, lonely, hurt, abandoned by her one true love, attended with me. I had recently penned a long letter to her. She chose to pull it out and read it again during one of the breaks. Josh saw her. Sat next to her. Asked what she was reading. After hearing it was an encouragement letter from her little brother, a young pastor, he asked if he could read it. She said yes. He read it. Then, with tears of both sadness and joy between them, he prayed for Floria. I’ll never forget her excitement as, later in the day, she told me of the encounter. She made this confirmation, “He is the same up close as he is in the pulpit. I believe I can trust him…and, like you, he says it’s gonna get better.” I’ve read his books. I’ve kept up with his ministry. I’ve seen many of his talks. And I know Floria was right. She’s with the Lord now. I miss her. Josh is still a powerful servant-leader. I look forward to meeting him one day…if not here, then in heaven…with my sister. She will say, “Y’all were right.”

I know you’ll like his powerful testimony in the following video. It’s not too long. You won’t be disappointed.

 

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