Friday, November 27, 2009

On Training Children:
Some Personal Practical Thoughts

And you, fathers,
do not provoke your children to wrath,
but bring them up
in the training and admonition of the Lord.
(Ephesians 6:4 NKJV)

Psalms 127 (Starting Point)
3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth.
5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

Exodus 12 (Family Traditions)
26 And it shall be, when your children say to you, 'What do you mean by this service?'
27 that you shall say, 'It is the Passover sacrifice of the LORD, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.'

Joshua 4
6 That this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, 'What do these stones mean to you?'
7 Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.

Deuteronomy 6 (Constantly)
6 And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.
7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
… (Reasons)
20 When your son asks you in time to come, saying, 'What is the meaning of the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments which the LORD our God has commanded you?'
21 then you shall say to your son: 'We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand

• What I have learned from the Bible and our attempts to apply it:

1. Parent must accept personal responsibility (mental)
2. Parent must emphasize taking charge personally of personal behavior, control what you can control (physical)
3. Parent must lead by example
4. Parent must show an interest in the children
5. Parent must show the children that you will always love them
6. Parent must talk with them, real conversation, talk with as adults (maturity)
7. Parent must act aggressively on teachable moments
8. Parent must cultivate an understanding of principles that underlie any specific rules
9. Parent must maintain high expectations, led by the parent’s own personal behavior
10. Parent must exude mercy and confidence, “You will get better”
11. Parent must explain reasons behind decisions
12. Parent must set the tone that, “We are different”
13. Parent must praise exceedingly more than punish
14. Parent must get caught (naturally) praying and reading Bible
15. Parent must never quit

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Getting What’s Coming

We might occasionally learn of a person who has made poor decisions and, as a result of them, received some negative consequences. They may have treated someone unfairly or unkindly and later endured some unfortunate treatment themselves. Or, perhaps it was some other negative event that was contributed to by their own prior behavior. We might say, “What goes around, comes around.” We might even be reminded of where God spoke through Hosea saying: They sow the wind, And reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8.7).

However, installing ourselves as God and rendering harsh judgment on our fellow man, is not helpful as we attempt to be more and more like Jesus every day.

Let us not forget scriptures such as Romans 5.6-10:

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die;
yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us,
in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood,
we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

Notice the first line: …Christ died for the ungodly. I was about as undeserving as it gets, yet, Christ loved me anyway, and did what was necessary to help me. This whole rich and under-taught area of the contrast of what God did for me versus what I deserved from Him needs to register with us. We need to lift our gaze toward heaven and begin to realize just how unworthy we are and just how mercifully God is treating us.

Then, we need to take that next step that God has in mind for us – and try real hard to treat each other the way God is treating us.

The devil says: “Ignore them, they are unworthy, they asked for it, let them get what’s coming to them.” I believe God has just one question:

“What if I had treated you that way?”

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Plea

If you have come here from Stephen’s blog, let me very briefly state the plea of those of us in the church of Christ.

Our purpose is simply to restore the practice of Christianity as it was practiced in the New Testament. If we do what they did, we will surely become what they became. In other words, we will be the ancient New Testament church today. That is our plea and plan. I imagine Stephen believes the substantially same about his group. We just need to each (calmly and courteously) present his case from God’s word. That is what I am attempting to do. Note the following texts:

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (Matthew 28:18 NKJV)

…The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. (John 6:63 NKJV)

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8 NKJV)

For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19

There is the authority and a prohibition of tampering.

The church of Christ is composed of normal humans, who are often imperfect, like any other religious group. We do not condone those who wear the name while making no serious attempt to walk the walk.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Prayer for Humility

O Father God
You who dwell in the highest heights
You who descend to save your creation,
Help me.

Your thoughts define purity and goodwill
Your deeds strength and gentleness,
Help me
O Other One.

Help me
You of splendor and glory
You of power and might
You of worthiness and awe
Help me.

I am weak and defiled
A struggler and a failure.
My pride is as a wild cow
Who runs from her master’s trough.
My neck is stiff
My eyes pealed open
My jaw welded in place
My brow an impervious battlement.

O my Father
My merciful Redeemer,
Break my neck
Crush my pride
Conquer my arrogance
Purge me from the folly of my selfish thoughts.

Take my hand in Yours
And conduct me confidently
Into the brilliant glow of your presence.
Bear me gently
Far from self and near to Thee.
Break me and mend me in your tender embrace.

You will show me a new assurance.
You will cause me to stand unassailable by my enemies.
You will endow me with constant freedom.
You will transform my life
Into a beautiful stream of life-giving water.

Praise unto You: the Source.
Glory to You: alone Holy and Divine.
Your humble servant is prostrate before You.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Behold, I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears My voice and opens the door,
I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.
(Revelation 3:20 NKJV)

The Guest Within
(Let us welcome Him and embrace Him)

This is a list of practical things that I can do every day to help me follow the precepts of Leviticus 11.44, Galatians 4.19, and Colossians 1.27.

For I am the LORD your God.
You shall therefore consecrate yourselves,
and you shall be holy; for I am holy….
(Leviticus 11:44 NKJV)

My little children,
for whom I labor in birth again
until Christ is formed in you,
(Galatians 4:19 NKJV)

To them [Christians, JB] God willed to make known
what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles:
which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
(Colossians 1:27 NKJV)

To get the most out of the list, you will need to read it slowly and think about each item. If you read it fast, trying to finish quickly, any potential benefit will be lessened. Ask yourself, “Would this help me be a better Christian if I actually did this?”

1. Pray for wisdom, humility, and repentance.
2. Do a kind act, perhaps a kind word, for someone you feel is undeserving of kindness.
3. Do a kind act for someone who is not expecting it – surprise someone.
4. Do a kind act for someone you feel is deserving, but for whom you have not sufficiently shown your appreciation.
5. Tell a family member, by words or actions, that you love them – a specific, unplanned till now, act.
6. Memorize one line (phrase or clause) of one verse of scripture, including its location.
7. Read your Bible for ten minutes, slowly and meditatively, thinking deeply about the meaning.
8. Give up something today: skip a meal, miss a TV show, turn off the radio, or something else.
9. Get up ten minutes early, or stay up ten minutes late, and spend that time so deep in prayer that you are physically tired when finished.
10. Should you have the urge to complain about something – don’t, just don’t.
11. Pick some personal sin, and pray about getting rid of it, then act on your prayer.
12. Pick something you think you are good at, and pray about using it in God’s service.
13. Think about how you can be more serious in your life.
14. Make a list of the ways the world would be better if everyone were like you.
15. Make a list of the ways the world would be worse if everyone were like you.
16. The next time you’re not getting your way, humble yourself, and let the other person have it their way. (This might work really well with your spouse.)
17. Think of how to respond to a trial in your life so as to bring glory to God.
18. Minimize your concept of your own ‘rights.’
19. Maximize your concept of the rights of others.
20. Act on your convictions (properly defined) without regard for the opinions and feelings of others.
21. Act on your convictions with regard for the opinions and feelings of others.
22. Know when to do which….
23. Identify areas of arrogance in your life…and destroy them.
24. Laugh at yourself.
25. Be touched by the sad condition of someone. Do something about it.
26. Add to my list…

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

An Encouraging Word: Truths about the Love of God

· He loves us
o 1 John 4:7-10 NKJV 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
· He loves us in spite of ourselves
o Romans 5:6-9 NKJV 6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
· He loves us when it’s raining
o Romans 8:35-39 NKJV 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
· He loves us enough to invest in us
o John 3:16-17 NKJV 16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
· He loves us enough to call us family
o 1 John 3:1-3 NKJV 1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
· He loves us enough to guide us to heaven
o John 14:21-23 NKJV 21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. … 23 …If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mary the Mother of Jesus
Luke 1.30

Luke 1:30 Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God….” Why did Mary find favor with God? -
1. Mary lived a life of innocence because she had a pure heart! - Luke 1:34 Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?"
2. Mary lived a life of submission to the word of the Lord! - Luke 1:38 Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word."
3. Mary’s life was controlled by faith in the Lord! – Luke 1:45 "Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord."
4. Mary praised the Lord for His goodness! - Luke 1:46 And Mary said: "My soul magnifies the Lord….”
5. Mary meditated on God’s involvement in her life! - Luke 2:19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.
6. Mary was well acquainted with the trials of this life! - Luke 2:34-35 Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against "(yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
7. Mary was loyal in times of adversity! - John 19:25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
8. Mary remained faithful over time! - Acts 1:14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,
(Philippians 2:5 NKJV)

Friday, May 01, 2009

A Prayer of Praise

Holy Father
Open my mouth in praise to you
By opening my heart to Your lovingkindness
Through Your Divine word
And the knowledge of Your creation.
Your wondrous acts testify of Your tenderness
The sum of Your goodness cannot be taken.

The thrill of Your love is exhilarating
The confidence of Your mercy is a soothing elixir
The power of Your grace bridges hell with conquest.
Your justice is a loosed torrent
The dams of wickedness burst before it
Their remnant is lost beneath the swirling, foaming, rushing flood.

The joy of Your presence comforts the hopeless
He is lifted up from the abyss
He is carried by angel’s wings to the summit.
You and You alone are the Rock of triumph
You and You only rule the infinite with Your rod and Your cup.

Your holiness is exalted
Your righteousness a blazing torch that banishes darkness
Death retreats before You
And loss is reborn as glory by Your touch.
There is none like You
All Your creation is prostrate in Your presence.

Holy God, Holy One
Bless us with the tender touch of Your Divine hand
Continue to caress us with Your affection
Take not away from us the radiance of Your smile
Protect and guide our pilgrimage
Till we dwell redeemed and atoned before Your throne.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chasing Peace

Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Who is the man who desires life,
And loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
And your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry.
The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
(Psalms 34:11-16 NKJV, emphasis mine, JB)

Note the reference to chasing (pursuing) peace in line eight. I have indicated it with bold type. A large part of this passage is quoted in the New Testament:

Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. For "He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil." And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed.… (1 Peter 3:8-14 NKJV, emphasis mine, JB)

Verse 13-14, beginning “and who is he…,” is of particular interest. It seems that Peter is saying, “If always seeking peace causes you to suffer, what can another human really do to you? They cannot cause you ultimate harm. Therefore, you don’t have to worry. You can pursue peace, and leave the consequences to God.” Now, it takes faith to take Peter at his word. We are reminded of Jesus’ statement:

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28 NKJV)

Which reminds us of the apostles’ statement:

And the apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith." (Luke 17:5 NKJV)

Yes Lord, we need more faith to accept Your word. We look at those about us, and let them form our attitudes, instead of looking only to You. Forgive us, and please mercifully help us.

In this context of pursuing peace, likely the passage that comes the most readily to mind is the seventh Beatitude:

Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9 NKJV)

I understand that “sons of God” can not only mean “children of God,” but can also mean “like God.” Thus, we are like God when we are peacemakers. Surely, we all desire to be like God. So, while we are constantly at war with the devil, we should just as constantly pursue/make peace with God and with one another.

I can think of at least three areas in which the position of “peacemaker” is open and begging to be filled.

Peace with God. The Peacemaker par excellence is Jesus. He bought peace, not with the blood of others, but with His own blood.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, … so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, (Ephesians 2:13-15 NKJV, emphasis mine, JB)

I wish we could learn from Jesus to produce peace by giving instead of attempting to produce peace by fighting. Give yourself to God and to your neighbor. It is the only way you will ever have peace. It is not the way of man, but it is the way of God. It takes a strong person with a healthy self-image to seek peace in this manner. Are you up to it?

Personal Peace with Others. Peacemaking involves friendmaking. How do you make a friend? Usually, by meeting some need they have. You meet their need to be taken seriously, to have a trusted someone they can talk to, to have a physical need provided, or something else that is important to them. In a word – you serve them.

… through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Galatians 5:13-14 NKJV)

If you are trying to help someone, you may be less aware of any perceived hurt they have directed toward you. If you are helping someone, it should be obvious that they would be less likely to try and hurt you. Of course there will be exceptions, but surely that is generally true. The more you are looking outward the less you are looking inward. The less you are looking inward, the less likely you are to be offended/hurt. The less you feel hurt, the more likely you are to look outward – and serve. So, the cycle is complete, and it spins around giving/serving – like, guess who, Jesus.

Collective Peace with Others. This section involves the Christian and civil government. Most Christians vote and most Christians pray for the civil government. Some Christians even serve in the civil government. I have two sons who do so. We are not isolated from the civil government.

I feel it would be absurd to argue that the scriptures I have cited and the points that I have made above would apply only to individuals and not to the civil government. If a Christian is to pursue peace by being a peacemaker, should not the civil government do the same? I would certainly think so.

I am a strong supporter of our military. I believe, along with our brothers the British, that we have the best military in the world – and I am glad that we do. However, we must keep in mind that our military does not make foreign policy, they enforce it (when ordered to do so by their civilian political handlers, that is, the civil government). Thus, one may be an opponent of a foreign war, while at the same time continuing strong support for our military forces.

If you will look back through history and examine human warfare, I believe you will find few wars that can be Biblically justified. I think there may be some justifiable, but that they would be in the minority. As you know the Bible gives the reason for war:

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3 NKJV)

Most wars are caused by two things: greed and arrogance. I am a lay student of the American Civil War. I have an ancestor who fought in it (43rd Mississippi Infantry CSA). It was caused by greed and arrogance on both sides. Are we Christians or not? Let us not encourage greed and arrogance.

Let us “seek peace and pursue it” thus becoming blessed peacemakers. The weak cannot do this. They will Zombie-like bow down at the altar of the opinions of others. You must be an independent thinker, by letting Christ control your thoughts. Your decisions must not be driven by the thoughts and actions of others.

Let us pray privately and publically for our men and women in the armed forces. We have two relatives of members where I preach who are currently serving overseas. Let us continue to pray fervently for them. May we pray for their physical safety, for their emotional health, and that they may soon be able to return to their families. May I suggest that using phrases like “fighting for our freedom” in our public prayers could be taken as an endorsement of the political decision to wage a particular war. I suggest that we keep politics out of the church by praying for peace and the safety of our soldiers, and leave it at that. Let us not endorse every action of the civil government, with phrases we use in holy worship, simply because they are the civil government. If I were writing this about abortion or homosexuality, I would probably get numerous “amen’s” here. I hope our feelings are as strong about the seventh Beatitude as they are about those two issues. Prayfully consider your feelings, as I shall mine. May God bless the U.S.A. May we all believe and obey all the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ.

My soul has dwelt too long With one who hates peace.
I am for peace; But when I speak, they are for war.
(Psalms 120:6-7 NKJV)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Psalms 137
1 By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept When we remembered Zion.
2 We hung our harps Upon the willows in the midst of it.
3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, And those who plundered us requested mirth, Saying, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!"
4 How shall we sing the LORD'S song In a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget its skill!
6 If I do not remember you, Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth-If I do not exalt Jerusalem Above my chief joy. (NKJV)

Here in the land of plenty, we wept when we remembered our Christ.
Our four-wheel drive pickups sit in our three car garages beside our wife's Mercedes.
Our son quarterbacks the football team, our daughter is the head cheerleader.
The longings of our hearts have been met and exceeded.
We have willingly sold ourselves as captives to the opinions of others.
They have plundered our dignity and raped our innocence.
We remained enslaved to their expectations which we have adopted as our own.
If I forget you, O Yahweh,
If I do not cleave to you, my Messiah,
May you remind me of Your steadfast lovingkindness with the firmness of Your hand.
May my eyes behold what endures, and ignore what does not.
May purifying coals of fire be heaped upon my head, if I do not exalt You, my Lord and my Savior, as King of my life.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Nick Saban on adversity

When you have adversity, you can quit, you can blame somebody else or you can learn from it. [Nick Saban, Tuscaloosa News, 041909]
Twenty and Counting...

If anyone needs a 20 point sermon, see below. I actually only had 10 Sunday. I saw 10 more this morning. They are scattered among the 20.

I began with some background on stewardship, which is the main theme of the parable. I used 1 Peter 4.10-11. Then I read and discussed the parable itself. I concluded with the 10 points in almost staccato fashion. Perhaps I should have reconfigured and spent more time on the ten points. Your game plan may vary.

Parable of Talents
Matthew 25.14-30

1. All received a gift
2. All had ability
3. All had differing abilities
4. All were free, none were micro-managed
5. All had equal responsibility
6. Some were diligent, some were slothful
7. Some produced, some didn’t
8. The two-talent wasn’t jealous of the five-talent
9. The five-talent didn’t think he didn’t have to try
10. It was a long time till accounting day, time=opportunity
11. The one-talent was fearful, wicked, and lazy
12. The one-talent tried to blame someone else, ‘I knew you to be’
13. The one-talent tried to justify failure
14. The Master would have accepted less than the roaring success of the five and two – do something
15. I would say the five and two got more than they deserved
16. I would say the one got what was coming to him – wage vs gift (Romans 6)
17. The failed went to hell
18. The successful went to heaven
19. Choices have consequences
20. The Master’s decision was final

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Teeth of the Ungodly
Psalm 3

1 (A Psalm of David when he fled from Absalom his son.) LORD, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me.
2 Many are they who say of me, "There is no help for him in God." Selah

David felt that those who were against him, and, by extension, against what was right, were many. Do you ever think that everyone is against you, that no one cares, that the whole world is lost? I am reminded of Elijah: So he said, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life." (1 Kings 19:10 NKJV) Yet, Elijah was not alone. God told him that there were seven thousand others. We are not alone today. We are surrounded by the same cloud of witnesses as the recipients of the Hebrew letter. Those ancient heroes of faith are doing the same for us as the original readers of Hebrews 11-12. We are also surrounded by a neo crowd at church. Encouragement from like-minded Christians is one reason congregational life (worship, service, and fellowship) is so vital.

3 But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
4 I cried to the LORD with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah
5 I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people Who have set themselves against me all around.

This is a prime example of how David was a man after God’s heart. He trusted completely in God no matter what his environment was saying to him. Whatever the opposition, whatever the challenge – he kept faith in his God. In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? (Psalms 56:11 NKJV – quoted in Hebrews 13.6). I have thought lately that to see how David’s heart was like God’s heart, one needed to especially read David’s psalms in addition to the account of his life in Samuel and Kings. The poetry of his psalms is a window straight into his heart.

7 Arise, O LORD; Save me, O my God! For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone; You have broken the teeth of the ungodly.
8 Salvation belongs to the LORD. Your blessing is upon Your people. Selah (NKJV)

Yeah…there’s a blow to the head. Note the last line in verse seven. Yahweh is Conqueror. We mess with Him (His word) at our peril. If that bully Satan messes with us, guess who’s got our back. We just need to place ourselves under God’s control with our faith…like David.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Taking It Seriously

But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins."
(1 Peter 4:7-8 NKJV)

Serious and morbid are not the same thing. Serious is not going around in gothic black all the time or failing to possess the ability to share in wholesome humor. However, when you examine closely the life of Christ – and the entire Bible focuses on Christ, the Old Testament looking forward, the epistles looking back – you fail to discover much, if any, humor. Some try to find a little humor in the mote and beam passage, or the swallow a camel one, or perhaps the camel and needle’s eye. But I think they’re straining. Perhaps the Greek scholars among us can tease something out of the original, but I don’t see it. I see them as simple and vivid hyperbole. Jesus would often exaggerate the literal to make a point. His hyperbole reminds me of His seemingly paradoxical statements, cut off your arm, pluck out your eye - being serious and not a jokester. I suggest we all attempt to be like Him.

Here are some suggestions to help us “Take it seriously.”

Act your age. In our Facebook culture, cool is often equated with funny. Now there’s nothing wrong with Facebook per se. I know a lot of preachers who are on it. I am myself. I’m even on Twitter, though no one ever cares if I post or not. Our friends at church may like us more if we’re funny, but is that really what they need – is our ministry about their needs, or our own? Jesus’ ministry was about the needs of others, not His own. At the very least, those we are attempting to serve and lead – be we preachers, parents, elders, Bible class teachers, or whatever – need to see a serious side in us, they need to see some maturity. As I study the life of Christ, that’s all I ever see in Jesus.

Visit the Garden. In Gethsemane, even though Jesus was hurting emotionally, he demonstrated commitment to His mission and concern for those He was leading. He prayed that the Father’s will be done rather than His emotional needs be assuaged. He repeatedly encouraged His disciples to watch and pray in order to triumph over temptation. We are reminded of Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 9.27 that he disciplined his body. Only the serious can successfully practice discipline.

Focus on the Cross. Note our Lord’s seven statements from the cross. In them He continues to show His concern for the needs of others. He acknowledges His own personal suffering. And then the two triumphal exclamations at the end: “It is finished” (John 19.30), and “Father, into your hands I commit My spirit (Luke 23.46). If we would mediate on these words, surely it would cause us to take our Christian life to new depths of seriousness.

Bang your Head. Prostate yourself before God in prayer. You may wish to assume the position we see from the Middle East, on your knees, with your head bowed to the floor in front of you. Or, perhaps not, but have the frame of mind that you are on your face in reverence and humility before your Maker. Search out the depth of your soul and position yourself there. Then begin with confession. Tell God how depraved you are. Tell Him how you yearn to do better. Ask for His forgiveness and His help – He’ll hear you – if you humble yourself. Then praise Him and thank Him. A good knowledge of the book of Psalms will help you here. List the ways God has been good to you, “name them one by one.” If you want assurance that God cares for you, just start trying to thank Him for all His blessings by name. When you complete your prayer, see if you are physically tired (a good sign) and if you have a greater appreciation of your life’s purpose, that it is serious business. I think you will, if you have the courage to be humble before God.

The list is longer, but these four things help me. They should help anyone.

Christianity is a matter of life and death.

For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3 NKJV)

…who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness--by whose stripes you were healed. (1 Peter 2:24 NKJV)

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, (Romans 6:8 NKJV)

Death is serious. How serious are you?

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Webster Carl Brown
August 29, 1909 – April 5, 1999

Carl Brown is my dad. The ‘Webster’ is from Daniel Webster. I don’t know where the ‘Carl’ came from, but that is the name he went by. He and my mother adopted me when they were in their early forties and I was nine months old. They raised me as an only child.

Only children can be a) intelligent (because they get all the attention), and b) spoiled (see reason for ‘a’). Scratch the first. Consider the second. Growing up spoiled can have one of two effects. It can make you a) selfish, arrogant, and never happy unless you always get your way, or, b) generous, humble, and easy to get along with because you want to treat other people the way you were treated. Whether you are selfish, etc. or generous, etc. is determined by the kind of heart you have. The kind of heart you have is determined by your exposure to the Bible. Success as a parent and success in life is thus inextricably linked to the Bible. I hope that doesn’t surprise anyone.

Back to my dad. If he were reading this, he might say I was rambling. He used to tell me I mumbled, “You’re mumbling, son.” I’ve told my friends where I preach about this (more than once) and they usually say “amen.” Dad had a dry sense of humor. I hope you’re seeing a shadow of that now.

By my clock, as I write this right now, Dad passed from this life exactly 10 years, 2 hours, and 15 minutes ago. This is the tenth anniversary of his death and I thought writing this would help me – and maybe you too.

Dad was an elder in the church, a Bible class teacher, and a very successful businessman. He dreamed of being a farmer. He found a farm when he was in his thirties (I’m not positive about the age) and went to the bank to get the money (which he would have been able to get). Literally, while he was gone to the bank, someone else with money in hand showed up and bought the farm “out from under him.” His life, and my life, would have been drastically and forever changed had he bought that farm. I’m glad he didn’t. I’m not sure I would have met my wife if he had.

Dad’s main traits were his honesty and his humility (which made him really easy to get along with – if you couldn’t get along with Dad, you had some serious issues, and if you were still that way today I doubt your FB friend list would tally very high).

In middle age, Dad had a good friend who was of a very wealthy family. They owned a bank, vast acreages of land, a stash of cash, as one would say, they were “well off.” When the family patriarch passed away, his son came and told Dad that his Daddy had told him that there were three people that he could loan money to without security. Dad had made the list of three. That always meant a lot to me. It was a testimony to Dad’s trustworthiness and it made me want to be like him. People bought insurance from Dad’s agency because they knew they could trust him.

Dad always tried to accommodate people. He would help some of his trucker clients fill out their fuel tax forms because they asked him to. It had nothing to do with their insurance. I still don’t understand why all of my brethren can’t be accommodating and easy to get along with like my dad. Where I’m preaching now, they are that way. But they’re not over our entire brotherhood. Why not?

I miss you every day, Dad. Some nights I dream about you. I’ll see you soon.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Getting Along

Be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. (1 Thessalonians 5:13-14 NKJV)

This passage offers helpful insight on congregational harmony and reminds us of John 13.35 where Jesus taught that the world would see our love for each other and conclude that we were His disciples. The Thessalonians text does not contain the word “love,” but with other words describes some dimensions of love.

It is of interest that sandwiched around the three descriptors of love are the concepts of peace and patience. Love in full bloom creates a healthy measure of patience which is fertile soil for the culture of peace. When my younger son was going through the rather lengthy interview process that eventually resulted in his being hired as a police officer, one trait his future employer was attempting to discover in the applicants was the ability to show restraint. A strong person is not a loose cannon. The Bible associates strength with patience.

I understand that the word translated “warn” can carry with it the idea of gentle reproof. As we try to help someone who needs to do better, we must remember that we all need to do better. Galatians 6.1 calls this attitude “a spirit of gentleness.”

For “comfort the fainthearted” the NIV has “encourage the timid.” I can think of numerous occasions when I personally was hesitant about doing something that I needed to do, and God in His providence gave me a gentle nudge after which I acted. I think it was His providence, though one can never know for sure on a case by case basis. But, someone gave me a word of encouragement and the timidity went away. Who can you encourage? Who will you encourage?

To “uphold the weak” is to “help the week” as many other translations render it. There is no person breathing who does not need help. They may not all know it, they may not all even want it. But everyone needs help. Remember that Jesus said He came to be a helper: just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28 NKJV) Are you a helper? Whose life will you bless by helping?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Getting It Right

Most of us in the South enjoy turnip greens. Have you ever tried to grow them? Turnip green culture is a rather simple and straightforward matter. Scratch up the ground a bit, introduce a few turnip green seeds and perhaps a little fertilizer, provide your greens field with a drink of water, and before very long you’re in the turnip green business.

Harvesting your bounty is no big deal either. I grab a few leaves near the top, select a spot on the sheaf of greens where the leaf to stem ratio declines to favor the stem and apply the edge of a sharpened blade leaving most of the stem with the roots. If you’re doing this for the first time, watch your fingers.

Cooking your greens is another matter. Only those uninitiated into greens cuisine would simply throw them into a pot and boil till the greens are limp, lifeless, and acquire that nauseous dark olive drab color. Nosiree! If your palate longs for taste and texture, boil them just long enough for that glorious bright green color to appear and then remove at once from the fire. Five minutes may be too long if you want to max out the flavor. I put a double pinch of sugar, and maybe a bit of oil, in the water before introducing the greens, but that’s optional. The presentation must include the obligatory pepper sauce. Not the red stuff, clear pepper sauce works best with turnip greens. Don’t forget the cornbread…and a wedge of raw onion…and some buttermilk for sipping if you’re in the mood.

Now, my little story has a purpose. While I have yet to meet a brother or sister Southerner who couldn’t grow turnip greens, getting the cooking part (just) right may take a while. It may take years of practice to “get it right.” That is, if you take a good, traditional southern plate of turnip greens seriously, as my friends and I do. Furthermore, I think it is self-evident that the more seriously you take it, the better results you will have.

As a student of the parables of our Lord, I think I see some parallels between getting it right with turnip greens and getting it right with our Christian lives. The keys are an appreciation of the seriousness of the matter and an understanding and practice of specific behaviors that will support ultimate success. I want to focus on the specific behaviors part in the rest of this essay.

Here are a few suggestions:

· Allow yourself room for growth. While perfection is your goal, don’t get discouraged and quit because you realize that your Christian life is in constant need of work. God says: as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, (1 Peter 2:2 NKJV). If God commands growth, He surely allows it!
· Cultivate an attitude of seriousness. Your Christian life is all that really matters. Period! That’s it. Everything else doesn’t just not really matter. It doesn’t matter at all. Family life is included in your Christian life. Health is good. But you don’t have to have it. Money can help out. But you don’t have to have it either. Education is a good thing. But education in the Bible is all that will ultimately make any difference. God says: But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. (1 Peter 4:7 NKJV). Would you be a better person if you took your Christian life as seriously as you take sports? If Alabama or Auburn win (or lose) every game they ever play, what effect will that have on your life? In case you’re having to think about that, let me answer the question for you – it won’t have any. Let’s get serious about what is serious.
· Practice doing good. Compile a list of Christian character traits. Pick one and work specifically on developing that trait today. Look for opportunities to manifest that particular character. Be creative, and pay attention to your surroundings. Plenty of opportunities are out there if you are alert for them. At the end of the day, think about what you have done. How could you have done it better? What opportunities did you miss? What chances to be salt and light would you have missed if you had not been looking for them? Pick another trait for tomorrow and work on it. Do this every day. After a couple of weeks, is better Christian behavior becoming a habit? If you’re sticking to the plan, it will. Here’s a good starter list of Christian attitudes and actions. There are lots of lists like this in the Bible. God says: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV). If you want to experience purpose and fullness in your life, when you get dressed every morning, put on these.
· Do the unexpected. Pick out someone you don’t like. Perhaps they have wronged you in some way. I imagine that’s what the Bible means by your enemies. Now do this. Forgive them. Even though they haven’t asked for it. Even though they don’t deserve it. Even though it’s hard. Just do it (thanks Nike). Don’t allow them to control your mind. You control it, and forgive them. You’re not finished. After forgiving them, pray for them. Go before God and petition Him on their behalf. You can ask Him to help them change their behavior if you want. But, think about their needs, and not yours. You’re still not done. Do something good for them. It can be a kind deed, or a good word. But it needs to personally impact them. Just having good thoughts about them won’t get it done. When you have finished doing something good for them, even though they don’t deserve it, you have acted like God – who sent His Son to die for you – even though you didn’t deserve it. Here’s a Bible text. Again, there are lots of them. God says: For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15 NKJV). Kinda scary, isn’t it? Here’s another one: Therefore If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. (Romans 12:20 NKJV). I’m not sure what the “coals of fire” mean. But I’m highly suspicious (note especially verse 19) that they are not coals of vengeance, but coals of purification.
· Work on your thoughts, you deeds will tend to follow. What do you think about? When you drive to work tomorrow, what will occupy your mind? Bathroom humor from the depraved radio? You can do better. Garbage in, garbage out applies to more than computers. Maybe you own some Bible audio CD’s. That’s a great start. Remember that list of Christian character traits you compiled in bullet-point three? Try thinking about those. What does each one mean? Who in the Bible effectively modeled those traits in addition to Jesus? How did Jesus demonstrate them in His life? Who is someone that you know today that shows what Christianity is like with their life? How do they do it? Have you seen times when they acted like a Christian when it was surely hard for them to do so? How is the Christian life the best life there is? How are you using your Christian life to influence others? How can you do a better job as you change other people for the better with your Christian example? The list of good, positive thoughts is endless. God says: Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things. (Philippians 4:8 NKJV). Another: Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. (Psalms 1:1-2 NKJV). Who is the person that God says He will bless? The one who meditates on His word. What are you thinking about?
· Know where you’re going. “All roads lead to Rome,” but there is only one highway to heaven. Make sure you’re on it. The Bible teaching on how to become a Christian and how to live the Christian life is not rocket science. Meaning, it’s not hard to understand, though it may be sometimes hard to do. I am convinced that to a very significant extent, it’s as hard as you make it. If you try to hang on to the world and be drawn by the word of God at the same time, it will be hard, and you will ultimately fail. But if you let go of the world, if you can get to the point where, regarding the things of the world – you just don’t care – then the Christian life becomes doable. Even, at times, somewhat easy – at least, easier than it used to be. God said He would get the faithful Christian to heaven. Believe Him. Trust Him. Live a Christ-controlled life. You’ll get there. God keeps His word. Here’s your text, God says: And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:11-13 NKJV). Ban doubt from your mind. Run over it with your Christian life and leave it dead on the side of the road as you drive confidently down the highway charted by God’s word, the highway to heaven. The devil will try to manipulate you any way he can. He will mess with your mind. Don’t let him. Let God own your mind and your life will follow.

Getting it right means following a recipe, and we have the perfect recipe book – the infallible word of God. God gave you all the necessary ingredients when He created you in His image. You just need to follow the correct procedure to complete the preparation. The end product is Christ in you.

My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, (Galatians 4:19 NKJV)

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NKJV)

To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27 NKJV)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Christ, Who is our Life

For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ who is our life appears,
then you also will appear with Him in glory.
(Colossians 3:3-4 NKJV)

Our world constantly cries out for leadership. It always has. Men and women of God have provided it over the years, though it was humanly flawed and thus at times imperfect. You can read about it in the Bible. You should check it out sometime.

Jesus provided perfect leadership. That’s found in the Bible too. The Old Testament points forward to Jesus. You can see Him in prospect on nearly every page, if you look hard enough. The Old Bible was constantly saying, “What we have now is good, but we’re not quite there yet. There’s something better. There’s something that will help us where we’re slipping, sliding, and failing now.” And the Old Testament revealed, in stories and symbols and prophecies, that that something was a someone. He was the Messiah, the anointed/chosen One from God. The New Testament calls Him “Christ” and reveals that He is God.

In the New Testament, the epistles look back at Jesus. He had already lived among men, His creation, on this earth and completed His redemptive/instructive mission. They examine closely who Jesus is, what His mission meant, and our response to Him and blessings in Him. Carefully cradled in between the Old Testament and the epistles, we have Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. God, through these four, gives us an account of the life of Christ. We are awed by His example. We are guided by His teaching. We exult as we see His glory.

Jesus is our Lord Master. Hope is in Him and nowhere else. Meaning and purpose are in Him and without Him nothing, nothing, means anything. He is our life!

As disciples of Christ today, we must step up. We must humbly, prayfully, and carefully demonstrate to the struggling, groping world about us - what Christianity actually is. It is a life. It is the life. It must be our life.

This demonstration is not easy. It is hard. It demands sacrifice. It demands trust in and submission to our Lord. The Christian life is not for the selfish, those who desire to be rich in material things, or those with self-image issues who require continual reinforcement of their personal worthiness from other humans who themselves may have a skewed vision of what is real and matters and what is temporary and doesn’t. The Christian sees this life through the lens of Scripture and thus sees with clarity. With the proper knowledge of who they are, where they are, and where they’re going – the Christian is fully equipped for leadership. Christians are members of the army of Christ. They understand where the battle is being fought. They know which side is which. And, they know the outcome of the fight.

The call goes out, “Who will be a leader? Who will be courageous enough to be different? Who doesn’t care what others think? Who doesn’t care what the world values?” Who will…

Step up and lead!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Part of God's Family

And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, "Here are My mother and My brothers! "For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother." (Matthew 12:49-50 NKJV)

He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:11-13 NKJV)

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. (1 John 3:1 NKJV)

He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. (Revelation 21:7 NKJV)

Friday, August 04, 2006

Teachable Moment

If you want to be a better parent, here’s a suggestion. Don’t run to Books-A-Million and shell out cash for the latest word from this year’s flavor of parenting, book-selling, know-it-all. Run to the bookshelf in your den and take down the Bible. The source of anything they’ve got to say that’s worth hearing, can be traced directly to its source: God’s word. Here’s some more Bible help on raising your kids.

Jesus frequently used everyday events of life to teach valuable moral lessons to His disciples. For example, in Luke 21 he taught about giving as he watched the people placing their gifts in the treasury in the Temple. Eventually, along came a widow who cast in two mites – and a lesson was born. Jesus was using a teachable moment. As parents, why don’t we try some of the same?

The teachable moment is straight out of the Bible. A teachable moment is an occasion when an event happens that brings up a subject you would like your children to have a better understanding of. It may appear suddenly and unannounced. And, like a lot of other things – you use it or lose it.

It might be simply something that has come up in conversation. Or, it might be hate-produced violence that you see on TV or hear on radio news, a terrible automobile accident that was alcohol related, or the mess someone has made of their marriage because they couldn’t control themselves and remain sexually faithful to their spouse. These, and like occurrences, are open doors to teachable moments. What better opportunities could you find to teach your children about loving each other, abstaining from whiskey, or marital faithfulness? The subject has come up in a natural way, and thus the discussion of the teaching of the Bible in this area can proceed in a natural manner. Natural is good. Overly structured “drill sessions” may not be as effective.

Opportunities such as the above abound – if we will just open our eyes to see them and open our mouths to use them. Make a conscious effort to notice opportunities like these when they present themselves. They often come unexpected, and the fact that they are unplanned adds to their effectiveness. When a teachable moment occurs, be ready, and jump on it.

What moment can you identify today? Will you use it?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Watch Me

Here’s a text for you:

For I have given you an example,
that you should do as I have done to you
(John 13:15 NKJV)

Guess who said that? Right. It was Jesus Himself. Jesus knew his disciples (including you and me today) would learn and, if they put what they learned into practice, live right before God, if they followed His example.

Here’s another text:

Imitate me,
just as I also imitate Christ.
(1 Corinthians 11:1 NKJV)

That’s the apostle Paul talking to other Christians. He knew about the example of Jesus, he was following that example, and he told his fellow Christians to follow his example.

We learn by watching what others do and our behavior choices are influenced as a result of watching them.

Guess who’s watching us as parents? Right again. It’s our children.

They watch constantly. And the choices they make are strongly influenced by the choices we make. So, draw a line and take the sum: we better watch what we’re doing because someone else sure is.

We better be "Behavior Police" of our own actions. We may have considerable control over our kid’s behavior, but we have total control over our own. Since they will exhibit much of our behavior in their lives, we must pay attention to what we are doing!

These two cases are made up, but I think they are very likely quite true-to-life. Of the two examples below, which kid do you really think will turn out better?


Jack’s parents fuss with each other regularly in front of him. His dad drinks. His mom smokes. When Dad comes home in the evening he complains loudly about how bad he is treated at work. When Mom comes home she is eager to give the latest installment on who is having an affair with whom at the office. After supper Mom and Dad sit down to watch some steamy sit com or drama on TV that glorifies adultery or homosexuality or violence or maybe all three. The kids are present while all of this is played out on the big screen TV. School work is ignored and the kid’s behavior at school is considered amusing. After all, Mom and Dad got into trouble at school themselves. Maybe their kid’s trouble making will get back at those teachers in some way who had tried to teach them some discipline a few years ago. Of course, church attendance is laughed at, if mentioned at all.


If Jill’s parents have a disagreement, they discuss it quietly between the two of them when the kids are not present. Neither parent drinks nor smokes. If problems at work are discussed, an effort is made to see the issue from both sides. Both parents are obviously disturbed if someone they know is having trouble with their marriage. These two subjects might be used to introduce a family discussion about God’s help in bearing earthly trials and the sanctity of marriage. Wholesome TV, if that’s not an oxymoron, is watched – perhaps a news channel or a documentary, maybe a family oriented video. Achievement and behavior at school are important. Actually, mostly what is needed here is simple encouragement, since behavior which values learning and morality is constantly modeled before the children. Mom and Dad are both Christians, and take it seriously.

Which kid will turn out the best?

My money’s on Jill.

Which kid is yours?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Children of My Youth

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them (Psalms 127:4-5 NKJV).

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 NKJV).

Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6 NKJV).

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training [nurture, KJV] and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4 NKJV).

At least three conclusions follow from these texts:
1. Children are a blessing.
2. Children are a responsibility.
3. Child rearing carries consequences.

All of God’s blessings carry the responsibility of proper stewardship. Reference the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. The blessing of children carries an immense responsibility. Any help I can get that helps me be a better parent, I really appreciate. I trust you feel the same way. The following thoughts are offered with this principle in mind: I want to be the best parent I can possibly be.


The essential credential is that the suggestions that follow be totally based on the Bible. They are, as you will see.

This second credential also carries significant weight to me. I guess a poor carpenter, who built houses that usually collapsed before they were very old, still might have something helpful to say about carpentry, perhaps - how not to do it. If he were to quote from a recognized and accepted text on carpentry, certainly those quotes would be in order. But, the way he applied the principles of a good carpentry text to his houses, would be highly suspect to me, since he had not been successful as a home builder.

You humble author has raised three kids who are now in their twenties. One is less than a year from thirty. This child rearing project has been a joint venture with my fine Christian wife of thirty-three years. It has primarily been a triune effort between the two of us and God, with the leadership of the Heavenly Father being acknowledged. With the Bible as our guide and God as the Senior Partner, three children have been successfully brought from the womb to adulthood. All three are faithful Christians. They are popular and successful. Both sexes are covered, and, if no two kids are alike, well, we had three. I will believe till I die that what worked in our home, will work in any home. I do not propose to be some kind of guru. But, if you do what the Bible says – you’ll get good results.

A final caveat before addressing the meat of this subject further: I never had a great deal of respect for someone whose own kids were ruffians, trying to tell me how to raise mine. Maybe he should have been telling me how not to raise mine. Unless he was directly quoting the Bible, or, perhaps, saying where he had messed up, I didn’t pay much attention. I suggest you do the same. I’m not that guy.

We’ll get down to specifics in future posts.

Read your Bible.

Do what it says.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Here’s a little story I wrote a few weeks ago and have “doctored up” from time to time. I have had an interest in the Civil War for years and would like to write a full length novel some day, Lord willing. We’ll see…

Since I grew up and live now in North Alabama, the Western Theater has been my primary interest. It’s less than a two-hour drive to Franklin, Tennessee. I’ve been there. I walked through the confederate cemetery, containing nearly fifteen hundred fallen southern soldiers, near dusk on the eve of the battle anniversary in 2005. I went inside Carnton Mansion, the Confederate hospital during and after the battle, and saw the bloodstains on the floor from November 30, 1864. I walked up the same stairway that General Nathan Bedford Forrest strode up and saw the upper balcony from which he surveyed the field just before the battle began.

This fictional story takes the form of a letter that a Confederate Calvary Officer from North Alabama wrote to his wife the evening of the day after the Battle of Franklin.

The Army of Tennessee (the Southern army in the West, the Army of Northern Virginia led by Robert E. Lee was the Southern Army in the East) was basically destroyed as a viable fighting force at the Battle of Franklin. The South was going downhill before Franklin, now, it was falling from a cliff. The battle began about 4:00 P.M. and continued for five hours, till after dark. A good friend of mine had an ancestor who fought there as a Confederate general. He fell at Franklin.

Though I was never a soldier, I have attempted to portray the horror of war. It is blunt at times. There is a reason for that. I don’t want the lesson below to be missed.

The spiritual application of my story is this – things like this are what happens when we ignore the teaching of Jesus about peacemaking.

Morning After

December 1, 1864
Franklin, Tennessee

Dear Deborah,

This morning dawned sunny and crisply cold. While my men were preparing the morning campfire, the light from the just risen morning sun glinting off the limestone outcrops reminded me of the pastures on our own farm and made me wish I was back on Blue Water Creek.

Events moved so rapidly yesterday afternoon and into the night that I hardly had time to think, much less reflect on what was happening. I’ll tell you a little about it. I don’t think I can ever tell the whole story. I just don’t have the stomach for it.

Yesterday was terrible. No, it was worse than terrible. When the blood and gore of the battle finally ended, there wasn’t much left of the old Army of Tennessee. The Yankees actually left the field when it was over. I reckon they’ll be laughing all the way up to Nashville about what fools we made of ourselves. Most generals would think twice about attacking a strongly fortified position while advancing upgrade over a large open area allowing the enemy a clear field of fire. By the way, did I mention our artillery hadn’t caught up with us, so we had to commit mass suicide without even the consolation of having artillery support while we did it? I’m sure the hundreds of southern widowed wives and bereaved mothers will want to thank the gallant General Hood for that.

I imagine I’ll hear shortly that we’ll be marching on up the road toward Nashville so Hood can complete the task of destroying his army, or what’s left of it. General Forrest thought we could get a sizable force around to their rear and let them have it from there. NBF has certainly done that maneuver many times before. But not the all-wise and all-courageous Hood. Show them what we’re made of, show them we’re men, march straight into the Yankee muskets while the ground becomes piled higher and higher with fallen sons, and brothers, and husbands around you. Well, Hood showed them. Guess he really feels like a general now. Much more of yesterday, and he won’t have anything left to general with.

I thought the worst was over till I went onto the field today to assist in recovering our dead. No bullets are flying past my head now. That worst is over. But this worst is different. I’m not sure which is the most severe.

I found a small spring of water in a sparse grove of trees a couple hundred yards from what had been the Federal line. I counted thirty-eight men all dead in one place near that spring. One young private, maybe he had had his sixteenth birthday, was lying dead on his back. There was a single splotch of blood, about the size of a silver dollar, in the center of his chest. Bits of frost had formed on his eyebrows and his brown hair. He had obviously been dead awhile.

His right eye was closed. But, he had died with his left eye still open. It stared straight up. As I stopped briefly and stood over him, he seemed to be staring straight at me with that one left eye. I imagined he wanted to ask me something. Maybe to tell his girlfriend that he loved her. Maybe to tell his ma where he fell and how he died.

But I think what he really wanted was to ask me was “Why?” Why was he on this battlefield? Why did he have to die before he was twenty, before he could plant his own seed and see his name carried on? His family had no slaves. They farmed their small place by the sweat of their own brow. It was the rich planters down around Montgomery who owned most of the slaves. It was their war. Why did he have to be in it? He didn’t care what flag flew over the capitol. He just cared about his family, his girlfriend, his bluetick hound dog, and his next meal. Now all that was lost, and what was the point of it? Maybe that’s what he wanted to say. Maybe that’s what all the dead soldiers wanted to say.

I’m writing this letter by the campfire after supper, like I usually do, but I can still see that innocent, questioning stare from that kid’s open left eye. I think it’ll stick with me till I have a not-so-innocent, questioning stare of my own.

The scene at that spring this morning reminded me of the time Paw’s hogs got the cholera. I remember there were about ten of them who had tried to get to that spring under the big oak tree where the hills drop off into the creek bottom. They had drug themselves there to drink from that spring, not understanding that they were dying. The first one died near the water. Then another one crawled up and died, then another and another. Before long the hogs that came last were crawling over the already dead hogs, trying to get to the spring, and were dying on top of them. When we discovered them, they were in a neat little pile, all dead by the spring.

That’s how it was this morning. The dead Confederates, dressed in their ragged butternut clothes, like they were just going out to the field to plow the mules - piled two and three high, all dead by the spring, just like so many dead animals. Tell their mothers, wives, and sweethearts that they died so the rich planters can keep their slaves. I’m sure they’ll find a lot of consolation in that.

I hate this war, Deb. I hate it because of the senseless killing, and I hate it because it makes me want to be a senseless killer. I see no glory and I see no honor. All I see is arrogance and greed. And the death and misery produced by them. Both sides are so blinded by their own depravity that they don’t comprehend the results of their actions. I just want to go home, if there’s any home left.

I better turn in now. There may be some more killing tomorrow. I guess it’s either kill or get killed. Sure something to look forward too, isn’t it?

I think about you all the time. I hope I’ll see you again.

I love you.

Isaiah Hall
Major, CSA Calvary

Friday, June 23, 2006

Lost in the Lights

It’s the third round of the state football playoffs. The home team is down by a touchdown. The ball is on the home twenty yard-line. The fourth quarter is ticking down toward its close. The wolf of defeat snarls at the door. A call goes out for a hero to save the day.

But hang on…here’s the back-story.

The team had suffered through a recent history of losing seasons. There had been three different coaches during the four varsity years of the current seniors. This year should be more of the same.

But, this was a special group of kids. The whole school and the whole town believed in them. Most had started on the varsity since the tenth grade. The coach who had left after their ninth grade year to coach at a college almost stayed, because next year’s tenth grade was supposed to be so good.

This year had started out predictably. In the first game of the season, tonight’s home team had seen a 21-zip half-time lead slowly evaporate to wind up losing 28-21. Then there was a second loss to a larger school (for some reason, they often played larger schools). Here we go again….

But, after that inauspicious beginning, the planets had aligned. There had been nine straight victories, an area championship, and now the third round of the playoffs. Notch this one and two more – and you’re state champs, something this school had lived for since these kid’s grandpas had played on the same field fifty years ago. This would be the first. And the town of two thousand residents would go wildly insane for weeks. The President of the United States establishing a summer palace here would be nothing compared to winning the state in football. Just get out of the way, there’d be a riot.

Now, back to the fourth quarter. It’s put up or shut up time. Not that these kids ever talked trash to their opponent, I’m not sure they even knew what that term meant. They just showed up and went about their business.

Time to get down to business now.

The coach signaled in a pass. The home team had the best running back in the state. His strong legs and two thousand plus rushing yards had been crucial in getting them to where they were tonight. The player who could tackle him one-on-one, hadn’t been born yet. But on this play, he would be the decoy. The quarterback would fake the ball to him and then drop straight back before heaving the ball downfield. His pass was to be to the wide receiver, running all out toward the other team’s goal, straight down the sideline.

After his fake to the tailback, the quarterback retreated to a spot seven yards behind the scrimmage line. The opposing team’s defensive line began to break through the home team’s blocks. They came at him like wild men smelling a kill. But he stood there erect and unprotected, with the ball cocked at his shoulder, like he had done scores of times before. Just before their headgears impacted his ribcage, the receiver broke into the clear. The quarterback let’er fly.

He never saw what happened because he was now flat on his back covered with opposing lineman, some of whom outweighed him by a hundred pounds. The released football traveled in a beautiful arc with a perfect spiral for at least forty yards. The receiver looked up into the black night sky to focus on the approaching ball. The hopes and dreams of that rural Alabama town traveled with it.

When the receiver looked up, what he saw…was the bright stadium lights. Where was that ball that had his name and “hero” written all over it? As he put more space between himself and the defender, who was now badly trailing, his ultimate dream of glory was falling from the night sky toward his outstretched hands. But the fated ball had become hopelessly lost in the lights, and now the once-in-a-lifetime moment was about to be lost with it.

When the ball finished traversing its arc and fell to where he was running alone down that sideline, his hands never touched it. It hit the top of his shoulder pads. You could hear the “pop” it made from the contact all over the stadium. It bounced once into the air, and fell uncaught to the ground. Hard to catch what you can’t see.

There was a terrible groan of despair from the home stands. It was an omen. The players returned to their respective huddles. Another play was called and executed. By and by the game was completed. The home team lost. Their dreams of gridiron glory and high school football sainthood got lost in the lights.

There’s a little more to the back-story of what you’ve just read, but we won’t go there.

I’ve told this story because these events remind me of a Bible text. Here it is:

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV).

Paul said, “…one thing I do.” He had focus. He let nothing get in between him and his goal of Christ. He let nothing distract him and cause him to lose sight of the goal.

The receiver in the story who lost the ball in the lights couldn’t help it. But you and I can help it. How many times do we allow things to get in our way and hinder us from a locked-in vision of Christ? How often do we lose Jesus in the lights of worldly enticements and distractions? When we allow Satan to blind us to Christianity by holding up the world before our eyes, we are willfully losing Christ – and losing the only “game” that matters in the process.

Look past the distractions that Satan is constantly trying to blind us with - and see Jesus. See Him in His creation. See Him clearly in His word. Believe Him. Obey Him. Let God make you more than a winner.

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37 NKJV).

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Death in the Family

It is always heart-wrenching to experience the loss of a close loved one. I spoke with a lady yesterday who lost her daughter many years ago and continues to experience deep grief. I know this story could be repeated millions of times. I lost my own dad in 1999 and still miss him every day. He was my best friend. Sometimes I dream about him. I did two nights ago. This story, also, could be repeated millions of times with different names, dates, and places.

There is an analogy here with God’s family. When a Christian leaves the church and returns to a life of sin, God experiences a death in the family. Not only does the unfaithful Christian abandon his Heavenly Father, but God loses a dear child. Praise to God, I have never lost a child. But I imagine there could be no greater hurt in this life than the death of one of one’s children. The grief must be unfathomable. If you leave God, He feels this way about you. It makes you feel special, doesn’t it? We are all special to God. He wants us all in heaven, safe and sound with Him. He sent His own Son so it could happen.

If you have left God, or if you have never known Him, the Parable of the Lost Sheep is about you. God loves you. God misses you. God wants you near Him. He reaches out to you through Jesus and His gospel. Accept God’s extended arms through faith and obedience to His word. Wherever you are lost among the rocks and cliffs of sin, God can find you. He can lift you up and bring you home. His love looks for you every day. His hand reaches out. Will you take it?

What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance (Luke 15:4-7 NKJV).

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

“Kill Them All,
And Let God Sort It Out.”

I heard lately (I think it was on the evening news, but I may have read it somewhere, if so, I’ve forgotten where, so proper acknowledgment is impossible – but I did hear this) that sometimes a soldier who confronted a vicious and murderous enemy in an urban environment, where the enemy had positioned themselves among civilians who were (at least were supposed to be) noncombatants, and the civilians would acquiesce (probably out of fear that they would be the first murdered if they didn’t) when the murderous enemy would plant mines and bombs in the road in front of their house to blow up the good guys, that a soldier confronting this nebulous and ghostly enemy, would be tempted to make a statement like this one. “Kill them all, and let God sort it out.”

It’s a terrible thing when man’s inhumanity to man drives one to even be tempted to think like that: to kill the innocent with the guilty just because the innocent might be actually guilty themselves. The loss of a friend who had no business dying young, the desire for revenge, can make it easier for a human to do things that same human wouldn’t dream of doing in a calmer, more ordered, environment. War is a terrible thing, and that’s an understatement.

The Christian Life is a war too, but of a different sort. What we try to kill is our own evil desires. What we must do to others is love, teach, serve, and forgive.

On that last thought of forgiveness, consider this text:

Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22 NKJV).

And now this one, a few lines later:

So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses (Matthew 18:35 NKJV).

The second text follows the parable of the unforgiving servant. Jesus says that if we are unforgiving, like that servant was, that God won’t forgive us. It addresses the importance of forgiveness.

The first text teaches that our forgiveness of others is to be without limit. It addresses the quantity of forgiveness.

Sometimes, in our Christian war, we may be tempted to think that the other guy has committed such a great wrong against us that he doesn’t deserve forgiveness. We may feel that God would judge him severely, so why can’t we?

The thought we began this piece with is a bad one, “Kill them all, and let God sort it out.” But, we can take that same structure, set it in a Christian context, plug in forgiveness: and it becomes a good thought. As far as our personal part in forgiveness is concerned, why don’t we just look at it this way?

“Forgive them all, and let God sort it out.”

Monday, June 05, 2006

Ball and Chain

We’ve all seen old movies where a prisoner was on a work detail and wore a heavy iron ball, about the size of a basketball, attached to his ankle by a chain. The weight of the iron ball would hinder his movements and thus keep him under the control of the prison jailer. He couldn’t escape; he couldn’t do what he might wish to do if he were free, as long as the ball was attached by the chain to his leg. He was a slave to the iron ball. It controlled him. It owned him. There was nothing the prisoner could do to escape unless he could acquire the tools with which to break the chain.

How would you feel if you were wearing that ball and chain? Many people do wear it today – and they wear it by choice. They want to wear it. The jailer who owns the iron ball is the devil. The ball is sin. Romans 6:16 speaks of the person who is a slave to sin, and says that sin leads to death.

When you practice sin, you wear the ball.

But, there is one significant difference in this analogy. In the case of the convict, the jailer owns the ball and chain. In the case of the sinner, the devil owns the ball, but the sinner owns the chain. He decides to attach it to his ankle when he chooses a life of sin. He can put the chain on, or he can take the chain off.

Thanks to Jesus Christ, if that ball and chain is attached to your leg, you can do something about it. You can break the chain. You can loose the ball. You can be free. You can be forgiven. You can have hope, meaning, and purpose in your life.

With Satan’s ball and your chain, all is lost, all is hopeless. Wear the chain: you die.

The power of Christ can break the chain, if you will let him. Romans 1:16 says His power is the gospel. Romans 5:1 says Jesus is the Savior of the faithful. Hebrews 5:9 says Jesus is the Savior of the obedient.

Look at the gospel as God’s tool. Pick it up, and by faith and obedience use it to break the chain.

Imagine your life with the dead weight of sin. Now imagine your life with the freedom of forgiveness. You can go either way. Which do you want?

For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace (Romans 8:6 NKJV).

Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city (Revelation 22:14 NKJV).

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Here's something I wrote a couple of years ago about preaching. None of it is original, but it would be hard to accurately cite all the sources. David Thomas and Tom Holland were my speech and sermon delivery teachers respectively at Freed-Hardeman in the early seventies. As you will see if you read this, I've also been strongly influenced by the national news anchors over the years, Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, Tom Brokaw, et al. Guy N. Woods, a lawyer, writer and gospel preacher, was a strong influence when I was in my twenties. And, not to forget - my favorite preacher of all time: fellow Lamar Countian, V. P. Black.

Sermon Delivery


It is the intent of these notes to address mainly the mechanics of religious public speaking as opposed to the content of the message. The content of a religious message must, of course, be Biblically accurate.

Philosophy of Public Speaking in a Religious Context

It is the purpose of sermon and/or lesson delivery to inform, explain, and motivate. We must answer the questions: What does the Bible say? What does this text mean? and What must I do about it? We must answer these questions in a manner which will secure and maintain our audience’s interest.

Public Speaking Suggestions

1. Present to the audience as confident but not arrogant.

2. Take charge of the situation (you have been asked to speak). Avoid false humility.

3. Be yourself. Everyone has different styles. Work on discovering yours and then exploit it.

4. Learn from the example of others but don’t copy them. Watch the national evening news anchors on TV.

5. Speak up. Don’t mumble. Remember, you were asked to speak, so people want to hear you.

6. Speak clearly and distinctly. Be sure you accurately pronounce the endings of your words. Have an active and nimble tongue.

7. Speak correctly. Say your words properly and make sure you string them together into complete sentences. Incorrect subject/verb agreement is not only embarrassing, but will cause the content of your remarks to lose credibility. You don’t want people to dismiss your message because you don’t speak correct English.

8. Generally avoid slang words such as “ain’t.” Also, “Going to” is not pronounced “Gonna.” If you say the words properly, no one will notice, and that’s the idea. If you say them improperly, people may turn you off. If there is any question as to the pronunciation of or meaning of a word, look it up or don’t use it. Your dictionary is your friend.

9. Present seriously, yet pleasantly. You will likely receive a better hearing if you do not assume an argumentative attitude.

10. Try real hard to avoid our Southern drawl. We are all proud to be from the South, but it is generally better to speak publicly without an accent. Again, listen to the national news anchors. Can you tell where they’re from?

11. As a possible effort to finish quickly, do not speak too rapidly. Slow down and collect your thoughts. The pause is an effective way to hold attention.

12. Avoid distracting and annoying gestures, pacing, etc.
13. Look at your audience.

14. Dress appropriate to the occasion.

John Brown
August 26, 2004

Friday, June 02, 2006

A Response in Kind
1 John 4: 19

There is a law in physics that states: for every action, there must be an equal and opposite reaction. A “response in kind,” if you will. There is a Bible text that deals with responding in kind. It is found in 1 John 4:19 –

We love him, because he first loved us.

God shows His love for us through His Son. Through Jesus, we can have proper direction, forgiveness of sin, and hope of heaven. That is, if we respond in kind.

We respond to God’s love by obeying His word. Our love for Jesus and our obedience to His word is connected in John 14: 23:

If a man love me, he will keep my words.

A response in kind.

If someone loved you enough to offer you the gift of eternal life, how would you respond? Would you ignore the offer? Would you argue over any conditions of the gift? Amazingly, many do just that.

Respond to God’s love for you, with love for Him. Let this love lead you to trust Him, obey Him, and live faithfully for Him till you die.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Do You Know “Repentance”?

Jesus began His preaching ministry by saying “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). He would pay for the kingdom on the Cross and establish it fifty days later on Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2. Therefore, Paul could write to the Colossian Christians thirty years later that they were in the kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13). We can be members of Christ’s kingdom today.

If it was important for the people during Jesus’ personal ministry to repent because the kingdom was at hand, surely it is of pressing importance that we repent today with Christ’s kingdom a reality.

Repentance necessitates a turning away from sin. It is much more than just being sorry. John the Baptist told his audience to produce fruit (in their lives) worthy of repentance (Matthew 3:8).

Humanity continues to stand in great need of repentance.

When the God-made union of marriage is defiled by divorce – we stand in great need of repentance.

When the God-approved beauty of heterosexual sex in marriage is sullied by an unnatural act – our need for repentance cries out.

When greed, arrogance, and the desire for revenge cause us to forget Jesus the Peacemaker – repentance becomes a distant and faint vision of something that might have been.

When we sow into the wind of sexual promiscuity and insatiable materialism and are then engulfed in the resulting whirlwind – repentance could have stopped it all.

When we become so indoctrinated with political correctness that we fail to even recognize, much less acknowledge, sin in all its forms – repentance into the Christian Life will at long last bring us to our senses.

When we are so selfish and immature that we continually point out the mote in our brothers eye in order to make the beam protruding from our own appear smaller by comparison. – the concept of repentance has become foreign, unknown, and indistinguishable.

When the multiplication of personal wants causes us to become blind to the immediate and pressing needs of others – we appear as if we have never even heard of the concept of repentance.

When we allow the zeal for error to outshine our diminishing fervor for truth – our motivation to repent becomes lost in our humiliation.

When the tree of wounded pride blinds us to the forest of opportunity – heartfelt repentance would restore our sight.

When the great Day of Judgment comes and we bow trembling before our Maker – the option of repentance, which we push from us now, will have forsaken us then.

Remember the words of Jesus, how He said: Repent . . . or perish (Luke 13:3).

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Men, As Trees, Walking…

A passage of scripture that I have found somewhat perplexing over the years is Mark 8:22-26. This is the story of Jesus healing a blind man near Bethsaida, which was on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus chose to heal the man in stages. I have always wondered why He did that. Here’s what happened:

An unidentified blind man was brought to Jesus by some unidentified persons. Jesus was asked to heal the man. Jesus responded by taking the man by the hand and leading him out of town. The Lord then placed His hands on the blind man’s eyes and asked him if he saw anything. The man looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.” Jesus then places His hands on the man’s eyes a second time. This time when the man looks up, he sees everyone clearly.

On all other occasions when Jesus performed a miracle of healing, the person was healed all at once – instantly. Why did Jesus do it differently this time?

Well, I certainly don’t know. But our Lord certainly knew what He was doing. Here’s something to think about:

It is a safe assumption that the blind man wanted to see. He participated willingly in the healing process, knowing all along what was up. Maybe, just maybe, when he saw the unfocused scene, he wanted to see it with perfect clarity all the more. Perhaps he got a little glimpse of what was in store, and then he longed for and appreciated what was coming later.

Jesus shows us little glimpses of heaven all the time. They’re all around us, if we’ll just look for them. Some jump off the page at us. Some others have to be cultivated a little. When we see them, two things should happen. We should appreciate the greatness of what God has done for us here on earth. We should want to go and be with Him forever when we leave this earth. These two, gratitude and desire, should cause us to order our behavior to match the teaching of Jesus.

Here are three glimpses of heaven that we have right now. Maybe when you look around you, you might see some others.

God’s Creation

Sunsets have moved me for a long time. How many shades of red and blue have you counted when the sun drops below the horizon on a clear day. I’ve lost count – a long time ago. God didn’t have to make it pretty like that, but He did. It’s a glimpse of something prettier still, just beyond.

I used to be in the woods a good bit back in the day when a friend (who is now deceased) and I traded timberland on a (very) small scale. We both had real jobs and this was our hobby. It was fun to walk through the land God had made and look at the trees He had built. At that time, 1970’s, the more pine, the better. If God could make those tall, straight, and strong loblolly pines (not to mention the massive cypress I sometimes saw in the bottomland), He could certainly make a place called “Heaven” where we all might walk in peace and wonder some day. I even came to see the beauty of the Maker’s touch in an unlikely a spot as a beaver pond.

Nature is a glimpse of heaven if we’ll open our too often blind eyes and look.

The Christian Family

This one needs to be cultivated…constantly. I don’t remember who it was, but someone wrote a little book about fifty years ago about the Christian family. The author titled it, Vestibules of Heaven. If heaven is the auditorium, then the Christian family could be aptly spoken of as the lobby.

When the husband loves the wife and the wife loves the husband, and the children are raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; peace reigns, kindness reigns, forgiveness reigns, humility and deference reign. You’re getting pretty close to heaven.

A faithful Christian family is a glimpse of heaven if we choose to make it just that: Christian and faithful.

A Faithful Church

The church of Christ is the people of Christ. It is those who have believed and obeyed what God says in the gospel. It is symbolically pictured as both the body of Christ and the bride of Christ.

We all want to take good care of our physical bodies. We want to be physically healthy. Good health is positively associated with longevity. We must have the same interest in caring for each other that we have for our personal health. When I am as interested in your spiritual health as I am in mine, I’ll care for you and try to help you be closer to God. I’ll do it with my words and my actions. I’ll do it all the time. I won’t quit doing it. When others see us all in the church acting this way, they’ll be impressed. They’ll see a glimpse of heaven.

Most of us adults are married. I remember thirty-three years ago how delighted I was with my new bride. The relationship broadens and strengthens over the years if the marriage is a trinity. The husband and wife are committed to each other side to side and are both committed to God as they look upward. Husband + wife + God works every time. In the church, if we are committed to each other side to side and look upward with commitment to God, we create another Vestibule of Heaven.

A faithful church of Christ is a glimpse of heaven if we are a faithful part of her. The bride of Christ, the body of Christ; as close as you can get to Christ here: the church of Christ.

I am totally confident that the best we see here (wonderful as it is), in comparison to heaven, is only like “men as trees, walking.” I want to see more!