Archive for the month “November, 2010”

Shalom!!!

Probably most of you know that I am Jewish by birth. It is a part of my spiritual heritage that I am very proud of. Around the office I am affectionately called ‘The Rabbi” – and on my business cards under the title Executive Pastor I have put “Resident Rabbi”. If you’ve ever called me at church and been diverted to my voice mail then you have heard me end my greeting with “Shalom.” It is one of the great words of the Hebrew language. Here are a few things for you to know about what is meant by the word.

1) First of all it is one of the names of God. Here’s an excerpt from another blog I found that does a great job of detailing the story of Gideon – who referred to God as Jehovah-Shalom (Judges 6):

Gideon had only one thing going for him: God called him. God addressed him this way: “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” (Judges 6:12) There was nothing in the natural to suggest that this was true. Gideon replies back to the Lord; “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” (Judges 6:15) He was just being honest. It sounds like Gideon was more realistic than the Lord in his self appraisal. In fact, when God appeared to him he was threshing wheat in secret inside a winepress so as not to be observed and possibly attacked by the Midianites who were riding roughshod all over Israel.

God saw Gideon differently than Gideon saw himself. God saw the secret weapon with which he had equipped Gideon: HIMSELF. God said; “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.” (Judges 6:16) Oh my goodness, the stark terror that Gideon must have felt at that moment! I know I would have wanted to go running in the opposite direction with my ears covered. Probably as a delay tactic, Gideon asked for a sign about who was really speaking to him and then begged to prepare a meal for his guest. He probably hoped no one would be there when he got back with the meat and bread.

But God was still there, waiting, when Gideon returned. The Lord told him to lay the meal on a rock as an offering and pour the broth over it. Then God touched the sacrifice with the staff in his hand “and fire rose out of the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread.” (Judges 6:21) Then he disappeared. Now Gideon understood beyond all doubt that he had been talking face to face with Jehovah. That scared him worse than what God was calling him to do.

So the Lord said to Gideon, “Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die.” And then Gideon built an alter in that place and called it THE-LORD-IS-PEACE: Jehovah-Shalom. Why did the Lord reveal himself as PEACE at that time? Why not “The Lord is Courage” or “The Lord is Strength”? I think it is because the Lord’s peace is so profound that it overcomes every other consideration. Peace was the real thing that Gideon needed. Peace is the real thing each of us needs when we are up against the wall.

Very very true don’t you think? In my next post I’ll talk a bit more about this incredible word. In the meantime…. “Shalom” – or as we like to say in the South… “Shalom ya’ll”!!

Random Stuff I'm Thankful For (Part 2)

My pillow – I don’t know about you but I am very particular about my pillow. I can’t sleep on just any pillow. in fact if it is not a pillow I don’t like, then I can’t sleep. I’m a foam pillow kind of guy. Don’t give me one of those pillows where your head still feels like it sinks to the mattress when you lie on it. I’ve even been known to ask hotel managers if I can have (or buy) one of their pillows if I really like it. I believe the pillow I currently have came from Country Inn and Suites a few years ago.

Nose and ear hair trimmers – For those of you who are still on the young side of life you will find that as you get older hair will start growing in places you really don’t want it to. I hate those pesky little hairs that pop out of my nose and compete for face time with my mustache. Enter my nose hair attachment and zip – that wiry sucker is history.

Loofahs – Okay, I admit it, I use a loofah. And I like it. I’m not a manly man that washes with just a bar of soap. Neither do I use a wash rag. I love the way a loofah gives me consistent soapiness throughout the entire shower experience.

Hoodies – I love fall and winter if for no other reason than I get to wear hoodies. The pullover kind not the zip up kind. And especially ones that have pockets. Maybe it’s because of my hairlessness that I love the hood on the hoodie. All I know is that they sure do help me to stay warmer this time of year.

My Droid X – This is the only tech gadget that makes my list. I’ve only had a smartphone for a couple of weeks but I gotta tell you that it is an impressive piece of equipment. Who would have thought 10 years ago that I could carry in my pocket not just a phone but a camera, a video camera, a Bible, a photo album, a calculator, a web browser, a radio, a TV, a newspaper, and I’m sure much more that I haven’t even discovered yet. I’m a fan.

I really have so very much to be thankful for. And not so much the stuff that I have as the people in my life – and the fact that God has “rescued me from the dominion of darkness and brought me into the kingdom of His Son.” Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Random Stuff I'm Thankful For (Part 1)

Seems like we just celebrated Thanksgiving about a year ago and here we are again. It’s always good to be reminded that we should be thankful. I know that I do not say thank you enough to enough people. And I do not say thank you enough to God for the abundant blessing upon my life. Since this is a thanksgiving post let me go ahead and list the things that you would expect me to be thankful for: My wife, my kids, my extended family, my health, my job, food and shelter everyday day, great friends, great colleagues, and on and on. I wanted to spend a few minutes here listing some things that I realize I take for granted that I am extremely thankful for. For example:

Zippers – I once had a pair of pants that had buttons instead of a zipper. What a pain. I was thinking this morning how much I take for granted the fact that every day I can zip up my britches. And don’t you just love those plastic bags that are zip lock – instead of trying to line up those thingies that you are supposed to press together. I sure do.

Toilet paper – Here’s a little toilet paper history you probably didn’t know – Joseph Gayetty is widely credited with being the inventor of modern commercially available toilet paper in the United States. It was first introduced in 1857 as Gayetty’s Medicated Paper and was sold in packages of flat sheets, watermarked with the inventor’s name. I’m not EVEN going to comment on that last line. The jokes should jump off the page. I will say this though – if you have ever used bad TP then you can understand why I am thankful for good toilet paper. Now I come from a generation that has by and large always had decent paper to work with. But apparently my pastor has not. A recent reference in a sermon to the Sear’s Catalogue left me with a picture that I would just assume had never gotten into my head. One other thought: Whoever developed 2-ply should be given an award. That single ply stuff is not worth a cr…. Pun intended. (not sure if I can say the word since I’m a pastor)

Electric blankets – I gotta say that I do love climbing into bed at this time of year when the sheets are nice and toasty. Now my wife will tell you that it is her very favorite part of the day. This is because her feet stay at a temperature of 27 degrees. I know this because the first thing she does when she gets in bed is show me how cold her feet are. Every single night. I’ve tried to tell her that I believe her when she tells me how cold her tootsies are but for some reason she feels compelled to prove it to me. So the electric blanket has become a good friend who helps me make it through the cold winters and helps me put up with cold feet. Cold feet I can deal with. So thankful that my wife does not have a cold shoulder.

Thoughts On Eternal Life

John 17:3 says, “ Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

Eternal life is about knowing our God and Savior the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not just a get out of hell free pass. It is not just a ticket into heaven. It is so much more. If we can begin to know the One who has rescued us from the dominion of darkness, know the One who was the ransom for the debt we owed God –  then not only will it make us achingly yearn for heaven but it will also make life on earth really worth living.

The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis, is one of the greatest classic series ever written  On the final page of the final book (The Last Battle) of the series, some of the children who have been to Narnia are very sad that they once again must return to their homeland—called the Shadowlands. Aslan (the lion who represents Jesus) asks them about this:

[Aslan spoke to the children,] “You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be.”

Lucy said, “We’re so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often.”

The point here is that the children of Narnia dreaded the idea of going back to the Shadowlands and leaving Narnia – not because they didn’t like their home but because it meant leaving Aslan. Whereas we, for the most part, dread the idea of leaving this world for the next. Lets face it, we like it here. We’re comfortable here. We have our stuff here. This world is known. We don’t generally get excited about the unknown. We don’t like the idea of either dying or being dead. Contrast this with how the Apostle Paul felt about facing death and leaving this world:

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain….I desire to depart and be with Christ which is better by far… I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Phil 1:21, 22; 3:8)

Perhaps he knew something that we think we know but don’t really know: that knowing Christ is what we were made for and what we were saved for. That knowing Him is what makes heaven worth waiting for and life worth living. That knowing Him is the secret to experiencing eternal life in the fullest sense of the term.

So here’s the question that I have to ask myself: Do I know Him like this? Not just know know about Him. Not just believe in Him or even trust Him for my salvation. But do I know Him? Know Him like Paul knew Him. Know Him like the children of Narnia knew Aslan.  The answer to this question will determine whether I merely have eternal life or whether I am enjoying and savoring the eternal life that I have been given. And if you’re reading this, maybe these are good questions for you to think on as well. Grace and Peace to you as you think on these things! And while you’re thinking on these things, perhaps you can ponder this question as well: How do you get to know Jesus the way that Paul knew Him? Mmmm… I sense another blog post at some point.

Braggin' on my Bride

You may or not be aware of it but I have a wonderful wife. I want to brag on her just a bit. Yesterday she got some news that she had been waiting for (and hoping for) since May. She found out that she had passed the National Boards for Teacher/Counselor Certification. The process began over a year ago. It involved lots of studying, lots of paper writing, some intense exam taking, and a lot of waiting. Probably less than 50% of those who try to get certified pass on the first try. This was her first try. She called me yesterday from school when she found out and was ecstatically happy. Probably as much ecstatically relieved as anything. She was not looking forward to the work it would take had she not passed.

For those of you know her well you are not surprised that she passed. She tends to attack everything she does with a determination to do it well. While I’m bragging, here are a few things that you may not know about her: 1) She graduated #1 from her high school class and 2) She was selected to Phi Beta Kappa upon graduating from UNC-G. And I might add 3) She is a LOT smarter than I am.

I am very proud of her and count it a privilege that I get to be married to her. Well done Darling!

Why I love Being Bald

It used to bother me to think about losing my hair. Now that I am seasoned (as opposed to old) I realize all the benefits of being follicly challenged. Here are a few that come to mind:

I’ve got a great fraternity of other bald dudes (and dudettes): Chris Daughtry, Marc Francis, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Andre Agassi, Homer Simpson, Jason Statham, Michael Jordan, Al Huffman, Sean Connery, Van Diesel, Britney Spears, Elmer Fudd, Dr. Phil, Stone Cold Steve Austin … ‘nuf said!

I LOVE LOVE LOVE  not having to pay for hair cuts.

I never ever have to think about packing a hair dryer on trips.

I can use soap on my head as well as the rest of my body – no need to switch from one bottle to another.

The testosterone that I have left at 52 years of age does not have to be channeled towards keeping hair on my head.

It may give me yet one more thing that I will have in common with my sons and son-in-law.

I get my head rubbed by random people (seriously, this happens!).

And my favorite…

It will give me a conversation starter with Elisha the prophet when I meet him in heaven:  Elisha went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!”   And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. (2 Kings 2:23-24)

The only down side I can see to being bald is that I get colder quicker. There’s no insulation so to speak. But even with that it just gives me a good excuse to wear a cool looking hat. So I’m embracing baldness and highly recommend it to those of you who were not “chosen” to be hairless. As someone once said, “God only made so many perfect heads, the rest He covered with hair!”

Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie

Reading this morning in Colossians and came across this verse: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ.” (2:9-10). In thinking about what this means and how it applies to me – how I have been given fullness in Christ – this is the best illustration that I can come up with….

Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie

My wife and I love to go out to supper together. We don’t do it all that often but we really enjoy it when we do. As I’m sure you have experienced, when the meal is over the waiter will ask, “Would you like to see our dessert menu.” Now I don’t know about you but it is not uncommon for me to look at the dessert menu before I ever look at the regular menu. And if we happen to be at Chili’s then I am already plotting my dining strategy. You see they have a Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie that I love. If I were to finish my meal without having the pie this is what I would be thinking: “That was a really good meal. But something is missing. I just don’t feel completely satisfied yet. There’s got to be something that could appease this unfulfilled longing that I have.  Oh – how about a piece of pie!”

This is basically my life story. Growing up as a teenager I had a lot going for me. I had a lot of friends, I made really good grades, I was a decent athlete, I had a supportive family and I never even knew that my life was not as complete as it could be until I was introduced to the person of Christ. In Him I found fullness. In Him I found completeness. In Him I found exactly what was missing from the “meal” of my life – which was a very good meal. But in Him I found complete satisfaction. I no longer had to wonder “is there something more”, because He was the something more. And He continues to be the something more. If for some reason you have not experienced this kind of “fullness” and completeness  then give me a holler – I would be thrilled help you understand how Christ can give you the satisfaction that you are longing for.

πολλῷ μᾶλλον

Many years ago when I was in seminary I had to do a paper on this Greek phrase. It is found several times in the New Testament. Here is one example:

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!” (Romans 5:8-9)

The phrase is pronounced “pollo mallon” and is  transliterated “much more.” It is a favorite expression of Paul’s when he argues that if one thing is true how much more must something else be true. I mentioned in my “Defining Moments” post that I had done a 10 day fast. As I was thinking on what Christ had done for me during this time, this phrase  – “how much more” – got stuck in my head and I expressed my gratefulness to God in a poem that I appropriately entitled… How Much More.

How Much More

How much more could Christ have done
Than what He did so long ago;
And yet today he fills my heart
With  joy that overflows.

How much more could He have done
Than when He set this captive free;
And yet today I taste the fruit
Of His awesome victory.

How much more could He have done
Than when he rescued me from sin;
And yet today he gives me hope
And helps me find my strength in Him.

How much more could He have done
Than save my soul eternally;
And yet I find that in this world
I live with joy and power and peace.

How much more could He have done
Than break the chains of doubt and fear;
And yet today when I despair
I know that He is always near.

How much more could He have done
Than to create new life in me;
And yet He fills my soul with songs
And I sing joy-filled melodies.

How much more could He have done
Than make things right with God again;
And yet today He walks with me
As if I am His greatest friend.

How much more could He have done
Than prove His love at Calvary;
And yet today I am reminded
Of His faithful love for me.

My prayer is that you and I would comprehend and experience each day just how much more Christ has done for us than we can even begin to imagine.

Defining Moments of My Life (Part 4)

A decision on a rooftop – So in 1983 I graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary up near Boston but was clueless as to what avenue of ministry to pursue. So Linda and I moved back to Raleigh and plugged into our home church, Providence Baptist, to wait on a clear sense of calling. A friend of mine gave me a job roofing houses, we were volunteering with Providence’s youth ministry, and we were trying to be patient as we waited for direction from God. It was on top of a roof one day that I sensed God calling me to student ministry. (He used my fierce dislike for being way up in the air in 90+ degree weather to make this clear to me). I approached our pastor about this. We began an internship at the church to seek confirmation. And I ended up spending 22 years as a youth pastor. I look back on that rooftop decision and realize that sometimes God will put us in places we don’t really want to be to get us ready for places that He does want us to be. I loved being a youth pastor and now I have the bonus skill of knowing how to roof a house.

Fall 2010

March 3, 1986; October 27, 1987; August 22, 1990 – Yep, you guessed right – those are the days that my kids were born. VERY defining moments. It’s one thing to have your life changed by marriage and still another thing to have it changed by becoming a parent. Our kids are basically all grown up now. They make all their own choices and decisions now but allow us the opportunity to partially subsidize their lifestyle (not true for the married daughter). I am an incredibly blessed dad who has watched my kids grow into wonderful God-seeking young adults. Christy, Scott, Tucker – thanks for helping to define my life. You are each a treasure to me and you are very very loved.

A 10 day fast – In the Fall of 1998 I was in a spiritual stupor. I knew that I needed to do something to get back on track with God. I decided to do something I had never done before – fast for an extended period of time and use the time to seek God. I fasted from food and television for 10 days. My only nutrition was vegetable juice to keep from dehydrating. I spent 2 days at a retreat center just reading, thinking, and praying. It was during this time that I got introduced to the writing of John Piper. That week I read his book A Hunger For God: Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer. His writing has probably influenced me more than anyone’s over the last 20 years. Especially his book Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. Highly recommended if you want a book that will challenge your thinking and feed your soul. My soul was fed during my time of fasting and I got back on track with God. By the way, it was only the first 3 days of the fast that were tough. The hunger went away after that but the habit of eating remained. It was the habit that I had to fight against.

June 14, 2008

June 14, 2008 – To some extent this was more of a BIG day than a defining moment but I can also make a case otherwise. This was the day that my daughter Christy got married to Chad Ferrell. This was also the day that I turned 50 years old. I joke and tell people that I threw myself a huge party for my birthday – inviting hundreds of guests to come and celebrate with me. But really the day was about Christy and Chad. And it was a great day. It was defining in the sense that the dynamics of our family changed on that day. In a good way. It was also defining in the sense that I was now eligible for AARP. This meant that I was officially classified as old. 50 was always the number that I defined as old. Not 40. Not 30. But 50. It was also the age that I had prayed that God would allow me to live to be. I started praying that prayer about 20 years ago. I called it my Hezekiah prayer. You see my dad had died when I was 13. I very much wanted to be around to influence my kids until they were grown and making their own decisions about life. 50 years old was the magic number. This was when Tucker, my youngest, turned 18, graduated high school and went off to college. My influence on their lives at this point was now going to be very diminished as they were all on their own and living away from home. So God answered my prayer and for that I am very very grateful. It doesn’t mean I don’t want more years to see my kids grow older and be around potential grandkids but it does mean that I have seen the faithfulness of God in my life and I am a extremely thankful. I am a blessed man!

I have no idea what defining moments wait for me in the future but I am excited about watching what God is up to and am thrilled to be a part of the great adventure of following Him. Whether I live to be 90 or die tomorrow I intend to live out my days serving the God who has rescued me, redeemed me, and entrusted me with a wonderful family, a great church, and a life worth living.

Defining Moments in My Life (Part 3)

A comment at a conference – It was my junior year. I was 20 years old. I was an engineering major. And I was trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I attended a conference that was geared toward those who were in the same boat as I was… on the fast track to a good job and worldly success but not sure that was really the way that we wanted to spend the next 40 years of our lives. I heard a speaker that weekend make a comment that change the whole direction of my life. He said this: “There are only 2 things in this world that are eternal, God’s Word and people, therefore we should spent our lives investing in these 2 eternal things.” From that point on I began considering vocational ministry so that I could maximize the time I had to invest in eternal things. I decided to finish out my engineering degree since that was the quickest way out of college and began thinking about graduate school at a seminary where I could get theologically grounded. Lesson learned: You never know how something that you say may challenge someone to change the course of their life – for good or for bad – so be careful what you say.

Hearing God speak loud and clear (the third time) – It was the summer of 1980. Linda had graduated from UNC-G and I had graduated from Tulane. We had been dating (mostly long distance) for 1 year. We were at Myrtle Beach for the week hanging out with my family. One evening while walking on the beach I expressed to her that was having some doubts about our relationship. This kind came from out of nowhere to her and made for a very awkward evening. I couldn’t sleep so I went out to the hallway of the condo complex where we were staying and was praying. Again, in the quiet of the night, God spoke very loud and clear to me – not an audible voice but as loud in my spirit as if it were audible. This time He said, “You are to marry that girl!” There has never been a doubt in my mind from that night on that Linda is supposed to be my wife. And here we are now, 30 years later, enjoying each other in a great marriage and the fruit of  what comes from willful obedience to God.

August 1, 1981 (8.1.81)So I proposed on Christmas Day 1980 and we were married on August 1, 1981. We had a really fun celebration. A lot of my friends came up from Aiken. We were able to share with all our friends and family about how we intended for the Lord to be priority in our marriage. Wedding was Saturday afternoon. Flew to Atlanta for Saturday night and then to Bermuda for our honeymoon. It’s been a fun, fast 29+ years. God has used my wonderful bride to complete me, to help steer the direction of my life, and to be a fabulous helpmate as we have raised 3 children, served on 2 church staffs, and sought to navigate the sometimes rough waters of this world. It’s been a fun ride and I’m glad she has been with me every step of the way. We’re excited about what the next 30 years have in store.

***(The last few Defining Moments will appear in a later post)

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