Dear Hudson…#3

IMG_9617.JPGDear Hudson,

Three years ago today, I met you for the first time. I held you close to me and I whispered in your ear — “Hudson, God loves you and I love you. Both of us always will.”

From that day forward, your parents and grandparents have done our very best to make sure you realize that — God loves you and we love you…and we always will.

The “terrible 2’s” turned out to be just that…according to some. You are becoming more independent every day (if that is possible). You have spent this past year telling us that you can do it by yourself and your favorite phrase right now is — “Poppo, I told you…” Your momma and daddy are doing a great job teaching you right from wrong and how to behave, but you are waging a pretty strong resistance as well. When James Dobson wrote the book, “Strong-Willed Child,” I think he should have included your picture.

My theory is that your strong personality is going to serve you well as you grow older. You will be a leader. I’m guessing now that you will be a politician or a preacher. You sure know how to “work the crowd” and you are able to charm everyone you meet.

As usual, this has been a pretty eventful year for you. Your baby sister made her appearance in September, 2016. Harper is your opposite. She is stoic and quiet (for now) and the two of you compliment each other very well. You have been a great big brother. You help take care of Harper and you make sure that I give her to somebody else when you want me to chase you — which is most of the time.

I’ve never seen anybody who loves to run like you do. “Poppo, I bet you can’t chase me.” I do my very best, but you are a fast little rascal and we run through the house and in the yard and anywhere else you can find to just take off and go. Even Rosie has gotten in the game and you chase her and then she chases you. Rosie and I seem to get tired a lot quicker than you do.

As usual, there are some big changes coming to the family. In August of this year, we get a new member of our club. Aunt Deeves and Knuckle Nate are having a baby! Ellie Jean will be your cousin and we can’t wait to meet her. You are going to be outnumbered by the girls, but I’m pretty sure you will handle it just fine.

You love popsicles, hot dogs, The Dollywood (that’s what you call it), the Aquarium and Toy Story 3. To tell you the truth, after watching that movie what seems like 100 times, I’m ready to move on to something else! You aren’t too fond of naps, but if we can convince you that after nap time we can do something fun, you are usually cooperative.

My favorite time of the week is Sunday afternoon. You and your parents come to our house where Nana fixes us a delicious lunch. After lunch, you and I go lay down on my bed where we watch a movie and then take a nap. I know that one day before long, you won’t want to do that, but for now, I promise you it is the highlight of my week.

I thank God every day for trusting your parents so much that He sent you to them. Your parents are amazing and Nana and I are so proud of the way they are raising you. I will tell you this…when they discipline you, Poppo has to go outside. It’s one of those things that I know has to be done, but I don’t like it one little bit.

So we now begin this new trip around the sun and who knows what the new year will bring. I do know this…God still loves you — He always has and He always will. Momma, Daddy, Nana, Poppo, Nonnie and Poppy all love you — and we always will. It’s a troublesome world we live in and it’s nice to know that there are people in this world who will always love you and have your back. I promise you this…your backfield is FULL of people who will do whatever it takes to make sure you grow up into the man God created you to be.

I can tell you this…grandchildren make life funner and funner every day! Poppo loves you and there is absolutely nothing you could ever do to make me stop loving you. I can’t wait to see how we handle being 3 years old. Happy birthday Scooter.

 

BEING with Jesus

“Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons.” (Mark 3:14-15)

As I read these verses this morning, I was convicted by the phrase “that they might be with Him.” Stop and think about that for just a minute. What does it mean to “be with Him?”

In 1978, I took notice of a young girl in my 10th grade geometry class. I probably should have been paying more attention to geometry, but I was a 10th grade boy. I assure you I was much more interested in girls than math! But there was something special about this particular girl. When I was around her, my heart fluttered and my palms got sweaty and I just couldn’t stay away from her. Her name was EDNA.

Maybe my approach was different from the one you would take, but when I took notice of EDNA I did not visit the library to see what I could learn about her. I didn’t search the internet — I didn’t even know what an internet was. Al Gore had not invented it yet. But that’s another story.

My point? I didn’t want to know a few facts about EDNA. I wanted to know EDNA! I wanted to be with her…ALL THE TIME. And the more I was around her, the more I wanted to be around her. This desire to “be with” EDNA has led me to being around her now for almost 40 years! And my heart still flutters and my palms still get sweaty and I still want to be with her…ALL THE TIME!

In one little phrase, Mark records the focus of Jesus’ ministry with His disciples. And Jesus’ approach was quite different than the modern church. We seem to be caught up in highly programmed ministries and leadership seminars and church grow ideas to reach Baby Boomers, Millennials and now Generation Z. On the surface there is absolutely nothing wrong with those things. I’ve read books about all of that and have greatly benefited from them.

But Jesus didn’t disciple the twelve by meeting with them once a week on Tuesday night and reading a few books. Read the verse again…“He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him” (emphasis added).

The thing that makes my marriage to the beautiful Miss Edna wonderful is that I love BEING WITH HER. The thing that makes our relationship with Jesus so wonderful is when we discover that we don’t need more facts ABOUT Jesus. We need more time WITH Jesus. Read the New Testament and do a study of the number of times Jesus told His followers to “abide in Him.”

Discipleship is about being with Jesus and allowing Him to speak through His Word and to guide us in our lives. Don’t get caught up in the culture of growing churches man’s way. Let’s stick with Jesus’ way…make up your mind that more than anything else, you want the presence of Jesus in your life…all day…every day.

 

Happy New Year

“In the beginning was the Word.” (John 1:1)

On December 11, 2016 I preached a sermon entitled “Before the Baby Came.” It was the first in my Christmas series for 2016. If you are interested, you can subscribe to my podcast through iTunes. It’s called 3 5 6 Podcast  (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/3-5-6-podcast/id894406067?mt=2)356 Podcastand the messages I preach each week at Valley Grove are there.

At the beginning of that message, I told the following story.

There is an amazing piece of art drawn by a Korean artist and given to the late missionary E. Stanley Jones. It is called “The New Testament Jesus.” It took the artist 2 years to complete the drawing. He meticulously drew the picture by hand with a very fine tipped pen. It’s not a painting, but a picture created by writing thousands of words with shaded letters.

It is actually the entire New Testament written out by hand. There are approximately 185,000 words on the picture with an average of 1,000 words per line. The letters are drawn; some thick and some thin so that they bring out this picture of Jesus. There are 27 angels surrounding Christ and looking at Him, representing the 27 books of the New Testament.

The original work was 6 feet long by 4 feet wide. The figure of Jesus isn’t imposed onto the words…instead the words reveal the picture of Jesus.

As I described that drawing, I told the congregation I had wanted to show them a picture of it on the screen, but the only one I could find online was from the E.Stanley Jones foundation web page. It was a picture of Dr. Jones holding the original drawing and was not clear enough for me to use on that Sunday morning.

I’ve been intrigued by this picture ever since I read about it. Just before Christmas, a man who faithfully attends our church (Mr. Rick Bowling) came by the office. He carried in his hand a framed copy of this picture to give to me. After I told the story, he went online to the foundation and bought a copy and had it framed for me for Christmas.

new-testament-jesus

If you notice, there are some imperfections in the copy. That’s because it is a copy of the original which Dr. Jones folded up and carried with him everywhere he went. If you look on the left side, you will see what probably is a coffee stain from the days of Dr. Jones. I can’t tell you how excited I am to receive this picture.

In John 1, Jesus is described as “The Word.” The Greek word is Logos. Jesus Christ is the WORD of God. As I look at this picture I am reminded that every word of the New Testament is used to reveal this wonderful picture of Jesus Christ.  Jesus was the Logos before He came to earth, He is still the Logos today, and He will always be the Logos of God. John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

I pray that in 2017, the WORD of God becomes even more real in our lives as we seek to share with others the Good News of the Gospel.

God Writes Straight With Crooked Lives

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:” (Matthew 1:1)

I don’t remember the first time I heard someone say, “God writes straight with crooked lives,” but over the years I’ve come to learn the truth of that statement. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the first chapter of Matthew as he shows us how the Promise was handed down and made its way through some rough people.

As you study the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel, you find that God’s Son came to us in all-too-human hands. Those hands were not immune to the terror and trauma of everyday life. As you read the names, you see people who are sinful and unworthy of grace…just like you and me.

What a gang of folks is this list of those who bear the message of Christmas to fulfillment. From reading Jesus’ family tree, I learn that no matter what kind of background we come from, no mater how insignificant we feel, no matter how inadequate we, God can, and God wants to use us to hand His promise of salvation to the next generation. God wants you and me to carry the promise of Christmas to somebody else. If people like those in Matthew can make it on the list…I think God can certainly use you and me to pass the faith on from one generation to the next.

Let me mention the last group in Matthew’s crowd that I find truly incredible. It’s Abi’ud, Eliakim, Azor, Zadok, Achim, Eliud, Eleazar, Mattan, and Jacob, the father of Mary’s husband Joseph. Do you know why I think that’s such an incredible list? Pick up a Bible concordance and you’ll find out why. Every other name Matthew gives us in the genealogy can be found somewhere else in the Old Testament, somewhere else in Israel’s history. But the names in the last group don’t appear anywhere. They are anonymous. They are nobodies. They simply make a cameo appearance in Matthew 1, and then they are gone.

Dalphon Thompson, Cornelia Sumner, Mildred Jenkins, John Galloway. Have you ever heard their names? Probably not. Why? They were my pastor when I got saved, my preschool Sunday school teacher, my high school Sunday school teacher, and the man who taught me how to whistle. They are anonymous bearers of the Christmas message. And you have a list of names like this too. You have an Abi’ud, an Eliakim, an Azor, a Zadok and an Eleazar. The ones who told you the Christmas story — the ones who bore the promise.

Anonymous…yet remembered. Insignificant, yet instrumental. Each one of us heard the Gospel from someone who got it from someone who experienced it through someone long gone. But they are there.

As you celebrate Christmas this week, I simply ask you this. Where does this wonderful Gospel story go from here? You’ve heard the Gospel, you have been embraced by the grace of God…and now…who will you share the Promise with? Are you ready? Carry this wonderful Christmas Gospel to the world!

Edna and I are thankful for all of you who faithfully read this little blog. I’m humbled that anybody would care a bit about the things I have to say, so your friendship through this medium is very special to me. May God richly bless you and your family this Christmas season.

Make the Gospel Attractive

“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (I Peter 2:11-12)

As we approach Christmas Day this week, I have been thinking about my testimony. My life (and yours) is a living testimony of the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A sinful lifestyle, words spoken in haste, unpleasant attitudes and behaviors can bring shame and discredit the cause of Christ. But Christlike living demonstrates the power of Christ to change lives and make the Gospel appealing to others.

In the summer of 1805, a number of Indian chiefs and warriors met in council at Buffalo Creek, New York, to hear a presentation of the Christian message by a Mr. Cram from the Boston Missionary Society. After the sermon, a response was giving by Red Jacket, one of the leading chiefs. Among other things, the chief said:

“Brother, you say that there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why not all agree, as you can all read the same Book? Brother, we are told that you have been preaching to the white people in this place. These people are our neighbors. We are acquainted with them. We will wait a little while and see what effect your preaching has upon them. If we find it does them good, makes them honest and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again what you have said.” (From the book Be Hopeful by Warren Wiersbe)

As you are out and about these last few days before Christmas, your life is being examined. People who need Jesus Christ as their Savior are watching. When they look at Christ through your life, will they be willing to consider the message of the Gospel? Will they see the pure, clean Water of Life or will they see impurities and uncleanness that cause them to turn away from Christ?

Dear Lord…in the way I talk and live, I pray that I will make the Gospel attractive to those people I meet today. Amen.

The Secret of Contentment

Please take a few minutes to meditate on  the words of our passage of Scripture for this morning….

“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know hot to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:10-13)

Contentment is a LEARNED behavior. Look at what Paul says…“I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” When you learn to be content in whatever circumstance you encounter, you will then be able to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I like the way the Phillips translation puts verse 13. It says, “I am ready for anything through the strength of the One who lives within me.” Contentment is a gift from God Himself. You don’t achieve it through hard work, willpower or psychological therapy. Contentment comes through Christ. You and I are “ready for anything” because the Christ who lives within us is constantly providing supernatural strength. I’m not content in my circumstances…I am content in my position in Christ!

There is an old “preacher story” that I have used many times to illustrate this point. There was a wealthy man from England who lost his only son in World War II. The son was a pilot in the RAF and he was shot down during the Battle of Britain. Years later, the old man died. He had lost his wife and his only child so he had no heirs. He instructed his attorney that his estate should be auctioned off and the proceeds given to various charities.

As a part of that estate, the old man had a priceless art collection. The auction was arranged and announced. People from all over England came to bid on this priceless collection. On the day of the sale, the auctioneer began by placing a portrait of a young man on the easel. It was explained that the man’s will said that before any of the other pieces of art could be sold…this picture…a portrait of the man’s only son…must be sold first. The crowd was disappointed. The artist who painted the portrait was unknown and certainly nobody there knew the old man’s son. As far as they were concerned…this portrait was of no value.

The crowd was quiet…nobody made a bid.

There happened to be in the audience that day, a man who had worked as a servant for the now deceased man. He actually had known the son from birth. He had watched him grow up and he remembered vividly the day word was brought to his father that the boy had been killed in action.

He thought that it would be nice to have the portrait, and since no one else was interested, he could probably get it pretty cheap. So he offered a bid. Since nobody else wanted the portrait, and since they were eager to get on to the more important pieces in the collection, nobody bid against the servant. The picture was his.

At that moment the auctioneer said, “Ladies and gentlemen, the auction is ended.” The people gathered there were stunned with disbelief!

The auctioneer explained, “The old man’s will further stipulated that whoever got the picture of the son got the whole lot.”

Whoever has the SON has the whole thing! Contentment provided by our relationship with Jesus Christ enables us to say, “I’m ready for ANYTHING because my strength comes from Christ.”

 

Just a Little Laugh

Some days, you just need a little laugh. Today’s that day for me. Enjoy this story I came across this morning.

A passenger on a dining car of a train many years ago looked over the lunch menu. The list included both a chicken salad sandwich and a chicken sandwich. He decided on the chicken salad, but mistakenly wrote chicken sandwich on the order slip.

When the waiter brought the chicken sandwich, the customer angrily protested. Most waiters (me included) would have immediately picked up the order slip and showed the customer that the mistake was his. This waiter didn’t.

Instead, the waiter apologized for the error, picked up the chicken sandwich and quickly returned with a chicken salad sandwich.

While eating his sandwich, the customer picked up the order slip and saw that indeed HE was the one who made the mistake. When it came time to pay the check the man apologized to the waiter and offered to pay for both sandwiches.

The waiter looked at the customer and said, “No sir. That’s not necessary and it’s perfectly all right. I’m just happy that you have forgiven me for being RIGHT.”

I’m pretty sure that I have needed forgiveness many times in my life and most often it was NOT because I was right, but because I was wrong. Think about that the next time you are tempted to inform the world of how RIGHT you are.