Sunday, November 30, 2014

Day 334- A Learning First

Laura says her favorite day of the week is Sunday.  She says this is because we get to go to church twice, we get to see godly friends, enjoy good worship, and hear God's word preached (she actually said to hear her favorite pastor preach).  Today is her favorite day of the week.

Tonight, I preached on how to have an awesome family. There is a difference in an average family and an awesome family.  I want to have an awesome family.  We have a lot of areas where we need to improve as a family, but we sure do enjoy each other.  One of my points tonight about awesome families is that awesome families are growing families.  The Bible says in Luke 2:52, "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man."

So, today I asked some people what they learned in their families growing up for my "first."  I wanted to know what some significant lessons were that people learned from their families of origin. I asked people from all different ages this question, "What is one thing that you learned from your family?"

Here are some of the answers I received.

  • Work hard
  • Don't argue with your Momma.
  • Try new things.
  • Don't lie.
  • Always tell the truth. If a man will lie to you, then he will steal from you.
  • Show respect to your elders.
  • Immaculate table manners
  • Work hard; good work ethic.
  • Zip up the trampoline net before jumping.
  • How to have a good sense of humor.
  • Finish what you start.
  • Protect your sisters.
  • Be quiet and settle down.
  • Jesus loves me and how to cook.
  • Read the Bible
  • Learn about God
  • How to look up verses in the Bible.
What is something you learned in your family of origin?

There are some things that we learn from our families of origin.  These include but are not limited to things like:
  • Work ethic
  • How to handle feelings
  • How to do relationships
  • How to handle conflict
  • How to handle loss
  • How to relate to God
We help each other learn these things by example and by conversations.  The Bible says in Deuteronomy 6:7 says about God's commandments, "Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." This means that we need to have conversations about God and His word in everyday life.  There are all kinds of lessons in daily life that we can link to God's word and talk to our families about them.  Conversations about God and His word do not need to be limited to church.  That creates a kind of false idea that God is at church and then everyday life is about something else.  God is involved in all of life.

We are also to learn from each other by example. We need to see sermons as well as hear them.  My children will learn a lot about how to handle feelings, handle conflict, and how to treat people by watching Laura and me. They will hear me preach a lot of sermons in their lifetimes since I am their pastor.  They will also learn a whole lot from living with me and observing my actions. I heard someone say one time that Christianity is caught as well as taught.  I sure want my children to catch some real Jesus stuff from me instead of the flu (no, I don't have the flu; just an illustration).

Learning in the abundant life,

3 things I thank God for today
1. Lessons I learned from my parents
2. Blake singing "Mary, Did You Know?" in church today
3. Hannah Grace showing me the Youtube video "Pillow Fight Prank"-

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Day 333- A Thankful First

We've had a great Thanksgiving in our family. We had a wonderful trip home to visit family.  Everyone seems to be doing pretty well physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.  There is always room for improvement, but we thank God for how He has blessed us as a family. 

I was thinking about Thanksgiving today. At this time of the year, I hear a lot of people say something like, "I have a lot to be thankful for." I rarely hear people actually thank God for a lot. That does not mean they don't, but it is a lot easier to say that than it is to do that.  In fact, I wish followers of Jesus would say things like, "I thank God" or "I thank Jesus" rather than something like "I'm thankful." I've heard people who are not followers of Jesus say that they are thankful. I like it when people say exactly who they are thanking.

I also think it is very easy to say something like "I am thankful for so much" rather than actually thanking God for a lot of things. I decided to challenge myself to do a little thanking God instead of just talking about it or being generic in my thanksgiving.  I usually end my blog with 3 things I thank God for, but today I am going to list 50 things I thank God for as my "first."  I have never sat down and written out 50 things I thank God for in one sitting that I remember.

These will be in no particular order. I am just going to write as they come to mind and thank God for each one.

Thankful in the abundant life,

50 things I thank God for today
1. Jesus loves me
2. Jesus is Lord
3. Jesus is my Savior
4. Jesus is worth trading the whole world for
5. Laura, Hannah Grace, and Joel
6. My parents
7. My sister and brother and their families
8. The Hopewell family
9. A safe trip home today
10. Swamps in La.
11. Grace of a deer
12. The taste of a tender deer steal
13. The majesty of a lion that reminds me of Jesus
14. C.S. Lewis
15. Chronicles of Narnia
16. John Eldredge and his books
17. Billy Graham and his family
18. 1st Baptist Church in Baker, La. where I grew up
19. Rev. Allen Johnson who was my pastor
20. People that I've had the privilege to baptize
21. God has allowed me to be in His ministry for over 30 years (I started when I was 6)
22. Joni Eareckson and her ministry
23. Christian brothers and sisters at SLU that encouraged me when I was in college
24. Bill Bright and the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as Cru)
25. My health through these years
26. That I live in a place with readily accessible medical care
27. That I live in a place with readily accessible clean drinking water
28. Thumbs
29. Shrimp
30. Laughter
32. Christmas
33. Easter
34. Music
35. Missionaries
36. Christian retreats and conferences
37. God has adopted me as His Son
38. God has called me to be His ambassador
39. Beverly and Charles Massegee
40. Satsumas
41. Milk
42. Fish- the ability to catch and eat
43. Beautiful birds like cardinals, eagles, bluebirds, etc.
44. Motorized vehicles
45. A/C and heat in my house and car
46. Recliner
47. Jesus is the Vine and I am a branch
48. His name is Emmanuel which means God with us
49. His name is Prince of Peace
50. His name is Jesus which means He will save His people from their sins
OK, I just feel like adding a few more
51. Tomorrow is Sunday and, Lord willing, I get to worship with the Hopewell family
52. Restful sleep in a comfortable bed
53. Babies
54. Successful surgeries
55. He works all things together for good to those who love Him
56. Christian biographies
57. People who share Christ in jails/prisons
58. Seminaries and Bible colleges
59. Persecuted believers who stand strong for Jesus in persecution
60. Kisses from my wife
61. Ability to hold hands with my wife and children
62.  Snuggly kids
63. Encouraging friends
64. Privilege of prayer
65. Writings of Andrew Murray
66. Ability to walk and run
67. Squirrels
68. Watermelons
69. Podcasts - I can listen to sermons online
70. Pandora
71. Bible concordances- online Bibles I can do searches on
72. Teenagers who love Jesus
73. Families on TV who shine for Jesus like the Duggars and Robertsons
74. Charles and Andy Stanley and their Biblical teachings
75. Rick Warren
76. John Newton writing Amazing Grace
77.  People who minister to the homeless
78. Jesus is the good shepherd
79. Jesus is the resurrection and the life
80. Jesus is the living water
81. Jesus is the bread from heaven
82. The Lord's prayer
83. Green grass
84. Beauty of snow
85. Churches that have real prayer meetings
86. Faithful Bible teachers in churches across the world
87. Variety of colors
88. Mountains
89. Beach
90. Whales
91. Funny animals like dolphins and otters
92. Our dog
93. Christian bookstores
94. Christian radio stations
95. Hot water to shower with
96. Public school teachers who love Jesus
97. Christians who work in orphanages
98. Christians who work in our government
99. Francis Chan and his ministry
100. God's is omnipotent; God is able

Friday, November 28, 2014

Day 332- A Deacon First

Today is Black Friday. Laura spent all night shopping for deals for our family Christmas.  I spent the night sleeping.  I've spent the day visiting with family, watching some football, and eating delicious leftovers.  It makes for a great day, but not a plethora of opportunities for a "first."

While watching football, I started thinking about team mascots.  Some seem designed to strike fear into the other teams' hearts like Tigers, Wildcats, and Wolverines.  Some I'm just not sure about like the Ducks, Beavers, and the Banana Slugs (yes, that is actually a team mascot at a school in California).  There are a couple that really bug me. One is the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. I thought this started as a Baptist school.  Who thought a demon deacon was a good idea?  Where did that come from?  Since this is a year of "firsts," I decided to look up the history of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons for my "first."

Most of this information came from the Wake Forest website.  Their website says the Wake Forest athletic teams were originally known as the "Baptists" or "The Old Gold and Black." However, in 1922 the editor of the school newspaper, Mayor Parker '24, created the alliteration "Demon Deacons" to describe a major defeat over Trinity (now Duke). When Wake Forest College's publicity director, Henry Belk, began incorporating the nickname into his press releases, newspapers from around the country started to proclaim the success of the Demon Deacons.  

It was not until much later that the nickname became the mascot that we know today. In 1941, Jack Baldwin ('43) was dared by a few of his fraternity brothers to dress up as a Demon Deacon for an athletic contest. Baldwin decided to dress in a dignified combination of top hat and tails and proceeded to ride into the athletic match on a Carolina Ram, umbrella in hand. For the Wake Forest fandom, it was love at first sight.
"We tried to make him a little more dignified than other mascots," Baldwin says. "So we dressed up like you would think an old Baptist Deacon would dress up."

Here's an interesting story I found on one of the "deacons." The most famous Deacon of all time was Bill Shepherd '60 of Linville, North Carolina. Shepherd's fantastic basketball shot at Raleigh is now a Deacon legend. A natural clown, his antics ranged from out-twirling the nation's leading baton twirler at Clemson - with two plumbers' friends - to answering the Auburn fans' cry of "War Eagle" with "Turkey Buzzard," and being soundly thrashed for doing so. But the times Shepherd is most proud of are the ones when he helped prevent fights at the Carolina games.

Homegrown satsumas

The demon deacon- why not the dedicated deacon, devoted deacon, distinguished deacon, dynamic deacon, or even the domineering deacon (for football not church)?  This guy could even be the dapper deacon

That's kind of an interesting history.  I still don't like combining demon with deacon.  It is interesting how one editor can use what he thinks is a cute alliteration and it sticks for years to come.  It is a good reminder to think about the words we use.  Last Sunday in choir practice we were asking about someone that is a member of the choir. About that time, she walked in and one of our choir members said, "Well, speak of the angel."  Most people say speak of the devil and she said she just did not like the using the word "devil" to speak of a friend. I applaud her choice of words.  I heard a pastor say one time about a great service that all heaven broke loose.  Amen, what a great description.  People are so loose with words these days and as a follower of Jesus I don't want to fall into that trap.  Jesus said in Matthew 12:36, "But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken."  That should be enough to remind us to be careful with our words.

One reason is that our words have such power.  We have the power to make someone's day or break their heart with our words.  Much of our happiness or sadness in life depends on the words we use and the words we hear.  Why not make someone's day with a wisely chosen word?

Loving the sounds (at least some of them) of the abundant life,

3 things I thank God for today
1. Sight of an airplane flying in the sky
2. Fitly spoken words
3. Toothbrush

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Day 331- A V First

It's Thanksgiving today!! I fasted and prayed for my "first" on Thanksgiving.  You're right, I did not. 

Joel and I went walking this evening.  We started at almost dark. We were walking around the subdivision my sister lives in.  After dark, we were still walking and I heard something a bit odd. It sounded like geese.  I looked in the direction of the sound and I saw a V-shaped flock of geese flying in the dark. I checked my watch and it was 5:52. I saw and heard a V-shaped flock of geese at night with Joel for my "first."

I had no idea that geese flew after dark.  Perhaps something scared them and got them flying. Perhaps there is enough light around the neighborhood after dark that they were confused about what time it really was. They were flying pretty low; perhaps they were pets.  Whatever it was, it was odd and really got my attention.  Joel thought it was pretty cool as well.  He asked me why they flew in a V-formation.  I explained to him that it conserves their energy. The birds sort of draft off the bird in front and this cuts down on the wind resistance so they can fly faster and further. It really helps each other to fly this way. When the lead bird gets tired, he'll fall back in the formation and a different goose will take the point.

As I thought about this, it reminds me that as Christians we need each other.  We can do more together than we can independently.  When we have the encouragement, prayer, kindness, and inspiration from other believers, it really helps us become more of what God intends for us to be. I can sure lose motivation, purpose, focus, and an intention to live the life God has called me to live when I am not in close community with others.

I read somewhere that geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. I don't know if that's true or not but it'd be cool if it was.  If it is true, it's nice that the geese in back are not honking criticism. They could honk things like, "I think we're going the wrong way," or I'm tired, can we stop now?" or even, "This bird in front of me stinks (you could probably guess why)."  there is always something to be critical about but that never really encourages anybody.  We should have the sense of a goose and "honk" encouraging words to each other.  I'm glad for the encouraging honkers God has put in my life. Aren't you??

Honking in the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. Thanksgiving with much of my family
2. Encouraging people in my life that God has provided
3. Lessons from geese

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Day 330- A Reflex First

We were on the road traveling today.  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and we are looking forward to spending it with family in Louisiana.  We've not visited with our family in Louisiana since August; too long. 

We stopped at a mall in Mobile to get a bite to eat and guess what? Laura wanted (she said needed) to do a little shopping. Laura is good at shopping. In fact, she has a black belt in shopping.  She and Hannah Grace were looking at clothes and Joel and I were doing the "wandering around the mall wishing there was something interesting here" thing. There were a couple of interesting things but we had already eaten (think cookie factory).  I passed this small place in the mall and the sign over the door said "Relaxation."  I'm for that.  It was a massage place.  There was a little advertising paper (laminated) and one thing advertised was a reflexology foot rub.  I had a professional reflexology foot rub for my "first."

I've heard that reflexology is a cool thing. The information that I've read in the past (as best I remembered) said that you can affect different areas of your body by touching different places in your foot (feet).  So, this was fairly interesting to me. I've wanted to do something like this for a while and the year of "firsts" is a great time to do it.

As the guy got ready to start rubbing on my feet, I tried to make a little conversation with him. I wanted to ask about reflexology and what this foot rub was supposed to accomplish.  Alas, my foot rubber was not proficient in English.  I actually never heard him put a full sentence together.  He was pretty good at raising his eyebrows like he did not understand. So, instead of learning about reflexology, I just leaned my head back, closed my eyes, and relaxed.  Maybe I had a relaxology (my new word for today) foot rub today.

It did feel good.  He used his knuckles a good bit to dig into various areas of my feet.  At one point, he pressed pretty hard on a few certain spots.  I tried to imagine what part of my body this was supposed to help or relax, but I could not tell.  When he pulled on the little piggy that went wee wee wee all the way home I did jump a bit.  I'm a bit ticklish there.

Wikipedia writes, "Reflexology is an alternative medicine involving application of pressure to the feet and hands with specific thumb, finger, and hand techniques without the use of oil or lotion. It is based on a system of zones and reflex areas that reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands, with the premise that such work affects a physical change to the body. A 2009 systematic review of randomised controlled trials concludes: "The best evidence available to date does not demonstrate convincingly that reflexology is an effective treatment for any medical condition."
There is no consensus among reflexologists on how reflexology is supposed to work; a unifying theme is the idea that areas on the foot correspond to areas of the body, and that by manipulating these one can improve health through one's qi.

Reflexology chart

 Ready to start 

That's the little piggy that went to market
Happy, Happy, Happy 

Bible crosswords are fun to travel with

Sleeping beauty

I'm glad I was not trying to cure a medical condition with reflexology. I really wanted to relax and I did.  My feet even tingled for a bit afterward.  As I thought about this, I was reminded that we should not try to make things do for us what they were never intended to do.  Hobbies are for fun and relaxation.  Careers are to glorify God, provide us a place to witness for Christ, put our skills to good use, and earn a living. Money is a good tool to accomplish God's purposes here on earth.
When we try to use things in a way that God never intended, we run into trouble. Sports are great for entertainment but a terrible place to get your happiness in life.  Careers are good for putting skills to work and witnessing for Christ, but they are a terrible source of identity.  Money is a great servant but a terrible master.  It's a great lesson to remember that our security, identity, purpose, and our sense of belonging must start with God. If we try to find those things in people, possessions, or popularity, we are asking for trouble.  1 John 5:21 says, "Dear children, keep yourselves from idols."  Good things can become idols when we try to get something from them that we can only get from God.  It's a good lesson to remember. Now, I wonder if Laura would be interested in rubbing my feet...
Enjoying the abundant life
3 things I thank God for today
1. He can meet all of my needs
2. Family at Thanksgiving
3. Foot rubs

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Day 329- A Choir First

We had our community Thanksgiving worship service tonight.  We have a service with a couple of other churches to thank God for His goodness to our community.  The churches take turns hosting, singing, and preaching. Tonight, it was our year to sing.  Hannah Grace sang with the adult choir for the first time tonight.  I sang with Hannah Grace in the church choir for my "first."

Up until now, Hannah Grace has sung in the children's choir. She loved children's choir. She is now in the 7th grade and too old for children's choir (imagine sad faced emoji with a tear right here).  When we started talking about singing in the Thanksgiving service, Hannah Grace said she would like to do that. I was very happy about that, of course. So, we sang together in the choir tonight for the first time. That is something I definitely thank God for this day.

Here is something unique about this "first."  When we do our prayer and Bible reading at night, we sometimes sing a worship song (the kids used to say a Jesus song).  One of our very favorite songs to sing is "You are My All in All."  That's the song our worship leader picked out for us to sing tonight. She has no idea that song was special to us.  It was a special song for a special "first."  The greatest thing about it is Jesus.  The chorus of the song says, "Jesus, Lamb of God, Worthy is Your Name."  He is the only true Worthy One!!

A joyful noise

Rocking the choir

She likes my cap- it says, "God is good, all the time"

As I thought about this, I remembered that when Hannah Grace talked about singing with the adult choir I told her that several of her 7th grade friends have been practicing with the adult choir to sing in the Christmas musical this year. When she heard that several of her friends were singing that really encouraged her to sing as well. She felt much more at ease knowing that some other young ladies her age were a part of the choir.

It reminded me that our example can be a good encouragement to others. We teach much by what we do.  It is helpful to have friends that challenge us to grow in our faith. It is helpful to have friends who are stretching outside of their comfort zones to do things for and with Jesus that they've never done before (or I've never done before).  I find it very easy to get complacent and mediocre in my relationship with Christ living in the Bible belt culture.  Simply going to church and being nice is so accepted. Yet, there is sooo much more to following Jesus.  As I look back over my life, the times that I have grown the most in my relationship with Jesus were usually the times I had a challenging Christian friend; one who encouraged me by example (and words) to keep moving toward an ever increasing closeness with Jesus.  I trust you and me will have those kinds of friends and be those kinds of friends.

Thankful in the abundant life,

3 things I thank God for today
1. Singing in the choir with Hannah Grace
2. Hannah Grace's friends that joined the adult choir before her
3. Some guys at SLU that challenged me to grow in my college years