The bottom line is that when Deb and I got married, she was a virgin and I was not. One of the modern myths about sex is that it’s just physical and no big deal. I don’t believe this and that is certainly not my journey. The emotions have been all over the place in my adult life. At one point I can experience the true forgiveness and redemption of Jesus with an understanding of grace that people with less checkered lives just can’t understand. On the other hand, there are still residual times when I ache for my choices of sexual activity before marriage. I don’t blame the girl. I know it was my decision and it pains me. If there was anything that I could take back, it would be those pre-marital sexual actions that I took during the dark ages on my high school years and young adult life. But I can’t.
I’m not a country western fan. In fact, I like to tell people that God created music and then Satan made an attempt at it which resulted in country-western. Really, there are so many different genres of music that I enjoy from classical to Christian hard rock. Head banger music is what our church admin assistant calls it. I’ve picked up a love for Irish, Scottish, and English folks music of late and sometimes old traditional Russian music will find its way to my Pandora stations. A seasoning amount of classic rock is threaded through my week as well. But I just can’t make the switch to country-western. Ok, maybe some John Denver once in a while. But that’s probably a bit more folk than western. No, country music and I just don’t do business with each other.
My wife however grew up on the country twang. Many of those songs bring fond memories to her and set her at ease. I don’t naturally like country, but she does. Thus the question of what do we listen to over the car radio.
This afternoon I’m at my home office computer watching the live stream Memorial service for one of the men who encouraged me in ministry. His name is Roy Wheeler and he served in Amarillo, Texas for over 40 years as the Senior Minister for Hillside Christian Church. (Known as Paramount Terrace Christian Church when I was growing up) My first two suits came from Roy and those are a necessity, at least back then, for being a preacher. Roy came up to Joplin, Missouri in April of 1994 to hear my senior sermon and participate in my ordination service for full-time Christian ministry. Later on that day Roy said he was so impressed with my sermon that he wanted me to come back to Paramount Terrace and preach it for all three Sunday morning services before Debi and I left for Moscow, Russia as missionaries.
I wanted to make the memorial service today but with all the Hurricane relief that our Houston area church is engaged in, I just couldn’t make it happen. I’m sure that among all the people who were in attendance, there will be a number of men, like me, who owe part of their journey in Christian ministry to Roy. While it was Jesus who truly called me to this task, it was Roy and men like him who confirmed it. For that I am ever grateful.
This afternoon is indeed one of those times in the race of our lives when we do stop and think about those who have been a positive influence on us. For me, I’d say that the “A Team” list of older mentors in my life, who have encouraged me in ministry, would be Eric Wolfram, Max Goins, Mark Scott, Fred Masteller, Dennis Platt, Bob Gerhardt, and Steve Sigler in addition to Roy. Maybe for you, today can also be a time to remember, thank Jesus for, and possibly reach out to those who have encouraged you.
Likewise, as we live in such a negative culture today, the positive power of the tongue is such a rarity. I often ask myself whom I might encourage like these men have done to me. What about you? The reality is that all of us will be at center stage of a funeral or memorial service someday. At that time, who will be stopping and thanking Jesus for allowing you to be a positive influence in their lives?
One of the big items on my summer reading list was Rick Stedman’s new book, “31 Surprising Reasons to Believe in God.” I first met Rick while planting a church from scratch back in Nor. Cal from 2004 to 2009 and found him to be a humble and brilliant man of faith who truly loves people. God worked through Rick to plant one of the greatest churches in the Sacramento area which has blessed countless people across the globe. In 31 Reasons, Dr. Stedman systematically moves through various issues such as beauty, yearning for a better world, science, physics, philosophy, and a hopeful eternity which when looked at in detail all give us glimpses into the Divine.
I was expecting a car stereo for Christmas. A couple of tires is what I got. I think I was 17 and I had my first car. A gray 79 Pontiac Lemans. The silver bullet is what one of the youth leaders called it. I loved it. But it had a generic AM/FM radio and I needed more. So I thought. The bottom line is that while I didn’t want the tires, I needed them. A stereo cassette player is what I wanted; new tires are what I needed.
That was one of the first lessons God gave me in clarifying the difference between wants and needs. The fact is that God really hasn’t always given me what I wanted. But He has always given me what I needed and when I needed it.
Is it worth it? The time? The money? The sacrifices? Those were just a few of the questions running through my head and heart as I stood over the washing machine a number of years ago moving a load into the dryer. It was not a good season in many ways. I was serving full-time in a local church with very little help. We had two young and overly energetic boys. My wife was expecting baby number three in about two months. The real struggle was in her experiencing premature labor and thus confined to mostly bed rest. She was out of commission and I was wondering what in the world I was doing taking grad-school classes. The questions were logistical and about motive. Am I doing this for the right reasons? Do I really need to pursue an MA? Can’t I just as well serve my present job and calling fine with what I have? Then as I was reaching down to pull out the last handful of clean clothing I sensed the Holy Spirit confirming that I needed to stay in the fight.
Like many Americans I’ve been frustrated by the attitudes and actions of my fellow citizens since Donald Trump was elected and took office. But yet my somberness is not the same as the political angst being flooded throughout the media waves and coffee houses across the land. My frustration has to do with the body of Christ.
With an inordinate amount of unexpected projects and irons in the fire over the past four months, especially the past 30 days, I have been unable to devote systematic time to writing. However, postings will return the first week in April. Feel free to check out the rest of Kingdomology though.
I love these videos of Matt Harding dancing around the globe. The videos from 2008 and 2012 are probably my favorites. Below is the clip from 2016 and while I’m not stoked on the tune, I’m still enthralled by the beautiful folks from all over the world. Each video is a reminder of how big God’s creation is and how huge HIS love is for that creation. It is also a clear picture of the ultimate Kingdom of Heaven which is not about geography but people in whose hearts God rules. They are an ever present reminder of Revelation 7 that speaks of not only the present, but the future fulfilled Kingdom where a “great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, was standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” Also, they are an additional reminder of one of the most famous verse in the Bible; John 3:16 in which Jesus proclaims that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that WHOEVER believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” That statement by Christ is such a great proclamation of God’s grace and also the diversity of HIS love. All of mankind is included in the offer to respond this amazing grace. And that, along with Matt’s videos, just makes me smile.
What about God’s creation makes you smile?