Monthly Archives: March 2012

A Bullying Solution

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Matthew 5:7

This was our verse for family devotion this morning and we tried to make it as real as possible to the hearts and minds of our boys.

How much violence, abuse and bullying would be avoided if this verse was taught and lived out?And in case you missed the barrage, which includes a new movie, bullying is a hot topic right now.

Let’s face it, there are just some people who beg to be picked on and excluded, and perhaps we have all been that person from time to time depending on the situation. But some people have a magnetism for mistreatment. Is it right when they are mistreated? Of course not. But some people just attract it.

And some people  are just mean because they have been mistreated or were never taught to treat others the way they want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). They probably mistreat because they were mistreated.

This scenario has led to suicide, school shootings, anxiety and a host of other social ills.

What if we taught our children Matthew 5:7 and told them to be merciful to the bullied? What if we taught them to be merciful to the merciless? What if we taught them to stand up for those who don’t always deserve to be defended? What if we taught them to love the bully? What if they knew that mercy is not receiving what we do deserve and Jesus came because we deserved wrath and He took it for us.

What if our children showed mercy by defending the weak? What if they understood that giving mercy was evidence that they will receive mercy from God through Jesus because they are being like Jesus? What if they understood that by showing mercy they might themselves be receiving mercy because by treating others the way they wanted to be treated they prevented a Columbine or Virginia Tech – “for they will receive mercy.”

Doesn’t every person want to receive mercy? Doesn’t every person want to be treated well?

Jesus gave us the answer to bullying. Why don’t we teach it and apply it?

Kill Your Weeds While You Can

I can’t recall seeing so many weeds, especially dandelions. Weeds of all sorts  have surrounded and are threatening my lawn. (Most, no doubt, are from Ryan Smith’s yard. He raises weeds – unintentionally.)

Should I care that much about weeds and lawn? Probably not. It’s a fruitless joy. But my war with weeds has reminded me of a truth that really does matter in life.

The thing I’ve noticed about weeds is the same thing I have learned about sin. If you don’t deal with them they will overwhelm you and defeat you. To maintain a nice lawn you have to constantly be feeding the grass you want and killing the weeds you loathe. Dealing with sin is like that.

Also, some weeds look pretty. They have flowers. They appear desirable. But there is a reason we consider them weeds and there is a reason we have a multi-million dollar industry devoted to killing them. Don’t settle for a weed when you can have a real flower.

One other thing I’ve noticed about weeds; if you don’t uproot them when they are small, when their roots are shallow, then they are really hard to get rid of. Unless of course you start spraying poison around the plants and grass you want to keep. So also we must deal with sin soon after it germinates. We can’t ignore it and hope it will go away. It won’t. Unwanted things don’t work that way.

So like weeds, fight sin constantly, killing it and pulling it up while it is young and don’t be fooled by appearance. If it grows up and sets roots and matures it will cause far more damage, time and toil than you bargained for. “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” John Owen

When Want Of New Is Bad For You

new

You know what is addictive – new stuff. New can be exciting and fun, and often feels good. Who doesn’t like a little exciting and new in their life?

But new isn’t always good or what we really need. Some of us are addicted to new for all the wrong reasons. Some us actually act like something new will save us – like it is a savior. Do you?

As a parent I’ve seen and felt the desire for something new. I’ve seen it in my boys and felt it in my wallet. More often than not when we watch TV or go to Wal-Mart, I hear something like this: “Dad, I want that so bad. Can we buy it?” As though a new toy or game will fulfill every longing of their young lives – the lure of marketing to little minds – and so eventually they might get it and they play with it, for a day or two, and then it joins the pile of forgotten toys  – as is illustrated in Toy Story).

We adults aren’t much better. We want new cars, new houses, new and less stressful jobs, our own new toys, a new church, new clothes, new technology and sometimes new spouses. And yet it never ends with the latest new. Does it?

The grass always seems greener on the other side and yet when we get to the other side we always find the grass doesn’t last long or stay green, and it always has stickers and weeds we couldn’t see from where we were.

Another area where I see this longing for something new is in the teaching of God’s word. Somehow we have come to equate hearing and learning something new with growth and maturity. I hear it and sense it in a great deal of what we do; teach me or show me something new. “Feed me something fresh!” is the cry of many.

The question that I would pose to others and myself is this: “Do you do what you already know?” And additionally, how can you handle something new if you can’t even do what you say you already know? What are you going to do with another tool when you have a bunch you don’t use now? Isn’t that what we call hoarding? Surely we all know that life isn’t just about knowing, it’s equally about what we do with what we know (James 1:22).

It is true we should never cease to be teachable and to learn, but it must be true that the real mark of a growing and maturing person is that we are faithful to apply what we already have and know. Maybe God is waiting for us to be faithful with a little before He gives to us a lot.

If a person can’t apply a simple command like 1 Cor. 16:14: “Let everything you do be done in love.” Why would we presume that more information is going to overcome our application deficiency?

Here is the big idea I am driving at: New is not bad, but new doesn’t solve what’s wrong or lacking right now, and that is true in every area of life.

For example, if a man or woman decides finding a new spouse is going to solve their marital misery, they have failed to realize that in some way they are contributing to the misery. It is never just one persons fault. Never. And unless they deal honestly with themselves to fix their own issues, they will just go on and create misery with another person, because they have just exchanged one set of problems for another. Everyone has issues, and searching out a new relationship just trades an old set of issues for a new and different set.

On a positive and redeeming note. This longing for the new, when rightly understood, isn’t bad. It means we were created to be perfect and we were created for perfection (Genesis 1-2). And one day we will experience a new and perfect reality as we bask in the presence of the Triune God (Revelation 21-22). God will restore the creation and make all things new and until then, if we are in Christ, we have hopefully been made new (2 Cor. 5:17). So we are new but we wait for a permanent, indestructible new (Rev. 21:1-7).It’s amazing how easily we lose sight of why we really long for something new. We long for that which we were created but worship the created instead of the creator who gives all good things. Left to ourselves, we are idol factories, making good things, god things, and in doing so we lose sight of the LORD God.

But wishing away where we are now is not the answer. As a matter of fact, what is to come should give us staying and obeying power where God has put us right now. We have the certainty  of new to look forward to, and let’s learn all we can about it, but let’s not turn newness into a cure-all and idol and wish away what we should be doing with what we know.

New isn’t always the answer, but one day God will make all things new. Let us live what we know as we get ready for a place where the new never gets old.

Mark Twain was Wrong

Mark Twain once said: “Church is good people standing in front of good people, telling them how to be good.” That is probably the way many see Christianity and church, and though there is a kernel of truth to this analysis, it is fundamentally wrong.

A biblical church is a people who gather in Christ to remind each other that we all like sheep have gone astray (1 Pet. 2:25) and that there is none righteous, not even one (Rom. 3:10-18). A true church will remind each other about how bad they are. But they won’t stop there. They will also remind each other that Christ lived perfectly (2 Cor. 5:21), died as a substitute for the unrighteous (Rom. 5:8), and resurrected, overcoming sin and death (1 Cor. 15:3-4) to reconcile us to God (2 Cor. 5:19). The gospel is that we are not good people, but God who is perfectly holy (Isa. 6:1-6) sent Jesus to save us from our sin. Our response is to acknowledge we have sinned against God and to trust all of our life to the entire person of Jesus Christ. It is then that God changes us to live righteously by the power of the indwelling Spirit (Ephesians 1:13; 2 Cor. 5:17; 1 Pet. 2:24; 1 John 3:23-24).

Have you turned to Christ by grace through faith? It’s the most important thing you will ever know and do. Ask someone who knows they are bad, but also knows that they are righteous in Christ and Christ alone (2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9). They know what church and Christianity really is.

Saying “I Am Sorry” Is Not Enough – Four Steps to a Healthy Apology

We have all said it and heard it: “I’m Sorry.”

But is this common statement enough? Is saying, “I’m sorry.” a real apology?

Does it truly resolve conflict and foster healthy relationships?

I often ask in premarital counseling why it isn’t enough to say: “I’m sorry.” Most people have never even thought about it. They simply do it because that is what they have seen modeled.

After all, what does it mean when someone offers “I’m sorry.” as an apology? Here’s what it could mean:

  • I’m sorry you feel bad.
  • I’m sorry I feel bad because you feel bad.
  • I’m sorry I got caught.
  • I’m sorry this is awkward.
  • I’m a sorry human being and I know it and you should too.
  • I’m sorry I wronged you and I feel bad that I hurt you.

The fact is, a person could feel bad for a number of reasons and still not truly apologize and seek reconciliation for what they have done.

“I’m sorry” is a good first action but it isn’t enough.

So what is enough? What is a healthy apology?

First, you have to mean it. People know when we really mean what we say, and more importantly God, knows when we mean it. So don’t say something just to alleviate a situation. Typically people who mean it will show it by their actions afterward, because if they are truly sorry they will take action to avoid further injury to the relationship.  So mean it and determine to live like you mean it.

Second, say you are sorry, but make sure you your expression of sorrow is for the right reason.  When you say I am sorry I hope you mean: “I am hurting because I hurt you.” Or, “I feel bad because I hurt you.” However, avoid the politician apology where you say: “I’m sorry if I hurt you or offended you.” Wrong! That means you are sorry someone is upset or mad and it probably doesn’t mean you are sorry that you wronged them. When you say you are sorry, make sure it is because you feel remorse that you hurt them.

Third, say why you are sorry. State specifically what you think you have done wrong. This enables both you, and the offended person, to agree on the specifics of the offense. This will help the person you hurt to know that you understand why they are hurt. If you have misidentified the hurtful action, then the person can correct you so you don’t keep making the same mistake again and again.

Finally, ask the wounded person: “Will you forgive me?” This is missing in too many apologies. Doing this is important because it shows that you know you need to be forgiven. It shows humility and sincere vulnerability to ask for forgiveness and that can be disarming.

Additionally, it allows the hurt person to own the process of reconciliation with their response. If the person won’t forgive you, then you know you both have more work to do, but if they say they forgive you, it provides a sense that a resolution has been reached and that you can begin to make sure the hurtful action does not happen again.

Without this question there is no way of knowing if both parties are satisfied with the outcome of the conversation. You need to have some certainty that you have done everything you can to make the wrong right so you can begin to work on preventing the wrong the next time – if there is a next time.

So here is a healthy apology: “I’m sorry that I ______________________ (articulate the specific offense). Will you forgive me?”

This is how my wife and I apologize to each other and our children. This is how we have taught our children to apologize. It is the the way I teach engaged couples to apologize. I believe this is the kind of apology that best brings about resolution in conflict and produces sanctification for God’s glory. It’s a lot harder than a simple: “I’m sorry.” But it is the most fruitful apology method I have come across when it comes to truly resolving conflict.

Have Men Changed?

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) was a great leader and great leaders have the ability of getting people to give themselves to a better and bigger mission and future.

I was recently reading Lectures To My Students by Spurgeon and was surprised (though I probably should not have been) to find that Spurgeon had to “plead” for men to be on mission.

Men not being on mission; has anything changed?

Probably not since Adam failed to take responsibility for the mission given to him by the LORD God (Genesis Ch. 2-3).

In 2009 the Southern Baptist Convention had 457 Journeymen (single missionaries serving 2 years) all over the world and126 were men. That’s a 3.5 to 1 ratio. In West Africa, where access is difficult and conditions on the ground are hot, arid, poor, and radical Islam is prevalent, there were 50 Journeymen serving but only two were men. Shouldn’t the men be going to the hard places? Not that women can’t, but where are the men? Is it true that they are leaching off of mom and dad, sitting on the couch, living in a video game fantasy world acting like they are doing something adventuresome when King Jesus has called them to the greatest mission in the history of the world. Whatever the problem, the numbers don’t lie and not much has changed in the past 150 years.

Spurgeon spoke this to the young men at his college:

I plead this day for those who cannot plead for themselves, namely, the great outlying masses of the heathen world. Our existing pulpits are tolerably well supplied, but we need men who will build on new foundations. Who will do this? Are we, as a company of faithful men, clear in our consciences about the heathen. Millions have never heard the name of Jesus. Shall we let them perish? Can we go to our beds and sleep while China, India, Japan, and other nations are being damned? Are we clear of their blood? Have they no claim upon us?

I put it to you man to man.

We must have the heathen converted; God has myriads of His elect among them, we must go and search for them until we find them. Many difficulties are now removed, all lands are open to us, and distance is annihilated. The danger incident to missions ought not to keep any true man back, even if they were very great, but they are now reduced to a minimum. Who will go? Then men who ought to go are young brethren of good abilities who have not yet taken upon themselves family cares.

Each student entering the college should consider this matter, and surrender himself to the work unless there are conclusive reasons for his not doing so. It is a fact that even for the colonies it is very difficult to find men, for I have had openings in Australia which I have been obliged to decline. It ought not be so. Surely there is some self-sacrifice among us yet, and some among us are willing to be exiled for Jesus. The mission languishes for want of men… and yet there are not the men to go. I shall never feel, brethren, that we, as a band of men, have done our duty until we see our comrades fighting for Jesus in every land in the van of conflict. p 217-18

I’m not down on all men. Some are fighting for king of Jesus. I’m not unappreciative of women who are willing to run to what men have avoided. But we need men to be on mission and until we see men on mission here and to the ends of the earth I believe we will continue to see the church lag in the mission for King Jesus.

Where are the men on mission?

A Tribute to My 100 Year-Old Grandmother; What She Saw and What She Sees

Yesterday I had the privilege of giving the eulogy/sermon for Hattie Bell Seabolt. She lived 100 years on planet earth (September 15, 1911 to March 4, 2012). I’ve never personally known someone who lived to see 100 so in my mind my grandmother was somewhat of a celebrity.

Soon after I learned of her death on Sunday Night I began to think about what she must have witnessed and known about from 100 years of life. She saw and experienced a lot of good and a lot of bad. Here are some memorable historical moments she lived through:

What She Saw

  • 1917 – The Panama Canal opens and the U.S. enters WWI.
  • 1920 – Prohibition begins and women receive the right to vote.
  • 1927 – The TV was invented and Lindberg crossed the Atlantic.
  • 1929 – The stock market crashed and the Great Depression ensues. My grandmother actually lived the Grapes of Wrath, traveling from Oklahoma to California with her family to escape the dust-bowl.

  • 1933 – Prohibition is repealed.
  • 1940s – WWII and the atomic bomb is used on Japan.
  • 1948 – The U.S. recognizes Israel.
  • 1951 – The First Electric Computer is made.
  • 1959 – Alaska and Hawaii become states.
  • 1960s – The Civil Rights Movement becomes prominent.
  • 1963 – JFK is assassinated.
  • 1969 – The U.S. puts a man on the moon.
  • 1991 – The U.S.S.R. is formally dissolved.
  • 1990s to present – The rise of the Internet and the proliferation of technology and information.
  • 2001 – 911.
  • She outlived three of her own children.

My grandmother had seen and witnessed much and she had experienced a lot of change. This gives some perspective on why she was the person I knew.

What I Saw In My Grandmother

I knew this woman well for many years and I realize now that she was a gift to me and those who knew her. As I looked at her face one last time all I could do was say to my Lord, “Thank you for the life of my grandmother.”

I have several fond memories of my time with her but several things stood out to me about her life.

  1. She was a tough Woman. This is evident by the long life she lived. For the last several years it seemed as though there were several times she would die, but she just kept on living. She was probably resilient because she lived through tough times like the Great Depression. I, as do many others, whine about how hard it is now, but most of us know nothing of hardship compared to what she lived through.
  2. She was a caring and sensitive Woman.She loved her children and grandchildren and spoke of them affectionately. She always wanted to be fair and swore me to secrecy if she gave me something she didn’t give everyone else. One time I went to visit her in the nursing home and she tried to convince me to load her stuff in my car and take her home. She was adamant and she pulled out all the stops. She told me that if I didn’t take her home she wouldn’t like me anymore. I couldn’t help it,  I started to laugh at her because I knew this wasn’t the woman she was. After a second or two she started laughing with me. She knew she couldn’t mean it, even if she did really want to go home.
  3. She was a loyal Woman.Even when I was very young, I would spend the night with her and she would start crying when she would think about her husband, who she married in 1926. On one occasion she took me fishing to a pond that was known to have a lot of big fish in it. I asked her to take me there a second time but she refused. When I asked why she told me that she was concerned that the man who owned it would think she was looking for a husband. She was true to the covenant she made to her husband.
  4. She was a woman who was committed to King Jesus. She was a faithful member of Enterprise Baptist Church. When I would go to her house she would always have her big black KJV Bible out. Many times I would come in when she was reading it. She talked about Jesus and the Bible. She was unashamed to do so. My mother said to me that there was “no doubt about her salvation.” My Nanny trusted and lived for her Lord as best she knew how.

I’m not saying she was perfect. I do recall her spanking me a time or two so that settles that, but  she knew the scriptures and she knew she needed a righteousness that she could not provide. She knew she was not perfect but she knew the one who was and she trusted Him as her Lord and Savior.

This was her ultimate hope in a world that she saw change so very much. This is the bedrock of what made her the woman I saw.

She had seen so much and I had seen a tough, sensitive and loyal woman who loved King Jesus.

What She Sees Now

John records the words of Jesus in John 3:36: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life….”

My grandmother is now seeing eternal life. In Christ, our loss is her gain (Phil. 1:20-21).

Revelation 21:1-7 gives us a glimpse of what my grandmother now knows and sees in a way that we can only imagine. She sees her Lord and knows no more pain, tears, sorrow, murder, oppression, decay, etc. She sees the Lion and the Lamb, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Alpha and Omega.

She saw so much on planet earth, I saw her life and now she sees the Creator of the heavens and the earth and everything in them.

What Would She Want For Us?

What is my grandmother saying to us with the legacy of her life. What would she say to us now? What would she want us to see and do?

I think she would say: “Meet me here by running to the mercy seat of God and surrender all of your life to King Jesus. Believe in Jesus and obey Him for He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).”

I think she would plead with us like the apostle Paul in 2 Cor. 5:20: “I beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

With the little we know from Revelation 21 and 22 how could we imagine she would say anything else?

If we believe and obey Jesus we will see my grandmother and heaven, but without radical abandonment to Jesus, we will see or have neither.

I have written this with the hope that my grandmother’s life will be a testimony that seeing and savoring Christ is everything. Her life continues to teach me as much.

“Only one life, it will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”