Ba-ba-baby You Ain’t Seen Nu-nu-nuthin’ Yet – You Never Know Who You’ll Influence

“There’s someone here to see you,” my secretary said yesterday afternoon.  “He says he knew you a long time ago.”  She told me his name.  I remembered him, but hadn’t seen him for close to 40 years.

I went out to the lobby and he rose from the chair to greet me.  “Joe (name changed)” I said, “How have you been, buddy?”  Joe’s a long-time local musician, and the younger brother of a friend of mine from my old days of drugs, drunkenness and rock ‘n roll.

“I’ve been wanting to stop by and get your thoughts on something,” he said.  “I became a Christian a couple years ago and I think I’m going to have to quit my band.  I remember when you quit your band when you became a Christian and wanted to talk to you about it.”

“You remember that?” I said.  I’d been closer to his brother and couldn’t remember much about Joe.

“Oh yeah, I remember it.  I couldn’t believe you’d just throw it all away when you became a Christian.  Last I saw you, your band was playing in the barn on my brother’s farm.  It was a cold day and you said, ‘We’re going to sing ‘Ba-ba-baby you ain’t seen nu-nu-nuthin’ yet” by Bachman Turner Overdrive.  It ought to be easy ‘cause it’s so cold today.’”

I remembered that day.  Remembered the farmhouse bathroom floor covered with stalks of drying marijuana.

“Next thing I heard was you quit the band.  I couldn’t believe you’d just throw all that away because you became a Christian.  It really affected me.”

“Really?” I said.  “I had no idea.”

It was September of 74, and at the end of a Bible study I decided to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, which meant a few weeks later I’d have to quit my band. I’d asked our bass player, who booked our gigs, not to book any more in a particularly bad bar.  Not only was I exposing myself to temptation, but we sang songs that promoted ungodly things and provided background music for others to do the things we sang about.

A few days later he booked us into the very bar I’d asked him not to. So I called him and told him I was quitting the band.

“What! Are you kidding me?” He shouted. “We have gigs booked. What are you doing that for?”

I couldn’t think of anything else to say but, “Jesus told me to.”

“What?!” He yelled again. “Do you want me to come over there and string you up?” And he could have done it because he was built like a mountain.

“Not really, I said, “but do whatever you have to do. I just have to quit the band.”

Later I heard that lots of people didn’t understand what I had done. Some said I “got religion,” or “became a Jesus freak.”  Little did I suspect my decision would influence anyone.  Now 37 years later Joe tells me it affected him.

Every day we make decisions to obey Jesus and have no idea how we may influence others. People are watching us.  When we do our work cheerfully, when we shovel a neighbor’s walk, when we offer to pray for an unbelieving friend, when we respond to an insult with kindness – who knows how Jesus will use your faithfulness?

Around the Interweb: Great Photos, Beard Flow Charts, Did It Click?

How To Make A Command Sink or Swim: A helpful article from Kevin DeYoung on two different approaches to exhorting people to obey the word of God.

Little People In A World of Food: I loved the creativity of these photos. There is something very whimsical about these photos of little people surrounded by large food. Very cool.

These Kids Are Cool: These are some of the neatest engagement photos I’ve ever seen. I wish I had done something like this.

Beard Flow Chart: Is Your Beard Trustworthy?: After reviewing this chart, I don’t think that my beard is very trustworthy.

Are You A Hero?

This Sunday I interacted with several heroes. Not the comic book kind that swing around on Spidey-ropes, let bullets ping off their chest, and speak in a low gravelly voice while flinging Bat-A-Rang’s at baddies. No, these were real heroes.

My first heroic encounter occurred as I pulled into the church parking lot. Despite the lip-chapping cold, I was greeted by smiling parking crew attendants. Nobody pays much attention to those on the parking crew, but they’re heroes.

I walked into the church and was greeted by a smiling man. His name tag informed me that he was a “greeter”. Hence the greeting. I didn’t know this guy and didn’t catch his name. But his pleasant smile and warm greeting made me feel welcome at the church. How long had he been standing there, smiling to each person that entered?

I was led in singing by a bunch of happy, nameless people. They weren’t in it for the glory of being on stage, and they certainly weren’t making any money out of the deal. I did know one guy, Dave, who has been on the worship team since around the Civil War. He’s always a happy servant, always smiling. He (like me), is probably adored by one person: his wife. But he’s a hero.

After worship all the children made their way to Children’s Ministry. Hundreds of little hearts being instructed in the ways of the Lord. Little noses being wiped, crying babies being held. Nobody watching, no applause. Mostly hard work. That’s true heroism.

In Mark 10:42-45, Jesus said:

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

This past Sunday I was surrounded by true greatness. Two questions. Do we recognize true greatness? Do we pursue true greatness?

Originally published October, 2008

We Don’t Know What We Have

Believers in Jesus Christ are the richest people on earth.

We have every reason to be cheerful, optimistic, glad-hearted, generous servants, because we have been immeasurably blessed. In Jesus we lack nothing.  Though we may lack material goods and suffer affliction in this world, we look forward to an eternity of Christmas mornings where God will continually unwrap for us new riches in Christ, our Treasure.  As Paul worshipped God for our blessings in Christ, so should we:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, (Ephesians 1:3)

Paul regularly prayed for those he served to be able to grasp more of their riches in Christ.  He prayed because they needed God himself to reveal his riches to them.

“Our problem is not lack of blessings, but lack of insight and wisdom to understand and use them properly and faithfully. Our blessings are so vast that the human mind cannot comprehend them. In our own minds we cannot fathom the riches we have in our position in Jesus Christ. Such things are totally beyond the human mind to grasp. Only the Holy Spirit himself can search the deep things of the mind of God, and only the Spirit can bring them to our understanding.” –John MacArthur, Ephesians

MacArthur recounts a Warren Wiersbe illustration:

William Randolph Hearst once read of an extremely valuable piece of art, which he decided he must add to his extensive collection. He instructed his agent to scour the galleries of the world to find a masterpiece he was determined to have any price. After many months of painstaking search, the agent reported that the piece already belonged to Mr. Hearst and had been stored in one of his warehouses for many years. –John MacArthur, Ephesians

How can I be discontented when I’m rich in Christ?
How can I be selfish when God has blessed me with every spiritual blessing in his Son?
How can I grumble when I know the Treasure of Treasures?
How can I be unhappy when I’m a joint-heir with Jesus?
How can I not want to serve others when God has been so lavish toward me?
How can I not praise God for his steadfast love and goodness to me in Christ?
How can I not marvel that he saved me?

Heavenly Father, thank you for your lavish, incomprehensible grace toward us in Jesus.
Thank you Jesus, for living, dying and rising again to make us joint-heirs with you.
Holy Spirit, thank you for opening our eyes to see the glory of Jesus.  Please show us more today.

photo by fringefalcon

Hard Thoughts of God

One night a few months ago I expressed to my wife Kristi that I was feeling overwhelmed.  At that time she asked me an incisive question: “What are you believing about God right now?”

This is a brilliant question to ask any time you are feeling disquieted in spirit, or anytime you’re feeling depressed or discouraged.I answered Kristi, “Well, if I am feeling overwhelmed, I guess I’m believing that God is giving me too much to bear. I guess I’m believing that God won’t be faithful to help me. Which in essence means I guess I’m believing that God has lied to me and is not good.”

Kristi’s question revealed that I was thinking hard thoughts of God.

Many Christians think hard thoughts of God by believing their heavenly Father is continually disappointed with them. This reveals a deficient grasp of the Gospel, which tells us that in Christ God sees believers as justified — “just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned,” and “just-as-if-I’d-always-perfectly-obeyed”. In other words, because of the blood of Christ God declares us not guilty, and because of the obedience of Christ God declares us to be positively righteous. Our heavenly Father looks upon his children with overflowing love, gentleness and compassion, not disappointment, anger and frustration. If we think that God is continually disappointed in us that is thinking hard thoughts of God.  John Owen says,

“Consider that it is the greatest desire of God the Father that you should have loving fellowship with him. His greatest desire is that you should receive him into your soul as one full of love, tenderness and kindness to you. Flesh and blood is apt to think hard thoughts of God, to think that he is always angry and incapable of being pleased with his sinful creatures, that it is not for them to draw near to him…’I knew that you were a hard man’, said the evil servant in the Gospel.” (Communion with God, 31)

When we suffer and go through trials we can be tempted to think hard thoughts of God. We can think God is not good, God is not faithful, God does not hear my prayers, God does not have loving intentions toward me.

But the Bible is filled with promises like Lamentations 3:21-23:

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

What are you believing about God right now? Do you have hard thoughts of God? Or do you believe your heavenly Father is filled with love and tender feelings for you? Do you believe he delights in you and rejoices over you with singing (Zeph. 3:17)? Do you believe he is good and working all things together for your good? Do you believe his steadfast love to you never ceases? Meditate today on God’s tender love for you in Christ and give him praise.

Originally published November 23, 2007

photo by rsvstks

Murphy’s Law Or God’s Law?

When my father was in the army in World War II, waiting in line was a way of life.

Waiting in line to get your paycheck, waiting in line for dinner, waiting to see the movies, waiting to get clothing and equipment. He waited in so many lines he promised himself that after the war he’d never wait in line again. Until he found himself back home, once again waiting in line, with my mother to see a movie.

We can’t escape waiting, much as we’d like to. Murphy’s law says that no matter what lane of traffic we switch to, the other goes faster. And how is it that the cashier who’s never touched a cash register takes over as soon as I get in line? And I don’t even want to mention waiting in airports. Waiting is part of our lives.

Waiting is part of our spiritual lives. Waiting isn’t Murphy’s Law but God’s law. I’m waiting for him to heal family members. Waiting for him to change me and help me. Waiting for God to work in my children. Waiting for guidance.

Lamentations 3:24-26 says, “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him,to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Waiting is an act of faith. Because in waiting for the Lord, we are saying, Lord I trust in you. I hope in you. I have confidence that as I wait, you are being good to me and you are acting on my behalf. I’m trusting you for grace to come. Faith waits confidently for the Lord to fulfill his promises.

God’s word is filled with promises of future blessings. Promises we must wait for. Promises for our children. Promises to give us all we need to glorify him. Promises to protect us and keep us. Promises we wait for in faith.

James exhorts us:

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains (5:7).

Farmers wait in patient faith. They don’t go out and dig up the seeds every day to check if they’re growing. They trust that the rains have activated them underground and they’re growing. There will be a harvest. That’s how we wait for the promise of the Lord’s coming. We don’t see it, but something is happening. The Lord will come.

That’s how we wait in faith for God. God is at work in my children. At work in me. Like the rain at work in the seeds in the ground. And someday there will be a harvest. While we are waiting, keep watering God’s promises by prayer and thanksgiving. Ask God to fulfill his promises. And thank him that he will. Thank him for the grace that is coming.

Waiting is an act of faith. While we are waiting and trusting, God is working.

Originally published Oct 24, 2007

An Opal Ring And A Piping Bullfinch

Charles Spurgeon’s wife was an invalid for many years and usually unable to accompany her husband on his travels. She writes:

“One ever-recurring question when he had to leave me was, ‘What can I bring you, wifey?’ I seldom answered him by a request, for I had all things richly to enjoy, except health. But, one day, when he put the usual query, I said, playfully, ‘I should like an opal ring, and a piping bullfinch!’ He looked surprised, and rather amused; but simply replied, ‘Ah, you know I cannot get those for you!’”

Mrs. Spurgeon recalls how they “made merry” over her request for two or three days. Then one Thursday evening Charles returned from the church “with such a beaming face, and such love-lighted eyes, that I knew something had delighted him very much.” He held in his hand a tiny box, from which he took a ring and placed it on her finger. “There is your opal ring, my darling,” he said, and told her how he’d received it. An old lady whom Spurgeon had visited once when she was ill had sent a note to the church requesting that someone come and pick up a small gift for Mrs. Spurgeon. His secretary picked up the parcel and brought it to Charles, who unwrapped it to find the ring.

Mrs. Spurgeon writes, “How we talked of the Lord’s tender love for His stricken child, and of His condescension in thus stooping to supply an unnecessary gratification to His dear servant’s sick one…I can remember feeling that the Lord was very near to us.”

Not long after that God surprised Mrs. Spurgeon again. She writes,

“One evening, when my dear husband came from London, he brought a large package with him, and, uncovering it, disclosed a cage containing a lovely piping bullfinch!…He had been to see a dear friend of ours, whose husband was sick unto death; and, after commending the sufferer to God in prayer, Mrs. T– said to him, ‘I want you to take my pet bird to Mrs. Spurgeon, I would give him to none but her; his songs are too much for my poor husband in his weak state, and I know that ‘Bully’ will interest and amuse Mrs. Spurgeon in her loneliness while you are so much away from her.’”

She writes, “When ‘Bully’ piped his pretty song, and took a hemp seed as a reward from the lips of his new mistress, there were eyes with joyful tears in them, and hearts overflowing with praise to God, in the little room by the sea that night; and the dear Pastor’s comment was, ‘I think you are one of your Heavenly Father’s spoiled children, and He just gives you whatever you ask for.”

Mrs. Spurgeon reminds us,

“He who cares for all the works of His hand, cares with infinite tenderness for the children of His love, and thinks nothing which concerns them too small or too trivial to notice.” She concluded this story saying, “‘Bully’s’ sweet little life and ministry ended at Brighton; but the memory of the Lord’s tenderness in giving him to me is a life-long treasure; and the opal ring glistens on my finger as I write this paragraph.” (from The Full Harvest, The Autobiography of Charles Spurgeon)

Let us thank our Heavenly Father for his intimate care. Jesus reminds us, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Mt. 7:11) What a loving Father we have!

Bring all your needs and requests to him. Nothing’s too small or too great to ask – he even gives his children opal rings and piping bullfinches.

photo by birdtracker

Originally published Oct 28, 2007