Monday, November 26, 2007

"Please, Sir, May I Have Some More?"

Oliver Twist asked this question and he got into some deep trouble. But it was his duty. The orphans had cast their lots and Oliver was chosen. So he asked the master for more gruel. More gruel! Now there are a lot of things to ask for, but more gruel? For these poor orphans in Dicken's classic novel, gruel was worth asking for. It was a basic need that gave them some sense of fulfillment. They needed it to live.

So when my son asked for more last Sunday morning, I shouldn't have been surprised. However, the nature and location of his request did not involve gruel from a nasty orphanage mess hall. It originated in a place where most people are found asking for less. It was within the four walls that many never enter which find the mainstays hoping for an early exodus. He was there, right next to me on the pew. The box had been filled in with an "x." It signified "more."

Most churches give visitors an opportunity to fill out visitor's cards. My son had picked one up. I filled out the information (name, address, et cetera). Of course there are also those sentences with a box next to them you can fill with an "x." These include such questions as:
[ ] I am new in the area.
[ ] I am looking for a church home.
[ ] I am just visiting.
[ ] I would like a visit from the preacher or a member.
[ ] I am a member of ________________________________________.

Some of these applied to us. But there was another one that also should have applied. After I had marked the appropriate boxes, my son editted the card by checking this one:

[ ] I would like to know more about the church of Christ.

Then he looked up at me and smiled, as if to say, "Dad, you forgot this one."

He was right. I am very thankful that my son wanted to know more about the church. But I am also very thankful that he reminded me that I still want to know more about it as well. Me, the preacher. Me, the one raised in the church. Me, the adult, the father, the teacher, the man. Me, the child.

I will never forget the lesson my son taught me with a simple "x" in the box. There is so much more to know about the church. There is so much more to know about the Savior. It is a life-sustaining, basic need worthy of the asking.

"Please, Sir, May I Have Some More?"

"Finally, brethren, we beseech and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God, just as you are doing, you do so more and more."
~ 1 Thessalonians 4:1

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I Must Tell Jesus

When Elijah Hoffman penned the words to the song "I Must Tell Jesus" over 100 years ago, he must have had Hebrews 4:15 in his mind. "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin." Another verse in Hebrews explains, "For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted" (Hebrews 2:18).

These things being so, I often find it difficult that some advocate that it is sinful to offer any type of worship to the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. It is obvious from Scripture that the heavenly host will worship Jesus throughout eternity (Rev. 5:13). We should understand that singing songs like "I Must Tell Jesus" are not only permissible, but they can bless our lives in very special ways.

One such example was given to me this week by my wife's grandmother, Ruth Turner. Ruth is in an assisted living facility now. In the ten years I have known her she has lost much of her ability to do things both physically and cognitively. She usually doesn't know who we are anymore, or at least she is confused about where to place people and events. But inside her heart her love for Christ remains as the most simple and yet beautiful grace in her life.

When we went to celebrate Thanksgiving lunch with her on Tuesday, a meal provided by the facility where she now lives, the grandkids sang some spiritual songs for encouragement. In a pause between songs, Ruth began to sing softly, and sweetly. "I Must Tell Jesus." The rest of us then began to sing it with her.

You see, Ruth must tell Jesus. She must tell Jesus the things that the rest of us cannot yet understand. She has lost her husband, the love of her life and her companion for more than 60 years. She has lost the days of her ability to do many of the things that once brought her enjoyment. She understands loneliness. She understands heartache. She understands trials. She also understands that the one person she must talk to to overcome is the only Savior and consolation of mankind.

When we are alone, and no one else understands, we must tell Jesus. When we are tempted, and no one else is strong enough, we must tell Jesus. When we are hurting, and no one else sympathizes with our pain, we must tell Jesus. Jesus came because God knew we could not bear the burden alone.

I must tell Jesus all of my trials;
I cannot bear these burdens alone;
In my distress He kindly will help me;
He ever loves and cares for His own.


I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
I cannot bear my burdens alone;
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.

I must tell Jesus all of my troubles;
He is a kind, compassionate friend;
If I but ask Him, He will deliver,
Make of my troubles quickly an end.


Tempted and tried, I need a great Savior;
One Who can help my burdens to bear;
I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus;
He all my cares and sorrows will share.


O how the world to evil allures me!
O how my heart is tempted to sin!
I must tell Jesus, and He will help me
Over the world the victory to win.


~ Elijah Hoffman (1893)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Thankgiving Vacation

That's right, not Christmas vacation, but Thanksgiving vacation. My family and I will be using the last week I have of vacation for Thanksgiving week. So the blog may suffer from lack of updates. But I will try to get to it. God bless all of you, and I hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Near Jerusalem in the Valley of Hinnom, there once existed a most horrifying place. First mentioned in Joshua 15:8; this deep and narrow ravine just outside the city walls served as a refuse dump. Day and night a fire burned in this terrible pit. Sometimes sulfur (or brimstone) was added to keep the flames going.

It was here that the dead bodies of executed criminals and others who were deemed unworthy of a proper burial met their end. They were cast out like the rest of the garbage and human waste. The Canaanites also sacrificed their children there to the false god Moloch or Baal, the one they called the “Sacred Bull.” The pagan priests would beat drums as loudly as possible so parents could not hear the screams of their children as they burned to death.

Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible Volume I, explains, “It became the common lay-stall garbage dump of the city, where the dead bodies of criminals, and the carcasses of animals, and every other kind of filth was cast.”

Above the heap was a steady stream of smoke, and the stench could be smelled by locals and travelers for miles. Around the edges of this forsaken place dogs lined up, gnashing their teeth as they attempted to get to the garbage.

What would someone call such a place? The Greek word was Gehenna, meaning “The Valley of Hinnom’s Son.” If you look for the word in your Bible you will not find it. But the English substitute is well understood, “hell.”

The Son of God used this word to describe the place reserved for eternal punishment. He said in Matthew 10:28 it is a place where both body and soul would be destroyed. He said in Mark 9:43-44 it is a place “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” He said to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:33, “Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?”

Gehenna was a real place. It was a place so awful that Jesus used it to foreshadow another real place even more terrifying: a place with no light, no love, no hope, and no God.

Jesus therefore issued a very important warning while on the earth, And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:4-5).

Do we fear God? We should! Hell is being prepared (Matthew 25:41). If Gehenna was the last place on earth anyone would ever want to be, I can assure you it is the last place anyone would want to be in eternity.

“How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him?” ~ (Hebrews 2:3)

Monday, November 12, 2007

An "I wish this weren't true" Story

Recently on a facebook group the discussion has centered around Bible class attendance. The question was "What can we do to encourage people to attend?" Let's face it, there are some folks who just won't come to Bible class. It doesn't matter what you do, they are not interested.

This past Sunday morning an amazingly tragic moment in the history of Bible class took place. A friend of mine, who works for a congregation of about 250, noticed a mother and two children come into the auditorium and sit down during the Bible class hour. They are not usually at Bible class. They had forgotten to set their clocks back, and so they sat down thinking it was time for worship.

When they realized their mistake, do you want to guess what they did? If you thought the worst you were correct. They left! And they came back again in an hour for worship! Don't you wonder what they did with the hour they could have spent with God's word?

I wonder how much those children will ever know about the Bible? This is the first time I have ever written an article with no idea how to end it. I don't even know what to write. There is nothing else to say.

I Will Not Forget

As I stood with my family yesterday in front of the Pulaski St. church building, I saw a sight I will never forget. We were there to watch my son walk in his first parade as a cub scout. I imagine it was destined to be one of those unforgettable days anyway. But on this Veteran’s Day, coming down the street, there was a worn, blue van with a window open and a small American flag hanging from the opening. The van said, “Countryside Healthcare.” There was a driver, and in the passenger seat there was a very elderly man. He was hunched over, just peeking out the window. He could not move, for years of work and sacrifice were weighing his body down. I knew he was a veteran. I knew he had served my country. He was one of the willing ones; one of the doers; one of our country’s finest. But all he had left was a humble ride in a van. He said nothing, and his face had little expression. It may have been that he was not able to speak, though it was sure that the life that he had lived was speaking for itself. As I looked into the window I thought about the fact that this may be his last memory of a day like this. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t even know how well he could see me. But in this sparsely populated crowd, where many had rather sit at home or do something else than attend such a parade, our eyes made contact with one another. What do you say to a hero? I waved, and I said, "Thank you." It is a moment I will never forget.

And I will not forget. I will not forget, no matter who burns a flag and calls it freedom of speech. I will not forget, no matter who refuses to support the cause for which we have fought and continue to fight. I will not forget, no matter what challenges lie ahead concerning freedom and the price that has been and must be paid so that people can obtain it. I will not forget about our real heroes. I will not forget what they have done for me. I will not forget.

"Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren" ~ Deuteronomy 4:9

Friday, November 9, 2007

Appreciating Potlucks

Recently at my son's cub scout meeting, it was announced by the pack leader that at the next meeting we were going to celebrate Thanksgiving "potluck style." She then asked if the boys knew what a potluck was. Only about half of them knew. My first thought - these boys have never worshipped with the churches of Christ.

Everybody who has spent anytime in the church has something they can remember about potlucks. I have a ton of memories. Maybe you can identify with a few:

1. There are the memories of potlucks at the Livingston church of Christ. If you have never had a bum steer than you have never been to a Livingston potluck. Also, if you needed a report on edible dishes you could ask Nikki Boyd. She was the one who would make sure everybody knew which dish a certain family had brought. This is because their countertops were napping spots for their many cats. Also, their children would drink straight from the 2-liters.

2. There are the memories of potlucks at the Turlock church of Christ. These were given a special name by my sister's father-in-law. To protect all parties I will not give the name, but he called them "(last name here) Sundays." That is because a certain family, who came maybe once a month, could be counted on for the potlucks. If there was a meal, they were there and they were first in line. You could also see them filling up plates "to go."

3. There are the memories of potlucks at the Buena Park church of Christ. I only remember these because I was young and remember how much fun we had just spending time with friends. I remember eating hot dogs in the summertime out in the grass between the buildings. This was a great time in my life, and I had some of my best friendships and moments of spiritual growth in these years. My parents also were in charge of youth group events, so I was exposed to many older teenagers who were Christians. I still remmeber the ice-cream supper night when my friend David's younger brother ran into a pew and split his head open.

4. There are memories of potlucks with special people long since past. Many dishes we have admired from great cooks are no longer available. You know what I am talking about. Nobody could make a pie, or pickles, or fried chicken like sister you know who. But this is not what we miss. We miss their generosity, friendship, and their Christian attitude of service. We miss their presence in our lives. We miss their smiles and their examples.

David Pinckley has instructed me on the finer art of naming these meals. He does not like to call them potlucks, but rather, "covered- dish" dinners or suppers. I guess some people would like to remove all luck from the equation. But I do think there is luck involved. Perhaps we can call it providence. This is because I am so thankful that my son and myself were not in the group who didn't know what a potluck was. So we can be thankful for the fellowship of the saints in all of its different forms. We understand because we are children of God.

"that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me." ~ Romans 1:12

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

How Important is it....Really?

"Surprised to see an empty seat at the Super Bowl stadium, a diehard fan remarked about it to a woman sitting nearby. 'It was my husband's,' the woman explained, 'But he died.' 'I'm very sorry,' said the man. 'Yet I'm really surprised that another relative, or friend, didn't jump at the chance to take the seat reserved for him.' 'Beats me,' she said. 'They all insisted on going to the funeral.'"
~ Coffee Break Ministries

This may seem like a funny little illustration. The sad thing is that for some people, this may not be too far from true. Football is a great American pastime. I enjoy it as much as anybody. When I was able to attend my first Vols game in Knoxville, I was very excited. The game lived up to be even greater than I had expected. The atmosphere was like nothing I had ever experienced for a game.

But it is very important that we always keep things in perspective. So here are a few reminders when it comes to sports:

1. It is only a game. Some people base their mood and everything in their lives upon a win or a loss. After Phillies reliever Mitch Williams gave up a World Series winning home run to Joe Carter in 1993, Phillies fans pelted him with hate mail and serious threats. It caused Williams to start packing a gun. He retreated to his Texas ranch, thought about quitting baseball, and was later traded.

2. Keep your spending to a minimum. Someone said, "Imagine another world looking down at 60,000 people who pay $900,000 to sit in a stadium that cost $45 million to watch 22 men being paid $7 million a year dispute the possession of a ball that costs $16.95." Billions of dollars are spent each year on sports. There is nothing wrong with recreational spending. But we might ask ourselves how much we spend on these things in comparison to what we give to the Lord.

3. Value your friendships. I have seen what sports can do to relationships, and it is not pretty. When church basketball games end up in fist fights, when sports tournaments bring out the worst attitudes ever displayed in public by those who claim to be Christians, and when pride over a win or loss keeps brethren from wanting to talk to one another - we have a problem.

There is more to say on this subject, but the final point has to do with what it all amounts to in the whole scheme of things. When Jesus comes there will only be one victory for us to be concerned with. The importance of being on the winning team in this case is eternally significant.

"And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown." ~ 1 Corinthians 9:25