Archive | September, 2011

Not “Gone With The WInd”

15 Sep

admit that I am a movie buff. I love all types of movies.

Even the old ones.

One of my favorite old movies is “Gone With The Wind”. I actually have it on DVD. I am also a history buff so this movie feeds both of those parts of my personality.

In one particular part of that movie, Scarlett O’Hara is walking with her father discussing their plantation (named “Tara”). He makes this statement “My dear, ou have to love land. Land is the only thing that lasts”>

It’s a great line in the movie.

But it’s untrue.

Because one day, Heaven and Earth will pass away. Jesus Himself said that in Matthew 24:35. He said that His Words will last forever.

Wow, I can’t even always count on the earth.

But, I can however cling to the Word of God. I can rely on it. Because “In the Beginning was the Word” (John 1:1). It’s always been here. It always will be.

Sorry, Scarlett… you can’t even count on Tara.

But you can count on Jesus.

Jesus and McDonalds

15 Sep

As I write this, the news is on and they are reporting that Orlando, Florida is the fast food capital of the world.

I am not at all surprised. My wife and I spent our honeymoon in Orlando. It is the home of Disneyworld, the Universal Parks, and other venues of family entertainment. Nobody has time for a sit down meal and they are certainly not going to cook at their resort rooms.

So it’s off to the home of the quarter pounder they go.

I love fast food. One of my favorite things to do is take my laptop, go to my local McDonalds and work on sermons while munching down on a Big Mac or scarfing down some fries.

But eventually, these things take their toll.

Eventually, my waist line begins to expand (even more than it already has) . Eventually that leads to other health issues. As good as that stuff may look and taste, the long term effects can be life threatening.

Hmmm… there is a spiritual parallel there.

Sin looks good. It looks appetizing. Let’s be honest.. we love to take part in it. It can be one of our favorite things to do.

But eventually, it takes it’s toll.

Our seperation from God begins to expand (even more than it already has). Eventually that leads to relationship issues (with people and God). As good as that stuff may appear to be, the long term effects can be eternally threatening.

In my dietary habits, I have to make a conscioius decision to walk away from the Big Mac and walk to the salad bar.

In my spiritual life, I must resist Satan, flee, and run to Jesus.

In neither case, is it easy.

But it’s worth it!

On My Tenth Anniversary as Pastor

15 Sep

Last Sunday marked my 10th anniversary as Pastor of FBC, Lillian. As one would expect, milestones like this give one the opportunity to reflect.

When I first became Pastor, different circumstances (some of my own making) almost led to my resignation. While I am sure that FBC could have made it (and may have even done better) with a different Pastor, I am so glad God let me stay.

I would have missed so much.

I would have missed the many times I got to be in the baptistry and watch as someone gave a public commitment to their new life in Christ. Nothing is more thrilling for me than to see God’s work of redemption in action!

I would have missed the chili cookoff event we have every October. Ten years and I have only won one time. But the fun that comes out of preparing and “ribbing” the competition is a blast. And when you get beat by a 10 year old, well, that’s humbling.

I would have missed the times with the Lillian Fire Department. That is one of the finest groups of men and women with which I have ever been associated. They are willing to put themselves out every day to keep our county safe. I am so honored to have even had a small part in that.

I would have missed the thrill of seeing a couple come together in marriage, the opportunity to be a comfort to someone losing a loved one, the honor of being with a couple as they welcomed their first child in the world.

I would have missed the chance to hear a senior adult say “thanks for drawing me closer to God.”

I would have missed the many Vacation Bible Schools and the countless pies in the face I received as a reward to someone for high attendance.

I would have missed so much.

But praise God I didn’t have to. It has been one of the greatest joys of my life to pastor this church.

And the best may be yet to come!

Musings on September 11

13 Sep

September 11, 2001.

Yes, I remember where I was.

I was on 7100 Craig Street in Fort Worth.

I had just barely been married six months.

And I was between jobs.

I had just ended a youth ministry at a Fort Worth church and was preparing to preach in view of a call at a little church in Lillian, Texas and I was doing something I don’t get to do often anymore.. sleep late.

My mother called.

At first, we just made small talk. Then she says “By the way, did you know a plane hit the World Trade Center?”

At the time, the events were still new. So there was no shock in her voice, no horror.

I just figured it was a little Cessna plane. They had been known to crash in buildings, etc. I really wasn’t too worried about it.

I stumbled out of bed and turned on my computer.. and America Online was going crazy with news bulletins.

“2 planes hit New York towers!”

“Plane crashes into Pentagon”

“Plane headed for White House crashes in Pennsylvania”.

That’s when I woke up.

I ran towards the TV. Cheyenne was almost 3 and already living with us and I did what was to her the unthinkable.

I turned off the Barney video!

For hours, I just sat in front of the television.. like so many other Americans, I was in shock and disbelief. I wavered between grief, frustration, anger, and yes, fear.

The time that followed, if you will remember, was an interesting time for our nation. For a brief time, Congress and the President were united… there was nothing but mutual support as they pondered on exactly what to do about this unseen enemy.

There was a renewed sense of patriotism all over our country. Flags wove from flagpoles that were freshly placed in front yards. New songs were written. There was a feeling of both patriotism for our nation and defiance towards the terrorists.

And there w as a brief turning back to God.

The churches filled up. Prayer services were held. “God Bless America” went up all over the place.

It was a sad, yet strangely uniting time.

Years later, we are still analyzing what went on that day. How did it come to this? How did those guys get into our country? Could it have been prevented?

And the truth is that yes, it could.

There had been numerous terrorist attacks on American soil on a much smaller scale that should have given us plenty of warning of what was to come.

On January 25, 1993, Mir Aimal Kansi, a Pakistani, fired an AK-47 directly into traffic waiting to enter CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, which killed two CIA employees.

On February 26, 1993, Islamic terrorists attempt to bring down the World Trade Center towers by detonating truck bombs in the underground parking garage. The attack fails to topple the twin towers but kills six and injures over 1,000.

On January 6, 1995, a large-scale Islamist plot to bomb 11 U.S. airliners over the Pacific is dismantled when a laptop co\mputer is fortuitously discovered in a Manila apartment by authorities after a fire.
On February 24, 1997, an armed man shoots at tourists on the Empire State Building observation deck. The gunman’s note claims that the attack is punishment against the “enemies of Palestine.”

On October 12, 2000, Al Qaeda bombs the USS Cole, killing 17 U.S. Sailors .

As I look at this, I wonder “How did 9/11 happen? Why didn’t we see the warnings?”

And the only answer I can come up with is that we got complacent. We have been a nation that, until 9/11 had been relatively safe. No battle, no war, no conflict, no police action, had ever taken place on American soil.

We had started feeling a little too invincible, a little too much of an attitude that said “it won’t happen to us.. this is America.. we’re strong!”

And we let our guard down.

And that’s when they hit!

Now, recently I have been thinking about our nation in a spiritual context. And more seriously, I have been thinking about our nations churches in a spiritual context.

Events of recent weeks have literally brought me to tears.

I am sick of what I see around me.

I am sick of seeing total disregard for God’s standards concerning behavior, marriage, finances, general ways in which to live.

I look and I see homosexuality running rampant. Those who stand against it are called “racists” and “narrow minded bigots”. Yet the scripture makes it clear in Matthew 19, and Romans 1 (among other places) that this is not a lifestyle condoned by God. In fact, it is a depraved society that says it is okay!

I look and I see a perverse society. Marriage and the sacredness of it have been taken out of the American equation. The idea of “waiting until marriage” is now viewed as an antiquated concept and divorce can be done so quickly that it’s almost easier than getting married in some states. Yet scripture (Romans 1:24, 6:19, I Corinthians 6:15-20) make it clear that marriage is a creation of God and that sex is only okay inside that concept. It makes it clear that the marriage vows are to be kept.

I see parents allow their children to talk to them with such disrespect. In many cases, it appears that the children are running the household. Any child in our church knows that I won’t put up with it. I have called children down in front of their parents around here! The scripture makes it clear that we are supposed to honor our father and mother. Yet that seems to have gone by the wayside.

Our nation is sick!

The compass of morality has totally turned.

How did this happen?

It happened because we got complacent.

The church grew complacent.

The warning signs were there.

I mean, think about it.

There was a time when television was something the whole family could watch at any given time.

There was a time when if a parent said “no”, we actually took them at their word!

There was a time when people stayed “in the closet”!
There was a time when divorce was an exception rather than the rule.

What happened?

It didn’t happen overnight.

There were TV shows allowed on the air. “It’s only a show”.

There was the idea of “sexual freedom” expressed in the 60’s and in the name of being a “free country”, we allowed it in.

There was the idea of “artistic expression” being taken too far that now, anything and everything can be heard on the radio.

We started looking the other way when we saw sin instead of confronting it.

Are you getting this?

And then suddenly we as Christians are looking around and going “Wow, when did Satan start attacking so hard?”

Answer… “We let him start the process years ago”

And every now and then, the sins of this world cause us to fall flat on our face. We run into tragedy, financial ruin, legal trouble, marital trouble.

And we turn back to God. We renew faith. We come to the altar.

But in truth, we are doing it out of fear, out of worry that things could get worse.

And when things level off or get better, we are absent from the body of Christ again.. nowhere to be found.

Our faith in this world has become a faith of convenience and not an active daily walk with an Amazing Savior.

We are a nation, a society, falling apart because the body of Christ fell asleep and lost its influence.

I was told yesterday at a men’s rally about the meaning of the Stockholm Syndrome. Ever heard of it?

Let me share.

There was a bank in Stockholm, Sweden that was robbed and bank employees were held captive for five days. When the captors were finally released, an interesting thing occurred. They had empathy for their captors. They actually defended them and refused to testify against them in court.

I think that’s what has happened to the church. We have allowed Satan into so much of our society, refusing to confront it that now, we actually empathize with it. Even Christians are now calling things that are bibically wrong “right”.

We are in a big scary mess!

Okay, Pastor, thanks for the cheery word. What do we do about it?

The answer is in one of the most often quoted but seldom heeded Bible verses in 2 Chronicles 7:14,

And if My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

The time has come to quit seeking out our pleasure and seek out God’s pleasure.

Instead of making “our happiness” our goal. The time has come for Christians to kneel down in every decision and say “God, here is what I want to do. I want to pursue this lifestyle, I want to end this marriage, I want to punch that guy… but God, what I need is whatever you want. Tell me your will and though it may go against my flesh, I will do it!”

Too many read that scripture and only read the “praying part”.

But there is also the “turn from their wicked ways part”.

You see, that’s not talking about the lost. That’s not talking about the non-believers.

God was talking to the Children of Israel. He was talking to His people.

And today, He is talking to His people.. to anyone who wears the title “Christian”.

The time has come for us to repent.

To say:

“God, we have far too often put ourselves as number 1… we have sought our own pleasure instead of yours. We have become complacent thinking that Satan couldn’t attack us! But clearly he has, in every aspect of our society. So God, do something new in our nation.. but start with me! Let me clean out my closet,… make things right in my family.. make things right .. I am not my own . I am bought with a price and that price is the blood you shed on the Cross. Let me start living like the Cross matters.

Let me start being real!”

I want you to bless America, God.

But first, let my life bless you!

And when we do that, then God says “I will heal their land”

But it can’t be a camp commitment that we put aside the next week. It’s got to be the type of thing that is ongoing.. allowing God to work a process in our lives.

I am tired of the position our nation is in. But I know the answer lies within the church and its ability to repent.

And I know it starts with me.

Who will start with me?

God and TV

8 Sep

Today, I was watching TV with my wife. “Big deal”, you might say. But the Hope household has recently acquired something that I have always wanted…. the ability to pause live TV. Technology has moved so fast that you can now pause a TV show that has not been recorded. So if I have to go to the refrigerator, get a phone call, or listen to my daughter, I can avoid missing an entire TV show with just the click of a button.

This has made my life so grand.

And I got to thinking… wouldn’t it be great if we could do life that way. So often, distractions get in the way of things we want to be a part of and before we know it, we’ve missed them. Quality time with the children, romantic time with the spouse, the opportunity to tell a friend what they mean to us. We mean to do it . We just don’t think we have the time. After all, there is money to be made, bills to be paid, and naps to be had.

You know, the important stuff. Right?

When it finally happens that we realize the tragedy of a missed opportunity, it’s too late to get it back.

Yes, it would be great if we could pause life. But unfortunately, that is impossible and I don’t hink technology will ever make it so.

So what do we need to do? Thank God for every moment and use it to His glory!

“Only one life.. twill soon be past… only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Hello world!

8 Sep

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