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Archive for November, 2008

Lets Eat!

Exodus 16:1-15           

When it comes to great holiday meals like thanksgiving and Christmas, there is one thing we must never do and that is fast.  Why not fast?  The reason we should never fast during times like these is because we are celebrating.  We celebrate family, good friends, and ultimately the greatness of God through or Lord Jesus Christ.  In the Old Testament found in the book of Exodus is the story of the Israelites being brought out of slavery and bondage from the land of Egypt and eventually into the promised land known as Israel (modern day Palestine).  As we know from the Bible this was no quick trip.  The Israelites wondered for 40 years in the wilderness in part because of their sin and lack of faith.  During that time of wondering do you know what their main concern as a community was?  Was it fear of rival nations, wild animals, communal disease, or concern for lack of adequate housing?  No, their biggest concern as recorded by the scriptures was food!  They wanted to know how they were going to be fed.  The wilderness wandering Hebrew were hungry and grumpy.  They said ok Moses so God brought us out of slavery and bondage for what, to starve to death?  In verse 3 of chapter 16 the Bible tells of some that wished they had died in the Lord’s hand back in Egypt, and some apparently thought those were the good old days of food and fun. 

            Well the Bible says God heard their grumbling and promised through his mediator Moses that he would provide food for the people (v.12).  The next morning the Israelite camp to something mysterious covering the ground, they began to shout “manna, manna, meaning “what is it?”  Well it was bread, and more specifically bread from heaven.  God by His miraculous hand had supplied the people with food, and for the moment they were satisfied.  So what does this have to do with you and me eating a 3,000 calorie meal for lunch/dinner on Thanksgiving Day?  Our Thanksgiving Day meal is a theological act in which we celebrate the goodness of God through His every provision for our lives.  We come together with family and friends and remember God’s faithfulness to His people through out the ages.  We cut a turkey, pile on some dressing, fix more side dishes than our over-sized plates can hold,  go back for more, and the entire time celebrate the food God has yet again provided for His people.  This is no day to diet, no day to fast, no day to hold back.  This is the day and time to feast. We will feast while gathered around tables sharing stories and passing babies.  It is no coincidence we celebrate all great days and events with food.  Food is not just a stomach issue when it comes to hunger.  Food is a hunger issue that reminds us that Jesus alone is the bread of life (John 9:36), and He alone satisfies the desire to be fed that rises up inside us all and extends well beyond food. So for a day on Thursday eat, and eat, and eat.  Don’t complain about the number of calories you consume or the numerous pieces of pecan pie you eat.  Instead celebrate by remembering God’s goodness with all those gathered together.  And most of all rejoice in God’s faithfulness to all his people from Abraham until He returns.  That is of course the promise of His Messiah, His Son Jesus Christ who alone atones for the sins of those who know Him.  On Thursday November 27th at approximately 11:30 am you will find me on a farm in Sardis Alabama with my wife by my side, and my daughter in arm. That day I will be feasting on food to good for description. The meal will have absolutely nothing to do with pilgrims and Indians making peace, and everything to do with God making peace with sinners through the sacrifice of His Son.  I’ll eat to that!         

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Contestant: I’ll take how friendship died for 1,000.  Alex: This social on-line network is partly to blame for the collapse of true friendship.  Contestant:  What is Facebook.  Alex:Correct.  Perhaps that is a bit apocalyptic, but I believe in these we are are facing a relationship crisis when it comes to deep meaningful friendships.  For those of you out there who either just woke up from a ten year coma, were hyper-genically frozen since 1957, or just discovered the Internet, then you probably know about the on-line social network called Facebook.  It’s a place where you can tell people all about yourself, re-connect with old friends, keep people current with pictures and even up to the minute updates on what you are doing.  Sounds great right?  No so fast, says Lee Corso.  While there are many positives to Facebook, there are also many negative aspects that need to be addressed.  Such as…..You can be friends with someone you don’t even know.  Is that even possible?  Well in Facebook world it is.  All you have to do is send someone a friend request.  You don’t have to know them, nor they you.  And then you have the power to accept or reject your aspiring “friend”.  Wow if that ain’t friendship, well I guess it don’t exist(that’s the Alabama in me talking right there).  You can have as many or few “friends” as you like.  The more friends you get the more popular you will likely feel.  And if you not receiving the love you so desperately deserve, just ask some people you don’t know to be your “friend”, the you’ll have more friends and feel good about yourself.  Another great thing is, you really don’t have to talk to people you do know and would normally spend time with socially, or talk on the phone.  Now you can just send them a face book message, or if they are connected at the same time you are, instant message each other back and forth.  I mean nothing says meaningful dialogue like typing abbreviated words, and using symbols to communicate tone and mood.  Yeah I read what your saying, in fact I hear you.  The way I see it who needs talking anyway.  It’s only been the primary means of communication from forever.  But since we found a better and easier way to “connect”  lets do that instead.  Talking is hard anyway.  You can do like a close friend of Tenly’s whom she had attempted to call and email several times in an effort to speak with her on the phone.  After many failed attempts, and just after joining Facebook herself, Tenly requested her friend be her Facebook Friend.  As if all other form’s of communication had been down with Tenly’s friend except good ol’ Facebook, which was up and running smoothly.  Tenly got more messages from this friend via Facebook in three days than she had in three months of trying to contact her the out dated ways.  Hello spoken word meet gun, gun shoots spoken word, we are all left to type out conversations from this point on.  I’v got no time to talk, but I do have plenty of time for Facebook.  I can stay on Facebook all day, check-in at all my friends and their extremely exciting lives.  Why would I want to meet someone for dinner when we can both go get fast food bring it back to our rooms and type as me eat.  Wow that’s some great dinner conversation.  Girl:  Hw wz ur dy?  Boy: fn, wnt 4 a rn ovr @ cct.  it ws a :blst!!!!!!!!!! (:  Now that’s the kind of conversation I am looking for.  One in which I have to decipher letters containing secret codes and locations of buried pirate treasure.  And you thought talking was hard.  Its so great to be connected with someone who you believe you posses community with even though never met in person, or had a phone conversation, or even wait….wait….a written letter.  But you have a picture posted and so do they, and you both like ice cream, giraffes, and believe life should be lived to the fullest.  Well my friend, you are not only connected, but BFF’s!  Welcome to Facebook, where friendships come to die!  Why is face book the death of real friendship.  Firstly, it gives people the false pretense that they are actually connecting with another human being.  You may be able to communicate with your “friends” but about what? Bet there’s some real meaningful dialogue going on here.  You would kid yourself to think this is the picture of connecting, its a child’s print of a masterpiece at best.  True connection happens when you meet someone face to face greet one another, and then engage in talking over dinner, fishing, shopping, whatever.  No your right im  just being a little over the top, I should have courted my wife completely by way of Facebook.  I’ll know she really loves me when she writes on my Facebook wall.  Don’t get me wrong i;m not against technology.  I text message, send emails, and blog.  But I would much rather have a conversation with you face to face, eyes to eyes, heart to heart.  Which brings me to my main problems with Facebook and on-line social networking, few if any people will come to Christ because of it.  Sure you can post your fav. scripture verse on your page, or pics of your family at the Christmas celebration, but are lost people gonna look at those pictures or read that verse and say, that’s it, that’s what I need I need Christ?  Maybe, but unlikely.  The Bible is very clear that people will not come to Christ apart from the preaching of the word (Romans 10:11-17).  Preaching comes through the written Word and the Word being spoken by human vessels.  Also, no one can be discipled on Facebook.  Discipleship occurs when a man or woman invest his/her life in person or small group of the same gender.  This is life on life ministry, and the best and most proven way the gospel goes forth, and Christian maturity is made in the lives of saints.  One of the many great mistakes Christians on who use Facebook make, is they believe that is the extent of their Christian witness.  They will post a few of their personal beliefs, share that they went to church on Sunday, and they are let everyone know Jesus loves them.  Well that is great, but that is just a start, and unfortunately as far as a Facebook relationship can go.  If people spent as much time on personal evangelism and discipleship as they did Facebook, well you probably get the picture.  On-line social networking is not necessarily bad, but you must ask yourself, is there not a better way to spend your time?  Perhaps you could really connect with someone, maybe even like At&t used to say “reach out and touch someone.”  My high school basketball coach used to very angrily say, “if you cant touch em, you cant guard em.”  Perhaps there is some application to friendship there, if you cant touch or at least talk to them on the phone, well…then you really can’t call them your friend.  And how can we as Christians tell them about the greatest friend any of us could ever have, if we don’t even know our own “friends?”

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Ephesisans 1:16, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

My good friend and Georgia Tech FCA board member Dick Bowley has cancer.  He was diagnosed just a few weeks ago, and has already begun chemo therapy in order to treat and hopefully beat this cancer.  I talked with him just a day or two after he was diagnosed.  All he kept talking about was how good God is, and how this was going to be a great opportunity to grow and to bring glory to God.  I talked with him again last Thursday and asked him how he felt since treatment.  He said he had walked four miles the day prior, and was planning on walking a few more that day.  I was utterly shocked at how positive and active he had remained.  Normally, those who receive a treatment like chemo therapy are so weak they do good just to get out of bed or function according to their normal daily routines for the subsequent days that follow.  Dick just decided thos rules didn’t apply to him.  I caused me to think about all the “small” things I let effect my attitude and the outcome of my day.  A bad day at work, a bad highway driver, a lost football game, bad service at a restaurant, a long check out line, a spilt drink on the living room carpet, or an argument with a spouse or friend just don’t seem that bad after all do they?  Please pray for Dick as God continues to bring healing to his body, and may we be ever mindful there are a lot of other people in this world and many of which are facing much tougher daily battles than ourselves.

Give that cancer Heaven Dick!  I am in your prayer corner bro!

Romans 5:3-5

3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

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Cheap Imitations

                        Why lost people love Bars, Bingo, and Braves Games

 

Acts 2:42-47

 42They were (A)continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to (B)the breaking of bread and (C)to prayer.

 43Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many (D)wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.

 44And all those who had believed [a]were together and (E)had all things in common;

 45and they (F)began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.

 46(G)Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and (H)breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,

 47praising God and (I)having favor with all the people And the Lord (J)was adding to their number day by day (K)those who were being saved.

Note: There is nothing unbiblical or ungodly about going to a brave’s game or other sporting event like it.  I have also called bingo at a nursing home where the grand prize for winning was 50 cents.  I am simply writing why lost people gather together at places like braves games, bingo night and go to bars.

 

            Some times you want to go where everybody knows your name. Where there always glad you came. You want to be where you can see your troubles are all the same. You want to go where everybody knows your name”. This is the theme song to Cheer’s the popular eighties sitcom that was set in a bar.  The characters of the show came from all walks of life and social classes.  They all came together for the purpose of friendship and at a deeper level to create community.  This is precisely why lost people go to bars, to find community.  What they don’t realize is they are settling for a cheaper and more unfulfilling version of something far more meaningful, the body of Christ found in the local church.  Literally those who frequent bars on a weekly basis are playing church, they just don’t know it.  How are they playing church?  They come together to sometimes eat, almost always drink.  They share their concerns and thoughts on life, and often end up consoling one another as the more they drink the more honest they become.  What are they looking for, a safe place where they can feel accepted, good about themselves, and share their hopes, dreams, and troubles with like minded people.  The problem is there is no unifying theme or motif to really build a true relationship upon.  Is alcohol a true bond builder?  No!  But unfortunately it brings so many men and women together each day as they do their best to imitate the church.  Now don’t get me wrong they are not trying to be like the church at least as far as they are concerned.  These are simply longing to fulfill a God given desire for community and fellowship.   

            In the baseball movie Fever Pitch starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore we find another example of individuals attempting to create community outside of the body of Christ.  In the movie Jimmy’s character named Ben takes Drew’s character named (ugh I can’t remember at the moment) to her first Boston Red Sox’s baseball game.  Once they arrive to the ball park and find their seats Ben introduce Drew’s character to what he terms “his summer family”.  Ben has been attending Red Sox games his whole life with his uncle.  After his uncle’s death he left his season tickets to Ben.  Ben has been sitting with and fellow-shipping with the by in large the same group of people for many years at Red Sox games.  He knows everyone that sits around him as well as their story.  This to Ben is his summer family.

            Here in the south we have more fall families than we do summer ones.  I am talking about the most worshiped thing in the south, college football.  Every year across the south as well as the rest of the country people come together to support the team they love.  I have even heard people refer to their fan base as the “Auburn (or whatever school you root for) Family”.  But upon closer examination of the term are we really a family because of the school we support?  Are we a family when we only see each other 8-10 Saturdays a year and the topic that rules our conversation is, how you feel about this week’s game.  Is football really enough to unite us as a community?  Now don’t get me wrong I believe the Lord can bring folks together for his purposes at just about any place, and certainly there have been great Christian friendships created as a result of God bringing people and families together at tailgates and ball games.  But for the most part ball games serve as an opportunity for people to get together and build community around a game.  Because the game is what brings the people to the campus and what ultimately fills the stadium.  For many that stadium is a worship center, they just don’t know it, or want to admit it.  Sports are great.  All of you that know me well know I love sports.  The thing I have realize when it comes to sports are, they do not create the bond of true community and fellowship like that found in the body of Christ.  Allow me to say it this way, football is temporary; the body of Christ is eternal.  Sport creates a bond on some level, but it cannot create a bond on the deepest level.  Only the bond shared by individuals, a group, and ultimately the church is a forever, unbreakable bond.  All other bonds outside of Jesus Christ are temporal and will be broken, whether now or later.

            I’ve had the opportunity of being in a fraternity in college, playing on a junior college basketball team, working at various country clubs teaching tennis, been a part of a running club while in Auburn, and here is the one thing each of these share in common, they are each trying to build community and fellowship outside of the local church.  I have loved all these places I have mentioned before, but I can tell you this much the only relationships that have survived the years are those where the bond of Christ is the unifying theme or my heart for those who don’t yet know Christ.  In my fraternity from college I probably only talk to 6 or 7 guys that I knew from that time.  From my JUCO basketball team I have 2 or 3 friends I still keep in contact with.  From the country clubs I have worked at, families like the Barber’s, Boo Mason (my boss at Hoover CC), and the kern’s from the L’ville tennis club (of which I met my great friend Keith Kern through a cardio tennis class and would later disciple him).  I have met countless people through these different entities and cared deeply for many of them, but only those that I shared a bond with in Christ have endured and will endure without end.  The best and most meaningful relationships I have made in life, and the one’s that bring the greatest amount

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All Because of Christ

9568-302-031f3 Years Ago This Day……..We Pause to Remember The Most Unnecessary Interstate Stop of All Time

Ecclesiastes 4:10

 

If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

 

I was awoken this morning by a text message from my friend Dave Dice that read this; “just passing the most unnecessary interstate stop ever.” I immediately knew where Dave was.  He was on Interstate 64E in Charlestown WV.  Charlestown is a place that will forever hold a special place in my heart, even though we were only there for less than a minute.

I met Dave Dice aka “Double D” at the Louisville Tennis Club while I was in seminary.  Dave had been working there about four months prior to my arrival in January 2005.  My boss had told me about Dave and how he attended Seminary at Southern also.  I met Dave within my first week there, and we instantly became friends.  He and I share a great deal in common, both of us are tennis players, distance runners, love pick up basketball, seminary students, and were each relatively new to the L’ville area. Dave and I would see one another most every day either at school or LTC. 

It wasn’t long before the two of us began to share one of our favorite life pleasures together, running.  We would run together at last once a week usually.  In the fall of 2005 we choose a marathon in Richmond Virginia to run.  Why Richmond, two reasons really.  One, I love Virginia.  Virginia is without a doubt my favorite state.  If I could live anywhere in the U.S. it would be Charlottesville VA.  Secondly, it was destiny! As summer turned to autumn Dave and I found ourselves pounding the pavement together several times a week in preparation for the marathon.  Finally the day had arrived for us to leave for Richmond.  The date was November 11th 2005 (also my wife’s birthday).  I left class early on that beautiful Friday morning and we loaded up Dave’s new silver Honda Accord for The capital city of Virginia. 

We were cruising along I 64E, listening to some talk radio, (Dave has Sirius) mostly Colin Cowherd and college football.  We talked, laughed about the Friday Jr. Beginner clinic (also known as eternity) we taught together, with only the worst (behaved and athletic) kids in Louisville.  We drove through Kentucky, to West Virginia (aka God’s Country cause no one else lives there) past some really big mountains and six hours into our trip finally to Charlestown WV.  We began approach Charlestown, also the first sign of civilization we had seen since leaving the blue grass state.  We got to the downtown portion and Dave looks at me and says, “you know T, I think we have to exit here to keep going on I 64E.”  As the cars zipped past us on our left continuing on I 64E I looked at Dave, puzzled, yet confident he knew something I didn’t.  So we exited to downtown Charlestown, preceded down the on ramp through one red light and up the on ramp ahead and back on I 64E. 

Dave knew he had messed up.  He looked at me and said something to the effect of “huh, that doesn’t make sense, I thought for sure we were supposed to exit there.” To which I replied, “Nope, just made the most unnecessary interstate stop of all time.” I was over then, we were both laughing uncontrollably. Like when you’re laughing so hard you start to cry, or snort from your nose, or suddenly have to go to the bathroom.  We had just exited the interstate for no apparent reason.

To this day I can not tell you what possessed Dave to exit I 64E at the downtown Charlestown exit. He cant tell you why he did it, he just thought it was the way.  We did indeed finally make it to Richmond.  We ran the race the next day, Dave injured his quad at mile 23 sat on the ground for an hour waiting for a police men to take him to the finish line to meet me.  The police man never called to get him a ride, so in his anger he got up after an hour of waiting and finished the race.  I ran the whole race alone (because Dave went off and left me after mile 1).  Hit the wall at mile 20, wanted to die, ran/walked the final mile in just under fifteen minutes, and eventually ended up in the medical tent for over an hour wrapped in a blanket on a cot sipping green PowerAde, with a nice lady telling me I was not to worry I was going to make it.  Dave came and found me, and we got in his car and drove nine and a half hours home to catch the second half of the Auburn vs. Georgia game.

What does all of this have to do with anything of importance?  We’ll this great story is made possible because of crucified and resurrected savior who died to redeem you and me from our sin.  While I mentioned many things Dave and I shared in common, I intentionally left out one thing, Christ.  You see without Christ there is no “most unnecessary interstate stop of all time”.  There would be no reason for me to move to L’ville for seminary, and no real reason for Dave and me to be such great friends.  I know we share a lot in common, but all the running, tennis, and pick up basketball in the world could never bring about the bond that Jesus Christ does.  The only true bond that lasts is that of Christ Jesus.  All other bonds are temporary and breakable. 

Dave and I talk about that trip often, we laugh about it mostly.  A supposed interstate stop in the middle of a busy downtown defies all logic.  Dave still can’t tell you why he thought we were supposed to exit, in order to get back on.  But here is what Dave and I do know, we will laugh about that day for as long as we live. We will have all eternity to tell it to all our friends.  And all because Christ died for our sins, and decided long ago Dave Dice and I should be friends.          

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Reason to Celebrate

 

Tonight I found myself in a quite unfamiliar situation.  I was caught in the middle of a frenzy, a frenzy of hundreds of students some of whom were greatly influenced by the beverage.  Georgia Tech had just won a thrilling game 31-28 against Florida State.  With less than one minute remaining in the game Florida State had driven the ball down the field to our three yard line and was in prime position for a winning score.  Almost all hope seemed to be lost for the home Yellow Jackets.  After being up ten points with seven minutes to go, defeat and heartache were looming.  Then, unexpectedly and seemingly out of nowhere a miracle of sorts.  As the FSU running back took the hand off and lowered his head toward the goal line, our true freshman safety put his helmet on the football causing a fumble.  The ball rolled into the end zone and into the arms of another true freshman defensive back for a touch back.  The crowd erupted and the GT sideline went into a frenzy.  I found myself standing on our bleacher seats next to one of our players dancing as the PA system played “We will we will rock you”.  As soon as the clock expired I kept with ritual and headed toward the middle of the field to congratulate FSU on a game well played and pray with our team.  Only as I made my way to mid-field, so did half the student section, and they seemed to have a crazy look in their eyes.  Not fearing for my life, but just sensing self preservation at some level was at stake, I ran out of the sea of on coming people traffic and I observed.  I witnessed a once in a while celebration.  A celebration that began as the game clock expired, and will no doubt last until the wee hours of the morning.  So it got me thinking about celebrations.  We Christians like all others, celebrate victories in sports, we celebrate the accomplishments of ourselves and others, we celebrate weddings, we celebrate birthdays, and for some reason we even celebrate cinco de mayo.  The point is we love to celebrate, if really for no reason if necessary.  But what about heaven, what do they celebrate there?  Jesus speaking in Luke chapter 15:10, 10In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”  Heaven celebrates our birthdays all right, our spiritual birthday.  When sinners like you and me respond to the Holy Spirit’s call for salvation, and we express explicit faith in Jesus Christ and His blood sacrifice as atonement for our sins, and repent of our own sin before God, there is a party in Heaven.  A party where Christ is honored most, and our name is added to the book of life (Revelation 3:5).  We are good at celebrations, we do it big and we do it right.  But it begs the question, are we celebrating like we should when we witness or hear testimonies of sinners being rescued from hell and saved to Jesus Christ and his beauty and splendor?  It’s great that we celebrate all the things we do, but birthdays, weddings, football games, and St. Patty’s day all have an end.  Our eternal destiny in Christ is well…..forever.  Let us all strive to be better about celebrating and enjoying the greatness of God through His son’s salvation, and then we can say, we are partying with all of Heaven.

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