Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Unexpected Grief

Recently I got word that a good friend of mine had passed away in Waco, Tx. He was 44.

Tony was such a dear friend that my kids called him "Uncle Tony." He had a contagious smile and a great laugh.

He loved God, life, and people.

We don't know why he died.

They found his body on Dec. 28, and he had apparently been dead for several days. No signs of forced entry or criminal activity. Tony was simply dead. As of today they don't even know how he died.

The shock of hearing about a friend's untimely death (is death ever timely?) is bad enough, but this sudden bit of bad news has hit me harder than I would have imagined.

You see, grief came knocking on my door, and he was not expected.

I wasn't prepared, I didn't know how to act or what to say.

When my father died, I had seen his slow deterioration and was not surprised.

Tony is my age (or close enough). He was relatively healthy and happy.

Grief often shows up at the most inopportune time. He is seldom a welcome guest and even more rarely an invited one. He walks in unannounced and tries to take over the household.

Grief immobilizes you. It makes you stop and hurt.

I guess grief is useful, but when you are experiencing it you just want it to stop. You want the uninvited pest to go away.

I am grieving for the loss of my friend. Although, to be honest, I am probably grieving more for my own sake than his. I will miss Tony. A part of my life has been taken away without my permission. I have been reminded that I am mortal and temporal.

I am not infinite.

To borrow from Robert Browning Hamilton:

I walked a mile with Pleasure, She chattered all the way; But left me none the wiser, For all she had to say. I walked a mile with Sorrow And ne'er a word said she; But, oh, the things I learned from her When Sorrow walked with me!

I must admit that Sorrow has often enriched me in ways that Pleasure never did, but in all honesty I enjoy Pleasure's company more. It is true with most of us humans.

Of course, I guess we don't appreciate Pleasure as much as when we have walked with Sorrow.

Grief has come to me, he came uninvited.
We will walk a while, probably in silence.
At the end, I will still miss my friend, but I will cherish life more.
I hope.
Grief is not my friend, but he helps in some ways, I guess.
Grief came knocking on my door, and I didn't check to see who it was before I answered.
Now Grief is a guest in my home.
How long he'll stay is anybody's guess.
He'll leave quietly one day and the only evidence that he was there will be the memory of our missing friend and a few tear-filled tissues.

Grief will go, but hopefully he will leave me wiser and more grateful.

I miss Tony.

This topic is heavy, I think I want to put it down now. Sorry for being a bummer!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, January 23, 2006


Failure vs. Competency

Romans 9:6—“But it is not as though the word of God has failed.”

1 Corinthians 14:12—“So with yourselves; since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.”

2 Corinthians 3:4-6—“Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God; who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

“Failure!” How I hate that word. I guess deep in my own heart and mind I fear it more than anything else. I don’t want to fail; I don’t want to be a failure.

The word itself is threatening. It is harsh. “He is a failure” we say about someone who has not lived up to the potential that we saw in them. He failed—at business, at love, at sport, at play. None of these things are considered praiseworthy.

No one wants to be a failure.

God doesn’t fail. His word succeeds; it does what he sent it to do. The word of God has not failed.

It doesn’t matter what the world may look like, it doesn’t matter even the circumstances around us. God’s Word has not failed. Things will work out just as God predicted. He is not unaware.

He has made us competent.

Not failures, but competent.

Because his promise is true and will succeed at what it is sent to do, we can be confident in this thing—God has not called us to fail as his ministers, as his servants, as his children. We are competent to the task he has called us, not by virtue of our own abilities, but by virtue of the Spirit of God which he has given to us in a lavish manner.

Nothing comes from us. We cannot claim that anything we have or even own came from us. Everything comes from the hand of God, the same hand that makes us competent in his service and by his grace.

Competent! I am not a failure in God’s sight. I am competent by Christ. Competent by the Spirit of God. I can do what he asked me to do. I am competent as a minister of the new covenant.

Sometimes it is difficult to see the competency that God s working in us. Sometimes we only see failure and disrepute. But God is faithful; he will do what he said he would do. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 3 that God is able to make us competent to perform the tasks to which he called us.

Competent! Capable! Able!

In Christ, I am competent.

It is a good thing to know. It feels good to hear it. By God’s grace we are competent to fulfill the tasks to which he called us.

We can go and teach. We can win souls, we can baptize, and we can do whatever we are asked to do. We are competent.

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


File it under "Dumb Criminals"

Hey y'all:

I wanted to share a story that happened right here in central Virginia. You can find the whole news item in the News and Advance online here:
  • More Charges in Christmas Barrage
  • .

    The story is that a certain fellow who lives near Liberty University received a birthday gift of "homemade liquor and 5,000 rounds of ammunition" for Christmas. After drinking a few rounds of his homemade brew, he decided it would be fun to shoot up the neighborhood ("Drinking and Shooting don't mix" and "Don't Shoot Drunk." Ads for Moms against Drunk Shooting--MADS). At any rate, his neighborhood included the above mentioned school and the River Ridge Mall.

    Neighbors called the police who tried to contact the fellow by phone. He wouldn't answer the phone. In fact, he came out of his mobile home onto his porch and fired his gun into the air as the officers watched!

    Unfortunately for him, his homemade liquor dulled his senses.

    Evidently when he came out onto the porch to shoot his gun into the air, he inadvertently locked himself out of the house!

    Can you say "Nowhere to hide?"

    Needless to say, the police took the drunk shootist into custody and charged him with several felonies.

    I guess the reason he locked himself out of the house was because he left his keys with his designated driver. Who knows?

    I tell this story as evidence of how dumb humans (all of us!) can be.

    Most of us reading this story chuckled at the man's ineptitude, but we aren't much different.

    We persist in our own sins and selfishness, brandishing our self made guns at our Creator while drunk on the homemade liquor of our own arrogance.

    We think we can outwit God just by avoiding answering the phone when he calls.

    We think we can be "responsible" with our sin, that is, do it only so much so that "it doesn't really hurt anybody."

    In reality, our selfishness has made us drunk. Our sin has made us stupid!

    We can't see the damage we do when we choose to go our own way, drink our own brew, shoot our own guns without any thought of others around us.

    Professing ourselves to be wise, we become fools.

    Jesus reminds us that if we really want to have an impact on the world (besides being drunk with our own sin and shooting everyone in sight with our own self-righteousness, that is) then we really should learn to serve others. That's right, we should seek to make the least among us (the least glamorous, the least successful, etc.) the most important. We should take the servant's towel and wrap it around our waists, we should wash the stinky, dirty feet of the person we would normally not even notice. We should serve others instead of drinking ourselves into oblivion on our own importance.

    We need to be like Jesus--willing to die for those who really don't deserve it.

    I don't want to be drunk on my own selfish ideas.

    I want to sober up with service. I want to learn to love my neighbor properly.

    Thanks for reading!

    Monday, January 09, 2006


    "Indian Summer" or thoughts for a warm January day. . .

    Today is one of those days that (if it occurred in November or December) my parents would call an "Indian Summer." The temperature here in Lynchburg is around 65 degrees, the sun is out, and a slight breeze is blowing. It puts me in mind of those days just before summer when you could finally put the top down (if you had a convertible) or just roll down your windows and cruise. It is perfect for a country drive with some '70s rock and roll (I'm thinking Lynyrd Skynyrd, but right now I'm rocking to DeGarmo and Key--a Southern rock Christian band from the late '70s and early '80s).

    At any rate, the weather puts me in a spring like attitude. I don't want to argue theology or talk shop at the seminary, I want to bask in the wonder of this creation God has graciously given us. I want to sit in the sun, have a fond memory, listen to oldies . . . I just want to drink in life and all the full malt goodness it offers today.

    Yeah, I'm kinda goofy. I know. But I love these days. I think about the first time I'd go barefoot in Millington, Tennessee after winter had finally relinquished its cold grip to spring. The grass would be moist, there would still be little bite in the air, but the breeze is warm enough to be in shirt sleeves. Think drinking a nice cold soda after a long hot day of baseball. There ya go! Let your mind wander!

    Okay, that's far enough.

    You can come back now.

    Isn't it amazing how weather can affect our thoughts and emotions?

    This complex ecosystem into which God has placed us really is in many ways an ideal location. I am grateful to God for his grace in creation.

    Well, I gotta go back outside.

    Thanks for reading!

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