Friday, February 25, 2011

 

Unraveled . . . Additions and a Repeat

The meditation below was written originally almost 2.5 years ago. The sentiment and the experience are still the same, but the circumstances have changed a bit.

You see, I recently celebrated my 51st birthday. I am now on the downward side of my quest for 100 years. The very thought that I have lived over 5 decades has given me pause. For some of my readers 50 seems really old, perhaps for others it seems a bit young. All I know is that it has caused me to pause and to reflect on my life.

I am a words of affirmation kind of person, and as such I love to give encouragement to others (and to receive it too!). On the other hand, there are those times where I feel incredibly unnoticed and irrelevant and even melancholy in s some ways. Today is one of those days. I noticed my frustration level was a bit higher than usual (not sure why). I feel like my day has started with me already running behind in lots of things. I mean, my day (it is only 10:20!) already seems undone. So, this morning as I contemplated my situation, the post below kind of summed up my mood. I thought I'd repost it for that reason (and maybe it will encourage some of you).

As you stand before God undone today, as you unravel in his presence, cling tightly to the promise that he has given--"I will never leave you nor forsake you." Stand or sit before Jesus and just let your life pause before him for a moment. Join me and come undone. Let's unravel in his presence. I hope you enjoy this little meditation from 2008.

Today as I drove to work, I couldn't help a bit of melancholy.

The weather was cool, traffic was light, John Denver was breezy (yes, John Denver!), the mountains were august, the sun brilliant, . . .

and I was melancholy.

As I drove I began to think of Abraham, Moses, and Isaiah for some reason. Each of these individuals had an amazing encounter with God. Abraham (while still "Abram") encountered the God of covenants. During a dream at night terrors seized Abram as he saw the torch of God move between the divided carcasses of the animal sacrifices. Abram was undone.

Moses encountered God first as an enigma. Moses saw a bush that was on fire and yet not burning. He went closer, he heard God, he took off his shoes. He was undone, his life would never be the same.

Isaiah lost a friend and a hero. When King Uzziah died, Isaiah wept and went into deep mourning. During his depression, Isaiah had a vision. Angels flew about, the holiness and awesomeness of God shook the foundation and pillars of the Temple.

God spoke, Isaiah trembled.

When Isaiah dared to speak in this holy company, the words out of his mouth were "Woe is me, I am undone!"

As I understand it, the Hebrew here has the meaning of being unzipped from the belly to the neck so that your insides spill out.

Okay, maybe I'm stretching it a bit, but it was not a happy thought for Isaiah. He felt unraveled in the presence of God.

That kind of describes my melancholy today . . . I feel unraveled. Like a ball of yarn that has lost its consistency, I am loose and dangly.

Like a sweater pulled apart thread-by-thread, I am undone.

I look at the majesty around me, the beauty and holiness and awe-fulness of it all, and I find myself undone.

It is not a bad feeling necessarily, but it is a bit unnerving.

I feel unraveled.

Like a joke with no punch line, or a sitcom with no laugh track, or a book with no thesis or direction, or a story with no meaning . . .

I feel undone.

How do I explain what is happening in my heart when words seem hard to find?

Life is good, things are fine, but I feel . . . well, what?

I think that this is a normal human emotion, and it is one I've encountered before. I'm not depressed; in fact, I'm not really sad at all! I'm actually smiling as I type these words!

I sit here in the midst of an august band of people, activities, and stuff, and I feel a bit unraveled.

Maybe I'm just relaxing . . . loosening things a bit in preparation for the next battle or the next activity or the next thing.

Maybe it is a "Selah," a sort of pause of spirit that causes me to reflect a bit.

It is a good thing, I think, to be unraveled before God and his wonderful creation.

So, like Paul, I will relish in my unraveling, in my undoing, in my weakness . . . for when I am weak, God is strong. When I am undone, God still does. When I am unraveled, Jesus holds all things together.

I smile, I sigh. I listen to U2 and Larry Norman and Bob Dylan (John Denver was making me too melancholy, I think).

I will go find some Jonny Lang. I will relish in the tones, in the thoughts, in the music. I will unravel before God and just be. I will let myself be undone so that he can renew me.

What a wonderful life!


Thanks for reading!

Labels: , , , , ,


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

 

Missing my Dad today . . . A Tribute

I am missing my father today, not sure why. I heard some quartet music today, and it reminded me of how much my dad loved the Cathedrals and how we used to sing along with them. At any rate, I miss him, and I would love an opportunity just to hear his stories all over again. With that in mind, I thought I'd repost my Fathers' Day tribute to Dad. Some of you never knew him, and I am sorry. He enriched the lives of so many with his infectious smile and easy generosity. I feel so much poorer without him, but I know heaven is richer in some ways. I love you, Dad.

I first wrote this in 2005, but it speaks volumes about my memories of my dad, Bobbie Eugene Percer, Sr. My dad was a hero to me in many ways, and I am terribly sorry that I never told him that to his face. At his funeral in 2004, literally hundreds of people stood in line for hours to tell us of the way my dad had blessed them. I heard stories of dad witnessing to people and leading them to the Lord, stories of dad giving money or clothes or time or work in order to help someone else find a better path in life, stories of my dad going out of his way to help others, etc. It humbled me. I had no idea how "big" a man my father was, how much of a blessing he was to many people. My dad left some mighty big shoes, and I hope I can be half the man he was. With that in mind, here is the first thing I wrote about my dad way back in 2005.

With Father's day coming up this weekend, I wanted to share some thoughts about my Father. You see, my father passed away in August 2004, and for many reasons thoughts of him have been central in my mind recently. I’m afraid I’m losing him.

Let me explain.

My dad wasn’t very active the last few years of life. Due to his own lack of proper care for his physical body and a host of problems with illness, the primary memory my children have of their grandfather is dad sitting in a big lounger watching TV and occasionally waking up long enough to tease them.

My children did not get to know my dad. Oh, my dad was never the most active guy in the world (I think I know where my own lack of activity comes from!), but he didn’t sit around a lot as I remember it. Dad coached baseball, football, basketball, if it had “ball” in the title, he learned it, played it, and probably coached it. My dad cared about folks that no one else wanted. He loved kids, especially his own. I once saw my dad kick a field goal from the 45 yard line (that’s a 55 yard kick, if you didn’t know!). I was in high school then, so dad was probably in his mid-40s. He could kick the ball further than the place kicker on our team.

I remember looking for dad’s vehicle to pull up at the football practice field. I don’t know if he knew that I saw him, but I looked for him to show up so I could perform for him. Dad didn’t get real excited about sports (that was mom’s job!), but you could tell when he was enjoying something. He had this infectious grin and mischievous smile that would literally light up his face. I heard that for almost 10 years after my younger brother graduated high school, dad would make his way to the practice field and sit in his car and watch the players go through their paces. For me, his watching was a comforting presence that reminded me that he was there if I needed him. Oh, I’ll admit that I didn’t “need” him as much as he would like, but it made me feel real good to know dad was there.

I miss him.

Sometimes in my work here, I think that dad is sitting in heaven, in his heavenly lounger, watching his boy perform. Oh, I’m not blindsiding running backs and quarterbacks any more, but I can’t help but think that dad is silently cheering for me. He sits there, intently studying me as I pace a classroom or teach a class or grade a paper. When I make a particularly brilliant play, he smiles that smile. Even when I don’t do so well, dad looks approvingly on his boy. I can see him, sitting there, a big glass of sweet tea on the table, a smile in his eyes, and joy in his heart. I want to make him proud, and I think he knows that.

My last words to my dad face-to-face were spoken around Easter of 2004. I don’t remember everything we discussed, but I remember putting my arm around his shoulders and looking into that face. His eyes were a bit dimmed by senility due to old age and strokes. But somewhere in those eyes I saw the place kicker kicking a field goal from the 45 yard line. I remember saying this to him, “Dad, I love you. I’ll see you later.” At his funeral in August 2004, the pastor asked me to pray at the grave site (actually, my mother asked me to do it). As I walked away from dad’s coffin, I touched the lid and said, “I love you, dad, see you later.”

I miss him, but thank God I will see him later. If your father is alive, call him up. Tell him you appreciate him and love him. Memories are great, but I’d love to have my dad here to hug again. He’s much better off, but I need his smile. Dad, I love you. See you later.


Thanks for reading!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

 

A Matter of Life and Death, 1 John 3:11-18, Theology Matters Series

Hello all:

I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called the G.A.P. (for Graduates and Professionals), and each week I post the outlines and discussion questions from my lessons on the G.A.P. page on Facebook. A while back I started posting these notes on the blog too. So, here is the outline for our meetings on February 6-13, 2011. A while back we started a new series on 1 John entitled "Theology Matters." This lesson looks at 1 John 3:11-18 and discusses the idea that how we treat others is a matter of life and death. John indicates that people who are followers of Christ love others and find life, while those who are children of the devil do not show love and are "living dead." If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

A Matter of Life and Death
1 John 3:11-18
Theology Matters Series


Introduction

A visit to the doctor
Needed to get some prescriptions refilled
A spot on my head removed
What could it be?
Good news, by the way

When we visit the doctor, the folks there often take our vital signs

We talked about spiritual vital signs a couple of weeks ago, focusing on our heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure

We asked if our signs towards Jesus were healthy or indicated a sickness that needed to be address

Vital signs are also used in many cases to know the difference between a dead and a live person

Our passage in 1 John today discusses the most important vital sign that distinguishes between life and death

Let’s read 1 John 3:11-18

John tells us that love is a matter of life and death
If we don’t show love, we are dead
If we love others, we are alive

Four things to see from our passage today
1. All you need is love
2. Cain: An Example of Death
3. A Contrast
4. Christ: An Example of Life

Love is a matter of life and death
Our love reveals whether we are dead or alive

1. All You Need is Love

From the start, John reminds his readers of “the beginning”
a. In chapter 1, verse 1, he reminds us that the message he writes is what he experienced from the beginning
b. In 2:7, he reminds them of the old commandment that they had from the beginning
c. In 2:24 he tells them to remember what they learned from the beginning and to abide in it
d. In all of the instances John seems to have in mind the beginning of the Christian movement rather than the beginning of the universe

Here in 3:11, then, John points his readers to that message which they heard from the beginning of the Christian life, the beginning of the church

That message has not changed
It is simple
“Love one another”

It is the command Jesus gives in John 13:34-35
This command is built upon the very character of God

Doctrine and ethics must go together
Theology should point to a way of life—in fact what you believe is revealed in how you live

For Christians, there is no life without Love because God is Love (1 John 4:8)

The distinguishing mark of Christians should be love

Love is a matter of life and death

John turns now to an example of death

2. Cain: An Example of Death


Beginning in verse 12, John elaborates on the negative example. We could call this the example of death or hatred, for all hatred ultimately leads to some kind of death, doesn’t it?

Cain is the negative example

What do you know about Cain’s story?
a. Cain’s story can be found in Genesis 4
b. Cain was the first child born to Adam and Eve after the fall
c. Cain had a brother, Abel. The two of them offered sacrifices to God, and Abel’s was acceptable (Hebrews 11:4 says that what distinguished Abel’s sacrifice from Cain’s was that it was offered in faith)
d. Cain apparently was jealous of his brother, so much so that God warned him of impending sin
e. Cain’s jealousy and anger led to the first murder in Scripture
f. Cain’s actions depict death instead of life

Cain chose to hate or reject his brother
That very hatred caused not only his brother’s death but also revealed the deadness in Cain’s own soul
Cain acted in unrighteousness, did not love his brother, and ended in death

John then reminds his readers that Cain’s example is part of the world’s system

The world, although it sometimes reveals glimpses of love, does not accept God’s divine love (John 1:9-13)

In fact, because Christians do not belong to the world and its system (see 1 John 2:15-16), the world actually hates them

Jesus warned us of this problem (John 15:18-19)

Love is a matter of life and death
If we follow Cain’s example, we are dead

John now contrasts his readers with the world

3. The Contrast: An Encouragement

In verse 14, we find an encouragement

John speaks of assurance when he states that we “know” we have passed from death to life

But what is the defining characteristic that gives this assurance?
Simply stated, John says it is revealed in our love for one another
Because we have experienced God’s amazing love, we cannot help but give that same love to others
That is the mark of a true Christian

The story of Jacob De Shazer, WWII Pilot and POW in Japan--Here is a link: Jacob De Shazer Story

Love is a matter of life and death
If we love, we are alive

The Contrast: A Warning

In verse 15, John issues a warning (continuing his example of Cain, it seems)

When we fail to love others, we are essentially acting like Cain

We may not commit the act, but the anger, animosity, and indifference in our hearts is simply one step removed from taking a life

When we tear down someone’s character, when we highlight faults to make ourselves look better, it is a murderous attitude and it is sin.

Christians should be different in how they treat each other

Love is a matter of life and death
If we do not love, we bring death

4. Christ: An Example of Life

John has looked at the negative (how we shouldn’t act), and beginning in verse 16 he now considers the positive (what we should do)

John fills out his understanding of Christian love by giving an example of life in contrast to Cain’s example of death

Ironically, this example of life is still tied to death in a sense

How did Jesus love us?
Philippians 2:5-8
a. He humbled himself
b. He served
c. His obedience led to the cross
d. He laid down his own life so that we might live

How would we describe Jesus’ love?

Christ’s love was
a. Without discrimination—he didn’t look at ethnicity, orientation, religious persuasion, or even denomination.

b. Offered freely—Jesus put no restrictions on his love for others, he simply gave it

c. Enduring—Jesus does not love for a short season, his mercy is enduring

d. Sacrificial—he gave himself for others without expectation or complaint

e. Transforming—people were changed when they encountered Jesus’ love

Story of the killings in an Amish community in Oct. 2006--Two links on the story: 1. Amish Shooting 2. Grace and Forgiveness

These young ladies were willing to die that others may live
Their love showed the true and eternal life that throbbed in their soul

Christ’s love brings life—are we alive or dead?

So, how are we doing? Are we laying down our lives for others?

John tells us in verses 17 and 18 what our love should look like
a. We must give what we have received—love is practical. You give from what you have (“the world’s goods”) or from what God has given you

b. We must notice others (“sees his brother in need”)—this means that we take time to pay attention to those around us. We need to act with empathy. We ought to feel their pain and rejoice in their joy. Their situations should move us to action and not just arouse emotions. Much of the reason we don’t love is that we don’t see how desperately love is needed in others. The implication is more that just material goods here, it refers to time and community. We must be involved in their lives and not simply write a check.

c. We must take action—John warns us not to love in word only, but we need to love in deeds as well.

This kind of love usually makes us uncomfortable, but we know we need it and we also know we need to give it

Love is a matter of life and death
If we follow Christ’s example, we are alive eternally

Application

The result of this kind of exhortation should be obvious, right? If we want to be known as children of God, as followers of Christ, then we must find ourselves doing as our Master has done—we must love one another

The starting point is obvious—have we passed from death to life? Are we living dead or are we in possession of God’s life?

The only way to distinguish is to look at how we treat each other

Here are some things you can do as Christ followers to show your commitment to God’s life in you

1. First, make sure that God’s life is in you. If you have not made a commitment to Christ, start here

2. Spend some time in God’s Word seeing how Jesus loved others. Read 1 John 3 and 4, Philippians 2, or any of the stories of Christ’s passion in the Gospels
Be a friend to one who has failed, go out of your way to encourage the one everyone avoids, stick closer than a brother to the one who is alone in his or her struggle

3. Give time to bless others this week—listen to someone who needs to be heard, be patient, be kind to the angry person

4. Step outside of your convenient cage of comfort—take a risk to love someone in the name of Christ. Share your faith, tell your story, simply show and tell what love God has done for you

Love is a matter of life and death


Thanks for reading!

Labels: , , , , ,


Friday, February 04, 2011

 

Bob Dylan is what's playing today!

It will come as little surprise to many of you that Bob Dylan is one of my favorite songwriters/musicians. I've been listening to the remastered copy of the "Slow Train Coming" album the past few days. I love this music! I wanted to share the lyrics for the title song. If you have a comment, I'd love to hear it!

Slow Train

Sometimes I feel so low-down and disgusted
Can’t help but wonder what’s happenin’ to my companions
Are they lost or are they found
Have they counted the cost it’ll take to bring down
All their earthly principles they’re gonna have to abandon?
There’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend

I had a woman down in Alabama
She was a backwoods girl, but she sure was realistic
She said, “Boy, without a doubt
Have to quit your mess and straighten out
You could die down here, be just another accident statistic”
There’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend

All that foreign oil controlling American soil
Look around you, it’s just bound to make you embarrassed
Sheiks walkin’ around like kings
Wearing fancy jewels and nose rings
Deciding America’s future from Amsterdam and to Paris
And there’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend

Man’s ego is inflated, his laws are outdated, they don’t apply no more
You can’t rely no more to be standin’ around waitin'
In the home of the brave
Jefferson turnin’ over in his grave
Fools glorifying themselves, trying to manipulate Satan
And there’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend

Big-time negotiators, false healers and woman haters
Masters of the bluff and masters of the proposition
But the enemy I see
Wears a cloak of decency
All nonbelievers and men stealers talkin’ in the name of religion
And there’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend

People starving and thirsting, grain elevators are bursting
Oh, you know it costs more to store the food than it do to give it
They say lose your inhibitions
Follow your own ambitions
They talk about a life of brotherly love show me someone who knows how to live it
There’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend

Well, my baby went to Illinois with some bad-talkin’ boy she could destroy
A real suicide case, but there was nothin’ I could do to stop it
I don’t care about economy
I don’t care about astronomy
But it sure do bother me to see my loved ones turning into puppets
There’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend

Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music


Thanks for reading!

Labels: , , ,


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?