I am not a fan of funerals although I do more than my fair share. When I am asked to do a funeral it is my great passion to comfort the family and friends during their most difficult days right before the funeral, during the funeral and the days following. It is hard to come up with words to comfort these dear loved ones and that is why I have learned to lean heavily on the Bible for the words I have to speak. After every funeral I preach I always say that I wish I had known them more, visited them more, or talked with them more. Every funeral brings to my mind how unprepared I am for death.
Just recently, I spoke at a funeral of a young man who had only lived 15 years on this earth before he passed. Trey was not a normal young man in many respects. He was physically handicapped to the point that he could not speak, walk or respond like most boys his age. His family had been with him 24 hours a day every day of his life, taking care of all his needs. He never said and unkind word or even a kind word, for that matter. His communication was very limited yet his family knew if he was happy or not by the sounds he would make and the look on his face. We knew he would not live a long life but were very surprised to see him live as long as he did. Needless to say, preaching his funeral was not an easy task for me.
It is going to sound funny when I say this but there are times in my preaching when I have an epiphany right in the middle of my message. There have been times that I have written something down that I wanted to recall but the reality of the phrase does not hit me until I am actually saying it. That is what happened when I preached Trey’s funeral. I was talking along about how Trey may not have been able to speak but he could respond when I read in my notes, “He knew how to respond to love!” Right there in my message it hit me! That is all God is asking us to do. All God wants us to do is to respond to His love for us.
Summed up in just one verse, John wrote that God so loved the world that he gave his only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ! So, how should we respond? John goes on to say that we are to believe in Jesus Christ so that we will not perish but have everlasting life. God is not asking for fancy words or great acts of human ability. God loved us through Jesus and he wants us to respond to that love by believing in Jesus Christ.
Trey taught me so much but I don’t think I’ll ever forget what appeared to me in my own message that all God is asking us to do is respond to His love! Thanks, Trey!
My dad was a wonderful pastor and a great preacher. I admired him greatly when I was growing up and I am still learning from him as I go through his quotes and notes in his Bible. Interestingly enough, my mom just handed me a copy of quotes she has in her Bible from my dad’s preaching. Here is something I got recently that I thought was very interesting:
“He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not is a fool, avoid him. He who knows not, and knows that he knows not is a child, teach him. He who knows, and knows not that he knows is asleep, wake him up! But, he who knows, and knows that he knows is wise, follow him.”
Have you ever wondered why? You know, the question we all ask, “Why?” Like, why does grass grow in the cracks of my driveway where I don’t want it to grow but will not grow one foot over next to the driveway where I want grass? Or, why can someone break into my house without any problem yet I cannot get the plastic protection ring off the Clear Eye bottle or the wrapper off a new music CD? Oh, and have tried to get a pill out of one of those plastic human proof bottles? They should build bank vaults out of that stuff! Why is that if you let a cup of coffee sit on your desk for 10 minutes it will become colder than the bottle of water on my desk that I really do want to be cold? And, why do we call it a hamburger when there is no ham in it but use a derogatory term–Spam–for something with ham in it? Why are there flotation devices under plane seats? Wouldn’t it be better to put parachutes there instead? Why aren’t there ever any guilty bystanders? Why do the signs that say “Slow Children” have a picture of a running child? And, why haven’t we ever seen the headline “Psychic Wins Lottery”?
I may not know all the answers to all the “why” questions in this world but I do know why I am here; I am here to do all to the glory to God. Paul wrote, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31)
I was speaking with someone recently and they were frustrated because people wouldn’t show them the respect they thought they deserved. I asked, “Who are are living for?” They answered, “Me!” That’s when I told them that were living for the wrong person; they needed to live to show glory to God, not themselves. It is amazing how all the frustrations of a lack of respect, honor, love and duty fall in line when we live to give glory to God and not try and get glory for ourselves. As for the “why’s” of this crazy life, well, that’s not a big problem. Some things are better left to be pondered instead of understood.
Let me say first, that if you would rather look at something than read it, you can go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TFJ8ODE_Jo&feature=plcp and go to the 29:04 point in the message and get this article just as I expounded it in a recent message. Hosea is told by God in Hosea 3:1-3 to go back and get his unfaithful wife and show faithful love to her. I know that in our culture, even though we say we want reconciliation in our marriages, we often don’t take the difficult and necessary steps to practice restoration. Whether you think the book of Hosea is an allegory or a real story, I believe these steps are extremely important for someone to follow if they are going to try and restore their marriage.
Hosea 3:1-3 says, Then the Lord said to me, “Go again; show love to a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, just as the Lord loves the Israelites though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.” So I bought her for 15 shekels of silver and five bushels of barley. I said to her, “You must live with me many days. Don’t be promiscuous or belong to any man, and I will act the same way toward you.”
Here we see 6 things Hosea had to do in order to restore his marriage.
- Wait for a word from God. We do not know how long it was since she had moved out and had begun to live with her other lover. All we know is that it was not Hosea’s idea to restore the marriage, it was God’s idea. So often we listen to all the wrong voices when we should rather have our ear and our heart toward God; waiting to hear his instruction. Don’t do anything until God tells you to.
- It has to begin with YOU. I know you are the innocent one; I know they did you wrong; I know they are with another lover; I know it seems like they should be coming to you; but when the time is right, God will tell YOU to go to them. Never let your heart become so crusty that you cannot allow God to break through and use you again to reach them.
- It is shown in love. God said, “go show love.” The Hebrew word here is used 250 times and is always toward something. Love is not a feeling or an emotion, it is a willful action of the faithful heart. I know they do not deserve it! Remember this, we are most like God when we love those who do not deserve it.
- Love them even where they are. The words translated “who is loved by another man” is literally, “who is loved by a neighbor.” She had not gone that far away. She may have even still been in the same neighborhood. But still, God told Hosea to go and get her. Notice too, she was being loved by someone else. She is not looking to leave; she may have had no thought of coming home. I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that there is no way you would stoop so low as to go and beg them back. Remember, it was not your idea to begin with; it was God’s!
- It will cost you something. Hosea had to pay 15 shekels of silver and five bushels of barley. The 15 shekels of silver was half the price of a slave and the five bushels of barley was half the allotment of food for a slave. It cost him his money, his resources and his pride. Happy marriages and restored relationships are not free; they cost something and usually they cost a lot!
- Set strong, realistic boundaries. Not barriers! Sometimes the innocent spouse sets the barrier so high that the one being restored wonders why they were invited back in. Realistic boundaries are firm; she had to separate from her sinful lifestyle. Realistic boundaries are also fair in that he had some things he had to do, too.
After Hosea’s relationship is restored, he writes some of the most interesting and powerful prophecies in the scripture. It is almost as if God were saying that in order for Hosea to effectively prophesy, he had to do the hard work of restoring his relationship. It might be that God is calling us to restore our relationship so we can be effective in the work to which we have been called. What do you think?
Last week, Tracy and I had the privilege of going to New Orleans for the Southern Baptist Convention. We always have a good time at the SBC and we ALWAYS have a lot of fun being together, refreshing, and laughing together. One night as we sat on Canal Street at the Palace Cafe sharing some of New Orleans’ best bread pudding, I saw a young family walking down the street. The children in the family were normal, well dressed, laughing and skipping. I didn’t see anything that unusual except they were all wearing the Mardi Gra beads. Here again, not that unusual for New Orleans but still a symbol of that week in New Orleans when the people let go of their inhibitions and party to their fullest. For some strange reason, when I saw the kids my mind went back to a recent mission trip I had taken to Guatemala. On that trip we took a short excursion to a dump where they had set up a feeding center to feed the children at the dump. I have to say that the trip to the dump had a greater impact on me than anything I had ever seen on the mission field. Now, I had seen some pretty bad stuff. I remember seeing the slums in Rio; the Batay’s in Haiti; even the poor villages in Guatemala, but the children living in the dump, eating the food that comes on the garbage trucks and smelling the stench from the fires and the filth did something to me. None of the circumstances were the same between these two events. Canal Street is a clean street and the Palace Cafe is a clean street-side restaurant. The only similarity is the filth that both the children from the dump and the children on vacation with their parents had been exposed to. None of those children have any hope of a chance apart from a relationship with Christ. In both cases I cannot blame the children. In both places–the dump or New Orleans–they were exposed to the garbage of the world. Without Christ, there is no hope. The filth of this world is just as devastating as the filth of a dump and to be exposed to both is just as equally destructive.
I know it may seem a little silly, but there are people out there that will swear up-and-down that they know Jesus had long hair because they saw his picture and in it he had long flowing hair. Well, for starters, there is no such thing as an actual picture of Jesus. The classic image of a bearded, long-haired Jesus emerged as the favorite with the artists in the sixth century. Early Christians painted Jesus’s hair in many different ways— long or short, curly or straight, bearded or clean-shaven. The artists probably weren’t attempting to create a historically accurate image of the man. The New Testament offers virtually no physical description of him, so they would have based the portraits on their own, diverse ideas of what they thought he should look like. Augustine, an early church father once noted that it’s easy to paint a man, but hard to paint a god.
Most get their idea that Jesus had long hair on the assumption that he was under the Nazirite vow found in Numbers 6:1-21. Nowhere in scripture are told that Jesus was under a Nazirite vow like John the Baptist, but rather that he was a Nazarene because he grew up in Nazareth (Matt 2:23; Mark 1:9; Luke 1:26; John 1:45). But, before we go too far, Matthew tells us that the prophets predicted that Jesus was to be called a Nazarene. We have a situation here; we cannot find this prophecy anywhere in the Old Testament. Some scholars point us back to the Numbers 6 passage to let us know that the ones who made the Nazirite vow were of a most holy nature seen as a pure expression of righteousness under the Law. And, when we understand that the Greek word used here in Matthew is nazarios, from which we get the plural of those called in Greek who take the vow, Nazoreans, we begin to see a little of the mysterious nature of how some began to view the physical Jesus. Whether or not Jesus took the holy vow of the Nazirite’s has nothing to do with how those who followed Jesus tends to see his uniqueness and his holiness.
As a holy man, Jesus would have been viewed and portrayed with great mystery and reverence. If Jesus did have long hair, it would have been viewed as a mark of his vow to God. I am not sure if God has a measuring stick to measure the length of our hair although we do know he counts them! I am not sure if God is all that concerned about the length of our hair as much as we should be concerned about our dedication to God. As for Jesus having long hair, I am just glad that when the world sees that picture they are at least recognizing his presence and maybe, even for a brief moment, brought face to face with the reality of having Jesus present in their lives. What do you think?
A couple of weeks ago, I took time in my message to teach everyone in the church the 10 Commandments in and out of order, and we took less than 10 minutes to do it. Oh, and I also taught them the 10 plagues, too. How did we do it? Great question. It is very simple. I have uploaded a link to a graphic here on this page with an ink pen, clothes hanger, tricycle, etc.? Well, by picture association we can learn the 10 plagues, the 10 commandments or a list of anything up to 10 with these simple pictures. Click on the link below and you will see a graphic with 10 pictures each representing a number up to 10. You can print it off and use it for our exercise.
1 = ink Pen
2 = coat hanger
3 = tricycle (3 wheels)
4 = car (4 wheels)
5 = $5 bill
6 = monkey’s tail—see the 6?
7 = golf club
8 = eight ball
9 = periscope
10 = ten little Indians
OK, here we go …
Commandments: The Pen only writes one word and that is God; there is only one God. Have you ever made something out of a coat hanger? Do not make any graven images! The tricycle has a little girl riding on it and she fell off, thus taking God’s name in vain; do not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain. Everyone is riding to “Sabbath” school in the car, so we are to keep the Sabbath Day holy. Instead of Abe’s face in the $5 bill, put Dad and Mom in there and honor them. The monkey has a gun in his tail and is shooting people; don’t murder. When we love anything more than our spouses, even golf and especially golf, we are committing adultery. We can’t play the game of pool because someone stole the eight-ball; thou shalt not steal. The periscope is spying on people to tell lies about them; do not bear false witness. And, all the little Indians are jealous of each other; do not covet.
Plagues (really fast): The pen writes in blood; just like you would roast marsh-mellows, go ahead and roast some frogs; the little girl on the tricycle has lice in her hair; a fly is in the car; put a cow in place of Abe and you have the cattle disease; the monkey has boils on his tail; the golf club is hitting hail stones; there are locusts all over the pool table so we are smashing them with the eight-ball (gross, I know, but effective!); even with our periscope up we cannot see because it is dark; and, finally, 9 of the little Indians are crying because the oldest one died.
It seems silly, but I guarantee that if you take time and learn the 10 pictures you can associate them to these great truths in the Bible. Have fun and feel free to share with anyone who will take time to learn.