Category: Christian living

Trying To Figure It Out?

Every Thursday I teach a Bible study at Benson Chrysler Dodge Jeep here in Greer, and I’ve been teaching through the Gospel according to John. I have highlighted a recurring theme that is so obvious now that I just marvel and it’s power and simplicity, and yet wonder how we so often miss it; stop trying to figure out spiritual truth with physical understanding.

No brainer, right?

So why did Nicodemus have such a hard time understanding what Jesus meant when He said, “You must be born from above?” What about the Samaritan woman at the well, who couldn’t figure out how Jesus could offer her water that would keep her from ever thirsting again when he had nothing to draw with? What about those who were completely confused when Jesus told his listeners that they had to partake of His body and blood?

He’s told us that His ways aren’t our ways, so why then do we try to understand Him according to our limited view? Only the Holy Spirit, instructing us through the Scriptures, can give us what we need to figure it out the right way. Trying to do otherwise is like attempting analytic geometry before you know basic arithmetic.

“I Wanna Go Back”

I really like satellite radio, mostly for two reasons: 1. the 70’s channel and 2. the 80’s channel. That’s the music I grew up with right there. The 80’s channel especially hits me because that was the music I listened to while I was in high school. What’s funny is some music I didn’t like then I will listen to now, simply because it is from the 80’s.

I went to Seabreeze high School in Daytona Beach, Florida, and yes, it was as good as it sounds. We were right across A1A from the Atlantic Ocean, and summer was never very far away (appealing on a day like this, while it is snowing as I type here in Greer). The Spring Break craze hit Daytona my sophomore year, with MTV bringing their unique brand of madness to town. By today’s standards, it was family fare, but back then, it was cutting edge.

Several of my friends decided to skip school so they could go to one of the concerts: Eddie Money. Now Mr. Money has not had many hits since, but he got pretty big back in the 80’s. I didn’t feel like skipping to see him. Now don’t think I was a goody-two-shoes or anything. I would’ve skipped for Phil Collins and Genesis, or even Journey, and especially Billy Joel, but Eddie Money just wasn’t a favorite. I liked him fine, but he wasn’t worth the skip and resultant risk. A comedy of errors ensued for my friends who went (their car ran out of gas, for one thing), but I’ll save that tale for another day.

What made me think of all this was when I heard Eddie Money on the 80’s channel recently, singing a song of his I liked pretty well at the time: “I Wanna Go Back”. For those of you who don’t know it, the chorus goes like this:

“I wanna go back and do it all over, but I can’t go back I know.

I wanna go back, ’cause I’m feelin’ so much older, but I can’t go back I know.”

While it’s fun to reminisce about the good old days, as Billy Joel says in a song entitled “Keeping the Faith”, “The good old days weren’t always good”. Are you feeling older, and guiltier, about the old days? We’ve all done things we wished we hadn’t done, but the fact of the matter is that we can’t go back. Eddie Money was right.

So was the apostle Paul. In reflecting on his own life, he saw good and bad in the past. Then he wrote this: “Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

Don’t anquish over the past. It’s just that, and you can’t do anything about it. Instead, press on toward what God has for you today. “The good old days weren’t always good, and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems”. Sing it, Billy. Keeping the faith, indeed.

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!

I am so tempted to make a snide global warming comment here, but I will refrain. For about the 50th time this winter, it is snowing in Greer, South Carolina. It’s not sticking–at least, not here at the office–but it’s coming down pretty good. The kids are getting out of school at noon today, as it’s possible it could get nasty later on.

If you’re in an area where global warming is hurling it’s wrath at you from the sky (sorry, couldn’t resist), be careful out on the roads. People in South Carolina don’t know how to drive in the snow.

I’ll post something more substantial and serious later. Right now, I’m just going to look out the window and lose myself in a winter wonderland for a few minutes.

God Speaks on Mondays, Too

Sundays are always fun and exciting for me. I look forward to getting together to worship, hear what God is doing in people’s lives, and dig into His Word.

Mondays? Well, they’re often… Mondays. I’m still tired from Sunday usually, physically and mentally, and it can take a little bit to get going. I usually try to make hospital visits on Monday, so I was doing just that when I got a text from the office. I had sent out a letter last week to people who hadn’t been to Sunday School for a while, just to let the know they weren’t forgotten, and to let them know I was available if I could do something for them. The text from the office said that someone had called and wanted to tell me why they hadn’t been to Sunday School.

Unsure of what was on the person’s mind I called as soon as I got the message. The person answered, and was immediately concerned that I was talking while driving. I assured them that I was on the speakerphone but would stop if I needed to, and that relieved them. The person then indicated that they recieved my letter and wanted me to know why they hadn’t been there for a while.

To be honest, at this point, I’m thinking that this might not be a fun conversation. What if someone had done something to offend this person, to cause them to stumble? What if was something I had done?

The person begins to share their story: illness had kept them away for a considerable amount of time, and it was simply too difficult for them to come. Their Sunday School class stayed in touch with them, though, and they watched our service on tv every Sunday morning. They had not received a letter from the pastor before, though, and they really appreciated the one I sent last week. I pulled over and prayed with them over the phone, then ended the call.

I’ve been thinking about that ever since. Here’s someone that wants so badly to be able to experience fellowship and corporate worship, and yet they can’t. I have the privilege to worship and then complain about being tired.

Today, I am so thankful that God let me be tired.

I am so thankful that He has blessed me the way He has.

I am so thankful He is always at work around me, and you, even when we are tired. Or sick. Or shut-in.

Even on Monday.

Experts Aren’t Born…

We spent the day at the Greer Dragway today. Gorgeous weather, great time together as a family. The funny thing about racing? It looks really easy until you try it yourself.

Back in November, my wife Lea Ann gave me an early birthday/Christmas/anniversary/everything else present: a day of high-speed driving at Road Atlanta, one of the world’s premier race tracks. The idea of driving at ridiculous speeds without the threat of speeding tickets or jail time sounds great. Until you’re sitting there, in your own car, with a helmet that feels like it’s squeezing your eyeballs out, you’re gripping the wheel tighter than you’d like…and you’re just sitting in line, waiting to be given the green flag. Then you realize: this is not at all like playing a videogame.

My first session on the track was spent following a pro driving a race-prepped Porsche 911 GT3. We got up to pretty significant velocities, but nothing beyond what I felt comfortable with. My next session, however, was totally different. Randy Pobst, a professional race car driver, offered to take me out on the track in my own car and “show me the line”. I jumped at the chance to have an expert teach me the ropes.

And then we were off.

For those of you old enough to remember what an “‘E’-ticket ride” was, this was about a dozen of those. I have never in my life experienced such mind-numbing terror and ridiclous amounts of fun as I did while Randy was calmly talking to me about high-speed technique at 130+ mph. Sure enough my next session was very different, as I was able to drive the car much more “on the edge” after I was shown how to do so properly and without having to explain to my insurance agent the difference between a race and a “performance driving school”.

I learned much more than how to drive around a racetrack. I learned, once again, that experts are not born, they are made. I have grown up around cars, and have driven many powerful ones over the years. I know what to do and what not to. I thought. Then you meet someone who knows so much more, and you feel like a 15-year old again, trying to figure out how to work a clutch, a gas pedal, and brakes with any sort of fluidity..

So many times we feel like there is nothing more God can teach us. We’ve heard all the stories, know all the songs, have memorized all the verses. We feel that we have spiritually arrived.

Then you spend some time with Jesus. The Master. The only One who has arrived. And you realize: I know so little. I am so unworthy.

And then Jesus gives you an invitation that is almost too good to believe: “Abide in me, and I in you” (John 15:4).

Don’t feel bad that you don’t know everything. Don’t feel bad that you haven’t arrived. None of us have. And Jesus knows it. And He still loves us, and offers us the chance to grow with and through Him, if we will just trust Him enough to toss Him the keys and go along, learning from His instruction.

Have you taken advantage of the Expert’s offer?

Who Is Your Map?

This Sunday night I am starting new study. Well, it’s not really a new study, but new in relative terms here at Riverside Baptist Church–“Experiencing God”, by Henry Blackaby. It truly is a life changer, and I hope any of you who are close enough and are not otherwise tied up can come Sunday nights at 6:00 p.m.

Along the way, I will probably put up some thoughts from the study on this blog. I may wind up posting several times a day on some days. It’s that good.

I have trouble trusting a GPS. It takes a lot of faith for me to believe that this little electronic box is going to get me where I really want to go. Is it really going to get me there, or is it going to lead me on a wild goose chase? I heard a story last year of a couple who were led hundreds of miles out of their way because they misspelled the name of the town they were looking for. Bad input on my part can lead to disaster. I want to be able to double check the route and make sure I’ve got everything in order before I launch out onto that course.

Blackaby points out that “we always ask God for a detailed road map. We say, ‘Lord, if You could just tell me where I’m heading, then I will be able to set my course and go.’ He says, ‘You don’t need to. You need to follow me one day at a time’…Jesus said, ‘I am the way’ (John 14:6). He did not say, ‘I will show you the way’. He did not say, ‘I will give you a road map’. He did not say, ‘I will tell you which direction to go’. He said, ‘I am the way’. Jesus knows the way; He is your way.”

Jesus is our map. Regardless of our inputs, correct or faulty, His direction never wavers, never fails. He needs to be our roadmap, because we can always trust that He knows the way–because He is the way.

“How Sweet To Hold…”

Today I went to the hospital to see a newborn and congratulate the proud parents. The baby is a little cutie, with a head full of dark hair and alert eyes. My Administrator Eric and his wife Erin are expecting their own little bundle of joy any day now. Another couple we’re friends with just had their little angel a couple of months ago.

I’d have another in a second. I admit. I love babies. Unfortunately, that’s just not in the cards for my wife and I. Three is going to be our limit, and not just because that’s all that will fit in the back seat of a Dodge Challenger. But I am so thankful for the great kids we have. Our oldest is going to be 11 soon (!), our middle child just turned 9, and our baby boy will soon be 3. It seems like they all should still be as small as the newborn I held today, but, as we all know, they grow up so fast. Remember the old Carter’s pajamas ad? “If they could just stay little ’til their Carter’s wear out.” *Sigh*.

So anyway, as I’m holding this little baby today I am, of course, thinking of all of mine when they were that size. Brandon, our 3 year old and only boy, is the freshest memory. As I look into the wide-open eyes of this little baby, I suddenly see the eyes of my 3 year old this morning, putting on a leather-looking jacket that is extremely similar to one I have (that is why I bought it, naturally). We bought it on sale a couple of weeks ago on clearance, and were going to put it up for next year because it’s still a little big. As he is walking to the door this morning to head to Mawmaw and Graddy’s house, he spots that jacket.

“I wear it!” he says, laying hands on it.

“Not yet, buddy,” I reply. “It’s too big for you. Let’s wait until the fall and it’ll fit you better.”

“No, Daddy,” he says, blue eyes full of earnestness. “I look like you!”

I could fully relate to what my little man was saying. When I was little–and long past little, in fact–I wanted to be like my Dad. I wanted to look like him, talk like him, dress like him–I even wanted my parents to change my name to “Larry”. I wanted to be as tall as my Dad, too–6’6″, at his peak of tallness. I fell about 6 inches short of that, though. I always joke that it’s my mom’s short genes.

It’s perfectly natural for a child to want to be like their father. My girls are the same way, to an extent. They both love cars and video games, and know more about Star Wars than you do. They want to play basketball and run track and be as pretty as their Mom. That’s they way it should be.

And that’s the way it should be for a follower of Christ. We want to be like our Heavenly Father. We want to look like Him, talk like Him, and all of the above. When we surrender our lives to Christ, we are commiting ourselves to the Way of the Father. We may fall short, of course–we can’t, after all, be perfect as our Father in Heaven is, but we can cast our lives into His perfect Hands and know that He will enable us to be more in Him than we could ever be on our own. Know, too, that nothing thrills our Father than when His children long to be like Him.

Oh, and about that jacket that was too big for Brandon?

Yep. He wore it.

Some Like It Hot…

Almost every Tuesday I have the privilege of having lunch with an extraordinary bunch of guys. They are good friends, and Godly friends–a winning combination, to say the least. They are a huge encouragement to me during the week, and I laugh more with them than I ever did watching an episode of Seinfeld. They truly demonstrate to me the Biblical principle of iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17), in more ways than one. Our weekly haunt is a Thai place–nothing fancy, but a quaint little place filled with regulars.

Of all the entertaining things they do, few amuse me more than the macho posturing two of them do over how hot they like their Thai food. Now, I don’t know if you know anything at all about Thai food, but it basically comes in one of three spices: 1. Spicy 2. Really spicy 3. Call 911.

This particular establishment breaks their heat into 10 levels. At least, that’s what they say. I have ordered a “2”–only a “1” is lower on their heat index–and felt my lips spontaneously ignite. Two of my friends, however, constantly go back and forth over whether their food is really that hot or not. The running joke is that they no longer order a “10”, they ask for a “15”.  The other lunch attendee, who like myself likes a little heat and not a lot of punishment, usually takes the sidelines and just watches the fun. Recently, however, when we were eating out after church, this friend and I were at another eatery that features any number of hot sauces. He decided to add a little Brother Bru-Bru’s Hot Sauce to his sandwich. I believe he realized his mistake at the time, but it wasn’t until some hours later that the true consequences of his actions came back to haunt him.

As Christians, we like to think of ourselves as willing to be on the front lines, ready to charge hell with a water pistol, and that’s a good thing. We should be prepared to follow where ever our Savior leads. But we also need to realize that there is a price to pay for being on the leading edge of the battle. There is a attraction to the idea of being the heroic warrior, facing overwhelming odds and yet over coming–until the time comes that we are the ones facing those odds. We want the glory, but not the struggle.

We want to get the taste, but we don’t want the burn.

My friends with the tongues of steel have developed the capacity to enjoy the flavor as they endure the burn. As Christians, we have the same goal before us, don’t we? The Christian life is one of difficulty, trials, and overwhelming odds. And yet, in order to truly experience the abundant life Jesus has for us (John 10:10), we need to be willing to take the burn with the flavor.

It’s an aquired taste, but its more than worth it.

Hitting the Ground Running

Well, I finally have my own blog site. If that isn’t enough, I am also on Twitter (you can follow me at @RevMarc).  I have exactly zero people following me so far, but that’s okay. No one really knows about the blog yet either, but I figure if I don’t get started now I never will.

This past Saturday Lea Ann and I had a date-day, sort of. The kids had spent the night at my parents’ house, so we had a big portion of Saturday all to ourselves. So did we do something romantic? Of course.

We went to the dragstrip.

In the words of Magnum P.I., I know what you’re thinking. “Why did you take your sweet, loving wife to the dragstrip? Why not the park, or a sappy movie, or shopping or something?

The answer is quite simple: she wanted to. Okay, maybe it wasn’t her very first choice, but it was a great way to spend the day sitting close to one another and just enjoying a few hours of being together. She will tell you that she has come to enjoy watching cars runs at the strip almost as much as I do.

It was the first day of running at the newly refurbished Greer Dragway. The trakc itself looks first class, and there were more than a few people who wanted to run on the fresh track. There were some fairly mild street cars (including a couple of work trucks with toolboxes in the bed) to some serious ground-pounders (4.7 seconds at 150 mph in the 1/8th mile).

I was reading online this morning about an aquaintance of mine who ran his car this past Saturday. He talked about how a number of cars broke axles, rear ends, clutches, and the like, because the new track was prepped well for traction and was very sticky. He was glad his didn’t, of course, but part of frequent racing is realizing that it is going to be hard on the car as far as wear and tear goes. However, running a race car hard is what it’s all about. If you aren’t going to run it all-out, why bother?

The same is absolutely true in the Christian life. If you and I surrender our lives to Christ and receive His forgiveness, but don’t run like we want to win, what’s the point?

So how about you? How are you running your race?