Grace & The Weekend

Friday 4:59 PM. It is almost here, you woke up thinking about this moment, this freedom. In one minute, you have….. the weekend!

What could you do? Where are we going to eat? I am going to be able to stay up late, sleep in, enjoy a lazy Saturday afternoon, and then do something great again Saturday night, and when I get up Sunday, all day football.

Oh this is going to be great.

Is this what we are thinking Friday at 4:59?

Some of us might be thinking, I just want to sleep! Or I am going to binge watch all weekend long.

The weekends have turned into 2 days for gratifying the flesh.

I am going to do what I want. Wake up when I want. Eat what I want.

Does it ever really satisfy though?

After the “party” nights, whether that is social partying or a Netflix and fast food – stay at home party, has this weekend satisfied?

If you’re a believer involved with a local church, did you do all this while sliding into a service at 11PM and then maybe go to lunch with some folk and then go nap, just to get up Monday and do it again?

How can we inject GRACE into the weekend? How can our weekends receive gospel transformation?

Here are a few small things that can inject grace into our weekend (while still allowing plenty of rest and that are free)

Warning: If you follow this, your weekend might not look like everyone else’s when you go back to work Monday. Your stories might not be the same. But hey, why don’t you be a rebel:

1. Begin Saturday morning with a devotional. Even after you sleep in. When you wake up Saturday, don’t just turn on T.V. and spend the next 14 hours ruled by your own mind and flesh. Here you are Saturday morning with an option: zone out or pick up your bible.

You want to have an awesome weekend? Pray and spend time in God’s word. 15 minutes. 5 minutes. Have a small time where you seek His presence and be in touch with His Spirit.

There is NOTHING better.

I know. I know. A bowl of cereal? Re-runs? Spending time with Jesus is better than that? Yeah it is. You think hiking, fishing, watching whatever, playing whatever, is greater than the God who invented all that? You got it twisted. Get your weekend started off right with time with the Lord.

Then go about your Saturday recreation however you might, but be open to change after this small time where you sought God.

2. Some time Saturday afternoon / evening: Pray. Pray for your pastor. Pray for your church. I’m not talking about monk-like hours of prayer while everyone else is at the movies or dinner. Go have fun, stay in and hang out, do whatever you want to, but, pray for some people that you know from church, especially if there are some people in hard times. Pray for your pastor who may still be working on his sermon. Pray for your church’s unity. Pray for those who you might meet tomorrow. Pray for how God might use tomorrow morning’s service.

3. Go to church early. Don’t sneak in 15 minutes late and leave during the last portion of worship. Why? To fellowship. You might need to hear something from someone. You might need to say something to someone. There is great edification in a cup of coffee before worship, there is great strength in friendly chit chat before the service, there is an invitation into someone’s lives if you are the one to be there to show a guest where the kids go, or where they can sit, or greet them in the parking lot. It is worth waking up 15 minutes earlier or going to sleep a little earlier.

4. Speak to someone you usually don’t. Even in small churches, groups and routines are formed. Even if you enjoy speaking to most of the people, even if you are sure everyone knows that you care for them, even if you are an introvert, there is a great exchange of encouragement and strength in widening our fellowship.

5. Be honest. If not everything is alright. Don’t say everything is alright. If you need help or just want to vent, your church is exactly where you should be able to find someone to help or listen, but if they ask if everything is ok and you say, “oh yeah, perfect”. It is really difficult to help or listen. This could be whether you just aren’t right with, the Lord, yourself, someone else, etc., or if there is a specific situation where someone has offended you or you have offended someone else.

This doesn’t read like a manual for throwing the best party or a dude-bro’s map to excellent weekend.

However, there is great joy in resting. There is great joy in the Sabbath. There is great joy in seeing small seeds of prayer and intentionality bearing fruit even over just 2 days’ time.

Get your rest, relaxation, recreation over the weekend, but if you aren’t fulfilled in your average weekend, add a few small ways to find grace in your weekend and see how much joy you have over being a zombie for two days.

2017 in Books

This is a fun post to look back at the year 2017 through a lens of the books read.

2017 was an odd year. Even in books. Piper is at the bottom, a western is in my top 5, and I read about half as much as I did in 2016 because I began having serious anxiety issues that greatly reduced my mental stamina.

Most of the books I read are to supplement my devotion life, walk, faith in Christ or to help in my leadership of the local church, but occasionally I read some fiction, and I am about 10% into Team of Rivals, about Abraham Lincoln.

Here are the books I read in 2017 ranked worst to first with a brief review of each:

17) Let the Nations Be Glad – John Piper

This book comes highly recommended by missionaries for the teaching on why missions matter. When I read John Piper it feels like he is making an argument instead of writing a letter. Don’t hate his work, just not a fan of his writing.

If you are considering international missions, have at it.

16) The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis

There are some great evidences of C.S. Lewis ‘genius and Christ references. I will probably read this with my kids but other than that I was underwhelmed.

It is a fun, easy to read book and I do not mean to sound critical of C.S. Lewis but just not my favorite author.

15) Valley of Vision – Puritan Poetry and Meditations

Most of these short meditations are great to supplement your prayer and devotion time. The theology is sound and the passion for gospel repentance and devotion is evident.

The language and demeanor are not for everybody.

My wife and I read these infrequently but have found them helpful in seasons.

14) Family Worship – Donald Whitney

Must read for every man. If you’re a husband, you should have already read it. If you’re a dad and haven’t read it, you are late to the game.

All kidding aside, it is a short book on a greatly forgotten / untaught subject.

This is a tiny book that could greatly impact your family.

13) Experiencing the Trinity – Joe Thorn

Joe Thorn wrote this during / after battling mental health (anxiety or depression) and I found this helpful during / after battling my own mental health issues.

This is a book consisting of small chapters dedicated to a devotional focus of the Trinity, God the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit.

12) Preach: Theology Meets Practice – Mark Dever & Greg Gilbert

As I am learning how to preach I picked this up and found it to be very helpful with understanding what a sermon is and the how to’s. They even include transcripts of sermons that were edited by each other to show helpful critique.

Main thing to take away from this book – “make the main point of the text, the main point of the sermon”.  Even if you’re a topical preacher, you can be biblical if your preaching the main topic in context of the verse.

Very simple but more preachers should follow this: “Make the main point of the text, the main point of the sermon”.

11) Awe – Paul Tripp

This is written by a guy who explains grace better than anyone and he sets out to explain a thought on worship here.

This is a good book to read to expand our worship and get us out of “valleys”.

10) Saturate – Jeff Vanderstelt

Very good book on the missional community aspect of the local church.

Written by a good story teller using examples of his successes and very honest about his failures. Even a few stories, where I was surprised about how honest he was. I dont know if I would have had the courage to share some of his mistakes, which make me like and trust him. Small groups aren’t always sunshine and every gathering or function doesn’t make dreams come true. But the commitment of a small group of believers gathering for true fellowship and ministry is a powerful thing.

If you are leading a church, leading a small group, in a small group, or even in a church you should read this book.

9) Conviction to Lead – Al Mohler

If you are in business or church leadership this is an excellent read.

Great leadership book / story of Mohler’s rise into leadership of Southern Seminary and its revitalization. Mohler uses great biblical teaching, historical references, and leadership insight.

8) Hillbilly Elegy – J.D. Vance

I am not a hillbilly. I consider myself just “country”, but I understand what J.D. is saying. I saw some of the same things that he saw. He is my people. What he has done is a remarkable explanation of a white-subculture and a wonderful story.

I found my heart tugged for families but also found myself elbowing my wife explaining, “that happened to me too”.

Enlightening read.

7) True Spirituality – Francis Schaeffer

This is the best book on “worldview” I have ever read.  Schaeffer began his spiritual retreat center L’abri to battle existentialism. I greatly benefited from this book and would have loved to read it earlier in my Christian walk as a young believer when my biggest question, was, “Ok, I believe, now what I am I supposed to do, what am I supposed to think?”

I picked this book when I “wanted to get back to basics” with Jesus. This helped.

6) Prayer – Tim Keller

I will make a sweeping statement here: if there is a book written on prayer in the past 50 years, chances are it is written by a pitiful theologian full of twisted man-centered theology.

Tim Keller wrote the exception. It’s a great work covering and comparing many views on prayer, the difficulties on prayer, and the Bible’s teaching on prayer. There is also a great segment on Augustine’s, Luther’s, and Calvin’s teachings on prayer.

My wife and I read Prayer in 2017 and found it to be insightful, challenging, and even devotional.

Highly recommend this to every Christian, as we all have probably not been taught well on prayer.

5) Lonesome Dove – Larry McMurtry

I have watched the movie several times. It is a legendary movie in my family. I know this is cliché, but the book is even better.

From the first page, I could feel the heat and sand from south Texas and I journeyed with the Hat Creek Cattle Company travels north with all the challenges, fears, celebrations, and losses that occurred.

It is a Western. But it’s a story about relationships, pride, adventure, overcoming individuals pasts, love, growing up, and is written by a native Texan who I once dove hunted right next to his land.

The biggest claim people seem to like about this book from where I live is, “did you know the author lives an hour north of here.”, and I am like, “Did you know he won a Pulitzer Prize!?”

4) Newton on the Christian Life – Tony Reinke

John Newton wrote the famous hymn Amazing Grace. But did you know that he was also a great pastor who although had weaknesses, overcame them with his love of Jesus and simple love for people.

He made up for not being as eloquent or dynamic as Spurgeon or as theologically perceptive as Calvin with a passion to communicate and shepherd with his people via visits and handwritten letters.

Make no mistake though, Newton knew the gospel, was changed by the gospel and has a great life story covered very well Tony Reinke as part of a series “On the Christian Life” covering a wide range of pastors and theologians.

3) Prodigal God – Tim Keller

We need more books that focus on one passage or parable like Keller expounds Luke 15’s Prodigal Son.

Tim Keller writes and preaches with insight and wisdom that is somehow encouraging and comforting while also informing and convicting.

Listening and reading Keller is almost as if going to a grandpa when you’re in trouble and him explaining how everything is going to be alright, he’s there for you, but you know what you need to do.

I was always confused by the title until Tim Keller explains, “prodigal” doesn’t mean wayward but means more closely to “freely spending”, as in the son was freely spending on his way to blowing his inheritance and God was freely spending on his way to rescue us via the cross.

2) Good and Angry – David Powlison

I haven’t come across many books that deal with emotional or mental issues biblically. Most books fail at being power of positive thinking, or prosperity gospel, not helpful, or just all around foolish.

I researched books that dealt with anger and the gospel.

I was feeling I had to much bite and snap to me. When I was dealing with my wife, or kids, or at work, I felt like I always had a fuse burning and I didn’t know why.

Now, what later I learned this was the beginning of some more serious anxiety issues but at the time I just knew I didn’t like how I was acting.

This book taught me a lot how when we get upset at injustices, in a way we are feeling that way because of how we are created in the image of God, however, this book was great at showing and teaching me how to forgive quickly, process anger, not be ashamed of it, but see life more mercifully and gracefully.

1) Songs of Jesus – Tim Keller

This is a daily devotional by Tim and his wife Kathy Keller. It contains a passage from a psalm, a short comment or reflection on the psalm, and a written prayer.

This book has been beneficial in my worship and devotional times, for my understanding of the book of Psalms, and it has been really fun to hear my wife chat about it when I get home or a text about it during work and the ensuing discussion we have had all year long about this book and the scripture its discussing.

They have also recently released a similar devotional over the book of Proverbs.

If you made it to the bottom of this, you may have some questions, critiques, or suggestions. I am all ears. Let me know. Make a comment or email. But I bet you also have something else in mind:

Maybe your curious to why I read or you are a believer in Jesus and you are not a “reader” outside of the Bible and have pause about reading anything not Scripture, so let me add something:

  • I disagree with something that I read from every author I read, but I also learn a lot.
  • I also learn a great deal about Scripture, Jesus, and working out my faith from a lot of these authors.
  • But simply the exercise of reading trains me to consume and digest more of the Bible, so the question or concern of reading contemporary authors taking away time from reading the Bible actually gets flipped on its head, so my question to the critics of “readers”:

Are you limited in strength, stamina, ability, access, teachers if you’re not reading?

If you don’t read contemporary authors, I bet you don’t read the bible as much as you think.

If you don’t read contemporary authors, who is teaching you? Who is teaching the one(s) teaching them? Who disagrees with them?

There is freedom in reading, there is a world of joy in reading, there is a universe to be explored in reading.

Ecclesiastes 12:12…making many books there is no end….

What Judgmental People Say on Sunday Part 1

fans

“All those players for that team are criminals!”

“They wouldn’t play for my team!” “I would cut him!”

Now, let’s take the average case that the NFL looks into. Not Aaron Hernandez murder trial and also not Joseph Randle stealing underwear. Without looking at serious evidence, I would imagine that the average case the NFL investigates regarding player discipline would be in the range of DUI (driving under the influence), substance abuse or possession (narcotics or PEDs), or domestic violence.

1st thing that must be clarified is that I am not condoning any of these actions. The emotional, relational, and even financial stakes when it comes to abuse of substances or persons are devastating. I don’t need stats to back this up, I have seen it.

Back to the blog:

Using these examples, is the reaction justified?

Let’s do a hypothetical situation:

28 year old man, money in his pocket, and time on his hands. Buddies want to go out. Party lasts too long. Bad decisions get made. This guy tries to drive home but eventually wrecks his vehicle and proceeds to get arrested for DUI and because of testosterone and alcohol; he puts his hands on his officer adding resisting arrest or even assaulting an officer.

Now if this guy is on a NFL roster he would probably get a 4 – 8 game suspension on top of any legal penalties. But, the fan base would be calling radio stations claiming that he is a thug and needs to be released.

What if the 28 year old man works in Detroit for an automobile manufacturer or on a pipeline in Texas? He posts bail and pays his fine and court fees, goes to all the hearings, and if it is a first time offense probably results in no jail time.

Nobody is claiming he should lose his job and when he does return to work, the same fan who might have called into the local sports shows or blasted him on social media if he was an athlete, but is instead cutting up with him during lunch break.

I have gotten to work in various work environments with guys who have felony criminal history, vulgar prison tats, have battled or battling serious drug addiction, violent backgrounds, etc. Want to know the strange part about that? They were some of my most dependable, productive, cooperative coworkers. Sure, some times it didn’t work out, they got fired, quit, or had to move.

You know what else happened to me? A couple of years ago, my employment was terminated due to a layoff due to oil prices.

When you have to file for unemployment, it changes the way you speak about somebody’s livelihood.

We want to fire athletes for things that some of my favorite coworkers, and closest friends and family have dealt with?

What if that was your coworker, cousin, or best friend?

I understand the other side too. I have had to decide to terminate employment of dozens of workers, based on attendance, job performance, or other business reasons.

I understand there are consequences, and I understand that there are more severe consequences the higher the stakes. And the NFL deals with a lot of money…. I mean stakes.

Main point: I am not expecting us to treat a professional athlete like our best friend when they make a mistake, but I know you wouldn’t say the same things to your best friend that you would about the professional athlete.

The reason why? You have seen them as a person, you have seen them as a unique individual.

C.S. Lewis said,

“There are no ordinary people.

You have never talked to a mere mortal.

Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.

But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

Think about that. Every person you have ever seen was made in the image of God. Whether he works for the NFL or for General Motors.

Those Judgmental People on Sunday

You know what people I am talking about.

The people that look forward all week for Sunday morning, so that they can get out of bed and put their overpriced clothes on and stick their noses up at people who may not wear the same attire.

The people that love to sit next to one another that dress the same and poke at those who think differently.

The people that love going to watch someone else do the work on Sundays but don’t ever actually do it themselves.

The people that get really excited when something on Sunday happens but you don’t hear a peep from the rest of the week.

After their Sunday ritual they go off to eat too much and take a nap.

These people….they are the worst.

It used to be you just had to put up with them on Sunday, but now it is constantly through their phone, it’s all they want to talk about at parties; they have secret get-togethers to plan out their year.

I’m telling you, these judgmental people are ruining America.

You know which judgmental people I’m talking about! Football fans! They are the most judgmental, hyper-critical, overbearing people.

So…..yeah all this is meant to be in good humor. But I will be doing a blog series comparing what we expect out of our football players, coaches, owners, franchises, league, and etc. through a Christian worldview. It should be fun, but hopefully there will be some self-examination as well.

The overall point is to be cautious of what we expect from other people.

What do we expect from our wives, husbands, kids, friends, family, church family, co-workers? NFL teams and players?

Could we stand under our own expectations of others?

This will be worked out under a series of topics that we hear throughout NFL fan bases.

What would happen if those expectations got turned around on us?

It should be fun, but hopefully encourages myself and others to extend grace.

In a parable (Luke 19:22) Jesus teaches, “I will condemn you with your own words…”

Now, sin is anything not of faith, sin results in separation from God. Jesus does not need our own words to condemn us. God’s holiness is much higher than our standards. What a great tool however; to show us the harshness of our hearts, that not only would we be crushed by God’s holiness, but we crush ourselves with our expectations of others that we cannot hold up to.

God knows that we crush ourselves and that we choose to separate ourselves from him, bringing judgement upon us.

That is why Jesus came down, bringing perfect obedience from Heaven, to absorb the wrath of judgement on the cross and remove condemnation; there is salvation from judgement to be received by grace through faith.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

So I am definitely not condemning believers or football fans, of which I am both. The aim is to enjoy some humor and honesty while we examine what might be going through our minds while our eyes are on the bible, or the game.

Resolution:

  1. Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it. (Dec. 19, 1722)

Common Grace:

Sitting down. Better yet, how about sitting down in a good chair, or even “your” chair. A friend recently came over and I insisted him sit in the best chair, that I may or may not sit in most of the time. But it is also a symbol of: your work is done. You have the privilege of sitting down; you have the seat of honor to rest.

Beeline:

Hebrews 1:3b After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…

Speaking of Jesus, who died on the cross for the removal of our sins and after defeating death, resurrected and ascended back to heaven and “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty”

Hometown:

Brazos Cinema III, the Mineral Wells movie theater.

Now the temptation is to drive 30 minutes east, to a newer theater that has some extra amenities.

But if you live in Mineral Wells, I would encourage you to stay in our town and save the gas. It’s the same movie and a very good experience. I have taken my kids several times this summer and have never had a problem. It is really simple. Go to the movies. Get your snacks. Find your seat. Watch a movie. You really need to drive 30 minutes to do that for a chicken leg or beer while you watch the movie? Go to dinner afterwards! Stay in your city!

Recommendation:

Hey while you are at the movies, especially in Mineral Wells, skip the popcorn and go straight for the pretzel. Man those pretzels are so good. Hot, check. Salted, check. Buttered, check. Extra cheese sauce to dip in?! Check. It is my new “go to” movie snack. Buy you a pretzel the next time you are at the movies. Because they are really good and it would be really awkward to see you pull a pretzel out of your bag. I see you sneaking candy into the theaters.

 

Psalm 16:11

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

 

Enjoy.

pretzelreclinerreferee

Friends, Golf, and Country Living Magazine

The wisest man I ever have or will know, told me repeatedly from an early age, “A man might in his life have only 1 true friend, he is very lucky if he has 2 or 3, you might have a lot of acquaintances, but only a few true friends.”

You can argue with that or believe some of it but deep down we don’t want to believe that. We want to dream of having 50 real friends. This is not a bad dream. We were created to be in community.

There is no present situation where there is “un-friending” or betrayal. I am not sour about anything. No tale of bitterness that we constantly see and hear; the disgruntlement of someone when they say, “Now I see who my true friends are.”

However, the hard life of my grandfather taught him that friendship is rare, costly, and to be guarded and treasured. The older I get, the more I see this to be true.

If you grew up in the 1990’s or earlier, friendship was defined by T.V. shows like Cheers and Friends, where “everyone knows your name” and there are open doors to apartments.

Not hating on the shows, but friendship like other aspects of life that can be defined by culture soon morph into different understandings.

There should be no need in discussing if the friendship is built on financial gain, lifestyle improvement, or anything in the regards to advancing in certain circles. These things are obviously selfish and shortsighted but are far too often a kindling of friendship only for the relationship to be discarded once the objective has been achieved.

I am not warning against acquaintances either. Every friendship has to start somewhere. In fact, I would charge you to keep your eyes open to who could be a friend. Be generous with your resources with acquaintances for the sake of, hospitality, community and eventually friendship; things this world sorely needs.

As I battled anxiety and am battling anxiety, two things, among others, have been greatly beneficial.

1) Sleep

2) Friends

Hey, my friends can’t sleep for me, so sleep comes first.

All kidding aside, my friends supported me in the ways that I needed support. They helped in ways that I needed help.

In the gospel of John, Jesus said “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

Laying down your life isn’t just the proverbial “falling on a grenade for someone”.

As Jesus described, it is as he loves us. This means sacrificial among many other things.

My best explanation is, my friends not only loved me, but they saw what I love and they loved those things as well. My friends loved and cared for my wife, my kids, my church, not just me.

Who are my friends? How could I look into someone’s life and love them the way they would like to be loved? What do my friends love? Who do they love? Who might become a friend?

Resolutions:

  1. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live if they were to live their lives over again. Resolved, that I will just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. (July 8, 1723) Jonathan Edwards.

Common Grace:

Music. It is not hard to see that humans were created with a desire for music. Some more than others. Some more talented than others. Music is involved in celebrations and mourning. Music accompanies movies as soundtracks. Lyrics to music have been a source of transferring history and lessons for thousands of years. Most recently music was set to a playlist during a weekend getaway.

Beeline:

Music takes place all over the Bible, right in the middle there is Psalm 95:1 Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!

Hometown:

Holiday Hills Country Club. My hometown course. Sure, it’s the golf course that I have played the most and it would be easy to compare to other courses and criticize if I didn’t know better. I have recently played a few courses east and south of us. I will play Holiday Hills any day. I try to play mostly with my dad on Thursday evenings a couple times a month, where Holiday Hills hosts a 9-hole scramble. But I also enjoy some backyard chipping teaching my son and daughter with junior clubs as my wife laughs at us.

Recommendation:

Go ahead and make a subscription to a physical copy magazine or newspaper or digest of some sort.

5 Good Reasons:

1) It provides something better than junk mail or bills in the mailbox

2) There is a genuine, “oh great my _____ copy is here” when it arrives

3) It is pretty cheap, usually less than $20 per year

4) It might start up better conversation around the house than looking at your phones

5) Don’t miss the point; paper subscription of any kind isn’t just about the transfer of information, because you could probably get the same information faster on-line.

The point is that you are more likely to read the material that you are interested in if it arrives physically and you are more likely to share and discuss a physical copy.

Enjoy!

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

The Table

Its been a tough week. Was not able to post a normal blog, so here is another attempt at poetry. This is my expression of the story of the Bible with a lens on the symbol of a table throughout.

Enjoy.

The Table

At the table of perfect fellowship, a holy decree

Was moved forward in love from thy One in Three

The image was breathed into life and he was given

A wife, a call, but a choice would curse his dominion

Still in his mercy, a people of his own he would call

In providence, he instituted a law to protect them after the fall

In their sin, a perfect fellowship was no longer able

So he required a holy place to bring offering to a table

In prophecy and promise, the LORD God said to him

I am your shepherd you shall not want

A table is prepared before your enemies

To him after God’s own heart

The Law is good and true God said to David the king

But salvation is not in it, My Messiah in your line I will bring

The fulfillment of law in perfect grace will come to thee

In the person of Christ, the table will be special ministry

Some of the most precious moments of our Savior’s time

Would be surrounded by tax collector and sinners as they dine

Around the tables, hope and faith in sinners they would find

Around the tables, the eleven and Jesus reclined

Even the few eleven would not believe the cross he would meet

So Jesus bent down from the table to prepare and wash their feet

On the same night with the one who betrayed and the one he loved

He introduced the new covenant, at the table

He gave bread as his body, wine as his blood

After the cross, and tomb death had not won

At a table, He told, He would drink it new with us in His Father’s Kingdom

Michael Scott vs. Leslie Knope

If you are not aware, Leslie Knope is the  deputy director played by Amy Poehler in the T.V. show “Parks & Recreation” and Michael Scott is Steve Carrell’s character who is the Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin for the show “The Office”.

Which character do you like better?

Which workplace would you rather go to everyday?

Which show would you rather watch, if you had to choose one?

Before we go any further, let me say this: both shows are All-Time, both shows have hooked me in and made me laugh, like deep down, belly chuckle, can’t breathe, tears streaming type laugh.

But…”Parks and Rec” is better.

Let me tell you why, actually first, let me tell you a couple reasons why it is not.

Parks and Rec is not better than The Office because Ron Swanson is the best character of all time, though he is.

Parks and Rec is not better than The Office because Chris Pratt as Andy was a perfect casting job of all time, though this is true.

Parks and Rec is better than The Office because Leslie Knope is a better character than Michal Scott.

I don’t mean that Amy Poehler is a better actor than Steve Carrell or that even Leslie Knope is funnier than Michael Scott.

I mean that I prefer the “character’s-character” of Leslie over the core of Michael. I prefer the heartbeat of Parks and Rec over the tone of The Office.

For instance, Michael Scott, his main objective out of going to work as Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin is admiration from employees, loyalty from friends, girls to want him, guys to want to be him, everyone to value his business savvy, except for the fact that he does not work hard, is demeaning and insulting, and overall selfish and careless.

It is great though, this sets up for awkward scenarios and genius comedy.

On the other hand, Leslie Knope’s reason to go to work = tirelessly fight for democracy, mainly in the form of supplying public venues and forums and enjoyment of parks.

Despite being offered a better job in the rival, nicer town of Eagleton, she chose to stay in the lesser town of Pawnee as deputy director. Unlike Michael she tries so hard at her job that even Ron Swanson who hates government jobs is forced to appreciate her. Unlike Michael, she sacrifices so much that people love her.

For example, in one episode Michael ordered ice-cream cake for a party to celebrate a person who is lactose intolerant and couldn’t eat their own cake.

I admit, another incredibly funny episode, selfish, but funny.

While Leslie, tailors a party specifically to the person of honor, like when Ron (who hates people and especially having his birthday celebrated) received a gift from Leslie of an office to himself, with steak and scotch while he watched a western movie she rented and she even designated a cab for his use when he was ready and then, left him alone.

Sure, both shows have similar story lines but the difference is that when I watch The Office, I feel an impulse to disengage from the real world because of its negativity and cynicism, although yes, extremely funny. When I watch Parks & Rec I feel determined and hopeful.

I am also not stating that Parks and Rec does not contain cynicism, negativity, or the other stuff that fills most shows like romantic plots, bathroom humor, because it does. I also admit, that I would still watch The Office.

My main point is that Leslie Knope is the better Michael Scott.

Michael Scott wants the likeability that Leslie Knope earned. Michael tries to be liked at the expense of others, Leslie gets it at her own expense.

Michael wants the admiration Leslie has. Michael tries to demand it through the job title. Leslie gets it from determination.

Michael wants the success and vision Leslie has. Michael pretends to have sales skills and vision. Leslie has it from the drive of maintaining and restoring the parks of Pawnee, for the people of Pawnee.

We use this same tact of exegesis and interpretation in bible study and preaching, because, well, we see it in the bible.

Like in 1 Corinthians where Paul compares Jesus with Adam, where Adam was tempted and failed bringing sin into the world – Jesus was tempted and proved faithful defeating death for the world. And in Hebrews where Jesus is the better Moses, Moses was used in installing the law which showed our sin and need; Jesus fulfills the law on our behalf.

Obviously I am not saying that Parks & Rec is about the gospel or that I would use this as a sermon illustration.

What I am saying is that there are stories and shadows all around us that remind us of the eternal story that we are in.

Parks & Rec is better in my opinion, because what it reminds me of.

Resolution:

  1. Resolved, after afflictions to inquire what I am better for them, what good have I got by them, and what I might have got by them.

Common Grace:

Building Structures, the creativity around the world seen in huts, igloos, teepees, cathedrals, or skyscrapers. What started out of necessity for protection from elements grew into an art.

Beeline:

Ephesians 2:18-22

18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Hometown:

The Baker Hotel. Whether it ever gets restored or not, the Baker Hotel provides a center of history for Mineral Wells and regardless of fulfillment of its potential, it should be a reminder of potential that Mineral Wells possesses.

Recommendation:

If you desire to keep up with news and current events but have little time or patience with networks and newspapers, I recommend a podcast “The Briefing” with Al Mohler. It is a daily podcast that you can listen to that is available first thing in the morning about that day’s topics covered through a Christian worldview. If you want a secular snapshot there is a good email subscription available for daily coverage from Mike Allen at Axios. I have found these helpful to keep me informed but not depressed.

The BriefingAlbertMohler.com

Psalm 16:11

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Enjoy.

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My Love / Hate with Baseball

I grew up playing “catch” with dad. “Home-run derby” with friends. Little League. All of that.

I like baseball as a sport and game.

But I have a real love / hate relationship with Major League Baseball.

Take for instance, the recent wonderful Opening Day Game. As soon as the first players report to practices the hardcore baseball fans get real excited and the baseball buzz gets stronger as the first game approaches. Some people think it should be a national holiday!

It is an amazing event. The new teams take the field with 30-40K+ fans cheering on a sunny spring day with beer and hot dogs and all the new crazy stadium foods. At this point, the fan is only concerned with the next 9 innings. The “Ace” starting pitcher is on the mound, most players are healthy, and every team has a fair shot for playoff success.

Opening Day is great. But then as that game is completed, I realize that there are 161 more games to go!

Here in lies my love / hate.

In fact why I am including this, is not to be a post listing some of the things that I love and then listing some of the things that I hate.

I HATE that the baseball season takes 6 months and there are 10x more baseball games than football games. I hate that the baseball teams go through so many injuries, call ups, position changes, trades, etc.

But….

I LOVE that the baseball season forces teams to become – what sports guys call – “galvanized.”

I am not sure if most sports guys on sports radio or ESPN are familiar with what galvanization is.

At my place of work, we will cut steel, form it, maybe weld it, whatever to make the part and then send it to a vendor to be “galvanized”.

Galvanizing is a process where an item is dipped into molten zinc. The item then has a thick layer of coating.

This can serve both ways, to keep things from outside contaminating what is inside and to keep the desired elements that are inside from corroding or escaping.

Sports metaphors like “galvanize” can become so over used that they lose their meaning.

At the season in my life, I am learning to not value the things in life that haven’t been galvanized in my life and to really only hold on to things that I am willing to go through a process of refining and coating of hot metal.

In life, the process of galvanizing comes through suffering of sickness, loss, mistakes, disagreements, etc.

In the past years I have lost relationships, places, activities, objects and even a job.

Baseball and what is required to succeed in it does not show us how to succeed in life. Baseball is an imitation and expression of the process of life that shows us what is valuable.

It is tempting to believe the lie that gratification comes easy. What book, movie, or song was ever written about the slacker kid getting a CEO position and feeling completely satisfied?

No, stories are written about the long journeys of heroes overcoming obstacles and rising up from defeat to earn victory.

Whether it is the turmoil of liking a baseball game or not having the patience of 162 game season, or maybe you are in a situation of life where something is being galvanized, or you don’t know if you have the courage or strength to be the hero, let me tell you something…….

You don’t. You shouldn’t, it is too tough, you can’t, it is bigger than you.

But it can be given to you.

Jesus said that “in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Baseball is a game that shadows endurance, galvanizing, and the possibility of success.

In life, we have the real opportunities but ultimately the incompletion and failure of.

In the gospel, we have all the accomplishments of Jesus in Him.

We can watch Kirk Gibson, hobbling around the bases after the epic home run.

We can watch the Red Sox come back from down 0-3 in the playoffs.

But we can’t live in it. We can even buy their championship rings, but we don’t have their attributes.

In Jesus, we were crucified with him, we were buried, we were baptized with him, we will be raised with him. We are given his attributes. We are given his faithfulness, his righteousness, his obedience.

Resolution:

  1. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

Common Grace:

Rain. I ran my sprinklers consistently but nothing can replace what the rain can do for our lawn. Just a couple weeks ago, my backyard was crunchy and yellow. Just a few showers later I see the strong healthy grass taking over and now I need to mow every week. My wife’s garden is sprouting and growing and looking good with flowers and smells good with different herbs.

Beeline:

Just like my efforts with grass and my wife’s with gardening; we can work and toil and sweat but on our own we are not only limited but in futility. Jesus tells us that, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”….”As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”

Hometown:

Center of Life. I have seen their fight against poverty around our town of Mineral Wells, TX. They offer  ministry, classes, assistance, and other programs aiming to help people out of the cycle of poverty. They were also crucial in assisting the town when we had a main water line bust and over 90% of the town had ZERO running water, the Center of Life became a hub to distribute bottled water to the town.

Recommendation:

“Salsa Dogs”. Something my wife and I have eaten for years. Can’t remember how or where we came up with these. But is basically a hot dog with melted shredded cheese and topped with salsa.

Psalm 16:11

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Enjoy.

Shock and Awe-Fully Average

Are you the most skilled person you know at something?

Or maybe, not the best but very, very good at something? Like a particular sport, video games, gardening, outdoors, music, fashion, etc.? Maybe you don’t feel like you are excellent at anything. You might feel like you are notoriously, even comically bad at most everything.

Me? I am right in the middle, pretty average.

The world we live in is surrounding us in the value of shock and awe. Everything is getting bigger, better, faster, more radical, more extreme. While I live and function, at a surface level, of very average.

Now before you begin thinking that I have low self-esteem, depressed, or think that I don’t work towards excellence, let me shoot you straight: I have no problem believing that I am average. No, I am also not going with the, “there is no such thing as an average person, we are all miracles” or “we are all made in God’s image”, yes, yes, that is true. I have kids, they are miracles. This is not my subject for discussion though.

This is different than that.

There is peace and contentment in my identity as an average person. Because in “this world” my place is to be awe-fully average. Not awfully average as in very mediocre or too bad to even be considered average. But my place in life, at this season especially is to be right in the middle of things. Good in every regard but like 90’s sitcom average. Awe-fully average.

Don’t miss the point here. Average in status and skill but incredible in substance and experience. Average has put me in the exact positions in life to see things that are awe inspiring. Fully in awe of the One who is like no other. Jesus. I am full of awe because I see him working in me, my wife, my family, my brothers and sisters at church. There is no mistaking how very non-average his work was and is.

Everyone knows people try hard and do better. Have you seen people transformed?

We can “forgive and forget” or “move on”. Have you seen true reconciliation that actually refines and strengthens relationships?

People all around us struggle in the status quo. Have you seen those with limited incomes, give generously even when it hurts?

Great people overcome obstacles. Have you seen normal people glorify God in their suffering?

I see these things on a consistent basis and it is awesome. That is why we do what we do.

Don’t miss the forest for the trees, contentment is not the answer. Jesus is.

I am content with being average because while I am not the best at anything, there is an extraordinary gospel at work around me.

Godliness with contentment is great gain. – 1 Timothy 6:6

Resolution:

  1. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. July 8, 1723.

Common Grace:

The sun, that big, bright, hot star that in Texas we like to see this time of year but hate by end of June. I often neglect the magnitude of the sun. I don’t get into astronomy; don’t garden, not really into most summer activities. Maybe I need to read outside more. But right now, the sun is warm, not too hot, spring is here and people are taking advantages in different ways.

Beeline:

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, ….For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. – Col 1:16-20

Jesus is attributed with being Creator, creator of sun and earth, you and me. Made peace by the blood of his cross. So Jesus being very God, left heaven, came to his creation, to die a death absorbing the wrath of God, making peace with us who would receive faith in him by the blood of his cross.

Hometown:

Dairy Mart. Cheeseburger with jalapenos. Sweet Potato Fries. Vanilla Coke. Best burger in town, state, planet. Get a fried egg on top. Order their “Crazy Burger” if you dare. Definitely get the Sweet Potato Fries. Steak Fingers are great. My kids love the corn dogs. Did I mention Sweet Potato Fries? What is not to like. Ice Cream and Burger joint where you can eat outside on picnic tables.

Recommendation:

Book to read:

Awe: Why it Matters for Everything We Think, Say, and Do by Paul David Tripp

Lemon Pie

Easter. When you see or hear Easter you think of ______? It might be Resurrection Sunday, but it is probably more along the lines of “easter” eggs or bunny, or maybe those horrible marshmallow “peeps”. Or maybe, a new dress or coloring eggs the night before.

To me, I know it is time for my lemon pie. That is pretty much my main objective. My wife’s lemon pie and I go way back.

*Flashback*

It is a perfect spring day at a church bake sale fundraiser and up next is a fresh bright lemon pie. At this point, I didn’t even know if I liked lemon pie but there is a sassy blonde up there displaying her grandma’s recipe that she achieved. So I open up with a big bid to get her attention, and someone outbids. I counter trying to impress her with my determination but apparently this guy must really like lemon pie. The war is on. We are throwing bids like haymakers, me in the back of the crowd bidding for her pie and affection and my adversary sitting down in the front row locked in.

After a 12 round heavyweight fight, who do you think came out victorious? Well, we probably both did. Oh, I won the war; I got the pie and the girl. But this guy in the front row was my future father-in-law exposing my weakness for lemon pie and his daughter as well as my intentions with her to the world. Everyone knows no lemon pie is worth $150 unless there is more than lemon meringue in the air. Yep, he won the day. But he was merciful at letting me off at $150 because I would have gone higher.

Back to Easter. How do you enjoy or celebrate Easter? How should you enjoy or celebrate Easter?

I see a few options and will keep this short.

1) Don’t celebrate Easter at all because:

A) You don’t believe that Jesus resurrected

B) You believe that Jesus defeated death but you choose not to celebrate and are not commanded to.

2) Celebrate Easter, but do so without any cultural practices like the easter bunny and eggs sort of thing.

3) Celebrate Easter as a follower of Christ, and according to passages like 1 Corinthians 8, your conscience is not bothered by the cultural aspects of Easter so you can participate in an egg hunt and have fun.

This is what we choose to do. I know what I am teaching my kids and am not bothered by them picking up eggs out of the grass. To me, that is all they are doing. Eating candy and picking up eggs out of the yard. There is nothing more to it than that.

But what is mandatory on Easter?

Nothing is mandatory because of Easter. However because Easter is on a Sunday, lets rephrase the question. What generally happens on Sundays, regardless of Easter or not?

On Sundays the church gathers together. Emphasis on when the church gathers. When the church gathers, the gospel is proclaimed and celebrated. Easter or not. Jesus defeated death, rose from the grave, walked out of a tomb after 3 days; Jesus died and didn’t stay dead. For me, for you, for us. So when the church gathers, we celebrate this.

I don’t just need this on Sundays; I need to hear this every day.

I sincerely hope that we are hearing more about the gospel than what we should or should not do on Easter. The gospel isn’t an Easter message, it is an everyday message. If your Easter sermon sounds radically different than most Sundays, it might be time to look for a new church.

One evening when my kids and I were reading through this passage of Jesus’ crucifixion, my little girl said something like, “Jesus died, that is really sad.” And I explained, “Of course, in a way your right that is really sad. But it is also the greatest thing ever because he died the death we should have died and he rose again that we may live.”

Resolution:

  1. Resolved, not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness and benignity.

Common Grace:

Children. Or being a kid. Children are a gift. Remember when your biggest concern was not being bored. Don’t directly take this with responsibilities of parenting, but just take a look at the miracle that kids are. What they are capable of. I am also not saying they are innocent but most kids tend to be a little more gracious than adults. They want to play with you and they want you to like them.

Beeline:

John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Childlike faith is dependent on knowing you can’t help yourself and that your identity is linked to another. In there is true freedom and great joy.

Hometown:

Treehouse Learning Center (Daycare and Pre-school) located at Grace Church of Mineral Wells. This is a no-brainer because of the wonderful staff. I also get to see the training, hard work, and integrity that surpasses just being responsible with children, which is a great task in itself. They are selfless and trustworthy. As a bonus, the facility is multifunctional as Grace Church’s kids building and fellowship hall and some of the profit from the Treehouse Learning Center is redirected to church ministries and missions. Like Cocoon Pregnancy Resource Center and Church plants and pastors in Yucatán, Mexico.

Recommendation:

Be a neighbor. Get past social awkwardness. Do more than wave. If you need a starting point, buy a dessert and take it to them, introduce or re-introduce yourself. Imagine life around your house if there was a connection with other people with real relationships.