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Oh, To Be Four Again

Today, my daughter Ella turned four years old. We spent part of our day traveling to the Mall at Fayetteville to exchange doll houses (I’d bought the wrong one, of course). While there, we managed to pick up a few rooms worth of furniture for this new house. I couldn’t believe the way the manufacturer had paid attention to detail. Ella chose a kitchen set with mock stainless steel appliances including a fridge (with ice and water dispenser), microwave, and little tiny phone.

While playing with the new little mansion, I let Ella in on a secret. Even though it’s a “doll house,” it’s pretty cool, even to boys because it’s so real. I found myself playing right along with Ella in her imaginary world thinking, “Wow, this is so cool.” Then it hit me. I’m a grown-up with a real house, a real refrigerator, and a working automobile in the real driveway. Why am I so enamored with this play world?

I think it’s for the same reason I liked playing “war” as a child and still enjoy managing a “fantasy” baseball team. We like to simulate real life because we can usually tweak things to be a little better than they seem in reality. I noticed that all of the figures in Ella’s dollhouse smile… all the time. Like giants with ultimate control, the miniature family is under our full control, obeying our every whim.

Real life isn’t like that at all. We aren’t ever in control, and it’s a good thing. What kind of world would we create? After all, we don’t know everything and if we did, we’d use our knowledge for corruption and selfish gain. Thankfully, we serve a God who lovingly watches over us. He doesn’t control us like mindless toys, though He is ultimately sovereign over all. He enjoys us tremendously as we choose to give Him praise and bring Him glory. And at the end of life, for those who’ve known Christ as Savior, we’ll go to a mansion prepared in advance for us by the Master Carpenter, Jesus Christ.

Little Things Matter

“Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth graet things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!” -James 3:5

Yesterday, as I was trying to act goofy to get a laugh out of my daughter Ella, I bounced off our bed and my kneecap landed square against the angle-iron of our bedframe. For several hours, I wondered if I’d broken it. I couldn’t straigten it out, bend it, or lift it. It was red, swollen, and hot to the touch. We proceeded to go to the Mall twenty minutes away for a family outing and I hobbled around until I couldn’t stand it any longer. If it didn’t get better by Monday, I was heading to the Doctor.

Thankfully, by Sunday morning, I could bend my leg and the swelling was gone. The whole experience was a reminder of how much one little body part can mean to the body. With an injured kneecap, there are so many things you can’t do that you normally don’t think twice about.

James says our tongues are like that too. Compared to the rest of the body, we wouldn’t think the tongue such a significant part, but it can do great damage to people’s lives. There again, it can also build up and edify others. A word we utter may demolish or establish someone’s confidence.

God has designed the world in such a way that little things matter a lot. From the tongue to the kneecap, to the people who might be passed over as insignificant by the world, God uses little things in big ways. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul makes this same application to the church as the “body of Christ.” Every member is important. Every role is significant. And every member is dependent on every other member, no matter how “small” a role they may play. You may feel “small” today, but God can use you to hold His church together, to influence a lost soul for eternity, and to change a life forever!

Earthen Vessels

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”—2 Corinthians 4:7

When I was a kid, I collected baseball cards. Occasionally I would hear a story of someone who discovered some old cards tucked away in a special place. One such story relates to a man who found an old rusty coffee can that contained a T-206 Honus Wagner card from the early 1900’s. He sold it at auction and the famous hockey player, Wayne Gretzky and his coach split the cost of $451,000. What a treasure… in a coffee can.

We walk around every day with the gospel in our hearts. The gospel is perfect and life-changing. It is God’s message of good news and it has the power to convert people from lost to save, to radically transform lives for all eternity. Why would God entrust such great wealth to us? So that the “power” might be of God, not of human beings.

It’s quite easy to persuade people to join a movement or to follow a charismatic personality. It’s quite another to be the humble servant, pointing people to the all-powerful God of creation and to His perfect Son, Jesus Christ. What a treasure!!

Growing With Difficult People

“I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died: That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the Lord to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not.” -Judges 2:21-22

When I first entered ministry, I had a dream of serving as Pastor of a church as quickly as possible. That hasty attitude led me to two very difficult experiences. I encountered churches that were saturated with problems, and to be frank… problem people. I watched as “church people” took the “one another’s” of the New Testament (“love one another…,” “accept one another…,” etc.) and tried to do the opposite of each one.

One day I felt I was at my wit’s end. I called my father-in-law and mentor, Danny Kirk, to ask for help. I remember asking how I could possibly go on pastoring such difficult people. I’ll never forget his reply to me as he said, “Brandon, you’ve got to love’m warts and all.” Now that’s good advice.

Why does God place us in the middle of such difficult people? So that He may “prove” us thereby. So that we won’t forget that ministry is all about difficult people. And to see if we’ll use difficult people as an excuse to give up. God has placed people in your life who rub you the wrong way to test your reactions. Is He tempting you to sin? Not at all. Rather, He’s giving you an opportunity to prove your character by not sinning.

Now I hardly think that very many people in our lives could be compared to the brutish and idolatrous Canaanites of Joshua’s time, but we can certainly learn the principle that our surroundings and circumstances are really part of our trial in life. God is preparing us to compete for a crown, even through people who seem like obstacles now.

By the way, if you seem to be surrounded on all sides by difficult people, it may be because you’re a difficult person yourself! Check your life. How do you think God wants you to deal with the difficult people in your life today?

Amen on the Veto, Mr. President!

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Today, President Bush took a bold stand for life when he vetoed Congress’ bill concerning stem cell research. The bill would have reversed previous policies set by the Bush Administration which limited embryonic stem cell research only to existing lines of embryos. President Bush was unequivocal that every embryo is a precious life, created with dignity.

Interestingly, there were people present in the crowd whose lives testified to the effects of funding the right kind of stem cell research. A dozen children were present who were originally conceived for in vitro fertilization but who were adopted instead of being discarded. I will agree with the liberal media that Bush did not decide with the majority of Americans on this issue, and certainly not the majority of politicians in Washington today.

I would never presume to be a scientist, nor am I much of a politician. On this issue, however, the facts seem clear. God creates life at conception, whether in a mother’s womb or a petrie dish, and it is up to no one but God to end that life. It is especially selfish to seek to destroy the most innocent and helpless among us to spare the lives of the already-living. In any other culture, with any less scientific practice, this would be termed as barbarianism, the strong preying on the weak.

Our President is not always right, but on this issue, I say, “Amen, Mr. President!”