Archive for March, 2017

Mar
30

Playing Checkers with Dad

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My dad was never one to play cards or board games. He did, however, enjoy a game of checkers. If I wanted him to play with me, checkers was my go to. In all of the years I played him I never could beat him. Not. One. Time. He learned to play the game from his father, who he reports he could never beat. It must have been a regressive generation trait.

I can remember those games with him. He never really cared if he was “black or red,” and always let me make the first move. We would play at a very slow and deliberate pace, each taking his turn with no one seemingly possessing an advantage. Then after several moves, almost out of the blue, he would go on a massive offensive, making double jumps and reducing my number to one or two checkers. After the offensive, there was nothing left to do but concede defeat. And it went that was whenever we played. Every. Single. Time.

When I got older I finally possessed enough wisdom to ask him how he became so good at checkers. I knew that he had learned from his father and was hopeful that he could teach me some amazing trick or sprinkle magic dust on me to grant me these mysterious powers. He simply smiled and said, “You just have to look ahead to your next move.” By looking ahead, he meant the next 10-12 moves.

While I was messing around making my individual move he was strategizing his next series of moves. All I could see was his move. I could not see within his mind and uncover the checkerboard that was in his brain.

I think God works in our lives in similar fashion. We go through life, plodding along one move at a time, complete with our questions and doubts as to why particular things happen to us. And then all of a sudden, God unveils his plan and we can look back and see how all of those individual moves led to one great moment where things seem to come together and everything becomes clear.

Life certainly has more value than a game of checkers. But like the game of checkers, things rarely happen all at once. There is usually a series of moves that occur that do not seem like much…coincidental events that, in and of themselves seem benign. But it all matters and it all counts. Even the things that don’t appear to mean much, if anything.

Checkers reminds me that I can trust God is at work, even when I cannot or do not see or sense him. And when I feel as those things are barely moving forward in the daily grind of life, God unveils his will and when I does, I can look back and see how he set it all up.

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For almost a decade I served a denominational youth camp as the leader of a group of students who were either going to be seniors or who had just graduated from high school. Those experiences were always the highlight of the summer! The worship was outstanding, and the speakers that presented each evening dynamic beyond belief. Students developed new relationships with others. They also strengthened their relationship with God. For each of us it felt like one of those “mountaintop experiences.”

Though the curriculum was strong throughout the week, the most important lesson I taught was the last one, scheduled immediately before students would depart for home. The lesson was brief, only 30 minutes or so, and was simply titled, “Re-Entry.”

The point of this most important lesson was to remind the students that though they had just completed a transformational experience of meaningful growth, complete with emotional and spiritual high points, they were going to return to families, friends, class mates, and churches who had not been to camp. In other words, just because they had been away at camp did not mean those at home had experienced similar things. They needed to be prepared for that truth. Just because those at home had not enjoyed the same journey in no way invalidated the journey. They just needed to know that they were responsible to feed and fuel the next 51 weeks of their journey.

Categories : Uncategorized
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Mar
26

The Art of Forgiving

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The Art of Forgiving was introduced to me a few years ago by a friend who highly recommended it for its sensible practicality and common sense. Its brief, a mere 178 pages long, but contains helpful counsel to those who struggle with the concept of forgiveness. Perhaps the most helpful element of the book is Smedes’ explanation of what forgiveness is not. This would suggest that one of the primary obstacles we have to forgiving those who have wounded us is the false expectation of what forgiving looks like, how it is done, and the aftermath that follows. If you are such a person, I would recommend this simple book. As a way of piquing your interest, I have added below some of the better quotes listed in the book’s postscript.

“The most creative power given to the human spirit is the power to heal the wounds of a past it cannot change.”

“We do our forgiving alone inside our hearts and minds; what happens to the people we forgive depends on them.”

“The first person to benefit from forgiving is the one who does it.”

“Forgiving happens in three stages: We rediscover the humanity of the person who wronged us, we surrender our right to get even, and we wish that person well.”

“We forgive people only for what they do, never for what they are.”

“We forgive people only for wounding and wronging us; we do not forgive people for things we do not blame them for.”

“We cannot forgive a wrong unless we first blame the person who wronged us.”

“Forgiving is a journey; the deeper the wound, the longer the journey.”

“Forgiving does not require us to reunite with the person who broke our trust.”

“We do not forgive because we are supposed to; we forgive when we are ready to be healed.”

“Waiting for someone to repent before we forgive is to surrender our future to the person who wronged us.”

“Forgiving is not a way to avoid pain but to heal pain.”

“Forgiving is best done when it is done intolerantly.”

“Forgiving is the only way to be fair to ourselves.”

“Forgivers are not doormats; to forgive a person is not a signal that we are willing to put up with what he does.”

“We do not excuse the person we forgive; we blame the person we forgive.”

“Forgiving is essential; talking about it is optional.”

“When we forgive, we set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner we set free is us.”

“When we forgive we walk in stride with the forgiving God.”

Categories : Books, Forgiveness
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Mar
11

The Impact of Sermons

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“The main benefit that is obtained by preaching is by impression made upon the mind in the time of it, and not by an effect that arises afterwards by a remembrance of what was delivered.”–Jonathan Edwards

One of the challenges to preaching is placing an inordinate amount of pressure upon the content that is delivered. Preachers aspire to make truth memorable, if not quotable. After spending hours pouring over manuscripts in preparation and ultimately delivery of the sermon, preachers wonder why their words are forgotten by the time their congregations unfold their napkins for Sunday lunch.

I think this is because we have misguided impressions as to the impact of one sermon. In reality, it is the cumulative volume of a body of work that has the lasting impact on the lives of church members.

Categories : Preaching
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