Monday, December 23, 2013

Phil Robertson...

Interesting how someone as seemingly harmless as Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson can get people so riled up. He says a few words of his personal beliefs in GQ magazine and a fire of controversy is ignited. Funny, I thought GQ concerned itself mostly with sideburn length, cufflinks, and lapel width, but, then again, I must profess to not having picked up an issue in recent memory...or longer.

Enough has certainly been written or said about Robertson’s views, and I’ve read and heard much of it. Robertson spoke coarsely and crudely, that much can’t be denied. My pastor spoke in defense of Robertson yesterday in church, but chose not to use Phil’s raw illustrations in doing so.

As Christians, we can all use a reminder that sin is still sin, no matter what our society accepts and oftentimes legislates. The Bible clearly points out that lust, greed, murder, lying, adultery, and, yes, homosexuality, are all sinful behaviors. In his GQ interview, Phil Robertson named several of these, but it was his anti-gay comments that brought down so much controversy upon him. Why? Because our society has decided once again ignore the teachings of scripture in view of popular opinion.  As long as enough people have a leaning in whatever direction, any behavior can be rationalized.   Those that hold to scriptural truths are considered backward and out of touch.  That's a part of the process, to shout down those that still call sin sin....Phil Robertson the latest case in point. 

But the current wave of support toward the acceptance of the gay agenda merely reflects a path of rebellion toward God that has ushered in abortion, illegality of school prayer, and several other issues in recent years.  Robertson’s opinions would have been welcomed and agreed with forty or fifty years ago. Some would claim that’s how far we’ve progressed, but it’s really an indicator of how far we’ve fallen... and, as our nation turns more and more from the Almighty, we can expect less and less of the blessings we once enjoyed.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas, Trains, Memories

Growing up the child of a railroader, you get used to being flexible about things. Your dad’s in (home) a couple of days, then out (away) for a couple, and that’s the lingo we was either in or out, and you planned accordingly.

When he was out, and you had an idea when he was supposed to be in, you started listening for the rich sound of a train chugging into town from the south. I’d often hear the whistle, jump on my bike and race for the nearest crossing, about a mile from my house. If I could beat the caboose to the crossing, I’d get the treat of having my father lean out the window atop his conductor’s perch and holler, "Hey o’ buddy, I’m home..." Just typing out that wonderful memory has brought tears to my eyes.

Being flexible often meant Christmas was celebrated sometimes on Christmas eve, Christmas Day, or - worst case scenario for a kid - the day after Christmas, depending on dad’s train schedule. That’s just the way you did it. I remember one Christmas eve about 9:00PM expecting dad’s train to be arriving in the next hour. Mom decided we’d open presents when dad walked in the door, and we anxiously listened for the sound of his old pickup pulling into the drive...

Having spent hours working out in the freezing December cold due to various train breakdowns, an exhausted, dirty, half-frozen father opened the front door to find his family still 2:30 in the morning. Setting down his black leather work grip in its customary spot, he sat down amongst us and declared the Christmas celebration was now in session. I didn’t appreciate that gesture on his part nearly like I do now. It’s just the kind of man he was.

If you’ve read many of these writings of mine at all, you’ve gathered the fact that my dad left an indelible mark on my life, and I miss him greatly. This year will mark the tenth Christmas since his passing.

But because that Christmas babe in the manger would later willingly die upon a Roman cross as payment for my sin, I will be reunited with my dad....and I can just hear him now:

"Hey o’’re home."

Friday, December 6, 2013

At That Moment...

It was a pretty routine Saturday morning for me. I’d just finished teaching my Spirituality group at the local drug and alcohol rehab clinic. I was still in the afterglow of hearing a new believer profess her faith in Christ during that session at the clinic. At that moment, as I pulled into the parking lot at the Lowes down the street, I really hadn’t a care in the world.

As I parked my truck, a Lowes employee was helping a woman place a large box into the back of her SUV, directly in front of me. Seeing only the profile of the man, at that moment, I thought it was an old friend of mine that I’d neither seen nor heard from for about a year, due to various circumstances in our lives. At that moment, I was fooled into thinking it actually was my friend, only to realize that it was only a look-a-like, but it made me pause and think about him and, walking into the store, he lingered on my mind at that moment, as I milled through the aisles.

Procuring my purchase, I climbed back in my truck and the cell phone rang. I glanced at the screen and, at that moment, started chuckling to myself. You see, it was the old friend that I thought I’d spotted previously in the parking lot. I answered the phone with the laughter of the perceived coincidence in my voice.

But, at that moment, my laughter quickly dissipated. My friend was at the hospital with his wife in ICU, and in his own words, "It doesn’t look good." He wanted me to pray with him and at that moment, I turned my truck in the direction of the hospital...
In the 33rd Psalm, verses 13 and 14, we’re told that:

13 The Lord looks from heaven;
He sees all the sons of men.
14 From the place of His dwelling He looks
On all the inhabitants of the earth;
(emphasis mine)

Taking this passage quite literally, we can trust that God in His magnificent omnipotency sees every one of us, at all times. He's always at work in our lives. My attention that Saturday morning in the Lowes parking lot was drawn to a man whom I mistook for a friend of mine that hadn’t been in my thoughts for a while. Minutes later, that same friend called me in a time of great need, a crisis period in his life. Was it just coincidental...or was it God’s way of redirecting my mind, my heart at that moment to help my friend through a trying period? 

I firmly believe the latter of course. Today, I’m not sure I could go back to Lowes and pick that employee out of a lineup, but at that moment, God used him to remind me of my friend, a friend who was in desperate that moment.

...The following Saturday morning, I hugged my old friend at his wife’s memorial service. God had taken her home hours after the time we’d spent praying in the hospital. He had the blessed assurance of knowing through his wife’s acceptance of Christ’s death on the cross as payment for her sin, she was with the Lord, at that moment...and forever.