I’m Totally Heartbroken

Many of you  know what it is like to lose a pet. Many of you know what it is like to lose a family member. Some of you may understand what it is like when you lose a pet that is more than just an animal, but a family member. Well, that’s what my wife and I are going through.

Friday morning our daughter Katie let our little dogs out to do their business…two came back inside, but one didn’t. When I got home from Atlanta Friday night, little Nugget was still nowhere to be found.

We enlisted the aid of neighbors and a couple of church members to help look. All of us drove around our entire neighborhood, calling, praying, and just hoping there would be some sign…but nothing. And now it’s Monday.

Nugget is a Chorkie (Chihuahua/Yorkie), and in a disturbing “coincidence” two other Yorkies are missing from our same part of town. Was he stolen? Will we find him for sale online? We are hoping.

But another possibility is that our little Nugget, a precious little dog we’ve had since October of 2009, when he was only 2 months old, was taken by a coyote. If that’s what happened, well…

You see, a coyote has been seen a couple of times around our house. One night just a week or so ago my wife and daughters came home, got out of the car, and found themselves being threatened by what they thought at first was a fox (they were wrong – it was much bigger than that). It was at that time Nugget, the bravest little dog you’ve ever seen – a dog whose chased off large dogs and dear – wasted no time tearing off after the coyote, running it out of the yard.

My fear is that the coyote showed back up early Friday morning and Nugget got into a fight he couldn’t win. If that’s the case, our little dog died a hero. And if I find that coyote, I’m going to give it a taste of multiple gut-shattering personal defense 9mm rounds. Yes, I will.

Nugget was such a good little dog. For example, he was always obedient and house trained. If we came to the stairs, either in the house or outside, Nugget would always stand and wait for us to go down first…he would never trip us. When offered treats along with the other two dogs, Nugget would always sit back away from them and patiently wait his turn.

"No, I don't want a steak biscuit."

“No, I don’t want a steak biscuit.”

Nugget loved to go for a ride. Many times on Saturdays I would go out to McDonald’s for a cup of coffee. Nugget knew where I was going and would insist to ride along. When I’d get to the drive through Nugget would stand on my leg, put his front paws and head out the window, and practically place his own order – chicken nuggets. And whenever we went to Chick-fil-A, his favorite was a small scoop of ice cream.

Nugget was the only one who would stay up late into the night with my wife during tax season. He would stay right with her, either by her feet or on a little bed she made on her desk. Wherever she would go he would follow. And, yes, he slept with us.

He didn’t shed. He rarely did anything that got him into trouble. He loved to run and be chased. He loved to be held. He thought of himself as more human than the other dogs, for toys were out of the question – he just wanted to be with us.

I know it may sound crazy, but losing Nugget, although not a human child, is almost as painful as losing a human loved one. Nugget was my “little boy.” Because we lived in a house with so many females, Nugget and I would have our “guy time.” Now my little buddy is gone, and there are tears in my eyes and a broken heart in my chest.

My wife and I both are very heartbroken.

Now, some of you may find all this ridiculous. I mean, Nugget was just an animal, right? Sure, but God has created us with the ability to show emotion, to grow attached, and even to love little animals that are so faithful. After all, it could be argued that the best earthly example of agape love is a faithful dog.

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One year old in 2010.

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Making a profile pic.

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Christmas pajamas – for dogs, too.

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Learned behavior? It was always MY pillow, too!

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Jack and Nugget arguing about something, I know not what.

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Running out to meet me as I got off the bus.

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Always ready to play.

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Waiting to place his order, Nugget would even expect chicken from the bank.

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After all the other Easter Sunday family pics, Nugget got to be in one, too.

 

And, should you read this and think of yourself more spiritual than one who would be heartbroken over a dog, consider the following verses:

And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and [also] much cattle? – Jonah 4:11

A righteous [man] regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked [are] cruel. – Proverbs 12:10

We will miss you, Nugget. You were the best.

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Sleep well, buddy. You earned it.

 

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Filed under animals, Life/Death, Struggles and Trials

Monday Monkey in Zimbabwe

I’m BACK!

On Friday afternoon of last week I felt the wheels of the Boeing 727 (I think) hit the Atlanta airport runway. It was the final touchdown that came after a long, long trip back on Ethiopian Air from Harare, Zimbabwe.  Seriously, the worst part of my trip to Africa was just getting there and getting back home – too many hours in airplanes!

Nevertheless, I made it back, and I’m happy to be back in the USA.

So many of you prayed. Others were able to lend financial support. No matter what you did, if you helped in any way, the trip to Africa was more than a success – it was a victory! And all of you had a part.

Monkey in Africa

If you know me at all, you know that I could not pass up an opportunity to take Mr. Monkey to Africa. I mean, if he couldn’t fit in there, where else could he feel at home? A zoo?

Mr. Monkey went out with me to several places, not the least of which was to church. But before we went to church, there were times when he was able to climb real African trees…image

He got to visit a real African kitchen made out of mud and thatch…image

And he got to ride in a mini-bus with the local praise team from Chinhoyi Baptist Church.image

Mr. Monkey got to make plenty of friends, too. So many children were drawn to him and amazed with expressions. Even one of the pastors had to try his hand – literally – at bringing Mr. Monkey to life.image

Who’s Unique?

The message of the video I’ve attached is that Mr. Monkey (Buddy) was not entirely unique, for he was made in a Chinese factory on an assembly line. The children, however, were most certainly unique and one-of-a-kind.

The following video was filmed with my iPad Mini 2. The camera woman was the pastor’s wife, Mary. More about these dear folks in a later post.

Oh, by the way, there were 367 people who prayed to receive Jesus Christ on this evangelistic trip. If that doesn’t qualify as an unmitigated success, I don’t know what does. And more about that later, too.

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Filed under animals, Countries, Monday Monkey

In Marriage, Dependence is Good

The following guest post was written by Madelyn over at Messages from the Mythical (she says she’s someone who’s not supposed to exist).  Go visit her blog and see if she does😉


In our culture, dependence is acceptable only for small children and invalids. Contemporary young women shrink  from the slightest suggestion of dependence on anyone, and mock the suggestion that they should in any way be dependent on their (future) mates.

A United Front

But hindsight is 20/20. Do you know any older couples? What are some signs which show you that a couple is actually happy, rather than only enduring one another? Do they mention one other kindly? Do they smile at one another? Do they praise one another to third parties? Do they tell stories about their history together?

Do they roll eyes and make signs of exasperation, grit teeth or openly take jabs at one another, or do they actually seem to like each other?

Doesn’t that happy older couple begin to seem like a united front, or a society unto itself?  One way that successful relationship can be described is dependent.

Dependence doesn’t happen automatically; it is the result of intentional and mutual investment.

A Solid Rock

In investing in your spouse, you are actually developing all kinds of dependence on each other. That is good.  And years of daily investing creates a unique and solid relationship. Dependence becomes not a weakness but a solid rock. Mutual dependence becomes an interdependence, an intertwining of  selves. There is a sense in which two together become one entity. And that entity is stronger and better, in many ways, than either person alone or even two people together in any other kind of relationship.

For all the life learning, all the skills and wisdom I have now that I did not have when I was young, you’d think I was more independent than ever before. In many ways, I am.

But I’m more dependent on my husband than ever. And he is on me too. We are more and more dependent on each other because we have chosen to throw away all other options and to invest all our affections on one person. We have invested all the things which belong to a spouse, including our loyalty, our respect, and our mutual submission.

Planned Disappointment

Openly and insidiously, our culture discourages young women from forming a dependence on their spouses. That is a recipe for marital conflict and disappointment. If a young woman notices she is depending on her spouse, she is taught to be ashamed, and that she has diminished herself, that someone has perpetrated an injustice upon her, and that she is a victim of systemic oppression.

We fight the impulse to depend. We cultivate conflict. But we could instead be validated and grateful. We could cultivate investment and unity.

When you’re on your deathbed, do you want a spouse to give you respect for the strength you’re showing while walking that lonely path? Or do you want a spouse who has practiced carrying you, through rushing rivers and arid deserts, and sharing that path with you as though you were one being?

In marriage, dependence makes us stronger. Dependence is a good thing.

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Moving Into November

This guest post was written by Susan Irene Fox. Her blog is appropriately called Susan Irene Fox. If nothing else, go to the about page on her blog and read her story of coming to faith in Jesus…good stuff! You’ll be impressed with Susan’s openness and sincere desire for Christ.


Okay, I watched both conventions: the RNC and DNC streaming live into my living room.

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I heard the speeches, saw the videos, watched the family members, the protests, the name-calling, and the calls to action. And while I’m concerned for our country, I’m mainly concerned for those of us who call ourselves, “Christians.” If we’re Christians, then we must follow Jesus who is the Christ, the Messiah, right?

Jesus said “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” He said these were the two most important commandments. Ah, but he also commanded us to love one another, to love our enemies and to obey all these commands.

Often we are at odds with each other over these commands, preferring to moralize at each other over who belongs in God’s kingdom.

“We believe in grace but not enough to do any serious damage to the walls that separate us from others.” Jud Wilhite

In his book, Generous Justice, Tim Keller explains this division:

“In Western society, these sets of concerns have often been split off from one another. Each of America’s two main political parties has built its platform on one of these sets of ethical prescriptions to the near exclusion of the other. Conservatism stresses the importance of personal morality, of traditional sexual mores and hard work, and feels that liberal charges of racism and social injustice are overblown. On the other hand, liberalism stresses social justice, and considers conservative emphasis on moral virtue to be prudish and psychologically harmful. Each side, of course, thinks the other side is smug and self-righteous.

And consider what Jud Wilhite said in his book, Uncensored Truth

“We believe in grace but not enough to do any serious damage to the walls that separate us from others. But when your eyes have been opened to see [the] thousands of people the religious world has considered too far gone [to] actually experience transformation through faith in Jesus, you can’t help but be forever marked. God’s grace is beyond my small-minded boundaries and categories. His love … consistently amazes me. His mercy – astounding.”

How do we do unify? How do we stop the infighting? How do we rise above the constant swirl of hate, lying and division that suck us down the drain accusation and blame?

  1. Resist from watching or listening to talking head rants.
  2. Refrain from responding to or repeating social media rants, sarcastic comments and cartoons.
  3. Abstain from posting your own rants, sarcastic comments and cartoons that violate Matthew 5:21-22.
  4. Pray for our leaders whether we voted for them, intend to vote for them or not.
  5. Wear the label, “Follower of Jesus” above any other label.

 The glory you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one; I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one so the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:22-24)

Generous Justice, © 2010 Timothy Keller, Riverhead Books, Penguin Group, NY, NY

Uncensored Truth, © 2010 Jud Wilhite

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We Are Family

Friends, all I know to tell you is that I have now had the privilege to meet one glittering jewel of a young blogger. Courtney’s blog is called 1 Timothy 4:12 Girl, and she is certainly “an example of the believers, in word, in conversation…” I’m excited to have her write a guest post for me. And in case you didn’t get it, she’s still a teenager!!


What does it mean to be a family?

Ask ten different people and you’ll get ten different answers.

To some, it’s the parents and siblings that they were raised with. To others, it’s their current family unit that they’ve created for themselves, through marriage and procreation. Still to others, it’s a grandparent or relative who raised them.

familypic.jpgFamily is a concept that is embedded deep within the human heart. We all long for a place to belong and feel at home.

A place to kick off our shoes after a long day.

A place where we can be fully ourselves—quirks and all.

A place to love and be loved.

Society tells us that family is limited to those related to us through blood or marriage.

The Bible on the other hand, tells a different story. When ­asked about His brothers and mother in the book of Matthew, Jesus turns previously held assumptions about family upside-down.

“Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!” (Matthew 12:48-50)

Jesus broadens the definition of family to include every believer who has been washed in the blood of Christ and saved by God’s amazing grace.

You are my brother. I am your sister. We are one giant family connected through the blood of Christ. Whatever your experience with your biological family, you have the guarantee of a family in Christ. This concept is reinforced throughout the New Testament, as familial language is repetitively used (1 Timothy 5:1-2, Hebrews 13:1, Philemon 1:15-16). The Bible even goes into detail about how to live this out, instructing us time and time again to love one and other and walk with fellow believers through times of trouble.

We live in a world that is starving for love. Look no further than the local news station to find that divisions between people are running rampant. This should not be so among believers. If we want to love a broken world, we must start by loving each other. Despite our many differences, we are one in Christ. This point is presented beautifully in Galatians 3:28. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Imagine how amazing our witness for Christ would be if we truly lived out Jesus’ vision for believers. I have seen the concept of family practiced vividly in the Christian blogging world and pray that this becomes a reality worldwide. No one should ever feel left out in the body of Christ. The first thing that a person should know when the walk through the doors of our churches is that they are loved. When Jesus hung on the cross, His arms were spread wide open, embracing everyone willing to come and follow Him. We are called to live as a reflection of that, and live out God’s radical love here on earth as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Connected as one big, crazy, awesome, beautiful family of believers. 

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Unity, Christianity, community, Love of God, Relationships and Family

The One Truth About Pastors You Need to Hear

The following guest post was submitted by Matthew Malin, a young man who blogs over at Confessions: Bringing to light that which is hidden. As a matter of disclosure, I did not ask Matthew to write this, nor did I edit what he wrote. So… All I can say is that somebody’s evidently been around the block and knows what he’s talking about.


 

I’ve been a pastor’s child for 17 of the 23 years I’ve been on this earth. I’m not writing this article to tell you that it’s been completely easy. I’m also not here to inform you that it was hell on earth. It was neither easy nor hell but rather a comfortable middle, I suppose.

Out of the many years spent watching my mother and father traverse the rocky waters of ministry has come a longing for “outsiders” to know what it’s like. Sometimes, if I’m being honest, I wish that the congregation would have had to live in our shoes if but for a day. Maybe then they would realize that we were only humans too.

My father has never been Superman. Albeit he is my hero but he was not created to be all things to all people at any time. My mother, as much as I respect and adore her for her strength, was never fashioned by God to fill every hole in the church as a pastor’s wife. They were created as human beings, like the rest of us, and called to be preachers and teachers of the Gospel.

This is the message that I hope to lovingly convey to you today: Your pastor and his family are not gods. They are not the only thread keeping your church from falling apart. They are not the saviors of your spiritual life. They are, however, human beings with emotions, desires, hurts, longings, and passions just like you. And as much as you need other people in the faith to come alongside you to encourage you, they need it as well, if not more.
Our Story:

Growing up I thought ministry was cool. My dad was the youth pastor of our church which meant I got to tag along on most youth events, much to the chagrin of the “cool” kids. I mean, no one wants an obnoxious eight-year-old around, right? Despite the perceived negativity of those I wished to associate with, I looked forward to every time I could see my dad at work.

My father was instrumental in passing on a passion for the ministry to me. Seeing his drive, his passion, and his love for the church of Christ was contagious. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to do what he did.

Then it got hard.

You see, as I grew I became privy to some of the “behind the scenes” information concerning the inner workings of church life. To summarize it all, I didn’t like what I heard and I borderline hated what I saw.

The more involved I became with ministry the more hurt I subjected myself to. There were those who openly condemned my father for his choices. There were those who did so secretively. Many professed love for our family but that “love” quickly died when something did not go their way. Suffice it to say, my family has gone through hell in the ministry.

I want to be very clear, though. My family and I do not hate ministry. It is only by God’s gracious hand that my father continues to shepherd a local body, that I am pursuing a pastoral role, and that my sisters all have a desire to be missionaries and pastor’s wives. After all that we have seen and had happen to us, this is nothing short of a miracle.

However, that never stopped us, even to this day, from wondering why. Why were we always expected to fill every hole in the church’s ministry? Why were we expected to be perfect? Why did so many say that they loved us only to hurt us in the end? Why were so many people unfaithful to God and the church body? Why would someone do such a thing to another soul? Why did no one ever stop to think about our spiritual needs?
Why does this matter?

I fully believe that our Christian culture has created an aura, a stigma if you will, that the Pastor is some sort of “god” capable of accomplishing any and every role set before him. The Pastor is to be preacher, teacher, shepherd, counselor, friend, janitor, organizer, committee leader, father, husband, coach etc…etc…He’s supposed to be the one that fixes all of the complaints brought to him. He’s supposed to right every wrong. He’s to never slip up in the flesh lest someone think he’s less than perfect. He’s not supposed to need discipleship, guidance, and counseling. He’s the pastor, he should know it all by now, right?

Being a pastor and being a part of a pastor’s family can be incredibly lonely because of this thinking. It is as if we, sinful people such as you, are supposed to live and exceed a higher expectation of holiness because of a job title. Truth be told, we need the Gospel just as much as you do.

Your pastor, his wife, and their children need to be encouraged. They have to be. The devil is attacking them and tempting them to despair. There is a target on their back. Why is it that you hear of so many pastors falling out of ministry because of sin, burn out, or apathy? It is simply because the devil is trying his hardest to kill them.

The devil is trying to kill your pastor and his family.

He wants them to die.

He’s doing whatever it takes.

Let’s be honest, sometimes he uses you to accomplish that. I hope that I do not speak without compassion but I must say that the people of God are most commonly the most effective tools of the devil. I know this because I have seen it and I am far too often such a tool as well.

What, then, is our purpose?

The primary goal of every believer, not just a pastor, is to preach the Gospel and make disciples. Yet somehow we’ve taught ourselves to believe that this is the pastor’s role and only he can do it. In all reality, every believer has been called to this life. Every Christian should be actively preaching and reproducing. The “pastor” is simply a man called to lead a specific body of Christ into doing this.

He is charged with teaching, encouragement, rebuke, and discipleship. Yet so many pastors don’t have time for any of those things because the color of the carpet needs to be decided upon. Minor example but does my point come across? We are far too concerned with that which doesn’t matter. So much so that we lose sight of that which does.

Can I encourage you to forget the minuscule objectives for your church that you may have? The only objective we should be pursuing is the spread of the Gospel to all people. Our primary goal should not be having 150 committees for every ministry in the church. Our goal should not be to get our way with our preferred style of music, Bible translation, or style of chair in the auditorium.

Our goal is the Gospel of Christ penetrating hearts to all nations and to all peoples.

Unbelievers need the Gospel. You need the Gospel. Your pastor and his family need the Gospel.

Can I encourage you, one Christian to another, to take care of your pastor and his family? Whether it be through encouraging word or by keeping a complaint to yourself, you’re showing them love. Maybe it’s by way of a card? If your pastor has small children then offer to babysit one night so that he and his wife can go on a date. Whatever it may be, reach out to them.

They need Jesus just as much as anyone else.
Final Thoughts:

Despite your pastor being a sinful man, if he is genuinely pursuing Christ for himself, his family, and you, then nothing else really matters. There are many men and women in the ministry only pursuing personal gain. If you have a pastor who faithfully preaches the Gospel and isn’t afraid to stand on truth, I can guarantee you that the Devil wants to destroy him. Be in prayer for your pastor but don’t stop there. Reach out, make an effort, and try to stop complaining so much.😉

I love the ministry. I love the church. I hate the sin. I hate it in your life and I hate it in mine. I wish for us to be in heaven so that we could be free from its impact but we know that God is faithful. He will show himself so in your life and in those around you so long as you remain obedient and humble. Seek the Lord with all of your heart and live a life patterned by the transformational love of Christ. You’ll be amazed by the difference He can make.

God bless.

 

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“I Just Wanna Be a Sheep”

The following post was written by a fellow blogger from New Zealand, Johanna. Unfortunately, Johanna was not in a place where she could access my blog to add her post, so she emailed me the text. Johanna blogs at Isaiah 41v10. Be sure to pay her a visit…she may have some more shepherding advice on hand😉


‘I just wanna be a sheep’

I come from a country that is famous for its sheep. New Zealand used to have more than 70 million sheep.  Now the number is about 29 million, according to teara.govt.nz.  August is the best time of year to see the sheep, as it is late winter, when the ewes are lambing. It is delightful to watch the lambs gambolling in the fields playfully, so different from their sedate mothers.

Thinking about sheep gets me pondering all the Biblical references to sheep. The way we farm sheep here in NZ is quite different from 1st Century Palestine or how David cared for his father’s sheep before he became king of Ancient Israel. These differences can teach us something about our relationship with God.

Shepherds in the Bible

It’s clear from reading the Bible texts that the good shepherds in those days (like David) had a small number of valued sheep, each one of which was known by the shepherd, and who knew the shepherd and followed him.

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost. “ (Luke 15:4-6 ESV)

Jesus also talks about the shepherd’s relationship to his sheep in John 10:3-4, where he says, “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. “

Contrast this with modern farming, where a farmer will often have hundreds, if not thousands of sheep. They live in fields fenced by barbed wire. They are seen as stupid animals, that the shepherd herds by using dogs to make them obey his will. You do not see a shepherd leading his sheep, instead driving them in front of him. They have an eartag with a number to identify them to the sheep farmer.

To me this speaks of two different ways of relating to God.

What kind of sheep are you?

One kind is motivated by fear, and kept safe by barbed wire. These fences are like the extra rules that we make for ourselves or that others make for us, to keep us safe and away from sin. But they also keep us from following the Shepherd to green pastures. Instead we are boxed in where the grass has been overgrazed, living on stale hay.

Some sheep break out, thinking that the grass looks greener elsewhere, and end up on a busy road or in a ditch. This is like those who break away from legalism to do their own thing, or those who fear the Shepherd and his voice, and shipwreck their lives as a result. Both are far from the Shepherd.

The Good Shepherd’s sheep are motivated by love for their Shepherd. They trust him to keep them safe and fed, and they follow him wherever he leads. He leads them to green pastures and restores their souls. He protects them in the darkest valleys and lays down his life for them. Jesus said,  “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth.”

Jesus is not a factory farmer. He wants us to know his voice and follow him out of love. He doesn’t want us to be penned in by traditions or extra rules, but instead to walk with him to green pastures and fresh water.

Will you follow him?

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That’s Anthony on the far left. He always has to get his nose in the picture.

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Filed under animals, Bible Study, Christian Living