Category Archives: Struggles and Trials

No Home Down Here

It is just after midnight on Monday morning. I’m in bed, ready to go to sleep, but something is keeping me awake a little longer, and it’s the sting of something my youngest daughter said.

Haley said, “I don’t want to live in another house…I want a home.”

You see, she had come home from an over-nighter with some friends, and it was their house that got her attention. She noted the artistic way the place was decorated; the years of family photos that graced the walls; even a special area where one daughter’s paintings hung for all to see.

We live in a parsonage, the second one in ten years. The last place we lived was only a temporary stop until this parsonage was livable. All other places we’ve lived during her first 7 years of life were rentals.

The fact is, sadly, we live in a house, but we don’t have a home. My 17 year-old daughter has never lived in a place where family would always be, put down roots, and call it our own. We are nothing more than transients.

That’s the life of a bi-vocational pastor and his family, just trusting the Lord to keep a roof over our heads till we are asked to leave or God opens a door. Not very glamorous, for sure.

But, to be honest, there’s a lesson that’s not been lost on me during all this. Simply put, nothing on this earth will last forever, not even the deed to a home. No matter who we are, we’re all pilgrims in this world. As a matter of fact, living in a borrowed place down here just reminds me of how this world is not my home, I’m only passing through.

No, I don’t own a home down here, but at least I know where my real home is. One day I’ll go there, and you’re all invited. I bet my daughter will even be impressed with the way the Builder decorated it.

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Filed under Life Lessons, ministry, Relationships and Family, Struggles and Trials

Monday Meditations

“When you hit rock bottom, remember this. While you’re struggling, rock bottom can also be a great foundation on which to build and on which to grow.” Dr. Rick Rigsby

But sometimes God has to bring us down to “rock bottom” in order to remind us of an even greater truth: “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.”

 

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Filed under Christianity, Depression, Faith, Struggles and Trials

Have I “Gone Pentecostal?”

I love you guys, and I thank you so much for reading my blog. No joke. That is why I am taking just a moment to give you a little update.

First, I have been publishing guests posts by David Fuller as part of an attempt to bring “speaking in tongues” to the floor for honest examination and debate. However, unlike what some have begun to assume, David Fuller and I don’t see eye-to-eye on this subject. No joke, a personal friend, Paul Norman Judd, sent a note to me on Messenger that read: “Good morning Anthony. Are you turning Pentecostal on us?”

No, Mr. Judd, I’m not (and I will likewise submit an “lol”). However, I would say I’m a bit more gracious on the subject than some. It’s not like I consider those who speak in tongues to be akin to unregenerate heathen, or something. Some people think that way, you know – I used to.

So, I have in the works a response to Mr. Fuller’s post, but it is something with which I am taking a little more time. You see, this is a very sensitive subject, and I cherish the friendships I have, and that is why I desire to choose my words and arguments so not to offend.

Secondly, it is possible that I might have had a response to the latest “Got Glossolalia” post from David Fuller, but my dear wife has been sick for the last 2+ weeks, and nothing that has been prescribed has made a difference. It has now gotten to the point that her potassium levels are dangerously low, and that has me very concerned. I would appreciate your prayers for her and the doctors as they search for a reason.

I must admit that I am a little selfish…my 50th birthday is this Sunday, and I want my wife with me in church and at the fellowship (church word for party) afterwards.

And if you think praying in tongues will make a difference, then you go right ahead 😉

All I ask is that you make your requests and petitions known to the One who never wastes a tear.

– Anthony

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Filed under blogging, Struggles and Trials

A “Perfect” Role Model?

Sermon Prep

Not long ago I was doing some research for a sermon on Jonah. In the process I came across a Muslim website that made an interesting observation (and I will paraphrase):

“The Bible proves it is not true because God would not allow the prophets’ reputations to be smeared.”

The Muslim website went on to say (paraphrasing, again):

“What kind of role model would a prophet be if we read of him making mistakes?”

What kind of role model? That’s a good question! Was the Muslim author trying to say that role models had to be perfect in order to be real? Here’s a shocker – in one way or another, everybody is a role model.

If the defining characteristic of a role model is “perfection,” that would rule out King David, Solomon, Moses, Joshua, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Peter, Paul, Sarah, Mary (all of them), the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, and many, many others…

…especially Jonah.

Jonah

Now, Jonah wasn’t exactly the type of person after which I would want to pattern my life, but he was a prophet of God. He had some serious character flaws, though. He was angry, disobedient, and was a racist who constantly talked suicide. He even spouted off to the Lord for being too forgiving!

No, Jonah’s not the type of person I would want to emulate. But hold the whale puke! I am more like him than I thought!

  • I have run from God.
  • I have harbored racist feelings in the past, I’m ashamed to admit.
  • I have been angry and disobedient.
  • I have wondered if life was worth living.
  • I have even wanted to see whole cities destroyed, innocent people and all, after September 11, 2001.

I have been more like Jonah more than I care to admit.

The Encouraging Part

The fact is that the Bible is not only full of role models, but models of the people we already are: flawed, broken, and human. But here’s the encouraging part: even when we are not perfect, God can still use us – and change us.

  • Jonah ran from God, but God pursued.
  • Jonah disobeyed God, but it didn’t derail God’s plan.
  • Jonah got angry with God, but God responded to him with the understanding kindness of a wise Father.
  • Jonah even wanted to die, but God never belittled him. He only focused Jonah’s attention on the bigger picture: 120,000 souls, not to mention animals, whose lives were spared (Jonah 4).

I thank God that the Bible doesn’t white-wash humanity. There are so many examples of how people, just like me, can find hope, even when we’re not perfect.

The Perfect One

It is not hard to come to the conclusion that there were some really dysfunctional people in the Bible. But you know what? That’s what adds to the authenticity of Scripture. There are no “perfect” role models in the Bible, except for one – Jesus.

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” – 1 Peter 2:21-22 ESV

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV

I want to be more like HIM!

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Filed under Christian Living, General Observations, God, Life Lessons, Preaching, Struggles and Trials

Walking or Riding?

A Familiar Story

If you are familiar with the Bible, you probably remember the story of Jesus walking on the water. And if you remember that, you may also recall that the apostle Peter was the one who walked on the water with Jesus – until he began to look around.

But if you don’t remember the story, here it is as found in the NIV version of Matthew 14:25-33.

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.

“It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Familiar Pictures

Now that you are familiar with the story, have you ever seen paintings or illustrations depicting this passage of Scripture? Of all the ones I have ever seen, Jesus is usually portrayed as a calm, sad-looking, and often effeminate water-stroller. Peter is always some scruffy-looking, heavy-as-stone fraidy-cat.

Then what about those waves? In all the depictions of this story, how high are the waves? Usually they are no more than just a few inches high around the Lord and his bobbing disciple, Peter.

Well, I am here to challenge the common perception based on these fallacious (that means stupidly wrong) paintings.

The Waves

I am not a seafaring man like my friend David Welford, but I would bet even he would say that 6-8 inch waves would have been NO problem for some experienced fishermen. What ever frightened Peter, once he looked around, had to have been more than a ripple on the surface.

Consider how the Bible described what was happening to the boat in Matthew 14:24: “But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.” Do kiddie pool waves toss a boat? No, but real waves do.

In stead of tossed, other translations use words like buffeted, beaten, and battered. The New Living Translation says that “a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.” It would seem to me that the disciples were facing a life-or-death struggle, not inconvenient weather.

The Wacky Request

People often belittle Peter for his “lack of faith.” They think less of him because he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink. But who on this earth that is not currently on anti-psychotic medication would actually ask a UWG (Unidentified Walking Ghost), “If it is you, compel me to do something totally irrational and dangerous, OK?” What kind of crazy question was that?

I believe there is more to this story than we have been told. Why didn’t Peter just ask Jesus to come a little closer? Why not just ask Him to get in the boat and take a load off? What would have caused Peter to think of leaving the boat?

Maybe, just maybe, what Jesus was doing looked like fun.

Wave Riding

The next time you look out over a stormy sea capable of sinking a boat, try to find the smooth spots. The paintings that show the Savior walking delicately over glassy H2o in the middle of a gale are unrealistic.

My guess is that Jesus was doing more than simply walking. He was having fun! He was probably surfing without a board. It is possible that He was going up and down…up and down…up and down…smiling the whole time. That’s when Peter said, “If it is you, Lord, tell me to come out there with you…that looks like fun!”

Seriously, just stop and think about it. Here was a storm that was beating up a boat and wearing out the crew; waves that were anything but small; a boat full of panicking people; and a Man walking on water. Peter must have concluded that if there was going to be any place to be, it was with Jesus, riding the waves.

With Jesus

We can’t help the fact that storms come. But if there is any lesson to be learned from this story it is that the worst possible place to be can be the safest and most peaceful, as long as our eyes are on Jesus and we are walking with Him.

Does it make sense? No. Is it irrational? Maybe. But as long as we have faith in Jesus, we can ride atop the tallest tsunami, admiring the view.

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Filed under Faith, Struggles and Trials, Uncategorized, worship

Giving God’s Way (Not What You Think)

A Guest Post by: J. David Peever


I know the first thing that comes to mind with a title like Giving God’s Way is, “here we go again.” If you have attended church for any length of time you have heard, “giving God’s way” used as code for “we can’t make budget so we need to make people give more.” Take a deep breath, this is not going to be one of those times. This isn’t about money, it’s about the way we follow Christ.

Giving Up

If something is not going to work, giving up is the most likely choice. Consequences are unavoidable and outcome is out of our control and there is no way to accomplish what we want.

Giving In

If something meets with continuous resistance, giving in will eventually happen. Unlike giving up, the consequences are carefully considered and the outcome weighed leading us to conclude that what we want can be achieved because what we want has now become very similar to what the one who resists, wants.

Giving Over

In some things God meets our standard of trustworthiness so we give over these things, especially the ones that are too hard or meet with continual resistance. If our trust becomes stronger we become more confident in God, if we become more confident in God, we will give over more and more of our lives.

Which type of giving does God do?

God does not give up. Jesus’ death is proof of that. God does not give up on saving us even though He knows not everyone will accept salvation.

God does not give in. You can beg, you can plead and you can even try to present a logical argument but God cannot be persuaded to give into the continuous resistance we put up when we think He should see things our way.

God does give over. If we continually refuse His offers of salvation while pleading our case for Him to agree with our human way of living, God will give us over to our evil desires and the consequences of a life separated from Him.

Which type of giving do Christ followers do?

I don’t know about you but I do all three! Maybe you have this Christ following thing down pat but I am still in the not so perfect stage of my faith.

There are times I give up. I just can’t see it working out so I figure God will have to do something.

There are times I give in because my way meets with continuous resistance from God and finally I conclude that what I want can be achieved because what I want has now become very similar to what He wants.

What I really need to do is give over. As I learn to trust God, I learn to give over the things that are too hard or meet with continual resistance long before I give up or give in. This is only the beginning. I want to get to the point where I trust Him and have so much confidence in Him that I am willing to give over every part of my life.

God’s plan – God’s way – God’s timing – God’s chosen resources

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Christianity, Faith, Guest Posts, Struggles and Trials, worship

The Orange Razor I Never Got

I don’t always like doing it, but I do shave my face and head. I’m not overly picky about the razors I use, but I do have my preferences. Usually I prefer the 5-blade kind. 

I have, however, shaved with an old-fashioned “safety” razor in the past. Well, at least it’s safer than a straight razor. 

But last night was one of those times when I received some very troubling news, the result being a restless night with less-than-needed sleep. Therefore, it’s not surprising I had a strange dream. 

I don’t know what led up to it, but all of a sudden there was our oldest daughter, Alicia, griping at me for not writing a blog post about the razor she gave me as a gift. When I looked down (in the dream) I saw the razor she was talking about, and it was one of the orange razors they sell at Target and online. 

So, I know dreams can be crazy, but sometimes they can tell us a little about ourselves. Evidently, as best I can figure, I like sharp blades and orange things.

That makes perfect sense, too, because I’m sharp and from Tennessee. 

Maybe, since Alicia has never purchased a $9 Harry’s razor for me, she was really actually upset because I haven’t talked about myself? Yet, haven’t I done that before? 

Maybe, my mind wanted me to tell Alicia to put an orange razor on my birthday gift wish list? 

Maybe I’m low on vitamin C and I’m losing my edge…and I need to get a handle on things? 

Well, I definitely need to get a grip on some things, and an orange (or maybe orange jello) would be nice. But I can tell you this one thing for sure…

…I never got an orange razor. 

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Filed under Struggles and Trials, Uncategorized