Two weeks ago I was above 7000 feet in the mountains of Glorieta, New Mexico. Last week I was near sea level in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Being in the Valley was “déjà vu all over again” for me. Forty years ago this month, having graduated from seminary and resigned at the small church where I was pastor, my wife and I set up housekeeping in the this same Valley to work along this same river, primarily as the Baptist Campus Minister at Pan American University (now, the University of Texas at Pan American). In one of my first days in the Valley, I came across Psalm 72:8, “From the River to the ends of the earth.” I know the Psalmist was likely referring to the Euphrates River and most definitely not referring to the Rio Grande River, but the verse lodged in my brain. Looking back, I have been in fifty-four countries and will visit at least three new countries this coming summer. God, who took me to the river, forty years ago, and then allowed me to go annually to the mountains for refreshment, has taken me to the “ends of the earth.” I’ve seen the high places and the low places – geographically, emotionally, financially and spiritually – of this earth, all because I’ve tried to be a faithful follower. I recommend “following” to you this week.
I’ve just returned from a week of refreshment high in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of Glorieta, New Mexico. Every time I visit Glorieta (and I’ve been doing it for more than forty years) I look at the mountains and reflect on Psalm 121:1-2 – one of the first passages of scripture I memorized as a young Royal Ambassador. The Psalmist must have been in a similar setting when he exclaimed, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills.” As if someone might misunderstand and think he was worshipping the hills instead of the God who created the hills, he continued with a question, “From whence comes my help?” Then came the answer, “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and the earth.” Last week was a good reminder that my Lord is God of the hills. Now that I am out of the mountains, I’m going to try real hard this week to remember that my Lord – since He made the “heaven and the earth” – is God of the valley as well. I invite you to join me in that remembrance. For me that’s more important than it may look on the surface. I go this week to lead a Prayer Conference in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Forty years ago this month we moved to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas to minister along the Rio Grande River and more. Stay tuned for some of the “more” next week.
Don’t you hate it when a song gets stuck in your head and won’t go away? There is a Vineyard song that keeps running through my mind. “This is the air I breathe . . . This is my daily bread . . . I’m desperate for You.” When was the last time you were really desperate for God (Ps. 84:2)? I asked myself that question and the answer was a bit frightening. Abraham was desperate for God on Mt. Morriah. Moses was desperate for God up against the Red Sea. David was desperate for God when caught in multiple disobediences. Jonah was desperate for God while “vacationing” inside a huge fish. Daniel was desperate for God while visiting a lion’s den. Paul was desperate for God . . . well almost every day of his Christian life. John was desperate for God on the Isle of Patmos. What about me? I desire God. I need God. Occasionally, I even long for God, but desperate for God? Sorry to say, it’s been awhile. Too long. Part of the issue of prayerlessness (or prayer deficit) is that we are not desperate enough for God. We are self-satisfied and content with our lives as they are. I think we often wait for a crisis to be desperate. Why can’t desperation for God be as common as breathing and eating? I think that question is why the song is stuck in my head. How about you and I trying to be as desperate for God this week as we are in crisis times?
The writer of Ecclesiastes said, “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come (Eccl. 12:1).” Yesterday we celebrated our granddaughter’s fifteenth birthday. Someone said, “Grand kids are God’s reward for not killing your teenagers.” I’m not sure about that, but I am sure that our lives have been rewarded a hundred times over by our loving granddaughter. Actively involved at her Christian school and faithful to all her church’s youth activities, Whitney consistently remembers her Creator in the days of her youth. Most of the readers of this Monday Morning Memo know that “difficult days” do come and one way to cope with them is by remembering the Creator’s guidance in the past. This might be a good week to thankfully remember your Creator for His past leadership in your life and for assurance of ongoing divine direction.
Everywhere I’ve been I have discovered people to have at least one thing in common. Whether I’ve been in the over-crowded cities of the third world or the high-tech cities of North America; whether I’ve been in the great urban centers or in the open-country, rural areas; whether I have been among the very rich or the very poor; whether I have been among the highly educated of academia or among those with little formal education; whatever the age group; whatever the scocio-economic level, I have found one thing in common with everyone I have met. Everyone has a desire to be happy. Not everyone defines happiness the same way, but all desire it. The formula for genuine happiness is stated in these words from Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all you ways acknowledge Him, and he shall direct your path.” It is my prayer that this week will open up for you a deeper level of happiness than you have ever known before.
Taken from the introduction of Dr. Dan’s latest book, “God’s Formula for Genuine Happiness.”
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Currently I am compiling a book for America’s National Prayer Committee that includes multiple authors from various denominational backgrounds. Chapters from authors are arriving daily. I used to wonder why God chose eight or nine men (depending on who wrote Hebrews) to write the New Testament instead of just picking one and inspiring all of it through him. The second answer I was given (after the first answer of “We don’t ask that kind of question.”) was because God loves diversity. God knows, as I read the various writing styles and ideas of my contributors, I am trying my very best to love diversity, or at least appreciate it. I need to. We all need to. Paul wrote, “we have many members in one body” (Rom. 12:4). I keep reminding myself that there are no majority parts in the body/Body. We are each uniquely created by God and placed in the Body to accomplish a divine purpose. No two of us are exactly alike. This might be a good week to celebrate the diversity in the Father’s forever family.
I have a younger brother of whom I am very proud. He is heavily involved in the Southern Gospel Music industry. If you log on to www.solidgospel.com on Sunday morning, you will hear him as Breakfast Bob. When Bob was young he came home from church one Sunday having memorized Eph. 4:32, “Be ye kind one to another” from the King James Version of the Bible. There were a couple of other versions back then, but only liberals used them (or so we were told). Our parents were very proud of Bob for his scripture memory. I was not. Every time I started to hit him or do him some other bodily harm, he quoted that verse to me. What he was doing, although we were both too young to know it, was stabilizing our relationship before it needed repair. Most of us are not so fortunate. Our relationships need repair. I encourage you to repair some strained relationships this week, or maybe stabilize a few before they need repair. “Be ye kind to one another” this week.
This week – with flags and fireworks, parades and picnics, back-yard cook-outs and ballgame tailgates, water sports and watermelon, patriotic church services and patriotic goose bumps – we will celebrate our nation’s birthday one more time. Make no mistake about it, I am proud to be an American. I am glad I live in a country where I can celebrate my nation’s birthday with fellow Christians in a church service. However, I have worshipped with enough people groups in other countries, to not want to wrap up the Gospel in red, white and blue. If we sincerely pray for God’s will, “on earth as it is in heaven (Luke 11:2)” we need to remember that heaven is populated with people from every tongue, tribe, nation, and people. Red, white and blue will be only three of the colors in the heavenly mosaic. While I’m proud to claim them here on earth, the eternal perspective is different. Nevertheless, happy birthday, America – one more time!
My office was moved again last week – this time into a “Retirement Office.” It is my seventh office in twenty-two years on the Southwestern Baptist Seminary faculty, and my last. My wife won’t let me bring all the books and file cabinets and pictures home. So I have two options: keep teaching as an Adjunct Professor, thereby keeping an office, or die, in which case my entire library will go to the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary. Spiritually, I’m ready to die. Physically, I’d like to teach a few more classes. Speaking of spiritual, I need to draw something spiritual out of this situation or this will cease to be the Monday Morning Memo it was intended to be. For me, at least, life has been a series of moves – some geographical, some vocational, some emotional, some spiritual. Hopefully, all have been directed or at least, allowed, by God. This last move – to retirement and a retirement office – was a bit more traumatic than I had anticipated. As has been my custom over the years, I looked to God’ Word for help. Standing in the midst of the Areopagus in Athens, Paul said, referring to Jesus, “in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).” I trust that last week’s move was “in Him” and I pray that all of your moves this week will likewise be “in Him.”
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I’ve just returned from the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in San Antonio, Texas. More amazing to me than the inspiring sermons, the uplifting music, the debatable reports, and the non-binding resolutions, was hearing an experience from a colleague of mine. Staying in a hotel just a few block from the historic Alamo, this long-time John Wayne fan drove 127 miles to Brackettville, Texas to see the movie set of the film, “The Alamo.” Never mind Davie Crockett, Sam Houston, William Travis, James Bowie, and a host of others, Brackettville is the location of the Alamo where the legendary John Wayne was. Amazing!
One day, the disciple, Philip, said to Jesus. “Lord, show us the Father.” Patiently (or maybe the Biblical record hides the Lord’s frustration) Jesus replied, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known me, Philip (John 14:8-9)?” Also amazing! Poor Philip! Like my colleague, he missed the real while looking for the spectacular. I pray that doesn’t happen to you or me this week.