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Sermon Series on Prayer

Three Cheers for the Inward Man

So, I had another birthday recently.  Let me explain to you youngsters what that means. Two months ago I was diagnosed with Acute Sinusitis. It took a month full of medications and a few cancelled events for me to beat it.  Well, I didn’t really beat it. When it left my nose and I stopped the uncontrollable coughing, it settled in my left ear.  This time the diagnosis was Eustachian Tube Dysfunction, meaning I have zero hearing in that ear. Next week, I will complete four rounds of antibiotics plus various rinses and sprays.  If I am still missing my hearing, my doctor (I’ve actually seen three doctors and two PAs in the last six weeks) will decide if I need a Scan of some kind to determine if surgery is needed to remove polyps in the ear canal.  Meanwhile, a skin-cancer showed up on my forehead.  A biopsy revealed another Basil cell on top of where two earlier ones had been.  I have been referred to a Surgeon for my tenth MOHS surgery.  I hear someone saying, “Yeah, but you are retired so have nothing else to do.”  Next week I have a preaching assignment and I leave for my monthly teaching session with pastors and church leaders in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.  All the while, many of my friends and family are already in heaven thinking I didn’t make it  In 1976, Ralph Carpenter, a Dallas newsman announced at a close basketball game, The opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings.” Well, my young friends, pay no attention to her.  She’s just warming up.  The Apostle Paul, who had a few aging issues himself, wrote,  “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” So, three cheers for the inward man.   In the words of that great philosopher Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

2023 and 2024

I have written before of the 16th century Japanese “Forgetting the Year” Party, where participants brought the past year calendars to the party and destroyed them.  We sentimental folks prefer keeping our old calendars in order to look back and reflect.  We gain insight as well as strength from past experiences.  However, there is something to be said also for destroying the old calendars. While 2023 brought many blessings, not the least of which were many new friendships, both from my interim pastorate at Trinity Hills Baptist Church in Benbrook as well as my monthly teaching of church leaders in the Rio Grande Valley, the year brought its share of heartaches – illness and death of family members and close friends, personal health struggles,  and just the issues that go with aging.   So, there are parts of 2023 that I would like to forget, and there are parts I would like to cherish.  Had there been such a thing as a “Forgetting the Year” party in the days of the Apostle Paul, he might have attended, since there were things in his past he would have liked to forget.  But there were also things in his future that excited him.  So, he wrote, “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). As we begin 2024, join me as we press on.


The Specialty of December

December is a special month for me for several reasons.  My grandfather Crawford’s birthday was Dec. 2. My Dad’s birthday was Dec. 19. His sister’s birthday (my Aunt) was Dec. 22. My birthday is Dec. 30. On December 7, I was in an automobile wreck and sustained a broken second vertebrae of the neck, re-directing my plans for the future. As I lay in the hospital with doctors calling me a miracle (should have been either killed or paralyzed according to them), I made friends with Hospital Chaplain, Joe Fred Luck, and determined that God had spared my life to be a Hospital Chaplain.  That, of course, changed during my Seminary student years, but to this day, I look back on those December weeks in the hospital as a significant turning point in my life. Of course December is also the month when, on Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus. So here are five of my favorite Christmas quotes:

  • “Christmas is a togethery sort of holiday. That’s my favorite kind.” Winnie the Pooh
  • “One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.” Andy Rooney
  • “When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things—not the great occasions—give off the greatest glow of happiness.” Bob Hope
  • “Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” Norman Vincent Peale
  • “For unto us a child is born, to us a a son is given.” Isaiah 9:6

What God Joined Together

The fact that I lived in six towns and attended fourteen schools before I met my wife, prepared me for a life of transitions, but I just wasn’t sure about her.  She had lived in one town and three houses all her pre-college years.  Could she handle six towns, fourteen houses, plus travel to all fifty states, every Canadian Province, and fifty-nine countries?  Not only has she done it, she turned out to love it, except that in many places, she didn’t want to leave so soon.  Last week was a delight for her.  Of all the places we have been, Germany ranks way up toward the top.  Joanne even claimed and proved to have distant relatives in Germany.  So last week was extra special for her.  We took my Teaching Assistant Andreas and his wife Anna out to dinner and then to our house for dessert and fellowship – actually, lots of talk about Germany, since that is their home country. Two nights later we hosted IMB Missionaries who live in Bonn, Germany and who have been serving as Missionary Guest Professors at SWBTS this semester. Again, lots of talk about Germany, especially since I taught for a semester sabbatical plus a few short-term sessions at the Bible Seminary in Bonn. As we approach our sixtieth wedding anniversary this summer, and as our globe-trotting begins to slow down, I give thanks that God matched me with a wife who not only loved to travel but has made friends all over the globe. I am extremely grateful that “what God . . .  joined together” (Matthew 19:5) has been a delightfully good thing.


The Measure of my Days

Last week, seventy students received graduation certificates from the Valley Baptist Missions Education Center in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.  As their Professor, I would have ordinarily been the one to hand them their certificate, then pose for their picture with me.  However, due to a covid-like sinusitis, I was stuck at home, lest I give them more than a certificate.  The following Sunday, I was to lead a prayer emphasis at a church in Kentucky, but the same medical diagnosis caused the pastor and I to opt for a re-scheduling. Not sure why, but one of the things I dislike the most about ministry is having to cancel a commitment.  Until my recent, Senior-adult years, I almost never did such a thing.  A commitment made was a commitment kept.  However, the years take their toll on a body, and lately my pharmacist and I have been on a first-name basis.  I had the Covid test administered three times and showed negative all three times.  I even failed a chest x-ray.  But still I coughed and blew, and sneezed, and drained, etc.  All of this reminds me of an earlier stretch when I had seen my doctor way too frequently, causing him to comment that we needed to just meet somewhere for coffee and discuss reformed theology.  He didn’t laugh when I replied, “For you, that will be a $25 co-pay.”  To my young readers, take this as a foretaste of things to come.  To my fellow, senior-adult readers, well, you know . . . This scripture now is stuck over my desk, “Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am” (Psalm 39:4).


Thanksgiving Quotes

This is American Thanksgiving week.  Time for ten of my favorite Thanksgiving quotes.

  • “We should just be thankful for being together. I think that’s what they mean by Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown.”
  • “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” Charles Dickens
  • “I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.” Henry David Thoreau
  • “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward
  • “Now thanks we all our God with heart and hands and voices, who wonderous things has done, in whom his world rejoices, who from our mother’s arms has blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.”  Traditional Hymn
  • ““Thanksgiving dinners take 18 hours to prepare. They are consumed in 12 minutes. Half-times take 12 minutes. This is not a coincidence.” —Erma Bombeck
  • “What we’re really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?” –Erma Bombeck
  • “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
  • “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.” Psalm  107:1
  • “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15

Children and Parents

I watched my four-year-old great grandson disobey his mother, then run across the room to hug her neck.  I never got to do that with my mother when I was four.  I’ve been watching him play soccer on Saturday mornings, and now basketball.  In both sports his Daddy is his coach.  I never had that privilege when I was four. When I was two, until when I was five, my mother was in a Sanitarium in west Texas with tuberculosis and my father was an Army Chaplain in Germany, during World War 2. I spent those years with my grandparents in Bellmead, Texas. My grandmother seldom left the house and my grandfather worked long hours six days per week. He owned a grocery store, a gas station, and served as the first Postmaster of Bellmead. He also owned a few rental properties.  But Sunday belonged to me.  We attended his church, Central Christian Church in Waco, then spent the rest of the day watching the passenger trains go through at the Katy Depot and the Cotton Belt Depot (they were one block apart).  During the summer months we’d go to Katy Park to watch the Waco Pirates of the Big State League play baseball. Those were not bad years.  They were just difficult years.  Child Psychologist would probably have a label for kids like me, but I survived. So, I say to my granddaughter and grand-son-in-law, and actually to all young parents,  “Allow your children to express their love for you.”  It’s not a privilege every child enjoys. Remember, “children are a gift of the Lord. (Psalm 127:3, NASB).

The Theft-Side or the Jesus-Side

For thirty-eight years I’ve used the same bank without any issues. Last week, when I opened my monthly statement, I noticed a suspicious check.  Further investigation revealed that I had written the check fifteen months ago, but it had never cleared the bank.  Now, someone who had the check changed everything on it except my signature, made the check payable to themselves, and adjusted the amount to $3000. I filed a police report, went to the bank, and discovered my best response was to cancel my thirty-eight year account and start over with a new account, meaning changing every automatic bill pay information as well as automatic deposit information. Other than making it an all-around bad day, it made me wonder what type of person does this with another’s check.  Jesus speaks of the difference between those who steal and He, Himself – “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Praying that the thief is caught, pays the penalty, repents, and joins the Jesus-side.


Seeking and Finding in a Small Town


Some things you really need are hard to find, especially in a small town, but “he who seeks finds” (Matthew 7:8).  A big, fast truck passed me in the other lane.  As it went by its back wheel threw a rock into my front windshield.  Immediately, I saw a crack moving across the window.  As the crack continued its slow move, I remembered a lesson from my truck driving grandfather.  Ladies clear nail polish, applied to the crack, will stop the spread.  Two problems: Joanne didn’t have any clear nail polish with her and I was twenty miles from the next town – Falfurrias, Texas.  Finally, a truck stop was in sight, and I exited the highway and went in to make a purchase.  No!  Love’s Truck Stop does not sell nail polish.  When the clerk asked why I needed nail polish, and I told him, he spit a stream and issued a few non-repeatable words.  Try Walmart a few blocks into town, he advised through laughter.  I should have known.  Every south Texas town of 4000 has a Walmart.  But again.  No nail polish.  “Try Dollar Tree” said the apologetic salesclerk, with a smile.  Of course. I just wasn’t thinking.  Several more blocks into town and, sure enough!  They had it.  I bought it, as the clerk gave me a “that’s going to look good on you nails” look.  Applied to the windshield crack, the movement stopped just in time. Now I have to deal with my zero deductible insurance. 

From College to Seminary

I retired from my faculty position sixteen years ago.  Recently, I began teaching again.  I made acquaintance with a few first semester students and felt compelled to offer some unsolicited advice, based on my nine years on a college faculty and twenty-two years on a Seminary faculty: You are not going back to college.  You are now enrolled in Graduate School. More will be expected, and even demanded of you.  When something is due on a specific day and time, you will be graded down if you miss the deadline, no excuses nor apologies accepted.  When you say you will do something, you will be expected to do it. Your schedule will be full, so you will need to manage your time.  Just because you are involved in a ministry situation, is no excuse for missing a class or an assignment.  You will have professors who sincerely believe you belong to them – your time, your commitment, your assignments.  Some classes will seem more important and exciting than others, but they are all important, or they would not be in the curriculum.  You will like some professors more than others, but you will need to listen and learn from even the ones you don’t like.  You are entering some of the best years of your life.  Take it seriously.  Again, this is not college.  In Graduate School, you will need to “put on your big-person pants” so to speak, and take more seriously than ever before, the words of the Lord, “You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest regions, and said to you, you are My servant, I have chosen you . . .” (Isaiah 41:9).


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