One of the indicators that the years are passing by is that you attend more funerals than you do weddings. I’ve attended my share of weddings, performed a few of them, and now the funeral count is catching up. I attended another funeral last week. If funerals must be attended (I only know of one way to avoid it and I’m not ready for my own funeral yet) I’d rather attend funerals of Christians than funerals of non-believers. I’ve been to both. While both involve grief, Christians do not grieve as, “others who have no hope” (1 Thes. 4:13). Certainly no less intense, Christian grief is different. It is mixed with hope. Both the music and the message of Christian funerals are hope-ful. Come to think of it what is the music of the non-Christian funeral? So in the midst of last week’s funeral, of a faithful, long-time, servant of God, I received a new dose of hope. This memo then is not about death and funerals. It is about life – abundant and eternal – and the hope that is within us – hope for reunion and hope for reward. I’m sure of it! Aren’t you?
Life is a series of adjustments. I just had another one, but I’m not sure what to call it. I made a big deal about “retirement” not being biblical for those called to vocational ministry, reminding folks that I was only “retiring” from a position, not from a calling. Friday, at my “retirement” reception, the secretaries ordered the cake icing to read, “Congratulations Dr. Crawford on your promotion.” I was afraid I remembered what that meant and sure enough, from the Salvation Army web site, came these words: “Promotion to Glory: The Salvation Army’s description of the death of Salvationists.” I’m not a member of the Salvation Army but my great grandmother came from New York to begin the Salvation Army in Texas, so I am kind of related – enough that I don’t like this “promotion” idea any more than the “retirement” idea. Finally, I decided I would use the word “transition” for this latest adjustment, but when I looked that up in my “Cruden’s Complete Concordance” I found only “transgression” and I didn’t want any part of that. Back to “promotion” I discovered Proverbs 4:7-8 where Wisdom promotes and honors one and I decided to be “promoted.” But I refused to eat the part of the cake with that word on it. I pray that you will have less adjustment with your next “promotion.”
I’m not sure where the mistake was made – probably by me, perhaps by some well-meaning secretary, then again it could all be blamed on the computer. It doesn’t really matter. The sermon outline that appeared in the bulletin yesterday had both of my main points listed as “II.” There was no point “I” only two point “IIs”. It was only frustrating because it was humorous. How can you preach a two-point sermon without point “I”? How can you proceed without a starting point? It reminded me of the cook book for newlyweds in which the first chapter is entitled, “Face the Stove.” You’ve got to start at the starting point. Right? How silly for a football referee to announce on first down, “Second and ten!” Or for someone to mis-state the well-worn phrase, “Second things first!” Much worse for one to misquote Jesus in Matthew 20:16, “The last will be second, and the second last.” Or to mistakenly identify our Lord in Revelation 1:11 as, “the Alpha and the Omega, the second and the last.” So, what’s the point? I went ahead with my sermon and preached both points and no one commented on the mistake. Maybe no one reads the bulletin. Maybe no one cares about the points. Now that’s a scary point. What’s your first point this week?
Like a lot of people my age who grew up playing outside in the sun, I occasionally have to make a visit to the dermatologist and have him spray a bit of liquid nitrogen on my skin to remove the skin cancer spots. No one told me when I was young that this would be a problem. Of course, there are a lot of other things no one told me when I was young that I am discovering these days. The Apostle Paul told the young believers in Ephesus there were certain things that needed to be “put away from you” (Eph. 4:31). Other translations say “get rid of” these things or “be banished from” these things. The most accurate translation is the Holman Christian Standard Bible that says, these things “must be removed.” The word literally means “remove.” Now the things Paul was referring to could not be removed by liquid nitrogen, nor can some of the unhealthy things in my life. Living in the presence of the Son causes these unwanted features to surface. In fact, the closer to the Son I live, the more things seem to surface. If I’ll work with Him, God will “remove” these unnecessary things from my life. Now that I’ve had sun spots removed, this might be a good week to let the Son remove some other things. Join me?
Last Friday was my last day of full-time employment at Southwestern Baptist Seminary. It hardly seems like twenty-two years ago that I entered my first class room full of seminary students. I remember being filled with a mixture of holy boldness and absolute fear. Come to think of it, those are the same two emotions that I’m feeling as I face the first days of retirement. I arrived on campus early last Friday to take a sentimental journey/prayer-walk, through the Rotunda with its presidential portraits, down the hallways lined with pictures of beloved professors and colleagues, past classrooms where I both studied and taught. As I thanked God, precious memories flooded my soul. Back in my retirement office, I read (as I have for years) the daily entry in My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. The verse was appropriate, “That your joy might be full.” (John 15:11) and mine was. Chambers’ final line of the devotion was more appropriate, “The lives that have been of most blessing to you are those who were unconscious of it.” Unfortunately, most of my heroes never knew they were my heroes. So today, I asked the Lord to just pull them up next to Him and tell them thanks from me. Have you taken a sentimental prayer journey lately, even if only in your mind? Maybe this week would be a good time express thanks for some memories and those who helped create them.
By the end of this week I will be officially retired from Southwestern Baptist Seminary after twenty-two years on the faculty. Since there is no biblical evidence for retirement from God’s call to ministry, I prefer to view this as a transition, not a retirement. And I have a new “life verse” to go along with my transition. In my teen-age years, as I was sensing God’s call on my life, my verse (we knew nothing of “life verses” back then) was Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” About the time I joined the faculty of Southwestern, I added a new, special passage of scripture, Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” Now, in the midst of this current transition, God has given me yet another “life passage,” Psalm 71: 17-18 – “O, God, You have taught me from my youth; and to this day I declare Your wondrous works. Now also when I am old and gray headed, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.” While, I don’t have much gray hair, I do have enough to qualify for this passage. And since I am only retiring from my position, not from my calling, I plan to keep on “declaring.” Do you have a special passage? I’d love to have you share it by clicking below on “Post a comment” and adding it to the web site.
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.