Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Good times.... tough times

I find the three accounts of Jesus being baptized very interesting. Matthew 3 makes it clear that Jesus sought out John to be baptized. Why? "To fulfill all righteousness." Some people refuse to be baptized for various reasons. But boil it all down to one statement and it seems to me that if Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness, certainly we should be too.

We want to split hairs on the various aspects of baptism which distracts from the beautiful picture it is. Paul wrote that baptism is a picture of the death, burial and Resurrection. Any believer should find it an honor to participate in those three things ( in a symbolic way.)

Mark talk about Jesus baptism and combines it with the temptation in the desert. Mark 11:1 states that God declared, "You are my son, whim I love, with you I am well pleased." Is that not what any son wants to hear from his Father, even Jesus?

The next words in Mark 1:12 are stunning. "At one the Spirit sent out into the desert and he was in the desert 40 days being tempted by Satan."

Wow- that is some "initiation" after the baptism. "At once." No press conference, no book writing for Jesus, or a book tour. No appearances on Television shows. He hears the wonderful blessing of his father and then is sent into isolation, starvation and temptation.

I find that people who are baptized just because they want to know "whats in it for me" really struggle when a period of testing and trial come their way. They can not understand why God would allow such things to happen, especially since they had gone to all the trouble to put on a robe and get in water and be immersed. They can not understand because they have a warped view of the Christian life. It still is "all about me." Sometimes it is the very testing that they hate which shapes me to thinking more about God than themselves.

The Christian Life is full of thorns.Ask Jesus, the disciples, Stephen and others who suffered for their faith. There was nothing easy about the path they chose to follow. Why should we think it would be any different for us? The Christian Life is built around statements like, "deny your self", "take up your cross daily", "the first shall be last and the last shall be first. "Love one another" takes the place of "love yourself." "Be the servant of all" replaces "look out for #1". The list could go on.

The Christian Life is a journey. And there is one goal. Here is the surprise for most. The goal is not to get to Heaven. We have declared that the goal! We talk about it, dream about it, pray about it. But the goal is simply to be "transformed into the likeness of Christ." ( Romans 8:29-- "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.") I believe Heaven is the prize at the end of the process. But God desires more for us than just getting into heaven. He wants us to be used by him to be kingdom bringers in this world. And that comes through the process of being conformed into Christ's image.

That process of being conformed to the likeness of His Son is a long one. It is not one you can just pop a pill and wake up being like Jesus. It is a process of shaping, forming, re-forming and re-shaping. It truly is a two steps forward and one step back process.

Jesus provides us with clear understanding of this when he obeys the Spirit and goes into the desert. I am not saying that his Deity was formed in the desert. He was God in the flesh from the beginning of his life on earth. But I am saying that he sends a subtle message to all of us.... "When you go through periods of trial and testing, remember that I did too, right on the heels of on of the greatest moments of my earthly life."

Jesus was successful in navigating those 40 days. You can navigate tough times in your life too. The blessings of God you have received will carry you through.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

First day of school

As I was walking the morning, a sudden thought came over me. Today, being the first day of school in Owasso, is also the first time in 19 years that Pam and I do not have a child going to public school. That is kind of a wierd thought. We know that life moves on, but it sure seems like it picks up speed too.

I was reflecting about this out on the street this morning. They have been a part of 4 school systems, with the vast majority of those years being spent in Owasso. They have received great educations, which prepared them for college and beyond. Two have graduated from college and the other two are attending college in Missouri and Illinois.

I thought some about what seemed to be countless first days of school, bus rides to school, concerts, ball practices and games, back to school nights, conferences, awards ceremonies, and yes, even a trip or two to the principal's office for disciplinary reasons. ( No names here).

We have been thankful for the Owasso schools, because they seem to have a good sense of educating the children, while balancing that with the need for parental involvement. There has always been an open attitude by the administration and teachers. Their doors have been open to us, and through the years we have taken advantage of the access.

What makes it possible for a child to go to public school and succeed in getting an education.( the same question can be asked of private schools.)? I am sure that there are many reasons for this. One of them has to be the desire of parents to be involved in the education of their children. We have been pretty visible parents on most levels. From Booster Clubs to Bond Issue committees , to being a room mother, to actually working in one of the schools, people know we have been interested. So did our kids.

I know I am writing with a broad brush here. Parental involvement does not guarentee educational success. Certainly prayer, conversation and involvement at home, and genuine interest as parents goes along ways. There are other ingredients as well. Making sure your kids hang out with the right kids ( whatever that may be for you) is essential. For us, ( no matter if I worked at a church or not) this would have included a peer group of kids from the church. I am already missing some of Abigail's friends who just used to pop in... Now they are off at college.
All of this does not mean your child will be a star athlete, or a cheerleader, or on the Academic All State team. But it does give them a better chance at knowing they are loved and supported, knowing who they can go to, and knowing that there are expectations regarding good decision making.

The new school year has started. Last night Pam and I decided we would wander over to the 8th grade center to .... watch the Volleyball Team thump Union. It was fun. We got to see people from the church and the community. A couple asked, "What are you doing here?"

My answer: "Its what we do..." Now we will follow our church kids... and Abigail whose college season starts next week... and the Elkins Elks ( Our Son in Law is the basketball coach there), and anyone else we can think of. We love the environment... You will see us at Owasso games... and who knows, even a concert or two.

It's what we do.... and we love it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Some musings...

I am writing from Joplin. Abigail, our youngest daughter, is going to college. Ozark Christian College is getting a real gem.

I told a friend today that it seems like Abigail has been waiting 18 years for this moment. She is , a girl who loves God and her family. She also really likes the idea of being on her own... making her own decisions and ways.

I think we have been blessed. All four of our kids love God and love each other. Abigail has a great future ahead of her at OCC. She will love the Bible classes, the friendships, and the volleyball.

It was really cool to have Elizabeth drive up to spend the day here. I love the fact that all four of our kids love each other and want to share as much of their lives with each other as possible. It's a good thing.

So where do we go from here? Well, we have a great family spread out in the Midwest ( Fayetteville Ark, Joliet Illinois, Joplin Mo and Owasso - {thats Joel for a while...})
We have each other and that is alot of fun. And we have a great church who wants to grow and develop as a great influence in Northeast Ok.

So things are good...there are bumps in the road, real concerns for other family members, and curves in the road that need to be navigated. But things are still good. No matter what is thrown at us, we have to remember, "Nothing can separate us from the love of God."

On Saturday, we will drive back home. Abigail will stay here and begin the next phase of her life. As one mother said to me the other day ( she is sending her last child to college this week ), " It's what we set out to do...raise them to be good adults." That is true... and it is good to see.

New chapters full of promise for the future. It's a good way to live.