“The Old Rusty Chair”

OK, here’s one from left field for you.
Growing up, our church sang out of hymn books. One of my favorite hymns is old #141 … “The Old Rugged Cross”.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down:
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it someday for a crown.

It’s hard for me to sing or even hear this song without getting a little teary-eyed. Our society has focused a lot of energy on the symbolism of the cross. There are crosses hanging on the walls of our church building, our homes, our t-shirts, around our necks, from our ears … tattoos on our arms, our tombstones. I would dare say there are as many “unbelievers” wearing crosses as there are believers, maybe more. So what does it mean?

I’m sure for a lot of folks, they just display the cross because it’s the “Christian” or “good” thing to do. But for the true “Believer” there is some very real significance to the cross. It’s a symbol of the sacrifice made by Jesus. God’s son willingly stepped into time and space. He took upon himself the limitations of being human, and taking upon himself our sin. He submitted to the most cruel form of execution of that time. Basically He paid the debt I owed for my sin, yours too. Yup, that was a big deal. A huge deal!

Here’s the weird thing. What if Jesus came today to die for our sin? We don’t execute people on crosses any more. Depends on the state laws but it might be firing squad, hanging, lethal injection, electric chair. Would we be celebrating the “method” of his sacrifice? Who would be wearing an electric chair necklace? Church building steeples topped with an injection syringe? Strange, right?

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Sacrificed Lamb (Sans Cross)

A few years ago I was doing a class project for a college sculpture class (Ok, many years ago). I did a wire sculpture of Jesus with a plaster overlay. I started with the thought of a traditional crucifix. The further I went into the project, I began thinking about the way we (our culture) had over-emphasized the cross. I decided to emphasize what I felt was important. I simply left the cross off. I called it “The Sacrificed Lamb”.

My challenge to you? When you see a cross, remember the sacrifice. There’s no power or importance to the cross itself, any more that if it had been an electric chair. The “Big Deal” is the fact that Jesus took my guilt, and gave me His right-ness. I can’t think of a bigger deal than that.

 

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Now Trending … The “Talk-Over”

Ok, here’s where I get on a soapbox.

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I first noticed it on some podcasts that I listen to. Now I’m hearing it more and more on broadcast news and talk shows. It perfectly reflects how our culture has changed over the last 20 years.

I think I may have learned this in kindergarden, “When you have a conversation with someone, one person speaks at a time.” It’s really a simple rule, but one that has been all but forgotten.

It’s common for everyone to blast away all the time. It amazes me how 4 or 5 people all talking at once think that anyone hears or cares what the others are saying. It’s ineffective communication, and what’s more, it’s plain rude.

What are you saying when you interrupt/talk-over someone? It says my ideas are more important than yours. Your ideas can wait. This conversation is about me and what I have to say. It basically diminishes the other person.

We’ve all done it, myself included. I challenge you (and me). Let’s use our manners, by allowing  the other person to finish. We’ll eventually see that our conversations are richer when we yield to the other person.

[sigh] … your turn.

Feeding the Fed

Marijo wrote a post today “Who are you hanging with?”. It got me thinking about something that’s been rolling around in my head.

So much of our efforts as believers is spent on “ministering” to other believers. Don’t get me wrong. That’s definitely a part of what we should be doing … encouraging, exhorting, building each other up.

But sometimes I get a picture in my head of thousands of hungry people. Hungry for the love that only God will fill. We are given the message, but rather than feeding the hungry, we spend countless hours preparing gourmet meals for overweight believers. The “fed” like their food a certain way. Not too hot, seasoned just right, surely no left overs! The “fed” don’t like change! The “fed” like their favorite songs, sung in the style they like. They want preaching that make them feel good … you get the idea.

No one ignores the “hungry” on purpose. We just get busy. We focus on what we like, and before we know it we are spending a lot of our energy and time on things that really don’t matter.

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“Watch where you’re going, not where you’ve been”

This morning I overheard Marijo tell our Grand-daughter, Ashlyn, “Watch where you’re going, not where you’ve been”.  She was looking at something in the room she was leaving and almost ran into the door that was standing partially open.

It’s possible to get so focused on our accomplishments (Or failures) from the past that our ability to navigate the path in front of us get’s compromised.

I have to mention the other side of the coin, lest someone forget who’s writing this. It’s true there’s also wisdom in reviewing the past. Learning what worked, and what didn’t. The problem can come when that becomes our focus.

Keep the past in mind, but focus on the future. I think Ashlyn got some very good advice this morning. … me too.

Things My Dad Never Taught Me

Father’s day is just around the corner. A time to say thanks to our Dad’s and hopefully we can get an “I love you” in there. It reminds me of something I’ve been thinking about for a number of years.

We definitely live in a messed up world. Lots of reasons/excuses for people’s bad behavior. Some point to their upbringing as the source of their troubles. I know there is some truth to that. I think there is generally an absence of the personal responsibility for their own actions. At some point we must stop pointing our finger at the people around us, and own up to the fact that it is “I” that made these choices.

That being said, our parents do have a tremendous influence on our lives. And in that light, here’s a new way of looking at my own Dad’s influence on my life. These are some of the things my Dad never taught me.

My Dad never taught me … 

… to Litter.
“Always leave it cleaner than you found it” is what he always says. I’ve never seen him drop a piece of trash. If he can’t find a trash can, he will put it in his pocket till he finds one.

… to waste money.
Making the most with what you have. Many a time I’ve seen my Dad spend an extra minute or two on a construction project straightening a bent nail that most others would have thrown out.

… to cuss.
I’m not saying Dad never get’s mad. I’m sure He does (Though I haven’t seen it many times). But he uses words to express himself. Words that have meaning. Not rude, “filler” words that serve no purpose but to shock and offend.

… to go to church only when I feel like it.
He stay’s loyal and supportive of the people he’s called to serve with. It’s important to be a part of your local church. You need them, and they need you, whether you feel like it or not. The bottom line is we need each other. You can’t serve them and they can’t serve you if you’re not there.

… to think of myself first.
He is always doing for others.  I see this modeled everyday in Dad’s life. I see it in his relationship with friends, strangers, family and with Mom. Do for other’s is what comes naturally for Dad.

Dad, thanks for showing me what to do … and what NOT to do. I love you.

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Clyde Napier

Did You Ever Notice: Third Person

A lot a people, when they pray in public – I guess most of the time when they are “leading” a prayer time – end up referring to God in the third person?

On the surface, I must admit this sounds like nit-picking. But doesn’t this underscore the fact that these folks are not praying to God, they are praying to the people. Maybe a better way of saying it is they are praying for the benefit of the people, for the people’s ears. Not for God’s ears.

If I’m talking to my friend, Sam. Would you think it odd if I said to Sam,

“Sam, my friend Sam, I just want to thank you, Sam, for this Dr. Pepper, Sam. And if it’s Sam’s will, I know Sam will join me for supper. Sam has always been a good friend to me. Supper has always been good when Sam has come to my house for supper.”

OK, I think you get the idea. Sam would think I’m nuts!

If I’m talking to you, I mean “really” talking to you. I will not talk “about” you in the third person. The above conversation would have gone something like …

“Hi Sam. Thanks for the cold Dr. Pepper. I appreciate you thinking of me. Say, will you come to supper this evening? I’d love for you to come over to the house.” 

God looks at the heart, not the words we say. So I’m not saying we sweat over every word. I am saying that our words are an indicator of our heart. If we find ourselves praying to God in the third person, I encourage you to make sure you’re talking to God and not trying to impress your neighbor.

Truth Be Told …

Truth be told, this is not my first blog post. Almost all my posts have be informational for Church. Podcasts and such. I thought I should try my hand at creating some content that’s just from me. (“Nobody elstes” as Earnest T would say on the Andy Griffith show.) I’m not convinced I’ll have much to say. But i figure I ought to give it a try.

Marijo has certainly done a great job with her blog (marijosings.wordpress.com). I don’t pretend to be on her level. But since “my” level is where I’m at, that’s the best place for me to be.

Grammar police beware. I. will. wear. you. out. So don’t even bother. :-)

I guess that’s enough for one post. I hope we’ll be seeing a lot of each other. My hope is I’ll keep writing, and you’ll keep reading. Who knows where this road will lead … hang on, we are off!

A characture of Mark Napier