The Implications of Goodbye

implications of goodbye

I met Ronda Parker in the summer of 2011 at Short Mountain Bible Camp. She was a counselor for the girls and I was a counselor for the boys. We had a lot in common. First of all, we were Christians, which is the most important thing to have in common with anybody. But we had also dealt with cancer, and we had both received our original diagnosis at the same time in our lives – while our children were very young.

We had the opportunity to grow in our Christian friendship through Bible camp. We talked from time to time about health issues, other challenges, and the faith needed to overcome. We prayed for each other and shared our recent health news and reports.

Ronda passed away this last Sunday after a 12 year battle with cancer. By faith she gained the victory.

Cancer patients learn some things that other people cannot learn. First of all, they learn to come to terms with their own mortality. When you receive your diagnosis there are a few thoughts that come to you immediately. One is, “How much time do I have left on earth?” Another is, “How soon can I have surgery?” When you have something inside your body that may take your life, you want to get it out of you as soon as possible. And another thing – once you have a disease that is life threatening you lose the assumption that you will live to be old. You never get that back. It was a false assumption anyway, because nobody knows their time. You were just either oblivious about this before, or you were simply mistaken.

Cancer patients also know life is a gift. Life becomes much more precious to people who stop taking it for granted. When you are sick it is offensive to watch people waste both health and time. When you are fighting for your life it is hard to understand why people don’t exercise or eat right. It is also hard to understand what people are waiting for when it comes to making their lives count. Every day is more exciting. Every sunrise is more beautiful. Every relationship is more meaningful. Cancer can be a great blessing to us spiritually. It makes you prioritize.

Ronda did something very meaningful for her funeral service. She made it clear that she wanted the plan of salvation to be preached to everyone in attendance. She told her preacher, “Don’t hold back!” He did not hold back. After I led the first song, there was another song, and then the obituary. Another song followed and then the eulogy. This memorial was one of the most powerful I have ever attended. Ronda used her physical death as a way to give people a chance for eternal life. She knew it might offend some people, even family members, but she loved everyone too much to keep them from the truth.

A final thing I would include about having cancer, is that you begin to think about the implications of “goodbye.” When you love people you do not want to be separated from them. You want to be in their lives and you want them in yours. To love and be loved is what makes life worth living. You know that they will go on with their lives when you are gone and you will cease to be a part of the daily process. It becomes increasingly important for you to leave a lasting impact; an impact that will live long after you have gone and perhaps last for generations to come. Ronda made that kind of impact.

The last thing she told her preacher, the quote that ended her service, is perhaps the most powerful thing I have ever heard a person say at the end of their life. Please keep it in mind. Ask yourself how it applies to you. I want to preach this quote from Ronda for the rest of my life. I believe it will help her to live on through us and that it may change eternity for others. Ronda ended her final conversation with her preacher with these words, “Tell everyone assembled, who is a Christian, who has obeyed the gospel, ‘See you later.’ Tell everyone else, ‘Goodbye.’”

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:4

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Do You Want to be a Missionary?

do you want to be a missionary

What is a missionary? According to Dictionary.com, the primary definition of that word is “a person sent by a church into an area to carry on evangelism or other activities, as educational or hospital work.”

Most often, when we refer to a person as a “missionary” we are thinking of a person who has left his homeland, packed up his (usually meager) belongings, and gone to some far distant place to carry out what we know as The Great Commission (cf. Matthew 28:19-20). Similarly, when we think of a “mission field,” we usually think of a place where there are either no local congregations of the Lord’s church or the ones that may be there are very weak numerically.

While listening to a lesson recently, I heard a definition of that word “missionary” that caught my attention. I’ve done a little research on that definition, but I have yet to find who should get the credit for first saying or writing it. I’m not even sure of the exact wording, but, if my memory is close to being accurate (and if one place I looked on the internet is correct), it goes like this:

“A missionary isn’t someone who crosses the sea, but someone who sees the cross.”

I pray that that statement will have the same impact on you that it has had on me. You, see, I’ve done some of what might be called “short-term mission work.” A number of years ago, in two consecutive years, I went literally half-way around the world from where I was living at that time and preached the gospel for a total of ten weeks in India.

The living conditions, diet, language, climate, food, customs, and so many other things were very different from what I was used to. I was willing to experience all of that, though, because I believed that I was doing my small part to follow the Lord’s instructions in that Great Commission to “…teach [make disciples of] all nations…” (Matt. 28:19).

Now that I’m “armed” with my new-found definition of what a missionary is, I am both more excited and more challenged. I am excited because that quote drives home a point I’ve known for years, but may have never fully appreciated. I can be, in fact I’m supposed to be, a “missionary” in any and all environments.

I am challenged because that quote drives home a point I’ve known for years, but may have never fully appreciated.  I can be, in fact I’m supposed to be, a “missionary” in any and all environments.

If you think you may have noticed a little redundancy in the last two paragraphs, you are right. I was redundant for a reason.

It is both exciting and challenging to know that my “mission field” is wherever I am. My first “missionary effort” could take place in a house across town, down the street, or next door. It could begin with a parent, a child, or a spouse who has yet to obey the gospel of Christ.

It could very well be that the very first step I need to take to fulfill my part in taking the gospel to all nations is for me to clearly see the cross for myself. It seems to me that, the extent to which I can do that will largely determine what kind of “missionary” I will be.

As the cross and its implications can be seen more and more clearly to me, my next step may, in fact, be to travel to some far distant place. I am thankful for those who have done, and are doing, that.

At the same time, that next step could take me to somebody I’ve known and loved for many years — or — to somebody in town I need to know and teach.

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Friday’s Family Friendly Finds {August 8, 2014 edition}

What a great week! We are thrilled to have several new readers via email, and our number of Facebook likes just keep going up. Thank you so much!

Of course, the biggest news around here this week was the launch of our podcast. We hope this new outlet gives you yet another way to be encouraged. And, we are now officially listed on iTunes! If you use iTunes, click here to subscribe, and take just a moment to give us a rating and/or review. It would be very much appreciated.

With all that said, let’s move on to this week’s family links.

Family Friendly Finds

This Week’s Finds

Daddy’s Bible, Daddy’s Life {Barber Clippings}

The Problem with the Child-Centered Home {We are THAT Family}

How to Have a Real Conversation {Life and Favor}

The Secret to Having a Marriage that Never Goes Stale {Goins Writer}

Can a Baby’s Death Tell Us Anything about Video Game Addiction? {Slate.com’s Future Tense blog}

Our Week in Review

The following were our five most-viewed posts in the last week. These were not necessarily published in the last week; they just drew the most views. (Original publication date in parentheses.) 

#5: Hymn Reflection: “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” (July 5, 2013)

#4: Satisfied with the Leftovers, from a Different Perspective (August 4, 2014)

#3: What 3000 People Taught Me, 2000 Years Ago (August 5, 2014)

#2: Episode #1: “What Is A Legacy of Faith?” {Podcast} (August 7, 2014)

#1: Hosting a Neighborhood Ice Cream Social (August 6, 2014)

Connect with A Legacy of Faith

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Episode 1 : “What is A Legacy of Faith?” [Podcast]

(Player not working? Click here.)

Welcome to “A Legacy of Faith: The Podcast.” When we launched the new site in early June, we let our readers know that a podcast was coming. Today, that comes true with our introductory episode.

In this first episode, Adam and Leah introduce themselves, let you know more about A Legacy of Faith, and share what to expect with the podcast.

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For more information about the podcast, click here.

To subscribe to our email newsletter and get your free e-copy of Understanding the Love Chapter, click here.

———————

Music Credit

Opening: “Josie Has the Upper Hand” by Josh Woodward

Closing: “Afterglow” by Josh Woodward

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NEXT EPISODE: August 14, “Connecting Kids to Family Heritage”

Hosting a Neighborhood Ice Cream Social

hosting an ice cream social

We love our neighborhood, but more than that, we love the street we live on. For the past couple of years, especially, we have greatly enjoyed getting to know our neighbors a little bit.

But, as we all know, people are busy. Getting to know one another is difficult and takes effort. It requires us to be intentional.

Leah and I have been kicking around the idea for some time about hosting some informal, simple events to get to know our neighbors–especially those on our street–better. Last week, we held our first, and it was fantastic!

We decided to have a simple ice cream social, and make it a come-and-go, informal evening. There was nothing fancy about the night, and I think that helped it be a success. The expectations were low, so people didn’t feel like they had to “put on” for others. In all, about 30 people were present.

Here’s how we did it, and you can, too.

1. Simple promotion. We made super simple flyers (see below) that gave our  neighbors the date and time, and asked them to let us know if they were attending. With school getting ready to start back, we called it a “Back to School” night, but we told folks that was just an excuse to get together. We took one evening, and walked up to each house. If they were home, we invited them personally. If not, we just left the flyer on their door. Nothing more was done by way of promotion.

ice cream for blog

2. Simple night. Ice cream, a couple of toppings, some cookies, and lemonade on a very small table. That was it. That’s all we had to set up and get ready (and the ice cream wasn’t even homemade). We figured the simplicity of the food would help people just enjoy the conversation. A couple of our neighbors agreed to help with the cookies, so the whole night only cost us about $40. Again, this was not about putting on some kind of “show.” It was about keeping things laid back and inviting.

3. No agenda. We just let people talk, and did they ever talk! We had said the evening would be from 7:00-8:00 PM, but we had folks stay until about 8:30. There were people who had never met, though they live just a couple of houses apart, who talked for nearly the entire time! This was not meant to be a Bible study or an invitation to purchase something. We wanted people to just enjoy getting to know each other better.

On our street, there are 16 houses, and about 30 people came. That’s not bad! As you can see, all this happened even though there was almost no preparation required. When all was done, we think the night went as well as we could have expected.

We also saw two “outcomes” that made us feel gratitude for having held such a night. First, people wanted to get a list of emails and phone numbers to pass around, so we could more easily keep up with one another. We were glad to gather these and I sent them out via email later that night.

Second, and best of all, people were already coming up with ideas for future get-togethers! It was a joy to hear ideas of cookouts and more “socials” like this first one. While I don’t expect these to happen all the time, I do think we’ll see a handful of these events in the coming months.

In a time when people complain because they don’t know their neighbors and so few people seem to want to be friendly, this night was a breath of fresh air. It may take some initiative, but I think neighbors want to know one another. So, do something simple and hold an evening to allow your neighbors to interact. You might just be surprised at how well it goes.

The best compliment we got all night was by a fellow sister in Christ who lives down the street. After thanking us for having this event, she said, “This is a very Christian thing to do.” We hope so, and we hope this encourages you to do something similar in your neighborhood!

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What 3000 People Taught Me, 2000 Years Ago

what 3000 taught me

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). God’s message for us in the pages of the Bible has not changed for nearly 2,000 years. It was completed at the end of the first century, A.D., and is the all-sufficient and final will of God for the human race. That is why I can have great confidence in reading about an event that took place on the day the Lord’s church was established.

On the day of Pentecost, approximately 33 A.D., the gospel was preached for the first time by the 12 apostles. On that day 3,000 received the message and were baptized. Through that obedient decision, God added them to the church (Acts 2:38-47). Their decision to become Christians has been a great encouragement to me over the years as both an obedient believer and a preacher of the gospel. We can all learn a lesson or two concerning their immediate decision to put on Christ in baptism.

1. They did not know very much, but they knew enough. Many people delay their obedience to Christ because they are afraid they are not well-studied in the Scriptures. What did these people know? They knew they had killed the Son of God (Acts 2:36). They knew that they were lost and needed to do something about it (Acts 2:37). They knew nothing of the church or of the expectations of Christianity. Peter told them what they needed to do to get right with God and they did it.

2. They had a heart problem that was fixable. While their hard hearts had caused them to reject Christ and His teachings, their hearts were not beyond repair. They heard the message and their hearts were pricked (Acts 2:37). Being “cut to the heart” is a necessary experience. Something has to happen in order for our heart to be affected before Jesus can fit inside. Sometimes my heart has issues. But I know that God is greater than my heart (1 John 3:20). The Great Physician came to operate on hearts. He came to break hearts. He came to heal hearts. He came to live in hearts.

3. Obedience is contagious. I can only imagine what it would have been like to witness 3,000 people repent of their sins and be baptized. This would have taken all day! When others make a decision to commit their lives to the Lord, their decision can encourage others. This is why confessing Christ as Lord is a part of the process (Romans 10:9-10). God wants to be seen in people who are willing to live out His purpose for their lives. Our obedience is powerful and it is meant to be replicated by witnesses.

4. There is no reason to delay becoming a Christian. If 3,000 people could simultaneously submit to the will of God, then nothing should keep any person who has heard the gospel message from doing the same. I know as a preacher that if I present the plan effectively and correctly, one sermon can be enough to change a person’s eternity. An individual should be able to walk into the building where I am preaching and be able–through just one lesson–to become a child of God, even if they have never heard anything about God before. We must remember to preach the plan. After all, tomorrow may be too late.

What a blessing to know that when a person does what 3,000 people did 2,000 years ago they will receive the very same things they received: Remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16); the name of Christ (Christian) – having been clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27); addition to the church by the Lord (Acts 2:47); an answer of a good conscience before God (1 Peter 3:21); the perpetual cleansing of the blood of Christ upon repentance and prayer (1 John 1:9); joy within and peace of mind and heart (Acts 8:38-39; Philippians 4:6-7); and the hope of eternal salvation according to a faithful life (Mark 16:15-16; Revelation 2:10).

Everything I ever needed to know about God happened almost 2,000 years ago. God has been patient and loving and merciful to me. He waited long enough to let me learn it and live it. What an amazing God we serve!

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls…’” (Jeremiah 6:16).

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Satisfied with the Leftovers (from a Different Perspective)

satisfied 2

Last Monday, I wrote about the woman who expressed to Jesus that she would be satisfied with any “crumbs” that He might allow her to have. At that time, I suggested that her attitude was one which would be pleasing to our Lord. It would demonstrate humility on our part and would result in a very grateful attitude for what He has done, and continues to do, for us.

However, there is another way to look at this concept of being satisfied with the leftovers. The difference is perspective. It is about who is–or is not–being satisfied.

God never has been, is not now, and will never be satisfied with the leftovers.

You may remember that, on one occasion, our Lord was asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? Hopefully, you also remember His answer: “…You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment (Matt. 22:36-37).

It seems to me that, if I love God with all my being, there does not appear to be any justification for giving Him the leftovers of my affection, my time, my energy, my money…my all. It has been said by many (because it is true) that God will accept no position other than first place in our lives.

This principle is clearly seen in the Old Testament as God’s people were instructed to bring only the very best to offer as a sacrifice to Him. It carries over into the New Testament wherein we read these words:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:1-2, NKJV).

One of the songs we sometimes sing has a title that is repeated four times in the song itself — Give of Your Best to the Master.

That’s very sound advice, because He will accept no less.

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Friday’s Family Friendly Finds {August 1, 2014 edition}

Welcome to August! Or, if you are going to Polishing the Pulpit, welcome to PtP month!

It is hard to believe, but we start our year of homeschool next Monday. Also, we will start our Legacy of Faith podcast next Thursday. So, there is a lot going on around here.

Did you know that we keep an updated list of where A Legacy of Faith writers will be speaking? Click here to find out when we will be in your area! We would love to meet you.

On to this week’s family links.

Family Friendly Finds

This Week’s Finds

Dear Daughter, Please Believe Me That You’re Beautiful {Matt Walsh blog}

Not Just Behavior Chance {National Center for Biblical Parenting}

15 Sites and Apps Kids are Heading to Beyond Facebook {Common Sense Media}

Feed Your Little Sheep {for the family}

The Problem with 50 Shades of Grey {Haley Morgan Smith}

And, for you tech geeks, if you have trouble remembering to mute your phone during church, just use THIS link for Android and THIS for iPhone. Oh, and to unmute your Android when you leave church, use THIS link. {If This, Then That; you’ll need the ifttt app, but it’s free and way cool!}

Our Week in Review

The following were our five most-viewed posts in the last week. These were not necessarily published in the last week, they just drew the most views. (Original publication date in parentheses.) 

#5: James 1:22 Steps on My Toes (July 23, 2014)

#4: Being the Bad Guy (July 22, 2014)

#3: The Universal Family (July 29, 2014)

#2: Satisfied with the Leftovers (July 28, 2014)

#1: Michael Sam & ESPN’s Definition of Courage (July 30, 2014)

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A Legacy of Faith Podcast Starts in One Week

Since we launched of A Legacy of Faith, we have centered our efforts on producing written content. Each week since our start, we have produced five new posts each week, and the reception you have given us has been tremendous. We enjoy these posts, but we want to do as much as we can to inform and encourage you and your family.

With that in mind, from the very start, we have also stated that there have been additional “outlets” in the works. One that we specifically mentioned from our launch was a podcast. The launch date for A Legacy of Faith: The Podcast is now just one week away, and we are thrilled.

LOFpodcast

Our first episode will be released next Thursday, August 7, and we pray it starts a long series of programs that greatly encourage you! The tagline for the program is, “The podcast designed to help your family survive the day, prepare for tomorrow, and always keep an eye on eternity.” Our goal is simply to bring you and your family information and encouragement on a variety of topics.

Some of you remember that Leah and I started a podcast about a year ago, recording five episodes. While the program was very successful, we simply had not done enough “pre-preparation,” and as such, we were not good at staying on top of the recording schedule. We have learned from our mistakes, and have done a much better job–together–at planning well into the future this time around.

In fact, as of this writing, two episodes are already fully recorded and edited, and another will be completed within a couple of days. Additionally, we have mapped out a plan for the first 10 episodes, and have a much better grasp on what we want to do with the program. Each episode will be about 30 minutes in length, and we are doing our best to keep them informative and upbeat (even the intro music is fun!).

We are thrilled to be entering the podcast world again, and we hope you are looking forward to it, too. If you don’t know what a podcast is, think of it as an online radio program that you can listen to whenever you’d like (sort of like DVR for audio content). You can listen on a computer, tablet, or smartphone, and you can listen to any episode you want, anytime you want.

To learn more about A Legacy of Faith’s podcast and what we have planned for the first 10 episodes, here is a link to the information page.

Also, we want to ask that, if you are one who enjoys podcasts, please spread the word about this new work. Once the program begins, every download, comment on iTunes, and rating, will help us get the word out through the iTunes search engine. If you like what you hear when the podcast is released, take just a moment to give us a little “iTunes love.” It will be appreciated!

As always, we pray that this effort guides you closer to the Lord and helps your family. Please pray for us as we continue to work on the podcast, and please know that we will not forget the written content! You’ll still get 5 posts every week, and we pray they continue to encourage you, as well.

One Week Away! Can you tell we are excited?

Michael Sam & ESPN’s Definition of Courage

michael sam espn

Recently, ESPN held their annual ESPY awards. Like most major awards shows, it was simply a place for people in an entertainment industry to pat themselves on the back for how great they are. I used to rather enjoy these shows; now, I find them boring.

Each year at the ESPYs, an award is given for courage in sports. Named the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, this trophy is presented to just one person each year, and is meant to honor someone associated (even loosely) with the world of sports who has overcome a great obstacle in life. Former winners of this award include Jim Valvano, Pat and Kevin Tillman, Pat Summitt, and the hero who made “let’s roll” famous in the wake of 9/11: Todd Beamer.

 

Then came the 2014 ESPY awards, in which this same award was given to St. Louis Rams rookie defensive end, Michael Sam. Drafted recently in the 7th round of the NFL Draft by the Rams, Sam was the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, winning that award for his outstanding play with the Missouri Tigers.

So, here is a gifted athlete, who is good enough to win a very prominent award in the Southeastern Conference and who is now working in a career that thousands of boys wish they could attain: a spot with an NFL team. And he is given an award for courage.

For what? Did Sam overcome cancer to get here? No. Did he survive a major accident and need to learn to walk again? No. Did he fight for our country and survive the horrors of combat? No.

So how did the “World Wide Leader” define courage for this year’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award?

Michael Sam is gay.

In the United States of America.

In 2014.

Let’s think about that definition of “courage” for a moment.

We live in a time and culture where to speak out against homosexuality is considered bigotry. To do so in many settings will lead to suspension from a job, court-ordered sensitivity training, or a no-questions-asked firing.

We live in a culture where the mainstream media celebrates homosexuality by making sure it is a major part of nearly every major TV show and movie, and they are certain that the homosexual character is kind, good looking, and heroic.

Ours is a time when our Supreme Court has made homosexual marriage something that is coming quickly to nearly every part of our nation, and we are told by most in the media to welcome that without any argument. To not celebrate gay marriage is to be out of step with the modern tide of history.

Even when Michael Sam himself was drafted by the Rams, cameras were present to witness his reaction (which included kissing his boyfriend) and share that moment with the world. When is the last time any other last-round pick got such treatment?

In other words, to be courageous in the eyes of ESPN, you need to live a lifestyle that everyone celebrates and no one is allowed to speak out against. You must be able to play a game for a living and have the celebrity that is attached with being a star athlete.

That’s how we define courage now?

Please tell that to police officers and military personnel, who put their own personal safety on the line on a daily basis, and do so without a second thought, and with very few words of thanks.

Please tell that to the elderly man who refuses to leave his ailing wife’s bedside, though his own health is not good.

Please tell that to the single mom who works all day and gives her children moral direction with ounce of energy she has left each evening.

Oh, I forgot. They can’t rush a quarterback, throw a 12-6 curve, or hit a game-winning 3-pointer. So the new, inclusive, politically-correct ESPN will never know about them and be able to figure out what real courage looks like.

One of these days, I may face jail, a fine, or having to leave the ministry for speaking out against the type of lifestyle that Michael Sam has chosen. He’ll be making money playing a game and I may be sitting in a cell or going through a financial struggle, all due to a deep conviction in Scripture.

Yet ESPN tells us that he’s the one with courage. Welcome to America in 2014, where to be awarded for being courageous no longer requires courage.

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