Greetings Friends! I hope your week is headed toward a great conclusion.

Wednesday Night’s American Idol Gives Back was quite an extravaganza! I could say I enjoyed the show, but that’s not quite the right terminology. I cried through a lot of it. There is so much pain in the world, and the children around the world suffering from poverty, malaria, HIV, and other sources of discomfort really touched me. The segments focusing on New Orleans in particular seemed to touch a chord in my heart. It would be hard to pick which appeal was most touching, but perhaps for me it was the impoverished girl in Kentucky who has a dream to be a teacher. Here is a young girl that has had her childhood robbed by circumstances beyond her control, lacking in education, but wanting to one day share knowledge with others. It’s almost too much.

The musical performances had some real highlights for me. I thought that it was great to see Heart on stage singing an old rocker favorite. I even thought that Fergie did a great job singing with them. I do admit to not knowing who that woman was singing with Ann and Nancy Wilson, but I learned who it was from Mike, who didn’t know either – but his teenage son told him. Got that?

A musical performance I will likely remember is Annie Lennox‘s presentation of Many Rivers. She was beautiful and her segment on the orphans in Africa really touched the compassion nerve. Her song following was inspirational.

[youtube=http://youtube.com/watch?v=xEVEjG3KrtM]

Surprisingly, my other favorite singer of the night was none other than Miley Cyrus. Of course I’ve heard of her and her television identity Hannah Montana – I have a 9 year old grand daughter! But I thought she was a great singer and I can see why everyone’s so crazy about her. I just hope she doesn’t do a Britney-dive when she gets older. Maybe Billy Ray can keep her wheels on the road. They seem to be a genuinely close family.

I loved seeing Gloria Estefan. She’s lovely and talented for sure.

Yes, I was disappointed in some of the performances. I like Carrie Underwood‘s voice, but she appears to be a mannequin. For all that talent and beauty, you’d think she could smile and acknowledge the audience. I think Mariah Carey lives in another world. And all of the comics fell really flat, to me.

The closing number with the eight remaining contestants singing Shout To The Lord was such a surprise. They replaced “Jesus” with “Shepherd” … but for a secular program to end with such a blatantly God-honoring song was great. The Christian blog-world is exploding with posts about this!

[youtube=http://youtube.com/watch?v=chXEraRnE4o]

I have to say, though, that Ben Stiller’s closing monologue was an absolutely classless and trashy way to end the show. I could not believe after the joy and exaltation of Shout to the Lord we had to hear his “F” words being bleeped over and over. I guess some people think that’s funny. I think it was a stinko way to end the show and it was a supremely poor reflection on the writers and on Stiller. I wish I had turned my television off…it soured the show in my opinion.

In all, though, it was a great night. No doubt millions of dollars will be raised for the five or six organizations featured during the program. I was glad to see so many celebrities pitching their name in for the cause.

And now tomorrow night … someone must go home. Will there be a surprise, or will it be one of the girls? If it is any of the girls, it will not be a surprise. It’s just a matter of time for each of them. Although, if Kristy Lee improves by big leaps like she did this week … she could shake up the competition.

Thanks for reading,

john

Struggle

The following is a meditation on 1 Corinthians 9:25-10:17. AUDIO OF THIS MESSAGE CAN BE HEARD HERE.

Christians are not called to become rich, to find ease, nor to experience relief. Christians are called to struggle. Our faith is no guarantee, or even promise, that our troubles will walk away from us.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:25-27

No matter what mansions we think we may deserve, or what relief we believe God owes us, we are called into a struggle that makes great demands of us. There is strict training involved in our race. We are to beat our bodies into subjection. This is tough talk from Apostle Paul. In our shortcomings we seek refuge in God’s grace – and find there His ministry to our hearts. But many rest there wondering why the struggle never disappears.

If you continue reading into 1 Corinthians 10 the familiar example of the rescue of the Children of Israel is placed before you. What great advantages they had! They saw the destruction wrought by the hand of God in Egypt while they remained safe in neighboring Goshen. They celebrated their way out of Egypt, to the edge of the Red Sea. In amazement they walked across the dusty sea bed … and in shock they observed the Egyptian army drown as the sea returned to its rightful place. Yet in spite of everything they saw, heard, tasted, felt, heard, and experienced their hearts were still turned to evil.

What do you need to remain faithful to Christ? Do you need to see a miracle? Do you think that if God whispered in your ear or appeared in a giant vision that you would finally be able to give your life to Him? If he took away your pain, would you follow Him then? No, these things would not remove your struggle of faith. There are some struggles we should always maintain, and from which we should not seek relief.

We Are To Struggle Against Self Assurance (1 Cor 10:12). Did you grow up in the church? Have you been baptized? Do you attend all services? Do you participate in all activities? Have you read the Bible through? It is easy to develop a pride from our spiritual experience. But when we are self-assured, we can fall into the trap of excusing our actions. We may tell ourselves that our sin isn’t much to worry about because we have done many good things for God. We may also fall into the trap of ignoring our actions, as if they do not matter to God. We can easily become self-assured and like Israel allow ourselves to be turned to evil – even in the context of our good deeds. Struggle against self-assurance! So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!

We Are To Struggle Against Giving Up (1 Cor 10:13-14). In the trials and heartaches we face, it is so easy to think it would be better to just give up. But be alert to the truth that God is faithful. He is monitoring the situation. He is aware of your ability and your strength. Be alert for the way out – it is there. We do not always want to take it – and some give up while rejecting the way out of their sin. Struggle against giving up because there is no hope offered anywhere else.

We Are To Struggle Against Idolatry (1 Cor 10:14). Though you may not bow down to a statue or kiss a necklace, anything we place before God is idolatry. This includes our own self-will.

These are huge struggles that we all face. They are not going away. But we are not alone in our struggle – we are going to find power in the blood of Christ. I think Paul uses an interesting phrase in 1 Corinthians 10 when he talks about ‘participation in the blood of Christ’. How does one ‘participate’ in something that splashed upon the filth of Golgotha 2000 years ago?

Participation In the Blood of Christ (1 Cor 10:16-17). I can think of several ways in which we are participants in the blood of Christ. We trust in the blood when we make our decision to give our lives to Christ. We appreciate the ongoing cleansing by the blood as we pursue discipleship and kingdom living. We give thanksgiving for the blood in the weekly communion with the assembled Body. We have a blood-bound relationship with the Body, the church, that is evidenced by our relationship. In many ways our entire life is strengthened and empowered by the blood of Christ. We’re not going to persevere above these struggles on our own, the power of His blood will enable us.

Participation in a Lifestyle (1 Cor 10:21-22). In our struggle we cannot keep one foot in the world and one foot in the Kingdom. We are called to make a decision. The Corinthians could not be participants in the sacrifices to idols one day and the next day sit with the Saints and enjoy a relationship. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. God will not accept our divided interests. When we divide our interests we stir the Lord’s jealousy – he desires for us to live by our stated commitment. We died with him in baptism, He raised us … shouldn’t we belong to Him? When we divide our interests we put ourselves on His throne and determine what He ought to be willing to accept. Christ alone was sacrificed for us – He alone has the power to save and keep and empower us.

And so in our struggles we are invited to choose our Table. The Christian call is an invitation to struggle. God invites you to sit at His table, but he will not share you with others.

One of the great issues of modern Christians is the decision not to struggle. And when we decide not to struggle, we follow the Children of Israel into wilderness death. Struggle, Christian! In your struggle, trust Him to save and keep you.

Thanks for reading,

John

Progress

I’m making progress in getting the house geared up to put on the market. But I’m not doing it by myself! In an incredible demonstration of second-mile Christianity, four or five of my Central brothers and sisters have been working in my yard adding some ‘curb appeal’ so that the house can look better to potential buyers. They are having to work HARD … and are doing so while laughing and sharing the time together. I am so grateful … and it’s so hard to allow them to do this … and at the same time it’s looking so good … it brings me such joy. And I’m reminded once again of the sweetness and love that are a part of the Family at Central.

Indoors I’ve been doing some cleaning in some of our rooms where we put everything during the time of renovation … trying to get things looking a little nicer. Of course those who come to look at our home will understand that we LIVE in this house. I had a long enjoyable phone call with friend Bobbie Lowe yesterday. We talked about the TV shows about selling houses, they are able to put everything in its place, it all looks good, it’s all color coordinated, and with time lapse editing it’s all done in 30 minutes. No sweat. Right. There’s always that stuff you look at and say, “What do I do with THAT?” You don’t want to throw it away … you don’t want to leave it out in a pile of other stuff we don’t know what to do with it … yet you can’t imagine needing it later. But experience tells us that if we throw it away, within 3 days after the garbage man has come to pick it up, we will discover our need for it … and perhaps even have to go out and re-purchase it. Sigh. Can I get a witness?

Anyway… my health is 90% … maybe 95% after the horror virus of last Friday night. I think for lunch today I might even go find something hearty to eat. I’ve been eating soup and sammiches. Last night I did eat a Subway sammich, though not decked out … with no problems.

I set up a Fantasy Baseball League for Forsythe … but only have myself and three others right now. We need at least 8 and 10 would be better. Anyone care to join? I know we’re into week two … but you know … there’s like 150+ games left to play! Just let me know … it’ll be auto draft … and if you don’t know about Yahoo Fantasy Sports, feel free to give it a try. It’s free and fun.

I’ve gained a few more Twitter followers since mentioning it recently. Danny Dodd mentioned it on his blog as he opined about being technologically challenged. He’s breaking my heart. I think he’d like Twitter because it requires a short attention span and minimal knowledge to use. grin.

Please continue to keep my mom and dad in your prayers. Mom is running a fever today and sleeping a lot. My dad will have a radiation treatment tomorrow to try to slow the growth on his lungs. Maggy’s mom had to be taken to the ER last night but is feeling a tiny bit better at her home.

Also, please say a prayer for Neva … she’s always praying for others.

Thanks for stopping by,

John

Sunday Sunshine

After the rainy weekend all of us in the SouthEast have had, we need some Sunday Sunshine! It feels funny being at home on a Sunday morning. I noticed that all of my e-mails and Twitters have come to a halt … guess that’s what I get for having a bunch of Christian friends who are all at worship! I ran a fever last night and feel that I should not risk the possibility of infecting my friends at worship, so I’m home. I feel some better. I tolerated some toast this morning. I’ve developed a headache and my stomach still has some butterflies. My ribs are sore from the multiple expulsions (does that sound better than vomit? LOL sorry). Anyway, I had all sorts of plans for this weekend but you can’t always get what you want – one truism the Rolling Stones sang. JR just called to say that Robert and Lynda Lingle were visiting at Central this morning. I hate to miss seeing them – along with everyone else. bah.

Twitter has grown on me…significantly. Microblogging has several interesting elements. First of all, all the messages are short. You can read them at a glance. I like that. Second, many Twitterers share links to interesting websites, new programs, or information that you may not know. Third, it’s easy to access and easy to update. You can even send a Twitter message from your cell phone via text. Fourth, it creates a new level of interest and intimacy (maybe too strong a word) for keeping up with friends. Fifth, I like the way that it updates my Facebook status and also is displayed on my blog – so people who do not have Twitter can still know what’s on my mind at the moment. Could I live without Twitter? Certainly. For many people learning e-mail was a labor. There will be millions of people totally disinterested in Twitter. But there’s something about a new gadget that’s interactive and free and easy to use that just won’t let go of me. If you Twitter and we’re not already following one another, let me know!

Today we say goodbye to Moses. Really, can anyone else really ever play that part? No. Charlton Heston, age 84, passed away today in his home in Beverly Hills. Heston’s film career was larger than life. His off-screen activist roles took him into more conservative circles than Hollywood stars usually travel. He was a courageous man who stood up for what he believed in. Perhaps his earlier roles portraying heroes and world-changers gave him insight into how to make a difference. Compared to Heston, most of the mega stars in today’s Hollywood look like a bunch of spoiled whiners.

Shane Coffman is asking blog readers to offer suggestions about Tulsa Workshop 09.

Memphis keeps getting better when it counts the most. I don’t follow basketball, but I have to be happy with the victory of Memphis in the final four. Southerners stick together you know. Especially in the summer. ew.

Thanks for stopping by. Hope your Sunday is sunny. I’d love to hear a report of what happened at your church this Sunday.

JD