Thursday, February 23, 2006

Drawn Like a Horse to Water

Hey I read a great set of verses this AM. It so described the situation that I am facing with the youth group that I smiled. It was that "That is so true" smile that you get when you hear someone or read something that you have always believed, but had never articulated or never that well. My prof of evangelism at BBS, Lee Wise, used to shout "YYYYYes!" with fist pump whenever we talked about a concept like that. (Just thinking about Lee again makes me smile.)

Listen to these great verses:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will
counsel you with my eye on you. Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have
no understanding, whose trappings include a bit and bridle to hold them in
check, otherwise they will not come to you. (Psalm 32:8-9, NAS)

Verse 9 is even better in the NIV:
"Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must
be controlled by the bit and bridle or they will not come to you."

We are really struggling as a youth group leadership team to meet the demands of stubborn mules! We instruct, teach, demonstrate, counsel, watch over them. Yet when given free reign they sit down or run off. We often feel like we are dragging them to drink (water). We are hoping that a new horse in the stable, who has a lot of questions (ala coming on his own to the water) will be the spark that motivates thes others to follow. Pray for this new horse!

Lord, help me to be led by the carrot of knowing you better, of being in your will, of communig with you personally. Help me avoid waiting for the tug, the struggle, the bold yanks and spanks of your Spirit. Make me a willing mule! Amen.

Your fellow mule,

PS - do not substitute the KJV word for mule in this post!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Family Communication via Blog

I am stoked (good '80's word) about the blossoming of blogs in our family. I am not sure that the guys in my family have ever had so much communication in our lives -- and certainly not about such great topics. I especially like my Dad's discussion of his Sunday School topics. It has generated multiple comments from all three of the boys that are online. It even caused Thad to write, "Show Mark what a blog is". I love the fact that Thad is leading the technology charge! You go dude! :)

I have to agree with Thad also about the power of small groups. These powers are especially poignant to discussions of accountability. I just saw a pyramid of relationship today that showed this very phenomenon. At the base of the structure was "High truth" and "High trust". Near the top was "High accountability". The point being that without a high level of honesty and open communication, there really can be no trust developed. Without trust, there is no foundation for accountability.

Can blogging with its omission of body language and non-verbal communication be an accountability platform? Is it possible to truly develop online friendships that will be strong enough to handle genuiness and frank candor? Or is this medium doomed to be a forum for discussions of politics and sports? I think that the "conversations" that 4 grown men named Paris are having are going beyond the light and fluffy and getting to the meat of discussion.

Keep blogging my brothers. Keep blogging Dad. Start blogging Mark. And whatever you do, don't tell the girls! :)

I love the fun and uplifting comm,

Monday, February 20, 2006

I Love You, Because....

As I challenged our people (and myself) to think about loving God and expressing that to Him, I thought about three main categories of reasons why I love Him;
  1. Things that He has done for me -- gifts, protections, salvation, etc.
  2. Lessons that He has taught me -- some of them through His Word, through His messengers, through the school of hard knocks, etc.
  3. Attributes that He has shown me -- moving theology to real life, etc.

While I do not claim these three categories to be inspired or necessarily inspiring, I believe that they cover a wide spectrum of our expressions of love to God. Also, I do not believe that these are necessarily in order of greatest to least. they may be in the order of easiest to grasp to most difficult or most tangible/touchable to less tangible/abstract. Again, they are suggestions not commandments! :)

I love God. I choose to love Him. My love is not based on what He can do for me or my portfolio. He is my God, that is enough. But, He did not simply call me and draw me to Himself and quit loving me; He has kept up his passionate pursuit of me. Here are some of the items that I put on my Valentine to God last night:

  • I love the way that you protect me from getting the lusts of my heart; you keep me from some of the dumb things that I ask for; you always give me the best
  • I love the fact that you are so gracious that you did not wait for me to draw near to you to extend salvation to me; You demonstrated your love while I was still unformed, unlovely, a sinner, and an enemy
  • I love that you are a shelter, a fortress and a high tower when I am under attack
  • I love the fact that you do not deal with me according to my transgressions
  • Thank you for not protecting me from danger when that was your divine will for my life; your ways are excellent
  • Thank you for not just saying that you love me, but showing me too; Help me to show you how much You mean to me; Help others to catach a glimpse of what a relationship with God through Jesus Christ looks like.

What would you put on your valentine to God? Post some notes (I am not sure that God reads my blog, but He knows what's there and whether it comes form your heart). Some things are better left for the personal devotional space, but some things can be shared among brothers.

Loving God who loved me first,


Valentines to God

Did you do anything special for your loved ones over the Valnetine's Day holiday? I hope that you did. Did you remember to say "I Love You" to God? We used this Sunday, 2/19, as a celebration of God's love.

I believe that one of the areas that Praise and Worship music has got it right is in the area of expressing love to God. So I used a host of choruses for the two services to "Think About His Love". We sang some great songs of worship that elevated God as the center of loving, not our emotions or our attractions! We responded to God's love by saying/singing that we loved Him too. That is worship in its most basic, yet profound mode.

Here's the play list; if you're reading this list and know some of the songs, why not sing along? Do not worry, I cannot hear if you are in a different key or have an alternate timing! :)
  • The Celebration Song
  • The Steadfast Love of the Lord
  • Think About His Love
  • How Deep the Father's Love
  • Amazing Love (Graham Kendrick)
  • Greater Love
  • All That I Need
  • O For a Heart to Praise My God
  • Jesus, Draw Me Close
  • In Moments Like These
  • Seekers of Your Heart
  • With All My Heart
  • Cry of My Heart

We had a great time of reading God's Word (Psalm 136 -- responsively/antiphonally) and writing valentines to God as well as singing and giving and shaking hands, etc. etc. We learned, experienced, and practiced God's love once again (another great worship song!). What is your favorite song about God's love? Do you have a favorite passage about God's love? A great insightful quote? I'd love to hear about your love relationship with God who loves you very much and will not separate Himself from you (Rom. 8:37-39).

I am so in love with Jesus,


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Passion Lives Here

I was thinking about the slogan that has been emblazoned all over everything Olympic, "Passion live here". The Olympic logo is designed after the Mole Antionello (sp?) a Jewish synagogue project, abandoned and converted to a cultural icon. Interesting story, check it out at Wikipedia!

Could that same slogan be written over our lives? Passion lives here! Or, conversely, would our lives be like the Mole, edifices created to placate others with religion, only to be converted to our own desires when trouble comes? Is our religious practice a monument to a quarrel? Hmmm.

Here are some things that we ought to be passionate about:
  1. Developing our relationship with God -- by spiritual growth
  2. Telling others about our relationship with God -- by spiritual testimony
  3. Erasing anything that will destroy our relationship with God -- by spiritual confession and repentance

God has entrusted each of us with our own set of unique passions (gifts, talents, abilities, etc.) that must be employed to accomplish these big three. Even the common or profane items, like golfing, must be used as avenues to accomplish those greater goals. The NT word zeal is one of my favorite words. It embodies the idea of passion. It has the idea of fully engulfed in flames -- burning up for Jesus! That is the kind of passion that ought to live here!

Passionately pursuing God,


Valentine's Day with Mike and Sue

I love V'day because I love my wife! I must admit after 15 years of marriage and 5 1/2 years of dating, the 20th celebration of Valentines was looking a little flat. I tried to spice it up a little with some Paris magic -- the same stuff that won her heart at the beginning! :)

I had a couple of ideas that didn't materialze, but here is the way the day shook out.

  1. I got a card at WalMart -- cute card, the black and white child photo with the colorized rose kind
  2. I bought a dozen roses at WalMart -- I know, cheap and WalMart isn't the best choice for florists, but the roses had the desired effect and I didn't have to pay so much :)
  3. I secured babysitting with our reduced fee teen babysitter -- Laura and Kristen are homeschooled so they were available mid-day. They will do it for free, but we try to give them something for their ministry.
  4. I whisked my bride away for a luncheon at the Olive Garden -- on a gift card from church family for Christmas.
  5. I fell asleep on the couch watching Olympics with Sue as she quilted -- free! :)

Total cost of celebrating love was well under $600 (see Thad's entry :) ) but well worth it. I also did pancakes (pink colored heart shaped ones) for the kids in the morning. Was there something in our childhood that has drawn us to celebrated pancakes? I, unlike Thad, do not like them for dinner!

Jack exclaimed at the breakfast table as he opened his valentine from Mommy, "Ahhh, that's so sweet". :) Another Paris man doomed for greatness in the romance department!

Hope you all enjoyed your day celebrating,


Sunday, February 12, 2006

Snow Camp 2006

Just got back from Snow Camp at Bethany Baptist Camp. We had a great time. I have included a pic of the group. Yes, there was snow (about a foot of new snow) thanks to the warm waters of Lake Erie.

Josh Wilhite was the speaker and as expected to did a fine job. I enjoyed Josh more than other speaker in our four seasons at Bethany, b/c I knew him from before. We enjoyed at least three really good personal interactions with him during the weekend.

I had to help jog his memory a little. And then I mentioned that I am Todd Paris' brother. His comment, as I helped him with those connections, was, "Ohhhhh, I love that guy!" So do I! :)

I hope to post more about the things learned through the speaking spots in Colossians 2 and 3 later. Pray for our youth group. I believe that these sermone really nailed some key issues in their lives. They need change. What am I saying? I need change. Maybe you should pray for their leaders too! :)

Praying for good things out of a weekend of snow,

Saturday, February 04, 2006

In Memory of Edith Lightcap

Today is a bittersweet day. Sue's grandmother, Edith Lightcap, affectionately known as (Great)Gran went home to be with her Lord this morning. She has suffered the ravages of alzheimer's and more recently a large tumor which caused hemoraghing. It has been a slow deterioration of a dear saint.

My memories go back to before we were married of Gran and her legendary status in the Richard house. Whenever she would come to visit, the questions would almost always turn to her driving. Had she been safe in her driving? What time had she left? How was it possible to cover so much distance in such a short amount of time? etc. Her little silver Volkswagen Fox seemed to beg her to fly!

Gran has English roots. Granny Harvey (her mum) was a direct immigrant from England. And so the prim and proper, stiff upper lip, these things ought (or ought not) to be done, etc. all came out in her. She had things just so in her apartment and it was always a delight to visit with her. Her English lavendar soap for example was overwhelming at first visit. But after we had visited there a couple of times, that smell became part of the charm of Gran's house.

Sue and I spent our first six months of our marriage attending church with Gran at Spruce Street Bapt (where the funeral will be held on Wed) and dining with her for lunch each Sunday. It was great fun and we looked forward to the weekly excursions down from Lansdale to Newtown Square and over to Lima Estates. We enjoyed visiting and getting to know Gran better. She always made us feel special and loved. I remember her standing at the glass doors from her patio and waving goodbye to as we headed for our apartment in Lansdale. Good times.

I also remember Gran's love for her pastor. She was the secretary for a number of years at Spruce Street and ran the office with great precision and her typical English class. She developed a great respect for a younger pastor as she watched him minster regularly with the people of Spruce Street Bapt. She watched him take the abuse and struggle with ministry insider stuff. She saw his character and guarded his flank loyally. I can remember a time that she actually got a little miffed (an English lady does not get angry) at the pettiness and hurtful conversations that some of her age group of people were having. "He is our pastor -- that's not right!" she said.

As we mourn for the loss of this dear saint of God, we are comforted to know that Gran is now with her Savior and has been reunited with her husband, John and her son Stephen (lost as an infant due to SIDS). Absent from the body (a broken one at that) and present with her Lord. I do not wish her back with us.

Mourning and rejoicing at the same time,

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The ancient art of blogging

I was thinking the other day about blogging. The way that I use the technology is to comment on Scripture or spiritual issues that have been raised in my life. I though it's too bad that they didn't have blogging in the Bible days. Imagine the stoics and philosophers conferring over the issues of the Mars Hill public forums. Think about the volume of research help that Dr. Luke could have had by posting his research for review by his professional peers.

It's too bad they were hampered by not having this kind of technology or were they? The writers of the New Testament letters often quoted OT Scripture or referred to OT characters to make their point. They journalled about life and how to live it Biblically. Their logs were not web logs but were instead Bible logs or 'bleogs! It is great to know that theirs were not human rants against the left wing or right wing government or its policies, nor were they reports of the weekend events. They were divinely inspired notes, commentaries on the previous revelation of the Word. These 'bleogs were infallible discussion of the practical ramifications of the very Words of God.

In case you were wondering, I claim no such inspiration or inerrancy for these posts! I believe that God created the Holy Bible through the right men at the right time for His perfect purpose! What an incredible feat! What a great book!

In love with the Author and Finisher of my faith,
and the perfect exegesis of God,
In His grip,

Where Do We Go From Here?

Subtitle: God's Prescription for Power in 2006

As I was selecting a text for the message this past week, I began to think about victory and success from God's perspective. The book of Joshua is all about victorious Christian living. (Actually, like all of the Bible, it is about God and His glorification first!) Think about the backdrop of Joshua 1:1-2:

  • A major change in leadership is going on through death
  • The people are heading into a new phase of their corporate life, out of their comfort zone
  • The goals and strategy of a new leader have not been communicated yet (may have not even been formed yet -- Josh sends spies into the land in ch. 2)
  • There are reduced numbers (2.5 tribes are leaving some people behind on the far side of the Jordan)
  • There is increased workload (now instead of wandering/surviving they will fighting/conquering)
  • There has been a recent history of "failure" (40 years of wandering)

Not exactly the stuff that Stephen Covey would write a book about! In fact, this group of rag tag migrants were about the most unlikely bunch of victorious conquerors that ever existed. Their power for living did not come from past work experience, great proven technique or leadership skill sets, or even from weapons of mass destruction (wealth, chariots, horses, swords, etc.).

Invigorating power for living comes from realizing God's promises.

By realizing I mean knowing the promises, believing or trusting in them, and acting on them. There is a progression to living a life of power before God and others. We must live by faith and not by sight! The Israelites had their work cut out for them. By all accounts Canaan possession was a hopeless cause. But consider these three invigorating challenges that God issued to Israel's leader, Joshua.

  1. Begin seeing daily struggles as the process whereby God is giving you what he has already promised to you. (1:2-3)
  2. Make progress in your spiritual life, leaving footprints of faith everywhere. (1:3)
  3. Refuse to let anyone steal the blessing that God has intended for your life. (1:5)

Do you feel invigorated for the challenge of today? Read the great promise of 1:5 and be uplifted and rallied to follow God's cause for your life today!

"No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you." Joshua 1:5, NIV

So power-up my friend fro the day at hand.
Be strong, be courageous, be obedient.