Thursday, December 27, 2012

Make Me a Child Again

I'm alone this Christmas Eve beside the tree,
Yet a presence I can feel
Calls for me to honestly and humbly come,
And in His presence kneel;
To forsake the human pride that so controls me;
To come out from where I hide behind my fears;
To lay down the sophistry that prevents simplicity;
And with openhearted, childlike faith,
Draw near . . . perhaps with tears.

Make me a child again, a child again;
Heart his Christmas prayer, dear God:
Give me a tender heart, a childlike trust;
Let my spirit be reborn.
I want a faith that knows your Father-heart,
To believe Your words to me.
I want to understand, to take your hand,
To have children's eyes to see.

To be a child again, to touch a friend
With the love that You have shown.
To lay aside my fears, forget the years
I have tried life on my own.
I ask, O God above, just now remove
All my hardness, my masks, and sin;
And at this Christmastime, make me a child again.
And at this Christmastime, make me a child again.

- Jack Hayford

The Characters of Christmas

The characters in the biblical texts surrounding the birth of Christ reveal much to seeking minds and hearts about what it means to walk by faith and thus be agents of God’s redemptive workings in a fallen, difficult world.

1.                 Sometimes faith stays and trusts God to intervene and be faithful over long periods of time even when life seems unfruitful, dry, and obscure (Zechariah and Elizabeth in Luke 1:5-25).

                What an incredible  example of faithfulness are this couple.  They walked with God over decades, though they did not receive the temporal blessings they surely wanted (a child).   They are models to us in 21st-century America, where faith is often consumer-oriented, feel-good, and not focused on persevering with God over the long haul.


2.       Sometimes faith believes God to do the impossible (Mary in Luke 1:38).


          The “how” of belief versus the “how” of unbelief.  Zechariah's "how"    showed unbelief, thus Gabriel's rebuke (I am Gabriel and I stand in the presence of God).  Mary's "how" came from a believing heart.


3.       Sometimes faith forces one to change life plans and directions (Joseph in Matthew chapters one and two).


4.       Sometimes faith separates self from the flesh and the shot-term trappings of this world (Mary and Joseph in Matthew 1:25).


5.       Sometimes faith acts immediately on a word from God and shares the good news of Jesus with others (the shepherds in Luke 2:8-20).


6.       Sometimes faith keeps God’s Word and workings close to one’s heart, meditating and pondering on what God has done (Mary in Luke 2:19).


7.       Sometimes faith remains in difficulty for a long time, trusting God and slowly influencing others (Anna and Simeon in Luke 2:21-38).


8.       Sometimes faith comes to new realizations, new dimensions of worship, and new dimensions of giving to God and others (Wise Men in Matthew 2:1-12).
What does God require for you to walk by faith?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Tribute to My Dad, #16

Our family enjoyed a treat this week.  North Greenville University retired my father's basketball jersey yesterday at one of his favorite spots - The Original Stax Restaurant in Greenville.  Dad, Robert “Dag” Wilson, attended and played basketball for NGU from '56-'58 and then Furman from '58-'60.  At North Greenville, his 1957-1958 team finished second in the nation.  North Greenville was then a two-year junior college.  Press Maravich, coach at Clemson at the time and father of “Pistol” Pete Maravich, tried to get Dad to come play at Clemson, but Dad chose Furman instead.  (Dad later would play pick-up-games with a young Pete Maravich when Mom and Dad would visit their friends the Bagwells , neighbors of the Maravich family.  Howard Bagwell would go on to be the Atheletic Director at The Baptist College of Charleston for many years.)  That ended up being a very good choice for him.  At Furman he broke school and conference records as a basketball player, including being named the best player in the state of South Carolina.  The best blessing he received at Furman, though, was meeting and eventually marrying my mother, Marian Hendrix.  Dad and Mom attended Furman the year that they moved to the “new campus,” as my mother has always referred to it.  She says that Dad helped plant a lot of the towering trees that now grace the campus.

When I was a boy in Greenville, I thought Dad was celebrity-status, because so many older men in town would recognize dad - men who had watched him play ball when he was at Furman.  Many times I recall going into restaurants and stores and Dad being greeted by men who recognized him.  Dad played in the first game to be held in the old Greenville Memorial Auditorium.

I well remember the angst my mom and dad went through in the mid-1980's when Furman disassociated herself from the South Carolina Baptist Convention and began moving in a different route.  That severing was a regular topic of conversation at our supper table.  They were grieved that Furman, which had strong biblical-Baptist roots, chose to move away from that heritage.  As I grew into young adulthood, Dad talked less about Furman and more about North Greenville.  He became a regular encourager to Jimmy Epting and the coaches at NGU.  Dad was very proud of their small mountain school sticking with the inerrancy of the Word of God, keeping Jesus Christ central, and staying solidly associated with Southern Baptists.  Of course today, that small mountain school has become a large and thriving private school, training champions for Christ.

North Greenville sponsored a ceremony on Monday for the retiring of the jersey.  Some of Dad’s family and friends attended.  Dr. Epting shared yesterday that once my dad told him, Jimmy, I hope we have a good athletic program.  But just make sure and keep the Bible and Jesus Christ the main thing. 

Of course, Dad was pleased when I fell in love (in seminary) with a beautiful North Greenville graduate!  Tracey and I enjoyed returning to NGU a few weeks ago for her Joyful Sound reunion. 

When I think of Dad and the way he related to many people, I remember the word from Proverbs that says a cheerful heart is good medicine (17:22).  The Bible exhorts us to encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today (Hebrews 3:13).  Dad was an encourager to many people, as has been evident by the many people who have communicated to me and mom since his death.  (I recall three or four senior adult men coming to me with tears on their faces after Dad died and all saying, Dag was my best friend.)  I do not think there was ever a night that I spent in the same house with him that he did not tell me before I went to bed, “I love you.”  Those are words of an encourager.