On Not Writing Devotionals

Many times, in considering what I wish to write on my blog, I ask myself “Why don’t you do a devotional series?” It would certainly fit my audience. Many people come to my blog to read what “Chaplain Andrews” has to say—which would be a great devotional piece on “how to feel happy when you are sad.” It would also fit my mission to communicate the gospel. When the answer to life’s problems is Christ–that is an easy way to bring Christ into the picture by providing a devotional thought returning readers back to Christ. I may do a series like that one day, but not frequently.

Honestly, I struggle with devotionals. I don’t read them. I don’t typically feel lifted by them. Some people do very well writing flowery feel good pieces; but that isn’t me. I am much more practical that that. Yes, I could probably push myself to grow in that area but again, that is not me—it simply is not who I am. I must give some one something to do, rather than say “hey, I hope this makes you feel good.” This is not to say that encouragement is not important, it is. But, in my manner of writing or even speaking—I seek to give some one something to do. Many times on my blog, I simply tell my readers something specific about something I have done or something I want to do. (Kind of like this writing.) I am more comfortable with writing from an instructional or informative point of view. I want to give people a step by step approach to solving problems. A way of approaching the Bible or a way of approaching a hobby. These things can bring happiness—not by giving a quick aspirin—but maybe, hopefully, giving a path to a cure.

 

Winter Weather Forecasting

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Sunday morning, with snow forecast and falling in Oklahoma, Rick Smith, Warning Coordination Meteorologist at NWS Norman, put this graphic on his personal Twitter account. I thought it is a very good graphic describing what has to happen for snow to occur.

Ever since I was young, living in SC, we were always puzzled by what would bring snow. I like the graphic because if actually tells you the temperatures needed at certain levels for snow, sleet, or freezing rain to occur.  Growing up, it seemed that sleet was always what we would get–but freezing rain was what we feared most.  With freezing rain, the power was at risk and the roads were icy and slick. Sleet was always disappointing, because it wasn’t snow–but many times it was the first step to becoming snow. Snow, we always would look for but only seeing it once or twice a year. For all winter weather events, bread and milk was always a requirement to purchase.

In all seriousness, winter weather can be a very dangerous situation–from traveling to staying in your home.

It would be helpful for each of us to review the winter weather tips before the winter starts–or days like today when we are reminded that winter is here.

A more detailed explanation of winter weather precipitation can be found at the  National Weather Service site.

Microsoft Word on the iPhone

As I sit after a long day…it is amazing to me how far technology has come. I’ve downloaded the new MS Word for iPhone  tonight. So I’m testing it out.

The app is actually pretty amazing! Yes, I am writing with two thumbs—but what is the difference between with writing with two thumbs and writing with two index fingers? I think the difference is the couch that I’m reclining at.

One of the hardest things about blogging is actually…writing. Yes, I have plenty of ideas to talk about; to blog about. However, many times after a day that begins at 0400 and ends at 1800, I have little to say about anything. Sometimes it would be simple enough, just to use these two thumbs.

So, here I sit. On a Friday night. Monica is out with friends and my son is sitting next to me on another couch. He is reading. I am blogging.

Tonight I am blogging about nothing in particular, but I can see me using this app much more in the future. Even if it is just with two powerful fat thumbs.

Thank you for reading!

Paul’s Response to Trouble

A look at the headlines will bring up stories like Ebola, or ISIS, or any number of crises of the week.  Closer to home our headlines may read something about storms, immigration, or problems with Congress.

We all face trouble in our day to day lives.

In your home, you may be tired from working hard all week, there may be constant disagreements with your spouse or children, or you may experience health problems that linger from day to day.

This morning, we are looking at Ephesians 3:14-19.  I will be reading from the Message translation.  Typically, I will use the English Standard Version or occasionally will use the New Living Translation.  But this passage, as translated by Eugene Peterson from the original Greek, into The Message brings a fresh look at this text in a very meaningful way. I ask that you will indulge me a moment to discuss this passage by using this translation—I believe I will be meaningful you to as well.

In this passage, we see how Paul responds to the problems that he is dealing with in his life—that of persecution and prison.

What is Paul’s response?

Ephesians 3:14-19:

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. (EPH 3:14-19, MSG)

Let us pray

As we open the letter from Paul to the Ephesians, we read in Ephesians 3:11-13; Paul writes.

All this is proceeding along lines planned all along by God and then executed in Christ Jesus. When we trust in him, we’re free to say whatever needs to be said, bold to go wherever we need to go. So don’t let my present trouble on your behalf get you down. Be proud! (EPH 3:11-13, MSG)

So when we see the first words of verse 14, we read Paul say; “my response is”.  Response to what? Paul’s present troubles—we know from history that Paul was in prison. We need to take a look at the positive tone of Paul’s writing.  He doesn’t side step the fact that he is having a hard time. But at the same time, he refocuses the “present troubles” to the bigger picture. He encourages the people not to let his troubles get them down.

So what is his response?

Paul’s response to trouble is;

  1. A Response to pray

Verse 14:

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. (EPH 3:14, MSG)

His response is to pray. He goes to the Father who delivers “out all heaven and earth”. The English Standard Translations translates the Greek to say.  : “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named”(Eph3:15, ESV).

God owns all things and is ready to give to his children.

One of my hobbies is reading comic books.  I look to read the stories of super heroes and adventures.  Every month, my collection grows with new issues.

For those who are interested, I read mainly DC Comics—stories of Superman and Batman.

But, I order my comics from a store on Time Square in New York City called Midtown Comics.  They have a wonderful up to date selection of books, along with extensive back issues—in case I missed an issue, or simply want to go back and read another story.

I go to Midtown Comics because they have what I need.

For many other things, we know to go to Amazon.com because there is a good chance that they have what we need.  It only makes since that when you need something you go to the place where you can find what you are looking for.

God, The Father created everything;.  From the Earth we stand on, to the hairs on our head.  He crafted all with his very hands.  He created everything and he owns everything.

God has what you need; why NOT go to him?

He is the source of all good things, we need to go to him! “He parcels out all heaven and earth”. He gives all things for us. We simply go to him and pray and ask.

Paul sets a great example for us.  That when we are faced with trouble, we get on our knees before him and pray!

Are you having trouble in your life this morning? It could be in your marriage; it could be your children; it could be your job; it could be stress of life. Is your response to pray? Turn to God today! He is there waiting for you to ask!

But, as you go to him, I want you to take note of what Paul does.

When Paul goes to him, it is not what you think it might be.  It is actually completely different.

Paul prays that the Ephesians will find

  1. A strength to acquire.

Paul prays for the Ephesians, that they will have strength; inner strength.

I want you to think about that for a moment.  When Paul is experiencing trouble—he is praying for the Ephesians.  This is not to say, that he never prays for himself or that as a rule we should never pray for ourselves when we are in trouble.  But it is very interesting to me that in Paul’s time of trouble, he prays for the Ephesians.  He is thinking of others and how God can bless them!

He refocused his hardship toward a greater purpose.  In verse 13 he mentions that his present troubles are for their behalf.  He knows that the hardship that he is enduring is for the sake of others.  This is a picture of resiliency.

He is not feeling sorry for himself—he is realizing his role in the bigger picture and allowing that to capture his attention—not the present trouble that he is enduring.

So the first prayer Paul has for the Ephesians is  that they will have strength; inner strength.

Verse 16

I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. (EPH 3:16, MSG)

Paul is very clear in what strength he is talking about.  We focus many times on physical strength; so when we hear the word “Strength” that is our first thought.

But Paul is focused on our inner strength. Inner strength is an attribute that many search for.  A casual search on google uncovers descriptions from Gandhi to Tolkien.

Psychology Today defined strength as a “great capability at facing challenges.”,

But what they miss in their articles is the glorious inner strength that Paul is talking about here. This glorious inner strength comes only from Christ.  This glorious inner strength is hard to understand but Paul prays that the Ephesians will find it.

What does this glorious inner strength look like?

It looks like the faith that is found in people like Billy Farrow.

Billy Farrow was a part of the “Doolittle Raids”—the World War II bombing of Tokyo.  After Billy Farrow dropped his bombs, his aircraft ran out of gas and he and his crew were forced to bail out in Japanese controlled China.  Farrow was tortured and interrogated and finally executed.

A day before his execution, Farrow composed a letter to his mother at home in Darlington, South Carolina.  He wanted to reassured her of his faith

The final lines of his letter were:

“Don’t let this get you down.  Just remember God will make everything right and that I’ll see you all again in the hereafter. Read “Thanatopsis” by Bryant if you want to know how I am taking this. My faith in God is complete so I am unafraid” (Battlefields and Blessings, 54)

That is inner strength.

The inner strength that bring your faith in God complete so you are unafraid.

That is inner strength that is available to you.

It is easy to get confused here to think this inner strength is salvation. Salvation is an important aspect of acquiring this inner strength.

Salvation comes when you realize that you are a sinner in need of forgiveness and that forgiveness can only come through dependence on Christ. When you accept his payment on the cross for your sin, you become saved from the death you deserve. That is salvation, and that salvation is available for you today.

But Paul is praying that they get strong in their strength—as we open the door to him.

We were born the first time we grew stronger—some work out in the gym to get stronger and stronger.  In the same way, when we are born again, we have to grow to be stronger and stronger.  Paul prays that the Ephesians, as well as, each of us become stronger and stronger.

And just as the Ephesians need to grow stronger in our inner strength—so do we.

What about you? Where are you in inner strength? We have PT tests—I had one this week—to test your physical strength.  How well do you do when your inner strength is tested? We all need to get stronger.

And when we do; we will find

  1. A Love to embrace

Paul’s second prayer for the Ephesians is;

Verse 17

And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. (EPH 3:17, MSG)

Paul prays that the Ephesians will be “able to take in the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love.”

Several years ago, I was able to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art—the museum on top of the steps “Rocky” runs up. During our visit, we were able to see the exhibit called: Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus. I’m not an art expert, by no means, but it was an amazing exhibit of how Rembrandt visualized the face of Christ. Would it be wonderful to be an art expert? To fully understand the masterpieces in these museums? But, that takes years of study, focus, and discipline.

When I go to a museum, I only take in just a portion of the beauty that is help in the collections.  I see things I like, and some that I don’t. But what if I were an art expert, I would fully be able to take in the dimensions of the artwork.

And so it should be with us and our Christian walk. That we would be able to “able to take in the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love.” That we would be able to stand back and have a clue of what we are looking at!  This too doesn’t come easy.

It takes work, it takes study, it takes patience.  This isn’t something you can acquire by simply showing up to chapel thinking you will get strong—I’ve never seen someone improve their PT score by working out once a week. This will take some effort.

So how is it done?

Verse 18-19; from the Message:

Paul encourages the Ephesians , and his writing encourages us to

Reach out and experience the breadth!

Test its length!

Plumb the depths!

Rise to the heights!

Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. (EPH 3:18-19, MSG)

Where are you in your spiritual life? The challenge is clear. Go for it! Respond in Prayer, Acquire the strength, and embrace His love. You can do it—it is available for you.

Let us pray.

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This sermon was originally preached at the Crossroads Chapel service at Sage Hall. Fort Bliss, Texas on 19 October 2014.

All scripture marked MSG: “Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.”

 

Raymond Gilbert Andrews 1936-2014

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This afternoon, I had the honor to provide the graveside ceremony for my father Ray Andrews.  Below is  the obituary written by  Greene Funeral Home, Rock Hill, SC.

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ROCK HILL –Lt. Col. Raymond G. Andrews, US Army (Ret), 78, passed away on Sunday, October 19, 2014 at his home.

The funeral service will be 3pm on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at Greene Funeral Home Northwest Chapel, 2133 Ebenezer Rd, Rock Hill, SC with Dr. James D. Whitmire officiating. Burial will be in Fort Jackson National Cemetery on Wednesday, October 22, 2014 at 2pm.

Born in Pensacola, FL, Lt. Col. Andrews was a son of the late James Ellis Andrews and the late Annie Findlay Smith Andrews.  He was a retired US Army veteran of 22 years.  He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of Field Artillery.  He began his career serving as the Air Defense Command Choral Group Director. Career highlights include two tours in combat, in the Republic of Vietnam, serving first as a Chinook Helicopter pilot and finishing his duties as commander of a Chinook Company.  He concluded his career serving as the Professor of Military Science at Presbyterian College, Clinton, SC.  He then served 17years in the Laurens School District 55 and later served as the Administrator of Spartanburg Christian Academy.  He was a member of First Baptist Church in Rock Hill and enjoyed music, gardening and fishing.

Surviving are his wife, Connie Jo Dooley Andrews; his children, Rachel Childress and her husband, Franklin of Lorton, VA, Scott Andrews and his wife, Eva of Rock Hill and Keith Andrews and his wife, Monica of Ft. Bliss, TX; his daughter-in-law, Kay Andrews of Columbia, SC; his siblings, Louise Doyle of Gulf Breeze, FL, Douglas Andrews and his wife, Edie of Pensacola, FL, Glenn Andrews and his wife, Betty of Holiday Isle, Ark. and Warren Andrews of Bowling Green, VA; seven grandchildren, Caroline Childress, Sydney and Emily Andrews, Elizabeth Anne, Mary Catherine, William and Jenny Andrews; and two step-grandchildren, Jonathan Gainey and Jessica Buzhardt.  He was preceded in death by his son, Darryl Andrews and two sisters.