Saturday, September 11

For Auntie Denise

I love my iPhone, but sometimes it it makes me call people on accident. The other day, I was trying to call my father in-law to tell him I was going to the grocery store and offer to pick up some peanuts for him. The man likes peanuts. And Skinny Cow Low Fat Ice Cream Snacks. Anyway, I went to my "Recent Calls" screen and accidentally touched my aunt's name instead of Mark's. It was no problem, because I caught it in time and I just hung up really fast. Then I called Mark, who did not want peanuts, but suggested I buy some lunch meats.

My wife has always wondered if I act out for other people or if I am a goofus all the time, even when I'm by myself. When she asked me about it, I could only guess at the answer. My initial thought was that I am fairly consistent in my behavior, but I could think of no specific instances in which I was goofin solo. So, the question remained an enigma... until the aforementioned day, after I left the grocery with various meats but no peanuts.

I was alone in the car, driving south on Rufe Snow, and "Jesus Take the Wheel" was on the radio. I don't know why or how it started, but by the time I got to my turn on Chapman, I was singing the chorus as loud as I could, purposefully hitting all the wrong notes. I was really getting into it and thinking about how funny this would be if anyone could hear it when I heard a noise coming from my left hand. Yes, I had accidentally called my aunt. Yes, she had answered this time. Yes, the phone was on speaker.

Yes, I pretended it happened on purpose.

I've recorded the transcript of our conversation below.


Auntie: Ha ha ha ha. Ha. Ha ha. (this is what I heard while singing the line
"give me one more chance")

Auntie: What are you doing?!

Michael: Singing "Jesus, Take the Wheel."

Auntie: I can hear that, but you don't sound much like Terry Bradshaw.

Michael: You're right, but I think it's Carrie Underwood.

Auntie: Oh! Ha ha! You're right! Terry Bradshaw is the girl from Sex in the City.


It was great talking to my aunt. I think we are a lot alike. Her name is Cindy, but for some reason, I have always called her Auntie Denise. Kris says I get my sense of humor from her. If you or anyone you know is interested in a beautiful, fully restored home in Panama City, Florida, she'll sell you one.

Saturday, September 4


The mark of a disciple is not knowledge, but obedience.

When I was eight-ish, my mom had me staying with a babysitter when she worked nights. The lady who watched me was Mrs. Ann Brady of Columbia, TN. We had a lot of good times together. Popcorn is my favorite food. I'm positive this is because she cooked it on the stove every night. We would eat it while we watched Murder She Wrote. Good times. Mrs. Brady was also a devoted Christian, and she did what she could to influence me. I remember she once had me memorize the books of the Bible. Old Testament and New. While writing them out for the hundredth time, I asked why I needed to know this information. She said, "One day, when you get to heaven, they might ask you the books of the Bible before they let you in."

I tell people about this and they laugh. But really, isn't it common for Christians to equate Biblical knowledge with righteous living? In a Bible class on any given Sunday, if the group was tasked with choosing a spiritual leader, would not most groups choose as their leader the individual with the most Biblical knowledge? I say this is not as it should be.

Most of us who grew up in American church culture know that a high premium is placed on knowledge. This was reinforced when we got a gold star for memorizing verses. Or when we got a plaque at Bible Bowl or a medal at Lads to Leaders. Or when a child was counseled by a parent or minister that she should not be baptized because "she doesn't know enough yet." Need more examples?

The troubling thing is that we have been conditioned to learn facts without immediately obeying them. For years, we have studied daily devotions, completed Read-the-Bible-in-a-Year programs, and taken copious notes in sermons and Bible classes. All the while, downloading facts for the sake of knowledge but not with a mind to obey. We all meant well, and the end we had in mind was closeness to God. Our intentions were pure. Unfortunately, learning something we should do, and then not doing it has become a habit. A habit we have to break!

Some have suggested that our study of the Bible should be done with a mind to obey. New imperatives should not be learned until you are practicing what you've already learned. The pattern would be learn-obey-learn-obey... as opposed to learn-learn-learn-learn-obey-learn-learn. You see that a new habit is being formed.

When put into practice, this can be so freeing. When we immediately obey what we have learned, we are expressing love to the one who said, "If you love me, keep my commandments."

Some have referred to this practice (and modeling/mentoring this practice for others) as "Obedience Based Discipleship." However, this is a misnomer that can lead to confusion. I'll discuss that in a later post.

In the meantime, don't sweat it if you can't think of what book comes after Lamentations. Or if you can't remember how many p's are in Philippians. In the entrance exam, I doubt they will count off too much for spelling. Simply don't allow yourself to accumulate knowledge without first acting on what you know.

Thursday, September 2


We knew before we left China that it would be difficult to maintain the fervor and intensely spiritual perspective we had cultivated there. Two months after landing in America, we're seeing that prophecy unfurl into truth. One of the challenges we face here that we never considered in China was the temptation to bend the knee before the god of Security.

Kris and I were reading in 2 Chronicles 16 a few nights ago, where King Asa's legend is recorded. Evidently, he had a strong showing as a king of Judah. He commanded the people of Judah to follow the Lord and had all of the idols torn down in the land. Unfortunately, there is one blemish on Asa's record. Although he tore down the literal idols, he (like many of us) bowed to the idol of Security.

When another king made plans to attack Asa, he scoured his kingdom, collecting silver and gold to send to a neighboring king in order to buy his allegiance and stave off war. Asa's plan worked, war was averted and his enemies were defeated, but God was not pleased. Why? Because when trouble came, Asa "relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the Lord."

I know the feeling. Did you know that the Master's of Divinity (the degree I'm pursuing) is in the top five lowest-paying graduate degrees in the nation? It's true. What if there are no jobs available? And if there are, what if the salary's too low to support my family? Why not cut bait and transfer my hours to a more profitable degree? Kris and I are planning to go back to the mission field in about four years. That's a bone-head move financially speaking. When we come home from five or ten years of mission work, I'll be in my mid to late thirties, starting from scratch. Why not just stay here, get a good job and start building tenure? I mean, it's the safest bet.

One of the surprising things about Asa's decision to put his faith in Security instead of his Lord is that years before, in the infancy of his kingship, an army of a million Ethiopians waged war on Judah. Against those impossible odds, Asa cried out to the Lord, "O Lord, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you..." That day, the Lord defeated the Ethiopians and their 300 chariots.

As I'm tempted every day to put my faith in myself or in my resources or my education or my connections, I need to remember the battles of the past. At the end of the day, my strength pales in comparison to His.

"For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose hearts are completely his."