Tuesday, May 26, 2015

God and the Soldier -- Let's Show Some Love

God and the Soldier --
Let's Show Some Love
by Rev. Jack Hulsey

God and the soldier we adore/in time of danger, not before./The danger passed and all things righted,/God is forgotten and the soldier slighted. – Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling was never a soldier, but his son John was.   John was killed in World War I, and his death inspired the creation of Kipling's poem My Boy Jack. This poem strikes me having certain parallels to the Hulsey family saga: I was never a soldier either, but all three of my sons have served (one is still serving). As for the conclusion to Kipling’s grief, you always have to pray something like that doesn’t happen to your loved one, but when you are a soldier – or soldier’s parent – that's something you have to be prepared for. 
Kipling's observation quoted above seems to be as true as ever. It wasn't more than four or five years ago we were having special ministries to send letters to soldiers in Iraq or special prayers for soldiers fighting in the war over there, with Valentine gifts or Thanksgiving gifts or Christmas gifts. It became such a matter of routine in our Wednesday prayer services to remember soldiers all over the world that in time it became a kind of almost meaningless chant, and I've noticed that it gets skipped entirely now and then. The danger passed, and all things righted…
Kipling was better known as a poet than as a Christian, but he does make a telling point about many of us: we hold God much in the same esteem we hold the soldier. But we seem only to hold Him and the reverence He deserves when trouble is just outside the door. The rest of the time He is banished to a more or less ceremonial role in our lives. We don't love Him any less, but we don't feel the need to show him quite so much love quite so often.
Living in a military community we see the price some of our wounded soldiers who have paid for what this country believed it had to do. I'd like to urge all of us to try and see Christ the same way – the way He appeared to the apostles just after the crucifixion, with His wounds still fresh. We were bought at a price, it says in 1 Corinthians the price was blood.
This country is free because of the blood of its soldiers. We are free from eternal separation from God because the blood of His Son. Neither of these conditions came about simply because somebody thought it would be nice if that's the way things were. It was Thomas Jefferson who said, “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance."  What is the price for our salvation?  Acceptance of God's grace through his son Jesus Christ because “it is by grace alone you are saved through faith." (Ephesians 2:8)  Eternal gratitude ought to be the result of receiving such a gift. We didn't deserve it any more than we deserve to have our young men and women sacrifice lives and limbs for us. Let us be Christian enough not to take any of this for granted let's show our gratitude with love and respect – for God and for our soldiers who have suffered and fallen. 
From the Pastor's Study, Praise and Worship of Woodlake Baptist Church, May 24, 2015

Monday, May 18, 2015

Providence of God - Healing of the Blind Man, John 9

Sound advice for graduates

Sound advice for graduates
by Rev. Jack Hulsey

Congratulations graduate.  You have just come to a significant milepost in your life. Within the next few days and weeks you'll be hearing words like this from your parents, school faculty and other well wishers.  

For much of your life until now we've talked at you, not to you. That's only right. You were children then, and we had a responsibility to teach you, whether you wanted it or not.  From this point forward you will find less and less of that.  At this time you will be given more and more advice because we will not always be there to tell you what to do.  I know you have already received a lot of advice about what you should do next; but if you will indulge me for a moment, I would like to add mine. It's not the first time anybody's said any of these things, but it’s sound advice nevertheless.  It's the result of several nationwide polls of hundreds of thousands of young people who responded to a questionnaire on “Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Graduated.”

1. Choose purity. More people express regret over this than over any other subject. You pay a great price when you forget that your body is a precious gift from God, that it is not to be given away indiscriminately. Choose modesty in dress and behavior. When you're clothing says, “I want people to look at me even if it makes them struggle with temptation,” you are sending the wrong message.

2. Stay out of debt. Graduates, you are about to have undeserved credit thrown directly at you. It takes virtually no time at all to get completely over your head in debt through credit cards. The book of Proverbs says you are in bondage to your creditors, and credit card debt is a terrible kind of prison.

3. If you find yourself wondering “should I be doing this," you probably shouldn't.  You don't wonder about the things you should do, like brushing your teeth or being kind to your friends. So hearing that internal alarm go off should be all the signal you need.

4. Choose your friends wisely. You will become just like the people you hang out with. So pick friends with beliefs and behaviors consistent with godliness.

5. Don't forget Jesus. Less than half the students in church youth groups will still be walking with Christ ten years after they graduate. Don't become one of them. Go to church every Sunday. Stay plugged into the Christian life. Don't forget the one who redeemed you, who loved you, who brought you to where you are today. He is the only one you can always depend on. Cultivate your relationship with Him.

From the Pastor's Study by Rev. Jack Hulsey, Praise & Worship of Woodlake Baptist Church, May 17, 2015

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mother's love: a reflection of God's love for us

Mother's love: a reflection of God's love for us
by Rev. Jack Hulsey

The world would be a much better place if motherhood – if parenthood in general – where the noble and selfless institution God meant it to be. But the terrible truth is that poor parenting is at the root of most of the ills society struggles with in our modern world. The Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (NASB) The fact is, in whatever way you train your child is the way “he will not depart from,” be it right or wrong. Teaching children wrongly (or not at all) is a virtual guarantee of producing a problem adult.

God most often expresses his kinship to us as that of a parent, usually the father. But now and then in the Bible he invites us to think of him as a mother. In Isaiah 49, the Jewish nation laments that God has forgotten them, and God replies "can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?"  This is a potent image. God could have said, "Can a father forget the son he has sired?"  But the answer then (and today) could easily be yes, because it happens all the time. Men/dads whose only desire is for a moment of self-gratification often walk away from responsibility leaving a mother to fend for herself and their child. 

However, some mothers’ behavior toward their children can be as bad or worse than the fathers, but the evidence that fathers are more likely to abuse or neglect a child, gives testimony to how seemingly unnatural it would be for a mother’s’ conduct to be anything less than nurturing.

Through the passage (Isaiah 49:15) God chose a compelling illustration of motherhood to help His people understand His love for them.

Jesus likewise was never one to miss a good metaphor. Expressing His sorrow for Jerusalem when they had strayed from God, He said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem … How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!” Luke 13:34 (NASB) Jesus may have been acknowledging that it is often possible to find more selfless examples of motherhood in nature than in the human world. Some birds (killdeers and some species of owls) actually pretend to be injured to lure predators away from their hatchlings.

I have had many people over the years tell me, "my mother says she loves me no matter what." To me, that sounds like the love Jesus expressed toward us.  He loved us when we were the most unlovable.

The nurturing, protecting, encouraging love shown by God to those in the Old Testament and the same love demonstrated by Jesus in the New Testament is a beautiful image of what a mother’s love should look like.
(From the Pastor's Study, by Rev. Jack Hulsey,  Praise and Worship, Woodlake Baptist Church, May 10, 2015)

Monday, May 4, 2015

Loving the least lovable: Christians must be the example

Loving the least lovable: Christians must be the example
by Rev. Jack Hulsey

I like the idea of having accountability partners, someone who's painfully honest with us about our shortcomings.  Being told you're doing wrong isn't easy to hear, but it is much easier to have someone who knows and loves you to tell you these things rather than having to find them out the hard way.  In a profile of pastor and author Stu Weber, Dave Goetz wrote that, “Weber developed a temper which exploded into its full glory in high school and college.”  Upon entering the military he found that his temper only got worse and hindered the development of his relational skills.

It got bad enough that early in his ministry he stopped playing church league basketball entirely, because that famous temper kept flaring up embarrassing both him and his church.

But then 10 years of relative quiet went by.  "I hadn't had a flash temper for years," Weber said.  "I thought, the Lord had been good.  I'm actually growing."

Then his oldest son made the high school varsity basketball squad.  "I began living my life through my son."  Weber terrorized the referees. On one occasion, seated in the second row, he wound up on the floor level with no recollection of how he got there.  As a result, he got some very nasty letters from church members which (he says now) "were absolutely right on." 

But then he got another note: "Stu, I know your heart.  I know that's not you.  I know that you want to live for Christ and His reputation.  And I know that's not happened at these ballgames.  If it would be helpful to you I'd like to come to the games with you and sit beside you."

The letter was from one of his accountability partner's.  "He saved my life," Weber says.  "It was an invitation, a gracious extension of truth.  He assumed the best and believed in me."

How do we love someone who stumbles?  Do we believe in and hope the best for them even when they fail?

Anyone can love lovable people.  But as Christians we are called to love the least loveable, because if we don't, we're no different from the pagan world. 

God loved us all when we least deserved it.  If we are able to mirror him, and be the witness he's called us to be, then it is up to us to show his love to the world out there that today needs it more than ever.
(From the Pastor's Study, by Rev. Jack Hulsey, Praise & Worship, Woodlake Baptist Church, May 3, 2015)

The turtle-on-a-fence-post test

The turtle-on-a-fence-post test
by Rev. Jack Hulsey

Quick: when you see a turtle on a fence post, what does that tell you?  It tells you somebody put it there, doesn't it? Of course it does, unless you live in a part of the country where they have fence-post jumping turtles, that is.  That bit of humor has a deeper vein of wisdom below the surface. It's a way of reminding us that there are some things in this world that definitely and probably don't happen by accident, and the proof of that is in the event.

 I was reading a book several years ago called The Handbook of Magazine Article Writing, in it there was a piece about Alex Haley (Roots).  It seems he keeps in his office a picture of a turtle on a fence post.  “Any time I start thinking WOW, isn't it marvelous what I've done,” Haley says, “I look at that picture and remember how this turtle – me – got up on that post."

Remembering how we got where we are is a problem for many of us. In the Bible, you find characters from the first book to the last who never tired of giving themselves the credit for things God had done for them. Years ago former Texas governor Ann Richards liked to say, "They were born on third base, but came to believe that they hit a triple."

One biblical character, whose whole life, sadly seemed to have no higher purpose than to illustrate this principle was a king named Uzziah. The most detailed version of his life story is told in 2 Chronicles chapter 26. 

Uzziah became king at sixteen and served as king for 52 years.  It is significant to note that he started out very much in God's good graces. "As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success (v 5b)," the story goes.

Triumph after triumph followed in his wake.  But then came that one dark moment when he stepped over the line, started believing perhaps that he was bigger than he really was.  We can almost see the end of this story coming, can't we? 

In verse 16 it tells us that Uzziah probably didn’t know about the turtle on the fence post because he began to think that his great success gave him the right to act corruptly and unfaithfully before the Lord.  He entered the Temple and began to burn incense on the Altar of Incense.  That wasn’t his job to do and when Azariah the priest ordered him to “get out of the sanctuary,” he said, “for you have been unfaithful and will have no honor from the Lord God."  Uzziah, of course, got angry at the priests and then, all of a sudden, broke out with leprosy on his forehead.  The Bible tells us that he was a leper until the day he died.

I hope as you read this today and hear the message that you will remember the turtle on the fence post and understand how important it is to acknowledge God's providence, presence, and provision as we journey through this life.

(From the Pastor's Study, by Rev. Jack Hulsey, Praise & Worship of Woodlake Baptist Church, April 26, 2015)

If it feels good, do it! Bumper sticker ethics

If it feels good, do it!
Bumper sticker ethics
by Rev. Jack Hulsey

It is a measure of the age we live in that most people prefer to live "instinctively" rather than by a set of rules. This is the result of an accumulation of philosophies dating from the 1960s, starting with “if it feels good, do it;" "go with the flow;" "do what comes naturally;" “go with your gut," and a host of similar sayings that have created a kind of bumper sticker ethics that are widely accepted. We have come to equate spontaneity with honesty and “being real,” while adhering to a set of rules which label us as plastic and artificial.

People have an amazing amount of confidence in their own intuition, especially when it comes to living the Christian life. We have reached a point where we place a higher value on how we feel rather than what God's word says. I can't begin to tell you how many people have said to me – with complete confidence and assurance – that this or that thing “surely couldn't be wrong, because a loving God would never feel that way.”

The only problem with this is that these folks are usually referring to something which the Bible really says is wrong – and they know it. And a good sit-down with their Bible, a long period of study, would help them understand how God really does feel about the subject. But that would invalidate their feelings, so they don't even make the effort. "Don't confuse me with the facts," as the saying goes. “My mind is made up.”

The worst side effect of this is that such a person can never be much of a witness to God's work in their lives. How are we to give God's gospel to a lost world when we ourselves don't have confidence in it? 

When Christ gave the great commission, he prefaced it with: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." (Matthew 28:18).  Most of us take this for granted, of course, but I am not sure how much actual thought we give to it. Christ has the authority to speak to us and to command us to act and believe in certain ways. As the old joke goes, they are not called “The Ten Suggestions.”  Jesus came, in great part, to change how we think about things, to "trust Him with all our heart and not lean on our own understanding." (Proverbs 3:5).  Trusting him means living according to His will and His word.

Christ didn't come to take away our freedoms, but to expand them. But freedom only comes from knowing – and living – what is true: that truth is always found in His word, rarely in what our intuition tells us.  "If it feels good, do it" can easily be the wide smooth road leading to destruction.
(From the Pastor's Study, by Rev. Jack Hulsey - Praise & Worship of Woodlake Baptist Church, April 19, 2015)