Happy To Welcome You To The Hallelujah Chorus

I will exalt you my God, the King, I will praise your name forever and ever. Every day I will praise you and exalt your name forever and ever. Psalm 145:1-2

Monday, November 11, 2013

On Veteran's Day

When I joined the US Navy in 1960 I was motivated by several things:
1) I knew I would be drafted into the Army because I had decided to not return to college that fall and had no desire to sleep on the ground and eat cold rations while marching who knows where, I wanted to have decent food and a bed to sleep in at night, so I thought the Navy was a better option
2) I had to get away from Marshall County, Ky and try to figure me out without the constant over-protective and watchful eyes of my family. My Mom (God bless her sweet soul) was committed to marrying me off to a girl I had dated in college but was not "in love" with to that extent
3) I figured that since we were not at war I could reasonably expect to live through the experience and might even learn something.

By the time I finished boot camp I had learned so much about the Navy and naval tradition I was, and will forever be, a lifelong admirer of all that it means to wear the uniform of the US military. All my reasons for joining up became dim memories as I adjusted to the routine of shipboard life and slowly understood the real ramifications of where I was and what I was doing.

A few years ago I watched a Discovery Channel special about the newly commissioned USS Ronald Reagan and was absolutely spellbound by the vast difference from my own shipboard experience. For one thing they actually had women sailors aboard that beautiful vessel and they were performing most of the same functions as the men. And doing so with great skill and confidence. Made me very proud to know how far the Navy has come since my own experience. As I watched that documentary I could not hold back the tears of joy and admiration for the crew of that mighty weapon of war and recalling my own days aboard the USS Intrepid, which was about one fourth the size of the Reagan.

One of the ships I was privileged to serve on, the USS Mount McKinley AGC7, is now a NASA museum in New York harbor. The Rose and I plan to go to New York in the near future and stepping foot once more on the quarterdeck of the MtMac is definitely on our agenda.

To all my friends who get so caught up in the ups and downs of the political fussing and fighting in DC, please always know that our country is greater than ANYONE's political agenda. Having spent many weekends in Washington, D.C. I can testify to the greatness of what America really is. You can feel it all around you as you explore the museums, the monuments and especially Arlington National Cemetary.

Every year on this day I am proud of our country and feel very grateful to all those who still believe in who we are as a nation and appreciate that freedom always comes at a price. My constant prayer is that God our Father, in whom we still trust, will continue to bless America. HALLELUJAH!

Monday, September 30, 2013

"So, What's Your Story?"

I'm not sure why but lately I have been looking at people, total strangers, at our local Walmart, at the health club, book store, coffee shop etc, and wonder "What's your story?" Everyone has a story and most want to tell their story if they feel reasonably safe in doing so, and if they are fairly certain someone will actually listen.

Today one of my very good friends posted a sign on Facebook that underscores my thinking here. It was apparently posted in some neighborhood coffee shop and read "NO,WE DON'T HAVE WIFI. TALK TO SOMEONE!" It was handwritten in chalk on a message board. If I lived where I had seen that sign I think I would enjoy just spending some time there to see how many customers read and take that to heart. Human interaction is absolutely critical to real human connection.

Think about it this way. When your phone rings and the voice on the other end doesn't register as someone you actually know, what is your immediate reaction? Are you usually eager to engage that strange voice in some kind of familiar interaction, or is your impulse to just hang up? When you see an email in your inbox from some name you don't recognize, do you always open it and read it or are you at least hesitant to do so? How many voice mails do you just delete every day (or whenever you clean out your inbox) because you don't know the person who sent them?

I'm really not trying to be critical here, just trying to nudge all of us a little to consider how we might be allowing our society to shape our thinking and habits into neglecting the one crucial element in sharing the real good news with others in our world - face time. There are people in your life and strangers you meet every day who want to know the Lord you serve but almost none of them will ever ask. God gave us his Holy Spirit to teach us how to share that good news with others and at some point that will always require some serious face-time conversation.

So, here's my point, if you're still with me. Every morning as you shave, comb your hair, fix your makeup, brush your teeth in preparation for your day, pray this simple prayer while looking at yourself in the mirror - "Almighty Father, I truly want to be involved in what you are going to do in my world today. Please give me a sense of awareness when you put someone in my life today for your own purposes and help me to step into that divine moment with the right words and intentions. Thank you for every opportunity to bring glory to you and share your love with others."

Can somebody say "AMEN & HALLELUJAH!"

Friday, September 6, 2013

"Some Powerful Words To Remember" #1

During my years of ministry I have known and been blessed by a multitude of men and woman, young and not so young, who live their daily lives in the shadow of a verse or umbrella of verses from God's word. As a young teen my grandfather insisted that I attend a scripture memorizing class at our local church building every Sunday afternoon. At the time I wasn't too keen on the idea but I idolized my grandfather so I mostly did it to please him. Now, looking back on it, many of those verses I memorized have stuck with me through some challenging times over all these years. In fact I still quote them from the KJV.
So, I want to encourage the Hallelujah Chorus to adopt a similar stance against our common enemy who only wants to disrupt our lives with his carefully tailored personal attack on our faith and spiritual health. These will be a series of posts that center on some things we just need to constantly remind our hearts to embrace and never allow the enemy to rob us of our peace in Jesus.
So, here we go.
"You dear children are from God and have overcome them (the spirits that serve the antichrist), because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." 1 John 3:18 NIV
There is always a very personal presence in the life of every disciple of Jesus that will not allow the evil one to dominate. But that doesn't mean he wont always try and try and try.
Probably the two areas of our life in Christ where we are most vulnerable to the devil's attempts to take over our lives are marriage and parenting relationships.
Every marriage is an up and down proposition and at any given time either partner can fail in ways that cause the other partner to react in ways that can easily put the relationship at risk of total breakdown. Having lived through it and walked with many married couples through this tangled jungle, I can testify to how time and space alter one's perspective. What seems to be a deal breaker today, can appear very different after some time to calm down and think through it. People of true faith are never alone in ANY personal struggle, but the evil one can put you in a defensive stance that goes way beyond what might be advisable. The result can lead to emotional disconnect and the evil one achieves his goal of disruption.
So here's the take-away for now. Trust in the One who is in you and listen for his words to rise above the anger or disappointment. Commit John's statement to memory and repeat it to yourself over and over. Allow the greatness of the presence of Jesus' Holy Spirit to dominate. He only wants to do you good, never harm. HALLELUJAH!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Getting Back Into My 'Hallelujah' Groove"

Now I feel like I am home again, in Texas, with my family and great long time friends. The Rose and I have praised God until we surely have nearly worn him out thanking him for all the beautiful souls who have been there for us during the challenges we had to face over the last six years. We were truly blessed by great neighbors, church family and so many new friends we made in Kentucky. But, it just wasn't home to us any longer. I can't begin to count the times I had to answer the question, "Why in the world would you want to leave this beautiful place to go back to Texas?"
Although we lived in Kentucky for a few years after we married in 1964, and visited with my Dad and Mom several times a year after moving away to pursue a life in full time ministry, which took us to many parts of the country for nearly 25 years, Texas is where we lived longer than either of us lived anywhere. The only reason we left Texas for Kentucky in 2006 was the commitment I made to my Dad in 1991, just before he died after a long battle with debilitating arthritis. I told him I would do my best to keep Mom in her house as long as I could and would see that she was taken care of.
With both my parents gone, that house on Sid Darnall Road by the creek, just wasn't my home any more and I missed being with Michael.
So, now I am able to take my grandson, Gabe, to school every morning and have breakfast with my son and my Rose. We are getting acclimated again to the Texas heat and traffic and living with Mike and our sweet daughter Annette is all the adventure we expected it would be. Life is good. God is a great provider who is more than meeting all our needs. We sleep well, eat good, work out at a nearby health club several times each week and look forward to being able to visit all of our family more in the coming months.
Yes, we miss our family and friends in Kentucky but we stay in touch virtually daily with many of them by phone and computer. We will be making a trip to North Carolina next month and are grateful to have so many open invitations to layover on the way and plan to do so.
We're also very blessed to be back with our church family at Highland Oaks Church of Christ. I served as one of the shepherds of this church for eight years, so we have been welcomed back royally.
"Thank you Holy Father, for the years you blessed us with in Kentucky and great friends we made during the challenges we faced there. Your blessings far outweighed our challenges. And, thank you for the life we have now back with family and friends in a place that truly feels like home." HALLELUJAH!

Monday, July 15, 2013

"Jesus - Our Encourager Forever"

We all need some words of encouragement from others of true faith who have walked in our shoes and dealt with the same challenges. They wont judge or berate because they understand where we are at the moment and they know firsthand that with faith in the love of our Father, we too will get to the other side of every threatening circumstance. These words absolutely encourage me every day -

"Because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely  those who come to God through him because he always lives to intercede for them." Heb 7:25 NIV

I have spent many profitable hours just contemplating the implications of this truth about Jesus, which is founded on the proclamation of the great prophet at Isaiah 53:12.
1) I am never alone in my spiritual struggle with our common enemy. Hear and feel in your spirit these words of Jesus as he told his fearful apostles "I am with you always, to the very end." Matt 28:20 NIV
And, NO that isn't only meant for those who actually heard him speak those words. They're meant for all of his disciples because the commission Jesus gave at that time is still very much alive in the will of the Father.
2) The underlying assumption is that we humans will always be susceptible to the temptations that are a daily part of life in a world controlled by the "evil one". We will always have need of a priest who is fully capable and qualified to be our intercessor with the Father. Jesus' priesthood clearly rises far above any that have preceded or succeeded him. This seems to be the central theme of the book we call Hebrews.
3) I sometimes sort of fantasize about what is actually happening between Jesus and God in heaven. I know how to define the word "intercessor" (one who stands between or in defense of), and we can see glimpses of this interaction in Jesus' Revelation. I think probably the best biblical example is John 17. Jesus here pleads with the Father in a way that seems to fit the definition of "intercession". At the very least, I can see him at the right hand of God speaking up for me in my weaknesses and failures. Also 1 John 2:1 further solidifies the reality of the interaction that takes place on my behalf.

I could go on and on about this but surely you get the point. Satan is always a deceiver and discourager just like Jesus said long ago. But, as one who has come to God through Jesus, I live without fear of life or death because I always know Jesus is here helping me through his Holy Spirit and that he is at the right hand of  God speaking on my behalf when I fail. Truly, John's words are thrilling and encouraging -

"You dear children, are from God and have overcome them (the evil spirits from Satan) because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." 1 John 4:4 NIV  HALLELUJAH!!

Monday, June 10, 2013

"Nothing!?"

"Until a man is nothing, God can do nothing with him." Martin Luther

"Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death - and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion." Phil 2:5-8 MSG

Selfless thinking is hardly the kind of education most of us appreciate. Jesus didn't either. Nor did the man who wrote those words about him. Its a process from which we learn to hear the voice of God in our painful disappointments and just commit the outcome to HIM.

You may be like me, one who doesn't see myself as a particularly humble person. We all develop the habit of matching our demeanor to the demands of a specific circumstance but more often than not we probably react instinctively rather than selflessly. Doing so is easy to rationalize using the common mantra, "Well, that's just the way I am." as though that sort of cancels out how the recipient of our displeasure may feel.

Somehow, I really don't much care for Martin Luther's assessment of me before God. "Nothing" is a word that I doubt I have ever used in any conversational description of me. Having been taught that I am a person of reasonable intelligence and in some ways capable of achieving whatever I set my mind to I find humility to be a pretty foreign concept in my daily life. You would think after more than half a century of pretty intense Bible study and teaching experience, my spirit would have smothered the pride instinct. To some degree it has modified that reactive way of thinking but there are times when it still explodes on the scene.

To be like Jesus is more a true quest today than at any time in my past. He made the decision to become a slave for me because that was the Father's will. From then to now, Jesus is hands down the most admired, respected and loved leader our wold has seen. Even with all the detractors and skeptics and outright unbelievers Satan has spawned over the centuries, Jesus and his book still outsell any other year after year. 

Hear Paul's final word of testimony to the Philippian brothers and sisters -
"I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who make me who I am.
Receive and experience the amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, deep, deep within yourselves." Philippians 4:13-14, 23 MSG
If Paul can do it, I can too. HALLELUJAH!

Friday, May 10, 2013

"Footwashing? At A School?"

The young man second from left is my oldest grandson, Asher Thomas Patten. His Mom posted this pic on her facebook page, taken this morning at his school, Harding Academy in Searcy, Arkansas. Asher is a bright young guy who is graduating from the 6th grade, heading into Jr Hi next year. He is an athlete, musician, singer, easy on the eyes and deeply spiritual.
I am grateful to Harding Academy for giving these kids a spiritual experience few if any of their parents have ever thought of doing much less actually engaging in washing someone else's feet. Foot washing is just not something our spiritual tradition has taught or practiced, although if you asked, most believe in to some degree. These young men and women actually washed the feet of their teachers. HOW COOL IS THAT!

Many years ago my Dad's father asked me to drive him to the church he had been a sometime member of for many years. As far as I ever knew, the only time grandpa went to that church was when they had their annual footwashing service. At the time I was a teenager and had never seen anything like that or even heard of any church who did so. For some reason this was important to my grandpa so I drove him to the site on a creek behind their church building and for the first time witnessed a footwashing service.

Later, I asked my other grandfather, an elder and teacher in our church, why we didn't do footwashing. I had read Jesus command to his Apostles in John 13 after he had washed their feet and it all seemed pretty clear to me. My grandfather surprised me with a rather casual response that Jesus didn't really intend that we actually wash each others' feet but that we should simply serve one another. So, I dismissed it as the wisdom of a man I respected and trusted completely and hardly thought of it for many years.

In 2003, I worked with a small group of mostly new Christians to plant a new church in a rapidly growing suburb east of Dallas. About a year or so later, as one of the elders of that new church of nearly 100, we decided to just wash the feet of every member. So, we planned a special service and told our folks what we going to do and if anyone was not comfortable with having their feet washed to simply not remove their shoes. Only one younger sister kept her shoes on.

I cant say with certainty that Jesus' command to his disciples at John 13 was intended to be replicated by all succeeding generations or even by the Apostles. There is no evidence I am aware of that those men ever washed each others' feet or taught that practice to the early church. Maybe my church elder grandfather was right, but at the very least, I see no reason to ignore or even condemn the practice. Surely there is a place for disciples of Jesus to follow his example and command in some fashion.

So, thank you Harding Academy for teaching my grandson to serve some special people in his life in this way. I praise their leadership and the young men and women for teaching them the lesson of Jesus in a very memorable way. I am proud of you Asher Thomas and pray the experience will be one more step in your spiritual education that will never be forgotten. HALLELUJAH!