Thursday, December 9, 2010

Too Busy

Everyone is busy. It doesn't really matter what time of year, there is always some seasonal rush. It is either Christmas season with it's parties, shopping, family trips etc, or it is the season of summer with yards to keep up, home improvements to accomplish etc. Spring and Fall do not escape unscathed either. Easter, gardening, Thanksgiving, and a myriad of other 'to-do's' certainly press the schedule.

There are other seasons too. The seasons of life contribute their demands on life. In youth, the social scene is always calling to the next movie, next get-together, next church event. Young adult life adds the realization that money doesn't grow on trees and so education and jobs start their encroachments on our time budget.

Soon marriage leads to the phase of family. It is difficult to place into words the time stress that occurs during the family phase for the simple reason that children cause us to blend a variety of schedules. Little Johnny has ball practice on Saturday and band rehearsal on Tuesday and an appointment with the doctor on Thursday and a Sunday School outing on Monday, and a Cub Scout cookout on Friday. Get the picture? That doesn't include your personal schedule and the need to keep marriage flourishing by giving that one...all-valuable gift...time!

Mid-life, the transition of all transitions, leads to the moving children into their own lives...their own families, whilst balancing the main portion of one's career. This is the season of using wisdom to volunteer, to lend a hand and hope not play all your 'hand' in the process.

The 'Silver Season', the one you thought would be relaxed by the fishing hole...may be has busy as any of them. More and more, grandparents lend a hand in the needs of their children and their families. And just when you thought you had gone to your last recital, or band contest, or football game. Your grandkids compel you to fill the squares on the planner with times, events and another hectic season of life.

Yes, life is busy. One has to find a way to say 'no' to the unimportant items of life and shield your time from erosion by non-important things. I noted some advice given to a person assigned to prison for an extended period of time, "Do the time, don't let the time do you!" That may be some good advice for those of us living in the prison of busy-ness.

In all of your planning, plan for some down time...some time to regroup, refocus, and relax. Just don't get too busy!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

True Worshipers!

The word 'Truth' evokes mental images of some authoritative figure declaring they have all the understanding of God. Jesus, God in flesh stated unequivocally, "I am the Truth." If one could boast of knowing all the truth, they would have to boast of knowing all of God.

The Bible tells us that God's ways are unsearchable and beyond our comprehension. Paul writes of the depths of the riches of the knowledge of God and His ways are unfathomable. I heard on the news this morning that someone is actually trying to count the stars! I had to laugh. They haven't even found all the galaxies yet. Last I heard there were more than 90 billion galaxies with more than 90 billion stars in each galaxy! The point is, man cannot comprehend the number of stars much less count them. And while there is much of God we can know, there is so much that we will not know until we get to see Him face to face. This dark glass of humanity, prohibits the complete view.

With that said, may I turn your attention to John 4:15-24? Especially the part that says, true worshipers will worship in spirit and in truth. We can easily understand that to worship in spirit means worship is more than lip service. Jesus bemoaned the fact that some make noise with their lips but their heart is far from me. Spirited worship is the kind that emanates from our souls on Tuesday as well as Sunday. Worship is a lifestyle. If we are in love with God, that fact spills from our mouths and oozes from the pores of our skin. I believe God accepts worship from those who have never even seen a bible...but reach to Him with the limited knowledge and inner tug they feel within their souls. This is 'spirit' worship. Whether in silence or at the top of your lungs, worship needs to be spirited. Know that the word spirit here is not a capital S, but a small s...meaning our human spirit. You can then stop waiting on the Holy Spirit to shake you like a ragdoll. Spirited worship is from the human spirit.

The second vital factor for a true worshiper is they must worship in truth. I want to drill down on this point. What truth exactly is the writer talking about? You know as well as I do, that every church on the street claims to preach the truth...the whole truth and nothing but the truth!!! They thump their pulpits and declare that their way is the right way and everyone else is in darkness and the rapture will settle the score! It is so pompous of man to even make such a boast. In truth, there is so little difference between brand A and brand B that it is ridiculous. Yet we draw our denominational lines and refuse to fellowship with the church down the street because they don't see it as we do. Often it is pure semantics, or the way we say things, that separates men. One says, "I'm Oneness," the other says, "I'm trinitarian" and both of them are monotheists! Both of them believe Jesus is Lord, Messiah. By majoring on minors, pretending to have the 'truth' we push one another away and forbid the answer to Christ's prayer in John 17..."That they may be one!"

Look closely at the passage in John 4. The Samaritan woman was told by Christ of her past. She made a bold proclamation, "You are a prophet!" Well, she was wrong! Jesus was not a prophet, He was the Messiah! But Jesus didn't rebuke her because she was wrong. Further, the woman tried to play the religious heritage card on Him. "Our fathers worshiped in this mountain!" Again Jesus was not rattled by her religion. He simply stated, you worship what you do not know! I have to tell you there is a bit of that involved in all of our worship. There are parts about God that I do not know....but I worship anyway. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the truth part of a true worshiper. Like the Samaritan woman, we all have our mountains. We like to express the way we were taught....the way we think it should be....the way we were explained the scripture. This to us is 'truth'. Reality says, truth is much bigger than the mountain your father's worshiped around. Truth involves admitting questions.

If you can still worship with are a true worshiper. If exalting God becomes greater than exalting your religious stance, then you are a true worshiper. If you can accept God's will for your life, even when it hurts, even when it is not convenient, even when it brings tears...then you are a true worshiper. Hebrews states, "Jacob worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff." No healing, no answered prayer, lots of pain....but true worship. Get it? The Father seeks those who worship in spirit and truth.

At last Jesus said, "There will come a day when you will not worship me in this mountain or in Jerusalem." What He was saying is, there will be a day when your personal religious mountains will fall down and we will worship God for who He is...questions and all!! When we all get to heaven, as the old hymn poses, there will be a good deal of reconciliation to be had. When the Baptist walks in beside the Pentecostal, and the Methodist enters with the Presbyterian...and suddenly we realize God was not looking to save a denomination, but to save and win for Himself a bride! The bride will be those who love their Lord and in truth admit they do not have all the answers. This is true worship.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Legalism in Every Religion

If the word 'legalism' makes you cringe a little, chances are you are on the side of the religious fence which believes your salvation has a direct connect to something you 'do'. Many of you know of a personal journey that I went on a few years ago to study the legalistic side of my own brand of religion. The end result was, I discovered that for me to 'do' anything with regard to my salvation, other than enact my faith, was detracting from the greatest work of time and eternity...the cross of Christ.

Upon my exodus from a religious framework I found a host of people who God had led along the very same pathway. My religious past insisted on upholding specific, non-scriptural codes as tests of fellowship in the brotherhood, and more importantly, as a test to see if one was saved or not. Being taught these things from a child, they were deeply embedded within my thinking. Still, there was considerable internal stress of having to preach what the religion expected and finding more and more discrepancy with the scripture.

Grace is a powerful thing! Salvation is a gift! The Holy Spirit is a gift. Somehow religion, for their own control purposes, have abused the Word of God to manipulate people away from Grace and into their own rule-book. Depending on the religion, they can tell you everything from what food to eat, to what day to worship, to what to wear, to who you can date, and the list is endless! In my opinion, these stiff rules are enticing to those who, by personality, need a strong leader and someone to tell them what to do, etc. On the other hand, it pushes away so many people who may be genuinely hungry for the Lord but are unwilling to yield their intellect to the whims of men when they can plainly read the Word for themselves.

Legalism infiltrates every arm of religion. There will forever be the conservative and the liberal, no matter which branch of the tree you choose to travel. In Adventism, there are those who are liberal enough to eat chicken occasionally, and are scorned by those who are strict vegetarian. In the Amish community, there are those who refuse any and all modern conveniences and these hold a level of chagrin for the liberals who allow for a light in their milk barn, or wear a hat with a ribbon on it. In Holiness churches there are those who preach hot and heavy concerning ladies cutting their hair or wearing slacks. The liberal is willing to concede some of these, especially on vacation etc.

From a distance, it all looks the same, only the issue is different. They all have their Old Testament verses...they all harp on a particular view of them....they all have camps.....they all speak one thing in public and a different thing around the table of their peers....they all have secret questions....and most will not buck the system b/c it infringes upon the safety of their status, their income, or both.

So what then is important. I firmly believe God's Word is true, is pure and is powerful. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the primary factors of salvation. When a man places his faith in the salvific work of the cross, the Word of God boldly and plainly declares his salvation is made sure. We are not saved by works (Eph2:8) lest any man should boast. Circumcision will not save you! Worship on Saturday will not save you! Baptism will not save you! Communion will not save you! Holiness standards will not save you! Only the blood of Jesus can wash away your sins.

No wonder Paul said, "I'm glad I didn't baptize any of you." No wonder he further declared, "I only want to know among you Jesus Christ and Him crucified." It is a simple gospel that becomes complex in the hands of the legalist.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Renewing Faith

It occurs to me over and over again, that we are people of faith. That being said, it is amazing how quickly we lose heart and fall prey to the idea that things are supposed to be concrete, for our prayers to be answered immediately and in the manner we desire them. However, faith is far different from that.

Faith encompasses everything from our salvation to the way we live our day to day lives. Salvation comes through faith. Just as Abraham, prior to his circumcision (works), was justified by faith, so we are justified in the same manner. We are the seed of Abraham because we have come into the faith family.

Abraham, the father of those who are filled with faith, is noted at least twice in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. Most people think of the faith of Abraham based on his willingness to trust God when Jehovah asked him to offer his son Isaac on the altar of sacrifice. While this was indeed a noble event, it is not perhaps the greatest display of Abraham's faith. In fact, Hebrews 11 mentions the next act of faith ahead of the Isaac event.

Abraham was told to go and look for a city whose builder and maker was God. And without having to have details or without consulting his GPS....Abraham obeyed and set out, "not knowing where he was going." Friend that is faith of the purest kind. If it had been most of us, we would have demanded a full set of plans, a map, a compass, a survival pack, extra food and the guarantee that in x number of days we'd find that city. Well....guess what? Abraham died having never found it...yet. One day he will see it and live in it! But he died with the promise and died with his faith intact.

Faith is that blessed element that keeps us going in that interim of time between the giving of a promise and the fulfillment of it. Only God is privy to the time-period in between. We are only asked to trust Him. Oh that we had the faith least the depth of faith as Abraham. If God doesn't answer your prayer the way you wanted Him to ....or if God doesn't answer your prayer within in the time you would like Him to....will you still trust Him?

This is why we must renew our faith. Faith is not some stupid idea. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen." We understand that faith must be rooted in something with substance and that in time provides evidence. This is why faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Anything of real faith has substance in God's word. We lay hold on a promise and then cling to it until it comes to pass in God's time. This is indeed faith that pleases God. The just truly live by faith.

May you be encouraged to live in the simple faith and trust of knowing and believing all that God is, says and does.

Tim Estes
Aug 12, 2010

Monday, May 31, 2010

A Day To Remember

On this Memorial Day my mind travels through the history of our beloved nation. I am very appreciative of the teachers in my life who have kept alive our history, and by doing so, have preserved some hope for our nation. Around this world are cemeteries filled with the bodies of American men and women who paid the ultimate price for freedom. Yet, I cannot think of a single cemetery in America where troops from some other country came to defend us with the lives of their people.

America is a special place. We have been blessed more than we deserve. Somehow I believe that the reason for our blessings is due to the reason for our existence as a nation. We were founded so that men could have a place to worship God according to the dictates of their hearts. Please understand that there was no worship of Hindu gods, or Buddah, or any other false deity. They came to America to worship the One True and Living Jehovah God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything about our beginnings as a nation spoke of our independence from tyranny, and of our total dependance upon God. Such facts are engraved in the marble and granite that bedeck the beauty of our nations capital. It is on our currency...."In God We Trust!"

Somehow we've been so blessed that we have forgotten what brought us these blessings. It is imperative that this generation catch the responsibility to return to trusting God. Nobody in this country is owed anything! We have the right to pursue happiness, the right to liberty, and the right to life. Other than that, take responsibility for your own actions, your work ethic, your moral values and dedicate your life to preserving what others have laid down their lives for.

Our history rumbles with the sounds of the muskets of the Civil War, the trench warfare of WW1, the Naval Turrets of WW2, the Helicopters and 50 calibers of the Vietnam and Korean Wars, the awesome air bombardments of Desert Storm and Gulf Wars. Righteousness will always be a target, but it will always win....if we call upon God to be our Keeper.

We cannot separate God and the Church from the status and success of America. We are responsible to keep the fires of hope burning by passing on the history and values, including sacrifice, which has made America the greatest nation on earth. Today, we remember.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Finished Product of the Brewers Art

Sometimes we are so close to the forrest that we cannot see the trees. Advertisers for alcoholic beverages have become so common place that we scarcely even give them a second look. Consequently, the drip, drip, dripping of something more harsh than water, has worn the way the stone of our constitution and resolve to the point of acceptability. In the days of prohibition, anything regarding the usage of alcohol garnered immediate attention. However, today the banners of these toxic juices are splayed on billboards, in the LED lighting of sports arenas, and as headliners at everything from rodeo's to rock concerts. What's more, there is so much money involved that beer producers have become the major sponsor of most national athletic events. Often people applaud all their money buys in a positive light, while choosing to overlook all the havoc their product produces behind the scenes.

We hardly even wince when everything from imported wines, to hard liquor is promoted on TV. The enticement to come to the high enjoy the piped right into our living rooms with such regularity that it has dulled the senses. The advertisers want you to believe that if you are cool you drink. That a vacation is not a vacation without drinking. That happiness and joy at all sorts of gatherings centers completely on having drinks. Elegant women in evening attire are shown sipping a crystal glass of champagne. Rugged outdoors men toss one another a cold beer. Cowboys and athletes are represented as finding their being through drinking alcohol. One beverage advertises as, "The finest product of the brewers art."

Let me give to you the real story. I can tell you from several perspectives. First, we all should be smart enough to know that Satan always puts the pretty stuff on his 'billboard'. He will never show you what really happens or he would be out of business tomorrow. It is his sly deceit that has kept him in business since his fall from heaven. For all you people that come around with, "Well a little beer here and there won't hurt you....or I don't think it's wrong to just have one now and then".....let me please reason with you. The sad endings that I am about to tell you of are the result of someone taking their first drink. Whatever the sordid outcome, it began with the first drink!

As a chaplain with the Arkansas State Police for 10 years, I have seen my share of accidents. My job was to make fatality notifications to the families of those who died on the highways. While there were many that did not involve alcohol, there were very many that did. Drunk driving kills thousands of innocent people each year. I remember one of my first calls involving alcohol. I helped load up three teenagers who were still laying on the highway when I arrived at the scene. They had been to a party and were on the way home when alcohol reaped its reward. I especially recall zipping the lifeless form of a young girl into a body bag. I was so upset by it that my legs literally were jerking. Her eyes were looking right at me when we closed the bag and loaded her. A small river of blood was still running across the road toward the corpse of one of her peers. Many other similar scenes of death were wreaking with the smells of alcohol. Oh yes, this is the high life!

I am recalling a most beautiful girl. She was the valedictorian of her high school class. Her brilliance had earned her a scholarship to college and a very promising future. She could set the limits. She could make as much money as she wanted. But sadly, the college scene and the peer pressure to be in the social drinking society changed how high she would truly soar in life. The demon of alcoholism took root in her soul. The first drink led to the next and the next and the next until...well, until I received her into the prep room of the funeral home I worked for. The culprit of her death? End-stage cirrosis of the liver. She was an emaciated shell of the beauty she had been..only her abdomen was strutted due to the self-inflicted disease. Her face would have been an advertisement for hell with its grotesque look of gaunt eyes and bloody teeth. Oh yes advertisers...this is where the fun is!

Sadly within my own family this horrid vice of alcoholism has taken its toll. A family member was an amazing farmer and positioned to pass on a wealthy legacy to his family. That is until the clutches of the drink wrapped around the neck of a great person...turning him into one who didn't care anymore. The clutches kept taking, until it took the farm, the future, the legacy and the wealth. Broke and almost destitute this person had to start over again from the bottom. Oh life without the brewskis!!

I remember some of my own friends who were hit head-on by a drunk driver. I drove up on the scene just after they had to airlift my friend and transport their children by ambulance. One of the children was literally scalped. Another had busted through his locked seatbelt on impact. The mother had multiple broken bones including a compound fracture of the arm and her pelvis broken into 7 pieces. The drunk was dead and was literally surrounded by more than 90 beer cans that flew out of his truck. Only his broken leg stuck up out of the wreckage as his broken soul went into the captivity of hell! Oh...did you want another drink cool guy? How 'bout it sexy lady? Come on....let's party!

How about the one of the dad who wound up molesting his own flesh and blood due to the influence of the drink. Or what about the girl who became a prostitute to support her habit of alcohol? She couldn't hold a job because of the drink, and she couldn't live without it, so she sold her own body to supply her damning habit. What about the athlete who lost his place on the team? Or what about the young person who didn't wake up the night of the party? What about the accident that took innocent lives? What about the man who threw himself overboard on the cruise that was supposed to be fun and relaxing? Oh....yes.....isn't this the fun of drinking? Come that ad one more time. I love the tune....look at the smiles.....look how cool the people are! Isn't that how you will look? Please......!

When the advertisers tell you to "Taste Greatness!" or "Welcome to Miller Time!" or "The King of Beers!" You'd better think again. They are tools of Satan...playing a jingle that is leading many innocent people to the slaughter.

The stories are endless concerning the demise, the failure, the fights, the suicides, the loss and pain, the broken hearts and homes, the crime, disease, and hellish sins that have been committed at the hands of the brewers of whiskey, wine, beer and other strong drinks. The next time you see an advertisement of an alcoholic drink, take a moment to think about what is behind the billboard. While on the front they all look beautiful and healthy.....smiling with friends, remember that many times on the other side of the billboard is someone with an unwanted pregnancy, another who just beat up his own mother, another who woke up in jail with his own vomit dried in his hair, and another who didn't wake up at least in this life. The next life is no relief either. For the Word of God says that drunkards will be eternally lost! A second hell awaits those who fall victim to the drug of alcohol. These are not the 'finest' product of the brewers art...but the 'finished' product of the brewers art.

Parents, please talk with your kids about this. Pastors, please speak clearly on the subject. Grandparents, tell it like it is. Don't play around with alcohol. Don't cover up the ugliness of its final result. Don't be caught in its web. Rise above it and reveal the wicked monster that it really is. Together we can save lives...and souls.

Tim Estes

Friday, March 12, 2010

American Role Models

Today I arranged two end of life memorial services for American hero's. I did not know either one of the two people for whom I worked to honor their lives, but there is no doubt that their passing represents the incredible moral values that are passing from this generation. The two deceased are not related, of opposite sex, lived in different places, and yet they are related in the sense of what they did helped to make America great a few decades ago. Tom Brokaw called them the "Greatest Generation."

The lady I speak of was 92 years old when she drew her last breath yesterday. When I asked her only daughter to describe the occupation that best described her mother's work she said without reservation, "She was a homemaker." You don't hear much about homemaker's these days. There just seems to be no glory in it. It is too far from the glitz, the glamour, the soap-opera scene to attract the modern lady. Homemaker's smell like washing powder and baby burp. They spend their days in the unsung heroic tasks of paying bills, keeping house, rearing children, washing clothes and taking pride in a home that is run with order and efficiency. The daughter of the deceased lady spoke how her mother always had a treat for her when she arrived home from school. The smell of popcorn filled the air and often the baby dolls were lined up a for a tea-party with mother and daughter. I kept pushing tissues across the desk for the dear lady to wipe the tears of love that continually flowed down her face. It was obvious her heart was full of the right kind of things. The things that every lady should desire to leave behind....and no I'm not talking about some fancy career, or tons of money, or awards for beauty contests won. I'm talking about leaving behind a legacy of love and of focusing on the home, that awesome place designed by God to be the seedbed of greatness for a nation that will honor their God-given roles.

This morning I was called to remove the body of a man who had passed away in his home. When I arrived, I realized it was the father in law of a childhood friend of mine. After some talk outside, we moved from the cold and went inside the residence. It was there I discovered the greatness of the man who had passed. There in the living room, surrounded by his daughters and room full of love, the old gentleman had simply appeared to have fallen asleep and transitioned to that place only the dead can know. Standing in the room I suddenly noticed a display case lined with medals of a soldier. I soon discovered this was one of the few remaining World War II veterans. I love those men. Many of them had to quit school to go to work and help make a living for the family. Such was the case with this gentleman. The sixth grade was as far as his formal education would take him....just like my own grandfather, also a WWII vet. This dear man had received a bronze star and a purple heart for the shrapnel he had taken in his back and neck. He had fought during that awful battle known as the Battle of the Bulge. If you haven't read of it lately, please take time to research it. The old man's feet were in bad shape....and had been since they had frozen during the war. The family told that he could hardly talk about all he had seen without crying. In his pocket was a coin, a silver doller, that he wanted to buy from a private during the war. The private wouldn't sell it to him, but instead gave it to him. The private died in the next battle. This old soldier carried that coin every day until the day he died. It was worn slick. They will bury it with him in a couple of days. Within the heart of men like this one is a hero. They live in meager conditions and expect nothing after laying it all on the line. This sort of thing...this decency...self-sacrificing spirit is going to the grave with this generation. Today, young people are rebellious and often disrespectful. It is more about themselves than serving others.

Today was a special day...a sad day...a day of honor. It was a day I helped prepared two American Role Models for their journey home. I hope we can all learn from them and be better models to those watching us. God bless America!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Religious Bologna

The older I get the more I detest religion. I mean really! The very organizations that are purported to propagate the gospel wind up being the thing that at least becomes a stumbling block, and at worst totally drives people away from a relationship with God.

Religion is sickening for many reasons. Mostly because it is a device to measure...who's bigger, who's better, who's more spiritual, who's the strongest, who's holiest etc. The fact is none of the devices work. Religious people wind up making themselves smaller and invaluable to the real purposes of God, because God seems to be little interested in man's way of doing things.

In religious circles we find politics of positions. Under the guise of being humble or spiritual we subtly climb religious ladders to assume positions of men. We like them too! The heartier the pat on the back, the more we purr with our pseudo humility.

The bias of religion is painful. Although we are supposed to love all men, we wind up loving those who meet our criteria, who play our flavor of music, who preach our candy-stick sermons and doctrines. In the mix of religion, many walk away from a would be experience with God due to our religion.

Religion is the chief source of hypocrites. If we wouldn't be so concerned with our man-made boundaries, we could focus more on just being real and living openly...even admitting our shortcomings for the purpose of working on them and getting better. But way! We hide behind our masks of righteousness while we rot inside. There is no place of accountability so religion becomes chiefly responsible for our spiritual abscesses.

Jesus was constantly fighting religion. The Pharisees, neath the cloak of righteousness, were called what they really were by God in flesh. He wasn't the least bit impressed with their traditions or their masquerades. Jesus was much kinder to those who admitted their failure and lack. "Lord be merciful to me a sinner" meets God's approval much faster than, "Look how much I pray, give, serve, etc."

Religion has become a place of competition in our cities. Ministerial Alliances and para-church organizations spend valuable time debating their opinions and flavors. Much energy is wasted tippy toeing around personalities, and the big man on the that the up and coming church, or a church connected to employment or a church connected to a place of higher learning. To prevent 'offending' the wrong people, the work of God....I mean the real, down to earth work of God gets placed on a shelf. Religion is always more concerned about what 'they' think than what 'He' thinks.

May religion die...and the simple Christ-exalting gospel of Jesus Christ take it's rightful place.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Unfairness is Fair

Today I'm pondering the facts of unfairness. I begin by pondering the purpose of the referees and umpires who wear the striped shirts and blow the whistle during all sorts of sporting events. Besides being the recipient of all our yelling...their purpose for being on the court or field of play is for the sole purpose of maintaining fairness in the game. Yet, with all their best efforts, there is one thing for certain...they will not catch every foul, every block in the back, etc. The thing that really levels the playing field is the fact that there will be misses on both sides and therefore the unfairness, is fair.

Life is much like that playing field. As much as I would love to think that life for us all will be fair, I am painfully aware that it is not. This fact is unsettling to me. I want everyone to have a fair shot, the same opportunity, the same advantages. It is especially painful to witness bad breaks happen to good people.

I just came from the funeral of a friend this week. She was still young, only 40 years old, the mother of two young sons and a surrogate mother to hundreds. She was a pastor's wife who lived her life in an impeccable manner, serving others. Five years ago, to the day she died, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She suffered immeasurably. She had multiple major surgeries but the cancer spread from the breasts, to the lungs, bones, liver and other areas. She endured over 100 chemotherapy treatments and the latent sickness that entails. She had a rod placed in her hip to repair bones that broke due to the disease. What in the world is fair about that?

I have witnessed good people who have tried to get ahead in life, which means taking some amount of risk financially, who have found themselves struggling, having to sell almost everything they have to survive. More and more people have filed bankruptcy...good people, with good values and financial responsibility. Yet, due to job losses and the inability to sell their existing homes, these catastrophic things happen. If life and success was based on fairness, these things would have never happened. But, they happen. Life is not fair.

The only fairness in life, is that one day some level of unfairness will come around to all of us. The 'ref' will miss a call concerning my team, and your team too. There is fairness.

In reality, the God of heaven and earth will deal righteously in all matters. Sometimes He heals and sometimes He does not. But in either case, He has it all in control. Our job is to play the game and not whine about all the calls. If we keep the faith, we win...and that is all that really matters.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ode to the Church Sweeper!

Following is a little jingle I put together to honor one of THE most important people in our church. The thing is...that person should be you! If it is, God bless you. If it's not, grab a broom or a vacuum soon and give us a hand. Don't leave it to the same people every week.


Tis a job that many will scorn....that few people do....but none can do without;
It's sweeping the floor that I'm talking about.

With all that goes on 'round the singing, preaching, and potlucks galore;
At the end of it all someone must sweep the floor.

We preach on heaven and hell with a sermon so stout.
Maybe its time the value of sweeping we must start to tout.

We give much applause to those 'neath the lights...who give a nice speech, or greet at the door;
But we should give recognition to the sweeper of the floor.

Frail ladies often get left with this job, after cooking and cleaning...its time we turn about;
And see some of the gentlemen sweep, whose arms are more stout.

There's crumbs and dirt and paper and soot, tootsies and bulletins left from before;
These are collected by some dear saint, who willingly sweeps the floor.

Next week we return ready to sing and to shout
Knowing the carpet will be clean, of that there's no doubt.

When the dinner is over, there's much rushing and more; whilst we grab for grab our coats and head for the door.
Why you're almost home,... and soon ...will snore,...while some tired, old soul will be left with the task, of sweeping and sweeping, and sweeping the floor.

We'll notice the roof, the paint or its lack; who fails to give us a pat on the back...and we will see the preacher's new car...that's for sure;
But who gives a hoot about who sweeps the floor?

Let me tell you who cares...we all do! God does, guests do, and the regulars too. Deacons and sinners and even kids can't ignore;
If that blessed someone...tho over-looked, under-paid,...decided they were too important... to sweep the church floor.

If ya mess it up clean it up!! These are words that we all should live by. Take your turn serving the church in the most menial of tasks. You and your church will be blessed for it.

Tim Estes

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Gift of Memory

While I do not consider myself a 'techy' person, I do understand the supreme need for memory when it comes to computers. I know that in the last few years, with the advent of more high resolution games and diverse usage of computers, the need for more memory is important. Long before Al Gore or Bill Gates, or whoever in the world invented computers and internet, God had already created the greatest memory ever....the one in your mind.

It is amazing how wonderfully we are made. God made us to be able to recall events of the past. Right now you can remember mental pictures of vacations you've had, friends you've known, and special experiences you have had. Sometimes a certain song, or even a certain smell can trigger a memory. Often I attempt to comfort the bereaved by reminding them of the gift of memory God has given to us. As long as we live, and have a healthy mind, we will be able to remember those who have passed from our midst.

Let me share a memory with you. My grandpa Estes was a wonderful man. His life revolved around keeping his family, hard work and looking out for his fellowman. He was a cowboy and a farmer. Something about that in itself gives him a larger than life idealism in my childhood mind. I loved his boots and hat. I even liked the blended smell of tobacco and after shave lotion that was uniquely him. When he grew old and was in a nursing home, my dad and I walked in one day and could hear him singing before we got to his room. He was sitting up in bed. His thinning hair was sticking up everywhere and he was oblivious to the world. His fingers were drumming on his chest as he tapped out a beat to which he sang, "Do Lord, Oh Do Lord, Oh Do Remember Me!"

Yesterday I thought of that song and when I did, immediately I thought of my grandfather. Thank you Lord for the gift of memory where we can keep alive those special moments of life. Throughout the Bible we are told to reflect and to remember. May it be so with you today.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Replaceable.....but Irrreplaceable!

If you or I ever get the big head and feel that we are so big, so bad, so grand, so talented, so needed that we cannot be replaced...well, we are dead wrong. Wrong to feel that way, and wrong in the sense that we are all very much replaceable. Pride manifests itself in many ways. Egos that are fed and allowed to 'go to seed' become very dangerous. Like a rat tasting the peanut butter on a trap, any moment we find ourselves tasting the bait of self-dependance, self-reliance, and self importance, we are about to be ensnared in something deadly.

The Bible declares that "pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall." Tis true! The forerunner of failure is a spirit that indicates no need for anyone to tell them what to do, how to do it etc. The team spirit is out the window and 'me' spirit takes the throne. Let me get squarely in front of you and tell you that you aren't worth a dime if someone can't yank your chain without you getting an attitude. One of the reasons our world is rapidly declining is because at the center of the home, God's intended headquarters for teaching discipline and respect, are young people who are being allowed to do anything they want without having anyone to tell them 'no'.

The lack of authority in the home will haunt them the rest of their lives because they will not then respect the teacher, the preacher, the policeman, the laws, the boss, etc. Soon, the only thing left is to toss them behind bars and spend thousands of dollars a year to house and feed them....all because they felt that they were above being told what to do.

We are all irreplaceable in the context of our intended purpose in life. In God's economy, non of us reach our intended, irreplaceable purpose without an upline! That is to say, we must have someone above us to help watch for us and to call us to accounting when we are out of line. When we have that, our unique abilities and talents make us irreplaceable to God and His work. In our proper setting, with the right accountability, we are awesome and none can do it better than you.

However, no matter your talent level.....every, last one of us are replaceable when we are insubordinate. Heaven must have cried a million tears at the awesome men and women who have let their talents rust and ruin all because they refused to be in submission to anyone. I think of Saul...a man who stood head and shoulders above the rest. He was mightily anointed, yet he got too big for his breeches. He refused to seek God and maintain his anointing through prayer. His anointing shield was vilely cast aside in order to pursue his own jealous ways. Bitterness crept in...nobody around could tell him no. Soon he was overtaken and his end is one of the saddest in all of Holy Writ.

Judas must have been talented and trusted. For he carried the money for the disciples and Christ Himself. A place of power. But it wasn't enough! He wanted riches...Satan sowed the seeds that came to full harvest the moment he left the table where Jesus attempted to arrest Judas attention one last time. Judas died with a million regrets. But he was replaced. Read the book of Acts where Matthias took Judas place in the 'bishoprick'. A new face at the table...the work continued.

Over and over I have seen those who wanted to threaten the church with their talents. "If you don't do it my way...I will leave!" What they don't see is that the trap is about to snap shut on themselves! As a pastor, I have always maintained that I will never be held hostage by someone's talent. My dad used to say, "We will worship God with the only music being me beating on a metal chair with a stick if we have to, rather than give in to a talented rogue."

God always sends replacements. When we keep our attitude right, God will bless. Favor follows those who will prayerfully and humbly do the right thing. When one walks out, another will walk in. I believe this! That being so, we should never think of ourselves more highly than we ought. The best among us is no more than a servant. Remembering that will ensure longevity in our work for the Lord. Keep it low....and you will fly high!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Nostalgic Memory

When we hear folks talk about the past, it is usually with a sense of idealism. Even if the past was truly difficult, the woes and pains are glossed over with the passage of time and only the sense of 'how wonderful' it used to be remains. I've heard my father talk about how they gathered in a one room school and shivered around the stove til the teacher brought in some coal and lit it up for heat. Something inside me says, "I wish I could have been there, because that sounds so old-time American." It is almost mysterious how the past is, in our minds, made to be better than the present.

One of my favorite things as a boy, and even now, was to listen to elders speak of their early years. The methods of farming, overcoming the hardships of life, and the way church was 'done', all had a glowing appeal. That being so, there is a tendency to feel guilty living in the present as though we aren't as good, our ways are not as inventive, or to innovate in the modern age is to stray from the paths of the glory years.

Understand this concept. The nostalgic memory always glorifies the past! (you should read that again to let it sink in) In the mind's eye, yesterday has such a special place in our hearts that is not easily unseated from the throne of awe. Problems arise from such false views of the past. One is, we tend to build and unspoken loyalty to yesterday. Suddenly, to consider anything new feels like we are slapping granddad's generation in the face. This is especially true in religion. Blind loyalty really is holding churches and even entire organizations back. Many spend all their energy, their ministry and their lives merely trying to make tomorrow look like yesterday. I've found that these people have an unending job because they keep making yesterday so much better than it was.....they will never get back to it! I read an applicable bumper sticker once that read, "The older I get, the better I was!" Amusing.

Walking into an amusement park in Missouri known as Silver Dollar City, there is a sign over the entrance. Keep in mind the park is set up to look like the mid-1800's. The sign reads, "You have a great past ahead of you." It makes for a nice day of vacation. I really enjoy watching them make horse shoes the way the old blacksmith's did two generations ago. But at the end of the really is nice to walk back out under that same sign and go to an air-conditioned hotel room, take a hot shower without hauling water, eat meals cooked on a gas stove, watch TV, and sleep on a nice mattress instead of corn shucks,..etc. etc!

For me, I am appreciative of the past, but I can't live there. I have been called to live and serve in a generation of high tech, fast paced people. We must learn from the past or we will certainly repeat it. I promise if you had to repeat the'd find it was not as glorious as they said it was. The past was full of pain, suffering, trouble, people issues, hardships, and pneumonia with no cure. So...don't be guilty of glossing it up too much with your nostalgic recollections. Talk of yesterday...but live today!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Wind at My Back

I've never sailed on the ocean in a sailboat, but I would surely like to. Although I've not sailed, I know that there is way of sailing into the wind, a process known as 'tacking'. It is a technique whereby the boat uses the head wind to quarter right and then left whilst gaining ground slightly. I can relate to that. Sometimes life requires us to sail into the wind. It can be done with lots of effort and fortitude.

it is an entirely different and wonderful matter when the wind blows directly at ones back. The sailing is smooth and the pace is swift across the 'pond'. All the captain need do is set a course then rare back and enjoy the ride! It must be sheer bliss to ride with such favor.

The children of Israel knew the blessing of God in unprecedented fashion. God caused their clothes to be such that they did not wear out. God gave them food and water in miraculous fashion. Their enemies were already defeated before they arrived at their fortified positions. The wind was at their backs!

Today was such a day for me. Our church has recently voted to do a serious re-model project that will further enhance our ability to minister. So exciting! Today was a 'snow day' at church. A lot of people were not there because of the weather. Yet we had an amazing group of people there. First time guests were in the Guest Center and God was in the house. We had 17 wonderful people in our 1st Discovery Dinner (New Members Class) of the year. Two different miracles have happened this week with regard to people being sent to help with our remodel project. God sent them right on time. This evening after church I have met up with three people (and families) that are being 'drawn' and are showing interest in New LIfe! Just amazing! I call it favor. Whatever it feels like the wind at my back! I have to tell is a great feeling! I know there will be more days of 'tacking' ahead. But for now, I'm just gonna enjoy what God is doing. Ahhhhhhhhh! Thank you Lord!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Real Reason We Root!

All it takes is to walk into a room where a ballgame is playing on TV, and in mere minutes I will be rooting for one of the teams. Perhaps I am more competitive than some, but I've a feeling most men and a good number of women enjoy taking a side and vicariously competing on the court, or field of play.

So how is it we come to pull for a team? Most of the time, for me at least, it boils down to such matters as rooting for whoever is losing, b/c I like to pull for the underdog. Or, if I don't have a clue about either team, perhaps my instantaneous loyalty is due to whichever team is closer to my part of the country, or whether they are from the East or West. (usually pull for the Western team) Sometimes our rooting is due to a distant relative who may have gone to one of the schools competing, whether or not they graduated or not. At the lowest level, rooting may depend on which team has the coolest looking uniform.

While our team of choice in sports makes little difference, let me use this idea as a backdrop for how some folks support (or not) their church. It is my feeling that there should be a deep loyalty to ones place of worship. Since every church has areas of strength and areas of weakness, good points and bad points, it amazing how folks change loyalty like picking an unknown team playing on the TV in your living room.

Real loyalty pulls for a church because of important things like it being the right thing to do, like propagating a heritage for their children, like having pride in a place that is so valuable to their community and the list goes on. However, humans often are short sighted. Rooting for or against their church, their leadership can be as fickle as the color of trim on the pew. Some wind up being enemies of their own church b/c they've become fixated on small, insignificant things. I have heard folks say, "Well, I'm gonna go to another church 'cause I just like their music." I want to say...what about your children having stability and learning faithfulness. What about teaching your kids that it's fine to just walk out and leave the church in a lurch so you can get your 'flavor' of music, preaching, big screen event, etc.

I just want to put in the hearts of people the need to root for your home team. Do it for all the right reasons. When we are all rooting for the right reasons, it will do a lot for the church. It's more than the trappings. Root from the heart!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Correct Change

Ok...a little play on words here. All of us have purchased something and had the cashier return to us incorrect change, whether too much or too little. It causes problems on both ends. For the merchant it will be impossible to balance b/c the cash drawer will either be an overage or a shortage. For the person receiving the incorrect change...if it was a shortage to them, they are due some refund...or it they were given too much, assuming they are honest and catch the mistake, they have the hassle of returning the money. Let me tell you now about the importance of correct change in another sense.

Change....and not the kind that jingles in your pocket...happens to us all. There are changes of every size and sort on virtually every level of life. Changes happen in our jobs, our relationships, our churches, our government and on and on. Let's focus on the change of relationship which, in effect, affects each of these aforementioned areas. When relationships change, it is sometimes for the better but is most often, and most notable, when it is for the worse. It is at these moments of change when we often render 'incorrect change'. Let's take a look at how we most often make mistakes during relational transitions.

1. Blame Game: Almost without exception change occurs with someone pointing fingers, and perhaps rightfully so. Yet, it is rare that transitional experiences happen with a fair hearing from both sides. Fair says, "Most likely both sides have some egg on their face." To blame one for it all is wrong 99.9% of the time. Usually those wanting to blame, never take a good look in the mirror. Heaping blame up so high concerning others, so that you can hide your own mistakes is not really dealing with the problem at hand. This is incorrect change.

2. Sidestepping: To sidestep is to avert attention from what is really going on to something else. In marriages often a mate wanting out because of their own selfish reasons will not address those reasons, but instead speak of how terrible the other person talks to them, keeps house, will not provide, watches too much sports, leaves their socks in the floor....etc. I learned something from a wise man. In disputes, the 'issue' is never the real issue. It is akin to building a 'bigger fire' so the little fire, the one that is really the problem is overlooked or seems insignificant. This is incorrect change.

3. Secret Agency: Any transitional experience that is not accomplished under the light of due process is suspect. Meetings formulated on a one on one, "don't tell anyone but..." situations are dangerous. Lies multiply in rapid succession in a dark environment, like mold in the basement. Correct change is change that is properly discussed, faced before righteous accountability and moved forward in and orderly sequence.

4. Avoidance: Finally, for one to completely ignore their wrong-doing is tantamount to deceit. When we 'confess' our sins we find forgiveness. For us to hide our sins, as Achan did when he stole the gold & garments of Babylon, we risk a continual, systemic infection of bitterness and strife. I've seen it destroy people from the inside out. Like a cancer on the inside, one can only act like it doesn't exist for so long. Then one day....your color changes, your strength fails and your sickness takes over.

Be reminded that those who are willing to move ahead with correct and righteous motives, actions and processes will be given...correct change. Those who don't, will suffer the consequences. If you discover incorrect change....walk back into the 'store' and square it up. You will sleep better tonight.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Grace and the High Wire

Watching footage of a high-wire walker makes me nervous. It is the risk involved that draws the crowds. I recall seeing pictures of such a person walking on a thin wire over Niagra Falls. Gracious! Either the person is nuts...or they have an extreme amount of confidence in what they are doing. The second option must be the case.

Common to each 'walker' is a long balance pole in hand. The pole is lightly weighted on the ends so that the slightest tipping of the pole can hold the walker's balance in the middle of that wire they are walking. I can't think of a single wire-walker that walks without this balance pole. It seems to be a tool of necessity for survival.

If you will allow me, I'd like to think of Grace as that pole, and our walk with the Lord as being the walk on the wire. From the ground, an altogether earthly view, walking the high-wire seems near impossible. In fact, I have heard men express, "I don't go to church because I could never be good enough." "I'm too much of a sinner to ever be a Christian." It does seem difficult from the carnal mind. When one considers "...straight is the gate and narrow is the way and few their be that find it...", one gives pause to even trying at all. This is where Grace comes into hand.

Grace is the 'pole' of possibility which allows us to do the seemingly impossible. Remember, "With God all things are possible." Really! Drug addicts have the hope of one day living free of addiction. The immoral can have total deliverance to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Evil men, can become kind, charitable men. Women depressed and lonely can find peace and help through Grace.

So what is Grace? Grace is the tool of balance with weight on each end of the spectrum. One one end is legalism. That is to assume whatever tight-rope walking will be done, will have to be done on your own power. You'll have to be good enough to keep your balance. You will have to never mis-step, mis-speak, always look just right, comply with someone's manual of ideal's, etc. On the other end of the balance of Grace is the idea that one cannot fail, that eternity is secure no matter what I do or say or act, that I can live a sloppy Christian life and God won't care. This is why Paul asked, "Shall we continue in sin that Grace may abound?" Then he emphatically answered, "God forbid!" For nobody can walk without knowing how to handle Grace. Ladies and gentlemen, this comprises the 'pole' or the tool of balance. You cannot walk the high-wire by holding this tool at either end. Attempting to do so would make one even more vulnerable to the fall.

We must conclude then that our safety is found in grasping this Grace right in the middle. There, you will find a solid balance...not too loose, not too tight...not too left, not too right! God expects us to live right, but He asked us to 'strive' for perfection. Living life in the middle is the key. It is about keeping your balance. Some days we lean a little too far to either extreme. Does this mean God is ready to send us hurling from the high road, straight in to hell? A thousand times no! All we need do is to tip the pole slightly in the opposite direction. And when our balance is found, level off and continue walking.

This is what Grace is all about. Now...go get on the high-wire, do the impossible and watch the crowds stand in awe.