Monday, April 14, 2014

Liked by God

I've always believed it's possible to love someone and not particularly like them. As a teenager, for example, I always loved my parents, but sometimes I didn't really like them. Looking back at my behavior in those days, I'm confident those sentiments were at times mutual.

As Christians, we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves. And we're especially called to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. But in both cases we aren't commanded to like them. In practice, that means we desire the best for those we love and sometimes work actively, at our own expense, to help bring about that good for them. And certainly it means being kind, whether we like someone or not. But it doesn't mean we have to enjoy their company or desire to hang out with them. In short, loving is a choice, but liking is a preference. The former has a strong, intrinsically moral element, while the latter is primarily a matter of taste.

All of which is merely an intro to what this post is really about: I want God to like me.

I know God loves me. That truth, in fact, may be the central motivating power of my soul's existence. Knowing that I am loved by God has been transforming me inside-out into his image for decades. Many of God's people have shown me love through the years as well, and I'm pretty sure not all of them liked me very much.

But I want not only to be loved, but to be liked, too--by other people, but especially by God.

You may say that liking or disliking are meaningless concepts with God, but I don't think so. When we read in the Word that David was a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22), I think what Paul is saying is that God really liked David. God loves everyone, but it seems he really liked David. In the same way, Jesus had lots of disciples and 12 apostles, but it seems Peter, James and John were the disciples he really liked. And from John's Gospel it appears Jesus really liked the "beloved disciple."

So I want God to like me. Granted, phrasing my desire in those terms may sound self-serving or naive. How about, "I want to be pleasing to God"? Call it what you will, but I want to be liked by God.

And when I take a look at who I really am and ask, "Does God like me?" I have to answer, "Probably not." That's because God sees not only my words and outward performance, but the real desires and darkness of my heart. And I know that, deep down, I'm not the man I like to think I am. I don't think I'm particularly unsual in this regard--we all have our shadows--but I still don't like what I sometimes see, and I'm pretty sure God doesn't, either.

So what to do? Well, I'm going to keep working to put off sin, put on Jesus Christ, and pray that I keep becoming a man whom God not only loves, but likes, too. And in the mean time, I'm holding on to these words I rediscovered this month from a song I wrote more than twenty years ago:
It seems I'm always running;
     It seems I run too fast.
Am I running the race with honor
     or letting it just slip past?
I've wounded and I've wasted,
     and my failures are a shame.
But I serve a risen Savior
     who loves me just the same.
Amen, amen, amen, and amen.

Copyright 1993, 2014, A. Milton Stanley

Friday, April 04, 2014

Underneath the rust

It's been more than two years since I regularly read the blogs that informed so much of the content of this one, but today I pulled up the old reading list and began checking on many of my old blog friends.

Several haven't posted anything for months, and others have quit blogging altogether. Several, too, have moved to flashier new sites, but right now, at least, I don't feel like navigating the more complicated pages. Call me an old-school blogger.

I'm happy to say that several of my oldest and best blogging friends are still going strong, and I still recommend them all:

Dan Edelen at Cerulean Sanctum is still writing insightful critiques of the interaction culture and discipleship. This week's post about three recent faith-films hits the nail on the head yet again.

Peter Mead, probably the web's best preaching blogger, is also still going strong at Biblical Preaching with five new posts this week offering thoughts on preaching from Martin Luther.

OT professor Claude Mariottini has a new post today about a writer asking the Egyptian government to sue Israel for the Exodus plagues. I like Claude's writing, but for some reason his weblog only displays one post at a time.

Elsewhere, Rob Bradshaw continues to make serious biblical studies articles available free online at, my brothers Royce Ogle and Keith Brenton continue to write, at least occasionally, and VOM's Persecution Blog continues to shine the light on the plight of Christians around the world.

Thanks to all of you for what you do. And for those of you who, like me, have been rather inactive lately, I haven't forgotten about you, either. As always, thanks for visiting.

Update:  I just noticed that in writing this post I left off the blogger at the top of my reading list, my own blogfather Doug Floyd, who now posts at Doug Talks Torah. I especially liked Doug's post this week, "The Way of Information."

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Gempf again

New Testament scholar Conrad Gempf has worked from several blogging homes over the years, and I'm happy today to have discovered his latest: The Web Presence of Conrad Gempf.

Dr. Gempf has a way of sharing biblical reflections with humor, insight, and punch. He's also interested in sharing all kinds of other information, from Hitchhiker's Guide to how a sewing machine works. I recommend his site.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Better every day

Well, I finally went to the doctor in January to find out why I've been increasingly tired mentally. After a battery of tests, the answer was pretty simple and something I should have figured out without all the testing: sleep apnea, bad enough to wake me up multiple times per hour, make my blood oxygen drop significantly, and leave me mentally exhausted all day.

I recently got a CPAP machine, and the change has been substantial. I don't have anything to write about at the moment, but I'm feeling better every day and think I may actually be ready to start writing again soon. Whether or not that's on this blog remains to be seen, but it's good to have energy again.

Thanks for stopping by, and thanks especially if you're one of those who has been praying for me.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Back here again, but not really

Well, I'm through blogging at the Manchester Times site, but I'm probably through blogging here, too. The truth is I'm mentally weary, and I just don't feel like writing for public consumption any more.

If I ever do start blogging again, it will probably be here. But right now I just want to live a quiet life in Mud Creek and Fredonia with my family and church.

What does a writer do when he's too mentally tired to write? It's the work I love, but the past year has just worn me out. I'm hoping that through a few days of rest and prayer the Lord will renew my mind and spirit to move on to the next chapter in my life.

If you happen the be reading this entry and have a mind and heart to do so, please pray for me. Last time I made an appeal on this page, the results were striking. And now once again (as, really, always), I need the Lord's help. Thanks for caring enough about me to pray for me.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Back at it, only somewhere else

Well, I'm happy to be blogging again here. Technically, my new 'blog' is the Religion section of the online Manchester Times, but my daily column, "Everything But Sports" is all that we've posted in that section for more than a year. The new blog is a little different from this one in that I write about, well, everything but sports. Plus, I typically link only on Tuesdays and write very short essays the other week days.

If you liked Transforming Sermons, I think you'll like the new one (especially the entries of the past two days, April 3 & 4, 2013). If you find time to bookmark "Everything But Sports," I would be very grateful. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Employment update

Back in September I wrote that I was looking for full-time employment, preferably in my former field of writing. Well, this update is a little overdue, but I'm happy to report that since the end of November I've been working as the sports writer for my area's local newspaper, The Manchester Times (you can see my little corner of the online edition here). With tumult in the news business and print editions folding left and right, I didn't think I would find work in journalism, especially so close to home.

This job is an answer to prayer. If you heard my plea back in the fall and were one of those praying for me to find work, I sincerely thank you. And, of course, I praise our God, who provides.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

New treasures

This blog first began as a vehicle for sharing free online treasures for sermon preparation and Bible study. Although I haven't been blogging lately, I've definitely been treasure hunting and will be sharing some of the best finds in the days to come.

HTTrack Website Copier is a free program that lets you download mirrors of entire websites or portions thereof. So far I've downloaded the entire online archive for Biblica and Filologia Neotestamentaria. Each volume is fairly large (70MB or so). But it sure is good having them on my hard drive, especially way out here in Mud Creek, where the satellite connection goes out pretty much every time it rains.

Re-introducing your host

When I first began this weblog in 2005, I wanted it to be a place for encouraging growth in what C.S. Lewis called mere Christianity. As such, I have engaged writers and readers from a wide range of religious traditions. That certainly doesn’t mean I approve of everything these writers post. It does, however, mean I’ve found something worthwhile in the particular item to which I link.

On this blog seldom get into what might be called doctrinal distinctives. Lately, however, I’ve been getting emails that seem to be covertly trying to get me to reveal something or other about my own doctrine or Christian affiliation. Although I’ve not made a point of playing up such information on this weblog, I’ve never tried to hide the fact that I’m a preacher with the (a capella) Churches of Christ.

There are a couple of reasons I don’t make a big deal on this blog about my religious affiliation. First, I don’t like to debate doctrine, most especially online. In my experience going head-to-head on doctrinal disagreements usually only encourages the disputants on both sides to dig their heels in deeper. What’s more, online back-and-forth is not the purpose of this blog, and I don’t have enough hours in the day to do it. I am willing to discuss doctrine, even debate it if you insist, but if you want to have such a discussion, then please don’t try to do it either in the comments section or by email. You’re welcome, however, to come study with us at Fredonia Church of Christ near Manchester, Tennessee. We do a fair amount of discussion and debate there—in the best of ways, I think.

I strongly believe that reading, studying, and meditating on the Word of God helps a person develop a more clear mind for right doctrine, whatever his or her religious background. If your understanding of God’s will is askew, the solution (at least on this weblog) is not to argue about it. Instead, I post writings and links that I hope and pray will encourage you to think more deeply about God, faith, and discipleship. As someone once said, “Seek and you’ll find.”

Secondly, I don’t like to be pigeon-holed. When I first began blogging, a couple of guys from a seminary in Kentucky went on a little crusade against what they seemed to think was my doctrine of baptism. As best I can tell, they believed that I believed what one of their seminary professors told them members of Churches of Christ believe. I do believe what most Church of Christ preachers do on baptism, but I’m pretty sure these seminarians didn’t know what that doctrine actually is. We went around and around, and I don’t think they ever understood what I was trying to say. I certainly didn’t get what they were pushing.

Perhaps because we have no denominational structure or confessions in Churches of Christ, emphases and fine points of doctrine vary widely. There are “progressive” and “conservative” wings within the church, and I’ve pretty much given up on trying to please either extreme. I’m trying not to be of Paul or Apollos, but simply of God.

Thank you for visiting. I pray you find something here that helps you draw nearer to Jesus.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Internet back

Well, my web access was out for only a week. The rest of the time I simply haven't been writing. Right now I'm in the process of preparing a short essay re-introducing myself. We'll see how things go from there.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Internet out

Well, the very day I started back to blogging, the Internet went out at the house, and the folks at my service provider are taking their sweet time in responding. In the mean time I'm limited to Internet access on a library computer 15 miles from Mud Creek. In short, although I have grand plans I won't be doing much till I get back online at home.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Announcement and appeal

As of this month I’ve finished my one-year pastoral care residency in Chattanooga and its accompanying three-hours-per-day commute. That means, on the one hand, that I have time once again for blogging. On the other hand it means I’m once again out of a full-time job.

Before going into full-time congregational ministry I worked for thirteen years as a writer. The church I now serve pays me only part-time, and the members expect me to have another full-time job. One of the greatest benefits of working for the past year in a level-one trauma center is the gift of clarity: while I like being a chaplain, I love being a writer.

So here’s the appeal. I’m praying and looking to make my living once again as a writer, but I don’t know where to find good, paying work while living in Mud Creek, Tennessee. I know the work is out there, but the Internet is dizzyingly and frustratingly full of options—most of which, it seems, pay little or nothing. Years ago I came to understand that, although I had an active part to play in the process, it was our Lord who kept bringing work my way. And so I learned to stop flailing and start trusting.

Today I’ve begun to flail less and pray more. I’ve also begun to ask for help. I have professional experience in so very many kinds of writing—procedures and operating instructions, environmental assessment, adult-education workbooks, organizational history, grant writing, marketing, Bible-study curricula, devotional writing, human interest stories, editorials, news, and fiction. When people ask me what kind of writing I do, I say, “What kind of writing do you need?”

If you or anyone you know might need a writer, please know that I’m available.  For now you can reach me by email at miltonsenior AT gmail DOT com.

Back at it

Today I've gotten back to the weblog for the first time this year. I've finished answering emails and am now turning my attention to moderating comments (I don't even remember telling Blogger to begin moderating them, so I'm sorry that some comments have been unanswered for nearly a year). I look forward to being back with you soon. Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Note on email

If you want to send me email to my transformingsermons account, please indicate in the subject line that you're sending a personal message to me and that your note is not spam. Otherwise, because of the volume of mail I'm getting, I may delete your message by mistake.

I don't know if I'll shutter this blog or not, but as I work through a one-year residency in clinical pastoral education, along with my regular preaching duties, I'm not finding much time either for this website or the email account associated with it.

Thanks again for visiting.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Value of the Greek NT

BibleX has posted a good little quote on the value of the Greek NT in preaching.

Blind spot

I haven't missed the irony, after resolving to focus on the cross, of posting a video from Everclear. I'm in the process of figuring out what to do with this weblog. If I'm never going to get back to regular blogging, then I want to shut it down--not be like the aging athlete who stays in the game a couple of seasons too long. What's holding me back are the words of an old friend who, in effect, recommended that I give myself a year and a half to mourn my dad's death before making any big decisions. That gives me a few more months before I decide either to pick up the pace or to close shop.

In the mean time I've been spending less time online flitting through hundreds of blog posts and more time relaxing and processing my thoughts. That's been a very helpful and therapeutic process, and I wonder if I shouldn't have been doing more of it all along. We'll see. In the mean time, thanks for visiting.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sublimely Wonderful

This is, I think, the first video I've embedded in nearly 4000 posts. I'm not all that crazy about the video itself, but the music and lyrics are, well, wonderful.