Life is Good

Busy, busy, busy…

Just like you.

Next Tuesday I will be speaking/ teaching three classes at the 2014 Harding University Bible Lectures. If we haven’t met and you are there… well, come let me buy you a cop of joe!

Today I sent in my topic title for the 2015 Pepperdine University Lectures.

Won’t that be a funny sight? A Mississippi Redneck in Malibu, California!

I would have never imagined how much life could have turned in around in the past three years. We are fast approaching the three year anniversary of the day my family came unglued.

And while all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again… God has been mightily at work in the life of my family.

What was broken has been in many ways restored.

At any rate, I am thankful for so much that we have been given–new opportunities for ministry, speaking, writing…

I am so thankful for Becki and the way she has brought peace and love into our lives.

My parents, siblings, and close preacher friends have been rocks of stability!

And then there is my oldest son, Kyle. No man could have asked for and received better support and love from his oldest son (and his wife, Karissa)!

Indeed, all my children–whether birth, adopted, or step continue to give me great joy and more reasons to fight on!

And I cannot say enough about my new church family at the Lake Harbour Drive Church of Christ in Ridgeland… Your positive encouragement and patience mean everything!

So.

No theology or challenges from this blog tonight (Although you can read new material from me posted this evening at Wineskins.org–please feel free to check it out!)

Just thanks.
Thanks to all of you who have allowed me into your lives–who have helped give me a new voice!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

For Messy People Everywhere

Anybody that knows me fairly well can’t help but know some of my flaws and failures.

As much as I’d like to be an extremely private person, I tend to live my life out there where others can see.

Sometimes that out there persona engenders ridicule and criticism.
Sometimes the engendered ridicule and criticism means I’ll end up showing more of my failures and flaws.

It’s a vicious cycle.

On the other hand, living my life out there for all to see can also engender healing.
My healing often begins as I discover others walking alongside me.
From a different perspective, the healing of others is sometimes made possible as they come to understand how un-alone they really are…

So in the interest of being transparent and finding common ground, you should know…
I struggle with food and eating and eating too much.
I don’t take care of myself as well as I should.
I struggle with confidence.
I wrestle with my self-worth.
It’s hard for me to not be in control.
I hardly ever feel as if I am good enough or that I bring true value to the table.
I struggle with not being a victim.
I live with regrets and guilt…

Those are just some of my struggles. There are many more.
Many, many more…
Remember the proverbial you haven’t yet touched the hem of the garment?
Yeah…

I tell you these things not because I want you to make me feel better about myself.
(Here’s another one of my flaws: I probably wouldn’t believe you anyway.)
No, I tell you because being transparent and vulnerable means being honest with you and being honest with myself.

“Hi, my name is Les Ferguson, Jr. and I am 52 years old. I am a mess. Some might call me a hot mess, which is much, much messier than a plain old vanilla mess.”

Sometimes I think my mess is too messy to ever be cleaned up. But amazingly enough, I belong to the God who is not intimidated by messes! I belong to the God whose imagination is so much greater than mine. I belong to the God who takes my flaws, failures, and ongoing messes and gets creative.

Every time I turn around my pain, hurt, and anger is given the opportunity to help someone else who is struggling.
The more I help others, the less painful my mess is…

As it turns out, ministry is messy because it is a sharing of messes

The Irish band U2 just released a new album last week. I am not an expert on the band. I have been a low-key fan over the years and that’s about the best way I can say it. But this new record has captivated me—and it will take Bono himself to tell me I am wrong… But I am convinced the lyrics to Song for Someone are about Jesus…

You’ve got a face not spoiled by beauty
I have some scars from where I’ve been
You’ve got eyes that can see right through me
You’re not afraid of anything they’ve seen

I am not quite at the point where I can thank God for my mess—and I may never get there, but I am thankful for what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will yet do… I am thankful for eyes that can see right through me and are unafraid of the mess I have made…

I lift my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
(Psalm 121:1-2)

Messily yours,
Les Ferguson, Jr.

Foolishness, Part 1

I need to be writing more, but family and ministry consumes me… And for that I am glad. No complaints here…

I did muster the courage to write a new chapter for my book project… One day, one day…

In the meantime, I would like to share the sort of transcript of a sermon recently preached here at Lake Harbour Drive… I need to appease the two or three readers I have left!

Foolishness?

Proverbs 26:1-12…

Good morning and welcome! Today we are taking a ride on the Fool Train—I am your conductor and engineer all rolled into one. It’s a fast ride—faster than you might expect and you are going to need to hold on tight and pay attention…

The first thing we need to do is illustrate the difference between one who isn’t and one who is…

Over the years, Dean Kamen has had his detractors, but in the long run, he has the chops to prove his worth. An American inventor, the maker of the Segway, he has his hands in lots of radical sounding stuff that ultimately proves real. If he shows up today and wants to share something wild and crazy, I am going to pay careful attention.

But then there is a guy named Joseph Newman. He’s a Mississippi fellow hailing from Lucedale, down south in George County. Have you ever heard of perpetual motion? It’s the stuff of dreams and legends. As a young boy I remember vividly reading stories and accounts of men who had supposedly done the unthinkable. Yes, that’s the claim of Joseph Newton—one he is still pursuing in spite of being shut down here and their for fraudulent activity.

But as long as we are taking a ride on the fool train, is there anybody here who would like to invest in this motor? It’s a perpetual motion machine and if I could just get around thirty people to invest $100 each, we’d be on easy street in just a few short weeks!

Some of you are looking at me like I am an idiot.

Some of you might like to say something like my father did when we came to him with some harebrained idea, “Do you think I was born yesterday?”

You know what they say?

A fool and his money are soon parted!

For fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

Some things are just foolish!

But on the other hand, this crazy ride on the Fool train might just convince you that being a fool is majorly cool! Because the crazy truth is we serve a God who uses foolishness to confound and defeat enemies and sin!

Here’s an Old Testament example: Do you remember the story of Gideon and the Midianites? Judges 7:1-21…

God has Gideon gut his army down to 300 men who are armed with nothing more than a trumpet, a pitcher, and a torch.

And with the most foolish weapons of war one could ever imagine, the might of the Midianites was destroyed!

Who in their right mind does battle with a trumpet, a pitcher, and a torch? To us, it’s foolishness, but to those who followed God, it was victory!

As we move to a New Testament example, I want to remind you of Deuteronomy 21:22-23… If anyone is found guilty of an offense deserving the death penalty and is executed, and you hang his body on a tree, you are not to leave his corpse on the tree overnight but are to bury him that day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse. You must not defile the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.

In the ancient world of Jesus, in the world of Peter, Paul, and the other Apostles, the idea of a crucified man being humanity’s salvation was just utter foolishness.

Nothing brought greater shame and humiliation than being put to death on a Cross.

To claim power and redemption from the weak instead of the strong was pure craziness.

Nobody was more humiliated or weaker than the poor soul hanging from a tree!

1 Corinthians 1:18-25…

Foolishness!

Because Satan goes to war against God, a wedge is driven between Creator and the created. 

Paradise is destroyed.

Ugliness rules, but foolishness reigns supreme!

What is foolishness to the world—a God dying on a Cross–is simply the amazing love of God!

When Peter confesses Jesus as Lord in Matthew 16, Jesus tells us something that cuts against the grain–and to our ears maybe even sounds crazy or foolish.

Matthew 16:18, And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

The gates of Hades will not overcome it is the phrase in question.

Obviously this is about church, but what about gates? Are gates defensive or offensive? They are defensive! Nobody attacks with a gate!

So think about it: who is attacking the realm of the dead/ who is being defended?

It’s pretty common to see the church not being overrun by Hades but here’s the problem with that: the church is the one attacking!

Through the foolishness of the Cross, through the craziness of God’s plan, the church–us–me–you–we are attacking the realm of the dead! We are denying Satan his power of sin and death!

1 Corinthians 15:55-57, Death, where is your victory?
Death, where is your sting?
Now the sting of death is sin,
and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ!

God’s foolishness is power!

The message of Christianity is counter culture to the message of the world! The world is all about wielding power. It’s about logic and rules. It’s about influence and one-upmanship. Remember the old saying he who has the most toys wins? That’s the message of the world!

But Christianity? It’s a message of foolishness. It’s a message of faith and trust and throwing out all the logic we order our lives by.

Christianity is a message of foolishness, the foolishness of a God who would die on a cross!

Who wants to be a fool? I do! And as it turns out, the Fool Train is exactly where I want to be!

Quickly, let me share with you three things–foolish in the eyes of the world–that can make a major difference in your life–three things that ought to be characteristic of fools for Christ!

  • Pray! Prayer is our constant source of strength and communication with God. Paul urges us to pray continually (1 Thess. 5:17). It’s an attitude/ way of life that seeks to be constantly connected to the source of everything–it’s an act of trust and submission—the recognition that we are not the supreme authority. Like any other oxymoron, can you really be a Christian and not be a person of prayer?
  • Serve! Being a servant is the epitome of Christianity (how foolish is that—he who would be first is last)! It’s what Jesus did, as our suffering servant! The world doesn’t want to serve but be served and that’s exactly what we should do. Jesus said to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile–that’s service. Paul said to serve one another in love.
  • Live!I don’t mean just exist, but live. Paul tells us in Philippians to do everything without complaining and arguing–to shine. Colossians 3:17, And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him… Give God glory in good or bad and watch what happens! Live every moment for Him!

 A fool for Christ?

Foolishness is God’s way of changing the world.

Isn’t it time to be a fool for Him?

 

Fools Gold

Now Peter and John were going up together to the temple complex at the hour of prayer at three in the afternoon. And a man who was lame from birth was carried there and placed every day at the temple gate called Beautiful, so he could beg from those entering the temple complex. When he saw Peter and John about to enter the temple complex, he asked for help. Peter, along with John, looked at him intently and said, “Look at us.” So he turned to them, expecting to get something from them. But Peter said, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” Then, taking him by the right hand he raised him up, and at once his feet and ankles became strong. So he jumped up, stood, and started to walk, and he entered the temple complex with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized that he was the one who used to sit and beg at the Beautiful Gate of the temple complex. So they were filled with awe and astonishment at what had happened to him. (Acts 3:1-10)

Hidden somewhere known only to me is a bag of silver.
A bag of silver.

When I was a little boy, my paternal grandfather used to give me silver dollars made of real silver. I still have them and over the years I have added to the collection with other silver dollars and silver dimes, nickels, quarters, and half-dollars as I have found them.

As small as it is, it’s not worth much money at all. And certainly not worth the effort to acquire it, but it is my bag of silver.
And it is real.

The world is busy offering lots of valuables to us, but most of the time those valuables have the equivalent of being fools gold.

They may appear beautiful. They may seem to be of great value… But in the end, the value they bring is not worth the time and effort…

Fools Gold.

In the long run, we strive for and pursue much, but anything of this world is fools gold.

A few years ago, I would have given anything to keep my son alive and here with me. Indeed, I miss him so… and while I have no desire to leave this life anytime soon, I am often conflicted. If my life takes the normal span, it will be years until I get to cross the great divide and see him again.

Yes, I miss my son.
Some days I yet weep for all the time that has to pass.
Some days my desperation is hard for others to imagine.
But having him back? Well to him who is safe, secure, and whole in the arms of Jesus? That would be fools gold.

And while I hesitate to make you see me in the same light as Peter and John, we do have something in common…

Like them I cannot give you any silver or gold, but if you are lame, broken, grieving, and hurting—as a result of the brokenness of this world as evidenced by your own sin or failures—or the sin and failures of others—I can give you Jesus… the only thing that matters!

Les, Jr.