Tuesday, October 28, 2008


A lot has happened in the Edwards' household in the last year or so, not the least of which is my retiring from the pastorate and going into a new phase of ministry. I know all that has happened has affected both Marie and I, and for that matter other family members as well. Deep in my heart I wanted to continue in the pastorate, but I knew it was time to give it up.

I was leading an adult Bible study at a Wednesday night meeting at First Baptist in Harrison just a few weeks after my retirement. I shared with the folks how it had become much more difficult to deal with emotionally charged issues in the pastorate now than when I was younger. A good friend and a great Christian came up to me after the study, put his arms around and said, "Ray, I believe that the greatest days of your ministry are still ahead of you." That word was a great encouragement to me.

One thing I have learned in my walk with the Lord is that it is important to finish well regardless of how we start. Paul the Apostle compared the Christian life to a race. He admonished us to finish the race and finish it to win. That means, we are to finish well, and even if we stumble and fall in the midst of the race we are to get up and go on.

Life is usually not a sprint, but a marathon and speed is not as importance as endurance. Runners tell us, however, that when they have the finish line in site all the extra strength they have is poured into their sprint to the finish. As they focus on the finish line they ignore the pain and the agony in their body as they try their best to break through the ribbon first.

But if the finish line is when God calls us home, how do we know where the finish line is? For me, it might be 5, 10, 20 years. It could be less, and might be more. I submit to you that the race of life we are in is really like the sleek, narrow boats full of rowers we saw recently in the Olympics. The rowers have their backs to the finish line, so they cannot focus on the finish line. They really cannot see where it is.

By The Way I have started reading a book entitled Finishing Strong, by Steve Farrar. In the first chapter Steve says of the rowers in these racing boats, "If they can't see the finish line and focus upon it, then how in the world can they row an effective race? The answer is that they focus on the Coxswain." He's the guy with the megaphone sitting at the end of the boat facing the crew. He's the only one who knows were the finish line is." The men listen to him, and stay focused on him as he calls out the cadence, gives encouragement, and challenge and leads them across the finish line.

In this boat of life, Jesus is the Coxswain, and each of us are rowers. Hebrews 12:2 says "keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God's throne(HCSB.) We must fix our gaze on Him as he instructs and encourages us and one day leads us across the finish line and suddenly we find ourselves absent from earth but present in our heavenly home.

Happy rowing!

Monday, October 27, 2008


To be perfectly honest, I have never cared much for cats. Especially those that are indoors. Maybe part of that feeling stems from my childhood. My mom never liked cats. Oh, we had cats at home. But they always stayed outside, and lived off their own ability to catch mice. I remember several times when mom started to open the back screen door and a cat was laying against it, she would force it open and then kick the cat with the toe of her shoe, and the cat would land about 50 feet away in the back yard. Such was a cat's life at the Edwards household.

But By The Way I have come to think differently about the cat. One of our neighbors in a downstairs appartment has a heart for "God's little creatures." That is what she calls the cats. They are not really her cats, but just cats that have come by. She started leaving a little food out for them. At first there were two, and now at last count there are five. She said to me the other day, "I just don't understand why they want to come around. All I did was put out a little food." I thought "Well, Duh!" Although I did not say it out loud.

And then it hit me. Cats are smarter than I ever thought they were. And they have a lot to admire. 1) They know to come to the nourishment. 2) They must somehow be able to tell other cats where to come to get nouishment. 3) These cats seem to get along with each other very well. 4) They never fight over the scraps. 5) They seem to be very content, eventhough they have to stay outside. 6) It takes very little to keep them content. 7) And finally, they know how to multiply.

There is a lesson here for the average Christian and for the average church. 1) Unlike the cat, we often get fussy if the spiritual nourishment we are receiving dosn't taste just right or is not served in the right container. 2) We are often lacking when it comes to telling others where to get some spiritual nourishment. 3) We too often have problems getting along with one another. 4) We sometimes fuss and fight over the smallest details. 5) We often express more complaints than contentment. 6) We like our "stuff," and often feel insecure if not surrounded by the trappings of our religion rather than the real heart of our faith. What I mean by trappings are the physical things we associate with our faith. Things like buildings, padded pews, air conditioning, bulletins, certain styles of music, traditions we have grown up with etc. 7) And finally we are content to add occasionally, when the Bible tells us to multiply.

I will never look at cats in the same way.

Happy fur balls to ya!

Saturday, October 25, 2008


I know I am dating myself when I say I remember Elvis coming out with his hit “All Shook Up.” But the truth is, there are times when we do get shook up. Even as believers we experience it from time to time. In John 14:1 Jesus told his disciples “Don’t let your hearts be troubled…” A good translation of the word troubled is “agitated” or “shook up.” The disciples were learning that one would forsake Jesus, one would deny Jesus, and that Jesus himself was within hours of death on a Roman cross. Jesus would be leaving his disciples, at least in a physical sense. So they were shook up.

We may not always avoid being shook up from time to time but when we are we are to demonstrate what is really inside of our heart. Matt 15:11 states, “What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.'" In other words, when we are shook up or squeezed what spills out is simple what is already within us. If bitterness or anger comes out when we are shaken then that is what is in us. When I squeeze a tube of toothpaste I can expect tooth paste to come out. When you are shaken by another person or an unforeseen event what spills out of your life?

And Oh By The Way I had an experience the other day that graphically illustrates my point. We were having quesadillas for supper one night last week. I like to pour lots of salsa on my quesadillas. The bottle of salsa was setting on the kitchen. The lid was on the bottle, but what I did not know was that it was not tightened down. I always shake the bottle before pouring. This time as I shook the bottle, salsa went everywhere…on the floor, the bar, the dining table, the walls, the appliances and both Marie and I. Our food was cold before we were able to clean up the mess. What I observed from this little crisis was very simple. When I shook the salsa bottle, salsa came out… nothing else, just salsa. The reason was simple. Salsa was all that was in the bottle.

The spiritual truth is very simple. When we are shaken or squeezed what comes out of our lives is what was already in our lives. Through our time with God in Bible study, prayer, and obedience let us allow the Lord to fill us with His character, His life, so during the worst of times folks can still see Jesus in us.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Some years ago I saw in a discipleship magazine an illustration about the Christian life based on a bicycle. I do not remember all the particulars but I do remember that the spokes represented various disciplines for healthy growth as a Christian; prayer, Bible study, etc. The front wheel represented guidance and the rear wheel represented power and endurance.

By The Way, I have recently become the proud owner of a mountain bike (My son-in-law found it left behind by a soldier family moving from Ft. Campbell, KY.) He also found a bike for he and for my daughter. Well anyway I have made a few interesting discoveries that might shed a little more light on this bicycle/Christian life thing.

Now I learned to ride the bike when I was just a youngster, and I was young also when I accepted the Lord as my Savior. I did not become an instant expert at riding the bike or at being a Christian. It was and is a process. I still can ride a bike, but since I have not practiced for a long time, I am a little shaky and uncertain. I am not as agile or as smooth as I used to be. When one does not practice his faith he becomes the same way… shaky and unsure of himself. He is certainly not a very good role model to those new believers that might be watching him. I really don’t want too many folks watching me ride the bike right now either.

Now one of the main things about riding a bike is to stay upright. I found that it is much easier if you are moving forward. Sitting still is a sure recipe for falling over, unless your feet are on the ground. Going backward is totally out of the question. If you are to grow as a disciple you need to stay upright, and to stay upright you have to move forward.

Obviously someone had left the bike out in the weather and it had set idle for a while. This caused rust to accumulate on the gear cables and the sprockets. Now I am not saying we should burn out as a Christian, but neither is there a reason to rust out. Two things contribute to a rusty Christian life:

(1) Inactivity in the area of prayer (1 Thess 5:17 Pray constantly. HCSB),
and obedience (James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only… HCSB)
(2) Not receiving the lubrication of the Word (Psalm 119:11 I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You…HCSB)
and the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18 …be filled with the Spirit: HCSB)

I guess I will need to take the bike in for a needed service job, but the best thing I can do for myself and the bike is to ride it…to put it to the use for which it was intended.
How about your Christian life? Is it time you thought about a SERVICE job? Actively move ahead through prayer and obedience. Let God’s Word and the Holy Spirit free you up to move smoothly for the Father. And again, By The Way, “Happy Bicycling!”

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Last week-end I attended a training session in Eureka Springs for those of us who are going to be leading a men’s retreat next week-end. I heard a young man give a message that he will be sharing with the men at the retreat. Those sharing for the first time at the week-end we like to hear their talk at the training session. The young man was a history teacher and I must say did an excellent job. His topic was “Discipleship.” In his comments he mentioned the fact that in New Testament times there were many Rabbis (teachers) who had disciples. But that being a disciple meant more than just merely following the teacher. It meant following him literally so close that as they traveled the dusty roads of the Holy Land the disciple would be covered with the dust being stirred up by his Rabbi. Often one Rabbi would ask another, about the progress of one of his disciples. But he would ask by saying, “How much dust does he have one him?” A dusty disciple was one who was intent on staying extremely close to his teacher. In truth a disciple is more than one who follows his teacher; he is one who wants to be like his teacher. But the disciple cannot become like his teacher (Rabbi) unless he follows him.

And Oh By The Way, I know something about getting dusty, following behind. A few years back there were four of us couples at the church who scheduled a four-wheeler ride on a Saturday. We had a great time and rode more than 50 miles that day. Though the weather was nice for such an outing, the roads were rather dusty. One of the couples was to lead the way and the rest were to follow. Marie and I had never traveled in that part of the county and did not know the directions to our planned destination were we were to have a picnic. Our choices were simply. We could fall behind the leader far enough to avoid the dust but run the risk of losing our way because we could easily miss a turn-off. We could get ahead of the leader in which case we would have been continually confused and uncertain about the roads we should travel. The best choice, the one we stayed with, was to follow close behind the leader, even though it meant getting very dusty. At the end of our trip that day the only clean places on our bodies were little white rings around our eyes were we were wearing our glasses.
The Scripture says in Luke 14:33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple; And again in Luke 9:62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
The spiritual application is clear. We are called as disciples to follow Jesus. We could fall behind so far that we lose site of which way Jesus is leading. We could get ahead of our Lord, and thereby become spiritually confused and get completely lost and maybe lead someone else down the wrong road. What we must do is follow our Rabbi, our Lord Jesus, so closely that we bear the evidence of our following Him. Our prayer life, Bible study, and life of obedience is the dust of the master that can even be recognized by others.

So the question becomes, “As a disciple how dusty are you?” How close to our Teacher do you walk? Have you allowed too much distance between you and Him? Have you tried to get ahead of Him at times? For me, I choose to be a very dusty disciple.

By The Way’s Quip For The Day

I watched the presidential debate last night. I got to wondering (tongue in cheek of course) how political groups got to be called parties. Well maybe it is like going to a fancy dinner party where 1) You want everyone to know you are there yet you wish to blend in, 2) You glad-hand everyone pretending to know them whither you do or not, 3) You accept what is offered and show gratitude even though you might detest some of it, 4) You give compliments knowing that often you are less then honest about what you say, 5) You don’t want to appear to be a know-it-all yet you try to talk intelligently to anyone on any subject, 6) You leave, hardly remembering who you talked to or why, and what difference it made anyway, 7) And yet you are sure that the party you attended was much better than the one they were having down the street. (I’m not really quite that pessimistic, but close.)