Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Quote of the day


"Lord, what will you have me do? Teach me to do your will,

for you are my God. Send forth your light, Lord, to guide me;

teach me to use the present time to your service. Forgive the

misuse of what is past, and may I never blindly count on an

uncertain future." -Francois Fenelon

Personal

There is a reason for my last post on "the guide."  I'm searching for paths in my own life.  It strikes me that it's not so much the path, although that's important, but who I am as I walk the path...whatever path I travel.  In other words I have to constantly revisit this issue-  it's not so much which way I go as it is the person I am as I go.  God's will for me, as I understand it better, is not about where I go, but about who I am as I go there...the kind of person I am as I encounter others.  Does my life draw them to God or make them think, "oh, there is another one of those pompous Christians."  My life, as I walk, is more important than where I walk.  Who I am is more important than where I am. As I watch Paul in the book of Acts and his letters I see a man not so concerned with where he is, but who he is while there. Whether in prison or on the road, whether floating in the ocean after a ship wreck or sitting by a fire to warm himself...for Paul it was who he was, not where he was.  More and more I'm looking at this as primary.  Some ask (a friend and I visited about this over coffee this morning) "what's God's will for my life?" I think now my response is simply this-  It's not a path or a plan, but a life lived by the Spirit of God regardless of where I am.  It's Christ in me, the hope of glory.  It's God loving others through me even when they mistreat me. It's trusting him even when I have no idea where we are going.  It's resting in him even when the storms are raging.  God's path is not a "somewhere" but a "someone."  His goal and plan for me is that moment by moment, day by day I become more like Christ.  That's God's plan!  And it's not about where you live or what you do or what car you buy, but it's about Christ....moment by moment, in every situation, you becoming more and more like HIM.  That is the path.  It's never a where. It's always a who. Christ.

The guide


It's easy to get lost
There are so many ways you can go
So many paths to take
So many voices saying,
"Go this way!"
and others,
"No, this is the way."

We need a guide
We need help
Which way lead to life?
Which path leads home?

Without a guide
we would be lost

Some say it doesn't matter,
every path leads home
But most of us
know that can't be true

How do I find the way?
Which path do I take?
How will I find the way?

David, the king of Israel,
wrote these words,
they help me,
comfort me,
give me hope...

Perhaps there is a guide
maybe there is someone 
who knows the way

"Who is the man who fears the Lord?
He will instruct him in the way he should choose."

There is a guide!
There is someone to show me the way
He's the God of creation

Who is my guide?
He's the God of glory!




Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Incomplete

It's hard to leave something incomplete, undone.  



When we know how a thing should look and it's not complete everyone knows it, we  know it.



And yet we live in a world of unfinished, 
incomplete people.  


People who aren't done yet.  Incomplete lives. Not quite finished.

That's why we fight with each other, struggle for power, and live in the midst of such chaos and conflict. 

We struggle to be complete, but refuse to let our designer complete us as he had planned. 

And so, we try to find completion our way....through power, relationships, money, success, fame, education.



But it doesn't work. The feeling that all is not right, that all is not done lingers.  We all know it, we all feel it and we each try to find a way to feel complete. 


Paul wrote about this dilemma in Colossians and said,

"For in Christ all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete."

Like an intricate lock, we are looking for the key that will open us, complete us, but according to Paul the only key for the human lock is Christ himself.  Only when we know him, have him, is a human complete.



And, honestly, without Christ we remain unfinished, incomplete.  The only key that works is Christ himself.  He is the only one who completes each human and makes him or her truly human for the first time.

Until we come to him and let him finish his work in us we will remain......incomplete.

  

Monday, July 25, 2016

Angry!

I have a dear friend I meet with regularly.  He's an adult dealing with severe mental illness.  It became a real problem for him after university and a degree in robotics.  Now he's living with elderly parents, trying to think well and live a normal life....but it's hard.

The little things we do naturally, the things we don't even think about are ongoing battles for him.

This morning I got this e-mail from him.  It's honest, but he's angry!  Here are his words,

"Mike, Thomas here...
Mom and dad have $25 in their checkbook...
Mom and dad refuse to let me ask family for the money we need...
and they refuse to ask from family money they need that mom and dad need badly..

I'm just plain angry about it...
God is forcing me to trust him like mom and dad trust God and it happens every month...
I'm just plain angry about it..."

Now that's honest!  I was humored that he's angry because God is making him trust.  None of us want to do that, do we?  We want bank accounts full of money, cabinets full of food.  We don't want to stretch our faith.  And when it happens we become angry at God.

At least Thomas is honest about it.  And yet, when we are forced to trust God with our lack we are so much richer for it.  Whether we have enough or not our faith grows and our eyes are on God for what we need.  

I wish we were as honest as Thomas when times like this happen for us.  To be able to say to God, "I'm mad at you because...." is the most wonderful place you could be.  In those moments you are forced to talk to him, trust him and let go of your own security.

Lord, first, take care of my friend and his parents. And then, in each of our lives, stretch us to trust you when all we have is a loaf of bread and one stick of butter in the cabinet.  



Thursday, July 21, 2016

Gender

Last night, in our summer classes, I had the great privilege of talking about gender issues.  In these days this is a very emotional topic in all communities.  Christian or not, gender and identity is hotly debated.  And, last night was no exception!

We had great discussions about issues of gender identity, homosexuality and transgender lifestyles.  I must be honest that even some of the words we use as Christians are offensive to those who have these identities, but we did the best we could to navigate difficult topics.

Most of us don't reach out with love and grace to those in other communities.  Our fears keep us isolated.  But we desperately need to build bridges and relationships with others no matter their identity or faith.

When we put real faces and lives to these images of "gay" or "trans" it changes everything!  We then have people whose faces come to mind as this topic is discussed, friends we love, and when love enters the discussion it changes our rhetoric in a way that grace and truth can be heard.

Here's the goal for each of us, a goal that Paul described in 1 Corinthians 6,  

"Or pdo you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? qYou are not your own, 20 rfor you were bought with a price. sSo glorify God in your body."

When we encounter anyone outside of Christ don't forget that this is God's goal for them....that they and we might each glorify God in their bodies.

So, how did we finish last night?  I hope we finished with more questions than we started with.  I hope compassion was ignited.  I hope we began to see others through Christ's eyes.  I hope their walls were broken down and some were drawn to open their hearts to love and care for others no matter what their identity.

AND, I hope we more effectively share the only answer to the heart need of every man- Jesus Christ, God's solution to all of our sin problems.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Glorious explorers

Only those who have trusted Christ are living beyond their lifespan. 

They have chosen to go beyond death and live out into eternity. 

They are the bold ones, the explorers who are not afraid to live out into eternity. 

It might mean giving up a pleasure now for eternal pleasures later. It might mean giving up bread now for an eternal feast later. It may even mean giving up clothing for others to be eternally clothed in light. 

Only those who have trusted Christ are bold enough to live out into eternity, 
to live beyond this life. 

What glorious explorers they are!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The goal of my life


"The goal of my life is not to get to the end of it and compare my pile of ashes to your pile of ashes."  -Dr. Henry Brandt

There is so much more to this life than 70 or 80 years!  

In these few years we have each of us is making an investment in eternity, making a downpayment on the events that go beyond our lives.

Soon, far too soon each of us will come to the end

 But for many who are living beyond their lives into eternity their end is simply a glorious beginning.

How sad some believe that this life is all there is.  

When you die, you're dead.  

But how do they know that?  How are they so sure?

Did they explore eternity past and future, every dimension of space and time to discover that this is all there is?  Of course not!

Their dogmatic statements are made entirely in ignorance.  

They can't know this is all there is

And what if death isn't the end?

Their goals are not set high enough, far enough, broad enough.

If you are only living for a few years here to get all you can you're missing the best part!  Your goals are too small!  You are living a tiny life.  How sad.

Is death the end?  Oh no, it's only the beginning!

Soon you will see
Soon you will know
Are you ready?


Notes

I keep a box of notes and cards
Notes others have give me
Cards they have sent
Words of encouragement
Messages of thanks

They go back
into
the 
1970's

This evening I opened the box
and roamed through history

It's a history of lives
that our lives
have 
touched

It was encouraging

It refreshed me

In those cards were names
of people I don't even remember

but they describe
how
we 
encouraged them
and
helped them
and 
made it easier
to bear their struggles

That old cardboard box 
is rich with jewels and precious treasures

Not treasures of worth to anyone else
but
of great worth to me

I imagine the Bema will be like that

A day when we will discover 
the many lives our lives have touched

A day when we say over and over again, 

"Wow!  I never knew!"

A day when we all rejoice in what God did with those moments
when we asked him, 

"Lord, would you use my life today?"

Most of us never see the fruit
but there is always fruit when God is at work

One day we will open a box on the riches and lives we have touched and proclaim,

"Wow, Lord, I never knew!  
Thank you for using my life for your kingdom!"


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Glorious words, cool water

Have you ever just needed a bit of encouragement?  A bit of cool water for your soul?  Have you ever felt dry, empty, discouraged?  

Then slowly read the words below....don't rush, take your time, and let them sink into your mind and heart.  These are glorious words, cool water for thirsty souls!

"We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.  What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?  Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?  Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself.  Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?  (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.  And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."

I come to these words often to remember, to remind myself that there is a bigger picture, that I'm part of a grand plan by a sovereign God and that he has provided everything, literally everything I need for life and godliness!

And it's all in Jesus Christ!

Only in him can any of us find all we need, the cool water for a thirsty soul, glorious words for hopeless lives.  Only in Christ is all we need for now and eternity.

Feel better, don't you?

The fantasy of autonomy

I'm fascinated by a culture that thinks we are accountable to no one...that we can do as we please, live as we like, indulge any passion we have and then are angry at God for holding us accountable.

I think, in part, that's the heart of many atheists.  One leading atheist of the last generation said, "I refuse to believe in a god I have to be accountable to."  His honesty is to be applauded.  His reason for atheism is his unwillingness to answer to God in the end, but we all will.  We all must.  There is a day when justice will be done and the records made right.



But back to my topic.  Somehow man has deceived himself into thinking he is autonomous, that he needs or reports to no one, answers to no one, and is....in many ways....his own cute little god.

The truth is that none of us really are all alone and accountable to no one.  We all live with the knowledge that there is a God and he's in charge, that one day I will have to deal with him....and for many, understandably, that makes them furious.  How dare a god of any kind hold me accountable for my actions.  I'm my own man.  I can do as I please as long as I hurt no one else.  

A lengthy article can be written about all of this, but God sums it up very well, very simply by saying....the one who thinks he's autonomous is a fool.  End of sentence.  

Now, what do we do with this God who won't go away?


Monday, July 11, 2016

All SOULS matter!

This morning I'm thinking about the events of the last weeks. There are so many voices, so many emotions, so many fears and angers. In the middle of this mess we easily lose our way. Some are focused on "black lives matter", others on "all lives matter" and still more talking about "blue lives matter." All of those are true, all of the voices are passionate, all want life to be valued. We all want that, but do we remember that life is short and then we face eternity? Did we forget that above "all lives matter" is this- "all souls matter!" Voice your passions about the temporal, but never forget the eternal. That's the message of the cross....ALL SOULS MATTER TO GOD! And Christ came to give us the life that really matters...the life that will never end. May we be as passionate about the eternal as we are about the temporal.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

God, me and sparrows revisited



I know why worship music is so powerful and important...it stays with you and sustains you through difficult days. This photo and the words of friends going through difficult days made me think of this old hymn and its words-
...
Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come, Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home, When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He: His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
...
I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free, For His eye is on the sparrow, And I know He watches me.
“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear, And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears; Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
...
Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise, When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies, I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Reflections

Like many my age, I’m thinking back and looking ahead. Life has happened so quickly, passed by so swiftly, that I suddenly look around and exclaim, “hey, wait a minute, that ride went way too quickly!!”

Life is short. I heard that said when I was young, but never believed it. In the early years we think time crawls, but as we age it moves more quickly and soon it’s hard to keep up.

It seems only a few days ago that my brother and I were riding bikes and exploring the world in our small town. We chased dogs, built forts, pretended to be soldiers on secret missions. The imagination was such a wonderful gift to young boys. The only requirement our mom had was we were home by dark. She had no idea where we were, but it was rural Iowa, and it was the days when life was much safer.

Soon college, then marriage, kids, diapers (I hated diapers!), a new job here, a move there…time kept passing and before we realized what had happened the kids were grown and I told my wife, “I think I’m old.” It was a random thought that came from the pains of life and the fleeing hair on my head.

All that to say, at this moment in time, the most important thing I ever did in my entire life was trust Christ as my savior and surrender my life to him. All the rest, both good and bad, have a completely different color, a different taste because of that one decision in 1964.

Life is short. Enjoy every moment, but know this - trusting Christ and surrendering your life to him is the most important thing you will ever do. There is nothing more important than that.

Now, looming ahead is eternity. How wonderful to look back and know that God has worked in my life and to look ahead and see him at the finish line. Soon we each will cross the tape and hopefully gain the rewards of a race run well.


Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Hope focused

"Fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter

Hope is a wonderful thing.  

It gives promise for tomorrow and the ability to endure today.  
Hope is vital for life.  When we give up hope we die!  

Often, in war time, stories are told of prisoners who have given up hope.  They turn their faces toward the wall and within days simply fade away and die.

We cannot survive without hope.  

But hope placed in the wrong things causes... 


despair, 

fear 

and anxiety.  

When what we hope for is not able to bear our dreams and fears that hope only makes today worse.

When our hope is in man despair always comes because man will always let us down and disappoint.  We were never meant to be the hope of another.  That place is reserved for God alone.

This morning I am dwelling on Peter's words, 


"fix your hope completely..."  

It's a hope built on faith in the promises of God. It's a hope founded on sure things and not on the passing promises of this politician or that leader.  Hope in man will always disappoint.

Hope focused on God and his promises makes it possible to endure even our worse days...days of sickness, loss and war, because ahead of us we have a hope and his name is Jesus Christ.