Saturday, November 22, 2014

Uncertain

As a pastor I face life changes every day.  Illness, death, financial problems, family issues....the list goes on, doesn't it?  One thing you know about life is that it is uncertain.  In a moment everything can change and our lives are never the same again.

Yesterday I got a note from a friend.  My wife and I love her dearly.  She told me her worst fears have proven true and she will see the doctor next week to find out more.  In a moment her life is changed.  We are praying for her.

But one thing is true for all of us...life is uncertain.  We never know what will come tomorrow, will it be success or disaster?  A sunny day or a tornado?  Health or imminent death?  Every moment we face one thing that is certain- life is uncertain, unsure and shaky at best. 

But our lives, our moments are in the hands of a loving father who offers us a life that is certain, that will not be shaken.  Although we all know this life will not last, our wealth will not last, our health will not last, there is one thing that will.  The author of Hebrews says it this way,

"Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe."

In the midst of uncertainty I look forward to an unshakable kingdom, a world where God rules, where fear, failure and death will never again be remembered.  


In the midst of uncertain days, uncertain moments I look forward to that unshakable kingdom.  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Caught "red handed"

This perfectly describes our common dilemma when God 

shows up. We are all caught "red handed." And, you have to 

laugh at these sweet boys as they declare their innocence.

 It looks so much like us as we try to tell God we 

didn't do anything, it wasn't our fault.




Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Stumbling to glory


I fear, at times, I'm much too honest about my own walk and struggle.  In just a few weeks I will come to a day that will mark 50 years of faith for me, but I still feel like a small child stumbling over nothing, falling down and trying again.  The path to become like Christ is much longer for me than I had hoped.  I thought I would be there by now, but it seems I've only just begun.


Often, I will read catchy little phrases in Christian writing that annoy me to distraction.  Here's one-  "Turn your stumbling blocks into stepping stones."  As if!  I'm still on the ground with a bloody nose and scrapped knees and you're trying to tell me how to take those stumbling places and grow? Come on!  Catchy little slogans do nothing to help me grow, to help me walk.  I need Christ and I need him constantly!

And, to be honest, it doesn't take a stone to make me stumble.  I'm pretty good at stumbling over sand, over a crack in the sidewalk.  It's never a big thing or I would avoid it.  It's always the little things that cause my fall, my failing.....and then I grieve, beat myself up and tell God I'm sorry, I won't do it again (but I will)....and that I should be past all of this by now, but I'm not.

And, then, like a child, embarrassed by my failings, but suffering in my pains, I run back to God and am welcomed by his grace, his love and forgiveness.  I'm always embarrassed to face him, to come to him and tell him "I did it again!  I'm so sorry!!"  And he forgives, he bandages my wounds and he offers to walk with me even as I stumble along.

There is a passage of invitation in Matthew that has helped every believer I know as they have stumbled to glory and it's this one, paraphrased for my purposes, but you will recognize it,

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens...stumbling and falling as you try to follow me, and I will give you rest, I will bandage your wounds, wipe your tears. Let me live my life through you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  You need to know that as you let me live through you, you will see this life is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

I'm honestly thankful that he already knows my weakness, my frustrations and he's waiting for me to come to him, once again, to begin anew with him at my side.
Truthfully, I must tell you, that as hard as I try I find that this walk of faith is impossible.....without him.  
Each time we walk away from him and tell him, "Ok, I can do this now, I've got it!"  It's at that moment that we begin to fall again.  The Christian life is impossible without Christ,  he is (if you don't mind the visual picture) my guide for blind eyes, my crutch for broken legs, my life when all I bring to any situation is death.  Without him I can't do it, and even with him I find I still stumble at times....but that's ok, he's knows me and he loves me anyway.

So Your Life Didn’t Turn Out the Way You’d Hoped

So, your life didn't turn out the way you hoped, did it?  Your great plans and dreams failed?  Now you wonder what life is all about, don't you?  What do I do now?  You might be surprised to know we all go through this.  We all find our lives different than we hoped.  Now what?  

I read this article in "Relevant" yesterday and loved the words, the thoughts, the insights.  It's an article you need to read.  Here's the link,



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Chance encounter or life changing event?

Forty one years ago today was a Sunday.  I remember it clearly.  Life changing events do that.  Somehow we remember every detail from events that changed everything decades ago, but forget what we had for breakfast this morning.

Forty one years ago for me found me as the minister of evangelism as a growing church in Arkansas.  A college friend of mine had asked me to come and help him with the church and I was glad to take a break before going to seminary.  So here I was, at the end of a worship service on a Sunday morning forty one years ago.

David had just finished his sermon and given an invitation for those who wanted to trust Christ.  My "job" (it was more fun than anything else) was to meet and pray with those who wanted to become believers and followers of Christ.

On that Sunday morning forty one years ago today a beautiful young lady came down the aisle to make a decision for Christ.  I remember her pretty face, her long dark hair.  But I was there to help her with her decision.  We talked, prayed together and then, as we closed the service, we all held hands and sang a closing chorus together.  It was a weekly tradition.  I remember that petite little hand.  It seemed so small.

But we never know whether a meeting is just an encounter that passes and we move on, forgetting the person and the conversation or if it's a life changing event we will never forget.

I have held that hand now for forty one years and it feels just as wonderful as it did that first day.  She tells friends today that she met Jesus and me on the same day, but she never gets us confused. Everyone laughs. (It is easy to tell us apart because I'm much taller than Jesus.) 

There is no way to know how God orchestrates the events of our lives and takes chance encounters that become life altering events.  This was a meeting like that for me.  A day that looms big for two lives because God was in it and we didn't know it.

Less than three months later I waited for that sweet lady at the front of the church once more, but this time to be her husband.  Forty one years later I will tell you I am the luckiest man in the world and am thankful for God's love for two young people whom he prepared to share life together.

Chance encounter or life changing event?  

We never know, do we?  

What will happen from each meeting, each encounter with someone new.  Will we quickly forget them or will our lives be changed by the encounter?  Don't ever treat any meeting lightly....you never know what God is up to.

For me, looking back on these events, I am most thankful for God's love for me that would bring such a wonderful friend and partner into my life on this day.....forty one years ago.  I love you, Joye.



Monday, November 17, 2014

Second fiddle


Last night we had the great joy of attending a concert at our church.

The concert was performed by four amazing musicians.  It was a glorious two hours.

One of the artists was Phil Keaggy, the world renown guitarist.

As I listened and watched I realized that all of them, all four of them were world class musicians.  A flutist, a violist, a pianist and singer, and Phil.  All of them could have been the featured artist in any concert and so I watched the three who supported Phil.  Each serving, supporting, a part of a team of artists making the music wonderful, but something was happening that most did not see....there was a humbling of personal pride to achieve the glory of another.  

Each of these artists had to humble themselves and take the role of "second fiddle" to make all of this work.  It was a collaboration of each to put pride aside.  They all did it well, but it demanded humility among them all for it to work.

This is our situation in the Kingdom of God.  We are part of an orchestra whose sole purpose is support for the featured artist, Jesus Christ.  Our role is to humble ourselves, play our instruments, use our gifts in such a way that the featured artist is applauded and all praise goes to him.

It demands a humbling of pride, a setting aside of our desire to be acknowledged, to be applauded and a deference to the star of the show, Jesus, the KING.  

As I watched the artists in the shadows last night I thought how wonderful it was that beautiful music was happening as they each humbled themselves and their gifts for the glory of another.  It was fascinating for me to watch and imagine their hearts as they used their own great gifts for the glory and applause of someone else.

What a lesson!  As part of a grand orchestra of saints from all history I get to play "second fiddle" so the star of the show looks wonderful and is applauded by all.  I am doing my very best when I am not noticed at all. And, as he is applauded I find joy because the whole show is about him!  


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Danger! Danger!

As I watch and read the news of the world there is one word that describes what I see all around me- danger!  And the result, the response of men and women is fear.  It's a scary world!  I don't think anyone would disagree with that.  There is no longer a safe place to be.  If it’s not war then weather.  If it’s not terror then trouble.  If it’s not drought then disaster.  If it’s not disease then dread of what might be.  

All around us the world screams "Danger! Danger!"  But as I thought about it I wondered if this is the application for the follower of Jesus Christ.  Are we really ever in danger?  Are we ever in a place, a time when dangers around us should cause us to fear?  And so, I looked up the definition for danger.  That's always a great place to start.  Here it is,

Danger- liability or exposure to harm or injury; risk; peril

And suddenly I realize that I am NEVER in danger!  I am a child of the God who made everything!  I am a son of the sovereign of the universe.  I am never in a place where the world's definition of danger affects me because I'm a son of God.

If I do suffer martyrdom for my faith it was part of God's great plan for my life and in a moment I step into eternity.  Danger is for those who fear death, but when fear of death is gone so is danger.

If I suffer financial loss and find myself homeless I am never in danger because my father will care for me.  Peril in the world may be part of God's great plan for me as I live for him.  If it's from his hand there is no danger in it.

And suddenly, as I unfold all the fears I have about life in this world, the dangers and terrible results that might come with them disappear.  When the sovereign is in charge I'm never in danger!

David, the one man who knew "fear" and "danger" better than anyone wrote these words.  Each time I read them they dispel all fear, all threats of danger in the scary world we live in,

"God is our refuge and strength,
    always ready to help in times of trouble.

So we will not fear when earthquakes come
    and the mountains crumble into the sea.

Let the oceans roar and foam.
    Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!" Ps. 46


Danger?  Never!  Everything ahead is an opportunity to see God work or an opportunity to see God in person.  When God is in charge "Let the mountains tremble".....I'm ready for anything because my Father loves me and he’s the sovereign of the Universe!


Friday, November 14, 2014

Quote of the day

"The depravity of man is at once the most empirically 
verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually 
resisted fact."  -- Malcolm Muggeridge

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Not an accident

Today is my birthday.  Today I have been a resident of this planet for 64 years.  As I reflect on the years I have lived so far I realize one thing above any other....I'm here, in this time, at this place, in this country, by design.  God has put me here, now, in this place and time to be part of what he is doing in the world.

That idea fascinates me...the idea that my life, my race, my place of residence, the time in history when I live is all designed by God.  I'm here on purpose to be part of God's work, to be part of God's eternal plans.

I'm thankful to be part of what God is doing, but more than that I'm thankful he loves me and planned for me to be here, now, in this place to be his child.  Providence?  Yes, and it's quite comforting to know God is my sovereign and I am his child.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Our help....

These are interesting days.  Days of fear, worry, unstable governments, fragile economies.  These are days that magnify the fears we all struggle to overcome.  

In one short verse, one short sentence, David deals with all of this.  Here are his words,

"Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth." Psalms 124:8

David often looks to the heavens for his inspiration.  In many passages David tells us his trust is based on a God "who made heaven and earth."  That one fact gives us a constant visual illustration of God's ability to meet our needs.

If God can make heaven and earth, then he can meet my needs.

If God can make heaven and earth, then he can help me with my problems.

If God can make heaven and earth, then he can heal my marriage.

If God can make heaven and earth, then he can give me peace in the midst of chaos.

If God can make heaven and earth, then he can calm my fears.


If God can make heaven and earth, then he can.....

The reminder of what God can do is all around us.  Just look up at the stars, look around at the creation, look at what he has done...if he can do THAT then he can meet my needs.

"Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth."  That insight is a great help for any problem you face.  If God can make heaven and earth, then he can help me!

But our world is trying its best to undermine the very foundation of our faith with a "science" that says it all just happened, just evolved, it didn't have a creator.  At the heart of modern science is the desire to explain everything we see without a God who made it. And, with that goal in mind it also undermines the source of our help.


Here's what I mean-  if God didn't make everything then how can I trust him to help me?  If he didn't make the heavens and the earth then how do I know he has the ability to meet my needs, to heal my wounds, to answer my prayers?  

Without a God who made heaven and earth I have no help I can trust, I have no one who I KNOW is able to meet my needs.  I'm left, like the world around me, in despair with no assurance of anything.  

What David wrote in this short verse in Psalms is profound.  I DO have someone who can help and it's the same one who made heaven and earth!  Because he made everything, because of his great power to do that,  I have someone who can really help me.  I have someone I can go to who can answer my prayers.  If God didn't make heaven and earth then all is lost, but....

"Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth." Psalms 124:8

Saturday, November 08, 2014

A 60 second lesson for a Saturday morning


I thought you would enjoy this short video on a Saturday morning.  It's rich with implications and meaning and all done in just 60 seconds.  I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Thoughts after an election

The big issue for me has never been about who is ruling in Washington.  Whether Republican, Democrat or any other party they are all fallen men and women who will make both good and bad choices.

The big issue for me has always been about who is ruling in heaven.  If that position is filled by the right one then whoever rules on earth is of little consequence to me.  

In America we have the strange idea that if we get the right party, the right person in office everything will be sorted out, but it's not ever going to happen.  It can't.  In the world we live in fallen men will never meet our expectations or our needs.  They can't.

So many look to the wrong seat of power for assurance that all will be well.  In this world wicked men rule, but in heaven a good king is in charge of everything and he is the one who will make all things right.  Whoever rules in Washington makes no difference to me.  My eyes are on the one who will rule well and forever and his seat of power is never up for a vote.

I look forward to the day when he rules here as Lord of heaven AND earth.  I look forward to the day when Christians no longer depend on Washington for their solutions, but on God who rules everything well.

Quotes from Dr. Henry Brandt

Last night, in a bible study I attend, we discussed a common mentor of ours, a man we had met and learned from years ago.  His teachings and quotes had imprinted all our lives.  One quote I remember and love, but don't always quote well, was "It's not my goal to get to the end of my life and compare my pile of ashes to your pile of ashes."  It was a profound statement for me, one I'm still trying to live out.



Here are a few more of his thoughts from a life of walking with God and counseling others,


"The heart of the problem is a problem with the heart.”

"You're just a prayer away from a change of heart."

"Finding relief in your problem is fine, but it will not cure the problem."

"My environment can give me relief from sin and tension, only the Lord can cure it."

"You can manage your sin, but that's not repentance."

"If it's sin, that's good news! Sin is the simplest thing in the world to deal with."

"There's no human remedy for sin."

"Jesus wants to give you peace."

"You would think that everyone would leap at the chance to get rid of sin. Not so. They want relief not a cure."

"Your walk with God does not depend on people, places, things or events."

"You don’t have a marriage problem, you have a sin problem."

"I am a victim of my own behavior."

"God's children have a limitless supply of the fruit of the Spirit."

"Biblical counseling is listening to a person long enough until you hear a violation of scripture."

"Anger is inside you, revealed by an outside source."


"What your soul needs is a check up."