Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Kim's story

A dear lady in our church family wrote about her odyssey as a widow of four years.  It is wonderfully written and with her permission I want to share it with you as well.  Here are Kim's story,

"July 30th. A day like any other hot summer Texas day. But it was an extraordinary ordinary day. Up and showered and out for work for him. A shopping day for me. The sun was incredibly bright, the temperatures sickeningly hot. A phone call or two. Some texts back and forth. Shoes in the foyer, coffee mug in the sink, book and reading glasses on the nightstand, ball cap on the end table. 

Ordinary. Extraordinary. Life doesn't usually go just the way we plan it. God has other ideas. I always knew that, but never more than I have in the past four years. I always trusted God to guide my life but I never truly surrendered to Him until that July day when David died.

I was unable to go forward on my own. I was unable to go forward until God picked me up and carried me. And because He is loving and merciful He carried me for months and months on end. Life here changed forever. I had to accept that. I had to adjust to so many things. Some in the light of my every day. Some in the darkest hours of the night when it was just me and God, and breathing was praying and praying was surviving.

And I did survive. And I knew God in a way I had never known Him before. He became my partner. He became my lifeline. He was my Savior in every way. And I couldn't imagine how anyone managed to handle the terrible things this fallen world can throw at them without God in their life. And I am grateful. I grew stronger. I grew braver. I learned how to live again and laugh again and hope again.

Four years ago today I believed losing my husband of 30 years was not survivable but God proved me wrong. I am here. Bruised and battered, but I am here and life is good. I am a blessed child of a loving and compassionate God who is light amidst darkness, joy amidst sorrow, hope amidst despair.


Do you know the God I know? I hope so. If not, ask me about Him. And for those of you who have been on this journey with me, thru grieving David and then my mother: thank you. Thank you for your support, your friendship, your prayers and your love. Thank you for dinners and lunches and phone calls and hugs. Thank you for listening, talking, crying with me and laughing with me. Thank you for coming to my rescue if I called for help with everything from flat tires to lizards to plumbing to a snake in my living room. I am humbled by all of you. My cup runneth over. With love and complete gratitude from every corner of my heart.... Kim"

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Prayer

It's 6am and I'm off!  I'm going to spend the morning in prayer.  A lot to talk to God about....a lot to work through.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Five most amazing words

What are the five most amazing words you can think of?  Think about it and give it a try.  Here's a few that may stimulate your thoughts....

You just won the lottery!

Your terminal cancer is gone!

Your newborn is perfectly healthy!

I'm sure your five words are brilliant. I just listed a few to get these thoughts started, but what if the most amazing five words of all time are simply an afterthought to the one who wrote them and did them?  What if you read five words that you know are profound and unbelievable, but the one who did it saw it as simply a small thing, an afterthought? 

What would you think of someone who sees amazing deeds as simply a small afterthought?  How awesome would that person be?  The five words phrases I've listed above all appeal to us because they speak to needs, hopes and dreams, but what five words could God say that would impress you?

In the bible God has written five words that should make you stop and say, "wait a minute...what was that?"  They astonished me the first time I saw them.  And with these five words God says something about himself, his power and his view of man.  

You're ready, aren't you?  What are they?  Here's the passage,


Gen. 1:6 God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also.

In this verse is the story of creation and specifically the creation of the sun and moon, but at the end of the verse are five words that should make you pause, "He made the stars also."  Just like that, five words, almost an afterthought.  How awesome is this God who says, "I made the sun and the moon to give you light....oh yeah, and I made the stars too."

We still can't measure the number of stars.  They are more than we can imagine.  Trillions of stars, suns, planets and solar systems are included in these five words.  Do you realize what that means?  God is big, powerful, awesome, amazing, omnipotent (ALL powerful), and could have made trillions more without a thought.  That is one powerful God!

Now, in my puny little life on this tiny little planet, if the God who loves me, tells me about himself and sent his son to give me life is so powerful that the stars are an afterthought how could I ever think he can't or won't take care of me?  How could I look at the stars at night and ever wonder if he's able to help me?

In five words God has said he's more powerful than you can ever imagine and he has promised to care for you and be with you if you will trust him.  I'm blown away by that reality...the God who made the stars wants to be in relationship with me!  That leaves me speechless....and he amazes us all each night when we look at the stars.




Friday, July 25, 2014

Wounded

I see wounded people everywhere and they don't even realize they are wounded. They are affected and changed by the events that caused their wounds.  We are all really good at adjusting, compensating, trying to look and be good even when we aren't. And, if we aren't careful, a bitterness begins to weave it's roots in our hearts from the undressed, unhealed wounds of the past.  (Heb. 12:15)
I am constantly dealing with this as a pastor, but so are you as you live life with wounded people all around you. Most of us we are unaware of the wounds others have suffered, but we do see the results as they wound us.  Some wounds go back to childhood and an abusive parent.  Some come from peers in school as we heard the words "fatty" or "stupid" and never forgot them. Some wounds come from others thoughtlessness. They haunt us even today.

Others think they have dealt well with the wounds of the past, but often all they have done is put a band aid on a bullet hole.  They haven't fixed the problem, they have just covered it up. The wounds of the past are lingering and even if we are able to heal we are all left with scars and memories.  Wounded pasts make us defensive and in subtle ways twist our personalities.

So, how do we deal with the wounds?  As I write this I'm thinking of a host of faces that are the walking wounded around me.  Often they will tell you they are fine and smile, but they aren't.  The wound has changed them and most don't know what to do to become normal again.  Most have no idea any longer of what normal even looks like.  We begin to resemble Gollum from Lord of the Rings.  Our wounds have made us into someone else.


So what do we do...the human race of wounded and hurting people?  How do we find healing, restoration and forgiveness?  

This, to be honest, is the issue we deal with the most in our lives...even if we don't realize it.  These wounds are the things that keep us from growing in our faith. They hinder our walk with God.  They hold us back, just as a wheel chair would in a marathon race. 

Ok, I've written a lot about the problem, now what do we do about it? How do we find healing, rest, restoration, forgiveness? How do we deal with the bitterness of the wounds that have been inflicted and never admitted to by the offender?  What do we do with OUR wounds?

The most wounded of us all, in the midst of his wounded-ness, prayed, "Father, forgiven them, they don't know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)  As I thought about his prayer I realized the secret to healing our wounds is in that simple prayer.  

First, go to Father.  Like a child with a scratched knee, run to Father and tell him about it. Cry if you need to, but run to Father.

Second, leave the wound with him.  Did you notice Jesus didn't say, 'I forgiven them' (although he did).  He went to the one who is most offended by our sin and took the focus off of himself to ask God to deal with the wounds.  That open hand, that taking the wound to Father to deal with, takes the wound off of my heart , mind and life so God can heal me.
 -----
And, third, he told us something we need to know about those who wound us...they don't know what they are doing.  They are often acting out of their own unhealed wounds and we are the victims.  

Do you realize, when someone wounds you, they most often don't realize what they are doing?  

Can you open your hand, give it to Father and let it go?  

Can you trust him to resolve it?  

Honestly, he is the only one who can.  He's the only one who can dress and heal your wounds and the wounds of the one who hurt you.  

Ultimately, can you love the one who wounded you because you have run to Father to take care of your wounds, so  now you are able to help the one who hurt you with his wounded life and heart?  

We are all the walking wounded.  Is there healing for our wounds? Yes, and it's only in Christ, only in taking our wounded and broken lives to Father.  He knows exactly how to heal us.  And when we have gone to Father we can care for others who are wounded around us.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Satisfaction and contentment


This morning, as I'm listening to the radio, the talk show host began a monologue about satisfaction.  It was quite interesting to hear his views and as I thought about it I found myself not only agreeing with his views, but dwelling on the options as they connect with God and scripture.

His point was that satisfaction is never a destination.  We are never satisfied....we simply feed the desire in increasing doses, but satisfaction never comes, we never get there.  As I look at the culture around me I see how that has worked out.  We get the latest cell phone, but find we want the very next one that comes on the market.  We get the newest flat-screen TV, but then oooowww and aaaawww about the commercial showing us the flat-screen we didn't get.  We get a new car, but think....if only I had that one.

Satisfaction is unattainable. It's an eternal quest for something we will never get.  The frustrations drive us to get more, the newest, the next, and in this quest for satisfaction we are frustrated, always trying to fill a bottomless pit of hunger that can never be satisfied with things.

Solomon talked about this in Ecclesiastes when he wrote, 
"Everyone’s toil is for their mouth, yet their appetite is never satisfied."  In another passage he wrote, "the eye is never satisfied." No matter how much we have seen we want to see more.  I think that is why Internet porn has proliferated so quickly.  Although every human has the same  basic body parts our minds lust to see more...to see the girl I haven't seen yet.

In contrast to the endless circle of satisfaction fulfillment is the heart that has chosen contentment.  Contentment is not having all you want.  It's not even being happy with the full stomach after a nice dinner.  It's the decision to rest in and trust God with what you do have....even if it isn't enough...because God gives us what we need.

Paul described it this way in Philippians when he wrote, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

In contrast to the endless circle of pursuing satisfaction is the course correction we make when we trust God and rest in what he has provided.  It is enough because he said he will meet my needs.  When I find my satisfaction in Him instead of things the decision to be content is a peaceful rest from the furry of MORE.

Contentment is a rest in the one who provides all I need and more.  When I find satisfaction in God contentment is the great reward.  And then, whether I have a little or a lot I can enjoy it or lose it and never fret over any of it.  

Contentment or satisfaction?  Pretty easy choice really, isn't it?




Monday, July 21, 2014

"AUTHOR! AUTHOR!"

(photo by Steve Hixon)

If you've ever been to a play the finish is most exciting.  The cast and crew come on stage and take their bows and then the audience begins to chant, "Author! Author!"  It's a compliment to the author and the desire of the audience to applaud the author for his work.  As the bows are finished the author of the play is acknowledged and celebrated as the creator of the great work you have just witnessed.

This morning, as I read in the book of Acts, I came to this phrase spoken by Peter as he talked about Jesus, he called him the "author of life".  The phrase is one I have read many times, but this morning I stopped for a moment and rolled those words over in my mind.  The author of life.  It all came from him...he made it ALL!  Who made it?  Jesus did.  The very one we read about in the gospels walking about Israel is the one who made the dust he walked on.  Imagine that, the author of life entering his own creation to provide a new kind of life.  Who else could do that but the very one who made it all in the first place?

The author of life.....all that is or ever has been was made by him!  And now, in the gospels he comes to create once more, to provide eternal life to his creation.  When I look around at creation I see an amazing work of art.  Everything is so wonderfully made, so intricate, so detailed. And now, in the gospel story, the author himself comes to finish the work, to complete his masterpiece.  I can't wait for the day when we will all stand and cheer, applaud and celebrate the author of life.  Author! Author!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mormonism

Last night I finished teaching a four week summer course on Mormonism.  It was a great time for the 50 people who attended and worked through this with me.  I think one of the revelations for those in our church is how different the Mormon faith really is from Christianity.

A few years ago two Mormon missionaries boldly approached me and began to present their faith.  I responded with a few comments about the differences and one of them said, "We believe the same things you do."  Shocked by the claim I asked him, "Do you know you're lying to me or don't you know what your church teaches?"  After a quick blush he responded, "I know I'm lying to you."

The differences are dramatic and the desire by the Mormon church to "look Christian" is very deceiving.  As one author wrote, "Talking to a Mormon is like trying to climb Jell-O."  The reason it's so difficult is that every word we use to describe our faith has a different meaning to the Mormon!  The first task in talking to a Mormon is to define terms.  After that the difference begin to become clear.

For the Mormon everything they believe about life, salvation and eternity rests on the their faith in the word of one just man- Joseph Smith.  If you study him carefully I think you would be very reluctant to put your eternity in his hands!

With all of that said the class was fun and our people who attended now know more about the Mormon faith than most of the Mormons they will encounter.  If we can talk to them in love and with a bit of knowledge I truly believe God will open blind eyes and help many to see what they have staked their eternities upon.

Is the Mormon faith Christian?  NO!  Not in any possible way.  Do they worship the same God we do? NO!  For the Mormon is salvation by faith alone in Christ alone? NO! With just a few simple questions like these it becomes clear there are dramatic distinctions that make an eternal difference.  I pray that your encouters with the young men who knock on your door will give you an opportunity to share the love of Christ with them and tell them about the only God of heaven and earth, the God of the Bible.

Monday, July 14, 2014

It's a bend, not the end....


We humans do not like the unknown! We want straight roads and sunny skies.  Anytime there is a bend in the road that changes our direction we struggle and complain.  There is no way to know what is around the corner and the unknown is what we are afraid of.  

I might have a wreck, lose my job, have to move...I might get sick, lose a family member....any bend tells us of a change, a course correction, the promise of the unknown and often, if we are honest, the bend makes us anticipate the end.  Since we can't see what's ahead we expect the worse.

But some of the best scenery, the best drives are on winding, bendy roads.  The excitement of what's next can be more thrilling than the fear of what's ahead.  A bend is a new opportunity to trust God for the unseen, the unknown ahead.

And, honestly, for the Christian there is never really an end....just a gentle bend into eternity...a new course that will never end.  As our lives come to  bends in the road...sickness, financial problems, fears, losses....realize it's just a bend.  Although you can't see the road ahead there is one.  It's a road designed for you by God and there is no end....just a simple bend that will find you in eternity.  What a ride!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

To blog or not to blog, that is the question

This whole blog thing was very much a fad in the last decade.  It hit a high note in the first decade of this century and has gone downhill ever since.  Just a bit ago I looked at a number of other blogs on this platform and most have been abandoned years ago.....last post 2010, 2009, 2011.  It's clear our culture is on to the next thing that will engage our interest, but that too will pass.


My purpose here is not to tell you all about me, but to write about God and his work in my life.  I do plan to continue doing this.  I may have to change platforms, but the concept and what I'm trying to do is still good.....even if all the blogs around me have been abandoned.

Saturday's cartoon


God sees me


Many of us, over the years, have memorized scripture. We memorize it because these are God's words to us. They inspire us, help us, teach us. Paul wrote that all of scripture is inspired and so it's all valuable to teach, to guide, to help us. Here's a verse for you to memorize,

Bunni, Azgad, Bebal, -Nehemiah 10:15

You're smiling, aren't you? You are thinking how can this verse help me? As I read this verse, among a list of other names, it struck me that in a world where we seem to disappear into the crowd of billions God sees us. God sees me. He sees you. He knows my name. 

I picked this verse from the many in this passage because here are three men you will never hear about in literature, never know more about than their names and these simple facts- They lived during the difficult days of Nehemiah as they rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. They were leaders of the people. And, most important, they signed their names to the list of those who promised to follow and obey God. Now, for more than 3,000 years, their names are read and remembered by millions who have no idea who they were, but God knows.

Paul wrote that all of scripture is profitable, so as I read a verse like this I wonder how this verse helps me, guides me, teaches me. Here's what I get from it....God sees. He notices those who follow him. He sees us. Psalms says God is intimate with the righteous and here, among a list of 44 names, are three who decided to follow and obey God in difficult days. And for their faith we know their names. They promised to follow and obey God. We will know nothing more about them until we see the Lord, but we know this one thing- God sees.

Friday, July 11, 2014

A year ago today

A year ago today my dad passed away.  He was an amazing man and I love him dearly.  Life wasn't easy for dad and mom, but they made the best of it and modeled how to live for us kids.  Today I'm celebrating one man who lived his life, the best he could, to the glory of God.  Thanks dad.  Can't wait to see you again.

Little things


Proverbs 11:1 The Lord detests the use of dishonest scales,
    but he delights in accurate weights.

Have you ever wondered why a verse like this is in the bible?  Have you ever read something and really didn't know what to do with it? 

This is a short verse, a pragmatically simple one, that reveals God's concern for even the little things.  In biblical days they would measure grain and other products on the scale to determine price.  Often a dishonest merchant would "tip the scale" by making the weights that counter balance the product inaccurate...thereby making a bit extra on each sale and cheating his customer.  The customer may have thought he was getting a pound and walked away with only 15 ounces.

Over time the merchant made a lot of extra money, but what this verse highlights is that God hates the dishonesty that would cheat a trusting neighbor in a purchase.  It's really just a little thing, but it reveals the heart of God.  He wants us to treat each other right, to be fair, to be honest and loving in our affairs....even in how we measure what we sell to others.

These short words not only speak to God's hatred of dishonesty and cheating, but they tell me how far he goes with this....even down to the weight on the scale!  And, to be honest, this isn't about the weight of the product, it's all about how we treat each other.  God hates it when we value stuff more than we do the people around us.  At the core, it's a heart issue, isn't it?  What do I value more?  The stuff I can get from you or YOU?

When I deal with you fairly I'm saying you are more important that the material goods we trade.  That's the issue- what's most important to us?  God's concerned about these things even down to the last ounce of our interactions with others.

Even the little things are important to God because they speak to what is most important to us- the stuff or the people?