Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Escape

Two days ago the rapture was supposed to happen....at least that's what some suggested.  It's so funny that these predictions never happen and yet men continue to set dates ignoring what scripture says about it.

I don't want to talk about the rapture as much as discuss this idea imbedded in the Christian mindset of escape...escape from the world.  But the world is what we were sent to redeem!  Why are we so anxious to get out of the very place God put us to serve him?

Are we trying to escape the pain? the problems?  Whatever the reason, and I'm sure there are many, have we forgotten we were put here to serve God and tell the world what Christ has done for them?  Have we forgotten that job isn't done yet?  Why do we want to avoid the very thing God asked us to do?

I'm not so sure God is pleased with this mindset.  We are called to love, share Christ, help the widow, visit the prisoner and yes, suffer for Christ.  Let's not look for an easy escape until we have done our job.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Are you not?

One of my favorite stories of the Old Testament comes from 2 Chronicles 20.  In that chapter king Jehoshaphat is faced with news of a coming army and in response he gathers all Israel at the temple to pray.  His prayer is brilliant, if not given in a bit of panic.  The prayer has 3 questions in it that frame a wonderful model for prayer.  Here they are-  1. Are you not? 2. Did you not? and 3. Will you not?

Are you not?

The king begins with the most important thing- who are we praying to.  If we start with a God big enough to help our prayers become bigger and bolder.  That's what he does.  He begins with the character of God, 'are you not?'  And as he prays about who he is talking to you can see his faith growing.

Then he moves to his second question- 

Did you not?  

In this question he reflects on what God has done in the past, how he has cared for and provided for Israel.  Remembering and reflecting on God's great works in the past is always faith affirming.

And finally, he moves to what is important to them, the request-

Will you not?

In this third question he makes his request.  When you remember who God is and what he has already done it makes your prayers for today bold and vibrant, alive with the reality of a big, active and loving Father.

So, try it.  Outline your prayers as this godly king did with three questions-

Are you not?
Did you not?
Will you not?

Perhaps, for you, as it has done for me, there will come a new excitement and growing faith as you approach the wonderful throne of grace.  He is a wonderful and loving Father and waiting for us to call.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The basics

A few thoughts on scripture and the world:

1. Don't try to change the world until you change yourself.

2. Good deeds are only defined by a good God.  Get to know him so you know what those deeds look like.

3. Never let angry words cross your lips.  They will always be words you regret.

4. Love others.  That means spending time with them, helping them, seeing them...really seeing them, listening to them, caring about their heart.  Love means giving your time and attention to the heart and life of another.

5. Clean something.  Take out the trash, do the dishes, pick up that piece of paper.  You are a steward.  Steward the world around you well.

6. Smile at other people.  There aren't enough smiles.  People are struggling and a smile will distract them from their worries.

7. There are rude and cruel people in this world.  Don't let their abuse affect you.  It speaks more about them than it does about you.  Only small people would be cruel to another.  Ignore it, pray for them.  They are hurting more than  you know.

8. Greet everyone you meet.  You never know the appointments God has in place for you.  You might just run into someone who really needs you today.

9. Find a way to serve someone every day.  A good deed, a card, a text a kind word. Serve others and let them know you care.  There is far too little of this happening in our world today.

10.  Once each month read these two passages:  John 13:34-35  and  Luke 6:27-38.  These two passages will give you a wonderful plumb line for your encounters each day.

Those are the basics.  Simple, aren't they?


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Thoughts today

Hopefully this will not be profound or amazing.  I just wanted to jot down a few thoughts as the day  moves quickly ahead.  Lately I have been thinking about my place in the kingdom.  God as placed me in this body, in this place, in this time and given me gifts and passions to use for him.  I know I will never be famous or applauded. I'm really good with that.  The applause of men has never excited me.  And, to be honest, I will find I have lived a life insignificant to most in the world, but so do most of us...in fact I would guess this is the fate of 99% of us who live our lives here.  Being seen and known isn't really that important.  Besides, it only lasts for a moment.  What does the media say?  15 minutes of fame?  That's about all we get for all our efforts.  We have to constantly revisit our purpose and reasons for living.  If we live for the applause of men we most likely will be disappointed, but if we simply live for the smile of God we will find rich and wonderful joy.  I am a watcher of people.  I watch how they interact, how they dress, how they present themselves, how they hope I will see them and realize I do that too!  I'm constantly reminded of the power of pride and my offended ego when others don't "see" me.  My pride is my great enemy.  How wonderful it would be to be free of it's power.  I recently read a book (for the third time) titled "Embracing Obscurity."  It's a wonderful book dealing with these issues.  I guess I need to read it again.  Today I'm dealing with people again, both good and frustrating encounters.  I find that most of us are just children in adult bodies.  In the last few days I have talked to several who are in the last third of their lives, but still acting like children in their emotions, still pouting when offended.  I'm not shocked or surprised because I know my own heart, but I wonder...is there anyone who has really grown up, really become mature or are we all just children trying to find Father?

Monday, April 09, 2018

Me and Hitler

Strange title, isn't it?

I agree, but I wanted to use the one name we use in villainy more than any other (and it's not mine!).  But it could be.  The name "Hitler" has become a synonym for evil.  As I thought about my own thought life and the natural way I could and would go if it weren't for God's grace I realize I could be just as bad.

You want details, don't you? But it's the same with you.  We are each messed up, desperately wicked and able to live out the worse fears of anyone we know.

And yet, God changed all of that through a terrible cross...the very thing we would do to each other if we could get away with it in our most terrible moments.

When we claim we have lived good lives and deserve to go to heaven we ignore the reality of what we would have done if no one was watching....what we really wanted to do but were too afraid of punishment.  And with that all our claims of a good life turn to vapor and disappear.

As I reflect on my heart and the way I would live without God I am more thankful for his grace than I can even describe.  If God can change a heart like mine he can change any heart.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Lingering at the Finish Line


"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus..."
Hebrews 12:1-2

I find my vocation, at this stage of life, as one lingering at the finish line of the race.  I am there to help those running their race.   I'm there to help them finish.  I'm there to cheer them on, to encourage them and be with them as they cross the tape.  

There are times of applause as they cross the line well, smiles and cheers of celebration.  There are times when my role is to encourage, to let them know they are not alone in their race.

Once in a while I find I'm helping them cross the line, helping them get to the finish line well.  Not everyone will get there with arms raised high.  Some will just barely crawl across the line and collapse. 

Everyone will finish.  My job, as support staff at the finish line, is to help them.

The finish line is an amazing place.  It's a place of smiles and applause, of tears and weeping, of pain and exhaustion.  Every emotion you have ever had will come together at the finish line.  Family will come to celebrate your finish or to weep at the way you ran.  Either way the tape comes for all of us.

Working on the finish line crew is challenging and wonderful.  What an honor!  

Today I bought a bird feeder for one of our ladies nearing the tape.  She likes to look out the window and loves birds so I got a feeder to attach to the window.  She's having a tough time finishing well.  I came into the house to see what she thought. She said, "that looks terrible!"  then she stuck out her tongue at me and told me to go away.  I smiled, said "you are welcome" and left.

Sometimes nearing the finish line is messy.  Sometimes it's funny.



Difficult days


 "You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred.  They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good.  They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God.  They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!"

This morning, as I read, I once more came to this amazing passage.  It has always fascinated me and I slow down as I read it.  In this passage to Timothy Paul tells him that in the last days difficult times will come, but when we think of difficult times we think of famine, disease, plague or natural disaster...maybe even war.  That is not at all what Paul sees.  When he sees difficult times it's connected to how people live out their lives.  

The days will be difficult because of how people live, how they treat one another, how they act.  They will be difficult because love for others will be missing, because we will be surrounded by narcissists who only care for themselves, because the veneer of civility, of people treating one another kindly will be gone.  The people around us will only care for themselves, like hungry wild beasts they will tear one another apart.

Welcome to difficult days.  Here we are, they have come.  Read Paul's words carefully.  You will see all of it fulfilled on the nightly news, in traffic as you go to work, in relationships as divorce increases, in schools as children continue to kill one another.  The days are difficult because evil is unrestrained and people vent every vile emotion they have on anyone who gets in their way.

Welcome to the fulfillment of Paul's words, the difficult days, the last days.  

So, how should we live in the midst of this?  How do we respond?  The only response to those in chaos around us comes from Jesus' own lips and it's in two passages.  I won't post the text here because I want you to read his words.  Our response is this:  John 13:34-35 and Luke 6:27-38.

Those verses encapsulate the Christian response to difficult days.  That's how we live in the midst of difficult days.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Transferred and Transformed




For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son!

The reason Christians celebrate Easter is it changed everything. It changed the world and eternity. It changed our lives from despair to hope.  It changed our citizenship from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of His beloved Son. 

When Christ rose from the dead it declared to the world he had won!  He won the victory over sin, death, despair and the enemy.  When he rose from the dead eternity changed!  Literally.

Jesus was the only one to ever rise from the dead to a new kind of life and promised that same life to those who trust him. 

Easter is special because it means death has been defeated, life has won.  Darkness has fled from the light of his glory. Sin's power over us has been defeated and our sins have been forgiven....all of them!  Even the ones we haven't done yet.

Jesus made it possible for us to be sons of God!  There is no other faith, no other religion that offers life, forgiveness, hope and promise like the Christian faith offers. 

Now, because of Jesus, because of good Friday and Easter morning, anyone...and I mean anyone can become a son of God.

Transferred from death to life.
Transformed from sinner to saint.

Transferred from darkness to light.
Transformed from despair to joy.

All because Jesus died and rose again.

He is the God you are looking for. 

Will you trust him?  Will you invite him to rescue you and forgive your sins?  It's free to anyone.

All you have to do is ask.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Tears


I live in a world of tears

Tears of loss,
regret,
remorse
and
grief

Tears flow easily when death is near
They flow more freely when it happens

It doesn't matter
that he was a scoundrel
or
that she was a drunk

It doesn't really matter
the pain they caused
or
the cruel words they used

Tears come because of what should have been,
what could have been
but will never be again

Tears come from grief, loss, pain
from what is gone 
and lost forever

Tears flow for lack of one last 'good bye'

But

soon the very reason for, 
the very cause of tears will be
wrapped up and thrown away

Soon, very soon
tears will
be forgotten
for the joy of what God has done

Soon, he says, he will wipe away every tear

Soon, he wrote, crying and tears will be no more

That means the very cause of tears will be done as well!

No more death, angry words, harsh looks, wounded souls, grieved relationships...all of it will be done, never to be experienced again

Tears are the results of something gone terribly wrong

Soon the things that cause so many tears to flow will be finished and there will never again be need for another tearful eye

Can you imagine how wonderful that day will be?


Photo: Paul Dance


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Change something!

I'm sure you have heard the invitation to "change the world" in one way or another, but honestly who can do that?

I have enough trouble changing my clothes.

We all know something needs to change, any change for the better would help.  I think it's built into us that the way things are right now is not right and needs to change so we choose our cause and begin the battle for change.  Change the gun laws, change the president, change welfare, change something!

But do you realize how difficult intentional change really is if you aren't willing to begin with yourself?  Changing the world can only happen one soul, one person at a time.  It begins with changing your clothes, changing your bed, changing your attitudes and as  you change you others around you notice and begin....ever so slightly....to change too.

Change something.  I don't care what cause you choose, but begin with you.  Change yourself into someone more loving, more giving, more compassionate, more kind and surprisingly you will find change happening around you that you never expected...even the way you view the world will change.

Change something, but begin with you.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Great books


Once in a while I will share what I am reading.  I love great books, but there are few great books written these days.  Most are shallow and not worth the time, but once in a while a great book is written.  To be honest, most of the really great books were written before television, but that's a personal opinion.  Most of the reading that challenges me comes from books written before 1960.  But, once in a while, I am surprised.  Today I am thrilled to share one of the most profound works I have read in a long time.  I just finished it and will turn back to chapter 1 and read it again.  It is worth the time!

The book is "12 Rules For Life" by Jordan Peterson.


It is not an easy read.  It will make your head hurt, but you will thank him for the pain.  I invite you to a great adventure, I invite you to read Jordan's book.  You will thank me.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Spiritual dementia

This morning I am reading Psalms 106.  It's a challenging chapter because it describes God's work for Israel and their response.  

One thing I notice repeating itself over and over in this chapter is this theme-  "they did not remember," "they forgot," "they forgot God."

In spite of all he had done for them they had developed spiritual dementia!  They saw the miracles in Egypt, the Red Sea parted, the cloud and the fire, the manna and the water from the rock....


....and still they forgot!

How is that possible?  How could they (and we) forget all God has done as if he never acted?  

To be honest, it's far too easy.  Scripture tries to describe it.  In it are elements of a hard heart, a loss of focus, lack of faith or trust in God and the febbleness of our flesh.  We are a mess!

How can we forget all God has done?  I don't know, but we do. I do! And so he gives me scripture to remind me of how easily I forget his great love, care and provision.  

In reading of the failures of Israel God is saying (as he does in 1 Corinthians 10) don't do what they did!  Don't forget to remember.

You need to know you have spiritual dementia.  You will forget what he did today and live in fear this afternoon or tomorrow.  You will have to constantly remind yourself of the great love of God.  This constant reminder of his great love is the only remedy for fear, panic and the spiritual dementia that plagues us all.  

God says, "I will never leave you or forsake you."  Don't forget to remember that.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Seeing clearly

"Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."

These two verses are from the book of Philippians, in the last chapter.  I'm sure you have heard them or memorized them in hopes of having the tools to deal with the issues of your life, but today may I add a different lens to his picture?

Do you realize what Paul is saying in these verses?  He's not giving us a way to make the things we worry about go away.  He's giving us a different perspective, a different way of seeing the problems themselves.

What Paul is saying to the Philippians, and to us, is this-  Don't forget that God is in charge of everything....even the things you are worrying about.  Worry is a distraction from the big picture- God is sovereign over everything, even the things that worry you.  You don't have to ask him to be in charge of them, he already is in charge of them and working it all out (see Rom. 8:28).  

What Paul is inviting is a way to deal with worry, not to deal with the problem.  The problem is part of God's plan, his purpose.  Paul is giving us a way to see clearly and enjoy our problems with the peace of God fully ruling in our lives.

Imagine seeing someone in a storm on the lake sleeping in the boat.  That is someone who has peace even as the storms pound.

Sleeping in the storms is a great picture of trust in God, of experiencing God's peace as the clouds darken.  The storms still come, the problems still swirl, but to be at peace in the midst of it all...what a blessing.


Saturday, March 10, 2018

Be kind


"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
Ephesians 4:32

"But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked."
Luke 6

Kindness is a rare thing.  

In our culture and world today it's every man for himself, if you don't take care of yourself who will?

But in this culture there is a rare gem that is hard to find, yet precious even today.  It's the rare gift of kindness...a grace to a harsh person, a mercy to the weary, a sweet word to the discouraged.

It's rare, but that makes it even more precious.  And, believe it or not it's a treasure each of us possesses and can give to another.

Yesterday I sat with a dear man finishing his life as he battles Alzheimers. He is far along in the disease, but he is still present at times. Yesterday he was here, but his usual happy disposition was now tearful, a bit anxious.  I felt so bad for him.

I sat with him, comforted him, stroked his furrowed brow and gave him that rare gem of kindness.  To be honest it didn't cost me anything to share, but it calmed this dear man's troubled heart. 

I wonder, in eternity, how God values that rare gift given to another?  

Be kind.  It's so easy, free to give, but priceless to the one who receives it.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

The business of dying

I find myself in the business of serving the dying.  It is the most difficult and rewarding work I have ever done.  Each day I visit those who are lingering at the door of eternity.  I see something profound in this work.  

Those who have hardened themselves to God over a lifetime now come to the end with hearts of stone, unable to seek God or even respond to him.  The hardness has left no room for God, no cracks where he can reach them.  They have wanted nothing to do with him and now, at the end, see no need.  Their end is the saddest of all.

Those who have sought him over a lifetime find at the end they will move from one breath of the air of earth and the next a fresh breath of eternity.  The transition for them will be soft, sweet, as if walking through a door into another room.  Their end of life is a celebration, a runner crossing the finish line, a discovery that they are finally home.

The contrast couldn't be more dramatic and more tragic.  And yet I pray for them all that the people of the stone hearts might be softened and find the God who loves them.  For the children of the King that they might cross the finish line with arms lifted high in celebration of a life lived for Christ.

There is nothing more important than this, that each of us will respond to God's sweet offer of his son with a "yes".  It makes all the difference.