Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Monday, June 25, 2007
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Joh 4:32 But He said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about."
Friday, June 22, 2007
Psa 42:5 Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God-- soon I'll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He's my God.
Psa 42:6 When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse everything I know of you, From Jordan depths to Hermon heights, including Mount Mizar.
Psa 42:7 Chaos calls to chaos, to the tune of whitewater rapids. Your breaking surf, your thundering breakers crash and crush me.
Psa 42:8 Then GOD promises to love me all day, sing songs all through the night! My life is God's prayer.
Psa 42:9 Sometimes I ask God, my rock-solid God, "Why did you let me down? Why am I walking around in tears, harassed by enemies?"
Psa 42:10 They're out for the kill, these tormentors with their obscenities, Taunting day after day, "Where is this God of yours?"
Psa 42:11 Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God-- soon I'll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He's my God.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
I hope your Thursday is a great day, and don't let the busyness of life keep you from time with God....I know for me that's not a good thing.
Jesus understood the need for time away from the crowds. He said it better than I can-
Mar 6:31 And He *said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while." (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.)
I hope you can find that secluded place to spend time with the Lord today.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
We went over the verse at least 10 times, and I know she still had a hard time remembering it, but it was late and bedtime, so we had to quit. What a great treat for me to help her learn one of the most important truths in history...grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Many will read that and skip right over it, not realizing what it says. The two things Christ brought to the human race were grace and truth. His mission on planet earth was to provide salvation, and in that provision he revealed two things about God that we needed most- God's grace and truth.
Now the discission of all of this is a great study in theology, but this simple verse gives us the theme and overview of the whole book of John. In this short verse you see what we most needed....and for a little 6 year old girl it was just a memory verse right now, but one day she will realize how important that is to her whole life.
What a privilege for me to share this verse with Lucy.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Friday, June 15, 2007
Mat 14:26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear.
Mat 14:27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."
Mat 14:28 Peter said to Him, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water."
Mat 14:29 And He said, "Come!" And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
Mat 14:30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!"
Mat 14:31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and *said to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?"
I love this story! The story of Peter walking on water is a great story of faith and doubt...and the results of those choices.
It's a story that shows the results of Peter's faith, and it's a story graphically demonstrating the results of his doubt. The first thing that catches my imagination is Peter's bold request, "if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." Then, amazingly, in response to Jesus' invitation, he gets out of the boat and walks on water! He's the only man other than Jesus to ever do that!
Then, somewhere in his stroll on the waves he gets distracted. The text says, "But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out" He got distracted, he took his eyes off of Jesus.
The wording is captivating to me...."seeing the wind." You can't "see" the wind, what was he worried about? Why was he worried about the wind? The wind wasn't his problem, it was the water! He was already doing the impossible, why would he be afraid of wind?
Then the text continues, "and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" My question is simple- why did he begin to sink? Was it the distraction or the fear? I think it was both...he took his eyes off of Jesus, and with that change of focus he became frightened. He could no longer see Jesus' smile. He could no longer see that Jesus was still walking on the water. He forgot that Jesus told him to come. He lost focus and faith! He took his eyes off of Jesus and fear was the natural result....for you see, he was in a situation that demands God's help or you will get wet!
His cry is like many of our prayers, "Lord, save me!" I understand that prayer. It's often my prayer. It's often all I can get out of my mouth before I sink below the waves. It's funny that he would ask for help from someone who is walking on water...the very thing that is causing his fear and failure. Why didn't he call to the guys in the boat for help? Since he didn't believe he could walk on water, and his fear was proving that true, why would he call out to someone who is doing the very thing he is afraid of for help?
Peter quickly calls out to the only one who can help him. Now, I must be honest....if I were Jesus I would let Peter get wet! Serves him right for doubting, and why call out to me now that you don't believe I can help you do the impossible while I am doing that very thing as you cry out for help.
But not Jesus....he never deals with us in that way. He loves us, and his response to Peter is the same way he responds to us...."Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" Did you notice that first word? Immediately! Jesus had to be close enough to reach Peter because he simply reached out his hand and took hold of him. Jesus was only a few feet away! And he acted immediately...he answered Peter's request, and saved him. Then he asks the most amazing question, "Why did you doubt?" I can answer that question- BECAUSE THEY WERE WALKING ON WATER, YOU CAN'T DO THAT! When Peter realized that he did the thing we humans do best....he doubted God, and began to sink.
So, what do we do with this story? Here are a few observations and applications-
1. The Christian life is impossible. You can't do it without God's help.
2. It's easy to get distracted...to get your eyes off of Jesus.
3. When I get my eyes off Jesus I usually get in trouble.
4. When problems distract me my faith may falter.
5. When my faith falters the best thing I can do is pray.
6. Jesus is always closer to me than I think he is.
7. Jesus loves me, and cares about me, my life and problems.
8. Jesus is willing and able to help me when I fail.
Do you realize that the Christian life, like this story, is a miracle of God that must be lived by faith? When you find that you are beginning to "sink" realize you have taken your eyes and faith off of Jesus. When you cry out realize that Jesus is close, and willing to answer your prayer.
Faith or doubt? It all depends on where you look....who you trust as you do this impossible thing called the Christian life.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Psa 34:9 O fear the LORD, you His saints; For to those who fear Him there is no want.
Psa 34:10 The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; But they who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing.
Psa 34:11 Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Balance isn't exactly the right word for it, but there is a sense of balance in the life of a Christ follower that has in it a love for God and a fear of him all at the same time.....a coming to him for refuge, seeking after him and at the same time a reverent fear of who he is.
There's a balance that makes this possible only by starting with who God is FIRST. I think we lose our way….lose our balance… when we don't establish our faith around a correct knowledge and understanding of God.
One of the best books on this topic is A.W. Tozer's book Knowledge of the Holy. It's a deceptively small book, but rich in establishing who God is and what he is like.
In the early part of the book he writes,
"A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well. It is to worship what the foundation is to the temple; where it is inadequate or out of plumb the whole structure must sooner or later collapse. I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God. It is my opinion that the Christian conception of God current in these middle years of the twentieth century is so decadent as to be utterly beneath the dignity of the Most High God and actually to constitute for professed believers something amounting to a moral calamity. All the problems of heaven and earth, though they were to confront us together and at once, would be nothing compared with the overwhelming problem of God: That He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about Him."
I gave his book to a person who had gotten involved in a bad thelogy a number of years ago, and asked them to read it. I thought that if I could get them to think rightly about God then we could restore some balance to their thinking and theology, but when I asked later, "did you read the book I gave you?" the answer was astonishing to me. This person said, "Yes, I read it, but MY god isn't like that..."
Immediately I saw their problem. They had become an idol worshipper….they had created a god of their own design to worship. Many have done that to their own hurt. If my view of God does not line up with scripture then I have invented a god of my own design....I have grabbed my hammer and chisel and formed a god I'm comfortable with (note Isa 44:9 Those who fashion a graven image are all of them futile, and their precious things are of no profit; even their own witnesses fail to see or know, so that they will be put to shame.)
Balance in my life starts with knowing God...the God who is....and from that everything else must line up. From that foundation I can respond correctly to my life and situations. From that foundation I can find balance.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Monday, June 11, 2007
Saturday, June 09, 2007
I must tell you the story about Wilbur. Wilbur and his family were members of a church I pastored in Oklahoma. It was my second pastorate. I was young, but I already knew well how to build churches. Wilbur and his family lived near the church, and I met him as I went door to door talking to people about faith. Wilbur, his wife and their three boys became active members of our church family.
But Wilbur was “odd”. Now, you may ask what I mean by that and I would tell you that it’s hard to explain. Wilbur was partially handicapped, so he was on disability and couldn’t work. With his time he developed a number of hobbies. He was a great guy, a wonderful husband and very involved in his son’s lives. But Wilbur was “odd”.
One day I took Wilbur out for lunch. We spent the time over food talking about faith, life and family. We always had a great time together. On the way back to the church after lunch we passed a business that really bothered me….you see I pastored the Tulsa Friends Church. It was a part of the Quaker community. But right down the street from our church someone had built a bar and named it “The Friendly Tavern”. Now, that may seem like a small annoyance to most, but it was even worse than that…it was a topless bar! I felt that it was a personal slap in my face as the pastor of the Friends Church…that they were mocking me. And what was worse…I had to pass this place to get to my church.
On this day, as we drove by the bar, I made a passing comment without thinking. I said, “I sure wish that place wasn’t there.” That was all I said…and off we go, back to the church.
That night…that very night, the bar burned to the ground and was never rebuilt. Now I must tell you that I felt a sense of relief that this bar was gone. When the site was cleared it faded from my memory and I thought no more of it until…..
Years later Wilbur died. His sons called me and asked if I would come back to Tulsa to preach Wilbur’s funeral. Of course, I was honored. I have done hundreds of funerals in my life for friends and family members, but this one is my most memorable…because at this funeral I learned a very important lesson.
On the day of the funeral I went to Wilbur’s home to meet with the family and his sons. Wilbur’s wife had died a few years earlier, and I had the honor of speaking at her funeral as well, now I was looking forward to seeing Wilbur’s boys. We had a good visit, but they wanted to take me aside to talk for a minute, so we went into the bedroom, shut the door, and then I heard something I never expected. The older son said, “Dad wanted us to be sure to tell you, after he died, that he took care of that bar for you.”
I was speechless! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My little thoughtless comment had motivated Wilbur to torch a bar to satisfy my wishes? Yes, according to the boys, this was true. I was overwhelmed with thoughts of all the lives I had affected by one thoughtless comment in the car…how those little words had changed lives.
I don’t remember anything I said at the funeral, but I remember what the boys told me, “Dad wanted us to be sure to tell you that he took care of that bar for you.”
Little words…what a flame they can start. Now you surely think I have made this story up. Most people who hear it say, “Did that really happen?” And, embarrassed, I must tell you that it really did.
So let me offer to you a modern day, real life parable for these verses we began with in James, “A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything--or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire” (or a bar fire).
His name is Jim Walters.
He was one of my profs at university. He taught in the biblical studies department. Jim started teaching the year I started university, and just recently retired.
Jim had a love for the word of God, and passed that on to me. He taught the survey classes to us poor freshmen, and did a great job of communicating his love for the bible. I took every class I could with Jim, and ultimately majored in biblical studies.
It was Jim’s love for the bible that infected me, and I am forever grateful to him for that. Jim was a great professor and a wonderful friend to me.
I just wanted to highlight one person you may never meet who touched my life to help make me who I am. We are all built on the shoulders of other men and women, and they stand on the shoulders of men and women we may never know about. It is amazing how God has built his church through the lives of fallen men and women trusting him to work through them.
May we each be people who prepare a place for others to stand, may we be people who will give those around us examples to celebrate in the years ahead.
1Pe 2:9 But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God's instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you--
I would love to know who has made a difference in your life, and why…whose shoulders do you stand on?
Friday, June 08, 2007
In this format illusion and the challenge to our perceptions is entertaining, fun and thought provoking. But in real life it's not so funny. When someone "paints" themselves differently than they really are it fools us for a while, but soon we see them for what they are and we are always disappointed when the truth is revealed.
When this happens in art it’s entertainment, when it happens in lives it’s a lie. When once we have encountered a fraud it makes us suspect of everyone. When a politician paints himself as something he’s not, and we believe him, we become more jaded about every other politician after that. If a pastor paints himself as a godly man, but we find that he’s not, we are suspicious of all pastors….and suddenly the work of godly men is much harder.
This happens in all areas of life, and we must deal with the fact that we are fallen men and women…there will always be those who “paint” themselves in a way to deceive us. How do we deal with this and not become hardened to others? How do we deal with the reality of those who lie, and realize that this is not true of everyone?
Let me share briefly my solution. This is what I have done. After nearly 57 years of living I find that my vision is becoming very clear in two areas, 1. who God is and what he’s like, and 2. who man is and what we are like. Having these two things clear has helped me tremendously. Here’s how I do it. I read Proverbs to better know man, and I read Psalms to better know God. These are the two books I start with each day….a chapter in Proverbs, and maybe several in Psalms. Proverbs is for my head, Psalms is for my heart. Proverbs teaches me about man, Psalms teaches me about God. It’s the medicine that keeps me “healthy” spiritually. Now, I will tell you that I also read in several other places in the word each day, but that’s for another discussion.
Here’s my point for this discussion. I KNOW that God will always be true, always be the same, always do what he says. He is God. And I also know that I must love those around me even if they do paint pictures of themselves that are not true. I need to see them through the lens of the word of God or I will become jaded, hard and bitter. Men will always be the same…that’s just the way we are…we like to “paint”. Knowing how to look at all of this helps me keep a tender heart towards God and a loving heart towards man. It’s one of the secrets to FINISHING WELL.
Btb posted a comment that I want to add to this post. I think it adds a personal application to my thoughts. Thanks, Btb, for the thoughts-
Having been the deceiver and having been deceived by the two roles you mention in "Perceptions, part 2" (as well as others) over the past year or so; the Biblical truth of an individual’s heart and how wicked and deceitful it can be has been brought into the light for me along with the on-going need for me to be transparent. Having faced(ing) the consequences for being that deceiver, I believe this to have softened my heart towards others when they have deceived me. Thus, I must forgive/restore, forgive/restore, forgive/restore........I’m still amazed that when we deceive; that somehow we think we’ve deceived God, when in reality we’ve only deceived ourselves or others. God is never surprised by our deceit and He's the Judge.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Barna's Annual Tracking Study Shows Americans Stay Spiritually Active, But Biblical Views Wane (a portion of the article available from the Barna website http://www.barna.org/. )
"It is not unusual to spot minor ebbs and flows in what adults believe. However, the 2007 study of the nation’s core beliefs found that five out of six theological perspectives have shifted in recent years away from traditional biblical views. This includes perspectives about three spiritual figures: God, Jesus, and Satan.
Most Americans still embrace a traditional view of God, but they are less likely than ever to do so. Currently two-thirds of Americans believe that God is best described as the all-powerful, all-knowing perfect creator of the universe who rules the world today (66%). However, this proportion is lower than it was a year ago (71%) and represents the lowest percentage in more than twenty years of similar surveys.
Few adults possess orthodox views about Jesus and the Devil. Currently, just one-third of Americans strongly disagree that Jesus sinned (37%) and just one-quarter strongly reject the idea that Satan is not a real spiritual being (24%). Each of these beliefs is lower than last year and among the lowest points in nearly two decades of tracking these views.
The other changes in beliefs include greater reluctance to explain their faith to other people (just 29% strongly endorse this view, compared with 39% in 2006) and the willingness to reject good works as a means to personal salvation (down to 27% from 31%).
Given these shifts, it is ironic that the only religious belief that was unchanged from previous years was the belief that the Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches. Not quite half of Americans (45%) strongly assert this perspective." *
It seems that culture is moving away from an orthodox view of the Christian faith, and the church is following. As the bible asks, Psa 11:3 "If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do?" One thing we can do is make sure we believe correctly. As I've mentioned before theology matters, and it matters because of this very article....when Christians don't know what they believe, and are not willing to make a stand for what they believe then the church will gradually lose to the culture.
So, this is an opportunity to discuss the "fundamentals." What are those most important things that you believe? You get to pick only 5. What are the 5 things you believe and will not recant? What are your fundamentals?
I ask this because I know that most of us have not really thought through those things we believe that are THE non-negotiables. You can see by the Barna article that personal beliefs, for most people, are now adjustable....something to fit with what I believe, instead of me believing what God says.
This should be a fun discussion....I invite you to take some time to look at your core faith issues, even if you don't comment here...*Part of an article by © The Barna Group, Ltd, 2007.
Copyright Disclaimer: All the information contained on the barna.org website is copyrighted by The Barna Group, Ltd., 1957 Eastman Ave. Ste B, Ventura, California 93003. No portion of this website (articles, graphs, charts, reviews, pictures, video clips, quotes, statistics, etc.) may be reproduced, retransmitted, disseminated, sold, distributed, published, edited, altered, changed, broadcast, circulated, or commercially exploited without the prior written permission from The Barna Group, Ltd.
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Friday, June 01, 2007
At times I wish the Christian life were like that...something I could learn, accomplish and have as a KNOWING. Some may find that place, but for me I have to often revisit the basics. As long as I have been a Christian I find that I must come back to the foundational things over and over again. For some reason I lose sight of them. It's that compass check, that recalibration that helps me keep my course right.
Here are some of my basics that I have to revisit often-
1. I often have to remember who God is. That he is sovereign. That he cares. That he's loving. That he is always good. The world around me keeps God fuzzy, but the bible is very clear about God- what he's like, what he thinks, and what he cares about. One of the best books for me, besides the bible, on this topic is "Knowledge of the Holy" by A.W. Tozer. I read it at least once a year.
2. I often have to remember what Christ has done for me. I forget. The finished work of Christ didn't just provide heaven for me someday, but it gives me his life today...right now. I can live the resurrection life today, and I forget that. I read Romans several times a year to keep this clear in my mind.
3. I often have to remember what God promises. There are key passages for me that I visit often in the bible. They are the "frame" of my life, and I will stop by them many times through the year.
4. I often have to remember that life isn't fair. It seems that my heart, and those that I counsel want "fair"...whatever that means. It's almost as if we know how things should be...what's right...but it's not. It's not "fair". You are right. It won't be "fair" (whatever that is) until Jesus comes back. My dad always said, "son, fair isn't till August in Des Moines." What he meant was that life isn't fair....things aren't right....not yet. Psalm 37 helps me with this.
5. I often have to remember that God will care for me. I fret, yes it's true...I fret. I worry. Not as much as I use to, but I still do it...I have to go back to Matthew 6 often in a year to just rest in God's direction to me.
6. I often have to remember that I have a helper in this life. God has given me his Spirit to live in me and help me. I forget.....and try to live this Christian life on my own. I go to Galatians 5 to remind myself of his ability to help me in my life.
There are more. Today I simply wanted to begin the discussion. So now, let me invite you to join me. I have left a number of these basics out because I want to invite you to add to my list.
What are your basics?
What are the things you consider core to your walk with God, but must often remember?
What's on your "back to basics" list?