Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Little things

Yesterday was a long day for us. We took my wife's mother home....340 miles each way. I told Joye that we should describe it as going 340 for lunch, and then coming home. It was a great day...huge rain storms all around us, lightning everywhere...we even saw a tree on fire from a lightning strike.

But the little things of a day come into focus when something goes wrong. Part way back home the car started to act up. It would flash a warning light on the dash, and then the motor would shut off for a moment. It was worrisome...suddenly, in southeast Oklahoma in one of the small towns, we saw a dealership for our car and pulled in. I told them about the light, and would they check to see what was wrong......and we headed for the waiting room.

And there we sit...waiting. How much will this cost? Are we stuck here for the night? What is wrong with the car? After an hour the tech support lady comes to see us, like a doctor after surgery..."You're ready to go." she said. They had hooked it up to the computer, checked out everything, drove it 11 miles to make sure, and we were ready.....then the bill....I went to the cashier to pay for their work and the cashier said, "there is no charge, have a blessed day." Now I'm confused....where am I? This isn't the world I live in....these people are nice, and telling me to have a blessed day! Where am I???

With relief, and a little joy over the encounter we get in the car for the 3 hours we have left....and I notice something. The car is running better. The mileage is better. Something is different....it's not so sluggish as it was. They did do something to the car and it was running great! So off we go...glad for little things... little blessings God gives us. Now I'm embarrassed for my worries in the waiting room. God is in charge....he likes blessing us with even the little things.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Quote of the day

This is a quote I used in my sermon this morning, and will again tonight. It was part of my closing comments and I think it speaks to the very heart of the Christian life....here it is:

"If it pleases you, always and only, to do what pleases God....you can do as you please." *

-Major Ian Thomas

*from The indwelling life of Christ by Major Ian Thomas, page 70

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Time for a smile....

Praying for "eternal miracles"


I love words. I love words that don't always fit together. I love ideas that make me think outside of my box.
The other day, without thinking, I made a comment to someone using the phrase "eternal miracle." It was an accidental word connection, but it made me think....
I hear so much about wanting a miracle here and now...a healing, money, a car, an answer to a need in life....and yet I thought...most of what we want is temporal, earthly, temporary.

In using this phrase "eternal miracle" my imagination began to soar....what could that mean? For me it means a life is changed in such a way that there is an eternal result...an eternal miracle....it means that salvation for a lost soul IS that "eternal miracle"...a life changed for
eternity!
Physical healing is only for a few years...and then the one healed will die anyway! Money will meet a need for today, but then it's gone and we need more. I'm not saying we shouldn't pray for temporal miracles- healing, money, needs.... we should pray for those things, but I find myself suddenly more interested in praying for "eternal miracles."
I think I will focus my prayer time on those kind of miracles....I'll get to enjoy those miracles for millions of years....I'll be able to see those people forever to celebrate their "eternal miracle."

Friday, July 27, 2007

Getting ready for Sunday

I'm preparing a message for Sunday....it's such a challenge...to pray, study, think (hard for me), prepare, write, rewrite, pray, think some more (harder as I go), study......

I think a sermon takes me about 40 years to prepare....and near the end of a sermon prep time it feels like it's taken that long.

Trying to balance study, prayer, the role of the Holy Spirit and what I must do is always hard. I find that I pray like crazy, study till my eyes hurt, write, rewrite.....and then....as I get on stage to speak I pray, "Lord, here I am, use me for your glory, speak through me, say what you want to say..." And somehow, I don't know how.....God uses me. The understanding of all of this eludes me, but I'm thrilled to see what God does.

In my prep this week I came across a quote I wanted to share with you. It's a simple one, but I hope you will linger over the words for a few minutes...here it is:

“If it pleases you, always and only, to do what pleases God….you can do as you please!"
- Ian Thomas

Thursday, July 26, 2007

God's blessings

I must admit that I am a techie nerd. I love gadgets, but I have come late to the ipod party. I just recently got an ipod and I love it. For me it's part entertainment and part education. I have about 10 gigs of music loaded- mostly Christian stuff and a lot of different kinds of music in addition to that....jazz, classical, instrumental, new age, world...but the bulk of what I have loaded are podcasts- sermons or teachings from guys I respect and want to listen to.

The funny thing is that I just noticed I have over 350 podcasts on my ipod now and I don't think I have had time to listen to even 30 of them, but they are there when I get time. I guess my goal is to listen to all I have stored on this little unit before it wears out....that's a good goal, right?

All the new technology is great...it's a great tool to use and I will...when I get some time....

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Encouragement


Heb 3:13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
One of the realities that I am keenly aware of is that I cannot live the Christian life in a vacuum. It is a life that must be done in community. I need other people....both to encourage me, and for me to encourage.
I'm in a community of believers that has been strengthened and challenged by adversity, but I am still amazed at those "sheep" I meet who have wandered off from our church family, and blame someone else for their isolation. THEY were the ones who left the body, and yet they blame someone else? What this tells me is that they have allowed sin to harden their hearts, and they blame others for their loneliness and isolation from the body of Christ....it's very sad to see.
We need to encourage others to "keep going", "don't give up", "trust the Lord", "I'm with you." The tendency to wander off and harden our hearts is more common than most of us realize, so, in your own life, look for ways to encourage others in their faith, encourage them to stay involved in the fellowship of other believers. We all need the love and encouragement of others. We are in this together. So, let me encourage you- don't give up, trust the Lord and keep going, God will help you and so will the body of Christ...don't wander off from the fold.

1Th 5:14 We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Animusic - Resonant Chamber

Something fun for your eyes and ears.

Monday's cartoon

The dreaded comment of encouragement- These kind of comments are always meant well, but...they come to compensate for other comments we may never hear. It's one of the battles of our culture....one of the challenges of a pastor....I'm sure that if the congregation had remotes they would be pushing the next channel button....or more likely the mute button in some of our services. This is a funny cartoon, and it made me smile, so it's Monday's cartoon....have a great day.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

The hand of God

There is a term used in the bible to describe God's work in the lives of man. It's the term "the hand of God." The exact phrase is used in the bible only 14 times, but the idea is clear- God works in the lives of men and women on planet earth.

It's also clear from scripture that God is spirit. He does not have a body as we do, so the term "hand of God" is simply a metaphor to describe God's work in our lives.

In 1 Samuel this text is found- 1Sa 5:11 They sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines and said, "Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, so that it will not kill us and our people." For there was a deadly confusion throughout the city; the hand of God was very heavy there. For the Philistines it was not a good experience to be under God's hand...he was judging them for taking the ark of the covenant. This is the experience of some today....they sense they are under "the heavy hand of God" and according to John 3 they are. What they need is to turn to the pierced hands of Christ to receive the wonderful gift of salvation from the loving hands of God.

In 2 Chronicles God works in a different way- 2Ch 30:12 The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the LORD. This verse gives me the sense of a shepherd gently working in the lives of his people to move them together and work in their midst. It would be great to be part of God's work in his body as his hand touches us in this way.

And, finally, Solomon describes the work of God's hand in this way- Ecc 2:24 There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God. This describes God as the provider, and his hand as the source. What a beautiful picture....God providing, by his hands, all our needs.

But somehow we corrupt this wonderful picture in scripture of God's hand touching and working in the lives of men....we look for ways to get him to do what we want....we have an agenda! I read this quote a few years ago in a report written about a prayer meeting held in the Dallas area, "There was enough power in that room to move the hand of God." Who do we think we are? How arrogant we have become....God is not forced into any action by man. He is the sovereign of the universe!

I prefer these verses as I interact with the hand of God-

Psa 31:5 Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have ransomed me, O LORD, God of truth.

Psa 31:15 My times are in Your hand; Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me.

Psa 119:173 Let Your hand be ready to help me, For I have chosen Your precepts.

Psa 139:5 You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me.

Psa 139:10 Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.

Lord, I willingly desire to be in your hands, led by your right hand, provided for by your gracious hand.....by your hands I am blessed, and one day I will see those nail pierced hands for myself....for your hands show your heart....your hands show your love for me. I welcome your hand in my life, oh wonderful Lord.

Quote of the day

"The best evidence of the fallen heart of man is our desire to live according to law."
-Steve Brown

I was listening to Steve yesterday on the radio and he made this comment in passing. I thought it was profound so it's the quote of the day. What are your thoughts on this idea? In just one sentence Steve has created a cascade of thoughts for me.....our desire to please God OUR way, the core of any other faith but Christianity, the tendency of Christians to build a law structure....etc. Think about this quote for a moment, and tell me how it has played out in your life.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Powered by the unseen

Joh 3:8 "The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

The Christian life is a strange thing- we are led and influenced by someone we cannot see to travel as he leads. It's a strange relationship....the unseen Spirit of God living in and directing the life of the Christ follower. I often feel like one driven by the wind...sometimes in a direction I don't want to go...and yet God is in charge of my life, he's directing me....leading me...blowing me towards HIS goals. It is, in many ways, a mystical experience, but it is a real one. The Spirit in me is not a ghost, he is the living Spirit of God working out his plans in my life. I don't always know where he's "blowing" me, but he has a plan, and I can't wait to see where we end up.

Years ago I went sailing with a friend. He had a 37' sailboat. We set out on a very calm day, but halfway across the lake a storm came up. The winds went from 10 miles per hour to 50 miles per hour. A fun day of sailing turned into a fearful ride. I still remember my fears....I had never been in a storm like this. 3' whitecaps rolling over the boat. The boat itself was leaning over at more than 45 degrees. I was holding on for dear life...then I looked over at my friend, the sailor. He was wet from the rain, but smiling! I couldn't believe it....did he see what I saw? This was a bad storm, and he's smiling? I asked him why...how could he smile...how could he be having fun? He said, "Don't worry, the keel weights 7,000 pounds. This little wind can't hurt us." And it didn't. We sailed back to port with a new lesson. Even in a storm if I have a good keel (God's word) and a good sailor (the Holy Spirit) I can sit back and enjoy the ride.

Pro 20:24 Man's steps are ordained by the LORD, How then can man understand his way?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Corn!

Corn, glorious corn!

We had a wonderful visit from friends of ours in the church, Bud and Brenda....they just got back from Iowa, and brought back several bags of fresh, just off the stalk, Iowa sweet corn. They made a home delivery and brought us some of their treasure. Being an Iowa boy myself I will tell you that fresh Iowa sweet corn is almost like a dessert....it's wonderful. This time each summer we anticipate an opportunity to get a few ears of this wonderful "gold".

So, tonight we feast! Iowa sweet corn....butter....a little salt....

.....sorry for such a "corny" post.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I've got nothing.....


Years ago I pastored a Quaker church. I still remember a specific week as I made preparation for the Sunday sermon. I remember that it was a busy week, and getting time in the word to prepare for the sermon was difficult. So it came down to Saturday......I worked all day Saturday pouring over the word, praying, sweating....and I got nothing! Panic set in! This was the day that I realized something very profound- Sunday always comes.....at 9:00 AM the next morning I would be in the pulpit......whether I had something to say or not! It was an agonizing night for me....I don't think I slept at all. I still remember the night....and then here it comes...SUNDAY.

I got dressed for church, no sermon. I went over to the building and unlocked it, no sermon. I got the coffee made, no sermon. I greeted the church family......knowing I had nothing to say....It was painful.

And then, the most horrible thing happened- church started! We sang....took the offering...prayed....had a sharing time....and there I sat......NO SERMON! It's a preachers nightmare.

Then it happened....it's my turn.....I walk to the podium and did the only thing I could do....I said, "I have studied and prayed all week and I got nothing. I don't have a sermon. God must have given it to one of you, because he didn't give it to me." Then I sat down......

For a moment...silence. Then one of our men stood up and said, "This is really exciting. I have been excited about sharing this all week, and wondered if I would get to." And he did. He preached the sermon. He did a great job.

I will never forget that week. The embarrassment of being on the platform without a sermon...and yet God worked it all out. He humbled me. He taught me to trust him. He taught me that he wants to use all of us in the church. He gave me a great story to share with you these 30 years later....and now I can laugh.

So, today....for this blog....I've got nothing. One of you must have the message for the day, because he didn't give it to me.....

What's God doing in your life today?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Monday's cartoon


The perfect cartoon for a blog titled "FINISHING WELL."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Church

1Pe 2:4 Welcome to the living Stone, the source of life. The workmen took one look and threw it out; God set it in the place of honor.
1Pe 2:5 Present yourselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life, in which you'll serve as holy priests offering Christ-approved lives up to God.


This morning, my last day of vacation, I took the Sunday morning to attend two different churches to, 1. see what other churches are doing, and 2. to fellowship with other pastors I know in the area. It was an interesting morning.

The first church was a "stealth" baptist church. The service was traditional. I enjoyed the music, and the pastor had a message about membership...it really wasn't a "time in the word" day, but I enjoyed the service anyway.

The second church was a Community church. It was a much smaller fellowship, and even more traditional in worship style...more high church. The pastor literally did everything- worship leader, anouncements, and sermon (reminded me of my early days as a pastor). I really like this pastor. He's a young guy and really has a love for the Lord, his people, and the work.

It struck me that each of us, in our different ways, are building stones in the building of Christ's church. Each of these pastors lead their church in a different way than we do at our church, but they love the Lord, and their people are growing in their faith. We are all serving the Lord and building the church together....we are not competing with one another, but we all work for the same Lord building into the same greater work...the Kingdom of God.

It will be exciting to see what God does through each of us as we serve the Lord in these different ways.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Bowling For Soup - I Melt With You

I went up to see my son this afternoon. We always have a good visit. We got on the topic of friends. It was an interesting discussion. Ian has made his home in the town they live in for more than 10 years, and he's very well known there. In fact, some of his close friends are the members of the group "Bowling for Soup". I remember when they were the opening act for Ian's group, and now they "have made it". I just thought I would share something completely different with you today, and now.....BOWLING FOR SOUP!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Saving moments

One of the sites I visit and enjoy is Flickr. It's a photo sharing site. I love this place because I can see the world here from the eyes of those who live in it. It's fascinating to see what people photograph now that everything is digital. Here's the message on the site this morning-

"There were 1,681 photos uploaded in the last minute."

That really caught my attention and made me think. WOW, 1,681 photos were saved to this site in the last minute! Here are a few of those photos-


There are photos of places, people, things, and some pictures that make me wonder, "did they mean to take that picture?" Having worked as a photographer in years past....I love it! It's our way to save a little bit of history...a moment in time...a way to remember an encounter, a place, a person. It's our "written" history for this time. We no longer write about our lives as we did in generations past, now we photograph them and post them on the internet.

It's no longer the stories we write that will speak about us, it's the pictures. We all want to save those moments, those places, those people in our lives...to remember.

And yet, it will happen to us as it did to the last generation...our pictures will end up on restaurant walls as decoration. People will sit to dine and ask, "who was that?", "what did they do?", "did they mean to take that picture?" Quickly, in less than 100 years, we are forgotten, and unless we write our names on the back of the pictures, no one will know or remember who we were.

But there is one who remembers....there is one who keeps track. That has always amazed me...that God is watching us. He knows us, he remembers us, he knows and remembers our victories and our hurts. He celebrates our wins, and grieves with us when we grieve. There is one who remembers me when everyone else has forgotten...he loves me, and has my picture hanging on his wall.

Pro 5:21 For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the LORD, And He watches all his paths.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Resting

I'm nearing the end of a two week vacation, and have really enjoyed the time of rest. I can't remember ever taking two weeks off at the same time in my entire adult work life, so this has really been nice. I think I might do it again.

Rest is nice! To get away from the usual...even if you love what you do...to rest for a while has been very much needed for me. I can see why Jesus made the disciples step away from the busy ministry they were doing to rest....we all need it.

For us it's been riding the motorcycle to Colorado, spending time with friends, reading books, sleeping, EATING....it's been a "what do you want to do?" time....it's been nice.

I am finding, as I grow older, that there are some basic things that I must do to finish well....and here's my short list of important things:

1. read the Bible, 2. pray, 3. spend some time each day in quiet, 4. read great books, 5. take care of my family, 6. find some good friends and pursue those relationships, 7. keep a journal, 8. REST, 9. turn off the T.V., 10. take time each day to just dream a little...about anything, 11. live for eternity, not just for today, 12. memorize Ephesians 4:29, 13. work hard, 14. put other people first, it will make life exciting.

What's on your list? Do you have one? If not....make your list of important things and use them to finish well!

(Share your additions or your own list in the comments...I'm sure I have forgotten something important.)


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.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Not cut out for religion






My sweet wife, Joye, has posted a video poem "Not cut out for religion" by Jude Simpson that I invite you to watch. It's a very well written, thought provoking poem. You can watch the video here.

Twelve Girls Band - Carnival (Live)

Once in a while I share music with you that I like. My wife found this group, I think you will really enjoy their music.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Reflections on a day

I was just thinking back over our week away. It's funny that something so enjoyable can really become old quickly. Saturday I rode home from Breckenridge, Colorado in one day....840 miles....all on a motorcycle. It was fun for the first hour...then it was the endurance of just getting home. The same thing....mile after mile....more miles to ride. I listened to a number of sermons on my ipod, that helped, but then there are the miles....it was a long day. On a motorcycle you have to deal with the wind, the smell, the noise, the heat, the dirt of the day...you are in the middle of it all...and it's tiring.

There are times my walk with God feels the same way....like a long day on the motorcycle...hot, smelly, noisy, dirty..."when do we get there?" I wonder if the hardship of the walk of a Christian discourages some from finishing? It is hard, it is demanding...it takes work....it's dirty....and yet there is "home" at the end of the ride.

My day last Saturday started early at 6am....and I was off, heading south. It was cold, refreshing, I was rested and ready to get some miles on the bike. But hours happened, the noise happened, the cars, the heat, getting tired...it wears you down, and soon my moods and thoughts changed from a fun day on the motorcycle to an endurance test to get home.

I realize that I often do the same thing in my Christian life. I start out fresh, ready to go, and then things happen....and I lose direction, I lose focus, I get tired. Why don't I have enough sense to stop and rest? Why don't I stop...take a break....walk away from it for a bit? Probably for the same reason I would ride 840 miles in one day! I just want to get the task done....but my walk with God isn't a task.....it's an eternal relationship that has begun here on earth. I need to pace myself....realize that I need endurance....it's not all done in one day....it will take the rest of my life....

I think the one thing I realized is that I don't have to do everything today, right now...I just need to pursue my walk with God and do the next thing in front of me. I have need of endurance because the walk will take me the rest of my life....I don't need to finish it today.


Heb 10:36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.

Monday, July 09, 2007

A scientific theory

We just got back from a week in Colorado, and had a great time. One of the things I was looking forward to was our ride through Rocky Mountain National Park. We were told by our friends that we would see antelope, possibly moose, deer, black bears, and mountain goats. They must have all been on vacation to Yellowstone because we saw nothing!

So, as silly as it sounds I have applied the scientific method and concluded, by my experience, that there is no wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park. It's all a hoax to get tourists to come to the park, spend twenty dollars and drive through the park looking for wildlife. According to the scientific method I have proven conclusively that there are no wild animals in this national park, so don't waste your time....I have looked, and there's nothing there.

Except for one animal which we saw everywhere....by my own observation this is the only wildlife in Colorado, and here it is:



Of course this is silly. Many other people have gone to these same parks and seen all the animals we missed, but isn't this same point clear regarding God himself? Our arrogance to declare that God does not exist because we haven't seen him, or what we consider proof of him? How arrogant of us to assume we know enough or can see far enough to know our experience is valid.

I thought my own experience in Colorado spoke clearly to this same conclusion drawn by those who say there is no God. It's just as silly as me saying there is no wildlife in Colorado...just because I haven't seen it....doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I'll just have to go back another time.

God is alive and well, and able to be "seen" by those who look. My one trip through an empty park proves nothing....the animals are there somewhere, we just didn't see them. And God is there....my limited experience and lack of vision does not prove he doesn't exist, it simply proves that I didn't see the God who is there.....I just need to look again.

I hope you don't mind my humorous attempt to connect my experience with what others do to God....it was just something that seemed to fit as we rode through the park. I hope it makes you think, and puts a smile on your face. And to all those animals who were hiding from us...I'll be back...I'll find you...I know you're there somewhere!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A quick update



Vacations are a strange thing- we travel to exhaustion, spend money to abandon, eat strange food to indigestion....and call it vacation. It's great!

Joye and I just got back from a week in Colorado, riding the motorcycle in the mountains with friends.

It was a great week.

Our friends go to Colorado every year and told us we would see all kinds of wildlife. The only wildlife we saw all week were chipmunks.

I hope to be back to posting in a few days. We have missed you all, but have had a great time of rest.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Knowing Christ

We are in the middle of a wonderful week of rest in Colorado. Today, my wife and I are taking a day to just rest, read, walk, enjoy the mountains....and I'm thinking, what is the most important thing in my life? What is it that I must work on to finish well? What is worth all my efforts and time?

I'm thinking about the important things....a time away from the busy life I normally live gives me time to think about these things.....what's important? What is worth all my attention?

I am convinced that the most important thing is this...something that Paul wrote....

"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead."

I, and many others before me, am drawn to these first five words, "I want to know Christ...." I'm thinking that the most important quest in my life is this one thing- to know Christ. This quest is worth all my time, attention and affection. This quest is worth all of me. I'm on this quest, but often I get busy, and forget my most important passion- to know Christ.

My personal battle, and having time away helps me see it clearly, is that I get so busy doing things for Christ that I lose sight of the prize, the quest, the goal- simply knowing Christ. How do I do that? How do I get so busy that I forget HIM? ......but I do.....and I must stop often to remind myself that knowing him is my goal....knowing him is the prize...pursuing a relationship with him is the goal of life. It's that quest that defines "finishing well."

So, again, maybe for the 1,000th time, I revisit my prime goal in life, and with a sigh realize that I have gotten too busy again and I forgot.....it's knowing him....that's the goal.

I want to know Christ! It's the battle cry of the Christian life. It's the passion that will drive you on. It's the most important quest you will ever embark upon.....to know him.....so that one day, when I see him face to face, it will be my first look at someone I have known intimately for many years.

So today, I begin again with a clear vision of my goal, my quest, my passion- I want to know Christ!