Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
There is a passage of scripture that I often go to for comfort and reminder. It's a very strange place to go for such things, but it has proven to provide them to me. It is part of the story of the Exodus of Israel from Egypt. They have left Egypt, crossed the sea on dry land, and are being led by God with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. In the middle of this odyssey we come to this passage, Exodus 17:1 Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the LORD..... . Day by day, led by the cloud and the pillar, they are following God's leading...following him and trusting him. Then, in this short verse we find these words, and they camped at Rephidim... . They camped here by God's leading! But you must see the end of the verse to understand how important this passage is, and there was no water for the people to drink. When this passage first became clear to me this last phrase stopped me, and my response was, "WHAT?!?! You took them to a place where there was no water? And you took them there ON PURPOSE!?" Yes he did. And he will lead us to places like this....places in the desert where there is no water. Dry places, places where we ask, "why did you bring me here?" That will become clear in a moment, but you need to know that dry places are in God's plan for our lives. When you find yourself at your Rephidim know that it didn't happen by accident, God has led you there. He's working in your life....he has a plan.
Let me make this one thing clear- they were led to a place where there was no water. There were 2,000,000 of them with millions of animals, and God led them to Rephidim on purpose....to a place where there wasn't any water. Did I make that part clear yet? Why? That's a most important question to ask. Go back with me a few chapters to a shepherd in the wilderness who comes upon a burning bush. It's the same Moses who now comes to this same wilderness with the nation of Israel in tow. Why did God bring them here? Here's the reason, Exodus 3:1 Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb (Rephidim), the mountain of God. Let's skip down the visit with God a bit to this verse, Exodus 3:12 And He said, "Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain." God led them to this very place to meet with him, to worship him! But here is what they saw, Exodus 17:2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water that we may drink." And Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?" Exodus 17:3 But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, "Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?" All they saw was a desert with no water in sight. What they missed was the fact that God was there waiting for them! In the next few verses God resolves their water problem, Exodus 17:5 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Exodus 17:6 "Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink." And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. This Horeb is the rock that was split in the middle and from it came water to quench the thirst of millions for months. God provided water, but they had missed the opportunity to ask a really important question, "Lord, why are we here?" They completely missed God in their thirst for water! How often I do that. I miss God in the midst of my "needs."
So, as an expert in wilderness spirituality, let me suggest that when you come to a spiritual desert and find that you have no water the next thing you say is most important. Having been here many times let me suggest this as your next response, "Hello Father, I see we are in the desert without water. What are we working on today? How can I best glorify you through this time in the wilderness?"
When you find yourself out of work, hurting, wounded, left alone, discouraged, depressed, unhappy or simply thirsty for God and find that he has brought you to a dry place don’t fall into the trap of focusing on your need. Look around, God is there waiting for you….he has brought you to this place on purpose!
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Early this morning I'm heading for two days of motorcycling in the mountains of Arkansas with a friend. For me it's a wonderful escape and great fun. Time on a motorcycle is wonderful...it gives me time alone, time to think and clears my cluttered mind. I love it!
So, I'll update you after I get back tomorrow night.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
Time passes so quickly. One generation dies and another carries on. It's amazing to see how fast life passes and how quickly legacies are forgotten.
My wife took this photo last week of our newest grandchild, Vaughn. We have a similar photo of Vaugh's dad in my lap at this same age. (Although in the earlier photo I still had hair.) I'm amazed at how quickly one generation carries on from the next and how easily we fail to pass on what we learned in our own lives.
I just finished reading the book of Joshua this morning and it finishes with these words, "Israel served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the LORD had done for Israel." What it hints at and will make clear in the next book, Judges, is that we have a really bad habit of not passing on what we have learned, what we have seen and what the Lord has taught us, and so the next generation doesn't remember what God has done because we didn't tell them. We create generational amnesia. I have thought about this a lot as I have watched the grandchildren come along. What will they know? Who will tell them about the God I love if I don't? The books of Joshua and Judges are great reminders of how easily we lose this amazing message, how quickly the next generation abandons God. When we fail to tell them all that God has done in our lives we produce a generation that does not know God because we didn't tell them.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Growing in the Christian faith is often a challenging climb. It takes work. It demands a desire to know God and grow in your relationship with him. It often feels like an impossible climb, but reality is that true spiritual growth is rather easy. It simply takes some intentional actions on our part. The first warning of the book of Hebrews describes how easy it is to miss out on what God wants for you.
Heb. 2:1 "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away." You need to know that there are undercurrents of culture, life and the world around us that will slowly pull us away from our relationship with God....if we aren't paying attention. Hebrews warns that if we don't pay attention we will drift. As a young man growing up in Iowa I loved to canoe. We would take the canoe to the lake or to a river and simply float along. The currents would take us downstream quite easily, but if you have to get back to where you started it will be difficult. The currents that got you here are unrelenting...they will continue to pull you away from your starting point. My mental picture of this is that paying attention is the awareness of the currents around us and an intentional decision to row against those currents to pursue this walk with God. Living the Christian life is counter-cultural.
The words of Hebrews are haunting, "pay attention...so you don't drift away." If we aren't watching we will soon be carried along with the world around us and miss what God wants to do in our lives. When someone comes to see me with a problem in their life I often ask this question, "Are you reading your bible?" And, I can assure you that 100% of the time I watch as they hang their head and whisper softly, "no, but I know I should be...." Let me paint this picture more clearly for you. The boat you sail in and you are one. The river we all float in is this life. The currents are the pull of the world, the devil and our desire for other things. The oar we need to row against these currents is God's word. If you aren't in God's word then you are like the poor man in a canon heading towards the waterfall without a paddle. Doom is coming and he has no way to avert it. So, as I'm getting ready to teach through this passage tomorrow I'm thinking about these words, "pay attention so that you don't drift away..."
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Last night was a great class in the book of Hebrews. I always love teaching because I learn so much. Even after reading through the bible hundreds of times and studying it for more than 45 years I still am finding new things that amaze me. What I'm finding in these later years is more and more about Christ. Someone I thought I had an understanding of is now the person I'm most fascinated with. He is more and more amazing as I go deeper in my faith. Of course, what did I expect....he's God, why wouldn't he be amazing? But I'm wondering...and this is something that my wife and I talked about last night after the class...as we talked about Jesus becoming perfect through suffering. Since he is God, and cannot be more perfect than he is, how did suffering perfect him? What did suffering do in him that made him perfect? Didn't he already understand us and all we go through? All of these questions came up last night and created great discussion. I hope I led us through these questions well, but the deeper I go in thinking about it, the more we discussed it after we got home, the more I realize that this whole discussion has a depth to it that I am not able to plumb yet. I'm more fascinated with this man Jesus than I have ever been. What an amazing savior! So, as I think about the passage in Hebrews 2 describing this amazing and unique person, I realize I simply don't have enough in my wee little brain to understand it all and I'm ok with that. In fact, I'm glad that trying to understand him makes my head hurt. He's simply amazing!
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Luke 12:32"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.
I have seen this phrase, "Do not be afraid" so many times in the bible I thought I would look at this more closely. The word "afraid" appears in the bible more than 200 times. It's a big problem for us. Many of the phrases attached to this word begin like this, "Do not be afraid..." Here's a few verses I picked from the more than 200 in the Bible and then my thoughts...
Luke 12:4"I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.
Luke 12:7Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Psalm 27:1[ Of David. ] The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 56:3When I am afraid, I will trust in you.
Psalm 56:4In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?
Psalm 56:11in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
Psalm 118:6The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
It appears, from these verses and many others, that fear is a natural part of the fallen human nature. It isn't the way we were meant to be because God is constantly telling us not to fear, so it's clear this was not part of his design, but is part of the fall. In fact it's the first emotion after the fall. Notice these words from Genesis,
Genesis 3:8-11 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid." And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"
It appears that from the fall on we have been plagued with fear. It's the first result of sin and separation from God. It's a clear sign that we do not trust him. Why did Adam fear? He had a loving relationship with God. There was no reason for fear, but there it was, alive because of sin, and now God must constantly tell us, "do not be afraid." Jesus was constantly dealing with this and giving its solution to the disciples. In the boat on the lake he said, "why are you afraid, where is your faith?" and with those words gave us the cure and contrast to fear. When we are fearful we are not trusting God. Fear is me apart from God and the natural emotions that seperation generates. But God's constant word to us is this, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom." If fear is my problem, faith is its cure. Faith in the right one...the one who is able to calm my nervous heart. Faith in the only one who can-God. So this morning, as you begin your day, let me encourage you with God's constant and gentle admonition to us, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom."
Monday, October 05, 2009
I remember using this word when I was younger. I've heard it used by my kids and grand kids. "I'm bored" is the verbal yawn of our culture that we have simply had too much stimulation. I wonder if we are just too informed, too entertained, too stimulated and we have become numb to it all. So, what's the next level of stimulation for an overwhelmed culture? What do we do next to entertain? Are we coming to a time when nothing will satisfy the culture that has it all? It's sure possible, isn't it? This little cartoon just made me think a bit and so my rambling thoughts pour forth. For a culture overwhelmed with more information and stimulation than we can handle what will bring us to the point we say "enough!" I wonder.
Sunday, October 04, 2009
Friday, October 02, 2009
Thursday, October 01, 2009
I remember the stories of my youth as my parents told me, that as a 4 year old boy, I got lost in the corn field. Growing up in Iowa means there are corn fields everywhere. To be 4 and lost in a field of 7 foot high corn is a scary thing.
It's the same feeling most of us have at times in life. Where am I? Where am I going? Where is God? When you can't get your directions, are lost and can't see which way to go fear sets in, but this morning, as I'm reading, I came to this verse,
Psalm 138:8 The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever— do not abandon the works of your hands.
When I'm lost I can trust that he will guide me, he has a purpose for my life, a plan and he will fulfill it. That's wonderful news when you're lost and can't find your way. That's wonderful news when you don't think God is working in your life. He says he has a purpose for you and he will fulfill it...even when you feel lost.