Monday, February 28, 2011

The unseen hand

I just finished reading the book of Esther. It's an amazing book that doesn't mention God once, but you can't read it without seeing his hands all over the events of each page. God is everywhere in this book, but not mentioned once. Strange, isn't it, that we are often so unaware of his unseen hand as he directs the events of life and our world?

Esther is a great book to help us see things clearly in our day. The great sovereign of the universe is still working in the events of history and in the lives of men and women to accomplish his purposes. He's still doing amazing things just as he did in the lives of Esther and Mordecai.

"Who knows," said Mordecai, "perhaps you have come to this place for such a time as this." Those words could ring loudly in each of our ears. God has placed us where we are and when we are to accomplish his great work on planet earth.
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Even if you don't always see what he is doing know that he is busy about working in time and history for his glory. When they write the story of our lives you will see his fingerprints everywhere.

Knowing God


We can only imagine it. No one has seen it. Artists draw pictures of it, but we have no idea what it would be like, what it will be like when all of creation has the knowledge of God. What a difference that will make. It will affect how all of creation interacts with one another. Knowing God will change everything. Here are Isaiah's words as he looks into the future to that day,

Isaiah 11:6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.

Why are all these strange things going to happen? Because all the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord. Apparently we don't have that knowledge now. What a difference knowing God will make for everything. The picture Isaiah paints is vivid. It's surreal. It's inviting. Imagine the perfect day. This will be what it looks like and it's all based on knowing God.

The atheist will tell you that we can only have peace when we all turn away from our notions about god, but just the opposite will be true. It's only when we know him that peace will come for all of creation.

Here is Paul's prayer in Ephesians 1:17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

Why would knowing him better be important? Because it changes how I interact with everyone and everything! Knowing God affects the world around me. It's the only thing that will bring our universal longing for peace into reality. Why will the world suddenly change and become a peaceful place? Because " the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea." It's only when we know God that the world becomes what we always dreamed it would be.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Advertising sin

I'm fascinated by the way the world promotes and advertises sin. It's packaged so nicely, in such a pretty package, that we are often enticed into its trap, but sin never fits a good adjective. You should never hear "good sin" or " nice lie" or "healthy hatred" but we do. We dress sin up in a pretty outfit and claim it's "ok." But the words don't fit, they don't feel right. No matter how hard we try junk is never "fine" it's always just junk. No matter how we package it sin is still just sin. It's ugly, dirty, destructive and never, as Paul writes in Galatians, has any fruit to show for all it does. Advertising sin has become a fine art in our culture, but it's still just sin....it's still missing the best that God designed us for.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A new old book


My wife and her Kindle keep me busy. This week she's reading an old book by N.T. Wright. It's a book I haven't read, but what she has been reading to me is so good I had to get a copy. I'm looking forward to reading it for myself. I don't know how I missed it when it first came out, but I did. The book came in today and I'll keep you posted on my thoughts.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hard hearts, blind eyes and dull ears

Mark 8:16 They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”

17 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?


I've been thinking about my own walk with God a lot lately. I wonder why there are times of passion and love for God and then times of coldness. I can't tell you how it happens, but it does in my life. And then I came to this passage a few days ago. I began to see a pattern in my life....a pattern of coldness that makes me unable to see God's word clearly or hear his voice well. It's what Jesus described as a hardened heart. I hate to admit it or tell you about it, but I'm a victim of my own problems more than I want to admit. I'm really good at letting my heart become hardened to the things of God and then my ears and eyes are affected as well. It's a strange malady. One that the disciples, living in the presence of Jesus himself for three years, suffered from as well. Becoming dull, cold, insensitive, unable to see God's work and word well are all part of a hardened heart. When it happens we miss what God is doing. We don't see it, we don't hear him, we miss Him.

Jesus' words to his disciples are haunting, "Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?" These are words that speak to me. Is my heart hardened? I think that today it is. I'm working on it. The remedy? A step away from the roar of the world, the distractions around, a time to pray and be quiet, a time to ask God's spirit to break up my hard heart so I can see, so I can hear, so I don't miss him as he works in my life.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Cookies

Saturday's cartoon


It's always a surprise to us when we realize we are wandering, but it's part of each life. The surprise for us is our internal sense of knowing where we are going is suddenly shocked to realize that we are wandering in circles! Welcome to the human race....or should I say the human merry-go-round?

Friday, February 18, 2011

The cascade of chaos

If you watch the news you will notice that something is happening.

It's rippling across the globe.

It's chaos.

That's the word the news media is using. It started in Cairo, but it has spread across the globe and is increasing. The cascade effect, the discontent from every country and quarter has erupted because of frustrations over work, food, governments and religions. Chaos is erupting everywhere. It's unnerving. It's a cascade of discontent that is causing chaos. It's the perfect setting for someone, anyone to come to leadership and bring peace to the world.

I think these ripples of chaos are only the first glimpses of what is to come. When you see all that is coming don't fear or panic....instead look up. The Lord's coming is closer than it has ever been. Perhaps he will come back today....perhaps today.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Don't you care?


Mark 4:35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

The disciples, in the midst of fear and crisis, asked a question we have all asked, "don't you care?" Their crisis was the sea and storm that had flooded their boat. Their crisis was their apparent impending death....and so they wake Jesus and ask, "don't you care?"

Have you ever asked God that question in your own life? Have you ever wondered? Jesus' response to the question from the disciples was action, not words, "He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm." He demonstrated, in a most dramatic way, that he did indeed care!

Does he care for us in the same way? Yes! When we come to him with all our fears and worries, our panic and dread, when we come to ask, "don't you care?" Jesus takes action. The one who created the universe spoke to the wind and the sea that he had made and they obeyed. Does he care for you in this same way? Is he aware of your crisis of faith? Your fears? Your panic? Yes! Invite him into your boat. Go to him with you own question and time of need. You will find that he does indeed care for you.

Their response? "They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Who is this? He is the Lord of glory! Creator of heaven and earth. Does he care for you? YES! Bring your own sinking ship to him and watch his loving response. Does he care for me? Yes, indeed!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Simple reflections

My sweet wife and I had a great day together yesterday on our anniversary. As I think about the day I also thought about something else. It suddenly struck me that we each only live this life for a few short years and then we are gone. What struck me is how amazing it is that another person would be willing to spend those few short years with me. What an amazing thing marriage is that two people would give their lives to each other and spend them together. What a gift, what a commitment, what an amazing thing it is that two lives become one for these few short years and we gift each other our lives....our only lives...to be with each other. It's a simple thing, but I'm profoundly impacted by one other person who would spend her only life with me. I am blessed.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sowing seed, seeing fruit


There is an interesting parable that Jesus told about a farmer and his field. It was really a story about the word of God and our lives. Here's the story explained to the disciples,

Mark 4:13 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy.17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

Any farmer worth his pay will know that if you don't put seed in the ground you will never see a harvest. Somehow, in our day, many Christians I meet don't believe this is true. They have the strange idea that somehow God should just make fruit grow in their lives without any attempt on their part to, 1. put some seed in the ground or, 2. to be a field that can grow something.

The story Jesus told speaks to an interesting reality- it's easy to get distracted and end up without any fruit in your life. There's a lot that catches a life and makes it unproductive. If you know that you will realize how important this sowing seed thing really is.

Here's another thing to note- all this soil, these different kinds of soil, are all in the same field....in the same life. I have times when nothing grows and other times and places in my life that are wonderfully fruitful. It's all part of a life lived with distractions. A life lived in a fallen world.

But the key for me is this- I have to throw some seed in my field! If I don't do that then nothing can grow. In other words I have to get into God's word and read it! If I don't put his word in my mind, in my heart then the world will put it's seeds there. My life is like that field, ready to grow whatever I throw on the soil. It doesn't care what kind of seed it is, it's job is to produce fruit. And so, each life will see a harvest. Some rich with produce and other lives full of thorns and loss.

The key for me is this- that I get God's word into my life, my field. If I do that then God can make something grow....there's a harvest coming. There will be a harvest IF I plant good seed.

Special people, special days


Today is a great day! Today my wife, Joye, and I celebrate 37 years of marriage. It's a strange thing to write because only old people are married that long and we aren't old yet, but what a wonderful blessing to have such a sweet lady as part of my life for all these years.

I am a different man because of her and I know I have influenced her life as well. It's such an interesting thing...this marriage idea that God came up with...that two people could live together for a life and become part of each other is so many ways. It's wonderful when you can see what God does in two lives. How he makes them different, how he makes them one. I'm blessed to be able to be part of an amazing relationship and most thankful for my sweet wife, Joye.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day


Like many other men I wait until the last moment to get cards or flowers for those special days. This morning, at 4am, I was at Wal-Mart to get a card and flowers for my sweet wife. I was surprised by how many other men were there as well! I'm glad I'm not the only one to wait until the last moment. For the rest of you guys who wait until it's almost too late today is Valentine's Day. Cards, flowers, candy, balloons and stuffed toys seem to be the choices made by some of the guys this morning....at 4am.....at Wal-Mart. Have a great day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Every blessing


Eph. 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Every spiritual blessing? What an amazing statement! But here is something even more amazing...he HAS blessed us. It's a past tense event. It's already happened, we already have EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING IN CHRIST.

Those words are profound and hard to grasp. In other words we already have, in Christ, every spiritual blessing there is to give. They have all been given out. There aren't any more to give, God gave them all in Christ.

In Christ we already have every blessing God wanted to give us. That truth causes Paul to revert back to a praise style that David used in Psalms. It begins with "Praise be to the God and Father..." It's the beginning of this amazing book of Ephesians. Paul begins his thoughts with the most profound statement anyone could ever make- In Christ we already have every blessing there is to give in the heavenlies. I can't wrap my thoughts around that. I don't think we understand how important that is. Most of us are busy about asking for things that God has already given in Christ. He can't answer those prayers because he already has...in Christ.

So, with all of the blessings God can give already given what are we to do? That's the great joy of every believer...the joy of discovering and unwrapping the gifts already given, scattered through God's word and waiting to be revealed in our lives. Every blessing. What an amazing thought. What a wonderful God.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Recovering


I know I haven't posted often in the last few weeks, but a trip to Kenya and recovery after has been difficult. And, to be honest, it's another valley time for me. These low times, these valleys, are dry and empty. It's hard to inspire others when it's a struggle to just keep going yourself. Most pastors won't be this honest about the walk of faith, but it's a reality of our frail human condition and a problem for all of us.

I know that to survive these days I must stay in God's word and I do. It fascinates me that during days like these the living words of God seem dry and sterile. I know they aren't, but in these days it seems that way. I wonder, as I read, what is blinding me to the living message of these amazing words? What is causing me to see only dry, sterile words when I know God is speaking? How do I remove this hardness, this dullness from my life?

It's a place I've traveled before. I know all the signs in this country. It's not my favorite land, but I know it well. During days like this it's urgent for me to pray and yet, I must be honest, prayer and time with God visiting about the struggles of the moment, seems to be missing. How do we get so far from the very things that will help us survive these days? I think about the children of Israel walking through the desert and complaining the whole way.....even as God provides water, manna, quail, a cloud to cool them and a pillar of fire to light their way. It makes me smile to realize I would a have been a really good Jew. A whiner, a complainer, a grumbler, someone who misses all that God is doing in my life so easily.

But recovery is near. Part of the battle is simply rest. Time to step away and be calm, sleep, pray and think. I live a life full of people and there is a need for all of us to step away and simply be with one person....with God. I'm doing that this morning. God is so good, he's so patient, so kind, his grace and mercy are fresh each moment and much needed by us of the human race. I'm grateful for his patience as well. What a loving Father, what a gracious savior, what a kind Spirit to care for us, love us and woo us towards the goal of intimacy with him and a life transformed by his presence. I'm getting there, but in these moments is a bit of recovery.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

An artist's blog


Believe it or not.....I know an amazing artist. Her name is Cheryl White. She just started a blog. You can see her work on the blog here.

She will have a web site up soon, but I thought you would like to see her work.





Public vs. Private

This morning I read an article by an atheist writer. I like to read his thoughts because he makes me think. Of course I have to sort through the anger, harsh words and bitterness that comes from his past, but he has a lot to say. This morning his topic was public prayer. His arguments were compelling to argue that we should not be busy about public prayer, but pray privately. So, I began to think about the broader picture. What about me should be public? What should be private? Should all of my life be lived for the public square or should some of my life of faith be private for only God to see?

Those questions began to rumble about in me this morning after a time of rest from the long trip to Kenya and back. We all live in cultures where we become numb to the cultural nuances of our faith lived in a society. Not everything we believe is correct. Not everything we do is right, so how should I live? What about me should be private? What should the world see?

Immediately I think about Jesus' words in John 13. These words really bother me because they tell me something about me and they tell me that God has put in the minds and hearts of those who are not Christians what they SHOULD see in my life. It's really very simple, but very convicting. Here is what should be seen,

John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

The command is simple and clear, isn't it? We are to love one another. That's it. Simple, clear, evident....but did you see HOW we are to do this? That's where the rub comes, "As I have loved you," The model for this is how Jesus lived and walked in a fallen world. That's how we are to love others as well. That's what they should see! If they don't see me loving them as Jesus did then I have failed!

But here's the part that bothers me the most. It's as if God has placed in the world's common mindset what this should look like. The lost man, the atheist knows what I should live like. God built it into him to know what a Christians should look like and when we don't live that way they become bitter, angry and reject Christ. Did you see what Jesus said in verse 35? "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” The world knows what a Christian should look like in the public square. We should be men and women in love with those around us. It's the mark of the Christian. It's the sign that what we believe is true. It's the lifestyle that will silence a watching world.

So, what should be private? Honestly, most of my Christian life should be private. What should be public? My love for others.

Let's turn down the volume on lifestyles, morals, what people should do, what they shouldn't and let's live out these simple verses. I wonder, if a few believers ever did take Jesus' words seriously, what might happen around them....I wonder.

Monday, February 07, 2011

An early finish, but a great one!


It's a great grief to lose a friend, a family member, a mate to death. Death is awaiting each of us with no idea of when our days will be used up. Psalm 139:16 tells us that God has already set our days, determined our lifespan. None of us knows when we will exit this world, but we all will.

A sad day for me was our arrival in Rome on the way to Kenya recently. It was at that moment we found out that a good friend had died unexpectedly. My good friend, Bob Millard, had died. Bob and I were friends for decades as we worked in the oil business and then in the church together. Bob and I spent a lot of time together talking about oil, life, faith and family. I always looked forward to our visits.

Bob loved the Lord. He dearly loved his wife, Colleen and his boys. Every visit we had included discussions about business, faith and the boys. He was constantly thinking about the balance between running a business, loving his wife and raising his boys. He balanced it all better than anyone I have known.

I know he didn't plan to finish so soon, but he finished well. For a life well lived for God, his wife, the boys and those who knew him Bob has earned his place in the Finishing Well hall of fame. May I live as well as Bob did in the few years of his life.

Well done, Bob, well done!


(Bob & Colleen Millard)

Strange questions

During our week in Kenya we opened one session up for questions & answers. It wouldn't work if we just threw it open for discussion so we had a basket where they could write their questions....anonymously. We had more than we could answer, but of them all here is one that stuck with me....

"Can a Christian inherit or be inherited?"

Obviously we were out of our culture with this one. We had to get some clarification from the Kenyan leadership to even know what this question was asking and the answers surprised us.

In Kenya a man must pay a dowry to the family of the bride before they are married. It's a custom that has taken an odd turn. In current day thinking this gift, as Abraham gave for his daughter in law, Rebbecca, is now considered the same as a purchase price. Now, in Kenyan culture, the dowry is an ownership transaction that puts this new wife in the position of being property of her husband's family. Yes, you read that right. It sounded very much like slave trade to my western ears and it has a lot of the elements of it as well.

So, if the husband dies the wife is inherited by a brother or other family member, as if she were a piece of property this man left behind. In Kenya the wife "passes" to a brother as his property and he could marry her as another wife. Can a Christian inherit or be inherited? Isn't it amazing what a fallen culture can do to something so simple as a dowry gift? We had a lengthy discussion about this with the pastors, but some were still struggling with this issue. Clearly, as you could imagine, we told them there is no way a Christian should do this, but culture often wins the day.

It's clear, from our week with these pastors, why the Lord put us in this ministry in this part of Africa. We have a lot of discipleship to do with these dear pastors in the years ahead. I look forward to seeing what God does with us all.

Pastor Martin

video

One of the men we were able to spend a week with is Martin. He's a pastor in the Kilifi, Kenya area. He was a great joy and blessing as we spent the week together. We never had to wonder what Martin thought about anything...he would tell us! I really love this guy and can't wait to see what God does in his life over the next four years.

High praise and great joy


Every mission trip has high and lows. Every adventure has it's great stories and difficult moments, but may I tell you that the team for this trip was wonderful! All three of the men I went to Africa with were amazing! Dave, Larry and John all served each other, worked together and had a great time of ministry. There are trips where the biggest challenge is the team itself, but not this time. These guys were a rich blessing from the Lord. I can't wait to see what God does in each of their lives.

Things that made us smile



Every mission trip has its adventures. In the place we stayed while in Kenya this box was near the front door. It was too good to pass up a photo of the "free will tip box."

The guys suggested we put one of these up at the church for the pastor's vacation fund. Probably not a good idea, but a fun photo anyway.


And here's one more from the church we worked at last week.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Home at last!


Finally, we are home. It was a wonderful 10 days and a great trip to meet with fellow pastors in Kenya, but I must admit there is no place like home. I'll tell you more after a little rest. Thank you for your prayers. (I don't know how I missed the group photo, but I'm around the church somewhere.)

Saturday, February 05, 2011

On our way home

It's Saturday morning in Nairobi. The traffic is filling the streets. People are everywhere. Life is happening on this beautiful morning, but it will be an even brighter day tomorrow when we arrive home in Dallas.

I have really enjoyed this trip and the team of men I'm working with, but I long for home and my sweet wife. You really know how important people are when you are away from them. There really is no place like the place you call home and mine is half a world away this morning. The rest of today and tomorrow will be all about closing that gap.

I will write more about this trip when I get back. I have photos and video to post as I can sort them all out. I do wonder, after each trip I take, what the eternal results will be. On this trip, after a session in which we taught the pastors how to share the gospel and challenged them to share it with someone that day, we heard stories of four people who had trusted Christ the evening before. Those stories and others are why we travel across the globe. It's our desire that every race and tongue know Jesus Christ and find eternal life. Some of that has already happened. I can't wait to hear about other stories as these men and women process all we shared with them.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Second dessert



It's day 3 in Kilifi, Kenya and we have been busy with ministry and meetings. Internet is very limited and expensive, so we have not been able to post, but this happened at dinner last night and I thought you would all love to see how a mission trip goes AFTER dark. This is John Thomas at dinner last night.

We are all well, but hot and most tired. We have two days left and then we head home. If I can post again I will, but it is difficult. Thank you all for your prayers and care for us. We can't wait to tell you more about this amazing trip and the pastors we have met in Kenya.