I spent the day at an apologetics conference today. It was a great day with amazing speakers and 3,000 others wanting to know how to defend the Christian faith in a Post-Christian culture.
It struck me, as the speakers each talked of faith and truth, that the problem of our day is the erosion of the foundations. If you erode the foundations of what can be known or simply make them unstable then slowly, over time, those in the culture will all come into agreement about issues they would have never agreed on before.
When we are convinced the foundations are unstable it's much easier to create agreement in a culture... ...it's easier to synchronize dissonance.
I found this video fascinating and thought about the speakers today as they discussed truth. When truth is compromised then soon all will agree that truth can't be known. The power of the majority on an unstable foundation is contagious. Soon the pressure to conform will be difficult to resist. Unless we know that truth is absolute and can be known, we will succumb to a culture that no longer believes the foundations are stable. The pressure is great, but truth can be known and it's revealed in Jesus Christ.
Called the eXtreme Deep Field, the picture captures a mass of galaxies stretching back almost to the time when the first stars began to shine.
But this was no simple point and snap - some of the objects in this image are too distant and too faint for that.
Rather, this view required Hubble to stare at a tiny patch of sky for more than 500 hours to detect all the light.
"It's a really spectacular image," said Dr Michele Trenti, a science team member from the University of Cambridge, UK.
"We stared at this patch of sky for about 22 days, and have obtained a very deep view of the distant Universe, and therefore we see how galaxies were looking in its infancy."
Whenever I see photos like this I'm amazed at how vast the Universe really is. These are photos of stars and their galaxies millions of light years away. I always share these photos and stories with you because it creates awe in me and praise for the God who made them all. Why did he make all of this? To show his power and glory, and these stars do that! Today I'm blessed to serve and worship a BIG God....a God who made all of this. Wow!
Psalm 57:3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
"When I am afraid...." These words were written by
one of the most fearsome, brave warriors of his day, David. He was a fearless!
He was king. He was no coward and yet fear was a problem he had to deal with in
his life.....just as we do in ours. We are such fearful little creatures on a
tiny planet in a vast Universe. Make some noise and fear rises in our hearts.
Tell us there is crisis in the marketplace and panic ensues. Like David we all
deal with fear. We all know the world around us is not in our control. We all
live with imminent fear in our lives. How do we respond? What do we do when
fear rises in our hearts?
"I put my trust in you." The solution to the fears
we experience is someone, something big enough to calm them. Someone able to
resolve them. David said that his first response to fear was to trust in God.
We all run to something when fear rises in our hearts, what is it? Do we run to
the bank account? Is our first response a call to a loved one? Is our trust in
the government? Our job? Our family? When fear rises we need someone, something
able to resolve that fear, calm our anxiety. David trusted in God. Who or what
do you trust?
"In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not
afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?" There is one last thing about
dealing with fear that is important- you have to know that the one you trust to
resolve it is really able to help. David, after many experiences with fear, had
found that God was trustworthy, able to calm his fears, able to solve his
problems. He knew his solution for fear was someone....God himself. What can
man do to you when the creator of the universe is your helper? What do you have
to fear when God is your refuge?
As one of the fearful little creatures on this tiny little
planet I'm so glad I have a big God who can calm my anxious heart and deal with
my fearful mind.
"This is the day the Lord has made..." Good morning. Another opportunity to enjoy the life and moments God has given. Celebrate each moment. Enjoy the smell of the coffee as it's brewing. Savor each sip. Relish the food you have the blessing to eat. All of it, literally all of it, is provided by God for you to enjoy. Take a moment as you start your day and simply say, "Thank you" to the God who made all of this for our good and blessing. We are blessed and there is no better way to start a day in his kingdom than to say, "Thank you."
I'll tell this story as best I can. It's a true story, but it's not my story. This is the story of my niece and her family. It happened a few months ago. As I heard the story from close family members I thought about how amazing God's care for us really is. Here is the story, A few months ago Wendy's daughter came home from school and asked her mother, "If we had a fire how would we get out of the house?" Wendy asked, "Why do you ask that?" And her daughter explained that the teacher at school that day had talked to them about preparation for a possible fire and an escape plan. What is our exit plan? How do we escape if our house is on fire? What do we do? Wendy took her daughter's worries seriously, went to the store with her and got a rope ladder for the window of their second story home where the bedrooms were located. They set it up and talked about what they would do if a fire happened. Within weeks they woke in the night to a house full of smoke. The house was on fire! Wendy, Jerry and the kids crawled through the smoke to the bedroom where the ladder was installed to escape the fire. Wendy's husband, Jerry, said he almost gave up because the smoke was so bad, but they all climbed down the ladder purchased just weeks earlier and escaped a fire that burned their home to the ground. If it weren't for a class in school, a child who was concerned, a mother who responded, a ladder installed a family of four would have died in that fire. It sounds like a series of timely coincidences doesn't it? Often life seems that way. We look back at events that just "seem to fall in place" and discover the invisible hand of God's provision and providence. God is in the little events of our lives that look like coincidence, but are so much more. Stories like this are part of every life every day, but the outcome is seldom so dramatic and so we miss them. God is working in each life every day for our good and his glory. Sometimes the events are so clear we just have to stop and say, "Isn't God amazing!"
As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.”So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed).But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm.Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!” -Mark 4
There are two kind of storms God must deal with in our lives before we recognize him, 1. the storms within, and 2. the storms without. In this story from Mark 4 Jesus speaks to both storms...the one they could see and the one they couldn't...and calms them both.
When I read this story I love the question the disciples ask when they wake Jesus, "Don't you care?..." It's a fascinating question in the midst of a storm, but honestly it's the same question we ask when a storm threatens to destroy our lives, "Don't you care?"
Jesus response is great! First, he speaks to the storm they can see and then he speaks to the storm they can't...the internal storm that is threatening their faith. Anytime God deals with storms in our lives he must deal with both the external storm and the internal one...the storm of faith.
When both storms have been dealt with they suddenly ask the all important question, "who is this???" It's the right response for anyone who brings their storms to God to calm. He won't just deal with the storm we ask him to calm, but he also deals with the storm we don't see...the storm of the soul.
I'm not surprised that a storm externally will always cause a storm internally, but I am surprised we don't realize that both must be dealt with. We want the external storm calmed, but God will not stop there, he will also deal with our hearts, the storm within. "Where's your faith?" he will ask and as we look around at the calm he created our response will always be, "who is this?"
The dread our day is a surprising thing. In this post-modern culture there is one thing we avoid more than any other, dread more than we are willing to admit, there is something we will not allow...
Everywhere you go there is noise. We have it on at home, even if we don't really listen to it. We have it on in the car, it's at the restaurant, we even carry it with us when we jog or walk.
Noise is our pacifier that keeps us from dealing with what must happen in a moment of silence.
With the noise of our life we never have to think about life, mortality, God, or our choices. We can drown them out with the noise that forces those horrible thoughts into the recesses of our minds.
Noise keeps eternity at bay. As long as we have noise we don't have to think...to really think about our lives, our choices, about God.
Silence has become the enemy of our culture.
Look around and see if you can find a place in your life where there is silence and I guarantee you will look for some noise to fill it. How have we allowed the important questions that silence would generate be drowned out by Rush Limbaugh, music on our iPods and the noise of TV? We have been numbed by it and slowly plod to our fate, well entertained, without a thought about our mortality.
It's amazing that such a simple thing as noise has made us a culture of zombies, not thinking or really listening to the voices that come in a time of silence.
I would invite you to find at least an hour in your day where there is silence. I'm sure it will be uncomfortable, but schedule it into your life and listen for what you will find in the silence. You might actually hear from God.
"We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our fathers, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm.But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine.” -Jeremiah 44 Confusion is an interesting thing. We get confused because we lose sight of the center, the core truths of our lives. When we lose sight of center we redefine the things we see in our lives in a different way. Without true center, without clarity on what is really happening and why, we make our own assumptions....we get confused. This is what happened to Israel after the exile in the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah tells the people, "The Lord says stop worshipping other gods. Your worship of them is why you are having problems now!" Their response is in the text above. Basically they had lost sight of center and so they concluded that because they had stopped worshipping idols their problems had come. In fact it was just the opposite...it was BECAUSE they were worshipping idols that the problems had come. They were confused, they had lost sight of center. It happens to all of us. I know you have experienced it at one time or another, a sense of confusion, a loss of center. I remember clearly being in a forest and losing my direction. I lost sight of landmarks and lost my bearing. Soon I'm going in the wrong direction. It's this loss of center that had confused the people of Israel and made them believe the very opposite of truth. They had made the lie their new truth and lost their direction. It cost them their lives. We are in a culture that has lost its center. Because we have lost sight of the basic landmarks we are confused. One person says this is true, another tells you the opposite, but both are lost and wandering. When we abandon center confusion follows, loss of direction is the result and lies become truth. For the people of Israel in Jeremiah 44 their truth was a lie. They refused to believe the prophet of God. Their experiences told them the opposite was true, but when you have lost your center then any direction will do. A lie becomes truth. We become confused. How do we deal with confusion? How do we sort through all the truth claims and once more find our direction? To find our way we have to find center again. It's found in God's word. The bible is the only source that gives a roadmap for life and tells the truth about us. When we dismiss God, his word and truth the only possible result is confusion. Only by returning to the center will we find our direction. Only when we return to God and his word will we deal a death blow to the confusion around us and once more find center.
How do you connect with people? How do you get acquainted with someone you've just met? These are questions that I ask because I want to know these new people and I want to talk about more than the weather with those I meet. Each person is an eternal soul. How do I connect with that one and open the door to a discussion about more than the surface issues of polite conversation? I've thought about this for several years. I've tried different questions that didn't work at all. It's hard to break the barrier of first meetings, but I have finally come upon a question that gives me permission to go beyond "hello". It's a wonderful way to go deeper with a person you may never meet again. At lunch today I asked the question of my waiter, Sam. She was a sweet young lady who did a wonderful job and had a great attitude. As she took our drink order (I was eating with a friend) I asked her, "So Sam, while you're getting our drinks I have a question for you to think about. When you come back I want to know about the best thing that's ever happened to you, ok?" Sam smiled, agreed and off she goes. In a few minutes she returned with our drinks and my answer. Sam said, "The best thing that's happened to me is my brothers. They are 10 and 1 and I love them!" The door was open and we talked about everything as she lingered at our table. This evening I met another of our men for dinner. Cora waited on us. As she took our drink orders I asked the question and Cora went for the drinks, thinking about her answer. When she returned she told me, "The best thing that's happened to me so far is my college degree in psychology." The door was open and she told me of her aspirations and what she wants to do with her life. We...Sam, Cora and I, became instant friends although they knew absolutely nothing about me except that I was interested in them. I will continue my visits with these young ladies when I return to these restaurants and we will go beyond my first question to deeper issues, but the door is open wider than I ever imagined it could be. The question made a relationship with two strangers possible in just a few moments. All around us are people living their lives and just waiting... (although they don't know it yet)...waiting for someone to ask them, "So, what's the best thing that's ever happened to you?" Here's my invitation to you- In the next week ask someone this question and really listen as they tell you their story. My stories today are just a sample of what I have heard from wonderful people willing to share their stories with me. You will be amazed to hear what people will share if someone will simply ask. Then, come and share your stories in the comment section. I can't wait to hear about your experiences!
It's interesting living in the culture we do. In this post-modern culture, or whatever it's called now, there is a wholesale abandonment of belief in God. At university level the statistics say that 70% or more of Christian kids will abandon their faith and become agnostic or atheist. The culture at large is moving away from a belief in God as well. Around us is a culture proud of its ability to function without God. They even claim to be moral without God (but that discussion is for another day). What's the price for these choices? What does it cost a man to turn his back on God? Of course you might expect me to say it costs him salvation, and that is true, but there is another price that most don't realize they pay- they lose their role as image bearers. The bible says we were made in the image of God, but when we deny him, refuse to believe in him, to follow him, we forsake the very thing we were designed to be- image bearers of God.
As a result we often choose to bear the image of the only thing left, the animal world around us. I think this is why movies like the Twilight series are so popular. Men and women becoming vampires and werewolves gives them an image to reflect, an identity....the image of animals. This comes out as well in a new TV series titled GRIMM. In this series a police officer is chasing people who look completely normal, but are really animals under the skin. When we deny our role as image bearers of God we usually imitate what we see around us. Romans 1 talks of this, but not in exactly the same way I am here. It's clear we were designed to reflect God, to bear his image. When we refuse our identity we will reflect something, what will that be? Some wonder why the world around us is becoming so violent, why anger, killing, and war seems to be growing. In part it's because we have decided to abandon our calling as image bearers of God and the results are what we see in our world today...men acting like animals.
When you turn your back on God you lose much more than you would imagine. You lose the God who made you, you lose the promise of life, you lose peace (that's another post as well) and you lose sight of what you were designed to be, you lose your identity. The price is much higher than we even know, but when we deny God we also deny being made in his image and choose a lower image. We choose to become men without souls, without a purpose, without a moral compass, without hope. We become animals.
"Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul." -1 Peter
I see a problem in my life and in the lives of others around me....we view this world as our home. Our efforts to change our cultures, our laws, and the government speak to our attachment to and identity with the world we live in. For most of us this is home and so we invest in "here".
But the bible is clear that we are aliens, strangers, on our way to our real home. Aliens, strangers and travelers aren't focused on who is ruling the governments of this world. They know this is just a resting place, a stop on the way home to another country. An opportunity to show the world how a human being should live. Some understood it, some lived as aliens, here is a brief commentary on their lives,
"All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.And indeed if they had been [l]thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is notashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them." Hebrews 11
Aliens, strangers, exiles look for home and live as aliens. A few of these people are mentioned in Hebrews 11. Men and women with an identity connected to another world. They held a loose grip on the things of this world. They loved eternal things and the people around them. They served a king other than the one ruling the country where they lived, whatever country that was. They were aliens living like strangers in the world around them.
I fear we, myself included, are getting too invested in this world, both physically, emotionally and financially and not invested in eternal things. We are attached to the things around us and have a tight grip on this world. I wonder if that's why so many are speaking out about politics and our influence on leadership in our country. They fear the changes around them and are trying to change our directions, but is this what Christ followers should be focused on? What if the direction we are going is all part of God's plan for the end of days? Frankly, aliens don't worry about such things. They live for another world, for a different king, their eyes on another destination and they are noticeably different from the world around them. They love God and love people and talk of heaven. Do we look like aliens, live like aliens? Do we have our eyes on another land or on this one? Is our peace shaken by the governments of the world or do we have our eyes on the King, seated on the throne? If this is home then great fear comes when things go badly around us. If we are just visiting then the world around us can unravel and we are at peace, trusting God. The world is unraveling. Does it cause fear or anticipation in you? That depends on what you consider "home". What kingdom are you living for? What king do you serve?
Wednesday morning, September 12th. It's the day after the 11th (obviously). I remember this day 11 years
ago. There was
complete silence in the air above our home. The reason that’s significant is because we live in the flight path of DFW
airport and we live with the sounds of jets approaching the airport overhead
every 45 seconds. It's not
loud, but it's there, but on this day 11 years ago it was silent, not a sound
overhead. It was
unnerving, eerie, silent. We could hear
the sound of silence. We had grown used to the companion sounds of airplanes
and then they were gone. Suddenly we realized we had gotten used to and no
longer heard the jets overhead.
There are times when dramatic changes happen in our lives and then we notice the things we had gotten used to. We notice what we have said yes to when it's suddenly gone. In the quiet of that morning we missed something that annoyed many who visit us. Visitors in our home and would ask, "what's that noise??" And we would explain the flight path. We no longer heard it....to our ears it was normal.
I wonder....what have I gotten used to in my life
that's not really ok with God? What noise do
I no longer hear? What is "ok" with me that is a distraction to my
faith, something not natural when others visit my life? What little
noises have I gotten used to and no longer hear?
there things I have let become normal in my life that shouldn't be? Have I allowed
and gotten used to sins, habits, choices that are not what God would want, but
I don't even see them anymore, don't even notice them? What
little sins have I gotten comfortable with, what little choices and habits have
I made normal that shouldn't be? I wonder.
Lord, help me
to be sensitive to the things that should not be part of my life. Help me to
see those things I should be doing that I'm not even aware of. Help me to
walk with you in a way that I might really hear the noise in my life that I no longer
Taste and see...what an interesting invitation. Taste is a sensory experience. My wife has often said, "taste this and tell me what you think." It's given by someone I love and I rightly assume she's not trying to give me something that taste terrible. She watches and waits as I taste the bit of food offered. "What do you think?", "Was it good?"
But this invitation is much different. God connects two completely different sensory experiences together in this tasting of what God is like. Taste and see do not go together at all! Taste and see have implications for more than my mouth, they speak to my entire experience. Obviously David is not inviting us to taste God, but the imagery is applicable. Taste is to sample, to experience something and here it's God, his nature and work in our lives.
Taste God's nature, his heart, his work, his love and you will see that he's good. In the tasting is always a commentary. Did it taste good? Was it too salty? What did you think? In this tasting of God, who he is and what he does, we will see his nature come out. We will see and say every time, "Oh, that's so good!"
It's an invitation. "Here", says David, "taste this, you'll like it." And when we do our response will be, "oh, he is so good." What an invitation from a good God. Taste and see...God is good....you'll like him, you really will! In the tasting you will see his goodness.
My soft-hearted receptionist came back to tell me there was a lady in real need in our reception area and she didn't want to just send her away empty handed. I met with Nancy. It's hard to know how best to help at times. Is this person just begging for a living or is this a real need? It's sad, but I have to deal with these questions and make difficult choices at times. Nancy had a very sad story. No place to live, no money, mental illness and a 16 year old daughter. The only way I can imagine it worse is if she had cancer! She was desperate for help of some kind. This is happening more often than we want to admit. These are desperate days. In case you're wondering, yes I helped Nancy and her daughter. It's what we do as Christ followers, isn't it? It's why people come to us for help because they know that Christians are supposed to help and we are, we should, we must. In desperate times like these there is nothing more important than showing the love God extends us by extending it to others. This spirit of caring comes because God has cared for us. It's a response to God's love for us that makes us reach out to others. Some are selling their homes, moving into smaller homes and using the extra money to help others. Others are looking for different ways to help those in need. The love of Christ is motivating them to share what God has given them with those in need. This is how Jesus fed the multitudes. He gave the bread and fish to the disciples who then gave it to the crowds. He made them "middle men" for his provision. He does the same with us in our day. We are his "middle men and women" sharing what God has given us with those in need, both spiritually and physically. In desperate days like these the love of Christ in us is revealed most clearly as we help those who have nowhere else to go. The love of God moves us to action just as it did God when he gave to us, "For God so loved the world he gave...." Giving out of love is the very nature of our Father. As his children we have this same heart, a heart of love that gives. Pray for an opportunity to share the love of God with those in need around you. Desperate days give us opportunities to show how glorious the love of God is for those in need of both food and faith.
As I read the news this morning I could sense the temptation, from all that is happening in our country and in our world, to be afraid. It would be easy to be afraid when you hear the rhetoric of the politicians who tell us our very lives depend on choosing them to run our country.
Questions flood into our minds when we think that all of this depends on us to make the right choice. What will happen if the "wrong party" gets in office? What if I lose my job? How will I pay my bills? What if everything falls apart? What will we do? There will always be opportunities to be afraid and often good reasons.
Fear will be a natural response to the feeling that disaster is only moments away, and yet there is another reality that we must not lose sight of- there is a God in heaven and he's seated on the throne fully in charge of everything. I know I have shared this verse before in these blogs, but it's one that needs to be repeated often-
Psalm 29:10 The LORD sat as King at the flood; Yes, the LORD sits as King forever.
At a time when the world did seem to fall apart God was seated on his throne and Lord of heaven and earth. When it appears that a flood is coming in our world don't lose sight of the fact that there is a God in heaven, and he is Lord of all! Here's his instructions for us who are in the midst of our "floods"-
Php 4:6 Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Php 4:7 Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
In times like these it's good to know that God is in charge, and he's waiting to give you HIS peace in the midst of YOUR storms and fears.
One of the great blessings of our time away from the church was our two weeks in Hawaii. I know many have been there, but this was our first time. It was a wonderful rest and blessing to us as we got away far enough to relax and rest. I took this photo one evening from the beach near our condo. Sunset in Hawaii is always great, it's an event as people gather to take a photo of the sun as it sets. What we are all doing, even if we don't realize it, is celebrating the artwork of God. It is a beauty that man cannot duplicate. It is a picture that only the great artist can create. We photograph it to remember the view, but behind it is a faithful loving God who daily displays his glory for us to see. When we say "wow" it should be with a heart of worship to the God who made it all. Often, because of the clutter of man, we lose sight of the work of God but there is nothing to compare with the beauty God creates. And one of those great works is us! We are the work of his hand, the beautiful work of his love. Few of us celebrate the beauty of each other, but in the face of the one you walk by today is the beauty of God's great artistic work. As beautiful as any sunset so is the life of the one who annoys you on the highway. God made that man as his work of art for his glory just as he made the sunset. The difference between us and the sunset? The sunset doesn't get in the way of God's glory....