Monday, April 30, 2012
I just finished Eugene Peterson's memoir, The Pastor. What a wonderful and honest look at his life as a pastor of many decades. I was challenged by his balance between the knowledge of the Bible and his relationship with God. Few of us balance both well.
He was asked near the end of the book what he liked best about the pastorate and he replied, "the mess." I get that! The mess of lives working through all the stuff, growing in faith, struggling with the world. What a great way to describe the pastorate.
I've wanted to read this book for a while and today I had the joy of reading this amazing story. It's not a book that would interest everyone, but if you're a pastor it will challenge you and make you smile as well.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.
Today I get off the hectic road of ministry and begin a time of rest. Today I begin to refresh and rediscover my relationship with God. Today I begin a sabbatical from ministry.
I hope that this time will be a great time of rest, refreshing and discovery. My goal is to step away from all that I'm doing right now and focus my time and attention on God. Books to read, naps to take, places I must go, but in the midst of it all is this....how do I get better acquainted with the God who made me? How do I discover a new closeness to him? That's my quest. I'll update you here as I journal my time away.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Have you ever felt small? Have you ever looked at the night sky and thought how small and insignificant we seem in the vast universe around us?
We find ourselves on a small planet in the back alleys of the universe looking out at an amazing view of just a few of the billions of stars around us. It all makes me feel very small and it was meant to. As I look at the universe and see how vast it really is the question I ask is this, Who made all of this? What kind of God is this that could make and sustain all that I see?
The bible says that God named every star and knows each one by name. Really? In the vastness of this amazing universe God claims to not only be the creator but also the sustainer of it all. What fascinates me as I look at the night sky are these words from Genesis 1, "He also made the stars." With just five words God describes a work that scientists are still trying to figure out. Amazing.....
Small? It's a sense of our place in the universe and yet we seem to claim we know so much. Around us are men who claim to know how it all began, where it came from, and yet they really know so little. In the vastness of all that is around us it is fascinating to me that some claim knowledge they cannot possibly have.
Small. It's how I feel until I read these simple words, "God loved you so much that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him will have everlasting life." In that short passage I realize the God who made the heavens sees and loves me. Even if no one else ever sees me God does and he loves me. How strange that God would love such a small little planet like this.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
1 Not to us, LORD, not to us
but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness.
“Where is their God?”
3 Our God is in heaven;
he does whatever pleases him.
4 But their idols are silver and gold,
made by human hands.
5 They have mouths, but cannot speak,
eyes, but cannot see.
6 They have ears, but cannot hear,
noses, but cannot smell.
7 They have hands, but cannot feel,
feet, but cannot walk,
nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
8 Those who make them will be like them,
and so will all who trust in them.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Our son, Ian, is 37 today! He's an amazing man and I'm very proud of him.
He's a Christ follower, a husband, a dad, a musician and an amazing artist. He doesn't know a stranger and has more friends than anyone I have ever met.
I love you son! Have a great birthday.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Saturday night we were in Dubai to catch our plane home. It is an amazing airport. Probably one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. We arrived at 11:00 pm and left at 2:40 am. We had a few hours to see the airport, shop and rest. What amazed me were the thousands of people at 1:30 am moving through the airport to catch their flights to their next destination. They were from all over the globe. Black, white, asian, arab, every language you could imagine. I don't think I've ever been in one place that had so many people from so many different countries. It was amazing.
I wish I could have visited with some of them and heard their stories...where they were from, their lives, their sorrows, their joys. I wish I had been able to know more about them than that we were all going somewhere. Each life with a story. Each person with an eternity ahead. I so wish I could have had time to visit with a few of them about God......
Trust God for the moments.
Often our problems are so big, so painful that we can't imagine how we will get through a day. It's just too hard.
Don't focus on the day. Take it one moment at a time, one breath at a time and trust God in that moment, for that brief time when you can trust him for just this moment of time.
God is the God of creation, but even more important to me is that he is the God of moments. At any time of test, of sin or of pain I can call to him and he's there. He will help me, comfort me, love me and carry me through the moments of my day.
As each moment passes God will walk with you, comfort you and help you.
Trust God in your moments. It's a living breathing relationship with the God who loves and cares for us in our moments.
Monday, April 23, 2012
-We had a great team on this trip that worked really well together. They helped each other and supported one another all through the week. It was great to see a group of men bond the way this team did.
-It was a week without. Without television. Without cell phone. Without internet. Without e-mail. Without texts. I realized, as I thought about this, that it was a wonderful loss. I had time to think, to rest, to relax. The constant flow of information in our lives is not all that healthy. It was great to be without it all for our week in Africa.
-Our trip took us through Dubai. What an amazing airport! At 1:30am Saturday night the airport was packed with travelers, literally thousands from all over the world, running to meet the next flight in this airport in the dessert. It was also amazing what a facility they had built. The airport had over 200 gates for airplanes. It was like a sea of people flowing to the next destination.
-I'm so glad for foods from around the world. I love the different spices, the different flavors. It was amazing to taste garlic that was hotter than chili peppers. It was interesting to have a veggie burger at McDonalds in Dubai. It was great to have lamb with all the spices that go with it. But, I have to admit....I'm so glad for good ole' american food.
-One of the things that the pastors in Kenya do really well is worship. It was a rich blessing to participate in worship with such excitement and joy. They love to worship and it gave us a greater love for it too.
-The pastors we met with all begged for books. None of them have good resources or the money to buy them. They want to learn, to grow, but don't have the resources to do it. That's my next project. To get them good resources to do their job as pastors.
-These trips are always good for me. I get so myopic in my little world and forget that around the world life is going on even as I live my moments. I pray for a bigger view of life than the one I have now.
I'll share more as the thoughts process, but for now it's great to be home.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
My teammate, David Vinson, took this photo. It's from our time together today. It's Tuesday evening here and my first chance to get an internet moment. The week so far has gone really well and our team is wonderful together. They have helped one another, encouraged each other and built up each other as we have worked together. It's been a great experience to see five men work together to serve God and share with other men and women half-way around the globe.
Friday, April 13, 2012
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
There is a story in John 8 that has always captivated me. It's a story of a test, a test of Jesus by the Jews. As I read it this morning I thought, maybe for the first time, "why was this a test?" Here is the passage and then a few thoughts,
Monday, April 09, 2012
"I'm absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us." -Romans 8
Sunday, April 08, 2012
Saturday, April 07, 2012
Friday, April 06, 2012
In my reading I've come to Mark 1 and one of my favorite stories in the bible. It's a very short story...not much said about it, but it's heavy with impact to me. I always slow down as I read this story because I love the message it communicates. Join me in the crowd as we watch what unfolds....
Mar 1:40 And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, "If You are willing, You can make me clean."
This very action was completely contrary to the law. A leper was required to move from family and friends and live alone. If anyone came near who was not a leper the law required that the leper announce, "Unclean! Unclean!" so that those coming near would know not to get too close. This man did the forbidden, he came unannounced to the very feet of Jesus! When the crowds saw him I'm sure the outcries and insults were loud and emotional. How dare he come here unannounced. But his plea was an amazing one. Listen to his words over the cries of the crowd, "If you are willing, you can make me clean."
Mar 1:41 Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and *said to him, "I am willing; be cleansed."
Now stop just for a moment and read those words again....moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. I can just see the faces of the crowd. Surprise, amazement, shock...how could Jesus touch a man covered in leprosy? I can hear the outcry, the shock. Now Jesus is unclean as well! Now Jesus has made himself an outcast. But he frames his touch with these words, I am willing, be cleansed.
Then it happens, in a moment, with a touch that changed everything for this outcast man...
Mar 1:42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.
Immediately, instantly, right then his life was completely different! Not only was he healed, but Jesus had touched him! I believe that Jesus' touch was meant to heal two things- his body and his mind. A man who had not been touched in years was touched by Jesus. The compassion of that touch changed everything. He was a different man!
Mar 1:43 And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away,
Mar 1:44 and He *said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."
Mar 1:45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the news around, to such an extent that Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere.
And here is the great exchange- the man who was a leper and outcast to the unpopulated areas was now whole because of Jesus' touch and I can just see him hugging everyone he saw and telling them his story. His life was completely changed, and a great exchange happened. Now the outcast was welcome back into community, and the healer took his place....Jesus is now the one in the wilderness, in the unpopulated areas.
The story of the leper is my story. It's his touch when we were in our sins that cleansed us, made us whole and gave us new life. And with his touch he took our sickness and sin on himself. He took our sin and sickness and gave us his life. The story of this leper who experienced the touch of compassion of Jesus that changes everything is my story, it's your story. It's the story of the great exchange.
Thursday, April 05, 2012
by Philip Yancey
"A youth pastor in Colorado, had just learned his wife and baby daughter were dying of AIDS. The mother had received a contaminated blood transfusion just before her delivery date. "How can I talk to my youth group about a loving God?" he asked me. "How can I tell them God cares?"
That same week I also heard from a blind man calling on a public phone. Several months before, he had invited a recovering drug addict into his home as an act of mercy. He had just learned the recovering addict was molesting his wife-under his own roof. "It's like God is punishing me for trying to serve him," he said. Blind, he began to imagine all that had been going on. Had the addict forced his wife, or did she cooperate willingly? Just then he ran out of quarters, and the phone went dead. Silence.
I have learned not even to attempt an answer to the "Why?" questions. Why did the youth pastor's wife happen to get the one tainted bottle of blood? Why does a tornado hit one town in Oklahoma and skip over another? Why did that one woman's child get hit by a skateboard on Boston Common? I do not know, and, frankly, after much study I have concluded the Bible does not give us the answer. In his speech to Job, when God had a golden opportunity to enlighten us on causation issues, God avoided the topic entirely.
One question, however, no longer plagues me as it once did. The question Does God care? lurks behind Chet Raymo's poignant story about the silent universe. It also lurks behind much of the Old Testament. Job reluctantly concluded that, no, God could not care about him or about other suffering people. "How faint the whisper we hear of him," sighed Job. The psalmists cried out for some sign that God heard their prayers, some evidence that he had not forsaken them.
I know of only one way to answer the question Does God care? and for me it has proved decisive: Jesus is the answer. Jesus never attempted a philosophical answer to the problem of pain, yet he did give an existential answer. Although I cannot learn from him why a particular bad thing occurs, I can learn how God feels about it. Jesus gives God a face, and that face is streaked with tears.
Whenever I read straight through the Bible, a huge difference between the Old and New Testaments comes to light. In the Old Testament I can find many expressions of doubt and disappointment. Whole books Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Job-center on the theme. As I have said, almost half of the psalms have a dark, brooding tone about them. In striking contrast, the New Testament Epistles contain little of this type of anguish. The problem of pain has surely not gone away: James 1, Romans 5 and 8, the entire book of 1 Peter, and much of Revelation deal with the subject in detail. Nevertheless, nowhere do I find the piercing question, Does God care? I see nothing resembling the accusation of Psalm 77: "Has God forgotten to be merciful?"
The reason for the change, I believe, is that Jesus answered that question for the witnesses who wrote the Epistles. In Jesus, God presents a face. Anyone who wonders how God feels about the suffering on this groaning planet need only look at that face. James, Peter, and John had followed Jesus long enough for his facial expressions to be permanently etched on their minds. By watching Jesus respond to a hemorrhaging woman, a grieving centurion, a widow's dead son, an epileptic boy, an old blind man, they learned how God felt about suffering. By no means did Jesus solve the "problem of pain" he healed only a few in one small corner of the globe-but he did provide an answer to the question, Does God care?…
Finally, Hebrews tells us (5:7), Jesus "offered up loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death." But of course he was not saved from death in Gethsemane and at Calvary we get the incredible scene that Martin Luther has described as "God struggling with God." Is it too much to suggest that Jesus himself asked the questions that haunt me, that haunt most of us at one time or another. Do I matter? Does God care? What else can be the meaning of his quotation from Psalm 22, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
When Jesus Christ faced pain, he responded much as anyone else does. He did not pray in the garden, "Oh, Lord, I am so grateful that you have chosen me to suffer on your behalf-I rejoice in the privilege!" No, he experienced sorrow, fear, abandonment, and something approaching desperation: " ... if it is possible, may this cup he taken from me." Ever attentive to bodily detail, Luke adds, "And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground."
We may not get the answer to the problem of pain that we want from Jesus. We get instead the mysterious confirmation that God suffers with us. We are not alone. Jesus bodily reconstructs trust in God. Because of Jesus, I can trust that God truly understands my condition. I can trust that I matter to God, and that God cares, regardless of how things look at the time. When I begin to doubt, I turn again to the face of Jesus, and there I see the compassionate love of a God well acquainted with grief."*
*Yancey, Philip. The Bible Jesus Read. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1999, p. 208-211.
Tomorrow, Good Friday, we remember the most horrible and wonderful day in human history. It stands alone as a day that tells us God loves us, understands our pain, and has provided a solution for our sins. In one day more than 2,000 years ago God declared, through what we all saw at the time as a terrible failure, that he loved us and had provided the final solution for sin. I have heard many call the Christian faith a bloody religion. It is. But what they don't realize is that through the sacrifice of one man forgiveness of sin and restoration of all things has been accomplished once for all.
I am one of billions who have said yes to this gift of love and forgiveness. I am one who understands how wonderful this horrible day was. In the death of Jesus Christ life was provided for everyone. I am a grateful recipient of the eternal life offered to anyone who would simply trust Christ. Because of his sacrifice my sins are forgiven, I have new life, I have a relationship with God, I am now his son, I've been bought back and given life rather than death. Eternally I will have the joy of saying thank you to the God who loved me so much. It seems wrong to celebrate such a horrible day as good Friday, but in that terrible sacrifice the final solution was provided for all of mankind and in that sacrifice for me and you I will now and eternally rejoice.
Wednesday, April 04, 2012
Monday, April 02, 2012
Mat 6:33 Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Mat 6:34 "Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. -THE MESSAGE.