Saturday, June 30, 2012

The solution to everything


"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;  and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma."  -Ephesians 5:1-2

Christians are often criticized for being critical....and we are.

Christians are called judgmental...and too often we are.

Christians can come across "better than thou" at times....but we aren't.

There is much to criticize about the community called Christian, but the solution to all of it is in two simple verses in Ephesians.

Honestly, we were never called to be fruit inspectors judging the deeds of those in the world.  We were never asked to set the rules for everyone to follow.  Jesus never admonished us to be the morality police for the communities we live in.  He only asked us to do one thing....love one another.  

That is the solution to everything!  If the Christian world would simply live by these two simple verses and not try to fix the world with our code of ethics we would in fact fix the world with the love of Christ.

How do we so easily miss this?  We miss it because it's hard.  People are messy, dirty, mean, unkind...they don't do things the way we want them to.  People are hard to love, but that's our primary task.  If the Christian world would simply love those around them it would be the solution to everything.

No more signs in front of abortion clinics, instead we would be loving and helping the young girls in our communities so the abortion clinic would never be an option.

No more focus on changing laws,  instead we would love those around us and as they trust Christ because of that love the community around us changes.

There are a hundred more I could mention and they are all easier than loving the unlovely, but our task is to love....just as Christ loved us.

If we lived by these two simple verses it would be the solution to everything.



Saturday's cartoon


Friday, June 29, 2012

Cultural insanity



One-third of Americans believe in UFOs, survey says


(Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/06/28/one-third-americans-believe-in-ufos-survey-says/#ixzz1zCpfBimT)



I was fascinated with the article this morning on the Fox news site declaring that fully 1/3 of Americans believe in UFO's.  It fascinated me because there is no evidence of life on other planets.  We have created this amazing myth, supported it with fantastic movies and over time have convinced a gullible culture that UFO's exist.  I'm sorry, but there is not a shred of evidence that life on other planets exists.


Now, in contrast to this story many in this same culture are becoming convinced that God does not exist.  A truth that has more proof and evidence  than is needed to believe in any other fact in human history and yet around us is a growing ground swell of people who declare they are atheists.


The contrast couldn't me more dramatic.  We have come to a time of cultural insanity.  We believe what has no evidence and deny what does.  It's clear that this is what happens to any culture that turns its back on God.  Soon the fantasy becomes reality and the reality becomes myth.  


Romans 1 and Psalms 14 both talk about this culture and the results of our choices.  Over time and decisions made God will turn us over to our fantasies and a cultural insanity emerges.  


Welcome to the reality of fantasy.  

Contrasts

After a few weeks in what many call paradise we are back home in Texas (what many call purgatory).  The contrast has been amazing.   While away we spent a lot of time outside listening to the birds, walking, enjoying the weather.  Since we have been home we only venture out for errands or something to eat.  The contrast in lifestyle is dramatic and it's all connected to the temperature.  It's clear that Texas was never designed for human habitation!  


I'm so glad for air conditioning.  It makes life in purgatory bearable, but then I think of the hundreds of families in Colorado Springs who no longer have a home and my small discomforts seem rather silly.  We are wonderfully skilled at complaining about our minor pains and woes when they aren't really that bad after all.  When I think of others and contrast their lives with mine I am embarrassed that I ever whine about anything, but it is really hot in Texas....



Quote of the day

‎Warren Wiersbe: The way to a sinner's heart is often through his bruises.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Defining our lives



The events of our lives don't define us.  Our responses to those events define us.  

Getting past painful days is not the goal.  Living well for God's glory through them is the goal.  

When you're going through difficult life events the question isn't "why" but instead,  "Lord, what are we working on in my life?"  That's the question!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Last day in paradise


Here's a photo of Joye and me at the botanical garden yesterday (I wasn't feeling well).  The flowers were amazing, the view was beautiful, it is a wonderful place to rest and refresh....in fact we noticed there aren't any bible churches here...maybe they need one, what do you think?


Anyway, today is our last day here.  It's been wonderful.  Thank you all for making this possible and for your love for us.  I didn't realize how much we needed some time of rest and refreshing, but it has been great.  It will be hard to leave and yet we can't wait to see our families...both church and personal.  


This morning we are off to a church that promises hula dancers in the worship service.  Can't wait to see that!

Summary of the bible in 221 words


“God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers. Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath.
But God, precisely because love is of the very essence of his character, takes the initiative and prepared for the coming of his own Son by raising up a people who, by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and of priesthood, by kings and by prophets, are taught something of what God is planning and what he expects.
In the fullness of time his Son comes and takes on human nature. He comes not, in the first instance, to judge but to save: he dies the death of his people, rises from the grave and, in returning to his heavenly Father, bequeaths the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the ultimate gift he has secured for them—an eternity of bliss in the presence of God himself, in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
TThe only alternative is to be shut out from the presence of this God forever, in the torments of hell. What men and women must do, before it is too late, is repent and trust Christ; the alternative is to disobey the gospel (Romans 10:16;2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17).”  -D.A. Carson

Friday, June 22, 2012

Insights into the heart of God

It happened more than 40 years ago.  I was at university, sitting on a bench on campus talking to God.  I wanted more, wanted to understand God's love.  I prayed, "Lord, let me see people the way you do."  In a moment a friend, Evelyn, walked by.  We didn't exchange a word, but my heart began to break as I saw how much God loved her.  I began to weep with the weight of God's love for her.  It was more than I could bear, more than I could imagine.  It was too much and I prayed, "Lord, stop, I can't take any more."


I think of that moment often.  It was a life changing moment for me to see others the way God sees them.  His love for us is more than we can understand, more than we can bear, it's wonderfully overwhelming.  I could only see a small glimpse into his love and it broke me, it changed me.  I think of that park bench and Evelyn often and remember the sense of God's love for her and for others as they walked by.


But only recently did I get the full meaning of that moment more than 40 years ago (yes, I'm slow). During this time of sabbatical it suddenly struck me that God loves me the same way he loves Evelyn!  I don't know why I never put those pieces together, but I didn't.  I suddenly realized a message meant for me more than 40 years ago finally got through- God loves me!


Yes, yes...I know all about that from the bible.  I know God loves me, but to really know it, to really understand how he feels about me, the emotion of it...even if it's just a glimpse....has changed my walk with him.  It's a shame that it took 40 years for me to "get it". 


There's no way to describe the depth of this love of the Father, this overwhelming love he has for us.  There's no words for it other than what we can see in the cross.  The cross tells us all we can bear about the love of God.  God loves us so much that he gave the eternal son to redeem us, to make us his children.  This love isn't just actions, but it's rich with emotions.  It's a love with a depth we could never fully understand.  It's a love that is overwhelmingly wonderful.  


God loves you, he loves me, he loves Evelyn more than you could possibly imagine.  It's this love that has made it possible for us to be his children.  A love wonderfully beyond words.  A love so grand that the cross is only a glimpse of how glorious it is.  A love that would overwhelm you.....a love for you that is more than you could bear or even imagine.  God loves you.

Another beautiful day


Another beautiful sunset in paradise.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Encouragement for the waiting

(photo by Caras Ionut)


"For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, Nor has the eye seen a God besides You, Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him."  -Isa. 64:4


This morning, as we drank coffee and read, my wife read this verse to me.  We both paused to think about it, to dwell on the words.  "A God who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him."  Waiting for God is a wonderful place to be if you know that soon, perhaps today, he will act on your behalf.  When you know the result of waiting there is no longer a frustration, but only anticipation.  


What are you doing?  "I'm waiting for my God to act on my behalf."  How do you know he will?  "He promised."  When will he show up? "It doesn't matter, he's coming to help me, isn't that exciting?"  


Who has ever heard of a God who cares about each of us and will act on our behalf as we wait for him?  Makes waiting a grand adventure, doesn't it?

Fearing the wrong things



There is a man in the Old Testament you may have never heard of.  He was given the opportunity to rule the 10 tribes of the north after Solomon's death.  God promised him, through the prophet, that if he followed and obeyed God his kingdom would last forever, just as David's would.  It was an amazing promise for a man who was just a servant to Solomon before God gave him this task of being king to the 10 tribes called Israel.  


But he failed.  His name is mentioned with the failings of each king after him.  His decisions doomed the nation of Israel to captivity.  It all happened because he feared the wrong things.  


When this man became the first king of Israel he considered his situation and the nation of Judah to the south.  He decided he didn't trust the promise of God, but instead devised a plan of his own.  A plan that meant his demise. A plan that would make his name known in his time as we know Hitler today.  A man ridiculed, rejected, an evil man because he trusted himself instead of God.  A man who feared man instead of God. His name is Jeroboam son of Nebat.  


When we fear man instead of God we always get in trouble.  That was Jeroboam's downfall....he feared man more than he feared God.  When God is small and man is big problems always follow.


If you want to read more about this foolish man you can find his story in 1 & 2 Kings.  It's amazing to me how many generations of Israel were affected by the fears of just one man.


How has fear of man affected your walk with God?  For most of us we would have to admit that fear of man is one of our biggest problems.



What I'm reading




I'm nearly finished with a great book on apologetics by Mitch Stokes.  He writes about the battle for truth in a world where the new atheists seem to have won the day.


This book is a wonderfully easy read and great for anyone trying to defend their faith in a world where Christianity appears to be in decline.  I highly recommend this to anyone wanting to know why their faith is true and how to defend it.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Constantly amazed


Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. -Psalm 105:1


Yesterday we took the day and drove to Hana.  What a beautiful drive.  What a long day!  It was amazing to see the rain forest and all that has been untouched on this beautiful island. 


When we got to Hana we took a break at the country store and in the parking lot stood this beautiful cardinal.  I had never seen one of these before.  We have nothing like it where I have lived.  I watched him for a moment simply enjoying the beauty of his colors and markings.  What a beautiful bird!  What a creative God!


In every place I've traveled I have seen beautiful creatures, amazing sights, wonderful things that declare an amazing designer.  The beauty and design around us, the creativity of what we see all speaks to a grand and creative maker.  What an artist!

As Psalms says, declare to the world what God has done, so let me do that as I talk about this beautiful cardinal......

....God makes really beautiful stuff!  His presence and creative work around us can only be denied if we close our eyes.  It's everywhere to be seen.  Today I'm thankful for one little bird that made me more aware of what a great God I worship.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Walking with God




After many years of faith and a walk with God I'm learning that God's will isn't a path clearly marked out for years to come, but instead it's guidance for the moment.  God's will and direction for life are much like a GPS.  "In .3 miles turn left..."  The directions of the GPS are as you need them.

Walking with God is much like that.  It's not a course revealed for the next 40 years, but a walk of steps and turns and moments.  Each day is a new day of walking with God and finding his will for you in the moments, in the encounters of your life.  The course, as it looks to you, might go around in circles for a bit, but God has a plan and it's only revealed as we come to each turn in our course.

We are in Hawaii for a couple weeks and although I have never been here before we have found our way around easily with the help of our GPS.  We don't need to know the route, we simply need to obey the prompts of the sweet voice on the GPS and soon we arrive at our destination.  God's Spirit works in that same way as we walk with him through the day.  We may not know all the turns and twists in our route, but simply need to trust the guidance we receive as we walk with God through the moments.  Walking with God is a fascinating adventure.  You never know who you will meet, where you will go, but it's never boring.  


Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make your paths straight.
Prov. 3:5-6

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Chillin'



I think I'm finally starting to relax....even my brain has stopped working.  Chillin' in Hawaii has been amazing.  I don't think I've ever been so relaxed both physically and mentally.  It has been a wonderful time of rest and refreshment.  I'll write again when I can think of something to say....until then we are chillin'. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Contrast




I'm always amazed at God's creation.  He is such a wonderful artist. Just a few miles from where we are staying is a rain forest with sharp mountain peaks rising from the jungle.  I've never seen anything quite like it, it's beautiful.  


This rain forest is a national park.  I'm sure that if it weren't there would be homes built all around it.  We all love beautiful places and want to live near the beauty, but when we move in we seem to destroy the beauty we wanted to be near.  It's only beautiful because we haven't touched it yet.  


Where we are staying is fully developed.  Buildings and concrete everywhere.  A few trees and bushes to attempt to make it all look nice, but the footprint of man is everywhere.   I don't have a big application today, it's just a few observations I've made thinking about this beautiful untouched park.  I'm glad we still have a few places where we, as a race, haven't "made it our own".


God does a much better job as an artist without our help.



Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Quote of the day

"Most quarrels are just the amplification of a misunderstanding."

Sunset in paradise


Sunset in Maui last night.  What a beautiful sunset it was.

What I'm reading


I just finished Larry Osborne's book "Spirituality for the rest of us" this morning.  It was a great work on the spiritual life in the real world.  Larry worked through a number of Christian myths and redefined the spiritual life for the real Christian.


It's a great book and I highly recommend it if you are looking for some direction in spiritual disciplines.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Getting away


This morning I awake in a place I've never been before.  The sounds of the early morning birds are different than any I've heard.  It's a place filled with a whole new chorus of songs and sounds.  The morning was cool and we actually slept with the windows open.  They don't have air conditioning here, so that was our only option anyway, but it was quite comfortable.  I'm sitting on the balcony of our apartment with the ocean in view between a couple buildings (we didn't get the luxury waterfront condo), but it's great to get so far away and have time to think and be in an entirely different setting.  I'll share more as the weeks pass and let you see more of this beautiful place.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Heart direction

"May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ." 2 Thes. 3:5. 


 I'm fascinated by this short, simple verse. It's a prayer of Paul for those suffering in Thessalonica. I would have prayed "May the Lord direct your minds..." but Paul prays for heart direction. There is a knowing of the heart that the mind cannot comprehend. There is an assurance of the heart that the mind cannot grasp. There is a relationship with God of the heart that the mind can only dream about. In this time of rest and sabbatical I have been seeking the face of God. It's a passion I acquired from David the king. He pursued the face of God. I can only imagine what that looks like because, in truth, it's a heart quest, not a quest of the mind. 


 One of the things I find as I get closer to the face of God is his love and joy in my presence. He really loves me! He likes me, he really does. He's glad to see me. Personally. I feel so inadequate to even be in his presence, unworthy, imposing on his time and attention, but he loves me. As my heart is directed into his love I begin to see myself as he does. I see the me he sees and it brings the same response that Jesus had to the love of the father....steadfastness. As Jesus prayed in the garden, steadfast in his decision to obey the father because of the father's love for him and for us, he went to the cross steadfast in obedience because he knew the father loved him. I see I cannot walk in steadfast obedience until I know the father's love. It's his love that gives me the ability to be steadfast in Christ. 


We all go through difficult days, days that challenge our commitment to faith, but the love of God will bring us to a steadfast walk that can only be known to the heart. The mind would say you are crazy, but the heart knows the Father's love and that makes all the difference.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

A new day

It is early morning here. Not yet enough light to see well, but the first indications that dawn is only an hour away. The birds are starting to sing. They know dawn is near. Their songs are like an orchestra tuning up before a concert. You can tell by their rehearsal the concert will be magnificent. At this time of morning it's hard to tell changes in light, but it is growing brighter by the minute. As I meet with other believers I hear this same anticipation of the approaching dawn. The Lord is coming, are you ready? It feels it could happen at any moment. But there are still so many who haven't heard, we must be about evangelism. It's all the early preparation for the songs of the dawn when the Son rises....when Jesus returns. If you have never investigated the claims of Christ I encourage you to do so. The Son is rising, he will be here soon. I so want everyone to be ready for the wonderful concert of celebration that will follow.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Praying...

My wife and I are attending a contemplative prayer retreat this weekend. Lauren Winner is speaking and Phil Keaggy is helping with the music. It couldn't get much better. I will tell you more in a couple days....

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The day is near




"The night is almost gone, and the day is near. 
Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness 
and put on the armor of light."  Romans 13

I'm fascinated by the fact that the most popular search word on my blog is for the word "sunrise".  We all want to see the glory and beauty of a new day, the hope for another 24 hours.  Sunrise give us a fresh start, a promise of new things.  As the night evaporates in the light of day we awake to new beginnings, new hopes for what's ahead.


In human history the daylight is near.  Morning is coming.  It's been night for thousands of years with only the first hints of light showing on the horizon.  Most don't know if this is an indication of the onset of night or the first light of a new day.  


Paul writes that day is near, the sun is rising.  So there is a response- get dressed!  In other words lay aside the deeds of the darkness, the sins we hide when no one can see, and put on the armor of light.  What a contrast- deeds of darkness vs. the armor of light.  I wonder what pictures Paul had in his mind as the Holy Spirit moved him with these words.  They paint such an amazing picture of change in time and history and the invitation to a response.  


Morning is coming, get ready!  This fascinating theme was part of C.S. Lewis' book "The Great Divorce".  He described this image of first light as both heaven and hell discuss what it meant.  Paul tells us...morning is coming.  The day is near.  The sun is rising.  


Soon we will all see the Son as he comes to gather his  family from the far reaches of our planet.  Get dressed, get ready, here he comes.....

One day....

"Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."  -Philippians 2


One day, and it's coming soon, every knee will bow at the name of Jesus and confess he is Lord.  That is the claim of the the Bible as it speaks of what Jesus did and who he is.  


Every knee will bow.  This is a claim of exclusive nature.  It's a claim that Jesus, and Jesus alone will be worshipped one day as Lord of heaven and earth. That's why Jesus is the lightning rod of so much conflict and discussion.  


If he is who he claimed we all must worship him.  If he isn't then any other religion will work just fine. But this claim from Philippians demands attention.  It forces us to make a decision- either he is Lord or he isn't.  He doesn't get a "nice guy" pat on the back and "glad you were a good man" claim.  That is not an option.


If he was and is who he claimed and this passage will one day be reality (as I believe it will) then every knee will bow and worship Jesus as God.


No matter your religious faith this claim is profound!  It's a claim that one day Stalin will bow his knees to Jesus, one day the Pope will bow, Muhammad will bow, Buddha will bow, Charles Darwin will bow, Richard Dawkins will bow, Gandhi will bow, every man, woman, boy and girl of all history will bow and worship him as Lord.


One day we will see all the "greats" of time and history  on their knees before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  If the bible is true it would be the wisest choice of your life to bow your knees now and worship the one who claimed to be God because one day we all will bow our knees and worship him.  Why not start now?


Quote of the day







Your problems only become too big when your God is too small.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Quiz time!



How about a quiz?  Are you ready?  This will be a simple one, but should be fascinating if any of you want to participate.  Here's the question,  only one:


What's the best thing that ever happened to you?


That's it.  I look forward to hearing your stories.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Victory declared


Last night my wife and I went to see a movie.  It was an adventure film packed with action.  At one point in the film the heroine quietly prayed the Lord's prayer, a prayer prayed by millions of Christians for more than 2,000 years, but she left out the last line of the prayer!  That caught my attention so when we got home I once more revisited this prayer given us by Jesus as a model of how to pray and here is the last line of the prayer that the heroine left out,

"For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
Amen."

By its omission it stood out more boldly as I read just this part of the prayer.  It's the declaration of victory that was given by Jesus and prayed by Christians nearly every Sunday, but I wonder how many catch the implications of this last sentence.

It's a declaration that God is King of heaven and earth, that the kingdom is his, he is Lord.  It declares that his is the power. He is in charge and does as he wishes.  He's the sovereign of everything seen and unseen and his power rules.  His is the glory.  All glory belongs to him.  He is to be praised, glorified and celebrated and the one due all worship.  And then this last sentence ends with these words, "For ever and ever....."  There will be no end to God's kingdom, his power, his glory.  It will endure forever!

Victory has been declared.  It's a wonderful praise giving glory to God for his rule, his power and his glory....for ever and ever.  I wonder....how many of us leave this last sentence out of our prayers, out of our lives, as we ask God for our needs and cares.  How often do we leave out the most important part of this amazing prayer, as the heroine in the movie did, and by doing so we miss the reason the prayer can even be prayed in the first place....because the one we pray to is King with all power and glory to be able to answer the prayers we pray.  

What a wonderful declaration of victory won.  How easily we say the words and don't realize their implications.  I'm most grateful for this last sentence in the Lord's prayer.  It stands out as a mountain top for us as we live in a world that seems to be out of control.  In the midst of it all the King is on the throne with power to accomplish his will in the world and receive the glory he is due.  And I'm most grateful that this kingdom will last for ever and ever and ever.....


Saturday, June 02, 2012

A draught in the land



There is a passage of scripture in Amos 8 that describes a day when the word of God will be hard to find.  Here are the prophet's words from more than 2,500 years ago,



“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord,
    “when I will send a famine through the land—

not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
    
but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. 

Men will stagger from sea to sea
    
and wander from north to east,

searching for the word of the Lord,
    
but they will not find it."



Amos is one of my favorite prophets, but I never dreamed I would see the fulfillment of his words in my days.  Those days are here!  With churches on every corner it's hard to find a church that teaches God's word.  It's as if the pastors in our day don't trust the word of God to hold the attention of their people so they have turned to entertainment and by doing so have abandoned the very words that will give life to those who attend.


If you are a parishioner you know how difficult it is to find a good bible teaching church.  If you find yourself in the desert looking for God's word don't give up.  There are churches that teach God's word without apology.  Keep looking, you will find one.  


Pastors, preach the word!  It's the only thing, the only text that will change the lives of those in your church.  Trust God's word, preach the gospel, talk about Christ.....you might find that people will come to hear you because no one else is teaching the word of God in your area.  People are hungry, feed them the only food that will satisfy their souls....God's word.