Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Trust in God


One of the great joys of travel is the people I meet around the world. There are so many wonderful and amazing stories of lives lived in every corner of our globe.  

Common to them all is fear.  In each story, as you listen, there will be times of fear and anticipation.  Times when we simply don't know what to do.  I saw what to do in this little baby in Kenya.  She was a momma's girl for sure! Security was being wrapped tightly on her mother's back as her mom worked in the kitchen.

She never let us get too close, we had white faces, and I'm sure it terrified her to see such strange people, but her mom gave her security, safety.  

This morning, as I read Psalm 56, I came to these words that reminded me of this little baby,

When I am afraid, 
I will put my trust in You. 
In God, whose word I praise, 
In God I have put my trust.

For David, as for us, it's not "if I'm afraid" but "when I'm afraid".  Fear always comes and the right response is trust in God.  It feels like this little girl feels, protected and safe next to momma.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Home at last!

I just got home after a marathon flight from Dubai. It's so nice to be home!  I'll post updates and some thoughts after a bit of rest.  Thanks for your prayers.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Traveling

Have you ever noticed that the night before a long trip you hardly sleep at all with anticipation?  That was my night last night.  Anticipation of many hours of travel. Anticipation of being home and readjusting to life there.  Worries about home and work I had dismissed for 10 days all came flooding back into my mind.  Strange how our minds work...preparing us for the change in life.

This has been a wonderful week with these 50 pastors.  We have laughed together, visited, shared important truths together, hugged and done the traditional Kenyan hand shake until I know it by heart.  I'm thrilled to be going home, but now the worries of life back there overtake my mind and I prepare for what I will face in Texas once more.  Off we go.  We will see you all soon.

Our week in Kenya is done

The week is over so it's time for our parting group photo.  
What a great group of men and women!

And here's our team- Luke, Bo, me and Charlie.  

We just got back to our rooms.  Rest today and then travel for the next two days to get home.  We are all exhausted, but it's been a wonderful week together with men and women growing in their faith and trying to pastor their flocks in a difficult part of the world.  I hope we were an encouragement to them.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Our team in Kenya

Our team is nearing the end of our week here.  It's been a great team, but a difficult week.  Thank you for your prayers and encouragement.  Tomorrow is our last day and then off to home.  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Thoughts on Kenya

Today we begin day three on the east coast of Kenya.  We are meeting with and training 40-50 pastors.  These men and women are great, but I'm concerned for them and their churches.  It's really bothering me.  There are very few men in any of the churches!  They have women and children, but the men have disappeared!  I was shocked and wondered what is happening.  As I see it, and of course God works in spite of what I see, many of these churches are already dead and just don't know it yet.  What happened to the men?  Where is the message that would challenge men for God?  How did this happen?  It's very much on my mind.  It will be a matter of prayer for me.  Today, another day of teaching and time with some wonderful men and women.  I hope we can help them do well in the days ahead.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Church in Kilifi, Kenya

This morning I had the great privilege of speaking at the church of one of our pastors in the bible college.  Here are a few faces from the morning.












Saturday, April 20, 2013

Sunday morning in Kenya

It's Sunday morning in Kenya.  This morning we scatter to different churches to speak.  Some of our team have never done this before, so it will be an exciting day.  I will have photos as soon as I can for you, but we just got in a night ago and used the time to catch up on sleep.  Moving 9 hours ahead in time is more difficult as I get older, but a good night sleep and I'm ready to go.

One of the things we learned, as we talked to the pastor coordinating our day today, is that most of the churches have very few men.  The men, like in Russia, have "checked out" and chosen alcohol instead.  I wonder how often this happens in a culture.  I'm sure, if you take the men out of the church you take away its life, ultimately killing it.  Women are so wonderful to respond to faith, but what happens to the men?  (Forgive me, I'm just thinking out loud.)  I think this is something I will need to work on some more....

I'll post again when I have some photos.

Friday, April 19, 2013

On the way...

It's 4:30 am and we just got to Dubai.  A couple hours here and then off to Nairobi.  It's been a great trip so far, but very tiring.  I guess that missing a night of sleep will do that.  Thanks for your prayers.  I will keep you updated as I can.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Packed and ready....

Off to Africa! This morning we board a plane and head east...or is it north?  Anyway, when the plane lands tomorrow evening we will be in Nairobi, Kenya.  I'll write as I can and keep you updated.  I would appreciate your prayers.  JAMBO!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Unpacking history with humor


Waiting


Here we come...ready or not!


Tomorrow we are on a plane for Kenya.  We leave at noon, but won't arrive in Nairobi until Friday evening.  But it will be worth it!  

We are traveling to spend a week with 50 pastors we have been discipling for three years now.  Next week we begin our third year together.  These are such wonderful men and women it will be sheer joy to see them and spend time with them once more.

As I think about each face I long to see them once more and spend time with them.  I think of Francis, and Martin, Winstone and Grace.  They are all such a blessing it will be great to be with them once more....I know I've said that.  Ok, let me move on....

The week ahead will be about the faith of Islam.  Our goal is to help these pastors understand another faith that is alive all around them.  I think, for many of them, there is some fear and distance between them and the Muslims in their area.  I hope we can help them understand this different faith and reach out with the love of Christ to their Muslim neighbors.

As we have prepared for this I realize how unconnected I am to the Muslim in my world.  To be honest I don't look for those opportunities as I could.  Most of them are truth seekers, just as I am, and there would be great common ground for friendship, but I haven't pursued it as I could...as I should.

It's funny that when I prepare to teach someone else I find I usually get more out of it than those I teach.  It may be that I'm just a poor teacher, but I think it's honestly about the work of the word and the Spirit as I prepare....in the preparation I am changed as well.

So today....pack.  Tomorrow....travel....all day!  Ready or not, here we come.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

As for me....


But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord,
I say, “You are my God.”
 My times are in Your hand

Psalm 31:14-15

There are opportunities to fear, to panic, to worry, especially after a terrible tragedy like the one we all witnessed in Boston.

Each of us will make a choice about how we respond to the attempt by wicked men to create terror.  Each of us will choose a way to deal with events like this. Some will simply rationalize and convince themselves this could never happen to them.  Others will become fearful, worrying about everyone and everything.  Each of us will make a choice.

When terror knocks at the door, when tragedy happens, when fear overwhelms....we each deal with it in a different way.  How will you deal with the anarchy of a fallen world?  What will you trust?

"As for me"...what a great way to introduce David's decision when terror and death approached his life.  It's a declaration of trust in God whatever happens. 

As for you...when terror approaches you who will you trust? How will you respond? 



Monday, April 15, 2013

Waiting for the Lord revisited



I wrote this post last year. It's come to my focus again as I read Psalm 27:14 where David invites the reader to wait on the Lord.  Wait, knowing he will answer, he will meet the need.  As I read the verse I thought about this post and thought I would revisit it for my own walk this morning.  I hope it once more helps you.

 I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
6 I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning. -Psalm 130:5

Waiting....

It's a skill learned with much reluctance. We don't want to wait. We want what we want RIGHT NOW! But to wait, and more specifically, to wait for the Lord is an important disciple for every believer.

It means we have put our case, our request, our problem before God and we wait for his reply. It's as if the letter has been sent, the request made, but it takes a while for the reply to arrive. Every day we go to the mailbox hoping for a response. Every day we wait. "I wait for the Lord." There's a dependence here, a trust, an appeal to someone who can help in our time of need, but we wait.

We wait for his reply. The waiting is just as important as the reply itself. It means I don't try to do it myself. I'm not working to resolve my own situation. I'm waiting.....I'm waiting for God's response. It's a trust that demands patience. How long do I wait? What do I do while I wait? Am I being lazy by not doing something myself? How do I know when I should act and when I should wait?

Waiting is hard. Waiting on the Lord is even harder. It's the silence that makes it so difficult. While I wait, as least in my experience, I rarely hear word about the timing of the response. God doesn't e-mail me to let me know it's on the way. I just have to wait, to trust, to know that God is trustworthy.

Waiting for the Lord demands an upward focus, a trust in the Lord to accomplish what I have asked of him. Soon the answer comes and then what joy, but let me offer this- there is more joy to be realized in the waiting than we ever know. In that waiting our faith grows. We trust someone else to do what we cannot. In that waiting we grow and that's much more important than the answer of the moment.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Morning praise


There is no God but Yahweh and Jesus is his only begotten Son, Lord of heaven and earth, and soon coming King.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Saturday's cartoon


I love this cartoon on a Saturday morning.  It's so typical of each of us.  We judge the world around us through our own value system and are more than willing to help others see what they are doing wrong.  

A passage that has captivated me is Luke 6:27-38.  They are the words of Jesus and are profound on this topic.  Here is just a portion of that amazing and very convicting passage,


“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”


The hardest words of this passage are the first three.  We are skilled and well voiced in what others are doing wrong.  We would help them if they would only listen, but Jesus tells us that instead of being the judge with a guilty verdict ready to give we are to be forgivers, givers, letting God take care of the other person.  


Paul takes this idea even further in Romans 14 when he says, "who are you to judge the servant of another?"  The message of scripture is clear....don't judge!  Even if you're right it doesn't help.  Instead, love, forgive, give, help and come alongside the one you first criticized.  You will find there is much more to their story than you can see on the surface.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Rejoice, be glad!




This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

—Psalm 118:24



I just read this verse for the second time this morning.  Once in a devotional and again in an e-mail.  To be honest, I should read it or say it each day as I begin.  I forget to rejoice, I forget to be glad. I should be glad, I should rejoice...not because of the circumstances I go through, but because of who is in charge of my days.  I know, from so many years of walking with God, that he is in charge of every breath, every moment of my life, but I too easily forget and worry, fret or panic over some little thing that happens.  In less than a day I will forget the things that had me worried today.  I can see why God makes us take a break to sleep each night.  If we didn't, we would go insane with the realities of the world we can't control.  But someone is in control and he loves us.  It's a good day because God made it.  Be happy, don't worry.  I think the great theologian, Bobby McFerrin, said that as well.  In fact, I think I'll take a break and listen to his great hymn of trust in God, "Don't worry, be happy!"  Have a great day.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Peaks and Valleys


I attended a funeral yesterday for an old friend.  He was 93 and had been ready to go home for a long time.  He's home today.  

As I came into the lobby of the church I saw several other friends I haven't seen in a while.  We began to talk about the struggles of life, the peaks and valleys of being human.  One of my friends said, "I always grow best in the valleys."  To which I replied, "I bet you don't pray for valleys though!"  He smiled and admitted he didn't.

We all have the ups and downs of life, the joys and sorrows of finding and losing, hopes and fears.  But I think my friend was right that our times of growth are when we are forced to trust God, when we are afraid, when all hope seems lost...it's in those times when we grow the most.  It's those times of wilderness when we have to trust God or else.  

On the mountains all is good. We feel the breeze, see the sun and enjoy the bounty of what God has given.  Why is it that we don't seem to trust God as much in the good days as we must in the bad?  I think it's because there are moments of delusion when we think we have everything taken care of.  We forget that every moment is a moment of total trust in God...whether mountain top or dark valley of despair.

The bible is filled with admonitions that are based on one essential truth.  Here are a few of the things we are told from both old and new testament, "Don't fret", "don't worry", "don't be anxious", "don't be afraid", and many more.  I know, if you've read the bible, you've seen some of these simple admonitions.

They are all based on this one truth- God is sovereign!  That means he's in total control of EVERYTHING and fully able to accomplish his plans for you.  He's ALWAYS in control.  And, he's all powerful.  The reasons we are given these admonitions always comes back to one basic truth.  You have an awesome big God who is taking care of everything.  Whether peak or valley God is with you, caring for you, watching over you.

Today was a valley day for me.  It came in a moment, much like a roller coaster.  One minute I'm at the top, enjoying the sun and the beautiful day and then my stomach drops as I plummet towards the valley.  Fear and panic invade my emotions and my thoughts race to thoughts of despair and hopelessness.  I know you have been on that ride as well.  As I plummet to the valley I have to stop and remind myself of who is in control of my life.  It doesn't stop the emotions of the moment, but in just a bit I remember God.

As I talked to God about all of this today I admitted I would have been worse than any of his people coming out of Egypt!  He would have struck me dead on the first day, but I'm so thankful that his grace and kindness helps me, as weak as I am, through the descents  into the valley...where, like my friend, I always grow the most.

Back to Kenya!



Off to Kenya again!  We leave in a week.  Much to do before we leave, much to do here.  All this preparation is the reason I haven't been here for a bit, but I will try to post a few thoughts later today.  I would appreciate your prayers as we travel and spend a week with 50 amazing pastors.  It will be wonderful and exhausting!  

Build it bigger!

It's early morning.....4am to be exact.  I can't sleep, so I thought I would take a moment and update you on some of my thoughts.  I have been busy getting ready for an Africa trip and trying to take care of other issues as well, so I apologize for not being here as often as I would like.  I will try to post more often.  It does seem that a busy life for me makes it harder to get a few moments of silence and thoughtfulness....in other words my mind is just not as fertile when I'm too busy.  But here are some thoughts I'm working on...let me know if you want to know more about this.

In the last few days I've been thinking about and studying the "New Jerusalem", that city made by God.  The descriptions of it in Revelation 21 are fascinating.  In the picture painted is, as I see it, amazing insight into the redemptive work of Christ.  God loves to paint picturs with what he makes and this city is one of those wonderful pictures.  I would like to take about a week and talk about this new city, this place where the saints will live, if you are interested.  

Let me know if you want to know more.  I have a lot of thoughts on this I'd like to share.  You might ask, what does the title have to do wtih this?  In John 14 Jesus said, "I go to prepare a place for you..." and this city in Revelation 21 is that place.  There has never been a construct like it in time or history.  In just a few verses God describes the biggest building project of all creation...built as a home for the bride of Christ.  I think it will take about a week to talk about how amazing it is.  Shall I develop this and write about it here?  Are you interested?  Let me know.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Monday's cartoon


What an amazing time in history we live in!  There is more entertainment, more information than any generation before us has ever had and yet most people you meet will admit they are bored.  How can that be? 

How can a culture with so much entertainment, so much information, so much to discover be bored?  In the admission of boredom is the reality that all of this entertainment, all of this information does not satisfy.  Our quest for happiness is still unresolved.  Our desire for peace is still unmet.  

What a great time this is!  All around us is a culture bored with itself looking for happiness, looking for something they don't have.  For the Christian there couldn't be a more exciting day!  How will we use it?

Sunday, April 07, 2013

The main thing



All of us have one thing that is the driving force of our lives, our "statement of purpose" as some would describe it.  If I were to ask you could probably tell me your "main thing" or "one thing" that is the driving purpose and focus of your life and choices.



Every faith has one.  In Islam the main thing is "There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his prophet".  That is their statement of faith, their core value and it drives everything about their faith.  They believe it's their task to bring everyone to that worldview.



Sadly I think the Christian faith is weak in this area.  We don't really have that one thing that gives focus and clarity to our faith.  This week, as I prepared for this morning, one commentator described a passage I am working on as "the main thing" of the Christian faith.  As I studied and prepared I think I agree.  It really does give clarity to what is important for us as Christians.  Here it is,



1 John 5:11 And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.



The great revelation and message of the Christian faith is eternal life in Jesus Christ.  It is our main thing.  These verses say so much more as you read them.  They declare that to have life you have to have Jesus Christ as well....because he IS life.  If you don't trust him, have  him, know him then you don't have life, can't have life.  That message is profound, dogmatic and clear.  Want eternal life?  Then trust Jesus Christ....he IS eternal life.  You can't have "it" without him, they are the same.



That clarifies why living a good life just isn't enough.  If you live the very best life of all times, if you are the most giving, caring, self-sacrificing person of all times and don't have Christ you don't have life.  Your good works are completely different from life and they won't get what you are trying to get because life is attached to having Christ, to trusting him, knowing him.  That clears up so much as you think through it.  We want to get to God through our own efforts, but there is no pathway for that.  Life, eternal life, is connected to trusting Jesus Christ, if you have Jesus you have life.  If you don't have him you don't have life, you can't have life....because he IS life.



That is our main thing.





Saturday, April 06, 2013

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Losing Jesus

There is a fascinating story in the gospel of Luke that gave me pause. As I read the passage I thought, "they lost Jesus!"  Here's the story of the first people to lose Jesus,

Luke 2:41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. 42 When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. 43 After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, 44 because they assumed he was among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends.
45 When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. 46 Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. 47 All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
48 His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”
49 “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 


They lost Jesus!  


In the busyness of life, as they traveled home, they didn't even notice that they had lost Jesus. They assumed he was with them.  When they finally discovered he wasn't they retraced their steps to find him.  I can't imagine their thoughts as they frantically searched. THEY LOST JESUS!  

He was the Messiah promised.

He was the King of the Jews. 

He was the hope of Israel.  

God had entrusted him to them. How could this happen?  Where did we last see him?  Where did we leave him? 


How much of our lives can we live without noticing Jesus?  How often we travel for days and suddenly realize, hey...where's Jesus? Where was the last place we saw him, met with him?  It seems that Mary and Joseph were not the only ones to lose Jesus...we do it all the time.  Life gets busy, stuff to do, and suddenly we turn to discover we have lost Jesus, left him somewhere as we have been busy about living life.



He doesn't chase us, he waits....waits at the last place we met....waits for us to return to that place of encounter with him.  We may be frantic about our search for him, but he waits.  He knows where we are and he waits for us to return to him.



How could they lose Jesus? But they did....and so do we!  In the crazy lives we live we leave him somewhere behind.  We don't even notice he's not with us and then suddenly think, "Where's Jesus?  What happened? Where did we last meet?" 


When that happens in your life go back to the last place you met him.  He's waiting for you.  He's waiting to fellowship with you.  He will wait.  He waits for us to stop, return to him and walk with him in God's presence on his terms.  It might surprise you to realize you've lost him, but it happens to all of us.  Return to him.  He's waiting.*

*(Caveat: I know, according to God's word, that he will never leave us or forsake us.  That truth has not escaped me.  The word picture I'm using in this piece is meant to connect the experience of Mary and Joseph with our lives as believers and how busy we can be.  Thanks for catching the big idea of the post and not dwelling on the theological nuance of his presence in the believer's life.)