Friday, November 30, 2007

Running the race

Today, as I read the word, I come to this passage in 1 Cor. 9-
1Co 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.
1Co 9:25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
1Co 9:26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air;
1Co 9:27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
As I read this it reminds me again of some basics of the Christian life I need to remember. The problem is that I easily forget them, so I know others do as well. Let me just briefly list the basics of the Christian life (the race)-
1. We are in a race. Obvious? Not to most. But if you know you are in a race it changes how you go through your day, it makes the days more intentional.
2. It's a marathon, not a sprint. The race will be my demands a focus and endurance.
3. There is a prize for the one who runs well!
4. This race, the Christian life, demands self-control. It means I have to say "no" to some things so I can win the race. It's not a punishment, it's wisdom exercised so that I can run well.
5. I must run (live) "in such a way" that I will succeed. That means intentionality. I live and choose and do because of a bigger picture- I'm in a race with a goal in mind- the finish line.
6. This race means that I must discipline myself so that I won't be disqualified. What a word for an athlete...the ultimate embarrassment...disqualified. It's the ultimate shame to prepare for a race, then to not finish, but to be disqualified. The implication? There's rules to this race, there are things to do and things to avoid. If I want to finish the race well I have to make some choices. To be shamed by disqualification is possible.
These are just a few things I noticed from the passage. I'm glad Paul used a word picture that I can makes this very visual for me. A race, a finish line, training, endurance, do's and don'ts, rules, shame possible.....all of it is very clear and understandable to us in the 21st century. Paul is throwing out a challenge and an in such a way....
One of the things that always keeps me focused is to remember that there is a finish line, there is a tape to break, there is glory or shame to be will I finish the race? My goal and challenge is to finish well, to finish with a smile and's your race going?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Offending Islam

It seems that I read daily that someone is in trouble for offending the Muslim world in some way. Now it's a teacher in Sudan who allowed her children in the classroom to name a toy after the prophet Muhammad.

Is there any way that we who are not Muslim do not offend Islam? I think in truth the answer is "no." The very fact that I am a Christian and do not believe that Allah is the true God is offensive to the Muslim who is honest.

We must be ready to deal with the fact that any faith other than Islam is offensive to the devout Muslim. So here I am, a Christian in love with the God of the Bible, worshipping Jesus, the God man who died for my sins on the cross, believing that he is the only way to salvation and that he will return to welcome me into his eternal kingdom.

To the Muslim I may be an infidel, but to the God who made me I am his blessed son.

Christians & Jewish martyrs say; "I will die for what I believe".
A Muslim martyr says; "you will die for what I believe".

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dragging idols

In part of my reading this morning I'm in Ezekiel. I came to chapter 20:7-8 and read these words, "I said to them, 'Cast away, each of you, the detestable things of his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.' But they rebelled against Me and were not willing to listen to Me; they did not cast away the detestable things of their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt."

It made me stop for a moment....I never read that in Exodus, but here in Ezekiel God is telling us they drug their idols through the desert for 40 years and would not let them go. After all they saw God do, how he provided for them, how he cared for them, they still drug along those worthless idols for 40 years.

I wondered....what idols am I dragging around? What am I holding onto after all I have seen God do? What "false gods" will I not let go of? Is there anything that I will not "cast away" because God thinks it's detestable? And, why don't I view it as detestable too? These are just some thoughts running through my mind. I know I do it....I know I'm "dragging idols." What are they? And am I willing to cast them away like worthless trash? How do I get God's view on all of this?

Lord, show me what idols I'm dragging around. Help me to see them as you do. Help me to cast them away...don't let me be a rebel too.......

Monday, November 26, 2007

Just thinking again.....

Late last week I posted that I was feeling pretty empty headed and needed to take a break. The holiday gave me that. It was a great time of rest, being with family and spending some time with friends and my dear wife.
I must admit that my drug of choice is people. I love being with people. One of our men in the church came up to me after the sermon yesterday and said, "You are a weaver (I had spoken on weaving thanksgiving into our lives), you weave through the lives of people and make a difference in their lives." I took that comment as high praise, and I know he meant it that way.
So today I am thinking....what is it that we all need so badly in our lives? What is it that is so necessary for us? I am convinced it is a "people fix." We each need the touch, the ear, the presence of other people to live. We can't live this life alone, we need others to thrive.
I read an article about the orphanages in Russia in years past, and the problems they were having with infant deaths. Their newborn mortality rate was really high. They discovered that the solution to the problem was to schedule a time each day for these newborn babies to be held, loved and talked to. So they put in place a regular schedule of holding, loving and talking to each baby. The mortality rates dropped dramatically and the babies actually looked forward to and anticipated their 10 minutes of attention each day. We, as adults, are no different. We need attention. We need a "people fix."
But there is more, and here's where I think it gets hard...people don't just need time, they need someone who really cares about them, who will really listen, who will be interested in them. That's much harder because we find our lives so busy with "me" how do we dedicate the time to others that they need? It's one of the great deserts of our culture- people who will care for each other, and invest in one another's lives. For most of us, when we find it, it's like finding water in the desert, we just want to linger and drink in all we can...all the attention and love we can get because we are so needy, so thirsty....and that's where it gets hard. Like those babies who just needed some attention, we all look for someone to pay attention to us, and when we find them we hold on....not realizing that they need attention, time and care as well. Without realizing it we often run off the very people we most need.
So, like the Russian orphanage system, let me advocate we build into our lives a regular diet of investing in the lives of others. We all need it, we all hunger for it, why do we so neglect it? One of the couples we visited with over the weekend were talking about this very thing- why is it so hard to find friends? They invite people over for dinner, coffee or just time to play games, but no one ever does that for them. They feel the need, but our culture doesn't make it easy. I think we could fix a lot of our problems if we all scheduled 15 minutes a day to sit on our front porches and just visit with the neighbors....we all need our "people fix", it's part of the human hunger. Might I challenge you to schedule this into your life and make people important?
They are what God is most interested in.....

Monday's cartoon

Friday, November 23, 2007

Taking a break...

Time for a break. I'm tired, my brain is empty, and I need a I'm going to take a few days off. See you early next week. I'll be on that bench if you need me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I have to ask....

Ok, I have to ask...where would you ever need a sign like this? And, why?? And lastly,
what happened that made this sign necessary??? That's a story I want to hear!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving thoughts

Thanksgiving in just a couple days away. Families gather together to eat, talk and celebrate. It's a day to say "thank you" to God for all he has done in our lives. I must admit I don't say "thank you" enough, each year it's a new reminder that I need to make thanks part of my life. It does affect molds us, shapes us, changes our view of things. It's an intentional decision to thank God for his blessings. It's an admission that he gave them all to us. It's a celebration of his very nature, for his love endures forever. I'm so glad we worship a good God, a God who loves us. I'm grateful, thankful that his love endures forever! I hope you have a great day of food, family and thanks to the God who made us. He is so good.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The view from our back yard.... nothing like this. We live in Texas! The scenery in Texas is typical southwest United States. Sometimes I wonder why anyone ever fought over this land in the first place or decided that this would be a great place to live. The thing that keeps us here are the people and the community of believers we love and care for. If I were looking for a place to live because of the view this would not be it. But here we Texas. It's great to have such a rich (in love and faith) community of people around us. We can give up the view because of the people. The family of God makes even Texas beautiful.

Monday's cartoon

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Feeling like Solomon, the conclusion?

A few days ago I presented a problem for your consideration. Here is the problem:
"I counseled a couple last night that presented me with a dilemma much like the one Solomon faced with the two women and the baby (1 Kings 3:16-28). This couple came to me to resolve their dispute, and here it is- she's a Christian, he's a Muslim, they are married with two children.....each of them wants to raise the children in THEIR faith! She wants to raise them Christian, he wants to raise them Muslim. How's that for a problem?"
I invited your thoughts and told you I would let you know what I told them. Here is what I said to them-
I told the wife, she's the Christian, "You need to pray to your God and ask him to work in the lives of your husband and children. You need to teach them about your faith, and share with them the gospel message. You should take them to church, and pray that God will work in your family."
Then I looked at the husband, the Muslim, and said, "You need to pray to your God and ask him to work in the lives of your wife and children. You need to teach them about your faith, and share with them what you believe is the way to God. You should take them to the mosque, and pray that God will work in your family."
As you can imagine, the wife who brought her husband to me to convert to Christianity was angry. But I wasn't finished yet. I had to tell them one more thing,
Then I looked at them both and said, "I need to tell you one more thing. You will be praying to different Gods. They are not the same God. You also need to know that only one of them is the real God, and the other one is not a god at all. You need to trust your God to work in your lives. The real God will work, and change your family. Can you both do that?"
They both agreed to my assignment, and I sent them on their way.
Like Elijah with the prophets of Baal in the Old Testament this is indeed a test of faith in God, and it's an opportunity to see the real God work. Do we really believe that the God of the Bible is the only God there is? Then trust him to do what only he can do. Let the real God prove himself....and he will.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

World's most effective speed bump

Something fun for a Saturday afternoon.

The Master's Four Hour Work Week *

The speaker --touted in the media as the trendiest motivational life coach of the moment-- sat cross-legged before his disciples as they waited to catch his first words. This was supposed to be a seminar on time management and life changing insight into the quality of living. There were all kinds of people here too-- sales executives, ministers, politicians, CEOs and even some "creative" types and people off the street. But why were we all sitting on the ground? Someone whispered that the guy had taken all the management and how-to knowledge of the past 1,500 years (and possibly of the future, too, if you buy into the spiritual stuff) and distilled it into a few succinct statements that could rearrange your priorities forever. If he wanted us to sit on the ground, that was fine. The speaker lifted his hand and the buzzing died down.
"Point No. 1," said the speaker, gazing at his audience. "Swear not."
There was silence for a full 30 seconds. What the ... is that it? I hate these 'zen' kind of things speakers do. A hand went up. "What do you mean by swearing?" asked an earnest-looking minister. "I mean, don't promise anything, and you'll never disappoint or be disappointed. Let your yea be yea and leave it at that. Never have a goal. People will understand--in fact they'll thank you for it, they'll be free of expectations, so will you, and everybody will get more done." There was some nodding, but it was clear no one was really getting it.
"Point No. 2. Don't lay up treasures here on earth."
There was furious whispering among the group. A man in a blue sports jacket raised his hand. "I'm pretty sure that would wreck the economy. I mean, the banking industry would crumble and we'd be in a Depression for sure. Maybe if you elaborated a little..."
"Point No. 3. Take no thought for your life."
Now there was real buzzing. One elderly gentleman got to his feet and walked away. Finally someone asked, "If we took no thought for our lives, we'd probably never even come to a seminar like this."
"Now you're getting the idea," the speaker said. "Which brings us to point No. 4. Love your enemies."
The tension seemed to break and the crowd relaxed. Surely he was joking. Maybe this whole meeting was some kind of reality TV show set-up. A few started looking around for the cameras. A harried looking woman executive motioned to speak. "Sir, I'm sorry, but we expected some direction in how to live. Like... maybe you could evaluate our "lifestyle quotient." I actually brought some notes on what my dream lifestyle might be. Aren't you going to explain about how we need to take a mini-retirement and outsource our lives?"
"Actually, that was going to be my final teaching today. Point No. 5. Die to yourself."
The effect was as if he had adjourned the meeting. Several people got up and left. One rich young man protested: "Come on, that's not a mini-vacation, that's a permanent vacation... forever. You can't be serious." "As a heart attack," the Master deadpanned.
As the space around him emptied, a bird landed on the tree branch to his left. He smiled and thought to himself, "A prophet has no honor in his own country. Must be time to move on."

*An article from the "Wittenburg Door" blog

Friday, November 16, 2007

Just thinking again.....

I'm up at 4 again this morning. I really love the early mornings before anything or anyone else is up. It's so quiet! It's the one time in my day when noise and people do not distract me. It's a time when I can read the bible and think a little. This morning, as I read in Proverbs 16, I came across a phrase I have seen many times before, but never stopped to investigate, so this morning I stopped and looked.
The phrase is "an abomination to the Lord." I see it a number of times in Proverbs, but until this morning never took a serious look. So, I started with the dictionary. Here's the word I needed clarity on- abomination-bom·i·na·tion (ə-bŏm'ə-nā'shən) n., Abhorrence; disgust. A cause of abhorrence or disgust. American Heritage Dictionary
Ok, that's a good start. Now I have the meaning I needed to clarify the verses, and here they are...there are 11 of them in Proverbs-
Pro 3:32 For the devious are an abomination to the LORD; But He is intimate with the upright.

Pro 6:16 There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: (the list follows this phrase in chapter 6....make sure you know what the 7 things are.)

Pro 11:1 A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, But a just weight is His delight.

Pro 11:20 The perverse in heart are an abomination to the LORD, But the blameless in their walk are His delight.

Pro 12:22 Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, But those who deal faithfully are His delight.

Pro 15:8 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, But the prayer of the upright is His delight.

Pro 15:9 The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, But He loves one who pursues righteousness.

Pro 15:26 Evil plans are an abomination to the LORD, But pleasant words are pure.

Pro 16:5 Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Assuredly, he will not be unpunished.

Pro 17:15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.

Pro 20:23 Differing weights are an abomination to the LORD, And a false scale is not good.
There's the list. Now, what to do with it? I've read it over several times, and I see some basic things. 1. God hates those who hurt others. That's repeated in several ways in these verses, 2. God hates "fakers"....the proud, the liar, the deceiver..., 3. God hates pride, and 4. God hates the rebellious heart.
I think I will spend some more time going over these verses, but it helps to put them all together like this, and see what really "bothers" God. So, the thought of the day is this- Try to avoid these things, God doesn't like them and they will get you in trouble.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Feeling like Solomon

I counseled a couple last night that presented me with a dilemma much like the one Solomon faced with the two women and the baby (1 Kings 3:16-28). This couple came to me to resolve their dispute, and here it is- she's a Christian, he's a Muslim, they are married with two children.....each of them wants to raise the children in THEIR faith! She wants to raise them Christian, he wants to raise them Muslim. How's that for a problem?
I complimented him on being willing to come to a Christian pastor for advice (in fact the Koran tells Muslims to do that when they have questions) but the issues are difficult and eternally serious.
As always I prayed, "Lord, HELP! What do I say to this couple? How do I direct them so both will work towards the right end?"
Before I tell you what I said, what would you tell them? How would you counsel them?


Thanksgiving is next week here in America. It's a unique holiday to our country. A time to say "thank you" to God for all he has provided. This is a really interesting holiday in our culture in recent years. Thanksgiving has become a time for food and football. It's also the weekend to begin Christmas shopping. Thanking God for his blessings? It's just the prayer for the food, if one is offered at all. The truth is that many in our culture would pray Bart Simpson's prayer, "Lord, thanks for nothing. We bought all this stuff ourselves."

Personally, I know that all I have comes from God's gracious hand, but I wonder how many in our culture think the same way I do. I would guess that many look at this as just an extended holiday weekend....a great time for family, food and football.

To be thankful to God for anything there must be an admission that he provided it. If it's true that God is the provider then all that I have came from him. As one who is grateful for something I didn't earn or deserve I do want to say "thank you" to the giver. This Thanksgiving I plan to take some personal time and talk to my God and provider to just say "thank you" for all he has done. We are so blessed.....thank you Lord.

"Cultivate the thankful Spirit! It will be to you a perpetual feast."
-John R. MacDuff (1818-1895)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Packaged religion

I am reading a lot about investigations into "ministries" and "ministers" who are taking advantage of the gifts given to their ministries. I'm not surprised. It's not a new problem. It's just a new version of the old snake oil salesmen of past years.

Men and women who promise miracles to those who "buy" their product, but after they leave town those who have given their money for the "miracle product" find out that they are no better off, and the promises were a lie.

These new snake oil salesmen travel as "ministers" and promise great things "if you only have enough faith." The truth is that they have twisted the word of God and are making money at the expense of people who can ill afford giving it up. These "ministers" travel in private jets, drive expensive cars and indulge their desires thinking they are "serving God." The book of Jude talks about these's not a new problem. These men and women are liars, cheats, and deceivers. Their lifestyles and promises have hurt the gospel message and confused millions. They promise wealth and health, but the only ones who seem benefited by their promises are themselves.

Personally, I am glad to see the investigations happen. These men who are lying about God and the gospel message need to be exposed. It's just a shame they claim to be speaking for God. But God will defend himself. His message will still be told, and lost men and women who need a savior will still come to him. For that I am glad. God will guard his gospel, and the snake oil salesmen of our day will be found out.

I just feel bad for all of those who have bought their "dehydrated water" and the promises they make. As God said to Jeremiah about the false prophets of his day, "I neither sent them nor spoke to them." And so it is today.

The balancing act

I see a real challenge in my life and the lives of those I know- how to balance all that we have going on and not fall. It's demanding- work, family, faith, rest.....the days fill up so quickly. To balance it all sure seems like a stretch at times. The pull from this....the draw from that. I HAVE TO be here, I HAVE TO do that, we SHOULD go there.

It's an amazing balancing act that demands the best from us. How to balance...that is the question. It demands some decisions- what's important to me? What do I value? What must I say "no" to? We simply can't say "yes" to all that pulls on what to do?

One of my fellow pastors, Dave, describes it this way, "God doesn't invite us to live a balanced Christian life. What would that look like anyway? He invites us to give ourselves wholly to him, and let him lead and work in our lives." (The quote may not be exact, but I have the flavor of his thoughts.) I agree with Dave. A balanced life is not the goal. The goal is a life given wholly to God for his use and direction....then it's just a matter of "checking with the boss" on how to manage the rest.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Wandering in the desert

I have tried to write this piece a number of times now, and each time I have erased it all and started over. I can't seem to get it in the right words. Maybe I'm trying to be preachy or something. I don't know, but it just hasn't worked right. So let me try one more time.
What I am thinking about is our tendency to wander away from God and his family...that's the thought I'm working on. It's been a problem in my life, and as I watch others I know it's a chronic problem in the community of faith. We go wandering so easily, but often don't realize that when we wander from the family of faith all that is out there is desert. It's as if the family of faith is positioned in an oasis somewhere, and if you leave it, whatever direction you go, all you find is desert. As I have wandered away from God over the years I have never found anything but desert out there. There are no other oasis' that do what God's family does, but I still see believers wandering out into the desert far too often. I just got a note from one of our wanderers this week, and she shared with me her desert experiences. She didn't find anything out there either.
So, rather than write some preachy post that doesn't really accomplish what I want let me invite you to share your "wandering stories" and tell what you experienced. When you wandered from God and his family what did you find? As I watch many head off into the desert I would like to call out to them and tell them to come back, there is nothing out there, but I know they wouldn't believe me. They have to find out themselves. I just pray they can find their way back to the oasis......
So, what's your "wandering story?"

A good post to read

My friend James has written a great post. I invite you to stop by his blog and read his recent post.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

thank you

For all of you who have served this country through military service of any kind, thank you. It's been your sacrifice that has made this country a free and safe place. Even today men and women are serving and dying for this country. Thank you all!
I love the regular trips many in our area take to the airport to greet the troops returning from Iraq and other places. They cheer them home, shake their hands and tell them thank you. So on behalf of my family I want to say thanks for all that you have done to make this country a safe place to live.
It's a special day for me in another way, it's my birthday. Veteran's day parades have always been special to me because as a small child my dad would take me to the veteran's day parades and tell me, "son, they are marching to celebrate your birthday." For a while I believed him, and it made me feel very special. Now I know the special ones were marching by.
I'm blessed to have the freedom I enjoy, but I know it was built on the lives of millions of men and women who were willing to die to keep it for us. We are blessed indeed.
Thank you all!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

It's a matter of perspective

I deal with people all the time. That's my "job." Talking to them, counseling them, caring for them, listening to them. What I have found is that the way we view our lives and situations is a matter of perspective. I talk to happy people who have had a very difficult life, and others who are miserable who have had very easy lives.

Why the difference? I'm convinced from all the years of dealing with people that it is, in fact, a personal choice of how we want to view our lives. It's a matter of perspective. Will I view my life through my problems, my woes, my difficulties or will I look for the good in life, and be the optimist? One of the people I admire most in life is my wife. She has had some really bad things happen in her life, but she has chosen to look for the good, be positive, forgive, make the best of whatever comes her way.

Then there are those people who insist that the world is against them. I think the difference is all a matter of perspective. How will you view things? It's your choice. That's the difference I see in older soon as you meet them you can tell what they's now part of their face. Did they choose to finish well or finish poorly? You know the answer as soon as you meet them. What's amazing to me is that the people who are the happiest usually did not have an easy life, but they made a choice...they packaged the situations of their life in light of knowing that God was in charge and loved them.

How you view your life is revealed best by the adjectives you use. Those little defining words that tell us all your perspective. They are the defining words that reveal your perspective on God good or not? From what I read in the bible our perspective on life is a choice. How will we package what is happening to us? How will we view God? How will we evaluate our experiences?

Listen for your adjectives. It will tell you a lot about how you view God. Is your life out of control or is God in charge? It's all about your understanding and belief about God and the world you live in. It's the difference between seeing a bottle of water or seeing diet's a matter of perspective. So, listen for your adjectives today, and tell me what you find out about yourself.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Why does life have to be so hard?

I had coffee with a friend this morning. It was an interesting visit. In the course of the time together he asked, "Why does life have to be so hard?"
It was a sincere question based on his life and marriage. He and his wife have really had a tough time. He and I have spent countless hours over coffee talking and praying over his life and marriage.
Today, without thinking, I answered his question and responded, "Because some people insist on it."
We just sat there and looked at each other for a bit....and then it hit us both....that's true! There are times that life is hard because some people insist on it. They are miserable and want to make sure you are too. I have heard the expression "misery loves company," but I think this is more accurate, "misery creates company." When we are miserable no one is going to get away with a smile in our presence. If I'm suffering then everyone around me will join me or else!
I don't have a scripture for this, it's just an observation that I wanted to share with you. As I think about it I'm finding it is indeed true- why does life have to be so hard? Because some people insist on it.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

Eternity Practice

I have loved the passage in Revelation this song comes from for a long time. I am so excited to see this passage in Revelation 5:12-13 put to music. This is the praise every creature in heaven and earth will give to God and Jesus, the Lamb. Every creature....isn't that amazing? Those who believe in him of course, but even those who don't believe will worship him. Worthy is the Lamb....what a statement. If you have time today read Revelation 5 and look at the picture painted that sets the stage for this praise. It's the story of an event yet to happen, but I look forward to the day when we will be able to sing this praise in God's presence. Eternity practice? Yes indeed!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Celebrating holidays

Today, November 5th, is a holiday in Iran. It's "Death to America" Day.

I read the news clip on Al Jazeera and it made me stop for a moment. Being one of those who isn't in favor of such a holiday (I hope you understand my opposition to it) I wonder how a whole culture could come to such a place that they would celebrate the death and demise of another country and its people.

And, how would you celebrate such a day? Do you greet one another on this day with "Hello, death to America"? It's such an odd thing to celebrate. Do they exchange "Death to America" gifts? Do they say, "Happy Death to America Day!" It's just seems like a very strange and sad holiday to me.

So, let me counter this holiday with the creation of one of my own. On a day when others celebrate our demise I am going to pray for their salvation. Since holidays are so easy to establish I officially designate November 5th as "Pray for Iran" Day. From this day forward let it be so.

Happy "Pray for Iran" day!

20 minute sermons

It was my first church. I was a new pastor just getting started when on a Sunday morning an older gentleman came up to me. He said, "Pastor, I know you are new, so I wanted to tell you that I only come to church because my wife makes me. I don't like church, but in fairness to you I will give you 20 minutes to preach, then I'm going to sleep and I snore." Sure enough, he did! And the worse part- his wife made them sit on the front row!

Quickly I had to make some decisions. Try to preach through the snoring, or give a 20 minute sermon. I realized that I didn't have to preach everything in one week, they would be back next week. So this old gentleman helped me with a pastoral discipline I couldn't have gotten anywhere else...I learned to preach a sermon in 20 minutes. There were days that it was a race between he and I, but I made the adjustments, and learned a lot.

So, what's the point? I am preaching next Sunday at another church for a young pastor I have been mentoring. He calls me the "bishop of Flower Mound." We met this week to discuss the general topics, and then I asked, "how long do I have to speak?" He replied, "20 minutes." And I just smiled.....thanks to an old gentleman years ago who didn't want to be in church I can do a 20 minute sermon.

Monday's cartoon

Spending time in the ministry and also in the business world has helped me greatly. I understand how busy life is. It's amazing to me how hectic we have become. In the midst of all of the busyness one thing has been lost- time in God's word. May I venture to say that most of the Christ followers I talk to do not spend time in God's word daily. I am convinced that keeping Christians too busy to read God's word is the greatest victory the enemy has achieved in our time. The result? Most Christians you meet look just like the world because they have not invested time in God's word to let it transform them into the image of Christ, so we live and look just like the world around us. If you find yourself in this situation don't feel guilty and just go on with life, make some's worth the investment.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Quote of the day

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. -C. S. Lewis

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Looking back

King David did it often- he would look back on his life. It's a wise thing to do at stop and look back at what God has done. I have always been surprised to find that I see his work most clearly in the rear view mirror. Often, as I live in real time, it's hard to see what God is doing. It's when I look back at my life that I see his hand, his direction, his smile, his work.
David usually stopped to look back when he was discouraged, when it looked like his life was over he would stop and reflect on what God had done and know that the God who had cared for him all his life would do it again. I have to do this often....stop and reflect on what God has done in my life. It helps me when I'm down, defeated, or discouraged to reflect on what God has done in my life already. God has cared for me my whole life why would he stop now? With a moment of looking backward I can go forward. Looking back is a lesson David taught us.....use it when you find yourself discouraged, defeated and ready to give up. Here's one of David's times of reflection to encourage you-

Psalm 42:1 For the choir director. A Maskil of the sons of Korah. As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God.
Psalm 42:2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?
Psalm 42:3 My tears have been my food day and night, While they say to me all day long, "Where is your God?"
Psalm 42:4 These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.
Psalm 42:5 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.
Psalm 42:6 O my God, my soul is in despair within me; Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
Psalm 42:7 Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.
Psalm 42:8 The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, A prayer to the God of my life.
Psalm 42:9 I will say to God my rock, "Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?"
Psalm 42:10 As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me, While they say to me all day long, "Where is your God?"
Psalm 42:11 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A taste of heaven

We have a new coffee shop that just opened less than a mile from the church, it's call Texas Roast. What's so great about this place is they roast the beans on location! The coffee is wonderful. If necessary I will buy enough coffee by myself to keep this place open. If you are near the area I would encourage you to stop by and try their coffee. You won't find anything better this side of heaven.

Remembering miracles, part 2

It's been almost eight years now. It seems like such a long time ago. My wife went in for surgery to correct some problems she was having. It was an easy surgery, most women who have it are out of the hospital in a day or two, but that was not to be.

The surgery seemed to go well, and after recovery the hospital moved Joye to a regular room. I stayed with her, not wanting to leave until she was awake and responding, but she didn't. She was having problems and I couldn't get a nurse to take the problems seriously. I started calling the nurses station at about 6pm to ask for help. They would come down, tell me all was well and that she was just resting, but I didn't think things were going right. I kept calling, and actually went down to the station to tell them something was wrong....come check a something.

Then, finally, at about 8pm they checked her blood pressure for the first time. It was 50 over 30. She was dying! The nurse quickly called down to the intensive care unit and told them we were coming. We literally took Joye, bed and all, and headed for I.C.U. to save her life. Now they are worried, now they are listening to me...but was it too late?

Doctors and nurses came from everywhere, and none of them looked good. This was serious. Joye had lost most of her blood, and they were scrambling to find out what was wrong, and what to do. The room was full of doctors working to keep my sweet wife alive. Joye tells me she knew what was going on, but couldn't do anything about it. She said she just prayed, "Lord if this is it, there's nothing I can do, I'm ready."

Within minutes they decide to go back to surgery, but first they gave her several units of blood. She received 6 units of blood in the next few days to replace what she had lost. Quickly the surgeon is called in, it's midnight, and they head back to surgery. So there I sit, in the waiting room at 2am with another of our pastors, Neil, waiting to see if my wife would survive. It was an emotionally charged night. I will never forget those early morning hours.

I literally had to think about the possibility of seeing a new day without my wife! This was supposed to be an easy surgery, why did this happen? Why did it happen to us?

They told me that she was bleeding internally. She had more than 1,200cc of blood in her abdomen from the internal bleeding. I still don't know what really went on...who was at fault, what really went wrong, why she was bleeding, but by early morning they had stabilized her, and she was back in I.C.U.

She spent a week in I.C.U. before they moved her to a regular room. Slowly, she recovered. It literally took several years for her to get her strength back. Over the last 8 years Joye has almost fully recovered from these surgeries. It takes a long time to come back from a near death experience.

The miracle? In my mind there are a number of them- One, that I stayed with her and knew enough to demand help. Two, although she lost so much blood they were able to repair the damage and bring her back from the brink of death. And three, that God dealt with me during those early morning hours to prepare my heart for the loss of my wife.

It's good to look back at difficult times in our lives and see God work. It's good to see God bless my by letting me keep my wife for a few more years. It's good to know that God does work all things out for our good. It's good to have a good God who loves us.

But here's the rub- there are others who have gone through what we did and lost their loved one. They might read this and think that God didn't love them, that they didn't have enough faith, that God is punishing them. Nothing could be further from the truth! I will tell you that whether my wife lived or died God still loved me. He still cared about us. He still heard my prayers.

For me the difficulty is explaining the "why" of any of this. It is a question we ask....why did this happen? Why did God let my wife die? Why didn't he answer my prayers? Why did you get to keep your loved one and I didn't? I can't answer those questions, but I can tell you that God loves each of us equally. The whole of our lives, if we trust Christ as our savior, is overseen by the gracious, loving hand of God.

So, today I just wanted to take a moment to share one of God's great miracles in my life....and for my sweet wife it gave her the opportunity to be a grandma. What a difference she has made in the lives of those little children! Today I just want to remember a miracle that has rippled throughout the lives of those we know for more than 8 years now.