Friday, February 29, 2008

Closed for Repairs

I'm off to the hospital this morning for some repairs to my heel so I will close the blog for a few days until I'm feeling better. We met with the surgeon yesterday and he said the surgery will take about 3 hours. There are still some unknown issues until he's "in there" to look around. He asked if I had any questions, and I said, "Yes, would you please get a good nights rest?!"

Thank you all for your prayers. I'll update you on my repairs as soon as I possibly can.....

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Thoughts on faith, part 1

I've been thinking some more about my life and walk with God through difficult times. Most who have heard about my accident have been very encouraging and supportive, but there are a few who have said, "This wouldn't have happened if you had enough faith..." and with the best of intentions (so they say) they tell me how to avoid this kind of thing in the future. (I'm glad that none of the later are part of our church family.)
But I have been reading over James 1 and James says that faith does not grow without tests and trials. His reason for joy is that from these trials our faith will grow. Read James' words and then let's visit-
Jas 1:2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
Jas 1:3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
Jas 1:4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
If faith only grows through testing then why would I want to avoid a test? It's the same discipline that a weight lifter must exercise. He must lift weights to build his muscle strength. His strength doesn't increase without the test. James says this is true of faith as well. My faith needs tests to produce endurance and from those tests I grow in my relationship with God to a place where I am perfect and complete....lacking nothing.
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How can some in the Christian community say that hard times or trials are not in the will of God when all we read in scripture tell us that trials are a part of the life of faith? James makes it clear faith won't grow strong without trials. So if these are the "weights" that build my faith I want to use them for that purpose- to come to a place where I am perfect and complete....lacking nothing.
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For anyone to tell you that "if you had enough faith this wouldn't have happened" is to miss the very teachings of the bible. It's these trials that build my faith. If trials are not part of my walk then my faith is small. It's just the opposite of what some teach. So if you find trials in your life don't let anyone tell you it's because you don't have enough faith, instead respond in love by telling them, "On the contrary, this trial has come because I have faith, and I welcome it to make my faith even stronger. I will grow from this trial, and I will see God work in my life." Then smile and trust the Lord who is working in the midst of your trial.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Some thoughts today

I have been laying here with my foot up for just a few days now and I'm already going stir crazy. What can I do but color, write and think? I can see why depression is a close companion to serious illness. When all you have to do is sit and think you think about yourself....and nothing good comes from that!

I know better, but have wished for a "do over" of the last week. I know we all do that when something bad happens...if only I could have, or if only I didn't....then I wouldn't be here.

But I wonder, is this situation meant to do more for me than I know? What is God's goal through all of this? I read that amazing passage in James 1 as he begins the book by saying, "Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials." That response can only come from a look at the bigger picture, a knowing that the sovereign God of creation has allowed this in my life for a reason, so how should I look at it? WITH JOY! I'm still working on that, but I can't wait to see what he is going to do with me through this time.

So many of you are praying for me, thank you. I can't think of anything more exciting than to know that your name is being brought before the Father by people all over the world. Thank you for your prayers.

I got an e-mail from a family who went through this very same thing 6 years ago. The husband fell and crushed both of his heels! It was a very difficult time for them. They have wandered off, and I have not seen them in a while, but when they heard about my fall I got a note from them saying they want to help me in the same way I helped them during their crisis. That's the family of God working like it should. It will be great to see them again.

So, today is a day of rest and waiting...I will also use the time to pray. I'm not so interested in the "why" prayers as I am in praying, "Lord, will you work in my life through this time?" That's my see God glorified in my life when I am broken and hurting.

I'll keep you updated on what I find in my walk with God through this time......

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Wonderfully made

It's times like these, when I'm in pain or hurt, that I realize how wonderfully made I am. I honestly take my health for granted most of the time, but when I take a moment to dwell on it the truth is that the human body is an amazing creation. Something so well designed that each part must do its job for the whole to work properly. For the moment I have a part that is hurt, and until that is fixed the rest of my body, almost like a union on strike, tells me it will not do it's job until I fix what's broken.

What an amazing creation, woven together in such a way that each part works for the common good. It is the language of the bible that talks about our bodies and the church. Each part doing its job for the common good. So today I am thankful to the Lord for my wonderfully made body that has worked so well, and I'm thankful for the church that works together for the care and common good of each part in it. Thanks Lord for making me in such an amazing way, and thank you for your church and the way it cares for each member of the body.

Psa 139:15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Psa 139:16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.
Psa 139:17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

Monday, February 25, 2008

A clarification from last Sunday's post

Pastor Brent called to check on me today. He said he hadn't called because it "sounded" like I didn't want to see or hear from anyone (based on my posts from Sunday.)

I am sorry for that misunderstanding. As I mentioned in that post the pain from my crushed heel made it difficult to be with people, so if I gave anyone the impression that I didn't want to hear from you I apologize. Sometimes it helps to have others comment on your words. When you hear how they "heard" them you realize that's not what you meant at all. Thanks for your understanding.

Update- my surgery is early Friday morning. The surgeon said I may be home by Sunday night.

Your prayers, calls and encouragement have been wonderful and a real blessing, thank you!

On another note I took delivery on my "knee walker" today. Joye ordered it for me. It's the perfect solution for someone who cannot walk on his foot for 3-5 months, as I am facing. It's a great invention to replace crutches. Here's a picture. What do you think? Cool, huh?

Traveling the world from my recliner

It's official! This blog has been viewed in 1/2 of the countries in the world! I've been watching my "country count" to see when I hit this magic mark. This whole blogging thing really amazes me. The ability to share your life and thoughts with others around the world is a really exciting thought to me. Because of this blog I have friends in places I have never been, and correspond with people I may never meet. To my friends in Singapore, Australia, Germany, and the many other places this blog has gone, thank you all for stopping by.

Star Wars according to a 3 year old.

Children explain things so well. It's fun to listen to the way they think. This a very cute video. Enjoy.

Difficult moments in wonderful days

I won't ever claim to "feel like Job," I'm far too blessed for that. But in the midst of wonderful days I have had some difficult moments. The big battle tonight is learning how to walk on crutches. I have nearly taken out a door, knocked Joye down, fallen down myself and stepped on the dog. I really don't like crutches. But welcome to my difficult moment....these crutches are about to become my good friends for the next 6 months!

I often think of Solomon's words in Proverbs, Pro 24:10 "If you are slack in the day of distress, Your strength is limited." In other words if you can't handle the little distresses of life how will you handle the real crisis? If your strength is not enough for crutches what will you do when....?

My personal battle is to not let the difficult moments cloud the whole of a blessed life, and it could happen easily if I let it. I know....I've watched others do little, small problem after another becoming so big in their lives that they become bitter old people who are actually very blessed and simply don't see it anymore.

So when you see me this week you need to know two things, 1. stay far away, I have no idea what these crutches will do, and 2. my frowns only indicate a frustration with these silly things...nothing more.

As I live my wonderful life I won't let the difficult moments make me miss how wonderful God is and how well he had taken care of me. The moments will pass, but God will never leave me.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Rough road ahead

Tomorrow I have an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon to see how my foot is doing. After his evaluation on how I'm doing he will schedule the surgery. It's really hard to get around on only one foot, but that will be my life for the next 6 months or more, so I better get this figured out quickly!
We have already had some wonderful calls from our church family wanting to help, but for right now the pain is so bad I really don't want to see anyone yet and everyone seems to understand. We have such a loving community of believers, it's a real blessing to be part of this church.
As I sit here resting and thinking my thoughts have raced to all the things I was going to do this spring. But now I won't be able to do any of them....fence repair, lawn mowing, painting, motorcycle riding, just the normal stuff of life, and suddenly I face the reality that I will need to get help with those things. It's amazing what a moment in time and a little fall can do in our lives, but the encouraging thing to me is the church. We are so blessed as a church family. There is a real love for one another here that feels like a safety net when the rough roads come. (Many of the men have already offered to ride my motorcycle for me so the battery won't die....these are some very caring men! Thanks, guys!)
I know my little rough spot is nothing compared to many, but it's rough for me right now. When I hit a rough place my thoughts go to James. His words always encourage me during a time of difficulty.

James wrote, "Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it."

I have seen the sign and know the road will be rough for a bit, but I am not on it alone. I have the family of God with me, caring for me and about me. It's during this part of the journey when the church really shines....

Friday, February 22, 2008

My left foot

I called the church office from the "loft" in the sanctuary yesterday afternoon, and told Connie, our receptionist, "I've fallen and I can't get up!"
I was trying to plug our new service clock into a new outlet that had just been installed. Since I didn't see a ladder I did what I always do.....I improvised. I used a tall bar stool. I got up on the stool and was about to plug the clock in when I lost my balance and fell. It was head first all the way, but on the way down somehow my left heel hit the very corner of a wooden step that leads up to the AV platform. My heel was no match for that hard wooden corner, and in a moment I knew it was hurt badly. I couldn't stand on it and it hurt! What we found out in the emergency room at the hospital was that I had shattered my heel. That sounded bad, and today we found out it is. The orthopedist came to my room today to tell me I would need surgery, would be on crutches for at least 6 months and would always have problems with that heel. Real encouraging, huh?
So, as soon as the swelling goes down they will get me in for surgery- a metal plate, screws, and whatever else they need to do to fix it. In the midst of the pain I had a number of medical people come by my room in the emergency room to tell me they had never seen a heel injury this bad, and they "congratulated" me on doing such a good job. We all laughed, but I didn't think it was too funny.
Tonight I'm home, heavily drugged, still in great pain and waiting for surgery. If none of this makes sense you will know why.
I would welcome your prayers. If I miss a few days blogging in the upcoming weeks you will know why. In spite of all of this I am blessed. God is so good. He has taken care of us in amazing ways. Even at this painful moment one thing was wonderfully missing from our visit with the doctor.....he never once said, "You only have 6 months to live." So I am grateful for God's wonderful care and grace.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Missing the obvious

My wife and I were both out teaching last night at different locations, but when we finally got home she asked me, "did you see the eclipse?" I had not. I missed it. In fact, as I read the news this morning and looked at the photos of the day I was disappointed that I had missed such an amazing site.

It occurs to me that I had two problems, 1. I didn't know there was going to be an eclipse, and 2. I wasn't looking. Those are the same problems that the world at large faces. They don't know and they aren't looking. God is working in our world to draw people to himself, but many miss it. They don't know and they aren't looking.

It's hard to look for something you don't know about, so it appears that a knowledge is first priority, then watching for that thing you know about is easier. And yet we are in an amazing time of not knowing. There is no absolute truth, no one can "know" anything for sure they tell us. But I believe that we can know, and unless we do know we won't look. Maybe that's the ultimate agenda of the other keep people from looking.

So here we a world where the knowledge of God is everywhere, if you will only look, and most people around us will miss it. They will say, "I didn't know, so I didn't look." They will miss the obvious.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Thoughts on Romans 6

I'm up early studying for a class tonight on the book of Romans. Tonight we are in chapter 6. It's one of the most awesome chapters in the bible! As I read over this chapter again and again, first in NIV, then in the THE MESSAGE, New American Standard and finally the ESV versions one thing keeps popping up as a focal point of the chapter- verse 14.

Rom 6:14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

In the context of the chapter this amazing verse begins to come alive. We all live in one of two countries- the country of law or the country of grace. We all live under the domain of one of these "governments." If you live in the country of law then your success or failure is up to you. You must perform to live here, and the price is high. But if you live in the country of grace the price of citizenship has been paid by Jesus Christ. We are freely admitted to a new country with a completely different way of living. "Under law" I have to do it all. "Under grace" it's all been done for me, and now I simply respond to the finished work of Christ. The more I read over this chapter the more amazed I am at the difference in the two kingdoms.

This morning I am excited to be a citizen of the kingdom of grace. There's no other place I'd rather be!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


I had a great visit on the phone with one of our single moms tonight. She has two daughters who are in middle school and growing up quickly. It's hard to be a single mom, but she has some help. Her next door neighbors are also members of our church and a great Christian family. This single mom told me that when her girls have questions about right choices she doesn't ask them, "What would Jesus do?" She said that's too hard for them to relate to. Instead she asks them, "What would the Bakers do?"
(Please don't tell them she does this, because they don't know that she uses them as a role model for her girls.)
I'm thrilled to know this is happening because one family is living out the Christian life in a way that another family watches.
I wonder who's watching me? Do you know who's watching you?
Would your neighbors tell their kids, "What would ____ do?" I'm sure the Bakers don't know about their witness, but it is making a difference. One single mom is depending on them to help her girls make good choices and they don't even know it.
Who's watching you?

Just thinking...

My mind is racing tonight with the issues of life- a broken fence I need to fix, a rattle in my car that is driving me nuts, a class I need to get ready for tomorrow night, bills to pay, marriage counseling to schedule, hurting people to care for, income taxes I need to fill out (I'm dreading that!), staffing issues I need to work on, dying people I need to connect with, books I need to read, a wife I need to spend time with, complaints I need to address, "stuff" I need to pray about, parents coming to town this weekend (which will be great)......and the list let me leave you with just this one thing that I am thinking about:
In the midst of all of this I am constantly aware that the God of the universe loves me, cares for me and thinks about me all the time...even when I'm too busy to think about Him. That one thought often makes me stop and just bask in His presence. I may be far too busy and a little tired, but I'm loved by the creator of the the rest is just small stuff.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Redefining ourselves

I rarely mention politics here because that's not what this blog is about, but today I want to address it simply as an exaggerated example of what we all seem to do in our lives. What we see in campaign years is the ultimate redefining of a person for gain- they want our vote and the position they seek. So the good politician tells us how wonderful they are and what they can do for us. We all seem to agree that they won't or simply can't do these things, but they promise them anyway.
It's amazing to hear the politicians as they tell us how wonderful they are and what they can do. This whole process is the ultimate exaggerated example of what we do with each other all the time. We put on our "masks" to present the best face we can so people will "vote" for us. So they will like us, believe us, care about us. We want approval of others, and will do almost anything to get it. Some of the funniest comedy routines I have seen are based on this goal of gaining approval from others. We all do it, so why am I talking about it?
It gives me an opportunity to simply focus on the one I need to seek approval from- God himself. When I’m busy trying to get approval from others I get confused about who I really am…my mask becomes my identity, but when I seek God’s approval first I can be who God meant me to be, and the love and care from others will come, but it will be for a different reason. If I seek God’s approval, seek him first, then I don’t have to “sell” myself to you to get your love or approval. I will love you and care for you regardless of your response because I already have the approval of the most important one- my Father.
Let me encourage you to put the masks away in your life, seek God’s approval first, and then go live an honest life in the real world. Wearing a mask is a miserable way to live…they had a word in the ancient Greek theatre for those who wore masks. They called them hypocrites.
Joh 5:44 "How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?
1Th 5:15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.

In his hands

Psa 98:1 A Psalm. O sing to the LORD a new song, For He has done wonderful things, His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him.
Whenever I finish a book the story lingers with me for a while. If the author was good he made me think about what I believe. I am in the middle of that right now after reading The Shack. The "take away" for me is a reminder that we have an amazing God. A God who loves us and cares for us through all of our trials. He holds us up when we fall. And, as the book unfolds, he helps us through difficult crisis.
I'm just thinking this morning about how wonderful God is. His love, his care, his amazing grace to us. He really does hold us in his hands...those same hands that bear a nail scar for me.
Thank you Lord for holding onto me. Thank you for your wonderful hands.

Monday's cartoon

It's always funny how we try to bargain with God. I'm sure he smiles at our attempts to get him to do something for us, but the bible is clear that God wants to answer our prayers. He is the gracious Father who loves to give good things to his children. When you pray don't be afraid to ask for "big things." We have a big God.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Quote of the day

"Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning..."
--C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Shack

I know this is not Oprah's book club, but when I find a book that is really good I will share it with you. The Shack is one of those books! Our good friend, Lana, recommended it to me so I got a copy Friday. After reading half of it Friday we went to get another copy for Joye. I will finish the book this morning, but I must tell you that this is a book you should read. Eugene Peterson compares it to Pilgrim's Progress, and I would agree. It's an amazing work. It is a must read for anyone pursuing a relationship with God.

This is an awesome book!

Saturday's cartoon

God's protection

It was early the morning of August 20, 1986. We lived in Edmond, Oklahoma at the time. That morning I thought I would run by the post office on my way to work and mail some bills, but as I drove into the post office parking lot and began to look for a parking spot I noticed something very strange....policemen....a lot of them....dressed in bulletproof vests, hiding behind cars with their guns drawn. Their focus was on the post office, and so they barely noticed me, but I noticed them! It was a very surreal moment as I watched them work their way towards the post office with their guns ready.
In a moment I came to my senses....this probably is not a good day to mail bills...I'll mail them tomorrow, and so off I drive to the office only to hear on the radio during my commute that a gunman was inside that post office at the moment I sat in the parking lot, a postal employee who had "lost it," and one who would, by the end of the day, take the lives of 15 people including his own.
I have thought back on that day many times in the years since. I didn't feel that I was in danger at the time because I really didn't know what was going on. I many times I have been protected by the Lord from dangers I was completely unaware of? How many "near death" experiences do we each have that we may never know about? How often are our lives protected by God's wonderful plan and grace? As I think about that day in my life I reflect on an amazing chapter in the bible. A chapter that talks more about God than it does about us, but we are the recipients of who he is by what he does, and so in light of my morning at the post office let me direct your attention to a wonderful passage from the book of Psalms,
Psa 91- You who sit down in the High God's presence, spend the night in Shaddai's shadow, Say this: "GOD, you're my refuge. I trust in you and I'm safe!" That's right--he rescues you from hidden traps, shields you from deadly hazards. His huge outstretched arms protect you-- under them you're perfectly safe; his arms fend off all harm. Fear nothing--not wild wolves in the night, not flying arrows in the day, Not disease that prowls through the darkness, not disaster that erupts at high noon. Even though others succumb all around, drop like flies right and left, no harm will even graze you. You'll stand untouched, watch it all from a distance, watch the wicked turn into corpses. Yes, because GOD's your refuge, the High God your very own home, Evil can't get close to you, harm can't get through the door. He ordered his angels to guard you wherever you go. If you stumble, they'll catch you; their job is to keep you from falling. You'll walk unharmed among lions and snakes, and kick young lions and serpents from the path. "If you'll hold on to me for dear life," says GOD, "I'll get you out of any trouble. I'll give you the best of care if you'll only get to know and trust me. Call me and I'll answer, be at your side in bad times; I'll rescue you, then throw you a party. I'll give you a long life, give you a long drink of salvation!"

Friday, February 15, 2008

Growing old together

34 years ago today Joye and I got married. We have literally spent most of our lives together. It's hard to describe a marriage that has lasted for decades, but it's wonderful to think about.
When we got married I had hair. I was thin. I was a pastor making $384.00 a month (I didn't need any more than that). Now all of that has changed. In the last 34 years my hair abandoned me, my love for food has betrayed me, we have raised two awesome kids who are both married with families of their own. So now we come back to the beginning- just Joye and I "doing life together."
It's quite an amazing thing to walk through life with another person. Through the good times and the bad you gradually find that, as the bible describes, two people become one. To be sure they are still two, but now a oneness exists that is quite hard to describe. It's honestly something that makes me smile as I try to write about it.
So let me celebrate this day of remembering for us by thanking the Lord for his love and care in providing each of us such a wonderful blessing- each other. Have a good day, I know we will.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Why are you following him?

Today my reading took me to John 6. In this chapter is John's story of Jesus feeding a multitude. After dinner is served and the people disperse Jesus sends the disciples off in a boat to the other side of the sea of Galilee while he goes to the mountain to pray. During the night he walks across the sea to the disciple's boat and they find themselves at the "other side." The next day this is the story that John unfolds,.

Joh 6:24 So when the crowd realized he was gone and wasn't coming back, they piled into the Tiberias boats and headed for Capernaum, looking for Jesus.
Joh 6:25 When they found him back across the sea, they said, "Rabbi, when did you get here?"
Joh 6:26 Jesus answered, "You've come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs--and for free.
Joh 6:27 "Don't waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last."
So as I read I'm thinking....."why am I following the Lord? Do I follow him for what he gives me or because of who he is?" It's often true of me that I follow him for the wrong reasons....for what I can get from him rather than to get to know him. It's easy to forget that to know him is better than bread! To know him is to know the very one who made me. Why do I so often seek his hands (what he can do for me) and not his face (who he is)? Why do I so often ask for things from him and not ask to know him better? Why am I, like these people in John's gospel, often following him for what I can get when I am literally in the very presence of the creator of the universe....and I'm focused on my stomach! What a foolish man I am.
I love Jesus' words, they convict me of my own wrong focus, "Don't waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides."
And that food is him. Later in John the Lord invites his followers to feed on him, not literally mind you, but to let him, and a relationship with him, satisfy your hungers. And yet we seem content with much we little we see of all that God wants to give us. He wants to provide our bread of course, but more than that he wants to give us his very life...the life that will satisfy our hungers forever.
So, why are you following him? What are you looking for?

Happy Anniversary!

Tomorrow, February 15th, Joye and I will celebrate our 34th anniversary!
(Yes, we married the day after Valentine's Day...what were we thinking?)
I'm very blessed to have such a wonderful wife, friend and ministry partner. God is good.
So, happy anniversary to my sweet wife, Joye. The bible says that a godly woman is a blessing from the Lord, so I know that God really loves me because of the gift he gave me, my sweet Joye.
When I waited for her at the front of the church on that day it was the second time I met her at the front of the church in 3 months. The first time was the day she came forward to trust Christ as her savior (I was the pastor of evangelism), it was also the first time I met her. And in less that 3 months I met her again to marry her. 34 far it's been awesome. I'm in for another 34 years!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Valentine's Day

Tomorrow is Valentine's day. Another chance to show the one you love how much you care OR what a slug you are. Flowers, candy, gold, It almost feels like a conspiracy to make us men look bad if we don't buy all this stuff to show our love.

Love is something we should be showing the one we care about every day. An imposed holiday to "make us do it" almost feels fake, but we will all line up at the card racks tonight after work to get that last minute card, those flowers, the we can show our mates how much we love them.

Let me suggest you do this more often than once a year....then this day won't be so expensive. By the way, I will be one of those guys getting a card tonight with the rest of you. Happy Valentine's Day! (gulp)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Living the Christian life

One of the most fascinating passages in all of Paul's writings is his monologue in Romans 7 concerning his own struggle to live the Christian life. Here is part of it...
I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. (Romans 7:18-25 THE MESSAGE)
Living the Christian life often feels like a tightrope act. It's such a challenge to walk in the Spirit, and then watch as my flesh acts out. It's frustrating! But what Paul describes as his problem is in fact a problem for all of us. How do we live a life that pleases God? What Paul, and millions after him, discovered is that we cannot do it. You read that correctly. We cannot do it. Only Jesus Christ living his life in and through us can do it. He is the only one who can live the Christian as I find myself on the tightrope of living a godly life in a fallen body I must allow him to live his life through me. He is the one who can keep me from falling.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Riding the roller coaster

I'm sorry for my few days of absence. It has been busy! I feel like I'm riding a roller coaster, and I didn't even buy a ticket. Over the weekend we were away for a pastor-elder retreat. Great coordinator, and a really good start for future direction.
Counseling has filled many of my days and the basic needs of life take the rest. Suddenly I turn around and it's Monday again!
When I'm on a "roller coaster" like this I think of the movie with Steve Martin called Parenthood. There is a scene in the movie where Steve and his wife are discussing all the ups and downs of life. His wife is enjoying them all, but his anxiety is overwhelming for him, then his grandmother steps into the picture with a story, she says, "Some people like roller coasters but some like the merry-go-round. Some enjoy the excitement of the roller coaster, but others want the predictability of the merry-go-round. For me the merry-go-round is boring, I like the roller's more fun."
And so goes our lives, up and down, we never know what's next. If you are a merry-go-round person life is hard for you, but if you like the roller coaster then you can't wait to see what's coming next. I do enjoy the roller coaster of life, I just need to get off the ride once in a while to get a hot dog....

Monday's cartoon

Friday, February 08, 2008

Thoughts on Psalm 105

Today I am reading in Psalm 105. In this rich chapter is a brief history of God's work in the lives of the Jewish people. It's an amazing chapter as the author outlines God's work from God's perspective. Sometimes that's what I need most- to see things as God does. Here's just part of it written from God's perspective.

In verse 17 the author says,

"He sent a man before them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. They afflicted his feet with fetters, He himself was laid in irons; Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him."

He sent him!

From Joseph's perspective he was betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery, but from the divine perspective he was sent.
As I walk towards the goal how often do I see the disasters and dilemmas of life as part of a divine plan? I will tell you how often- NEVER! In the middle of being in chains on the way to Egypt it's hard to see what God is doing. Honestly there are times when you wonder if God is even aware of your situation, but he is and he is actively working throughout our lives towards his goal- each of us complete in Christ.
As you walk towards the goal realize that what you may see as disaster God may see as exactly where he wants you. Trust him. He has a plan....even when you're in chains on the way to Egypt.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Thinking back

The most important thing in life is relationship. My relationship with God. My relationship with people. The only things of value we leave behind when we die are the lives we have touched. Money means nothing, possessions mean nothing, fame means nothing….

The currency of eternity is people.

I mentioned last week that I would tell you about a divine appointment I had with Rodney. Rodney tracked me down because of a book he found in his families library. It was a copy of a book by Tom Skinner called Black and Free. In the front of this faded old book was Tom’s signature and my name.

Rodney did a search and found me. We talked, and then met for coffee. He wanted to know about Tom and my relationship with him. It was a great time. But what it did for me is bring a flood of old memories of those days in the early 70’s….being at a white university in the south, the KKK all around alive and well, and me, a little white boy from Iowa in the middle of something I had never experienced before.

It’s a long story, but I was able to get Tom Skinner (photo), an amazing evangelist and black Christian revolutionary of the 70’s, to come and speak at our little white university. It caused quite a storm, and nearly cost me my college education. The next year I brought in his associate, Bill Pannell, to speak for a few days. It was my first experience of real racism when we went out for dinner together, and were refused service.

Rodney’s visit spurred my thoughts, so I did a search for Bill Pannell and found him. He’s now a retired professor at Fuller Seminary. I sent him a note, and he responded with memories of those days and our failed dinner together. It was still sharply in focus for him as well.

And so I come to this as I look back on my life so far….it’s the people in my life that have meant the most. All the “stuff” of life is either lost, forgotten or thrown away, but the people and their memories will be with me forever.

If you want to make an eternal difference here is the list beginning with the most important-

1. Pursue a relationship with God through faith in Christ as savior and passionately pursue God as the most important thing.
2. Love people, pursue relationships, gather friends, care about people, invest all you have in others.
3. Use things. But only use them as a means to achieve #1 and #2.

There’s my list. It’s what I have found myself doing over time, and although I have few riches I feel like the richest man in the world!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Dealing with dry times

I'm not sure what "it" is- busy, tired, allergies, distractions, cares of the world....but I'm feeling like I am in the middle of a dry time. These things always sneak up on me. I'm a rather melancholy person anyway, so I am never far from a down time. I have to constantly watch my thinking and my heart to stay away from a melancholy mindset, but dry times happen no matter what your personality.
Well, here I am, in a dry place. After walking through these so many times before I know one thing from experience- keep walking! Keep praying, keep reading the word, keep close to people. There is an oasis ahead, but if I stop here I will never find keep walking and remember verses that have helped you in the past- Psalm 37, Prov. 3:5-6, Philippians 3-4 and many others. They are part of my "survival pack" in these dry places because I know I will need them. God is good, nothing has changed, enjoy the scenery, trust the Lord and keep walking with him. Dry times pass and you will find that you have grown through them.

The Universe,Milky Way and Beyond-How big is the Universe ?

Here's a great visual devotion for the day. After you watch this clip read Psalm 103:11-19. I am so excited that the God who made the universe cares about me.

Monday, February 04, 2008

A new reading project

I'm really excited. I just got a copy of Ravi Zacharias' new book, Beyond Opinion. This is a work by a number of authors on the topic of apologetics. I can't wait to get into this book. Apologetics is a great love of mine, and I really enjoy the thought process needed to defend the Christian faith. I'll keep you updated on what I find.

Living a present tense life (dealing with fantasy and fear)

Mat 6:33 Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Mat 6:34 "Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. -THE MESSAGE.

One of the great challenges of life is just the simple task of living in this moment, living a "present tense life." There are two great enemies of a walk with God that try to keep us from walking with God in the "now." One is "the fantasy of what could have been," and the other is "the fear of what might be." Let me address each one of these for a moment.

1. The fantasy of what could have been- We all live our lives looking back to the past or ahead to the future. It's rare that we live in the present tense. One of our enemies is the "fantasy of what could have been." We will often look with a longing for a change because of our present adversities- "If only I had married the other person," or "If only I had finished college," or "If only I hadn't made that horrible mistake" then life would be..... And our thoughts race to alternate present reality because of our dreams of "if only." Dreaming about what could have been can be a wonderful diversion, but it's sin plain and simple. The truth is that there is no "if only I had." There is only what is. Dreaming about an alternate life that would turn out different is a fantasy that brings nothing good to our present situation. It only makes the "now" harder because our fantasy solutions would have completely eliminated our real dilemmas and the need to trust the Lord with our real problems today. So, here is the first sin we often fall into. When you are tempted to visit the land of "if only I had..." make the decision not to go. It's a trip that only brings disappointment to what is your life right now.

2. The fear of what might be- The other problem I see many struggle with is "the fear of what might be." They are experts at worrying about something that hasn't even happened yet. There is no way any of us can see the future, so for us to worry about it before it ever gets here is a clear lack of faith in God to care for our tomorrows. Jesus clearly said, "don't worry about tomorrow." He knew we were tempted to do this, and warned us against it. Fear of what might be often keeps us from walking with God and trusting him RIGHT NOW. We miss the joy of a walk with God in the present tense.
We each have to live a present tense life intentionally. The distractions of fantasy about the past and fear about the future will easily get our attention away from a walk with the living God right now. I mentioned the word “walk” intentionally. It’s the word that the bible uses to talk about our lives of faith. The bible calls it a walk because there are some wonderful present tense elements to a walk that will help us stay focused on the now. Here they are quickly for your consideration- a walk demands a destination, but it can only be done one step at a time, one foot on the path toward the goal, one decision at a time to reach the goal. A walk demands a present tense life. That word, walk, often helps me get back to “now.”

As you go through your day living your life and find the temptation toward fantasy or fear, stop for a moment and ask the Lord, “Lord, where are we right now? What are we working on? Why am I tempted to leave this present tense walk with you?” That quick prayer and awareness of the temptation to thoughts of the impossible will make your present tense life an exciting place to be and will quiet those fantasies and calm those fears. Have a great day.

Monday's cartoon

One of my favorite stories is in Matthew 14. It's the story of Peter's great adventure. Here is the text and at the end I will make a few comments:

Mat 14:25 And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea.
Mat 14:26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear.
Mat 14:27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."
Mat 14:28 Peter said to Him, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water."
Mat 14:29 And He said, "Come!" And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
Mat 14:30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!"
Mat 14:31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and *said to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?"

What inspired Peter to ask such a thing? What a question- can I walk on water too? And he did until he "saw the wind." That's such an interesting phrase to me when the text says, "But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out." How do we see the wind? Wasn't what he was doing already impossible? Why did he let the wind distract him. Did he suddenly realize that he was doing the impossible and the wind brought him back to "reality." "Man can't walk on water, what am I doing?" So he took his eyes off Jesus and got distracted by the wind.

How often I do that as well. I'm already living an impossible life, and then, in a moment of panic or fear I let the storms around me distract me from my trust in Christ. I'm already living an impossible life, what's a little wind? So, today, as you "walk on water" keep your eyes on the Lord, don't let the winds of worry, work, problems or trials distract you. They can't hurt you. Keep your eyes on the Lord who makes the impossible possible.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Quote of the day

I chose the quote of the day in honor of my new friend, Rodney (I will tell you more about this divine appointment later.) The quote is from Tom Skinner. Most have never heard of him. Tom was a black evangelist in the late 60's until his early death in 1994. Tom came to speak for me at university in the early 70's and made an amazing impact in my life. My visit with Rodney yesterday brought up a flood of old memories of those days with Tom and his associate, Bill Pannell. So, in honor of them and Rodney, here is a quote from Tom Skinner-

The fullness of the Spirit is not a state of perfection; it is a state of surrender. It is not a state of sinlessness; it is a state of abandonment to Jesus Christ—when a person simply says, “I renounce all rights to myself and I give Jesus the right to do with me whatever he pleases.”
-Tom Skinner

Saturday's cartoon

Friday, February 01, 2008

Dramatic Lemur

Ok, since we are on the animal theme today I found this at Pastor Kris's blog-
Be sure to turn up your sound all the way for this.

New discoveries

This morning I read that scientists have found two new species of animal they didn't know existed before.

God is so creative. He has made some amazing animals that we are still discovering even today. Here's their photos.....go online and read more about them. As my granddaughters would say, "Aren't they cute?"