Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Some of the best lessons in scripture are the subtle ones that are easily missed. There is one story I have been thinking about because of the lessons it teaches me. I find that I learn the most from a narrative like this when I "get into the story" myself. It helps to imagine the setting and think about how I would respond if I were there.
This story describes one of the great miracles of Jesus, but he was doing more than just feeding the thousands...he was teaching his disciples. Below is the story with my own thoughts in blue. I hope the things that helped me will help you as well.
Luke 9:11 But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing.
Luke 9:12 Now the day was ending, and the twelve came and said to Him, "Send the crowd away, that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat; for here we are in a desolate place."
Luke 9:13 But He said to them, "You give them something to eat!" And they said, "We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless perhaps we go and buy food for all these people."
Luke 9:14 (For there were about five thousand men.) And He said to His disciples, "Have them sit down to eat in groups of about fifty each."
Luke 9:15 They did so, and had them all sit down.
Luke 9:16 Then He took the five loaves and the two fish,
Luke 9:17 And they all ate and were satisfied; and the broken pieces which they had left over were picked up, twelve baskets full.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Thank you for taking the time to stop by. It's quite an honor to know that you would invest your valuable time in reading my wandering thoughts, but I often wonder who has been here. So, this is roll call week! If you would be so kind please leave a comment with just your first name and location. If you want to leave a comment or suggestion I would love that as well.
Ok, line up, sound off, Roll Call!
I'm reading the book of Job right now. I can't read about a life like this without trying to imagine what Job looked like to his friends after his hardships. The text says they didn't even recognize him. Trials, grief, loss, great sorrow will change how we look. I can only imagine how this great man of faith had been dramatically changed by what had happened to him.
I found this photo and immediately thought about Job. What has happened to create a face like this? This distinctive face hints at amazing stories. I would love to know more about this life....what has he seen? What has he done? What trials has he endured? What losses has he suffered?
What stories Job's face must have told to his friends. He had lost nearly everything, even his health, but he would not curse God. He didn't understand why his life had changed so dramatically, but he refused to blame God. Each time I read his story and his ongoing struggle as he visited with his "friends" I realize that Job gave us a great education in how to walk through difficult days. Whatever trials or struggles you go through know that God is watching over you. He has not left you. He's fully in charge of our lives as we go through the trials of life. Job has been a great teacher to me, and I value the education I gain each time I enter his "classroom."
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Friday, April 25, 2008
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
I've been "camping" on Romans 8 for a while now. In fact I'm reading through it each day and I think I will continue to do so for a while. It is one of the great mountain tops of the bible. A place where you can see everything more clearly. The chapter begins with an amazing verse,
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
After 7 chapters of magnificent theology Paul opens this chapter with liberating words, words that should make every reader pause with awe and amazement. In these few words Paul tells us that in Christ the burden of sin is gone, the weight of the law is lifted, the burden of performance is gone, the load of trying to be good enough is taken care of. The load of all that we carried in our lives, sin and all our attempts to please God by our own efforts, was taken care of by Christ on the cross, and now we are free!
Some have given their load of sin to Christ and found liberty, they have found freedom from the law and performance. Some are free, but those around them, who refuse to let go of their burdens, resent the freedom these have found in Christ. So they condemn them for their freedom. The burden carriers are trying to be good enough to please God on their own and are angry that others aren't trying to do the same. They don't realize that they can't please him as long as they carry their own burdens! But in Christ all that is gone...in Christ I'm free, I've found liberty from the load of religion that I carried, the load of good works to please God, the load of sin and guilt. Now I'm free, the burden is gone....now in Christ Jesus I'm free....I have liberty, and I will never carry that burden again!
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Monday, April 21, 2008
Early this morning a friend of mine left us. He stayed as long as he could because he didn't want to leave, but he finally grew too tired to stay any longer. His wife walked to the very end of the road with him. She stayed with him during this last week and would not leave his side. She walked to the very door with him, but he had to go through alone. This story is more about her than him. His story will have to wait. But her story is one of love and friendship through the most difficult days of life. We all long for someone like that, someone who will be with us through all of the good and bad days of life. Some have been blessed to find that person in a mate. My friend was one of those. His wife loved him dearly, and cared for him to the last moment.
For all of us that have trusted Christ as savior we have that friend, that one who walks with us through the most difficult days of life....it's Jesus Christ himself. His very presence, no matter what the problem of life, is a comfort and support. He is the one who will walk with us to the very door at the end of life, and then walk through it with us as well. That ever present comfort and help is something I sometimes take for granted, but what a joy to have someone with me all the time who cares for me, loves me, prays for me, counsels me and walks with me. He will never leave....he's always there to help in my time of need.
Often we try to measure our lives by the number of friends we have. How many care for us? How many love us? But there is only one friend that will really matter at the end, and that's your friendship with Jesus himself. Our attempts to find a friend who will stick by us in this life are often frustrated, but he is the friend who likes you even when no one else does. If you get to the end with only him you have done well. If you find there are others there as well, then you are unusually blessed. My friend left today with the love of a dear wife on this side of the door, and the love of Christ waiting on the other side. He was a blessed man indeed.
Friday, April 18, 2008
In the class this last week we came to chapter 13. It's a difficult passage dealing with our response to government first, and then our relationship with others, but what always makes me stop is the last verse of the chapter. This last short verse has two admonitions in it, both simple by appearance but daunting in reality. Here's the verse-
Rom 13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
It has the flavor of "put on this" and "put off that." It's daunting because I must admit that after all these years I'm still trying to figure out how to wear this wardrobe I'm invited to clothe myself with. What does it look like to put on the Lord Jesus Christ? Obviously we don't do it literally as if we were wearing a costume, it's an invitation to an identity that starts on the inside and is seen on the outside. It's really not a matter of worthiness, but it's an issue of willingness. Am I willing to put on Christ and put off the lusts I have? It's one decision that demands another one....but it's a command that demands intentional action and resolve. I've just been thinking about this verse for a couple days.....I'm going to spend a few more days on it before I move on.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this passage....
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
"Like the fascination which attracts the gnat to the candle, though it burns its wings, men by nature fly to the law for salvation, and cannot be kept from seeking life by it. The law can do nothing else but reveal sin and pronounce condemnation upon the sinner, and yet we cannot get men away from it, even though we show them how sweetly Jesus stands between them and it."
- Charles Spurgeon, Christ’s Glorious Achievements
Monday, April 14, 2008
2Co 9:6 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
2Co 9:7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
In my post yesterday I mentioned a lunch with two wonderful Christian men from the Ukraine. What I didn't tell you were the stories we shared over lunch. Today I want to share one of those stories.
During our meal I asked both men to tell me about their lives growing up under communism. How did they come to faith? How did they find the Lord in a communist country. My friend, Volodia, was too young to have gone through much of it, but our companion at lunch, Pastor Volodia (yes, they have the same names) had a big smile and some wonderful stories. Here is one of his stories-
He told me that while he was growing up no one had a bible, and you couldn't get one anywhere. But he found in his life a hunger to know God. He discovered that one of the atheist textbooks he read had a number of scripture verses in it with an explanation following each verse why this was foolishness and not to be believed. They had no bibles, but the communists themselves had provided him the bible verses he needed to get started. He wrote down the verses from the atheist textbook and took them home to memorize. This is how his faith began....with bible verses provided by the communist government in an atheist textbook!
God is so amazing. When a person has a hunger to know him then he will provide a way. We worry about how God will get his word to those lost ones around us. How will they hear? Who will reach them? Let me just say that God is big enough to do amazing things even using the very government that claimed he didn't exist.
Volodia is now a pastor in western Ukraine working with the Russian people there. His story of faith and how he came to know God is inspirational.
Is your God big enough? He's busy working in a fallen world every day...even in places where they say he doesn't exist. I hope Volodia's story enlarged your view of the God who is.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
One of our ladies sent this photo to me and said in her e-mail, "this made me think of you."
What have I done? I have unleashed a monster of feedback with this as the introduction, "this made me think of you..."
I guess I earned it and to be honest it is funny. I will have to live with the reputation I have created by my accident.
And, yes, Nikki, this is funny. Thanks!
Friday, April 11, 2008
Ben Stein has a new movie coming out soon. He's tackling the topic of intelligent design. I have always enjoyed Ben, and I'm really looking forward to seeing his new movie. It should be good. I'll give you a report after I see it.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
In my reading I've come to Mark 1 and one of my favorite stories in the bible. It's a very short story...not much said about it, but it's heavy with impact to me. I always slow down as I read this story because I love the message it communicates. Join me in the crowd as we watch what unfolds....
Mar 1:40 And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, "If You are willing, You can make me clean."
This very action was completely contrary to the law. A leper was required to move from family and friends and live alone. If anyone came near who was not a leper the law required that the leper announce, "Unclean! Unclean!" so that those coming near would know not to get too close. This man did the forbidden, he came unannounced to the very feet of Jesus! When the crowds saw him I'm sure the outcries and insults were loud and emotional. How dare he come here unannounced. But his plea was an amazing one. Listen to his words over the cries of the crowd, "If you are willing, you can make me clean."
Mar 1:41 Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and *said to him, "I am willing; be cleansed."
Now stop just for a moment and read those words again....moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. I can just see the faces of the crowd. Surprise, amazement, shock...how could Jesus touch a man covered in leprosy? I can hear the outcry, the shock. Now Jesus is unclean as well! Now Jesus has made himself an outcast. But he frames his touch with these words, I am willing, be cleansed.
Then it happens, in a moment, with a touch that changed everything for this outcast man...
Mar 1:42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.
Immediately, instantly, right then his life was completely different! Not only was he healed, but Jesus had touched him! I believe that Jesus' touch was meant to heal two things- his body and his mind. A man who had not been touched in years was touched by Jesus. The compassion of that touch changed everything. He was a different man!
Mar 1:43 And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away,
Mar 1:44 and He *said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."
Mar 1:45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the news around, to such an extent that Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere.
And here is the great exchange- the man who was a leper and outcast to the unpopulated areas was now whole because of Jesus' touch and I can just see him hugging everyone he saw and telling them his story. His life was completely changed, and a great exchange happened. Now the outcast was welcome back into community, and the healer took his place....Jesus is now the one in the wilderness, in the unpopulated areas.
The story of the leper is my story. It's his touch when we were in our sins that cleansed us, made us whole and gave us new life. And with his touch he took our sickness and sin on himself. He took our sin and sickness and gave us his life. The story of this leper who experienced the touch of compassion of Jesus that changes everything is my story, it's your story. It's the story of the great exchange.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Have you ever noticed that the path we walk in our lives is a lot like this? It's not always easy, there are pitfalls, you have to watch your step....sometimes you wish this was a 4-lane highway and not a broken path....but one thing about this life that is true...it's never boring!
I wish you could have heard the "music" last night. It was amazing. It was as if God had recruited the whole percussion section from the orchestra and put on a show, both light and sound. It started with the snare drum of a lightening bolt close to us, then you could hear the kettle drums as the rumble rolled off in the distance. It went on like this for over an hour. It was a better concert than you could get with a $100.00 ticket. What was interesting to me was the ongoing rumble of the thunder and the sound of the kettle drums over and over again. Mixed with it was the rain on the roof dripping on the patio. You could almost hear the rhythm as it all worked together to provide an amazing concert....lights and music by God.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
The measure of our life is not the circumstances we face, but how we face them. --me
Today I got to spend time talking to two of our missionaries, one on the phone from Germany and the other online in another place. Both are going through some real changes and challenges.
The lady I visited with tonight in going through the sudden reality of a physical illness that is not life threatening, but will involve ongoing pain for the rest of her life. We talked through her situation and the reality of her life. Even with real health issues she still has the choice of how she will respond to this in her life. We each get that choice...how will we respond to the things of life? James said, " Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials....," but the verse that came to my mind as I talked with this dear lady was a verse from the book of Job. Of all the characters in the bible he made some of the best choices in how he responded to what happened in his life. He said, "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him."
We may not be able to change the circumstances of our lives, but we can change our words, our focus, our hearts....we can praise him even in the desert.
Monday, April 07, 2008
I got a great e-mail from a good friend of mine today. He was very encouraging, but also directive in his wisdom. He was kind, but did share that he's looking forward to the "old me" blogging again. I do understand his thoughts. One thing I have noticed is that when a person has a problem be it physical, financial or personal, they become the center of their known universe. I know I have done that in my own life through this injury and recovery. My whole focus has been on ME.
I know that's entirely normal, but what I have lost, very honestly, is some of my passion for God. Don't get me wrong I still love the Lord, read the word each day, pray and care about people, but I have lost that spark, that passion for my walk with God. It slips away so easily...something happens in our lives and suddenly everything is about ME. Quietly, subtly my love for God and my passion for him fades. My focus is on me and my problems. I know that has shown in my writing because I know it shows in my life. I do know what I have lost and will get it back, but through this time my focus has been on ME, not God. It shouldn't be that way, but like Peter I let the winds distract me and I took my eyes off the Lord....and began to sink.
I watch this same thing in others as they go through crisis. It may be cancer, financial problems, job loss, it really doesn't matter what it is, but when my focus moves from my relationship with God to my needs, wants or fears then something slips away. Like the nation of Israel in the wilderness we focus our attention on our need for water and miss completely the God who is there. I think this is a dilemma we all share.
Recapturing the passion, reigniting my relationship with God is most important. In fact I know that God wants it more than I do, so it's not far from me. It's moving from me being the center of my universe to once again making HIM the center of the universe. The bible is full of stories of both men and women working through this same struggle. I'm not the first, and won't be the last. It's part of our walk with God. I will again see his face and rest in his fellowship.
I'm working on it even now......
It's funny how a simple commercial speaks to a host of situations. The V8 commercials have created a number of copies, but the message is clear- you could have had something better. I'm finding that many of you are asking about that very thing...the choices I could have had versus what others offer. What I'm speaking about specifically is the topic of law and grace. The church still struggles over the conflict between law and grace. Many are still trying to blend them, so in the days ahead I want to discuss the issues of law and grace, and focus (humorously I hope) on this theme- "I could have had grace." I know that I will raise a lot of questions so ask them. What I want to do as we work through this is make it clear that you make a choice- law OR grace, pick one, you can't mix them. So what we will try to do is work through what they mean and discuss the liberty we have in Christ. It should be fun!
Saturday, April 05, 2008
Friday, April 04, 2008
Thursday, April 03, 2008
I have often tried to describe our rest in the Lord's care and his provision...what it looks like, how to do it.....but nothing could explain it better than a photo of a baby resting in the care of its parents. No worries, no cares, no thoughts of despair, no fears of what might happen....just trust. Today, let me allow the children to teach us what it means to rest in the Lord.
Lord, thanks for being our ever loving, caring Father. Thank you for always taking care of us. We rest in you and smile today because you are watching over us. Thank you
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Yesterday I left you in the middle of the desert with the nation of Israel in a place where there was no water. They were led there on purpose by God. Let me make this clear- they were led to a place where there was no water. There were 2,000,000 of them with millions of animals, and God led them to Rephidim on purpose....to a place where there wasn't any water.
Did I make that part clear yet?
That's a most important question to ask. Go back with me a few chapters to a shepherd in the wilderness who comes upon a burning bush. It's the same Moses who now comes to this same wilderness with the nation of Israel in tow. Why did God bring them here? Here's the reason,
Exodus 3:1 Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb (Rephidim), the mountain of God.
Let's skip down the visit with God a bit to this verse,
Exodus 3:12 And He said, "Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain."
God led them to this very place to meet with him, to worship him!
But here is what they saw,
Exodus 17:2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water that we may drink." And Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?"
Exodus 17:3 But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, "Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?"
All they saw was a desert with no water in sight. What they missed was the fact that God was there waiting for them! In the next few verses God resolves their water problem,
Exodus 17:5 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.
Exodus 17:6 "Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink." And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.
This Horeb is the rock I posted in part 1, the rock that was split in the middle. God provided water, but they had missed the opportunity to ask a really important question, "Lord, why are we here?" They completely missed God in their thirst for water! How often I do that. I miss God in the midst of my "needs."
So, as an expert in wilderness spirituality, let me suggest that when you come to a spiritual desert and find that you have no water the next thing you say is most important. Having been here many times let me suggest this as your next response,
"Hello Father, I see we are in the desert without water. What are we working on today? How can I best glorify you through this time in the wilderness?"
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
There is a passage of scripture that I often go to for comfort and reminder. It's a very strange place to go for such things, but it has proven to provide them to me. It is part of the story of the Exodus of Israel from Egypt. They have left Egypt, crossed the sea on dry land, and are being led by God with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. In the middle of this odyssey we come to this passage,
Exodus 17:1 Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the LORD.....
Day by day, led by the cloud and the pillar, they are following God's leading...following him and trusting him. Then, in this short verse we find these words,
and they camped at Rephidim...
They camped here by God's leading! But you must see the end of the verse to understand how important this passage is,
and there was no water for the people to drink.
When this passage first became clear to me this last phrase stopped me, and my response was, "WHAT?!?! You took them to a place where there was no water? And you took them there ON PURPOSE!?" Yes he did.
And he will lead us to places like this....places in the desert where there is no water. Dry places, places where we ask, "why did you bring me here?" That will become clear in the following segments, but let me make clear that dry places are in God's plan for our lives. When you find yourself at your Rephidim know that it didn't happen by accident, God has led you there. He's working in your life....he has a plan......stay tuned for what his plan was for Israel.....tomorrow....