Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My family

Last night we had dinner with a young couple who are getting ready to go back to Guatemala as missionaries. They will leave this week with their newborn daughter and their 3 year old son. What a great part of my family they are. We always love seeing them and spending time with them.
Today we ran to the airport to pick up two good friends who had gone to a missions conference in another state and were coming home today. We had lunch with them and had a great time together. What a great part of my family these friends are. It's a real treat when we can meet and spend time together.
While we were on our way back from the airport I got a call from a good friend. He called to see if I had time for lunch today. We weren't able to get together today, but will another day. What a great part of my family this dear man is to me. We have helped each other through some very difficult times.
I have an amazing family! My family is scattered all over the globe from hundreds of different races and languages. I have met family members in Brazil, Russia, Haiti and many other places I have traveled. It's always a great adventure to meet new members of my family. There are many in my family I have never met yet, but can't wait to get to know them.
The disciples asked about this and Jesus told them that his family would be bigger than they could even imagine. IT IS! I love the family of God! It's so exciting to get to know new family members and know that we will be part of God's family for eternity.
(disclaimer- I don't know anyone in the photo above......yet.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Learning to serve

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 9:10 When the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all that they had done. Taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida.
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."
I don't think they were as concerned about the crowds as they seem to indicate. The truth is that it's time for dinner, and the disciples know they only have enough food for themselves. I'm sure they thought, "it would be really be hard to eat in front of these people, so let's send them off so we can eat dinner."
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."
I imagine that Jesus makes his statement with a smile, "you feed them!" He knew what he intended to do. I would love to see the disciples faces when he made this statement. And here is where we know they had enough for themselves, but not enough for this vast crowd. "Send them off so we can eat," but instead Jesus says, "you feed them!"
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.
Wouldn't you love the hear them talk to each other as they follow this command? "What is he doing?" "What good will this do?"
Luke 9:16 Then He took the five loaves and the two fish,
He took their dinner! Now the plan begins to unfold. Now they see what's next. He's going to give THEIR dinner to the crowd. How far would these few loaves and fish go to feed this crowd?
and looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and broke them, and kept giving them to the disciples to set before the people.
This is the part of the story that makes me smile. Jesus took THEIR dinner, prayed over it, then gave it to the disciples to give to the crowd. What a funny picture this must have been as they give THEIR dinner to the crowd. At first I think it was difficult as they watched their dinner gradually handed to the hungry crowds, but then something strange happened...the bread and fish kept coming! It didn't run out. Quickly they moved from grudgingly giving their dinner away to happily watching a miracle happen. How often do the gospels tell stories of those who give what they have only to see God provide more than they knew they had? It's a repeated theme- God is able to do more than you can even imagine. (Eph. 3:20)
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.
As the story closes we are reassured that the hungry disciples were fed as well..."And they ALL ate and were satisfied." What a great lesson for them. In obedience they gave away their dinner to the crowd and by their willingness to obey they saw Jesus perform an amazing miracle and they got to eat as well. But that's not the end yet. The rest of the story tells us that they finish the day with dinner for tomorrow as well!
What did I learn? I realized that I often miss the opportunity to see what God could do with what little I have because I don't think it's enough for him to work with. I often miss the opportunity to trust God and live with an open hand. I come back to this story to remind me that even a few loaves and fish are more than I think they are when God is involved.
When you read the stories of the bible don't rush through them too quickly. Take your time, and you will be surprised at what you will see!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Roll Call!

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!

Thoughts on great men

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

The weight of your shadow

This evening I've been thinking about the lives that have been changed or influenced by the shadow of my life as our lives pass each other. I have been thinking about it as I reflect on my son's life. As I mentioned in the last post he turned 33 today. In my thoughts over the last 33 years I have thought about his life and the lives of others who have found themselves in the shadow of my passing. I will be honest that there are some I have hurt and others I have helped. I have cared for many, but I'm sure I simply didn't see some who were looking to me for help, friendship or encouragement. In this life we will never really know the impact of our lives on the lives of others. Some we have helped, some we have disappointed. The weight of our shadows is much more than we realize. That's why Jesus told his disciples that the most important thing we can do in our lives is to love God first, and then love one another. What he was communicating was that the most important things in our lives are our relationships with God and each other. My impact on eternity is closely connected to how I treat others as my shadow and I pass by. As I have thought about this I have been reading notes from people whose lives have been touched by the shadow of my life. Some have been changed, some were hurt or disappointed by me, some were helped and others found direction as I shared what God had done in my life. All of these thoughts and lives make me keenly aware of the weight of my shadow. Our shadows are much heavier than we will ever know. When you have a moment read Philippians 2:1-11 and pray about the weight of your shadow as the sun rises on the new day ahead.

Footprints into the future

33 years ago today we had a very busy and exciting day. 33 years ago today we saw our first footprint into the future arrive....our son, Ian. It was thrilling for us to have our firstborn child arrive. We were thrilled to find we had a healthy son. He was "so nice" as his grandmother said when she saw him.
I'm very proud of my kids, and thrilled to be their dad. They have been a real blessing in my life, and continue to be a blessing. Ian was our first footprint into the future, and he has taken the next step to be a man who knows and loves God and his family.
Today I'm blessed to celebrate the birthday of our son, Ian. Happy Birthday, son. I'm proud of you.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Liberty in Christ

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 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 in Christ Jesus I'm free....I have liberty, and I will never carry that burden again!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Being remembered

This afternoon I spent several hours with a family planning a memorial service for a dear family member. I have done this hundreds of times, but each time it makes me do I want to be remembered when I'm gone? What "marks in the sand" do I want to leave behind? I know the memory of my life by others is limited to two, maybe three generations at best. What will they remember? How will my life affect their lives? What difference will I make on planet earth?
One of the passions of my life has brought me great teasing from those who know me. I'm often teased by my passion for the bible....not because I read it (I do read it, but that's another story), but because of how many bibles I own. I collect bibles like some collect coins. It's become a topic of humor around the church, but if that's what I'm known for (in part) then I am thrilled with that. I love the word of God, not just owning it, but reading it. I read it because in it I find God revealed. I know him through the word, and since I want to know him I spend time in his word. It's the word that transforms my mind, and believe needs to be transformed!
So, how do I want to be remembered? I would love to be known as a Godly man who loved the word of God. I would love to be known as someone passionate to know God, and one who invested his life to pursue him. I would love to be remembered as a man conformed to the image of Christ......I'm working on that now. I won't arrive in this lifetime, but I'm on the path, I have the map and a passion to know God....and one day my journey will be complete and my goal achieved.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Quote of the day

Redemption is not simply making creation a bit better, as the optimistic evolutionist would try to suggest. Nor is it rescuing spirits and souls from an evil material world, as the Gnostic would want to say. It is the remaking of creation, having dealt with the evil that is defacing and distorting it. And it is accomplished by the same God, now known in Jesus Christ, through whom it was made in the first place. --N.T. Wright, p. 97, Surprised by Hope

Monday's cartoon

Another story, another life

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'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

Dressing up

I'm teaching through the book of Romans at church. It's been a lot of fun for me, but it has been fast paced. We have gone through a chapter a week, so for over an hour we are working through the passages at a rather brisk pace. The truth of it is that you could spend your whole adult life grazing on the book of Romans and not discover all that is in this book. In my personal reading I am in Romans each day. I have done this for quite a while, but never grow tired of it.

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....


It's a great day for a smile. This is one of my favorite cartoons. It's even better when you're watching it with children. It has some great theology in it, and if you have never seen it....enjoy.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Thoughts on a day

Today has been a busy day. In fact the last few have kept me going so fast I haven't had time to post anything. But I'm going through the day, a man calls the church asking for help. He had been rude to the receptionist, Connie, so she sent the call to me to help her. Here's the call as I remember it: Me- "Hi, my name is Mike, can I help you?" Phone- "Yes, my name is Chris and I need help. I've called more than 30 places and no one will help me. I'm not asking for much, I just need some help." (He's very rude and frustrated.) Me- "Ok, Chris, first you are calling me for help right?" Phone- "Yes." Me- "Ok, then being angry and hostile will have to stop. You're asking for help, that's no way to get it." Phone- "Well, I've called 30 different places and no one will help me. I just need a little help." Me- "Ok, what do you need?" Phone- "I need some shoes."
I've skipped a line because I don't want you to miss his request. He didn't ask for money, he didn't want me to pay his rent. He needed shoes. Someone had broken into his truck and taken all his stuff. He's here working from another state, and didn't have anything else to wear. I really don't know if anyone else had even listened to his story, but I thought, you know I have some extra shoes.
So I ask, Me- "Chris, what size do you wear?" Phone- "11." Me- "What kind of shoe do you need?" (Now he's getting nicer.) Phone- "I need a work shoe, OSHA approved, so I can work, one that covers my ankle." Me- "Ok, I got it. Where are you?" Phone- (pause) "I'm at ______. Oh, and if you had a few bucks for something to eat tonight, they stole my wallet too, but I get paid tomorrow and I'll pay you back." Me- "I'll be there as soon as I pick up the boots I have at home just for what you need. And I have some money, I'll give you what I have. It's enough to get a burger tonight. I'll be there as soon as I can." Phone- "Thanks..."
I told the ladies in the office where I was going...they were worried for me and tried to get another pastor to go along, but this was something I wanted to see through on my own. I got the boots, stopped and got a coke, some chips, cookies, and a few other things to eat, and made my way to Chris' location. When I got there I called him and he met me at the corner gas station. Around the corner comes a nice looking young man, maybe late 20's, who introduces himself. Chris- "Hi, I'm Chris." Me- "Hi Chris, here's the boots I told you about. They will work great for what you need. They are steel-toe boots. And here's something to eat, and here's some money for a burger." Chris- "Thanks, I'll pay you back...." Me- "You don't need to do that, but I do want you to do one thing. You need the Lord, Chris. You need a relationship with him. I'm not helping you if I don't challenge you to seek that as well." Chris- "I have a relationship with God....(his voice trailing off). Me- "I'll tell you what, Chris. When you want to talk, call me. You know where I am, and I'll buy you lunch and we can talk about this some more, ok?" Chris- "Ok...."
There are thousands of young men and women out there like Chris, who know the church is the place to call when they have a need, but are rebuffed because they are angry, hurting, just needing some shoes. What do we miss when we only hear the anger and forget the eternal soul of that hurting person. So, as you pray today, would you pray for Chris? Would you think about him, and watch for the opportunities to reach out to the hurting people around you who just need a pair of shoes and the love of a Christian?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Quote of the day

Death is the final enemy to be defeated OR the final defeat of the enemy. You choose which one.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Quote of the day

My friend, Iggy, posted this on his blog. Considering our ongoing discussion on law and grace I thought it would be a great quote for the day. It also reveals that we humans, through the centuries, continue to default to works to please God. It's a constant battle to raise the flag of grace over the battlefield of works.

"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

A smile for the day

I saw this today and smiled. The world wants to know the future, and some tell us they can predict what will happen. The bible is the only book that does in fact predict the future with perfect accuracy. Knowing all things, even future things, is something that God claims as his own. It makes perfect sense that if there is a God he would know all things, and he does. The bible is filled with prophecy, much of it has been fulfilled, but there is much yet to come. I'm glad that the only God there is, the God of the bible, knows all things...even those things that haven't happened yet.

Monday, April 14, 2008


I'm on cloud 9 tonight. I got my cast off today. What a relief! I feel liberated. I'm not back to normal yet, but on my day at a time.
But it's funny how the winds blow. Before my doctor's visit I went to have the insurance company look at our car. It was damaged in the hail storm last week. It was quite a surprise to have them come back to the car and tell me, "We are going to total your car. We will be in touch with you later in the week with the details." That was a surprise! It's funny that after years of blessings and trials I'm quite aware that the trials bother me less than they used to. I remember the days when problems were much bigger than they are now. But after years of dealing with the ups and downs of life I find I'm better able to sail above the problems and simply enjoy the winds that God provides. He has always kept us "afloat," he has always directed our ways. He will do it again.
So tonight I'm rejoicing in a liberated foot that is healing nicely and thanking God for a dinged up car that has met our needs for many years.

Guest blog- Christian rights

My amazing son-in-law, Zach, posted a comment to the previous entry. He is such a good writer and thinker that I wanted to elevate his thoughts to a new category: "Guest blog," so here are his thoughts on the topic of Christian rights-

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." (Gal 2:20)

There, I found your problem.

Dead people don't have rights. A lot of people these days seem to want Socialized Christianity. They want our government to approve and sanction Jesus. The apostles didn't try to make their government approve of them before they began their mission. They preached Christ to the people in spite of the government and were thrown in prison because of it, which is exactly where God wanted them at that time, unless He didn't want them in prison, in which case He broke them out. If she really feels like the ten commandments should be displayed publicly (referring to a woman's comments who was upset that the 10 commandments were not displayed), she shouldn't expect the government to do it. The government can barely govern itself; I don't want it anywhere near the Bible. You ought to tell her to go and read the ten commandments to passersby herself.

Monday cartoon

One of the questions that I have been asked to deal with is tithing. It's been greatly confused in the church today. The tithe was part of the law. It was part of God's instructions to Israel in the promised land. The question that many ask is whether the tithe is for the church today. One of the verses in the bible that helps us understand this is Galatians 3:19. In this brief verse is a question- "Why the law then?" This verse and chapter teaches 3 things about the law and tithing (which is part of the law)- 1. the law had a purpose, 2. the law had a people, the nation of Israel, and 3. the law had a term which is clearly over. We now find that we, the church, are in what Paul describes as a time of giving as each one feels led. Some will give more than 10%, others will give less. It's now based on the heart of the giver. Paul gives us the guidelines for giving in the church today-
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.

Under the law- 10%. Under grace- liberty to give as you purpose in your heart. It's no longer based on law, now it's grace the Lord leads.
(This has been a very brief discussion on the topic. There is much more to say on this topic. I hope you will understand I'm simply giving a quick overview.)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A story about a big God

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

What have I done?

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!

Lunch with a friend I never met

About 4 years ago I wrote several articles for a small group magazine that published online. As a result of those articles I got a strange e-mail. It started something like this, "Hi, my name is Volodia and I live in Kiev. Would it be ok if we corresponded? I would like to ask some questions."
When you get this kind of e-mail you have to respond. I wrote back that I would love to get to know him. It turned out that Volodia was part of a mission organization in Kiev that trained pastors in missions. We developed a great relationship. I followed their lives as he and his wife, Ruslana, had their children. I helped him with funds for a short-term mission trip he took to Turkey. And over time we were just simply good friends.
This week Volodia (on the right above) and another pastor from the Ukraine were here in Dallas for a conference with another church. By the way the other pastor's name is Volodia as well. It seems that it's like the name 'Mike' here in the states. Anyway, Volodia wrote to tell me he would be here, and could we have lunch? I was thrilled and scheduled it immediately. I have waited months for this time with my friend I had never met.
I went to the home where they were staying and we greeted each other with a big hug. I'm sure it's the way it will be in heaven- that first meeting of friends we have known for years. It was great. I took them to the ultimate American food experience- GOLDEN CORRAL! They had already tried Mexican (didn't like it), Italian (ok), and several other ethnic foods. I thought I would play it safe with an all you could eat buffet.
We had a great time, but I don't think they really got into the spirit of "all you can eat." They told me, "we don't eat as much food as Americans do." And that was enough.
After lunch I got to ask about their lives, and heard some wonderful stories. It was a great time. People in the restaurant were staring at us as they heard Russian being spoken and all 3 of us laughing. My friend, Volodia, is very fluent in English so it made it much easier for me.
Volodia asked me an interesting question at the end of our visit. He asked, "when I wrote to you that first time why did you respond?" I told him, "I always never know what God has planned for you." For me it turned into a wonderful friendship. Yesterday was a great day for me....a wonderful lunch with my friend I had never met.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

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

Looking forward to tomorrow

Tomorrow I'm having lunch with a friend I've never met. I'm really excited about the day ahead. I'll take some pictures and tell you more tomorrow......about my friend I've never met.

The great exchange

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, 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

Dangerous Pathway

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's never boring!

Lights and music by God

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

Praise in the desert

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 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

Recapturing the passion

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......

I could have had.....

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!

Monday's cartoon

Friday, April 04, 2008

Your turn...

Ok, it's your turn. You pick the topic of discussion, ask the question that has been burning in your head, tell me what you want us to talk about. It's your turn. What would you like to discuss?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Resting in the Lord

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

"It's so you!"

One of our sweet ladies in the church, Susan, came by the church today to bring me a gift. She said she saw it and had to get it for me. She told me, "it's so you!"

I love the shirt. I think I'll wear it to church on Sunday, what do you think?

Marching to Rephidim, part 2

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 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

Marching to Rephidim, part 1

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....