Sunday, August 31, 2008

Lost in translation

There are hundreds of great signs like this all over the Internet. In fact I found a sight that is just about the problems of communications.
It's funny, but it's all the result of the language barrier that God put in place at a tower a long time ago.
Now we struggle to communicate. I'm facing that this coming week as I prepare to teach in Crimea on the Black Sea. I know I will face this very thing- saying one thing and having it come out completely different. It's a great challenge to make sure that what I said is what they heard.
A number of years ago I was in Haiti preaching and my translator seemed to translate much more than I said. I would talk for 30 seconds and he would translate for 2 minutes. I started to get suspicious, and so I asked another translator who was with us, "Is he saying what I'm saying?" He replied, "No, not really." In fact, what was happening was this translator was a pastor as well, and he was using these times to simply preach what he wanted to say. He made no attempt to translate what I said at all! When I caught on I said to him, "From now on you only say what I say, ok?" He was surprised that I figured it out, and sheepishly agreed. From then on it seemed his translations were much shorter. It's funny how many hurdles language has placed between us.
So my big challenge this week is to communicate. I have trouble doing that in English, imagine using a translator! I hope most of what I say doesn't come out like this sign.....lost in translation.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Saturday's cartoon

In fairness to both sides here's Dave's cartoon for Saturday. I was surprised and impressed with McCain's selection as a running mate. I wish I could have heard the discussion about this when the Obama team heard who would be the Republican running mate. I got a chance to listen to her thoughts and comments yesterday. Very impressive! She will be a great addition to the race for president. Now this will be an interesting contest!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Boy have things changed!

This will date me, but please indulge me to be amazed at the changes. I still remember saving my paper route money as a 10 year old boy to be able to buy a 6 transistor BATTERY operated AM radio. I remember the great day when my dad and I went to the electronics store and I bought my radio, much like this one, and some D batteries to run it. It was an amazing thing- a battery operated transistor radio! It was a great acquisition for have my own battery operated radio I controlled. It was great. I still remember my late nights laying in bed with my radio as I went to sleep....slowly moving the dial and finding AM radio stations in New York, New Orleans, Chicago and I even found one in Mexico one time. What a great adventure to be able to travel to distant places with my radio and listen to all that was going on in distant parts of the world. It was a magical experience.
What a difference a few decades makes. This week I had to get a new cell phone (they didn't exist when I was 10), and my wife encouraged me to get a Blackberry (it was a fruit when I was 10). It's a great tool. It has my whole computer database linked to it (personal computers didn't exist when I was 10), and it also has Internet available through the phone (which didn't exist when I was 10- the internet I mean). I can even send e-mails from my phone (which didn't exist when I was 10, we had to use letters and stamps!). I went to the store after getting the phone and got a memory card about the size of a fingernail that holds 2 gig of memory (which didn't exist when I was 10, but if it had it would have filled up an office building). There is more, but I think you get the idea.
It's amazing how much has changed and become commonplace to us that didn't exist only a few years ago. The one thing that always stays the same is that things change! Change is part of our world. The motto used in my business days was, "keep up or get out of the way!" Culture, life, technology and change will continue. In 10 years there will be new things considered commonplace that don't exist now.
With all the change there is also a mindset that what I think about absolutes must change too. Truth must change because everything else does. But the reality is that there are some things that will never change- the heart of man, our need for a savior, God's desire that we come to him in faith, the reliability of the bible, the nature and character of God himself. In a changing world, which is changing before our eyes, we have a rock to stand on which never changes. The changes we are seeing can make your head spin at times. They are happening so quickly we can lose direction, and yet God's word and his promises are the same because although change is the reality of our world our basic need for God has never changed. We still need him to be our savior, our rock, our God who says HE will never change. At least one good thing will never change, and that will give us something to hold onto in times like these.


I love to travel. I think I got that gene from my mom. In a few weeks I'm flying to Kiev and then to Simferopol on the Black Sea to help one of our missionaries teach a conference for staff members in this part of the world. I had never heard of this city until the trip was planned, but I'm really looking forward to this trip. It will be a great treat for me to invest in the lives of other believers I haven't met yet. I am looking forward to meeting these people and spending time with them. I can't wait to see what God will do on this trip.
I will also get to see my friend, Volodia in Kiev. I've told him I'm coming, and although he doesn't have much, his first e-mail back to me wrote, "you must come and eat dinner at my house." The bible tells us that when we come to him we will have more "family" than we could ever imagine. Volodia, part of the family of God, is part of my family. How amazing it is to have friends around the world who all gather around the cross in a common fellowship of love for Christ and love for one another. I am so grateful for all that God has done to bring us together as members of his family.
If you think of it would you pray for me?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The ever present sense of doom

I thought it was funny that someone would make a brass plaque with this wording on it. There is no promise of a solution here, but only the reality that the world is against me. I know we have all felt this way at times, and that's the very reason why David wrote Psalm 37. What is the purpose of this plaque? Where is it posted? How does it help me? It's just very odd to me to think about someone crafting, making and displaying the problem without a solution, but that is the reality of the world without God's answer to our problems.
In Psalm 37 David speaks of this very fear of dread...the dread of what might be...and then he gives wonderful instructions to God followers in how to respond to this sense of doom. Here's David's instructions-
Psa 37:1 A David psalm. Don't bother your head with braggarts or wish you could succeed like the wicked.
Psa 37:2 In no time they'll shrivel like grass clippings and wilt like cut flowers in the sun.
Psa 37:3 Get insurance with GOD and do a good deed, settle down and stick to your last.
Psa 37:4 Keep company with GOD, get in on the best.
Psa 37:5 Open up before GOD, keep nothing back; he'll do whatever needs to be done:
Psa 37:6 He'll validate your life in the clear light of day and stamp you with approval at high noon.
Psa 37:7 Quiet down before GOD, be prayerful before him. Don't bother with those who climb the ladder, who elbow their way to the top.
Psa 37:8 Bridle your anger, trash your wrath, cool your pipes--it only makes things worse.
Psa 37:9 Before long the crooks will be bankrupt; GOD-investors will soon own the store.

I love this passage. It gives wonderfully clear directions in what to do when that sense of doom comes over you. When everything around you tells you that the world is crumbling and all hope is in God. He's fully in charge and doing quite fine, thank you.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The role of a Christian in politics

We live in a very strange country indeed. It's one of the few countries in history where the people have a voice in the election of leaders and the work of government. For centuries countries have been ruled by kings and dictators and your only hope was that the ruler would be kind. There was very little chance that the citizens would have a voice in how things were done, but not so here. For more than 200 years we have been part of the government by voting for our elected officials. We take it for granted, but it's not the norm in time or history.
I got this question on a previous post and it's a perfect time to address it, here's the question:
"How should Christians think about or participate in things like elections, governmental affairs, worldy affairs, etc...?"
Benjamin Franklin said, “God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel” –Constitutional Convention of 1787 original manuscript of this speech (from Portrait of Ben Franklin)
There is an interesting balance between personal responsibility and divine sovereignty. As Christians we know that God rules on planet earth. He elevates one and brings down another. The governments that exist are there because God has placed them there. But in the midst of this is our part in his work. We are divinely in a country where we are allowed to be part of the government by our vote. Our responsibility? We must pray, and then vote. Vote for the person you believe is the right person to lead our country, but do it knowing that in the background God is orchestrating the election to accomplish his will. It's a strange thing to be involved by our vote and yet know that God will put the man in office he wants.
Again, let me quote the question once more- "How should Christians think about or participate in things like elections, governmental affairs, worldy affairs, etc...?" One of the misconceptions we have in the Christian community is that we can make our country Christian by our voice and our vote. Let me resolve this by saying that there is no such thing as a Christian country. There are only countries where Christians live and their presence changes the country around them. Our job is NOT to change government, although we should do all we can to participate, our job is to change life at a time. You cannot change a country or the people in it with laws. You can only change the heart by leading a man to faith in Christ and that changed heart and life will change his little world. It's a battle done one heart at a time.
As a citizen do all you can to influence our country for good, but know you will not make it a Christian country. That battle is fought one heart at a time. Where we have gone wrong is to think that if we can change the law we will change our country. It's only as we change lives does our country change, so do both- vote and voice your opinion in government, but don't forget to pray for and share your faith with your neighbor next door. It's the second choice done one life at a time that will change a country.
Footnote- My brilliant fellow pastor, Brent added this comment that must move to the content of the post, "You forgot to mention that another role we play is to pray for all those who are in authority--that we may live peacefully--and to be subject to rulers and authorities. Those are in The Bible somewhere..."
Brent is absolutely right! How could I forget that? Thanks, Brent.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Monday's cartoon

Welcome to the Democratic convention week. All eyes will be on Denver this week as they choose their candidate for president. It's interesting that they are calling their candidate "the chosen one." This cartoon from the Seattle Post captures all the drama and characters we will see this week. I'm glad that God is in charge of all of this. Knowing that we have a sovereign God makes all of this madness called "election year" much easier to endure.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Good news!




Our son, Ian, called tonight to tell us good news....he and his wife, Tiffany, are going to have a baby! We are excited for them and so I thought I would tell you as well.

Amazed once more...

On my way home from church tonight I was listening to the radio and got in on an interview with one of the Hubble telescope scientists. It was fascinating to hear him talk about the things they have discovered. What got me excited was his description of what he called "ultra deep field scans." This is how he described these scans: he said they would look for the darkest part of the sky, the place where there was nothing but black, then they would aim the Hubble at that spot and open the lens for an extended period of time. He described two scans, one that lasted 10 days and another one that lasted 30 days. What they found amazed them. In a place where it was completely black they saw millions of stars exposed by the open lens of the Hubble over time. The photos of these scans can be seen on the Hubble site. What amazed me is how vast the universe is and yet we are still discovering how much bigger it is than we ever knew. You could hear the excitement of the scientist as he was describing these discoveries.
My thoughts ran to a verse in the bible that not only talks about the creation of the universe, but also show how great God is by what a small emphasis he puts on the stars themselves. Here's how he describes it,
Gen 1:16 God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also.
The more we discover the greater our amazement at the vastness of the universe, but God describes it as an if to say, "oh yeah, and I made the stars too." The way God describes the creation of the universe makes God even bigger in my mind. A universe so vast that it overwhelms us is just an afterthought to the one who made it.
If he can do that then he can take care of my little problems.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A work in process

I'm not finished yet. One of the things I know about my life is that I'm a work in process.....God is molding me into what he wants me to be. I often feel his hands on my life molding me, shaping me, pushing me against my will to be what HE wants me to be. It's hard to trust the hands of the potter, but he clearly can and will do what he wants to do to make me into the vessel he has in mind. He's making me into someone who makes HIM look good. He wants people to say, when they see me, "who made that work of art, what a beautiful creation, what an amazing artist God is!" My task is to let him mold me. I'm not good at letting him mold me. My task is to let him decide what this work of art called my life is to look like. I'm not good at letting someone else decide what my life looks like. The bible clearly uses the picture of a potter and clay to describe my relationship with the creator of the universe. Often I try to change places with him and be the potter myself and mold HIM into what I want him to be. He will not trade roles with me, but will continue to work in my life until he's finished...until I'm finished. It's frustrating to be "in process", but it's exciting to know that the artist of my life has a wonderful work of art in mind when he's done. And he's doing that same thing in each of our lives.

"Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hands..." Jeremiah 18:6

Saturday's cartoon

Friday, August 22, 2008

Even animals have more compassion...

Argentine dog saves abandoned baby
By Daniel Schweimler BBC News, Buenos Aires
"La China has become a celebrity in her shanty town (Photo courtesy of Clarin)
An eight-year-old dog has touched the hearts of Argentines by saving the life of an abandoned baby, placing him safely alongside her own new puppies.
The country's media are calling him "the miracle baby".
He was born prematurely to a 14-year-old girl in a shanty town outside the capital, Buenos Aires.
She is said to have panicked and abandoned the boy in a field, surrounded by wooden boxes and rubbish.
Then along came La China, the dog which somehow picked up the baby and carried him 50m to place him alongside her own puppies.
The dog's owner heard the child crying and found him covered with a rag.
The baby, weighing 4kg (8lb 13oz), had some slight injuries, but no bite marks. The owner called the police and the child is now being looked after by the authorities, while a decision is taken about his future...."
When I read this story my first thought became the title of this entry...even animals have more compassion. Animals take care of their young and nourish them, protect them and feed them. How amazing that the creatures on planet earth created in God's image, who know right and wrong, are neglecting, abandoning and even killing their young. We have come to a sad day in culture when the animals are more compassionate than the people around them, but that, in fact, is the time we live in.
It gives us as Christians great opportunity to show the love of Christ to a lost world because when you shine the love of Christ into the dark cave of a fallen world the difference is dramatic! Now, more than ever, our love and mercy for those around us is important. Now, more than ever, our care for those around us makes an impact on a world where mercy, love and grace are in short supply. Now the love of Christ demonstrated through us can be clearly seen, and so, as Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A smile for the middle of the week...

I "borrowed" this from my friend, Iggy. It is funny and made me smile, and I hope it does the same for you. I wonder what life with animals will be like when the fall is finally lifted. I wonder what we will know about them that will surprise us. At the moment I'm amazed at both trainer and Walrus for this fun video.

MORE bad news....

Boy, this is a really bad news day, and this next item only makes it worse.
What a dark day when.....

"Maker of Snickers and M&Ms is raising prices"

Exclusive: Incredulous UN Bans Criticism of Islam

The bible speaks of a one world religion in the last days and here it comes! It might surprise you the chosen religion of the UN, but it's now official. As a Christian I am now in trouble if I share my faith with anyone from this new "one world religion." Welcome to the last days! Here's the article so you will know where we are in time and history -Mike
August 14, 2008
"The Human Rights Council at the United Nations has now banned any criticism regarding Sharia Law and human rights in the Islamic World. According to President Doru Romulus Costea - and following the efforts of delegates from Egypt, Pakistan and Iran - the Council will no longer tolerate criticism of either Sharia or specific fatwas in the name of human rights.In many parts of the Islamic world, it is becomingly increasing clear not only that the Koran (the written record of the original oral transmissions of Mohammad’s life teachings) and the Hadith (the later delineations of those teachings) are considered sacrosanct in their perfection, but also the various implementations of these teachings, known as Sharia Law. No evolution or refinements are required. No matter that nearly every multitudinous Muslim sect or group has a differing interpretation of this God-given Sharia Law. Nor that the stoning to death of women, beheading of men, and all the 6th century niceties of feudal Arabia are still part and parcel of the immovable Islamic tradition. Never mind that Sunni will decimate Shia - and vice versa - over differences of interpretations far more modest than those between (modern) Catholics and Protestants, between Hindus and Buddhists. Islamic sect can war on Islamic sect, Arab can criticize Arab.Because Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and all other religions are imperfect, they are fair game for any and all attacks. Since Israel, Zionism, America and the Western World were created and developed outside the Islamic World and its divine perfection, they are likewise subject to criticism.Now, not only has the Islamic God forbidden outside criticism of the Sharia Law, but the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) is its enjoined messenger on earth.Of course, observers of the HRC should not be surprised. The ostensibly prestigious body has become a revolving door for countries with an ambivalent (or even well nigh invisible) relationship with freedom and democracy. In the two years following its replacement of the equally dictatorship-friendly Human Rights Commission, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Egypt, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia have all been elected to the Council. As a majority of the Council’s resolutions are concerned with Israel, it would effectively cease functioning were it not for its compulsive focus on the Jewish state.Due to this resolution the Council - and thus, perversely, the UN - is endorsing a worldview in which human interpretation and understanding has been placed beyond the pale of critical thinking and investigation as long as it’s part of Sharia Law or the Islamic tradition. Perhaps we should rename the United Nations and call it the “Nations of Islam - United in Unique and Ineffable Perfection.” Sounds appropriate."
........... Contributing Editor Leslie Sacks is an art dealer and gallerist in Los Angeles. Feedback:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The soil and the sea

I love the ocean. I wasn't raised near the water at all, in fact I was raised in the very middle of the United States, in Iowa. It's farmland as far as the eye can see. There are three things you will see in Iowa- corn, cows and soybeans. Iowa has some of the richest soil on the planet. You can plant anything there and it grows in a day...not really, but it seems like it. Anyway, I started to talk about the ocean and wandered point is that although all I ever knew about growing up was farming I am drawn to the ocean because of its constant changing nature. The tide comes in with a flurry and rumble and then recedes again only to do it once more. Having grown up in Iowa I'm aware of the slow steady nature of God to fulfill his purposes. Day by day he is working and soon we see a crop...fruit from our waiting. The ocean makes me aware that my trials and problems that wash up on me with a great flurry and noise quickly recede only to come again at a later time. Both the soil and the sea are realities in my life. God is working in me day by day to produce a harvest in my life....fruit that will glorify him. Through the days I find that there are the occasional waves that wash over me and nearly knock me off my feet only to recede for another wave in a few moments. What a contrast- the constant work of God in me to produce a life that looks like Christ and the occasional work of the enemy that tries to knock me off my feet. One has eternal consequences and the other is just for a moment and will soon be gone. Both are part of my experience and I'm used to them both. Knowing how both God and our enemy are working makes the boredom of waiting for growth and the panic of the occasional wave all fit together nicely into a life lived in Texas.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

If There Is No God...

There are often amazing articles written by those around us. Here is one that is well worth the time to read. You can also visit Dennis' article here.

by Dennis Prager

"We are constantly reminded about the destructive consequences of religion -- intolerance, hatred, division, inquisitions, persecutions of "heretics," holy wars. Though far from the whole story, they are, nevertheless, true. There have been many awful consequences of religion.
What one almost never hears described are the deleterious consequences of secularism -- the terrible developments that have accompanied the breakdown of traditional religion and belief in God. For every thousand students who learn about the Spanish Inquisition and the Salem Witch Trials, maybe two learn to associate Gulag, Auschwitz, The Cultural Revolution and the Cambodian genocide with secular regimes and ideologies.
For all the problems associated with belief in God, the death of God leads to far more of them.
So, while it is not possible to prove (or disprove) God's existence, what is provable is what happens when people stop believing in God.
1. Without God there is no good and evil; there are only subjective opinions that we then label "good" and "evil." This does not mean that an atheist cannot be a good person. Nor does it mean that all those who believe in God are good; there are good atheists and there are bad believers in God. It simply means that unless there is a moral authority that transcends humans from which emanates an objective right and wrong, "right" and "wrong" no more objectively exist than do "beautiful" and "ugly."
2. Without God, there is no objective meaning to life. We are all merely random creations of natural selection whose existence has no more intrinsic purpose or meaning than that of a pebble equally randomly produced.
3. Life is ultimately a tragic fare if there is no God. We live, we suffer, we die -- some horrifically, many prematurely -- and there is only oblivion afterward.
4. Human beings need instruction manuals. This is as true for acting morally and wisely as it is for properly flying an airplane. One's heart is often no better a guide to what is right and wrong than it is to the right and wrong way to fly an airplane. The post-religious secular world claims to need no manual; the heart and reason are sufficient guides to leading a good life and to making a good world.
5. If there is no God, the kindest and most innocent victims of torture and murder have no better a fate after death than do the most cruel torturers and mass murderers. Only if there is a good God do Mother Teresa and Adolf Hitler have different fates.
6. With the death of Judeo-Christian values in the West, many Westerners believe in little. That is why secular Western Europe has been unwilling and therefore unable to confront evil, whether it was Communism during the Cold War or Islamic totalitarians in its midst today.
7. Without God, people in the West often become less, not more, rational. It was largely the secular, not the religious, who believed in the utterly irrational doctrine of Marxism. It was largely the secular, not the religious, who believed that men's and women's natures are basically the same, that perceived differences between the sexes are all socially induced. Religious people in Judeo-Christian countries largely confine their irrational beliefs to religious beliefs (theology), while the secular, without religion to enable the non-rational to express itself, end up applying their irrational beliefs to society, where such irrationalities do immense harm.
8. If there is no God, the human being has no free will. He is a robot, whose every action is dictated by genes and environment. Only if one posits human creation by a Creator that transcends genes and environment who implanted the ability to transcend genes and environment can humans have free will.
9. If there is no God, humans and "other" animals are of equal value. Only if one posits that humans, not animals, are created in the image of God do humans have any greater intrinsic sanctity than baboons. This explains the movement among the secularized elite to equate humans and animals.
10. Without God, there is little to inspire people to create inspiring art. That is why contemporary art galleries and museums are filled with "art" that celebrates the scatological, the ugly and the shocking. Compare this art to Michelangelo's art in the Sistine chapel. The latter elevates the viewer -- because Michelangelo believed in something higher than himself and higher than all men.
11. Without God nothing is holy. This is definitional. Holiness emanates from a belief in the holy. This explains, for example, the far more widespread acceptance of public cursing in secular society than in religious society. To the religious, there is holy speech and profane speech. In much of secular society the very notion of profane speech is mocked.
12. Without God, humanist hubris is almost inevitable. If there is nothing higher than man, no Supreme Being, man becomes the supreme being.
13. Without God, there are no inalienable human rights. Evolution confers no rights. Molecules confer no rights. Energy has no moral concerns. That is why America's Founders wrote in the Declaration of Independence that we are endowed "by our Creator" with certain inalienable rights. Rights depend upon a moral source, a rights giver.
14. "Without God," Dostoevsky famously wrote, "all is permitted." There has been plenty of evil committed by believers in God, but the widespread cruelties and the sheer number of innocents murdered by secular regimes -- specifically Nazi, Fascist and Communist regimes -- dwarfs the evil done in the name of religion.
As noted at the beginning, none of this proves, or even necessarily argues for, God's existence. It makes the case for the necessity, not the existence, of God. "Which God?" the secularist will ask. The God of Israel, the God of America's founders, "the Holy God who is made holy by justice" (Isaiah), the God of the Ten Commandments, the God who demands love of neighbor, the God who endows all human beings with certain inalienable rights, the God who is cited on the Liberty Bell because he is the author of liberty. That is the God being referred to here, without whom we will be vanquished by those who believe in less noble gods, both secular and divine."

Monday, August 18, 2008

Monday's cartoon

Monday morning thoughts

I'm recovering from a day of speaking yesterday. It was great fun, but I'm tired! Standing that long really takes its toll on my foot too (I crushed my heel in February). Last night I had to come home and take a strong pain pill to get some sleep, but it was worth it.....I really enjoyed the day teaching the bible to our church family. I hope they had as much fun as I did.
The one thing I think of often is how little of this job is me doing it...what I mean by that is that all I have and all I bring to a church service was given to me by God. Here's the list so you will know what I mean:
-He gave me life. I live and breathe because of him.
-He saved me. I wouldn't even be interested in church or the bible if it weren't for God's work in my life.
-He gave me gifts. It's his gifts that I use in my job.
-He gave me his Holy Spirit. His Spirit is my helper, my companion, my teacher.
-He gave me his word, the Bible. And with the Holy Spirit's help I understand it.
-He gives me the message he wants me to teach.
-He gives me breath so I can speak it.
-He works in the hearer to help them understand the message.
-He works through the Holy Spirit to change the lives of those who hear.
....and all I bring to the day is this- I'm available for him to work in my life.
Everything else is HIM. As Chuck Swindoll said once, "85% of ministry is just showing up." I think he was referring to this very idea that it's God's work, and we simply show up to be part of it. How amazing that we get to be part of HIS eternal work. It still amazes me to watch as he uses angels, visions, the voice of the Holy Spirit to move a man to go speak to someone and share the good news of what Christ has done when it would be much easier for him to simply do it himself, but he has chosen to make US the vehicles for his message. We get to be part of what he is doing simply by being available for him to work in our lives and by showing up. Everything else is HIM doing it in and through us.
I'm honored and humbled to be part of his ministry and his great plan. There are days, like yesterday, when I can't believe I get to do this. What an honor, what a be part of God's eternal work. Thanks, Lord, for letting me be part of what you are doing.

Funny signs

Here's a smile to start your week. Great signs like this are hard to find....I wonder what kind of animals are they protecting us from?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Saturday's cartoon

That's about the best commentary you can put on the weeks events. It has been amazing to watch Michael swim. After this he can retire!

Finishing the parables

Tomorrow I get to close out our series on the parables with the most familiar one of them all- the parable of the good Samaritan. As I prepared this week I realized how all pervasive this story is in our culture. Everyone knows what a good Samaritan's even defined in the dictionary! So, whether a true story or not, whether you like Jesus or not...we continue to try to live out a story he used to make a point with a man who came with questions. It was a story that still resonates with us....someone helping a stranger in need. Even in our culture without truth we still value a good Samaritan, a person who will help a stranger. That part of us that God made like himself....that part that reaches out to the hurt and still there and still valued. So, as I prepare to teach through 12 short verses that everyone knows, do pray for me that I will bring something fresh to the table that will challenge and inspire our family to be mercy givers themselves.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Coolest Bird In The World: The Liar Bird!

Here's a fun segment from a David Attenborough film. It's amazing to hear how creative this bird is and the sounds they are able to make. Another part of God's amazing creation.

What a creator!

Some photographers do a great job of capturing the beauty of creation. Igor Siwanowicz is one of those photographers who has taken a series of photographs showing the amazing creation God has made. When you have a moment go to Igor's site and enjoy some of God's wonderful creation. I would guess you haven't seen anything like this before.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The bible in one minute

Bible In A Minute - barats and bereta

Here's a funny new video you will enjoy, but I think you miss something going this fast.....
(If you are having trouble viewing the video here you can go to barats and bereta's web site and view it.)

Thoughts on the race

Heb 12:1 Do you see what this means--all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running--and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.
Heb 12:2 Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed--that exhilarating finish in and with God--he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.
Heb 12:3 When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
In my reading this morning I came to Hebrews 12. It's an amazing passage that continues the thoughts of chapter 11- the chapter on faith. In the NIV version he says,
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
This is a grand invitation to add your name to the list of those who have finished well in chapter 11. He even gives us the keys to winning the race- 1. Throw off everything that hinders. That's an individual thing. What hinders you will be different than what hinders me. 2. Get rid of the sin that entangles. Again, that will be something each one has to evaluate. What sin(s) do you struggle with that tangles you up and make you trip? 3. Let us run with perseverance... I have to build up some endurance for this race. As one old friend said, "it's not a sprint, it's a marathon!" and so I have to train for the long race that will take my entire life. And, 4. ...the race that is marked out for us. Each of us has a different race course, a different ministry, a different race to run as God works in our lives. I can't follow your path because my course will be different. That's why it's so important to know what God has called you to do, what race course he has marked out for you. Each of us are running to the same goal, but our paths (our gifts and ministries) will be different.
I always read more slowly when I come to chapters 11 and 12 because it gives me hope. I see that others have finished well and been praised by God for their faith and life, so I know I can do it too. So, today, once more I put on my marathon shoes and make sure I'm ready for the race today, and run for the prize....keeping my eyes on Jesus who is waiting at the finish line to greet me.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

It's a small world

We are leaving in a few minutes to have dinner with friends we haven't seen in more than 25 years! It's funny how small our world really is.....we lost touch with Kerry & DeAnn when we left the ministry in the early 80's, but always loved them and considered them good friends. Recently, on a whim, Joye did a Google search for them and found them. Kerry had a cell phone number listed on the page she found so we called turns out they just moved here from Oklahoma and now live less than 10 miles from us. It's amazing to us to find them again. Kerry & DeAnn were good friends and I had the opportunity to perform their wedding. They now have three grown children, the oldest is 29. I'm always amazed at the lives we touch, and how that touch makes our world so much smaller.......

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Motorcycling in India

I know some of you have already seen this video, but since I ride a motorcycle too this video caught my attention. It's very funny, especially to listen to the guys filming it. (Personal disclaimer- I NEVER ride like this!)

A prayer need and much more....

I got a copy of a letter sent to our church from our sister church in Haiti. The pastor was gracious and grateful for God's care and provision, and then he shared this paragraph,
"Please, pray for the families in the church because they are facing difficult problems this year with food being very expensive it is hard to feed their children. A lot of them are very sick and many have already died." -Pastor Jean Benoit
As I read that it made me stop for a moment. We fuss and complain about how hard things are for us....until we read a paragraph like this. My complaints seem like a two-year-old's temper tantrum when I read that others don't even have food. How spoiled AND blessed we are. I pause at these words to thank the Lord that my children and grandchildren are NOT starving, but to also pray for these dear ones in Haiti who are. I will not complain again, but I will be praying. Lord, help me to be grateful for your wonderful provision, but never forget those who don't have enough to meet their needs.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Silly quote of the day

“It’s a lousy night to be an atheist,” -said famous sports journalist Rick Reilly during the broadcast of the Home Run Derby on ESPN.

(When I read this quote my first thought was "wouldn't any night be a lousy night to be an atheist?" but the quote is great and deserves its place in "silly quotes of the day".)

Monday's cartoon

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sunday afternoon

It's Sunday afternoon. I got a quick nap after preaching this morning on the parable of the
sower and the seed. I had a great time teaching through this parable and I hope all those who attended enjoyed it as well. Even if no one else got anything from our time in the word I learned a lot preparing the message. I get to teach this message again in a couple hours. Until I prepared this study in Matthew 13 I really thought I knew what it meant, but it has taken on a whole series of new layers for me.....but that's always the way it is when you teach.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Amazing waterfall

I have had trouble getting this to work, but hopefully it will this time. This is an amazing video of a computerized waterfall....enjoy.

Just thinking

It's early Saturday and I've already been to breakfast with one of our guys. He had some questions about sales and marketing for his company. Having spent 18 years in that field I have some knowledge about it and was able to help him with some direction.
I always wondered why the Lord allowed me to be out of ministry for so long. I thought my sabbatical would be a couple years at most, but it turned into almost two decades!
Those years gave me a tremendous understanding of what our men working in the world deal with each day. It's a battle out there! There are so many demands on your life, and work continues to demand more and more. If I hadn't fought those battles myself I would have never understood. So, this morning I got to spend some time with a guy trying to survive all the demands on his life and still make his business a success.
All that we deal with today seems so out of step with the stories of the was a much slower paced life. Agricultural, quiet and not so hectic, and yet somehow all the stories and principles translate into life in America today. I think it's because no matter what you do the core issues of life are always the same- how will I live my life? And, what am I living for?
I was just thinking this morning how blessed I am for the 18 year detour the Lord gave me that, at the time, I often considered a curse. Now I smile, God knew what he wanted to do in me and through me. Why couldn't I just enjoy the ride? But honestly, we are all like that. We think we know best, and the bible says....God directs our paths.

Friday, August 08, 2008

An e-mail I received today...

This was the content of an e-mail I received today. I thought you would enjoy it as well-

A lecturer, when explaining stress management to an audience, raised a glass of water and asked, 'How heavy is this glass of water?' Answers called out ranged from 8oz. To 20oz The lecturer replied, 'The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long you try to hold it.' 'If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance.' 'In each case it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.' He continued, 'And that's the way it is with stress management. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on.' 'As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden. ' 'So, before you return home tonight, put the burden of work/life down. Don't carry it home. You can pick it up tomorrow.' 'Whatever burdens you're carrying now, let them down for a moment if you can. Relax; pick them up later after you've rested. Life is short. Enjoy!'

And then he shared some ways of dealing with the burdens of life:

1 * Accept that some days you're the pigeon, and some days you're the statue
2 * Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.
3 * Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.
4 * Drive carefully. It's not only cars that can be recalled by their Maker.
5 * If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.
6 * If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.
7 * It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.
8 * Never buy a car you can't push.
9 * Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you won't have a leg to stand on.
10 * Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance.
11 * Since it's the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late.
12 * The second mouse gets the cheese.
13 * When everything's coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.
14 * Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.
15 * You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person.
16 * Some mistakes are too much fun to only make once.
17 * We could learn a lot from crayons. Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull. Some have weird names and all are different colors, but they all have to live in the same box . 18 * A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The most important thing

I'm reading in Ezekiel right now. I must be's not one of the easiest books to read. It's grim, dark and foreboding...."judgment is coming!" it shouts to the exiles of Israel. There are good reasons for this judgment...their unfaithfulness, lying, hard hearts, and deaf ears. The nation of Israel had turned their backs on God and were about to be judged for it. Even with judgment looming they still continued on in their sin. It sounds a lot like the people in the time of the Revelation of John (and our time as well). Even in judgment they are not willing to repent and turn to God. But throughout the book is a golden thread that keeps reappearing....over and over again....more than 60 times in the's this little phrase:

"that you may know that I am the LORD your God."

God's goal is that they (and we today) might know him. That's always been his goal since the fall in the reestablish a living relationship with the man he made. It's why Christ came, died and rose again, to restore our relationship with God so that we may know him.

So, as I'm reading this book day by's a long book...I'm reminded again that my relationship with God is the most important thing in my life! I have to constantly come back to this, and remind myself of it....knowing God and having a relationship with him is the main thing! How do I let that slip away from me so easily? How do I get so busy with other things that I forget? But I do, and books like Ezekiel help to remind me....that the most important thing is to know the God who, once more I come to a fork in the road I have visited many times, and once more turn back to the God who wants me to know him. Because knowing him is the most important thing.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

How little we know....

An amazing story with my thoughts to follow.....
Gorilla 'mother lode' found in Congo
Tuesday, 5 August 2008 Maggie FoxReuters

Researchers have found 125,000 western lowland gorillas living in the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo, almost doubling the known number of the endangered species.

A report released today at the International Primatological Society Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland says a new census tallied more than 125,000 critically endangered gorillas in a 47,000-square-kilometre area.
Estimates from the 1980s had suggested fewer than 100,000 of the great apes had survived and many experts believed these numbers had been cut nearly in half by disease and hunting.
The census figures, if right, increases the gorilla population estimate to between 175,000 and 225,000.
The Wildlife Conservation Society report shows "that northern Republic of Congo contains the mother lode of gorillas", says society president Steven Sanderson.

"It also shows that conservation in the Republic of Congo is working. This discovery should be a rallying cry for the world that we can protect other vulnerable and endangered species, whether they be gorillas in Africa, tigers in India, or lemurs in Madagascar." .......(read the whole article)

My thoughts- This is only part of the story, but as I read it I thought, "Isn't that amazing? With all we know and are able to do we don't even know how many gorillas there are! Of course I know how limited we are, but some scientists would make you think they know all the answers to the universe and creation and they can't even find out how many gorillas there are right here on planet earth!
I think I will trust what God says....since he made everything and holds it all together he's a much more reliable source than a bunch of scientists who are surprised by "the mother lode of gorillas". It often makes me smile to read how little we really do know. But God says he even knows how many hairs I have on my head. He knew about those gorillas even though the scientists didn't. Here's another opportunity to celebrate a God who is infinite, all powerful and sovereign. Oh, by the way, thanks Lord for preserving these gorillas. What a great blessing to have such amazing animals around us protected by YOU.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Fluid faith

I read an article in USA Today this evening. It spoke about the current trends in America. Here is part of the article and then some thoughts....
Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY

A new map of faith in the USA shows a nation constantly shifting amid religious choices, unaware or unconcerned with doctrinal distinctions. Unbelief is on the rise. And immigration is introducing new faces in the pews, new cultural concerns, new forces in the public square.

The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, released Monday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, documents new peaks, deepening valleys and fast-running rivers of change in American religiosity.

Based on interviews with 35,556 adults in the continental United States, it shows so much diversity and dynamism that a co-author sums it up simply. "Churn. Churn. Churn. The biggest news here is change," says Pew Forum research fellow Gregory Smith.

"It's not that religion won't matter in the future, but that it will matter in new and less predictable ways," says co-author John Green, a political scientist and Pew Forum senior fellow.

Key findings from the survey:

•Faith is fluid: 44% say they're no longer tied to the religious or secular upbringing of their childhood. They've changed religions or denominations, adopted a faith for the first time or abandoned any affiliation altogether.

•"Nothing" matters: 12.1% say their religious identity is "nothing in particular," outranking every denomination and tradition except Catholics (23.9%) and all groups of Baptists (17.2%).

"Fluidity is the rule today, not the exception. There's greater diversity and greater movement — a quantum leap in the rate of change."

So there it is. We are in a time of "fluid faith"....what a strange idea. It's a time when a belief in absolute truth is considered insensitive, rude, or narrow minded. If there is no absolute truth then what do we believe in? Where is our faith to stand? If there is no one true-truth then your faith and mine all swim in a sea of uncertainty rather than standing on the foundation of absolute truth.

This article really excited me. When everyone is swimming in a sea of uncertainty we stand on a sure promise and a strong foundation. We stand on Christ and his word. So as those who are uncertain float by with their ever changing "fluid faith" we can extend a loving hand of hope to them and a sure faith that will never let them drowned.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Dealing with sin

I have been asked many times about my view of sin in a Christian’s life and our proper response to it. In fact the discussion usually begins with a question about 1 John 1:9 (which, by the way, is in the middle of John’s thoughts on the finished work of Christ that ends in 1 John 2:2). Here, briefly, is my view of how a Christian should deal with sin in their life:

1. When Christ died on the cross how many of your sins did he die for? (A: all of them, Romans 5-8, Hebrews 10:10,12,14)

2. When Christ died on the cross how many of your sins were still future? (A: all of them)

3. And if that is true then when we trust Christ as savior how many of our sins are dealt with and forgiven? (A: all of them, Romans 8:1)

4. So, when you read 1 John 1:9, which says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” and you see that it says that he will cleanse us from all unrighteousness how many of our sins does “all unrighteousness” include? (A: all of them)

AND, when he has cleansed us from ALL unrighteousness how much is left for us to be forgiven of in the future? (A: none of them),

So my proper response when I sin is this, “Lord, here is another reason why I needed a savior. Thank you for saving me and cleansing me from ALL my sins, including this one. I am sorry. I agree with you that this is sin. Thank you that you already forgave me for this sin. I repent, and ask you to help me not do this again. Fill me with your spirit, and help me to grow into the image of Christ.” (much thanks to Major Ian Thomas for help with the wording of this prayer)

We are not trying to get something we already have, but rather we are celebrating something that Christ has already done for us- his finished work and our forgiven sins. Many will say that we must continue to confess our sins and ask forgiveness for sin. This teaching lingers from the Catholic church tradition and is still the majority view in the Evangelical church (our “spiritual bar of soap” as Campus Crusade describes it), but I believe the Bible teaches a finished work by Christ both on the cross and in my life (that does not mean I’m perfect by the way.) I don’t need more forgiveness, I have that, what I need is repentance and the Holy Spirit to live his life through me! I need to thank him for his forgiveness already given and agree with him about my sin (that is what confession means) and turn from it, inviting him to live his life in and through me. That is the right response to sin. May we be people who begin to grow in grace and celebrate a finished work of Christ both on the cross and in our lives as we deal with sin.

As far as growth goes (maturity in faith) I’m on an odyssey that will continue until Christ returns or until I die, but one thing I’m not doing is constantly revisiting the cross for something I already have! I celebrate a finished work regarding sin (salvation) and invite him to be part of my life to finish his work in me (sanctification.) Let us move on to maturity and celebrate the cross but walk in grace. Christ has finished the work for us, a work that is complete even though we are still a work in process. Heb. 6:1

When you have a clear view of sin and its solution it is a freeing thing. Suddenly I’m no longer trying to get something I already have, instead I’m growing…growing in grace and a finished work…growing into the likeness of Christ!

(Romans 5-8, Hebrews 7:27, Hebrews 9, 10:10,12,14,19-25)