Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday's cartoon

The captain's face

(I know I have shared parts of this story before, but as I retold it in detail to a group of men yesterday they all told me I had to write about the entire story. This story is true and I'm writing it at the request of the guys in my men's group. Thanks, guys, for your great fellowship, encouragement and partnership in the work of God.)
A number of years ago I had the opportunity to go sailing with a good friend of mine. Ray was an oil man who had literally gone from struggling to millionaire in one day. In the 80's it happened to a number of guys, but Ray was a Christian and a friend, so we talked about our faith, God's provision and his blessings often. After his new fortune Ray bought a boat he had always wanted, it was a 38' sailboat. He had it delivered to Grand lake in eastern Oklahoma. It's a large lake and a great place to sail. There was a day one spring when we both had some time and Ray asked me to go sailing with him. I was thrilled to join him. I had never sailed before and looked forward to the experience. We met at the lake and got on the boat to get underway. Slowly we motored out of the inlet into the lake and then put up the sails. It was a great experience! I loved the sounds of the wind in the sails, the waves on the boat and the experience of sailing by wind power alone. We had a great time and a wonderful visit.
Then it happened. Suddenly, and really without warning, a storm came up. It was a big one. 50-60 mile per hour winds and gusts, 3-4 foot waves, black clouds moving overhead. Quickly the lake cleared of other boats. Within minutes we were in a storm I can imagine the disciples experienced on the sea of Galilee when they woke Jesus and declared, "Don't you care that we are drowning?" I think I understood the fear they experienced. Our boat was leaning with the storm winds at 50 degrees or more. The waves were washing over the deck. The skies were black. The rain was intense. I WAS AFRAID! But then I turned around and looked at Ray as he steered the boat across the lake. HE WAS SMILING! I couldn't believe it. Didn't he see what I saw? Didn't he know this was bad? In my amazement I yelled through the storm, "How can you smile in this storm? Don't you see the wind and the waves?" I heard the disciples in my own voice as I said, "Don't you care that we might drown?" Ray smiled back and said, "You don't understand. I know my boat. It has a 9,000 pound keel. This boat was built for the oceans. This storm is nothing! We are fine! Relax, enjoy the ride." Suddenly, my fear subsided. I had looked at the captain's face. He knew things about our boat that I didn't. He knew we were fine. Within a few moments my fear turned to calm. Because I trusted the captain I began to enjoy the ride. Nothing had changed....the wind still blew, the rains still came, the waves still washed over the deck, but something was different....I had seen the captain's face.
The Christian life is much like this little adventure of mine. We are often caught in the storms of life and fear for our lives, our finances, our health. This life is often overcome by a storm when we least expect it. Fears overwhelm us. Death feels close. Panic is in our voices.....but then, with fear growing, we look at Jesus and discover that he is smiling! How can he smile in this storm? Doesn't he know we are about to go down? And he replies, "You don't understand. I know this boat. I know what I have planned for you. We are fine. I'll bring you safely home. Enjoy the ride." It's funny how a glance at the face of our captain, Jesus, can change a fearful storm into an exciting adventure. A look at the captain's face makes all the difference!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Fear of failure

One of men's greatest fears is the fear of failure. We live with the nagging fear that will fail or are a failure in our lives. It plagues most men I talk to.
But there is a more insidious fear that is linked to this fear of failure. It's a fear that I won't succeed. The reason this is so insidious is because my definition of success is based on what someone else has done. If I could be like Joe, then I would be a success. If I could play the piano like Fred, then I would be happy. But, success is never measured by what someone else has done. It's measured by what God has designed you to do. Both success and failure are linked in this one basic concept- I'm only a success when I do what God has designed me to do and I'm only a failure if I don't. It's never measured by what anyone else has done. It's always to be measured by what God wants me to do.
The worse thing I can do in my life is measure myself by someone else. In ministry this is always a temptation. The devil would like nothing better than for you to feel like a failure because you aren't as popular as ____________. But, God didn't design us all to be or do the same things. We are each created for a specific role, task and mission in life. It's only when I do what God designed me to do that I succeed and it's only when I don't that I fail. The measure of success and failure is intimately woven into what God has made me to be.
Our culture has fooled us. We have believed the lie that success involves a better job, more money, a nice house, a pretty wife or good looking husband, great kids and shinny teeth. God doesn't look at any of these with pleasure in our accomplishments. All he wants to know is this- are you becoming what I made you to be? If your answer is yes then you are a success! Even if you have no money in your pocket, no hair on your head and you're 50 pounds overweight. Take another look at success and failure from God's perspective. You might find that you have been looking at this thing all wrong. You might find great joy in being just what God made you to be.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What's most important

This morning, as I read, I came to a very familiar story in Mark 5. It's the story of a man with a real problem. Somehow he had come under the influence of demon activity and over time found himself possessed by thousands of demons. The results were completely dehumanizing. Mark writes, "a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones." The description of this man's life is most tragic. He was living like a wild animal, out of control and insane. It's obvious these demons had taken a great toll in his life.
What I love about Jesus, as I read his interaction with men and women in the bible, is how kind and loving he is with the hurting and harassed of humanity. This is one of those people whose life was being destroyed slowly by these demons who had taken over his body. He was no longer in control! But then Jesus shows up, "When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won't torture me!" For Jesus had said to him, "Come out of this man, you evil spirit!" Then Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" "My name is Legion," he replied, "for we are many." And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, "Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them." He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned."
I love the picture this passage paints. This man is desperate! He needs help, but much of his life and mind is no longer in his control. With what is left of his mind he realizes that Jesus can help. Notice how Mark describes this, "When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice," Do you see it? He's in Jesus' presence, but he can't help himself, he shouts at the top of his voice. He's desperate! He needs help. Jesus isn't shaken, he isn't offended. He deals with this man's problem, chases off the demons who had taken over his life and gives him back his sanity. It's an amazing story. Now, there are the 2,000 pigs to talk about, but what I want to focus on is the end of the story and a puzzling response from those who lived in this community, "Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region."
The part of this that has always puzzled me is the last sentence, "Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region." I've read that sentence and wondered about it but never really understood their response. Suddenly, this morning, I got it! It suddenly hit me...they have more guys like this man! Their great fear is for their stuff, their pigs, their possessions. If they let Jesus stay he will deal with the other men and women who are like this one and what then will happen to their stuff? For them, if the choice is Jesus or their pigs they chose the pigs.
I often have I done that? How often has the arrival of Jesus revealed my great need, what I must let go of, what I could lose if he stays and I have chosen my miserable comfort instead of Jesus. I'd rather keep my stuff than risk the loss with what Jesus might do. What's most important to me? What I have, my security, my things or Jesus? There are times when the choices scare us, but for this one man the desire for freedom and a relationship with God changed his life. His demons were gone and now all he could talk about was Jesus.
What's most important to us? Will we turn Jesus away for fear of what he will ask us to let go of in our lives or will we willingly give him freedom to change everything so we can have him. What's most important to you?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Knowing the God who is

Last night I caught up on news items and different blogs I visit. One that caught my attention was a blog post titled, "Why I'm not a Christian." As I read the author's description of the God he didn't believe in I thought to myself, "I don't believe in that god either!" It's fascinating to me how we "repackage" what we don't want to believe in so that any sensible person would agree with us completely.

A.W. Tozer wrote in The Knowledge of the Holy, "Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, "What comes into your mind when you think about God?” we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man." Our understanding of God, our beliefs about him, will determine much about us including our decisions and the course of our lives.

A man who wants nothing to do with God will describe him in such a way that it makes perfect sense why no one would want to deal with the God he denies. When you describe the God you don't believe in you are telling me much about what you do believe. Your very words tell me the theology that will guide your life. Now, you may ask, "How can an atheist have a theology?" But in fact he does. When someone who doesn't believe in God tries to describe to me that God he denies he's telling me his theology. That theology will determine the course of his life. Fascinating, isn't it, that theology affects the atheist as much as it does the theist?

As I mentioned earlier, if the God described by this atheist author was in fact the God of the bible I would be an atheist as well, but what he described was no god at all. Like the ancient Greeks he had created a god of fantasy that looked so ridiculous that only fools and children would believe in him, and so this author seems the wisest of men to deny the god he has created. But wisdom is easy when all others are described as fools.

Sadly, this author, who doesn't believe in the god he has created, is missing the God who is. I wish he could really know the God who is. His views of life, history and the crisis of man would change completely. But this author may have chosen first to be an atheist and so created the parody of god to justify his choice. I may never know. One of the leading atheists of the last generation said, "I refuse to believe in a God that I must be accountable to." For this man it was God's righteous judgement that he refused to submit to and because of that he dismissed God completely. Truthfully, the decision to deny God is rarely intellectual. Most atheists I have read make great pretense to intellectual reasons for their lack of belief, but it's much simpler than that. An atheist is created in many ways, but at the core is not information, but emotion. Something happened to that person. A prayer wasn't answered, a parent died, a tragedy happened, a desire for sin arose, whatever the reason a choice was made and an atheist was born.

I wish they could know the God who is. In the light of that knowledge, one day, every knee will bow in worship to him. I do wish this atheist author would discover the God who is. I think it would change everything for see the God who is always changes us. We are never the same again.

Monday's cartoon

Friday, February 19, 2010

Quote of the day

"There are about 200 million non-churched people in America, making America one of the four largest 'unchurched' nations in the world." -John Piper, Author and pastor

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Dogs get it! They understand focus. They know what's important and invest all of their effort and attention into what is important to them. They know how to focus! If our dog could speak, and thankfully he can't, he would say, "throw the ball! throw the ball! throw the ball! throw the ball!" He is focused!
Most people I know have lost the ability to focus. We are running in a hundred directions all at the same time. We "multi-task". Dogs would laugh at us for our inability to focus. So, what is most important to you? What is there in your life that has your unswerving focus and attention?
The apostle Paul had one focus in his life. If you asked he could tell you what his focus was without a moment's hesitation. Here's Paul's focus,
Phil. 3:7-11 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
What was Paul's focus? He wanted to know Christ. You could ask him, "What's most important to you, Paul?" His response would always be the same, "I want to know Christ!" He had his eye on the ball. He was a man focused on one thing and from that focus the world around him was changed because the thing he wanted most he wanted for everyone else as well. His passion became a passion for everyone else to have what he had. The world was changed by one man who was focused.
So, if someone asks, "what's most important to you? what are you focused on?" what would you say?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The primary relationship

I have a very strange job. Every day I deal with people and their relationships with God. When a person's relationship with God isn't working then none of their other relationships work either. In fact, the best warning sign that something is wrong with you and God is when you are having problems with the people around you. If you are not doing well with God then you cannot do well with people either. It's as if God made us to only work as intended when we are in right relationship with him. When that relationship is broken then all of our relationships will be broken as well.
The story that comes to my mind as I think about this is C.S. Lewis' work, The Great Divorce. It's a small book that's not about divorce at all, but is about a bus ride from hell to heaven for a one day excursion to see if the residents of hell would like to move to heaven. What's fascinating to me is to read as C.S. Lewis rightly describes someone who is not in relationship with God. These people are angry, miserable and quarrelsome with anyone around them. Lewis describes hell as an ever growing place where people move farther and farther out to get away from one another and ultimately isolate themselves completely. It's a wonderful fiction describing the problem of man as what it is at the core- a problem with God. If we don't cultivate the primary relationship, our relationship with God, then none of the relationships of our life will work as intended.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It's really pretty simple...

It's really pretty's not really that hard. We have made it very hard to do and almost impossible to understand, but it wasn't meant to be. What am I talking about? I'm talking about being a Christian. It's really pretty's a living and active relationship with God. That's it. It's not more than that and it's never less, but, like the religious people we are, we write books, list rules, give lectures, talk about the do's and don'ts of this thing called Christian. But it's really pretty's a relationship. The next and only question is do I have a relationship with someone I can't see or hear? How do I know how he feels when I never see his face? What does he expect of me? Relationships are something that people have with one another. First, you need to know that God is a person in the original definition of the word. He has emotion, mind, will. He made us to be like him. He built us for relationship. He made us to be able to relate to him. It's really pretty to him. Listen to him when he talks to you. Spend time with him, just like you would with someone you want to know. A relationship demands relating. My personal struggle with all of this is being quiet and spending time with God. I'm a doer. I want to accomplish something so to stop for a moment and be with him is my hardest task, but I will never get to know him unless I do. We want to make a list. God wants to hang out. We want to know what he expects. God wants us to know his heart...that will direct our actions better than any list. We want rules. God wants relationship. You see, God's not as interested in what you do as he is in who you are....because who you are will determine what you do. Who you are and who you become is governed largely by who you hang out with. God wants you to hang out with him. It's really pretty simple.
(Why the dog? Because I like the picture....)
post script- I must tell you that this is one of my greatest struggles...a relationship with God. It's the most important thing in my life, and yet it's often the most difficult. It's something that I'm still working on.....

Monday, February 15, 2010


Today Joye and I celebrate 36 years of marriage. It's gone by so fast. As I look back on our lives together it seems like a whirlwind of living, but doing life together has made the years much easier than if we had done them alone.
Today we are watching 4 of our grand kids for the day. We are doing it together so I expect it to be a fun day. No fancy dinner least we haven't decided on a place to go tonight...for now the focus is on 4 wonderful kids.
Often, for me at least, the best times have been just being together. It's been fun to see God work in our lives as we live them together. I think we are both different for the better because of the influence of the other. Joye has chipped off some of my hard edges and I think I have influenced her as well. We are different people because of being together. I think this is part of what God uses to mold us into the image of Christ...he uses our mates. I have been blessed. Many men are not so lucky, but I have a wonderful wife, partner and friend to navigate life with. I look forward to what God has for us in the years ahead. It has been an exciting ride. I look forward to what's over the next hill because we will discover it together.

Monday's cartoon

I'm so glad that God understands me....even when I don't have the right words to tell him how I'm feeling. There are times when I have prayed without any words at all and I know that something transpired between me and God. It really helps to have a God who knows what I need even before I pray.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Under construction or available to use?

Over the years I have often used the illustration of a potter making a pot to describe God's work in our lives, but this morning, as I thought about it, I suddenly realized I have been thinking about it wrong. We are not people under construction. In fact that very illustration has often given me an excuse for my bad behavior. We are people fully constructed and now must choose if we will be available for God to use us or not. Here are Paul's words and then a couple of observations,
2 Timothy 2:20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21 If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
It suddenly struck me that construction was completed when I trusted Christ as my savior. The rest of my life is growing into who God has made me and being available for him to use me...a vessel for noble purposes. All these years I have envisioned my life as one "under construction." In fact, that's what I was taught by others. With that picture in mind it's easy to make the excuse to do nothing because I'm not ready, or God's still working on me, or it's not time yet....all excuses built on the idea that being under construction gave me permission to do nothing at all. Often that was my response....because I'm not ready yet, God's not finished with making me.
But, in reading 2 Corinthians and Timothy these last few days I suddenly realized that construction was completed when I trusted him. Now life is simply a series of choices that demand an answer to this question, "Will I be available for him to use me or not?" If I'm already made to be what God made me, already indwelt by the Holy Spirit, already given gifts to use...and all of that is true...then my only question is this, Am I available or not? It's funny how simple this is when you sort through all the bad thinking. Or should I say, when I sort through all of my bad thinking.
So, today, if you have trusted Christ as your savior the question is simply- As one of his finished masterpieces, a child of God fully equipped, complete and gifted to serve him, are you available for his use?

Saturday's cartoon

Friday, February 12, 2010

A lifetime in a paragraph

We met in November at church.
Whirlwind courtship.
Married in February.
A new wife and pastorate in less than a year.
A wonderful son.
Life moving quickly.
Another church.
Now a beautiful daughter.
The struggles of life.
Friends, work, bills....
A break from the ministry.
Kids growing quickly.
A move to Texas.
Kids married.
Grand babies arrive.
Empty nest.
36 years together.
How did it all happen so quickly?
And where did all my hair go?
Joye and I were talking about our lives together. It has felt like a roller coaster ride. A lot of excitement, some quick turns, unexpected bumps and before you know it the ride is almost over. Now, I hope we make it to 50 years together, but we have both been surprised as how quickly these years have passed. As I think back on life I have a lot of joys to remember, but also a lot of regrets. I wish I could have.....or I wish I would have done certain things differently, but life is lived in real time. We don't get to take a break and evaluate what would be the best choice. Often our decisions are made on the run as life happens. Through it all God has cared for us, led us and provided. I think, as I get older, I'm becoming more nostalgic. Maybe old age happening early, but it doesn't take long to use up 70 years. Before you know it life has passed. Celebrate your today's. They pass far too least mine have.

Broom to bloom

My friend, Colleen, wrote this after a day of record snow fall. It's so good I asked her if I could share it with you and she graciously agreed. Here is her post called "Broom to bloom"-

"I have just come inside from being outside in my yard armed with a big broom. I have been gently beating some of my trees in hopes of getting the excessive amounts of snow off of them. Some of these trees are touching the ground, they are so weighed down. I could not believe how heavy they were because I was outside twice yesterday with my broom doing the same thing. It is amazing how they spring back, albeit with a perceptible groan, as the heavy snow is removed from the branches.

It is funny that when I am out there, I am emotional as I begin tapping and whacking them with my broom. I cannot bear the thought of them snapping under the weight. If I can help and relieve them of the weight I know it will help and perhaps save that tree or at least that branch. Already, some large limbs have snapped and lie on the ground, casualties of their snow burden. I know there is more going on inside of me as I do what I can to help these trees. The Lord is impressing upon my heart that these trees that are bent over with the heavy snow are like some of His children weighed down and bent over with burdens or overwhelming cares. Matthew 11:28 says that we are to come to Him if we are weary and burdened and He will give us rest. But how does He gives us rest? Perhaps He sends the wind of His Spirit and blows into our lives so that the burdens are blown off. But what was impressed upon my heart is that He often shows others the burdens and weights being carried. He wants us to be His ministers of comfort and love to do what we can to help lighten those burdens. As I am writing this, I have a side ache from swinging around that broom. I also got soaked, covered when the snow dropped out of the tree. Sharing burdens means that we sometimes have to be willing to get a little wet and fatigued in our efforts to help.

My scripture reading this morning was in 2 Corinthians 1:3,4 "He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others." A couple paragraphs later, Paul writes something that astonishes me..."I think you ought to know, dear friends, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and completely overwhelmed, and we thought we would never live through it. in fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we learned not to rely on ourselves, but on God who can raise the dead. And He did deliver us from mortal danger. And we are confident that He will continue to deliver us. He will rescue us because you are helping by praying for us. As a result, many will give thanks to God because many people's prayers for our safety have been answered." (2 Cor. 1:8-11)

Never under-estimate the power your prayers are having in the lives of His children. He will show you where "help" is needed. We need to be watching and then willing to get involved through committed prayer and perhaps some other demonstration of encouragement, comfort and love.. And then as Paul stated, there can be much rejoicing and giving of thanks to God as we see Him move, lifting and removing heavy burdens in order for restoration to begin!"


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Reading C.S. Lewis

My fellow pastor, Brent, is reading C.S. Lewis' book, God in the Dock. I have not read this book in quite a while, but Brent's inspirations from the book sparked my interest again so I grabbed my copy and dug into this great work today. But I forgot one can't read C.S. Lewis without a dictionary. It's great! I don't think any book has challenged my thinking this much in recent years. It's mentally invigorating to revisit this amazing work.

Snowing in Texas

It's snowing in Texas and time has stopped here. School is closed, few are moving. There's a pause in life for a few moments. It's beautiful today, but will be gone tomorrow. It's a rare treat for us in Texas. I'm enjoying this pause. It's a great chance to catch my breath, watch the snow and do some reading.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Living under a cloud

There was an old man who was known for always saying something nice about everyone. His dear wife was quite the opposite and had perfected the art of gossip and criticism. His eternal optimism had bothered her for years, but nothing would get him down. Finally, in utter frustration, she told him, "You never say anything bad about anyone! What's wrong with you? Don't you see the way people really are? Don't you see how horrible things are? I am sick of your optimism! I bet you can't say something nice about the devil!" Her sweet, mellow husband thought for a moment and replied, "Well, at least he's persistent." And with that he smiled and went back to what he had been doing.
This cute little story has been one I have thought about often. For both of these people their view of the world was, at some point in their lives, a decision. From that decision habits formed and a lifelong way of looking at the world had developed. I see that in the lives of people I talk to. Some never see the sun. They refuse to be encouraged no matter what you say. Like this man's wife they would say, "Well, it might be "ok" now, but something is sure to go wrong!" They are the Chicken Little's of the world. For them the sky is always falling...or about to. They constantly will respond to encouragement with these gloomy words, "Yeah, but...." and insist that the clouds will never clear in their lives. If the sun does come out they would tell you that it's much too bright.
And then, lingering around us in much fewer numbers, are those who look up and see God working in everything. They really believe he's involved in their lives and in this world. They expect miracles at any moment. In spite of dire circumstances in their lives they are constantly looking up with a smile and respond to your negative words with the very heart of who they are, "Well, you never know what God will do." We are all drawn to these people. They encourage, pray for and love you even in the midst of their own difficult days.
Both of these lifestyles are a choice. A choice we make every moment. Do you see the clouds overhead as a threat of a flood or the promise of God's provision for the flowers in your garden? Do you see your lack as God's judgment or an opportunity to see him work? Who is running the universe you live in? We will often find the clouds overhead. Difficult days around us. Illness looming. Finances hurting....but through it all who is in charge of your universe? If God really is good. If he really does care about you. If he has a wonderful plan.....will you live and talk like these things are true or not? What you say and how you live tells everyone around you a lot about your theology. What are you telling them about the God you say you trust?
Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Important things

I just finished and sent a long e-mail to a pastor friend in Africa. He's going through some very difficult days and hard decisions. As I wrote the note and thought about my own life and decisions I realize that much of what has happened in my life has prepared me for letters like this. The events we dread, the problems we face and the trials we endure all draw our attention and faith to God. We are forced to trust HIM and work our way through the days one at a time. Through it all God is working in our lives to help us grow in faith and make us usable in the lives of others. What I look back on as difficult days now prove helpful to others as I share with them how God worked in our lives.

When I watch those around me choose badly or simply endure their days in anger and resentment I know that the trials we each endure are provided as blessings from God and will make us better, trusting him through the days or they will make us bitter resenting God for not making our lives "perfect," whatever that means. I would like to fix the problems for my friend in Africa, but if I had the money to help him then I have stolen from God the tools he intends to use to help my friend grow in his faith. My compassion wants to stop his pain without removing to source of the pain. God is working on much more, so I pray for my friend in Africa and for others I watch as they bitterly endure instead of joyfully trust.

The important things? I gave the short list to my friend. The important things are faith in God, love for family, and then the community around us. It all involves relationships. None of the important things on any honest list involves things. The only eternal things you touch each day are the people of your life. The only things that matter are the relationships with God and those around you. Everything else is just the stage for our relationships. The things of life are props for the play to unfold, but the important things are the lives around us....eternal beings swimming in a pool of temporary worries. I so wish we could clearly see things from God's perspective. It would change forever how we look at the tests and trials of our days.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Every believer a minister?

Jeff Vanderstelt delivered a great message at a conference in Austin this last week. He spoke to the heart of what the church should be doing. Here's part of Jeff's message. I agree 100% with his thoughts! Every believer a minister? YES! Ephesians 4 gives us the model we are to follow. I really like what Jeff said and hope others will follow this model or return to it if they have lost their way. -Mike


"Addressing thousands of fellow church planters and pastors at Verge: Missional Community Conference, Jeff Vanderstelt lamented how many churches are serving "almost like containers" and holding people in rather than sending them out to spread the Gospel.

"It's almost as if we're extracting people from the world instead of equipping them and sending them into the world," he said Friday.

The job of pastors, teachers and apostles is to "equip the saints for works of ministry, not to do the ministry for the saints," said Vanderstelt, a pastor at Soma Communities, a multi-expression church planting church.

"If you don't structure your church in such a way that the saints are doing the ministry and you're equipping the saints for ministry, what you'll convince your people of is that they pay you to do ministry for them and they receive it all from you," he warned.
Vanderstelt emphasized to pastors that every single person in their church is a minister. They are to be considered full-time paid staff members even.

"We've got to call the church to be the church," he said.

As pastors were called to equip believers, Vanderstelt reminded them that being a missional community isn't just a two-hour event on a Tuesday night. Rather, it's "a family of believers living life together."

"The best place for equipping is in life," he stressed.

"How do you know if somebody's faithful? You have to see them live it out," the Tacoma, Wash., church planter pointed out. "The only way to disciple is life on life in the midst of everyday life."

"Let's not put on a bunch of events or programs that extract people from life but rather, let's equip people to live normal ordinary life with significant Gospel intentionality," he said. "It's a very different way to do church as far as I'm concerned because it says 'now your life counts.' Instead of us pulling you out of your life we're just equipping you for life with one another."
But it doesn't end there. Otherwise, Christians will only learn how to live life with a bunch of Christians, Vanderstelt noted.

Believers must also be called to do mission together and have a people group that "they're devoting their lives to and radically reorienting their lives around so they can disciple people into Christ."

(Message given at Missional Community Conference at Hill Country Bible Church in Austin, Texas, Feb. 4-6. Read entire article here- Christian Post.)

Friday, February 05, 2010

Jimmy Needham - Forgiven and Loved

Here's one of my favorite new songs. Jimmy does a great job singing about our two great needs- love and forgivenenss. Enjoy.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The cost of cursing

There are results from the words we say. The results are not always in the responses we get, but are also the impact those words have on us, on our bodies, our mind and heart.

The words we say impact US. Here's a passage in Psalms that has fascinated me for a long time. Watch how the author describes the results of words in this person's life,

Psalm 109:18 He wore cursing as his garment; it entered into his body like water, into his bones like oil.

The words we say impact not just the one spoken to, but they impact us as well. They change us, they mold us. Those words we use to hurt someone else actually hurt US. They enter US and transform us. The words we use go from a garment we wear to part of us and ultimately transform us into an angry and bitter person. Our words affect us.

In the same way kind words accomplish the same things. When you meet a kind person it's an intentional choice on their part to BE kind and to speak kind words. From those words, that garment they wear, they begin to change...they begin to become kind to their very bones. Their kindness becomes part of who they are. The choice is intentional, but the results are inevitable. Your words do two things- they affect other people and they change YOU.

Decide now what kind of person you want to be and choose to use those kind of words. It makes a difference because the words you use mold you into the person you will be. The cost of cursing is high. It doesn't just hurt someone else, it hurts you as well. The cost of blessing is equally high, but much more rewarding. Often it's hard to bless, to encourage, to say words that build up, but when you do those words mold you and become part of who you are.

Don't ever believe that your words only go out and touch others....they change you too. Decide now what kind of person you want to be in the years ahead and use words that communicate that because your words affect you most of all.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

On being a "simplistic literalist"

Simplistic literalist. It's a term I have created to try to describe my faith and theology. It won't show up in any theology book. It won't roll off the tongue of any great preacher, but it expresses what I believe. I've thought about this for a long time. The whole discussion comes down to some very simple questions, 1. Do I believe there is a God? My answer is YES. I think this is the answer of the majority of people on planet earth. It's part of us to KNOW there is a God, (Romans 1.) 2. Is this God I believe in all powerful, sovereign, Lord of heaven and earth? YES. If you're going to believe in a god you better get the best! Believe in the god who is above all else. He wouldn't be God if that were not true. 3. Since 1 & 2 are both a "yes" answer for me what can I know about this God? I know he is able to reveal himself to me. I know he made me. I know he's good because of the world he made. I know he cares about me because of the constant nature of the universe. I know he is able to keep all things working as he made them because they do. AND, if these things are all true I know he can tell me about himself. 4. Do I believe the bible is HIS word to man? YES. If 1-3 are true, then I must believe that he is able to tell me about himself and preserve that revelation. That revelation about him is the Bible. Because of what I believe about God I must and do also believe he is able to clearly tell me about himself, about me and what he wants from me. I also believe he is able to preserve that revelation intact for me to read. I believe he has. And, so...I am a simplistic literalist. I simply believe what God has written in his word. There is much to say about the bible- literary styles, stories, things written about God, and a hundred other things, but I believe this book is God's word to man. I'm a simplistic literalist. I'm staking my eternity on it.

You write the title

It's a very busy and, to be honest, very dry day in my little brain so here is the photo of the day. You write the title or a short story if you wish. Have fun. I look forward to your wonderful creativity because today I have none!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Who's in control?

"It is hard to keep telling myself God is in control because it sure seems like it’s George."
This thought (with a name change) was in a note to me this morning. It made me smile. I often do we really feel this way? How often do we mentally KNOW that God is in control, but in the moment it seems to be a husband, a wife or a boss who is actually in control of our lives? Who's in control in your life? Are you allowing the fear of man, the control of someone else, to take your eyes off of God. In spite of what appears to be true in your life in this moment you need to remember that God is always and forever in control of your life, your circumstances and even the moments when "it sure seems like it's George."

Monday, February 01, 2010