Wednesday, March 31, 2010

In need of help...

I'm always amazed at how creative we are when we need to fix a problem. We are masters at making things work even when it appears there is no way to resolve the problem. We can make 3 wheel cars run, we can make crutches for the lame to walk, we can think through almost any problem and create a solution, but what we can't do is resolve our problem with God on our own....we are in need of help. It's not a simple thing that we can fix if we are only creative enough.
God has told us we are broken and need a "fix", so we create our own "make-do" fixes to the problem of sin and God. We do good deeds, live good lives, help others and a hundred other things that, in our minds, should fix the problem but it doesn't. We are still limping along in need of a real solution to our problem.
That's what Easter is all about....those of us in need of help discovering that God himself became a man to resolve our broken condition. The bible tells us we are sinners in need of a savior. We need to be "fixed", helped, forgiven...we need help. And there is nothing we can do on our own, even with our brilliant and creative minds, to fix this's simply too big. The only solution to this broken situation is that the creator come and do the repairs and restoration himself and he did. In this Easter week we Christians celebrate God's solution to our brokenness.
The solution is not simply a patch or a mend. It's a completely new life and forgiveness made possible by what Jesus did on the cross. In that one act of sacrifice on the cross he solved our problem of sin and provided the fix to our brokenness. He paid our debt and provided not a patch or a mend, but a new life. It's available to anyone, in fact God has offered it to EVERYONE and he wants every one to be saved. He provided on sacrifice for all sin, for all people, for all time...
"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him." -THE MESSAGE
I'm so glad that he searched me out, he invited me to trust him and I did. In that moment my eternal problem of brokenness was resolved. He saved me. In our world today there are many who would tell you that we are not broken, we don't need a god to fix us, but just look around! Can you see that this is not true at all? We are in need of help and Easter is God's declaration that help, healing and salvation has come.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The coming King

Yesterday we celebrated Palm Sunday. It's the day we remember Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey , fulfilling prophesy, declaring himself to be Messiah and King. As Jesus made this entrance everyone knew what it symbolized. Everyone knew what he was stating by his actions, and yet.....

....within just a few days they had rejected him as King and Messiah and on Friday crucified him. It appeared they had won and Jesus was just another failed Messiah pretender, but...

...three days later he rose from the dead. Clearly establishing another kind of kingdom ruled by a different kind of king. And this king, the gracious and loving savior, invites everyone into his kingdom. Admission is free, anyone can be part of it. The promises are wonderful. But this king is not finished yet... day he will return and establish his rule and reign over all mankind. One day... day at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

One day each of us will bow at Jesus feet and declare him Lord. One day the king of heaven will be king of all. Is he your king?

Monday's cartoon

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Friday, March 26, 2010

New to me....

I love music....all kinds. If you saw what I have on my I-pod you would wonder about my tastes. I listen to Christian, classical, pop, jazz, world music, acoustic, vocals, and a host of other formats. I like to discover new music that's unique and different. Two friends have recommended groups to me that I am really enjoying. They are completely different, but both very good. Here they are:

Big Daddy Weave is a group that Larry told me about. Larry and his wife are old friends with the members of the group. I have heard of them, but never paid much attention to their music. They are really good. Great vocals, great lyrics and very inspiring. In fact, I went to the I-tunes store and got a couple of their albums. Very good.
The second group is one that Mike recommended on his blog- Archeology. It is very different. I would describe them as a rock choir with a guitar and drum. The group and the music is really good, but very different. I'm not even sure I could explain it just have to hear them. I think you would like this group.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The artist's signature

Revelation 4:11 "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being."
The great claim of the Bible is that there is an eternal being, God by name, who has made EVERYTHING. It's the claim of an artist to his great work, "I made this, I painted this, I created all you see." That's the claim of God in the Bible. In fact, he is even bolder in his claims when he says, "I made it all in 6 days!" Now, there are great discussion about this, but the artist who made it all, the only one there to witness the work, says he did it and finished his art work in record time- 6 days.
Science will tell you this cannot be. Clearly we have a disagreement. On one hand is the divine artist and creator claiming the work of art and telling us how he did it. On the other hand is the work of art responding, "No, you didn't make us and you sure didn't do it in 6 days!" And so, I have a decision to make. Do I believe the artist or the work of art itself? Do I trust the only witness or those who are still trying to figure out how it all fits together? The work of art is insistent that no artist painted this amazing work. They tell us this wonderful work of art "just accident."
The artist who painted it all has put his signature on his work. Regardless of the protests of those he created, he still claims to have made it all. I have chosen to believe the artist instead of those he made. It seems clear to me that the artist would know more about his work than the work itself. How can we make this all so complicated when it's really so simple? In response to this short piece some would call me "simple." I would agree. I accept the title "simplistic literalist" willingly. I believe God whatever you call me. I trust the artist. He's never lied to me yet.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Have you ever come to a time when you want to, need to, desire to pray, but have nothing to say? There are no words. The heart cries out to God, but words don't come. There is a desire to ask, to plead with God for something, but what? Father....the heart cries, but the words are missing. There is so much that I need to talk to him, the church, finances, health, our country, God's work in me....there is so much, but no words. Father....and with that I stop.
I'm so glad he doesn't need my words, he knows my heart. I'm so grateful that the Holy Spirit speaks for me when words are absent. I want to ask, but do my words even ask for the right things? Does my mind even know what I really need? I realize there is so much that I don't know and that unknowing affects what I say to God. And why are my words all so selfish? All my thoughts are of me, my welfare, my good, my needs, my family, my health, my can I come to God with thoughts of just me? He already knows what I need and is working on that. He's way ahead of me...light years ahead of me. He was working on the details of my life before he even made the universe. He loves me.
And so, as I can only imagine a child feels when they raise up stretched arms to a parent to be held, I come to God with no word, only outstretched arms and a cry, Father....


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The angels sing...

One of my readers posted this comment today. I thought it worthy of a post of its own. Thank you, gm, for sharing this story,

"LIFE AS A VAPOR -Even in the last of the "vapor" youth and a new start. Last night at 9:pm an 89 year 'grumpy old man accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior - repented of his past and became a new baby in the Kingdom of Heaven. Twenty years of believing for his salvation. In the midst of his long suffering wife's birthday party the Holy Spirit held everyone in another room as he did his work of conviction, repentance, acknowledgment and confession... now born again into everlasting life - not just a vapor anymore! HIS WORD DOES NOT RETURN VOID BUT COMPLETES THE WORK IS WAS SENT TO DO!" -gm, a thankful witness!"

With eyes wide open

This is a most interesting time. Many would prefer to stick their head in the sand and pretend that nothing is changing, but in fact everything is changing. You can't hide from the days we live in or the days ahead.
In thinking about our day my thoughts go back to the first century and the life of Paul. He lived in a most difficult time and yet in the midst of very difficult days he was excited about what God was doing around him. In Paul's day he lived under the rule of the Roman empire. Slavery was prevalent. Persecution was rising. His own people had turned their backs on him. He had been beaten and flogged more than once. There was every reason in the world for Paul to look for a place to hide, but instead he engages the world head on. He clearly thought differently about the world he lived in than we do in ours. He knew the only thing that could change his world was the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul didn't ridicule the government, instead he told believers to be submissive to the rulers over them. He said, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, that the government was placed there by God. The ruler at the time of these words was Nero.
Paul didn't criticize slave owners, but instead told slave to be submissive to their masters.
Paul didn't focus on changing the culture, he focused his energies on preaching the gospel...on changing lives. He knew the only way you can change a culture is from the inside, one heart at a time. If a man or woman trusts Christ as savior you have changed one life in the midst of a culture. It's that inside out change that will change an entire culture one life at a time. That was Paul's focus- the gospel, the heart, the individual.
In our day we, as Christians, have focused our attention on changing culture from the outside through laws, phone calls to our congressman, signing petitions, calling talk shows. But what we forget is that you cannot change culture from the outside only makes the culture around us mad. If culture is to change we must do it from the inside out. One person, one heart trusting Christ, one life changed by following Christ. The enemy has convinced us that we can do more through politics than through saved lives and changed hearts. We have been wrong to believe that lie.
Like Paul we need to focus our energies on sharing Christ with a lost world. It's the changed lives that will change the culture. No matter how bad the culture becomes we are still called to one mission- preach Christ, make disciples. In spite of the choices of leaders and government our task never changes. It's the same message Paul preached in his most difficult days. It's the message of transformed lives that will transform the culture.
It's time to once more become the church of Jesus Christ and boldly proclaim the gospel that will transform lives and ultimately change the culture. It's time to live with our eyes wide open focused on what God cares about most.

Quote of the day

"The rejection of God is a matter of will, not of intellect," -James S. Spiegel, philosophy professor

Monday, March 22, 2010

Quote of the day

Key House Democrat: "There Are No Rules Here ... We Make Them Up As We Go Along" ...
I don't usually deal with politics here, but I was so amazed at this comment made before cameras by one of our representatives that I had to comment on it. Clearly, this statement communicates to all of us that the Constitution we thought we lived by is no longer the rule of law in our land. If this is the first light of a new day be ready for everything to change.

Monday's cartoon

Since this is the first day back to school after our spring break I thought this would be an appropriate cartoon for the day. Funny how having a good God can cause confusion on so many issues.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Time passes too quickly

This morning I am doing some photo editing and came to this photo of my favorite person in the world. It was taken years before I knew her. As I tried to repair it I was struck that she and I have grown far past this age long ago. Our children are now years beyond this wonderful age as well. Now we look at grandchildren and they are quickly leaving these early years behind. It happens in a moment, and then it's gone.
Time passes so quickly. Life is so short. I wish, at times, that we could have a remote that would slow down the moment. They all pass so quickly. It's amazing to me to see the years now roar by like a bullet train. As the Bible describes it, "we are a vapor, here for a moment and then gone." I'm quite aware of my vapor status this morning. I'm also most thankful that the God of the universe cares about vapor like me.
Just some random thoughts of nostalgia on a cold Saturday morning.

Saturday's cartoon

Friday, March 19, 2010


As I've mentioned in a recent post I'm teaching through the book of Hebrews. After many chapters of theology we have finally arrived at application. This week we are looking at a wonderful chapter. Chapter 12 gives the applications of all that has been discussed so far. This chapter actually bases the applications on a focus on 4 things. Here they are:

Hebrews 12:1-3 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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Here's the focus of these verses,

1. Consider the witnesses. Chapter 11 discussed a host of people who finished this life well. Men and women who finished in faith. Consider their lives. Realize that it can be done, many others have finished can do it!

2. Consider yourself. Look at yourself. You and I are part of the problem! Get rid of what hinders you, what weighs you down. Get rid of the sin that entangles you. Know yourself- what do you need to get rid of to run this race, live this life well? Know yourself- know what sin "trips you up?" Consider yourself.

3. Consider the course ahead. "let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Each of us have a race to run. Consider the fact that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Realize that you will be running for a while. Pace yourself. Know that, for quite a while, the finish line is not in sight. Then, after many hours of running you begin to see the finish. Know that the course is like that. You need endurance....perserverance...this will be a long race. Get ready for it, don't get discouraged, keep running. There is a finish line waiting with prizes for the victor.

4. Consider Christ. What an amazing example of walking through difficult days for a prize on the other side! Jesus went through a most horrible death, knowing full well every detail of it in advance, knowing the prize would be worth it on the other side. Consider what he went through and realize your race will never be as difficult as his. You can do this!

Consider.....what an interesting word. I remember the story told by a man who was sharing his faith with a man he knew. He asked, "Is there any reason you wouldn't want to trust Christ right now as your savior?" The man replied, "Why, no, I think I would like to do that." The man telling the story replied, "Well, then let me give you some reasons you shouldn't do this." He was clearly aware of the road that lay ahead for this possible new convert and he wanted him to consider the road ahead before he chose to walk it.

Consider....can this thing called "the Christian life" be lived well? The answer is a resounding yes. How do I know? I've watched others do it. I know those in my own life who have lived well, followed God and finished their race. I have witnesses in the stands who have won their race. I also need to consider myself. What are the things I need to deal with? What sins do I have to conquer? What do I have to lay aside? My best example of this is Jesus himself. He literally laid aside his rights to become man and run this race to provide salvation for us all. Consider too the course. If you know it's a marathon and not a sprint you won't get discouraged at mile marker 10. You know there's more to go before the finish....keep going! The finish line is ahead. It's worth the effort.
Consider....consider that each man and woman, Christian, Jew or Muslim....atheist or Buddhist will all live our lives with choices we have made. Each of those courses have consequences. The choices and the route ahead will morph us into the person we have chosen to follow. Consider who you will soon be like them. The choices you make will shape your life, your identity and your eternity.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

New and improved?

Sometimes "new and improved" is just a matter of good advertising.

Quote of the day

I love this quote. I found it on a Russian site sent to me by a pastor I know in Tula, Russia. It caught my attention because it's so different from the way we think in this country. Here's the quote of the day-
"The bible - the handbook of the contemporary thinking person."


Proposition: Truth is that which matches reality.
Many in our culture tell us that truth is relative. I would like to attempt an assault on this fortress of modern relativism with this simple proposition. I believe there are two things that must be addressed, 1. our culture does not live as if truth is relative and, 2. if #1 is true how do we decide which truths ARE relative? Is even that question relative?
Culture has surrendered to insanity, believing that things are true even if they aren't.
Let's discuss it...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The need for perserverance

I've been teaching through the book of Hebrews this last 10 months. It's taking nearly a year to work through the book, but I have really enjoyed the study and my personal study in this amazing book. The intent of the author is to encourage the readers to not give up...even if things get tough. The reward ahead is worth the struggle. Keep going, it will be worth it.

In chapter 10 the author encourages his readers to "keep climbing!" Here are his words, "So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised." This same word appears again in chapter 12:1, "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."

Between these two verses and the encouragement to "keep climbing" is chapter 11. This chapter is what has been called the "faith hall of fame." It's the list of men and women who persevered in their faith. It's the story of those who made it to the top and stuck their flags in the mountain's peak. Chapter 11 is a chapter that makes this simple declaration- others have done it, you can too...keep going!

This morning I was talking with a friend about what a "mature" Christian looks like and we both agreed that it's not a matter of age or knowledge. It's a person committed to the Lord regardless of the terrain. Yes, there are difficult days in each life, but there are also wonderful days of just sitting at the beach watching the sunset. Life is full of blessings, trials, friends, and the things everyone must go through. The difference is evident by those who continue to climb toward the peak regardless of the challenges. It's simply a matter of perseverance. Keep going! Others have made it to the top, you can too.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Normal Christian life

I've been thinking a lot lately about the Christian life. Specifically MY Christian life. I've been trying to evaluate my route of recent years. Why has my odyssey gone this way? Why have I struggled at different times and why have other days been easy and inspired? It's clear that my walk with God has not been a progressively growing and increasingly happy life. I don't think anyone has that kind of walk with God.

Let me see if I can describe the Christian life from my own walk and perspective. For me, as I walk with God, it seems that my walk looks more life a long walk through the desert with an occasional stop at an oasis for refreshment and rest. An oasis is a strange place. In the middle of miles of sand, suddenly and for no reason, water, trees and life suddenly appear. It's at the oasis where a weary traveler can rest, get water and gain new strength.

It's my experience that my walk with God can best be described this way- There are many dry days as I continue to walk with God. All the way I know God is with me and caring for me, but days of joy, inspiration and great victory are rare. Then, suddenly and for no reason, I come to an oasis. It's wonderful! Refreshment, rest, water and revival of spirit. If I can, I linger at the oasis for a's such a wonderful place, but at some point I must continue my walk and so I head back into the desert to continue my walk with God.

The oasis is great. They are needed. I would get discouraged and might give up if it weren't for the occasional oasis, but life with God has to be a life of dependence. It must be a life in which I look to God and trust him. I won't find that relationship at the oasis. I have to go out into the desert to discover this kind of relationship. It's the dry days when I learn to trust God. It's the days in the desert when I look to him to help me and give me what I need for the day. It's the dry days in the desert when I grow in my faith the most.

Some pray for an eternal oasis. They never want to leave the cool springs, the wonderful shade of the fig trees, the comfort of the oasis. But if you depend on the oasis you will never learn to depend on God. So, off to the desert we are led. Led by God to meet with him there. Dry days when we will find our richest walk with God. As I've tried to think through my own walk with God I think this describes my odyssey so far. It's not glorious. It's not always full of great testimonies to share. It's often dry and difficult, but it's my time with God in the desert where I find an intimacy with God I can never find at the oasis.

This is what I would call the normal Christian life. I think it's the real life of every Christian. Many linger long at the oasis not wanting to leave the comfort there, but some find a hunger for God more powerful than the comfort of the oasis and so they head off into the desert. It's there we find an intimacy and relationship with God that will never be found at the oasis. It's this strange contrast between oasis and desert that describe the walk of the Christian. It's not always glorious, it's not always easy. It's not filled with wonderful stories although there are some. There are days when the best we can say is, with God's help, we got through the day, but between rest at the oasis and walking with God through the desert we grow in faith. The goal? A walk with God that is lived in dependence on him. As best as I can describe it, this is my walk with God.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The "wait" of the unknown

Yesterday, in my thoughts on Joseph, I left one thing out. Let me address that today. It actually shows up in the next chapter. One of the things that I had not thought about is Jacob (Israel), his dad. For more than 13 years Jacob has thought his son was dead. For more than 13 years he is grieving over his loss. All during that time God never tells him, "don't worry, everything is ok." All Jacob has is a blood stained robe of many colors and his grief. He doesn't know that his son is alive and God makes no attempt to calm his grief or tell him what the plan is. Jacob grieves, assuming his son is dead, enduring the "wait" of the unknown. God is silent.

Then, something amazing happens. His sons come back from Egypt and announce, "Joseph is alive!" He doesn't believe them. He's in shock at the idea, but when he finally comes to his senses he makes plans to go to Egypt and see this son he has grieved over for more than 13 years.

As he begins the journey to Egypt God speaks to him in chapter 46,

Gen 46:1 So Israel set out with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.
Gen 46:2 God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, "Jacob, Jacob." And he said, "Here I am."
Gen 46:3 He said, "I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there.
Gen 46:4 "I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes."

Now, as I read that I wondered, why didn't God tell him that Joseph was alive and calm his grief during those long 13 years? Why doesn't he tell us what he's working on in our lives that would make the long wait more endurable? Why must we live in the realm of the unknown until it's time to reveal his plan?

I think Jacob would have done everything he could to go to Egypt, buy Joseph back or bail him out of his dilemma and "save" him, but if he had done that then Joseph wouldn't have been there to tell Pharaoh about his dream, to rule the country, to learn how to manage, or to save thousands of lives. Jacob was only concerned for one life- Joseph, but God was concerned for everyone and Joseph was part of the redemption plan. God had to keep Jacob in the dark, waiting until his plan was finished.

Often, we have to "wait" in the unknown because if God told us how it was all going to work out we would surely mess it up. Often, the silence of "wait" is miserable, but God will tell us what he was working on when the time is right. It should make us look at the "wait" differently. A time of waiting is a time of anticipation....until God reveals what he's been working on in our lives. Waiting is hard, but it will be wonderfully worth it.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Seeing things as God sees them

My big problem is that I can't see clearly. I'm not talking about my eyes....I'm talking about perspective. I can't see things in the same way God does. I can't see what he's doing. I can't see the plan. I can't see his goal. I can't see how my situation is going to work out. I simply can't see clearly.
That reality became clear to me as I read the words of another man who had to feel the same way as he went through years of not being able to see what God was doing. This man found himself sold into slavery, lied about by his owner's wife, thrown into prison and then stuck there for a number of years. In fact, from the time he was sold from freedom into slavery it was 11 years before he saw what God was doing. I can't imagine enduring 11 years of not knowing what God is really doing in your life, but trusting him anyway. Here are his words to his brothers as he explains what he knows as he finally sees things from God's perspective-
Genesis 45: 4-8 Then Joseph said to his brothers, "Come close to me." When they had done so, he said, "I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. "So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.
Isn't it interesting when you finally see what God is up to? Suddenly all our misconceptions vaporize and we see clearly....we see God's plan. We see things as He sees them. It must have seemed that God had abandoned him in Egypt. For more than 10 years God didn't tell him what he was up to. Joseph had to simply trust. But then, suddenly, it all becomes clear! He was send by God, not sold by his brothers, to save his family. What might have caused bitterness because of not seeing it clearly now brought joy as he sees what God is up to.
I cannot imagine his years of not knowing what was to become of him. Suddenly it's made clear and he understands God's amazing plan. God often works the same way in our lives. We are part of his amazing plan...even when you can't see the reason, even when you can't see how it could ever work out. Even then God is working. He has a plan and he will show you what he's up to. Like Joseph, you will proclaim, "God sent me on this odyssey!"

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Grand Invitation

I've been teaching through the book of Hebrews at church. Yesterday, after 10 amazing chapters of theology, we came to what I call "The Grand Invitation." I would like to focus on this first of three invitations in this section of Hebrews 10.
Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
In this amazing passage of just four verses the author extends a grand invitation to the human race. It's the invitation to come into God's presence whenever we wish. Because of Jesus' provision and priesthood we can now do something never heard of before the cross- we can approach God. We have access! Because of what Jesus did for us and it's change in our lives God now extends an invitation to us to come into his presence. But there is much more. We don't approach this holy God with fear and trembling, but with a cleansed conscience, forgiveness of sins, and a new relationship with Him as a son or daughter. The door is open to us, the invitation is extended. Come into his presence anytime you wish and spend time with him, talk to him, just sit there and be in his presence. We can now do something, because of what Christ did, that was never available to anyone before. We can draw near to God.
In my own reflections on this passage, as I prepared to teach it, I thought about my own life. Sadly, I get busy with much of, family and serving God, and I do not avail myself of this grand invitation as much as I would like. Yet, God extends the invitation, the door is open, "Come and spend time with me. The door is always open to you. I look forward to spending time with you." God opens the door for anyone to trust Christ as savior, find forgiveness of sins and discover open access to the creator of the universe. I intend to take God up on this invitation much more often than I have in the past.

Monday's cartoon

I'm fascinated with how quickly I move from amazement to boredom at God's provision. The nation of Israel did this in the wilderness as God provided food for them to eat every morning for forty years. In my life I easily fall into the same habits. What initially is amazement as I watch God meet our needs quickly moves to an expectation of ongoing provision and then, finally, to boredom with the miraculous becoming normal. It grieves me how easily I lose my sense of wonder at God's goodness. I must admit I'm most guilty of this. He has cared for us and provided for us through days when I couldn't see any way we would survive. This little cartoon for Monday reminded me of my own grumbling heart as I hear myself say, "Miraculous leftovers again?!"

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Confessions of a Muslim terrorist

I was surprised to read an interview with Mosab Hassan Yousef in the Wall Street Journal this weekend. Mosab is a young man who is the son of a prominent leader of Hamas and has converted to Christianity. Here are just a few words from the article. (I have noted the article at the end if you wish to read it in its entirety.) In his words below he said something that really caught my attention. Hassan said, "The problem is not in Muslims," he continues. "The problem is with their God." This is a brilliant insight from a young believer. It's our beliefs about God, whether Christian, Jew or Muslim that will affect how we live, think and interact with the world around us.

A.W. Tozer wrote in Knowledge of the Holy, "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God."

Here is a portion of the article- "I converted to Christianity because I was convinced by Jesus Christ as a character, as a personality. I loved him, his wisdom, his love, his unconditional love. I didn't leave [the Islamic] religion to put myself in another box of religion. At the same time it's a beautiful thing to see my God exist in my life and see the change in my life. I see that when he does exist in other Middle Easterners there will be a change."
"I'm not trying to convert the entire nation of Israel and the entire nation of Palestine to Christianity. But at least if you can educate them about the ideology of love, the ideology of forgiveness, the ideology of grace. Those principles are great regardless, but we can't deny they came from Christianity as well."
Mr. Yousef says he felt burned out and decided to stop working for the Shin Bet in 2006, against their wishes. He made his way to friends in southern California whom he'd met through bible study.
As the son of a Muslim cleric, he says he had reached the conclusion that terrorism can't be defeated without a new understanding of Islam. Here he echoes other defectors from Islam such as the former Dutch parliamentarian and writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Do you consider your father a fanatic? "He's not a fanatic," says Mr. Yousef. "He's a very moderate, logical person. What matters is not whether my father is a fanatic or not, he's doing the will of a fanatic God. It doesn't matter if he's a terrorist or a traditional Muslim. At the end of the day a traditional Muslim is doing the will of a fanatic, fundamentalist, terrorist God. I know this is harsh to say. Most governments avoid this subject. They don't want to admit this is an ideological war.
"The problem is not in Muslims," he continues. "The problem is with their God. They need to be liberated from their God. He is their biggest enemy. It has been 1,400 years they have been lied to."
These are all dangerous words. Of the threats issued to his life by Islamists, he says, "That's not the worst thing that can happen to you. I'm OK with it, I'm not afraid. . . . Palestinians have reason to kill me. Some Israelis may want to kill me. My goal is not to defeat my enemy. It is to win over my enemy."

This is a portion of an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal this weekend. If you would like to read the entire article you can find it here.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

A reason to believe

I just started a new book by William Lane Craig titled "Reasonable Faith." I'm only in the intro, but I can tell it's going to be a great journey. Craig is a passionate apologist for the Christian faith and is one of the best thinkers I have read in a long time. In the intro his words caught my attention as he wrote, "The time for playing games is past."

We, as Christians, need to know what we believe and why. We are in a time when the Christian faith is being assaulted from every quarter and there are many casualties in the Christian church especially among our youth. If we don't know what we believe and are able to articulate it we will lose the battle and the opportunity to impact our generation.

In spite of my thoughts here I am excited to see so many Christians with a passion for their faith and an ability to defend it. I can't wait to see what God does in the days ahead as men and women once more engage the world with the only solution to our problems- the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Saturday's cartoon

Friday, March 05, 2010

Early morning thoughts

It's been a very busy time lately and I know my posts here have been few and rather light in nature. It's quite a challenge at times to keep up. I do wish there were just a few more hours in each day. Here's a few early morning thoughts...
-I'm nearing the finish of a 5 year writing project with a friend. We have been working on a book and are now in the final editing work. It's funny, but after all this time I'm not as interested in the project. I do need to finish it though.
-My uncle Lloyd died yesterday. He had battled prostate cancer for the last few years. I haven't seen him in a while, but I will miss him anyway. It's hard to watch my parent's generation pass. It makes me more aware of my own mortality.
-I've been thinking a lot about prayer lately. There are a few of us who spend a lot of time in prayer, I'm not one of them. I desire to spend more time with God just listening, being with him, worshipping, talking, but I get distracted so easily. It's frustrating. I want to spend more time in prayer. I know it's important, but I get distracted....
-"Who's your Paul?" was a question asked of me yesterday. I've heard this discussion often. Who is your Paul, your Timothy, your Barnabas? It's a discussion about friendship, discipleship and accountability. At the moment I don't have a Paul, an older saint walking alongside me. It seems I'm filling that role in other people's lives. I wonder, is there a time when we become the spiritual fathers and mothers of the church family and don't realize it? I'm not saying I'm "Paul material", but I think there is a time when we must grow up spiritually. I hope I'm doing that a little.
-On the topic of sin. I'm rather tired of sin. I'm tired of its ongoing hold on parts of my life and I'm tired of dealing with it in the lives of others. What a mess we would be in if we didn't have a savior!
-Tomorrow I get to speak at our conference for the middle school kids. I'm really looking forward to this. I don't get to hang out with our youth ministry much, but I love it when I can. And, I have to tell you that I'm really excited about our youth pastor, Charlie. I love working with him and can't wait to see what God does in his life.
-I wonder if we are beginning to see some "end time" events unfolding. 7.0 earthquake in Haiti, 8.8 in Chile, and another one in Taiwan yesterday. It looks like there is an escalation and intensity of events talked about by Jesus. Just wondering.
-I need to get busy and get the day started soon. I have a men's group I lead that meets at 6 am this morning. Just a couple hours away. I'm really excited about this group. They are amazing guys who all want to serve God and grow in faith. Some of them really humble me with their passion to know Christ. It makes me want more of HIM. I think that's why a good group like this is so important.
-I think I can get about an hour more of sleep before I have to start the day. Maybe I should rest a little more, but then I think about how much I have to do. I'm glad the Lord said he takes care of things even when we sleep.
-One last thought and then a little rest. I don't think I have ever seen our culture, the American culture, in such a difficult place....people out of work, no work to do, worries over how to live, marriages breaking up, anarchy at the door. I wonder how God will work through all of this. It seems many are near despair in their lives. I wonder what God's up to.....

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Just for fun...

Our struggle with purpose

We all want to live a life of purpose. We all want to mean something, leave a footprint in the sand of our times. We want meaning.

Our problem is that we don't always see what God is doing in our lives. I often have people asking me "why?" when they find themselves in a difficult place. Why is God doing this? What is his plan? Doesn't he love me? How could he let this happen to us?

This morning I was reading in Isaiah and I came to another verse that wasn't there last time I read this book. How does that keep happening? Verses popping up that weren't there last time....Anyway, here is the verse, "...devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil."

When the author speaks of "taken away" he's talking about death. What God is saying in this time and to these people is that God is taking his people home by death to avoid the evil that is coming! Now, my feeble mind struggles with this. To die is a blessing from God to keep these saints from the evil that is soon to come? It's interesting to me that God sees death as a reward for righteousness in this passage. It's his way of keeping his children from the evil that is ahead for the nation of Israel.

So, I'm thinking about God's purposes and I have to tell you that his ways are so beyond me that I can't even describe it in words. What we might see as punishment, loss and defeat may actually be God's great grace in a person's life. What we see as failure may be connected to something God is working on that we may not see in our lifetime. We fret and fume. We complain to God and beg for a solution, but may not realize that his amazing plan for us might actually be a blessing....the very thing we see as a curse. How does he work all of this out? How do we find purpose for our lives when we are living with the unrevealed purposes of God? At times all we can do is say, as Jesus did in the garden, "Lord, I would love to do this some other way, but let's always do it your way." His purposes will always surprise us. At the very moment when we think we have failed he will show himself victorious in our lives.

Just a few thoughts on a passage I'm still thinking about.....

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Why America is depressed

Once in a while there is an article I share with you here that is too good not to post. Shmuley has been here more than once with his articles. This is one that is a must read. It will make you think. -Mike

By SHMULEY BOTEACH 02/03/2010 21:34, Jerusalem Post

The world’s most prosperous nation is also its most depressed. According to The Washington Post, America consumes three quarters of the planet’s anti-depressants, with one out of three women popping Prozac, Zoloft or Paxil. What makes the phenomenon even more curious is the recent study, published as a Newsweek cover story, which suggested that anti-depressants are no more effective than a placebo.

How could a nation of such wealth foster such desperate unhappiness? The question is compounded by the fact that this republic was founded as articulated by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, as a place where “the pursuit of happiness” was paramount. By that count, America, for all its other successes, has ultimately failed.

I believe the two are intertwined – that the very mechanism that has made America so rich has also made Americans so miserable.

WHAT EVERYONE most wants is to be special. No one is born feeling ordinary. We all believe there is something about us that makes us different, that makes us irreplaceable, unique. Most of our lives are dedicated to proving that uniqueness. Whether it’s by getting an A in algebra or winning a race or getting into Harvard or being hired by a top law firm, our pursuits are designed to give substance to our feeling of uniqueness. We all want to be a success because success proves we are not (and never have been) ordinary. Our successes make us stand out.

But specialness-through-success must always be balanced by specialness-through-being-loved. In other words, your parents don’t think you’re special because you aced the SAT. They think you’re special because you’re their child; for them, you don’t have to work at being extraordinary. In their eyes, you were born exceptional. No matter how unsightly your doodling with crayons, your parents still put them up on the refrigerator. And no matter how disruptive the math teacher says you are in class, your parents still tuck you in at night, read you a story, and tell you how much they love you. The message is that there is no one in the world like you. You are given love as a free gift.

Later, this feeling of acceptance and specialness will continue as you are embraced by friends and community. It constitutes the principal reason why we Jews make a big deal of a bar or bat mitzva. We’re telling our adolescents that there is a community of which they are a part that embraces them simply because they are coming of age. This corroboration of specialness-through-love will culminate when a complete stranger chooses to devote him or herself to you unconditionally as your spouse.

This past weekend I had to be rushed to hospital for emergency gall bladder surgery. My wife had to witness me in all my ugliness, from screaming in pain to losing any vestige of personal hygiene. Yet there she was, comforting me and doing her darndest to make the pain go away.

The message behind all these actions is that you are special. There’s nothing you have to do to become that way. It’s your birthright. No person is ordinary.

BUT IN America, prosperity came about through precisely the opposite message. You’re not born special, but only become unique through achievement and acquisition. Hard work, financial rewards, a big house, elected office – these are what really make you count. Love is not something given freely. Rather, it is something earned.

Michael Jackson summed it up best when he told me: “I think all my success and fame, I have wanted it because I wanted to be loved. That’s all. That’s the real truth. I wanted people to love me, truly love me, because I never really felt loved. I said maybe if I sharpened my craft, maybe people will love me more.”

As an engine for material and national success, making people who feel unworthy work hard to prove themselves is unimaginably effective. Just look at how many Olympic athletes were quoted in Vancouver as saying that they won gold because they were told they were washed up, ordinary. But as an engine of human happiness, I can’t think of anything more depressing than the feeling that you are a big zero until proven otherwise.

This is what led Tiger Woods to feel, as he confessed, that success and a feeling of specialness was always outside him. He had to devour, first championships, and later women, to prove himself worthy. It’s also what led Vyacheslav Bykov, the Russian hockey coach, to respond to President Dmitry Medvedev’s rebuke, when his team left Vancouver without a medal, by saying: “Let’s put up a bunch of guillotines and gallows. We have 35 people on the hockey team. Let’s go to Red Square and dispatch them all.” Because in this Pax Americana world, where people are distinguished only when they win, if you lose, you’re dead.

Parents these days withhold their approval in order to motivate their children to do better. The thinking has become that too much validation leaves a child with nothing to strive for. Friendships today are likewise highly selective. We have “contacts” rather than friends.

As for community, well, the more fame you acquire, the more love you’ll get. Just look at how Canada highlighted, in the closing Olympic ceremony, a parade of Canadians who had abandoned their country to live in the United States. The message: They’re famous, so we’re proud of them even if they’re not proud of us.

America, and now the rest of the Western world, has become successful by playing on people’s insecurities. Contrary to the biblical message that every person is born with a spark of the divine, we’ve instilled within everyone the belief that they are ordinary until proven otherwise. The result is millions of people who are ambitious not because they believe they are born with a gift for singing that can bring others joy, but rather that they are faceless unless they win American Idol.

The writer has just published The Blessing of Enough, a book that seeks to remedy Western materialism and greed.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Easter's about bunnies

"Easter's about bunnies." declared my 5 year old granddaughter from the back of the car as we went to the store this morning.
I responded as any parent and pastor would, "Sweetie, Easter is about Jesus." And then, forgetting who I was talking to, I quickly explained the Easter story.
A few moments of silence....
Then, from the back, I hear this undaunted reply, "Ok, Easter's about Jesus AND bunnies."
I surrender. I know when I've been beaten by a 5 year old.