Thursday, September 30, 2010

No simple lives

One thing I've noticed about people is that things are never simple. I think it's because we are not simple. Our lives are made up of hundreds of nicks and bruises we have each experienced. All those blows, bad relationships, disappointments and life experiences make us who we are and it's never simple to sort out.

A few weeks ago, as I listened to a couple working through some real problems in their marriage, I thought...."this is really complicated. There are no easy answers." Honestly, I think that same thing almost every time I talk with someone. It's difficult to sort out all the pieces of our lives that have brought us to where we are today. How do we get it all tied together so we aren't tripping over ourselves? How do we work through all that we are to fix what we have become? Honestly, there are no simple lives. There are no simple answers.

But as I watch Jesus in the gospels I see his encounters with people in a different way. The difference is that he knew the heart of man and was able to go to the very heart of each person's problem. With a word, a touch, a smile Jesus healed broken lives. He knew what each life needed.
Here is a story of one man's encounter with Jesus. In this brief encounter Jesus meets the needs of this broken man,

Mark 1:40-45- 40A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, "If you are willing, you can make me clean." (If you are willing. It's almost a question, Are you willing? Not can you help me? but will you help me? The most important question is this one, Lord, will you help me?)

41Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" (The compassion of Jesus brought a response that I'm sure no one expected. In fact this leper was in front of Jesus contrary to the law that would keep him apart from others who didn't have leprosy.)

42Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.

43Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44"See that you don't tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them." 45Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.

This story is one of my favorites in the gospels. It's a story of the prayer we have all prayed, "if you are willing." We wait, hoping God is indeed willing to meet our needs, but he does so much more. This man had been without a human touch, without real love and without acceptance for so long that his first need, in spite of his obvious illness, was a touch. In that amazing moment of time Jesus did the unthinkable....he reached out and touched this dirty, diseased man. The touch did so much more than heal the disease, it healed the whole man.

Like this poor leper in Mark we each come to Jesus with all our sickness and disease visible for all to see...the bible calls it sin. Our plea is simple, if you're willing you can make me clean, you can forgive my sins. And with a touch...that amazing touch....we each find healing and forgiveness.

As a result of that touch and the love of Jesus to meet this man's needs a great exchange happened. It happens with us when we trust him. Some call it the exchanged life and indeed it is. But with this man the exchange was dramatic. The man who had lived alone and removed from mankind was now among them. Talking, touching, hugging and telling everyone about Jesus to such an extent that Jesus had to go to the wilderness away from mankind and even there the people, all in need of his touch, sought him out.

Mankind is still asking this man's simple question, "If you are willing you can make me clean." And his response is the same, with a touch of his hand he replies, "I'm willing, be clean." And so, with all our warts and wrinkles, all our problems and struggles Jesus comes to touch the hurting and heal each one. If you're wondering if he can fix your messy life just ask him. You'll be amazed at the smile, the touch, the acceptance and the reply, "I'm willing, be clean."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


There's always a "because," isn't there? There's always a reason for what we do. We can explain ourselves very well when confronted. I made that decision because.... And with great reason or sometimes no reason at all we explain our actions, our words, our decisions. seems to cover a multitude of sins. This morning I was reading about the life of Moses and he had two "becauses" in his life. Here they are,

Heb. 11:26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.

In this amazing chapter God explains the choices Moses made. There were two reasons, 1. he was looking ahead to HIS reward and, 2. he saw him who is invisible.

These were the two great motivators of Moses life. Because there is a reward and because he was aware of God presence. His two great motivators? The PRIZE and the PRESENCE. Often my "because" is a justification for a stupid decision. With Moses it's clear he was keenly aware of both the finish line and the invisible presence of God.

Why do you make the decisions you do? What is your "because?" How do you justify the choices of your life? I love the two things that guided Moses. In fact, I think these should be prime motivators for each of us. Why do I do what I do? BECAUSE there is a prize ahead and BECAUSE there is a presence...God himself. If we used the prize and His presence as motivators for choices in our lives it might change a lot of what we do because....

Monday, September 27, 2010

"Meet The Man Who Sneaked Into Auschwitz"

There are stories of lives that amaze me. Stories we have never heard before. This is one of those stories for me. This is the story of Witold Pilecki. Witold's story is amazing. I do encourage you to read the entire story at NPR's web page. Here's the link. Witold got into Auschwitz as a prisoner and stayed there for two and a half years. He got word out to the world and ultimately escaped. Stories like this amaze me. Lives like Witold's inspire me. He risked his life to let the world know how bad this place was.

There are men and women like Witold all around us. Men and women who do the right things, the hard things even if no one ever knows about it. They do it because anyone should. They do it because no one else did. Even if no one ever gave him credit, even if it cost his life he chose to risk everything to reveal to the world the horrors of Auschwitz.

I hope we would be those people, I hope I would be that person....doing the right things even if no one ever knows. Doing the hard things because Jesus did that same thing for his life to reveal to the world the horrible prison sin had created for all of us. Heroes like Witold live out what God has called each of us and women willing to risk everything for the lives and souls of others. Can you tell I was challenged by Witold? I was.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Having the right ambition

I often need to stop and refocus. At least in my life it's easy to get busy doing and forget why I'm doing it. I often need to stop and refocus, see where the Lord is going, and check my bearings. This morning I got this quick course correction in 2 Corinthians 5,

9Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.

The key ambition- to be pleasing to God. I often read whole passages and don't stop for little verses like this, but here it is, in a short sentence....the prime ambition- to be pleasing to Him. I know, from my own life, that this is not the filter I use to make decisions, but I should. Will this choice please God? That one short question would change a lot of what we do and give us focus on the main thing. The main thing in life is to please God and bring him glory through those choices. But then, verse 10 continues with the reason why this should be my primary ambition,

10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Now there is some motivation! I don't choose this ambition of pleasing God in a vacuum. There's a good reason...I will give an account for my choices. I will get a report card from God when all is said and done. There is a reconciliation of accounts with God, not about sin...that has been dealt with, but an accounting about our choices to please ourselves rather than God. Who do you want to please? God will talk to us about those choices one day.

Ambition is good if it's the right goal. The goal of pleasing myself is short sighted and empty, but to make my ambition to please God? What a wonderful way to decide the course of my life. Will this please God? That simple question would change a lot about how we live, wouldn't it? I invite you to join me in making that the question that filters the choices of our lives. Why? Because God will one day ask us about those choices and there are rewards attached to the right choices. Why please God? Because there are eternal things going on here...not just what I want in this moment. Choose the right ambition, choose to ask and filter your life through this question, will this please God? It has eternal implications.

Friday, September 24, 2010

It's almost finished!

It's almost finished! Our church family, with the help and leadership of one of our members, Tom Schara, have provided the money for our sister church in Tula, Russia to build a church building of their own. It's almost done. I'm so excited for them. It has taken a number of years and Tom's constant work to raise money to make it happen, but this fall they will have their own church building. The dedication will be this fall sometime. I hope I can be there with them for the dedication of their new building. I'm excited!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The perfume of God

Paul wrote two short verses in 2 Corinthians 2 that have always fascinated me. They tell of fragrance, but there is more to it. These two short verses speak to a reality that we often forget. Here are Paul's words,

"For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?"

"Perfume is a mixture of fragrant essential oils and aroma compounds, fixatives, and solvents used to give the human body, animals, objects, and living spaces a pleasant scent ."

"The aroma of Christ"....what an amazing phrase. Basically Paul is letting you know why some instantly like you and others almost immediately would rather not be with you. It's not you. (Well, actually, it might be you, but that will have to be a discussion for another time.) You simply give off an aroma that makes both believer and lost man aware of their condition. Basically you stink! To the lost man the "smell of death," their awareness of their own lack of life, is brought into clear focus and they hate it. For the believer it's the sweet smell of life and they inhale it with great joy. The believer immediately wants to be around you while the lost man wanders off to try to forget the truth your fragrance has reminded him of...that he's spiritually dead.

Then Paul finishes with this great question, "And who is equal to such a task?" Which of us is adequate for the task of bearing the fragrance of Christ to a dying world? But we do, even if we aren't aware of it. We stink of death to the lost, but have the smell of heaven to those who know Christ. When responses seem confusing from those you meet realize there is more at work here than just your pretty face and happy smile. There is a smell in the's the perfume of God.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Funny line of the night

This evening I just finished teaching through Daniel 3. It's probably the story most Christians know well...the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the furnace.

As we neared the end of the class I asked this question, "What do you think the angel said to them in the furnace?" Without thinking I replied, "He probably said, 'Well done!'" Moans and jeers ensued.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The veneer of civility

The veneer of civility. It's a term I've come up with to describe what I see in the lives of almost everyone. We all figure out how to get along as long as our personal needs, hopes and dreams are met, but when we sense that others are not meeting our needs then the veneer suddenly meets reality and watch out! I'm amazed at how quickly we change from nice and sweet to angry, mean and cruel in a moment of time. We all know this experience as the victim or the victimizer. This veneer is much thinner than most of us realize. Civilization only works when we maintain the veneer....but be careful...if this unwritten social contract of our culture is broken then watch your back.

But here is a contrast to our "veneer of civility" offered by Jesus. It's so different from what we know and experience that it's hard to imagine what it might look like if we really lived it out. Here is his invitation to a new way to live, a new way to hints at the kingdom that is even now forming,

"Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

As I read his words I'm enchanted by the ideas he suggests. It's hard to imagine a culture that would live this out. A community that would be merciful as a first response. A people that wouldn't judge. A group of people whose natural response is forgiveness. A culture where giving to others is such a part of life that we are more concerned for others than we are for ourselves. One day that world will be normal. Today there are glimpses of it around us. Even now people are beginning to live out this new kind of life. We only see it on occasion, only for a moment, but what a wonderful kingdom it will be when this is normal everyday life.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Living in real time

This morning I got to lead a study with a group of guys who are studying the life of Joseph. Joseph's life is amazing. The favorite son. Hated by his brothers. Sold by them into slavery. Falsely accused and thrown into prison. A prisoner for more than a dozen years. But a moment...flung into the role of leader in Egypt. From prison to palace in a heartbeat. It's the ultimate rags to riches story, but we live in real time. We don't see the end. We don't know how things will turn out. We can only see the moment of loss, the problems of life, the sense of failure. And yet, even living in real time we have an assurance from God regarding the end. What we can't see he can. What we don't know he does. What we can't control he manages with ease. He has a plan and it will be wonderfully executed by the God who loves us. In Proverbs the author writes these words,

Proverbs 20:24- The lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?

As I read the story of Joseph it's clear to me what God is doing, but Joseph couldn't see it. All he could do was trust God to work in his life. Living in real time is hard f you don't trust the living God who lives in eternity. It's a wonderful comfort to know we don't have to figure out all the turns and trials of life. We can simply live in real time and trust an amazing God to direct our paths.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Would Jesus Discriminate?

The Metropolitan Community Church has launched a new campaign on billboards across Dallas. I know because I saw several of them on my way home today. They surprised me because they claim things about Jesus, the early church and others in the Bible that are simply not true. Even more frustrating to me is that what they claim from the text is not only not true it's not there! When I saw the passages they used to defend the claims on each billboard I had to look them up, as I thought to myself, what story are they talking about? Clearly they had to write some fiction to create these billboards, but that's not what I want to focus on. The real issue, besides the fantasy they have created, is this question- Would Jesus discriminate? To answer that honestly we have to define words, so let's do that, ok?
–verb (used without object)
1. to make a distinction in favor of or against a person or thing on the basis of the group, class, or category to which the person or thing belongs rather than according to actual merit; show partiality: The new law discriminates against foreigners. He discriminates in favor of his relatives.
2. to note or observe a difference; distinguish accurately: to discriminate between things.
Clearly, from all we see about Jesus in the gospels he never discriminated, but did he address and confront sin? YES! Discrimination is the wrong term to use to describe how Jesus dealt with people and it's the wrong term to use in reference to this lifestyle. The real question is this- Did Jesus confront sin in people's lives? Of course! The next question that must follow is a simple one for us- When I find that what I'm doing is sin do I need to repent of it or justify it? I don't care what the sin doesn't matter. It can be lying, overeating, gossip, stealing, murder, or a hundred other things. Sin is anything that is contrary to the very nature of God. I don't steal because God is not a thief and I'm his child. I don't lie because God is not a liar. These are simple things, but they go to the heart of the issue. My life should mirror what I see about God in his word. To do anything else is simply called "sin." Sin, in it's simplest definition means to miss the mark. When I miss the mark of looking like Christ that's called sin. It doesn't matter what the sin is, it's the same that moment of action or thought I don't reflect the nature and character of God.

It's not a matter of discrimination, it's a matter of pleasing God! Did Jesus confront sin? YES! Without question. He met it head on. If you want to read about one story read John 8. You will see clearly how Jesus dealt with sin in one person's life. The issue is not discrimination. You can redefine terms and lifestyles all you want. You can invent new stories in the bible, but the issue still comes down to this- Do you want to please God? That question is the core question for each of us. It's not my job to get the splinter out of your eye while ignoring the beam in my own. It's my job to look at my own life rightly and live as a reflection of Christ. If I do that, if you do that, then we will each be dealing with our lives in the right way and the billboard wars will be completely unnecessary.

When will I ever learn?

When will I ever learn
to live in God.
When will I ever learn?
He gave me everything
I need and more.
When will I ever learn?
These are lyrics from one of my favorite artists, Van Morrison. I was listening to some of his music coming home this afternoon and this song started. It always gets me because it's a question I ask myself...when will I ever learn? God has done so much. He's given me everything I need. When will I ever learn to live in God? What an amazing question! Van may not be a theologian, but his words speak to the need of my heart. I hope, one day before I die, I learn to walk with God and trust him. He's done so much. Why do I so easily become afraid? When will I ever learn?

Saturday's cartoon

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Reaching the Uriay

September 14, 2010

by Dena McMaster

On September 8, 2010 the Uriay people of Papua New Guinea heard the last evangelistic Bible lesson in the series.

(left: Dakruma is clear and confident that she is a child of God.)

"The day had finally arrived," wrote missionary Lisa Kappeler. "It was finally time to present the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. I could hardly pray as we met this morning, getting choked up as I thought about a church being born [among the Uriay]."

The presentation included skits, Lisa reading the Scripture explaining the enactments, and Elias Struik teaching the lesson. Between the high emotions and expectations of the day and the teaching Elias and Lisa were exhausted.
Lisa and Elias talked with many of those who attended to find out how much they understood.

"I had the sweetest conversation first with Dakruma, who boldly declared that Jesus was her 'punishment bearing man'," wrote Lisa, "and then Nawiyem came over and the three of us, with Aketa just listening, talked about the Lord and all that they'd heard -- absolutely precious."

Elias talked with Lisa's language co-worker, Aendru, and he declared that he too had trusted Christ.

"Aendru had heard the talk about Jesus but never understood the substitutionary side of things. He was in tears basically. He said that when he saw Christ hanging on the cross, he put his head down and could hardly hold back the tears."

Several others gave a clear testimony of their understanding that Christ died for their sins and they had trusted in Him. Lisa and Elias will continue to talk with the Uriays to find out their understanding of Salvation.

Praise God with us that the Uriay people have heard the Gospel message and that many have declared their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.


This article from the New Tribes Mission site thrilled me. It's easy to get comfortable with salvation and forget that millions have never heard. I don't want to forget that we are here for a reason. We are here to share what Christ has done in our lives so others might trust Christ as savior too. As you pray and give don't forget we are part of God's eternal program to tell the world about his love for them in Christ.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Something to hold onto

7 "But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.

8 He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit." Jeremiah 17:7--8

Celebrating defeat

I just finished reading 1 Samuel 15 a few minutes ago and this thought is swirling around in my head....this idea of Saul's celebration of what he thought was a great victory, but was in fact a great defeat. How can we miss these things so easily? He saw a win. God saw a fail. He won the battle. God saw a man who didn't obey. Regardless of the results God's win involves obedience. In this passage are the amazing words of Samuel, "to obey is better than sacrifice." God wants our obedience first. Results are secondary. We would say that the ends justify the means. God would tell us we are simply celebrating defeat. It's interesting to me how Saul had so deceived himself that he thought he had obeyed. Did the victory make him feel ok with the way he did it? Do I take short-cuts and justify them by the results? I wonder how often I fail to see things God's way. I wonder how often do I celebrate defeat?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Burning the Quran

I've been watching with interest the foolishness in Florida regarding the pastor who planned to burn the Quran. Now that the hysteria has calmed and the media has moved on to the next story I thought I would comment. Let me comment in three or four different ways with the focus at the beginning of each paragraph.

THE MEDIA- First, let me address the media. It's clear, from this story, that the media is not interested in real news, but only in the stories that will get the attention of a media saturated culture. It has to be emotional, politically incorrect and something that will make someone, anyone, mad. This story should have never made the news. A foolish pastor of a small church should have never gotten the attention of the national media, but he did because he chose to do something that would raise emotions, be politically incorrect and make one billion people mad. Sadly, the media flocked to this story and gave this silly man his 15 minutes in the news.
THE PASTOR- I've addressed this briefly above, but let me say that no real Christian pastor would ever do such a thing as he was planning to do. His actions are so unlike Christ that it's amazing to me that he thinks he's doing the right thing. This story just shows how far from truth we can get if we aren't walking with God and in his word.
THE PUBLIC- Please, please stop looking for a reason to be offended! We have become a culture looking for offense and demanding an apology. Ok, America, do I have to remind you that there are stupid people everywhere. Do you have to get upset about all of them simply because the media has shown the light of the camera on their story? In any culture the fringe of lunacy widens. Ignore it, don't give them a voice. We all know they are there, they aren't going away, but please don't waste your emotional offense on them. They aren't worth it.
THE MUSLIM WORLD- I know few, if any Muslims will read this, but let me make it clear that this is not the way true Christians act. The real Christian, if you have ever met one, is someone who is walking with God, loving his neighbor and trying to please God. The real Christian will love you and care for your soul. This man in Florida is not an example of how God wants us to live.
THE CHRISTIAN WORLD- Clearly this pastor and his church has portrayed an image of the Christian that is not true. Our challenge is to live our lives in such a way that those around us, no matter what their faith or lack of it, will see the love of Christ in our lives, words and witness and be drawn to him. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to be light to a dark world. Jesus said we are the light of the world, the salt that seasons those around us. This is a time to be light and salt and wonderfully illuminate the darkness and season the world with our faith and love as we live out our faith in Christ.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sunrise or sunset?

Is it sunset or sunrise? Is the day beginning or ending? Is light coming or will it be darkness? What lies ahead?
This was a topic of discussion in C.S. Lewis' book, The Great Divorce. Both in heaven and in hell it was twilight. In both places the residents anticipated the dawn, but it's clear from the story that in one place dawn is coming and in the other eternal darkness.
For some the dusk between morning and night has them confused. The events of life have kept them in these dimly lit hours so long that they don't know if it's dawn on the way or dark. For some the approach of the dawn looks like the approach of darkness. It's hard for them to anticipate daylight when they have been in the gloom of dusk for so long.
This morning I met with one of our guys who is really discouraged. He's anticipating the night when in fact the day is about to dawn, but he can't see it. He only sees his sun setting when all around the birds are singing as the day arrives. When we go through difficult experiences of life it seems that darkness is what awaits us. We lose vision, lose hope, lose our bearing of what God is doing. The dusk, our problems, anticipate either night or dawn and we don't know which awaits us, but there is this promise of the morning approaching as the author of scripture writes,
2 Peter 1:19 And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
It's not the dark ahead, but morning. When you are discouraged, depressed, anticipating your dusk to soon turn to dark realize that God has promised morning for us. Light is coming, not fading away. Hope is rising, not disappearing. Life isn't over, it's just beginning. The dawn is on the way. The morning star will soon be here and darkness will disappear forever.
I did my best this morning to encourage my friend and give him hope for the day ahead. I fear his dusk lingers. He is awaiting the night and not hoping for day, but listen carefully...the birds are chirping. The Son of righteousness is soon to come. Morning nears.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


Tonight I start teaching through the book of Daniel. I've been preparing for this for a while. Daniel is an amazing man....a man taken into captivity as a young man...probably no older than the young Arab boy in this refugee camp. A teenager taken from his home during a war. Taken to another country. Given a new name. Forced to learn a new language. Educated under a system completely different from what he knew. And yet....he made the decision to be faithful to God. His decision made a big difference in his life and in the lives of those he touched. For the next 70 years Daniel was part of a foreign government working under the authority of pagan kings, walking with God the entire time. This is a young man who, like Joseph in Egypt, changed leaders and the course of governments by his faith. I pray that I can communicate these truths well and that we would be "Daniels" in our day.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

A "two trip" project

I've noticed that doing home repairs is tedious and frustrating. At least it is for me. I can't finish a project with less that two trips to the hardware store. Part way through the work I find I need a bolt, a bracket, a wrench and off I go for that thing I need to finish what I started. Then, there is always the second trip for the other things I didn't know I needed. Yesterday afternoon I had to replace a faucet in our bathroom. It seemed an easy job (at least the directions said so), but of course that's not least not for me. After much pain and contortion I got the new sink in, turned on the water to test it and IT LEAKED! Off to the hardware store...Teflon tape, silicon sealant and the ever faithful duct tape. More repairs, contortions and more time to turn on the water and it STILL leaked! Ok, what's going on? Where is this coming from? I know it's never where you think it is and so I was on a quest for the source. Then I find it. The leak is coming from the new faucet I just bought! My work was good. It was the new faucet that was leaking....and more trip to the hardware store. After much pain and twice as much time as it should have taken we now have a beautiful new faucet. No one will ever know all it took to make it happen, but I know.
My Christian life is like that. It's messy. Things don't always go well or easily. There's a lot of pain involved in getting things to work as I add new "fixtures" to my walk with God. There the frequent visits to his word for instructions on how it should work, what I need to do, what went wrong....and then I'm back at it working once more to see if I can get it right. It's often frustrating, often discouraging...there's the feeling that I'll never get it right. It will never work as advertised, but then, when I'm finished there are wonderful new fixtures to my Christian life that through much pain and suffering look really good. Even when a project turns into more than two trips to God's word to get it finished the results are worth the frustrations!


Monday, September 06, 2010

Have a great labor day

Have a great labor day...when, contrary to the name...we do nothing at all. Enjoy.

New music

Once in a while there is a new artist that stands out from the rest. Today I want to introduce you to Israel Houghton and his new album, Love God, Love People. Israel is a worship leader, song writer and producer. His new album reminds me of Andrae Crouch's album, Mercy. Mercy is one of the best worship albums of all times and Israel follows in that tradition of outstanding music, lyrics and unique styles. If you love music this is an album you should have. In fact, I'm enjoying it as I write these words. You'll thank me for telling you about it!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Nothing lasts....

"Nothing lasts. What a shame that is." --Benjamin Buttons

Tonight we are watching the movie, Benjamin Buttons. What an interesting story. I know I am late to the discussion on this movie, but just one line caught my attention, "Nothing lasts. What a shame that is." It caught my ear because in this world that's true. But wait.....there's more....that's not the end of the story. One of the sad results of sin is that things meant to be eternal now have become temporary. Death affected everything! What a shame that is. Now, for this time, nothing lasts, but there will be a day...what a day...when everything will last forever, just as God planned. What a glory that will be! I long for that day.

Saturday cartoon

Friday, September 03, 2010

"I just wasn't being fed"

My friend, James, wrote this wonderful post in June. I simply hadn't read it until we talked about it this morning over coffee and so I had to go back and read his thoughts after our visit. These are great insights from a good friend and shine a bright light on our need for maturity. Thanks, James.

balanced diet

Several times recently I have heard the comment, usually made to justify changing churches, "I just wasn't being fed." Considering the fact that I have said this in the past myself, my reaction to hearing it lately is interesting to me.

"I just wasn't being fed." By that do you mean that there was no [spiritual] food made available? Or was the portion set before you too meager to satisfy? Was it there, and you merely did not "eat?"

When I was an infant, I of course depended on my mother to feed me. As I grew, increasingly I fed myself but my mother still specified and provided the food that I ate. As time went on, I could choose more and more what I ate, but largely it was still provided by someone else. Finally, in maturity, I'm largely responsible for feeding myself, even though there is almost always someone else involved in the provision of food.

One might initially be drawn to a local church because of a hunger to know the Lord; by feeding on the Word, one can learn who God is, who man
really is, what God has accomplished to reconcile man to Himself, etc. As a [spiritual] infant, a person does not know what or how to eat, and the church, through the preached word, Bible classes, etc. can feed such a person until that person begins to learn to feed directly on the Word. From passages of Scripture such as Hebrews 5:12-14, we see that there is an expectation for the Christian to grow to maturity, but not every one does, and as Theodore Epp said,
It is a shame for a person to have been a Christian for years but not to have advanced beyond the knowledge of his salvation.

That aside, is occupying a seat and listening to sermons the reason ultimately for church attendance? The passage in Hebrews, as well as many others, points at our maturing to
love one another as Christ commanded and to serve one another as Christ demonstrated. This is not at all to diminish the value or importance of the preached word, but the church is a family where we each have a responsibility to one another, and "eating" once a week will obviously not sustain us in our love and service to each other, much less to a needy world. We must daily see to our spiritual sustenance by making our mind available to God's Word. Viewed in this way, "I just wasn't being fed" seems a pretty selfish cop-out.

Last weekend, my wife and I were visiting the town where I grew up. As we drove by the church where I went as a child, we noticed the sign out front which carried this stinging rebuke:
Christians often expect the world to respect the book which they neglect.

Ordinary people in the hands of an amazing God

My friend, Tony, posted this on his site. It's a great quote I wanted to repost here. Thanks, Tony.

Fabulous Quote!

"In any museum we will find quite ordinary things - clothes, a walking stick, a pen, pieces of furniture - which are only of value because they were possessed and used by some great person. It is the ownership which gives them worth. It is so with the Christian. The Christian may be a very ordinary person, but he acquires a new value and dignity and greatness because he belongs to God. The greatness of the Christian lies in the fact that he is God's."
-- William Barclay

Speak Lord, your servant is listening

This morning I'm reading 1 Samuel 3 and I read these words,

1 Samuel 3

1 The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.
2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place.
3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.
4 Then the LORD called Samuel. Samuel answered, "Here I am."
5 And he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." But Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." So he went and lay down.
6 Again the LORD called, "Samuel!" And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." "My son," Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down."
7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.
8 The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy.
9 So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.' " So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."

I've read this passage many times and thought about the message. It's humorous to see Samuel's response as he learns to listen to God. Clearly, as the passage indicates, "Samuel did not yet know the LORD." He still did not know who was speaking and so assumed it was Eli calling him. God patiently waits for him to figure it out and his response to God is one I want in my own life, "Speak, for your servant is listening." These are profound words on several points, 1. There has to be a desire to hear from God to begin with. A desire to know what he says, what he wants. 2. There must be a heart that is ready to hear....a servant's heart...a heart and ear ready to respond. Many in our day would frame it this way, "Ok, God, what do you want? If I like it I'll do it." I'm sorry, he won't be talking to that person! For the ear to hear the heart must be bowed. A servant ready to go. And, 3. from this position of knowing who is talking, being ready to serve comes ears that can hear. "Your servant is listening" is an amazing invitation to God's word. It should be our prayer each time we read his word, "Speak, for your servant is listening." What a great way to spend time with him. What a great way to be ready to respond to what he says. There are times when the word of God is rare, but a humble heart ready to hear will always hear God speak.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

There he goes again....

Well, he's at it again! First it was aliens, then "escape for your life" and now this:

(I can't help adding my thoughts after you read his.)

There is no place for God in theories on the creation of the Universe, Professor Stephen Hawking has said.

He had previously argued belief in a creator was not incompatible with science but in a new book, he concludes the Big Bang was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics.

The Grand Design, part serialised in the Times, says there is no need to invoke God to set the Universe going.

"Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something," he concluded.

'Planetary conditions'

In his new book, an extract of which appears in the Times, Britain's most famous physicist sets out to contest Sir Isaac Newton's belief that the universe must have been designed by God as it could not have sprung out of chaos.

Citing the 1992 discovery of a planet orbiting a star other than our Sun, he said: "That makes the coincidences of our planetary conditions - the single Sun, the lucky combination of Earth-Sun distance and solar mass - far less remarkable, and far less compelling as evidence that the Earth was carefully designed just to please us human beings."

He adds: "Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.

"Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.

"It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."


Ok, my turn. Obviously Stephen Hawking is a very learned man. But education does not give wisdom. Brilliance does not generate simple common sense. Stephen said, "Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something." My response- How does he know that? With a figurative wave of the hand he dismisses God and claims that an intricate and amazing creation "just happened." There is too much information that he must overlook to make the statement he makes and yet he does. I'm beginning to wonder if we shouldn't dismiss Stephen's thoughts entirely, "hide from the aliens, flee to the planets, the universe just happened." When do we honestly ask a really important question, "How does he know that?" It's time to smile and dismiss him as you would the prophet of doom on the corner proclaiming the end of the world. There's far too much evidence that declares there is a creator to turn our backs and pretend he isn't there.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Lost in space?

This is a photo from the robotic spaceship MESSENGER. This is the view from the planet Mercury as the camera looks back at earth with the moon beside it. As our spaceships have gone out further and further into space it seems we are a most insignificant planet, almost lost in space, but one thing sets this little spot of light apart from the stars around it- this little planet is inhabited by people that God loves. In fact the most familiar verse in the bible comes to mind as I thought about this photo, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him will not perish, but will have everlasting life." In one short verse this little spot of light takes on eternal significance. The God of creation visited this tiny spot of light and invested himself eternally in our lives. We are not lost in space, but are wonderfully found and loved by the God who made us. When things seem so big and I feel so insignificant I go back to a little manger in Israel where God declared with a simple birth that he cares about the race that inhabits this little spot of light.