Monday, January 31, 2011
I can't believe how hot Kenya is in January! I think it's 95 degrees with 100 % humidity! We are all exhausted, but the first day went very well. It will take another day to build some relationships and get everyone involved, but it will come. We are excited and it's going well. Here's a few photos from the day.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
With all the travel of these days I have time to do some reading. One of the books I purchased for this trip is about discipleship....what is it? what should it be like? how do we do it?
The author, in his own walk with God, comes to a point at which the question he asks is this, when will Jesus be enough?
When will Jesus be enough? What an amazing question! We want Jesus PLUS a hundred different things....but what if all we desired was Jesus himself....what if he was enough. What would change in our lives, our ambitions, our relationships....if Jesus was all we wanted, all we needed, all we sought after. What if Jesus was enough? How would your life change if you honestly addressed that question in your own life? That's the question I'm working on in my life this week. I'll keep you updated on my results.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Friday, January 28, 2011
I'm waiting for one of our team members to pick me up for the ride to the airport. We are on our way....so begins 10 days to Kenya and back. Our time there will be full of relationships, teaching and time to care for the 50 pastors we are starting a four year relationship with. I would appreciate your prayers as we begin this great adventure. I can't wait to see what God does with us all!
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
It's clear, as you read the bible, that Godly leadership evokes a following. If a man, one man, will pursue God then others will gather and follow a man hungry after God. As I read further into the life of Hezekiah it's obvious that after many years of poor leadership his walk with God was refreshing to Judah. He brought them back to God and they responded. As I read more of his life story it was interesting to me that he even went into Israel to clear out the idols of the land. There was a passion in him to follow God, to wholeheartedly follow God. There was a desire to seek God that others wanted as well. From that man came a revival in Judah. The priests returned to God, the people returned to God and the results changed a country that had for years forgotten the God of Abraham.
It doesn't take a big church, a great choir, an amazing preacher or dynamic youth pastor. It can start with me, with you. One person, following God, seeking God, hungry for God will change the culture around them. One person who is really seeking God, not the glory of man, will find men and women hungry for the same thing. As one old preacher said years ago, "Set yourself on fire for God and the world will come to watch you burn." I may be only one man, but I want God. I'm not interested in much else....just him. From that passion for him will come a community of people seeking after him as well. I hope to be a man like Hezekiah....a man seeking after God.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
This morning I'm reading 2 Chronicles 29. Hezekiah is king after a very dark time for Judah. The nation had worshiped other gods. They had become so corrupt that they had set up idols for other gods in the temple of God! These were sad days, but king Hezekiah is a bright spot in Judah's history. He's a man who loved God, a man who sought after God. Here is what happened early in his reign...in the first month in fact,
15 When they had assembled their fellow Levites and consecrated themselves, they went in to purify the temple of the LORD, as the king had ordered, following the word of the LORD. 16 The priests went into the sanctuary of the LORD to purify it. They brought out to the courtyard of the LORD’s temple everything unclean that they found in the temple of the LORD. The Levites took it and carried it out to the Kidron Valley. 17 They began the consecration on the first day of the first month, and by the eighth day of the month they reached the portico of the LORD. For eight more days they consecrated the temple of the LORD itself, finishing on the sixteenth day of the first month.
It took them a full week to remove the idols that had accumulated! They had filled God's temple with other gods.
These verses made me think of another passage in the new testament,
20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. 21 Those who cleanse themselves....will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
Like the people of Judah who had accumulated idols in God's temple, I too, sometimes gradually, gather my own collection of idols. Idols find a place in my life subtly, slowly, and often unintentionally, but the idols must be dealt with.
We aren't much use to God until we get rid of our idols.
I'm sure that Judah was surprised how far they had wandered. I wonder, in my own life, what idols I have gathered? Gathering idols is far too easy. It's an ongoing task to make sure God has my undivided worship.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
"Even when I walk through the shadow lands, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me." -David, Psalm 23
I had coffee with a good friend this morning who is struggling with depression. It grieved me to see him in the midst of the shadow lands. It's a hard place to live. I know. I grew up in the shadow lands. Depression is part of my heritage and a frequent part of my life. It's not unusual for me to spend weeks in the shadow lands before I see the light of a clear day.
It was hard to see my friend struggling. He had never visited the shadow lands before. It's difficult the first time. Depression is overwhelming if you have never experienced it before. It eats away at your energy, dulls your mind and makes the very nerves of your body tender. Walking through the shadow lands is a skill reluctantly learned, unwillingly done, but a wonderful blessing as you see God work in your life.
I gave my friend some tools to use as he walks through the shadow lands. They are simple things, but they really help. I'm praying for him. I'm praying that he, like David, myself and thousand of others, discovers that God is close beside him. That his rod and staff protect and comfort him as he discovers the shadow lands. Today he's just beginning a difficult journey, but as one who has spent years in the shadow lands I was able to encourage him and tell him that God is working wonderfully in his shadow lands. In fact, I think I have found my walk with God even sweeter because of the dark paths of the shadow lands. I hope my friend finds God's sweet care as well as he walks through these dark days.
Monday, January 17, 2011
I just finished reading a book a fellow pastor loaned me. It's the story of a Christian family living in the Muslim world. The book, their stories and those seeking God are inspiring. I highly recommend this amazing story of God's work in a Muslim culture.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
It's a new year and as I begin the year I'm thinking about my own walk with God. It seems that most of my walk has been uphill, mountain climbing in fact. Although the climb is often steep and the air thinning I find that I gain strength with each step. My mind tires from the constant need to focus on the goal. My knees wobble from the uneven surfaces, but slowly, often with a rest to regain my strength and confidence, I climb towards the goal. It's a mountain worth climbing. It's an adventure I wouldn't miss for anything. No one ever told me it would be easy. I still can't see the mountain peak, but I know it's there. Others have reached the mountain top and spoken of the glory of their arrival. I can't wait to see the goal of my life of climbing. It will be worth it! Along the way I cross the paths of others climbing with me. Some look tired, some are sitting, discouraged; and others are going down the mountain having given up hope of ever reaching the top. But along the way I run into some who tell me to keep climbing. Some help me with a kind word, a prayer, some offer food or drink. Ahead, somewhere in the clouds, is the peak, the goal. Somewhere ahead is the desire of all mankind. Ahead is the hope of mankind. And so I climb on. Others continue up the mountain with me. We often help one another. It lightens the load for all of us. The ministry of mountain climbing is a wonderful one. Ahead is the goal worth any price. Ahead is the promise of glory! And so I climb. As others have spoken to me, let me encourage you, "Keep climbing! Don't give up! It will be worth it all! Keep climbing! Ahead is glory!"
Hebrews 12:22 "...you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant..."
This new year has started with all the rockets ignited. I'm running as fast as I can to keep up. This morning I must work on material for the start of a bible college in Kenya. We will be starting this college at the end of the month. I and three other men will be teaching non-stop for a week as we begin a four year relationship with 50 pastors in that area. I am really excited about this adventure, but out of breath already. I know I have been behind in my thoughts and words here, but will catch up as soon as I can. Do pray for me and the team as we prepare for this wonderful adventure.
Monday, January 10, 2011
Yesterday we had our first snow of the winter in Texas. The flakes were huge, wet and sticky. Of course, here in Texas that means car wrecks, schools closed and other problems, but the snow itself was beautiful.
Science has looked at snow one flake at a time and found that each flake is different, each one is unique. To know that the millions of snowflakes I saw yesterday are each unique and different causes me to be in awe of God's creativity. Even in these small little snowflakes God is showing us his creativity and beauty. He is an amazing God.
I wonder, as I see all these little things that declare design and creativity, how anyone could deny God, but we do. Yesterday I preached the second week of a short series looking at Romans 9-11. It's a challenging passage. One of the topics in this passage is how we harden our hearts to God's work.
A story that shows this is the story of John 11. In this chapter, to be brief, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. That should get your attention, but here's the different responses from those who saw this once in a lifetime miracle. "Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done."
Some believed, but there were some who hardened their hearts to the evidence of God's work in their presence. Today, in Texas, snow gave evidence to an amazing God. I hope you don't miss his work in our midst. I hope you don't miss him.
Saturday, January 08, 2011
Friday, January 07, 2011
Reflections on the day- I'm not often surprised. I've seen and heard about everything, but one thing that always surprises me is the hardness of the human heart. This afternoon another staff member and I went to visit a man who had visited our church last week. He is a friend of one of our men. He is visiting from another state. His friend told us he was touched by the sermon last Sunday and was interested in visiting. We went to the house and met this 52 year old man who is dying of cancer. He has cancer in every major organ and this visit was his last one with his friend. We talked about life, death and eternity. We talked about what Christ did on the cross. We talked about the impossibility of saving ourselves. We talked about salvation. This dear man has a short time to live with eternity facing him, but when I asked, "Will you trust Christ as your savior? Would you like to know for sure what is ahead for you?" He replied, "Not right now...." Death rushing at him, an unknown eternity ahead and he tells me, "Not right now." I was grieved. I was sad. I am sad. His life is rich with bad choices. His years have been spent in prison. His face is aged beyond his years. But the saddest reality is his hard heart. I left him with these words, "You know, life is far too short and eternity is forever. Death is looming in front of you. Please don't wait too long to make this decision. It's far too important." I thought, as we left the house, how sad that he would turn down God's free gift of eternal life with death so near. How sad we can harden our hearts to God's amazing love and risk eternal loss. I will be praying for my new friend. I told him I want to see him in eternity. I told him not to wait too long. I hope he does accept God's amazing gift before he has no more choices.
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
2 Chronicles 5:13 "...they praised the Lord saying, "He indeed is good for His lovingkindness is everlasting,"
We, as Christians, are bold to declare that God is good. The world around us questions such a claim pointing to the evil in every direction, but what they miss is the amazing evidence of God's goodness and the real cause of the evil they say disproves our claim of God's goodness.
In the verse I noted above the choir at the dedication of the temple declares, "He indeed is good for His lovingkindness is everlasting," The evidence of God's goodness is his lovingkindness that is ongoing, everlasting. It's his lovingkindness that proves his goodness. What is lovingkindness? The answer to that will help our current culture understand the goodness of God more clearly. (I will also note the cause of the evil credited to God in a moment.) The dictionary defines lovingkindness in this way, "tender kindness motivated by or expressing affection."
The evidence of God's goodness is his ongoing tender kindnesses to the world motivated by his affection for mankind. God loves us. It's evident in the cross most clearly, but it's evident every morning, with every wave, with every breath we take. His kindness is demonstrated in his ongoing care for us and provision for a world that, for the most part, wants nothing to do with him.
God is good because his lovingkindness is everlasting. He forever will be the same in his care and mercy to mankind. It's revealed in the morning sun, the afternoon rain, the wave that brings oxygen to the sea, the wind that refreshes the air and a thousand other things we often miss or simply take for granted.
Sadly many have focused on the problems and evils of our world as evidence that God is not good or that he simply doesn't exist. If we could see things clearly the evils around us would not disprove God's existence, but would in fact prove the presence of both an enemy of the human race and the nature of our own hearts. We have credited the good one, God, with things we and the enemy of our souls have done. God's lovingkindness has continued to provide for us even in our rebellion from him.
God is good. In his goodness he continues to demonstrate his lovingkindness in spite of what we have done to each other and to the world around us. What an amazing God! His lovingkindness is everlasting!
Tuesday, January 04, 2011
Monday, January 03, 2011
Beginning a new year is simply beginning a new day. Nothing changes but the calendar. But it is a chance to refocus and set new directions, new priorities, new commitments. It's also a time to check your thinking. Life gets crazy and we often lose sight of the basics. For me it's good to revisit the basics often to help me stay on course.
One of the basics is this- The just shall live by faith. It's a truth mentioned four times in the bible in four different books. But, what does it mean? It almost feels like there needs to be more to this basic truth. I know it would help me if it said, The just shall live by faith in _______. Fill in the blank for me and I can do that, but the blank is left empty because the implied object is God himself.
We live by faith in God moment by moment and the walk of a Christian is almost always a life lived with blanks in it. We don't have all the answers, all the directions, all the insight, but we trust in one who does. It's a moment by moment walk of faith in the one who guides our every moment...even when we can't see the way, don't have the answers and don't have all we need. A vibrant Christian faith is lived with a lot of blanks in it...trusting in the one who will fill them all in for us as we go.