Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Serving others

A few months ago we had the joy of serving Pastors in Kenya. On our last day together we washed their feet as a model of what we wanted them to live out in their churches and communities.

Here's a photo from the Alarm Ministry newsletter. (I'm not sure who that bald guy is in front, but I was there somewhere.)

And this thought from Ann...

Ann Voskamp, author of One thousand gifts, wrote these words in a recent article,

"If God really works in everything- then why don't we thank Him for everything?"

The question, a profound one for sure, came from Ann's daughter.

How is it that our children ask the questions we should be asking? How is it that they often see what time and trials has blurred for us? Lord, give us a heart that simply trusts you for all that your hand provides and allows.

Quote of the day

"Man has lost his unique identity. A Christian does not have this problem. He knows who he is. If anything is a gift from God, this is it- knowing who we are." -Francis Schaeffer, from Genesis in Space and Time

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stages of life

I'm fascinated as I read the bible. I'm fascinated as I watch the narrative unfold in its stories. Often, as I read, as I watch the story develop, it's clear that God has stepped off the stage. The story of David is one I just finished reading, but there are others, stories of lives unfolding before our eyes. I watch as God steps back to let the characters of the story make decisions, take action and live out their lives. And, at times God seems to be nowhere in sight.

Then, when all the choices are made, God comes back on stage to commentary the deeds of the story we have been reading.

I think he often does that in my life. Seldom does he call from heaven to tell me, "Stop that! What are you doing? What are you thinking?" In fact he's never done that for me! Instead, I have his word and from his word and the work of his Spirit in my life, I live out my play, stage by stage, act by act. There are times when I know God is there, on stage with me, but at other times he seems to step back....he allows me to stand or fall, to make decisions and then he returns and we talk about the choices I made.

I remember vividly, as I read the end of Luke, while Jesus is being mocked and tortured Peter denies three times he even knew Jesus. Then the cock crows and Jesus turns and looks at Peter. Peter catches Jesus' look, and runs away weeping. Later, after the resurrection, Jesus and Peter deal with this as Jesus asks, "Peter, do you love me?"

There are stages in each of our lives. Stages and times when we put on masks and pretend to be someone we aren't. Pretend to do the right thing when we don't. The world watches as we act out our little play, but then God comes on stage and we talk about the fraud I have been. The lie I have tried to hide. The deeds I have done.

Each of us lives out our own little play. Each of us experiences a time when God has left the building and we are left alone to our own choices, but soon, when the curtain opens for the next act, God steps on stage and the truth comes out. How can we think that our masks hide anything? Everyone else is wearing a mask, everyone knows we wear one too. Why not surprise the audience and be who you really are, be honest and trust God for the results? I see a few, but there are more behind them, who are taking off the masks and living their lives for all to see. How wonderful it would be to hear God say, as he comes on the stage of your life and the curtain rises for the final act, "Well done...."

(To read David's story read 2 Samuel 11-12.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday's cartoon

(Technology has always been a problem, hasn't it? If they only had an ipad.)

Sunday, June 26, 2011


This morning, as the sun began to rise, I had a wonderful time of prayer with some of our people in the church. It was great to carve out an hour to seek God's work in our midst. Prayer is hard work and many avoid it because it demands a quietness and honesty that is difficult. But this morning I had the joy of trusting God with this day.

This work, my life, this world and all that goes on is in God's power to direct and influence, so why wouldn't I talk to him about it all? But, like so many, I get busy doing instead of quietly talking to God. I think, that sometimes, it feels like I'm accomplishing more in the doing that in the praying, but that is simply not the case. Prayer is the most important thing I can ever do with my moments. I'm glad I used a few moments this morning to talk to the creator of the universe.

Friday, June 24, 2011

God's art work

Really great artists like to show off their work. Here's some art from my favorite artist.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Extending grace

Grace, true grace, is an amazing thing. It sets aside justice (what the other person deserves), it offers mercy and then it goes even further. Grace gives the other person what they don't deserve! It's something only God can do initially. We would never be gracious, we don't even have such an idea in our imaginations, it's just not in our natures to think that way. But God has offered grace, shown us what it looks like in our own lives and invites us to imitate that as we relate to other people.

I have to tell you that I'm still working on this. I'm more of a "justice now!" kind of guy. Even mercy eludes me at times. But grace goes so far beyond either of those that it is totally unnatural to us, it's something that God must do through us. Grace does the very opposite of everything we would do and then goes even further. Grace is what the Christian lives in. Most Christians don't understand how amazing the grace of God really is. Grace is getting what we don't deserve. That's the simple definition, but it goes much much further. Grace is getting what we don't deserve, could never earn and it is offered even when we don't want it. Grace does for us all the things we could never do ourselves. It is at the heart of the finished work of Christ.

Grace is the story of a short chapter in 2 Samuel. It's a wonderful picture of what grace looks like. In chapter 9 David is finally established as king. As things settle down for him he asks this question, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” From that simple question unfolds grace in its simplest form- justice suspended, mercy extended, grace provided to one unworthy of anything but death.

For our purposes here I won't tell the whole story, you can read it when you have time. The recipient of David's grace, a man by the name of Mephibosheth, son of Johnathan, was summoned to David's presence. I'm sure he expected death as he came into David's presence. He was the grandson of the former king and the logical heir to the throne that David now sat on. He was a threat to David's rule. But when he came into David's presence he didn't get justice, he didn't even experience mercy (although it was wrapped up in all of this as you read the story.) He got grace. David blessed him, provided for him, took care of him and made him like one of his own sons, eating at the royal table!

This man who expected death literally got the "royal treatment" and was treated like a king. Now, multiply that times 1,000,000 or more and you have a small idea of what grace looks like. It's at the very heart of the gospel- you can't earn it, you don't deserve it, you will never be good enough for it and yet God gives you all you need and more to live this life. And then, beyond that he calls us sons and daughters and invites us into eternity to be part of his family.

How could something like this be possible? There's nothing I can do to earn it? I can't be good enough to get it? And yet he offers it freely? Yes, you've got it....that's grace. That's why the message of Christianity is so different from any other. It's a message of "done" not "do." You only have to receive God's extended hand of grace.....

I'm thinking about this because I read 2 Samuel 9 this morning. I'm thinking about it because of lives I deal with, people I need to give grace to. I'm thinking...what would David have done? What would Jesus do? What would God tell me? And so I'm trying to navigate grace extended to those who don't deserve it. It's not natural, but it's what God has done for me, how could I do any less for someone else?

Quote of the day

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." — C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Amazing places

Our teaching pastor, Steve, just returned from a wonderful vacation in Italy. Here is one of the photos he took. It's hard to believe that people actually live in such beautiful places, but here they are. The sad thought that comes to my mind is the fact that they have lived here long enough they no longer see the beauty. I wonder how much of the beauty of God's creation we miss simply because we are "used to it?" How do we so easily lose our sense of wonder?

Rage against God

I just finished reading Peter Hitchins' book, The Rage against God. This work wasn't at all what I expected. I thought, initially, that Peter would write a defense of Christianity in light of the current trends towards atheism, but in fact it wasn't that at all. Much to my surprise, Peter wrote about the rise of atheism in our day and the reasons for it's current popularity. It is, for the most part, a wonderfully written history book. For anyone who wants to know where we are in time and history, and more importantly why we are here, this book is a must. I enjoyed Peter's work and was once more stimulated by a well written book by a "Brit" who knows how to use words. If you are looking for a stimulating book I would encourage you to take the time to read Peter's work.

Then they will know....

"Then they will know that I am the Lord."

This one phrase, this one theme is the message of the book of Ezekiel. For Israel and the nations around them God desired that they know that he is God, the only God. More than 60 times in this book this phrase is repeated, "Then they will know that I am the Lord." God's actions and work throughout the book of Ezekiel were intended to bring men and women to the knowledge and admission that the God of the bible is God, the only God....the LORD!

As I read about God's passion for his revelation in Ezekiel I realize that this desire continues still. Throughout time God has worked that men might know that he is Lord and by that knowing find his good in their lives. The very best thing anyone can know is that the God of the bible is Lord. And so he works, even today, towards that end.

The theme of Ezekiel is the theme of today. God is working in our world "That we might know that he is Lord." And from that knowing God is glorified and we experience God's very best for our lives. The very best good for any man is to know that He is Lord. The very best glory is for each one to acknowledge him as Lord in their life.

He's working in my life and in your life to accomplish this one thing- that you and I might know that he is Lord.

One day we will all know him, one day every knee will bow, but today he's working in your life to make himself known to you. He wants you to know that he is Lord and will accomplish that in the events of your life.

Do you know him? Do you know that HE is Lord and there is no other?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Truth is stranger than fiction

“If coincidences are just coincidences, why do they feel so contrived?” – Fox Mulder, “The X-Files”

A thought for your day

Christian actions, as described in the bible, are completely unnatural to the very nature and character of man and so must be lived out supernaturally. The Christian life is a supernatural life and can only be done as we are empowered and impassioned by God himself. At its very core the moral character of man demands the existence of God to give us a standard to live by and the power to actually live that way. A true moral structure, a moral code, apart from God is not only unsustainable and unjustified, but also undoable.

Monday, June 20, 2011

What I'm reading now

I've just gotten Peter's book and am a few chapters into it. I'm looking forward to reading his thoughts and his odyssey of faith.

It's interesting to note the contrast between Peter and his brother. Both have focused their lives on the subject and theme of God, one seeking him and the other denying him. How fascinating that God is the focus of both the atheist and the Christian.

I look forward to reading Peter's story.

The prison of the past

Many people I know are in prison.

They are not imprisoned for a crime. In fact they walk around apparently as free as you or I, but they are in prison as surely as if there were bars, a lock and guards to keep them contained.

The bars are their past, their upbringing, their habits, their choices, their mistakes, their "heritage."

They are in the prison of the past....the past sins they committed, the sins of others, the names they were called as kids, the things done to them when they had no voice or defense. They walk around us in a prison they can't escape.

I'm thinking of dozens of faces as I write this. Sad faces whose lives are dramatically captivated by the past....many in prison still.

The bars are strong.

The locks are secure.

It's nearly impossible to break them out. They know nothing different, nothing better. They are prisoners of their own past and are often completely unaware of what is happening to them. They have no idea what freedom looks like.....prison is all they have ever known.

One "prisoner" I'm thinking of ran away from a difficult home life at the age of 13. He has been running from difficult situations ever since. He's running right now. His bars are strong, he's imprisoned and unable to break out of his habit of running away from the problems and people in his life.

Another "prisoner" is a former missionary who was imprisoned many years ago and has never been able to see that she is the one held captive. She thinks her problems are caused by everyone else, but in fact she is the problem as she screams for attention from her prison cell.

You may be a prisoner yourself, captured by the past, unable to escape. There is freedom. There is a solution. Jesus came to break open the prison and set the prisoners free, and yet all around us people live their lives in prison still.

Paul wrote these words,

2 Timothy 2:25-26

New International Version (NIV)

25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

"Held captive to do his will," what a picture that paints as Paul describes the captive ones of the enemy.

And Jesus addressed the prisoners as well when he said,

Luke 4:17-19

New International Version (NIV)

17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jesus declared that he came to proclaim good news- he came to set prisoners free. Freedom from the enemy, freedom from the past, freedom from sin. The bars have been constructed many years ago by some, but in a moment Jesus promises freedom. He holds the keys to every cell. Freedom is his desire for each of us....if we will simply ask for the freedom he brings.

I wish I could help those I meet see the prison cells they inhabit. I think they would be surprised to realize they have been captive for so long. The enemy tells them they are free to do as they wish, but the freedom of a prison cell is a mocking invitation to a freedom with no reality.

Jesus offers freedom to all. A true freedom from the prison of the past, freedom from the grasp of the enemy and the false sense of freedom the world offers. How much I long for my friends to truly find the freedom Christ offers each one of us....

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's day

If you have been fortunate you had a dad to celebrate this father's day. I'm grateful that my dad is still living and has been a role model for me. I just wish he would have modeled more hair.....but what can you do?

Happy Father's day, dad. I love you and am grateful for your life.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Amazing people

Isobel Kuhn
Missionary to the Burmese Lisu people in China
Missionary to the Burmese Lisu people in China
BornDecember 17, 1901
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
DiedMarch 20, 1957 (aged 55)
Wheaton, Illinois, USA
EducationUniversity of British Columbia; Normal School; Moody Bible Institute
SpouseJohn Becker Kuhn

Isobel Kuhn, have you ever heard of her? I hadn't. This afternoon I stumbled upon an article about her life. As I read her story I realized how many unknown, unsung hero's there are who have served the Lord without fanfare, without glory and without fame.

We are in a culture that seeks fame and success. We all want to do something "significant" (whatever that means) and yet here is Isobel, serving God without the praise of men.

I am so grateful for these little glimpses into lives that will never make the front page of any newspaper, but have changed eternity. I hope my bio will be one unknown to the media of the day, but well known in eternity.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Praise in the early morning hours

Psalm 100
A Psalm of Thanksgiving.
1 Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands!
2 Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
3 Know that the LORD, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
5 For the LORD is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

In these early hours of the day I am listening to praise music (what a wonderful blessing) and thinking about an amazing God who not only made me, but cares about me. Each moment he's watching over me, guiding me, loving me, working in my life....even when I have no idea what I need he is working....for my good and his glory! What a marvelous God, what a kind savior, what a sweet Father, what an amazing creator, what a gloriously creative artist and lover of my soul is this wonderful God who made me. He loves me! I cannot imagine or even understand how blessed I really am. How can God be so good to such a rebel as I? But he is! He loves me....and that love has power behind it to make that love a reality in my life and eternity. We are all so truly blessed! What else can I do but praise God in these early morning hours?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Once for all!

One of my favorite themes of scripture is one that is life changing for those who understand it. We all seek acceptance from God, a relationship with God and forgiveness of sin; and this one phrase, "once for all" addresses all of those issues. Here is one of the passages that talks about what this means,

Hebrews 7:26-28 "Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever."

Whenever I read these three words, as they describe the work of Jesus on our behalf, I get excited. These three words speak to a number of issues that needed to be addressed all at the same are a few of them,

Jesus made one sacrifice for ALL people,

for ALL sins,

for ALL time.

One event in history took care of all that was wrong with mankind and in one act of redemption Jesus provided for all people, for all sins, for all time.

It's ALL done and everyone can be part of it!

For me, that makes his final words on the cross so significant as he spoke, "it is finished" he addressed the solution to EVERYTHING that was wrong with the human race.

He fixed it all. For everyone. FOREVER!

Why it's enough to make you jump for joy, isn't it?

Friday, June 10, 2011

What I'm reading now

I just finished a couple different books and am excited to start Mulholland's book, "Invitation to a Journey." I got the sequel as well and will read it after I finish this.

Some of my other reading is work related, but this is for me. I look forward to the discoveries I will make as I work my way through this book.

Moments remembered

A friend left a comment on another site that I write on and I wanted to share it here for the encouragement it is to me and hopefully to you. My friend wrote, "Mike, I will never forget fishing with you one day in 2004 and you gave me an awesome sermon. You asked, "do you believe in Jesus?' I said, "yes", you then said, "then why are you worrying, friend". That day made a serious difference in the days I have lived since then."

Now, I have to tell you that I don't remember that conversation, but my friend changed him. That is a "God moment." It's one of those times when God uses each of us to touch, help, encourage, speak to the life of another. It's those moments, those words that help us each go on. It's the work of God's Spirit in our lives that take a word from one and uses it to change another. They are divine moments that we may not be aware of, but God is working.

I can't wait for the day when we see all God did through us when we were completely unaware of his work....there will be many. I'm thankful that a word I forgot has been used by God to change, to help, to encourage someone else. Those moments remembered are wonderfully life changing!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Quote of the day

"God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain." -C.S. Lewis

Learning to "be"

Joye and I just got back from a wonderful week in Colorado. It was cool, relaxing and restful. It was a great time to just "be." Joye tells me that I'm a "do" person and need to learn to just "be," to rest, to sit still, to think. I don't do "be" well. I'm what we have jokingly described as a "do-do" person. I'm on go all the time and don't take time to rest, to be quiet. It has hurt me and so now I'm trying to learn from my sweet wife how to be a "be" person. I told her yesterday that maybe I could combine them and be a "do-be" person.....she made it quite clear that this had other meanings I was unaware of and that would not do. (I lived a very sheltered life as a teenager.) So, I'm learning to stop, be quiet, rest and just be. It's hard to change an old dog like me. It's hard to feel that I'm really doing anything when I'm not, but that's just the point. I often miss the voice of God when I'm going all the time. I think God often waits for me to wear out so he can get my attention. My wonderful wife is trying to help me learn about rest. I'm trying.....

(The photo is from the area we were staying in last week. I wouldn't mind a couple acres by this stream, a little cabin and a month of sitting on the front porch. I think that would make Joye smile. I'm working on it......)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The God who has spoken

One of my favorite books in the bible is the book of Hebrews. I have taught through it many times and always see something new as I work through it again. This morning I come to chapter 1 once more. These are words so familiar to me that I almost have them memorized. The theme of Hebrews is "Jesus is better." He's better than the angels, better than any prophet, he's better. It's a glorious theme as the book begins with these words, "God, after He spoke long ago......has now spoken through His Son." Jesus is the final word from God for mankind. When he has finished there is nothing more to say.

Many religions have arrived on the scene since Jesus' resurrection and ascension, but he is God's final word to the human race. There's nothing more needed. When, on the cross, he said, "It is finished" he meant redemption and revelation. He had fully revealed God to the human race. In Jesus we see the face of God.

Personally, I long to know God and that knowing is best done in the company of Jesus. In him I see God. I see what he is like, how he thinks, how he acts in my life. That's why I hang out in the gospels so much. Each day, as I read, I'm reading somewhere in the four gospels. As I read I follow along and watch as Jesus interacts in the lives of others. I see his kindness, his compassion, his love for mankind. I see him, even when he's exhausted, smile as the crowds close in for his time and touch. I see God in the face of Jesus. There is no other mirror held up for us to see what God is like.

In every other relgion on planet earth god is distant, aloof, remote, unknowable, but in Christianity God is loving, kind, caring, approachable and available. In Jesus I see God and I love the God who so wilingly reveals himself. He's exactly what I hoped God would be!

The great thing about the God of the bible is that he wants us to know him. He wants to have a relationship with us. This is the amazing thing to me....the one who made me really likes me. He wants to spend time with me. He wants me to know him. Yes, he has spoken, but even more than that he has reached out to us and he says, "I love you, let's spend some time together."

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

A new header

My friend and an amazing artist, Cheryl White, created a new header for me. Thank you, Cheryl, it's great! I love your work and am thrilled and honored to have a little bit of your work on my blog. Thank you!

Tell the coming generation

One of the most important things we do is pass on to the next generation what God has done for us. Our legacy is not money, houses or land, but stories about what God has done in our lives.

The stories of Psalms 78 tell of the need to do two things, 1. remember what God has done, and 2. tell the next generation. It's the stories of God's work in our lives that will touch the lives and hearts of our children and grandchildren. It's the "thin places" between us and God that leave memories in our lives. And it will be the "skin places", the touch of one life to another, that will leave those memories for another generation.

I often ask those who are older than I am to tell me their stories. The stories of God's touch in their lives are the most vivid for any of us. Then I ask, "have you told your stories to your kids, your grand kids?" Sadly, the answer is often "no." I so wish we would write down, talk about and share what God has done in our lives with those we love. It's the stories of us and God as we interact that will leave memories for those who are our mission field....our children.

Have you told them your stories? Have you written them down? Let me encourage you to do two things today, 1. read Psalms 78. It's our invitation to tell the coming generation about God's work in our lives, and 2. write down and tell your story to your children, your grandchildren. It's your stories that will touch their lives. It's God's work in your life that will make an impression in their lives as well.

Quote of the day

"Every man who will not have softening of the heart will at last have softening of the brain.". -G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Saturday's cartoon

Choices for a reason

2 Timothy 2:20-22- Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Therefore flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

This passage has always given me encouragement and direction. It gives clarity to usefulness. It describes my part in being a vessel the master can use. I admit that I'm still, even at 60, in process...being molded, making choices that determine my usefulness. It's a lifetime project to become a vessel for honor, sanctified (set apart), useful to the Master, prepared for EVERY good work. It's my goal to be a vessel God can use. I know he's doing his part, but he also challenges me to be part of the process as well.

The last verse of this passage is my part. In it Paul turns from what God wants to see in my life, my choices and my actions. It begins with this admonition, "Therefore flee _______, and pursue ________. After both verbs are things to make decisions about. How do I participate in becoming a vessel, a person, God can use? I make some simple choices, 1. flee certain things and, 2. pursue other things. The bible calls this sanctification. It's my intentional decisions to agree with God's desire for me and make choices that conform me to what he wants me to be.

Flee some things, pursue others. Pretty simple, isn't it? Yes and no. First, I need to know what God wants me to be. I need to know what the good and bad choices are. I need to know a few basic things and from those things I am invited, I'm challenged to make some choices. They are choices to follow and obey God or follow and obey the flesh and the enemy. I know, this all sounds really complicated, but it's not. It's so simple children get it. How do so many of us adults miss it?

Here are some things I have heard from adults that tell me they don't understand what God wants or is trying to do in their lives. They don't want to be vessels the Lord can use. From their mouths you will hear, "I know God wants me to be happy, so...." or, "It may be wrong, but I know he will forgive me." You have heard things like this as well. It's a way to give us permission to pursue the wrong things and flee the right things. We have gotten it completely backwards when we choose to do it our way. One thing is clear, if we choose our way we will be of little or no use to God.

I wonder, as I encounter people and their choices, what do they really want? Do they want to please God or themselves? If, and I think some would be so honest, if they want to please themselves they have just declared themselves god of their lives and dismissed the God who saved them. It's a dangerous path. There is no happy ending when we choose our own way.

But, I watch others who want to be that "vessel of honor", that person God can use. They are amazing! I'm thinking of several of them now, both men and women, who are intentionally working with God to become a vessel of honor, someone God can use. They are fleeing the wrong things and pursuing the right things. They are choosing wisely and it shows. They are becoming what God designed them to be and the glow of that, the impact of their life is changing lives around them.

God, the master potter, is making vessels of honor, but each one of us must be part of the process if we are to be what God designed us to be. We make the right choices for a reason....choices because we want to please God. Choices because we were called to be people God can use to change the world around us. Choices that have eternal rewards.

Make your own list. What is on your "flee list" and what is on your "pursue list"? These two lists will tell you a lot about the vessel you are becoming. It may mean you have some choices to make. It may, and I hope it does for many, encourage you that you are becoming what God designed you to be. Either way we are challenged to be part of what God is making us. What kind of vessel are you becoming?

Friday, June 03, 2011

The upward climb

Early this morning, just as the first rays of light were coming over the horizon, I took a walk to what my friend calls the second meadow. It's a small meadow about a mile and a half from where we are staying. The trail is rough, rocky, uneven, but the quiet and the view is wonderful. I walked for about 40 minutes to get to this second meadow. I had hoped to see an elk, a deer or maybe a bear, but I saw none of them. The morning was great. Crisp, cool, actually a little cold, but wonderful. I had to watch my steps, there are rocks everywhere. The path is not smooth. If you're not careful a turn of the ankle could make this a very difficult walk.

Then I arrived. A beautiful little meadow in the middle of nowhere. It was amazing. It was quiet. I don't think this meadow sees more than a few humans in a year, but I was there. I had reached the meadow. For a moment I paused to enjoy the scene, the cool air, the sounds of birds and the breeze in the trees. All around were mountains, but here in this spot, in this moment there was a calm. It was worth the walk.

But I began my walk back I realized something that hadn't seemed too important on the walk here....I had been walking downhill for those 40 minutes! The entire trip back was UPHILL! When I say that let me clarify. This is Colorado. Uphill is always steep. In fact, the climb was steeper than I had imagined. My pauses to catch my breath, to rest my legs grew more and more frequent. Air at 10,000 feet is thinner than what I'm used to. It made the climb seem even more daunting. Around each corner of the path another stretch of path upward...another challenge, but I couldn't stop. I had to get back to my destination. Stopping here, on the path, only part way back was not an option.

So, onward I walked, more frequent stops, longer stops, more air needed. Yes, I'm out of shape, ok? But onward I walked, and I thought, my Christian life is like this. My walk with God is just like this walk in the mountains. I read about this theme all through David's words in Psalms, this idea of a journey, a walk through difficult places. Always, as David made these treks he would pray, "Lord, help me through this part of my journey. There's no one to help but you."

In the midst of the upward climb of the Christian life there are rocks to avoid, there is the need for a time of rest, there's the ongoing need to keep going.....because you have to get home, you can't stop here. Around every turn the road seems to climb even more, the rocks are still in the way and I have to watch for them. But, as I finished my walk this morning I thought, there is a day when we will each finish the course laid out for us, we will each finish the race God has us on. It's a walk with a wonderful home ahead, but it's not always easy.

That's the nature of the Christian life, isn't it? The one great thing about this walk is that all along the way God is with me to help me, guide me, encourage me, and at the end of the path is home.

Psa 56:13 For You have delivered my soul from death, Indeed my feet from stumbling, So that I may walk before God In the light of the living.

Psa 143:8 Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For I trust in You; Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Fear, faith and worry

I’m fascinated by the little insights I see in scripture to things we could never know unless God told us. One of them is in Luke 12. This whole chapter is about fear, faith and worry. Jesus is teaching his disciples and us that our fears and worries really aren’t necessary. Of course we know it already, but Jesus has to tell us, once more, that God’s in charge, relax.

Then, in the middle of this chapter he reveals something we could never know or think about unless he told us. It’s something so odd we would never think of it. Here it is,

Luk 12:6-7 "Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”

Did you see it? Heavenly trivia. I know you have heard jokes about this, but it suddenly struck me that Jesus just revealed to his disciples, and yes to us, trivia that should make us stop and ask, “WHAT?” Yes, the very hairs of my head are all numbered! I’ve heard all the jokes about this statement, I’ve told some of them, but here is the amazing thing….God is so interested in each one of us that he even counts the hair on our heads! That boggles my mind! Why? What’s the purpose? Why did Jesus tell us this? It’s clear that one thing is true…God is intimately interested in you and me. We haven’t escaped his notice, he hasn’t forgotten about us. He’s counting hairs on each head…that’s how interested he is in us. Now the why isn’t important, here’s what is important- God know everything there is to know about us, he cares and he’s able to take care of us. This very small trivia thing declares that God is omniscient. He knows literally everything and he cares about his creation. He cares about you. And he cares about me.

So, what do I take away from this heavenly trivia? God cares so much about you and me that somewhere in heaven, I’m guessing now, there’s a book with my name in it and one of the entries is how many hairs I have on my head. No one else cares about that, except me in my vanity, but God does. If this is true, and since Jesus gave us this brief glimpse into heavenly trivia (and I think he was smiling as he said it) I know it is true, what else does God care about? Does he care about what I need? My family? My work? My health? Does he care about the rest of me or is he just interested in the trivia stuff? No, I think clearly we can say he cares about every part of us, everything to do with us, all we fear and worry about…even to how many hairs are on our heads.

If he cares about that can’t he, won’t he take care of the rest? So in this amazing discussion about fear, faith and worry Jesus throws out information that should make you laugh with amazement that God cares so much about you. But he does. He cares about everything to do with us, so don’t worry. Don’t be afraid. The God who knows how many hairs you have on your pretty little head can take care of all the rest as well. The right response for us? Faith, trust, and a smile of amazement at such a wonderful God.