Saturday, December 31, 2011

End of year thoughts and reflections

Another year is past. They are moving quickly now. I have officially seen 61 of them and I'm still amazed at the opportunity to walk with God in his creation. Here are a few staccato thoughts on the year that has passed,

- It's been a difficult year for changes in our lives. A lot of losses, not many gains. Some years are like that. We always hope for better days ahead.....eternal optimists, aren't we?

- I think this year I have begun to mellow a little bit. I seem to be able to slow down my pace of life and relax a little more. It may be age, but I hope it's wisdom.

- This year I have lost several really good friends, they have gone on ahead of me to glory. I miss them. I know that the reality of life is that more and more of those you know will depart before you do. Today I'm thinking about faces I have lost this year that I will greatly miss.

- I am blessed. More than I can even describe in words I am blessed. I don't have a big house or new car or much in the bank, but I feel more blessed than I can describe. Thanks Lord.

- It's the end of the year, time to make resolutions. I only have one- eat right. My goal in the new year is to lose a few pounds and eat better.

- At the end of each year I read the book of Ecclesiastes. Today is the day. It's a great book to read at the end of a year, but you have to read it in one sitting. It makes a big difference in your view of things as the new year arrives.

- Regrets? A lot. My list of "I wish I would have..." is long. Sorry about that.

- Hopes? I hope to walk with God in a way that pleases him. I have no idea where or what that will look like, but I hope and pray I can do that in the new year.

- Plans? Africa in April. I will try to stop in Israel on the way back, still working on that. Never been there, need to try to stop since I will be flying over.

I hope you all have a wonderful 2012. Live well, live for God, enjoy your year.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Our greatest blessings and annoyances deal with the same thing- people. We all must have others in our lives to thrive and do well. We all desperately need others in our lives for us to be mentally and physically healthy. It's a strange thing, but the very thing that is necessary for us to be healthy can also make us sick.

People around us are the greatest source of pain, hurt and resentment in our lives at one moment while in the next they are our richest blessing, joy and encouragement. Life is a messy thing because of people. But in the same breath let me say that life is a wonderful thing because of people.

Strange, isn't it, but those who bring us our greatest joy can also cause our deepest pain. That's why, when Jesus came with the message of the kingdom, he admonished us to focus on two things- 1. love one another, and 2. forgive one another. The truth is that both of these are vital parts of a healthy life. We must decide to intentionally love and forgive those around us. You will have needy people in your them. You will have mean people in your life....forgive them. Whatever the relationship, whatever the problem there are two admonitions that will solve and salve all of our relationships- love and forgiveness.

I'm thinking about this because I will be teaching on this on Sunday. It's the perfect start for the new year. It's the simple reflection of how Jesus lived out his life as the perfect man. As you watch Jesus encounter people he exercised these two "muscles" more than any other, he loved and forgave. It's the very nature of God as it encounters broken and fallen people.

People are messy. We all have our hurts, wounds, baggage and struggles in tow as we encounter each other. We all have our guards up from previous hurts. We all have our ears tuned to listen for offense. We are messy. The cure for all of the messy people you will encounter is love and forgiveness. I see this lived out best in those who have been wounded the most deeply. Until we have dealt with the wounds and scars inflicted on us by others we won't be able to love and forgive as God desires. It is, without question, a thing we can only do with God's help.

As I write this I'm thinking of someone who has forgiven great wrongs done to her. She was wounded by someone who should have taken care of her, protected her and kept her safe. Her response? She forgave. The greatest benefactor of her forgiveness is her. She is loving and forgiving to everyone because she took her deep wounds to God and forgave. It's made her a loving and forgiving person to everyone who comes with their own wounds. Now others are drawn to her and ask how she did it.

Love and forgiveness. Both are only done as we allow God to work through us. The greatest miracles of your life will come as you love and forgive. The greatest changes in lives around you will come because you love and forgive. These two things are the very heart of God, the very things we love about Jesus, the very things the world most needs, the two things those we encounter most need from us.

Annoying your enemy

Always forgive your enemies....nothing annoys them so much.
-Oscar Wilde

Monday, December 26, 2011


To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.
-Louis B. Smedes

Thursday, December 22, 2011

For us

Christmas is God's great gift to us. The very thing we most needed, the best gift ever given, the highest price ever paid, given in a most unexpected way, grand enough for everyone to share, all done with the best planning ever conceived, wrapped with love...just for us.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas thoughts

This year, to be honest, my hearts not into Christmas. I'm not excited about it. In fact I'm feeling rather a Scrooge about the whole thing. I could easily go into a monologue about consumerism and how crazy it is to spend money for gifts while we lose sight of the real meaning of the season, but that whole discussion has been done to death.

This year I'm simply trying to focus on my walk with God in a busy time when God is so easily forgotten. Honestly I think my relationship with God, whatever that means, has suffered a bit in recent weeks. I could blame a number of things, but at the core of it all is me. I'm the problem. I'm not sure why, but I know it's one of the normal cycles of a walk with God. It's just the wrong time of the year for one of these down times to happen.....

Anyway, with Christmas only a few days away, I survey my living room covered with toys and grandkids playing, having fun, enjoying the day and we have yet to open gifts! They don't need another thing and yet more will come in just a few days. Why do we do this? Will we answer for this crazy excess? I wonder. Yes, Scrooge is at work and I'm him. Sorry, I'm working on it, but for now I am just not into this season of the year.

Christmas is supposed to be a time to remember what God has given. Do we ever do that? Do we realize what he has done? Do we talk about it with our kids? This year we will give our grandkids chickens....chickens that will show up in India for a family in need. I would like to make it even more, maybe goats or cows next year......I would love to make our Christmas about those who have nothing. Now that would be a wonderful Christmas!

As I read the Facebook posts I see wives writing about cooking, decorating, buying gifts, tired, frazzled and worn out. Why are we doing this? Yes, Scrooge is alive and well, but in part I'm tired of this gluttonous consumerism in a country that has too much already. Ok, I'm done. I feel better already. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Merry Christmas!

A friend of mine, as requested by his wife, put up Christmas lights. I love the results! Merry Christmas, Chris. I hope you survive the holidays!

Why Christmas?

Why Christmas?

Why would God accomplish his redemption plan in this way?

Why come as a baby, as a human and live among us?

Why did God choose this way to redeem mankind?

Luke 3 describes the arrival of Jesus in this way, quoting Isaiah,

“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
Clear the road for him!
5 The valleys will be filled,
and the mountains and hills made level.
The curves will be straightened,
and the rough places made smooth.
6 And then all people will see
the salvation sent from God.’”

"The salvation sent from God." What an interesting way of describing this baby. We usually focus on a baby, gifts, wise men, angels and shepherds, but behind it all was a plan devised before creation to save mankind. A plan devised before the problem arose. Even knowing what would happen God created with a plan already in place to fix the problem of sin that would arise. It's more than my little head can absorb. A plan to fix a problem that didn't exist yet? Only God could do such a thing. Christmas is the revelation of God's great redemption plan from eternity past to save mankind.

Isaiah also wrote these words,

6 For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 His government and its peace
will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice
from the throne of his ancestor David
for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
will make this happen!

To us....even as the prophet describes the coming of this baby he's clear to tell us the purpose, the's US! All this was done for us. Christmas is about God's great plan from eternity past to provide life to the man he created. I'm so glad that this celebration we call Christmas is all about God's great redemptive plan.

This is the time of year when we see how much God loves us.

Quote of the day

So long as we imagine
it is we who have to look for God,
we must often lose heart.
But it is the other way about -
He is looking for us.

-Simon Tugwell

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Knowing Jesus

Philippians describes Paul's greatest desire- the desire to know Christ Jesus. In chapter 3 Paul writes about the contrast between knowing Jesus and everything else. In the scales of this contrast "everything else" looks like dung (KJV) in contrast with knowing Jesus. What a contrast that is!

And yet (may I say it as Paul would have?) in our culture today we seem to be in a mad rush to collect all the dung we can! Please forgive me if the language is offensive, but I'm trying to use the imagery that Paul used in Philippians. On the one hand is the quest to know Christ.

In contrast is the quest for the things of the world- cars, houses, money, power, fame, comfort....the stuff Paul describes as dung. With a contrast that dramatic it would seem that we would all be on the quest to know Christ and not the foolish quest to be the best dung collectors.

And yet, it seems we have our values all messed up. I think I see it more clearly where I live than some of you might because we are in a very affluent part of the world. Nice homes, fancy cars, expensive stuff is all around and it is the quest of those I rub shoulders with every day. Imagine if I asked one of them, "So, how is the dung collecting going?" I'm sure I would see a frown, a dirty look and maybe a few words, but when compared to what is truly valuable....knowing Christ....all the stuff we chase seems rather worthless.

Knowing Christ or collecting dung? Let's see....I think Paul makes my choice obvious and yet, like everyone around me as we approach Christmas I find my focus on the stuff...the things. Lord, help me see clearly that the most precious prize is knowing you. Give me such a passion for you that everything else looks to me, as it did for Paul, like smelly worthless trash in contrast.

Knowing Jesus Christ....the ultimate prize, the best gift, the highest quest. Knowing Christ or collecting dung? Knowing Christ will last forever, in contrast all the stuff we chase after will rust, rot or burn up in just a few years. The choice is clear. I pray I never lose sight of the contrast between the two or the passion to know Jesus above all else.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thoughts on a life

updated 12/16/2011 7:31:06 AM ET

"Cancer weakened, but did not soften Christopher Hitchens. He did not repent or forgive or ask for pity. As if granted diplomatic immunity, his mind's eye looked plainly upon the attack and counterattack of disease and treatments that robbed him of his hair, his stamina, his speaking voice and eventually his life."

Personally I'm saddened to hear about Christopher's death. He was a brilliant man. One man wrote of him,

"Christopher Hitchens was everything a great essayist should be: infuriating, brilliant, highly provocative and yet intensely serious," said Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. "I worked as an intern for him years ago. My job was to fact-check his articles. Since he had a photographic memory and an encyclopedic mind, it was the easiest job I've ever done."

I'm sure you're thinking, why is a Christian Pastor writing about the death of a passionate atheist? I'm saddened by his death because I cared about him as a human being. I'm writing about him because I feel a real loss at his passing.

I know he swore he would never convert or repent, even as he anticipated his terminal illness, and he didn't. He died holding to his convictions.

I'm saddened by his death because of my personal view of life, death and eternity. There is no joy in the death of someone who did not believe in God, only grief. His death is a loss of a brilliant man who now faces eternity.

My personal view of life, death and eternity makes this a real tragedy to me. I know my atheist friends want no sympathy, but I can't help it. I believe something about eternity that makes this a sad day as I remember a man God made.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Little things

It doesn't take much to do something significant.

Often it's the little things that mean the most.

This evening Joye and I bought two baby chickens for each of our grandchildren. You might think this is a cute idea, but our grand kids will never see these chicks. We bought them for families in India through Gospel for Asia's ministry.

We will give the grand kids a card telling them that one of their gifts was given to a family in need on the other side of the world. It's a small thing, but I hope it teaches them that even small things like this make a difference.

Quote of the day

What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner. ~Colette

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Good people

I am out for coffee most mornings with different men in our church family. I love the encounters that happen in public eating places. The events of a coffee and the buzz around me is invigorating.

This morning, as I sat at coffee waiting for one of our men I couldn't help overhearing (yes I listened in) a man at the next table say to his breakfast partner, "I'm a good person...."

There was more to his statement, but this one sentence caught my imagination. I'm sure this guy really is a nice person, trying to be good, but I wondered and wished I could ask him, so what does it mean to you to be a good person and why does it matter? What is the purpose of being good? Why did he need to say that to his friend this morning?

I wonder about these things because his statement made me immediately think about a young man who came to Jesus and basically said the same thing, "I'm a good person, what else do I need?" Jesus' response probably stunned him when he replied, "No one is good but God alone." From that came an encounter that left this young man depressed.

Why do we want to be good? What's is our purpose in "being good?" Who are we trying to impress? Are we just trying to be accepted by others or do we think there is some merit in our goodness? I wonder how we measure our goodness. Compared to Hitler we are all pretty good! What or who was my breakfast friend comparing his goodness to? What was his measuring stick? Why does he want to be good?

I wonder about these things because I really have no illusions of being a good person. It's funny that a pastor like me would say such a thing, but it comes from a perspective of really knowing my own heart and knowing my potential for evil. There is nothing I couldn't do under the right circumstances. I have no illusions of goodness as far as I'm concerned. I know my heart and nothing good resides there so I have to find my acceptance somewhere else. I have to find it in someone else. That's the very reason I'm a Christian! Knowing that I'm not good and can't be good I am depending on someone else to be good for me, to accomplish what I can't.

You will never hear me saying, "I'm a good person." I'm not! Only in Jesus Christ do I find a goodness that puts me right with God. On my own I have no inherent goodness to offer to God. I'm so glad Jesus made my acceptance before God possible because in me is no good thing! So, from a brief comment this morning at a table near mine, I'm most grateful for what Jesus has done for me to make me acceptable to God. Praise be to God for his indescribable gift!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Blurred vision

"We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!"

These words are from Paul's pen in 1 Corinthians 13. He's writing to describe our vision problem. You see we all see poorly when it comes to the things of God and the reality of what is going on around us. We all find ourselves near-sighted. The things of God and the truths about our world are fuzzy at best. With our vision problems we often can only see shadows and shapes.

There is a desire to see clearly, but our vision problems will only be resolved at last when we see the Lord face to face. In the meantime we have to use glasses. We have to have help to see. In our world we all know what glasses look like. They are used to correct our vision problems.

In spiritual things most of us have no idea what "spiritual glasses" look like. The fact is that without them none of us can see clearly. The "spiritual glasses" we need to see well is God's word, the bible. This is the correction for our near-sighted vision. God's word is meant to give us clear vision about the things of life, reality, relationship and the future. Only his word can give us 20/20 vision.

Many continue to deny they need glasses as they look at shapes and shadows describing them in this way, "It looks like...", "It could be...." and with great and grand words and a knowing tone they wax eloquent on things they can only see dimly, things that are at best fuzzy.

What's sad to me is that many Christians believe the near-sighted men of the world rather than wear the glasses of God's word. They trust those can only guess instead of looking clearly through the lens of God's word to see what really is. Jesus once healed a man of blindness who said, "I see men, but they look like trees." Jesus once more touched him until he could see clearly. God wants us to see clearly and that vision correction only comes through his word.

We are all near-sighted. We all live with blurred vision. We all need glasses to see clearly. The only glasses that will ever give us clarity to see the way things really are is God's word. When you can't see clearly go to the bible and you will find you suddenly have 20/20 vision.

Quote of the day

"If you are looking to your obedience for blessing or approval, then you are still under the law. It is not your faithfulness or obedience that blesses you, it is HIS! Stop trying so hard to obey and be good, receive by faith what Jesus did for you and you will obey better on accident than you ever could on purpose. It is His righteousness that makes you right with God, not yours. He did it all so you wouldn't have to."

-from my friend Amy (quoted from a youth pastor she knows)

Sunday, December 11, 2011


It's Sunday morning. The sun has risen. No one is surprised. Just like every other morning in every generation since creation the sun has risen. We are used to it. It's pretty much expected by us, isn't it? In fact, every morning of my life the sun has risen. I'm used to it, comfortable with it.....frankly I know it will rise.

Why? Because a faithful God is showing us every morning his faithful nature by giving us the light of day. It's a constant reminder that God is the same as he has always been, faithful to care for us, able to do so and loving. So, this morning, as I see the first glimmer of light over the horizon I'm thankful for God's care, his love, his provision and his power to accomplish good things for us. Good morning, Lord. Thanks for the sun today.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


I just started reading the book of Job again. What an amazing book!

There are insights into heaven that I don't understand.

There is dialogue between God and Satan that puzzles me.

There are friends who visit Job and don't understand God and his ways any better than we do.

But the focus of the book is a man and his response to God.

After disaster struck Job and he had lost everything here are his words to his wife,

"Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

I wonder, as I read his words, what he was thinking. Grief was there I'm sure. Confusion about God's ways is there without question. Sadness. Loneliness. Fear. A hundred different emotions and thoughts I can only imagine, but from his mouth comes a trust in God in spite of his lack of information.

Often it's simply knowing that God is good in the midst of confusion about our circumstances. If God loves me. If God is good. If I can trust him then my circumstances do not change my commentary on God.

Even in the midst of not knowing "why" Job knew he could trust God and from his mouth came a trust that didn't need all the answers. Could it be that knowing God is more important than knowing why?

Friday, December 09, 2011

Sharing your faith in a techy world

God in nature

Fearful little creatures

Psalm 57:3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?

"When I am afraid...." These words were written by one of the most fearsome, brave warriors of his day, David. He was a fearless! He was king. He was no coward and yet fear was a problem he had to deal with in his life.....just as we do in ours. We are such fearful little creatures on a tiny planet in a vast Universe. Make some noise and fear rises in our hearts. Tell us there is crisis in the marketplace and panic ensues. Like David we all deal with fear. We all know the world around us is not in our control. We all live with imminent fear in our lives. How do we respond? What do we do when fear rises in our hearts?

"I put my trust in you." The solution to the fears we experience is someone, something big enough to calm them. Someone able to resolve them. David said that his first response to fear was to trust in God. We all run to something when fear rises in our hearts, what is it? Do we run to the bank account? Is our first response a call to a loved one? Is our trust in the government? Our job? Our family? When fear rises we need someone, something able to resolve that fear, calm our anxiety. David trusted in God. Who or what do you trust?

"In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?" There is one last thing about dealing with fear that is important- you have to know that the one you trust to resolve it is really able to help. David, after many experiences with fear, had found that God was trustworthy, able to calm his fears, able to solve his problems. He knew his solution for fear was someone....God himself. What can man do to you when the creator of the universe is your helper? What do you have to fear when God is your refuge?

As one of the fearful little creatures on this tiny little planet I'm so glad I have a big God who can calm my anxious heart and deal with my fearful mind.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

From our vantage point

Photo by Mike Messerli

Psalm 48:14
For this God is our God
for ever and ever;
he will be our guide
even to the end.

I've been reading the news in recent days with revelations of new discoveries of other planets, black holes, and new galaxies. As we look out into space we see a Universe that is constantly amazing us. It's that Universe that should put us in awe of the God who made it. From our little vantage point the Universe is larger, more amazing and dynamic than we ever imagined. From our vantage point we seem to be the only ones looking at God's great work, and yet from our vantage point many declare there is no one who made this amazing Universe with its billions of galaxies. From our vantage point the God who made it all proclaims "I'm here. I've always been here. I'll guide you to the end of time."

Psalm 19: 1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Sunday, December 04, 2011


Psalm 42: 1 As the deer longs for streams of water,
so I long for you, O God.
2 I thirst for God, the living God.

Have you ever been thirsty? I mean really thirsty...your mouth dry, lips parched, your tongue clinging to the roof of your mouth. If you have ever been that thirsty you long for just a sip of water.'s how we describe a need for something that is vital to life. We cannot live without water. If we went without it for even a few days our health would diminish quickly. We must have water to live.

David wrote of another kind of thirst. He wrote in this Psalm of a thirst for God. A craving for that relationship, that presence that could only be equated to a thirsty deer in the wilderness looking for water. We all have this thirst, this need for God, but many try to quench their thirst with other things.

Like water to the body, God is the only thing that will really meet our thirst's need. Around me I watch a world looking for relief from their thirst in other ways, but the only one, the only water for the soul is God himself. Those who look for relief from other sources will never quench their thirst, they simply sate their thirst for a moment with things that don't satisfy.

I feel that thirst in my life. I so want some "face time" with God, I so want to satisfy my thirsty soul with his presence. It's his face I need to seek, it's his presence in my life that will quench my thirsty soul. Like David, I thirst for God. Lord, would you quench my thirsty?

Thursday, December 01, 2011


It's one of those very busy weeks in which I'm starting at 5am and going till 9pm. It's been hard this week to find a few moments to sit and just dream, write and think about what God is doing in my life. It happens. So today I have nothing to share but this great photo. I don't even have a caption for it....just thought you would like it. I'll be back as soon as I can wrestle my busy life to the ground!