Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Early this morning I met with one of our guys. We were talking about priorities, what's important, how to use our days. It was a great visit, but what was clear was his frustration with simply not having enough time for all the things we discussed. He didn't say so, but I could tell I was frustrating him and he was kind enough to smile and nod as I spoke of using our time well for the important things.

What I know, having been in the business world myself, is the reality that we simply don't have enough time! Life is simply insane! We acknowledge the need to read God's word, to pray, to spend time with family, but how do we fit it all in? We can't, and sadly we don't.

After my friend left the man at the next table turned to me and asked, "You're a pastor, aren't you? I was listening to your visit and......."

He then proceeded to talked about how busy his life is, how hard it is to do the things I was talking about. I didn't realize I was speaking to two men, but I was. I told him I understood, having been in his world for many years. He admitted that it's hard to fit it all in and I know that is a reality.

I think the best victory of our enemy is to keep us so busy that we have no time for the truly important things.

Paul wrote these words, that fit best in the world we live in today, "make the most of your time, because the days are evil" Ephesians 5:16

The days dictate a different approach to time, a different way of dealing with a clock spinning so fast that we feel out of control. How do we slow this thing down? How do we recapture our lives, our time? We all have to work, but in those moments that are ours how do we live, how do we use the seconds that we claim as our own and use them well?

It demands clarity about what is most important to us. What do we want to invest our lives in? In twenty years will you be glad to say, "I am so glad I spent those hours watching The Bachelor." It demands we decide what's important to us and act like it!

I'm a chronic couch potato. When I get home from the day all I want is my chair, some ice tea and some time to do nothing, but is that how I want to be remembered? I think my grand kids will remember me best in my recliner. Without thinking I've used my moments and communicated what's important to me. In the warp speed days we live in, at least for me, I think I need to be more intentional about how I use my moments. Might I invite you to join me in this different look at our use of time in these last days?

Monday, January 30, 2012


This afternoon I was online with a pastor friend in Uganda. He's preparing for a 40 day fast and time of prayer for their ministry there.

I am humbled by his commitment to this kind of prayer and pursuit of God. I have never done such a thing and am more than a little impressed by my friend's upcoming fast. Oh, and did I tell you he does it every year?


Waiting. It's one of the hardest things we do. Waiting for answers, waiting for the phone to ring, waiting for someone to arrive. Waiting is loaded with expectations and anticipations. We are waiting for something, someone and things will change when the waiting is over.

Waiting is a pause in our lives, as if the picture is frozen on the screen and we wait for someone to once more push the play button. Waiting is hard.

Waiting involves the passing of time as we anticipate the thing, the one we wait for. Anticipation. Expectation. Frustration at times are all part of this thing called waiting. As I read Psalm 37 this morning, one of my favorite Psalms, it's clear that God invites us to wait....to wait for Him. Several times in this chapter the invitation is given to wait for the Lord. There are good reasons for this. We conclude God is late, has gotten busy somewhere else, has forgotten us, but the truth is that we have simply missed God's ways and timing and so we find we wait for the one who is never late.

"Wait for the Lord and keep his way" David writes. In this short phrase are the instructions for those of us waiting, while you wait walk with God until he arrives. The truth is he is always with us, never leaves us, but waiting involves a patience with God's timing, God's plans, God's ways. It involves my choices to walk well while I wait.

"But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land." There is a reward for waiting. The reward is God's business, but the waiting is ours.

There is a reason for the waiting. We may not always know what that is, but wait we must and trust God to work while we wait.

There is a rest in waiting. It means I have someone I'm trusting for what's ahead and I dare not proceed until he arrives. It's an awareness that I must not walk alone the road ahead, but wait for God to walk with me, to lead me and guide me.

There is a peace in waiting. It's the realization that I wait for one who will accomplish all I wait for. The God who made heaven and earth asks me to wait for him. Why wouldn't I? How would I dare proceed without him? Waiting for God is the most logical decision of all!

What are you waiting for? Direction? Answers to prayer? A job? Healing? Peace? God's response to your waiting? "Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret...." In other words, don't worry. God's coming. He will sort it all out for you. Rest in him, relax, don't worry, he's coming....he's never late.

Wait for the Lord.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Part of the plan

I just read Exodus 3, the call of Moses to free Israel from Egypt, and it is fascinating to see how God orchestrates the events of our lives to accomplish his work. Moses had no plans to ever see Egypt or his people again, but a burning bush, the voice of God and a plan he knew nothing about changed everything. I still have a lot of questions as I read this passage, a lot of thoughts about this partnership with the God of the universe, but all through the bible I see it...God working in and through men to accomplish his plan. For those in the middle of the process they can only see what is happening right now, but as it unfolds there are a series of "Ah-ha moments" as we see God work. I think I'm seeing a few of those things now. It's very exciting to be part of the plan of God on planet earth.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Quote of the day

I just this morning reread The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis. I've read it several times and continue to work through his thoughts. As I read his words I realize, if I'd ever had a chance to visit with him, I would have sat speechless as I listened to this amazing thinker. I'm grateful for men like Lewis, but also quite humbled by his brilliance. So, today, from C.S. Lewis comes the quote of the day,

"Man's final conquest has proved to be the abolition of Man."

Thursday, January 26, 2012


I'm half way through the biography of Brennan Manning. It's a delightful and sad work all at the same time. He is honest to the point of pain as he describes his life.

As I read his story I began to think about my story, my life. I will probably never write a biography, it would be far too boring, but I began to think about my walk with God, my own odyssey, and wondering about a word, a thought to describe it.

Like everyone I know it has been an odyssey with unknown destinations.

I never dreamed I would....

I didn't plan to.....

Life is a series of surprises we never planned for. Places we never dreamed we would be, jobs we never wanted to do, lives we never expected. As we look back on our lives, as I reflect on mine, I see a wandering odyssey mostly taken without a plan, purpose or destination. Planning for this, but doing that. Hoping to be here, but ending up there. Wanting to marry one, but falling in love with another. How can we know the course of our lives, how can we plan our lives when we have no idea what will unfold tomorrow or even this afternoon?

Life isn't lived with destinations in mind. It's lived with moments to experience. Right now I can choose this, do that, go here and from that moment other moments happen. Where will we end up? How will it all unfold? Honestly, only God knows. Will I be famous, successful, happy, fulfilled, rewarded, content? Add in a hundred other things we search for and the answer to each is simply this, "I don't know." All of that sounds rather depressing, doesn't it?

As I read Brennan's biography I see a series of decisions that, for him, end in a series of regrets. And yet, in the regrets of our choices we see the amazing grace of God working on our behalf. There are choices to make, that's clear, but the results of those choices are not always clear to us in the moment. All we can see right now is the moment. For me this all comes down to a simple idea that I think describes my own odyssey- wandering.

For that reason I'm so glad for this simply little verse in Proverbs. Without these thoughts to set it up you might read over it, but knowing this truth makes my wanderings bearable.

Proverbs 20:24
A person’s steps are directed by the LORD.
How then can anyone understand their own way?

So, as I wander, as we each wander through the twists and turns of life and choices, know that God is directing our destinations. You won't figure it all out, simply trust him to get you where he wants you to be. That's a great comfort to those of us who sometimes feel like we are just out wandering around.....

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rejoice in the Lord always....

Heavy rains today in Texas. We woke up to a garage full of water! I hate when it floods.....so the sump pump is working, check. Mike is all wet, check. Rejoicing anyway, check. God is good even when things don't work out, check.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Knowing God

Knowing God. Where do I start? Honestly I feel inadequate to even talk about this topic, but it's the focus of my attention right now, so I will do my best to dig up a bit of the riches of this idea of knowing the creator and God of the universe.

When I see the world around me it's clear that knowing God is not the quest of most of the human race. Yes, we want to be saved, go to heaven, be forgiven, but to know God is not on our list, not on our bucket list. Most Christians can tell you about God, but it's not from firsthand experience, it comes from a Sunday School class, a sermon or time with other Christians in bible study. To personally know God is the highest goal of the Christian faith and yet it's rarely the focus of most Christians I know.

The reason I'm thinking about this is because I am working my way through Ezekiel. Ezekiel is a prophet in captivity in Babylon. As he writes and speaks the words of God one theme repeats itself over and over again....it's this- "Then they will know that I am the Lord." More than 63 times in the pages of his book God's goal is that his people would know him. It's the goal of God from Eden on....that his man would be in intimate relationship with him. God wants us to know him. That's the number one thing, it's God's #1 goal for us- to know Him.

John writes these words from Jesus as he teaches his disciples for the last time, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, ad Jesus Christ whom You have sent." Did you see that? What is eternal life? Knowing God! That's God's goal. Is it mine? I want to want to, but I don't even know how, where to start, how to know this awesome God who made me. Since it's God's #1 desire for me it must be mine as well. To know God....where do I start? How do I begin?

Over the years I've found that my walk with God, my knowing of him comes from hanging out with Jesus in the gospels. Each day, as I spend time in His word, I read something from the gospels. It's there I most clearly discover what God is like, how he thinks, and so I hang out with Jesus. I walk with him, watch him, listen to him and in that fellowship with him and the disciples I get to know the God who wants me to know him. In Jesus I see the face of God. In being with him I experience the very heart of God...because Jesus IS GOD!

And so, I pray, as Paul prayed in Ephesians 3, "When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God."

Knowing God. It's God's desire for us. Is it #1 on your list?

Lord, I want to know you. I know you want me to know you. Show me how to know you, to really know you. Give me a hunger, a passion to know you. Reveal yourself to me, help me to know your heart, your thoughts about me and transform me because of those encounters with you. Make me like you because of my time with you. Let others see you in my life and desire to know the one I know because they see you in me. Lord, I want to know you.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Eyes on eternity

Frankly, we all need glasses. Most of the people I know are badly near-sighted. Our vision is only able to focus on "here" and "now". Our decisions and desires are all based on this life....taking care of retirement, saving for "the future" and making decisions to "make me happy." Our vision is on an amazingly small part of eternity we call "my life." Everything we do, every decision we make and even how we spend our time is based on our near-sighted focus on "my life" and "now."
In the grand scheme of things, to be honest, "your life" is not even an event on the timeline of eternity. But, because our vision is so limited, we only see "now" and fail to focus on some amazing things that are important to our lives. Here's a short list of the important things that are blurry to our vision as a near-sighted race:
1. God. Our vision of him is blurry because we rarely squint our eyes to try to focus on him. It's hard for us to get this most amazing God in focus and so for most of us our vision is quite blurry about who he is, what he's like, what he thinks about me. Not having God clearly in focus will make it hard for me to focus on everything else beyond my near-sighted world. It will make it hard for me to see my life and my situations clearly as well because if I can't get God in focus then I won't be able to see clearly what he's doing in my life.
2. Eternity. One of the things we have trouble with is eternity. It's just so....eternal! Forever and ever and, well, you know where I'm going with that. Imagine we roll out a piece of paper that would go from coast to coast, 3,000 miles long in all, and we use this chart to try to get a glimpse of eternity. Let's begin in California to mark our chart in 1 inch increments. Here's our legend- 1 inch=1,000 years. Basically each inch will break down to 10 lifetimes. Your whole lifespan would be one of the 1/16 inch marks on the chart. Each mile would basically cover a million years. Here's how amazing this is....if we start at the water's edge in California and walk 30 feet we have covered the entire 6,000 years of recorded history that we see in the bible. 30 feet, did you get that? Now, as we move across the country, a million years per mile, we cover a period of 3,000,000,000 in our imagined timeline. Only 30 feet of it was man's recorded history, and only 1/16th of an inch was your life. Here is the amazing thing- That whole timeline we drew as we crossed the country is only a small dot on the timeline of eternity. It's amazing how big this is. I think that's why it's so blurry to our vision. We simply can't imagine it.
3. Here's the part of this that must come into focus for us- what we do with Christ in this life will determine our eternal destiny. We have this "1/16th of an inch" of life to make decisions about him and those decisions will determine our eternity ahead. The very reason Jesus became a man was to provide a solution for our eternal problem. He said, "God loves you so much that he sent me to die for your sins. If you will believe in me I will give you eternal life." The implication is clear- if you don't beleive in him (trust him for salvation) then you have what every man has apart from faith in Christ- eternal death. It is the most important thing we could possibly do with our lives, the most important decision we will ever make and yet our focus is on "now" and "happiness" and "my needs." Sadly, the enemy of our souls has done an amazing work to keep our vision on the NOW to the eternal loss of many.
I know, in my own life, I live most of my days with the distant horizon out of focus, but I'm praying for a vision for eternity, eyes that look into the days ahead and make decisions today because they will affect me for billions of years to come. I so wish we had our eyes clearly focused on eternity. I'm praying for eyes to see, so that I can make decisions for eternity and not just for today. I'm praying the same thing for you as you read my thoughts. Eternity awaits, your decisions today are important.....

Thoughts on the day

I'm up early this morning, much to do today....a bible study to attend, a memorial service to do, a book to read, and I have to help Joye with Christmas clean-up. Yes, the tree is still up. I told her to just leave it up, Christmas is only a few months away, but that didn't work, so that's on the list too. But really, it's just a normal Saturday, like so many, and like everyone else I fill it up with things to do. Early this morning I read through a few blogs and checked Facebook just to see what's going on. Checking on new babies arriving, problems people are having, friends who have died. It never stops, does it? Life is busy! I read a post this morning from a friend who has a chance to step away from the craziness of the days to look at what he wants to do next. I pray he will find God's best for his next years and walk with God. He's an amazing guy and I can't wait to see what God does with him. I'm also thinking about a class I have to teach in a few weeks. I'm going to do an apologetics class and am really looking forward to it, but there's a lot of prep to do. And just ahead is a trip to Kenya. 50 pastors to teach and a team to prepare. I think I thrive on "crazy" and look for it if I don't have it. Maybe it's the sense of feeling worth in activity, not sure about that, but it feels good to be overwhelmed. Don't tell anyone I said that....ok? All right, on to the next thing. I don't even have time to put this in paragraphs, just wanted to get it all on "paper." Have a great Saturday.

Saturday's cartoon

Some days it takes more than one cup to get the engine going. This is one of those days!

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Media has made these strange days indeed!

Now, more than ever, world-wide fame is possible for a select few in our cultures. For the most part 6 billion of us will live our lives out of the public eye, but a few are known well by everyone. See if you know these faces and then let's talk...

Did you recognize them? Pretty easy, wasn't it? Here's the interesting thing about fame- it's fleeting, it doesn't last, in just moments we are forgotten and the mass of humanity continues on down the timeline of history. Soon the famous are only remembered in history books or are simply forgotten completely. Fame doesn't last.

And yet, in spite of that reality here on planet earth there will be a day when those around us unknown to a watching world will be celebrated for their lives and their walk with God. Fame is uncertain, but God doesn't forget. God rewards, he celebrates the unknown ones and crowns them with glory.

You may not be famous to the world, but God knows who you are. Fame here is short-lived, but being known by the God of creation is eternally rewarding. As I write this I think of Jeremiah's words to Baruch, his scribe, as he said to him, "Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them." The truly famous people around you may be completely unknown to the media of this world, but their fame will be known to all one day. Are you seeking great things for yourself? Don't bother, let God sort it all out. He will promote you, he will make you truly famous in a way that will last beyond the next 15 minutes.

Thought for the day.....

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Living in a foreign land

This morning, as I drove to the coffee shop, I heard one of my favorite bible teachers say,

"Christianity is now and always has been countercultural."

Somehow we think that we can reconcile our faith with our culture, but it was never meant to be so. It can't be done. These are two different worlds, two different systems, two different kingdoms with different rules and rulers.

The kingdom of God is a kingdom of life and the rule of a good God in and through his people.

Then, all around us, is the kingdom of this world, a kingdom of death and the rule of horrible cruel king, Satan.

Two entirely different systems, two different kingdoms with entirely different goals.

We live in the kingdom ruled by a cruel king, even as we serve and are subject to a different king, a different ruler.

How can we think we can reconcile these two kingdoms and make them compatible?

How could these two systems ever reconcile? They can't!

One, a kingdom of life and the rule of a good king.

The other a kingdom of death and a tyrant as ruler.

How did we ever think that we could make these two worlds co-exist? They won't!

Many still try to create and impose on the culture this idea of a Christian nation. There is no such thing! This quest for a Christian nation has focused our attention on the wrong things. We can never achieve it because we aren't supposed to! We are called to share the good news of Jesus Christ with people, one by one, and as they trust Christ you find a community of people ruled by a different king, part of a different kingdom, but we will never take over the kingdom of this world, not now, not as we envision. It's not our job!

The king who will take over one day will come and rule in his time, but it will not be by our efforts or by our best attempts to take this world system by force. It simply won't happen, it isn't what we were called to do!

So here we are, citizens of a different kingdom trying to live in a foreign land. How do we do it? How do we live with this reality that we, as Christians, are countercultural and always will be?

None of us like not fitting in, but if you are a Christian you simply don't fit in with this world system and aren't supposed to. Being a citizen of a different king makes us foreigners in our country of birth, but it's a reality we must be aware of. If you are a Christ follower you will never fit into the culture around you....unless you abandon the very king you have claimed and surrender to the one who rules here.

It's quite challenging living in a foreign land, isn't it?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Lessons remembered

More than 40 years ago I had an encounter with one of my professors in university that has impacted me more than anything he said in the classroom. It's funny, but I spent hundreds of hours in his classes, loved him as a teacher and believer, but remember only one thing he ever said. Here it is,

"Every morning when I dress I struggle with Jesus' words, "if you have two coats and see someone in need...." I have two coats and am still not sure what to do about it." -Andrew C. Bowling

There it is. A heartfelt struggle with the basics of the Christian faith. He had a PHD and was teaching bible at a Christian school, but still struggled with the nuances of the faith in an honest and real way. I never forgot those words, they have been part of my thinking, a worm weaving through my brain for decades.

Last night I remembered his words when I got a call from a man in our church who asked, "Could I borrow $20.00. I need some food....." And I thought (thanks Dr. Bowling) "I have $20.00 extra." So I went to meet him and gave him $40.00. I'm not saying that to brag, I'm saying that because it's important. If we never wrestle with the real issues of the faith how will anyone ever know we are living out what we believe?

Do you struggle with the words of Jesus? Are you trying to figure out how to live them out? I hope so. I hope, like my old prof, Dr. Bowling, you are looking for ways to live out the faith you claim. People will never forget what you say and what you do as you imitate Christ in the real world.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

It's this simple


There is a strange thing that happens to all of us. It's something we were never meant to feel, an emotion, a feeling that we were never meant to know and yet we all have felt it. We have all had an overwhelming feeling of being alone.

Alone. It's a terrible feeling, a sense of abandonment, rejection, isolation. Alone is a place we all dread and avoid with noise, busy lives and activity, but alone is there. It's the great fear of every man, every woman, the fear that we will be alone.

It was never meant to be this way. God didn't design us to be alone. It was never an experience of Adam until sin came and then a sense of "alone" came. It's part of sin. We were designed to forever be in fellowship with God. We were designed to constantly sense and be in community with him, but when sin came along with it came "alone."

Jesus came to take care of our sin problem, but he came to do so much more. He came to resolve my aloneness, my isolation, my emptiness. He came to provide a way for us to once more be in constant fellowship with the one who made us. Jesus said, as he anticipated his disciples abandonment, "Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me."

And now that is our solution as well. Now we, the very ones who dreaded being left alone, can have that ever present Father with us, in us, abiding, living with us every moment. Now, in Christ, one of my fearsome problems, the problem of "alone", is solved by the ever present Lord of heaven living in me, with me, and I will never be alone again.

Thank you, Lord.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Saturday's cartoon

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Phil. 3:4

Training is the most difficult of disciplines. It's often done when no one sees what you are doing. There is pain, struggle, discouragement and the constant thoughts of giving up. It's hard, but the reason we do it is because the prize, the race is worth it. You can't run the race if you're not ready and that's what training is all about. Daily disciplines that no one will see are part of what it takes to run the race that everyone will see. "I press on..." Paul understood the struggle, the temptation to give up, but he set a goal and gave all he had to the race.

Questions for the day: Do you have a mark, a goal in your sites that you are reaching towards? Do you know it will sometimes be hard? Are you committed to doing what no one sees so you will be rewarded when everyone does? How's your training going?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Quote of the day

"The greatest obstacle to my Christian life and an intimate relationship with God is me."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

He came

Is there a God?

Does he care?

Is he involved in our world?

Does he even know what we are going through?

Does he understand the pain, the hurt, the suffering we live in here?

These questions are really important because we, as residents of this little planet, all wonder if God is there and if he cares. We want there to be a God. We want him to care about us. We want to know he's more than just the God of creation. We want and need a God of our days, a God of our pains. We want a God who shows us he cares about US.

God's response? He came.

You may ask, "He came? What do you mean God came?" The answer is quite surprising. We might think that the sign of God's care for us would be rain, gold, food, lack of pain or a hundred other things, but the ultimate sign of God's care for us was his coming to our little planet as a man, as one of us. God became a man and lived here, lived with us, saw our pain, felt our pain, cried our tears, understood our struggles and then provided the perfect solution for it all.

Is there a God? Does he care? His answer? YES, he came. And in that coming he changed everything forever. How could one man make such a difference? How could one person living for just a few years change the world? He can if he's God and he is.

How do we know God cares? He came.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tuesday morning at Starbucks

It's Tuesday. A busy day ahead. I'm sitting at Starbucks for a moment with a cup of coffee and a coffee shop full of people. Some are visiting, others are isolated with headphones and computer telling everyone they are not available. It's a social place. Coffee is the catalyst and a place to sit and visit makes it the local pub of our day. Most of the people here know each other, it's clear they are here often. The baristas are addressing customers by name and everyone is in good spirits. It's a community of moments and soon they will scatter to school, work or back to the house. For a few moments community happens, laughter erupts, the din of voices interacting fills the room. I think it's this sense of community that draws people to this place. A place where anyone can come, get some coffee and be part of something.

As I watch those around me I'm thinking this is exactly what the church is supposed to be. We are called to be a place where anyone can come and be part of the community. Anyone. Somehow we have made it an exclusive club that makes most of the world around us uncomfortable in our churches. Of all places the church should be a place where everyone is welcome, loved and cared for. I wish we could recapture that idea of community rather than what the church at large has become. How do we recapture the love of Christ that reaches out to the hurting, confused and struggling around us and make them feel at home in our church families? How do we become a community that those without a place would be welcome in our midst?

Just a few rambling thoughts at Starbucks on a Tuesday morning.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Encountering God

There is a very interesting report from the Barna organization that caught my attention this morning. In this report the portion that has me thinking are these words,

The survey also probed the degree to which people say their lives had been changed by attending church. Overall, one-quarter of Americans (26%) who had been to a church before said that their life had been changed or affected “greatly” by attending church. Another one-fourth (25%) described it as “somewhat” influential. Nearly half said their life had not changed at all as a result of churchgoing (46%).

This portion of the study really captivated me. As I read it I realize that there is so much more to this than the content of the message, the style of the music, or the ability of the speaker. There is the heart of the one in the pew! My mind immediately thought of the story of the sower and the seed as Jesus described this phenomenon over 2,000 years ago,

Mark 4:14 "The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

It strikes me that what Barna is seeing is what Jesus saw and described. In the midst of a church full of people are the distractions of the world, the bills, worries about life and what the week ahead holds. In the middle of a church where God is speaking, the word is taught and the Spirit is working more than 1/2 of the crowd will be untouched by the word, Spirit and ability of the grandest speaker. It's a reality of the human heart....we are a pretty tough crowd! "How hard it is for anyone to be saved" Jesus told his disciples. They were amazed, but what Jesus knew that they didn't was how much distracts us, how hard it is for God to get our attention, how adverse we are to God's word and it's impact in our lives.

It makes me keenly aware of how much I must trust God to work in my heart and in the hearts and lives of those I teach. This is a work of God and many will completely miss God's presence as he moves among us. This study by Barna brought this to a new clarity for me and moves me to pray more intently for my own heart and the hearts of those I care for.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Saturday's cartoon

I love this cartoon! It's a brilliant insight into the very heart of choices and results. We live in a world that wants the freedom to do as we wish, but with those choices are always consequences. In the moment it might seem that things are wonderful, but choices always have consequences. Often, as I meet with people in their crisis, I hear these words, "Why did God do this to me?" They are sincere in their question and are clueless to the reality that many times what has happened is the result of their own choices....it's not God, it's them.

Choices and consequences. One you make, the other you don't. You can control your choices, but you can't control your consequences. I wonder, if we knew this as a reality in our lives, if our choices would change.....

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Eating the apple

It often surprises me how companies stay in business. Customer Service is poor, products are mediocre and the staff is rude, but I never expected that from Apple. Yes, I've eaten the Apple and have mostly Apple products for my personal computer needs, but when something went wrong today I suddenly realized how bitter this Apple can taste at times.

Here's what happened-

Last fall I bought an Apple laptop. I love the computer, no problems with it at all, but yesterday the power adapter died. The computer is only months old so I called Apple to see what they could do. I talked to a young man (everyone I talked to at Apple is young) who gave me a case number and told me to go to the Apple store and they would replace my power adapter, so off I go for the trek across Dallas to the closest Apple store. Now the fun begins......

When I got to the store I made my way through the drooling masses to one of the young, tattooed Apple reps and told him my situation, showed him my case number and waited while he checked his iPad for choices.

He asked, "Do you have an appointment?"

I replied, "No, the guy on the phone at Apple gave me a case number and told me I could come over and exchange the defective part."

He replied, "I can't help you if you don't have an appointment."

I stood there for a moment in amazement and then asked, "So how do I get an appointment and when can I get some help with this?"

"My next open appointment isn't until tomorrow afternoon," he replied.

Now I'm just standing there thinking about how comical this all was. I am in the store with a case number their company gave me to fix a problem that would take two minutes and he won't help me. What to do? We make our way back through the drooling masses to a restaurant next door for something to drink and time to figure out what to do.

While drinking some tea and eating some amazing Thai noodles I call Apple back. I explain to another young man my situation. He puts me on hold for about 15 minutes and finally comes back with an appointment at the iPhone desk in an hour. We finish our wonderful and unplanned dinner and make our way back to the Apple store.

One more push through the drooling masses to once more engage the young man who said I would have to come back tomorrow. I approach him and tell him I have an appointment at 5:20. He looks up my name and then gives me a frown, realizing that I had beat his best plans to frustrate me. I think he was surprised and irritated that I had figured out a way around his system. He said, "Well, they have you at the iPhone desk, I don't think they can help you, but stand over there." (As he points to the iPhone desk.)

We obediently work our way through the drooling masses to the iPhone desk and wait. While I wait my sweet wife has time to look at everything in the store. Finally a young man with gauged ear rings, messy hair and tattoos comes over to help us. Within five minutes I have my new power adapter and we victoriously push our way out of the store through the drooling masses. Victory!

Frankly I never imagined this would be such an ordeal, a comedy, a frustration, but still I love my computer and if dealing with a system designed to make it difficult is part of the deal I will figure out how to work through it. On the upside we discovered a new restaurant we absolutely loved and a waitress that was the best we have ever had.....even if I couldn't understand her.

So, in spite of the events of the day I'm enjoying my bite of the Apple. I guess, for me, it was love at first bite.....even if it tastes a little bitter at the moment.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Anticipating sunrise

(Photo- © Mike Le)

Romans 13: 11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

"The night is nearly over; the day is almost here." As the first lights of day begin to overcome the darkness of night we all anticipate sunrise. Gradually, moment by moment, light comes and darkness fades. Little by little we begin to see what darkness has hidden. This is the picture Paul paints of the coming of the Lord....the anticipation of sunrise.

In his book, The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis wrote about this as he describe the scenes in both heaven and hell. In heaven there was the anticipation of a dawning of light and in hell there was the fear that the twilight was the last lights of day and the beginning of night. But what Paul describes for us is the gradual illumination of the world around us and it's clear the sun is coming, morning is about to dawn, the day is near when darkness will be vanquished.

The proper response to the approach of dawn is a lifestyle that will not embarrass you when the light reveals all we have done in the darkness. "Let us behave decently....clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ." Being aware of the times Paul invites, no rather challenges us to live like sons of light. In other passages he describes the "deeds of darkness" but here he speaks of a lifestyle lived in the light, live like sons of light.

All we know is a world cloaked in darkness, all we have experienced is the first lights of day, but day is coming. It will come sooner than we know. Live your life anticipating sunrise....or should I say son rise? Live well, sunrise is near.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

One last thought on forgiveness

On Sunday I spoke about forgiveness. I did my best to deal with a difficult subject with the 30 minutes I had to speak, but there is so much to say....so much more to talk about on this topic. The wounds of our hurts from others run so much deeper than most of us know or realize. The wounds of others scar us, change us, make us deformed in a way....deformed from the way God intended us to be. Many of the wounds are still raw, still sore. The pain lingers and when anyone touches our wounds we scream out in pain. I know that and yet I felt led to talk about forgiveness, but what I knew, and know now even more clearly, is that the pain of unforgiven wounds, wounds that have yet to heal, is much more than anyone can know. They are deep wounds, hurtful wounds, painful and we desperately want the pain to end.

In the last week I've heard a number of other pastors teaching on forgiveness on the radio. I know it's something the Spirit of God is moving us all towards. God wants a church white and spotless, ready for his return, and so we must deal with these wounds, heal these scars, ask forgiveness for what we have done, forgive those who have hurt us. It's time to intentionally pursue healing for all of those who claim the name of Christ. The Bible is clear when it calls us to forgive in the same way we were forgiven. The scars may still be raw, the pain still vivid, the hurts still difficult to live with, but the call of God is for his people to forgive just as we are forgiven by him.

Col. 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Monday, January 02, 2012

A new year

A new year.

A fresh start.

Hope for better things.

Desire for change.

It was just another day. It wasn't anything special in the grand scheme of things, but we have made calendars so for us it was the start of something new. Another year, a new beginning, fresh hopes. Maybe this year.....

A new year is a wonderful opportunity to make a new list of priorities for our lives. It's often the case that as a year moves through its seasons we forget what is most important and find ourselves busy with the small urgencies of life. Let me suggest, let me encourage you to make a short list of what is most important to you this year, no more that 5 things, and make those things the filters through which you use your 365 days of the year ahead.

Here are a few suggestions- Pursue a relationship with God, read a book each month about something that will encourage or inspire you, commit to reading the bible each day this year, take time each day to dream, write a journal, write a book, do something fun each week, develop a new hobby or interest, learn something new, intentionally ask one person each week about their life (this could be a daily activity for many of us), and on the list goes. These are not necessarily resolutions, they are simply priorities. And yes, for some of you exercise is on the list isn't it? But whatever you do with this new year do it intentionally. Don't simply let the year fly by and not use every moment well for the glory of God. Have a great year!