Saturday, June 28, 2014

Butt dust

The "Skit Guys" have a cute skit based on a portion of Psalm 103.  It's a funny play on words, but the passage it's part of is what I want to mention this morning.

Ps. 103:14-17

For He himslef knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.  As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he fourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is  no more, and its place acknowledges it no longer. But the lovingkindnss of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him.

The words of this passage are very humbling.  God describes us as grass and as a flower that only lives for a little while and then is gone.  We are temporary.  We will only live for a few years and then "our place will acknowledge us no longer".  For the most part, other than family and close friends, we will be forgotten by the world.  Is that humbling enough for you?

We all want to live a life of signifigance, a life that makes a difference, but soon it will be over and we will be forgotten.  WOW!  That is humbling.  It should make us rethink everything, but instead most will push ahead to "leave their mark on the world" and will discover too late that it's all a cruel joke.

The longer I live the more I realize that a relationship with God is the most important thing any man or woman will have.  It is the only thing that will last.  He is the only one who will not forget us.  When we feel like "butt dust" it's important to remember there is an eternal God who loves us, cares about us, thinks about us every moment and has given his very best to have a relationship with us.  Now that is something to celebrate in this life that will so quickly pass.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Quote of the day

"I now believe there is a God...I now think it [the evidence] does point to a creative Intelligence almost entirely because of the DNA investigations. What I think the DNA material has done is that it has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements  which are needed to produce life, that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinarily diverse elements to work together."  -Anthony Flew

This morning I read an interesting article that claims to have discovered ancient Aramaic written into the very codes of our being, but not simply random letters...this article claimed to have discovered detailed bible verses woven into our very DNA.  The thought of this is fascinating to me and I'm prone to believe it, knowing God as I do. No matter how we try to deny him he simply smiles and shows us we cannot escape his presence, his work, his creation of us.

But, even if this is proven, even if it is true I know the skeptic will deny it. They cannot let God into any part of his creation or they will have to deal with him so they deny the evidence even when it is impossible to escape.  At least one, Anthony Flew, is honest enough to change his views and deal with the God who is.

I'm so glad the God we worship has not hidden, but is in full view of every man and calls to him to come home. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Slavery vs. Trust

You would think, after reading the bible as many times as I have, that I wouldn't see much new, but every day I see something I had never noticed before.  It constantly amazes me.  How does God do this?  How does he put so many insights about life and faith in the stories of the bible?  And yet he does it over and over again.  Here is a portion of the confessions of Nehemiah and some insights into our nature,

Neh. 9:16 “But our ancestors were proud and stubborn, and they paid no attention to your commands. 17 They refused to obey and did not remember the miracles you had done for them. Instead, they became stubborn and appointed a leader to take them back to their slavery in Egypt! But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love. You did not abandon them, 18 even when they made an idol shaped like a calf and said, ‘This is your god who brought you out of Egypt!’ They committed terrible blasphemies.
19 “But in your great mercy you did not abandon them to die in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud still led them forward by day, and the pillar of fire showed them the way through the night. 20 You sent your good Spirit to instruct them, and you did not stop giving them manna from heaven or water for their thirst.

Did you notice the portion of the text I underlined?  Instead of trusting God they chose a leader to take them back to slavery!  I read that over several times with my mouth open.  They did what???  They chose a leader to take them back to slavery rather than trusting God to provide for them.

And then, embarrassed at how similar my life is to this, I realized I often choose slavery over trust.  I choose the bondage of the past rather than trusting God for his goodness and provision for the future.  I worry.  I fret.  I look for someone who can lead me back to bondage and slavery to the old ways instead of trusting God for the unknown promises ahead.  

As the Jewish people told Moses, "at least in Egypt we had our pots of meat and onions...but out here we don't know where our next meal is coming from."  And rather that trusting God for his care and provision in our wilderness we look for someone to help us become slaves again.  How amazingly stupid we are!!

At least in slavery we know what to expect. We are "taken care of", we are told what to do, we don't have to trust.....but when we follow God we have to trust the unseen one for the unknown.  Sadly, for us, slavery seems easier.  How amazingly stupid we are!

Trusting God means I can't see where I'm going, where my food comes from, where I will stay.  I have to trust an unseen God for his unseen provision and yet he always provides....if we will trust him.

But for us slavery seems easier so we look for a leader to take us back.  I wondered, who would volunteer to take them back to Egypt?  Who would want that rather than freedom?  Apparently they all did!  And, sadly, given the choice of the slaveries of the past vs. trusting God for the future we all seem to choose slavery.

Lord, help me to quiet my fears and follow you into the unknown rather than returning to the slavery of the past.  Help us all to trust.  Give us the boldness to desire you and where you are leading rather than the slavery of our past, the bondage of our former masters.  Open our eyes to see the joy of beings sons and daughters walking into the unknown rather than slaves to the known.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


I was at Starbucks this morning and noticed a few "regulars" who never leave.  Yesterday I stopped there to get an ice tea and saw one of the morning guys in his place, surveying the traffic.  I asked him, "don't you ever leave?"  He smiled and replied, "no". 

We all long for a place where everyone knows our name (kinda sounds like T.V. lyrics for a show doesn't it?) and we want to have a place to "belong".  We want a place where we matter, where we feel that we are seen by someone, by anyone!

That is the role of the church.  It was never meant to be a show, a concert, a gathering of thousands...although that is what is popular in my country today.  It was meant to be a community of people living, loving, caring and sharing life together.  In most of the world the church is usually under 100 people.  That's about the perfect size to know the family and really care for one another.

In the church today we have a culture of people who don't want to be known, don't want to be accountable, don't want to serve, to care, to help, to give....and so they go to a large church so they can hide, check it off their list and get on with "real life".  

But the great value of the body of Christ is the community we find as we meet and care for each other.  We need that!  We wither without community....without people who know us and who we know.  We need each other.

So what is to become of church in America?  What is ahead?  It seems to me, although I'm not a prophet, that the thriving healthy churches in the days ahead will be much smaller.  It's in a community where I'm know and loved that I will grow and thrive.  

Healthy church will look completely different than we think it does today.  

I wonder....will we see it as failure when it will be the healthiest we have ever been?

Saturday, June 21, 2014


"The Lord will work out his plans for my life—" -Ps. 138

Life is quite frustrating when the plans and desires we have seem to evaporate into failure.  We often wonder where we are going, what is the purpose of our lives, are we doing anything of value.  

Over and over God declares he has a plan, a purpose for us.  We are not wandering aimlessly....even when it feels like it.  We are not "stuck" in a nothing profession with no hope for the future....because if we know God he is involved in our lives, our directions, our days.  He has a plan, a purpose.  

So what do I do when I can't see what's ahead?  How do I respond when it feels like nothing is going in what I think is the right direction?  Keep trusting him, keep doing what he has given you to do.  He will direct your steps.  He will show you the way.

I have often wondered about these things in my own life.  It seems what I envisioned for my life, my goals, my accomplishments never turned out the way I had planned.  And yet, as I look back, I can see a grand and wonderful helmsman steering the ship of my life on a course of his choosing.

My job, my rest comes in trusting his wisdom in where I go, what I become, what I accomplish.  Through it all he says to me, "I will work out the plans I have for your life."

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Quote of the day

"Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs." -Jonah 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Home at last

Sorry to be missing here.  We have been gone visiting family, and just got home.  So glad to be home!  Once I recover I will post some thoughts from the week.   -Mike

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Time and eternity

"When we focus on time instead of eternity our fears and desires get all messed up."

Monday, June 09, 2014

Compassion's response

There is a parable in Luke that was told by Jesus in response to a question about who we are to care for, who really is our neighbor, and from that story (printed here) I want to focus on just one the story and then let's talk.

Luke 10:30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’

As I read this story this morning my attention was focused on the Samaritan.  He was an outcast to the Jews.  He was considered a half-breed.  But something happened in him that was suppressed or denied by the other two men who walked by.  He felt compassion.  That was the defining difference between all three who passed this wounded man.  

There is something about compassion that demands action, it moves us to response, we can't just walk by.  And from that compassion came action, he "went to him, soothed his wounds, bandaged him, put him on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him."  As I read those words I thought, how could he do any less?  Compassion had begun its work and with it came actions- he went, soothed, bandaged, helped him, too care of him, paid his way.  

The story says the man had been beaten and robbed and was only half dead.  Is it possible he was awake, crying for help as the first two passed?   We don't know because Jesus gave no words to the wounded man in the story.  The focus is on compassion's response.....the actions that love demonstrates.

It's rather easy to harden our hearts, to ignore the wounded men and women on the side of road.  We're so busy, we have so much to do.  Surely someone will help them.  Besides...they're so dirty, so messy.  I would get blood all over my clothes!  And so we harden our hearts, stifle our compassion, look the other way and walk by......

But if we let compassion loose something happens.  We go to the pain, bandage the wounds, and help the lost....compassion demands a response....whatever the cost.

There are many wounded by the side of road as you go through your day.  No, I don't mean the homeless, the beggar, the unemployed...although that's what we think of isn't it?  

I'm talking about the waitress who is just getting by and was left by a husband with two small kids.  Did you notice her?  Did you see her pain?

Or the mom at Starbucks looking all put together, but is really dying inside from wounds she can't even describe.  She looks good on the outside, but is longing for someone to care about her.  Did you see her?

The list of those by the side of the road is more than I can list.  We walk by them each day...too busy to notice.  Pray for compassion to see the wounded around you and go to them, bandage their wounds, take some time to demonstrate what happens when compassion is turned loose.

Early this week I was at a restaurant with another staff member.  I asked our waitress about the best thing that has ever happened in her life, I went to her and from the question she shared her wounds, opened her life and said, "I'm thankful for second chances..."  And then she told us about her life.  

I pray I can see those "half-dead" at the side of the road, those wounded by others, the ones that others pass by and ignore.  You will be surprised what happens when you turn the love of God loose and reach out to the wounded around you.  

Pray for the eyes to see them.

Monday's cartoon

Friday, June 06, 2014

The heart of worry

A friend of mine is a chronic worrier.  I understand her....I battle that terrible habit as well.  To be honest, I think we all struggle with worry in some way.  It  comes from the awareness that we are NOT in control and we wonder, at times, if anyone is.  The focus of worry is always future....what will happen if?  What will I do about?  How will we ever?  The questions for worriers are endless, but at the heart of them all is a focus in the future and a concern over what might happen.  Worry is a wonderful habit if you want to be depressed.  It accelerates the decline to despair quite well.

But what is at the heart of all this worry?  Why do we struggle so much with worry?  At the heart of worry are two small, but important beliefs, 1. We worry because we really don't believe anyone is at the helm of our lives, in control of this world, that there isn't anyone running this thing and we will crash on the rocks at any moment!  And, 2. We worry because if there is someone in charge we aren't sure they have our best interests in mind.  If there is anyone driving do they care what happens to me?

Is you're an atheist you have no answer for either question, or simply put they would respond, "There's no one in charge and no one cares."  But if you're a theist, if you believe in God the whole discussion changes and worry, at the very heart, is questioning God's power over my life and his goodness to me.  I hate to be so blunt, but that is the heart of it.  I worry because I really don't believe God can handle things and if he can he isn't watching out for me.

So, let's resolve those two things.  Sadly though I have to say that if you worry this won't fix it unless you really believe these two basic truths about the power and nature of God.  Is he all powerful and does he love me?  When you worry you are really asking one of those questions.....maybe both!

There are two phrases in Ephesians 1 that deal with these questions.  Here they are, Eph. 1:11- "according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will."  In this amazing chapter God says he is in charge of everything and all of the events of life, especially my life, are under his oversight and care.  He is Lord of everything!  Even my broken car, my sick kid, my failed career....He is in charge of it all.

The second phrase from this chapter that answers these questions is this, Eph. 1:5-6- "according to the kind intention of His will,  to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in Christ."  What God does in our lives is all driven by grace and his "kind intention".  I love that phrase.  He's not out to ruin your life, he loves you!  So when things "go wrong" they couldn't be more right because he is in charge and he loves you.

Why worry?  A good God loves me and is fully in charge of everything in my life, my painful foot, the broken dryer (at least we have one), a car that is having problems (we have two of those!), money problems (we don't have enough of that).....but in the middle of it all....when the opportunity comes to worry the proper response for someone who believes in God is to trust him and praise him for his grace, provision and care....even when you see none of it in right now!  

Jesus talked about this in great depth in Matthew 6.  If you want to hear it from the mouth of God himself read his thoughts on worry in Matthew 6:25-34.  It will challenge and convict you.  Either God is in charge and loves you or his isn't, make your choice....but never think worry is any less than you and I questioning the core issues of the love and power of God in our lives.  

-Thoughts from an expert in worry

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

When will I ever learn?

One of my favorite songs is from a Van Morrison album called "Avalon Sunset."  On that album is a song titled, "When will I ever learn to live in God."  A part of the song is this chorus,

When will I ever learn
to live in God
When will I ever learn

He gave me everything
I need and more
When will I ever learn

I think I like the song because it speaks to my own struggle for contentment, a rest in God for what I have, where I am, who I am, how I look....and so much more.  For me contentment is my most elusive quest.  I want to be content, but.....

I want to be content with what I have, but there is always something new I really "need."  

I want to be content with how I look, but somehow I'm overweight and going bald!  How did that happen? So when I look in the mirror I'm never content with the old fat bald guy staring back at me.  Who is that and how did I become THAT guy?  I really don't like the me I am.

I want to be content with my job, but.....

Well, you can see where this is going.  I could wax eloquent for hours and pages in all the ways I am not getting what I want or what I think I "need."  So something has to change....

Either I have to find contentment in who I am, what I have,  how I look, where I work, the task God has given me or eternally be on a quest for more.

I am extremely tired of the quest for more.  Even after I get it there is more beyond that!  There's never enough!!!  And then you have to pay for it all!  

When will I ever learn to live in God?  When will I EVER learn?  He gave me everything I need and more, when will I ever learn?

And so this morning I am focusing on a new quest, but one I have pursued often.  Today, once more, I want to find contentment in him.  He provides all I need, all I could ever want.  I'm so blessed already, how could I ever be discontent?  But I struggle with it often.  What an insult that is to God who provides for me.

When will I ever learn?  I may never get this, but once more today I'm laying aside the "need" for more and seeking my all in Him.

Solomon wrote these words for such a battle as this,

"Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content."

Lord, help me to find all I need in YOU today.  Help me to learn you are all I need.