Saturday, December 24, 2011

Very early on Christmas Eve morning; still trying to adjust to the huge time change from my visit to China.  Can't sleep so watched a few WWII documentaries (among other things...).  One of the documentaries I watched was on the fall of France in 1940.  It took the Germans only five weeks to conquer the country; a country that they were not able to conquer during the whole of WWI.

The documentary presented a few explanations as to the speed of this conquest.

1. Misplaced defenses.  The French had spent tons of money and tons of time creating the Maginot line (named after the defense minister who initiated the concept).  This was a series of tunnels and pill boxes along the 85 mile French-German border.  The problem was, the Germans attacked through the Ardenne Forest and through Belgium - neither of which were protected by the Maginot Line.  In addition, the French placed their weakest and least experienced army divisions along the Belgium border and Ardenne forest.
2. Complacency. The French figured that the Maginot Line was impregnable. Although they judiciously maintained and practiced, the feeling was that the Germans could not defeat them.
3. Internal fighting.  The French government was in disarray.  There was a fight between factions within the cultural that created instability within the leadership of the county.
4. There was an attitude of defeatism within the population.  WWI, which had only been over for 20 years, loomed large in the French population's mind.  They did not want another long drawn out affair.  As soon as it became apparent that the Germans were overwhelming the French army, there was talk of capitulation and armistice. 

Does any of this cause you concern as you read it; concerns about the church?  Are our defenses misplaced? Are we fighting the right enemy?  Do we understand that our adversary is the Devil who is seeking to devour us?  Do we understand that the people are held captive by him and do his bidding are not our enemy?  Do we gently instruct as Paul taught Timothy (II Tim 2:25; read this verse, it is an incredible verse)?  Do we know that our enemy is wise and will attack us on many fronts?  Are we looking for our weak spots and moving to reinforce them through study, confession, repentance and reliance on God?

Are we complacent?  Are we just trolling along in our spiritual walk, thinking that nothing is going to harm us?  Do we understand that the enemy is still active and that he is just waiting for us to put our guard down so he can attack?

Are we putting our energies into fighting among ourselves instead of fighting the enemy?   When the world looks at the church, do they see in fighting instead of fighting against the enemy?

Have we given up?  Do we have a conqueror attitude (Rom 8:37, I John 4:4)?  Have we given up that God will work in us and through us?  Have we given up on God?

Lots of questions to think through.  Let's not let history repeat itself in the church.  I am challenged in a few of these areas, as it is very easy for me to let my guard down, very easy to cost along on the past; forgetting that Satan changes his schemes and I must stay diligent.  Think through some of these questions yourself and allow them to challenge you.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tomorrow morning I am leaving for a trip to China to check out a potential ministry partner for our missions team.  We are going to a place 2 hours outside of Kunming (if anybody knows where that it) - an ancient Yi Town.  As I am mentally preparing for this trip,  the thing that has been running over and over in my mind is the number of people that live in China.  1.3 billion people.  This is more than four times the size of the United States.

The thing that is striking me about this large number is that their history is not one of a Christian heritage, but of communism and atheism.   A history devoid of God and the story of Jesus.  A history of worshiping fire and other gods.  A history that by design, designed by the government and Satan, is meant to keep them away from discovering THE God of the universe.

Yet out of this is growing a church.  A massive amount of people are turning to Jesus.  The church is growing in spite of sometimes harsh and brutal treatment of believers.  A passion to know God and build his church is infecting the lives of millions of people - regardless of the cost. (In fact, the number of people accepting Christ is outpacing the number of church leaders that are developing, leaving somewhat of a leadership void.)

I am contrasting this with the state of the church in America - a country that has a rich history of Christianity.  Church attendance is declining.  Christianity is in decline and is tepid at best.  We seem to be more concerned about being grace filled and tolerant than standing on truth and we are loosing our effectiveness to be salt and light to a nation because no one sees any difference between those who are committed to Christ and those that aren't.

Another telling thing that is playing into my thoughts:  I was asked last week by some friends from Ukraine "why don't people in the American church read their Bibles and seek after God".  A very telling question about how, at least a corner of the world, views our form of Christianity.  I gave them this answer - we don't understand the value of having a relationship with God, we value other things more than we value God and therefore we don't pursue God.  It seems to me like, as a community of believers, we have been lulled into complacency; content to dabble in religion and really denying the power of it (hummmm....  see II Timothy 3 if you want to see what this says about our culture).

Bottom line - we have a job to do.  We have been charged by our Lord and Master to go and make disciples; people who are committed to obedience.  Pray for revival in our nation.  Pray that the church will begin to expand like the church in China is.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Nazi Collaborators

Have a vacation day today and started it off watching a couple of episodes of "Nazi Collaborators" on the Military Channel (which I only have for two more day and then the free trial goes away - rats).  One episode was titled "Beast of the Balkans".  It was the recounting of an early "ethnic cleansing" of Serbs in the old Yugoslavia during World War II. 

A couple of things jumped out at me as I listened to this episode.  First, the magnitude.  It was estimated that between 330,000 and 1,000,000 Serbs were killed.  No one knows for sure because all the records were destroyed before the Allies recaptured the area from the Germans.  Secondly, the brutality.  It was reported that even the Germans were a bit queasy about how the Croats were "disposing" of the Serbs.  They preferred more brutal methods of killing (slitting throats, shooting to death, etc.) than gassing like the Nazi's did.  This upset even the Nazi's "tender sensitivities" (HEAVY sarcasm there).  Third, the church was complicit in this cleansing (Orthodox Christians were "forced" to convert to Catholicism or else).  The last thing was that one of the prime conspirators in this cleansing, fled Europe at the end of the war and lived "peaceably" in Argentina for 50 years - raising a family and working in a factory - no remorse, no sadness, no "I am sorry" (in fact, he laughed at his trial when evidence was presented against him).

Mind you, this was 1941.  This was NOT the dark ages.  This was not the Huns hacking and slashing their way across Europe.  This was in a "civilized" state.  Right...............

Two things strike me and scare me about situations like this.  First, the severe hatred it would take to treat someone as subhuman, as a piece of garbage to be thrown away like a used napkin.  I cannot fathom how much hatred existed between these two groups (refer to the start of WW I also....) that would drive them to think that it was OK to kill that many people - men, women, children, old people.  Second, how defiled their consciences must have been to allow them to do such a thing and not sense, feel or exhibit ANY remorse. 

Funny how this happens isn't it.  The scriptures speaks of the contrast between living at peace and allowing a root of bitterness to grow up (Hebews 12):

14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

The "root of bitterness" that grew up in the Croats defiled their consciences as a nation and allowed them to murder hundreds of thousands of people.  Their consciences were seared closed because they did not feel any pain, any remorse, any sorrow in doing what they did.

OK, so why is this important.  This will not happen today, will it?  Oh yes it will.  If we do not take care of those little roots of bitterness, if we do not confess our sin and keep our conscience clean and pure, roots grow and cause us to "dehumanize" people and treat them like objects.  If we can look at someone in our life with spite and anger, we are on the road to having our life consumed by the root of bitterness and our consciences seared. 

My advice?  Take care of these things when they are small.  Do NOT let your heart become hardened in the course of your day.  Do not allow your conscience to be seared.  Root out the roots of bitterness.  Keep watch on your soul so this does not happen.  Make EVERY effort, as the writer of Hebrews says, to live at peace.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wow.  There are just certain parts of scriptures that scare me.  I was reading Amos last night, a shorter book in the Old Testament that was written by a shepherd from a town near Bethlehem.  He starts his letter by telling us this so my expectation is that his writing is going to be on the "pastoral" side of things.  Not!

Amos, who was a prophet if only for a short while, wrote about the pending destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel and the destruction of other surrounding kingdoms (Moab, Philistia, Edom).  In the first few sentences of his letter, he paints the historical context of when he spoke these words - when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam was king of Israel, two years before an earthquake that hit the land.  I did a little research and found that this was 50-70 years before Israel was actually destroyed and taken away into captivity.

In the grand scheme of history, 50-70 years does not seem like a long time to me.  However, if you were there, listening to his words, 50-70 years would feel like what he was saying was never going to come true.  I believe that this is a tool of the devil in humanity - scoffing at the future, knowing that there is righteous judgement, but saying and really believing that it is never going to happen to us and therefore what we are doing must be OK in God's eyes.  We mistake the patience of God for his approval.  We mistake his forbearance for lack of judgment.

I love what Peter says about this in his second letter (II Peter 3:9):

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

His heart is bent on our redemption.  His heart is set on grace.  His heart is set on bring us to himself, not on judgement.  He is patient.  He is loving.  He desire is that EVERYONE comes to him, but he will have to judge or he is a liar. 

God gave the nation of Israel men like Amos to warn of impending judgement.  God gave them plenty of time to repent, to turn around, to follow him.  Through guys like Amos, he gave specific behaviors that they needed to repent from. The unfortunate thing is that they did not repent and eventually all the things that Amos prophesied came true.

So I ask myself this question - what behaviors do I need to change?  What areas of my life am I practicing sinful patterns and since things are going OK, I think that I am OK.  What are areas that, as a nation, we are practicing and since things seem to be OK, we think that we are OK.  What things are we as believers passively tolerating even though God is not.  What areas are you practicing that need to be changed? 

There is another verse that strikes me as I think of this - Do not be deceived, God will NOT be mocked, whatever a man sows, he will reap.  If he sows to the flesh, he will from the flesh reap destruction.  If he sows to the Spirit, he will from the Spirit reap life.  God will NOT be mocked.  He will judge.  He desires repentance and redemption, but if that does not happen, he will judge.  Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but it will come.  Make sure you are on the blessing side and not the judging side; please.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Asking - Part Last

There are times when I simply do not know what to pray for.  When I learn of a death in the family of a close friend, when I hear of a child who has cancer, when there is a tragedy in the community - thees are the situations that I simply so not have words to express a request, a thanksgiving (in everything give thanks - don't really understand how to do that sometimes), or any other kinds of prayer.

I am comforted during these times by what Paul wrote to the church in Rome -

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. (Rom 8:26-27)

The Spirit prays for me when I don't know what to pray.  When I don't have the words, He prays for me.  He has a direct line into the Father and represents us before Him. 

This is one of the most profound truths of scripture - that in the midst of my weakness, in the midst of my inability to comprehend how messed up the world is and how to communicate effectively with God, the Spirit prays FOR me.  He understands where my heart is and what my desires are and also understands that I do not have words to express what is going on in my heart.  HE goes to the Father and intercedes for me.  HE goes to the Father and expresses, requests, thanks for me.  HE communicates to the Father for me.  What an incredible asset in our prayer life!

Be liberated by this truth as you pray.  If you don't know what to pray, ask the Spirit to pray for you.  He is doing it anyway, it is just good to give Him credit!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Asking (praying?) Part III

I am finding that prayer and meditation are related. 

Foundational premise (or maybe this is just free information....) - I cannot strictly approach prayer from an asking perspective.  I cannot use solely as my mechanism to "get something" from God.  If I approach prayer from this perspective, I go right back to "consume it upon my lusts" principle from James.  I think that it would be awfully hard to not move into the "my lusts" category if all I ever do is ask for things from God.  (In addition, there are plenty of other things that we are to do in prayer - give thanks, pray for others, etc.)

Back to meditation.  I find that meditation is listening for me and prayer is talking.  This is relationship - listening, talking, understanding, listening, asking, talking, seeking, questioning, listening......  I have to do both - listen and talk.  My listening is meditation.  My talking is prayer.

What do I meditate on?  How my life and my prayers are either in agreement with or in conflict with what God is telling me.  Where do I find what God is telling me?  The scriptures.  (This is why some people teach to pray scripture.)  Reading God's word and then asking God about where and what He wants from me and then waiting for an answer from the Holy Spirit, is how I listen to God; this is meditation for me.  I have to take this time to slow my mind down, to kind of empty my mind of the "stuff" of life, so I can listen to God speak to me through his Spirit.

Foundational principle #2 - God is out for my best interests and has a deep desire for relationship with me.  I know that whatever he says to me, whatever he asks me to do, is for my good and ultimately will be the best thing for me!

Take time to listen and pray today.  I am saying that to me.  I have to slow down and do the hard work of relationship.  I have to spend time with my Lord if I want to have a great relationship with him.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Asking - part II

Jesus made a pretty bold statement when he was on the planet: "Ask anything in my name and I will do it"  (John 14:14).  A wide open statement.  Ask anything.  Anything.  Anything at all and He will do it. 

What is He trying to tell us?  What did he mean?  Did He really mean anything?

I really think that He meant what He said - anything.  However, that "anything" has a condition on it - in my name, or as another translation puts it, "according to" my name. 

One thing Jesus is NOT saying is that if we tack "in Jesus name" on before we end our prayer, He is obligated to answer that prayer.  I am not sure where the tradition of adding this phrase on the end of a prayer came from, but I do know that He did not mean us to use this as a "magic" phrase that will get us what we want.

So what did He mean if He didn't mean that?  I believe a part of the key is found in James 4:

1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. 

The setting of this section of the letter from James is about fighting, being self centered and trying to get the things that you want.  He makes a pretty bold statement at the end of this section: you ask for things but you don't get them because all you want to do is spend it on yourself.  The statement is pretty straight forward - when I ask for something that is me centered, that is for my benefit, that is for my pleasure, that fills a worldly longing deep down in my soul - I am not going to get it.

I mean, if I pray that God will use me to serve others, do you think that God will refuse to answer that prayer?  If I pray for a new car because I am not content with the one that I have or I am sick of having to repair it all the time, God might think it best to not provide me a new car to "get me out of a jam".  If I pray that I will understand what the Spirit is trying to tell me to help me be more obedient, I think that God will grant that request.  If I pray that God will give me a different job because I do not like the environment that I am currently working in, God probably will not honor that request.

Here is the problem.  It sometimes takes a TON of work to determine the "why" for what I am asking for.  Why am I asking for a new car?  Why am I asking for the ability to serve?  Why do I want a new job?  If there is any hint of me in the request, then God is not obligated to answer us; or more appropriately the answer will probably be no.  Before I ask, I have to examine my heart.  I have to determine if my heart is in the right spot (me or God centered).

If it is, ask for anything!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Two Questions

I often struggle with my prayer life.  The biggest struggle that I have is asking God to do something, asking him to intervene in a situation, asking him to provide something.  Perhaps this is because my upbringing focused a ton on the sovereignty of God to the exclusion of asking him for things.  I mean, if God is sovereign and he does what he wants, when he wants, why does it matter if I ask for something?  I am going to get what I am going to get.  Life is going to be what life is going to be.

Mind you, I am not upset by this.  I totally believe that God is loving, that he cares for me and that he has my best interests in mind.  I know, and believe, that whatever happens in my life is for my good - all things work together for good to them that love God to them that are called by his name (Rom. 8:28).  I don't believe God is out to get me in a negative sense, like some cosmic disciplinarian.  He wants me to be holy, to experience the kind of life that he designed me to experience and to worship and love him for it and I know that takes work (rooting out my sinful patterns and behaviors).  I totally get this and totally believe this.

That is what makes asking God so hard for me.  I know he is going to provide what I need - he promised.  I know that he will care for me - he promised.

Having said all that (sorry), there is something that happens as a relationship develops that allows one to ask.  I haven't really figured this on out yet, but I know something is out there.  How?  Take a look at Mark 10.  There are two vignettes in the life of Jesus that are recorded in this chapter.

Vignette #1 - Two of the apostles come to Jesus to ask him something:

 35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
   36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
 37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” 

If you read one chapter before this, you see what there was an argument between the disciples regarding who was the greatest.  This really weird question seems to be a follow-up to that whole discussion.  Notice Jesus response - "What do you want me to do for you?"  There response to his question was - give us a prominent place in your kingdom.  We want to be the big cheeses - next to you of course.  Needless to say, Jesus did not, nor could he, grant this self centered request.  Frankly, they should have known better than to make this request because Jesus had just taught them about greatness in the kingdom (the greatest = the servant of all).

Vignette #2 - The blind man on the road from Jericho

  46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
 48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
 49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
   So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
   51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
   The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
   52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Jesus asks the same question of this man - what do you want me to do for you?  Bartimaeus answer to Jesus question is self centered also - I want to see; I want MY eyes opened.  Jesus grants his request and heals him.  Of note though is Jesus' assessment of the man - he had faith.  He had the faith to believe that this Rabbi was the Messiah (indicated by the use of the title Son of David).  He had the faith to believe that Jesus could heal him.  Jesus didn't say that his request healed him, but that his faith did.  Period. 

Ponder this for a while and I think that in my next post I will look at James 1 and see what he has to say about this asking thing.  Sorry about the long post.

Sunday, October 09, 2011


I was driving home from church this morning.  I taught a class at another campus, so I had an opportunity to have a longer drive home than usual.  I was looking a the many trees that are changing color along the freeway.  It was a beautifully sunny day, so the colors were vibrant!  The reds seemed to be more red; the yellows more yellow; the oranges - terrific.  The creativity of the creator was on display for sure and my soul was moved to worship him for creating this so that I, and the others on the highway, could enjoy it. 

I couldn't help but wonder if there are going to be days like this in heaven. I know that every day God's creativity is on display - the Bible speaks that what can be known of God is revealed in His creation (Romans 1:20).  I also know that heaven is not going to be black and white.  The Bible speaks of heaven having trees that line a river of life, it speaks of jewels and gold, it speaks of bright light of God - it speaks of God's creativity on display for His created beings.  Are there going to be fall colors in heaven?  I don't know for sure, but after days like today, it wouldn't surprise me!!!

Take some time to stop and enjoy the day that God has created especially for you.  Appreciate the beautiful colors that he has painted for you.  Thank him for the eyes that can see the trees changing, that can see the beautiful sunsets of fall, the harvest moon that soon will be coming.  Worship Him for what He has created for you to enjoy!!!!

Sunday, October 02, 2011


One of the most incredible gifts that God has given us is our memory.  Memories can either be good, neutral or bad.  Memories can either liberate us and provide us energy to move forward in tough times or they can be boat anchors that weigh us down and prevent us from growing and developing.  

For those of us who had great times growing up - playing with our brothers and sisters, visiting grandma who gave cookies, learning to ride a bike, vacations with families, school sports - we look back and have "fond" memories of growing up.  For those of us who had tough times growing up - poverty, rough family circumstances, death, strained relationships - we look back and wish that we didn't have these experiences that we had to remember.  The experiences of our lives, and the memories of them, shape us as human beings: our response to the current circumstances to life, our response to others, our view of God and our view of others.

Why are memories important?  For someone who believes in Jesus, we are called to remember.  Throughout the Old Testament, God instructed his followers to remember.  He instituted annual feasts and celebrations so that his people would remember what He had done.  He asked people to put up standing stones as markers so that when people walked by them they would remember what He had accomplished.  Jesus, while He was on this planet, instituted a time of remembrance (we call it communion; the early church celebrated it as a love feast).  God was and is BIG into memories.

Why?  Why is it important to remember?  Why does God want us to return over and over again to what He has done?  Two of the reasons that I come up with: good memories will carry us through the bad times.  If we believe that God was faithful in the past and we are reminded of that over and over again, we will have the expectation that God will be faithful to us.  Understanding the character and nature of God by remembering what He has done will help us understand what our character and actions need to be. 

I also believe that, in spite of all the bad memories that we have, God wants us to remember that He is for us, that He is walking with us and that He loves us.  I don't know where life finds you right now, but I do know that God wants you to remember who He is, what He has done and therefore what He is going to do in you, through you and to you!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

As we were interacting over Ruth last night, we explored the journey of Naomi a bit.  Her family, husband, two sons and her, left their ancestral home in search of food.  Two weddings and 10 years later, she finds herself with no blood family and in a foreign land. 

Walk through this with her.  She leaves her family, her friends, her neighborhood, familiar surroundings and moves to a foreign land - living in a country that really was not "friendly" to Israel.  A few years pass.  The family has made friends, figured out who lives in the neighborhood, figured out where to buy their meat and vegetables, found new vendors to supply cloth to make clothes, developed credit with the local bank, found out who the good and friendly people were in town - started a new life.  The sons found girl friends, dated and met the "fam".  They eventually got married.  What joyous occasions for Naomi - her sons getting married!  The hope of a future. The hope of grandchildren!

And then the unthinkable happens.  Someone dies.  We are not told who went and when, the only thing we are told is that her husband, her soul mate, died, as did her two sons.  Ten years after she left her homeland, she finds herself dealing with three deaths in her family - her blood line is gone.  She is alone.  No one to provide for her needs (widows needed to be taken care of in that culture; they had limited means to make money).  No husband  take care of her as she grew old.  No sons or grandchildren to take care of her as she grew old.  She was alone and in trouble.

She makes the decision to go back home.  She has heard that there is food there; the famine is over.  At least she can eat; maybe even sell her family's property to raise some funds to take care of her (if she can by it back from those who purchased it in their absence).  She is poor and out of options.

Notice what she says about her relationship with God when she gets home.  "Don't call me Naomi, call me Mara (bitter), because the Almighty has made my life bitter".  Strained at best.  She feels as if God has abandoned her; that he has it out for her.  Understandable or at least explainable based on what she has gone through.

Jump to the end of the book - joy has returned to her.  She has a grandson and is beaming!

What happened?  Boaz happened.  Actually, the obedience of Boaz happened.  Boaz allowed poor to glean in his fields according to the command of God.  Boaz, although much older than Ruth, redeemed the land and became the kinsman redeemer.  Her joy was restored as God worked and was faithful to her THROUGH the obedience of Boaz.

OK, so here's the question: are you going to be a Boaz?  Are you going to be obedient to the commands of God, allow God to work THROUGH you?  Who can you be an encouragement to today and bring them hope, hope in a Savior who loves them, hope in the midst of a sin cursed world?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cycle of Madness

I have been studying Ruth for our couples Bible Study this weekend.  One of the interesting things that I have found is the setting for this book - the book of Judges.  Ruth's in-laws (Elimelech and Naomi and their two boys) had fled Israel during a famine.  They were from the town of Bethlehem and heard that there was food in Moab so they moved there.  As near as historians can figure, their moved happened about 100ish years before Saul become king or about 260 years into the 360 year period of the judges. 

A couple of things about Moab.  Not a cool place for an Israelite to move.  First of all, they were the nation that seduced the Israelites into sin a few centuries before.  There was a running feud between Moab and Israel that was in some sort of detente during this period of time. 

Another piece of the setting that is important is the "cycle" of sin that happens over and over again in the book of Judges.  The nation of Israel put themselves on a cycle of worship-disobedience-judgement by God-cry to God-restoration.  The issue becomes this was not a national trend - the WHOLE nation did not follow this cycle, but REGIONS of the nation fell into this cycle; usually only once.  If you want a cool map that illustrates this, look at this link:  The nations that God used to judge the Israelites for their unfaithfulness to Him didn't attack the whole nation of Israel, just regions.

OK, so by now you are probably saying, and.......Why is this important?  It speaks to me of the failure of Elimelech to spiritually lead his family.  I mean, come on, he WATCHED as regions around him fell into sin, were judged by God with raiding parties, foreign government take-overs, slavery, etc.  He had 200+ years of history repeating itself to serve as an example of what NOT to do.  And yet his response to what God was attempting to do to his region was to run away.  Not to worship and fall on his knees in repentance; but to run away to Moab of all places.  When Elimelech left the promised land, he was fleeing his heritage, his covering and his relationship with God.  There was no temple in Moab.  There was no place to worship God there.  He removed his family from where God wanted them to be and placed them in a heathen place.  Not cool.

OK, so here is the hard part.  How often do I make the same choice he did.  How often do I ignorantly walk through life and follow the SAME path that generations before me have followed.  How often does history repeat itself in my life and leadership of my family.  Way to often I am afraid.

I don't write this to condemn, I write this to inform and hopefully open our eyes to our actions.  I cannot change the past.  I cannot changed what happened in history.  However, I can learn from it and not do the SAME sins that my fore-fathers did or I have done in the past. 

PS - Take time to look into the fall of the Roman Empire and compare that with America today.  We are repeating the sins of the past and we WILL experience the same result.  God will NOT be mocked.  Start the revival in our country by starting it in you.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

We all know this, but it is amazing how much of what we do affects the lives of others. Encouraging words, looks of love, little gifts of time or thoughtfulness, acts of kindness, spending time listening, words of hatred, looks that kill, placing unrealistic expectations on someone, demanding commands - all affect the lives of those around us.

Jesus took this very seriously - especially how we affect the lives of the believers around us. When he was on the planet he said this: “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. (Mark 9:42)

This is serious business for Jesus. Drowning with a millstone tied around his neck is the appropriate punishment for the person who leads someone into sin.

Now don't think dastardly sins only: being an accomplice in a murder, snookering someone into driving a get away car for you while you rob a bank. Think things like teaching someone to hate another person by constantly gossiping about them; leading a "revolt" with your co-workers against your boss by griping about a decision that he has made that you didn't like; yelling at your kids so much that they pick up your habit of yelling at their kids - "little" thinks like this that we unconsciously do every day.

The countless things that I do, say and express every day effect people. Whether I believe it or not, it is true. Whether I live like it is true or not, it is true.

What I have to remember to day, and allow the Spirit of God to remind me of, is that I must use my actions, words and facial expressions to lead people toward the Savior and not toward sin. I have no interest in having a millstone around my neck!

Monday, August 22, 2011

The last time I had opportunity to write was on July 23 while I was on vacation - sad.

Interesting choice of words I just used there - "had opportunity". Like everyone else, I have 24 hours in a day. For a large chunk of those hours, I have the ability to choose what to do. I can chose to read something, I can chose to watch TV, I can chose to serve someone, I can chose to write, etc.

Paul wrote to Timothy: You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance..... (II Tim 3:10; I added the emphasis). Paul lived a purposeful, intentional life. Something that we are supposed to emulate.

How are you "spending your time" is a common expression. Stewardship encompasses stewarding my time. I need to be intentional about how I use my time today; at least my discretionary time. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth - do everything to the glory of God (I Cor 10:31).

Use your time wisely today. Easier said than done.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

You know what happens when I get busy? Things slip. Between extra things to do at work (we are building a new building), trips across the ocean, moving a daughter to Iowa; life has been a bit full. And things slip (like writing, ha!).

I read a book a while ago called “Margin”. The basic thrust of the book was to provide space in your life so that the urgent doesn’t crowd out the important. Notice that I said I read the book - I have found myself over the past three weeks without margin. I guess I still have some learning to do! (Over the years I have come to understand that when I get to the point that I am writing things or wanting to write things, my mind is rested and I have had time to think and meditate about things; I am living with some margin.)

The other problem is that I find that when I live in the urgent, when I live without margin, I have a way of just spiritually “snacking”. I still read the scriptures, I still pray (a bit), I still serve, but as I review my soul during these periods in my life, I am just grazing the surface of spirituality. I am not feasting, I am not drinking deep; I am not filling my soul.

The collateral damage of living in the urgent is that I don't act out of the fulness of my soul; I act out of emptiness. Because we have a deep, deep desire to fill our soul, when I am empty, I look for something to fill me: other people and other things. The problem is that I begin to USE people and these things to fill me, instead of serving them. I become more demanding, more focused on me, more of a sinner.

The other problem I have is that have a propensity toward activity, doing things – maybe it is a guy thing, maybe it is a character thing; not sure. But I like to be busy, to do things, to complete things. This propensity toward filling my life with activity and being busy is a dangerous threat to margin in my life. It robs me of fullness of life because it robs me of the time to connect deep in my soul with my creator. (I probably should not use the word "rob" because it connotes that it was stolen from me; the reality is that I give it away; I am plan the activities; I make the commitment. I am not innocent in this process.) I don’t really live, I just exist. I don’t thrive, I survive. Not that way I want to live.

Watch your schedule. Do you have space in your life where your mind has time to wind down; where you have time to focus on the eternal; where you are not thinking and wondering about the things of life, but a place where you are still, waiting for the Spirit of God to talk to you; a place where your mind has been filled with the thoughts of God (most likely through reading through scripture) and where you can list.

Try it sometime; it really is filling! (By the way, this is the first day of vacation and I had margin this morning.)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Summer! I CANNOT believe that in a week it is going to be the 4th of July. It is crazy how fast life moves isn't it? Except............

Except if you are in a crisis. Except is someone you love has debilitating illness. Except if you have lost your job. Except if your 2 year old is acting up every 5 minutes. Except if you are waiting for your house to sell. Except if you have a huge stress in a relationship. Except........

Isn't it funny that it seems as if some days time seems to stand still and other days it flies by. When I was waiting to get my license when I was 16, time moved excruciatingly slow; I felt like the day would never come. As I am looking back over my years as a parent, I cannot believe how fast they have flown by.

But time is time. There are always 24 hours in a day. There are always 7 days in one week. I just doesn't feel that way. To a large degree, our emotional response to a situation dictates the perceived speed of time. If most cases it seems as if negative circumstances slow time down and, more importantly, consume an inordinate amount of emotional energy.

I really have no idea why this hit me today. Probably because I am watching my oldest daughter grow up and move to Iowa and I put my youngest daughter on a van for a mission trip (right after she got back from a week away on the east coast). After 21 years of being a parent, I am seeing the end of this phase of my journey and it has gone fast. I know that there are times when it seemed to slow down; seasons of stress and overly busy times of life. Those passed. They always pass. Recognize that in your life. Enjoy the journey. Do what you can to relieve the stresses of life, but when stresses and tough times hit, understand Psalm 30:5 - weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Still working my way through Mark with my group. The more I read, the more the pieces seems to be indicating that, at least in chapters 7-8, Jesus is attempting to help the disciples understand who he really is. In Mark 7, the Pharisees come to Jesus with a question - why don't your followers wash their hands like tradition taught us? A legitimate question. We have been doing this for years and why aren't you?

Jesus goes on to announce to crowd that had gathered about what really defiles a man - what comes out of him (vs. what goes into a man). After the crowd clears, the disciples ask him what he meant by the teaching. he then makes this statement: "are you so dull" (v.18).

After hanging out with him, walking with him, listening to his teaching, feeding the 5,000, seeing the healing, casting out demons, talking with him about life, watching the crowds gather - they still do not understand. After going out two by two into the cites and villages of Israel and proclaiming the good news that the Messiah was here, after personally healing people and casting out demons - they still do not comprehend the ways of the kingdom of Jesus. (OK, so here is where I insert myself and ask how much have I been with Jesus - I am worse than the disciples.)

The more I read and thought about this, the more I have to ask myself how dull am I. How many of Jesus' teachings and His ways of living do I just blow over because I am dull. How many areas of my life have I not submitted to Christ because I am dull and lack understanding?

The issue is that I have the tools I need to not be dull. I have the Holy Spirit within me who's job it is to teach me (John 14:26). My job is to be open. I am finding that dullness is really about me: my lack of openness to do the work that I need to do in my soul, a perspective of me that "I am OK", instead of perspective of I need a Savior.

The first step in the process of sharpening is admitting you have a problem. I mean, really admitting it. Not just saying you do, but really owning it; really coming to grips with the fact that you need a Savior to redeem you from you. I think that I am getting here - occasionally (when I think about it, I am there; as life hits me in the face, there are times when I leave that place and go back to where I was in dullness).

The second step is opening your soul to the Spirit of God and asking for Him to change. He is the agent of conviction. He is the agent of change. My part is yielding and allowing God to do His work.

Just keep repeating the phrase - "am I dull?" and listen. Listen to those around you. Listen to the Spirit of God. Listen to the words of God as you read scripture. You will hear where you are dull and where you need to change.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Was thinking this morning about consequences - unintended, intended, ancillary, etc.

In a conversation with a friend of mine, he stated that his ex-wife wanted to readjust a portion of their divorce settlement because financial circumstances in the real estate market had changed since the time their divorce was final. There are a lot of nuances attached to this that I do not have time to explain in this setting, so you will have to take a bit of a leap with me here. Her statement was that since the value of the home had decreased, that the amount they had settled on several years before was not valid and that he should share in the decreased value.

What struck me about this was her desire to negate one of the consequences of a divorce - an unintended one that was outside of both of their doings, but a consequence none-the-less. If they were still married, if there were still one, then they would mutually share in the decrease in value of the house. A consequence of being married and the real estate market declining - unintended consequence, but a shared consequence. But they weren't married so the consequences of the decision made many years before was hers to bear and hers alone.

This seems to be a universal concept within our culture: we desire the positive consequences of our actions, but don't want the negative consequences. When I write this, it seems to be an intuitively obvious statement intellectually and emotionally. The problem is, we don't get to make this choice.

In my years in working with people, I have found that most people focus on the positive consequences of their actions and forget to consider and weigh the negative consequences. They emotionally move toward the benefits and dismiss the drawbacks. When the negative consequences come, and they will, they attempt to get around them, attempt to push them out, deny them, etc., so they can justify their decision.

Adam and Eve are classic examples of this. They wanted to be like God and so they ate the fruit. They did not want the death that came along with it. The death of innocence, the death of weedless gardens, the death of painless child birth, the death of humanity.

I know that this is not the only factor in decision making, but I know that it is a contributor. Why else would someone start or continue to smoke knowing that it could lead to lung cancer? Why else would someone continue to eat fatty foods knowing that it could affect their cholesterol and increase their odds of a heart attack? Why else would someone continue to carry an angry persona knowing that it will affect the relationships around them?

The Bible speaks of it in these terms - the pleasures of sin for a season (Hebrews 11:25). It also calls living like this foolishness (read the first few chapters of Proverbs about wisdom vs. foolishness).

Think long term. Think holistically. Think of the positive and negative consequences the next time you think about an action. Weigh them carefully and think through future scenarios. Consequences will come, the idea is to keep as many in the positive arena as possible! You can keep consequences positive by being obedient to God in every decision you make!

Friday, May 20, 2011

It never ceases to amaze me how some people form their belief system. What they think, what they feel, what culture around them dictates, etc.

Some of the staff at Ada are dealing with a person who does not agree with some of our teaching. A person noted in a recent conversation with a couple of our elders that they really didn't agree with one of our doctrinal positions - didn't give a reason, but didn't agree.

When it really comes right down to it, this is a form of idolatry. Who is the idol? They are. When one has no basis for their beliefs other than what they think or what they feel, they are playing god (note the little "g" - did that on purpose). They have set the way they view the world up as the standard. The way that they view or feel about an issue is the basis that they judge everybody's beliefs. They play God.

It is pretty easy to identify someone who is playing God. Listen for personal pronouns - it really is that simple. Listen for "I" or "my". I think. I believe. As I understand it. My thoughts are. My perspective is. I am God. My opinion is the rule.

Unfortunately, it is pretty easy to fall into this trap - even if we really don't want to be god. Watch your speech and thought patterns. Listen to the words that you say.

What should one do instead? How do I avoid being God? Begin by looking to scripture FIRST. This is our objective standard. These are the words of God. This is where the real God communicates His desires, character and commands to us. What does God say? What does God think? What are His thoughts on the matter. Secondly, look at scripture. Third, examine what the Bible says. Fourth, apply what the Bible talks about or illustrates to the situation at hand. Fifth, if what you read in the scriptures doesn't jive with what you feel or think, refer to step one, two and three and believe it and allow God to be God.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Just a quick my last post I indicated Mark 6 records the first time Jesus went back to his hometown. Not true. Luke records another time, apparently before the Mark 6 event, where Jesus went back to Nazareth. I have corrected the post to be more accurate!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Familiarity breeds contempt - a saying from Aesop's fables that comes from a Mark 6 (OK, so that last part is something that I made up; there is no historical evidence that this is the case).

Mark records a snapshot of Jesus returning home to the Nazareth area (Mark 6). This is the second (see Luke 4 for the first one) recorded time that he went back to the town where He grew up. Kind of a family reunion of sorts, except his dad has passed away.

On Saturday, He goes to the local synagogue and teaches. The local religious establishment viewed Him as a teacher, a Rabbi and he was allowed to take the platform and speak. Mark records that the people were "amazed" at his teaching and the fact that he was performing miracles.

As they begin to critically look at the situation, more factors enter their thought process. Isn't this the same dude that we used to play ball with? Isn't this the guy who added that room on to my parents house? Isn't this the construction worker that was a laborer on his dad's crew? How can he be teaching this stuff to us? Isn't he an ordinary guy just like us? Their amazement quickly turns to something else - offense.

The amazement then shifts to Jesus - amazed at their lack of faith. Mark records that he COULD not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith. They stopped him from working in their lives. Their offense at who Jesus was and what he claimed to be prevented him from doing a work of God in their midst.

OK - the big question. Do I stop the Holy Spirit from doing a work in me because of my lack of faith? Is God prevented from changing me because I will not trust Him? When I face the tough times in life, do I walk through them with faith in what God is trying to do in me or do I gripe and complain?

Monday, April 25, 2011

OK, so I usually don't blog this much, but this whole fear thing and moving toward God instead of away from him is creeping into a lot of areas of my life.

I noticed last night when I was having a discussion with my daughter and wife about a school issue, fear was rising - fear that my wife would not like me (we had differing opinions on the issue) or fear that my daughter would rebel (she didn't like the solution that my wife was proposing). I felt stuck. I felt like it was going to be a lose-lose situation for me: I was going to disappoint someone.

How do you lean into situations like this instead of running away? How do you represent Jesus to the family when faced with dilemmas like this? I had a couple of choices. Choice number one - be a dictator. This is my decision - live with it. Necessary sometimes, but the tact that needs to be reserved for only very special and rare occasions. But easier for sure. Choice number two - lean in emotionally and try and listen to all sides, listen to the words, try to feel the emotions, try and find the heart of the matter and then speak. (OK, I an not very good at choice number two; in fact I stink at it most days.)

If my goal is to build up, to learn about my wife and daughter, to honor them, I have to choose option two. I did, after I had to move through the fear and commit myself to spending the time and working through all the issues.

BTW, we are not done with this one yet. It demands more discussion about some peripheral issues. More leaning in...........

Sunday, April 24, 2011

So, if we are not to respond in fear, if we are not to push Jesus out or simply be amazed at who He is, how are we supposed to respond?

The third in this series of snapshots of Mark (Mark 5) provides us a little insight into how a couple of people faced their fears.

Imagine if you will, a large group of people surrounding Jesus. Pushing him from every side, pressing to hear his words, anxious to walk beside him and share their fears with, desiring of him to heal them - a "star" (in a good way) who every one wanted to be around. This is the setting where a woman with a disease that the doctors could not heal enters into Jesus orbit.

Back story - the woman had tried everything to be healed of this disease. For 12 years she spent time and money trying to be healed. She had traveled mile after mile to visit doctor after doctor. She spent her entire life savings on doctors, potions, medications, salves, oils, etc. and still no healing: in fact, it was getting worse and worse. She was without resources and moving toward no hope.

She enters the scene as the crowd is pressing around Jesus. This is her last hope. This is her last alternative. If I can just touch him. If I can just brush his clothes, I might be healed. I have heard stories....... She presses into the fray and reaches out and touches Jesus clothes, not really sure if it work or not. But she feels something; something had changed. And then she hears it - "Who touched me? Who touched me? I felt something. Who touched me?" Fear swells within her. She has been found out.

What did she do when she was trembling with fear? She moved toward Jesus; she was scared for sure, but she moved toward Jesus. She was scared, but not beyond belief. Jesus statement to her was "your faith has healed you, go in peace and suffer no more". Her faith, her response, her movement toward Jesus, her step.

This is how we need to respond to Jesus - move through our fears and toward him. When we find ourselves without answers; when we are perplexed; when we don't know which way to turn; when we find ourselves without hope - Jesus has the answers if we will move toward him.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

How are you going to respond when Jesus, the creator of the universe, shows up in your life? When he showed up on the boat with the disciples they wondered in amazement at who he was. In the second snap shot we see a different response.

In the first part of Mark 5, Jesus and his disciples enter an area and a freaky thing happens to them: a naked, fully crazed man runs to meet them. Jesus casts out the evil spirits into a herd of pigs (2,000 of them). The guys who are tending the pigs, run into town and tell the townsfolk about what happened. The people from the area come to Jesus, see the and ask him to leave; leave the area; leave them alone.

What surprised me about the response of the people is the contrast between what they had before Jesus showed up and what they had after.

Before: a mad man who they had tried to control by chaining him up, who broke the chains and shackles, who lived in the tombs, cried out so people heard him and cut himself with stones. Basically, someone terrorized the town. I mean, imagine living in the town near this guy. You wouldn't let your kids out to play by themselves for fear something might happen. You hear his eerie cries at night that scare your kids and won't let them sleep. When you want to travel to your friends in the next village you take the long way because you are afraid of seeing "him" and worried about what might happen to you and your family.

After: A "normal" guy, dressed, in his right mind, sitting and talking with Jesus. OK, so you are down a herd of pigs (which is weird considering they are in a region of Jewish population, but hey..), but you have security for your family back. People will once again visit your village because "he" is gone now. The reputation of your village has been restored.

And they want Jesus to leave because they are afraid.........

The burning question that I have is when do I ask Jesus to leave? When am I afraid of what Jesus asks me to do, do I ask him to leave or do I invite him in to change me? Do I ask him to move me to a place where I am more holy, or do I politely ask him to leave? Do I engage the unknown and move toward him or do I move in fear and ask him to move away from me?

Jesus may not show up and cast an evil spirit out, but he may show up and ask me to stop a sin pattern that I hold dear. He may move toward me and ask me to love my wife better than I do myself. He may ask me to commit everything to him and serve him with greater abandonment. I know that he will ask me something - my question is will I move toward him or ask him to leave.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

We are going through "The Story" in our couples small group. We are on the second section where God begins to build a nation through Abram.
The thing that struck me the most about this section of the Story is the that Abram (soon to be called Abraham) was just an ordinary guy. There was nothing significant about him that made him stand out. OK, so he was relatively well off but he was not a leader of a nation; he was not a mighty warrior; he was a simply a man; a simple (and sinful mind you) man that God chose to build a nation from.
What WAS extraordinary is that Abram responded in obedience. God asked him to leave his family and start moving. God didn't tell him where he was going, He just said leave - and he did! Abram responded in faith; walking away from his family and choosing to live as a nomad in obedience to God.
What do we/I learn from this? Simply put - God chooses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. God uses ordinary women and men to execute his plan. That's me......ordinary man; extraordinary in God's eyes when I live in obedience and faith!
(Side note: James teaches us that Elijah was a man just like us, but he prayed and it did not rain. He was trying to say Elijah was just and ordinary man who did extraordinary things when he listened to God and spoke what God told him to do!)

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Without faith it is impossible to please God. The writer of Hebrews makes this bold and pretty exclusive statement. Having theoretical faith is pretty easy. When life is good, it is easy to trust. It is harder to believe when you hit a storm. Am I going to trust when the hard times hit? I am going to be pleasing to God? A question that I have to wrestle with when the stuff of life hits me. Am I going to be afraid or am I going to trust?

Mark poses this same question in one of his snap shots of Jesus. In the latter part of Mark 4, Jesus and his closest disciples conscript a boat to go the other side of the lake so they can be alone for a while. Jesus moves to the back of the boat, lays down and falls asleep. The disciples, some of which were very familiar with the lake because they were fisherman, climb in too.

As they are crossing, a storm arises; a pretty bad storm. The waves are washing over the side of the boat and the disciples start freaking out! Peter, James, John, Andrew - men who made their living on the lake - were of no help in the midst of this storm. Their years of experience on the lake did not help them. (Mind you, I would be freaking out too!)

They wake Jesus up and ask a pretty interesting question: Master, don't you care if we drown? Jesus, you have been healing the masses, you have cast out demons, you healed a guy who could not walk. Do you care about everyone else except us? Are you going to heal them and let us die? Don't you care for us?

Jesus answer was simple: he calmed the storm (ha!!!). He then posed a question back at them: why are you afraid? Do you have no faith?

It is easy to have faith when you are not in the hot seat. Fear is a natural response of being in the hot seat. It is easy to believe when your faith is not being challenged. It is easy to be afraid when you the storms hit.

We all experience this. When it is your child who is going into surgery it is a fundamentally harder than when it is someone elses child. When you have lost your job, it is harder to believe than when someone else looses their job.

The disciples had watched Jesus do miracle after miracle, heal person after person, cast out evil spirit after evil spirit - and they were afraid about the storm. Why? Because it was their storm. It was their boat. It was their fear of drowning.

When Jesus calmed their storm, saved them from their drowning - they understood a new reality about Jesus; they saw him in a new and powerful light. They saw his power at work in their life. And they were afraid. Again.

The question for me is - am I going to trust this Jesus? This Jesus who heals, who redeems, who loves, who rose from the dead. During the storms of my life, during my personal storms - am I going to trust him?

Monday, April 04, 2011

Have been reading in Mark over the past few days - in particular the last part of chapter 4 and chapter 5. There are three snap shots of Jesus showing up: calming a storm, healing a demon possessed man and raising a dead girl. As I was reading them, a theme appeared - fear. In each of these snap shots, there was a fear response of those around Jesus. In the next series of posts, I want to look at each of these snap shots and explore fear a little bit.

Fear is a powerful emotional motivator. There are several responses - physical and emotional - to fear. My initial response to fear is physical: my stomach knots up, I feel energy drain from me, and, depending on the intensity of the emotion, I begin to feel a bit nauseous. If my emotional tank is a little low, I emotionally run away; trying to avoid the fear, hoping whatever created the situation will just go away (which it never does).

Fear can also make us do some irrational things (like running away from the problem and hoping they will go away). As we look at these snap shots of Jesus ministry, we will see some of responses that, by observation, seem to be irrational. My hope is as we explore these snap shots, we will learn now not to respond to Jesus out of fear, but out of awe and worship.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

We left last Friday evening for Florida for our annual spring break vacation. We spend the first days with someone on the Gulf side of Florida, move to the middle of Florida to spend some time with my mom and dad, and then move to the Atlantic side of Florida - living out of a suitcase at it finest!!!!

We arrived yesterday at my folks place with the intention of spending today packing them up so they can take the trek home. That will start in a couple of hours.

The parents of one of my co-workers live in the same park as my mom and dad. My dad asked if I wanted to meet and talk with them and before I knew it, my wife and I were on our way to their place a few blocks away. We sat and chit-chatted with them, talking about various things. A couple of things that struck me in our conversation was how these folks lauded my dad for his work with my mom. They also praised my mom's attitude through the midst of her trials and paralysis. The woman, who was facing back surgery, said "I need to be more like your mom"; referring to keeping a God centered perspective on life and pain. They also talked about the many people who look at my mom and dad as an inspiration.

I wept inside as God opened a bit of a window to show me, once again, how He redeems the crappy things of life, the things wrought of sin, to bring good into this planet. I know that He is at work and is more powerful that our adversary the devil!!!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I was driving into work today and was watching the kids waiting for the bus on the side of the road. Backpacks were on the ground, smiles on their faces, their right hands on a lone fence post, circling round and round and round it. They were having a "happy" conversation - playful banter with each other. It didn't look like they had a care in the world.

My mind immediately jumped to Jesus' sermon on the mount - where he talked about the birds in the air, the flowers in the field - how neither of these toiled or labored or worried. They just go about their work of building nests, feeding their young, just growing. They don't worry about their existence because God takes care of them.

I want to live my life like those kids this morning - not a care in the world; like the flowers and the birds. I want to totally rely on my Father in heaven to provide for my needs. I know that may sound kind of "Polly-anna", but I believe that is how God wants us to live. I want to live care free. And you know what? God wants me to live this way too! (Wasn't it Peter who said to cast all our cares on Jesus because He cares for us? I Pet 5:7)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My first post for March - wow two weeks and the family (or what is left of it) heads off on our trip to warmer climates!

Have been studying the book of Mark with my guys small group. Mark looks at the life of Jesus through various "snap shots". It seems as if Mark is less concerned about what Jesus taught (via his words at least), that what He does. Mark spends a lot of time describing settings and what others are thinking and saying and doing, verses what Jesus taught.

Chapter 2 and 3 record six events where the established religious leaders of the day confront Jesus on some issue: the ability to forgive sins, eating with "sinners", not fasting, "harvesting" grain kernels to eat on the Sabbath, healing on the Sabbath and being powered by Satan.

The remarkable thing about these snap shots is the religious leaders of the day showed no concern for people; only for the "rules" of their religion. They were more concerned about trapping Jesus in working on the Sabbath than they were about healing a man. They were more concerned about not "harvesting" on the Sabbath than they were the hunger of men. Their focus was on strict alignment with their agenda; their rules; their way of living.

Mind you, they did not want to repeat the mistakes of the forefathers who sinned against God which ultimately caused the nation to be taken into exile. They wanted the blessing of God and not his curse; obedience to the law brought blessing; disobedience brought cursing.

In their zeal to be obedient, they forgot humanity. In their desire to be in the place of blessing, they forgot to look at the needs of the people around them. In executing their agenda, they forgot that the agenda of God was selflessness.

OK, so here is the hard part: when do I do this? When is my agenda over-ride my need to show grace, mercy and love to humanity. When is my desire to accomplish something cause me to miss the real reason for my existence - to aid people in their pursuit of God.

Something to watch for and correct when I see it..................

Monday, February 28, 2011

OK, I have to admit I am a nerd (I think that I already admitted it in the past, but it never hurts to re-up). One of my favorite TV shows is NCIS. Why? Because of the science of criminal investigation.

I was watching it the other night and the narrator said this: Every man is born as many men and dies as a single one (a quote from a philosopher Martin Heidegger). The truth of this quote struck has many paths - some of which are chosen for me (my birth date, my place of birth, who my are parents are, etc.), some of which I choose.

It is the last part that is the most challenging - who I ultimately will become is shaped by the paths that I choose. If I continually choose to respond angrily when life throws a hard circumstance at me, I will become an angry person. If I choose to look at people and care for them instead of looking at how they can serve me, I will become a person with a servants heart.

The quote is stating that to a large part, we are captains of our fate; we can choose who we become. This is not necessarily true in all areas of life, but it surely is true from a character perspective; the true essence of who we are and really what we ultimately want to be defined as by those around us (e.g. I would rather be defined as "kind and poor" vs. "rich and mean").

Our ability to be captain of our fates is true in our eternal destiny too. We have to choose to follow God; we have to choose to understand our need for a Savior and choose to accept Him as Lord of our life everyday. (Note that this is written from a free will perspective, even though I know that God is the one that calls and ordains; I have not, nor will I ever figure out the mechanics of the mystery between our free will and the sovereignty of God!!!!)

The letter that Paul wrote to the Philippians indicates that we are to "choose joy"; even in the midst of trying circumstances. The love of the scriptures is not an emotion, but a cognitive choice to put other's needs on an equal plane with ours. Joshua instructed the nation of Israel to "choose you today who you are going to serve".

Choices, choices, choices - choose those things today that will bring you closer to God and more in line with obedience to Him. Choose who you will become today by choosing to do what is right and holy. Chose today what will ultimately shape your character into one that is Godly and beautiful.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

OK, so you may be get tired of me writing about the desire that God has for us. For some reason, I just can't get it out of my mind. I believe that God wants to do a work deep in my soul, so the Spirit is camping out a lot on this issue in my "thinking" time.

I was listening to a speaker (Andy Stanley filling in for his dad on In Touch) talk about our appetites this morning - our appetite for more, more, more. He pushed beyond the obvious of appetite for food, and moved to our appetite for power, position, sex, things, shoes, acceptance, love, ______, etc. (fill in the blank with a whole bunch of things).

He went on to say that some of these appetites (or desires if you want to call is something else) are God created and Satan distorted. Our distorted appetites never whisper, they always scream. Our appetites never say "wait", they always say "now". Our appetites will make us do crazy and apparently unintelligent things (refer to Esau selling his birthright for a bowl of stew in Genesis 25). I would also say suggest that appetites always promise more that they will deliver.

How true....and troubling. Troubling in that all these appetites draw me away from God instead of to Him.

There is competition for my appetite. The psalmist implored me in Psalm 34 to "taste and see that the Lord is good". He implores me to fill my appetite by tasting Him and His ways. Unfortunately, I fill that appetite in so many other ways that are SO subtle, that often I don't even realize that I am using them to fill me.

How this must grieve the heart of God. How I must grieve the heart of God. His STRONG desire for me, to fill me, to be with me, to love me, to grow me, to perfect me, to be for me; and I use a cheap substitute and trade away what God has for me for a short term pleasure.

I have to set a watch on this area. It is SO easy to be controlled by distorted appetites. Satan desires me to be controlled by them! God desires to have me; He desires to give me fullness of life. I must be diligent in watching for ANYTHING that keeps me from being drawn to him - any attitude, any action, any word, any thought - and root it out of my life so that the Spirit of God can fill me.

Monday, February 14, 2011

I have been thinking more about my last post - the desire that God has for us.

Isn't that one of the things we want the most? Don't we want someone to accept us for who we are, not what we do, not how we dress, not where we live, not our position in the community, not what we are financially worth, not what our face or body looks like? Don't we? Isn't this what we really want?

Don't we really want someone to look us in the eye and tell us that they love us just the way we are - faults, imperfections and all? Don't we want that kind of unconditional love that says "regardless of where you are, I will still pursue you; I will still love you; there is nothing that can separate you from me?"

The "professionals" tell us that this is a basic human need - the need to be loved. What if that is what God is offering us? What if He really didn't care what car we drove, were we lived, where we worked, how much was in retirement account? What if He really longed to give us all the love He could? What if WE were the ones who were stopping His love from flowing to us? What if our hang-ups, our view of who we are, our small view of what God wants for us is stopping Him from loving us? What if our lack of trust in who He is and what He has in store for us is stopping us from receiving from Him?

Lots of things to think through on this one. I do know this: the creator of the Universe is drawing us to Him. He really, really, really wants us to know Him and enjoy living in the light of Him.

Don't let some hang up in your way stop you from experiencing His longing and love for you......

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I have been studying the life of Moses again for the leadership development gathering that I do each week. We are in the place in the record of events just before God gives the Ten Commandments and other laws to the Israelites. As I was reading last night, this very caught my attention in Exodus 19:

4 You yourselves have seen what I did in Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you fully obey me and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

I absolutely love the words - I brought you to myself......... Isn't that a wonderful picture of God? Drawing the Israelites to himself? Carrying them; bringing them; inviting them into a relationship with Him. He desired them to be His treasured possession.

What a beautiful picture of God and His desires for us! I hope that I never get over the amazement of what God did for me by sending His Son. He calls me His son; He calls me His child. Amazing!

Listen to the heart of God in His words; listen to His heart for you; listen to His longing to know you............

Sunday, February 06, 2011

I was watching Day of Discovery this morning. It was about addressing some of the doubts that people have in believing Jesus. One of the things that struck me was the statement "You have to look at the historical facts about Jesus and wrestle with them - he is a living, breathing, documented human who lived and walked this earth and made some claims that you must consider" (my loose interpretation of what was said....).

Some important issues that were raised in that statement. Did Jesus really live? Is he a myth or a philosophy or simply a good man? How seriously do I have to take his claims? A man named Paul Meier went on to make the statement (my translation): Jesus is not some mythical creation of someone's mind. He is not a "philosophy" or a system of religion. You have to wrestle with the facts of Jesus; the historical documentation of what others have said about Him. By extension, you have to wrestle with his claims and his statements.

One of the cool things about this is that God in his divine plan, scripted history in such a way that His words would have external documentation to affirm its validity. I recently read that there was more known documentation of the scriptures than there was of any other historical text or book.

I don't believe God ever intended us to have blind faith. He gave us creation. He gave us a living, breathing, human who walked this planet. He gave us historical documentation in support of his work. He gave us evidence that makes our faith reasonable.