Thursday, September 17, 2009


Eccl. 12:13The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

"God is most glorified in Us when we are most satisfied in Him." J.Piper

Phil. 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

1 John 2:3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.
9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. (The entire book of 1 John is good to read for this).

In response to yesterday's post and comment-thanks Kim- here is my response. I hope that there will be others, especially the ladies, who will chime in on this, as the girls generally have a different angle than the guys.

We can know that we are saved. Hatred of sin is a great place to start. Love of obedience is a good place to start as well. How do we know we have a relationship with our spouse or friend? How does a parent know that their kids love them? In the spousal relationship it would be mutual submission, self sacrifice and communication... In the parent child relationship it would be obedience, honor and willing submission... As a parent do you see you child increasing in the joy of serving the family by doing things w/o being told? In our spiritual relationship we should be ever increasing in our desire to communicate with The Father and to be in fellowship with His people.

Where are your affections? For sure we will love our kids and our spouse; but do we love them more than we love God? Could God allow their removal from our lives and we still say that God is good? If God took away everything from you today, could you say with Job, "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him"? Are your affections not only for God but are they growing hotter? If our affections are lukewarm, like those of the Laodiceans, then we can be sure we are not saved.

I often have made this too hard. It is not about what we do. There is no works we can do that will prove we are children of God, but our lives should have evidence of the fruit of the Spirit. We are not going to be perfect while we are here in these tents, but our affections and obedience should be growing. We are either going up or down but we are never stopped.

The fact that you may be concerned about your own salvation is good. If someone is not concerned about their salvation and they are not living in obedience to the Word; this should raise a red flag.

God knows we have weak faith, He knows we are but dust, but He has also prepared work for His children to do from before the foundation of the world, and we need to walk in them, Eph. 2:10.

So for my friend Kim, I would say to pray that God would place His desires over the top of your own desires, that He would increase your faith-help your unbelief- that He would grow your affections for everything that is connected to Him.

The Christian life is hard and living on unseen things is very hard, but God is the One who works in us to delight ourselves in Him and then He in turn gives us the desires of our heart.

None of the change that He has made in my life has been from me. All of the change has been Him changing my affections, growing my love for others, giving me more of a heart for the lost, and giving me a desire to be in The Word and to be praying. I don't know that we can get any of those things w/o being in the valleys. While it is encouraging to see our spiritual growth-to see where we were and where God has taken us- in this case the best view of growth seems to be from the valley floor, rather than the mountain tops. Our growth from year to year is more easily measured by how low we are willing to go with God and still be delighted in Him. If the trials you are facing today are much more difficult than they were last year and you are more delighted today in God than you were lat year, then I think it is safe to say that God is working and you are a Christian. If your delight in God is based on how much He is physically blessing you right now, you may have room for concern.

I am sorry for what seems to me as a really jumbled up answer. I feel very inadequate to respond to questions like this, especially electronically. Will some others please chime in.

Kim- I will pray for you and your daughter. God is so good, we must trust Him with all that we are and let Him work. Thanks for your openness.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Long, Hard Conversations

As a member of our youth ministry staff I am frequently reminded of the battle of souls and of God's grace in saving me personally and in drawing my family to Himself. This is not because I am so special, but because He is so gracious. We have had many professions of faith in the last year or 2 in 128 and as I think about lives that have been transformed it truly is amazing the work He does.

Creation itself is God's power on display. Those who look at creation and attribute it to evolution or whatever else they can conjure up, are small thinkers and have elevated themselves to a higher place than God. Pretty stupid.

But, think about those you have known who have lived a pretty rebellious life and the change that came after salvation. That change is no less amazing than all of creation. Probably millions of souls saved by grace and transferred into the Kingdom of His marvelous light and all by His work.

This brings me to my intended point. Why do many parent's continually point to some, tiny in some cases, change in their child's life and hang their eternal destiny on that one point. Sample conversation;
Me;"Do you think Jimmy is really saved? In small group, when he shows up, he doesn't really participate in the discussion, he sleeps through much of the sermon time, he doesn't sing, and when asked about his personal Bible reading and prayer time, he always says he's not doing very well".
Parent; "Well, Jimmy has been going through a lot right now and his choice of friends is not really what we would want. He doesn't really like coming to 128 because nobody really likes him there. He is sort of a shy kids and that may be why he doesn't talk too much in small group, but more than that he just doesn't fit in with those kids."
Me; "Yes, but is he saved?"
Parent; "Well, he has changed quite a bit since snow retreat. He seems to be a little nicer to his sister than he used to be. It's hard to know. People are so judgmental and I don't think they should always be trying to figure out if Jimmy is saved. They should just love him and let him figure it out on his own".
Me; "Do you see Jimmy making time to read his Bible and pray? Do you see him selecting friends who are those who are walking with the Lord? Do you see his concern with the sin of the friends he is hanging around and confronting them on it? If darkness and light have no connection, and Jimmy is a Christian, then why would Jimmy not want to come to small group or 128? If given he choice why would he-every time- choose sleeping in over coming to church, video games over Bible reading, hanging out with "the wrong crowd" instead of those who love the Lord? If Jimmy is not increasing in his love for the things of the Lord, then why would you say he is a Christian? Why would you risk his eternal destiny on 'he seems to be nicer to his sister'? Maybe she has a cute friend that he likes".

It is hard to imagine how many times a conversation like this has happened in our ministry. If you are a parent reading this don't be Jimmy's parent. You are the first gate keeper of your child's soul. I-as a small group leader- am not going to be held responsible before God for Jimmy's soul nearly as much as you are. Ask hard questions. If Jimmy were to be accused of being a Christian is there enough evidence to convict him? In this last conversation there is not.

What should you look for?

Love for the Word. Do you see your child reading their Bible? Is their Bible under a big stack of stuff and it only comes out on Sundays and Wednesday? Are they learning something from their Bible reading? I have asked many kids "How is your Bible reading going?" and they say they are reading, but are they learning anything from it? It is your responsibility to ask them what they are learning. God has given you this stewardship opportunity- how are you doing?

Devoted to prayer. There is no relationship that can survive without communication. There is no proud person who is a Christian. Prayer requires humility and if we are not praying it could be because we are too proud to ask God for His will to be done in our lives, or we don't see a need to pray. If your friend never talks to you-ever- are you really friends? If your spouse never is interested in talking to you, how would you say your relationship is doing?

Fellowship with other believers. How do you know you are a family? Is it only because you have the same last name? Do your kids enjoy hanging out with all of your family? Take that to the next step. Your eternal family- the ones we will spend eternity with whether that is Heaven or Hell- are often the ones we enjoy hanging out with right now. If you, or your child, likes to hang out with non believers much more than believers then there is room to question.. Darkness and light have no fellowship together.
Side note here; None of the people I hang out with are perfect. I know that might be a shock. I am not perfect- not a shock. There are always going to be issues that come up as long as we are here in our earthly tents. I have some really good friends that are unbelievers- people I work around or with. But if I can choose who I most want to hang out with, it is always believers. I need to be in the world sharing the Gospel, but I get the most joy and encouragement from being around other believers. We have one very large thing in common- Christ. What righteous, holiness inducing, glory proclaiming conversation will come up when a group of unbelievers are hanging out together?

Fruit. Not one little piece of fruit but the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, should be evident and growing in their life. All of them. Love for other and God. Joy in trials as well as the good times. Peace in turmoil. Patience with those who are difficult- like their parents, small group leader, or pastor. Kindness to others that are different than they are. Good to others who are not good to them. Faithfulness to God and His Word. Gentle and not harsh when provoked. And maybe the hardest for young men, self controlled. Are they able to be controlled by what is inside them rather than what is on the outside? Does "peer pressure" get them into trouble? As a parent do your friends "make you do things" that you know are wrong? Are you constantly defending your child's behavior by including "If Jimmy didn't hang out with Johnny he wouldn't do those kinds of things"? We, as adults, don't hang out with people who make us do the wrong thing- that is called a gang. Don't let your kids hang out with people who "make them" do the wrong thing either. They should be seeing the consequences of their choices and choosing a different route next time. Sure, we all make mistakes, but are they making the same mistake over and over again? Let them suffer, and suffer long and hard, for their sin now, because if you don't they will be suffering in a prison somewhere, if God is gracious enough to wake them up, or if they get away with it too long, they will suffer in Hell for all of eternity for their sin that you helped them get away with.

Sorry for the long post. Souls are at stake. When you see other parents struggling, or kids struggling, don't just let someone else talk to them. In love and meekness go and say something. You may be the only one saying something, but God loves it when we are concerned enough for souls that we step out of our comfortable place and say the hard things. Don't talk yourself into believing that they might be saved when you see ZERO fruit. Satan has you exactly where he wants you. Don't be a tool of the devil, be a sharp tool for God.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Is God Ignoring You?

There is a prayer seminar coming up soon and for those of you who live close by, I would highly recommend it. I don't have an inside track to the outline or the notes but I am confident in God's work in SKH's heart toward prayer and fasting. Please sign up quickly if you desire to go, it will be well worth the time and dollars as your hearts will be encouraged and probably admonished.

Discipline is good. Spiritual discipline is better. A heart to follow hard after God is best. Before we leave I have to take another opportunity to talk about Is. 58. What a great passage centered around what we are trying to see happen, not only in our lives, but also in the lives of others.

In this chapter God is telling Isaiah what to tell His people. The Israelites had been doing all that God had required of them. They were seeking Him daily, they found delight in knowing His ways, they fasted, they humbled themselves, but God was not happy with what they were doing. Isn't He the One who set this all up? Didn't He tell them to do all this stuff? Why is He not happy with them if He told them what to do and they did it?

Does this sound like the American Church? Doing, Doing, Doing. God told them to do all these things ad they did them, BUT they also did some other things that took away the sweetness of the offering; these things took away from the fasting they were doing.

What kind of fast does God choose? Notice-God does choose that we fast. But what goes along with the fasting? It is not to just follow all the requirements, but it is to care for those whom God has a heart for- the poor and needy.

6"Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

9bIf you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted.

God adds a multiplicity of blessings that are connected to doing these things, but His heart is for these people. If, when we are fasting and praying, we rise from our fasting and praying and we go back to oppressing our workers, if we hoard our food and clothing, if we place heavy burdens on others but take only a small load ourselves, then God is not going to listen to or see our spiritual discipline and will just ignore it. The Israelites had done all that God had required of them, except they did it all with the wrong heart. They went from fasting today to beating others tomorrow. God doesn't honor this type of behavior.

When you fast and pray and do the "church thing" do you go home and take it out on your family? You are hungry and the entire world is going to suffer for it? I have been guilty of this more than once. That is why Jesus taught us to fast w/o looking gloomy. If we're fasting and grumpy about it, we should just eat, because no amount of NOT eating is going to atone for our bad attitude.

So, fast and pray for our trip, but do it following hard after God. Don't take it out on your family. When you are fasting and praying look at your own life and see what changes God is calling you to.

I am hoping that SKH will talk about fasting in the seminar.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Blameless or Foolish?

2 Chron. 16:7"Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. 8Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, he gave them into your hand. 9 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars."

I have heard this verse quoted so many times and there is a part that is positive, which should really give us encouragement. BUT the context is not positive at all. It is a judgment passed on from "the seer" to Asa.

Look at it closely. The context previous to this was that Asa just called in some favors. This was not wicked from man's perspective at all. In fact most every person I know would give this advise. Call in the favors you are owed to help you get out of a jamb. Isn't this good stewardship?

But the seer reminds Asa that the last time he was in a jamb he sought ONLY the Lord and the Lord delivered him out of a much tighter place than he was currently in.

How often I have done the same thing. I don't want to do this, but my flesh is so weak. I want to be blameless and not foolish. In this context blameless is having no plan "B". That was Asa's sin. God had previously been his plan "A" and he figured he would call in some favors and not bother God with this small deal, but God wants to be called on every time and to be our only option.

The balance of Asa's days were not good. He never trusted God again. He died angry with God; that He would tell him that using the other options was foolish.

I was actually just thinking this before I read this passage. I was thinking that I really have no other plan except God. That might seem sort of narrow focused and not very diverse, but isn't God calling diversification in these kinds of instances sin? There is only one, strongly supported, way out of every situation and it is God.

May I not be a fool and lean on my own understanding. May I rejoice in the fact that I have but one Option. May I trust Him fully as He does all I need Him to do, in every situation and all for my good and His glory.

Please pray for PG as things have been a little slower than I would like; though He knows all and provides, He wants to be asked for His continued care for our daily needs. He knows and cares, so I will trust Him with my life and know that this is the greatest place to be single minded.


Ps. 121:3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

My friend Mo told me a few weeks ago that if she could be a superhero and could have one superpower if would be that she could go without sleep. Often I am accused of going without sleep, but trust me I sleep and I wish I could go with less. It seems like such a waste of time, but there are seasons for sleeping and seasons for being awake.

But this passage gives the encouragement that even though we have to sleep our "Keeper" never sleeps. While we are sleeping He is awake making sure that only what He ordains happens. Think about what would happen if He needed to sleep, even for just an hour each day.

In that hour literally all of Hell could break lose and its gates could actually prevail over Christ's Bride as He was asleep. But He doesn't sleep and so He keeps the prince of the power of this world back where He wants him to be.

We have a Savior that made the heavens and the earth but He still cares for every intimate detail of our lives. This is a greater to the lesser kind of a passage. If God can make all the heavens and the earth, can He not keep us from under going whatever it is that we are going through right now? If God can keep all of Israel, can He not keep one person?

This past week I got a subpoena from my former partner's uncle's attorney- are you with me so far. His uncle is trying to stop him from doing business, as he has been doing, and now he is including me in the lawsuit to see what he can dig up. Really his uncle is just a who doesn't love the Lord, and is trying to cause anyone grief he can. Unfortunately this requires that we represent ourselves with some legal counsel, which is expensive.

This is hard for me to understand and yet God knows how much it will cost and He is allowing this for whatever reason. I don't have to understand, because God knows exactly what is going on and He is allowing this to happen. I want to have a good attitude, because maybe this is the avenue that will get this man to understand that he needs God more than money.

Whatever the reason, please pray and keep praying that God would work mightily in the situation- He always provides a way of escape-and that I would have peace as I leave this in His hands. In this economic time it is difficult to see an expenditure that is unnecessary going out, but God is in control and from eternity past He knew this was coming right at this exact time. Pray for me and pray for this uncle. Pray that God would show Himself strong-as He is strong- and that He would be glorified in the situation. He can turn what appears to be something of no value into pure gold.

I really have no idea what He will do but please pray that His will would be done in my life as it is done in Heaven.

Thank you Lord that You do not need to sleep, that You are always watching and controlling everything that is happening. Thank You that You do not allow evil to always prevail and that You will make all things right in Your time. Please give me the faith to trust You every step of the way and to not waver. I have watched You turn things around in ways that are completely unexplainable, and I trust that You will continue Your faithfulness as You have carried it on through all generations. Work mightily as only You can and glorify Yourself as You deserve. May I be thankful and praise You when You have finished Your work in this situation.

The Psalms are full of verses where the wick are temporarily winning but often the writer is praying for God's strength to allow him to endure the wicked today for in just a little while the wicked will be no more. God will make all things right in His time and the wicked will receive what is coming to them.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Connected Passages?

Matt. 7:7 "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
Ps. 37:
4 Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Matt. 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

I was thinking about these passages this morning and it seems that maybe they are connected more than just by the binding on the outside of the Book. Maybe Matt. 7:7 is saying that when our hearts have been tuned to god's Word and we are truly seeking His will for everything in our lives, maybe this is when He really gives us what we are asking for, because we truly are asking for what He desires us to have in the first place.

When we are seeking to do His will, no matter what that looks like, then He is ready to show us what His will is and open the doors to allow that to happen for us. Until we let go of our own desires He may not choose to show us what He would have us to do.

What are the desires of our heart? Are they directly connected to His? Are they one and the same? Or, are we fighting to keep part of our own desires just in case we are not happy with what He chooses?

I find this both hard and easy to do. Hard to give up all that I am for what He desires me to wants for me, even though I know in the end it will be much better. Easy to try to save a little bit of myself on the side just in case His plan is not what I have in mind.

He is so faithful to me, when I am not to Him. He provides so much more than I ever deserve, even when I am not thankful. He opens doors that I hesitate to go through, even when it seems there is no way they could be opening unless He opens them. How long will it take me to get it? I hope not the rest of my life. I don't want to waste more than I already have.

How's your asking going? Is it in line with what He wants you to ask for? What are you seeking for? His Kingdom? What doors are you trying to get opened for you? Doors that lead to the Beatitudes or doors that lead to prosperity in this life?

Do you think this is a right interpretation?

Friday, September 11, 2009

We need YOU to pray for us!

Matt. 5:16 let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

The Gospel- Good News- is so connected to God's heart for the poor and needy. Jesus' ministry was about not only caring for the physical needs of the sick, but even more importantly He came to bring THE Cure for our greatest sickness; sin. We are His image to the world around us. We may be the only "Jesus" the world may ever see. When someone has need and we have the means to settle that need, and we take the opportunity, God is glorified in our gift to Him. When we give the glory to Him in that transaction the Gospel is going forth. Take those opportunities to share the Gospel.

Please start, if you haven't already, to pray for us as we have just over a week left until we leave for Ethiopia. God is already working in the hearts of those here in ways I could never have imagined.

We are not asking for a safe nor sickness free trip. That certainly would be nice if it is where He wants us to be, but God has a way of changing my plans, especially when it comes to me and airports:) A safe trip might end up being the least God honoring trip, and the most God honoring might look much different than "safe".

Pray that His will would be done in our lives.
We would have our heart prepared and open to what He intends for us to relay back to people here.
We would be a light to those we are going to see and that they would see HIS heart as we are with them.
He would expand our vision and deepen our understanding of what is going on in the world.
He would show us what opportunities He has planned for us while we are there as well as future opportunities.
We would be clean "pipes" for Him to work through.
He would knit Teresa and I together as we minister in whatever way He provides for us to minister.
Others would know that our work in their lives is because of His work in our lives.
Upon our return we would be more in love with Him because of this trip as we have been able to see His amazing provision for all involved.

Will you pray for us? IF so, please encourage us by posting a "We're praying for you" comment. Thanks. God is SOOO Good that He would use us in spite of how weak and sinful we are. I stand amazed.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Are you a Missionary?

Last night in small group I asked the guys what their thoughts were concerning them going to the mission field. There were numerous thoughts shares; mostly positive.

I don't think that God has called all of our guys to "the field" as we normally think of it, but He has called us all, who are his followers, to be working the fields around us each day. I challenged the guys to think about ways they could interject the Gospel into their daily conversations at school, work or wherever they are. There we some good thoughts around that topic and encouragement that some of their siblings were doing a better job at this than they were. That is awesome.

We talked about why we don't always share and for the most part it is because we are fearful of what others may think or even say about us. They admonished one another with the truth that our lives are short and it doesn't matter what others are thinking or saying, we are called to share.

I was reading Romans 1 this morning where Paul is talking about his compulsion, joy or desire to preach the Gospel because this is the Good News that people need to hear. He says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."

It is exciting to live by faith, on unseen things, and to know that God takes our willing obedience, as we step out in faith to share the Gospel, and uses whatever words come out of our mouths to further His Kingdom. We don't have to be Bible scholars to share, we just have to share. Paul was excited to share because He had seen so many times the outworking of his sharing in the lives of others.

Maybe if there were more conversions because of our willingness to share, that would make us more excited to share. Maybe we should just share and let God take care of the increase. He is working in the lives of the students and that is awesome to see.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Muddy Shoes

Life and ministry is messy; there is just no way around this fact and yet still have an impact on people.

What would it look like if Jesus' ministry was nice and "clean"? Couldn't Jesus do ministry and not hang out with the "messy" people? Sure; He is God and He could have done it any way that He wanted. But since Jesus is our Supreme Example and He showed us the most effective ministry is when we hang with the people, even the ones who are not really "worth" hanging with, then maybe we should get accustomed to hanging that way.

This doesn't make our ministry easier, knowing this is the way Jesus set it up, but it freeing to know that His way is the best, and only way, and He is the One who provides the increase.

So what will ministry done Jesus' way look like? He said He came not to the healthy but to the sick, so we should be thinking about being around people who are sick. Does this mean hospitals? Maybe. But He was talking about spiritually sick, more than physically. What does a spiritually sick person look like? Look in the mirror when you know you are spiritually sick and you will have the answer.

David was spiritually sick when he cried out to God that his bones were wasting away. Have you ever been in that spot? What kind of "medicine" did you need? Often it is a swift kick in the pants, but there are times it is a tender listening ear and a lighter kick in the pants. This goes back to knowing our sheep. Not everyone needs the same kind of "encouragement", but we all, at times, need some sort of encouragement to renew a steadfast spirit within us and restore the joy of our salvation.

I think most of the time the answer is time. We are trying to get all these things done and maybe even trying to effect too many people and we don't have time to really hone in on the ones that God is putting into our lives. Potentially all the things we are doing are good, but that doesn't mean that we are personally to do them all. Even Jesus had only 12 men that He really focused on, and then He focused even more acutely on 3-4.

I think most of us can do a better job of ministering to more people on a quick and surface level by quoting more Scripture to each other and being ready to have a defense of our faith and an encouraging word about what the Lord is doing in our lives. I have found recently this seems to be good for the up-building of others. But then it gets tricky. From there who are we to really focus on? Jesus is not physically here to point out whom we should be pouring into, so how do we know? Look for people who keep coming into your life. Maybe these are not even the ones you are thinking about. Pray that God would make it clear to you who is to encourage/admonish you and whom you are to encourage. He can make it so clear that you may have to stand back and laugh when He is through.

Pray for opportunities to share and then courage to share when the opportunities are there. Pray that today you would be able to impact the Kingdom by getting your shoes dirty and being part of someone's life that needs help. Pray that we would be humble in our approach and that we would be teachable ourselves.

Life is short, like a vapor, and we may not get to impact the Kingdom tomorrow in the life of the one standing in front of us today; messy or not.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Useful- serviceable for an end or purpose. Isn't that what we should long to be? Should there be anything higher on our prayer list for ourselves than to be a useful vessel for The King? No matter how great, powerful or famous we could be, if we are not useful we are no good.

I have a friend who is seemingly close to going Home. There could be a "miracle healing", but is that the best way to pray? What is best is for God to use us as He wills and for us to rejoice in being used in some way, whatever He sees best. He sees so much farther down the road than we do and it is so fun to watch Him take all these things and work them out for our good and His glory. It really is amazing when we can look back through our days, weeks and years if we are looking for His hand we can see Him work out so many details.

I often want to go in a direction that is not where He wants me to go. I have an idea, maybe have even prayed about it, and am going to go and do this thing and yet He has a much better plan for me. "How can He use me to my fullest capacity in this situation?" "How can this be the best use of my time when this is not how I am gifted?" These kinds of questions create doubt that God really does know what He is doing in my life. But when I just watch Him take all these things and use them to shape me into what He would have me to be, then I can finally start to see where He is going to use me. He not only shapes us as He wills, but then He gives us the work to do, that perfectly fits how He shaped us.

So please pray that we would be useful to His Kingdom, in whatever place and capacity that is. As we prepare to go to Ethiopia, in less than 2 weeks, I have no idea what He is going to do, but I really don't care; I just want Him to open my eyes and heart to what He wants and then for Him to use us as He wills for His purpose. He has some crazy plan that perfectly fits how He has created Teresa and I and He knows exactly what it is. This is when it should start to get fun; watching Him take all the years of shaping and see how He has knitted Teresa and I together into the fabric that is needed in whatever way He sees best.

I want to be used by Him, for whatever purpose He sees best, because I know that when He works all these things together the picture is much nicer than if I had the brush for even a minute. It is easy to want to grab it and paint away, but this is when the painting gets messed up.

Please pray that we could be a blessing to those in Ethiopia, to those we meet in the airports along the way, to those who are back here praying. Pray that God would be honored in our service to Him. This could be a new chapter in our lives and it could be just a short little paragraph; I really have no idea what to think, but He knows and that is what is most important.


"The Lord loves us too well to let us miss the best. He has to weaken our strength in the way, to bring us into the Valley of Weeping, to empty, humble and prove us, that we too may know that our strength, every bit of it, is in Him alone, and learn as Hudson Taylor did to leave ourselves entirely in His hands". The Growth of a Soul.

There is such a dichotomy when I think about how hard it is to be in "The Valley" and where that takes me and being out of it. Though being in the middle of trials is so hard and we are pressed on every side, it is the best place we can be. I hate that I often am wanting to be finished and be to higher ground, but as soon as I am to higher ground I lose sight of the fact that in the low lands is where I am most changed and grown.

I am starting to really relish the times when all I can do is look upward, knowing this is the best place for me to be. I am finally starting to realize, after all these years, that this is where God does His best work in my life. I can look to no other but Him and there is no better place to look.

It then becomes disheartening to reach a higher plane knowing that in more cases than not I will start to enjoy the view and forget Who provides the view. It could have been just hours ago that I was so low and went to the Throne begging to be raised up, and now I am rejoicing in the burden being lifted, yet forgetting who was the One who lifted it. So irritating!

It is so sweet to know that my Savior knows I am but dust, feeble and frail, yet still He patiently molds and shapes us into His image that we would be more useful to Him.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Are You a Shepherd?

In John 10 Jesus is telling His followers about The Shepherd and the sheep. What does a shepherd look like and what does a shepherd do? Is it the shepherd's only responsibility to make sure the sheep are fed? Does the shepherd just need to make sure the sheep are in the pen at night? What does this "job" entail?

In a quick reading of this text one thing jumps out at me; the word "Know". The sheep know The Shepherd and The Shepherd knows the sheep. If all that was required of shepherds is that they made sure the sheep were fed and in the pen would they really know the sheep? Sure the sheep would come running at feeding time, but immediately when other food was provided they would go wherever the food was.

I think Jesus is trying to tell us that shepherding is hard, messy work. If we are going to be shepherds we have to make sure that the basic needs of food and shelter are provided for our sheep, but there is also messy work connected to these sheep. The only way we can be good shepherds over the sheep that God has entrusted to us is to know them and to know them intimately. This is messy work, but I think it connects to the post about baptism. The people who have the greatest input into the lives of others are those who don't care if they are going to get a little mud on their shoes, they want to make sure that they know the sheep enough to really have an impact in their lives.

What would this look like?
Calling out shyness as sin.
Seeing the bad attitude and having the guts to say something about it.
Knowing they are not reading and praying and finding out why.
Watching outward conformity but knowing there is inward rebellion and calling it.
Seeing the real hurt from remarks of others, when they just laugh it off, but you know they are really hurt.
Knowing what the concern is that day or week and asking them how it's going.
Asking what you can pray about for them this week.
knowing them enough to both celebrate victories and mourn defeats.

The list could go on and on, but I think you get the point. A shepherd is not a talking head whose only responsibility is teaching/feeding. It is so much more than that and those who are called to be shepherds have both a difficult and very rewarding work. We sheep are pretty stupid at times, but the shepherd is supposed to know us enough to make sure we don't go the same direction we went last time. That requires intimate knowledge which requires a lot of time spent with the sheep.

If you are a shepherd how well do you know your sheep? How are you doing in increasing your knowledge and what are you doing to be a better shepherd than you were last year? Shepherding souls is serious business and we must be in prayer for the sheep that God has entrusted to us. We must also pray for our shepherds, as their work is difficult, because we are not very responsive sheep.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Student Baptism

We had a baptism service at our church last Sunday nigh; 13 of the students from 128, our youth ministry, were baptized. There were a few things that stood out to me in many of the testimonies that I would like to encourage you with.

1. Certainly it is all God's work and timing in each life. It is amazing that He would save any, and yet He chooses many of the people we know.

2. More often than not there is more than one person involved in the new believer's life that helps to point the way.

3. Often the people who are most influential in the process are not necessarily thought of highly while the battle for the soul is taking place. Often, the person who will end up having the most impact, is really disliked.

4. This person is not afraid to ask the hard questions and to hold the non believer's feet to the fire. They seem to all say that they didn't like the questions and being put on the spot, but are thankful for the person not leaving them in their sin.

5. When salvation occurs, by God's Amazing Grace, then the new believer often becomes friends with the person who asked the hard questions; now they have a new relationship and something sweet and fresh to talk about, when before there was no common ground; darkness and light can't dwell together.

God is so good and the service, with all the testimonies was such an encouragement. Seeing God take these young lives and change them into ambassadors for His Kingdom is so sweet. Pray for the students who were baptized that they would remain strong in their faith and that God would use them in a mighty way to expand His Kingdom. Pray that they would be bright lights for His glory and that they would have a be impact on their classmates and fellow students this coming school year.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Lose it-Find it.

In Matt; 10:34-42 Jesus is telling us what to expect, as we follow Him, in this life and how we will be rewarded in the next. In verse 39 He says, " Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

Often I go looking for ways to find my own life and fill my own pleasures when Jesus is clearly telling me right here that the only was I can have Him, is to lose myself. The only way we can gain Heaven is to live a life of denying ourselves and follow Him.

I don't think most of us get up in the morning and think, "How can I give more of myself away today?" or "I will delight in suffering for Jesus today".

Doesn't this mean that if we really love God we will love Him even is we lose everything? Isn't that a true test of our affection for Him? If we are willing to lose all we have in this life, for His sake, only to gain Him, this is a true test of our love for Him.

Think about your loves; work, kids, position, home, toys, friends, security, favorite food. (I put those in that order because I think for most men they would not be willing to give up their work or position and for women it would be kids and home.) Would you be just as glad in God if these things were taken away from you? Would you delight in Him as much or even more if these were gone?

The rich young ruler went away sad because he had a lot of money he didn't want to give up, and I think often we look at this and say it is terrible that he wouldn't trade his money for Christ, but what is it that keeps us from following Christ? Is it one of those things I listed? Is it something else.

Hudson Taylor, very early on, had a very close friend that he thought would be the one he was to marry, yet she didn't want to go to China, especially as a missionary. She wanted to stay and be Mrs. Dr. Taylor, in her comfortable surroundings. What if Hudson has not followed Christ's call for him and caved to the pressure of love? What would China, as a mission field, look like today?

Christ often calls us to do hard things; to follow after the unseen, by faith. This is not easy, to live a life of self denial, but it is what God calls each of us to do in this life, so we can have treasures in Heaven.

Hudson, after a day of mourning, confidently knew that this is what God called him to do, and knew that his highest joy would come from following hard after Christ and all that that entailed.

What is God calling you to give up today, that He might give you more joy tomorrow?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My Son, in Whom I am Well Pleased

As a father of 3 awesome kids it is easy to find delight in them. They bring me so much joy as they walk with the Lord and lead others to a closer walk with Him. I can say, in a small measure, that I understand some of what The Father says when He says "The is my Son in whom I am well pleased". I am certainly well pleased with all of my kids.

The difficultly with me being pleased with my kids is that they are often like me. Our kids always get our traits, especially the ones we would rather them not get. The Father has no sinful traits to look past to see the glory of His Son. The Son is the pure radiance of The Father, and so He can be well pleased with The Son because there is no imperfections to overlook.

So then, if The Father is perfectly pleased with the Perfect Son, then it should go without saying that we can only stand in awe and wonder that The Father would lavish His love on us, that while we were yet sinner He would send His only Son to take our place on the cross and direct all of His wrath onto The same Son- whom He loves so very much. We who were dead in our sin, having no righteousness of our own, yet He loved us enough to make this great exchange; the righteous for the unrighteous.

The Son, likewise, was willing to be The Sacrifice for us. Think about that in a new, fresh way today. All three persons of the Trinity knew exactly what was going to happen and yet this was the plan to win sinful man back. How can this really be a good trade for God? How can allowing His beloved Son be tortured and killed be a trade worth making to win you and me? And after thinking about how "unbalanced" a trade that is, then think on the fact that God does exactly as He pleases and so He was pleased to make this trade.

When I see my kids playing sports, it reminds me of days gone by that will never come again for me. I like to see them excelling. It brings me delight, in sort of a strange way, that Grant beats me in golf and that there is no way I can compete with Garrett on the ball court. I am well pleased with their ability. But this is a small and temporary happiness compared to how well pleased I am when I see them reflect Christ in the way they treat others in those same competitions. When Kimmy goes to state in golf and gets the sportsmanship award, because even though she played really poorly the last day, she still reflected the Image of Christ to all those around her, and that is worth being well pleased.

"God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him". J. Piper. God is most pleased to call us His children when we are reflecting His Image. He doesn't cast us off when we are not reflecting, but He is most delighted in us when we are being conformed to the likeness of The Son. As a parent, I can take no credit for my kids Christ-likeness, as that only comes from His work in their lives. BUT, it is a joy to see them reflecting more of His image and that is the thing that makes me, and The Father, most pleased.

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Ps. 37:4.