Friday, October 30, 2009

Why the Trials?

Prov. 17:3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,
and the LORD tests hearts.

This is not hard to write out but it is hard to live out. How often we complain about going through a trial- being in the furnace? We may not even say this out loud, but we may have a complaining heart when God is allowing us to go through trials.

My point in this post is certainly as much for myself as for your encouragement. Anything that is of value has to go through some sort of trying process. Diamonds are cut, gold and silver are heated to take off the dross and we must remember that because we are valuable God allows- even desires- us to go through trials that we might be refined.

This refining shows the value that He has for us and also when the process is complete He can see how pure He has made us to be.

So the next time you are going through various trial, and you may get more than one at a time, remember James 1: 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

What a day that will be when we are perfect, complete and lacking nothing and we stand before our Father and He says, "Well done". It is His work and His purifying that bring about the perfect fruit of righteousness.


"Utter weakness in ourselves; we should be overwhelmed at the immensity of the work before us, were it not that our very insufficiency gives a special claim to the fulfillment of His promise, My grace is sufficient for you; My strength is made perfect in weakness". Hudson Taylor right before going back to China-age 33.

Daily I am reminded of my inability to do what it is that God has placed me in charge of, let alone the burdens that He has recently placed on my heart for the various needs and pain around the world. What can I do? Will it really make any difference?

Only if God is the focus of the work. Only if He is the delight of my heart and the One who gets all the glory for the work He is doing.

I have been praying that He would work in such a mighty way that in every case there would be no way for people to say anything about the situation except that God did that. I don't want to gain from the work that He does.

I got to see that first hand yesterday as I took documents into the bank. Earlier this year it was difficult to get the LOC paperwork through the bank and this time they are loving what is happening at PG. How can this be in this economy? God is at work and HE apparently wants us to keep going. We are not having any gigantic months or even increases over last year, but for us to be doing even close to what we were doing last year is only by His grace and provision.

God is good and He is working. Please keep praying that we might rest in His care. It's hard to imagine that He cares for our every detail and has the power to turn what others intend for our harm into good.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Heb. 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

Oh for confidence in every moment of every day. We have access to the Throne Room of The God of the universe, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing, has snatched us out of our sinful ways, raised us to newness of life, is sanctifying us for His purposes and will some day glorify us and yet we don't ask.

How foolish- how arrogant- of us to not be in prayer at every turn, that we don't live our lives consumed with prayer. We have the ear and heart of the One who can change the tide of every battle, can calm the sea, raise the dead, controls every electron and every galaxy and we don't go to Him because we can handle it ourselves?

How often I have sinned by not giving all into His care. How often I commence the day with hurried ambition and left the Power "off", because I didn't pray. How often I have taken the task from Him because I didn't ask for help from The Helper. Have I been the cause of starvation because I didn't beg the Father for food for those who have none? Is it on my account that there has been little success in an endeavor because I was working independently of The One to whom all of my dependence is on?

2 Chron. 16:7-10 is a reminder to us not to go into any venture without first seeking The Lord and for trusting, even in part, on our own strength. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Ps. 121. If my strength comes from the Lord how can I start something without begging Him to continue giving the Strength? If He provides it in the first place then He can certainly take it away.

Read Ps.34 and be encouraged that The Father hears and acts on behalf of His children. His children praise, boast in, magnify, seek, are delivered by, cry out to and are saved by, are protected by, take refuge in, fear, are watched by, are listened to by, are delivered by, are kept and redeemed by, and all these things are ended with "HIM". We have all these promises only in Him. How can we then try to do anything without Him?

Oh may we truly approach the Throne Room humbly and confidently as we plead with Him on behalf of our weak selves and others and may we rejoice in
Ps. 34:22 The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

What should we fear? Maybe our own pride that keeps us away from the Throne. Be much in prayer to the One who is more than able.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Please Pray With Me

One of my friends that goes to our church needs prayer and I want to ask you to pray along with me. He is on commission- in sales- and has not sold anything in quite a while. Times are tough out there and we need to bear one another's burdens. This is a tangible way for us to ask, beg, plead with the God of all, who has not only the ears to hear our requests but the power to answer them. Please ask that there would be provision as God sees best and that their faith would be strengthened.

We must never forget that it is He who works on our behalf and in the lives of others.

Togo Africa

This is part of a letter I received from my first cousin who is the directors of all projects, over $100k in Africa for ABWE- Association of Baptists for World Missions. I thought you would be encouraged to see what is happening in the world and that the Gospel is being spread.

"It has been 2 weeks since we arrived in Mango, Togo. We spent the first week preparing for the ground breaking ceremony. It turned out to be something that I never anticipated. I expected 50 or 60 missionaries and nationals. Small mind. There were dozens of local village chiefs and officials, four Cabinet level ministers from Lome, 30 - 40 people flew in from the states, and about 4000 nationals showed up. The gospel was preached to over 4000 unbelievers at one time. What a day!

Currently I am working on acquiring materials and labor to start construction next week.
It appears that the hottest time here is between December and May. The cooler rainy season starts in May. Right now it is 84 and a bit humid.
The weather here goes from tropical humid to Sahara dry in the course of a year which wreaks havoc on doors, countertops, cabinets etc. Add to that some termites and wood becomes a poor choice of building materials." Ted Weinberg

They previously finished a hospital in southern Togo- which is in West Africa- and Ted told me that about 3 people come to Christ each and every day because of the work they are doing in the lives of the patients there. He also told me that his first love is to build churches. I told him "I don't know of any churches where 3 souls are brought into the Kingdom a day- just pretend like you're building a big church".

Please pray for those who are living out their faith in places away from their families, away from familiar corporate worship and away from the comforts we have all grown so accustom to. Pray for their health and that God would be glorified in and through them as they work to extend His Kingdom.

There are opportunities for short and long term missions along side of Ted and his team if you are interested. LMK and I will try to give you directions.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A little Levity

Thought you would enjoy this. Apparently they practiced this only twice before they did it live in the train station. Sound of Music in the train station.

Love and Joy

"Love for God and love for man- the essential quality for leading men to God". Growth of a Soul.

"There is nothing more contagious than spiritual joy, when it is the real thing". Growth of a Soul.

I have just finished the first half of the biography of Hudson Taylor and how encouraging and convicting it is. Let me address each quote individually- as they came from 2 separate parts of the book.

"Love for God and love for man- the essential quality for leading men to God". Growth of a Soul. Scripture backs this statement up in 1 Cor. 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

The Pharisees certainly had many of these things going for them; they knew as much or more than most in their time, they understood, they gave much but they had no love. The Word of God can get into our heads and we can regurgitate it to those around us, but if "they will not care how much we know until they know how much we care" is certainly true in our time as much as it was in Jesus' time and in Hudson Taylor's as well. Do you love people? Do you love God more than your own life? Would you lay down your life/desires for others as Christ was our example?

"There is nothing more contagious than spiritual joy, when it is the real thing". Growth of a Soul. This of course ties in with the first one. How do we know it is the real thing? In Hudson's day there were none in China who would say that joy was easy to come by. By age 27- where I am in the books- he has been through so much pain and loss and yet through it all there is joy inexpressible in his life that can only come from the Holy Spirit's working. Even pagans could see this was something different from most everyone around him, including other missionaries.

You've seen them- "Christians" who have no joy. Everything in their life is terrible. They are Eeyore wrapped up in a human shell. If it could go wrong it has happened to them and the only happiness they have is sharing their misery with everyone around them. Could they even be Christians?

This great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, Heb. 12, didn't have life easy; their lives were filled with pain and heart ache, but they had joy as they lived on unseen things. Hudson had so many trials and yet he was joyful in them. Christ suffered more than any human and yet for the joy set before Him He endured the cross.

Can we impact the world for Christ without trials and pain? Sure. But anyone can be joyful when everything is going along smoothly. The real test for us, and for others to watch, is when we are going through trials and we still are joyful in spite of the most difficult of situations. This can only come by us seeing the Prize of Christ and following hard after Him. If we lose all and yet gain Him, we gain what is best. That has to be our "best thought by day or by night".

May the evidence of Christ's work on our behalf and the Holy Spirit's work in us, be so unmistakable that the world has to say there is something different enough about us that they are drawn to the Savior because of His work. He has to do the work and provide the fruit of His Spirit in our lives so we can be different. May He use us to change the world.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Do you want to be happy?

I believe that every person on earth, at every minute would say they do, but how do we go about it? How can we make sure we are on the right road when there seems to be so many roads to choose? Could the straight and narrow road be the singular road to happiness? What if, while on the straight and narrow road, I take some detours; will there be happiness down those wide and crooked ones?

The singular, right answer is always in the Word of God. How do we make sure we are going to be happy/blessed? Follow the straight and narrow road, seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness and He will give you blessings. Often not in the form that we think it should be, but that is where seeking His Kingdom first leads to our thoughts being conformed to His and our delights being His delights.

"If you want blessing 'seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness' and you will be on the high road to all other good. Some people forget this and seek happiness in the world, but it alludes their grasp... they think, plan, contrive, and try this means and that, but get no nearer the mark. While there are others who, seeking nothing for themselves, have joy and peace poured into their hearts. For they put first 'the Kingdom of God and His righteousness' and 'all these things' are 'added to them.' This I have proved by my own experience, and I can assure you that it is so." Hudson Taylor-age 24.

I am finding, personally, that when I am not thinking rightly and get in a funk, if I ponder the goodness of God and especially if I have opportunity to tell of His goodness to others, my outlook is changed and I am blessed from the telling of His goodness. This seems a bit strange, that I get blessing from telling others of God's goodness, but it works and I believe His is glorified in the process- as He is proclaimed to be great.

How's your seeking? What is on the top of your list? What desires are not filled that you are trying to fill? All of these things should have a very distinct "God flavor". Are you trying to "get ahead" for your own glory/satisfaction/comfort, or are you trying to be the best you can be for His glory and the furtherance of His Kingdom?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Off Limits?

I was talking to my dad yesterday- he's 75- about how encouraged/convicted I have been while reading the Hudson Taylor bio.

He has read the 2 volume set I have, "Growth of a Soul" is the first. We talked about Hudson and about where I am in the book and then I said that it doesn't seem like there are many of those kinds of people around now. What happened to the men who have stood out in history like those missionaries from the 1820-1920? Why was there so many very high peaks in the human landscape through that century and why is the landscape so much flatter now?

Why did God bless these men with such amazing ministry success? Is that possibility gone from this earth? What made men like this so special that God chose to bless their ministry so greatly?

I am not God and His ways are not my ways; His thoughts are not my thoughts, but as I read about Hudson Taylor the first thing that comes to my mind is that he didn't care what happened to him personally, his aim was to be where God wanted him to be, doing what God wanted him to do and it didn't matter if he was comfortable or not. He truly left all for Christ for a greater reward.

We have a great cloud of witnesses before us as examples of what that looks like, but I have bought into the lie that I should be comfortable in my ministering. It seems especially hard, in America, to live out the idea that this life is not our own. How can we be spent/poured out for God when we only have a few drops left when we are finished. How are we going to be used to extinguish the fires of hell in the lives of those around us when we have but a few drops left at the end of each day?

I want to be used by God in whatever and wherever He wants to use me, but I have already spent a good portion-yet to be determined in a percentage- of my life on my own comforts and pleasures. My desire is to give the Lord the balance, but for those much younger than I, there is still the opportunity to be a high peak, sticking out of the cloud of humanity, but this requires not looking to be comfortable in this life.

How awesome would it be if the next Hudson Taylor were in our SS class or in or youth ministry, or attending seminary next year? We have to encourage them to look past the pleasures of this life and to live on unseen things- a greater reward in the next life, rather than to live for the weekend.

Pray for those who might answer the call and resolutely run to win the real prize, forgetting what is behind, throwing off every encumbrance and then run with endurance. Pray that we "old" people would help them to see what could be if they would allow God to do His work without restriction.

The stories in the Bible and the biographies are for our encouragement. We can be used by God in a mighty way, but we must be willing to leave all behind to follow Him and not put up any "off limits" signs for Him.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Extremity and Opportunity

"Man's Extremity is God's Opportunity". Written by a 23 year old Hudson Taylor, to his mother.

The circumstance behind this quote are as follows. Hudson had been living in a house with some other missionaries in Shanghai and the others were getting ready to move to a different location. Hudson could not stay there on his own, so he needed to find other housing. He had prayed to God repeatedly for wisdom and guidance and started off to search for 3 WEEKS.

3 weeks of searching and nothing could be found that he could afford in a location anywhere in the city. The hot summer days were taking their toll on this young, but very mature, missionary, but he was trusting that God would make available the place He wanted.

This was the same time as he was wrestling with whether of not he should keep his European style clothes. Friday- the move out day for the others- was fast approaching and yet there was no place to be found. He decided on Thursday to go to the barber, shave his head and dye the remaining hair black, add a pony tail and put on his Chinese clothes. That night, after 3 weeks of searching, a man approached him and said that he had heard Hudson was looking for a place to stay and that he had a house, not yet complete-which meant it was new- and that it had 4 rooms and an additional room for servants across the court yard. The price he was asking was well within Hudson's budget and so he looked at it and rented it.

By the time God was finished with him, he did not even have to go looking for the house, God brought the owner to him. God expects us to move forward with the things we understand He is directing us to do, but we must wait for Him to open and close the doors around us. Easy to write, harder to do. But God is faithful to provide, especially when there is no way we could provide on our own. "Our extremity is His Opportunity".

Hopefully this finds you when you need the encouragement this brought to me yesterday on what seemed to be a "useless trip" to Spokane. In God's economy there are no useless trips. He uses everything for our good, even 3 weeks of looking for a place to stay, when all along He knew He was bringing the man right to Hudson. Those are the kind of things that grow a soul.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

You are a Part, Be a Part.

Many of you know, some don't, that I am on the youth worship team. This is NOT because I am young:) For quite a few years I played the bass, but this year I am singing and there is another bass player. Our leader and his wife were away last week and so I was the "leader". For the entire rest of the team, this is their first year and so we are about 1-1/2 months into us being a team.

The group did fine, but it is certainly not even close to the same when the leader is not there. But, it is also not the same when any other member is not there. Each one plays a different part and makes the sound more full.

I can't help but thinking the same of every church body. I know there are people who say to themselves, or to their spouses, I/we are not that important to the church, and they won't miss us today, so let's stay home. Have you ever made chocolate chip cookies and left out that little, tiny, insignificant amount of salt? Have you ever doubled, or even tripled, that little tiny amount of salt. Every ingredient in the recipe is key and every part of the body is key.

In 1 Cor. 12 Paul talks about what each part of the body does and doesn't do. Every part is different and every part is needed. This week at PG one of our guys had to have his appendix removed. Well that is certainly something that no one needs. Really? Why do you suppose it is there if we don't need it? Did God just want to add extra weight for us to carry around? I don't think so. And just because it is not obvious what the purpose of each part is to us, does not mean it is not useful.

When that small, insignificant appendix is hurting, everything else in the body is also hurting. In fact, everything else is quickly subjective to its needs and concerns. This full grown man is not able to function normally for more than a week or 2 because of this little tiny part being "upset" in his body.

We must each one do our own part, the part God gave us to do, we must try to do the best job we can at that part and we must try to keep ourselves healthy so we can perform at the highest level God allows so the entire body is able to function at its highest level. Not showing up is not an option for any physical body part and it shouldn't be an option for any spiritual body part either.

Be all that God wants and has equipped you to be, being the part He has made you to be.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Run To Win

1 Cor. 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, gives an illustration that all his readers can not only understand, but could immediately relate to. They lived in a culture and time when games like the Olympics would have been on the front of everyone's mind. They understood sports, they participated in sports and many lived and died for sport. Thankfully in this illustration it breaks down because in our spiritual race we can each one win the prize, rather than only one winning a prize.

In order to win the prize there are certain rules and requirements that go along with participating; all of our rules, for our spiritual race, are found in God's Instruction Book- the Bible. No one wins when they don't follow the rules.

There is also no prize for practicing well. We must actually join the race, compete and finish. The practicing and discipline of preparation is going through the same exercise day in and day out and is what gets us ready to compete. There is little joy in practice except for the thought that "practice makes permanent" and if we practice well then when we are called upon to compete for the prize we are able prepared.

Our practice is the spiritual discipline listed in Scripture and we need to make it part of our lives. A medal winner in the Olympics does not get that medal by doing the same things all his friends are doing. They get the prize by patterning their entire life around the goal of winning that medal. The dream of the medal dictates where and what they eat, how much they sleep, all their activities and even who they hang out with. Their lives are controlled by the pursuit of that medal.

I once spent a couple of hours talking to Ray Allen- formerly of the Seattle Sonics. He told me that during the entire season he had the exact same food every day at the exact same time, slept the exact same amount, practiced the same things, every, single day. Many of his teammates would go out and party and shop and do other things, but Ray didn't. He knew that the season is long and that if you loose focus you can't win.

Our lives must be centered on- focused on- winning a prize that is so much more valuable than any earthly prize. The early Olympian's prize was not actual gold or silver, but a laurel wreath, that was intrinsically of no value. But they did it because they could say they won the wreath. They focused their entire life to get a bunch of sticks, laced together, so they could tell anyone, who didn't already know, they won it.

Our prize for running to win is an eternal prize that is more valuable than anything we could ever receive here on earth and all we have to do is run according to the rules and be faithful. The awesome thing about the entire situation is that He gives us the strength to finish the race and those He enlists in the race always finish. He has never allowed one of His participants to drop out.

If Paul was concerned about run in such a way as not to not gain the prize, I think it is safe to say that we need to guard our own lives to make sure that after we have instructed many others in the way to win, that we are not disqualified ourselves.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Are you OK?

How are you all doing? I don't get many comments posted and am concerned that you are all getting busy with the things of this world and are losing ground with regard to your sanctification.

Please LMK how we can encourage you and what you are struggling with. We are to uphold one another and to bear each other's burdens. We are to encourage one anther and I am encouraged when you tell me how you are growing or when I hear about how God is working in your lives. I would love to hear what is going on.

The Christian life is hard, but worth the effort. Don't let the evil one steal your joy. Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, that your labor would not be in vain.

Who is your demo?

In advertising- like radio- there is a thing called demographic, or demo. The demo is who- what kind of person- is listening to that station. Some stations are 12-21 year old audience. Some are 25-54. Some have a small house hold income, some large. Some are highly educated, some are generally not. Each station has an audience that is listening, and a demo that makes up their audience. The music they play draws that type of audience.

Generally a political talk show has a higher HH income than the hard rock station. Generally a talk show has a longer TSL- time spent listening- than does a music station. Every station has a place in each market. None are "better" than the others, they are just different audiences.

I was listening to a sermon the other day and have been thinking about an illustration that the preacher- Alistair Begg- gave.

We are to live our life as if it we are song that others would want to hear. When you hear a song and you like the melody, then you start to listen a little harder to the words to see if you like them as well. If we don't like the tune, we generally are not going to listen to the words. If our lives are to be a song, then what key would they be in? B natural.

This seems a bit of a cheesy way to say it, but think about it. How often do we want to be something we are not? We want to be more theological, or we think we have to be a better evangelist before we can talk to someone about Christ. Really?

God has made each one of us EXACTLY as He sees fit. He has equipped us perfectly for the work He has prepared for us to do and that includes evangelizing the people we have an influence on each day. I don't have the influence you have with the people you do and the opposite is also true.

Does God want you to be like me, or me to be like you? No. He wants us to be-natural- and live for Him; talk to the people He has put into our lives the same way as we talk to them about every other thing; that is why you have a relationship with them.

If you are a very quiet person and generally sweet, will your sphere of influence listen more if all of a sudden when you talk about Christ you start talking like John MacArthur? For sure not. They will look at you like, "Who is this wacko".

Don't try to be someone else. Be the person that God has made you to be, be Spirit filled and be natural so those who like the kind of music that you are will listen to your words.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

More Work?

I know I think of things that are sort of weird sometimes and maybe some have thought of this before, but as I posted a couple of days ago, "Phil. 4:19 And my God shall supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus", if this is true, and I believe it is, then think about this.

If God promises to supply all our needs then isn't He making a lot of extra work for Himself in areas like Samoa and Manila right now? Wouldn't it be easier for Him to just leave all those crazy storms where no is living, rather than to mess up all those cities and lives with floods and mud?

I get overwhelmed thinking about how many people are hurting and the amazing needs that are all over the place and yet He keeps making more needs and He has to be the One to fill them. I hate it when I do something that makes more work for me. I want to be efficient and get things done the first time, the easy way. A friend of mine told me, "If you want to know the easiest way to do something, follow a fat guy around", because fat people do things the easy way, or they would be skinny:) He then added "You are the fattest guy I know". I took that as a compliment.

God is not trying to do things the easy way so He can save energy. Think about the fact that He keeps all the galaxies perfectly where He wants them and goes down to electrons inside of you and He doesn't even break a sweat controlling all those things. I get frazzled when I have too many burgers on the BBQ and people can't decide if they want cheese.

So, is He making more work for Himself. Well, maybe, but He is doing it to showoff how amazing He is and that He can provide for each person, no matter how dire the circumstance, and we are all left with the understanding that there is no way this kind of provision could be made by anyone else but Him.

We get the provision, He gets the glory. Humm, seems like the same tune just a different verse. I am happy He is in charge.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"I can't hear you"

Is. 58:1 "Cry aloud; do not hold back;
lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet they seek me daily
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
they delight to draw near to God.
3 'Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?'
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
4 Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the LORD?

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time you know that this is a passage I spend a lot of time in. A few months ago I posted "Is. 58 Vacation", but this is not really a follow up on that post, though there is room for that later.

The first 5 verses of this chapter are an indictment from God, through Isaiah, to God's people. I think we would do good to learn from this passage, by the illumination of the Holy Spirit, that these verses may be talking directly to us today.

"Yet they seek me daily
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
they delight to draw near to God."-There is nothing wrong and many things right about the things they were doing in this verse.

They were required to fast, "'Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?'", but why did God not have any knowledge of it? Isaiah gives the answer and it is not pretty, but again I think it may hit pretty close to home in our churches in America.
"Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist."

Is this God telling them that doing is not nearly as important as being?
"Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high."

Can you imagine what they must have been thinking? Maybe something like, "You mean to tell me we have been doing all these things, that He told us to do, and now He is saying He won't even listen to us when we cry out?" I would think they would have been mad, but whom would they be mad at? They only had themselves to blame for their Pharisaical processions and outward religiosity.

God calls us to "be" much more than He calls us to "do", and this is where they were stuck and this is where we are often stuck. I don't want to be stuck on the "performance treadmill" trying to earn my way to Heaven, because I can't even get on that treadmill.

Many of our churches in America today are big buildings, with lots of programs and lots of projects going on to make those buildings more appealing to the masses, but what about our heart for the things that are in God's heart?

I am no "big-wig" anywhere, but maybe there should be a balance between our missions/outreach budget and our remodeling budget. Maybe there should be as much emphasis on helping the needy, poor and homeless as there is on making the sounds system better. Maybe we should be sending our dollars that we make at the "in church" latte stand to help those who couldn't dream of having $4 for a cup of coffee, because that same $4 would feed their family for a week.

I want God to listen to me when I pray. I want Him to be guiding me continually and give me my desires-which I hope are changing to His desires- in times when there is nothing else to hang on to but Him. I want to be a watered garden where others can come and be refreshed. He promises those things when we spend ourselves on the things that He wants us to be spent on, and that is not ourselves.

Am I pointing fingers this morning? I am not your second Holy Spirit, but if this has application in your life/body then don't just brush it off, do something.

If you are a pastor and this is hitting close to home, have a meeting today and start to change. The Bible doesn't have examples of people knowing the truth and then taking another 6 months to have committee meetings and make a decision. When God said something there was an expectation of immediate obedience.

If you are just a member like me what should we do? Be what God wants us to be. Pray that God would change our own hearts to be conformed to His will and then pray for our leaders that they would see and obey. We are responsible to be loving others towards love and good deeds and that may involve talking to the pastor/s so they know your concern with the direction your local body is going. We must live out the joy of following Christ in front of them but also point out where there needs to be change.

You might say "in these economic times there is no budget to change things up". Well, who owns everything? If God wants your church, or your family, to have an abundance right now, He can certainly bring that to you. If your local body gets excited about missions-orphans-widows-homeless-needy people right now, what is to say that no one will be ale to give one more penny then they currently are, but does not God have the resources to bring another 100 people to your congregation next Sunday? Don't try to figure out how God is going to work, just obey and let Him take control of the rest. He is the One who is responsible to keep all His promises to us and He will keep them. I have no idea how or what He will do, but that's not my job to figure out. My job is to obey His Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

I hope this is encouraging and does not coming over like I am chewing anyone out. I want my church and the church of America to be obedient to the Word and growing in Christ so that we can have an impact for the Kingdom through out the world. It starts with just one and moves out from there. Are you in?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What does God want from you?

You need to go and look at this blog.
We are sitting in our homes in America and we think we have it hard because if the economy.
Take a look at this and ask yourself what God is calling you to do?

My Friend Doug

I have to introduce you- electronically, to my friend Doug Nichols. He is the man who went to Rwanda in 1995 and God healed his cancer. This is a post from his blog and if you don't read it often you should. He is a sweet brother who has given much of his life in service to our Lord. He is currently in Manila aiding in the relief of the saints. He is 71.I hope you are encouraged.

"The Greek word for Christian love is “agape” which means “sacrificial action for another person’s good”.

Many years ago when the Roman Empire was spreading throughout the world, King Tigranes of Armenia was taken captive. While standing before the conquering Roman general waiting for the death sentence to be passed, Tigranes fell on his knees before the General and pleaded for his family saying, “Do with me what you like, but I beg you to spare my family.” The conquering General was so impressed with the love of the king for his wife that he released the king and his family.

As they left the presence of the General, King Tigranes asked his wife what she thought about the General. She replied, “I never saw him.”

“What do you mean ‘you never saw him?’”, Tigranes asked. “You were standing within a few feet of him. You could not help but see him. What were you looking at?”

With tears now sparkling in her eyes, the queen gently replied to her beloved husband, “I saw no one but you. My eyes only saw the one who was willing to die for me.”

“But God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, nasb)."

You can find his blog here.

What About...?

Phil. 4:10 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Think really hard on this one. Tell me the last time that God did not keep one of His promises. I think that most of us would say that this is an obvious answer. But do we really believe it? If we really believe it and have complete trust that He will continue today as He has for some 6000 years of written history, then what makes us doubt that this would end on our today or tomorrow?

There is no one sitting in front of the atomic clock saying "This is the hour that it is going to get off time". Why would we even think for a moment that God would change? Our minds are so prone to wander and so easily distracted. We must keep ourselves in the Word, filled with His promises, so we can battle the evil one when he comes to say that "today is the first day that God is going to let someone down, and that someone is going to be you".

Of course he doesn't say it that way, or we would be able to see that coming from a mile away, but it should be that blatant to us if we think about what he is trying to do.

Our God is good. Our God is BIG. He is kind and He delights to show His favor to those who love and trust Him. If He can know the number of hairs on all the heads in the world, He can certainly know what needs to happen in each one of lives today and tomorrow. Do you know how many hairs are on your own head right now? If you don't, then you are not qualified to give yourself what you need today.

I am thrilled to know that there is One who takes such an interest in me, personally, that He only gives what is best and He only gives what I can handle.

Fruit in Keeping with Repentance

There have been a number who have professed salvation this year in and around our youth ministry, which is awesome. That God would take any and change us from being dead to alive is for Him to show the immeasurable riches of His grace. But how is it that we know that we, or anyone else, are new creatures? Is it possible for us to see the newness of life in another?

We are called to be fruit inspectors and that includes our own fruit. Is there fruit in keeping with repentance? What would that fruit look like? Would there be just a piece here and there, or should it be increasing?

In the lives of some of the kids in our ministry in the past we have seen great transformation. As far as I know none of these kids have really been people we would term as "bad" kids. If they are going to jail every other month and now they are not it is easier to identify the change. Often in our case they are going to church and having the right answers to the questions, but there is just something that doesn't add up. I hope you know what I mean.

But, when God really does get a hold of their life and He makes in them a new creature, then we can really see what a new creature looks like. This has to be the most exciting thing to watch. When the Holy Spirit makes someone alive to the Word and fellowship and prayer, it is obvious. He alone can take our passions and turn them completely around. He can take one who is consumed with video games and make them of no interest. He can take someone who only thinks about work and place ministry in the heart.

In order that this post doesn't get too long; He can change our affections and that is a true indicator of fruit in keeping with repentance. If our affections never change then we must look to see if there is newness of life. We do not have true Heavenly affection before salvation and we should not be consumed with earthly affection after.

May He do a mighty work in our hearts to turn our eyes and hearts toward Him, so that we might live on unseen things and find our delight solely in Him. The Holy Spirit must do that work, but as we ask Him to do this work in us, He delights to bring about the change.

Monday, October 12, 2009

What's the Deal?

I was talking to a friend of mine today about church as a whole in 2009. I would think that attendance would be up across America with all the crazy financial issues that are surrounding us. He said their church is down in attendance and I am pretty sure ours is as well.

Is this just proof that Americans, as a whole, are too satisfied with lesser joys and lesser loves and are so distracted by what is right in front of them that they move away from God; they are living on only seen things rather than unseen?

Maybe there are those who don't like what the preacher is preaching. OK- then go and talk to him, but don't keep your part of the body out of the body. We need to have the encouragement that others bring to our assembly.

If your finances are in a mess, or your marriage is starting to fall apart, what would cause you to try to do it on your own? Most people know what to do-they know what God would have them to do- and yet they choose to walk away. This seems to be the ultimate in dry cisterns.

We must pray that God would work in the hearts of those around us. We must continue to come along side people and encourage their participation in fellowship and using their spiritual giftedness.

There is a lot of sickness going around that may be keeping people home, but I hope that the sickness is not in their hearts. God delights in those who love and worship Him. He calls us to be set apart for His purposes. He calls us to irritate others to love and good deeds. We must be about our Father's business.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Happy God

I was listening to J. Piper yesterday, as I drove to some appointments, and was struck by something very simple. I think this simple thing is going to take me a long time to work through though. "If I love God, what can I do to make Him happy?" If I say that I am a Christian, and I would, and I say that I want to live my life for Him, and I would, then what, if anything, can I do to bring delight to my Father?

When you have a best friend, or when you want to be a good child for your parents, you will try to figure out what they like, or what brings them joy, and then you set out to do it. Since God already owns everything and He is lacking nothing, is there really something- or somethings- that I can do/be to make Him happy?

If I am able to bring joy and delight to my Father I want to do that. What will that look like? What do I know, for sure, He will delight in?

Before I start to answer that question I must take more time to think about it and process. If you have already thought about it and have an answer you are welcome to post away.

When I am done here on earth I want Him to say "Well done", and I need to be thinking more about that than I have been.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Gospel

“The longer I live the less optimistic I am that I will end without sin and the more grateful I become for the blood of Christ imputed to me. As I grow older I do not feel myself becoming gloriously holy but I find myself feeling great love for the gospel.” J. Piper

There are so many needs in the world around us, so many burdens that need to be carried, so much pain that needs comforted, so much wisdom that is lacking and yet our greatest need is not relief from any of these things; our greatest need each and every day is the Gospel.

If I have no water but have the Gospel I will soon be made whole. If I have no food or shelter, but have the Gospel I am more than a conqueror. If all else is stripped away, except the Gospel, I have abundantly more than I need.

That is why Jesus could say in Mark 8:35 "For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel’s will save it." Or in 10:29 Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life."

So as we go about our day we must remember that all the "good" we are doing is nothing compared to what the Gospel will do. God has prepared work for us to do and given us the strength and desire to do them, but we must be sharing the Good News as we go, because we all need this more than anything else.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Only One

In Ethiopia, we were able to see some pictures of the Scriptures a little poignantly as they are still in a culture that closely resembles Christ's. He came to a world of struggles and trials, striving for food each day was a normal thing, shepherding sheep and trying to tell the difference between sheep and goats.

As I was driving along the country side there, I was struck by some people's accumulation of live stock. There were some pretty big herds along the way. If a hyena comes and takes 1 sheep out of a herd off 2000, does it really matter? Sure, to a small degree the shepherd is moved by the loss of even one sheep, but since he has 1999 more, the pain is not so intense.

But what about our Heavenly Father who has only One Son? To think that the Father was willing to give up His Only Son to come to the earth and allow us to insult, beat, torture and kill His Only Son is difficult to imagine. He loves us so much that He was willing to send His Sin to take our place, just so He could win us back.

1 of many is a little difficult. 1 of 1 is impossible for us to grasp. Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift.

The Love of The Holy Spirit

“Perhaps much of our slow progress in the walk of faith is to be traced to our overlooking the love of the Spirit.

We do not deal with Him, for strength and advancement, as one who really loves us, and longs to bless us, and delights to help our infirmities (Rom 8:26). We regard Him as cold, or distant, or austere; we do not trust Him for His grace, nor realize how much He is in earnest in His dealings with us.

More childlike confidence in Him and in His love would help us on mightily. Let us not grieve Him, nor vex Him, nor quench Him by our untrustfulness, by disbelieving or doubting the riches of His grace, the abundance of His loving-kindness.”

—Horatius Bonar, “The Holy Spirit”

While in Ethiopia I had a chance to visit with the head of the orphanage there and also a man that they call the evangelist. I believe they are both strong believers and so it was encouraging to talk with them about their faith and God's work in their own lives.

Through the conversation one of the things that came up was the work of the Holy Spirit. They pointed out that we serve a Triune God and that their impression of western Christians is that we often don't listen to the Holy Spirit's voice. We have God's Word to read and follow, but how can we follow if the Holy Spirit does not illumine the Word and enliven our hearts to follow?

The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit are all three equal parts of the Trinity and we must not over look the love and work of the Holy Spirit's work in our lives. Often I am quenching and grieving Him and thus limiting His ability to work in my heart and life.

I am not interested in some sort of tongues, miracles, experiential type of Christianity as much as I am looking to give honor and submission to all three Persons of the Trinity more than I have previously.

For me, Bonar, a long time ago, was right on in my lack of love for the Holy Spirit. I must view each person equally and uniquely in their roles in my life.

Weak, Fainting Burden Bearers.

2 Cor. 12:9 "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Rom. 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

This morning, as I think about yesterday's services and emails I have received, I am overwhelmed both in a positive way and in a normal way. Positively, when I think about the excitement of so many about our trip and the kids I can only shake my head and thank the Lord for His gracious provision and work in our lives that we can in some small way encourage others to do and be what He has called each one of us to. This is so far over my head, and that is where the normal overwhelming part comes in.

How can I give advice and direction to those who are so excited to follow where the Lord and the Holy Spirit are leading, when in my own life I am so unable to do that myself? I can't even begin to carry all that God has given me, and yet others are looking to me for guidance in their lives. I am not complaining in ANY way; I just know how sinful my own heart is and the weight of steering someone in the wrong direction is large right now.

I guess that is, in many respects, the life of any leader, but right now it seems like a much larger back pack than I have had to carry. The beautiful part of this is stated in the verses above. When we are weak then is He shown to be strong. He is always strong and He is always able to carry the burdens, but I am often trying to carry something I have no business carrying. So when the load is obviously too big, then I can't even begin to try to move it.

So as I prayed this morning I not only don't know exactly how to pray for myself and all that I am in the middle of, I also don't know how to pray for you all who are wanting some direction from me. But again the verses on top tell me that His power and grace are sufficient for all my needs and that He will work all things together for each of our good. I can lay all this stuff at His feet and He will open doors, He will direct paths, the Holy Spirit will illumine, convict and encourage as I follow Christ. I can't do any of this myself.

There are not only so many needs right in our local body and in the community around me, but now, for whatever reason, God has placed a burden on my heart for the needs of those around the world. How can I help them when I can't even help those right in my back yard? The project is too big, the needs too immense, the burdens too heavy and yet there is nothing too big for Our God; NOTHING.

So what do we do today and everyday?
We stay in the Word.
We stay on our knees and beg for direction, discernment and guidance.
We ask that we might receive- what He wants us to receive.
We seek that we might find- His will in our lives.
We knock that He might open- the doors that He has planned for us to go through.
And I guess past that we wait.

He is able, more than able, to accomplish what concerns me today. I have a lot of concerns today and He knows and cares about each concern and He is the Answer for each one of them. Waiting is hard but necessary.

Today there are surgeries going on, business decisions, lawsuits, slanderous remarks to address, world leaders fighting, tsunamis, flash floods and starving children who need homes and Our Great God knows about each one of those issues and He has it under control. So we must pray for each of the things we know about and ask that He might do His will here on earth as it is done in Heaven. He will be glorified in every situation.

Lord, help us to know where and what You would have us to do. Give us wisdom beyond our years. Give us strength to trust You in each of the things that weigh us down. Make us to be lights, even in our struggles. Give us patience to wait on Your hand of provision and eyes to see You working. Let our lips always proclaim Your mighty works to those around us, after we have seen You take us through each of our "Red Seas". May we never forget where you have brought us from, and may we be excited to be lead by the King of kings. May we rejoice in everything that You graciously give us; whether trials, hardships, persecutions and victories. May we only look to You and Your Word as our food and then may we eat of You and be satisfied in all that You are.

Work in us that we might be a light to a lost and dying world. Take our weak, frail, dusty selves and make of us vessels fit for Your Kingdom and Your purposes. Use us. Spend us. Change us. Grow us. Lift us up on wings as eagles, that we might run and now grow weary, that we might walk and not faint. It's all in Your hand, which is the best place for it to be.

Thank you for Your gracious care for us.

Friday, October 2, 2009


It's been a few weeks since I last posted and it seems longer. On the trip, to Ethiopia, I had some many thoughts running through my mind, and I wrote some down and didn't others. If you are interested go to the other blog and read more about it.

In Ethiopia it is very easy to connect with the illustrations in the Bible, because their way of life today is not too much different than it was in Jesus' time. Obviously there were no cars there and no electricity, but much of the people live pretty close to the way they have live for literally hundreds of years, save the modern clothing.

The over arching thought that has stuck in my mind for almost the entire trip is the thought of "leverage". In business, traditionally, there is a lot of leverage that takes place to increase your position in any given area. It might look like; you leverage- or borrow against- your house to increase your business value so that there are more opportunities in the future. You might lose your business and your house as well, but you also might triple your business and pay off your house sooner. It is a risk that many have taken and done very well, and some have crashed.

The type of leverage I am thinking about has nothing really to do with business per se, it has to do with us- personally.

Each one of us is uniquely gifted by God to do work He has planned for us to do from eternity past. I can't do what you can do and you can't do what I can do. Not because we are individually so special, but God equips each one differently. I can't go and talk to the natives in the huts in Ethiopia about the Gospel, because I don't speak their language at all. But I can do something to help those who already know there language but have no financial means to do it.

So what might leverage look like in our lives? In Matt. 25:14-30 Jesus tells the parable about the master giving the servants talents. When the master returns he is expecting that they have leveraged what he had given them and increased his position. Like us, they didn't have anything to put in from the start; the master gave it all to them. We have nothing that He did not give us, but He expects we will do something with what He has given us. The master rewards the servants who increased his position by giving them more, but to the one who did nothing with what he was given, he was cursed.

We need to think outside our little boxes and think BIG. Whom do you know that the Holy Spirit is calling you to talk to? What are you waiting for? The perfect opportunity won't come until you open your mouth and then amazingly, God will somehow make it the perfect time to say something. We might not get another chance to talk to them.

Leverage for the Kingdom looks different than leveraging money, in that the "winner" in this world's system is trying to end up with the most. In God's economy, the "winner" is the one who, at the end has nothing left but Christ; he has used/spent himself for the Kingdom and has only to wait to be taken Home.

How can you leverage "you" for God's work? Are you a home-schooling, stay at home mom? When was the last time you invited non Christian, home school family over to your house for lunch? Sure, it will disrupt your schedule a little, but it will be worth it.

Are you a student? When was the last time you told your teacher you were praying for them? When was the last time you told the kids who pick on you that you love them and are praying for them? When was the last time you went to the old folks care center, with your friends, and helped out?

All that we have is from the Lord. It is on loan from Him and He expects us to use it for HIM. He expects us to get a return, somehow, on what He has loaned us, and if we don't He is not going to be happy. We want our Lord to be excited about what is going on in our lives. He does the work. We need to ask Him to continue to do the work so that we can be changed.

In Ethiopia I said many times "God is Good" and their constant response is "All the Time". If they can say that, we must as well.

Go spend yourself for the Kingdom.